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16 July 2011 @ 09:40 am
the two faces of vengeance - part IV  
He wakes up to a strange feeling – someone is cleaning a wound on his face. But they’re doing it carefully, almost gingerly, and he can’t remember the last time someone touched him as gently. He opens his eyes slowly, his entire body feeling sore, and he’d have gasped at seeing Castiel hunched over him if he had the strength to.

“What –” he starts, but his throat hurts. He’s half-shocked at his own voice – it sounds a lot rougher than it did a day ago.

“Don’t talk,” Castiel says, his voice low. “It’s a miracle that you’re still here at all. We’re in a cave just outside town – Rufus uses it to store broken tools.”

There’s a cot beneath him, though. A pretty comfortable cot, now that he notices.

“We brought a cot from the inn – and I had the newspaper people ask the local doctor for some supplies. They say they owe you, since apparently right now Adler can’t ask them for money for some reason I’m pretty sure you know about.”

Castiel is still moving a soft wet cloth over his face, but it stings, as gently as Castiel is touching him.

“Don’t move – this has to be cleaned.”

Dean tries to stay still and notices that Castiel isn’t wearing his coat. It’s the first time he has seen him without – he has a simple white shirt underneath. His sleeves are rolled up – he has nice arms, Dean thinks for a fleeting second before noticing that Castiel’s fingers are covered in blood.

Probably his own.

“How – how bad?” he asks. He’s obviously beyond speaking in sentences right now.

Castiel’s eyes suddenly seem larger, and so much for emotionless – is that pity flashing in his stare for a second?

“Not so bad that you won’t live,” Castiel says.

“Don’t – I don’t need you to make it easier,” Dean manages.

“If I tell you that it will be a lot harder for you to find a wife now, would that suffice?”

He’s still trying to make it easier on him, Dean realizes. Fuck. He doesn’t even want to know. “I didn’t tell him anything,” he says, figuring that he has to make it clear – who knows if Rufus actually told Castiel.

Then Castiel’s free hand suddenly comes up and barely touches Dean’s face, just a hint of contact, but Dean figures it’s because of the wounds.

“Don’t tire yourself. I know,” Castiel answers, his voice suddenly warmer, and then Dean can’t just stay conscious anymore.

--

“Did Castiel give you my message?” Bobby asks a few days later, setting a basket with water and food on the ground beside Dean’s cot. Dean has been up for maybe six hours straight – the first time that he’s managed to stay conscious that long. His entire chest is bandaged, his cheeks are as well, and he has lost most feeling in his right hand, probably for good.

Lovely.

Castiel has been around pretty much all the time, except for today – he went out saying he had business to attend and Dean had let him. It’s not like Castiel, is his nurse, not when he kills people for a living.

“Nope.”

“Yeah, I gotta tell Rufus that Castiel there is much more considerate than we’d taken him for. He just had to tell you from me that you’re a goddamn idjit, but that’s not the point. I’ll bring you food in another couple days – see that you make this last.”

“If I’m an idiot, why would you even bring me food?”

Bobby shakes his head and brings a hand to his beard, stroking it. “Those little kids had been held there for a month and no one had even bothered to lift a finger ‘bout it. You did a stupid thing, but it was a good one, so I ain’t going to say you shouldn’t have. I’m just shocked that you survived a meeting with that fucker Alastair. Usually folks ain’t so lucky.”

“Well, I’m tough to kill.”

“Yeah, don’t we all know that.”

Bobby leaves after that, and Dean is left alone with his thoughts. He’s been leading a dangerous life in recent years, and up until now he’s been ridiculously lucky. He’ll probably recover just fine, but right now his entire body hurts. If he looks at his arms he can see purple bruises all over his skin, and damn, he’ll be a sight the next time Sam sees him.

Not that he had thought as far as finding himself a wife, and he can barely remember exactly how Alastair slashed his face, but he’s sure that his life is just going to get harder.

Which means that he has to recover fast because he has to get that money. If he manages to get enough to buy himself a small piece of land as well as to pay for Sam’s education, then he won’t have to deal with anyone else. He could live on his own well enough when he’s been on his own for ages. And he’ll keep on being on his own and hoping that Sam visits, because he isn’t sure how much his presence would be appreciated in a civilized place.

But apart from that, even if it wasn’t for the money, he just wants to shoot that insane piece of shit. It’s not even that he’s carved over half of his body, it’s that he kept on saying how beautiful he looked now, just like a butterfly flapping its wings for the first time while he did it.

Right now, Dean would be happy to put a piece of lead between his eyes.

And that’s when Castiel arrives back at their cave.

