In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
The guy’s a goddamn mall goth. Crusty-wilting mohawk, cheap chains rattling off of his pockets with every step, cheap spiked collar, cheap studded belt, the whole shebang. Half of Dean is hoping that this is the guy responsible for the daevas so he can finally get out of this town, and the other half is worried he’s overthinking this and that this guy really is just some poor sap with a sadly misconstrued sense of what’s okay to wear.
He’s wearing a jean jacket with some newfangled death metal band’s pentagram logo on it, for God’s sake.
Mall Goth takes a furtive look around and ducks into the nearest alleyway. Dean hangs behind because the guy might as well be wearing a siren, those chains are jangling that loud. He’s unpleasantly reminded of the last daevas he’d – they’d – run into, with their dad and Meg and Azazel.
He pushes the thoughts away and focuses on following Mall Goth’s chain-tinkling into the basement of the crumbling apartment building; he still manages to get lost and, for the thousandth time, wishes Sam were with him, but he pushes that thought away too.
He can mope later. With Jim, Jack, and José.
The lock on the door finally clicks and he slides his way in; the basement is spacious and clearly abandoned, with cobweb- and cloth-covered furniture lurking in the corners and, surprise surprise, a black altar complete with lit candles set up against the far wall. Dean reaches into the waistband of his pants for his pistol and then his heart stops dead when he catches sight of another shadowed person on the other side of the room, moving quietly towards Mall Goth and completely oblivious to Dean’s presence.
Accomplice? Fellow hunter? Unfortunate civilian? He has no idea but this is not good. Mall Goth is nearly done with his chant or invocation or whatever and he can hardly yell out to the other person to get the fuck out; he’s frozen and in the couple of seconds he scrambles to make a decision, it’s done.
The candles flicker ominously and Dean sees the shadow of something against one wall, something that’s all claws and sharpness. He bolts to his feet and trains the gun on Mall Goth.
“Alright, kid, end the spell,” he barks, hoping to startle him.
It works. To the point where the kid scrambles backwards and bumps the black altar; the other someone that’s lurking is half-crouched, half-standing and it’s so dark in that corner that Dean can’t even tell if it’s a guy or a chick.
There’s a crash and Mall Goth has a look of horror on his face. The flimsy card table he’d oh-so-wisely set up his operation on has folded in half and everything’s starting to burn; the shadows on the wall screech and shriek and dive forward, one towards Mall Goth, one towards Dean, one towards the other person, and Dean can hear the sickening sound of flesh tearing as Mall Goth finally gets the tables turned on him.
“Shut your eyes!” Dean yells, raising his arm and feeling wisps of nothing clawing through his skin (at least it’s not his face), then digs in his coat pocket for the road flare he’d brought along just in case. It burns magnesium-bright and there’s an extremely disheartening sort of gurgle-shout from the other person. The daevas scream, shattering the tiny basement windows, then disappear and leave Dean to deal with a corpse and a civilian.
He drops the flare and strips off his coat. Thank god it wasn’t one he particularly cared about, as the sleeve’s shredded and so is his forearm. The other guy – he can tell it’s a guy now – has his back to him, bracing himself against the wall with one hand. Blood is dripping steadily onto the floor from the other.
“Dude, what the hell were you thinking?” he asks roughly, and before he can add any other scathing comments, the guy whips around. Tiny droplets of his blood splatter in a flecked-out arc.
His heart stops.
He’s actually having a heart attack. He can’t breathe and his vision is fading at the edges and he stumbles backwards in disbelief because this can’t be happening. It can’t. This has to be some sort of idiotic, cosmic coincidence because there’s no way in Heaven or Hell that Cas can possibly be standing in front of him.
“Cas?” he manages to choke out, barely a whisper. And then he realizes that even in the reddish light of the flare he’s looking awfully pale and there are three even scores down the side of his face, there’s blood on the floor, and oh shit. “You’re human.”
“You’re alive,” says Cas, and the sheer relief on his face makes something in Dean’s heart twist painfully.
“How are you alive?” Dean fires back, and he can’t stop the note of anger from creeping into his voice. There’s so much turmoil inside him and his thoughts are a fucking mess and anger is easy to slip into.
