Beta: the lovely kimisgirl *hugs*- anything still wrong is probably me ignoring her advice
Alpha: my dearest kyokohitsuji
Warnings/Squicks: ANGST, pre-het, depictions of Hell, did I mention the angst
Disclaimer: Not mine, never have been, never will be

AN1: Wanna give a huge immeasurable thanks to kimisgirl for not only the wonderful beta, but for putting up with me and letting me rant and bounce stuff off her! *hugs sweetie*
AN2: The title comes from a song, Imperfect Heart by Todd Wright:
"I was all messed up with no place to go; stalled and stuck on a long dark road. I was all out of luck when you brought me in, out of the dark- me and my imperfect heart."
AN3: Okay before ppl start with the 'but wait they're in Heaven what do they need bodies for' the answer is simple, in my little fandom bubble some angels still use their vessels because the original owners no longer live there, therefore if they left, the vessels would die, for lack of a better word. And yeah, some angels get attached. :D

As this was for the Dean Castiel Big Bang I must pimp the wonderful art crystal_line did for this. http : / lusaly . livejournal . com / 77510 . html ? mode = reply

~~~~~~~~~Chapter 1~~~~~~~~~

The dark shape of the Impala pulled away from the sidewalk outside Lisa's home. It wasn't his home anymore, if it ever truly had been. She'd known that before he had, or maybe just before he'd admitted it to himself.
It had been nice these past few weeks, being with them. He'd enjoyed taking Ben to softball practice, helping him work on his change-up and his lines with the ladies. And when the kid smiled, well it was hard to believe he wasn't Dean's when he saw Sammy's smile beamed back at him like that.
And Lisa… she was a saint. She didn't deserve him or his baggage, but she welcomed them both.
That first night, after putting Ben to bed, Dean had tried to leave, just to find a motel. It wouldn't feel right, he wasn't part of their family, not yet, 'maybe, not ever' he'd reminded himself. But Lisa wouldn't let him leave. She'd said that after the last time, she wasn't ready to let him out of her sight. They'd laughed, but her possessive tone warmed him. "You don't have to come upstairs, I can make up the couch," she'd smiled as she drew him back away from the door.
She got blankets and pillows for him, when she returned she found Dean sitting, almost huddled, on the long couch, leg shaking nervously. Silently, she'd knelt beside him, hand slipping to his shaking knee, stilling it. The couch never got made and she never made it upstairs. She'd wound one arm over Dean's broad shoulders taking him in a half hug, which he greedily returned. She'd let him hold her all night. No questions, no expectations, just giving him what he needed- contact. Whatever Dean had been through wasn't going to be something easily overcome and she realized that.

On the rare times he would sleep, Dean would dream about that day, the hole in the ground that sucked his brothers away, the way something wearing his brother's face could so easily and unhesitantly destroy his, no, not his, the angel and the closest thing either he or Sam had ever had to a father. It was those nights he woke up sweating and breathless, still on Lisa's couch, refusing to share her bed. It didn't feel right, not yet. Part of him wondered if it ever would. Part of him knew 'normal' would never be him.
Still, Dean tried to have a 'normal' life like Sam had wanted for him, he really had, but he couldn't. He'd hear the news or read the paper or hear some strange story while pumping gas and it would send his mind reeling with the possible causes and how to deal with them.
It didn't take long for him to realize he couldn't fight the hunt. It was as much who he was as taking care of Sammy was. He'd failed at one; he couldn't let himself fail on the other.

So here he was, leaving the one woman he thought he could ever have a family with, ever be normal with. They both understood why. She had kissed Dean and told him to 'come back for that beer anytime he wanted'. Dean offered her a wavering smile and a promise to be there whenever she or Ben needed him before climbing into his baby and driving out of their lives, again.

Then there was the other reason- the not quite 6ft tall, trench coat wearing, blue-eyed reason.
Dean understood why Cas left. He couldn't even blame him, even if he'd said different the last time he saw the angel. Cas had gotten the chance, not just to go home- a home he thought he'd lost forever- but he had the chance to change it, make it better, and try as he might Dean couldn't fault him for that. Hell, he would have done the same. He only wished they had parted differently. It had been months since that final day, and he hadn't heard a word from his, no, the angel. If there was anything Dean understood it was that Cas wasn't his anymore, if he ever truly had been. It didn't keep him from missing the angel. He haunted his dreams and his waking thoughts. Crystal blue eyes that saw through him, and stayed despite, or maybe because of, what he saw, they followed him, reminding him of what he'd once had.
