Chapter 1: Prologue
Chapter by CharcoalWarden
I know you think I'm just
But I've been where you're going
And it's not worth knowing
Burning the days
And just carrying on.
And after all that you've forgotten
You still don't understand
You think the world broke its promise
But it just slipped right through your hands
-Carrying On, Vertical Horizon
There are moments in every life where you just have to say fuck it. For Dean Winchester they came around with almost clockwork regularity.
There was the moment at a bar, or a diner, or just out on the town where there'd be a hot piece of ass around and his dick would twitch and say fuck it.
The times growing up when Sammy had wanted or needed something and the only money for it was Dean's dinner money, it was his heart saying fuck it followed by two weeks of scrounging scraps and swiping things from gas stations. And when they got older, it was fuck it ‘cause it was only his soul and it was only Hell and fuck it, it was Sammy.
And every now and then, when there was no hope and they were so outgunned they may as well have been unarmed and naked for all the difference it would make, his brain would say fuck it right before he did something so stupid it only ever worked because no one else would ever be fool-hardy enough to try something so idiotic.
Fuck it was kind of his motto.
And there were times when all three—dick, heart and brain—came together and that was how he ended up with a fistful of tie and his back getting slammed against the Impala while an angel of the lord attempted to lick his tonsils clean.
Chapter 2: Prologue
Dean's tired. He's had a fairly frantic day back in the past, one that started early and ended late and he's just not in the mood for this shit; for Sam and his endless excuses, for Ruby and her fucking existence or the way she's spending it so close to his brother, for the lies and protestations, for any of it.
So once Ruby's gone and is not here anymore, he walks out. Ignores the way Sam calls his name, ignores the way the slam of the door behind him is far too loud for the time of night, ignores it when Sam shoves the door open again and follows him outside as he heads towards the Impala. He leans over and pushes down the lock on the car door once he sees Sam reaching for the handle, pushes it down without looking at him and pulls out sharply before his brother can say anything.
He fumbles for the tape box and pushes in Metallica as he blows past a speed limit sign at almost half again the listed value, letting anger and betrayal and hurt escape into speed and wind and sound. He's almost two towns over before he slows, before he stops breathing between gritted teeth. He's through the third town when he stops, pulling up at a rest stop beside the river and getting out to pace restlessly across the asphalt. He finds a few rocks and takes some vicious delight in pretending they're Ruby as they skim sharply across the water, ricocheting a few times before they sink beneath the surface and drown.
The tape struggles valiantly for a moment, skipping briefly before it dissolves into static while the headlights flicker and die and Christ he's really not in the mood for this. He's going to shoot the fucking ghost right in the face until it gets the message and leaves him alone, because there's no way he's identifying, locating and digging up a grave right now. No fucking way.
So he spins around, trying to mentally weigh his chances of getting to the trunk and getting it open before whatever it is tries to rip him to shreds, and bounces off something surprisingly solid. He staggers back a few paces while he squints at the shape, willing his vision to clear from the sudden darkness ‘til the lights flicker back on and all the strange lines and edges suddenly reform into a familiar shape.
"Castiel." He feels tension ease from his shoulders, and thinks it's probably reflected in his voice, the relief he feels and the way some of the anger just leeches away for the moment, not gone but not here either; momentarily abated.
"Dean." And lit from behind like that, with the tight beams of the headlights glowing around the edges of his still form, he almost looks like he's got a halo for a moment, looking more ethereal than he ever has until Dean blinks and the illusion vanishes.
Dean's pacing brings him back towards the angel. He sighs and stops close enough that even with the backlight throwing Castiel’s face into shadow Dean can make out his expression.
"How… how long?" He's not sure he wants an answer, not sure he can take it. But he can't stop hoping it's only recent, only a few times—a brief experimentation, not lies layered on lies layered on lies. So he stares at Cas, waiting for an answer, stares at the angel with his eyes saying tell me and begging not long, right? at the same time.
There's a moment's pause as the angel stares back and Dean's whole chest tightens, because there's a weary sadness and painful compassion in that gaze that makes him think he's not going to like the answer.
"Five and a half months." His voice is low and soft as he says it, but Dean spins away anyway, turning and moving a few feet, staring upward blindly for a moment, because fuck it wasn't just a fluke, wasn't something short. It was months of lies, lies that started as soon as he got back from Hell before he even saw Sammy again, because that had been Ruby who answered the door at the motel. And he should have seen it, should have known somehow, should have stopped it, broken Ruby's hold, kept Sam safe—
There's a hand on his shoulder, squeezing sympathetically for the second time today, and when he turns his head to look Cas is wearing the same expression of compassion and sadness he'd worn hours or maybe years ago after Mary had made the deal with Azazel.
They stand that way for a moment, blue eyes staring into green, soft and forgiving and saying it's not your fault while Dean hunts for any sign of uncertainty in Cas' gaze, any sign at all that the angel doesn't believe that. That he thinks if Dean had paid more attention, had dug a little deeper, hadn't trusted Sam so much—but there's nothing there, nothing but compassion and certainty and hidden apologies lurking in the back.
After a moment, he starts to notice other things; how the headlights make Castiel's eyes ridiculously blue, the way his trench coat is sliding off the slope of one of his shoulders, the fact that his hair seems even messier than ever, spiking upwards in all directions.
And it's not like he's never noticed before, never thought about it. God, he'd jacked off to thoughts of a burning blue gaze and full lips, narrow wrists and a deep voice enough times since the barn. Similar themes dance through his dreams on those days when he's not screaming silently in his head as he revisits Hell. It's just that he's never really considered it a possibility, never really thought it could be anything more than wishes and fantasies until the moment Castiel's tongue slides slowly along his lower lip, wetting it, before vanishing back into his mouth.
Dean's voice deepens and gets a little husky as he takes half a step forward without noticing. "I thought you weren't here to watch over me, Cas."
There's one of those faint smiles, the ones that hover lightly over his lips and crinkle the corner of his eyes, and a faint huff of air that he thinks maybe, maybe is Cas' version of laughter. Dean's not sure whether it's for the nickname or the unspoken question, but he feels the corner of his own mouth tug upwards in response anyway.
"My job is not to perch on your shoulder, Dean. But I currently have no assignment and..." The angel pauses for a moment, picking his words. "I thought you might want someone to talk to."
There's this moment, this split-second where all he sees, where all that exists, is Castiel. Where the only option available to him is to lean forward and press his lips against the angel's, heedless of consequence, soft and light at first, tentative, until they move under his and then firmer, more certain. A hand slides behind Dean’s head, another around his waist, pulling him closer as the mouth parts under his and he takes the opportunity to lick his way in, eyes closing as touch takes the driver’s seat.
Dean's hands are busy, sliding under jackets and running over rough cotton. He nips lightly at Cas' bottom lip and Christ was that a good move because he's suddenly being spun around ‘til his back thuds into the side of the Impala and he's pinned there, held in place by Cas' body, pressed against him from neck to knee and holy fuck where did an angel learn to kiss like a randy whore, all open mouthed and giving, giving, giving. And he’s sucking on Dean's tongue and Dean hadn't even known you could do some of the stuff Cas is doing with his and at some point he’s really going to have to re-think his opinion of tongue-fucking because Christ.
It’s only when Dean's starting to feel a little light-headed from lack of oxygen that he pulls back fairly reluctantly, pressing their foreheads together as one hand slides up to cup Cas’ face, thumb rubbing gently across Cas' cheek as Dean pants for breath, gasps ragged in the chilly air.
But the thing is, the thing is that Dean's a master of denial. More than that, he's the Master Of Denial. The MoD, the freaking Picasso of not seeing what's right in front of him. So he pulls away, mutters a sorry and whether that's for the kiss or the leaving he's not sure. Maybe both. And Cas is looking at him, head tilted and gaze intense, like while he hasn't quite figured this out yet, as soon as he does Dean is going to be hearing some overly profound piece of insight into himself that he'd really rather not, thanks.
So he moves away, moves to the back of the car so he can perch on the trunk, while his mind starts rewriting, replacing thoughts like love and wanted and right with excuses like lust and exhaustion and momentary insanity.
Dean decides to welcome November in with a whole shitload of alcohol. Since October had ended with angels threatening to raze a whole fucking town to the ground, his failing to stop a huge demon overlord from rising and his brother trying to kill fucking Lord Samhain with the freaky batshit mind powers that he'd sworn he'd given up, Dean was pretty certain he'd earned a drink. Or five. Hell, he'd probably earned alcohol in an IV drip for life with the shit he'd been through.
And hey, if Sammy was too uptight to knock a few back himself, that was his problem, ‘cause Dean was pretty fine not seeing him for now anyway. Though if it turns out he’s off with that fucking demon whore, Dean is going to be all new levels of pissed off.
But anyway, tonight wasn't about any of that shit. Tonight was about alcohol. And sex. Aaaaaaal-cohol and sex. Because okay, he was re-de-hymenated and that was awesome. But well, once... well, you were still basically a virgin if you'd only done it once, and that was a taint Dean's been distancing himself from as much as possible since he was fourteen, thank you very much.
It would help if Castiel didn't keep showing up and being his freaky-ass self whenever Dean looked like he was about to close the deal. Like clockwork, ever since Jamie. He'd just be wrapping up an hour or so of flirting, about to move things along to somewhere a little more private, and then suddenly there'd be angel right up in his personal space, alternating between glaring at Dean like he was some sort of particularly offensive gum that had gotten stuck to the sole of his shoe and staring at whoever Dean was trying to pick up in a way that basically had fuck off before I smite you scrawled across the angel’s face in flashing letters.
And then before Dean could ask what the fuck he thought he was doing, he'd be gone. And Dean was stuck jacking off in the bathroom again.
He was starting to think the angel was cock-blocking him. Well, no, not starting. It’s not the first time he’d considered the idea, not even close, it’s just that now he’s actually starting to think it seriously. And okay, maybe that time Cas had shown up just as Dean had been leaning in to seal the deal with this totally slamming blonde to send him off to protect a seal in Vegas had been legit. Maybe.
Tonight, alcohol’s providing a thick enough screen against reality that the remarkably horse-faced waitress is starting to look attractive. So he knocks back the last of the whiskey he's been nursing and slides off his bar stool, turns, and barely manages to catch himself before he runs into glaring, personal-space invading angel.
Seriously, what the HELL? "Seriously, what the—mmmph!"
Finishing sentences, no matter how indignant, suddenly becomes of rather secondary importance to the way he’s crowded back against the bar, to the too-hot, too-hard body pinning him there, to the tongue taking advantage of his attempt to speak by sliding between his parted lips and doing absolutely sinful things. A sharp nip of teeth at his lip conjures a moan rumbling up from his throat, and suddenly his hand is buried in thick dark hair while his other slides under the coat, running over crisp fabric. Dean bemoans his inability to get at oh-so-important skin and it's really hard to remember he's supposed to be annoyed at the angel when it's like he's hardwired right into Dean's brain and oh fuck Cas is sucking on his tongue and it's really fucking important that they leave right now. So he's fumbling in his pocket and tossing down a few bills that probably more than cover his bill, but hell if he can count competently at the moment. They're barely out the door when fingers close on his shoulder and his legs almost buckle at the flare of pure, spinning sensation that causes. Regardless, teleportation is officially his favourite super power EVER because it takes about .02 seconds to make it back to the motel room and he barely has to move before he’s licking his way back into Cas' mouth.
It's shove-push-bite-pull-mine across the room, their stumbling path full of kisses that are more teeth and bite than lip and tongue. It’s dominance and argument mixed with heady, heady lust more than it’s love (It isn’t. It is. It isn’t. spins frantic through his thoughts, skidding away into a lust drenched mess of want/need/have and fuck. There. More.), a fuck more than anything half as dignified as sex. Primal instinct beats out thought, and it’s growls and grunts and the clacking of teeth, the hiss of Dean's breath between his lips and erratic thumps and clatter as mundane objects get in the way.
Something soft-firm behind his legs (bed, couch, doesn’t matter, don’t care), and then there are fingers hooked in the neck of his t-shirt, jerking downwards sharply to rip the fabric, fingernails leaving thin red lines down his chest and it’s gasp-hiss-hurt-want-oh god followed by the contrasting gentleness of a tongue soothingly laving down the lines, incongruous with the sharp snag of fingernails down his back. It’s ragged breaths and whimpers of Cas on his lips and half a dozen thoughts that never reach an end because a hand slaps against the handprint and it’s all white-hot pleasure-pain-ecstasy and the shadow of wings against the ceiling until impatient hands grapple with his belt, relaying every indication that his pants will follow the way of his shirt if he doesn’t do something to aid in their removal.
His fingers fasten around the knot of Cas' tie, dragging him forward, forward with one hand and fumbling at buttons with the other. And it's bite-hiss-lick and the tang of blood of his tongue until the last button pops free, surrendering fever-hot skin to his fingers and there are hands pressing hard on hips. So it's want-need-gasp-where? until it's suddenly there. It's all just a cacophony of warmth-pleasure-oh fuck NOW and his fingers tangled and pulling in hair while cool, slick digits shiver lightly behind and there's half formed tendrils of thought dashing themselves to bits against the wave of pleasure and desperate glimpses of blue, blue eyes ‘til its soft lips hard against his and the scrape of his teeth over stubble and fuck-full-burn-pain-OH GOD THERE and nothing but Cas on his lips and mind until its stuttering, staccato gasps and the lights explode.
It takes him a while to coordinate his limbs afterwards, but if he doesn't move now he and Cas are going to be verging dangerously close to snuggling territory. So he forces uncooperative muscles into behaving and rolls over, pushing himself up mainly with his arms. He has to pause there for a while, because fuck he'd forgotten how stressful bottoming was before the body adjusted. Or readjusted, as the case may be.
"I'm alright. I'm alright" His legs kind of shiver under him as he shoves off the bed and there's a brief moment where he thinks maybe his knees are going to buckle, which just... not happening. But then a hand runs firm and smooth down his spine, slow and gentle as the ache recedes. It's not gone, though, which Dean appreciates because he's always enjoyed a little reminder, a little ache, the slight sharp tug of a bruise, the light sting of scratch marks, a living reminder of how he got it.
"I'm going to clean up," he says over his shoulder instead of anything like thank you, and when he comes out of the bathroom moments later holding a damp wash cloth there's no sign of angel in the darkened motel room apart from the mess on—hah!—Sammy's bed and the shards of exploded light bulb he cuts his feet on as he picks his way across the floor.
The first time Dean says God in bed, Castiel stops, frowns, and politely asks him not to do that anymore.
