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15 February 2012 @ 04:24 pm
to the lost - part I  
His knee hurts.

If only it was the only thing that did.

Whenever Dean tries to get into the mindset that he should consider himself lucky that it was the only major injury he came back home with, it never lasts much. He isn’t delusional enough to kid himself into really believing it.

He closes his fingers in a fist, opens it, closes it again, pushes nails into skin hard enough to draw blood.

You’re in Atlantic City, he thinks. You’re in Atlantic City, because you work for an asshole who sends you to do his dirty job because you’re expendable, and you had no other choice. But that’s it. You’re not there. You’re not there anymore. No France. No England. Just plain old New Jersey.

He breathes, once, twice, trying to get a hold of himself, and then he stands up from his table and asks the bartender where the phone is. The bartender nods toward the left side of the room. There’s a small booth, all right, in a dark corner.

Good.

Dean gets inside it, grabs a few coins, dials the Kansas City number.

Crowley’s not going to be happy about any of this. Dean wishes he could just avoid working for that bastard overall, but when you’re back from a war, you can’t be picky about who wants to hire you, even if it’s some crook from damn Edinburgh who has decided that he has to make his fortune in the New World selling smuggled alcohol without getting his hands dirty.

The phone rings twice. “Yes?” Crowley asks in that business voice of his that makes Dean’s skin crawl.

“Winchester. This isn’t working.”

“What exactly do you mean with this isn’t working?”

“I mean that Walker’s not going to make a deal with you. He says he doesn’t work with fucking foreigners. I’ve managed to land a meeting with some other crook who works with him the day after tomorrow to try and see if they’ll change their mind, but that doesn’t look like it’ll go well.”

“Raise the bloody offer,” Crowley replies, nonplussed. “I’ve already told you that you could.”

“Thank you, I already have and it’s double of what the guy he’s workin’ with right now pays him, but he says it ain’t a money problem.”

“Winchester, I need what he sells. I don’t care what you do in order to get it, but do it. I don’t pay you for fucking up. Oh, and go take that sodding test one of these days, I can’t be arsed to hear my partners bitching because I hired someone who wasn’t evaluated for taking care of important work.”

Then he slams the receiver and Dean groans, wishing he could just quit it.

Sure, as if he can afford it. Crowley is paying for Sam’s tuition in Stanford (the money Dean earned while in the army wasn’t going to cover it all), so Dean can’t exactly tell him to go fuck himself. At least for the next two years. And he has to give Lisa something as well, he owes her even if she says that he doesn’t.

He also can’t afford to lose his job because Gordon Walker doesn’t sell to anyone who wasn’t born in the good old US. Dean wouldn’t give a shit about it most days, but if he doesn’t manage to convince Walker some way before the end of the week he’s fucked.

He sighs, limping out of the booth and the bar. There’s a military hospital not far from the place he’s staying at – he could take that stupid psychological evaluation test that Crowley’s business partners are so hot about. Dean isn’t hot about it at all – the last thing he needs is some stupid doctor who’s never been in a trench and never had to kill anyone to determine whether he’s fit for society or not – but apparently said partners are concerned about him going off the rails.

As if he doesn’t get his hands dirty for their own benefit while they enjoy their money, Dean thinks bitterly. At least Sam doesn’t know where the money comes from. Dean hopes he can conceal it for a while longer. Until he graduates, possibly.

Damn, he needs a drink or a thousand. When he was ten, he had entirely different plans. He had wanted to be a policeman. He liked the idea of bringing people to justice.

He wants to laugh at the irony of it all, since right now he works for the opposite side, but when he was told that he could earn enough enrolling, no one had told him that the second it was over, killing people would be his only marketable skill.

--

He signs himself for the test as soon as he walks through the hospital gates. He doesn’t want to do it, but then again he only has to answer a few questions and people will stop harassing him when he’s back in Kansas; he might as well get done with it. At worst, he can lie.

He’s told to go to the second floor. His knee starts hurting more.

