Warnings: Mentions of off-screen rape, attempted rape, violence, forced drug use.
"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary. Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness." - Joseph Conrad
Coming to the party was a stupid idea. Adam had gathered that now. It wasn't as if he was even interested in pledging the fraternity, he just wanted to be able to say he'd gone to a Frat party while he was at college. Now he'd actually been to one of their parties he found they weren't anywhere near as fun as 80s movies had led him to believe. The second someone had looked like throwing up on his shoes, Adam had hightailed it out of there. The music was lame, the décor was just toilet paper thrown down the stairs and over the lampshades and Adam had better things to do than cop-a-feel of some drunk. He shuddered just at the thought of it. He could practically hear Sam's voice in his head, nagging him that drunk people couldn't consent and Adam knew that. Sometimes it just felt like no one else knew it. There had been guys plying anyone and everyone with drinks and getting more handsy than Adam was prepared to stand.
So now he was standing outside, feeling a little tipsy and with the baseline of some top forty hit pounding in his ears. He staged away from the house, the music loud enough to make him feel like the whole street was rocking and he guessed sooner or later someone was going to be called to break the party up. Adam really didn't want to be there when that happened. It was only a five minute walk back to his dormitory. He'd just go home, fall asleep and swear up and down the next morning that he hadn't had anything to drink and he didn't know what a frat party was.
The campus was eerie at night. There were street lights but they were spaced too far apart so Adam was walking into pools of shadows, dark spaces where dark things could have hidden. He found himself playing a game from when he was little, squinting down into the darkness to try and make out the pavement under his feet and as he walked he carefully avoided the cracks, weaving to and from the stone slabs with hops, skips and unsteady jumps.
Of course he'd read about people getting drugged at parties. Sam practically sent him a new email every week filled with safety tips which Adam found patronizing. He knew Sam just wanted to look out for him but Adam knew just as well as Sam did, if someone wanted to hurt Adam then they were going to whether he was drugged or not. The drugs might make it easier but Sam took down enough psychos to know that if they cared about the type of victim they'd keep going. If they were situational offenders, then Adam might get lucky.
He'd kept his drink to himself even though, only grabbed bottles of unopened beer from the cooler box someone had brought along, didn't take anything that was offered to him or from the keg. He was just slightly tipsy, the way his mom got at Christmas when she had a couple of glasses of champagne with breakfast. He was just happy, living a normal college life, enjoying a bit of underage drinking and being twenty. Adam's life was mostly risk free.
The sky above was dotted with clouds. They had been hanging low all evening, threatening to rain but not enough to put Adam off experiencing his first college party. Now though those clouds had gathered together and just as Adam got to another circlet of light they opened up, starting to spit down on to the street below. Adam sighed and turned his collar up, drawing his jacket tighter about himself. It wasn't heavy rain but it was cold. He was only a little way away from his apartment now so he wasn't going to be soaked unless it really started pelting down. Still, he didn't feel like playing games any longer.
The next paving slab he came to, he put his foot down squarely over the crack and wondered on, back into the darkness.
He got two more steps before someone hit him on the back of the head.
It didn't bug Dean that he'd struck out at the bar. It didn't even bug him that he'd been home by eleven, teeth brushed and ready to get into bed. It only bugged him a little bit that he was coming home to an empty bed but at the same time with the cases he'd been working recently, it was nice to stretch out in his big double bed all alone without someone else's knees and elbows digging into him.
No, what was really bugging him was the fact that he had been on the edge of sleep when his phone started blinking and beeping at him from his bedside table. He grabbed hold of it, flicking it open and groaned when he saw the name flashing up on the screen – 'Adam'.
He didn't want to deal with his little brother's problems. He wanted to just shove his head under the pillow and get his regulation eight hours before someone from the bureau called. Tomorrow Dean would be at a crime scene, trying to work out why someone had been chosen as a victim out of all the other people in their town and he didn't care to deal with Adam's bullshit right now. Even as he thought that he pressed accept, holding the phone to his ear and waiting to hear his little brother's voice.
"Adam?" he growled. "Do you know what time it is?" Looking at the bedside clock, Dean realized it was half-twelve. He guessed he probably sounded like an old man to Adam, but damn it. Dean needed his sleep.
"Dean?" Adam's voice on the other end was breathless, terrified. "Dean, help me. Please, I don't know where I am, Dean…."
"Adam!" Dean shot up in bed, immediately awake. "What do you mean you don't know where you are?"
"Please, Dean. This guy, he hit me and I….I think I passed out. Dean!"
Dean heard the 'slap' of an open handed smack on the other end of the line, and the thunk of Adam's head against metal, then the line went dead. He redialled and redialled but no one picked up. Adam's phone rang and rang then diverted straight to voice mail. After three attempts, Dean dropped his cell and grabbed for his house extension instead.
Suddenly sleep was the furthest thing from his mind.
Adam's head ached. He opened his eyes slowly and for a moment he convinced himself that he was in his own bed, fighting a hangover. He was in a bed but it wasn't his own. There hadn't been dried blood on his pillow. There weren't scratchy blankets either or a mattress that was so thin Adam could, if he concentrated, feel every bar of the metal bed frame under him. It reminded him of prison beds in movies. That was what Adam was now. He was a prisoner.
He blinked a few times, then held his hand out in front of his face and counted his fingers to make certain he wasn't seeing double. He sat up slowly, swallowing down the wave of nausea that washed over him, and gingerly felt the cut at the back of his head, edged with dried blood. It wasn't a deep wound.
Adam tried to remember the training he'd had on head wounds. Most of it was to make certain they were checked out because you could never tell how dangerous they were just from looking, but Adam guessed if he'd passed out and hadn't died then the wound wouldn't kill him now. A visit to the doctors probably wasn't on the cards for a while anyway. His eyes were slowly adjusting to the gloom of his prison cell and Adam realized that it was four solid walls with no windows and only one solid iron door. He stood up cautiously and staggered towards it, checking it was locked. He pushed himself frailly against the door and wasn't surprised when the handle just rattled as he turned it. He hadn't been expecting it to be unlocked but he'd still had to check for himself.
Carefully he made his way back to the bed, settling back down upon it and looked up at the one dim light bulb swinging from the ceiling. It was like something out of a cable movie. Adam would have laughed if it wasn't happening to him. As he peered at it he realized that the light bulb wasn't the only thing on the ceiling. There was a little camera in the corner of the room, almost hidden, and at first Adam had taken it for a smoke alarm but as he watched the little light on it blinking on and off he realized he was being taped.
He swallowed slowly then gritted his teeth.
"You bastard," he murmured. "Just you wait."
At least his kidnapper was recording this. Dean always said it was easier to get a conviction if there was video evidence. When Dean found him, Adam was betting he'd be glad that he wouldn't have to work too hard to get the bastard put away. If Dean didn't just shoot him first. If his attacker had just asked, Adam would have told him he'd picked the wrong boy to grab off the street. Most of them didn't have FBI profilers for big brothers and neither Dean nor Sam would ever stop searching for him, no matter happened to him.
Adam glared up at the camera and hoped that his captor would show himself soon. He was going to take a lot of pleasure in telling the man just how wrong he'd got it.
Gabriel Tricksler wasn't actually working. He might have his systems up, screens filled with data, searches running but he was playing on his personal laptop. He didn't bother going home that often, only when he was ordered to go or he had to throw out the milk. He liked being in the office. People didn't disturb him unless things were really pressing, Gabriel could get at least a hand of poker in before someone called and demanded the criminal records of their latest suspect.
In the middle of the night no one wanted his help. He was able to sit in his office, laptop set up, online poker on the screen and enjoy as many cups of coffee as it would take to make sure he didn't fall asleep during his actual shift.
Right now he was winning.
Only one person was still on the virtual table, the game having got too rich for the rest of the competition. It was just Gabriel or samsboytrickster as he was online and thegreenknight. Even as they played, they were in a private chat together. Gabriel liked this part the best. He couldn't work with profilers and not pick up a few skills. Most people had tells, even online and Gabriel was good at psyching them out.
'Your hand," he typed, grinning.
The screen flashed as thegreenkinght's message flashed up.
'take a look at this: '
Gabriel rolled his eyes. He wondered if this was going to be a picture of his opponent's dick. It wouldn't be the first time he'd someone send him a picture of their anatomy. Still, no one was likely to walk through the door and see what he was looking at, and Gabriel could do with a good laugh. He clicked the link.
The image loaded in a second. It was a young man, sitting alone in what looked like a prison cell from a movie. Gabriel rolled his eyes again. So thegreenknight had sent him porn. Gabriel was an aficionado of porn and this was proper amateur stuff. He also wasn't a fan of fantasy rape and the boy on the screen looked scared. Gabriel watched, bored, certain he'd switch it off when the other performer appeared in the scene. Gabriel spent enough time dealing with the outcome of rape. He didn't find it sexy any more. Slowly the camera moved forward, bringing the boy's features into view till they filled the screen.
It was like being punched in the gut.
Gabriel knew that face. He walked past that face every day, grinning at him from the family photo on Sam's desk. That was Sammy's little brother. Gabriel knew him. He'd even met him once. He swallowed hard, panic rising in his chest. He minimized the video feed and brought the chat back up. There was another message there.
'Tell Agent Winchester I'm waiting. If he can't catch me, I sell the boy,' the message said.
Thegreenknight had disconnected.
Gabriel brought the video feed back up. Adam was alone, glaring at the camera and Gabriel hoped it stayed that way. He reached out, fingers brushing across the screen, across Adam's cheek and he swallowed again.
"Don't you worry, kiddo. I'm gonna get the team in," he said quietly.
The phone rang. Gabriel jumped and then pressed answer. He had the phone on loud speaker. It made everything easier since he was usually typing when he took a message. Michael's voice floated out of the receiver, sounding tight and worried.
"Gabriel, are you there?"
"Michael, you need to come in. I've got something I need to show you."
"I'm already on my way. Adam Milligan's gone missing. Dean and Sam's brother."
"Michael, I know. I'm watching a video feed of him right now."
Michael took a moment to look around the worried faces of his team as he gathered the scant notes he had to brief them with. Normally there would have been some grumbling about the early hour and crimes inability to keep within a nine-to-five shift but everyone knew they worked when they were needed, not to the clock. This time however every face was a picture of concern. They all knew the victim. It was hard not to be worried when they knew the victim. Michael sighed internally. That was going to make keeping a professional distance hard. Michael really didn't want this case taken off them. He knew that he had the best team, that Adam's best chances of survival rested on their shoulders but there was one big conflict of interest staring at him and his name was Dean Winchester.
His brother Sam stood next to him, holding a picture in his hands. He glanced down at it ever so often, fear flickering in his eyes and then he looked up again, waiting for his orders. Michael wasn't worried about Sam. He thought he could trust Sam to put aside the personal and deal with the issue at hand. Dean was the hothead who almost hadn't made it onto the team. If Sam and Dean weren't practically a package deal, Michael might not have accepted Dean. The fact that he got results didn't make him any less insubordinate and incapable of taking orders.
They were the sons of John Winchester though, a founding member of their department. John was almost legendary. He was responsible for almost every regulation their department had, especially the ones about appropriate contact with witnesses, suspects and victims. Adam's mother, Kate Milligan, was a nurse who'd been the target of a serial rapist. John had shot the man down, swept in like a knight in shining armor and later had to confess to an illegitimate son fathered during a relationship that had had more to do with gratitude on Kate's part than any real feeling towards him. John had died in a blaze of glory, gunned down in the process of taking down a child killer and people forgot the times he'd been wrong or when he'd gone against the book. They just remembered that he'd been a hero and his sons walked in the shadow of that. Michael knew he was lucky. Sam and Dean could have gone anywhere in the bureau but they'd wanted to work for him. More often than not they were an asset to him.
Michael took in Dean's tightly clenched jaw. Dean met his eyes, glaring at him and Michael sighed under his breath. Yes, most of a time they were an asset but the rest of the time he was the one clearing up their mistakes.
Next to Dean there was Bobby Singer, one of the original team of profilers that had been headed by John Winchester. Bobby had been lured back from retirement when the Winchester boys joined the bureau. He'd always said that John was either raising profilers or future serial killers and he'd come back to make sure it was the former, not the later. Bobby was gruff, had seen too much and he'd rather be back at his cabin in the mountains - fixing cars and shooting things – but Michael was glad they had him there. Bobby had handle more kidnapping cases then the rest of the team put together. Michael could see it in Bobby's eyes though, when he looked at him, that Bobby knew as well as he did that they were most likely going to be retrieving a body, not a living, breathing human being.
Jo Harvelle had gone to college on a sports scholarship and seemed to have chosen the FBI because it was there, not because it had been a lifelong dream or she'd had any definite career plan in place. She was pretty, blonde and young. She was their press lesion and Michael knew a lot of people thought she was there simply because she looked good on camera but Jo was a force to be reckoned with. She'd passed the fire arms proficiency test with the highest score out of the team and knew how to manipulate the media. There wasn't anyone Michael would rather have covering his back in the office and out in the field.
Anna Milton was his specialist in obsessive crimes. Anna hit the books, she worked hard and she had the proficiency to show it. She'd been a late replacement for another agent who'd spent a week on the job and decided that getting into the heads of serial killers and rapists wasn't for him. Michael almost hadn't accepted Anna. Her medical history had included a stay in a mental institution but Anna had proved herself time and time again. There was no one better at getting inside the heads of the guys they hunted down. Anna pushed herself to the edge but Michael always made sure that she didn't fall. She had her head cocked now, as if listening to something else the others couldn't hear, and Michael was sure she was trying to think herself into the mind of a man who'd snatch a college student off the street.
Castiel Novak was a genius. He had the most amazing memory. From the moment they were on a case Castiel would have every detail memorized. He could recall the most archaic facts and statistics. He was the youngest member of the team. It was sometimes impossible to believe that he and Gabriel could have come from the same foster home. Castiel had graduated with three degrees to his name; Gabriel had been a hacker drop out. They were devoted to each other in their own, oddly detached way. Gabriel had turned up on the FBI's radar when he had hacked their database after Castiel applied to the bureau. His defence had been that he'd only wanted to see how his brother's application was doing. He had almost cost Castiel a job, but in the end everything had worked out. Gabriel could do things with a computer that made Michael's head spin. It was as if Gabriel talked in a foreign language of code but he got results faster than any of their other techs. He humanized Castiel who had a habit of sounding like a talking textbook and Castiel grounded Gabriel. While they didn't live in each other's pockets like the Winchesters and weren't related by blood, they were still very obviously brothers.
Gabriel, of course, was the reason for the other half of the regulations the bureau had had to introduce. Before Gabriel Tricksler joined certain things hadn't needed to be explicitly stated but it seemed Gabriel needed it written in triplicate before he understood that he couldn't use his printer budget for cat macros. Gabriel was constantly on probation but, even though Michael refused to sign his permanent contract, Gabriel was a full-fledged member of the team and Michael would never get rid of him. He had no idea who he'd ever get to replace him. The techs who filled in for Gabriel during his enforced two weeks holiday never knew what to do with his files and programs. Gabriel made himself indispensable.
Then there was Michael, the final member of his team. He was the one who'd come up through the ranks. He did the paperwork and the overtime. He was there before the others and he left after them. He wasn't a genius and he wasn't a specialist. He had simply worked, every day, learned how to climb the ladder and he knew how to control this disparate group. He ran it like a well-oiled machine. He had brought them together and made them work even when the odds had been against them. They had tackled the most unusual of unknown suspects, or unsubs as they were called, and had the highest capture and conviction rate. He had made his team the envy of the department. He didn't want this case to be the one that pulled his team apart. He didn't want to have the portents of doom proved right. Someone was always saying that the team were too close, that they put each other before the cases they worked. Now Michael really could be accused of putting his own first. They were working this case because Adam was the brother of two of their agents, no matter what Michael might put down in his reports later.
He cleared his throat, pointing at one side of the room where a large flat screen was set up. A picture appeared on it. Adam's photo from his college ID. He was smiling. This would be the photograph they released to the press. Adam looked wholesome, happy.
"This is Adam Milligan. I'm sure I don't need to introduce him, you should all know him. This case is going to flag up as a conflict of interest and I wouldn't be surprised if someone tries their hardest to take it off us," Michael glanced back at Dean, saw the shift in Dean's stance, the way the man clenched his fists and he hurried on, "That's why Sam and Dean, you need to stay in the office for this assignment. I want Adam found and found alive and I know this team can do it. I need to follow procedure on this one. We all do."
Castiel cleared his throat. "Statistically speaking, most kidnapping victims are dead within the first twenty-four hours."
Dean slammed his hand down onto the conference table and Castiel flinched.
"Adam isn't a victim. He's my brother. Don't talk about him like he's a victim."
"Dean, this is what I meant. We need to use all the tools at our disposal if we're going to find Adam. We can't jeopardize this investigation because we're afraid to upset you."
"Dean, please," Sam said, turning towards his brother, fingers clutching the photo so tightly that Michael thought he might rip it unintentionally. "We have to let them help."
"Fine," Dean huffed, folding his arms across his chest. "But Adam didn't do anything to deserve this. He's just a normal kid."
"No one does anything to deserve this," Anna said pointedly.
Dean rolled his eyes and Michael could tell he was thinking about people accepting lifts from strangers they didn't know, allowing anyone into their homes without ID, being too trusting but trust didn't mean someone deserved to end up dead. Most people were in the wrong place at the wrong time and paid too high a price for that. The only person who was responsible for what they suffered was the person who inflicted it upon them. Slowly Dean unwound, as if remembering that himself, and Michael felt confident enough to move on to the next part of the briefing.
"At twelve thirty last night, Dean received a call from Adam. Adam identified that his attacker was male, but other than that he wasn't able to give too much information before the call was disconnected. I believe, given information we've since received, that this phone call was no mistake. Our unsub didn't leave Adam's phone on him by mistake. He wanted Adam to make that call."
Out of the corner of his eye Michael saw Jo shudder. Michael knew what he was suggesting and he hated it but he had to accept that it was the most likely possibility. Adam hadn't been snatched at random. He and his family had been targeted. They were dealing with a sadist who wanted Adam's family to suffer too.
"How can you be sure?" Anna asked.
Michael changed the image on the screen again. This was the live feed to the boy's prison that Gabriel had been sent.
"Because our unsub sent this to Tricksler."
There was silence behind him, then the heavy sound of Dean's boots on the floor as he left the room, throwing open the door to the conference room and stomping down the stairs. Sam's eyes darted to the screen and then back to the retreating form of his older brother.
"I'll make sure he doesn't do something stupid," he said finally.
Michael waited until Sam had left the room then enlarged the picture on the screen. Adam was sitting on the edge of the bed, head in his hands but apart from what looked like a cut to the back of his head, Michael couldn't see any other injuries.
"There was something else. A message, telling agent Winchester that he had twenty-four hours to find Adam or the unsub plans to sell him," Michael gritted his teeth, forcing the words out. There were always hard cases, ones you identified with more than you should and Michael had always hated human traffickers. Their disrespect for human life, for the rights those people had, left him white hot with anger. "Since the phone call was to Dean, I'm going to assume that Dean is the Agent Winchester this message was meant for but it could just as easily have been Sam and the unsub didn't realize who Adam would call first."
Michael had checked his phone. He had had no messages. He'd checked his personal line, his private line and the one in his office but there was no message for him.
"If you think the message is for Dean, then why are you keeping him at arm's length?" Castiel asked, tilting his head to one side.
"Because I don't want to give our unsub what he wants," Michael said, frowning slightly. "Dean needs to stay off this case. He doesn't think straight when family is involved and if he thinks this is his fault somehow then he'll be no good to us. The unsub sent these messages using the handle 'thegreenknight'. Does anyone have an idea why he'd be using that name in particular?"
"Maybe he sees himself as a knight," Anna suggested, with a shrug of her shoulders. "Or he views this whole thing as a quest – rescue the damsel before time runs out."
"It could refer to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In Arthurian legend the Green Knight allows himself to be beheaded by Sir Gawain on condition that he can return the blow in a year and a day. It's a classic tale of chivalry," Castiel said. His brow furrowed then, his expression confused. "Of course if the unsub is after Dean, then that would suggest he views Dean as Sir Gawain and he plans to repay Dean for whatever Dean did to him."
Michael nodded thoughtfully, then he pointed across the table to Gabriel, "Tricksler, I want you to run a trace on anyone who's ever threatened Dean or Sam. Anything you can dig up, trial transcripts, letters that have been sent. It's important. And keep trying to trace whoever sent you this video. The rest of you, we're going to head to the last place we know Adam was and see what clues we can find."
Gabriel's office didn't look anything like an FBI office should. There were a number of computer screens, a regulation chair that should support Gabriel's back and prevent him from suing later on when sitting in front of computer screens affected his posture. There was a wireless keyboard, a phone and Gabriel's headset. All of that was how it should be, but Gabriel had added his own touches. The background on his computer screens were a horrible, mind-melting color. His mouse-mats appeared to have been won by sending in box tops to cereal companies, they were so covered in product placement. Cat macros with funny sayings were tacked up to the wall, almost covering any free space. There was a bin in the corner over spilling with candy wrappers and old Starbucks cups. Sam knew the bins were emptied daily so Gabriel had to have filled that up since he came in for his shift. On the free desk space, Gabriel had put figurines of superheroes. Sam absentmindedly picked up Thor. Gabriel turned his head away from the screen and hissed.
"Don't touch, don't touch!" he squealed, waving his hands around and Sam set the figure down apologetically.
"Sorry," he said, stretching his fingers because they felt empty, useless without something to hold. The photograph of Adam had been taken off him by Jo. She'd promised to be careful with it, that she would return it to him as soon as she could but it was the most recent photograph they had of Adam and they were going to need it to jog people's memories and piece together the moments before he was abducted. Sam understood all of that rationally but it was still something precious to him and he would have liked to have it to look at, to remind himself of Adam's smile.
One of Gabriel's computer screens was playing the live video of Adam's cell. He was sleeping. Sam didn't find any comfort in being able to watch his brother's every move. He would have preferred the smiling photograph to this.
Gabriel sighed softly.
"Why don't you grab a chair? I'll show you what I'm doing. I'm trying to track this guy's IP address and get a location for the uplink."
"And if you do?" Sam asked.
"Then we'll be right there, ready to arrest the sucker before he knows what hit him. Most guys who do this sort of thing, they think they're smart but really they haven't got the first clue. They always leave themselves open in some way and I got a feeling this dick wants us to catch him."
Sam couldn't help smiling at Gabriel's conviction. Sam felt like he was treading water, trying to keep his head up. He'd be useless to everyone if he sunk down, drowned in doubt and fear, the way he felt like he was threatening to do. Dean had already gone off the deep end. He was outside, destroying everything in his path. Dean didn't know how to deal with his anger in ways that weren't self-destructive. It was good to be around Gabriel who at least had something to do, some way to help Sam take his mind off what was happening.