The seventh time Dean says God in bed, the angel glares up at him and fails to finish the blow job.
The twelfth time, Cas presses closer to him, grinding against him as he pants "John.” brokenly into Dean's ear.
It's not a problem that ever crops up again.
Castiel was discovering there was a particular method that had to be followed if one wanted Dean Winchester to do, well, anything. Asking nicely didn't work. Actually demanding... well, that had proven even less successful and tended to result in the man doing the exact opposite just to make a point. Just flying him into the middle of whatever the trouble was resulted in a lot of profanity and an increased probability of an early demise for the hunter.
Dean’s lack of faith in the wisdom of Heaven was... frustrating.
Plan D, however, was proving successful. It went like this:
First, take a step and a half forward, maintaining eye contact. Then, reach out—thus—and push him back against the wall. Follow.
Bunch left fist in jacket, right hand spread above the matching mark. Lean in, drop gaze to lips. Pause. Lick his own bottom lip. Enjoy hitch in Dean's breath. Tilt head to this angle, kiss Dean hard, open mouth like that, bite lower lip and then proceed following clues gleaned from the hunter’s thoughts.
Castiel was quite fond of Plan D.
If he were asked, he could not say why, exactly, he does not volunteer this information to Uriel. Perhaps it has to do with the way his vessel appears to suffer some form of physical discomfort at the thought of Uriel enacting Plan D. Perhaps it is the thought of what, exactly, Uriel would have to say if he ever did explain it.
Castiel is uncomfortable with his current mission. It's not something he's accustomed to. His faith has always been strong, unyielding and certain in the righteousness of Heaven, but lately he finds doubt creeping among his thoughts, the near silent whisper of this can't be right and perhaps this path is not the only one. Perhaps Uriel is right and he is getting too close to the humans in his charge. And yet...
Still, he has his orders, has been told they need this and angels are dying. He has been told that there are no other options, and it is not his decision to make. The plan is Just because it comes from Heaven. That makes it Just. It does not seem so long ago that he was telling that to the Winchesters, and that he had believed it. But they are losing this war, which is something he would never have thought possible.
So when the Winchester's walk in, he stands by the wall and watches the floor. He just hopes that when he informs Dean that he would give anything not to have to ask this that Dean knows that he truly, truly means it.
He was screaming, he was always screaming. He'd screamed his throat raw long ago, so the screaming hurt, but he couldn't stop and someone—some thing—something part way between human and demon and with all the worst parts of both was tearing, tearing him apart and his whole world was hurt-pain-oh God-make-it-stop until Hell spun around and he came to screaming and hanging limply from the hooks piercing his flesh. And the whole thing started again, because it would never end and it never changed and that certainty hurt more than the ripping and tearing and oh God—
—he moans, turning his head against his arm. Something new, something new and it was going to hurt. It always hurt, and it always hurt more because Alastair never backtracked and oh god he couldn't but he had to because...
The voice was firmer this time. More insistent, but still soft, non-threatening. And that was just scary because it was new and new down here always, always meant more pain and and and...
There was soft white light against his eyelids and a light touch against his cheek.
Dean, look at me.
His eyes obeyed the joint command and compassion in that tone despite the screaming in his head to just get away, and he was falling forward into deep blue as the chains fell away and there was a faint tug in his midsection and a fluttering in his ears.
The faint rustle of grass, the gentle warmth of autumn sunlight and the sound of running water. His own ragged breathing, harsh against the peaceful air.
There's a shape looming over him where he's lying in the grass, hands cushioning his head. He squints at it a moment—a dark shape against the evening sky—and after a moment his eyes cooperate enough that he can pick out some features.
"Castiel?" Relief, acknowledgement, question.
"Dean." And yeah, even in the relative peace of what he's mostly certain is a dream, the angel makes his name sound like some kind of portent.
There's something at the back of his mind, something whispering about broken devil's traps and hospital and the only one who can stop it at the back of his thoughts. But the thoughts are muted, far off like he's hearing them through a layer of cotton wool. None of them really seem to apply to him, like they belong to a stranger. There's just... peaceful lethargy telling him to relax, lie back, let someone else handle things for a while.
He can't find the energy to protest against it, to make his limbs cooperate enough to push up from the grassy knoll. The sky darkens as he stares upwards, the last strains of sunset fading into the bruise tones of twilight. Cas is still standing there, watching, unmoving; a darker silhouette against a dark sky.
"Cas, man, sit down. You're hurting my neck."
How on earth do you hesitate when you aren’t moving in the first place?
His gaze skitters away again; it's too hard to stay focused on anything. The dream sky is dark, too dark and plain, uninterrupted by cloud or star. He frowns at it for a moment as the grass beside him rustles and sinks, tickling his thigh. A star blinks on, then another, a handful, and as he shifts, laying his head in the angel's lap, a hundred, a thousand blink into existence.
Strands of silver and gold start forming between the stars, picking out shining constellations across the heavens as a warm, cautious touch flitters over his forehead, feather light and carefully gentle. His eyes close at the sensation, at the careful slide of fingers through hair.
When Castiel speaks, some unknown measure of time later, his voice is calmer, more peaceful then usual, almost entirely lacking in any of his trademark I-will-smite-you overtones.
"I confess these constellations have me at some disadvantage."
"Hmmm?" Stars are incredibly unimportant concerns compared to gentle fingers and light caresses.
A faint huff of air as fingers trace across his brow.
"They appear to be... rather unique."
"Mine are way more awesome than anything made by an old dude in a dress."
Another indeterminable length of silence passes, filled only with soft touches and curious, slow explorations that have Dean's mind drifting into peaceful blankness.
"Mmmm? Cas?" He tilts his head to the side, into the hand against his cheek and presses his lips against the pulse fluttering in the narrow wrist as the hand stills.
"...It is not of import."
Dean wakes to too bright fluorescence, the beeping of a heart monitor and tubes in his nose. There's a nurse bending over him, inspecting the injuries on his arm. The pain's coming back, a general dull ache that's sharp and burning around the worse injuries, but there's residual warmth against his side and he thinks, maybe, as he was waking, the soft sound of feathers.
Cas gets dragged back to Heaven and comes back as Castiel, all hard edges and flaming grace, harsh words and unbending adherence to his orders; a strange creature who'd steal a pledge of obedience from his lips in the scrap yard behind Bobby's but wouldn't kiss him anymore, because suddenly it wasn't sex but serving man.
The prize fight, the final seal, the big one. The point which changed the entire fate of the world was... well, it was a bit of an anti-climax. It started off impressive enough: an angel rebelling, two demons in an unhallowed church with a blood addict and a magic knife. But the ending... Well. It could have used some work.
Dean and Cas had appeared in the faint rustle of feathers, just in time to cut off some diatribe of Ruby's (no loss to the world there). They'd appeared a few feet behind Lilith, close enough that Cas had been able to dart forward, get a hand over her mouth and vanish again before she seemed to notice their presence. Dean had taken vicious delight in stabbing Ruby with her own knife, and to his credit Sam had come back to himself long enough to help. Then they'd basically been cooling their heels in the church for half an hour until Castiel returned.
The wait would be more bearable if Sam didn't keep interrupting Dean's worry with his attempts to initiate chick flick moments.
Dean focuses his eyes on the wall like he's never seen anything more fascinating, like the wall has some sort of hypno power. Like it’s stare at the wall or face one of his nightmares.
"Dean, I'm sor—"
Ruby's knife makes a satisfyingly solid sound as it slams point first into the hard wood of the pew, the handle still half-slippery, half-tacky with the blood of its former owner.
But, naturally, Sam can’t take a fucking hint when it’s shoved in his fucking demon-eyed fucking face.
Dean shoves off angrily from the pew, pulling the knife free with a hard jerk as he shrugs Sam's hand off his shoulder with a sudden, choppy movement, and he’s moving towards the back of the church, glaring at the door like it’s personally responsible for the fact that Sam is slumped in a pew behind him with eyes black as pitch and a smudge of some poor person's blood still at the corner of his mouth.
His empty fist, the one not holding the knife, slams into the stone of the wall. The sudden, shooting pain in his hand reminds him that it hasn’t quite recovered from attempting to deck an angel earlier that day.
And because he’s a Winchester, and had been kind-of-not-quite-raised by John Winchester who dealt with his issues by shouting them at everyone, he spins around and starts yelling.
"What Sam? You're sorry? You're sorry you almost ended the world because you chose a fucking demon over your own brother? You're sorry you've been drinking fucking demon blood? You're sorry you snuck around all fucking year, lying and disappearing and getting up to God knows what with that whore? Do you know how far past the line of sorry you are, Sam?"
He pauses for a moment, breathing harshly because he's made the mistake of looking Sam in the eye and the black, shining orbs are worse than the dreams of Hell that still wake him up screaming most nights. Sam's mouth is opening to say something, but Dean doesn’t want to hear it and he isn't half done anyway, so he tears his gaze away and continues, albeit at a softer volume.
"Sorry..." He spits the word out, like it left some foul taste on his tongue. "Sorry just doesn't cut it anymore, Goddammit, Sammy. Have you even seen what you look like? Because your eyes are black, Sam. I can't even begin to tell you how not ok that is. So don't you sit there and tell me you're sorry, Sam, because that just doesn't cut it anymore."
What he doesn’t say is Maybe Dad was right about you, Sammy and I failed at saving you a long time ago because his throat closes around the words and his face is wet and he can still see where the line was, even if he was the only one in that worn down church who could.
And Sam still hasn’t said anything, just drops his gaze to his hands. Dean takes the opportunity to turn back around, surreptitiously scrubbing at his face with his sleeve. He can hear Sam gathering himself behind him—the acoustics of the church amplifying every little sound—and he’s tense by the time Sam speaks just one word, soft and pleading.
"Just leave me alone, Sam." The words are oh so quiet, full of weariness and a half-defensive apathy.
"Dean, you know me. You know I—"
"No." The word is too soft for the meaning it carries, half choked out. "No, Sammy, I don't. Maybe… maybe I used to, but—Christ, Cas, you okay?"
Cas reappears, but instead of just the usual sudden existence of an angel in a previously unoccupied part of Dean's personal space, the angel actually staggers a few paces, his left arm held awkwardly, the bones in the forearm bent to a painful looking angle and blood all but gushing from a deep cut across his forehead. There’s another cut across his nose, and one eye blackening. Darker spots on his suit hint at further wounds under his clothing, and when he half stumbles and catches onto Dean's shoulder to steady himself, Dean can see the half visible shadow of a wing held stiffly away from the angel’s body, the silhouette a little misshapen to Dean’s eye.
"I'm fine, Dean." Cas’ tone is as assured and certain as it ever was, and he’s alive which is something Dean had only been half-expecting to be true since Cas and Lilith had vanished from the convent.
"Yeah, well, you don't look fine." He gestures at the head wound. "That looks nasty."
"It will heal shortly." Castiel looks supremely unconcerned about an injury bad enough that Dean is pretty certain he can see Cas' skull under the blood. But Cas is giving Dean that look, the one where it's like he's trying to figure Dean out, like he's a puzzle and everything—everything—depends on Cas figuring it out. But his voice softens a little when he continues. "There is no need to worry, Dean."
And then they're about one more missed blink away from having a moment, and that's just... that's just... they don't have moments. They have aggressive sex and overly intense conversations in dark parking lots, but they do not have moments. And they especially don't have them while Sam is only feet away with black eyes and there's a corpse with its blood all over the fucking décor. So Dean tears his gaze away and searches for anything that may possibly sound like a legitimate change of subject.
"Contained." Of course that's all he says, because Castiel loves his one word answers like Dean loves his pie or porn. But Dean's a little distracted by the way Cas is taking hold of his bad wrist and pulling the bone back into alignment like it doesn't bother him at all.
"Contained? I'm a little disappointed, man. I was expecting some righteous smiting to go down."
"Dean. We can... go over it later. Lilith is secure. The angels are coming and we need to leave here. Now."
"Wh—Yeah, sure. Sam! Time to go."
Cas' fingers pause millimetres from their foreheads, move down to press against their ribs, hands flat. There's a flare of light around his hands and Dean feels like he’s been kicked in the chest by a mule as all the air rushes from his lungs.
"Cas, what—?" He has to stop there, gasp for breath for a moment.
The next time Cas’ hands raise, they land on Dean and Sam’s foreheads and the surroundings fade into the dark confines of Bobby's panic room. Cas barely avoids falling over on landing. Dean's not sure how much angel wings actually have to do with the whole moving process, but if they are involved at all then he really doesn’t want to think about how much strain it must have been on Cas to transport both of them across country back to Bobby's basement given the glimpse of a misshapen, bent wing he'd seen earlier. It's stumbling steps towards the door, a hand against Sam's chest while he tries to take some of Cas' weight with the other arm, and a shove backward, pushing Sam back towards the centre so he can slam the salt-encrusted iron door shut in his brother's demon face.
Chapter 3: Burning The Days - Part II
Chapter by CharcoalWarden
The next few weeks are a cacophony of worry and jagged edges, frustration and burning release—mental impressions of tearing emotions rather than actual memory. Dean spends most of his time on the stairs leading to the panic room, nursing a beer and standing vigil until he can’t take it anymore and he goes to beat up old junkers until his muscles ache with sharp tightness and his brain switches into basic—Lift. Beat. Ache. Thirst. Slam. Harder. Faster.—and he can escape from thought for a while.
Sometimes Cas comes to sit next to him, usually bringing a refill of beer. Once, early on in Sam’s detox, he showed up with a bottle of scotch so old the label was made of fading parchment, the ink faded almost to illegibility. Dean’s pretty sure it rivalled Bobby's house and land in value. But it was smooth going down and pooled low and warm in his stomach, the way the cheap stuff never did, and it softened the edges and let him sleep.
They never talk on the stairs, just sit. Dean can never figure out, later, whether that’s because there is nothing to say about the current situation that would make any difference, or because there’s too much to say and neither of them has the words or guts. It’s not exactly a comfortable silence, all sharp edges and intensity, but it’s better than being alone. Sometimes, when Dean’s beating up old cars, the angel will watch silently for a while before he gently confiscates the crowbar, and they’ll tumble against the hot metal, hungry hands and mouths and minds too much in need of distraction.
The third week is easier. Sam’s weak, his demon powers reduced, and so Cas zaps Sam upstairs to a more comfortable prison for the remainder of isolation. Bobby disappears the day before they let Sam out and shows up again a few hours later with a spare bed in the back of his truck, which leaves Dean with the cot from the panic room and the cushions from the couch rather than the floor or the stairs.
