See first chapter for disclaimers and warnings. This is the final part.


He wakes to a slow beep.

His body feels relaxed and comfortable, a little cold, with heavy blankets pressing, but his left wrist is blazing pain and his other has a familiar line of pressure along it. He blinks his eyes open to a white ceiling, then looks around. A guard sits reading a paper, looks up when Castiel makes a slight movement, cuffed wrist clanking against the guard rail. He doesn't say anything to Castiel, instead pressing a button, then taking a sip of his coffee.

A doctor comes in, starts talking to Castiel.

It goes right over his head, meaningless muffled noises. Castiel looks blankly at him, then at the ceiling. He hears something about a psych eval, which is precisely what he wants to hear. The guard grunts when something is said to him.

Castiel closes his eyes, exhausted.

He has only the one guard. Two is protocol, he knows. When he woke up in a shrimp boat and was brought to a hospital, the person in the bed next to him was a prisoner, with two guards who complained about wasting their time on a disabled inmate.

He'd never really thought that experience would come in handy.

He only has to get rid of the one, long enough for him to pick the lock - a skill Dean taught him - and get out of the hospital. They already believe him mentally fragile, so he knew the suicide attempt would be taken seriously, knows the near-catatonia he's been exhibiting is expected. He knows they will think him incapable of enough thought to escape, and escape is the necessary goal, because he has to save Dean. He has no idea how he's going to do it, no idea what to do except find the Impala the moment he steps out of the hospital, but he'll think of something, because he has to.

Every word Dean told him is true. That much had been immediately clear. Seeing it, Castiel hesitated for a moment, thinking, this is the man who raped me. This is the man I love. Two incompatible things, except there they were, and Burrows words echoing in his head. What Dean offers, what Dean says Castiel should do, is what Burrows says he should take.

But he can't.

He'd saved Dean from hell, sacrificed himself for Dean and his brother, and none of that had been a waste. None of it would be. Castiel can do what he did before - save Dean, except this time, save him from himself.

Castiel understands what Dean is doing, that he perceives that this will help right the wrongs he's committed, but most of all Dean's primary goal is to save Castiel, not himself. And that in itself makes Dean worth saving. The righteous man whose soul should have gone to heaven still exists, buried beneath crimes committed and guilt, and whether Castiel goes on or not, he knows Dean will, and where Dean spends that eternity matters. Castiel still loves Dean, after all, desperately and fully. Dean, who has always tried so hard to do the right thing, and failed, but he's no different from the rest of humanity in that.

Humanity has always been given grace by God, and the point of grace is that it is freely offered, not earned or deserved. Dean repents, and he knows that will never be enough, but it doesn't need to be. The mere existence of it, the way it had shone through Dean, is enough. Castiel can choose to save him anyway. Castiel can choose to forgive, even if he's not quite able yet. In the past weeks he has thought sometimes he would never be able to, but that has changed with the revelation of Dean's words. You come first. And Castiel can use that.

Dean will not spend the rest of his life in prison, not if Castiel has any choice. He'll spend it being what he is, a hunter. That, not prison, will lead Dean out of the darkness he put himself and Castiel in. And maybe in doing so, he can heal the darkness inside - the darkness Castiel still fears - and Dean can become Castiel's friend again. For whatever time he has left, Castiel wants was once his, all he has left. And maybe that's the truth - desperation upon desperation behind his careful reasoning, all for Dean.

Dean.

Castiel opens his eyes, vision blurred, wetness trailing down the sides of his temple, and then looks around. The doctor is gone, and the beeping has gone silent. The heart monitor has been shut down, presumably since Castiel's condition is stable. The guard remains, of course. But he is only one person, and eventually, he will have to leave, even if for only a few minutes. Castiel is, after all, well acquainted with the needs of the human body.

He waits, still and silent, for a period of time he cannot guess at, until the guard shifts with a muttered curse. He pushes that button again, not even bothering to glance at Castiel, and a nurse comes.

"Keep an eye on him, would you?" the guard asks.

The nurse sighs. "Not for long," she says, and stares intently at the clipboard she's holding, making notes, similarly ignoring Castiel's presence. Within a minute, someone calls a name, and she turns. Castiel quickly shuts his eyes, then waits to hear her footsteps fade.

He's alone when he opens his eyes. He finds the paperclip where he left it, grasping with his left hand, and lets out a silent breath. The window he has is very short. The bandages on his left wrist make it awkward, and he realizes he probably should have cut the other wrist, but it's too late now. He makes do, bending the paperclip with his teeth, and with his heart racing - expecting the guard any minute - he picks the lock.

