A/N: This story was written as part of deancastiel's Renegade Angels fic exchange on Livejournal for 42footprints. The prompt used was: How Dean and Castiel first see each other after Lucifer Rising.
The day he shows up in the front foyer of St. Paul's in Norfolk, Nebraska, there is a terrible storm. It rips through town, breaking branches off the trees and ripping shingles from the roofs of over half the homes in town while dumping copious amounts of rain into an already overly saturated ground. Flash flood warnings go out on every channel and the national weather service later confirms a brief tornado touched down at the southeastern edge of town, but no one is killed and overall, it's a fairly normal severe weather event for that part of the country.
Even so, Father Philips can't help but feel this storm is somehow different. Outside the window of his small office, he watches the heavy black clouds roll in from the west until the entire sky lowers itself to the earth, drawing the horizon closer, and he hears ominous thunder rumble. There is an energy in the air that Father Philips doesn't recognize, only knows it's zipping up his arms, raising the hairs at the back of his neck. He throws open the window, peering out, listening hard and hears nothing but the occasional distant roll of thunder. The world waits, like with any other storm, except the pause is heavier. Angrier. The heavens draw a breath, preparing to hurl down to the earth their violence and bruising punishment.
Then a bolt of lightning zigzags across the pitch black sky and a clap of thunder shakes the church down to its very foundation.
Seconds later, Father Philips hears the heavy front doors swing open.
He hurries out of his office, down through the back hallway and through the sanctuary, past tall narrow stain glass windows into the vestibule. There is a man sitting on the floor, back against the front door. His hair is plastered wet against his skull and his bright colored eyes stare past Father Philips, blank with shock. Fear prickles at his spine, but Father Philips quickly shakes it off. This man has come to his church for help. He is one of the Father's flock now and he must do his duty.
"Are you alright?" he asks quietly.
The man doesn't move or look at Father Philips, but he speaks and his voice is gruff and flat. "I don't know."
His body is rigid, his hands clenched into the material of his dark pants. Father Philips takes a step closer and decides there is nothing in the man's eyes. No recognition or emotion. His heart constricts in his chest. Something is very wrong with this man. "Do you know where you are, my son?"
"Not your son," the man suddenly gasps and he curls in on himself. "Father, please," he sobs. He is now the direct opposite of the vacant creature who lay stiff and unfeeling on the floor. His face twists with pain and profound hurt. Reaching out with unsteady fingers, the man grabs Father Philips' arms and drags him close until he crashes to his knees. This close to him, Father Philips sees that the man's eyes are a piercing blue and are now bleak with desperate longing. "Why, Father?"
"I don't know," Father Philips sputters, panicked. "Please calm yourself, my...please, shhh, you're safe now."
"No," the man moans and his eyes roll upwards under his eyelids. "Please, Father, help me."
"I don't..." With a deep breath, Father Philips steels himself, struggles to regain his control. "You're safe now," he says again. "I'll take care of you."
The man slumps in Father Philips' arms, clearly unconscious and with a twinge of guilt, Father Philips is relieved. It will make it easier to deal with the man and hopefully ease his suffering into dreamless oblivion for the time being. He carefully lays the man's head against the back of the door and stands, frantically searching the vestibule. His eyes fall on the entrance to the cloakroom. He scrambles to his feet, the smooth soles of his black dress shoes sliding on the puddles of water collected around the man's still form and slips into the small closet. Grabbing an abandoned jacket, Father Philips smashes it into a firm ball and carefully lays the man on his back, placing the jacket under his head. Like this, the man is peaceful, his face expressionless again. It reminds Father Philips of too many funeral services and he shakes himself, trying to get rid of his gloomy thoughts.
He sees no blood, but takes a moment to run his hands over the man's body, checking for obvious injuries. The man is wearing a long crumpled trench coat, but Father Philips leaves it on. He is afraid to move his body too much, for fear of further damage. However, a moment later, he is convinced that whatever emotional trauma the man has suffered, physically, he is in no danger.
Father Philips sits back on his heels and drags his cell phone from his pants pocket. A moment of indecision, then he calls Colin Waverly and Peter McArthur. The roommates are two of Father Philips' most reliable parishioners. They are both big men and discreet. They can help move the man without offering asking a lot of distracting questions. Later, Father Philips will feel guilty for asking them to come out in this vile storm, but as he kneels in the empty foyer of his church and brushes the damp dark bangs off the forehead of a strange lost man, he feels only relief when they promise to be there within minutes.
