Title: and if I was looking too?
Word Count: ~2.63k
Warnings: Alternate Universe - Federal Agents, Magical Realism, Dean is a G-Man, Castiel is a Mole, Sam Doesn't Know What's Happening, But He Does Know It's Way Too Early For This Shit, Victor is Unamused, The Angels are Birds, The Big Reveal
Summary: There are some things Castiel hasn't told Dean, and there are some things he doesn't need to.
Author's Notes: for impavid-incondite!
and if I was looking too?
It's January, but Castiel has his window cracked, just a little. It's January, but it's DC too, and it never gets all that chilly here in the city. There are bars on the window anyway, and a regulation-thick line of salt set in rubber cement across the flaking casement. He likes the breeze, and the winter-thin sparrows that squeeze themselves through the gap and peck, ravenously, at the tidy mound of seed and suet he carefully pushes under the iron filigree every day. They never disturb his work, although sometimes they settle on the windowsill and watch, curiously, as he types up talking points and background checklists for their agents in the field.
The briefings he writes are all things that should be self-evident by now, like don't thank the fair folk for anything, it implies a debt and never, ever look a vampire in the eye— OR DRINK ITS BLOOD, but he has found that these humans, much like his sparrows, require constant minding. And the repetition doesn't chafe; he enjoys playing shepherd.
Castiel isn't working at the moment, his fingers lying flat and still in front of the keyboard. He's watching Dean, through a glass wall and the thick green camouflage of a potted pothos. All the plants in the department slowly drift into Castiel's office, like they're riding tides or subject to a peculiar kind of gravity. He may or may not move them himself, if their owner is treating them poorly, but most often they're left at his door, or appear on his windowsill, wilting yellow-leaved orphans snuck in between the spider plant's numerous offspring and stringy grasping yards of climbing ivy.
Dean is especially fidgety today, although sitting at a desk is hard for him at the best of times. He's staring moodily at his computer screen, tapping a pencil in time with the frenetic drum solo that's been drifting in and out of his head all morning. He's drunk too much coffee, and he's hollow-eyed and a little shaky because of it. Exhaustion and impatience sit on his shoulders like twin vultures, and he rolls them back like he's attempting to dislodge a heavy weight.
It will be okay, Castiel wants to tell him. You'll see. It will be so much better when we don't have to lie to each other.
Castiel is very tired of lying to Dean.
Around them, the office hums quietly, eddies of soft conversation and softer footfalls occasionally swelling and then dying down again. Everyone above a certain security clearance is on edge, even if they're not quite sure what's going on, and the tension translates to the administrative assistants, the civilian contractors, the interns and mailroom staff, who look around them with wary eyes and speak in hushed tones.
The pencil's tip breaks and Castiel sighs. He picks up the phone.
It rings a fair number of times before it's answered, voice on the other end coming muffled and slow around a yawn. "'Lo?"
"Cas?" the man says blearily. "Wha's wrong? S'early."
"It's ten twenty-two."
"Early," Sam repeats. "Court yesterday, 'member? Haven't slept, n'like. A week."
"Please call your brother."
"Dean?" The susurrus of sheets being pushed back, and another yawn. "He okay?"
"He'll be fine. He needs to hear from you."
"Mmhm. Later, 'kay?"
Sam groans. "Fine, Je— uh, jeez. I'll call him." A click and a dial tone sounds in Castiel's ear, and he sets the phone aside and sits up to see beyond the pothos' glossy leaves.
A minute later the telephone at Dean's elbow rings and the man jerks with enough force to slosh coffee out of his mug and onto his suitpants. Cursing and dabbing at the spot with a handful of hastily grabbed tissue, he yanks the receiver out of the cradle and growls, "Hello?" like he's planning to murder whoever's on the line.
Sam speaks, and the angry anxiety bleeds so quickly out of Dean's posture he seems to melt into his chair, slumping down with the phone cradled in both hands. "Hey, man," Castiel hears indistinctly through the glass."Thought you had court?"
Castiel looks down and smiles, knowing Dean won't see him. He lifts his hands to the keyboard again.
It's January, and also a Wednesday. Normally Castiel would be on his way to a budget team meeting, but it's been mysteriously cancelled— as have all the nonessential meetings for this division. Still, there is work to be done, and memos and email chains occupy his thoughts for the next several minutes.
A particularly bold bird hops its way from the window to his elbow, up the slope of his arm to his shoulder. It secrets itself between his neck and the starched collar of his shirt, bloodwarm and smelling faintly of moss and wet concrete. Castiel absently reaches up to rub the tiny feathery head.
It allows him a few gentle pets before speaking. "Are you sure about this?"
"Very sure," Castiel assures it. He goes back to typing.
"I don't like it," Samandriel mutters, discontent. He fluffs out all his pinions and wriggles deeper under the shirt, just above Castiel's clavicle. His heartbeat is a shallow flutter against Castiel's slow, steady pulse. "This could go very, very wrong."