“This isn’t a conversation to be having as I bleed out in a basement,” says Cas calmly, and Dean’s big brother instincts kick in.
“Motel,” he grunts, and kicks the flare towards the corpse. Let the cops make of that what they will.
He expects something huge. He expects something of epic proportions, something like Sam’s fights with Dad, something ugly and mean.
What he doesn’t expect is Cas’s quiet litany of apologies, saying “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” over and over and over as Dean dresses both their wounds with more roughness than necessary.
He doesn’t expect the explosion of self-hatred from Cas when he finally starts getting angry, when he says he should never have opened his eyes after the Leviathans ripped out his Grace, when he says he deserved to die over and over.
He doesn’t expect to be the one defending Cas.
He doesn’t expect to see Cas close his eyes and turn away with a look of completely devastated hopelessness on his face.
It’s silent for ten minutes, fifteen, and finally tiredness starts seeping into Dean’s skin. Cas is slumped on the sofa when Dean gets up to shower and he’s still there twelve minutes later, staring blankly at the wall. He clears his throat.
“You gotta wash all that blood off, man,” he says quietly. When Cas vacates the couch, Dean grabs a couple of extra shirts from his duffel and wads them into a makeshift pillow, then pulls his other jacket over his chest. The couch is hard and uncomfortable and shorter than he is tall, but he’s asleep before Cas is out of the shower regardless.
For a second, he’s disorientated completely. It’s the middle of the night and he’s suddenly very much awake and it takes him a couple heartbeats to notice why.
Sammy’s had more than enough nightmares for Dean to recognize when someone’s having a bad one. Judging by the way Cas’s breathing is erratic and the way he’s practically whining, Dean can tell this one’s a fucking whopper. He rubs a hand across his eyes and gets up, mourning the loss of warmth, then leans over Cas and shakes him firmly.
He jolts awake and his eyes are completely unfocused for a split second and then they snap to Dean. Holy hell, he looks like death. His eyes are wide with pure terror and a lot moister than they should be; sweat’s beading at his hairline even though it’s a decently chilly night and he’s trembling under Dean’s hand.
“You, uh, okay?” Dean mentally kicks himself. He’s obviously not. Cas swallows a couple of times.
“I Fell,” he whispers, and his voice is utterly wrecked. “It– My Grace was ripped out, atom by atom and–” He pushes himself upright and Dean keeps a hand on his shoulder, steadying him, grounding him in reality. “And the pain–” A violent tremor wracks his body and suddenly Cas is throwing himself towards the bathroom; Dean barely stands up before he can hear the sick sound of vomit in a toilet bowl.
His throat is tight. Seeing Cas hurt and vulnerable is affecting him in ways it shouldn’t.
When it’s finally quiet and the only sound is the tap running, Dean moves to stand in the doorway of the bathroom. Cas looks terrible. There are dark circles under his eyes and his cheekbones are looking a lot sharper than they should; he’s still shivering and sweating and Dean really hopes it’s not an infection setting in.
“Cas, man, you gotta get some sleep,” he murmurs. “I know how shitty dreams can be, trust me, but you’ll feel worse without sleep.” He’s got no idea what Falling’s really like but if it’s even a tenth of what Hell is like, there’ll be no words for how terrible it is.
Cas shuts the tap off and turns around and oh holy god, for the first time in his life Dean feels the overwhelming need to pick someone up (someone other than Sam, kid-Sam) and pull them close to his chest, to coddle someone and hold their hand and tell them shhh, it’s all okay.
Must be those unused father instincts kicking in.
Instead, he pulls one of Cas’s arms around his shoulders and slips an arm around his waist in return, then leads him towards the bed and lets him slump unceremoniously on top of the covers.
“I’m sorry,” slurs Cas, eyes blank and unseeing.
“Shut up.” There’s no real venom in his voice.
Dean’s going to hate himself in the morning. He’s definitely going to hate himself, he thinks as he toes off his boots and lies down on the opposite side of the bed, as close to the edge as possible. He’s going to hate himself, but he knows that sometimes it’s sort of nice to know that someone is close by when you wake up from a grade-A nightmare.
He doesn’t hate himself as much as he’d anticipated when he wakes up in the morning with Cas’s back pressed flush against his.