"You're helping me with a case."
That's it. Not a question, or a request, or anything resembling a sentence where he's got a choice in this matter, just 'Hi, I'm a dick and you're gonna do whatever I want!' straight up.
Dean recognises Castiel Novak, station's golden boy, he with the currently unbroken arrest record, but they've never actually spoken to each other. Largely by Dean's choice, because Novak is a cops cop, the kind of guy who likes to bend the rules to nail the perp; and while he'd never call himself a goodie two-shoes, he at least thinks it wise to actually respect the law, and maybe not stick some dude who doesn't on a pedestal. Invariably, those kinds of guys are ego-driven assholes, anyway.
So, naturally, he's having none of this. "Am I now?"
That's it? Seriously?
"Uh, I think not."
Novak's mouth twitches weirdly, like he's somewhere between frowning and smiling. Probably frowning, it'd definitely suit his stone face better. "You're exactly who I need."
Dean looks at his desk, going for a blatantly dismissive expression, and makes a broad gesture to the stacks of paperwork he's fallen behind on. "As much as I really wouldn't love to help, I'm already bogged down with my own stuff. Go find some other patsy."
Novak, apparently immune to hints, taps one of the stacks deliberately. "This will be taken care of."
"Okay, look here -" and Novak does look, straight at him, which is entirely disconcerting. The man has the blankest face he's ever seen, but his stare is as sharp as a hawk. "Am I being really obtuse here?"
"No, you've successfully conveyed you're not interested."
"Okay, great. So why aren't you getting lost?"
Novak looks upward briefly - which, annoyingly, Dean takes great relief in; any longer under that gaze and he was worried his brain would rupture - then around the room, taking a few measured steps to the side of his desk. "You don't like me."
"Deduce that yourself, did you?"
"Yes." He steps back to his original spot. As pacing goes, it seems oddly affected, like it's something he's heard people do and reckons he should be doing it too. Well, it beats the still-as-a-statue vibe he'd been giving off moments ago. "I also know that you're currently not active on any cases, and that some friction in your department means usually you would be glad to step back for a few days." He leans in a little, conspiratorial. "It's romance related," he says bluntly.
Dean splutters. So Jo was mad at him for admittedly, a shockingly bad three dates, each somehow worse than the last, but she hadn't mentioned it to anyone, and he was definitely not owning up to it. Her mom would have his guts for garters in a heartbeat.
"Are you stalking me?"
Novak shakes his head, and says, simply, "Deduction."
He sits forward in his chair, aiming to change his body language from 'get bent' to 'no really, fuck off', but Novak gave no indication he'd noticed. "Y'know, as far as pitches go, this is by far the worst I ever heard."
"Dean," Novak says, and Dean's surer than sure he doesn't want to be on a first-name basis with him. "I am being required to ask advice from someone in your department to carry out an investigation. I am asking you. Say yes."
"Dude, there are like, seven other people down here who all don't have a problem with you, go talk to them!"
"I did," he says, with a small nod. "They all told me you were excellent at your job, and that you'd never agree to work with me."
Novak folds his hands behind his back, and seems to puff himself up slightly, as though he were about to make an expansive claim. "Then you are exactly who I need."
Dean leans back in his chair slightly, trying not to let his bewilderment show. What kind of guy marches down somewhere and says 'you hate me, let's hang out'? "If I say 'no', how many times are you gonna need to hear it before you get lost?"
Novak looks oddly thoughtful for a moment, and Dean has to wonder at the ridiculousness of this whole thing. Is the guy actually totting up his 'no' threshold in his head? He apparently comes back to earth quickly, and says "A thousand," in earnest.
"All right, that's it," Dean says, pulling his jacket off the back of his chair, getting up and heading round the obviously insane man. Though he stays largely rooted to the spot, Novak tracks him around the room until Dean's at the door, leaning back and saying, with as much aggression he can be bothered to amp out at this time of day, "Consider this a thousand no's. Seeya!"
Novak is after him like a shot, face like water about to boil. Obviously he's not used to not getting what he wants, but Dean honestly can't imagine anything worse than working a case with this douchebag. The impression he'd distantly formed of Castiel Novak, wondercop and arrogant asshole extraordinaire, now had 'massive creep' appended to it, and he was gonna stay as far out of his stalkery path as he could.
