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Wyoming is chilly this time of year.

The cave where Dean Winchester left his victims is even more so. Castiel, even after a year of being in Virginia with the BAU, has never gotten used to the cold. In the local police station it's warmer, and Castiel is able to sit back and relax, staring at the photos Cheyenne's forensics took.

There's nothing much left behind except bones with bite marks, left in sloppy piles. Like almost everything about Dean Winchester, it doesn't make much sense. Frankly, the only reason they even found this particular little hideout is because of the nearby fire he'd set. Almost like he'd intended to destroy evidence, except he didn't burn the bodies, instead a random area. None of it matches the psychology of his past crimes, either in signature of sadism. Plus the local medical examiner said some of the bones were thirty years old, which suggests Dean may have picked up where John Winchester left off.

Maybe.

Because then why was he going around pretending to be FBI, asking about the missing persons cases? Before the actual FBI got involved?

"Definitely one of our weirder cases," SSA Hotchner says, walking into the room. His boss is a good man, and a great boss – he'd taken Castiel under his wing with all the extensive experience and knowledge he had, and Castiel will never forget that. "The MO is all over the place."

Castiel nods in agreement. "Ten years he's been on our radar, and he has yet to repeat a crime."

"No Sam Winchester, this time," Hotchner says. "Though as often as one of them has been declared dead, I don't think that's indicative of anything." He pauses. "Aren't you supposed to be asleep? I thought I ordered you to keep to sixteen hour shifts. Most likely he's not even in the state."

Castiel shrugs uncomfortably. "I just have this feeling he's still here. Watching us. I can't explain it."

Hotchner eyes him. "Gut instinct?"

Castiel has never gone with his gut. He's too in his head for that. A lot of friends had told him that. "Yes. As bizarre as I know it sounds."

"It would be uncharacteristic. He's never stayed behind to taunt law enforcement before. Shown absolutely no interest in having our attention or keeping track of his case." Hotchner mulls it over. "Follow it up."

Castiel follows it up for the rest of the week, but Dean Winchester never shows.

----------------------------

Castiel drops his keys in that ridiculous little wicker basket that his brother Balthazar insisted on buying him upon concluding that there wasn't a single personal touch in Castiel's apartment. ("But the books!" Castiel had insisted. "Doesn't count," Balthazar said.) He does his usual cursory check on all the rooms before taking off his gun and badge, then goes for a bottle of water in the fridge. There's leftover takeout in there, too, which is tonight's probable dinner. He picks up a random box and sniffs. Ah, broccoli and beef. Sounds good.

He swings shut the refrigerator door, then something makes him freeze. Listening.

An arm reaches from behind him and snakes around his neck while a foot kicks the back of his knee, forcing him to collapse. Training and experience kick in and he twists, seeing a flash of a needle. The man behind him is strong and just as trained, because he doesn't let go, maneuvering to get Castiel back into a choke-hold. He drops the needle to get a better hold on Castiel, and Castiel distantly sees it shatter on the floor.

Castiel steps to his left and continues twisting his torso, trying to put his right leg behind his attacker's to kick him off balance. But instead his attacker starts pulling him back, forcing all of Castiel's weight onto his neck. He knows what he's doing, and dark spots are starting to color Castiel's vision. Castiel shoves backwards, trying to reach a wall so he can get leverage back and hears something crash to the ground, but his attacker still doesn't let up. Getting desperate, he goes for his attacker's eyes, but his attacker just shifts his head out of range.

That's when he passes out.

Castiel wakes up in a car trunk. It's pitch black and the car isn't moving, but he can tell what it is by the shape of the space he inhabits. He's cuffed behind his back, and his ankles are tied together and a heavy gag sits in his mouth. He listens for a couple of minutes, then starts trying to get his hands in front of him before realizing that his hands have been tied to his feet. Well, fuck.

The car shakes and a car door slams shut. Footsteps get closer. Castiel closes his eyes and goes still, not reacting when cool air hits him.

"Don't bother," a strangely familiar voice says. "I know you're awake."

Castiel opens his eyes.

Dean Winchester stares back at him. He smiles gently at Castiel and then shows him a needle. "Only a sedative, I swear. It'll make this easier."

Castiel does his best to glare a threat.

"You've lost ten pounds in the last six months," Winchester says randomly. "So I won't give you the full dose."

Castiel rolls his eyes, but doesn't bother to pointlessly struggle when Winchester places the needle at his arm, injecting into muscle. Within about thirty seconds, Winchester giving him a concerned look the whole time, he loses consciousness. Twice more he rises from that darkness, to find Winchester staring down at him. Sometimes he thinks he hears Winchester apologize, before the next prick of pain.

The third time he wakes up on a soft bed. He's lying on what feels like a very fluffy blanket, his hands and feet unbound. That impression lasts until he moves, when he feels something very heavy on his ankle. The world swims for a second when he opens his eyes, but he finds himself staring at a concrete ceiling. Looking around gives him concrete, windowless walls and an open doorway, beyond which there's a similar hallway. It looks halfway industrial, halfway like a fallout shelter. Another doorway leads to a bathroom that looks like it came from the fifties.

And there on his ankle is a manacle, padded to be comfortable on the inside. A heavy chain is attached to it, disappearing off the bed.

Castiel slowly sits up, Dean Winchester nowhere in sight.

The room is empty besides the bed, so he follows the chain to a bolt in the floor, which it's locked to. It looks embedded in the concrete, so there's no way he's going to break out of this by sheer strength. The lock looks weird, and Castiel can't tell by looking at it how it functions, so he probably can't pick it. Great.

The chain itself is about twenty feet long. It will easily let him into the bathroom, and perhaps a few feet into the hallway.

The room blurs when Castiel stands up, the chain making a loud clanging noise when the slack falls to the floor. His legs are shaky and cramping, his stomach is groaning, and his throat is a dry wasteland. He stumbles over to the hall door, feeling absurdly weak. His body is refusing to obey his commands properly, almost like that time he got shot back when he was a police detective and spent a week in the hospital, except there's not a mark on him. How long was he in that car trunk?

The hallway is empty save for more doors, all shut. It's long, though, and curves around out of sight. There's no way this is a house.

Swallowing dryly, he looks back at the bed and sees a water bottle lying in the blankets. It might be drugged, but hey, been there and done that plus being chained to the floor. A little pit of hysteria rises in his chest and is killed in his head; he will remain calm and use his mind. He sits, massaging his calves with one hand while he drinks with the other.

"I can help with that."

Castiel chokes on his water.

Winchester is standing at the doorway, wearing a pair of sweatpants and a very worn black t-shirt. He's barefoot. Castiel didn't even hear him coming. "The muscle cramping? I could massage it, I mean you probably wouldn’t let me get close enough …" he trails off, looking uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassed. "Uh, how about some ibuprofen? Black tea? Sam always swore by its anti-flammory-something properties."

Sam swore, past tense. Winchester looks hopeful, staring at him while waiting for an answer. Castiel needs to be careful here. "Ibuprofen and tea would be good, thank you."

Winchester immediately smiles, like the sun coming out. "I'll be back."

Castiel goes through a short series of stretches before Winchester comes back, but he keeps a careful eye on the door.

Winchester approaches the door slowly ten minutes later. He has a pill bottle in one hand and the tea in the other. Rather than enter, he places the two items on the floor just inside the room, within easy reach of Castiel but still far enough away that Castiel would have had a hard time rushing him. "Here you go." Then he retreats to the hallway, out of Castiel's reach.

Eyeing him silently for almost a full minute, Castiel then grabs the pill bottle first and looks for the description of the pill before opening it up and taking a few out. They match. He takes the tea, which is still pretty hot, and swallows several down with a sip of it. He looks up at Winchester and waits, but Winchester seems fairly content to just stand there and look at him.

Castiel clears his throat, back up a bit. The rest of tea is a fairly effective weapon if his question doesn't go over well. "So, why am I here?"

Winchester takes a deep breath. "I'm your soulmate."

Castiel should be saying something reassuring, something to convince the psychopath in front of him that he can be molded and should be kept alive. He is a trained FBI agent that has been in the BAU for nearly a year. He knows what to do when kidnapped. Instead, "What the fuck is wrong with you?" comes out.

"Probably a lot," Winchester admits.

Castiel tries to backtrack, for survival's sake. "I mean – why? Why me?"

Winchester grimaces a bit. "Look, I'm sure you're being nice and calm about this because you think I'm going to torture and kill you, but that isn't what this is about. I swear. I won't hurt you."

"I've seen your file, Dean."

Nodding wryly, Winchester says, "Yeah. I know. I saw you in Wyoming. That, um. Kind of triggered this."

Clenching the tea mug, Castiel asks, "What do you mean?" He needs to follow Winchester down this rabbit hole, figure out a weakness, figure out a way to get Dean to a mental place to let Castiel go. Build a relationship.

"Almost two years ago now, my brother was dying. So I asked Anna – well – well what she is isn't important, but I asked her if I'd be with Sam, in heaven, you know? And she said yes, that we were soulmates, but that I had two soulmates, just like Sam. A platonic and a romantic one." Dean picks at thread from his sweatpants. "I asked her for my soulmate's name, and she gave me yours. Castiel Novak."

Castiel stares at Dean. "But we had never met. Right?" He doesn't recall ever meeting Dean, not even a chance meeting, and Castiel's memory is not as good as Reid's but it's still very good.

"Right," Dean says, nodding. "And usually they do, I mean cupids, they do that kind of thing. But you're a man, so it wasn't, uh, ideal. For the cupids' purpose. Breeding wise." Dean shuts his eyes. "Forget I said that last part."

Dean Winchester, dangerous serial killer, believes in cupids. "Okay. Okay." And he can't get much farther.

"So then I asked some other questions," Dean rallies, "and apparently if soulmates don't meet in this life they don't always share an afterlife. But sometimes they do. So, you and I could have ended up in the same heaven anyway. Possibly. And when Sam … when Sam passed, I couldn't do much of anything. But then I got to thinking that you and I might be spending eternity together or not – and I couldn't let that go. I know how I feel about Sam, about my brother, and to feel that for someone else?" Dean stops.

"You wanted that chance," Castiel says slowly.

"Yeah. And then I saw you in Wyoming. I mean obviously I looked you up way before that, before you were even with the BAU, but when I saw you – I can't explain it." Dean meets Castiel's gaze, eyes absurdly green. "But I knew you. I had to know you."

So Dean thinks he loves him, that he will feel something deeply for Castiel. He may already do so, in some twisted, possessive sense of the word, given how stalkers usually operate. It's in Castiel's best interests to go along with it for as long as possible and not aggravate any mental illness Dean may have. The BAU had a hard time nailing that down when Dean and Sam Winchester's crimes were so varied, psychologically speaking, so Castiel is mostly operating in the blind. However, he was likely had an abusive childhood, given what Castiel knows of John Winchester's extracurricular activities when Dean was a child, so Castiel will need to be very careful not to trigger that. And he will need to play up any feelings of love or affection Dean has, while not popping Dean's delusions about monsters. (Castiel has seen the Baltimore tape.)

But Dean also has the self-awareness to know Castiel's immediate assumption, and assure him otherwise. This will be a tight-rope, to not be obvious about gaining Dean's trust.

Castiel licks his lips and notes how Dean's eyes follow the motion. "And the chain?" he asks, lifting his right leg.

"Sorry," Dean says. "But you are an FBI agent. It stays."

"Can I ask a question, then?"

"You can always ask questions," Dean says immediately. "I know this is pretty fucked up, okay? But my entire life is fucked up, so. Ask."

"We've met. Correct? Isn't that sufficient?"

"But you don't –" Dean stops himself.

Love you, Castiel thinks, feeling a chill. How far will Dean take this? To rape? Dean sounds like an intimacy stalker, while still retaining the knowledge that Castiel doesn't want or return the desire, like the incompetent subtype of stalker. "Thank you for the tea."

Dean smiles. It's a nice smile, and Castiel really understands how so many witnesses and side characters in Dean's crimes were so taken and charmed by him. When he lights up, so does the room. He's very charismatic. "Be honest, okay? About anything, about everything."

Castiel nods, after a second. "All right. There's no consequences for something I say?"

"No, no no. Absolutely not. I didn't bring you here to hurt you, I swear. I want to know you, and this is the only way that was ever going to happen. What with the whole wanted-by-the-FBI thing." Dean looks down. "Like I said, you're my soulmate."

Castiel watches as Dean seems to go through some kind of internal struggle. When Dean seems to have regained control, he asks, "May I have some dinner, then? Or breakfast? What time is it?"

"Dinner," Dean says, sounding grateful. "I'll get you a clock. Do you need anything else?"

Castiel pauses. "Something to read?"

"Oh man, wait til you see the library!" Dean says. "Sam just about had an orgasm. A nerd orgasm."

Castiel blinks, and then Dean is gone. Castiel finds himself staring down at his slowly cooling black tea. He has been kidnapped by Dean Winchester, the serial killer who he was tracking five weeks ago. And apparently Dean has been aware of him for some time – two years? Castiel was in a field office in Texas back then, living near his brother. That means Dean likely knows where Balthazar lives. You've lost ten pounds in the last six months. Castiel had his last physical checkup six months ago. Could Dean have gotten Castiel's records somehow?

Confusion, anger and a fair amount of fear stew together in Castiel's gut, making a powerful pot of panic. Castiel puts the mug on the ground – Dean probably doesn't have a table in here for fear of Castiel throwing at him or making a weapon of it – and sits on the floor, crossed-legged, so he can meditate. His colleagues at work had sometimes teased him about his determined calm, about how it overflowed into his personal life and made him incapable of having fun, of relaxing. But here, it will save his life. Because there is no personal life anymore.

Not as long as Dean has him.

The metal on his ankle is cold, even with the padding.

----------------------------

Dean returns an hour later with dinner. It's burgers, so no utensils, just a paper plate. He also brings another water bottle, sealed, and sets that in the doorway, too. He smiles faintly at Castiel. "I'll be right back."

Castiel uses the time to grab the burger and bring it back to the bed. It's actually a double cheeseburger, with very fresh lettuce and tomato, even a few strips of bacon rolled around the beef. It looks homemade, so Dean went to some trouble to make it. That suggests that Dean is worried about Castiel's opinion of him, which is good. Certainly better than the opposite.

The first bite is like heaven. The cheese, melted just so, and the beef is fresh and spiced well, and BBQ sauce drips down Castiel's fingers. It feels like he hasn't eaten anything in weeks. He can't help a small moan.

"Erm," Dean says.

Castiel does not choke, this time. Instead he nods at Dean and takes a gulp of water.

Dean places a few books in the doorway. "Reading material. I don't exactly know your tastes, so I just picked a few things at random." He shifts on his feet. "You mind if I join you for dinner? I'll stay out here."

Hesitating, Castiel finally replies, "All right."

Quick flash of a smile, and Dean is gone. He tries to count the footsteps he can hear, wondering how far the kitchen is. How big this place is. Dean is nearly gone five minutes, then he returns with his own loaded paper plate. He settles on the floor in the hallway, leaning up against the far wall, and without any commentary begins to eat.

It's almost companionable. Almost.

When Castiel is licking his fingers, Dean begins, "So, there's probably a few things I should get straight."

Castiel nods cautiously.

"One, if you do manage to get close enough to attack or kill me, that's not in your best interest. We're in the middle of nowhere in a building that doesn’t exist on any county or state records. No one visits. I don't keep the key anywhere on me or in your reach, so you can't knock me out and go for a run. I'd really like not to have to worry about that, and give you whatever you want or need without fear of being attacked."

Mouth dry, Castiel asks, "And two?"

"As long as you bear in mind my first point, I'll make the chain longer and give you more free run. Three, I'm not going to rape you. Or torture you. Or kill you. I'm not a murderer. I've killed, I won't deny that, but I never killed anyone who didn't have it coming. Most of the murders pinned on me were committed by other people." Dean grimaces. "Or not-people. I'm sure you think I'm crazy for believing in monsters, but that’s what I hunt. Not innocent people."

"Am I guilty?" Castiel snaps without thinking about it.

Dean flinches. "No. You're not." He pauses, and Castiel breathes a little easier. "There are – there are crimes I have committed, that were wrong. This is one. I know it is. I kidnapped you. But Sam made me promise …"

"Promise what?" Castiel prompts.

Dean shakes his head. "So, we clear on those points?"

"Can you prove the third?" Castiel asks.

"I can," Dean says. "Sorta. I can provide proof I'm not crazy, if that'll help."

That should be interesting. "I would like to see that."

Dean grins, a bit of sadness in his eyes. "I'll see if I can arrange it, then." He gets up and gathers his paper plate and napkin. "It's after ten. You still hungry?"

"Can I have something for later?" Castiel asks.

"Sure," Dean agrees. "Powerbars, something like that?"

"Yes."

Dean goes to get it. Castiel tests the length of the chain, and finds he can get about three feet into the hallway. He could reach the far wall if he lay down on his stomach or knelt. So Dean was theoretically in reach this whole time. Castiel knows, of course, that if he actually tried approaching Dean could have backed up a few feet ridiculously easily. But it suggests that Dean does want to get close, his protestations of innocence aside.

Castiel is still wearing the slacks and undershirt he was wearing in his apartment, though. Dean doesn't just want him – he wants Castiel to return that desire.

How far will Castiel let him go? How far will Castiel himself go?

Day one.

Chapter Text

Castiel decides to take a shower in the morning, before realizing he can't get his pants off. So the set of neatly folded pajamas left just outside the door are pretty useless.

He gets his first good look at himself when he realizes there's a small mirror. There's one big line of a bruise along his neck where Dean had choked him to unconsciousness. His throat doesn't hurt much otherwise, which means Dean had attempted to do a fairly safe chokehold, and the bruises are mostly because Castiel resisted. He skims the bruises with his fingertips, but they aren't that sensitive. His wrists are a little raw from being bound and stung when he washed his hands and face, but since he had socks on his ankles are fine. He does a quick washcloth cleaning of chest and armpits.

The mirror is, unfortunately, rather securely attached to the wall. Castiel could shatter it with a blanket-covered fist, but if Dean is telling the truth, killing his captor is a bad idea. If no one knows to check this building, he could starve to death before being found. He supposes he could try to torture Dean into cooperation, but frankly he doesn't think he has the stomach for that, or even that it would be at all effective once Dean was out of his control. Or he could cut off his foot. Which. No. Even if a mirror shard would do the job, which it probably wouldn't.

So he returns to the bed and waits with a copy of Moby Dick in hand. Still no clock.

He looks up at a knock to the door frame. Dean is there, a wall clock in hand. "Good morning. 9:00am, you slept a while." He places it in the doorway. "I'll go make breakfast. Do you need anything?"

Suddenly, Castiel feels horribly uncomfortable. He tells Dean anyway. "I need a way to change clothes."

But Dean just nods like he was expecting this question. "I know. I didn't want to undress you while you were asleep, but I've got some pants for you that button up the sides." He points at the set of pajamas Castiel hadn't looked closely enough at. "Um, you'll have to rip the ones you have. Sorry. I'm not sure I trust you with a pair of scissors."

Did Dean really miss the fact the bathroom has a mirror? Also, asleep? "All right."

Dean leaves. Then returns. "Breakfast preferences?"

"I don't have any," Castiel replies honestly. "I usually just eat whatever's at work."

Dean nods and takes off for good this time. Castiel grabs the pajamas – dark blue, no pattern, and just like Dean said each leg has buttons up the side. He guesses they're intended for the disabled or anyone who find it difficult to stand up and put on pants normally. Ripping the seams on his slacks is a lot harder than he expected, but he does manage it. The shower is amazing, with hot pressure that lets Castiel actually relax. He dresses in the pajamas, and then peeks out of the bathroom.

Eggs, bacon and a piece of toast wait on a paper plate, with a plastic fork. Dean isn't in sight. He waits for two minutes until Dean – slowly – walks up in the hallway and then stands at the doorway, his own plate in hand.

Before Dean can speak, Castiel asks, "Bon appétit?"

Dean grins, realizing Castiel waited for him, and sits cross-legged on the floor. "Yep."

It's just as good as dinner the night before. At least his kidnapper is a good cook. Castiel waits until they're both done eating, then readies himself, because this is going to sound awkward but he doesn't have a better way of saying it. "Dean, we're soulmates, right?"

The look on Dean's face suggests he knows Castiel is humoring him on that point, but Dean nods anyway.

"Can you tell me, then, what happened to you? That you live the life you do?" Castiel asks.

A pained smile crosses Dean's face before he hangs his head. "Yeah, I guess that's fair. But y'know, I'm not good at talking about it. So bear with me, okay?"

"I'm listening," Castiel says.

"You know about the fire?" Dean asks.

Castiel nods. "And that your father took you and Sam across the nation hunting for your mother's killer." While doing his own killings. No one even connected them until Victor Henrickson got creative and started matching their childhood homes with local murders, but he found the same bizarre deaths in places John Winchester had been that he found with Dean and Sam Winchester.

"He was hunting monsters. Wendigos, rugarus, simple salt and burns – ghosts, I mean – black dogs. Witches. Demons. You name it. He raised us as hunters, taught us to do the same thing he did." Dean pauses, spinning his fork on his paper plate. "The supernatural has been following my family for generations." Dean waves his fork at the ceiling. "Including this place."

"Sounds difficult," Castiel says softly. And he's not lying for sympathy; living with a delusional killer as a child must have been incredibly traumatizing.

"I love hunting," Dean says with a small smile. "Always did. Sam got out for a while, but he got pulled back in when Jess died. I'm sure you know about that."

Castiel nods. "Is Sam …?" he asks, hoping for a confirmation.

Dean just nods tightly. "He died for a spell, one that closed the gates of hell."

"I'm sorry."

"Oh, come on, you think I'm a total lunatic," Dean replies, rising to his feet, antsy and agitated energy vibrating off of him.

"My older brother died in Afghanistan," Castiel tells him on impulse. "I do understand, on some level, what it is to lose someone like that."

Dean's bitter strength fades into something softer. He nods without saying anything, shifting from foot to foot in the doorway. Finally, "Can I come in? Just inside the doorway? Easier to talk. I won't go near you, just sit on the floor."

"Okay," Castiel agrees warily.

Dean settles just inside the room, sitting with his back to the wall. And then, quietly and with halting words, he tells Castiel the story of his life. Taking his brother's life in hands at four, and never letting go – through all the parent meetings he attended and John missed, through the first sex talk, through Sam leaving for college. His life revolved around Sam's. He doesn't say that directly, of course, but in this case Castiel trusts the unsaid more. It echoes in 'He was my responsibility' and 'It was my job to take care of him.' There's a deep grief behind those words; Dean hasn't recovered from Sam's death. It probably triggered Castiel's kidnapping more than anything else.

Slowly, in between hunts – Dean seems determined to explain exactly what he was doing in the cases the FBI is aware of, and quite a few they're not (Castiel is taking mental notes about dates and locations) – he explains how a demon killed his mother, Mary, and his father's quest for revenge. Sam's, too. The story gets grander as it goes, from a demon harassing them to the fallen angel Lucifer needing Sam as a vessel. But to Castiel's surprise, it never falters. There's no missing pieces. Any question Castiel asks, Dean is able to answer without altering earlier facts. It's not like the delusional meanderings of a schizophrenic at all, and for psychosis it's extremely organized and internally consistent.

Even during the pain that flickers in Dean's eyes when he tells Castiel of hell. Of breaking in hell. Dean could have easily skipped that portion, and him telling Castiel feels like a confession, one that Castiel isn't honestly sure what to do with.

He does know he's going to leave this conversation with a lot more sympathy and empathy for Dean than he started with, even if he thinks Dean is probably crazier than expected.

"Well, fuck man, I think I need a beer after all that," Dean says, rubbing his face tiredly.

Castiel looks at his wall clock, sitting flat on the floor for a lack of nails. "It's only noon."

"It's not morning, that's all that counts," Dean says, rising to his feet and stretching. "You want one?"

"No, thank you," Castiel says. He needs his wits.

Dean pauses at the doorway. "Water? Juice? Milk? The milk in your fridge was going bad, I couldn't tell if you don't actually like it or it was just all the traveling you did."

Does Dean even know he's doing that, mixing in little details that say he knows Castiel better than he should? "Juice, please."

Dean ends up nursing the beer for more than an hour. When Castiel shows no sign of initiating conversation, Dean takes over with good cheer.

Castiel listens. He analyzes. He does what he does best, intellectualizing it.

There's what Dean tells him, and there's what Castiel understands. Dean, in an effort to win Castiel over, tells Castiel funny stories from his past, his most interesting hunts, things about Sam. While they are mostly factual ("Yeah, man, fairies exist and they're mostly the reason for all those UFO weirdos."), Castiel sees Dean's emotional state in them, too ("Sam had a great time when he ran off, found that out one time when we died, but oh man when Dad – anyway, those sad puppy eyes Sam could throw, let me tell you!").

Dean is lonely. Dean has been alone for much of his life, even when surrounded by his family. Only in the last six or seven years before his death was Sam truly a partner to him, sharing in both his crimes and his daily life. And now that Sam is gone, Dean is floundering.

Castiel is not a replacement, precisely. Dean didn't have a sexual relationship with Sam. Dean wants to fall in love, and 'Anna', whoever she is, has convinced Dean that he can only truly do that with Castiel. Whether Dean wants Castiel to join in his criminal activities is debatable, but in theory Castiel would make an excellent killing partner because of his time in the FBI.

Some gut instinct, though, tells Castiel that Dean choosing him has nothing to do with that.

When Dean leaves to make dinner, Castiel weighs the pros and cons of opening up to Dean in turn. Pros: makes him a human in Dean's eyes, makes Dean more sympathetic and empathetic to Castiel's perspective and needs, likely would engender more trust on Dean's part. Cons: attaches Dean even more firmly to Castiel, encourages Dean to think Castiel is falling in love, possibly gives Dean information that can be used against Castiel and his family. Though the pros might make the last irrelevant. And Dean likely knows quite a bit about Castiel, including family details. It's not like it's hidden.

After dinner, which Castiel deliberately shares with Dean – Dean taking his spot near the doorway, but inside the room, without asking permission – Castiel begs off any more conversation, saying he's tired.

"Of course, yeah. Good night, Cas. I'll just switch the light off out here, okay?"

"Good night, Dean."

Castiel's sleep is troubled.

-----------------------

Castiel wakes to the odd sensation of absolutely knowing that someone is watching him. He bolts upright, eyes taking in the whole room, unfamiliar walls staring back at him, and then he searches both doorways and there's Dean, and then he remembers.

"Fuck," he mutters, covering his face.

"Sorry, I'm sorry, I was just looking in, I swear, I wasn't being a total creep," Dean says, looking desperate to be believed. He's only wearing a pair of boxes and another worn t-shirt, muscular legs and slightly hairy feet bare. "In fact, I'll just go and get the day started," he says and then he's jogging out of sight and hearing before Castiel can react.

Castiel waits for his heart to slow before he lets himself think. Pros. Cons.

A couple of hours later, Dean returns with breakfast and an apology. "Sorry, had to take care of something before I could make waffles." He's got a sturdier paper plate this time, and a real fork to go with the waffles, which are dripping with syrup.

"Dean, do you ever intend on letting me go?"

Dean freezes in the middle of placing it on the floor. Then he looks Castiel in the eye and answers quietly, "I don't know."

And Castiel takes the leap. "Dean, please. They surely know I'm gone by now. My brother Balthazar is probably worried out of his mind."

Dean's face goes blank. Then he sets down the waffles and walks away.

"Shit shit shit," Castiel whispers. He screwed that up. Too soon, too little emotional connection to Castiel's plight.

Pacing doesn't have the same satisfaction when there's a chain dragging along the floor, so Castiel does situps instead. When his empty stomach roils in protest, he does pushups. Then squats. He can't practice a lot of the martial arts he knows because of his leg being restrained, but he does some. When his muscles ache, he finally gives up and grabs another book from the pile Dean left. This one purports to be a thorough scientific and historic examination of mermaids.

"Cas?" Dean's voice is gentle.

Castiel looks up to see Dean leaning against the door frame. "Yes?" he says, voice steady.

"Can I come in?"

Hesitating a second, but deciding he needs to give Dean something, he nods.

But rather than stop just inside, Dean walks all the way over to Castiel and very gingerly sits on the edge of the bed. Castiel puts the mermaid book aside and watches. Dean silently holds out his hand, an emotional but otherwise unreadable expression on his face.

"You want to … hold my hand."

Dean lifts his chin with a rather 'fuck you' expression on his face. "Yeah."

"I'm not gay," Castiel blurts.

Dean blinks, dropping his hand. Then says, "What about the guy in college?"

How does Dean even know about that? Did he hire a private investigator, or did he do it himself? "I wanted to piss someone off, so I made out with him," Castiel replies. "It worked."

"Oh, you're going to have tell me what prompted that," Dean says with a saucy grin, like an ember coming to life. When Castiel doesn't react, that grin fades. He holds out his hand again, palm up. "Please, Cas."

With a deep breath, a thousand doubts flashing through his mind, Castiel lays his hand in Dean's, palm down, almost like they're about to shake hands.

Dean's smile is heartbreakingly happy. He doesn't say anything, doesn't do anything except take a gentle grip on Castiel. It would be easy for Castiel to pull away, but he lets the touch linger. Dean's hand is warm and his skin very calloused, not just from holding and using knives, swords and guns, but also from simple manual labor. But physically, he looks well-cared for. Strong, healthy.

Castiel realizes he's afraid. Not just afraid – terrified. In a way he hadn't let himself acknowledge until right now. Dean has absolute power over him. All Castiel can do is say no, and Dean doesn't have to listen to that. And if he says yes, does that give more or less control?

Worry fills Dean's face. "What's wrong?"

Castiel looks away.

"You look scared. I won't hurt you, Cas."

"My brother always calls me Cassie. I hate it."

"I can call you Castiel, if you want," Dean says hesitantly.

Castiel looks into Dean's green eyes. "Cas is fine. I'm just – I'm just –" He trails off. He tries to take his hand away, but Dean tightens his grip and Castiel gives in, worried what Dean will do if he pushes it.

Gaze never faltering, Dean brings Castiel's hand up and kisses it, then lets Castiel go. He stands up and leaves Castiel's bed, backing up until he's in the hall. "I'm sorry, Cas, that I can't let you go. Not yet." Then he leaves, Castiel listening closely until he hears the soft padding stop.

Touching Castiel, then letting him go. Castiel both hopes and fears that's a metaphor for what will happen – because it means he'll get out of here. But after what?

-----------------------

Dean mostly leaves Castiel alone for the next several days. He comes by to give Castiel meals, and to add a mini-fridge to Castiel's room, filled with yogurts (Castiel's favorites) and juice and a carton of milk. There's one of each kind of fresh fruit in season, clearly an attempt to please on Dean's part. He doesn't linger during meals like before. Castiel in turn paces every corner of his room, examines the lights for weaknesses (none; he's pretty sure he'd shock himself trying to do anything with it, because it's ancient), attacks the lock in the bolt with fork spines (uselessly) and ponders what he could make out of a mini-fridge. Dean replaces any books he puts in the hall with even more random texts, mixed with some actual fiction.

Castiel also ponders violence. He somehow doubts Dean would let him, say, starve, even if Castiel physically assaulted Dean any time he got close. It's his last refuge of resistance against Dean's power over him.

And deep within, he panics.

His team at the BAU knows by now that he's missing. If Dean cleaned up, they may not know he was taken from his apartment, but he somehow thinks that Dean didn't really care about that. If they found the broken needle, it'll be obvious he was kidnapped and not simply killed. There's a thousand ways that they could discover it was Dean Winchester – a security camera, a noisy neighbor, any number of other mistakes Dean could have made.

If Hotchner and the rest know, then Balthazar has been informed. He's Castiel's next of kin. And for all his brother's bluster and sparkle, this was also the man who called Castiel every single week to tell him to be safe.

Dean is an organized, visionary serial killer, no matter how normal and kind he may seem (kidnapping itself aside). He may seem stable and he hasn't exhibited psychosis in Castiel's presence save for his explanations of past behavior, but he could become unhinged at any point. Castiel can't forget that.

One morning, Dean comes in and says, not looking at Castiel, "I'm going to leave you with a few weeks' worth of food. I have a hunt I can't get out of."

Castiel is at a loss for words, then he asks, "What if you're killed? What happens to me?"

"I won't be," Dean says, and now he sounds entirely confident. "Don't worry."

-----------------------

Logically, Castiel knows the following: he needs human contact, and if Dean is the only human contact he can get, he will take it; he will crave it. Lack of human contact is a form of torture. He knows this, but he still counts the days, waiting for Dean to return.

-----------------------

In order to stay sane, Castiel imposes a strict schedule, enforced by his wall clock that still sits on the floor. He exercises four times a day. The first few days he almost took it down to three, but came to the conclusion he'd need it near the end of his confinement. He's not rationing food. He's chosen to believe that Dean is correct and will come back – and not leave Castiel here to starve to death, or in a situation where he has to try to chop off his own foot. It's an odd sort of faith to have, one that exists more out of a need for it to exist than any actual trust.

Dean gave him an absolute mountain of books to read. Castiel is limiting himself to one a day and makes up quizzes in his head that he has to answer the next morning. There's basically fiction and more creative fiction, but like Dean's own explanations of the supernatural, it's surprisingly internally consistent. He starts cross referencing.

On day fifteen, he's meditating on the floor when he hears Dean come down the hall.

"Cas? You okay?"

Cas opens his eyes and lets the words stewing in his gut for the past two weeks come out. "What do you think? I haven't heard another human voice in two weeks. I'm forced to live in the same ninety square feet. I can't walk without being reminded of how trapped I am. I don't even have sunlight. I'm absolutely fucking peachy."

Dean pales. "I didn't think – I didn't –"

"But you did."

"I was alone for longer than that," Dean says, reflexively explaining. "In purgatory. Almost a year. I didn't even think about it. I'm sorry. Before you I would go a month or longer between seeing someone else, but I wasn't in one room and I had a TV – shit, Cas, I'm sorry."

"Fuck you," Castiel snarls. "Some soulmate." And that jab was intended only to hurt.

It succeeds. Dean flinches.

Castiel feels guilty, then feels angry he feels guilty. But it does stop any desire to continue ranting, and Castiel focuses on breathing evenly. He feels a sharp pang of loss when Dean leaves, which just pisses him of further. Dean didn't know? Is he even telling the truth when he says he's been alone longer? Purgatory? It didn't escape Castiel's notice that most of Dean's stories stopped four years ago. Can Castiel trust him that he didn't do this to torture Castiel? Fuck.

Castiel's childhood was one clean of curses, and now he wants to spill every single one he's learned in every dirty backroom.

Then Dean returns, book in hand. Castiel stares at him dumbly, but Dean just walks in without asking and sits in his usual spot, book in hand.

Dean clears his throat, still not making eye contact. "I figure you're not too likely to want to chat with me right now, 'cause you're pissed and I get that. I understand. So, I'm going to read this. 'Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange of mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense. Mr. Dursley was …'"

The words sate some need in Castiel for another person's voice. Chapter three passes before Castiel feels like interrupting. "Where were you?"

Dean looks up, startled. "Anna needed help with something."

"Anna, the one who told you we were soulmates?"

Dean puts the book down. "Yeah. She's an angel. The one who pulled me out of hell, actually."

Castiel stares at him. Why is he even surprised? Dean had told him that him and Sam were meant to be angelic vessels, but he didn't think Dean would still be in contact with an 'angel' after those particular murders occurred. But now Dean talking about cupids makes more sense.

When Castiel continues to say nothing, Dean asks, "What do you need, Cas?"

"Keep reading."

Dean reads.

-----------------------

Dean does everything he can to apologize except let Castiel go. Now that Castiel has let Dean get enough close for an attack and not taken the opportunity, Dean provides Castiel with a side table, a chair, a flatscreen TV, a DVD player (plus DVDs) and a bookcase. A set of cards. An ipod. Nothing that Castiel can actually use to communicate with the outside world, but enough to keep him entertained well enough as a prisoner.

He even, somewhat hilariously to Castiel, gives Castiel a bell to ring when he wants something.

It strikes Castiel as somewhat counter-intuitive to Dean's goal. He wants Castiel to fall in love with him, to be emotionally dependent on him, and isolating him serves that far better than giving Castiel whatever he wants, excepting his freedom. Because of course Castiel did want Dean to come back during those two weeks. Hearing Dean read Harry Potter to him was comforting. He felt warm emotions in response to that care, despite knowing the psychological reasons for it.

Dean serves Castiel three delicious meals a day and spends each with Castiel, sitting just inside the doorway against the wall.

"So your brother calls you Cassie?" Dean asks, eating pasta.

Castiel shrugs, twirling his fork. "To annoy me."

"You don't talk to your sister?"

Castiel pauses, glances up at Dean. "Just Balthazar."

"What are they like?"

Should he tell Dean about his family? It would help Dean empathize with him more, but Castiel also fears it will make them targets if Castiel fails to cooperate.

"I won't hurt them," Dean adds. "I know that's what you're thinking, that if you talk them I'll notice them more or something. And I know I can tell you I'm not that kind of person until my face is blue, but seriously – this is kind of pointless, Cas, if you hate me."

Castiel blinks, puts his plate down.

"I just want to know you better. Fill in the blanks. You already know so much about me." Dean pauses. "Please?"

What Castiel knows of Dean's psychology actually supports that; his current behavior through this kidnapping, at least. Though probably the entire BAU could write a book on Dean Winchester and not untangle everything. "We were very tight-knit when I was young. Our parents and the four of us kids. It wasn't like my parents purposefully kept us separate from others, from our peers, just that everything was wrapped up so tightly in being a son, or brother."

Dean is listening raptly.

"My dad worked in carpentry. When I was about six he started teaching me, along with Michael and Balthazar. Hael was too young back then. But I remember spending hours in his workshop, sanding wood, helping Michael stain completed projects. We didn't talk, we just built. Creating piece after piece of art, for hours every day after school. It was like we had our own language, which no one else spoke. Even though we were all years apart, there we were the same. And I loved that, back then. All I wanted or needed was my family." Castiel looks up to see Dean, eyes soft and mouth firm. "When I was fifteen, Michael joined the military. And all of the sudden there was a missing piece. A missing happiness. I didn't see him again until years later, only four years before he died."

"I'm sorry," Dean says quietly. He looks down at his hands. "And I understand that. A lot. Like family is your whole world."

"Going to college was really hard for me, to associate with other people in the way … in the way normal people do." Castiel shrugs. "But it was also a new, open world, that I eventually grew to love living. Hael still lives at home, and she's happy there. I get letters from my parents, but I know they don't open mine, because I left like Michael did. I think because they don't want to feel pain if I … well, if I die."

"But not Balthazar?"

Castiel smiles. "Balthazar blossomed a lot more than I did. He embraced living out in the world like an addict. He doesn't like that my job is so dangerous, but he does understand, so he supports me." His smile fades. "I know he's worried." Castiel decides to let it go at that.

"Thank you, Cas." Sincere, heart-felt.

Castiel stares nothing, remembering that familiar ache of wanting something that doesn't really exist the way you thought it did. Maybe Dean does understand that. Then he tries to jerk himself out of it, focus on something else. "I don't suppose you made dessert?"

"I've got some pie," Dean says. "Cherry and apple." At Castiel's look, he adds, "Hey, I love me some pie. Better than cake."

"Cherry, please."

"Cherry it is!"

-----------------------

Castiel is just beginning to get used to his new normal (thirty-eight days) when Dean upsets it. Just after lunch, Dean disappears for several hours in the bunker. Castiel is starting to get an idea of how big the place is based on little things Dean has said about having a commercial size kitchen, barracks, and 'the dungeon.' Plus the comment about how 'even this place' has been followed by the supernatural. Castiel still can't decide if he was referencing his own family in regards to this place. If so, that would be a good way for the FBI to track him down, even if the connection is a few generations past.

Dean knocks on the door frame and Castiel looks up from his ipod. He doesn't have any kind of internet connection, of course, but Dean lets him write songs he wants on a piece of paper. It'd come with a selection of eighties rock.

In his hand Dean holds a cuff, more silver than steel. It looks too big for a wrist. "Hey, Cas. This is for you."

Very carefully, Castiel puts the ipod down. "What do you mean?" he asks warily.

Dean enters without permission and holds it out. "If you put this on, I'll take the other one off."

"Why would you do that?" It has no chain, no link for a chain. Instead scrolling text circles it. The closure doesn't have a lock either.

"It has a spell on it," Dean says, green eyes flicking up. "You won't be able to leave the bunker, or go in any area I made off-limits. But you could get around a lot easier, and it's a lot lighter, and you wouldn't have to wear those pants."

Castiel has to shut down the urge to immediately say yes. If Dean believes this little thing will keep Castiel locked in here, he can use that. As soon as this other one is released, he can attack Dean and get out of here. He won't have to kill Dean, just disable him for a few hours, steal Dean's car. Hope surges, wild. Should he wait? No. He has to take this opportunity. "Okay." And holds out his hand.

Dean grins at him, like he's won something.

The cuff opens easily and he places it on his left ankle, closing it with a quiet snip. The edges of the closure seem to disappear as he does it, but he doesn't let that worry him. They can use the jaws of life or something to get it off if need be.

"I'll be back with the key for that one," Dean says, pointing at the chain, and then he sweeps out of the room. He's back in less than five minutes, oddly shaped key in hand and kneels at Castiel's feet.

As soon as the old manacle falls away, Castiel kicks Dean in the face hard enough it'd knock out most people. Dean lands with a grunt, blood flowing from his nose, but he's already twisting, legs moving to sweep Castiel's out from under him. Castiel just steps back out of reach, and then when Dean gets to his knees he uses his height advantage again, going in for several quick, downward jabs. He wants to knock Dean out.

Then Dean jolts forwards, hitting Castiel's midsection. Castiel ducks to the side before Dean can bring him to the wall, and after that it becomes an equal fight.

Castiel started mixed martial arts training in college, but the NY police force and the FBI polished it to a fine sheen. Castiel's technique is beautiful and he spars regularly. Dean has the experience of countless dirty fights, and he's good. Ruthless. Their battle is over the whole room, using the TV and chair, even the table. In another fight, Dean would win on the basis of knowing not only how to give a hit but how to take it, how to turn any situation against his attacker. But his head has been knocked around and it slows his reflexes enough that Castiel is able to use his better training and get a perfect hit in.

Dean goes down, out cold.

Castiel stares down at his unconscious body for several precious seconds. Adrenaline and a strange sort of terror mix. Then he grabs his old manacle and puts it around Dean's ankle, but the damn thing won't close. The weirdly shaped key is no help. Deciding he doesn't have the time to find a way to restrain Dean, he takes off.

Being in the hall feels weird. Scary. Has he really gotten so used to being kept in a single room?

He bolts. Doors blur as he runs down hallways, searching for stairs. He goes past a huge locker room, past a gigantic library that looks like something out of a movie set, and then finds the stairs to the upper part of the bunker. He runs up and sees the kitchen. Knives. A set of car keys on the counter.

Oh God, yes.

Then something jerks on his left ankle and he falls flat on his face.

He looks behind him, at his ankle, but there's nothing in the wide doorway for Castiel to trip on. He pulls backwards, but his left foot won't move. Mind whirling with confusion, he goes the other direction, back to the hallway. Nothing impedes him. Then he steps forward, and his left ankle catches again.

The cuff won't pass the doorway.

What the fuck?

He lifts his left leg like he's stepping over something and tries again, but the ankle cuff freezes him in midair. He can rotate his ankle and the angle of the cuff relative to the floor, but it won't move forward no matter how hard he pulls, how hard he pushes with all his weight. The rest of his body will move over the invisible line, but not the cuff. What is this?

Dean said it was a spell. But Dean is insane. Magic isn't real.

The cuff won't let him move. Castiel doesn't – he doesn't – what is happening?

"Told you," comes Dean's voice.

Rather than press up against the invisible barrier, Castiel steps forward so he has room to react.

Dean comes up the stairs, wiping his bloody mouth. His noise is still bleeding freely, and he's a cut on his forehead from the TV Castiel had shoved at him. He doesn't look upset so much as he looks pissed.

Terror thrums. "What did you do to me?" Castiel demands. "What did you do?"

Dean smiles with bloody teeth. "Magic." He spits out blood. "Also, I've been knocked out a lot over the years. It doesn't take quite as well as it used to."

Castiel swallows dryly. "Dean –"

"Save it," Dean says. "I thought we were past this. At least past you wanting to kick the crap out of me."

"You thought we were past this?" Castiel shouts. "You're my kidnapper! You've held me against my will! My brother – my brother probably thinks I’m dead in some freak's basement!"

Dean flinches.

"You're a serial killer with delusions –"

"Am I?" Dean demands. "Magic isn't real? Why can't you get past that line, then?" He waves his hand at the kitchen. "My keys are right there. Go get them."

Castiel stares at him numbly. He needs to get control. Control of the situation and Dean, because if he can't escape then he needs Dean to care for him. "I didn't want to hurt you, Dean."

Dean's jaw clenches. "Having a hard time believing that right now, Cas."

Castiel laughs, because it's not even a lie. He does care about Dean. Dean is – Dean is funny, and kind in his own way. He's crazy, but he loved his brother. He's capable of love, and selfless sacrifice, and all of that was unspoken, nothing Dean laid claim to. Castiel only wishes Dean could see his way of the delusions he has so tightly wound around himself.

When there's no more words, Dean gets a set of handcuffs from his pocket and dangles them on one finger. "You going to cooperate?"

Castiel glares at him. And attacks.

This time Dean doesn't hold back. And Castiel realizes he was holding back before – not a lot, but some. He's able to hold Dean off for several minutes, but he takes blow after blow. Castiel ends up on the floor once Dean uses the bizarre barrier to trip Castiel up. He's lost the fight, he knows that on the intellectual level, but he doesn't give up struggling until Dean grabs his hair and slams his head into the concrete floor hard enough to daze him. Dean rolls him onto his stomach before grabbing his wrists and cuffing him. At that point, feeling sick, Castiel goes limp.

He wants to cry, realizes he is when it drips off his nose. It's pink from blood. Dean raises him up by the arm just like a police officer would to avoid injury and drags him back to his cell. Castiel has to stumble along on only one good foot, body aching. Dean dumps Castiel on the bed face first.

When Castiel rolls to the side, his weight uncomfortably on one arm, he sees several smears of blood on the sheets.

Dean gets close, eyes dark with anger. "You done?"

Swallowing bitter blood, Castiel says, "Yes."

Dean uncuffs his wrists, and then pulls Castiel's left up and cuffs him to the headboard, which Castiel knows from previous experience is bolted to the wall. Castiel shifts with his right hand so he's on his back and the cuff isn't pulling so hard at his wrist. Dean watches him do it, silent, and then turns on his heel and leaves the room. Cell.

Castiel breathes through a tight throat, waiting for him to return. He has no idea how Dean is going to punish him for this, but he's not looking forward to it. He's never tested Dean like this before. Hell, he's never beaten the crap out of Dean before. The fact that Dean returned the favor may not be enough. His body is sore, and he's got cuts on his face and hands, both offensive and defensive injuries. Turning his head still makes his vision blur. Defeated, anxious and afraid, he closes his eyes.

"Cas."

Castiel tries to get a word past his dry throat, fails.

"Cas, open your eyes. I need to check your head."

Dean blurs into existence. He's holding a first aid kit, which he settles on the bed. He leans in with a small flashlight, which he flashes in Castiel's eyes. "Pupils equal and reactive. No concussion," he says. Leaving the kit at Castiel's feet, he moves forward until he can flip up Castiel's shirt, and then he carefully presses down on Castiel's ribcage, checking each rib. "Anything else hurt? Wrists, ankles?"

"My left wrist. I think I sprained it," Castiel finally replies. It's the cuffed one.

Dean silently gets up and gets the key. "You going to fight me?" he asks, poised to uncuff him. "I'm going to switch it to your left."

"I won't fight you."

Dean switches the cuff to the other wrist, then carefully examines Castiel's right. Castiel has had to get checked out for a broken wrist before, and he recognizes the doctor's method in Dean's. It makes him wonder, for a second, how many injuries Dean and Sam got and patched for each other. "Not broken," Dean decides. "Feet?"

"My left. Only sprained, I think."

Dean nods. "That it besides the cuts and bruises?"

"Yes."

Dean stares into Castiel's eyes. "I could have really hurt you, you know that, right?"

"Am I still allowed to be honest?"

Dean purses his lips and doesn't reply, eyes going flat. He gets a disinfectant and cleans Castiel's cuts, but doesn't cover most of them except with a few butterfly bandages. He checks the bruises he can easily see but doesn't comment. Then he goes to the bathroom with the kit to treat his own injuries – Castiel can see him from the bed, going through the same checks and medical care he gave Castiel.

The adrenaline and anger has drained out of Castiel, leaving a deep pit of worry and fear. He watches as Dean climbs back onto the bed, taking up the large empty space on his right, and his breath hitches. Dean lays down close enough that Castiel feel him breathing against Castiel's side. Dean shifts around, clearly getting comfortable, then settles a hand on Castiel's stomach. He glances up at Castiel, green eyes even darker against the dark bruise on his cheekbone that Castiel gave him. He doesn't look angry.

The pose is like a parody of lovers, Castiel's arm above his head not to let Dean in, but because he's cuffed. And Dean, curled up to him and only able to find one safe space to put his arm, because the rest of Castiel is too bruised.

That hand is like a burn, a mark. Dean has never touched him without asking Castiel's permission since choking him to unconsciousness in his apartment. Perhaps the fact that Castiel has to frame it that way means he shouldn't have expected anything less.

Dean inches closer until they're pressed together from shoulder to knee. He's warm, his body running hot compared to the people Castiel has let into his bed over the years. Something in Castiel wants to relax into it, to give in and give up. Tears prick his eyes, but he forces them back and breathes deeply. This is a touch. That's all it is. Nothing harmful here.

Dean is crazy, but he does care about Castiel.

Then he murmurs into Castiel's shirt, "It'll be okay, Cas. Just rest, okay?"

Despite himself, after about forty-five minutes of Dean's absolute stillness Castiel does fall asleep. He only realizes it when he wakes up with the vague notion that it's been several hours. For a few seconds he thinks he's home, in his apartment, and then for the next ten to twenty seconds he thinks he's just in his room in Dean's bunker. Then he feels the warm fingers gently stroking his hipbone, just under the waistband of his pants. A rough thumb makes circles, then the tips of Dean's fingers caresses his skin, before doing it all over again. The touch is incredibly intimate. He stops breathing, looking down at Dean, who looks up sleepily.

He places his left hand on Dean's. "Please don't," he whispers.

Dean withdraws, disappointment clear on his face – as well as a lack of surprise. "I'm sorry I hurt you. I swear I tried to do as little damage as possible."

It's certainly true Dean could have broken bones, but Castiel isn't sure he can attribute that to an unwillingness to hurt Castiel. Permanently, anyway. "What are you going to do?"

"Do?" Dean asks, looking puzzled.

"To me."

Dean sits up, eyeing Castiel closely. "I'll make you a deal."

Heart dropping to his stomach, Castiel asks, "What kind of deal?"

"First, I want to be sure this –" he waves at Castiel and himself – "doesn't happen again. Your parole. No attacking me. You keep the ankle cuff you have now." He does an odd half shrug. "I won't insist on no escape attempts, just no violence. Second … second, we share a bed. To sleep," he adds hastily. "Only to sleep. And in return, I'll let you write your brother a letter, letting him know you're okay."

Castiel blinks several times.

Dean licks his lips nervously, wincing his lip starts bleeding again. "What do you say?"

"I … can I think about it?"

"Sure," Dean immediately agrees. He gets off the bed and then pauses mid step. "Do you need to piss yet?"

"No."

"Okay, good. I'll be back," he says and pads silently out of Castiel's room.

Castiel thinks about Michael. He knows the military's SERE code of conduct demands that a prisoner of war not give parole, and to resist whenever possible. The FBI's stance is slightly different due to the nature of their work and those agents are most likely to come in contact with, counter-terrorism excepting. The BAU in particular is focused on the subject's psychology. A visionary killer like Dean is less likely to be persuaded by threats, because he believes he's doing the work of God (or someone equally as important) and is willing to die for the cause. Hedonistic killers are more likely to be persuaded by appealing to their instinct to survive. The key is always to find the weak point and exploit it in order to force surrender or capture.

What is Castiel's duty here? Hotchner's voice in the back of his mind says it's to survive long enough to be rescued.

If he writes that letter and Dean actually sends it, he can communicate something to the FBI. Dean's name, their probable location (somewhere in the Midwest, at least two days of travel), his own true status. He has only Dean's word that Dean will follow through, but it's more than Castiel has now.

Dean walks in with a sealed water bottle, which he opens and then hands to Castiel. The cool water is soothing on Castiel's throat, and for some reason it gives Castiel the courage to speak. "Dean."

Dean raises his eyebrows in question.

"Yes. I agree."

A slow, almost bashful smile fills Dean's face. "Do FBI agents swear on their honor?"

Castiel tilts his head. "I can, if you insist."

Dean just smiles again, a sad tinge to it this time. "No, that's not necessary. You'll either keep to it or you won't."

True enough. "Will you release me?" Castiel asks, jangling the cuff.

Dean stares at him for a long moment. Castiel can't help wondering what's going on his head, if he's doubting Castiel's parole, what he plans on doing tonight, if Castiel is going to get fucked by this in more ways than one. But maybe that's just Castiel's fear. There's really no doubts on Dean's face as much as an analyzing curiosity. Dean digs into his pocket and gets the key, walks to Castiel's side and releases the cuff.

Rubbing his wrist gives Castiel something to do. Then a thought occurs to him. "Magnets?"

Dean blinks. "Huh?"

"The ankle cuff," Castiel says. "Is that how you did it? Magnets?"

Dean laughs. Full, hearty, sincere. "Dude, I told you. It's magic. I did a spell. I didn't install industrial magnets in the doorways." He rubs his head. "Besides, wouldn't you notice the attraction a lot sooner in that case and be slammed into one of the walls? Instead of just having the barrier there?"

Castiel opens his mouth, then closes it. "True," he mutters.

"You feel well enough to walk? I'll show you where you can go."

And Castiel can test this magical barrier. "All right." He gets up, limps over to Dean.

Dean's expression changes from being amused to concerned in a second. "I forgot about your ankle. Here, hold onto me."

Castiel hesitates, looking at Dean, and then hesitates again when Dean silently comes to his side. Then he holds out a hand which Dean brings over his shoulder, letting Castiel put his weight onto Dean. Dean doesn't smell like blood anymore, and his hair is still faintly wet. Under the scent of shampoo is Dean himself, a surprisingly pleasant musk.

This close he can even see the freckles on Dean's face. The way his eyes shift from hazel to green.

Dean keeps up a running commentary as they slowly make their way through the permitted parts of the bunker, talking about random hunts ("Then there was the time a chupacabra followed us home. Nice pet. Not.") and more personal details ("First home since Baby. I mean, my car, the Impala. You know what I mean."). Most of the bedrooms are empty; Castiel's was apparently the 'commander' of the 'Men of Letters' and that's why that room alone has its own bathroom. Dean uses the locker room, which Castiel also has access to for no discernible reason. Dean's room ends up being around the turn in the hallway, close to the stairs. When Castiel tries to enter, the ankle cuff stops him again.

Of course Dean smirks, but he doesn't say anything except, "I want to trust you, but I'm not stupid." The room itself is homey and full of odd knickknacks, as well as a few distinctly not ornamental weapons on the wall, including an axe. All are well out of Castiel's limited reach. Sam's bedroom is two doors down, marked only with Dean saying, "This is Sam's." He puts a palm on the door, but doesn't open it. Since Dean is supporting a portion of Castiel's weight, Castiel can feel Dean's small shiver.

"I see," Castiel says softly. He deliberately leans a little into Dean, trying to offer comfort, and Dean gives him a small smile.

The library is partially accessible. The spell won't let him get farther in than about ten feet, and unlike the other barriers, this one is in midair with no walls nearby.

Dean lets Castiel go, says, "Go ahead. Test it."

Castiel gives him a wary look, but does.

Since the cuff is on his sprained ankle, testing it is easy. Castiel hops around, pulling and testing. There's no hum, no visible or audible sign of why he can't move the cuff beyond that point. There's nothing on the ground either. However Dean marked the … the spell, it didn't leave a sign behind.

"Baffled?" Dean asks, raising an eyebrow.

Castiel sits in a chair next to a bookcase. "Tell me about the murders, then."

Dean blinks, but goes with it. He takes a seat out of Castiel's reach, legs spread and relaxed. "It was a wendigo, the case in Wyoming. Basically created when a human eats enough human flesh, then they turn into, you know, that. Only way to kill them is to burn them alive." Dean shrugs. "I wanted to get it asleep in its cave, but it woke up while I was hiking through the forest, so I had to improvise. I'm thinking it killed a few hunters before I got to it. I stayed behind a few days to make sure there wasn't a partner, because I saw some indications there might have been another one, but no dice."

"And you believe that?"

"I believe it like you believe the sky is blue."

"Except at dawn, dusk or night," Castiel can't help adding.

Dean laughs. "Exactly! Yeah, exactly. I'm the one who's stalking around the darkness and seeing what no one else thinks about, because everyone knows the sky is blue."

That … kind of makes sense.

"Is this your proof, then?" Castiel asks. "That everything you've told me is real?"

Dean shifts. "Well. I was thinking about calling Anna here, actually. The ankle cuff you're wearing, I only found a reference to it in the library about a week ago. Started setting it up then."

"Anna, the angel?"

Dean nods. "Call in a favor."

Castiel supposes he has two options: Dean is right, to some degree, or Castiel has also lost his mind. Madness can be contagious. But Castiel doesn't feel mad, or even the surety of the mad; he feels angry and confused, and hopelessly lost in a world he would have sworn yesterday didn't exist. Of course it's just a cuff that obeys mysterious barriers, not a ghost or an angel of God talking to him, but Castiel's not stupid. Where's there is one crack, there's more.

When he looks up, Dean looks – surprised. "You believe me."

"I believe something," Castiel says honestly. He also believes that regardless of magic being real, kidnapping an FBI agent because you think he's your soulmate isn't the sanest of actions. He clears his throat and holds out his hand. "Continue the tour?"

Dean gives him a look that is grateful and pleased. In a way, it's very easy to please Dean. "Sure."

Castiel can't access the kitchen, or the front of the bunker, or the garage, or the firing range, but Dean lets him take a peek at all of them.

"There's also a dungeon," Dean admits. "Not a sex-torture dungeon. Honestly. It's just really secure and can be used for a prison for various supernatural creatures, and it has an armory nearby."

"Well, I don't mind skipping that portion," Castiel says, though of course he wishes he could get a good look at the armory.

Dean grins, then says, "We should head back to your room. Your ankle won't last much longer, anyway. If you push it too far it'll take longer to heal."

Spoken like it's from personal experience. "All right."

Castiel's room is still a mess. Dean sets him on the bed which, aside from some blood smears, is the only thing in the room left intact. The TV is shattered. The DVD player survived by virtue of being smaller. The chair is missing a leg. The table is still there, having miraculously survived despite a body being thrown on it. The mini-fridge was knocked over and has a dent, but still works. Dean clears away all the debris without comment, taking several trips to do it.

He works despite being just as beaten as Castiel is. Castiel will and has pushed his body to the limit, but that was fairly uncommon and he always had the opportunity to take days off after. Dean doesn't get that. Of course he chose this, but. Feeling absurd even as he does it, Castiel says, "I'm sorry."

Dean's head whips around. "Do you actually mean that?"

Castiel shrugs, picking at his blanket. "I think so."

Dean looks down. "You can still be honest," he says, answering Castiel's question from hours before.

Castiel nods slightly.

After the last round, Dean returns with a piece of paper and a pen. "You write it once, no edits," he says. "Can't say anything about where you are or who took you."

That will make hiding a secret message considerably harder, especially since Castiel has next to no experience doing so. Reid always figured out puzzles like that. Castiel takes the paper and pen, staring at the blank page for almost a full minute before working out how he needs to get this message across, quickly and without being terribly obvious. If Dean takes the time to stare at it, he might figure it out – Castiel doesn't know how much Dean does or doesn't know about stenography – so Castiel can only hope this works.

Dear Balthazar,

Everything is all right. All that's happened is that I went somewhere for a while. Nothing bad has happened, and I haven't been hurt. While I know this seems to have come out of nowhere, I've been thinking about going away and taking a break for a long time. I'm doing well where I am – I'm well fed and I'm finally getting as much sleep as you always said I should. Now, I know this is a little late, but take care of my apartment, will you? Can't lose that good of a lease. Hael's letters must be piling up, please take care of them, too. Even after everything, I want to read them. Save anything our parents send. The FBI has probably fired me by now for taking off so suddenly, but don't worry about that – I'm okay. Really, I'm doing well.

Michael always said we should take the time in our lives to really live. I'm doing what he wanted, finally. Don't worry about me. While you're a bit of an asshole sometimes, I'll always love you. Even after you stole my first girlfriend. Stay in Texas, be happy. Til then,

Castiel.

"I don't think they're going to think this isn't coerced," Dean says.

"You said I couldn't say where I was or what happened, what else do you expect?" Castiel asks, trying not to sweat.

Dean shrugs. "All right."

The first letter of every sentence spells out Dean Winchester, and the second paragraph spells out all Castiel has been able to figure out about where he is - that he's in the Midwest somewhere. Dean has been absurdly careful about not letting slip what state they're in. Castiel isn't sure he knows the point except for this kind of communication, which he frankly didn't think Dean would ever allow. Just in case, Castiel also marks the same letters in random words by shaping the individual letter in a different way than the rest. But he thinks that if Dean actually sends this letter, the BAU won't have a problem figuring out what he's trying to say.

And not just the hidden message. But telling Balthazar to take care of his lease, to keep their family's letters.

Castiel hasn't given up on escaping. Not yet.

Dean actually brings back an envelope and a stamp (a vague 'forever' stamp, to Castiel's disappointment, not a state one) and seals the letter in front of Castiel. He wears gloves. "Next time I'm in a major hub, I'll drop it off. I promise."

"Thank you, Dean."

-----------------------

After dinner, both of them bruised and finally really feeling it, Castiel asks for privacy to take a shower. Dean grants it, of course. He's never even seen Castiel unclothed. As Castiel stands in the hot shower, fully naked, he lets himself think about what's coming next. Sharing a bed with Dean. And not just tonight, but every night that Dean is here.

Dean doesn't strike Castiel as a rapist, no. But he also definitely lacks a clear sense of boundary. Castiel doesn't think it's about power so much as a desire to be loved in return. Dean probably made the deal in the first place because he wants intimacy that isn't necessarily sex, but that is still (in Dean's mind, at least) romantic.

Boxers. Pajama bottoms, a t-shirt. Socks. His armor.

When he opens the bathroom door, letting the steam out, he sees Dean lying on the bed, over the covers, wearing only a pair of boxers and a t-shirt. The light in the hall is still on, but the bedroom one is off, so it's somewhat dark. He looks up at Castiel, mouth slightly open and eyebrows slightly raised in a way that Castiel knows means that Dean is feeling nervous and self-conscious. But he doesn't say, 'It's okay, you can sleep alone.' He doesn't say, 'I'll let go of that part of our deal.' He stares at Castiel, hopeful.

"I won't do anything sexual, I swear," Dean tells him.

Castiel nods, tries to do so with certainty. "I know." He slips into bed, pulling the covers over himself and lies with his back facing Dean.

Dean gets under the covers, shaking the bed. A gentle hand touches the small of Castiel's back. "Can I hold you?" Dean whispers.

Castiel freezes. Then forces himself to relax. "Hands on clothes, not under."

"Noted." Dean's hand moves from his back to settle on his waist. He moves close enough that Castiel can feel his hot breath on the back of his neck, and one leg barely touches the back of Castiel's. But that's as far as he goes. "Good night, Cas."

Castiel stares at the far wall and wonders what he's gotten himself into.

Chapter Text

Dean is curled around Castiel as the big spoon when Castiel wakes up the next morning. All through the night Castiel woke up, afraid because of Dean's nearness and vague half-nightmares. But Dean's been in this same position all night. Thigh to thigh, hip to hip. Dean isn't hard, as far as Castiel can tell. An ankle lies on top of Castiel's, and his t-shirt has rucked up in his sleep enough that Dean's hand on his waist is touching skin. As Castiel's brain really starts working itself into high gear, he hears Dean make a sleepy noise and shift, his hand clenching enough that his nails curl across Castiel's skin. It tickles, and Castiel can't help flinching.

Dean freezes. "Oh, sorry," he says sleepily, withdrawing and rolling onto his back.

Castiel looks over his shoulder cautiously, but Dean just blinks at him and then rubs his face.

"G'morning," Dean says, and rolls out of bed.

"Good morning."

Dean pauses at the doorway. "Want to join me for breakfast? I'll set up a dining table where you can sit."

"All right."

"Do you need help?" Dean asks. "You will have to get up the stairs."

Castiel hesitates, then nods. "Yes, thank you."

"I just figured you would want to get out of here," Dean says, waving at the room.

Is Dean concerned Castiel doubts his motivation? "I figured that."

Without any more comment, Dean goes to Castiel's side and gets his shoulder under Castiel's arm, bearing most of their combined weight. Technically, they're closer now than they were in bed, with all of Dean's body pressed up tight against Castiel's. Castiel can even feel the warmth of Dean's exhale. Dean isn't touching Castiel any more than he has to, but he's also not avoiding physical contact. He keeps a slow pace for Castiel, before leaving him in an empty space that Castiel figures is similar enough to a dining room. The kitchen is fully in sight, but the invisible barrier is firmly in place.

Dean grabs a folding table and a very, very old wooden chair. Castiel sits and watches as Dean brings in another chair, then goes into the kitchen to begin preparing breakfast. Eggs and toast, this time.

"So," Dean begins conversationally, "how did you get into the FBI?"

Castiel frowns. "Do you not already know the answer?"

Dean freezes in the middle of breaking an egg. "Facts on paper aren't the same," he says at last.

Deciding to accept that even he doesn't actually buy it, Castiel says, "I almost followed Michael into the military, but Balthazar convinced me that I could do good here, too." Castiel hesitates. "He actually got very drunk and told me that he knew Michael was going to end up dead, and he didn't want me dead, too. I don't even know if he remembered it in the morning, but the look in his eyes …"

Dean is looking at him, soft and concerned. He nods silently, complete understanding in his eyes.

"So, double major in criminal justice and psychology led me directly into law enforcement. While working as a police officer I got my masters in criminal psychology. Worked in homicide for a bit, then applied to the FBI. After that, it was just a matter of working within the agency and getting work done on cases. I was lent to the BAU during a specific case, but they ended up keeping me." Castiel spreads his hands. "Not much more to it than that."

Dean nods thoughtfully. He grabs two slices of bread and pops them in the toaster. "You like the work?"

"I do. It's satisfying to bring people to justice and prevent more crime from occurring." Castiel shrugs. "Well, when it actually works out that way. There's often unsolved cases, and even more paperwork."

"I hear ya," Dean says, laughing. "Hunting is the same way. Well, excluding the paperwork. That was more like wasting your time on kids playing pranks."

Interesting that Dean views it as similar to law enforcement. A similar kind of job, anyway. The invisible magical barrier is three feet away. How much of what Dean says is real? Is it possible he is insane, but some of what he speaks of is true? Even a broken clock is right twice during the day. Or has Dean been misjudged all along? But if so, how the hell has no one noticed that the supernatural is real after all this time? "Dean …"

"Yeah?" Dean flops scrambled eggs onto two plates and taps the counter while he waits for the toast.

"Do you like me?"

Confusion flashes across Dean's face. "Of course I do."

"But why? You don't even know me. Why are you going to all this trouble to keep me here? I know you said we were soulmates, but I have a hard time accepting – after everything you’ve told me – that you believe in any kind of fate."

Dean ignores the toast that pops up. Instead, he walks to Castiel. Then, he kneels, almost like he's about to propose, but his face is deadly serious. "I don't believe in fate, you're right. But I believe what I feel. What I know. My gut." He looks away for a moment. "I love Sam. I will never stop loving Sam. That God or whoever made us brothers, I don't care about that. It's the same with you. I can't, I can't be apart from you, now that I know you. Losing Sam nearly killed me. You would finish the job, and I made a promise to him that I'd live."

Castiel breathes. Thinks. Wonders.

Dean inhales and exhales rapidly, emotion rising in his eyes. "You and me, we do the same thing. We help people. Even after all the shit I have put you through, you give a damn about me. And that's before you even believe that I'm not a serial killer. I want you, Cas. And I'm willing to wait until you feel the same way."

Castiel looks away. "I … I don't know if I can do that, Dean."

Dean rises to his feet. "It's okay," he says. Is all he says. "You want cheese on your eggs?"

Clearing his throat gives him a second to adapt. "Very well."

"You know, that's another thing about you," Dean says, grabbing a block of cheese. "You always speak so correctly. 'All right,' 'Very well,' and 'Thank you.' It's, y'know, cute."

"Proper diction is cute?" Is Dean flirting with him?

"Yep," Dean says with a grin, grating the cheese quickly and dumping it on both plates. He hands Castiel his.

Definitely flirting. After promising that he's never going to let Castiel go, and more or less promising to stop any escape attempts. Maybe Dean sees that kind of obsession as romantic. Did he feel the same way about Sam, that possessive need to be near his brother? How had Sam responded? Sam went to college for four years, had an entire life that was, from what the FBI can tell, perfectly normal. Then Dean came, his girlfriend died under suspicious circumstances, and he was on the road for the rest of his life. "I see," he says as neutrally as possible, then digs into breakfast.

"What do you want to do today?" Dean raises an eyebrow.

"Go for a walk outside?" Castiel asks dryly.

"I can get a shitton of nature documentaries, if you want." It comes out slightly garbled, then Dean swallows. "Though I can't promise they won't put me to sleep."

Castiel gathers the last of the eggs on his toast. "How about arranging to meet Anna? I'd like to see proof of your story."

Dean nods. "Anna is pretty busy trying to play sheriff in heaven, but I'll set it up."

"Thank you." Pause. "Thanks."

Dean laughs.

-------------------------

That night, Castiel lays on his right side – facing the other side of the bed – just to see what Dean will do. Dean crawls into bed wearing only his boxers and a t-shirt, like the night before, but this time he faces Castiel and just looks at him. He starts with Castiel's waist, where a sliver of skin shows. Then up his chest to his neck, lingering there, before staring hard at Castiel's lips and his eyes. He examines the healing bruises and cuts he'd left on Castiel's skin, expression both intent and concerned. His gaze even drifts to Castiel's messy hair and to where Castiel's hand lies flat on the bed. "Good night," Dean says.

-------------------------

Castiel wakes up with a moving pillow. It takes him a full second to realize his head is lying on Dean's chest, that he's got an arm slung over Dean's stomach and his leg pressed against Dean's. He can feel the short and wiry hairs on Dean's leg, and he twitches when Dean flexes his foot, skin sliding on skin. He can feel his face heat up with embarrassment, and a small amount of humiliation. He can't believe he did in this in his sleep. He's rarely even slept in the same bed as someone else, how could he be this comfortable with another person? He'd expected to wake up repeatedly (half scared of his mind) like he did last night, not … cuddle.

Castiel begins to shift off, as circumspectly as possible.

"Don't go," Dean whispers.

Rather than answer out loud, Castiel sits up and turns away. Dean doesn’t stop him.

"Cas, please."

Castiel wraps his arms around himself, as if to hold himself in. In control. He rubs his face and breathes deeply, but he still feels the beginnings of a sob welling in his chest. Fear has been his constant companion, rarely acknowledged but ever present. Castiel has been put under huge stress before, during fights with criminals, being shot, going to the FBI, then catching serial killers. But at the end of a few weeks (usually), he went home. He de-stressed.

So in a way, Castiel knows this has been building.

The bed shakes when Dean gets up, and then Dean is circling the bed, head dipping to look Castiel in the eye.

Castiel finally looks at him, miserable. He shakes.

Dean looks shocked. "Cas. What's wrong?"

Castiel covers his face, pulls his hair. "Dean, please leave me alone."

"No. No, not until I know you're okay. You're freaking me out here, are you having a panic attack?"

"Please." Castiel swallows. "I need to regain control."

Dean is silent for almost a full minute. Then, "You're collapsing under the stress. I've been expecting this, but I thought it would happen a lot sooner."

Castiel pulls up his knees, lays his head on them, and puts his hands over his head. He feels the dip in the mattress as Dean settles on the bed. Then an arm wraps around his shoulders, bringing him in to the warm body next to him. The serial killer next to him. The maybe/maybe not insane Dean Winchester, who the FBI has hunted for a decade. A cuff that won't let Castiel run, one that he has no explanation for. The possibility of his own insanity. Castiel is horribly weak for letting this effect him this much, but he can't help the deep shuddering breaths he has to take. It feels like it lasts forever, the surges of panic that he fights down, the sobs that want to come out – but he refuses. He fucking refuses.

He pushes Dean off and stands, staring resolutely at the bathroom door. "I want to take a shower."

Dean steps away. "I'll make some oatmeal. Easy on the stomach." Then he's gone.

Forty days in. Forty-two or forty-three, if you count the ones he spent unconsciousness. He takes a shower so hot that his skin flushes red and dresses in the clothes Dean gives him. He eats the food Dean gives him. He reads the books that Dean gives him. He has nothing of his own.

Dean chatters for the rest of the day, talking about his favorite movies and TV series (Dr. Sexy? Really?), blathering about food prices and how expensive gas is these days. He spends an entire hour discussing car maintenance with himself. Despite Dean's attempts, though, Castiel remains wired the rest of the day.

B y the time evening comes, Castiel is exhausted and falls asleep before Dean comes to bed.

In the middle of the night he wakes to whispers. Dean whispering, so very quietly, "I'll take care of you. I'll take good care of you."

In the morning, Dean is curled around him protectively, murmuring comforts sleepily whenever Castiel moves.

The day after that, day forty-two, Castiel wakes to Dean's hand splayed across his stomach, under his shirt. Castiel should be angry with Dean for not following his request, but he doubts it was intentional. Dean is snoring loudly in his ear, but even in his sleep when Castiel tries to get up, he clenches tight and mutters something Castiel can't make out. Day forty-three, Dean kisses the back of his neck before fully waking up and then apologizes. Day forty-four, Dean thanks him before they go to bed for not freaking out on him. Castiel is bemused but says, "You are welcome."

Day forty-five, Castiel has a nightmare.

It's vague, but terrifying in its vagueness, the way dreams sometimes are. Dean is a focal point of it, appearing and disappearing. Demons and ghosts flicker in and out, and Dean is there, but Castiel can't tell if he's helping them or hunting them. Then it changes to the bunker, and Dean is curled around him, and Castiel can't tell if he's helping Castiel or hunting him.

Then he wakes up with a cry.

"Cas! Cas, calm down, it's okay, it was just a dream," Dean murmurs into his ear. His arm is around Castiel's shoulders, hand rubbing Castiel's arm.

A rather telling dream. "I'm fine, I'm fine," he assures Dean, looking up and seeing a glimpse of Dean's face. But he doesn't push Dean away. He can't bring himself to do it. He turns and Dean shifts with him, and this time the faint light from the hall lands directly on Dean.

It's a handsome face. A familiar face, these days. No longer just a flat picture or a few seconds of grainy security camera footage. Castiel knows what Dean looks like when he's hiding something, when he's putting on a façade, when he's focused entirely on Castiel.

"What?" Dean asks.

Castiel lays down with his back to Dean. Then he grabs Dean's hand and pulls it over his waist. Dean freezes, stiff as a board, then slowly relaxes into Castiel's back.

By the time Dean's relaxed entirely, Castiel has forced himself to sleep.

-------------------------

Day seventy-two, Dean fails to take as shower before bed. That doesn’t actually bother Castiel – Dean generally smells fine after a day of not showering, and usually hasn't for at least that long after one of his one or two day hunts. (Castiel keeps a mental list of dates and details, though of course Dean refuses to let locations slip.) A little stronger than normal, but not unpleasant. He lets Dean curl right up to him as usual, warmth seeping through two layers of clothing.

In the middle of the night he wakes up to feel Dean's erection pressed against his back. Dean thrusts lazily, but he's muttering something Castiel can't make out, so he's still asleep. Castiel's never been so close to another aroused man, and having a man's cock shifting against the small of his back isn't something he ever expected to experience. Not until Dean captured him and used the word 'soulmate,' anyway. And while Dean's insisted on sharing the same bed for a month, he's never attempted to sexually assault Castiel. Not even a kiss, the half-asleep one excepting. Just … hugs. Cuddling.

Castiel is suddenly sweating, panicking. Has he gotten lazy, complacent? He stopped worrying about this when he should have been thinking about it every night.

Thinking about escape every night. Not letting himself get into the rhythm of good food and a warm body to sleep next to.

Dean thrusts again, a warm, hard line against Castiel.

Castiel is frozen on the bed. What should he do? Wake up Dean? Dean would probably just back up and apologize. He inches forward, away from Dean, then quietly slips off their bed. His bed. That Dean shares.

"Hmmf?" Dean asks.

Castiel turns and stands near the bathroom door.

Dean blinks at him, then blinks at his own body. "Oh. Shit. Sorry, Cas." He shifts the sheets around. "I'll, um. Go take care of this. Somewhere else," he adds hastily.

Castiel just nods awkwardly.

Still, when Dean stands, Castiel gets a good look at Dean's cock, outlined by his boxers instead of hidden. When he meets Dean's eyes, Dean is giving him an odd little half-grin, like he's not sure if he should be pleased.

Castiel goes to the bathroom and shuts the door, then slides down the other side of it until his head is on his knees.

Fuck.

-------------------------

Castiel watches Dean make breakfast, humming a Metallica song as he goes. He breaks eggs one-handed and prefers his toast on the burnt side. He loves a lot of popular culture, but refuses to admit anything past what his father raised him and Sam on. He wants to be happy, and has spent most of his life not attaining that goal. But Castiel makes him happy. Even like this, with Castiel having given him so little.

Dean switches to 'Hey Jude,' glancing at Castiel. "I really am sorry," he says suddenly.

Castiel smiles at him. "I know."

Dean returns to breakfast, looking pleased. It's a familiar sight these days. Castiel has seen Dean in almost variation possible, happy and sad, angry and depressed. Eager to please, easy to please – those most of all, recently, as Castiel has relaxed and let Dean in. He's no longer capable of viewing Dean objectively. He knows this. He has spent too long in the hands of his captor to not empathize, to not care. He knows too much about Dean, and Dean has done too little to earn Castiel's hatred.

He still wants to go home. But when Dean touches him there's something carried along with the fear, a yearning to respond. And he wasn't lying about telling Dean he's not gay, but it's like something in him recognizes Dean.

He's losing his mind. He needs to get out of here.

" – for a few days," Dean finishes.

"Huh?" Castiel asks, having missed most of that.

"I'm going on a hunt, I should be gone no more than two days," Dean says. "You need anything before I go?"

Castiel thinks fast. "There's a book referenced in one you gave me – it's about faerie circles. Can you find it in the library before you leave?"

"Sure," Dean agrees instantly.

Two hours after lunch, Dean brings it to him. It's ridiculously old, this particular copy being almost a hundred years old, and the original much more so than that. Castiel can tell from the spelling that is so different from modern English. It looks like late medieval English. Everic Cercle.

He'd actually found reference to it in one of the first books Dean gave him, a mermaid book. But that was back when he still thought magic was pure bullshit.

It's been a long time since he learned Middle English and he wishes Reid were here, but he's able to get through most of it well enough. By the time he's reached a quarter of the way through the book, he still hasn't found what he's looking for. He carefully puts it aside when he hears Dean coming down the hall.

Dean has multiple glass storage containers stacked upon each other. At least one is lasagna, and he sees some salad in there, too. He puts them all in Castiel's mini-fridge. Castiel already has a stack of water bottles and soda, even a beer or two (not that Castiel has ever had any of that). Dean wipes his hands on his pants and gives Castiel a small smile. "Well, I'm taking off."

Castiel nods. An insane part of him wants to say 'Be safe,' but he resists. "I will see you in a few days, then."

Then Dean's gone. Castiel returns to his book and finishes it. There, three hundred pages in, is a spell that a sorcerer used centuries before to escape a faerie circle. He broadened the limits of the binding spell so far that he was able to simply walk out. Once he left the borders, that particular effect of the faerie ring dissipated. Castiel doubts that this spell will do the same, but it won't matter if he can get far enough away. He can figure out a better way to get the cuff off if he's safely away from Dean, in the hands of local law enforcement or the FBI.

The ingredients of the spell aren't horribly hard to come by, but will be somewhat hard to explain to Dean. Sage, rosemary (fresh), an offering (the beer will do) and a piece of quartz for focusing. Intent and talent, too, of course. Castiel doesn't know about talent, but he sure as hell has the intent.

Assuming the spell works, Castiel will need to search the bunker for anything he can use. Even potentially the spell used on the cuff. He'll need appropriate clothing for the weather and weapons. Dean keeps his bedroom door locked even though Castiel has the ankle cuff, so it's possible he keeps other rooms locked while he's gone. But not the library.

When Dean comes back, he's got a list of meals.

Bemused, Dean says, "You want sage as a garnish with your eggs? Okay … Pork roast with rosemary? I can get behind that. What made you think of stuff for me to make?"

Castiel lifts one shoulder. "Boredom."

Three days later, Castiel brings up the focusing crystal. "For meditation," he says. "That's why I need it."

Dean squints at him. "You don't seem like the type to need crystals."

Castiel shrugs casually. "I also didn't think magic existed, but clearly it does. I want to see if it makes a difference. You know I meditate regularly."

"Yeah, sure. I'm sure we've got some in our spell supplies."

And Castiel waits for his opportunity.

-------------------------

Day ninety-two, Castiel is woken out of a deep sleep by Dean thrashing around. He's whimpering and his legs kick out, hard enough to bruise. Castiel edges away, trying to decide what to do. Waking Dean with a shoulder on the hand might be dangerous – Dean is highly skilled and if he's asleep, he may not take precautions not to hurt Castiel. Not that Castiel is some damsel in distress, but there's confidence and over-confidence. So Castiel slips out of bed, out of reach of those flailing limbs. He goes to the hallway where the room light switch is, and flips it on.

Dean's face is contorted like he's in pain.

"Dean!" Castiel calls. "Dean, wake up." He approaches the bed cautiously, still out of reach, and knocks on the wall. "Dean!"

Dean bolts upright. His eyes are glazed, but they slowly focus on Castiel. "Cas?"

Still cautious, Castiel sits on the bed and places a hand on Dean's shoulder. "You okay?"

Dean grabs Castiel's wrist, not to stop him, but to hold on. "Cas." He closes his eyes and breathes deep. "Oh, fuck. Haven't had one of those in a while. I usually sleep so well with you."

"You want to talk about it?"

Dean shakes his head, looking … looking scared. It's not really an expression Castiel has ever seen. "Come to bed?"

Castiel hesitates and then lays down. Rather than let Castiel hold him – as Castiel expected – Dean curls protectively around him, instead. Dean's head on Castiel's shoulder, his arm around Castiel's back and his right leg slung over Castiel's lower body. He presses his nose into the nape of Castiel's neck and wraps his arms around Castiel. It's not all that different from how they normally sleep, because Dean is a stealth cuddler, but something about how Dean is doing so while awake and in the light gives Castiel pause. If someone saw them like this, they would think they were lovers.

"You have nightmares often?" Castiel asks. "Normally?"

"Without you, yeah. I mean, I always slept better with Sammy in the same room and after hell, I couldn't even spend the night with a girl. Too dangerous. But you – you're fine." Dean exhales, hot against Castiel's skin. "I think I love you, Cas."

Castiel tenses. Does Dean expect him to say the same?

"You don't have to say anything," Dean whispers, voice breaking. "I just … thank you, Cas. For being here. You could be throwing punches left and right, and instead you let me sleep in the same bed, let me hold you."

Castiel doesn't know what to say. Say he cares about Dean, too? It's true, but it's also true he intends on escaping next time Dean leaves on a hunt. Somehow he thinks saying that and then doing that would be very painful for Dean.

Dean shifts, loosening his hold on Castiel. "Cas."

Castiel looks back at him.

And Dean leans in, green eyes intense, and presses his lips against Castiel's. Castiel sees it coming and freezes. Dean's lips are soft and the contact is gentle and warm.

Something in Castiel breaks a little.

Dean withdraws maybe an inch, and Castiel can see all his freckles and the love – insane as it may be – in his eyes. Without thinking about it, Castiel places a hand on Dean's neck and pulls him back in. He kisses Dean, presses into him. Dean lets loose a small sob and responds, licking the seam of Castiel's lips, sucking on his lower lip, withdrawing only to come close again, like he wants to give Castiel a thousand little kisses. The next time Dean tries to lick his way into Castiel's mouth, Castiel lets him. He can feel the unfamiliar stubble on Dean's chin, the power behind how Dean holds him still to deepen the kiss.

As the kiss goes from gentle to hot, Castiel's chest tightens and a weird tension sits low in his stomach. Dean fucks his mouth with his tongue, and he's good at it. He hits every sensitive part of Castiel's mouth in a way Castiel's few lovers never really did.

A hand skims up Castiel's shirt and a thumb strokes his nipple.

Castiel shoves Dean off, saying, "Stop, stop."

"Sorry, sorry," Dean says immediately, backing away, hands held up. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have taken it that far," he says, mouth red and wet.

Castiel heaves several large breaths and wipes his mouth. His hand shakes. He recognizes that tension he was feeling as arousal, as sexual attraction. Whether it's his own or some fucked up response to his situation, he doesn't know.

"Are you okay?" Dean asks.

Reckless and wild, his thoughts spinning out of control and his knowledge of Stockholm Syndrome somehow unimportant, Castiel says, "Kiss me."

Dean is the one to hesitate this time, but when Castiel simply waits for him he leans forward and presses a second gentle kiss to Castiel's mouth. He leans over Castiel, propped up by his hands so his body doesn't touch Castiel's. Castiel breathes into each kiss, each a little harder than the last. He cups Dean's face, running his fingertips over Dean's stubble – the guy he kissed in college is a faint memory and was smooth shaven, so it's a new texture, a new experience. Running his fingers through the short hair at Dean's nape makes Dean shiver and bring his body closer to Castiel's. He can feel Dean's leg, which positioned between his knees, hitch up so his strong thigh presses against Castiel.

Castiel should be panicking, but instead he just lays there and kisses and kisses.

Dean breaks off the kiss and Castiel opens his eyes. He watches as Dean leverages himself off of Castiel, so he's kneeling next to him instead of on top of him. Dean's cock is tenting his boxers and he presses his hand down on top of it, half to hide it from Castiel, half to hold himself in. He stares at Castiel with nearly all pupil eyes, darkly aroused.

"You're not ready for this," Dean says.

"No, I'm not," Castiel responds.

Dean gets off the bed and stumbles to the bathroom. He shuts the door behind him and after a minute Castiel hears the shower turn on. It doesn't stop the sound of Dean's loud moan, and Castiel knows precisely what is happening behind that door. Castiel touches himself through his pants, but he's not hard. He still listens as Dean jacks off with short, hitching breaths that lead into a long sigh.

Castiel is losing his mind.

He leans over the side of the bed and throws up. There's not much there except bile, because he ate more than seven hours ago. He stares at it, still feeling sick. He covers his face when the shower turns off and Dean quietly opens the bathroom door. "I'm sorry," he says before Dean can say anything.

"Don’t worry about it," Dean says equally quietly. "I'll clean it up."

"I can do it," Castiel says, feeling like he should clean up his own mess. His own stupidity. What the hell was he thinking? It's only been three months, why does it feel like a year? How could he have let himself fall to manipulation in only three months?

"Cas."

When no other words are forthcoming, Castiel finally looks at him.

"It's okay. Really. Just rest, okay?"

Dean returns five minutes later with cleaning supplies and gets the job done quickly. Castiel just watches him do it, numb. When Dean leaves with the soiled washcloths Castiel gets up and goes to the bathroom, stopping before the sink so he can stare into the mirror.

He looks ragged. His hair is past regulation length now and has started to curl a little at the ends. Although he has dark lines under his eyes, the rest of him looks healthy. He has muscle and a decent amount of fat on his bones. He's slightly lighter than he was at the FBI, but not by much – most of that weight-loss stress induced, because Dean feeds him well.

But his eyes. He looks lost.

As an FBI agent who has dealt with cases of abduction, even long-term imprisonment, he knows that the relationship a prisoner can have with his captor is complicated. But, although many of those criminals had issues that led to the crime, none of them were like Dean. Because for all of Dean's insane thinking, he's not wrong when it comes to the nature of the world. At least partially, if not totally. The expected impatience and consequent violence has never happened. He's a predatory kidnapper, but it's not about power or even primarily sexual satisfaction (though today proved it to definitely be an element). It's about a specific goal. Dean wants to make Castiel into a partner.

The life Dean has lived, if what he says is true, has led him to this point – but that life was one of sacrifice. Dean is not mentally well, but neither is he entirely insane. Even his motives may be based on fact.

Or is all that a lie, a comfort Castiel tells himself to justify allowing his kidnapper to initiate the beginnings of a sexual relationship?

He could have said no. He did say no, and Dean listened. Then he said yes.

"You a fucking fool," Castiel tells his reflection. You need to escape, he adds silently.

Footfalls warn Castiel that Dean has returned. "Cas?"

"In here," Castiel says automatically.

Dean rounds the corner. "You want to go back to sleep?"

Castiel shrugs. He doesn't know.

Dean pauses and picks up a corner of the blanket, pulling at a thread. "Seriously, Cas. Do you want to talk?"

"I think talking about my imprisonment with my captor is counter-productive."

Dean just frowns at him. "I know this isn't easy for you. I can help with that, at least." He throws up his hands. "Or yell at me. Scream in my face and tell me how you hate me. Look, I bottle things up. I always have. It worked for a long time, but then I'd break down. That's where you're heading, and I don't want to see that happen. Cas, I don't want you to suffer."

Castiel looks at him incredulously. "Then let me go!"

Dean's face falls. "Anything but that, Cas. Please."

"I hate you," Cas whispers, but it's not true.

"Good," Dean says loudly. "Let it out. Come on, Cas. You –"

"Fuck off, Dean," Castiel snarls. "You're not a therapist. I don't care what your reasoning is, you're the one inflicting this on me."

Dean finally gets his hackles up. "You asked me to kiss you."

"I'm asking you to let me go," Castiel snaps.

Dean takes a deep breath. "I can't do that. You know that."

"You can, you simply refuse to."

Dean folds his arms. "All right, fine. I'm not a therapist. I've taken you prisoner. But Cas, I love you. You're my soulmate. Doesn't that count for something?"

Maybe it does. And that scares the hell out of him. "I don't want to talk about this."

Dean sighs, long and deep. "All right. Come to bed, then? I won't touch you."

Castiel follows him to the bed, gets in on his side. Dean takes the other and keeps to it, not curling up to Castiel or touching him at all. It feels weird, to have Dean here but not to be in physical contact. Castiel supposes that Dean, however much he is not a therapist or a psychologist, knows the power of touch, and he's used it from the beginning. Castiel thought Dean wanted sex by making the deal, but maybe it wasn't that at all. Maybe he knew that he had to go slow. That Castiel would get used to physical comfort.

Dean's no idiot. Castiel knows that much. And to escape, he's going to have to outsmart him.

-------------------------

Three days later, Dean leaves for a two-day hunt. (Castiel curses his freakout after Dean was gone two weeks, because Dean doesn't go on long hunts anymore.) Castiel waits three hours to make sure Dean isn't going to return to grab some random forgotten item, then begins. Castiel grabs his herbs, some of it picked off of meals and some of it clean because Dean used it as a garnish. The mirror has served as good hiding place, something for Castiel to stare at it while hoping this new plan will work. He also has the book, but he's got the spell memorized now.

He burns both the sage and the rosemary, walking in a circle. He feels like an idiot, but tries to put that out of his mind when he does the final component, which is continuing to walk in that circle while chanting the right words and having the right mental intent. According to the book, there should be a rush of air when the spell is functioning. It will last no more than three days.

Nothing happens.

Castiel grabs the book and rereads it. Talent. And intent.

He takes five minutes to meditate, then tries again. And again. Each attempt takes more than an hour. The third time, he tests the barrier in the library, but it's still there. The fourth and fifth fail, and mounting frustration makes Castiel curse at the sky. He blanks his mind again. He puts everything except the spell out of his mind. His hopes and fears are put away.

He walks in a slow circle. He finishes the last word, "Relesen!"

Wind whistles.

Castiel freezes, then bolts for the library. He pauses at the blank point on the floor where the barrier rests, then he steps across it. Fully.

He begins to laugh, wild. He lets loose for almost a full minute and then forces down the slightly hysterical joy. He needs to act quickly and intelligently.

First, he finds heavier clothes and a pair of Dean's boots. The clothes smell like him, and it makes Castiel falter for a second before he's able to refocus. It's been nearly four months, which means it's now January. At night it could get to freezing. Second, he finds a knapsack that he fills with water and sealed food. Then he begins a thorough search of the bunker.

Dean's bedroom is still locked. So is the armory and dungeon, and several random rooms in the hall. He doesn't find any keys. Sam's room is unlocked, but largely empty; Castiel carefully doesn't touch anything and closes the door. There's a garage full of cars from the fifties, but none of them will start. He does find a gun (ironically a Glock Model 22 pistol) loaded, hidden near the front door. (He doesn't go out yet. His heart is racing.) He grabs a kitchen knife as a secondary weapon. He searches the library and finds a locked cage which contains boxes with labels like Cursed Object #72. He doesn't find anything regarding the ankle cuff anywhere, not in the obvious spots (like on one of the two major desks) or in any of the stacks. After an hour, he concludes that he probably isn't going to find it in any kind of reasonable length of time. There's an old phone, disconnected. No random cells lying around.

He finds mail in the foyer. It doesn't have a real address listed, but it does have a PO box and state.

Kansas. He's in Kansas. Dean Winchester's birth state.

Possibly near Witchita, the location of the PO box, but it's also possible Dean just chose the highest population city for that. Possibly near Lawrence, his home town.

Castiel will have to hike out, if Dean was telling the truth about being in the middle of nowhere. He approaches the front door, each step closer making him queasier. He wants to throw up from sheer nervousness. A wild thought passes through his head that Dean is waiting on the other side of that door, ready to take him down. That this is all a test.

Fuck that.

Castiel opens the door and sees a road. It doesn't have any painted lines on it, so it's either small or a country road. Or private. The air is cool and there's a breeze, the first Castiel has felt for months. He can't help but stop and take several deep breaths of the clean air. Then he walks out entirely, looking behind him. Like he suspected, the entrance is just at ground level, and most of the bunker is underground. There's a building set above the entrance, but Castiel doesn't know what it is. Perhaps where the generator is stored – judging from the size of the bunker, it probably has its own well, generator, and whatever else they would need to keep off any official paperwork.

Beyond that lies nothing but yellowing grass and brush. Miles and miles of it.

Castiel is dizzy. The grass swims and he has to close his eyes, and his heart wants to beat out of his chest. He swallows past a dry throat. The sun is blinding, even with his eyes shut. Now is not the time to get agoraphobic. He forces even breaths and then opens his eyes. He doesn't want to walk along the road, even though that's probably the best way to get noticed. He wants to get farther away before he does that, because some part of him fears that Dean is on his way back, for some reason. It could be anything. Dean's come home early from hunts before.

Home.

Castiel puts the knapsack over his shoulder and begins to run not quite parallel to the road. He sprints at first on instinct, then stops himself and goes at a steady jog instead. He needs to pace himself. He drinks plenty of water, knowing he can't afford to stop to find any for at least for the first day and that he needs to go a long distance.

The fear and worry fade as physical movement takes over. Before Dean, he went on regular runs, both for the physical exercise and to clear his mind. At midday, he slows to a walk. The street is about two hundred yards to his left, so he's out of sight from the road. He hasn't heard any cars or trucks come by, so it's probably not a well-traveled road and he's safer here, where Dean can't see him. When he gets to a major road, then he'll start asking for help.

Night comes before a crossroads.

Dean's heavy jacket, oppressive during the day, becomes warm and comfortable as the temperature drops. Castiel keeps up his pace, knowing he needs to keep his blood flowing. The sliver of a moon is enough that he can avoid major obstacles, though the ground itself is too dark to see. He might have to stop and sleep for a few hours, but he's hoping that around the next gentle hill will be a highway.

He hears a car on the road. Deep, loud – a muscle car with a powerful engine. Dean drives a 67 Impala. Castiel slowly kneels on the ground, listening as the car slows. Then stops. The engine dies.

What if the ankle cuff has some kind of magical tracking device?

Castiel bolts.

He's far enough from the road that Dean shouldn't be able to hear him running as long as he's fairly careful, so he runs at close to full speed in the opposite direction of the car noise. When he's out of breath, he pauses and takes out the Glock he'd found. Adrenaline is making everything sharp and clear, and his hand doesn't shake.

Is he willing to kill Dean, if that is what it takes to escape?

He takes the safety off and keeps running. He only stops when he hears the sound of someone else moving through the brush. FBI training says to identify himself so he doesn't shoot an innocent bystander, but logic says there's no way an innocent bystander followed him out here. He has to resist the urge to shoot in the general direction of the noise.

It becomes quiet.

It reminds him of Dwight Hiller case, where he chased the suspect into a forest and was on his heels for nearly fifteen minutes before the serial killer went to ground. Him and Hotch spent the next half hour searching the surrounding area before they found him. Back when he was the hunter.

Castiel very much feels like prey right now. He scans the area around him, eyes alert to every sway of grass.

Then there's a crunch right behind him, and a hand closes on his wrist. Castiel twists and aims and he sees the flash of green eyes and –

He doesn't fire.

Dean is on him the next second, breaking his hold on the Glock with enough force to almost snap bone. Then he's lunging over his body, trying to push Castiel to the ground. If Dean can get him there, Castiel knows he's lost the fight. Dean is heavier and stronger than he is, and being on the ground would give him too great an advantage. Castiel twists to the side, breaking Dean's hold and struggling to his feet. Rather than stay on the defensive, he goes on the attack, trying desperately to disable Dean. But in a matter of seconds Dean reacts and uses his slightly greater reach to knock away Castiel's arms, and Castiel takes a very hard blow to the chin. Dean is close enough that Castiel tries to kick and trip him up, anything to put Dean back on the defensive, but Dean is quick as lightning and won't give an inch. They trade blows, hurting each other, but Castiel can't seem to gain an advantage.

This is going to end up the way their last fight did, Castiel realizes. He doesn't know where the gun went, but he knows where the kitchen knife is.

He drops to the ground and goes for it. Fingers fumble around the handle, and then Dean is forcing him to the ground with his greater weight. Castiel slashes blindly, and Dean shouts in pain.

"Fuck, fuck – Cas, stop!"

Castiel scrambles away, but Dean, despite being injured, follows closely and doesn't let him get up. Castiel goes to slash again, but Dean dodges and does something Castiel can't see in the dark, some move Castiel doesn't expect, and they crash into each other.

Pain flashes and Castiel cries out. It seizes through his body and he feels himself go limp in shock.

"Cas?" Dean is fumbling around his wrists, and Castiel feels the familiar cold, hard line of a handcuff.

"My stomach," Castiel says. "The knife." And he breathes raggedly. Why does he lose every single time he goes against Dean in a fight? He has a ludicrous thought that he should insist they spar, so Castiel can beat his ass next time. Or he should have fired, like he was trained. He's an FBI agent and he failed to fire.

"Fuck," Dean whispers. "Okay, I'm going to pick you up and get you to the car, there's light and bandages. Don't struggle, okay? Don't move."

Dean gets an arm under Castiel's, across his back, and then his other under Castiel's leg. A bridal carry. Dean stands, pulling Castiel close, and Castiel breathes into Dean's shirt, his right hand on his stomach. He can feel the bleed flowing from the wound. It's deep. The world wavers as Dean walks through the rough ground, moving as quickly as possible. Castiel relaxes, almost against his will, feeling like he's a child that's being rocked to sleep.

Reality returns when Dean settles him against a car. The car, Dean's Impala. The movement jars his injury and he groans. Dean opens the car door and sets up a flashlight on the ground before pushing Castiel's bloody hands away and taking a look at the knife wound. "Okay, it's deep but it didn't hit anything major. Stay here." Dean gets up, leaves, and then returns with a blanket. "Press that on it. Hard as you can."

Castiel obeys.

Dean slips an arm under Castiel's so he can heave him up and into the waiting backseat.

Castiel closes his eyes.

"Cas, you need to stay awake," Dean orders from the front seat, and then everything begins to gently sway.

"I want to go home," Castiel tells him.

Dean is quiet for almost five minutes. Then, soft, "You are home."

Time passes in stops and starts, while Castiel contemplates his failure to obey his training. Really, his failure to remain unaffected by Dean. He got involved. Emotional. Hotchner would be disappointed. Understanding, but definitely disappointed.

He lets Dean bridal carry him back into the bunker. Which he knows now is really a bunker. Dean carries him into his room and handcuffs him to the headboard again. Castiel catches a flash of his pale face before he leaves for the infirmary. He returns in probably less than a minute, clearly running, with a basket full of hospital grade medical supplies.

"Can I pass out now?" Castiel asks.

Dean looks up from Castiel's wound, expression grim. "Go ahead."

Castiel does.

-------------------------

Castiel wakes up naked.

He has the uncomfortable sensation of air on skin first and shivers. Then the rest of his mind kicks online and he realizes he's only covered by a towel, which is laid over his genitals. When he opens his eyes, he realizes that he's still on his bed in his room, unbound this time. The knife wound hurts, but probably not as much as it should, and most of the pain feels internal, like his skin has been numbed. A bandage covers it, so Castiel can't see the damage done. He pokes at it, but it's securely taped.

"How do you feel?" Dean's voice comes out of nowhere.

No, not nowhere. Dean is sitting on a chair Castiel has never seen, pulled up to the bed. He's got a book in hand, something with an unintelligible title. He's got little smears of blood on his face and hands, as well as a few bruises and cuts that Castiel gave him in their short fight. His expression is blank as he stares down at Castiel.

