This is going to be a long and sometimes angsty journey, but stick with me, I promise there will be a happy ending.

I own nothing, all characters property of some lucky bastard. I'm just borrowing them, I promise to give them back when I'm done.

I plan on updating every week, probably on Sundays.

M rating for later chapters.

Thanks for reading.

Chapter 1

"We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness."

-Albert Schweitzer

Castiel Novak had been a priest at St. Marie's Parish for four years. He had settled in the small town of Lawrence, Kansas. In a town where everybody knew everything about everybody, he was something of a mystery. He had arrived to replace an elderly priest who had recently passed away. There was quite a commotion at his arrival for he was nothing like his predecessor. He was young for a man of the cloth, and with his piercing blue eyes, a voice that could send shivers through the spines of the most frigid of women, and his tangle of soft brown locks, well he had secured his place in the hearts of many of the young women of the parish. He took the looks and flirtations as well as he took everything, with a good humored laugh, and a smile that only exacerbated their feelings for him. He was a good preacher, and a beloved member of the clergy. The parishioners particularly enjoyed his sermons, and the church was always fullest during the evening services when he was preaching. Whenever a member of the community had a problem it was always to Father Castiel they turned, whether to seek his advice, or to confess their sins to him in the confessional. Yes, it was fair to say that he had settled in quite well, had carved out a little place for himself in the respect of his community. He was alone, but he was content, he wanted nothing that he didn't already have, and he was for all intents and purposes, happy. Then he came, like a violent storm that shook him to his very core, a man unlike any he had ever met.

It was a few weeks into October; Castiel could hear the boys in the choir talking excitedly about Halloween as he prepared for that afternoon's sermon. He smiled to himself at their youthful exuberance. He sat at his battered mahogany desk, in the room that had become his office and also a place where he could reflect and prepare for his clerical duties. As he was putting the finishing touches to his sermon, one he was certain it was to be another success; there was a knock at his door. "Come in." he called from his place at the desk. It was the church's Monsignor, Father Michael. "Michael," said Castiel pleasantly. "Sit down, please."

"Thank you," said Michael, smiling. "Working on your sermon I see, does this one promise to be as delightfully enlightening as last week's."

"I hope so." said Castiel, a touch modestly at the compliment. "Is there anything I can do for you, I've just finished here." he said gesturing to the pile of papers in front of him.

"Yes, there is something I need you to do. After today's service, I will require a priest to hear confessions."

"I thought Father Gabriel had agreed to do it."

"Ah yes, well it seems that Gabriel has been taken ill quite suddenly. As you are well aware the only other members of this clergy are Raphael, and Balthazar, and Deacons cannot hear confessions, nor give absolution." said Michael.

"I am aware," said Castiel thoughtfully. "You require me to hear confessions this evening?"

"If it wouldn't be too much trouble." Michael replied gently. "You work too hard Castiel; a man of your age should enjoy himself more."

"I enjoy my work and the work of God." said Castiel solemnly. "I would be happy to fill in for Father Gabriel this evening."

"Thank you, Castiel, I am much obliged." said Michael rising. "You'd better get out there soon; the sanctuary was already half full when I came in here. They can't get enough of you, can they?"

Castiel rose, smiling good-naturedly and followed Michael to the sanctuary. The service went as well as he'd anticipated, and he was pleased to such so many people in attendance. Afterwards he stood by the door shaking hands and wishing his parishioners well. He smiled modestly at the compliments he received, of what a lovely service it had been. When everyone had finally filed out of the church Castiel made his way over to the row of confessionals. There were four of them, though he didn't know why, only one was ever used at a time. He chose his favorite, the one on the far left, and settled down. He didn't really expect anyone to show up. If anyone had needed to, they would have waited behind after the service. He was content to wait, for there may be a member of the flock wary of being recognized. Usually they would circle around the church a few times before reentering. Castiel always knew who it was; he was very good with voices. He would never let on that he knew, and it was very rare for him to hear an unfamiliar voice. It was an hour or so after the service ended when he heard quiet footfalls approaching the confessional.

The door opened and a figure sat on the other side of the mesh screen. Castiel could tell it was a man from the silhouette. He waved his hand in front of the screen to signal that he was there and listening. He was much surprised when a voice he had never heard before spoke.

"Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been fifteen years since my last confession and these are my sins."

There was silence for a long while. "It's alright, my son. You may speak freely." he said reassuringly.

The rough voice spoke again. "I don't really know where to start. I've done bad things, Father."

Castiel could hear the man slurring slightly, that plus the smell of whiskey slowly filling the confessional made it clear why he was there. "All sins may be forgiven if you repent and truly desire God's forgiveness."

