+ + + +
“Dean?” the voice asked, pulling Cas back into consciousness. “Here, take a sip of this.”
A glass was held to Cas’s lips; the water was nectar to his parched lips.
“Dean?,” he asked.
“Yes, honey, we got that – your name’s Dean,” the voice chuckled. Cas managed to open his eyes and saw a woman with kind brown eyes smiling at him. “It’s been the only word you’ve said for two days.”
The cloudiness began to leave his head, and Cas struggled to sit upright. “Uh, where am I?,” he asked.
“You’re in our tent city,” the woman said, gesturing around them. Cas realized they were under a makeshift shelter, created by four tall poles and a tarp. He looked around and saw at least forty other people of various ages and ethnicities. Most were sleeping or cooking over an open flame. “Here, finish drinking,” she said, holding the rim of the glass back to his lips. He drank, grateful for the water reviving his parched throat.
“Are you hungry?,” she asked.
Cas had to think a moment – was he? His stomach was making noises and contracting oddly. “I believe so,” he answered.
“You rest here,” she said. “I’ll be back with some soup for you in a minute.”
“Wait,” Cas said, reaching out and grabbing her arm. “How long have I been here? How did I get here?”
“Big Mike – one of the watchmen – found you by the roadside three days ago. You were disoriented and talking, but honestly, honey, nothing you said made sense except your name.” She laid a hand on Cas’s head – “Don’t worry, Dean, you’re welcome to stay here as long as you need. I’m Gloria, by the way. If you need anything, you let me know.”
Cas nodded numbly. He felt he should correct her but hearing that name – somehow the sound of it fractionally eased the constant ache he carried inside him.
He consumed the soup that Gloria brought him without even asking what kind it was. It was nourishment, and it filled his empty stomach. He was so tired, so worn… His stomach full, he laid back down on the pallet and pulled his vest tightly around himself. He closed his eyes and waited for the onslaught.
Every time his mind relaxed, he was overcome with memories. His human brain, it seemed, was overwhelmed with categorizing all of the information from a millennia of angelic existence. It also insisted on replaying his last days as an angel over and over again. From his observations of the Winchesters, he assumed that ruminating was a human thing. Perhaps he could ask Dea—perhaps he could ask Gloria tomorrow.
The why of his remembering didn’t really matter. The fact was that he remembered, and it tore at him every second of every day.
I’m not wrong, Dean. I’m going to fix my home.
It felt like forever since Metatron had taken his grace. Cas remembered waking on the cold forest floor, running to a clearing where, with tears in his eyes, he had watched his brothers and sisters rain down in fire upon the earth.
He hadn’t realized he was completely human at first, even though he had felt Metatron slice into his neck, drain his grace from his body. But this time, he wasn’t left with, as Pestilence had put it, even “a speck” of angel.
From what he could tell, he was one hundred percent human.
His initial impulse had been to find Dean and Sam, and he’d made his way to the closest town with just that intent. But the fallen angels were wreaking havoc upon the earth and most were wrathful and looking for him.
Castiel was the most wanted being in the universe.
+ + + +
When Sam regained consciousness, he was in a hospital room. Dean was sitting in the chair by the bed, his forehead resting on the edge of the bed, Sam’s hand in his.
From his brother’s even breathing, Sam knew he was asleep, and he was sure that for however long he’d been in the hospital, Dean hadn’t been sleeping, so he tried not to move and just lay there a moment evaluating his injuries. But Sam couldn’t tell anything was wrong with him; he was shocked to realize he actually felt good.
Sam should be half-dead, and he knew it. What had happened?
Dean jerked awake to find Sam watching him. When he saw that Sam was awake, the light in Dean’s face made Sam’s heart hurt. His brother smiled one of those rare, soul-filled smiles.
“Sammy,” Dean whispered, raising forward to envelope his brother in a bear hug that Sam gladly returned.
Discovering that Dean was Heaven’s Righteous Man had made perfect sense to Sam. He’d known all his life that those singular moments where he saw the real Dean, and not just the guy layered in bravado, bad-assery, aggression, and snark, hinted at his brother’s extraordinariness. Sam hadn’t been allowed a glimpse of Dean’s soul in a long time, but that smile…. Well, it revealed Dean’s heart.
And Sam could read that heart. He saw the happiness and relief in his brother’s open face, but he also saw a hint of worry in Dean’s eyes, a suggestion of tenseness in his body, and he knew that all still wasn’t well.
“How’s Cas?,” Sam asked, bypassing any questions about himself – he was alive, after all – and deciding to get straight to the point.