Only Sam found himself wanting to talk. He couldn't just push his emotions aside. He couldn't pretend that Adam was just another victim. He couldn't remain professional at a moment like this. He didn't want Dean to know he was wobbling. Dean hated the fact that they were being kept on desk duty. He didn't want Michael knowing either. Sam didn't want to be the weak one who proved his theory right. Dean always got over involved in his cases and he still managed to do his job. Sam didn't know if the same could be said for him. He didn't feel he was cut from the same cloth as his brother, or as his father before him. When he was growing up John Winchester had always been on the road and he'd been brought up on Dean's stories and blatant hero worship of him. Dean and John were men who never gave up and never stopped hunting. Sam knew he didn't have that strength in him.
Someone had come after his family, after his little brother who shouldn't have had any part in this mess and all Sam wanted to do was clutch at his photograph and sit down in the waiting room, stay numb until someone told him that Adam was safe. If Dean knew that, he would have been ashamed of him. Dean wanted to be out in the field and Sam knew he should want that too but he felt like he was in shock.
Gabriel swivelled in his chair, looking up at Sam's face and his expression softened.
"Want something to drink? I've got an intern that'll do a coffee run for us?" He offered.
Sam shook his head.
"No, and that's not how you're supposed to use the recruits. They're supposed to be learning to be agents, not be tea boys," he said. It was a knee-jerk nag but it felt good to fall back into the old pattern of reprimanding Gabriel.
Gabriel rolled his eyes and stood up. "Inias likes it. You stay there." He pointed at his seat and then forced Sam down into it when Sam started showing resistance. He was surprisingly strong for such a small guy and Sam wondered if it was true that all the exposure the computer rays had given Gabriel superhuman strength. As office gossip went it was ridiculous and he had the feeling Gabriel had started that rumor himself, but it still made him smile.
A couple of seconds later Gabriel was back, wheeling a chair in front of him. He made a show of dusting off the seat and then offered it to Sam.
"Inias is getting me a double Mocha latte and you a Strawberries and Cream. I told him you're not to have any caffeine. Sit down here; you're not really supposed to sit in my seat. It was designed for me and if Michael finds out he'll want to know why I had to have it specially requisitioned if just anyone can sit in it."
Sam unfolded himself, letting Gabriel back into his specially designed chair and he sat down in the office standard one Gabriel had brought him. Gabriel's was certainly softer, better on the posture but Sam still found himself muttering about how he'd bring this up the next time their budget was called into question. Gabriel hummed loudly as if budgets were things that happened to other people and tapped away quickly on the keyboard.
"What are you doing?" Sam asked him after a moment.
"Just running the search Michael asked for, the people who've made threats against you. I made the mistake of just searching Agent Winchester at first. Wow, your dad was the sort of man who made a lot of enemies, wasn't he?"
"My dad was good at his job," Sam said defensively.
Gabriel turned his head, a half-smile on his lips.
"From what I hear your dad was like a bear with a sore tooth. People shot themselves in the foot to get out of being partnered with him."
Sam opened his mouth to defend his father but found instead that he was laughing. Gabriel was right. Sam was so used to hearing people talking in reverent tones about his father that hearing someone describe the father he remember was refreshing for Sam. Even Bobby, who'd known his father the best out of all of them was careful to hold his tongue around Dean and Sam out of fear of offending them. Sam wished he wouldn't. It would have been good to talk about his father as he actually was, rather than the hero Dean remembered.
Gabriel jabbed his thumb at the screen showing the picture of Adam sleeping and Sam's laughter faded. His heart constricted painfully.
"So, does he take after your dad?" Gabriel asked.
Sam shook his head. "He's stubborn, it's a Winchester trait but he takes after his mom. Adam's pretty great when you get past all that bravado and bitterness. I know he never liked dad much."
"Hard to like someone who was never there," Gabriel said enigmatically.
"Yeah," Sam agreed. "He and Dean fight like cats and dogs. Dean thinks he knows what's best for Adam, and Adam wants to do his own thing. He's studying medicine. He's so smart, and he volunteers on the weekends at the local hospital. Just administration, nothing more yet but he's still there and doing it. I wish I got to see him more often, but like I said, he and Dean fight. I'm surprised he called Dean and not me. I thought he was closer to me."
Sam had thought Adam understood about the strangeness of their family, the pressure of being one of John Winchester's sons. He thought Adam was going to get the chance to escape out from their father's shadow and live a life outside of the FBI. They'd talked about it, Sam had been supportive. He'd been the one Adam called in the middle of the night when he was scared about a test. He was the one Adam confided in. Yet it had still been Dean that Adam had called when he was in danger. In the end, being the good brother who gave Adam space and supported him wasn't what Adam had needed. He'd needed the stubborn big brother who was always treating him like a little boy. That knowledge hurt.
Gabriel was watching him sympathetically.
"Don't let it get to you," he said. "If it helps, I know all about little brothers and their blatant favoritism."
"Castiel is your foster brother and you nearly cost him his job. I think that's a little different."
"It's completely the same. I'm here, all the time, watching his back but it's always Raphael he wants to spend Christmas with."
At any other time Sam might have found Gabriel's attempts to compare his family situation to Sam's to be crass but for the moment he was grateful for Gabriel and his prattling. He was also grateful for Gabriel letting him talk about Adam. In his own, rather strange way, Gabriel was helping him.
Jo sighed, pushing her sunglasses up on to the top of her head. Watching Anna methodically step out Adam's route home was hard under the sweltering sun, but harder still since they were gaining a following of students from around the campus. Anna didn't even seem to notice them. She was lost, back in time, trying to get inside the head of whoever had snatched Adam from the streets.
"It was dark," Anna said softly, so softly that Jo almost missed it. "Adam was coming home from a party, he walked along this way alone." All of that was information they'd already gathered but it helped to set the scene, Jo knew. It was hard to imagine the campus at night when it was the middle of the day, the sun boiling hot and people crowding around them. During the day it seemed too active to be a dangerous place. At night it would be different. If Anna had to keep reminding herself of that, then Jo didn't mind the repetition.
"Someone must have been waiting for him," Anna said, coming to a stop under a streetlight and Jo followed her. "Or they followed him. They couldn't have known where Adam was going to be otherwise. They couldn't have made sure he was alone. We know that this definitely wasn't a chance grab and snatch, right?" She turned her head, looking to Jo for confirmation.
"No, whoever has Adam knows who he is, and they know about his family. It wasn't random."
"Someone was watching him then," Anna said confidently.
Jo turned to scan the worried faces of the crowd. She wondered if one of them could be the person who'd abducted Adam but they all looked so young. Far too young to be involved in this. Whoever did this was someone with knowledge and experience. They had probably done this before. Familiarity with kidnappers told Jo that in all likelihood she'd be looking for someone a lot older than the general student population.
"We'll need to talk to the media. This could start a panic, parents pulling their kids out of the school, we might lose vital evidence or the news could spin this the wrong way and the unsub might get spooked and kill Adam, I'll call Michael and get him to make some arrangements."
If the press wrote something that the unsub took the wrong way, they could end up with a dead body on their hands. Their unsub wouldn't be the first killer who panicked thinking the FBI were closer than they actually were and disposed of the evidence or felt the need to show that they were one step ahead and still in control. Jo reached for her phone, sending Michael a quick text message, a reminder to him to set up a meet and greet with the local media. There were a few other things she needed to do on the ground with Anna but Michael was more than enough to put the fear of God into most reporters. He'd be able to convince them to keep a lid on things and not exaggerate or speculate.
"We should talk to Adam's friends and the people in his dorm. We need to know if any of them noticed someone strange hanging around recently," she said.
Hopefully someone would have seen something. For a second Jo wished that monsters looked like they did in the movies - strange, alien and instantly noticeable. Someone always noticed the stalker in a movie. She shook her head, dismissing that thought. This was real life and movies had a lot to answer for.
"Mr Chuck Shurley?" Jo asked, holding up her FBI ID. The worried face of Chuck Shurley disappeared from the small gap in the doorway and a second later the door opened wide to let both her and Anna inside. Chuck Shirley was in his early twenties, his hair was a mess, he hadn't shaved and he stank in the way that suggested he'd spent the previous night drinking everything in his apartment that wasn't toxic. Jo wrinkled her nose. A desk littered with empty bottles suggested she was right in her assumptions.
"Look, I didn't know what the plant was! My friend just told me to look after it for him. I'm really sorry and I'll get rid of it," Chuck said, running a hand through his hair, eyes darting to a cupboard in the corner. Jo resisted a desire to roll her eyes.
"Whatever you're growing in there, I suggest you get rid of it but we're not here about that. We're here to talk to you about Adam Milligan. I'm sure you're aware by now that he's been abducted."
Jo scanned Chuck's face and saw the shock there at her words.
"Adam? What? No! I was...I had to finish a paper last night and I always write better with some encouragement." He glanced at the empty bottles and Jo could guess what he meant by encouragement. She also doubted very much that his professors thought his work was better drunk than sober. "I was kind of passed out before you guys knocked on the door. Fuck, Adam...man. He's such a nice kid. Calls his mom every other day, always in the library. He's not dead, is he?"
Chuck collapsed into the chair at his desk, burying his head in his hands. He seemed honestly shocked.
Jo squatted down beside him, placing a hand on his knee. Chuck raised his head out of his hands, eyes red and bleary. "He's not dead, is he?" he asked again.
"No, he's not," Jo said firmly. "We need to ask you some questions to help find the man who took him. You're Adam's next door neighbor. Were you friends?"
"Not really, no. He'd dropped by sometimes, helped me study but we're on completely different courses. I'm doing literature and Adam was pre-med."
Jo licked her lips, reaching for her notebook but she doubted she'd get anything useful from Chuck Shurley. She doubted he even knew what time of day it was. It was unlikely that Chuck would have noticed if something in Adam's life had been out of place but she still had to run through the questions just in case.
She opened her mouth but there was a knock on the door. All heads turned towards it and Jo nodded towards Anna, motioning her towards the door. Anna had been silent so far throughout the interview, just observing. That was what she did best, listening and thinking and Jo was happy to give her the space to work. She watched Anna's hand move, fingers on the handle of her gun as she stepped towards the door.
Slowly Anna opened the door and then stepped back, stance relaxing. There was a young woman standing in the doorway. She was short with long blonde hair and wearing a sweater vest, there was a satchel slung over her shoulder with little badges pinned to it. Some were just simple designed like smiles and rainbows but others were text with 'I love Thorki' written on them and similar phrases.
"Becky?" Chuck was looking at the girl in horror.
"Chuck? Are you under arrest? Did you tell them you don't know what the plant is?" she asked, her eyes widening almost comically.
"No, Becky. They're here about Adam," he said.
"Adam? I heard about that," she said, taking her bag off her shoulder and coming to stand next to Chuck, rubbing his back. "I know they're saying he was abducted but I just thought that….well...I thought he'd run off with his boyfriend."
"His boyfriend?" Jo asked. Neither Dean or Sam had mentioned anything about Adam having a boyfriend when they'd talked about him. In fact, they hadn't mentioned anything about his romantic life at all. Jo had just assumed that meant he didn't have anyone in his life.
"Is Adam gay?" Anna asked quietly.
"No," Chuck said at the same time as Becky said "Yes."
The two of them stared at each other and then Chuck slowly shook his head. "He could have been. We didn't talk much. He and Becky were closer."
"Yes, he was gay but he wasn't in your face about it. He said his brother wouldn't have understood and he wanted to get through school and into a career before he came out to him," Becky said. Jo didn't have to guess which of the brothers Adam would have wanted to keep his sexuality a secret from. It would have to be Dean. It would never have worried Sam.
"And you said he had a boyfriend?" Anna prompted.
Becky squirmed slightly, her cheeks flushing pink. "I never met the guy. Adam was really secretive about him. He was older than Adam, I know that. That was another reason Adam couldn't tell anyone about him."
"Did he tell you a name?"
"No, he didn't. But I did see the guy's car once. He came to pick Adam up for a date. They always went somewhere people wouldn't know them. It was a rental car so I don't think he was local," Becky said, twirling her hair around her fingers as she remembered.
Anna's pen moved quickly as she jotted down the statement. "Do you have any idea how long they'd been together?"
"A few months. I don't know the exact dates, like I said, Adam was very secretive." Becky tossed her hair, frowning slightly. "It wasn't as if I didn't ask! I did, but Adam wouldn't tell me very much. He said it was creepy, how interested I was but I just wanted to know what anal sex felt like and Chuck wasn't being any help!"
Jo fought the urge to laugh. Chuck was staring straight ahead, a slightly terrified look in his eyes.
"She bought a strap-on," he informed them woefully.
Anna coughed delicately, not bothering to hide her smile. "That's fine. We don't need to know about your sex lives. Becky, Chuck, have you seen anyone strange around campus lately? Has anyone been especially interested in Adam? Was he scared of anyone?"
The young couple glanced at each other – both thinking, waiting for the other one to jog their memory and then each slowly shook their heads in a no. Anna nodded, jotting that down in her notebook.
"Well, thanks for your time," Jo said. She smiled at the two of them, fishing a card out from her pocket and handing it to Becky. "If you think of anything else, give me a call. We'll be going now, you've been very helpful," she said, reaching to touch Anna's elbow and indicate towards the door. Anna flipped her notebook shut and followed her out into the hallway. Jo shut the door before she started giggling. Anna shushed her and Jo clamped her hand over her mouth, body shaking with silent sobs of laughter.
Slowly she composed herself, unable to meet Anna's eye because she'd laugh again if she did. It felt so wrong to be laughing considering the seriousness of the situation but she couldn't get the way Chuck had said 'strap-on' out of her head or the look on his face. Jo gasped for air, fanning her face with her hand to try and get the redness out of her cheeks.
Anna smiled, flipping her notebook open again. Jo leaned over, glancing at the page on which Anna had written in big letters boyfriend.
"We need to find out who this boyfriend is," she said, somber now they were looking back at the relevant information they had learned from Becky and Chuck. She couldn't help but feel that when they found the boyfriend, they'd find the abductor. A number of things Becky had said fitted the profile Jo was building in her head. He was older, he'd wanted Adam to keep him a secret, he'd picked him up in a rented car and taken him away from where people knew him. The dates Becky described almost sounded like trial runs for the abduction. Only this time Adam had resisted, he'd known something was wrong and he'd tried to call for help. She felt a shiver run down her spine at the thought of it.
Anna was watching her carefully.
"Yes," she agreed. "I think we should check Adam's phone records and his computer. We can get that sent over to Gabriel, if there's anything to find, he'll find it."
Jo sighed softly, pulled her phone out of her pocket. "I'll flip a coin with you. Heads you tell Dean about the mystery boyfriend, tails I do it."
Whoever ended up getting that job was going to bear the brunt of Dean's anger. Jo really didn't want to be the one who ended up dealing with him. She couldn't help but agree with Adam's reasons for wanting to keep things a secret from Dean. It wasn't that Dean didn't love his brothers; it was that he loved them too much. Dean wanted to run their lives for them, keep them safe from harm and Dean would only ever see boyfriends as shady, dangerous people who could hurt Adam. Adam had just done what young adults the world over did, try to live their lives without their family breathing down their necks. Jo could only hope that in Adam's case that secrecy hadn't created the perfect situation for his abduction.
She flipped open the phone and punched speed dial, holding it up to her ear as she waited for it to be answered.
"Michael? Yeah, it's Jo. Anna and I have got a new lead. There are some things we need to bring in."
"How's Dean holding up?" Jo perched herself on the desk next to Sam. He glanced up at her, a half-smile on his lips. He was tired going through the files Gabriel had dug up on people who'd made threats against his family. A lot of the guys were still in jail, a few of them had died but there were a couple who'd ended up released for good behavior, mostly rapists and Sam hated the fact that sex crimes carried such low sentences. He really didn't want to think about Adam at the hands of some sexual sadist who'd be using his fear to get off. So far Adam was the only person on the video feed but Sam still worried. Talking about Dean, difficult though his brother was, was a break from the pain of looking through old cases and worrying about Adam.
"He went down to the shooting range, emptied his gun into the wall rather than the target so they kicked him out. He smashed up a few things, then Gabriel gave us the print outs of possible suspects and he took himself off to Bobby's office to lock himself away and look through them," Sam said, stretching his arms above his head. His eyes were starting to hurt. He felt like he'd been inside too long, spent too much time looking at computer screens and paperwork.
Beside him, Jo shifted uncomfortably.
"What's wrong?" Sam asked.
Jo sighed. "I was hoping he would have calmed down a bit."
"I know, I know. Triumph of hope over experience, Sam," she said, holding her hand up to stop him. She glanced over her shoulder, checking that they were alone and then leaned closer. "We found something out about Adam that Dean's not going to like."
"What?" Sam asked worriedly. Jo's eyes scanned his face, looking for something but she evidently didn't find it there because she sighed again.
"Did you know Adam was gay?" she asked.
Sam nodded. "I didn't know for sure, but I suspected. He hasn't had a girlfriend since highschool but he used to pretend he had girls all over him. I knew he was doing it for Dean's sake. They're too similar. Dean brags about scoring with girls too but I know he's not…." Sam stopped himself, guilt written all over his face. They were talking about Adam, not Dean and Dean's sexuality wasn't something Sam should ever bring up in the workplace. It wasn't even something he talked about with Dean.
"It's okay, Sam. I've seen him checking out Castiel in the break room as well as Anna. I think the whole team knows. It's not something that needs to be discussed."
Sam was suddenly grateful he was having this talk with Jo and not Anna or anyone else. Out of all of the team, Jo was the one who understood Dean the best. She was practically like a sister to them. That was how Sam thought of her. He was grateful she'd come to talk to him about this, to gauge how much he knew first. He felt everyone almost forgot he was Adam's brother too, that there might be revelations in the case that would upset him. Everyone was treading on eggshells because Dean was the one who didn't know how to deal with his frustration. Sam was the good one who kept his head. He was glad Jo knew him well enough to know that he was hurting and lost too.
"So yeah, I guessed," he said. "But Adam never said anything. Is that it? You found out he's gay? Dean's not a complete cave man. That's not going to upset him that much, Jo. He'll just be worried."
"That wasn't it, Sam." Jo tucked her hair behind her ear. "I just needed to know how much you already knew. Sam, he has a boyfriend. An older boyfriend."
"Oh." Sam swallowed down the lump that stuck in his throat. Accepting that Adam was gay in an abstract way was easy. Accepting that Adam was gay and dating an older man was harder. Sam hated the fact that he hadn't known there was someone in Adam's life. He wished Adam could have trusted him with that part of himself. "Did you interview him? What's he like?"
"He was a secret boyfriend. Adam's friends didn't even know his name. We brought Adam's computer back with us and Gabriel's checking the hard drive but I just want you to know, what we find out might not be something either you or Dean want to hear." She looked at him seriously and Sam swallowed. That statement could mean so many things. There were an awful lot of things Sam didn't want to hear about his little brother and his little brother's sex life.
"Thanks, Jo," he said, patting her arm gently. "Thanks for telling me. Don't worry, I can take whatever you find out."
The door of Bobby's office slammed open and Dean stormed out, waving a notepad in his hand.
"I know who our unsub is!" he declared, running down the little set of steps that separated Bobby and Michael's offices from the general desks of the other agents. Sam shook his head, pressing his fingers to his forehead and wondered if Gabriel was right about caffeine being bad for him. He'd given Gabriel his strawberries and cream when it arrived, the idea of drinking something with that much whipped cream in it making him retch but all the cups of office coffee he'd been drinking couldn't be good for him. They certainly didn't do anything for the pressure headache he was currently experiencing.
"Dean, you can't know for certain," he said.
"Dean, there's something I need to tell you about Adam," Jo said at almost the same time.
Dean stopped, looking between the two of them. "Shoot."
Jo didn't get the chance to tell Dean exactly what she'd told Sam because the office door opened and Gabriel bounded in, breathless and clutching a folder to his chest.
"You are not going to believe what I found on your brother's hard drive," he said, passing the file to Sam. Sam opened the folder, took a quick glance and then passed it on to Jo. Dean tried to grab for it but she held it away from him.
"No, Dean, you don't want to see these," she said firmly.
"Fuck that, Adam is my little brother. Show me what you found," Dean demanded angrily, trying to grab for the folder again.
"You might as well," Sam said, feeling his stomach twist into knots. "He'll find out sooner or later."
Jo paused for a moment, doubting Sam and then she opened the folder, splaying the pictures inside across the desk for them all to see. There were about six photos. They were all of Adam in various states of undress. He was smiling at the camera. None of them appeared to have been taken under duress. Adam looked happy, as if he was enjoying himself, enjoying the thrill he'd be giving the person the pictures were intended for. Jo tactfully covered the last photo, the one in which Adam was completely naked, with her hand.
"What the hell were these doing on his computer?" Dean growled, turning his gaze upon Gabriel as if it was Gabriel who'd put the photos there in the first place.
"I think he was sending them to his boyfriend," Gabriel said, blundering in where neither Sam nor Jo had been able to tactfully go before. "They were sent to an email address, I'm tracking who it belongs to now but the guy must be paranoid about protection. He and Adam don't even use names in their emails."
"Boyfriend?" Dean raised an eyebrow. "What boyfriend?"
"Adam's boyfriend," Gabriel looked at Sam and Jo for support and then threw his arms up in the air. "Oh great! You didn't tell him! Dean, we think your brother has been dating the unsub. It's some older guy, took Adam out away from campus, really security conscious. Everyone's too afraid to tell you anything because they think you'll shoot their heads off but Adam likes cock and you're going to have to live with that fact."
Jo quickly gathered the photos together again and closed the file, glaring at Gabriel.
"I was just coming to tell you, Dean. I was checking with Sam first," she said.
"And I didn't know about any boyfriend either," Sam said quickly. "Do you really think the boyfriend could be the unsub?" he asked Jo. He was aware Dean hadn't said anything yet. He was looking at the notepad in his hands, his expression strange and Sam wondered what name he had written down there.
"It's a possibility," Jo said slowly.
The door of Michael's office opened, their boss standing in the open doorway and Sam winced. He wondered how long Michael had been listening to them. Gabriel being unprofessional wasn't exactly news but Sam didn't want to endure the lectures about how they should all speak to colleagues. Michael came down the stairs slowly. There was a heavy set to his shoulders and he walked with purpose. He reached them and took the folder from Jo. He flipped it open, looking through the pictures with a strange, restrained expression on his face. Finally he closed the file and handed it back to Jo.
"Adam's boyfriend isn't the unsub," he said. "I'm his boyfriend."
