The roar of thunder made the thick glass tremble in the frames. Lightning ravaged the orchard just outside the village. The storm was unusual now that January was ending and Castiel had just melted the last snow in his garden. Unusual but not surprising, considering who the orchard belonged to.
Castiel sighed and looked up from the cook books strewn about the table top. Another burst of lighting caused the light to flicker and with one last valiant sputter it finally gave out. Castiel narrowed his eyes in irritation. The storm had already darkened the day and rain fell in grey sheets. Castiel lifted his hand absent-mindedly, a finger pointing into the general direction of the fireplace. A fire burst to life and Castiel was in the process of summoning wisps of light to fly around him – more for delight than for necessity at this point - when a dark shape passed the windows. Castiel rushed to dim the lights before the door was shoved open. A gust of wet wind blew into the room, the fire in sputtered indignantly, the bell chiming in the wind, before the patron forced the door shut again. The bell above the door chimed once more. Then there was a beat of silence.
“I hope you’re open,” the stranger said and Castiel's magic instinctively reached out to get a feel of what kind of person this man was. His magic gently glided over him, feeling the shape of him, brushing just along the surface. He was kind and generous, a bit too hard on himself but full of potential. That was what Castiel could read best. Potential. It ran through this man like rich veins of gold.
But looking at him, he didn’t cut a fine figure. The guy was sopping wet, dripping on Castiel’s doormat.
He observed him further, magic brushing across the uneven patches of him, slipping into the well-hidden cracks, softly pushing deeper to get a read below the surface. Self-doubt, didn't want to be alone, fear, loneliness, a bit of a drinking problem and there was so much more there, deeper inside, buried, a glimmer that called to Castiel to be found, exposed, taken advantage of. Castiel pulled back quickly, mentally chastised himself for trying to spot all the little cracks into which he could stick his finger and pull in order to worm himself in. That was the bad thing about being born a witch. You had potential too and taking came naturally while giving required effort.
Castiel forced himself to focus on what was happening. A wet stranger, dripping on his doormat, in the middle of a magical storm.
“Yes, I’m open,” he replied, “take a seat. The menu is on the table.” The stranger nodded and moved to the table closest to the fire. His boots were heavy on the wooden floor, leaving behind small puddles. He seemed tired.
“I’m sorry about the light. The storm just knocked it out a moment ago,” Castiel apologized when he came back from behind the counter to place a candle on the table for extra light. “Do you want to give me your coat? I’ll hang it up to dry,” he offered. The stranger drew back a bit, but after a moment he got out of it and handed the coat over. Castiel hadn't missed the hesitation and he felt that it wasn't simply indecision that caused the pause. No… It was wariness of being separated from it. Castiel decided to keep his mind open, because caution was better than regret. He could feel the jacket not only weighed down with rain, but by something containing arcane energy and he felt the tingle of silver vibrating through it. Silver bullets, a journal that had soaked up not only knowledge but also the emotions of two, no, three people.
As Cas hung the coat on the rack, letting his magic do its part to dry it up quicker, his mind raced through possible explanations for what he had felt. He turned back around to see the man subtly eying him before he returned to pretending to read the menu.
"I'll be in the kitchen for a moment to check on the generator," Castiel told him, receiving a grunt of approval from his patron, then he slipped away.
If the items he wore on himself weren't indication enough, the man had that particular aura that Castiel had been casually warned to look out for before. Tense, rough men, clad in practical clothing, more often than not rather frayed around the edges to their trained eyes, and most of them came with dark swirls of agony and anger. Castiel was sure of it: there was a hunter in his café.
Castiel told himself not to get worked up prematurely. Most hunters didn't have the sight to alert them to witches, not if the witches were careful. And apart from the little magic he performed just after the power had been knocked out, he had never done anything to alert suspicion. Maybe, Castiel told himself as he kicked the generator into action and the light flickered on dimly in the kitchen, he was just passing through.
"Or maybe he is here to finish the job", Cas pondered, but it was a thought with little weight, something he dismissed right away. The hunter that had killed his mother but spared him 30 years ago was probably long dead. Hunters, as Michael tended to say, didn't have a long shelf life.
Aware that he couldn't keep the stranger waiting for too long without raising suspicion, he returned to the main room, pleased to see that the light worked here too without a dash of magic to help it along. Doing magic right under a hunter's nose was simply too careless, even if it didn't take more than a flick of his finger to get it done.
The hunter was sitting sprawled on the chair, legs kicked out in front of him, his pose casual and performatively at ease. He held Cas' menu in his hand, waving it a bit and fixing Cas with a cocky smile. Cas had to be on his toes around him, but that didn't stop him from noticing just how attractive the hunter was.
"So are you Cas of Cas' Café?" the stranger asked.
"Yes," he said and the man's lips twitched into a smirk.
"That's not the most imaginative name, is it?" Castiel's eyebrow rose in confusion.
"Naming a coffee shop after yourself," the man explained teasingly. Castiel shrugged at that.
"I prefer things to be simple," he said, "is there anything you'd like to order, sir?" The cocky smirk faded slightly and he turned his attention back to the menu, eyes flicking through it, before he put it down, hands linked over it. He grinned back up at Cas.
"Yeah, a cup of coffee and since you don't have any apple pie I suppose I'll have to do with pecan," he said. Castiel nodded and headed towards the counter hosting his coffee machine and some of the food. "So, Cas!" he heard the hunter's voice ring through the room, loud enough to be heard over the coffee maker. Castiel hummed to let him know he was listening. "Are you employing anyone else or is it just you?" Castiel mildly wondered just why that was something the man wanted to know.
"Most of the time I don't need any help. Raurica isn't exactly a tourist spot, especially not at this time of the year," he said and looked at the man. But even though there was an invitation for him to explain just what had brought him to this town, the stranger kept silent. So Castiel served him his food, and went back behind the counter where a cookbook was waiting for him.
While Castiel was cautious for a while, he soon relaxed as the man read a newspaper and had his pie and coffee. The storm was still going strong outside, howling and beating rain against the windows. It had dimmed down more and no new guests stumbled into the café, not that Castiel had expected any. Or wanted them, for that matter. The stranger seemed content to relax, getting more coffee, waiting out the rain. Once it was almost time for closing, he called for Castiel to pay.
"Hey, is there any place where I can crash around here? There's no point continuing on in this weather but I haven't seen any motel," he asked. "Maybe I can do some sight-seeing tomorrow!" he added with a grin. Castiel smiled at him, though there was unease swirling in his stomach. The longer the hunter was here, the more dangerous it would get. Mostly for Dean, since this city was full of witches and sooner or later he would come across one who didn't falter long before dumping a hex bag into his coat.
"Unfortunately, we don't have any motels, but there's the Happy Apple Bed and Breakfast a short walk from here," Castiel told him.
"That sounds cheery," the man said with a grin and Castiel fetched pen and paper to write down the address and directions.
"Do you want an umbrella?" Castiel asked as the man shrugged on his coat and then went to open the door. The bell chimed and a spray of rain hit the man in the face. He sputtered indignantly.
"I don't think an umbrella will be of any use in this weather," he said and then he looked over his shoulder and grinned at Cas. "Thanks for the pie and shelter, Cas!"
"You're welcome, sir. Have a nice evening," Castiel answered and then the man disappeared, closing the door firmly behind him.
The café felt darker and colder without his presence. Still, Castiel breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully, the man would be gone by morning.
By the time Cas opened his café the next morning, the air was still wet and crisp, with the scent of the storm lingering, but the sky was lighting up clear, not a single cloud in sight. The morning paper called it another freak storm that meteorologists still puzzled over, but humans always found reasonable explanations even to the most bizarre thing happening. Sometimes they just needed a little nudge into the right direction.
When Gabriel strolled into the café just after Cas had pulled a pie out of the oven, he waved the same morning paper in front of him with a bright, proud smile almost splitting his face.
"A celebratory stack of pancakes for me!" he announced loudly once the door fell shut with a loud chime of the bell. He took the paper in both hands and looked at it again, then he laughed loudly and plopped down into a chair close to the counter. "Man, I love my job."
"I think you were too brash about Sander's orchard," Castiel reprimanded him, keeping his voice even as he prepared Gabriel's sugary coffee. "It was much too conspicuous." Castiel placed the coffee down and then headed towards the door to the kitchen to prepare Gabriel's breakfast.
"Oooooh, come on, you worrywart. You sound like Naomi!" Gabriel booed, then he spun some more sugar into his coffee. "I bet you read the paper. It's just a freak storm." Castiel refrained from mentioning that anything that humans needed to explain away with words such as "freak" or "inexplicable" were clearly things that were too conspicuous. But no matter how Naomi admonished, Gabriel claimed it was in his nature to be dramatic. "Besides," Gabriel called, letting himself be heard in the kitchen. "The guy had it coming! He should be glad that he got out of it alive."
"Alive and ruined," Castiel said and Gabriel rejoiced in that which Castiel could just shake his head at. Gabriel had nothing else to say to him until there was a generous helping of pancakes and a selection of syrups in front of him.
"By the way, don't forget that you've got to jump on your broom and dance with the devil tonight, Sabrina!" Castiel frowned.
"Don't remind me," he muttered darkly. It wasn't like he could forget tonight's Coven gathering.
"No ifs and buts, Castiel," Gabriel told him cheerfully, but there was the usual gleam of danger in Gabriel's golden eyes, to warn him not to take this lightly. "You've put your initiation off for far too long already. And now's as good a time as any!" He stabbed the pancakes with his fork. "And it's not like you've got to go all Book of the Damned on us and slaughter fifty newborns to open a rift to limbo. A little havoc will do," Gabriel announced charitably and then continue eating his breakfast. Castiel withdrew behind the counter.
In his opinion any havoc and suffering that he caused would be too much. But while he knew that Gabriel could guess his reluctance, and there was a life-long acquaintance between them, there was no way that Castiel could trust Gabriel enough to really tell him what was in his heart. That he didn't want to do black magic and that he didn't want to be initiated. Despite his goofy attitude, Gabriel was still an Elder and Castiel couldn't trust Gabriel not to turn on him. Irresponsible prankster or not, this was centuries old coven law. And the coven was family.
Castiel felt his heart grow heavy with sadness. There was so much potential to do good with magic and so much they could give to the world, but there was a limit to how indulgent the coven was when it got to Castiel's compassion for humans.
Castiel was pulled from the morose turn his thoughts had taken by the chime of the doorbell. To his horror the man from yesterday strolled into the café, a big grin on his face when he spotted Castiel. He eyed Gabriel quickly, who continued chewing unperturbedly while giving him a once over.
"Do you have something that's not doused in sugar on the breakfast menu too?" he asked and took a seat, still wearing his jacket. It took Castiel a moment to find his voice, because the hunter and Gabriel being in the same place was one of many worst case scenarios. Castiel had hoped that the man would be able to fly under the radar of the coven, especially one of the Elders.
"Eggs and bacon?" he said, his voice coming out tight. That had been a mistake because Gabriel looked up from his pancakes to first study Castiel and then direct his gaze towards the man.
"Yeah, Cas. That sounds great!" the man answered, then he spotted the newspaper lying next to Gabriel's elbow. "Hey man, you still using that?" Gabriel narrowed his eyes, but then his face pulled into a smile and he handed the newspaper over.
"No, knock yourself out!" he said. There was no way that Gabriel hadn't recognized the man for what he was. Castiel busied himself making a coffee for the hunter, to avoid having to go back to the kitchen for the man's breakfast.
"Castiel, where are your manners? Do you want to keep this fine man waiting for his breakfast?" Gabriel said loudly when Cas put a coffee down on the table. Castiel sent him a withering look, but he found no reason to postpone it. He made sure to leave the door wide open. The moment Cas was out of sight Gabriel seemed to be on the man.
"I've never seen you before and believe me, I'd notice a male model," Castiel heard him say.
"Yeah? Why? Are you a talent scout?" Castiel heard the man answer, but then the sizzling of his cooking was too loud for him to eavesdrop properly.
By the time Castiel was out with the man's breakfast, Gabriel must have gotten through some questions because the first thing he did was slap Castiel on the ass as he passed him.
"Castiel here is single by the way and about as straight as a slinky," Gabriel announced to Castiel's great mortification. But at least Gabriel knew how to distract from the fact that he was trying to get as much information out of the hunter as possible. His obnoxious, embarrassing but generally harmless act was probably enough to tease answers out of people almost against their will.
The man shot Castiel a look but it was hard to read just what he thought about Gabriel's horrible announcement. Still embarrassed, but not willing to flee far enough to leave the two alone, Castiel retreated behind the counter. With him out of the immediate line of sight, the stranger and Gabriel steered the conversation to generally superficial things. When the man evaded some of his questions about where he was from or what he did for a living, Gabriel didn't put in any effort to push it.
The fact that he still lingered meant that there was probably a case the hunter was investigating. Unless he was really just passing through. But what were the chances that a hunter was just passing through a small town out in the middle of nowhere just after another "freak" event had made the news?
"Well, it's been a great pleasure meeting you, Dean," Gabriel said and Castiel looked at the man. So his name was Dean, or at least it was his chosen alias. Castiel nodded at him when Gabriel put some bills on the table. "But now I've got some business to attend to!" He sent Castiel a look which he knew to interpret both as a warning and as a reminder to be at the gathering.
"Good bye, Gabriel." The door fell close and Cas breathed a sigh of relief. Apparently, it was loud enough for Dean to turn his head.
"That guy's always so chatty?"
"Always. Mostly he just enjoys hearing himself talk. I hope he didn't bother you too much," Castiel explained with another sigh. Dean shrugged.
"Nah. It takes more than that to scare me off," he said, eating his food. Castiel took the chance to refill his coffee. Dean was still looking at the newspaper, then he tapped his finger on the headline about Sander's Orchard.
"That seems like a pretty big deal, huh?" he asked and Castiel nodded cautiously. "I've got some more time to kill, so I thought I'd have a look around because I don't know when I'll ever drive through Raurica again. I kinda want to see if there was a lot of damage."
"Some of my neighbors told me they'd go to see it too. I suppose it's in the nature of people to be curious," Castiel told him.
"It's a pity though," Dean continued and Castiel tilted his head in interest. "No more happy apples," he said with a wink and Castiel snorted. Despite Dean's disarming smile, Cas was wary. He knew that he was fishing for information and Castiel had to make sure that his answers would keep himself firmly outside the fields of suspects.
"I haven't actually seen the damage but I've heard the reports," Cas said.
"A storm like that is pretty freaky and the newspapers apparently agree," Dean continued, then something in his pose subtly shifted. "Does that happen often?"
"There have been some weather-related damages in Raurica," Castiel admitted and he knew that most of them were Gabriel's doing. "Sander's orchard has been destroyed twice. I think last year he lost part of his harvest and it looks like this year there might be no harvest at all." Dean's face didn't change much and he didn't nod either, but Castiel could read people well enough to see that he had only confirmed what Dean had already known.
"So two storms in two years? Have any other people had damages in those two years?"
"There had been cellars that needed to be pumped. My vegetable patch suffered too." Mostly because Gabriel didn't want him to bring another "inedible" vegetable gratin to a coven meeting, but Dean didn't have to know that. "I don't know if there have been damages this year apart from the black out," Castiel said, leaning back against the counter. He was tense because he had to choose all his words carefully, while trying to not let it show.
"And this Sanders dude," Dean started, "does he have any enemies?" Castiel quickly thought of the appropriate reaction.
"Apart from the weather?" he asked. Dean seemed to catch how peculiar his question must have been.
"Yeah, yeah. I meant more in terms of his support in the community. Does he have people who will help him rebuild or is he one of those guys. You know, the ones people won't be sad to see knocked down a peg." He tapped his fingers on the table. "I talked to the nice couple owning Happy Apple and they don't seem to be particularly sad about Sander's ruin."
"Ah… I understand," Cas said, dragging the words out so that he could think. "Sanders is not from around here…," he hedged. Dean chuckled, sitting back in his chair, assuming a friendly and inviting pose.
"Come on, you own the café!" He raised his arms to indicate the café. "This place looks like somebody's sitting room, so surely people get cozy and gossip."
"It seems like that's what we're doing," Castiel told him, hoping to bring amusement into his voice. He had to cover his reluctance to really get into it, but there was something Dean wanted to hear and maybe it was simply for the best to give it to him for the moment. Castiel decided to rub his neck slightly, like someone who was embarrassed might do. "I don't like to talk ill of someone who's been struck with misfortune," he started and he saw that he had Dean's instant attention. "But he wasn't particularly liked around here. The orchard used to be an old family business and I don't know how it happened, but Sanders bought it. People liked to discuss if maybe Sander's ways had been barely legal." Castiel knew that this was all true. Sanders had cheated his way into the orchard and now he was paying for it. It was one witch favor followed by another witch's punishment. Castiel shrugged. "Besides, Sanders isn't nice… He never has been. He is a bully and I'm sure that people won't be sad to see him go, if the orchard isn't salvageable…" There was a spark of pleasure in Dean's eyes.
"So the guy had it coming," he confirmed. Castiel heaved a sigh at that, frustration bubbling up inside of him.
"Maybe, but I feel no satisfaction about it at all," he said and Dean looked at him with interest. "The orchard was a historical, beautiful place that had been, before Sander's acquisition, partially open to the public. The damage done to it isn't only sad, but it might also be bad for the city in an economical sense. The orchard employed many local people and many businesses were begrudgingly dependent on the harvest. So yes, Sanders might have deserved punishment, but not at the expense of the orchard," Castiel explained. He had told the same words to Gabriel before, but Gabriel had no appreciation or care for the larger consequences of his actions. He understood that the coven saw Sanders as coven business because he failed to pay his dues for the favor bestowed on him. But that didn't stop Castiel from thinking it was wrong to just accept the collateral damage.
Dean had listened to him intently and Castiel wasn't sure what his alert expression meant, but after a moment the man cracked a grin.
"You're passionate about this, huh?" Castiel startled, though he hoped that it didn't show. He scoffed instead and gestured towards the display where his baked goods were.
"Of course. I'll have to buy non-local produce for my apple pies," he said and Dean's expression morphed into a genuinely amused one.
"That's a shame," he agreed and Castiel nodded. He looked at Dean, how he trailed his fingers over the rim of his cup of coffee, with a small smile adorning his lips. Some ease had slipped into Dean that wasn't posturing at all. Castiel knew not to take it as a sign that he was off Dean's list of suspects, but so far Dean had made no clear indication that he considered him part of the case. If indeed Dean considered this a case.
Dean lifted his eyebrow at Cas and with some embarrassment, he recalled that he was still staring at Dean.
"Uh, do you want more coffee?" he asked, focusing his eyes on the coffee machine instead.
"Nah, thanks. I think I should leave you to it. Some stuff to do. But I might pop in again later for some company during lunch," Dean said, stuffing his phone into his coat and getting up. He put some bills on the table, tapping it once and then he winked at Cas. Cas felt his cheeks heat up at the clearly flirty intent behind the gesture.
"O- of course," he managed to say and then Dean left the café. Cas allowed himself a couple of minutes to settle again, to let all the tension that had developed inside him like a brewing storm, eased out slowly. Castiel was decent at not letting his emotions leak out and seep into the atmosphere around him, but he still felt the need to walk over to the window and open it a crack to let in some fresh air.
Castiel set to cleaning up Dean's table, pocketing the bills and the generous tip, then he went to tidy the kitchen some more until mid-morning brought his usual customers.
After most of the patrons had cleared out, the bell chimed and Castiel felt a tingle go up his spine. He poked his head out of the kitchen and sure enough there was Dean, his face tinged pink by the cold and an easy smile on his face.
"Hey there, Cas," he said and took a seat at the table that he had apparently claimed as his for the duration of his stay. Even though a part of him had hoped Dean would just leave Raurica behind, he had cast some very minor magic, which suggested to his other guests to not sit at this particular table. Just in case Dean would actually come for lunch. The little spell lifted in an invisible puff once Dean sat down. His smile faltered for a second, almost as if he had noticed the magic leave, but he quickly seemed to forget about it as Castiel came over to hand him a cup of coffee and a menu.
"I hope you didn't think I'd cheat on your establishment by getting my food somewhere else," Dean said with a wink.
"I was mildly concerned," Castiel answered amicably, then he continued cleaning up the tables and refilling coffees until Dean was ready to order.
"Burger and fries," Dean told him with a grin, "make that extra cheese". Castiel took the menu and went into the kitchen. His friendly smile dropped the moment he knew he wasn't visible anymore. He stoically went through preparing the food, trying to banish the remnants of those warm, soft feelings Dean's smile caused him. His charm was almost enough to override the apprehension Castiel should be feeling by being so close to a hunter.
Castiel steeled himself and then went back to serve Dean. The hunter made some appreciative noises about the food and Castiel left him to it. He knew that Dean must have made the unfortunate decision to call Cas' Café his base while he was investigating. Cas felt no misplaced pride or pleasure about it. He knew that it wasn't the unassuming building or the location or even his "charming personality" (as Gabriel called it) that constituted the draw that pulled people through his café's door. The coffee was okay, the atmosphere in it did have some charm and while the produce Cas used was all locally sourced and put together with care, Cas knew that his café was simply alright. What made people visit and come back was the nature of his magic. It was easy to make people notice what they usually wouldn't notice, to make them want to linger, to invite them in, tempt them and ensnare them- Castiel tensed and nipped that thought in the bud. No, this wasn't what he was like. He didn't want to manipulate people, not beyond giving him some of their time and dollars with their patronage. He could read people, know what they desired, where their weaknesses lay and direct his magic there to nudge them into a certain direction. But he never did it to harm them. He could. It would be easy, natural, like breathing. But Castiel's heart had always balked at it, which got him into frequent trouble with the coven. It was also why he didn't worry too much about his safety around Dean.
But he did worry about the hunter, in the same remote way he cared about other people's wellbeing. He didn't want him to get hurt, but neither did he want the hunter to hurt him. Maybe… Maybe if he just nudged him a bit? Distract him from whatever case he was putting together and have him be on his way. No harm done and no witch hunt brought down upon Raurica because a hunter ended up dead.
Castiel let his mind wander back to Dean multiple times during the afternoon while he tended to his regular customers. Dean didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave and went from lunch to desert later on. He busied himself by reading newspapers, scrolling through his phone and eventually he pulled out that leather journal that Cas had sensed arcane energy from. Probably it was stored with all kinds of spells that made it vibrate softly along Cas' mind, like the soft strum of an instrument. While Dean worked (if that was indeed what he was doing) his mind settled into the task, filling the space around him with a nice, focused energy. Castiel found himself relaxing into it. He knew he shouldn't, but there was something soothing about Dean's presence. Something in him that called to Castiel. Even though the man was focused now and that meant some of the juicier bits of Dean's character had become more remote and hard to read, Castiel could still feel those delicious tiny cracks. They were tempting him to reach out and see just how much he could nudge him. Scratch lightly at the surface, find that longing, the anger, explore them, soothe the emotions, ask the right questions, give Dean exactly the answers he wanted to hear. Shape his needs and adapt to be exactly what Dean needed him to be.
