Victor feels a little light headed as Dean explains where they plan to head next. The Winchesters and Castiel are making for the home of Metatron DeLuca, a man who is one tier in the Shirley hierarchy away from Michael Shirley himself. As far as Victor understands, the plan is to ride their current momentum to make it all the way to take out Michael and Luke, and then make a break for somewhere else to wait for things to cool down.
Deciding to put all of that out of his mind to the best of his debatable ability to do so, Victor focuses on his own part of the plan. He reads Donna and Jody in on what’s going on - at least as far as Il Duce is concerned - though he’s immediately aware that they both know he isn’t telling them everything. Victor hand-picked this team, chose these women on purpose for their records and their caliber as investigators. They’re the best agents he’s ever worked with, but to every blessing there is a catch, and if he hadn’t known before, Victor knows now that he would never be able to get away with lying to them.
Jody frowns at him, her eyes narrowed and arms crossed over her chest. Donna just makes direct eye contact, hands tucked into the pockets of her slacks, head quirked slightly to the side. Neither of them say anything for a long, laden moment, and Victor would honestly prefer it if they did. Their faces speak for them, though. They know. And they also know he knows they know. It’s a round robin of knowing, and Victor feels it like a physical presence on his shoulders.
So Victor just takes a deep breath, meets first Donna’s gaze and then Jody’s, and says simply, “Please. I’m asking for your help, and I’m asking you to trust me. Just for right now, trust me.”
Through their time working together, he must have earned some amount of grace from them, because Jody nods, and Donna says, “You got it, Vic. Whatever you need.”
It’s a hard trail to find. Il Duce, John Winchester, he’s good. But Victor is better, and with Jody and Donna helping him, the hit man doesn’t stand a chance. The trail is located before too long, and when he sees where it leads, Victor feels his blood run cold. Because he’s headed towards the house on the hill just outside the city proper, the one belonging to Metatron DeLuca. Keeping this information to himself and silently apologizing to his teammates, hoping they’ll find a way to forgive him for this, Victor slips out and gets in his car, driving as fast as he can and hoping he makes it in time.
When he arrives outside, he can already hear it. Gunfire, coming from the house.
Sam supposes, when it happens, that it was only a matter of time before their streak of inconceivable luck ran out. He knows from the moment a handful of lowlifes from Metatron’s inner circle burst around the corner as they’re breaking in the basement that this was a mistake. They’re all too hurt, Sam especially, limping along with a bullet freshly removed from his thigh and the wound cauterized by the most crude means possible, but… It had been so intoxicating, the feeling that they were flying sky-high, that they were Heaven-sent and God-blessed and nothing could stop them.
Too much luck makes a person drop their guard, go farther than they should go for longer than they risk. And the fall is brutal when it comes.
Castiel is bleeding so much it seems impossible that there’s enough blood left in him to keep doing so. Still, the bullet wound in his chest bleeds and bleeds no matter how hard Dean presses down on it. He’s severely injured, maybe mortally so, and if they don’t get him out of here, soon, then it’s going to prove fatal. The shooter and his companions had run back upstairs, leaving the door to the small, windowless room they’ve been shoved into to clang shut behind them. It’s not clear to Sam what had prompted their departure, but he’s not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
“C’mon, Cas,” Dean is saying, leaning over their friend’s prone form where he lays on the floor and speaking to him urgently. “Come on, up and at ‘em, we have to go.”
“I can’t,” Castiel gasps out. He’s breathing in uneven, ragged bursts, and Sam can see him shaking. It’s the shaking of a nervous system experiencing such a massive shock that there’s nowhere for the excess input to go, and it’s nearly impossible to watch. “I can’t, it’s too- I can’t. You have to leave me.”
“No,” Sam says immediately, overlapping with Dean snapping, “Are you out of your mind?”
“You have to,” insists Castiel, then breaks off whatever he’s about to say next, speech falling apart into a gasping, airless cry of pain.
As Dean presses harder, trying to stem the flow of blood, Sam drops to his knees next to them both. His hands flutter uselessly, unsure how to help, before settling around Castiel’s head. He slips one hand behind it, fingers threading into his hair and keeping his head off the cold concrete, other palm pressing to his cheek, catching hot, agonized tears with his thumb.
“We’re not leaving you behind,” Dean tells him fiercely. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam can see his brother looking around, trying to put together some kind of a plan. “We go together or not at all, we’ve just gotta get you up, and…”
“I can’t.” Castiel shakes his head slightly in Sam’s hands, slow at first and then growing frantic. “I’m a lia-” Pain seems to overcome him again, seizing his body so strongly that he loses the ability to speak for a second time, this time halfway through a word. His breath whistles through gritted teeth and the hand laying limp near where Sam is kneeling flies up to grab onto the open edge of Sam’s coat. He holds onto it so tight that his knuckles, where the skin can be seen through the blood, blanch white. When the spasm passes, he gasps in a deep breath and finishes, saying, “Liability. ‘N’ I’m the one they want. Leave me, get out. Get a h-” Another deep, shuddering breath. “Head start.”