Half an hour later, Peter and Colin manage to move the man onto the brown leather couch Father Philips keeps in his office for those times when one of his parishioners needs counseling. Water turns the leather a darker brown, but Father Philips ignores it. Colin holds the man upright as Father Philips strips off the trench coat and, feeling a little shifty, searches the pockets. There is nothing, no ID. They lay the man down and continue the search through his pants pockets, but find nothing.
"Was he out cold the whole time?" Colin asks, his unusually elegant voice at odds with his substantial build.
"No. He was raving actually," Father Philips answers. Now that he isn't alone, some of his anxiety escapes his firm control, skittering across his expression and causing him to wring his hands. "Seemed to be scared of something. Kept asking for my help."
Colin doesn't have time to answer before the man lets out a breathy moan. They exchange a glance, and then Father Philips wheels his computer chair over to the side of the couch and sits. As he sits, the man's eyes open. They remain glued to the ceiling for a long moment, then he turns a calm gaze onto Father Philips.
"Who are you?" he asks. Like Colin, the man's voice doesn't match his appearance. In fact, the deep growl might sound better coming out of Colin's mouth, while Colin's light pleasing tenor wouldn't be out of place flowing from this man's mouth. Father Philips smiles to himself. God certainly likes dashing expectations.
"My name is Father Dean Philips," he answers. Some emotion flickers across the man's face, gone too quickly to identify. "You're in my office," he continues, gesturing to the others. "And these are my friends, Colin and Peter. Can you tell me your name?"
"I..." The man's forehead creases, his eyebrows meeting and he shakes his head. "No, I don't think I can."
"You can trust us," Peter assures him and gives the man his warmest smile, the one that Father Philips notices making many of the young ladies in the church blush when it's directed at them. "We want to help."
"I mean, I can't recall my name," the man says tonelessly, as if the fact that he couldn't remember his own name wasn't particularly interesting.
"Oh." It's all much more serious now. "I see. Can you...when you came in, you seemed frightened," Father Philips says. "Can you remember anything about that?"
The man takes a long moment to think. So long that Father Philips considers asking if he feels well, then the man shakes his head. His continued lack of emotion unnerves Father Philips. "I'm sorry. I felt as if I almost remembered something, but it's gone."
"Alright. Ok." Gathering his thoughts, Father Philips runs a finger through his unruly blond hair and says a quick prayer for guidance. He's a young priest. Only a year at this church and he's never had anything close to figuring out what to do when an amnesiac turns up on his doorstep. He stands, grateful for Colin's solid presence at his back and glances at the storm still raging outside his window.
"We'll make some phone calls after the storm passes," he decides. "Someone will notice when you're gone. We can put out the word and see if anyone comes to claim you." He winces. He didn't mean to make the man sound like an abandoned puppy, but the man only nods and lets his eyes trail back to the ceiling. Father Philips can tell he is still thinking hard.
"Do you need anything? Something to drink?" he asks. A shot of whiskey might not be out of order, he thinks to himself.
"Lawrence," the man says.
"I don't know. It's a word in my mind." The man sighs, frustration creeping over his features as the first emotion Father Philips' seen there since the man lost it in the foyer. "The only word."
"Maybe it's your name," Peter pipes up, leaning back against Father Philips' desk on his slender hands. "It seems like your name would be the first thing to remember, right?"
"I don't know," the man says again, but Father Philips has already decided to call him 'Lawrence', at least in his mind. It's better than 'the man'. Everyone deserves a name, even if it's the wrong one. He peers more closely at Lawrence, but he sees nothing; he's not even sure what he seeks.
"We'll figure this out," Father Philips suddenly promises him. It's important for reasons the priest doesn't know. Only this man, this 'Lawrence', is blank, but also sad. Helpless and lost, but strangely compelling. More than just a wandering vagrant. Something is telling him to help Lawrence. Father Philips has learned over the years not to dismiss it when God whispers in his ear. "We'll find out where you belong, ok?"
"What if I belong nowhere?" Lawrence asks. He is not anxious, only curious.
Father Philips smiles. "Then we will create a place for you."
Four Years Later
"Hey, it's about time you got your ass out of bed. I think I got us a hunt."
Dean resolutely ignores Sam's chipper morning voice and trudges to the coffee pot. He pours himself a cup and without bothering to doctor it with sugar or cream, downs half of it in three slurping gulps. He hears Sam snort behind him. Ignoring that too, Dean flops into the chair beside Sam's and nods at him.
