Title: When the Road is as Dark as My Fears (sequel to When All is Lost)
Author: apokteino
Rating: heavy R
Genre and/or Pairing: Dean/Castiel
Spoilers: up to 5.22.
Warnings: discussion of rape, thoughts of suicide, death of OC's (spoiler: 'fake' suicide attempt)
Word Count: 25,000
Summary: Castiel is just beginning to recover from what Dean has done to him when a case arises – and the FBI gets involved.
A/N: Title from Fightstar, "You and I." This is the sequel to When All is Lost (see my profile or livejournal) and you really need to read that one first.

Feedback is loved!

Artificial light from outside - a shattered window high up the wall of the warehouse letting it in - taints the darkness below. The knife in Castiel's hand is warm to the touch, the blade catching and reflecting light as he moves it, examining the tip and the sharpness of the edge as he swipes it across his thumb lightly, a drop of blood welling up. He looks at the blood rolling down his finger for a moment, then brings his thumb to his mouth and sucks, bitterness on his tongue.

He puts the knife next to the flashlight, and wishes, not for the first time, that this building was still hooked up to electricity. A small generator hums nearby as he flicks it on, a few lights connected to it flickering before brightening fully. The darkness retreating, he can see now the sigils he had painted all over the floor and walls yesterday morning, devil traps above every entry, lines of salt beneath, and sigils of hiding evenly spaced around those. It would do them no good to be noticed, here, so Castiel has used those sigils along with some hex bags to make this place go by unseen, something to gently suggest people look elsewhere. It won't work against focused effort, but Dean considers that unlikely in this part of town. Particularly since the local homeless believe the place to be haunted, although there are no dead here.

May you one day return home, brother.

Haniel's last words, after she came to tell them both that Sam was saved. He doesn't know if Dean even noticed, no doubt overwhelmed by the thought of Sam, but Castiel, oh, he had definitely noticed.

Such words imply an after for him. Angels do not die the way humans do, lacking immortal souls, the cycle of life and death. Angels simply are, until they are not. Waiting for Raphael to arrive, more than two and a half years ago, Castiel had seen the end of his existence.

Strange how things are now; the pulse of a borrowed - stolen - body the only link to life. A link easy to break. To cut. He looks at the knife.

He hears footsteps bound by a familiar cadence, and looks up.

Dean gives a nod of acknowledgement, without meeting Castiel's gaze, and focuses his attention on the half-destroyed internal wall in the warehouse that has become their murder board. The pictures of six girls center it, with lines made of string connecting them to places and people, each place personal to the victim with it's history investigated and written. Dean had put this on the wall without discussing it with Castiel, and the methodology speaks more to Sam, or perhaps John, than Dean's guts-and-instinct style, but for this case ... well.

Dean's obsessive-compulsive tendencies when it comes to hunting arose quite suddenly after Haniel's appearance, though Castiel can see no relation between the two.

"Find anything?" Castiel finally asks.

"No," Dean says shortly.

Castiel rises to his bare feet, walks silently to the board. Careful, still, to stay at least five feet away from Dean, far enough away to see and react to any movement. Any threat.

Dean edges away, as if he knows. Maybe he does. He's finally stopped looking at Castiel with a look of vacant surprise every morning, as if not expecting Castiel to be there.

"I want to go with you tomorrow," Castiel says. It is not out of any desire to be with Dean; he simply doesn't want to be stuck inside all day, going over information he's already gone over on the way here. And the bruises on his wrists have finally faded, it being weeks now since Haniel's visit, and Dean not touching Castiel once in the meantime, so he won't be conspicuous while out in the world. Not that Castiel trusts this lack of activity on Dean's part, exactly. The exact position of Dean's mind remains unknown to him. Perhaps Dean is convinced he is going to hell regardless, and his actions now do not matter. Or perhaps they do.

Dean lets out a heavy sigh and shifts. Castiel tenses, but doesn't move.

Dean looks at him, takes a step back, and returns his attention to the board deliberately. "Okay. But I think we should take a look at what the reporters have got and haven't published - anything unsubstantiated. Talking to the vic's families was a waste of time, especially since they kept slamming their doors in my face."

"They didn't want to talk to you?"

Dean shakes his head. "Too risky to be law enforcement with the FBI hanging around."

"Ah," is all Castiel can say.

Dean abruptly shifts closer, for some unknown intent - going for the board, maybe - and Castiel stumbles backward in response, adrenaline briefly surging. Dean hesitates for a moment, jaw working, eyes angry, then stalks over to where Cas had deposited a bag of takeout.

As if Dean has the right to be angry.

Castiel lowers himself to his makeshift bed, shaking slightly. His wrists ache, shadows of pain, as he watches Dean.

Dean settles into his own bed, a mere ten feet away, that he had made the same time he'd done Castiel's. The short distance makes Castiel uncomfortable, but he has no idea of how to voice that thought. Instead, he wishes for the darkness - the ignorance of reality, the absence of memory.

Castiel has not had any blackouts for a number of days. It is unusual, and Castiel finds he misses the oblivion of those moments. But there has been nothing to trigger them, no violence or violation, nothing to remind him of the pain except Dean's silent, guilty presence. Not a word of remorse slips past Dean's lips. Only his actions speak, the silence and the distance, but he never strays too far from Castiel, nor for too long, as if he is pulled back again and again. It makes Castiel wonder what he's done, that Dean will not let him go.

Or maybe it's Castiel who won't let go. Won't leave, because he still loves Dean - and the rest needs him, lost in this world. Maybe this is partly his fault, this bizarre twist in their relationship. Maybe he stays because he sees the Dean of now, and this Dean seems able to be saved from the darkness he once inflicted. Maybe none of these things are real.

Castiel lays down to the sound of Dean quietly eating, squeezes his eyes shut, and wishes for the darkness to come back.

The job of copying all notes went to Castiel, as Castiel would be utterly hapless at distracting anyone, an act Dean does with practiced ease. The room full of chatting, interacting and wandering reporters is full of noise, anything from the tapping of keyboards to loud arguments. Castiel keeps one hand on his phone, to take pictures of handwritten notes as needed, and another on a small device Dean called a thumb drive and carefully instructed Castiel in it's use, placing the device on the floor rather than physically hand it over in the warehouse.