“Had a good time?” Dean asks, and Castiel doesn’t even bother answering.

“I went to get supplies,” he says. “I think you can take off the bandages on your face. Not on your chest though. That was way worse.”

“How do you know?”

“I know since I was the one patching it up.”

“Didn’t you say there was a doctor?”

“I said he gave me supplies, but he didn’t want to risk anyone finding out he helped you.”

Dean actually feels kind of touched, considering that he has practically botched their entire plan.

“Uh. Thanks. And – just, sorry.”

“For what?” Castiel asks, tilting his head slightly as he takes off his coat.

“Are you serious? If I hadn’t pulled that stunt with breaking the kids out ahead of time and just acted my part, we’d be done by now. You’d have had your revenge, I’d have my money, and – well.”

Castiel looks at him for a second, then kneels next to where Dean is sitting, shaking his head. Without the coat, the hat and the collar, he seems way smaller. Frailer. And older. His eyes look younger when he’s wearing no expression, but right now – right now they don’t.

“I should ask if you are serious. See, I – I did a lot of reprehensible things in order to get to this point. If I had been you, I’m not sure that I would have risked everything. And I would have put it on the list with all the other reprehensible things I did. Half of the time I’m sure that my sister would hate to see what I’ve done to avenge her.”

“You can’t know that.”

“She was a Quaker,” Castiel replies. “I can know she’d have hated a lot of things I’ve done. But that’s not the point. The point – well, there are a lot of things I haven’t been thinking about since I decided to take up a gun and throw away my Bible, Dean. One of which is that people can be genuinely good.”

“And I would be that kind of person? Are you insane? I kill people for a living, if you forgot about it.”

Castiel doesn’t protest when Dean calls him that – Dean has no idea of where it comes from. Maybe from the fact that saying entire names is too hard, with his throat still feeling like sandpaper.

“You kill people for a living, but you didn’t choose it. And you don’t like it. Everything you do, you do for someone else, not for your own benefit. I find it – I don’t even know how to put it. But I can’t fault you for having done what you did. And considering what you went through because they wanted to know who you were working with, it would be disgraceful if I only thought about my own business right now, wouldn’t it?”

And yeah, Dean can see that, but still, it isn’t enough.

“If I were you, I’d still be pissed.”

“There’s no reason to be. After all, Adler isn’t going anywhere. I’ll just have to wait. And Dean, I’ve waited for years. I’m not in a hurry right now.”

“All right. Well, thanks. You make a pretty decent nurse.”

“Don’t exaggerate,” Castiel comments, and then takes a deep breath. “Do you want to take the bandages off?”

Dean is about to say no, but then again, he has toughed it up for all his life. When his mother died Dean was four, and he practically raised his brother on his own while his father tried to keep a roof over their heads. When his father died he still managed to make things work and to make sure that Sam was safe, and if it meant shooting criminals for a living, then fine. His face not being so pretty anymore won’t stop him.

“Fine. Let’s take them off,” he answers, raising a hand, but Castiel shakes his head and moves closer.

“Don’t. You might open wounds again. Just let me,” he says, his voice gentle. Dean nods and there are Castiel’s fingers again, slowly peeling away the bandages, one at a time. They’re slightly pink – when Castiel cleaned them, he must have done a darn good job.

“Do you – do you happen to have a mirror?”

Castiel looks at him like he really wishes he’d take that question back, then stands up and starts searching through Rufus’s crap. He finds one, with a crack in the middle. He cleans it with the sleeve of his shirt, then sighs and hands it over.

Dean raises it and –

Shit.

It’s not the small slashes on his forehead and nose and chin. Those will scar decently, probably you wouldn’t see them anymore in a couple of years. It’s – fuck – his mouth.

The son of a bitch has carved a fucking smile into his cheeks. It’s so deep that now that the wound is still tender, you could almost – fuck, he almost feels the chilly air of the cave touching the bones in his skull and –

He turns on his side, a hand to his stomach, and retches for he doesn’t even know how long.

He barely notices the hand holding his head up; the only thing he can see is the red, thin triangles reaching from the corners of his mouth up until his cheekbones, and the only thing he can taste is the bile raising up in his throat.

--

The next day, while Castiel is out (he still sleeps at the inn and comes in mid-morning), he decides it’s high time he stops moping. He has had nightmares for the entire night, and they all included Alastair and his face and his stupid knife, and Dean is not going to have any of that. He finds a discarded coffin cover, puts it on the cave’s wall in front of the cot he sleeps on, and then he takes his gun from the discarded holster.

