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7. THE CHAIN


He knows he's hit jackpot the moment he hits the right street.

It's a practically deserted area of town, letting signs on almost every office he walks by - including the one he's after. There's two entry points from what he can see, but whatever Michael's doing here, he's doing it alone.

Dean treads his way as carefully and quietly as he can through the side entrance, left lovingly unlocked by some kind soul, but his heart's hammering loud enough he's pretty sure anyone within a ten-block radius can hear him.

It's a great set-up, he has to admit. There's old campaign stuff dotted around everywhere, desks all pushed to one wall and chairs stacked up. It makes a pretty good sound wall, and if his hunch is right, a great place for Michael to hole up. His DNA and prints would be over everything for perfectly legitimate reasons.

He hears a dull thud somewhere above him and thanks whoever'll listen for thin ceilings.

Drawing his gun, he gives the transmitter three taps for Jo, and really hopes he hasn't just stumbled into some place with giant rats.

Upstairs is more of the same; old office equipment stacked up towards the sides, boxes in odd places - however, there's a row of closed-off offices, and from the one furthest down the hall - furthest from any windows or doors - he can hear a low murmuring.

He inches closer, wary of the boxes around - seriously, this was a great set-up, any idiot blundering around would knock at least one thing over - and his heart all but stops when he hears a rough, familiar voice saying "Luke?"

And Dean had thought he was over dreading the sound of Cas' voice.

"I'm afraid he's not coming," says Michael, and it takes everything in him to not bust in all guns blazing at that voice. "In fact, he never was. Did you honestly think he'd want to see you after what you did?"

There's a pause, and Dean takes the moment to poke his head round the door surreptitiously. He sees Castiel straight off; he's tied to a sturdy-looking office chair, hands behind his back, still wearing his dumb coat, which look suspiciously like he's been rolling down hills in. Asides from some scuffs and a sluggish-bleeding, ugly looking cut on his temple, he looks all right. Well, he looks in one piece.

His eyes are blinking slowly and his head lolls to one side, probably meaning he's just coming out of an entirely involuntary nap, and when he eventually speaks again the words are slurred. "I didn't do anythrrgh--"

"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh," Michael cuts in loudly, shoving his head back and tying a handkerchief round his mouth. "I swear, every word out of your mouth is a lie, James."

Despite being beat up, drugged up, and tied up, the look Cas gives Michael then is pure murder.

And evidently the wrong move to make, as his head jerks to the side sharply, loud thwack of something solid beaning him in the side of the head ringing out loudly; he doesn't make a sound, but the cut on his temple bleeds afresh, and he seems to struggle to move his head forward.

"I'll tell you what's going to happen," he says softly, pulling a second handkerchief from his top pocket and daubing the cut lightly, "you're going to stay here for a few days to cool off, and when I come back, you're going to say sorry and agree to never mention this nasty business again. And if you won't, well." He takes a step back, and Dean's heart nearly stops when he sees the gun. "You always did like the dark, didn't you?"

Fuck protocol. Dean hastily taps out a 'go' on the transmitter, swinging round and up from his watch spot, gun trained on Michael. "Drop the gun and hands up!"





Even in the gloom, he looks comically shocked at the interruption; he follows neither of Dean's commands, but doesn't point the gun, either.

Fine, whatever. As long as he keeps Michael's attention, it doesn't matter what else he does.

"You all right there, Cas?" he calls back, not taking his eyes from his target; from his periphery he catches the firm nod and the overwhelming look of pride and relief splashed across Cas' face.

Michael doesn't seem to have quite recovered from the sudden interruption, so Dean presses his advantage. "Was this seriously your plan? Baby bro catches onto something big and you think tying him up in a creepy office for a couple days is gonna keep a lid on things? Dude, your name is still on the lease for this place, you really thought no one would find it?"

"Now listen here," he starts hurriedly, voice trying to hide a knot of panic Dean hears clear as day, "this is just a misunderstanding-"

"He's not a kid anymore," Dean states bluntly, hoping to push a button. "You can't just disappear him and expect no one to care. The guy may not be top of anyone's Christmas card list, but it'd still be noticed pretty damn quick!"

If the shade of red Michael's face has just turned is any indication, he's hit bullseye with that, the only evidence of the man's anger the ice-cold tone he takes. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"25 years ago? Whisking your kid brother off the face of the earth for a couple months? What was it, Daddy paying more attention to the new baby than you? He kick your ass at Monopoly too many times?"

"He stole my brother!" is all but ripped from Michael, his anger a physical presence in the small space. "Him! I raised Luke, but the minute this- this mistake shows up, suddenly I was worth nothing!" He turns to Cas, voice low and insidious. "It's your fault he left."

