Peter pushed open the door, shoving hard against the barricade until it gave. The pile of boxes prevented the door opening fully, so only a narrow slice of the room was visible to him. There was no sign of Novak in his line of sight. He held his gun ready, motioning to his back-up to stay out of sight for the moment.
"Jimmy?" he called, "This is Agent Burke. You asked to speak with me. Well, now I'm here. I'm going to come in now, but I want you to put down your weapon first." He inched the door open a bit further.
There was no reply. And then footsteps, towards the back of the room on the side he couldn't see. The sound of liquid glugging out of a bottle and splashing on a hard surface.
"Jimmy? I'm prepared to talk. I just need you to stop what you're doing and hand over your weapon."
"My name is Castiel," Novak growled.
"Castiel, then. Just keep calm and nobody will get hurt." He edged the door open further, and then froze in shock. Someone in the evidence room was laughing. It wasn't Jimmy Novak. It wasn't insane, maniacal laughter, either. Just a quiet little chuckle as though it was a normal conversation and he'd said something funny. "Is there someone with you, Castiel?" Peter peered around the door and saw him.
Dean Winchester grinned at him from where he was standing in a mountain of fallen evidence. "Peter," he said, and then looked over Peter's shoulder. "What happened to distracting them?"
Peter glanced behind him. Sam Winchester was looming there, enormous and armed, and how had Peter not noticed him arrive? How had no-one noticed?
Peter turned back to Dean. "Dean," he said, "This isn't going to end well for you. You have the advantage on me here, but even if you kill me, you won't escape. There are hundreds of agents in the building."
Dean chuckled again, and to Peter's ears it was menacing. "We're not here to kill anyone, we're here to save your ass. You have no idea what you're messing with."
Peter stepped into the room, hands in the air. He could feel Sam Winchester behind him, filling his personal space.
"Surrender your weapons," he said.
Dean began to pick his way through the heap of stuff surrounding him, moving away from Peter, over to the corner where Jimmy Novak was in the process of pouring salt from a sack onto Rivers in Flood. Peter could see empty whisky bottles on the floor around him, and the strong smell of alcohol permeated the air.
"Do you feel how cold it is?" Dean asked conversationally. Peter hadn't noticed, actually, pumped as he was with adrenalin. Now, he did, though. There was ice forming on the metal shelves and his hand was cramping up around his gun. He stepped forward, immediately noticing the absence of Sam's body heat behind him.
Dean continued: "That's the sign of a spirit. It's bound to the painting, and it's angry. It's going to manifest any second, and it's not going to stop until you're dead, so you need to shut up and let us do our job." The conversational tone was gone now, replaced by urgency and seriousness.
Peter would be really concerned about the craziness of Dean's statement, if he wasn't so freaking cold. He thought his hand might be freezing to his gun. It was really starting to hurt. The lighter in Jimmy Novak's hand sparked, a flame flickering into existence.
There was a great crash as the door behind Peter was flung open fully, sending boxes tumbling out of the way. Sam Winchester spun to aim his gun at the intruders, and Peter spun with him, bringing his shivering hand down on the pressure points in Sam's wrist, forcing his finger away from the trigger.
"Hands in the air!" Jones ordered. He was at the front of a formation of heavily armed agents. He took a step towards Peter and Sam and then shouted: "Holy Christ! Move!"
The next thing Peter knew, he was on the floor, crushed under Sam, as a giant fireball was flashing across the ceiling.
"Holy crap, Cas," he could faintly hear Dean Winchester saying, "What did you put on that?"
Peter's head had thudded hard against something as Sam tackled him out of the way of the flames. He could feel blood trickling down the back of his head, and everything got a little confusing. The weight of Sam released him but there seemed to be two of everything, and the room filled with thick black smoke. Someone was dragging him out of the room when he lost consciousness, letting the blackness take over.
When he woke up, he was in a hospital bed with El and Neal looking down at him, both of them berating him for being a stupid hero.
Dean struggled out from under Cas as the fireball spread across the ceiling. Cas had shoved him out of the way when he'd seen the fire take off, and while Dean was grateful, he was pretty sure he had a broken rib and kind of felt like a damsel in a romance novel. "Holy crap, Cas," he said, "What did you put on that?"
"I was not sure how much alcohol to use," Cas informed him matter-of-factly, "I think there may also have been some kind of accelerant already present in the painting."
"At least we can be pretty sure it's destroyed now," Dean said, reeling back from the heat. "Where's Sam? We need to leave."
Sam found them a moment later, and gave them a boost up through the fire exit. It took both Dean and Cas together to haul Sam's giant, muscle-bound body up through the hole, but they got him up eventually, and now only had the problem of getting out of the building.