Moving everyone to the briefing room had seemed the only thing to do if they were to stop Dean from murdering Michael. Even now Dean was pacing up and down. Jo found herself clenching and unclenching her fingers, balling them into fists. The best lead they'd had had been shot down in flames. It was noble of Michael to decide to come clean now, to tell the whole team what he should have told them from the start but Jo couldn't help disliking him for wasting their time. She could understand why he'd wanted to keep it a secret but the moment Adam went missing he should have known it would all come out.
"How long?" Sam asked. He seemed surprisingly even tempered about the whole thing.
"Nearly six months. Since Dean asked me to try to persuade Adam to join the bureau. I never intended for this to happen. I went to lunch with Adam and things….progressed." Michael made the whole thing sound inevitable, as if men in their forties often fell into relationships with young men in their twenties.
"So it's my fault? Is that what you're saying?" Dean asked, turning and glaring at Michael. "I introduced you so you thought it was okay to make a move on my kid brother?"
Michael looked startled. "No, it was never anything like that. I never planned to act on my feelings. It was Adam who suggested we could have something, if we kept it a secret."
He must have felt flattered, Jo thought. He must have been delighted that someone as young and vibrant as Adam could have been attracted to him. Michael was every inch a management suit, even if he did work for the FBI, and yet Adam had still wanted him. No wonder he hadn't been able to resist him. The secrecy had been for both their sakes. Neither of them wanted to be found out. Both of them had, quite rightly, feared Dean's reaction.
Nothing Michael had done in having a relationship with Adam had broken regulations and yet it was something that risked tearing the whole team apart.
Jo felt a little stab of something akin to sympathy for Michael. He'd seemed so detached, so determined to do a good job and remain professional, aware of how a loose cannon like Dean could cost them this assignment. She'd thought it was simply because he wanted to do right by his team, by Sam and Dean, but now she realized he must have been terrified for Adam and unable to express it. He must have been desperate to stay on the case, even if it meant throwing Dean under a preverbal bus to do it. He must have been experiencing the same level of guilt and hopelessness that Dean and Sam were but he'd had to struggle with it alone.
"You should have told us," she said gruffly.
Michael nodded. "I should have. I hoped…..I hoped it could stay our secret."
"So we've lost our suspect then?" Bobby asked. Jo was grateful for him, dragging them back to the case, reminding them that the fights and the blame could wait until after they'd found Adam.
"It looks like it," Jo agreed.
"I've got one for you," Dean said, tossing the notepad he'd been holding all the way through the meeting down on to the conference table. The team crowded round. Castiel was the first to speak.
"Alistair?" he said, looking up at Dean, tilting his head slightly.
"Before your time," Dean said, waving his hand as if trying to dismiss the question that was in Castiel's eyes. "That bastard hates me and he's capable of this. Michael, you remember him. You know he is."
"Dean, our intelligence had him in Paris when we last checked," Michael said.
Jo wondered if they were once again before left out of a secret. It seemed that this case, whatever it had been, was something Dean and Michael felt they could pursue on their own, without anyone else's involvement.
"Dean," Bobby's voice was a warning. "Don't go opening up old wounds before you know you've got a reason to."
"I know Alistair. I know him. This is what he'd do," Dean said, jabbing his finger at the name he'd written.
"Just check again. Make sure he's still in Paris."
Sam poured himself a cup of coffee and then reached for another mug out of the cupboard, pouring out another serving for Jo. Castiel filled himself a glass of water from the taps at the sink. The break room was uncharacteristically silent. Sam knew what both Castiel and Jo were dying to ask him but Jo was too polite and Castiel had probably already been warned not to bring it up. Either that or he was getting better at reading social cues. Sam passed the cup of too-bitter coffee across to Jo and she took it absent-mindedly, holding it close to her chest but not bothering to take a sip of it.
"Do you think Bobby's been able to find anything out?" she asked finally.
Sam half leaned out of the break room door, looking up at Bobby's office. The blinds were drawn and somewhere inside the office, Bobby was putting in a call to his Interpol contacts. Dean and Michael were with him. Anna was at her desk, pretending to go over paperwork and Sam guessed that Gabriel had probably already hacked into the phone systems to find out what was being said so he was locked in his office.
It was just the three youngest agents who were left out of the loop.
Sam took a sip of his coffee and grimaced. "I can see why Gabriel sends out for his," he said, reluctantly pouring the coffee down the drain. He hated being wasteful but there was no way he was drinking that. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Castiel frown at him.
Jo sniffed at her cup of coffee, frowning as well and putting the cup down on the sideboard. "Are you suggesting we find Inias? Poor guy's never going to get any field experience at this rate. He'll always be out of the office fetching coffee when the jobs are handed out. He needs to learn to put his foot down."
"Maybe he likes being the coffee boy?" Sam ventured. He was aware of the tension between them all. There was an elephant in the room that everyone was carefully avoiding and that Sam couldn't bring himself to face head on. Not with Adam missing. He didn't want to remember. Before Adam had been snatched, Alistair had been the worst thing that had ever happened to them.
"Maybe you should watch out, Sam. You might have a rival for Gabriel's affections there," Jo teased but her smile didn't reach her eyes.
"Gabriel and I aren't…."
"Stop it." Castiel set his glass down carefully on the sideboard. Sam almost jumped. It wasn't that Castiel had shouted. He didn't need to shout. He just managed to suck all the attempts of normality out of the air with quiet, steady words. He looked at Sam now, worry creasing his brow. "Who's Alistair and why is Dean afraid of him?"
"Castiel!" Jo hissed. Sam guessed that his first impulse, that Castiel had been warned off, had been the right one.
"No, I want to know. We're members of this team. We should know," Castiel continued.
Sam glanced towards the door again. No one was going to interrupt them. Dean was still in Bobby's office. If he was quick, then he could explain it to them. Sam knew that if he left it up to Dean or to Bobby then they'd get the tailored version of the story, the one that was fit for public consumption and Sam knew that wasn't the way it should work. Dean didn't want to be unmanned in front of his colleagues and Bobby would humor him, but they shouldn't avoid the painful things simply because Dean worked with them. If Dean was a victim, not an agent, then they'd need the full story. Jo and Castiel deserved to know what sort of monster they'd be dealing with and what he was capable of. If the unsub was Alistair that was. Sam wasn't convinced they weren't barking up the wrong tree.
If Dean was wrong, if Interpol intelligence showed that Alistair was still in Paris then he was never going to forgive Sam for revealing a part of his life he would have preferred kept secret. It had been Dean who'd bought Alistair up though, Dean who'd mentioned him in the briefing room in front of everyone and who'd seemed so certain. If Dean believed that it was him, then Sam was going to trust his brother's judgment. Dean knew Alistair better than anyone.
"Fine," he said, turning back to look at Jo and Castiel. "Fine. This isn't something Dean likes to talk about so don't.…don't bring it up unless he does, okay?" Sam knew he didn't have to tell Jo, she knew how to handle herself and how to handle Dean. It was Castiel he was worried about.
"I was in my last year of training, Dean was working undercover. I didn't know where he was and I still don't know very much about what he was doing." That wasn't unusual. It was a different department altogether that Dean had been working for then. Sam was still a trainee. He knew just enough and that was all he needed to know, Bobby and Dean had made sure of that. "I know it had something to do with human trafficking."
"Alistair was part of the group, I'd say he ran it but I don't know if that's true. I know he got his hands dirty. Dean was working for him, trying to gain his trust. Dean did things….I know he hates himself for what he did but you know what undercover work is like." Sam glanced at the two of them, knowing that they probably didn't. Jo had come straight to the team because she was a good liaison, not because she'd proved herself through fieldwork and Castiel was a terrible liar. Castiel had enough problems being Castiel. Sam didn't think he knew how to be himself, let alone anyone else. They both nodded though so he skipped trying to explain it. He didn't like dwelling on the thought of what Dean might have done.
"Dean had got a lot of information, but his team leader wanted more. I told you, I don't know what happened exactly but something went wrong. Alistair realized Dean was FBI. Dean nearly died. Alistair tortured him, tried to break him. If Bobby hadn't got him out…."
Sam swallowed hard. He didn't need to say what would have happened. Dean would rather die than betray his friends and they all knew he considered his team to be his friends. It had been the same with the team he'd worked with before.
"I had no idea," Jo murmured and Sam shrugged.
"Like I said, he doesn't talk about it. He was pretty bad for a while, took some time off. I graduated, we came to work here together."
At first Sam had thought Dean wanted to work with him so he could protect Sam, watch his little brother's back and there was certainly a bit of that in Dean's choice, but the more he thought about it the more Sam was convinced that Dean wanted his brother close because he didn't want to be on his own again.
Castiel looked trouble. "Dean never mentioned anything like this to me," he said, frowning.
Sam wondered how much Dean talked to Castiel but he didn't ask. Sometimes he was certain Castiel was too invested in Dean, that Dean just saw him as a newbie he could tease and that Castiel read more into it than that and other times he wondered if there could really be something between them, that all the teasing was a front for real feelings but Sam wasn't going to poke that hornets' nest now.
"Castiel," Jo sighed softly, "Dean had a right to keep secrets, even from you. That's not what's important. If this really was Alistair, wouldn't he have done something to Adam?" She looked at Sam questioningly.
"I don't know," Sam said honestly. "I've never looked at his files. Bobby made me promise not to. Dean or Bobby would know better if this is Alistair's MO, but I…."
He broke off quickly. Gabriel was standing in the doorway, panting, looking terrified.
"Something's happening! There's a man in the room with Adam! You need to see this."
Adam looked up as the door opened. He had no idea how long he'd been held captive. He guessed it was a couple of hours but he'd been unconscious for some of it. He'd tried sleeping because there was nothing else to do in the room but he couldn't let himself. He had been waiting for a moment like this, a moment where his kidnapper finally showed his face and revealed to Adam why he was doing any of this. Adam settled on the edge of the bed, not about to get up because he didn't want to antagonise the man right off but also not too vulnerable. If he got the chance, then he'd run. Too bad the man had shut the door behind him.
There was still very little light in the room but Adam could see that the man's face was covered and he moved to keep his back to the camera. The thought made Adam shudder. He tried to remember what Sam had told him, that it was better if an attack kept his face covered because it meant he was less likely to kill you because you couldn't identify him but Adam couldn't bring himself to really believe that. He wanted to believe this was some sort of ransom demand or something like that, although Adam didn't really like to follow that thought too far because while Sam and Dean made okay money, what his kidnapper might want would probably be something else. Their jobs brought them into contact with a lot of sensitive information. Adam really didn't want to be caught in the middle of an international incident.
There was something about the way the man walked though that made Adam doubt that. He couldn't put his finger on what it was but he found himself glancing at the camera and then back to the man. He was tall, wiry rather than heavy set and logically Adam thought he would have a chance against him in a fight – he was a fit college kid, he'd taken self-defence classes at Dean's insistence – but there was something about the man that made Adam doubt that. As the man walked he flexed his fingers, cracked his knuckles and all Adam could imagine was those fingers going round his neck, squeezing the life out of him.
He looked up again at the camera and tried so hard to remember that snuff films weren't real. Every investigation ever undertaken had proved that there was nothing but a lot of clever people playing about with camera tricks, make up and the darkest parts of humanities desires. He knew that. He thought he knew that. Dean liked to rip apart police procedural shows and one of his favorite topics was how they caused unnecessary panic by making up fake ways for people to die. Only suddenly Adam didn't feel the safety of his brother's apartment and Dean's mocking laughter, he just saw the camera light blinking and wondered if he was going to die now so some sick bastard could get his rocks off.
The man stopped, standing just in front of him, keeping some space between them. He made no attempt to touch Adam. For the longest time he just stood there, watching him.
Finally Adam couldn't take it any longer.
"What are you going to do to me?" he said, trying to keep his voice as calm as he could but it wavered slightly towards the end.
The man didn't say anything. He didn't move. Adam found himself getting angry. Was this some part of the man's sick game? Did he want Adam disorientated and frightened? He had the power to tell Adam why he was doing all this but all he would do was look at him and Adam couldn't even see his expression, could only see his eyes and they didn't tell him anything.
"Why are you doing this?" he shouted, feeling the fear and anger bubbling hysterically up inside him. "Who are you? Why are you doing this to me?"
The man raised his hand and slapped Adam hard across the face. Adam cried out, feeling pain bloom across his cheek. He looked up at the man, watching him for some sign of why he'd hit him. The man flexed his fingers and raised his hand again. Adam shut his eyes quickly. He realized with a sick certainty that there wasn't anything he could do to stop this beating. He just hoped the man would stop before he killed him. Adam had no idea how much he could endure and he wasn't keen on testing those limits.
Bobby turned away from the computer screen, shaking his head. He'd seen the after effects of these sorts of attacks too many times to count but he never got used to seeing the crimes themselves committed. He found offenders who taped their attacks worse in a way. It was another level of control, a sickness that they could relive over and over again. As times changed so did the equipment they used. It used to be Polaroids and then it was tapes, now they recorded the footage on phones or digital cameras and uploaded it later. It never failed to amaze him, the ingenuity of criminals. He was almost always grateful when they'd gone to the trouble of cataloguing their crimes. In a few ways it made it easier, but looking at the footage never got any easier.
The blows the man on the computer screen was landing would leave bruises, but he was being careful. He wouldn't kill the boy.
Bobby looked at the team, crowded into Gabriel's small office, trying to ignore Adam's whimpers. He didn't want to think about Adam. He had been at the boy's fourth birthday party, the one where John had finally acknowledged he had another son. Bobby couldn't picture that smiling, happy little boy and know he was the same person now being hurt right before his eyes.
"Where is the bastard transmitting from? Are you tracing him?" he snapped at Gabriel.
The man looked as if he was going to be sick. All the color was drained from his face and he looked at the screen as if he couldn't look away, as if he didn't know how to. Bobby felt sorry for him. This was outside of Gabriel's usual job remit. Normally Gabriel just ran the background checks and unlocked the encrypted files. He didn't see action up close and personal like this. Bobby gritted his teeth. It had been no coincidence that the video link had been sent to Gabriel.
"Tricksler!" he barked and finally Gabriel forced himself to look away.
"I am looking…." he said, his voice painfully soft and for a moment Bobby would have given anything to hear his usual, ridiculous squawking. "But whoever did this is smart. He's routing it through a number of proxy servers. I'm having to chase him. If I had someone else to help.…"
"I can help," Sam volunteered. "I can.…I know a bit and Gabriel can show me how to do the rest."
Gabriel nodded eagerly, latching on to Sam's arm and Bobby couldn't say no to them. Sam would be better staying behind a desk, working to find a lead rather than waiting for someone else to find one. It would be good for Gabriel too. He shouldn't be alone to watch this. Bobby knew that they were downloading every second of it. Gabriel would have to go over the stills later, have to check the man for any distinguishing features. Maybe Sam and Gabriel could work together to do that, could help each other through it. Bobby tried to ignore their over-familiarity normally, it was against regulations but at the moment he was willing to waive regulations. They'd never been in this situation before. If he made a mistake in doing this, it wouldn't be the first mistake they'd made on this case and it wouldn't waste as much time as Michael's mistake had done. If he was right and they helped each other, then maybe they'd be able to find a lead.
"Fine," he growled.
Gabriel grabbed Sam's hand, pulling him towards one of his oversized screens. "This can be your side of the room. I've got a tracking program running, we need to work out where he's been so we can follow him…."
Bobby tuned them out. Mostly everything Gabriel said made little sense to him and at the moment it wasn't the most important thing. At least Gabriel and Sam had something to do, something to keep their hands busy and their minds occupied. There were other people in the room who didn't have that luck.
Adam's beating had stopped and Bobby turned back to look at the video feed. Adam was lying on the bed, bleeding, his eyes closed but he was still breathing. The man who had attacked him leant over him, for a moment Bobby thought he was about to try to kiss Adam but it appeared he just wanted a closer look at the boy because then he straightened up, apparently satisfied. Bobby could see the blood on the knuckles of his gloves and that rankled him. The bastard was using a good lens and expensive, up to date equipment. There was no way they could miss a moment of what he did to Adam. He waited, watching till the man left the room and then he motioned for the others to leave the room.
Gabriel needed to catalogue the images they'd collected. He'd get there faster if he could focus. Bobby didn't want to talk in front of him or Sam. They had a job to do now.
"I think you should get a coffee," he said to Jo, catching her eye and nodded towards Anna and Castiel. "I think they could do with something too, it had to be hard on them, watching that."
Jo smiled at him. She understood, of course. He wanted to speak to Michael and Dean alone, but Bobby knew that couldn't have been easy for anyone to watch. It wasn't a bad thing for them to take a break, grab a breath of fresh air. He didn't want the team falling apart on him. They'd pull double, triple shifts till this was finished but that didn't mean they didn't need a moment to collect themselves. Only a moment though.
He waited till they were gone, putting one hand out to stop Michael from following them. The man seemed to be in a trance, moving because the others were, not because he was even thinking. He blinked at Bobby, seeming not to see him and Bobby groaned to himself. There was a reason if you were emotionally involved you removed yourself from a case. He didn't doubt Michael had done everything with the best of intentions but he wasn't behaving like an agent currently, he was behaving like a man in love.
"You need to keep your head. You're no good to Adam and you're no good to us if you lose it," he reminded Michael. He'd always though Michael was emotionless. Now he was learning the extent of Michael's control. It was painful to see how much this was affecting of him. This wasn't the Michael he knew and had worked with for so long. Bobby didn't know what to make of him.
"Yes," Michael murmured. "I know."
"Dean," Bobby turned his attention to the other young man. Dean hadn't said a thing inside Gabriel's office. He'd watched the computer screen without any sign of emotion. It was almost as if Michael and he had swapped personalities for a moment. Dean was bottled up and Michael was coming apart at the seams, although in a dignified, unhurried manner, unravelling like a length of tightly coiled rope. "Could that man have been Alistair?" he asked, lowering his voice. He didn't want anyone to overhear.
"Yeah, I think it was him. I'd know that bastard anywhere. I know it was him, Bobby. He was so controlled," Dean spoke quickly but there was the light of absolute conviction in his eyes. He would know, Bobby thought sadly, Dean had been on the receiving end of a beating just like Adam's – one designed to hurt him but also to make him malleable. Dean hadn't broken but Adam was just a boy and Bobby had no idea yet what Alistair could want with him.
If their unsub was Alistair.
Bobby wasn't about to rule out other possibilities. They had to examine every possibility, follow every lead. They owed it to Adam.
"I guess we better call Interpol again," he said gruffly. Hopefully this time they'd be able to get an answer from them before there was another interruption. Bobby found himself praying silently that it was anyone but Alistair they were dealing with. He couldn't shake the feeling that all of this had been carefully planned and planned especially for Dean. Dean had been the one who'd got away, the one who had almost brought Alistair down and he'd never paid for that. He might have been beaten, he might have clung on to his life by the tips of his fingers but he'd done it and he'd never broken. If this was Alistair's doing then Bobby didn't hold out much hope for them bringing Adam back alive.
Castiel sat straight up at his desk. Jo and Anna had decided to go outside for air. Castiel hadn't wanted to join them. He wanted to be at his desk so when he was needed, he would be ready to answer the call straight away. He knew Bobby had given them a break but he didn't want to take it. He wanted to help find Adam. He wanted to help Dean.
Now it seemed that moment to help had come. He swivelled his chair round to face Dean, glancing behind him to look at the still closed blinds of Bobby's office. He wondered why Dean wasn't in there too but dismissed it quickly enough. Dean shifted uneasily in front of him for a moment, as if guessing what Castiel was thinking.
"Bobby's making a call, but I know who it is," he said, "I know its Alistair."
Castiel nodded. He believed Dean implicitly. From what Sam had said Dean would have intimate knowledge of the man and what he could do.
"I never told you about Alistair, did I?" Dean continued, fiddling with the papers on Castiel's desk, obviously trying to distract himself from a subject he found painful.
"Sam told me," Castiel said.
Dean frowned. "Oh, did he? Yeah, well, Sam doesn't know everything, he should have left it to me."
"I think he wanted us to understand. I think he was worried I'd ask you about it." Castiel glanced up at Dean. Obviously Sam hadn't needed to worry about Castiel asking out of turn; Dean had been planning to tell him all along. It made Castiel feel pleased in a way he couldn't quite name so he didn't bother to examine the feeling too closely. There were more important things than strange feelings. Castiel had grown used to Dean arousing strange feelings in him. He hardly thought about them anymore, at least not during work hours.
"Yeah, whatever," Dean muttered, digging his hands into his pockets. It was such a defensive gesture. Castiel found Dean endlessly fascinating. He was a behavioral analyst yet he never hid his own feelings. They were clear for anyone to read if they bothered. It was refreshing. The only other person Castiel knew who was so unguarded was Gabriel and Gabriel was not a trained agent.
"Was there something you wanted, Dean?" he asked, tipping his head to the side, trying to decide from Dean's body language what he wanted but Dean appeared too upset with Sam for Castiel to really understand his motives in coming over to talk to him.
"I….I thought I'd tell you about Alistair," Dean said, running a hand through his hair, suddenly uncomfortable. Castiel felt slightly sorry for reminding him. Dean was happier being annoyed, he was used to being annoyed and comfortable with it. Sam was always doing something to anger Dean, it seemed to be a classic component of their relationship. Castiel found himself jealous of their easy closeness and their ability to be angry at each other and still affectionate. Gabriel preferred long sulking spells and Castiel found himself stunted by anger and unable to address Gabriel or what he'd done. In so many ways he admired Dean and the connections he made with people and with his own feelings. It all came so easily to him.
"Yes, I think that would be good," Castiel agreed.
"Come on, not here," Dean murmured, placing a hand on his back and guiding him up. Castiel swallowed down the moment of heat that flared up in him when Dean touched him. This was neither the time, nor the place.
They walked together down the corridors, Dean's hand slowly slipping lower on his back and Castiel didn't comment on it because he didn't want to draw Dean's attention to what he was doing. It was a subconscious action, Castiel was certain of that. If he told Dean about it then Dean would make a concerted effort to stop and Castiel didn't want that.
Finally Dean found an empty room and ushered him inside.
"Do you want to sit down?" he asked.
Castiel sat down. Dean was only stalling for time but there was no point in rushing him. Dean needed to tell him at his pace. Castiel could wait as long as it took, he was positively brimming with pride that Dean would trust him with this, would want to speak with him privately about it. Dean paced up and down in front of him, trying to work out the order in which to start if his muttering meant anything. Finally he grabbed another chair, dragged it up close to Castiel and sat down across from him. He leant forward, hands clasped together, like a sinner in a confessional.
"Fuck, Cas, the things the man made me do," he whispered and Castiel realized that he was confessing.
He reached out, laying his hand on top of Dean's.