Like a stone being dropped into a clear lake, Castiel startled when he felt the energy of one of the coven members burst across his awareness almost violently, destroying the calm expansion of his magic. His heart sunk with dread when he noticed Dean shudder when Cas was disturbed in his musings. He hadn't even meant to affect him! A frown marred the hunter's face, but before he could direct his gaze towards Cas, the door opened and his searching look had something to focus on.
Ill at ease, Castiel watched Raphael push the door open, disturbing the bell and making the door knock against the door stopper with a clatter. Raphael moved through the world exactly like his magic did; with violent focus, constantly combative. He cast his magic out quickly, like thunderous clouds to crash against Castiel to remind him of his power and higher standing in the coven. Castiel allowed it without any retaliation. Partly because he knew that it wasn't a good idea to challenge him but also because it annoyed Raphael that he never reacted.
"Can I get you anything?" Castiel asked when Raphael closed the door and stood there like a pillar, glaring at everyone. Dean only lifted an eyebrow at him, then he was back to reading his newspaper and sipping coffee.
"Castiel," Raphael called, "I'm here to remind you of our engagement tonight."
"Yes," Castiel said and then Raphael seemed to notice Dean because his eyes focused on him, narrowing instantly. Castiel tried not to react but something must have passed over his face because Raphael's head turned slowly and his eyes fixed on Castiel, the look calculating and harsh. Full of disapproval. Most likely, Gabriel had already informed him and the entire coven of his run in with the hunter. Gabriel was the kind of person who caused trouble simply to see where it would lead. He enjoyed the chaos that developed, without a care for people who got hurt. Castiel pushed down the long familiar bitterness about his life here in Raurica, because he didn't want Raphael to pick up on anything but cool disinterest.
"A coffee to go," Raphael decided and Castiel pulled the cup from the shelf, getting to work. He had to lean to the side slightly to see past the coffee machine. As expected Raphael stood next to Dean's table, glaring down at him. Dean clearly had noticed him, but he took his time to react. After a while he put down his cup of coffee and looked up, a slow smile forming on his face.
"Hi," he said and there was a challenge in his tone. "Apparently you don't get many handsome strangers in these parts, so go ahead. Look your fill." He winked and Raphael's expression got even icier. Raphael was never one to be in a joking mood and he abhorred not being respected by people he considered inferior – which basically were all humans. And most supernatural creatures.
"I saw you at the orchard this morning," Raphael started, "in times like these we don't need gawkers getting into the way."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Dean said with a charming smile and flicked his nails against the coffee cup. "I'm enjoying a nice cup of coffee at Cas' café after a leisurely morning stroll." Raphael narrowed his eyes at him, but apparently had nothing to say to that. He stormed off without another word, slamming the door as always and leaving Cas standing behind the counter with his coffee to go.
Castiel huffed in frustration and looked down into the cup.
"Do you, by chance, want another cup?" he asked and Dean laughed at that.
"Seeing as I apparently chased off your customer, sure," he said and got up.
"Oh," Castiel said, "you don't have to go if you take the coffee to go." Dean chuckled and Castiel frowned at his own inelegance. Dean checked his phone and then put it in his pocket.
"I have to get going anyway," he said and checked the receipt Cas had handed him earlier. "That's for you," he told him and handed him some bills, as always with a good tip. Castiel gave him the coffee in return.
"I hope Raphael hasn't scared you off," Castiel felt the need to say, not sure why. "Raurica has nice people, Raphael simply isn't one of them."
"Yeah? But you still have an engagement with that guy?" Castiel heaved a sigh.
"I'm a business owner and have to stay in Raphael's good graces because he's part of the board of commissioners," he explained. "I heard it's good business practice to stay at least friendly with the commissioners." Which wasn't a lie, it simply omitted that their ties ran slightly deeper than that. But Castiel was good at lying by omission. He had to be as a witch.
Dean laughed at that and shrugged.
"I suppose so." Castiel smiled at him. "See you around, Cas."
"I hope so," Castiel told him genuinely and Dean remained standing there, holding his eyes for a long while. Eventually Dean ducked his head with a small, embarrassed huff and shuffled away.
"Bye," he repeated and looked at Cas over his shoulder before he left. This time Castiel felt a lingering happiness long after Dean was gone.
And he knew the horrible dangers that came with it.
Night fell quick and bitter cold, the wind biting at every bit of exposed skin while Castiel made his way to Naomi's house. The big building was a modern looking concrete block, perfectly suited for Naomi's taste, which was minimalistic at best. Bright white floodlight clicked on as Cas made his way across the path which cut apart a perfectly maintained lawn. A huge window was facing the road, daring everyone to look into Naomi's perfectly neat life, presented and performed for everyone who cared to see. But now the blinds to her living room were closed. Even though everyone in the house probably long knew that he was standing here, he uncurled his partially frozen hand from around the homemade bottle of honey wine to ring the bell. He could hear it shriek through the house.
After a couple of punishing minutes the door opened on its own accord with a loud buzz. Castiel stepped through with a deep breath, leaving the cold behind but instantly feeling his mind blank uncomfortably with the slam of the door. He shivered to himself as he slowly unwound his scarf, trying to get used to the spells. Other jackets and coats hung on the metal rack on the otherwise bare wall. The murmur of the coven's talk and the chink of their glasses came from the living room around the corner, but he didn't even try to cast his mind out to get a feel of what awaited him in terms of the coven's general mood.
This house gave nothing away, scrubbed clean of any aura, the walls having no voice to whisper the owner's thoughts or emotion, jealously guarding all its secrets. It unsettled Cas to be so blind to the thoughts and emotions of the other members of the coven whenever they had a gathering like this. He knew that the coven was linked, allowing them to communicate with each other, but Castiel was shut out since he was not officially initiated yet.
Castiel rounded the corner and immediately felt all eyes in the huge, white, empty living room focus on him. Gabriel was draped across the long white couch, raising his glass of champagne, but all the other members of the coven were standing around in a loose circle. Raphael was still glaring daggers at him and Hannah sent him the smallest of smiles, but the others didn't let any emotion show on their face, making it even harder for Cas to read the room.
Naomi stepped forward, her grey suit as impeccable as always, her smile friendly but with a calculating glint.
"Castiel, good of you to come," she said, like the perfect host, as if Cas was here because he wanted to be. "We've been trying to have this friendly get together with you for years now, I'm glad we could finally make it happen." Castiel nodded curtly and presented his wine. Naomi moved her finger and Hannah jumped into action, taking the bottle.
"Let me put this into the storage for you, Naomi," she said and sent Castiel an encouraging smile before she left. This close, a hint of Hannah's emotions brushed him. She was excited and genuinely happy that he was finally being initiated into the coven.
"It is an important evening, we have much to discuss," Naomi said once Hannah was back.
"And trust Castiel to show up underdressed to his own initiation," Michael commented, which Castiel rewarded with a small, unimpressed look.
"Yeah and where are you going? Raurica Fashion Week?" Gabriel asked, jumping up from the couch, spilling a bit of champagne which Naomi rewarded with a wrinkled nose, and joining the circle.
"There is no harm in being dressed for the occasion and this is a memorable evening," Michael said smugly, straightening the lapels of his suit and fixing his dark eyes and charming smile at Cas. "At least we all hope it will be memorable and end favorably."
"Ugh, keep it in your pants, Michael," Anael mocked, with a roll of her eyes. Michael merely smiled, self-assured and pleased with himself.
"Now that we are all gathered here, we should address the most pressing issue first," Raphael spoke up, nipping any further conversation in the bud and distracting Castiel from thinking about Michael's flirtation. "There is a hunter in this town." Castiel's heart sank. He had already been feeling borderline nauseous because of the initiation but having Dean brought up was like they had tossed him into ice cold water.
"I thought this was about-" Castiel's attempt at guiding the conversation into marginally less troublesome directions, was met with Raphael lifting his hand.
"A hunter disturbs the peace and is an active threat to our community," Raphael said and looked at Castiel smugly. Raphael took every chance he got to torment Castiel, since the day they had all gathered at the wake for his mother and Naomi had announced that they would take him in. Raphael couldn't stand Castiel. Neither the fact that he was the child of a witch who had abandoned the coven, nor that he had been born with strong magic. There was basically nothing about him that Raphael didn't hate and Castiel had given up trying to please him long ago.
Castiel saw that this was apparently not a new topic, no witch in the room was surprised to hear that they had a hunter in Raurica, but none of them seemed particularly worried or disturbed.
"So what?" Rachel asked, "this is an easy problem to take care of. Put a hex bag into his car then and let's be done with it."
"He must be an amateur," Uriel spoke up, "have you seen that car he drives? A hunter with such a conspicuous car! In a town of witches that just invites hex bags." Some of the people laughed at that but Castiel could feel himself cringe inside. Castiel hadn't seen Dean's car before but if it really was that conspicuous that was rather unfortunate. But the journal, the attitude, the ease with which he had done his interrogations… Dean was not new at hunting.
"Considering that he showed up in Castiel's establishment at least twice in the last days, one wonders why he didn't report it," Raphael spoke up again and Castiel looked down at his shoes. He heard Raphael huff disdainfully, surely thinking him too soft again, one of his favorite insults to throw Castiel's way whenever they crossed paths.
"You could have just poisoned his food," Dumah suggested coolly. "It would have been easy for you to clean up before it even became an issue." Castiel turned towards her, his eyebrow lifted at the suggestion.
"Oh yes, what a wonderfully thought out plan," Anael commented flatly and typed on her phone, ignoring the hateful glare Dumah sent her way.
"Poisoning his food would have been much too conspicuous," Castiel argued, far more diplomatically than Anael did. "A hunter comes to investigate a freak storm and then dies under mysterious circumstances at my café?" Castiel asked and he could see Dumah wrinkle her nose, "that would be drawing the wrong kind of attention. Besides, I don't want to ruin my business." Gabriel burst out with an unattractive laugh at that and Castiel turned his head to look to the side, suddenly wary. Had the last comment been too much? He did care about his business, but obviously not to a degree where it was more important to him than human life. But Castiel's worry was unfounded.
"Let's be honest here, if your food doesn't chase people off, then someone dropping dead into a plate won't either," he said mockingly. Castiel could feel his cheeks heat up uncomfortably in embarrassment following Gabriel's words and the chuckles of the other witches.
"It's a testament to your magic that people don't notice that the coffee is mediocre and the food bland," Uriel commented dryly. There was no mocking in his tone, but that didn't make it any better. "Your magic has ensnared them enough to make them come back even though they don’t particularly have a reason to." Castiel showed him a tense smile and some of the other witches laughed at his uncomfortable silence, though Hannah shot him a bit of a sympathetic look.
"Yeah, they'd forget about a dead stranger right away and come back for your sucky coffee and icicle personality," Gabriel continued to tease. Now Castiel felt a spike of irritation at Gabriel's need to always overdo it.
"The coffee is not sucky," he replied tersely. He was spared from saying more by Naomi focusing her eyes on Gabriel.
"We are all aware that the reason the hunter is investigating in our town is because of your exorbitance," she chastised coolly. "Dumah could cover up some of your missteps but she couldn't stop the news from reporting it this time. People talked about it," Naomi breathed in, soothing out her irritation, "on the internet already yesterday."
"Yes, those pesky people with their pesky phones. Maybe we should engage a cyber witch," Gabriel said mockingly. He grinned at her cheerfully and winked at Dumah who radiated anger now but kept her mouth shut because she knew it wasn't her place to openly chastise Gabriel. It was obvious that Gabriel felt no guilt at all about potentially putting the whole coven in danger and with it of course the hunter's life.
"Since it was Gabriel's fault for inviting the hunter in, we normally would task him with taking care of him," Michael said, "but I doubt that Gabriel's ego allows him to do anything that would require stealth, so he is useless for this task."
"Thank you," Gabriel interjected with a proud grin. Michael was unfazed by him though some other witches looked at him with scowls.
"It would be easy to make him disappear if he was just a run of the mill hunter," Michael continued, "but unfortunately Raurica has been visited by none other than Dean Winchester." Castiel frowned in confusion because that meant nothing to him, but when he looked around it was clear that the more experienced witches in the coven reacted to that. A murmur went through the room.
"The demon hunter Winchesters?" Anael asked and it seemed that even she was impressed when Michael nodded.
"If Dean dies here that will draw the attention of his brother Sam. We have gotten intel that Sam is withdrawing gradually from hunting, but Dean's disappearance would bring him down on us if there was even just a hint of it being caused by supernatural means," he explained.
"We should kill them both. Prove the strength and superiority of our coven!" Raphael spoke up but Naomi and Michael looked at him sharply.
"The Winchesters are effective and deadly and no matter what supernatural means are employed, they won't stay dead," Naomi added in warning and a shiver went down Castiel's spine at her serious tone. "We need a subtle approach."
"And this is where Castiel comes into play," Michael said and when Castiel looked up at him in shock, he found a wide grin on his lips.
"He's going to ruin it," Raphael muttered under his breath and some of the others seemed dubious as well.
"Michael and I agree that this is a good challenge for Castiel," Naomi said. Castiel balked at the idea of it being his responsibility to get rid of Dean. He had never killed anyone and he didn't want to start now. He didn't want to be responsible for Dean's death. He frantically racked his brain for any ideas for what he could do to rid Dean of the danger he posed to the coven without having to kill him. Incapacitate him so that he cannot continue working? That would remove him but someone else would simply take his place. Take his memory? Take his will? No, he had to be careful, to not do too much. He had to gently redirect his attention to something else and convince him that there was nothing suspicious happening.
"A love spell," he finally said more to himself than to the coven. He almost instantly regretted that the words had slipped past his mouth without having thought it through properly when he heard Raphael snort. Cas knew it was irresponsible, but his irritation at Raphael made him stubborn. "A love spell will refocus his attention, muddle his mind and eventually gives me the ability to shape his thoughts and actions. If I have enough control I can make him leave, take the information that nothing is happening in Raurica into the wider hunter network." He saw Raphael's expression darken in obvious anger, but Naomi gave a nod to Michael and the coven discussed quietly. Castiel felt the prickle of dread and disgust pool in his stomach.
What has he done?
"A love spell might sound like children's play, but if done right it is some of the most difficult and powerful magic," Naomi said. "Considering the nature of your magic and your tendency towards being able to read and manipulate people, this is an ideal challenge for you."
"If you fail, then you will have to clean. It can become very dangerous and very bloody for you," Michael warned, though there was a glint of excitement in Michael's eye. As if he hoped that it would come to this and that he couldn't wait to see what Castiel's magic would be like if it were to be drenched in blood.
"But if you succeed then you will be a full witch of our coven," Naomi said and Cas didn't miss the smile she showed him, proud of his achievement because she knew that he would not fail.
And he couldn't.
He would probably ruin Dean's life, but at least he would preserve it.
Castiel spent hours crafting a spell and altering the ingredients to the fateful curse work that would break through all of Dean's defenses and lay him bare before Cas to mold to his own desires. He felt his magic hunger for it, for all that potential that Dean kept hidden behind that cocky smile and that dense, powerful aura. As Castiel stripped the plants of their leaves and ground them into a paste, he imagined what it would be like to give into the desires of his magic, to let its greedy hands tickle over Dean, pull him close and taste him.
He whispered the words of the spell in practice so that he would only have to send the intent through his mind for his magic to do its work. Silently he let his mouth shape the words as he combined ingredients and imagined how he would have to open himself up, what it would be like to unchain all of Dean's rage and guilt and his ravenous need and to reshape them into desire that would narrow all of its raw power onto Cas. How it would feel to have it wash over him, plunge deep into Cas to stir the magic in him into a whirlwind of unleashed power.
Cas had never opened himself up properly to anyone. He knew what it felt like to have others' desires wash over him, but he had always kept himself closed off. But for this to work properly, he had to. He had to let himself be tied to Dean just as much as Dean would be tied to him.
He tilted his head back and looked at the ceiling with half-lidded eyes. He worked in the dark, but the moonlight filtered through the moving leaves of the tree outside his window, flickers of light swimming across the dark. He let sorrow in for a second as his eyes slipped closed and the ecstasy of his magic to finally find a proper outlet tamed instantly to a quiet hum.
He would ruin everything with this. He did it to save Dean, yes, but was it justified? No, no, this would be a dreadful violation to take from Dean what he did not want to give freely. To make him feel deeply what he did not want to feel. To reveal what he wanted to keep hidden. He didn't want to pull him into this dreadful life governed by the will of the coven. Of powers guided, affection forced by dependence, of love and freedom and choice being non-existent, meaning nothing but betrayal and pain and death.
"I don't know, I don't…," he whined, eyes squeezed shut now and the sorrow and dread building up inside of him. He felt the magic waver, getting dark and Castiel lifted his hands out of the bowl of ingredients as if they had been burnt. He couldn't let sorrow taint this spell, but he couldn't stop it from rattling through him now.
He thought of his mother, childhood memories tinted in the golden haze of blissful days.
"Never harm humans, Cas," she had whispered into his hair, "it is so easy to do harm, but it will take work to do good."
His mother had always done good, turning her back on the coven, an uncontrollable desire to live life to its fullest and not to keep to the hungry shadows of dark magic. She craved to take everything life wanted to give, but didn't want to leave only destruction in her wake.
And it had cost her.
She was dead, killed by hunters, because she had slipped up, been careless. Just once. That was all it took for her to lose everything and for Castiel to be plunged into darkness.
And now he was on that same path again.
Couldn't he run away now, just like his mother had done?
But how could he possibly refuse his coven, when Naomi had plucked him from the dead body of his mother, washed away the blood, taken him in and shown him love when he had nothing? She had smothered the anguish, the rage and the hate. How could he betray her now? How could he make her strike him down if he betrayed them and told Dean the truth? Or if he left Dean to his own fate and ran? No. There was no choice, not for him.
Castiel exhaled deeply and the magic simmered down, leaving behind nothing but shame and guilt. And the spell that would be his and Dean's undoing.
Castiel dragged himself to work on very little sleep and it was adrenaline and dread alone that kept him on his toes when Naomi came into the café with a chime of the bell. In her pristine suit and impeccable hairdo, she stood out among Castiel's usual visitors lured in by his beckoning magic. Castiel put a coffee in front of her to at least make her look slightly less out of place. She didn't say anything to him outside of their customer – server interaction and calmly studied the newspaper Castiel handed her, though her eyes kept coming back to rest on his own. She was here to witness and Castiel's fingers trembled when he slipped them into his pocket to feel the little bag that held the powder for Dean's spell. It was far too risky to build up an altar in his kitchen and perform a proper spell, so this would have to do.
A part of Castiel feverishly hoped that Dean had left Raurica but of course the bell chimed and the hunter stepped into the café. Castiel's stomach churned but he had to calm down. He showed Dean a shaky smile and headed over to him once he sat down. As always when other patrons were present, Dean kept on his jacket and with it all his weapons. His eyes swept the room, lingering on Naomi longer than any other morning patron. Dean's instincts were marvelous.
He only looked away from her when Castiel stepped up to the table and handed him a menu. Dean laughed.
"I think I know it by now," he joked and Castiel faltered.
"Force of habit," he admitted. He had gone through all possible scenarios. If Dean ordered eggs or if he took pancakes, if he had nothing but coffee or a soda for a change. He was prepared and while he felt sick to his stomach, he gradually calmed down the more his mind went through his list of possible ways to cast his spell.
"I feel sweet today, so let's go with pancakes," Dean said cheerfully. Castiel nodded and by the time he had made sure that nobody wanted anything while he was in the kitchen Dean had already spread his usual case work out before him.
Castiel poured the powdered down spell ingredients into the batter for the pancakes, the soft flower scent almost unnoticeable and easy to hide with syrup. Every step of the way he thought about messing up to spare Dean. But he poured the batter into the pan, he flipped the pancakes, he put them on the plate and set them down in front of Dean with a cup of fresh coffee, brewed strong enough to wash down any possible lingering taste of magic.
Dean didn't even look up long enough from his reading to scrutinize the pancakes or see the stiff expression on Castiel's face.
Castiel returned to the counter and he saw Naomi's hawk like eyes fixed on Dean, clearly seeing the tendrils of magic. Dean poured maple syrup over his pancakes, cutting absent-mindedly. He put a piece in his mouth, chewing slowly. Dean swallowed his first mouthful. It was enough, the task was done and Naomi nodded at him.
Castiel breathed in deeply and then wordlessly cast the spell. It activated at once and Castiel barely bit back a gasp as the spell wrenched open the barrier between him and Dean. Castiel had to breathe through the torrent of all the emotions mixed together, forcing himself to open up as well. His magic guided Dean's focus towards him to give it something to cling to.
Dean looked up from his reading, as if a thought had just stuck him. He turned his eyes to look at Castiel and there was puzzlement in his expression for a moment, but then a smile spread on his lips.
"They're good," Dean commented almost shyly and Cas was still dazed enough to have nothing to offer but a soft "huh?". Dean pointed his fork to the pancakes, grinning now. "Best pancakes ever." Castiel severely doubted that but at least it meant the magic had Dean in its hold, making him receptive to everything that Cas said or did.
"Thank you," he added and Dean apparently didn't notice the defeated tone. Castiel felt shame heat up his cheeks and he lowered his head. Naomi got up from her chair, her coffee untouched. Castiel didn't raise his head but he did track her with his eyes. She looked at him, her eyes firm but there was a flicker of something that he hadn't seen in them before, but then Naomi nodded and she was gone.
Dean never took notice of her this time.
Dean didn't seem to be in any hurry to leave this morning, finding reasons enough to stay even though he must have been re-reading the same page of the newspaper for half an hour, waiting for Castiel to get through the morning rush. Castiel on his part tried to avoid him because he thought he could vomit at any time at how sick he felt to have cast this spell. It wasn't just the guilt, it was also the consequence of doing black magic. And maybe, Castiel told himself cowardly, if he kept away from Dean the magic might not settle completely. He knew it was futile. It would take a witch with abilities like Castiel's to undo the magic or a lot of time without Dean being in Castiel's company to let it fade over the years.
"Hey," Dean called, grabbing Cas' wrist as he tried to pass him. His hold was just on the side of painful and Castiel felt a pulse of possessiveness quiver along the bond between them. But when Castiel looked down at him, there was a friendly smile on his lips. "You've been on your feet all morning, how about a break? I even treat you to one of your delicious coffees," he said with a wink. Castiel looked around the café but he knew that it had emptied out and that he had no excuse to deny Dean.
"Of course. Give me a moment," he said, mustering a smile of his own, and went behind the counter to brew more coffee.
He was back quickly and noticed that Dean still had his journal and his notes were spread out whereas before he had done his best to always be inconspicuous about his supernatural research.
"What are you doing anyway?" Castiel dared to ask, sitting down in the chair next to Dean. Dean moved slightly and it was probably no accident that their knees bumped.
"I'm investigating," he said confidently and Castiel's heart sunk. Was the magic so strong already that Dean would reveal that he was a hunter out in public, to virtual strangers? Dean must have noticed how he had tensed and laughed easily. "Relax. Nothing bad. I just got curious about what you said on Sanders' and how it might have been a shady business deal," he said.
"Why?" Castiel asked.
"Believe it or not, I'm actually an FBI agent," he said with a wink. Castiel knew not to believe it but didn't mean to not seem impressed. But apparently he had because Dean chuckled and reached into his jacket. He produced a badge that looked very convincing to Cas. Though to be fair, Cas had only seen FBI badges on TV.