Cas helps him break the bed in, in celebration of Sam's impending release.
For once, he doesn't vanish immediately.
There is no immediate change in anything except the atmosphere when Sam is finally allowed free range of the house. Dean hovers over Sammy while he sleeps, but disappears back out to the yard whenever he shows signs of waking. The pattern continues for days until Bobby corners him, calls him an idjit and threatens to hide the beer until he talks to his brother.
Cas backs him. Dean has the uncomfortable feeling that Castiel and Bobby together are probably a more formidable opponent than the Apocalypse.
Dean's talk with Sam consists of a mutual, unspoken return to the old Winchester way: sweep your issues under the rug and pretend everything’s normal until you can't take a step without tripping over the piles of refuse hidden beneath the emotional carpet.
Then Dean has to explain why Cas is just kind of hanging around and the whole the-angels-were-even-bigger-dicks-than-we-thought thing.
It’s about a week after that that Sam is actually up to celebrating the slamming of the door in Lucifer's face. They do it traditionally, with beers around Bobby's kitchen table and pizza. Cas picks all the toppings off the slice Dean puts in front of him, frowning at them suspiciously, but he seems to enjoy the sauce and cheese well enough. Dean counts it as a victory and happily piles the discarded meats and pineapple onto his own slice, grinning around an overfull mouthful at the look on Sam's face. Like he’s scandalised Dean hadn't suddenly and miraculously developed table manners as a side result of stopping the Apocalypse.
Bobby disappears upstairs to bed, trailing dire threats behind him about what would befall them if his house wasn't still standing in the morning. Eventually, Sam breaks down enough to let his freak flag fly and starts quoting Monty Python. Cas retreats outside under an apparent cloud of confusion when Sam wriggles his forehead at the angel and asks him if he knows what he means, wink wink, nudge nudge.
Dean's not sure what makes him pick this moment to talk with Sam; after all, they're celebrating and what he's saying is nothing good, nothing that makes either of them happy. But he can't go through last year again, can't spend every moment wondering if Sam's going to kill the next thing they find or help it, whether the next attractive, manipulative bitch is going to be able to lead him around by his dick again. And Sam, well, Sam says he needs a break, needs to get away from hunting, maybe try and pick up a normal life again, to put the pieces back together and deal with almost starting the Apocalypse.
And there's still part of Dean, a big part, that wants to tell Sam that it's not his fault, that it was Ruby's for being a satanic bitch whore, or his for breaking the first seal, or the angels' for being douche bags. Anything. But he can't, can't force the words out because Sam's eyes had been black and everyone under the sun had warned him, but Sam was convinced he knew better or some shit, that everyone else was blind and he was the only one who could see.
Dean knows he has a martyr complex, in a mostly hypothetical sort of way. But sometimes he sort of thinks Sam might have a hero complex.
Cas is sitting on the porch steps when Dean goes to find him. Dean had half expected Cas to have vanished off somewhere, leaving Dean to yell at the sky and hope the angel still got his messages. But Cas is perched on the steps, leaning forward, forearms crossing his thighs and hands hanging down between his knees while he stares upwards. Dean's gaze flickers upwards, but there's nothing there. Nothing but bright swathes of stars and a sliver of moon, a few wisps of thin cloud. Nothing his eyes can see, any way. He thinks the angel's gaze might be fixed somewhere a bit farther than the stars, and the thought makes him ache a little until he pushes it aside.
Cas doesn't give any sign of having noticed his arrival or observation, though Dean is certain he has. He leans down, bumping the angel's shoulder with the base of the beer to make him look up. He rests the bottle against the angel’s collarbone until Cas takes hold of it with one of those slight quarter smiles and a murmured thank you on his lips. Dean nods, dropping down onto the step beside him and sprawling untidily, leaning back against the stoop and swigging some beer. He gazes at the stars for a while, watching Cas from the corner of his eye while his mind wanders aimlessly; his baby, Sammy, the taste of beer on his tongue, how he needs to get more rock salt, an itch on his foot, the way the small amount of moonlight means there’s only the thinnest sliver of intense blue around Cas' pupils...
The silence on these steps is comfortable in a way the silence on the other steps outside the panic room had never been. It lacks the sharp edges and rubbed raw hurt of the basement stairs, so when Dean gets around to thinking about saying something it isn’t from any need to break the quiet or discomfort. Cas gets there first, though, his voice low and musing, gaze still fixed on the heavens.
"I do not understand why my father allowed this to happen. Heaven... Heaven is corrupt and my father has done nothing to fix it."
Dean’s not sure what to say to that that's not too flippant. He covers his uncertainty by taking another swig of beer and follows the angel's gaze up to the stars. Thankfully, Cas doesn't seem to need a reply so much as an ear.
"He gave us this world that he created, told us to guard it and watch over it. For thousands of years, we watched and followed His orders. And yet He stood back and allowed it to come so close to destruction.
"I rebelled; I Fell. I am cut off from Heaven, and yet I can see the rot from down here. I disobeyed, did the worst an angel can do, so perhaps I am truly the wrong one to judge. Yet I can not believe this... that the Apocalypse was His plan, that we were not supposed to stop it.
"Dean. I need answers. I need to know what happened, whether it truly was my Father’s wish."
Dean swallows the last of his beer, letting the bottle drop to sit on the step below before he answers.
"Okay." It’s not like there’s anything pressing to deal with right now; no threatening apocalypse or demon deals to break, no one to find. It seems like forever since they weren't fighting the clock on something. "Where do we start?"
Another silence passes as Dean's gaze slides studiously over the angel's features, lingering lazily over starlit skin and watching Cas’ lips when he speaks. His eyes flick back upward to catch Cas’ eyes.
"I don't know. There are records... but I do not know where or how to get to them."
"Okay... research then. We can do that. But…" He slides closer, twists around so he's straddling Cas' lap, knees pressing into the hard wood of the riser as he leans forward to continue speaking, murmuring against the angel's lips. "It can wait ‘til morning, right?"
There are too-hot hands sliding under his t-shirt, running up his back, and a faint amused huff of air against his mouth.
"It will keep."
"I confess, the meaning of this one eludes me."
Dean pauses in his examination of Cas' long fingers, tips his head back so it rests against his collarbone and he can see the clean line of Cas’ jaw where he's gazing upwards.
"The one located between the iniquitous barmaid and the depiction of your automobile."
He squints at it a moment, turns his head so when he speaks his words flutter against Cas' throat.
"It's a crossroads." He leaves it there, doesn't expand because he doesn't need to.
"Ah." They drift back into silence for a while, and after a moment Dean returns to playing with Cas' fingers as the time ticks by, unheeded, uncounted and so unimportant.
"Sam always used to drag me out to look at the stars." He says, suddenly, remembering. "You know, for astronomy club? We'd lie on the Impala and he'd point out all the real signs and stuff, but I could never see them. Made up my own. He'd always get so... so Sam about that, you know? Like it was some huge insult to the old Greek guys or something."
Something inside aches a little at that, but he pushes it away, twisting Jimmy's silver wedding band around Cas' finger and laughing softly. The arm around his waist tightens sympathetically anyway.
It's three months after Sam and Dean say their overly polite goodbyes outside Bobby's.
Sam spends the first five weeks working out of a bar in Detroit. Until the day Ellen shows up and drags him into hunting with her and Jo, blatantly ignoring the fairly epic bitch-face he throws at her. A month after that, Jo marches into his room, grabs his phone and calls Dean. She dances backwards, away from Sam’s grabbing hands until Dean answers. When she throws it back to him, it was catch it and talk, or buy a new phone.
They've had a few awkward conversations since, always short, always about the people they're with—some weird-ass thing Cas did, how some guy without enough brain cells had tried to pick up Ellen and gotten his arm broken when he wouldn't take a "hint"—never about themselves.
So a month after Jo puts them back in contact when his phone rings, flashing Dean’s photo as it vibrates across the stained bar tabletop, he can answer it with a casual "Hey Dean" and ignore the way Jo's ears perk up at that.
"Sam." The voice is deep, too deep.
"Castiel?" It's not so much that Sam is confused as to who's calling as it is the fact that the angel actually sounds... well... harried that forces the question into Sam’s tone. And it's half a second from the Castiel + Harried part of the equation to only answer that fits. "Dean? Cas, is Dean hurt?" He's already half out of his seat, fishing for his wallet while he tries to shrug his jacket on.
There's a faint hesitation on the phone before Castiel replies.
"No, he's not hurt." Sam slumps back onto his bar stool, waving Jo back down. "He just appears to ha— Dean. I do not believe you are supposed to be jumping on that. Please refrain.— he appears to have regressed to—Dean.—to a child."
"Wait, Dean's a kid? How old is he?"
There's a puzzled silence before Castiel continues, a mite slower than before. As though he doubts Sam's mental acuity.
"Sam, Dean is not a juvenile goat." He pauses again, as though this is some profound statement that Sam may need a moment to absorb and come to terms with, then continues. "Jimmy thinks he's about four or five."
"Oh. I… wait. Jimmy thinks?"
"I have not had much experience with adolescent humans."
"You talk with Jimmy?"
"That is not of import, Sam."
"Oh. Right. Sorry. No offence, it just didn't seem he liked you all that much."
There's an irritated huff of air down the phone line, and a certain edge of smitey impatience as Castiel continues.
"His soul was already detaching from his body when I retook possession of it. I believe it dulls the effect. He spends a lot of time in stasis." The last is tinged with emotion. Sam thinks maybe it's sadness, maybe regret. "Sam, I can restore Dean, but— what? There's pie in the fridge, Dean. Just wait a moment, please. — but I can't do it on my own."
"Oh… Um, Sure. Yeah, right. Anything. Where are you?"
Sam scribbles the address on a cocktail napkin. Once he explains the problem to Ellen and Jo, tells them that he’s leaving, there’s no power on earth strong enough to stop Jo tagging along, and where she goes, Ellen follows. By the time they arrive at the address in Orlando it's the evening of the following day and the sun is barely peeking over the horizon. The motel parking lot is almost empty, but it's a better class of motel than their usual digs, more self-contained units than just a room with beds. There are even flower beds in front of some of the white stuccoed units. It's... kinda creepy.
Ellen's already striding towards one of them though, Jo on her heels, so he hurries after them and catches up just as Ellen tries the door and it swings obligingly open.
It's not a view Sam had ever expected to see. Castiel's sitting overly stiff in one of the chairs by the television. A young boy Sam vaguely recognises as Dean from old photos straddles his lap, arms trustingly draped around Cas’ neck and his head resting against the angel's chest. He’s sound asleep. There's face paint picking out a Spiderman mask across his face, and Sam can see smudges of colour where it’s rubbed off on Castiel's shirt. Cas’ arms are careful around the slumped form, overly gentle as though he doesn't quite trust himself not to hurt him, but he nods at them, nudging Dean awake.
No one says anything. Sam, at least, just doesn't know what to say, because it's one thing to hear on the phone that Dean's been turned into a kid and another to see him with Spiderman face paint and oh my God a teddy bear t-shirt. Jo looks like either her ovaries are about to explode or her brain's about to shut down from this sudden inversion of the established order, and Sam can’t quite figure out which it's going to be. Even Ellen looks rather taken aback.
Dean's blinking, sleepy and slow, in Cas' lap, yawning and rubbing at his eyes. It's... well, frankly? It's adorable. Jo evidentially thinks so, too, if the snap of the camera phone beside him is any indication. It’s either that, or she's figured out that she's going to be able to blackmail Dean into pretty much anything until the day he dies. (And probably after that too, given that this is Dean they're talking about.)
After a while, Ellen sends Jo off with Dean to get something to eat at the diner down the street so the rest of them can talk without interruptions.
It turns out Dean won his years in a poker game. Sam figures Dean hadn't quite thought the whole thing through, probably thought they'd just get added on somewhere between now and death. But they've been in this long enough to know these things always, always have a catch.
He wonders why Dean had forgotten that.
The ritual, as the angel describes it, seems simple enough—a few sigils on the ground, some chanting and the burning of some herbs—but Sam hesitates.
"Maybe we shouldn't."
Cas is looking at him with apparent puzzlement, head tilted to one side in a way that seems to imply a certain level of idiocy on Sam's side.
It's Ellen who replies, "Sam, we don't do this, Dean stays four."
"Exactly! He's happy. He could grow up normal! Have a life that's not hunting! Go to school, get married, have 2.5 kids, all of it."
Cas hesitates for a moment, but not in any way that would imply that the angel's actually considering Sam's suggestion. Rather, it seems like he's picking his words carefully, choosing exactly the right phrasing to express what he's about to say.
"Sam. Dean's memory is still intact. He's a child who remembers being an adult and his mind can't handle the dichotomy. He's four and he remembers Hell. Even if his life had not been what it has, his mind can't allow him to remember being thirty when it's four. It will drive him mad as it attempts to reconcile the two. I am holding it mostly at bay for now, redirecting his thoughts away from the memories, but my Grace is no longer infinite and I can not do so indefinitely. There is no real choice here; we do the ritual, or Dean goes insane."
There's a dangerous flare of something in the angel's gaze, hard and powerful and other as Castiel—not Cas, not his brother's friend, not anything close to touchable or knowable, but Castiel, the millennia old Angel of the Lord—continues.
"And I will not allow that to happen."
So Sam had had this sort of idea that they'd burn the herbs, chant the chant and Dean would be restored with a poof! (Accompanying puff of smoke optional.)
His idea is a far cry from reality. It takes about a week for Dean to fully return to his former age. He spends it mostly sleeping. When he’s not sleeping, he’s eating so much food to support the huge increase in body mass that Sam finds it necessary to visit multiple supermarkets to avoid drawing attention. Cas feeds Dean pure energy as the hunter sleeps so he doesn’t starve as he dreams, but the use of his Grace in such frequency drains the angel, leaving him pretty useless even during the time he isn’t collapsed on the other half of the bed beside Dean. Sam thinks maybe Cas is meditating during these times.
Ellen and Jo take off the day after the ritual, leaving to finish up the hunt they’d been pulled away from when Cas called. Still, with Dean either passed out or with his mouth full, and Cas in some sort of trance most of the time, it leaves Sam with a lot of time by himself. Not free time, since he spends most of his waking moments preparing food, but a lot of thinking time with nothing to distract him. It's something he's been avoiding lately, because his mind inevitably turns to things like Ruby and Apocalypse and the like. He downloads some audio books to his iPod to distract himself.
The day Dean goes back through puberty is distracting enough, and it is not something Sam is talking about. Ever. The worst part isn’t even when Dean complains, around a mouthful of half-masticated burger, that he's been re-re-hymenated.
