While Cas is gone Dean spends his time up on the roof, smoking the fish. It’s smelly, gross work but this will feed his family for a week, or enable him to trade should someone come by. Someone willing to trade with angels that is, though people were becoming less picky as the time wore on.
Robbie and Ike read books under a couple of big picnic umbrellas salvaged from their fathers’ bar. The building was starting to decay in the distance, looted of anything useable long ago. Dean tenses and listens hard when he hears the truck engine, one hand going to the AR15 with the scope he kept slung at all times that he was up on the roof. He relaxes when he sees Cas’ truck and the children start whooping.
They all head down the ladder into the house. Dean hangs the AR on the hook by the ladder then follows Ike and Robbie to Cas, kissing him on the cheek as the lychee are set on the table.
"Chickens!" Robbie runs up to his Papa to look into the whicker basket. "Can we name them?"
Dean hesitates but nods, while he didn’t intend to slaughter the chickens that time might come if they stopped laying. “Sure we can name them. They’re going to make eggs for us.” He squats down, wrapping an arm around his younger sons little frame. There was a brown hen and a white one. “What do you think we should name them?”
"Alice!" Robbie calls out. Dean’s not sure where the name came from, maybe Alice in Wonderland. "And Rabbit!" Yeah, definitely Wonderland.
"I’ll build them a space on the far corner of the porch so they’re out of the sun and away from the shore," he says as he gets up, looking at Cas. "Fish are smoking. If you couldn’t smell it."
Castiel looks at Dean and knows what he’s thinking about the chickens. It will be hard on the kids when the time comes, but they can’t afford to be sentimental. Not when the chickens lose their usefulness at least.
He tries not to laugh at the names Robbie gives the chickens. ”You love your stories, don’t you?” he asks his youngest and gets an excited nod in answer.
"Yeah, I could smell the fish from up the road. Strong stuff," he says with a light chuckle, but he’s grateful that their area is clear of Croats. Otherwise they’d have a small army to deal with tonight.
He looks back at Isaac and gestures for him to come over. ”Come and say hi to Alice and Rabbit, Ike. They’re just chickens. They won’t hurt you,” he reassures their son and carefully takes out the brown hen, he assumes this one is Alice, from the basket.
Castiel holds the chicken securely, clawed feet tucked against the hen’s body as he squats down to let their boys pet her. ”See? Alice likes you already.” He smiles as Ike and Robbie pet the hen, both seemingly amazed and in awe of this simple bird.
He passes the bird to Robbie and shows him how to hold her without getting scratched or stressed out and then picks up Rabbit for Ike to hold and shows him the same. ”Pretty chill birds, right?” Castiel grins and lets them hold and pet the chickens for a few more minutes before he carefully takes them back and tucks them into the basket again.
"Let’s go check on Daddy and see what he’s up to," he suggests as he picks some spare boards and some chicken wire. "Maybe we can help make the hens’ new home comfortable."
"Can we make a nest?" Ike asks as he and Robbie pick up a board each to carry out.
"I suppose we could. I’ll help you guys find something soft for them when we go back inside," Castiel promises as he opens the door for them.
Agent Bass holds up his hand in a placating gesture. “I’ve been up for seven hours, I’ve already had lunch.” It’s clear that he is disappointed in Cas’ lack of confidence in the press interview. Truthfully so is Dean but he’s not going to vocalize that. All he can do is be supportive and try to help if Cas asks for it. He certainly isn’t going to offer it and further degrade Cas’ self-assurance but appearing like he doesn’t think Cas can do it.
"If you’re avoiding the press don’t be too keen on leaving the tower for a few days. They’re already waiting outside the tower." Agent Bass taps at the tablet that Cas never took from him and then sets it up on the counter. It now shows the security cameras around the base of the building. There are several news vans and bored looking reporters waiting for one of them to come out.
Agent Bass wishes them a good afternoon and heads out. Dean turns back to the tome and folds two omelets over on themselves then flattens them with his spatula. He sighs, looking down at the cooktop. Really he knew this was going to happen. There was no way that this would go ignored or that people wouldn’t figure it out. Cas had come right out into the open and was seen with Captain America. Except for he clothes and hair they looked identical to the picture in the Smithsonian.
Dean divvies up the bacon then sides the omelets on the plate. “I’m sorry this is happening,” he says as he sets the plate down in front of one stool for Cas. He take his plate and sits at the other space, poking at his food for a few moments before actually digging in.
"We slept in really late," he says casually, trying not to talk anymore about what is really happening. "I don’t think I’ve slept past ten since I was in the bottom of the Arctic."
It’s a terrible joke but he huffs a laugh anyway then chomps down on a piece of bacon.