He can still hear Dean talking faintly as he maneuvers over to the cubicle Dean had pointed out of the reporter in charge of the story. The computer isn't on, but there are pages of handwritten notes, so he looks up, to see if anyone has noticed him, and then takes a photo of each, as quickly as possible.

He almost stops by Dean on his way out, then remembers Dean specifically telling him not to do just that, so he continues outside and waits by the Impala.

Dean comes out, frowning. "Got it?"

Castiel nods wordlessly, and gets in the car. Dean gets in as well, and reaches over -

Castiel stills, and Dean is apparently attuned enough to Castiel to notice, and it makes him freeze.

"The drive, please," Dean says finally, appearing vaguely annoyed, and holds his hand out, palm up.

Castiel hands him the phone instead, still shaking a bit, trying vainly to repress it. "It was all handwritten," he mutters, and looks out the window.

He hears a soft sigh, and then Dean turns the ignition and they go.

They don't park near the warehouse. The Impala is instead parked in alley two blocks away, covered similarly by hiding sigils. Dean doesn't like it, Castiel knows, but he was the one who made the decision to keep it far from their hideaway, so if things went badly the car would not be found. He made some vague comment about him and Sam having to go back for it before, then shut up and parked it there without waiting for Castiel's affirmation. Not an unusual occurrence, in Castiel's experience.

Dean goes through the notes without Castiel's help, muttering as he does it, cursing when he reaches the end. "Nothing," he says, and throws the phone down. He flops down on his sleeping bag, looking utterly frustrated.

"Research, then," Castiel quietly suggests.

"We already did that, Cas, and another girl went missing this morning," Dean snaps, eyes darkening.

"Look over everything, the whole history of the area," Castiel insists. It's their only option left.

"We've got to get a look at the FBI's files," Dean decides, ignoring Castiel's words.

"You said - "

"I know what I fucking said!"

"We'll get caught," Castiel argues, heart beginning to race, but he's determined to make his point of view known. He's not entirely sure what would happen if they were captured, but he knows Dean and Sam were paranoid enough about it to be extra careful. He also knows that they had been captured before, and something bad had happened. It is reason enough to avoid it in Castiel's mind.

"I'll do it," Dean says, definitively. "I've done shit like this before and gotten away clean. Relatively," he admits, rubbing his face.

"Dean - " A small part of him notices the desire for Castiel not to be in danger. But Dean can't be captured. He just ... can't.

Dean gets to his feet, anger falling across his face like a shadow, stalks a few feet away, then whirls around on Castiel, reaching down as Castiel shrinks away and grabbing the collar of his shirt, yanking Castiel halfway to his feet in one smooth action. "Why do you even fucking care? Are you that inhuman?" he snarls. His other hand forms a fist.

Fear races throughout him, and then Castiel fades out, grateful.

He's not naked and in some strange place when he wakes. He's where he was before, except sitting on the floor, knees brought up to his chest, arms limp, the back of his hands smudged with dirt from the ground. He looks up, and Dean is there, sitting silently and watching him. His face is blank, unreadable.

Castiel licks his dry lips, a nervous habit he's been developing. He brings his hands up, wipes the dirt off. His body feels stiff, as if he's been still for some time.

"Would you like breakfast?" Castiel asks hesitantly, choosing to look away, and carefully makes it to his feet. He had gotten cereal along with takeout the night before, one of his fairly new excursions since Haniel, and cereal is an item he understands from a talk with a store employee to be a customary morning meal.

"Where do you go, when you blank out like that?" Dean asks instead. There's no anger in his voice now.

He pauses and looks at Dean, who just stares back.

"Nowhere," Castiel says at last. Nowhere, the welcome oblivion. He glances at the knife.

"Why are you looking at your knife?" Dean says instantly, and he is suddenly much closer, to his feet and approaching Castiel, who shivers but stands his ground.

"I'm not," Castiel lies, and wonders where he got the nerve to do so, even as he can't meet Dean's eyes anymore.

"Don t lie to me," Dean says, voice intent, green eyes piercing even without direct eye contact.

"Don't," Castiel blurts, and Dean rears back, and he can see the surprise, which morphs into ... sadness, he's fairly certain. Unfair, Castiel thinks. His reaction to Dean's words are entirely reasonable.

Dean hesitates, fingers twitching, then with one hand he reaches out, slowly, setting his hand on the curve of Castiel's elbow. Just holding, and he waits for a moment. "You're not thinking of hurting yourself, are you?" He pauses. "You shouldn't think that."

Castiel's mouth is dry. Dean knows perfectly well that he is, and why he's thinking it, but he doesn't really dare say that. He's been careful not to name the acts Dean has committed, not out loud. He decides he doesn't have the nerve to lie again, so he says nothing. He knows exactly where his thoughts were going yesterday, and it wasn't the first time he'd pondered that particular end to pain - though never very seriously - but it was the first with some kind of hope behind it. He was just ... just thinking of home. He has, he has to remember that he has no way of knowing if he would die a true death or not, Haniel's words being indications, not certainty. And to die would be to leave Dean. After everything, all of this, could he truly leave Dean behind?

No. "I'm not," he whispers finally, looking down.

"Good. Good. Sam once ..." Dean stops. "Never mind." He dips his head to look Castiel in the eye, to force their gazes to meet. It reminds Castiel, powerfully, of that moment in the waiting room, where Dean had done the same thing and that intentness, that attention, had swayed him. Swayed him so far from what he had once been, swayed him into Dean's orbit, never to return, the utter power behind those green eyes then, and now.

Dean's hand on his elbow tightens slightly, and Castiel exhales.

Then Dean steps away. "We'll do it your way," he says quietly. "More research."

Castiel blinks, shocked, then nods.

Six, now seven girls had disappeared over roughly a five-week period. The first abduction, twenty-year old Sherry, had been followed by another, a little more than a week later, then a third less than a week later. By small increments, the time between each disappearance had shortened. It was a typical pattern for serial killers, that when they finally begun killing - and there was little doubt in anyone's mind they were dead, even Dean and Castiel's - they couldn't stop, and with each kill became more practiced, more efficient. If the pattern holds true, Castiel knows, there probably won't be another disappearance before the next day, or maybe the day after that.