How does he feel? Castiel doesn't even want to answer. Exhausted. Depressed.

"Well, I can tell you how I feel, which is pretty fucking pissed."

Castiel sighs.

"I thought we made a deal for no more violence," Dean snaps. "Or do you not keep your word?"

"I didn't attack you," Castiel replies shortly. "I defended myself."

"Oh yeah? You aimed a gun at my head! Did you forget that part?"

Partially. "I didn't fire." He stares at Dean. "I didn't fucking pull the trigger, and I should have."

Dean throws the book to the floor and stands. He looms over Castiel, then leans over to place a hand on either side of Castiel's head.

Castiel raises both hands to keep him away, suddenly frightened that he's pushed Dean too far.

Dean flinches as if that were a slap. He stands straight and then carefully takes one of Castiel's hands, clearly telegraphing his movements. Castiel lets him, as curious as he is afraid. But all Dean does is sit down, holding one of Castiel's hands in both of his, staring down at them with a deeply conflicted look on his face.

"Dean, where do you honestly see this ending?" Castiel asks.

Dean very slowly looks up, green eyes dark. "You staying here. You wanting to stay here, with me. Even if we never kiss again, if you would just –"

Castiel waits, but Dean doesn't finish.

"Is this about making out?" Dean asks finally. "Is that why you ran?"

"Dean, I ran because you're holding me against my will. You're holding me prisoner. And no matter how much I like you, that fact isn't going away. Not until this magical ankle cuff goes."

"If I took it off," Dean says lowly, "you would run. You would escape." He suddenly laughs a little. "I found your spell. Damn clever, you know that? I never thought you'd find that kind of thing in that book, much less figure out how to get the ingredients and do it. I can see why the FBI wanted you."

Castiel decides to go with the slight change in topic. "How did you find me? How did you even know I was gone?"

Dean digs into his pocket and waves a smart phone. "Motion sensors linked to a silent alarm system. Not so much aimed at you as keeping you safe. I wanted to know if anyone got in. As soon as one was tripped, I turned around."

"I'm in danger? I thought you said no one knew about this place?" Castiel asks.

"They don't. As far as I know. But I do have some enemies – king of hell, alphas. That kind of thing. Of course there's protections all over the place, and this is one of the most secure in the entire bunker, so you don't need to worry. Even if some bad guys found it, they wouldn't get in, or get very far."

"But I was out in the brush, how did you find me? Does the ankle cuff track me?"

Dean nods. "Yeah, it does. I reset the thing while you were out."

Well. That answers that. The vague sense of pressure to continue his escape fades, as does some tension. He's still a prisoner, but at least it's familiar. And somewhere deep inside, in a place Castiel doesn't really want to admit exists, there's relief. He rubs his eyes, feeling exhausted despite the fact he's technically had some rest.

"Do you want a blanket?" Dean asks. "I kept you uncovered until you woke up just to keep an eye on the bleeding, and the other ones that were on the bed are in the wash."

Castiel nods. "Yes. Thank you."

Dean stands, then remains there awkwardly before adding, "Sorry about your clothes. There was so much blood, I didn't know if you were injured anywhere else, so I had to cut it all off. I wasn't sneaking a peek."

Castiel pauses, keeping his expression open. "Did you want to?"

Dean first looks wary, before blushing. Then he smirks. "You're an extremely attractive man, Castiel Novak. I'll be right back." He returns five minutes later with a fluffy blanket, which he carefully settles around Castiel. "Do you want to sleep? I was going to sleep in my own bed tonight, I don't want to roll over on you or something and open your stitches."

"Yes, I'd like to rest."

Dean stands there a moment longer, shifting on his feet. "We'll talk about the escape attempt tomorrow," he says. "Sleep well."

To his surprise, Castiel does.

Chapter Text

Castiel wakes up with the need to piss. He knows he's going to need help to get to the bathroom without causing damage to his injury, but he's still naked under the towel and blankets. It's not like Dean hasn't seen it by now, but it still makes Castiel uncomfortable. Unlike the other times he was injured and then ended up in a hospital, Dean isn't a professional, and his interest in Castiel's body is sexual.

Is that something he could use? Castiel blinks at the ceiling, realizing that it is. If Castiel is willing to … to …

"Rise and shine," Dean says, walking into the room. "Bathroom?"

Castiel nods stiffly.

"Don't worry, I used to do this for Sam all the time," Dean says, opening the bathroom door and lifting the toilet seat. "He used to do it for me, too, for that matter. Just think of me as a hot nurse."

Castiel can't help cracking a smile.

It makes Dean beam in response. He pulls back Castiel's blankets, but leaves the towel in place. Pain radiates from the stomach wound, which three or so inches above his left hipbone. It's wide, almost four inches, but Castiel is willing to trust Dean when he says it didn't hit any internal organs. Dean frowns down at him before taking off and then returning with a safety pin, which he uses to pin the fairly large towel around Castiel's hips. Then he pulls Castiel's arm over his shoulders and lifts.

Once he gets Castiel situated, he leaves for almost ten minutes to allow Castiel privacy. Then he carries most of Castiel's weight back to the bed.

Then he leaves again to make breakfast. Castiel is alone with his thoughts. That thought.

He could offer Dean a deal – sex for his freedom. Some kind of pre-determined time that Castiel would allow and participate in sexual acts in return for being released. If Dean agreed to it, Castiel believes it's fairly likely he would follow through.

Is he willing to go that far? To go home?

Many kidnapping victims have suffered much worse than he has. Castiel knows that for a fact. Dean treats him well, considering he is Dean's prisoner and considering Dean's ultimate goal. He's not being tortured. Rape is off the table, even if some forms of sexual contact are not. His life isn't threatened. But he also knows that Dean is willing to make this captivity long-term. Years. Maybe even decades. And Castiel no longer trusts in his ability to escape – Dean has both a remote location and magic at his disposal. Convincing Dean to let him go seems unlikely at best. Whether his claim that they are soulmates is true or not, Dean is convinced it is, and considering his history he's going to stick to that to the death.

He wants Balthazar. He wants the freedom to go where he pleases. He wants to see his colleagues and friends. He wants to go back to his job at the FBI and catch criminals. He may have been single and with few friends, but he was happy and fulfilled.

He would be more or less prostituting himself. Sex. With Dean. A man. It's not really the male part that bothers him – Castiel has never really been attracted to men, but it's not like the idea inherently disgusts him. He doesn't feel attraction until he cares for someone anyway.

It's rendering himself that vulnerable willingly, to satisfy someone else, to buy something for himself.

Dean returns cheerful and with waffles stuffed with jam and cream cheese, meant to be eaten like a sandwich – presumably to be easier on Castiel's injury.

He waits until Castiel is half-done before saying, a bit of anger returning to his tone, "So, about yesterday."

Castiel sits his waffle/sandwich down. "How about we make a deal?"

Dean blinks, clearly taken aback. "What kind of deal?"

Biting down the urge to throw up, Castiel says evenly, "I will willingly have sex with you, and in ret urn you let me go."

Dean gapes at him. "I – what? Are you serious?"

"Yes."

Dean grits his teeth. "No. Eat your breakfast."

But Castiel isn't going to be dismissed that easily. "It's what you really want from me, Dean. You could take it by force, but I know you don't want to do that. I'm offering you a way to get what you want, and I get what I want."

"No, Cas. I said no. No way is that ever happening."

Feeling the opportunity slip out of his fingers, Castiel asks, "Why?"

"I'm not going to rape you!"

"It wouldn't be rape, Dean. I'd be consenting."

Dean's mouth opens and closes. "You telling me the law would see it that way? That I wouldn't be charged with rape if I ever got caught?"

Castiel looks away.

"And what about you? Are you saying you wouldn't feel raped?" Dean presses.

"That's rich coming from you! You want me to choose to be with you – to be your lover, partner in crime, whatever – while I'm chained up." Castiel splutters for a second, then continues, "Do you think I'm ever going to be able to make that decision without it being coerced?"

Jaw clenching, Dean gets up and stalks out of the room.

Castiel sets the sandwich to the side, appetite gone and a headache mounting. He rubs his temples, fear and frustration warring with each other. He tries to think logically, try to decide what to do next. If Dean is so opposed to Castiel having sex with him for that reason, that suggests that if Castiel refuses to rescind the offer, Dean may stay away from him. In that way. It's not what Castiel planned, but it should work. And considering Castiel asked Dean to kiss him, considering Castiel even enjoyed it, that's probably for the best.

When Dean returns an hour later, expression blank as he grabs Castiel's plate, all Castiel says is, "The offer stands."

Dean glares at him and goes.

--------------------------------

The bad mood lasts three days. For once, Castiel is the one who gives Dean space to think and process. Dean keeps up the meals (Castiel's leash is set at about the same distance into the kitchen as before; he lost access entirely to the library), but offers very little conversation with them. Although there is a lot of staring. It's like he's trying to figure out a way to defeat Castiel's last words, and can't.

The third night, Dean enters the room and asks, "Can I sleep in here?"

Castiel looks over at him, sees the bags under Dean's eyes and the way he shifts his weight from foot to foot. Castiel will still hold to his end of their one deal. "All right."

Dean is cautious when he crawls into bed. Castiel's been sleeping on his back for obvious reasons, so Dean only slides a leg against his, his hands in front of him not quite touching Castiel's arm. Then, Dean says quietly, "I can make you happy. I can give you whatever you want."

"Dean …"

"What is there that I can't offer you?" Dean demands.

"Freedom," Castiel states flatly.

"Cas –"

"My home. My apartment. My relationship with my family. My job at the FBI. Can you give me those things, Dean? Here? Because the way I see it, you can only give me those things by letting me go."

Dean looks miserable, lips pursed.

Castiel tries to shove down the impulse to feel sorry for him. "Go to sleep, Dean."

--------------------------------

"Cas! Come to the kitchen!" Dean's voice echoes from the hall.

Castiel puts down his book (a brand new thriller from John Grisham, because Dean isn't stupid) and carefully leverages himself off the bed. It's been a week and he's healing fast with no signs of infection, but he still has to be cautious in how he moves. Going down the hall is easy, up the stairs a bit harder. He finds Dean standing in the middle of the kitchen, phone in hand. Which is unusual; he usually keeps his phone out of reach of Castiel at all times, for obvious reasons.

"I got a text from Anna, she'll be by any minute now," Dean says, smiling.

A woman pops out of thin air.

Castiel starts backwards, pain flaring. "What the –"

"Cas," Dean says as if this is perfectly normal, "this is Anna."

She gives Dean a fond smile, then turns her attention to Castiel, who is still trying to process the fact that she simply appeared out of nowhere. Not near a door. Or a window. Behind a table, even. She tilts her head, blinking thoughtfully at him. She looks young, no more than mid-twenties, with red hair past her shoulders. Her clothing is normal, too – just a pair of jeans and a simple shirt, with a colored denim jacket on top. She doesn't really look like an angel, just a pretty young woman.

"Hello, Castiel. It's good to finally meet you," she says. She steps forward and places two fingers to his forehead, not reacting to his instinctive flinch. "That's better."

The pain from the knife wound is gone. Castiel lifts up his shirt and peels back the gauze and finds nothing but smooth, perfectly normal skin. He's shocked almost speechless. "How did you do that?"

"Healing is an innate ability for angels. Only demons require power in the form of a deal."

Castiel stares at her. "Are you really an angel?"

As if in response, all the lights flicker. One explodes into sparks. Castiel starts again, but then two absolutely massive shadows appear on the walls behind Anna, lit by the flickering lights. Wings, in a high display posture, or like a bird in flight. A faint blue light glows in her eyes. All the hairs on Castiel's arms stand up and he feels a chill work down his spine. He knows, he just knows that what he's looking at isn't human.

Then the lights come back on and the shadows fade into the light.

Castiel stares at Anna the angel, mouth open.

Dean saunters over and leans in. "That was my recommendation. Much more convincing than getting annoyed and arguing about it like Anna did when we first met."

Anna eyes him, visibly amused. "I should have known you'd be so much trouble."

Castiel's knowledge of angels – real ones, anyway – is limited to what Dean has told him. For the most part it's not good news, with a majority of angels either being ambivalent or hostile to humanity. Anna is the exception, the angel who rebelled with him to stop the apocalypse. Castiel should probably be trying to convince her that rescuing him is the right thing to do, but he can't wrap his brain around the fact that angels are real. That the apocalypse happened and was stopped by two young men from Kansas. Because if she … then he …

There is one truth: either he is mad, or Dean is not.

"Give him a sec," Dean advises Anna. "He knows the story, pretty much, but now he knows it's true. How goes it in heaven?"

"Better. Hannah has been a huge help. Metatron is being held where Gadreel once was, while we decide what to do with him."

"Does God exist?" Castiel blurts.

Both Anna and Dean look at him.

"Yeah," Dean says. "He does. Somewhere."

"He has not been present for some time," Anna says delicately. "But I assure you He does exist."

Castiel sits at the table Dean set up for him and Castiel to eat every morning. And processes. So. The devil and the archangel Michael are in hell together. Raphael is dead. (Dean was a bit hazy on how.) Gabriel was Loki for millennia. Demons exist, and not just in the fevered imaginations of visionary killers. Some of the people Castiel has put in prison claimed to be possessed – how many actually were? His mind is tipping, sliding fast into the idea that all that Dean is claimed is true.

"So who's Gadreel? He was in prison?" Dean asks Anna. "That doesn't sound good."

Anna frowns. "We are … reevaluating cases like his. So much has happened in heaven that forgiveness is going to have to be a long-term goal." She dips her head. "So far, he has been cooperative and has acted in good faith."

Dean stares at the floor. "And Sam?"

"Mending his relationship with your father."

Dean snorts. "Yeah, that'll take the rest of eternity."

Castiel needs to get out of here. Though if he did, could he ever go back to life as it was, knowing what he knows now? But – but he has to try. Escape has been his one constant besides Dean. "Anna –"

"I think it is time for us to speak, Castiel," Anna says, interrupting him. She takes four steps to his side and taps his forehead.

They now stand in a field with dying grass that pokes at Castiel's bare feet. The sky is a bright blue, and the air cool. Castiel has no idea where they are, or why. Or how. Did they fly? Do angels even fly? Dean said they teleported. Where is he? How did he get here? Holy fuck, Dean was telling the truth, wasn't he? He is so fucked. He needs to get out of here. So he stares at Anna and tries to get back on track. "Listen to me. I'm an FBI agent who has been kidnapped –"

Anna waves a hand in dismissal. "Human laws are of no concern to me. I owe several large debts to Dean, just as he owes me. You are less in the face of that." Her expression softens. "I am not without sympathy for your situation. But you are with your soulmate. A cupid would have arranged a gentler meeting, but with Dean is not a bad place for you to be, Castiel Novak."

"How about moral law?" Castiel asks. "That would seem to be in the purview of an angel."

Anna smiles. "You're smart. A good match for Dean."

"You didn't answer my question."

"I have removed myself from that equation. And I know Dean. He won't hurt you."

Castiel stares at her for a second. "He's beaten me hard enough to leave cuts and bruises. He slammed my head into the floor hard enough to daze me. You don't think that's hurting me?"

"Why did he commit such acts?" Anna asks.

"I tried to escape and go back to my family," Castiel replies, choosing his words carefully.

Anna searches his face. "I owe him. I will not help you escape."

"Some angel you are, then," Castiel says, unable to repress his anger and frustration.

Anna actually winces. "You would not be the first to say so. But if were it not for Dean, I would still be, in his words, heartless. If Dean ever does put you in real danger, pray to me and I will help you. But I cannot promise more than that."

Castiel turns away and resists the urge to scream at the blue sky – how long has it been? – but only does so just long enough to regain control, and then he returns his attention to Anna. "Where are we?"

Anna gives him a gentle look. "You asked for proof. Dean asked for understanding. This is both." She walks a few feet and then pauses. "Come."

Fortunately, Castiel grew up mostly barefoot, so his feet survive the hundred yard or so trip. They're in a cemetery, and in the distance Castiel sees several men and the Impala. And Dean. Anna stands there as well, along with an older man Castiel doesn't recognize.

He watches as Anna throws a Molotov cocktail at the blond man, shouting, "Hey, asshole!" He then disappears with a scream, and then Sam turns.

But that isn't Sam, because Castiel knows this story.

He lurches forward, but Anna, slight as she is, merely has to hold his arm. "This has already happened. I am only showing you the past, we cannot change it."

Castiel watches, breathless with shock, as Anna is killed. As the older man is killed. Bobby Singer, perhaps, someone Dean's spoken of as a foster father. He watches as Lucifer – and it really must be Lucifer, because everything Dean has told him is true – beats the shit out of Dean, who just keeps saying, "It's okay. I'm here. I'm here. I'm not gonna leave you." He's waiting to die with his brother, and Castiel, who has known Dean for five months, sees that he's okay with that. As long as he's with Sam.

His throat tightens when Sam takes control. When Michael returns, and Sam pulls two archangels into the pit – a doorway to hell that Castiel has seen with his own two eyes. Even though he knows Sam's soul eventually escaped, seeing the reality of someone going to hell is shocking. Dean is left alone. And he is alone, even after watching Anna come back to life, and then Bobby with her. The look of utter devastation on Dean's face is unforgettable.

"Do you see?" Anna asks, quiet.

Castiel turns to her and doesn't know what to say. He can feel the tears building, but he doesn't let them fall. Dean's pain is suddenly considerably more real to him.

Anna taps his forehead again. This time he arrives in the bunker, but in a spot he's not normally allowed – Sam's room. Sam is sitting on the bed, looking haggard. Ill. Castiel has seen healthier looking cancer patients. Castiel stares at him, feeling like he could walk over there and tap Sam on the shoulder and have a conversation. Anna places a small hand on his shoulder, like steel. "This is the past," Anna tells him again and Castiel nods slightly. He waits.

Dean wanders in from the hallway and takes a chair. "Sam," he says. Just that.

Sam looks up, exhausted and pained. "Dean, I have to do this. We've had this discussion a million times and I –"

"I know, Sam," Dean interrupts. "Fuck." He rubs his face, then looks up at Sam with tears shining in his eyes. "I just came to here to say. That. For what it's worth, you have my blessing."

Sam smiles, slow and heartbreaking. There's a softness and sincerity to it that Castiel has rarely seen and a profoundly deep love in his eyes. "I can finish the last trial and cure Crowley. Close hell, Dean. Think of how many lives we'll save."

"But I'm going with you," Dean finishes.

The smile falls from Sam's face. "Dean, you can have a life, a good life –"

"And you can't?" Dean demands. "You think living is worth anything to me without you? You think I won't put a bullet in my brain two seconds after you go?"

Sam stares at him, a line between his eyebrows. "Talk to Anna."

Dean huffs out a surprised laugh. "What? Why?"

"Please. For me. The rest can wait until then."

Dean tries to stare him down, but Sam just gives Dean a calm and steady gaze in response. Almost a full minute of pure silence passes before Dean gets up, slow and painful, and then he nods. "Okay, Sam," he says quietly and goes.

Sam lies down on the bed, staring at the ceiling as he takes even breaths.

"Dean asked me to come, and then asked what would happen to him and Sam when they die. If they would share a heaven," Anna says. Sam, of course, doesn't react, just lies there resting. Castiel can't even move, frozen to the spot with a torrent of emotions that he can't suppress. "That's when I told him about you. I didn't know then that Sam had planned that conversation, but Sam knew that Jessica was his soulmate along with Dean – I had that talk with him long ago – so he suspected Dean had one as well. Sam, in a way, always planned for Dean to know you. Whether he anticipated the lengths Dean would go to I can't say, but you were his last hope for keeping his brother alive."

Castiel wipes his eyes. Had he been there for Michael's last moments, would his brother's dying wish been any less powerful? Of course Castiel wouldn't have kidnapped Dean, but Dean doesn't have the advantage of a normal life.

Finally, Castiel says, "Is everything Dean told me true?"

"About his history? Yes." Anna tilts her head. "His emotions, probably not."

Castiel laughs despite himself.

"Do you understand?" Anna asks.

"Yes." Castiel looks at Sam, still breathing evenly on the bed, fast looking like he's going to drop off into sleep. "Yes, I think I do."

With another tap to his forehead, Anna returns them both to the present-time bunker. Dean is sitting at their breakfast table and he looks up with the rush of air that sends a few random pieces of paper (with recipes on them, mostly) scattering. "That wasn't long," Dean observes, rising to his feet.

He looks like Dean that Castiel knows well. Older than the one he saw in the past, more character to his handsome face. As always, he looks at Castiel with a mixture of love and caution. And deep inside that is something else – a pinprick of something not quite sane. Sam's death broke irrevocably broke part of Dean, and the rest of Dean's mind is centered around that moment, that act of sacrifice. But Dean still is Dean – a good man who fought too many hard battles, and is now fighting his last one, a battle to survive, and his weapons are a desperate series of actions.

Castiel steps forward and embraces him.

Dean freezes for a second before returning the hug, wrapping his strong arms around Castiel and holding on tight. "Hey," he whispers into Castiel's shoulder.

Throat tight, Castiel can't say anything.

"I will take that as my leave," Anna's voice comes from behind them. "Good luck, both of you." Papers scatter again.

After a minute, Castiel releases Dean.

"Where'd she take you?" Dean asks, keeping a hand on Castiel's waist.

Blue eyes meet green. "Does it matter?"

The corner of Dean's mouth quirks. "Guess not."

"Dean –"

"Yeah?" Dean asks, that caution returning.

"I'm rescinding my offer."

Dean smiles. Because he may not know the details, but he knows as well as Castiel what that means. It's not a fight as much as it is a surrender. An acknowledgement that their relationship isn't going to go that way, whatever happens next. "Okay. Good."

"I'm sorry about Sam," Castiel says. "He seemed like a good man."

A sadness enters Dean's eyes. "He was. And thanks."

"Why is mending his relationship with your father going to take an eternity?"

Dean laughs.

--------------------------------

Castiel has come to an irreversible conclusion: he's not capable of killing Dean. He's not willing.

He hasn't told Dean that yet, though. Instead, a hundred and fifty-two days in, their life together reaches another level of steady rhythm. They watch tv shows and movies every night on a massive, comfortable couch in a converted den, sleep in the same bed, and then Dean makes them breakfast in the morning. Dean bought a laptop with no internet access (though Castiel knows the bunker has a satellite connection) for Castiel to use. He plays a lot of Tetris. Dean still talks about Sam, but now Castiel talks about Michael and Balthazar and Hael. In return, Dean shares what it was like growing up as a hunter, and not the sanitized version he gave Castiel before.

One morning after lunch, Dean comes in from one of his supply runs that typically take around four to five hours. Except this time instead of holding groceries, he's holding an absolute mountain of newspapers. Dean plops them onto the kitchen table.

Castiel raises an eyebrow.

"You've learned enough from me and read enough of the library that I think you could find hunts."

Castiel divides the pile into four for easier access. He looks at the array of newspapers from all over the country. "Where did you even get all of these?"

"Bobby set it up," Dean replies. "Back when he was alive, he was kind of hunter central when it came to information. He'd find hunts and call hunters like me and Sam to take care of them if they were out of his area."

"By the time these get here, isn't the information old?"

"I'm looking for long term trends," Dean says. "Dad was a genius at it, Sam was pretty good, and I'm … not that great, honestly. If it's something I've seen before, I recognize it, but if it's just random shit across states? Then I don't see it. But you caught serial killers for a living, if anyone could see long-term stuff, it's you."

Castiel snorts. "I wonder what Bobby could have done with ViCAP."

"Ah ah, don't think he didn't have access. Hunters know hackers too, you know."

Castiel pauses in his examination of the newspapers. "Is that how you got my file? You know things about me that were only in my FBI file."

Dean shrugs uncomfortably. "Yeah, I know someone. She didn't exactly know why I was asking for it, though."

That suggests that Anna may be the exception in terms of accepting Dean's kidnapping of Castiel. After Anna had dismissed it so easily Castiel had come to the conclusion that even if other hunters didn't agree with Dean's actions, they wouldn't do anything about it. Especially since Castiel was FBI, and law enforcement is a complication at best for hunters, at worst an enemy. But perhaps that was a rather narrow view of the group of people that know about the supernatural.

"So, you think you're up for it?" Dean asks, eyes brightly hopeful.

"Well, it gives me something to do," Castiel says with a smile.

In the end, Dean gets Castiel a larger table set up in one of the rooms that Castiel is allowed access to. More than nine feet long and four feet wide, it lets Castiel spread out the newspapers, all of which are about a week to three weeks old. He decides not to dismiss solved crimes, since those could also have supernatural elements that the local law enforcement missed. After that, he uses a board on the wall to pin things up. He finds two potential hunts in the first five days, both of them a series of weird killings that span across state lines.

The sixth day, he finds himself.

It's a small article from Stafford, Virginia (near Quantico), saying that FBI agent Castiel Novak, a member of the BAU, has been missing for nearly six months. He's believed to be a victim of a kidnapping deliberately aimed at a member of law enforcement. It doesn't mention Dean or any suspects, just that the investigation is ongoing. It's pretty factual, save for a quote from Balthazar Novak, saying, "My brother is still alive and waiting for us to find him. He's a fighter. Please, if anyone knows anything, help my brother come home to his family."

It kicks the breath out of Castiel. When he inhales, it's with tears blurring his vision. He wipes his eyes, but everything blurs again almost instantly. He traces Balthazar's words, the first words from his brother that he's heard in six months.

Then he pushes away the newspaper and sobs into his hands. For the first time, he breaks down, taking short and fast breaths as his body jerks with the force of his crying. He doesn't know how long it lasts, just that by the end of it he's exhausted.

With numbness creeping throughout his entire body, he gets to his feet and walks to his room, then lays down and pulls the cover over him. And he doesn't move.

Dean comes in at some point, resting a hand on Castiel's forehead. "Cas? You okay, Cas? You don’t have a fever, are you sick?"

Castiel doesn't respond.

"Cas, what's wrong?"

Silence.

A hand stroking Castiel's hair. "Okay," Dean says at last. "I'll be back in a bit with dinner." He leaves, time passes, and then he returns. "I found the article," Dean says quietly. "I'm sorry, Cas."

He leaves Castiel alone for the night.

--------------------------------

Castiel can't muster the appetite to eat breakfast, even though Dean made his favorite (scrambled eggs with salsa and sour cream). He stares down at the full plate for nearly fifteen minutes before Dean silently takes it away and replaces it with a cup of water.

"Drink," Dean says, standing over him. "Cas, you have to drink water. I'll let food slide for now, but you need water."

Castiel drinks half of it mechanically.

"Okay, good." Dean sounds relieved. "You want me to put on a movie? Something so stupid and inaccurate it's laughable? I've got Mission Impossible. The entire series of movies, if you want. Just tell me what you need, Cas."

Castiel closes his eyes and rests his head on his arms, blocking Dean out as much as he's able.

"Gotcha," Dean mutters, and leaves the kitchen.

A buzz distracts Castiel from his depression. After a second, it repeats. Confused, Castiel raises his head and looks around the kitchen. There, lying on the counter, is Dean's cell phone. The phone is set to vibrate and someone is calling. Technically, it's just outside of Castiel's reach because he can't reach any of the counters or the appliances. But it's so close. After a minute of Castiel staring it, it goes still and then beeps once. Someone left a voicemail.

He rises to his feet and looks around him. He's got dishes and a pan in reach. A plastic bag from the trash. He goes to the pan that Dean cooked the eggs in and estimates it will increase his reach by a foot and a third. He walks until the ankle cuff stops him, then leans forward as far as he can while still maintaining his height, pan stretched out in front of him.

It barely touches the tip of the phone. Castiel wavers and the pan smacks the end of the phone, flipping it end over end before it clatters to the floor. Scraping the pan along the floor like a cup, he brings the phone to him and then picks it up in his own two hands.

He stares at it. He presses the on button, and it flashes to a password screen. Underneath that is the ability to make an emergency call. Pressing that, it takes him to a dialer.

The numbers waver and he blinks rapidly.

Then he puts in Balthazar's number. The call symbol taunts him, so close, all he has to do is press it and Balthazar will be there. The FBI will track the phone and find it here, or some cell phone tower near here. He can go home.

Dean would be arrested. He'd never be able to come back to the bunker, but Anna could get him out of prison. Couldn't she?

Why is he hesitating?

"Cas."

Castiel whirls and sees Dean standing in the doorway.

Dean raises his hands like Castiel is about to shoot him. "I see you found my phone," Dean says gently. "Saw you looking at it for a good minute there, Cas. Think you could hand it to me?"

"But my brother," Castiel says automatically.

"I'll find a way for you to talk to him, okay? I promise. Please, Cas."

It suddenly occurs to Castiel that Dean should have just assaulted him and taken the phone. Castiel was clearly too out of it to hear him coming back. Why didn't Dean just take it by force? What would he do if Castiel pressed the call button? Would he attack Castiel then?

"I know you don't want me to go to prison," Dean says softly. "I know that, Cas. You don't want to hurt me, do you?"

"No," Castiel whispers.

Dean takes one careful step forward. Castiel doesn't press the call button. "I promise I'll take care of you. I promise, Cas."

Hand shaking, Cas holds out the phone. Dean takes it, turns it off and slips it into a pocket.

Castiel knows one of the major symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome is when the captive refuses to leave captivity. Refuses to take opportunities to escape. But when Dean takes Castiel into his arms, pulling his body close to Dean's, he still finds comfort in it. He lets Dean hold him, lets Dean press Castiel's head to his shoulder, and lets Dean take his hand and lead him to their couch. Their couch. Their bed. When did Castiel start considering all of this his? When did he consider it to belong to both of them? He uses words in his own head like they're a couple, and not captive and captor.

Dean's hands are gentle on his face, stroking along his cheekbones. "Cas?"

Castiel focuses on him.

"Cas. Thank you. Thank you," Dean says.

"I'm losing my mind," Castiel tells Dean.

"You're not –"

"I am! You kidnapped me, Dean, and I've failed twice to get away from you. I know what Stockholm Syndrome is, I've seen it in victims, I'm a fucking FBI agent. I'm trained. I know better than anyone exactly – exactly what's happening, and it still fucking happens." He takes a deep breath. "Dean."

"This isn't like those cases, that's not us, that's not who we are," Dean insists. Passionate. "I'm not some random kidnapper, and you're not some random victim. I'm your soulmate, we were meant to be together and it's only heaven's fault that we're not. We're together, Cas. That's everything. That's fucking everything. Screw what the world thinks about it."

"But I miss –"

"I'll find a way for you to talk to him, I made that promise and I will keep it." Firm. Unyielding. "Cas. Stop thinking. There will be time and energy for that later. Right now, you're – you're overwhelmed. You need to calm down. Please."

Castiel exhales, deep and long.

"Okay? You with me?"

Castiel nods. "I'm with you."

Dean pulls Castiel into his arms again, so that Castiel is curled up on his side and settled between Dean's legs. One hand runs through his hair, five lines of firm pressure. The other makes circles on his back, fingers pressing into tightened muscles until they relax. After a few minutes, Dean rearranges them slightly so his back is pressed against the couch and then he holds Castiel. Holds him in. Degree by degree, Castiel collapses against him until there's nothing between them, until Castiel falls.

He just falls.

--------------------------------

Castiel wakes up in bed. He's been stripped down to just his boxers, and Dean is curled around him in the same. Up until now, he'd never felt Dean's bare stomach against his bare back. That much skin. Dean seems to run hot, almost hot enough to cause Castiel to sweat where their skin touches. When Castiel twitches, Dean tightens his hold and squirms closer, murmuring something in his sleep as his palm presses against Castiel's stomach, tickling. Dean's knees hit the back of Castiel's and a calloused foot runs along his right ankle. Castiel lies there, thinking, but his thoughts seem to stop a few points into a process. His mind can't pull it together.

Then Dean rubs against him, and he's hard.

Dean starts and wakes himself up. Instead of stilling unnaturally like someone caught, he simply shifts over and pulls back the covers. Like someone who has done this before. He slips out of bed, and Castiel turns over to look at him.

"You're awake?" Dean whispers.

Castiel nods.

Rather than leave, Dean circles to Castiel's side of the bed and kneels on the floor. "How are you doing?" Dean asks quietly.

"Why are you whispering?" Castiel asks, voice pitched just as quietly out of habit.

"Why are you?" Dean smiles. He strokes Castiel's cheek with the back of his hand, then leans in and gently places a kiss on Castiel's forehead, then on his lips. When Castiel only blinks at him, he goes in for another, this one longer. His hands frame Castiel's face, not quite holding him still, but definitely holding him.

The third kiss, Castiel responds. He opens his mouth a little bit and Dean takes the opportunity immediately, licking the inside of his mouth and then sucking on his bottom lip. He pauses only to breathe warm air into Castiel's mouth, then kisses him again and again. Castiel explores the sensation of stubble and the softness of Dean's lips, curious. A tense arousal sits low in his body, a clash of desire and fear.

Dean withdraws only to rise to his feet and kneel on the bed, leaning over Castiel with one hand holding him up. He's close enough that even though they're not touching, Castiel can feel the heat emanating from his body.

He kisses Castiel more wildly, leaving Castiel's lips wet before he moves to Castiel's jaw. He plants little sucking kisses along his neck and Castiel gives a whole-body twitch. A moan slips out and Castiel freezes in surprise. Dean matches the noise with a moan of his own, panting against Castiel's neck.

Dean uses his free hand to skim along Castiel's body, starting at this cheek before running down his neck to his chest, open palm against Castiel's pectoral. Then he slides his hand down Castiel's side, to where his boxers sit on his hips. He rubs the skin there, where Castiel's hipbone juts out, just like the first time Castiel slept in the same bed as Dean. Castiel, every nerve in his body screaming different things at him, thinks it must be deliberate.

Those fingers stroke along the boxer's band, then slip under, tracing the trail of hair that leads to Castiel's cock.

Castiel grabs that hand in panic and Dean immediately stops. "Okay," Dean whispers into Castiel's mouth.

He withdraws his hand, but instead of backing off like Castiel expects him to, he lowers the lower half of his body so that Dean's cock is pressed against Castiel's thigh and thrusts against it, so Castiel can clearly feel the hard line of his cock, even the soft weight of his balls. Dean kisses Castiel as he does it, open-mouthed and then biting his lips very gently. Castiel groans and thrusts upward on instinct, finding Dean's thigh a pleasurable pressure.

"I – oh," Castiel says, voice pitched too high. "Dean." He places both hands on Dean's chest and applies light pressure, like a question, like asking.

"Please," Dean begs, voice filled with arousal. "Like this? Please." He takes one of Castiel's hands and kisses it before letting him go and riding Castiel's thigh again, one long, slow thrust. "Cas, I want you so bad."

Castiel doesn't know what to do, what to think. He can tell he's half-hard, and that he's not going to come without being touched. But he's not sure he wants to come. He's not sure he wants Dean to come on him, either. Panic robs him of his words and makes him breathe fast. Dean responds to his silence by kissing him again, carefully and thoroughly. He doesn't keep riding Castiel, instead focusing all his efforts into turning Castiel on – first just the kissing, then a thumb lightly caressing his nipple. Dean scratches up his ribs lightly, before pressing his palm against Castiel's skin, into the small of his back so he can encourage Castiel to thrust upward. Castiel lets his hands fall to his sides.

It's all strange and new. The sensation of another man instead of a woman, the way Dean's body is so much harder and larger. Dean's cock, separated from Castiel's skin by only thin fabric. Once he hit thirty, Castiel never expected to share a bed with a man. And he definitely never expected it to be like this, where Dean has so much power over him.

In some way, Castiel chose Dean by not dialing his brother. Can he go back from that? Does he want to?

As if finally sensing his panic, Dean lays on top of him with the majority of his weight, chest to chest, hip to hip, his legs over Castiel's. His cock is a warm, solid line against Castiel's stomach, side by side with Castiel's own half-hard cock. One of his hands holds some of his weight, and the other holds down Castiel's wrist. "Shh," Dean whispers into Castiel's ear. "Calm down. I'm here." He kisses Castiel's neck. "I can make you feel so good, if you let me."

Dean's weight holds him down and still. It gives him no choice. Staring into Dean's green eyes, Castiel slowly calms down. He can give in. He can do that. Then it's not his responsibility. Fear of being vulnerable ratchets upwards at the same time his body relaxes.

"That's it, Cas. That's it. Can I touch you?" Dean asks. "My hand around you? My mouth?"

Castiel opens his mouth but no words come out. He's not even sure what he would say. Then, "Okay."

Dean breaks into a full, wide smile. He lifts off of Castiel enough to slip a hand to Castiel's boxers, then under the band, until his hand meets Castiel's cock. This time Castiel doesn't stop him. He grips it firmly and strokes, thumb rubbing the slit with each repetition. Castiel thrusts upwards and moans, following his body's instinct to chase the pleasure. His hands clench into fists at his sides. "Oh fuck," Dean says. "You're beautiful like this."

After a few more long strokes, Dean rises up slightly. He shifts where Castiel can't see, then Castiel feels the bare and damp head of Dean's cock against his upper thigh, and Dean thrusts lightly, leaving a wet line of precome.

He's having sex with Dean. With his captor. Everything else about Dean – the supernatural being real, saving the world – fades into nothing. There's just him and Dean, in the same bed.

Dean's hand is on his cock, working him to a full erection. In return Castiel can feel the soft skin of Dean's cockhead. He can even feel where it flares outward an inch from the tip, can feel it when his whole cock pulses with arousal. He grips Dean's arms, to push him away or pull him closer, something, but he can't move any further. Dean takes it as a sign of welcome, kisses the center of Castiel's chest, just over his heart. Some part of Castiel wants to panic, is panicking. Another part says, This is going to happen. Let Dean take control. This is not your responsibility.

Castiel doesn't know how long it's been, how long Dean's been riding his thigh or caressing Castiel's dick. But he feels the orgasm closing in, his balls tightening up. He moans without control and his head tips backwards as his entire body tenses up and then he comes. Hot and fast into Dean's hand.

"Oh, Cas," Dean says, sounding faint. He thrusts against Castiel's thigh one more time and then hot liquid spills over Castiel's skin.

Castiel lays there, panting and wrung out, marked by semen. His own, and Dean's. His mind is blank and floating. He can do nothing more than stare at the ceiling, even when Dean leaves the bed. Even when Dean returns, gently pulls off his boxers and then cleans up their semen. He's naked, and Dean is naked, but they've had sex now, so what does that last line of defense matter? Castiel let this happen. He can't go back. If he said no tomorrow to sex, Dean would listen. But sooner or later, Castiel would give in because Castiel is weak.

Castiel thinks he consented. He said yes. But at the same time he's not sure he knows what consent is, in this situation.

"Fuck, Cas, don't cry," Dean says, sounding panicked. He wipes away Castiel's tears, hesitates, leaves and then returns with the blanket he'd kicked to the floor. He wraps it around Castiel and himself, hugs Castiel close. It's even comforting, to have Dean pressed against him. He's used to it, after five months of sharing a bed. He closes his eyes briefly, noting how different it feels to have skin against skin in this context. It's closer, warmer. Cas moves for the first time, pressing his entire body into Dean's. "Shh, Cas. You did good. I love you, I love you so much."

Castiel looks at Dean, who stares back at him with love and worry. He thinks that Dean doesn't understand how it feels to be taken, and to give in to it. Otherwise Dean wouldn't have pushed Castiel this far, because Dean does love him. Possessive, frightening love. But also enough to fill the whole world, totally encompassing love.

Castiel squeezes his eyes shut and then whispers, "I know."

Chapter Text

The next morning, Castiel wakes second; Dean is already gone. For a moment he's confused by his nudity, and then he remembers what happened last night.

He had sex with Dean. He let Dean have sex with him.

He gets up and walks to the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. He examines his skin, but Dean was thorough last night – there's no dried semen anywhere. As far as sex goes, it was even fairly tame, what they did. Castiel didn't even really touch Dean, just his arms and chest. And when he looks in the mirror, he looks the same. He supposes. Same hair, getting way too long. Same blue eyes, except they look uncertain and anxious. Two emotions he never had much use for, that during the rare times he did feel them, he was simply able to push them away and continue the task at hand. Because there always was a task – you don't get into the FBI by not working hard.

What is his use now, except to be Dean's?

Of course Dean took that away from him. His job, his purpose. Dean is trying to change Castiel's entire perspective and wrap Castiel's thoughts around him. And he's not failing.

Castiel drops his head to his chest and grabs the sides of the sink. A little flutter of panic works its way up him, waiting to be spilled out of his mouth. He exhales harshly and wipes his mouth, swallows and swallows.

But he runs through a list of all the good Dean has done. Dean and his brother saved the world, not once but at least twice, and that's just the things Castiel knows to be true. Yes, Sam began the apocalypse, but when both heaven and hell are manipulating you that becomes difficult to stop. Castiel is the innocent prisoner of someone who saved the world. Does that even the scale? Does Castiel owe Dean for saving his life and the lives of everyone he loves? Does he owe Dean his body and his loyalty for that?

Philosophically, most would say no. Castiel would have. Hotchner and the team would. And even Castiel still does. If he had been able to get away from Dean without putting Dean in prison, he would have done it. He thinks he still would.

And yet, Dean's not a horrible person. That's what makes this so fucking horrible. Castiel can't help but think about how careful Dean has been with him, how much Dean loves him, how Dean tries to please him, and that completely screws up his internal ability to remain objective. Castiel's own conflicted feelings and assorted issues aren't Dean's fault. Well. They are. But it's not intentional on Dean's part. He wants happiness and he can't get it unless he keeps Castiel prisoner. He knows he can't get it otherwise.

Dean is a good man. Slightly crazy, but a good man. Dean saved the world. Dean let his brother go.

Dean won't let Castiel go.

Castiel takes his limp cock in hand, lifts it to examine it. How strange that yesterday Dean made him come. That Dean kissed him and took him apart, and Castiel just lay there and let it happen and didn't fight. How strange that Dean wants this, this part of him.

The mirror shows a tired face when he looks up. He doesn't feel like an FBI agent anymore. He doesn't feel that easy confidence and drive to do the job. His thoughts are all twisted up and he can't unravel it. Squinting at the mirror, he decides he doesn't even look like an agent anymore. Hair too long, always wearing t-shirts and sweats.

Castiel clenches his hand into a fist and swings at the mirror.

It shatters into several large pieces, most of which actually stick to the backing. The rest fall into the sink and to the floor. His hand is bleeding from a few deep cuts and when he relaxes his hand from a fist, he feels the motion tug at torn skin. Blood drips off his fingertips. Moving carefully, he picks up a large shard, looking at the edge.

There's a knock at the door. "Cas?" Pause. "I thought I heard something, are you okay?"

The shard is sharp on all sides, so if Castiel wants to use it he's going to cut his palm in the process.

"Cas, you have twenty seconds to respond or I'm coming in."

But what would he use it for?

The door opens with a slow creak. Dean is standing in the doorway. Castiel can see his bare feet out of the corner of his eye. Dean takes a tiny step forward, then rocks back on his heel.

Castiel looks up from the bloody mess he's made of himself. "Can I get a haircut?"

Dean swallows once, then twice. His eyes are wide. "Sure. Need to clean up first, though. Mind handing me that?" he asks, pointing at the mirror shard. He steps fully into the bathroom and holds out an open palm.

Castiel sets it carefully in his hand.

"Thanks, Cas." He places the shard in the sink and with his other hand he grabs Castiel's upper arm, pulling him to his feet. "I'm going to get you to the kitchen, then clean up your hand."

And he does just that, Castiel completely compliant when Dean physically puts him in a chair. Dean's slightly out of breath when he returns, but he immediately sets to cleaning out the cuts with rubbing alcohol. He frowns at their size before bandaging the smaller ones. The largest cut, between two knuckles almost up to his wrist, he decides to sew up. It even looks like medical grade thread, the kind that dissolves after a few days. He numbs it first, then puts in perfectly precise stitches.

"Cas. Look at me."

Castiel does.

"I'm going to make eggs, okay? Then we're going to watch a movie in the den. You need to stay here while I cook. Got it?"

Castiel nods.

"Okay. Tomorrow when you're a bit healed up, we can cut your hair."

Dean speeds through breakfast. Castiel, if he didn't know Dean, wouldn't have seen it. But Dean usually makes his way leisurely through cooking, as it's something he enjoys doing. He'll even usually chatter as he goes about past meals, and some hilariously bad ones he made while John left him and Sam alone in a hotel room with only a microwave.

He doesn't even bother to put the dishes in the dishwasher. He takes Castiel to their couch and sits him there. Castiel spends almost five minutes staring at the blank TV screen before Dean says hesitantly, "Cas, can you talk to me?"

Castiel looks him in the eye. "We had sex."

"Well, technically – you know what, never mind. Yeah, we did. Is that what this is about?"

Castiel covers his face with his hands. "I don't know."

"Did you want to? Have sex?" Dean asks.

"I don't know that, either," Castiel says plainly, dropping his hands to look at Dean.

Poorly hidden shock and guilt flash across Dean's face. He rubs his mouth, not able to meet Castiel's gaze, then nods. "I'm sorry, Cas. I really – I really am so sorry. I've never been that guy." He winces. "Okay, so I have. In hell. But I never meant to hurt you. I should have, we should have talked about it first. I shouldn't have just pushed that on you."

Castiel frowns, emotions starting to break his numbness. It's uncomfortable and he doesn't like it. "You once told me you had a rule, with Sam. That Winchesters don't apologize, they make it right."

"Tell me, Cas. How do I make it right?" Dean rushes out the words, searching Castiel's eyes.

Castiel smiles at him sadly. "You won't."

"You still want to escape," Dean states.

"I don't want to hurt you."

Dean exhales roughly. "That's why you didn't make the call. Isn't it?"

Castiel feels his throat go tight and looks down. "I don't deserve to be a prisoner, but neither do you."

Dean scrambles off the couch to the floor, making Castiel start. He kneels in front of Castiel, and this isn't the first time he's done it, but it's as powerful now as it was then, because Castiel knows that Dean doesn't kneel to anyone. Dean smiles painfully. "I've never apologized so much in life as I have with you. Don't get me wrong, I knew I would have to. That I would need to." He pauses. "I'm working on getting you a way to call your brother without it being tracked. I wanted to wait to tell you for your birthday, in month, but. I'm working on it."

Castiel blinks at him.

"The bunker has a secret exit that opens onto a huge field," Dean continues. "I'm going to change the boundaries on the cuff to let you outside."

Castiel knows that perhaps a psychologist would call this emotional manipulation. But while Dean is many things, a manipulator isn't one of them. His mind doesn't work that way. To him, this is a gift. It is to Castiel, too. And that's dangerous. Mouth dry, he says, "Thank you."

Then Dean whispers, "Did I rape you?"

This is manipulation. This is. But even as he knows that any member of the BAU would tell him so, it still affects him. "I don't think so," he says slowly, and he thinks it's the truth.

Dean closes his eyes briefly. "Okay. How is your hand doing?" He stands.

Curling his hand sparks pain, but the stitches hold. "All right."

"Time to go watch a movie, then. You've never watched Men in Black, right?"

-----------------------------

Castiel's hand heals slowly. It still protests any movement when Dean sits him in the bathroom with a shaver and gently tilts his head just so, while hair falls to the floor. Dean gets rid of most of the length, so his hair is slightly wild instead of actually curly, and then goes in with a bare shaver around the nape of his neck and his ears. He's quick and practiced, and it makes Castiel wonder if this is another thing Sam and Dean did for each other. He can easily imagine Dean cutting Sam's hair as a child; he was certainly responsible for just about everything else.

Though he expects otherwise, Dean doesn't make another sexual move. Instead he curls around Castiel at night just like before, taking a shower before bed (to masturbate, presumably) and then leaving in the night if he does wake up aroused.

Which happens a lot more than Castiel remembers.

Some part of Castiel regrets it when Dean leaves, and the rest of him is relieved. He doesn't know what he would do if Dean came on to him again. It was pleasurable and he enjoyed it, at least physically, but it also terrified him and made him feel like he was slipping off an edge he didn't even know was there.

But as the days pass, the numbness of losing his brother begins to fade and he relaxes in Dean's presence again.

The day of Castiel's birthday, he wakes up to the faint smell of pancakes and the sound of Dean singing Led Zeppelin. He wanders to the kitchen and finds a plate of pancakes with berries arranged into a smiley face. Whipped cream makes curly hair. He looks up at Dean, unable to repress his smile. "Really, Dean? I'm turning forty, not ten."

Dean points a spatula at him. "No complaining!"

Castiel sits and grabs a fork, still smiling.

After flipping a pancake, Dean adds, "I got you presents. I was thinking you could open them at lunch – I made chocolate cheesecake late last night for your cake, like you asked, but I think it could use a few more hours to set. So, cake then presents?"

"All right," Castiel agrees.

He's in the middle of eating his pancakes when there's a small flash of light. Castiel looks up, puzzled, and sees Dean standing there guiltily, a small camera in hand.

"You seriously intend on taking pictures of me opening presents or something?" Castiel asks.

Dean clears his throat. "Damn flash. Well. I've been taking pictures longer than that."

"You've been taking pictures of me." Castiel sets down his fork. "Without my knowledge."

"Um. Yeah. First just because, and then after you nearly escaped – using the spell – it was like evidence." Dean shrugs and doesn't meet Castiel's eyes.

"Evidence of what, kidnapping?"

Dean raises his head at that. "That you were here," he says simply. "That for a while, I had you. That you were mine."

It's disturbing, if only because it does sound like something an obsessive stalker would say. In fact, Castiel has heard words that almost exactly mirror those from stalkers and murderers attempting to justify their actions. Hearing it come out of Dean's mouth shouldn't be a surprise, and yet it is. But rather than keep silent about that conclusion, Castiel asks, "Do you know how incredibly creepy that sounds?"

"Well. I – okay, yeah." Now Dean looks embarrassed. "It's definitely creepy."

Castiel pauses. "Do I even want to see them?"

"It's not like you're naked in any of them!" Dean protests, shoving the camera in Castiel's direction. "Just a few of you sleeping, and reading books and dumb shit like that. Here, take it."

Castiel picks up his fork. He supposes he should have lost his appetite, but these pancakes are fantastic. So instead he sighs and says, "No, thank you. Just no more taking pictures of me like that. Deal?"

"Deal," Dean says instantly. He sets the camera on the counter and finishes off the last of the pancake batter before sitting opposite Castiel. He digs into his own pancakes with fervor, apparently satisfied with the deal and not giving it a second thought. It makes Castiel wonder how important those pictures really are to Dean, that he lets it go that easily. Of course Dean could be lying, but Castiel doesn't think he is. As far as Castiel can tell, Dean has never actually lied to him.

They watch Hot Fuzz after breakfast (when Castiel says, "This is the most realistic cop movie I've ever seen," Dean bursts out laughing), then Dean asks Castiel to go read something while he gathers the presents from the parts of the bunker Castiel isn't allowed to go.

The presents are wrapped in bright blue paper. There are all kinds of odd shapes and sizes. Castiel finds himself both amused and puzzled as the heap gets larger. Dean brings the cheesecake last, lit with four candles. "For each decade," Dean explains. "Forty candles would probably set us on fire."

Castiel smiles.

Dean smiles at him and puts the cake down on the coffee table. "Make a wish."

Castiel pauses, then thinks, Let me get out of this without hurting Dean, and blows the candles out.

They divvy up the cheesecake and Castiel eats enough that his stomach aches afterward. It makes him think of Balthazar, because up until this birthday they'd spent every single one of both their birthdays together, eating cake and ice cream until they were sick. Even when Castiel was the BAU, it was like the universe worked around him and let him spend a few days in Texas. Remembering that turns the sweet taste of the cheesecake slightly bitter.

"Well," Dean says. "Time for presents?"

Castiel nods.

Dean sets the closets present just out of Castiel's reach from where he sits on the couch. He licks his lips. "Before you open those, I wanted to offer another one."

Castiel looks at him warily. "All right."

Dean kneels in front of him, and sets his hands on Castiel's knees. He gently applies pressure to split them, but when Castiel resists he stops. Castiel's breath hitches.

"Are you –" Castiel begins.

"I want to blow you," Dean says urgently.

That knocks the breath out of him. "Oh."

"Can I? I won't touch you otherwise," he adds hastily. "You don't have to touch me at all, either. I just want – I just want to please you."

Castiel stares at him, completely taken aback. It reminds him of some of his coarser coworkers talking about their girlfriends doing this act for Valentine's Day. Dean offers as if they are boyfriends or something. Something. Dean got off with Castiel, but that doesn't imply a relationship in Castiel's mind. Castiel still doesn't know what to think about the fact they had sex. "I – I don't know how I feel about having sex with you. You're a guy and I'm a prisoner, Dean. We're not lovers."

"I won't do anything you don't want," Dean says, not reacting to most of that. "That's why I'm asking like this. You say no, then the answer is no." Then he waits.

Does Castiel want that? Is he capable of wanting that? Can he trust that desire, if it does exist?

Because he thinks it does exist, in some capacity. The first time he kissed Dean, he'd failed to get aroused and couldn't even explain to himself why he'd responded at all. The second time, he'd gotten half hard and then Dean had brought him the rest of the way, to a powerful orgasm. The fact that fear and some degree of pressure lie under that is … confusing. Castiel doesn't know what to do with the conflicting wants. That Dean is a man is a secondary confusion, but still one that exists; he can't decide how much of his lack of interest in reciprocation is because Dean is a man and how much of it is because Dean is his kidnapper. He wants to escape. He also wants to take comfort in Dean's presence. He liked kissing Dean, even if he found the sex itself overwhelming and passing a boundary. He has let his kidnapper have sex with him, and there's shame in that.

He wants to say no. He wants to say yes.

"Kiss me first," Castiel blurts.

Dean looks at him and then slowly smiles. "You like kissing?"

Castiel shifts on the couch, but Dean is already moving, crawling over to the couch and then climbing next to Castiel. His hand skims along Castiel's jawline, teasing at the growing stubble there, and then he's kissing him.

Without making a conscious decision to do so, Castiel returns those kisses. He buries his hands in Dean's hair, which is surprisingly soft, and Dean's hands don't wander below his neck. Before long Castiel's lips are swollen with being kissed and lightly bitten and sucked. His mouth feels thoroughly used by the time Dean breaks away.

"Are you bisexual?" Castiel asks.

Dean blinks, but pauses and answers. "Yeah. I mean, I didn't often go with guys, the hunting community is a bit conservative that way and Dad would've – well, getting caught by him wouldn't have been a good idea. I had a bit of a reputation as a ladies' man, just because I went after women in a more obvious way." He looks at Castiel intently. "Did you ever think about guys?"

"To be honest, I didn't think much about sexuality at all," Castiel says. "But all my partners were women."

"Well," Dean says with a little smile, "I've been told my blowjobs are mindblowing. Do you want to give one a try?" He caresses Castiel's cheek. "No pressure, though. Honestly. Say the word and you open your real presents."

Castiel imagines it. Dean sucking him off. It's a surprisingly submissive role for him to take, considering the psychology behind Dean's kidnapping. But then Dean always subverts expectations. "I –" He swallows, and then silently nods. He thinks he wants this. He'll try it.

"Tell me if you want to stop," Dean murmurs, sliding down Castiel's body.

Dean's hands smooth along Castiel's thighs and up to the waistband of his sleep pants. He hooks his fingers into the band and pulls gently. Castiel lifts his hips up off the couch and Dean pulls both his boxers and pants down to his knees in one fluid motion. Dean gently works it's down past his knees, to his ankles, so Castiel is essentially naked from the waist down. Dean's hands encourage Castiel to move his lower body closer to Dean, while spreading his legs apart. Castiel's throat goes tight and he feels queasy. He has to resist the urge to pull up his pants and run out of the room. Really, only Dean's hands on his skin stops him.

Castiel's not anywhere near erect and there's no small amount of uncertainty in allowing Dean to do this, but he bites down hard on his hand when Dean takes his entire soft cock into his mouth and begins to suck.

It's hot and wet and Castiel starts when Dean rakes his nails down the inside of his thighs. After less than a minute, he begins to harden. Dean releases his cock and holds it to lick at the tip and the slit, sucking hard on the head. Then he licks his way down to Castiel's balls, which he hefts gently. By this time, Castiel's cock is fully erect and Dean can't quite fit all of it in his mouth.

Castiel doesn't know what he expected, but he didn't foresee the little frown of concentration on Dean's face and the overwhelming lust in his eyes when he looks up at Castiel. His left hand moves over his pants as he sucks. The expression on Dean's face is just as focused, aroused, and emotional as any lover Castiel's ever had.

That's what he is in Dean's mind. His lover.

What is he to Castiel? Not lover, but something just as intense. He stops fighting that, and places a hand on Dean's head, not forcing him down but just holding him. Dean's head bobs and Castiel spares an instant to think that this is wrong – that letting things go this far is wrong. Castiel's feelings for Dean are growing past fear and worry. They're well into a confused attraction and a reluctant feeling of friendship and intimacy.

Dean is his kidnapper, but Dean is also his friend.

Castiel's orgasm takes him by surprise. He thrusts upward sharply as he feels it come, and Dean has to hold him down and then everything whites out for a second or two.

Castiel comes down from that high gasping. His cock is still in Dean's mouth, who is holding it there without sucking, as if he knows that that would be overstimulating. Castiel looks down into Dean's green eyes, and has the feeling Dean is grinning at him right now.

When Dean finally lets Castiel's cock slip out of his mouth, he doesn't spit. "You taste good," Dean tells him instead. "Thank you, Cas."

A little hysterical bubble of laughter rises, but Castiel only lets it escape for a second.

Dean looks pleased instead of disturbed. He caresses Castiel's genitals, curious and light instead of arousing. "I hope you don't mind, but, uh, I came in my pants." With that, he pulls Castiel's boxers back up, carefully working it around his ass. He tucks in Castiel's dick with an odd sort of fondness. At the same time, Castiel can see the wet spot in his jeans now. "Do you want a shower? I need to change."

"Okay," Castiel says.

Rather than leave Castiel alone, Dean leads him to the bedroom and gives him a fluffy towel to use. He even lays out Castiel's clothes. When he's done that, he carefully embraces Castiel, giving a long, firm hug. Castiel finds himself holding onto him frantically, feeling an overwhelming rush of realization. He let Dean give him a blowjob.

He let his kidnapper give him a blow job. And then his kidnapper got off on it.

Dean turns on the shower and finally leaves, kissing Castiel's hand and then shutting the door.

Halfway through his shower, Castiel gets it. Dean knows Castiel is going to panic afterwards. That's what all that aftercare was about, even the joking. He's predicting Castiel's freakouts and trying to plan around them. For some reason, Castiel finds this comforting. At least one of them knows what to do. This time when he hefts his limp cock and looks at it, warm water sluicing down his back, it doesn't seem so strange that Dean wants him. It seems natural, just a part of Dean like any other part. He wants to cuddle, he wants Castiel to hunt with him, and he wants sex.

Castiel doesn't have the slightest fucking clue what he wants anymore.

Castiel dresses and returns to the den. Dean took the time he had to arrange the presents from largest to smallest. Castiel laughs a little when he sees it, and Dean turns around with a grin on his face. "What? I was bored."

The couch seems the obvious place to sit. Surprisingly it doesn't smell like sex. "Which one do I open first?"

Dean sits next to him and hands him a large present. Castiel looks at the wrapping. The blue covers most of it, but it looks like there was a bare spot that Dean had to cover with one of the old newspapers. Seeing a date makes him remember. "Happy Belated Birthday, Dean."

Dean blinks.

"January 24th, right?" Castiel asks. "I just realized I completely forgot about that."

"Yeah," Dean says, smiling. "I didn't mind missing it. You were here, it was a good birthday."

"You're very strange, Dean."

"Yeah, I know. Now come on, tear the shit out of that and ignore the fact I spent hours wrapping it."

X-Box One, packaged with Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto V, and Assassins's Creed. "Pretty obvious why I got those." A toaster. "We don't have one and I was getting desperate for more gifts." A carefully designed wooden box with a secret lock, and inside of it is salt, iron, a few items he doesn't recognize, and a blessed knife – dull, but still dangerous. "I trust you. They're all for self-protection." A set of clothing, all in Castiel's size. Slacks, socks, t-shirts, dress shirts. Jeans and soft t-shirts. "I thought you might be sick of sweats and weird side-button pants." Shoes. "I can't guarantee no pinching, but they're your size. For when you go outside." A Kindle. "You have too many books, dude. And I say that as someone with a big-ass library."

All that's left is a small box, lovingly wrapped so all the edges are neat, unlike the others. Castiel traces the folded paper and looks up.

"Before you open that one, Cas." Dean takes a deep breath. "You asked me why I want to keep you here. What my motivation was when I barely knew you."

Castiel listens. This ought to be interesting. Dean always tries to show his thoughts by actions instead of words.

"Well, now I do know you. And I know it's caused you pain, but I'm so glad you didn't escape. You're really – you're really a good person, not like me. You want to help people and you empathize even with murderers, or me. Even when it was really early on and I was just some crazy kidnapper spouting off nonsense about soulmates and angels. But I –" Dean frowns, looking frustrated.

"Dean –"

"Please," Dean says. "Let me get this out before I go chickenshit."

Castiel nods.

"You kick in your sleep," Dean says. "You snore just a little if you sleep on your back. It's almost cute, but also kind of annoying. You cuddle, because you like to be touched, but I think you'd rather kick me in the head again than admit it. I think that's why you like to kiss. You think the best of everyone except yourself. You were lonely, before, but you didn't want to admit it because you loved your job so much that you thought that didn't matter. You wanted a spouse, but feared losing them to your job." He half smiles. "Which trust me, I get. So you thought you'd never get married. You took the job at the FBI because you wanted to make a good mark in the world.

"You don't like to show your emotions. You think it's a weakness. Your co-workers told you a lot that you were too in your head and didn't let yourself relax and feel. You were really, really scared when I first took you, but you barely showed it because you were so focused on getting a handle on me and escaping. You're smart. Really smart, like you would totally have caught me if you'd known the supernatural was real kind of smart. I mean, you don't have half the knowledge I do and you still find hunts I'd've missed." He pauses. "The first time you kicked the shit of me, I was proud of you. Because you're so strong. I hated having to hurt you to keep you.

"I don't love an image of you. I love you."

A list of traits Dean loves about him is the last Castiel was expecting, and he finds he doesn't know what to say. Thank you? Even more interesting (at least from a psychological perspective) is that none of them were made up or projections. They were more or less true. "Dean … you know I can't say those words back." Not yet. Maybe not ever.

Dean smiles. "I know. Open it up."

Castiel rips the paper to find a nondescript cardboard box. But inside is a smart phone. A few years old, probably. It looks like it's been opened up and tinkered with. Turning it on shows it has a battery and a signal.

Dean waits for Castiel to look at him. "You can place a call to anyone, anywhere. It will last two minutes and then automatically disconnect. One-time use. It can't be traced, even by experts in the FBI. I would bet my life on it."

"So I can call my brother," Castiel whispers.

"There's only two rules: don't tell them where you are or who took you." Dean shrugs. "I know you only know that you're in Kansas somewhere. But one state is kind of small for something as big as the FBI to hunt."

"They might know the second one," Castiel admits.

Dean stares at him a second. "The letter? Damn, I know I should have spent more time reading that thing, but I didn't see anything obvious." He looks away and then chuckles. "And to think I thought I'd get found out by physical evidence or a random witness. Well, I did kidnap an FBI agent. I guess I should have expected that."

"So you sent it?"

Dean looks at him sadly. "Of course I did, Cas. I made a promise. I mean, did you want me to send it certified mail or something?" Dean seems half serious.

Castiel bursts out laughing.

Dean looks at him like he's grown a second head, but he laughs too, like it's catching. "You practically never do that. Smiles and a haha here and there, but not real laughter."

Castiel's gaze falters, amusement fading.

"Don't stop," Dean says. "I love to hear you laugh."

The phone is heavy in Castiel's hand. He wonders if that speech was about convincing Castiel not to drop information during the call – it could be, but he also doesn't think Dean was lying. "Thank you for this, Dean."

"You wanna use it now?"

"Dean, where did you get this? You don't have the expertise to do this yourself." Castiel pauses. "Your hacker friend, the same one who got my file?"

Dean shrugs uncomfortably. "Yeah. I told her I needed to talk to the FBI without being found. For a hunt, of course. I mean, she doesn't know about you. Not know know, I mean. She kind of had to know you were my soulmate because otherwise she wouldn't get the file, but the rest of it is – you know what. Never mind that, it's not important."

It kind of is, but Castiel drops it anyway. Dean set up rules, but should Castiel follow them? What should he say? What if Balthazar gives him trigger phrases, trying to get information? It's entirely possible Hotchner and the team told him Castiel's duress phrases. Castiel didn't call Balthazar before because he was afraid of compromising Dean's safety and freedom, even though he has neither of those himself. If he intended to use this to escape, he should call Hotchner's cell.

Mostly, he just wants to hear Balthazar's voice. And tell Balthazar that he's okay.

Dean is giving Castiel a concerned look, but at the same time he's staying close. Close enough to stop Castiel, presumably. "Talk to him," Dean says. "I know what it's like to miss a brother, Cas."

"But that's not enough to stop you," Castiiel points out.

Dean frowns, frustrated. "I know. But I'm not – I'm not trying to cut you off, Cas. Honestly."

Castiel rather thinks that Dean's in denial about the degree of hypocrisy here, but it wouldn't be the first time. Trembling just a bit, Castiel inputs Balthazar's number and after a second of hesitation, he hits the call button.

"Hello?" Balthazar sounds bored. Normal. A Sunday afternoon.

Sudden tears choke Castiel for a second. "Bal?"

"Oh God, Castiel? Cassie? Holy shit, where are you?"

Castiel takes a shaky breath, any kind of plan he had disintegrating. "It's so good to hear your voice."

"Cassie, can you talk?" Balthazar is asking if someone is listening, he's using standard protocol that the FBI uses. The phrase will vary depending on the situation, but Castiel knows exactly what Balthazar is asking.

Castiel looks at Dean. "Yes. But I'm not alone."

Balthazar replies immediately, sounding frantic as he asks a trigger phrase, "Are you well?"

And Castiel replies, "I'm okay. Balthazar, I'm okay." Not under duress, which 'I'm fine' would have indicated. Castiel wants them to trust what he says, even if he's not exactly not under duress. "I haven't been hurt."

"Where are you? Can you tell me where you are?"

"No. Balthazar –"

"Did Dean Winchester take you?" Balthazar asks. "God, Cassie, the FBI has been looking for you everywhere. I've been out of my fucking mind. Hotchner said Winchester took you, has he hurt you? Are you in danger?"

Castiel breathes for a second, knowing time is running out. Dean looks tense as a wire, poised to take the cell. "Dean has me, yes. He cares about me. He l-loves me." That sounds insane even to Castiel, but it's true. If nothing else it will offer some hope that Castiel is telling the truth about not being hurt, if Castiel tells them his motivations. "Bal, he let me call you to tell you that I'm okay. Honestly, I'm – I'm well fed, I have a memory foam mattress for God's sake. He hasn't hurt me. I don't want you to worry."

A familiar voice enters the call. "Castiel, this is Hotchner. We're tracing this call. I'm going to go through a list of locations. I want you to give me a yes when I say where you are."

"I can't," Castiel says almost immediately. Hot, frustrated tears fall. "I know I'm crazy, but I can't tell you where I am because you would capture Dean." He takes a sobbing breath, but Dean is still just staring at him, watching and listening. "I want to go home, but you can't hurt Dean. He's not, he's not what we thought."

Hotchner's voice is calm. "Did he kidnap you specifically?"

"Yes. You don't need to worry about anyone else on the team. I swear, I'm okay, Hotch."

Dean taps his wrist.

"Castiel. Hold out. We're coming for you." Hotchner sounds as in control as he ever did.

The call ends.

Dean gently takes the cell out of his hand and stuffs it in a pocket. "Are you okay, Cas?"

No. Castiel remembers thinking that his one duty was to escape. That Hotchner would consider that his sole goal. He expected hearing Balthazar's voice to be painful. But in a way, it's also reminded him that the outside world still exists. That more exists than him and Dean in a bunker somewhere in Kansas. Out there is the FBI, is the BAU. Considering how quickly Hotchner got on the call, they've been waiting for this. They're still looking for him.

Castiel suddenly realizes that if he did escape, he'd have to tell someone what he's done. That he, an FBI agent, had sex with a criminal who had taken him captive. That he had failed to take two genuine opportunities to escape from his kidnapper. What kind of agent does that make him? What kind of man?

The shame hurts and his eyes become wet.

In some ways, he wishes Dean were a dangerous, psychopathic serial killer. That would be psychologically easier on him, because he would understand it; he would know what to do. Dean's crazy, but in none of the ways Castiel ever thought to have a defense for.

Dean hugs Castiel, pulling him to his chest. Castiel lets him maneuver him into a more comfortable hold, so that Castiel is tucked under Dean's chin. His body is at an angle to Dean's, curled in so that Dean is like a protective shield.

What would the BAU think if they saw him now? Of course they think Dean is a serial killer, someone who kills innocents, and that's not strictly true. But Castiel is still compromised. Still being held against his will, and taking comfort from his kidnapper. They, out of everyone, would understand, and yet he also knows that they would and should hold him to a higher standard. As for Balthazar? Castiel doesn’t even know.

"So," Dean says, clearing his throat. "What are they thinking?"

"What?" Castiel is jolted out of his own thoughts.

"The FBI. I know you're thinking about it, so talk to me. What do they think about this? About you and me?"

That's easy. Castiel's had plenty of time to think about what the team would decide about his abduction. The words come, soothing him as they go. "Most likely your profile was that you're a predatory kidnapper, who took me in order to subdue a victim that most would consider powerful. That in turn makes you feel powerful. They probably think there's an element of revenge as well, for me being in law enforcement. You would exercise your control over me through violence and rape. Whether you would take it to murder would depend on your personal psychology, but they would consider my death a likely outcome when you lost interest. Especially once they had your name."

Castiel pauses. "After the phone call – maybe even after the letter – they probably think that you stalked me for a prolonged period, during which you became convinced we were in a relationship and that I loved you. Kidnapping me would be your attempt at making that fantasy a reality. Depending on my reaction, they would expect for you to rape and torture me into submission. Long-term captivity would be likely, especially since it's been seven months and you haven't killed me yet. The phone call itself they'd consider to be emotional manipulation on your part. A ploy to gain my affection and trust."

"Well, shit," Dean mutters, looking sickly surprised.

"They probably also think I've begun experiencing Stockholm Syndrome as a coping method to survive captivity, and are planning ways to rescue me without my cooperation." Castiel stops, eyes drifting over his comfortable prison. "I suppose they're not wrong about that."

Dean gently turns Castiel's head so he can look him in the eyes. "But you know I love you. Don't you? I really love you. The only reason you still have the cuff is because I know you would run. I know you'd feel that you had to. I want you in my life, Cas. As my partner."

Castiel puts his hand over Dean's, the pain rising in his chest. "I know." He's known that for a long time. He also knows that Dean is distracting him, trying to get him to stop thinking about his brother.

"So, did the FBI have a profile of me?" Dean asks, trying to go for playful.

"Dean, your profile never made any sense."

"Yeah, but you know the truth. So what would it be?"

"A profile is only a tool, Dean." Castiel spreads his hands. "It helps us and local law enforcement figure out who to look for. If we know who the individual is, a profile is more about understanding what motivates someone and what causes them to commit crimes. Your profile was so confusing because we attributed crimes to you that weren't yours."

But Dean says only, "And?"

Castiel thinks about it. "I suppose you would be an intimacy seeking stalker who developed into bride kidnapping."

"Bride kidnapping?" Dean says incredulously.

"You kidnapped me because you want me to be your partner for life. What else would you call it?"

Dean opens and then closes his mouth.

"It still occurs in certain parts of the world. Central Asia and parts of Africa." Castiel is about to go into more detail, but sees that Dean is a combination of upset and disturbed. Going into Dean's various psychological weaknesses and issues that contributed to this behavior would also probably be a bad idea. Dean doesn't deny the illegality and immorality of what he's done to Castiel, but he also doesn't like to be reminded of it.

"I'd never hurt you," Dean says finally. It's his constant fallback, and it's even somewhat true. He's never hit Castiel out of anger, only to subdue him.

"Dean, do you ever feel doubt? About kidnapping me, all of this?" He's never seen Dean have a moment of hesitation about keeping Castiel against his will.

"No, of course not," Dean replies immediately. Reflexively.

Castiel doesn't say anything. Just looks at him.

"Sometimes I think about it, about letting you go, but then. Then I think about what that would be like and I can't, Cas. I know it's fucking selfish, I do." Dean bites his lip. Castiel can't help but see the lost Dean who saw his brother jump into a cage in hell. The Dean that let his brother die, not once but twice, and broke further each time. "But I think you would be happy with me, as my soulmate. I think you can be." He gives Castiel a wry smile. "And you would be a fucking awesome hunter. Better than me."

"I'm an FBI agent, Dean, not a ghost hunter."

"I'm a high school dropout. Trust me, you're qualified."

"Not with a chain on my leg." Castiel lifts his left, where the cuff sits.

Dean looks down for a moment, then gazes at Castiel. He hefts the phone. "I need to get rid of this. Charlie said I could only use it once."

Charlie. Castiel notes the name.

"Will you be okay? I'll be right back."

Castiel nods. "I'll be fine." And almost laughs because he used his duress word.

From the look on his face, Dean doesn't entirely believe him, but he still leaves to dispose of the phone. Castiel stares at his hands and thinks about Balthazar. He sounded so frantic, so worried. It reminds him of when Michael died – Castiel was the one who got the news. Michael had set it up that way because he knew Castiel was the stronger of both of them, that Castiel could take it. He wept in private, but his eyes were dry the day he took the American flag that was draped over his brother's casket. Balthazar was the one who broke down and got black-out drunk. For all of his constant irreverence, Balthazar feels things deeply.

Balthazar must think Castiel is in danger of dying. Or worse. Somehow Castiel doubts his words comforted his brother all that much, but maybe when the BAU makes another profile that shows Castiel will be held long-term in relative comfort, maybe that will help. They won't tell him the worst of it, at least, like the possibility of rape.

But what kind of comfort is that really? Michael died saving a fellow soldier; that didn't help their parents. Dean did everything for his brother, including live. Maybe Castiel should do the same for his, regardless of his shame. Regardless of his caring for Dean.

He still needs to escape from his friend, his not-quite lover, and his kidnapper. He just has to do it on his own; no rescue.

A thought occurs to him. When Dean returns, he asks, "If I had called Balthazar and the FBI tracked the call and you were arrested – Anna would have gotten you out, wouldn't she? She's an angel, she can teleport anywhere she pleases."

A strange expression crosses Dean's face. "Eventually, yeah. Might have taken a few weeks, even a couple of months before she responded to my prayers."

"You fucker," is all Castiel can get out.

Dean sits and reaches out for Castiel's hand, but Castiel yanks it away. After a moment, Dean says evenly, "I take the precautions I do against being caught because I can't count on that. Anna may be incapable of helping me, or unwilling. She could die in yet another heavenly civil war. And the other angels? They dislike me or hate me outright. There's a reason only Anna knows this place even exists. Not to mention my other enemies. If I'm in prison, I don't have salt, I don't have devil traps, I don't have weapons – I'm an easy target. I might not survive until Anna can come and get me."

Tension melts out of Castiel. "If you were in my position, Dean, would you escape to be with your family?"

Dean clenches his jaw. "Your family is safe. Mine never was. And I'll figure out other ways for you to talk to your brother. I swear on my life, Cas."

Castiel looks at the torn and shredded wrapping paper that litters the floor. The presents Dean had given him settled on the coffee table. It seems to represent his life, in tatters, gifted with one thing: Dean.

Maybe the key to this is to get Dean to trust him. He just has to do it before he loses himself in the process.

Day one hundred and ninety.

Chapter Text

"So, last time I reset your ankle cuff you had screwed up the spell on it," Dean begins one morning, handing Castiel a plate of cheese and fruit, with a little bowl of oatmeal. "So I was able to change the boundaries without taking it off of you."

Castiel pauses, a grape in hand. This is the first time since his birthday that Dean has brought up his promise to expand the boundaries on the cuff. "What does that mean? You have to take it off to let me outside?"

"I have to take it off to reset it," Dean corrects. "And while I don't think you're going to kick in my skull in my sleep anymore, I can't have you seeing the spell to remove it because you're way too smart and I don't even know how you could use it. But I'm sure you could." He shrugs uncomfortably. "I'm going to have to knock you out." He raises his hands at Castiel's expression. "With drugs, Cas, with a sedative."

"You don't trust me," Castiel says, not sure whether to be disappointed or offended. Though it is an useful insight into Dean's opinion of him. If he's going to convince Dean to trust him, he's going to have to offer some kind of reason he wouldn't escape.

"Well. No," Dean replies, wincing. "Not that far. Not enough that I think you wouldn't run, given the chance." He smiles faintly and settles in the chair across the table. "I never thought this would be easy, you know."

"What did you think it would be?" Castiel asks, curious how Dean will answer.

"Ah, well," Dean says, blinking with his hands fidgeting. "Does it matter?"

"It does to me," Castiel says, not willing to let it go.

Dean spins his bowl of oatmeal, staring down into it as if he can divine answers that way. The fact that he's worried about Castiel's reaction is both intriguing and telling. After a few seconds, Dean looks Castiel in the eyes and says, "I thought you would fight me differently. That you would curse me and hate me, to start with, that I'd spend all my time convincing you that I'm not a monster and a serial killer. That you would, I don't know, throw shit at me and not let me within ten yards of you. But you never treated me like that. You always treated me like a person, even when you were psychoanalyzing me."

"We're trained to operate that way," Castiel says, uncertain how to respond. "Demonizing someone doesn't help you understand them."

Dean looks down at the table. "Do you think I'm a monster, Cas?"

Castiel's throat goes tight, but he doesn't look away when Dean finally flicks his gaze upward. "No."

"But that I'm broken?" Dean whispers.

Castiel lays his hand on the table, palm up. "Dean, you may be broken. But that doesn't make you any less valuable."

After a moment, Dean places his hand over Castiel's. "Sap." And he grins, with all the boyish charisma he's capable of.

"Don't make me slap you," Castiel replies dryly, not moving his hand.

"I don't know, your bitchface is pretty good. You could use that."

Castiel blinks, finally taking his hand back. Dean hangs on for a second before releasing him. "My what?"

"Bitchface," Dean repeats. "Sam had the best, don't get me wrong. He could communicate about twenty different kinds of disgust with me just with his eyebrows."

Castiel laughs.

Dean looks incredibly pleased with himself. "So, can I drug you?"

This is Castiel's life now. Discussing with his kidnapper whether he consents to be drugged into unconsciousness. "If that's the only way, then yes."

Dean nods, no longer quite as pleased, instead more satisfied. He finishes the last of his oatmeal and then grabs Castiel's empty bowl, taking it to the sink that Castiel still can't access. "Let me get ready. And don't worry – I've got the right kind for this, you're healthy, and I know your weight, so it'll be perfectly safe. I'll see you in your room." With that, he takes off.

For a moment Castiel contemplates finishing his breakfast, but he feels queasy enough to throw up, and doing that while unconscious would be deadly. So he pushes his plate away and rises to his feet.

The walls of the bunker are very familiar to Castiel now. In an odd sort of way that Castiel really wishes weren't the case, it even feels like home. Those two huge scratches on the wall aren't creepy, but just part of the scenery. The tiles, chipping at the edges, are no longer out of place, but normal. The lack of windows no longer feels stifling.

Even Castiel's pacing has been become habit. He doesn't trip up against the magical barrier anymore, automatically staying within bounds.

His room is no longer the empty prison it was once, either. The bed is stacked with various blankets and pillows. Most of them are blue; Dean copied that from Castiel's apartment. There's a tiny dresser that has Castiel's clothing. The TV is on a low to the ground, solid stand, though of course the larger one is in the den. The mini-fridge hums as it turns on. If Castiel had walked into this place as a crime scene of a kidnapping, he would have been surprised. He might have diagnosed the kidnapper with Lima Syndrome.

He has no real idea if Dean qualifies for that, though.

Dean wasn't in love with Castiel when he took him, but he definitely considered it a possibility. Castiel's not even sure that Dean intended to hold him for all that long in the original plan. And Castiel was so focused on immediate escape that he didn't anticipate he would need (or could) manipulate Dean into releasing him in the long term.

Castiel sits and waits for Dean, trying to repress his usual feelings of anxiety.

"Hey," Dean says, arriving a few minutes later. "You ready?"

Castiel looks up.

Now that Dean is here, a familiar needle in hand, something in Castiel freezes in fear. He's been in plenty of danger before and felt that distant pulse of fear, but in those cases he had something useful to do and then the situation had passed. Even the time he'd been shot in the line of duty. When Dean grabbed him and put him into a chokehold in his kitchen, it was a place he'd thought he was safe. He'd even done a cursory check before relaxing and unclipping his holster. To be attacked – to be made a victim as surely as those murder victims whose deaths he investigated – had put him into a flavor of terror he'd never experienced before, even as his training kicked in and he fought for his life.

Dean could have easily killed him, had that been his goal. As a professional, Castiel had never blamed murder victims for those easy lapses of concentration and safety. That criminals took advantage was entirely on them. And yet, when it came to his own attack, he cursed his own inattention.

The liquid is slightly cloudy.

"Cas?" Dean is staring at him, worried. "You're freaking me out. You look scared shitless."

"I was just remembering. My apartment." Castiel looks away and settles on the bed, pulling up his sleeve. "Never mind."

The bed shifts as Dean sits down next to him. Out of the corner of his eye, Castiel can see him holding the needle in one, lax hand. "I am sorry for taking you by surprise like that."

Castiel raises his eyes. "You choked me to unconsciousness."

Dean just looks at him evenly. "I know. If it helps, I've been abducted before. Taken and tortured for some reason or another. Even with Sam, I was jumpy for months after."

"If you know, why did you do it that way?" Castiel asks. Why did he do it at all?

"You reacted too quickly; I couldn't get the needle in. If I had gotten that, you'd have been out like a light in a few seconds with no harm done. I thought about drugging your food, but that's risky because I didn't know how much you would eat, or if you would eat. And I'd planned it for that night because your neighbors wouldn't be around, and no one would see, you know. Me carrying you out." Dean pauses. "It sounds way worse out loud than it did in my head."

Castiel huffs a laugh. "You kidnapped a federal agent."

"It's not that. It's that you didn't deserve it."

Castiel stares at him, and Dean just returns it calmly. "You can say that, and still keep me here?" Usually with the acceptance of guilt and wrongdoing is the acknowledgement that it must be rectified.

"I know this is wrong, Cas. But it's worth it, because I have you. And I hope someday you trust me enough to stay." Dean looks away and picks up the needle. He pushes a little of the liquid out, carefully making sure there's no air bubbles before looking at Castiel. "I'm sorry."

Castiel silently offers his arm. Dean finds his vein in the crook of his elbow and pushes in the plunger. Within a moment Castiel's mind is swimming, then it all goes dark.

The darkness lasts.

Returning to consciousness is hard work. Unlike when waking up from a deep sleep, there's a weird heaviness to all his limbs instead of just his mind. And there's something distinctly artificial about it that Castiel remembers from surgery. It feels like he's fighting through mud, searching for a way to open his eyes to the soft light that lies beyond his lids. His body abruptly begins to respond, and he thrashes. His left hand doesn't move, hits a strong, cold line of something.

He opens his eyes. The ceiling is there, just like when he dropped off. When he looks around, he sees Dean sitting next to him and holding the ankle cuff.

It's not on Castiel.

Castiel bolts upright, but his immediate instinct to get up and do – do something fades when he realizes he's been handcuffed to the bed board. "Dean?"

Dean smiles at him, a soft curve. "Hey. You need to be the one to put it back on." He lifts the ankle cuff.

"Why?" Castiel asks. "Why didn't you do it while I was out?"

"It's part of the spell. You have to put it on willingly."

Castiel thinks back to Dean giving it to him originally. "You tricked me!"

"Yeah. I did." Dean smirks. "Not so crazy after all, huh?"

He resists his first reaction of anger, closing his eyes briefly.

Dean shrugs after a moment. "At the time, you still would have put it on if I said it was part of the spell to make it work, because you still thought I was nuts. About the supernatural," he adds after a moment.

Castiel supposes that's true. But this new piece of information also leaves him with a choice: he can refuse to put it back on. Dean would have to put the heavy physical chain back on, but Castiel's chances of escape might be stronger when not bound by magic. But even then, his chances are low. He spent forty days trying to find a way to open that manacle and failed. He got farther with the cuff, even if he can't repeat that now.

But more importantly, this is also an opportunity to make Dean trust him. And willingly take it off later.

Dean is still looking at him curiously, cuff in his lap. "Cas?"

Castiel meets his gaze with what he hopes is not resignation, and instead acceptance. "All right." He holds out his right hand, and Dean places the cuff into it.

"You could switch legs," Dean offers.

Castiel shakes his head as he places it on his left, the smooth metal cool against his skin. All he has to do now is close it. "I've got calluses on this ankle now, it's more comfortable." He takes a deep breath and shuts it, the line disappearing. There's no other sign of magic being used.

He willingly chained himself. He has to tell himself again that he did it for his own purpose.

Dean places his hand on the side of Castiel's face and then goes in for a quick kiss, a peck on the lips. Castiel is so surprised he doesn’t react. "Thank you, Cas."

He leaves to grab a key, and then releases Castiel from the handcuffs. Castiel rubs his wrist, feeling slight pain that suggests that he might have been restrained for a few hours with the weight of his arm falling there. Dean takes that wrist and takes over, thumbs smoothing over the muscles and tendons, moving from the inside of his wrist to the space between his fingers. His expression is intent, but also calm and relaxed.

"Dean," Castiel begins. "Have you put yourself in danger by keeping me here? By letting a stranger into your only stronghold?"

"I suppose, technically. If you escaped it would be bad for me," Dean says, shrugging lightly and letting go of Castiel.

"Why?"

"Life isn't worth living without you," Dean says matter-of-factly.

"But was that what you thought when you first did it?" Castiel asks. "Did you intend to keep me here long-term when you first took me?"

A slight frown appears on Dean's face. "I don't know. I thought about it. Why are you asking, Cas?"

"What would you do if I did escape?" Castiel asks.

Dean rolls his eyes, rising to his feet. "I don't play what-ifs."

"I'm trying to understand," Castiel presses. "It would hurt you, wouldn't it? Would you be okay on your own?"

Dean stares at him with wide eyes.

Castiel has two reasons for asking: genuine concern, and to test how far and how much Dean will have to trust him not to run, in order for him to be persuaded to take off the ankle cuff. If Dean fears losing Castiel so much that he can't cope even in the short-term, he may never take off the cuff willingly. Even if he does ultimately desire Castiel to be a free, willing partner.

Instead of answering the question or getting angry, Dean returns to the bed, uncomfortably close to where Castiel sits.

"Don't leave me," Dean begs. His shoulders have hunched over, his hands are in front of him and palm up. His body language screams desperation. There's pure agony on his face, enough to shock Castiel into silence. "Everyone – everyone fucking leaves, Cas, and I can't take it anymore. Dad left, Sam left, everyone who has ever mattered left."

That breaks past Castiel's analytic state of mind, right into his heart. He sits up and opens his arms on instinct, and in a moment Dean is filling them, for once taking comfort instead of offering it. Dean's hands clutch at bunches of Castiel's thin t-shirt, and his torso is twisted so he's facing Castiel – it's a full on hug, with Dean's hand laying Castiel's shoulder. Dean vibrates with tension, with whatever surge of emotion Castiel had prompted. He strokes a hand through Dean's hair, feeling an odd sort of tenderness. He tells the truth when he says, "I'm sorry you lost them, Dean."

"I can't lose you, too," Dean murmurs into Castiel's shoulder.

And Castiel pets him, calms him. "It's okay," he whispers. "It's okay, Dean," he says, realizing that if he does escape, Dean might suffer a psychological collapse. Possibly even a full collapse of functioning.

Is he responsible for that? For Dean? Logic says no, but his emotions say yes. Castiel cares for Dean. He considers Dean a friend, even – a very fucked up friend, but it's the only word that comes close to what Castiel feels. Castiel is all twisted up in Dean's issues, and he can't untangle himself easily. And Dean doesn't want to be untangled, because that tangle is what Dean has used to bolster himself through all the trauma he's experienced.

Really, Castiel knows that Dean ultimately needs healthy relationships with other people who are aware of the supernatural. He needs the equal give and take of another hunter, but all those who were that for him have died. John, Sam, and Bobby. Dean is likely incapable of trusting another person that much – except for his soulmate.

That choice, that trust, was made for him. Just like it was with his brother and father. Only Bobby broke the pattern.

It's even possible that Castiel isn't helping Dean at all by being here, and is only encouraging an unhealthy dependence on him. But the fact of the matter is that Castiel isn't a psychologist or therapist and he can't say for sure if that's true. He knows that Dean needs him. It's a question whether, if he leaves, Dean will properly adapt or not. But he also knows that he doesn't owe Dean anything. Not truly.

And yet, Castiel doesn't want to hurt Dean. It feels like a paralyzing paradox.

Dean withdraws a little from their embrace, far enough that he can meet Castiel's gaze. "I can't set you free, but Cas – I'll do anything, absolutely anything else for you."

Castiel swallows. Then, "I want to talk to Balthazar again. Regularly."

"I'll figure it out," Dean promises. "I will, I swear to you." He takes a deep and trembling breath, eyes wet, and then lets his head fall to Castiel's chest. Castiel runs a hand up from Dean's neck, through his hair, and then repeats the motion. Dean leans on him for another five minutes or so. When he does finally rise to his feet, he looks a lot calmer.

"So, outside?" Castiel asks.

Dean nods. "I'll show you where your boundaries are."

He holds out his hand, and Castiel takes it. Then releases it. "Shoes," Castiel explains. "For the first time in seven months I should need them, right?"

"Oh, right." Dean laughs a little, still looking a little unbalanced.

Once Castiel's feet are protected, Dean leads him to a part of the bunker he's never been. The long hallway that Castiel's room sits in has an ending Castiel couldn't pass, with a door he couldn't quite reach. That's where Dean takes him. They go through some areas that look more industrial, with very heavy pipes running along the ceiling. There's a half-door that they both have to crouch to go through, and beyond that tiny room is a flat wall. Dean shows Castiel how to trigger the trapdoor. It leads to a tunnel that slowly rises upward over the course of hundreds of feet, until he faced with yet another steel door.

But when Dean opens it, sunlight pours through.

Castiel pushes past him, heart beating fast. When he breaks out into the sunlight, he has to squint at how incredibly bright it is. He'd barely noticed it during his first escape attempt, because he was so focused on running, but now his eyes fill with painful tears.

He wipes his eyes and forces them open, forces himself to adapt. After a few seconds, he sees a large plain with gently rolling hills. Green plant life dots the landscape with the first signs of spring. The breeze is cool on his skin, but still nowhere near winter, when he was last out here. The sun is low in the sky – sunset is probably an hour or so away. The light gives everything a golden cast.

It's absolutely beautiful.

Castiel's chest seizes up and he has to hold in the tears that want to come. Dean gently places a hand on Castiel's back and says quietly, "Would you like to have breakfast up here sometimes?"

He nods silently.

The boundary extends a few hundred feet in every direction. Castiel's world has suddenly been expanded several times over. Castiel spends the next hour wandering it, just absorbing the fresh air and the feeling of sun on skin. Dean leans against the entrance, which is tucked into one of the rolling hills, and just watches him. Castiel sits in the dirt when the sun begins to set, watching as the edges of the sky darken. The few wispy clouds are lit up a bright orange and pink, and as the minutes pass Castiel can see them go return to gray when the sun sets behind the curve of the earth.

When the last slice of the sun disappears, Castiel hears Dean come up behind him. "Come inside?" Dean asks.

Castiel takes his hand and Dean pulls him up.

That night, Dean breathing into the nape of his neck, Castiel dreams of sunrises.

--------------------------------

Two hundred and forty-seven days in, Dean has enthusiastically embraced his camera. He almost solely takes photos of Castiel, who under normal circumstances would find it creepy, but Dean has taken to both warning him ahead of time and trying to capture moments when Castiel happy. So instead it becomes kind of sweet. When Castiel watches the sunset, Dean takes an image of that. When Castiel finds that new pie recipe delicious, that deserves a photo. When Castiel is amused at something Dean has said or done, he's been known to lunge for the camera, making Castiel laugh.

Castiel lets himself feel the natural (or perhaps unnatural) affection that comes to him in those times.

Dean backs off from asking anything sexual of Castiel, but he begins to give him little kisses throughout the day. Often on his hand, sometimes on his lips. It's a bizarre courting technique, but it definitely teaches Castiel not to flinch when Dean wants to get close. So maybe not so bizarre.

About once every week or so, Castiel tests how much Dean trusts him – by asking a question about where they are, or asking for access to another part of the bunker. But Dean always stops when it comes to anything that would help Castiel escape. Asking for books on spellwork (or anything possibly related) is a firm no. Books on monsters is a reluctant yes, just because Castiel continues to search through newspapers for hunts.

At the same time, Dean is relaxing more and more in Castiel's presence. The only problem is that the reverse is also true.

Dean comes up to Castiel's spot (a nice, flat rock) outside that morning and says, "I'm going to take care of that hunt you found."

Castiel looks up from his book, a fiction thriller. So far Dean has very deliberately avoided anything that has or relates to kidnapping, much to Castiel's amusement. "How long will that take?"

Dean settles next to him on the dirt. "Not sure. It's a tough one. I haven't been able to identify what it is either, so it may take longer. I'll leave you with everything you need, like usual. Tomorrow."

"All right."

Dean gets up to leave.

"Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"What happens to me if you die out there?" Castiel asks. "You always say that won't happen, but I've heard your stories of how even good hunters can make a simple mistake and die."

Dean shifts on his feet and then clears his throat. "Okay, well. There's a contingency plan, but I can't tell you what it is."

Part of Castiel isn't surprised. The rest is torn between feeling grateful and angry. So he decides on a neutral response. "Hmm."

Dean watches him for a second, but when nothing else is forthcoming he kisses him lightly on the forehead. "See you later."

That night, it occurs to Castiel that he could kill Dean and then call Anna for help. If he was willing to actually hurt Dean that way. Most likely she'd be extremely angry that he'd done that, but it would force her to release him if she was going to keep her word. Starving to death would be 'major harm,' wouldn't it? For that matter, Dean probably has someone to come by and take care of Castiel if Dean were to die on a hunt. If Castiel restrained Dean long enough, would they come? He could try to convince that person that he was a prisoner and needed to be set free.

But there's a decent size chance that wouldn't work. That anyone Dean chose for that task would be loyal to Dean first, and morality second. To overcome their loyalty to Dean, Dean would have to be out of the picture. There are ways Castiel could try to manipulate that outcome, but if it failed it would kill any chance Castiel has of escaping again. He's pretty sure a betrayal … an act of that magnitude would make Dean decide he could never be trusted.

Fuck.

Five boring days later, Dean returns. Castiel's outside again, but the secret exit/entrance that he uses is far enough from the road that he can't even hear the car. Which makes sense, otherwise Dean wouldn't have let him out here. All it would take is one person pulling over to check their map and Castiel would be free. So the door creaks open and Dean is there, standing in the doorway.

He's limping and his face is bloody. Castiel shoots up and to his side. "Are you okay?"

"Could use some stitches," Dean says, looking exhausted. "You game? I'm pretty sure your hands are steadier than mine at this point."

"Of course," Castiel says immediately. He gets his arm under Dean's and takes him to the Men of Letters infirmary. It's one of the new places Castiel has access to. Theoretically the place is full of weapons in the form of medical supplies, but like the knife Castiel got for his birthday, Castiel has no real intention of using them.

Dean knows that, of course. That's the point. He knows Castiel doesn't want to hurt Dean, and definitely not for anything less than an escape.

He settles Dean on an exam table and cuts off his clothing, despite Dean's protests ("Those were my favorite pants! Aw, c'mon you really liked that shirt.") and cleans up the wounds first. He has huge slashes across his chest and back, and one on his calf on his right leg. Not all of them require stitches, but about half of them do. Castiel's never had to perform first aid with stitches before, but he knows how to do it in theory. Dean has practice, and gives him all the tips. ("Don't pull the thread that hard. Gentle, dude, gentle.")

Once he's done, he's sweaty and bloody. But for once, he feels somewhat like he once did – a competent officer of the law, not an emotionally-wrought prisoner.

He also feels protective.

"Can you stay?" Dean asks rather blurrily. Now that all the stitching is done, he's drinking vodka. "Just 'til I fall asleep. Man, that was some creepy shit. I hate shadow people, tulpas, so many fucking kinds ..."

"Of course, Dean." He brings up a rolling chair and settles next to the exam bed, watching Dean take even breaths. The damage was mostly cosmetic. Dean will probably have a few interesting scars, more to add to the collection which Castiel now has memorized. He's seen Dean in every state of undress and knows his body almost as intimately as he knows his own. An hour in, he goes and gets his abandoned book and returns to reading. When Dean murmurs in his sleep, Castiel absentmindedly strokes his forehead until he calms.

A rattle grabs his attention. He looks up as darkness flickers at the corner of his vision. A small instrument table rolls a few inches.

He could put it down to his imagination, but he knows better now. He sets down his book and places his hand on Dean's shoulder. "Dean, wake up."

"Wazzit?" Dean asks sleepily, eyes closed.

"A tulpa, Dean. That's what it was?"

Dean opens his eyes. "Yeah?"

"I think I just saw one."

Dean bolts upright. "Fuck. Are you sure?"

"Sure I saw something, but not certain I know what it is. Blackness just out of sight, and that table started rolling. It can't be a breeze or a minor earthquake; I felt nothing." He stares into Dean's green eyes. "Dean, can those follow people?"

Dean rolls off the exam bed. "I've never heard of it, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Especially since I torched where it was staying. I did a cleansing spell, that should've gotten rid of it, but if that didn't work and its home was gone …" Dean rubs his bottom lip, thinking. "Yeah. It could've attached itself to me." He looks up.

Castiel feels a chill and turns. There, flickering down the room like a piece of jello wandering in and out of this dimension, was a black, spidery human figure. He has an instant to feel shock – only his second meeting with a supernatural being – and then Dean grabs him by the arm and runs, dragging Castiel with him. It pulls Dean's stitches, leaving lines of blood and Castiel says, "Your back –"

"Don't argue, follow me!" Dean shouts.

Castiel looks back again and sees it following them, jolting forward in inches or feet at random intervals.

"Holy water, holy water –" Dean is muttering, still pulling Castiel through the hallway. "Blessed by Tibetan monks and some sage –"

Dean tries to pull him into the library.

"Dean, I can't!" Castiel says, stopping at the entrance.

"It's not safe and the library has sigils that protect against supernatural forms –"

"I can't," Castiel repeats, looking down at his ankle.

Horror and understanding fill Dean's face. He releases Castiel and darts into the library, running through its shelves. Castiel focuses on the hallway, watching the figure steadily approach him. "Dean, can I exorcise it or something?" he calls.

When it's six feet away, Castiel realizing he's about to die and he should just run, Dean returns with an ancient looking jar and throws it down the hallway at the shadow. It explodes into a thousand pieces and liquid splashes out of it, causing the shadow to flicker even more and then disappear into wisps of darkness. Castiel grabs Dean's arm, feeling a fear that is entirely different from facing down a human monster. "I don't think that killed it," Castiel finally gets out.

"It didn't," Dean says. He looks down at Castiel's ankle. "I need to get somewhere safe and prep the spell. But only the library has sigils that will keep a tulpa like that out."

"Dean, I can't go into the library," Castiel says evenly. "You have to remove the cuff."

Dean stares at him. Castiel stares at the growing darkness at the end of the hall.

"I don't want to die," Castiel tells him.

Dean kneels, places his hand on Castiel's ankle, and begins to chant in some alien language. After about twenty seconds, the cuff opens with a quiet click and Castiel kicks it away.

The shadow figure flickers in front of him and Castiel raises his arm in self-defense, like he would with a human opponent, but the shadow's arm passes right through him for just a bare second, before re-solidifying. Claws rip into Castiel's skin from his shoulder to his waist and he screams. Dean pulls him through the doorway at the same time. The shadow figure rushes at Castiel, but it scatters into smoke when it gets within an inch of the door. Castiel, panting and in pain, can see the scrolling symbols embedded in the floor. He'd never given them much thought before this, but similar ones cover almost every surface of the bunker.

Dean's hands are on his face, his shoulders. "You're okay, it's okay, Cas. They're not deep."

Taking few gulping breaths, Castiel nods and struggles to his feet with Dean's help, pain radiating from his core. There's blood, a fair amount of it, but when he looks down he realizes Dean is right – the wounds are only centimeters deep. It mostly shredded his shirt, not his skin. They hurt like hell because the shadow figure clawed him more than it cut, but they're definitely not life-threatening.

"You with me?" Dean asks.

Castiel nods. Focuses. "How do we get rid of it?"

Dean wavers on his feet, still half-naked. "Best way is holy water, holy oil, sage, and a piece of black garnet. I didn't have the garnet so I fudged it a little with a red garnet and a piece of obsidian." He shrugs painfully. "Stupid. It looked like it worked, but it only got the thing mad."

"Okay, so we have those things?"

Dean squints and looks around. "Yeah. Somewhere."

Castiel flinches when he sees the shadow figure throw itself at the open doorway again, but it scatters just like before. Seeing a supernatural creature bound just by an arrangement of symbols is rather amazing, Castiel decides. The ankle cuff itself he's always associated with his captivity, but this – this is protection. "Will that hold?" Castiel asks.

"Probably," Dean says, not even looking. Not nearly as enthralled as Castiel, he's already searching the library stacks and that locked cage Castiel couldn't figure out how to open. He takes out a flask and a jug from one part, searches through boxes, and then takes out a tiny little paper envelope. When he opens it, a rough black garnet spills into his palm. "Three out of four." Dean looks at Castiel. "We need fresh sage."

Castiel says slowly, "And that's in the kitchen."

"Yeah," Dean admits. "We're going to have to run for it."

