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The So Unknown

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Personal disc players, iPods and the like stopped working a long time ago, for various reasons. What wasn’t essential never got fixed or was scrapped down, the parts separated out for use in more important things. Music has been a rare sound for a long time now in Camp Chitaqua, and no one sings much anymore; just Castiel. It’s that which wakes Sam up from an uneasy slumber in Dean’s cabin, the rough, out of tune sound of an angel singing something he can’t quite make out. 

Sam pulls himself from the chair he’d been resting in, and limps his way to the door of the cabin, opening up and listening as Castiel’s voice carries on down the path, “And we won't wake up on Sundays, so I'm building us a church, where we can sleep in with the Gods at work…” He thinks the song might be called “Drop Out” - there’s something about it that he recognizes, and without knowing the original tune he knows this is one that Castiel’s sung before.

Sam puts his weight on the door, catching the words he can make out. “Our friends will write us letters, they'll never understand why we don't call, we're hiding out until the empire falls…” Castiel’s song carries across the air, and in the sunlight Sam thinks - it’s almost like there’s nothing wrong with this world at all. A flock of birds streak across the clear sky, and Sam’s lips curve, and he breathes in, and for an instant it’s almost like the world isn’t falling apart at all.

Castiel’s song ends before too long, and Sam turns, dragging his lame leg back into the cabin to find his cane, and then he eases himself down wooden steps and supports himself as he walks across roughly carved paths and sparse grass to find the angel. He discovers him where he first thought to look; sat in his own cabin, the windows thrown wide open, his eyes shut and his elbows  propping him up. He’s wearing what have become trademark thin cottons, bare feet crossed at the ankles.

“Hey,” Sam says, and Castiel hums acknowledgement. It’s likely that he already knew Sam was there. Sam tips his head, putting his weight on his cane. “Where’s Dean?”

Castiel sighs and tips his head back, like a cat basking in the sun coming through his open window. The light glints off his face and Sam notices a stripe of silver in his beard. “Our fearless leader has taken Chuck and Risa on a supply run. Scouts found a locked warehouse about ten miles out.” His voice is calculated, even, but too empty of emotion. 

Something’s up, and Sam figures it out immediately. He shifts his weight, inhaling uncertainly as he looks down at Castiel, who still hasn’t opened his eyes. Castiel might not really be an angel anymore without his wings and power, but he’s an able soldier. More than able. When he’d been an angel he’d been a master among his kind at hand-to-hand combat; when he had to take up guns, too, he’d been beyond proficient at that. Strong and fast, and one of the last remnants he had from being a ball of celestial power was perfect vision and a steady hand. It doesn’t make sense that he’d be here. He’s usually glued to Dean’s side, since Sam can’t be. “And he went without you?”

Castiel’s eyes finally open and Sam is taken aback. They’re rimmed red, bloodshot, and it brings out the sharp blue of his irises. Sam takes a step forward and Castiel hangs his chin to his chest, looking away. Sam can’t tell if it’s drugs or if Castiel has been crying. “Your brother has decided that until I can find it within myself to, ah, sober the hell up, I’m a liability.” The angel’s eyes land on Sam’s leg, then trail away, but he doesn’t miss the look. “He may as well have called me…”

“A cripple?” Sam offers, and he doesn’t sound nearly half as bitter as Castiel about it. Sam’s long come to terms with the fact he’s damn near useless to Dean now. It’s been two years since Sam was in a jeep that flipped and totaled when they had to run it off track when the road just opened up in front of them, a smoking chasm in the earth. A slice of metal had shattered into Sam’s right thigh, cutting into him, but he counts himself luckier the driver who never made it out the car at all. The doctors in camp, they’d saved his leg, but he can’t walk on it right, not anymore. Two years since the accident, and just as long since he’s been out in the field.

Castiel looks up at him, his eyes hard. “Sam,” he starts, and Sam puts his hand up to stop him.

“It’s okay, Cas,” Sam assures him, stepping further into the cabin and over to a comfortable bench beneath the window. He sits down heavily, rubbing his thigh, and watches as Castiel heaves himself up off the floor, hiking up his pants as he walks to his chest of drawers. He rifles through them, his back to Sam, until he produces a pot of pills and turns around.

“Want some?”

Sam half-smiles. “No. Come on, Cas, you know I don’t take anything.”

“You should,” Castiel says bitterly as he’s opening the pot, tipping it into his hand and throwing back a mouthful of tablets. “It would help. With your leg.” Sam’s sure it would, but it’s been a long time since he took any medication or drug of any kind. He just can’t risk anything. Not even alcohol. He doesn’t trust himself not to get lost in it. He watches as Castiel drops into a chair tucked tightly into the corner, popping the lid back on the bottle and rattling it about absently, holding it up to the light and peering into it.

“Why do you do all this stuff, Cas?” Sam says softly, his voice cutting through the atmosphere. He thinks he knows why. He thinks he understands. And he wants, more than anything, for Castiel to know that Sam understands, that he gets it. First though, Castiel has to say it.

“They make me feel whole again,” Castiel murmurs, and he drops his hand into his lap, his fingers curling tightly around the bottle. “I’m only half a…” His words drop off, and Castiel’s mouth turns to a sour line, like he can’t decide what he’s only half of. Not a man, but not an angel, not anymore, he can see that thought building behind Castiel’s eyes.

“They make you feel strong, right?” He leans back against the wall, stretching his bad leg out before him. “Like you’ve got power again.” The angel’s eyes flash, and Sam thinks he seems a spark of anger in them, a self-righteousness, and it makes Sam distantly uncomfortable because he thinks knows that Castiel sees where this is going. “That’s how it was with Ruby and the demon blood,” Sam says, and he’s right; Castiel’s mouth tightens and he drops his eyes away, shaking his head.