Still, he feels Dean's urgency.

The only part of this series of disappearances that made it a hunter's concern was the fact that before three of the disappearances, the girls in question had reported cold spots and voices in their rooms. Dean saw that in one of the less fact-oriented newspapers in the area - this still being fairly local news - and had them driving there the next day.

But there's been nothing to find. Researching the girls had led them nowhere, no connections between them, no connections to any killer, living or dead.

By now, they both know the city's basic history. Started in the very late nineteenth century around a small mine, it had grown to just over a hundred and fifty thousand, with fifty thousand more living just outside it's boundaries in the boondocks. It used to have a center of industry, but when the recession hit that gradually faded away, leaving whole sections of the city abandoned. It has never been host to a serial killer before, from what they can tell.

Castiel hears Dean mutter a curse, again, from where he sits, surrounded by old newspapers that had been digitized and then printed out from the library. Castiel has his own pile, more neatly organized.

"I can't think anymore," Dean says, sighing. His eyes are dark with frustration.

Castiel says nothing.

Dean gives him an unreadable look next, then gets up and goes to his sleeping bag, laying down on his back, staring at the ceiling. He lays there several minutes, his soft breathing background noise to the facts floating in Castiel's mind as he scans the newspapers, a counter-balance that never lets Castiel stray too far from the here and now.

When Dean bolts up with a curse, Castiel starts. But it is just Dean, he reminds himself, though that fact is not an entire comfort. Dean does this when frustrated, when thinking.

Dean begins to pace, as Castiel feels an echo. It was this ... it was like this, the first time. The first time Dean had raped him.

Maybe it's selfish to think about that now, with seven girls missing, probably dead. They have the hunt, after all. The thing Dean had always gone back to, when his family fell apart. When his family died. The mission to save others as they themselves could not be saved.

When Dean wanders near, casting unreadable glances, Castiel tenses up again. Dean seems to sense it, stops.

"Why didn't you stop me?" The words are quiet.

Castiel is incredulous, looking up at Dean.

"You didn't even fight, after the first two times," Dean continues as if Castiel hadn't reacted. "You just took it. Did you ... did you ... " and he stumbles to a stop, not meeting Castiel's eyes.

What? Castiel doesn't know, so he looks away and wishes for this conversation to stop.

Then Dean is seizing his arm and dragging him to his feet. Fear heaves through him, but he doesn't black out, even as he meets Dean's furious gaze.

"Fight back! Dammit, Cas, did I really beat that out of you?"

"You raped it out of me," Castiel snarls, the words pouring out without thought. "All the torture I endured on your behalf, when they pulled me out of Jimmy and reeducated me, when I died for you, again and again, and you did something worse than all of that!"

He hits Dean across the cheek with his fist, blinking and stumbling back once he's done it, Dean not losing his feet or his grip on Castiel - barely keeping hold - but not fighting back.

"You took something from me I didn't even know could be taken!" Castiel says, the terror fighting the rage. He tries to pulls away. "Stop it stop it stop it!"

Dean lets go of him, eyes wide.

Castiel's face is wet with tears, and he wipes them away with the palm of his hand, shaking. "When will you stop taking from me? Haven't I given you enough? My life, my existence, my body? You'll go on and I'll just be rotting flesh - " the words coming, coming, spilling out hoarsely beyond his control -

Dean says, "What?" Then, "You die, you go to heaven, Cas, God fucking resurrected you!"

"Then why am I not an angel?" Castiel smiles, but there's only pain behind it. He wonders how Dean could not have seen this undeniable truth. Humans, as Lucifer well knew, are God's favored creatures, and Castiel will not get the second life they do. He's already had too many, and those chances were for Sam and Dean's sake, not his. "I'll die here, Dean, and that will be the end."

Then Castiel laughs.

"It's not like they'd want me anyway, Dean. I'm ... I'm sullied. By you, by this body. I'm - light made into nothing." Falling and falling, he is a flicker of time, soon to be gone.

"That's not true," Dean says.

"Isn't it?" Castiel replies, blankly. "It would certainly fit."

He finds his sleeping bag, drops to his knees, the cold leaching in, the hardness of the ground spiking physical pain. The tears keep coming, ceaseless, this body's irresistible reaction to suffering. He thinks of Haniel, her words, and recognizes them now as comfort rather than reality. And maybe it's better, to have it all just end. Heaven is no heaven, not for angels, not for him. He's fallen too far.

He brings his knees up, wrapping his arms around them, body still shaking with half-released sobs. He shuts his eyes tight, focusing on the darkness; just like the blackouts, this is what awaits him, and he knows now he's already been yearning for it.

There's the scuffle of feet moving, then Castiel feels the whisper of air, signaling Dean's closeness. Castiel jumps at the touch to his shoulder, but Dean doesn't move away. Instead, the touch transforms, hand slipping along his back, hand holding his other shoulder, and finally Castiel recognizes it as a half-embrace.

"I don't know much about heaven, Cas, or God. But he didn't give you life just so you could suffer more." Dean's breath is warm against Castiel's neck.

And Castiel is simply tired, so he says nothing. The warmth of Dean's body feels good, as if he's finally realizing he's cold, and Dean is the answer. He turns and leans into Dean's body, his head tucked under Dean's chin, and even as he does it he feels Dean's surprised huff of air, then both of Dean's arms wrapping around him, hugging him tightly. It's bizarre to take such comfort from the man who abused him, but then nothing about Castiel and Dean has ever been very logical, so Castiel shuts the thought down and accepts the reality he's given.

"I can't let you go," Dean says, voice choked. "You're all I have left."

Then stop hurting me, Castiel thinks, but leaves it as a half-remembered thought. Dean is warm, so warm, that Castiel begins to relax. Dean takes all of his weight easily, Castiel pressed against his chest, Dean's heartbeat in Castiel's ear gradually slowing. Slowly, one hand starts to stroke his back, again and again, the repetition soothing. Dean is good at this, Castiel thinks dimly, even as his hitching breaths, sobs of air rather than tears, fall away. He lets his eyes drift shut, doesn't even twitch when Dean seems to settle, get more comfortable, and Castiel almost thinks he's going to release him when Dean's grip tightens again.