Seeing all the news vans and reporters waiting outside makes the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, but he tries to brush it off. Pretend that he’s not afraid of getting ambushed by cameras and microphones. Instead he gets Stark up and fed and gives him a few good pets because the puppy had apparently slept in as much as they had.
"If we’re lucky, they might all think I’m some crazy experimental clone and not the real Cas Novak," he jokes after Agent Bass has left and his own breakfast is sitting in front of him. He’s not smiling though. He’s grimacing and not sure he can eat anymore until his stomach growls in complaint and he shovels a forkful of eggs in his mouth.
Dean’s breakfast is fantastic as usual and the incredible flavor cheers him up considerably.
"I don’t think I’ve actually slept while I was working with Hydra. Just freeze me, thaw me, freeze me again. Who knows how many times I went through that cycle," he says with a shrug, trying to make light of his abuse under his captors. This was a healthy way to deal with trauma, right?
Cas shifts in his seat and continues to eat his breakfast while taking the tablet and looking up the news. As expected, all the papers and stations are talking about him. Cas Novak, the Winter Soldier. Hydra Spy or new Avenger? Is he a hero or a villain in disguise? All of the sites are asking the same questions and all of them are probably sitting outside of the tower right now.
"Should we come up with a new name for me? I don’t think being the Winter Soldier will sit well with people who already don’t like me." Cas closes all of the news tabs and puts on some Looney Tunes.
"Maybe you could anyway, you’ve never tried," Dean counters with a shrug of his own massive pinion. "You could be like one of those birds that dives for fish. Then you can float on your back like an otter and eat it raw." He winks at his sons who are both yawning sleepily.
None of the grounded angels knew why they’re wings stayed when the Grace didn’t. Some thought it was a cruel joke by whomever had taken their Grace. Others thought maybe it was to mark them, to further ostracize them from anyone. They were cut off from heaven and now they were cut off from most humans, left with bothersome, gruesome reminders on their backs that pulled on muscles and made clothing difficult.
Which is why he went shirtless most of the time. Dean helps gather up their sleepy children and tuck them into bed after a vicious rub down with some towels. He needs to air these out once the boat is back safely in the cave. Maybe they’ll sleep in the boat tonight so they can reach the house under during daylight hours with better visibility.
When they’re exhausted and he thinks that’s as good as its going to get, Dean drives the boat back to the little cave and anchors it then sets to sorting out the fish in baskets. They won’t rot overnight in the coolness of the cave but they’ll need to cooked as soon as morning hits.
Once the fish are sorted he grabs a bar of soap and strips naked to jump over the side of the boat to wash off in the cooling water. “Come on babe, get cleaned up, I don’t want to sleep next to someone that reeks of fish guts.”
He smiles to let Cas know he’s teasing. Well kind of, they both do smell pretty bad. “Lets sleep in the boat then head up the house in the morning. I’ll take you up on the offer to deliver the fish. I’ll stay with the kiddos and start smoking the fish we’re keeping.” Dean rubs the bar of soap over his head then grins cheekily before ducking under the water to rinse his hair. He pops out of the water and passes off the soap. They’ll need to groom and oil wings during the day tomorrow too.
Castiel flicks a wing at Dean’s teasing, though he knows not to take him seriously. Neither of them wanted to bring the rotting smell of fish into the cabin or around the children.
He strips down and joins Dean in the clear waters, glad for this safe haven at least in a world that has become a literal Hell on Earth. Once in the water though, Castiel spreads his wings and lets them tread water carefully. He’s thought about Dean’s earlier words and if the oil coating can stand up to the sea water, he might try diving during their next trip out.
"When was the last time we went flying?" he asks curiously as he takes the soap and begins to wash himself. "It might do Ike and Robbie some good to feel the wind beneath their wings."
Castiel finishes his bath with a dunk under the water and a flap of his wings. He flashes a grin and climbs back up onto the boat, helping Dean up too and passing him a towel so they can dry off.
After they’re dry though, Castiel stifles a yawn and starts making a list of chores he’ll need to get done after trading with the Trans. Laundry is on the top of that list. Followed by checking to make sure their cistern and pipes are free of cracks. Cracks waste water and fresh water is too precious to waste when you’re stuck in a Croat apocalypse.
He dresses in his boxers and heads into the cabin, finding their sons still sound asleep. The sight makes Castiel smile as he lies down on the bed next to them, knowing that Dean will join them momentarily.
When day breaks, Castiel helps Dean get the fish and the kiddos back to shore. And after sorting out what they’ll give to the Trans, he takes his truck up the beaten road and is glad to find a distinct lack of Croats or Lucifer waiting for him. Admittedly, the trip is boring even if he’s glad he doesn’t have to deal with any trouble.