“Sam, this is nothing like - ”

“Cas, don’t.” He cuts him off without any kindness about it, his voice rough, and Sam clears his throat to continue gentler. “Don’t act like your addiction to pills and weeds and whatever the hell else you put in yourself is any different to demon blood. It makes you strong. Makes you feel like you can fight.” Castiel blinks, exhaling slowly with an open mouth before he swallows. “It makes you feel complete. When I was off that blood I felt like something was missing. Even now, I always feel like something’s missing.”

“That’s why you don’t take anything,” Castiel murmurs, turning the little bottle around in his hands.

“I don’t want to stumble onto something that will make me feel complete again,” Sam acknowledges.

Castiel stands, and he strolls across the breadth of the cabin to peer out the window behind Sam. He turns and sinks onto the bench beside him, and says, “You didn’t have your power stolen from you.”

“No,” Sam agrees. “But I have had my leg stolen from me, my… ability to fight, my functionality. I’m all but useless to my brother, to this fight. I’m Lucifer’s vessel and all I can do is sit back and watch whilst everyone else does the fighting.” Castiel’s chin tips down. “You have a choice, Cas. Angel or not - ” Something works in his friend’s jaw, and Sam’s mouth twists momentarily. “Angel or not,” he repeats, “You have a choice. I’ve seen you fight. You can take out five demons with your bare hands and no mojo.”

Sam reaches and takes the bottle from Castiel. The angel lets him, his hands dropping limply into his lap. “There’s more to you than this.”

“You think?” Castiel remarks, dryly, curling his bare toes against the ground. He looks at Sam, and for an instant it’s like he’s his old self again, blue eyes staring like they’re searching for something. “I’m not so sure,” he tells Sam.

Sam nods. “I know.”

He isn’t expecting it when Castiel kisses him, but he doesn’t push him away. Castiel kisses long and warm, his fingers moulding themselves against Sam’s face, and Sam drinks him in, opens his mouth and accepts the slide of tongue against tongue. Castiel has kissed a hundred men and women like this, kissed anyone with a spare half-hour with this kind of ferocity, but that was always just another vice, and so when Sam straightens his back and cups the back of Castiel’s head, fingers threading into his scraggly hair, Sam tries to  convey to him: I’m not another pill for you. He kisses Castiel’s beard along the length of his jaw, and nips his throat, and he says, “You’re gonna stop drinking and smoking.”

Castiel pulls back sharply, as Sam expected, and squints at him. His lips are red from kissing, a bright mark blossoming near his Adam’s apple, and his eyes are entirely wounded. “Don’t ruin it,” Castiel says, sharply, and Sam snorts.

“I’m not one of your orgy pals,” Sam warns him. “If you want that, you can go find that. But here, with me,” he gestures vehemently, “this is different.”

Castiel looks admonished, as if yeah, okay, he understands that. He can’t just kiss Sam and treat him like anyone else. Castiel is one of his oldest friends - one of the few pre-war friends he has left - and Sam just doesn’t do hook-ups, especially not now, when every new day brings them closer to an uncertain end.

“So the price of you is my vices?” Castiel muses. “That’s steep, Sam.”

“Not all of them,” Sam shakes his head. “Just smoking and drinking. Just those. It’s enough for Dean to let you back out in the field, and…” He trails off. He offers the pill bottle back to Castiel. He stares at it, contemplative, then he takes it from Sam and sets it on the floor beside the bench.

“It’s a deal, Sam Winchester,” and it takes Sam a minute to realize that Castiel is teasing him when he follows his words with a kiss. He becomes serious again, though, with his nose against Sam’s, his fingers dragging against the skin of his cheeks, drifting to touch his eyelids and forehead and trailing around the edge of his lips. “I’ll find a way to let you down, even with just this,” he laments.

“I know,” Sam responds, because he doesn’t doubt that Castiel will. That’s the way of addicts, isn’t it? Sam once let Dean down, jonesing for demon blood under Famine’s deadly influence. But then he got better. “But you’ll get past it.” Sam pauses, then murmurs, “I know you need to be able to fight, Cas. I know you need Dean to trust you. Just like I did, all that time ago.”

“It wasn’t that long ago,” Castiel says, and then he’s pausing, and Sam blinks as a strange look crosses his face. “It was, though, wasn’t it? Five years. More.” He laughs, short and bitter, and leans into Sam, fingers pressing into his stomach and side and his beard scraping Sam’s neck. He settles against him, and murmurs, “Do you know how old I am?”

Sam’s never thought about it. He stays silent.

“I remember the start of human life,” Castiel tells him. “From a grey fish on a shoreline. My first memory.” His breathing is warm against Sam’s throat. Sam does the math. Over one hundred million years old. The crumpled, broken thing nestled against him is older than humanity itself, but now he ages like a real boy, with weathered lines at the corners of his eyes and he murmurs, “Years used to pass like minutes and now they pass…”

Silence. Sam hums and fills in, “Like years?”

Castiel laughs, less angry this time, and Sam smiles. Without a word the angel breaks away from him, standing up and stretching, lifting onto his toes, and Sam questions, “Are you doing that on purpose?”

Castiel twists, looking over his shoulder at him with his arms raised above his head. His cotton pants are low on his hips, soft skin exposed as his shirt rides up. Castiel blinks innocently, and muses, “I am if you want me to be.” He drops his arms to his side and zig-zags his way towards the back of his cabin, to a room hidden behind bead curtains where his bed lays, and the way he says, “Let’s see if I have something to make your leg stop hurting” is almost lazy.

Sam blinks, processing, and then he slowly pulls himself up onto his feet, using his cane to help him and support his weight, and he follows.