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Title: Harbor Lights 4a/?
Author:  chartruscan
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Castiel, OC played by Sharon Gless
Warnings: Abuse of reality, WIP
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: ~2900
Summary: The Winchester brothers are a team to be feared by the criminals of their waterfront city. Or, the one where Castiel is an asexual doctor who attracts insane stalkers amorous suitors and Dean pretends to be his boyfriend to scare them all away.  Also, they fight crime.

***


They were fifteen minutes into their trek into the city, Dean hunched forward and leaning awkwardly against the passenger door, Castiel navigating a long loop west and north along the highway.  

Castiel hit the blinker and exited onto the turnpike, flicking the headlights and wipers on as the fine mist fattened into a proper rain.  For all of Dean’s tense contortions, he seemed relaxed, temple resting against the window, eyes drifting as a Chinese lute plunked slowly from the speakers, eventually dissolving into long minutes of frogs and crickets.  Not his preferred music, but one of Sam’s albums that he didn’t mind terribly.   He’d always skipped this track though.  Maybe he’d borrow it the next time he had trouble sleeping.

The CD went silent, leaving the car wrapped in the hypnotic sounds of rain hitting the windshield, the swish of the wipers, and tires sluicing through wet pavement.

The player clicked back to track one and the deceptively gentle opening strains of Nice to Know You began.  It was a good wake up song, and he sat up a little straighter with a shake and paid attention to the exits.

“Where are we going?” Castiel asked, once the guitars had smashed in aggressively and effectively killed any need to maintain a precious silence.   Dean was glad Castiel had waited.

“Washington exit, left on Grove,” Dean said.

“I do know the city very well, Dean.  If you just told me the destination . . .”

Dean squirmed uncomfortably, his freshly stitch-free back too tender to sink into the seat like he was itching to do.  

“Dean.”  

Dean mumbled something.

“The Combat Zone?” Castiel asked, apparently having the ears of a freak.

It hadn’t really been the Combat Zone since before Dean was born, grassroot activism by local residents, aggressive police work, urban renewal projects, and of course a killer preying on prostitutes had pushed the early-seventies free love tolerance into the shadows.  Now it was just a couple of strip joints and a few adult book and video shops, and, if you knew where to look, certain one-way streets in the Theatre District and Chinatown where you could still find all sorts of earthly pleasures for a price.  

“Yeah,” Dean said eventually.  “I got some contacts I need to get in touch with.”

“By which you mean prostitutes?”

“What of it?” Dean asked defensively.  He quirked an eyebrow at Castiel.  “And why the hell do you know what the Combat Zone is?”

“I work in an emergency room,” was all Castiel said.  The amount of ambulances delivering roughed up hookers, victims of drug deals gone bad and other bouts of violence from this neighborhood he left unsaid.

Castiel turned off of Grove onto Centre Street without a prompt from Dean.  

“Try swinging around to Kneeland in Chinatown, take the side streets.” Dean ordered distractedly.  “Go slow when you get there.”  As if city traffic allowed for anything other than a stop and go crawl.  

“You don’t know where you want to go?  If this is for work, couldn’t it have waited until Monday?”  Castiel was definitely annoyed at Dean’s continued vagueness.

Dean was keeping his eyes peeled on the sidewalks and the pedestrians, or rather, the ones who weren’t walking.  “They don’t keep office hours, Cas.  And staying in one location isn’t exactly good for business.”  He failed to answer the second question, mostly because it technically wasn’t for work. Not in any legal sense that he could admit to.

“There,” Dean said suddenly.  “Pull over.”

Castiel did and Dean rolled down the window, thankful that the rain had let up for the moment.  He leaned out, one elbow slung over the door, a brilliant smile on his face.

“Heya, Dolores.”

A woman in her fifties was standing in the doorway of a defunct burlesque theatre slated for demolition, signs advertising new offices and luxury apartments.  Her hair was died a brilliantly unnatural red, curls limp in the rain, and she popped open an umbrella that said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” as she approached the passenger side of the car.