He stops on the stairs, breathes in, breathes out, breathes in again, curling his hand in a fist a second time, nails almost breaking the skin. He’s smelling dirty earth and feeling cold wind on his face, and it takes him a minute to snap out of it.

Obviously it has to happen when people have to write on a piece of paper that he’s a fully functioning human being.

What do they know. He shakes his head when for a second he smells gunfire; thankfully it’s gone just after.

He drags himself to the second floor and sits on the first bench he sees. He has a small book in his coat’s pocket, he bought it before leaving Kansas City and has barely looked at the title.

Could be a distraction.

He takes it out, reads the title again. The Tin Solder and Other Stories. Why the hell has he bought a fairytales book? He probably mistook it for something else. He isn’t even sure he wants to start it at all.

Then he raises his head and looks at the others waiting along with him. A nurse calls for Denver, Edward and a thirty-year old missing his left hand stands up and follows her into an office.

There are another five or six people. All his age or younger. None of them is particularly remarkable, though, or at least that’s what he thinks until he turns his head to his left and sees the man sitting in the bench next to his.

--

He sees the profile only, but it’s almost breathtaking. The man has a lovely shaped nose, pale skin, full pink lips, unruly brown hair that he can’t seem to comb as he runs a hand with long, elegant fingers through it. The eye that Dean can see is wide, of a lovely shade of blue that reminds Dean of the color of the sea between Dover and Calais in the early morning (one of the few beautiful things he has seen in Europe). The man is holding a bundle on his knees that he must have just taken out of the bag at his feet, and he’s also holding something else in his left hand that Dean can’t see; he’s wearing an old, tan coat that is maybe a bit too large for him.

Jesus, Dean thinks, that one really has the face of an angel.

And then the man turns slightly towards him and Dean stops breathing.

The right half of his face is nothing short of beautiful, but the left – fuck. His eye is missing completely, just an empty socket. One third of that lovely mouth is slightly twisted downwards, while his cheek is all raw, scarred flesh. The skin on the side of his nose is slowly re-growing, but it’ll take years before it’s done. Damn, Dean thinks, it probably hurts like hell whenever he has to talk. He has a few ideas of what could have happened. And there’s that lone, bright blue eye fixed on him. The entire look the man is giving him is saying I know you want to look away, and that’s probably why Dean doesn’t. He holds that stare for some ten seconds, and then the man’s left hand appears from his side and puts a tin mask over the ruined side of his face.

Dean suspects that it can’t be exactly pleasurable, but still doesn’t say anything. It’s painted, or at least it was in the beginning since now it’s faded, but it gives at least an impression of pink skin. The glass blue eye is slightly creepy, fixed and staring at nothing, and Dean almost says just take it off again.

He ponders the situation for a second. Should he introduce himself? Should he just leave the guy alone? His gut says introduce yourself.

Considering that he came back from the war alive because he always used to follow his gut, he stands up and goes sitting on mystery man’s right side.

“Hi,” he says. “Dean Winchester.” He extends a hand, and the man’s real eye widens for a second before he slowly, cautiously shakes Dean’s hand.

“Castiel Milton,” he replies. His voice is raw, much lower than Dean’s, and there’s a slight rasp to his words. No wonder, Dean thinks. If whatever happened to him blew half of his face off, it probably damaged the vocal chords. Not to mention that the way his mouth is twisted, it’s probably plain painful to open it. “I suppose… I suppose you’re curious about this.”

He raises one hand, pointing at the mask.

“What about it?”

“I looked in the wrong place,” Castiel says. “At least I turned on my side fast enough. What about your leg?”

“My – my leg?”

“You were limping when you came into the room.”

“Oh. German bullet. It – it just hurts from time to time. But I was lucky. It was just that.”

The part of Castiel’s mouth that isn’t covered by the mask curls up in a sad, sad smile. “No, it was not. It can’t be. Not if you’re here, anyway.”

He’s got a point.

“Well, I didn’t even wanna do it. It’s my… uh. My boss. He insisted.”

“What a chance. It’s the third time I do it. Hopefully to find a boss.”

“How so?”

Castiel looks surprised, as if he can’t quite get why Dean hasn’t left already.