"You can talk now," he allows.
"Wow, thanks." Sam rolls his eyes, but apparently isn't in the mood to bitch because he turns the laptop to face Dean and points at the screen. "Norfolk, Nebraska. Three deaths in the last week. All unsolved, all pretty freaking gruesome. I don't know what it is, but the bodies were almost completely drained of blood. Sounds a little too ritualistic for my tastes."
"Yeah," Dean agrees.
"You game then?" Sam asks. Dean doesn't know why because he must know the answer.
"When have I ever turned down a hunt?"
He doesn't like the way Sam's gaze turns gentle. Perhaps it was something of a pipe dream, but Dean really had hoped to make it through the day without sharing a weepy moment of reminiscing with Sam. Judging by the soft glint in those big hazel eyes, he's not going to survive even another minute without one.
"It's just hard sometimes, this time of year," Sam says. Dean isn't sure if Sam means it's hard for himself or Dean or both. Either way, he's not in the mood to talk about it. He's not the kind of person that enjoys dwelling on the past and never has been. Unlike Sam, who loved every second of every history class he ever attended. Dean understands it's important for Sam to remember, to never let himself forget what he nearly became, but Dean just can't stomach it.
"The world didn't end three years ago, big deal," Dean says flippantly. "It also didn't end yesterday or last Tuesday or fifty years ago and we don't celebrate those days either."
"Dean," Sam grouses, arms crossing over his chest.
"No," Dean snaps, his voice brittle and full of warning. "I'm not in the mood, ok? Can't we just let it go by for once without the soul deep talk about everything we gave up to stop the damned apocalypse? It's not like I don't have a fucking reminder every time I look in the mirror," he says, one finger drawing an invisible line over the livid red scar that cuts a jagged line from under his right eye down across to his chin. Both he and Sam bear similar scars on their bodies, some from that final battle and others as a result of hunting, but Dean's is the only one so obviously visible.
"Yeah, ok," Sam says. Dean sees his Adam's apple bob up once hard and he looks away. "I'm sorry. I just..."
"I know," Dean says quickly. He hates the way his throat closes just a bit. "I know, man," he says again, then forces himself to look back at Sam. "But hey, we did it your way last year," he says, trying for and almost achieving a teasing tone. "It's my turn to decide how we celebrate the end of the end."
Sam snorts lightly. "Right. And your way is to ignore it."
"Sounds about right," Dean says and when he smiles, it feels easier. "Besides you can bore Sarah with your emo boy angst later."
With a scowl, Sam grabs his empty coffee mug and walks to the counter. "I don't want to upset her," he says.
Dean knows Sarah is stronger than that, but he also understands the desire to protect loved ones as much as possible, even from yourself, so he says nothing. He figures that if Sam needs to talk that badly, Sarah'll drag it out of him sooner or later. Then again, if they leave for the hunt that day, Sam's mind might be whisked off topic anyway. Dean certainly hopes so.
"Have you told Sarah we're leaving yet?"
Sam shakes his head. "She's still asleep."
"Alright, Sammy," Dean says and he knows he successful at sounding as lewd as possible when Sam rolls his eyes.
"Dude, are you ever going to grow up?"
"Well, it hasn't happened yet," Dean says reasonably and smirks at Sam. It occurs to him, against his will since he hadn't wanted to think about Lucifer or the apocalypse ever again really, that this is the type of moment that Dean and Sam had fought to save. The small moments as well as the big. Dean's right to indulge his innate immaturity. Sam's chance to reconnect with an old flame. The ability to sit together in their shared kitchen and drink a damn good cup of coffee.
"So...Nebraska?" Sam asks as he leans back against the counter.
Dean grins. "Nebraska it is."
"Oh, Lawrence. I didn't expect to see you into work today."
Betsy's large brown eyes soften into a gentleness that brings a slight smile to Lawrence's face. Always a beauty, Betsy's sweet expression makes her even more pleasing to look upon and Lawrence once again wonders at his lack of reaction to her. So many of the men and a few of the women who frequent their diner can't help, but be charmed by Betsy's artless grin and kind eyes. Not to mention her shapely figure. Lawrence loves Betsy, of course. But in a distant way, as he loves Father Dean and Colin.
The way he loved Peter.
"I don't like sitting at home," he explains.