"Whatever you did, I know you had a reason to do it at the time. It doesn't change how I think of you, Dean."
Dean laughed softly. "Because you've always thought I was a jerk?"
"Because I've always know you're a good man."
That seemed to make Dean even more uncomfortable and he squirmed in his chair, pulling his hands free from Castiel's grasp. Castiel let him go, sitting back in his chair, watching him. Dean picked at his nails for a moment and then seemed to convince himself continue.
"Cas, I did things that make me feel sick. He was a human trafficker, and he specialized," Dean let the word hang between them for a moment. "Mostly women, occasionally boys, he broke them and sold them on to the highest bidder. I swear, I never touched them….not that way, I couldn't but I couldn't blow my cover either. I just stood by and let him hurt them."
"You were doing your job. You helped to break up his trafficking ring, didn't you? You stopped anyone else from becoming his victim."
Dean took a deep, shuddering breath and exhaled on a laugh. It sounded hollow.
"It took months, Cas and the information I brought my bosses was never enough, not recordings, not photographs. I got one of the victims to promise to testify, I trusted her with the fact that I was an FBI agent, but Alistair had guessed that someone was on to him. He tortured her and she gave him my name to save her life. She did the right thing," Dean squared his shoulders, lifting his head so he could meet Castiel's eyes. Castiel didn't say anything. Dean was almost daring him to, almost wanting him to contradict him but Castiel knew he was right. Dean had been a trained agent; it was his job to protect people, even if that meant undergoing interrogation. Castiel was almost certain that Dean thought he deserved what had happened to him. He had been complicit in the torture of countless women and boys, even if his goal at the end had been to help them. It couldn't sit well with someone like Dean.
"You broke your cover?" he asked, already knowing the answering.
"He was going to kill her, Cas," Dean's voice hardened, an angry edge to it and Castiel wondered if he hadn't been questioned over this before, if someone hadn't sat down and told Dean he should have let an innocent woman die rather than admit to being an FBI Agent. "I couldn't…."
"I know, I know," Castiel repeated softly, although he didn't know. He'd never done anything like Dean had done, he wasn't trained for the things Dean was trained for but he could only hope he'd have the same sort of courage if he was in Dean's shoes. "You saved her life, didn't you?"
Dean glanced up, meeting his eyes again and nodded. "Yeah, she's got a new name, new life somewhere. She's alive and she's away from monsters like that. I called in a few favours, checked up on her when I realized it was Alistair back. She's good."
"Then you did the right thing, Dean."
Dean stared at him for a long moment, tongue darting out to wet his lips and then he looked away again. "You know, this is all in a report somewhere. You could read it, read what that bastard did to me. It's all nice and neat, typed up and double spaced. The bones he broke, scars he left. How much it cost in time and resources to get me back."
"I don't want to read a report," Castiel said. "I want you to tell me, if you want to tell me."
Dean glanced towards the door again, the same trapped expression fleeting across his face and he squirmed in his chair.
"Sam doesn't even know the half of it," he repeated, shaking his head. "Bobby knows, had to know. He was the one who led the operation to get me back. Michael knows, he's got to read the files and decide if I'm fit for the job."
"He raped me, Cas. The bastard raped me and there wasn't anything I could do about it. I never felt so fucking helpless in my life."
Castiel swallowed. He'd taken courses on dealing with things like this. He was supposed to be trained, to be able to be sympathetic and approachable, to say the right things but he'd never been good at this. Michael never sent Castiel to get victim statements. He didn't know how to feel or what to think. He was angry, burning up with white hot rage on Dean's behalf and he was numb, unable to believe that Dean could have been attacked like that. It was a stupid thought, one Castiel was glad he kept in his own head. He knew that there was no typical victim,that anyone could be assaulted but he also knew Dean and he knew that it was the worst thing Alistair could have done to him.
Dean was watching him carefully, waiting for him to say something but Castiel didn't know what to say. Everything sounded trite or rehearsed in his head. Everything was just a platitude that Dean must have heard so many times over when he was in the Hospital. He wouldn't make Dean feel any better by promising to hunt down the man who'd raped him. Dean was more than capable of doing that. He wouldn't want Castiel to turn him into someone who had to be avenged.
"I won't tell Sam," he said finally, the words tumbling out but Dean smiled at him.
"Yeah? Good. You know how Sam gets, he'd worry all the time, keep asking me if I was okay, start psycho-analysing my love of grind house films," Dean shook his head, smiling a wry smile, "Sometimes a man just wants to watch a revenge fantasy and drink a beer."
Castiel nodded. He had an idea of the sort of movies Dean was talking about. He'd watched one with Dean. A 1970s classic apparently. It had left a bad taste in his mouth but he could see how it was appealing, especially when the horror of the first part of the movie gave way to the gory vengeance of the second half. He'd never considered before that there might be more to Dean's choice of movies than simply a love of violent cinema but he filed away that thought. Dean didn't want to discuss it and Castiel had no doubt Dean had enjoyed those sorts of films before Alistair's attack. If they were a way of coping now then Castiel wasn't going to take them away from Dean or make him ashamed of them.
Dean shifted in his chair, pulling his legs together as if having them open and apart was too vulnerable. He was normally so relaxed, slouching and easy, that it was painful for Castiel to see the change in his behavior. "Sam would treat me differently; the whole team would treat me differently. They'd start thinking they had to shield me from stuff, like I couldn't take it."
"Bobby knows, Michael knows. Neither of them treats you differently. I've never seen Bobby go easy on you," Castiel said. Sometimes he found Bobby's caustic form of tough love hard to take but from the stories he had heard about Dean and Sam's late father, Bobby in contrast was overly affectionate with the boys. He'd never seen Bobby treat Dean as anything but a professional though. Michael treated everyone the same, as the regulations required him to treat them. He was involved to the degree he deemed necessary and always made it very clear that he was their boss as well as a team member. He didn't socialize with them outside of work and seemed adverse to special privileges. Castiel doubted Michael would have allowed Dean onto the team if he thought Dean couldn't handle the assignments they were given.
"I made Bobby swear he'd never say a word to anyone," Dean said, looking down at his shoes instead of at Castiel. "Fuck, I was even glad dad was dead because he would have stormed into my hospital room and demanded to see the notes. I'd never have been able to keep it a secret from him. He would have looked at me differently, Cas. I know he would. He wouldn't have meant to but I'd never be a man any more in his eyes. What happened to me, it doesn't happen to real men."
Castiel drew in a quick, sharp breath.
"You don't think that, do you?" he asked. Dean raised his head and shrugged.
"I can tell myself that it's crap. I can tell myself that I never look at the victims we deal with like that and I don't, Cas. I swear, I don't. It's just different because it's me. I shouldn't have been so weak. I should have been able to stop him. I should have been able to do something….." Dean trailed off, hands balled up into fists and he stood up suddenly, stalking away from Castiel, moving as if he wanted to hit something.
"You survived," Castiel said. He stood up, moving towards Dean, not wanting to touch him if Dean didn't want it but wanting it clear that he didn't think any less of Dean, that he wouldn't treat Dean differently. Dean stopped pacing and faced him, face set angrily. They were crowded close together, hardly any room between the two of them and Castiel held them there. He had always invaded Dean's personal space before, never known what was too close and Dean let him. He couldn't let that change now.
"I should have killed that bastard. He got away, Cas. Everything was fucked up because I blew my cover," Dean told him. Castiel shook his head stubbornly.
"You survived," he repeated "And you have a chance to get him now, to catch him. You studied him, Dean. You know him. You'll be able to track him."
Dean swallowed, his anger fading, replaced by something else, something Castiel found much worse – fear. "What if he does it to Adam? Adam's not an agent, he's just a kid. He's not supposed to get mixed up in these things!"
"Dean, you need to focus on finding Adam. You can help him, you can stop Alistair. I know you can. Don't think about what might happen, think about what is happening."
Dean sucked in a deep breath. "Right," He ran a hand through his hair, posture relaxing. "I should get back out there, I should give them the files I've got on Alistair."
Castiel wasn't even surprised to hear that Dean had kept files. He almost wanted to smile. That was the Dean he knew, the Dean who didn't give up on things until he'd seen every last lead through. It was reassuring in a way to know that Dean had been keeping tabs on things. Castiel knew that the FBI couldn't be seen to sanction revenge attacks but in the case of Alistair he found himself hoping everyone would have looked the other way if Dean had found him first, before he made this move and put himself back on the radar. If Dean had asked him for his help then Castiel would have given it willingly. He knew far more about body disposal than he wanted to admit to.
"Dean?" he called, the question something he couldn't stop. "Why did you want to tell me?" He could have confided in anyone. Jo or Anna would have been better options. Anna had specialist training even in dealing with these sorts of issues. Dean stopped on his way to the door, turning to look at Castiel and he held his gaze for a long beat.
"Because I want you to know everything, Cas. You're special. I trust you."
Castiel splashed his face with cold water, breathing heavily. He glanced up into the mirror, looking at his pale reflection. Dean was coping with this so much better than he was. He'd gone back to his desk to get his files and Castiel had ducked into the bathrooms to pull himself together. The team joked that he didn't feel emotions but he did. He just didn't know how to deal with them. It was easy to hide them, force them away than face them head on. He blinked a few times, frowning at his reflection.
"What are you doing?" he asked himself angrily. He wasn't helping by hiding like this. He just couldn't go out there, not yet, not before he'd got everything straight in his own head. Castiel was normally able to compartmentalise his work and the life he led outside of work but now they were bleeding into one and other. Dean was a friend and Dean was also a victim. Realistically, Castiel knew that the attack Dean suffered could have something to do with the case currently. They should be focusing on Dean's victimology as much as Adam's, but Dean was his friend. He'd told Castiel the truth in confidence and Castiel couldn't break that confidence. He also knew how angry Dean would be if Castiel profiled him, if he treated Dean like another aspect of his work. He'd told Dean nothing would change and he meant it.
Castiel wiped at the droplets on his face, trying to brush them away.
"Nothing has changed," he told himself firmly. He felt ridiculous. Dean had laid his soul bare, had trusted Castiel with something he found shameful and Castiel could only be pleased by that. He hated himself for it. Dean putting his trust in him wasn't some romantic overture, it didn't mean that Dean viewed him as anything more than a friend. Castiel leant back over the sink, fighting back a wave of nausea. He didn't want to throw up. He was disgusted with himself, with stupid thoughts that he wished he could stop having about Dean's eyes and Dean's smile.
Nothing had changed. He was still more than a little in love with Dean. Nothing Dean had told him had changed that. These were impulses, impotent manifestations of rage that someone had hurt Dean, visions of charging off and somehow finding Alistair and bringing him to justice but Castiel knew perfectly well that he had no claim on Dean. Even if there was something between them, if it hadn't all been a one sided infatuation on Castiel's part, then he still wouldn't have a claim upon Dean's body. Castiel hunched over, shoulders shaking as his body was wrecked with dry heaves. He hated those thoughts. He could just imagine Dean's face if he ever knew. He would be disgusted; disappointed that Castiel thought he was in need of a white knight to go charging off in his defense.
Castiel shook his head, trying to drive the thoughts away.
They were impulsive, learned responses, he told himself. He felt like a cave man, dragging his knuckles on the floor.
"This is not about you," he hissed, digging his fingers into his palm. He wished, not for the first time, that he knew how to deal with these feelings. He hated them, hated that they were mixed up with his feelings for Dean. All his life, Castiel had never looked at anyone and he'd been happy that way. He thought sexuality and sexual desire had simply passed him by and then he'd been assigned to the team and on the first day there had been Dean. From then on there had always been Dean.
Someone was going to come looking for him soon, Castiel tried to reason with himself. He was no good to anyone, especially not Dean, hiding in the bathroom. Almost on cue his phone rang and Castiel sighed. He hated technology. He preferred paper files. People were always surprised to find out that he and Gabriel were brothers since Gabriel lived for everything technological and Castiel felt safe with books and old landline telephones. He didn't even have a computer in his home. When they found out that Gabriel was his foster brother however that normally cleared things up.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket, squinting at the screen, trying to figure out who was calling him. It showed an unknown number. Castiel frowned and pressed accept, holding the phone to his ear.
"Hello?" he asked wearily. It was probably Gabriel, he told himself. His number was secret, only given out to people who had to have it. It was a work phone, not something he had for personal use. Gabriel constantly lost his phone or upgraded or changed to the newest model. He picked up new numbers constantly. Castiel held his breath and waited to hear his brother's cheery voice on the other end of the line.
"You don't sound like I thought you would, Castiel. Your voice is deeper," it was a man's voice on the other end of the line. Castiel racked his brain, trying to put a name and a face to the voice but he couldn't place it. The voice was mellow, it should have been soothing but it made the hairs on the back of Castiel's neck stand up.
"Who is this?" he asked, looking around himself. He had the uncanny feeling that he was being watched. There was no one else there. Castiel knew that but the feeling wouldn't go away.
"I'm sure you could guess, Castiel. I'm sure Dean's told you about me by now. "
Castiel nearly dropped the phone.
"Alistair?" he gasped, not wanting to believe it. How could this be happening? How could their unsub be calling him? "How did you get my number?"
"Ways and means. I thought about calling Dean first, reminding him about the fun we had the last time I saw him but then I saw your number. Adam's phone really is a font of knowledge."
Castiel felt his blood run cold. He'd never even considered that Adam's phone might be used against them. It had been turned off as far as he knew. Gabriel had been trying to track it. Alistair must have copied the numbers from it to use as he needed. It was painfully simple when Castiel thought about it.
"How do you know who I am?" he asked. He doubted that Adam really had an opinion on Castiel or that he'd think about him if he was in danger, Alistair wouldn't have learned anything about Castiel from him. Adam knew him only as a colleague of his bothers. That was the only reason he even had Castiel's number. Dean had made sure that Adam would be able to contact anyone on the team if he was in trouble.
"It's surprisingly easy to hack a system when you go through someone's personal computer. Gabriel Tricksler likes playing poker at work on his personal laptop. He isn't as security conscious as he should be. Once I'd bypassed his codes it was easy to use his uplink to your system to find what I wanted." Alistair sucked in a breath on the other end of the line and Castiel cursed Gabriel silently in his head. "I checked files. I read your appraisals. I do think it's a bit much that they make you take one of these appraisals once a month but I suppose they don't want anyone to end up with a loose cannon like John Winchester. Dean talks about him during these appraisals, did you know? I don't think he's ever stopped looking for his father's approval."
"Don't talk about Dean like that," Castiel snarled, unable to stop himself. He knew he was supposed to let Alistair talk. He should be walking out the bathroom, he should be informing someone of what was happening. They could trace him or Castiel could try to ask him some questions, try to get him to reveal himself but he couldn't. He was rooted to the spot, gripping his phone so hard he thought he might snap it. If he could get his hands on Alistair, then he'd snap him instead.
"Dean talks about you too," Alistair continued, obviously amused. "He didn't like you at first. He thought you were cold, that you didn't fit in, but don't worry, he started to warm up to you. I've read everything he ever said. You're something of a favorite, Castiel. I've read your files too. I know that those feelings are reciprocated."
"Please, stop talking,"
"Do you want to know why I took Adam? I wanted to make Dean suffer. He was mine. Did he tell you that? I taught him, I took him under my wing, I nurtured him. I made Dean feel more loved than that father of his could have imagined,"
"I know what you did to Dean," Castiel hissed, reaching for the sink to steady himself. Any moment now he was going to start heaving again.
"And did he tell you that he enjoyed it? No, I suppose he wouldn't, but I knew him. I knew what he was really like. He used to help me break people, destroy their spirits, make them good little boys and girls. He enjoyed that. He had a knack for it. I taught him and he was mine."
"Shut up!" Castiel gasped, needing Alistair to stop talking, needing room to breathe.
Alistair chuckled. "And now I have Adam. What do you think Dean would hate more? If I broke Adam, or if I trained him? He's got so much of Dean in him, that stubbornness. It's hard to tell what I'd enjoy more."
"Don't," Castiel wondered if this was how victims felt? If they felt helpless the way he felt now. Alistair was there, taunting him and Castiel didn't know what to do or say to make him stop. He almost wanted to hang up, to throw the phone away in revulsion but if he did that then he was as good as throwing Adam away.
"Don't what?" Alistair asked. "Don't talk about it or don't make you choose? And there I thought you of all people would be able to tell me which one Adam would suffer less from. You're supposed to be some sort of genius, aren't you? You have so many degrees. Or maybe I should have asked Ms Milton. She's your expert in sexual crimes, isn't she? I'm sure she'd be able to tell me just how little it would take to crush Adam's hope. It hardly seems fair, does it? That he'll suffer because of who his brother is. I think I could come to make him hate Dean very easily. I'll tell him, when he's under me, that this is Dean's punishment he's taking. I'm sure eventually he'll accept that. If you repeat it enough then people will start to believe anything, especially if you know the proper way to punish insubordination. I imagine Adam will need a lot of punishment."
"Don't do it," Castiel pleaded. He couldn't think of anything else but the young man in Alistair's clutches and how it would break Dean if Alistair did any of the things he threatened. Dean was strong. He brushed off the things that happened to him, he pushed them away and didn't think about them and he got on with his job, but Adam was an innocent. Dean would tear himself to pieces knowing Adam was suffering on his behalf. Castiel realized, with a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach, that Dean would even offer himself to stop Adam from being hurt. Maybe that was what Alistair wanted? Maybe that was what he was relying on, hoping that Castiel would run to Dean and tell him everything Alistair had said? Castiel wouldn't play any part in his plan if he could help it. He drew in a deep breath. "Can we make a deal? Is there something you want? Something I can get for you?"
Castiel didn't have to see Alistair to know that the man would be smiling. "Yes, Castiel. There is something you can get for me. Be outside in five minutes. I'll be waiting for you and if I see anyone else with you then I'll slit Adam's throat and send Dean a DVD copy in case he missed it on the live stream."
Castiel knew this was a trap. He almost didn't care. He could buy Dean a little more time to find Adam. That was all that really matter now. "Fine," he said and waited to hear the line go dead.
Five minutes didn't give him a lot of time. His fingers shook as he typed quickly, needing to leave a trail of breadcrumbs. He sent the message and swallowed, hoping against hope that he was doing the right thing. He slipped his phone into his pocket, casting one glance at himself in the mirror and then prepared to walk out to meet Alistair.
He was doing this for Dean. Whatever happened, Castiel knew he had to keep that in his mind. If he did it for Dean then anything would be bearable.
Gabriel's phone buzzed in his pocket. It was an unwelcome reminder that he should be doing work, not looking at pictures of baby Giraffes but he and Sam had been enlarging and scrutinising photos of Adam and his kidnapper for half an hour now and Gabriel couldn't do it any longer. He didn't know how Sam managed to deal with it. Gabriel hated it in the abstract sense. He hated violence, he hated blood. A lot of his work had nothing to do with dead bodies. Most of his time was spent in people's bank accounts checking to see if they'd made any purchases of shovels and tape recently or running background checks. Gabriel hardly ever came face to face with the more grizzly side of the job. Sam had to deal with this face on every day. Maybe that made it easier for him to disassociate from it. Maybe it made him more determined to look at the pictures because he might have some insight to offer on them. Gabriel didn't know and he hadn't asked. Sam had just told him to take a little time and get some focus back. Looking at pictures of baby animals always helped with that.
Now though he was being interrupted, probably by a message from Michael or Bobby checking up on him or informing him that Sam was needed somewhere else. He grabbed his phone and frowned when he saw Castiel's name on the screen. Castiel never used a phone if he could help it. He'd sent a text message too, something that was even more unlike him. Curiosity piqued, Gabriel tapped the screen, pulling up his brother's message.
[I hope this is the correct number. You need to stop changing you phone] the first part of the message ran and Gabriel smiled. It was certainly Castiel who'd sent it. He didn't know anyone else who used perfect spelling and grammar when they sent a text or who used a text message to admonish. It was amazing how Castiel even managed to get a chastising tone across. He read on, smirking.
[If you can read this then I need your help. Alistair is outside.]
Gabriel dropped his phone.
"Sam, shit, I think we've got a problem!"
Dean could hear blood pumping in his ears, he could feel his heart beating so hard in his chest he felt like it might burst but he kept running. He didn't understand how this was happening and part of him was shouting at him to run the other way, to get away from the place that Alistair was but Castiel was out there. He'd gone out to confront the man and Dean couldn't leave him.
They were falling apart, all of them. Sam had told him about the text message before Michael. Michael wasn't Dean's favorite person at the moment and once this was all over, once Adam was safe, then Dean was going to sock Michael in the jaw and damn regulations or the trouble it got him into, but the chain of command should have been respected. This case was already something that could be snatched away from them. Dean shouldn't be doing anything to endanger their involvement.
He burst through the doors, out into the evening air, gasping for breath and he looked around desperately.
"Cas?" he shouted, "Cas?"
The courtyard outside their building was completely deserted.
The door banged open again, Anna hot on his heels. She gabbed Dean's arm, dragging him down.
"What are you doing?" she hissed, trying to pull him back inside. "This could be a trap!"
"Cas is out there," Dean gestured to the empty courtyard, his heart thumping wildly in his chest. Cas was somewhere but Dean had no idea where. He'd assumed the text message had to be real. He hadn't even checked to see if Castiel was still in the building before he'd run out. He'd just made it through enough of Sam's panicky explanation before he'd holstered his gun and gone to try and find Castiel. Anna was right. It could be a trap. He couldn't see Castiel. He could be anywhere. This might well have been a ruse to lure him out of the building and Dean had fallen for it.
He crouched down at Anna's side, trying to shield her with his body. If someone was going to take a shot at them, then he wanted them to shoot him, not Anna. This was his fight, not hers. She shouldn't be hurt because of his past.
There was a squeal of tires in the distance and despite everything Dean stood up, running in the direction of the noise. Anna shouted after him but he kept running. He hit the main road just in time to see a car driving away, too far in the distance for Dean to catch the license plate. He bent over, gasping for breath.
"Dean? What did I just say to you? I feel as if I just say something and it goes in one ear and out the next!" Anna said, her voice tight and breathless as she reached his side.
"I had to check," Dean gasped, waving her off. He needed to get back in the gym. His chest burned and his legs ached. He'd spent too much time at his desk. If he'd been faster, he could have identified the license plate.
Dean shook his head at himself, sighing. That car probably didn't have anything to do with anything. He was probably attaching mindless fears to a completely innocent car and driver, but if he'd seen the plate then he could have got Gabriel to run it and prove it.
"Can we go in now?" Anna asked, glancing around again. "You could be a target. We can get people out here, they can do a sweep, they'll find Castiel."
