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16 July 2011 @ 10:00 am
the two faces of vengeance - part II  
The next morning, Dean wakes up early. There’s noise coming from downstairs – good, it means that at least he won’t come down into an empty room. Which would be fairly depressing, wouldn’t it? He finds a chamber pot under the bed and relieves himself, then dresses and leaves the room. For a second, he pauses in front of room number one, but he doesn’t knock or anything. He walks down the stairs and into the main room – the only person there is Bobby behind the bar.

“Hello,” he says, and Bobby grunts something back, possibly a greeting.

“So,” Bobby says as he finishes clearing the bar and moving to the first table next to it, “did you decide that it’s time to leave, hopefully?”

“Oh, not really. I’m going to find myself a job.”

“Where?”

“Isn’t Adler short at least four men?” he asks as he he starts walking towards the door.

“Hey, wait a sec!” Bobby shouts, and Dean turns back.

“Your pal with the preacher clothes left this for you before he left at the crack of dawn,” Bobby mutters as he hands Dean a piece of paper. “You can read, right?”

Dean glares at him without giving an answer and opens the note – there are directions to Adler’s house. It’s apparently out of town, but it’s nowhere he can’t reach in five minutes on his horse. He nods and puts it back in his pocket, then he remembers about the letter.

“Well, since we’re here, you think you could mail this for me?” he asks, handing Bobby a letter addressed to Samuel Winchester. Bobby takes it, reads the address, doesn’t comment and nods. Dean figures he can leave then – he didn’t add anything yesterday because he doesn’t want to get Sam’s hopes up too much, or his own. Hell, it’s not like he’s doing a job where it’s impossible to bite it, right?

He shakes his head, not allowing himself to think about it, and goes to the stable where he left his horse. The sooner he leaves, the sooner he can be done with this farce.

--

</i>Well, the son of a bitch knows how to treat himself right</i>, Dean thinks as he gets closer. The ranch is huge. The house is made of stone rather than wood, two storeys, and he can see stables big enough to house at least fifteen horses. There’s a fence for horses as well, and apparently everyone is up and about. The closer Dean comes, the more he decides that these people are scary – he has never seen henchmen looking as clean as these do. Usually, if you work with horses or shoot people with someone paying you for it, you look way dirtier and sweatier than the people he sees around the front of the house.

Still, not Dean’s fucking business, right?

He’s about to bring the horse to a stop when two men notice him – and thirty seconds later, there are two shotguns pointed at him.

“Hey there,” he says, raising his hands, “it’s not like I’d come here alone if I was bad news, right?”

“Yeah, and who are you?” the man on the right asks. He’s quite tall, with dark hair and fair skin. The other guy looks similar except that his hair isn’t quite as black – but Dean would bet money that they’re brothers.

“I’m someone who’s heard that you’re short four men and who’s also looking for a job.”

“And who says that we’d need a pretty face like yours?” the one of the left almost spits in his face.

Dean doesn’t even reply – he draws his gun and shoots at both their hats, which end up on the ground near the corral fence with a neat hole through each of them, his gun reholstered so quickly that it can’t have taken more than four seconds.

“Do you want to reconsider?” Dean asks, jumping down from the horse.

“Just a minute,” the one with black hair says, dragging the other farther off.

Not so far that Dean can’t hear half of what they say. He understands that the one with the bad temper is named Raphael and he really doesn’t like Dean much, and that the other one is named Michael and the idea of someone who can shoot like that running around free as a bird doesn’t appeal to him much. Hey, it’s better if they have him under control, right? Raphael doesn’t look too pleased, but he has to agree about that, and that’s how Dean finds himself exactly where he wants to be. He refuses a room, saying that he has a pretty nice place in town, but he’ll come around every day – neither Michael nor Raphael object, but Dean figures that they’ll send someone to keep an eye on him. That’s fine by him, he can deal with that later. He also learns that they’re Adler’s nephews (so they’re related, brothers or not) and that his job will be the one the guy he has replaced had – stay in front of the undertaker and take notice of who comes and goes.