Castiel feels unspeakably tired, even though he has been up for only a few hours. He thinks about trying to move, do something, but it's without force. He drifts away, and this time the darkness is warm.

By the time he wakes up, it's mid-afternoon; he can tell by the slant of light from the broken window.

He's also alone, curled up on his side on top of his sleeping bag. Dean is at his pile, ten feet away, but he's looking through a file folder, not the newspaper printings. His face is intent, a slight frown wrinkling his forehead, and he's biting on a pen that's wedged between his teeth. His eyes snap up after a second, then he takes the pen out of his mouth. His eyes narrow, but it looks more thoughtful than annoyed.

"Hey, Cas."

Cas blinks, his eyes feeling crummy from the tears. He tries to rub it out, then gets up to get a look at the folder.

It's an FBI file.

"Where did you get this?" Castiel asks, looking up.

Dean has a vaguely guilty look on his face. "Look, it's not like I walked into the police station and took it. One of the agents had it with him at the coffee place, and turned his back - I couldn't let the chance slip past us."

"You left?"

Dean carefully returns his attention to the folder. "You were pretty out of it."

Castiel nods, even though Dean can't see him. "Anything new?"

"A bit," Dean says. "More in-depth stuff, more details about the families. I haven't been able to go over all of it with the research we've already done, so ... "

"I'll help," Castiel offers quietly.

Dean clears his throat. "Thanks." And he hands over the part of the file he's already gone over. Castiel takes it and sits back on his sleeping bag to the rustle of paper.

Of course there's a pretense at normalcy. It even holds, for the most part, has been for weeks now, with only spots of irrational Dean arising. And last night ... was ... different.

It seems as if something has settled between them, but Castiel isn't sure it's real. Or perhaps 'lasting' is the better word. Comfort was offered and given, but only after another provocation, another suggestion by Dean that Castiel was at fault. He doesn't know if that's Dean's way of trying to justify it in his head, the agony placed upon agony he has caused in Castiel.

Perhaps he is trying to blame it on Castiel. Castiel can be blamed for many other things, for the events leading up to Sam dying - starting, he supposed, with letting Sam loose from the panic room - and he has suffered for those. Maybe he deserves to still suffer for those, but that's not what this was ever about. It was about Sam, about Dean going to hell, and Dean taking what slim chance he could of comfort in devolving into what he'd been in hell: a monster, a torturer.

Perhaps he should have left then, to stop Dean from heading in that direction.

His grip on the papers he holds tightens. It's not like Dean didn't know what he was doing was wrong. Sam had simply triggered the remorse, when Castiel himself could not. Perhaps it was always that way - Dean seeing himself through Sam's eyes, the only ones that ever mattered.

Maybe that will or has changed. He thinks of Dean holding him and how much that had mattered, and wonders.

"I'm going to go get dinner," Dean says.

Castiel nods without looking up. He hears Dean mutter, then sigh, the shift of papers.

"I'll be back soon," Dean offers, when Castiel finally looks up. Dean's eyes are bright and open, and Castiel thinks he sees concern there, so he nods again, carefully meeting Dean's gaze.

Dean jerks his chin in acknowledgement, grabs his keys and goes.

Partway through the papers, Castiel realizes that Dean took part of the FBI file with him. Sighing, he goes back to the newspapers, thinking about the history of the victim's families. Something tells him the answer is here, somewhere, but he can't seem to pin it down. It flits almost into reach and then vanishes, out of his mind's sight. He rubs his forehead, then his cheeks, feeling the dried tear-tracks, the faint traces of crumminess in his eyes.

It's almost an hour later when he hears a noise, one that is not Dean returning. Castiel looks around, and finds Dean's phone, near his sleeping bag, has switched on. That would explain why Dean hasn't called, but not why he hasn't returned. Castiel hesitates, frowning, then gets up and goes to the phone. There's no message, nothing to indicate what made it light up.

When nothing happens, he puts it down, and checks his own cell. He finds a short text from Dean about the file, from earlier, reads it and deletes it. He goes back to the newspaper printings again, eyes starting to ache. When they begin to water, he puts the printings down and rubs his eyes. He glances at the phone again - it's still on, puzzling - and he picks it up and studies it for a minute, then he hears the noise of someone - no, more than one moving, and at almost the same time, he hears:

"FBI! FBI! Hands in the air!"

Castiel drops the phone, startled to see men in full gear coming towards him. He sees at least five, just from the one direction, rapidly advancing across the empty warehouse floor. They have guns pointed at him, and keep repeating those words, but every muscle in Castiel's body has seized. Fear races through him, but he doesn't black out, not this time.

Where is Dean?

And then Castiel is being thrown to the ground by someone he can't see, arms twisted behind him, and he feels the sharp bite of handcuffs.

Cheek against the rough floor, Castiel closes his eyes.

Castiel is led through a laborious process. It begins with a full body search, hands moving invasively over Castiel's body in the search for weapons. He recognizes it as necessary from their point of view, but every rough touch makes him flinch, even though the touches are entirely impersonal. He sees them already searching the warehouse as he's led out, people in suits looking at the murder board, then glancing back at him. Uniformed police officers lead him to a police car, where they put him in the back. Having informed him of being arrested, the trip itself is silent, and Castiel realizes they must be bringing him to a police station for questioning.

They ask him his name - he answers "Castiel" and they do not believe him when he tells them he has no last name - and make him press his fingers to what looks like a computer screen. Fingerprinting, maybe, as they make him roll the pads of his fingers across it, but he knows they will find nothing. (What seems like a lifetime ago, Sam had taken Castiel aside and told him to change Jimmy's fingerprints while Castiel was inside him, so the poor man could go back to his life when Castiel was done with him. Rather optimistic, Castiel had thought, even at the time.)

They put him a gray room, table nailed to the floor, three chairs. They calmly read him his rights, which Castiel dimly recognizes from television. He listens, but knows he will not refuse to speak. He replies he understands when they talk to him, signs something awkwardly when they ask. Keeping silent would be pointless, he believes, and he needs to know what they know - needs to understand the situation he is in.

Do they have Dean?