Dean’s face closed in on itself. Sam waited, giving his brother a moment to compose himself, to formulate an answer that he thought wouldn’t betray what he was really feeling.
If he only knew how obvious he is, how obvious they are, Sam thought. But it was a small thing to pretend that he didn’t know, and it was a gift that Sam, knowing that Dean needed time and space, gladly gave.
“I don’t know,” Dean finally answered. “Metatron tricked him, I know it. I tried to tell him, Sammy –” His voice hitched a little despite his best efforts. “The angels fell, so either Cas is dead or he fell too, and I have no idea—” Dean’s face contorted with the emotion he was holding back.
Dean was sitting close enough to touch, and for once, Sam acted on impulse and reached for his brother’s hand. Amazingly, Dean let him hold it, even squeezing back. They sat in silence for a long while.
Dr. Rickman came in and checked Sam’s vitals. The older man was short and plump with a lush white beard and looked for all the world like Santa Claus. Sam fought the smile that rose at the association. He and Dean watched expectantly as the doctor checked his tablet and typed in a few notes.
“Well, Mr. Smith, I have good news,” he said. “You’re going to be released this afternoon.”
“That’s great,” Sam said.
“Yeah, it is,” Dean added. “Thanks, doc.”
Dr. Rickman looked at the two, observing how much lighter and kinder the older one seemed now. The man had scared more than a few nurses while guarding his brother’s bedside. The older Mr. Smith’s black eye and cut cheek had only added to his imposing demeanor, and it was no accident that an extra security officer had patrolled the floor during Sam’s stay.
The older one hadn’t scared him, though, and the doctor could see that Sam returned his brother's fidelity by how attuned he was to him. Whatever these two had been through, they were survivors because of each other. That much was plain to him. The brothers' bond – even if slightly codependent and intimidating – actually warmed the doctor’s heart. He’d seen too much of everything but devotion in his thirty years of practicing medicine.
“You boys take care of each other.” He gestured at Dean, but spoke to Sam, “You’re lucky to have him. He was ready to tear the world apart to get you better.”
Dean smiled tightly, and Sam laughed. “I’m sure he was, doc.” If you only knew the half of it. “Thanks for taking care of me.”
Dr. Rickman nodded. “To be honest,” he said, “I’m not sure how you got better. You were nearly dead when you were brought in, and we did what we could, but -- you’re an out and out miracle, Sam Smith.”
Sam felt alarm at those words and shot a hard look in Dean’s direction, but his brother wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“Whatever brought you back, I’m glad it did,” Dr. Rickman said with a warm smile. “The nurse will be in shortly with your discharge papers and the instructions for your outpatient regimen.” He walked to the door but paused and looked back, “Both of you take care,” he said.
“Sure thing, doc,” Dean answered.
“Thanks again,” Sam said.
When the doctor left the room, Sam rounded on Dean. “What did you do, Dean?,” he hissed.
Dean rolled his eyes. “Nothing, Sam. Can we not look a gift-horse in the mouth for once?”
Sam knew he was making a bitchface, but he didn’t entirely buy Dean’s innocent act, no matter how good it was. He started to go into full-on bitchy mode, but then he thought back to what had happened in the church, what they both had said, and he decided to just let it go. Sam sighed heavily.
“You’d tell me if there was anything I needed to know, right?”
“Absolutely,” Dean answered. Sam looked his brother in the eye, and Dean met his gaze evenly.
Sam nodded slowly. “Okay, then.” He pushed away the twinge of doubt he felt; they had enough to deal with.
To say that the Winchesters had their hands full was an understatement.
They had drafted Charlie and Kevin and every other hunter they could contact to help. Between the angels and the demons and all the usual supernatural creatures, not to mention Crowley on lockdown in the dungeon, their world was in an uproar.
Some of the angels were finding the novelty in being earthbound; a few even sought the Winchesters out to help seek a solution to the Metatron issue. But Castiel’s bond with Dean and Sam was notorious in heaven, and many held them partially responsible for what had happened.
Most of the displaced angels were mad as hell and Abaddon was attempting, quite literally, to raise hell.
Life was just peachy, as Dean said.
Sam was surprised at how well they’d both handled things, though. His recovery continued, and while he didn’t want to tussle with a demon anytime soon, he was feeling good. Dean also seemed okay; Sam knew he wasn’t entirely, but his brother was doing what he always did – putting his feelings in a lead box and burying them in order to focus on the task at hand.