Dean figures it’s because it’s a way to keep him under control while not having him do anything dangerous, but it means he has an excuse to come around, so he says it’ll be all right and meanwhile tries to figure out exactly how many people work for the son of a bitch. He counts twelve, and he’s informed that Adler is currently out of town and not coming back for another two days.

Dean takes stock of everything – especially when they tell him not to shoot anyone from the stack of wanted posters that gets thrown at him (it’s Alastair’s gang – like he doesn’t know their faces by heart). It’s all well and good until he sees this guy practically pushing two kids towards a room on the second floor – it’s made in a way that looks a bit like an inn hallway, a string of rooms along a balcony.

“Who are they?” he asks with as much nonchalance as possible.

“That’s a question you should forget,” Raphael spits back, and Dean keeps his mouth shut.

Maybe if Castiel manages to have a nice talk with the journalist again and vouches for him, he might get to find out sooner than later.

--

After spending most of the day in front of the undertaker’s and having had more than one conversation with Rufus, Dean decides that if the sun is setting then it’s high time he gets back to the inn – after all, no one told him he was supposed to stay there until morning, right? He walks back to the inn, notices Castiel sitting at a table with a half eaten meal in front of him. Dean joins him at the table without asking for permission.

“I take you’re not hungry?”

“You can have it, if you want,” Castiel replies, sounding merely annoyed. He also doesn’t look like someone who is about to finish his dinner.

“So, I figured you’d want to know how it went. They hired me – not many questions. Your man’s currently out of town and bound to be back in a couple days,” Dean says as he steals Castiel’s fork and starts eating what’s left of his steak. It’s pretty good. Why someone would leave it, Dean has no idea. “There’s twelve of ‘em, but I figured someone is bound to be with the big guy. What did you do?”

“I slept,” Castiel replies.

“Just that?”

“I also had another talk with the newspaper people, but they said that they weren’t going to share much with me if I didn’t at least tell them who I was.”

“Did you?”

“No.”

Dean shrugs and eats the last of the steak, feeling slightly better if only for having something in his stomach.

“Nonetheless, rumor is that your friend Alastair isn’t very happy about his man being in prison. They might try to free him one of these days.”

“Interesting.”

“I figured I could volunteer to help.”

Castiel’s lips slowly curl up at that, in a very cruel hint of a smirk which Dean can only appreciate.

“Then I guess it’s high time we pay a visit to our British brothel-owner, isn’t it?”

Castiel suddenly looks way less smug.

“I guess it is.”

--

To be entirely honest here, Dean had expected a lot worse. Maybe it’s that he’s been to a lot of worse places, but for a whorehouse, the joint isn’t too bad. At least, it doesn’t reek of sex as soon as you walk in. The only frilly touch about the main room is that it has dark red velvet drapes (seriously?), but apart from that it’s not too different from a regular saloon. Except for the half-naked girls moving around the room.

“Who’s our man?” Dean hisses. Castiel glances around the room, settling his stare on a corner.

“There,” he answers, and Dean can’t help noticing that he’s keeping both hands in his coat pockets. Anyway, this Crowley person sure doesn’t care about blending in – he’s wearing fancy clothing, black pants and jacket and a clean shirt. Dean could bet that the shirt is made of silk, and the shoes are carefully polished. Hell, the guy looks like he’s about to go to a very fancy wedding. Meanwhile, Dean can feel Castiel tensing next to him – they aren’t even touching, but you can just feel it.

“Hey, relax. I think you need a drink here.”

“I don’t think –”

“I think,” Dean replies, and closes a hand around Castiel’s forearm in order to drag him towards the bar, just to let go a second later. Fuck. Castiel doesn’t look like the touchy-feely type and Dean isn’t an idiot – he can read people. The way he moves, he’s the kind of person that wouldn’t like to be touched without permission.

“Sorry, I didn’t –”

Castiel shakes his head, looks at him like he’s trying to decipher some kind of secret code. “It’s – don’t worry. I don’t mind. I think you’re right,” he says, and does he sound just slightly confused?

