I know, I know! It's been FOREVER! Again! I'm sorry. Really, I am. I had 4 pages of this chapter done for a long time, just...it got away from me. I'm trying to wrap it up soon because I don't like leaving people hanging over and over, and I am still working on Reverberating Footsteps - it's just hard because this story, that story and all the others are gone now, because my chip decided to die on me (well...Dad killed it, but still, it died) and so I lost inspiration. I even declared I was no longer writing anything except for 3 obligations I had on another site. I didn't post anything like that here, so you need not worry about it, especially not now that I am back on track. For the fourth time I am recreating everything from scratch.

there was a recent tragedy at home - my baby boy, Blaze, died suddenly on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. We don't know why. he was fine. He was playing and everything, and I even gave him a bath that day. he liked baths. He went to lay on Mom and Dad's bed and then about a half hour later he started puking. He was okay, just...a lot of puke, and I was with him for a bit but then went to the bathroom. When I came back out he wasn't anywhere in site so I thought he went into my room or something and he hadn't. He'd gone behind Mom and Dad's bed and I heard him getting sick and stuff. He came out and walked into the kitchen and started choking or something. Couldn't breathe. White stuff from his mouth. Dad tried to help, but...well...yeah. And he LOOKED at me, with so much trust in his eyes, asking me for help, and I couldn't help him. He was my baby and I'm supposed to comfort him, but I couldn't. Instead I hid in the bathroom like the coward I am, because I couldn't watch him die. I couldn't sit there and remember that as the last thing of him. I didn't want to remember him like that. So I left the room. Plugged my ears. It was all so damn surreal. I just kept thinking it was a dream or something - wasn't real, you know? But. Yeah. I just don't understand. Why.

he disappeared the day before Papaw died. Four months later I was like "Please, I just need something. I can't take anymore. I need something." And the next day Blaze showed up again. I thought it was a sign, you know, like the worst was over and everything would be okay. Like Blaze was my sign, because he was good and the rest was wrong, and I loved him. And while it didnt' help that Papaw died, it was a start, you know? Like the road to finally healing. Then God took him away ruthlessly without reason, and I don't understand why. What's that supposed to say about "everything being okay" now?

Anyway...I am just ready to fall this crap to end. I'm tired of losing everything I love, over and over. To make things worse, my roommate and I are fighting. Why? I don't know. She just decided she was pissed at me and I don't know why, because I have done nothing wrong. We were fine, she went out to hang with another friend, came back and won't talk to me. I asked what her problem was with me and she just said "me, you and the other roommate are having a talk Sunday" so whatever. Fuck you too. You don't get to call meetings - you technically don't even live there, and I let you move into MY room, in MY apartment, because YOU needed to, so you better show me some damn respect. I am so tired of this shit. I am tired of giving and giving and people only taking and taking and never returning the favor. fine. Be that way. When you need help again, don't come crying to me because I am done.

Achem. Anywho. That's part of my absence. The other is I'm in college now. How is it going? Hell if I know. I don't even care about it anymore. I really don't. I don't know what I want to do anyway, so it's like it's just a waste of money until I know, and I have no idea. Life sucks anymore. Just waiting for the next thing to go wrong. My family never gets breaks. I should have learned this by now, but...well...yeah.

Anyway, sorry for the long rant, but I really wanted to get that off my chest, and now I feel a little better, I guess. Plus it explains my absence and I am really sorry it's been so long, but...yeah. I will try to write more soon, but I make no promises. I still have a short story I have to write for my creative writing class - any ideas? I'm open to them, because I suck at beginnings.

Anywho...I'm done whining.


Chapter Twenty-Three

Dean didn't call the next day.

The fact kept rolling through Castiel's mind two days after Dean's phone call. Dean called every day - usually at the same time - but last night…yesterday…there had been no call. Castiel had sat up and waited…and waited…and waited but the call never came and he had drifted into an uneasy sleep.

Dean didn't call.

Why didn't he call?

It was hard to focus at school. Luckily the week was winding down so the work load wasn't huge, but he wasn't able to focus much at all. He heard people talking - teachers giving lectures - and saw marks on the front board from the lesson, but nothing seemed to really make sense.

Why didn't he call?

It wouldn't leave him alone.

Why didn't he call? He said he'd call. Why didn't he call?

Had something happened? Had they finally told Dean something?

A horrible knot formed in Castiel's stomach as a sudden thought entered his mind.

What if he left? What if he's gone?

No. No.

He couldn't think like that. Dean would have told him if he was leaving, if he had to go after all. There would have been a phone call, a visit, something. There would have been something.

Not just a missed phone call.