That particular coping mechanism had driven Sam crazy for decades, but he recognized now that it actually had probably kept Dean alive all these years. How else had the man survived becoming Alistair’s star pupil or fighting his way across Purgatory to save his angel?
His angel. Sam wondered where Cas was, if he was okay. He prayed to him regularly, not only for Dean but because Cas was his friend too.
There was still no word, though. Sam had even asked Charlie to do some quiet digging, but even with her skills, she’d come up empty.
As the weeks passed, Sam tried to keep Dean distracted from the grief that he knew was just below the surface. Charlie was pretty intuitive, and she would often jump in to help without even a signal from Sam, and together, they’d pull Dean away from the abyss.
Sam wondered, though, what they would do when Dean was no longer able to distract himself with their invented bickering over Harry Potter or microbrews or the merits of indie rock. He prayed that Cas came home before then.
Cas felt like he’d been walking forever. Some motorists had stopped and offered him a ride. After the last one, though, he chose to walk; he didn’t want to find himself in an awkward situation again.
His last ride had been in a tractor-trailer with a burly trucker who seemed friendly enough. If Cas had been an angel, he would have been able to read the man’s true nature.
They had driven through Wyoming and stopped at a visitor’s center near the southern border. Cas was embarrassed that he hadn’t realized what was going on; from Dean’s memories alone, he should have known and understood. Though from those memories – the things you learn when you rebuild a man after saving him from the pits of hell, he mused – Cas realized that what had happened could have been much worse. But it had been bad enough.
The trucker, Jim, had asked Cas if he wanted to stay with him through the next leg of his journey. Cas grateful to not have to find another ride, had said yes. Jim had gone into the store and when he got back in the truck, he handed Cas a bag of chips, a soda, and a condom.
Cas still remembered trying to figure out why the man had handed him a prophylactic. He knew what it was; he knew what it was used for; but it had taken him a moment. To be honest, it had taken until Jim reached over and began undoing Cas’s belt.
That was when Cas knew he’d lost the ability to smite someone. If he hadn’t, Jim would be a charred heap of human detritus.
Instead, Cas left him bruised and bleeding. He suspected Jim wouldn’t be taking advantage of hitch-hikers any time soon – the drop kick he’d delivered to the man’s groin when the fight went outside the truck’s cab pretty much ensured it’d be a while before Jim was able to walk straight, let alone anything else.
Cas smirked in satisfaction at the memory of the man crumpled on the pavement. Another man’s memory flashed through his mind, only it was a young Dean left on the ground as the man who’d hurt him walked away unharmed. Cas felt that the beating he’d delivered to Jim had been on behalf of Dean and others like him as much as it had been for himself.
So Cas walked. He told himself that he wasn’t heading for Lebanon, even as geography told him otherwise.
The leather of Jimmy’s shoes was worn thin. A piece of glass had even pierced a hole in the sole of one, and Cas learned quickly to avoid puddles if he didn’t want a cold foot. He now knew he hated squishy socks and achy toes.
Somewhere in Nebraska, he fell asleep on a park bench and was rousted out by the police. A kind woman, though scantily clad, heard the ruckus and convinced the cop – a man she seemed to know well – that Cas was with her.
He asked her later why she’d helped him. “You looked like you needed a friend,” she said.
Her name was Jenny, and he stayed with her for a few days. She’d encouraged him to, said she could tell he needed to rest. That was true. He did. He was so tired that his bones hurt.
He slept on her couch for nearly three days straight. When he finally woke up, he was disoriented, which Jenny found amusing. She showed him to the bathroom and made him something to eat. They talked, and he found her story fascinating. She was a good person, and he thought for the millionth time that it was unfortunate that so much of humanity was judgmental and didn’t consider the personal stories that motivated acts seemingly outside the norm. Besides, he pondered, what was normal?
He thought of the Winchesters. To the normal world, Sam and Dean would be considered sociopaths, practically serial killers. Yet Cas knew they were two of the most important men in a world that wouldn’t still exist were it not for them.
Perspective, he thought, is truly a gift from God.
Jenny was motivated to gain money to help her brother, who’d sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car crash while she was driving. He was in a coma, but she held out hope for his recovery. She showed Cas the books and journals she’d collected that shared statistics that established, for her, that such a hope wasn’t completely fruitless. There were miracles, after all. But when the money ran out, her hope would run out too. So she worked double shifts at the factory, and she used the only other asset she owned – her body – dancing at a local stripclub.
Cas accepted that. He understood that guilt, that drive, that compulsion. He didn’t ask if the commodification of her body went any further; it didn’t seem important to him.