"No, I think it's yours," Dean says, taking a step forward. He can see movement in the corner of his eye, and knows keeping Michael's attention in him is the best shot he's got at getting though this without actually shooting anyone. "After you tried to pin the whole thing on him. Good plan, that one. He was going off the rails, getting into trouble, it would've been easy to make it look like a try at swindling some cash outta Dad. But he knew, didn't he? Couldn't prove anything, but he worked out it was you, and I'll bet he couldn't stand it."

"Things just- got out of hand-"

"Like they did with Rachel, right? You thought she would be reasonable about what she found, but no. Your relationship didn't mean enough to her, did it? So things just got out of hand. Could've happened to anyone, right? Only, you had to dress it up as something else, in case anyone else came poking around. This was your future, after all!"

Michael looks fit to blow a gasket, until a calm clicks over him so rapidly Dean almost steps back. "Alright," he says simply. "I see what this is. Name your price."

Dean is so thrown for a loop by the change in demeanour he can only stutter out a 'what'?

Michael, however, is back on form, simpering smile sliding on easy. "Come on, Dean, you work all this out, follow me out here, and you don't want something? Come on. Name it."

His head's spinning. Of all the things he expected to get out of the man, a bribe hadn't even entered his thought process. But he had to think back, to what Cas had told him about the man, both textually and between the lines.

Michael was certain of two things; that every man had a price, and that no one could lie to him.

Well, he'd already done the first, might as well make it a twofer.

"I'm a cop," he says, after a pause, trying to balance his voice with the right balance of nerves and curiosity. "I can't take a bribe."

"Not to worry," he replies, and though his smile stays thoroughly saccharine, his eyes have the glint of a predator. "You wouldn't be alone in it. I've been reasonable to a number of officers in your station; I'm sure we can work something out."

"You're serious," Dean asks, schooling his expression to something a little more on edge. "What about Novak?"

"All you have to do is forget you saw him. I know how well you get on, it shouldn't be a problem for you, should it?"

Hit it out of the park. "Anything?"

"Anything at all. Money, power - I'm sure there's a promotion you're after, and all I have to do is make a call. We can put all of this nastiness behind us, forget it ever happened."

Dean smiles, nervily, and if the ugly grin he gets in return is any indication, Michael's taken it as an assent. He lowers his gun and takes a few steps forward, smile staying in place; he chances a look behind the other man, and sees he was right to keep Michael's attention. Cas is making good time sawing at the ropes around his wrists with something he had to have stashed up his sleeve; and man, the guy should've known better than to put a paranoid man's hands where he can't see them.

All he has to do is drag this out a little longer, let Cas get home free, and call it in. He's already heard the confirmation signal from Jo; she and her guys should be ready to move at a moment's notice.

"What I want," he says slowly, keeping his smile bright and his tone conspiritous, "is for you to come with me to the police station, and repeat everything you've just said. I'll keep my mouth shut if you spill your guts. Sounds fair, right?"

"Very funny," Michael replies, smile a whole lot more dangerous. "You think you're 'principled', is that it? Every man has his price, Dean, and I'll happily meet yours."

"Pretty sure you'd let a bullet find me before I could collect, man."

Michael gives a short, hysterical burst of laughter. "So you're going to run on back to your station, tell them the mean old mayor is a killer? I have the force wrapped around my finger, boy, no one will believe a word out of your mouth."

Dean can already see his gun hand twitching, like he'd just remembered he was holding the weapon, and lifts his slightly in response. "You jackass. I'm recording everything you say, not to mention I've caught you red-handed in a hostage situation. And everything Cas managed to dig up on you? All those nasty little bits of evidence? The DA's been after nailing you for months, I hear she was pretty happy to have them hand-delivered."

The gun hand rises up, but Dean's got a bead on him quick as anything. "What, so this is the new plan? Shoot your way out? Dude, you are in a world of pain already, I think my back-up might take issue with you nailing a cop."

"You've got it all worked out, haven't you?"

"It's over, man. Just come quiet before I add resisting arrest to your long-ass list of misdemeanours."

Michael laughs again, hysterical edge of it sneaking into his voice. "I misjudged you, I think. You really are all about your principles, aren't you? Still," and he's moving faster then Dean can blink, grabbing Cas by the hair and shoving the gun to his bloodied temple, "Everyone's got a price."

All he can hear is fuck fuck FUCK in his head on repeat, heart well and truly stopped, defibrillator needed, grip on his own raised gun like a dead man's. It's Cas, though, that grounds him; he looked profoundly perturbed, like someone's just messed up his coffee, not like his completely fucking insane half-brother is trying to use his life as a bargaining chip, and it's so insanely Cas that Dean nearly drops his gun at the ridiculousness of it.

Hell, he's got an audience, might as well give him a good show. "Put the gun down, Michael."

"Work with me here," he says, mad hatter's grin doing a terrible job of covering his desperation. "He's worth nothing to me, but surely his life is worth something to you? You don't seem the type to let someone die for the big picture."

"Put it down before I make you."

"Do you really want to try that?" he says, jabbing the gun hard.