It opens with a snap, and he's surging to his feet. As he stands, his vision goes black for a moment before returning, spots floating. He tries to blink them away, keeps moving, stumbling a bit.

His blood-soaked shirt and jeans are gone, cut off his body, so he goes through drawers until he finds some scrubs, and slips them on quickly. The next moment he's at the hallway, seeing if there are any familiar faces, anyone who would recognize him and raise the alarm. There isn't, by some fortune, and the hospital is nearly deserted this time of night, and so he walks, calmly but quickly - the window closing and closing - until he reaches a door that leads to the stairwell. He runs down, barefoot, and by the time he reaches the parking lot, he knows his absence must have been noticed.

He briefly considers stealing a car, but realizes he doesn't have the tools.

So instead, he runs, and tries to remember where the hospital is in relation to the warehouse, and the Impala parked two blocks away.

He has to duck into alleys and behind dumpsters when he hears a siren wail past, but otherwise keeps moving, feet picking up dirt, wishing the blue scrubs were some dark color to blend into the darkness. He knows Dean and Sam had always taken note of where the nearest hospitals were before they started any case, and Dean has kept that up with Castiel, especially in the last few cases they took.

Castiel ducks into a shadowed alcove, closes his eyes, and waits for another wailing siren to pass. He knows the warehouse - an industrial area - is somewhere south of the hospital. Then he's moving again, walking in that general direction, and starts looking for familiar street names.

When he doesn't hear any police cars for some time, he pauses and breathes deeply. He estimates he's been running for almost half an hour, and his body is weak and protesting. Blood is seeping through the bandage on his wrist. He has no idea how long he was unconscious, but hopefully dawn is still several hours away.

He doesn't know how long he has to come up with some kind of plan. He isn't sure if Dean never considered breaking Castiel out, instead immediately going for the option of sacrificing himself, or if Dean considered it and concluded it wasn't possible. Either way, Castiel has to come up with something. For that, he'll need help. He's aware that most of the people Dean ever trusted are dead, and Castiel certainly doesn't have his own contacts, but he also knows that Dean kept contact information from the various people he and Sam had helped over the years, in their father's journal.

It is nothing less than pure desperation which makes Castiel hope that Dean left the car where it was - he knows Dean wouldn't take it with him to be seized by the FBI, at least - left the journal in the car, and that there is someone in that journal who can help. So many things that have to go right. He lifts a quick prayer in his mind for the multitude of things he needs, and finally, he sees a street he recognizes.

An indeterminable amount of time later, he sees the Impala, in perfect condition where Dean had left her.

The instant his hands hit her hood, he calms. He searches around the car, finds the key behind a wheel, and then finds the journal, and the backup cell left in the trunk.

Then he starts making phone calls.


Dean is alone with Fitz when Fitz is notified of something by a harried police officer. It's been hours since Dean saw Cas, and the gymnasium is no doubt still a crime scene, but something about this makes Dean's skin prickle. The expression on the agent's face hardly changes when he turns back to Dean, but Dean still gets the feeling that something important is going on, so he demands, "What is it?"

Fitz studies him.

"Is it Cas?" A flicker of something. "It is Cas."

"I find your continued preoccupation with Castiel very interesting," Fitz says. "You should have simply moved on, since he's useless to you now, regardless of whether he is your victim or partner. Unless you're interested in his continued suffering, which I don't think is the case."

"What can I say, I'm complex," Dean says with a humorless smile. "A body a day keeps the monster away. I've had my fill."

Fitz tilts his head in apparent puzzlement. "So you flick sociopathic behavior on and off, like a switch? Kill the girls, care for Cas?"

Dean looks away. He's not sure if Fitz is acting like he wants to be convinced - or isn't convinced, and trying to prove it - to get Dean to talk, or because he actually isn't sure. Either way, Dean needs to the be the killer, for Cas's sake. "It's more like ... more like long periods, where I'm out of my head. And I do things because that's what there is. Hanging on the rack or off of it."

"The rack?"

Dean makes an aborted attempt to wave a hand, cuffs pulling. "Tortured or torturer."

"And you chose the latter."

Pretty sick that he does - did - put Cas on the rack, instead of himself. "And I guess that's what makes me evil, isn't it?" He looks at Fitz.

"So who was that hurt you, Dean? Your father?"