"Dean Smith," he muttered, reading the fake name. "I… had no idea," Castiel said, looking back up and Dean grinned. "Why didn't you say that you were here to investigate, Agent Smith?"
"Just call me Dean. And I wasn't. This isn't actually my case or any case the FBI is interested in. It's possibly no case at all. I'm on holiday and don't know what to do with my time. I have a cabin in Whitefish and was on my way there for some boring solitude when I heard about the storm," Dean explained, putting away his fake badge.
"So that's why you were asking if Sanders had enemies," Castiel said, playing along with the cover story. "But you're not interested in the storm, just his business dealings?"
"Yeah. Call it instinct, but I feel there's something there," he said and Castiel knew that this was the case. He wasn't sure who had made the initial deal with Sanders since he wasn't privy to coven information like that, but he sure hoped that whoever it was had covered their tracks well enough. Or that Sanders wouldn't talk. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach Castiel realized that it was unlikely that Sanders would get another chance at upholding his end of whatever bargain they'd struck.
"And how long will you be staying here?" Castiel asked, redirecting his thoughts towards something less gloomy. He was fishing for information now that Dean had opened up about working a case.
"As long as it takes for my curiosity to be satisfied. Or until my boss calls me back," he said but soon the charming smile dimmed and Castiel felt something like… abandonment and loneliness from him. He had always seen signs of those in Dean, but now that the magic had made everything clearer it was obvious just how deep those emotions went.
"Dean?" Castiel asked, when he was still looking at nothing, the same expression on his face. Dean seemed to snap out of it quickly, focus narrowing down on Castiel again. "Are you alright?"
"Huh? Yeah, I'm just thinking," he said. Castiel lifted his eyebrows, but surprisingly Dean didn't come right out with the information, even though Castiel had expected that a little nudge would be enough. Dean seemed to notice Cas' look eventually. "I usually spend my holidays with my brother, but he's busy." And that was all Dean apparently wanted to say on the subject and even though Castiel knew that he could push for more information, he didn't actually want to make Dean give him more than he wanted to, even though this was a small, almost meaningless gesture considering the spell he had cast on Dean.
Almost as if Dean (or the love spell) noticed that Castiel was withdrawing, he propped his elbows up on the table and leant slightly forwards, closer into his space. Despite his confusion, Castiel couldn't help the blush that rose to his cheeks as Dean grinned at him, the flirty expression hard to miss.
"So… Since it looks like I'll be here for a while, how about we see each other outside of this café, too?" he said and then, just to make sure that Castiel couldn't misunderstand he added: "Like a date."
Castiel didn't know what to answer.
"O… okay?" he managed to stammer out and Dean's smile only grew. "Yes," he added and felt shame color his cheeks red at once. There was no point in denying Dean because this was a love spell and Dean's life depended on this working out. The fact that Castiel got genuinely flustered by the handsome hunter asking him out was only going to complicate things though.
"Great!" Dean decided, gently slamming his hands onto the table before he got up to gather his papers.
"What… now?" Castiel asked but Dean shook his head.
"I have to do some investigations, but how about after your closing time? I'll be here. Though I'll depend on you choosing a venue for our date." He winked, paid for his food and coffee and then he was on his way. Castiel watched him through the window, where Dean shot him another smile and then he left.
Cas had been living in Raurica since Naomi relocated with him here 15 years ago, but he had never seen the point in going out. He was aware of all the establishments in the city, but couldn't tell if they were any good. The bar he had chosen for his and Dean's date was surprisingly quiet. Cas had expected something a bit less… intimate maybe. Dean for his part didn't seem to mind at all, settling into the booth with ease after having ordered something to eat and drink for them both. Castiel took the a moment to read the atmosphere of the place, just like Dean was checking it out. He had chosen a booth that allowed him to keep all of the room in sight, though Castiel knew there was no threat. This bar was friendly, in a slow, lazy kind of way.
"You look kinda tense there, buddy," Dean said and Cas snapped his attention back to Dean.
"I… uh… don't usually do this," he admitted.
"Makes two of us," Dean said and while Castiel watched him he noticed a flicker of surprise crossing Dean's face. Likely, he hadn't intended to share that detail, but the small frown lifted quickly so Castiel released the breath he was holding. It wasn't unlikely for the magic to be met with some resistance as it settled deeper and deeper, to make spell and genuine feeling mix indistinguishably. Castiel hoped he wouldn't have to tamper with Dean again if he proved too resistant to the magic.
"You don't go to bars?" Castiel asked, providing a distraction for Dean.
"I do, but usually I pick up people there instead of inviting them out for a date," he said and nodded his head towards the bar, where a beautiful woman was serving a customer. "That's usually who I go for. Someone who's up for a bit of fun but is aware that this is all that it's going to be." Castiel nodded, inviting Dean to go on. A waitress came over with their drinks, shooting Dean a flirty smile before retreating again. "Usually I pick up a woman, because I've got a reputation to uphold," he said with a grin and hid its fast retreat behind a sip of beer. He was bitter about this, Castiel could tell.
"Why?" he asked and Dean looked up at him, apparently surprised by the question. He faltered a moment, but then his expression became guarded.
"That's how the community is. The FBI I mean. It's still kind of backwards, kind of prejudiced." Dean said that with his lips pressed into a tight smile. Cas could tell that Dean was reluctant to get into it and he didn't want to push.
"That's a shame," he said instead and Dean shrugged. "I'm sure you have lots of love to give." Dean was clearly taken aback by his comment and his face turned slightly red. Castiel watched him fumble with the napkin, snort a laugh and then drink another generous sip of his beer. "Did I say something wrong?"
"No, no not wrong, just…" Dean said, putting his beer back down. Castiel tilted his head to the side, questioningly and Dean bit his lip, clearly debating on whether he wanted to go on talking. But surprisingly he then relaxed. "Yeah. I guess I do," Dean admitted, his voice tired. "This lifestyle I lead… it wears you down eventually. Don’t get me wrong, it's been rewarding and it's been fun. But it's always the same. You show up, pick someone up, it's sex, you say good-bye and repeat it someplace else." Dean looked into the bar, his eyes wistful. Castiel wondered just how many bars this man had seen in his life as a hunter.
"And you want something else?" Castiel asked, "is that why you asked me out instead of just picking someone up?" Dean looked back at him, his shoulders hunched slightly and his brow wrinkled. It made him look insecure, vulnerable almost.
"Maybe," he said. He was spared from having to say more on the topic by their food being served. Dean had ordered them burgers and fries, which Castiel could definitely live with.
"What about you, Cas?" Dean asked after a moment of tasting the food. "How's your love life?" Castiel snorted at that, which made Dean chuckle himself.
"Raurica doesn't have enough bars for frequent one-night stands," he said and Dean nodded at that, chewing on a bite from his burger. "And I haven't found anyone to be with long term either. I have never been able to… really open up I suppose."
"Well, let's hope you will," Dean said with a wink that had Castiel blushing.
They let their evening continue on in a leisurely pace, without any further deep conversations. Dean gave him very little personal information and Castiel knew that most of his FBI case talk was either made up entirely or about heavily edited hunting cases. But it was still pleasant to listen to Dean talk.
"I guess it's time to head on home, or rather to the hotel," Dean said once they had paid and were lingering in front of the bar. It was almost midnight by now. "It's just across the street if you want to continue this." Dean brushed his hand down Castiel's back but withdrew before it could slip too far down.
Castiel felt a spark of desire, but alarm drowned it out almost instantly. He knew Dean's sexual interest in him was genuine, even if it had been helped along by the magic, but did this make it alright for Castiel to accept Dean's offer?
Clearly Castiel's hesitation must have shown on his face, because Dean chuckled. He stepped closer to Cas, bringing his warmth near and Castiel couldn't help the sigh that escaped his lips.
"It's alright. I'll be here tomorrow too," he added, then he came even closer, his eyes searching. But Castiel didn't want to resist and soon Dean's lips brushed his softly.
"Good night, Cas," Dean said with a grin.
"Good night, Dean," Castiel answered breathlessly. Dean lifted his hand and then he turned around and walked away. Castiel was rooted to the spot for a moment, still having that tingling feeling of Dean's kiss on his lips. After a long moment of standing in the cold he turned around, just to be startled by finding Gabriel right behind him, arms crossed and a grin on his face.
"That was kind of pathetic, Castiel," he said, grin widening when he noticed how startled Castiel was. "You should have gone for it! Dean's easy prey now that he's in your magic's clutches!" And just like that the soft, warm feeling that Dean's presence had left was blown away and the familiar shame and disgust returned.
"You're terrible, Gabriel," Castiel managed to say, though it wasn't as biting as he would have wished, because deep down he knew that Gabriel just stated the truth.
"Awwww, poor thing," Gabriel said mockingly. "If you think like this then you're going to get your little heart hurt." Castiel glared at him. "Come on, Castiel! Don't think about it too much. Just have fun with this!" Castiel felt nauseous. He shook his head and pushed past Gabriel, but if he thought that this was going to get rid of him, then he was out of luck. Gabriel turned on his heels with a gleeful expression and started following Cas.
"You're doing a good thing, if you think about it! Just keep that boy well fed on love and sex and he'll be too distracted to stick his nose into things and lose his life in the process. You just have to play your cards right and Dean could even walk out of this whole mess alive!" Castiel tensed further, the more Gabriel spoke, disgust at himself rising. Gabriel, for his part fell silent. Castiel didn't even notice the unusual silence until they had walked for a while. He looked over his shoulder, finding Gabriel studying him, but before Castiel could ask about it, he broke out in a grin. He reached into his jacket and materialized a bottle of alcohol.
"Well, knock yourself out," he said and pushed it towards Cas. Confused, Cas took the bottle and then Gabriel saluted, before he stepped into an alley and vanished, leaving Castiel standing there, with the bottle in hand.
Castiel rubbed his temples, hoping the rough treatment could chase away the dizzying headache. He hadn't been hangover in nearly a decade and had forgotten how unpleasant it was to get drunk on Gabriel's spiked witch wine. On top of the mix of nausea and pounding headache, Dean hadn't shown up either.
Castiel was confident about his magical abilities, but still he allowed anxiety to plague him: what if he hadn't performed the spell right and now Dean was gone? What if Dean was gone even though he had performed the spell right? What if he had messed up the spell and now the Happy Apple had a Dean sized blood splatter all over their room? That one was very unlikely but apparently hangovers made his imagination run wild.
The bell chimed and Dean's appearance stopped the whirlwind of his worried thoughts. Castiel smiled at him but then he winced and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"When did that happen?" Dean asked, his voice ringing with laughter. He walked over to the counter and Castiel finally noticed that he was wearing a black suit and a long woolen overcoat. He looked amazing.
"You're dressed up," he said instead of explaining his hangover.
"Easier to interrogate people when you're dressed for the job," he said with a wink and took a seat at his table. Castiel left to prepare Dean's lunch, letting his thoughts run wild again. That Dean put on the FBI suit in public seemed conspicuous. Of course, all the witches in Raurica were already aware of Dean being here and would probably not question his disguise. Still… it seemed careless somehow, but it wasn't like Castiel understood how hunters operated.
Castiel came back into the shop and set the plate down in front of Dean, who had shrugged out of his heavy coat.
"It's empty today," he observed, turning to look around the café to which Castiel shrugged. It wasn't like he had flipped the closed sign, but the magic of the café currently suggested to passersby that they would rather eat something else today. This was of course bad for his business but Dean was warm and soft and beautiful and Castiel just wanted to be able to sit down next to him and bask in his glow.
Dean didn't seem to mind the attention and kept shooting Castiel little smiles here and there, complimenting his food and Castiel almost forgot about his hangover or how dangerous it was to let himself be tangled up in Dean's fabricated love.
Eventually Castiel had to get up and clean Dean's table to let him spread his notes. That was also when he reluctantly pulled the diversion magic back. He had to deal with other customers eventually. It would probably take some time before anyone found their way back into the café because the lunch rush was over now, so he still had some time alone with Dean.
Dean had manila folders with him as well as notebooks, which he now spread as Cas served him a cup of coffee. He was pouring over them with pursed lips and a frown. Apparently, he was at a dead end. Castiel would have been surprised if Dean had discovered that Gabriel was involved in the storm, since he had nothing to do with Sanders' purchase of the orchard in the first place. And on a surface level Gabriel, as the owner of a bakery, didn't benefit from a ruined orchard.
"Cas, do you believe in magic?" Dean's sudden question made Castiel freeze.
"Magic…?" Castiel asked, unsure how to deflect this conversation. "You mean like Harry Potter?" He mimed swinging a wand, which had Dean laugh.
"Not quite like that. I meant more like in general. That magic exists and that there are people who might be cursed," he said and Castiel remained silent for a moment.
"I don't think you're cursed simply because you can't solve a case," Castiel offered which made Dean crack another smile, but there was something tense and insecure beneath the smile that Castiel longed to soothe. He took a seat next to Dean and leant back in the chair with an exhale.
"I think there are things in this world that we don't understand. And that there are special people who might be more attuned to it. I wouldn't go play with an Ouija board for example, just in case." Dean chuckled at that.
"That seems sensible," he said.
"Is it normal for the FBI to look for a supernatural angle if you're out of clues?" Cas teased which had Dean shrug. "Do you believe in magic, Dean?"
"Yeah, sure, why not," he answered with a grin. "I've even used a Ouija board before," he said with a wink. Castiel frowned at him.
"Maybe you are cursed after all," he chastised jokingly. He faltered when he noticed how Dean looked at him. There was a smile on his face but before Castiel could ask what he was thinking about, Dean partially raised out of his chair to be able to kiss him. Castiel immediately lifted his hands to place them on Dean's sides, holding on and returning the kiss. It didn't take long for Dean's gentle and exploring kisses to turn more insistent. He pulled Castiel out of the chair and crowded him against the table. Castiel was pliant in Dean's hands, opening his legs to let Dean press against him and meeting his lips with the same fervor.
Should he really be doing this, in here? When people could come in any minute? Should he even be doing this in the first place? But Castiel didn't find it in him to stop Dean.
It was a phone which finally distracted Dean from their make out session. He grumbled but pulled the phone out of his pocket. His annoyed expression lifted at once when he looked at the screen.
"Sorry, gotta take this," Dean said apologetically and let go of Castiel. "Yeah?" he asked into the phone and got up from his chair. "Hey Sammy." He shot Castiel a look, hesitating, but then he went outside. Clearly the magic was still not settled completely that it would make Dean disregard all of his instincts in order to keep close to Castiel. He wondered if maybe it would have if it hadn't been his brother Sam on the phone. Or at least this was who Castiel assumed Sammy to be. Clearly, they would talk about the case. Castiel knew he shouldn't but he turned his head to the small window next to the door in front of which he could see Dean's shape. Slowly and noiselessly the lock turned and it opened just slightly and with the magic all around he could hear Dean well. He felt guilty about it but it was better to know what Dean made of this all to gauge if he was getting too close.
"No. I'm still in Raurica. The freak storm, remember?" There was a break while Dean listened to Sam's answer. "Nah, I'm not sure. It's not a demonic omen. No signs of pagan rituals. Could be a witch." Castiel folded his hands nervously. "I was inside the dude's house and the orchard but nada so far. He's definitely shady though so I'll have to look into him some more. Maybe find some clues as to who his contacts are." Dean huffed into the phone and then he stepped away from the window. "No, no need. Just stay put and I'll call you again. Okay. Bye."
Castiel quickly got up from his chair and slipped behind the counter, busying himself with rearranging the pastry display.
"Sorry about that, FBI stuff," Dean said when he spotted Castiel. "But good thinking. I could go with some pie!" Castiel put a slice on the plate and made some more coffee for Dean. He considered making some for himself as well, but then the door open and a small group of teenagers came in.
"Hey. How about we see each other again tonight?" Dean said, taking hold of Cas' wrist again before he could pull away and go give the teenagers some menus. Castiel smiled down at him.
"I'd love that," he said and Dean smiled back, letting him go.
Bizarrely enough, Dean showed up to their second date with a carton containing a slice of pie.
"Hey, sorry about the delay," Dean said when he jogged up to Castiel in front of the bar. The box was familiar looking and Castiel immediately worried. "I ran into that Gabriel dude at the B&B when I got back to change."
"What was he doing there?" Castiel asked in alarm and Dean lifted his eyebrow at Castiel's reaction.
"Chat with the owners and delivering them a pie for tomorrow's breakfast," he said, then he handed the box to Cas. "He said to give you this." Castiel frowned but took the box. On the lid was a sticky note reading: "your pie sucks, consider this". He groaned, the irritation momentarily distracting him from his worry.
"Did you tell him that we'd have a date tonight?" Castiel wondered and walked over to his car to put the pie inside.
"Yeah. That dude talks way too much," Dean said and then motioned his hand towards the bar. Cas nodded and followed inside. "And is far too invested in your love life," he added once they were sitting. Castiel rolled his eyes at that.
"He's insufferable and enjoys embarrassing me…" Castiel groused. It was best to talk about something else. "How about your case? Did you get anywhere?" Dean's grin slipped off his face and he seemed reluctant to talk about it, which surprised Cas.
"Sanders left Raurica and I can't reach him, which makes it hard to interview him," Dean said evasively and then let his eyes dart around, landing on the pool tables. "Hey, how about a game after some beers?" Castiel hesitatingly followed his eyes and looked at the tables as well, unsure what to make of Dean's attempt at distracting him.
"A couple of beers won't make me any better at it," Castiel told him after a moment, which had Dean laugh at once.
"No worries. We're just here for some fun," he said and then his expression turned mischievous. "I just want to make sure that maybe this time you'll go back to my place instead of going to get hammered. Wouldn't want you hung over at work again." Castiel colored at that, more out of embarrassment than because of Dean's invitation to sex.
"Maybe if you can beat me?"
"Oh! Where's that confidence coming from after that previous statement?" Dean asked with a laugh.
"Maybe I don't mean to win," Castiel told him and Dean's grin widened.
"Okay, it's on."
Dean groaned, leaning back in his chair, arms crossed with a huff.
"What's the matter?" Castiel asked, bringing him a cup of coffee. There were a couple of customers in the café but none of them required his immediate attention.
"It's Sanders. I can't get a hold of him. It's like he dropped off the face of the earth," Dean said and clearly that was hardly a good sign for closing this case. Castiel wondered if the suspicious disappearance was simple carelessness on the coven's part, or if whoever had decided that Sanders needed to disappear deemed the risk of him talking greater than anyone investigating the circumstances of his death. Castiel still didn’t know any details about the coven's dealings with Sanders, but this entire case seemed highly unprofessional. Perhaps he should take this issue to Naomi but as long as he wasn't initiated nobody had to listen to any of his grievances.
"Maybe he was worried because there are shady business practices involved?" Castiel asked even though he felt he should sway Dean's attention away, refocus it on himself. He stepped slightly closer to Dean and brushed his hand on his shoulder. Dean didn't react much but he did look up at Castiel.
"Maybe I would be doing better if you hadn't chickened out yesterday after you lost your bet," Dean said and now a small smile played on his lips.
"You were drunk Dean," Castiel told him.
"I was tipsy at best and in full control of my mental capacities and my dick," Dean insisted. "Your loss, dude."
"Maybe next time," Castiel told him softly and that made the exaggerated displeasure disappear. Dean took a sip of his coffee and returned to looking over his notes.
"While I couldn't get a hold of Sanders, I did manage to get into some of his files from the old owner. The dude was getting older and after an accident, he felt like it was time to retire. He wanted to pass the business on to his sons, but neither was interested in keeping it, having both had success elsewhere. It was Raphael Finnerman who introduced him to Sanders," Dean explained, reading off his notes, so he didn't see the frown on Castiel's face. It might have been Raphael who made the initial deal and clearly wasn't as good at cleaning up after himself than he should have been. "And now that Sanders is gone the contract states that ownership of the orchard will go to the city itself." Dean took a sip of coffee.
"I think that's the usual procedure when property gets abandoned," Castiel told him but Dean seemed determined.
"I'm gonna have to look into this Finnerman dude some more. It wouldn't surprise me if there were some shady politicians involved with shady businessmen," Dean said. He gathered his notes and finished up his coffee. Clearly, he was in a hurry to do this just now, corner Raphael at work and get answers. This wasn't going to go well.
"Are you sure this is a good idea…?" Castiel asked, "maybe you should let it rest." Dean looked up at him, clearly surprised, but then he narrowed his eyes and Castiel could see the spark of suspicion in it. Castiel was too taken aback to push for it. Maybe a simple suggestion wasn't strong enough for the magic to force Dean to do Castiel's bidding.
"Why? Do you think he's dangerous or that he would retaliate if I went to do research on him?" Dean wondered and Castiel wasn't sure how to answer.
"I… don't think so. He can be harsh though and he might give you a hard time," he said eventually. "I don't want him to get you into trouble with your superiors. You said this wasn't a proper FBI case." Dean's expression softened at that.
"Don't worry, Cas. My superiors will always back me up," he assured Castiel, then he got up and gave Castiel a slap on the shoulder. "And if he comes to bitch at you because we're dating, then I'll protect you," he said with a wink. Castiel couldn't help smiling at that and Dean blushed after a while. "I mean…"
"Thank you, Dean," Castiel told him before Dean could go back on the idea that they were dating. Still slightly flustered, Dean nodded and went to get his wallet. "The coffee's on me," he assured him.
"Do you give all your conquests free coffee?" Dean teased, clearly trying to defuse the situation.
"Only the brave ones," Cas told him and Dean ducked his head, but the smile was there. Dean was adorable when he was embarrassed. "Be careful and I hope you'll be back for some dessert later."
"Was that an invitation?" Dean asked with a leer, ignoring the look one of the other customers shot him.
"You'll have to find out," Castiel teased. Dean winked at him and then he was out of the shop. Castiel's face fell as soon as Dean was out of sight, worry rising about what Raphael would do if he found out that Dean was still investigating. He wasn't sure what exactly was going on because the love spell seemed to be working, but he was not reacting as well to Castiel's prompting as he would have hoped. Of course, Castiel had done his research as soon as he heard that Dean Winchester was somewhat of a legend in the hunting world. He had been doing this longer than most and continued to kill high profile creatures in the supernatural world, including witches. Most hunters were pulled into this by trauma and barely survived their revenge, but Dean and Sam Winchester continued on, modernizing hunting with their innovations (apparently they had witch killing bullets, which was something that Castiel should keep in mind around Dean) and they had slammed the doors of hell shut. The Winchesters were clearly doing good and the idea of depriving humanity of a shield against the dark didn't sit well with Castiel. Even witches could profit from hunters weeding out the supernatural chess board, which might be one of the reasons Naomi and Michael hadn't acted themselves instead of giving the task to someone who wasn't even initiated.
Castiel would just have to work harder and be more insistent for the spell to override Dean's instincts.
Castiel had the day off, but still made sure to invite Dean into the café so he wouldn't have to hang out in the B&B all day.
"I could have gone to the library. Or a bar," Dean insisted but it was half-hearted, since he crowded Cas against the counter almost right away, brushing his lips over Castiel's cheek, lightly nipping at his skin, brushing his hands over his sides. Evidently opening up was the key to the love spell working, Castiel mused somewhere in the back of his mind.