"No, they won't," Dean said glumly, straightening up. He pointed in front of them on the road. Castiel's phone was laying there, smashed to pieces. He looked back down the road, back to where the car had disappeared into the night. Castiel must have been in the back of that car and Dean had been so close. If he'd just been a few seconds quicker, if it hadn't been so dark then he would have something to report back, some link to Adam and Castiel. Dean had let them down.
Anna grabbed his arm, dragging him away from the road side. "Get back inside, go. This is a crime scene now."
"Dean, I mean it, go back now. We need to cordon this area off," Anna snapped, efficient and business like. The order got through to Dean. Whatever shortcomings he had, other people could help where he'd failed. Castiel needed that. He needed Dean to do his job. It was easy slipping back into the rules and regulations. It stopped Dean from having to think about what Alistair might do now he had Castiel with him.
But whatever the rules said, if Dean had a chance then he'd take a shot at Alistair and hand in his credentials. He wasn't going to let the man walk away again.
"Hey, wake up."
Castiel blinked. Someone was leaning over him. Instinctively his hand shot out and he grabbed hold of the person hovering above him, struggling to overpower them. The last thing he remembered was getting into Alistair's car. He'd known it was a stupid thing to do but Castiel hadn't been thinking clearly. He was thinking clearly now. His life was in danger, adrenaline kicked in and the training from his hand to hand combat classes took over. In a second he had the other man pinned.
"Stop it! It's me! It's Adam!"
"Adam?" Castiel sat back, letting go of Adam's wrists, freeing his hands. Adam struggled up from beneath him and as Castiel adjusted to the limited light in the room he wondered how he could have ever mistaken Adam for Alistair. He was simply frightened, he reasoned with himself. He hadn't acted rationally. Castiel realized quickly he would have to keep his wits about him. Alistair was smart, Castiel had to be smarter.
"I'm sorry," he said to Adam who shrugged.
"I don't think there's any lasting damage, you made a few bruises worse but at least you seem okay," he said, leaning a little closer to Castiel. "You're focusing at least. I can't really check you over properly here."
"You're not a doctor."
"Not yet," Adam said, glancing over his shoulder quickly. "I still know how to check for a concussion. Just tell me if you start feeling sick, okay?"
"I could show no symptoms and drop dead in an hour," Castiel said, feeling slightly relieved. Adam seemed fine from what he could see of him. He was talking, taking action, engaging. Castiel had expected to find him in much worse shape.
Adam rolled his eyes at him.
"If you drop dead I'll make sure to tell Dean that you spent your last moments being excruciatingly annoying," he muttered.
"Dean's looking for you, everyone is," Castiel said softly. Adam smiled at him.
"I know he is. You're Castiel, right? He talks a lot about you. You're just how I imagined you'd look," Adam glanced back behind him and Castiel had the feeling he was looking for someone. He followed Adam's line of sight and realized he was watching the camera.
"There's a live feed," he said "We've been watching you."
Adam looked back at him glumly. "Is there sound?" he asked. Castiel shook his head and Adam looked thoughtful for a moment.
"That probably means he can't hear us," he said, more to himself then to Castiel. He leant forward then, his voice dropping to a whisper even so. "I know this has something to do with Dean, I'm not stupid. The man's name is Alistair. Just go along with what he wants. If you don't fight back, then he gets bored. He's just smacked me around a bit. It hurts but he's careful, he makes it last." Adam lifted his t-shirt, showing Castiel the darkening bruises on his skin. "He's doing it for the camera. I knew someone had to be watching."
Castiel nodded, a half-smile playing on his lips, "I see you've been reading some profiling books."
Adam looked a little embarrassed, "Dean and Sam talk about this stuff a lot."
"And Michael?" Castiel asked. Adam's cheeks flamed bright red.
"You know about that?" he asked and then shook his head, interrupting before Castiel could reply. "Of course you do, you'll have been checking into everyone I know. Do you know how hard it is to keep a secret from Sam or Dean? I've had to be so careful. I bought a disposable cell phone so I could call Michael without it showing up as me, I set up a separate email account, I didn't want them to know!" He buried his head in his hands and then looked at Castiel through his spread fingers. "Is Dean angry?"
"Furious," Castiel said hesitantly, "but at Michael, not you. He's worried about you."
"I knew he'd hate it. Dean's such a closet case," Adam grumbled. He got to his feet unsteadily, moving slowly away from Castiel and towards the little bed in the corner. He sat down on it, wincing and then pulled his legs up, curling in on himself. "This isn't how I wanted them to find out. I wanted to graduate and have Michael come to the graduation ceremony. I wanted….I wanted it to be on my own terms not because some nutcase has a vendetta against my brother."
"I'm sorry," Castiel said, squirming uncomfortably on the ground. Before this Adam had been a picture on Sam's desk and a constant headache for Dean who worried about him living on campus and not closer where someone could keep an eye on him. He'd existed but he'd never been someone Castiel had paid too much attention to. He'd thought he'd like to meet him someday but that had been pretty much the only thought he'd ever had about Adam. Now he was here, a real flesh and bone person, someone who was apparently intimately acquainted with Castiel's boss and Castiel was finding it hard to come to grips with.
"Has he seen me? Michael? Did he see what that man did?" Adam asked angrily, turning his head to look at Castiel. "I don't want….I don't want Michael to see me like that."
Castiel thought about Alistair's threats, about the things he said he was going to do to Adam and he swallowed the wave of nausea that overtook him.
"Michael would never think badly of you," he tried, wanting to sound comforting but he didn't think he did. Adam tensed.
"So he has seen then? I guess he'd have to. I don't want him to think about those things. I want him to remember me when I'm with him, when I'm happy," Adam raised a hand to his face and Castiel realized he was hastily brushing away tears. "I know he's about twenty years too old for me. He's cold and a workaholic and he's secretive to a fault, I don't expect you to understand, but I love him. I don't want him to see those things."
"Michael sees a lot of bad things. It's his job," Castiel said quietly.
"Exactly, he's see too many. I shouldn't be one of those things too. I should be safe for him," Adam said, smiling sadly.
Castiel wondered what Adam saw in Michael that he had never seen. He would never have thought of Michael as needing to be protected from anything, but evidently Adam saw the strain of the job that Michael hid from his team. Castiel knew they all had ways of coping. Dean drank, Castiel had a garden and something planted for everyone he couldn't save. It seemed that Michael's way of coping had been Adam, the secret lover to whom he could tell all his secrets. Looking at Adam now, Castiel couldn't begin to understand how Michael could have put all of that weight onto Adam's shoulders but Adam didn't seem to find it a burden.
"What about my mom?" Adam asked cautiously.
"She's flying in. She hasn't seen anything," Castiel said quickly. Adam nodded gratefully.
"Good. Moms shouldn't see things like this."
The lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Castiel glanced at the camera, wondering if they were being watched. He almost felt like waving, as if that would prove to everyone that he was fine, that he had some idea of what he was doing but he knew Alistair had to be watching as well. The thought that Alistair was spying on them chilled his blood and Castiel looked away. The silence in the room seemed suddenly deafening and Castiel wondered if it was only the feed they'd received at the bureau which didn't have sound. He wondered if Alistair had heard everything they'd said.
The idea of him listening in, on hearing Adam's thoughts and feelings like that, hearing the vulnerability in Adam's voice made Castiel suddenly desperate to talk and fill the void. He was never good with conversation so he latched on to the first thought that came to mind.
"How did you know who I was?" he asked. Adam looked at him, slighted startled and licked his lips slowly.
"He's after Dean, isn't he?" Adam waited for the confirming nod and then continued. "Then it makes sense he'd go after you. I know you're important to Dean."
"We are. We're teammates," Castiel said. He pushed aside the desire to think that Adam meant anything more. If Alistair could have gotten to Sam, then no doubt he would have gone for him. Castiel had simply been easier to take, easier to manipulate. Dean and Castiel spent time together outside of work but that was just friendly. Dean wanted him to experience everything that Castiel had missed out on growing up – terrible movies, junk food and questionable alcohol. If anything Castiel was Dean's pet project.
"No, it's more than that. You don't know the way he talks about you. It takes a lot to make Dean trust someone," Adam said, pushing himself up from the protective position he'd curled himself into. "I think you're his best friend."
Castiel nodded. He didn't know what to say to that. He wanted to cling on to it, to the fact that he was important to Dean in a way that no one else was, in a way his family wasn't but he couldn't stop himself feeling slightly disappointed. He wanted more than Dean's friendship. More than anything he was angry with himself for sitting there, talking to Adam like they were in some sort of stereotypical sorority slasher film – talking about boys when a killer was close at hand. Castiel didn't even have his priorities straight.
He got to his feet and started to walk the room, trying to work out the diameters of their prison, looking for any clues to just where they were being held. He tapped the walls, rattled the door handle and checked the hinges for any rust. The room was depressingly empty of clues or possible escape routes. Adam watched him slightly bemusedly. Castiel knew that Adam had done just the same thing, he'd watched him on the live feed but he'd hoped there'd be something he'd see, something his training would have prepared him for but the only logical deduction he could make was that they were in a cellar or an abandoned building. It wasn't anything he hadn't known before.
"You know Dean tried to buy me a gun last Christmas? I wish I'd taken it," Adam said wistfully.
"If you don't know how to shoot, then a weapon is mostly useless. It's more likely to be used against you by you attacker," Castiel said absent-mindedly, staring up at the camera. Adam groaned softly.
"I'm suddenly glad I persuaded him I needed a new laptop more," he said, laughter bubbling in his voice. Castiel admired his ability to make jokes at a time like this. Castiel couldn't help but wonder if Adam didn't realize just how much danger he was in, or if he'd made a conscious decision not to allow Alistair to see his fear. The longer they talked the more similarities Castiel began to see between Adam and his brothers. He also began to realize that without something to do, some task to focus on, he didn't know what to do.
Castiel didn't want to sit there and wait to be rescued. He'd made a conscious choice to put himself in danger because he didn't want Alistair to hurt Dean. Now he made the choice that he would do everything he could to protect Adam. He would take whatever punishments Alistair wanted to dish out.
He made his way to Adam and sat down gently on the bed beside him. Adam tensed momentarily and then settled next to him. They didn't touch. There was a line between them that Castiel didn't feel comfortable crossing. Adam didn't want to be held, comforted and Castiel wasn't the sort of person who could have done that for him. He could help in other ways, though. He could keep Adam's mind off what was happening to them.
"You're training to be a doctor, yes? Tell me about your training?" he asked and Adam's eyes lit up.
Gabriel had enhanced the picture so often that all he had now was a splotchy, overly pixelated mess. There was nothing, no distinguishing features. Nothing that was going to give them a clue to Castiel's whereabouts. He'd managed to get Castiel's phone to live again, long enough to trace the whereabouts of the cell phone that had called him but it turned out to have been tossed in one of the trashcans outside the building. For the first time, Gabriel felt completely hopeless. None of his usual tricks were working.
He deleted the picture and buried his head in his hands. No pictures of baby animals would be able to solve this problem. How had Sam managed? Gabriel felt like he was going to fall to pieces any second. He couldn't even stand to watch Castiel. He seemed fine. There were no visible wounds on him, Sam kept him updated and apparently Castiel and Adam were just talking. If they were saying anything useful, Gabriel didn't know. They were recording everything, sending cd copies off to another part of the department where they had a lip-reading specialist but Gabriel didn't think they were going to learn anything useful. If Castiel had had something important to tell them, he knew they were being watched. He would have found a way to tell them.
No, Gabriel suspected that Castiel had no idea where he was being held and they wouldn't find anything in those hours of footage.
He shut his eyes and wished as hard as he could that everything was a bad dream. If he thought hard enough, Gabriel was sure that it would be. He raised his head, opened his eyes and looked blearily at the screen in front of him. It was still showing pictures of Adam. He turned his head and Sam was still sitting behind him, watching the video feed intently. Gabriel cursed all the gods he didn't believe in silently in his head.
Somewhere in the room, something went 'ping'.
Sam turned in his chair, his eyes meeting Gabriel's and then he turned away quickly. They both checked their phones, then their emails, then their messaging functions. There was nothing on any of them.
The thing went 'ping' again.
"What is that?" Sam asked. Gabriel racked his brains, trying to figure out what it could be and then, his heart sinking like a stone, he realized.
"It's my laptop," he said.
They'd left it plugged in, a search running for the poster of the online video feed from there as well as from Gabriel's faster FBI computer. On the screen a new message box had opened. Gabriel licked his lips, his mouth suddenly dry.
"It's him, isn't it?" he asked, unable to go over and see. He didn't want to know what had been sent. He couldn't stand it.
Sam stood up from his chair slowly and walked across to the laptop. Gabriel could see the unease on his face and he knew Sam must be going through the same thing he was, that he would rather anyone else find out what the new message was. Gabriel watched him carefully, waiting for the worst.
Sam stooped and clicked something. A new link, Gabriel realized and he was up and out of his chair, at Sam's side because he needed to know what was going on. The not knowing was worse than knowing suddenly. If the link had anything to do with Castiel then he had to see it. He owed it to Castiel to do that.
The link Sam had clicked opened a new window. It was still loading but Gabriel knew it would be another live feed. He swallowed hard, leaning into Sam's space, leaning onto Sam, needing the other man to support him.
"What was the message?" he asked softly.
"Watch this," Sam whispered back. "And then the link. He signed off after that. He couldn't have been signed into his account for more than five minutes at most."
Gabriel bit his lip. He wanted to make a joke, wanted to say something but every second it took for the link to load was another second where all he could imagine was Castiel's dead body. He had almost convinced himself to expect it so when the page finally loaded he let out a sigh of relief.
The picture being screened to them was an empty room with an empty chair in the middle of it.
"Why would he want us to see this?" Gabriel said. He almost wanted to laugh. Was Alistair just trying to scare them? He was a sick man if he was but Gabriel was almost ready to dance a jig. Castiel wasn't dead. He hugged Sam tightly, ready to go back to his desk but Sam stopped him, his fingers gripping Gabriel's arm tightly.
"Gabriel," he said, his voice strained. "Gabriel, look at the chair…."
Gabriel did look. He looked hard and long. Slowly, he realized what Sam was getting at. There were arm straps on the chair. It was ready and waiting for a victim to restrain.
A feeling of dread settled over Gabriel.
"We need to start recording," he whispered, fingers trembling. Something told him that they were going to need this for evidence.
There was the sound of footsteps and then a bolt being drawn back. Castiel stood up instinctively, putting himself between Adam and whoever was at the door. It opened slowly and but Castiel recognized Alistair's face the moment that the light hit it. He took a deep breath, wondered how long he could hold out against the man because he couldn't take him in a physical fight but he could offer himself as a punching bag, and then resolved to try to use psychology against him. If Alistair was smart, then Castiel had to be smarter. Whatever he did, he had to buy time for the team to find Adam.
Adam stayed crouched on the bed behind him, watching nervously. Castiel remembered what Adam had told him about pretending to give in, but Castiel couldn't do the same thing. He'd hardly been held long enough to pretend he'd fallen apart so quickly. Alistair would know that he was faking it. He'd read Castiel's evaluations. He'd know that no one got on the team if they were considered at psychological risk.
"Hello," he said, nodding curtly to Alistair who smiled at him. It made Castiel feel queasy seeing that smile. It didn't look nice. It was the smile of a little boy who pulled the wings off butterflies and put them in killing jars.
"I see you've been bonding," Alistair said, taking a step towards Castiel. He reached out, long fingers locking around Castiel's wrist and in one quick movement pulled him forward, Castiel stumbling off balance and into his arms. "I'm glad to see you getting along so well. Maybe when I'm finished with you, I'll make sure to sell you on as a matched set."
"When this is over, you're going to be sitting in a prison cell serving a life sentence," Castiel hissed.
Alistair chuckled. "When this is over both you and Adam are going to be so broken that you won't even remember your own names. You'll answer to anything I call you. When I'm done with you I'll sell you both on. I don't know how much I'll get for you, you're not much to look at but the boy is attractive."
"Burn in hell," Adam muttered and Alistair's smile grew wider.
"Still a bit of that Winchester fire left, I see," he said and Castiel twisted in his arms, trying to remind Alistair that he was there, trying to draw Alistair's attention back to him and away from Adam.
"You are going to be caught. You can't hope to get away with this. People are looking for you and they will find you," Castiel said. Alistair looked at him disdainfully.
"You really believe that, don't you? Do you know, that's one of the things I've never understood about Dean, his ability to make people trust him. You seem to have complete faith in his abilities. Yes, Dean is very charismatic, I can see why you'd be drawn to him but I know him, Castiel. He's not worth believing in. He'll fall apart before there's a chance of you being rescued."
"You don't know Dean at all," Castiel said, his struggles now real, wanting to be away from Alistair, feeling as if his skin was crawling from contact with the man. "He will never stop trying."
"I've broken him before and I can do it again," Alistair's eyes blazed and he licked his lips. Castiel couldn't name the emotion he saw dancing across Alistair's face, it was too horribly close to lust at the memory of what he'd done to Dean and Castiel thought his legs might give out under him. If he went down then he'd be a dead weight, he could drag Alistair down with him. He let his knees buckle out from under him, hoping Adam would take the advantage and dart for the still open door but Alistair guessed what he was thinking and hauled him back up.
"No, Castiel, we're going to have some fun first," he promised, his smile so wide now that it seemed ghoulish. Castiel might spend all of his days with people who found pleasure in torture or pain but he'd never seen them like this, anticipating the act, getting off on the fear they were producing.
Alistair hauled him bodily through the open door and Castiel had time enough to see Adam jump from the bed and run towards them before Alistair shut the door on him. He bolted it as Adam banged on it and shouted. Adam's screams followed them down the corridor.
"Where are you taking me?" Castiel tried. He looked around himself, checking for exits. There was a staircase on the right which confirmed his theory that he was being held in a basement. There were other doors, all of them closed. Castiel wondered if other people were being held there, if Alistair had started his business up again or if behind those doors the rooms were empty and waiting to be filled. Maybe behind those doors were tortures he hadn't even thought of. Castiel shook his head, trying to get rid of the images that came to his mind from that. He'd seen awful things done to people with electricity, with serrated saws that left fragments of bone everywhere. He found himself praying that he never lost himself, never told Alistair about the horrible things he knew. Castiel's knowledge would only give him another way to hurt people. Castiel could never become his helper, willingly or unwillingly.
Alistair dragged him finally to a door at the end of the corridor. This one wasn't like the reinforced heavy metal door of the room he kept Castiel and Adam and Castiel wondered if that meant Alistair had some other way to restrain him. Alistair pushed the door open with his shoulder and pushed Castiel into the room in front of him. He locked the door behind them.
Castiel glanced around the room quickly. There was a chair in the middle and a camera set up in front of it. He glanced warily at Alistair who gestured to the chair.
"Take a seat," he said with a forced politeness.
Castiel slowly lowered himself into the chair. He glanced to either side of himself, realizing that there were leather straps on the chair arms. Obediently he put his arms out, waiting for Alistair to come closer. He reasoned that if Alistair was distracted he could kick out at him or head-butt him, do something to incapacitate him. Alistair however had calculated for that. He stepped behind Castiel, leaning over his shoulder to do up the straps over his wrists. His hot breath blew against Castiel's cheek, smelling stale and Castiel wrinkled his nose, turning away from him.
Alistair's fingers linger on his wrist once he'd restrained him, stroking softly.
"Such delicate wrists," Alistair said and Castiel knew he wasn't talking to him but to himself. "They'd break so easily."
Castiel twisted, testing the leather of the restraining straps as much as trying to get away from Alistair and Alistair jerked back from him. Slowly he circled Castiel, moving towards the camera. He pressed a button and a little red light began flashing.
"Don't worry," Alistair said softly. "I already sent them the link; they know you're here, Castiel. I've just made them wait for this. Now, tell everyone your name. They'll need it for the report."
Castiel looked into the camera, wondering who would be watching. He hoped it wouldn't be Gabriel. He hoped that someone, somewhere, had been kind enough to take Gabriel away. There were other analysts who could deal with this. Sam could deal with this. Gabriel didn't need to see what was coming.
"Castiel. Strange name, isn't it?"
"I was named by a priest. I was abandoned at a church when I was four days old," Castiel said, clenching his jaw.
"And how old are you?"
"Practically a baby," Alistair purred. "I've read your files, Castiel. They're very impressive. You've been fast tracked all of your life. You hold a number of degrees, were handpicked for your team, but your psychological report suggests that you're emotionally stunted. You don't form bonds easily. I suppose it was a mistake for you to miss all those important high school years, or maybe it was being bounced from foster home to foster home? No one wanted to adopt you, did they? You were a very gifted child, you would have been a lot of work."
Castiel turned his head away. Alistair was almost reciting verbatim things Castiel had said himself. He'd been completely honest in his sessions. If there was any reason he shouldn't be on the team then he wanted it known, he didn't want to become a liability somewhere down the line although he had become one now. He thought he'd done the right thing. Now, as Alistair went over his psyche, he wasn't sure.
"You form unhealthy attachments, Castiel, did you know that? In your last evaluation they were worried you were too dependent on Dean. There was some suggestion you might disobey a direct order if Dean was compromised in some way."
Castiel didn't have to look at Alistair to know he'd be smiling at that.
"I suppose you weren't under a direct order not to talk to me, but you still broke protocol for Dean so I suppose this profile was correct. I knew the moment I read your file how to get to you. Do you think they realized that was what they were doing? Handing you to me on a silver platter?"
"You weren't supposed to read those files, you weren't supposed to be able to touch them," Castiel said, trembling a little, anger coursing through his veins. Those files were supposed to be encrypted; Alistair should never have been able to see them, but more than that Castiel was angry with himself because he had been so easily manipulated. He had performed just as he was expected to. He thought he was better than that but he was just as easy to profile as the killers he tracked.
"You know what part I really enjoyed? The part where you outlined your worst fear. Castiel, do you know you told me how to break you?" Alistair licked his lips, staring at Castiel hungrily and Castiel shut his eyes quickly. Alistair seemed to change tactic abruptly. "Do you know that Gabriel was found at the same church you were abandoned at?"
"Yes," Castiel answered hesitantly, wondering what Alistair was playing at. "That's why he's called Gabriel, after the archangel."
"Do you ever wonder if he might be your blood brother? That you might both be some whore's shame?"
Castiel sighed softly, opening his eyes. "Gabriel is my brother. Blood doesn't matter," he said, looking at the camera because if Gabriel was watching then he wanted him to know that Castiel was completely honest in what he said. Alistair was hardly the first person to think a biological link was the only thing that could make a family.
"I find your devotion to him touching, especially considering the number of times he's created trouble for you in the past."
"Do you mean the time he hacked my application to the FBI?" Castiel continued to look at the camera, a soft smile crossing his face for a second. He was sure Gabriel could find it when he paused the footage later. "I've forgiven him for that."
