Blue California sky stretched out overhead like a luminous mist over the expanse of the crowded market. Booths purveying goods from across the region spread out in all directions, produce stands, novelty items, textiles; everything one could imagine and more in a colourful and noisesome display of human commerce at its most direct. The air was thick with the scent of fried foods, sun warmed fruits and livestock, swirling in the eddies from the passage of innumerable bodies on the hard-packed Earthen pathways.
Shoppers browse shoulder to shoulder, peering from behind dark lenses at the often meaningless goods on display as barkers call out for cattle auctions. They sift through bins or enjoying the respite of battered and fried confections, creating the living ebb and tide of a living ocean on the outskirts of Roseville California.
One could find almost anything in Denio's Market, from religious artifacts to fishing boats. It was also a handy resource for the hunting community, if one knew where to look and who to ask. In a place like this, merchants of the occult were able to conceal themselves as just another novelty among the ethnic booths and cultural shops.
It was a dizzying, noisy, colourful place, and one could easily become lost.
Such as Castiel had found himself, pressed against a pillar of one of the many fruit stands that lined the dirt walkway, watching the sun-tanned masses mill past him with wary regard.
Sam had suggested it, that they stop and pick up a few ingredients and components for the myriad of spells the hunters worked on occasion to refill their stocks. Dean had agreed, insisting in compromise that they try the 'fried pie' stand.
Castiel had been close behind them, trying not to allow himself to be enthralled by the colours and the scents and the sounds of the busy place. He had turned his attention away from Dean's back for only a moment, and when he looked again the brothers were simply nowhere to be seen.
A few weeks ago, it would have been simple to find them; just a thought away. Now that he had fallen, burned away his Grace, all that he had left were his senses and his guile, all of which now failed him as he desperately searched the crowd.
It would be futile, he reasoned, to try and search the market himself. Logic insisted that if he were moving around as they were, the chances he would miss them were exponential. But what if they were staying still as well? It was frustrating to be so limited in mobility, confined to three dimensions as he now was.
He carefully maintained his breathing, scanning above the crowd with his eyes for the familiar mop of sun-streaked brown hair. Spotting Sam should be no great task, as the younger Winchester towered above most, but his efforts remained unrewarded as his hope dwindled. He didn't know how long it had been since he'd lost them in the crowd, at least twenty minutes, perhaps longer. He tried not to panic as he realised he had not been apart from his friends for so long since he fell.
Every muscle tensed as he felt a hand grip his shoulder, spinning wide-eyed to face his attacker – only to be met by a pair of worried, slightly irritated green eyes.
The former angel exhaled his relief, letting the tension out of his shoulders as he welcomed the familiar visage.
"Dean," he smiled, barely a twitch at the corners of his mouth.
"The hell, Cas," Dean gritted out, his tone radiating with the anger that Castiel knew to be a mask for worry. "I told you to stick close to us, Jesus, man! I thought I lost you..."
"I'm sorry, Dean."
The hunter sighed, releasing the chastised angel's shoulder, and smiled. "Come on, Sammy found what he was looking for, now we're gonna go get fried pie!"
Having found his angel, Dean relaxed, the angry tension from his frantic worry evaporating as they turned to join the crowd once more. He grabbed Castiel's hand, lacing their fingers to intertwine.
Castiel raised an eyebrow at the hunter, glancing down at their joined hands.
Dean blushed faintly, setting his jaw and turning his eyes forward, away from the questioning gaze of the fallen angel.
"Just so you don't wander off again," he offered lamely.
"Of course, Dean," Castiel replied with a tangible smile. "I won't."