The color drains out of Betsy's face. "Oh, oh. Of course, I didn't think," she splutters, her hands suddenly busy cleaning an already spotless counter. "I'm...I'm so sorry, Lawrence."
It's not the first time she's given her condolences to Lawrence. The morning after, she'd shown up at their apartment with a large amount of food and an even larger amount of tears streaming down her face. In the end, Lawrence had ended up giving her more comfort than she intended to give him and Colin. It felt more natural that way, so Lawrence didn't mind one bit.
"I know, Betsy. I am too," he says. The simple truth. He misses Peter fiercely and feels angry at his helplessness. No matter how many times Father Dean tells Lawrence that he couldn't have done anything, Lawrence can't believe it. There must have been something, anything, some clue about the murderer's intentions leading to Peter. Some hint that Peter was next on the killer's list, the next person to be ruthlessly slaughtered.
But if there were hints, it's too late and Peter is gone. Boisterous and joyful Peter with his quick smile and always helping hands. Thinking of him laying on the ground, the light gone out of his sparkling blue eyes and his grin frozen blankly into place, makes Lawrence feel empty and lonely, even when he's surrounded by friends.
"Are you...are you sure you should be here?" Betsy asks. Unshed tears thicken her voice. It's already been a very difficult week. Peter is not the only victim Betsy and Lawrence knew. They also knew the others victims, Robert and Brad and young Taylor. They all came into the restaurant. Not friends, but friendly acquaintances, all gone in a horrific tragedy. "Maybe you should go over to the parsonage if you can't, I mean, if it's hard to be at home."
Lawrence shakes his head. Father Dean has enough worry without adding the stress of another grieving roommate. He knows that Colin has been with Father Dean most of the day. Lawrence doesn't want to interfere. "It would be better to put myself to work," he disagrees and ties an apron around his waist. There aren't any customers in the diner, but it's nearly time for the lunch rush to start. He realizes that he knows most of the patrons by name and Betsy's sympathy won't be the only he'll experience today. But he doesn't mind. He enjoys seeing the power of human compassion at work.
"Ok, well, just don't overdo it," Betsy implores, watching as Lawrence takes his box of extra condiments to the nearest table and exchanges a nearly empty ketchup bottle for a full one.
"I promise," he says, then gives her a real smile to reassure her. He's been told his smile is so rare that when someone sees it, they can't help, but feel comforted. Judging by the way Betsy's shoulders relax, the smile does the trick this time as well. "I would really rather be here at work. I don't think anything too stressful will happen at work."
And in fact, he's right about that. The stress doesn't happen until much later.
It's been a few months since Sam had the chance to don his ultra refined black FBI suit. But this is the kind of case that requires access to police reports and crime scenes. When they arrive in Norfolk, a few questions answered reveal that another murder, yet to be reported by the media, occurred the previous night. Sam is disappointed, but not surprised. The murderer is consistent. So the problem is not only finding out who is murdering innocents, but how many he must commit to accomplish whatever crazy-ass supernatural spell he's planning.
The police aren't happy to see them, but they never are. Sam is used to the suspicious looks and the sotto voce grumbling. It doesn't matter as long as they get the job done. He lets Dean take the lead on the questions; partly because the cops are the types that need a slick smooth talker rather than Sam's earnest charm to convince them to give up the answers, but also because Dean cuts an intimidating figure nowadays. If the ugly scar doesn't scare people into talking, the heavy weight of Dean's gaze certainly would. Most people couldn't figure out what they saw in Dean's eyes, what gave him that dark glint of unidentifiable emotion, but it made them feel awkward enough to spill way more than they did before Dean spent forty years in hell.
"Here's the official reports," says a young cop with a little too much acne to be taken seriously. Before Sam can reach out, Dean snaps up the papers and begins to read.
"This everything?" he asks a minute later and the young cop nods, swallowing hard as Dean searches his face, then gives him an easy grin.
"Thanks." He looks at Sam. "We should head over to the last victim's house."
"Oh, they won't be there," the cop says. Sam and Dean exchange a glance.
"Did you know his family?" Sam asks gently.
The cop shakes his head. "No, but I know his roommates. Lotta people 'round here do. Peter McArthur was a pediatrician here in the town, so a lot of people with kids knew him," he explains and Sam raises an eyebrow because the cop looks like a kid still himself. "His roommates are probably down at the Episcopal church. St. Paul's," he clarifies. "Colin Waverly and Lawrence Hart."