“Not going to happen.” Fear zings up and down Sam’s spine. He doesn’t know how they’re going to get Castiel out of here when he’s this badly hurt. They’ll have to carry him, and to carry him while fighting their way past whatever nightmare will be waiting upstairs, their guns taken off them… It doesn’t look good.
“He’s not here,” Dean reassures, but Sam doesn’t think that’s what Castiel is worried about.
Wide, tear-bright blue eyes turn on Sam, the hand on his jacket gripping harder, pulling. “They’ll go af-after him. Now that we’re here, ‘ve seen you, know about the S - the Salvage. Gotta get to him and Gabe, if you don’t- Please. ‘M too- Please. You have to- Have to-”
“Okay.” Sam is the one who agrees, because he knows Dean won’t be able to force it out. “We’ll get help, we’ll call that Agent, he’ll be here before you know it. You’re gonna be okay.”
Staring back at Dean, Sam feels the decision in his chest, knows he’s already made it. “It’s his son. His son. If it was just us… But it’s Jack. We have to go.”
It’s obvious he doesn’t want to. Sam doesn’t want to either, and he can’t help a small jolt of resentment at Dean’s continued resistance. Arguing to leave Castiel behind feels like reaching into his chest and slowly removing his own ribs, one by one. But he doesn’t have the luxury of picking his heart on this, not when he knows without question that there’s no other way to make it out and get to Jack in time. Someone has to argue reason, no matter how badly it hurts.
“There’s one- One thing. You can do for me. ‘Fore you go.”
It feels like drowning and catching sight of a life preserver, bobbing next to you in the water. Sam looks down and clears away a fresh wave of tears from Castiel’s cheeks.
“Anything,” Dean says fervently, and Sam nods along. “You name it, anything.”
“The prayer. Will you say…” He stops, squeezing his eyes tight closed and swallowing hard. “Will you say the prayer? For me?”
They ball Sam’s jacket up, tie Dean’s around it to secure it to Castiel’s chest as tightly as possible, over the wound high and to the right, almost at his shoulder. That way, if he loses consciousness, if the hand Sam guides up to the wadded fabric to press it down as hard as he can manage goes limp, there will still be something trying to stop the bleeding. With Castiel’s arms folded over his chest, his body pulled up to slump against the wall, he looks almost like the bodies they’d left behind. All that’s missing are the pennies over his eyes. It makes Sam feel sick but he swallows past it, and his voice joins his brother’s in the words of their inherited prayer.
“As shepherds we will be, for Thee my Lord, for Thee. Power hath descended forth from Thy hand, that our feet may swiftly carry out Thy command.”
“So will shall flow a river forth to Thee, and teeming with souls shall it ever be.” The new voice takes them by surprise and Sam and Dean both whirl to face it. They hadn’t heard the door open, nor the man begin to walk in, the man whose words have taken over for theirs as he approaches, gun in hand. “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.”
John’s head turns to the side, obviously noticing and reading the strange, confused looks on his sons’ faces. “What?” he asks. “We grew up together our whole lives, you really think I wouldn’t know Bobby Singer’s family prayer?”
Stunned speechless, Sam doesn’t acknowledge the question or even the man himself directly. He can feel, from where their shoulders have pressed together and shielding Castiel from view, that Dean has gone stiff. John had gone away when Sam was too young to remember. Not even two. Dean still retains memories though, of the time before he’d gone to prison.
Mary was the one to turn him in to get him arrested in the first place. This is all Sam knows about it, though from what he hears, they’re not missing much. On the few times they spoke about the man, all Dean had to say was that he was distant and cold, and not well missed when he was gone.
“Come on, boys, we should get out fast. I didn’t recognize you at first on the porch, but I know now, and you don’t have to worry any more. I took care of the problem upstairs,” John says, gesturing out the door with the gun.
Sam has just enough time to be relieved, to hope that maybe Dean had remembered wrong or John isn’t the same person now that he’d been when he’d been put away, before the gun returns. It swings around to point at them, and Sam’s brain goes to static. He can’t figure it out, not until John speaks.
“Just step out of the way so I can finish my job, and we can-”
“No!” Dean shouts, and Sam presses fractionally closer to him, far arm flying out to shield as much of Castiel from view as possible.
“I have a job to finish here, Dean, now get out of the way.” John’s voice has gone frigid, and Sam still can’t think.