The nurse calls for some Ellroy, Mark.

“I was twenty-three when I was drafted three years ago,” Castiel replies. “When I came back, I was like this. The only thing – the only thing I know how to do well is killing people. Without even that test, who will have me?”

“Good point. Well, how’s it? Never did it before, might as well brace myself.”

Castiel takes a couple deep breaths, his hand curling around the bundle on his legs. Dean has an idea of what it might be.

“Humiliating. They ask you… all kinds of questions. What do you dream of at night. What you remember from the war. If your body… malfunctions. If you have ever been with a woman.”

The last part sounds particularly bitter and Dean is momentarily taken aback.

“Woah. You – uh, haven’t?”

Castiel shakes his head. “I have lived with my family in a small village for my entire life. Before they drafted me, of course. And my family is… very strict, in that sense. I left before it could happen. And when I came back, I did not have a line of girls wishing I would court them outside my door, as I am sure you can imagine. I ended up leaving because they couldn’t look at me in the face. When… hm, when do you think it would have happened?”

His voice sounds downright scornful, and Dean can only get it. Shit, he thinks, this sounds worse than he had thought.

“Well, you don’t wanna answer, just lie to them.”

Castiel tilts his head slightly, his good eye unblinking. “Lying never came easy to me. It isn’t any easier now.”

“Hey, lying is the best way to become president. You should re-evaluate it.”

Castiel looks as if he’s about to answer, but then the nurse comes outside and calls for Milton, Castiel. Castiel is about to stand up, but there’s a moment, right then, when Dean acts without his brain’s permission. He wraps a hand around Castiel’s arm, pushing it down.

“Sorry,” he says, “left a bit ago.”

“All right,” she replies. “Winchester, Dean?”

“I think you should practice,” Dean whispers, not knowing why is he even doing this. Castiel stares at him one second.

“He left, too,” he says then. His voice is flat enough that you couldn’t hear any hint of lying in it.

“That wasn’t bad at all.”

“Woolcott, Henry?” the nurse calls, and Dean turns towards Castiel again. He’s looking at him with that wide eye again.

“Why did you do it?” he asks, barely audible.

“They don’t get it,” Dean replies. “And I’m not sure that either of us needs some more humiliation on top of all the crap goin’ on with the both of us. Am I wrong?”

Castiel shakes his head. It isn’t everything, or at least he thinks so, but Dean isn’t sure that he can quite name what’s going on in his head himself.

“And by the way, what d’you have in there? I think I know, but… I’m just curious.”

Castiel doesn’t answer directly, but he slowly unwraps the cloth covering whatever is on his legs.

Dean recognizes a sniper rifle at once. It’s not built, which is why it takes up a small enough space to fit comfortably inside a bag, and from a small inscription on the handle, Dean thinks he also knows where Castiel might have got it.

“Woah,” Dean whistles. “That’s good. German?”

“It’s the only valuable thing I own. I try to always bring it along with me.”

“So, you were a sniper?”

“Not what you would call the most appreciated job, but yes. I still can use it, missing eye or not. What about you?”

“Regular infantry. Trenches, dirt, killing people face to face and all that. Not that I envy you. But I don’t envy myself either. I get it though – heck, it’s not as if I work honest jobs. They only taught me how to fucking kill as well.” His voice is softer than usual, maybe because he doesn’t want to be heard. Castiel nods, as if he perfectly understands what’s going on, and doesn’t he?

Dean suddenly has an idea.

“Hey, uh, I – see, my boss. He isn’t from here, he’s in Kansas, but… let’s say that he has a big business. He’s mostly into alcohol at the moment, but he also is… into some other things. When he sent me here, he told me to get myself a room at one of his… establishments. Which is actually a goddamn whorehouse, but at least it’s a comfortable bed. Uh, I know that it’s probably not ideal, but… if you want to come along with, I think that –”

Castiel holds up a hand, shakes his head with another small, sad smile that makes the entire left side of his face look incredibly expressive in comparison to the tin mask.

“I’m afraid that I don’t have enough to pay someone that would ignore this.”