"No," Dean says shortly. Dad's punishments were never violent. The disappointment and occasional drunken rages about Dean's failures were far more cutting. Hell - hell taught Dean things about himself he never wanted to know. He knows that's where the evil is from. Cas pulled him out of hell, but couldn't pull hell out of Dean. Or maybe he did - ten years off the rack, it was easier than he imagined to act normal, hell sharp and clear in some areas, faded in others. Dean is just too weak to take what was given.

"But someone did," Fitz presses, watchful.

"Does it really matter?"

"This topic bothers you," Fitz observes. "Most are eager enough to explain away what they are, and yes, Dean, it is a topic of interest to us. We're always trying to learn what makes people like you tick."

Dean snorts.

"Your - friend, Castiel, mentioned hell to us, that there are only the victims and those who inflict the pain to those victims. On the rack or off it, as you said." Fitz waits, Dean silent, then says, "What was your hell, Dean?"

Dean lets out a bitter, hollow laugh. "The real thing, Agent Fitz. That's where this monster was born."

"And Castiel, as an angel, saved you?"

Dean looks up. "It's all just metaphors to you, isn't it?"

"It's real to you? You seem very aware of the difference between reality and fantasy, even capable of seeing it from another's person of view, which is rare for the truly delusional. You seem - very close to reality, Dean."

"That's because it's all real. Even if we're looking at opposite sides of the same thing, it still meets in the middle, doesn't it?" Dean looks at the mirror behind Fitz, knowing this is being recorded. "You want to know what I've done? I can tell you. I can tell you the best way to torture someone. I can tell you the best way to break them. I learned that well ... the best pupil, that's me."

Fitz raises an eyebrow. "If you're the student, who is the teacher?"

"Dust," Dean says flatly. "What happened to Cas?"

After a long second, Fitz answers, "He escaped the hospital after being placed there because of a suicide attempt."

"What?" and Dean is jerking halfway out of his chair.

"Dean, sit down."

He does, reluctantly.

"He's not in physical danger - he didn't cut into his wrists deep enough to cut into an artery, thankfully. However, we are concerned about his mental state, and that he might harm himself again. Do you know where he would go?" Fitz is calm, and waiting for an answer, probably even a reasoned one.

Dean doesn't know what to think. Cas - and that damn knife. Dean thought Cas would be safe, watched, so he couldn't do anything like that. Fuck. He should have told them Cas was suicidal, but he'd been stupid enough to believe once separated from Dean Cas would be okay.

"Dean."

The Impala. But he couldn't tell them that – if Cas wanted to escape, then Cas had to the have the freedom to do that. If Cas wanted ... Dean wouldn't be responsible for putting him into something he didn't want, not anymore. "I don't know."

"I don't believe that," Fitz says, with a hint of harshness in place of the usual calm blandness.

Dean looks up at him, wearied. He's allowed to the talk to go on into the early hours because he'd promised to cooperate - and because he knows Fitz wants to push him, to get the truth - but he's had enough. "Cas should be allowed to do what he wants. I think he deserves it at this point, don't you?" He keeps his voice even and without give.

Fitz seems to recognize it. He studies Dean a moment longer, then asks, "Then tell me more about hell."


"Thank you," Castiel says.

Mr. Kasey, an older man with white hair and a decent gut, gives Castiel a genial smile and shakes Castiel's hand. "Least we could do, after what Dean and Sam did for our daughter."

"Nevertheless, you are taking a great risk in hiding us," Castiel says.

"Don't you worry, son, everything will be ready."

Castiel nods, and leaves with another murmured 'thank you'. He goes out to the Impala in the Kasey's dirt driveway, looking at the fields surrounding the farm for a long moment. Then he goes around to the trunk, opens it, and takes a good long look at what's there. He has one part of the plan; the rest is dependent on how much Dean loves a good variety of weapons, and Castiel's ability to use said weapons strategically.

Strategy is not unfamiliar to Castiel; as a soldier, he certainly knows plenty, not just from the very different fields of heaven and hell, but on the plains of the human world, bound to a human body just as the demons were. But the last time he'd been on earth, more than two thousand years past, they could only dream of the weapons they had now.

Castiel starts his inventory with a sigh and faint, rising hope that he'll get Dean out of this.


It's early morning, and a day and a night having gone by since Castiel last saw Dean.

The sun has yet to rise, and each exhale of Cas's breath is visible. The cold seeps through the one set of clothing Cas found in the Impala, along with a jacket from Mr. Kasey, and he shivers as he walks, evaluating what he's done so far, a pack slung over his shoulder and hands full. The area is half-forested, with enough hills to make line of sight difficult. Not only useful, but essential.

Of the vast amount of time Castiel had spent making phone calls - first determining if they'd be willing to help, then evaluating said person's resources - only a few had ended up being what he needed.