It's so much worse a few hours later when he mentions around a forkful of pie that he's taken care of it.
Sam thinks making your angel pick up a hooker for you is probably an abuse of Angel Privileges, and he says as much. Dean gives him a smug, if somewhat frustrated, look in reply, and mumbles something about "Zachariah" and "Ginger" that he, thank Christ, can't quite make out.
It's always this place, this little hill under familiar stars but strange constellations picked out in shining gold threads, and the soft green lemongrass beneath them scenting the air as it crushes under their weight, fresh and sharp.
It's always gentle, explorative feather touches and the random, off-kilter comments and silences that make up midnight discussions after the brain retires for the night. When the company and idle thoughts are all that’s left, and lethargy is too strong for touches and whispers and fluttering kisses to turn to more.
It's not that Dean doesn't have other dreams. It's just that these are the ones that feel oddly real.
"Dean." Castiel's voice right behind his ear makes Dean yelp and spin around. Far too fast for the slippery floor of the shower, but that’s alright because Cas has super-awesome angel reflexes. Besides, with two of them pressed into the shower stall there isn’t really room to fall, anyway.
"Ca—are you dressed?"
The angel glances down, fingers plucking at the beige trench coat with what almost seems like surprise.
"I was not aware you were bathing."
Dean shakes his head, jerks it towards the shower door. "Get out, or get naked."
Cas gives this all due consideration before slowly loosening the knot in his tie.
"I believe," he says, deliberately, "the second option is preferable."
In the end, Dean growls with impatience at the amount of time the undressing is taking in the crowded space and mashes his mouth against Cas', biting at his lower lip until it bleeds, the sharp tang washed away quickly by the flow of water. The angel's pretty much down to his shirt and tie, the rest of his clothing in a sopping wet pile on the other side of the curtain. His shirt, hanging open so Dean can get his hands under it, is sodden and almost transparent, clinging to his frame in a way that would definitely be driving Dean crazy if he weren't already in the process of tapping that.
Cas growls back against Dean’s mouth, his fingers closing on the hunter's hips to yank him forward, heedless of the slippery floor, and licks water from his neck in one long slide of tongue. Then it's an urgent jumble of bite-kiss-press-rub until Dean's sliding down the angel's body, scraping his teeth along the soft skin of his navel to take Cas into his mouth, working his tongue and fingers until the angel is-
There's a click that’s almost drowned out by the hiss of the water, followed closely by Sam's voice saying "Dean, I just wanted to borrow—OH MY GOD, DEAN!" He sounds pretty hysterical by the end of it, and Dean would laugh if it wasn't liable to end in his choking to death.
Cas turns his head to give Sam a polite nod and answers, in a perfectly normal tone that does not, in any way, imply I am in the process of having my dick sucked by your older brother, "Hello, Sam." like they'd run into each other on the street and not the bathroom of a fairly seedy motel.
Dean glances up in time to see Cas regarding the suddenly slammed door in apparent perplexion before he glances down.
"That was impolite. Is he feeling well?" And that's it, that's it, Dean gives up and rocks back on his heels until he can slide down the opposite wall and laugh, because really? Only Cas.
If Sam were given one wish right now, he'd say screw world peace and ask to never have to walk in on his brother and his angel—boyfriend?—ever again.
Sam is pretty sure the world hates his guts, though, and the one sure way Sam knows how to get a wish granted is by a djinn. But the only djinn they'd met had granted Dean's wish by locking him inside his own head with a hallucination so it could feed on his brain juice or something, and if that’s the only way to be granted his wish, Sam thinks maybe he can do without.
But maybe it would be worth it. He hasn't quite made up his mind yet.
It's just that after he walks in on them in the shower? It's like Dean and Cas are suddenly everywhere, like they're planning out places to have sex where Sam’s most likely to find them. Back of the Impala. Behind the bar. On Sam's bed. On the table. Against a stock pallet in the warehouse they were supposed to be scouring for a fucking werewolf.
And ok, it's not like he actually thinks an angel is sex-stalking him. It's just that he's kind of wondering about how much it would hurt to claw his eyes out of his skull so he never has to see an angel pushing dick-first into his brother again. He doesn't think that's too much to ask of the world, really.
Honestly, it's something everyone else on the planet takes pretty much for granted, not having to see their siblings engaged in angel porn.
Sam re-reads the last paragraph on the hunting habits of Black Dogs again and attempts to ignore the sounds coming from the next room.
It's ten minutes later when the rhythmic noises coming through the wall make him want to beat his head against the desk.
He wonders how many years the Crossroads Demon would give him in exchange for a total lack of knowledge of Dean's sex life.
"So, you love him."
"... You're such a girl."
"We're fuckbuddies. And seriously. Testicles. Grow some."
"It's sex, Sammy. You should try it sometime."
"You're such a jerk."
"You were snuggling, Dean. Since when do you snuggle?"
"I do NOT snuggle."
"Dude. I have photos."
"...You're so dead."
"Don't make me send them to Jo."
"What? Put that phone away! I was sleeping! It's not snuggling; it's warmth!"
"Yeah, except that you don't sleep with people, Dean."
"Dude, you're always bitching about me sleeping with people."
"No, you ’sleep’ with a lot of people, you just never actually sleep with them."
"Oh my god, Sam. Just drop it already. We have sex. Lots of it. It doesn't mean we're going to get married or make googly eyes at each other or anything except that we have sex. End of discussion."
When Dean was fourteen they'd spent a hot lazy summer in a small town in Alabama, where time had moved at treacle pace and the girls still wore dresses with lace and tied their hair with pastel ribbons.
He hadn't ever really fit in there—he never did—with the holes in the knees of his jeans and the ripped and patched t-shirts and the way he never-not-ever went to Church on the Lord's Day and didn't show the proper respect to anyone.
And he'd talked Charity Hart—who wore white knee socks and her bright blonde hair in long, long pigtails tied off with pink ribbon, and whose Daddy was a pastor—into skipping Sunday school (just this once). They'd sat on the fence of one of Parkman's fields eating stolen ice cream until the pony in the next field used their seat as a scratching post and they both fell off, lying hidden among the gold of the drying grasses. And when her giggling died down he'd noticed the way her pastel pink dress with it's lace trim was all rucked up halfway up her thigh, and there was dirt on her knee-socks and face and really the only thing he could do was sit up a bit and pull her in by the pigtails to kiss her while she laughed at him breathlessly and called him boy. She'd tasted like bubblegum and smelled like crushed grass and flowers, and it had been clumsy kisses and giggles and laughter until her Daddy descended on them, full of righteous God-fuelled anger, and Dean had woken up hard for weeks after...
And the thing was, the thing was... was that kissing Castiel was kinda like that, even though it was utterly different. There was the same odd but not-unpleasant flip-flop any which way in his gut, and the way he couldn't stop grinning like an idiot against the angel's lips, and—oh Christ, where the fuck did he learn that tongue thing? —the taste was enough to make his head spin, fresh and sweet and edged with a tang of ozone all at once. But there were other flavours there as well; apple pie and honey and—yes, there, right there—the shadow of a memory, the barest hint of bubblegum.
Dean's fingers tighten around the knot in the angel's tie as Cas draws back, a futile attempt to hold him right there because once this stops he’s going to have to start thinking again, and that never leads to anywhere as good as making out does. But Cas only draws back far enough to rest his forehead against Dean's, eyes half closed, hands cupping his face.
Dean's other senses start filtering back in. The television's still blaring, and blaring is really the only word that can be applied to the wailing from the pair of contestants on American Duos that had followed Dr Sexy, M.D. The flickering screen and the lamp in the parking lot provide the only light in the otherwise dim room. It throws harsh, changing shadows across Cas' profile as he's lying under Dean on the couch, and it seems like he shifts with the light, looks like he's about to get his smite on one moment then oddly vulnerable the next. He’s fucking beautiful.
Dean’s train of thought is interrupted by the hot slide of hands up his thighs, fingers dipping into the back of his waist band to tug his shirt free, and it's gasp-shiver-moan as feather light touches dance across his sides and abdomen, making his skin shiver and twitch before hands slide upward, taking his shirt with them until he pulls it over his head because Castiel has never been overly patient when it comes to clothing.
It's the press of mouths again, harder and more urgent than the lazy, explorative making out of before, teeth sneaking in to scrape across his bottom lip and steal away coherent thought, leaving nothing but now and Cas and touch as blunt nails scrape down his back. He drags Cas up and forward by his tie until he can shove off the trench coat and jacket, letting them pool on the couch beneath them, because he needs skin now and he's fumbling at buttons while Cas sucks at his neck and grips Dean's hips tightly where he's straddling the angel. It's pressing forward and a combo of gasp-press-bite-grind that send his thoughts in a tail-spin of love-lust-eyes-OH GOD and smooth, smooth skin under his fingers as he presses forward, sucking at Cas's collarbone while he works at his belt and fuck grinding should not be having this kind of effect.
Cas is silent under him, is always silent and intense, and it doesn't do anything but ramp everything up, throw everything into sharp relief and a strange compelling intensity that could drive him completely insane. There's the slightest of warnings, the light trail of fingers over his bicep, before fingertips dance over the mark on his shoulder and pure fucking sensation consumes everything as it recognises the Grace of it's maker, celebrating the reunion along every nerve in his body in a strange combination of divine pleasure and pain that all adds up to this brief moment of ecstasy before the fingers dance onward, sliding along his collarbone as Dean pants, closing his eyes and concentrating on things like baseball and Uriel as he holds up a hand, whether in surrender or acknowledgement he can't tell, but there's a near silent, amused huff of air, and the angel's hands fall to rest on his thighs, hooking just behind the crook of his knee as Dean opens his eyes again, hands resting flat on Cas' chest as his gaze sweeps the room, skidding over shadowed forms until it lands on the pie plate sitting on the coffee table. It's empty, mostly, because seriously, pie does not survive long in his vicinity, but there's some filling left on Cas' plate and it's giving him ideas.
The plate's just in his reach, the berry juice wet and sticky on his fingers as he pulls it closer. He holds the plate over Cas' chest for a moment as he grins down at the angel, waiting until there's a faint crinkle of amusement at the corner of the angel’s eyes and the slightest upturn to his lips before Dean tilts the plate, letting juice dribble across Cas’ chest. Dean reaches blindly to the side, hears the plate clatter onto the table. The dark red juice looks almost like blood against Cas’ pale skin as Dean leans forward, fingers smearing it around in random patterns and following it with his tongue, moaning and bucking his hips as the change in position puts new pressure on his dick. Cas seizes the opportunity to slide his hands down the back of Dean's jeans, slipping fingers beneath the waistband of his underwear as Dean's tongue slides over his nipple, scrapes it with his teeth as Cas' hands slide up, running smooth over his back until he's holding Dean in place and grinding up against him as Dean licks up the last of the filling, sweet and sticky on his tongue. Dean gasps and presses back, growling in the back of his throat as he mentally curses the fact that they're both still wearing pants because that should be fucking illegal.
He's reaching for the plate again, because God the only thing in the world that could possibly make pie better is eating it off of Cas while getting a fucking hand job. But Dean’s not exactly looking at what he’s doing and his hand hits something too-soft and fabric-rough, nowhere near the table, and before he can blink he's sprawled across Cas' discarded clothing and the angel is standing in the flickering light, his pants riding low on his hips to reveal the smallest flash of orange briefs, holding a sword he may as well have pulled out of his ass for all Dean knows. He's pretty sure he knows exactly what expression the angel's wearing—the one that says I will lay you to waste if you do not immediately fuck the hell off—but that's not going to work because he's pretty sure—shit—Zacha-fucking-riah is probably immune to any waste-laying Castiel may still be capable of.
"Don't let us interrupt you boys. We'll wait."
"Listen, you sanctimonious pricks—"
"Leave. Now. I will not ask again."
Zachariah laughs, gives that holier-than-thou bastard offspring of a smirk and a chuckle that makes Dean want to scratch his face off, which really, he's all for since he really can't think of anyone he'd have liked less to have been interrupted by other than Zachariah.
"Oh no. We can't do that. But I think you know that, don't you, Castiel? Them's the rules. Can't just let you run around doing whatever you happen to feel like. Too messy."
And fuck if the bastard isn't enjoying this, isn't lapping up his own importance like it's the nectar of the fucking Gods as he sneers at where Dean's shoving himself upright on the couch before Zachariah’s gaze flicks back to Castiel, his expression unchanging. Dean wants to growl a little at that, but he settles for glaring at Zachariah instead because Castiel's worth more than the whole fucking Heavenly Host and no one should be looking at his angel like he's worth less than the mud traipsed in from the street.
"Or maybe that should be whoever you feel like. Honestly, Castiel, you choose a stinking, insignificant mud crawler over your family?"
"No." Castiel's voice is harsh, hard and dangerous and edged in iron and flame. It’s that totally badass tone that had shivered down Dean's spine and pinned him in place with its absolute, unwavering certainty back in the barn and in Bobby's kitchen after the witnesses had risen. "I choose Right, I choose our Father's orders and I choose this world that He created and told us to watch over. And you—" and he's right up in Zachariah's face, crowding into his personal space until the other angel actually takes a step back as Castiel hisses at him, "are dangerously close to blasphemy."
Dean's trying to work his jaw, to push some form of sound out his mouth, because one of the nameless dick-with-wings that arrived with Zachariah is sneaking up behind Castiel. The flickering light is glinting off one of those shining, deadly perfect angel-killing swords, but Dean’s throat is too tight and his muscles seem to have seized up in some form of panic. There's something whispering below the surface, and he knows that he'll watch, he won't look away because Cas deserves that, deserves for someone to be there and care, and if it costs Dean his sight, well, fuck it sideways with a rusty spoon, because if he can't make his mouth work now then he deserves it for not warning him, for not saving him, for—
Dean's eyes don't even register the movement as Castiel spins around and puts his sword neatly through the approaching mook's throat right before Dean's eyelids slam shut from pure survival instinct, and in the brilliant redness behind his eyelids and in the darkness that follows, Castiel's next words play on repeat, echoing and bouncing around his skull.
"And I choose Dean Winchester."
It's half a snarl, and there's a kind of strangled "Oof" and a crash behind Dean, followed by another flare of blinding light that makes him bury his face against the crook of his arm. Which is kind of a pity, because from what he can piece together afterwards Castiel had taken the sword from nameless-dick-with-wings #1 and thrown it with a kind of scary accuracy at nameless-dick-with-wings #2, which must have looked insanely frigging awesome, really. Dean’s throat's unlocked at least, the tightness had vanished with the flare of light as the second mook died, and when Dean looks down he finds himself covered with a feather pattern in ash where one of the mook's wings had apparently been lying over him.