"Dean," Novak calls, and he's about ready to start jogging at this pace, "Dean, you haven't even looked at the case."
"And I'm not going to! You are coming off waaaay too desperate, man, talk to someone else."
"A man died," Novak says, and whoopdiedoo of course someone died, this is the station's best homicide detective he's talking to, what the hell else kinda case could it be? "He was shot. Looks like gang violence. Coroner concluded he had hard drugs in his system."
"And you actually need help on this?" Not that Dean was listening to what Novak had to say. "Sounds like an open-and-shut case. Kid gets messed up in drugs, messes with the wrong dealer, bam, very tragic, very simple. Track the bullet, find the dealer, throw the book at him, done. Will you go away?"
"The tox report is wrong," and that genuinely gives Dean reason to pause. There's a surety in Novak's tone that bodes no argument, and when Dean stops and faces him, his expression is just as hard as he expects it to be. "Took samples on the scene, had them processed here. Same body, different results."
"So you botched the samples, big whoop. Preliminaries come out wrong all the time."
There was something very cold in Novak's glare this time, enough that Dean thought perhaps insulting that particularly skill set might be a shitty idea. "Not possible. Initial report suggested he'd used cannabis within the last 3 weeks, new report says heroin. Huge discrepancy. I believe this is a 'stitch-it'."
"Stitch-up," Dean corrects automatically, and then mentally slaps himself for being drawn into what the man is saying. He sighs, somehow feeling as though he's about to agree to something really, really stupid, and desperately willing himself not to. "So you think someone's trying to play this off as something it's not? I'm not seeing how I fit into this at all."
"I have been required to find help from your department. The intention is that you, or someone like you, will take one look at this and conclude as you just did. If I ask someone who has a higher opinion of me, their agreeing with me will be met with a stone wall." He holds the case file he's had clutched under an arm the entire conversation, like a kind of peace offering, and Dean knows, knows he'll be stupid to take it.
"Okay, sure, you've got a conspiracy on your hands, whatever. Why me?"
"You don't like me," Novak says, plainly, again. "But you're good at your job. You'll objectively listen to what I have to say, but you could never be accused of being biased toward me. It's a neat solution."
It is, actually. It also feels a lot like he's being played; Novak's obviously a smart guy, he could be trying to run rings around Dean by flattering him in such a weird way. He's gonna have to keep on his toes if he actually wants to prove that objectivity, because he knows Novak'll probably drive him crazy enough to agree to anything.
Like he's done just now. Aw, fuck, he's gonna agree, isn't he?
Dean takes the case file with way more force than is necessary, and tries not to look too browbeaten about it. "All right. But you're taking care of my paperwork, and you're explaining how the hell you know about the 'romance' thing."
He doesn't smile, but Novak is practically glowing with how pleased he is. It's actually kind of frightening. "Done," he says amicably. "When I spoke to your colleagues, I noted Jo Harvelle looking at you when she was unobserved. When asked about you, she was a little more biting than necessary, but still gave you a fair review, meaning it wasn't work related. As no one else took note of her actions, it was likely a private matter between the two of you. Reasonable conclusion was that it was a romantic matter."
"Three bad dates," Dean mutters to himself. "And it stays a private matter, got it?"
Novak nods agreeably. "I think we're going to get along swimming, Dean," and he really has to wonder where the hell this guy learned idioms.
"Falser words have never been spoken," he quips. "I'm not sure if this has comes across yet, but I really don't like you."
"Most people don't, after a while," he states bluntly. "It will be interesting to have that be the starting point, instead of the end."
With that, Novak turns on his heel, and strides off in the other direction, coat whipping out behind him. Dean's gotta admit, the guy knows how to rock a walk.
"Wait," he calls after him, without really thinking about it. "Was that meant to be a joke?"
* * *
While Dean knows he's got it pretty good in his department - only desk on his side of their notice board, close enough to chat while being far enough from everyone else to actually get his head down from time to time, and closest to the door to their ill-visited section - he can't help but whistle at Novak's set-up.
"You actually have your own office? What, the guys on homicide get sick of looking at you?"
"Something like that," Novak says in way of greeting, ushering Dean in and shutting the door behind him. "I am not always known for my patience, and usually work alone. This was the neatest solution."
Dean'd kill for his own shut-off office, but at the moment it looked like this'd be a one-way ticket to nopesville. Actually stuck behind closed doors with this guy?