"I like having you here," Cas told him and Dean's ministrations stilled. He pulled back slightly and looked at Cas, his expression soft, the smile shy. Cas put his hands on Dean's face and pulled him close for a kiss.
"This case sucks, but I do like being here too," Dean admitted, the words muttered against Castiel's lips. He pulled away after a moment and looked at the manila folders he had brought with him. Castiel could see the stamp of the police station on one of them. Cas wondered if Dean had stolen those or if he had actually gone down there and charmed someone enough to hand the files over to him.
"Apropos the case," he started and Castiel's heart sunk. Dean pulled Castiel close to the table, having him sit down. That surprised him slightly because yesterday he was closed off about it. Dean must have noticed because he lifted his eyebrow. "What?"
"I… can you share information on your investigation?" he asked and Dean smiled placatingly.
"It's always good to have the opinion of a local if you're investigating in a small town. And you don't exactly seem like a chatterbox, so I trust that you keep the progress of the investigation to yourself," Dean said and Castiel tried for a smile. "Relax, babe!" Dean said with a laugh, "we're not talking about gruesome murders but possibly insurance fraud!" Castiel nodded, willing himself to relax.
"So this Raphael… He's pretty fishy, a politician bundled with an ego too big for the small town he's serving at. In my opinion he's far too ambitious to stay in a sleepy town like Raurica, but it doesn’t seem like he's ever tried for something else in the years he's been here. I haven’t actually found anything on him before he came to Raurica, so it's possible that this is his first foray into politics or he's fallen out of grace somewhere else," Dean surmised. "He does have a couple of business dealings going on. They all look clean. He's been trying to make Raurica more attractive to investors, but many things seem to fail. Just like Sanders couldn't bring in the profits for the region that he had hoped."
"Yes, that's often a topic at town hall meetings. He really wants to develop Raurica, but it's just…" Castiel shrugged.
"A sleepy nowhere town, yeah," Dean agreed, scratching his head with the pen he had taken out to follow his notes with the tip of it. "I mean the guy seems to be an asshole but you can't arrest someone on that alone. And while the orchard now belongs to the city to re-sell, possibly at a higher price and to better investors, the money they have to put in is bigger. And why not just buy it from the old owner in the first place if that would have been the idea?" Castiel honestly didn't know about any of that so he merely listened. Dean turned the page in his notebook and Cas saw that it looked like a mind map of some sort. "Raphael's got ties to a couple of people in town, so it's always possible that anything shady he does might be for the profit of someone else. There's the major Naomi Adler, the police chief Michael Milton and Gabriel also popped up often. I'm not even entirely sure what Gabriel's doing. He's got a bakery and he's apparently an entrepreneur as well? I'm not sure if he's doing anything illicit though…"
"Nobody knows for sure. He might dabble in the sex industry. I think he starred in an adult movie once," Cas muttered and that made Dean lift his head and look at him incredulously. "But Dean… why do you think it's suspicious that a politician in a small town entertains connections to its major and the police chief? I know them all too and as much as I dislike it, I have to do networking as well to keep my business going."
"Yeah…" Dean muttered and Castiel wondered if there was something he had found that he wasn't telling him yet, some hint at their coven activities.
"Have you been to Gabriel's bakery?" Cas asked, hoping for a distraction. Apparently, it worked, because Dean lifted his head, interested at once. "Would you like to go and get a slice of pie?"
"Of course I would!" Dean agreed, putting his notes back into the folders. At least this time taking Dean's mind off the case had been a success.
It was relatively easy to get to Gabriel's bakery on foot and it was a nice walk in the crisp air. They walked closely together, hands and shoulders brushing often. Cas hoped that it wasn't a horribly bad idea to have Dean and Gabriel cross paths again. It would certainly be embarrassing but maybe, if Cas was lucky, Gabriel would be out, attending to some of his other hobbies or wreaking havoc somewhere else.
It was of course just Castiel's luck that Gabriel was sitting there at one of the kitschy tables, eating an éclair and grinning at them with his mouth full.
"If it isn't Raurica's new favorite hot couple," he said. Castiel rolled his eyes. Dean on the other hand just lifted his hand in greeting and then he looked around. Gabriel's bakery was… something. He had made the questionable decision to style it like a terrible motel room back from the 70s, with ugly linoleum floors, garishly orange and brown geometric wallpaper, lava lamps on all the window sills and plastic chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There were also some artworks on the wall but those were always changing. Currently it looked like pornography stills, but Cas couldn't be sure and he didn't feel like taking a closer look to find out.
"This is such a horrible design that it makes me feel right at home," Dean commented and judged by his expression he enjoyed the terrible décor.
"Yeah? You're one of those sad sacks that grew up on the road?" Gabriel asked, tactless as always. Dean barked out a laugh at that.
"You could say that. My father could never stay anywhere for long. I feel I've seen every shabby motel there is," he said but even though what he said seemed sad to Cas, he was smiling.
"Getting stuck in Raurica is almost as sad, so have some pie. On me," Gabriel announced and got behind the counter. "I guess Castiel feeds you mostly pecan because he believes in seasonal and regional produce." Gabriel rolled his eyes, but Castiel knew there was no shame in being environmentally conscious. But he couldn't expect it from a man who didn't blink before destroying an entire orchard just because he felt Sanders deserved it.
Gabriel ushered Dean and Cas to one of the tables, putting plates of apple pie but also a plate of pecan pie in front of them and one of the girls working behind the counter came over with coffee a moment later.
"I've been trying to convince Castiel to just let me deliver his sweets, because mine are obviously leagues better, but he's a stubborn son of a bitch." Castiel shot Gabriel a glare. "No insult to your mom intended." Dean raised his eyebrow which was Gabriel's cue to point at the pecan pie. "Go on. Sample it. You can eat apple pie after.)
"You're gonna hover?" Dean asked when he took his fork and Gabriel was still standing by their table, a big grin on his face. Since Gabriel wasn't going to move away, Dean seemed to resign himself to his fate and took a bite of his pie. And then another, before he took a sip of his coffee.
"Yeah, it's good," Dean said and looked at Cas. "It is better than yours, Cas. Sorry buddy," he said apologetically. When Castiel widened his eyes in surprise, Dean lifted both hands, fork pointed upwards. "But yours is also good! I mean he's a professional baker, of course he's gonna have the upper hand!"
It wasn't like Castiel was surprised to hear that, he knew that Gabriel was better, but he had expected that the magic would make Dean think otherwise.
"Castiel here is good at following directions of recipes, but he doesn't have passion," Gabriel said with a grin. Cas guessed that this was at least nicer than what he had said at the meeting.
"Yeah, happens to the best of us," Dean said and shot Cas an encouraging smile, then he pulled the apple pie close. "Maybe Gabriel could help you out, but it's not like you seem to be hurting for people eating your pie."
"As long as you're around I guess not, unless you've changed your mind and would prefer to hang out here," Castiel said and Dean shook his head at him. He turned to look at Gabriel.
"So, how long have you had this bakery?"
"Hm, I guess about 10 years? I'm a man of many passions, so I don't stick to one thing for too long," Gabriel said. "Also don't like hanging out at the same place for too long."
"And how do you two know each other?" Dean asked, pointing first at Cas and then at Gabriel. Castiel knew that Gabriel was a good liar, so he wasn't particularly worried about Gabriel saying anything to make Dean suspicious, but the problem with Gabriel was that he also liked to make Cas' life difficult on principle alone so there was no telling what he would let slip. Understandably Cas was on edge.
"My family took an interest in him," he said and that was already dangerous territory and Cas tensed. "I don't know if you two already are at the exchanging of tragic backstory part of your relationship, but he came into the extended family as a foster kid," Gabriel said.
"When my sister moved here, she couldn't just leave the mal-adjusted, angsty teen behind to slip through the cracks of the system, so she made him come along," Gabriel continued. Castiel tensed up, because even though Gabriel grinned his words cut him. "Castiel couldn't manage on his own, so he's stuck with us now, aren't you, just like we're stuck with you?" Castiel lowered his head, pushing down feelings of shame and anger. There was no point in feeling those things or getting upset.
"It's not as bad at Gabriel makes it sound," Castiel assured Dean, trying to cover his unease. Dean must have noticed because he showed him an encouraging smile. He didn't ask any other questions while they finished their pie and coffee. Gabriel had apparently gotten his dose of amusement, because he excused himself to deal with some other business.
"Dude's a dick. He shouldn't talk to you like that," Dean said softly but Cas merely shrugged, not interested in discussing it. "Hey. Do you want to come to my room?" Dean offered, concern written plainly over his face even though Castiel had expected a flirty expression.
"Sure," Cas answered, because he wasn't in the mood to resist. They left Gabriel's bakery and made their way to the Happy Apple in silence.
Dean's room was on the second floor. He could feel a small residue of magic humming in the corners of the room, most likely from counter charms Dean had made as a precaution. It was hard to read their energy as Castiel's mind slid off them and then Dean's hands were on him and it didn't matter either way.
The bed squeaked in protest when they dropped down on it, still in their clothes, Dean's fingers alternately grabbing and petting Castiel's hair as he kissed him.
"I hate it here," Castiel forced out when Dean's kisses turned careful and gentle and it felt like he was coaxing the words out of him. "But I was taken in by Gabriel's family when my mother died. I had no one else. I still have no one else. I don't want to stay here, but I can't leave," he confessed.
"I understand it. It's hard to leave family behind," Dean said, his voice heavy even though he whispered his words. Castiel wrapped his arms around Dean's neck and pulled him closer.
It was disorienting to wake up. The energy in the room felt all wrong, almost menacing, making Cas' flesh break out in goosebumps. He wasn't sure where he was, the dull dawn casting everything in purplish grey light through thin curtains. There was warmth next to him though, distracting him from his unease and the discomfort in his back. He turned his head to the side and saw Dean sleeping, his face slack, lips slightly open and hair disheveled. The mounting worry that had rattled through Castiel's chest settled and he relaxed slightly. He was comforted by Dean's presence, even though being so close to him and having to open himself up meant that he brought out more and more of Castiel's repressed emotions. He had to get a grip on his resentment of Raurica and the coven. He had to remain in control of his own magic or it would tip over into the abyss. He couldn't let himself be lulled into a relationship with Dean because it wasn't real. It was orchestrated by the coven and it had to serve the coven. Not himself.
Carefully, he got out of bed, shivering slightly when he exposed his body to the chilly room. He only wore his boxers and a shirt, the rest of his clothes were on the floor where they'd been tossed carelessly the night before. He picked up his pants and studied at them indecisively. He pulled them on and then he looked around the room. Dean's suit hung on a hook on the door, an open duffle bag was on an armchair by the window, giving off a bit of an eerie aura for Cas. That was probably where he kept the witch killing bullets and other things to ward himself against people like him. There was a small round table with two chairs and Dean's notes covered all of them next to an open laptop. Not knowing what to do, he sat down at the table, peering at the open journal. It was open on a page on Norse pagan gods. The writing was neat but the pages were old and worn. He didn't want to disturb the journal and turn the pages, but he studied the notes and the runes.
It seemed careless for a hunter to leave all of his things out in the open. To the trained eye, it was obvious that Dean was a hunter. Though most people would only see strange symbols and weapons stuffed in a duffle bag.
"Hey." Cas startled and looked over to the bed, where Dean was now rubbing his eyes. He sat up with a creak of the springs, then he checked his phone on the night table, before he turned to look at Cas. Cas felt caught in the act and lifted both hands away from the table.
"I wasn't reading it. I just looked at the page because it didn't seem like it was police work," Cas said quickly but Dean's expression remained open, edging on amused.
"It's alright, Cas," he said with a huff, then he got out of bed, clearly still sleepy. He went to the bathroom and soon afterwards Cas heard the shower turn on. Was it a good sign that Dean wasn't worried about him seeing these things? Clearly, Cas wasn't part of Dean's list of suspects, as he shouldn't be by virtue of the love spell. And as long as Dean was only careless around him, it should be fine, maybe even good. It meant the magic was working the way it was supposed to.
It didn't take long for Dean to come back out, toweling his hair. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, naked feet sinking into the carpet. He was beautiful. Dean fidgeted slightly under Cas' gaze and dropped down on the chair next to Cas.
"This is my dad's journal," Dean explained, pulling the journal closer, but not flicking it closed. He brushed his hands over the pages. He lifted his eyes and looked at Cas. There was longing inside of him, his eyes searching, pleading almost and vulnerable. Cas wondered if Dean wanted to tell him the truth about who he was and what he did.
"He researched supernatural creatures?" Castiel offered, his expression open and inviting. Dean hesitated, but then something in him retreated and he looked away. He closed the journal.
"He was into the occult. Everyone needs a hobby I suppose," he said, laughing uneasily. Castiel wasn't sure why he felt disappointed, the rejection stinging even though it shouldn't.
"It's still early, Cas. Let's go back to bed," Dean said, clearly trying to disperse the tense atmosphere. He took Cas' hand and pulled him up. Cas followed.
Dean groaned as he made his way through the streets of Raurica, pushing his knuckles into his back. He'd seen many bad beds in his years on the road and the bed at the Happy Apple wasn't doing his back any favors. But it wasn't like Raurica seemed to have any other place where he could stay while this case dragged on. He felt he was getting too old for this kind of nonsense. He couldn't wait to get a cup of coffee at Cas' Café and battle the consequences of a bad night's sleep. Or maybe he should stop by at Gabriel's bakery, to get a head start on the caffeine and get something with slightly more punch and fragrance than what Cas served. It wasn't like he visited Cas' Café for the good coffee. The place was nice enough and it had looked inviting on that first day of pouring rain. But it was Cas who made him come back.
Maybe Dean would be less grumpy and achy now if Cas had spent then night again but while he came up, he didn't really like staying all that long, which Dean got. The old couple who ran the place had looked at Cas with wide eyes when he came down the stairs with Dean. Also, the bed sucked. Not even awesome sex could undo that and the shower was too small for the acrobatics it took to make sex work without fatal injuries (or at least bruises).
It would have been nice to maybe check out Cas' place, but the dude was surprisingly reserved about it. He hadn't outright denied Dean, but whenever Dean made some suggestions that they might go to Cas' place, Cas weaseled himself out of it and Dean hadn't pushed. He was really curious about it but he wouldn't force the issue. Cas would invite him when he was ready.
Dean smiled to himself when he thought of the man. It had been a while since Dean picked someone up during a case. It wasn't like he had spent the last couple of years in celibacy, but he had become weary. It was still fun to have one-night stands, but they no longer scratched the itch that he felt inside himself. He was tired of it, of the monotony, of loving them and leaving them. It was purely fun and Dean… well… What if there was more for him out there? What if he too could slowly move away from who he had been the last decades of his life? Sammy was untangling the net around him, casting off the past and the duty. And Dean? Why was he still doing this? Scanning the news for anything that sounded suspicious, driving across the country for nothing more than a headline, sleeping in crappy beds, eating bland food, digging up graves, bleeding, nursing it with alcohol and willing bodies, just to eventually die when he became too slow for the monsters?
Cas was something different. When he first walked into the café, Cas hadn't really stood out to him all that much. Sure, he was cute, but not the type he usually went for when he was looking for an easy hook up. But then he came back and Cas was still cute and interested, so why not? Dean was glad that he'd have a sudden rush of optimism and courage, which made him push through his reservations and go for it. Being close to him felt… good. Comfortable, safe. Like he could finally rest and breathe and maybe open up a bit. And he saw that he had the same effect on Cas. They were good for each other and damn the bad bed and the wasted money on a dead-end case if it meant being close to him.
Dean was probably getting ahead of himself, checking his impulses to simply let go around him. It was dangerous. Dean had been two decades younger and far less experienced when he last was in a similar situation where he wanted to unload on someone. Cassie hadn't reacted well and there was no guarantee that Cas would be any different. You simply didn't tell civilians the truth - unless the truth found them first.
But maybe… maybe Cas could take it? Maybe Cas would accept him?
Dean was almost at Gabriel's gaudy bakery, when he was pulled out of his daydreams by his phone ringing. He pulled it out of his pocket, checking the caller ID. Sam.
"Yeah?" he asked.
"Dean! You were supposed to call!" Sam complained.
"Wow, hello to you too, dear brother," Dean answered grouchily. He heard Sam huff in annoyance. "Yeah, okay, sorry. I got side-tracked."
"Where are you?"
"I'm still in Raurica," he answered.
"Still?" he could hear the incredulous tone and felt a spark of irritation.
"What happened to your patience, Sam? You know that sometimes investigations take weeks."
"Yes, maybe, but you've got nothing else but a freak storm in a small town out in the middle of nowhere. You should have figured out what's going on by now." Dean couldn't help getting defensive.
"There's not a lot to go on and almost no clues at all. Sanders disappeared and nothing else happened in consequence," Dean explained. "I've ruled out most monsters and my instincts point towards witch. But I've got no leads who that witch could be as there's no proper beneficiary to the whole deal. The guy who would possibly have profited from it – the shady politician – now has a totally destroyed orchard. And it doesn't seem like that was the goal because nobody wanted it gone."
"And what if the shady politician was the target of the witch?"
"I thought about that too," Dean admitted. Raphael was a huge enough douche that he'd be as much deserving of it as Sanders. At least the few interactions made Dean's hackles rise in his presence. Something about the dude wasn't quite right. Dean scratched the back of his head with his free hand. "But if he's not the witch, then I have even less to work with to find some other culprit. Apparently, the city will clean up the orchard and then sell it to someone local, seems they don't trust an outsider with it after Sanders… But there's nobody who directly profits from that… it's just dead ends everywhere."
"Maybe there's nothing, Dean. Or at least nothing you can do. Maybe this is one for the police," Sam suggested. The mention of police soured Dean's mood immediately.
"I don't know if the police chief is capable," he said though he had absolutely no reason to believe that. Michael Milton had seemed charming and competent, taking Dean's investigation seriously and cooperating without asking too many questions. But the guy had been almost too accommodating. Scratch that, Dean was pretty sure that Milton had tried to get into his pants.
"You know what? I'll have Charlie do some of her hacking. Maybe financial records will reveal something. Just wrap it up and move on if she finds nothing," Sam suggested. Apparently, Dean hesitated for too long with his answers. "What?" Sam asked suspiciously.
"I… uh… I kinda met someone," Dean admitted and felt his cheeks heat up. God, what was he? A teenager with a first crush?
"You met someone," Sam repeated back to him, his voice flat.
"Yeah," Dean said tensely.
"You have plenty of hook-ups, you don't usually linger. Not on a case," Sam told him as if he knew Dean better than Dean did himself.
"You haven't been on a case with me for over a year, so how do you know what I do now?" Dean regretted his tone immediately. It was way too defensive and passive-aggressive. Unsurprisingly, Sam was silent for a beat.
"Yeah. I know. I'm sorry, Dean," Sam said, his voice soft and Dean hated being the cause of it. He didn't want to whine. It was alright. He was used to doing this on his own.
"Nah, it's good. I've barely gotten any sleep last night, I'm kinda prissy. Sorry," he said, rubbing his eyes. "I really need a cup of coffee."
"Did the certain someone keep you up or what?" Sam asked tentatively and Dean was glad for him to change the topic.
"Nope. Crappy mattress," he said, chuckling. "Cas doesn't usually stay the night."
"Usually?" Sam asked, clearly surprised. Dean shrugged, but didn't feel like getting into it. He knew that Sam would probably be okay with it, but he didn't really want to talk about Cas.
"Yeah. But I gotta go now. Work to do, people to observe," he said and while Sam started talking, Dean quickly said bye and ended the call. He could imagine Sam's bitch face and sure enough by the time that Dean had reached Gabriel's bakery, his phone vibrated. Sam had sent him a pissed off emoji. But at least that was all, no follow up questions or comments.
Dean huffed, then he pulled open the door to Gabriel's bakery, sending a silent apology to Cas for the betrayal into the air.
It felt peculiar to date someone but still move within the framework of a case. It had been almost a month now since Dean parked the Impala at the Happy Apple and somehow he didn't feel like moving her. It wasn't like Raurica was that corner of the earth that finally, finally felt like home to Dean. It was pretty far from it actually. Raurica was cold, gloomy and boring. On top of that was the frustration of wasting the money Charlie wired him on a case that was not going anywhere. The city had started cleaning up the orchard, but they didn't seem to be in any particular rush. Nobody in Raurica seemed to be in a rush. Dean had come to know all the usual places that were relevant to a hunt within a day and in his 3 weeks of dating Cas, he had seen the rest of Raurica.
No, Dean had no love for Raurica. But there also was no itch to jump into Baby and get away. Because Raurica had Cas. Dean knew that he got sappy if he had a crush and he was man enough now to admit that he craved the comfort of loving someone and being loved in return. But there was that uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. This was still a case, there was still probably a witch on the loose and he was still lying to Cas.
He was agent Dean Smith for Cas, an FBI agent who found less and less convincing lies to tell as to why he wasn't gone yet. It would be alright if he planned on leaving anytime soon, but he did daydream about stealing Cas away from this dreary town and the people who often put a sad expression on his face. But how could he if he didn't tell him the truth?
Dean knew he was a coward. He watched Cas putter about in the café, which was busier than usual because a group of seniors had found their way into it. Why they were even about in this weather was anybody's guess. But Cas received them warmly, in no rush to get away when they wrapped him up in chit-chat and serving them plenty of coffee and pastries. Dean felt a twinge under his breastbone when he watched him. It had been years since he felt that way about someone and the emotions didn't seem to go away. The longing seemed to become stronger each day and Dean knew he was screwed.
He busied himself with the notes Charlie had sent him, which didn't seem to be conclusive in any direction. Nobody suddenly got an increase of income when Sanders showed up and not when he disappeared either. She promised to look into it some more, see if there were some suspicious transactions but so far there was nothing new.
"I don't know if it's relevant but there's been a spike in new bank accounts being opened about ten years ago," Charlie texted him. "Raphael Finnermann was one of them."
"Ambitious politician trying to draw new people or having supporters move with him?" Dean texted back.
"Maybe." Dean put down the phone. He wasn't even sure if he was on the right path with investigating Raphael. Apart from being unpleasant there didn't seem to be anything all that fishy about him.
"Sorry, Dean," Cas said, walking past with a tray full of dishes. "I'll be with you right away." Dean's moody thoughts were swept away by the same fluttering feeling and he couldn't help but smile at Cas.
"Take your time, babe, I'm not going anywhere," he said with a wink. Cas showed him the kind of rare gummy, eye crinkling smile that Dean loved so much, then he disappeared into the kitchen. Dean looked around the café as he had nothing better to do. It obviously hadn't changed much in the last couple of weeks. It had a peculiar, comfortable atmosphere, like he was sitting in someone's living room, but it wasn't really anything special. He guessed that the cheesy phrase applied here: Cas was the heart of the café and he was what made it special. While letting his gaze travel, he noticed that a woman was sitting with the group of seniors, chatting with them. She was pretty, with auburn hair. Maybe the type Dean would have gone for if it weren't for Cas. He caught her eye when she looked up. She smiled at him, but there was something mischievous, flirty in it. Dean's mouth pulled into an easy grin in reply.