As usual, Mrs. Tran is grateful for the fish and Castiel is glad to get some eggs and vegetables from her garden. She even offers up a pair of her chickens and Castiel gladly takes it. It seems fair after bringing her an entire basket’s worth of fish anyways. He even gets her fish sauce recipe after some more bargaining and handing over a few feathers for her son to use as quills. She makes Kevin keep up his studies even if it’s the end of the world.
Castiel is gone longer than he would like, but he makes it back home safely and parks the truck under the house. No use in hiding it or trying to protect it from Croats. He’ll have his machete in anyone who tries to take it faster than they can scream for their mothers.
"Linda says ‘hi’," he announces as he walks in the front door with the basket full of traded goods strapped to his back. He sets down the small packet of lychee down on the dinner table and smiles. "She finally got some of these things to grow. Pretty good change from the usual, don’t you think?"
"We make them believe you," Agent Bass says simply. Dean offers him coffee but he declines with a wave of the hand. "We do better than that we make them feel sorry for you. You’re the innocent man that Hyrda kidnapped and forced to do awful things. People already line up at the Smithsonian to morn your passing, just think how happy they’ll be to see you alive."
"They do get pretty teared up in that part of the exhibit," Dean chimes in as he takes the bacon out of the oven. He pours a little of the fat in the pan to fry some eggs, cracking some immediately then getting out mushrooms and spinach to make omelets. Staying busy will help him right now.
"We’re not asking you to make a statement today," Agent Bas continues. "The public needs time to mull it over, think that they’re coming to a conclusion. Then you can invite someone over for a private interview."
The director steps forward, picking up the tablet from island and touching the screen a few times then holding it out for Cas to take. “I’ve compiled a list of reporters that will serve our purpose well. They are sympathetic, especially after finding out they were all on Project Insight’s kill list.”
Dean raises an eyebrow at that, looking over from his pan. He’s never looked at the list but he imagines it’s full of people that were considered subversive or would be even slightly despondent to Hydra’s cause and wonders who those reporters were.
"For what it’s worth I think it’s a good idea, Cas," Dean says, jutting his spatula at his friend for emphasis. "I do them all the time."
"What is the nature of your relationship and do we need to have a press meet about this too?" The question from Agent Bass takes Dean by surprise.
He shakes his head. “No, this is between Cas and I. I won’t hide it, but I won’t hold a junket so they can ask me about it. If being in a gay relationship is no big deal then I don’t see why I need to announce it.” Dean looks at Cas for confirmation that this is okay.
"Unless they see me as the hero turned villain," he mumbles, "How does that saying go? Heroes either die bloody or they live long enough to see themselves become villains?"
Cas purses his lips, but slowly he shakes his head. ”I don’t know when I’ll be up for the interview, but I’ll try not to let you down.”
Admittedly, he’s concerned about how he’ll be treated by the public and worried that he’ll never be able to actually walk in public again after this. What if after everything, he’s still seen as nothing more than a Hydra agent? A villain? Or worse. A spy amongst the Avengers?
Agent Bass’s next questions astonishes him and he’s not really sure how to answer. He’s just glad Dean answers for him.
"I agree with Dean. We don’t need to announce anything, right? Just let the public come to their own conclusions. And if people don’t like that Captain America is gay, well, too bad," he says with a faint smile, finally starting to relax a little bit. If the subject’s not on him, he’s much more comfortable talking.
"You should stay for breakfast. Dean makes a mean omelet," Cas invites, obviously trying to avoid anymore discussion about press conferences or private interviews.
Dean reaches over the side of their boat and hoists his children into it, kissing each one on his saltwater covered head. They’ll get enough fish, enough for the Trans and themselves. He gets the net situated while Cas helps their sons. Hopefully he’ll get just enough fish to be able to haul it up with Cas. Once it became too filled and pulled him over the side. By the time he got it together it was completely empty.
Lightning flashes across the sky in the distance and the pair of boys on the front deck ooh at the spectacle. “That’s what your papa used to look like,” Dean says as he gets the net gathered properly so he can throw it once they’ve been there a minute and the fish have gathered again. “He was all light and energy.”
"Why does he look like that now?" Robbie’s bright blue eyes look up through the rain at his dad then over to his papa.
"Because he chose us," Dean says and nudges Cas to tell him to get ready to help. He tosses the net with all of his strength, watching it unfurl then land in the water. After it has been submerged for a few minutes, he gets Cas to pull one side while he pulls the other. It comes up too easy but there are a few tilapia and catfish. Dean kicks them aside then looks at Cas. They’re going to have to do this all night.
The boat isn’t made for net fishing. It isn’t made for fishing of any sort. Before the apocalypse started it was a luxury boat, there’s a cabin and it’s mostly deck. Still everyone wanted a boat when they realized what was happening.
"Well if they get cranky they can sleep in the cabin," he muses and starts gathering the net again.