Deacon had ended up being probably the most useful, besides the Kasey's. A friend of John Winchester who knew Dean and Sam, as a guard at a jail Deacon was the most familiar with Dean's current situation and what that actually meant. Castiel learned that they would move him out of the city into county custody - killers like they believe Dean to be, and as famous as Dean is to the area, aren't usually safe where they commit their crimes, so they transfer them while awaiting trial. And Deacon judged that they would transfer Dean within a day, after Dean had been thoroughly questioned by the FBI and given his statement. It was clear to Castiel then that his best opportunity to break Dean out would be during this transfer, and Deacon had confirmed it.

Castiel reaches the road and settles in the ditch for the last time. The sun's rays have just barely begun to peek over the tops of the trees, slices of light laying across the asphalt. This is the road; this has to be the road. They'll pick one with moderate traffic, nothing heavy. Remember, they want to get Dean out without media attention. Deacon's words. Castiel nods to himself. This is it.

Departure from the police station at 6:00 AM (confirmed by a friend of a friend of a friend of Detective Ballard's, another contact), it will take them approximately twenty-three minutes to get to this bend in the road.

He shifts the load on his shoulder, checks the strap of the sling he has on his back with the shotgun. He's got a crowbar in one hand, and two lines of spikes in the other.

6:19 AM.

He gets up, and lies the spike strips - where Dean had gotten those, he had no idea, and it had taken him some time to figure out what they were - carefully across both lanes, staggered.

With his now empty hand, he shifts the crowbar to his belt, and takes out a shock grenade and a modified Molotov cocktail - courtesy of the armaments in the Impala's trunk - one in hand, the other set down by the ground where he sits in the ditch.

Then he waits.

His body aches faintly from the cold of morning, and the bandage on his wrist is spotted with blood. The stitches have held for the most part, but all the activity Castiel must do with his hands means some break. He pushes down the pain, and watches the road, tensing and relaxing muscles so they don't get stiff.

He sees the unmarked car first. A black sedan, followed by the marked police car. The sedan hits the strip first, front tires instantly blown out and the car spinning around with a screech, out of control. The police car can't stop in time, swerves, and hits the second strip across the divider, and before the police car even halts, Castiel has the Molotov cocktail lit and he throws it at the foot of the sedan.

He can see the police officer driving the patrol car start to react, but he's there with the crowbar and smashes the window, ducking against the side of the car as he hears several wild gunshots.

Smoke is billowing from the sedan, choking the air as the fire spreads, and Castiel can dimly see the agents out of the car, stumbling from the fire separating them from Castiel and the police car. Their weapons are raised, but by some miracle the police car has spun out so that the bulk of it is between Castiel and the FBI agents. So all Castiel does is pull the pin on the shock grenade he'd grabbed after throwing the cocktail and throw it through the shattered police car window, even as the door partway opens, and then he runs precious feet to the rear of the vehicle and covers his ears and shuts his eyes.

It goes off with an explosive bang, Castiel hoping it doesn't cause the officers too much damage, and feels guilty even knowing that it's less damaging than a gun, the only other option. He takes a deep breath and gets up, ears ringing, and yanks open the back car door and seizes the first thing he catches, which happens to be clothing. He can hardly see anything because of the smoke as he drags Dean out of the car.

Dean is coughing but complying, half stumbling and half running. It doesn't take them long to reach the tree line, and then Castiel is abruptly forcing them to turn slightly, go around a set of trees, then return to the normal, straight course.

The agents aren't far behind, shouting, "FBI! Don't move!" in a mismatched chorus. Castiel doesn't hear them hit the trick wire, but he hears the bomb going off, safely away from where he knows the FBI agents to be following - they would choose the path of least resistance, a straight line to Castiel and Dean running, because there would be no reason not to - and he hears more shouting, fading slowly as he and Dean race away. Their progress will be stopped by caution, Castiel hopes, long enough.

Dean is finally running something approximating full speed, but Castiel keeps a grip on his collar, sure that Dean is still deaf and blind, and he hears Dean wheezing. He chances a look back, and sure enough, Dean's eyes are squinted and his face is red.

Castiel lets go of Dean to shift his grip, and Dean stumbles to a stop. Castiel takes his hand, and says, "We have to keep moving."

Dean nods blindly, and they go.

They run past the trees, the ground now thankfully mostly flat - providing little for Dean to trip over - and they go miles as Castiel listens for anyone following. Dean seems to get his breath partway through, breathing fast but easily, and starts stumbling less. There's no breath left for questions, and Dean doesn't ask any.