"Hey Castiel," she called when Cas came out of the kitchen again, hands filled with a tray of baked goods. He nodded at her and she pointed to Dean. "How about a coffee for the handsome stranger?" It was amusing to see Cas' startled expression and he looked from the woman to Dean and some of the seniors also studied him now, clearly curious.
"Of course, Sister Jo," Cas eventually muttered and Dean felt bad for him. But when Cas sat down the coffee, Dean wanted to tell the woman – Sister Jo? Was she a nun or something? – that while he appreciated the coffee, he was already taken.
"She knows," Cas said and sent a look Sister Jo's way. She winked at them.
"Thanks for the coffee," Dean said, loud enough to be heard and Sister Jo nodded before she was pulled into a conversation. "Why does she know?"
"Because there's gossip. I'm surprised that she didn't come check you out earlier," Cas explained. "There's no privacy here," he added. Upon seeing Cas' disgruntled expression Dean had to laugh.
"Aww, babe, it's not so bad. We've got plenty of privacy," he said with a wink but Cas still frowned. When he thought about it, it wasn't actually true either. They either met in public or in Dean's room. There had also been a memorable occasion where they spent some time in the backseat of the Impala. Admittedly, it was mostly memorable for how hard-won their orgasms were, considering Baby's backseat wasn't made for two men of their size. Castiel heaved a sigh, then he ran his hand through Dean's hair softly and disappeared back behind the counter. Dean's heart sank slightly though he couldn't even explain why.
Dean was restless. He had nothing particular to do and nowhere to be as the case continued to be stalled. Waiting around for the people to leave, only served to show Dean just how out of place he was in this town. He was just a visitor and the only thing that really held him here was Cas. In the last couple of weeks Dean's world had slowly narrowed down to him. And while he couldn't bring himself to be freaked out about it, it was… dissatisfying the way it was now.
He felt a prickle at the back of his neck and when he looked up Sister Jo was studying him, a calculating expression on her face that she didn't even try to hide. Dean wondered just what she thought of him. A guy who lived in the B&B and didn't do anything all day but sit in Cas' Café and sometimes snoop around. After a while, she broke the eye contact and turned to the seniors, who were now getting ready to leave.
"Bye, Castiel," she said when they were at the door and she left without another glance at Dean when Castiel had called his good-byes.
Dean watched Castiel clean up after them and it didn't take long for the last person to leave as well.
"Cas," Dean called, when Cas was wiping down the coffee machine.
"Yeah?" Dean felt his heart beating in his throat. But there was also a certain giddiness about him. He had to change something. He had to tell him.
"Can I talk to you?" he asked and Castiel let his hand drop away from the coffee machine and looked at him intently. His expression was serious and he nodded.
"Not here," Dean said, when Cas stepped away from the counter, "maybe in my car?" The suggestion seemed to take Cas by surprise, but he agreed. Dean had been driving around a bit before he came to the café, so the car was parked in the otherwise deserted lot behind the café. While Cas wrapped up the closing of the café, Dean left the building and walked to his car. He sat down and turned the key in the ignition, hoping to warm the car up a bit.
It was getting dark already and Dean's fingers felt cold and numb when he turned his dad's journal around in his palms, waiting for Cas. Finally, the door opened with its tell-tale creak and Cas slipped inside.
"Dean, is everything okay?" Cas asked, concern written all over his face. Dean gave in to the all consuming desire to lean over and press a soft kiss to Cas' lips. "Dean…"
"What I tell you now might be hard to believe, but please listen to me until the end. I will try to answer any questions you have and if you want me to leave once I'm done I'll-" Dean swallowed thickly, the thought of Cas telling him to get lost almost unbearable. But he had to get through this. "I'll go. But please listen to me first."
"Alright," Cas said quietly, his voice firm and his expression a mix of concern but also seriousness. Dean took a deep breath and then he tapped the journal.
"I'm not really an FBI agent," he started, keeping his eyes firmly on his hand that rested over John's journal. "My real name is Dean Winchester and I hunt monsters." Castiel remained silent and Dean dared to catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of his eyes. Castiel’s eyes had widened, but he found his composure quickly. It gave Dean the courage to continue.
"The supernatural world is real. Ghosts, demons, vampires, all of it. I came to Raurica when the news reported a freak storm that people couldn't explain. I've been trying to find out what caused it and if there's a danger for humans." Dean lifted the journal and showed it to Cas. "I swear I'm not making this up."
"Dean…" Castiel told him gently, putting his hand on the journal Dean offered him. Dean felt his heart sink, feeling Cas' rejection to be imminent. "I believe you…"
"What…?" Dean blurted out, looking up at Cas, his eyes wide. Contrary to what Dean expected there was a small smile on Cas' lips. "Why? I mean… usually it takes a ghost apparition for people to realize that I'm not crazy."
"Because I can see how much you want me to believe you and how anxious you are about my reaction," Cas answered and Dean could only stare at him. "I don't think you're lying. But you probably could have told me anything and I would be willing to believe you."
"Cas… Well… that's not how people tend to react," Dean admitted. "The last person I opened up to about who I am and what I did, told me to get lost. Broke off our relationship." Castiel's expression softened.
"I'm sorry," he said and Dean shook his head. "Hunting monsters… It must be a difficult job."
"Yeah… There's very little joy in it, but someone has to do it."
"So, you're a hero?" Castiel asked which had Dean bark out a surprised laugh.
"No… I'm just doing my job," Dean assured him.
"But vampires, Dean…" Cas said haltingly, then he looked at the journal, "pagan gods…"
"There are a lot of bad things out there, Cas, that want to hurt people… But I try to stop it." Castiel nodded silently, lost in thought. "Are you… really okay with this…?" Castiel closed his eyes and sighed deeply. After a while he looked up at Dean.
"I want you to come home with me," he finally said instead of answering. Dean blinked at him in surprise. "Please."
"Alright," Dean agreed, excitement finally overriding the anxiety he had felt about this revelation. He had told Cas. He had finally told Cas and Cas wasn't abandoning him.
And now he was even inviting him into his home?
Dean could barely contain his nerves as Cas gave him directions to the outskirts of town, to a nondescript two story house. He parked his car next to Cas' car. Cas sent him a small, nervous smile, then he got out of the Impala. He had to move through a small gap between winter bare stalks and Dean realized that this was probably a vegetable garden of some sort. Now in winter and at night it just looked overgrown and messy. The light switched on when they stepped onto the porch, then they went inside. The house blocked out all of the winter chill at once and Dean felt himself relax.
Then Cas was pressing close to him, crowding him against the door. It was unusual for Cas to take the initiative, but Dean didn't mind at all to have Cas' lips on him and his slightly chilled fingers framing his face.
"Dean Winchester," Cas whispered against his mouth and Dean nodded breathlessly.
"Yeah," he managed to say and then they were kissing again. Eventually Cas pulled him up the stairs.
They didn't really talk about it, they didn't have to. Maybe it was thoughtless to place his faith in the power of the love spell, but Dean had crossed what seemed to Cas like one of the ultimate bridges. The chains and lock across his secrets had finally been eased open by the spell and Dean had confided in him. For Cas it was only right to open up in return. At least partially.
Dean checked out of the Happy Apple B&B and moved into Castiel's house. There was a guest room, one that Naomi had insisted he should have. Maybe she thought that he would build up a normal life with friends or maybe she just needed more places to hide away witches of allied covens. He had not asked and nobody had ever made use of the room. It was chilly and cold in there and Cas felt bad about the polite smile Dean put on his face to hide his displeasure. But it was better not to plunge blindly into whatever would come now. He had to remain cautious, steadfast on keeping up some barriers, but Cas could already feel his resolve crumble as he lay in bed, waiting, watching the moonlight cast varying shapes across his furniture.
Dean managed half a night before he stole out of the room and slipped into Castiel's. Cas lifted the blanket, feeling relief, and nothing else was said on it.
Finally having Dean close was comfort and warmth and an unexpected oasis of bliss.
But it was also a challenge, because Dean was a foreign element in a life that continued to flow in its regular, subdued way around him. Cas still had to go to work and that meant leaving himself vulnerable to Dean's investigation. Dean had commandeered the desk in the guest room as his research station and it seemed like he was still doing something related to hunting, but he never brought up the storm again or how he was progressing on that front. Cas wasn't sure what Dean did all day long and when he asked Dean only told him he was vacationing. They didn't talk about how a vacation implied that it would come to an end and Dean didn't seem like he was interested in leaving anytime soon. He was happy and content when Cas was around and never complaining about having nothing to do. He took to wandering Cas' house, mostly because he had decided to act as a househusband as long as they were living together.
The thought that a hunter was freely investigating a witches' house disquieted Cas whenever he was at work. Of course, Cas kept nothing that hinted at dark magic in his house. He had a herb garden which didn't look out of place between the vegetables and flower beds. And he had inconspicuous ingredients in his pantry that wouldn't look out of place for someone who had a café and probably tried out new things frequently. There were no suspicious looking grimoires, no altars or black candles. And his bowl and mortar he used for spells were from a regular store. He did have a book where he kept his spells and instructions, but they were coded and gathered into a neat book with cooking recipes. Even if Dean stumbled upon it on one of his tours and tried them he would only end up with slightly off tasting food that Cas could easily explain away as failed cooking experiments for the café.
And then there were the very few things that had belonged to his mother. He didn't hide them because it felt shameful to her memory to banish her to the dark corner in a desk drawer. There wasn't much. A book she had liked and that had some of here notes scribbled in the margins, some pictures of her and her pendant. Maybe a hunter would be able to place the pendant but Castiel had turned it around in his hands, feeling the imprint of his mother's magic on it, feeling his heart seize painfully in shame and guilt and yearning. It might be dangerous to keep it around but he would risk it.
A dark, dangerous voice in the back of his head whispered to him that maybe it wouldn't be so bad if Dean found it. But it was soon drowned out by Castiel's rational thinking. Nothing would happen if Dean found it, the love spell would take care of it. And the secrets and lies that Castiel had accepted to live with would remain.
Cas startled when Dean came into the kitchen, waving a newspaper around.
"I found a case!", he declared and Castiel felt a spark of dread before he realized that he wasn't talking about the case of the freak storm. Dean showed him the newspaper but Cas only caught the words "mysterious deaths" in a town that was roughly a six hour drive away.
"I already did some digging online and I'm pretty sure it's a ghost. I thought I could check it out," Dean said and looked up at Cas, a nervous expression on his face. Cas wasn't sure what to do with it.
"Are you going to hunt?" Cas asked and Dean nodded. "Do you want me to come help?"
"No! Of course not. This is just a simple salt and burn if I'm right," Dean said and when he saw Cas' expression he added: "this means just making sure that I've got the right person, find their grave and burn their bones. That usually does the trick for a ghost."
"Will you be safe?" Castiel asked and found that he wasn't playing up the worry. He knew that Dean was experienced, but he still worried. "It's six hours away. I can't come help you if anything happens."
"Nothing will happen, sweetheart," Dean assured him. "And to be honest I've been having a serious case of cabin fever. There are only so many times I can clean your house before I'll go crazy." Castiel smiled at that.
"But I do like you so domestic," he admitted and Dean ducked his head, cheeks coloring.
"Yeah, but I have to do this, Cas. Just stretch my legs a bit. I should be back soon," Dean said and then he looked at Cas, almost as if he was waiting for permission. And he was, either because of the spell or because of how Dean was wired. Cas supposed that he could ask Dean to stay and he would, even if he really wanted to go.
"Be careful," he said and Dean beamed at him. He dropped a kiss to Cas' cheek and then he was out of the kitchen. His duffle had apparently already been packed because he was back to say good-bye within moments. Castiel got up and walked to the window, looking out to see Dean load up his car and then he drove away.
He wondered if this would be their life now, the kind of existence the love spell had crafted for Dean to crave. A home, someone to love, but with a distaste for idleness and a need to still continue hunting. Dean hadn't outright said that he wanted to stop hunting and it seemed that being in love wasn't enough to override the need to hunt. Maybe he needed something to occupy Dean. A job in town maybe. An ordinary job, his own set of friends, shopping for groceries at always the same stores, hanging out at Cas' café - an undignified slow suffocation by the mundane, colorless life of Raurica. He didn't want Dean to be unhappy, even though he wouldn't feel it that keenly due to the spell.
Castiel was so lost in thought that he didn't notice the figure coming up the path before it was almost at the door. Dumah shot him a look through the window, the usual disdainfulness she harbored for him unchecked. He went to the door to open it for her before she had to ring the bell.
"Dumah, hello," he said and moved to the side to let her in. But Dumah didn't move from her spot, silently rejecting his invitation.
"Dean Winchester has left Raurica," she said without preamble and Cas gripped the doorknob a bit harder, feeling the metal bite into his skin. "We want to know why."
"Has the coven sent you?" Of course the coven would keep track of Dean's movements. It was stupid of him to think that they would trust him enough to let him deal with the issue on his own. Dumah on her part didn't deign the question with an answer.
"Dean left for a case. A haunting," Cas explained and Dumah lowered her eyebrows. She wanted to say something but then she stilled. Cas watched on as she seemingly listened to what the other witches decided. After a moment she looked back up at Cas.
"There is a coven meeting tonight. You are expected," she told him, then she turned around and left without another word. Cas quickly closed the door, though it was probably foolish to imagine that Naomi or Michael couldn't see him regardless. He had never warded his house against them. There had been no point.
Dean had insisted on securing the house with all of the usual hunter precautions. Devil's trap under a rug by the doors, salt lines, even some hex bags to distract the eyes of witches. But of course while functional, they were dilettantish and no match against the eyes of a proper witch. He refrained from heaving a sigh, feeling suddenly exposed in his own house. He slowly made his way to the kitchen and sat back down at the table, continuing drinking his tea and enjoying some cookies as if he didn't feel rattled inside.
The meeting was held in Naomi's house again and Cas felt the walls slam down on his magic's awareness. He handed over the cake he had made, keeping up the façade of a casual meeting between friends. He didn't show his surprise when he only found Naomi, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael waiting for him.
"We thought it wise to take this opportunity to ask you about your progress and plans," Naomi started, her voice pleasant but neutral. Before Cas could however rattle off the report he had prepared, Raphael spoke up.
"It's unacceptable that the hunter is still here and snooping around," he said, anger lacing his words. "I've been the target of his investigation and it's irritating." But Cas also couldn't get a word in now because Naomi answered for him:
"As far as I can tell the investigation has died down. We are not on his radar and he certainly isn't aware of what we are," she said and then looked to Cas.
It dawned on him that this wasn't really a progress report at all. They were just here to debate and comment on him.
"At least nothing that he has shared with Castiel or me. His angle of investigation was hinged on finding a simple reason why the orchard was destroyed. He is searching for someone who would benefit from it. That's the flaw of a hunter's approach to magic," Michael said with a smile and looked at Gabriel. "He doesn't take into account that some of us simply enjoy creating havoc."
"Hey, the dude had it coming. No respect for the community. And he didn't follow through on the deal. It's not like we're demons. We don't have to uphold our end of the bargain," Gabriel said.
"Back to Dean," Naomi said, clearly disinterested in Sanders' misfortune. "An unrelated hunt is a good place for a hunter to die."
"Ah… No…," Cas muttered. "I thought it was important to wrap his case here up first and then send him on his way." Naomi's neutral expression didn't give him any clue on what she thought about that plan but Raphael sneered in disgust.
"That's pathetic and drawing it all out!" he objected to which Gabriel merely shrugged exaggeratedly.
"Hey, so what if Castiel wants to keep him around for a while? A love spell means a love slave. Let the guy have some fun!" Cas tensed up, Gabriel's crass words making him feel sick.
"We're not here to have fun, but to avert being exposed!" Raphael argued loudly but Gabriel only rolled his eyes.
"Come on, don't be such a bore," Gabriel said. Raphael shook his head but clearly he saw that Michael and Naomi didn't share his views and therefore kept silent. "Also," Gabriel spoke up again, "Castiel chose a love spell. Unless it is broken there aren't many ways out of it. A broken heart, sorrows drowned in a lot of alcohol and then you'll just have to wait. Hunting has a lot of hazards and he wouldn't be the first hunter to go out because he showed up on the job drunk or grieving." Castiel didn't say anything to that but he didn't have to. They wrapped the meeting up, settling on letting Cas deal with it his way and watch it develop. Dismissed, Cas could go back home.
"Kid, don't take it to heart," Gabriel said, when Castiel's fingers felt too stiff and clumsy to unlock his car on the first try. Castiel turned to look at him, finding Gabriel grinning. There were so many things he would have liked to say. That he couldn't help it. He used black magic to hurt someone else. That he didn't want to hurt Dean. That he had already opened himself up too much to Dean to disentangle himself. That he was just human and this hurt. But he said nothing, merely gazing at Gabriel in the hope that his expression wouldn't look too mournful. Something flickered past Gabriel's face, breaking through his grin. To avoid raising more suspicion Cas turned away from him, unlocking the car now. But it was as if Gabriel had read his mind:
"You're too soft, Castiel. Remember, those people and even Dean… They're just humans. And no matter what you think, you're not. You're a witch. Different rules apply to you. You should remember that," he reminded him. Castiel didn't say anything. He opened the door to the car and then he looked back at Gabriel.
"Thank you for speaking on my behalf today at the council," he said, then he got into the car "good-bye, Gabriel." Gabriel pushed his hands into the pockets of his jacket and grinned at him.
"Always happy to be of service," he said cheerfully. Castiel nodded at him, then he fled, heart aching and blinking away tears.
The case had been routine. Boring almost. If you could put slamming the gates of hell shut on your hunter CV, then ghosts, not even particularly restless ones, were just laughable. Still, Dean had enjoyed getting out of Raurica for a moment. It was peculiar. Like a weight had been lifted off his chest to finally see something else than the same streets, the same houses. The same monotony. But at the same time, he was glad to know that he'd be returning to Cas.
Cas was peeking out of the kitchen window when Dean got out of the car and Dean couldn't help the feeling of warmth and happiness that spread in his chest when there was someone at the door, waiting for him.
"You smell of dirt," Cas commented after he had greeted Dean with a kiss. He took the duffle bag out of Dean's hands. "How about a bath? I'll have dinner ready for you afterwards," he said and Dean could only nod gratefully. "I'll put this into your office."
"Don't call it an office. You make me sound like a boring person. It's the Dean cave!" Dean protested good-naturedly and as always Cas had the same answer for him:
"No, that's ridiculous."
"Come on babe, it's where I do my secret stuff. Research monster lore and creepy spells observed by nothing but your flower tapestry," Dean said passionately, but Cas just shot him a look and then he disappeared down the hall into the guest room. Dean chuckled to himself and then he breathed in deeply, feeling himself relax. It was good to be back.
Dean came across it by accident. He didn't mean to snoop, but he was someone who liked to touch and fiddle with things. And maybe he got curious and wondered why Cas had a jewelry box in their bedroom, placed next to a photo of a beautiful red-haired woman smiling into the camera. He knew her to be Cas' mom Anna, who had died when he was still young, but Cas didn't really come out with further information and Dean knew what it was like to lose a parent and how though it still was to talk about it decades later. But he was curious and Cas had never said anything about it. So here Dean was with a worn, old looking necklace dangling from his fingers. The string was leather and pretty unassuming, but at the end was a pendant that looked eerily out of place in Castiel's house. Of course, Dean could be wrong, but he was almost sure that this was a ward against witches, not all that different to the ones he had in his arsenal. But how did something like this come into Cas' possession? Frowning, Dean's eyes slipped from the pendant to the box and then to the picture. The woman in the pic had a black string around her neck, but the necklace disappeared under her shirt, so he couldn't say if this was Cas' mother's.
It could be nothing, Dean told himself, wrapping his fingers around the smooth metal, feeling the lightest of tingling in his palm. Real magical objects ended up in the hands of civilians all the time. Lots of goth kids wore pentagrams just to have some devil worship credentials. Things ended up as heirlooms, some as a trinket in a pawn shop. There was no tracking of magical objects like this and even though Dean instinctively knew that this wasn't just a made in China replica out of Hot Topic, it didn't have to mean anything. Dean's eyes were drawn back to the picture of Castiel's mom. She was young, beautiful, painfully normal, smiling into the camera. And she was Cas' mom.
Cas' dead mom.
Dean heaved a sigh and even though he felt like an ass, he was still enough of a hunter to not just let the pendant slip back where it belonged.
"Hey Cas?" he asked, walking into the living room, where Cas was currently leafing through a cook book, sticky notes in one hand. Cas hummed in recognition but it took him a moment to look up. His distracted expression cleared right away when Dean lifted his hand and let the pendant dangle on his finger. He saw something flicker over Cas' face.
"Don't tell me it's cursed, because I'm not getting rid of it," he said after a drawn-out silence, his voice even, almost stern and somehow that lifted some of the tension Dean was feeling.
"I don't know if it's cursed, but it's certainly something," Dean said and sat down next to Cas. Cas heaved a sigh, folding his hands on top of the book he had in his lap, then he looked up at Dean, waiting for him to go on. "Why do you have it?"
"It was my mother's… She wore it every day," he said, confirming Dean's suspicions. "Why were you in my jewelry box?" Cas asked, reaching out but Dean instinctively pulled his hand away. A small frown creased Cas' forehead and Dean shook his head.
"I'm sorry," he muttered and put the necklace into Cas' outstretched palm. "I was just curious why you've got a jewelry box and I never saw you wear anything. I know I shouldn't just go through your stuff…"
"I don't mind, Dean…" Castiel said quietly and Dean watched him turn the pendant around in his hand, tracing the circle with his finger. After a while he handed it back to Dean.
"Do you know why your mom wore this?" Dean asked and Castiel squinted at him. "Especially every day?"
"Dean…" Castiel said with a sigh. "Just tell me what it is."
"It's a protective charm. Against witches," he said. "And if you tell me she wore it every day…"
"I don't think my mother believed in witches… She wouldn't have had a reason to ward herself against them…"
"But you're sure, Cas?" Dean asked.
"Well, if she has tried to ward herself, then she didn't do a good enough job," Cas said, his voice curt. He closed the book with a snap. The sound startled Dean and he instantly regretted his line of questioning. He didn't know how Cas' mom died, but considering Cas choice of words, it probably wasn't a natural death.
"Babe… I'm sorry," he whispered, "I know how much it sucks. I shouldn't have asked."
"You're a hunter, Dean. I know why you've asked but I can't tell you anything," Cas told him, his tone softer now too, almost tired. Dean still felt like an ass, even if he knew Cas wasn't really upset with him. He put his arm around Cas shoulder and pulled him close.
"If you want to talk about your mom, then I'll listen, alright?"
"I don't remember much about her…," Cas mumbled and Dean didn't expect him to say anything else. "Mostly I just remember being sad and angry when she was gone."
"Yeah. I was the same when my mom died," Dean told him. Cas snuggled into Dean's side, not saying anything else. And that was fine with Dean. He knew that he should let it rest, put the pendant back and let Cas keep his memories of her untainted.
But he didn't. He didn't know why, but he slipped the pendant back into his pocked, feeling the shape and weight of it, the smooth lines of the string.
There was something there, a mystery, a case.
Something that was out of place in Cas' seemingly perfectly ordinary life.