His last night there, he was still sleeping on the couch, but he woke up when Jenny came in around dawn. She had been crying, and her mascara was smudged.
Cas hadn’t known what to say, but he hugged her, knowing that hugs seemed to make most humans feel better, and he wanted to comfort this woman who had allowed him to stay here, who had offered him so much when she had so little.
“Is everything okay?,” he asked.
“Yeah, it will be,” she said. “Bad night. Asshole customers. You know, the usual.” She laid her head upon his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. He realized that he could feel her heart beating.
Something about that realization began a very human chain reaction that he didn’t quite understand until it was happening.
Heat flooded throughout his body, and his hardening penis pressed against the dress pants that he still wore at all times.
“Is that a gun in your pocket?,” Jenny asked. Cas didn’t know it, but she was being cheeky, giving him a moment to recover. But Cas, being Cas, looked at her and answered quite seriously, “No. I don’t have a gun.”
Jenny laughed and reached up on her tiptoes to lightly kiss Cas’s cheek. “You’re adorable, Cas,” she said. “Don’t ever change.”
Maybe Cas remembered someone else saying that to him, and how the warmth in the voice had sent a shiver through his grace that he hadn’t then understood. Or maybe Cas simply liked Jenny – she was kind and attractive and warm, in spirit and body. Whatever the reason, Cas tightened his arms around her, pressing his growing erection against her in a silent question he didn’t entirely realize he was asking.
Jenny looked deeply into his eyes. If Cas could have read her mind, he would have known that he puzzled her, that she understood he wasn’t like everyone else and that's why he’d quickly become dear to her. She also knew that after tomorrow, he’d be gone, and she held no illusions about ever seeing him again. Though he’d been sketchy with sharing the details of his own story, Cas’s heart was clearly already taken.
But she was drawn to him, to his light, and if she could have him for tonight, she would.
She took his hand and led him to her bedroom, leaving him on the bed while she quickly showered.
“Take your clothes off, Cas,” she said. He did, and he lay on the bed, listening to the shower run and wondering what this was going to be like. He remembered Meg, but she had been a demon. The trucker had been aggressive and violent, and when he had grabbed at Cas’s groin through his pants, Cas had experienced nothing but blinding rage.
This, however – this pulsing of blood and heat – this was quite pleasurable, in a way different from what he had experienced with Meg or even with Dean. The thought of Dean sent another wave of heat coursing through his body; Cas wondered if he’d ever see Dean again, and if he did, how would the hunter react? Things were so messy between them, so full of hurt and confusion, and though all Cas wanted was to wrap Dean in his arms, he didn’t know if that could ever happen. Even if the world weren’t falling apart, they still had to contend with the fact that Dean was Dean and Cas was Cas.
Cas sighed and blinked to clear his eyes. Sad thoughts weren't exactly an aphrodisiac, and for a moment, he wondered if he could even perform. But as Jenny came back into the room, his body reacted despite his musings. Cas saw a beautiful person. He didn’t notice the scars from the car crash that she artfully covered when dancing so that prying eyes wouldn’t see. He focused his thoughts on her and what was here. For the next few hours at least, he didn't want to face the loss that threatened to engulf him.
Jenny was shy in her nakedness, which surprised him as she seemed so confident in all other ways. She didn’t meet Cas’s eyes as she opened a dresser drawer and pulled out condoms. He watched her walk towards the bed with interest; she was very different than the images he’d seen in Busty Asian Beauties. She was much more real, and he liked that.
She leaned forward and hesitantly kissed him. He kissed back. Her kiss was different from Meg’s, from Dean’s. But it was still pleasurable, and he liked it. He could taste the spearmint from her mouthwash, and her lips were soft and tasted like cherries.
Dean had tasted like whiskey, coffee, and a golden summer day – but Cas wasn’t going to think about that right now. He wasn’t.
When Jenny placed a hand around his base, caressing the sensitive skin, then sliding her hand up his engorged shaft -
When she flicked her thumb over the head, smearing beads of precome –
When she placed her mouth on him, sucking and blowing and teasing with her tongue until he throbbed painfully –
When she cupped his balls and gently stroked him till he squirmed –
When she pushed his eager mouth between her legs and guided him till she was panting his name –
When he kissed her deeply, tasting himself on her tongue and knowing her taste was on his –
When he sheathed himself inside her, thrusting in and out, filling her –
When his world exploded into pleasure and light, and their joined cries filled the small room –
When he lay beside her, spent, and watched the gray of dawn shift into day -
Cas still remembered the taste and feel and smell of summer.
to be continued...