Now, his father might not have been the most loving person on the face of the planet, and Sam will complain forever about the fact that he taught them to shoot as soon as they were able to hold a gun. But one thing no one could say about John Winchester is that he did things halfway. Dean has never had much use for his left hand, but John still insisted that he learned to shoot with both right and left, and it’s high time to see if he still can do it. He sits back down on the ground because it hurts to breathe most of the time and he’s better off sitting, he aims with his left and shoots.

By the time Castiel returns, he’s gained enough confidence that can hit the center of the coffin cover three times out of four. He had tried to put a vertical row of bullets in it, possibly all at the same distance, but that hadn’t gone as well. Then again, he hasn’t shot with his left since he was fifteen or so – he won’t ask too much of himself, especially since he has nothing but time.

“That’s impressive,” Castiel comments as he hands Dean two boxes of extra bullets.

“What –”

“I never thought you were a quitter, but it won’t do you any good if you run out.”

Dean should have never thought that the guy could be expressionless. Right now he’s giving him a determined look, one that says </i>and I sure as fuck was right, seeing what you’ve been doing this morning</i>.

“Right. We’re still sending those bastards to hell, as soon as I can stand up,” Dean says, and grabs the boxes.

--

“They’re getting desperate,” Castiel says after a week.

“What do you mean?” Dean asks as he leans against the cave’s wall. He can stand up now, but his chest still hurts and he still can’t aim like he wants. Also he still hasn’t taken the rest of the bandages off.

“Well, you made them all quite angry. And the guy who was supposed to make sure you didn’t escape is now missing most of his teeth. Anyway, Alastair decided he needed a new canvas, I guess.”

“Oh, shit. Don’t tell me that –”

“He picked a girl at the whorehouse, yes. She’s currently more dead than alive.”

“Was she the one you had –”

“No. Anyway, Crowley came to search for me at the inn. Oh, and I should inform you that I’m not associating with Alastair anymore, obviously. I told them I was fine with the money I had and they believed me.”

“Better for you,” Dean huffs. “So?”

“So he says that he knows that I killed four of Adler’s people in one go, and wondered if I was interested in freeing this town from that menace. And oh, he said I could have a ‘free shag’ on his account, if I did it.”

“Clearly it wouldn’t be with the girl Alastair cut, if she survives at all,” Dean says, and damn, he had tried to keep the venom from slipping in, but he can’t help it. He hears Castiel taking a long breath, though, and moving closer.

“Considering everything, if I were to accept it, and I wouldn’t because I have my reasons, I reckon I’d only want it from that one.”

Dean suddenly feels short of breath, and not because of his chest. He turns, looking at Castiel, who’s staring at him indeed, but – his eyes, there’s something different in them.

“What – what do you mean, you have your reasons?”

“Dean, you are smart, but sometimes I think that you can miss quite obvious details. You asked me once, how come I didn’t like being around women even if I could shoot four men in cold blood. And you also asked me once why I have never gone to a brothel, and I never answered you. Do you still not realize that maybe I’m just not interested in women?”

Dean thinks about that for a second and – well. Fuck. That does actually make sense, and to be entirely honest it doesn’t change a thing. When someone fixes the cuts on your ruined face and cares for you for three weeks you just don’t care. Besides, Dean might have thought about a couple of men once or twice – not that he had ever gone through with it. He’s also been trying not to dwell too much on how much he likes being around Castiel for a while now – but this is really not the moment to think about that. He gets it and it won’t be enough to make him uncomfortable. Not when he had been disappointed not to find Castiel perched on his bed that one time.

“Uh. Well. Sorry. I just didn’t assume. And was that the only reason?”

Castiel keeps on staring at him. Just at him. And –

Oh.

Suddenly the air in the cave isn’t as chilly anymore. Suddenly, Dean feels that tension he had felt when they had spoken in his room for the first time coming back to him in waves. Not to mention that Castiel is inches from him right now, and it doesn’t cross his mind for a second to back off. Or to make Castiel back off. He doesn’t want Castiel to move, he realizes.

It still can’t mean what Dean thinks it means. Castiel – he can’t possibly –

“You don’t mean it,” Dean blurts, and his voice shakes more than he’d have thought it would.

“I’m afraid I do,” Castiel answers quietly, and he seems – fuck, almost hesitant? Dean doesn’t even know but the way he’s looking at him, it’s just – no one has ever looked at him like that.

“I’m not – no one would –”

Castiel suddenly moves just a bit closer, staring right up at him, and even if he’s a couple inches shorter, Dean feels impossibly small. There really is barely space left between them – if any of them raised a hand even slightly, they’d touch.