The room is empty, save for himself. He tests the cuffs they put on him; they're tight. There's a mirror on one side of the room, which seems vaguely familiar, but he can't place it, so he finds that he looks at himself, instead. His hair is sticking up in random tufts, he has dark circles under his eyes, and his skin looks pale and sallow. He looks ill, like Sam or Dean would after catching a sickness.


He finds it is the top question in his mind. If they have Dean, if they have Dean, then they are truly trapped. The police, the courts, the law - he knows his knowledge of such is lacking, missing whole pieces. Such is the case with most things, this surface-level understanding of the human world that provides so little. So unimportant, once. He shivers, cold.

He's left alone for what seems like hours. Clearly, they want to talk to him, yet they wait. He finds the silence, the time passing, leaves him unnerved and anxious, and guesses this is the reason why.

Eventually, he hears a commotion outside the door - raised voices - then a tall man with gray specked hair walks into the room. Castiel recognizes him from the warehouse. He wears a dress shirt without a jacket, sleeves rolled up, and has narrowed, angry eyes.

He doesn't sit. Instead, he stares right into Castiel's eyes for a moment, then he walks right to Castiel, puts on hand on the table, and leans close. "It doesn't matter where you go," he says, voice low and intent. "What state prison you end up in. If you don't hand over your partner - who we know very well is Dean Winchester - I personally guarantee you will have a short life."

They don't have Dean. Dean is still free. Something within Castiel subtly relaxes.

The man looks at him harder, closer. "I guarantee that you will be bending over the rest of that short life, taking it up the ass from your fellow inmates, if you don't tell me where those seven girls are right now."

"I don't know where they are," Castiel says, meeting his eyes, trying to ignore his words, but the images spring up in his mind anyway. He feels the rapid thud of his heart, as it's been doing on and off since being captured, but this time the cause is a more specific fear.

The man cocks his head, his hand on the table slowly clenching into a fist. "You think we didn't see your 'murder board'? How carefully you've investigated your partner's victims? We know you did this."

"We didn't kill them," Castiel insists, words shaking along an exhalation of breath.

The man's breath is warm. "That's a fucking lie," he says softly.

Castiel takes in shallow breaths, as he hears the door open, someone else talking: "Detective, you need - leave right now ..."

"I'll make sure you're raped every day in prison," the man snarls, and Castiel doesn't know how he's found Castiel's weakest point so easily, and then the man pounds his hand into the table, making Castiel jump. Castiel sees another hand wrap around that wrist, shadow of his figure fading, someone else in the room.

Castiel is breathing fast, and all he hears is that word: rape, rape, rape. He believes it; the word is utterly real, the threat real. The awful, horrible violation. A betrayal when done by Dean, punishment for a crime not committed, and now again, here, again, oh please God no, others? Prison, four walls, pinned to the ground, wings broken, unable to leave. He would be physically helpless, not mentally helpless as he is with Dean; there would be no escape, rape, again and again, nothing but the blackness, the soothing dark ...

He fades out to the blurred shape of someone approaching.

His eyes blink open. He is staring at his wrists, in his lap, no longer cuffed, though there are thin red lines encircling them, as if he'd pulled at the cuffs, hard. He spreads his fingers experimentally, but there's no pain.

He glances up to find one of the chairs opposite him filled. There's a woman in a suit, vaguely familiar, dark hair and eyes, hands resting casually on the table. She's perhaps thirty, thirty-five, and has an air of confidence Castiel wishes he was feeling himself. She's watching him, and unlike the man, there's no hostility there.

"You here with me now?" she says, dipping her head to meet his lowered gaze, eerily familiar of something. She raises her head when he raises his.

"I apologize for earlier, it won't happen again," she continues. "Detective Marshall wasn't supposed to speak with you. He feels very strongly about this case."

"I could tell," Castiel mutters.

She cocks her head, smiles a bit. "I'm Agent Burrows, with the FBI. We were brought in to profile the person who took those now seven young women. The last, Janet, we believe may still be alive. Since you consented to being interviewed, I have some questions to ask you." She folds her hands.

"I didn't kill them, and neither did Dean," Castiel says evenly.

Burrows doesn't hesitate. "I find your usage of that word interesting. Are you saying that Janet is dead?"

Castiel blinks. "I don't know. But the others as long as they have been missing, they are likely dead."

"She's only eighteen, Janet," Burrows says conversationally. "She spent months figuring out which college she was going to go to, and is only weeks from going there. She just started packing the day before she disappeared."

"Dean and I are not involved," Castiel informs her again.

"Yet, here you are, clearly following our investigation, doing your own on the victims."

"Does your investigation differ from ours?" Castiel inquires politely.

"Is that an attempt to find out what we know about you and your partner?" Burrows asks pleasantly.

"If our investigations are the same, shouldn't our goal also be the same?"

"You claim that you and Winchester are trying to find the 'true' suspect?" Burrows has an incredulous look on her face.

"That has always been the case. I know Dean has had contact with law enforcement before, and since I know Dean, I know what he said to you." Then Castiel waits.

Burrows studies him. "We're quite familiar with Dean, yes. His particular characteristics go across some categories - he's a possibly delusional mission-oriented killer who claims to fight ... what is it? Ghosts and demons?"

"Something like that," Castiel says, remembering how little most of the human world knows of the supernatural one.

Burrows nods slowly. "So ... Dean is a hero."

Castiel just looks at her.

She leans forward. "And what about you? You're still something of a mystery, as your fingerprints didn't show up in any database, you didn't give a last name." She trails off, leading.

"I ... don't matter."

"Everyone matters, Castiel. You. Dean, and those girls. Sherry, Andrea, Jessica, Sydney, Jennifer, Melissa, Janet."

Castiel does not respond for a long moment. He knows those names, of course. "Is there something Dean and I missed in the investigation?"

Burrows cocks her head slightly, and he sees it in her eyes: the recognition of vulnerability. "I watched you, earlier, and when you retreated for a moment from us in this room. You were unaware of what was going on, weren't you? You can't remember?"

"I don't know what you mean," Castiel says, and even as it comes out he knows it's weak.

"Sounds like a defensive mechanism. Something we call dissociative amnesia," she says slowly, attentive. "It happens when the trauma of something is so great the mind has to repress it to survive. Is that what happens to you, Castiel?"