He looks up, gets a tight nod from Castiel that eases some shivering knot of worry deep inside him, and breathes out. But there's pure fury in his angel's eyes as he turns back towards Zachariah, who'd apparently taken the opportunity to move towards the other side of the room.
"You. You would send malakhim against me? You would send malakhim against a seraph? And you do not see the cankerous rot that eats at the Host of Heaven when a hashmallim sends malakhim with barely a millennia under their wings to their deaths against a seraph? Ormaga eranda zevatai amorigai!" Dean may not know Enochian—Hell, he's not even sure that is Enochian—but he is one-hundred-percent certain that Castiel just swore. He's rather proud of him. "Their deaths gained you nothing, and could never have hoped to—"
Zachariah takes an unconscious half-step backward as his brother advances on him before he catches himself and stills back into his usual smugness.
Dean's insides choose that moment to spontaneously combust with pain, which is just freaking delightfull really, and he misses the next part of the conversation in favour of half choking on, half coughing up, blood. It’s thick and nearly black against his fingers in the dim light as he stares at it for a moment. He can see Cas past his fingers, out of focus in the distance, staring at him. He grabs at that life line, holding the angel's gaze as his insides spasm again, and he's back to hacking up blood as Zachariah's voice seems far too loud against the sudden tightness of his head.
"So how about it, Castiel? You come with me, nice and quiet, or lover boy over there dies of stomach cancer."
Dean responds to this by coughing more blood into his hand and swearing viciously to himself that as soon as he gets out of here he's going to learn how to spit accurately, because if he's ever coughing up blood again (and the odds seem pretty good that if he survives this he will), he wants the pleasure of lobbing it into Zachariah's smug fucking face.
Cas is fast, too fast for Dean's eyes to register anything but a strange blur, and apparently faster than Zachariah. Because when he stops moving, he's got one hand fisted in Zachariah's shirt and is holding the tip of the knife against Zachariah’s throat with the other and practically snarling in the other angel’s face.
"I suggest you listen to me carefully, Assbutt, because I will not repeat this offer. You will put Dean back together and then you will go. I do not wish to kill another brother, but do not mistake me; I will do so if you force my hand."
There's a tense moment where the two just sort of glare at each other before something apparently happens, because Zachariah jerks back a little and Dean's insides stop trying to kill him. By the time he looks up from collapsing against the floor in relief at the sudden cessation of pain, Zachariah is gone and Cas is bending over him in apparent concern. Dean manages a weak smile, tongue running over the blood drying on his lower lip.
"Assbutt, Cas? Really?"
A huff of amusement, and the angel offers him a hand up.
"It is more impressive in Enochian."
Chapter 4: Burning The Days - Part III
Chapter by CharcoalWarden
It's Sam who sees it first.
There's nothing during the day to foreshadow the grim news of the evening, nothing to warn them or give them that itch at the back of their necks that usually precedes yet another delivery of bad news into their lives. No sign that they're teetering on the brink of anything.
It's a simple, quiet day, a brief break between hunts as they scour through the newspapers for another lead, for anything that jumps out and shouts Pick me! I'm a supernatural terror in need of a good asskicking! They even have time for a quiet lunch in the park —"Oh my God, Sam. What is this? I said food, not rabbit feed. You can't expect him to eat this! Here, Cas, you can share with me. Christ, Sammy, starve your own angel." —before they kill the afternoon at some classic horror marathon the local theatre is showing—"Dean, why do these people believe that a piece of wood could be used to destroy a vampire? I do not understand why no one is objecting to the inaccuracy." —and finally check into their motel for the evening.
It's Sam who sees it first, because it's Sam who switches on the news while Dean attempts to explain fifty years of urban myths and legends of the big screen to Cas with the aid of Sam's laptop and YouTube.
"—the Angel murders of last year. The recent re-emergence of the killer in Phoenix has provided new evidence, and the FBI is now prepared to release additional information about the suspects we are looking for."
The screen cuts away from the pretty blonde agent giving the press conference to a split screen showing a pair of photos. Sam drops the remote, because that's him and Dean and the mug shots from when they got arrested in Baltimore.
The crash of the remote against the tiles seems abnormally loud, and by the time Sam's brain kicks back into gear, Dean is already beside him, staring at the screen, the wonders of YouTube forgotten.
"—vise that they are to be considered armed and highly dangerous. The public is warned not to approach the suspects and to report any sightings immediately to your local law enforcement agency.
"The suspects are also believed to be travelling with Jimmy Novak—" A picture of Jimmy flashes up on the screen, all smiles and heart-warming family man "-who vanished from his home in Pontiac, Illinois in late 2008. At this point, the FBI considers him a victim, and not a suspect.
"The suspects were last known to be driving a black Chevy Impala with Ohio plates. If you have any information regarding the case or the possible location of Sam and Dean Winchester, please contact your local branch of law enforcement or dial the tip line at the bottom of your screen. Thank you."
"Agent Jareau, could you explain what—"
The press release dissolves into a mass of questions that range from the inane to the uncomfortably close to home until Dean steps on the remote, changes the channel, and the TV is still showing the press conference. Some panicked channel surfing later, they've discovered it’s playing on most of the public channels not dedicated to kid shows. It’s even playing on most of the corporate news channels.
They are so seriously fucked.
The cops show up an hour after Dean and Cas return from hiding the Impala, a bright ring of flashing blue and red lights, loud megaphones and empty promises that turn to threats when none of the shapes behind the thin curtain come out.
Half an hour later, they ram through the door, weapons out and fingers itching over triggers as they burst in, looking for targets that just aren't there anymore.
Confused, uncertain and more than a little lost, the police tear the room apart. They find nothing except a switchblade, apparently left behind in the rush to evacuate.
What they can not find is any indication as to how the suspects got out of the room without using the door or windows.
They hide at Bobby's, of course, and the first thing Dean does on arrival, before "Hello" or "We're running from the cops again," is stride across the room to bunch a fist in the plaid shirt the older Hunter is wearing and say, very firmly and very urgently, "You've got to go get her, Bobby. You can't let them have my baby."
It takes Sam pointing out that the trunk is full of a small arsenal of evidence before Bobby agrees that this probably shouldn't wait until morning and lets Cas zap him back to Oceanside, leaving Sam and Dean to argue over who gets the spare bed.
It's midafternoon and the too-hot sun is just slipping past the point where it shines directly into Bobby's spare room when Dean and Cas reappear after another round of cop baiting. It's not exactly a difficult task—show up, let some fairly good witnesses and/or cops get a look at them, wait until they know they've been seen and then find somewhere out of sight to vanish again—but it is stressful. Over the last few days, and the next week or so, they plan to lead the authorities on a merry chase down along the west coast towards the Mexican border.
It's driving the cops mad so far, the way Dean and Cas and sometimes Sam round a corner and vanish or disappear from what should, by all rights, be a dead end. But it seems to be working, the attention of the FBI and the police all focused on the wrong part of the country while Team Free Will hides out in South Dakota. Their faces may not be all over the networks nationwide anymore, but they still crop up on the occasional news report and they're recognizable enough that keeping their heads down until the whole thing blows over is probably the best plan.
It's strangely domestic here, with nothing to do and nothing they can deal with immediately. Cas vanishes sometimes in the mornings, never for more than a few hours at a time, and returns smelling of sun and sand as he hunts through the ruins of ancient civilizations for any insight into the mess that Heaven has become. Sometimes he returns holding books so old the pages crumble to dust if not handled with the utmost care, and Sam's eyes go wide with nerdish longing. But they're never in any language he knows.
They're still standing where they landed, close enough that Dean can feel the breath on his face when Cas exhales, and in the bright sunlight his eyes are ridiculously blue. Dean's tongue dips out, trails along his bottom lip without his noticing. The angel's gaze drops to follow it before his eyes drift closed, and he just sort of leans. It’s right at the time when Dean's stomach decides to remind him—loudly—that he'd not only missed lunch, but that they spent far too long running around Southern California and Dean’s stomach would like food, now, you jerk.
There's an amused huff of air against his lips before Castiel's fingers curl around his neck, his thumb stroking gently at the nape of Dean's neck as his mouth presses against Dean's lightly. It's not teasing, not a kiss designed to go anywhere; it's a kiss for the sake of a kiss, and it's soft and gentle and sweet in a way that they never are. It brings to mind kisses trailed, worshipful, under a different sky. Dean thinks maybe, maybe there's a question in there somewhere. But before he can start to figure out what it might be, Cas steps back.
There's a smile tugging at Dean's lips. It’s a little strange, but it's there, and he can see the start of one forming in Cas' eyes—his smile always starts there, full seconds before it ever considers moving to his mouth. Dean's fingers reach out, pluck at the lapels of the angel's trench coat and jacket, and Dean watches as Castiel's gaze tracks the movement until he looks up again with his forehead creased and his head tilted in confusion.
"You should lose the coats, Cas. I get hot just looking at you."
It's the wrong thing to say. But it's all he knows.
It takes about forty minutes for Dean to make himself a fairly epic toasted sandwich out of the leftover sausages from the night before and consume it. Sam makes this face like there's some way bread, sausages, cheese, onions and relish could possibly be considered anything other than delicious.
He hovers around downstairs, fussing over little things and driving Sam half to distraction until his No, seriously, stop it Dean bitchface turns into his I think we should talk about your relationship, Dean understanding face. At which point Dean retreats back upstairs because awkwardness with Cas is usually pretty fleeting and possibly ends in sex, whereas Sam's understanding face ends in attempts at chick flick moments.
He pauses in the doorway of the spare bedroom, leaning against the frame for a moment to enjoy the view. Whether it's because Cas usually ends up doing whatever Dean asks anyway (and seriously? Dean sometimes has minor freak outs in the bathroom over the things he thinks Cas might agree to if he asked), or because he just doesn't realise they were having a moment that Dean stomped on, his trench coat and jacket are folded neatly over the footboard. He's sitting stiffly at the head of the bed, legs ruler-straight in front of him, reading one of his age-worn books.
Dean knows. Dean knows that if he takes Cas' book, puts it to the side and crawls up his body, licks his way up to and into Cas’ mouth and scrapes his fingernails down Cas’ sides, that the angel will go from stiff as iron to loose and pliable, all warm and giving and boneless. Dean knows that if he bites at Cas’ jaw, scrapes his teeth across stubble and pulls at Cas’ hair, he'll very suddenly be pinned to the bed and staring up into intense eyes, pupils blown wide and partially wild. Dean knows that if he goes slower—slower, never slow, not them—if he goes slower and sucks at Cas' fingers, swirls his tongue around them and looks up at Cas through his lashes, Dean will end up riding him hard and fast and hot later, with Cas' fingers driving him half to madness. Dean knows.
What he doesn’t know is why he's not putting any of that knowledge to use at this moment. Why he's hesitating, why he's just standing here and watching. There's something niggling at the back of his mind, something just out of reach, darting away whenever he grabs for it. Then Cas frowns, staring intensely, irritated at something on the page, and Dean hears an echo, weeks old.
And I choose Dean Winchester.
I choose Dean Winchester.
I choose Dean Winchester.
"What did you mean?" It just sort of... blurts out without checking with his brain. Or maybe it did check in and just didn't hear the response, because he's still got And I choose Dean Winchester echoing from one side of his skull to the other.
It takes a moment to register that Cas is staring at him, that brow furrow and head tilt combo that's familiar to him from all the way back at the barn. His book is closed and lying on the bed beside him.
"Err… y'know. Back when Zachariah... and you said..." He trails off as his brain catches up with his mouth, because Christ there is no way he can ask that without spontaneously growing a vagina and devolving back into a teenager. Two sets of puberty awkwardness was quite enough for any lifetime, thanks all the same.
It's just that suddenly Cas is right there, right in his space and crowding him back against the door frame, and it's not like Dean ever really forgets how fast Cas can move, or how strong he is, it's just that... well. He kinda forgets that Cas can use that against him, too, and not just against whatever the monster of the week is. And Cas is doing his intense attempting-to-puzzle-out-the-strange-inner-workings-of-Dean-Winchester face that usually ends in Dean hearing some overly deep Hallmark truth about himself that he'd really rather just carry on without knowing.
"Christ, Cas. Don't make me say it."
The furrow in the angel's brow deepens.
"I do not understand what you are asking, Dean."
"You said you chose me." It's muttered softly, quietly enough that if Cas had been human, he'd probably have missed it. Dean's gaze really, really wants to be focused on something, anything, other than Cas' eyes—the toe of his boot, for instance, suddenly seems like it would be completely fascinating—but dropping the angel's stare has never been easy.
"Yes." Castiel pauses. "I did."
There's another long moment of silence and staring and silence before Castiel suddenly gives one of those breathy snorts of half-laughter of his.
"Dean. I am Fallen, I rebelled and I can never go back. I killed two of my brothers and I will be hunted for the rest of my existence. As long as my Grace burns – as long as Heaven can sense it – they will never stop. And I did it, all of it, for you." The angel is getting more and more intense, and more and more into Dean's personal space, with every overly emphasised syllable. "I gave everything because of my faith in you. I would have thought my choice was obvious."
"Oh," says Dean, because his mind is blank and reeling and Cas is right there, so close that there's only millimetres between the tips of their noses. He vaguely hears himself say, "I need to piss," before he beats a retreat to the bathroom for some quiet freaking out.
Sam, having failed at his original attempts to meddle due entirely to the fact that his brother was a jerk with the emotional range of a teaspoon of mud, had retreated, regrouped and come up with a new plan.
It was a good plan, he'd be the first to admit. (Though he thinks he might possibly disagree with that assessment if he were sober.) There wasn't much to it. The plan was simple and straightforward and went straight to the other, hopefully less emotionally-stunted, source of the problem.
And since said other source always looked as though he was fighting some deep seated instinct to smite Sam on general principle, initiating said plan in a public place seemed like an excellent idea.
Dean's vanished from the booth they've claimed in a bar three miles from Bobby’s house by the time Sam makes it back with drinks, so Sam pushes the beer over to the angel instead. He figures that numbing the edges of the Smite-Things-Now part of Cas’ brain can only lead to good things. If alcohol even affects angels. Castiel appears to completely fail to notice the existence of either the beer or Sam, but Sam is pretty certain he'll find his brother tethered to the other end of the angel's gaze.