"How?" Castiel demands. "I can't shoot it, and it doesn't look – stabbable."

Dean sets the black garnet on a desk and looks around the room. "Okay, so. One of us – you, probably – only needs to keep it busy long enough for me to get the sage. The spell's really short and I still remember it. If I get everything together and you can hold it off I can do the spell in the kitchen and we won't have to risk the run back here."

"That's your plan?" Castiel asks, disbelieving.

"Welcome to hunting," Dean says, "land of make it up as you go." He shoves into a stack of boxes and finds a tire-iron. Beyond that he grabs a long, cardboard box, which he opens. He gives the contents to Castiel.

"It's a stick!" Castiel says incredulously, eyeing the three foot long branch.

"A stick blessed by six popes and a full coven of witches," Dean replies matter-of-factly. "It'll work. Just swing at the thing like it's a baseball bat. I'll take the iron." He pauses. "Are you ready for this?"

Castiel looks at him steadily, his mind working. "They flicker ahead but they don't teleport long distances, right? Then I think you should go first and sprint for the kitchen. I'll cover your back."

"Sounds like a plan," Dean says dryly.

Castiel heft his weapon. He doesn't know how much the shadow figure can interact with reality, but he's going to assume it can knock him off his feet if he's not careful enough. He lets his martial arts training take over and balances himself. "Ready."

Dean gives him one last long and searching look, then approaches the door. Castiel keeps on his heels. Dean hesitates at the doorway and then lunges through, swinging his tire-iron as he goes. The shadow figure appears and disappears just as fast, reacting to the iron in Dean's hand. The second after, Castiel is out as well. Dean runs ahead while Castiel faces the shadow figure. It dances closer, and Castiel wields his blessed stick almost like a sword, swinging in a downward arc. It screams, making Castiel's hair stand on end, but it backs off.

Backing up that way, Castiel keeps the thing at a distance of several feet. Anytime it jumps forward he reacts by slicing through the air before it reappears, and within half a second he's hit it again.

Before long, Castiel is near the end of the hallway where it meets with the kitchen, and he can hear Dean speaking quickly in what sounds like Latin.

The shadow figure twists and turns when it hears Dean and then jolts forward several more feet than it had previously – enough to bring it into Castiel's guard. He falls backwards, sacrificing his footing to slice into the creature, hoping that hurting it will cause it to back off long enough for him to stand.

Then it screams again, whirling around almost like a tornado before pieces begin to fall off, like small pieces of tissue. They dissolve when they hit the floor, and when the last piece disappears the keening sound goes with it.

"Is it dead?" Castiel asks, standing.

"Yeah," Dean answers finally. "It's dead."

Castiel looks back at him, lowering his stick.

As one, they realize Castiel is unbound. Free. Castiel can see the foyer which has Dean's keys to the Impala. He can almost see the front door.

"Cas, don't," Dean says, desperation in his voice. Desperation that wasn't there when they were facing down a shadow figure that kills.

"Dean, I don't want to hurt you. I don't." Castiel is telling the pure truth. "Just let me go – I won't tell anyone where you are. Let me go."

"I can't," Dean says, and brings up his tire-iron.

There's only one way to end this, and they both know it. Either Dean will win, or Castiel will. And Castiel has the feeling that if he loses this fight, he's not going to have the will-power to bring on another.

For once, Dean begins the battle, expression grimly determined. He knows that while their weapons may not be intended as such, they can still do damage. Like Castiel, he has some experience with a long, close-ranged weapon, because he doesn't go for the wide, flashy moves that are shown in film. He's trying to disarm Castiel of his only defense, and he's using his greater weight and momentum to do it. Castiel blocks while he tries to get into Dean's guard, so he can get close enough that the heaviness of the tire-iron won't matter. He's a second too slow and Dean knocks Castiel's hand, the one that holds his weapon. Rather than freeze in shock or try to hold on, he drops it and rushes in, grabbing Dean's tire-iron with his good hand and trying to twist it out of Dean's grip.

They're within a foot of each other, so it becomes a grapple instead of an exchange of blows. Castiel is hurt, but Dean is hurt worse. By getting close enough to grab and twist Dean's wrist, he's able to force Dean to drop the tire-iron, nearly breaking Dean's wrist in the process. It clatters to the floor, a few feet away. Castiel judges the distance, but Dean is on him the next moment and he's fighting dirty.

In a way it's a battle of strength, each trying to get the other into a defensive position. Castiel slugs Dean in the jaw, but though it sets him back it doesn't stop him, even as he spits out blood. Attack, block, countermove. Dean is trying to restrain him, not knock him out, so most of his attacks are focused on breaking Castiel's balance, while Castiel is going for the head. He gets another blow in, and Dean responds by digging into Castiel's injury from the shadow figure, dragging nails into the fresh cuts. Castiel can't help but react, and Dean takes advantage, getting his leg behind Castiel's and dropping him to the floor by knocking him off his footing.

Castiel lands badly due to Dean's weight, his head knocking against the hard floor hard enough for him to black out for a second. Dean is straddling him when he comes back to himself.

Pure panic makes Castiel struggle wildly, trying to buck Dean off. It's less a matter of training and more one of desperation.

"Stop!" Dean shouts. "You've lost!"

Castiel digs in his nails as hard as he can into Dean's skin and Dean curses. Castiel tries to kick him, but Dean sits on his stomach, so Castiel can't get the reach or leverage to kick Dean off. He wriggles and tries to get his feet under him enough to push Dean away, but Dean is both too strong and too heavy.

Within a few minutes, Dean is able to grab one wrist. Then the other. He pushes Castiel's arms to the floor and leans on him with all his weight.

Castiel lets loose a sob. "Don't do this to me," Castiel begs him.

Dean's hands tighten on his wrists. "I'm sorry, Cas." He even seems to mean it, sympathy in his eyes.

Hot tears roll down Castiel's temples. He keeps struggling. There's a dull pain where he can feel Dean grinding the bones in his wrists together. "Please don't do this," Castiel begs again, voice wavering.

"Stop fighting me," Dean demands. "Cas, I don't want to hurt you, just stop!"

He goes limp, blinking back more tears.

Dean takes several large, heaving breaths while he still holding Castiel down. As soon as he lets up the pressure on Castiel's wrists, Castiel bucks upward again and yanks his entire body to the side, so instead of Dean sitting on his stomach he's on Castiel's back. "Fuck," Dean grunts into his ear, and then Castiel flips Dean off of him entirely now that he can push against the floor. He scrambles away and feels a hand on his foot and kicks out blindly. He feels it land, but doesn't look back to see – instead he scrambles to a standing position.

But the world goes black again and tilts.

When it comes back, Dean's got a hand on his wrist and Castiel is on his knees in front of him.

Castiel catches a glimpse of Dean's face, staring down at him with a mixture of anger and horror. But rather than beat Castiel further, Dean starts uses the wrist he's holding to begin dragging him from the kitchen and down the hallway. Castiel knows he has a concussion now and his balance is wrong and he can't quite get his body to move, but he fights Dean anyway. He twists his wrist around, trying to break Dean's hold, but Dean only responds by tugging harder and grabbing Castiel's free hand. Once he does that he gets both wrists in one hand and pulls.

After only twenty feet Castiel falls, forcing Dean to hold up his weight by Castiel's wrists. Dean has to use both hands, but he doesn't stop, dragging him along the floor while Castiel tries and fails to gain leverage by standing, his feet and ankles getting scraped up.

Most of the way to the library, Castiel gives up and lets the tears come. He's failed, again. The sense of loss is monumental – like Castiel can never go back, like that was his last chance. He's never going to see his brother again and he'll be trapped here for the rest of his life, and sooner or later he's going to like it because Dean is in his head, because Dean is steadily working his way into Castiel's heart, unwilling or not. He stops resisting Dean and makes his body lax, and Dean curses when he almost drops him. Dean's hands are rough and tight on his arms and when Dean goes to readjust his hold, Castiel catches a glimpse of Dean's face. There's a single tear track on one cheek, but his jaw is clenching like he's holding in anger.

Dean says, "Cas, please."

Castiel looks away, despair rising in his throat.

Dean gets his hands under Castiel's arms and drags him. The hallway is both blurry and dizzying, so he closes his eyes.

Dean drops him against the wall. "Open your eyes," Dean commands.

When Castiel does, he sees the ankle cuff in Dean's hands. He wants to vomit. He throws himself onto his side and tries to crawl away.

"Cas – Cas!" Rather than a punch or another pull, Castiel feels himself be enveloped in warm arms. They tighten around him, holding on. Dean's legs wrap around his and he shuts his eyes again, as firmly held as any time they'd shared a bed. Dean exhales, hot, against Castiel's neck. "Do you want the chain? Would that be easier for you?"

Bloody, in pain, and dizzy, Castiel just continues to cry. The tiled wall in front of him is blurry from his tears. He can't even think of a response.

Dean says, low and intense, "I love you, Cas. I love your fight, I love how strong you are, but I need you here. Please put it on."

Castiel opens his eyes. He reaches out with a shaking hand and takes the silver cuff, which still hangs open. Dean holds his breath. The scrolling text glints in the light. Castiel has to do this. Whether it's to give in and let Dean keep him here, or whether it's to make Dean trust him, he has to do this. As the cuff settles on his bruised and scratched ankle, he doesn't know which reason makes him do it. It closes with a quiet click and the seam disappears almost immediately.

"Oh, Cas," Dean whispers into his ear. He rocks Castiel. "Thank you."

Some amount of time passes.

Dean sways back and forth, almost like Castiel's a child that needs to be calmed. When Dean asks, "Can you walk?" Castiel doesn't move. Eventually Dean picks him up in a bridal carry, the world swinging until Castiel closes his eyes and focuses on the feel of Dean's breathing. He's still dizzy and pain pounds at his skull, a throbbing pain that begins at the back of his head. Dean settles him onto his bed, one arm still at his back as Dean tries to sit Castiel up.

The world wavers and goes black.

" –ucking hell, shit shit shit," Dean is saying urgently. "Cas, can you open your eyes?"

Castiel looks at him blurrily. "Dean?"

Dean lets out a relieved sigh and caresses the side of Castiel's face. "You with me? You have a concussion. Am I blurry? What day is it?"

"Tuesday," Castiel tells him, feeling confused. Dean sharpens after he blinks a few times. "And no."

Dean nods. "Drink this," he says, giving Castiel a glass of water and a pill. "It's Tylenol. And I'm going to get an ice pack for your head. Then just rest. I'll keep an eye on you, I promise. You'll be fine."

Castiel chooses to believe him.

--------------------------------

Recovering from the concussion takes time. Castiel spends most of it sleeping, sleepy, or confused, and consequently he and Dean don't discuss Castiel's escape attempt. Instead, Dean spends all his energy taking care of Castiel. He brings him easy on the stomach food and more or less insists on walking him to the bathroom. The first few days he sleeps on the floor, but then he returns to their bed. Although Castiel doesn't think he has a brain bleed or anything, he's also too tired mentally and physically to object or even think about it much.

While Dean is in caretaker mode, Castiel slowly sinks into what he knows is depression. He becomes listless, food loses all flavor, and the physical exercises he's kept up since the beginning of his captivity simply disappear from his routine. Despite the lack of physical activity, he loses weight – quickly enough that Dean finds an ancient scale somewhere and takes Castiel's weight every day. His emotions seem to have mostly fled.

Eleven days after Castiel's head injury, after Castiel fails to eat his oatmeal for the second morning in a row, Dean silently gets him dressed and puts on his socks and shoes. Then he leads Castiel out to the back entrance and into the sunlight.

There's a blanket on some grass, with a few pillows heaped on top.

Dean settles him there with a pillow under Castiel's head, then sits next to him and pulls out a book. The sun is too bright at first, but as the minutes tick by Castiel finds himself relaxing. It doesn't take the numbness away, but there's a small part of him that eases, somehow. He watches little flying bugs meander around, and sees a tiny lizard dart out of the brush and into sight before disappearing again. Birds sing at random intervals. As the hours pass, he watches the shadows move. He sees Dean adjust his sitting position and grimace at his legs, like they've fallen asleep.

Castiel drifts off.

--------------------------------

Dean talks to him. A lot.

Sometimes Castiel likes having the conversation there, even if he doesn't participate. Other times it grates on him, annoyance flaring like the sun, even though he doesn't have the energy to tell Dean to stop. But one thing Dean never does is leave. He sticks by Castiel like glue, barely even dipping out of boundary to check his phone.

"Sam was really depressed when Jess died. Thought it was his fault. I can't tell you how many hours I spent driving with him brooding next to me. I felt for him, though. Gotta be tough to lose someone you love like that." "After hell, I just wanted to just – disappear. Not die, not go to heaven or hell, just disappear." "Do you know how hard it was to find a front fender for a '67 Impala? Good thing I knew Bobby."

Eventually Dean's one-sided conversation becomes more random, with less attempts to gain empathy or a response.

"There's this diner that had a C rating, and man, I'm telling you that was generous – but their pies. Oh my God, their pies. I tried to bribe the waitress into telling me where they got them, but she said they were the only thing keeping the diner open and she didn't want to lose her job." "Hanes, dude. I'm telling you, they're the best underwear." "I was fifteen the first time I hustled someone at pool. Uh, officially. That time Dad was with me, keeping an eye out, you know? I pretended to get drunk, though honestly back then even a beer would've gotten me buzzed. But I got this rich college kid to put a one thousand on the line, and when I took it? That was awesome. Though Dad did have to break up the fight."

Castiel can tell Dean is going on the internet and researching depression, because Dean finds tiny things for him to do or experience. Make tea and sip it as the sun rises and sets. He buys adult coloring books (which Castiel didn't even think existed), which are mostly really large, interesting patterns that he can fill in with waves of color. There's an odd kind of satisfaction to it, even if it makes Castiel feel like he's five at the same time. He takes Castiel on walks, then when Castiel is compliant enough, on runs. That increases his appetite slightly. Dean puts on music that Castiel knows for a fact Dean would previously rather have set himself on fire than listen to.

At night, Dean strips Castiel down to his boxers and gives him a massage. He puts Castiel on his stomach and starts on his lower back, working out all the kinks before going upwards. With two thumbs at the base of his neck, Dean pushes up into Castiel's hairline where Castiel had hit his head. He stops just before he reaches the point of impact. Then he does Castiel's arms and hands, sitting next to him and then switching sides when needed. Castiel's legs get the same treatment.

Dean's always careful of Castiel's healing injuries. His feet and ankles are mostly healed, since it was really only scrapes that were the problem. There was a large bruise on Castiel's back, but that's nearly gone.

It doesn't even twinge when Dean flips him over and begins massaging the front of Castiel's body, starting with gentle pressure on his arms. He avoids Castiel's chest, which is healing rather raggedly – he's going to have scars from the shadow figure. Castiel stares at Dean as he does it, but Dean's expression is only calmly intent, revealing nothing of his thoughts. When Dean works his way down to Castiel's thighs, rather than lie there limply like he had every other night, Castiel spreads his legs apart and lifts one knee.

Dean pauses and meets Castiel's eyes. "Cas?"

Propping himself up on one arm, Castiel grabs Dean's hand and pulls Dean on top of him. Dean comes without resistance, knee between Castiel's and his hands on either side of Castiel holding himself up. This leaves Castiel's hands free, and he pulls Dean in to kiss him.

It's gentle at first. But soon Castiel is pushing into Dean's mouth, practically fucking Dean with his tongue. Then Castiel wraps a leg around Dean's and pulls Dean's body on top of his own. Dean's half-hard cock is resting against Castiel's belly, and for a second Dean thrusts, and then he freezes.

Dean sits up and then levers himself off of Castiel's body, wiping his wet mouth. "Cas, I don't think you really want this. Not right now."

"Why?" Castiel asks blankly. He doesn't understand, but he's not totally sure he cares that he doesn't understand.

"You're – you're not even hard, Cas." Dean rubs the back of his neck. "I think we need to talk about this first."

"Talk?" Castiel repeats, some strange welling of emotion coming past his numbness. "Talk about what? Do I have a choice in anything? Do I get a choice where I live, where I go? How about what I eat? Where I shit? Does it really make a difference if I make a choice about whether to have sex or not? You'll hold me here until I say yes, won't you?"

Dean stares at him, breathing hard, then says, "If you never say yes to me again, I will accept that."

Castiel scrambles to his feet, a pure fury rising in him and giving him energy and motivation, filling his entire body and giving him all he needs. He attacks Dean. It's not planned or coordinated, just random swings of his fists in Dean's direction, trying to get closer. Dean backs off rather than try to subdue him, blocking Castiel's strikes while Castiel screams, "I hate you! I hate you!"

Dean backs himself into a wall and Castiel throws himself on him, scratching and kicking. He's well-trained enough that skill leaks past his emotional attacks, but when Dean decides he's had enough, Castiel doesn't have the mental focus to evade.

It's a parody of a hug, with Dean holding Castiel's arms down at his sides. Holding him still while Castiel struggles wildly. Incoherent noises of rage spill out, but when he's no longer able to physically express them, he collapses. Dean stumbles but adapts, taking on Castiel's weight.

"You're okay, you're okay," Dean whispers into his ear. Is he? Castiel doesn't think he is. He's not even sure what compelled him to come onto Dean like that, or to say those things. There's an element of truth in what he said, but he knows that Dean isn't going to force him. Dean might push him, but all it takes is a no and Dean stops. Dean's never going to tie him to a bed and rape him. The question isn't whether Dean will listen, but whether Castiel can say it.

But maybe this isn't even about that, either.

Castiel lost that fight. Now he wants to stop fighting. He's tired – so very tired. He wants to let Dean take care of him.

At last, the anger fades.

The depression is still there, faintly humming in the background of his mind, but it's no longer an expanse of gray clouds. Bits and pieces of emotion are shaking loose as he lets himself think that he's not going to escape. That he's not going to try. That he will take his life as it comes, even if that means giving up control of it. He says it, even if he can only whisper: "I give up."

"You're still you, Cas. And it's okay to be here with me," Dean says, but the words drift past Castiel.

Castiel has gone through the five stages of grief for his lost freedom over the past two hundred and ninety-three days.

He has finally arrived at acceptance.

Chapter Text

Not much actually changes. At least on the surface.

When Castiel wakes in the morning, depressed and tired like he has been for the past five days since his breakdown, Dean's already been up for several hours. He's showered, his hair is already dry, and he's wearing a pair of jeans that Castiel recognizes as one he only wears when he's going to be out of the bunker. He smiles at Castiel, who looks at him blearily from under the covers. "Rise and shine," Dean says, pulling back the comforter and offering Castiel his hand. Cool air rushes in and makes Castiel shiver, even though by now it's the middle of July, and even the bunker (being underground) has warmed up.

Castiel takes it and lets Dean drag him out of bed.

"So, I'm leaving for a hunt in a day or two," Dean says, holding Castiel's hand as they walk down the hallway to the kitchen. He rubs Castiel's thumb in soothing circles. "I've got time. It's a yearly pattern and I've got a solid month before the thing hits again, whatever it is. That means I'm going to town today to get supplies for when I'm gone. Food, shampoo, that kind of thing. Any requests?"

Castiel shakes his head.

"Breakfast is crepes. I already made you a sandwich for lunch, it's in your fridge." Dean pauses when Castiel says nothing. "One word. That's all I need."

"Thanks."

Dean nods slowly, still keeping his expression cheerful. He sits Castiel down at the kitchen table, where the food is already plated. Dean goes so far as to make sure Castiel picks up his fork. "Okay. I'll see you in a bit." With that, he steps across Castiel's boundary and is out of sight within a minute.

Castiel puts down the fork and winds his way through the bunker, to the secret exit that is his source to outside. The sun has climbed midway into the sky and is rapidly warming the air and ground. That makes Castiel relax instinctively. Sometimes Castiel feels like he can't enough heat. He sits cross-legged on his rock, which isn't yet too hot to settle on in his thin sleep pants. He places his wrists on his knees in the pose he takes for meditation.

Michael taught him to meditate, years ago when Castiel was a young teenager. Castiel was going to public school at the time and was finding the transition from being taught by their master's degree mother to irritated and harried public teachers stressful. One day after Michael's football practice, he took Castiel aside in the backyard and had him sit down in the sunlight and just stop. Castiel didn't know it then, but Michael was already planning on going into the military and was taking martial arts. A teacher had recommended it to Michael, and Michael in turn recommended it to Castiel.

He can still remember Balthazar coming home not much later, and dancing around Castiel singing stupid songs until Castiel cracked up. Michael tried to teach Balthazar too, but he was too lively. He couldn't settle down and found the idea of trying to reach a state of non-conscious thought boring.

"How can you stand it, Cassie?" Balthazar asked. "Aren't you bored out of your mind sitting there for an hour like that?"

Deciding it was a serious question, Castiel answered, "I guess sometimes it feels like I want to escape from my own mind. My own thoughts. When I can't control them."

"Thoughts are meant to be shared," Balthazar replied, "not repressed. Don't be repressed, Cassie. That's Mom and Dad all the way."

Michael gave Castiel a secret smile and a little nod, as if to say, It's okay they don't get it.

That was the beginning of Castiel understanding that he was more like Michael than his parents. That was the beginning of understanding that staying at home in a quiet life wasn't what Castiel wanted, even if going out into the world would one day kill him. It killed Michael. The day Castiel was accepted into the police academy, he knew it might one day take his life, too.

Castiel thought many things, but he never expected his life to end up here.

Unlike that afternoon more than two decades ago, Castiel's problem isn't too many thoughts. It's the lack of them, the lack of meaningful emotion to drive his mind forward.

Dean is there, of course. Dean's like a whisper in the back of his mind, a series of analyses and calculations he can't stop. But the rest of him is too exhausted and depressed to listen.

"Cas?" Dean calls.

Castiel turns to see Dean standing at the entrance to the bunker.

"You didn't eat breakfast," Dean says, striding forward. "Aren't you hungry?"

"I've never told you much about my brother Michael, have I?"

"No, you haven't," Dean relies after a moment. "I'd love to hear everything you'd like to tell me, though." He gives Castiel a wry look. "I bet he was an awesome big brother, unlike the last Michael I met."

Castiel smiles faintly. "Remind me, sometime later."

Dean kneels on the grass next to Castiel and gently places a hand on Castiel's knee. "Cas, are you okay?"

Rather than answer, Castiel turns away, settles his hands in his lap and closes his eyes.

The crunch of grass marks Dean's exit, but half an hour later he returns with a plate of fruit and cheese. Castiel eats half of it, for Dean's sake, but can't force down more than that.

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Castiel is alone.

It's not the first time, of course. Dean's been going on hunts since a few weeks after initially taking Castiel. Especially in those first months, Castiel always tested the limits of his range and carefully examined every portion of the bunker he had access to for any slipups on Dean's part. Anything that could be useful later or used in an escape. But even nearly ten months in, Dean's still really careful. And despite Castiel telling Dean he's given up, Dean continues to take all his normal precautions, including locked doors.

Though Castiel supposes the fact that he's checking, even if it's only out of habit, is telling.

This time, Castiel sits in bed. The blue blankets are soft, the texture itself soothing. He rubs the tips of his fingers along the fuzzy blanket on top with little dolphins splashing across waves. Castiel had laughed when Dean gave it to him.

Light is constant inside the bunker. No moving shadows.

Castiel curls his knees up to his chest and settles his chin on his kneecap, listening to the silence. The ipod sits quietly in the corner of the room.

He's alone.

He's given up, and he's alone. The sense of purpose that had given him life and energy while Dean was away is gone. He has things to keep him company, things to make noise. TV shows and films. The flatscreen sits unused against the far wall. The computer, with its limited games, is in another room. The den has the gaming console Dean got him for his birthday.

Castiel gets up and goes to the bathroom. The mirror is gone. Dean cracked the rest of the remaining shards stuck to the backing and removed the entire thing. The floor was carefully swept. Dean has Castiel use an electric shaver for his stubble. He picks it up and then puts it down. He leaves.

In another corner of the room is the small chest Dean gave him, that included salt, iron, and that blessed knife.

A knife.

He kneels on the floor and opens the chest, noting it's carefully packed contents. He shifts past the salt, holy water, holy oil, and various little protective hex bags. The knife even has a sheathe, though Castiel can tell it's not the one that came with the knife, instead a generic one made to fit the slightly curved blade. The hilt is old and weathered by time, and even the blade isn't very sharp. It would cut if enough force is applied, but that's all. Dean strikes Castiel as someone who keeps very good care of his weapons, so it must be deliberate.

He takes out the bare blade.

All at once, he realizes what he intends to do with it. Hurt himself. He doesn't want to die, but he wants to feel pain.

Balthazar would be so ashamed of him for surrendering. He still thinks that Castiel is fighting, and Castiel isn't.

No. Stop. He's not going to do this. He sheathes the knife and places it on his bed. "You're losing it," he tells the walls.

He walks to his fridge, which is full. He opens it and stares at the contents. Dean doesn't list dates, but he does list what each meal is intended for – breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner. It's packed to the brim, and there's shelf-stable food piled in a large cabinet in another room that would last Castiel weeks.

He traces Dean's sloppy handwriting on the plastic containers, and then shuts the door.

After a moment of thought, he goes through his usual set of exercises. Some days it's incredibly difficult to work up the motivation to continue his physical fitness, or to continue the martial arts aspect of his conditioning. But he usually feels better after his body has been active, natural endorphins doing quite a bit to stabilize his mood. Dean knew that instinctively, or perhaps from experience, hence the forced walks and runs. He wouldn't quite drag Castiel along, but he would definitely wait him out and annoy him into compliance.

A hundred sit-ups. Fifty push-ups. Calisthenics and some yoga, then when he's good and warmed up he switches to punches and kicks and various combinations thereof.

Then he goes outside and runs. He has to go in a big circle – small enough it's noticeable it's a circle – and halfway through he switches directions to make sure he still gets all his muscles equally used. By the time he's done thirty rounds, he's thirsty and slightly light-headed. His body is demanding food. He goes back into the bunker and grabs a water. It's not cold, which means he can gulp it down.

The fridge is two feet from the crate of water bottles.

Somehow reluctant, Castiel opens it and takes out a container labeled lunch. This particular one is a very loaded burger, with a little tiny container of sauce to go with it. Dean knows Castiel likes a vegetable with every meal, so there's also a container of carrots and a little bag of ranch dressing. Castiel rips it open and eats the carrots first, then finishes half of the burger and puts it away.

When he turns, the knife is still on the bed. He should. He should really put that away.

He picks it up, but instead of putting it away, he sits down on the bed.

When Hael was fifteen, she woke him up in the middle of the night with bloody hands. His bright and funny little sister was crying because she had self-harmed (on her thighs, so she could hide the scarring) and cut too deeply. Castiel spent the night bandaging her up and then holding her, feeling a deep panic and fear for her life. Two days later, he convinced her to go to their parents and receive medical care. She got better with medication and a therapist, and kept in contact with Castiel even after Michael's death and Castiel's decision to join the police force, though she doesn’t read his letters in return. But she chose to find part-time work that wasn't too stressful for her and stay home. Castiel knows, from her letters, that she leads a happy and quiet life. He's sure she has no idea he's even missing.

He remembers when she tried to explain it to him: "If my body hurts, my mind doesn't. At least for a little while."

Castiel, though he never doubted her, had never understood the appeal. Never had the urge. But pain is now his companion, hovering just out of sight, and sometimes he wishes he could spill it out into the open. Some part of him thinks he should cut up his wrists and arms, and show Dean just how much this isolation hurts him. Maybe if he's bleeding that will do the job.

He examines the edge, testing its sharpness.

He doesn't believe he's weak. He didn't. He doesn't think Hael was, but in himself he can call this weakness. Pathetic, even.

The knife becomes too much to hold; he throws it at the wall and feels frustrated tears ready to fall. "Control," he tells himself, shocked to realize how much his voice trembles. "You need to control yourself."

He leaves the room without checking for the knife and does everything possible to keep himself busy. He reorganizes the infirmary, which Dean had stocked thoroughly but haphazardly. That takes four hours. Then he tries to read a book, but stops after realizing he's ten pages in and doesn't know the name of the main character. The gaming console is next, and is slightly more invigorating because he both gets to shoot people and make decisions. He's halfway through a storyline when a sudden exhaustion overtakes him.

He feels like he's been fighting all day. Getting up is a lot harder than it should be, and Castiel stumbles to his room and falls to the bed, asleep within minutes.

When he wakes some indeterminable time later, he sees the knife lying on the floor.

It's not like this is a new idea to Castiel. He knows all the various ways people harm themselves and why they do it. For some it's about sparking an emotion (even one that's unpleasant) where there is none, when a person feels emptiness or anhedonia. Castiel suffered from that because of his depression, but his mental downward spiral is progressing to other things now. With Castiel, it's about managing an already existing emotion and causing dissociation. He knows logically that isn't a healthy coping mechanism.

He will never forget Hael sobbing in his arms, and the blood that had stained his sheets enough he had to throw them away.

Castiel knows that were he in another situation, he'd probably seek cognitive behavioral therapy. He would find someone who could teach him mindfulness and a better way of coping with his emotional state. But he doesn't have that – he has Dean, himself, and a few thousand square feet, if you count outside. He can't escape from the source of the emotional pain or seek treatment for it. He doesn't think he has the strength to do this on his own, and yet he can only depend on himself to get through this.

Except Dean. His tormenter. His protector.

Rising out of bed is easy. Going to the knife is like being pulled and pushed at the same time. Holding it in his hands is like inevitability.

The first cut is on the inside of his wrist. He doesn't know why; he supposes it just feels like the obvious place to start. When he watches the blood well up, he realizes he's going to have to explain this to Dean. There's no good reason for Castiel to be holding the knife. He can't plead a kitchen accident or a dropped shaver.

Panic overrides the pain. Dean will take the knife – Dean will limit what Castiel can do. But maybe Dean should?

He looks down at himself. Dean sees most of him most of the time, but he rarely sees Castiel without his boxers, and practically never without Castiel's prior permission. So the second cut is on his hip. So is the third and fourth. His mind goes blanker with each repetition, with the sharp, throbbing pain of the cuts simply drowning out the rest.

When he reaches disassociation, he pulls up his boxers and pants, spots of blood leaking through the fabric. Knife in hand, he walks down the long tunnel to outside. He reaches the very limit of his boundary, hefts the knife, and then throws it with all the force and power he can into the wild. Then he sinks to the ground and watches the sun move across the sky.

---------------------------------------

Six hours later, that's how Dean finds him.

"Oh God," Dean says, and Castiel looks up. Dean is in shadow from the angle of the sun; it's midday.

"I tried," Castiel says, the words spilling out as a mirror of his mind. There's a franticness to it, a desperation to make himself understood. Castiel is afraid, terrified, hurting, and he knows it. "I held out. I tried not to, I did everything else and then this morning I couldn't, Dean. I couldn't." He breathes shakily and focuses on Dean's green eyes. Then he does something he's never done before. "Dean, I need help."

Dean walks to Castiel and goes to his knees, pain, sympathy and horrified understanding on his face. He says, "Of course, Cas. Whatever you need." And he pulls Castiel into his arms, heedless of the blood staining his wrist and leg, until he's completely enveloped Castiel with his body. As if simply by holding on hard enough, Castiel will stop bleeding. His grip is tight and almost bruising, but Castiel sinks into that. He feels it deeper than his skin.

Breathing into Dean's shoulder, Castiel whispers, "I can't be left alone. You can't leave me here, Dean."

"I'm here, I'm here. I’m not leaving. I'm not going to leave you ever again, okay? You're going to be fine," Dean assures him. "I love you and I'll always take care of you."

Castiel thinks that's what he needs. He needs Dean to take care of him. After a few minutes, Dean gently helps him get up. Dean's expression is that forcibly calm one that Castiel knows well from the immediate aftermath of all his escape attempts – where Dean is shoving down some strong emotional reaction. There's tiny smears of blood on Dean's clothing from where Castiel's bloody clothing met his. But as Dean guides him down the tunnel, down the hallway, and into the bathroom, he decides that Dean doesn't seem to mind.

Dean has Castiel strip naked and then sit on the toilet seat. He grabs a washcloth, wets it, and then cleans up all the blood on Castiel's skin. He's careful around all the cuts, the kind of careful you only get from experience, and doesn’t open any of the scabbing wounds. Probably trying to see how bad the damage is.

"They're all shallow, so that's good," Dean says, offering Castiel a small smile. "They don't look dirty, either. I'm going to just clean them up with disinfectant, okay? Then some large, loose bandages so you don't open any of them back up."

"Okay," Castiel says, voice small.

Dean takes his time doing what he said he would. He moves slowly, as if a quick movement is going to make Castiel startle. Once Castiel is cleaned up and bandaged, Dean grabs a new pair of loose sleep pants and puts them on Castiel. Then he takes Castiel's hand and leads him to the kitchen.

He gives Castiel juice and oatmeal, but made enough for himself as well. After every bite Dean takes, he has Castiel take one, too. Once most of the food is gone, Dean again takes Castiel by the hand and takes him to the den, where he sits him down on the couch. He puts on some random Disney film and sits next to Castiel before gently encouraging Castiel to rest his head on Dean's thigh.

He strokes Castiel's hair. Every once in a while he pulls his fingers through the wild cowlicks, or runs his hand along Castiel's jawline up to his cheek, rubbing circles on his temple.

Something in Castiel loosens. And with that, he begins to weep.

Dean just keeps up that same soothing circle of motions. "It's okay, let it out," he murmurs.

The pain seems to reach a fever pitch before it finally settles, and Castiel's mind is left in a blank state of absolute exhaustion. Without trying to, he simply falls asleep.

---------------------------------------

When he wakes up, it's dark and he's in their bed. The sheets even smell freshly laundered. He still has on his sleep pants (with nothing but the bandages on his hip under), but he has no memory of walking back here or being carried. Dean, though, is curled up next to him. One leg is shifted over Castiel's uninjured side, and his hand lies on Castiel's bare belly, while his arm is under Castiel's back with his hand just trailing up over Castiel's shoulder into his hair.

"Dean?" Castiel whispers.

"Hm?" Dean says, then starts as if waking up. His face is a mix of shadows, and his expression thus too hard to make out. "Hey, Cas. How are you feeling?"

Rather than answer, because he's not entirely sure what would come out of his mouth, Castiel shifts around until he's pressed closer to Dean.

"I'll take that as a 'not well', then," Dean says, holding onto him fiercely despite his words. "Do you think you can listen to me?"

Castiel nods.

"Look, I get that you're depressed. Honestly. Sometimes I think I've lived half my life feeling depressed."

Hunting monsters, trying to please an impossible father, and raising his younger brother who ran away first chance he got? Castiel can see why, even without the abusive and psychotic elements he thought were present before. Well. Some kind of abuse is probably still true; Dean's never said anything like that, but Castiel can read between the lines well enough.

"And sometimes … sometimes you gotta find happiness in the little things. Stupid stuff, like finding a hole in the wall that has the best pies in the southwest. Or saving a kid from a water sprite. Cas, you know you've already saved lives, right? You've found more than a dozen hunts, and most of them were stuff I could take care of. You may not be in the FBI now, but you're still doing good."

Castiel blinks, hand tightening into a fist against Dean's chest. He presses forward until his face is pressed against Dean's skin. Dean leaving is helping others, but also hurting Castiel. "I … I never thought about that."

Dean has a smile in his voice as he says, "So yeah. Find it in everything. I know it's hard, it's really fucking hard. Just tell me what you need to me to do. And I am working on you seeing your brother." He pauses and shifts uncomfortably, jarring Castiel a little. "I wouldn't keep you here if I didn’t think you could be happy. I think you just have to let yourself, Cas. And let me help."

"I can't be alone," Castiel repeats, knowing it's true. He might have thrown that knife, but there's a hundred other ways he could hurt or kill himself.

"I know, I know. And I’m not going to do that to you, I promise. I'm staying."

"Dean."

"Yeah?"

"Can I … can I …" Castiel knows this is an odd request. "Can we sleep naked?"

Dean pulls away enough to look Castiel in the eye. But he says nothing, doesn't demand anything. Instead he carefully strips off his shirt, pants and boxers, and then helps Castiel do the same. After some reshuffling, they're entwined again, bare skin to bare skin. Dean's soft cock is pressed against Castiel's thigh, and Dean has one hand on Castiel's lower back. Castiel's dick, just as soft, is against Dean's hip. For all of the skin being touched, it's not sexual. Castiel can feel the physical contact melt into his body. He needed this. He doesn't know why, but he needed this.

Perhaps to feel human again, to feel wanted and cared for.

He doesn't fall asleep again, but instead dozes. Every once in a while he feels Dean touch his cheek, or his bottom lip. Just something small. And once he kisses Castiel on the forehead and murmurs, "I'll take care of you."

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Unlike normal, although Dean wakes up first in the morning as usual, he doesn't leave to start breakfast. Instead he stays curled around Castiel and waits for Castiel to get up with him. He stands outside the door when Castiel tells him that he needs to use the bathroom. After that, he helps Castiel step into sweat pants (being careful of the cuts on his hip, once again), because while Castiel might be happy to sleep naked, he would feel weird about walking around naked, alone with Dean or not. And then Dean follows Castiel to the kitchen.

Castiel sits in his usual chair, hunched over and feeling small. "Eggs and toast?" he asks.

Dean smiles. "Sure."

Castiel watches him go through the process of making it while he thinks. Dean staying so close should irritate him, but it doesn't. Castiel's not sure what to think of it. His shift from only reluctantly taking any comfort Dean offers, to being this needy. That's not a word Castiel has ever applied to himself.

Dean hums as he breaks open the last egg and turns the burner on. He pops four pieces of bread in the toaster and then goes for the butter in the fridge.

Dean wants this. Dean may want him strong, but he also wants Castiel to need Dean the way Dean needs him. Dean wants this. Oh, not the pain Castiel's in. Dean doesn't want that. Six months ago Castiel would have readily agreed that Dean planned this whole thing that way, that he always intended to place such psychological pressure on Castiel that Castiel would one day break. But now? Castiel knows him. Dean is aware on some level what he's done, but he's not willing to admit it. He'll easily place the guilt of kidnapping Castiel on himself, but the effects of long-term captivity is something he's less willing to admit to. And it makes a kind of sense, in Dean's mind – he's given Castiel everything but his freedom. Every comfort, even intermittent communication with Balthazar.

But the end result of this pain is something Dean has been begging for since the beginning. He wants Castiel to stay here and love him.

At the same time, Castiel can't help but think this is the only way for him to survive. To want to survive, and to be happy.

Hating Dean for bringing him here won't help him. Even if Castiel were still capable of that emotion when it comes to Dean.

"Dean, have you ever heard of natural and synthetic happiness?"

Dean frowns, taking out the toasted bread. "What like, happiness from drugs?"

Castiel shakes his head. "No. Natural happiness is the joy we feel from getting what we want. Synthetic happiness is still experiencing joy when we don’t get what we want, or we get something else, or when we're not given a choice."

Dean stares at him, a stick of butter in hand. "Explain that again to me."

"You're happy as a hunter, right?"

"Yeah," Dean says suspiciously.

"But that's not a choice you made for yourself."

"Hey, I love hunting," he begins defensively. "I help people and get to kill stuff. Demons and angels and all that shit, not so much," he says with a grimace. "But I enjoy my work."

Castiel smiles faintly. "That's exactly what I mean, Dean. You didn't make that choice, and yet you find joy in it."

"You're saying that's artificial? Doesn't feel artificial, dude."

Castiel wonders if it would, for him. He's always half-attributed closed opportunities and limited choices to some kind of fate, and been happy with what he'd been given. "No, it doesn't. The idea is that we choose whether we are happy, Dean." He pauses. "They did a study where there was a final project in a class – two photos. Half were told they could only choose to keep one and frame it, while the other half were told they could change their minds at a later date and receive the other photo. Those not given the option of changing their minds were happier with their choice."

"Not being given a choice," Dean rephrases.

Castiel meets his eyes. "Yes."

"Like you weren't," Dean says. Not a question.

"Yes," Castiel admits quietly.

Dean turns off the burner and puts down the butter. Instead of kneeling, he actually sits cross-legged on the floor right next to Castiel's chair, so he has to look up at him. "What do you think of synthetic happiness, Cas?"

"The researcher says that most of the happiness we feel in life is synthetic," Castiel says. "Being content with your job. Your pay scale. Finding someone else who doesn't fit all your wants, but you love them anyway. Some say private or personal happiness is a better description."

"That's a good summary, but that doesn't tell me what you think," Dean says gently.

Castiel begins to speak, then stops. Does happiness mean surrender? Can he surrender without giving himself over to Dean, accept only his circumstance, and demand equality and respect on the rest? "I don't know."

Dean rubs little circles on his knee, and then kisses it. "All right. Thank you, Cas. You've given me some stuff to think about." He smiles. "In a good way. No worries, okay?"

Castiel nods silently.

After breakfast, Dean comes up with three things they could spend the day doing. When Castiel is unable to pick – his mind freezes up and it starts a flood of emotional reactions – Dean hastily chooses for him. So they spend lunch outside, eating sandwiches and strawberries on a blanket. Dean asks him about twenty questions about the book Castiel just finished, even though it's on the history of water spirits and that normally bores Dean witless. He even manages to be fairly interested.

The afternoon is consumed by Monopoly. Castiel wins.

By evening, Castiel is exhausted again. Dean had him go on a walk, but he declined any further exercise. He brushes his teeth while Dean makes the bed. When Castiel walks out, Dean is looking at him thoughtfully.

Castiel takes off his shirt and eases his pants off without touching the bandages on his left side. He's wearing nothing underneath; he's fully naked.

Dean stares at him, then blinks rapidly and looks away. "Should I, y'know?" he asks.

Castiel nods.

Shirts, pants, underwear. It all falls to the floor. Dean pulls back the covers on their bed, and lays down on his side. He finally really looks at Castiel, raising an eyebrow. Castiel responds by joining him, slipping his feet under the sheets. He places one hand on Dean's waist, and tugs lightly. Dean comes to him easily, and with a bit of adjusting and readjusting, they are as close as lovers.

Is that even possible? To be Dean's lover? The sexual contact they've had was … enjoyable, if also emotionally distressing. If Castiel chooses to let himself be happy here, with Dean, is it possible for it to be the former without the latter?

Dean's body is one of relatively few scars. The one time Castiel had asked about it, Dean had told him that Anna removed most of them; she didn't seem to realize that sometimes people have attachments to scars, or that scars represent the kind of life lived. Dean didn't put it that way, of course, but Castiel has become skilled in understanding what Dean says as well as what Dean doesn't say. Dean is well-muscled, naturally. Not in the way of a body builder or someone who goes to the gym, but the hard, wiry kind you get from a large variety in exercise. Fighting. Running. Even physical labor jobs.

Castiel runs his hand from Dean's shoulder down to the small of his back. Dean twitches a bit, but doesn't open his eyes. His back is smooth, only one small scar near a rib. With his other hand, Castiel touches Dean's chest, across one pectoral and then down to his stomach. Then up his hip, stroking along the fleshy part of his ass.

Dean begins to twitch, his cock stiffening against Castiel's stomach. "Cas," Dean says, blinking his eyes open.

Castiel kisses him. Dean's stubble is rough; he hasn't shaved in days. The sensation is unique to Dean, in Castiel's experience. So is the hardness of the body he's touching. It feels strange and new, a bizarre mirror of his own body instead of something entirely different. It takes Dean a moment to respond, but then he licks his way into Castiel's mouth, hand on Castiel's neck – not pushing or insisting, just holding.

A flutter of panic works its way through Castiel, but not because of Dean directly. Because he knows what he's going to do next, and in the strangeness is a fear. But behind that is determination.

Castiel curls a hand around Dean's cock.

Dean moans, loudly, into Castiel's mouth. Castiel doesn't stroke it, not yet. It's the first time he's touched Dean in a sexual way, instead of being a passive participant. Dean is almost fully hard, the skin over his cock velvety soft while what lies beneath quickly becomes erect. He can feel his fingers meeting the slightly textured skin of Dean's balls, can feel the sack. It's weird, and that weirdness is accompanied by the realization he's touching another man's penis. Is he supposed to find this arousing? It mostly feels very strange, like for a moment he's out of his head looking down at what he's doing. In the next moment, he crashes down to earth and is physically present. As if that's a cue, his cock begins filling up.

Castiel touches the head of Dean's cock with his fingertips, finding liquid there. He rubs it into the slit, because he always liked it when a girl did that for him, and Dean thrusts with his hips, breaking the kiss to cry out, "Oh, Cas, oh fuck."

It's almost a surprise when Dean's hand curls around his own cock, mirroring him. Dean's grip is a lot sturdier, a lot firmer. He makes a tight hole out of his fist, finding the pre-come dribbling from Castiel's cock and using it to make the strokes easier and smoother.

Copying Dean only makes sense, so Castiel does. He tightens his hold and begins to jack him off. It's not quite like masturbating, the angle is wrong and different because Dean's cock is curving away from him instead of closer, and Castiel can't escape the reality that he's going to give Dean an orgasm. Dean is going to come because of Castiel, and something Castiel chose to do. Dean begins to thrust into Castiel's hand, little high-pitched breaths coming out.

Dean suddenly bites Castiel's shoulder, hard enough to hurt, and then semen spills over Castiel's hand and onto Castiel's stomach. Dean's cock jerks several times, then continues to pulse a little bit in his hand as he begins to soften.

"I love you," Dean says quietly, voice rough.

It startles Castiel when Dean gently takes Castiel's hand away, and then rises up to his knees. He pushes Castiel onto his back and moves between Castiel's legs, spreading them apart so Castiel can feel Dean's knees against the inside of his thighs. Dean is panting, still, face flushed and a happy smile on his face.

Castiel smiles slightly in return.

Dean reaches down to where his semen decorates Castiel's stomach, and to Castiel's surprise, he rubs it into Castiel's skin. Like he's marking him. "You look incredibly hot like this," Dean tells him, licking his lips. "Hard, with my come on your belly. If you'd let me, I'd take a picture of you like this."

Then Dean leans down and sucks in Castiel's cock. He deepthroats Castiel almost immediately, one arm against his legs to hold Castiel down when he instinctively thrusts upward. Dean's mouth is hot and tight, and the head of his cock is nestled in Dean's throat. Spit slips past Dean's lips as he sucks and hums, the vibration making Castiel match Dean's moan with one of his own. He feels his balls begin to draw up, the tension low in his belly readying to explode into a powerful orgasm. He places both hands on Dean's head and says, "I want you."

Dean groans, eyes fluttering shut, and Castiel comes.

He can feel Dean's throat working as he swallows it all. Little sparks of pleasure follow him on the way down from orgasm, and Dean adds to it by gently suckling on the head of his dick. He lies there, breathing hard, when Dean finally lets his cock fall from his mouth. Dean crawls over him in order to kiss him, his mouth still tasting salty. From Castiel's own come.

Dean gathers Castiel in his arms and entwines their legs and every inch of skin he can reach, he touches.

Castiel is floating. The anxiety of having sex with Dean, with having sex with another man, is gone. So is the panic. Dean's skin is hot against his own, and instead of feeling distress, he feels … he feels something like happiness.

He lets Dean hold him as close as a lover, and thinks that maybe 'lover' is the right word now.

---------------------------------------

Dean taps his shoulder in the morning. "Is it okay if I go start breakfast?" he whispers.

Castiel nods without opening his eyes, shifting deeper into the covers as the bed tilts because Dean is standing up. He feels that kind of sleepy contentedness you only get when you know you have to get out of bed, like his body is perfectly positioned for maximum comfort, the sheets are soft and warm and covering his whole body, and he's entirely relaxed. No, he definitely doesn't want to get up yet. It's been forever since Castiel had this, since he felt safe and wasn't fighting. He battled Dean for so long.

He knows when Dean returns only because Dean's hand is there, pushing through his hair. "Hey, Cas. It's after nine, think you're ready to get up?"

Castiel opens his eyes and throws back the sheet and covers. He blinks up at Dean.

Who is staring at his naked body with undisguised lust. Dean flushes and shifts his weight, like he knows he shouldn't be staring, but doesn't stop. But instead of coming on to him, he asks, "How are you feeling? About last night?"

Castiel takes a moment to think about it. Last night he'd been surprisingly fine. Yes, there was the oddness of Dean being male instead of female, but the acute anxiety he'd experienced before wasn't there. Shame? Perhaps a little. Castiel has given up on escaping, or at least it's no longer in the forefront of his mind. The idea of one day returning to the FBI and having to explain his relationship with Dean is – frightening. But the act itself, Castiel had been aroused. He came. Dean came on him, and that was okay. Interesting.

"I'm good," Castiel says at last.

A slow, wide smile spreads across Dean's face. "You up for an encore, then?"

Castiel tilts his head. "You won't burn breakfast?"

"Who gives a fuck about breakfast?" Dean shoves down his boxers, exposing his hard cock. Castiel takes a moment to get a good look, because the other times they did this it was either dark, or Dean didn't take his dick out at all. He's thick and long, probably around Castiel's size, but his cock is a much darker color, a flushed red-purple at the tip. Castiel can't help staring at it.

"Not you, apparently," Castiel says dryly, and then Dean is on him. He shifts one thigh between Castiel's legs, to press against his still-soft cock and, with his free hand, he takes hold of Castiel and begins to stroke. Castiel feels himself begin to quickly harden under Dean's skilled hands. The first time Dean gave him a handjob Castiel was too distressed to really appreciate it, but Dean is good at this. It's like he already knows every erogenous zone and how to use that knowledge.

It takes Castiel a second to catch up, but then he grabs Dean's fully erect cock and begins to thumb the head.

Dean breaks Castiel's hold, though, by backing down Castiel's body. He leans over and takes one of Castiel's nipples into his mouth, tugging a little on it. Castiel twitches and squirms, because he's never had someone do that before. His hands automatically go to Dean's shoulders. "What are you –"

"Making you feel good. Ready to be adventurous?" Dean asks.

"I think this whole thing is adventurous," Castiel replies honestly.

Dean smiles, moves further down his body, and then takes Castiel's cock in his mouth. He starts on the head, tonguing it all over before he slowly slides his mouth down and begins to suck really hard. Castiel does his best not to thrust, though the tight heat and pull of Dean's mouth is mesmerizing. Castiel hasn't had sex with a woman in almost two years. His only sexual partner has been Dean, and that's been limited to two acts. Masturbation isn't the same, it doesn't arouse Castiel to the degree another person can. Even porn had limited use for Castiel.

But now Dean is here, kneeling between his legs and sucking Castiel's cock like it's the best thing he's ever tasted.

Castiel groans when Dean pulls off. Dean meets his eyes and slowly puts two fingers into his mouth, getting them wet with spit. Then he returns to Castiel's cock, moaning away as he fucks his mouth onto it. With his hands, though, he pulls Castiel's legs up and apart, pushing hard when Castiel is too distracted by his mouth to cooperate. In a minute or two Castiel's legs are pulled up high as they can go with his feet still flat on the bed, and Dean's head is bobbing between his knees.

Then one of those fingers traces his ball sack, and then further down. Wet and slick, it circles his hole.

Castiel jolts, nearly dislodging Dean from his cock. His legs tremble. "What are you doing?"

Dean looks up at him, green eyes dark with arousal. He pulls off and kisses the tip of Castiel's dick. "Just one finger," he says. Promises. He wets his finger again, heedless of where it's been. "It'll feel good. I'll make you feel amazing, Cas. Let me." Then he sucks in Castiel's cock, licking at the slit and then deepthroating him.

Of course Dean wants that. Anal sex is a frequent sex act between two men. But as someone who always considered himself heterosexual, he'd never given much thought to him doing it. Receiving. To a girlfriend, sure, for variety. Trying to imagine Dean taking his decent-sized cock and putting up inside of Castiel is – is – he's not sure. A finger is a lot smaller than Dean's dick, but it's the progression that worries him. "I don't know," he tells Dean, who is waiting.

Dean lets Castiel's cock fall from his mouth and says, "Then let me decide."

Castiel swallows. "All right."

Dean's finger returns to his entrance and rubs the muscle there, teasing. It's a distraction from Dean's mouth, a weird sensation that's not exactly arousing. Then Dean pushes harder, and he feels his body give way and let that finger in. He cries out in surprise and shock. It feels impossibly huge, but he knows there's no more than the tip of Dean's finger inside of him. Dean moans on his cock, but he's looking up at Castiel, watching his reactions.

Castiel is just lying there and panting, half in desperation to have an orgasm and half in desperation to have it end. Dean's finger wriggles around and then there's more and more, bigger and longer, until he can feel the base of Dean's hand against his ass.

He's about to ask Dean to stop when Dean brushes against something inside of him, and in a shock of pleasure he comes. He loses track of what he's doing for several seconds, but returns to Dean withdrawing from his finger from Castiel's body, and then sucking the head of his dick very lightly, licking at the slit like he wants more. His eyes are glazed with lust, but also affection. When he releases Castiel's cock, Dean smiles and says, "You're amazing. I love you, I love you so much."

"I …" Castiel can't finish, little sparks from his orgasm still pinging through his body.

Dean moves his body forward with his arms under Castiel's thighs, holding him open, until his own cock is pressed right under Castiel's balls, near his hole. He begins to thrust against Castiel's ass, his own pre-come easing the way after the first few strokes. The head of his dick brushes against Castiel's entrance repeatedly, and the sensation is incredibly intense even as his dick softens. "I'm going to come," Dean pants. "Come right on you."

It's a little weird, that he's already come and just spreading his legs and letting Dean take his own orgasm this way. But Dean is looking at him with such joy in his eyes that Castiel finds himself relaxing and letting it happen. Letting go.

He wraps his legs around Dean hips, being careful of his own because of the still healing cuts. The position holds him open and exposed for Dean. Dean moans at the sight, at the action, and then one hand goes to his cock and he jacks himself as the head of his cock presses against Castiel's hole – not with nearly enough pressure to go in, just there.

Dean's head tips back, muscles tensed, when he comes. Hot liquid splashes across Castiel's entrance, then on his balls and cock as Dean lets his cock go, spurting another wave of semen. Marking him, again.

Dean almost falls on Castiel, barely holding himself up. He stays there for a moment, satisfaction and pleasure on his flushed face. He smiles at Castiel lazily, happily. "Oh, Cas," he says. He kisses Castiel's stomach, then his dick. Afterwards, he moves up and thrusts forward into Castiel's body one last time, his softening cock just sliding against Castiel's skin. Then, careful and slow, he lowers himself until he's lying on top of Castiel. They're pressed against each other from shoulder to ankle.

Castiel throws his arms around Dean's shoulders and spreads his legs a bit, so Dean can settle between them.

"Hmm," Dean murmurs into Castiel's neck. One of his hands is curled up in Castiel's hair, stroking his nape. "Was that good?"

All the tension has left Castiel, leaving him loose and relaxed. His mind is a pleasantly blank buzz. He adjusts to the weight of Dean's body on his own, having to take deeper and stronger breaths, but the sheer power of Dean's physical presence is calming instead of frightening. Like Dean is holding him in instead of down.

He's almost always gotten a high after sex. Mostly when he let himself go enough to properly enjoy it, which he really only did with women he'd been with for a while. He'd had one night stands, but while they were pleasurable, they weren't as satisfying as when he could let go and trust his partner. With Dean, it's like some part of him initially resists granting Dean trust and control, but when he does – when he does, it's satisfying. It gives him that high where his brain shuts down for ten minutes, where his body is as lax as his mind.

Dean wants to take him there. Dean probably wants to have sex every day.

"Yes," Castiel answers finally. "That was good."

Dean sighs, exhaling while Castiel inhales. "I thought sex with you would be amazing, Cas, because you're incredibly hot. Your body, but your mind, too. But I didn't think it would be this good. I just want to bury myself in you all the time."

Castiel doesn't know what to say.

"Cas – you tell me if you ever want to stop, or slow down. Anything. Don't keep it from me. Okay?"

"All right," Castiel whispers.

Dean gets off of him, running his hands down Castiel's body before he gets up and goes to the bathroom. He returns with a warm, wet washcloth. He lifts Castiel's legs to clean up the semen there, gently wiping his ass, then around his cock and balls. He wipes himself off last and then throws it in the dirty laundry basket. Then he sits next to Castiel, taking his hand in both of his. He searches Castiel's intently, clearly looking for something. "Are you okay?"

"I am," Castiel tells him.

Dean accepts it. "Breakfast?"

"It's not burned?"

"No, I remembered to turn off the burner," Dean says with a smile. "Join me?"

Castiel nods, gets up and puts on some pants before following Dean down the hallway. Dean strides to the kitchen still naked, soft cock bouncing slightly as he walks. He shoots Castiel a smirk when he sees Castiel looking, but Castiel just continues to observe.

"You're no fun," Dean says.

"I'm not?"

Dean pauses. "Hey, I like that about you. I like just about everything about you," he adds wryly. He grabs two plates and goes to the pan on the stove, which has scrambled eggs. He portions it out and returns to the table where Castiel sits and places the plate in front of him, with a fork.

Castiel begins to eat, then when he's finished half of it and all his water, he stares down at his plate for a long moment. "Dean, I'd – I'd like to have some time to think before we have sex again. I'm not going to freak out on you, I just want time."

"Of course," Dean agrees immediately. Looking worried, he asks, "Do you want to talk about it?"

Castiel shakes his head, staring down at the table. The emotional high of last night and this morning is wearing off. He's not regretting it, but he also knows that he most likely initiated sex because of his vulnerable and depressed emotional state. When he tries to pin it down further than that, it's like a swarm of bees rushes into his head and buzzes the rest of his mind into submission. He can't think. Depression has made him foggy, and that effect is continuing to last even though he's no longer in the depths he was yesterday.

Along that is the subdued, distant sense of panic that Dean will leave and he'll collapse again.

"Dean, how are you going to hunt when I'm like this?" Castiel asks, finally looking up.

Dean pushes away his plate and licks his lips. "I know some hunters I can ask to take cases you or I find. I'd rather not, but if I had to I would retire and live the normal life. But, Cas, I don't want you to worry about that. All you should think about is getting better."

"And how do you think I can get better?"

Dean frowns, but not the upset kind. He looks thoughtful instead. "Honestly, Cas, when I think about when Sam was depressed, I don't know how he got out of it. I know that for me it was the little stuff, like I told you. But more than that? I dunno, man. I'm not in your head, much as I'd like to be. What do you need?"

"I don't know," Castiel says quietly.

Dean just nods.

---------------------------------------

Casitel's depression comes and goes. Dean doesn't initiate sex again, but he's also a lot less shy about it. Probably mostly because Castiel insists they sleep together naked – the skin to skin contact is, without fail, soothing. He learns the texture, taste and smell of Dean's body in a more intimate way. Dean's skin is surprisingly smooth, though his legs are decently hairy. His nipples harden easily, and his hands are rough. Sometimes Castiel catches him tracing the scars on Castiel's hip when Dean thinks Castiel is asleep. Though Dean seems to take measures to avoid it, sometimes he wakes up hard, and the soft head of his cock presses against Castiel's back, or his stomach, leaving lines of wetness. This, too, is part of Dean.

Every few nights, they end up falling asleep facing each other. That's where Castiel learns how Dean tastes, when Castiel lays his head on Dean's bare chest and just – licks. A little bit. Dean's never commented, if he's awake.

He's known since the first day they shared a bed how Dean smells after a shower. Now he knows how Dean smells after sex, after Dean's jerked off in the bathroom again, after he's been out and running. Sometimes he smells of spices, and even rarer he smells like smoke and gunpowder. Castiel's never dated anyone in his line of work, so that's entirely new – it makes him realize why a past girlfriend found him slightly unnerving after he practiced with his gun. Gunpowder he associates with danger, with threat, even though most of the times he's fired his gun it's been in a firing range. With Dean, it's probably the opposite.

Dean is never farther from Castiel than about thirty yards. Castiel's panic begins to fade.

Two weeks pass like that.

"How are you doing?" Dean asks, like he does every morning.

"I think my feeling of panic and self-destructive behavior was a direct result of a lack of meaningful activity while alone, as well as a sense of loss because by giving up escape, I have put my life in your hands by choice. That in direct contrast to the fact that I am not here by choice. Those conflicting emotions drove me to extreme lows and a form of psychological breakdown."

Dean blinks.

Castiel eats his breakfast while Dean opens and closes his mouth, clearly trying to find something to say in response and failing.

By the time lunch rolls around, Dean's rallied. "So how do you cope in, you know, a healthy way with that?"

"Option one would be to return as I was. Fighting and always looking for escape." Castiel pauses. "That’s not really an option. I don't have the strength left for that. Which is your fault."

Dean exhales, lips pursed and eyes guilty. "Yeah."

"However, I have decided not to continue dwelling on that. It's counter-productive."

"So what's option two?"

"Acceptance of the change in my life. Embracing those aspects that I do enjoy here. Spending time with you. Going outside. Finding hunts." He frowns. "It's a short list."

Dean pauses mid-chew. "I have an idea," he says slowly. "But it would require me leaving for the day – just the day, I swear. Six hours, max."

Like one of Dean's shopping trips. The bunker must be somewhere very remote, because even accounting for the fact Dean buys several weeks worth of food at once and uses an industrial fridge/freezer, the trips take a long time. But Castiel hasn't been away from Dean for more than an hour, and that was always with the knowledge that Dean was within shouting distance. "I don’t know. I don't know how I would react."

Dean reaches across the table and takes Castiel's hands. "Sooner or later, I'm going to have to go out to get fresh food. I somehow don't think you want to live off MRE's and canned food. Should I, I don't know, lock you in so you can't get to anything dangerous?"

"Like lock me in our room?" Castiel doesn't know how he feels about that.

"I can move everything from the den in there, so you have everything you need," Dean says. "Do you want to think about it? I'd need time to plan, anyway."

Castiel nods. "Do I get to know what this idea is?"

"Can I keep it a surprise?" Dean asks.

Castiel looks away and then says very quietly, "I trust you."

To his surprise, Dean stands up and, instead of kneeling, he takes Castiels arms and has him on his feet. He cradles Castiel's face in his hand and says, softly and earnestly, "Thank you, Cas. Thank you." He's almost teary, and his smile a little shaky. And then he hugs him.

Castiel hugs him back, resting his head on Dean's shoulder. Dean holds him like that for several minutes before letting him go, and then returning to the table.

"Can you finish your plate?" Dean asks him.

Castiel does.

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"Rock, paper, scissors?" Castiel suggests, holding up both Sorry and Monopoly. They're in the den, sitting on the floor in a cleared out area so they can play a board game. Dean suggested it after it turned out to be raining outside. Board games seemed appropriate in that context; he can remember doing the same with his siblings as a child, because their mother was always scared they'd catch a deadly cold if they went out in the train.

"Sounds fair."

Dean throws a scissors, of course. Castiel's learned that much, though he's careful not to overuse it because Dean seems oblivious.

After Castiel wins, he says, "I want to go outside."

"In the rain?"

Castiel nods.

Dean, ever prepared, insists on grabbing a couple of towels on the way out and stacks them just inside. The view is technically the same grassy, rolling hills that's dotted by bushes, but the rain transforms it into a darker and richer color – sunny green turns into almost an emerald color, and the few patches of still-brown grass darken to a rich gold. It's been a few hours, so the ground is fairly muddy where there's no grass to hold it together.

The rain is coming at a steady pace, definitely not light enough to be called a drizzle, but light enough that the rain drops just kind of settle on Castiel's skin and clothing. He looks up at the gray sky. It's a middling color, not the dark gray of supercells, but a lighter one that indicates only a rainstorm.

Lightning flashes, too far away for its thunder to be heard.

All at once, something eases in Castiel. He feels a bit freer, even though nothing has changed. It's like he took a step back in his own mind and accepted something. He's not quite sure what, but it leaves him lighter.

He turns to look back at Dean, who is standing with his shoulders hunched up as if to protect his neck from rain. He smiles when he sees Castiel looking, but he still has a bit of a constipated expression on his face.

Castiel takes off his shirt and jacket.

Dean blinks. "What are you doing?" he calls from the doorway.

Castiel toes off his shoes and socks next, while Dean stares at him. Then he slips down his jeans and his boxers, until he's completely naked. His feet squelch in the mud and rain begins to drip down his body. The sensation of a breeze on his genitals is very odd, but also somehow liberating. The rain begins to fall a bit harder, making more of an impact. Castiel can feel the droplets splashing off his skin. "Fulfilling a promise," he tells Dean.

"What promise?" Dean asks, looking him over.

Castiel begins to walk his boundary. "When I was eighteen and Balthazar was twenty, he took me to a college party in the hills. I ended up playing truth or dare, and because I knew Balthazar was absolutely going to make me say something I didn't want to admit to, I chose dare."

Dean begins to smile. "And he dared you to run out naked or something?"

"It was raining," Castiel replies, with a faint smile of his own. "He dared me to streak out in the wilderness around the property. I refused, of course. He still brings it up every Thanksgiving." He looks up at Dean. "Join me?"

Dean grins. "Mud-wrestling with my extremely hot b – soulmate?"

Castiel knows what he was going to say, but doesn't comment. "Yes, precisely."

Stripping efficiently seems to be a skill Dean has acquired. Within thirty seconds he's naked, running in the mud towards Castiel. As he comes, he leans over to grab a glob of it. Castiel starts backing up but hits the boundary and falls on his ass. For once, it's amusing, and so he huffs out a breath of laughter.

Dean falls to his knees in front of him, and then admits, "It'd be a shame to cover up your body with mud."

Castiel supposes it'd be appropriate to take a clump of mud himself and throw it. It would be a form of play, certainly, like children do in snow. But the fact that he has to think about it means he's not relaxed enough to actually do that – to play. So instead he offers Dean his hand, and when Dean takes it, he leverages Dean to his feet with Castiel and begins to walk aimlessly.

They spend nearly an hour there in the rain, sometimes talking, sometimes not. Dean splashes in the growing puddles, and Castiel is finally relaxed enough to join him. They use the towels to dry and get off as much mud as they can. They leave their clothing where the towels were and Dean promises, "I'll do laundry later. I sure hope I can the mud out of those jeans." He looks at Castiel. "But trust me, it was worth it."

---------------------------------------

Castiel wakes up that night to find Dean's fully hard cock sliding against his lower back. It's not the first time, and after about a minute Dean wakes up with low groan. Then he rises out of bed and goes to the bathroom, only clicking on the light when the door is shut. Castiel finds himself standing as well and he approaches the door before setting his ear to it, to listen.

Within moments, there's the wet sounds of Dean masturbating. There's lube in there now, Castiel knows, in a corner of the one, small cabinet, like Dean was trying to hide it.

Castiel spent most of his life believing he only preferred women. Men were of no real interest, and even now the thought and image of sex with a man isn't really arousing. And yet, with Dean, sex is incredibly arousing and pleasurable. The fact that it's with a man hasn't changed much except the mechanics and the realization that Castiel may be mostly straight, but it's definitely only mostly. Granted, he's only performed acts that were, from his perspective, relatively similar to what he's had with woman – receiving blowjobs, a handjob.

Though he did let Dean come right into the crack of his ass. Semen right at his entrance. It's quite obvious what Dean wants to do to him.

Castiel came with a stroke of Dean's finger. He can't forget that, either.

He's growing hard. He stares down at his cock in the dark, completely surprised, with only enough light from the hallway for him to make out the shape of it as it rises to meet his belly. He presses his hands to do the bathroom door, still hearing those wet sounds, then a quiet, "Oh, Cas."

Castiel opens the door.

Dean freezes where he's leaned up against the wall, hands around his cock. The light is glaring, but Castiel steps forward anyway with his eyes open.

"Cas," Dean says, looking uncertain.

With one hand, Castiel grips Dean's cock, knocking away Dean's hands in the process. He slides his palm down until his fingers find the liquid beading up at the tip of Dean's dick. He swipes it with his index finger and brings it to his mouth and sucks. It tastes salty, but not like the saltiness of the ocean – there's more depth to it, some kind of tang.

Dean moans, feet slipping a little on the floor.

Is Castiel going to do this? Should he? Men in the locker room called each other cocksuckers as an insult. It's implied that one of the worst things a man can do is submit to sucking another man's cock, to take the women's role. He knows that's full of crap, he's always known that, but at the same time he never had interest in dick before, so it wasn't very relevant or personal. But he's not there now – he's here, with Dean. Dean, who he believes is his lover. Can Castiel find pleasure in this act the way Dean does?

Meeting Dean's shocked, nearly all-pupil eyes, Castiel kneels. He grabs the base of Dean's cock with one hand, to steady it, then slowly slides his lips over the head of Dean's dick. The salty flavor is stronger, but so is the smell of Dean's musk, which is strange yet appealing. Castiel knows the give of the head of the penis, the spongy resistance. He finally begins to suck, with just that in his mouth. Dean's cock jerks and more of his pre-come spills onto Castiel's tongue.

"C-can I come in your mouth?" Dean asks, face flushed and feverish. "A minute more of that and I won't be able to hold back."

Castiel sucks a moment longer, then pulls off long enough to nod.

"Oh," Dean says on an exhale.

Dean's right – Castiel sucks about a minute more, his jaw beginning to hurt, just the head of Dean's cock, and then Dean is lightly thrusting, his cock brushing up against Castiel's back teeth. Then his cock jerks again, hard, and come fills Castiel's mouth.

It tastes different than the pre-come, it's a lot stronger, and there's a lot more of it. Two, three pulses. Castiel pulls off, holding in for a moment before he can't anymore and he spits onto the floor, gagging. He looks up Dean, trying to hold back the urge to vomit – not because of the act, but because of the residual taste. "Sorry."

Dean is still panting. "Don't be." He scrambles to the floor and is swallowing Castiel's cock maybe thirty-seconds after he came, sucking like a man with a mission despite the awkward angle. He hefts and gently squeezes Castiel's balls, and then strokes in time to the bobbing of his head. It doesn’t take long before Castiel is close to orgasm – he stayed hard throughout giving Dean a blowjob, which he finds telling – and then he's coming down Dean's throat.

Dean swallows, face content. He holds Castiel's dick in his mouth a moment longer, then rises up to kiss Castiel, deep and long.

"I have to ask," Dean says, licking his lips. "What prompted that? Not that I'm objecting, because that was absolutely amazing."

"Dean, are we lovers?"

Dean searches his face. "In my mind, we are. You're the only person I ever want in my bed, Cas. For the rest of my life."

Castiel nods slightly, relaxing. "That's why."

Dean silently helps Castiel to his feet, laughing a bit at Castiel's sore knees. When he lays Castiel in bed, he kisses the red spots, before running those kisses up his thighs, to his satisfied cock. Then he gets in bed with Castiel and brings the covers over them both. Castiel curls into Dean's body, like he does every night, but something about it seems more significant now.

He sleeps dreamlessly.

---------------------------------------

The next night, it's Castiel who wakes up hard.

He lays in the darkness, Dean lightly snoring in his ear. He slips one hand around himself, stroking lightly. This has almost never happened since Dean took him captive. Not that Castiel was like a teenager in his normal life, but in the beginning he'd been on constant stress from fear of rape or torture. Even later, after he came the conclusion Dean wasn't likely to do that, was the stress of planning escape attempts, and then the trauma of failure and the resulting beating while Dean physically subdued him. The stress of being on the constant edge of not knowing how much of his feelings are real. The inability to trust his own mind.

Why did Castiel initiate sex? Was it to be close to Dean in the only way he can think of? He spends almost every night curled up in Dean's arms, and yet at some point that wasn't enough. Of course it's natural and expected for anyone in his situation to crave comfort, even physical comfort from his captor, but then why willingly shift it into sexual activity? It wasn't to please Dean, or at least not solely to please Dean. It was to please himself. He knew Dean would do his best to give him a powerful orgasm.

He knew that he was rendering himself extremely vulnerable.

Is this part of surrender? Of giving up the constant mental goal of escape? Does the setting aside of that desire lead into this one?

He spoke to Dean of natural and synthetic happiness. He's already come to the conclusion that his best way forward – to maintain his emotional state in something besides depression – is to choose to be happy with Dean. To take all the happiness he's already felt and let it flourish, instead of being ashamed of it.

Sex is part of that. He knows he has intense shame attached to the act with Dean. And yet … why? What does that do for him? Nothing.

Even while Castiel fought him, Dean has given Castiel variations of happiness and joy. He doesn't know if he loves Dean, but his feelings of affection and protectiveness seem very real and very strong. He knows Dean's weakness, and all his pain – and there's mountains of that agony, years and years of trauma buried underneath what is actually an incredibly strong will to survive. His empathy with Dean is powerful. In some ways, maybe there is the possibility of love. Stockholm's Syndrome says that Dean has removed every other positive influence in his life, so of course he becomes attached to Dean. He's seen victims of serial killers show the same affection and protectiveness to their captors, after a prolonged period of captivity. Dean, of course, isn't a serial killer. Besides taking Castiel captive, he'd be considered a national – no, world-wide – hero, if the truth was known. He loves Castiel, both in a selfish and selfless way.

The problem is this: logically, Castiel knows that no one would consider his feelings for Dean real. But Castiel isn't sure that matters. If Castiel chooses it … if Castiel knows exactly what they are and yet still chooses it, then it's real enough.

He's not there yet. But he wasn't wrong when he despaired in that hallway a month ago and thought that he'd never escape, because eventually he wouldn't want to.

When Dean twitches himself awake and feels the bed moving with Castiel's strokes, he takes over, his rough hand incredibly good on Castiel's cock. A minute after Castiel comes, Dean's semen splashes across his lower back.

The next morning, Dean laughs and then groans when they're stuck together. If it wasn't so dirty, it'd be poetic.

Chapter Text

"I agree," Castiel says over breakfast. Waffles, again. Dean's on a grain kick.

Looking wary, fork poised over his untouched food, Dean asks, "To what?"

"Your idea. Taking a day to refill on supplies." Castiel eyes the table and spins his plate. "I should be locked in our room, I think. It will force me to remain calm."

"Okay," Dean says quietly. He puts his fork down and walks to Castiel, lying a hand on his shoulder. "Hey. No worries, you hear? Nothing wrong with needing a bit of help."

For a moment, Castiel thinks, Help would be escaping from you. That is still true. It's a perfectly true thought. And yet, it does him no good. Continuing on that mental path will just lead to frustration when he fails. That he's failed. Instead, he thinks about Dean's words. Yes. He does need help, regardless of the reason. "I'd like to be outside most of the day before."

"I'll make a picnic," Dean promises.

Castiel tilts his head. "You know, I never would have thought you'd be this way given how witnesses described you."

"Why?"

Castiel shrugs. "You have always portrayed yourself as extremely masculine. You took insults personally and were very sexually promiscuous. That doesn't easily connect with gestures that are generally perceived as sentimental, like picnics."

Dean frowns and then says finally, "I was always this person. Somewhere. I just didn’t think I'd live long enough or have the chance to have a real relationship. It was easier and expected to go from girl to girl, so that's what I did."

Castiel smiles. Real? But he doesn’t say it. "That makes sense."

"Did I ever tell you about Cassie?" Dean asks.

Castiel stares at him. "Cassie? My nickname?"

"No, she was a girl I dated. Years ago, while Sam was at college." Dean shifts uncomfortably, poking the waffle with his fork. "Ironic, I know. But she was the first person I ever really loved like that, and when I told her the truth … she freaked out on me, told me to go." Dean shrugs. "So that was that."

What could have been, if Dean had found a romantic partner willing and suited to his lifestyle. "I'm sorry."

Dean looks up and smiles. "It's all right. I have you."

-----------------------------------

These are the snapshots of Castiel's life.

-----------------------------------

Castiel is curled up against Dean, but facing the screen. Watching films with Dean is enjoyable, because Dean so thoroughly enjoys himself in the process of it all. Classic movies were like a lifeline for Dean's childhood. Whereas for Castiel, they represent the life he didn't live, the hours he spent every day with his family instead of being out and about, or having lots of friends.

In some ways, they are so very different. But Dean always makes Castiel smile at least once during a movie – shouting out a line as the character says it, or the hilarious faces he will make in reaction. Castiel loves that about him.

Had Castiel met Dean in a coffee shop, and Dean was someone normal, he'd have been a strong, close friend. Maybe one day Dean would kiss him, and Castiel would blush and scramble and insist he's not gay. Then Dean would convince him somehow – probably say something about dating being fun, and why can't Castiel give it a try? Dean will show him a good time, and ask nothing. Castiel would have been hard to sway, but sooner or later he'd have shrugged and given in. And Dean would have spent the entire time just doing nothing else but try to please Castiel. Stop at every request. Speed up at every sign of being wanted in return.

"Cas, you're staring at me," Dean says. "Do I have something on my face?"

"If I wasn't an FBI agent," Castiel asks, "how would you have romanced me?"

Dean pauses. "Dunno for sure. Um, bump into you in line for coffee. Maybe I'd tease you about your three spoons of cream." Dean smiles. "Take you out to dinner, as buds at first, 'cause you're straight, right? Sneak you into dates. Yeah."

Castiel smiles, somehow pleased it's slightly different from his version.

"Or," Dean says, pointing up in the air, "I'd have saved your life. That's always a good conversation starter when you're a hunter."

Castiel laughs. "That would have certainly gotten you past the front door."

Dean grins. "I love you, Cas." He grabs Castiel's hand and kisses it.

-----------------------------------

"What are you – Dean! Stop!"

Dean continues his ruthless tickling. "No no, Cas. After all this time I didn't know the bottom of your feet were ticklish – "

"A secret I planned to keep!" Castiel squirms.

Dean grabs one foot and holds on, squinting at Castiel. "I bet Balthazar knows."

Castiel kicks at Dean's hands and then manages to roll off the couch, breathing hard from laughing. He sighs, still smiling. "Balthazar knows everything that could possibly be considered embarrassing when it comes to Castiel Novak. It's his gift."

"I wish I could meet your family," Dean says.

There's a moment of disconnect where Castiel considers why that is. Then, "I'm sorry I can't meet yours." And he means it. He thinks he would have liked Sam Winchester.

-----------------------------------

Castiel frowns at Dean's cock. It's – large. It feels like Castiel's mouth isn't big enough to take it in very far, though Dean assures him it's possible, it just takes practice. But with his dick in Castiel's face, fully erect with pre-come dribbling out of the tip, that's difficult for Castiel to picture. So he licks the head a lot, licks down to Dean's balls. Dean moans and his thighs quake a little. Even the smallest things Castiel does turn Dean on an incredible amount, and in a way it's satisfying for Castiel to have such a huge effect on Dean.

He opens his mouth wider, letting the salty taste spread across his tongue as he moves down Dean's cock.

After, Dean tries to press a finger into Castiel's body, but Castiel tells him no. So instead Dean sucks Castiel's cock until Castiel comes all over Dean's face.

-----------------------------------

"Are you seriously suggesting you kidnap my brother? No. No, absolutely not."

"Temporarily!" Dean protests, holding up his hands. They're both in the doorway to the back entrance, watching it rain. Dean had brought it up for the first time in months. "Just for a little bit, then I'd let him go."

"I'm not sure I should even trust you to do that," Castiel replies, rubbing his eyes.

Dean looks insulted. "Look, he's not my soulmate, you are." He throws up his hands. "Okay, fine. Do you have any suggestions?"

"What about the friend who got you the phone?" Castiel asks.

He shakes his head. "She said that the method she used wouldn't work twice, and she couldn't guarantee they couldn't trace if she used another." He looks at Castiel. "I know you wouldn't be able to hear his reply, but I could send more letters."

In a way, Castiel is reluctant. He still feels shame at his capitulation. Would having contact it Castiel that’s not verifiable be better or worse for Balthazar? "I'll think about it."

-----------------------------------

Dean is the big spoon, like he usually is. They've been in bed with the lights out for about fifteen minutes and Dean just won't settle. His constant fidgeting is keeping Castiel awake, and he did twice his usual exercise while Dean was on the phone, coordinating with other hunters about taking other hunts while Dean is vacationing, so he's ready to pass out.

"What is it?" Castiel asks sleepily.

Dean stills. "Nothing."

"Dean, you won't stop moving. Tell me what's wrong."

"I was just thinking. About where I'd be if you had gotten away." Dean breathes into the back of Castiel's neck. "I know it was so hard for you to fail, but I'm so glad you did."

Blinking in the dark idly, Castiel asks, "I'd think you'd be angry I tried for that long. And the times I physically fought you."

"Nah," Dean says immediately, relaxing into Castiel's back. "I was never really angry with you. Not about that."

Castiel snorts. "You're seriously telling me you weren't angry at my escape attempts?"

Dean sighs. "I mean, yeah. I was. But at the same time – I don’t know who made you soulmate, Cas, but you're perfect. Fighting and beating me up and all." He kisses Castiel's back. "I want you to fight, Cas. I just don't want you to fight me."

Castiel's not sure why, but those words are comforting.

-----------------------------------

Late afternoon, the day before Dean leaves for his supply run plus surprise.

The area outside that Castiel has access to is just grass and brush, with some wildflowers because it's late summer. But it occurs to Castiel he could probably do something more interesting with the space. There's no easy way to get water out here as far as he knows, but he could talk to Dean about that. Maybe he could turn at least part of it into a garden. He has his rock to sit and meditate on, but he could create a larger space that's really his.

Dean likes the idea. "I'll figure out how to get a hose out here. Then you'll just need to tell me what you need."

Castiel nods and sits on the blanket Dean brought out. Dean begins to unpack the very old, decrepit basket that must be original to the bunker. He looks at the wrapped sandwiches and brownies and says, "Hael was the picnic master while we were growing up. She'd always have two blankets, one thin and big one, and then a big, fluffy one for on top, so we'd be comfortable even if there were gaps in the grass. And she always had everything – spoons, forks, knives. And a place for the dirty dishes. And the basket was a mastery of Tetris."

Dean laughs. "I'm sorry I'm not that good. I kind of pile things in. Sammy's bag was always a lot more organized than mine." He takes out two beers, handing Castiel one.

"Leaving tomorrow?" Castiel asks.

"Yeah. I'll leave early morning, right after you wake up. I'm going to move everything to our room tonight and I put the lock on the door while you were taking a shower." Surprisingly, the room didn't have one. Presumably because at first Castiel was physically chained, and later perhaps to prevent Castiel from taking an opportunity and locking Dean in.

Castiel sleeps deeply that night, and watches Dean leave in the morning, before a quiet click locks him in.

He waits for the panic. And it does come, but it's not overwhelming like Castiel had feared it would be. It's more like anxiety, in that he has the physical fight or flight response of increased breathing and heart-rate, like his body is trying to tell his mind he should be panicking. After a few minutes of inhaling and exhaling very slowly, he takes out a book and begins to read.

Dean left the clock in the room, but Castiel does his best not to look at it over the course of the day. By the third hour, he's mostly accomplished his goal. He does his usual limited-space exercises when he gets antsy, and then settles down with a history of ancient Egypt, but with magic.

Five hours in, Dean voice's echoes down the hall. "Cas? You okay?" The door unlocks and Dean peers through.

Castiel gets off the bed. "I'm all right."

Dean grins at him. "Want to see your surprise?"

When Castiel nods, Dean opens the door fully and then begins to walk back through the hallway, with Castiel following. He hears some odd noises coming from the kitchen, and slows, baffled. Dean slows with him and grabs him by the elbow, hurrying him along.

"You'll like it," Dean promises, and then pulls him up the stairs.

In the kitchen, there's a dog.

She or he is tied to the table by a cloth leash and sitting on the floor. She's not fully grown, her paws clearly too large for her body. Lighter, almost white fur surrounds her face and legs, as well as the tail; darker markings are on the rest of her body. Her fur is fairly thick and fluffy. She makes a curious sound when Castiel approaches her, tail thumping the floor.

This is the first time in a year Castiel's really been around another living thing besides Dean. At most, he'd seen wild birds and squirrels, and the occasional lizard darting around his sitting stone.

Dean whispers in his ear, "She's an Akita and Alaskan malamute mix. Pretty smart and very loyal."

Castiel hesitantly places a hand on her head. She pushes into that touch and then starts licking his hand. Castiel laughs, surprised, and then pets her again, running his fingers through her thick fur and scratching around her ears. Her eyes soften and aren't so wide when he does that, like she's relaxing. She stands up and presses into his leg with her body, a little awkwardly. "I've never owned a dog," he tells Dean.

"Me either," Dean says honestly. "Sam wanted to, but Dad would never allow it." He shrugs. "But she's all yours."

Castiel goes to his knees and she licks at his face. Maybe a year ago he'd have been offput, uncertain about what to do. But right now he's holding back tears as he looks into her intelligent eyes, as he sees her react to his presence. It's entirely unlike watching a film or tv show, to have someone actually respond to your presence. Castiel's gone days at a time without having another living being to talk to, one that will actually respond to his presence, even if it's only with barking or licking.

He wipes his eyes, laughing a little.

"Cas, are you okay?" Dean asks, sounding concerned.

Castiel nods, scratching her ears. "Her name is Aditi."

"Yeah?"

"It's Sanskrit," Castiel says, but stops there. He looks up. "Thank you, Dean."

Dean shrugs, perhaps blushing a bit. "Well, she's potty-trained to go on newspapers. You get to deal with that, though. Dean Winchester does not clean up poop."

Castiel laughs, fully this time. "Sometimes you're such a child, Dean."

He grins. "I know."

-----------------------------------

Aditi, as it turns out, is eight months old and while she's potty-trained to go on newspaper, the bunker initially confuses her. That results in Castiel having cleaning solution like bleach on hand for the first time since his capture. ("Oh my God, I am not cleaning that up," Dean says.) Castiel really doesn't find it that gross. He doesn't have close family with children, but he's interacted with small kids over the years, even a few infants here and there. He can change a diaper with the best of them.

"You have to go on the newspaper until you're fully trained to go outside," Castiel tells Aditi, who looks at him with soulful eyes. He's got more newspaper in hand, the old stuff that he's already gone through for hunts. "I don't want you running off where I can't reach you."

She licks his hand. A year ago, it would have been somewhat disgusting to have dog slobber on him. Now it's just comforting, which even to Castiel is a little odd.

"I know, it'll just take time until I can trust you," Castiel says, and then stops. It suddenly hits him that Dean more or less trained him like a dog to only go where Dean allowed it. His leash only loosened when he was obedient. He swallows down acid, and then shakes himself out of it, stroking Aditi's head. "You'll be able to go outside soon, I promise."

"I've never understood the appeal of talking to a dog," Dean says, catching the last bit as he stops at the doorway. Castiel chose an empty room to hold Aditi's waste. Dean's locked most of the place up while Csatiel trains her to follow his commands to come and to heel, but otherwise he's largely kept himself out of the dog training. "She doesn't understand a thing you say."

Castiel shrugs. "She understands emotion."

Dean leans against the door jam. "Yeah, I suppose that's true." He pauses. "You like her?"

Castiel gets up, having spread out the clean newspaper and disposed of the soiled ones. Aditi has already learned to walk by him with a simple snap of his fingers, and she comes to his side instantly. "I love her."

"Then I love her, too," Dean says, and lightly kisses Castiel. He gives Castiel a fond look. "I love it when you smile like that," he says, coming closer, until Castiel can feel the heat of his body. He touches the corners of Castiel's eyes, then runs his thumb along Castiel's lower lip. "You have laugh lines."

Castiel eyes him, and the words pop out as he thinks them: "Dean, why can't you let me go home?"

Dean's smile falters. "I can't lose you. You know that."

"What if we continued to see each other, even after? The FBI wouldn't have to know." And he doesn't just mean for sex, though they have that now regularly.

Dean stares at him, and although Castiel can see he wants to avert his eyes, he doesn't. He keeps his gaze steady. "Do you mean that? Honestly mean that?"

Castiel looks away.

"I know you don't love me, Cas. You care about me, and I will never stop being grateful for that, but you don't love me how I love you."

Castiel doesn't know if he's capable of loving in the way Dean is. He's not even sure it's a good thing to love as desperately as Dean does.

"You'd run," Dean whispers. "You still would. I see it in your eyes."

"I don't want to hurt you," Castiel says, finally looking up.

Dean nods, breathing deeply. "I know."

"Dean, I may not be able to fall in love with you like this. Not when being with you is against my will."

Dean says, "I'd never rape you –"

"I don't mean that. I mean, how can I love you when you're my captor? Really?" Castiel stares into Dean's eyes, noting the mossy green, the faint lines of gold. The shimmering that speaks of tears ready to fall. "Dean. What if I can never return your feelings like this? When in some way, I fear you?"

Dean's mouth opens and closes. "You fear me?" he asks at last.

"You would hurt me to keep me here. You have hurt me to keep me here. Dean, kidnapping someone to be your spouse is a sign that your mind isn't healthy. How do I know that you won't snap in some other way? Some way I can't even predict?"

"I'm not crazy," Dean retorts. "Not like that. I'm not. I went through the fucking apocalypse and hell and I came out relatively sane. I'm not – I'm not going to snap on you, Cas."

"Then never mind that. How am I supposed to –"

Dean cradles Castiel's face in his hands, half pleading and half forceful. "I'm sorry, Cas. I am, I'm sorry. But this is the only way. You're an FBI agent, you're legally bound to turn me in for crimes I didn't even commit and that I can't prove I didn't commit. If I had bumped into you at the coffee shop, you would have arrested me. And I don't blame you for that, but this is the way it is."

"But I know that now, Dean. I wouldn't turn you in."

Dean silently shakes his head, dropping his hands.

Castiel closes his eyes. "What if I can't love you, Dean? What do you do then? Keep me chained up here forever?"

"I don't believe that, Cas. You're my soulmate," Dean says quietly. "But even – even if that was true. I can't lose you. Not any of you, any part of you that you're willing to give."

Aditi whines.

Castiel doesn't know why, because nothing has changed, but he feels defeated. He rubs his eyes, scratches his head and covers his face, basically anything to avoid looking at Dean, who is still standing less than two feet away.

"Okay," Dean says, backing up. "How about I get Aditi some food? I've got like, another six bags in the car."

Castiel nods, petting Aditi's head, and listens to the fading sound of Dean's footsteps.

That night, Aditi sleeps at the foot of their bed. She shifts around a lot at first, walking around the room and sniffing everything, but after the fourth time Castiel gets up and has her go back to her bed, she finally settles down. For the first time, in addition to the sound of Dean breathing in his ear, he can hear someone else. She snuffles a few times, probably dreaming of chasing rabbits or something.

Dean intermittently pulls Castiel closer, like even in his sleep he wants to hold him close. He seems content with the way things are, even as Castiel struggles to cope and adapt. What Castiel said to him earlier was nothing but the truth. He doubts he's capable of loving Dean under these circumstances, at least in any real way. He needs Dean, that much is true – the sex is proof of that, proof of Castiel's need to be close to another human being, proof that he needs comfort and, to some degree, the caring that goes along with it.

Need is often portrayed as love, like when two lovers cannot stand to be apart. They need each other. And yet, a need that isn't reciprocated is considered unhealthy, even wrong. Dean fails that test, at least in the sense that while Castiel needs him now, he didn't need Dean when this whole thing began. And if he let Castiel go, Castiel would be fine. He thinks so, anyway.

So need is a part of romantic love, but how and where Castiel isn't sure.

Love, too, is the deep caring for another person. One who volunteers in devastated countries has a love for those people. A wife or husband who gives their spouse affection and care – that's love. Castiel loves some parts of Dean. He cares for Dean. He wants Dean to be happy, and yet his own desires conflict with that. So maybe it's both need and caring, both of which Castiel has in some way.

But if he doesn't have those by choice … Do you have to choose love to be in love? Is there choice to it, a logic?

This is making his head hurt.

"You're thinking too hard," Dean murmurs into the back of his neck.

"You think too little."

"Hmm," Dean says, then his hand snakes around Castiel's front to grip his cock. He strokes until Castiel is hard, then flips Castiel onto his back so he can go down on Castiel until he comes. Castiel does, biting his own hand to silence his cries of pleasure, even though Dean's the only one who can hear him. After, Castiel wraps his own hand around Dean's cock and then sucks Dean's dick until Dean's about to orgasm. Then he pulls off and finishes Dean with his palm, catching Dean's semen in his hand. There's a shuffle when they clean up, and then rearrange their limbs for sleeping.

Castiel's thoughts fade a little as his body reaches a deep relaxation, sated and warm. He still doesn't have an answer to all the questions he posed to himself, but for now, that's okay. He can sleep in Dean's arms and find comfort there.

-----------------------------------

Aditi becomes the perfect companion. She's easy to train, very obedient, and loves Castiel with all the worship dogs are capable of. She likes to nap with him, her head on his lap, though Dean draws the line firmly on letting her on the bed. Fortunately, it doesn't take much to dissuade her from that. In about a week, Castiel's trained her not to go far from where he can – she doesn't go into the library without him, for example, or any of the other areas that Dean doesn't normally have locked down while home. She responds to either her name or a sharp whistle.

She also makes Castiel feel more steady and less needy.

Castiel feels his own emotions begin to balance out, with less highs or lows. The depression that comes and goes lightens, though it still makes an appearance. Aditi gives him something external to focus on, both in training her and in taking care of her.

"I'm going to take her outside," Castiel tells Dean one morning. "Let her walk along my boundary with me."

He clicks his tongue and Aditi runs to his side. Dean follows, deliberately lagging behind.

Aditi gets excited when Castiel opens the door and runs out into the sunlight. Castiel watches her, smiling, as she leaps from spot to spot apparently for no reason except joy at being outside. After a few minutes – she doesn't go past his barrier – she returns to him and grabs his hand in her mouth to drag him from the doorway. He lets her for a few feet, then takes his hand away and commands her to stay by his side again. He circles his prison with her, finding peace in walking with her.

It's September now, so it's cooling off, but Aditi still sheds a little when Castiel pets her. Castiel reminds himself to ask Dean for a brush.

They spend the next couple of hours there. Castiel's skin begins to darken by the time he joins Dean inside. That night, Dean kisses along his tan lines.

-----------------------------------

Three hundred and thirty-nine days in, Dean sets pancakes in front of Castiel and asks, "How would you feel about some sparring?"

Castiel stares at him. "Seriously?"

"Yeah, why not?"

"Dean, you've been able to prevent me escaping twice because you were able to beat me in hand to hand combat."

"Well, yeah," Dean says, scratching his head. "But that's not a problem now."

Castiel studies him a moment longer. Dean seems sincere. "All right."

Dean beams. "I'll go clear out a space."

Once Castiel finishes up breakfast, he goes to find Dean with Aditi faithfully following. In the end, Dean chose to clear up a large portion of the infirmary. Presumably the best place would be the firing range, but that would require Castiel's boundaries being changed again, and the infirmary is a lot larger than it needs to be for two people. Dean's moved desks, exam beds, and cabinets so a full third of the room is empty. Castiel has Aditi sit just outside, commandeering her, "Sit. Stay." He wants to teach her not to panic or react when they spar, if they do indeed spar after this. Then he enters the room.

Dean looks up and smiles at Castiel. "You ready? I thought we'd start out barefoot, go easy since we don't have mats."

Castiel nods, flexing his feet. "That makes sense."

Moving out to the middle of the space, Dean says, "Come on. Give it a go. I’m sure there's been times you've wanted to smack me in the face."

"What's the purpose of this, Dean?" Castiel asks, shifting his weight. He feels nervous.

"It'll make sense what we try it," Dean promises. He raises his fists in a defensive position. "C'mon, slow."

Castiel's attempts are half-hearted at first. He knows logically that Dean is asking to practice, not actually trying to beat him into submission, but his every experience with Dean like this has been traumatic. Each failure.

Dean seems to realize it, because he doesn't comment on it. He gives Castiel near total control of their speed.

They start slow, with easy attacks and easy blocks. But once Castiel relaxes into the rhythm – like he had done so often in law enforcement – and speed up, Castiel begins to see why Dean won their battles. In addition to his slightly larger size, he's also faster than Castiel is. It confuses Castiel for a few minutes, until he realizes that Dean is used to sparring with Sam – someone with both a larger reach and greater physical strength. So while Dean's by no means small, he's had to adapt like someone of a smaller stature and become faster, more deft in how he responds. He also bounces back into a balanced stance almost immediately, the sign of training to last through long fights.

Dean pauses repeatedly to comment on Castiel's style. It's mostly positive – Castiel's problems in comparison to Dean have more to do with the marriage of their styles, in that Castiel's weaknesses are Dean's strengths – but he does make good points about Castiel's balance. In all their fights, it was one where Dean repeatedly tried to knock Castiel off his feet, and once he accomplished that, Castiel lost the fight.

As law enforcement, Castiel's trained to subdue first and kill second, whereas Dean was taught the exact opposite. Castiel learns a lot about dirty fighting and how Dean thinks and positions during a fist fight. After about forty-five minutes, Castiel's able to adapt to the specific points of Dean's style and take him down two out of three bouts.

Dean laughs every time he does it. "Yeah, I knew you'd be a badass," Dean says. "You've just got to overcome that FBI training a bit, I think."

By the end, Dean has them transition to the hard floor. He has Castiel put him in holds and then shows how he was trained to break out of them. Dean's technique is a really random mix, some of which is standard to the military and some of which is similar to how mixed martial arts experts fight. Then they reverse it so Castiel is the one in some kind of submission hold. In some ways, it's an odd to have Dean's body so close to his when in the recent past, they've only been that close for sex. And violence, before that. And now Dean is here teaching Castiel how to get himself out of the techniques Dean used to keep him prisoner.

When Dean puts Castiel into a chokehold, the exact same one he used in Castiel's apartment, Castiel freezes for a second and then taps out.

Dean releases him immediately. "You okay?"

"Yeah, just give me a minute," Castiel says, taking the time to give himself a few feet between him and Dean. He meets Dean's worried eyes. "You remember the last time you used that on me?"

"What – oh," Dean says, looking genuinely contrite. "Shit, Cas, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."

Castiel takes a deep breath. "Show me how you'd break it."

"Are you sure?"

Castiel nods. "I'm sure."

Dean practices it with Castiel until Castiel can break it in less than a second. With each repetition, each success, some of that residual fear fades away.

After nearly two hours, Dean says, "Well, I think that's enough for today. I'm already aching." He rolls his shoulders and then offers Castiel his hand, and Castiel takes it.

Dean makes burgers for dinner. They eat outside, with Dean sneaking Aditi little pieces of meat and tomato. It's there, sitting next to Dean, that Castiel realizes some of that undertone of fear has faded. Yes, Dean is still his captor, but some of that uneasiness that Castiel has continued to feel around Dean has gone away. Meeting Dean in combat that is friendly and for teaching has begun to override his memories of being forced into submission. It hasn't disappeared by any means, but Castiel is able to let go of a lot more of it. He relaxes, smiles, and when Dean makes a bad joke about the flavor of meat, he laughs.

-----------------------------------

"No, no. Put your arm there," Dean says.

"Why?" Castiel asks, staring at the concrete floor. He knows that move would make him vulnerable.

Dean sighs and says, "Please?"

When Castiel listens, Dean flips Castiel on his back, tangling his legs in a way that is by no means any kind of attack or hold, and leans his upper body onto Castiel's so their faces are nearly touching. In the moment Castiel tries to decide how to respond, Dean kisses him.

But unlike usual, Dean doesn't bring it to sex immediately. Instead, he stays there on top of Castiel, just taking his time exploring Castiel's mouth. Testing Castiel's reactions with a few gentle bites, changing the angle of the kiss, before he finally moves from Castiel's mouth to his neck, sucking a hickey into existence. Castiel moans and runs his hands through Dean's hair as he becomes hard. He thrusts up into Dean's body, seeking friction.

Dean whispers into his ear, "I feel like I'm living in a porno."

Castiel laughs.

"Sexy martial arts turns into sexy … sex." Dean withdraws and frowns. "Okay, that line didn't work."

Castiel laughs harder.

Dean responds by rolling his hips into Castiel, who breaks off the laughter as pleasure rises. In a second, Dean's off of him and grabbing his sweatpants and underwear, poking at his hips until Castiel lifts up so Dean can slide his clothing down. Dean grins up at Castiel before taking his cock into his mouth, sucking hard. With his free hand, he grips the base of Castiel's dick and slides down until his mouth meets his hand, and then repeats, head bobbing. Once Castiel's full erect, he pulls off long enough to get two fingers thoroughly wet, green eyes glancing upward.

"Please?" Dean asks.

After a moment of hesitation, Castiel nods.

Dean goes back to sucking him off, but his free hand goes between Castiel's legs, searching for that clenched muscle. He circles it at first, which feels weird to Castiel, but then he pushes in with the tip of one finger. It still feels huge, but after a minute of Dean carefully stretching him open, Dean's able to fit another finger in. Then he goes right for Castiel's prostrate, stroking it with the same rhythm that his mouth moves on Castiel's cock.

In the position Castiel's in, there's no way for him to really reciprocate. He can't get Dean off directly, but he wants Dean to come. He wants to bring Dean pleasure.

So he lifts his legs, with one foot resting on Dean's shoulder. Dean moans on his cock with that action, like he always does when Castiel shows how much he wants Dean. He fucks Castiel with his fingers, like he would if he was fucking Castiel with his cock. The stretch, the burn, and the sensation of it is starting to become pleasurable, even when Dean isn't directly hitting his prostrate. It kind of feels like Dean is teaching him to like it, training his body to respond.

"Dean, I'm – I'm going to –"

Rather than finish, Dean lets Castiel's cock fall from his mouth and grabbing Castiel's hand, to put it on Castiel's cock. He shifts around so he's kneeling, his own red cock peeking out of his boxers and presses it against Castiel's crack, holding Castiel open and exposed with his hands. "Can you come like this?" Dean says, the head of his dick rubbing against that spot.

Castiel nods, stroking himself.

"I can't wait to fuck you," Dean says, thrusting into his own hand and against Castiel. "I've been dreaming about it for months, you holding yourself open for me and just taking it –"

Castiel comes, his ejaculate splattering his stomach. He doesn't know if it was Dean's words or just the physical stimulation, but past that his mind just stops working.

"Fuck," Dean says, "I can't wait to get my cock in you," and then he comes messily, biting his lip.

Castiel just lies there and pants, imagining that. Dean taking him that way. Logically he knows that act isn't really submission, not anymore that letting Dean come right against his ass. Not for the millions of men who perform it. But it seems to Castiel that if he lets Dean fuck him, that's pure submission to Dean's control over him. That every shred of Castiel that he's tried to hold back will be held open and bare. Dean will have taken everything from Castiel that there is to take.