Dean understood why Cas wasn't forthcoming with information on his mom. He knew how old wounds could still hurt for decades, and digging into her past might jeopardize the memories Cas had of her. He couldn't involve Cas in this. It was up to him to do research.
"You're not coming?" Cas asked, when he was getting ready to leave for the café and Dean was still sitting at the table, a cup of coffee at his side and the laptop opened in front of him.
"Nah. I thought I'd be looking for a case, doing some research," he said smoothly. "And you know I love watching you bend over to clean tables, but it gets boring eventually. No offense."
"Alright," Castiel said with a laugh. Dean tended to stay at home often enough, though he usually got a ride with Cas to at least walk around a bit, looking into store fronts, even thinking about asking someone for a job, before he returned to twiddling his thumbs at home. "It's your turn to make dinner, so remember to buy groceries." Dean nodded and tilted his head up for a good-bye kiss.
"Yeah. Bye sweetheart," Dean said and Cas sent him a fond look before he left the kitchen. Not long after Dean heard the front door and then the sound of Cas' car rumbling out of the driveway.
Dean opened a new window and started typing.
Of course, she could have a different name or- nope there it was. And the first hit was a newspaper article of September 4, 1985, titled "eerie murder shocks small town of Beverly".
"Well, that's not a good sign," Dean muttered and clicked the article open. There was a grainy photograph of Cas' mom, holding a kid in her lap.
"Authorities shocked about the unexplained death of a young woman in her home in Beverly," Dean started reading. "Anna Novak (25) was found dead in her house after an anonymous tip alerted the local police. When they arrived at the scene, they found the woman dead in the living room, her throat slit. They also discovered her six-year-old son in the house, alive. He had survived an attempt on his life with injuries, but none of them life threatening. Police are investigating, but say that there is no apparent connection to the other unresolved deaths which had occurred during in the last couple of weeks. They are treating it as a robbery gone wrong and are looking for suspects."
"Damn," he muttered. Cas had been attacked too? And just been left to die? He pushed aside his feelings because if there had been talk about "other deaths" that meant his gut feeling was right. There was something there. Making a mental note to check if there were any digitalized police files that he could hack into, he decided to look into the other murders.
"Fourth unexplained death in what police have come to see as the work of a deranged serial killer. The fourth victim was found in the same occult set up, her blood had been drained into bowls and black candles were placed around her. Blood had been used to draw a pentagram on the floor by her head and leave a message on her naked body. The police won't disclose further information, but friends of the victim claimed the words to have been "traitor". The police isn't any closer to catching the culprit and advises the public to be cautious."
Crime scene photos would be good now, but the set up compared to the fact that Anna had been warded against a witch, made the picture pretty clear. Beverly had a witch problem and Anna Novak had known enough about the supernatural world to try to ward herself against it.
Dean opened a new tap and browsed the archives of the Beverly news portals but only the main newspaper seemed to have digitalized their archives of '85. Some hacking later revealed the same problem with the police files.
"Sloppy work," Dean grumbled. A hunter's life would be much easier if he could do most of the research directly on his laptop.
Beverly was a ten hour drive away and he wasn't sure how Cas would react if Dean revealed that he'd be investigating in his old hometown. Dean looked at the laptop screen, his fingers hovering over the keyboard, his eyes tracing the headlines again.
He heaved a sigh and shook his head. This sucked but he couldn't just let it go because it was uncomfortable. This was a case and he was still a hunter. Dean grabbed his phone, dialing Sam's number. His brother picked up right away.
"Hey, Sam. Can you do me a favor?" Dean asked, holding his phone to his ear with his shoulder as he pulled open his emails and copied the links into his mail. "I found something strange. I'm sending you some stuff."
"What stuff?" Sam asked suspiciously. "Did you make some headway in the Raurica case?"
"No," Dean answered and he could hear Sam inhale loudly, clearly gearing himself up to another lecture. "Just look at the damn files, Sammy." Sam huffed into the phone but didn't say anything. Dean could hear tapping noises on the other end of the line, so Sam was reading his mail.
"Hm… looks like Beverly had a witch problem," Sam said after a while, "but this is from 25 years ago. Is the witch back?"
"I don't know. But I don't think so," Dean said.
"So is this connected to the Raurica case in some way?"
"No," Dean said, shaking his head, then he grabbed the pendant that was lying next to his notes. He lifted it up against the light, rubbing the dark metal with his thumb.
"Anna Novak is Cas' mom," Dean said, "I found a pendant in his house that's meant to ward against a witch. Cas was a kid when it happened so he doesn't remember why his mom would have had the pendant. He doesn't remember her murder either even though he was… he was there when it happened."
"The kid that survived… that was him?" Sam asked. Dean hummed in agreement. "Dean…" Dean put the charm back down and rubbed his eyes.
"You know that there might be a connection between Raurica and Beverly," he said and Dean kept silent. "Think about it, Dean. If this were a normal case. You've been staying in Raurica for far too long and it's not like you. You investigate a case involving witches and now it turns out that Cas too was somehow involved in a case with witches? His mom apparently knew enough about the supernatural for her to ward against witches, which later caused her death!"
"So what, the witch is here for unfinished business?" Dean asked with a sneer. "It's been 30 years. The son of a bitch totally dropped the ball on that."
"Like you?" Sam said and Dean tensed. There was a beat of silence from Sam's end before he sighed. "Dean, listen," he continued, his voice now soft. "This isn't like you. Rolling into a town for a case and then just… not leaving? Might it not be possible that the reason you're staying there has supernatural causes…? Like… a spell?"
"No." Dean said curtly. "I'm staying here because I love Cas."
"Why is that so impossible for you to imagine? I've fallen in love before and lingered around even though the case was done. It's not totally groundbreaking for me!" he argued, feeling something in his chest clench uncomfortably.
"Okay, Dean. I'm just saying. It's all just a bit too… convenient."
"Nothing about this is convenient," Dean muttered and Sam kept silent to that. Dean closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. "So. Okay. What do we do?"
"I doubt you want to confront Cas with this stuff, so I'm gonna make the drive to Beverly. Find out if there are any records. And I'll call around, ask if anyone knows anything about a 25-year-old case."
"Whoever investigated it is probably dead."
"Yeah," Sam said with a humorless chuckle. Damn the mortality rate of hunters… "but maybe we'll get lucky."
"Thanks for doing this, Sam," Dean said before Sam could hang up.
"Of course. I'm just glad that whatever weird is happening there in Raurica, you’re at least keeping your head together enough to notice that something's off." Dean didn't want to argue about it, he wasn't even so sure anymore that Sam's worries were misplaced.
"Let me know what you find," he told Sam and then they hung up. Dean rubbed his hands together, feeling a surge of guilt and an uncomfortable feeling of apprehension.
Whatever conspiracy theory Sam was cooking up in his head to explain Dean's extended stay in Raurica, Dean wasn't interested in believing it. But, and Dean admitted this to himself with great shame and even greater reluctance, he was concerned.
When he thought about it, then there was no denying that Dean harbored little favorable feelings for Raurica itself. He disliked the drab, boring town. Most of the people he interacted with on a day-to-day basis (which were mostly just the patrons in Cas' Café and the people in the stores) appeared perfectly normal, amicable even, but some of them made his hackles rise. Like that douche Raphael who he sometimes had the misfortune to see on the street and who never had anything but a hateful scowl to offer him or the world at large. Or Michael who eyed Dean's ass with more appreciation than was suitable when Dean ran into him in Gabriel's bakery. Even Sister Jo caused a shiver to run down his spine. He seemed to be able to tolerate Gabriel, but pretty much everyone else in Cas' closer orbit made Dean apprehensive. And maybe that was just because he was the new boyfriend. But maybe, just maybe, his instincts hadn't been smothered by the slow Raurica life.
Thus, he awaited Sam's phone call with almost bated breath.
"Is something wrong?" Castiel asked apprehensively, when Dean checked his phone again, unsettling Cas who was resting his head on Dean's shoulder.
"I'm waiting for a call," Dean said and to soothe Cas' irritated scowl he gently carded his fingers through Cas' hair that was still messy from a previous make out session. He watched Cas' expression change from irritated to guarded right away. "Sam's investigating a case some hours from here and I want to know he's fine."
"Do you… if you have to leave to help him, you can," Castiel told him gently. Dean smiled at him.
"No, I don't think he needs help. Doesn't stop me from fretting," he told him. It didn't feel good lying to Cas, but… but he couldn't have him know about the investigation yet. Just… in case.
"What?" Cas asked. Dean lifted his eyebrow in confusion. "You look worried." Dean tried to find an excuse for that but Cas put his head on Dean's shoulder again, getting comfortable. "You're a mother hen, Dean."
"I… what? You're the mother hen!" Dean argued weakly which only got himself a chuckle out of Cas. Dean wrapped his arms around Cas, resting his chin on top of Cas' head. It felt so good to hold him. If only he could just tell Cas the truth and lay the worries to rest. But… not yet. He kissed Cas' hair in a silent apology.
Sam called later that day, when it was already dark out and the house was quiet apart from the dull rush of water from Cas' shower. Dean stole into his office, closing the door but not locking it.
"Bad news," was the first thing his brother said and Dean's heart sunk. He slumped slightly in his chair, rubbing his forehead. "The guy who investigated the kills in Beverly, the hunter? He's dead."
"No surprises there," Dean muttered.
"But that's not the bad news," Sam continued, and Dean felt dread pool uncomfortably in his stomach. "Bobby knew the guy. Even knew the case because he went to clean up."
"Clean up?" Dean asked in surprise.
"Yeah. That case Dean? It's bad. It's sloppy. The witch was far too obvious."
"Why does that surprise you? Some witches are freaking dramatic and it was clear from the case that the witch wanted to send a message. Traitor, right?"
"Dean… The witch that the hunter killed? It was Anna. Anna Novak was the witch." Dean sucked in a breath.
"The hunter investigated and apparently found enough evidence that Anna Novak was the one who murdered the other women. Apparently, the victims had all been connected to Anna in some way or another. Whatever dirt he found on Anna, it was enough for the guy. He went in and killed her."
"But that's… Sam… She was clearly warding herself against a witch! It makes no sense that she would be so careless if she wanted to fly under the radar!" Dean shouted and instantly flinched at the loudness of his words. He listened to the quiet house with bated breath, but the shower was still running so he hoped that Cas hadn't heard him.
"Well, Bobby thought it wasn't all that convincing when he heard about it through the hunter's grapevine," Sam explained, keeping his voice calm in a stark contrast to Dean's increasingly frantic state of mind. "Something just didn't feel right to him and you know how Bobby's with his gut feeling."
"Yeah, it's what's kept the man breathing for so long," Dean muttered.
"Bobby felt it was too simple, too sloppy as I've mentioned before. Like it had been orchestrated. Attract the attention of a hunter by obvious kills and then get someone killed."
"The witch that Anna was warding against?" Dean asked and while having Anna's connection to the supernatural revealed wasn’t exactly good, it was still better than have her be a witch herself.
"Maybe?" Sam asked and the way he drew out the word made Dean suspicious right away. "I'm sorry, but this is where my bad news come in." Dean groaned. "When Bobby got there nobody had noticed Anna's death yet. He got in and found her right away, throat slit."
"She went down that easily? Usually it's a pain in the ass to get a witch killed unless you've got the right weapons. Shouldn't that have raised suspicions in the guy that he got the wrong person?"
"According to Bobby the dude had the right weapons. He had a witch killing knife."
"Knife dipped in witch-killing brew maybe? It'd be the same approach we use for the witch-killing bullets." Sam countered and Dean shrugged at that.
"Bobby obviously did his due diligence. Anna had too many witch related items in her house for a regular person, even someone who is just trying to hide from witches. Bobby found the pendant under her body. The cord to her necklace had been cut away… So that made him suspicious. What also made him suspicious was a trail of blood…"
"Oh no…" Dean muttered, having an inkling how it would go on.
"He found her son hidden in a cupboard under the sink. Bobby could tell from the blood that he had been attacked in the living room like Anna, but then managed to drag himself away. He was awake when Bobby found him, but he had been stabbed and there were burns on him too. Bobby had no idea how the kid was still alive. He called in the police when it was clear that the boy needed medical attention and also couldn't tell Bobby anything about what had happened."
"That was Cas…"
"Yeah… But the thing is that Bobby asked the hunter about Anna's son and the hunter knew nothing about a son and obviously hadn't tried to kill a kid…"
"It was a set up… And someone wanted to get at Cas?"
"No… I think the one who wanted Anna dead simply wanted to clean up afterwards… But clearly they didn't check that Cas was dead for sure, just left him to his fate…"
"But that doesn't mean anything is wrong about Cas, he's just…"
"The son of a witch…," Sam said, interrupting Dean. "Dean," he continued softly, "I went to check her grave. Willow moss grew on it. She was definitely a witch."
"But that doesn't mean Cas is one!"
"No, it doesn't. But depending on what kind of witch Anna was, he would have inherited her power… And think about it… You are in a town where you suspect witch activity."
"I… I don't know, Sam…"
"We'll figure it out, Dean. Charlie is working on it and I'm on my way in your direction. Just… until we know what's up, you've got to be careful. Even around Cas."
"Dean, I'm serious. You know what witches can do." Dean wanted to argue, but now that they weren't talking he noticed that the shower had been switched off. He felt a sudden rush of panic.
"We should talk later. But I promise I'll be careful."
"You better be," Sam said and then they hung up. Dean put down the phone and then he waited, his whole body tense, expecting a fight.
He waited but nothing happened. Cas didn't come storming in, demanding to know what he and Sam had talked about. Slowly, Dean relaxed enough to get up. He opened the door a bit and peeked out. The corridor was dark and it was silent. He got out, closing the door quietly behind himself, then he crept upstairs, where the light was still on in the hall and the door to their bedroom stood open. He slowly approached and looked inside, finding Cas, his hair wet and spiky, reading a book in bed. He looked up when Dean shifted his weight and the floorboard below him creaked.
"Is everything alright?" Cas asked and Dean urged some levity back into himself.
"Yeah. Just wanted to be quiet, in case you were sleeping already. Clearly, you're not." Dean said and stepped into the room. Cas frowned and looked to the side.
"It's not even nine. Why should I be sleeping?"
"Wore you out with sex?" Dean suggested and Castiel huffed in reply. "Why are you in bed if you're not sleeping?" Cas showed Dean the book he was reading. It was a cook book.
"Research." Dean heaved a sigh that Cas clearly missed because he was looking back down. "I'm trying to find some new things to make as a brunch offer on weekends."
"What's wrong with bacon and eggs?"
"Sister Jo raised concerns that I should have some lighter options for the seniors she brings to the café," Cas said and frowned down at the page. He put a sticky note in it. "I could make jams. What do you think?"
"Sure," Dean said and started undressing, then he slipped into bed.
"And why are you coming to bed already?" Cas asked. "I'm working, in case you hoped for sex."
"Don't know. I'm tired I guess?" Dean muttered. He was drawn to Cas, even though he was worried about what Sam had told him. He was just… Cas. He was loveable and cute and Dean liked being close to him. Cas lifted his arm, an invitation for Dean to cuddle close. Which he did. He felt comfortable around him and soon he felt Cas' soft touch ease his tension.
"I love you, Cas," Dean said, the words coming off his lips so easily. Castiel turned his head and smiled at him.
"I love you too, Dean," he whispered, a rosy color on his cheeks. He kissed Dean's forehead and then he returned to his reading, a small smile staying on his lips even though before his face had been almost stern with concentration.
This couldn't be fake. It just couldn't.
Dean started paying more attention to Cas in ways that felt like betrayal. Dean had plenty of time to himself where he could do whatever he wanted, so he reluctantly combed through the house, looking for anything that gave off a supernatural vibe.
He went through the books, their titles all boringly mundane. Dean pulled out a well-worn book and leafed through it but there was nothing hidden in any either.
"Twilight, Cas, really…?" Dean muttered, when he sorted through a box that was stowed away in the hallway closest. There were cookbooks with scribbles in the margins and sticky notes but they looked perfectly normal. The notebook Cas kept next to his bed for note taking also held nothing suspicious in it. Of course, Dean wasn't a witch but he knew enough spells to keep an eye out for suspicious ingredients and combinations but it all seemed clean.
Just like the pantry, and the cellar and the small attic.
The only suspicious elements in the house were Anna's pendant and whatever Dean had carried into the house. Dean sat down heavily in his chair and stared down at his desk. There was absolutely nothing that hinted at Cas being anything other than what he said.
But, the annoying hunter voice in the back of his mind argued, they weren't exactly glued together and there were plenty of hours in the day where Cas spent away from Dean.
Dean hated that train of thought. Was he seriously suspecting Cas to be a witch now? Just because he was born to one?
"I just have to clear him from the list of suspects," Dean muttered. Cas had never made that list and why should he have? He didn't seem to have any ties to Sanders nor to the orchard. Also, Cas was in his shop when the storm was raging and he had a power outage due to the storm. Surely, a witch that planned the destruction of an orchard (or the man tied to it) would protect himself against that.
"Dean?" Dean gave a start and probably looked like a kid with his hand stuck in a cookie jar when Cas pushed open the door to Dean's office. He held a bag of groceries in his free arm and his fist on the door still held his keys.
"You're home early," Dean said to dispel the silence between them and to kick himself into normal behavior. He had nothing to hide after all.
Apart from the fact that he just went through all of Cas' stuff, trying to expose him as a witch.
No. No. To try to clear him of the accusation of being a witch. Cas wasn't a witch. Cas was just a regular, cute guy. Who now looked at Dean with a small frown.
"Haven't I told you that I've got a meeting today?" Cas asked and Dean could vaguely remember something like that. He followed Cas to the corridor and into the kitchen, helping him put away things. Regular things. The most exciting stuff was herbs and even they didn't seem witchy. It looked like thyme.
"Uh, yeah. Sorry. I must have forgotten," Dean said. "Things kinda blur together sometimes," he muttered. That got Cas to turn away from the fridge and look at Dean. "Not a whole lot to do around here than snoop through your stuff…"
"I'm sorry," Cas said earnestly. "Raurica doesn't offer a lot of entertainment…"
"Well, maybe we should just move," Dean said, which apparently caught Cas off-guard. "You don't like it here either."
"I don't… But… my business is here…" Cas answered and then he turned his head away. Dean caught the look on Cas' face however.
"Cas, you can-"
"Dean, I can't just leave," he said, a bit stronger than before and he looked directly at Dean. When Dean opened his mouth to protest, a flicker of fear showed up on Cas' face, but the moment Dean relented, it disappeared again.
"Okay. Then I'll just have to find something to do," he said, then he put his hands on Cas' waist, pulling him closer. "Alright? It's all good." Cas hummed to that and put his hands around Dean's neck, breathing in deeply. They stayed like that for a while, but then Cas sighed and pulled back. He checked his watch.
"I should get ready. Are you alright with making dinner? Or I can get pizza on the way back."
"Pizza sounds good," Dean said and Cas smiled. He nodded, then he left the kitchen to get ready, leaving Dean to put away the rest of the groceries.
He went into the living room, making sure that he hadn't forgotten to put anything back into place during his search for arcane objects.
Cas didn't take long; he merely combed his hair and put on a new shirt.
"I'll probably be back by eight thirty," Cas said and leaned in for a kiss.
"Who are you meeting anyway?" Dean asked and Cas stopped a couple of centimeters before his mouth could touch Dean's. He drew back, a crease showing up between his eyebrows.
"Uhm. I'm sure Michael's there. Naomi, certainly. Gabriel will probably be there too, though he doesn't always bother showing up. I don't think you know the other people…"
"I haven't met this Naomi either, I think."
"She doesn't really frequent my café. She's the major and Gabriel's sister."
"Oh, right. Naomi Adler?" Dean asked and Cas nodded. "So is this like a family or a business meeting?"
"It's more of a friendly get together, but if Raphael shows up, there will certainly be business talk too. And I'm not looking forward to that… He's exhausting and profoundly unfunny." Then he checked Dean's watch. "I've got to go, Dean," he said.
"Sure," Dean answered with a grin and then he gave Cas a kiss and walked him to the door. "And don't forget the take away!" Cas nodded, then he got into the car and drove away.
Dean looked out into the night, worry replacing the warmth of Cas' kiss. So maybe Cas personally had no ties to Sanders and whatever had happened to the orchard, but Cas in turn had ties to those who were still on Dean's list of suspects. And what were those meetings really about? Cas had always been very vague about them and sure, Dean had never bothered asking for clarification. But now, with this tiny seed of doubt taking root in his mind, he couldn't help but wonder.
Maybe he should grab his keys and follow Cas.
Dean recoiled from the idea.
"What the hell am I thinking? This is Cas. So what if his mom was a witch? It means nothing!" Dean hissed to himself, biting at his nail nervously. There was not a single indication in this house and in their everyday life that Cas was a witch.
Cas was good. Cas was good. And yet.
A little ping called him out of his thoughts and he looked down at the table where his phone lit up with a message. It was from Charlie.
"Got info. Are you alone?" Dean was almost tempted to lie because this didn't sound good, but he didn't hesitate before taking the phone and texting back that Cas would be gone for a while. A moment later Charlie called.
"Hey, what's up!" she greeted and Dean suppressed a sigh.
"Hey Charlie. You have news for me?"
"I most certainly do. Remember how I mentioned that there was an increase of people opening bank accounts some time ago?" Dean nodded to himself, though didn't have to say anything for Charlie to continue. "Turns out that was actually a pretty good lead. I can't really say who of those people are involved and who are just normal people, but I'm pretty sure you're dealing with an entire coven of witches in Raurica."
"What…? A coven? Great," Dean hissed.
"Yeah, sorry," Charlie told him, but was quick to continue. "That would at least explain how you couldn't pin the orchard incident on one person… In any case, what I found is that there's a number of people who came to Raurica roughly at the same time, like, within 5 years of each other. And they all found work quickly because positions became vacant for one reason or another. The jobs are pretty diverse from police to government to health care professionals. Looked at individually this wouldn't be suspicious at all, but if you look at it all together, as a pattern, it does seem suspicious."
"Could still be not our kind of thing. Maybe the people are related or friends and got to their positions through networking?"
"Sure…," Charlie said, sounding very unconvinced. "I mean Raurica seems to be the hot spot to be…" Dean rolled his eyes. "No, seriously Dean. I'm no amateur. I have of course done background checks."
"Of course you did," Dean said and he couldn't keep the fondness out of his voice even though he was starting to feel sick. "What did you find out?"
"That most of the people didn't legally exist before they came to Raurica."
"They've got new identities. Basically, no evidence that they were someone before they came to Raurica, apart from some records which seemed pretty fake to me. It makes sense of course that a witch would have to move regularly because either they mess up or they simply don't age like humans. They've got to be on the move eventually. And that probably worked for them without any issues for a long time. But it's the digital age now and it's getting harder for them to not leave footprints. And that’s not just about footprints that a hacker like me can track. I’m also talking about social media and the like. Raphael, Naomi and Michael are just three of those people who lived under different identities before they came to Raurica. They only change the last name. Which is amateur work if you ask me."
"Charlie… What about… What about Cas? Do you have a Castiel Novak on your list?" Dean tried to keep his voice even but it came out frantic sounding anyway. Charlie was silent for a while, which only made the torment worse.