A lot, for someone who isn’t used to sounding confused. Dean figures he’ll deal with that later, and joins Castiel at the bar. There are a couple of girls serving – as they order (they both get whiskey) Dean can’t help taking a good look at them. And well, at least it seems like this Crowley character cares about his business – of the two girls in front of him, both have teeth in pretty decent shape, they both look like they’re eating enough and neither of them looks like she’d really like to leave right this moment.

Actually, the blonde who’s handing Castiel his glass looks particularly smitten with him.

“First time here, handsome?” she asks, and Dean doesn’t miss how Castiel raises his left hand and grabs the glass, just to have an excuse not to answer.

“I’d remember if it wasn’t,” the girl pushes, moving a bit so that one has to take a look at what she has to offer. “And –”

“Chastity, another round!” someone screams from the end of the bar. She sighs, leaning back.

“Too bad. But if you ever want to upgrade, you know my name,” she winks before moving towards the customer.

Castiel definitely looks like a fish out of water as he places the beer down and lets out a breath of relief.

“What was that?”

“Man, do you think that everyone comin’ into this joint looks as nice as you? She probably doesn’t want to pass up a chance at someone under fifty years old and who ain’t hard on the eyes either.”

“She ignored you and you aren’t either,” Castiel replies.

“Flattered, but it’s her goddamn job and I’m not the one who’s supposed to get –”

Dean doesn’t finish the sentence and doesn’t have time to think about how Castiel’s cheeks are beginning to redden, because the door opens with a crash and all of a sudden he hears an English accent coming from behind him. Obviously Crowley.

“Oh, are you doing me the courtesy of visiting again?”

“Do you have something against it?” comes the reply. It’s a soft voice, the words spoken slowly, but it’s unnerving, almost slimy – and it cuts like steel.

“Nothing against my best customer,” Crowley answers, and Dean is glad that he left his poncho at the hotel – too recognizable. This has to be Alastair. He glances at Castiel, who turns just enough to see who’s coming in, and Castiel gives him a soft nod.

“All right,” Dean whispers, “I’m just gonna find some dark corner before he sees my face. Can you –”

“Go,” Castiel replies, and Dean doesn’t really have time to argue. He slips out of his seat, thankful that at least Alastair is talking with Crowley right now and not looking at the bar. He sees a free table in the corner, and there’s close to no light around there. He takes a seat, tips his hat down over his eyes, asks a girl for another whiskey and to please keep quiet about it, and then turns his eyes towards the bar.

Alastair is with another three guys, who apparently have regular girls – they all disappear upstairs in the span of three minutes.

Alastair goes to the bar instead, and calls for Chastity.

“Look at you,” he says as she moves closer. “Lookin’ pretty nice tonight, aren’t you?”

Her eyes suddenly narrow in something like panic – is she afraid of him? She doesn’t even answer – just nods and pours him a glass. Not that Dean can blame herif she’s afraid.

“I haven’t been here for a while,” Alastair keeps on, his voice still so soft, “and I thought I would have some fun tonight. And I’d like to have it with you.”

Right now she looks panicked, but Dean then notices that Crowley is sending a glance her way that says if you say no, you’re so very fucked, and then –

“I am very sorry,” Castiel says smoothly, “but I have already made arrangements with this girl. And I haven’t been around for a while, either.”

Alastair turns towards Castiel and damn, but it does take steel to stand a glance like that. “Really. And since when are preachers supposed to have fun?”

“I have not been one for a while,” Castiel replies. “But I really don’t think you should cross me tonight. I am quite tired, and I like this girl, and when I shot four men yesterday none of them had even managed to draw their gun.”

Alastair does look impressed for a second. “So you’re the one, huh?”

“I am. And to be entirely honest, why should we argue about something like this? Not when I was about to ask around for you– it happens that I’m short of money and needed someone to offer my services to.”

“Well,” Alastair says, still slowly, “you killed four people you shouldn’t have, but I knew ‘em and I can’t really blame you. Anyway, it’s not like I can’t hire who I want and I have this job for which I really could use someone.”

“I understand that you have a man in jail, haven’t you?”