Dean cleans them both up with his shirt, wiping Castiel down first and then himself. He looks sated and pleased.

Castiel sits up, the floor cold against his bare ass. "You want to fuck me?" he asks Dean.

Dean half-way freezes. Then he nods. "Yeah, I do."

Castiel considers that. "You ever like to be that one fucked?" he asks. "You ever, uh, bottom?"

"I have in the past," Dean says slowly, offering Castiel his hand to get up off the floor. "I don't like it as much that way, but I've done it." He smiles at Castiel, expression curious. When Castiel is standing, he leans in a bit. "Why? You want to fuck me?"

Castiel looks away and shrugs.

"I'd let you," Dean says, licking his lips. "If you let me. I'll make it good, I promise."

"I'll think about it," Castiel says, uncomfortable.

Dean nods, that teasing expression fading. "'Course. Whatever you want."

Castiel shivers. "I'm cold."

Dean leaps into action, as usual, and finds him a blanket. He keeps up chatter as he bundles Castiel up and then leads him into their den, before finding a movie to watch. Like most of the time when he catches Castiel being uncomfortable or uncertain, he's switched into caregiver mode. He becomes extremely attentive and finds anything and everything he can do to help Castiel through it. Dean wants to be the knight in shining armor.

Castiel loves that about him.

-----------------------------------

Castiel wakes up to Dean rubbing his feet. "What are you doing?" Castiel asks sleepily. Then he kicks when Dean hits a sensitive spot. "That tickles, quit it."

"But you're cute when you laugh," Dean says, smiling. His hair is a total mess, so he woke up recently. Castiel squints at him, and then lets loose an embarrassing noise when Dean digs a thumb into Castiel's arch. "Also when you moan."

Castiel lets him continue for a couple of minutes as his mind kicks into gear. When he finally sits up, Dean rises as if to go start breakfast.

"Dean."

"Yeah?" Dean turns around.

"Where does this go, in the ideal scenario for you?"

"You mean, like, what I want in my wildest dreams?"

Castiel nods.

Dean pauses and taps the doorframe. "Honestly, you hunting with me. On the road. Taking vacations in Mardi Gras, going to the beach in California and fucking at midnight. Showing you that hole in the wall with the best pie in that third of the United States." He's not looking at Castiel, and he has a wistful smile on his face. It fades when he finally meets Castiel's eyes. "So, yeah. That."

It's clear he doesn’t think he's going to get it. Castiel can see that plain as day, and for some reason, it hurts. "If ..."

Dean waits.

"If you want that, you'll have to court me like anyone else would," Castiel says at last.

Dean begins to slowly smile. Big, wide. "Courting I can do." He hops, and then lunges forward to the bed to give Castiel a kiss. "That I can definitely do. Fuck, Cas. I don't know what to say."

Castiel gives him one kiss. "You'll have to figure it out."

"Fuck yeah!" Dean yells, and runs out of the room.

-----------------------------------

Dean is on cloud nine for two days. He spends them being an obnoxious sap, much to Castiel's amusement. The resulting laughter is even worth the sense that he's surrendering by caring for Dean so much, that he's weak for wanting Dean to be happy. That he's weak for wanting happiness for himself, even if it's not one he chose. But Dean is totally focusing on pleasing Castiel and seems oblivious to any reservation on Castiel's part – he wakes him up with breakfast in bed, gives more footrubs, and generally tries to anticipate Castiel's every need, even to the point of finding Aditi dog toys proactively.

It occurs to Castiel that Dean has been courting him for a long time.

He also talks about the future for the first time. "I'd have to introduce you to Baby properly. Teach you how to listen to her purr – I mean, if you're driving at all, you've got to know when there's something wrong." And, "There's this pizza place in California that invented the BBQ pizza, did you know that? It's really freaking awesome, you'll have to try it." Even, "I can't wait to take you to the beach. I've got one in mind, it's just this tiny one and it's all surrounded by farmland, so there's no one there. Sam and I spent the night on the beach, and didn't see another soul."

But on day three, Castiel sees the change the moment he walks into the kitchen. "Dean, what's wrong?"

Dean puts his cell phone on the countertop, well out of reach of Castiel still. He's not quite that unwary yet. His expression is dark, and he's frowning. "I think – I think there's a hunt I need to take care of. This buddy of mine, he can't do it alone. It's too dangerous, he's afraid he'd buy the farm if he tried to take it on alone."

Aditi, attuned to Castiel, comes up to him and noses at his hand. Castiel swallows and then nods. "You should go."

"Cas, I made you a promise," Dean says, leaning against the counter and rubbing his bottom lip.

"I know. But you're a hunter, Dean. That'll never change. And I have Aditi now," Castiel assures him. "I think I'll be fine."

Dean comes up to him and kisses him lightly, fingertips testing Castiel's day-old stubble. "Are you sure? I'll be gone two days, three max. It's not far off."

Castiel smiles a little. "Yes, I'm certain."

-----------------------------------

Dean's been gone four days before Castiel admits to himself that he's worried. "Dean's just late. The hunt probably went a little sideways and he has to stay longer," Castiel tells Aditi. He's pacing outside, watching the sun move across the sky as Dean fails to appear.

Aditi whines, tilting her head and generally looking skeptical.

"It'll be fine," he assures Aditi. "It will."

Day five, he wakes up and has breakfast. He runs with Aditi. He goes through the next set of newspapers and finds another possible hunt on the east coast, in New York. He puts together a list of possible monster suspects, the work soothing because it reminds him so strongly of profiling, of doing investigative work. After that, he runs with Aditi again and then has dinner. He tells himself that either Dean comes back or Dean's contingency plan comes into play. Either way, he'll be fine. Physically.

Day six, he admits to her, "Something has gone wrong. What if – what if –"

It's not until day seven he can say it. "What if Dean's dead?"

Dean can't be dead. He just, he just can't be. Castiel tries to wrap his mind around the idea of it and the ramifications, but it seems to wriggle out of his grasp. Someone would come here, and release Castiel. He knows that. He would get to leave and see Balthazar and rejoin the FBI. He could be an FBI agent again. He doesn't doubt the BAU and Balthazar are still looking for him, that they would welcome him home with open arms. As much as Dean has made Castiel's life center around him, Castiel's life would go on even if Dean died.

But he doesn't want Dean dead. The thought of it makes his chest hurt and his throat tighten and his pulse race. In the few times Castiel has dreamed of a life outside of the bunker since his last escape attempt, Dean was always there somewhere. Running around the country doing hunts, maybe sending Castiel postcards. Maybe visiting Castiel. Maybe even trying to find Castiel and bring him back.

But never dead.

"I can't lose him," Castiel says to Aditi. "Dean doesn't deserve to die like this." He doesn't even know what 'like this' is, but at the same time he doesn't doubt its unfairness.

He sits outside and watches the sun set, breathing deeply.

He's acting like he's lost the love of his life. He's panicking like he has. "I don't love Dean," he tells Aditi, who sits next to him, thick fur rustling in the wind. "I don't think I do," he adds uncertainly. "What do you think?"

Aditi looks at him as if to say, Why are you asking me?

"Of course, you're a dog. It's easy for you." Castiel squeezes his eyes shut. "I'm losing my fucking mind."

Day eight (day three hundred and fifty-nine), Castiel admits to himself that his feelings for Dean have progressed beyond simply caring. Does he love Dean? Is that why he already feels this sense of loss, and he doesn't even know if Dean's just delayed yet? No, he's not going to call it love, not the kind that lasts a century, but it's definitely more than he would feel for a friend. It's like his world is on the verge of ending. And in a sense, that's even true – he'd go back to his life, but his life without Dean seems incomplete.

He curls up with Aditi and cries into her fur.

-----------------------------------

Day nine, he's teaching Aditi to open the fridge from a distance when he hears the front door. Castiel clicks his tongue so that Aditi returns to him, and then calls out, "Dean?"

Dean comes down the stairs. He looks absolutely exhausted, and he's got a swollen lip and a spectacular bruise across one eye.

"Dean, what happened?" Castiel demands.

Dean comes up to him and hugs him, wordlessly and powerfully. He holds onto Castiel like Castiel will disappear if he doesn't, and doesn't begin to relax until Castiel lets himself fall into the embrace. He lets Dean take comfort from him. "Hey," Dean says at last, releasing him enough to look Castiel in the face.

"Dean." Castiel touches Dean's face, just skirting the bruises. He lets the question hang.

"It's all right, I kind of deserved one of those," Dean says. "Cas, I was captured by the FBI."

Chapter Text

FBI Agent Derek Morgan knocks on Castiel Novak's door, a coffee cup in hand. But rather than remain steady, rather than hear Castiel shouting, 'Coming!' like the other times Morgan has picked him up when Castiel's old car failed to start, the door gently swings open.

Every instinct on alert, Morgan puts the coffee down in the hall and draws his weapon. "Castiel?" he calls out and pushes the door open the rest of the way. Castiel's apartment has always been fairly empty, with only the practical and necessary items. A little table by the doorway has a wicker basket Morgan knows Castiel's brother got him, and in it are Castiel's keys. Beyond that is the living room, which opens into the kitchen.

A table and lamp have been knocked over in the living room, near the couch. The fridge door is open.

"FBI!" Morgan shouts. He clears the living room, kitchen, the bedroom and the spare. He checks all the closets, but there's no one home. When he circles back to the kitchen, he sees small shards of broken glass on the floor, surrounded by some unidentified liquid that is half-dried. There's no blood or any other sign of struggle. The food in the fridge is no longer cool and is basically room temperature. He gets out his cell phone and dials. "Hotch, we're going to need a forensics team at Castiel's apartment. It looks like he was taken by an unknown subject."

----------------------------------------------

The entire team assembles in their conference room, but only because they don't have a location to travel to and search.

Morgan is crackling with his usual restrained intensity, probably wishing he had visited Castiel over the weekend for drinks like he'd planned. Both of he and Castiel had started out in the police force, so they had a lot of job history in common. Hotchner eyes him, but although Morgan is by far the most hot-headed of the team, he's gone into a place of intense focus instead of anger.

JJ and Reid are openly worried, but they retain their professional demeanor. JJ because she had to keep her composure with families of victims for years, when being communications liaison was her only job and she wasn't profiling. Spencer Reid (they still introduce him as Dr. Reid, because he was only twenty-six when he joined the BAU) is wrapped up in his thinking, putting that incredibly powerful mind to work.

Rossi is lost in thought, probably going through possible profiles in his head – although he left the FBI for several years to write very successful novels about serial killers, he lost none of his edge.

Hotchner doesn't relax – he doesn't ever entirely relax – but it gives him some surety that they'll work through this to see his team working this like a case. Instead, he does his best to exude confidence, as he does every time one of his team members is in danger. Castiel has been missing for at least three days; they're already way behind what he'd like them to be for an abduction. Any abduction, much less a friend's.

Hotchner speaks first. "The FBI kidnapping team has been informed and a negotiation team is waiting in Baltahzar's home for a ransom call. They are assuming for the time being that this kidnapping is motivated by the desire to take a federal agent, either for information or ransom. Their team will cover the ransom angle, and will handle any negotiation that's needed. I want us to focus on what information Castiel could have that the unsub could want, the possibility that this is specifically aimed at Castiel or is a revenge kidnapping, and the possibility that this is a predatory kidnapping."

"You really think a predatory kidnapping is likely when an FBI agent is involved?" Morgan asks. "Plus when you're talking about an adult, the vast majority of those are committed against women."

"Ninety-four percent," Reid says quietly, pulling the statistic from his near-perfect memory.

Morgan continues, "And an agent is not an easy target, and unsubs who take victims like that rarely choose ones that can fight back."

"It's still an angle we have to pursue," Rossi says. "Taking a man that most would consider powerful could be part of the unsub's thrill."

Morgan flicks a pen. "If it is predatory, the unsub could have been stalking him. We should talk to neighbors and check security cameras over the past several weeks to see if there's any strangers consistently in the area."

"I'll do the latter," Penelope Garcia says, sounding grateful to have something to do. She's their tech analyst, full of color, life and an incredible understanding of computers and databases. "I've scanned every security camera in a five mile radius and didn't find Castiel or, you know, anyone carrying a … body." Her lips look pale under her bright pink lipstick, but she rallies. "I've started going through all the license plates that were in the area in the last week and comparing them to stolen vehicles or criminal records, but no hits yet."

"I'll take the former," JJ says, tucking her blond hair behind an ear.

Reid half raises a hand. "I'll take Castiel's old case files and see what classified information he could have, or any cases where the people involved would have a motive to take him."

Rossi nods. "I'll assist JJ and talk to Castiel's family, see if there's any way there's a personal motivation from an ex, or a family member."

"I'll look at recently released parolees, help Reid look over Castiel's previous cases, and assist anyone else where needed," Morgan finishes.

Hotchner asks, "What was found at the crime scene?"

Garcia looks up, shuffling and reshuffling her papers. "Well, forensics came in. There's no sign of DNA in the apartment besides Castiel's, and no fingerprints. The liquid was Propofol, and probably from a broken needle."

"The unsub used a general anesthesia?" Reid asks.

"Or intended to," Morgan says. He frowns, pointing at the crime scene photos. "Looks like Castiel put up a fight, and he may not have had a backup dose. The unsub may have had to change his plans and subdue Castiel physically. He was probably in the apartment when Castiel got home and surprised him when he was grabbing dinner from the refrigerator. He may not have been able to clean up for fear the struggle was heard."

"Motivation could be almost anything, from that description," Rossi says. "We need to narrow this down and get a profile."

Garcia adds, "And I'll chase down reports of stolen Propofol. Maybe we can find this sucker that way."

Hotchner looks at all of them, one by one. "While we're running down suspects, let's keep in mind what possibilities are most likely for our unsub. He's most likely into his late twenties to early forties, white, unassuming. He might have military training, if he was able to physically subdue a trained federal agent, and he may have done this before."

Everyone looks back at him, ready to begin.

"Let's get to work."

----------------------------------------------

Over the next twenty-four hours, a complete examination of the crime scene is done and Castiel's immediate history is thoroughly dissected. No fingerprints or DNA was picked up at Castiel's apartment, so his attacker was gloved and careful. He may have even recently showered and scrubbed his skin to avoid leaving any trace of his presence. A wider investigation of the surrounding area doesn't tell them much more. Castiel's apartment building doesn't have security cameras, and one across the street didn't catch anything. Castiel's spending habits were normal and he showed no awareness of stalking, if in fact there was stalking. He didn't sound worried about anyone and wasn't under any unusual stress. He hadn't received threats to any of his emails or phone numbers.

No ransom call has been made. JJ reported to Hotchner that Balthazar was steadily becoming more and more emotionally unstable.

Hotchner calls them in for a meeting the next morning. "Reid?" he asks.

"I've gone through fifteen years of cases," Reid says. "My eyes are about to fall out, but I can tell you that the only people in Castiel's past that would do anything like this would be more likely to kill him, execution style, than take him prisoner. I can't rule out a certain mob family, but I also have no evidence to support their involvement. I've asked the task force in charge of their case to keep an eye out."

"You think it's unlikely to be a revenge kidnapping specifically directed at Castiel, then?" Hotchner asks.

Reid nods. "Yeah, I do."

Garcia picks up where Reid left off. "I looked everywhere and didn't find anything weird on any security cameras. I even hacked private networks, nothing! I don't even know what to look for."

"We'll narrow it down," Rossi assures her. "It's not his family or exes. His relationship with his family is distant but friendly, and the same is true of all his previous romantic relationships."

"I only found one odd thing," JJ says, "from this morning, right before I came in. All of Castiel's other neighbors reported nothing, but an old lady who claims to be a psychic said she got bad vibes the other day and kept checking the window. The important thing is that she lives right above Castiel and said she kept seeing an old, black muscle car in the parking lot, around thirty to forty years old. The driver was a male, but she didn't get a good look at him. She said she was certain he wasn't a resident. Garcia?"

"On it," Garcia says, pulling up her laptop. "Muscle cars from the fifties to the seventies. Searching over the past week in a five mile radius. I've already got all the cameras and search functions going, so – there we go." She types rapidly and then a grainy image pops up on the conference screen. "Seen seven times over the course of a week in that general area."

It's a black, '67 Chevy Impala.

"Is that it?" Garcia asks.

Morgan sits up. "Wait, doesn't Dean Winchester drive that model?"

Hotchner says quietly, "Castiel was convinced Winchester was hanging around and watching us in Wyoming."

Garcia says what everyone is thinking, horror in her voice. "Castiel got taken by a serial killer?"

"Garcia, I need you to find that car," Hotchner orders immediately. "Winchester travels across the entire continental United States, so you're going to have to look everywhere. The license plates are probably changed regularly, but the car itself won't. Winchester has proven he will go into police lockups for that car; he won't abandon it now. Morgan, Reid and JJ get Winchester's file and go over every detail for any clues as to his home base. I know we profiled he didn't have one, but if he took Castiel than he took him somewhere Winchester thinks is private and safe. Even a general area of the country would help. Rossi, I want you to work with me on Winchester's profile."

By twos and threes they split up. Hotchner watches them go, until only Rossi is left.

Rossi asks it quietly: "Hotch, do you think he's dead?"

"I refuse to operate as if that's likely," Hotchner states flatly. Castiel is a relatively recent addition to the team, but he's smart and motivated, and he would know what he needed to do in order to convince Winchester to keep him alive. "Winchester is a delusional, mission oriented killer who thinks he's helping people. Could Castiel be part of some psychotic belief on Winchester's part?"

"Possibly. Though what I can't imagine."

Winchester's file is a foot thick. They have gobs of information, but little connection between facts. Winchester's crimes were so varied and motivation varied so widely that he didn't fit any expected model from a serial killer. And yet, he wasn't entirely driven by psychosis either, though that might be a part of his crimes. Unlike most delusional killers that have no standard MO or developing signature, Winchester is highly functional in normal society. So how much of his crimes are really because he believes someone was possessed by a demon (or whatever monster it was that week) and how much were opportunistic that he merely blamed on demons is a complete unknown. "I agree. It could be nearly anything, assuming Winchester is really experiencing psychosis and isn't faking that as a possible defense."

Rossi frowns. "Winchester's always shown a great deal of self-awareness. The Baltimore tape shows that pretty clearly. He might be delusional, but he's also aware of how his delusions look to the outside world."

"That doesn't necessarily narrow it."

"I know," Rossi says. "This is mostly a gut feeling, and I might be wrong, but from the sheer variety of his crimes and his insistence on his delusions being real I think that he does genuinely believe what he says about his murders." Rossi takes a fifth of Winchester's file (the physical copy is just the past two years) and flips through it. "You think he will de-evolve now that he's taken Castiel?"

"He hasn't in ten years," Hotchner says. "No. Dean Winchester took Castiel for a very specific reason and he will follow that plan to the death. He's not going to lose it now."

"He's going to do his best to disappear," Rossi says. "Complete the plan in private, whatever it may be. I don't think this is about the FBI directly – he's too careful to stay away from law enforcement, and he's never taunted us. It's either a revenge kidnapping or some private psychosis."

"If it's revenge, why Castiel? He's only been on the team a year, and while we've been called in a few times on Winchester cases over the years, Castiel was only present for Cheyenne."

"Easiest target?" Rossi guesses.

"Someone with Winchester's background would probably choose JJ, just because she's a woman, if vulnerability was key," Hotchner disagrees. He pauses. "JJ is married, however. Castiel lives alone and has no nearby family." It grates on him to say it, but, "It did take us three days to realize he was missing. That gave Winchester plenty of time to get away."

"What about the brother? We theorized that Sam is dead because he hasn't been seen in two years, even during crimes that Winchester would have needed him, but could we be wrong?" Rossi asks.

That's intriguing. "What if Sam was the trigger? Winchester's never kidnapped law enforcement before. Could Sam's death have caused a mental breakdown, resulting in a revenge kidnapping? They were incredibly co-dependent and were never seen apart since Dean took Sam from college."

"I think you're onto something. We should ask Garcia to look for Sam Winchester's body, as a secondary goal," Rossi suggests. "How and when he died might have effected Winchester's motivation and reasoning for this kidnapping. And if it is a revenge kidnapping, we have a limited about of time to find Castiel. The chances that Winchester will kill him in a short amount of time go way up."

Hotchner nods. "Finding his home base quickly will be key."

"What do you think of the possibility of this being a predatory kidnapping?"

"Winchester has given every appearance of heterosexuality. If it was a predatory kidnapping, that would be a huge break from his previous behavior."

"You mean like every other crime?" Rossi asks dryly.

Hotchner just frowns. "Honestly, I don't know which one would be worse." He looks into the distance. "If it was predatory, Castiel would live longer. But the degree of torture or sexual assault with Winchester's background …"

"We'll find him, Hotch," Rossi says. He's one of the few that Hotchner ever lets see any weakness, and one of the few to have worked this job as long as Hotchner has. And he knows exactly what Hotchner is thinking, and fearing – because he has the same fears. They've both worked cases like this too many times to have much hope that Castiel would get out unscathed. Or out at all.

Hotchner lets out a breath. "I think that Winchester's past may be what we need to figure out where he is now. Such a transient childhood meant that he had a very unstable idea of what a home is, and he continued that pattern as an adult. It's probably why he's so attached to the car."

"It was his father's," Rossi agrees. "If Winchester's only real home, besides his vehicle, is the house his father and mother raised him until the fire … do you think he's in Lawrence, somewhere?"

"Or somewhere close by," Hotcher says. He thinks for several long moments; his next words will determine the course of this case in the short term, and it's in the short term that Castiel's life is on the line. Winchester is going to kill Castiel soon. "We'll focus on Kansas."

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What follows is a thorough examination of not only Dean Winchester himself, but also his father and brother, who are the primary influences on his life. The temporary homes that John Winchester chose are analyzed and local residents spoken to – even old teachers and old neighbors, in an attempt to find out if either of the Winchesters' ever considered somewhere besides Lawrence their home. Because while Hotchner thinks he's right, he can't depend on that. He has to have a few people working on the opposing theory; their profile just isn't concrete enough.

Local law enforcement is given a report and profile on Dean and asked to keep an eye out. The news is notified, though Winchester's name is not released. They're worried that he'll kill Castiel quicker if he becomes aware that his identity has been compromised.

None of the teachers in the various public schools the team tracked down remember Dean; none of the neighbors remember Sam. Those teachers that remembered Sam spoke of him as highly intelligent, but having troubles at home. There's indications Sam wanted to escape his family and have 'a safe life,' as one put it, which is a very telling comment. But all of them that had any idea about his home life said Sam never considered any of the places he was as a true home or having any kind of permanence. The Winchester family always moved somewhere with the intention of leaving.

Dean's background is more eclectic. Owners of Winchester's rental homes/apartments described Dean as the primary caregiver. He paid the rent, did the dishes and laundry, hustled for money for Sam, and got into fights. To all appearances, Dean considered their temporary homes as even less important than Sam.

In the end, it all winds back to Lawrence.

"But the geographic nature of Winchester's crimes don't support Kansas," Reid argues. He's got deep circles under his eyes and a mess of paperwork in front of him, and that's only counting the ones he brought into the conference room. Everyone looks equally as harried; it's been five days since Castiel disappeared. Hotchner is watching his team's professionalism slowly begin to crack. "He'll go clear across the country to find some imaginary monster and kill it."

"Kansas is centrally located; if he was stopping at a home base, would we even know?" JJ replies.

Garcia is the phone, still huddled at her computer and running searches and programs instead of physically attending the meeting. "Analysis of his crime scenes doesn't give me any solid result. He's all over the place."

"We're assuming he's internally motivated," Morgan says. "That he chooses his next victims based on some criteria that he's chosen ahead of time. What if he looks for areas that he can use to support his own belief in his psychosis? He could be choosing places that already seem to have stories of monsters and then applying that to his delusions."

"That doesn't help us figure out where he is!" Reid snaps, rubbing his eyes.

"Reid –" Morgan begins.

"We're all frustrated," Hotchner interrupts. "Stay focused."

"Give something, some lead – come on, guys. I've started searching abandoned homes and homes under assumed names that don't check out, but there's tens of thousands of suspicious results. I need something," Garcia begs.

"Get rid of any results that are in urban areas," Reid suggests.

"That's a guess," Morgan says darkly.

"It's more likely that he'll be careful and not want people around for the killing," Reid answers, irritated.

"Oh God, I think I'm going to be sick," Garcia says over the phone. There's a long pause. "Running the search with narrowed parameters," she says really quietly.

It makes everyone pause. This isn't some random case. This is Castiel, the guy who brought donuts in every morning even though he despised most kinds of donuts. The one who joined their case because he was an anti-terrorism taskforce, and blew them out of the water with his determination, skill, and insight. Had there not been an opening, Castiel wouldn't have been invited to the BAU, but at the time Hotchner thought it was kismet. And over the course of the year, Castiel had continued to be an asset on cases.

He didn't know Castiel like he knew Morgan, JJ, Reid, Rossi or Garcia. Castiel rarely spoke of his home life or his family. He knew Balthazar worried and that Castiel's parents had cut him off, but he didn't know the details of why. Castiel was in many ways still waiting to settle in, to truly relax and consider his teammates partners and support structures. Castiel lived in his head, and rarely left it; in a way, only Reid really understood Castiel.

And now Castiel's life is in extreme danger, and they're hopelessly trying to catch up.

"Keep looking," Hotchner says at last. "We're not giving up."

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"We've worked this for a solid two weeks," Hotchner says on a Wednesday. His team stares back at him, sleep deprived and desperate. "This isn't the end, but I'm getting pressure to start taking other cases again. The assistant director offered to put a small team on Castiel's case while we wait for more information."

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Six weeks later, Hotchner gets a call at five in the morning. "Agent whatever your name is, you need to get here right fucking now!" Balthazar Novak shouts. "I got a letter from Castiel. It's got – I don't know, but it has his name on it. It's not his handwriting but the envelope says 'Castiel Novak' and there's a fucking date on it from two weeks ago. I haven't opened it, but oh my God."

"Don't touch it. Wherever it is, leave it alone. It has forensic evidence that might lead to Castiel's location," Hotchner orders. "Do you understand?"

"Yeah." Balthazar breathes into the phone. "Fuck. I thought he was dead."

Hotchner can't tell him the truth: privately, never spoken out loud, so did he. "Did the letter arrive in the mail?"

"Yeah, I got it – I wasn't sleeping, and they come really early here. It was in my mailbox."

"Does it have a postmark?" Hotchner asks.

There's a pause. "Yeah."

"I'm going to call the FBI office in Texas, they're going to come to your home, collect the letter and analyze it. Just in case, I want you to lock all your doors and call the police after I hang up. Tell them you think there's a prowler. Stay inside until the FBI agents arrive and give you their names and badge numbers."

Balthazar splutters. "You think I'm in danger?"

"I think that's unlikely, especially given there's a postmark, but it's possible the letter was hand-delivered. In that case, just lock the doors. Balthazar, you did well. Keep calm. Help is on the way."

As soon as Hotchner hangs up on Balthazar, he calls the local FBI and gives them a rundown plus orders, then he calls the local law enforcement in Balthazar's hometown in Texas, plus its neighboring cities, and has them start searching for Winchester and his very distinctive '67 Impala. It's a faint hope, but Hotchner is going to seize it anyway. Then he calls the rest of the team.

By seven, he's in the office. Crime scene technicians, having heard this is an in-house case regarding an FBI agent, have worked quickly – they already have the letter thoroughly examined. The postmark is from Albuquerque, New Mexico. There's no fingerprints on the envelope, but the letter itself has Castiel's prints. They're relatively recent, and the handwriting inside matches Castiel's.

He's alive.

By fifteen minutes after eight, everyone else has arrived and they're staring at a digital copy of the envelope and letter. Castiel's name is listed in the from portion, with a date of two weeks ago next to it in parentheses. It's a really an odd detail, like the kidnapper wants them to know Castiel was alive as of that date. The from address itself is listed as 3764 Highway 51 South, Memphis, Tennessee. It's not in Castiel's handwriting.

"Graceland," Reid says. "Elvis Presley's house. Though that's the original address, not the current one. That fits in with Winchester's obsession with his father's pop culture and using it in his aliases."

"Here's the letter," Hotchner says, pulling it on the screen. Garcia is in her office, coordinating with Texas's efforts to find Winchester.

Reid immediately leans in and says, "Castiel definitely wrote this, and I'm betting it wasn't under full coercion."

Morgan has an 'I'll bite' expression on his face. "How do you know that?"

"The first letter of every sentence in the first paragraph spells out Dean Winchester. The second spells Midwest." Reid looks at Hotchner. "He's telling us who has him and where. Winchester probably told him to say he went willingly and that he's fine, but he didn't give him exact language to use."

"We were right. He's probably being held in Kansas somewhere," Morgan says. He says the next words with both a restrained joy and shock. "He's alive."

"This – this radically changes our profile," Rossi says, latching onto something completely different. "We thought this was a revenge kidnapping, but letting your prisoner write a letter to his brother – that's a completely different psychology. Not to mention actually sending it!"

It's like Dean Winchester is screwing with them all again, like he has on every other crime they've tried to catch him for.

"So is Castiel okay?" Garcia asks over the phone.

"It's hard to say at this point, baby girl," Morgan says. "But I think we agree that he's alive."

JJ nods, then says for Garcia's sake, "I can only imagine Winchester sent this letter because he, in some way, cares about what Castiel thinks of him. A pure psychopath might have let him write the letter in return for some favor, but he wouldn't have sent it because Castiel doubtless has no way of checking of that."

"Oh God," Garcia whispers. "Good."

"Garcia, can you start checking the surrounding areas of where the letter received the postmark for Winchester's car?" Hotchner asks.

"On it."

"We'll let you know when we have more information for you," Hotchner says, and ends the call.

"It's probably best Garcia doesn't hear this part yet," Morgan agrees, the excitement on his face fading as he considers the specifics of the profile they're going to have to create. The motivation behind the kidnapping. "This isn't going to be a pleasant profile to break into specifics."

Because while murder is a horrific crime, and the murders the BAU investigates generally even more so, Hotchner knows that rape has an equally emotional response from friends and families of the victims, because it's ongoing suffering akin to torture. Garcia will have to hear the profile, of course, to help her assist them in turn. But it's probably best that the details aren't discussed in front of her. She's an analyst, not a field agent.

"We should start by examining the letter and seeing what else Castiel is able to tell us," Rossi says.

Dear Balthazar,

Everything is all right. All that's happened is that I went somewhere for a while. Nothing bad has happened, and I haven't been hurt. While I know this seems to have come out of nowhere, I've been thinking about going away and taking a break for a long time. I'm doing well where I am – I'm well fed and I'm finally getting as much sleep as you always said I should. Now, I know this is a little late, but take care of my apartment, will you? Can't lose that good of a lease. Hael's letters must be piling up, please take care of them, too. Even after everything, I want to read them. Save anything our parents send. The FBI has probably fired me by now for taking off so suddenly, but don't worry about that – I'm okay. Really, I'm doing well.

Michael always said we should take the time in our lives to really live. I'm doing what he wanted, finally. Don't worry about me. While you're a bit of an asshole sometimes, I'll always love you. Even after you stole my first girlfriend. Stay in Texas, be happy. Til then,

Castiel.

"I think … I think Castiel is trying to tell us he's all right," Reid says slowly. "If Winchester left him enough wriggle room to leave a message, that repetition probably wasn't necessary. He keeps emphasizing it, and he even talks about coming home. Do we know if the girlfriend stealing is a real incident?"

"I'll find out," JJ says. She's been Balthazar's link, for the most part, during the last eight weeks. Hotchner was secondary to her. Since she spent several years dealing with family members and the press before becoming a full profiler, Balthazar has always responded the best to her presence. He'd spent three weeks here, living in Castiel's apartment once they released it, desperate for news of his brother.

"He could be trying to tell us that he intends on escaping," Rossi says. "We should Kansas police that they might see someone of Castiel's description. See if we can't connect any odd cases they have to Castiel possibly having a partial escape attempt."

Morgan points at the letter, then looks at JJ. "Can you also have Balthazar tell us if the letter sounds like Castiel? I know he'd have to change his phrasing in order to hide the message, but maybe he could tell us if there's anything else odd."

Hotchner nods. "I'll have the local FBI office give him a copy and sit on him while he reads it."

Rossi frowns at the screen. "So a predatory kidnapping, or a delusion?" he asks, referencing their next step: building a profile to help narrow things for Garcia.

"Either, or a combination of both," Hotchner replies. "But I think we should assume that even if Winchester has some delusion that prompted the kidnapping, that he will be internally consistent in carrying out his beliefs."

They work through the portions of the profile that remain the same: Winchester was probably triggered in some way by the death of his brother to take Castiel. He's probably taken him to a remote location somewhere in the state of Kansas. The rest changes along with Winchester's apparent motivation. Revenge is no longer likely, because if that was the case Castiel would be dead by now. Assuming that the letter isn't a fake, and Hotchner doesn't think it is, then it's probable Winchester intends to keep him long term.

They start with the sending of the letter.

"The dating in particular suggests he wants us to know Castiel's still alive," Reid says. "It's possible he's taunting us for our failure to find him and Castiel."

"He's never done that before," Morgan says. "Not that that helps much when it comes to Winchester."

Rossi turns to Hotchner. "That first day, you suggested this might be a predatory kidnapping. Winchester has no homosexual leanings to our knowledge, but that might be irrelevant if Castiel was taken because he was powerful, and not in spite of it. Some of Winchester's crimes have been sadistic or sexual. Could this be Winchester evolving past doing things only with the excuse of a delusion? He could be embracing his darker desires instead of routing them through belief in the supernatural."

They bounce the idea back and forth. It could definitely fit with Winchester's known psychology. Half-way through, they get notified that Balthazar has read the letter and wants to talk. JJ gets him on the phone, and after some hysterical sobbing, Balthazar admits that despite the odd wording it does sound like Castiel. The girlfriend stealing incident is real, and Castiel used to make reference it in regards to how much he loved Balthazar, because Castiel actually let it go and allowed them to date with no infighting. In some ways, Castiel and Balthazar had used it to reference how strong their relationship was.

It's a comfort, in other words. A way of saying, I love you.

That tilts the discussion. "Maybe this isn't about taunting us at all. If he wanted us hurting and angry, this letter isn't the way to do that. Maybe this is about Balthazar," Morgan says. "Do you think Castiel could have convinced Winchester to send the letter not to taunt us, but to offer some kind of comfort to Balthazar?"

"Winchester would have to care about Castiel for that to be the case," JJ says. "Do you think he's capable of that kind of empathy?"

Rossi looks up. "Castiel is Balthazar's younger brother. We said Sam triggered this … perhaps Castiel isn't meant to be a victim at all. At least not in Dean's mind. Maybe he's meant to be another companion for Dean, a replacement for Sam."

"But why Castiel?" JJ asks.

There's a short silence.

"I hate to say he's just crazy, but if the shoe fits …" Rossi says, shrugging. "Winchester's delusions are so varied it could be almost anything."

Hotchner looks at the letter again. "He's an intimacy seeking stalker. The letter is an attempt at pleasing the person he perceives as his loved one."

"Castiel has to be trying to wriggle out another message," Morgan says. "He knows how to manipulate someone with that psychology better than anyone."

More silence.

Rossi breaks it. "That means that Winchester is as we speak trying to break Castiel down or otherwise manipulate him into going along with some delusional belief they're in love or in some kind of relationship. He must have started with just stalking, but because of his prior experience in stalking and then killing victims, he was good enough not to get caught. Once his delusions progressed to a certain point, kidnapping Castiel must have seemed like a good idea."

"But the attack in Castiel's apartment was planned. He knew that Castiel would resist," Reid says.

"Contradictions are something Winchester doesn't seem to have a problem with," Rossi reminds him. "He could easily contort Castiel's resistance into some supernatural reason. Hotcher, I think it fits with what we currently know. Even if we can't connect all the pieces yet, it fits the best of any profile we've come up with."

"If that's true," Reid begins, "than this isn't going to be the last we hear from Winchester or Castiel. Messages are going to continue in some form."

"And we need to prepare for that," Hotchner finishes.

They split off. Reid goes to help set up a trace on Balthazar's phone that will be constant, so they can both intercept or listen to a phone call and then trace it to its origin. (Once they get permission, of course. Hotchner expects that part to be the easiest.) Rossi sets up passive, unmanned surveillance in case Winchester ever tries to physically drop something off at Balthazar's. JJ, Morgan and Hotchner work on the adjusted profile and brainstorm how it could help them narrow Garcia's search for Winchester's location.

In the end, it's going to come down to a thorough search of records. The part of the profile that says Winchester is in Kansas is still in play, but now it's about a very long term home base. Remote enough he can keep Castiel undetected, and something he was able to buy without much oversight. It's possible he got a place from distant family member, though they agree its unlikely Winchester would make that kind of mistake – too traceable. He likely bought the place with cash.

Garcia begins to make calls to get any records not available in a public database. Hotchner overhears her once, talking with Morgan. For the first time in two months she sounds excited and hopeful. He wants to match that hope, but some missing detail is niggling at his mind. They're missing something, he just doesn’t know what.

Although Rossi could write several books on Dean Winchester, the profile they intend to present to the Kansas police and surrounding states is brief.

Dean Winchester kidnapped Castiel Novak on October 10, 2014, from Stafford, Virginia. The kidnapping is motivated by an intense desire to have Novak as a companion, since the loss of his previous partner, Sam Winchester, who is believed to be deceased as of 2012. It is very unlikely he will ever give up Novak willingly, because he perceives Novak to be his intended or fated lover. It is also unlikely he will have Novak with him, but if Winchester is tipped off to police notification, he will abandon everything except his vehicle and Novak. It is critical that backup is called before apprehension is attempted. Streets and highways should be shut down if a confirmed sighting occurs.

In addition to the kidnapping of Castiel Novak, Winchester commits serial murder, and has done so since at least 2005, and possibly as early as 2001, with his father (now deceased). There is always a psychotic element to the crime – he may believe that a victim is demon-possessed, or some supernatural creature he has to kill. Winchester often commits murders in specific, bizarre ways because he believes those elements are required to actually kill his victim. Other times he will claim to be the only one capable of killing the true murderer of his own victims, making himself a hero in his own mind. It is likely that after a brief period of not committing these crimes, Winchester will return to committing serial murders.

He is superficially charming and will attempt to use this charm to get out of dangerous situations. If this fails, he will move onto escape by force. Winchester has a long history of violent crime, including murder, rape, and torture. Backup should be obtained before attempting to take him into custody, as he has caused serious injury to law enforcement personnel. If taken in, serious efforts should be made to keep him under armed guard at all times, even when alone in a locked cell, as he has proven he is very capable of escaping from jail.

Winchester is believed to operate out of Kansas. He drives a black, 1967 Chevy Impala. Although the plates will vary, Winchester will not abandon this vehicle. Though he does not have a military background, many of his skills and behaviors match or exceed that level of knowledge. He is considered armed and extremely dangerous.

Days pass. Then weeks.

Garcia sets up a program that will tell them if Balthazar ever receives a phone call that cannot be traced. Everything else is traced automatically and stored. She also figures out how to give Hotchner access to that call, if she notices the ping fast enough to transfer it to him. If Winchester slips up or Castiel is able to get out a call for help somehow, they want to be the first to know.

Reid declares the letter otherwise devoid of secret messages.

As exciting as the letter is, that's where the case dies again. The profile goes out to law enforcement and every news organization they can find are informed of Castiel's kidnapping. Winchester's face is plastered everywhere, but no one sees him. The few reported sightings they do get are quickly debunked. It's like Winchester is a ghost. Despite the fact that the profile strongly suggests he's in Kansas, they can find no proof of that. Once again, he's disappeared.

The case goes cold.

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Click. "Bossman, linking you to a call from Castiel in three seconds. I have the transcript and he said the not-duress/listening word."

Hotchner nearly jolts out of his seat in the plane, and waits for the call to transfer, holding up his hand to stop the rest of the team's chatter. "Castiel, this is Hotchner. We're tracing this call. I'm going to go through a list of locations. I want to give me a yes when I say where you are." He expects an affirmative.

Instead, Castiel's voice is teary and frustrated. "I can't. I know I'm crazy, but I can't tell you where I am because you would capture Dean." There's the faint sound of a sob. "I want to go home, but you can't hurt Dean. He's not, he's not what we thought."

Not what the team profiled? "Did he kidnap you specifically?"

An unsteady breath. "Yes. You don't need to worry about anyone else on the team. I swear, I'm okay, Hotch."

Emotionally distressed. Refusing to help locate Winchester while giving the correct duress words. Castiel's not suffered the past six months well. "Castiel. Hold out. We're coming for you." There's a pause and a click.

Garcia comes on the line. "Sorry, that was it, tracing tracing tracing – oh no. No. No no no no. It's bouncing all over the place."

By now, the entire team is tensed and staring at Hotchner, waiting for him to speak, desperate hope in their eyes.

"No, you little slippery bastard, you're not getting away from me," Garcia snarls at her computer. "I will – no. Hotch, I – I'm so sorry. I don't even know to say, I'm so sorry. I can't trace it. It ended up in India and I lost it. Someone who knew what they were doing set this up." She sounds teary.

"It's all right, Garcia. You did the best you could. See if you can find anything else about the call and email me the sound file," Hotchner says.

Sounding shaky, she responds, "Will do, boss." And hangs up.

JJ drops back into her seat. "We didn't find him."

Hotchner shakes his head. "No, but we've got work to do."

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With an hour left of flight time, Garcia gives them the recording and then sets to other methods of tracing the call. The call itself is fairly short, but they listen twice before commenting.

"Bal?" Castiel sounds like he can barely get out Balthazar's name.

"Oh God, Castiel? Cassie? Holy shit, where are you?"

Castiel takes a shaky breath. "It's so good to hear your voice."

"Cassie, can you talk?"

"Yes. But I'm not alone."

Balthazar replies immediately, sounding frantic as he asks a trigger phrase, "Are you well?"

And Castiel replies, "I'm okay. Balthazar, I'm okay. I haven't been hurt."

"Where are you? Can you tell me where you are?"

"No. Balthazar –"

"Did Dean Winchester take you?" Balthazar asks. "God, Cassie, the FBI has been looking for you everywhere. I've been out of my fucking mind. Hotchner said Winchester took you, has he hurt you? Are you in danger?"

"Dean has me, yes. He cares about me. He l-loves me. Bal, he let me call you to tell you that I'm okay. Honestly, I'm – I'm well fed, I have a memory foam mattress for God's sake. He hasn't hurt me. I don't want you to worry."

At that point, Hotchner entered the call. One reply echoes in Hotchner's head: "I can't. I know I'm crazy, but I can't tell you where I am because you would capture Dean. I want to go home, but you can't hurt Dean. He's not, he's not what we thought."

"He didn't use his duress word," Reid comments first.

"That doesn't mean he wasn't under duress," Morgan points out. "Or he could be not capable of telling when he's under duress."

Reid nods. "Fair point. But is it possible that Castiel is telling the truth about being treated well? At least as far as he can? He seemed very focused on making sure his brother wasn't worrying, to the extent of giving details of his life. A memory-foam mattress is really specific and he wouldn't have thought of that spur of the moment."

"It could have been a line fed to him by Winchester," Morgan suggests. "Honestly, I know we all respect Castiel here, but we need to be clear – regardless of the reason, he's no longer going to cooperate with being rescued."

"Adult victims of long-term captivity are considerably less likely to develop Stockholm Syndrome," Reid says thoughtfully. "But it's not impossible. He was very careful not to say any variation of 'I'm fine,' even when it would have been natural to use that phrasing. That indicates he was choosing it consciously, at least."

"Let's break it down," Hotchner says. "He called his brother. When Balthazar delivered the trigger phrase, Castiel answered him directly without any attempt at hiding it from his captor."

"Could indicate a degree of trust in Winchester," Morgan suggests. "That Winchester won't hurt him for saying the wrong thing."

Rossi says, "Or Winchester knew we would prep Balthazar and planned accordingly."

"He was very insistent that he wasn't being hurt," Rossi says. "Do you think he was telling the truth, or that Winchester told him to say that?"

"Punishment could be a relative thing, at this point." Reid frowns. "Victims of kidnapping who do develop Stockholm Syndrome often excuse their captors' actions, to the point of saying they deserved to be abused."

"'Honestly, I'm – I'm well fed, I have a memory foam mattress for God's sake. He hasn't hurt me.' Do you think that's factual?" Rossi asks.

"Not to sound callous, but I'm not sure it matters to what we do here." There's no anger in Morgan's tone, or his expression. He's removing himself emotionally, trying to be professional. There's always been that kind of strength to Morgan. " At this point, we can only follow Winchester and hope to catch him before Winchester gives in to some other psychosis and kills him."

"Patty Hearst said that her captivity and switch of allegiance felt like brainwashing, and that she had lost her free will. And that it took two weeks for her to begin to return to normal," Reid remarks. "If the same is true of Castiel, we may have to arrest him or hold him with a long-term psych hold."

"Perhaps," Hotchner says. "But I agree with Morgan, that doesn't matter at this point. Not in how we do our jobs."

It sounds cold. In a certain way, it is. But Hotchner knows, from the past cases with team members – Reid being taken by an unsub for two days, for example, or when Prentiss's past came into play – that this is the best way to resolve the situation. They're a good team. If they work like one, they can save Castiel.

"You know," Reid begins, "this does us one thing. Or one possible thing. I think Winchester is trying to win Castiel over. Winchester has been shown in the past to be incredibly convincing, to the point of getting family members to turn on each other. I think he is feeding Castiel, giving him a good bed. Because this isn't about predating on Castiel."

"Winchester doesn't want a victim," Hotchner says heavily. "He wants a partner."

"Castiel would never join him in a partnership," Morgan states. "Castiel might be unbalanced, but I don't think he would ever reach a point where he could commit the kinds of murders that Winchester does."

"I agree," Hotchner says. "The question is, will Winchester reach such a point of frustration he will harm or kill Castiel, or will he continue to hold him prisoner?"

"After six months? I'm betting on the latter," Rossi says. "For that matter, all of this could be Castiel attempting to survive, even not using his duress words."

Hotchner leans back and thinks about that. What has this changed about their profile? Next to nothing. It tells them more about Castiel's state of mind, and knowing he may resist capture or fail to take an opportunity to escape is useful information, but actually finding where Winchester is holding him – there's no new information.

"Our profile hasn't changed," Hotchner says at last. "Or our mission."

Morgan nods in agreement, and as Hotchner looks at each of his team members, they all do the same.

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It's midnight, and most of the team is asleep on the plane, coming back from a case in Utah. Rossi is snoring lightly, no doubt something his many ex-wives complained about, and Morgan manages to look put together even while passed out with a seat pushed all the way back. Only Reid, Hotchner and JJ are awake. Garcia went home from the office hours ago. It was a good case – they solved it, and that's one of the few things that keeps Hotchner sleeping at night. Castiel is gone, and he can't be replaced, but they're still moving forward and saving lives. That's important.

JJ, sitting down and going over Winchester's recent spate of crimes, comes up with the idea: "What if we preemptively found situations that Winchester would take advantage of? In combination with crime analysis? He's obsessed with supernatural stuff, right? He could be finding situations online and then taking over by killing anyone he perceives as not being human."

Hotchner sits up, rubbing his eyes. "Wait. Has Winchester been spotted anywhere on the east or west coast in the past six months?"

Reid, with his perfect memory, slowly shakes his head. "No. Nothing even close to confirmed, anyway."

"He's staying close to home," Hotchner says slowly. "That narrows down the possible list of targets significantly. JJ, can you follow this up and find some cases? We can alert local police of Winchester's possible presence."

JJ nods. "Sure."

A five minute conversation. That's all it takes.

----------------------------------------------

Two months later, they get a call while helping a DA with prosecuting one of their cases.

Dean Winchester was captured in Arizona by the local police force, who had been alerted by the team he might be there five days previous. He was found unconscious on an unused road and taken to the hospital, where an officer recognized him from the profile the team sent out. He attempted to escape and was able to do so long enough to ditch his phone, but he was otherwise found with his whole arsenal. The car is still being searched for. The police are following all the suggested procedures for preventing escape, and are confident they can hold him.

"If we can break Dean," Morgan says, "we can rescue Castiel."

"Wheels up in an hour," Hotchner says.

----------------------------------------------

With the hum of their jet as the only background noise, they come up with a plan.

Dean Winchester kidnapped Castiel in order to make Castiel his partner, a replacement for his brother. He has the psychology of an intimacy seeking stalker, and in all likelihood holds the delusion that not only is Castiel his lover and partner, but that Castiel always returned Dean's feelings and intentions. He may even believe that there was no kidnapping, and Castiel's attempts at resistance were probably suppressed. The delusion that Castiel went with Dean willingly is what they must break.

Because if they can break Dean's belief and trust in his one last important thing in the world – Castiel – they can break Dean. And if they break Dean, they can find Castiel.

"I'll do it," Morgan says. He still feels partially responsible for how long it took them to realize Castiel was missing. It's not logical, and he knows that, but that feeling of obligation has never gone away.

JJ nods, and then adds, "If he fails, I think I should try. Winchester has shown a softness for women, and I look like his mother. I can take the sympathetic route, especially if the first bridge is burned."

"I agree," Morgan says.

"So do I," Hotchner says. "Morgan, go over Winchester's file and prep. JJ, you do the same. Rossi, coordinate with the local office and make sure Winchester doesn't slip through the cracks like he has all the other times we got this close. Reid, I want you to help Garcia backtrack where Winchester has been."

Two hours later, they land. Morgan has spent that entire time going over Dean's history. And he does think of him as Dean, now. In order to get into Dean's head, he needs to view him as not the sick fuck who kidnapped Castiel, but as a whole and complete person. That will allow him to adapt as needed depending on Dean reacts to his questions. His entire approach has to be based on Dean's psychological needs, and he can't let anger get in the way. He knows JJ has done something very similar, tailored to use Dean's complicated relationship with women.

Dean is being held in the city jail, guarded by three officers 24/7. The Arizona FBI office should be sending an additional two agents to help them hold Dean.

Hotchner decides none of them should see Dean before the first attempt, so they watch on security cameras as Dean is brought to an interrogation room, a video camera already set up inside. When informed of his right not to speak, Dean had only shrugged, so for now they can interrogate him. Dean is chained up securely, hands to hands and feet to feet. It probably looks like overkill, with Dean's affable smile and calm demeanor, but Morgan knows it's not.

Hotchner pauses before the doorway, looking Morgan in the eye. "He may try to bait you. Don't fall for it."

"I know what my mission is, and Dean Winchester isn't it," Morgan says.

Hotchner nods. "Good luck."

Morgan walks in and slaps the folder on the table and sits down, all before looking at Dean. Dean responds by raising an eyebrow and glancing down at the folder, which is out of his chained reach. When he looks up, he smirks a bit. It's about what Morgan expected from watching the Baltimore tape of Dean's last proper interrogation. He watches Dean for a full minute, taking his time. Noting all the little twitches, the sigh Dean gives while he waits for Morgan to begin, the almost-eye roll. Dean still feels in control. He feels secure.

"How is Castiel?" Morgan asks.

Dean hesitates out of surprise, barely perceptible in the way his eyes widen. "Good. He's good."

"How was he on October 10th, 2014?"

Dean's smirk falls. "Well, that's specific."

Morgan shrugs and opens his hands. "Can you answer the question?"

"I don't see the point," Dean says, but his shrug this time is forced. He clearly knows the significance of the date. He drums his fingers on the table.

"Did he scream for help? Struggle?"

The smirk is gone now. Dean doesn't like to be reminded of this, which supports the idea that Dean believes Castiel loves and loved him in return, prompting the kidnapping. "I –"

Morgan expects, I don't know what you mean.

"I didn't like doing it," Dean says at last.

There's that unusual self-awareness again. Morgan needs to be careful here, still apply pressure. "How many times has he tried to escape you? Did you beat him for those attempts? Is that what you do, Dean? Hurt those you love?"

"Fuck you!" It seems automatic. Then Dean rolls his eyes. "Look, I know you think I'm some psycho killer, but I'd never hurt Cas."

Morgan keeps his tone matter of fact with a bit of a exasperated edge, like Dean is a recalcitrant child. "You don't love Castiel, and Castiel doesn't love you, Dean. I know him a lot better than you do, and he'd never feel that for you."

"You don't know that," Dean says, but there's uncertainty in his eyes. He looks away, like he knows he's lying. "He cares about me. I know he does." Dean stiffens up, adds, "I know you think I'm full of bullshit, but this isn't what you think it is. I'm not – look. I'm not abusing Cas. He's fine."

"You know what I think, Dean? I think that you decided for some delusional reason that Castiel loved you, and that you loved him – so you snuck up on him in his apartment, beat him and bashed his head in, threw him in your trunk, and took him home so you could rape him. So you could pretend it was all about love when really you want to dominate and control Castiel. That's what this is about, Dean. It's about your fucked up need to replace your brother. Were you screwing him, too?"

"Fuck you, you piece of fucking shit," Dean snarls, half rising out of his seat, but he's chained to the table so the motion is halted.

Morgan doesn't stop. "This is about him, right? Sam? You know, I have to wonder if he died so he could get away from you. He didn't love you, he was just your killing partner. And Castiel doesn't love you either, he's just your victim. Isn't he?"

"You're full of shit –"

"Am I? Then tell me, Dean, where have you kept Castiel prisoner? Should I be asking if he's in the back plot?"

Dean is shaking his head vigorously. "No, no –"

"Is this what your father taught you? That to keep someone, you take them away from the people who really love them?" Morgan pauses. "Is that how you kept Sam? Did you murder Jess?"

"I loved Sam, you sick fuck!"

"You're not escaping this time, Dean. You've pissed off the entirety of the FBI by taking Castiel. You're going to federal prison and you're staying there until you croak. Your only hope of not getting the death penalty is to tell me what I want to know. And let's face it, Dean. Even if you ever did get out, what would you go back to? To someone who fights you to escape? To someone you torture and rape into supposedly caring for you?" The derision on that word is as strong as Morgan make it. He scoffs. "We're not living in your sick fantasy anymore, Dean. You do know that Castiel doesn't love you, don't you?"

Dean breathes hard.

"I know what you're thinking, Dean. You're not special. Right now you're going through it all in your head. Every interaction that you thought was love? That wasn't. That was, at best, a kidnapping victim trying to please his captor. You're alone in this world. You are absolutely alone."

Dean shakes his head. "Shut up."

"Castiel doesn't love you, Sam and your father left you. I've got the reports," Morgan slaps his hand on the thick folder, "you were separate from them both for years. They didn't want you. They didn't need you, did they? Not like how you needed them. And now they're dead and gone, and quite frankly probably happier for it."

"I –" Dean squeezes his eyes closed.

"This is the story of your life, Dean. And all of it is about how Dean Winchester tries to hold onto people who don't want him. And when you can't cope with people leaving, you kill. Hell, even while they're around, you're killing. You know what that tells me, Dean? It tells me that no matter how hard you tried, you've failed to actually make want people to be near you. Castiel's just the latest in a long line, isn't he? But the thing is, you're not going to get what you want, no matter how hard you try. Because there's nothing there for them to love. To give a shit for. Is there?"

"You –" Dean stops, but his eyes are shiny. Morgan hit home there, at least partially. "You don't know me," but it comes out weak.

"You've been telling law enforcement for years you just want to save people. All you've got left, Dean, is to tell me where Castiel is. You've got bodies left behind you. You've got nothing else. Nothing, Dean."

There's a long silence. Morgan lets it elongate, lets it go. He waits for that silence to work on Dean, for Dean's own mind to trick him. Waiting for that fragile façade of Dean's strength to shatter, because for all of the horrific crimes Dean's done, he's ultimately done it out of a place of weakness, both psychological and emotional. He suffered abuse by his father and broke. Morgan needs him to break again, for Castiel's sake.

Dean's hands clench and then he says, slow and even, "I know what I did. I kidnapped Castiel, and he didn't love me. He still doesn't. I chained him up and couldn't give him a pair of scissors, because I knew what he'd do with it. I know what I've done, Agent Whoever. Don't you try to fucking tell me what I've done."

Morgan watches him, and understands. What Morgan said had a huge emotional effect on Dean, but not the one he wanted – Dean isn't delusional about Castiel. He didn't hit Dean's weak point – not quite. He's failed; they miscalculated. It's like a blow, but all he does is grit his teeth as Dean speaks.

"But you're wrong," Dean says. "I love Cas, I really do. Just having him near me – that's enough. I'm happy with that. And I will spend the rest of my life making him happy. I will get out of here and go back to him, and hold him in my arms and love him. And your bullshit story doesn't change any of that. So. Fuck. Off."

Morgan has two choices: try to readjust, or withdraw. He wants to do neither. He wants to go in and beat the shit out of Dean, and beat the Castiel's location out of him. But he can't do that. He knows he can't, even if it would work, which he doubts it would at this point. "You're not getting out of here, Dean. These four walls are your new best friend. I'll personally make sure of that."

There's a knock at the door.

Dean leans in. "Daddy want to tell you that you did a bad job?"

Hotchner opens the door and gestures for Morgan to follow, expression blank. Morgan adjusts the folder so it's out of Dean's reach again. Let him think about what's in there; it can't hurt, wherever they decide to go. He debates whether he should say something to retain some kind of control, and then decides to leave the field open for JJ. He gets up and walks to the door without answering, and leaves.

"Hotch –" Morgan begins.

Hotchner just shakes his head, dismissing the explanation. "That result was likely," Hotchner says. "Patrol found Dean's car. They did a brief search and found a camera that appears to have pictures of a dark-haired man on it."

"Castiel?"

"They're bringing it here, we'll know in ten minutes."

Morgan nods. "I'll call Garcia and see if she can't find anything from the photos."

Ten minutes, two 'baby girl's' and an uplink later, the team assembles in a conference room while Dean Winchester continues to sit alone in interrogation. Morgan does his best to slip on his professional mindset, the one that's served him well for more than a decade on the BAU.

The first, earliest-dated photo shocks them into silence. It's Castiel, sleeping or unconscious on a bed, still wearing the slacks and dress shirt he was last seen in. His suit jacket is gone and he's shoeless, but the part that immediately draws their attention is the heavy, metal cuff on his right ankle. An equally heavy chain is connected to it, with the chain's slack off the bed and out of the photo. At first it looks like a shadow, but Morgan realizes that Castiel's throat is indeed that color – he's got a huge, long bruise on his throat, and it's had several days to develop into a dark smear.

It makes Morgan feel sick. He leans back in his chair, taking a deep breath. He's seen so much worse and so often, but it's quite another for it to be a friend.

There's no sign of it being posed. The photo, given the lighting and slight blur, was taken hastily.

The second has Castiel sitting up on the same bed, some kind of very old book in hand. It's been taken through a doorway, so there's only a sliver of Castiel, but Morgan does see the chain trailing off the bed to the floor. There's no sign he knows the picture is being taken.

That characterizes the next third of the sixty-eight photos.

It's always Castiel. After the first span of forty days, he appears without a chain at the same time there's the first signs of physical abuse. He's curled up on a chair, in one case, or sitting at what looks like a kitchen table with a kitchen counter behind it. His face is all cut up and bruised, like he took a pretty severe beating, but over the course of five images they can see them slowly healing up without any new additions.

"How is he being restrained?" Reid asks.

Morgan is the one to see it. "Look at his ankle," he says, grabbing the laptop that's displaying the images and going backwards. "He's got some kind of ankle cuff on. I'm betting it's got some kind of GPS, maybe even a shock mechanism or something similar."

"Dean's good with his hands," Reid agrees. "And Castiel is too dangerous to be left unbound like that without some kind of restraint."

Several months in, Castiel appears all bruised up again. This time, he also looks sick. His skin is pale and there's dark shadows under his eyes, and something about how he holds himself suggests that there's more severe injuries that they can't see.

"Well, now we have proof that Dean's lying," Morgan says, trying to repress his anger and think about how they could use this. "He kept insisting he wasn't abusing Castiel."

"I'll use it," JJ says.

On Castiel's birthday, six months into his captivity, they see Castiel look at the camera for the first time. He's sitting at the now familiar kitchen table, an absolutely ridiculous pancake in front of him. He's giving the camera a bemused look. Morgan knows this day, of course. This is the day Dean let him call Balthazar. Even at the time, they'd thought it was likely a birthday present, but this confirms that. There's one picture of Castiel in front of a cake, with four candles lit.

Now that Castiel is aware of the camera, Dean seems determined to capture any moment of Castiel smiling or laughing. There's nearly two dozen photos like that, nothing but random smiles or smirks. Even blurry photos are kept, if Castiel is laughing. There's an oddness to those images – Morgan knows what Castiel looks like laughing. Balthazar even gave them a photo album of Castiel, so the team would remember Castiel as he was. And there's not really any reservation in these, nothing that really tells Morgan that they're posed or forced. Castiel doesn't use any kind of duress signal, and Morgan knows he's familiar with the military versions used in coerced photo ops.

It's horrifying, yet interesting.

At around eight months, after a month-long break from any images, they see Castiel bruised again. Now, though, they're mostly healing. He looks tired. Depressed. Morgan can clearly see that he's losing weight. Dean only manages to capture the faintest of smiles.

But it picks up again. Castiel seems to recover, physically and emotionally.

One of the last photos, dated only a few weeks ago, is of Castiel in bed, sleeping. He's nude, though the picture is tasteful – it doesn't show anything except Castiel's bare hip, and he's mostly wrapped in a blanket. He looks healthy, but Morgan feels nauseous. It's a pretty clear indication that Dean has been raping Castiel, as they'd feared – as they'd profiled he would.

Garcia is still on the phone. "There's also a short video that I haven't seen and frankly I'm not sure if I want to see."

"It's all right, baby girl. Just let it roll, we'll let you know if you should see it."

"Okay," Garcia says, still fairly chirpy. "Rolling."

The video begins.

Castiel is sitting on a couch, feet pulled up. On his ankle is a hint of gleaming metal, the cuff they saw in some of the photos. In his lap is a rather large dog, its head lying on his thigh. With one hand he pets the dog, and with the other he reads an old, dusty book. He's frowning at it, that familiar frown that says Castiel is thinking hard about something.

"Hey," Winchester's voice comes slightly distorted and loud from being so close to the microphone.

Castiel glances up, expression calmly bored; there's no hint of fear at all. Then he does a double take. "More evidence of kidnapping?" He squints, looking at the camera more carefully. "Are you recording me?" he asks, disbelief clear.

"Hey! You're cute when you're all focused," Winchester objects. "I wanted to get that little finger-tapping motion for the history books."

Castiel rolls his eyes, but he's smiling. "Well, stop."

"But I don't want to," Winchester says, the camera dipping and weaving for a second.

Castiel reaches over the side of the couch and returns with a battered stuffed animal. It's a zebra, and it's clearly been chewed.

"Oh no –" Winchester begins.

Castiel throws it at Winchester. The camera rolls around wildly and there's the sound of a dog barking, and faintly in the background, Castiel is laughing. It sounds like the time Morgan and Garcia took Castiel out to a karaoke bar and got him drunk. He sounds – happy.

Dean says, voice almost whining, "Oh, come on. Did you really have to sic the dog on me?"

The video ends there.

"Well," Rossi ventures at last. "That's certainly not what I expected to see."

"That's not the balance of control I expected to see," Reid adds thoughtfully. "I know that we came the conclusion Castiel has Stockholm's Syndrome as of six months ago – if not earlier – but that's still a huge shift in how a victim would treat an abuser, even in that case. He literally has the dog attack Dean, and Dean doesn't have a problem with that. And Castiel specifically referred to it as 'evidence of kidnapping,' which Dean doesn't deny."

JJ is frowning. "Can you replay that for me?"

Hotchner restarts the video.

When it's done, JJ says, "We've gone about this whole thing wrong. Dean isn't an intimacy seeking stalker. He's something else all together. Castiel wasn't lying when he said 'he's not what we thought.' Dean does genuinely believe he loves Castiel in some fashion – I'm betting all those injuries we saw were escape attempts. I mean, three in nearly eleven months? He wants to win Castiel over and he wants to treat him well. His psychology –"

"It's nothing like what we assumed," Reid finishes. "It doesn't match up with Dean's criminal history at all. By this and Morgan's interrogation, I'd have to say that Dean is completely compos mentis, and always was. He knew exactly what he was doing when he kidnapped Castiel, he knew Castiel would resist. He wants to change Castiel's perception of him, bring Castiel to his side, purely as a deliberate and conscious effort."

"Using force," Morgan reminds him.

"Using as little as possible," Reid says. "I counted no less than six rooms and two hallways in those photos, as well as the three photos that were taken outside. That's a lot of free range for a kidnapping victim."

Morgan shakes his head, feeling a headache coming on. "This doesn't make sense."

"It may not make sense, but it's what we have. We need more information," JJ says.

"And you're the best way for us to get it," Hotchner says, nodding at her. "He lost his mother at four, he's raised to worship her and adore her by his father, who in his psychosis goes after an imaginary killer. In some ways, he's put her on a pedestal – but he's also lacked the motherly influence in his life, and he's probably missed that."

JJ taps her prep folder. "If I can get him to view me that way, he'll open up."

"I'll have made that more difficult," Morgan admits. "As much as it grates me to wait, Castiel is probably fine where he is – Dean's been away from his home base before. We should take the time to let Dean cool off."

"I agree," Hotchner says.

----------------------------------------------

When JJ first met Castiel, he said, face calm and open, "You're experienced. Tell me what to do."

It was hardly the first time a random agent looked past her looks and femininity and instead at her record, but JJ still appreciates it every time it happens. Plus, because JJ started out as a communications liaison and not a profiler, some have doubted her work. Castiel treated her, and the entire team, as not just equals but also as people whose skill he had to work towards. When he joined the team, he was an easy fit because he worked so hard to mesh with them. JJ had looked forwards to years of being on the same team, and slowly growing as close to him as she had to the others.

Sometimes, when JJ is with her husband and her son, she wonders how he is. How he's coping, living alone with his kidnapper. Castiel is strong, she's never doubted that. And yet, he's also compassionate – sometimes to the degree he couldn't separate himself from a case. In that, she sometimes feared he would end up like Elle Greenaway, who after being attacked by an unsub became angry and brittle, and committed a murder (though they couldn't prove it) before resigning. The very dark places all the members of the BAU go does sometimes affect them.

Dean wants to make Castiel his partner. Morgan might not fear that, but in some way, JJ does. Dean has demonstrated a remarkable ability to bring witnesses and even victims, in some cases, to his side.

She stares at the photo of Mary Winchester while half-listening to Hotchner talk to Balthazar, telling him to get on a plane and come to Arizona. He's plan C.

Mary is blond and blue-eyed, just like JJ, and even some of her facial features are similar. JJ could slightly curl her hair, like how Mary wore it, but that would probably be too obvious of a play. Dean's not stupid. The key here is to play off his weaknesses and preferences without revealing she actually knows what they are, because if he does figure that out he will go the opposite of wherever she tries to lead him, just out of pure orneriness. She also doesn't want to break the fact that he is talking, however little he actually intends on telling them.

Hotchner hangs up. "JJ, you ready?"

"Yes," JJ says.

When she enters the room, Dean immediately sits up and smirks, the chains clanging as he settles his folded hands on the table. His expression is half angry, half flirtatious.

JJ just calmly smiles at him and takes a seat. "Hello, Dean. I'm Agent Jareau."

"So, take two? You taking over because the other screwed up?"

"Actually, I'm mostly here to listen," JJ says.

Dean snorts and rolls his eyes.

"We found your car, Dean. Including your camera."

Dean's jaw clenches and he pauses in the middle of a breath before continuing. "And?"

"I'm glad to see Castiel looking so well," JJ says softly. "A lot of the later pictures you took, he looks pretty healthy – tanned, even. I'm happy to see he's been going outside. But I'm a little concerned, too. Some of your earlier pictures showed him pretty bruised. What happened?"

Dean looks away, clearly uncomfortable.

JJ tries again. "Judging from what you've said, I don't think you hurt him deliberately. Right? Castiel is my friend, Dean, I just want to make sure he's okay."

"He's fine," Dean says after a full minute of silence. "Um, Castiel tried to escape. Three times. That's how he got hurt."

'That's how he got hurt' – Dean doesn't want to take responsibility. JJ decides not to push, keep Dean talking. "Does he have adequate food, where he is? Is he physically safe?"

"Of course," Dean says, sounding slightly insulted. "He's got everything he needs."

"Even if you're gone for a while?" It's the most delicate way she can put it.

"Yeah. He's fine. Don't worry about that."

JJ nods. "How is he doing now?"

This time, Dean answers a little more quickly, still looking wary, but perking up a bit. Like Castiel is a subject he'd like to talk about, but he can't. That may even be true, because of course Dean has to keep Castiel's presence a secret. Dean does have some acquaintances, but none that JJ knows of that he would trust that much. "He's doing a lot better. He was depressed for a while, but getting him Aditi helped a lot." Dean shrugs. "He reads a ton. Everything, too. At first I just gave him random old books that I had lying around, and he even read those, but now he's onto new thrillers."

"Aditi? Is that the dog?"

Dean nods. "She loves him, and he loves her, too." Dean makes a 'yuck' face. "I'm not particularly an animal person, but it makes Castiel happy."

"I always thought he'd be a cat person," JJ says lightly.

"Nah, cats are, I dunno – they're standoffish until they decide they like you, and most of the time they never do really like you. Cas? He's simple in some ways. If you push him away, he just goes 'cause he's polite like that. He wouldn’t do well with a cat. He needs someone to love him."

That's … telling. Dean sees himself as someone who can love Castiel, truly and wholly. He's not talking about the dog here, he's talking about himself. Deciding to tip-toe, JJ says, "Castiel was alone a lot, when he was in the BAU. I think it was getting better near the end, and he was spending more time with us, but he seems to tend naturally to solitude, doesn't he?"

Dean nods his agreement. "He does need company, though. He told me he didn't want to be left alone for a long time. And of course he really misses Balthazar."

JJ wonders how much of that was genuine, and how much was Castiel trying to force Dean into a smaller jurisdiction, making him easier to catch. Since the trend of Dean only committing crimes close to home is fairly old – since about three months into the kidnapping – it was probably the latter. And it worked, eventually. "He's okay, though?"

"Yeah, he's okay. Cas is – Cas is really strong." Dean's lips quirk into a half-smile. "From the beginning, he was all super-polite, you know? Thanked me for food, complimented me on the cooking. And I mean, I'm a damn good cook, but I didn't expect him to actually say that. Given the circumstances. He said that's something you guys are trained to do, to view the people you're trying to catch as human beings. Helps you understand people like me, I guess?"

"I think you have a reason for taking Castiel," JJ says after a moment. "I think it's easy to say that people who commit crimes don't have good reasons, but I often find that's not the case."

Dean hesitates, looking like he's not sure he believes her words. And he's not wrong – it's a common tactic, for an interrogator to display empathy in order to convince a suspect to confess. "I'm not sure how good my reasons would be to you, but for me …" Dean shrugs.

"Tell me?" JJ asks.

Dean looks down. "Castiel's my soulmate. Like, my true soulmate. I know that sounds cliché as hell, but it's a real thing. And soulmates often share a heaven, when they die, as long as they meet."

"As long as they meet?" JJ asks. "So you had to meet Castiel, to share the afterlife?"

"Probably, yeah," Dean says. "And I mean, that's what it was about. I knew about Castiel years ago, back when he was in Texas. I looked into his life, and he seemed happy enough. But I – after Wyoming, seeing him in person – I don't believe in love at first sight. But it was something. There was something." Dean laughs without much humor. "You think I’m crazy."

"I don't think you're crazy at all, Dean. I may not agree with your actions, but you're not insane."

That seems to mollify him. "I'm crazy, okay. But not that kind of crazy."

"What does Castiel say about you?"

Dean smiles, like he's genuinely amused by his next words. "I'm a, uh, intimacy seeking stalker who developed into bride kidnapping. But without the psychotic element, apparently, because I knew he didn't love me, I was just some random serial killer to him."

JJ leans on chin on her elbow, letting herself look thoughtful. "Do you agree with his assessment?"

Dean shrugs. "I don't think about it, honestly. Your psych stuff, it's just naming shit people do."

JJ thinks about what to ask next. Dean is opening up a lot, and that's good. Eventually she'll work her way to talking about releasing Castiel, but not yet. "Why do you call him Cas?"

"I don't know, it just fit. Plus it's easier to say."

"Do you know why his parents named him that?"

"I know all his siblings were named after angels. I mean, Balthazar? Now that's both a mouthful and sounds really silly." Dean holds up a hand. "I'm not saying he's not a great guy! Cas loves him, of course he is. Just his name … He's lucky he had Michael, 'cause that's the kind of name you get beat up for."

JJ pauses. "When Castiel was born, he didn't cry. Castiel is the angel of solitude and she thought it fit."

Dean blinks, then grins with a bashful shrug. "That sounds like Cas."

She realizes she's right: Dean does want to talk about Castiel. Dean is obsessed with Castiel, and he's never going to have another opportunity to talk with people who know him this well. That's why he didn't ask for a lawyer, that's why he didn't take his fifth amendment right not to speak – the BAU is the last group of people to know Castiel. He craves that knowledge, just like he craves everything about Castiel.

Conversation shifts into talking about random facts about Castiel. Dean shares things he knows – what Castiel likes to eat for breakfast, or his awful gap in film history. Dean goes at length about all the movies he's watched with Castiel, talking about how Castiel would let Dean hold him in his arms while they watched them, or how Castiel fell asleep during Sleeping Beauty, and Dean teased him for a week because of that. Though it could be self-deceptive on Dean's part, it sounds like Castiel allows Dean a lot of familiarity, both physical (touching, sleeping in the same bed, hugs) and emotional (talking about their respective pasts). There's details about how Castiel prefers cinnamon toothpaste, but has a small dislike for apple pie. Reese's are his favorite cheap chocolate. More personal details, too – things about Castiel's family. Dean knows that Castiel's family no longer communicates with him directly, sending him letters but not reading any of his in return.

From there, Dean gets quieter. He talks about the kind of person Castiel is, a person who wants to be useful to the world. He says it with a great deal of heavy, hidden emotion – it's not a light topic to Dean. JJ realizes that in his world of demons and monsters, he's sacrificed everything in order to fight them. He's given up his brother to that battle, as well as his safety and freedom. He empathizes with Castiel's desire to do good, and that's something JJ can use later.

Eventually, he speaks about how Castiel fought him in the beginning and knocked him clean out during his first escape attempt. Pain and guilt in his eyes, he admits that Castiel sobbed in his arms after the third failed escape attempt.

JJ listens, throat tight and doing her best to keep her professional demeanor.

Dean is slumped now, showing some exhaustion.

JJ decides he's ready. "Don't you feel guilt over taking him away from his friends and family?"

Dean starts to speak, then stops. "Yes." He stares down at his hands. "I think about it a lot, actually. When he wept in my arms because he'd failed to escape, when I came home and found him all bloody because he'd cut himself up. He still has scars from where he sliced himself too deep. You know that was the first time he asked me for help?" Dean looks up and his eyes are haunted. "I'm a son of a bitch, I know that."

"Then why not change?"

Dean shrugs. "I promised Sam I wouldn't blow my brains out when he died. That started it. But – but now that I have Cas, I can't let him go. I just can't. I love him too much."

"Why do you love him, Dean?"

Dean stares at her. "I could list all his good qualities, but somehow I don't think that's what you're asking. I don't know, I'm not a philosopher. That's like asking what love is. Who the fuck knows? I just know I'd do anything for him."

"Even let him go?"

Dean rolls his eyes, but there's discomfort behind it. "Of course you're going there."

"Can you blame me, Dean? I care for Castiel, I want him to be free."

"I can make him happy," Dean insists, as if that's all it comes to. "No, look. I swear to you, I can make him happy. I have made him happy in a lot of ways."

Perhaps that is the root of the delusion JJ has to break – the idea that this is good for Castiel, that being held prisoner is all right simply because Dean will take good care of him. She doesn't think Dean actually is taking completely good care of Castiel – certainly not psychologically, even if he provides physical and some emotional needs – not when so much of Dean's thinking is based on himself. On how much he loves Castiel, and not enough on Castiel's needs. "But if he didn't choose that, Dean, how is that real?"

"Well, I can see why you're a profiler," Dean says. "Cas said the same thing." He pauses. "You ever heard of artificial happiness?"

"Synthetic happiness?" JJ automatically corrects. "Yes."

Dean points at her, the gesture awkward because his hands are chained to the table. "Isn't that real? Real enough? If you choose it, and you feel it, that's real."

"But isn't granting a person a choice better than not?" JJ asks. "I know you've said to other law enforcement that you hunt monsters, right? Would you force someone into that profession?"

"That's different," Dean says immediately.

"How so?"

Dean frowns. "Don't try to trick me."

"How have I tricked you, Dean?"

"You want me to trick me into letting Cas go. But I can't. And I won't."

"I'm asking questions, that's all. I'm trying to understand you." JJ keeps calm.

"He's my – he's my lover. Are you married?" Dean asks suddenly, bright green eyes suddenly meeting hers.

"I am," JJ says. "And I have a son."

"If your husband wanted to leave, would you let him go just like that? Or would you fight for him, to keep him?"

JJ is going to have to be very careful here. "I would never hold a gun to my husband's head to keep him home. I would never chain him to the floor. I'd use words, yes. I would try to persuade him, and I would continue loving him. But I wouldn't ever use force, because that's not love, that's possessiveness."

"I've – I've only kept him. I haven't, I've never wanted to hurt him," Dean whispers. "And I'm not a rapist."

Morgan said that. JJ wonders if she could go down that path. It might be useful, it might serve to show Dean that he is hurting Castiel. Depending on what's happened. "You called him your lover. Did you mean that?"

"He is." And more insistent, "And he's even used that word himself, before you ask. Every time he told me no, I stopped. Even when he asked me to just back off and didn't want me touching him at all. I never did anything without his consent. And he enjoys it. It's not rape."

"Did you coerce him in any way?" JJ asks carefully, watching for his reaction.

"No!" Dean snaps immediately. "Okay, well. A little bit, in that I made a deal."

JJ feels sick, but she just nods.

"In return for letting him write that letter to his brother, I asked for us to sleep in the same bed. To sleep, not for sex." Dean grimaces. "That was kinda manipulative."

"I'm glad you see that," JJ says. And she's being honest. That kind of self-honesty might make it easier to convince Dean to let Castiel go. To tell the BAU where he is. "I'm sure that was hard for Castiel to agree to, knowing how he likes to keep his distance."

Guilt, again. "Yeah."

"All right," JJ says. She could keep pushing, but Morgan tries that route and Dean dug in his heels. She wants her words to settle in his mind, so she'll say her piece and wait for Dean to process it. "I'll lay out for you, Dean. If you truly do love Castiel, that means putting Castiel's needs before your own. And while it does sound like Castiel really does care for you, and that he might even love you, I don't believe being held prisoner is good for him. And I don't just mean you go home and give him the choice to stay or go, Dean. I think you should let him go. And if he returns to his normal life and lives it, and still wants you – well. Then I might say his emotions towards you had some sense of realness.

"But what you have now is forced. The psychological pressure of being alone, with only you as his company, is immense. I could tell the studies I've seen on what that kind of isolation does. And you're right, Castiel is incredibly strong. But he will break. Do you want that, Dean? To break Castiel?"

Dean says nothing, staring at the table.

"Loving him means letting him go and letting him choose his own happiness. Dean. Do you understand?"

Dean looks at her, eyes hollow, and doesn't respond.

"Please, Dean. Tell us where he is."

"I can't," Dean says quietly.

JJ nods. Instinct warns her that he'll shut down if she keeps pushing. "Well, I think you and I both need to rest and think. But do me a favor, Dean?"

"Sure," Dean says immediately. Which is both surprising and encouraging.

"Think about what I've said. And let an officer know if you want to talk."

Dean nods slowly. He watches her every move as she gathers the folder – which she didn't have to use, and will probably save for later – and exits the room.

Most of the team is waiting outside. Only Rossi isn't present, but JJ knows the interview was recorded and he'll view it later. Hotchner is the first one to speak. "Excellent work."

JJ shakes her head. "I didn't get him to tell me where Castiel is."

"But you laid the groundwork for that to happen," Reid interrupts. "You didn't convince him, but you definitely introduced doubt to Dean's way of thinking. Convincing him it's wrong to hold Castiel prisoner is a huge step."

"We're going to use Balthazar," Hotchner says. "I think he's our best chance of breaking through to Dean."

----------------------------------------------

It's a Wednesday when Balthazar gets the call. He's in Arizona by three in the morning on Thursday.

Through the eyes of others, Balthazar has always understood that his relationship with his brother looks a little odd. Balthazar is only two years older than Castiel, but Castiel's always been the sturdier one, the stronger one, the silent one. Balthazar remembers as a child of ten watching Castiel calmly deal with a bully a grade up, first politely asking him to stop, and then punching him in the face (once, of course, to get the point across) when that didn't work. When their parents asked him about it later, Castiel only said, "I used necessary force to make him stop."

Balthazar really should have seen the police force thing coming.

By contrast, Balthazar painted gay slogans and Nascar jabs on a jock's car in tenth grade. They never caught him.

For years, Balthazar's been slowly working on Castiel's ability to relax and let others in. The BAU had been, oddly enough, good for him. Having a constant team to confide in had opened Castiel up emotionally, given him more people to lean on. Their childhood was in some ways very strengthening, and in others very isolating. It taught them all to have a strong core, to understand that you depend only those you love and those that love you. Family is everything, when they love you.

Castiel and Michael extended that farther than their parents intended. Of course Gregory and Margaret tried to give their kids a strong moral center, but not one that would lead two of their sons into direct danger.

Balthazar's rather ordinary life of fun, drinking, women, and teaching ten old year old adorable brats was more expected. His letters still get read, as long as he doesn't talk about Michael or Castiel – not anything that would cause worry or stress, anyway. So even now, Balthazar fills them with stories about that totally insane red-head he tried to date because she was a yoga instructor, or that time a fifty pages of love poems fell out of a student's backpack. (The intended recipient, another ten year old, should probably keep that kid.) He writes about the new club on the corner, and the gradually increasing stench of piss in the accompanying alley that he has to walk by every day. He tells them about the high school student that told him that Balthazar had given him a love of writing, and how he planned to be a novelist.

Balthazar loves living life. Castiel loves saving it. Of all people, Castiel didn't deserve to have a psycho by the name of Dean Winchester kidnap him.

Balthazar read up on him when Castiel's team figured out who took Castiel, and it was horrifying. He threw up when he thought about what that kind of nutjob would do to his brother. What that nutjob has done to other people's brothers. He's wept, he's sobbed. He's punched the wall more than once. He took three months off after it happened, and spent most of them freaked out or drunk or trying not to drink because what if his brother needed him?

He has to admit, the school has been good to him. Giving him the time off he needed, and giving him a loose rein when he came back. He totally didn't mean to break out crying in the middle of a class because of a story a kid had written about his dog being kidnapped, but the principal understood.

Castiel and Balthazar had always been close. They shared all their secrets, including that time in college when Castiel pissed off a cheating ex-girlfriend by making out that with that hot guy. Or when Balthazar totally stole Castiel's girlfriend, and Castiel just said, in his usual way, "If she feels that for you, then I support you both."

Finding that incident in the letter had been reassuring. His brother was still alive; only Castiel knew about that or could reference it in that specific way, that meant I love you.

Eleven months into Castiel's kidnapping, it's one of the few things that keeps Balthazar hoping. One of the others is the weekly phone call he gets from either Agent Hotchner or Agent Jareau – most of them are brief, because the agents have nothing to add. Nothing new to report. But they always end the call with, "We're still looking."

And now they have him. Dean Winchester.

Balthazar's had three cups of espresso, trying to counteract the Valium he took last night. His leg is bouncing, and he half wants to burst out of his chair and charge down the hallway, looking for the BAU. The police station is on lockdown because of Winchester being held here, and the fact that Winchester has always escaped police custody. He's never been held long enough to stand trial. Somewhere within a few hundred feet of Balthazar is the psycho that Balthazar honestly thinks he'd be able to hold a gun to and kill. Before this, he'd have said he couldn't take a human life.

He knows better now.

Agent Jareau walks down that hallway and smiles at him. As always, her eyes are compassionate, more feeling than Agent Hotchner ever gives. Her strength is warmer. "Thanks for coming, Balthazar."

Balthazar nods and pops to his feet. "We still don't know where this psycho is keeping him?"

Agent Jareau shakes her head. "I'm afraid not. But I spoke with Dean last night and I think that a more personal plea might work. Come on, I'll take to our working area for now."

The FBI appears to have taken over several offices and a conference room within the police station. It looks like it's mostly being used as one, large office – there's laptops set up, files spread all over the place, and some photos of an old, black car filled with weapons. That must be Winchester's.

Agent Morgan, Agent Rossi and Dr. Reid all greet him in person, then Agent Jareau takes him aside in a tiny office and sits him down. She begins, "We want you to talk to Dean Winchester. We know Dean is holding Castiel somewhere, and we believe Dean is telling the truth when he says Castiel has adequate supplies for the time being. However, we don't know how long those supplies will last."

Balthazar stares at her, mute with horror.

"I know asking you to talk to your brother's kidnapper is asking a lot, but you need to remain as calm as possible and act as if Dean cares for your brother as much as you do. We think it's important that you bring this up in the context of your worry for your brother, but most of all this needs to be genuine. From your heart."

"Are you fucking kidding me? I have to act like I understand that psychopath?"

"For Castiel," Agent Jareau emphasizes.

Balthazar nods quickly. "Okay, okay."

"I want to stress that we found some photos of Castiel, and he looks healthy and unharmed."

Balthazar exhales, and is glad he's on a chair, because his legs feel weak. "He's okay?"

"Physically, yes," Agent Jareau says. "I'm not going to lie to you. He's probably been under a lot of psychological pressure, but everything we have indicates to us he's okay."

"And so I talk to this asshole, ask him to tell us where Cassie is?"

"Yes." Agent Jareau lays out a plan, more or less. Dean (and he has to call this asshole Dean) got roughed up by some officers overnight, so he's probably already rather resistant to being spoken to. Agent Jareau did her best to distract him away from that and had an hour-long conversation about Castiel, mostly light things, according to her. She thinks he's primed to be persuaded to let go Castiel go. Dean already has a strong older-brother trigger, because of his relationship with his own younger brother, so she recommends that Cassie becomes 'my little brother.'

She also makes Balthazar swear several times he'll remain calm, but the truth is he feels jittery. Anxious. Afraid. He doesn't know what he's going to do.

Agent Jareau lets Balthazar see Dean through the fake mirror police stations always seem to have. On TV, anyway. He can see that Dean was roughed up a bit, with some bruises on his jaw and forehead, a few small cuts. It's not enough. He'd really like to split the bastard's head open with a baseball bat, but not until Castiel is back and safe. Dean is handsome despite the well-deserved injuries, and even now he looks relaxed, like he's an innocent man. It's infuriating. At the same time, Dean looks pretty physically fit – he fought Castiel and won, but now he's chained up. At least Balthazar doesn't have to worry about that.

"You ready?" Agent Jareau asks.

"As I'll ever be," Balthazar replies.

Dean looks up when Balthazar enters and closes the door behind him. The BAU is watching, of course, as Dean's expression flickers from confusion to recognition.

Balthazar sits down and then leans across the table. "Where's my brother, asshole?"

Dean eyes him. "Bal, right?"

Shoving down the impulse to leap across the table and beat the shit of Dean, Balthazar replies, "Yeah, that's me."

"You don't look much like Cas."

"His nickname is Cassie, and I take after – you know what, who gives a fuck. Where are you keeping my little brother?" Balthazar demands. "Where is he?"

Dean winces. "I can't tell you that. But he's fine."

"Oh, oh, and I'm supposed to believe a serial killer when he says that – I'm so comforted!" Balthazar can feel himself losing it, but he can't stop. "What the fuck is wrong with you? How dare you act like – like you can even say a damn word about Cassie. Where is he? Where did you take my little brother?"

"I know it sounds insane, but I love him," Dean says, expression fierce. "I do. I would do everything to keep him happy, but I can't let him go. I need him, Balthazar."

"I need him," Balthazar snaps. "His family needs him! His friends! And even if we didn't, he's a fucking human being not your fucking pet!"

Dean's jaw clenches. "I know that. He's not my pet, he's my soulmate. I swear to you, he's fine. He's healthy and strong and he reads a shit ton of books, and he makes fun of cop movies and demands cinnamon toothpaste. He's okay. He bitches about how I like too much salt, he throws books at me when he gets frustrated. I know him, and I love him, and he's safe with me." Dean's eyes are intense, narrowed, like he's trying to pound what he says into Balthazar's skull.

The words take Balthazar's breath away. All those things – those are things Castiel does. It makes the fact that Castiel is being held somewhere by this man real. "Please," he whispers. "Please, I want my little brother."

Dean closes his eyes briefly. "I'm sorry."

"If you were really fucking sorry you'd tell me where he is!"

Dean's hands are fists, but his words are pained: "I can't. I can't."

Balthazar tries to remember what Agent Jareau told him to do. Empathize, act like he believes Dean cares. He's holding onto the lip of the table like it's a life raft. "How – how is he? Does he ask about me?"

"Yeah. He talks about you sometimes, along with your parents and sister. Quiet about Michael, though. But I haven't found a good way for him to communicate with you. I mean, without being caught. And Castiel was wary of writing letters, he thought it'd freak you out more if you weren't able to answer."

It certainly holds with the weakness of the Novak family. "He's wrong." Throat tight, he adds, "And he should get the chance to tell me in person."

"I can tell you anything you want to know," Dean offers, like it's kind. "Except where he is. But anything else. I’m sure Cas wouldn't want you to worry about him."

Balthazar just stares at him in disbelief. "Are you kidding me? Do you even realize what you've done?"

"Yes!" Dean finally snaps. Words spill out of him in a rush. "I know. Of course I know. Yes, I kidnapped your brother and I'm holding him against his will – this is not new. Yes, I'm totally aware of how fucked up that is! But you know what? My entire life has been fucked, so there's no reason to stop now."

Balthazar's hands are hurting from gripping the table so tight. He tries to think, tries to imagine what Agent Jareau wants him to do. "What if he starves to death while you're in prison?"

Dean blinks, slightly taken aback. "That won't happen," he says confidently.

"You're willing to put my brother's life on the line? Because you love him so much you'll risk his life?"

"He's surrounded by a hundred years of protections and he has everything – food, shelter, company. He'll be okay." Dean seems sincere as he says it, as horrifying as that is.

All of the sudden, the anger leaves Balthazar, and the remaining terror for Castiel bursts forth. "Please, fuck, please just tell me where he is. He's my baby brother, and I know he's an FBI agent and he's strong, but he's the kid who kissed his little sister's skinned knees, the one who calls me every week and listens to all my shitty stories, and he doesn't deserve this."

Dean looks stricken.

"They told me you had a baby brother, wouldn't you do anything for him? Anything to keep him safe? I want my brother home, can't you understand that?"

Dean opens his mouth.

"Don't you dare tell me he's already home," but it comes out pleading. Balthazar reaches out to Dean's chained hands, but doesn't actually touch him. He feels the tears start to stream down his face, feels the gut-wrenching agony of knowing his brother is stuck somewhere, chained up like a criminal or worse, and his captor is right here, saying he's fine. "Don't do this. Please, let him come home."

"I'm sorry –"

Balthazar leaps from his chair, vaults across the table, and punches Dean in the face.

Dean jolts backwards but is prevented from moving far by the fact he's chained to said table, which is bolted to the floor, so Balthazar's second swing also connects. Fury and satisfaction make Balthazar go in for a third, but there's suddenly arms on him, pulling him back and he struggles, pointlessly but repeatedly, until Agent Morgan's voice breaks through, telling him to stop.

Dean Winchester is slumping over the table, his chair gone, his wrists pulled tight against his cuffs. And he's saying, "It's okay, it's okay, I'm fine."

"Where is he!" Balthazar screams at those words, Agent Morgan getting a better hold on him.

Dean nods at him slowly, blood flowing down his chin. "Listen to me. If I die, if I don't go back, then someone will come and let Castiel go."

Balthazar freezes. "What?"

"You're right, I wouldn't put him in that kind of danger." Dean's words come out a little slurred, because of the injury to his mouth. "So if you can keep me here long enough, Cas goes free. You deserve to know that."

Balthazar stares at him. "I hope the next time someone decides to rough you up, you end up dead."

Dean just regards him steadily, before looking over his shoulder and saying to Agent Morgan, "I want a lawyer. And I'm taking my Fifth Amendment right."

Then Agent Morgan drags him out of the room.

The next few minutes are a blur. The BAU team members are talking to one another, sorting through what Dean said and other possible meanings and implications. Most of it goes over Balthazar's head, because all he can think of is Castiel coming home. If he could, he'd shoot the asshole in the head right now and end any worry. Because, or some reason, he thinks Dean is telling him the truth. Those steady green eyes, the eyes of a serial killer, had actually held some kind of understanding and sincerity.

He comes back to himself, sound and sight suddenly filtering in, when Agent Hotchner puts a hand on his shoulder. Balthazar looks up at him and asks, "Is he lying?"

Agent Hotchner is silent for a moment. "I don't think he is."

"Cassie is coming home?"

"We'll be holding Dean in a maximum security federal prison until trial. I don't think even he can escape from that."

Balthazar begins to cry. Relief, but also fear. Dean only said 'if you can keep me'. Castiel's not free yet.

But Agent Jareau comes to him and says, "You did really well. I can't make any promises, but you got something incredibly important out of him."

Balthazar nods. "Cassie can hold on. We'll get him." And for the first time in a long time, he believes that.

----------------------------------------------

Five days later, after a young, red-haired woman appears on camera with no recording of how she got there, Dean disappears from his cell.

Chapter Text

Dean sits Castiel down in the kitchen and tells the story.

The hunt went about as expected, except that his hunting partner got injured and sidelined, and so Dean went to take care of the last part himself. That's how he ended up unconscious in an old, nearly abandoned highway. (Dean says, "That's why you always have a partner. Unless you're John Winchester." Castiel does not point out Dean almost always hunts alone.) Once he was taken to the hospital, he was recognized and taken into custody. He started praying to Anna the moment he was taken while looking for opportunities to escape, but the local police force was unusually thorough.

Or prepared.

Castiel listens in shocked silence as Dean describes the arrival of the BAU and the two interrogations, one by Morgan and one by JJ. He's pretty brief – Castiel knows there was more said than Dean is telling – but there's enough for Castiel to fill in the gaps. Morgan hoped to break Dean psychologically, and JJ was plan B. It occurs to him as Dean describes her that she looks a lot like Dean's mother. That's probably why she was chosen, though of course Castiel doesn't say that. It isn't necessary or appropriate right now.

In a sense it feels unreal, to think of Dean interacting with his team members. His former team members. Two entirely different worlds that he thought would never meet.

"After that, they brought in Balthazar," Dean says hesitantly. He's sitting opposite Castiel, having pulled up the other chair so they're facing each other without the table in the way.

"You saw my brother?" Castiel demands, eyes widening. He didn't predict that, though if JJ was making personal appeals, he should have. "How is he?"

Dean smiles a little awkwardly and waves a hand at his bruised face. "Pissed."

Castiel laughs, a little wetly. He wipes his eyes.

"Cas, I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"Taking you. Kidnapping you." Dean looks away. "I'm not going to pretend I'm going to just let you go, but I am sorry. I didn't want to admit how much I was hurting those around you."

Surprise keeps Castiel silent. Dean has never apologized for that. For hurting him, yes. For isolating him, yes. For all the stupid and inconsiderate and downright selfish things he's done, but never that one. And now that Castiel has it, he doesn't know what to do with it. Logically, he should push while Dean's emotionally vulnerable – push for his own release from captivity. But Dean is slumped over, bruised, exhausted, and trembling just a bit as he stares at Castiel, waiting for his reaction.

So Castiel just nods. "I know."

Dean takes a deep breath. "I love you."

Castiel smiles faintly. "I know."

"Anna got me out. I wasn't sure she would, they had me for five days, but she finally got out of whatever heavenly business was keeping her, and got me out of a federal supermax. And fortunately nothing figured out I was there, without any supernatural protections." Dean glances at the doorway that leads to the foyer, and to then to outside. "She promised she'd pick up Baby, too."

It feels like a dodge. "Dean, what did Balthazar say?"

"Demanded I let you go." Dean pauses, stares down at his hands. "Lots of things like that." He looks up, but focuses on some spot over Castiel's shoulder. "Can we talk about that later?"

"He didn't pass on anything?" Castiel persists.

"I don't think he thought I'd get out," Dean admits. "I told him about the contingency plan, if I died on a hunt or something. He was worried you'd be stuck here. That's where the conversation ended."

Castiel's vision goes blurry. In his mind, he can see his brother, shifting between demanding and begging for Castiel's freedom. It's a vision that hurts, it hurts because his brother is suffering, and it hurts because Dean was likely suffering too, and that matters as much as he knows it shouldn't. So he breaks. Through the blindness of his tears, he sees Dean come up to him and then wrap him in his arms. Castiel lays his head on Dean's chest and lets go.

He doesn't know what to feel except pain. Had Anna stayed away, Castiel would be free and with his brother. Had Anna stayed away, Dean's life would have been in more danger as his supernatural enemies caught up with him. Grief and relief meet like oil and water, or two opposing forces at work. He feels muddled, confused.

The clarity of understanding how much he cares for Dean is gone.

Dean gets his arm under Castiel's, so most of Castiel's weight is on Dean's shoulder. Castiel lets him bear for it a second, then remembers Dean is still injured and stands up straight.

"Hey, hey," Dean says, concerned. "It's okay, I was just going to take both of us to the bedroom. To rest."

Instead of cooperating, Castiel places a gentle hand on Dean's face. He traces the bruise on Dean's eye, then skirts Dean's swollen lip. For once, Castiel didn't place them there.

"Cas?"

"I'm glad you're okay," Castiel finally manages.

A heartbreaking smile spreads across Dean's face. Without a second of hesitation, he hugs Castiel again. They're pressed together as closely as they can while still being clothed, chest to chest, hip to hip. Dean's scent is slightly strong, like he hasn't had a shower recently, and the intensity of that is reassuring. Dean is here. Castiel isn't alone. Dean's hands rest on Castiel's back, and then he pushes up Castiel's shirt, so his rough fingertips tickle the sensitive skin of Castiel's lower back. Castiel twitches away and into Dean's body on instinct. Dean thrusts back, and Castiel can feel Dean's cock slowly hardening.

"I missed you," Dean whispers into Castiel's ear.

Castiel pulls back a bit, enough to see the desire in Dean's eyes and the soft, fond curl of his lips. But there's no intention of acting on it, Castiel knows Dean well enough to see that. It just doesn't take much for Dean to get turned on. But a similar desire stirs low in his belly, raising his cock. It's insane, to feel this for this man. To feel lust and affection, after everything.

But it's so much easier to just care for Dean, to desire him in return. Balthazar is out there, waiting for him. The BAU is still searching for Dean.

And Castiel is here.

Castiel kneels on the hard floor, and Dean gives a sharp inhale in response, licking his lips. Castiel undoes the button of Dean's jeans, then pulls down the zipper. Castiel shifts Dean's jeans down his hips enough that he can also get Dean's boxers out of the way. Dean is almost fully erect now, his cock bobbing in the open air. Castiel kisses the tip then slides his mouth down until it meets his hand, curled around the base of Dean's cock.

Dean moans, loudly, and places his hands on Castiel's head.

The salty taste of Dean's pre-come is strong on his tongue, the musk of Dean's smell even stronger between his legs. Castiel sucks and hums, and when Dean begins to lightly thrust, Castiel just takes it, the head of Dean's cock sliding down his tongue to the back of his throat. He closes his eyes without thinking about it, focusing on the feel of Dean's thick cock. Dean runs his fingers through Castiel's hair and says, haltingly, "You're amazing. Just watching you – oh fuck, Cas."

Castiel knows just about everything about having sex with Dean. He knows all of Dean's erogenous zones, he knows what makes Dean's cock spurt extra pre-come, he knows what turns Dean on beyond all reason – Castiel, of course, wanting him. Wanting his dick, wanting his come, however he can get it. So he can tell when Dean is getting close, when Dean is verging on coming. Dean tries to pull out of Castiel's mouth like he always does, grunts when Castiel sucks harder and holds Dean still with his hands on Dean's hips.

"Cas, I can't hold on," Dean says, sounding increasingly desperate.

Castiel doesn't let up. Instead he opens his eyes and looks up at Dean, his captor. The person he's giving a blowjob. The person he considers his lover.

Dean bites his hand and thrusts forward, hard enough to make Castiel's jaw hurt a bit from opening wider, and then he comes. His eyes roll back in his head and his body tenses up as his cock jerks. Ejaculate fills Castiel's mouth, salty and bitter. Two, then three pulses of it. Castiel pulls off until only the tip of Dean's dick in his mouth, then carefully swallows Dean's come.

"Did you just –" Dean's eyes are wide. Castiel's never done this before. Spat, yes, but never swallowed.

Castiel gives Dean's cock one last hard suck, then pulls off entirely. For some reason, he feels powerful in this moment. Only he can do this to Dean.

Dean grabs Castiel's hands and drags him to his feet, and then kisses Castiel hard, heedless of his swollen lip. The bitter of blood mixes with the taste of Dean's semen. He knows his mouth must be smeared with red, because when Dean stops kissing him, he drags a thumb along Castiel's lower lip, finding blood there. Dean licks his own lips, trying to stop the bleeding. He looks overwhelmed, sated, blown away. "Thank you," Dean whispers.

Then Dean drags Castiel to their bedroom, strips him naked, and pushes him onto the bed. Castiel spreads his legs on instinct, and Dean moans, wiping his mouth. "Fuck me," Castiel says recklessly.

"I will," Dean promises. "But just my fingers today. I want to drive you wild before I sink my cock in you." Dean grabs the lube and gets two fingers ready before thrusting them deep into Castiel's body. With two fingers in Castiel's ass and his other hand on his cock, Dean jerks him off.