“What if it’s on me?”

“Why would you even do it?”

Dean shrugs, wondering if he can find some answer that doesn’t sound completely stupid and that also sounds sincere.

He settles for the truth. “Fuck knows why, but I think I like you. Why the hell not? I’ve got a business meeting in two days, but it’s not as if I’ve got anything to do until then. And you’re the first person in this stupid city with whom I could talk without getting a headache.”

Castiel gives him another soft, barely there nod, and Dean thinks, no one should look that happy because someone offered to pay a whore for them.

That stupid war really, really has fucked up everyone that actually fought it.

--

“What kind of den of iniquity is this?” Castiel mutters as he stares down at the beer Dean brought back at their table. Dean’s first instinct is asking who even says something like ‘den of iniquity’, but he bites his own tongue and takes a sip from his whiskey.

“The good kind,” he replies when he’s done. “There’s everything for all tastes. Told you, my boss doesn’t do things halfway. So, you see anyone you like?”

Castiel glances around and goes back to staring down at his beer instead of giving him an answer, then he moves closer to the wall and takes off the mask.



“Fuck, sorry,” Dean says as soon as he realizes that drinking from a beer glass with that kind of injury and a mask on can’t be easy. “I should have got you something else.”

Castiel shakes his head and drinks half of the glass in one go, then puts on the mask again. “It’s no problem. It’s kind enough of you that you bought it at all.”

Suddenly, the idea of picking a random whore and send Castiel off with her seems wrong. For a moment Dean wishes he had paid attention to his surroundings while being here – at least he could have picked a not-so-random girl. He looks at the main hall, then at Castiel again. He’s staring at the rest of his beer, the rifle laid next to him on the seat. One of his hands is under the table; Dean could bet money that it’s shaking. He only knows because he has used that same trick for a while whenever his fingers felt the urge to tremble. He looks like a fish out of water and Dean can’t bring himself to raise a hand and call for any of the girls around. None of them looks good enough.

Dean wishes he knew why he even cares.

“So, you really sure you don’t see anyone that you like?”

“Dean, I think that you fail to see what the real matter is.”

“And what would it be?”

“The point isn’t whether I like anyone. It’s whether someone likes me.”

Dean nods and figures that he can take care of it, then. “Okay, I’ll see what I can do then. If you need to find me after, I’m in room 58.”

He stands up, goes to the bar. He doesn’t like the girl tending to it at all – the only thing he gathered about her is that she’s named Meg and that she isn’t above finding ways to gain extra money without the owner knowing. He tells her that he has a friend sitting at booth ten and that there’s the need for someone with a strong stomach or good acting skills, and if she can please take care of it and put it on Dean’s bill.

She gives him a sly smile and says that of course, she’ll take care of it.

Dean goes upstairs without even answering.

--

He’s tossing and turning on his bed, unable to sleep. It’s not any news. He hasn’t slept decently as a general rule since he came back from Europe, and whenever he has something on his mind it’s even worse. Now that he has to worry about keeping his job it’s a lost cause. He grabs for his bag, seeing if he has something to read more decent than The Tin Soldier and Other Stories, but the other three he had brought were all finished on the train ride. Obviously, since he hadn’t slept on the train either and they all were short. He groans and turns again on the bed, and then the door opens.

“Can I come in?”

“Castiel? You done already?” Dean takes a better look at him – he isn’t wearing his coat and the first button on his shirt is open, but that’s it.

“It… hm, it did not work out,” Castiel says, his voice carefully even. “But thank you nonetheless. It was a nice thought. I only wanted to thank you before I leave.”

“You’re – oh. Listen, there are two beds in here – you sure you don’t want to spend the night here? ‘s late already, you might as well.”

“Are you sure?” Castiel asks, taking a step inside.

“’Course. I can’t sleep anyway, might as well have some company. If you wanna take that mask off just do it – it must be fucking itching.”

Castiel goes to the other side of the room, placing his bag on a desk in the corner. He takes the mask off and then goes to sit on the bed. Dean keeps his eyes on him before grabbing the godforsaken book again.