"You gave them sigils. Banishing sigils. Containment sigils."
"I gave them the means to protect themselves from forces they did not understand. To reach more even footing."
Samandriel lets out an exasperated little trill. "They aren't supposed to be on even footing, Castiel."
"I believe we agreed to disagree on this point."
"What's so special about him, anyway?" Samandriel asks sullenly.
"That is the question," Hester agrees, swooping in to perch on Castiel's wrist. She turns her head and tilts it to stare at up him with one wet obsidian eye. "Do you realize your paragon had nothing but Cheetos for breakfast?"
Castiel frowns. "Cheetos?"
"They're a kind of human convenience food," Inias says authoritatively, waddling over the smooth wooden surface of the desk to examine the buttons on Castiel's shirtsleeves. "They are very tasty."
"Disgusting," Hester disagrees, flapping her wings in annoyance. "With little to no nutritional value. They produce an abominable orange pollen that is nearly impossible to get rid of."
Castiel's frown deepens. "I know what Cheetos are, and they do not produce pollen. Pollen is—" He cuts himself off. "He needs to eat something," he says worriedly, tapping his fingers on the desk.
"What are you going to do, get him a sandwich?" Hester asks waspishly, then, "Father in Heaven, Castiel, I was attempting sarcasm," as he stands.
"It was a very good attempt," Castiel assures her, digging through his briefcase for his wallet. "The fact remains that Dean will need his strength this afternoon. I'm going to the cafeteria. You are welcome to join me."
"Ooo, the cafeteria," Samandriel says, very quietly.
"No thank you," Hester snaps, but Inias lets out an excited cheep and flounders up Castiel's arm to settle in next to Samandriel.
Their sparrow-bodies do not precisely exist on this plane of reality, and so Castiel exits his office and walks through the rows of cubicles without comment. Dean is still talking to Sam, a genuine smile on his face for the first time that morning, and he gives Castiel a small wave as he passes him.
"I am most desirous of a chance to sample these 'Cheetos', Castiel," Samandriel says earnestly, and Inias chimes it with, "Yes, can we—"
"We shall see," Castiel says, but it pleases him to know they find at least this one aspect of humanity interesting. For eons, it seems, he and Anael have been as voices crying out in the wilderness.
The cafeteria is mostly deserted, unusual for the time of day, and the vendors are very glad to serve Castiel his cheeseburger and fries. At the cash register, Castiel allows Samandriel to coax him into buying both Cheetos and barbeque potato chips, and he opens the bags for them as they wait for the elevator. Quiet crunching noises and pleased murmurs follow him through the hallways, past the hard-eyed Marines who stand like bookends at the front desk and their receptionist, Becky, who makes no secret of her prurient enjoyment of this arrangement.
Dean is back to fidgeting, tugging at the knot of his tie and the throat of his tightly-buttoned collar. Castiel does not recall ever having seen Dean in a tie before, and deep affection swells in his chest, happiness at his lips. As Castiel comes level with his office Dean glances up, chewing on the end of his broken pencil. "Something funny, Cas?"
"No," Castiel says, smiling. He walks in, picks up Dean's fifth coffee cup of the morning and replaces it with the crumpled brown bag containing the burger and fries. "Here."
Dean makes a face and reaches for the coffee in Castiel's hand. "Not really that hungry, Cas."
"I'll dispose of this," Castiel says, holding the cup out of reach. "Eat. You'll feel better."
Dean opens his mouth to argue and Castiel simply leaves, bringing the cup into his own office and shutting the door behind him.
"More Cheetos, Castiel," Inias says plaintively, wriggling out of his shirtcollar and fluttering down to peck at the snack bag in Castiel's pocket.
"Yes, more," Samandriel echoes, following him.
"Disgusting," Hester says huffily, a downy brown ball perched on the corner of his monitor.
Dean has turned in his chair to stare at him, eyebrows drawn together in confusion, and Castiel points a finger in his direction and mouths, Eat.
Dean mouths back, Nag. But he opens the bag, albeit gingerly, and pulls out a French fry.
It's January, and a Wednesday, and now it's almost noon. Inias and Samandriel track orange dust across Castiel's desk, back to the windowsill. Samandriel asserts they are going to "clear the coast", where Inias prefers "casing the joint", a phrase that so offends Hester she chases him out of the window with a flurry of disapproving birdsong.
"We're going ahead to the meeting point, to secure your safe passage," she says severely. "These men will likely attempt to kill you, you realize?"
"I'll be perfectly safe," Castiel says, and she favors him with one last glare before disappearing through the cracked window. He'll be safe, because in the next office over all that's left of Dean's cheeseburger is a greasy waxpaper wrapper and smear of ketchup on Dean's bottom lip, just below where his teeth dig in as he stares at his empty inbox like it holds the secrets of the universe.