"No, I mean the time he inadvertently drugged you."
"Don't," he whispered.
"Your worst fear, Castiel. You described it in some great detail. You were twelve I believe. You were in your fourth foster home, Gabriel was seventeen. He was supposed to be an older brother, a role model to you. He'd made brownies and you weren't allowed any. So you stole some, Castiel. Naughty boy," Alistair wagged his finger at him as if Castiel was a little child and Castiel struggled against his restraints.
"Stop it!" he snapped.
Alistair smiled and continued, "I understand Gabriel was a wayward little boy, that he had a lot of troublesome friends. Still, I doubt he meant to drug you, Castiel. It must have been a horrible shock for him, finding you so sick. Still, I think it was more of a shock when your foster parents threw him out. I wondered if that wasn't what made that memory so traumatic for you? Not the things you saw and did under the influence but the fact that it cost Gabriel his place in the family home? Not that it was your family home for much longer."
"I said stop it!" Castiel was shouting now, fighting against the restraints but he couldn't get free.
"I think that's why he's kept an eye on you. He feels guilty," Alistair said, tapping his fingers together thoughtfully. "After all, you two are hardly family."
Castiel hissed, rocking himself from side to side but the chair didn't budge. It had been nailed to the floor.
"Losing control of yourself? It's a very vague fear, Castiel, but one I can work with. It was the story, really, which gave me the idea what to do to you."
Castiel stopped struggling, forcing himself to look at Alistair. Alistair took two things from out of his pocket and Castiel recognised them instantly. One was a little bottle of some liquid drug and the other one was a sealed syringe. Alistair tore the syringe open, letting the packaging fall to the floor. He broke the seal on the bottle and slowly filled the syringe.
"I don't like to use drugs normally," Alistair said, setting the little bottle aside. He tapped the needle twice. "Drug users don't make good slaves. Keeping someone addicted is a chore and the sort of people who'll what to buy you, Castiel, won't want some little junkie. This is just to warm you up."
Castiel twitched, trying to jerk away as Alistair stepped towards him, into the view of the camera.
"Don't," he gasped, squirming and struggling for all he was worth. "Don't!"
Alistair reached him. He grabbed hold of Castiel's arm, pinning it down and drove the needle point into his skin.
Gabriel shook all over. He trembled when Sam touched him, when he finally managed to pull him away from the computer screen and the live feed.
"It's me," Gabriel whispered. "It's me, it's all my fault. I….I didn't even think….he's read everything, he knows everything. I didn't….Castiel…."
"Gabriel?" Sam reached out, trying to pull him into his arms but Gabriel fought him off.
"You don't understand! Sam, if I hadn't brought my laptop in, if I hadn't been using it on company time then he wouldn't know those things! He hacked me!" Gabriel dropped to his knees, scrabbling on the floor under the desk, pulling out plugs and cables.
"What are you doing?" Sam asked, wrapping his arms around Gabriel and hauling him up bodily. "You're destroying evidence, we can't lose the feed!"
"But he's using my laptop!" Gabriel kicked and struggled in Sam's arms. "He's hurting Castiel because of me!"
"Then you need to use that against him!" Sam dropped Gabriel in the middle of the floor, not willing to risk a broken nose because of Gabriel's flailing. He squatted down in front of Gabriel, tilting his chin up so they were eye to eye. "Come on, Gabe. You're smart. You can figure out a way to get to him. If he got to you, then you can get to him. If he's been in our files, then he's left a footprint. I'll work on getting everything password protected and encrypted. You work on tracking him down."
Gabriel sniffed softly, "This is my fault."
"Yeah, so fix your mistakes," Sam said. Gabriel blinked at him for a moment, then wiped at his eyes.
"Right," he said, pushing himself up. "Right, I'll try and track his footprint, you get everything under lock. One of us has to tell Michael I fucked up. I nominate you." His shoulders slumped. "I can't take him yelling. Not now."
Sam stood up, pulling Gabriel to him. He held him tightly, kissed the top of the shorter man's head and wished he could rewind time to before any of this ever happened. Gabriel was supposed to be safe from these things; they weren't supposed to be beamed into his office. Alistair wasn't just pulling Dean apart; he was pulling apart the whole team. Every one of them was being made to suffer. He was a sadist. Sam had no doubts that he got off on the pain he was making them hurt.
He glanced towards the screen. Castiel was convulsing, screaming wordlessly and Sam was glad that one of the things Gabriel had managed to unplug was the speakers. Gabriel didn't need to hear his brother's screams.
Jo sighed softly, wrapping her arms around herself. This was the part of her job she hated. Talking to families was always painful. It was hard asking them for information and harder still when she had to inform them of the death of a loved one. Then Jo couldn't help but hate herself for being the bearer of bad news. She was the public face of the team though, the one who liaised with the media and the one who became the families' voice in the briefing room and the one that the families themselves would spend the most time with. Jo handled damage control. It was what she'd been trained to do.
People saw a pretty blond girl with a nice smile. They wanted to talk to her, to let her hold their hands and comfort them. She was non-threatening. It helped. People opened up to her. They were more willing to tell her their family secrets then they would have been to talk to Dean or even Sam, who could be boyish and sympathetic when he tried. Jo simply seemed trustworthy to people.
She steeled herself to walk through the door into the visitors' room and present a competent, caring façade to Ms. Milligan. When she'd originally made the telephone call to inform the woman that Adam was missing, they'd known hardly anything. Now they had a suspect but they were one agent down and practically falling apart at the seams. Jo couldn't allow Ms. Milligan to know that. She had to present herself as if everything was running to plan.
One second more to collect her thoughts and Jo grasped the door handle, opening the door and stepping in.
Kate Milligan looked the way that Jo felt – in complete disarray. Her blonde hair was coming undone from an untidy bun, her eyes were ringed by dark circles and Jo knew she'd taken a flight to reach them, living out of state. She was still wearing her work clothes with her coat pulled on haphazardly over the top of them. Jo thought she must have come straight from work, not even stopping to pack an overnight bag. Her handbag lay on the seat beside her, half-open with tissues spilling out of it.
"Ms. Milligan?" she asked.
Kate looked up at her, her eyes stained red from crying and she stood up quickly, offering her hand to Jo. "Call me Kate," she said, sniffing. "I told myself I'd hold it together, I've been in enough emergency rooms to know that crying doesn't help but this is Adam. He was supposed to be safe here. His brothers are so close. He was supposed to be safe."
"It might be better if you sat down," Jo said softly, moving to sit down herself.
The chairs in the visitors' room were plush, the sort of chairs that could withstand a lot of sitting on, or maybe even someone punching them. Jo had seen all kinds of reactions to bad news. Some people threw up, some people became violent. Mostly though it was only tears she saw. Slowly Kate Milligan sat back down, reaching for one of the crumpled tissues in her bag. She dabbed fruitlessly at her eyes.
"I'm sorry," she muttered. "You said Adam was missing. Do you know anything more?"
"A little bit," Jo said carefully. "We've identified a suspect who may be holding Adam, but the situation is more complex than we thought at first."
"What do you mean?" Kate asked sharply. "This isn't because of John, is it? I never wanted him to be a part of Adam's life but Adam wanted him. It was a godsend when that man died. Don't tell me something he did has come back to hurt Adam."
"No, this has nothing to do with John Winchester," Jo said quickly. She pursed her lips, not certain that she should tell Kate the truth of what they suspected.
"Then what?" Kate asked.
"We believe that the man holding him may be a human trafficker already known to the FBI," Jo said, careful to edit out Dean's involvement in the previous case.
Kate's hand flew to her mouth, her expression one of disbelief. "Why would he want Adam? Is Adam still in the country?"
"We believe so, yes," Jo said with a little nod of her head.
"Do you think he picked Adam for a reason? I mean he's blonde with blue eyes, isn't that something those kind of people want?" Kate asked cautiously, looking at Jo for some sort of explanation.
Jo shook her head. "It's too early to try and guess why he took Adam," she said, mentally crossing her fingers behind her back, the way she always did when she told a lie. It wouldn't be a comfort for Kate to know that her son was snatched because of a vendetta against his older brother. In a perverse way it was probably better for her to believe that Adam had been abducted because of what he looked like, rather than because of who he was.
Kate sat back in her chair, tears starting to prickle in the corners of her eyes. She blinked and they rolled down her cheeks before she was able to catch them with the tissue.
"I was so worried when he came to university here, rather than staying near me. I know it was a good program but he's my baby. I didn't want him to go." She blew her nose quickly, as quietly as she could. "I told myself he'd be fine though. Children grow up, they go off to school and they're fine. Most people are fine."
"They are," Jo agreed. "You couldn't have known this would happen. No one could have known. We've checked into it. It was a blitz attack by a stranger. Not something that anyone could have predicted."
"So it didn't have anything to do with the man he was seeing then?" Kate asked hopefully.
Jo was momentarily taken aback. "You know about that?" she asked, her eyes wide with surprise.
"I'm his mother. I know. He tells me things he wouldn't tell anyone else," Kate said, a little smile playing at the corners of her mouth. "He didn't tell Sam or Dean then?"
"No, they didn't know," Jo said. "But his boyfriend doesn't have anything to do with what happened to Adam." She studied Kate's face for a moment and waited, waited to see if she knew anything more about the identity of Adam's boyfriend but Kate only blew her nose again.
"Does he know that Adam's missing? He must be beside himself," she said and Jo's heart went out to the woman who could worry about someone she'd never met when her son was missing.
"He knows," she said carefully. "He wants us to find Adam, we all do."
"I thought he'd be safe here," Kate murmured. "I thought with his brothers here, he'd be safe."
Jo stood up abruptly. There was, she realized, nothing more she could really say to Kate Milligan. She needed to be working, to be looking for answers as to where Adam was. Victimology was pretty well established so talking to his mother could only be painful for the both of them. Kate needed to rest and Jo needed to work. "I've arranged a hotel room for you. You're welcome to stay here but after the flight you might need a rest. I promise I'll call you the moment we have any information about Adam."
Kate nodded, standing up. She collected her bag and dabbed at her eyes. "Don't worry, I know you need me out of your hair. Just tell me when you find him, the moment you find him."
"I will," Jo promised, holding the door open for her and gesturing for Inias to join them. She'd get him to drive Kate to the hotel and keep an eye on her. The last thing they needed was for something to happen to her.
Dean slammed his hand against the wall hard. Anna flinched and then sighed. She reached for his hand, taking it in her own and looking over his palm.
"No lasting damage," she murmured.
"That bastard has Cas. He has Cas and you don't know what he could be doing to him, Anna. You don't know!"
"I know that punching walls doesn't help anybody."
Dean grunted, gritting his teeth.
"I don't know how you can be so calm about this? I wish they'd just let me see. I know Alistair will have sent them a message. He sent a video of Adam, there'll be one of Cas too."
"How would it help, Dean?" Anna asked gently. "How would it help to see him hurting Castiel? Do you just want to rip yourself apart? Make yourself feel guiltier?"
"I could help…."
"Watching that man hurt Castiel isn't helping, Dean. Any message he sends isn't a punishment to you, it isn't penitence you have to do. If you really want to help Castiel, then you'll accept you can't see the video feed and stop asking."
Dean shook his head angrily, stalking away from Anna and threw himself down in his chair.
"I need a drink," he grumbled.
"You can have coffee or anything else that's in the fridge in the break room," Anna said sweetly, but there was a hard edge to her tone, daring Dean to push the issue further.
Dean threw his hands in the air in despair. "I don't understand why Gabriel hasn't been thrown out on his ass. This is his fault!"
"Don't you defend him!" Dean said, glaring at her.
Anna glanced at him coolly and then shook her head. "Gabriel made a mistake. We've all made mistakes. Castiel did too."
Dean flushed. "Cas is just a stupid kid, he didn't know what he was doing."
"Castiel is a member of this team and a trained agent," Anna said. "He's not a kid and he's not stupid. I'm sure he thinks he has a good reason for doing what he did."
Dean stared at her glumly, then swallowed and looked down at his hands.
"It's because of me," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. "He did it because of me."
Anna closed her eyes, sighing. She wrapped her arms around herself, giving herself a little squeeze and then she opened her eyes again.
"I thought so," she said finally. "You two bring out the worst in each other. You make him reckless, he makes you cold."
"Cas and I…."
"Have been dancing around each other since he came to the department," Anna interjected. "I've watched you. He's desperate for your approval, Dean. He thinks the world of you. Whatever you told him, if Alistair found him at the right time then it was probably easy for him to twist it, to make Castiel so afraid for you he'd do whatever Alistair told him."
Dean bristled. "I didn't know Alistair was going to call him!"
"And Gabriel didn't know Alistair was going to hack his laptop, Dean. We can't predict every outcome."
"So what, we're all to blame? Is that what you're trying to say, Anna?"
Anna shook her head irritably. "No, what I'm trying to say is that you are too close to this Dean. You've been too close from the start. If I was in charge, I'd tell you to go home and wait it out. I'd be setting up protection for you, not letting you sit here."
Anna held up her hand. "But I'm not in charge, Michael is."
"Maybe not for long," Dean muttered darkly.
They glared at each other, Anna with her arms crossed defiantly over her chest and Dean sulking in his chair. There was a click-clack of heels on the floor and both of them turned to look at the noise, rather than keep eye-contact. Jo entered the room and stopped short. Her whole body tensed as she sensed the atmosphere and she glanced between them quickly.
"You know, I heard raised voices coming down the hall but I didn't think it would be you two. I thought you'd be working," she said evenly.
"Anna's decided this is all my fault," Dean said, leaning back in his chair.
"That is not what I said," Anna snapped sharply. "I was trying to make you see that you're not being helpful!"
"You said I should be sent home!"
"Because you're a target! I want to protect you!"
"Protect me? You think I need to be mollycoddled and babied? I know what I'm dealing with, Anna. You've got no idea!"
"You're not exactly being forthcoming, Dean!"
Jo stared at them, opening and closing her mouth and then she shook her head angrily. "Do you ever think this might be what Alistair wants? This team is falling apart. We're so busy blaming ourselves and blaming each other that we're not working together. He's breaking us apart."
Dean swallowed, clenching his hands into fists and then he looked away. Anna took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly.
"I'm sorry," she said finally. "I shouldn't…."
"You've seen the video, right, Jo?" Dean asked, ignoring Anna and her apology. "What's happening to Cas?"
Jo bit her lip, glancing down at her feet. "Alistair drugged him. Castiel is hallucinating."
"Did he rape him?"
"No, we haven't seen….there's been no sexual assault, not on any footage we've received."
Dean nodded slowly, thoughtfully. He reached into his desk draw and pulled out a file, which he tossed to Anna. She caught it clumsily.
"My notes," he said by way of explanation. "I told Castiel I'd turn them in, let you look at them but there was….I wrote about what Alistair did to me."
Anna's eyes widened and she flipped open the file. "You should have said, I've got experience."
"Anna, I'm not a victim. Don't treat me like one."
"I wouldn't treat you like a victim, Dean," Anna said, her expression softening.
Dean shrugged noncommittally. "Look, it doesn't matter, I got past it. It's not something I want to talk about."
Anna nodded. "Fine," she said, opening the files and glancing over them. "Let me and Jo look at these, Dean."
"That's why I gave them to you. Fresh eyes and all of that," Dean said, swivelling away from them. "I know Michael and Bobby are checking to see if any of Alistair's associates from back then have been released. I think maybe they could use a hand." He stood up, walking away towards Bobby's office. Both Anna and Jo watched until he had opened the office door and disappeared inside before Jo put her hand out, waiting for Anna to hand over one of the files.
"Whatever we read in here, we don't tell Sam," she said.
Anna nodded. "I would have thought that went without saying."
"You brought someone in?" Dean asked. Bobby passed him along a file, letting Dean flick it open before he spoke.
"Crowley, I'm sure you know the guy."
Dean stared at the picture inside the file, taking a cursory glance over the rap sheet, although he knew most of it off by heart. "I do. Why did you bring this guy in, Bobby? He's a middle man. He never got his hands dirty. I mean look at this rap sheet, it's all petty convictions and he'd cut a deal if he ever got close to being in any serious trouble. Working with Alistair on this revenge mission would mean getting in too deep."
Bobby shrugged. "Everyone else in the original case is either still in jail or dead. Crowley's the only one still around and the only one who could be helping."
"Crowley weaselled out of any involvement in human trafficking at the time. He was just in the business of renting out buildings. That was what he said." Dean shut the file quickly. "I never saw him on site anyway."
"But you think he was dirty?" Bobby asked.
"I know he was dirty, Bobby. A backhander or two and he'd just look the other way. He was frightened by Alistair, he was just good at playing the game."
"Do you want to question him or should I ask Michael?" Bobby looked at him slyly, from the corner of his eye. Dean grinned.
"Me. I want to see if he's still in the business of subletting."
Crowley looked just the same as Dean remembered him. His hair was still thinning, he was still rounded and comfortable looking in his own skin. He didn't even seem ruffled by the fact that he was sitting in an interrogation room. His suit was tailor made and expensive. Everything about Crowley was expensive and yet when Dean looked at him, all he saw was a cheap, grubby little man. Crowley had got far in life by knowing when to sell out his friends and move on to bigger and better things. Anything he said, Dean already knew to regard as a lie. The only time Crowley ever told the truth was when his own neck was on the line.
Dean took one last look at Crowley through the two way mirror, allowed himself a moment to collect his thoughts then stepped out of the observation room. He opened the door to the interrogation room and stepped inside. Crowley spared him a desultory glance and then smiled predatorily.
"Dean Winchester, I should have known," he said. "The last I heard you were in hospital. Your colleagues were very worried about you. I can't tell you how glad I am that you seem to have made a complete recovery."
"Crowley," Dean said, sitting down across from him. "I hope you know everything is being recorded."
"Of course, and I've been read my rights," Crowley said. His voice was almost a purr, but Dean found his accent grating. Other people might think that it made Crowley sound dignified but not Dean. There was very little dignity in what Crowley did.
"I want to talk to you about Alistair."
"I'm sure you do, but I'm strictly a lawful business man. As I told your colleagues at the time, I had no idea what sort of activities that man was involved with. I think you'll find that they couldn't prove otherwise," Crowley tapped the table with a well-manicured fingernail. "If, for any reason, I ran into Alistair today I would phone the FBI immediately. He's on an Interpol watch list, I believe. I've only come here today to clear my good name and help with your inquiries."
Dean gritted his teeth. "Right," he said, glancing towards the two-way window. "Crowley, two people who are very important to me have gone missing. Alistair has kidnapped them. One of them is my little brother, the other one is an agent on my team."
Crowley raised an eyebrow. "Really? That is very unlucky."
"I did some digging on you, Crowley, I know you're still in the property business. At the moment we're checking every legitimate place of business on your books, but I'm sure you've got places we won't find on any legitimate account."
"I'm more than happy for your agents to check, I have nothing to hide."
"Do you know what else, Crowley? All these background checks on you, I got your record. Most of it petty, you're pulled in and you don't get charged. Most of it has to do with your property business but there was one charge that stuck out. I don't imagine it's something you like remember, the time you were picked up for soliciting a prostitute."
Crowley's easy smile turned into a nasty, tight scowl.
"Why is that important?"
"I checked out the kid you got arrested with, asked around the streets you like to frequent. You've got a type."
"Is this what you've pulled me in to talk about?" Crowley asked, annoyed. "My predilection for male prostitutes? I do check that they're all of age first. I'd like to see this go to court. I think, Winchester, that my lawyer would construe this as harassment. I could give him a call. I've kept him out of this interview so far because I have nothing to hide but if you want me to, I do have his number on speed dial."
Dean smiled. "Yes, I'm sure you're very careful when you're out, trawling the streets. Don't want to get picked up again. But like I said, it was the type of male prostitute you go for that really interested me. Young, blue eyes, dark hair, white. Not hard to find, but only that type. Those boys again and again."
Crowley shifted in his chair, his expression uneasy.
Dean dug in his pocket, pulling out a picture which he laid on the table in front of Crowley. Gabriel had printed it out for him while Dean was preparing for the interrogation. It was from Gabriel's personal collection, a picture of Castiel at his academy graduation – delighted and pleased with himself. He looked, although Dean would never say it out loud, beautiful. "This is my colleague, Castiel Novak. I'd say he was just your type, wouldn't you?"
"What is this, Winchester? Got a side line in pimping now?" Crowley sneered.
"No, that's more Alistair's line of work. Is Castiel what he's promising you? Your own, personally trafficked and trained FBI agent? You'd never have to go out on the streets again."
"I've checked your bank accounts, Crowley. No strange transactions. You're not the sort of man to do anything for love alone. Providing you haven't got a secret bank account we haven't found yet, then Alistair had to sweeten the deal with something. Castiel is very sweet."
Crowley reached out, brushing his fingers along the picture and Dean clenched the muscles in his jaw, stopping himself from saying anything, from reacting in any other way. Crowley pulled the photo towards himself, looking it over for a second and then pushed it back at Dean.
"Yes, he's passable. I'd do him."
"Can I take that as a confession?"
"You can take it as admittance that I think he's attractive. Anything else is a fiction that you've concocted."
Dean glanced at the two-way mirror again and gave a little shake of his head. Crowley raised an eyebrow.
"What are you doing?" he asked suspiciously.
"I'm telling them to cut the recording," Dean said, collecting Castiel's picture and tucking it neatly back in his pocket, pausing for a second brushing his fingers over it, wanting to wipe away where Crowley had touched it and replace it with his own hand. It was only a photo but it was all he had of Castiel for the moment. "Like I said, Castiel is our team mate. We're all anxious about him. When people are worried they tend to care a little less about the rules." He pushed his chair back, standing up and taking off his jacket. He hung it carefully on the back of the chair.
Crowley snorted. "You can't be serious."
"And Adam's my little brother. Did I tell you about my brother? Not your type but he's my kid brother and I'm pretty attached to him. I'm sure you can imagine what sort of things I'd do to any man who hurt my little brother," Dean continued, unbuttoning his cuffs and rolling up his sleeves.
"This is brutality. I'll have your job!" Crowley hissed, pushing his own chair back. It scrapped across the floor as Crowley stood up hurriedly, trying to put as much distance between himself and Dean as possible.
"Do you really think I care anymore?" Dean asked, taking a step towards him. Crowley's eyes darted past him, towards the door, obviously looking for an escape route. "The door's locked, Crowley. Like I said, we're all past breaking point on this case. No one is going to care what I do to you. Deaths happen in custody all the time."
Crowley had gone white with terror. He turned to the two-way mirror and began banging on it, hammering his hands against the glass. "Is someone there? This lunatic is trying to kill me!"
"I told you, Crowley, no one cares," Dean said, moving up behind him. Crowley turned, meeting his eye and then his shoulders sagged. He slumped against the mirror, defeated.