It was tearing him apart as much as losing Sammy was. He still woke up expecting to see his brother's hunched shoulders hovering over his laptop, his face when he looked up, hopeful and happy, but of course he never did. He'd tried to find a way to get Sam out of there, but nothing ever panned out. Short of a Heavenly rescue, he was beginning to doubt there was a way.
Sam and Cas had been gone five months, and Dean was as far from happy as he had ever been. Even his time in Hell seemed to pale to this.


He was less than two days out from Cicero, when he stumbled, face first into his first hunt since the world hadn't gone to Hell in a hand basket- a string of accidents at a local refinery. It turned out to be a simple salt and burn, yet it had so felt good; the hunt, the destruction- watching the flames lick over the bones and tattered fabric of a 19th century chain boss. It seemed to feed a fire inside him.

A few days later, he got wind of a nest of vampires near Provo, Utah. A dress suit- the same deep blue as… he shook his head annoyed at the unexpected thought; deciding he really needed to get a new suit- a fake badge and an even more artificial smile, and he was winding his way through the police corridors and county morgue like he owned the place.
As he interviewed family and friends of the victims he felt a chilly calm grow in him, before he'd have cared what these people said, shown genuine remorse for their loss, but now it was just gathering facts, they weren't people, they were simply information, living, breathing police reports.
The nest was fairly easy to find, if you knew what you were looking for. He made quick work of them, relishing the feel of heads ripped from bodies- messy, dirty, and bloody, but it made Dean feel something, he called it 'alive' but he wasn't at all sure that was even an option for him anymore.
His thoughts turned to the last nest of vamps they'd come up against, Lenore and her clan, trying to walk the straight and narrow. And Gordon so blinded by his desire to destroy. The older hunter's words filtered back to him, 'you feel like you have this hole inside you, and it just gets bigger and bigger and darker and darker.' Yeah, he had a hole, large and black sucking his brother and everything he'd fought for into its depths, a hole so big he doubted it would ever be filled. Dean ground his teeth, not sure whether he wanted that darkness to fill him or not. 'It's not a crime to need your job,' came the voice of the man who had later tried so hard to kill him and Sammy. But somewhere in his mind he had to admit, the man had a point.

Hunt after hunt he killed, salted and burned, whatever was necessary and on recent occasions more than. Somewhere along the road it had become solely about the hunt, no longer about saving people. He was slowly being consumed by the hunt. Everything focused on the next witch, the next werewolf, the next restless spirit. He was following his father's footsteps, falling into an all-consuming blindness for the hunt. And if some part of his brain screamed about how wrong it was, and clawed towards what remained of his convictions, well he'd ignored it, let it get washed away the way every other meaningful thing in his life seemed to.
But at night when his subconscious wrestled control from his waking senses, and he managed to keep the images of that day at bay, he dreamt of blue eyes and a warm touch, something worth fighting for, someone who had once believed in him. More and more his dreams included the angel, even if just in passing. His subconscious cried out for him, begging as if he could stop the dangerous road he was travelling down. Asleep, his subconscious could ask for these things, things his waking self .


Dean walked up the stone pathway to the front of the house, a nice two storey home, white shudders standing out against pale blue siding. With a deep breath and a quick mental reminder of who he was, he rang the bell.

A woman in her late thirties opened the door, a sad, set expression on her face.

"Mrs. Holden?"

She nodded.

"Sorry, to bother you ma'am, but I'm agent Peterik," he flashed his fake F.B.I. badge, and continued, "I just have a few questions if I may."

As always, the woman invited him inside.

Taking out a pad, he sat on the too nice sofa, and began asking questions. They rolled off his tongue after so many years and so many names and so many victims, it was almost as if he didn't need to be there.
That's when he first started noticing, or rather not noticing. He would go through the motions, asking questions, offering sympathies, but when he left, he couldn't tell you one thing about the victim, the homes, the families. It was all unimportant. He got all the information he could and he left; the people held no more value than a newspaper or well-worn library book. There was a time when the people were the job, he knew it, he remembered it, felt it in his bones, but these days he just didn't care.