Castiel rests his chin on his hand and watches Dean waste time, playing with paperclips, doodling on his mousepad, playing solitaire and for an adventurous two minutes Minesweeper, before the clock tips over to 11:50 and Victor knocks at Dean's door.
"You ready for this?"
Dean gives him a tight smile, shoving his chair back and standing. "Ready as I'll ever be."
The two of them start on their way to the door, Dean walking with his chin up and his eyes steely, and Castiel barely has time to grab his coat before they've left the room.
He catches the elevator door as it's starting to close, and Victor gives him a gimlet stare as Castiel squeezes inside with them, still fighting to get one sleeve on.
"Cas?" Dean asks, puzzled. "You going somewhere?"
"I have an outside appointment," Castiel tells them, buttoning up.
Victor eyes him. "Do you."
"Yes. And you?" Castiel hopes his expression conveys only polite interest.
Dean and Victor exchange glances. "Something like that," Dean allows. "
Castiel fishes around in his pockets for gloves, finds only loose change and a twist-tie. "I'll walk with you, then."
Dean looks away, and Victor says, "Not a good idea."
Castiel looks quizzically at him. "Sorry?"
Victor shrugs. "This field trip is a little above your paygrade, Castiel. Maybe we'll take you on the next one."
"Ah," Castiel begins, but then the elevator doors are sliding open and Victor exits without a backwards glance, Dean a step or two behind him with an apologetic smile thrown over his shoulder.
Castiel takes his time crossing the lobby, idling at the top of the steps down to the street to enjoy the winter wind's gentle bite. Dean and Victor are climbing into a car, which Castiel thinks is a bit excessive—the meeting site is only a block away, in a park where Castiel eats lunch in the summer— and they pull away from the curb just as he sets a foot on the first tread.
Castiel's next step takes him between folds of spacetime and into the park, just behind the abandoned clay tennis courts. He startles a fat gray pigeon, who hisses, "About time," and waddles away in a huff.
Castiel follows Zachariah, up the gravel path to the main paved sidewalks. He sees several familiar faces jogging past, reading newspapers, drinking coffee and generally being very careful not to broadcast their close surveillance of the sear brown grass, naked trees and dead leaves. A few nod at Castiel as he passes them, but most studiously ignore him in favor of the local homeless and truant highschoolers, the only other people present.
There's a bench Castiel likes, right on the edge of the small tame pond at the center of the park. It's unoccupied, and he takes a seat and waits, forearms braced on his knees, staring out at the muddy green water.
Zachariah, having staked out a spot next to one of the bench's iron legs, grumbles, "So where—?"
"Cas?" Dean says, from behind him.
"Nomine Patris," the pigeon mutters.
"Yes?" Castiel answers, turning to look at him.
Dean's mouth is a tense line, his eyes darting from left to right. "What are you doing?" he asks, stepping close. "You can't be here."
Castiel is, perhaps, enjoying this too much. "Why?"
Dean gives him a cutting look and leans down, putting his face level with Castiel's. "Just, don't argue with me, okay?" he says, low and edgy. "It's classified, we're— I'm meeting someone."
"What a coincidence," Castiel says. "So am I."
"Well, go and do it somewhere else," Dean hisses, and under the bench Zachariah gives a loud, exasperated coo.
"Dean," Castiel says levelly.
Castiel looks at him, crooked tie and caffeine-jittery fingers, the impatient way he shifts from foot to foot, the little lines of annoyance creasing his forehead. "Dean, do you trust me?"
Frustration is sliding away from Dean now, confusion and a kind of caught-out wariness replacing it. "What the hell kind of question is that?"
"A simple one, I hope," Castiel says. "Do you? Trust me."
"Well, yeah," Dean says, frowning. "Of course I do, you're— you're..." He blinks down at him, something like realization dawning. "Cas?"
"Please have a seat," Castiel says, patting the weathered wood next to him. "I've been authorized by my superiors to speak with you at length." Finally.
Dean doesn't move, immediately. "Your superiors," he says flatly.
Castiel nods, keeping his eyes on Dean's face.
"You really...?" Dean asks.
"Me," Castiel confirms.
Dean's expression is impenetrable, blank and far away, and Castiel has a sudden moment of doubt. Will Dean call him a liar? Or, from his limited knowledge, draw his gun? The first time Castiel spoke to Dean, he shattered the man's eardrums and all the windows in the building besides.
"Son of a bitch!" Dean exclaims abruptly, suddenly enough to make Castiel jump, and works a finger under the Winsor knot at his throat, yanking at the fabric. "I can't believe I wore a fucking tie for you!"
We're going to save the world together, you and I. "I can assure you, the angels don't care what you're dressed like."
Dean stops mid-motion with the tie in his hand, poised throw it into the pond. "Angels?" he asks, like he couldn't have possibly heard right.