He was probably overreacting. Maybe Dean had fallen asleep and hadn't been able to call.

It was nothing serious.


The phone rang around six that evening. Castiel quickly snatched it up and whispered, "Dean?"

"Hey, Cas," Dean replied easily, and the tension that had been consuming Castiel's body all day disappeared. Just like that.

Dean had that affect on him, could calm him almost instantly.

Only Dean, though.

"Dean," he breathed, "why didn't you call?"

"Last night?"

"Yes. Why didn't you call?"

"Oh, uh, we got some news and-"

"News?" Castiel cut in sharply, his mind spinning suddenly. News. What did that mean? What kind of news? Did it mean Dean got to stay? Or did he have to leave? "What kind of news?"

"Well, they have a lead on who might have killed Justin and might be, you know…gunning for us, so to speak," Dean told him.

Castiel paused, unwilling to get his hopes up. "So they have a lead…are they hunting him down?"

"As much as they can, yeah."

"So…if they catch him…"

"Then I'm not going anywhere for a very, very long time," Dean confirmed with an obvious smile in his voice. The tone itself was contagious because Castiel immediately felt a wide smile overtake his face. His face muscles ached at the intensity of the smile.

"That's great!" he chirped before he could stop himself, but it just made Dean laugh.

"I know," Dean agreed. "So now we just need to sit back and wait."

"How long?" Castiel asked, eager for things to get back to normal…eager to be able to see Dean whenever he wanted and not just when Dean managed to talk those officers into allowing them to interact. It had been torture lately, unable to just be with Dean, hang out, as much as he wanted. If he was lucky it was once a week.

This past week and a half, he hadn't been so lucky. He hadn't seen Dean in what felt like forever.

"I don't know," Dean sighed. "I just know they said they think they know who did it. Now it's just a matter of tracking them down and, you know, proving it was them. But at least it's a lead!"

Castiel nodded enthusiastically before he realized Dean couldn't see him. "Yeah, and hopefully it will be over soon."

"I told you things would work out, Cassie," Dean said warmly.

Too happy because of this news, Castiel didn't even bother to correct him this time.

Two days later found Dean making his way through the house/cabin, whatever it was, triumphantly. He could walk! Hallelujah! He snickered to himself and ambled into the kitchen to grab a drink. He'd missed walking, to be honest. He hadn't realized how much he adored having legs until he'd been practically bedridden for so long.

But that was what happened when one had a panicky little brother with that stupid kicked-puppy face. That look could have stopped even Hitler in his tracks!

Scowling to himself, Dean opened the refrigerator and peered in at the contents. Hmm. Not much of anything, really. Some orange juice, milk, and cheese. Not even ham - just cheese. They didn't even have bread, either. So he couldn't make himself a sandwich. For a safe house or whatever this place was, there certainly wasn't a lot of food or, well, anything. It was boring around here, with only a few books to read, no TV to watch, not even a computer to relax with. Not even music! Well, okay, that wasn't entirely true.

The cops had finally broken down and gotten him an old, beat up radio. Most of the stations he tried to tune into were just static, lots and lots of static, but a rare few worked. Most of those were radio talk shows, though, and not much music. Still, if one was bored enough…they'd try anything.

But that concept didn't apply to food, especially when there was a surprising lack of it. There was a bit of cereal left, but Dean wanted to save that for Sammy's breakfast tomorrow. The kid was in the middle of a giant growth-spurt - he needed all the nutrition he could get, even if it did come from Lucky Charms.

Lucky Charms which, even if Dean wanted some, Sam wasn't willing to share, even with his own brother.


He decided to drown his hunger with stale crackers, which he found pushed aside behind the paper plates in the cabinet over the sink. This will have to do, he told himself as he stuck his hand inside and pulled out a small handful. His nose wrinkled because he knew what crackers were supposed to smell like - and this was certainly not it. Oh well - he was too hungry to care right now.

He stuffed them into his mouth and chewed until they didn't taste like cardboard anymore.

After a few handfuls, he shoved the box aside and hoped the nasty crackers wouldn't be his downfall. The last thing he needed right now was to get sick when things were finally looking up for once. The police had a lead and soon all this would be over, and he could move on with his life - with Cas. They could be together like they planned.

The thought made a wide smile cross his face. Just the two of them in an apartment, graduating, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, and-

Whoa - getting ahead of yourself, aren't you? his mind chided.

Yeah, yeah, no backseat thinking, mind.

He trudged back to his room because this was already a long day and he didn't know when Sammy and Dad were going to be getting back. There was a police officer at the door, waiting patiently, forever vigilant, but otherwise Dean was alone, and Cas was probably still in school. Therefore he figured he would sleep away the rest of the day to pass the time.