"I left him a note about the safe house," Sam told them as they made their way to the stairwell, winding through people distracted by the fire and the hex bags, "It should be safe for him to destroy the blood now that the painting's destroyed."
"Did anyone come up with an escape plan?" Cas asked. Ungrateful bastard. Dean smiled a little at the businesslike tone and look of purpose on the ex-angel's face. It was good to have him back.
"Not so much," he said.
"At least we'll die together," Sam said.
They were at the ground floor and Dean's legs were aching from all the stairs when someone walked directly into Sam. It was a middle aged man in a suit who looked exactly like every other fed in the building. He looked at them closely, and said: "Sam and Dean Winchester? Castiel? Bobby Singer sent me. I'm here to get you out, but I had a hell of a job finding you. Come with me."
"How did Bobby know where we were?" Dean asked the guy as he led them down a floor to the basement and swiped his security clearance to get them out of the parking garage.
"Bobby knows everything," the man said, turning to go back up the stairs, "Plus it was all over the news that the feds had Jimmy Novak."
"Wait," called Sam, "Who are you?"
"Bobby helped me out once." The man disappeared through the door at the top of the stairs.
"Let's go," said Dean, inclining his head towards the pavement.
Five minutes later, they were down a side street, and Dean was behind the wheel of a freshly hotwired car, scrolling through the IPod plugged into the stereo for the song he wanted. When it came blasting out of the speakers, he put the car into gear and pulled out. His brother was beside him and his best friend was in the backseat, singed trench coat and all, and they were headed back to the Impala, the open road and freedom.
Sam cocked an eyebrow at the IPod. "Seriously, Dean?"
Dean grinned, reaching over and turning up the volume. "Cos tramps like us, baby we were born to run!" He sang.
Neal finished re-working Peter's birthday painting in the two days Peter was in the hospital. It upset him much more than he liked to admit when Peter got hurt, and it was good to be able to do something with his hands while he waited for Peter to recover. He still had to go to work, but without Peter all he got to do was go through records in boring embezzlement cases, and it wasn't a very good distraction. Especially since other people were still following up on Justin Case.
On Saturday night, he took the painting over to Peter and El's. Sara came with him, beautifully dressed and feisty as always. Jones and Diana were already there, along with Christy and the date that Jones had brought.
Peter was in good humour, bored with having to take time off work, and loved the painting. As they all sat down for dinner, the atmosphere was friendly and cheerful. Neal felt warm inside as he looked around the room.
They were part way through dinner, just past the stage of complimenting the meal, when Sara could no longer contain her curiosity.
"So what happened with the Rivers in Flood case?" She asked, "I heard you finally got Justin Case."
"Oh, we did," Peter said.
"Oh no," said Diana, "We did." She indicated herself and Jones. "You guys just brought him in. We're the ones that got the confession."
Jones chimed in. "Six counts of art theft, seventeen of using false documents – oh, and not to mention six murder charges and multiple aggravated assaults."
"We went to the apartment at the address Sam Winchester slipped into Peter's pocket," Diana continued, "This guy was bad news..."
Peter cleared his throat, making a tiny gesture towards Elizabeth, who was looking tense. She didn't like hearing about psychopaths almost murdering her husband.
Neal changed the subject. "So, they finally fixed the air conditioning unit yesterday. Now we can work on our floor in less than nine layers."
"Did they work out what the problem was?" El asked, smiling at him.
"There was some physical damage to the thermostat in the central unit for the floor. It just made it go haywire," he replied. He didn't tell her the physical damage had been caused by a bullet. He wasn't an idiot.
The rest of the meal passed in pleasant uneventfulness, and was followed up by a delightful crème brulee, if Neal did say so himself.
Afterwards, as Diana and Christy were doing the dishes (as part of their birthday present for Peter), and the others were deep in discussion about the charity event El was planning, Neal took the opportunity to talk to Peter out on the patio.
"Why aren't we chasing the Winchesters?" He asked. "They kidnapped me; they nearly killed you. We need to find them!"
"That's a job for Violent Crimes. They're out of my jurisdiction."
"No buts," said Peter, "If agents start going after anyone who tries to hurt them it'll turn into anarchy and revenge quests. We leave it to Violent Crimes, and they'll get them. If they come back on the radar for another fraud, we will take them down. In the meantime, we do our jobs."
Neal was quiet for a moment, looking out at the darkness. "You know, in the scheme of things, I'm really not that bad."
"No," said Peter beside him, "You're not."
A/N: And it's over! Thanks for reading and reviewing. I love writing these and really appreciate your support. Next up: Castle.