Castiel tries to push down into Dean's fingers, up into his hand. The pleasure coming from two directions is so intensely odd, something he's only ever had with Dean. In that moment, Castiel realizes that as much as it turns Dean on to know that Castiel wants him, Castiel in turn is aroused so much by a man because this particular man wants him – above all else. Beyond reason, beyond logic, beyond morality.

With that thought, Castiel comes over Dean's hand. Gasping with pleasure, but shock at his own realization, too. Two fingers still inside of Castiel, Dean uses his other hand to collect Castiel's semen and lick it up. He sighs, deeply and then smiles at Castiel. His own limp cock is still hanging out of his jeans, and it looks obscene.

"Get naked," Castiel requests.

Dean strips down and lays down with Castiel, pulling a sheet over them both. Their legs entangle, as entangled as everything else about them, and Castiel falls asleep, caught.

-----------------------------------

As strange as it is, life returns to normal.

Dean heals up slowly. Anna stopped by just once, to return Dean's car, and when she came at him with two fingers raised, expression intent, Dean waved her off and said, "It's okay. I deserve these." Anna had only raised an eyebrow and left. Castiel watched her disappear, conflicting emotions rising at her presence – anger, but relief, too. He resolves not to think about it too much. As much as Dean's been through, Castiel's circumstances haven't changed.

Dean's lip heals first, which means they're able to return to kissing safely. Castiel missed it. There's some bruises on his stomach and back as well, boot marks. Balthazar didn't land those, but Castiel chooses not to comment.

At night, Dean holds Castiel tight.

Castiel comes to consciousness slowly early one morning, half awake and half still asleep. He feels Dean's hands caressing his shoulders, then working down to his back until he reaches the curve of his ass. But rather than dip between his legs, Dean returns to his back, sliding his hands around Castiel's front. Touching his chest, his belly, his hips. Just like the first time they shared a bed, he draws circles on Castiel's hipbone. The touches are slow, thoughtful. Not really that sexual.

"Dean?" Castiel asks sleepily. The room is still dark, only the faint light from the hallway letting him see anything. Of course, that's always the case; there's no windows down here.

"Morning," Dean says into his neck, a warm puff of breath. "What do you want for breakfast?"

"You," Castiel replies on instinct.

Dean laughs. "I can do that." His hand slips to Castiel's cock and he begins to stroke. Castiel squirms at the strong squeeze on the head of his dick, and Dean takes the opportunity to press his body up against Castiel's, so Dean's cock is sliding up between Castiel's cheeks. The tip of his dick leaves wet trails, and Castiel begins to harden. "Hmm, can I try something?" Dean asks.

Castiel nods.

Dean flips Castiel over onto his stomach. A tendril of fear works through Castiel, and he tenses up. "What are you doing?"

In answer, he can hear Dean grabbing the lube from the night stand. Then he straddles Castiel and presses his cock between Castiel's thighs. "Can I come like this? On you? Not in you," he adds. "Just like this," and he thrusts, using the tight space between Castiel's legs as pressure and friction.

"If you suck me off after," Castiel says, because it's not like his dick is getting good friction, pressed between his belly and the sheets.

"That sounds fair," Dean says, a lilt to it, and begins thrusting. It's almost like Dean is fucking him – Castiel can feel his dick sliding against Castiel's ass and upper thighs, even if Dean isn't quite hitting that clenched muscle. But Dean is on top of him, thrusting hard into his body, and to someone else it'd look like anal sex. Maybe that's the point, to ease Castiel into that idea. It doesn't take long before Dean comes, messy between his legs, but he doesn't clean Castiel up.

Instead, he flips him over and goes down on him, sucking hard. His head bobs in time to the movement of his hand, and he grins up at Castiel. As much as one can with a cock in his mouth. He lifts and gently rolls Castiel's balls, before one finger trails further down. Dean gets the tip of his finger in before Castiel comes hard.

Castiel comes back to himself with his legs spread, Dean cleaning him up with a wet washcloth. Dean smiles when he sees Castiel looking at him. "Better?"

"Hmm," is Castiel's only response.

Dean kisses him lightly, then says, "Crepes. For breakfast. After something bitter, I want something sweet."

Castiel laughs.

Dressed and sitting at the kitchen table, watching Dean make their meal, Castiel ponders his situation. Not for the first time. Castiel used the sex as much for distraction as it was for pleasure, especially when he gave Dean a blowjob in the kitchen right after hearing about how his brother begged for Castiel's freedom. There's a fleeting thought that Balthazar would be sickened by that, by Castiel knowing people are looking for him, and then giving Dean sex. But with the ease of practice, Castiel thinks about something else.

Hidden in their recent sexual activity is that realization that he can't let go of, the idea that he's turned on by Dean taking him, wanting him that badly. He knows, logically, it's similar to the reasoning and emotional response behind rape fantasies. But those are always fantasies.

And this isn't rape.

"How are you, y'know, doing?" Dean suddenly asks, curling up a crepe while he gives Castiel a worried look.

Castiel blinks. "In reference to what?"

"The BAU. Your brother."

Castiel hesitates. "I'm not sure. It's been so long since I've thought about escaping. About leaving. But – they're still looking for me."

Dean lays out a plate. "I'm happy you're here," he says, uncertain.

Castiel puts his hand over Dean's. "I know. But you and I both know that I didn't come here by choice."

"And now?"

Casitel stands up and pulls Dean in for a kiss. But rather than go with it like he always does, because Dean never says no when Castiel initiates sex, Dean pushes Castiel away. "What?" Castiel asks, completely thrown by Dean's reaction.

"I think you need to think about this," Dean says awkwardly, meeting Castiel's gaze. "Not that I wouldn't love to have some fun, but I think you're using sex as a distraction."

Castiel squeezes his eyes shut. "I care for you a great deal," he says into the darkness. "But Dean – I can't. I don't know. I don't." He can feel his heart begin to race and puts his hands over his face. Panic rises. "Please, please stop."

"Okay, okay," Dean agrees immediately. He takes Castiel in his arms, holding him close. Castiel opens his eyes to Dean's soft, worn black t-shirt, focusing on making that sight and that feeling and this moment his whole world. "I'm sorry."

Castiel stays there with Dean holding him for several minutes, before he silently lets go and sits down. The crepe is slightly cold now, but it still tastes good. Aditi, who watched the emotional scene without making a noise, now whines at Castiel's feet for a taste. When he thinks Castiel isn't looking, Dean is the one to slip a piece to her.

Castiel smiles behind his hand, the heavy weight on his chest lightening.

-----------------------------------

Castiel's feet are in Dean's lap, while some science fiction film blares on the TV. Castiel's slumped into the couch, which over time has become more and more of a monster that ends to eat them when they sit. At this point, half the time Castiel has to have Dean pull him out of the big, comfortable sucking monster that the couch has crumpled into. But right now, he's just relaxing, only half paying attention to the film as Dean rubs the arch of his foot.

Dean switches to the other foot and pulls off Castiel's last sock. He finishes the foot massage, but he doesn't push off Castiel's feet like usual. Instead, carefully without looking at Castiel, he slides his hand up Castiel's left ankle. Where the cuff lies. He strokes the skin under it, rough fingertips finding the callused spots where the weight of the cuff lays. Where it's been for almost a year. Castiel twitches, having completely lost track of the movie now. The sensation is unusually intense, because he's used to only the feeling of cold metal against the skin there.

Dean traces the circle of the cuff, even the text. "It's October 10th," he says.

That knocks the breath out of Castiel. "Oh." A year. It's been exactly a year since Dean came up behind him in his apartment and choked him to unconsciousness. And here he is, getting his feet massaged, relaxing with his kidnapper.

"Are you okay? I didn't want you to realize after the fact." Dean keeps one hand on Castiel's left ankle, caressing his skin.

How far has Castiel come in a year? Nowhere. He's still no closer to escape than the day he woke up on their bed. But his mind and his emotions have been radically transformed. Dean is no longer the dangerous serial killer Castiel had hunted, the list of symptoms and behaviors that spelled out psychopath. Instead, Dean is the man who gave up his brother for the world, not once but twice. Dean was tortured and then tortured others in hell, but came out and strove to do good. To save others.

Dean can no longer be summed in a few words. He's too large, too distinct, too much of a person that Castiel knows so, so well.

Castiel's situation is the same. But his understanding of it is entirely different.

He takes several deep breaths, willing the tightness in his chest to loosen. He meets Dean's worried eyes. He knows what Dean fears – he fears that this will be a step backwards. In his plot to take Castiel and make Castiel his, or just in their relationship. Technically, they are the one and the same, but it doesn't feel that way to Castiel, not on a gut, instinctual level. "I'm okay."

Dean stills. "Really?"

Castiel nods. "I don't want to dwell on the past. I want to live life as I have it now, regardless of the reason." It's a part of the promise Castiel made to himself to break himself free from the prison of depression. There's no reason to abandon that now.

Dean takes a shaky breath. "Okay. Good. I’m glad."

"Do you ever regret taking me?" Castiel asks curiously.

Dean lets out his breath in a gust, like Castiel had punched him in the stomach. "Well, yes and no. I regret the violence in how we met, yeah. I don't regret having you here."

That's about what Castiel expected to hear. He tilts his head, watching Dean return his gaze warily. "Do you ever intend to take the cuff off?"

"I hope to," Dean says, not looking away. "I really hope to."

Castiel half smiles. "So we can go to the beach? Visit that place with the best pie?"

"And eat the original BBQ pizza, don't forget," Dean says wisely. He strokes up Castiel's calf, then back down again to the cuff. Then again. He leans over and kisses Castiel's knee. "I could never regret knowing you, Cas. I don't know how soulmates are chosen, if it's God or what, but someone or something did it right."

Castiel thinks about that. He's never deeply wondered about the whole soulmate phenomena, not since he'd accepted it as at least partial truth, with the appearance (and existence) of Anna. It seems a little strange that soulmates aren't destined to meet, if they really are real. But maybe that's part of the mismanagement of heaven, that cupids don't always arrange a meeting between soulmates. Since soulmates share a heaven, it seems like that's their proper domain. Like they should be in charge.

It does take away the notion of free will, though, that Dean, Sam and Anna fought so hard for. "Dean, do soulmates have to share a heaven? Would I get a choice?"

Dean freezes. "Um, you know. I don't know. I never asked." There's fear in his eyes, but he still asks, "Do you want me to find out from Anna?"

"Yes. Thank you."

"Can't say when I'll get an answer, but I'll make sure she gets the message," Dean promises.

"Dean. Don't worry."

"Shouldn't I?" Dean asks.

Castiel shrugs a little. "I don't hate you. I think that's obvious."

A small laugh bursts out of Dean, unwilling laughter. But a smile lingers. "That's good to hear."

Castiel swings his legs off of Dean and sits up. He holds out his hand and says, "I feel like going outside and watching the sunset. Join me?"

Dean takes his hand, squeezing tightly. "'Course."

-----------------------------------

"Okay, that look good?" Dean asks, hose in hand and water spraying out on the dirt.

They're outside and it's late morning, the sun shining down on them brightly. Dean's hooked up a hose in various ways to the bunker's plumbing, so Castiel's outside space can have water. Castiel's had him soaking the entire area with a lot of water, so the ground is malleable mud instead of hard dirt. Usually grading or flattening an area is done mechanically, these days. Castiel's not exactly a gardener, but even he knows that. Aditi is near the doorway, well out of reach from the hose. It'd only taken one mistake by Dean to have her very wary. Not a dog who likes water, apparently.

Castiel nods. "Yes."

For the next two hours, they both even out the ground. Castiel lays out paving stones after that, along with grass bought from the store. (Dean had a hell of a time transporting them in Baby without causing a mess.) By mid-afternoon, it's looking like a proper backyard.

Castiel, despite the cool air, is drenched in sweat.

Dean saunters over to him. "Done for today?" he asks hopefully.

"I suppose," Castiel says, drawing out the words.

With a wild grin, Dean comes close, his warm hands going up Castiel's shirt and stroking his nipples. Castiel laughs, twisting away. Dean laughs and chases, not stopping until Castiel trips over the boundary and falls flat on his ass. Dean straddles him and shoves a hand down Castiel's jeans, hand skimming Castiel's cock.

On impulse, Castiel says, "I love that you're so spontaneous."

Dean's eyes widen a bit. "Well. Good." And he kisses Castiel.

-----------------------------------

"I love when you take care of me," Castiel says when Dean offers to do laundry that week because Castiel has a slight cold, even though it's Castiel's turn.

"Always," Dean says in response, not even looking up from measuring the detergent.

-----------------------------------

"A ghoulpire," Dean says triumphantly. "Totally a ghoulpire."

"You're such a dork," Castiel responds. "I love that about you."

-----------------------------------

"So, yeah. I took your findings and went a bit further – turns out there were two of them, not one. The guy I passed the hunt onto said he managed to save two girls from being torn to pieces." Dean nods to Castiel and finishes making the bed. "All in a good day's work."

"I love that you want to save people," Castiel says, looking up from his pillowcase.

And Dean pats the bed and answers with a saucy grin, "I love that about you."

-----------------------------------

Castiel is lying naked in bed, waiting for Dean to get out of the bathroom so they can turn off the lights and go to bed. Dean went to the store today, his car fully decked out in hiding spells and hex bags, and he'd got a ton of food and supplies that they spent most of today organizing. Dean figured out the meals he could make, and Castiel planned out how much other supplies they use in a given week. Though there's only the two of them, sometimes organizing the bunker can take time.

Dean leaves the bathroom, also naked, but his cock isn't entirely soft. He stands at the foot of the bed, watching Castiel.

"What?" Castiel finally asks.

"Do you still want me to fuck you?"

Castiel hesitates, bringing in his limbs from his formerly relaxed posture.

"Talk to me," Dean encourages, sitting next to him and laying a hand on Castiel's thigh. "I can tell you have misgivings or whatever. What are they?"

Should he tell the truth? He's curious about anal sex, and he knows that Dean's fingers are very pleasurable, but some part of him still has reservations. "I know it's not logical, but …"

"Yeah?" Dean prompts.

"You'll have had all of me, Dean." Castiel looks away. "Everything I have, you'll have taken."

Dean starts and stops. Finally, "Do you mean you fear I won't want you after? After I've had that part of you?"

Castiel shakes his head, sitting up so he and Dean are at equal height. "That I will have surrendered to you completely."

"Well, I can't deny I want that. Not because I want to control you, I just – I just want you to be mine as much as I’m yours. Look, I'm not one for metaphysical sentimental shit –"

"But you believe in soulmates," Castiel interjects dryly.

"But," Dean says with a mock glare, "yes, I want us to have all of each other."

Castiel raises his eyebrows. "So I get to fuck you?"

Dean rolls his eyes. "Yes." He pauses. "Cas, I love you. I want this. But if you say no, then that's that."

In many ways, Castiel has submitted to Dean. Willingly and unwillingly. He's given up on escaping, on hurting Dean. He's surrendered all his plans to Dean's wants, which is to keep him here with Dean indefinitely. He's surrendered being with his brother. And in return, he's been given Dean's love. He's taken that, accepted that into himself. This act really isn't any different.

He swallows past a dry throat. "All right. Yes."

"You won't regret it," Dean promises. "I'll make you feel so good, I swear."

Castiel gives him a small smile.

Silently, with his hands, Dean encourages Castiel to lay down again, on his stomach this time. It's a position that immediately shoots Castiel's anxiety into the sky, but Dean kisses the small of his back and says, "Not yet. Relax." He runs his hands down Castiel's back, then over his shoulders and arms. The second time, he applies pressure, turning the gentle stroking into a massage. Only when some tension has left Castiel does Dean move down to his ass, again doing little more than caresses. Then to his thighs, his calves, and his feet.

By this time, a lot of the tension is gone. Castiel doesn't even react when he feels Dean get off of the bed, his body humming in relaxed pleasure.

Dean returns with oil and begins at Castiel's shoulders again, working his way down Castiel's body. He even does Castiel's hands.

When Dean has Castiel turn over, Castiel realizes he's half-hard already. Dean smiles at Castiel's cock, clearly pleased by its state, and kisses the tip. He doesn't continue, instead only getting more oil and beginning to give a full-body massage to the front of Castiel's body.

"You're beautiful," Dean whispers. Once he's done with Castiel's feet, he pushes Castiel's legs apart, urging him to bring his legs up so his soles are flat against the bed.

Then he takes Castiel's cock into his mouth and sucks. He hums and bobs until Castiel is fully hard and breathing fast. Castiel's not quite ready to orgasm, but his body is in a mix of loose and tense, like if Dean kept going so softly Castiel would come, and if Dean went for direct pleasure, Castiel would come, but both at the same time leaves him twisting in the wind. When Dean finally pulls off, he leaves the bed and then returns with lube and a spare pillow. He directs Castiel to raise his hips and puts the pillow under him, so it raises Castiel's ass several inches.

Dean returns to the blowjob, but now one of his fingers goes to Castiel's hole. Slicks it up and then pushes in.

Castiel makes an embarrassing noise, and Dean laughs a bit past Castiel's cock, looking up with a smirk in his eyes.

Dean fucks him with that finger for a full minute before he adds a second one. This is still within the realm of normal – Dean likes to finger him to orgasm. Dean showed him how pleasurable that could be. He ends up biting one of his hands and putting the other on Dean's head, fingers through Dean's soft hair.

A third finger presses against Castiel's hole. "Oh," he says, resisting the urge to squirm. "Dean. I don't know if that will fit."

Cold air hits Castiel's cock while Dean replies, "Don't worry, it will."

The blowjob is sufficiently distracting that Dean's third finger pushes in without much effort. Castiel moans at the sensation, and then again when Dean starts to stretch him. It's somewhat uncomfortable, initially burning a bit as Dean forces his body to accommodate his spread fingers. He hits Castiel's prostrate randomly, once hard enough that Castiel's entire body jerks in response. It's almost enough to bring him to orgasm, but Dean quickly gets his fist on the base of Castiel's cock, squeezing to prevent him.

"Dean," Castiel groans.

That same smirk playing across his lips, Dean brings Castiel to the edge again and again. By the fourth time Castiel is prevented from coming, he's thrashing and trying to force Dean to fuck him harder with his fingers, trying to thrust into Dean's warm mouth.

Dean pulls off Castiel's cock, lips slick with spit. His face is flushed with desire and excitement, and the smile he gives Castiel is slightly disbelieving. "Three fingers, Cas. I wish you could see yourself stretched around me."

Castiel actually blushes, and feels stupid for it.

"Cas, trust me," Dean says. "Fuck, you look so hot like this." He licks his lips. "I'm going to move you around a bit, okay?"

A bit exasperated, Castiel asks, "Do I get to come?"

Dean grins. "Yep."

Dean's fingers leave him, which is even weirder than having them in him. Although his hips are propped up, he can still see Dean scramble for the lube. He can still see Dean stroke his hard cock with it, getting himself ready to fuck Castiel. Like the first few times Castiel gave Dean a blowjob, Dean's cock suddenly seems really large again. Intimidating, in its flushed red tip, the thick vein that runs along the bottom of it. That thing is going inside of him, in a part of his body not necessarily designed for that.

With a gentle smile, Dean gets his arms under Castiel's thighs, pushing Castiel's knees to his chest. The position fully exposes Castiel's ass. "Fuck, you're so flexible," Dean says with a groan, and then moves forward.

Dean holds Castiel open with one arm, his forearm under one of Castiel's thighs, and with the other he grabs his dick and thrusts his hips forward, until Castiel can feel the blunt tip press against his hole, which is still fairly loose despite how tense Castiel is. Dean's panting as he presses forward, and Castiel's panting in a mixture of fear and arousal. "Dean," he says, but he can't get anything else out.

"C'mon, you can take it," Dean says, reassuring. Hopeful and excited, and in a weird way so very young, like he hasn't lived the hard life he has. "Let me in."

It feels obscenely large and overpowering, and then Dean jerks his hips forward and the head of his cock pushes into Castiel's ass.

"Fuck," Castiel moans. It feels huge. Stretching him wide.

"Oh, Cas," Dean says, eyes dark. "You feel amazing, so tight around my cock. Can you take the rest?"

"I –" Castiel doesn't even know.

"Relax," Dean says, and then thrusts. Castiel can feel every inch as Dean fucks him bit by bit, and he tenses up. "You feel, oh," Dean mutters. His head tips back and he finishes, "I can feel you tighten on me."

Castiel is softening from the slight pain and stress, so Dean uses his free hand to stroke him – long pulls, rubbing the slit with each round. Castiel relaxes a little as pleasure overtakes the discomfort, quickly hardening again. His hand joins Dean's, so they're both stroking his cock.

Then Dean shoves in, balls slapping against Castiel's ass. Castiel lets out a surprised yelp. It feels like Castiel's entire body is shifting around to accommodate Dean's cock, the way his legs are spread and lifted, the muscle at his entrance gripping Dean's dick tightly, even his own hard cock against his belly. He feels full. Dean doesn't move any further, panting as he stares down at Castiel. He fists Castiel's cock for a moment, then his hand disappears between Castiel's legs. He strokes the rim of Castiel's entrance and says, "You're so tight. I can't believe you're letting me do this, take your cherry."

"I am not a virgin," Castiel objects automatically.

"You are in this," Dean says with a smile. "Well, were. You ready for me to move?"

"Not to increase your ego, but you feel huge," Castiel says. "Will that hurt?"

"Maybe a little, but you're relaxed enough and lubed well, it'll turn good quick," Dean says, hips twitching like he can't wait to get started.

Castiel licks his lips, one hand still on his own cock. His nerves are jangling, pleasure and discomfort mixing. "Okay."

Dean withdraws about an inch, then thrusts back in. He fucks Castiel with little strokes like that, while Castiel does his best to consciously choose to relax and take it. Dean looks lost to it, like Castiel is the most amazing thing he's ever felt. Castiel feels overwhelmed, but in a good way, like he can't even take in all he's feeling. The discomfort has faded away again, leaving only pleasure. Dean begins to speed up and go harder, jolting Castiel's body with each thrust. Making his entrance twitch with the force of each move of Dean's hips. The slap of Dean's balls is – is – it reminds him of what's happening, what he's experiencing.

Another man, fucking him. No, Dean, fucking him. His lover, who even now looks at him with love in his eyes.

"Waited so long for this," Dean tells him, and then adjusts Castiel's body, changing the angle of his fucking.

The next stroke hits Castiel's prostrate head on. Castiel cries out in satisfaction, wordless.

Dean pounds that spot, pounds into him with forceful thrusts. Castiel can feel the entire length of Dean's dick, feel the way his entrance drags on Dean's cock. It's good, surprisingly good. Dean pushes Castiel's knees farther up, grabs one of Castiel's hands to encourage him to hold himself open for Dean. When Castiel obeys, Dean fucks him even harder.

And he whispers, "Mine," then repeats it louder, "you're mine. Mine." Thrust, and Castiel bites his lip and closes his eyes, letting himself feel it. He jacks himself off to the tune of Dean's words, which are somehow arousing. Dean wants him, oh how Dean wants him, and that's enough to bring Castiel to the edge.

Dean's hand scrambles to Castiel's cock, taking over. Castiel opens his eyes to see Dean staring at him with unbridled lust, like he hasn't let Dean fuck him, like even with this he's not sated.

"Come for me," Dean demands. "Please."

"Oh, Dean," Castiel says, and then Dean's hand hits him just right and his cock hits Castiel's prostrate just right and he comes.

When he comes back to himself, covered in his own semen, Dean is completely holding him in place, and he's going for his own orgasm in Castiel's loose and sated body. Castiel can really only describe the expression on his lover's face as ecstasy, as cliché as it sounds in his own head. When Dean finally comes, his whole body tenses up and then he completely stills for one second. He falls forward, half catching himself, and Castiel takes the other half, bracing Dean with his hands, then letting Dean fall into his arms.

Dean's skin is hot and sweaty, just as much as Castiel. Dean lies there and pants, then kisses Castiel's shoulder. "Could stay in you forever," he murmurs. "Finally home."

"I think biology will take over," Castiel says wryly. Dean is softening already, he'll probably slip out in another minute.

Dean levers himself up, smiling down at Castiel. "Thank you," he whispers. He shifts backwards so Castiel isn't bent in half, still doing his best to keep inside of Castiel. He runs his hands along the insides of Castiel's thighs, biting his lip when he finally does slip out. Semen comes out with it, slick and hot. Familiar and unfamiliar, because Dean's come against him right there so many times, but never inside.

Castiel twitches in surprise when Dean pushes in one finger. "What are you doing?"

"Like to see it," Dean says. "My come."

Castiel bats his hand away. "Dean, sometimes you're like a caveman."

"No, I'm not!" Pause. "Okay, sometimes. Can I?"

Castiel shakes his head. "I'm sore." And he is, as the adrenaline and endorphins die down, but it's mild enough that he'll be fine pretty soon.

"Sorry," Dean says, immediately apologetic. He lays next to Castiel, swinging an arm and a leg over Castiel's body in casual possessiveness. "Was it worth it, though?"

It didn't feel like surrender, even if it was. It felt like a meeting, a joining. "Yes."

Dean's smile is sweet.

-----------------------------------

Castiel's garden is slowly growing. Since it's winter, most of that growth has been the artificial kind as Castiel has continued to grade the area and plant more plant life. He decided to go with a circle theme, with everything in curves. It's a lot more elaborate than anything Castiel would have considered before, but why not? He's got the time and energy. He might as well be thorough. He's not totally satisfied, but more colorful additions will have to wait until spring. Aditi has become quite fond of playing in the dirt that Castiel can't fill yet, once even completely covering herself in thick, gooey mud. Dragging her into the bathroom for a bath had been quite the experience, not helped by Dean's laughter.

It's late afternoon, and Castiel has been here since late morning, so he puts down his shovel, calls to Aditi, and goes inside.

Dean's not in the kitchen. Aditi goes to the pantry which has her food and dances in circles, so Castiel puts down a bowl for her, then leaves to find Dean.

As it turns out, he's in the infirmary, sitting at a random desk in the corner with electronic supplies spread out in front of him. There's even soldering equipment, though it's laid to the side. Castiel can use most technology just fine, but all he recognizes is very small circuit boards.

"What are you making?" Castiel asks curiously.

Dean looks up with a smile. "Something useful. I'll tell you about it later." He eyes Castiel's sweaty body. "You done digging up dirt?"

"For the day," Castiel says. He raises an eyebrow. "You know it would go faster with help."

"I dig up graves, that's enough dirt for me." Dean puts a tiny screwdriver into a pack and zips it shut. "C'mon, I want to show you something."

"What is it?" Castiel asks. There's not much Dean can show him in the bunker that he hasn't already seen.

Dean stands up and grabs Castiel's hand. "You'll see."

Castiel has access to a lot of empty portions of the bunker. Dean wanted him to have the space to roam without actually giving him anything he could use, so Castiel can go through most of the dormitory, part of the library, and some random hallways that lead to dusty and empty rooms. There's also a section that at one point had some kind of machinery, judging from the bolts on the walls and floor. That's where Dean takes him – a large, open space that's not useful for much because the floor is uneven.

But when Dean takes him through the doorway, Castiel immediately sees how it's been changed.

A fourth of the space has been converted to dirt. Another fourth has several large dog beds, and bins of toys. There's even a TV attached to the wall, and a box next to it which presumably has a DVD player. The rest is kind of like a dog jungle gym, something like what Castiel's seen in obstacles courses for dog competitions. It's really incredibly ornate, for just one dog.

"A place to put Aditi?" Castiel guesses.

"Yep! I even put in the TV so she'd get some noise and something to watch."

"But – why? What's all this for?"

Dean shifts his weight. "Well, just in case."

"Of what?"

"Of, y'know."

Beginning to get irritated, Castiel says, "No, Dean, I don't know."

Dean meets his gaze. "In case you and I go out. Together."

"Oh." Very small.

"I figured since she's pretty much got you all day and all night, it'd be tough for her to have you gone for a while. So, I made this. I know how much you care about her, so it seemed like the thing to do. Some blog sites recommended the stuff." Dean still looks eager. "What do you think?"

"I –" Castiel doesn't know. Dean is thinking about that? "You want to take me out of the bunker?"

Dean swallows, and squeezes Castiel's hand. "Cas … please stay. With me."

Castiel stares at him. His heart begins to race and his pulse thuds in his ears, and when he blinks the world swims. "Dean, I can't – I can't do this."

"Cas, you can! You just have to –"

"Don't you realize what you're asking of me? To abandon everything I ever had, everyone?"

Dean takes Castiel's other hand and slides his palm up, so they're forearm to forearm. Castiel tries to look away, but Dean follows him. "If you would just promise me, Cas, we could figure it out – I swear, work out something. I just can't lose you."

Castiel yanks his hands away, stumbling a bit. Dean's words are pounding in his head to the rhythm of his heart. He's breathing fast and starting to hyperventilate, and he tries to stop and take a deep breath, but his body doesn't obey. He's trembling, and he has no control over that, either. His body has hit fight or flight mode and there's nothing his mind can do. He's helpless in the face of it, standing, shivering. "D-Dean, I can't."

"Okay, okay," Dean says, grabbing Castiel's shoulders, and then Castiel crumples to the floor. "Shit!"

He's panicking. He's having a panic attack.

Waves of it crash over him, even as Dean wraps Castiel in his arms, holding him tight like he can hold Castiel in. He can dimly hear Dean muttering comforts, telling him everything will be fine, that Castiel will be fine, but it feels like it goes on forever, the endless feeling of fear that's more than emotion and instead something that's vibrating through his bones. His body begins to feel distant, like a sound that's only faintly filtering through all the white noise of panic.

Time passes. Days, it feels like.

Eventually, the panic bleeds off, leaving behind total exhaustion. Dean's still holding him, still saying, "It's okay, I’m here, you'll be fine."

At last, Castiel repeats, "I can't."

"I know, it's okay," Dean says reassuringly. "Just rest." After around another twenty minutes, Dean silently urges Castiel to his feet and takes him back to their bedroom. Castiel's limbs feel weird and uncoordinated, and he has to lean on Dean to make it. He lays Castiel on the bed and then comes back with some heavy blankets, which he tucks around Castiel. The weight is reassuring, causing some of his remaining tension to leave. Dean sits up next to him, stroking his hair. The shaking subsides.

Later, Dean turns on some movie that's only a blur of random words and colors to Castiel.

Then he falls asleep.

-----------------------------------

Castiel wakes up with a bare, hairy thigh between his legs and an arm slung over his waist. He's sweating a little from the heavy blankets and where he's pressed against Dean – which is most of him. He doesn't remember Dean undressing him, but it makes sense that Dean did. He can feel Dean's deep and even breathing, since Dean is curled around him as close as he can get. Castiel twitches, wanting to stretch, and Dean tightens his hold before letting go.

"You awake?" Dean whispers.

Castiel nods, then says, "Yes."

Dean kisses the back of his neck. "I'm sorry."

"You're always sorry," Castiel replies, staring at the white sheets before closing his eyes. "But you keep doing things you have to apologize for."

"Yeah. I do." Two, three, then four puffs of warm air. "Tell me what you need, Cas."

"Let go of me."

Dean immediately pulls back, cool air rushing in the gaps. Castiel throws off all the blankets and stands up, looking back to see Dean sitting up. He's got a guilty look on his face, which isn't exactly new. Castiel isn't panicking anymore, but he's still on edge, and he's pissed enough about it that he just stalks past Dean and goes to the bathroom, slamming the door shut.

He leans on the sink, taking several deep breaths. There's still no mirror, so he finds himself looking at painted brick instead. After a minute, he stands up straight and does yoga breathing. It helps.

The shower water is hot enough to turn Castiel's skin red in short order. It even stings a little. Castiel lets that sink in for a moment, then turns it just a little cooler, and steps inside. The water is soothing, and so is the routine of washing his hair. It's getting long again, curling at the ends. He'll need Dean to cut it soon. There's body soap, and Castiel lathers up his hands with it before cleaning the sweat off his skin. He's as muscled as he ever was in the FBI, but something still seems strange about his own body.

Water dripping off his nose, he runs his hands down his back, then his stomach. Feels the same. He even hefts his soft cock, contemplating sex for a few seconds.

That's when the door opens. Castiel looks up, seeing a dark figure move through the half-translucent shower curtain. "Dean?"

Dean peeks around the curtain, expression calm. "Can I come in?"

Castiel hesitates, then nods.

Dean smiles faintly and steps in, already naked. "Thanks." He shifts on his feet, and Castiel moves back far enough that Dean gets some of the warm spray. "I just wanted to say I didn't know that would affect you like that, and it'll never happen again."

Castiel stares at his feet. "Why do I love you when you hurt me?"

Dean coughs. "Wait, uh – you – you love me?"

Looking up is hard, very hard. But Castiel does it anyway. Dean is wide-eyed, as shocked as Castiel has ever seen him. Castiel didn't intend on saying it that way, but now that the words have spilled out, he recognizes the truth in them. Not just in that he loves Dean, but that he's capable of loving someone who hurts him. But then, love doesn't mean the absence of pain, does it? As much as he loves his family, they have caused him pain, and he's done the same to them.

Very gently, Dean places his hand on Castiel's elbow, a small guiding touch. "Cas?"

"Yes. I do love you." It's true, and something giddy is rising in him at the thought of it. "You're an idiot, but I love you."

Dean laughs. Once, disbelieving. Then twice, in joy. Castiel can't help but smile at the pureness of it. Dean steps in and kisses Castiel, lightly, then hard and passionate. His tongue presses at the seam of Castiel's lips until Castiel gives in. Castiel's pulse is beginning to race again, but for an entirely different reason. Dean puts his hands on Castiel's hips and pulls him in, his hardening cock poking Castiel's belly. "Can I – can we have sex? I just – I just want to show you how much I love you."

Everything is physical with Dean. Actions, not words. So Castiel nods, fondness replacing his anger. He gives in to it, that love. He slowly begins to smile, and something light rises in his chest. "Yes."

Dean shuts off the water with a forceful yank, then pulls the shower curtain back and pulls Castiel out. He bypasses the towels completely, water splashing all over the concrete floor in the bedroom. Castiel shakes his head, watching water droplets fly from his hair. Dean lets go of Castiel for just a second, stumbling over to the night stand and triumphantly returning with lube in hand. He grins, that boyish, charismatic one he uses when he's genuinely happy. It's infectious, and Castiel ends up returning it.

"I love you," Dean says. "I love you, I love you," and then Dean asks, "Lay down?"

Castiel nods and lets Dean push him to the bed, kissing him all the way and causing a collision hard enough to make pain flare in Castiel's lip. "Dean!"

"Sorry, sorry," Dean says quickly. His hands run down the water-slick front of Castiel's body before taking Castiel's cock in hand and jacking him off. Castiel bites his lip, making it hurt even worse.

One, then two lubed fingers slide into Castiel's ass, stretching as they go.

When his body finally accepts three, Dean asks, "Face to face, or on your stomach?" He pauses, then asks as if he finally figured it would be polite, "Or some other position?"

"I want to see you," Castiel says.

Just like the first time, in this second time Dean grabs a pillow and puts it under Castiel's hips. Then he's moving between Castiel's spread legs, pushing them up to expose Castiel's hole, and then moving forward with his hard cock in hand. Castiel closes his eyes at that point, waiting. Waiting for Dean to take him, to make Castiel his. He feels it when the blunt tip of Dean's cock presses against that tight ring of muscle, gently at first and then harder. More insistent, until the muscle suddenly gives way and the head of Dean's dick pops in.

Then inch after inch, until Dean has taken him completely. When Dean is fully seated, balls pressed against Castiel's ass, he pauses for a moment. "Cas, look at me?"

Castiel open his eyes.

Dean smiles at him fondly. And then begins to fuck him. The wet sounds of sex are loud in the room, as Dean slaps into Castiel, as Dean grunts with each powerful thrust. The smacking sound of Castiel stroking his own cock, pleasuring ratcheting higher and higher as the combination of sensations push him close to orgasm. "I love that you love me fucking you," Dean says. "Taking my cock, moaning for it."

Castiel's never been the least bit tempted to return Dean's dirty talk, but he moans at it anyway, stroking himself faster.

"You're mine, Cas," Dean says, the words coming out breathy. "Aren't you mine? Say it," he demands.

His lip feels like it's about to bleed when Castiel bites it again, words wanting to spill out. "I love you," he says instead, or maybe because that means the same thing. And then he comes, clenching down tight on Dean's cock.

Dean follows him a mere second later, saying, "Fuck, oh fuck, I love you, Cas."

They lie there, panting, for several quiet minutes. Dean's cock slips out, along with a good amount of come, wet and warm against Castiel's sensitive skin. This time when Dean fingers him, watching his own semen spill out, Castiel lets him. The expression on Dean's face is curiously intent, like he's memorizing the sight. Then Dean grabs a portion of the sheet to clean them both up, kissing Castiel's sated cock last. Castiel laughs.

"Thank you," Dean says, curling up next to him on the bed.

"For?"

Dean watches him a moment, happy. "For being you."

Chapter Text

In the beginning of December, Castiel is floored when he walks in the kitchen and there's several dozen bags of Christmas decorations. Both because of the sheer amount of sparkle and because he'd completely forgotten about Christmas. Usually commercials and Christmas jingles in stores warns him it's coming and he gets his gift giving into gear, but with the complete lack of cable and internet access it completely blindsides him.

Dean is in the middle of it, two bags in hand while he contemplates where to put them. He smiles when he sees Castiel and comes up to him and puts an arm around his waist. "What do you think? I've got a tree on the top of the car." He scratches his head. "Totally handles differently that way."

"I didn't even think about Christmas," Castiel says, watching Aditi start sniffing the bags. He turns to Dean. "You celebrate it? We didn't last year."

"Well, yeah. When I was kid with Sam, and then a bit when I was adult with Sam. Not since, y'know, though. I just didn't think of it last year 'cause of that."

Castiel nods, understanding. "Of course."

Dean shoots him a sad smile, then seems to sake himself out of it. "I got one of every color combination, just in case. I mean, it only occurred to me when I went into town and there was just a ton of Christmas decorations. So I got a lot. I got some weird looks and some lady asked if I had obsessive Christmas disorder." Dean pauses. "Which I do not."

Castiel smiles. "I'd think the same thing."

Dean rolls his eyes. "Well? Do you want to help set it up?"

"Let's put it in the den."

The logical place to start is the tree, the heaviest object. But Castiel realizes pretty quickly that Dean didn't think this through as soon as soon he hears the words 'six feet tall.' While a guy helped Dean get the tree on top of the car, Castiel can't go outside and help him get it off. Dean blushes and stammers and then says, "Oh never mind, I can do it. I'm no pussy." He's grunting and sweating and cursing by the time he gets into Castiel's reach, and Castiel can't help laughing at the sight.

"Dean, just two more feet and I can reach it," Castiel says, hiding his humor. "Also, did you check the car for scratches?"

Dean pauses in his efforts. "Fuck."

"Tree first," Castiel advises.

One more monumental effort and Castiel can grab the tip and carry a good portion of the weight. They rearrange themselves and the tree so both have a better grip, then heave it down the stairs. They prop it the corner of the den, after carefully maneuvering it past the large screen.

"I'll need help with centering it later," Castiel says, "but you should look at your car. I'll handle the rest."

"Thanks," Dean says, and gives Castiel a quick kiss before darting out.

Figuring out what Castiel has is a task in and of itself. He's not much of a decorator (he didn't even have a tree the year before Dean took him), but things to do are always welcome. He'd lived a busy life as an FBI agent, and having all the time he does is one of the things that has worn on him most. Though Aditi is very good for that; she needs the same care every day, but she does need it.

There's red and green, blue and silver, and red and silver. Plus random smatterings of gold. He finds the most random crap, including random characters of some kind in cheap plastic. Children's toys, presumably, with a Christmas slant. There's glitter everywhere, mixed with simple pieces of glass that would look appropriate in the pages of a magazine.

Castiel decides Dean can't tell the difference between tacky and elegant.

"So, buffing out scratches it is. For tomorrow, I mean," Dean says, walking in. "What did you do? Everything is everywhere." He pokes a pile of silver stuff with his foot.

Castiel looks up, then around himself. "I'm making piles. Don't disturb them."

Dean holds up his hands. "Okay, okay."

By the time dinner rolls around, Castiel's moved all the bags and their contents to the appropriate places. Tree ornaments go in the den, miscellaneous crap (with their receipts, just in case) in an empty room, and decorations in the infirmary, because that has the largest space for Castiel to spread out. It has the additional bonus of having a door that shuts securely, since Castiel spent roughly a fourth of his time making sure Aditi didn't carry off anything in her mouth. Castiel blames teaching her to attack stuffed animals. But it'd been fun at the time.

"Pizza!" Dean says, leaning on the door.

Castiel gets up and steps past the bags, calling Aditi to his side with a snap of his fingers.

Dean grins at him. "I didn't think you'd get quite so into this."

Castiel shrugs. "It's something to do."

"Yeah. Um, that envelope is waiting, for whenever you want." Dean's light-heartedness fades a bit, into concern. "Just so you know."

Looking away is as much as admitting guilt, but Castiel does it anyway. Castiel has few pages of blank paper and a pencil. It's remained blank for months. He's sat down more than ten times and doesn't get farther than 'Dear Balthazar.' "I know. Pizza?"

"All meat, just how you like it."

--------------------------------------

The tree is set up in the den. It'd been a task to center it on the tree stand, because it is a natural tree and not a fake one, but they'd managed it with little more than a few scratches. Dean bought no less than six tree skirts, so Castiel ended up choosing the white and silver one. They got snow last week, and it seemed appropriate.

Dean helps him unwind the lights, which are blue. "White and blue?" Dean guesses.

"And silver," Castiel says. He shrugs. "It seems the most pleasing to the eye. Did you ever decorate as a child, Dean?"

"Not really. Not that I remember, anyway. After Mom died, Dad was so focused on hunting that Christmas – including gifts – was kinda left to me. I ended up stealing random ones under people's trees, sometimes. So, yeah. There wasn't a budget or anything for trees or lights." Dean moves to the tree, figures out where the plug is and puts it in before handing off the lights to Castiel. "Well. When I was sixteen, I had a part time job out of sheer luck, so I got Sam a tree and some real presents."

"My father required a third of all gifts to be handmade," Castiel says. "So along with learning how to use tools and woodworking, we all did crafts at a pretty early age." He smiles, remembering. "Balthazar insisted on making all his gifts to me bright pink. I've got a box in a closet somewhere with nothing but various, random objects he'd painted pink. Ashtrays, coasters, toy soldiers, things he'd made over six years. I did insist on leaving behind the pink desk chair, though."

Dean smirks. "That kid has spunk."

"That kid is older than you," Castiel says wryly. He hands the loop of lights off to Dean, who rolls it around his side of the tree. "You know I can't get you gifts, right?"

"Oh, yeah," Dean says, waving a hand before he winds his side and hands the lights to Castiel. "Don't worry about that."

"Unless you really want me to crochet you a hat or something."

"What?" Dean laughs. "You know how to crochet?"

"Hey, I made myself years worth of scarves. Don't knock it."

The sheer amount of disbelief on Dean's face is a little offensive. "You crochet."

"I said our parents required a third of our gifts to be handmade, didn't I?"

Dean points at him with his free hand. "I'm getting you crochet-y things now, you do know that, right? Because I have to see this."

"If you can actually figure out what I need –" Though of course, all it really takes is a few hooks and yarn.

"Hey! I can google."

Castiel finishes off the lights fifteen minutes and two more connected lines later. He lets Dean pick ornaments from a preapproved pile, but two ornaments in Dean leaves and then fumbles around with the TV, before managing to put soft Christmas music on. It kind of makes the whole experience dreamy for Castiel – of course he and Dean have become very used to their domestic life together, but this is such a common, normal way of living life in December. It soothes Castiel. It's so very easy to forget his other Christmases and how different they were.

Dean is flushed with lazy happiness. He's content. Truly content, really. There was often a sense of unease and fear in Dean, Castiel realizes now. Because it took so long for Castiel to love him back.

The tree is a shining mix of silver, blue and glass by the time they're done. Dean got creative and managed to place all the glass right in front of the lights, so they shimmer instead of fading into the tree.

Dean wraps his arm around Castiel's waist. "I love it."

"It turned out well," Castiel agrees.

"Hot chocolate?"

"With milk?"

"Done!" Dean says, and leaves the den.

Castiel sits on the floor in front of the tree, looking up at it. There's no lights on besides the tree's, so it glows. Dean returns in a few minutes with two large mugs, topped with whip cream. He hands one to Castiel and then sits on the floor next to him, but to Castiel's surprise he doesn't comment. Instead he just stays there, a quiet companion. Castiel lets his mind drift, thinking about things he'll have to ask Dean for – maybe they can see some Christmas films? – and anything else he needs before Christmas arrives. He sips the hot chocolate, letting the warmth sink into his bones.

There is one area, he realizes, that Dean isn't content. "Dean, why are you so possessive in bed?"

Dean startles. "What do you mean?"

"You mark me with your come, you say how I'm yours, talk about how much you want to fuck me." Castiel shrugs uncomfortably. "You like to watch your come leak out of me. It's not that I really mind, but I do wonder why you act that way."

Dean's hot chocolate suddenly becomes very interesting, for all the depth of emotion he's giving it. He swallows before answering. "I fear losing you. I mean, it turns me on to say those things, I won't deny that. But it feels like if I just hold on tight enough, you won't slip away."

"You'll always fear that," Castiel says matter-of-factly. "As long as I have this cuff on my leg."

"But that's the only thing – I mean, I know you love me, Cas. But I still fear that you'll go, if given the chance."

Castiel shrugs. "I can't answer that. You know I can't. My mind just – I can't process it." Some of that panic flickers, but Castiel pushes past it to get out what he wants to say. It's not a condemnation, but a statement of truth. "But if I'm never given the choice, then that is something you will to live with. As will I."

Dean is silent, staring down for several long moments. When he finally does look up, there's a weird sadness in his eyes. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

--------------------------------------

As if in answer to Castiel's question, Dean becomes gentler in bed. Not all the time, but instead of Dean always being possessive in his lust, he sometimes becomes softer and more contemplative. He'll lay Casitel on the bed and arouse him without touching himself, or getting himself off – just testing, seeing what Castiel likes. Much like the first time they had anal sex, when Dean went to some effort to make sure Castiel was relaxed enough.

Castiel learns he likes Dean to be forceful, sometimes. Other times, and Dean becomes better at finding them, he wants to be held close.

Dean is inside of him, fucking him hard. Castiel is on his hands and knees, his cock heavy between his legs. And it feels amazing physically, all jolts of sudden pleasure and dizzying sensation. But something – something – and Castiel asks, "Softer?"

All Dean does for a moment is freeze. But then he slips out, nudging Castiel's legs away and gently urging Castiel to lay on his side. He then comes up behind Castiel, hard cock slipping back inside of Castiel, and rocks. There's no way for him to get good leverage, so it's a slow build, a long build. Dean's chest is pressed against Castiel's back, his legs against the back of Castiel's thighs, and he breathes into Castiel's nape. Dean's hand lays on Castiel's waist, not touching his dick yet. It's not enough for Castiel to come, but that feels okay.

After nearly twenty minutes of that slow glide, Castiel's orgasm comes as a surprise. He cries out and comes, untouched, and then Dean follows him down.

"Good?" Dean asks.

"Hmm," Castiel says, trying to get out words. His eyes are closed, and opening them is beyond him. "Hmm, yes."

Deep in Castiel's mind, there is a part of him that flickers in resistance, in objection, in a desire to fight. It's during those moments when that rises to the front of Castiel's mind that he needs Dean to hold and comfort him, until it calms. If Castiel is to overcome himself and be happy, Dean needs to help him do it.

--------------------------------------

The day before Christmas, presents appear beneath the tree.

Dean was actually paying attention, because he used colorful paper that fit the silver and blue theme. There's several of different sizes, and Castiel picks up a few, shaking them a bit. A few rattle like there's something securely packed inside. Castiel goes to one of his reading spots and grabs the scarf he made. He'd only made the one, but he's incredibly out of practice with crocheting and he found himself constantly having to unpick loops and redo them. It drove him slightly insane.

He wraps it and adds it to the pile.

"Is that mine?" Dean asks, coming up beside him.

"Yes. And you will be happy whether you like it or not."

Dean laughs. "Of course I will. I have you. Do you want to open one up on Christmas Eve?"

Castiel considers. "All right. You pick?"

In moments, Castiel has a small one in his hands and Dean is smiling.

"Didn't take you long to decide," Castiel says wryly.

"Nope. Open it!"

Castiel is the type to rip through paper, making a complete mess, and so he can see the plain box in a matter of moments. He takes off the tape and the sides pop up.

Inside is a photo album.

The photos are mostly recent, and while a few have only Castiel, most of them have the two of them together, Dean awkwardly taking a selfie of them both. It's something he started doing only after the FBI caught him, and while Castiel has wondered why, it's been a distant question and so he's never asked it. He flips through, pausing when he sees one he likes. One of them both outside, with the sunset. A slightly blurry one of them in bed, fully dressed in winter clothes, Aditi in Castiel's lap with her long tongue lolling out of her mouth. Inexplicably there's one of Castiel eating pizza. He has red sauce on his chin.

"There's so few older than a few months," Castiel points out. "Why is that?"

Dean has a slightly guilty look on his face.

"Dean. Tell me."

"The FBI found my camera in my car. I had some backups, but only of a few."

Castiel sighs. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?"

Dean open and closes his mouth. "I dunno, honestly."

"I'm not upset about the photos, Dean. I know what the FBI must think of me by now. The photos would only have confirmed it for them. I’m upset you didn't tell me. Dammit, Dean – you just –"

Dean smiles wanly. "Sometimes you want to strangle me?"

"Yes!"

"Sam would sympathize. Your brother, too probably. I bet he and Sam could go on all day, in fact."

Despite himself, Castiel smiles. "I'm still pissed at you."

"You're too forgiving, you know that?"

It's weird to hear Dean admit that so openly. Like Castiel shouldn't forgive him, even though that's what Dean always wants so desperately. "I'm fully aware. Dean … you have to promise me you won't lie to me. Lies of omission, white lies, nothing. Please."

Dean hesitates, but then he says, solemnly, "I promise."

They spend the rest of Christmas Eve watching silly holiday movies. Christmas Day is even more peaceful. No fights, and both are happy.

--------------------------------------

February ends up unusually cold, to the point that it even penetrates the bunker, which normally keeps a stable temperature from being underground. They end up piling more blankets on their bed and Dean starts making roasts and other heat-heavy, hearty meals. Castiel bundles up when he goes outside to his little garden, which is now fully hibernating for the winter. He sits on his rock and wonders how many years he will be here, watching this same sunrise and sunset.

Dean makes a burger and fries for dinner, looking antsy the entire time. Castiel asks him three times what's wrong, and when he still doesn't get a straight answer, he gives up and reads the newspaper.

"Sooo, I was thinking," Dean begins.

"That's always dangerous." Castiel keeps eating his fries.

"Not always, just a lot of the time. Anyway. We're running low on a few things, but just a few. So I was thinking of doing a supply run. A short one."

Castiel isn't sure why Dean is telling him like it needs justification. "Okay."

"With you."

Castiel freezes. "What do you mean, with me? Dean, I thought you said –"

"Do you still love me?" Dean asks.

Castiel stares hard at his plate before looking up. "Yes."

"Then that's enough."

Castiel doesn't know what to say.

"I was thinking we could do your spell, the one that extends your boundary for a couple of days. That'd give us plenty of time." Dean looks hopeful.

Castiel feels very small, and the like world is very huge. Like if he leaves the bunker, there will be a thousand options about what to do when Castiel has lived for so long with only one. He doesn't know if he can handle that. He loves Dean, and yet should he call out for help? Should he run? He doesn't know. And seeing other people – peoples besides Dean – is such a weird thought that it's almost frightening. At the same time, he craves seeing the outside world. He's been confined to the same few thousand square feet for more than a year, and though he allowed himself to be content with that, it's also the same thing he left his parents and sister for. But at last, he nods. "Okay."

Dean grins, bright and beautiful.

But he doesn't give Castiel time to adjust to the idea. As soon as they finish eating, he takes Castiel down to the infirmary and shows Castiel what he's been working on.

It looks farther along than before. It's all one piece now, and it looks like a flexible metallic strip. Inside of it is a tiny circuit board and something else Castiel doesn't immediately recognize. "What is it?"

Dean hugs him tight. "It's a GPS. Just so I can find you. I can solder it on to the cuff."

Some indescribable feeling rises. "Doesn't the cuff already have that?"

"A magical version," Dean explains. "It's like a compass; it doesn't tell me exactly where you are, only the direction you're in. That's why it took me so long to find you in the fields." He cups Castiel's face. "Cas, I love you. Sam and I had GPS on our phones for the same reason as this, so we could find each other. Hell, the only reason we didn't tag each other is because we worried someone would hack it or something."

Castiel nods, stomach dropping. But logically, he knows Dean is right. Especially if Dean ultimately takes him on a hunt. "It's fine." He smiles quickly. "I'm fine."

"You sure? Talk to me, Cas."

Castiel shakes his head. "Do you have to take the cuff off to get that on?"

"Securely, yeah. I was thinking I'd cuff you to the bed, like last time. Just so, you know, you don't have to think about anything."

"All right," Castiel agrees. In a way, it does make this easier; even knowing the GPS is there makes it easier. He's not exactly sure why it's easier, or maybe he doesn't want to admit that choices are starting to scare him.

Dean doesn't take him to their bedroom, though. He searches Castiel's face. "Please, Cas. Tell me if you need anything, okay? Talking or whatever."

Castiel forces a smile. "Dessert?"

Dean relaxes a little. "That I can do. Go to our bedroom, I'll get everything ready, 'kay?"

Castiel kisses him lightly, gives the GPS one last look, and walks out. Is it weird to so accept so quickly the necessity of being cuffed to the bed? He slows in the hallway and then stops entirely, placing his hand on the wall. Well, of course it is. But this entire thing is weird. Entirely out of the ordinary. Should his reactions be any different? It's not like even his kidnapping is like any other kidnapping, what with being more or less instigated by an angel, who thinks it's fate him and Dean should be together.

Forcing himself to keep moving is harder than he thinks it should be, but he manages to make it to the bed and waits for Dean.

Who comes in with handcuffs dangling from one finger, and a large bowl of chocolate ice cream. He smiles at Castiel and places the bowl on the side table. He takes Castiel's left hand and kisses his bare wrist, then locks the cuff in place. Then he puts the other end on the headboard. "Now," Dean says, "I have to insist I feed you by hand."

Castiel smiles despite himself. "Can't let it melt."

They finish it bite by bite, then Dean tries to turn on the TV – Castiel says he wants to read – and then Dean kneels beside him, looking a bit queasy for some reason, and says the spell. It's still gibberish to Castiel, and hard to memorize for that reason. Dean said in the past that even though he didn't think Castiel could do anything with it, he feared Castiel knowing the words to the spell. That suggests it's user-oriented, and only Dean can actually remove the spell.

Of course, there are other ways to destroy spells. Hex bags are powerful, but when scattered by a hand they become nothing more than their separate parts. Devil traps will hold powerful demons, unless a line is scratched through. It's occurred to Castiel that simply destroying the ankle cuff with sheer physical force would probably be enough. He doubts it's invincible. That doesn't seem to be the pattern, when it comes to magic.

Castiel flexes his foot when Dean takes away the cuff. "Feels weird," he says.

Dean looks uncomfortable, then sad. But he just nods and says, "Be back in fifteen minutes or so. Have to give it time to cool down, though, so you're stuck for an hour or two."

The book in Castiel's lap is a comforting weight. "Very well."

He reads three chapters while Dean is gone, relaxing with every word. It's non-fiction, and dense enough that Castiel has to really focus to grasp the subject matter, and that forces him to be single-minded. He absentmindedly twists his cuffed wrist, making sure to keep his muscles loose.

Dean returns fifteen minutes later, as promised, and curls up to Castiel without comment. He trails his fingers down Castiel's bare skin. The back of Castiel's hand, or right under the waistband of his pants, then up to Castiel's neck, thumb along Castiel's jaw before he strokes along the back of Castiel's neck. Just little touches like that, for nearly half an hour. When he finally puts his hand down Castiel's pants, Castiel is half hard, and it doesn't take much for him to bring Castiel to orgasm.

Castiel insists on waiting for his hand to be free, then puts one finger up Dean's ass and makes him come that way – Dean gasping Castiel's name and shoving down hard onto Castiel's hand.

It's quite satisfying. Castiel can understand why Dean loves to do it to him.

It also neatly distracts them both from thinking about tomorrow. Castiel carefully does not think beyond the fact that he loves Dean. He doesn't try to imagine what tomorrow will hold. Even if Dean isn't asking for those words that caused him to panic, there's something implicit there, a silent request just in the nature of Dean's desire to be close. And Castiel doesn’t know the answer.

--------------------------------------

In the morning, breakfast is oatmeal and cut up fruit. Castiel can barely eat any of it, especially since they already put Aditi in her room for the duration of their leaving. Dean doesn't comment, doesn't say anything, instead he hugs Castiel long and hard.

"You ready to do the spell?" Dean asks.

"I'm doing it?" Castiel is a little startled.

"Yeah. I mean, you've done it before. I haven't." Dean shrugs. "I mean, I can if you want."

Castiel swallows. "No, I can."

Dean hands Castiel the ingredients – sage, rosemary, and a focusing crystal. The piece of quartz is even the same one Casitel had used before. It's like déjà vu to be holding them again, and even weirder to have Dean here, watching him do the spell that was Castiel's most successful escape attempt. Castiel's hands shake a bit as he arranges the rosemary and sage, and then blesses it with beer. Then he takes the quartz and walks in a circle, saying the words to the spell. The book lies on the floor near him, but he still knows the words.

At the last, 'relesen' (or release, in Middle English), there's a rush of wind in the windowless bunker.

Dean starts. "Did it work?"

Castiel licks his lips and nods. "That's what it did before. So yes, I think so."

Dean holds out his hand. "Let's see?"

Taking Dean's hand steadies Castiel a little, especially when Dean squeezes Castiel's hand tight and offers him a reassuring smile. Castiel doesn't even know why he's so nervous; isn't this what he wanted? What he's been fighting for? He spent almost a year trying to get this far, and now that he has it – even though Dean isn't letting him escape, it's so much closer to freedom – he's terrified. It's not agoraphobia, because he can go outside. But the same panic that twisted up inside of him when Dean wanted him to promise not to escape flutters within him now.

He meets Dean's green eyes. "Okay."

He follows Dean up the stairs to the kitchen, all the way to his boundary. Castiel's got it memorized within an inch, so when he slowly takes a step across, he knows the spell succeeded. He looks up at Dean and tries to smile. His mind feels fuzzy. He's not sure what to think, or what he's thinking.

"You're doing good," Dean encourages. "And hey, now I get to introduce you to Baby properly. Come on." He pulls Castiel through the foyer, which looks the same as it did a year ago.

Outside is the same grass and brush as in Castiel's yard, which is oddly reassuring. The road is black, and even blacker sits Dean's Impala. She gleams in the light, and it's very obvious how well maintained she is, even to someone like Castiel who considers cars to be simply tools. Dean drags him over and starts chatting excitedly about her horsepower and the history of Chevy Impala's ("Don't ever call those new ones Impalas. It's an insult, I'm telling you."). Castiel lets the words flow over him and lays his hand over the engine. It's still faintly warm, like Dean took her around the block, or the remote Kansas equivalent. Though Castiel has no personal history with this car beyond waking up in it the first time he saw Dean's face, he knows it far better as Dean and Sam's home. He's heard too many stories of their childhood to really see it as anything else, even if it was the instrument of his imprisonment. He could probably find their initials carved into it.

Dean leads him to the passenger side and opens the door. He lays a hand on Castiel's shoulder. "Cas, you ready?"

Castiel slowly sits on the bench seat. It's not terribly comfortable, and there's no seatbelt. He stretches out his legs, though, and finds more room than he expected.

Dean jogs around the car and slips into the driver's seat. He grins at Castiel and gives him another quick kiss.

Then he turns the engine over, listening to her purr. "Hear that?" Dean asks.

Castiel tilts his head. "Yes."

"Wait til I open her up on the highway," Dean promises. He shifts the car into drive, but then pauses. "Cas?"

Castiel looks at him.

"Close your eyes. Relax. It's going to be hours before we're anywhere, okay?"

Following that command is both harder and easier than he expects. He knows the reason behind it, even if Dean won't admit it out loud; Dean doesn't want him to be able to triangulate where the bunker is. It's a smart precaution. But then, so many people do underestimate Dean. The FBI did, and that's why the BAU failed to capture him so many times. Castiel didn't undervalue Dean's intelligence, and he still failed to escape. Dean took multiple precautions against everything Castiel could try, and when one failed, another simply came into play. For all of his training, Castiel couldn't overcome Dean's planning.

And eventually, he stopped trying.

So he lays his head back and rests. The Impala is a relatively smooth ride, swaying a bit, not handling like a modern car at all. It's easy to give himself up to that, and combined with his lack of sleep, he drifts off.

He wakes up when a car horn blasts into his ear. He jolts upright, finding a dizzying amount of color.

"Cas! Sorry, that guy was an asshole," Dean says, one hand on the wheel and the other reaching out to Castiel. "You okay?"

Castiel swallows, ignoring Dean's hand and looking around. They're in a town. No, a city. The streets are wider, and there's a lot of cars on the road. Businesses deck every corner, full of bright color and blinding text. He sees two gas stations opposite to each other, advertising a price difference of five cents a gallon. There's a furniture store to the right, and a dry cleaning shop to the left. People are walking down the sidewalks, bundled up warmly. A bus pulls in front of them, and then slides over to the right at a bus stop. Dean drives past, saying again, "Cas? You with me?"

The sheer amount of people and buildings and color is enough to make Castiel's head hurt. He's lived in the bunker for so long that seeing so many conflicting colors and hearing so many conflicting sounds is overwhelming. His breathing picks up and he grips the door handle. "I'm – I'm fine. It's just so strange. To see people."

It's nothing like seeing people on a screen.

Castiel has the sudden urge to open the door and spill out into the street. Run. Terror meets that urge and kills it.

Dean's smile is clearly a bit pained when Castiel looks back at him. "I know. It's okay. Tell me if you need to slow down or anything, okay? I'm going to pull us into the grocery store."

Rossway Grocery is a large store, though Castiel's never heard of it. He wonders if it's a chain as Dean carefully maneuvers the car into a far away space. When the engine dies, the background noise of the city seems to get even louder. Hearing other cars – accelerating, stopping, a honk here and there – doubles upon themselves and makes a noise that Castiel finds he can't separate out. He can't filter. He feels like a deaf person suddenly able to hear, unable to cope with the torrent of information in any meaningful way.

He starts when Dean's hand lands on his shoulder, along with a puff of cold air. He didn't even see Dean get out of the car and come to Castiel's side, much less open the door. Dean pulls him out without saying anything, then hugs him tightly. Castiel presses his face into Dean's neck, into the rough jacket Dean wears, and clings. It's stupid and childish, but he can't stop himself.

"Shhh," Dean finally says. "It's okay. You'll be fine. It'll be good to see people, won't it? You just gotta relax a little."

Castiel nods, somewhat desperately.

Dean's hand finds Casitel's. Holding hands like that, he leads Castiel through the parking lot. A random woman walks out with her young daughter clinging to the hem of her coat, and she offers Castiel a bland, polite smile as her child tries to skip along.

The word help rises in Castiel's throat, but remains silent.

Dean grabs a cart and guides one of Castiel's hands to it, so they're still touching even though Dean's pushing the cart. They wind through the fresh produce first. Castiel does his best to focus on the food, ignoring the people. He points at the strawberries and Dean grabs three boxes. "There you go," Dean says encouragingly. "Kiwis? I keep meaning to ask if you like those."

Throat tight, Castiel nods. Then he forces himself to say, "I do."

Two cartons of that.

Castiel points at shortcake, and Dean takes a few of those as well. Dean's nearly beaming with happiness, and Castiel can understand why. He has Castiel with him, and Castiel isn't running. Why isn't he running? He has no idea.

Maybe because he loves Dean? Because he knows how devastated Dean would be to lose him?

In the bread aisle, it occurs to Castiel that if Castiel ran right now, Dean would have to react. Would he pull a gun to keep Castiel here?

Dean's armed. Dean's always armed when he goes to the outside world. He was responsible for a gun and a child at nine. He has no fear of guns at all, and only caution prevents him from waving it around casually in public.

Would Dean fire at someone to prevent them from rescuing Castiel?

Would Dean beat him? Would he physically drag Castiel to the car and take off? Castiel knows the car is protected against people looking for it, especially if that interest is casual instead of directed. It's part of how Dean got Castiel out of his apartment so unseen, why none of Castiel's neighbors raised the alarm. How Dean got away clean. Would Dean get away clean again, if Castiel went to that employee restocking the canned beans and said, 'Call the police, this man kidnapped me'?

The employee finishes his job, shoots Castiel and Dean a smile and asks, "Need help finding anything?"

Words freeze in Castiel's throat.

"No, we're fine," Dean answers.

The employee looks at Castiel and sounds concerned when he says, "Dude, you okay?"

"PTSD," Dean says hastily. "He was a soldier. Y'know how that goes."

"Oh, yeah," the employee says, nodding. "'Course. My brother, too. It'll get better, man, don’t worry," he tells Castiel.

Castiel manages to nod. That's appropriate. Nodding. So is PTSD. Castiel probably does have PTSD.

The employee leaves.

Dean lets go of the cart and puts an arm around Castiel's shoulders. He whispers, "I know this is hard. I know it is. But you can do this, Cas. It's okay. You're here with me, and I'm not leaving, and we'll go home after this."

Home. Castiel knows it's wrong, but he breathes easier. "Yes. Yes."

"Okay. Wheat or white?"

Castiel tries to focus on the dozens of bread options. "I don't know."

Dean grabs two of each kind. He's careful not to go more than two feet from Castiel at any moment, always making sure that Castiel is within arms' reach. It's calculated, Castiel realizes. For a second, it feels like his mind is breaking free, like the cloud of uncertainty is gone. Dean knows that Castiel is panicking, trying to decide what to do. By staying near him at all times, Dean reinforces the behavior he's encouraged in Castiel – for Castiel to consider Dean a safe haven, a comfort, a reassurance. A bulwark against a world that Castiel no longer remembers how to handle.

Because Dean took that from him.

But then.

Castiel loves Dean. Dean loves Castiel, deeply and desperately. That much is clear, too. Calling for help or running – just trying to reach for that is an uphill battle against the past fifteen months. He can't. He can't. And Dean is here, warm and comforting, giving Castiel gentle smiles and nudges, holding his hand. Castiel squeezes that hand tight, vision going blurry.

He barely makes it through the frozen section, barely noticing Dean pick up a pint of icecream. His mind is buzzing a disorienting mix of panic and need.

The cashier is a young woman with dark hair. She grabs the first item, the icecream, and then looks up at Castiel. Rather than give him that same bland, polite smile that is automatic to most in her job, she stares at him steadily for a few seconds. "Good afternoon," she says, "how has your day been?"

"Good," Dean answers.

She looks at Castiel again, as if waiting for him to reply.

"I – I – " Castiel can't finish. The cuff is heavy on his ankle, and cold.

She gives him a small smile. "That bad, huh?"

Some reservoir of strength comes to him then. "Yes. One of those days." He stares back at her, willing her to understand him somehow. See past those words, even though he knows she can't. She's the first meaningful human interaction he's had with anyone besides Dean in more than a year. He knows that as long as he lives he will never forget her face, or the way she had looked at him as if to make sure he really was all right.

Dean is like a taut wire beside him. "But we'll be going home," Dean says. "Relax the rest of the day away."

"That's what I plan to do," she says, her shoulders losing some tension. "Once my shift is over. That'll be 147.52."

"Gotcha," Dean says.

Dean swipes a card that doesn't have his name on it and the cashier finishes bagging their items. Once they're all in the cart, she flashes Castiel a smile and says, "I'm sure it will get better."

Castiel smiles back, instinctively.

Dean waits for Castiel to turn his attention back to Dean, and then guides Castiel outside. It's bright. A large family is exiting the car next to the Impala, five or six children chattering away as the two harried parents try to manage them. Castiel watches them, knowing that it's rude but unable to stop himself. He barely feels Dean maneuvering him to the car, only noticing when Dean opens the passenger door and gently sits Castiel down. Dean throws the rest of the groceries in the back seat, quickly. He leaves the cart at the parking space.

Once he's in the car, he turns on the engine. He shoots Castiel a brief smile. "Home."

Castiel nods, something easing in him. He's locked in. Dean's so close, and they're far from anyone else.

He watches the world slide by with the purr of Baby under him. When they approach the outskirts – Castiel can tell because of the larger and larger empty lots – Dean asks him to close his eyes again, and Castiel does. He listens to the quiet murmur of Dean's voice.

" – there was that time when we came through here in the middle of a prank war. You know, I've told you about those before. Well, this one was bad. Well, not that kind of bad – just, y'know, getting a little out of hand. Sammy and his ridiculous long hair were so incredibly annoying, Cas, I just had to do it. Pink hair dye. Told him it was permanent and he'd have to cut it off, though the box said just a few shampoos and it'd be gone, and man, he lost it. I think he almost keyed Baby, but I don't love even Sam that much and I think he knew –"

Both the thought of escape and the pressure of actually attempting it fade away. Dean will take him home and chain him again. Things will return to normal.

Castiel is happy with normal. It's not the life he chose for himself, but he can be happy. He knows that. Out there? He doesn't know.

It's dark when they return. Castiel noted the falling sun through closed eyes, the glare of the sun dimming until there's only the occasional flash of headlights. The car slows and then pulls over.

Castiel opens his eyes.

Dean smiles at him. "Hey there. You with me?"

"I'm with you," Castiel says.

"We'll go inside and I'll reset the cuff." Dean grins. "It'll force me to carry all this crap in by myself. Sound fair?"

Castiel just nods.

In a few moments, Dean's at Castiel's side of the car, helping him out. It's not necessary, Castiel's not hurt, but he still holds onto Dean like he'll fall if he doesn't. As always, Dean's there.

Dean settles him on his chair at the kitchen table and then kneels. He says more gibberish, his warm hands on Castiel's ankle, but Castiel can tell it's a different stream of words than the one that removes the cuff. There's no physical change, no gust of wind like the spell Castiel used earlier. "That's it?" Castiel asks.

Dean looks up and smiles at him. Dean always tries to smile, always tries to be kind and comforting. Castiel wonders sometimes if Dean ever tires of being the strong one, the care-taker. He knows that was the role he took on as a child, because of the failures of his father, but when Dean talks about Sam – Sam specifically in the last five or so years they were together – it really strikes Castiel as a partnership. Sam is no longer a child Dean cares for, or tries to order, or tries to control. In a weird way, for Dean, it was healthy. Or at least, healthier than it had been.

Castiel has rarely seen Dean vulnerable. Dean has revealed so much of his life, history, and emotion, but it's often been in the context of explaining instead of sharing. The only times Castiel's seen Dean really unshielded is when Dean is at his absolute height of fear with losing Castiel. And it's not even like Dean is trying to hide, he's just so focused on keeping Castiel and keeping Castiel happy.

"Well, I should –"

Castiel grabs Dean's hands and Dean stops. "Dean, what are you thinking?"

Dean blinks. "I'm not sure what you're asking."

"Why? Why are you doing this?"

Dean exhales slowly. "I know you can't give me an answer about – anything. I understand that. But I want to have you, and not just here."

"Are you afraid?"

Dean kisses him. "Terrified witless. But that's nothing for you to worry about."

"But what if it is?"

"Cas, I don't –"

"I don't want you to hide anything from me," Castiel says. "If – if we're really a couple, then you can't."

Dean is silent. Then, "I don't want you held here forever." He hesitates. "I don't want to be here forever, either. As much as this became our home base, me and Sam – our home was in the Impala. Not the bunker."

Castiel watches him, but Dean just looks at him steadily. "Okay."

This time when Dean rises to his feet, Castiel lets him. "I'll be back," Dean says softly.

As soon as Dean is out of sight, Castiel toes off his shoes and then his socks. He touches the cuff, which is faintly cold. Only when it's against his bare skin for a long time does it really warm up. He knows it's just the way metal is, that because it's a good conductor it always feels cold, but sometimes he thinks the cold is there for a reason, as a reminder. The strip that Dean had soldered on is slightly uneven, unlike the rest. He traces the GPS.

He didn't run. He doesn't know if he wants to. He doesn't know anything.

But that choice, or even the illusion of it, is gone. And Castiel is relieved.

--------------------------------------

He manages to stop thinking about it, for the most part. At least directly.

Instead, he watches Dean.

Dean, always working to make sure Castiel feels cared for. Dean, whose entire life revolves around Castiel. The reverse is also true, of course. In some ways, the outside world – even though Castiel has visited it, once – seems like it doesn't exist. There's only Dean and Castiel, living in a bubble.

There's something about that that rattles around in Castiel's head, but it hasn't come together yet.

It's a comfortable bubble, though. A happy one.

"What are you making?" Dean asks one afternoon, a month past the visit to the grocery store. He sinks into the space next to Castiel on the couch, looking tired and sweaty. And slightly dirty; Castiel can see some oil smeared on his cheek. He must have been doing car maintenance. Maybe he can convince Dean to take a shower with him.

"A blanket," Castiel explains, hefting the blue yarn. "So I can practice my stitches."

"Doesn't that take forever?" Dean asks.

Castiel shrugs. "Not if you're practiced. Though I suspect it will be summer before I get this one done, just because it's been so long since I did this regularly."

Dean puts his booted feet on the coffee table. "I have to admit, this is a skill I was surprised by. Anything else I should know about Castiel Novak?"

Castiel eyes him for a moment, then sticks out his tongue.

A bright burst of laughter escapes Dean, and then he's leaping on Castiel, smelling of oil and musk, and kissing Castiel hard. It's not a very good kiss because Castiel is laughing and Dean ends up sucking on his lower lip, then placing a hand on his chin and forcing it upward so he can kiss Castiel's throat. Without any warning, he bites where Castiel's neck meets shoulder, and Castiel makes a surprised noise.

Dean withdraws enough to look Castiel in the eye. "Can I bite you?"

"Bite me? What, hard enough to draw blood?"

Dean shakes his head. "Just, y'know. A little harder. I like to, sometimes."

In answer, Castiel exposes his neck.

Dean returns to the spot he'd bitten first, and worries it with his lips and teeth, hard enough to be just on the edge where pleasure meets pain. He's holding himself up with his hands, so he can't really touch Castiel otherwise, so Castiel sticks his hand down his own pants, awkwardly stroking his cock with most of his jeans still on. He's hard within a matter of minutes, pain radiating from his neck, but a heady arousal overriding it. "Dean," he moans, trying to maneuver his knee against Dean's dick.

"Can I?" Dean whispers into his skin. He shifts around until he's held up by one hand, the other meandering to Castiel's cock.

Castiel doesn't even know what he's agreeing to, but he pants, "Yes, yes."

Dean bites him hard, this time with enough force that Castiel thinks he's probably broken the skin. At the same time, Dean's hand moves on Castiel's cock, and the weird mix of sensation makes Castiel come all over Dean's hand. He pulses two, three times. Slick and wet and warm. He's gasping, neck tingling. After coming down from that high, Dean sucking on his throat, Castiel pushes Dean away and puts a hand to his neck, then looks to see if there's blood.

There is, just a little bit. He looks at Dean, more amused than anything, and says, "What, turning into a Deanpire?"

Dean laughs hard enough that he loses his standing, and falls on Castiel's stomach. His elbow makes a particularly painful impression and Castiel squirms. Then he decides to be proactive and actually knocks Dean off the couch. Dean looks up at him from the floor, wounded. "Cas."

"Pants off," Castiel demands, and then starts putting words to action. He's got Dean naked in less than a minute, and then fills his mouth with Dean's cock. Surprised pleasure dominates Dean's expression, along with a little bit of fondness. Castiel sucks hard for a couple of minutes, Dean already fully erect, and then stops long enough to wet two fingers with his saliva.

Dean puts his hands on Castiel's head and tilts his hips upward, giving Castiel access to his ass. Castiel pushes in one, then two. He sucks Dean's cock to the rhythm of his fingers, finding Dean's prostrate with some difficulty. But once he does have it, he strokes it repeatedly, hearing Dean say, "Oh fuck, yes, right there, oh Cas, everything you do is good, fuck, harder."

Less than five minutes later, Dean comes in Castiel's mouth, filling it with salty semen. Castiel swallows it all, fingers stroking the rim of Dean's entrance.

"Oh, Cas," Dean says, breathless. Then, after a few seconds, "You know, for being virgin to gay sex, you're a very quick learner."

"I've always been a quick learner," Castiel says, then takes the tip of Dean's cock in his mouth long enough to suck for a few seconds. He lets it fall, knowing Dean's probably too sensitive for more.

Dean smiles at him lazily, affectionately. Castiel grabs a blanket that's folded next to the couch and pulls it over them both, knowing that when their bodies cool after the heat of sex, they'll need it. Dean shifts one leg between Castiel's, heedless of the messy come on Castiel's belly. They tangle themselves together, with Castiel's head on Dean's chest.

He sleeps.

--------------------------------------

Two weeks later, Dean stumbles upon a nearby hunt. "It's a salt and burn. Unfortunately. I hate doing those in winter." Dean looks up from the newspaper. "Do you want to come?"

Castiel freezes.

Dean nods hastily. "You're coming. My decision. Got it?"

Castiel relaxes and nods. "When?"

"Tomorrow," Dean says. "Don't think about it, okay? It'll just be you and me."

The next morning, Dean provides Castiel with the ingredients to the spell again. Castiel completes the spell, again. Queasy panic rides low in his mind, and he follows Dean blindly to the car. Without being asked, he closes his eyes, and keeps them closed for hours. Even when Dean says he can open his eyes, he keeps his attention on the scenery, and ignores the signs and roads. He doesn't know what it says about him that he doesn't want to know where he is, that he doesn't want to use his own mind to triangulate the location of the bunker. Like even now, he fears that Dean will be caught if Castiel knows too much.

"You're mine," Dean tells him, as the sun begins to set after a day of driving. "Don't worry about anything, Cas." And Castiel begins to relax.

Dean pulls over to a rundown motel. Castiel actually gets a look this time, the half-there flicking 'vacancy' giving him enough light to see the name Yollada Motel.

Castiel stays seated until Dean opens the passenger door, offering his hand. Castiel takes it, mind fuzzy. He follows Dean blindly to the front desk. The clerk eyes him them both when Dean asks for one queen, then hands Dean an old, rusted key. Castiel takes it from Dean, fingers moving over the rough rust. The sensation is somehow comforting. Dean's hand on Castiel's back is gentle when he leads him outside.

"I think we should head straight for the cemetery," Dean says. "Check out the room after. Okay?"

Castiel nods, putting the key into his pocket. "All right."

Dean squeezes his hand. "You're doing good, 'kay?"

Castiel smiles weakly. Good? Because he isn't running from his kidnapper? But it's like as long as Dean is here, he can't conceive of escape. He's lived too long with the knowledge that he can't get away. That anytime Dean is close, there's the reminder of the cold cuff on his skin. Even now, it sits heavily on his ankle. He's still bound. He is. That's why he's not running. Or is it because he loves Dean? He could take off. He could cross the road and go to that diner and tell them to call the police. Dean would – could – probably drag him back before the they would arrive, though, cuff him in the car and reach the highway.

And Castiel would have failed again, bloody and bitter and weeping.

But Dean would be devastated if Castiel ever did escape, and Castiel seriously doubts he can, even if Dean left him alone long enough. Fear and longing and need have kept him bound as securely as his chain.

"No thinking, okay? I know that's like your MO, but you need to just go with it, Cas." Dean cups Castiel's face and kisses him. One hand traces the faint scar on Castiel's neck from his bite. "See? You're mine."

Castiel presses into Dean's body, shaking a little, and Dean hugs him tight. His muscles loosen as he repeats that phrase, You're mine. You're mine.

Dean puts him in the car, and then they're driving down narrow, nearly abandoned roads. He watches the lights of the town and other cars fade, the darkness creeping in. The cemetery is every movie cliché of what a cemetery is, old with creeping vines and bare, twisted trees. A good portion of the gravestones are old and cracked, and a few in one corner have no text on them anymore. Dean gets as close as he safely can and then parks, the sudden silence disturbing after having had the soothing rumble of the Impala for so many hours.

It's very cold, as it is after nightfall. When Dean helps Castiel out of the car, he can see his breath fogging in the air.

Dean guides him to the trunk, and then with absentminded muttering, Dean finds all they'll need. A flashlight, an electronic lamplight, and a shovel. Plus salt, gasoline, and a box of matches. He hands half of that for Castiel to hold, and then takes the other half.

The cemetery is bigger than Castiel first expected. Castiel finds himself staring out into the dark, wondering if he could lose Dean if he ran hard enough. But he doesn't act; he follows Dean around as Dean checks all the gravestones for the one he's looking for.

"Kind of makes you wish they were in alphabetical order," Castiel comments, the first words he's spoken in hours.

Dean tilts his head back and laughs from the gut, nearly dropping the shovel. "See? Sam said I was crazy, but it makes perfect sense to me!" He smirks at Castiel. "The ways in which I love you are never-ending, dude."

Castiel smiles back, softening.

Fifteen minutes later, Dean finds the grave. "Welp," he says, "time to suffer. I'll start."

Gravedigging is backbreaking work. Castiel finds himself a little surprised that people actually rob graves, considering the effort involved. He and Dean switch off every fifteen minutes, which is long enough to give a proper break without letting their muscles cool off and tighten up. The fact that Dean knows to do that tells Castiel that he and Sam got into a very familiar pattern when it comes to this kind of hunt.

There's a salt line around them, of course, but even when Dean hits the coffin, nothing shows up. It opens with a creak and a lot of leverage with the handle of the shovel, exposing bones. Castiel finds himself noting facts about the body immediately, seeing the faint marks that show she was stabbed to death. Her rib cage is damaged. That familiar sense of loss and drive to find justice rise in him. Her murderer was never caught, all they know is that she haunts the local library, and nearly killed a middle grade student who went up to the archives in the attic.

That was Castiel's job, once. And he was good at it. He rarely thinks about his job as a profiler anymore, but it gave him such drive and purpose. For a moment, he's blinded with tears; he's lost that.

"Cas, you okay?"

Castiel nods quickly. "At least we can give her peace."

Dean smiles sadly. "Yeah. I know it sucks, but I kinda figure … we all have different jobs in this world, you know?" He picks up the gasoline. "Most care for the living. We give peace to the dead."

The coffin is soaked, and then Dean hands Castiel a match. "You're very first hunt, you do the honors."

Castiel lights the match, and lets it fall. Flame bursts up, and then burns low.

Filling in the grave is easier, though by the time they're finished it's only a couple of hours away from dawn. They hit the road to return to the motel. The streets are totally empty now, and somehow that feels like a good thing. Nothing for Castiel to think about. It's not like he'd get far. He tries to shake the jitters and panic from his mind, focusing on Dean. Dean's got a rather large smudge on his forehead, and his rough hands are engrained with dirt. Maybe they should take a shower together.

Half an hour later, they're back at the motel.

"So," Dean says, "home sweet temporary home." He waves at the décor, which is water themed and incredibly tacky, and then locks the door behind him. "As you can see, nothing but the best."

Castiel eyes the large fish on the wall. It's plastic, but also looks like it could leap off the wall and eat his head. "I thought you were exaggerating about the motels you and Sam stayed at."

"Nope! I'm guessing you got the good hotels at the FBI?"

Castiel shrugs and sits on the bed. "Large chains of them, usually. Do you avoid those on purpose?"

"They tend to catch onto fake names and fraudulent cards a lot faster," Dean says, pulling out a chair and putting their one bag on it. "They keep more records. And they're more expensive. I'm not gonna lie, that's a problem. Until Charlie, er, helped out a bit, we got a lot of our money from credit card scams and hustling."

Castiel wonders about her, sometimes.

Dean sits next to him on the bed and places a hand on Castiel's thigh. He slips his other around Castiel's back, and then kisses him gently. When Castiel responds by deepening the kiss, relief flowing through him at the familiarity of it, Dean pushes him down to a prone position and then crawls on top of him, biting at his lips. He shifts from Castiel's mouth to his neck, working on giving Castiel a hickey while he puts his thigh between Castiel's legs and rubs it against Castiel's cock. Castiel shoves his hands under Dean's shirt, stroking up his stomach and then his pectorals, before running his hands down Dean's back to cup his ass.

With one last hard suck on Castiel's neck, Dean breaks off and asks, "Can I fuck you?"

"Thought we were trying you," Castiel says, shoving his hips up into Dean's so he can get more friction.

"I know, I know, I just – I want to have you, to know you're mine, even here," Dean says, a rush of words.

Dean wants to claim Castiel. Make Castiel his, again. Castiel's cock twitches at the thought of Dean being so desperate to have him, even as another part of him recognizes that it's more than possessiveness. That Dean wants to fuck him as a way of saying that Dean owns him, not just chained in the bunker, but even here with only a GPS tracker to hold him. It should be an uncomfortable realization, but instead it fills his cock. Dean desires him so badly, and all he wants is for Castiel to return that. And Dean's eyes are so soft, so loving and afraid. So Castiel says, "Okay."

Stripping is a hurried affair. Dean does himself first while Castiel lies on the bed and rubs himself through his jeans, then Dean is yanking off Castiel's clothing as well. The lube is in the bag, and Dean grabs it and slathers it on his hard cock before reaching between Castiel's legs. Out of habit, Castiel holds himself spread open, and Dean moans. "You look so hot like that," Dean says. "Wanting my fingers, my cock."

Two fingers off the bat, then three. Dean fucks him hard with those fingers as he holds the base of his cock, like he's trying to hold himself off from coming too soon. Castiel strokes himself with the same rhythm of Dean's hand.

Dean's lubed hands slides on Castiel's skin as he tries to help Castiel keep his ass exposed. With an irritated noise, he pushes Castiel onto his side. Castiel gets what he wants right away, rolling over onto his hands and knees, his ass pushed out. Without preamble, Dean's cock pushes against Castiel's hole, and he pops in. He shoves in the rest of the way without giving Castiel time to adjust, and Castiel's groan that time is partially pain.

"Sorry, fuck, I just have to have you," Dean says. "Oh, you're so tight. Always so tight, like you were made for me."

Then Dean fucks him hard. It's pleasurable, as it always is. Whatever pain there is blends with the pleasure so smoothly that Castiel can't tell the difference. He finds himself pushing back into Dean's thrusts, spreading his legs wider so he can feel more of Dean's body slapping against his. Dean falls silent, so the only sound in the room is of their two bodies meeting, the slick sound of Castiel's well lubed ass getting pounded into, and Castiel's moans.

It's familiar. Castiel knows sex with Dean so well, all the ways to respond to increase Dean's arousal, all the ways to tilt his hips to get more pleasure from the fucking. Dean is his captor, but right now he's Castiel's lover, and the rest of the hotel room fades away. It doesn't feel like Dean is fucking him to claim him, it feels like two lovers meeting. Castiel's cock is heavy between his legs, bouncing with each of Dean's thrusts. He doesn’t touch himself; he knows Dean loves to make him come just from being fucked.

Dean arches over him, so his stomach is against Castiel's lower back, giving Castiel short and powerful thrusts as he covers Castiel with his body. He reaches around and grips Castiel's hard cock, dripping pre-come. Then he whispers, "You're mine, please be mine, Cas, please."

"I'm yours," Castiel says for the first time.

"Oh, Cas," Dean mutters into his back, kissing it, and then comes.

Castiel touches his own cock, but Dean bats his hand away. "Dean," Castiel groans.

"Hold on," Dean says. His cock slips out, semen sliding down Castiel's balls. Then he turns Castiel over and pushes three fingers into Castiel's ass while he sucks down Castiel's cock. Four or five thrusts and Castiel's coming in his mouth, Dean swallowing it all. When he pulls off, he's smiling. "See? I take care of you."

Castiel exhales, body tingling. "Hmm."

Dean's fingers press into him, stroking his prostrate.

"Dean!"

With a laugh, Dean finally pulls his fingers out and wipes them on the sheets. "I love seeing you react, what can I say?" He crawls up next to Castiel and says, "I love you."

Castiel's relaxed for the first time since the trip began when he says, "I love you, too."

Dean gets up once, to grab a wrist cuff with a long chain to it, so Castiel can sleep comfortably and securely. Then he curls around him, and they sleep, still filthy.

In the early morning, Castiel wakes up to find Dean's already inside of him, thrusting shallowly. Dean fucks him – no, Dean makes love to him like that, with Castiel on his side with one leg being held up by Dean. Dean strokes Castiel's stretched rim where his cock is buried in Castiel's body, like he's admiring the view. He tugs on Castiel's balls gently and then fists Castiel's cock, stroking him in time to his thrusts. Castiel comes first, semen spilling over Dean's hand, and then Dean fills him up with a moan and the words, "You're mine."

As soon as Castiel is uncuffed from the bed, Dean never leaves Castiel alone for even a moment. The bathroom door remains open, with Dean pushing it open when Castiel tries to close it to piss. Dean just watches him, a faint smile on his face, and Castiel pushes down the discomfort. Dean's never tried to take away that particular privacy before. After, he asks, "Can I take a shit in private?"

Dean flushes. "Of course, yeah. Sorry. I know I'm freaking out. I just never thought we'd be here, even six months ago."

When they go to checkout, Dean lets him say goodbye to the clerk, watching.

And then Dean sits him in the Impala and takes him to the bunker. And there, Dean places his hands on Castiel's cuff, says the words, and then Castiel is home.

--------------------------------------

Castiel is the one to find the next hunt. It's a larger pattern, one that the BAU would never have caught because it dealt with car crashes. On a road in Colorado once a year there's always a fatal car crash that kills at least the driver, and often all the passengers. For five years, someone has died, and that time of the year – April 19th – is coming up in a matter of days. As an FBI agent, Castiel would have called it an eerie coincidence.

But as a hunter, anything eerie deserves a second look.

Six years before, a husband and wife got into an argument on that same road. It was raining, and the husband, the driver, crashed. The wife wasn't wearing a seatbelt, was thrown through the front window, and spent twenty minutes bleeding out while the husband was unconscious. Dean figures the combination of events left a ghost who's reliving the fight and then the crash, forcing strangers to play through her death, unwittedly or not.

The hard part is that she was cremated, and all her personal property was destroyed by the grieving husband. She's attached to something, but that could even be the road, and they can't exactly effectively salt and burn that. Which means the only way to get rid of her ghost is an exorcism ritual, preferably on the night in question for maximum effectiveness.

Castiel expects Dean to pass it off to someone else, and Dean tries, but there's no one in the area. The one hunter Dean tracks down who's close is dealing with a nest of vampires, who are making a resurgence in the area.

"I could take you," Dean says reluctantly. He eyes Castiel. "You could do with getting out."

Castiel tucks himself under the covers. "It's up to you," he says at last. It's not a decision he wants to make, going outside. It's too close to a question he doesn't want to answer. He offers Dean a smile. "I'll be fine either way."

"I don't wanna leave you here," Dean admits. "I want you close. I just, y'know, it's stressful for you."

"I … I do like to see people. Life." Castiel smiles wanly. "But it's up to you," he repeats.

Dean kisses him lightly, then searches Castiel's face. "Okay. You'll come. I trust you." And then he hugs Castiel, and Castiel clings to him. Weirdly, he feels both guilty and honored by Dean's words.

They leave the day before, so Dean can do the ritual during the day. Castiel watches the night clerk go through the motions with a bored expression, and again, the thought pops up that he could ask for help. He glances at the door. He could run out of that. But Dean would catch him in a matter of moments. Dean never leaves him alone.

Castiel relaxes into that thought as Dean leads him to their room. With Dean holding his hand, even the patrol car that drives down the street is easy to ignore, even if Dean does tense up and block Castiel from view.

Dean holds Castiel all night despite the long cuff chaining him to the bed, and there's more fear than love in his tight grip.

--------------------------------------

Waking up is surprisingly hard. Castiel doesn't have the delicious smell of Dean's breakfasts to bring him out of his usual fog. Not even coffee. Dean, of course, can't leave Castiel alone. He doesn't take him to diners, either, only using drive-throughs to get them both fed during a hunt and he was antsy even during those. Trying to watch Castiel while not appearing obvious about it.

Dean strokes his hair back from his forehead, kisses him there fondly, and then says, "Time to get up, lazybones."

"Hmrph." Castiel squints at Dean. "Food?"

"I brought some cold sandwiches," Dean says. He gives Castiel a slightly put out look. "I even got creative, for your sake. Cream cheese and salmon, with cucumber. Sounds gross, but all the websites said it tastes surprisingly delicious as a cold meal." Dean's expression shifts to a grin. "I spoil you."

Castiel smiles back. "You do." He rubs his eyes. "Bottled coffee?"

Dean laughs. "You know me too well." He hands Castiel two bottles of cold coffee, then moves to get up from the bed.

Castiel pulls him back for a kiss. "Thank you, Dean." He sips the coffee and pokes at the sandwich while Dean gets the laptop open and ready. Just like the first time, Dean kept his phone and laptop in a locked compartment while they slept, making it impossible for Castiel to use them to communicate without Dean knowing about it. Of course, Dean has the key, but he hides it somewhere weird every time, not allowing Castiel to look. Castiel doesn't mind the precaution; the fact that Dean thinks these things through means that Castiel doesn't have to think about it.

Fear it, or hope for it.

While the laptop boots up, Dean eats his sandwich, making a curious noise the first time he bites into this. "Oh man. Sam would've loved this." He pauses. "Actually, Sam probably had this at some point. That freak."

Castiel laughs. "I'm sure Sam is saying 'I told you so' from heaven."

Dean points at him. "I bet you he is." The laptop beeps when the operating system loads, and then Dean is swiping his finger around and typing. He chews as he does it, leaving crumbs everywhere. Fortunately, laptop cleaning is not part of Castiel's chores.

"What are you looking up?" Castiel asks, standing up. He shivers in the cold air and puts on boxers and a pair of clean jeans.

"Making sure the info is still the same," Dean says. "Just in case."

Castiel sets to eating his food, which is just as good as Dean said it would be. He prefers hot coffee over cold, but caffeine is caffeine.

"Well, fuck," Dean says, running a hand through his hair.

"What?"

"There's a problem," Dean tells him. "The road in question is has road construction on it. There'll be dozens of people there until seven, just before sunset. Then they're opening the road again. Fuck. The exorcism will have to be at night. I wanted it to be close enough to the date and time she'd be there for sure, but this?" Dean shakes his head. "Not good."

Castiel tilts his head. "But we can arm ourselves with rock salt, right? It keeps ghosts away?"

Dean bites his lip. "Technically, yeah. But you'd need to have a shotgun to defend the line. And I – I'm not sure I want to give that to you."

Castiel swallows, the sandwich suddenly dry. "I wouldn't hurt you."

"I know, I know, that's not what I meant. I just – this is hard for you. I know it is. You were a great FBI agent, I saw your record, but you've never hunted." Dean frowns darkly. "It's dangerous. I should have left you at home."

Castiel considers that. "You have time to think about it. It's what –" he looks at the digital clock on the night stand, "ten in the morning? That's nine hours."

Dean leans back in the dilapidated motel chair. "Yeah, you're right. At least the prep hasn't changed, just the schedule." Dean offers him a small smile. "What do you say to relaxing for a couple of hours?"

"We could also do something less relaxing," Castiel says with a raised eyebrow, sitting on the bed.

Dean gets up and kneels before Castiel, cupping his face and kissing him. This time, the smile on his face is wide and genuine. "I love you."

--------------------------------------

Dean claims Castiel again, coming inside of him and then sucking Castiel's cock and swallowing. It leaves Castiel tingling in a very pleasant way, and wipes away even the small, hidden thoughts of escape. It deadens the words Hold out. We're coming for you. Instead, Castiel is filled with an odd kind of contentment. One that's been building since the first time Dean brought Castiel out of the bunker. Castiel still doesn't have an answer for the question Dean has, but he's managed to stop thinking about it. Stopped thinking about calling for help, stopped thinking about initiating his own rescue.

They watch movies on the bed for hours. Dean orders pizza by delivery, and answers the door while Castiel bundles under the covers.

After the pizza has been decimated, Dean curls around Castiel's naked body and says, "I'm proud of you."

Castiel looks away from the commercial on the screen. It's been so long since he's seen one that it's actually novel instead of annoying. "Hmm?"

"The police car, last night. You didn't even twitch when he drove past."

He's right. The words spill out before Castiel can stop them. "You've broken me."

Dean freezes. He shifts around in bed so he can look Castiel in the eyes. "You're not broken, Cas. And I wouldn’t want you to be."

Castiel closes his eyes and pushes his head into Dean's chest. Dean's arms automatically wrap about him, pulling him even closer. He doesn’t say anything; he doesn't want to speak. His own words echo back to him instead, and he can't see the lie in it. Dean broke him, even if he did it lovingly. He cries silently for a while until his mind gives into the exhaustion of that and he begins to doze.

When the sun lowers in the sky, Dean gets out of bed. He putters around, doing something, and then returns to urge Castiel to sit up and get dressed. "Cas. I'm going to leave you in the motel room. I should only be gone two hours, max. Cas, look at me."

Castiel meets Dean's green eyes.

"Do you want me to cuff you to the sink?" Dean asks.

There's not a way Castiel can answer that. "I don’t know."

"I'd prefer not to, in case something happens. This isn't the bunker. But you can't leave, Cas. Do you understand?"

Castiel nods.

"I love you," Dean says slowly and sincerely. He kisses Castiel softly. "I trust you."

Castiel kisses Dean back, but with a lot more force like if he pushes hard enough he can melt into Dean, that Dean won't go. He grabs one of Dean's hands and puts it on his half-hard cock, and Dean's hand pushes into his pants and begins to stroke him, thumbing the head, pushing against the slit. Castiel moans and rocks into Dean's hands. He's not entirely hard, and Dean has to sit there with him for ten minutes, stroking his cock and kissing him and whispering comforts, until Castiel is finally able to come.

"Stay for me," Dean says.

Castiel nods silently, cock still hanging out of his pants. Dean puts it away for him and kisses Castiel's nose lightly, making Castiel huff half a laugh.

"I'll be back soon," Dean promises.

Castiel watches as Dean grabs everything he'll need from the motel. Most of the supplies are already in the car, in the trunk with all of Dean's tools and weapons.

Dean gives Castiel a fond smile, then he's gone.

The motel seems to change.

The garish green walls seem dark and confining instead of vaguely silly, and the hum of the air conditioner is suddenly loud. Castiel sits on the bed and curls his legs until his knees are under his chin, staring down at the comforter's weird shade of brown. Panic and anxiety suddenly become very strong. He leaps off the bed and checks all the salt lines. They're all intact. He starts examining the room, looking in all the small, tight spaces that hex bags are kept. Dean kept him unbound because he wanted Castiel to be able to defend himself, if he had to. That means Castiel has to keep himself alert. This isn't like the bunker, where he's safe.

He pauses when he checks the door frame. It occurs to Castiel for the first time that he could run.

But Dean saying, I trust you.

And if he did? Dean won't be back for hours. If Castiel went somewhere with a lot of people, Dean wouldn't take the risk of using force to get Castiel back. As a hunter, not a serial killer, Dean wouldn't get bystanders hurt. Not even to keep Castiel. It's against his code. He'd only take an innocent life to save countless others, and Castiel knows Dean well enough to know Dean's own life doesn't count.

"No!" Castiel shouts into the silence. The air conditioner stops humming. "Stop it," he tells himself, pacing back and forth in front of the desk. "Stop it."

If. Dean would realize Castiel was gone. Even if Castiel didn't delay in telling them where the motel is, if he timed it right Dean would get away. Dean's smart. Dean's car is covered in hiding spells.

"But you would hurt him," Castiel whispers. He stares at his wrists, and wishes Dean had left him cuffed to the sink in the bathroom. That'd have held him. Long enough, anyway.

The thought drifts up anyway: Dean is stronger than he thinks. He survived two years without Sam, and without Castiel. Dean wouldn't break any further than he already has. And Dean is broken; Castiel loves him, but he's not blind. And yet, Dean functions through it, living a life so much harder than the one Casitel led. All of the danger, none of the backup. Castiel, if he could only squash this line of thinking, could be Dean's partner.

That's what Dean's wanted. What Castiel has fought for so long, because it's not his choice, but if he chooses it now, is it real?

But this. Being alone in a strange place. Four walls and a door. Unlocked. Without boundary.

It's so far outside their bubble of happiness, their bubble in which nothing of the outside world can be sharp enough to pierce. That notion rattles again, but this time the disparate parts are beginning to come together.

He starts hyperventilating, even as he can feel understanding on at the edge of his mind. He crawls to the bed and curls up on his side.

Even as Castiel has allowed himself to fall in love with Dean, and Dean has fallen in love with him – Dean isn't coping well. Not with the risk of Castiel leaving. Dean's deepest fear is to be abandoned, and his soulmate is in such a situation that that fear will always remain. Their relationship as it is will continue to exert that pressure on Dean's psyche.

The thought hits Castiel hard: Dean isn't free.

Neither of them are.

They are trapped in their circumstances and by the choices they have both made. Dean, to take Castiel, and Castiel, to submit to it.

They will continue to play out their parts, with Dean as the captor who fears his victim's escape and Castiel as the victim who can't reconcile loving his captor with the desire for freedom. They will have their happy home life, but it will be forever tainted by the cuff on Castiel's ankle. As it has been. As pain has mixed with love for Castiel, and love mixed with fear for Dean. Oh, they fight it. Dean fights it with every loving care he gives, with every inch of freedom he provides, with sparring with Castiel to make Castiel forget the blood and bruises behind escape attempts. Castiel fights it with learning to trust, learning to give up. Love shouldn't be mixed with despair.

Castiel lays on the bed, alone.