"Castiel is on the list. He came to Raurica 15 years, so he's one of the earliest on my list. However, he is also one of the few that has a documented life before the move. It's actually pretty well documented the mid 80s, when his mother was murdered. Then a woman named Naomi Hawking became his legal guardian. It said in the records that she was Anna Novak's sister…"
"You think Naomi Hawking is Naomi Adler…"
"Yeah. There was a photo of her. It's the same person and she looked exactly the same in '85. Didn't age a day…"
"Damn it," Dean hissed.
"I couldn't find anything on Anna either. No records of her before she moved to Beverly. Also no records at all of Castiel's father. Not even a name on the birth certificate. I don't know whether Anna fled from the coven or was a part of it. But it's very likely that she got killed because of something that was connected to the coven."
"And the coven came to get her son…"
"The son who is now your boyfriend and who you currently live with…" Charlie added tentatively. Dean rubbed his palm over his face. "Sam filled me in, sorry. Congrats on ditching heterosexuality though."
"Sorry, totally not the right time for it," Charlie chirped quickly.
"Do you believe what Sam says?" Dean asked, feeling tired. When Charlie made a questioning sound he continued: "that I'm under a spell?"
"I… don't know Dean. Sam said that you've never settled down like that before, especially in the middle of a case."
"I actually have done that before… I've been in love before, you know? And it's always been inconvenient and it's always on the job or just between jobs. You know how it is."
"You don't think you're under a spell. Even though all signs point to you being a hunter in a town of powerful, old witches and your boyfriend having ties to them. Just disregarding the issue of Cas, doesn't it strike you as odd that nobody tried to get rid of you yet?"
"Some witches try to keep a low profile…" Dean argued faintly.
"And maybe some witches think that you're no threat because you're focusing on something else."
"I'm not…" Dean trailed off because Charlie was right. He had stopped investigating the case. Not fully, but he spent most of his time not doing anything relevant to hunting. He had chalked that up to the lack of new leads and the fact that he had better things to do with Cas. Cas was… a distraction.
"You alright, Dean?" Charlie's voice, quiet and careful, broke through the uncomfortable white noise in Dean's head. He considered the question. A painful sensation of foreboding and dread, of impending doom the likes of which Sam and he had been forced to deal with their entire lives was encroaching upon his heart, a heavy weight in his chest that seemed to grow with every futile thought that dashed through his mind. Cas was alright, Cas was good, he loved Cas. Cas was the son of a witch, Cas was somehow part of a coven by choice or not, Cas was a distraction from the case.
It was all too much. So Dean pushed the thoughts away and down.
"I'm fine. Peachy," he said, not even trying to make his tone sound anything but fake and mocking. He heard Charlie heave a big sigh into the phone.
"Yeah, it sucks. Can you get out of there?"
"I can't just get out of here. I live here. Cas is my boyfriend."
"But he could be dangerous! Do you even know where he is right now?" Charlie said with some urgency. Dean didn't want to tell her that Cas was visiting Naomi. That he was probably at a coven meeting. God damn it. Dean kicked the chair, which banged against his desk.
"Cas is not dangerous, Charlie. Just because he's got the misfortune of being somehow wrapped up in this coven business, doesn't mean that he's a bad guy. He's never done anything to harm me!" Dean argued, almost relishing the fact that he could direct his anger into Cas' defense.
"Alright, Dean. Alright…," Charlie said. "Just be careful."
"I will be, Charlie. I promise," he assured her. She clearly hesitated to hang up, uncomfortable to leave Dean alone in what she must consider a dangerous situation. Eventually she wished him a good night and Dean was left to his own thoughts again.
He was a coward.
That was just the gist of it. Cas came home from his meeting, irritated, but with a pizza and a dazzling smile once he saw Dean. The way his face lit up made some of the painful tension around Dean's chest ease up at once too.
But what was the nature of his feelings? This profound, all-consuming warmth he felt in Cas' presence? His longing to stay with him, to steal him away from here and to lead a happy life with him, away from hunting, away from witchcraft. Just him and Cas and Cas' bland coffee.
Could this really be a spell? Could his emotions be manipulated this subtly, this convincingly? He didn't remember one specific moment where his feelings for Cas went from vague interest to love. And he had been under love spells before, just like Sam. And it wasn't like this.
He could force the issue, confront Cas, maybe it was even the right thing to do. But how could Dean? It wasn't only a question of betraying Cas, it was also his heart on the line.
Dean didn't know what to do.
Something about Dean was… different. When they woke up together in the morning, Dean seemed to smile at him first, bright like the morning sun, but then it wilted away behind a stormy face. And Dean turned away from him, rolling out of bed.
Castiel tried to reach out to him, pluck at the bond between them and felt his vulnerability, his desire for love screaming at him, even though Castiel had done nothing to stop the love he poured towards Dean.
As they got ready, Castiel watched Dean with apprehension and a sense of dread rising like an incoming tide.
"Dean? Are you alright?" Cas finally dared to ask when they had reached the café. Dean turned to look at him and for a moment he seemed pained before he hid it behind a small smile.
"Sure. Have a nice day at work, Cas," he said, not making a move to get out of the car.
"Are you not coming into the café? I can make you a cup of coffee," he suggested, opening the passenger side door and slipping one foot out. Dean seemed distracted, looking out of the window.
"No, thanks, babe. I feel live driving around a bit," he said. For a moment Cas thought about putting a bit more pressure behind his request for Dean to come with him, because something wasn't right, but in the end he straightened up and closed the door. He walked around the car to the driver's side. Dean rolled down the window.
"I love you, Dean. Drive safely," he said. A small smile, almost surprised, flickered over Dean's face, but it was soon weighed down with tension around the corners of Dean's mouth.
"Sure. Love you too, sunshine," Dean said, accepting the chaste kiss Cas gave him. Then Cas stepped out of the way and watched Dean maneuver out of the parking space.
He stood in front of his café, unmoving, until he finally lifted his head to the overcast sky.
A storm seemed to be in the making. Cas couldn't help but think that it was a bad omen.
Cas felt like he was waiting for something to happen. He wasn't surprised when Raphael stormed into the shop, slamming doors announcing his arrival. It was shortly before closing and there were no more customers in his store for Raphael to scare away. Cas didn't want to give Raphael the satisfaction of knowing how anxious his presence made him, so he continued to clean calmly.
"You! You're supposed to keep the hunter in line!" was the first thing Raphael shouted. The words hit hard, swirling up immediate fear and worry for Dean. Despite his attempt at composure, Raphael's keen eyes must have found something to latch on to. He narrowed his eyes, smoothed out his angry scowl to a superior sneer. "Do you even know where he is?"
"I do not track Dean, so no, I don't," Castiel replied, keeping his voice calm and even, which only seemed to enrage Raphael even more.
"Well, maybe you should keep your dog on a tighter leash," Raphael said darkly, managing to fully regain his composure. He straightened his suit and then fixed his tie. "Your human seems to have reopened his investigation. He came sniffing around town. And he didn't just come pester me with all kinds of totally irrelevant questions, no, he seemed to clearly check out the people in our coven."
"The people of our coven are strategically filling positions all over town. This seems like mere coincidence to me," Castiel replied to which Raphael narrowed his eyes. He stepped closer and Castiel felt electricity build up in the air. It crackled menacingly, raising the hair on his arms. With a snap of light, the bulbs overhead burst, raining a sharp shower down on Castiel. He didn't move. Neither did Raphael, but the disgust on his face became more pronounced the longer Castiel let him wait for a reaction. Raphael lifted his hand and balled it to a fist.
"You're a coward. And a disgrace. I've always known that you don't have what it takes. You're a traitor, too soft, too human. Just like your mother," he hissed.
"If you have nothing else to tell me," Cas started, his voice calm, but cold, "then I ask you to leave my business. I have to clean up someone's mess." For a split second it looked like Raphael was going to attack him, but in the end he held himself back. His expression shifted to amusement. He chuckled and casually wiped a splinter of glass off the counter.
"Yes. It seems like you do. Everything you do is just…," he looked up at Castiel. "Messy." He turned around and walked away. "But let me be very clear. If you don't do your job and make Winchester disappear, then I will." Raphael didn't wait around for a reaction, leaving the café before Cas could lose the grip on his temper and hurl a hex at him. The gratification wouldn't be worth the punishment of him – a mere novice – attacking a full coven member, even if he had been challenged.
Castiel waited a beat until the uncomfortable taint of Raphael's presence disappeared from the café, then he instantly got into motion. He grabbed his phone and dialed Dean before he could even think about it, the adrenaline of a face-off with Raphael replaced by frantic dread. He almost gasped in relief when Dean picked up.
"Dean! Where are you?"
"Strolling around the orchard, looking for clues. For the case, you know."
"Why are you doing that? Dean…!" Castiel couldn't stop himself from asking and he dragged a weary hand down his face. What was going wrong? He had done the spell perfectly, why was Dean not staying away from this?!
"Relax, Cas. It's just a stroll. I'm not getting myself into any trouble," Dean answered. "What's wrong?"
"Please… Can you come to the café? I want to see you."
"Uh… Sure… But I parked the car in the lot by the mall. Well… Not that it can be called a mall. This town stinks."
"Dean…," Castiel muttered and Dean stopped talking. "Please."
"Alright…? But you'll have to tell me what's up, because right now I don't know what's going on with you."
"I… I will. Just, please. You might be in danger," Castiel said.
"Cas. What is this about?"
"I can't tell you over the phone. Come to the café, please."
"Okay, babe. I'm on my way," Dean said and then he hung up. Castiel let the phone clatter to the counter and hung his head. He couldn't do this. He couldn't let Dean investigate and put himself into danger. If the love spell wasn't strong enough to compel him to forget all about the case, then… Castiel wasn't sure. He wanted to tell Dean the truth, but he couldn't put the coven in danger, least of all Dean if he got it into his mind to fight an entire coven of powerful witches single-handedly. No, that would end in nothing but pain. But what could he do…? If he didn't act now, then Raphael would-
Castiel froze. Raphael. There was no reason for Raphael to not turn his threat into reality right away. He had never been a man of great patience. What if he attacked Dean now? Castiel quickly pocketed his phone and then he ran out of the café, not even bothering to lock it.
He cursed the misfortune that he had chosen exactly this day to let Dean drive him to work, because now he had to reach the parking lot on foot. He was light on his feet and didn't tire quickly due to his magic, but it was still a distance to cover. Considering the snide comments the coven had made about Dean's far too conspicuous car, it was a likely target for Raphael's attack, especially if Dean had left it unguarded.
How foolish! Dean was an experienced hunter, so surely he would guard himself against an attack like this? Surely he was only worrying for nothing? But the ball of anxiety in Castiel's stomach wasn't so easily soothed. He had to get to the car and just make sure that nobody had manipulated it.
He finally reached the mostly empty parking lot behind the building that called itself the mall, but was a mostly empty and boarded up building from a decade in which Raurica had believed in prosperity. Like almost everything in Raurica, it had only been a mediocre success and slowly faded away. Which left this spot a good place as any for a hunter to leave his car and for a witch to enact his attack.
Castiel's breath stuck in his lungs when he saw that Dean had gotten there first. There was no way that Cas could search the car without an explanation now, so he slowed down to a trot, unsure how to proceed. His gaze passed over the car, feeling for the imprint of bad magic, but the car was warded just enough for his gaze to slide past it frustratingly. He couldn't tell from outside if it was safe, so there was no way around it but to search quickly but covertly.
Dean was sitting in the driver's seat, one hand on the steering wheel, the other holding a phone to his ear. He was talking and only when Cas came closer, did he notice him from the corner of his eye. He seemed to be alright, though there was surprise written over his face. Castiel approached, but then suddenly a shiver ran down his spine as he got close enough for the magic to shine through the warding.
There was something in that car.
"Dean!" Castiel called, but it was too late, because Dean dropped the phone, his eyes wide and his mouth open. He could only watch in horror as Dean gasped, struggling for air.
Castiel sprung into action, opening the door to check onDean, slipping his hands into Dean's pockets, as Dean grabbed at his throat, at his chest and Castiel's clothes.
"Stay calm, stay calm," Castiel told him, his tone hushed. He withdrew slightly, still feeling Dean's fingers cling to him. Then he let the magic rush to the surface, his eyes glowing a vibrant blue as he searched for the source of the curse in the car. And there! A dark fog was swirling over the backseat. Castiel hurried into the backseat and slipped his hand into the space where the backrest met the backseat, searching. Finally, his fingers touched the hex bag and he pulled it out. He scanned it quickly, finding it to clearly be Raphael's work and then he sent a burst of energy through it. The hex bag combusted and he saw the curse blow apart. He felt rage rise inside of him, an anger so profound that it left nothing but the wish to see Raphael burn, right now, but then a gasp startled him. All of his magic snapped back into him and he blinked at the burning hex bag. Disgusted he flung it out of the car, where it continued to smolder on the concrete, then he hurried back to Dean's side.
Dean was taking big, gasping breaths, his face was covered in a sheen of sweat and his eyes were vibrant. But he was breathing. He was alive. Cas sank to his knees and grabbed Dean's hands.
"Dean… Dean! Are you alright?" Castiel asked.
"Damnit, no!" Dean wheezed, but he didn't pull his hands out of Castiel's hold. Cas was unsure how to answer to that.
"It… it was a hex bag. In the backseat," he supplied and saw Dean squeeze his eyes shut, trying to control his breathing. The silence that followed was tense and Castiel wished he could fly away from this situation.
"How did you know?" It was less of a question and more of an accusation. Castiel withdrew his hands, but Dean grabbed on to his wrists. "Cas, look at me!" Reluctantly, Cas looked up, finding Dean's expression to be suspended between anger, confusion and desperate denial. "Cas, how did you know to look for a hex bag?"
"Raphael…," Castiel started slowly. Dean's eyes widened at once, causing Cas to falter.
"Cas." Dean commanded and Cas flinched. "Raphael's a witch. Did you know? Is that why you knew how to look for the hex bag and how to destroy it?" Castiel lowered his head. "Cas." Dean's voice was strained, silent. "Why are you protecting them?! Why are you protecting the coven that tried to get rid of me just now?!" Castiel blanched. So Dean did know about them. He had figured out far more than Cas had suspected.
"I…," he started but Dean made a disgusted noise.
"Get up! And get in the damn car," he ordered, his voice hard. Castiel resigned himself to it. He got up slowly and walked around the front of the car to the passenger seat. "Just great," he heard Dean grumble but it didn't take magic to know that Dean's anger didn't reach deep enough to chase away the hurt.
They drove back to their house in silence. Dean wasn't asking any questions, not even the most pressing one. And Cas…? It was too late now to come clean out of his own volition, but even now that his hand had been forced, he couldn't bring himself to admit to it. It was a foolish and desperate hope that made him cling to the lies, because they couldn't change how real the emotions where he felt for Dean. He didn't want to lose Dean, even now that he knew he had no choice.
Dean got out of the car and slammed the door. He didn't wait for Cas to speak or to follow him, he simply went into the house. Castiel stayed seated, for just a while longer. He brushed his fingertips over the worn leather of the car, feeling the comfort of it, chasing away the last lingering remnants of Raphael's black magic.
Finally, he took a deep breath and got out of the car. He walked up to his door and inside. It was dark and he wondered where Dean went.
Something bothered him, something wasn’t quite right, but before he could really examine the discomfort he felt, strong hands grabbed on to him. He saw Dean's face for a second, but then something heavy and metallic was put around his neck. He heard the latch close and then blunt spikes dug into his neck.
"There," he heard a stranger say. Cas still stared at Dean, who was now averting his gaze and withdrawing to the corner of the kitchen. Their mugs from breakfast were still standing there on the table that stood between him and Dean, a left over from a life that was now slipping fast out of his grasp. A tall man, with long hair stepped into his line of sight, concealing Dean with how he had placed himself.
"Sam Winchester," Castiel said, not having to guess. Dean had been kind of tight-lipped about his family, but he had shown him pictures of Sam.
"I wish I could say I'm pleased to finally meet my brother's boyfriend," Sam said, his face hard, all business. Castiel merely regarded him. There was no point in fighting against this now. "What you've got around your neck now is a witch catcher. It forces a witch to follow every command."
"Yes," was all Castiel said.
"You've got to answer truthfully to the questions I'm going to ask you," he said. "Castiel Novak. Is that your real name?"
"Yes." Cas felt the words slip past his lips before he could even think about them let alone decide if he wanted to share that information.
"And your mother, Anna, was a witch?" Sam continued.
"Sam, this doesn't prove anything," Dean grumbled and even though Castiel strained to see him, Sam was still firmly blocking sight of Dean.
"Alright, fine," Sam said with a huff and looked over his shoulder at Dean. There was a moment of silence before Sam turned back to Cas.
"Hop on one foot," he said. Cas could hardly process Dean's snort of indignance and his own confusion before he was hopping.
"Alright, stop it!" Dean hissed and Cas was glad when he stopped. The mortification was already sending heat up into his face and he stared down at the floor, his hands travelling up to the metal. It was warm under his palms, soaking up his magic and using it against him. What a dreadful instrument.
"Proof enough for you?" Sam asked, but his tone wasn't mocking. It was soft, almost sad. He heaved a sigh into the silence and then he turned back to Castiel.
"I think this proves it, but just for the record… Are you a witch, Castiel?"
"Yes. I've been born with magic," he said.
"And what are your ties with the coven here in Raurica?"
"I was taken in by it after my mother's death. I was a child, sick with grief, and unable to control my powers. I was a danger, so Naomi took me in…"
"And you're a member of the coven? Along with Naomi, Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and a whole host of other people who are living and operating here in Raurica?"
"No…," Castiel said, and that was all the witch catcher forced him to say, but still he found more words spilling out: "I never wanted to be part of them. I never wanted to be a witch or get initiated into the coven."
'I had no choice' were the words that were stuck in his throat. Because, as far as the witch catcher was concerned, it wasn't the truth. Sam studied him, his expression not any less hard than before, but Castiel felt that Sam didn't doubt his words.
"What happened to the orchard? The case that Dean came here to investigate?" he wanted to know instead.
"As I'm not initiated into the coven, I wasn't told anything. But the destruction of Sander's orchard was part of a dispute between Sanders and the witches who had dealings with him," he answered, not sure how this even mattered at this point. Sam didn't say anything, he merely studied him.
"Castiel, do you know who killed your mother?"
"A hunter," Castiel answered quietly. "She wasn't careful enough and she paid the price." Sam's mouth twitched at that and Cas lowered his eyebrows in confusion. Because he had said the truth.
"And you are aware that you too were attacked?"
"I don't remember that. I was a just a child," Castiel told him, feeling a tinge of irritation build inside him. "You mess up, you get killed. And the child of a monster is a ticking time bomb. The hunter tried to kill me, maybe he hesitated. I survived."
"See, this is where things don't add up," Sam said and crossed his arms over his chest. "Why do you think your mother warded herself against witches?"
"Because she left the coven and feared retribution," Castiel answered. "Initiated witches are allowed to leave the coven, but if you do the coven no longer protects you. Witches have enemies in other witches."
"Sam, stop the games," Dean spoke up and finally came closer. He looked down at Castiel, his face unreadable. "It was Raphael. He killed your mother." Castiel looked at him and somehow the words blew away all his other thoughts and feelings, the words of apology and begging dying on his tongue.
"What…? No. A hunter killed her."
"Sam and Charlie investigated. We have no idea what kind of beef Raphael had against your mom, but he wanted her dead. But she was warded against him and he couldn't get to her. He staged ritualistic murders, which would alert a hunter to the presence of a witch. Raphael was in Beverly, he was listed as a source for the hunter who killed Anna. And Bobby. Remember Bobby? Guy in a trucker hat, who found you?"
"I… no," was all Castiel managed to force out.
"When we showed Bobby a pic of Raphael, he said that he saw him snooping around the crime scene. And he remembered how he lost his smug face when you were alive. The hunter who killed your mom didn't know anything about a kid."
"Yes, Cas! Your precious coven, the coven that you protected all these weeks, was responsible for your mother's death and also arranged for your death!" Dean shouted. Castiel didn't even flinch, he was far too shocked by the revelation. He didn't doubt that it was true, but how…? How was that possible…?
"Clearly, he didn't know that," Sam muttered, then he lifted his hand and scratched his head. "Dean, I think there's nothing more we can do here. We should leave."
"We could gank Raphael," Dean argued, "he deserves it! And not just for doing this to Cas!"
"No." Both brothers looked towards Cas even as he refused to meet their eyes. "If you tried to kill Raphael the entire coven would retaliate. You can't fight an entire coven. It's not safe for you. You should leave."
"Well, I agree with him. There's nothing we can do. Let Raphael be Castiel's problem. Witch on witch violence isn't our responsibility," Sam argued. Dean glared at him, but didn't argue. Sam looked at Castiel, but then he wiped his hand over his mouth, clapped Dean on the shoulder and then he left the kitchen. Castiel could hear Sam's heavy steps in the hall and then the door opened and closed. Dean and Castiel were alone. His mind was still reeling from the information the Winchesters had revealed and he could feel the familiar, unwelcome dark rage take him over. But pushed it away and forced his mind to quiet down.
Dean looked at him and now that Sam was gone, he didn't even try to hide the pain.
"If I take this away, will you still tell the truth?"
"Yes," Castiel answered truthfully. "There is no more reason to conceal the truth." Anger flashed in Dean's eyes.
"There never was any reason to lie to me, Cas!"
"There was. I didn't want you to die…" he said and that made Dean lower his head. He stood there for a moment, but then he clenched his fists and got the key out of his pocket. He approached Cas and unlocked the witch catcher, careful not to cause harm. Castiel took a deep breath, feeling his magic flow freely again. He took a moment to regain his composure and then he looked at Dean.
"Dean, I'm so-"
"I don't want to hear it," he said, his voice weary. "Just… be honest with me, man…" Dean rubbed his fingers over his eyes. "Sam said it was suspicious that I didn't solve the case and decided to stay in Raurica because I had fallen in love…," he said and Cas' heart fell. "Did you do something to me, Cas? Did you curse me?"
"I did…," he said and Dean breathed in sharply through his nose before he turned the face to the side. His eyes were shining.
"Why…?" he whispered.
"The coven gave me the task to get rid of you the night after you came to Raurica… I didn't want to kill you… But if I didn't do anything then the coven would have. A spell to divert your attention away from the case was the only thing that I could think of…"
"What? Instead of just telling me the truth so that I could drive off?"
"You wouldn't have," Castiel said quietly but Dean didn't answer.
"So what… you put a love spell on me?"
"I did…," Castiel confessed. Dean grabbed the back of the chair, leaning against it heavily. His pain radiated hotly across the magic between them and Cas wasn't sure if it was Dean's emotions or his own that drove tears into his eyes. Dean didn't say anything, but Cas could hear his loud breathing, as he tried to hold back tears.
"How… how could you do that to me," Dean forced out, his voice small, devastated. "What I feel for you, Cas… I love you. I love you so much and you tell me that it's all… fake?"
"No… It's not that kind of love spell… Your feelings are real…," Castiel answered. Dean lifted his head and stared at Cas, his eyes shining with tears. He didn't say anything, he just studied Castiel, his eyes travelling over him, until finally the tears fell.