It was better than eating old crackers.

Anything was better than eating old crackers.

Dean woke later to gunshots. He jolted into a sitting position and then jumped to his feet, ignoring the momentary twinge from his healing injuries at the sudden movement. He edged toward the door and then slammed himself against the wall as it opened. Maybe if he was quiet, it-

A hand snagged his arm, latched onto his clothing and tugged, causing Dean to stagger forward. The officer watched him, lips pursed into a hard, thin white line.

"Go," the officer said, shoving him out the door. "Now. Quietly."


Dean exited his room to find Sammy in the living room, a wild look in his large brown eyes. Those eyes latched onto Dean and in an instant, his kid brother was holding tight to his side, hair a mess, evidence of how he must have been sleeping as well. How long had he been out? Surely not long enough for this stuff to happen, right?

"What's going on?" Sam asked quietly, and the officer gave him a narrowed eyed look and put a finger to his lips.

"Shh. Follow me out the back - quickly, c'mon."

Dean wrapped an arm around his little brother's shoulders as the two of them edged out of the house after the cop. Dad was nowhere in sight and he tried to ignore the bloody shoeprints the officer left behind.

He also tried to ignore the way Sammy trembled in his hold.

He had to make this quick.

With a swallow, Dean stared down at the little cell phone in his hand. It looked innocent enough. It didn't look like something that would soon be the end of his everything. Too innocent. Deceiving, even. It looked so normal when everything was falling down around him, and he didn't know why.

Sammy was asleep in the other room, in some apartment just outside of town. Just a resting place, he was told. Too dangerous to stay. Bloody shoeprints. Gunshots.

He shut his eyes. Tried not to think about it. Collected his thoughts enough to get his fingers moving, punching in the familiar number he'd dialed so many times before, but now it was different. Each stab at the number left a little piece of his mind shattered, and it became harder to think.

By the time the phone rang and connected, he didn't know what to do.

"Dean?" came Cas's cheery voice. "How is everything?"

He licked his lips. Tried to say something. Failed.

"Dean?" Concern laced the word now, like Cas knew, on some level, what was wrong. The hesitance in his voice left Dean swallowing a lump which should not have been in his throat.

Pretend it's okay. Nothing's wrong. It's okay.

"Hi," he said weakly, more a breathy sigh than anything.

"What's wrong?"

He closed his eyes. "Nothing. Nothing, Cas."

Lie, lie, lie. It's okay. Everything's okay. Nothing's wrong.

"Dean, don't lie to me. What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I just…h-how have you been?"

"You know how I've been - how are you? Dean?"

He chewed on his bottom lip. Fingers tapped against a wall and he pried his eyes open to find the officer watching him. He nodded and turned away from him as the man left the room, but he wouldn't stay gone for long.

"Is everything okay?" Castiel asked, voice all concern and hesitation, like he knew but was afraid to ask just the same, and Dean didn't know what to do to make that tone go away. He didn't know how to make Cas smile when he himself couldn't find it in himself to do the same.

"It's…It's okay. Just…um…I can't talk to you for a while."

"What? Why not?" Confusion, thick in his voice.

"Ran into a, um…bit of trouble. That's all. A snag. That's all. It's okay, though. Just going to go silent for…for a few days. So just…wanted to let you know so you don't…worry."

Real smooth, Dean.

Shut up.

There was a long pause, and Dean inwardly begged Cas to say something, because his time was almost up and he needed to absorb as much as he could. Silence was not what he wanted.

"I don't understand," Cas said slowly, and Dean cursed him for getting ready to poke holes in his logic, "you said everything was okay. You said they had a lead!"

"I know I did," he said quickly, combing his fingers through his short hair. It was getting longer, though. Steadily. He could actually grab at the strands now. "And it's okay. They do have a lead."

This wasn't a lie. If anything, they had even more of a lead.

"So what's wrong?"


"Say that again and so help me God, I will hurt you," Cas said, voice a little more solid and somewhat harsh, leaving Dean pausing.

"Okay. Okay, stuff's wrong, but…but not that wrong."

"Then how wrong? Dean?"


"Just tell me the truth," Cas murmured, and there was so much sincerity, so much hope, in those few words that Dean closed his eyes again.

He knew Cas deserved the truth. Knew Castiel wanted the truth.

Just tell him. You don't want the last thing to be a lie.

He took in a slow breath. "Cas…I gotta…we gotta…we gotta go."

I'm not sure where the end came from, really, but whatever, there it is. I will try to write more soon. You guys are awesome for all your previous reviews :) Thanks.

~Muffy the Dough Slayer~