A blush stains his cheeks as Dean tells their children about his former appearance. Castiel misses the freedom. The ability he once had to travel as a wave of pure celestial intent. But he knows he would never trade what he has now for a chance to feel like an angel again. They’ve been through far too much to ever give up those precious memories.
"You were brighter than me, Dean. Always were. It was like staring into the sun," he muses as he picks up his end of the net and helps Dean cast it.
Their haul is less than they had hoped for, but they were just starting and they still had all night. He didn’t need to bring it up. They both knew and Castiel just smiles as Dean looks at him.
"If only I didn’t have wings. I could probably dive for some spiny lobsters," he jokes as he helps prepare the net again and looks back at Robbie and Ike staring at a particularly large tilapia as it flops on deck. Castiel keeps smiling for them, even if he does feel like a broken man.
They cast the net as much as they dare throughout the night, only taking a break to put their sons to bed in the cabin and once to give their arms and hands a break from the gruelling labor.
But Castiel is always nervous and on edge this time of year. What if a big typhoon comes? What if their house is washed away or what if they get killed in a storm? What if their sons are left orphaned with no one to care for them? So he keeps his eyes to the horizon when he isn’t focused on helping cast or pull in the net.
At the end of the night, they have a respectable and smelly haul. Enough to share with the Trans and for himself to salt or dry for the future. He even thinks about asking Mrs. Tran for her fish sauce recipe so that he can learn how to make some himself. It would be better than eating the bland rice all day every day at least.
"I can go to the Trans in the morning. You’ve already done a lot today," he offers as he helps gather the fish into baskets.
"You should enjoy your job," Dean says with a nod and wraps his arm around Cas’ waist. They both watch Stark sniff around and laugh when he’s scared by a bird flying out of the bush. The puppy runs over to his dad for help so Dean lets go so Cas can tend to him. "Someone once told me that if you like your job you will never work a day in your life."
They stay up there for a while, letting Stark walk around and enjoying the privacy of the rooftop garden. Tony calls with offer to take them out for a fancy dinner but Dean asks for the nicest stuff he can have delivered instead. It’s good food that Cas and he share in his apartment with another movie playing on the background.
When they wake up after another night of just laying together Dean goes to make them breakfast and nearly jumps out of his skin when he sees Agent Bass standing in his kitchen. He catches his breath and rolls his eyes as he goes to put the coffee on for Cas and put some bacon in the oven.
"This should probably be said with both of you here," Agent Bass says, not moving from his spot so that Dean has to work around him. Dean sighs and goes to wake Cas up, kissing him on the head. He can guess what this is about, people have figured out who Cas is. Maybe they don’t know he was the Winter Soldier, but he’s guessing they’ve figured out he’s the guy from the past.
"With the files that Ms. Bradbury had to expose in order to clear those of us not trying to institute a kill list the general public has come to know Cas’ identity," Agent Bass explains. Dean finds him wishing he had some of Garth’s wine about now. "They know he’s been part of Hyrda in the past but of course I’m running damage control. We’ll have everything cleared up soon."
Agent Bass pauses and looks at Cas. “Eventually it might do well for them to hear it from you.”
Cas loves spending time with Dean. Whether it’s acting as dads for Stark or eating good food and half watching a movie together. Even sleeping with Dean in his bed is good, after they haul up Stark’s crate so he doesn’t have to stay in Cas’s apartment alone, of course.
His sleep is restful and though Cas does sleep in a little more than Dean, it’s worth it. He wakes up feeling less achy and pretty good for a super soldier who nearly broken through a reinforced wall with his body. So, he’s good and feels even better after he stretches and gets that kink out of his back.
He smiles sleepily up at Dean and pushes him away playfully. ”Sap,” he mumbles and gets up to follow Dean out of the room. Cas just wasn’t expecting company when he finally comes out of the bedroom.
"Give a senior citizen some warning before you try to give him a heart attack," Cas gripes after he recovers from his shock and sits down at the counter island, settling down with a mug of hot coffee in hand.
He doesn’t like the news that Agent Bass delivers, but it just means that he and Charlie are in the same boat, just different sides of the line. Both assassins with their ledgers wide open and in the public eye. But his own is much darker. He knows this even without remembering all of the details.
Cas ducks his head and thumbs at his mug, feeling uneasy in his own skin as he’s told that he should talk to the press. Tell them that a former tool and assassin with a seventy year long career and a confirmed kill list that would make Hitler look like a puppy is now a superhero. Yes, the public will take that wonderfully.
"Who would believe me?" he asks as he looks up at Agent Bass and then to Dean. Dean makes him feel safe. A little more comfortable when he feels like he could crawl out of his own skin. "I worked for Hydra. It might not have been willingly, but I still obeyed their orders. I nearly killed…"
He stops suddenly and ducks his head again, unable to continue.