"Even now… I know that you betrayed me, that you… forced me," he said, his voice quivering, but the anger and disgust were there, but then it broke again as a small sob escaped Dean's lips. "And I still can't turn it off. I love you so much, Cas. I can't stop it. I just can't stop it! And it was all just a lie?"
"No… Dean, it wasn't a lie," Castiel answered quietly. "Because I'm good at what I do." Dean shook his head, not understanding. "The magic I crafted builds on potential… It builds gently, carefully. You were interested in me… And my magic built on that. It made you open up to the idea of acting on your attraction and then developed from there."
"And you just… You just played along," Dean accused. "You forced my hand and then just… what? Enjoyed the ride?"
"The spell wouldn't have worked if I hadn't opened up too… I love you, Dean."
"Yeah right," Dean said, laughing humorlessly. Castiel lowered his eyes. He did deserve that. Dean wiped at his eyes.
"Damn it," he whispered. "It hurts so much that I wish I didn't feel anything. And I… I know I should probably kill you for what you did. But I can't. I can't even hate you. Damn you, Cas!" Dean shouted, making Cas flinch. "I love you and I feel such deep betrayal that I fear it'll never go away!"
"I know," Castiel said and that just made Dean angry. He took one of the mugs on the table and hurled it at the wall, where it burst apart.
"You know! How the hell is that supposed to help me?! You knew and you didn't do anything! You what? Just hoped I would never find out?! That I would somehow tolerate this horrible town? Propose to you? Be a happy little househusband while you worked in your café and your coven continues to slaughter people?!"
"I'm sorry," was all Castiel had to offer. Dean glared at him.
"Screw you, Cas," Dean spat. "Undo the spell, now!"
"I can't," he said and now Dean pulled his gun out and pointed it at Cas.
"Undo the spell, you son of a bitch!"
"I can't," Castiel repeated. "It's far too powerful at this point. The only way it can fade is with time and distance. You have to leave and… just let it heal." Dean grit his teeth and the gun wavered, but eventually he put it away again. "I could make you forget, but I cannot undo the love…"
"Don't you dare play with my head again!" Dean shouted. "I won't forget. Not like this!" After a moment Dean slumped slightly. "Shit. I can't forget you, because I don't want to lose you. How pathetic is that? How terrible? How could you do this to me?" Dean asked and Castiel shook his head.
"I'm sorry Dean… I wish I could change it."
"I don't care," Dean answered. "I don't care that you regret it or that you thought you did it to spare my life. You had options, Cas. You could have spared both of us a lot of suffering if you had just taken a stand."
"And get killed? Let you get killed?" Cas countered.
"Hell, what would it have mattered? I was just another hunter. Let me be killed, help me get away, face your coven, die as a traitor. You had options, but you chose to ruin both of us."
"I know…" Castiel whispered and he couldn't hold back a sob. "I know, Dean." Dean shook his head. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the charm Castiel's mother had worn. Dean studied it, but instead of putting it on the table he put the string over his head, letting the charm rest on his chest.
"If I ever come across you again, doing anything witchy, I…" Dean hesitated. "I would like to say that I won't stop… I'll kill you if it means I spare others from suffering at your hands."
"I understand," Castiel said. "But I won't-"
"Cas, I thought I knew you. I thought you'd never harm anyone," Dean interrupted him. "But here we are. I don't believe a damn thing you're saying. I can't."
Dean grabbed the witch catcher, then he looked at Castiel again.
"One last time," he said, as he studied him, then he shook his head and left. Castiel bit his lips, then he sunk down on the chair. He couldn't stop the tears from coming. The Impala roared outside and then it sped off, its tires screeching.
For just a moment the bond reacted, still wide open for him, a torrent of pain and despair. But then it was pulled taunt, thinning and Castiel felt agony burn up his chest. But then his mother's amulet took over and the connection between them broke apart.
Castiel sat in the kitchen, his mouth open, breathing heavily. It was so cold, so empty, so lonely in his head now. His magic skittered out the hole where Dean's emotions and love had been nestled, prodding and probing, trying to heal but being swallowed up by the despair.
It was over. It was all over.
Castiel's sobbing ebbed away as the light faded and he stared at the ceiling. Magic welled up inside of him, from deep, deep within, exposed now by the tears inside of his carefully constructed shield. His eyes glowed, bright blue.
No. Not everything was done. He still had a task to complete. And his soul hungered for it, now that nothing else was holding him back.
Gabriel whistled when Cas opened the door to him a mere 10 minutes after the Winchesters had left Raurica for good.
"Damn, you look like you've been to hell and back. A good look on you. Pretty disturbing actually," Gabriel said. Castiel didn't deign that with an answer. "Witch radio is on. Apparently, Hannah just saw Dean leave town, so of course they want intel. Meeting in an hour. Think you can hold it together for that long?" Castiel narrowed his eyes at him and Gabriel took a step back, lifting his hands.
"Hey, don't kill the messenger," he joked. After a moment he sobered up, his eyes tracking the marks that the witch catcher had left. "You know… this is the way things are for us. You're not even 40 yet. You just haven't been around long enough to understand that things around us fall apart but we? We last." Gabriel crossed his arms over his chest and he quirked his eyebrows when he leant back against the door frame with a sigh. "If you want to escape that to play at being human, you have to get out completely."
"Mother tried and she got killed," Castiel said coolly. Gabriel's expression darkened, but then he plastered on a grin.
"See? What's the point? Why bother? Our magic is dark and humans deserve what's coming their way."
"You're wrong," Castiel countered but Gabriel just shrugged.
"It's your choice if you want to make your life more complicated," he said with a grin and Castiel's eyes flashed.
"I can see into you, Gabriel," he said and Gabriel lifted his eyebrow, not impressed. "I can see your power. It is like nature, not good nor bad. It just is."
"Well, thanks for the preaching, bro, but I'm gonna go back now, because there are some porn stars waiting for me and I want to get some fun in before I have to go through the torture of a boring meeting at Naomi's," Gabriel said cheerfully. He clapped Castiel on the shoulder, but then he squeezed his shoulder harder. "Though who knows? If you keep that attitude up when talking to your Elders, it might get interesting after all," he said and Cas new it was a warning but he didn't care. He shrugged off Gabriel's hand and went back into the house, slamming the door in Gabriel's face.
A hush fell over Naomi's living room the moment Castiel stepped in. Castiel looked first at Naomi, seeing the smallest of frowns between her brows, before he continued to let his eyes travel. Raphael was there and his expression was as smug and pleased as ever.
"We called for this meeting because Dean Winchester has left Raurica. Together with Sam Winchester who had arrived earlier," Naomi started. "What happened, Castiel?"
"While the spell I used on Dean was strong, it had no effect on Sam Winchester and he became suspicious and was able to sow seeds of doubt in Dean. I would have been able to handle the situation and keep my cover, but due to Raphael's interference I had to act."
"I was merely protecting myself, because you couldn't do your job," Raphael sneered.
"What exactly did Raphael do?" Michael asked even though Castiel was sure that all of them were already informed.
"He placed a hex bag in Dean's car, almost killing him. This is both against our code regarding the interference in another coven witch's business. Dean's death by Raphael's hand would also have jeopardized the coven as Sam Winchester would have retaliated."
"Ridiculous! We would have dealt with one measly human! Even if it is Sam Winchester!" Raphael argued loudly. Michael lifted his hand. He looked at Naomi and Gabriel, then he looked back to Raphael.
"Your interference was rather unfortunate and it is clearly against the code to sabotage one of our witches" he said, "but Cas is a novice, so we consider this a minor transgression." Raphael sent Castiel a sardonic smile.
"So what now?" Hannah spoke up. "What happens with Castiel's task?"
"It is done," Castiel answered. "Dean couldn't harm me and he won't be back or he'd fall under the full force of the spell again. I completed my task of removing Dean Winchester from Raurica."
A murmur went through the room. Gabriel grinned and downed a glass of champagne and Michael rubbed his chin. Naomi remained calm.
"You can't be serious!" Raphael shouted. "Castiel has to be punished for the incompetent way he dealt with Winchester! He let the hunter roam free, harass us and potentially expose us to other hunters!"
"He's got a point," Uriel agreed, but he didn't seem particularly passionate about the issue.
"Then what do you propose?" Michael asked and Raphael glared at Castiel.
"He's weak. A liability for the coven. We should bind his powers. Or execute him."
"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" Gabriel huffed, swirling the champagne around in his glass. "Cas power's bound, Cas dead…" Raphael glared at him, but didn't say anything.
"You had your shot," Castiel said quietly and looked at Raphael. "And you missed." Raphael glared at him and everyone could feel the rage and power build within him.
"You little vermin…!" he shouted. "You're scum! You bring shame to our coven, to all witches! You're nothing but a dirty traitor, just like your mother!! And if the coven won't act, then I will!" He lifted his hand, magic sparking all around it. The witches close to him jumped to the side, nobody trying to contain him. He shot the magic at Cas, intent to kill him, but Cas lifted his hand, swiping away the power. Raphael's victorious grin slipped. Castiel flicked his hand and, still with his hand outstretched and his mouth open in surprise, Raphael turned into a statue of salt. A shout of alarm went through Naomi's living room, but Castiel ignored it. He closed his hand and what was left of Raphael crumbled.
"How dare you!" Dumah was the first to speak up, but she was more surprised than outraged by what had just transpired. Nobody quite seemed to know how to react. Eventually Naomi stepped forward, her hand raised.
"It is fine. Raphael was out of line. He attacked Castiel, not for the first time. And Castiel retaliated," she said. Then she approached Castiel, his expression friendly, proud even. "I can see it now. You have changed. Your heart has changed," she told him. "There is depth and darkness in you now. Experience. And rage." She nodded at Castiel, then she turned to address the coven, most notably Gabriel and Michael.
"The magic he used on Dean was good and intricate. And just now we've seen him exhibit an excellent and effortless command of his magic. Killing Raphael didn't go against our laws and the ruthlessness of Castiel's retaliation is further proof that he is now a full-fledged witch."
Gabriel and Michael nodded and the other witches approved as well.
"Well done, Castiel. And I suspect, good-bye," Gabriel said with a wink. Hannah gasped and stepped forwards, her surprise taking over her urge to congratulate Cas.
"What do you mean good-bye? Surely, Castiel will stay! He will make our coven much stronger!" she argued and then she looked at Castiel for confirmation. But Cas shook his head.
"I will leave. It is my right as a full witch to leave the coven," he said and looked at Hannah. "I'm sorry. But I can't stay."
"Why not?" she asked, shaking her head in confusion. "We took you in when you were orphaned. We're your family!"
"Oh Hannah, you're young and naïve," Anael said. Hannah frowned at her.
"I have learnt today that Raphael caused the death of my mother, Anna. Not only did he set a hunter on her trail, he also tried to murder me. And I'm sure you are aware of this."
"Well, he tried, but clearly it didn't stick," Gabriel said with a shrug. "But yeah, we knew."
"And you did nothing," Castiel accused, feeling his anger build again.
"We did plenty. We made sure that you didn't go off the rails," Michael explained. "What Raphael did to you should have killed you, but you pulled through. We didn't want to take you in at first, but I'm sure you remember how destructive and volatile your magic was after Anna's death. We had to make sure that you wouldn't burn the world down."
"Well, not quite that tragic, but you were a handful," Gabriel amended.
"Why didn't you punish Raphael?" Castiel demanded to know.
"Because Anna was a traitor and Raphael was one of us. The code is the code," Naomi said. "If you stayed and became an Elder then you too would have a voice in these matters."
"No," Castiel decided. "I won't stay," he said. He looked at Naomi. "I thank you for raising me. But our ways part now."
"Yes. But we will see you again. Maybe in decades, maybe in centuries," she said and then she shook his hand. In this cold place where Cas had always been shut out from feeling anything, it was with this simple handshake that Naomi opened herself up to his magic. And he could feel the pride and her peculiar way of affection. There was neither sadness, nor regret in her. She knew they would meet each other again. Castiel nodded, but he didn't dare to open himself, aware of how he still held on to all of his anger and disappointment and pain. He had no love for her or for anyone else in the coven.
"Well, Hannah, clean up that mess, will you?" Naomi called once she let go of Castiel's hand. Castiel turned around and left. Should someone else clean up Raphael's mess.
It was no longer his problem.
It was too late now, too late for him and Dean. But he had made his choice. For the first time in his life he walked away from Naomi's house and he was free.
He walked through the grey streets of Raurica. And he walked and he walked until he had left everything behind him.
To say that by putting distance between himself and Raurica, things got magically better would be a big fat lie. Because Dean felt like shit. He missed Cas every single day and it infuriated him so much that he wished he could just take his anger out on a nest of vampires. Lucky for him, Sam had decided that Dean needed a bit of babysitting while he was love-sick ("recovering from a love spell", Sam had called it but Dean was no idiot. He knew what this was), so there were no rushed hunts that would probably end with him dead in a ditch.
Sam was trying to be helpful, but all his attempts of encouraging Dean invariably involved saying something about Cas that rubbed Dean the wrong way. Because Sam didn't know Cas! Sure, the guy had broken Dean's heart, but he had been sweet and gentle and he had given Dean the feeling of being important and cherished. And Dean missed it. He missed it so much that he didn't even care anymore that Sam or Charlie walked in on him having a cry fest over a cup of coffee or a whole pie.
"His coffee and pie weren't even good," he had cried at one low point and Charlie had been so disturbed that she had ferried him off to a weekend of LARPing. It had helped marginally.
"Break ups are ugly, nasty things. You just have to get through them somehow," Charlie said. "And go easy on Sam. He's trying. You've got to forgive him that he has nothing nice to say about Cas. He's on Team Dean, you know? Like I am. We're going to be on your side and trash talk your evil ex."
"He wasn't evil," Dean muttered.
"Maybe not, but he betrayed your trust, Dean… It's like… you getting through an abusive relationship, you know? Good people can do bad things. Castiel did a bad thing. And as soon as the spell starts to wear off, you might be able to see it more clearly."
"Not sure if I want to."
"You want to, just give it time," Charlie assured him, then she put a sword in his hand and slapped him on the ass. "And now go out there and slay some dragons, alright?"
"Yes, your Highness," Dean said and went out of the tent.
And Charlie was right, he could see clearer as time passed, but the rage still didn't come fully. Neither did what he felt for Cas truly change. He had been the love of his life, bitter as it was. And the way things were going Dean doubted anyone else would be able to challenge this special, twisted place Cas had in Dean's heart. Because Dean was never going to fall in love again. Neither willingly nor unwillingly.
"Looking good there, lover boy." Dean froze. He looked up from the police report he was studying and found none other than Gabriel stand in front of his table, wearing a big grin. Dean stared up at him, his brain totally short-circuiting.
"Surely you don't mind if I join you," Gabriel decided and sat down on the bench opposite Dean. "I don't see your brother anywhere, so you're probably dying for some company." Dean finally regained his wits and touched his collarbone, feeling Anna's pendant under his shirt.
"How did you find me?"
"Why? Because of that pendant?" Gabriel asked with a snort, then he propped his elbow up on the table, putting his chin into his palm. "Has anyone ever told you that your car's kinda conspicuous? I just have to look out for weird and wait for the car to show up. And voilà! Winchester spotting is a sport in the supernatural community." Dean had no idea if Gabriel was joking or not, so he settled on glaring at him. But he did feel kind of defensive about his car. She was eye-catching. He had just never thought of it as a disadvantage.
Gabriel pointed at his police reports.
"You're looking for a kitsune by the way. I'm sure you'd figure it out, smart as you are, but I killed him for you. You're welcome."
"What…? Why?" Dean asked warily. "What do you want, Gabriel?"
"What, can't I be nice to you just because you and Castiel broke up?" Gabriel asked with a grin. Dean tensed up. He closed the folder and grabbed his coffee.
"Alright, alright. Don't get your panties in a twist. Sit down, I'm here to talk," he said and Dean breathed in deeply. In the end he huffed and sat back down.
"Talk," he demanded.
"Alright. Tell me Dean, how are you coping with the separation from Castiel?" Gabriel asked. Dean was prepared for the questions to go there, because there was no other reason for Gabriel’s sudden appearanc, but he was surprised by Gabriel's sudden serious demeanor. "And don't lie." Dean snorted.
"I'm angry. And I'm hurt. I still miss him and think about him, but it's only been four months. Cas said it would take time and distance for the spell to fade. So," Dean lifted his hand and shrugged. "I'm giving it time and distance. It sucks but there's no other way to get rid of the magic." Gabriel looked at him.
"Yeah… About that," he said and Dean tensed. Had Cas been lying? Was there no way to break the spell? Or could he have easily broken the spell a long time ago? No, there was no way. Cas had been hurting about this as much as he had, he wouldn't prolong his suffering. And now he was defending him again, great. Freaking witches and their freaking spells.
"What," Dean asked flatly, bracing himself for whatever Gabriel was going to blurt out now. Gabriel shrugged.
"There was no spell. No magic," he said. And Dean had been prepared for many things, but not that.
"I mean, sure, there was a spell. Castiel crafted a spell, a pretty epic, powerful one that would have burrowed itself so deep into your heart that you would have never walked free of it again."
"What are you saying, Gabriel?" Dean demanded to know.
"I put a little charm on you that kept Castiel's spell from settling. It dissipated within a couple of hours of being cast," he said and when Dean only stared at him he continued: "remember that day in the Happy Apple? We ran into each other and I put the magic on you there. Only a powerful witch could undo Cas' spell and lucky for you I am one."
"That makes no sense. I still-"
"Fell in love? Yeah. Not my fault. Or Cas'. Your feelings were genuine. Are genuine. Just like Cas' were. The guy opened himself up to you because he thought he had to for the spell. And well… He's always been a bit of a fool… He should have noticed that the love spell wasn't there anymore because it's geared towards making you want to please the caster. Just a word and your mind would have been distracted from working the case. And you should have loved Castiel's crappy coffee and pie."
"And you did, at first, when he cast the spell. Warning bells should have gone off in Castiel's head when you preferred my stuff to his. That shouldn’t have happened according to the magic. Now, I don't know how he explained it away. Maybe he thought you needed more work or that you were a stubborn son of a bitch. Or maybe he did notice and just didn't want to do anything. I don’t know, neither do I particularly care." Dean didn't know what to say to the revelation. He didn't want to put any hopes into it too early. Or at all.
"Why should I believe any of this?" he asked and Gabriel shrugged.
"I don't care if you do. I did my little trick because I was curious what would happen. Raurica is pretty boring if you haven't noticed." Gabriel sobered up a bit. "Also… I kind of felt like I owed it to him and to Anna. Castiel has always been too soft, far too human for the gift that he was born with. We should never have taken him into the coven. He wasn't made for that kind of life, but what else could you do with someone as powerful as him? If left unchecked, he could have quickly become another monster for you guys to kill, or rather to be killed by…"
Dean took a moment to process these words. He had no idea if Gabriel was lying, but on the off chance he wasn't… Dean mentally shook himself off that path.
"Even if you're telling the truth, it doesn't make a difference. Even if the spell didn't take root, Cas still cast it, he still lied to me, he betrayed me," he decided. Gabriel heaved a sigh and got up.
"Yes, you're right. But that's not my problem," he said. "I just wanted to make sure that you knew the facts." For some reason seeing Gabriel leave just like that, made Dean panic.
"Wait!" he called and Gabriel lifted his eyebrow at him, expectant. "I… I don't know what to do."
"I can't tell you that either," Gabriel said cheerfully.
"Do you… know anything about Cas? How is he?" Dean asked instead. Gabriel shrugged, still far too carefree.
"I have no idea! Dude killed Raphael and then he left the coven. He's free!" he announced and his next smile was surprisingly genuine. "And isn’t that nice?" Gabriel waved at him, then he walked away, leaving Dean stunned.
And, if he was being honest with himself, slightly lighter around his heart.
"Freaking witches," he cursed, but there was a small smile on his lips.
A light drizzle of rain had chilled down the mild spring evening, darkening the streets. It made the illuminated windows of Cas' Magic and Coffee look warm and inviting. There were plants in the windows and the display showed all kinds of modern witchy things that attracted the local art students more than people who were actually interested in magic. Dean looked at the stickers on the door and also found the common hunter sign.
It had been a year since Dean had left Raurica, months since Charlie had stumbled over this particular shop. It had taken an embarrassingly long time before they realized that Charlie's dreamy magic shop owner and Dean's ex-boyfriend were actually the same person. And now Dean was here. Finally.
He breathed in deeply and pushed the door open. There was a light tingle over his head and then a sense of deja-vu brushed past him. Because here he stood, dripping rain on Cas' door mat. And here Cas was, staring at him from behind the counter.
"Are you still open?" Dean asked, looking around at the empty shop.
"Uh… Yes," Castiel replied tentatively. Dean walked up to the counter and looked at the menu on the black board behind Cas.
"Cas' Coffee and Magic. Not the most imaginative of names."
"It's fitting," Cas defended himself.
"Sure. Can I get a coffee then, Cas?" Dean asked and Cas nodded at once, springing into action, even though he seemed slightly dazed.
"So… you've got a hunter sign," Dean said, to make small talk while he waited for the coffee.
"Yes. I'm offering my services to those who need them. It's the only way I can make amends," he said, his voice quiet and sad. Dean studied him. Castiel was still pretty much the same. His hair was still wild, his clothing style questionable. He looked good. Dreamy. Like Charlie had said.
"I know. Charlie actually found you. She had no idea that you were… my Cas," he said and Castiel looked up from the coffee machine, eyes wide.
"You know Charlie?" he asked and then he frowned. "So I guess you are the handsome bisexual man she wanted to set me up with… That's a bit embarrassing."
"Nah, it's kinda funny," he said and then took the coffee Cas was handing him. He blew on it and then took a tentative sip. He licked his lips and nodded his head. "Still mediocre." Castiel smiled up at him, his expression sad.
"Dean… why are you here?" he asked and Dean sighed, setting down the coffee.
"How about we sit?" he asked and Castiel agreed, showing him to one of the tables. "Gabriel showed up some months ago… He told me about the spell… How he sabotaged it. Do you know about it?" he wondered. Castiel heaved a sigh but he nodded.
"He told me when he found me…," Castiel said and lowered his head. "But it didn't change anything after all."
"That's what I thought too," Dean admitted. Castiel merely nodded.
"Besides," he started a while later, "I was ashamed and I needed to do penance. I also wasn't in a particularly good state of mind after I quit the coven. I had… seen darkness in me. This had happened to me before when my mother died… I had to get my bearings and deal with heartbreak…"
"At least that I do get," Dean said, drinking his coffee. Castiel watched him in silence, but it wasn't tense. It was almost enjoyable in its familiarity. After a while Castiel folded his hands in his lap with a sigh.
"Dean… I'm deeply sorry. You deserved better," he said.
"Yes," Dean agreed softly.
"And I will do whatever I can to redeem myself to you," Castiel promised. "I can't stop being a witch, but I'll try to at least do some good." Dean nodded. "So if there's anything, anything at all that I can do for you, please, tell me."
Dean smiled and gradually, the guarded but hopeful expression on Cas' face became lighter too.
"Maybe we can eat some pie together and then figure out where to go from there," he offered. Castiel nodded, smiling brightly.
"I'd love to."