“I will say this just once. I’m not – I don’t allow myself to get attached to people. I think you did notice that. I haven’t let emotions get ahold of me for years, because otherwise I could have never done what I had to do. But since the second you sat in front of me, you riled me up. The first time I met you, you made me feel angry, annoyed, impressed and embarrassed within the span of two hours. I don’t know what is it about you, but I can’t seem to stay detached when you’re around. And I thought – I thought it was just something I could ignore. Then, I was with Alastair’s gang when one of Adler’s people came to say that they had you and they needed Alastair to make you talk. He said that he remembered your face. And that he looked forward to carving your eyes out,” Castiel says, his voice getting progressively lower, and Dean is fucking thankful that he had the sense to get out when he did. “You don’t even – no, maybe you do. I’m sure you know what it feels like when despair takes hold of you, don’t you?”

Dean gives him a soft nod. “The only thing I could think about was that I wanted to shoot him just for saying that. But I didn’t. I was about to, but then I realized that it was twelve people against one, half behind me. I could have killed him, sure, and brought another three or four with him, but I wouldn’t have left that place alive. And maybe you wouldn’t have gone through Alastair’s treatment, but they’d have killed you anyway. I pretended not to care, and when he left the only thing I could think about is that if he ever did that, I would track him down and carve his eyes out.”

Dean should be scared by this point. The problem is that –

He isn’t.

“I quit soon after – thankfully I was the least of their problems, but I couldn’t leave just after Alastair did or they’d have suspected something. I understood where they had you, and I did get there as soon as I figured it was safe, but I found the place empty. Rufus called me from his shop and – I think you had passed out some fifteen minutes before and he was about to bring you out. I helped him – you know the rest. You don’t have an idea of how relieved I was when I found out that he didn’t carve your eyes out after all. And if you aren’t what people would call aesthetically pleasing anymore, it doesn’t matter to me. At all. I understand that you’re not like me and you don’t care for this. Just pretend I never said –”

“Don’t,” Dean says. “Don’t ever – I can’t pretend you haven’t said it. I just –”

Dean doesn’t know how to put that into words. How can he say that he doesn’t want Castiel to take it back at all? He can’t even find a way to make sense of what’s going through his head, because he had realized that there was some kind of tension between them, and he had actually told Castiel that he had a pretty face more than once. He has wanted Castiel around, he has barely bat an eyelid when finding out Castiel had been sitting on his bed while he was sleeping, he actually expected him to climb into his room from the damn window; he can admit to himself that he hasn’t been feeling just kinship here. He just isn’t sure of how Castiel can actually think so highly of him. Still, considering that he’s been trying for a week to come to terms with the prospect of spending his life with people looking at him like he was some freak show attraction, having someone looking straight at him like he’s exactly what they want makes him feel lightheaded. This is too much, he thinks. It can’t be happening. It can’t.

“Dean –”

“Just a minute. I need to – just give me a minute and don’t move,” Dean replies. He doesn’t want to confuse things here. He isn’t going to move things forward if he isn’t sure of where he stands. He doesn’t want to agree just because Castiel is convenient and there, because it’s obvious that this means something to Castiel and just, no. And he knows there’s something on his part, all right, but he doesn’t want to act on it if he isn’t sure of what he’s doing.

He figures there’s a simple way to get himself straight. For a second, he imagines that their places were switched and that Alastair had been talking about Castiel’s eyes, not his.

His stomach suddenly closes down on itself and he feels like retching all over again. Simply the idea of it makes him feel sick, and when he meets Castiel’s worried eyes again, he wonders, would I want to kiss, let’s say Lisa Braeden, if she was in his place?

The answer comes easily enough.

No.

The idea doesn’t do anything for him, even if she had looked at him twice and he might have looked back at her. But right now he does want to kiss Castiel. He really does.

Fuck this, he can think about how wrong he’s being later. He moves forward with all the intentions of crushing their lips together but then he remembers that it hurts even to chew lately, considering what’s going on with his cheeks. He stops, an inch shy of Castiel’s lips, but apparently Castiel gets it because they do kiss, and it’s Castiel closing the distance between them. His hands cup Dean’s face slightly, his palms barely touching the still healing scar tissue, and when their lips meet, it’s so gentle that Dean can’t find it in himself to believe it. Not when the both of them are what they are, and no kiss between people who have mostly used their hands to shoot has the right to be so slow. Then Dean forgets about it, because Castiel’s lips are soft as they move under his own, his hands are steady as they hold his face and Dean can’t help it – he brings his own hands to Castiel’s shoulders, the right moving up to tangle in Castiel’s hair. He barely feels the softness of it, but he doesn’t care. When they part, there’s only been a slight touch of their tongues, but it was a pretty good kiss all the same.

