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Counting Stars Chapter One

He had been hearing the constant ticking of the countdown in his head for days. ‘In three days his life would be over.’ ‘In two days his life would be over…one day….thirteen hours…” And now it was finally time. And here he was standing alone in a dark alley behind a disreputable bar, very seriously wondering if this was all a set up. Maybe this was all a way to get his money. Hell, maybe this was aa plot by his father to once and for all test his loyalties. All his planning and plotting and hard work might all be for nothing. One way or another It would be over soon. Either his plan would come to fruition and he would be free, or this would all be a set up and he would be right back under his father’s control. There was no turning back now.
He met her behind a bar, somewhere he had never been before, and would never be again if all went according to plan. It wasn’t him. And in a way he still couldn’t believe he was going to do this. The creeping sense of impending doom hadn’t left him, he expected something to happen. He thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, he could swear the shadows were getting longer, stretching menacingly over him. He took a few deep breaths, trying to steady his nerves. It was times like this that he wished he smoked. Wasn’t that what people did? When something was going down, they would light up a cigarette to steady their frayed nerves. He supposed he could take it up. He could do anything now. Who he was, was about to die, and he could reinvent himself.


He waited long enough that he wondered if she wasn't going to show after all. He jumped he heard the soft sound of footsteps, when his contact approached, her soft steps not giving her presence away until she was close.
"You need to calm, down,” she said, “it would be a shame for you to go through all of this only to die of a heart attack."
“I’m fine.” His voice was terse and at her quizzical look he had to bite back the impulse to apologize. He had a right to be on edge and he didn’t suppose Lilith was the sort to be easily offended. He let out a breath and his voice was less harsh this time, “can we get this over with?"
He had been expecting something more cloak and dagger. He had been expecting to drop the money off at some undisclosed location at the stroke of midnight, instead he had been given an account number with instructions to deposit a rather sizeable sum of money.
She shrugged and pulled a package out of her jacket and handed it to him. “This is everything you need, passport, IDs, documents, the whole nine yards. These are the best fakes money can buy. They even come with a past. You attended elementary school, you are college graduate, and for a time you held a library card. If anyone looks into your past, they will find evidence that you did exist. You didn’t just appear out the ether. But, be careful, these are still fakes and too much research will raise questions. If anyone wants to they will be able to figure out you aren’t who you are supposed to be. Nothing is bullet-proof, but this is about as good as it gets. You could still be recognized of course, but that shouldn’t be an issue as long as you go somewhere far, far away.”


He wasn’t too worried about being recognized. He had been careful to stay out of the eye of the media, unlike his father, he hated being under the spotlight and had taken measures to protect his privacy. Besides, no one cared about him. He lived in the shadow of a more powerful man, and he was only too happy to do so. He never wanted to outshine his father, he only wanted to be away from him.


He looked through the packet pulling out a driver’s license to see his new name. He looked up at the woman, his eyes narrowed. “Clarence, really? You couldn’t have come up with something…less old fashioned?”


“What?” Her eyes were wide with feigned innocence. “Didn’t you say your mom was fond over angels? I thought you’d appreciate it. Besides, it’s not as if Castiel is such an unextraordinary name.”
It was true, his mom had believed that angels watched over them, kept them safe. He had been born on a Thursday and she believed naming him after the angel of Thursdays would bring him luck through his life. She used to tell him that angels were always watching over him, and no matter how bad things got, there would be someone looking out for him. Looked like she had been wrong. Talking about her now made him feel ill at ease. He wondered if she was watching him, now, what she would think of what had transpired.


“Besides,” Lilith continued, “It’s just a name on an ID. This is your chance to redefine yourself. You can be whoever you want to be. A lot of people go by something besides their legal name. No one will think it too odd if you choose a new one. If I could give you a piece of advice…”


He didn’t think he could stop her.


“If you want to leave your life behind, then you don’t want anyone to look too closely at you. Don’t do anything that might draw attention, from the police or anyone else. Don’t be interesting, don’t be extraordinary. Don’t be amazing, don’t do anything to draw anyone’s attention. Live an uninteresting, unextraordinary life.”