"Right, ok," Dean says and claps the kid on the shoulder. "Thanks."
As they leave the police station, Dean finally hands over the report to Sam, who quickly reads it.
"This is sick," Sam says, feeling his stomach clench and roll. Considering some of the things Sam has seen, his disgust is almost reassuring. That he can still look at something this brutal and feel repulsed comforts him. "Almost all the blood drained..." Trailing off, he looks up and catches the flash of anger in Dean's eyes that's soon replaced by determination.
"Yeah, well, it ain't happening again," Dean growls, snatching the reports from Sam's hands and thrusting them into his pocket. "Let's get our rooms and then find out where this church is."
Sam agrees silently, just nodding, but is somewhat surprised by the pluralization of the word 'rooms' in Dean's plans. This case doesn't seem like the type where Dean would make time for that. But then, they haven't been on a case in nearly a month. It's been quite some time since Dean went that long without one of his replacement fucks. Sam sighs to himself. He wishes Dean would just allow himself to have them at home, but it crosses some kind of line in Dean's mind that only Dean can understand.
They find a nice looking hotel not far from the police station and Dean avoids Sam's eyes while he requests their separate rooms. Maybe next time, Sam thinks to himself as Dean hands him his key, he'll bring Sarah along. She's good in a fight, but they can't bring her along very often because her job at the local art museum is their only really steady income. Plus, though Sam will never admit this to her, he is more comfortable knowing she is safe at home, even if she's bored out of her skull by the time they get back.
His hotel room is small, but still larger than he really needs. Setting his bag aside and opening his laptop, Sam fervently hopes they won't be here very long. The pressure to solve the case suddenly becomes like a physical thing, weighing down on his shoulders, his head and his heart. He takes a deep breath and searches the yellow pages for St. Paul's. Awhile later, long enough for Sam to begin wondering about him, Dean barges in his room and drops into the second chair at the tiny table.
"Thank God for hard earned cash," Dean says in apparent approval of their digs. Sam has to admit, they are a hell of a lot better than the old dumps they used before the apocalypse. He knows Dean has used the money he earns from his part time mechanic's work to pay for their rooms. Dean's not real comfortable using Sarah's money on more than the rent of their house and even then only allows it because Sarah lives there too and refuses to let the boys go homeless just because Dean's stubborn. You saved the world, Dean. Paying the rent is the least I could do is what she says and crosses her arms over her chest, her own brand of stubborn firming her stance. Sam smiles at the memory.
"Yep," he says to Dean, whose answering smile makes it apparent Dean thought Sam was grinning at him and not at the memory of his fiery eyed girlfriend yelling at his brother. "Anyway," he continues, swallowing his brief flush of guilt. "Found the church." He points to the screen. "About five blocks from here. Shouldn't be too hard to find."
"Ok," Dean says and pulls a Snickers bar out of his pocket. "So, I'm thinking we should look real close at these roommates of the last victim," he says before taking an obscenely large bite out of his candy bar.
"Why's that?" Sam asks.
"Well, while you were in here looking up one thing online," Dean says, earning himself a scowl from Sam, "I was busy getting this from the lobby." He drags a messily folded map from his pocket. "And this," he adds, indicating the half-eaten candy bar with a grin. Sam rolls his eyes, but says nothing as he takes the map. Dean's marked on it in red pen, three big scarlet dots in a very small and nearly perfect triangle. Sam glances up at him, surprised.
"The other victims?"
Dean nods. "The police report only says that they all lived near other, not that near each other. Now, if we add the latest," he says and the pen appears from another pocket. Dean bites down on the lid, releasing the pen and carefully draws another red dot on the map. It's not quite in the middle of the triangle, but near enough to see that the murderer is closing in to a particular point. Maybe this house or perhaps the next one over. "I don't know that it's random killings just for the blood. It could be the killer's looking for someone in particular."
Sam studies the map, thinking hard. His eyebrows crinkle and he bites his lip. "Maybe, yeah. And the roommates might know something. Or may even be involved."
"Yeah. None of the other victims lived with anyone," Dean says. "I don't know about the roommates committing the crime because let's be serious, if it's a demon, there's no telling who it's possessing, but they might know something."
Frustration curls in Sam's gut. They rarely get demons anymore, not since slamming the gates of hell shut three years ago, but he still hates dealing with them. Hates how they lie, how it's impossible to tell who they are, how they look at Sam like he belongs with them, even though the demon blood burned out of his system ages ago.