He's not wrong, though he may have to reconsider his "teaspoon of mud" emotional range as overly optimistic because Dean's half sprawled over the bar, grinning ridiculously at a blonde woman who's half falling out of her top, and that's just... Sam's not even sure what that is, but the light above the booth is flickering and flaring irritably and throwing harsh edged shadows across the wall, and Sam ends up just sort of blurting out, "Dude, he is such a jerk," which is all very well and totally true, but possibly not the best thing to say to Dean-Is-So-Awesomely-Awesome-We-Should-Form-A-Fan-Club Castiel.
Still, he doesn't get smited, but does find himself, very suddenly, the focus of some rather intense angelic consideration. There's a furrow in Castiel's brow, and a sorta pouty thing going on with his lips, and in the flickering intensity of the light it's fucking scary, and Sam has about five seconds to think shit, shit, shit, shit before he's interrupted by just about the last thing he ever expected.
"You are a dog of the female persuasion." It's about the only time that Sam's ever heard Castiel sound anything less than 1000 percent certain about something. And then the angel actually hesitates briefly before continuing, "I believe that is the correct response."
And Sam can't help it, he can't. He's startled into laughing. And okay, maybe he snorted a bit of drink out his nose, but the entire situation's just too ludicrous and his sides are aching. Several people are looking at him oddly, and the angel is sitting there giving him a look of polite perplexion which only makes Sam laugh harder. And yes, maybe it's starting to sound a little hysterical, but hey, there's been a lot of tension and bad fu lately, so, really, it was about time.
"It was incorrect?"
And seriously? If Sam had any air left in his lungs at all, he'd be off again, but since he doesn’t he just holds up a hand in surrender and concentrates on breathing for a moment. By the time he's regained enough composure to risk looking up from the table top, Castiel's gaze is starting to drift back towards Dean and the blonde, though it quickly refocuses on Sam when he moves.
And because Sam lost track of his plan somewhere back around the point he'd spotted Dean, he throws the rest of its tattered remains aside and just kind of dives right into the deep end.
"Seriously, you should go talk to him."
Head tilt. Stare. Faint brow furrow. Sam can’t tell whether it means remove your nose from my business before I smite you, you abomination against the Lord or I do not understand what you are suggesting, but I'm sure it's wrong, Abomination. (And okay, maybe Sam’s still a little hung up on the whole almost kick-started the Apocalypse thing, but seriously. He almost kick-started the Apocalypse.) But he kind of thinks Dean's behaviour might kinda be his fault, some over-reaction to the badgering Sam’s been doing whenever they’re alone, so he just kinda forges onwards with the bit between his teeth.
"He's just... He's not... He really sucks at this whole relationship thing. And he's kind of a dick." Which is really probably not the most effective course to be taking, really, but his brain has apparently been banned from participating in this whole conversation. "I mean, he hasn't had a lot of practice. So you should just tell him. Because otherwise, he's never going to get it."
The unimpressed glare he gets in exchange for this effort is worrying, because Sam had really hoped that if he were ever to be righteously smited, it would be for one of the myriad things he actually deserves it for, and not because his brother is a cheating asshole.
"Sam." Castiel's tone is short and clipped, impatient with him or Dean or just the situation as a whole, Sam's not really certain. But he's pissed about something. "Your brother and I are in a relationship based primarily on a mutual wish to satisfy various sexual desires. He is perfectly within his rights to approach other people with expressions of sexual intent, and to act on that interest should it prove to be mutual."
Which would really have been a lot more convincing if Castiel didn't sound like he was a few more "interests" away from strangling Dean. Or Sam. Or random people who happened to pass by and look at him oddly. Or if all the light bulbs in the bar hadn't chosen that moment to explode, showering everyone in brilliant sparks.
Or if Castiel and his brother hadn't spent the last year and however long it had been making eyes at each other whenever they were within a hundred yards.
By the time people have stopped screaming and Sam's vision has cleared from the sudden explosion of light, the angel has vanished and Dean is gripping his shoulder and giving him a very unsubtle once over. It takes a moment, but he apparently comes to the conclusion that there's nothing even remotely worrying to fuss over and his eyes flick to the other side of the booth. And apparently Sam's very existence is enough to irritate people tonight, because now Dean is scowling at him.
"Oh my God, Dean. Seriously?" Because seriously? "You thought he was just going to sit here and watch you tongue fuck some girl?"
The look on Dean's face suggests that, yeah, actually, he probably had thought that. If he'd thought about it at all, instead of just assuming.
"God. You are such an asshole."
Chapter 5: Burning The Days - Part IV
Chapter by CharcoalWarden
Hello, you have reached the voicemail of I don't understand, why do you want me to say my name?
Hey Cas, I've got some whipped cream and that strange ass berry body butter you like. Room 23, Unicorn Motel in Deerfield.
Hey man, still got the body butter. But I think the cream's probably turned into something gross by now. We're still in Deerfield, so just... check your messages or whatever.
God, you're such a freak, Cas. Fix that message, why don'tcha? Anyway, look, we're in room 7 at the Sunshine Motel in Riverview. Sam's on watchdog duty tonight—maybe got a rougarou on our hands—but, anyway, it means I've got the room to myself. Stop by if you get this.
Look, Cas, is everything ok? Dean's freaking out. I mean, he's denying it, but he almost shot himself in the foot this morning because he forgot to put the safety on. Just… you're ok, right?
Dammit Cas! Where the hell are you?
God, Cas, are you alright? Look, Sam says maybe you're pissed at me, but... Christ. Cas. Look, just let me know you're alive, alright? I keep thinking Zachariah and his douche bags got you. Just...just call me, ok?
Cas, where're you? The—there'sh a great party going on. I—God, Cas. You should b' here. 'sno fun, other—otherwise. I know I screwed up Cas, shouldn'ta… shouldn'ta made you, it wasn't good, Cas. But, but Imissyou and I don't—just, just oh God, Cas. I— [indecipherable mumbling] —and—and pleasedon'tleaveme. Pleashe Cas. 'mma Jerk and I'm sorry, okay? So jusht... just come back. Please? I just—
Look, I'm not really sure what I said last night, Cas. I was pretty wasted, but my phone tells me I spent half an hour talking to your voicemail, so you should probably just ignore that, okay? But... look, call, all right? Stop being a jerkwad and let us fucking know if you're alive or not.
"You have reached the voicemail of I don't understand, why do you—"
"You have reached the voicemail of—"
"You have reached the—"
There's a clatter, a crash, and a burbled, jumpy version of Back in Black that trails off sadly as the cell phone hits the wall and protests.
Dean's going to have to think up some excuse other than my angel's not returning my calls and I kinda think that maybe something happened to him or I'm a huge jerk and he decided he could do better when Sam realizes his phone’s smashed to bits, because that sounds girly enough in his own head and if he ever tells Sam that they'll probably end up braiding each others hair and watching Sleepless in Seattle in their pyjamas.
Sam knows anyway. But he just sighs and goes out to buy a replacement.
Sometimes Dean really, really fucking loves his brother.
The hill is too quiet on his own. The quiet is too pressing. The dim light of the stars leaves overly long, overly dark shadows, and the noise of his breathing is too loud. Dean's not sure what he's doing here, how he broke through the usual pattern of nightmares into this... whatever this is. Stock image dreamscape.
One minute Dean's standing at the top of the hill alone, and the next there's a susurrus (and Christ, he's been hanging around Sam too much recently if he actually just thought the word susurrus) of rustling grass and Castiel is standing a few feet away.
"Where the fuck have you been, Cas?"
There's a moment where Cas' eyes dart around the landscape nervously, a faint edge of something—worry, irritation... Dean can't pin it down—to his tone.
"It is not of import."
"Not of import? Not of..." Dean stops, hand covering his mouth before it slides down and his eyes roll, because only Cas. "You listen to me, you sanctimonious, feathery sonofabitch. You disappear for almost a month. You don't answer your phone. You give us no sign as to where you are... We thought Zachariah caught you or you were lying in a ditch somewhere. So don't you tell me that it's 'not of import.'"
"I am sure you managed to console yourself adequately with iniquitous bar patrons."
"What the—?" Oh Hell... he can admit he probably deserved that. Still, he hesitates.
Cas is still glaring at him, irritation written in the overly stiff set of his shoulders.
"I don't have time for this now Dean." And there go his eyes again, flicking warily between the shadows. "I need to know where you are."
Dean frowns at one of the nearby shadows in confusion, but the air of urgency is starting to communicate itself to him. "Yeah... ok, whatever. We're stay—"
"Not here. It's not safe."
Oh, great. One day, Dean really hopes the inside of his head will be considered secure enough that they can have one of these conversations without passing notes like they're in junior high.
"Send your address to this number. Don't use your own phone. And don't change your location. I'll be there as soon as I can manage."
Dean nods, a trifle bemused, before Cas' head jerks up.
"I have to go. They're coming."
His fingers press against Dean's forehead and the dream dissolves.
It's mid afternoon, three days later, when a wind springs up out of nowhere, ruffling the pages of Sam's book, and Cas appears, soaking wet and dripping all over the floor. There's a half-healed cut across his nose, and the water dribbling down from his hair is tinged with red.
He looks... worn. And a little pathetic with his hair straggling across his forehead and plastered against his skull while his clothes and skin drip water onto the carpet. Sam opens his mouth to say something, then decides better of it and settles for a "Hey Cas."
"Hello Sam." There's a slight pause. "Your brother is not here."
"Uh, no." That probably needs some extrapolation. "He went to get food and talk to a witness. He might be a while."
Cas huffs in apparent annoyance at that, stalks across the room towards the table while his shoes make squish-squish noises with every step.
"I could call him? I mean, I think he'd want to know. That you're back." Sam rescues his laptop from the table and impending dripping to the safety of his bed. "You are back, right?"
Cas drops a largish, flat piece of engraved metal on the table. "Yes." And whether that's to calling Dean or his being back, Sam's not sure, but he decides to take it as both. Calling Dean, however, turns out to be a no-go, because as soon as Sam hits dial he can hear Dean's phone buzzing on the bedside table.
Cas ignores it, pulls more stuff out of his pockets—a sealed clay jug of something that looks ancient, which he places down gently, out of one, and a small, vicious looking knife from the other. The blade gleams with the same not-quite-silver of an angel's sword, but it makes Sam uncomfortable for some reason he can't put his finger on. There're symbols on the blade, strange ones he's never seen before, and they seem to shift restlessly under his gaze as though they object to the study.
"I need this," the angel taps the metal plate with the hilt of the knife, breaking Sam free of the mildly hypnotic effect of the blade, "carved on my back."
Sam stares at him for a moment, because he can not be suggesting what Sam thinks he is.
Cas stares back, impassive.
"Wha… No... Why?"
"It will bind my Grace into my vessel." He doesn't seem entirely thrilled at the thought. "It should hide me from Heaven."
"Can't you just..." Sam waves his hand above his chest in an attempt to indicate the runes carved into his ribs.
"I do not think it would be wise to carve symbols designed to repel and misdirect angels into my vessel, Sam."
Oh. Well. If he puts it that way.
"You just... you sure about this? I mean, you don't seem very thrilled by the idea. We could keep looking." He hesitates for a moment. "What do you mean, 'bound into your vessel,' anyway?"
"This is what needs to be done. Now."
There's another moment of silence before the angel relents.
"An angel’s Grace, it... bleeds through the vessel. It is... palpable to other angels, able to be sensed at some distance. This,” He taps the metal plate again. “Should lessen the effect and make it harder for my sibling’s to track me.”
He pauses again, looking down at the engraved metal with a small frown until Sam interrupts with a leading “But...?”
"It... I will not be able to vacate this body. It was... It was a form of punishment used on many of those who supported Lucifer in Heaven's war." He stares at the plate for a moment, eyes blank. "An angel cannot enter Heaven while wearing a vessel."
Great, way to put your foot in it, Sam. Really, that was... smooth. He reaches out, hesitating, until he puts an awkward hand on Cas' shoulder, pulls it back like he was burned when the angel stares at it.
Cas’ lips quirk slightly into the faintest of brittle smiles. "I have no intention to returning to Heaven at this point, Sam, nor would it be allowed without my first enduring severe reconditioning. Another thing that this should protect me from. If I can not leave Jimmy’s body, then they can not drag me back."
Cas presses the knife into his hand and begins working his tie loose. There's a small puddle forming under him.
"We do not have time to wait for Dean, Sam."
Dean is so going to kill him for this.
It takes awhile to get set up. Sam's not going near the knife until he has some sort of guide to work with, because it's pretty hard to fix mistakes that are carved into someone's skin, so he digs up an old marker pen from his duffle bag and takes his time copying the symbols over onto Cas' towelled-dry back. He keeps a damp cloth handy, ready to wipe off any mistakes.
It's fairly complicated, a weird mix of what looks like an early form of hieroglyph and more of the strange symbols off the knife. There's a stylized angel at the top, wings spread until they just barely fit within the confines of Cas's shoulders, feet stopping between his shoulder blades. There's a carefully blank area over and around the shoulder blades that Cas explains away with the word wings, and the rest of his back is filled with neat columns of symbols. It takes a few tries to get the spacing right, and a couple more to fill in a particularly difficult bit at the base of Cas’ spine where there's something that looks a lot like one of those angel banishing charms, only with one of the weird hieroglyphs inside instead of Cas’ angel language. The symbol keeps ending up too much like a really wonky oval until Sam gives up and traces around the bottom of a coke can.
As he works, he talks a bit, breaking off now and then at particularly tricky bit.
"So, uh... where were you?"
"How was that? I've always wanted to go there."
Sam drops it for a while, concentrates on getting the lines on the angel’s robe right.
"So, where'd you find the knife? I mean, the symbols on it... I've never seen anything like that."
"Atlantis?" Sam actually drops the marker at that. "I guess... I guess that explains the water then." He sighs. "I suppose if I ask you how that was, you're going to say 'wet' aren't you?"
"That would be a fairly accurate description, yes."
It's only blood.
It's only blood, dribbling down the back of an angel from cuts that glow like embers as he tries to ignore it and focuses on the black lines still to come.
It's only blood.
Doesn't even smell right. Or wrong. Not the way Ruby's had, or any of the others. It shouldn't, anyway. His licks his lower lip and carefully adds another line to the wing.
It's only blood.
Sam breathes through his mouth and tries to ignore the insinuations at the back of his mind, the whispers of how much more angel blood would be, of how much higher it could take him. He knows where those whispers take him, where the reassurances lead.
He bites the inside of his cheek and reminds himself that it's only blood as he re-coats the knife in holy oil. It's only blood.