"Not sure if it's his forgiveness I'm after." Castiel could hear him heave a sigh, and when he spoke again it was with emptiness and a resignation he had never heard before in a man's voice. "I've hurt people, a lot of people, killed them. You see I've got a skill set that comes in pretty handy. I'm good at slashing throats I have to be, I got roped into this gig a long time ago. Believe it, or not, this isn't exactly what I wanted out of life, but when does anyone ever get what they want? Doesn't matter that I don't want to do it, I'm being made to do these things. It's easier if I think of them as jobs, not people, maybe that's how I sleep at night. At first I tried to get out of it, but I realized a long time ago, that there is no getting out. I do it, I get paid and if I don't well there's a lot of pain in a lot of places."

The man paused and Castiel who had been shocked into silence found his voice. "It is not a man's place to decide who lives and who dies, my son. Murder in any form, for any reason, is a grave sin. You must understand this." Castiel hesitated a moment, "How many?"

There was silence for a long time and Castiel became certain that the man would not answer him. "You know what," he said finally. "I've lost count over the years, or maybe I just pretend I have, maybe I know exactly how many, maybe I see them every night when I sleep."

"Is that why you're here? Do you feel remorse for what you have done?" Castiel asked him, unsure of how he would answer.

"Honestly, I don't know why I'm here. Don't know if I feel remorse either, truth is I haven't felt anything in a really long time."

"Maybe it is your desire to feel again which has brought you here tonight, a way to begin anew within the graces of the Lord." Castiel spoke gently and reassuringly.

"Maybe you're right." the man said, but his tone of voice proved that he felt differently. "I like you." he said after a brief pause.

Castiel was thoroughly taken aback at this, scrambling for something to say he spoke, "How can you like me?" he asked genuinely confused. "You don't even know me."

"I like the way you talk." he mumbled drunkenly. "The sound of your voice, I could listen to it for hours."

"That is kind of you to say." Castiel replied unsure of how the confession had taken this turn, but determined to get it back on track again. "My son, it is a rare thing for a man to make a confession when he feels no remorse and wishes not to repent. May I ask what it is you wished to accomplish this evening?"

"I don't know," he said quietly. "I guess I just wanted somebody to talk to, you know. I go to bars and meet people, but they're always after something, money, sex, it's all the same. I just figured you'd listen to what I had to say, really listen, and not judge."

"It is not my place to judge you, my son, it is my place to listen to all you wish to tell me, and absolve you of your sins if you wish to be forgiven in the eyes of the Lord. Is this what you wish, to be forgiven?" Castiel asked.

"Don't we all?" he asked sadly. "Thing is I don't think I deserve to be forgiven. Some stains go too deep, and no matter how hard you scrub, you can never wash them away, not completely."

"Is this how you see yourself?" Castiel asked. "Forever tainted with wickedness, with no hope of salvation"

"Pretty much sums me up" he said bitterly.

"You must know, and I say this not a priest to one of his flock, but as one soul to another, if there is even a tiny part of you that is still good, that wishes to know peace, there is always hope. All sins may be washed clean."

"You think so?" the bitter edge had left his voice; he sounded so young, and vulnerable.

"Yes," Castiel said sincerely. "I believe this to be true, with my whole heart."

"Huh, well seeing as I'm not repenting, I guess you won't be absolving anything tonight. I might as well hit the road." he said, his voice regaining some of its harshness.

This would be the part where Castiel would tell him 'alright' and let him go. He knew that that was what he should do, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. This man had simultaneously intrigued, and shocked him, more so than anyone he had ever met, and he hadn't even met him, not really. He made up his mind as the man began to rise. "Will you do something for me?" he asked quickly, before he lost his nerve.

"If it's ten Hail Mary's or something like that, the answers no." he said continuing to rise.

"No it's nothing like that." said Castiel. "Will you attend the service tomorrow evening?"

"Like Mass, with the singing and the prayers, and stuff like that?" he asked disbelievingly.

"Yes, I am giving a sermon tomorrow, I think it would do you some good to hear it." said Castiel, trying not to sound desperate. "Please."

"Well, it would give me a chance to see if your face is as pretty as your voice." Castiel lived a lifetime in his pause. "I'll see what I can do. See you around, Father." he said as he left the confessional.

Castiel sat for several long moments, lost in thought before he rose and left the confessional. He hadn't realized how long he had been talking to the stranger and he had the following day's sermon to write. He walked through the sanctuary mind still reeling from the encounter. He tried to push the man's words and his husky voice from his mind as he settled down at his desk to begin his sermon. He had planned on speaking about the importance of giving back to the community, but as he began, he found himself writing about hope and forgiveness. As he wrote the words of comfort and encouragement he couldn't help but wonder if the stranger would hear them, he hoped that he would. He finished his sermon, quite sure that it was going to be one of his best, and left the church, locking up as he did so. He was quite often the last one there, everyone else finishing their duties and leaving before he did.