Then they abruptly break into a field of wheat. Dean stops. "Cas -"

Castiel yanks. "No time," he snaps, and pulls until Dean gives in.

They move across the field, towards a barn painted red and sitting next to a quaint house. Mr. Kasey is in front, and when they run into the barn, he follows. Castiel leads Dean to the cellar on the far side of the barn, wooden doors swung open, and pulls him down the short set of stairs. He sees Dean look up in confusion when Mr. Kasey shuts the doors behind them, leaving them in utter darkness. Almost immediately, a faint sound of something moving up above filters down.

There's a long moment of dark silence as Castiel catches his breath. Then he can hear Dean breathing, fast, as Castiel stumbles in the dark before finding the small lamp lit by batteries. The soft glow starts suddenly, exposing the cellar, which is dirt floor and walls made of uneven planks, lined with a few shelves, six by eight feet.

Dean slumps against an empty wall, looking both winded and stunned, a strangely vulnerable look on his face. Then, softly, "Cas. You shouldn't have done this."

"No," Cas says equally softly, sitting down opposite Dean. "I shouldn't have."

Dean's eyes are half-closed, as he sits there and breathes. "Then why did you?"

Castiel raises his head and makes sure his gaze is even and composed even as his breathing slows. He feels a flutter of fear this close to Dean, but he throttles it ruthlessly. "You owe me, Dean. You owe me everything."

Dean closes his eyes, and swallows. "I know."

"Then you will give me this," and despite himself, there's more question in there than he wants. It all depends on this; he doesn't know how to take Dean back if not this.

Dean can't seem to look at him. "And what is that?"

"The rest of your life."

Dean exhales slowly. An eternity of time seems to pass before he nods.

"Thank you," Castiel says, relieved. He doesn't doubt Dean doesn't understand the entirety of what he's agreed to, but that will wait.

Dean looks up, smiles a little, as if Castiel has said something amusing. Starts to say something, then stops, before, "Who exactly are we guests of?" and gestures to up above.

"I'm surprised you don't remember," Castiel says, relaxing. "The Kasey's remember you very well."

"Kasey, Kasey," Dean says, squinting, seeming to grab onto the topic with desperation. "Wait. The ones with the possessed daughter?"

Castiel nods. "Yes. I was lucky - they were one of the first ones I called."

"Called?"

"How else was I to get help?"

Dean is clearly thinking, a furrow between his brows. Then a measured look at Castiel. "How exactly did you pull this off? Were you alone when you stopped those two cars?"

"Yes," Castiel says. "The Kasey's are only going to hide us. Mr. Kasey's going to cover us with a fair amount of hay, make it look like it's been there for some time. They've hardly ever used this cellar, so even their neighbors don't know it's here. But we have to be quiet when law enforcement comes looking." Castiel pauses, then adds, "The car's hidden in the city, where I doubt they'll be looking for it, and Mr. Kasey will get it for us when the time is right."

A moment where Dean almost speaks, then, "Soldier of God, huh?" And he's smiling, but not without sadness.

"I'm not clueless when it comes to strategy, Dean."

Dean stares at him for a long moment. Castiel can't tell what he's thinking, just that there's something weirdly soft there. "Well, it's impressive, I gotta admit, but you do realize you committed all kinds of crimes back there. At least a few felonies, Cas, who knows what else, if anyone got hurt. And you were home free. They didn't think you were involved - I made sure of that."

Castiel puts up a knee, lays his right wrist on it, holds the other in his lap. "No one was hurt permanently." He meets Dean's gaze. "And you won't get better in a prison cell."

"Get better?" Dean's eyes narrow even as he repeats it. "Get better? Better than what? Being a rapist?"

Castiel winces. Then, slowly, "I don't know how it's decided which souls go to heaven, and which ones don't. I know yours would have been bound there, if not for your deal."

"But you don't know now," Dean states.

"You feel guilt, don't you?"

Dean looks away.

"Then do something to right your wrongs." That's the key, after all.

"And what would that be? Hunting? Cas, I - I was trying to do just that, for you. Why the fuck couldn't you take it? Dammit, Cas, you stuck yourself with me again, how could you want that?" Dean made an aborted movement to get up, then stills with a huff of frustration, glaring at the low ceiling.

"Because I still love you, you asshole," Castiel snaps, and runs his good hand through his hair. "Only God knows why!" Because I can't figure it out.

Dean doesn't look at him, rubs his eyes, probably more out of tiredness than anything else. "I'm sorry," he says, and it comes out high, upset.