“Well,” he says, “I wouldn’t mind a round two.”

“That was the first time I kissed someone,” Castiel blurts out, and Dean can’t even say it’s a surprise. If he never got laid, then –

Yeah, well.

“Are you regretting it?”

“No,” Castiel replies before kissing him again. This time it’s faster, and there are hands reaching below their respective shoulders, but then as Dean leans back against the wall he winces and moans in pain. The kiss is over as suddenly as it started – damn. Dean should have remembered that the fucker also carved his back and that there’s a reason he sleeps on his side.

“I didn’t think –” Castiel starts, but Dean raises a hand and stops him as he sits down on the bed.

“Nah, it was the two of us. Though well – guess it isn’t time yet. Mostly because I can’t freaking stay in any suitable position and this cave sort of sucks. Listen, what if – I can’t even believe I’m saying this – what if we just stop this for now and then rent ourselves a fancy room in Yuma or – I dunno, some place where they have fancy rooms, after I’m back on my feet and we give this town a good cleaning?”

Castiel’s lips curl up in a small smile which for the first freaking time is at least a real one and not the hint of a hint of a hint.

“I can do that,” Castiel says, and sits next to him.

Dean’s head falls on his shoulder and he doesn’t let himself think about how pleased he feels when Castiel’s hand tentatively curls around his hip.

--

Two weeks later, he can put a row of ten bullets into the lid of a coffin, perfectly spaced. He has also gotten rid of the bandages on his chest, but he’s seriously reconsidering wearing them for a while more anyway. He has to go shirtless around the cave because putting clothing on hurts like nothing else. His front is a huge, erratic scar. His back has more scar tissue than skin visible, and Dean just tries not to think about it. He’ll be ready for action soon, but he had an idea this morning and he wants to see if –

“You up?” Bobby asks as he comes into the cave with food. “You don’t know how high your bill’s getting,” he comments as he leaves the basket in the first empty space he finds.

“I’ll pay you, don’t worry. I need a favor though.”

“Shoot.”

“Does Rufus still have some of that?” Dean asks, nodding towards a plate of steel lying discarded on the ground, into which Dean has put five bullets and none of them went through it.

“Yeah, reckon he does. Why?”

“Tell him that I need some.”

If he manages to do what he wants, he’s pretty sure it’ll be hard to put him down.

--

“I need a favor.”

Balthazar raises his eyes from the piece about some fair in the next town over (he hasn’t gone further than the second sentence in the last two hours), and his eyes meet Castiel’s. (Finally, he had convinced the guy to share his name). He’s standing right at the entrance of the room, looking almost uncertain.

Then again, if he needs a favor.

“You can ask me inside here. I doubt this is a conversation anyone needs to know about,” Balthazar answers, before standing up and closing the window and the blinds. When he turns back to his desk, Castiel is sitting in front of it, the fingers on his left hand worrying a button on his coat.

Interesting.

The handful of times they’ve spoken to each other, Castiel’s hands were always steady.

“So, my friend, what can I do for you? Because I’m sure you need a favor.”

“I need to find some clothes.”

Balthazar sits back down on his chair, confused.

“Why would you need me to buy you clothes?”

“I don’t need to buy them. I need to find the ones that were on Dean Winchester the day he es – the day he disappeared.”

He almost rushes the words.

“You were going to say escaped, weren’t you?”

Castiel’s eyes suddenly narrow, and he goes from uncertain to dangerous in the span of two seconds; Balthazar raises his hands without even thinking about it.

“Hey, do you think I’d spill? Come on, it’s pretty obvious. You’re lucky that everyone who works for Adler isn’t smart enough to figure it out, but you’ve been coming and going a lot since your best mate over there… disappeared, as you put it. And since he managed to escape once, I highly doubt he’s dead now. Now you come in asking for help finding his clothes, which I’d define pretty queer at least, and you think I can’t figure it out? If you thought I wouldn’t then I should be offended on behalf of my intelligence. And probably yours as well.”

Castiel doesn’t contradict him.

“I apologize,” Castiel says after a pause that feels longer than it probably is. “You will understand that it’s a delicate matter, I hope. But I really need to find those clothes.”

“So you come to me because you suppose that I’d know how to find stuff that, as far as you know, might just as well be worn by one of Alastair’s men right now?”

“You seem resourceful. And I am not asking it out of the goodness of your heart. I’m offering a bargain.”

“Really. Let’s hear it.”

Castiel snatches the piece of paper from Balthazar’s desk, reading the headline and those first couple lines. “You have been itching to write about something other than the horse fair in Riverton.”