"I can tell you something that might help," he said grudgingly, forcing the words out.
"Good," Dean said, stepping back. "Why don't you have a seat?"
Crowley edged past him, returning to his chair. Deal rolled his sleeves down again, tiding himself up before he resumed his seat across from Crowley. He glanced again at the mirror and nodded. "We're recording now," he said evenly.
A haunted look crossed Crowley's face. Dean wondered what he was playing at. Crowley was, no doubt, weighing up the pros and cons, trying to find the way that he could still come out on top. Finally he shuffled the chair forward a little more, ready to start.
"I may have some properties which I keep off my books," he said quietly. "For a select clientele."
"And Alistair?" Dean prompted.
"Is one of those clients," Crowley admitted. "He came to me a few months ago, explained that he was looking for somewhere secluded, a warehouse that wasn't likely to be on anyone's radar. I had just such a place. We struck a deal."
"What did he offer you?" Dean asked slowly.
"He offered me something special. Something one of a kind," Crowley said, his tongue flickering out to run across his lips.
"What?" Dean growled.
"A young man. I didn't know his name. Alistair had pictures of him," Crowley didn't sound ashamed when he spoke. He licked his lips again, lost in memory. "He was perfect. Alistair said he could train him for me."
"Where is this warehouse? The one you gave to Alistair?" Dean asked.
Crowley looked up at him, the spell seeming to break and he smiled. It was a cold, calculating smile.
"I think I've been very forthcoming, don't you agree? I think if you want any more information then there should be an offer on this table," he leant back, folding his arms across his chest. "I want immunity from prosecution. After all, you've got a much bigger fish to fry in Alistair. I can give him to you. All I need to hear is that I'm off the hook."
Dean shook his head. "You're in no position to bargain."
"I think you'll find that I am," Crowley said evenly. "I want a promise, I want it written down and I want my lawyer to see it and maybe then I'll give you Alistair's location."
"Or maybe I'll charge you with perverting the course of justice," Dean snapped, pushing his chair back. He stalked across the room to the door. "Just sit here and think about it."
He opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. Bobby was already there waiting for him as Dean shut the door.
"You know we can't use any of this against him. The bastard's right, its intimidation. We'll never get it near a courtroom," Bobby said.
"Then we'll find something else to nail him on, Bobby. You heard him, Alistair can't be the only shady figure he's got dealings with. We just need to find his secret accounts," Dean sighed, starting to walk down the corridor, needing to put as much space between himself and Crowley as possible. "Alistair was always going to take Cas, he planned it. He offered him to Crowley. I'm not letting Crowley get away with that."
"Don't you think finding Castiel and your brother is more important?" Bobby asked, having to run to keep up with Dean's stride. "Slow down, you idjit."
"I think Castiel would never forgive me if I made any sort of deal with Crowley," Dean said, looking back over his shoulder at Bobby as he strode towards Michael's office. Michael would be the one who'd make the decision, he was the one in charge but Dean already knew he'd fight tooth and nail to make certain that Crowley didn't wiggle out of their grip this time. "If we'd caught Crowley the first time, if we'd done the job right, then he wouldn't be able to help Alistair now."
"Guys! Guys!" Gabriel was running down the corridor towards them, waving a piece of paper in his hand. Dean stopped, annoyed at the interruption. He had to get to Michael's office, had to find out what Michael thought was the best course of action. They were so close and yet still too far away, and every second spent on something stupid Gabriel had done was a second wasted.
"What is it?" he asked tersely.
"I managed to track back to the connections Alistair is using to get online. It's been tricky because he uses different ones, but I've been able to isolate the area they're in!"
"You mean you know where he is?"
"Not the building but the area. He's piggy-backing off connections there."
"You see," Dean turned to Bobby, grinning widely. "We don't need to deal with Crowley. We can find them ourselves."
"Dean…." Bobby said warningly. Dean waved his hand at him, dismissing his concerns. If there was a way to save Castiel and Adam without having to deal with Crowley, Dean would take it happily.
"Come on," Dean grabbed Gabriel's arm, dragging the other man with him. "We need to show this to Michael."
"We know from Crowley that the building is a warehouse and Gabriel has narrowed down the area which Alistair could be operating in," Michael said. He pointed to a map that he'd pinned to the table of the briefing room. There were three circles drawn on it, highlighting the Wi-Fi areas that Gabriel had found Alistair using. Michael pulled a pen from his pocket and drew a line from each of the circles, connecting them all in a triangle. "We can safely assume that Alistair is operating within this vicinity. There are a few disused warehouses in the area, some which are more probable locations than others."
"Anna and I have been looking through Dean's notes. We've compiled a basic profile of Alistair from that," Jo said, passing round paper copies of their brief as she spoke. "We've run it past Michael, he agrees but as I said, it's a basic profile. We know the offender; we're just trying to predict the likely outcome based on his previous behavior."
"When Alistair's last operation was compromised he didn't run straight away, he waited. He also didn't eliminate the weak link in his operation. He used torture," Anna continued, her tone tight and clipped, leaving no room for anyone to ask any questions. She avoided Sam's eye and pretended not to see his half-raised hand. "That suggests that he isn't afraid of being caught and that he isn't interested in a kill. Alistair is a sadist."
"The most important part of all of this, more important than revenge, has been pain. Revenge may be his goal but as we've now learned he's been watching all of us for a long time. He has had more than one opportunity, most likely, to kill. He's never taken that opportunity because he wanted to inflict maximum suffering. Pain is central to his plans. It's likely his line of work, human trafficking, appeals to him so much because he can give in to his urges. His desire to hurt people is an acceptable part of his criminal livelihood."
"Dean's suffering is paramount to him. His targets have been chosen specifically to hurt Dean – his brother, his best friend. He's been recording his crimes because he gets a thrill from imagining Dean watching. He gets off on the pain."
"He sounds like a sexual sadist, Anna," Sam said quickly, jumping in before she could continue. "But none of his crimes have had a sexual element to them, have they? I mean, he hasn't….Gabriel and I have been watching! He's never touched Adam or Castiel like that!" He looked panicky, turning to Gabriel. "We would have seen it, wouldn't we? Gabriel! We would have seen it."
"Yes, we would have seen it, Sam," Gabriel said, his voice surprisingly steady and reassuring but his fingers trembled as he reached out to touch Sam, to pull him closer and comfort him, one arm around Sam, holding him steady. "We would have seen."
"There is some evidence that Alistair's crimes might have a sexual element to them, but I can't..."
"It's okay, Anna. It's okay." Dean said.
"You don't have to," Anna said quickly.
Dean shook his head. "Come on, at this point trying to keep it a secret is pretty pointless. Fuck, this isn't what I wanted. Sammy, if I had my way then you would never have had to know this."
"No!" Sam said, a stricken look crossing his face. "No! You couldn't..."
"Please, Sammy, don't make this any harder than it already is."
"When you were in the hospital? Dean, it's been years and you never said a word."
"My choice, Sam. Mine. I get a choice who I tell and who I don't."
"But you told everyone else before me? Couldn't you trust me?"
"Damn it, Sam. Just shut your mouth, you're not making this any easier. When I told Cas, he just…."
"You told Cas? You trust Cas more than me?"
"Sam, out now. Gabriel, get him out of here. Sam, till you calm down I don't want you on this case," Michael snapped, pointing to the door.
Sam's eyes blazed, his chest heaved as he fought back tears and anger. He opened his mouth to say something but closed it again with a snap, turning on his heal and running for the door. Gabriel followed him, his voice echoing as he tried to calm Sam down with platitudes and soft words.
"Fuck!" Dean slammed the door behind them, shutting out the sound of their voices. "Well, that could have gone better."
"Dean," Jo reached out carefully, placing her hand on his shoulder. He turned and shrugged her off.
"I'm fine. We all knew Sam was gonna blow up when he found out, it's why nobody said anything."
"It's just the shock," Anna said quietly.
"Yeah, I know. Doesn't make it hurt any less." Dean shook his head, sighing. "Let's just get on with it. Sam will calm down, but we don't have time for this. We need to focus on Cas and Adam."
There was a knock on the door of Gabriel's office. Sam turned from his computer screen. He'd been staring at it, unseeing, since Gabriel had brought him away, sat him down and forced him to focus on pictures of baby pandas. They hadn't made him feel any better but they'd given him time to think. Sam wished he had reacted differently, in any other way then flying off the handle the way he had done. He'd regretted it almost immediately, as soon as he'd heard the door of the briefing room being slammed.
"That's probably Jo," he said miserably to Gabriel, "She's probably come to tell me off."
Not that he didn't deserve it, but Sam didn't need a lecture on just how bad his behavior had been. He was already well aware of that.
Gabriel huffed softly, getting out of his chair. He strode across the room and opened the door. Sam didn't have to try too hard to see over the top of Gabriel's head. He only had to sit up a little bit and he was able to see past Gabriel to the person in the doorway. He slumped back down when he realized it was Dean.
Gabriel step aside to let Dean into the room, easing past him in a sideways waddle, a little like a crab. "I'll just get out of your hair," he said, slipping past Dean and pulling the door to behind him.
There was an awkward silence. Dean stuck his hands in his pockets and rocked backwards and forwards, humming softly under his breath. Sam swivelled from side to side in his chair. Neither of them looked at the other. Finally Sam couldn't take the silence any longer.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly, glancing up at Dean and then looking away before his brother could catch his eye. "I'm sorry. You're right; it's your choice who you tell. I shouldn't have acted like that. It was a shock, but I should never have acted like that."
"Yeah," Dean agreed softly. "Maybe I should have told you first, taken you aside. I didn't want it to come out like that, Sammy."
"It was just a shock," Sam said, a frown tugging at the corners of his mouth. "I just thought if you'd trust anyone then you'd trust me. I'm your brother."
"That's why I couldn't tell you. I'm supposed to be your big brother. Things like this don't happen to big brothers," Dean said, his voice catching a little. Sam winced, the pain in his brother's voice all too evident.
"I'm not dad, Dean," he said. "I wouldn't have judged you."
"You didn't do a great job of proving that back in the briefing room," Dean said, taking a step towards Sam. "You know, when you get going you sound just like dad. I could have closed my eyes and it would have been him yelling at me."
"I did the wrong thing, I know that!" Sam said hurriedly. "Everyone else knew, Dean. Everyone!"
"Bobby and Michael knew because they had to know, Anna guessed and Jo was with her when she made the connection. The only person I ever told because I wanted to tell them was Cas," Dean said, turning away from Sam, moving to the desk on the side of the room that had been designated as Gabriel's while they were both working in the room. He picked up some of the rubbish that was littered around, throwing it in the bin. For a moment Sam thought he'd stopped talking, that he was just ignoring him or waiting for Sam to say something but then Dean continued. "If you want to be angry because I told Cas then be angry. He isn't you. He's something different. I can be different with him."
"You can be vulnerable," Sam said softly.
Dean looked at him quickly, frowning.
"I'm not vulnerable, Sammy. Don't say shit like that."
"Sorry," Sam muttered. He pushed himself up from his seat, stepping towards Dean. He stopped just short of him, wondering what he should say or what he could do. "Dad would probably tell us to fight this out, throw a few punches." He squared his jaw, prepared for Dean to strike him if he needed to.
Most of their childhood fights had been settled in a scuffle, the few that there had been. Normally they had been a united front, the two of them against everything, waiting for dad to come home from an assignment, but occasionally when they were teenagers, resentment and close confinement had created a rift and anger had boiled over. Their father had just accepted that they'd use their fists and whoever won the scuffle was in the right, no matter what they'd been fighting over. Sam had seen that similar 'might is right' response in some of his father's case notes. He was renowned for bringing in more dead bodies than live unsubs.
Dean shook his head. "I don't want to hit you, Sam. You were out of line, but I'm not gonna hit you. Never solves anything, wouldn't take back what you said."
Sam swallowed, unclenching his jaw. He wished Dean would hit him. He had a mean right hook but the physical pain would fade much sooner than the guilt that Sam felt. If Dean would just punch him then Sam could feel better about things.
"It just hurt that you trust Cas more than me," he said to fill the silence.
"I already told you, Cas is different," Dean said. He wouldn't meet Sam's eyes, evading his gaze when Sam tried to look at him. Slowly, realization dawned on him about just why Dean wouldn't meet his eye.
"You and Cas…." he said, not really believing it, not until Dean confirmed it. He'd known there was something there, a chemistry but Sam hadn't let himself think anything was going to happen.
"Yeah, me and Cas," Dean said, shrugging his shoulders. "I don't know why him. I don't even know if he has a sex drive. I don't even know if I'd ever be comfortable doing that sort of thing but I wanted him to know what he was getting into, wanted to give him a way out."
"Did you tell him?"
"What? That he's been the star of my one man shower fantasy show since he walked into the briefing room the first time? What do you think? It wasn't really the right time."
"He doesn't know," Sam said slowly. He bit his lip. Dean wouldn't thank him for getting soft, but Sam couldn't help it. Even if Dean couldn't see it, everyone else knew that Castiel was head-over-heels crazy for Dean. He'd let himself be abducted to keep Dean safe. He'd done it all without even knowing what Dean felt for him. Dean might be trying to play it off as if his feelings for Castiel were purely sexual but Sam knew him. If that was the only thing Dean wanted then he would have taken it. Dean had had any number of one-night stands. Even if inter-office relationships were frowned upon that had never stopped him before. Even if Dean tried to keep his bisexuality a secret, it was an open secret, acknowledged by almost everyone apart from Dean himself.
Dean sighed, rubbing at his eyes. "Fuck, Sammy. I didn't mean for this to happen. I didn't mean for him to go and use himself as bait. I know it was Alistair's plan, but I practically gave him Cas. I primed Cas for him."
"No," Sam said quickly. "No, you didn't. You wanted to tell Cas. You couldn't know what was going to happen. That was just Alistair's luck. He would have found a way to get Cas out of the building. Like you said, he was planning this from the start."
"Right," Dean agreed but Sam could hear the hesitation in his voice. He wondered if he'd ever be able to convince his brother that it wasn't his fault or if Dean would always carry some guilt because he hadn't been able to foresee the future.
"I am sorry," Sam said again. He wanted Dean to know that, to know that he was truly sorry for everything he'd said. "I shouldn't have behaved like that. I should have focused on what we were doing. Was Anna able to finish the briefing?"
"Yeah, she's taking point. We've got two possible buildings to hit," Dean said.
"We're not going with surveillance first?" Sam asked.
"No. Both the buildings are abandoned. If we start sending people or cars in there then Alistair is going to get suspicious. Best to strike fast."
"Are you going?" Sam asked, his heart jumping painfully in his chest.
"Yeah. Anna's taking point and I'm going in behind her."
"But Alistair wants you!" Sam said, his voice rising fearfully.
"You just said you'd behave," Dean said, shaking his head. "Stop yelling, Sam. I know what Alistair wants. I'm also a valuable agent and I've dealt with him before. I'm not going to sit around waiting to hear if everything has turned out okay."
"Then I'm going with you!"
"You walked out of the briefing. You stay here," Dean said. He grabbed Sam by the shoulders, holding him still and looked at him. "Alistair has Adam and he has Castiel. I'm not giving him a chance to take you as a hostage. You stay here, Sam."
Sam stared into his brother's face, at the honest fear written there and nodded slowly. He didn't want to be the cause of any more strain for Dean. He would stay with Gabriel, safe in headquarters, waiting for Dean to come back. Dean let out a relieved breath and clapped Sam on the shoulders, his hands resting their just a beat longer than was needed before he pulled away.
"Thanks, Sammy," he said.
"It's Sam." Sam found himself rolling his eyes. He was glad to fall back into an old argument. It was a routine he understood. Dean looked satisfied and Sam knew he could have left it at that. They were good, even if Dean didn't say it, Sam knew that he forgave him for his outburst. He could let Dean walk out of the room and everything between them would be back to normal but he couldn't just leave it at that, at a pat on the shoulder, not if Dean was going into what could possibly be another trap. They had no idea what could be in that warehouse, what Alistair could have planned for them.
Impulsively Sam stepped forward, closing the gap between them and he put his arms around Dean, hugging his brother tightly. For a second Dean struggled and then he relaxed, his arms moving to wrap around Sam, his fingers clenched in Sam's shirt.
"Please take care of yourself," Sam whispered. "Please come back." He didn't know if he wanted Dean to hear him or not. Dean's embrace grew just the slightest bit tighter, as if Dean was trying to physically promise that he would be back before Dean drew away. He looked shaken and Sam backed off quickly.
Dean was tactical in a lot of ways – his arm around someone's shoulder, his hand on the small of their back – but overt forms of contact like hugs made him uncomfortable. Sam was just grateful that he'd allowed himself to be held for one small moment. If anything happened to Dean then Sam would have the memory of his brother's strong arms around him, of the safety that only Dean had ever offered him. He wanted to remember that because Dean had always been his protector. He had always been there when Sam needed him and Sam hoped he would always be there in the future.
Dean tugged on the front of his jacket, making a show of straightening himself out. "I need to go," he said gruffly. Sam nodded.
"Bring Adam back," he said.
Dean smiled at him. "I intend to bring them both back, Sam. And me, I'm coming back too."
He lingered a moment longer, looking at Sam intently and Sam wondered if Dean was looking at him for a reason or if he just wanted to remember Sam, wanted an image fixed in his mind that he could recall when he needed it. Then Dean turned, breaking eye contact. He was out the door before Sam could call out to him, ask him to come back, ask him not to go. He already knew what Dean's answer would have been but it didn't stop him wanting to ask. They both knew Dean was taking a risk.
They also both knew that he'd always take that risk when it was presented to him. It was what made him a good agent. It was what made him a good person.
Sam still wished he'd stay.
Adam patted Castiel's face gently, hoping for a response but the young man's head lolled to the side, Castiel's eyes half-open and glassy. Adam checked his pulse again, but Castiel was still breathing and his pulse was still strong. He was just doped out of his mind. When Alistair had first brought him back to the cell Castiel had been hysterical, screaming and lashing out at invisible and imagined foes. Adam had kept his distance, certain that he was in no fit state to restrain Castiel who'd already shown that he was more than capable of subduing Adam. Adam already knew that people under the influence of drugs didn't know their own strength and weren't always capable of holding back. He didn't want to be on the receiving end of Castiel's break with reality. Eventually Castiel stopped screaming and lashing out. Eventually he just stopped. Adam had dragged him to the bed, rolled him on to his side and waited. He checked on him, made sure Castiel wasn't about to vomit and choke to death and sat with him. Adam was certain that whatever Alistair had given Castiel, it wouldn't be enough to kill him, just to mess with him.
He'd had them for over a day, Adam had already figured that out. If he'd wanted to kill them, he'd had plenty of opportunity. Adam couldn't help but be hopeful that he and Castiel were part of a bigger plan, pawns in Alistair's game. After all, he'd found a way to keep Castiel docile and keep him from proving a problem. He obviously didn't count Adam as a serious threat and privately Adam agreed with him. When he'd been on his own, if he'd had the chance he would have bolted for the door or tried another means of escape. Now that Castiel was incapacitated Adam wouldn't leave him. He couldn't leave him. His conscience wouldn't let him.
He petted Castiel's hair, finding it damp with sweat and sighed. He'd have to try to get some water from their captor. Castiel was growing dehydrated. If Adam wanted to flush whatever drug he'd taken out of his system, then he was going to need to get him something to drink. Alistair had brought Adam food and water, but he'd taken them away again after a few minutes. He'd allowed Adam to go to the bathroom as well, but he'd watched him the whole time. Adam swallowed, shutting out that particular memory. The whole thing was humiliating enough without dwelling on it. The most important point was that they didn't have constant access to water. If they did, Adam would be forcing some down Castiel throat, but they didn't so he kept stroking Castiel's forehead and stared at the door, waiting for Alistair.
The seconds ticked by and Adam tried to count them off in his head. Otherwise all that was left to do was worry – about Castiel, about himself, about if Alistair was ever coming back or if his intention was to starve them to death, sadistically and slowly. The portions had been small, hardly anything, just enough to keep Adam going but not enough for him to grow strong on. Adam shook his head, pushing those thoughts away and started on counting the seconds again. Nothing good could come from guessing about Alistair's plan. Adam had to keep his wits together and he had to keep Castiel safe and alive. The best thing he could do was react, not try to bluff Alistair on a very shaky understanding of profiling that he'd gleaned second-handed from his brothers and his boyfriend.
There was a noise, a bolt being drawn back and Adam looked up. The door was pushed open slowly but Adam already knew who'd be behind it. He didn't get up while Alistair shut the door, but kept petting Castiel's hair. Castiel mumbled something, shutting his eyes and Adam let his fingers drift back down to Castiel's neck but the pulse was fine and steady.
"I was wondering if we could have some water," he said quietly, keeping his gaze downcast as Alistair came closer. "Castiel needs it."
"And what would you be willing to do to get it?" Alistair asked.
Adam looked at him, too shocked to keep his gaze averted. That hadn't been the answer he'd expected.
"I….." he stammered, drawing a blank, but Alistair was smirking at him and Adam shut his mouth, certain that the question wasn't one he was supposed to answer. Alistair would tell him what he could do.
"Would you be willing to get down on your knees? Use that pretty mouth of yours on me?" Alistair asked, taking another step towards him as Adam recoiled in disgust. "Or maybe you'd be happy to use those pink lips on Castiel? He's nice and pliant, Adam. He'd probably enjoy it."
Adam looked at Castiel, at his sleepy, dopey expression. Castiel probably wouldn't have a clue what was happening to him. That was why Adam would never touch him. He wouldn't take advantage of Castiel simply because it was a more palatable idea to suck his cock rather than Alistair's.
"Or maybe I should use Castiel's mouth?" Alistair whispered, at the bedside now. He had crept up on Adam and he stood behind him now, his hands on Adam's shoulders, stroking with a gentleness that belied what he was saying. "He wouldn't be that good at it but I could hold his head in place, fuck his mouth till I came. I doubt he'd need water after that."
Alistair was giving him the choice, Adam realized. He was offering him three choices, offering Adam the chance to join in the torture. Adam could opt to stand back, to let Castiel be the one who was violated, save his own skin for the time being. Alistair was offering him the chance to be just as guilty as he was in the act. Adam bit his tongue, stopping himself from retching.
The worst thing was Adam was certain that Alistair could convince himself what he was doing wasn't rape. After all, Adam had agreed to it, chosen it. There were probably any number of people who'd agree with him. Adam closed his eyes, praying silently that Michael never looked at the footage of what he was about to do and slowly shifted round, shuffling on the bed so he was facing Alistair, his mouth at the level of Alistair's crotch.