"You agreed, Dean," Castiel says lowly.

"And I'll hold to it. I think it's a really fucking bad idea, but I'll hold to it." Dean bites his lip, sighs. "I'll set you up, so you don't have to hunt, and I'll -"

"We'll start hunting again, when the FBI hunt dies down," Castiel interrupts.

Dean looks utterly flabbergasted. "Why?"

Castiel focuses on the floor, without answering. He's given this a lot of thought over the past day, but the fear and pain and love tend to drown out the logic. Burrows had been right that the trauma linked him to Dean, and it seems irrevocable. A world without Dean is unfathomable, now. He fears Dean, he hates Dean, but then he loves Dean, and wants to be with him; he wants the old Dean, the old Castiel. The two sides war, and Castiel doesn't answer because there is no answer.

Time ticks by.

"Cas, you're bleeding." Dean moves slowly, takes the one step needed to bring him to Castiel's side, waits, then reaches out and take's Castiel's wrist to turn it over. Castiel watches him rather than his wrist, until Dean turns his whole attention to it.

The blood is dripping from the bandage onto the dirt.

"I might as well have cut you myself," Dean mutters. He takes off his jacket, the one that the jail provided him, then starts to pick at the bandage.

"I'm fine," Castiel says finally, aware that his answer is weirdly late.

Dean doesn't reply, just takes his jacket and wraps it awkwardly around Castiel's wrist, applying hard pressure.

"It was a way to escape the jail, Dean, nothing more."

"I doubt that," Dean says shortly. "I'm not an idiot. I know what you were thinking. When you were cutting, you're saying it never occurred to you to just go a little deeper?"

Cas stares at his wrist. "Just a physical manifestation of hurt, I suppose."

A sigh. "You're damaged, Cas."

"And who made me that way?" Castiel snaps.

And there is Dean's guilt, settling between them silently like the heavy weight of snow, blinding and stifling.

Dean says in vain - and he knows it - "I'm sorry."

"I don't want your apologies," Castiel replies. A half-truth - he's relieved to have gotten one, but that can't be his focus now. He wants more. He has to demand more. Every inch Dean will give him. "I want your obedience."

Dean looks up at him sharply.

Castiel raises an eyebrow, heart thundering. What did Dean think he meant by that promise?

Dean nods, slowly. "And that's it? That's what you want from me?"

Castiel takes his time before replying, watching Dean stare at him with disbelieving, nervous eyes. He lets his heartbeat slow, his own nervousness forcibly fade. "You said you love me. Prove it. Every day, for the rest of your life - that's what I want, Dean. I want you, here, with me. As yourself." The way things were, even if Castiel has to drag Dean into it.

Dean's throat works, then, "I meant that promise. Whatever you want, Cas. And I won't break it, but Cas, you should. Having me near you, it's sick and wrong and I still want you, in any way you'll let me. And I have this darkness. I don't think I'll ever fall back, but that darkness - I don't think it will ever go away, and that's what scares me." His voice drops to a whisper at the end.

"And it scares me." Castiel closes his eyes and wishes for the images not to come, but they do, relentless. "Because I'm seen it. That's why you have to give up control, Dean. You have to trust me, before I can trust you."

Dean looks haunted, but not resistant.

They both jolt when there's a scuffing noise above and the sound of voices. Castiel grabs the light and turns it out, and they both go silent.

Castiel knows that they need to keep quiet for hours, even the rest of the day. The farm is close enough to the roadway to be thoroughly searched, and that's something that will take hours. Not to mention, Mr. and Mrs. Kasey (their daughter Kelly had left for college) would be questioned as well. Castiel hopes that goes the way they planned, that the denials of any sighting of Castiel and Dean doesn't come across as a lie. He hopes they're better at lying than he is.

He hears Dean's breathing pick up. Dean is still right next to him, so Castiel reaches out, blindly, finding a shoulder.

There's a puff of air as Dean laughs, but there's no much humor involved. "Kinda reminds me of the coffin."

"Ah. This is not a coffin," Castiel whispers.

"I know that," Dean says so quiet he can barely be heard, "I just wish my body did."

"Lay down and relax," Castiel suggests softly.

He hears it when Dean moves, shifting around. Dean is so close he's actually touching Castiel, fingers pressed lightly against Castiel's leg, but like the careful times of recently, it's not intrusive, and Castiel feels almost no fear. He guesses that the contact is more for Dean's state of mind than anything else.

After some indeterminable span of time, he copies Dean's movement, lying on his side, the contact breaking. But he can still almost feel Dean.