“Someone’s smart in here. It might be the case, yes. Let’s say that tonight I’ll let you have your fun with her, since you like her so much, and tomorrow I’ll look for you. Where are you staying?”

“At the inn,” Castiel replies.

“Good. Then I’ll see if I can find someone else for tonight. But really, don’t treat ‘em too nicely. It’s wasted on the like of them.”

“Why, what is that you’d do with them?”

“Let’s say that no one understands art around here,” Alastair says, and then gets up and leaves the room without another word. Dean has rarely felt so creeped out in his entire life, but it’s not going to stop him.

“Oh, God, thank you,” Chastity says then, and Dean keeps his ears open. “I don’t – I don’t even know if you really want to, but thank you. I couldn’t – last time –”

“What happened?”

“With – when he means art, he means – last time, he was up with another girl and he brought a knife out, and she said she didn’t think she could do whatever he wanted and – he carved her face.”

What?” Castiel hisses, but Dean isn’t too surprised. Every person that the guy hasn’t killed in a random shooting has been found with a bullet in the back of the head and with the entire upper part of their chests carved with a knife.

“She was – she almost died, but her face is – you don’t want to see it. Really, if –”

“Don’t – I am not interested. But nonetheless,” Castiel asks, “what’s your fare for the entire night?”

“Five,” she replies, and he slips her a crumpled bill.

“Consider yourself bought,” Castiel replies before grabbing his hat and nodding at her. Then he stands up and leaves. Dean gets up as well, leaving the money for his drink on the table, and he doesn’t miss the fact that Crowley has been following the entire conversation. Figures that he’d want to know what goes on in his own place.

Dean gets out into the cool air of the evening – Castiel is still there, obviously waiting for him.

“Well, that took guts.” He means it. To be entirely truthful, he’s nothing short of impressed – it does take guts to pull such a trick, and more than just guts to do it when you were looking like a fish out of water one minute before.

Castiel shrugs and doesn’t reply. Dean would like to ask how can he be made of steel and then panic in front of a woman, just like that, but it’s not his business and it’s not like Castiel hasn’t done his part perfectly, so what the hell.

“I say we go back to the inn and get a couple of drinks there.”

“Then I say it’s the first good idea you’ve had all evening,” Castiel replies before turning his back on Dean and heading back to Bobby’s.

Dean decides that if that’s sarcasm then Castiel needs lessons.

--

The next morning, Dean knocks on room number one’s door, but no one answers. Does the freak ever sleep? He shrugs and when he goes downstairs Bobby hands him a note, looking disgusted. It’s from Michael – nothing’s changed, he’s supposed to go down to the undertaker’s place and report in the evening.

Which is how he finds himself in front of Rufus’s place again, bored out of his mind, and at this point he’s desperate for conversation. Also, he’s half-sure that maybe he could gain some information if they had a talk.

“Can I ask you somethin’?”

“Whatever,” Rufus says as he nails together some wood.

“When I went to Adler’s place, there were people shoving two kids into a room. Can you tell me anything about that?”

Rufus looks at him for a second, then shakes his head and puts the hammer down. “Has anyone ever told you that askin’ too many questions is gonna kill you?”

“What can I say? I like living dangerously.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, those two kids live next to the girl you so heroically helped the other day – their father can’t pay his rent either. Not after Adler raised it up a whole lot of notches. So he’s keeping the kids hostage until the guy finds the money – except that it’s been a while and I’m not sure how long that’s gonna last.”

“You mean he’s going to –”

“I don’t know. I wouldn’t put it past him though, that’s for fucking sure. Hell, Alastair’s been naggin’ him for weeks from what I heard, about handin’ the kids over to him– I guess you can imagine what he wants to do with ‘em.”

“Jesus,” Dean breathes, and that’s – damn, he isn’t sure he’ll be able to just stand there and do nothing if it comes to that.

Best that he doesn’t think about that at all.

--

“You won’t believe this,” Balthazar says as soon as he’s on the second floor of the newspaper building. Gabriel is scowling at what looks like a bill – well, they pay a rent to Zachariah Adler, don’t they?