“You like reading.” It’s not a question.

“Novels and stuff. Helps me pass the time. This one is crap though. Fairytales shouldn’t be so damn depressing.”

Castiel nods and leans down over his bag. Then he hands Dean three novels.

“You can take these, if you want.”

Dean flips through the books – Mark Twain’s A Horse’s Tale, Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology; he hasn’t read any of those three yet. He turns towards Castiel, and evidently he looks as if he’s demanding some explanation, since Castiel provides one before he can ask.

“I used to read a lot. That’s why my sister keeps on sending them to me.”

“Why, you don’t do it anymore?”

“It’s a long story.”

Obviously he doesn’t want to talk about it; fine. Dean can only respect it. It’s not as if he dies to share his experiences in the war to anyone – most of all Sam, who keeps on trying to make Dean talk about it every time they meet.

Dean loves his brother, more than anything, but one thing he knows is that he can’t talk about it to anyone who hasn’t been there. You can’t get it otherwise.

“Thanks then. I’ll keep ‘em for the ride back.”

Castiel lies down on the bed, turns on his right side and stays fully clothed on the covers, his shoes not far. Dean hasn’t slept like that for the last year or so, but he remembers the first six months after he came back well enough.

He turns off the light and tries to sleep.

--

He wakes up after barely four hours of sleep in total, which isn’t even a bad thing. There are nights where he gets nightmares and nights where he wakes up as soon as he starts dreaming at all. This was one of the latter kind, which means he woke up about five times from the moment he shut off the light, but it’s still better than the alternative.

Castiel is already up, his clothing just barely wrinkled; you wouldn’t know that he slept in it.

“Hi,” Dean mutters as he drags himself to a sitting position.

“You slept badly.”

“Huh. How do you know?”

“I heard you. Don’t worry – it was because I couldn’t sleep myself.”

What a pair, Dean thinks. “So, you had any plans for today?”

“Do you?”

“Well, apart from having to find a way to keep my job, none.”

Castiel sits back on the bed, mask in hand. He doesn’t put it on, though. Dean can’t help glancing at him once in a while – he doesn’t know whether it’s rude or not (it should be), but for some reason he can’t help staring at the mess on the left side of Castiel’s face. It’s all still raw even if the war has been over for three years – not that with an eye completely blown out of the socket you can expect any less.

“What’s your problem exactly?”

“I can only tell you if you promise to keep your mouth shut. I dunno if it was plain or not, but what I do ain’t exactly legal.”

“I had understood that, yes. And believe me, I can keep a secret.”

“Well, my boss is into… providing most of the state of Kansas with the alcohol it can’t sell legally. And apparently he got good at it since he’s the go-to guy, but he needs other people to give it to him. I was supposed to convince this guy who works here to give my boss a percentage, but he isn’t being very receptive.”

Castiel nods once, clears his throat. “Why isn’t he?”

“He doesn’t sell to foreign people. My boss wasn’t sadly born on American soil,” Dean snorts, wishing he had remembered to buy a bottle downstairs. It might be nine in the morning, but just thinking about this mess makes him crave a glass of vodka.

“That’s all?”

“That’s all. I gotta meet this other guy who works for him today, but I doubt that it’s gonna work. I couldn’t convince the big guy himself, nothing’s gonna sway him.”

Castiel nods another time, looking thoughtful, then turns towards Dean again. “I have the impression that your person doesn’t take you seriously. Or your boss, for that matter.”

“Well, he ain’t no Rothstein, but apparently we’re not important enough on the big scale.”

“What if you showed him that you can be fairly dangerous?”

“What do you mean?”

“Is this person you have to meet important?”

“I think he’s number four or five in the entire organization. Why?”

Castiel eyes his rifle on the desk, then looks back at Dean, then back at the rifle.

“You mean – you would – woah,” Dean blurts, and maybe he should be scared that the right side of Castiel’s face isn’t betraying a single emotion. “Are you serious?”

“The man that rifle belonged to… I shot him right under his eye, and he was thirty feet from me.”