"The others sound like kind of lonely guys," Dean continues, stuffing the rest of the bar into his mouth and talking through it. "This was the first guy who actually had a full life."
Sam hates the way that comes across, but it's true. A snap of his fingers and Sam has the reports back in his hands, glancing over it. All the victims are male, but in different age ranges. A 19 year old waiter, a 47 year old accountant and a 32 year old computer tech. All unmarried, all living alone. The only connection was between the waiter and the accountant, who attended the same church. But it wasn't the same church as Peter McArthur or the computer tech and they didn't seem to know each other very well.
"I agree," Sam finally says. "The cops seem to have dismissed the roommates, but if either are possessed..."
"Yeah," Dean says and stands. "So let's get going."
Dean already hates this case. It stinks of demons or witches or both and Dean hates them all more than he can ever say. Almost as much as he hates angels.
Their last demonic case was over five months ago, some low level demon that got loose and decided to wreak havoc by causing a series of ghastly car accidents. Since then it's been mostly run-of-the-mill salt and burns, couple of cursed objects, one annoying poltergeist. Hunting's not really been the same since Dean stopped the apocalypse. Evil's gone into hiding and while Dean's happy that innocent people aren't suffering as much, he's also not quite sure what to do with himself. He's a hunter and always has been. He can't remember not having a dark shadow hanging over his life, an evil threat looming in his future. Dean likes working with cars, but it's not enough. Something's missing from his life. He can't decide if it's something good or something bad.
He knows what Sam would say, what he never says when Dean asks for separate rooms during their hunts. Dean hates talking about it, hates even being made to think about it. It's been four years. He's been gone for four years. Dean should be over this by now. Should have let go of the blinding anger and the crushing guilt by now. He shouldn't keep looking over his shoulder or letting his eyes get caught by every glimpse of tan, every head of dark hair, every flash of piercing blue eyes.
He certainly shouldn't bring them back to his hotel room.
But the truth is, Dean can't stop. He can't stop wondering about Castiel, can't stop obsessing about what exactly happened to him. None of the angels will tell him. No matter how many times Dean asks, no matter how many times he refused to help them if they didn't tell him. Anna searches as much as she can, questions and spies and even she can't find any information. Dean can still remember the way he felt when Anna gently told him that the lack of information probably means that Castiel is dead. With perfect clarity, Dean can remember the way his chest compressed, the way his breaths stopped in his lungs and the way his vision blurred to swaths of moving color. He can remember it because it's how he still feels each time the knowledge springs to the front of his mind, like a cruel jack-in-the-box.
Castiel is dead! He died for you! You sent him to his death!
The thing is, it's not the first time Dean's been responsible for the death of someone close to him. It's just the first time he's ever talked that someone into dying for him. Even if he didn't know Castiel was going to die when he did it.
And it's the first time he was in love with that someone.
Dean shakes his head. This isn't time to think about Cas and Dean's Winchester-typical realization of his feelings for the angel only after his death.
"You ok?" Sam asks and that's when Dean realizes he's been staring sightlessly at the steering wheel.
"Yeah," Dean grunts and throws the car into reverse, giving Sam a nod. He can see it doesn't convince Sam. A few weeks after Castiel's demise, Sam confesses that he always knows when Dean is thinking about the angel. The troubled expression on Sam's face tells Dean that he is wearing that special expression right now and Dean sighs. He doesn't know why this case has him maudlin about ancient history.
It's probably the fucking demons, Dean thinks with heartfelt loathing. Those stupid bastards always make Dean think about events best left buried in the past.
It takes no time to reach the church. The building is old, probably one of the oldest in Norfolk and Dean would have mistaken it for a Catholic church if he didn't already know better. The stone walls of the building shoot skyward, seem to go on forever and there's a single central tower dominating the roof, complete with a wrought-iron spire. The only thing missing are the gargoyles, but Dean's not upset about the absence. The little fucks remind him too much of hell hounds.
"Wow," Sam says, staring up in appreciation. He's probably dredging up a mental list of useless architectural information. Dean heads him off at the pass before Sam can give him the lecture.
"Come on. Try not to drool on yourself."
Sam's mouth snaps shut with an audible click and Dean laughs. Let no man say he doesn't know his baby brother.