Castiel liked the church like this, quiet and empty, perfect for peace of mind and reflection. He found no peace of mind tonight, however, as he walked the short distance from the church to the home he inhabited. It was a small home, modest and to his liking. There were two bedrooms, his own bedroom and a spare across the hall, a bathroom, a small kitchen that opened up into the sitting room and a garage that was filled mostly with junk. It had belonged to the priest whom he had replaced. Though it was common for the clergy to live on church grounds, he was the only one who did so. The monsignor, Father Gabriel, and the Deacons all lived elsewhere.

Castiel didn't mind, he enjoyed being so close to the church he loved so much. He loved waking up each morning and seeing the tall crucifix-topped spire from his bedroom window. The bedroom he now entered as he began removing his clothes for bed. He wore a simple black shirt and collar when he wasn't preaching. Unlike some of the other priests he felt that the lack of ornate vestments made him more approachable, and to be honest he hated the way the heavy fabric seemed to weigh him down. He placed his collar gingerly on his nightstand, as he did every night and climbed into bed. Unlike most nights, he found himself unable to sleep. His mind kept wandering to the stranger in the confessional, playing his words over and over again in his mind. Instead of attempting to wrestle with his thought any longer, he got up and knelt beside his bed to pray. Praying always helped him to clear his mind when he was upset or confused, but just who he was praying for, he didn't know.

He awoke the next morning decidedly more nervous about the day's service than he had ever been. He rose and dressed trying hard not to think about who might be in attendance. Trying and failing miserably. He entered the church, as always he was the first one there, and prepared the altar for the morning service. Father Gabriel always lead the morning service and Castiel the evening. Castiel knew that he and Father Michael would be arriving soon, and he retreated to his office in the hopes of avoiding them. He needed time to prepare for his sermon, not the sermon itself, but his own mind. He found himself jittery, and anxious, feelings he had never before associated with preaching. He had no idea how an anonymous stranger could have done this to him, and he had stopped kidding himself as to the source of his nerves. He also didn't kid himself as to whether or not he would show up. To a man like that, truth, and promises were as fleeting as a winter sunset. He hadn't even promised, Castiel knew that, but still he hoped.

The hours wound down he realized how tense he still was, he knew there would be no peace for him this evening. Twenty minutes before the service there came a knock at his door. "Come in." he called distractedly. It was Father Michael. Castiel wondered if perhaps he was required to hear confessions again, after the service. Michael sat across from and smiled. "You've been quite secluded today, Castiel. Not turning into a recluse on us, are you?" he ask good-naturedly.

"I have had a lot on my mind this morning. I thought I'd use my time before the service, for solitude, and reflection." replied Castiel easily.

"And have you found solace in these pursuits?" asked Michael kindly.

"I'm not sure." replied Castiel truthfully.

"Is there something troubling you?" asked Michael.

"No, not troubling me. There's just something I can't put my finger on." or someone, he added to himself. "I'll have it sorted by this evening."

"Is this something you wish to discuss with me?"

"No," Castiel told him. "It is not of import."

"Alright," said Michael rising. "Just so you know my door is always open if you wish to speak to me. You give courage and guidance to many; it is good to accept the same for yourself once in a while."

"Thank you." said Castiel also rising.

"Good luck." said Michael as he turned the corner. "There's quite crowd today."

Castiel turned in the opposite direction and walked towards the sanctuary, trying not to think of just who might be in attendance. He entered the sanctuary, donned his vestments, which he only wore during services, and approached the altar. His eyes scanned the congregation of about fifty people, looking for an unfamiliar face, he found none. His hope deflated he stood before his flock, and preached, all the while his mind wandering to the stranger, and wondering where he might be. After the service ended he stood by the door greeting parishioners and making conversation. He was in the middle of discussing Mrs. Braeden's son Ben, and his interest in joining the choir, when from the corner of his eye he glimpsed a strange sight.

A man whom he had never seen before in church or in town stood a little away from the group of people. He leaned casually against one the stone pillars that lined the large sanctuary. He was unlike the people who usually attended the church. Dressed in far from his Sunday best, he wore thick-soled, leather boots, worn, and slightly tattered jeans, and a well-worn brown leather jacket. Incongruous as his clothes seemed to be, it was his face that Castiel couldn't keep his eyes from. He had a firm jawline, covered in a day's stubble, soft, supple lips, and eyes of a startling green. He would have appeared delicate, almost feminine, if not for the way he held himself, jaw clenched, arms folded over his chest. It was also clear from the look in his eye that this was not a man to be trifled with. It was these eyes now that had locked onto Castiel, the man had seen him looking, and now flashed him a grin.