Dean thinks about the proposal one second. No one told him not to intimidate Walker, or try to, and all things considered maybe scaring him into accepting the proposal the way Castiel is suggesting could work.

It wouldn’t even be the first time he kills someone because of Crowley’s business.

“You would do it? Why? Just like this?”

“Dean, I haven’t been able to – to feel a thing since I was back. Mostly. The second I set foot back home, I felt disconnected. I don’t really talk to people. I can’t because everywhere I look no one seems to understand. Not that my condition helped me. I don’t know this man and to be sincere I don’t care about him at all. But – you are… different. Somewhat. If it helps you, I can do it. You only have to ask.”

Castiel has to clear his throat three times during that speech, and Dean thinks this isn’t fair. This pins it all on me. Then again, it’s his job, isn’t it? He has always thought that he was a better person than this, that he wouldn’t kill someone just for his own sake (his country’s was another story, but after shooting in the face people younger than him who looked as terrified as he felt he might have his doubts about that, too). Still, it means that if it works he keeps his job. If he keeps his job he can help Sam get that good life he always dreamed of. If he keeps his job he can spare something for Lisa, who keeps on saying he shouldn’t. But when someone you only dated for two weeks accepts to have you in her house after the war is over for six months, you owe them forever. Not to mention that Dean knocked on her door just to find out that her kid’s father had left her for someone else (they were never married) with a six-year old and not much money.

Dean asks.

Castiel nods, puts his mask on, grabs the rifle and asks Dean where the appointment is.

--

“Winchester, what the hell did you do?”

Dean leans against the phone booth’s side, takes a breath. Obviously Crowley knows already.

“I had to convince him somewhat.”

“Oh, sure, and you also paid someone to shoot Walker’s associate from the building in front of the bar you were in?”

“I didn’t pay them. It’s a long story. Actually, I was wondering if you’d be interested in hiring them.” Dean knows that he’s pushing this, but he knows perfectly what Castiel means when he says that he only knows how to kill.

“Hiring – bloody hell, I’d fire you, if only Walker didn’t call me saying that he accepted for whichever price I wanted if it meant that I was going to kill people. Didn’t I tell you that sometimes you should do things with some style?”

“You can’t have it all. So, you’re gonna talk to him at least?”

“Well, guess I could. I also assume that you haven’t taken that test.”

“What do you think the result would be?”

Crowley sighs twice. Dean can see him rolling his eyes and worrying his very expensive tie as he sits behind that ridiculously big desk.

“Fine, fine, bring your mate here, we’ll sort it out. Take the first train you find.”

The receiver is slammed in his face again and Dean figures that it went well.

--

“Are you sure?”

“Why not? I mean, you said it. If killing people’s what we do, and none of us is ever gonna find a decent job, you might as well talk to him.”

Castiel stops walking, stares at him. The faint light from the bar they just left makes his mask look silver. “You didn’t have to.”

“Let’s say I wanted to.” Castiel is staring at him still, and Dean should feel unnerved. He doesn’t like talking about the reasons why he does things. But the way Castiel looks at him, it makes him feel naked. He doesn’t know if it’s a good thing or not, especially since in comparison to Castiel, he seems well-adjusted. (Or at least, he’d have never offered to kill a man to someone he had known for less than a day.)

“Very well. I will come with you.” Castiel’s voice is barely audible, a low rasp almost lost in the night breeze. Dean shivers, and it isn’t the bad kind of shivering.

--

“He says he wants to talk to you.” Castiel doesn’t provide more details.

Dean wonders how bad it went, if Crowley wants to talk to him.

He walks inside the room and sits down on the chair in front of Crowley’s desk – he knows that Crowley hates it when you look down at him. Crowley is smoking a cigarette and he’s staring at him as if he was the most annoying thing in the world. Dean can’t help noticing that he’s wearing a new black silk shirt. Obviously there hasn’t been lack of money around here.

“So?”

“He didn’t take the test either.” Not a question.

“How did you figure that one out?”

“No one in their right mind would shoot a person they don’t even know because you asked them.”

“Hey, he offered first. And you always know how to make a man feel good about himself.”