"You're all about the 'neat', I get it." And man oh man, wasn't he. The whole room looked like something out of a minimalist design catalogue, right down to the extremely neatly arranged pinboard. Which, admittedly, was pretty sparse, but Dean was sure he'd have managed to get those few little notes all skewiff if he'd done it.
"Those are for your benefit," Novak says, making a short gesture to the board. "There's very little to go on."
"That ain't exactly what I like to hear."
"As mentioned, I am at a stone wall." He gestures for Dean to sit, and points at one of the notes pinned to the board. "This is the victim. Andy Gallhager, 23, no confirmed address." He points to the next note along. "Shot in three places three days ago. Shooter unknown. Was found by a jogger in the park, hours after the incident."
"Always the joggers, ain't it?"
Novak narrows his eyes slightly in what Dean thinks might be confusion. "I don't believe so." He lingers for an awkward moment, then indicates to the next note. "Samples of hair, skin and a mouth swab were taken at the scene and analysed here. The body was taken to a regional pathology and coroner office. While there is no doubting the cause of death, there is a schism between the results of other test, as I mentioned."
Dean sighs. "So you don't know where he lives, don't know who killed him, and don't know where he actually died, but you're worried about some result discrepancy? Can't you just get a retest?"
"In a fit of unexpected competency," and at this he manages to look the tiniest bit peeved, "he has already been buried. His surviving family had no wish for a drawn-out funeral."
And, okay, that manages to tick up Dean's interest a little. "They didn't stick a spanner in the works after you waved your preliminaries at them?"
"No." And at this, the man's shoulder slump the tiniest bit. "They are 'unsubmittable'."
Dean waits for the clarification, but Novak just looks to the side awkwardly. "Uh, you gonna clarify that?"
Instead of doing just that - or even actually looking at Dean again, Novak asks "What did you mean by 'three bad dates'?"
"Uh, none of your business right now? We're working."
Dean drops his head in his hands. "Dude, I am humouring you about as much as I can stand by being here. Why is it 'unsubmittable'?"
"This is all part of a larger point. I said you had a romantic disagreement, but on further thought it seemed unlikely the two of you would have had such a relationship."
"Excuse you? The hell is that meant to mean?" It was true, sure, but where the hell did Novak get off thinking it was his business?
Novak says nothing, but turns finally look at him, eyes practically drilling into him. Jesus, if this was the look he gave perps, no wonder he always got the bad guy.
Eventually, he has to cave. "Look, she asked me to set her up, okay? I'm pretty much the Hitch of dating advice in this building but I somehow managed to screw it up with her and now she's mad! Now why is it unsubmittable?"
Novak regards him curiously. "Who's Hitch?"
"You know, the film?"
"With Will Smith? Ringing any bells?"
Dean grumbles loudly before Novak can finish. "Look, will you just answer my question already? I get it, you're awesome at noticing shit with people, so could you get to the point?"
Novak dials that glare up a little. "I'm explaining that I examine conclusions I've drawn after the fact, to be sure. This is how I know I am not wrong, why I am good at what I do. Having evidence I supply rejected instantly raises questions, regardless of why. That is what you should be focusing on."
Dean leans back, arms crossed. It is, admittedly, a stupid point to be labouring on, but if he's gonna have to work with this guy he wants everything on the table. "No, dude, come on. Why?"
Novak holds his glare for a moment, then looks away, almost embarrassed. "It was on the last day of a suspension."
That gets his attention. "Woah, you were suspended? You? You know part of your whole legend round here is how you get away with crazy stuff, not get done for it."
He flushes a little at that. "It was unavoidable. I... may have assaulted a suspect. Slightly."
"Woah, what the hell does 'slightly' mean?"
Novak purses his lips slightly; with the rest of his face doing next to nothing movement-wise, it stands out. "He cast aspersions on my family. It's not something I can tolerate. The result of the case was unaffected."
Dean's torn between laughing and just leaving. "So, got a bit of a temper? Surprising, considering how cool you look to play things."
"Momentary indiscretion. One that is costing me now."
"Alright, so, there's a discrepancy in the tox labs, and you can't get it sorted because someone's using some obscure code to nail you. That the gist? Because it just sounds like unhappy coincidence, not some big stitch-up."