Dean's heart seems to have restarted itself, because it's thundering in his ears, the adrenaline coursing through him failing to cause his arms to shake, but trying on gamely. He has to wonder if this was how every guy he'd ever seen with nerves of steel felt; is Cas, he who looks as though a gun to the face is a minor annoyance, stuttering along with him, head light, limbs shaking, heart ready to burst?

"I'm going to count to three," he says as calm as he can manage, impressed there's not a word out of place. "One,"

Michael doesn't move a muscle, except to grin wolfishly at him, expression screaming you don't have the bottle.

"Two,"

"The minute you fire that gun, it's all over," he says, confidently.

Time drags out, because Dean knows he's right, knows the minute he shoots, Michael's hand will tense up anyway, and at that range, it's not going to end pretty.

It doesn't matter what happens, Michael's gonna get his, and he must know it; what's another life on the list? He's holding all the cards, and he knows it, and Dean can feel his arms trying to drop with the weight of it, but what can he do? What the hell can he do?

Cas.

Cas is staring at him.

And that little conspiratorial gleam, the one that'd yet to lead him astray, the one he gets when he's showing off some brilliant solution, that gleam, is sparkling up at him clear as day.

He must have cut the rope.

Castiel nods, a short, barely there tip of the head, and Dean smiles, because everything is gonna work out.

"No, Michael," he's saying, barrel aimed straight and true, "It's over for you. Three."

Two shots ring out.

* * *

For a moment, it feels as though time has stopped.

Dean has no idea if he made the shot, if Cas moved in time, because all he sees is his partner laying still on the floor, tied to the chair that's flipped with him, all he sees is the stillness and that can't be right, because Cas nodded, he had to have an escape plan, he had to.

He looks away. Lets himself move on autopilot.

Michael is slumped against a wall, hand to his shoulder, and Dean kicks the dropped gun out of the room as he moves to cuff him, blood still thundering through his ears. Hell, at least he made the shot.

Jo finally, finally moves in, and whatever she says is lost to him as he drags Michael over to her, handing him over, and moving back to the prone Cas, limbs heavy like he's walking on the bottom of a pool.

When he kneels down, the world suddenly rushes back to him, because Cas is giving him his most impatient glare of all, hands still trying to work through the rope, and it all clicks for him as he undoes the gag and starts on the other ropes.

"That was your plan? Tip the chair over?"

"Thinking on my feet," he croaks out.

"Dumbest thinking I've seen you do," Dean replies, pulling the little blade out of Cas' hands and quickly sawing through the ropes around his wrists. "You could've dived straight into my line of sight, let alone his."

"I trust you," he says plainly, slowly pushing himself to sit upright with his freed limbs. While his usual poker face has slipped on where it belongs, up this close Dean can see the trembling in his fingers, how pallid his skin's gone, and has to give him a good look-over before he sees the shock of red against the sleeve of the tan coat.

He grabs the arm before Cas can argue with him, lifting it up and breathing his relief out loudly when he sees it's little more than a flesh wound. "Looks like he clipped you, dude."

"Small oversight," Cas mumbles, weight leaning toward Dean like he's given up on the notion of staying upright alone. So much for the tough guy act. There's a ghost of a smile on his expression, though, and he says "Well done," as earnestly as he can manage.

Dean feels a laugh bubble out of him, sounding more strained then he was aiming for. "Well, you didn't make it easy. Next time, don't be so clever, got it?"

"Can't guarantee anything."

All the stress of the past two days spent worrying, of the tense stand-off, slough off him like dirt under a spray, and Dean really, really wants to be in bed. With a beer, and a cheeseburger, and some shitty home design tv shows, and a warm weight pressed up against him. Yeah, that would be amazing right about now. As it stands, he can settle with not moving much for a good long while.

Dean balances the injured arm across his shoulder, careful not to jostle it too much, and uses his own to pull Cas in for an awkward, tired one-arm hug. "Sorry your brother's a psycho."

"Half-brother," Cas amends dreamily.

They sit quietly for a while, leaning against each other, watching Jo hustle about the place, until Dean can hear the distinctive sound of paramedics arriving. "Come on," he says, shifting until he can find a comfortable way to heft both their weights up, "let's get that bandaged up."

Cas sighs. "Then paperwork, yes?"

"Fuck no. They can wait for a statement. I'm taking you home and we're gonna sleep for three days and eat a shitload and get colossally drunk. We just took down the mayor, I think we earned a rest. Besides," he adds, leaning in so their faces are close, like he's telling a great secret, "I've got three Star Wars DVDs with your name on."

As kisses go, it's fumbling, awkward, tired, and unexpected, and is instantly Dean's number one kiss of all freaking time.

Cas breaks off like he'd never initiated the damn thing, expression serene. "Good plan," is all he offers Dean.




[6. GONE, GONE, GONE | MASTERPOST | EPILOGUE. ROCK & ROLL ]

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