He hadn't thought there was a name for his blackouts, a category. They just are. "I don't know," he says quietly, unsettled and the thought coming out before he can stop it.

"I'm going to take a wild guess," Burrows says, eyes downward, "that Dean is the one who made your mind break." She flicks her gaze upward, intent.

Castiel can't deny it. So he says nothing, glancing away and feeling himself tense.

"Do you kill with him, Castiel?"

"Dean isn't a killer, and neither am I," Castiel snaps.

"Or are you," her lips part, but she says nothing until he meets her eyes, "another victim?"

"I stay with Dean of my own free will," and ironic, that he has that which has caused so much trouble for humanity - and heaven. He feels himself trapped in this body, this oft-hated body, small, his self barely large enough to touch skin.

"We know what Dean is, Castiel. The evidence he's left behind at countless locations proves his guilt beyond a doubt. You - you are the question. What did he tell you Janet was, that she deserved to be kidnapped?"

"He didn't take her," Castiel manages to say smoothly. Dean has done many things likely worthy of law enforcement's attention, but Castiel finds it both strange and amusing he's being persecuted for something he didn't do.

"But he has done other things, hasn't he?"

"Dean is a good man," Castiel says slowly. Dean, after all, saves people. Most of them.

"A good man who has hurt you?"

Castiel folds his arms, shivering, but meets her gaze defiantly. "What makes you think that?" and it comes out defensively.

"The way you react," she says, "the way you flinch from simple contact. These are all signs of someone who's been badly hurt. Often."

"I'm fine." He pushes his emotions down ruthlessly.

"I see. You don't seem like a killer to me, Castiel." She's studying him. Then, "You're traumatized. And when Detective Marshall said those things to you, you had a powerful reaction to the suggestion of rape."

Castiel blinks, looks away.

"Dean raped you."

The statement falls upon Castiel like a heavy weight pressing on his breath. It's the first time he's heard another say it. Say that word, and Dean, and Castiel wants out of this room right now.

"Did he use that to control you?"

"No," Castiel says almost inaudibly. Dean hadn't needed to, not the way Castiel had been so dependent on him - the rape, that was just cruelty for cruelty's sake, at least in the beginning. Dean's changing behavior later on means something else, but that doesn't in any way negate what had already been done. A sliver of revulsion works through him, and then he represses it, thinks of something else, harmless blue skies.

"There's no shame in what happened to you," she says, and her voice is calmly melodic. "I don't doubt you fought back when he abused you, at least at first. Eventually, you adapted to your surroundings. You adapted to his abuse. I can't even guess for how long he hurt you before you became dependent on him, because he was your only place in the world. Because he had cut you off from anyone who could help you."

Castiel shakes his head. No, Dean hadn't isolated him. The war between heaven and hell had done that - to both of them. "You don't understand," he whispers.

"I do understand," she says. "This cycle of abuse happens to others. Some of them - and you can be one - get out."

Castiel says nothing, just wraps his arms around himself tighter. She doesn't know - she doesn't. Heaven and hell, the apocalypse, these are all abstract concepts to her. She doesn't know what happened to Dean; what happened to Castiel. The fall, and after.

"Then help me understand," Burrows says finally.

"You won't," Castiel answers, and it's nothing but the truth.

"Castiel," she says with an almost-absent sigh.

"Why should I tell you anything?" Castiel demands, rubbing his wrists. "All you want is for me to confess, to tell where those girls are, and I can't do either of those things. Dean isn't guilty of this, and I don't know where the girls were taken."

"However this ends, Castiel, what you say, what you tell me, matters. When we catch Dean - and I assure you that we will - your motive, your intent is how we judge your culpability. If you are innocent? Then say so."

"And helping you understand Dean and myself would do that?"

"I don't know that for certain. I hope, at least, to clear you," she replies. "But can it hurt?"

Hurt me, Castiel thinks.

"Help me understand," she repeats. "Help me understand why he's worth this, when he has hurt you as he has."

"He's Dean," Castiel says uselessly.

"That's no answer, and I think you know that." She takes a moment, leans back. "You agreed to talk to us for a reason, Castiel. And I think that reason is you want to talk. You've been alone with Dean for a long time, haven't you?"

Yes. He has. "That's irrelevant."

"I don't think it is," she says quietly. "What has he done to you?"

Castiel lets out a sudden breath, a hitch of air.

"How did you meet Dean?" she asks softly.

He feels himself start to remember, to trace the threads back to the beginning, to want to share, to make the words truth as they come out of his mouth. To make her understand ... that it's Dean. And it's never been rational.

Castiel takes a breath, shaky as the one before, and knows his words will make little sense. "He was covered in the filth of hell when I met him, that first time, and he still shone so brightly. My memory from then is perfect, and I'd never seen a human soul that pure, even in all that evil. I knew he was righteous, and I gripped him tight and pulled him out. I saved him, you understand?" And he says the words to himself. "And he deserved to be saved."

"What he was doing, when you met him?" Burrows asks. "What is 'the filth of hell'?"

"Exactly what I said," Castiel replies. "In hell there is only torture, victim or inflictor, until madness destroys the soul."

"You saw him commit crimes, evil acts, and still believed him worthy of salvation?"

"Yes," he says, and is certain she would understand had she been there, seen the essence of Dean, not the physical body which hid so much.

"How?" It seems an honest question, as she looks at him, clearly not understanding.

"He broke. He broke after years of torture, and accepted torturing others as the only way to stop the pain. I - I can't say I blame him for that."

Burrows just looks at him, waiting.

"And I thought ... I thought he had a mission," Castiel says, uncertain of what words to say, how to explain, how to give life now to the reality of then. "A purpose that I had saved him for. But it wasn't one given by God, I found that out. By then it hardly mattered, I had to do as I was told." He stops, remembering being seized from Jimmy's body, the furious lashing of his brothers' anger.

"Did you?"

"For a time," Castiel says. "Dean ... Dean convinced me to come with him."


"I liked him," Castiel says, shrugging. His brothers and sisters hadn't liked that; they'd seen the weakness, recognized it for what it was when Castiel himself didn't. "He made so much sense. I was drawn to him."

"People like Dean are often very charming," she says, but it's like a reassurance of his actions, instead of a questioning.