Novak paces in that affected way of his for a moment. "That I am being asked to work with you is another indicator of this. It was made very clear to me that I was not wanted on it at all."
"I gotta admit, it's not something you'd usually look into, is it? Murder or not, this kinda thing usually falls with my guys or OC, not homicide."
Novak nods. "It was coincidence I found myself at the scene. Usually I would have handed the case away, but the manner I was asked to made me wish to keep it. Your father negotiated this arrangement."
"My dad?" Dean whistles. John Winchester, head of IA, rarely does so kind a think for anyone, sons included. "He tell you to talk to me?"
"What, you just picked me out of a hat?"
Novak paces again. The way it looks like a learned behaviour is really starting to irk Dean. "Contrary to what you might think, I do pay attention to the performance of the people who work here. You do a very good job."
"Now. What do you think is the most important aspect we should tackle here?"
Dean looks at the few notes on the board again. "Ballistics, I guess? Sometimes guys are stupid enough to use guns they bought on a real name, but even if they aren't there's always a way to track these things back. There still bullets in the kid?" And man, didn't a sentence like that make him feel extremely morbid.
"Yes, but that is something we have to wait on. What can we address straight away?"
"Uh, site of the incident? It didn't happen in the park, right?"
Novak nods, but he looks almost disappointed. "Yes, but again, we await lab results."
Dean groans. "I give up, dude, what're you angling at?"
Novak taps the little A.G note with his finger. "You said it earlier. Where did he live?"
"Seriously? That'd be pretty damn low on my list of must finds."
"It's important. If we don't know, it's likely very few people know. There is a strong likelihood we will find evidence there that ties the case together." He pauses, pulling a face. "However, the only link to him so far are parents, who also didn't know. It is something of a stumbling block."
Dean manages to smile at this. "Well hell, there's a reason for me to be here, then. Know why the DEA likes me so much?"
"Because you perform a timely job?"
"Because I got a good sense of humour and excellent snitches. Said he smoked pot, right? I gotta guy for that."
And hell if Novak doesn't manage to look a little impressed.
There are three people who owe him a favour, and it takes all of them to roundabout his way into Weems telling him Gallhager lives in a hokey van he parks near the park.
And if Weems sounds a little edgy telling him that, Dean has to chalk it up to someone he apparently dealt with regularly - "Not that I'm admitting to any crimes here, chief," - suddenly pissing off the wrong dudes and getting himself done in.
When they find it, and wasn't the little snot right about it being hard to miss - Dean kinda wishes he didn't care about maintaining the perfect sheen on his baby enough to get his own frigging huge polar bears done on the side - Novak shoves his arm outta the way when he goes to open the doors. Rude.
The guy looks inexplicably uneasy, and snaps on a pair of latex gloves he pulls from his Colombo coat's pocket.
"Do you seriously carry some of those around with you everywhere?"
Novak gives him a very condescending look. "Contaminating evidence is a cardinal sin."
"Alright, Somerset, but I'm pretty sure it's not."
Novak gives a confused gesture. "Why do you keep saying these people's names?"
"Are you serious? Do you ever watch tv?"
"I don't own one," he says, turning away in the face of Dean's disbelief and twisting the back door lock with more force than necessary.
Door open, the first thing that hits him is the coppery smell of blood, and a peek inside shows the floor covered. The whole place has been ransacked, looks more like it's been tipped down a cliff than the pristine exterior would say. "Looks like we found our initial crime scene."
"Yes," Novak says, but his brows are narrowed. After a long moment of Dean waiting for him to say something, he sighs heavily and shuts the van door. "This is useless. Anything of value to us is gone."
"You can tell that straight off?"
There's another long, awkward pause while Dean waits for him to expound on this, but evidently he just ain't getting the hint. "How?"
Novak shoots him a glare, shoulders and head lifting up like he's gearing for a fight. "Victim was shot in the back from someone higher up than him. Blood on the floor would suggest he was in the van, facing toward the front, therefore likely surprised by the assailant. Position of items left tell us the ransacking was done after death, but before body was moved, meaning the assailant was looking for - and likely removed - anything of value to us. Whatever forensic evidence is found here will likely lead us nowhere, and yes, I can tell that 'straight off'. I know the signs."