"Use me," he said, opening his eyes and trying to think of anything but his lover who might even now be viewing Adam's victimisation. He reached out, his fingers fumbling with Alistair's zip. If nothing else then Adam was going to be in control of this. He had made his choice and he was going to make certain that he performed well enough to get them everything they needed and to make certain that Alistair never looked at Castiel.
Two warehouses. Two possibilities. They could very well be about to go into the wrong building. Dean wished that he had something definite to work on but everything was educated guess work. It could be that the other team, tasked with taking the other warehouse, would be the ones going into the right building. They had radio contact, they could be on the scene in a few minutes if that was the case but Dean wanted it to be this building, the one he was about to storm.
Until he could see Adam and Cas with his own eyes, make sure that they were safe, then he wouldn't be able to relax. Alistair could go hang for everything Dean cared. He'd escaped justice once; he probably had another escape planned. Dean could work on catching him. After this Alistair would be on the top of the bureau's most wanted list. He'd be able to devote his working life to tracking down Alistair.
He watched Anna, waiting for her signal.
She nodded, rising from her watchful stance, her gun in her hand as she ran forward and Dean followed her.
Anna kicked the door open. The lights were on which meant at least that they didn't have to worry about using flashlights.
"See if you can find a downstairs?" Anna called to him, "But not before we've swept the rooms up here."
Adam fought the urge to recoil as his fingers finally touched Alistair's flesh. The man wasn't even hard. That was the worst of it. Adam was going to have to work him up to hardness before he could make him come. He tried his best to suppress a shudder but he couldn't completely. He caught a glance of Alistair's face and noticed that he was smiling. He seemed to be enjoying Adam's disgust.
There was a noise suddenly of running feet, of doors banging open and Adam could hear shouting. Alistair shoved him away hurriedly, tucking himself away and zipping his trousers shut.
"Don't make a noise," he warned Adam. He stooped, pulling a gun from a hidden ankle holster. Adam drew a deep breath. He huddled back on the bed, half-curled protectively around Castiel. Was Alistair about to shoot them? Kill them rather than allow them to be rescued? Adam couldn't help noticing that Alistair was still smiling.
Castiel stirred, fling his arm out in front of him, murmuring nonsense words and Adam tried to hush him. The noise above them grew louder.
"Ah," Alistair said approvingly. "They've found the door to the basement."
There was a banging noise – heavy, deliberate and on a steady beat. Adam supposed it was battering ram of some sort. Then just as suddenly as the banging had started it stopped. Castiel pushed himself up, bleary-eyed and hardly aware of what was going on.
"Dean?" he asked, confused and Adam tried to hush him again but Castiel pushed him away, trying to get up.
"I hope so," Alistair muttered. He grabbed Castiel, dragging the bewildered young man from the bed, holding the gun to his head. "Now smile when Dean gets here. I want him to see how much fun we've been having."
The door to the basement had given them a little difficulty, locked from the inside. Dean knew they'd made enough noise that if Alistair was in the building he'd be aware of them by now. It was speed and skill, not surprise, that was on their side now. Anna and Jo went down the stairs into the basement. Dean held his breath.
"Clear!" Anna called.
He barrelled down the stairs behind her, coming to a stop when he reached the bottom. There were closed doors up and down the corridor. Michael followed him down the stairs, his expression wary as he looked at the doors. They were identical, with no hint to what lay behind them.
"Be careful," he warned. "Anything could be behind those doors."
Anna nodded, gesturing with her head for Jo to take the nearest door on the right. Michael took the door furthest back and Anna the one to the left which left Dean with the door in front of them. He fingered the trigger of his gun, a technique to reassure himself, and stepped forward. From behind him he heard Jo call her room clear.
"I've found something," Anna shouted. Dean nearly turned back to see what Anna had found but something told him to press on. He heard the running of feet behind him, heard Jo and Michael moving to assist Anna.
Whatever was behind the door, Dean told himself, he was ready for it. He was a good shot. He could take them down before they had a chance to realize what was happening.
He took a deep breath and forced the door.
"Hello, Dean," Alistair said, and Dean felt his stomach drop as if it was made of lead. He'd been trying to prepare himself for this moment, trying to psych himself up but nothing prepared him for seeing Alistair, hearing his voice. It was like he was back there, in another warehouse almost the same as this, struggling and bound, unable to get away as Alistair came closer, knowing what was about to happen but powerless to stop it.
Dean shook his head, forcing himself to focus on the here and now. It wasn't him on the bed, it was Adam. It was Adam's frightened face staring at him. His little brother. It was Castiel in Alistair's arms, Castiel who Dean loved. Castiel with a gun pointed to his head.
"Let them go," Dean growled, raising his gun. "I have a head shot and I'll take it, Alistair, you know I will. Put down your gun, let Cas go and come peacefully."
"I've been waiting for you, Dean," Alistair continued, tugging Castiel till the other man was positioned in front of him, blocking him. "You can take a shot, Dean, but you might risk missing me and hitting Castiel."
"I never miss," Dean promised angrily.
"You might not but Castiel isn't very well at the moment, he's prone to being unpredictable," Alistair said with a smirk. Almost as if he'd been primed Castiel moved then, wriggling in Alistair's arms. He flailed all over the place and Dean realized with a sickening feeling that Alistair was right. Castiel wasn't himself.
"Cas, what has he done to you?" he whispered. Castiel twisted ineffectually in Alistair's grip, his blue eyes half open and he raised his head, looking at Dean with a desperate, frightened expression before his eyes slipped shut and Alistair held him limply against him.
"He's been drugged, Dean," Adam said, his eyes darting between the two men and the two guns in the room.
"Yes," Alistair agreed happily. "I gave Castiel a little injection. He's been more than compliant since then."
"If you've touched on hair on his head, then I'll…."
"I don't think you're in any position to make threats, Dean," Alistair said pleasantly. He turned the gun towards Adam, waving it at him. "Get up, shut the door, don't run or I'll shoot you."
Adam looked towards Dean, waiting for his instruction and Dean nodded slowly. For the moment they had to play along with Alistair. Adam had survived this long and Dean wasn't going to be the cause of his death now. Alistair was too close to miss. Adam slipped off the bed, making his way to the door. He pressed his shoulder against it and heaved it shut, all of his weight used to close the door. Alistair reached into his pocket with a free hand and drew out a key. He threw it across the floor to Adam who caught it clumsily. The young man glanced at Dean again before he slotted the key into the lock and turned it.
"Now get back," Alistair said. Adam stepped away from the door, leaving the key in the lock, his hands half raised in front of him. He backed towards the wall fearfully.
"How do you expect this to end? Do you think we'll just let you walk out of here? You know it's over, Alistair," Dean said.
"I was expecting to have a little more time, yes," Alistair agreed with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "I suppose Crowley talked, didn't he? How untrustworthy he is. Really, there is no honor among thieves."
"Yeah, you can't trust anyone these days," Dean said with a snort.
"I suppose there is something to be said for taking the direct route. I should have simply taken you, Dean, but this has been a fun diversion. Neither of them interest me as much as you do, but Adam does have certain charms when he keeps his mouth closed and Castiel is so fun to watch struggle," Alistair said.
"I'll ask you again; do you think you're just going to walk out of here?" Dean raised his gun again. He knew he wouldn't risk taking a shot but he didn't want Alistair to know that. "Let go of him, drop your gun and walk towards me slowly, and we'll see about getting you in a nice padded cell."
"I suppose since Crowley has betrayed me I don't need to worry about keeping Castiel alive," Alistair said, his finger stroking up and down the length of the gun. Dean shuddered slightly. Alistair's fingers were long and graceful, the fingers of a man who knew how to use them to cause the most pain.
"You pull that trigger and I shoot you dead," Dean promised.
Alistair looked delighted. "That's sweet, isn't it? You'd kill for him. Of course, I know you Dean, you'd kill for much less than your sweet little Castiel. I wonder what else you'd do for him? Would you make a deal? Your life for his? Your life for your brother's? If you come with me, Dean, then I'll let them go."
"You're crazy. You're not getting out of here," Dean growled. Alistair laughed.
"Dean, you know you have two choices – either you give yourself over to me, your brother and little Castiel go free and we escape, or I shoot Castiel and you arrest me. Choose wisely or I'll make the choice for you." His finger squeezed the trigger gently, just enough to threaten. Dean's hand wobbled and slowly he lowered his gun.
"Toss it away, put your hands on your head," Alistair commanded him. Dean did as he was told. He tossed the gun in front of him and put his hands behind his head.
"The others will be here soon," he said.
"Not soon enough," Alistair pushed Castiel to the ground, stepping over him to get to Dean. He spread his arms wide and embraced Dean with the care of a lover. "We've been parted too long. You were all I thought about, my most perfect student. I have a plane waiting; I always meant to take you with me, Dean. This was always all about you."
Dean closed his eyes, trying to block out everything that was happening, Alistair's words, his arms around him, the stench of his breath. All the things that had haunted his nightmares and would now haunt his waking life. For Castiel, he reminded himself, he was doing this for Castiel. He would suffer it gladly to keep Castiel alive. Alistair might have a plane waiting, he might have something planned but that didn't mean that his plan would succeed. The rest of the team were outside, they'd be in in a moment. Alistair couldn't escape, but every second Dean spent in his arms it was harder to think like that.
Alistair pulled back from him and Dean kept his eyes shut tight. He heard Alistair tut softly and then Alistair's fingers gripped his chin tight and forced their mouths together. Dean's mind went blank. Panic surged through him. He wanted to run, to scream but his feet were rooted to the floor. He could taste the staleness of Alistair's mouth as Alistair forced his tongue past Dean's lips.
A shot rang out.
For one wild moment Dean thought that Alistair had shot him. He jerked, eyes flying wide, feeling the force of the hit. He pushed Alistair away, touching his chest, feeling for a bullet wound but there was nothing. He looked bewilder at Alistair but the man stood ramrod straight, his eyes wide, staring past Dean, staring at nothing.
"What….?" Dean started.
Alistair opened his mouth, a strangled, broken sound issuing from him throat. He staggered back, blood bubbling on his lips.
From the floor Castiel looked up at them, the gun held in his shaky hands. His face was a mask of deliberate concentration.
"You should have killed me when you had the chance," he gasped, his grip loosening and he dropped the gun hurriedly.
Alistair collapsed on to his knees then face-down onto the floor. Blood pooled from the bullet wound in his back, spreading through his white shirt.
Dean turned away, unable to stop himself from being sick. He vomited the content of his stomach, the bitter taste mingling with the taste of Alistair's mouth and Dean retched again, till there was nothing left inside of him. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and turned quickly back to Castiel. Adam was by his side, arms cradled around Castiel, supporting him but when Dean looked again he saw that Adam was clinging to Castiel, that Castiel was the one supporting Adam and not the other way around.
Dean took a step forward, not certain his legs would support him. The monster from his nightmares was dead. He'd dreamt about this moment for years. In his dreams he'd stabbed Alistair, poisoned him, tortured him slowly and sadistically, made him beg for his life, made him apologise for every misdeed he'd ever done. In all his dreams he'd never given Alistair the swift, unexpected death Castiel had gave him.
He stepped near to the body, kicking it with the toe of his shoe, just to make certain that Alistair really was dead. He couldn't shake the feeling that Alistair would rise up in a moment but the body didn't move as he kicked it. He knelt down beside it, pressed his trembling fingers to Alistair's throat, almost unable to believe it when he found no pulse. Alistair was really dead. Dean knew that ideally he should have been subdued, that they should have arrested him but he also knew that he never would have slept soundly again if Alistair had lived. He never would have believed that any prison could hold him.
He got to his feet, leaving Alistair behind and struggled on to Adam and Castiel. He knelt in front of them and wrapped his arms tightly about them both.
"You idiot, Cas," he hissed, pressing his lips to Cas's dark hair. "How could you have known you'd hit him? You can't even hold a gun straight."
"He was hurting you," Castiel whispered, his eyes slipping closed. Dean squeezed him tightly, rocking him in his arms, pulling Adam with him. Already Dean could hear people calling his name. He wondered what had alerted them – the gun shot, the silence behind the door, the fact that he had disappeared and stopped checking in. Adam wiggled out of his hold, getting to his feet and rushing to the door. He unlocked it hurriedly and then stood back as the door was pushed open from the outside.
"We need medical attention," Adam said. "There's a dead man and Castiel has been drugged with something."
Anna stepped over the threshold, her eyes wide as she took in the sight and she shouted back over her shoulder, "We need a medic!"
She paused then, a grin breaking out across her face, "But they're alive!"
Nothing felt real to Adam. He blinked in the sunlight, unable to believe it could really be the middle of the afternoon. The single, solitary light bulb that had hung from the ceiling of his prison cell hadn't given out much light and Adam had felt like he lived in perpetual night. Time had stopped, the world had stopped, while he'd been trapped down there and couldn't quite get his head around the fact that life had continued without him. There were people everywhere – FBI agents in bullet proof vests, paramedics in high visibility jackets, cars and ambulances.
He turned his head away as they brought Alistair's body up from the basement on a stretcher, his face covered. Castiel was carried out behind him, Dean clutching his hand tightly, unwilling to let go until the ambulance men had him safe and ready to go. Dean broke away then, almost apologetic and came towards Adam.
"Hey, kid," he said softly, running a hand through his hair, his cheeks slightly red. "Do you want me to ride with you to the hospital?"
Adam smiled. "I'm fine Dean. You should go with Castiel, he'll be wondering where you are."
"Are you sure?" Dean asked but he was already starting to edge away, towards the ambulance that held Castiel.
"Yes, go!" Adam said with a laugh, shooing his brother with a wave of his hands. Adam didn't know where he drew the strength from the pretend that everything was fine but he had to. Dean had to get in that ambulance and go with Castiel. Adam knew that deep down at his core. Dean was trying to do the right thing, but the right thing was for him to stay at Castiel's side. Adam had the strength to grant him this pardon from playing hero just once. He wanted Dean to be selfish.
Dean shot him a quick, grateful smile and sprinted back to the ambulance. He climbed in, finding a seat next to Castiel and their fingers entwined once again. The ambulance doors closed, the siren sounded and it speed off. Adam watched them leave, knowing there'd be time to talk later. Dean's future was in that ambulance, his heart too. He had to go with it.
"You must be cold," a voice said softly behind him and Adam turned quickly, finding himself face to face with Michael. He shivered then, reminded that he'd only had his thin t-shirt and old jeans for warmth during the length of his captivity. He hadn't felt the cold before, he'd been distracted by too many other things, but now he felt it keenly, even in the weak mid-afternoon sun.
"Yeah," he agreed quietly, his voice dropping to an almost whisper. He wanted nothing more than to jump into Michael's arms but he held himself back. Their relationship was a secret; Adam didn't think that had changed. They were in front of Michael's colleagues, the people he had to work with day-in and day-out. Adam didn't need to be held, however much he might want it.
Michael nodded thoughtfully. He shrugged off his jacket and slipped it around Adam's shoulders. Adam tugged it tight around him, surrounded by the comforting scent of Michael. It wasn't as good as an embrace but it was close.
"You need to be checked over too," Michael said, his eyes flickering up and down the length of Adam's body. Adam knew he had to look a state. His hair was unkempt, his body was covered with marks and bruises. He needed a bath, and to brush his teeth and then a good sleep. He hoped that Michael still saw him under the grime and not just the victim of a horrific crime. The last thing Adam wanted was for everything to fall apart now because Adam was part of Michael's work. Before there'd always been a definite distinction between his life with Adam and his life at the FBI. Now they'd been irrevocably mixed and Adam couldn't bare it if that meant Michael didn't want to see him anymore.
"I'm fine," he said quickly, pulling Michael's jacket tightly around himself, trying to hide the worst of the damage. "It's just bruises."
"I'd still rather have a doctor confirm it. I was worried about you, Adam," Michael said. Adam sighed. He knew that tone of voice. He'd heard it enough times before. It was a tone that told Adam not to argue because Michael's mind wouldn't be changed. He let himself be ushered towards another waiting ambulance, still feeling dazed. Michael walked at his side, a hand on the small of Adam's back to guide him, close but not close enough for Adam's taste.
"Jo has called your mother, she'll meet you at the hospital," Michael continued.
Everything between them was functionary, business-like. Adam hated it. He was grateful that his mother would be waiting at the hospital at least. He could curl up with her and lick his wounds. Adam had hardly let himself think about her during his imprisonment. He knew if he thought about her, about how worried she must be, then he'd break down. He wanted to see her so much now and hear the sound of her voice, wanted to bury his nose in her hair and smell her perfume – the soft, violet scented one that she liked to wear. She'd be there at the hospital. That was some good news to hang on to.
"Thank you," Adam said as he climbed into the back of the waiting ambulance. He turned to look at Michael, not sure what to expect now everything was over. There was a something in the air, something that said things weren't completely finished. Alistair was dead but certain things still had to be cleared up before everything could really be said to be done. His relationship with Michael was paramount in Adam's mind. He couldn't wait around, uncertain about the future.
"What about us?" he asked. "Does this change things between us?"
"Yes," Michael said firmly, and to Adam's surprise he leant forward, pressing a soft kiss to Adam's cheek. It was fleeting, a stolen moment of tenderness but it was still more public than Michael had ever allowed himself to be before. "It changes things. I'm coming with you."
He pulled himself up into the ambulance, settled next to Adam while the paramedics checked him over, and they rode to the hospital together, Michael with his arm around Adam's shoulder and Adam with his head pillowed against Michael's chest.
Castiel opened his eyes, blinking at the sudden light. Everything was white and very bright.
"Oh," he murmured, slightly annoyed. "I must be dead."
There was a snort from somewhere around his left shoulder. He turned his head, expression growing puzzled as he saw Dean at his side. While he'd always believed that Dean would be with him in Heaven, he wouldn't have expected him to be wearing his favorite, faded leather jacket. Castiel had always assumed God frowned on anything other than celestial robes. He looked down at himself, his puzzled frown growing more pronounced because for some reason his angelic robe looked more like a hospital gown then he'd ever imagined.
He blinked again and the world focused itself. He was lying in a hospital bed with Dean at his bedside. There was a drip inserted in his arm. All around them machines beeped and outside the door of his room there was the general hustle and bustle of a hospital. Castiel licked his lips, his throat painfully parched.
"Could I have some water?" he croaked.
Dean looked surprised, as if he hadn't thought about that and then he nodded quickly. Within a few minutes he was back with a pitcher full of water and a glass for Castiel. He poured out a little bit of the water and passed it across before setting the pitcher down at Castiel's bed side. Castiel sipped at the water, grimacing as he swallowed the first mouthful but after that it became easier, his throat soothed by the cool water.
"You've been out a while," Dean said, settling back into his chair and edging it closer to the bedside. "They've had you on a drip. It's taken a while to get the stuff Alistair gave you out of your system. You're off on sick leave till we know you're better."
Castiel sighed, settling his glass down. "Will you bring me something to do at least? Case files to read? Paperwork?"
"Yeah, sure, Cas," Dean said with a little smile. "I know you're weird and actually like that stuff."
They lapsed into an awkward silence. Castiel picked up his glass again, taking another long sip of water and Dean played with the edge of the hospital bedspread, plucking at a loose thread he'd found.
"You've had a lot of visitors," Dean said after a moment. "Gabriel's been here most days. You had a fruit basket but he ate it."
"That sounds like Gabriel," Castiel agreed, a smile ghosting over his lips as he thought about his brother.
"Him and Sam are down in the canteen. Gabriel's going crazy living on hospital food. I think he'll be trying to sign you out and get you home by the end of the day," Dean laughed soft.
"How's Adam?" Castiel asked abruptly. If Gabriel was well-enough to complain about food then Castiel was sure Gabriel was okay. They'd talk, later, and Castiel would make sure Gabriel knew that Castiel didn't blame him for anything but right now he was more concerned with the fate of his fellow captive. He couldn't remember their rescue with any clarity, only flashes of things and somewhere in the shadows of his memory he lost sight of Adam.
"Fine," Dean said. "He's got a couple of nasty bruises but physically it's not too bad. He was signed out after a night under observation. Michael's taken some time off; I gather that him and Kate are working together to make sure Adam's recovering and not rushing back to school." Dean leaned back in his chair, sighing. "I think we all need a bit of time off after this one."
They lapsed into another uncomfortable silence. Castiel sipped at his water, feeling a little stronger for every mouthful. Dean stared at him, openly and unashamedly watching him. Castiel wasn't used to being under such an intense gaze and he tried to continue on as normal, tried not to fall into the trap of staring back at Dean. If he did then he knew he'd end up lost.
"You shot Alistair," Dean said finally.
Castiel swallowed hurried and set the glass down again. "Yes," he agreed. "I did. He's dead, isn't he?"
"Yeah, you got him," Dean nodded. He tugged a loose thread free, tossing it on the floor and hunted for another thread on the bedcover. Castiel sat quiet and thoughtful. He didn't remember very well, only snap-shots of what had happened. It was sound and sensation he remembered rather than any real narrative of the events. He was aware he'd shot Alistair, he could remember the noise of the gun going off. Things became a little blurred after then. He tried to concentrate on them, but could recall only the press of Dean's lips to his hair and the feel of Dean's arms around him. He swallowed again, blinking and glanced at Dean, wondering if that memory was even true.
"I think…." he said carefully. "I think I remember afterwards."
Dean looked up at him, his smile brilliant and hopeful. Castiel smiled back.
"You're a crazy son-of-a-bitch, Cas, I'll give you that," Dean said, his smile dimming somewhat, becoming more serious as he lent across the bed. "I'm not going to promise this will be easy – we work together, that's gonna make things harder. Then there's me. There are gonna be days, Cas, when I don't want you to touch me, when I can't look at you. You gotta know that and you gotta know it's not because of you."
Castiel nodded. "And you need to know that sometimes I won't know what you're thinking, that sometimes I won't read your signals and you'll need to tell me what you want."
"I can do that," Dean agreed, smirking as he moved out of his chair and perched on the side of the bed. Castiel wiggled upwards till he was sitting propped up on the pillows, face to face with Dean. He smiled softly at him.
"Are you going to kiss me?" he asked, eyes darting down to look at Dean's lips before meeting his eyes again. Dean's smile was lazy with pleasure. He closed the few centimeters of space between them, the kiss soft and sweet. Castiel made a happy sound and wrapped his arms around Dean, clinging to him.
He wouldn't ever be grateful to Alistair. There was nothing to be grateful to the man for. If it hadn't been now then it would have been another time, Castiel realized that now. He would give everything for Dean, and Dean for him. It was impossible to feel that fire and not end up burned by it. Eventually the pull would have been too much, but it had happened now, not on some far off case. Everything had attuned to now. And Castiel wanted to stay in the now – Dean's kisses on his lips, Dean's hands tangled in his hair – because it was everything he had ever hoped for and yet better still.
Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain." - Joseph Campbell