“That’s all I’ve ever wanted.” It was true, being away from his father, being free to do what he wanted, that’s all he wanted. He didn’t need an extraordinary life as long as his life could be his. “You need to be careful. My father, Dick Roman is a very dangerous man, few can see who he is. If he finds out you helped me….”


“You let me worry about that. He may be dangerous, but so are the people I work for.” Her voice was flippant, but it softened then, he doubted many people were ever particularly concerned with her safety. “I’ll be fine, trust me. You worry about yourself. As far as anyone’s concerned, we never met.” She produced a business card from an inner pocket. It was a plain white card with a number in black print on the front. “It would be better for everyone involved if you go somewhere far away and fade away into a life of mediocrity. But in the event that you do find yourself in trouble, call this number, and I guarantee we will be able help you.” He reached for the card but she pulled back, just out of his reach.


“Remember, this isn’t charity, we will be able to help, but it will cost you. Now that you’re cut off from daddy’s money…”


“The only thing I need from that man is to get away from him.” He snapped, he didn’t need to rely on his money and the last thing he wanted was to be in debt to him.


“Okay, sorry I said anything.” Her voice was placating, and she handed him the card. He almost gave it back; he didn’t want to risk anything connecting him to his old life or anyone disreputable. But it didn’t hurt to have it as a precaution.
“Then as of right now, Castiel Roman no longer exists. Enjoy your life Mr. Novak.”
When he turned to leave, he heard her voice behind him.
*******
“I’m sorry.” She said, her voice almost sincere. He looked back, the feeling of ill ease growing inside him.
“Sorry for what exactly.” She didn’t respond, but he didn’t have long to wait. Without any further warning a strong arm encircled him and a cloth with something that smelled strongly was put over his mouth and nose. He struggled to no avail and soon the blackness took him. **************************
After a brief struggle the other man went limp in his arms. The sudden dead weight was difficult to hold, and Dean looked at the woman who was watching him with detached curiosity. “You want to help me get him in the car? Or will that be extra?”
She gave a long suffering sigh and rolled her eyes before finally acquiescing. She picked up the other man’s feet and together they were able to maneuver the unwieldy weight into the trunk of his car. It wasn’t the most dignified way to transport someone, but he didn’t know how long the chloroform would last and he couldn’t risk being seen by anyone who might raise an alarm. He had come this far, there was no turning back, and he didn’t want to risk anyone trying to stop him. He took out zip ties and bound the man’s hands adding a gag for good measure. He had planned this out in every detail, he had accounted for every possible eventuality that he could think of. But now that it was actually happening… it felt different than he had expected. He had a kind of restless anxiety, the persistent small voice telling him to back out while he still could was getting louder and more difficult to ignore. He had never done anything like this before and his resolve was growing thin, now that it was too late to change his mind. He took a deep breath to try to steady his nerves before looking over at Lilith. “Do I need to be worried about you? You going to sell me out to the highest bidder?” He didn’t expect her to tell him the truth, but he was pretty good at telling when someone was lying and he needed to get a gauge on her.
She raised one eyebrow her voice deadpan, “I think I know how to keep a secret.”
“You sold him out,” he gestured to the poor bastard in his trunk, “for next to nothing. How do I know you will not do the same to me?”
“You don’t. Let’s just say you aren’t the only one who has a beef with Mr. Roman. And before you ask, no I don’t mean me. But I work for some very powerful, very dangerous people, who wouldn’t exactly shed any tears if Mr. Roman was brought down. I can keep a secret if you can…..Or don’t. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. The people I work for, they aren’t to be messed with. Don’t get any ideas about trying to screw them over, take of Mr. Roman here and we’ll call it even.”
He didn’t respond. He had no love for people like that, people who only looked out for themselves, with no concern for others. But right now her interests lined up with his and he wasn’t going to press the matter. He took one last look at this ‘victim’ and slammed the trunk shut.
The drive through the city was a tense one for Dean. His anxiety was growing with each passing minute. It took effort to maintain the speed limit. Everything in him wanted to get to his destination as quickly as possible and get this over with. But the last thing he needed was the cops pulling him over and finding out what was in the trunk. If he was caught it would be over, and he owed it to Sam to follow through with this plan. It took longer than he expected before he started to hear banging and movement from the back of his Chevy. It came as a relief in a way, he had begun to worry that he had overdone the chloroform. Maybe it was shock, or maybe he had overestimated its effectiveness. Either way, the drive had been a silent one up until this point. He turned on the radio, then turned it up to try to drown out the sound. He couldn’t do this. He shouldn’t do this. All his research and planning, it had all seemed so simple. But he had been detached, distanced from the reality of what he was doing. This wasn’t him. He didn’t do things like this. He gripped the steering wheel and focused on the trees passing by, lit up by his headlights. He remembered why he was doing this, tried to focus on the good that would come of it and it helped to calm his nerves and strengthen his resolve. He had come too far to turn back now.
He turned up the music a little more and focused on the familiar lyrics as he drove the rest of the distance to Bobby’s cabin. The old man was a paranoid, apocalyptic type, and he kept the old cabin well stocked at all times, ‘just in case.’ He wouldn’t be back there for a while, and it served Dean’s purposes perfectly. And, in all honesty, even if the old man did discover what he was doing, Dean was pretty sure he’d be more than happy to help. But the fewer people involved the fewer people liable if this went south, the better for everyone.