“Hey sugar, haven’t seen you in a while.”  Dolores snapped at her gum, lips painted red and clashing garishly with her orange eyeshadow.  Dean cringed at the cliched leopard-print spandex top stretched just barely over her breasts as she stooped to be level with Dean.  He was suddenly grateful he was in Castiel’s SUV and not the low-riding Impala.

Dean rallied, his smile growing even wider.  “When are you going to run away with me, gorgeous?”

Dolores smiled broadly in response, masticating open-mouthed on her gum, spreading her arms expansively.  “And leave all this?”  Pop.  “Besides, honey, you couldn’t afford to keep me on your salary.”

Dean let his smile fade, his tone more serious.  “How are things?”  

“Can’t complain--” Her voice was rough and no amount of nicotine gum would ease the scratch of it.  “Well, I can, but it ain’t nothing you need to worry your pretty little head over.”

She then looked over his shoulder into the interior of the car and spotted Castiel and gave an appreciative whistle.

“Who’s your friend?”

Dean looked over his shoulder at Castiel, whose eyes were wide and staring straight ahead.  Dean gave him a speculative glance, quickly turning over his options to get Dolores to cooperate and extricate himself from her at the same time.  He turned back to her, “New priest at the Holy Cross.  He’s on a mission to bring as many of the fallen women and men to Jesus.  Yeah, I know, I think it’s a load of hooey, but I’m the one that got stuck giving him the tour.”

Dolores’ eyes shuttered, her smile fading.  “Huh.”

“I told him I knew a guy that might be persuadable.  Simon?  You know him?”

“Yeah . . .” Dolores admitted, seeming to suddenly want rid of Dean.  Perfect.

“You know where’s he’s been hanging these days?”  He gave her another blinding smile.

“Sure.  Little bastard, pardon my French, Father, got a job over at The Glass Slipper.”

“You’re a doll, Dol.”  Dean pulled out a couple of twenties from his wallet and slipped them to her.

Dolores stepped back with a snap of her gum as the rain came down again and Dean began to roll up the window.

“Sorry about your mom, kiddo.”

Dean paused, then gave her a weak smile and looked away, shutting the window against the rain.

He’d forgotten about how much of an impact his mother’d had in this particular neighborhood, how tightly he was tied to these people because of her, even if she hadn’t been in the Combat Zone since before he was born, when it was still a booming red light district on the verge of being legalized.  He’d been back numerous times in the years since her death, but he still kept bumping into new people who’d say, “I knew your mom, sorry kid.”  He didn’t get the same comment about his father unless it was from another uniform.

Dean looked over at Castiel, who had pulled out into traffic and was now stalled at a light, a pensive look on his face.

He hoped Castiel wouldn’t ask.

“Your mother . . .”

Dean sighed.

“It’s not . . .” Dean began, then started over.  “You remember the serial killer from the seventies?”  Castiel remained silent.  Dean prompted, “The Harbor Killer?”  Castiel shook his head and moved up two car lengths.  Castiel had maybe been five at the time, living on the other side of the country, blissfully ignorant of rampaging killers, sexuality, and unexplainable powers (unless he counted George Reeves in tights during his Saturday morning shows, which he doesn't).  

Dean shifted, trying to get more comfortable.

“So, prostitutes --men, women.  Kids, really-- started winding up dead, symbols carved into them, their . . . gruesome shit.  Started popping up along the waterfront.”  He’d gone through the files when he first gotten out of the Academy.  “Anyway, my dad was investigating --one of his first big cases as a Homicide Detective.  Long story short, he went undercover to suss out the local cathouses, which is where he met my mom.”

Castiel glanced sideways at him, but otherwise remained silent, crawling forward slowly in the Friday afternoon traffic.