The two front doors are large and pretty heavy for the only visible means of entering the church. Dean experiences an odd touch of sympathy for all the little old church ladies that must have a hell of a time dragging these puppies open on Sunday morning. Inside the doors is an empty foyer and beyond it, the doors to the sanctuary are open. It feels welcoming even though Dean doesn't see anyone around. The lack of an office nearby draws Dean and Sam through the sanctuary, the afternoon light splattering their faces in color as it filters through tall skinny stain glass windows. The velvety carpet complains softly under their feet and the stillness slows Dean's breath. He doesn't go to church very often, but he's seen enough to feel respect in this place. Although it doesn't stop him from shooting a vague glare towards the painting of an angel hanging near the exit door.
As soon as they leave the sanctuary, Dean hears and follows a gentle babble of murmuring voices to a small office.
There are two men in the office. One is lean and short with a mass of curly blond hair above a thin, but handsome face. The other is sitting on a dark brown leather couch and while Dean can't tell his exact height, it's clear that the second man is enormous. Like Sammy-type tall and even thicker across the shoulders. His black-brown eyes are red from crying and there is a wad of crumpled tissues clutched in his thick hands.
"Can I help you?" The blond guy's voice is polite, but distant and Dean understands this isn't the best time to be bothering grieving people, but he's got a job and it can't be helped.
"Yes, I'm Agent John Fields," Dean says, holding up his latest faked badge. "And this is my partner, Agent George Eddings," he adds, nodding back at Sam. "We were told at the police station that we could find a Colin Waverly or Lawrence Hart here."
The man's face changes in the middle of Dean's speech, from aloof to alert. He nods and offers Dean his hand.
"Of course. I'm Father Dean Philips," he says and Dean manages not to snort. Sam, on the other hand, makes a small noise in the back of his throat and Dean knows he's in for some teasing about the idea of himself as a clergyman. At least it's an Episcopal church. Dean's pretty sure those guys can still fuck.
"This is Colin," he says, turning soft eyes to the man on the sofa. "You'll be here about...about Peter, of course," the Father stutters, his voice hitching. "He's...was, he was one of my, of mine."
"We're so sorry for your loss," Sam says. This is his job, offering condolences and speaking gentle words that sound like jagged rocks coming from Dean's mouth. "I understand this is a difficult time, but we need to ask you some questions."
Father Philips nods, shaky, but on task. "Of course, we understand," he says and Dean wonders if the big guy's mute or just used to letting his preacher talk for him. He's not really looking at either at them, but rather at his hands twisting the old tissues over and over. Another pang of sympathy, this time more serious and Dean wonders what it was about killing evil that's made him softer rather than harder.
The Father walks to his desk, brushing a supportive hand over Colin's shoulder before sitting at his desk. "What do you need to know?"
There's something different about the way the guy looks at Dean that throws him off so much that he doesn't say anything at first. The pause lasts long enough that Sam picks up the thread of the conversation and begins asking Father Philips about Peter's life. Dean listens to the Father describe an affectionate and out-going man of faith, the very best kind of person he says, until it hits him that Father Philips hasn't given Dean's scar a second glance. Dean knows everyone notices the outside package, but still, he gets tired of the pity, the disgust, even the fascination. It's refreshing to produce no notable reaction.
It isn't going to make Dean any nicer in his approach to this case, though.
"I'm sorry, but we have to ask," Dean says a bit later when Sam's done wringing information out of the Father about the victim. "Where were you last night?" The question is undoubtedly directed to Colin, who looks up for the first time. Dean catches a brief flicker of surprise in dark eyes that trail down his face, but it's gone quickly.
"I was asleep when it happened," he says, his voice soft rain in Dean's ears. "I'd worked a double shift, so I went to bed early. 'Round nine o'clock."
"The police already asked this," Father Philips breaks in, sounding a bit distressed. "I can't exactly confirm, but Colin called me around 8:30 to ask if I'd seen Lawrence, then he said he was going to bed. I know, it's not evidence, but I can assure you Colin would never-"
Sam lifts a hand to staunch the flow. "We're not making accusations. We just need the information. I believe you," he adds to Colin and while Dean does as well, he doesn't want these two to believe them too easy, so he fixes a hard gaze on the Father.
"And what about Lawrence? Do you know where he was?"
"He was here in the church until about ten o'clock," Father Philips says. "He likes to sit in the sanctuary sometimes and pray. He told the police he went for a short walk, then went home afterwards."