He parked outside the cabin and turned off his lights. He sat still in the darkness drawing in a long, slow breath. He could do this, and in a few days it would be over, no harm done to anyone. Well, anyone who didn’t deserve it. The sounds from the trunk had stopped, but now, in the silence they resumed. It wasn’t the hard knocking it was before, just soft shuffling, like someone moving around. He brought up the hood of his hoodie and tied a bandana around the lower half his face, trying to obscure his facial features as much as possible. He opened his door, and listened to the sound of his boots against the ground as he walked, drawing out the last few moments of semi normalcy. There was no going back for him. He put the key in the trunk and lifted the it up, looking down at the shadowed form within. His captive, he hated that word but there was no getting around it, wearing a ridiculous long trench coat like some sort of flasher, and a suit that probably cost more than Dean made in a year. His eyes were adjusted to the darkness enough that he could see the other man blinking up at him.


“Hi Cas.” His voice was muffled through the bandana, but he thought the other man could understand well enough. The other man cringed, evidence enough that he could. Dean rolled his eyes, he hadn’t even done anything. This was what happened when someone grew up as rich and entitled as Castiel Roman. It would take a lot more than this to phase someone like Dean. And yeah, there were times he wondered if that was a good thing, but still. At least he knew how to handle himself in a crisis.


“Here’s how this is going to work. We are going to go into that cabin over there for a few days, I’m going to send a message to Dick and if all goes well, everyone can go their separate ways. It’s in your best interest to cooperate. Understand?” The other man looked up at him his face blank. "Understand?” he repeated himself. This was going to be a lot less complicated if Castiel got with the program. The other man nodded mutely. “Good. Okay, let’s get you out of there. This part is going to be a little tricky.” He reached down, causing another flinch from the other man who had pushed himself as far back into the trunk as he could get. Dean grabbed his bound hands and half pulled half dragged the other man into a kneeling position. From there Castiel was able to, only somewhat ungainly, climb out of the trunk. “Good boy.” Dean crooned, earning himself a dirty look.


This was going much more smoothly than he had expected, he hadn’t even had to pull his gun out yet. He had honestly been expecting much more of a fight, not that he was complaining. He had planned for many contingencies, he had given up believing this might actually go well.


He kept one hand on the other man’s arm, his grip firm to ensure he didn’t try to run. He led Castiel towards the cabin and the other man gave no indication he planned on fighting back. With each step Dean felt an increasing sense of relief, it was finally happening, and much better than he had ever hoped for. He hadn't been lying, when he got what he wanted everyone would go their separate ways, no real harm done. The sooner that happened, the better for everyone involved.


He could hear Castiel's breathing coming unnaturally fast, the only indication of what he must be feeling. Despite himself dean felt sorry for the other man. He resisted to urge to offer some form of comfort, it likely wouldn't help and showing weakness at this moment could only work against him.