“She, um, was working undercover for Vice.  Back then it was one of the only things they thought a female detective was good for, pretending to be a prostitute.  But she was good, got a lot of dirt on a lot of bad people.  She also got a lot of the girls to adopt a buddy system, taught them how to stay safe, gave them contacts if they wanted to get out.  Then she met my dad, thought he was a john, cuz, well, that’s what he was pretending to be.  He thought she was a hooker soliciting him..  They tried to bust each other.  Man, the most disturbing meet-cute ever.”

“Both your parents were cops,” Castiel said.

Dean smiled, “Yeah.  It was kind of inevitable I wound up here, following in my parent’s footsteps.  Family business and all that.  Though Sammy didn’t want any part of it, wanted to be a lawyer.  Pissed the old man off something fierce.”  Dean, by default of having just become a cop himself, was assumed by Sam to have sided with their dad.  Their relationship after that became strained with imaginary arguments and unspoken resentments.  His mom made sure they didn’t let themselves drift too far apart, but it wasn’t until their parents and Jess’ deaths that he and Sam managed to see eye to eye again.  

“Anyway.  Mom and Dad meet, scratch each other’s eyes out, get married.”  He forgot what point he was making or explaining, remembering suddenly how Sammy’s absence from his life had been like a physical ache.

“Did they ever catch the killer?”

Dean shook his head.  “Nah.  Mom insisted that the killer was a woman, possible male accomplice --but hey, it’s the seventies, and feminism wasn’t exactly welcome in a boy’s club like the police department, let alone the when the FBI got itself involved.  Even if she had been an official profiler I don’t think they would have taken her seriously, and female serial killers are so rare that it’s like predicting a heart attack in a two-year old.  It’s just not in the stats.  But she and Dad, they worked the case until it went cold, when the murders just stopped.  She had kept her cover until then, and when she came out she told the girls who she was, and to keep in contact if they ever needed anything.  When she got pregnant with me she quit the force, but I think she still kept in touch with a few of them, getting them out of the city, jobs, rehab.”

Castiel was silent.  He made another turn, slipping just under the yellow light before it turned red and was regaled with a smattering of angry horns.

“So you use your relationship to you mother as an in to . . . get information.”  Castiel’s tone was quizzical, even though it wasn’t a question, and a little accusatory.

“Fuck you, man,” Dean said quietly but heatedly.  “It doesn’t hurt to have that connection, yeah, but I would have made my own way in even if my mom hadn’t been their guardian fucking angel.  These are the people down in the trenches in this city, and they hear things that help me catch the bad guys, Cas.  So, yeah, I use them for information.  I don’t bust them for solicitation, because that’s not in my job description anymore, and they let me know when they don’t feel safe and I get Jo cracking heads.  You know why, Cas?  Because prostitutes don’t matter.”

Castiel makes a noise of protest but Dean ploughed on.

“No one cares until there’s a body in their neighborhood.  And even then it’s just embarrassment that the dirty laundry was left out for the world to see.  Nobody cares if a hooker gets raped.  They’ve got no family to miss them or support them.  No one knows them, no one cares.  But my mom did.  And I let them know that somebody still has their backs if they need help.  I’m not capitalizing on anything, Cas.   I do it out of respect for my mom, and because it’s the right fucking thing to do.”

“I apologize,” Castiel said once Dean fell into a fuming silence.  They were at another another stoplight and Castiel spared a brief glance of wonderment at Dean, who was glaring at him.  The brief glance lingered, the ire in Dean’s eyes wavering at the look on Castiel’s face.

“What?” Dean finally snapped.

Castiel didn’t break eye contact but shook his head, saying, “You told me that I’m not to say certain things to you.”

Dean frowned, curiosity getting the better of him.  “Spit it out, Cas.”

“It’s just,” Castiel began.  “You . . . continue to surprise me.  Even in my line of work, seeing the patients that come into the emergency room, I would be hard-pressed to find a colleague as passionate or compassionate as you.”  Even at the hospital, where the nurses and doctors saw the damage and the trauma, both physical and mental, done to street workers, there was a jaded detachment needed to survive being witnesses, and in some there persisted the rape myth --that a hooker wasn’t allowed to say No.  