"I was too late, though," Castiel says, the words pulled from him. Too late in everything, but especially in this. Too late to stop Lucifer from rising, and that was the moment Sam was lost. "I didn't save Sam."

"Sam, Dean's brother?" she asks. "Is he involved in this?"

Castiel shakes his head. "Sam is dead."

"We thought the same of Dean, once," she says, a note of skepticism in her voice.

Castiel looks at her, doesn't answer. He's not familiar with current human death rites, of how that sort of thing is kept in record. It was never relevant. "He's in heaven."

She nods. "So how did you end up traveling with Dean?" she says, dropping it. Perhaps - probably - because she already believes Sam to be dead. Because if Sam were alive, he'd be with Dean, and there was only the traces of the two of them in that warehouse.

"I fell," he whispers. "I died and I fell."

"Died from your old life?"

It's not entirely inaccurate. "Yes."

"Do you want that life again?"

"It's gone, too," Castiel says. He's seemingly human now, after all, without grace. An abomination to his own kind, neither one thing nor the other.

"Maybe you can't have life as it was before Dean, Castiel, but you can have life after. A true life, not following Dean Winchester around as he kills." There's a moment of quiet. "I understand, Castiel. But you're not alone. I can help you, I want you to understand that - not just know it, but feel it. Other people have been horribly abused, and survived, even thrived."

"You don't understand," Castiel says, and there's sudden anger burning. "There is no purpose for me except Dean. He's literally the reason I still exist, whatever else he's done to me." And maybe he wants that existence gone, but that's the only acceptable separation, really. To be without thought, or Dean. One or the other. Castiel loves Dean too much for it to be anything else. You're all I have left. But that's not exactly true, is it? Because Sam will be waiting. If Dean goes there.

"You don't exist to serve Dean, Castiel."

Besides the point. "I can't give you what you want -Dean is not guilty of this."

Burrows looks down at the folder. "Did he restrain you when he raped you? Hit you? Tie you up so you couldn't fight back?" Her voice is even, melodious, twisting it's way into his head. Softness and understanding turned to iron.

"Dean didn't kill those seven girls," Castiel says, and tries to shut down the memories brought back to life by those words. She's manipulating him and he knows it, and part of him wants to black out again, find the oblivion and escape. But he doesn't.

"He tried to kill you," Burrows answers, dark eyes looking up, seeming to find something in Castiel's face, because she continues, "not the literal sense. But he tried to destroy what you are through violence. I entirely believe, just based on that, that he is capable of what we believe he's done."

Nothing more than what he learned in hell. "Dean." And he can't get the rest out. Her words turn the scabs - built by weeks of distance and silence, the stop of the abuse - into gashes of searing pain. "I love him."

"Can love really exist in the midst of that much pain? I see so much of that pain inside of you, Castiel."

Of course she does. It spills over, outside of Castiel, into the darkness. Cas loves Dean, but all he can feel right now is the hurt. It still hurts, hurts as much as it did when the wounds were first inflicted, the first time Dean stripped him and turned him over, the last time Castiel faded away and woke to the knowledge of again.

"You won't be held responsible for anything else you've done while with him," Burrows presses, apparently seeing the weakness. "You were his permanent victim, his plaything. How long did it take you to do anything he said? To just want to please him so he wouldn't hurt you? That's not criminal intent. You weren't in your right mind."

He stares at her. "I'm not crazy." He drops the gaze. "And Dean isn't a killer."

Her voice is sad when she speaks. "Dean isn't going to stop, Castiel. People like him - they don't stop hurting people. They get worse, the violence escalates and escalates. You can't save him; there's nothing there to be saved."

Castiel takes in a sharp breath. That's the crux of it, he supposes. Some need in him to see the old Dean, to want the old Dean, the Dean that's returning, that held him while he slept. Real, not real - he doesn't know. The Dean since Haniel had been so different. So familiar. Can he be saved?

And he must remember: Dean didn't kill those girls, whatever other crimes he's committed.

"Leave him," she says.

Castiel shakes his head.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Burrows hesitate. Then she raises a hand, tucks her shoulder-length hair behind her ear. "Castiel."

He looks at her, slowly.

"You love him, don't you?"

Yes. Of course.

"He doesn't love you back, Castiel," she says. "He isn't capable of the emotion. He's a killer, and everything he does is in pursuit of his own goals, his own wants. He can be seemingly kind because that manipulation serves to bring you closer to him."

After a moment of silence, pressing, Castiel says, "Dean can love."

"But he doesn't love you," and she makes the question seem like a fact.

He doesn't know, not for certain. He remembers Dean's words, I can't let you go, you're all I have left, and wonders if that his role, to be the secondary thing, the consolation prize in Sam's shadow.

"You don't hurt people you love, Castiel."

The truth of it burns his throat, choking on the words that want to spill out, denials, and doesn't that just prove how much energy Castiel has spent trying to excuse Dean's actions?

"He meant to do everything he did, Castiel. He wouldn't have raped you if he didn't intend to hurt you." She leans forward, slightly, warm and sympathetic. "I can help you. I can help you heal, help you move past what Dean is, what he's made you do, help you live a normal life. A happy one."

It seems - it seems so rational, hearing her words. They don't think he's the killer, they think he's another victim of Dean Winchester, kidnapper and murderer. In some sense, that is true, but also the truth is that they are victims of each other. Letting Sam loose, too high to recognize the manipulations. Acting too late for Dean to stop him. Dean, then, had been his victim; and then Dean had returned the favor. Except Dean had heaped hurt upon hurt even after Castiel's wasteful attempts at redemption. God wasn't there. Castiel wasn't strong enough to stop Michael, to stop Lucifer. Only Sam's love for his brother was strong enough for that.

Only, he supposes, is his love strong enough to stay with Dean, to not hurt him by leaving; Dean's hadn't been that strong.

But he'd known that even then, when Dean had made him swerve from his course, that the emotion that ultimately made him fall was imperfectly reflected in the person who was the cause.

Does it really change anything? He still loves Dean, stupidly and hopelessly.

"I don't believe you're guilty of Dean's crimes, Castiel," Burrows says. "Prove that. Help us, or just walk away from him when we do take him in."

Castiel looks up.