It’s not even a question. “Well,” Balthazar replies, “considering your line of business, it’d be the same thing as you shooting people who only steal food for a living. What do you think?”

“Then I can talk to you about certain things that have happened. And other that should happen, if everything goes according to plan. And then when both of us are gone you can write a book about it for all I care.”

“What exactly are you planning?” Balthazar asks, keeping his hands firmly on the desk. They’re sweating. He doesn’t want Castiel to notice.

“To take a few rotten apples from the basket.”

“On your own?”

“On
our own.”

Balthazar doesn’t want to get his hopes up.

Then again, usually the clothes of whoever Alastair decided to have his fun with end up at Ellen’s emporium – everything is second hand, from clothes to weapons. No one from the gang wants to wear them, most of the time. Even if it doesn’t end well, it doesn’t cost Balthazar anything to try.

“Very well. I have no idea why the sodding clothes are so important, but I think I know where you could find them. We’ll go now, and if we’re lucky you and I are going to have a nice, long chat afterward. That works for you?”

“It works for me,” Castiel replies, his face carefully blank again.

Balthazar doesn’t think that the act works as well now – the guy obviously can have some kind of feelings – but he keeps his mouth shut.


--

The day Cas comes into the cave with another guy, Dean is about to shoot first and ask questions later, but before he can he sees that the guy is carrying – his clothes?

Or, the ones he had on when he was knocked out.

“Who’s this?” Dean asks, not really feeling like being seen by anyone.

“Well, you were most definitely nicer last time I saw you.”

“I’ve never seen you anywhere,” Dean replies. He tries to place the guy – tall, blue eyes, around mid forties, wearing a corduroy suit that looks well-kept but it’s definitely old and starting to look worn-out. British accent too – but he can’t really recall his face.

“Yeah, but just my luck, I’ve seen you.”

“He’s the one of the guys from the newspaper,” Castiel explains.

“Oh, right. How come you have my clothes?”

“Well, your friend here has told me he’ll give us permission to print anything we want about what’s going on in this town after you two are done with whatever business you have if I was nice enough to help him find your stupid clothes. I have no idea why he’s be that set on it, but since I’m the only person around who has actually seen said clothes and who has nothing better to do all day than writing bloody obituaries instead of doing my job seriously, I figured why not? At least it’d be less boring than what I usually do. There you go,” he says, handing them over. Dean takes them, and then he realizes that the guy – Balthazar, right? – is totally noticing what went on during his and Alastair’s little talk.

“I’ll be – I don’t even know,” he says after some thirty seconds of embarrassing silence, sounding a lot less like he’s lecturing them. “I feel like I should say something.”

“Thanks but don’t. It’s the thought that counts,” Dean says, not really wanting to talk about it. Balthazar stares at him for another handful of seconds, then shrugs and turns towards Castiel.

“Well then – I’ll go back to town, I guess. If I were you two, I wouldn’t get too comfortable. Just a bit of friendly advice.”

“What do you mean?” Dean asks.

“What, you think that people forgot that you escaped? Then I’m extremely sorry for you, let me tell you that. We’ve had Michael Adler searching every bloody house in the entire town looking for you – they will widen the search at some point, and I’d bet my lousy pay that it’ll be sooner rather than later. They’re getting antsy,” Balthazar replies before brushing the dust off his suit and leaving the cave.

“Aren’t you going with him?” Dean asks.

“He came with his own horse,” Castiel replies, “and I’d rather be here.”

Yeah, Dean figures, not like he doesn’t agree. And for how weird it’s been to just kiss for the past three weeks, he can’t even say he dislikes it.

“Why the clothes?”

“Because this,” Castiel says lifting the poncho, “would cover what you need to hide a lot better than a coat.”

Dean sees the point – and to be entirely honest, he had missed that thing. It was his dad’s last birthday gift for him and he had been somewhat upset at the idea of losing it.

“So you spent all day out because you were clothes searching with him?”

“He’s more tiring than you to be around, I’ll admit that. But he did find them in the end.”

“I don’t even want to know where they ended up. Hey, do you really need to go back to town?” Dean asks, hating how pitiful he sounds.

“I suppose I don’t,” Castiel answers as he slowly sits down next to him on the cave’s floor. His hand goes to Dean’s arm and Dean’s throat feels closed up, but in a good way.

--

He’s sleeping on the cot and Castiel is sleeping on the ground when Rufus breaks into the cave without minding about the noise.

“You two, high time to wake up. Whatever you have in mind, you need to get into town now.”

“What’s happening?” Dean asks, forcing himself to sit up.