Dean realises he's forgotten his phone about a third of the way through a fucking amazing piece of pie. It takes a mental back seat because fucking amazing pie. He does, briefly, consider stopping by the motel for it on his way out to Steven Miller's, but he's pretty sure if he sees one more of Sam's smug understanding faces he's going to have to hit him, or himself, or something.
It's not like he's been checking it that much since Cas resurfaced.
So he drives out to the farmhouse and blasts Metallica until it's pounding in his blood. Talking with Steven takes longer than he expected; the guy's basically one step away from hiding under a blanket in a darkened cupboard (possibly in the basement, the guy's verging on a breakdown), and even with some fairly convincing bluff and bluster Dean still barely makes it through the door.
Of course, by the time he talks his way in and then talks Steven down enough to get anything coherent from him, it's dusk and the bloody creeper shows up and it's a banshee of all things. Dean takes a raking strike of claws across his cheek, and the thing's halfway through a shriek that leaves his ears ringing when he snaps its neck and it disintegrates. Not fast enough, apparently, because he's driving back with a killer headache and all he wants to do is get to the motel room and spend the next day with a pillow over his head to muffle all these suddenly too-loud noises that are assaulting his ears.
So when he arrives back at the motel, he shoves the door open with a groan of "It was a fucking Banshee, Sammy. A bansh— WHAT THE HELL?!"
And then he just kinda stares in some combination of horror-shock-anger at the way Cas is straddling a chair backwards with his back covered in black lines and running blood. Cas’ head is hanging and his eyes are closed in something that looks a lot like it may be pain, and Dean waits for Sam to offer some sort of explanation as to why he’s staring at the way blood is running down the blade of some strange knife with his eyes a little crazy and his tongue running over his lips.
Sam sort of stares at him for a moment, opens his mouth to say something, closes it again, and then sort of blurts out, "It's not what it looks like!" in a mild panic, like he knows that answer’s just not going to fly because there are just so many things wrong with this picture that Dean can't even begin to name them.
They sort of stare at each other for a long moment until Cas decides to interject, wincing slightly as he turns his head so he can meet Dean's eyes.
"Dean." Cas waits until Dean's looking at him before he continues, slowly and carefully. "Sam was assisting me in an attempt to hide my Grace. It was imperative that we start immediately, and as you were unreachable, I insisted on his participation."
Which doesn't explain the way Sam was eyeing the blood, but at least gives Dean some sorely needed context to the whole situation.
There's a tense moment where Dean is looking at Cas, and Cas is looking at Dean, and Sam is trying to find anything else in the sparsely decorated room to pretend to be interested in before he apparently just gives up on the whole notion of subtlety and makes some lame-ass excuse about remembering they need more salt and books it for the door.
If this were a movie, or some cheesy romance story, Sam's exit would have been the cue for Dean to sweep across the room and kiss Cas senseless. Of course, if this were a movie, Dean wouldn't be half covered in the ash of disintegrated banshee, wouldn't have scratches down his cheek that were itch-burning and blood on his chin gone cold and tacky. Castiel wouldn't have cuts on his back and a worn, almost frazzled look on his face.
Of course, if this were a movie, there'd be some cheesy Rod Stewart song playing in the background and Dean would have to shoot himself, and possibly Cas, too.
The silence stretches out, long and taut, and Dean thinks he should probably say something, if only he could get some sort of read off the look Cas is giving him. There's nothing but stupid phrases and words that are too uncomfortably true and corny to say fluttering around his head.
He wonders, later, if it's really as long as it seems before Cas huffs and reaches down, picks up the knife Sam had dropped and spins it almost carelessly around a finger before offering it to Dean hilt first.
"I understand that my absence has irritated you, Dean. However, I would appreciate it if you could work while you glare. I am uncertain how long it will take for the Angels to re-orient on my Grace and I would prefer not to find out."
"Irritated? Irritated? Not the word I'd use."
There's another pause, though much shorter this time, stretched long only by something that might be nerves or doubt or expectation.
"The length of my absence was unintentional." Cas' brow crinkles slightly before he continues, and his hair's all mussed, and Dean's always been a sucker for the way his lip goes all pouty just like that. "Howeve- MMPH."
Dean's across the distance in about two fairly decent strides before he can bend forward and slide a hand under Cas' jaw, tilt his head back and up as he leans down to capture Cas’ mouth, pull him into a kiss hard and fast, holds it until Cas' lips relax under his and the angel's free hand curls in his hair to pull him closer.
It lasts a moment, until Cas draws back and moves his hand until he can gently remove Dean's grip from his chin.
"That was..." Cas pauses briefly, frowning slightly as he considers. "...Unexpected."
Dean frowns, because that wasn’t exactly the description he'd been aiming for.
"Unexpected." He echoes flatly. "Gotta tell you man, not quite what I was going for."
"Then perhaps it would be wise to telegraph your intentions more clearly in the future." Cas' tone is flat, as unreadable and unemotional as it was at the beginning as he presses the hilt of the knife gently into Dean’s palm and closes his fingers around it. "It is quite imperative that you finish engraving the sigils on my back, Dean."
The knife is too heavy in his hand as Dean automatically adjusts his grip to find the balance of the blade. He swallows as he looks down at it and at the way Cas' fingers are curled around his, squeezing reassuringly, and he nods.
Dean's about two-thirds done when the nervous mental fidgeting he's been doing since he got back to the motel suddenly hits critical levels and he turns into a complete girl and blurts out, "Sam says you're pissed at me." There's a pause before he hurriedly tacks on, "He's a bitch, though."
Cas turns his head so his cheek's against the covers of the bed until he can look up at Dean from the corner of one eye, brow creased in apparent confusion. "I have no desire to urinate on you Dean, nor any need to do so at all."
"No, pissed at. It's like…" He waves the knife vaguely, in some undecipherable explanation. "Like mad at, angry with."
"Ah." The angel's tone is carefully neutral. "Why would I be... pissed... at you, Dean?"
Dean hesitates for a moment, tensing a little and sitting back with his weight half on his heels and half on the curve of the angel's ass. "I was… I was kind of a jerk. At the bar. I shouldn't have... The girl."
"I see." Another pause before he continues, voice still seriously flat. "I have no reason to be mad about that, Dean. We were in an open relationship. You were perfectly entitled to—"
"Were?" Because, because... were? His legs tighten against the angel, pressing his knees into Cas’ sides possessively as he leans forward and to the side until he can sort of look the angel in the eye. "I know you're new at this whole relationship thing, Cas, but I think you're supposed to tell the other person when you go from 'are' to 'were.'"
The angel's brow furrows slightly as he regards the hunter steadily.
"Dean, while I was… uncomfortable with—"
The hunter scowls, half-irritated, half-possessive, and runs a hand down the smooth skin of Cas' side.
"So what, you just decided to take off instead?" It's a half-growled demand that leaves the angel regarding him with apparent patience and a hint of annoyance in the back of his eyes.
"I did not return because Zachariah—"
Dean talks right over him. "I told you, Cas, I told you I'm not cut out for relationships. You can't just suddenly not be ok with that."
"I was simply saying—"
Dean waves the knife around expansively. "So, what? Now you're giving me a choice? You or them?"
"I was not attempting to imply—"
"I fucking hate ultimatums, Cas."
The angel's voice is definitely starting to sound extremely irritated and a little smitey.
"Dean, I do not recall issuing—"
"Shut up and let me think, Cas."
"I really think you should—"
The angel huffs an irritated sigh as Dean pulls back and returns to tracing out the sigils, effectively shutting him up because they can't risk the movement sending the blade off course. Dean scowls as he works, still running a covetous hand along the angel's side unconsciously.
And ok, it's not like he's really stuck on this decision, really needs to think about it. Fuck, he's been pretty much abstinent since Cas disappeared, not counting some quality shower time and, well…he'll admit that he's not exactly Mr. In-Touch-With-His-Feelings, but there's been such liberal application of the clue-by-four this past month (fuck, he'd been sitting in the dark checking his phone every twenty seconds at one point) that it's managed to work it's way through his thick skull.
It's just that acknowledging that he wants Cas (and not just in the fun, aggressive clothes-tearing way he was used to) in the recesses of his own head and acknowledging it out loud are two very different things. And his tongue doesn't want to cooperate, and his dick has been rubbing against the curve of Cas' ass for the past few hours, which is besides the point but really distracting, and holy shit, that's it, that's the last symbol. There's a brief moment where all the lines flare with molten gold before the angel's back is whole again, the symbols picked out in shining dark lines that look like they've been tattooed until the hunter looks closer and notices the faint sheen of colours moving within them, under the angel's skin.
Cas stretches under him, all loose muscles sliding under smooth skin, liquid and half-feline, before he rolls over to frown up at the hunter, brow crinkling in familiar patterns.
"Dean, I simply meant—"
Dean leans down, covering the angel's mouth with one hand and moving close enough that their noses are almost touching.
"I'll do it, ok? I'll do it, Cas. You and me, right? Fresh start, just us this time, just... let me try, all right?" He's close enough to see the flecks of darker blue in the angel's eyes, the way one of his lashes is heading off in the wrong direction. Dean’s tongue slides out, wetting his lower lip as he takes his hand away from Cas' mouth in a slow drag.
Cas blinks at him, and then snorts. Which… not quite the reaction Dean was looking for. Again.
"Dean, I simply intended to request that you refrain from propositioning other people for sex while in my company." A faint smile tugs at the corner of the angel's lips as Dean makes a muffled oh noise, and he reaches up to cup the hunter's cheek before continuing softly, "However, now that it is apparent that you are... not entirely opposed to a more committed relationship, I find myself... unwilling to settle for less. I want all of you that I can have, Dean. All that you will let me." His thumb traces the curve of Dean's bottom lip, and the hunter nips lightly at it in automatic response. "So, yes, I am more than amenable to a fresh start, Dean. In point of fact, I insist upon it."
Dean stares at him a trace uncomfortably for a long moment, frozen like a deer in the headlights, because what the hell is he supposed to say to that? But that's okay, because Dean’s got the awesome angel who waits patiently for Dean to react for about a minute before frowning up at him and saying, "Dean, I would appreciate it if you would sodomize me now," and pulling him in to an absolutely filthy open mouthed kiss instead of trying to make him chick flick back.
Sam sidles into the motel room the next morning with one hand over his eyes and a double serve of pancakes in a paper bag, because he's both a complete girl and a fucking awesome brother.
Two weeks later they find themselves somewhere in Nebraska, staring out a diner window at a whole lot of nothing.
Or, more accurately, Cas is staring out the window at the scrub grass stretching out to the horizon and Dean is pretending to stare out the window so he can watch the angel from the corner of his eye, because it's not exactly Liberal City around here.
Sam's pretending to be absorbed in looking for a case and smiling smugly at the pair of them over the screen of his laptop until Dean kicks him under the table for being a bitch, and the whole thing devolves into a bout of sibling scuffling that ends with the waitress giving Cas a free piece of chocolate cake and a sympathetic look. Dean bristles at that, glaring at her back until the angel's fingers close reassuringly around his knee and he pushes the cake over with a faint smile.
Dean's fairly vocal enjoyment of the cake is interrupted by Sam's sudden overly loud inhalation and an urgent "Dean." Sam spins the laptop around, revealing an article topped by a photo of a sort-of familiar woman and her kids standing by a definitely familiar tree. Words jump out at Dean from the article: Burned. Police stumped. No signs. Doors and windows locked...
And fuck it to Hell, they'd purified that house. This wasn't supposed to happen. Jenny and her kids, they'd been saved. That… that should be it, the end, they traipse off into the sunset and live happily ever after, not... not get turned into char grill less than a handful of years later.
Sam's already packing up his laptop, shoving it almost carelessly into his satchel, so Dean rifles through his pocket for a few bills, tossing them down and pausing for a last mouthful of cake before grabbing Cas by the wrist to tug him up, putting off the questioning look he gets in return with a muttered promise to fill him in in the car.
The clues and Missouri's senses lead them to an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Lawrence. The place is all but falling to pieces, the roof half-missing and several beams half-fallen, shifting unnervingly from time to time. The whole place is fenced off, covered in warning signs and trespassing notices, and Dean's not sure if he should be more worried about whatever the creeper is or the building collapsing on top of them.
The place is silent around them, nothing but the faint creaking of timbers and the faint scrabble of probably-just-rats. Their footfalls seem overly loud in the quiet, even muffled as they are. No one's speaking, a tense air settling between them, because no one likes going in after something they haven't even identified yet and the darkness outside the beams of their flashlights seems too imposing.
There's a sound and a flash of movement to Dean's right, but the bright flash of eyes and the affronted hiss at the sudden glare of his flashlight is distinctly feline. Castiel's eyes track its movements past the point Dean can follow before he smiles softly. Dean nudges him questioningly, and the angel murmurs a quiet "She has kittens" in response.
"God, don't tell Sam. He'll want to take them home." Cas gives him what Dean thinks might be a wistful look, but it's hard to tell in the dark. Dean sighs, and opens his mouth to say something to cut that train of thought off in its tracks, because he's pretty sure any coordinated strike from Sam and Cas is going to end with a box of scrawny cats stinking up the back seat of his baby and some things are just sacrilege.
"What are you two whispering about?"
Sam's suddenly looming on Cas' other side, a smug smirk on his lips because he's been saying I told you so in various ways since the angel got back.
Castiel's brow furrows and he looks between the two briefly before responding.
"I am not supposed to tell you, Sam."
Which, of course, causes Sam to bitchface epically and flounce off like a spoiled princess. (Dean makes a mental note to buy him one of those toy tiaras – preferably one of the pink feathery ones.)
Which, in turn, means that when a ring of fire springs up, Sam is on the outside, looking back in surprise and shining his flashlight every which way to try to find a source.
Dean's not overly worried, because, sure, Cas may not be as supercharged as he used to be, but he's still pretty much Batman. But when Dean looks over at him the angel is turning slowly in place, regarding the fire in concern.
"This is holy fire." He sounds extremely offended by that.
"So? Just zap us out, Cas."
The angel frowns. "I cannot." There's a brief pause before Cas evidently realises an explanation is expected. "As long as it burns, no angel can cross it and live. I believe it would be... unwise... to attempt to transport you across it."
Sam's stopped just outside the border of the fire, doing his overly-emphatic concerned face quite admirably. A stray corner of Dean's mind wonders if his brow is going to cramp from the strain.
"So it's a trap, then."
"I believe so." There's a pause. "You should leave, now, both of you."
Dean makes a noise of protest, reaching out to grab Cas' shoulder and yanking him around. "Like hell. We're not leaving you, Cas. We don't do that."