When they reached the door, Dean reached into his pocket with one hand and pulled out his keys, never lessening his grip. He maybe cooperative now but dean was going to give Castiel the smallest opportunity to escape. Not that he'd fry very far, but it would be a complication dean didn't need. He unlocked the door and only after they were across the threshold and the locked door again, did he start to relax. The first stage was over at least.


He led Castiel deeper into the house, into a small bedroom. He didn't give Castiel a chance to get a feel for his surroundings. Not that it mattered, they were out in the middle of nowhere and Bobby had registered the cabin under a fake name. There was nothing to tie Dean to it. Like Bobby, Dean tended to err on the side of being overly cautious.


In the room there was a bed with a heavy iron frame. He half led, half pushed Castiel onto the bed. A brief flicker of fear crossed over his features, breaking the stoic veneer of his features. But as quickly as it came it gone.
This was a bad situation for anyone, even someone like Castiel, perhaps especially for someone like him, even if he did deserve what was coming to him. But that didn't mean Dean was a monster, he didn't need to scare him anymore than necessary.
“Look, just relax. Everything’s going to be okay. Do as I say, and you will not get hurt, I promise.” His reassurance probably didn’t mean a lot, given the circumstances. And he couldn't say Castiel looked relaxed exactly, but his rigid posture seemed slightly less tense. Dean chose to take that as a good sign.
“Stay here and don’t try anything. I’m not going far.”
*************
Dean left the room, leaving Castiel alone with his thoughts. He studied the handcuffs carefully, he knew how to pick a lock. It was a skill he had picked up as a teenager as a precaution for just such a situation. It wasn’t a skill he actually thought he would have to use, but he had thought it would be helpful to have just in case. His life had been defined by caution and the constant underlying sense of waiting for the next crisis. Now as he studied the lock he realized how useless it was. Dean had had the forethought to search him and remove his keys, phone and anything else he had on him. And, unlike what TV shows would have him believing, there was no conveniently placed sharp objects lying around that he could use to free himself. He experimentally pulled on the handcuff, but he could feel it would stay fast, and the bed frame was heavy, with no way to slip the cuff out the bottom, even if he could move it. The sound of footsteps told him that Dean was returning sooner than Castiel expected. He sat up straight and ridged, trying hard to look innocent and as if he hadn’t been testing out ways to escape. The best way to avoid making a situation worse was the remain neutral and not let his expression betray his emotion. Years of practice had honed his skills to perfection. Without thought he sat straight, his posture perfect. His fathers perfect son, straight and rigid like a toy soldier.


If Dean could tell what he had been up to, he didn’t say anything. He tossed a paper bag onto the bed next to him, with a falsely cheerful announcement of, "Dinner!”


Castiel eyed the bag surreptitiously, before Dean, as if reading his thoughts said, “It’s not poison.”


No, he supposed it wasn’t. If Dean was going to kill him, there was easier ways to do it than trying to put something in his food. It was probably best not to snub this small kindness, and he was very hungry. Hungry enough that the contents of the greasy bag smelled undeniably appealing. It was a little awkward to maneuver the bag open with one hand cuffed, but with a little effort he managed it. He took out a wrapped hamburger and unwrapped it enough to be able to take a bite. He tried to ignore the fact that Dean was watching him with interest.


“I’m sure it’s not exactly what you’re used to, but it will have to do. It’s all I can afford on an honest wage. Not that you’d know anything about that.”


What Castiel was used to, was making his own meals. He had been cooking for himself since he was a child. His father never had time for such menial tasks and Castiel never took well to fancy restaurants that his father frequented. He didn’t like being watched and whenever he was out with his father, all eyes were on them, his father made sure of it. For a time Anna had cooked for him, even taught him a good deal, but that time was long past now. The inherent unfairness of the words, and the whole situation burned bitterly through him. He bit his tongue before he said anything he would certainly regret. He didn’t need to provoke Dean. He already had some deep resentment towards the Roman family, and there was no need to make it worse. And Deans anger wasn't without reason, Castiel reminded himself. Despite all his hard work to come across as the altruist he pretended to be, Dick Roman had managed to do a lot of harm to a lot of people. Deans anger was justified, albeit misplaced. Castiel ate his food in silence, unable to escape the looming presence of the man before him.