Alone for the first time while unfettered. He slides his pant leg up, fingers skimming along the cuff. He's been too ashamed to write Balthazar, because what could he say? That he's given up? That he's not fighting for his brother anymore, only fighting to keep himself sane with Dean? But, Castiel realizes, it's not even that. His brother wouldn’t be ashamed. He would be desperately hurt, not for himself, but for Castiel, his independent-minded little brother. The one who gave up everything, even the family he loved, even the safety of his life, simply for freedom. To see the world.

Castiel rises to his feet.

Escape was to get back to his life. That was the driving force behind it for so long. His job, surprisingly enough, fell first to Dean. His freedom second. His brother third, and last.

On the wall is the map Dean placed there last night. Castiel traces the road names that he didn't bother to note on the way in until he finds the motel he's in. His finger skims along the paper, touching upon large buildings.

He pauses and turns. He walks to the nightstand, and picks up a pen.

The map waits. Names blur. I trust you. Castiel blinks, and they become clear. He finds the building he's looking for and uncaps the motel pen. He writes three words.

He traces them, the words smudging. He drops the pen, shaking. The door to the parking lot is ten feet away. It feels like a thousand miles. The first step stings of betrayal. He imagines Dean coming back and finding him gone, and it hurts. Deep in his heart and spreading to the marrow of his bone. He stops.

Then he starts again. He imagines being unchained, being able to go where he pleased. He imagines the wide world that waits for him. He imagines Balthazar, he imagines holding his brother in his arms. He imagines the clarity of what he once had, of purpose, of countless sleepless nights going over a file, talking to witnesses, and comforting victims.

He imagines himself lost to Dean, lost to the life Dean chose for him, the one that imprisons them both. He doesn't want it, he realizes. He wants Dean, yes. But not like this. Maybe he's not broken.

Castiel's hand closes around the door knob. "I'm sorry," he says out loud, and then twists and pushes.

He has to do this. For Balthazar, even for Dean. But most of all, for himself.

The barest hint of a smattering of stars lights the just-darkened sky. He sees more than a dozen people walking around, going about their normal, daily lives. A tired-looking maid enters another room. A laughing boy and girl head for a car. Someone drives in and parks badly, taking up two spaces.

It's absolutely terrifying.

Castiel is trembling when he takes the first step out into the cold air. Two, then three, and he stumbles, nearly falling.

A teenage girl walking on the sidewalk stops and takes a few hesitant steps backwards and asks, "Are you okay? You look really pale, do you need me to call someone?"

Castiel looks at her, and then shakes his head. "No, I'm – I'm going to walk."

She nods, gives him a polite smile. "Okay. Better walk fast, though, it'll be cold." And then without waiting for a reply, she rushes back to wherever she's going.

The first mile is a mess of color and sound. There's in an urban area of the city, so all the buildings are close enough together to create patchwork of lives. Castiel walks for nearly an hour. The steady motion is soothing, and strange. He's so used to having to turn every few hundred feet, either completely around, or walk in a curve to avoid the boundary. He hasn't walked in a straight line in so long it's like his body has almost forgotten how.

But his mind remembers.

This is how things were once. Castiel was nearly fearless in those days, unlike the frightened shell he's become, terrified of the simplest things because none of them were the life Dean has taught him to live. Once, Castiel took walks at three in the morning, a gun on his hip, and thought no more of it than going to get coffee. Castiel's stride lengthens. Once, all the simple things in life were simple.

That last thought drives Castiel through the last mile.

A cold, modern building is Castiel's stop. He presses a palm against the reinforced glass of the door, cold leaching through to his hand. He hesitates. Then he takes a deep breath and pushes it open, warm air flowing over him. The door swings shut behind him.

There's a desk, with a police officer sitting behind it. Doors with key panels and codes are around her; beyond her is the center of the police activity in the city. The police station. Dozens of cops are here.

The officer looks up at Castiel and asks, "Can I help you, sir?"

Castiel puts his hands on her desk, feeling weak. He's shaking like a leaf in the wind, but he's determined to speak the truth. "Y-yes. I need help."

After eighteen months of captivity, Castiel is finally free.

Chapter Text

Dean doesn't usually hang out after a job is done.

Especially now that Sam is gone. Victory over some slimeball monster has lost a lot of its appeal, both because he has no one to share it with, and because losing Sam meant Dean was lost, too. He knows that despite his promise to his brother, he's really just going through the motions. Even finding some pretty girl (or guy) after a hunt is something he rarely does anymore. So instead of going to the bar and celebrating another kill, he makes sure that stupid wendigo doesn't have a partner. Wendigos like to keep to a spot, not have two kill sites. So after torching the one, he wanders around the woods for a few days in the general area of the other one he'd found. He starts drinking halfway through, which is damn dangerous, but hunters die on jobs all the time. Sammy'd be pissed, yeah, but he'd get over it.

It's morning and he feels like a hungover piece of shit when he first hears about the FBI rolling in.

"Yeah, got the FBI's behavioral team here," the cop comments to her partner while Dean stares at his rapidly cooling omelet. "Took over the conference room, got us all on the lookout for some Winchester guy they've been trying to catch for years."

Dean squeezes further into the diner's booth and cups his face as if to inhale his hot coffee.

"Know it alls," the other cop decides. "I mean, they seem nice enough, but …"

The voices trail off and then end when the door swings shut. Dean lets his hands fall. He hasn't gotten much heat from the FBI for a year or two. Not really since Sam passed. Maybe Dean's losing his touch. He smiles mirthlessly into his coffee, looking at his dark reflection.

Wait. FBI. BAU.

Castiel.

He's not much more than a name and a file to Dean. After Anna spilled the beans about some random guy being Dean's romantic soulmate, he asked Charlie to get him all the info she could on him. Castiel's paper trail reads kind of like some hero you'd see on the big screen. Slightly large family, older brother died heroically in the military, then he goes onto be a brilliant cop with multiple commendations to an FBI agent with multiple commendations. There's not even anything bad in his performance reviews. The worst Dean ever saw was that Castiel had a hard time fitting in socially. The words 'stilted' and 'career driven' were used.

Well, and there's his picture from his driver's license, the first glimpse of his soulmate's face. A somber face, staring into the camera with a slight smile. It's not precisely fake, the surgary kind people do for a good photo. More like Castiel's privately amused by something, and letting you see a peek of it. Dark hair, looks black in some lighting, and deep blue eyes. Not the pale icy kind, either, but the color of the sea. Suit. Ties.

Some random photos from his brother's facebook gave Dean a look at him in jeans and a t-shirt, slim and fit. Dean chose not to act on it. Castiel just seemed like a fairly normal dude with a weird name, with no connection whatsoever to the supernatural.

Sam passed a few weeks later. Dean knows he's been drowning after since.

But he asked Charlie, about six months ago, to do an update on Dean's file on the guy. Staring at white, blank walls by yourself with the TV blaring will do that kind of thing to you. And frankly, there's only so much deep thoughtfulness provoked by beer that a guy can stand. So, Castiel became a more interesting topic for Dean to be depressed about. And Castiel'd joined the BAU six months before, transferring out of the blue. No reason that Dean can find, though he's sure there's one. He didn't consider that Castiel might one day be sent to catch serial killer Dean Winchester, though he should have, because that shit is just Dean's luck.

His soulmate is in town. Of course, said soulmate wants to put his ass in prison, not fuck it, which is a problem, but Dean's always a man with solutions. He'll just take a look from a distance. Yeah. If he gets caught, he can pray to Anna, and if she doesn't get him in time, well so what?

Mind made up, Dean shoves the rest of the eggs in his mouth and burns his mouth on the coffee.

-------------------------------------------

The first wendigo kill site has been turned into a crime scene. Dean knows the area fairly well now, since hunting down the wendigo, so he knows to take the back road and then hike to the area. It's been a full day and a half, so he doesn't expect to necessarily find the BAU present. More likely there will be crime scene techs. But it's the easiest and probably safest place to check first, because Dean doesn't go back to his crime scenes, and the BAU would know that.

It's a somewhat hilly area with some small caves among the old trees. It's a messy forest, not the kind you see in film – there's fallen logs everywhere, twigs just waiting to be stepped on, and uneven ground with large rocks. Dean has to be careful to get through without making noise. He manages to get a vantage point where he can look down at the clearing. He'd burned the wendigo about thirty feet from the pile of bones.

About ten techs are swarming the kill site, and one jacket that says 'FBI' on it. The fellow is wandering, keeping out of the techs' way, but definitely meandering and just – looking.

The FBI agent turns. It's Castiel.

His hair is ruffled from the wind. Bed hair, really. Dark brown. It's not remarkable, but Dean finds himself staring at the way Castiel runs his hand through his hair, messing up cowlicks. Dean can't see his eye color from here, but he gets a good look at Castiel's high cheekbones and his beautifully shaped mouth. He looks different in person, more alive and more attractive. The features that had read slightly odd in a photo are now exotic.

Castiel bites his lip and Dean squirms a bit, surprised to find himself half hard. Fuck. What the hell?

He wants to go down there and touch Castiel. Talk to him. If Dean had seen him in a crowd, he'd have felt a nearly uncontrollable urge to go over and talk to the guy.

But he can't. Castiel would arrest him instantly. Dean tears his gaze away from Castiel and leans against a tree, breathing hard and trying to will himself soft. His skin is hot, but he shivers.

But maybe … maybe Dean could arrange some kind of situation so they could meet. It's not logical and it's not safe, but the desire to see Castiel and talk to him is overwhelming. Fuck, this was a bad idea. Now he's gone nuts. He should have known, Sam fell for Jess as soon as he met her, and he's been so fucking entangled with Sam his entire life – soulmates are a desire and a drive and an addiction. And now that he's seen Castiel, it's undeniable. But. He could talk to Castiel, that would be good, right? He could do that. Maybe tie him up to avoid the whole arrest scenario.

No, it's stupid. The guy's living a normal life. Just meeting Dean could fuck with that.

After all, soulmates share a heaven. He'll meet Castiel then.

Dean turns and peeks around the tree trunk, looking to find Castiel, but there's only techs. Dean straightens and looks more carefully, but no. Castiel's definitely gone. He left in the middle of Dean's freakout. And as stupid as it is, as foolish as it is, that hurts. Dean squeezes his eyes shut, cursing himself and the world. "Fuck me," he whispers.

But a doubt niggles at Dean's mind, something Anna said. Those weeks are tainted by the endless images of Sam weakening and dying, but he'd asked Anna questions at the time about how the whole mess in heaven worked, because he wanted to be sure he'd be with Sam. Soulmates have to meet in order to definitely share a heaven. Some share one anyway, but not all. That's why she told him, why Sam encouraged him to see Castiel and talk to him (safely and anonymously, of course, which is no longer possible). If he doesn't take this chance, he'll lose out on knowing his soulmate not just in this life, but for eternity.

He imagines meeting Castiel's eyes and Castiel looking back at him. That same thoughtful look he gave Dean's supposed crime scene.

Dean knows what he has to do.

-------------------------------------------

Castiel stays in town for a week. Dean stays with him, shadowing him carefully. He observes and memorizes every habit, every preference Castiel shows – coffee, food, clothes, biting his lip when he's thinking. The finger tapping when he's reading. The way he smiles, soft and quiet, with his team members. Finally, Dean sees the BAU head for the airport en masse.

Over the next three weeks, settled in the bunker with a lot of coffee and a lot of whiskey, Dean investigates every part of Castiel's life.

Every detail he learns makes Castiel more real to him – that Castiel spoke to recruiters for the military, but didn't join after his brother. That he once kissed a guy in college. The six serious girlfriends he's had (no boyfriends that Dean can find, but he is in law enforcement, so that kind of thing isn't advertised), all of which seemed to have ended because Castiel put his job before the relationship. Funnily enough, they're also all still friends with him on facebook. It does take Dean flirting with some random high school friend on Castiel's friendslist to get access to Castiel's, but it's worth it. Castiel doesn't really post, but other people tag him in photos, including his brother.

He learns that Castiel was put on loan to the BAU before joining as a team member, though of course the exact case isn't publicized. He finds a few mentions in newspapers of cases Castiel's worked, both as a police officer and as an FBI agent. A few record searches give Dean all of Castiel's previous addresses, as well as his current one. His number and address are unlisted, but hacking the DMV database isn't hard.

A room in the bunker becomes the unofficial Castiel research center. It has all of the files Charlie got him from two years ago, and the second set from six months ago. He puts pictures of Castiel on the walls. That small smile and deep eyes seem to follow him. He sits there for maybe twenty minutes every night, just absorbing Castiel.

It's creepy as hell, and Dean knows it. He justifies it by telling himself it's just for organization. If he wants to talk to Castiel without being caught, this is how he'll do it.

He decides to take Castiel to the bunker. That will give him a few days to talk to Castiel properly, especially if Castiel starts out by threatening him and talking shit, which honestly is fairly likely. Dean knows that if he were in that position, he'd lie his ass off on sheer principle. Castiel has no reason to think that Dean just wants to know him, because he's still living in a world without magic, without the supernatural, and without soulmates. Oh, and Dean's a psychotic serial killer. So, Dean's going to have to give Castiel time to adapt so they can actually talk. Sure, Castiel will still think he's crazy. But Dean might get somewhere. He wants to know Castiel before he kicks the bucket.

It's not a sex thing, or not exactly a sex thing. Castiel would never consent to that, and Dean's no rapist, so that's out of the picture. No, he wants to know Castiel's mind. His heart. The person that fate made for him. Or God. Who the fuck knows, really.

He feels ill when he finds the manacle. It takes him two hours to work up the guts to put the bolt in the floor of a few bedroom a few doors down from his own.

It's just temporary. Dean has to remember that.

He repeats that to himself when he sits outside of Castiel's apartment, fifteen minutes from Quantico. It's a quaint building, five stories high and clearly built fifty plus years ago. He feels fairly secure right now – he's got hex bags and spells all over the Impala designed to hide her from anything but extremely directed focus, and Castiel's not going to think Dean Winchester followed him home. He watches the sun rise over the apartments, red and orange fading into a light blue. About half an hour later, Castiel leaves the building for his five year old sedan, which is a travesty of engineering. His soulmate doesn't have good taste in cars, clearly. He's bundled up in a black wool coat, but his hair is still wet. Someone got a late start. Dean smiles and sips his coffee.

Waiting twenty minutes to make sure Castiel doesn't turn around because he forgot something, Dean finally gets out of his car. He waits for another resident to leave, and then ducks through the entrance and casually makes his way towards Castiel's apartment.

The lock is surprisingly easy to pick. Dean goes just far enough in to close the door behind him, then takes out a camera and begins snapping photos. It's not for a creepy reason this time; he just doesn't want Castiel to know anyone's been here, so if he picks up and moves anything, he has to know its original position.

It's a two bedroom apartment. Wood floors, walls still painted default white. There's a large flatscreen on one wall and a beige comfortable couch, but the rest of the place is filled with bookcases and books. There's a lot of forensic police investigation books, but also a fair number on profiling. There's also a strange mix of modern thrillers and old classics. He's got the entire set of Charles Dicken's novels.

He checks the bedroom and finds a dark blue comforter over a hastily made bed. The rest of the room is empty. There's not even a dresser, everything is in a closet.

The spare bedroom has a mattress, covered with a bottom and top sheet, but no blankets. It's also empty.

The kitchen has mostly premade food. The freezer is stuffed with microwave ready meals, and a lot of the food in the fridge is stuff that doesn't go bad quickly. Dean muses that at least Castiel will be eating better at the bunker. Dean loves to cook, and even after losing Sam, he mostly kept up with making himself a fresh dinner every day. It reminds him that he's no longer living on the road all the time, forced to make do with whatever a town has to offer in the way of cheap eating.

There's at least a dozen takeout boxes with expired food. Dean takes a sniff of one and grimaces. Jeez. Castiel should clean this out.

The important thing, though, is this means Dean would have a really hard time drugging Castiel's food reliably. There's no telling if Castiel would eat it, or when, or even how much. Too risky. Dean's going to have drug him outright.

Dean takes one last look around the apartment, checks the photos on his phone to make sure everything is as it was, and then heads for the door.

The little side table has a wicker basket on it with pink flowers woven in. It looks handmade. "I bet there's a story there," Dean muses wryly. He'll have to ask Castiel, sometime.

He leaves and shuts the door behind him, no sign he was ever there.

-------------------------------------------

Dean watches Castiel leave and return every day for a week and a half from the safety of his car, across the street. If Castiel is here on Friday, that'll be the day. He's also memorized the routines of all of Castiel's neighbors, to make sure he doesn't run into any of them on the way out. The building is fairly empty on Friday evenings, as a lot of Castiel's neighbors go out for dinner or drinks with friends. Castiel, on the other hand, is likely to stay home all weekend, like he did the last. There's no guarantee something out of the ordinary won't happen – especially with Castiel's job – but Dean is willing to take that risk.

Part of him aches to reach out and touch Castiel.

-------------------------------------------

Castiel's head slumps into Dean's arm while the rest of his body suddenly becomes a heavy weight. Dean maintains the choke hold for several seconds after, waiting to see if Castiel is faking it or not, but Castiel doesn't twitch. His neck is against the inside of Dean's elbow, and his hands are limp at his sides, no longer trying to claw at Dean's eyes. There's the faint smell of citrus shampoo in Castiel's soft hair, the slightest bit of stubble on his cheeks. Dean goes to his knees, gently placing Castiel on the floor, and checks Castiel's breathing.

It's a little labored, but he looks fine.

Dean stares at him. At Castiel, so close. Dean finds himself examining the planes of Castiel's face, his long eyelashes, and the warmth of his every exhale.

"I'm sorry," Dean says. Then, "Time to go."

But he hesitates. Taking Castiel is wrong, he knows that. But he doesn't intend on harming the guy. Just talking, in the only way he can manage right now. He swallows, gut roiling, then grabs the broken pieces of the needle – Castiel's a fighter, all right – and puts it in a pocket. He's wearing gloves, but there might be useable prints on that one item. Then he arranges Castiel's limp body so that it almost looks like Castiel is leaning on him, even though Dean is carrying all his unconscious weight.

Past the front door, into the hallway. Then down the stairs and into the parking lot. The trunk is already cracked, so all Dean has to do is open it all the way and place Castiel in it. He grabs the rope he'd put in there and ties Castiel's hands and feet, before tying them together. It's a really hard restraint to get out of, and while it's uncomfortable Castiel won't be in it for long. Well. Not conscious, anyway.

He slams the trunk shut, gets into the car, and drives. Half an hour of highway travel later, he pulls over somewhere remote and sits in the car and freaks the fuck out.

What is he doing?

He has an FBI agent locked in his trunk. A completely innocent man. Not a creature. Not possessed. And because Dean wants to talk about his feelings? It's the stupidest thing Dean's ever done. He just spent five weeks planning and then carrying out the kidnapping of a federal agent for no other reason than that Anna told him he's Dean's soulmate and Dean really, really wants to talk to him. This is – this is nuts.

But it's where he is. He's got Castiel now. He kind of has to move forward, doesn't he? And it's not like Castiel will be hurt. No, he'll be fine. Totally fine. He nods to himself. He's gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, staring out at the deserted commercial center he'd pulled into. He gets out of the car and grabs a bag he'd stored in the backseat. It has more of the anesthesia. He fills up a needle carefully – he knows how, he and Sam patched each other up enough they kind of compare to EMTs at this point – and then circles the car.

Taking a deep breath, he opens the trunk.

Castiel's still there, of course. Eyes closed, not moving. All the ropes have been disturbed, however, and a hint of humor pierces Dean's worry. "Don't bother," he says. "I know you're awake."

Castiel opens his eyes and glares at him. If he could talk, Dean'd bet there's all kinds of threats coming out of his mouth. But all Dean sees is his beautiful, blue eyes.

Dean smiles at him, tries to make it comforting, somehow. "Only a sedative, I swear," he says, showing Castiel the needle. "It'll make this easier." Castiel won't have to be awake, struggling or panicking for the trip. "You've lost ten pounds in the last six months," Dean adds. He can tell, just by looking at Castiel. Because, of course, he's been staring at a lot of photos of the guy over the past five years. It's a little creepy that Dean can tell that, but he pushes that out of his mind. "So I won't give you the full dose."

Fear mixes with anger, but Castiel doesn't try to get away when Dean injects his arm. Castiel blinks several times, like he's sleepy, and then he's out.

Dean stares down at him for almost a full minute before he's able to shake himself out of his trance. He has to drive. Yeah.

He barely stops over the next day and a half, only taking naps. He drives the speed limit the entire way, as much as it hurts his baby to be restrained. Each time he stops to drug Castiel again, he also takes out Castiel's gag and gives him water. Castiel's still really out of it, and Dean has to massage his throat – Castiel's skin so soft and warm, with rough stubble on his cheeks – in order to make sure he swallows properly. It takes a while, every time, but Dean finds himself looking forward to it after the first and gives him water every four hours. The way that Castiel is so warm to the touch, the way he blinks fuzzily at Dean when he begins to wake up.

Fuck, that's creepy. Dean is such a creep.

It's dark when they get to the bunker. Dean pulls in to the door and backs up so that the trunk is closer to the door, which he opens in advance. Then he opens the trunk. Castiel's still unconscious; there's another two or three hours before Dean would give him his next dose. Dean checks Castiel's breathing (fine) and his hands and feet (blood is still circulating) just like the other times. He unties most of the bindings. Then he gets one arm under Castiel's back, and one under his legs, and lifts.

He's heavier than Dean would've thought, but he's nowhere near the difficulty of trying to lug Sam's unconscious body around. Actually, there's something weirdly comforting about carrying him. Castiel's solid. Present.

Dean lays him on the bed, and unties Castiel's feet entirely, taking off his shoes. His suit jacket is all twisted up, so he takes that off, too. Then, queasy, he puts the ankle cuff on Castiel and locks it. He leaves the room to put away the key, and returns with a bottle of water, which he places on the soft bed. He'd put tons of blankets there, for Castiel, so he'll be comfortable when he wakes. He's still got the small camera in his pocket from when he was taking photos of Castiel's apartment, and after a second of hesitation, he snaps a quick one of Cas sleeping.

Proof he was here. Kinda. It's not like Dean won't get the death penalty anyway.

Watching Castiel breathe seems creepy, and unlike some of Dean's other creepiness, it's one that will get noticed when Castiel wakes up, so Dean decides to take off. He wanders down the hallways for a few minutes, debating what to do with himself while he waits. He dresses in more comfortable clothing, a pair of sweatpants and a worn t-shirt. Hopefully that'll be less threatening. Maybe make some dinner? Well, he doesn't know if Castiel will want that, but he can figure out possible meals. Probably something that doesn't require a knife. He's not entirely sure what Castiel would do with it, but better not to find out.

He decides on burgers and takes out ground beef to defrost in water.

What he doesn't do is think too hard about what's next. He knows he should be, but hey, he's winged it a good portion of his life, and that hasn't turned too badly, has it?

Dean stares at his empty kitchen. Empty of people and friends and family. He closes his eyes and rubs them, breathing slowly. "I'm an idiot," he says to the silence.

He decides to go head for the bedroom his soulmate is chained up in, and that's a sentence he never thought he'd ever think.

Castiel is awake. He's grimacing in pain while he rubs one of his calves, and Dean realizes Castiel's muscles must be seized up, or at least really sore, from not being moved in so long. As he watches, Castiel takes a deep drink from the water bottle, throat visibly working. Another flinch passes across his face as Castiel hits a particularly sore spot.

"I can help with that," Dean offers.

Castiel jumps, chokes on his water, and turns wide eyes to Dean.

"The muscle cramping? I could massage it, I mean you probably wouldn't let me close enough …" Of course he wouldn't, Dean is a total imbecile. Dean's his kidnapper, he probably thinks he's going to end up in a shallow grave in Dean's backyard. Think of something else to say, idiot. "Uh, how about ibuprofen? Black tea? Sam always swore by its anti-flammory-something properties."

Castiel stares at him hard with narrowed eyes. After a moment, his face eases and Castiel is able to give him a steady look. Calmly appreciative, almost like Dean's a waiter or something. "Ibuprofen and tea would be good, thank you."

So polite. Dean grins, feeling like he's won something. No screaming yet. "I'll be back."

He starts the tea immediately and then finds the ibuprofen. He doesn't have an unopened one that he can find, but hopefully Castiel accepts it anyway. The water boils, he puts the tea to steep, and taps the counter impatiently. At two minutes, he removes the tea bag and dumps in sugar. Then he brings it back to Castiel, carefully setting the bottle and tea on the floor just inside the room, a fair fifteen or so feet away from Castiel. "Here you go."

Castiel stands up, the chain dragging behind him very noisily. The floors are tiled, not carpet, so the metal links clatter against the hard surface. Dean swallows, watching Castiel move while all chained up. It makes him kind of nauseous, but there's also a sense of security. Castiel's here, and he can't get away.

Castiel checks the bottle, then the pill, then the bottle, before actually taking one with the tea. He retreats to his bed. Then he gives Dean a calm expression and asks, "So, why am I here?"

Okay. Don't fuck this up. "I'm your soulmate."

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Castiel demands.

Dean winces internally. There's nothing untrue in the accusation, but it's weirdly painful to have his soulmate say it. "Probably a lot."

Castiel's hand tightens on his mug. He pauses, and surprisingly gives Dean a soft look. "I mean – why? Why me?"

Okay, Dean needs to get some things straight here. "Look, I'm sure you're being nice and calm about this because you think I'm going to torture and kill you, but that isn't what this is about. I swear. I won't hurt you."

"I've seen your file, Dean."

Nodding wryly, Dean says, "Yeah. I know. I saw you in Wyoming. That, um. Kind of triggered this."

Castiel tilts his head. "What do you mean?"

Dean wishes he could tell what Castiel is thinking through his whole spiel about soulmates and true love and all that shit, but he can't. The guy is like a blank book. And he has been. Dean was expecting threats, he was expecting Castiel to make some kind of statement about how he's an FBI agent and the entire FBI is going to be after Dean's ass, and this will never last, and for his own sake Dean should let him go. But instead, Castiel just asks questions. Tries to understand, expression calm. The only real reaction Castiel gives him is that slight head tilt and squinted eyes. Puzzlement.

He shows no sign of fear whatsoever.

Hell, he takes in cupids with barely a blink. Dean explaining that he needs to know Castiel gives him a slight lean forward, like he's moving closer to absorb the words. Castiel asks, "And the chain?"

"Sorry," Dean says apologetically. "But you are an FBI agent. It stays." Maybe he should go to the library and see if something else will work. For the time being. This is still temporary. He's not going to tell Castiel that yet because … because … he can't yet.

"Can I ask a question, then?"

"You can always ask questions," Dean says immediately. Talking is what Dean wants, after all. The whole point of this mess. "I know this is pretty fucked up, okay? But my entire life is fucked up, so. Ask."

"We've met. Correct? Isn't that sufficient?"

"But you don't –" Dean stops himself. You don't know me yet, he wants to say. I don't know you. You've been kidnapped by a serial killer and I still only see the shell of your training.

"Thank you for the tea." Perfectly polite, again.

Day one.

-------------------------------------------

Day two goes about as expected. There's a lot of explaining involved. Not just the kidnapping thing, but also Dean's life. Castiel opens up a little bit. Mentions his brother. Talks about some favorite foods. But mostly, he listens. Even as he asks questions, they're all kind of listening questions. Dean decides he'd make a really good interrogator. Hell, maybe that's like a specialty? Dean could see that.

Of course it helps that Dean wants to talk.

Day three, Castiel's still asleep when Dean gets up. He wanders over to Castiel's bedroom, yawning, and then peeks in. Castiel's passed out in bed, on his back with blankets pulled up to his chest. His mouth is slightly open, and he's just barely snoring. It's cute. Dean leans up against the door frame and watches, warmth rising in his chest. He's missed this. Having another person around. And Castiel is so strangely welcoming, behind those mysterious eyes and that barely-there smile that so rarely appears. Dean wants – Dean wants more. He doesn't even know more of what, exactly, but definitely more.

Then Castiel wakes up. He jolts upright, eyes scanning the room until he finds Dean. "Fuck."

"Sorry, I'm sorry, I was just looking in, I swear, I wasn't being a total creep," Dean says, embarrassed. "In fact, I'll just go and get the day started."

Then he jogs away before Castiel can say anything.

He buries himself in preparing for breakfast, resolutely not thinking too much about the brief panic he'd seen in Castiel's eyes. Cas just isn't used to Dean yet, to being here. Really, it's a perfectly understandable reaction, and frankly quite mild considering the situation he thinks he's in. Dean won't hurt him, of course, but he doesn't know that. Dean's about to break the eggs for the waffles he plans to make when the phone rings.

"Hello?" Dean asks, putting the phone on speaker.

"Dean!" Charlie is bright over the vaguely crappy reception. Must be raining. "It's your monthly checkup. Do I need to hit your knees and look into your ears? On second thought, no. That's gross. Do I need to make you a doctor's appointment?"

Dean laughs. "I'm fine. How are you?"

"Awesome," Charlie says.

The conversation lasts about ten minutes, most of it Charlie prying about what Dean's been up to. Of course he doesn't tell her – Charlie would kill him if she knew he'd kidnapped Castiel. It doesn't help that he's pretty sure Sam made her make some promises about looking out for Dean, because when Dean tries to wrap up the conversation so he can finish breakfast – Cas is waiting – Charlie doesn't let him go that easily.

"Did you ever decide if you wanted to meet that dreamy soulmate of yours?"

Dean freezes. Thank God she can't see him. "Um, that'd be kind of hard, what with him hunting me down, y'know."

"What do you mean?" Charlie asks, puzzled.

"Wendigo," Dean explains. "I found the FBI there, including him. I guess he's on the Winchesters case now. So, yeah. Meeting him is kind of difficult." Dean winces. Unless you carefully plan a kidnapping. "But he's doing fine, from what I can tell, so that's good. At least one person who likes the Winchesters is having a happy, normal life."

"Hey! Should I be insulted? Do I not count as family? Deeean, you are in so much trouble –"

"I didn't mean that! C'mon, Charlie. Of course you are. I guess that makes two, huh?"

Charlie makes him promise to call her back in a week before finally hanging up. That makes something ping in Dean's mind; he can use that, somehow. He puts it out of his mind, finishes the batter and makes the waffles. He tops it with strawberries and whipped cream, determined to spoil Castiel, and then returns to Castiel's room. Castiel is sitting cross-legged on the bed, wrists on his knees like he's about to meditate. Maybe he does, Dean will have to ask.

Dean knocks on the door to announce his presence, and Castiel looks up with one of those super-faint smiles that are so slight a camera probably couldn't catch it.

"Sorry, had to take care of something before I could make waffles." Dean places the paper plate on the floor, with a proper fork. A little plastic thing would make the meal hard to eat, and he doesn't think Castiel's going to attack him. Castiel doesn't have that kind of temper, and Dean's explanation of why attacking Dean is a bad idea seems to have worked.

"Dean, do you ever intend on letting me go?"

Dean freezes with fork in hand. His mind goes frighteningly blank. Of course should be on the tip of his tongue, but it isn't. "I don't know."

Castiel's voice is low and desperate. "Dean, please. They surely know I'm gone by now. My brother Balthazar is probably worried out of his mind."

The world seems to slow to a stop. There's Castiel, chained to the floor, staring down at him. His soulmate, who he has to imprison just to keep close. His soulmate, that he should really release, but every bone in his body is screaming no. No. Words jumble up in Dean's mouth and he knows if he opens his mouth something bad will come out, so he stands up without a word, turns on his heel, and leaves.

He stops at Sam's door. He curls his hand around the knob, twists and pushes. Then he sinks to the middle of Sam's floor.

Is he going to let Castiel go?

He should. Morally, he should. Dean's met the requirements of sharing a heaven with a soulmate. Keeping Castiel any longer than he has is wrong. Flat out, totally wrong.

Dean pictures Sam in his mind for a moment, pictures his reaction, but he doesn't get any further than imaginary Sam saying, Dean, before he pushes out of his mind.

Cas has been so kind to him. Listening to all of Dean's stupid stories, not saying anything like "You're nuts" when Dean tells him about angels and demons. He even asked for proof of Dean's words rather than dismiss them outright. Sympathy in his eyes when Dean told him about losing Sam, about closing the gates of hell. He listened when Dean said, "Why does my family have to be the one that loses everything?" Dean talks about the most fucked up things in his life, and Cas just sits there and understands. Maybe he's putting it into a context that makes more sense to him, one where Dad and Sam were his partners in crime rather than hunters, but he still understands Dean's pain. He feels Dean's pain.

But more than that. Castiel's thoughts are so hidden. Dean has such a hard time telling what Castiel thinks and feels. It's like Dean wants to crack him open and get all his secrets. He kind of just wants to crawl into Castiel, actually. And not even in a creepy sexual way. Just a creepy way.

Dean sits on the floor and breathes, hands curled into fists.

If Cas was gone. If Cas was gone, the shattered pieces of Dean's life would be just as messed up as they were before, but Dean knows it now. He can't go back.

Everything about Castiel begs Dean to keep him. To know him.

Dean gets up and goes to the communal showers. He'd given Cas the commander's bedroom, with an attached bath, but everyone else shared one big shower, like a gym. He strips down and turns on the water as hot it will go. He tries to go through the motions of cleaning himself, but after about a minute he just collapses to the ground and cries. He can't even feel the tears fall, but his hitching breathing that he can't stop tells him he is, the way his body shakes, he can't stop, he can't fucking stop. He's been alone so long, and Dean Winchester was never made for that. He made a promise to Sam he wouldn't blow his brains out, but if Cas goes – that's what's going to happen.

He stares at his trembling hands. He can't let Castiel go. Not yet. The rest, he'll – he'll figure that out later. Later.

Half an hour later, he gets out, completely dries himself, and dresses in the same clothing. He has to go back to Cas and give him an answer. He dawdles for an hour before he works up the courage.

Cas is sitting on the bed, reading a book on mermaids. Dean clears his throat. "Cas?"

"Yes?" Cas says, voice and eyes steady.

"Can I come in?"

Dean holds his breath, but Castiel finally nods.

Rather barely enter the room like has before, Dean takes the opportunity to walk over to the bed. He has to walk past the chain where it's bolted into the floor. Dean's method of imprisonment. He sits on the bed gingerly, on the edge, and then holds out his hand.

Cas looks puzzled, staring at Dean's hand and then those blue eyes flicking up to meet Dean's gaze. "You want to … hold my hand."

Dean feels himself flush and raises his chin. "Yeah."

"I'm not gay," Castiel blurts.

Dean blinks. Well, that's the last thing he expected to hear. Forgetting not to be creepy, he says the first thing that comes to mind: "What about the guy in college?"

Castiel is the one to flush this time. "I wanted to piss someone off, so I made out with him. It worked."

The words stir a sense of humor Dean thought was nearly dead. "Oh, you're going to have tell me what prompted that." He wants to know. He wants to know everything. But Castiel still looks wary, so all Dean does is hold out his again, palm up. He tries to put sincerity and pleading in his voice. "Please, Cas."

Castiel takes a deep breath, then puts his hand in Dean's.

And Dean's heart breaks a little. This is Cas. Dean knows Cas is only doing this to make Dean feel better, and it makes something heady rise in Dean's chest. Cas is – is kind. And it's been so long since Dean had that, any kind of genuine gentle touch. From a lover, Lisa was the last, and even she didn't feel anything like this. Sam, right before he died, put a hand to Dean's cheek, offering silent physical comfort.

Cas's eyes slowly change from that steady look to fear.

"What's wrong?" Dean asks, tensing.

Castiel looks away.

"You look scared." Of Dean. Which hurts, even if there's good reason behind it. "I won't hurt you, Cas."

"My brother always calls me Cassie. I hate it."

"I can call you Castiel, if you want," Dean says hesitantly.

Castiel hesitates, eyes flicking over the room, and he swallows hard. "Cas is fine. I'm just – I'm just –" He trails off. He tries to withdraw, but on instinct Dean grips him tighter. Dean expects Cas to struggle, but instead Cas just gives him a wary look and stops trying to take his hand back. Some of that fear fades, and he clenches his jaw, returning Dean's stare with intense eyes.

Dean examines every flicker of expression on Cas's face. Then he kisses the back of Castiel's hand, gentle. "I'm sorry, Cas, that I can't let you go. Not yet."

Rather than push farther, Dean lets Cas go without saying anything else, and leaves the room, with a mix of pain and hope in his heart.

-------------------------------------------

Cas doesn't really react when Dean tells him that Dean has to leave for a couple of weeks. It's a complicated hunt, some kind of city-wide ritual in Chicago. He can't let Castiel go, but he also can't let this hunt go. Garth needs help, even if that help is mostly a body on the streets, going out and talking to people to figure this mess out. Five corpses so far, all done in the same way, and a half-destroyed spellbook tell them that it's bigger than some ritual killing.

Three days in, he messages Charlie and tells her to go to the bunker if she doesn't hear him from in two weeks. Says it'll be an emergency she'll have to take care of, if she doesn't hear from him. She texts him about two hundred questions about it, and Dean has to put his phone vibrate while they finish the hunt. Four days in, he goes off the whiskey cold turkey. He wakes up with the shakes, and Garth is actually looking concerned, but he toughs out the alcohol withdrawal. He wants to be there for Cas, not just as a hunter, but also as a person. Functional alcoholism doesn't qualify.

By the time Dean returns, he's tired but successful.

And Cas is fucking pissed.

Even though he's worried nearly out of his mind because shit, of course leaving someone Cas for two weeks while chained up is going to fuck with his head, Cas's anger delights Dean. Because it's Cas, without any walls separating him from Dean. Unfiltered. Even the dig about Dean being a crappy soulmate, it hurts, but it also gives Dean hope that Cas will begin to interact with Dean in a real, genuine way, instead of the careful politeness he's given so far.

Dean's right. Cas opens up by degrees, talking about his childhood for the first time. In some ways, Cas's childhood sounds like the exact opposite of Dean's – he had a close, intimate family life on his father's large property. They were so wrapped in each other that they didn't really see the world, or show their children the world. Castiel striking out on his own, after his brother, was a major shock to them. While Dean was on the road, forever trying to keep his family together.

Or maybe they have more in common than it seems on the surface, except Cas is Sam, not Dean. It's a weird thought.

Dean also gets Castiel everything he could ever need, fully outfitting the room. Now that Cas is staying, at least for a while, Dean wants him comfortable. So, flatscreen, ipod, dresser, clothes, everything. Other than providing Cas with meals and stuff, he stays outside the room. His ass is sore from sitting on the hard floor, and his back is beginning to hurt from leaning against the wall, but it's worth it to spend time with Cas, where Cas is at ease. The way he isn't when Dean is really close.

Cas continues to not mention the chain on his ankle, but Dean can't help staring at it. His feelings about it are weirdly mixed – he's sorry, but he's also comforted. And a weird tingle of possessiveness, that he has Cas, that Cas is his, that he doesn't want to think about too much.

One morning, over his eggs, Cas says, "I miss sunlight." His posture is perfectly straight, elegant, even when sitting on the uneven surface of the bed. Dean spends more time than he really should admiring the small of Cas's back.

Dean freezes, but says, "Yeah?"

"I'd go out for runs," Cas explains. There's no judgment in his words. There rarely is. "When I could, of course. Sometimes if work was really tiring I'd skip it for a while."

"You didn't go on runs while I was watching you," Dean says without thinking.

Cas pauses chewing and raises an eyebrow.

Dean shifts on the hard floor. "Um, just before. I wasn't stalking you or anything." Except he kind of was. Even Dean can admit that to himself. "Anyway, I'll see what I can do."

Cas shrugs, a liquid motion where he lifts one shoulder then the other, and keeps eating his eggs.

It's little things like that which tell Dean not just that Castiel is unhappy, but why. And it's the 'why' that's the key. As long as Cas is here, Dean wants to take care of him and keep him as happy as possible. He's spending money a little wildly in pursuit of that goal, and since Charlie helped him set up fake identities (which Sam then used to make investments), she might notice. He hasn't come up with a good lie yet. But there are other things to do for Cas besides throwing shiny toys at him. Cas hasn't complained, but Dean has caught him rubbing his shackled ankle more than once.

There are little spells of depression, too. They're subtle, because Cas is your typical enigma wrapped in a riddle, but when it takes Cas longer to reply, when he gets lost in his own mind, when he purses his lips and when he's shoulders are high and tense … yeah, Dean knows. Dean's learning Cas.

So Dean needs to do something about this. Long term –

Fuck. Long term.

"Dean?"

Dean looks up. "Yeah?"

"You look upset. Is something wrong?" Cas asks.

Dean smiles. Of course Cas asks that. And it's not simple self preservation that makes Cas ask, either, because of the way Cas responds. He tries to comfort Dean. It's really … strange. But awesome. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Just worried about you, Cas."

Cas doesn't reply. He squints at Dean, like he's saying in his head, And? You're the cause, remember?

"I'm going to take off for a bit. You okay for a couple of hours?"

Cas slowly nods. "I'll be fine."

Once Cas has a new movie to watch – some French film that would probably make Dean die of boredom (does Cas speak French? He's not loading subtitles) – he leaves for the library.

There's a locked cage in the library which has magical items, as well as a larger storage area in what is basically the bunker's basement. But all the notes on where things are and what they do is in the library, using a card system. It's annoying going through it and figuring out how the Men of Letters had organized things, but after a couple of hours Dean has three solid leads on objects that can restrain a user to a specific area.

It takes a few days to figure things out. Two of the objects – a bracelet and a necklace – only work against creatures, not human beings. Which makes sense. But the last one, an ankle cuff, has adjustable boundaries that Dean can set basically at will – all is takes is a few special ingredients, some words, and carrying the cuff around. Dean does that part after lunch. He's actually able to test it just by holding the cuff and pressing it against a line he'd set in the kitchen. It stops in midair.

The ankle cuff isn't setting Cas free. But it feels like it is. Like Dean's not such a horrible person anymore.

Dean looks at the cuff, pleased.

-------------------------------------------

When he wakes up, lying on Cas's bedroom floor and bloody, he has to admit that Cas took him by surprise.

Cas's escape attempt doesn't work, of course. Dean's not stupid. Neither is Cas – he made an assumption that would usually be correct, in assuming a magical cuff is a delusion – and in a way, Dean has an unfair advantage. Or he had one. Cas actually reacts a lot better than most when first exposed to the supernatural. Shock, yeah. But he started figuring it out immediately. Dean saw him testing the boundary.

His soulmate is smart. Underneath all the anger at being attacked – Dean thought they were past that, that Cas would try to escape later in secret – he's pleased. And yeah, of course Cas is smart, he's an FBI agent, but it's another thing to see it. And admittedly he's seen a few moronic feds.

Still. Cas attacked him with no hesitation. Dean supposes he should be grateful Cas didn't do worse, but as illogical as it is, he's not. He stares at Cas for a second, anger still burning on the surface. Cas is on the bed, hurt and looking at Dean worriedly. His cuffed wrist is beginning to swell. "You going to fight me?" he asks, poised to uncuff him. "I'm going to switch it to your left."

"I won't fight you."

Dean switches Cas's cuff to the other, uninjured wrist, then examines the one Cas said was hurting. It doesn't feel broken. Hands, unfortunately, are hurt a lot on hunts. Punching, beheading, grabbing, smashing. It takes its toll. But Cas's feels okay. Must just be sprained. "Not broken," Dean decides. "Feet?"

"My left. Only sprained, I think."

Dean nods. "That it besides the cuts and bruises?"

"Yes."

Dean looks into Castiel's blue eyes, willing him to understand Dean's position here. "I could have really hurt you, you know that, right?"

Cas glares at him. "Am I still allowed to be honest?"

That shuts Dean up. Clearly, they're not going to be making progress today. Wait. Progress? Cas did exactly what Dean ultimately expected him to, exactly what anyone would do in Cas's situation. He saw an opportunity and seized it. What progress was Dean even expecting? Cas to sit quietly and not even test a legitimate escape plan? What the hell is wrong with Dean? There's nothing wrong with Cas, after all.

There's a bizarre twisting pit of new anger in his gut, at Cas, and at himself. Because he let himself get into the habit of thinking that they were becoming close, that spending all this time together meant they were becoming friends. But Cas doesn't see it that way. And of course he doesn't. Dean is cleaning, sterilizing and then bandaging Cas's wounds – ones that he gave Cas. He stays silent as he works through all of Cas's injuries, and then his own. But as he stares at himself in the mirror, at the cut on his lip and the huge one on his forehead that he seals with butterfly bandages, the anger drains away.

Dean has to work harder. He has to figure this out. Cas can like him, Dean just needs to figure out how to get past Cas's barriers. Because, because otherwise, he will lose Cas eventually. If he can just get Cas to open up to him …

Or Dean should just take what he can while he can. He can't hold Cas forever. Fuck. He doesn't know what to do. He just knows he doesn't want to be alone again. That he can't survive that.

Cas is still lying on the bed when Dean leaves the bathroom. Dean just looks at him for a moment. He's bruised and cut up, and clearly pretty miserable, but he's still so beautiful. Cas is giving him a wary look, licking his lips a little as Dean approaches the bed. It leaves his mouth faintly shiny, and Dean can't help but track the movement of Cas swallowing.

Dean settles on the bed, knees first. Then he lays down next to Cas, really carefully and slowly, into the gap left by Cas's restrained arm. He moves around until he's in a position that'll be comfortable for a while, and then lays one hand on Cas's stomach.

He watches as Cas inhales sharply, his hand rising with Cas. Then the exhale. He's warm. Dean follows his next breath, and the one after that, and the one after that. It feels like Dean is touching something precious.

It's pushing it, Dean knows that, but he shifts until he's pressed against the side of Cas's body, shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee. He can't quite get a look at Cas's face like this, but he feels every twitch of Cas's body, every small movement. Tears prick Dean's eyes, because it feels so fucking good to be close to someone. He's not even getting hard.

Cas's breathing is accelerating, so Dean says, "It'll be okay, Cas. Just rest, okay?"

And Cas's inhales and exhales slow. Like he believes Dean.

Dean's mind goes blank and buzzing, filled with contentment. Over the next ten minutes, Cas makes tiny shifts, like he's getting comfortable. He doesn't try to get away, though of course that would be hard with his wrist still cuffed. Dean's holding him here, keeping him here, but having Cas so close is worth the guilt. He knows it's wrong, but it's worth it anyway. After twenty minutes, Cas really relaxes. And after forty, Cas finally falls asleep.

Dean can tell because Cas starts to lightly snore. He smiles into Cas's warm shirt.

It's not until Dean's arm starts to go slightly numb that he rises up a bit. In doing so, his hand slides across Cas's shirt, and Dean barely grazes Cas's skin.

He stops. Then, gentle and light, he puts his hand on Cas's bare stomach. Slides his hand down to Cas's hip, to where his waistband lies. He rubs the soft skin there.

When Cas wakes up and wants to know what Dean will do, the deal pops into Dean's head instantly. He doesn't have to think about it. He knows what he wants. To be close. And he knows what Cas wants – his brother, to escape. And this is a way, Dean knows that and he'll have to take precautions with the letter, but it'll be worth it, even if Dean ends up in prison for it. Sleeping in the same bed will give both of them want they want, Dean thinks.

Cas looks him in the eyes. "Yes. I agree."

And that's where everything changes.

-------------------------------------------

The list of reasons Dean is falling in love with Cas is getting long.

Cas is smart, determined, and brave. He fights Dean like hell, even knowing all the advantages Dean has, including magic. Honestly, the guy is pretty close to being able to beat Dean in a fight, it just so happens that his weaknesses are Dean's strengths. Dean didn't take a beating because he was afraid of hitting Cas, he took it because Cas is good. But he's kind, too. He listens to Dean's worries and fears, and offers comfort in the form of his own fears. He opens up when there's no tactical reason for it. He offers comfort when it gains him nothing. Because Cas is a good person, better than Dean ever was.

This is the man who leaned into him when Dean stumbled past Sam's door. Dean thought to himself, Holy shit, man, I just beat the crap out of you. Why are you comforting me? But that's Cas.

That's just Cas.

-------------------------------------------

Sleeping in the same bed with Cas is like heaven and hell mixed up. When Cas sleeps, all that wariness fades away. He shifts around and sleepily, grumpily pokes Dean until Dean cooperates with Cas getting comfortable. He'll snuggle in the middle of the night, but usually shift out of it by morning. He has the one freakout, where when he wakes up lying on Dean's chest, he gets upset and then angry. He's lashing out against his situation.

Dean's been expecting it, though, and he shifts into a role he knows well: caretaker.

He blathers about car maintenance for an hour, not missing the slight, amused smile Cas hides when he goes on the rant about modern wannabe Impalas. He gets Cas food that'll be easy to eat and digest. He acts like a dork.

And at night, he whispers promises into Cas's skin. "I'll take care of you. I'll take good care of you."

Sounds like heaven, right? But the hell part is that Dean can go as far as Cas will allow, even when Cas has nightmares, or when he's visibly distressed. It's infrequent, but they happen. Dean wants to press into Cas's bare skin, explore and see where he has hair, feel the strength of his body, but Cas wears clothes like armor.

The first time Cas lets Dean hold him close and offer comfort, Dean falls a little more in love.

-------------------------------------------

Day sixty-seven (yes, Dean is counting, because he fears the day he won't be), he and Cas have been setting up the den. Cas has a flat screen in his own room, of course, but besides sleeping in the same bed, Dean's been trying to let that remain Cas's space. So, making a third space for both of them makes sense. He lets Cas pick out the couch from junk mail, and then has to go through all kinds of contortions to get it to a place where Cas can help him bring it to the room. It ends up in the middle, so they're not too far from the screen. Dean plans to bring other things in to help it be more homey, but it'll have to wait a while.

"Look good?" Dean asks.

Cas eyes the room, then nods.

Dean flops on the couch. "What do you want to watch?"

"Can we talk?" Cas asks, joining him more sedately. Typical Cas.

"Yeah. 'Course. What's up?"

"What were you thinking in Wyoming? When did you see me? I never even noticed you, and I was looking for you." Cas shrugs uncomfortably. "Though I felt you there."

Dean blinks. "You did?"

Cas nods.

"Well, um. You shouldn't have." Dean quirks his mouth into a smile. "I had some charms on that make it hard for people to notice me. Honestly, I didn't even stay in the area for you at first. I was worried there was another wendigo, because there were two kill sites."

"There were? We only found the one."

"Because I killed the wendigo there," Dean explains. "The fire caught your attention, right?"

Cas frowns a little. "What's a wendigo?"

"It's a Native American monster, basically. Someone who eats human flesh for long enough will turn into one, they're basically immortal except for fire, and need humans to chew on. Anyway, so that's why I stayed. And then I heard some cops talking about you guys, the BAU, being there. And I remembered you were on that team. So I got curious." Dean looks down at his hands. "I saw you first at the crime scene. Looking around. And I just … I just wanted to talk to you, so damn bad. I've never felt that kind of impulse before."

Cas is quiet for a moment. "I can't say I had the same reaction to meeting you."

"Well, you were in the trunk of a car," Dean admits.

Cas doesn't react. "But you stayed after that?"

"Yeah. Just watched you. Not in a creepy way, I swear. It was just – I wanted to know you. I need to know you." Dean pauses. "I still do. Want to know you."

Castiel tilts his head like a bird. "But it's more than that. You wouldn't have taken me here if it was one-sided. You had a desire to be known."

"I mean, I guess so."

"It's why secrets are so hard to keep – we want others to know us, even if it hurts us." Cas looks contemplative.

Or even if hurts the other person, Dean thinks. His eyes flick to the ankle cuff. The sweatpants Cas is wearing are really soft, but slightly short, so Cas's ankles are exposed. He can see the silver gleam. He knows it's lighter than the shackle, but it's still a chain. "Yeah," he says at last. "You're right. Why do you ask, Cas?"

Cas bites his lip, gaze drifting over Dean's face. "I want to understand you."

"Not much to understand, honestly. Not much going on up here." Dean waves at his head.

Cas actually laughs a little. "That's not true, Dean."

The sight and sound of that little huff of breath makes Dean's heart soar. So he goes for it again. "Oh yeah it is. I'm simple in the head. I mean, I'm a man with a GED, but I can't say much more than that."

Instead of laughing, Cas just stares at him intensely. "You made your own EMF reader. You can rebuild a car from the ground up, and have done so. And you can debate any topic I want, including some classic literature. You're not stupid, Dean, and I think the FBI frankly underestimated you, and overestimated your luck."

Dean finds himself blushing and looks away. How does Cas manage to see him clearly, when all he's got is Dean's own, totally inadequate words? Fuck, but he loves everything about Cas. Those words rattle around in his head for several seconds, and he looks up to see Cas giving him a slightly concerned expression.

"Dean?"

The thought of letting Cas go hurts. So Dean shoves it down, down, down. "Thanks, Cas."

Cas gives him a slight smile. "So what did you want to watch?"

I love you, Dean thinks. It's like a shock to his system, and he's afraid Cas will see it, but Cas is digging around in a box of dvds. A sliver of skin shows when Cas's shirt rises up, and then he finds whatever he was looking for. Dean stares at him, stares at the man he loves.

"Casablanca?" Cas asks.

Dean's heart is racing as he smiles. "Sure."

-------------------------------------------

Night of seventy-two is embarrassing. Dean wakes up when Cas leaves the bed, and realizes he's hard. Judging from the flush, lack of eye contact, and tenseness in Cas, he was rubbing up against him in his sleep. Dean has to go take a shower, hand on his cock, trying desperately not to imagine Cas in the shower with him. His stack of porn mags has been getting a lot of use as Dean desperately tries not to think of Cas that way when really, he definitely does think of Cas that way. His bright blue eyes, his smile, his slim and muscled form. He ends up coming with the sight of Cas's red face in his mind, wondering if he'll ever be the direct cause of that, if Cas will ever want it.

But Cas doesn't freak, even the next day. And that gives Dean hope.

-------------------------------------------

A little more than three weeks later, Dean is making breakfast. He makes pancakes, not with jam and whipped cream this time, but with maple syrup. The gooey, delicious stuff gets everywhere, and that's exactly what he wants. He heats up the pan, rolls the oil around, and then pours some batter into it. One pancake. Two pancake. Three pancake. They all go into a plate. Dean glances over his shoulder to look at Cas.

Cas is slumped at the kitchen table, dressed in sweats and one finger meandering over the grain of the wood. He's examining the table with an intensity usually only reserved for Dean or other things that particularly confuse or frustrate him. There's a point in there somewhere about Dean, he's sure.

"How are you doing?" Dean asks carefully.

Cas gives him the stinkeye immediately. Okay, so he's not happy about last night.

Dean is. Dean's thrilled. Cas kissed him. Their first kiss. And yeah, Dean started it. Cas was just so present, and giving Dean a concerned look because of the rather hellish nightmare he'd just had, and it was just so sweet and Dean was still so freaked out that leaning forward and pressing his lips against Cas's seemed like a good idea. About a second in, he really did expect Cas to withdraw, or withdraw and slap/hit him somehow. But then Cas kissed him back.

And because Dean is an idiot, he wanted to press into Cas's skin, touch him everywhere. Feel Cas respond to him. A thumb to Cas's nipple, which hardened almost immediately and fuck that was hot, but Cas freaked. He recovered a little once Dean backed off – and Dean has to remember that, he has to always do as Cas asks, because Cas knows what he can take and Dean doesn't – and he asked Dean to kiss him again. And he's a damn good kisser. Soft, wet, sometimes forceful. So responsive to even a little touch, a little bite.

Despite how hard Dean was, he could tell that Cas wasn't actually aroused in return. And Cas proved that by throwing up while Dean was in the shower and jerking himself off to the taste of Cas on his lips. And Cas has been pissy ever since. Dean can't decide if Cas is mad at Dean or at himself.

Dean finishes plating the pancakes, puts one in front of Cas and the other at Dean's usual spot, then gets the syrup.

Cas grabs the bottle without looking at Dean and pours. He cuts the pancake with his fork, drags it through the syrup, and then stuffs it in his mouth. Well, at least he's eating, Dean supposes. It could really be worse. Cas is under a lot of stress, and Dean worries about his mental state. It's made worse by the fact that Cas is so hard to read.

Dean licks his lips, chasing the last bit of sweetness from the syrup. Cas's gaze drifts to Dean's mouth.

"Thank you for last night," Dean finally offers.

Cas sighs and then presses his lips into a line for several seconds before he replies. "Dean, I don't – I don't want that. I don't want to kiss you, I don't want to have sex with you."

"Whatever you want, you'll have," Dean promises. His gut roils, but he's speaking the truth when he adds, "If that's me not touching you, then that's what it is."

"That's what I want." Cas's mouth twists. "Also, to be set free."

Dean is the one to stare down at his plate this time, throat tight. He swallows the last bit of pancake in his mouth, all the moisture suddenly gone. He feels like he needs to say something right, get across to Cas how he feels about Cas. Because it's not just about sex. Of course Dean would like sex, Dean's always loved sex, but keeping Cas isn't about that. It's selfish and wrong, but not that kind of wrong. "I love you, Cas."

"Do you?" Cas's voice is soft. "What is love to you, Dean?"

Dean answers without thinking. "Something that hurts you." Okay, not the best thing to say, but now Cas is looking at Dean with surprise instead of bitterness. "Something you can't live without, no matter how much pain it brings. Even if the pain is equal to the happiness."

Cas puts his fork down. The straight line of his shoulders has turned into a curve.

"I am sorry," Dean says haltingly. "Please understand that."

Cas searches his face for several seconds. "I believe you."

Some tension leaves Dean at that. He smiles at Cas, and Cas smiles back.

-------------------------------------------

The first indication that something is wrong is when the motion sensors are tripped, two hours into Dean's journey to a hunt. Dean's singing along to Led Zeppelin when his phone beeps at him. Still humming and with one hand on the wheel, he enters the code and looks at the screen. He immediately falls silent when he sees the home security is putting out an alert. He taps the screen and sees that the internal sensor activated first, one near the kitchen. He curses the fact he didn't put up cameras. Something is in the bunker.

Or someone is out of the bunker.

"Fuck," Dean says, and swings the car around with a screech. He's still pretty far from any population centers, so there's no one else on the road. Hopefully Cas can't hike far. "Sorry, baby," he says, patting the dashboard, "we need to hurry."

Cas got out. It's the only thing that makes sense.

There's one overriding thought in Dean's mind: he needs to find Cas. Based on how long Dean's been on the road and Cas's unfamiliarity with the rest of the bunker, he estimates that Cas will search the area for resources, and then take off on foot. Dean left the garage and armory locked. There might be a gun or a knife somewhere, because Dean and Sam liked to keep their weapons varied and easily accessible. There's no hardline, and Dean didn't leave a cell phone either. He didn't want something that could be traced in the bunker at all, at least not unsupervised.

After an hour of speeding, Dean slows and then stops the car. The ankle cuff he'd given Cas has a sort of homing beacon on it. It won't tell Dean where Cas is like even a location spell would, but it will give Dean a general direction, assuming Cas didn't get it off. So he gets out, finds the book that explained the use of the cuff, and says the words. As the one who activated the spell on the cuff, Dean's the 'owner' of it, which means only he can use it to find the cuff. And by extension, Cas. It's a blur of mishmash words that even Dean doesn't properly recognize, but as soon as the last syllable comes off his tongue he feels a pull.

He gets back in the car and gets out a map. He figures out where he is, which direction he feels the pull, and the most likely route Cas is taking.

Then he gets back on the road. Because it's directional only, and the farther away Cas is the less precise a direction is, Dean ends up traveling back and forth to narrow down Cas's path. He didn't entirely keep to the road, confusing Dean's estimation at first.

When darkness falls, a deep pit of fear begins to stir in Dean. What will he do if Cas gets away?

It's when the pull begins to shift quickly that Dean realizes he's close. He stops the car and gets out. After a small internal debate, he doesn't take a gun or a knife. If he loses, he loses, but he's not going to take anything that could potentially seriously injure or kill Cas. All he has are handcuffs.

As a child, Dean was left in the wilderness several times by John and hunted. It was practice, and not something Sam had to do until he was much older, and it engrained a strong dislike of hiking in Dean as an adult. But one thing he does know how to do because of that is how to move quietly. Very quietly. He lets the pull guide him, moving along deer paths in the dark.

After fifteen minutes, he sees a dark figure. Cas. The pull is strong. Cas is looking around, but doesn't see Dean in the brush. He's breathing hard, too, not just from exertion, but from some panic as well.

Dean moves forward in five smooth, soundless steps and grabs Cas's wrist. In seconds there's a gun barrel in his face, and Dean thinks, Oh God, but Cas doesn't fire.

Then Dean's on him. He goes for the gun first, and he's not gentle about it. It goes flying with a grunt of pain from Cas, and then they're grappling. Cas is still in good shape; Dean's seen him exercise every morning, without fail. Steady as a soldier. He fights like one, too, trained, but with enough knowledge of dirty tactics that he's reasonably good at defending himself and refusing Dean an opportunity to take him out that way. But Dean's faster, and slightly larger. He puts Cas's smile out of his mind, and fights like this is a hunt.

Cas takes a blow to the chin, stumbling back, and then changes tactics, lunging for something. The gun? Dean is on him and then he feels a sharp slash of pain on his stomach. A knife. Cas has a knife. "Fuck, fuck – Cas, stop!" I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to hurt.

Cas scrambles blindly. He's losing, but he's not giving up. Cas slashes at Dean again, but Dean sees the uneven rock that Cas doesn't, and kicks it. The next step backward that Cas tries to make forces him to fall, and then Dean's falling with him. They crash into each other and Cas cries out, loud and piercing in the silent brush. Cas stills.

"Cas?" Dean slaps a cuff on one wrist, and searches for other, but Cas isn't resisting, he's lying on the ground, limp.

"My stomach," Cas pants. "The knife." He moans, and Dean gets a glimpse of his pained blue eyes.

"Fuck," Dean whispers. "Okay, I'm going to pick you up and get you to the car, there's light and bandages. Don't struggle, okay? Don't move."

He's as gentle as he can be when he picks Cas up. He goes for a bridal carry, since the wound is on Cas's stomach and a fireman's carry would probably make that a lot worse. It's a little harder on Dean, but he gets his balance after a second or two, and holds Cas close. And walks. Cas whimpers when Dean stumbles a little in the dark, and Dean bites his lip, willing Cas to be okay. He needs light to give Cas first aid. He hopes to God that Cas isn't injured seriously enough to need a hospital. Because if he is, then Dean will have to let Cas go.

Just the thought is enough to make a sharp pain rise in Dean's chest, like he's the one who got stabbed, not Cas.

Then Cas relaxes. He doesn't pass out, because he still reacts if Dean jostles him, but he goes limp in Dean's arms. Dean thinks, I love you, I love you, don’t die on me, don't leave me.

He checks Cas once he gets to the car, then puts Cas inside when he determines that Cas won't need the hospital after all. Cas's eyes are glazed with both physical agony and emotional pain. His eyes are wet, and a few tears have slipped down his cold cheeks. It takes Dean a second to read the look in his eyes, but Cas is in despair. Dean mutters some reassurances, the same things he would say to Sam, if Sam were the one hurt, and then he jogs to the driver's side and gets in and starts his baby. He speeds down dark country roads, bloody hands tight on the steering wheel.

Dean isn't letting Cas go. He can't. He won't.

And if Cas is to stay safe, then Dean needs to be more careful. Not give Cas any opportunity to escape. Because one of them is going to get hurt, if this happens again.

"Cas, you need to stay awake," Dean orders from the front seat, and pushes his baby even faster.

"I want to go home," Castiel tells him weakly from the backseat.

Dean is stunned silent. Of course Cas wants to go home. But Dean's his soulmate. And home is people, not a place. He can make Cas happy. He just has to do better. Once he does better, once Dean stops fucking up, then it will all fall into place. He just has to take care of Cas right, and then everything will be fine. He'll make a home for Cas. He'll give Cas everything he needs. He's never loved someone this much except Sam, and he'd do anything for Sam. He'll do anything for Cas, he just – he just needs to keep him. So he says, softly, "You are home."

The bunker door is open. Dean carries Cas through it, and darkly muses it's like a husband carrying his bride across the threshold of their new home.

Dean gently places Cas on his bed, and then handcuffs him to the headboard.

Cas looks at him dully. "Can I pass out now?"

Dean stares at Cas's still-bleeding knife wound for a moment, then looks up. Yeah, that'd be for the best. "Go ahead."

It takes almost forty-five minutes to completely patch Cas up. Disinfectant, stitches, bandaging. Halfway through he cuts all the clothes off of Cas's body, including his pants and boxers. There was so much blood that until Dean was able to clean it off he couldn't tell if Cas had any other injuries. But no, there's just that one, deep cut.

And Cas, naked. Smooth muscles, a line of coarse hair leading to Cas's cock, which lies soft against his thigh. It's beautiful. Cut. In any other setting and any other mood, Dean'd be hard by now, but this time he just looks. Cas has a runner's body, all lean lines instead of bulk, and his body is mostly bare of hair. He's beautiful, but also a lot slimmer than he seemed clothed. And now, pale from blood loss with a huge bandage on his stomach, he looks …

Cas seems suddenly so fragile.

All this time, Cas has either been calm and collected, or fighting like hell, taking hits and giving more than a few of his own, and so Dean has seen him as strong. Powerful, despite the cuff on his ankle. This isn't a man easily conquered. And Dean doesn't want to conquer him – he wants Cas to be a fighter, he just doesn't want Cas to fight him. He doesn't know how to accomplish that without breaking Cas down, and the thought squirms uncomfortably in him. It's wrong to want to break someone. And Dean doesn't want that.

The key, Dean realizes, is how much he takes good care of Cas. If he holds Cas, but he gives Cas whatever he needs, then Cas will be okay while getting to know Dean. Right? That makes sense.

He swallows, looking at Cas's naked body one last time It's going to be really, really hard not to think about this next time Dean jerks off, but he doesn't want to … to take that, when Cas hasn't offered it. He covers Cas with a towel and turns up the heat so Cas will be comfortable.

And he waits.

-------------------------------------------

While Cas recovers, sometimes adorably grumpy and sometimes pissed (and trying to make deals that offer sex in exchange for being released, like Dean would just use Cas like that and dump him), Dean calls Anna again. "Hey, Anna. Uh, it's Dean. Of course, you knew that. Anyway, the point is I could really use your help, still. Cas knows about magic, but I can't confirm anything else that happened without you. I think it'd help a lot if … if he knew I was telling the truth. I want him to understand, you know?" Dean pauses. "Whenever you can, Anna. Thanks." He hangs up and puts his cell out of Cas's reach in the foyer.

He pauses there. Cas has refused to rescind his offer, and it's making Dean realize just how much he wants Cas that way. Of course he's never going to take it like that, but he also can't deny he wants Cas as more than a friend. He doesn't know if it will ever happen – probably not – but the desire is there and so very visible. Yeah, Dean's been turned on by Cas, and Cas has seen that, but it's like Dean's tried so hard to put that out of his head he forgot that Cas doesn't do the same thing. It tinges all of Dean's actions with a weird sexual undertone. Dean doesn't want to think of himself as that kind of guy, but maybe he is.

It's making Dean antsy. And kind of pissy. He and Cas have exchanged moods.

Then he heads to Cas's bedroom to get him up for breakfast. Cas is awake, blinking at him, and swathed in blankets. He kind of looks like a child that's been swaddled for comfort, because all that pokes out is most of his face and his wild hair. It's cute, and Dean grins at him as his worries fade away.

"Ready for some crepes?" Dean asks, deliberately cheerful.

Cas eyes him. "You're not carrying any."

"No more breakfast in bed, lazybones," Dean says with a smile.

Cas gives him a faintly amused look, then grimaces. Dean's at his side instantly, the grin falling from his face, but Cas waves him off. He throws back the blankets and very carefully leverages himself upright. He does let Dean hold his hand (it makes Dean feel like a teenage girl that it makes his heart race, but he decides to enjoy it anyway) and Dean stabilizes him on the walk up the stairs to the kitchen. Cas grips his hand surprisingly tightly, leaning on Dean on a way Dean knows Cas doesn't like to do often. The faint twinge it gives Dean's own knife wound is totally worth it.

Because as always, that small sign of trust is enough to make Dean content. It's those little gifts that keep Dean going. He doesn't think Cas knows that, and Cas would probably be conflicted if he did.

Every slight smile, every willing touch make Dean more determined to keep Cas here.

Cas devours the crepes. Before he'd really been in too much to fill his stomach, but he must be doing better today because he has six, and they're not that small.

Dean blathers on about a couple of possible hunts, talking about the phone work he's doing to make sure it's actually something he can take care of. Cas listens carefully, and Dean muses that he's probably keeping track of Dean's crimes.

After breakfast, Dean helps Cas into the den and then leaves to go take care of some practical things.

An hour later, he returns to the den, but he stops in the hallway. Cas is sitting on the couch, feet up, and he's running his fingers over his ankle cuff quickly and jerkily. He's rocking back and forth a bit, and then he runs his hands through his hair while he squeezes his eyes shut. He can't see Dean from this angle, but Dean flinches backwards anyway when Cas opens his eyes and tips his head back to stare at the ceiling. There's panic in his face, but despair too. Cas swallows hard, and begins to take deliberate, even breaths.

Cas is suffering.

And yeah, Dean knew that this situation would place a lot of pressure on Cas's mind. He's alone with Dean and completely isolated from the life he had before. But Dean hadn't really seen that.

Cas is trying to work through a panic attack.

Dean's seen them before. He's had three in his life, two of them after his stint in hell. Sam did, too, after the same. Dean will never forget the agony of watching Sam break down in the psych ward, trying so hard to cope and being unable to. The way he'd watch the corners of the room, and the smallest thing could make him curl him into himself. Even after Anna took on Sam's trauma, some of that remained. It made Sam sadder, softer, and in a way, more empathetic and calmer with victims on a hunt.

There's anger in Cas, too. He stares hard at the blank screen in front of him, then wipes his eyes.

Heart hurting and chest tight, Dean wants to rush in there and hug Cas. But would Cas want that?

Dean takes a deep breath and steps forward, deliberately making a lot of noise.

Cas starts and turns to look at him, and while Dean watches, the walls come up. Cas straightens his back and his expression shifts to one of calm curiosity. "Hello," Cas says.

"Wanna watch something?" Dean asks.

Cas shrugs.

Dean plops next to him on the couch and swings an arm around Cas's shoulders. Cas tenses up, but Dean keeps his hold both firm and relaxed, and after a moment Cas kind of gives into it with a small shudder.

"You know, you're a much better movie watcher than Sam ever was. You'll watch anything. And Sam, man, he always wanted those chickflicks that were about culture and the nature of man and shit. And it's not like I don’t know the nature of man, we're all kind of morons who go around trying to live our lives, but we're still morons … You know what I mean, Cas?"

Cas is giving him a small smile. "No."

Dean sighs theatrically, and begins again.

Yeah. Dean can do this. He can make Cas happy. One day, Cas will trust him, and that pain he feels will go away. But it does make Dean fear that Cas will never see past the imprisonment. And it'd be understandable if that was the case, but Dean can't help but hope for more. Even as he remembers the dark look in Cas's eyes, the pain and fear and anger.

After three days of tenseness between them, that night when Dean asks Cas if he can come back to their bed – and Dean truly does think of it as their bed – Cas says yes.

-------------------------------------------

Dean's cell rings faintly in the distance. He tries to remember where he put it – near the door? – then walks out of Cas's range to go find it. The coat rack continues to ring as Dean starts searching pockets, cursing his own laziness. When it stops ringing, Dean sighs. But he keeps looking until it appears in a weird corner of a jacket pocket, and takes it out to look. It beeps momentarily, and he sees a missed call (no voicemail) and a text.

I am coming. – Anna.

That means he has about two minutes. Getting that much of a social grace is about as far as he's been able to get Anna to concede to. He swings around to the kitchen and calls out, "Cas! Come to the kitchen!"

Cas walks to the kitchen, squinting at Dean in question.

"I got a text from Anna, she'll be by any minute now," Dean says, pleased.

And like magic, Anna appears with a flutter of air.

Castiel stumbles backwards, shock filling his face. "What the –"

Dean interrupts before Anna can give Cas a lecture on blasphemy. "Cas, this is Anna."

Anna gives Dean a fond smile, and Dean returns it. As much as they've been through together, Anna will always be Dean's friend. Yeah, they've fought. A lot, at times, and when Anna went wild and decided to deal with Crowley … well, that was a bad year. It didn't help that Anna stayed away from Dean so long in Purgatory, and that it took Dean a while to find Benny. With no sleep, no rest, just constant fighting, it felt like he spent years alone. And being alone has made him edgy ever since. But Anna and him, they're good now.

"Hello, Castiel. It's good to finally meet you," Anna tells Cas. She steps forward and presses two fingers to his forehead, following Cas when Cas flinches. "That's better."

Cas lifts his shirt – Dean blinks but doesn't look away – and pulls off the bandage Dean put there last night, revealing smooth, healed skin. "How did you do that?"

"Healing is an innate ability for angels. Only demons require power in the form of a deal."

Castiel stares at her. "Are you really an angel?"

Dean mostly watches the rest. Anna shows off her wings in a really cool way, revealing their massive shadows and playing serious hell with the bunker's wiring. Dean'd be pissy about it in any other circumstance, but Cas's slack jaw totally makes the maintenance he's going to have to do worth it. Cas goes through the usual questions – including asking about God – and then while he absorbs that, Anna fills him on the stuff that's been going on.

Heaven sounds like it's really reorganizing. Dean's happy for Anna. Well, for humanity too, because if heaven can get it's fucking act together that means things are better for everybody. Dean doubts Lucifer would ever have gotten out if that idiot Michael hadn't been helping. Some angels are worse than demons. But now, they've got a proper system of hierarchy and power, one that doesn't rely on sheer strength, but instead relies on good leadership skills. Anna's not the most powerful angel left, but she's smart and devoted to her siblings.

Speaking of. Dean stares at the floor. "And Sam?"

"Mending his relationship with your father."

Dean snorts, heart lightening a bit. He's happy that Anna is having the angels let humans travel around now. "Yeah, that'll take the rest of eternity."

Cas interrupts, face still pale. "Anna –"

"I think it is time for us to speak, Castiel," Anna says, and then taps Cas on the forehead. Then they're both gone.

Dean exhales slowly.

Anna didn't offer any explanation on what she intended. Dean's a little worried, he's not going to lie. Anna's understanding of social graces is awkward at best, due to an utter lack of desire to actually figure it out. She'd confessed to him once that it seemed like such a big fuss over little details, which change wildly in a few generations. Too much to keep track of, she said. Sometimes Dean forgets how freaking old Anna is.

He paces around the kitchen, wondering if Anna will make this worse or better. Most likely a bit of both. Cas will at least believe Dean's version of events, all the stuff about the apocalypse. Granted, Dean and Sam started the apocalypse, but they also had all of heaven and hell manipulating the both of them towards that end. Dean thinks that makes it somewhat understandable. And they ended it – Sam ended it by sacrificing himself. What Dean's done to Cas is horrible, but he's not a horrible person. Is he? Sam didn't think so, but then Sam isn't around to see that cuff on Cas's ankle.

Five minutes into Dean's downward spiral, Cas reappears with Anna. His eyes are wet, and sad when they meet Dean's gaze.

Then Cas steps forward and hugs Dean.

Dean's shocked, to say the least, and so it takes him a second to sink into that embrace. It feels amazing. Cas feels amazing. So close. And he's trying to comfort Dean. Dean holds on as tight as he thinks Cas will let him, as long as he thinks Cas will let him. "Hey," he whispers, touched beyond words.

"I'll take as my leave," Anna says, Dean barely hearing her. "Good luck, both of you." And she's gone.

"Where'd she take you?" Dean asks, one hand on Cas's waist. Still holding him, and Cas doesn't lean away or look at it, just lets Dean touch him.

"Does it matter?"

Dean has to smile. "Guess not." Not with Cas this … this affectionate.

"Dean –"

"Yeah?" Dean asks, cautious.

"I'm rescinding my offer," Cas says.

Those words feel like they can heal the world. Or maybe just Dean. It's more than just Cas saying he won't do that, it's an acknowledgement of their relationship not going that way. And no matter what, sex or no sex, that's a good thing. Dean wants Cas's feelings for him, whatever they may be, to be genuine. And now Cas is staring at him with sympathy and affection. Affection. The real kind. Fuck. Thank Anna.

The rest of the day is a happy blur.

-------------------------------------------

Cas is curled up on the couch.

Dean is looking at him but trying not to look like he's looking, because Dean is an idiot and he knows that he's giving Cas a sappy look that Sam would have teased him about for centuries. But Cas is so beautiful, so bright, so smart, so kind. So everything. Cas isn't perfect, but damn he comes close. Who on earth decided Dean should get that kind of soulmate? Did they not realize what fuck up Dean would turn out to be?

"Why are you staring?"

Dean starts, realizing he got lost in his thoughts and kept staring longer than he realized. "Um, sorry."

"Dean. Why are you staring at me?"

"I love you," Dean says finally. "That's why."

A little crease appears between Castiel's eyebrows. "I see."

Dean flushes and looks down.

"You know, it's far more socially appropriate to look at someone while you're talking to them," Cas observes.

Dean looks up, feeling a smile rise. "Yeah. I guess it is. Whatchya reading?"

-------------------------------------------

It starts with Dean having Cas read newspapers to find hunts (something for Cas to do, because Dean understands the impulse to be useful, and Cas won't stop talking about his job at the FBI), but it ends with a phone not called (thank fuck, how in God's green earth did Dean manage to convince him not to call his brother).

Cas had completely freaked out after handing the cell to Dean, but Dean was able to talk him down. And now he's here. He's curled up in Dean's lap, his head on Dean's shoulder. His hands were clutching Dean's shirt, but now that he's fallen asleep, they're loose and relaxed in his lap. He's even drooling a bit into Dean's shirt, and that shouldn't be adorable, and yet it is. Cas doesn't even twitch when Dean shifts around to get more comfortable, so his right arm doesn't fall asleep.

Taking care of Cas like this is has become one of the greatest joys of Cas's life. And yeah, Dean knows he's partially causing the need for comfort in the first place, but Cas lets Dean take care of him. He lets Dean make his favorite foods. He tolerates Dean's attempts at conversation, or just listens if he has no interest in the topic. He sees the intention behind Dean's blathering, and relaxes into every meaningless sentence Dean utters. He doesn't push Dean off, usually. He doesn't make smart remarks about it like Sam did. Instead, Cas just kind of lets Dean's caretaking sink in. It fills a need in Dean to be wanted.

Cas needs him.

And Dean will be there, always, whenever he does.

Dean caresses the side of Cas's face and then runs a finger across his lower lip, but Cas just sleeps on.

A dozen emotions are warring within Dean, but the strongest one is hope. Cas is starting to love Dean. That's the only reason Cas wouldn't call the FBI down on Dean's head – because Cas really, honestly cares about him. Maybe it's not something that could be called love yet, but it's not hate, and it's more than indifference. Cas cares and he cares about Dean more than he wants to escape. Escape at any cost isn't on the table, at least.

Fuck. Cas could love him. Dean could have Cas as his lover. As his everything.

After half an hour, even with love and trust and hope making Dean giddy, holding Cas becomes uncomfortable. Dean debates what to do for a bit, then figures if Cas wakes up, he'll figure it out then, but for now he'll take Cas to bed. He shifts around to get an arm under Cas's legs, and then stands awkwardly. Cas is a warm, solid weight, but he's so limp and relaxed that Dean almost drops him.

Dean lets out a relieved breath when he regains his balance, then takes Cas to bed. Once he lies Cas down, he studies him for a few minutes.

Then, not really thinking too much about what he's doing, he slides down Cas's pants. Then his socks. And last, his shirt. Cas sleeps right through it, and Dean muses that he must be physically and emotionally exhausted. Dean strips down to his boxers and curls up behind Cas in bed, flipping the covers over them both, and then lets himself fall into a light doze, his whole body pressed against Cas's. Lots of naked skin to naked skin. And yeah, that's something Dean wants, but he also knows that people can be starved of human contact. Dean has been. He didn't even know it until Cas let him hold his hand, but Dean had been starving. And Dean doesn't want that for Cas, so he holds him. Dean can feel Cas breathing, feel the roughness of the hair that leads to his cock when Dean puts his arm around Cas, his hand on Cas's bare belly.

Then Dean falls asleep.

He's fully hard and thrusting against Cas's back when he wakes up. Fuck. Time to get out of bed and take care of business. He flips back the covers, trying to keep them on Cas.

Cas, though, turns and looks at him.

"You're awake?" Dean whispers.

Cas nods.

Dean leaves the bed without jostling it too much, even though Cas is already awake. Then he kneels in front of Cas, watching as Cas observes him, a very odd look on his face. "How are you doing?" Dean says, voice still low.

"Why are you whispering?" Cas whispers.

Dean almost snorts. "Why are you?" Without thinking about it, he reaches out and touches Cas's cheek with the back of his hand. It's sappy, but Cas relaxes into it and Dean's heart almost breaks. He does it again, watching as Cas's lips part. Then the third time, he uses both hands to hold Cas's face, and kisses him.

Again. And again.

Cas opens for him with a small moan and Dean presses in immediately, licking the inside of Cas's warm mouth and then sucking on his lower lip, pulling out all the stops and tricks Dean knows about kissing. Cas responds to each kiss with the smallest of movements, his whole body hitching forward at one point, and then withdrawing, and then pressing his mouth against Dean's hard. His hands wander across Dean's stubble, and Dean wonders if this is the first time he's kissed someone with prickle.

Since Cas is still so relaxed, so open and willing, Dean climbs onto the bed. Fuck, he'll take whatever Cas is willing to give.

Dean's kisses get more intense, more purposeful. He's trying to arouse Cas, trying to get Cas hard. He doesn't know if Cas will throw up again or push him off, but as long as Cas shows the slightest sign of wanting this, Dean will keep going. He starts working hickeys onto Cas's neck and Cas thrusts upwards, almost meeting Dean's body as he moans. Dean can't help but let a similar moan slip out. Fuck, Cas is so hot. So fucking amazing. Dean's never been this hard in his life. He wants to bury his cock inside of Cas, but he knows he can't do that.

Not yet.

The thought makes him groan, makes his cock twitch in his boxers. Will Cas let Dean come on him? Dean starts exploring Cas's body, stroking the muscles he's only ever looked at, his pectoral to his hip, exploring every spot of skin. Cas has a scar on his abdomen from a gunshot wound, years and years old. Dean knows he's got half a dozen like it on his own body, and it just reminds him of how powerful Cas is, that Cas is a fighter. And having Cas here, moaning for him, is the most arousing thing Dean can imagine.

He slides his hand down Cas's treasure trail, towards his cock, but Cas grabs his hand forcefully and Dean freezes. "Okay," Dean whispers, planting another kiss on Cas's mouth.

Cas doesn't want Dean to touch him there. Okay. But Dean can show him how much Dean wants him, that he just wants to give Cas pleasure like the pleasure Cas is giving him. So he thrusts against Cas's thigh, letting Cas feel his cock for the first time. And fuck, the sensation of his cock dragging along Cas's thigh, even through his boxers, is intense. He kisses Cas as he does it, eyes open, and sees the shock and confusion flash across Cas's face, but also the arousal, the way his cheeks flush and his pupils are dilated. Cas isn't sure about this about in his head, but he's going to come from it. His body wants it.

Dean can take him there. Show him how good it can be. If Dean can get Cas's body to respond, his mind will follow.

And Dean, more than anything, wants both.

"I – oh, Dean," Cas says, voice higher than normal.

"Please," Dean pleads, only Cas's hesitation keeping him from coming all over Cas. "Like this? Please." He grabs one of Cas's hands, which are still by his side – he's not touching Dean in return, but that's okay, Dean can work with this – and kisses it like he can prove all his devotion in that one touch. "Cas, I want you so bad."

Cas stares at him, still aroused, but there's uncertainty and fear in his expression now.

Dean remembers that Cas has never slept with a man. This is the first time he's felt another man's hard cock. That thought makes a little bit of pre-come pulse out of his cock. No one has ever touched Cas like this, only Dean. Dean has to press a hand to his cock through his boxers to prevent himself from coming, even with the look on Cas's face. He takes a few deep breathes, regains control.

Cas doesn't know what to do, and the uncertainty is causing him distress. How can Dean help with that?

Hold him still. Hold him in. Dean lays with most of his weight on top of Castiel and matches his breathing to Cas's. Physical contact. Cas is tense and wired at first, but when Dean deliberately slows his breathing, Cas unconsciously matches it. Dean stares into Cas's blue eyes, willing him to calm down. To give in. If he lets Dean make the call, Dean thinks, then Cas will relax. Dean presses a hand to Cas's wrist, forcing him down. "Shh," Dean whispers, kissing Cas's ear. "Calm down. I'm here." Another to his neck. "I can make you feel so good, if you let me."

And Cas relaxes. Yes, yes!

"That's it, Cas. That's it. Can I touch you? My hand around you? My mouth?" Dean asks.

Cas opens his mouth, closes it, and then answers, "Okay," very small and unsure.

But Dean will make Cas come so hard he'll see stars. He grins at Cas, lifts off enough to slip a hand into Cas's boxers, and touches Cas's cock for the first time. It's so much larger erect, and silky smooth. Dean thumbs the head and then strokes, long and firm, from the base to the tip. Cas thrusts up and moans loudly and Dean does it again, and again, drinking in the sight of Cas fucking his fist. Cas is nearly wild with arousal now, his whole body jerking towards Dean, desperate and uncoordinated. "Oh fuck, you're beautiful like this," Dean says, and he means every word.

It's that look on Cas's face, that lost to pleasure look, that gives Dean the courage to slip a hand into his boxers, and pull his own cock out of the slit. He thrusts the tip of his cock against Cas's bare thigh, and he knows he's leaving pre-come behind. He's going to come on Cas's skin. Mark him. Dean may have a cuff on Cas's ankle, but his semen spilling across Cas's beautiful skin is something more, something Dean wants. He wants, he wants everything.

Cas grips Dean's arms, biting his lip and staring at him with dark eyes. He's so hard in Dean's hand now, but this? This is more. This is active participation. Dean kisses the center of Cas's chest, touched and amazed.

And then, with very little warning, Cas comes all over Dean's hand. Warm liquid spills across his fingers, into his palm, and Dean wants to lick it every trace of Cas's semen, but the feeling of it is enough to trigger his own orgasm.

"Oh, Cas," he breathes, and then he comes, hot and slick, on Cas's thigh.

It takes him a couple of minutes to come back to himself, the last of his semen leaking from the tip of his dick, and then get up. He pulls off Cas's stained boxers, resisting the impulse to suck on the wet spot, and cleans Cas off, and then himself. He finally gets to see Cas's cock, which is softening but still mostly full. Thick. Dean can't wait to suck it. His gaze drifts to Cas's face, but Cas is just staring at the ceiling with a blank look. Overwhelmed?

Tears slip down Cas's face.

Fuck fuck fuck. "Fuck, Cas, don't cry," Dean says, panicking now. Did he misread something? Did he go too far? He wipes away Cas's tears, and Cas doesn’t flinch from that, at least. He hesitates, then grabs the blankets from the floor and wraps them around Cas, and himself. He maneuvers Cas until Cas is tucked in securely. Cas leans into it and Dean lets out a sigh of relief. "Shh, Cas. You did good. I love you, I love you so much," Dean whispers.

Cas's blue eyes meet his, full of emotion that Dean can't identify. Then he squeezes them shut and relaxes even further into Dean's arms. "I know."

-------------------------------------------

Despite Cas's reaction, Dean's still on a high until morning.

After Cas cuts himself up by slugging the mirror and they talk, Dean runs through the night again and again in his head. Did Cas consent? Even thinking back, Dean doesn't know. Cas said yes, but …

Maybe Cas doesn't trust his own ability to yes or no. Dean's not sure why that would be, but it would make Cas's reaction make sense. Sure, Cas has shown stress, but Dean's not hurting him, is he? And Cas keeps talking about missing his brother, and yeah. He can't let that one slide. He's been messaging Charlie about communicating with the FBI without being caught, and she's got some ideas, fortunately. He knows what it's like to go for long periods without family, and it's hard. And that's not even including Sam's death – but when Sam went to college, when Dad decided to hunt alone and all Dean had was the comfort of the Impala and random women along the way. And Cas doesn't even have that. He only has Dean and whatever gifts Dean gives him.

Cas doesn't have control over much in his own life. That would suck. Dean's been there, with the whole vessel thing and all. Dean's made some pretty stupid decisions under stress, too, like deciding to say yes to Michael.

Deciding to say yes.

Fuck. It's too neat a parallel to not have some ounce of truth in it.

Dean lost all his hope of victory, and gave in. Anna beat the crap out of him, and then Sam and Bobby gave him a talking to, but Dean doesn't think that'll work with Cas, even if he could actually bring himself to do it. Different beast. Dean's kind of Michael in this scenario.

What he does know is he can take care of Cas now. Yeah. He won't fuck up again. He won't. He'll be more careful, listen more, watch Cas more. Wait as long as Cas needs, or give up on his sexual desires completely if that's how it works out.

He'll make it up to Cas. Cas, who cared enough about Dean to say, I don't deserve to be a prisoner, but neither do you. And gave Dean his cell phone, tears in his eyes.

Dean stares at the massive refrigerator he just finished reorganizing. There's a walk-in, too, but Dean doesn't usually use it, and Sam bought this stainless steel monstrosity instead. It's probably the fanciest piece of tech that Dean has, excepting Baby, of course. But even it's not big enough to give Dean enough to do that he's forced to clear his head. Cas's tear-streaked face echoes in head, and each pulse of his heart brings back the memory of finding Cas bloody in the bathroom.

For a second, Dean thought Cas had harmed himself deliberately. But Cas had looked surprised by his cut up hand, so Dean thinks it was probably closer to an explosion of emotion.

Dean swings the fridge door shut and goes to check on Cas.

Cas is curled up on their couch, a book in his lap. His injured hand is held up awkwardly, like he can't find a way to set it comfortably. Dean grabs one of those ridiculous throw pillows that everyone seems to have but he's never seen the purpose of, and says, "Hey."

Cas glances up. He looks calmer, if a little distant.

"Can I?" Dean asks, pointing at Cas's hand and lifting the pillow.

Cas nods.

Dean carefully settles the pillow under Cas's hand, on his thigh, and then directs Cas how to lay it down. He's got some experience with fucked up hands, after all. Cas blinks at him, giving him a bemused look. "I've messed up my hands plenty of times," Dean explains. "Got some experience in what's most comfortable. We used to buy really cheap pillows from the dollar store and keep one in the car for things like this."

"Hunting sounds like a hard life," Cas comments.

"Hard on you physically, anyway," Dean says, scratching the back of his neck. "How are you doing?"

Cas looks away, not down, but to the side, almost like a dismissal. "Please drop it, Dean."

Dean sits on the couch, and then lifts one of Cas's legs, then the other, so Cas's lower half is in Dean's lap. Cas looks at him warily, but doesn't object. He starts to massage Cas's calves first, then his heels. Cas sighs and drops his head back, some of the tension leaving his body. His hand is heavily swathed in gauze, but Dean sees his fingers twitch.

It's taken time – a lot of time, more than five months – but Dean is learning Cas's reactions. What he'd initially perceived as blankness, or as trained calm, is really nothing of the sort. Because Cas had such a steady childhood and such a firm mental foundation, it's difficult to put him off balance. Cas doesn't freak out or struggle blindly; he thinks, he considers, he ponders. He figures it out and determines the best course of action. What Dean saw as training was Cas's natural way of handling the world.

When Dean sees Cas visibly struggle, he knows that whatever the situation is, it's stressed even Cas's ability to cope.

Blood hasn't leaked through that set of gauze yet, but Dean knows he'll have to change it by the evening. That blood is evidence of Cas's mind.

"Tell me about your childhood again?" Dean requests. He has an idea of how break Cas out of the funk he's in, how to help him.

"Dean, hearing about my scraped knees really isn't that interesting. I don't know why you keep asking."

"But it is interesting," Dean objects. "Everything about you is interesting, Cas."

"Love is blind."

Dean laughs. "Tell me, please? With a cherry on top?"

"If you give me a sundae with actual cherry, you have a deal."

Dean drops one of Cas's feet to point at him. "Done."

Cas is smiling now. Success. "Have I told you about Hael?"

"Younger sister," Dean repeats obediently. He digs his thumb into Cas's arch, and Cas's eyes flutter sut for a second.

"Only sister," Cas says. "One night I caught her coming in really late, when she was supposed to be in bed. Me and Balthazar were … uh."

"Uh?"

"Skip that part," Cas says, waving his good hand. "We were awake, that's what matters. She came in drunk and her lipstick smeared. Balthazar turned to me and said, 'Bets on how long she's grounded?' And Hael threw a fit. Said she was going to run to the Grand Canyon if either of us said a thing. I really wanted to just tell our parents in the morning and go to bed, but Balthazar insisted on a 'mutually beneficial arrangement.'" Cas pauses. "Saved his ass, too, Hael couldn’t say a thing when she caught Bal having an orgy."

Dean bursts out laughing. "What?"

Cas shrugs with one shoulder, but he's smiling. "And he ended up the school teacher. I don't get it either."

"You miss her?" Dean asks, before remembering that's a rather insensitive question to ask. What with Cas being chained up in Dean's home.

"She doesn't read my letters," Cas says. He rarely reacts when Dean slips up and mentions the true circumstances of Cas's presence here, and Dean can't decide if he's being polite, or if he chooses not to think about it. Or if he's trying to avoid Dean's inevitable discomfort at being reminded that he's kidnapped Cas. "So in a lot of ways, no. In some, yes. But I'm used to it."

"Sam changed his number halfway through college," Dean remembers. "Felt like he was finally really cutting me off. Not like I called him anyway, but sometimes I checked on him, y'know?"

"But you reestablished your relationship with Sam."

Dean nods. "Yeah, I did."

Cas looks down. "I worry about Balthazar, though."

Dean kisses Cas's ankle. "I'm sorry." He lets Cas absorb that, then asks, "Do you want your sundae now?"

"Yes, please."

On some level, Cas is angry at him. But Dean is chipping away at that anger, bit by bit, and with each day Cas softens and accepts Dean's company and comfort more. Each day, Dean becomes more useful. He learns more about Cas, and the loneliness that sank deep into Dean's bones and hurt every time he breathed fades away a little more in the wake of Cas's smile.

-------------------------------------------

Cas's hand hasn't completely healed when Cas get sick with the flu.

Dean wakes up first, as he usually does, but this time he finds that Cas is breathing with a little difficulty. Snoring louder, too. Dean crawls out of bed and stands by him, hovering over him for a minute, then he checks Cas's forehead and finds it hot to the touch. Cas isn't sweating, either, which means it’s a fever that hasn't broken. Dean goes to the bathroom, gets a cold, wet washcloth and then returns to put it on Cas's forehead. He doesn't wake him up – might as well let him get as much rest as possible.

Instead, he goes to the kitchen and gets out the blender and frozen fruit to make a smoothie. That takes him about fifteen minutes, then he returns to their bedroom.

Cas is awake, with toilet paper in hand. The look he gives Dean isn't happy. "You got me sick," Cas accuses hoarsely.

Dean can't really deny it. Where else would have Cas caught it from? "Sorry." He lifts the glass of smoothie. "Hungry? It's cold."

Cas sighs and then holds out his hand.

Dean gives it to him and then sits next to him on the bed, checking Cas's forehead again. Cas doesn't even object, just starts sucking down the smoothie. Dean has to remind himself that Cas is sick, because the sight of Cas sucking hard on a straw is … well. Arousing. Everything about Cas is arousing, but some more than others. Dean clears his throat and looks away. "Do you need anything else?"

"Tissue." Cas pauses. "Movies?"

"Done," Dean says easily, and leaves to go get said items.

Dean picks out children's films. He knows when he's delirious with fever watching anything dark or violent tends to trigger his hunter instincts, even to the degree he's swung at Sam a time or two. Cas's life hasn't been as violent as Dean's has, but he's also definitely lived a more violent life than the average person. Strange things come up when you're out of your mind.

Finding Nemo is apparently pretty boring, because Cas falls asleep partway through. Dean takes the opportunity to clean up the area and start lunch, which is soup.

When he comes back, Cas is sort of awake. He looks at Dean with glazed eyes. "Bal?"

"No, it's Dean," Dean says, pressing the back of his hand to Cas's forehead. His fever is higher. "Do you recognize me, Cas?"

"I'm drowning," Cas says blurrily.

Dean blinks. "Are your lungs okay? Can you inhale all the way?" Pneumonia would be bad.

Cas grabs Dean's hand. "Bal, I'm drowning. Dean won't let me go and I'm drowning, I'm losing myself." He squints at Dean. "Castiel is gone."

Dean feels a chill run up his spine. He's frozen in place for a second or two, then carefully exhales. He redoes the now-warm washcloth with more cold water and places it on Cas. Cas's attention has shifted away from Dean now, with his gaze wandering around the room. After about fifteen minutes of that – the movie almost finished – Cas falls asleep again.

Castiel is gone. I'm losing myself.

Cas has become more and more entwined with Dean, there's no denying that. His life is composed of filling Dean's empty spaces. He's become softer, more responsive to Dean's needs and desires. That's not to say that Cas doesn't have fight left, because of course he does. The cuff isn't there for decoration. But does Cas view his kindness towards Dean as losing himself? A kind of surrender?

But Cas is still the same person. The guy who argues with him about stuff in the newspaper, who still checks all the locked doors every time Dean leaves on a hunt, and who still asks to be set free.

It's unsettling, Cas's words, but also confusing.

Lacking any way to figure it out, Dean makes another soup, this time a chicken noodle from scratch. He puts in a ton of garlic. That stuff is good for this, right? He also digs through the medicine cabinet and finds emergen-c, and makes a glass of that. He puts it all on a plate and heads back to Cas.

Dean runs his hand through Cas's sweat-damp hair. "Hey, there," he says softly. "You with me?"

Cas opens his eyes.

"Got some soup and something to drink. Think you can sit up for me?"

Cas nods.

Dean helps him up, then gives Cas the glass and makes sure he finishes it. Then he gives Cas the soup. "Cas … what did you mean when you said you're losing yourself?"

"Hmm," Cas says, and closes his eyes. The bowl sways a bit, and Dean has to grab it. Then Cas's eyes snap open. "I have to get out!" He tries to struggle to his feet.

Dean puts the bowl of soup aside and holds Cas's arms. "Cas, you can't get up, you're sick. You need to stay here." But Cas struggles, trying to twist out of Dean's grip; there's no real technique about it, it's a blind fight. "Cas!"

Cas leans forward and stares into Dean's eyes. "Have to run," he slurs.

"Tomorrow," Dean promises. "I'll take you on a run," he says, though of course he knows that's not what Cas means.

It seems to pacify Cas, though, because he sits back. "Wake me up in the morning, Bal," Cas says, and then flops down and passes out.

Dean watches him for a long moment. Cas. His beautiful Cas. Even like this, nose red, mouth open as he snores, Dean loves him. Dean gets a bowl of ice water and places it on his side table, and then lays down with Cas. After a bit, he manages to persuade a half-conscious Cas to come into his arms. And he holds him.

It takes two days for the fever to break, after which Cas rapidly recovers with very little memory of being that sick.

But Dean remembers. He remembers how Cas would wake up scrambling to get away, asking for his brother. And how Dean could calm him with the words, "Don't worry. I'll take care of you."

-------------------------------------------

A week before Cas's birthday – which Dean is totally planning for, he's got lots of cream cheese, Oreos, and some high quality baker's chocolate, plus a cell phone – Dean walks into their bedroom with a towel on his head, still a bit damp from his usual nightly shower. He forgot his pajama bottoms, so he's only got his boxers on. Cas is already in bed, a book in hand. He looks up when Dean enters the room, casual at first, then taking a brief second look. At Dean's boxers.

Cas flushes a bit and returns to the book. He shifts his lower body.

Dean pauses for a second, rubbing his wet hair with a towel. Did he see what he thinks he saw? Was that embarrassment or interest?

Dean decides to test it by dropping the towel on the floor and crawling into bed without going back to his room to get pajamas. Cas puts his book on the side table and Dean takes the opportunity to look at Cas's crotch. There's a little bulge there. Dean doesn't get more than a couple of seconds to look and then Cas is pulling the covers over himself and turning on his side.

After a second of hesitation, Dean curls up behind him. He jerked off in the shower, so he's not worried about getting hard, so he presses his entire body against Cas's back. Cas relaxes into it like he usually does, and Dean finds himself caressing the outside of Cas's leg, just long sweeps of his hand. Cas makes a tiny noise and then stills. Dean smiles in the darkness.

Maybe … maybe he can give Cas pleasure. Take Dean out of the equation. Would Cas like that? It'd be less stressful, less of a weird experience, because Cas has surely received blow jobs before. Yeah. Dean'll ask.

-------------------------------------------

Honestly, Castiel's birthday goes a lot better than Dean expected. Cas is lying Dean's arms, curled up into a ball. He's not asleep, but he's pretending that he is. He's even faking the really deep breathing that people do when they're completely passed out. In fact, Dean can only tell Cas is faking because Cas still scratches itches and twitches every once in a while. Even though he's holding Cas in one hand, Dean has a book in the other while Cas drifts off.

It's a copy of a book Dean saw in Cas's library, written by David Rossi, about the psychology behind profiling and catching serial killers. It's more informational than some of the other books Dean saw, that dealt with specific cases. Dean found it in Sam's room when he went in to carefully dust the small amount of objects Sam left behind. Sam would probably really find it funny that someone whose work he read is now hunting Dean. And concerned.

Dean's finding it hard to focus on it, though. He can't stop remembering the taste of Cas's come. The feel of Cas's heavy cock filling his mouth and the way Cas had thrust into him when he came. The way Cas had arched his back, staring at the ceiling while biting his lip as his cock pulsed. His muscled stomach twitching, and his thighs trembling. It was beautiful and so, so hot.

For the first time in his life, Dean actually came without any physical stimulation, because he had to hold Cas down so that Cas wouldn't cause Dean to gag.

And Cas didn't freak out afterwards. He got a little clingy when Dean offered physical comfort, but that was it. It's a huge relief to Dean. He'd worried, even as Cas came in his mouth, that it would be traumatizing for Cas. Because Cas says yes, but it's like he's not totally sure why he's saying yes and then gets conflicted about it afterwards.