“Adler decided that while he has proof that you ain’t hiding in the inn’s basement, Bobby’s the only person in town who might know who you are. He’s probably going to whip that information out of him in half an hour if he doesn’t fess first. Which he won’t, but either you go or he gets the treatment,” Rufus says, and then holds up a bag. “I happened to have this in my basement. Thought you could use it.”

“What’s that?”

“Dynamite.”

Castiel stands up and goes to retrieve the bag, then grabs his coat and puts it on. “Are they all there?”

“Yeah, twenty-five people in the town’s square, ‘course they are.”

“I think,” Dean says, “that we need to leave that dynamite at to Adler’s house. And I think that when we go into town, you should blow it up… let’s say ten minutes after we leave.”

Rufus looks satisfied enough with the plan, and Dean goes to grab his clothes and the rest of his things.

He’s as ready as he’ll ever be.

--

They probably make a pretty weird pair as they ride into the city, with Castiel is still on a mule and Dean is still on a horse, but it’s not like anyone sees them, since everyone is probably holed up inside their houses. Which Dean figures is nothing but smart thinking.

They leave both horse and mule at Rufus’s, figuring that they’ll make a lot less noise without them. Then Castiel looks at him for a second, takes the grey scarf that he was wearing around his neck and hands it over to Dean.

“What –”

“In case you don’t want anyone else to see it,” Castiel replies. Dean realizes what he means and just gives him a barely there nod. He wraps the scarf around the lower half of his face and they walk into town.

--

A lot of people will claim to have been there when it happened – truth is, at the time, most of Sunrise is hiding inside their houses and the only not-so-involved people watching are Crowley from the second floor of the whorehouse and Balthazar and Gabriel from the inn’s balcony. Bobby Singer is in the middle of the road, his hands tied to the inn’s sign, having refused to say a word about Dean Winchester’s whereabouts for the past half hour. At this point, Balthazar shakes his head, feeling gloomier than he has ever felt in his life. Mostly because he’s pretty sure that there’s no way that Bobby isn’t going to bite it, as soon as they start to get serious.

“He’s going to die, isn’t he?”

Gabriel doesn’t answer and mutters something about reconciling with his family once and for all if he gets out of this day alive himself.

That’s when they hear the explosion.

From his vantage point, Balthazar can see Zachariah’s farm crumbling down into pieces, a pillar of smoke rising from the debris – but today is a windy day, and the farm isn’t that far from the town. Soon enough, the entire square is filled with smoke and sand and dust, and it takes a while for it to settle.

No one expects two people to literally appear from behind the dust curtain.

“Well, good day everyone,” Dean Winchester says, his voice still rougher than Balthazar remembers from when he first arrived in town, and when he draws his gun, he fires five times in rapid succession and the first five people in his line of sight fall down dead.

“Christ, when did he even do it? And wasn’t his right hand useless?” Gabriel says, but Balthazar can’t answer because on the other side of the road, Castiel has been busy and another six henchmen are dead.

“You?” Alastair screams over the noise, and aims his gun at Dean’s chest –

Dean does fall to the ground, only to get right back to his feet.

Balthazar has never in his life seen Alastair look scared, but Dean just ignores him and aims at Brady’s head instead – Brady doesn’t even have time to aim back before he hits the ground with a dull thud. Balthazar can’t help staring, unable to think straight – not when people are falling in front of him like flies and it’s twenty-five against two. But the two men are just too fast and they did use surprise to their advantage. They end up quite close a couple of times as they move, and Balthazar can’t help thinking that they look like a merciless killing machine.

(He’ll use that phrase later, while writing his first serious article since leaving England.)

Meanwhile, Castiel has shot both Michael and Raphael and another four of the outlaws. Bodies lay strewn about the street and the ground is turning red. Then Dean looks up at the both of them.

“You two, get the hell down,” he shouts before turning his back and shooting the last of Alastair’s gang, who had been coming up behind him.

Gabriel nods at him and runs down the stairs – Balthazar figures he should follow. As soon as they step out onto the porch, Dean shoots at the rope holding Bobby up – he falls to the ground in a graceless heap, but when Gabriel goes to help him up the only thing he says is, about damn time.

Balthazar can’t stop staring at the scene in front of him. Alastair has been emptying his revolver, shooting at Dean, but Dean just walks on, not affected at all – and how is that possible, since Balthazar had seen Alastair hit him in the heart?

“You’re a ghost,” Alastair whispers, “you have to –”

Dean shakes his head, moves closer and kicks him in the knee, so that he falls to the ground.

Then he raises his poncho, and –

There’s a metal plate on his breast. The kind you use to make coffins.