It struck too close to home.  

Castiel didn’t realize how long they’d been starting at each other until a car horn from behind made him jump.

The car lurched forward and Castiel flushed as Dean muttered, “Shaddup, Cas.”

***


Inside of The Glass Slipper the walls were red and black, the lighting dim.  Something bluesy and languid was playing as Dean and Castiel made their way past the quiet bar area, through a wide corridor and into the main entertainment room, a disorientating dissonance as the two soundtracks overlapped before a modern track, heavy with hip-grinding bass, blared loudly.  It was still early in the day, but there was already a good-sized crowd drinking and watching the girls up on each of the three stages.  One was wearing a red devil costume, horns and all, grinding and shimmying around the main stage, and inside the cages on the other two stages were women dressed as angels, wings and all.

Dean wore a dopey expression of appreciation, eyes bright and mouth open in a huge grin, while Castiel looked around in bewilderment.  That is, until he caught a glimpse of Dean beside him in a mirror and rolled his eyes.

"I take back every nice thing I have ever said about you," Castiel shouted in his ear.

Dean kept his eyes glued to the girl in the cage closest to them as she began unbuttoning her corset.  "I'm appreciating fine works of art, Cas."

A scantily-clad woman stopped by with a tray of shots that Dean happily took one of.  Castiel snatched it away and set it on a nearby counter with a disapproving glare.  Dean just shrugged and dragged Castiel in deeper with a hand on his coat sleeve.  

“Dean, who are we lookin--”  Castiel broke off as another young woman pressed her barely-clad breasts against his chest and asked him if he wanted a lap dance.  He froze at the uninvited invasion of his personal space and unwanted touch.  Then Dean was slipping an arm around his chest, hand flat on Castiel’s sternum, and pulling him away from the woman.

“Hands off, lady,” Dean said, keeping his own hand possessively against Castiel’s chest, Castiel’s shoulder pressed into Dean’s chest as Dean steered them to head deeper into the club.  

Castiel felt the loss when Dean dropped his arm and stepped away, but then his hand returned and cupped the back of Castiel’s neck.  Castiel knew it was a blatant show of possession, of staking Dean’s claim to keep others away for Castiel’s benefit.  But after weeks of their ruse, it finally hit Castiel how ridiculous a plan it was: that in order to keep people from groping him, he was letting Dean grope him.  

He had tried to tell himself that he didn’t mind because Dean didn’t mean any of it, that Castiel now considered Dean a friend --albeit a hot-headed, stubborn, tempestuous one-- who was allowed to get closer than strangers were because he was known, comfortable, familiar.  He had tried to reason that Dean could get inside his comfort zone without making him panic because there was no more intent there than if it had been Sam.  But the fact was, Castiel finally allowed himself to acknowledge, he wanted Dean in his personal space.  And it wasn’t just that he was touch-starved.

He wanted Dean.

The thought was dizzying and thrilling and terrifying.

Castiel couldn’t resist leaning back into the contact even as Dean tightened his grip.

“Shit,” Dean muttered, dropping his hand once more.  

Castiel felt his heart stutter at being caught, flushing with guilt.  His stomach dropping at the thought of having to lose the fantasy if Dean found out.  

Straight Dean.  

Heterosexual Dean.  

Sexual Dean who had withdrawn in discomfort when he’d first become suspicious of Castiel’s affections --even when Castiel himself had been oblivious about what he was feeling.

“Okay, I gotta go run interference,” Dean whispered quickly into his ear, close, so as to be heard over the music, the puffs of air on each word tickling on his cheek. “Try and find Simon: five-ten, early twenties, blond hair.  Tell him to meet us out back.”  He gave Castiel’s arm a squeeze when he saw and misinterpreted Castiel’s look of panic.  “You’ll be fine,” he said reassuringly.  

Castiel watched as Dean weaved his way through the crowd, heading back towards the front bar, and Castiel took stock of his surroundings, the press of bodies under the strobing lights, and panicked for a different reason.

***


TBC
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