“What, we sold so many copies of the last issue that I can go to Adler and pay this to his stupid face? Because, my friend, that’s what I call ‘being in a deep fucking trouble’,” Gabriel says as he hands Balthazar the piece of paper.

“Fuck him,” Balthazar hisses, “he knows we can’t afford that.”

“Yeah, well, apparently he decided it was time to raise the rent and we have one week before he throws us out. You think we should finally pack things up like two smart people, for once?”

“Not really. Not when I tell you what I’ve been hearing.”

“And what have you been hearing?”

“You know the two handsome knights in shining armor – pardon, shining Colts – that have come into this lovely town recently?”

“Yeah, and I remember one of them coming in here and threatening to shoot both me and you if we dared say anything about it. So?”

“Well, one is at Adler’s and one was talking with Alastair just this morning.”

“So what, they’re siding with criminals? What an exciting piece of news.”

“No, I think that they’re trying to double-cross the both of them. And that there’s carnage coming at some point.”

“Yeah, two people against thirty. You know I’ll never leave unless they make me, but I don’t really think there’s half a chance in hell they’d do it. And I won’t go piling my hopes on bounty hunters.”

“I think you’ll be surprised. And I should probably go finish today’s obituaries, shouldn’t I.”

“That’s what I’d call a good idea,” Gabriel answers before looking back at the piece of paper. He takes it, rips it in half and throws it away. It’s not like they’ll ever find the money, so he doesn’t need a receipt. Also, he needs to find a stupid headline for tomorrow’s issue.


--

Dean arrives back at his room way after sunset, feeling tired as fuck and tense from having to act all calm and nice when he knew that there were two kids upstairs waiting to be fed to an insane killer with a thing for carving people up, and he almost screams when he notices the person sitting on the bed. He draws his gun out, ready to shoot them before anything else, but then –

“It’s just me,” Castiel says lighting a lamp, and Dean holsters his gun, scowling. Castiel doesn’t stand up and Dean doesn’t tell him to. He has an idea that it’d be useless.

“Can’t you just fucking knock next time? And how did you get in?”

“You should close the window,” Castiel replies, standing up. “Anyway, I have a favor to ask you.”

“All right, shoot.”

“I had an interesting meeting with Alastair today. They have a base not very far from here – maybe five minutes. It’s some old farm that was obviously abandoned a long time ago. They’re planning to storm into town tomorrow, go to the prison, get their man out and kill everyone who gets in their way. Now, you have talked to the sheriff, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, so?”

“I need you to go there now and convince him to let me break the guy out without making a fuss. So no one dies and I get all the credit, and they have no reason to doubt anymore about whose side I’m on. Will you do that?”

Well, Dean thinks, there goes his idea of just going to bed. “Yeah, sure. When are you breaking the guy out?”

“Let’s say about two hours after you come back here.”

Dean nods and heads out of the room. Considering how scared the sheriff was of his prisoner last time, Dean is pretty sure that it won’t take much to convince him to play along.

--

He gets back to the inn as soon as he’s done, so he can give Castiel a heads up, but by now he’s not as sleepy as he was before – he decides he’s just going to take his horse and go for a ride. He hopes that it doesn’t take the usual week for that letter to get to Sam. He can’t believe that they haven’t seen each other in almost a year by now. Before he could take trips back East more often, but lately his stupid relatives have been asking for money non-stop and there’s only so many criminals you can kill.

Then again, he can’t expect things to be as easy as they were when Dad was still alive.

That’s when he realizes that he might have taken his horse too far – he can barely see Sunrise from here, and it’s not the direction he came from when he got here. He’s about to turn his horse back when he hears noise coming from the other direction. It sounds like there’s a lot of people. He remembers that there’s supposed to be a river around here – maybe that’s where they are. He gets off his horse and leads her until he can see the river bank, then leaves her behind (she won’t make noise – he’s had her since before the disaster and he knows how to treat her well) and crouches down behind a rock. The bank is about fifty feet below – he can see the river all right, and a good number of wagons. There’s a guy in what’s obviously a fake army uniform arguing with another guy – tall, around sixty, very well fed Dean would dare say, and a face that reminds Dean of bankers he saw a couple times in the East – the kind of guy who wants to fuck you over.