"We have prior history on Dean and his crimes, but not on you. There's no evidence, and I don't believe we'll find any, connecting you to these crimes, save for the fact of where you were found."

"What are you saying?"

"You're free," Burrows says. "You didn't do this. I know that. You're not capable of abducting and killing girls. You would empathize with them too much for that."

Once, he may have been able - for the right reason. For the cause. But now he knows pain, as he didn't then.

"I saw you react to their names," Burrows continued. "I know what Dean has done to you. Beatings, repeated rape - you're another victim of Dean, hurt so long you can't see the way out. But it's here, Castiel. Walk away."

"I don't know where Dean is," Castiel says, closing his eyes.

"I think you have a good idea, even if you're not certain," she replies, tranquil as ever. "You know him well enough to know how he thinks, the actions he'll take."

"I can't betray him like that," Castiel whispers. Dean is innocent. Dean is innocent of this.

Castiel shakes his head.

"Castiel," she says. Her eyes are open, understanding. He looks down at the table. "There is an entire world out there, waiting."

Silence. She's looking at him, and then she reaches out a hand, palm up.

"You don't need to be afraid," she says softly. "He won't be able to hurt you anymore. And there are good people out there who can help you recover, doctors who understand what he's done to you. You're linked to Dean by the trauma, Castiel. He was all you had, so you had to love him, had to depend on him, and that's not the case anymore." A moment passes. "You're saved, Castiel."

"Saved?" Castiel chokes on a cry, repressing it ruthlessly. Castiel isn't the one who needs to be saved. He sees Dean, lost, in his mind. Out there, somewhere, waiting to be captured. He doesn't believe Burrows is lying when she says they'll find him. And then ... then Dean goes to prison, and that's the end. Finality. Dean sits and waits to go to one place or the other.

But if Dean is free - then ...

"Castiel, where is Dean?"

Castiel doesn't answer.


No reply, and he says nothing again and again, silence, to every question. His mind turns restlessly, but he doesn't speak. He glares at her questions even as he feels the pain burn, his heartbeat fast. Pain and pain, and Dean. Dean, how could you do this to me?

Finally, she rises, goes around the desk and lays one hand on his shoulder, the touch light and barely felt. "Think on what I've said, Castiel. You can walk away."

And she goes, and Castiel sits in silence.

They give Castiel food, a sandwich and a soda. He's not particularly hungry, but he opens the wrapping and takes a bite anyway.

It's dry in his mouth. He eats half of it, then sets it down, the soda still full. He leans back in his chair, looks at the mirror. He can place it now; the mirror is see-through, and he's being studied by people he can't see.

He closes his eyes, rubs his face, then his arm drops. The pain-driven adrenaline of earlier is slowly fading, leaving exhaustion and worry.

He wonders where Dean is. What he's doing. Is he continuing with the hunt, looking for the ghost who took those girls, or is he running? Is he coming after Castiel? That possibility is a strong one, he knows - Dean doesn't leave people behind, that was never his style. I can't let you go. That is something the FBI agents hunting him no doubt fail to understand, because it fails to link with Dean being a serial killer. They think him to be without conscience, when Castiel knows full well that Dean more of a conscience than most.

Dean's guilt might as well be a third person, sitting in the room with them, it's presence influencing every word, every movement, a watching thing that never let up, never lets the secrets they share slide.

The fact that that guilt had failed to rise until Sam's fate was known didn't change the fact of it. Nor did it change the fact that, even believing Sam to be in hell, Dean had continued hunting - saving others, as he is trying to do here, justice for those seven. No, Burrows is wrong. There is something to be saved in Dean. Even hell had failed to burn that out of him, and he'd known it looking at Dean's soul in the darkness of hell, the chill of a true death, dying away from the past, Dean's soul hadn't forgotten itself.

Some part of Castiel hopes Dean doesn't come for him, fearing Dean being caught. If Dean was wary enough not to use his fake FBI credentials - which Castiel had seen him use more than once - then the authorities must be too close, too dangerous to attract the attention of. Perhaps that was how they had found Castiel, through the stolen folder taken by chance opportunity.

He sighs, looks around the empty room. He's been left alone for a while, he doesn't know how long. Her last words to him still echo in his head, however much he tries to repress them, and he resolves to be stronger this time, to not be drawn into talking. That way leads only to more pain; he doesn't want to think. He wants Dean, he wants to be gone from here, and he wants those things with a desperation he's rarely felt.

He opens his eyes at the sound of the door.

Agent Burrow walks in. She sits opposite him, as before, gives him a gentle smile, then reaches for the closed folder she'd left in the room. She opens it silently, and it's a police report, with pictures of a few dead bodies.

"St. Louis," she says.

He says nothing, confused.

"That's when we really became aware of Dean Winchester," she continues after a moment. "When he started taking the place of his victim's loved ones, then brutally murdering their families and loved ones." She takes out the photos, spreads them before him. The people in them are unnaturally pale, spattered with brownish blood.

He looks at them, then at her.

"This is the person you're protecting, Castiel." Her eyes are stronger now, he thinks. More pressing, more demanding. "I can hardly imagine what he's doing Janet right now, if this was his degree of violence then."

"Dean is innocent of this," Castiel answers, meeting her gaze.

Her answering look is full of sadness and determination. She breaks it to go into the folder again, and she takes out photos, but this time, they're all family photos. The seven disappeared girls, laughing with family, at parties, Christmas time, blowing out candles. "Where are they?" she asks softly.

"I don't know," Castiel says, and knows it isn't heard.

It goes on this way for a while, Castiel can't say how long. She tells him everything about the victims, from their own lives, to their parents, or their children's lives. She tells them about their hopes and dreams, about the pervasive sense of loss left behind for the survivors' to suffer. It upsets him, makes him breathe fast, but he understands what she's doing - making him realize they are people, making them real so he'll tell her what she wants to know. But none of that changes Dean's innocence, and so he says nothing.

Again and again, nothing.

"Castiel -"

And there's a sharp knock on the door. She stops, surprised, then rises with a frown to answer it. A man in a suit leans over to her, says something Castiel can't make out, casting little more than a glance at Castiel.

She turns, eyebrows raised, and looks at Castiel. "Dean Winchester just turned himself in."