Castiel became aware of how he was staring, but he couldn't stop, the man was for lack of a better word, beautiful. And the way he looked at Castiel, like he was transparent, like he could see straight through to the heart of him, made Castiel's breath catch in his throat. He managed to tear his eyes away from the man long enough to disengage from Mrs. Braeden, he took a step away from her and looked up to the stranger striding towards him from across the room. He was not unaware of how the eyes of many of the women in the room, and some of the men seemed to follow him, and Castiel couldn't blame them. It was unbelievable that a man of his height and build could possess such grace, but he moved as smoothly and effortlessly as if he had been walking underwater. From the knowing smirk on his face, he was well aware of the effect he was having, but he had only eyes for Castiel. He stared intently as he approached and Castiel found it difficult to not be as affected as the others while trapped in such a gaze.

The man stood before Castiel, eyes looking him up and down, in a way Castiel didn't entirely dislike, before coming to rest on his face. He smiled as he spoke, "That was a real nice service, Father. You're a good speaker."

A shiver ran down Castiel's spine when he spoke. The deep, husky tone and underlying roughness were unmistakable. This was the man who had so affected him in the confessional the night before. He had come back, like Castiel had so hoped he would. It took him a moment to get his breath back from the shock, and when he spoke it was in a voice that shook only slightly. "Thank you," he said. "It's very kind of you to say so."

"Oh, I mean it." the man replied, grinning wolfishly. "You've got the voice of an angel."

"This is the first time I've heard it described as such, and I'll take it as a compliment, thank you." replied Castiel, trying not to appear as flustered as he felt. "I've never seen you at service before, are you new in town?" he asked trying to steer the conversation away from himself.

"Yeah," he replied. "Just passing through on business, y'know."

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you. I am Father Castiel." said Castiel extending his hand toward the stranger. He wondered if the man would take it, would tell him his name, or would he get another vague answer and nothing more. He didn't realize he had been holding his breath until he released it when the man grasped his hand in a firm handshake.

"Good to meet you, Father. I'm Dean Winchester." he said, smile broadening.

"Well, Dean." said Castiel, feeling a slight thrill at saying his name. "I hope you find our town to your liking, and I hope to see you again, whether at service or otherwise."

Dean licked his lips suggestively before replying. "I hope so too, Father."

Castiel felt himself blush, and dropped his eyes nervously to the floor. He looked up, to say something and saw that Dean was striding purposely for the door. He paused at the threshold, turned and looked at Castiel for a moment. He wasn't smiling anymore, their eyes locked, and in that moment Castiel could see in him a sadness, and hopelessness he had never seen before. It lasted only for a second, and at once the mask was back in place. Dean smiled at him, a little less convincingly than before, and then he stepped through the door and disappeared.

Castiel finished saying goodbye to the parishioners, and when the sanctuary was finally empty he walked to the nearest pew and sat down. He didn't know what he was feeling. He wanted so much for the mystery man of the night before to attend the service, but now that he had, Castiel didn't know what to think of him. He thought he would see a cold, calculating man, a killer, not the smiling, friendly man he had met less than an hour ago. He had expected to be afraid of him, but he wasn't, he was curious. Dean Winchester, the name kept running though his mind, he wondered if it was even his real name, probably not, in that line of work anonymity was of the utmost importance. He had thought briefly, before he met Dean, that the man from the night before had been lying, that it had been some practical joke, but Castiel had sat though enough confessions to know honesty when he heard it.

He now sat, head in hands, wondering what he should do. He knew he should just let it go; it wasn't his place to concern himself in the affairs of his flock, besides confessionals were supposed to private and anonymous. He just couldn't let it go; he couldn't get this Dean Winchester out of his head. He told himself that it was because he wanted to help him, to lead him from his sinful path, but if he was honest with himself; he wanted to know the man. He had never met a man like him, and knew that he probably never would again. Not that it mattered anyway, he was just passing through, and Castiel didn't kid himself that he would see him again. It didn't stop him from hoping though, and when Father Gabriel entered the sanctuary, headed for the confessionals, Castiel jumped up and offered to take over for him. Father Gabriel was grateful, he still wasn't feeling well, and if he noticed anything strange in Castiel's behavior, he didn't mention it.

Castiel settled down in the confessional, he didn't really think that Dean would return, and as the hours ticked by with nothing more interesting than an adulterer, and a liar, he found himself wondering where Dean was, if he was still in town. He was still lost in these musings when he rose and left the confessional, having seen or heard nothing of Dean that night. As Castiel prepared for bed, lost in thought, he realized that he was more concerned with the stranger now than he had been the night before. He thought that he would relax after the service, after he had seen whether or not Dean would show up. Now though, his mind raced through a thousand new questions, and he lay awake for a long time before he fell asleep. He didn't get up to pray.