"Yeah, well, I know guys like this." Dean walks over and pulls the passenger side door open. "Anyone who lives in their car's gonna know every nook and cranny of it as well as they know their own hand." As he opens the glovebox, he can hear Novak stride round to see what he's doing. He ends up leaning over obnoxiously close, and Dean kicks at him until he moves back. "When I was at college I used to work at a junkyard. You could make a hell of a tip just rootin' through old hiding spots. Find a lotta skanky stuff too, but-" and there, there's just a little crack in the seal, and he can pull the bottom right up. "Hey Mandel, grab what's there for me wouldya? Wouldn't want to commit a sin."
Novak does as asked, pulling out a well-battered cellophane bag that looks to have cash, a wallet and some papers in. "I don't understand why you insist on calling me something other than my name," he grits out.
"Well I don't understand why the hell you don't know what I'm talking about. C'mon, what's in the box?"
"It's a bag."
"For gods sake," Dean mumbles, grabbing the bag off Novak. 'Sins' be damned. There's not much of interest in there; wallet's got a single out of date credit card and membership to about three different video stores, and he's got his license together with all the documentation. "Guess he was never worried about this thing gettin' stolen," he says, waving the insurance papers at Novak. The man grabs the bag off him and looks through the other papers, carefully unfolding what look like certificates. As he's studying one that has 'Lightbringers' printed prominently across the top with a look that might be consternation, Dean notices a note scrawled on the back. "Hey, take a look at this - R.W, 3pm? Think it means anything?"
"I think," Novak says, refolding everything and placing it carefully in the bag, "we may need to speak to his parents."
* * *
"So, how's it going with Wonderboy?"
Dean sighs heavily for effect, over the phone. "Sam, he's even more of a dick than expected. Did you know he punched a dude? That's why he needs a patsy like me to investigate a pretty open-and-shut case. It pisses me off."
"I heard about that," Sam says, and Dean hears the joke in his tone. "Perp said something rude about his mom. It's the sorta thing you would do, isn't it?"
"Dude, one time, when I was a rookie, does not a pattern make. He's a grownass man, it's totally different!"
"He's good though, Dean. I've seen him give evidence a couple times, nothing really gets past him. I mean, Dad likes him, so he's gotta be good, right?"
"Yeah, and where the hell did that come from? Novak says Dad's the one who got him on the case at all, but he's exactly the kinda guy he hates."
Sam laughs, and Dean kinda wishes there was a way to inflict minor physical harm over the phone. Nothing big, just like, stepping on Sam's toe or something. "Dude, do you know anything about the guy? He's in and out of IA all the time. Always in the rule of law, but his boss hates him so he's always getting in trouble. It's kinda why he got a two-month suspension for a punch."
"Dad tell you this?"
"No, Jo did. Shows how much attention you pay to work gossip." Dean sighs, rubbing his temple, and pacing across the room, waiting for the inevitable. "So, she forgive you yet?"
"Apparently not, seeing as how Novak managed to pick up on it. How's the DA?"
"You know Pam, she just thinks it's funny you thought they would ever have a good date together. Did you pull that matchup out of your ass or what?"
"Hey, I am practically the Hitch of dating!"
"Yeah, the only way you resemble him is the bit where he gives himself hives on a date."
"At least you get that reference! I said that to Novak and I swear to god, he didn't even know who Will Smith was." He slumps onto his couch, turning the tv on, but leaving the volume off. It was only polite.
"The only reason I get that is because you made me watch that dumb movie. You ever gonna admit your big love-on for rom-coms?"
"That was a horrible sentence and you should be ashamed. And for the last time, Grosse Point Blank is not a rom-com, it's about assassins!" He can tell Sam is trying not to laugh at him on the other end, and is resolutely unamused. "Hey, you ask Sarah out yet?"
"No," Sam says way too immediately for it to be casual, pausing before asking "You ask Novak out yet?" with what Dean knows has gotta be one of those 'I'm totally not fucking with you' innocent faces.
"What the hell have I just been saying, Sam? He's an ass!"
"You, but you have a record, Dean. Who was that guy at the DEA you 'hated' right up until he turned you down for a date?"
Dean, being thoroughly done, starts making fake crackling noises. "Oh man, looks like I'm breaking up going through a tunnel, gotta go!"
He can just hear Sam sound "I know you're at home, you dick!" before he hits cancel and turns the volume up. Doesn't matter if he's seen this episode before, there's nothing like Doctor Sexy to take the edge off an annoying day at work.