“Shut up, Winchester. The way he said it was bloody scaring me. The problem is that I could actually use him.”

“And it isn’t a good thing?”

“When you talk to someone as emotionless as him, and who’s been to war with your lot, I’m not so sure that it is. Then again, I think I have the perfect solution.”

“Like?”

“Well, since the one reason he’s here is that he obviously likes you someway – or at least enough to do that – you two can work together. Which means that I’d have to upgrade you from dealing with whoever to dealing only with people that trouble me more than they should, but then again, I assume that maybe you’d like a bit more money for yourself, other than payments for your brother’s tuition. Am I right?”

Dean doesn’t even need to think about it – he knows that Crowley is perfectly right about all this. The only thing he’s wrong about is Castiel.

Dean still remembers his face when he proposed to buy him that damn whore.

Someone who can look at you with such gratitude isn’t emotionless, in spite of what Crowley thinks and in spite of what Castiel himself thinks.

Still, the only question is: do I want to get my hands dirty full time?

He’s sick of it.

But none of this is about him. If he says no, no one gains anything. If he says yes, his brother can have things Dean has stopped dreaming about (a good life, a nice family, a stable job – but Sam was meant to have that and Dean has always acted so that Sam could get it), Lisa can buy Ben new clothes and Castiel can… well, at least make some decent money.

Being sick of it isn’t a good excuse.

“Fine. Whatever you want.”

--

“Listen,” Dean says as they go back to his car, “for the first couple nights you could stay at my place – it’s big enough. At least Crowley had the decency to find me an apartment. But I have to say hi to someone else first – you mind waiting in the car for five minutes?”

“Not at all.”

There’s nothing else, and Dean doesn’t add anything to the conversation.

--

To be entirely honest, Dean hadn’t expected Lisa to slap him in the face the second she opened the door. Or to hug him on her porch the second after before dragging him in.

“Lisa, what –”

“Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in a month. One would think you’d call, at least.”

Point taken. If only she knew – thankfully she doesn’t. Or well, she knows some of it, but as far as Lisa is concerned, he only helps smuggling alcohol directly to the bars. And Lisa never thought much of banning alcohol, which is why she thinks it’s not so terrible that he’s not into any legal business.

“Sorry, I had to take care of things and I couldn’t find the time. How’s Ben?”

“Sleeping over at some friend’s, but he’s doing good. He also misses you – try to come round more often, okay?”

Dean nods as he reaches inside his pocket, feeling for an envelope with the part he had set aside for them. He still doesn’t get how Ben likes him at all – if he had been six and some guy who could barely sleep three hours without screaming himself raw, a half-busted knee and no income had suddenly taken residence on the house’s couch, he wouldn’t have been as enthusiastic as that kid had been. Dean has wished more than once that he and Lisa had lasted more than one month and that Ben could be his, but that’s not how it went and maybe it’s better like this.

He hands Lisa the envelope. She looks inside, then promptly tries to give it back.

“Dean, I told you –”

“And I told you every other time that I don’t care. When I asked you if I could stay, it was only trouble to you and you said yes anyway. And if you hadn’t, I don’t know where I’d be right now so – just take it, okay? I know you can use it. Please?”

Lisa looks as if she’ll try to argue for a second, but then she raises her hands and tucks the envelope into a pocket on her shirt.

“Fine. You know that I don’t like it, but you’re right. Listen, try to drop by soon?”

“Sure. I have to go now. Say hi to Ben from me.”

“You can do that yourself.”

She accompanies him to the door and kisses him on the cheek before he leaves. Dean on one side wishes she wouldn’t do it where other people can see, she already has enough problems with raising a kid on her own, but on the other, he sort of likes it. It’s nice to know that there’s one person near you that gives a shit about your well-being. Sure, Sam does too, but Sam is in California. Dean should call at some point – he’ll do it one of these days.

“Are you… involved?” Castiel asks ten minutes later, as Dean drives home. His tone is carefully blank as usual.