Dean changes his gaze to Colin, the question in his eyes. "I didn't hear him come in," Colin admits, looking troubled. "He moves around pretty quietly and he's always had trouble sleeping ever since we moved in together. But he was at home when I got up at about five the next morning."
Sam and Dean exchange a glance and Dean leaves it to Sam to ask the question. "Does Lawrence have an alibi for the other murders?"
There's a split second of silence, then Father Philips and Colin both begin speaking.
"Not technically, but Lawrence wouldn't-"
"No, but you gotta understand about Lawrence-"
"Hold it," Dean bellows, holding up both hands. Something pricks his spidey sense, as it were. He may not be a real FBI agent, but he's pretended to be one long enough to know that you ask questions about the things that bug you the most. And the looks on these two guys' faces when they talk about Lawrence seriously bugs Dean. There's a knowing and fierce protectiveness etched in their features, as if they know that Dean and Sam would be all too interested in Lawrence if only they knew. If only they knew what is Dean's chief concern.
"No one knows where Lawrence was for any of the four murders?"
More glancing, then Father Philips swallows and shakes his head. "No. Other than where he says he was, which I believe. Lawrence doesn't lie."
"Ever?" Sam asks, incredulous.
"I've never heard him do so," Father Philips says. He looks at his hands for a long moment before sighing. "You have to understand about Lawrence. He's not like most people."
Yeah, I've heard that before, Dean thinks and being 'special' isn't always a good thing. "How's that?"
"He just sees the world in a different way," Father Philips explains, though Dean can tell by the frustration on his face that he's having trouble forming the words to properly explain himself. "It's like he's above this, all this," he says, gesturing around with aimless hands. "Peter's…murder," he chokes on the word, "devastated him, but he has trouble showing it. The police here, they know Lawrence pretty well. Most of the people around here understand what he's about, but I want you to understand if you meet with him. He doesn't show off what he's feeling, so it can be disconcerting talking with him, but I assure you, he feels things deeply."
Dean meets Sam's eyes again and he can see that Sam isn't comforted by their words either. A man disconnected from the rest of humanity with trouble showing emotions sounds less like a good thing and more like a sociopath. "How long have you known him?"
"Four years," Colin jumps in and now his eyes carry their own brand of hardness. The Father may have missed Dean and Sam's silent exchange, but Colin hasn't and Dean almost smiles. "He moved in with me pretty soon after we found him."
Father Philips fidgets in his seat. Clearly something else that he doesn't really want to tell them, but Dean just stares and uses his 'Don't mess with me, I survived hell' mask. It works pretty quickly.
"Lawrence showed up at my doorstep several years ago without his memory," Father Philips explains. "We've never been able to find anything about his real past." A pause, then he looks at his hands again. "We're not even sure that Lawrence is his real name and we know that 'Hart' isn't. I gave him that name because he looks like a deer in the headlights sometimes." A fond smile touches his lips at the memory and he looks up. "I know how this sounds, but you have to believe me when I say that Lawrence is the most devout man I've ever known. He loves the Lord more than anyone I've ever met. He's not capable of this act."
His impassioned words aren't exactly ineffective, but add amnesia on top of the possible sociopathic tendencies and Dean's really worried. Beyond the possibility of a sick human, Dean knows there's every chance that Lawrence's head's been messed with by a demon or witch. Some kind of spell or booby trap laid in him years ago that's just gone off. He may not know he's killing. The memory of Madison flickers in Dean's mind and he shakes himself.
"Where can we find him?"
"I'll call his cell," Colin offers. "I'm not sure if he stayed at home or not."
Sam nods and they listen as Colin speaks to Lawrence, who promises to leave wherever he is and come right over to the church. His quick agreement eases Dean a touch, but mostly because he isn't in the mood to go chasing this guy across the town. While they wait for him to show up, Dean asks Father Philips and Colin if they've seen anything strange, the whole flickering light and sulfur question, but both answer in the negative. Soon enough, they hear footsteps echoing down the hallway.
"Here he comes," Father Philips says unnecessarily and stands.
Dean turns and everything stops. His breath, his heart, even time halts and his center of gravity tilts, sending blood roaring through his ears, down into his gut and it's almost like fainting except he's still standing and his eyes are still seeing, seeing but not believing. Beside him, he vaguely hears Sam saying, "Oh my god," and Dean grabs the closest solid shape, a bookshelf filled with religious volumes.
The word, when it finally comes, is ripped from his throat as a rough dark whisper.