Castiel had gotten no sleep the night before - it was all spent planning and setting up, both geographically figuring out the problems and setting the tripwire, neither of which he'd ever dealt with before. So he feels the weariness settle now, weighing down his bones. The cellar is cold, as is the dirt floor, but it still feels good to his slowly relaxing muscles. He makes sure to wrap his other wrist securely in Dean's jacket.

He lies down with his folded right arm beneath his head, and closes his eyes, though there's no difference; it's that dark.

Dean's breathing is like a steady beat, constant and never-ending.

Castiel falls asleep to the sound of it.


Castiel almost immediately realizes he must have shifted a lot in his sleep. He has a warm, gently moving up and down pillow, and an arm curled around his back. He twitches, feeling uncomfortable, and almost immediately Dean starts pressing circles with the palm of his hand on Castiel's back, right between his shoulder blades. The movement is immediate, and Castiel wonders if he's been shifting around in his sleep, and Dean responding. He opens his eyes, but it remains dark.

Then, quietly, "I used to do this for Sam when he'd have nightmares."

"Hm," is Castiel's reply. You're good at it, he thinks. The repetitive motion is weirdly soothing, and even though he should be afraid, this close to Dean, he's not.

Dean just holds him.

"I'm glad you're back," Castiel whispers.

The hand stops, then resumes. "So am I." He feels Dean turn his head, into Castiel's hair.

Castiel stays there until his body begins to wake up and demand to move. When he shifts to get up, Dean lets go immediately.

"How long has it been?" Castiel asks, searching around for the light.

"I don't know. Hours. If the FBI was here, they're probably gone." Dean's voice is slightly hoarse.

Castiel finds the lamp, turns it on.

Dean is blinking, raising his hand against the light. He looks exhausted, as if he never slept, face wrecked.

"Dean," Castiel says, concerned. He reaches out, he doesn't even know for what, but Dean takes his hand and pushes it down, gently.

"I'm okay," Dean says, looking embarrassed. "Just, uh, thinking. You know that ... I'll do anything. I meant it, what I said about giving my life. And obeying, however that goes."

Castiel knows that, but something settles within him hearing it.

"I just ... I don't like how you're bound to me," Dean says, not quite looking at Castiel.

Castiel moves back into a comfortable sitting position before answering. "I always have been. You just never noticed." He leaves his tone calm and unaffected.

"Is that why you didn't leave? Even when I - when I was doing those things to you?" Dean's voice goes so low as to be barely carried by his breath.

"I didn't know how," Castiel admits, shrugging lightly, chest tightening. "I wanted to, but where was there for me to go?"

"And now? Why the change?"

Castiel frowns. It started with Dean giving himself up, started with Dean's confession, started with the realization that there was something there of the Dean Castiel had fallen for. Years of devotion and pain, and the bitter knowledge that Dean will go on, and on - he knows Dean has no concept of eternity, but Castiel does. So in the end, he says the same thing he did to Burrows. "Everything I have done leads to you and Sam. I can't protect Sam anymore, because he doesn't need my protection. But I can still save you, Dean. I did it once and I believe I can do it again."

"You have a lot of faith ... that I won't fall back."

Castiel folds his arms around himself, shuts down a shiver. "Will you?"

"No," Dean whispers.

"Promise me." He commands it, for Dean's sake as much as his own.

"I promise. On Sam's soul, I promise. I won't ever hurt you again. I'll protect you from anything, even myself," and the words tumble out rough but sincere.

Castiel takes the promise with a nod of acknowledgement. It goes without saying that when it comes to Sam, Dean doesn't fail.

Dean leans back, and Castiel watches him, thinking. They'll have to stay here - here being mostly the cellar, with time outside of it for obvious reasons - for at least a week to convince the FBI and police that they've gotten past their net. He doubts it will occur to them that they're being helped by anyone, simply because Dean and Sam's background would make that unlikely. Serial killers don't make friends who don't care they're serial killers. Detective Ballard had dryly made that point.

This cellar isn't any more uncomfortable than a warehouse, really. Castiel doesn't mind the wait. It gives him the opportunity to observe Dean, as well. He doesn't know what was going on Dean's mind those days he was in police custody, what made him break from that silent guilt.

The guilt's still there. The silence, not so much.

"I would've - you didn't say anything, but you kind of got in my space in your sleep," Dean says suddenly, twiddling his thumbs.

Castiel hasn't curled up to Dean before, but then he usually wasn't sleeping when he was that close to Dean, either uncomfortably awake or blacked out. He guesses that some part of him wants the normal physical contact, even if Dean is the only person he can get it from. He could even want it, with the old Dean, the returning Dean, the one who doesn't make his skin crawl. "I thought as much. I don't ... blame you."