Plus, there's the phone call. Dean did his best to get Cas back into thinking mode, because Cas honestly does a lot better when he's analyzing shit instead of reacting emotionally.

"Cas, you awake?"

Cas sighs. "Yes."

Dean puts the book down on the bed. "Can we talk?"

Cas actually turns around at that, knocking Dean's one arm aside. "Dean, you hate talking about this kind of thing."

"Hey, how do you know I'm not asking about your farts?" Dean demands. "Man, some of your stinkers are stinky."

Cas bursts out laughing. "Dean."

Dean grins back at him, pleased with himself. "I actually wanted to ask you a question."

"All right," Cas says, now looking a little wary.

"Did you mean it when you said 'He's not what we thought'? Was that, like …" Dean hesitates. "What did you mean by that?"

Cas sits up completely. He eyes Dean, hands in his lap, then reaches out with one. Dean takes it, practically feeling his heart flutter. Sure, Cas accepts Dean's physical presence. But he rarely actually reaches out for contact, often depending on Dean to make the first move. Cas smiles at him gently, and a bit sadly. "I did mean it, Dean. You're not an evil person."

"Even after all this?" Dean asks, waving his hand at Cas's prison, and Dean's home.

Cas nods. "Even after all this. I'm not going to lie and say that taking me – keeping me here – isn't wrong, because it is. But I understand why. And you've suffered so much in your life to help others." Cas looks down. "I do admire that, Dean."

Dean feels like a teenage girl, but he asks it anyway: "Do you like me?"

Pain flashes across Cas's face. "Yes."

But joy leaps in Dean's heart.

"I shouldn't," Cas admits. Dean recognizes the emotion behind those words as shame. "I shouldn't, but I do." He shrugs, expression turning wry. "I even like your sense of humor."

Dean laughs. "Finally, someone appreciates my fart jokes."

Cas rolls his eyes. "Not that particular element of your humor."

Dean leans forward and kisses him, the lightest peck he can manage and still make physical contact. "Good enough."

Cas's blue eyes twinkle for a moment and his mouth curves into a smile.

Dean lunges for the camera sitting on the bedside table. He misjudges the distance and ends up on the floor with a loud thump, but then he's scrambling to his feet, grabbing the camera, and turning it on. But when he takes the photo, Cas isn't smiling. Instead, he's giving the camera an intently concerned look.

"Dammit," Dean says. "Not that I don't like concern," he adds, lowering the camera.

Cas just shakes his head. "Dean, you're an idiot."

"Yeah, yeah." Dean holds up the camera. "Smile?"

Cas smiles, and Dean captures it. Like he's captured everything about Cas.

After, staring at the photo, he realizes that if he loses those precious smiles, if he loses Cas, life won't be worth living. A few jokes later, Dean curls up behind Cas again, and this time Cas falls asleep easily, like some burden has been lifted off his shoulders. Dean kisses the nape of Cas's neck once he's deeply asleep, knowing Cas won't be woken up by it. Dean loves this man, and Dean will die if he loses him.

-------------------------------------------

Dean comes to understand that while Cas likes him, is even fond of him, Cas also fears him. The pale, frightened look on Cas's face when Dean came back with a syringe is not something Dean will forget anytime soon. It makes Dean remember that fateful day when Dean kidnapped Castiel from his apartment. Cas had struggled like he was fighting for his life, and sometimes Dean forgets that that is exactly what Cas was doing. Cas thought he was going to die, there in his kitchen.

For Dean, it was the beginning of possessive love, but for Cas, it was the beginning of captivity by a serial killer.

There has to be a solution. A way to make Cas not fear him. Because yes, Dean's kidnapped him and his holding him against his will, but Dean's not going to hurt Cas. He loves Cas.

It's jarring, sometimes, to see Cas with the cuff on his ankle. To remember that Cas is here by force. But other times it's a relief, a reminder that Cas won't leave him like everyone else has.

Dean doesn't admit it to Cas, but he has nightmares about Cas disappearing in the middle of the night. Walking away, and never coming back. Dean will wake up in a cold sweat, an echo of a gun barrel held to his temple by his own hand.

One afternoon, during lunch, Dean kneels in front of Cas and hikes up his pant leg, exposing the cuff.

"What are you doing?" Cas asks, bemused.

"Checking your ankle," Dean tells him, but that's not the entire truth. Of course he does check Cas's ankle for sores or things like that, but so far Cas has only slowly developed some calluses. Nothing like bed sores or even bruising, probably because the cuff itself is so light. Dean runs his fingers over Cas's warm skin, then the cool hardness of the cuff itself. And somewhere in his head, he thinks, You're mine. You belong with me. And the cuff is proof of it.

"It's all right," Cas tells Dean.

Dean looks up and smiles. "No pain?"

Cas hesitates. "Not anymore."

Dean stands up, giving the cuff one last caress. "Want to have lunch outside? Might as well take advantage of the sunlight." And Cas's new boundaries, much extended.

"I'd like that."

-------------------------------------------

Tulpas fucking suck.

Cas is free, ankle unbound, and staring at Dean. Dean is easily able to see the realization cross Cas's face. The only thing standing between Cas and freedom is Dean. But Dean's not going to let Cas go that easily. No. Cas is his. Cas belongs with him, and Dean will take care of him, and love him, and Cas will one day accept that. Because Dean can't lose him. He fucking can't, because he'll fucking lose it and every piece of the person that is Dean Winchester will fall apart. It's selfish, and it's wrong, but Dean will make it right by loving Cas with everything he is.

"Cas, don't," Dean says, more desperate now than when he faced the tulpa about to kill Cas in that hallway. Danger he can handle. Losing Cas? It makes his heart beat fast with panic.

"Dean, I don't want to hurt you. I don't." Cas's expression is full of pain, but also, for the first time, a degree of pity. "Just let me go – I won't tell anyone where you are. Let me go."

"I can't," Dean says, and brings up his tire-iron.

-------------------------------------------

Dean stares at the bottle of vodka, still sitting in the infirmary. He'd taken a swig after Cas patched him up, the first alcohol he's had since going off of it cold turkey on the hunt with Garth, just as a pain control measure. It'd been automatic, something he didn't think about at all. It wasn't uncommon for Sam and him to do after a hunt that left enough bruises and cuts to make sleeping hard, but not enough to use their stash of vicodin (which they had to steal, thus making it a hard commodity to come by).

Cas is sleeping, cuffed again, dazed from his concussion. Safe in bed.

Dean wants to be just as out of it, this time from alcohol.

He hurt Cas. Fuck, he hurt Cas so bad.

Not just physically, either, though he definitely gave Cas a pretty severe head injury. No, he'll never forget Cas's tear streaked face as Dean yanked him down the hallway back to the cuff. Or the feel of the bones in Cas's wrists grinding together. His scraped up his ankles and feet from being forcibly dragged. The way Cas went limp and sobbed, and because Dean is a bastard even then Dean didn't give up, just got his hands under Cas's arms and pulled him that way. Cas tried to crawl away from the sight of Dean holding the ankle cuff, even as injured as he was.

All those times Dean told himself he wasn't really hurting Cas were just him being delusional. Deluded.

And even then – even then, Dean made him put the cuff back on. Said, "I love you, Cas. I love your fight, I love how strong you are, but I need you here. Please put it on."

Dean wasn't lying when he said those words. They were pure truth. This is also the truth: Cas doesn't want to be here. He wants to go home, to his family, his job, and his life. And as fond of Dean as Cas is, that hasn't changed over the past eight months. Cas doesn't want to hurt him, and has in fact proved he won't hurt Dean, but can Dean say the same?

He grabs the bottle of vodka and takes a huge drink.

There was the first escape attempt, too. Dean almost missed it, but there were a few tear tracks on Cas's face, blurred with the blood. The second attempt, Cas was mostly focusing on not making his knife wound any worse. Actually, Cas was mostly pissed after that one, yelling about how he should have fired that gun.

Two swallows.

The physical part of it is actually less important. Bruises heal. Wounds to the mind and soul don't. Dean knows that better than anyone.

He finishes the bottle. He stumbles drunk into Cas's bedroom and takes his pillow from the bed and puts it on the floor. Then he lays down with it, on the cold, hard ground, and falls asleep.

-------------------------------------------

Dean wakes up hungover, of course. At four in the morning. His mouth is dry like a desert and his head is pounding like someone took a mallet to it. He wants to throw up, but manages to stifle the impulse. His muscles practically creak when he finally stands up. He spends a minute or so stretching, just enough so he won't fall into a door or something and knock himself out. One concussion in this household is enough.

Cas is asleep, still. Dean kneels in front of the bed and lays one hand on Cas's forehead, half checking for a fever, half just wanting to touch him. Cas opens his eyes fuzzily.

The words pop out before Dean can stop them: "Do you want me to let you go, Cas?"

Cas looks confused. "Bal?"

"Should I drop you off at home?" Dean persists. "If you say … if you say so, I will."

Cas squints at him, then closes his eyes.

He doesn't remember it in the morning, and Dean is secretly relieved.

Because Dean is a fucking coward.

-------------------------------------------

Dean is pushing around scrambled eggs (seasoned with just salt and pepper, to be easy on Cas's stomach) and thinking about what a total fuck up he is. He's maintaining a strong face in front of Cas, a total certainty about what he's doing, but internally, he's just about screaming his head off. He hurt Cas. It repeats: he hurt Cas. Cas is not only suffering from a concussion, but he's falling into a deep depression. Getting him to eat is like feeding a non verbal toddler. He's not only picky, but he can't even explain what he wants because he can't summon the mental energy to say it.

Dean hides it, but as Cas sinks further into depression, Dean copes by drinking. He's not even hiding the bottle where Cas couldn't find it anymore, because Cas isn't in the mood to go looking. They're both drowning, and Dean feels helpless to stop it.

But he talks. He talks endlessly to Cas.

About Sam, about himself, and about life. His baby, the Impala. Various hunts he's been on and all his thoughts on all the people he's met. And Dean's met a lot of people that he came to care for and yet lost: Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Ash, and dozens of others. They all hurt to lose, especially to a war that Dean was at last partially responsible for. But when he imagines losing Cas – Cas dying, Cas fading away, Cas just being fucking gone – it feels like the world is ending.

It feels like it'd be losing Sam, all over again.

Dean's cracked. Cas would break him for good.

It occurs to Dean that the best course of action might be to let Cas go, and then put a gun in his mouth. Two problems solved. But he promised Sam, he promised Sam that he wouldn't do that. It was one of the last things he ever said to his brother. Sam wanted Dean to live. Did Sam want to live even at the expense of another? Sam would say …

Dean shuts that down. No. He can't hear those words.

The eggs are burning. Dean curses, turns off the heat, and throws them out, and starts fresh with another pan. He breaks the eggs one by one into a bowl and stirs, throws in some salt and pepper. Starting again. Starting fresh.

Maybe that's what he needs. To start anew.

Take care of Cas, better than before. Hell, if Dean isn't a total moron and doesn't give Cas any opportunities to escape, then this won't happen again, will it? Cas was a bit stressed just by the cuff, yes, but otherwise he was doing fine. It's only when the option of escape is presented that Cas really loses it. So the key is to not let that happen. Cas can't get any chances. Then Cas will heal, and Dean can keep him, and it'll be okay.

He doesn't burn the eggs this time. He gets it right. He plates the eggs, grabs a fork, and then heads for their bedroom.

Cas is propped up with about a dozen pillows, so he's almost in a recliner. He opens his eyes dully when Dean enters, but he does actually respond to Dean's presence, so Dean counts that as a win.

"Scrambled eggs," Dean says, grabbing another pillow and putting it in Cas's lap. He sits close to Cas, holding the plate still. "Fresh, cooked slow so they're nice and soft. I know you've been nauseous, this'll help."

Cas looks away.

Dean gathers some egg on the fork and takes one of Cas's hands, trying to make him hold it. Cas refuses, though, still not looking at Dean, just keeping his hand slack. Dean pauses, worry and fear and guilt a heady mix, and then takes the fork and presses it against Cas's lips. "You need to eat, Cas. I'm sorry you're going through this, but you need food."

Cas opens his mouth. Dean puts the eggs in and watches him chew, remembering when he had to massage Cas's throat to make him accept water.

"I love you," Dean says gently. And he does. He fucking loves everything about Cas.

Cas squeezes his eyes shut and doesn't respond. But he lets Dean feed him the rest of the eggs.

"I'll take care of you," Dean whispers. "I'll always take care of you."

That night, instead of sleeping on the floor, he curls up with Cas. Please, please be mine, he thinks.

-------------------------------------------

Cas is struggling, but he seems to be improving. Sure, yeah, he hit on Dean and then freaked out and screamed that he hated Dean, but that's to be expected. It hurt Dean, yeah, but expected, and Dean doesn't honestly blame him. Dean's guilt is trying really hard to eat him alive, but Dean's been fighting it off with his actions, with taking care of Cas, with coming up with plans and plans so Cas can't escape again – take that pressure off of Cas's mind – and with a growing sense of possessiveness. Dean finds himself running his fingers along Cas's cuff, imagining what would have happened if Cas had won that fight with Dean.

The thought makes Dean want to hold Cas tight.

But yeah, Cas improves. Eats a little more. Jokes with Dean a bit. Meets Dean's eyes. Dean gets him adult coloring books and forces him to eat lunch outside. He takes Cas on walks, and then on runs when Cas becomes more cooperative. He listens to anything Cas says without judgment. He doesn't get angry, not about anything. And Cas seems to bloom in summer. Dean feels like a gardener trying to grow a rare and precious flower, and with each loving touch and action Cas seems to get a little better.

Boy, was Dean wrong about that.

Returning from his first hunt since Cas's third escape attempt, the last thing he expects to find is Cas outside and covered in blood. The cuts on Cas's hips are deep. Dean knows they'll scar.

But Dean understands. Beneath the physical wounds are the mental ones. Cas is expressing them the only way he knows how. And when Cas says into Dean's shoulder, clinging to him, "I can't be left alone. You can't leave me here, Dean."

Dean answers, "I'm here, I'm here. I’m not leaving. I'm not going to leave you ever again, okay? You're going to be fine. I love you and I'll always take care of you."

If it's the last thing he ever does, Dean will put Cas back together.

-------------------------------------------

Dean decides later that somewhere between slashing his hip open and asking to sleep naked with Dean, Cas accepts his presence in Dean's life.

-------------------------------------------

Dean's actually really trying to sleep this time, eyes firmly closed. Cas is completely naked in his arms, but Cas didn't want sex the first time and Dean seriously doubts he does now, either, so Dean puts aside any thoughts, just focusing on the miles of warm skin he's pressed up against. It feels amazing, like Cas will melt into Dean and put all his broken pieces back together. Dean doesn't know why Cas makes him feel that way, feel whole, but he does.

Then Cas touches him. Runs his hand from Dean's shoulder to the small of his back, just above his ass. With his other hand Cas touches Dean's chest, hand wandering from there to Dean's stomach. Then his first hand runs along the fleshy part of Dean's ass, distinctly sexual.

Dean's cock begins to harden, never mind he jerked off half an hour ago. "Cas," Dean says, blinking.

Cas kisses him. Deeply and without hesitation, he firmly explores Dean's mouth. After a second of hesitation, Dean responds and returns that kiss, meeting Cas's level of intimacy, but not exceeding it.

Then Cas grabs Dean's cock.

Oh fuck. Fuck. Dean moans really loudly, his cock filling rapidly from that one touch. Cas isn't even stroking him yet – oh fuck, yet. Cas just kind of explores Dean's cock, fingers finding the base of his dick and where his balls hang, then tracing the vein upwards until his fingers meet the tip of Dean's cock, swirling the liquid there.

Dean keeps kissing him, but he's almost not able to focus on that, because Cas is caressing his cock for the first time. Being active in sex for the first time, instead of passively accepting Dean's advances. "Oh, Cas,oh fuck," Dean says and then curls a hand around Cas's cock.

And they begin to jerk each other off. Cas copies Dean almost completely, matching his strokes, the same degree of firmness to his hold. Cas's eyes are bright and open, watching Dean intently. He's not hiding.

This is everything Dean has ever dreamed of. Cas being a willing partner. Having sex with Cas. Oh fuck, having sex with Cas. Dean honestly feared they would never make it here, that Dean would always be jerking off to the image of Cas's mouth, to the memory of Cas's silky cock in his hand, that he would always come to an imaginary sight instead of the actual person. He wants to come, he wants to come right now, but he holds himself off. He focuses on the feel of Cas's cock in his hand, the soft skin, the texture of his balls when Dean's hand meets the base of his cock.

Cas squeezes Dean's cock tight, and it's enough to push Dean over the edge. He bites into Cas's shoulder to stifle his cry, and then he comes all over Cas's hand. He barely notices Cas freeze. "I love you," Dean says to his lover.

Then Dean regains control, and gently pushes Cas's hand away from his softening cock. He urges Cas onto his back and to spread his legs for Dean, and Cas does with no hesitation. It makes Dean's spent cock twitch, that willing submissiveness. He smiles as Cas, his heart leaping, happy in a way he's been so few times in his life. Happy in a way before he could only attribute to Sam. It's not just about the sexual release, but Cas accepting Dean into his life in this way.

Cas gives Dean a small smile, and Dean wants to cry. Instead, he blinks rapidly, and then rubs his semen into Cas's skin. Marking him. Making him Dean's. And Dean wants that, oh how he wants Cas to be his, completely and forever. Just like this. "You look incredibly hot like this," Dean tells him, licking his lips. "Hard, with my come on your belly. If you'd let me, I'd take a picture of you like this."

He doesn't give Cas time to ponder that. He sucks in Cas's cock and hums on it and licks the head and pushes his tongue into the slit.

Cas says, "I want you," soft and desperate, and then he comes, hot and bitter into Dean's mouth. Dean swallows.

Dean kisses Cas, willing Cas to taste his own semen in Dean's mouth, how Cas has marked Dean in return. Then he presses every inch of skin he can against Cas's skin. Touching as much of Cas as he possibly can, hoping Cas feels the very deep love in that contact. And Cas curls into it, accepts it, presses into it, eyes soft and kind. Dean knows this is just the beginning of the sexual part of their relationship. There's no fear or worry or regret in Cas's eyes. Dean will guide him through the rest.

And before he falls asleep, Dean thinks that it's all been worth it.

-------------------------------------------

They have sex once more. Cas comes with Dean's finger in his ass, and lets Dean decorate his beautiful ass with Dean's semen, but he seems a little uncertain about it, so Dean doesn't initiate sex again, not for a while.

But later that day, Dean locks up all the alcohol and takes chlordiazepoxide, the drug Sam left in the medicine cabinet for alcohol withdrawal.

-------------------------------------------

Cas is laughing. "What are you doing?"

"Finding the damn camera," Dean says, grunting. He's leaning over the couch, scrambling for the camera that had fallen down behind it. It's one of the couches in another room (not the den) that's original to the bunker. They sometimes come down here for the fireplace, and sometimes Cas reads here. That's why Dean was here, and he totally did not mean to trip and have the camera flying out of his hands. Dean's a hunter, he's graceful. Really. He finally stands up. "Are you going to help or not?"

Still looking amused, Cas puts his hands on the one side of the couch, and asks, "Ready?"

Then they push it out of the way. Dean grabs the camera with a triumphant look, then tries to turn it on. It remains dark. "Dammit," Dean says. "Must be the batteries."

"I think the moment has lost its spontaneity," Cas remarks, sitting down on the couch. "You know if you really want to capture me smiling, all you have to do is make a fool of yourself. Works every time."

Dean gives him a dirty look. "I'll make you – look foolish …" Dean trails off, not sure where he was going with that.

Cas grabs his book, a thriller of some kind from some author Cas likes. "I bet," he says dryly.

Dean flops next to him. "Why do you read so much?"

"What do you mean?" Cas asks, puzzled.

"I mean, I read. Sometimes. Not a heck of a lot, but I've read Vonnegut, you know? But I don't read nearly as much as you do. I need to get out and be active."

"I'm active," Cas objects. "Plenty physically active."

"You know what I mean."

Cas pauses. "I like being in another world. Being filled up with someone else's thoughts and dreams instead of my own. Like … like for a little while, I'm not myself."

That's a little disturbing.

"It's not a bad thing, Dean," Cas adds. "It's a healthy coping mechanism for stress."

"If you say so," Dean says. "As long as you're happy, I'm happy."

Cas smiles slightly. There's a short silence, then he says, "I'm happy."

-------------------------------------------

Sneaking out of bed to take care of an erection isn't a new thing. Dean wakes up hard fairly often, because who wouldn't with Cas's naked body so close? So Dean shifts around so as not to disturb the covers – cold air will wake Cas up – and then he pads silently to the bathroom, shutting the door behind him. He leans against the cold bathroom wall and fists his cock.

He imagines Cas pressed up against him, thrusting his cock against Dean's, Dean grabbing his ass and encouraging him to move. As he thumbs the head, he imagines Cas kneeling in front of him, taking the tip of Dean's cock in his mouth, and Dean moans, "Oh, Cas," because damn, that would be amazingly hot.

Then the door opens and Cas enters. Dean freezes. "Cas …"

Cas looks at him calmly, studying him, but his cock his half hard. Then Cas silently steps forward and knocks Dean's hand away from his cock, and replaces Dean's hand with his own. Then he slides his palm down until he's at the tip, then swipes the liquid there with his index finger. And then he sucks it down, making a slightly thoughtful face at the taste.

Dean moans, feet slipping a little. His cock jerks, and he's not far from coming. Cas just tasted Dean's pre-come.

Then Cas kneels. Dean has to press his hand at the base of his cock to stop himself from coming at the sight. Cas looks a little uncertain, but he's focusing on Dean's dick, staring at it with something of a determined look. Then he takes the head in his mouth and begins to suck. It's gentle suction, and Cas stops and starts, like he's figuring out how to give a blowjob. And he is, Dean remembers. Cas is a virgin to having sex with a man. Dean's cock is the very first he's sucked. The only one. The last.

Dean almost comes from the thought. Dean is taking this first from Cas, and that makes the arousal sitting low in Dean's belly nearly explode. Mine, he thinks. "C-Can I come in your mouth?" Dean asks. "A minute more of that and I won't be able to hold back."

Cas pulls off long enough to nod.

"Oh," Dean says, not able to get anything else out. And within a minute, Dean's coming in Cas's mouth, into that tight, wet heat.

Cas withdraws, making a face, and then gags, spitting on the floor. "Sorry."

Dean's knees are still weak, so he can't bring himself to care, and that was actually a pretty mild reaction for the first time trying to swallow. "Don't be." He drops to the floor and knocks Cas's arms out of the way and then sucks Cas down, getting as close as he can to deep-throating him from this angle. He moans and hums on Cas's cock, because damn, Cas always tastes so good, and then Cas comes.

Dean swallows, content. He sucks very gently for a moment longer, then lets Cas go. "I have to ask, what prompted that? Not I'm objecting, because that was absolutely amazing."

"Dean, are we lovers?" Cas asks, face serious.

"In my mind, we are," Dean says. He doesn't let the fear he feels show. In his mind, he and Cas have been lovers for a long time, since the first time Cas let Dean touch him sexually. He didn't know if it would last, if Cas would ultimately reject him, but he's been faithful to Cas since he took him. Cas is everything to Dean. Everything. "You're the only person I ever want in my bed, Cas. For the rest of my life."

And Cas just nods solemnly. "That's why."

Dean feels like he'll break from happiness. He helps Cas to his feet, grinning, and then laughs a little when Cas rubs his sore knees. He lays Cas in bed and kisses those sore spots lovingly, then kisses Cas's thighs and up to his beautiful, sated cock. When he gets in bed and pulls up the covers, Cas comes to him first, curling up with Dean.

His lover. Cas is his lover. Dean falls asleep smiling.

-------------------------------------------

So. Dogs.

Cas needs … Cas needs another Dean, really. Someone loyal, faithful. Perhaps a bit more energetic than Dean is, in his approaching old age. Perhaps a little more of everything, all considering. Dean's honestly not much of a role model. A dog's love for Cas would be a lot more pure, that's for sure.

Dean feels a lot of things for Cas, and some of them are definitely pure. All the little details that make up Cas that Dean loves – that's a pure love. The way Cas's nose scrunches when he laughs really hard. His strength and calm. That he loves to read, that he's so kind to Dean, even though most of the time Dean really doesn't deserve it. Those are pure. Of course, Dean's desire for Cas's body isn't. Their sex life is incredibly satisfying, and Cas's little leaps into new positions – each one really a first time – make every encounter different.

But Cas needs someone besides Dean. Cas needs a companion for when Dean is gone. Because Dean still wants to hunt. He loves Cas, but if he gives up hunting, it would feel like Dean wouldn't deserve to have Cas feel a thing for him in return. Like Dean's only worth is in proving that Cas isn't wasting his time by being here with Dean. It's an unsettling thought, but a true one, and it won't disappear no matter how much Dean tries. Because as long as Cas is being held here, Dean has to prove that. Prove his worth.

Anyway. Dog.

-------------------------------------------

"I've never understood the appeal of talking to a dog," Dean says, catching the last bit as he stops at the doorway. He watches Cas, amused. He wouldn't have thought Cas the type to talk to dogs. Or plants. Not that Cas had plants or anything when he was working. "She doesn't understand a thing you say."

Cas shrugs. "She understands emotion."

Dean considers that. "Yeah, I suppose that's true." Cas seems to have adapted well to having Aditi present, and Dean is pleased. "You like her?"

Cas stands and gives Dean a soft look. "I love her."

"Then I love her, too," Dean says, and lightly kisses Cas. "I love it when you smile like that," he says, coming close enough to feel the heat Cas's body is putting off. He searches Cas's face for uncertainty and worry, but he doesn't find any. Instead, Cas's laugh lines are faintly visible. He touches the corners of Cas's eyes, then runs his thumb along Cas's lower lip. "You have laugh lines."

Cas's next words startle him. "Dean, why can't you let me go home?"

Dean goes cold. "I can't lose you. You know that." He almost looks away, but manages to maintain eye contact.

"What if we continued to see each other, even after?" Cas asks, a little desperate. "The FBI wouldn't have to know."

That's the last thing Dean expected to hear. But Dean's not sure he believes that. Cas may have given up on escaping in the immediate sense, but Dean still gets the impression that the cuff is needed. The cuff soothes a part of Dean that still admits that Cas would run. If Cas went back to his life … what would he really think of Dean? With so many telling him that Dean is a monster? "Do you mean that? Honestly mean that?"

Castiel looks away. Fear and a bit of anger there.

It gives Dean strength to speak the painful truth. "I know you don't love me, Cas. You care about me, and I will never stop being grateful for that, but you don't love me how I love you. You'd run," Dean whispers. "You still would. I see it in your eyes."

"I don't want to hurt you," Cas says, finally looking up.

Dean nods, breathing deeply. "I know."

"Dean, I may not be able to fall in love with you like this. Not when being with you is against my will."

Fuck, is this about their first time? "I'd never rape you –"

"I don't mean that. I mean, how can I love you when you're my captor? Really?" Cas stares at him hard. "Dean. What if I can never return your feelings like this? When in some way, I fear you?"

Dean's mouth opens and closes. Fuck. He wanted to put that fact out of his mind, the fear Cas showed when Dean held the syringe. "You fear me?" he asks at last.

"You would hurt me to keep me here. You have hurt me to keep me here. Dean, kidnapping someone to be your spouse is a sign that your mind isn't healthy. How do I know that you won't snap in some other way? Some way I can't even predict?"

"I'm not crazy," Dean snaps. "Not like that. I'm not. I went through the fucking apocalypse and hell and I came out relatively sane. I'm not – I'm not going to snap on you, Cas."

"Then never mind that. How am I supposed to –"

Dean cradles Cas's face in his hands, willing Cas to understand him. To understand that Dean can't take the risk, because he loves Cas too much. "I'm sorry, Cas. I am, I'm sorry. But this is the only way. You're an FBI agent, you're legally bound to turn me in for crimes I didn't even commit and that I can't prove I didn't commit. If I had bumped into you at the coffee shop, you would have arrested me. And I don't blame you for that, but this is the way it is."

"But I know that now, Dean. I wouldn't turn you in."

But Dean can't believe it. He can't. He wishes he could, because he dreams of having Cas in the passenger seat of the Impala, joining him on a hunt. Bound to Dean not by the cuff, but by choice. To give himself to Dean. But Cas isn't there yet. Cas may never be there. And Dean will take what he can get.

Cas's entire body is tense as he squeezes his eyes shut. "What if I can't love you, Dean? What do you do then? Keep me chained up here forever?"

"I don't believe that, Cas. You're my soulmate," Dean says softly. "But even – even if that was true. I can't lose you. Not any of you, any part of you that you're willing to give."

Aditi whines.

Cas won't look at Dean.

"Okay," Dean says, backing up. "How about I get Aditi some food? I've got like, another six bags in the car."

Dean slows once he gets outside, and then ends up just standing in front of the Impala, staring out.

Maybe Dean is wrong. Maybe in order to keep Cas, he has to give Cas a little piece of freedom. Freedom with Dean, of course, not to just run. It's been probably a year since Dean even considered letting Cas out of the bunker. Back then, he was mostly thinking about how he should set Cas loose, but maybe that doesn't have to the case. If Cas chooses to stay with Dean, then they could go out together. If Cas promised to stay, then Dean would let him go.

-------------------------------------------

Sex with Cas drives Dean more and more wild.

Dean wakes up hard in the middle of the night, muscles still a bit sore from sparring with Cas. His cock is half full and pressed against Cas's back, leaving a few trails of wetness. Dean touches himself, strokes himself once, thinking more about other things than fucking Cas. Cas is a beautiful fighter, all clean lines, almost like a dancer. Dean's more of a brawler, though of course he's got a lot of training, too. From Dad, but also from the few hunters that Dad regularly dealt with, like Caleb. Pastor Jim spent some time in the military, too, and was damn good with knives. Once Dean kind of patches some of the weaknesses in Cas's style, Cas starts to take him down regularly.

But when Cas is holding him in a submission position, or he's got a wooden knife to Dean's throat, there's never a desire to hurt Dean there. Never anger. Just intensity.

Dean slides his cock between Cas's butt cheeks, rubbing the head of it against Cas's hole. He can feel the furled muscle there. Cas keeps sleeping – he must be tired, that's usually enough to wake him up – and so Dean sucks on a finger and begins pressing it into Cas's body. Cas shifts a little like he's reacting, and then the muscle gives way. There's something about putting his finger in Cas's ass that feels like taking control, like Cas is giving him control. Submitting.

Rather than touch Cas's cock, Dean wriggles his finger around, letting his arousal build slowly. He sucks on a second finger, and adds that. He spreads them apart, stretching Cas.

Dean would be lying if he said he wasn't training Cas to like this. He always pairs fingering Cas with a really intense orgasm, and Dean knows that now Cas's cock will start to fill just from having Dean stretching his ass. Anal sex isn't for everyone, not even all gay men like it, but Dean loves it. Loves sinking his cock into another man, and this isn't just another man, this is Cas. Dean has wet dreams about fucking Cas and coming into his ass, claiming that last bit of Cas. Like if he marks Cas everywhere with his semen, that Cas will really be his. Every time Cas lets Dean finger him, Dean knows he's getting a little closer to actually fucking him.

Maybe anal sex shouldn't be as significant as it is, but Dean doesn't care. He wants it. He wants Cas. He's greedy, but he wants everything that Cas will give.

Now Dean's fully hard. He bites his lip, debating where to take this.

Cas wakes up with a start. "Dean?" he asks blurrily. "Hmm."

Dean stretches Cas's ass a little farther. "Gonna let me come on you, Cas?"

"All right," Cas says sleepily.

Dean takes out his fingers and rubs the head of his dick against Cas's hole. It's still a little relaxed, like with a little pressure Dean could pop in. Dean wants to, he wants to so badly, but he holds off. Cas hasn't given permission yet, and honestly Dean thinks that's a bit away. So instead he jacks off, determined to mark Cas's skin. Maybe someday Cas will let Dean have him entirely.

All Dean wants is for Cas to be his.

He comes hard against Cas's ass, semen spilling between Cas's cheeks and thighs. Claiming Cas.

Cas makes an irritated noise. "You better clean that up."

"You're killing the mood, Cas."

"You can go suck it," Cas says lightly.

"Oh yeah? Then I will," Dean says, getting up and pushing Cas onto his back before going down on him, Cas's half-hard cock filling his mouth so sweetly, so perfectly. Dean loves the taste of Cas's come. He sucks for a while, then pulls off to add, "Since you asked so nicely."

Cas laughs, his belly twitching under Dean's hands, and then comes into Dean's eager mouth.

-------------------------------------------

Cas is smiling when Dean leaves for his first hunt since giving Cas his dog, Aditi.

-------------------------------------------

Dean wakes up in a hospital bed with his head killing him.

Damn cursed objects and their protection spells. One of those, okay. Doable. Done. But both? That's how Dean ended up in a nearly abandoned road, trying to remove the last protection so he could burn the stupid locket into slag. And it's not like an abandoned road is the best place for that normally, but if the thing was going to explode or something better it be in the middle of nowhere. Taking out the first spell layer put his partner on his back in a motel room.

So of course Dean ends up in the hospital.

He represses a groan and opens one eye, scanning the room. There's no one in here with him – the other bed is empty – but he hears someone talking on a radio outside. He can't make out words, but it sounds like a police radio, and that's confirmed when the static ends and a man's voice responds. Fuck.

Dean throws back the blanket and starts looking for his stuff. He finds it under the bed in a bag, pulling on his jeans and checking his phone. If the police know he's here, that means it won't be long until the police really figure out who he is, and then the FBI gets involved. He needs to ditch anything that could lead back to Cas. He shoves his feet into his boots, pulls on a t-shirt and then creeps to the door, listening.

" – check it out. I think you may be right about his identity. He's clearly not John Paul Jones."

Dean flattens himself next to the door and waits.

The cop moves through the door with his gun still at his hip, but not holstered. Dean goes to disarm him first, succeeds, and then gets his arm around the cop's neck. He's not nearly as good as Castiel, so Dean gets the hold right the first time and after a second or two the cop passes out. Dean lowers him gently to the floor and takes his police radio. He stuffs the cop in a corner and then casually walks out of the hospital.

It's daylight, and the sun is bright. Dean's car is presumably still near the abandoned road, so he walks through the parking lot until he finds an older car that will be easy to steal. It's a really old compact, but it's so bland that it won't catch anyone's eye. He picks the door lock and then jams a bolt through the inanition and turns. The car starts up, and Dean starts driving. He heads in the general direction of the Impala. Halfway there, he pulls over in an alleyway, finds a private home's trash, and dumps his phone. Then he gets back on the road, silently hoping the local cops will be as incompetent as they usually are.

But within a few minutes, Dean sees police cars all lit up racing down the road. Dean doesn't panic; he keeps driving sedately, leaning back with his hand propped up to cover his face.

A police car going the other direction squeals as it turns around and gets on Dean's ass. Dean slams the accelerator.

Fuck. A car chase is the last thing Dean needs.

He drives wildly, two other police cars joining the chase. Dean desperately tries to pull up his memory of the local streets, but in the end he takes random turns, trying to lose his tails. Within a few miles, he hits a dead end road that hits a storage facility. Dean gets out of the car and hops the fence, and runs like hell.

"Police! Stop!"

Dean turns a corner and hits yet another dead end. It's like fate is fucking with him.

"Police!" Closer this time. "Freeze!"

Dean looks back and sees five cops holding guns on him, expressions grim and determined. "Well, I'm popular today," Dean says with a smirk.

The cops aren't amused. "Hands over your head! On your knees!"

And so Dean is caught.

-------------------------------------------

Okay, so this isn't normal. Cuffs, yeah. But Dean's completely chained up in his prison cell. His hands are cuffed together and so are his feet, with a chain linking them. Dean muses that it's the same restraint he used to keep Cas under control in the trunk of his car. But it's not typical police procedure, not for someone newly caught. Even someone with Dean's background would generally be treated that way, simply because it's easier for cops to have standard procedure. All Dean did was knock out a cop in the hospital. He should have been cuffed on the ride over and while he was booked, but released once safely in a cell. But not this time. And the cops are being really cautious. Dean hasn't had a single opportunity to grab even a paper clip, and they even found the small one Dean keeps in his shoe.

The FBI's been busy, apparently.

Dean half-sleeps, muscles getting sore, and then by late evening he's brought out of his cell and cuffed to a table in an interrogation room. His ankles are uncuffed, at least, so Dean spreads his legs and rolls his ankles, trying to loosen himself up. The police Mirandize him, and Dean signs a waiver that means he'll be able to talk to the cops. And the FBI. Dean wants to know what they know, what they think. If Dean's going to be stuck here for a while, he might as well get something out of it.

These are the other only people that Cas knows. They were Cas's friends. Dean has to admit he's curious.

He recognizes Derek Morgan, of course. One of Cas's teammates in the BAU.

Dean doesn't expect the way Morgan lays into him, although he probably should. He pokes Dean with Cas first, asking how Cas is. And of course, Cas is fine. Totally fine, safe at home. But then Morgan just – just – that fucker.

Dean's still steaming. The shit about Sam. Is this what your father taught you? That to keep someone, you take them away from the people who really love them? Is that how you kept Sam? Did you murder Jess? They didn't want you. They didn't need you, did they? Not like how you needed them. And now they're dead and gone, and quite frankly probably happier for it. And yeah, Sam's in heaven, with Jess, with their parents, with everybody. And he died and left Dean, but he did it for the fucking world, not that this asshole would understand that.

But the worst was, We're not living in your sick fantasy anymore, Dean. You do know that Castiel doesn't love you, don't you?

Because Dean fears those words. He fears that reality. Cas cares for him, cares for him a lot, but he's never said I love you. It grates. It burns. It hurts, the way only a feared truth can.

"But you're wrong," Dean said. "I love Cas, I really do. Just having him near me – that's enough. I'm happy with that. And I will spend the rest of my life making him happy. I will get out of here and go back to him, and hold him in my arms and love him. And your bullshit story doesn't change any of that. So. Fuck. Off."

And then Agent Morgan left. Whatever they were trying to get out of Dean, they didn't get it. Trying to shake his faith in Cas? No. Dean knows what he knows. Morgan knows nothing. He hasn't been living with Cas for eleven months. He doesn't know Cas the way Dean does. Dean doesn't think any of them ever did, because getting into Cas's mind and heart is something that takes work. Hard work, and persistence, and love. And they don't love Cas like Dean does.

The woman, Agent Jareau, is different.

She talks about Cas.

As much as Dean is still pissed, Dean never gets to talk about Cas. No one that Dean is friends with even knows he has Cas. And to be honest, Cas is pretty much Dean's entire world. So Dean finds himself opening up, answering her concerned questions. He doesn't want Balthazar – or even the BAU, really – to worry about Cas's wellbeing. Dean is taking good care of him. Cas is happy. And once Dean convinces her of that, or at least kind of convinces her, Jareau opens too, telling Dean little tidbits. Like the fact that Cas got named after the angel of solitude because he didn't cry when he was born. Dean had always wondered about that, but Cas never directly answered his questions about it.

Dean talks about Cas to her, too. All the stuff he knows. All the stuff he loves about Cas.

Without even realizing it, he even talks about kidnapping Cas. "But I wasn't expecting him to freak out like that, I swear. He'd been doing really good, you know? He'd adapted to his life at home. Having him just weeping like he wanted …" Dean shakes his head. "But I took care of him. I want you guys to know that. I'm always there for him, I give him whatever he needs. I love him."

Jareau nods. And when she asks him about letting Cas go, Dean tells her the truth. He's thought about it, when Cas was sobbing in his arms. Jareau spins him around the topic gently, just keeping up with the small questions, waiting for all his answers. It even seems like she believes he loves Cas.

At last, she says, "Loving him means letting him go and letting him choose his own happiness. Dean. Do you understand?"

Dean looks at her, heart aching, and doesn't respond.

"Please, Dean. Tell us where he is."

"I can't," Dean says quietly. As rough as the past eleven months have been, it's been worth it. And Cas is happy. Cas said so.

-------------------------------------------

Dean spends the first half of the night with the guards rattling the bars on his cell every hour, clanking them with their nightsticks. When Dean finally loses his temper and yells at the assholes, they beat the crap out of him while saying he's causing disorder and resisting being moved from his cell. The later half is occupied by being treated, and then praying to Anna again to get him out. So by morning Dean's tired, bruised, pissed, and not entirely sure he wants to talk to the FBI.

Jareau's pleading for him to let Cas go struck an uncomfortable chord. In between a nightstick being dragged along his cell bars was the real pain in her voice. Dean has his head buried in hands when the officers come by to move him to interrogation, trying desperately to block it out. He can't imagine what the other agents would do, what they would say, and he's not sure he wants to find out.

He's put into interrogation silently and cuffed to the table. Dean looks at his hands, remembering all the times he's cuffed Cas just like this. The cold metal against the surprisingly slim wrists that he loves to kiss. The way that Cas would move his hands in circles to keep the muscles loose. He'd make a fist and then release it over and over again and then change the angle of his body in relation to the cuffs, trying to make himself comfortable. And he'd do it quietly, never saying a word to Dean about it hurt his wrists.

He'd smile at Dean instead.

Fuck. Dean is a monster.

The door opens, but it's not one of the BAU that walks through. It's Balthazar, Cas's brother. He's blond and older than Cas, with a more wearied face, though Dean still has the impression that most of those lines were caused by laughter. His eyes, though, are so similar to Cas's that it's actually eerie. It's almost like Cas is looking at him, except instead of a kind of sad affection, there's anger and bitterness.

Balthazar sits down. "Where's my brother, asshole?"

Keep cool. "Bal, right?"

Balthazar's cheek twitches. "Yeah, that's me."

"You don't look much like Cas," Dean remarks. Not with the blond hair and totally different skin tone.

"His nickname is Cassie, and I take after – you know what, who gives a fuck." Balthazar's blue eyes smolder. "Where are you keeping my little brother? Where is he?" he demands, his voice going higher, more stressed.

Dean winces. A roil is beginning in his gut, and it dances to the tune of the word monster. "I can't tell you that." I can't lose him. "But he's fine."

Balthazar actually rolls his eyes. "Oh, oh, and I’m supposed to be believe a serial killer when he says that – I'm so comforted!" Sarcasm drips from every word. "What the fuck is wrong with you? How dare you act like – like you can even say a damn word about Cassie. Where is he? Where did you take my little brother?"

Cas would want Balthazar to believe he's okay. That's what Cas would want. Cas might want to be – no, don't think that. Dean can't think about that right now, not when Cas is alone with his dog, with a cuff on his ankle. Chained. "I know it sounds insane, but I love him," Dean says, wishing Balthazar would believe him. "I do. I would do everything to keep him happy, but I can't let him go. I need him, Balthazar."

"I need him," Balthazar shouts. "His family needs him! His friends! And even if we didn't, he's a fucking human being not your fucking pet!"

Dean feels a tinge of anger for the first time. He knows Cas. So does Balthazar, but Dean does know Cas. "I know that. He's not my pet, he's my soulmate. I swear to you, he's fine. He's healthy and strong and he reads a shit ton of books, and he makes fun of cop movies and demands cinnamon toothpaste. He's okay. He bitches about how I like too much salt, he throws books at me when he gets frustrated. I know him, and I love him, and he's safe with me." Dean halts, breathing a little fast.

Balthazar's eyes fill with tears. "Please, please, I want my little brother."

Dean had a little brother he would do anything to protect. "I'm sorry," Dean says, to both Balthazar and Sam.

"If you were really fucking sorry you'd tell me where he is!"

Those words hurt. And they should, because the truth does. Dean is sorry, but he's not sorry enough. "I can't. I can't."

Balthazar breathes for a long moment, just staring at Dean. "How – how is he? Does he ask about me?"

This is easier to answer. "Yeah. He talks about you sometimes, along with your parents and sister. Quiet about Michael, though. But I haven't found a good way for him to communicate with you. I mean, without being caught. And Castiel was wary of writing letters, he thought it'd freak you out more if you weren't able to answer."

Balthazar looks devastated. "He's wrong." He speaks like the words are painful. "And he should get the chance to tell me in person."

"I can tell you anything you want to know," Dean offers, and he knows it's half because he's trying to soothe his own desperate guilt. "Except where he is. But anything else. I’m sure Cas wouldn't want you to worry about him."

"Are you kidding me? Do you even realize what you've done?"

"Yes!" Dean finally snaps. The words are a jumble as they come out of him, a spilling of truth he can't help. "I know. Of course I know. Yes, I kidnapped your brother and I'm holding him against his will – this is not new. Yes, I'm totally aware of how fucked up that is! But you know what?" I've lost everything once. I can't do it again. "My entire life has been fucked, so there's no reason to stop now."

"What if he starves to death while you're in prison?" Balthazar asks out of the blue.

Dean blinks. That's the last thing he expected them to bring up. "That won't happen," he says, knowing he's put multiple contingencies in place. Not just Charlie, but Anna too, and Garth.

"You're willing to put my brother's life on the line? Because you love him so much you'll risk his life?"

"He's surrounded by a hundred years of protections and he has everything – food, shelter, company." The very best of the Men of Letters and the culmination of all he and Sam learned in the fight with heaven and hell. "He'll be okay."

The anger goes out of Balthazar's eyes. He leans in and says haltingly, "Please, fuck, please just tell me where he is. He's my baby brother, and I know he's an FBI agent and he's strong, but he's the kid who kissed his little sister's skinned knees, the one who calls me every week and listens to all my shitty stories, and he doesn't deserve this."

That knocks the breath out of Dean. And finally, Dean can't shove down what he knows Sam would say. Sam would look him in the eye and tell him, You have to let him go, Dean. You can't make someone love you.

"They told me you had a baby brother, wouldn't you do anything for him? Anything to keep him safe? I want my brother home, can't you understand that?" Each word is a strike.

Dean opens his mouth, but he has no idea what he would say.

"Don't you dare tell me he's already home," but it comes out pleading. Balthazar is weeping now. "Don't do this. Please, let him come home."

"I'm sorry –"

Balthazar leaps across the table and punches Dean in the face. It's a pretty hard blow for a school teacher, and Dean instantly feels his lip split open. Dean is still chained to the table, so there's not much else for him to do except sag backwards and try to take the next blow without tensing up too much. There's the sound of multiple people entering the room all at once, and Balthazar's flailing body is dragged away.

Dean's not angry. "It's okay, it's okay, I'm fine," he says, looking up at Agent Morgan.

"Where is he!" Balthazar screams, like a wild animal.

Dean can give him one thing, even if he can't give him Cas. "Listen to me. If I die, if I don't go back, then someone will come and let Castiel go."

Balthazar stills in Morgan's grasp. "What?"

"You're right, I wouldn't put him in that kind of danger." Dean's words come out a little slurred, because of the injury to his mouth. "So if you can keep me here long enough, Cas goes free. You deserve to know that."

"I hope the next time someone decides to rough you up, you end up dead." There's a dead hatred in Balthazar's eyes. That's fair.

But Dean swallows. He can't do this. Not anymore of this. He feels his resolve to keep Cas cracking, and he can't let it crack, because then Dean will finally break into a thousand pieces, matched by the bullet he'll put in his brain. He looks over his shoulder and says to Morgan, "I want a lawyer. And I'm taking my Fifth Amendment right."

A medic looks at him, and then he's taken back to his cell. He doesn't speak to anyone. Even when they come for him the next day to drag him to federal prison, he doesn't speak. They don't give him a cellmate, presumably because Dean is considered too dangerous, and so Dean spends most of his time staring at cinderblock walls, praying to Anna.

He says a few other prayers, too, to a God who probably doesn't care, and even he can't detangle what he's asking for.

To keep Cas. To save Cas. To have the strength to let Cas go, or to make him happy.

Five days later, Anna appears in his cell, like an answer. "Hello, Dean."

Dean looks up and smiles.

-------------------------------------------

Dean finds himself looking at Cas differently.

At first, it's the little things. Cas doesn't ask very many questions about Dean meeting the BAU and Balthazar, like he has difficulty thinking about it. Then it's the larger things, like Cas giving Dean a blowjob after Dean admits that his friends and family are still looking for him. It was an awesome blowjob, but when Cas looked up at him with eyes glazed with arousal, Dean's heavy cock sitting on his tongue, Dean wondered if Cas sucked him off because he felt he had to. Or because giving Dean sex is just the way things are. Then Cas swallowed, and Dean wasn't thinking about much of anything except how hot Cas is, and how much Dean loves him.

Cas always gives Dean more and more, and Dean will never stop being thankful. He even asked Dean to fuck him.

But in the darkness of night, Dean wonders if Cas really wants him. If he's tricking himself into this, into wanting Dean, into enjoying this. Of course, yeah, Cas will get aroused when Dean talks about how much he wants Cas, how much he needs Cas. It fills Cas's cock right before Dean's eyes. But Cas hasn't said he loves him, he hasn't said he'll stay.

When Dean asks about it, Cas freaks.

And so Dean drops it. That night, before he comes against Cas's ass, he kisses Cas's ankle lying on his shoulder, relieved to see the cuff still there.

Cas is still his.

-------------------------------------------

Garden work is exhausting, and so Dean sleeps deeply enough to dream. He dreams of Cas in the car with him, the Impala flying down a black highway. It's not the first time he's had this dream, but this time, Cas is laughing and smiling. He's not in the trunk, or handcuffed in the backseat, like the last time Dean dreamed of taking Cas outside the bunker. He's in the passenger seat, tapping the door and looking out the window.

"Do you love me?" Dean asks Dream Cas.

Cas answers, but his words are blurred out.

-------------------------------------------

Cas is naked on the bed.

This isn't new, but Dean still stops to appreciate the view. Cas is still slim, a little more than Dean would honestly like, but he's also pretty muscled. Especially since he's been working in the garden, Dean knows that Cas's back is very defined now. His sparse hair decorates his body perfectly, accentuating his cock, which lies soft against his thigh. Dean has touched and kissed every part of Cas's body except for one. He's been inside of Cas's mouth, his semen filling Cas's belly. But he's never come into Cas's beautifully toned ass.

Cas finally looks up. "What?"

Dean shifts, his cock filling. "Do you still want me to fuck you?"

Cas stills for a second, then draws his limbs in like he's hiding.

"Talk to me," Dean says encouragingly, sitting next to him and laying a hand on Cas's thigh, finding the wiry hair there sexy. "I can tell you have misgivings or whatever. What are they?"

Cas frowns a bit. "I know it's not logical, but …"

"Yeah?"

"You'll have had all of me, Dean," Cas says, flushing and looking away. "Everything I have, you'll have taken."

Dean hesitates. He can't deny he wants that. He wants to take every first, and every last. Maybe that's it – Cas doesn't think Dean really wants him forever? This isn't just about sex for Dean, it's about love, it's about claiming Cas as his, it's about them being together. "Do you mean you fear I won't want you after? After I've had that part of you?"

Cas shakes his head. He straightens and meets Dean's gaze evenly. "That I will have surrendered to you completely."

Dean's cock twitches. Yeah, he'd like that. Having Cas now, and forever. It's not just arousing, it would also sate Dean's fear of Cas leaving him. "Well, I can't deny I want that. Not because I want to control you, I just – I just want you to be mine as much as I'm yours. Look, I'm not one for metaphysical sentimental shit –"

"But you believe in soulmates," Cas interrupts with a raised brow, clearly teasing.

Dean relaxes a bit. "But, yes, I want us to have all of each other."

"So I get to fuck you?"

Dean rolls his eyes. "Yes." Cas's cock in Dean. Yeah. Dean wants that. Not yet, he wants to have Cas more, but he definitely wants that. "Cas, I love you. I want this. But if you say, then that's that." He doesn't want Cas to say no, but he can't push.

Cas examines his hands, then his gaze drifts up Dean's body, pausing once to fix on Dean's hard cock. "All right. Yes."

Dean's heart leaps. "You won't regret it," he assures Cas. "I'll make you feel so good, I swear."

Cas's smile is small but sincere.

Naturally, Cas is going to be tense and nervous, and that's the last thing Dean wants if he's going to fuck Cas. For Cas to feel the most pleasure, Cas will have to be completely relaxed when Dean sinks his cock into him. Dean knows from extensive fingering that Cas likes the sensation of being spread open and fucked, it's just a matter of convincing his mind that it will feel good. And to do that, Dean will have to start with Cas's body first.

He starts with a gentle massage. Cas's back first, from neck to toes, and then he flips Cas over and does his front. Cas is half hard by this point, flushing a bit like he's still a virgin. Dean kisses his cock lightly, pleased. Well, maybe Cas is a virgin, in this one sense. Dean keeps his caresses slow, firm, and long, and feels Cas relax beneath him. Stroking Cas from shoulder to wrist in one motion, then the same on the other side, and down Cas's legs. Yeah, that's good. Much better.

"You're beautiful," Dean tells Cas. He pushes Cas's legs up, exposing his hole. But he doesn't start there yet, instead sucking Cas's cock into his mouth, humming as he goes down on him. He bobs his head until Cas is completely hard, then grabs the lube they keep near the bed and puts one finger up inside of Cas, unable to stop a laugh at Cas's squeak. He twists and turns it around, not only stretching Cas, but also just giving him the sensation of his insides being massaged.

This is where Dean's dick is going to go. He can feel pre-come leaking out of his cock.

Two fingers, then a third pressed against that tight ring. "Oh," Cas says. "Dean. I don't know if that will fit."

Dean's never given Cas three fingers, but it was partly because he wanted Cas to really feel the thickness of Dean's cock, when they finally got here. Cas will be loose enough. "Don't worry," Dean says, pulling off, "it will."

Three fingers, and then Dean goes for Cas's prostrate. Cas clenches down tight on his hand, and just from experience Dean knows that Cas is close to coming, so he puts his other hand on the base of Cas's cock, preventing him.

"Dean," Castiel groans, sounding almost like he's in pain.

That sound echoing in Dean's head, he brings Cas close to orgasm again and again, but continually denies Cas enough stimulation to come. If Cas is desperate to orgasm, he's not going to be thinking so hard about Dean fucking him, or be really feeling any kind of second thoughts. Not that Dean wouldn't listen, but worries can fuck up some really good sex. And this will be good. Dean's dreamed of sinking into Cas's tight ass for so long that he can't imagine it not being completely fantastic. And Cas is so responsive to this.

And Cas is spread open on him. Exposed. His. "Three fingers, Cas. I wish you could see yourself stretched around me."

Cas blushes, hips twitching downwards to push Dean's fingers farther in. It's adorable.

"Cas, trust me," Dean says. "Fuck, you look so hot like this." His cock jerks just thinking about what's next. "I'm going to move you around a bit, okay?"

Cas almost rolls his eyes. "Do I get to come?"

That hint of Cas – his snarky, grumpy Cas – makes Dean grin. "Yep."

Dean scrambles for the lube, getting a dollop and putting on his cock, stroking himself lightly. He doesn't want to come immediately. He wants this to last. He catches Cas looking at it, a little nervous again. He gives Cas a reassuring smile, and then gets his arms under Cas's thighs, spreading him even further open and adjusting Cas's hole so it will be easier for Dean to fuck him.

"Fuck, you're so flexible," Dean says, panting, and then moves forward. He uses one warm to keep Cas in position, and the other to keep his cock steady.

Then he presses the head against Cas's hole. He's going to take Cas, split him open with Dean's cock. Dean's thought a lot about his desire to claim Cas, to make Cas his, but right now it feels like this will be the last time he has to do that. Cas is giving him everything, the last part of himself that he kept separate from Dean. Cas belongs to Dean now.

Cas gulps. "Dean."

"C'mon, you can take it," Dean says, excited almost beyond words. The furled muscle is a little tense, and Dean wants him to relax a little more so it won't hurt going in. He circles Cas's hole with cockhead, pushing in a little each time he reaches the center again. "Let me in."

Cas bites his lip. Dean, overcome, presses forward and the head of his cock slips in. Oh fuck. Oh. Cas is taking Dean's cock.

"Fuck," Cas moans. His hips twitch restlessly, like he's not sure whether to try to lean away from Dean's dick or into it.

"Oh, Cas," Dean says, barely able to get the words out. "You feel so amazing, so tight around my cock. Can you take the rest?"

"I –" Cas stops. He blinks rapidly. He looks overwhelmed.

Okay, so Dean needs to take control. Sometimes Cas freaks out when he has to make decision for himself, when he can't figure out what he really wants, or he feels conflicted about it. So Dean will take over. He'll make this good for Cas, make Cas come on Dean's cock. It'll be the best orgasm of Cas's life, Dean will make sure of it. "Relax," Dean says, and thrusts. He fucks Cas by half-inches, watching his thick cock spearing Cas open, taking him slowly. Cas tightens on him, his hole clenching on Dean almost like it's on purpose, squeezing Dean's cock rhythmically. "You feel, oh, I can feel you tighten on me."

Cas's cock is going a little soft, so Dean strokes Cas with his free hand. Cas's body eases somewhat into that stimulation.

Dean takes the opportunity that slight relaxation offers and thrusts all the way in, balls deep. Cas yelps, but Dean almost doesn't hear it, lost in the sensation on his dick. Cas's hole is so incredibly tight on him, and Dean remembers it's the first time Cas has been fucked. He's never given this to anyone else. Dean stays there, dick warm in Cas's body, and breathes hard. This feels so amazing. Cas is trusting Dean with this last part of himself. Cas is trusting Dean. Dean strokes the stretched rim of Cas's hole, eager to begin fucking him properly. "You're so tight. I can't believe you're letting me to do this, take your cherry."

Cas squints at him, and despite the yelp he doesn't look upset. He looks kind of insulted, which is cute. "I am not a virgin."

"You are in this," Dean says dryly, smiling. "Well, were." That's Dean's now. "You ready for me to move?"

"Not to increase your ego, but you feel huge. Will that hurt?" Cas asks, a bit of uncertainty in his eyes.

"Maybe a little," Dean admits, "but you're relaxed enough and lubed well, it'll turn good quick," Dean promises, giving Cas a tiny thrust.

Cas gives his own cock a small stroke. "Okay."

Dean withdraws a small amount, then thrusts back in. He fucks Cas like that, gentle. Cas licks his lips and seems to choose to consciously relax, and that lets Dean fuck him deeper and harder. Cas moans a bit, and Dean starts pulling out almost all the way and shoving back in. Cas's rim is dragging along Dean's cock, offering an incredibly amount of stimulation, and internally, Cas tightens on him randomly. It's like Cas's entire body is trying to give Dean pleasure, rippling along Dean's cock. Dean fucks him harder, and harder, until he's slapping into Cas's body with so much force the sound echoes in the room.

Wet, slick sounds. Dean suddenly wishes he could record this, that Cas would let him. Then he could watch himself fucking Cas while he fucks Cas again, and again. Cas's face is red and he's panting, and his eyes are dilated, full of pleasure and arousal. He's stroking his cock loosely, mostly seeming to focus on the sensation of Dean's cock piercing him over and over.

"Waited so long for this," Dean says, and it's true. He dreamed of this so many times, waking up to find himself rubbing along Cas's back, and wanting so desperately to just be able to push Cas onto his stomach and thrust in, and take what he wanted. And now Cas is letting him.

Dean changes the angle of his thrusts to try to hit Cas's prostrate, and Cas cries out. Dean does his best to hit that spot every single time, wanting to watch Cas come undone. He wants Cas to come from Dean's cock. Dean pushes Cas's legs even further up, wanting more. To get in deeper.

And Cas lets him.

"Mine," Dean whispers. "You're mine. Mine." And Cas is. Love and relief flow through Dean along with arousal. Cas is his. Cas won't leave. Dean owns him, and Cas has let himself be owned. Fuck the FBI, and the world. The doubts Dean's had about Cas wanting to be here fade away. Cas is his.

Suddenly, seeing Cas come is all Dean can think about. He needs to see it. He grabs Cas's cock and strokes firmly. "Come for me," Dean demands. "Please."

"Oh, Dean," Cas says, and then a jet of semen comes out of his cock. His ass tightens down hard on Dean's cock, almost making Dean come, but Dean holds it off, watching avidly as spurt after spurt lands on Cas's belly. Cas's orgasm is long, one of the longest he's ever given Cas, and Cas is entirely lost to it, his entire body going tense and then limp. His eyes close as his cock jerks one last time.

And Dean fucks him. Takes Cas. He has to hold Cas up and in a good position, but Dean doesn't care about the strain on his arms. He drives into Cas's ass again and again. Mine, he chants in his head. Cas is mine. You're mine. You belong to me. Thrust. Mine. And Cas just takes it, even when he comes back to himself and looks at Dean, he stays open and relaxed. There's nothing but trust and lingering pleasure in his blue eyes.

Dean has a sudden, dizzy vision of him taking Cas out, away, somewhere, and fucking him in the back of the car. Having nothing on Cas to keep him there, but Cas letting Dean fuck him anyway. Take everything.

Then he comes.

He falls forward, half landing on Cas, but Cas reacts by taking his weight easily, and then lowering Dean onto him.

Cas won't let Dean finger him, but Dean figures he can see his come leaking out of Cas's ass another time. Because there will be another time. Now that Dean has had this from Cas, he's not going to stop, not as long as Cas lets him.

So he asks, "Was it worth it, though?"

Cas's smile is sweet. "Yes."

-------------------------------------------

Dean has that dream again. Dream Cas is sitting in the passenger seat, and they're listening to some indefinable rock music. Cas taps the door panel to the beat, looking out on the black highway. Dean has the sense that they're driving fast, but there's no worry about other drivers. There's the only the two of them, together.

And Dean asks Dream Cas, "Do you love me?"

Cas answers, words clear, "I love you."

Then Dean wakes up, and his dream comes true.

-------------------------------------------

The idea of taking Cas out is a gradual progression. It starts with Dean's dreams, yeah, but there's other things that add to it. It's actually when watching Cas outside that the notion starts to seriously present itself. Cas looked out on the horizon like he was missing something so desperately, and had no hope of ever getting it back. After a while, he'd looked down and taken a deep breath, and exhaled the sadness away before looking up at Dean and smiling.

That's Cas.

But Dean thinks that maybe he can take that longing away now. Cas loves Dean, and that means something, doesn't it? Dean will have to be cautious, but he knows for a fact that Cas won't hurt Dean by setting the FBI after him, and that combined with Cas's feelings for him – surely that means that Dean can trust him enough to take him out? With some precautions?

Sure, Cas had a panic attack when Dean pressed him about it. But Cas does that sometimes, and Dean understands why – that it's hard for Cas to verbally reject the life he once had, even if he's at least partially done so in action.

Christmas comes before Dean figures out exactly what he wants to do. It's a wonderful Christmas, full of sex and gifts. Even after coming to the bunker, Dean and Sam didn't fully celebrate the holidays, not with a tree and decorations and the full nine yards. It just wasn't a thing they did, not full out. But with Cas, Dean kind of felt like it was expected. Cas celebrated Christmas, right? He's a normal person.

And Cas is cute when covered in glitter.

-------------------------------------------

In January, Dean gets the GPS working. In February, he puts it on Cas.

And he watches Cas fall apart.

Cas is on the verge of a panic attack the entire time he's out of the bunker, starting with him taking his first steps into the kitchen. Dean stares at him as Cas breathes fast and his entire posture changes, curling in on himself. He's barely able to respond to Dean's statements and questions, eyes wide as he looks at everything like it's completely new, completely different than anything he's ever experienced. He relaxes a little when he gets into Baby, gaze actually wandering over her interior.

It gives Dean a bit of hope that things will be okay.

Cas closes his eyes no problem when Dean asks, settling in like he's going to take a nap. Dean did seriously consider blindfolding him – this is one of the precautions Dean wanted to take, so Cas couldn't figure out where the bunker is – but Cas is perfectly obedient and doesn't open his eyes until Dean tells him he can. When Cas looks around at the town, he grips the door handle like it's keeping him afloat.

"I'm – I'm fine. It's just so strange. To see people," Cas says, just barely visibly trembling.

Seventeen months. That's how long it's been since Cas has seen anyone besides Dean, with the exception of Anna, who isn't even human. But Dean was in purgatory for a year, and he spent most of that alone, and he's okay. Cas will recover, Dean is sure of that.

Taking Cas into an actual building with people in it is at first nerve-wracking. Dean can't help imagining Cas turning to a random person and saying, "Help me, I've been kidnapped by this man." Or a cop walking in, and all Cas would have to do is say, "Help!" With this many people around, it wouldn't take much for Cas to just walk away. The only way Dean could stop him is physically, and people would likely interfere with him dragging Cas outside and putting him in the car. Dean doesn't know if he'd take out his gun, which he is of course carrying, in order to force Cas to come back with him. But he probably would, out of sheer desperation. So every word Cas says makes Dean's heart race.

But Cas doesn't cry out for help. He clings to Dean instead, nearly mute. Dean almost has to drag him into the grocery store.

Dean has never seen Cas so frightened like this. This is the man who reacted to his kidnapping with nearly absolute calm. Even the few times Dean got angry and made Cas fearful were brief and mild in comparison. Cas always bounced back pretty quickly. He holds Cas's hand half to keep an eye on him and half out to comfort him, squeezing Cas's palm every once in a while to remind Cas he's here. Cas isn't alone. Dean will take care of him.

When the store employee gives Dean a suspicious look and Cas a worried one, Dean blurts, "PTSD. He was a soldier. Y'know how that goes."

The suspicion fades away.

But Dean's own words echo in his head. PTSD. Cas has PTSD. Or something similar enough. Seventeen months of isolation.

Dean looks at Cas, throat tight. They cover more of the store, until the words Dean wants to say are about ready to burst out of him. He puts his hands on Cas's shoulders, willing Cas to be strong in his head, and then says, "I know this is hard. I know it is. But you can do this, Cas. It's okay. You're here with me, and I'm not leaving, and we'll go home after this."

Cas looks relieved. "Yes. Yes."

Dean guides him through the rest of the store, making sure to keep Cas close. Cas needs him to be. When they finally do get to the cashier, Cas gives her an oddly intense look. He looks like he's about to speak, to say something. Call for help? No, Cas was so relieved to hear they would be going home. He won't do that.

"Yes. One of those days," Cas says, sad.

Dean's tense until he gets Cas into the car. And then he pulls out. Cas stares out the car window like the world is a strange and foreign land. When they start approaching the outskirts – with names of highways and things like that – Dean asks him to close his eyes. And Cas does, without hesitation and without peeking.

Cas wants to stay. Surely that's what that means?

-------------------------------------------

Cas is weirdly touchy and clingy for days after. He silently insists on sleeping with Dean close, and wakes up minutes after Dean leaves the bed in the morning, without fail. Cas usually sleeps right through Dean taking a shower and then making breakfast, but now Cas follows him to the kitchen, tired and hollow-eyed. He watches Dean make waffles with dark eyes, but offers Dean a quick smile when Dean asks how he is.

Dean hands him the plate of waffles, dripping in jam and whipped cream. "How about we go into the yard for a bit today? I know you said you had some landscaping to do."

Cas accepts the plate. "All right."

The backyard is now very recognizably a garden. Cas has created levels with brick and paving stones, and even though there's no grass yet, some plants have been put into soil. The random flat rock that was out here initially has been moved into the center, and still remains Cas's favorite spot to sit. They end up using the morning to clear out a portion of the yard and to dig a very shallow pond. (Dean got Cas several books on DIY landscaping, and slightly regrets it now, because like everything else Cas goes all out on something he considers work.)

Dean settles a hand on Cas's shoulder. "I'm going to make lunch. You going to be okay out here?"

Cas nods and gives Dean a slight smile.

Feeling a little relieved, Dean heads for the kitchen. Forty-five minutes later he's got two heavily loaded sandwiches.

He finds Cas sitting on the dirt, bloody hand in his lap. Dean freezes for a second, then approaches cautiously. Cas is digging a thumb into a cut, expression weirdly intent. Then he looks up, not at Dean, but at the horizon, expression blank.

"Cas?"

Cas starts and turns. "Hello, Dean. I, um, my hand slipped on the shovel."

"Is that why you were hurting yourself further?" Dean asks, keeping his tone mild.

Cas opens and closes his mouth. "It makes me feel present."

That chills Dean. "Well, I'd prefer other ways of feeling present. Follow me in? I'll take care of your hand."

Cas nods silently.

-------------------------------------------

That night, Dean hears Cas talking in his sleep, saying, "My fault, my fault." He only quiets when Dean rubs his back.

-------------------------------------------

Dean is going through a stack of newspapers, next to Cas. It's a job he's taken to leaving to Cas entirely, but Cas has been a little fuzzy-headed lately, so Dean is trying to subtly double-check his work. The crinkle of newspaper is the only sound that fills the room. Cas looks calmest when he reads, the most like himself. Other times he wavers between rejecting Dean's touch and begging for it, in that subtle, quiet way that Cas has. The trip outside has completely unsettled him, or lifted issues out into the open. Dean's not sure. Either way, he needs to deal with it, because he can see Cas's mind unraveling from here.

Cas isn't fine. And the only way Dean can see to fix it is to keep taking Cas outside of the bunker, exposing him to the outside world. The world that Dean took from him for so long. Dean has to make this right.

But that can't mean letting Cas go. It's not the same thing. The isolation and imprisonment together made Cas this way. If Dean can have Cas with him, out there, then they go in the Impala together and live life. Cas will recover because interaction with other people, with the world, is what he needs. And Dean feels like he can give that to Cas now, safely. He doesn't think Cas will run. Cas loves him. Cas consciously chose to give himself the chance to fall in love with Dean, and Cas did.

It's fucked up to only grant that now that Cas won't run, but Dean reasons that he didn't really understand until now just how much the isolation wore on Cas. As much as he loves that part of Cas, Dean takes Cas's strength for granted. And now that it's failing, Cas needs Dean's strength. The strength to trust Cas.

There's a hunt that Dean could take Cas on. Easy, not time sensitive, so Cas's hand would time to heal. Doesn't require much interaction, but it'll give Cas the chance to be up and about. Just a salt and burn.

Dean imagines Cas digging a grave with him, and has to laugh a little. Well, spreading the work would help. And Cas is really freaking toned from all the yard work, and he's damn good with a shovel. The backyard is shaping up into a beautiful garden with all swooping lines and varying height levels. Cas has some kind of grand plan for it. Dean can't wait to see it in spring and summer.

Yeah. Dean knows what he needs to do.

"Found a hunt, Cas. It's a salt and burn. Unfortunately. I hate doing those in winter." Dean looks up from the newspaper, watching Cas very carefully. "Do you want to come?"

Cas noticeably pales.

Dean nods. He needs to take the decision from Cas. "You're coming. My decision. Got it?"

Something in Cas eases at those words, the tenseness in his body fading. "When?"

"Tomorrow," Dean says. "Don't think about it, okay? It'll just be you and me."

And through the entire hunt, Dean reminds Cas that Cas is his. Sometimes with words like, "You're mine." But also with keeping Cas close, holding Cas's hand, offering encouragement when Cas loses some of that ever-present tenseness in public. Dean decides that when Cas is relaxing out in the world, it means that Cas isn't thinking about running, that he's letting himself accept being with Dean.

Cas is getting better. While they search for the grave, he even cracks a smile and says, "Kind of makes you wish they were in alphabetical order."

Dean loves him.

After they get back to the motel, Dean makes love to him. It's amazing as always – Cas is so responsive to Dean, to how Dean explores his body, and the firmness of Dean's touches. This is the first time they've had sex outside of the bunker, and it's significant to Dean. That Cas is letting Dean claim here, out in the world. Fill Cas up with his come. Cas says, "I'm yours." And that means everything. A little lingering fear vanishes.

Dean grabs a set of handcuffs out of their bag while he watches Cas clean himself up, wiping a wet cloth between his legs. "When you're ready," Dean tells Cas. "I'll put this on. Just while we sleep. It's got a long chain," Dean adds, showing the two foot delicate chain between the cuffs, "so it won't be uncomfortable."

Cas nods and throws back the covers on the bed, before slipping in. He offers Dean his right wrist. Dean closes the cuff on his wrist, then finds a bar on the headboard that's close enough to give Cas a good range of movement. The headboard isn't the sturdiest thing in the world, but then it doesn't really need to be. Dean thinks the cuff is more to let Cas escape the pressure of feeling like he has to escape that actually preventing it. And Dean would wake up if Cas actually applied enough force to break the headboard apart. He kisses Cas's wrist, rubbing the skin under the cuff.

"Do you like to see me cuffed?" Cas asks curiously.

Dean looks at him, startled. Then shrugs, embarrassed. "A little bit. Makes me feel more secure." He kisses Cas on the lips. "I love having you here with me, you know that, right?"

Cas gives Dean a soft look and nods.

Dean curls up behind him, the sound of the chain moving with Cas falling him into sleep.

He wakes up first. Cas hasn't moved much in his sleep, though of course he can't easily. Dean's already hard. He grabs the lube from the nightstand and presses two fingers into Cas, finding him still fairly slick and loose. He eases his cock in and begins to thrust, wondering when Cas will wake up. He changes the angle, trying to hit Cas's prostrate. Taking Cas while he's asleep is hot – that Cas will just open up for him and let Dean have him, because he's that comfortable with Dean in his bed – but he also likes to see Cas respond, to have Cas squirm and sigh and moan.

Cas tightens down on Dean's cock with he wakes. "Hmm," Cas says, tilting his hips.

Dean fucks him until he comes hard, filling Cas up and whispering in his ear, "You're mine."

Cas doesn't deny it.

After uncuffing Cas, Dean just watches him go about the business of waking up. Cas rubs his eyes and stumbles into the bathroom and moves to the shut the door behind him. For some reason, a sudden fluttering of panic rises in Dean's chest. He puts his hand out, preventing Cas from closing the door. Cas blinks at him, but doesn't say anything. Dean takes a step forward, clearly preventing Cas from separating them.

And after a moment of hesitation, Cas takes his cock in hand and urinates in front of Dean. Dean just looks. Looks at all of Cas, from the beautiful curve of his back, to the swell of his ass, to the sight of Cas holding his soft cock. This is his.

Cas squints at him. "Can I take a shit in private?" he asks, sounding a little irritated.

Dean flushes. "Of course, yeah. Sorry. I know I'm freaking out. I just never thought we'd be here, even six months ago." Maybe watching Cas in the bathroom is a little creepy, but it soothes a hidden worry in Dean.

And then they go home.

-------------------------------------------

"Okay. You'll come. I trust you."

That is the beginning of the end.

-------------------------------------------

After Dean realizes that he's going to have to do the hunt after dark, when it's dangerous, the question becomes whether to take Cas. For it to be actually safe to bring him along, Dean would have to arm him. And even then, Cas's never dealt with a ghost before, and since this one is a locked into a series of events, there's no reasoning with it. Or it's highly likely it will be dangerous. How dangerous, Dean doesn't know exactly.

Cas's life versus the certainty of Dean keeping him.

Dean can't take him. The thought fills him with terror. Terror he doesn't want to admit is there. Cas loves him. He won't leave Dean.

He stares at Cas, sitting on the bed, fully dressed. His shoulders are hunched in, like he feels small and is making himself look that way. He's not looking at Dean, either, instead staring at his hands. He knows what's next, but he offers nothing one way or the other. Nothing to sway Dean. He's leaving the decision up to Dean. He's been doing that so often lately, so different from the Cas in the beginning, who with polite distance made Dean work for every yes. You broke me. Dean falters for a second, then clears his throat. "Cas. I'm going to leave you in the motel room. I should only be gone two hours, max. Cas, look at me."

Cas meets Dean gaze, brilliant blue eyes nervous and afraid.

"Do you want me to cuff you to the sink?" Dean asks, trying to figure out what Cas needs from him.

Cas frowns, making himself even smaller. "I don’t know."

"I'd prefer not to, in case something happens. This isn't the bunker." Cas's safety comes first. "But you can't leave, Cas. Do you understand?"

Cas nods.

"I love you," Dean says slowly, willing Cas to understand and believe him. He kisses Cas lightly, watching how Cas's eyes go slightly wet. "I trust you."

Cas kisses Dean desperately. When he pushes Dean's hand between his legs, he's not even hard. Dean tries to pull back, but Cas won't let him. So Dean gets him there, as gently as he can, until Cas is gasping into his mouth. Cas blinks rapidly, blue eyes uncertain in the wake of it. Dean's heart aches. Cas still isn't okay. But Dean can bring him there. He holds onto Cas a moment longer.

"Stay for me," Dean says. This isn't just about Cas not escaping, it's about Cas choosing to stay. And Dean thinks that Cas will. And Cas will heal. You broke me. But Dean can put him back together. Cas just has to give Dean time.

Cas nods without speaking.

Dean pulls up Cas's pants and embraces him. "I'll be back soon," Dean promises.

The hunt is actually more dangerous than Dean expects, and that soothes some of his worry. As the ghost tries to behead him, Dean knows he's made the right decision. He barely escapes that particular strike, but then he gets his hands back on his salt-loaded shotgun, and fires. She dissipates. Rinse and repeat. Dean gets through the spell by a smattering of words at a time, having to defend himself constantly and not even curse (the words need to be said in order, without 'interruption'). But eventually Dean is able to finish the spell to release her from the road and let her move into the afterlife.

When the ghost's flickers out of this world, Dean checks his watch. It's been a little more than an hour.

He goes back to Baby, cursing some sore muscles, and breaks the speed limit on the way back to the motel. He gets to room 116, and grabs his key.

The door is unlocked.

Dean freezes, his vision going dim for a second. He draws his gun and pushes the door open. The bed has been rumpled, but otherwise the room is undisturbed. Dean is shaking, the gun nearly falling from his grip, when he checks the bathroom. Empty. He turns back to the bed, to the duffel that holds clothing for both of them. Cas's coat is gone. He wasn't taken. He left.

Dean falls to his knees. "No, no no no," he whispers.

He's been gone just under two hours. If it took time for Cas to decide to run, Dean might be able to catch him. Just like Cas's second escape attempt. He even still has the cuff on, Dean knows that, he can find him. Even if Cas somehow managed to disable the GPS, he can't disable the cuff's compass. Dean can catch him and take him back. Bring him back to the bunker, and put the boundaries back on the cuff, and Cas won't be able to leave. Cas won't ever be able to leave.

Of course, Cas will fight him. Cas will be bloodied, hurt, crying. Again. All because Dean can't stand to be alone, can't handle not having Cas.

You broke me.

Dean looks up, and up. He pictures Sam, what Sam would say. He'd look Dean in the eyes, earnest and heartfelt in a way Sam always was, and tell him to let Cas go. That Cas is an innocent human being. He'd never stop loving Dean, but he wouldn't let Dean get away with this, either. Dean imagines him up there, wondering what the hell Dean is doing. He thinks about Cas. He closes his eyes to this shitty motel room, and remembers.

I haven't heard another human voice in two weeks. I'm forced to live in the same ninety square feet. I can't walk without being reminded of how trapped I am. I don't even have sunlight.

You thought we were past this? You're my kidnapper! You've held me against my will! My brother – my brother probably thinks I’m dead in some freak's basement!

Cas, I don't want you to suffer. Then let me go!

I want to go home.

Dean, I ran because you're holding me against my will. You're holding me prisoner. And no matter how much I like you, that fact isn't going away. Not until this magical ankle cuff goes.

(He remembers the pain Cas's eyes while he said that. He remembers watching Cas running his hands along his cuff, while Dean watches unseen. Watching Cas struggle to control his panic, his desperation, and his pain. He doesn't want to remember, and they are memories he's stuffed down deep inside with a wall of assurances that Cas is strong, Cas is okay, Cas can take it. Like Cas being strong is reason enough for Dean to be allowed to torture him.)

Bal, I'm drowning. Dean won't let me go and I'm drowning, I'm losing myself. Castiel is gone.

(But Dean can't keep torturing Cas like this. He won't. Cas has suffered so much because of Dean. He's been taken from everything, until Dean was his only choice left. If Cas won't stay … Dean has to let him go. He had Cas for a while, Cas's beautiful mind, heart, and body. He had Cas's smiles, his gentle touches, and his kind words.)

That's rich coming from you! You want me to choose to be with you – to be your lover, partner in crime, whatever – while I'm chained up. Do you think I'm ever going to be able to make that decision without it being coerced?

(Cas deserves to be free.)

What is there that I can't offer you? Freedom. My home. My apartment. My relationship with my family. My job at the FBI. Can you give me those things, Dean? Here? Because the way I see it, you can only give me those things by letting me go.

You kidnapped me, Dean, and I've failed twice to get away from you. I know what Stockholm Syndrome is, I've seen it in victims, I'm a fucking FBI agent. I'm trained. I know better than anyone exactly – exactly what's happening, and it still fucking happens.

(He once said, lying to himself,) Tell me, Cas. How do I make it right? You won't.

If you never say yes to me again, I will accept that. I hate you! I hate you!

What if I can't love you, Dean? What do you do then? Keep me chained up here forever? I don't believe that, Cas. You're my soulmate. But even – even if that was true. I can't lose you. Not any of you, any part of you that you're willing to give.

You've broken me. You're not broken, Cas. And I wouldn't want you to be.

(If Dean really, truly loves Cas, he has to let Cas go. Just like he let Sam make the decision to sacrifice his life. And this time, it's not for a sacrifice that Dean has to let Cas go, but so that Cas be happy. Free. Dean tried so hard to take away Sam's choices, and he did the exact same thing with Cas, except even worse because he never held Sam at gunpoint, with a chain on his ankle.)

Dean comes back to himself. The murky green walls seem confining, and the hum of the air conditioner kicking on sounds like something buzzing in Dean's head. The comforter is crappy, and the sheets are thin and rough, and Dean thought this was like a fucking gift. Like this would do something for Cas. But shit is all Dean has ever given his soulmate.

The gun is still in Dean's hand. The safety is off. Dean traces the edges and curves of the weapon, as familiar to him as his own body. It has a light trigger, easily pulled. None of that 'safer' shit. The slightest pull and the gun will go off, because Dean is a hunter and he needs a reliable, easy to fire weapon. So when he turns the gun around so the barrel is facing him, his thumb on the trigger, he knows it won't take much.

This is the only option left. "I'm sorry, Sammy." But surely Sam would have preferred this to the crimes Dean has committed against Cas.

The barrel is freezing cold when he puts it in his mouth, lying heavy on his tongue. He breathes through his nose, vision going blurry. He presses on the trigger, just barely.

The map on the wall wavers in front of him. Changed.

The gun falls out of Dean's mouth, then drops to the floor from Dean's limp hand. Rising to his feet feels like climbing a mountain, but Dean does it anyway. He staggers to the map. It's of the entire county, spread across a good portion of the wall. Dean likes to plan things this way, visually. Especially since his last capture by the FBI, he needs to know all the side streets, have a firm exit plan at all times. This map even notes major governmental buildings, including the local police station.

There are three words written on that police station. Don't kill yourself. The last word is smeared, like it got wet and then dried.

Cas went to the police station. Cas went home.

But Cas told him not to kill himself.

What if we continued to see each other, even after? The FBI wouldn't have to know.

Cas has rejected Dean. The situation Dean placed Cas in. But Cas does care for Dean, he does love Dean, and that means Dean has a chance. The smallest, narrowest of chances, that Cas will let Dean continue to know him, talk to him, maybe even one day make love to him. Cas said those words months ago, and Dean doesn't know how much truth and how much desperation were behind them, but the mere fact he would even suggest that Dean didn't have to hold him …

Can Dean earn Cas back?

Not to take him back, but to prove himself worthy of a part of Cas's life. Where Cas wants, when Cas, how Cas wants. Fear drove Dean to the heights of wanting to possess Cas, to him demanding that Cas tell him that Cas belongs to him. It drove him to not even let Cas piss by himself. To putting a cuff on Cas's ankle. To isolating him for seventeen months from every other living soul on this planet. That was wrong. Is wrong. Dean can't ever do that again, and it's entirely possible that Cas will never forgive him and there's nothing Dean can ever do to earn back Cas's love and trust.

But it's a goal. A mission. A hope. Dean looks back at the gun on the floor. His only choices are to seek redemption or to accept death.

Dean has to get out of here.

It's possible Cas already has the police on their way here, to capture him. Not even necessarily for the reason of catching Dean, but in order to prove himself to his own people.

Still shaking a little, he grabs the gun, turns the safety on, and stuffs it in his waistband. He takes out his phone and deletes all the contacts while taking huge, heaving breaths. It's got the GPS on it, and if Cas tells them about the cuff anytime soon, the FBI will be able to trace it. He smashes the phone after deleting everything and then puts it in the microwave and turns it on for ten minutes. He grabs everything he can out of the room, including the map on the wall with those three words.

Baby is waiting for him outside, a familiar comfort. With the bitter taste of metal still on his tongue, Dean climbs in and drives.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

It takes Castiel's repeated insistence to the receptionist, but eventually a police detective comes along and brings Castiel to his desk. Castiel knows from experience that detectives work weird hours, and this one looks like he just got up out of bed, all tired eyes and slow movements. His suit is slightly rumpled and his blue tie is on backwards. He looks Castiel in the eye when he finally sits down behind his desk and visibly tries to shake himself awake. "I'm Detective Lorenson."

Castiel is doing his best not to breathe fast. Not to panic. Dean won't get him here. Castiel is safe. Dean won't try to attack a police station. He sits in the small, metal chair next to the desk, trying not to shake. Like every station Castiel ever worked in, the place just looks like a slightly grungier office building on the inside. The fluorescent lights are harsh and Castiel finds himself flinching whenever he looks up. "Hello."

"So," Lorenson says. He eyes Castiel a little more closely, clearly skeptical. "You're an FBI agent? Do you have ID?"

"No," Castiel says shortly, irritation flaring and overcoming his uncertainty. "I told the receptionist, I was kidnapped and escaped. Of course I don't have my fucking ID." Someone nearby slams a drawer shut, and Castiel jumps. He clears his throat and adds, "Look me up in the missing persons database. You'll find me."

Lorenson nods. "Spell your name for me?"

Castiel spells it.

There's a few minutes of silence while Lorenson waits for the database to respond. Then his eyes widen. "Holy shit." He looks at Castiel. "Holy shit." He runs his hand through his hair and then says, "Fuck, you're that case. The FBI's been harassing every police station in a five hundred mile radius. I can't believe I didn't recognize you. Are you all right, physically? Do you need a medic?"

Castiel swallows. "No. I'm fine."

"And your kidnapper? Dean Winchester? Is he still here?"

"I don't know. He might be."

"Do you know where you escaped from?"

Words flee from him. If he tells, there's a decent chance the police will arrive before Dean figures out he has to run. He tries to speak and fails, staring at Lorenson. If Castiel doesn't give him the right information, that will eventually be found out. If Castiel wants to go home to his job, he has to do everything perfectly in this moment. If he chooses to try to save Dean, he sacrifices his own future. The FBI – no, his team – they already think he has Stockholm Syndrome, and he does. But how far will that excuse him?

"Mr. Novak, I understand this is hard," Lorenson says gently. "It's been a long time. But we need to know this so you'll be safe."

Throat tight, Castiel manages to say, "I ran from the Holloway Motel on Fifth Street."

Lorenson picks up the phone and calls dispatch. Castiel stares at his hands while he listens to the sounds of the police force mobilizing to catch Dean. Lorenson even calls the police chief at home. How long and how hard was the BAU looking for him? You're that case. Castiel leans his elbow on Lorenson's desk and covers his eyes, his vision blurring. He doesn't quite feel like he made a mistake running from Dean, but the relief he expected isn't there. Instead there's more tension, a different kind of anxiety.

"Castiel."

Castiel wipes his eyes and looks up.

Lorenson watches him for a second. "I'm going to call your boss now. All right?"

Castiel hesitates. "I have his direct number. Otherwise they'll put you through the switchboard."

Lorenson hands him a pencil and a piece of paper, and Castiel writes the number with a shaky hand. Lorenson says quietly, "Thank you." Then he dials. "Agent Hotchner? This is Detective Lorenson from the Tulsa, Oklahoma police department. I got your number from Castiel Novak. He walked into the station half an hour ago." Lorenson pauses and glances at Castiel. "Yeah, he's fine. Physically. Um, we've got officers looking for Winchester right now, starting with the motel Mr. Novak ran from."

Another brief pause.

"Yes, completely sure," Lorenson says.

Castiel watches, puzzled, as shock flickers across Lorenson's face. Then he gives Castiel a hard look.

"Uh … yes, sir. I understand." Lorenson taps a pen on his keyboard while he listens. "Got it. I'll let him know. Do you want to talk to him?"

Is Lorenson asking if Hotchner wants to talk to Castiel?

"Mr. Novak, would you like to speak to Agent Hotchner?" Lorenson asks.

The last time they spoke, Castiel refused to give Dean up. I want to go home, Castiel said to him, but you can't hurt Dean. Castiel doesn't even know what he would say now. Apologize? Freak out? Castiel finally shakes his head.

"Um, he'll talk to you later," Lorenson says awkwardly. There's a very long silence as Lorenson listens to whatever Hotchner is saying, and then, "I will. We'll see you then." Lorenson hangs up. "So, your boss and your team are on a case and they won't be here until tomorrow. But they're calling your brother. You're staying in the station until they arrive, for your own safety."

Castiel nods. "Dean won't come here. Not with so many bystanders around."

"First time I've been called a bystander," Lorenson says wryly.

"That's how Dean sees it," Castiel says with a small shrug. All these cops here are 'civilians' in Dean's eyes. Not that Castiel is a case to Dean. It's far more complicated than that.

"Dean, huh?" Lorenson shakes his head, dismissing it. "We've got a room for off-duty officers and detectives to sleep. I'm going to put you there and a couple of officers on the door, just in case. Winchester's a real whack job, but he's not stupid."

He's not wrong about that, Castiel muses. He follows Lorenson down a confusing mish-mash of corridors, so different from the bunker. The room is off of the locker area, and has a few cots. The door swings shut behind them, and Castiel has an odd moment when he thinks, Home was more comfortable. Except for the cuff on his leg, still cold against his skin. Castiel sits on the nearest cot, wondering what will happen next. What they will say. What he will answer. How Balthazar will react. It's a terrifying amount of uncertainties. When he shakes out of it, he sees Lorenson giving him a concerned look.

"What?" Castiel snaps.

"Honestly, you seem pretty traumatized to me, but if I were in your shoes, I would want to know. Your boss told me that if you tried to leave, I should arrest you and hold you as long as I legally could."

Castiel stares at him, shocked silent.

"Do you know why he told me to do that? Your own boss?"

So he can't run back to Dean. "Yes. Yes, I know why." But it grates, as much as the cuff that still lies on his ankle does. To be held against his will for his own good. Dean partially used that excuse. And he knows, he knows logically that Hotchner's order makes sense, and that he's not doing it for the same reason that Dean did, that Dean told Castiel and himself that lie, that it was for Castiel's own good, when really it was all about Dean. And, just like he had done so many times with Dean, Castiel says, "I understand." He tries to keep his expression calm, knows he's failing. "I won't run."

Lorenson won't quite meet Castiel's eyes. "All right. Good. You stay here and rest, okay? I'm going to get a few officers to stand watch."

Castiel nods silently, and is left alone. He sits cross-legged on the cot and tries to meditate, but when he closes his eyes, he hears the sounds of officers in the locker room talking. There's nothing weird about it, they probably don't even know he's here, but it keeps him from relaxing. The bunker was probably as large as this police station, but it was always quiet. Even Aditi didn't raise the noise level all that much, and unless Castiel was deliberately making noise – music, or television – it was completely silent. Much like the first few times he went outside after Dean expanded the cuff's boundaries, the 'new' stimulation puts him on edge.

And yet, it's a familiar sound, the workings of a police station. He did this for years. He heard this for more than a decade.

He counts his breaths. He puts the future of his mind with the will he once applied to not thinking about Dean and escape.

An hour later, Lorenson comes back with a sandwich, a soda and a bag of chips. He tells Castiel they didn't find him at the motel, but they're still looking. Castiel barely gets down the chips and skips the soda entirely.

Did Dean run? Did he listen to Castiel's message not to kill himself?

If Dean had committed suicide, he probably would have done it then and there. Lorenson hasn't been by to tell him anything more, and considering Lorenson told him that Hotchner wanted him arrested, Castiel thinks he would have told Castiel if Dean was dead. Surely that means that Dean got away?

He imagines Dean dead, his brains blown out.

"Dammit," Castiel whispers to himself. He finds himself wrapping his arms around his legs, chin on his knees. The cot creaks.

There's a knock at the door. "Hey, it's Officer Michaels," comes a woman's voice. "Can I come in?"

Castiel clears his throat. Michaels, like Michael. His older brother. "Yes."

A uniformed police officer steps in, presumably one of the guards at the door. She's short, but with a stout body, and her bright red hair is pulled back severely. Her hair reminds him a little of Anna, but her stance and voice are completely different. "Hey. Heard you freakin' out a little in here. Want some company?"

"Yes, thank you."

She leans against the wall and begins talking. First about a case some detectives are working, along with uniformed officers who know the area – like her. A murder, and one of the really hard kinds to solve because even though the motive is easy, the who is not. Someone walked home late at night and got violently mugged, and then died in the hospital without ever waking. It could be any low-level thug walking the streets that committed the crime. She goes over the little peculiarities of the case, like the red gloves they found in a dumpster a block away, bloody. The very old pistol used. It takes about an hour of mutual musing back and forth before Castiel is able to offer some profiles that might assist her in the neighborhood screening. It might help, and Castiel feels calmer.

After that, they discuss the detective exam. Castiel gives her some pointers, but it's been more than ten years since he took it.

Eventually, she asks about Dean. "You seem awful calm, and y'know, haven't asked once if they've caught him yet. Don't you hate the fucker?" she asks.

Castiel hesitates, then shakes his head. "Profilers are taught to understand criminals. We're also taught to be objective, because otherwise there's the tendency to assign things to the profile that aren't there based on our experiences and prejudices. But as much as we strive for that, often with understanding comes either sympathy –" or love, "or deep hatred."

"You feel sympathy for him?"

"I know him as only one person other person in his entire life ever has." Castiel gives her a sad smile. "Dean is a lot of things, but he's not evil."

"Even if he's not evil, he fucked you over good," she points out. "You've been gone, what, a year?"

Castiel shrugs, admitting the point.

She chatters on for a while about things besides his kidnapping. In a weird way, it reminds him of how Dean used to do the same thing – just keeping talking to fill the silence and be a distraction. Dean would talk about Sam, about hunting, about car maintenance. But there was always something tainted about Dean caring for him like that. The element of force colored everything, until Castiel was blind to it. But watching this woman, this police officer, give it to him when it offers her nothing, is completely different. It feels different.

He's thankful, and there's no guilt behind it.

The other officer knocks on the door and then peeks in. "Michaels. Lorenson says his brother is here."

"My brother?" Castiel demands. "He's here?"

Michaels looks at him. "You want to see him?"

Castiel nods immediately. "Yes."

"I'll be back. You stay here," she orders her fellow officer.

Castiel paces for the next five minutes, his mind a blank buzz. He freezes in the middle of the room when he hears Balthazar's voice in the hallway.

Then the door bangs open, and his brother is there.

Balthazar's blond hair is messed up and oily, like it's been too long since he took a shower. His clothes are askew, and his eyes are bloodshot. He stares at Castiel with first a look of desperate hope, then extreme relief. The feet between them just seem to vanish, and then Castiel is in Balthazar's arms, and Castiel's clinging to him. His brother is warm and solid and smells like smoke. He presses his head into his brother's shoulder, thinking, I have to lecture him about smoking statistics again.

"Cassie, Cassie," Balthazar says, and his body begins to shake as he cries. "Oh my God, you're safe."

Castiel begins to weep. Here. Here it is, the relief. In Balthazar's arms, he feels relieved at last.

"Cassie, it's okay, you're okay," Balthazar says, rubbing his hands on Castiel's back.

And it's good. Castiel's mind is a jumble of joy and happiness. But it sours as he thinks about how long Balthazar has waited for this. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry –" he repeats into Balthazar's shoulder. He gave escaping. Balthazar doesn't know that yet, but Castiel gave up. Castiel gave Dean that cell phone instead of calling his brother. "I'm sorry." He didn't write Balthazar because he feared his brother's response too much, because he felt too much guilt for how easily he had let himself get used to being in Dean's life. To giving up his own. His apologies come out as desperate pants. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." He didn't run when Dean took him to the grocery store. He didn't call out for help to the police car. He didn't run, even when unchained. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry –"

Balthazar withdraws enough to look Castiel in the face, grips Castiel's head, and says, "Cassie, don't be sorry. You didn't do anything wrong, you're home now."

Castiel shakes his head, feeling the tears slip down his cheeks. "But I did, I did, I'm sorry."

There's fear in his brother's eyes, but Castiel can't bring himself to explain. "It's okay, Cassie."

But Castiel can't calm himself down. He's hyperventilating now in between sobs, and Balthazar is half holding him upright. The guilt he has ignored for so long is rising up, each memory of giving into Dean, of surrendering. Balthazar would be so ashamed if he knew everything, and Castiel knows he's going to have to tell the truth sooner or later. Tell the truth of his weakness and his desperate attempt to save himself by taking what Dean offered. Every thought pounds on him like a physical blow, and he can't slow his breathing, and his body has gone cold and shaky.

He collapses.

"Cassie! Oh, fuck," Balthazar mutters, then sets Castiel down on the cot. "Help! I need help!"

A uniformed officer and Officer Michaels rush in, asking questions that are a blur of sound. Castiel can't even hear Balthazar's replies.

A haze of time later, Balthazar is cupping Castiel's face and forcing Castiel to meet his eyes. He says, very slowly and clearly, "I don't care what happened. I love you, Cassie. I would never blame for you for anything. Do you hear me? I love you. There's no reason to be sorry."

The words aren't magic. Balthazar repeats them, one arm around Castiel's shoulders and the other holding his hand. A paper bag is shoved in his hands and he breathes into it, finally able to slow down.

"Good, that's good, Cassie. You're okay," Balthazar whispers. "You're okay. Do you want to lay down?"

Castiel is exhausted. He nods.

Balthazar helps him lay down and then sits on the floor next to him. "If you can sleep, go ahead and sleep. I'll be here."

Castiel searches his brother's blue eyes. They're lighter than his own, almost icy. "I gave up, Bal."

Balthazar just looks confused. "What do you mean?"

"I gave up on trying to escape," Castiel admits, guilt wrenching the words out of him. Balthazar needs to know. "I gave in. I stopped trying to get back to you."

Balthazar searches his face. "That's what you were apologizing for?"

Castiel nods.

"Cassie, I don't give a fuck," Balthazar says in his usual blunt way. "You did what you had to survive. I don't care if you danced naked on a weekly basis, if it helped you, then I am all for it."

That's Balthazar. Not the dream one, not the feared one, but his real brother. Castiel finds himself smiling, painfully. "I did once," Castiel admits.

Balthazar laughs through his crying. "Good for you, Cassie."

"I'm so glad you're here, Bal." Tears slide down Castiel's face, dripping off his nose, down his cheek.

"Me, too," Balthazar says, and he strokes the side of Castiel's face. "I've missed you so much. And I've got over sixty stories waiting to be heard, I'll have you know. You have to make up for all those weekend calls I missed. Over sixty, Cassie. I will bore you to even more tears."

Castiel laughs wetly. "I think I'll have the time."

Balthazar grasps his hand tightly. "Tell me what you need, Cassie."

"Just you. Here," Castiel says. "Please?"

"Wild animals couldn't drag me off of you," Balthazar promises.

Somewhere in between Balthazar telling the story about the kid who peed onto his chair rather than go to the bathroom and the story about the girl who wrote love letters to all the boys in class, Castiel falls asleep.

---------------------------------------------

Aaron Hotchner is in the chief of police's office. The case is almost closed – all the threads are coming together. They've caught the unsub, a barely eighteen year old man with a deep psychosis that led him to kill young girls. The evidence is strong, and the suspect is communicative and Reid has managed to form a bond with him, so they're going to spend the night talking to him and trying to get him to confess and tell them where all the bodies are.

"I'll have Dr. Reid finish with him," Hotchner tells the police chief. As the leader of the BAU, he's been coordinating this entire case. "You can stay, but we've got it from here. I know you and your men have been up for over twenty-four hours, so if you want to pass it over to us for the night, we can take it."

The police chief looks at him tiredly. "That would be appreciated, thank you. I'm going to inform the squad room, and ask just a few to stay to assist you. Thanks again, Agent Hotchner."

They shake hands, and the chief leaves.

Hotchner rubs his eyes. He's tired, too, but nowhere near what the local police force has been through. They've been running themselves ragged trying to catch the unsub before he killed again. Even though the unsub has been caught, Hotchner's shoulders are tense and high, that almost-pain from physical stress. So he's not exactly happy when his phone rings.

"Hotchner," he says shortly into his cell.

A strange voice answers. "Agent Hotchner? This is Detective Lorenson from the Tulsa, Oklahoma police department. I got your number from Castiel Novak. He walked into the station half an hour ago."

Adrenaline surges, along with hope. Castiel got away? He stands up, hardly able to believe what he's hearing. "Is he all right?"

"Yeah, he's fine. Physically. Um, we've got officers looking for Winchester right now, starting with the motel Mr. Novak ran from."

"And you're sure it's Castiel?"

"Yes, completely sure."

Hotchner thinks fast. If Castiel walked in alone, that means he escaped Winchester or Winchester let him go. Either way, it's pretty clear that Castiel has developed Stockholm's Syndrome, which means that even if Castiel escaped on his own, there's a possibility that Castiel will regret his decision and attempt to return to Dean. "I want you to listen to me carefully, Detective. For Castiel's own safety, if he tries to leave, I want you to arrest him and hold him as long as legally possible. And don't mention this to him. Do you understand?"

"Uh … yes, sir. I understand." Probably not, judging from the detective's voice.

"It's for his own safety," Hotchner repeats. "Please take care of him and keep him guarded at all times. I won't be able to arrive there until tomorrow. And I will be calling your superior about the manhunt."

"Got it. I'll let him know. Do you want to talk to him?"

"Yes, if he's willing."

The detective's voice is faintly muffled when he speaks to Castiel. "Mr. Novak, would you like to speak to Agent Hotchner?"