“I gotta ask, why 'Castiel'? Is there a story behind that? Or did your parents hate you?”
Castiel bit back his initial response to that, trying to push down the pain and anger this brought up in him. He did his best to keep his voice neutral, but couldn't the tremor that betrayed him. My mother named me. She was very religious. I was born on a Thursday so she named me after the angel of Thursdays. She thought it would bring me protection and happiness throughout my life.”
“Yeah, and how did that work out?”
Castiel looked up at him, considering all the events that had transpired over his life, “not well.”
Silence stretched out between them before Castiel broke it. "And what do I call you?” He didn’t expect to get a real name, but he needed to call the man something.
The other man studied for a moment before finally saying, “Smith. Call me Smith.”
“Okay.” Castiel didn’t comment further, he had found in his life it was best to say as little as possible. The less he said, he less likely he was to say something wrong and set off his father. If there was one thing he had experience with, it was dealing with violent men.
“What do you want from me?” Castiel didn't try to hide the desperation in his voice. It wasn’t a challenge, he wanted to know what the other man wanted from him so he could do it. The clearer he was on Deans expectations of him, the more likely he was to get out of this alive.
“What I want is your cooperation. You behave yourself and let me handle the rest.” ‘Smith’ said, he sounded tired and Castiel wondered if he had done this before. Given what, admittedly little, he already knew he could surmise that Dean wasn't a hardened criminal. Rather, a man pushed past his limits. Castiel wasn't sure if that was reassuring or not.
“I’ve got some things to do,” Dean said waving vaguely out into the cabin proper, “Just sit tight and try not to cause any trouble.” Castiel nodded dutifully as if he had any choice in the matter.
His kidnapper studied him for a moment, looking as if he was going to say something else, but stayed silent as he turned and left.
It was awkward, but Castiel managed to move himself so that he lay down on the bed, despite the way he was cuffed. It wasn’t incredibly comfortable having his hand attached to the railing, the way it was. But he was able to settle in well enough. He didn’t try to get under the blankets, and with the cold that was creeping in through every crack in the cabin, he was grateful for the layers he was wearing. The suit and trench coat were not the most comfortable things to wear, particular to sleep in. But they were warm enough.


He wondered if he were outside if he could see the stars. It was his first memory, his mom holding him on her lap and pointing out various constellations to him. She used to say that each star was a soul that had gone to heaven and shone their light down on earth. For a time he had believed that, the lights in the sky felt warm and close. He could imagine they would be beautiful out here as secluded as they were. There would be no light pollution to take away from their shining beauty. But he couldn’t see outside, and he wondered if he would ever have the chance to see the stars again. The though made a hard knot settle his stomach. He longed for the escape of sleep, but it was slow to come. He thought about the life he had led. He wondered what he had done to deserve what had happened to him. And he wished the answer was harder to find. He wasn't sure how long he laid in the silence, listening to the wind creaking the old cabin, before the darkness of a dreamless sleep finally took him.
Castiel could hear Dean talking on the phone while pacing back and forth outside of the room he was in. The cabin was small enough that he could overhear pieces of Dean’s conversation.
“It went better than expected. No one saw me, no one followed me….Yes I’m sure.” The next part was lost as Dean walked a little further away. Then he came back into range and Castiel heard, “I know, I just want to get this whole thing over with as quickly as possible…. that shouldn’t be necessary, I don’t think Castiel is going to cause any trouble.” There was another length of silence while Dean listened to the person on the other line then, “no he doesn’t know who I am. Why would he? I told you, you were being paranoid, it’s fine.” Castiel realized then that he had been holding his breath. Dean didn’t know he recognized him. He didn’t know what the man would do if he knew that Castiel knew him, or at least knew about him. Well, he had a pretty good guess what would happen, but it was best not to think too much about that.
"Yeah, okay. Get over here as soon as you can. I don’t think I can do this without you.” Castiel wondered who exactly his captor was talking to and what they planned to do. If Dean was telling the truth, it sounded like this would be a pretty basic ransom request, then they would let him go. If he was lying, or if his father decided Castiel's life wasn't worth what was asked...no use dwelling too long on that possibility. He could only hope Dean was a man of his word.