The noise builds over itself, voices overlapping as Dean and John both get louder and louder, and then Il Duce is advancing to finish what he’d started. Whether he plans on bodily pulling them away or shooting them to get to his target, Sam doesn’t know. He doesn’t have the time to find out, either. Before John’s made it halfway across the room, another figure appears in the doorway, wearing a windbreaker and wielding a weapon pointed right at John.
“FBI,” Agent Henriksen shouts, and it sounds like an angel’s garrison, all singing together. “John Winchester, freeze!”
It’s over in a moment. John is fast but Victor is faster, and Sam wishes he could say he felt something other than winding, sagging relief.
Together, Dean and Agent Henriksen carry Castiel out of the basement. Sam, with his bum leg, isn’t much help, but he goes ahead, opening doors and making sure there aren’t any nasty surprises waiting for them. He lives through being brought out to the car, and he lives through the drive to the Salvage, shuttered up and empty. Bobby and Rufus are waiting there to take over. A doctor who owes Bobby a favor is on his way with supplies to help, and all that’s left to do after that is pray.
Pray and decide what happens next.
“If he survives,” Dean says, standing on the street outside the Salvage , beside Sam and across from Agent Henriksen, “we’ll try to send him to his brother, Jackie along with him. Balthazar ended up in St. Paul, out in Minnesota. He should be safe there.”
“The area's got a history,” agrees Agent Henriksen. “Used to be a saying, in organized crime, if you couldn’t find someone, they were dead or in St. Paul. For the first time, I think I’m gonna be hoping for St. Paul.”
They part ways to make arrangements, deciding to meet back up in a couple of hours at an abandoned church near the water, Our Lady of Grace.
When Victor arrives back at the hotel where his team has been staying, he knows that the time of not asking questions is over. The moment he walks in that door, he decides, they won’t even need to ask. He has to tell them.
Jody and Donna are both waiting, sitting at a table they’ve been using to work at when not at the office. There are papers all over it, arranged into neat stacks, mug shots set on top of each. They’ve obviously been working non-stop since he left, digging into things and unspooling them out into a clear, traceable path.
“Il Duce,” says Jody. She stays seated at the table with Donna, while Victor stays standing, and points to one of the piles. The mugshot on top is of a much younger looking man than Victor shot today at the DeLuca residence, but it’s clearly him. “John Winchester. Had two sons, back in Ireland. Sam and Dean, said their names were.”
“His wife, Mary, she tipped off the American authorities.” It’s Donna now, picking the story up where Jody left off. “Said she didn’t want that kind of a man involved with her children. Saw the path he was headed down and how he treated their first son, and she wanted him gone before the baby was old enough to remember him. The boys grew up with their mother, and then they moved here. To Boston, where they met Castiel Novak, a runner for the Shirley mafia.”
They know. Victor doesn’t even need to explain. His team, his brilliant, incorrigible, team of determined bloodhounds have already figured it all out. All except one part - his own.
“I’ll meet you in the hall in five,” he says. If it weren’t for the blood he knows stains the front of his shirt under his coat, Victor would just go now, but he can feel it drying against his skin and wants to be able to at least grab a washcloth from his room’s bathroom, wipe it away. “There’s something you need to see. I’ll explain on the way.”
Four and a half minutes later, they walk out together.
“Where are we going?” Jody asks behind him as they leave the building, met outside by a cold, sunlit day.
Without turning around, Victor tells her, “We’re going to church.”
Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church must have once been a sight to behold. It’s built with an understated, soft beauty, not quite the same as some of the grand swooping cathedrals Victor has seen other places. The building is small for a church, serving what must have been a close-knit parish low in numbers, and it’s obviously fallen into disrepair in recent years. The sign out front is weather-worn and faded, and a few of the painstakingly handcrafted stained glass windows have holes broken through them. Something about that detail makes Victor’s heart give an odd little squeeze, but he quickly brushes it off and focuses on the task at hand. He’s not here to feel melancholy over abandoned architecture.
As he approaches the front door, Victor slowly and casually removes his gun from its holster. There’s no way to truly know what lies in wait for them inside the abandoned body of Our Lady of Grace, and he needs to be prepared for the eventuality that whatever it is, it’s not friendly. The men he’s here to meet have somewhere between eighty and a hundred percent of Boston’s organized crime world after their heads, and that’s not an equation that lends itself to a holstered weapon and open hands.
Gun in his right hand, Victor uses his left to gently push the front door of the church open. The tape that had been across it at one point, long since broken, flutters in a chilled breeze that sweeps leaves in past his feet. The hinges, years having passed since they’ve seen the meticulous attention of a dedicated groundskeeper’s hands, screech out a horror movie soundtrack note, and the back of Victor’s neck prickles. The barrel of his forty-five takes the lead into the front hall, and then his posture and shoulders relax.
