Need is a broken and a wavering thing, something that is built from nothing and then reduced to ash over and over again. Need manifests itself into something tangible and it burns and breaks and crashes, heaving, turning, pulling. Need is when it feels like the world is sinking in on itself and the waves are pulling you under and the air fills your lungs until they burst, and the wind whips against your hair and you’re falling through oblivion, falling, fast and unprecedented and yet so pure, because this is what you are, and maybe have always been.
Need is like love, except not really, because there are so many words that can be used to describe the feeling of love, and so few to describe need. But maybe it’s just one of those things that can reside for forever without a tangible description, existing only in waves of touch and emotion, different for everyone.
For Dean, it’s blood and dirt and violence, and a shining blue beacon grounding him. It’s faith lost and restored; trust a broken bottle on the cracked footpath, swept away and left crumbling in the shadows. It’s Hell, it’s Purgatory, it’s the rain of Heaven breaking and the cold wood of a church bench, painful against his back as he sits, head bowed, praying to a God he doesn’t believe in when all other hope is gone. It’s a gravelly voice on the other end of the phone receiver, a warm body against his, a palm splayed across his shoulder, the feeling in the pit of his stomach like a slow fire simmering.
For Dean, it’s all the days he wishes he had, needed to have, but never got.
It was an afternoon in late January; cold, windy, quite unremarkable and nondescript if one were to dwell on the semantics. The world was broken – but then again, when was it not – and so was Dean, and he’d given up long ago trying to do anything but scrape by and pretend he was alright. A portal had opened up in West Virginia, and so of course, there they were, right smack bang in the middle of the action, stupid, stupid them, saving the world because that was what they did.
Castiel, as human as anyone could ever be, travelled with them and, to put it simply, there was chaos and their plan fell away into nothingness. The newly-appointed Queen of Hell rained her fury down upon them all and then left, no sign she’d ever even been there except for the gaping wound in Castiel’s side and the gnawing feeling in Dean’s heart.
He was with him as he died, like maybe that could make up for all the times he wasn’t there, when he turned his back and ran away because he was afraid. Blood stained his hands, stained Castiel, stained everything around, and the wind whipped and blew Castiel’s short hair against his forehead, dried the tears on both their cheeks and left a stinging feeling that was nothing next to the pain of reality.
Dean still can’t recall exactly what happened, and in what order, or even what he said to Castiel in those last moments, because it’s all such a blur. He hates himself for it, because not remembering Castiel’s death is like not remembering the fall of Rome; this mighty, beautiful, powerful thing crumbling to dust with a roar that should be heard for miles and instead being seen by no-one. Dean needs to remember but he can’t, and there is so much he needs that he can’t have, because that’s the thing about need. To need something is to crave it, and the craving so often falls short, and you’re left empty-handed and desolate.
While tangible and burning, need isn’t something that presents itself as a given. To need something wholly and without end is almost impossible, except it’s still not love, never quite love, because love is so common and idly passed around. It’s stronger than that, and despite all the blood and dirt and violence it remains pure. The worst part isn’t never having what you need, but having it only for it to be ripped from you, to be left floating with nothing to drag you back toward the ground.
Dean needs Castiel, and he always will, except fate is cruel and life is short and the touch of life is fleeting and fragile. Life goes on, because it always does, but Dean is empty, because that last piece he required to make himself whole is gone, and so he lives his life devoid of what he needs.
And that is his curse.