Dean nods, fingers twitching like it's an involuntary tic. "How long do we stay here?"

"Here, at least a week. After that, we'll probably be able to spend most of our time up above, though the roads out will likely still be watched."

"And then?"

"We should hunt in the west coast, I think."

"Hunt like normal?"

"We'll have to be more careful. No more investigations where the FBI's already there. No more opportunistic stunts." Castiel smiles wryly. Dean's action had been stupid - as defined by the rules as Dean knows them, even - and yet it has led them here, which is not a bad place, entirely.

"Got it," Dean says, muted.

"We talk everything over first," Castiel adds.

"Very fair," Dean says softly. "Someone else in your place wouldn't be."

"I'm not someone else."

"No," Dean says. "You aren't."

There's something definitive in his tone, though of what Castiel can't guess.

Dean nods again, as if to himself. He starts examining the shelves and what's in them (mostly cans and bottled water), picks at the dirt on the floor, then stares up at the low ceiling before returning his attention to Castiel.

"You seem different," Dean says abruptly.

"I have faith, I suppose," Castiel says. I have a purpose. He glances at his wrist, the dried blood on the bandage - Dean's jacket gone - and thinks of the darkness beyond. Either way it ends for him, he has something for the time he has left. It's not much, but then ... it is Dean. Illogical, but he doesn't need the knife, not with that. Not with Dean not yet saved. Dean, here, breathing. It's enough for Castiel, at least in this moment.

Dean snorts. "Faith in what?"

Castiel doesn't go for the first answer that pops in his mind, instead, he smiles sadly. "Look at me, Dean. I'm here. I'm alive. So are you. Heaven and hell didn't break us apart. Isn't that enough?"

Dean looks recalcitrant for a long second, then it fades. "Okay," Dean says quietly. "Okay."

Castiel knows he hasn't convinced Dean, but that doesn't matter. He has Dean's word; whatever reservations Dean has on Castiel's behalf, he isn't going to run off. Castiel has been following Dean wherever he lead, rudderless, but things have changed. Castiel knows what he is here to do, and he knows how to go about it, and there's a clear goal at the end. He hadn't realized, until now, how much that mattered. How much being alone with no purpose had hurt him. Angels have always served - and together - or fallen to the dark or humanity. Perhaps Castiel is no different in that, always serving someone, being near someone. And Dean, well ... is not worthy of being served, not anymore, but this time Castiel is leading, not following.

Castiel still feels acutely aware of Dean, and is sure it goes both ways.

Dean seems to have finally relaxed, and that easing of tension helps Castiel's own fade away.

There's muffled noise up above. Castiel takes the lamp and turns it off.

"Damn FBI," Dean mutters.

Castiel lets a "Hm," escape. He focuses on the sounds above, which sound vaguely like angry voices. Definitely not Mr. Kasey.

It's not long before Castiel can hear Dean's breathing quicken again.

Castiel reaches out blindly, finds Dean's leg, which jumps as soon as he makes contact. Then Castiel shifts next to Dean, until his shoulder presses against Dean's. This is a need Castiel doesn't mind fulfilling, not for the most part. A way to use his own body that doesn't hurt; a way that doesn't make Castiel shiver in revulsion from the form that holds him. It's comforting, and not just to Castiel - such a surprising thing, that bodies are capable of, in equal spades with hurt. Dean is shaking slightly, shivering maybe.

Castiel just waits.

"Cold," Dean admits finally.

"Yes," he agrees, doubting that's the entirety of it. But Dean has relaxed now, almost slumping into Castiel's touch.

"You're completely nuts, you know that?"

"Yes," Castiel agrees again. By any standard, he is, by taking Dean again.

"You should be running as far away from me as possible," Dean says, and he says it like he's afraid Castiel will suddenly believe him, and do what he says. "Every rational person would. I hurt you so badly, Cas."

"I know," Castiel says quietly. "And you can't ever make up for that. But you're going to try, aren't you?"

He hears Dean shift restlessly, then Dean raises his arm and brings it around Castiel's shoulders. Castiel accepts it almost without a twitch, recognizing it as the protective gesture it's intended to be, recognizing it as something he can take, and feel comfort from, however illogical it may be. "Thank you," Dean whispers.

Castiel lays his head against Dean's shoulder and, together like that, they wait in the darkness.


Mr. Kasey gets them in the morning.

Castiel leads, Dean follows, and they step out into the light.