“Too bad for you that I’m not,” Dean answers, and then he grabs his scarf, puts it down so that his face is visible (and damn, such a face, what a waste, Balthazar can’t help thinking), grabs a second gun he had on his waist and puts four bullets in Alastair’s head. It happens so fast that Balthazar finds it hard to process it – but there’s no satisfaction on Dean’s face when it’s done with. His eyes are blank as he stares down at the body for a handful of seconds.

Then he turns back to where Castiel is standing in front of Adler – the latter is down on the ground, and Castiel has a gun pointed at him. Balthazar is about to at least warn him, or try to, because there’s a last henchman ready to shoot Castiel in the back, but Dean sees him and gets there first.

The henchman falls dead. Castiel turns, glances at him, then nods at Dean, before turning his attention back to Adler.

“I had been told that there was some fake preacher after me,” Adler hisses, breaking a silence that had started to feel unnatural – for a second Balthazar had felt like time was slowing down. “I also have been told that he has as much blood on his hands as I do. I don’t think your sister would have liked it, not from what I saw.” He’s smirking, even with a gun pointed to his head – Balthazar feels sick to his stomach.

“I won’t deny that,” Castiel replies, his voice barely audible. “But it’s my business to deal with, not yours.”

“I doubt you will ever see her again, if you shoot me now.”

“I haven’t done everything I did thinking that I would ever see her again,” Castiel says, and aims.

“Then I’ll see you in hell, won’t I?”

“Maybe,” Castiel says, and pulls the trigger.

He lets the gun fall to the ground – it raises even more dust. Castiel stares at the body in front of him, and then he turns his back on it. He moves his hat so that it’s hiding his face, and raises more dust as he walks towards Dean, who’s just been standing and waiting until now.

After that, Balthazar looks down at the ground – it’s soaked in red.

“Fuck,” Bobby whispers.

“I can only concur,” Gabriel says.

Balthazar doesn’t speak at all, but when he sits at his desk later and writes it down, he finds that he indeed has a lot to say.

It isn’t by chance then, if in later years when people boast about how they were there, their stories sound a lot like the one he wrote.


--

Two days later, Dean is at the bank, counting the bills in his hands. They’re just out of the vault, crispy, clean. Considering all the blood he sees when he looks down at his hands, the contrast makes him almost feel light-headed. He sighs, his mouth always hidden by the scarf. It’s not all the money he got from his and Cas’s stunt, but he has already taken care that the share he had set aside for Sam has been wired back East. He made sure that the money will arrive as soon as possible – he should also write a letter, but he isn’t sure that he’s up for it right now. There are a lot of things he isn’t up for.

He isn’t even sure that what’s left is enough money to buy himself a piece of land somewhere, but he can’t process that either – he’s feeling like he has no idea what to do with his life right now.

There’s someone next to him as soon as he gets out of the bank.

“Does it make you feel better?” Dean asks, without preamble.

“Does what make me feel better?”

“Having killed him.”

“It makes me feel better for the people who don’t have to deal with him right now. But – not really. When I started out, I thought it would. It – it might have given me closure, but I’m not sure it’s enough. And you?”

“I just feel like it’s all too fucking much to handle,” Dean sighs.

“Do you – do you still feel like getting that room in Yuma?” Cas asks, his voice sounding slightly unsure, and it feels like a punch to the gut. No one who can shoot ten people down in a row and not even get a scratch has a right to sound this unsure, but maybe it’s a good thing. If all there was to them was knowing how to shoot, it might be time to get worried.

“I was about to ask you. It’s a long way to Yuma. I said that just ‘cause it was the first place that came to mind. If you know a town with a fancy place close by, I’ll be happy to change my mind.”

“Are we done here?” Cas asks. Dean nods – he has settled all the business he should have settled already.

“Yeah. You?”

Cas nods and Dean motions towards his horse. He mounts it and Castiel does likewise.

They’re not seen in Sunrise again. No one, in the months to follow, expected to. The entire story is printed the next day and it’s the first time Sunrise’s newspaper has consistent sales.

No one knows which parts of the story were omitted or changed. It doesn’t really matter in the long run. No one even really notices the both of them leaving, just like almost no one had noticed their arrival.

epilogue
 
 
feeling: determineddetermined
 
 
 
speakeasv on January 17th, 2014 06:45 am (UTC)
Well this was just excellent. The shoot out at the end was giving me both Django Unchained and The Quick and the Dead feels. You should watch them both if you haven't.
Other thoughts- I loved the subtle love story you had between Cas and Dean.
Now excuse me while I prep to read the epilogue and mourn the loss of Dean's lovely face.