The angel just huffs in amusement—which does absolutely nothing for Dean's ego—and raises an eyebrow at him.
"The angels are coming, Dean. There is nothing you or your brother can do, and I will fight better if I do not have to watch over you as well."
Dean glares back, because it's not like he's useless or anything, until Castiel's fingers close under his chin and pull him into a kiss that's hard, fast and completely filthy, and very definitely a going somewhere kiss and not good bye.
"We will continue that later, Dean." It's a murmured promise, shared softly between the two of them and shielded away from Sam. Then Castiel's hands close around Dean’s waist and Cas tosses him lightly over the chest high flames. Dean half-crashes into Sam and they stumble a few steps before his traitor of a brother is half-dragging him along, because Dean's moving, but he keeps glancing back over his shoulder and falling behind.
Castiel stares after the Winchesters until they turn a corner and disappear from sight. It is only then that he returns to a careful analysis of his situation.
There is, unfortunately, very little to analyse.
Castiel has become accustomed to doubt and uncertainty since he Fell, has adjusted to having to make his own decisions and to faith not always being the answer. It is… worrying being in this circle, worrying that he is separated from the Winchesters. From Dean. His vessel's insides tighten uncomfortably at the thought, and he frowns, extending a tendril of Grace to soothe them.
Castiel pulls his wings a little closer around him, away from the flames, and reaches towards the back of his mind.
There's no answer. Castiel sighs, and returns to his lonely vigil until the sound of wings behind him alerts him to an arrival.
"Anna." It is acknowledgement of her arrival rather than any form of civility. "Or are you Anael again?"
"Castiel." Her tone is polite, but her Grace is sharp edged diamond and flame, all the softness torn away. "You should not have come."
Castiel frowns and wonders if her echoing of his phrase is deliberate or relevant. Perhaps. He files it away as he turns to face her, silent among the flames.
"Jenny and her children, they did not deserve that death."
Anna hesitates, briefly. "There is a bigger picture, Castiel. It was necessary."
Castiel regards her for a long moment, distaste curling in his stomach as he absorbs her total rehabilitation into the Host.
"There is no bigger picture. There is no justice in the murder of innocents. You knew that, once. Heaven knew that once."
"I'm so sorry, Castiel."
"You once told me, Anael, that I did not understand that word."
She smiles, and it's all hard edges.
"I once said a lot of things. Most of them were wrong."
Cas regards her levelly, turning in place to follow her path around the fire.
"Your Grace is so pale, Castiel. I can barely see it."
"An inevitable consequence of Falling." He sees little reason to illuminate Anna as to the bindings he has imposed upon his being.
"Let me help you." There's compassion in her tone that's not reflected in the harsh burning of her Grace. "Come home with me, Cas."
"I do not resent where my choices have lead me, Anael. I will not return to that cankerous pit of decay."
Even if accepting were a possibility, even had he not barred himself from ever returning, Castiel would not turn from humanity so easily, would not give up all that he had found here for a corroded Heaven.
"Don't throw yourself away, Castiel. Your options are… limited." There's a sudden flash of silver in her hands, shining brightly in the flickering light.
He frowns at her, head canting slightly as he follows her lead, his sword manifesting with a thought. Loathe as he is to fight a sister, let alone one with whom he has shared so much over the millennia, he has little choice. He cannot – and will not – return to Heaven with her, and he will not allow her to kill him without resisting, without fighting for what is his.
"You are not the only one who is armed, Anael. And you are hashmallim; fighting was never your strength."
The corner of Anna's mouth curls upward, slowly.
"I have learned a few things, Castiel. And you are not what you used to be."
Castiel regards her steadily and shifts his grip on the knife, waiting.
There is only one way this ends.
Dean and Sam stumble out of the warehouse into a waiting circle of police cars, barricades, heavily armoured SWAT, and the business ends of a few dozen guns. They freeze, blinking in the sudden too-bright light of several flood lights, before they book it back into the warehouse.
They don't make it far, only about fifty yards before they're bought down, pinned roughly against the concrete as too-tight handcuffs are pinched shut around their wrists.
Dean fights; Dean always fights. Sam watches Dean struggle against his restraints all the way to the cop car, insults on his lips, until a sudden, silent explosion of brilliant white light rolls out of the warehouse.
Dean goes limp and boneless between his captors, eyes wide and face blank as they shove him roughly into the back of the van after Sam. Dean falls, slides along the rough floor with the force of the push, before the three SWAT agents yank him upright and chain him to one of the seats.
The observation room is small and kind of grimy, lit by fluorescent lights that would be almost too harsh if the plastic covering them wasn't stained and oddly scarred. Part of Reid's brain is chugging away, building a short list of candidates that would cause that type of wear in the back of his mind while he watches the figure on the other side of the glass. Dean Winchester disturbs him. Or, more accurately, Dean Winchester's current behaviour is an anomaly from that predicted by the Behavioural Analysis Unit’s profile, and a deviation from the behaviour shown under similar circumstances when he was held in Baltimore, and that disturbs him.
Reid had extrapolated from the available data that Dean, left alone in an interrogation room and ignored for—his eyes flick to the clock on the wall—three hours and forty-six minutes, would be restless and quite possibly making some sort of fuss. But the man is just sitting there with his forehead resting on his left hand and his elbows planted on the tabletop while he stares at some unidentifiable spot on the worn vinyl. His other hand is cuffed to the bottom of the table on a fairly short chain, and it seems logical to assume it is resting in the man's lap. He looks... worn, and there's an air of what Reid might qualify as grief around him, if Reid didn't know for certain that psychopaths were physically incapable of the emotion.
Reid frowns at the still figure until he notices the shift in Hotch's reflection in the glass. Reid turns his head, and the leader of the BAU team gives him a fairly unreadable look that long familiarity allows Reid to identify as questioning. They're alone in the room at the moment, most of the team and the techies down the hall watching Morgan interrogate Sam Winchester, so Reid allows himself a light touch on the back of the Hotch’s hand.
"He's too quiet."
It's not like they're never quiet, but someone suffering from the combination of mental afflictions preying on the brain of Dean Winchester should not—
Reid frowns and shelves the thought for further perusal as the door on the other side of the glass opens and the observation room fills up in a sudden swirl of activity and noise.
"—Marcy Chan. Alice Hardin. Abdul Greer. Alfred Mills. Nola Grimes. Lyman Wells!" With each name, the agent—Ro-something, Dean wasn't overly stressed with the social niceties of introductions when the guy was trying to pin him with a double handful of murders—slams picture after picture onto the table. They are all fairly similar; the victim fallen on their backs, a round hole in their throat and a huge pair of ashen wings spreading out across the ground in ash behind them. Only the victim ever changed. It's not the first time the older agent has used the images since they’ve been here, but it's the first time he's named them. Dean's been careful not to allow his eyes to rest on the photos of Uriel or the mooks Cas had killed longer than any of the others.
"You didn't even know their names, did you?" The agent slams the heels of his hands against the vinyl surface of the table, leaning forward in a way that would be intimidating, if Dean didn't spend way too much time dealing with creatures that could tear his head off one handed.
Dean shifts slightly in his seat, leaning forward to rest his forearms on the table and giving the agent a not-quite-cocky grin.
"Yeah, that's right. I'm pretty sure I already mentioned I've never seen these people before."
The agent—Roe? Ross? Rossi—leans in closer, dark eyes hard over his lightly salted goatee.
"That's right. I forgot…you're a hero." There's a certain contempt in his tone; a vocal sneer.
Dean stares back at him, silent with one eyebrow quirked until the other man's palms slam into the table again.
"Where's Jimmy Novak?"
Dean snorts, because Cas is dead and he's got no fucking clue why they don't have another Goddamned picture on the table.
"Don't know what you're talking about."
Rossi’s next words are interrupted by a half-hesitant knock on the door that turns out to be the younger agent, the awkward looking one with the boy band hair that makes Sam’s look sensible. Another R, he thought. Reid, maybe. The guy shuffles in a little uncertainly, holding up a file that Dean can just make out the words Novak, Jimmy printed along the edge of, and Rossi frowns for a moment before moving over to speak with the other agent.
They’re huddled in the corner with their backs to Dean, conversing in low tones that only allow a few words to escape to the hunter’s ears.
"His wife said—believed an angel wanted—. With his delusions—could mesh with-"
There’s a moment’s pause where both agents turn to look at him before they turn back to the corner, speaking too softly for Dean to catch even snippets of the remaining conversation.
After a minute, Reid leaves and Rossi turns around, leaning against the table with his hands spread on either side, one palm flat against the vinyl while the other rests on the plain folder the younger agent had bought in.
Dean’s gut clenches, a hard painful knot low in his belly, and he’s got this feeling, this feeling like his lungs are about to be ripped out and leave him gasping for air. He’s sure, dead set, that this man, this agent is going to reach into his folder and pull out a picture of Cas all crumpled on the warehouse floor and he’s not sure he can take that, not sure what he’ll do, how to deal with-
"Where's Castiel, Dean?"
The hunter starts, half out of his seat before the chain on his wrist pulls him back down sharply because that’s not the question, it’s not in the script. It’s unexpected on so many levels that it just shatters the cocky air of smugness he’s been holding around himself. Rossi smiles, cold and smug and strangely feline.
"We've got your DNA at two crime scenes, Dean. We caught you leaving a third. We've got Jimmy Novak's DNA on your body. There's not a jury in the world that wouldn't convict you. You and your brother? You're done. You've lost. You give us Jimmy, you help us get him back to his wife and daughter, and maybe, just maybe, you'll earn enough good will to get life in prison rather than the death sentence."
Dean stares at him for a moment and leans back in his chair, treating Rossi to his best I-am-completely-unimpressed-by-everything-you-just-said look.
The grass is burning.
Dean turns slowly, standing in the centre of a circle of angry flames while the hill burns. It smells like ash and fire and heat, but the air is still frigid and the fire never moves closer, the edges of the ring strangely static for all they flicker.
The fires eventually dance themselves out, leaving the slopes of the hill barren and blackened, a stark contrast to the circle of green at the top.
The hunter half-slides, half-falls to his knees, and when he closes his eyes and reaches out beside him he can almost convince himself that there'll be a too-hot body under his hand if he lowers it, just a little. That he'll be able to trail lazy fingers around mother-of-pearl buttons and fiddle idly with the end of a tie.
He draws his hand back.
There's a faint huff of air against the back of his neck and his eyes fly open as he twists around urgently. But it's just the wind.
He stares upward, pleading, and the stars start falling, constellations disintegrating apart as the golden threads between them burn with star fire and vanish.
The stars don't fall with any speed, don't leave burning trails across the darkness as they plummet earthward. Instead, they drift slowly down, half-fluttering, before suddenly rising again as though caught in an updraft. Their shapes shift as the hunter follows them with his eyes, elongating and softening until the sky is full of shining feathers that blink out, one by one, as they reach the horizon, leaving a lonely pair of stars to reign in lonely splendour.
They flare brightly, size expanding rapidly as they change from cold silver to brilliant blue and then collapse upon themselves, plunging the scene into darkness.
If Dean bends down, he can peer through the gap between his door and the floor and see the door to Sam's cell.
If they look at the same time, sometimes he can see Sammy’s eye.
It's how they spend most of their time. There's nothing else to do, not in these tiny cells.
It turns out that Henriksen's injunction to keep them in maximum security until trial is still in effect, or renewed or some bullshit lawyer jargon that Dean hadn't paid much attention to and Sam had sighed at.
He's not sure how long they've been here. There's no sign to mark the passage of time except the arrival of meals, bought by a silent guard, and the on and off of the harsh, bare fluorescent lights.
Dean sighs and starts trying to remember all the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, because Sam is sleeping and he needs something to distract himself from thinking about Cas.
The lights explode in a fury of sparks, plunging the cell block into utter, ink-black darkness and leaving spots in front of Dean's eyes. And fuck, they are so screwed. He doesn't have any salt, let alone anything that could make even the world’s lamest weapon, and they're going to die, right now, and—
There's a sudden crash, followed by a yelp and a muffled thump across the hall, and Dean is pounding on the door and yelling, "Sam! Sam! Goddamn you, Sammy, answer me!" with terror tying his guts into knots and curling tightly around his lungs.
A hand closes on his shoulder and a rough voice says, "Dean." in a way that makes the bottom of his stomach drop out. And then he's being spun around and there are slightly chapped lips against his in an insistent kiss as the sound of feathers whispers in the background.
They land in brilliant sunlight that leaves Dean blinking as he glances around the quiet tree lined street, half stunned and head still spinning from all the revelations of the last few moments. Sam's not far away, leaning against the back of the Impala as he pulls jeans and a jacket over the bright orange prison jumpsuit. Dean spares him just enough time for a grin before he's shoving Cas back against the door of the Impala, pressing up against him and getting his hands under the bulky trench coat and jacket so he can get them all over Cas as he mashes their mouths together in a kiss that lacks even the thought of finesse. It's desperate and hard and possessive, open mouthed and demanding, half-pornographic in its insistence.
It's the slight burn of stubble and the memory of bubblegum. It's Cas sucking on his tongue and Dean biting at full lips. It's Sam turning away, flushed scarlet, and the dizziness of oxygen loss that seems to last forever. It's half sex and half Mine and all I missed you until there's no choice but to stop or pass out. And even then it's his teeth scraping across a stubbled jaw and panting breaths until there's enough air in his lungs that he can form words again, words that fall from his lips almost unheard in a heady rush.
"God, Cas, how—? I thought you were—I should've known you'd win. You're awesome, y'know? And you're a freaky little nerd angel, but you're my freaky little nerd angel and—and I'm pretty damn sure I love you. I want all of you, Cas, every damn piece of you, even if it makes me blind, or drives me crazy, or kills me. I'll take all of you I can get, anything you'll give me."
Which is pretty much the point where he runs out of breath, his brain catches up and he's suddenly really aware that Sam's like... right there. But Cas is smiling, smiling so wide it's half gum and half crinkles at the corner of his eyes and all happiness, and it just doesn't matter any more.
And then it's Cas leaning in and up to pull him down and kissing him soft and sweet and slow, all gentle exploration and laving of attention, affectionate fingers in his hair and loving caresses to his cheek.
It's Dean passing Sam the keys and sliding into the back seat, reaching out to curl Cas' tie around his fist and draw him in afterwards with a stupid grin on his face, and it's Sam indulgently putting up with the messy make out in the back seat as he guides the Impala along country lanes.
Winchesters don’t get Happily Ever Afters. But it's Happily Ever Now, and maybe that's enough.