“Me and – no. We used to, but it really wasn’t much. We went out a couple of times but then I told her that I was planning to enlist and it ended there. Then when I came back – well, I wasn’t in a good shape and my dad forbid me to come home until I had sorted myself out. My brother argued with him for days after that, but whatever. I asked her and she took me in for six months. Now I try to help her – she has a kid but her husband just went and disappeared one day and left them both. But we’re just friends.”

“You’re a good man,” Castiel replies, and Dean thinks that it’s completely inconsequent.

“What? Please. I’m nowhere near –”

“I don’t know many people who would do that. Or who would do something they obviously hate just in order to make the ones they love happy.”

“How do you know –”

“Dean, please. It’s obvious. When I told you that I would kill that man if it could benefit you, it took you five minutes to answer me. If you really liked doing what you did, you wouldn’t have thought about it twice.”

“That doesn’t make me a good person.”

“It makes you a better person than you think.”

It’s pathetic that for a second Dean’s heart skips a beat.

No one has ever told him something like that. Not since he left for Europe.

--

There’s blood on his shirt.

He tries to wash it in the sink. He liked it enough – he doesn’t want to throw it away or burn it, but he’s sure that it’s a lost cause.

It’s not his blood. It belongs to some guy he has never met in his life. The only things he knows about him are that his name was Brady and he had tried to steal some of Crowley’s precious alcohol in order to sell it himself later.

Next time he’s not going to shoot someone in the heart if he has to – he had missed the shot, Castiel had to finish the job and it ended with blood all over their clothes.

He scrubs harder, his nails digging into the bar of soap. He sees blood flowing down the drain and sticking on his fingers, and then it changes – he isn’t in his bathroom anymore. There’s stench of death all around him, he has just shot a German kid in the head (he was younger than him, Christ, maybe two years older than Sam) and his hands are trying to stay still but they can’t, and –

“Dean.”

There’s a hand gripping his shoulder, so strong that Dean almost screams, and then he’s in front of the mirror again. The water is running, the shirt is always stained, he has curled one of his hands in a fist so hard that he has broken skin, and Castiel’s good eye is looking at him in… concern?

Crowley can joke about Castiel’s lack of facial expressions as much as he wants – it just takes looking at him in the eyes to see that it’s not true.

“Shit. I just – I wasn’t –”

“You weren’t here.” Castiel’s voice is quiet, understanding. Barely audible. “Go back to the living room.”

Dean lets the shirt be and goes– Castiel turns off the water and a minute later he’s cleaning away blood from his fingers and disinfecting the lower part of his palm. Dean is secretly thankful that Castiel hasn’t moved out even if one month has passed since he started working for Crowley; this doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, it’s good to have around someone who gets it but seems unaffected.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“How do you – I mean, I’ve never seen you getting this kind of thing. Is there – do you do something to avoid it?”

The visible corner of Castiel’s mouth curls up, but his good eye doesn’t smile. Dean wishes he took the damn mask off at least in the house, but for some reason he never does.

“It’s different. This happens to you when you go back there. I’m always there, Dean. I… hm, only learned to deal with it.”

Dean can’t help thinking that they’re all different and the same, and he can’t understand if he got it good or not. If learning to deal with it means showing that you’re capable of feelings just once in a while, maybe he did have it good. It’s not as if he’s this great sharer – his technique has always been try to bury it down and not to think about it, same as Castiel, but he obviously never mastered it well.

The two of them are a mess, no doubts. Dean still doesn’t know who’s the worst one.

second part / ending here
 
 
feeling: okayokay
on rotation: highway 61 - bob dylan
 
 
 
meudemeude on February 21st, 2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
This story is brilliant! the setting itself is such a meaty part of history and you've really gotten into the psychological aspect of it.
In a way i feel like the dean/cas characters in this are still a reflection of the ones in the series, however projected in a much more outward sense... if that makes sense.
anywho, i really enjoy your writing style and the way you describe scenes/situations really gives a vivid image.
on to the next chapter!
The Unknown Hunter @SPN_Obsessed on April 10th, 2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
Amazing *-*
Let me just say this story is amazingly brilliantly awesome ! I love everything about it and the characters are great and the story is perfect ! <3