Inside the main sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace are only two people. They stand close together at the far end, beyond rows of dusty pews in an alcove where the organ may once have been tucked, standing sentry like terracotta soldiers dug up out of tombs deep in the earth, dressed nearly identically in jackets over black shirts. For a long, tentative moment, the two sets of people, at odds in just about every way possible, stand on opposite ends of the church.
Taking a deep breath, he lowers the gun but still keeps ahold of it. There’s no way to tell if the kind of uncertain peace that exists between Victor and the Winchesters will hold, especially given the wild cards of Jody and Donna behind him, the responsibility of their lives weighing on him like twin wings made of lead. Cautiously, ready to jerk the weapon back up at a moment’s indication it’ll be necessary, Victor takes a step forward. It’s matched in the steps Sam and Dean take towards him in return, and they advance on each other in a slow, careful dance of mutually assured destruction.
They reach one another maybe ten feet from the steps up to the altar. It feels for all the world like Victor has just stepped on the trigger-mechanism for a bomb which may or may not still contain live ordinance. It’s Dean that breaks the silence first.
“Well?” It’s a small word for all the meaning contained behind it.
Victor looks at the brothers, at the guarded anticipation on their faces betraying the knowledge that, should Victor and his team decide it, this is the end of the line for them, then behind him. Donna and Jody are twin pillars of nervous tension. He can see both of their hands hovering over the guns at their belts, and he can’t blame them. His own weighs heavy in his hand as he looks for several long moments back and forth between the Winchester boys and his team.
Slowly, at first unable to believe he’s doing it but rapidly swinging into a certainty of purpose so swift and solid it rocks him to the core, Victor holsters his weapon. He buttons the strap over it, securing it in place, and lets his hands hang down at his sides, empty and threatless. When he glances back towards them, he can see the confusion on Donna and Jody’s faces, like they can’t make sense of what they’re seeing, and he can’t really blame them.
“I won’t make this choice for you,” Victor says, into a thin and delicate silence. It feels like all of Boston is holding its breath around him, but he is existing in a bubble where the tension can’t reach him. His heart beats steadily in his chest and his hands don’t shake at his sides. For maybe the first time since this whole mess started, he feels calm. At peace. “If you decide to phone it in, and me along with it, I won’t stop you.” He repeats himself, looking each of them directly in the eye, first Donna, then Jody, ensuring they’re hearing him clearly. “I won’t make this choice for you.”
Victor turns his eyes again to the Winchester brothers, who look like they’re somehow even more confused than his team is. Dean’s arm is stretched out just far enough to be obvious in its intent, a flimsy and barely effective but none the less pointed barrier between the agents and his brother. Sam’s lips move soundlessly, and Victor could swear he could make out the words all the same, as instinctual as Dean’s arm, both of them protective and shielding.
Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
“But I’ve made it for me,” Victor says, like it’s that simple, because right now, for once, it is.
However many angels could dance on the head of a pin, you could’ve heard all of them drop in that room that day as the dying rays of the late afternoon sun flooded through the window and set the motes of dust in the air aflame with copper light. The room is still and silent as slowly, incrementally, the pendulum swings.
A small snap pierces the air of the room. Victor looks over his shoulder, and he pieces together what the sound must have been from the sight of Jody’s hand going completely limp at her side, her jacket falling into stillness. She’s snapped the strap of her holster back over her gun, and she’s got a look on her face like she can’t believe what she’s just done. Like she’s taken a step she can’t take back.
Looking between Jody and Victor, Donna is the one who actually speaks. In that soft voice that always makes people think she’s a pushover but is really a veneer over a steel core, she says, “And I think we’ve made ours, too.”
It’s surprisingly easy, once you’ve decided you’re going to do it, to cross a line you’d always thought was carved in stone. So Victor turns and looks back at the Winchesters, studying them. Dean has eased his stance just a little, still in front of Sam but without that squared-shoulder challenge, and Sam’s lips have gone still, his prayer falling away in confusion.
“How far are you going to take this?” Victor asks, and there’s a glance exchanged between them. It’s Sam who looks back at him and answers, taking a small step to the side as he does, just enough that he’s no longer being shielded by any portion of Dean’s body.
“As far as it needs to go.”
Somewhere outside, echoing deep in the heart of South Boston, a church bell tolls.
TRANSFER TO COLD CASE DEPT REPORT CASE ID 3249-83
CODE NAME ‘SAINTS OF SOUTH BOSTON’
INTERVIEW SET - INVESTIGATING TEAM
INTERVIEW #8, RECORDING
19 MARCH 1999
“Please state your name for the record.”
“Supervisory Special Agent Victor Henriksen.”
INTERVIEW #9, RECORDING
“Special Agent Jody Mills.”
INTERVIEW #10, RECORDING
“Donna Hanscum. Sorry, I mean, Special Agent Donna Hanscum. There ya go.”
NO FURTHER INTERVIEWS TO BE CONDUCTED AT THIS TIME.