“Mr. Adler,” the guy says, “that was the agreement and I won’t start arguing about it now. We said ten thousand dollars, I brought you guns for ten thousand dollars. And that’s what I’m going to get.”

So that’s Zachariah Adler.

“Well, I am very sorry to hear that,” Adler says before ducking.

And then Dean hears a freaking machine gun shooting from one of the wagons. There were a couple of people backing the seller up, but they all fall dead to the ground within seconds. There’s so much blood on the bank that the earth looks black in the moonlight, and Dean can just hope it didn’t scare his horse away. Dean tries to take a better look at the guy on the wagon – it’s Raphael. So that’s why he wasn’t at Adler’s place the last time Dean visited.

“They were worth it, though,” Adler says, shrugging. “Well, this is done. I’d say we can go home so tomorrow you can introduce me to this new recruit.”

Raphael doesn’t look too pleased at that but he doesn’t answer either, and Dean decides that he’s been pushing his luck too much. His horse is still there, thankfully.

As he rides back to the town, he decides that for all that Castiel says about laying low, he doesn’t want to be the only person here who knows about this.

Then he remembers something about the newspaper office being in front of the emporium.

--

Gabriel can’t help wondering why the hell he always works until after midnight – he should follow Balthazar’s example and find himself a girl at Crowley’s instead of staying holed up here. Then again if he trusted Balthazar with putting the paper together maybe he wouldn’t need to be here, but that’s a different matter – he doesn’t trust anyone with that and if it means that he has to do it at night because he never finds time during the day, fine. Also, Balthazar is good at writing but awful at all the rest, so it’s not like Gabriel has a choice.

He hadn’t expected to find a gun pointed to his head and a hand on his mouth as soon as he stepped inside the office after going outside to take a walk to clear his head.

“Don’t worry, I don’t want to shoot you. I just didn’t want you to give me away. Can I let go?”

Gabriel nods, and when the guy does let go, he wishes he had the guts to punch him. “And who the hell are you?” he hisses.

“You don’t sound like you’re from England. Then it was the other guy who saw me. Oh, well, whatever,” the guy says, and Gabriel can see by the light of the candle in the corner of the room that he has to be one of the two trigger-happy people that came to town. The one who helped Lisa Braeden, since he’s wearing the poncho and has the green eyes.

“You’re the one Balthazar saw, all right. So, what is it that you want?”

“I just saw a thing that would make an interesting story, since you’re asking. But I ain’t no journalist. And I figured you might have a use for it.”

“And what’d that be?”

“Well, once upon a time, there were some wagons full of guns coming towards town. Worth ten thousand dollars.”


--

When Dean gets back to the inn, it’s full and apparently a lot of people are talking. He saunters towards the bar, trying to blend in.

“I think I need a drink,” he tells Bobby, whose scowl isn’t any smaller than it was this morning.

“Will you just explain what the fuck you and your pal think you’re doin’? First, you get that Brady arrested, then the other one breaks him out with the sheriff not doing anything to stop it, then you both seem like you’re working for those sons of bitches. What the hell’s going on?”

Dean takes the shot glass that Bobby hands him and downs it in one go.

“Believe me,” Dean says, “you’ll understand soon. And now, sorry, but I’m really fucking tired.”

There’s no one in his room when he opens the door.

Not like he had been expecting to actually find someone, but that’s not really the point. The point is that he’s feeling somewhat disappointed. He takes off his clothes, trying to shake the sensation off, but it doesn’t work. He sighs as he gets into the bed, figuring that it’s no use – he should just admit to himself that he might appreciate Castiel’s company more than casually. If only because he doesn’t mind the staring that much by now, and he’d have been way angrier if anyone else had crept inside his room from the goddamn window. He’s dead tired, though, and he figures that trying to get to sleep is better than sorting out what’s going through his head. He has this idea that it might be the same thing as poking a vipers’ nest and he can’t afford any of that right now.

part III
 
 
feeling: determineddetermined