There's a long silence.

"Um, he'll talk to you later," Lorenson says awkwardly.

"It's all right, I understand," Hotchner tells him. "Castiel is under a great deal of psychological stress. That means you need to be gentle with him. Tell him the team will be coming to see him tomorrow. We're on a case and we can't quite leave yet. After this, I will also be calling his brother, who should arrive at your station before we do. I will give your superior his details." Hotchner pauses. "Take care of him for me, Detective Lorenson. He's my friend."

"I will. We'll see you then." Lorenson hangs up.

Hotchner just stands there and thinks for a long moment. He knows that this is the beginning of a very long journey, mostly for Castiel, but also for all his colleagues and friends. The psychological stress of captivity was obvious even from the brief communication with Castiel at six months, and JJ's interrogation of Winchester revealed that Castiel has self-harmed. And that's not even including the bond Castiel has apparently formed with his captor. None of this is going to be easy, for any of them. Castiel will have to heal and recover mentally from the traumas inflicted on him – and quite likely his own guilt, because he will feel as a profiler that he shouldn't have been susceptible – and the rest of them will have to stumble through supporting him.

But Castiel is coming home. Hotchner allows himself a moment to let that sink in, relief in his bones.

Then he calls the Tulsa, Oklahoma chief of police, who is already in his office despite the odd hour. The chief has begun a statewide manhunt, and they've followed all the precautions that the BAU initially outlined in Winchester's profile. He sounds capable, which is good. Hotchner doesn't know if they'll catch Winchester – Winchester is unusually good at evading police custody – but every possible measure is being taken to ensure success, and that's all anyone can ask.

The rest of the team is still busy with the case, and since the interrogation is ongoing, Hotchner decides not to interrupt them yet. He returns to the chief's office and dials.

"Hello?" Balthazar's now-familiar voice is sleepy.

"Balthazar, this is Agent Hotchner."

"What is it?" Balthazar demands, suddenly awake. "What happened?"

Hotchner has waited eighteen months to say his next words. "I have good news. Castiel walked into a police station in Oklahoma about an hour ago. He's all right, Balthazar, and is in protective custody."

"Oh. Oh fuck." Balthazar begins to weep over the phone. "H-He's okay?"

"Yes. I haven't spoken to him yet, but I've been assured he's all right."

"Oh God," Balthazar says, voice thick. There's a clattering like he's fumbling with the phone. "Where in Oklahoma? I'm getting dressed. I'll take the first flight. What's his number? Can I call him? Tell me!"

Hotchner waits a second to be sure Balthazar is done babbling. "Tulsa, Oklahoma. I've already informed the local police you're on your way." Hotchner thinks about the fact Castiel didn’t want to talk to him. "I think it may be wiser to wait to see Castiel in person to talk to him."

There's a louder clatter. "Fuck. Sorry. Why?"

"For his emotional state," Hotchner says finally. "It's a gut feeling, Balthazar. I can give you a direct line."

"Yeah. Yeah. Um, I'll be on the plane, so I won't be able to call anyway." Several audible, deep breaths. "Is he really okay, Agent?"

"Physically, he's fine. Emotionally, I can't answer that. But I know he will need you."

"Looking up flights now," Balthazar says, voice shaking a little.

Hotchner pauses. "He's safe. Remember that. Call me if you need anything, the team won't be there until tomorrow morning."

"Okay." Another deep breath. "Clothes. A bag. Plane ticket. Bye." And Balthazar hangs up.

Hotchner goes to search for Rossi and finds him in the squad room, which since the last time Hotchner was here has emptied out as those who've been on call for days finally go home. Rossi is slumped over a desk, a steaming hot cup of coffee next to his hand. His beard looks even rougher than usual. Hotchner taps his shoulder, and Rossi starts.

"Another break in the case?" Rossi asks, voice rough.

"Not this one," Hotchner replies. "Castiel walked into a police station in Oklahoma an hour ago. He's physically unhurt, and the local police are starting a manhunt for Winchester."

Rossi stares at him for several long seconds, the surprise evident on his face. He swallows once. "That's the last thing I expected to hear. He got away unharmed?"

"Physically, he's fine. Otherwise I don't know the details. I spoke with the detective who gave him a short debrief and Castiel didn't want to speak to me." Of course, Hotchner will have to get more detailed answers from Castiel eventually, when Castiel seems more mentally ready. It doesn't seem immediately relevant yet, Castiel won't know the particular way Winchester has run off, but Castiel likely has information that could lead them to Winchester's home base. Hotchner doesn't know yet if they traveled far to get to Oklahoma, or if their profile was completely off and Kansas wasn't Winchester's base. And finding Winchester is key to Castiel's safety.

Rossi looks around. "Does the rest of the team know?"

"Not yet. I'm on my way to let them know."

Rossi begins to smile. "It'll be good to give good news for once."

Hotchner's smile is slight, but sincere. "Yes, it will."

Morgan and JJ are watching Reid's interrogation, ready to provide backup either as another interviewer or to help Reid catch every tell. Morgan has one hand to his chin, focusing on the suspect with his usual intensity, while JJ watches both Reid and the suspect. Hotchner waits just outside the room for nearly thirty minutes, until Reid gets out the beginnings of a confession. The rest will be a walk downhill, so Hotchner waves Morgan and JJ outside. Rossi is next to him, grinning.

Morgan catches the different air first, looking curious. "Hotch? Something happen?"

"Castiel walked into a police station an hour ago."

JJ's eyes widen. "What? Is he okay?"

Hotchner nods. "Looks that way. He declined to speak to me, but all considering that's not very surprising. The local police force in Tulsa and surrounding cities is beginning a search for Winchester. Castiel is being held in the police station until we arrive, for his own safety."

Morgan rubs his face, relief in every line. "We're coming for him, aren't we?"

"Tomorrow morning," Hotchner says. "We need to finish this case."

Both JJ and Morgan frown, but they don't object. They know as well as anyone that wrapping this case up correctly is important.

"Do you think he would talk to any of us?" Morgan asks.

"I don't know," Hotchner replies. "Balthazar should get to him before we do, and that's probably for the best. I'm going to call him after this and get him on his way." Hotchner takes a deep breath. "We have a lot of planning to do, Morgan. JJ. We have Castiel home. Now we need to keep him."

---------------------------------------------

Eighteen months.

Castiel has been gone longer than he served with the BAU. But his kidnapping has haunted the entire team ever since that Monday morning when Morgan walked into his empty apartment. Winchester claimed that he knew about Castiel before Castiel joined the BAU, but Morgan can't shake the feeling that Dean's words are another psychosis, and it was being part of the BAU that led Winchester to take Castiel in the first place. Logically, they're not responsible for that, it's a risk of the job, but Morgan feels responsible.

Would they have caught Winchester if Morgan had followed through and contacted Castiel that Friday night?

Everyone else on the plane looks asleep. Morgan caught a few hours at the hotel before they left and about an hour on the plane, and that's been enough to keep him going. He's already planning out in his head how they should transfer Castiel and how to keep him safe while the hunt for Winchester goes on. Winchester has still not been found. As long as he remains free, Castiel will likely have to be hiding. Morgan has gone through the tapes of JJ interrogating Winchester over and over, and Winchester is too obsessed with Castiel to simply let him go.

Last time Hotchner called Tulsa, they said Castiel was sleeping in a cot with Balthazar by his side, passed out in a chair.

It feels like a heavy weight has lifted. Unfortunately, it's a familiar one – Morgan remembers his rage when Prentiss was 'killed' and then returned – and he knows it won't last. This isn't going to be easy.

There exists the possibility that Castiel will lie to them. Not just about the details of his captivity, but about his emotional connection to Winchester, or any crimes he may have witnessed or even participated in. Morgan doesn't think that's likely – even under extreme psychological stress, he doesn't think Castiel would hurt anyone – but it's possible he witnessed crimes he won't want to discuss. Especially right now, with all the wounds of his imprisonment so fresh.

They'll have to step carefully in debriefing Castiel. But at the same time, they have a duty to Winchester's victims – including Castiel – to find out anything that could help them capture Winchester.

Morgan hopes Castiel still understands that.

---------------------------------------------

Twenty minutes before the plane is due to land, Hotchner wakes everyone up. Morgan watches as Hotchner eyes them all for a long moment before speaking. "We'll need to be careful in how we approach this, for Castiel's sake."

JJ nods, pushing back her blond hair. "I think we should all see him, but only one or two of us should debrief him, and it should be done in a place Castiel will feel safe."

Hotchner nods. "We have a duty to catch Winchester, but we have a duty to Castiel as well."

"I'd like to debrief him," Morgan says. "We spent a fair amount of time together outside of work."

Reid agrees. "Me, too."

"All right," Hotchner says. "Morgan and Reid will talk to Castiel. The rest of us will work on tracking Winchester using any information we can get from Castiel."

Reid looks out the window. "Do you think Castiel will want to come back to the BAU?"

Rossi answers. "I think it's too early to think anything. We'll have to take each day as it comes."

No one disagrees, and it's silent until the plane lands.

Detective Lorenson is at home by the time the team arrives, and they're greeted by the lieutenant in charge of Dean Winchester's manhunt. Using Castiel's information, they were able to confirm that Winchester briefly returned to the motel, and then was seen on several security cameras heading out of the city. They can't confirm Dean slipped through their road blocks, but it looks likely. That, or Winchester has bunkered down and found a good place to hide. For safety's sake, the lieutenant agrees to keep up the road checks for another five days.

Castiel is safe, they're told, with his brother, whose identity they verified before letting him in.

Morgan and the others follow a uniformed officer to the back room that police often use to sleep. The door opens a crack, and he sees Castiel lying down on a cot, eyes closed. He's dressed in dark jeans and boots, with a band t-shirt (totally uncharacteristic) under a leather jacket. His hair is slightly longer, just enough to curl a bit at the ends. Castiel is curled up on his side, making a pillow out of his arm. He looks subtly different to Morgan, but Morgan can't pinpoint why. He's seen Castiel sleeping before, usually laid back in the plane. Balthazar is by his side, awake with red-rimmed eyes. He's leaning back in the chair, posture surprisingly relaxed for the stress on his face.

Balthazar starts when he sees the door open fully, then gives Morgan a small smile. It's actually something odd for Morgan to even see – he's never seen Balthazar smile since Castiel was taken, and he never met Castiel's brother before that. Of course he must have smiled at some point, but seeing the BAU members always made Balthazar rough and depressed, like all they did was remind him that Castiel was missing.

There's a tension that Morgan had begun to simply associate as part of Balthazar's personality that is now gone.

Balthazar places one hand on Castiel's shoulder. His voice is incredibly gentle. "Hey, Cassie. Your friends are here."

Castiel blinks his eyes open several times, and shifts. Moves. Morgan suddenly realizes he expected, for so long, to never see Castiel move again, only finding his dead body, and it takes his breath away for a moment. He feels JJ crowd at his shoulder, along with Reid. Rossi and Hotchner are hanging back, watching.

Castiel looks around the room, then finally glances at the door. Shock breaks across Castiel's face first when he meets Morgan's eyes. Then Castiel smiles, pain mixed with gladness.

Morgan walks forward, intending to kneel by the cot, but Castiel is on his feet within seconds, and embracing his friend seems like the most natural thing in the world. Castiel is solid. Present. He doesn’t seem thin or malnourished. Everything stops for a few seconds, and then Castiel takes the smallest step back, shivering a little. Morgan watches as a complex storm of emotions cross Castiel's face. A combination of relief, worry, and something he can't identify. Morgan just stares at him, struck silent, for several long seconds.

JJ is crying when Morgan finally steps out of the way, and she pulls Castiel into her arms, saying, "I'm so glad you're home."

Castiel presses his face into her shoulder, silently nodding.

Reid smiles painfully and says only, "E7 to E5."

Castiel laughs, letting JJ go. "Starting over?"

"You were going to lose in seven moves," Reid replies. "I thought I would be merciful."

"You asshole," Castiel says, but he's smiling. Reid steps forward and gives him a hug. They hold onto each other, and Reid whispers something Castiel's ear, causing Castiel to simply nod. But some tension in Castiel eases, whatever those words were, and when Reid steps away Castiel looks a little calmer.

Hotchner, one of the most reserved people Morgan has ever met, steps forward with his hand out. But Castiel takes his hand and then pushes it further, giving him a short embrace that lasts maybe a second, which Hotchner returns. Then Castiel says very quietly, "Thank you for looking for me."

"We never gave up," Hotchner says solemnly. He squeezes Castiel's hand tight, a gentle smile on his face.

Rossi gives Castiel a bear hug. He's often served as the father-figure of the team, and it shows.

After that, they settle all over the room. Morgan knows that if they're all sitting, it will be less overwhelming for Castiel to deal with. It's weird to think of Castiel as a traumatized victim, but that's exactly what he is right now – yes, at the moment he seems stable enough, but Balthazar did call Hotchner the night before, freaking out about how Castiel had a panic attack. And the reason is striking – because Castiel gave up on escaping, and couldn't stop apologizing for that. Like that survival instinct to accept and adapt to your circumstances was his fault. Hotchner gave Balthazar the right answer: Balthazar, you didn't do anything wrong. Castiel probably finally felt safe and let go. Stay with him, that's what he needs.

Morgan and Reid sit closest to Castiel, besides his brother, who slings an arm over Castiel's shoulders. Morgan would probably have recommended against any kind of restraining hold, but Castiel relaxes into his brother's touch. He stops fidgeting. Morgan can't decide if that's telling or not.

"I need to ask you a question," Morgan begins. "It might be uncomfortable to think about, but we need to know in order to keep you safe."

Castiel stares at him, not understanding.

"Do you think Dean will come after you again? Immediately or long term?"

Pure surprise flashes across Castiel's face, like that hadn't even occurred to him. Fear and uncertainty flash across his face, easy to read in a way Castiel never used to be. But when he answers, his voice is steady. "I don't know. It's possible."

Morgan nods his understanding. "All right." He glances at Hotchner.

Hotchner rises to his feet. "We'll work on that, then," he says. "Castiel, let us know if you need anything."

JJ and Rossi leave with Hotchner, with JJ resting a hand on Castiel's shoulder before she goes.

Castiel watches them go with a frown on his face. Worried. But it suddenly hits Morgan that Castiel might not be worried for himself – he might be worried for Dean. I want to go home, but you can't hurt Dean. Castiel said those words only six months into his captivity. It's been a year since then. Castiel did escape, but it's possible the reason he did is because he managed to do it without putting Dean in danger.

Castiel is picking at the blanket from the cot. Balthazar stays with him, doing his best to remain calm. Morgan decides not to ask him to leave; Castiel seems to appreciate Balthazar's presence.

The person Morgan called friend is different. Changed. Shyer, even quieter, with a miasma of fear.

Morgan takes a moment to calm himself, and then sets himself in the mindset he uses with victims of violent crime. "Do you think you answer a few questions about your time with Dean?" Morgan asks cautiously.

Castiel noticeably pales, but he nods. "Yes. I mean I – it will be hard." Castiel swallows and looks away. "But I know that I need to."

"Right now?" Balthazar interrupts. "Are you fucking crazy? Can't that wait?"

Castiel answers before Morgan can. "They want to find Dean, Bal. It's standard to ask a … a victim questions like that, after the victim is safe."

His eyes flick up to meet Morgan's. He still remembers what the standard protocol is, and he knows that Morgan is going to follow it. Having that knowledge in a victim's eyes is a weird déjà vu feeling.

Reid speaks up, voice quiet. "I think I understand what you're going through, Castiel. At least a little bit." Reid gives him a brief smile. "You remember that I was kidnapped for two days? I know it was before your time, but you read all our case files. It was really strange to be debriefed by my own team, as a victim of crime instead of the person searching for the perpetrator."

Castiel smiles, very faintly. "Yes. I suppose you would." He looks away, visibly collecting himself. "Ask what you need to ask. I'll do my best to answer."

"Do you know anything about where you were being held?" Morgan asks.

Castiel bites his lip. "The bunker is in Kansas, but I don’t know where."

"The bunker? You weren't held in a house?" Reid asks.

"No. It was a bunker built in the fifties, I think. Really large, built for fifty or more people." Castiel's expression goes strangely soft. "Dean said that his grandfather was there, decades ago. And Sam lived there for a year. But he told me that it's not on any county records, any state records. Built in secret." His focus becomes internal. "He told me that the first day, when I woke up chained to the floor. He said that if I managed to get close enough to kill him, no one would ever find me and I would starve to death."

Balthazar is biting his hand hard, grief on his face.

Castiel blinks rapidly, then looks at Balthazar. "He didn't mean it that way, Bal."

"Cassie …"

"He told me later he set it up so if he died, I'd be set free. He never wanted to hurt me."

He never wanted to hurt me, not he never hurt me. Profilers know better than most how much of what a person says reveals things they don't intend. The hidden insecurities, the hidden truths. There is truth in that phrasing, at least in Castiel's mind. He believes Dean didn't mean him harm. But perhaps he also recognizes that harm was done nonetheless.

Castiel looks at Morgan. "Dean left for supplies once every week or two. He was always gone all day. The bunker isn't near anything, just has a small road, like a private road or a county road, it doesn't even have two lanes most of the way."

"Can you tell me anything else about the size? From the outside?"

Castiel starts listing measurements. They're rough, and a lot of it is guesswork. From the description, Morgan is able to understand that by the end of his captivity, Castiel had access to roughly half of the bunker. Castiel doesn't explain how Dean kept him captive, or how the cuff on his ankle – that they saw in the photos – worked. For that matter, it might still be on Castiel.

So Morgan winds back to the end. He doesn't want to directly ask Castiel; the small flinches and hesitations tell Morgan he's doubting himself and what he's saying. And thinking through all his words, looking for … what? Something to help them, or something that would help Dean? "How did you escape?"

"I walked away." Castiel shakes his head, though at what Morgan can't tell. "Dean left me alone in the motel for several hours while he went on a hunt. To, uh, to bless a road."

"Have you been outside before?" Morgan asks.

Castiel nods shortly, beginning to tremble a little. Balthazar squeezes him tighter. "Yes. Twice. Uh, in the past month. He took me to a grocery store, the first time. Then to a hunt, the second time. To do a salt – for a grave desecration," Castiel corrects himself.

He was about to use Winchester's terminology. Habit to conform to Winchester's verbiage, or did Winchester convince Castiel his psychosis was real?

"Holy shit," Balthazar whispers. "He took you out? Why didn't you run?"

Castiel curls on himself and puts his hands over his face, and Morgan begins to wonder if they shouldn't have had Balthazar leave. He's too emotional. Stress is evident in every line of Castiel's body, like he's torn between defending himself and admitting guilt.

Before Morgan can interrupt, Balthazar clears his throat, eyes softening as he notices Castiel's reaction. "It's okay, Cassie. I meant that."

Castiel looks up at Morgan, searching Morgan's eyes.

"It's all right, Castiel. I don't blame you." Morgan pauses, thinking of the many long-term kidnapping victims who got taken out in public and didn't run. Castiel's behavior definitely not without precedent, but he does wonder how much of it was fear and how much it was his emotional connection to Winchester. "Do you know the name of the grocery store? How far away was it from where you were?"

"Rossway Groceries, and not exactly. Several hours drive. I didn't – I don't know where it was. Dean had me close my eyes at the crucial parts of the trip, both ways."

Had me close my eyes – not blindfolded. And Castiel had obeyed. Morgan just nods, putting that information away.

"And the second time was the same thing?" Reid asks, keeping his tone gentle. "You didn't see the relevant parts?"

"I know where the hunt was," Castiel says, and gives them the address – in another state entirely. "That was the first time I was taken out of the bunker overnight."

Balthazar can't seem to help himself from saying, "And you didn't run for it?" It's not accusatory, and Morgan knows that, but Castiel finches anyway.

"I was cuffed to the bed," Castiel says.

"That fucker, how dare he –"

"Balthazar, please, now isn't –" Reid begins.

"It wasn't like that," Castiel interrupts, tensing up and making his body small. His gaze flicks from Balthazar, to Morgan and Reid, and then back again. "He did it for me – he did it because he knew I would be upset. Having to think about escape, constantly having to check for every opportunity, it was so hard, Balthazar, I'm sorry but it – I couldn't do it forever, not when he'd drag me back bloody and screaming – I know I'm weak, I know that." He takes a deep breath, eyes filling with tears as he looks at Balthazar, like he's desperate to have his brother believe him. "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry – "

Balthazar embraces Castiel, beginning to cry as well. "No, Cassie. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything, please, don't cry." Balthazar looks at Morgan while he pulls Castiel's head to his shoulder. He mouths, I'm a total fuckup.

"Castiel," Reid says quietly, "would you like to finish this later?"

Castiel shakes his head. His hands are closing into fists and then opening, over and over. "There's two more things. I should say. I don't want to say them but I should, I know I should, because I was an FBI agent and I know it's the right thing to do, even if Dean gets hurt."

"Castiel …" Morgan whispers. Even if Castiel weren't his friend, he'd end an interview here. "It's all right."

But Castiel just swallows roughly, face wet, and says, "Dean had my records. From two years before he took me, and six months before. A friend of his that he called Charlie, a girl, she got them for him by hacking into the FBI. Penelope might be able to track her down." He takes three deep breaths, expression a little dazed. "And there's this." He pulls up his left pant leg and exposes the cuff. "It has a GPS tracker on it."

Balthazar looks at the cuff, and then away and gags. "Fuck, oh fuck." He gags again, clearly holding back from throwing up.

"Can you take it off?" Castiel asks, looking at Morgan pleadingly. Like no matter how much he asks, Morgan won't help him. Feeling sick, Morgan wonders how many times Castiel asked Dean the same thing and was refused. "Please."

"Jaws of life should do it," Morgan says firmly, looking Castiel in the eye.

"Balthazar," Reid says, "would you like to come with me to help with setting that up?"

Balthazar seizes on this words, clearly knowing that he's upsetting Castiel more than helping at this point. "Yeah. Yeah. Cassie, I'll be back, okay? You just tell Agent Morgan if you need me."

Castiel nods faintly.

Despite his words, Reid has to almost drag Balthazar away from Castiel. Castiel watches with red-rimmed eyes, looking more confused than abandoned. Morgan recognizes the look – Castiel is losing track of what's going on, all the intricacies of conversation, and falling back into the trauma of the kidnapping. To the mindset he has been forced to live with. How many decisions and freedoms did Winchester take away? To turn his friend into someone who asked to be freed, and expected a no, even from his own team members? To someone who feared a decision?

It's like Castiel knows on some level why Balthazar is leaving, but not on all of them. He blinks rapidly when Balthazar is gone and stares down at his hands for a full minute before he's able to look at Morgan again.

But there's steel there. Castiel asks, "Did you know Hotch ordered the police here to arrest me?"

"What?"

"If I tried to go. He said to arrest me." Castiel's voice is blank.

Morgan feels anger, lets it go. He knows the reason for that order. "No, I didn't know that."

"I can't be imprisoned again," Castiel says. Orders. For the first time, he's firm. He's shaking, his face is tear-streaked, but he says, "I can't live that way. With that fear. If I run, I run. I won't be held captive, not by you, not by anyone. Don't put me on a psych hold, nothing. I don't fucking care what you think I will or won't do. I won't live that way."

"I understand. I'll let him know," Morgan says softly.

"Promise me," Castiel commands.

"I promise," Morgan says. "I promise you won't be held against your will."

A small sigh leaves Castiel.

Morgan debates what to do for a moment longer, but in the end he takes Balthazar's spot by Castiel's side and places a hand on his shoulder. He doesn't say anything. He just sits there and remains a point of physical contact. After about ten minutes, the trembles fade. Castiel rubs his eyes and then his face before looking up and meeting Morgan's gaze.

"That's all I know about where Dean could be," Castiel says at last.

"I'll call Penelope and get her started on that," Morgan says. He hesitates, and then adds, "You know that we would do everything possible to take Dean alive."

Castiel tilts his head, blue eyes surprised. "Would you?"

"For your sake, I would."

"Thank you," Castiel says. "For that, but also for – for understanding. That I don't want him dead."

"Anything you need, okay?" Morgan doesn’t understand why Castiel wants Winchester alive. Not for sure. Stockholm Syndrome is something the team has thrown back and forth for a year, but past victims, like Patty Hearst, didn't escape their captors on their own. Patty Hearst said that she didn't feel like she regained her free will until she was forcibly separated from her captors for two weeks. But Castiel ran in a matter of an hour or two.

Castiel nods. "Thank you," he repeats. His gaze drifts to the door and he pulls his pant leg over the cuff, hiding it.

"Do you want him to escape, Castiel?" Morgan asks. It's not something he'd normally ask a victim. But he asks it now anyway.

Castiel pauses for a moment, and doesn't look away. "No."

It's a lie. Morgan knows it's a lie.

He said, in those quick mash of words, that he knew he should tell them – the FBI – everything they needed to capture Winchester. It makes Morgan wonder if Castiel wants to return to the FBI and knew that would heavily play into him passing a psychiatric examination.

Castiel is shaking and on the verge of a mental breakdown, but he's still the highly intelligent person Morgan knew before. Morgan can't forget that. Not only because Castiel is his friend, but because Castiel is also their best chance of catching a serial killer.

He watches as Castiel calms himself down with deep breathing, meditative breathing.

Castiel is hiding something. Every gut instinct Morgan has is screaming it.

That's when Balthazar comes back with a firefighter.

---------------------------------------------

Castiel is going to have to lie. He knows he'll have to lie. He didn't even think about it until now, but he's going to have to lie about Dean in a multitude of ways, and the cuff even more. He can't tell them it's magical and it worked with magical barriers; that might get him committed, Morgan's promise or not. At the same time, he'll have to come up some kind of explanation for why he couldn't escape the bunker when he had access to so much of it.

Two cuffs. The one he's wearing now, that despite it being on his ankle nearly constantly for eighteen months, he will have to say it he only wears it while Dean is taking him outside. It has no visible mechanism to keep Castiel prisoner, after all, just the GPS marker.

He'll have to lie about the bunker, too. Maybe hidden sensors that trigger and shut doors. Fuck, he doesn't know. He just has to either come up with something convincing or convince them that he can't emotionally talk about it. For the first time, panic about something that's not directly about Dean rises.

And Morgan sees it. Well, sees something. Castiel feels laid bare, because he knows Morgan is analyzing everything he says and does, all the turns of phrase that Castiel won't catch before he says it. And that's just Morgan, and they're fifteen minutes into a debriefing that will take hours. Weeks. Or even months.

There's a knock at the door. Morgan looks up, and Castiel looks at him.

Morgan still has that professional expression, the one he uses for traumatized children, which is all softness and understanding, with a deep calm behind it. He never lets the victims see his rage on their behalf. Castiel is sure even now that that rage exists for Castiel, even if Morgan does think Castiel is lying about something. Morgan gets up and answers the door, finding a fireman in full gear behind it.

"I hear we've got a manacle to get off?" the firefighter asks, a young man with an earnest look on his face.

"Yes," Castiel answers before Morgan can. "Yes."

Morgan looks back at Castiel and gives him a small smile.

"Well, I've got everything you could want," the firefighter says with easy confidence. "Shall we start with bolt cutters first?"

They start with bolt cutters first. They make a dent in the metal, but don't sever the cuff entirely. Two more firefighters arrive, along with Reid and a rather embarrassed-looking Balthazar, and they debate the issue while looking at Castiel's ankle. They've got a cloth between the cuff and his skin, but they'll need to be even more careful if they have to use something heavier than the bolt cutter. Castiel lets the conversation roll over his head, focusing on the fact that soon it will be gone. The cuff will be gone.

Balthazar holds his hand, and his grip is tight and sweaty. Castiel's been thankful for few things as much as he is for that touch.

In the end, they use a mechanized version of a bolt cutter. Not quite as large as the jaws of life, but similar. A towel is placed between Castiel's skin and the cuff and the cuff is rotated so the GPS won't be cut in half. They intend to use that portion to see if Dean is still tracking it.

"You ready?" the first firefighter asks Castiel.

Castiel nods.

"I can't look," Balthazar says, sounding queasy. "This won't hurt him, will it?"

"We've done this before, don’t worry," the firefighter assures Balthazar. "You'd be surprised at what people cuff themselves to." Morgan and another firefighter are holding Castiel in the proper position so he won't be injured, so he doesn't twitch, but they're all staring at the cuff. The same one that Dean has caressed and kissed.

And then the cuff is cut. Once, then twice, so it falls in two halves.

Castiel lets loose a sob. Pain at rejecting Dean totally, but relief, too, as the last part of Dean's ownership of him disappears.

For a year and a half Castiel has been cuffed like an animal, tagged like an animal. Now he's free. He watches as Morgan collects the two halves, examining the GPS.

Castiel reflexively reaches for his ankle, touching the bare skin. He can feel the calluses from the cuff, a reminder, but when he stretches out his foot, there's no accompanying feeling of weight. When he lifts his leg, it feels oddly light. He stands up, ignoring the people in the room watching him. He takes a step forward, his first truly free step. His body is unbalanced, but his second step comes a bit easier. It's more than an analogy.

"Cassie?"

Castiel looks at Balthazar, and begins to cry again. He doesn't even know how, it feels like he can't stop weeping and making an emotional mess of himself. He clears his throat and admits, "It feels so strange."

Balthazar hugs him and whispers into his ear, "You'll be used to it in no time. 'Cause it's staying that way."

Castiel's tired of crying, but his body isn't. It takes him time to calm down enough to control the tears, and he may have spent the last day stuck in a room inside a police station, but it's still so much more than he had before. The fact that he sees random people, that the officers outside change shifts. He's seen more than thirty different people, even though he's spent almost all his time in here.

The world is still a bit of a blurred haze, moving too fast for Castiel to really catch everything.

Morgan leaves at some point and then returns, empty-handed. The firefighters, job done, go back to their own station. Balthazar gets lunch for himself and Castiel, and this time it's hot food, and Castiel is able to finish most of it. Morgan and Balthazar talk while Castiel rubs his temples, letting the words flow over him and paying attention when he can, letting it drift when he can't. He does catch the concerned looks they both throw at him, because before his captivity Castiel could keep track of multiple threads of conversation at once and interject at appropriate times, and now he can barely manage one.

Logically, Castiel knows it's a combination of trauma and prolonged isolation. Mostly the prolonged isolation, in his opinion. He's no longer panicking when he sees more than one person in the same room with him, but he also can't track them all that well either.

Balthazar quiets down after a while, and JJ replaces Morgan, bringing a random book with her. He reads the first chapter five times. He thinks that sometimes he can hear his former team outside the door, talking about catching Dean.

After Castiel puts the book down, realizing he's never going to finish it at this rate, JJ is the one to sit him down and ask about injuries. "You told the police here you were physically fine, but did you get any injuries during escaping that need looked at? Any injuries during the last eighteen months that should be checked out?"

Castiel is about to say no, then reconsiders. Dean was competent when it came to medical care, so even the injuries he got during his imprisonment were well-cared for. But Dean isn't a doctor, and doesn't have advanced medical equipment. Anna probably healed anything lingering after his first two attempts, but not the third. "I got a severe concussion nine months ago. I was bedridden for a couple of weeks, and blacked out several times. No symptoms since."

JJ nods. "You'll need an MRI, then, to make sure there's no hidden bleeding or blockages." She purses her lips. "Would you be okay going to the hospital? After this long, you should have a full checkup."

"That's fine," Castiel says. And it is; he doesn't mind. It's probably for the best.

"Do you think Dean is still here?" JJ asks.

Castiel pauses in surprise. "In town? I doubt it."

"You told Detective Lorenson that he wouldn't come here to the police station because they were bystanders. What did you mean by that?"

Castiel hesitates, debating how much of the truth to tell and how much to hide. He knows the question is tactical, not directed at his mental state, but that doesn’t mean JJ won't note any of that in his reply. "Dean considers everyone who doesn't know about the supernatural to be civilians. Police forces are annoyances at best, but Dean does consider them innocent bystanders. That's why he's never had a shoot-out with police and always surrenders to escape later."

JJ looks like she's about to ask another question, skepticism on her face, but she stops herself. "So if we accompany you to the hospital, you'll be safe?"

"Yes. Dean would never risk it."

JJ nods again. "I'll go get Balthazar for you and set that up." She smiles at him. "Welcome home, Castiel."

"Thank you, JJ," Castiel says softly. He can tell she means it, and it makes his eyes sting.

Hotchner and Rossi come back finally, and go over how Castiel will be transported to the hospital. Castiel misses most of the details – five people talking to each other is way too much, and he can't keep track of it all – but he knows that they're treating Dean as a serious threat to Castiel's safety. Castiel doesn’t know if Dean will come for him again, or give up, or kill himself, or any number of other possible responses, but he does know Dean won't do it now. Dean's not stupid; there's too many people around Castiel. So he doesn't fear being recaptured … not yet.

Balthazar holds Castiel's hand all the way to the local FBI's SUV. One police car is parked in front of it, and one behind. Two officers stand outside the one in front, chatting. Castiel hears, " – so what, a serial killer took an FBI agent as a fucktoy? And a guy? That's really fucking weird."

Three feet from the car door, Castiel flinches and stumbles.

Balthazar, still grasping Castiel's hand, shouts, "Hey, fucktards! Shut the fuck up!"

Despite the jolt of shame – they don't even know that Castiel consented, they don't know everything Castiel allowed to happen – Castiel smiles at his brother. Always the first one to call people names, especially when he knew he wasn't going to get beat for it. Brazen, that was his brother, but not stupid.

"You're just a bunch of fucking little shits –" Balthazar continues.

"Bal, it's all right," Castiel says, squeezing his brother's hand.

The two police officers look horribly uncomfortable and rather guilty. Castiel could complain, but they only said what everyone thinks, and there's no changing that. One reaches over and opens the door for Castiel. "Sorry," he says. "But it is really weird."

Castiel meets his eyes. "Yes, I know."

Morgan ducks in and says to Castiel, close, "I'll talk to their captain."

Castiel looks up and meets Morgan's dark, sincere eyes. He nods once.

Almost the entire team is in the car with him. He's in the center seat, which blocks a lot of the view outside, but it's a bit of a relief. The loud sounds and colors of the world are still hard for Castiel to take in. He's not quite as bad as the first time Dean took him to out, to the grocery store, when he was basically nonfunctional, but he closes his eyes anyway. He only looks around a few times, noting the worried glances Reid and JJ are giving him, but choosing not to do anything about it.

They'll understand, he thinks.

The hospital is cold and sterile, but they must have called ahead, because there's a bed ready. When Castiel strips and puts on a gown, he feels naked.

"Do you want me to stay?" Balthazar asks quietly.

Castiel just nods.

The physical exam is tiring and invasive, even though the doctor tries to be slow and gentle. The accompanying nurse notes everything – all his scars, including his old ones, like the mottled circle from a gunshot. And the ones on his hip, where he had cut into himself over and over again before throwing the knife into the bush, outside of his boundary, and the small one to the inside of his wrist, which is so small and slight he's surprised she even marked it. They see the slight bruises on his hips from the last time he and Dean had sex, and she asks very gingerly, "Do you want a sexual assault exam?"

"No," Castiel snaps. He's not a rape victim, and he doesn't want to be treated like one.

The nurse just accepts that. "No problem. Let me know if you change your mind or need anything. We'll be back in about an hour for your MRI." Then she leaves.

Not even quite sure why, as soon as the door closes, he follows. Castiel is still an open case, as long as Dean's not caught, so his medical records will be shared with the FBI. He presses his ear against the door and listens.

" – signs of self-harm. A new knife wound to his stomach, too. He refused a rape kit but there are signs of recent sexual activity."

Hotchner's voice responds, too low to be understood. Castiel is still an open case, as long as Dean's not caught, so his medical records will be shared with the FBI. Castiel decides he doesn't even want to know, and returns to the bed.

Balthazar eyes him but doesn't comment. "Are you okay?"

Castiel nods silently.

After about fifteen minutes, Balthazar finally falls asleep. Castiel knows he stayed up nearly all night, watching Castiel in the cot. He sits there for a few minutes, just watching Balthazar sleep.

Everyone knows that he had a sexual relationship with Dean. It was no doubt evident from what Dean told them in interrogation, and he knows they had Dean's camera. Castiel doesn't know the exact pictures that were on it, but he knows that the uncomfortable and comfortable intimacy he had with Dean is no doubt very obvious. They slept in the same bed, after all, and Dean took at least one picture of him half-clothed.

They probably think Dean tied him to a bed and raped him.

But it's not that simple. Castiel still doesn't entirely know what to think of their first sexual encounters, and how consensual they were, but by the end, he knows he was fully consenting. Dean would always respect his decision to say no, and did so several times when Castiel told him to back off. Only returning when Castiel took the first step. Touching Dean in bed, or walking in on Dean masturbating, and giving him a blow job. Asking Dean to fuck him.

What would he do, if Dean walked in here right now?

Hit him? Rage at him? Castiel is afraid of his own shadow. Afraid of freedom. Every moment since his escape has been overwhelming, a mess of choices and decisions to make. Dean took that away from him, leaving terror in his wake. Maybe some small part wishes he hadn't run and didn't have this long struggle ahead, but the rest of him is glad. Relieved. He has Balthazar again. He has the entire world.

But he still wrote those three words, and he knows he still means them: don't kill yourself.

Dean is out there, somewhere. Castiel doesn't know if he'll take Castiel again. If he'll enlist Anna to kidnap him, and if he does, there's no way Castiel can avoid that. Can he?

Castiel walks to Balthazar, and gently digs into his pockets until he finds Balthazar's phone. He opens up a browser and puts in 'enochian symbols.' He did once see the symbol to banish angels in the library. Surely, after the whole mess with heaven went down, people started disseminating information like that. Angels hadn't walked the earth in two thousand years so all of that information was lost, but Anna's rebellion and the ensuing civil war must have created small groups that would spread it. Even demons might put it online.

He flicks through dozens of websites and pictures, memorizing as he goes. Then he wipes the history and puts it back in Balthazar's pocket.

Castiel isn't going to let himself be taken captive again easily. He's going to fight.

He will keep his freedom.

Chapter Text

Castiel is sleeping. Not quite awake, not really dreaming, he drifts in between for what seems like an hour. He's curled up under covers that are heavier than usual, and the sheets are rougher against his skin. The spot next to him is cold. Did Dean wake up already?

A hand shakes his shoulder. "Dean?" he asks sleepily, wanting that familiar warmth.

"No, Cassie, it's me," Balthazar says.

Castiel opens his eyes to beige walls and a tastefully bland piece of art. Not the bunker. Not hard, gray walls with no windows. In fact, sunlight streams through a narrow window. The heavier layer of curtains has been drawn back, leaving only the thin, gauzy white curtains that barely give privacy. Castiel remembers going to sleep here now, after landing in an airport near Quantico. Hotchner decided they could better protect Castiel here than in Texas, Balthazar's home.

Balthazar is leaning in and eyeing Castiel a little too closely than is comfortable, his hand still on Castiel's shoulder. "We're at the safehouse. Remember?"

After a moment, Castiel nods. "Yes. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Balthazar says uncomfortably. He looks torn between changing the subject and asking a question. The obvious question. He apparently decides to go for the middle ground when he says, "You reached over in your sleep."

Castiel looks at his brother for a long moment. Dean would go on hunts, of course. But for the past seven months he had Aditi to keep him company in Dean's place (he taught her not to while Dean was around), and so he's not used to an empty bed. Should he answer? He feels weirdly embarrassed, like he's admitting to his parents that he let a girlfriend sleep over or something. "I'm – I'm not used to sleeping alone."

A sick look passes across Balthazar's face, but he just swallows. "I slept in the chair. Is that okay?"

Castiel softens. "Yes, of course. I like having you here."

"Breakfast is ready," Balthazar says, looking a bit more at ease. "Agent Morgan took night shift, so he went home, but Dr. Reid and Agent Hotchner are here."

Castiel frowns. "Hotch is here? He should be at home with his son." It's the weekend now, and Castiel knows better than anyone just how much a job with the BAU tends to crowd out time spent with family.

"He said he'd be leaving in a few hours," Balthazar says with a shrug. "Oh, and there's an agent outside, just in case." He grabs a duffel from the floor, which is new based on what Castiel remembers from getting off the plane last night. "We got some of your clothes from your apartment, so you have stuff that's, y'know, familiar to be in." Balthazar offers him a hopeful smile.

"You kept my apartment?" Castiel asks, startled.

"You asked me to," Balthazar says, firm.

That would have been a high financial cost. Most people don't have two apartments for a reason. Castiel left that in the letter to tell them that he would still escape, that he wasn't giving up, and then he did. The fact that Balthazar didn't give up in the same way stings in a way it really shouldn't. "Thank you."

Balthazar shoots him a pleased smile, the tired look to his face fading a little. He leaves the room and Castiel throws back the covers. Getting dressed in clothes he only vaguely remembers having actually owned is weird, especially so since Castiel got used to his wardrobe at Dean's. Castiel had tended towards softer materials, but Dean tended to buy clothing that was made to last, ignoring the roughness of fabric in favor of usefulness. Not that Dean didn't do everything he could to please Castiel, but a lot of clothing he used in the beginning was Dean's old clothing or random store-bought items. When he slips on a pair of slacks and socks, he's half-surprised to find they still fit. A t-shirt goes on top, soft.

He wanders into the bathroom and looks at himself in the mirror. And finds himself, or at least some piece of the Castiel that existed a year and a half ago. It's almost startling, to see how his eyes don't look so lost. He reaches out and touches the mirror, tilting his face this way and that. Is this the presence of freedom or the absence of captivity? The absence of Dean?

Shivering, he turns away. He walks through the bedroom, avoiding the creaky wood flooring he noticed in the hallway last night and creeps up on the kitchen.

He hears Balthazar first. " – slept in the same bed?"

Hotchner answers, too low to be understood. Castiel frowns in frustration, holding his breath. This time he does want to know what's being said. " – you should focus on being normal. For him, it's been a long time since he had that. You know him better than we do, so it's up to you when you think he wants to talk, but you should do your best not to react to anything he says." Hotchner pauses. "I understand it will be difficult to hear how Castiel was hurt, but he may not see it the same way as you do, and arguing over that would be too stressful for him now."

"He may intellectualize his experience," Reid adds. "I know I've done the same with my own experiences, and Castiel and I are a lot alike."

"I just get the feeling he's going to defend that fucker," Balthazar says, angry. "Do you know he's got a bite scar on his neck from that bastard?"

Castiel winces. He walks back down the hallway, then returns, being careful this time to hit the creaky floorboard before he enters the kitchen.

Hotchner and Reid are seated at the table. Reid's gun is visible and still holstered, as his Hotchner's.

"Good morning," Reid says, giving Castiel a calm smile. "Waffles?"

Castiel sits at the table and takes a plate.

"How are you doing?" Balthazar asks awkwardly, taking the seat closest to Castiel.

Castiel hesitates. "I'm all right."

Hotchner eyes Castiel closely for a moment. "Would you feel comfortable answering a few questions about Dean?"

Castiel knows he has to. Has to cooperate. He deliberately didn't tell them about the Wichita PO box because he feared that would lead them too closely to Dean – he doesn't even know if Dean is aware he knows about that, and so it could be a fatal reveal – and there's other things, other details that Castiel can't think of right now that might do the same. Any conversation he has with Hotchner or the team about Dean is a tightrope, and falling will hurt them both. "A few."

"I was remembering your phone call. What did you mean when you said, 'He's not what we thought'?" Hotchner asks.

Castiel looks away. He meant a lot of things, but mostly that Dean isn't a psychopathic serial killer – that the world he inhabits is real. That the supernatural is real. He couldn't explain that in the phone call then, and he can't explain it now. Not fully. But maybe partially. Yes, Castiel can make this work. "Dean is a vigilante killer."

Hotchner looks surprised. Well, as surprised as Hotchner ever looks – all that signals it is the slight crease between his eyebrows and the barest tilt of his head. "What do you mean?"

"Look at his cases again. A considerable portion of the time, the murders or strange events occur before we recorded either Dean or Sam being there, or overlap with them recorded being somewhere else. The crimes end when they leave. Victims and witnesses are reluctant to testify, or outright refuse."

"Because they owe a debt," Reid says slowly. Castiel can practically see his mind whirring, going over Dean's massive case file with his perfect memory and seeing if Castiel's theory fits. "You're saying it's not fear of him?"

Castiel smiles faintly. "Dean's a murderer. He admitted that to me a day in. But in his mind, those murders were justified, and not just for his own personal psychology, but in a greater context."

"His father sought his mother's killer," Hotchner muses. "And he murders those who kill in the same way."

"Yes. Precisely. Dean followed in his father's footsteps, but he took it even farther."

"How does the psychosis play in?"

Castiel shakes his head. "I don't know for sure. It's hard to say how much of his stories were real and how much wasn't. But based on my memory, the pattern of vigilantism holds true."

"He didn't exhibit psychosis in front of you?" Reid asks.

Castiel stares down at his plate. "Very rarely."

They accept that wordlessly, and Hotchner changes the subject. "Garcia believes she's close to being able to contact the Charlie hacker you mentioned, but hasn't been able to track her down physically yet or find out her real name. Do you know anything else about her?"

Castiel eyes Hotchner a moment. "She didn't know that Dean had taken me. Dean said … Dean said that she'd have killed him if she knew."

"She still aided a known criminal," Reid says cautiously.

"She's not a bad person," Castiel says. "Everything Dean said about her, I got the impression she was very kind." He hesitates again. Charlie is even more innocent than Dean, as far as he knows. He doesn't actually know if Charlie is kind, but judging from the fondness in Dean's random mentions, he's assuming she is. "I'd rather you didn't focus on arresting her to the exclusion of other leads. From what I gathered, she didn't believe Dean was guilty of any the crimes he's suspected of. I think she's innocent in all of this."

"I can't promise that," Hotchner says.

"If Penelope can contact her, can I give advice on what to say, then?" Castiel asks.

"I'll listen to any suggestions," Hotchner says, that apparently an easy enough concession to make.

After that, Reid deliberately changes the subject yet again. This time the topic is closer to home, as they discuss cases they've taken in the past eighteen months. Castiel doesn't get an incredible amount of detail – probably because some of said details are limited to case officers – instead it offers him insight to how things have been for the team, in terms of progress. He finds out that they had guesting agents, one of whom stayed for six months, but the others were all less time than that. They weren't trying to replace Castiel. Hotchner was experimenting with team dynamic and seeing how different specialties – like concentrations in language and how it exposes psychology, to the intense study of the behavior of criminals once caught and in prison. It's interesting, and since Reid and Hotchner are careful to keep the conversation slow, Castiel understands all of it. His book reading kept up his cognitive functioning, it's the social aspect of conversation he has trouble with after all this time.

When all he had to read was books and Dean.

Balthazar being Balthazar, he brought a few movies in his luggage. Reid finds an ancient dvd player, and Castiel is subjected to choosing between horrible scifi films.

"This one, please?" Castiel asks, pointing at a title with a shark in the air on it.

For some reason, Balthazar's smile falters. But he nods.

When the first title appears, Balthazar sits next to Castiel on the couch, almost close enough to touch. Castiel smiles at him, appreciating what Balthazar is trying to do – close enough to offer comfort, far enough not to smother.

Watching movies with Dean trained Castiel to offer biting commentary. Dean never cared about Castiel interrupting a film to say something because he seemed to find anything Castiel said worth listening to. His interest in Castiel's thinking and preferences was obsessive.

But this time, his habit taught by Dean's encouragement serves him well. Hotchner, Reid and Balthazar all relax the first time Castiel dryly says, "I'm pretty sure a 10.0 earthquake would split the earth in half. Do they even know about the Richter scale?"

Ice cream is next, then another question.

Hotchner broaches the topic only when Castiel is pretty clearly relaxed. He's not thinking about Dean, about what he's lost as well as what he's gained, and he's not thinking about how he will have to guard against Anna eventually. And he definitely isn't thinking about the pit of fear and anxiety that have followed him since his escape, or the weird longing to have Dean hold him.

Balthazar can actually make meals, so he took on lunch. He hums while he works, completely off-tune.

Hotchner watches him for a few minutes, then turns to Castiel and says, "You don't have to answer anything I'm about to say right now, Castiel. I just want to emphasize that. Right now your first duty is to rest and recover."

"What is it?" Castiel asks, tensing up.

"If you intend to return to the FBI as a field agent, within a few weeks you will need to begin attending therapy. We've already found someone with experience with kidnapping situations –" Castiel notices he does not say 'victim', "who is also qualified by the FBI to say whether you're ready to return to work."

"If that's what you want," Reid adds.

"I don't need to wait to answer that," Castiel says. "Yes. I want to return." He takes two, quick breaths. The thought of therapy terrifies him, though he can't admit that, no matter how understanding they would try to be. He can't tell them the full truth any more than he can say the same to the therapist. Dean must always remain a psychotic killer, driven by delusions. How easy would it be for a therapist to see through Castiel's mask, that he believes Dean? That he knows the supernatural is real, as solidly as a serial killer does? Castiel is smart, he knows he is, but he hasn't had to walk that kind of line before, and not like this, when he's still – frankly – traumatized. Floundering while he tries to cope with the outside world.

It's so hard to act normal. To readjust what his version of normal is. To be alone. He misses Dean, suddenly and terribly, and knows he can never say that out loud. He misses the absolute certainty that Dean might hurt him, but that Dean will still always try to heal the wounds he creates.

Now there's just Castiel, fumbling with bandages on his own wounded psyche.

"Castiel, we can discuss this later," Hotchner assures him. "It can take a while to cope, no matter how well-adjusted you are."

Castiel shakes his head. "I don't know if this will make sense to you, but I had so little to … to hold onto. But I kept in my mind the things I wanted with my freedom, and those were Bal and my job."

Balthazar smiles, painful but glad. He puts a plate with a sandwich on it in front of Castiel, then places his hand on Castiel's shoulder, a comforting weight. "Cassie," he whispers.

"Let me know when you're ready, then," Hotchner says. "You know the BAU will always have a spot for you."

"Thank you," Castiel says, grateful. He did worry, in that first year before he gave up, if even if he got away, he'd ever get back what he lost. He looks at Balthazar, too. "Thank you."

Reid catches Castiel's eye. Reid is leaning back in his seat, his long fingers forming a v shape as he contemplates Castiel. It's analytic, but that doesn't bother Castiel. Him and Reid have understood each other since the beginning of their working relationship, because Reid thinks about everything in the same detail and thorough analysis as Castiel does. Of course, Castiel has yet to win a game of chess with Reid, but they respect each other, a respect borne out of understanding.

The safehouse has a small yard, and when they go outside – still a joy for Castiel – Reid says in passing, "I meant what I said. Remember that."

"My memory isn't as good as yours, but I won't forget," Castiel says with a small smile. Reid isn't the one in the team that always knows what to say, but in that moment, no words could have been better chosen.

Castiel spends most of the afternoon in silence, just absorbing being outside, sitting in an old, creaky wood lawn chair. They're in a suburb, so it's not at all quiet like the yard of the bunker was. He hears cars driving by and the sound of children playing off in the distance. This is the world which everyone else inhabits, and Castiel is slowly learning the flavor of it again. Not just to experience it, but also to block it out. He lost most of his ability to cope in normal situations because of his captivity, but this is an opportunity to begin retraining his brain to live in a busy, populated world.

The others seem to understand that. Not Balthazar, of course, but Reid whispers something to him and his brother finally settles down.

Hotchner leaves before long, and about half an hour after that Castiel gets a call from Garcia.

"How are you? Are you okay?" Penelope asks.

"I'm okay," Castiel says, his eyes filling with tears. Thankfully, the others have backed off to allow him some privacy. "Thanks for looking for me, Penelope."

"Of course I did," she says, sounding sweetly heart-broken the way only she can. Her voice hardens as she proclaims, "And I will catch that slimy bastard if it's the last thing I do. I may not be able to run out there with a gun but I will give you cyber vengeance, Castiel. No one can hide from me in my world, and I know every hacker out there."

Castiel pauses. "Charlie didn't know. If you do talk to her … keep that in mind, okay?"

"I'll do what I can, but you know me when I've sworn vengeance," Penelope replies, half sounding like she's humoring him, and half sounding like she wants to reach across the internet and attack Charlie.

Castiel laughs. "Anyone who underestimates you does so at their own peril."

"Absolutely right, sweetheart."

When Penelope finally hangs up, Castiel gives the phone back to Reid and slouches, half dozing in the sunlight. He tries to release the tension held in his muscles, making his back ache. It's like he's forgotten how to relax in a place like this, so used to Dean's palace of a prison.

When night falls, Castiel has been free for two days.

So different from day two with Dean.

Morgan arrives with Chinese takeout, which Castiel hasn't had in a year and a half. Dean only made meals fresh since the bunker was so remote, and while he was a good cook and would make anything Castiel requested, there's nothing like going through a menu and finding something you haven't heard of to try. He devours anything he doesn't recognize, ignoring the bemused look his brother is giving him. Morgan just looks pleased.

"How is the investigation?" Castiel finally manages to ask.

Morgan watches him for a moment before exchanging a brief look with Reid. "Good. We have leads."

Castiel's stomach twists upon itself. Is Dean safe? Did Castiel reveal too much?

"Don't worry about it," Morgan tells him.

"Whether you want Dean caught or not, there's nothing you can do about it now," Reid says. Morgan gives Reid a sharp look, but Reid just continues, "Logically, there's no reason for you to even be thinking about it at this point. The team is covering it."

Castiel nods. "Right. Of course." And he relaxes. Reid is right, there's nothing he can do about it now.

Morgan is the one to look bemused this time, but he shrugs it off.

A game of chess later, it's barely nine in the evening, but Castiel is tired, so he begs off anything else and goes to the master bedroom that is his for now. He lays down and pulls the pillow into his arms, curled up into a ball. He's not really tired enough to sleep yet, so he lets the events of the past day work through his mind at a slow, leisurely rate. His coworkers are still walking on eggshells around him, and Balthazar varies between copying them and being a bull in a china shop. But even that is familiar. Balthazar's never been subtle. In a weird way, it reminds him of Dean, but then again Dean had a thousand worries and doubts underlying all his actions in a way that Balthazar simply doesn't. What you see is what you get, with his brother. Dean, as direct as he tries to be, is a mess of trauma and defense mechanisms.

The bed dips when Balthazar sits down, and Castiel looks at him. His brother has that expression on his face that says he's about to start asking questions he's not sure he wants answers to; Castiel can't count how many times he saw that look on Balthazar's voice when Balthazar would ask about Castiel's work.

"Do you want to talk about it? I mean … the whole thing?" Balthazar shifts so he's closer to Castiel and runs a hand through Castiel's hair. Castiel closes his eyes for a moment, hearing the concern in his brother's voice, as well as the reluctant curiosity. "You've been gone so long, and I have no idea what you've been through."

"How much did the BAU tell you?" Castiel asks, opening his eyes.

Balthazar puts his hands in his lap, fidgeting. "They, um, tried to avoid a lot of it. But that fucker's crimes can be found, if you know where to look. But they kept telling me that you were okay after they caught that fucker for a while. Physically, anyway. They wouldn't say how you were doing in your head, but then I guess they wouldn't know? I don't know, Cassie. I know that fucker tortured people. Once they gave me the profile that that fucker was a stalker who was obsessed with you, Agent Morgan admitted that … that …" He looks sick. "That rape was a possibility, along with torture."

Castiel keeps his tone even. Blank, actually, because he has no idea what to feel about the no doubt horrible images Balthazar has in his head. "I'm surprised he told you that."

"I’m convincing when I want to be, you know that," Balthazar replies. "Plus lots of harassing phone calls. Also, I googled philosophies that emphasize truth-telling. And interrogation techniques that spies used. And used those arguments. And it mostly worked - Reid was the only one who knew where I was getting all that shit."

Castiel shifts onto his back and stares bleakly at the window. How can he possibly explain any of this? "He didn't rape me, Bal."

"Didn't he?" Balthazar looks him straight in the eyes, for once not backing down. He's been so careful not to upset Castiel. "I saw some of the photos. Got out what the rest were from Dr. Reid."

"We had … a sexual relationship. But he didn't rape me. It wasn't like that."

Balthazar makes a disbelieving noise. "Cassie, you don't even like guys."

"I know. I just … he had a way. Of making it feel good. And I didn't want to think about it beyond that." Castiel looks down at his hands. At his body. Which he used to give Dean pleasure. That he got pleasure in return seems almost inconsequential now, even though it meant everything then. "I don't know. I don't even know why I kissed him. Why I initiated it."

Balthazar sounds sickened. "Okay, Cassie."

Castiel looks up. "Whenever I said no, he respected that. That wasn't it. It was like … like saying yes made sense after a while." And despite the pain intermingled with it, there's a longing to have that again.

His brother doesn’t reply immediately. He just searches Castiel's face, though for what Castiel can't even guess. "I wish I'd snapped his neck in that interrogation room."

I don't. "He's not an evil person, Bal."

Balthazar shoots to his feet and explodes. "Of course he fucking is! He's a serial killer! He's murdered dozens!"

Only Castiel knows that of all the crimes Dean is on trial for, only the ones against Castiel actually happened. He sighs and rubs his face, knowing he can never explain that to Balthazar. Oh, he could try to prove that magic is real, much how Dean did, but what would be the point? Balthazar hates Dean for the crime he did commit. And to know the supernatural real is a burden he'd rather not place on his brother.

Balthazar isn't done. "He kidnapped you and held you against your will and put a fucking cuff on your ankle like you were an animal and he raped you, Cassie. You flinch every time anyone speaks loud and you can't keep track of more than one person talking and you beg for everything like we'll say no, no you can't have eggs for breakfast. What the fuck did he do to you?"

Castiel sits up and throws the first thing he finds, which is a glass of water on the side table. It hits the wall and shatters loudly. "Well I'm fucking sorry I don't fit your expectations of victimhood, but it wasn't like that, and you don't know – you don't understand, Bal, and you probably never will. Fuck, do you even want to? Know what he did? What I did? What I said yes to?"

Balthazar stares at him, struck silent.

"I let him fuck me. I sucked him off. I swallowed his come and I fucking begged for all of it. Is that what you want to hear? That your brother fucked a serial killer? That I love him, no matter how fucking twisted that is?"

"I want him dead, that's what I want!" Balthazar shouts, tears slipping down his cheeks. "Because you had to endure all of that." He wipes his face and breathes deeply. "I wasn't lying when I said before I don't blame for you for anything. Anything you did to survive. I don't care, Cassie. I mean, I care, but it doesn't matter. You matter." Balthazar kneels on the floor in front of him and grabs his hands and whispers, "I love you, little brother. I just want you safe and healthy."

Castiel stares down at him. "I don't know if I ever will be." He begins to cry. "I don't even know what to feel, if I should be angry at him, or at myself, I don't know. I just wish this would all stop." The pain, the struggle to remain free, the longing. He takes huge, heaving breaths, quicker and quicker. "Sometimes I wonder if I'd have been better off not running."

"NO. FUCKING NO," Balthazar yells.

In the distance, CAstiel can hear people scrambling to their feet and thumping towards the closed bedroom door.

Balthazar takes a deep breath and says, fast and urgent, "No matter how much pain you are in now, Cassie, you are free. And you can finally heal, with me and your friends, your family."

The anger disappears as something inside of Castiel breaks, and Castiel throws himself into Balthazar's arms, weeping and collapsing to the floor. Balthazar has to struggle to take his sudden weight, his long arms wrapping around Castiel. Bal is right. This is what Castiel fought for, and it will hurt, it will hurt like being stabbed again and again, like his gunshot wound ripping him into every day, but he's no longer chained up and subject to another's desires. Just his own. The tears come fast and hot, but something is loosening in his chest, like he's tearing off a bandage and letting all the poison run out.

People appear at the door. Castiel ignores them, eyesight blurry and his body a muddled mess of limbs and sensation. He focuses on Balthazar, who holds him despite not causing his pain. Bright blue eyes instead of green. And Balthazar begins to sing, badly and out of tune, and it's not Hey, Jude. It's some silly childhood ditty that their mother used to sing to them. It's brotherhood and history, forty years old. This is what Dean had with his own brother, before he lost Sam and broke. But Castiel isn't Dean. He has Balthazar. And he has more than that.

And he refuses to stay broken.

When he eventually calms, he finds that Morgan has taken Balthazar's chair, and he's reading one of Castiel's books. Balthazar is a solid rock to lean against, and he does. His brother is still rubbing his shoulder, the motion absentminded now.

"Morgan," Castiel says, making Balthazar jump, "I want my own home."

"You're safer in a house like this," Morgan says cautiously, putting the book down.

"I know. But Penelope patched the vulnerability Dean's friend used. And if I don't register my address anywhere, he can't find it. He can't use Charlie again. I know I can't go back to my apartment, but I don't want to live in hiding. Morgan … I don't want to give in."

Morgan eyes him a moment longer. "I'll talk to Hotch, see what we can work out. You know we took you here to keep you safe, right?"

Castiel smiles faintly. "I know."

Balthazar's chest rumbles when he speaks. "I'll go wherever you go, little brother."

-----------------------------------------

The next morning, Morgan meets Hotchner at the office to talk and figure out there plans from here. Rossi is spending the day at the safehouse, and Penelope is stopping by for an hour or two to finally see Castiel in person. Castiel had smiled at the news and it was the same smile that Morgan remembers, slight and yet sincere. It's odd to see how easily Castiel reaches out to others now. He didn't used to be that way, being very naturally reserved and having an internal strength he relied upon. It's like Castiel realizes he's not that strong anymore, and needs the help, even though he'll say so little against Winchester or his captivity. Or perhaps reaching out for help is something Winchester taught him, as horrific as that thought is.

"You might think me paranoid," Morgan begins, slouching in his seat, "but I think Castiel is hiding something."

Hotchner puts his pen down. "Can you explain that?"

Morgan shakes his head, tapping his chair arm. Then he thinks about a moment longer and says, "He said, and I quote, 'I don't want to say them, but I should because I was an FBI agent and I know it's the right thing to do.'"

Hotchner breathes for a moment. "Balthazar called me today about Castiel's breakdown. He said that Castiel felt responsible for his sexual relationship with Dean, and that he said something about how he loves Dean, no matter how twisted that fact is."

Morgan grimaces. "That's not good."

"No. And that's just what Castiel has let slip. He's been very careful about what he does and doesn't say."

"Castiel's a smart one," and would make a hell of an opponent, "but what his goal? He doesn't have a problem saying that he's glad he's free, and has agreed to all our precautions so far."

"He's protecting Dean, and by extension those Dean knows, including this Charlie person. I think he revealed more than he meant to in that phone call, six months into his imprisonment. 'I want to go home, but you can't hurt Dean.'" Hotchner frowns deeply. "But the thing that disturbs me the most is that I don't know why."

"Stockholm Syndrome? He did say he loved Winchester in some way."

"That will fade with time, if that's it. But if it were that easy, I think he would have lied about how much he knew to begin with. All of what he's given us will have real potential to lead us to Winchester. And he specifically phrased it 'I was an FBI agent' when he explained his motivation. He wants to return to work. I truly believe that, and that's why he's been as honest as he has been."

"What do you think Winchester has over him? Is it just an emotional hold, or something more?" Morgan asks.

"It's not safety, or not primarily," Hotchner muses. "If it were, the safehouse and Balthazar's presence here would indicate he could tell us. And he knows better than anyone that his best safety is for us to capture Dean."

"Could there be a third party he fears?"

"Possibly." Hotchner looks at him. "You said he wanted to leave the safehouse and be on his own?"

Morgan nods.

"Let's do that. But we'll keep an eye on him."

"We can't bring him in," Morgan reminds him. "I promised him, Hotch. And I meant that promise."

Hotchner nods this time. "I understand. And I agree. Another imprisonment, no matter how well-intentioned, is the last thing he needs." He doesn't apologize; Morgan doesn't doubt that Hotchner still believes that his actions on the day of Castiel's returns were justified. There was no way for any of them to know Castiel's mental state and how safe it would be to leave Castiel alone at any point.

"I hate to say this, but you should also tell his brother not to tell us personal details that Castiel admits to him privately. At least, not without Castiel's permission. I can see that backfiring later, no matter how confused Balthazar is about Castiel's recovery." Morgan pauses. "What about the red-headed woman that appeared in the supermax before Winchester's disappearance? I can investigate that further."

"Do it."

-----------------------------------------

Most of Castiel's belongings are in his new apartment; there's a pile of boxes sitting in the living room. Balthazar had refused to move any of Castiel's things during Castiel's captivity, but it was fairly easy for his friends to box up, since his largest possession was his collection of books. They're heavy, but not hard to pack. Castiel sits in front of them, tracing the neat writing that tells him the contents of each box.

This is Castiel's former life. Every physical object that mattered.

Penelope created several layers of security and protection around Castiel's identity, and the new apartment isn't under his own name. He has a new checking account, full of his own money, and new credit cards. It solves the problem of Dean searching public records, so now Castiel just has to figure out how to prevent Dean from finding him using magic or Anna.

Castiel gets up and walks to what is essentially the guest bedroom, though Balthazar has set up camp there. Unlike Castiel's bedroom, there's no master bath, but Balthazar insisted that Castiel take that one. Balthazar is sitting on the mattress, which is on the floor because there was a mix up somewhere and a bed frame wasn't delivered, and typing on his laptop. Castiel knocks on the open door.

"Hey, Cassie," Balthazar says with a bright smile. "You okay?"

Castiel nods. "What are you up to?"

"Emailing work," Balthazar explains. "The entire school knows about you, you know. And the administration has been really supportive. I've still got five weeks of vacation time left."

Castiel considers that. "Do you know what happened to my laptop, my phone, all of that?"

"The FBI confiscated it," Balthazar says.

Of course. That makes sense. Penelope would have been looking for not just anything Castiel doing or communicating, but also checking to see if his stalker was tracking him digitally. "Can I borrow yours?"

Balthazar looks at him for a moment, searching his face for something. Motive? "Sure. Let me finish this up?"

Castiel shifts on his feet. "I can make scrambled eggs for breakfast, if you want."

"Sounds good," Balthazar says with another blinding smile.

The kitchen is already well-stocked. Castiel takes out the eggs, finds a frying pan, and then stares at the items. He used to make scrambled eggs for himself all the time, every weekend when he didn't have coffee and donuts at the office to subsist on. He had a particular way of doing it to make soft eggs that melted like butter in his mouth. But as he stares at the egg carton, he realizes he's forgotten how he did it.

What was the heat set to? Did he put milk in? How many eggs did he use?

Right. He needs a bowl. And a fork. He finds those, lays them out. He cracks the eggs and then tries to remember how he seasoned them. Something green and dried, that much he remembers. He opens the spice cabinet and stares at it. Oregano? Parsley? Dill? He hesitantly reaches for the last, that name sounding familiar, and puts a dash of it into the eggs. Yes. That looks right. Salt and pepper.

He pours the raw eggs into the pan and then touches the burner dial for the gas stove top. He turns it all the way until it clicks and the flame appears, then lowers it. Halfway? That seems safe. Medium temperature.

Wait, he needs a spatula. That commences another search, though he finds it eventually. By the time he turns the scrambled eggs over, they're slightly browned, and he frowns.

"They'll taste good anyway," Balthazar offers, startling him.

Castiel looks up. Balthazar is giving him a soft, concerned look, and Castiel wonders how long he was standing there, watching Castiel flounder to do something as simple as make eggs.

"If you like burned eggs, I suppose," Castiel says, turning away. He feels his shoulders hunch in. He wants to hide, feeling embarrassed.

"Hey," Balthazar says, voice louder as he comes closer, "I love them. You made them. Do you know how many times I never thought I'd see you burn eggs again? I'd eat them if they were black."

"I might test that."

Balthazar laughs. "You were never one for petty revenge," he says, walking up to the stove and watching Castiel turn the eggs again. "Way too noble." He waits for Castiel to look at him again, and then sweeps Castiel up into a hug. "I'm glad you're here," he whispers into Castiel's shoulder.

Castiel swallows around a dry throat. "Me, too."

Balthazar releases him and turns off the burner. "Please, no blackened eggs."

-----------------------------------------

Castiel gives Balthazar a task: to unpack the books and place them in bookcases. It will take his brother at least an hour, and that gives Castiel enough time to look around on the internet uninterrupted. He sets himself up on the couch with a wall to his back so Balthazar can't come up on him unexpectedly. He doesn't have to worry about the BAU – all of them are home for now, with a couple of agents outside the apartment on Hotchner's insistence. Castiel doesn't think they'd be able to stop Dean, if Dean found him, but it's a nice thought. At least he doesn't have to worry that Dean would actually hurt the agents, the way Hotchner no doubt would. Dean wouldn't do that.

Dean is a lot of things, would do a lot of things, but he doesn't kill the innocent.

Castiel is no Penelope Garcia, but he knows how to use the special functions of search engines and he has a good idea of what he's looking for and how to tell what is and isn't genuine information. The library in the bunker was probably one of the best magical libraries in the world, and while Castiel was prohibited by Dean from reading much about spellwork, he's seen it referenced often enough in the texts he did read that he knows how it works.

Hex bags. He needs hex bags.

Twenty minutes later, he has a mental list of items he needs. After watching Balthazar huff and puff his way through Castiel's book collection for a minute – he seems sufficiently distracted – he grabs his wallet with his new credit cards and begins making purchases. He hides a lot of the stranger stuff in orders with related things, like putting wormwood with other herbal medicines. There's odd items that he'd never be able to explain if someone saw his bill, but Castiel is more worried about Dean than the FBI, at least for the moment. And he won't be able to go somewhere in public by himself for a few weeks, and likely not until Balthazar is forced to return to work, so he can't use cash.

"Have you actually read all of these?" Balthazar asks.

"Yes," Castiel says. "All of them."

"I don't know how you'd even have time for that," Balthazar says, and then freezes. "Um … sorry. I didn't mean … I was referring to when you were working." Balthazar winces.

"It's okay, Bal. I read a lot in the bunker, yes. Dean bought me all kinds of books." Except those with spells. "And the bunker had a library."

Balthazar frowns, as he tends to do on the rare occasions Castiel brings Dean up, but doesn't comment.

Castiel returns to his angel sigil search that he began in the hospital. He didn't have the opportunity to defend himself in the safehouse, but here, here he can set up everything. He already found the banishing sigil that he'd seen in the bunker's library, and he finds boundary sigils as well. They all look the enochian he saw in the bunker's books, or at least derivative of it. And last of all, on a website he almost dismissed as being done by amateurs, he finds a large, complicated sigil purported to hide the wearer from angels entirely.

After a moment of hesitation, Castiel emails the picture to himself. A sharpie will do in the short term, but maybe a tattoo will work?

Next he buys a number of random Ansel Adams photography to put on the walls. The prints are large, which is exactly what Castiel needs, and the style is similar enough to Castiel's real taste that he doesn't think his brother or his team will question the sudden presence of artwork all that much. Lastly, he buys paint. A nice taupe and a true white.

"Oh, fuck," Balthazar says, arching his back until it cracks. "So many damn books."

Castiel wipes the browser history and smiles at Balthazar. "Want some help?"

-----------------------------------------

Castiel wakes up three mornings later with an erection. He woke up naturally, something he's done a lot in the week he's been free, and it's different enough from Dean's casual wakeups (either with noise, when he gets up before Castiel, or later with breakfast) that he's still adjusting. For some reason, that this would eventually happen didn't ever occur to him. He hasn’t masturbated once since his escape.

He throws back the covers and stares at the tent in his boxers. He should … do something. Take a cold shower? That's not entirely healthy. Lots of men masturbate in the shower, taking care of morning wood.

It's not something he did when he lived with Dean. When Dean was his captor. In the first few months of captivity, he'd done it two or three times when he relaxed enough in the shower, but the rest of the time his own stress killed his sex drive. He remembers the first time Dean gave him a blowjob, how soft he was to start with. Even those random sexual encounters didn't really change his lack of interest, despite how pleasurable they were. At least not at first.

Then he started kissing Dean back.

Tense enough to hurt, Castiel gets out of bed and starts the shower before slipping off his boxers, eyeing his half-hard cock. He curls his hand around it, and the sense-memory of Dean doing the same thing is so incredibly strong that he flinches.

He steps into the shower, the water already nice and hot. He washes his hair, and then, very reluctantly, the rest of his body. His hands skimming his nipples makes his cock twitch and harden a little further. Turning around to let the water pound on his back and ass makes him think of Dean spreading his legs and pushing his hard cock into Castiel, driving deep and hitting his prostrate.

His cock curves upward, fully hard.

His body has gotten used to regular sex. Since Dean didn't leave for hunts longer than a couple of days, that was the longest Castiel went without intercourse. Dean's own sex drive was very high, and they had sex almost every day.

Biting his lip, he strokes his cock once. And in his head, he sees Dean doing it. He sees Dean kneeling in the shower, water droplets falling off his eyelashes as he looks up at Castiel with those intensely green eyes. He imagines Dean taking his cock in his mouth, sucking on the tip hard, then taking in the whole length.

Should he really be masturbating to the thought of his captor?

Shame curls up in his chest, hurting, and his hand falls from his cock. He's already admitted to Balthazar that he let Dean have him in every way – his mouth, his ass, and all willingly – and he knows at the time he thought they were only lovers, but there's nothing 'only' about it, not when the cuff on his ankle was a weight he carried every moment, through every orgasm. And yet, Dean pleasured him in ways none of his other lovers ever had, and Castiel learned to love everything Dean did to him.

Dean trained him to like anal sex. He knows that. Pairing fingering with the best tricks, the best orgasms – Castiel's not stupid. It worked, and at least partially because at some point Castiel decided it didn't matter. But it turned him on, to know that Dean wanted him that much. Filled his cock. Dean wanted him beyond all sense of morality.

Was anything he felt for Dean real?

Even if anyone that Castiel knows knew that Dean is only guilty of kidnapping – of his crimes against Castiel – they would think this is sick. Balthazar would, at least. He doesn't even want to think about the BAU contemplating his 'rape' in detail, knowing about this. No doubt the therapist will want to know, eventually. The FBI will have told him or her that Castiel is a rape victim, and how can Castiel explain that he doesn't feel like a rape victim? That he feels responsible, because he consented? And his consent meant something – Dean would respect a no. Yes, the situation placed stress on Castiel's mind, but he knew that. He knew.

He was the one to walk into a bathroom much like this one, and kneel, and suck Dean's cock.

His cock is still hard, still straining. Castiel tries to blank his mind and stroke himself, but after a few seconds he thinks of Dean. Sex with Dean. He stops and starts five times, tears gathering in his eyes. If he jerks off to the thought of being with Dean now, does that mean he still wants this with Dean? Even if it would mean his captivity?

Fuck. He doesn't know what to think.

He turns the shower water to ice cold. It makes him shudder, but successfully kills his erection. He stares down at his limp, cold cock, and feels relief.

He still feels shaky when he exits the bathroom, in a pair of sweatpants, a shirt and a sweat-shirt on top, like he can bundle his own body away. Balthazar is the living room, staring at the few remaining boxes of Castiel's things, then at the huge boxes of all the items Castiel put on rush order. He seems a bit perturbed by the quantity. He looks up when Castiel enters, smiling. Then he frowns. "Cassie, are you okay? You look kinda pale."

"I'm fine."

"Want some orange juice?" Balthazar asks.

Castiel shakes his head. "I have a craving for Chinese food. Could you go to that place across town? I want their pad thai."

"For breakfast?" Balthazar asks skeptically.

"It's a free country," Castiel says, spreading his hands.

"Cute," Balthazar says, but he relaxes. "You sure you'll be okay alone here? There's two agents outside, but …"

"I'll be fine, Bal." He pauses. "Unless you want me to go out and get –"

"No! I'll go do it." Balthazar points at him. "But you better be thankful."

Castiel smiles. "Thank you, Balthazar."

Five minutes later, Castiel is alone in his apartment. He doesn't waste any time.

He grabs scissors to open the boxes, and the framed pictures. He tests how space he'll have by placing the pictures on the wall and then marking it with a small dot with a pencil. Then he grabs the white paint – which is very white, almost blue in color – and pulls up images of the sigils that prevent angel entry and disguise a location. The super-white paint is still visible against the off-white that's the apartment's default, and he figures the contrast is high enough for the sigil to be effective, while not being completely obvious if someone takes a picture off the wall. He paints the symbols in thin lines, with as little paint as possible so it will dry quickly, while making sure each symbol has no rough edges or missing connections.

He can only hope that Anna has been too busy to respond to Dean's prayers, like she's been in the past. If she's already found him, he's screwed, but if the pattern holds, then by the time she starts looking on Dean's behalf, Castiel will be invisible.

He grabs a hammer and nails, and hangs the pictures over the sigils.

Second, he goes through the spell ingredients and creates hex bags. He got two bag sizes, one to hold the hex ingredients and one to hold the hex bag plus some dried flowers and other scents to disguise the presence of the hex bag. He makes seven, one for each bedroom, one for the bathroom, one for the kitchen, one for the living room, one to hide in Balthazar's things, and one to carry in a messenger bag with him.

Castiel always kept two overnight bags wherever he went, for work, so he doesn't think it will be unusual to carry a messenger bag with a laptop (also newly bought) and some extra clothing. He can come up with some bullshit explanation if Morgan or any of the others actually asks.

The black and white photography is striking on the walls. The hex bags are in every room.

Castiel is safe.

He kneels on the floor, just breathing, letting the fact that no one should be able to find him soak in. The relief he feels is incredibly powerful, matched only by the first time he saw his brother in eighteen months.

Twenty minutes later, Balthazar returns with steaming hot food, and Castiel greets him with a smile that for once does not hide stress.

-----------------------------------------

"Okay, Cassie, you ready?"

Castiel shouts through the door, "Five minutes!" He took a long hot shower with a freezingly cold end, and his fingers are numb as he buttons up his shirt. He pulls on jeans and socks, along with a heavy, black sweatshirt, and then stuff his feet into sneakers. He checks that the hex bag is in his messenger bag, and then slings it over his shoulder and exits the room.

Balthazar is frowning at the kitchen table. He picks up a hex bag Castiel had placed in a decorative cup. "What the hell is this?"

"Potpourri." Castiel grabs his wallet and stuffs it into his jeans.

Balthazar slowly looks at Castiel. "Potpourri. Potpourri? Really?"

"I'm on a decorating kick," Castiel says defensively.

"Okay, okay." Pause. "It doesn't smell very good."

Castiel snatches it out of Balthazar's hands and places it back on the table. "Well, I like it."

"Okay, weirdo."

Castiel smiles despite himself. "At least it's not pink."

Balthazar bursts out laughing. "I've got a pink scarf waiting for you in my home. Forgot to bring it."

"I could do without another pink addition to the back of my closet anyway," Castiel replies. He swallows nervously, feeling the stress finally start to get to him despite Balthazar's banter. "I'm ready to go."

Balthazar smiles at him, a little pained. "I hear therapy isn't so bad. Just lots of talking."

And lying. "I know."

Balthazar drives, of course. Castiel's driver's license actually expired when he was gone, and the DMV is still processing it with his fake address. Castiel probably wouldn't be able to drive anyway, since he finds most of the experience of being driven overstimulating. It's hard for him to keep track of everything going on, and driving is multi-tasking. He'll probably have to have Balthazar bring him to an empty parking lot and start over. But asking for that would be humiliating, and Balthazar is eager to be overprotective, so passenger seat it is. It's not Castiel's old car, either, which Balthazar sold shortly after Castiel came back, but another one that's a model a few years newer.

The therapist's office is in a small building snug between two bigger ones. They have to park a good distance way, as the area is a transition between urban and suburban. Balthazar hovers the entire walk over and doesn't relax until they're in the building. He even puts himself between Castiel and a random person in the elevator.

Somewhat irritated, Castiel makes sure to stride forward so Balthazar can't speak to the receptionist first.

"10:30?" Castiel asks. "Novak."

The receptionist types a couple of times, looks up and smiles. "She'll be out in five minutes."

Castiel sits down on the couch that dominates the small seating area. It's very – homey. All old wood and real paintings, with a blue flower theme. He taps his knee as he bounces it, nervousness overcoming his natural stillness.

"Do you want me to –"

"No," Castiel says.

Balthazar frowns, but subsides. "I'll wait here, then."

Castiel eyes him. "I'm sure she'll get you if need be."

"Yeah, Cassie, I know. I just worry." Balthazar looks at the doorway. "You're still so …"

Castiel waits, but Balthazar doesn't finish. Perhaps he doesn’t want to know how Balthazar would finish that sentence.

The door to the therapist's office opens and an old woman – mid-sixties, if he had to guess – peeks out. Her gray hair is pulled back into a loose bun, and she's actually wearing a grandma sweater. "Castiel?" she asks, smiling kindly.

Castiel stands and she motions him in.

Her office is an extension of the waiting room. It's in even cooler blues, almost gray. There's a couple of comfortable, padded chairs facing each other, along with some other chairs scattered around the room. Bookcases line most of the walls, and are filled with psychology texts.

"Hello, Castiel," she says, and offers him her hand. "I'm Dr. Katz."

Castiel musters up a smile, though he actually wants to run out of the room, and briefly shakes her hand. She might look like someone's grandmother, but for him she's an obstacle at best. "Hello."

She deliberately waits for him to select a side to sit, and then picks the other. She waits a moment for him to speak, but when he doesn't, she begins, "I've spoken briefly to Agent Hotchner, and I've read your case file, as well as your FBI file. I hope this isn't an intrusion to you; it is necessary if I am to also serve the role of qualifying you as fit for duty. If you would prefer that I not reference anything I read and see me privately as a therapist, that's fine and I will abide by that."

Castiel shakes his head. "No, that's fine." He doesn't need to try lying to two therapists, one will be plenty. He knows she's here to help him, not make his life more difficult, but there's very little either of them can do about that. He's found therapy helpful in the past – he's had mandatory sessions after every shooting, and major injuries on duty – and he has nothing against it normally.

"Have you been in therapy before, Castiel?"

"Yes. After shootings, deaths in the line of duty, that sort of thing." Castiel considers her. "Mostly for me it was an exercise in self-awareness and consciously controlling the directions of my thoughts."

She nods. "Those are useful skills."

"As a victim of a crime … that's new," Castiel says wanly.

"Well, not for me," she says with a surprising sharpness to her smile. "And in a way, I think it isn't for you either. You haven't been a victim of a crime before, no, but you've experienced trauma most people don't, including being shot."

"Well, I suppose I was technically the victim of a shooting in that case," Castiel says wryly.

Dr. Katz smiles at him. "I was mugged once. I had to see my own therapist after that incident." She eyes him a moment longer, than asks, "What would you like to talk about, Castiel? Is there a specific issue you're dealing with right now that you'd like to discuss?"

"I – I don't know." Castiel looks away and has to force his body to relax back into the chair. He can feel his breath rate increasing. Where would he even begin? The terror he felt when Dean attacked him in his apartment? The slow realization that he wasn't going to escape? That Dean meant to hold him, possibly forever? Those moments seem so huge that words can't encapsulate them.

Dr. Katz seems to see his tension. "You know what, why don't we start by talking about the present. Tell me about your brother, and your team at the BAU. How has it been, seeing them again?"

"Uh, good." And stressful. "My brother has been … an incredible help to me. A comfort." That much at least is the absolute truth. "And the BAU – my team – they've been doing everything possible to keep me safe."

"I'm glad to hear you have so many friends to support you. That's really important with any recovery."

Castiel supposes that's true. And he's not exactly coping well as is. Can he trust her? He knows that she can't tell the FBI anything specific unless it threatens someone's life directly. But would she tell them he's not compos mentis if he spoke to her about his relationship with Dean, not in the context of rape? How far can he go safely? He can't discuss this with Bal or the team. He can't. But under confidentiality, perhaps it would be possible.

He once told Dean he didn't think it would be helpful to talk to his captor about his captivity. He's had no one to talk to about this.

"Castiel?" Dr. Katz interrupts his thoughts. "Are you all right?"

"How much stays confidential?"

"Everything that wouldn't lead me to believe your life or someone else's life is in direct danger. Even if you told me something that would affect your ability to do your job effectively, I couldn't pass on what that was, only that you weren't yet ready to return to work. Is that what you were asking?"

Castiel bites his lip. "I know that … everyone hates Dean what he did. But I don't hate him. I hate some of the things he did, but I know don't feel –" Castiel struggles for the words, gripping the arms of his chair until his knuckles are white, "the way people expect me to feel."

Dr. Katz speaks slow and evenly. There's a quality to her voice that is soothing, that reminds him of Balthazar in his brother's calmer moments. "There is no one true way to feel about trauma, Castiel. I mean that. Not hating Dean, or not wanting him harmed, is a perfectly normal thing for you to feel because it is what you feel. I won't judge you for anything you tell me. I'm here to help you, not to tell you what to feel. Of course, I want to bring you to healthy coping mechanisms – to keep your head above water – in the process."

Castiel carefully lets go of the chair's arms, trying to relax. "This will be hard for me to talk about."

"I know. That's okay, Castiel. I promise." Dr. Katz smiles at him, sympathy in her eyes. "Whenever you're ready."

Where to begin? Maybe the safest area is far from Dean, a way for him to feel out what she's going to think, what she's going to try to guide him towards. "You've read my file, the case. Everything the FBI knows about how I – how I was during my imprisonment. The phone call, the photos. Do you think I deserve this? To have so many people so –" Castiel pauses, can't quite make the words work. "They're concerned."

"Well, first off, I would say that everyone deserves to be cared for," Dr. Katz says, crossing her ankles as she contemplates him.

"Including Dean? Dean Winchester?" Castiel asks, unable to stop himself. "Because I do think he deserves to be cared for, and everyone I know would think that's fucked up for me to think."

Dr. Katz pauses, clearly trying to answer carefully. "Yes, I think everyone deserves help. But from Dean's history, he should get that in prison, where he and everyone else can be safe during that process."

Castiel closes his eyes. Dean is only guilty of his crimes against Castiel. Part of the reason Castiel left was for Dean's sake, because Dean was as trapped in the situation just as Castiel was. Would this woman accept that? Would anyone? He doesn’t think so. They would sympathize, they would say the right words, but they'd think he was wrong. They'd think it a symptom of illness, while Castiel can't say it's anything less than a necessary act. For himself, but also for Dean.

Dean deserved such a better life than he was given.

He held Dean in his arms when Dean woke up screaming after a nightmare about hell, where he suffered unimaginable torment for forty years. He heard Dean beg in his sleep for Sam not to leave him. Now Dean is alone.

The local police didn't find Dean's body. There's the only comfort that Castiel has that Dean still lives. And Dean doesn’t deserve to go to prison, not when he's given so much to the world. He hates that he has to hide from Dean, that he has to flee from a man he wants so desperately to respect.

But Castiel can't say that. Not now, not ever. He covers his face with his hands, willing himself not to cry. He has to – he has to do something, or truth he can't speak will spill out. "I – I blame myself. I don't think I deserve everyone to be doing all this for me, when … I don't deserve it."

"Why would you say that?"

"I gave up. Bal says there's nothing to forgive, but I gave them up," Castiel says slowly, hands lowering as he stares off at nothing. Remembering his time with Dean, the way it transformed from adversarial to moment after moment of an increasing intimacy, emotional and sexual. "And the thing is, I consciously chose that. It's not something that happened by accident. I chose to accept Dean into my life, and live with him as if he were my lover instead of my captor. I chose to allow Dean to give me comfort, to give me all my emotional needs, not just my physical ones." He looks at Dr. Katz, feeling cold. "Do you think that makes me weak?"

Dr. Kat presses a finger to her lower lip and stares at him intently. "Why did you choose that?"

"Because … because that's the only way I knew to survive with my mind intact." That was his choice at the time, even if he feels that his love for Dean became genuine and heartfelt.

Dr. Katz leans forward. "I'd say you succeeded. You're sitting here, talking to me. Your brother is through that door, waiting for you. And your team at the BAU is waiting for you to take back everything you lost. You survived eighteen months of captivity, Castiel."

Tears slip down Castiel's face, a humiliating breaking. He wipes them away immediately, embarrassed. He hardly knows this doctor. And this is the point, he knows this is the point of therapy, but having to go through it while knowing the secrets he must keep forces him into staying alert and to watching his words.

"Do you think your team would blame you for consciously choosing to survive?"

Castiel inhales with a hiccupping breath. Nothing will ever make us lose respect for you. That's what Reid whispered in his ear, less than a day after his escape.

"I don't think they would," Dr. Katz says gently, handing him a tissue box. He takes it numbly. "Do you?"

"They think I'm lying to them about Dean." They haven't said a word about it, but he feels it.

"Do you think that would make them care for your well being less?"

No. "No," Castiel finally admits.

Dr. Katz doesn't take it further, but Castiel can't pull himself together. He blindly grabs the tissues, but the tears won't stop coming. Over the past two and a half weeks, shame has been his almost constant companion. With Dean, he let go of all the expectations and worries out of the outside world, partially because he believed he would never see it again. What would be the point, when Castiel would never be responsible for what he agreed to? But now that he's escaped, he has to deal with everything he did as a captive. The fact that he gave up, the fact that he allowed himself to fall in love with his captor, the fact that Dean gave him such pleasure and joy, even while he was cuffed like an animal. Castiel chose the easy path.

And even now, he's trying to protect Dean. And no one will ever understand why.

But maybe Dr. Katz is right, and it doesn't matter if they understand. If they don't think of him less regardless.

Maybe this shame isn't even entirely about them. That it's really about him and Dean, and the relationship they had, and whether Castiel should allow himself to not regret it.

He looks up at Dr. Katz and tries to speak; fails.

"Would you like me to get your brother?" Dr. Katz asks.

Castiel silently nods.

Barely thirty seconds later, Balthazar is crouching before Castiel and throwing his arms around him, pulling Castiel's head to his shoulder. Castiel breathes in the faint smell of smoke, and under that Balthazar's overpriced shampoo. He doesn't know what to feel, or what to think.

But Castiel, for the first time, purposefully lets himself cry out the pain.

Chapter Text

Dr. Katz's office, Castiel realizes, has a bluebird theme. In a weird way, it reminds him of his father's mother's house, which remained firmly in the thirties despite all attempts from various family members to change it. Dr. Katz went a slightly different route with her decoration, mixing in modern art with the pieces that fit into the late fifties. Castiel can't decide what it says about her. Even the seat he's in is a weird mix, very comfortable but also all modern lines. He kind of wants to hide in it, but it's not built that way.

"Should I start doing the crossword, or would you like to talk?"

Castiel looks away from the embellished mirror on the far wall. "Do you think it's possible for a kidnapping victim to truly feel something like love for his kidnapper?"

"In general …" Dr. Katz pauses. "In terms of specific instances … I don't know. I have the feeling you're trying to trap me into a generalized statement, but I can't do that. Maybe if you talked about Dean, I could help you discover the answer for yourself."

Castiel decides to stare at his hands.

"What was he like?" Dr. Katz asks.

"He wasn't violent."

Dr. Katz just nods. She doesn't object or side-eye him, the way Balthazar would. And although she's a psychologist, there's no sharp analyzing gaze either, the way he sometimes sees from the members of the BAU.

So little by little, Castiel tries to explain the person Dean is. It's hard, because there's so much he has to leave out of it – Dean's true history, the fight to save the world – so Castiel chooses the moments he experienced himself during his imprisonment. From the first smiles and hints of Dean's respect for him, the way he admired Castiel's work instead of hating him for it. He tries to explain that Dean always considered him a threat, a high-risk prisoner, not out of some hatred for law enforcement, but out of respect for Castiel's skills. It sounds weird, and he knows it would go totally against the BAU's analysis of Dean, but it's the truth. Dean never saw Castiel as his enemy.

Dean is the man who took every sign of friendship as a gift. He would thank Castiel for the smallest things, the tiniest hints of respect or care. In return, he tried to offer Castiel everything Castiel needed.

But as Castiel speaks, he knows the truth also spills out. Not about the monsters or the supernatural veil upon the world, but the obsessive interest Dean had in Castiel. The sexual interest. The subtle ways Dean placed pressure on Castiel to cooperate, from their first deal to share a bed to the praise Dean would heap on him when Castiel would consent to a touch. "The first time we had sex, that he – that he came on me, he held me afterwards and kept telling me how good I did, how beautiful I was."

Dr. Katz just nods, expression open and listening. But in that non-judgment, something in Castiel is able to admit that that behavior was basically grooming, even if Dean didn't intend it that way.

Dean made it seem inevitable that they would become lovers. He said repeatedly he didn't expect it, that he would respect Castiel saying no, but the moment Castiel weakened he would move in to caress the side of Castiel's face, to place his hand on the small of Castiel's back while walking him up the stairs. "But I knew," Castiel tries to explain. "I knew what he was doing. I don't have Ph.D in psychology like you do, but I understand the pressures of behavioral control."

Dr. Katz says, "I know you do. But knowing that someone is manipulating you psychologically doesn't necessarily de-power the method."

"But doesn’t it make me responsible? I was consciously aware of it. I could have fought it harder."

"We all have a breaking point, Castiel. It's not shameful when we reach it."

"I didn't break, not like that. Not then. I – I realized what was happening and decided to go with it anyway." Castiel looks away, and bites his hand hard enough to hurt. "I mean I – I guess I decided to. I know I did eventually, but in the beginning I was still so determined to escape. But I still let him – I let him do things. To me. Before that. Like – well, what I said earlier."

Dr. Katz waits.

"I don't have the faintest idea why I let it happen. Why I kissed him back those first few times. I mean after, I get it. Comfort. Security. Pleasure. I told him yes. But why in the beginning?"

Dr. Katz tilts her head, a lock of gray hair falling into her eyes. She swipes it out of the way, taking the opportunity to look at Castiel closely. "I think that if we can pinpoint the reason, a lot of what you feel will fall into place."

"What do you mean?"

"Imagine this is a case, Castiel. If a victim of kidnapping told you this exact same story. What would you tell her?"

Castiel frowns. "But this isn't like other cases. Not like cases I've been on. Dean wasn't –"

"Bear with me. Go through it in your head. No situation is going to be identical to another's, but you're a profiler. You know better than most that people fall into patterns, consciously or not." Dr. Katz raises her eyebrows.

Castiel can do this. He tries to divorce himself from the specific memories of Dean and make a scenario in his head. Like a practice profile. A woman – most victims of these kinds of crimes are women – who is kidnapped by someone who claims to love her. He treats her kindly, for the most part, but isolates her and imprisons her while asking for increasing intimacy. "She … was dependent on him for everything. An unconscious desire to please, to survive, and to be comforted. To be rewarded, after weeks of isolation. The human need for social interaction and physical contact is strong and will override even the basic instincts of survival, like someone lost for months in a forest going for the first sign of human activity, even not knowing if the person is friend or foe."

"Does that fit you, Castiel?"

Castiel covers his eyes, eyes dry. When he has control of himself again, he does his best to give Dr. Katz an even look.

Dr. Katz isn't to be baited, though. She shifts, asking, "Then let me ask you a question: you consented verbally to Dean for sexual interaction, correct?"

Castiel nods, shame curling up in his chest like an old friend.

"Were you psychologically capable of consent?"

Castiel stares at her.

"You know that we have laws around the ability to consent, not just the presence of consent. We don't assign the ability to consent to sex until sixteen or older, depending on the state. Intelligence quotia and other psychological issues also play into it. You know that. If someone has been brainwashed into accepting their fate, does their consent to that fate mean anything, morally or legally?"

"No," Castiel whispers, but he's not sure if he's agreeing with her or denying her words.

He's not sure he wants to know the answer one way or another. In the beginning, Castiel told Dean the same thing – that his consent was meaningless if given while captive. He referred not specifically to sexual activity back then, but joining Dean as a partner, since that was Dean's overall goal. But it holds, doesn't it? For the rest? He shouted that at Dean, three months into his imprisonment. When did he forget that?

"You asked me if loving your kidnapper is possible. But the question of whether you love him – and even if you do – doesn't excuse anything Dean did or what you suffered. And I think you feel that, Castiel. That's why you can't explain to me why you don't hate him, and yet you feel so torn." Dr. Katz lets him see a hint of grief in her eyes. For him. "Even if you love him, it's okay to recognize how much he hurt you. And that he took something from you against your will."

"But he didn't hold me down or –" Castiel begins, automatically searching for a way to deny what she's saying.

"Could you consent?" Dr. Katz asks again. "Were you capable of giving it in that situation?"

"I don't fucking know!" Castiel explodes, standing up.

Dr. Katz folds her hands in her lap, the ultimate physical expression of calm. "Okay. That's perfectly all right, Castiel. But do you understand why I was asking the question? You feel conflicted about Dean, could that be why?"

Castiel swallows and sits back down, resisting the urge to find something and throw it. He's an adult, not a tantruming child. "Could we change the subject?"

"Of course. What would you like to talk about?"

Castiel is silent for almost two full minutes. "I've told you a lot about Dean, over the past forty-five minutes. Do you think he loved me?"

Dr. Katz frowns for the first time. "I'm not sure I can answer that."

"Can I get a theory, then?" Castiel asks.

"You must understand, as a psychologist I would never diagnose someone without meeting them and evaluating them personally," Dr. Katz begins. "But it does sound that through the depths of some mental illness, and in some twisted way, Dean did love you. But that doesn't mean anything he did to you was right, or that you owe him anything. He committed crimes against you that under our system of law, he's responsible for. And personally, I believe he's responsible morally speaking as well."

And he is. Castiel knows that. But the rest of the crimes heaped on Dean's record aren't his. He can't say that, of course. He knows Dr. Katz well enough now – this is their third session, they spent the second mostly getting to know one another – that she wouldn't think he was necessarily crazy for believing in Dean's innocence, but she would eventually ask questions he wouldn't be capable of answering truthfully. She's flexible, but she's not flexible enough to think that Dean Winchester being Michael the archangel's vessel is anything other than pure, psychotic fantasy.

"He was desperate," Castiel finally says.

"So were you."

Castiel suddenly laughs. It takes him thirty seconds to control it, and he's not even sure where it came from. "I'm – I'm sorry. I don't know what that was."

"Don't worry about it," Dr. Katz says, smiling gently. "We only have about five more minutes, so I want to get a few questions out of the way. I think you're doing well, all considering, but I still need to ask, all right?"

Castiel nods.

"Have you harmed yourself or thought about harming yourself?" she asks. It's the first time she's brought up, and for some reason, Castiel is surprised. But perhaps she didn't ask earlier for a reason; it's not standard when dealing with someone psychologically fragile with a history of self-harm – which Castiel does have now, even if only written in the presence of scars and Dean's testimony – and he wonders if that was her call or advice from Hotchner or the team. He knows she's not communicating with them now, but she could have gotten anything along with his case file.

"No, to both."

"No suicidal thoughts? Intent to carry out a plan?"

Castiel shakes his head. "No."

"I'm glad to hear that," she asks, picking up her small notepad and writing on it. "And since you are a profiler, I'm sure you're curious why I didn't ask you that before."

"Yes, I have to admit I am."

"I didn't think you would react well to it, though I don't think you would have shown that to me," Dr. Katz says with a wry smile. "Castiel, I do believe you a very strong person, and I think you'd like to be seen that way by others. And that's okay. Just know that I'm here for you for whenever or if ever you're not."

Castiel doesn't know what to say, so he eventually just nods. "All right."

"If there's nothing else, I'll see you on Thursday."

Balthazar is in the waiting room, reading a magazine with his elbow on his bouncing knee. Castiel doesn't even know how he's reading when he's jostling the magazine like that, but he's apparently invested in something in Cosmopolitan. He waits near the doorway to Dr. Katz's office for a second, then strides forward and asks, "Sex tips? I didn't think you needed those. Haven't had a good orgy lately?"

"Oh be quiet." Balthazar throws the magazine onto a side table, standing up and stretching. "How are you doing?"

Castiel hesitates, then says, "Good." And it's mostly truthful. He's not a mess at least, which is a huge improvement from his first session. He's seeing her twice a week for the foreseeable future, and being a mess after each of those would kill his mood for a significant portion of each week.

"In the mood for some pizza, then?"

------------------------------------

Castiel dreams.

It's a mish-mash of memory and fantasy. He and Dean are in bed together, and the room flickers around them from his old apartment to his room in the bunker. Dean's hands on his naked body are hot, sliding down his back and gripping his hips as Dean moves between Castiel's legs, his cock sliding up against Castiel's, equally aroused. They're kissing, but it's strangely light for the fact that Castiel can tell they're going to have sex. Like the first few times they kissed, when Dean was still uncertain of his welcome, of Castiel's reaction. But Castiel wants it. Oh, how he wants it.

Like magic, Dean's inside of him, thrusting hard. Pleasure curls up in Castiel's body, and he's begging Dean for more even as his words fail to become understandable, even though he's the one speaking them. But he knows he's begging for more, for Dean to fuck him harder, and Dean smiles down at him.

Then Castiel wakes up.

His apartment room is completely dark. Even the curtains are drawn closed, and only the red light of his alarm clock makes anything in the room more visible than vague shapes. But at the same time it's so recognizably not the bunker, or even Castiel's old apartment, which always had light coming through the curtains because there was a street lamp right outside of his window.

Castiel breathes hard, his cock hard between his legs. His boxers are slightly wet from the tip of his penis, and he pulls them off. His hand slowly slides over his erection as he listens for Balthazar, but it's totally silent. Castiel must have woken without crying out, as he has a few times in the past month.

He strokes himself. Once, then twice. He thinks back to the dream, to the incredible pleasure of being penetrated by Dean. To how familiar Dean's caresses were, to how well he knew how to drive Castiel to the heights of sexual pleasure. Shame tinges the thoughts, but his hand doesn't fall away from his cock.

Why not? He can do this. It's his own body, his own head.

He strokes himself again, harder and firmer, and he's so aroused from the dream that that's all it takes for him to reach orgasm.

Semen spills over his hand, along with relief. He bites his lip hard enough to hurt, breath slipping between his gritted teeth in an almost-whistle. His body, finally having gotten what it wants after weeks of Castiel denying himself, relaxes back into the bed.

He lays in bed for a few minutes, carefully letting his mind drift. Then he grabs the top sheet and cleans himself up and balls it up to throw it on the floor. He gets up and pads to the bathroom, flicking on the light. His hair is a mess, and his face is slightly pale, but when he