In the year 4545
You ain't gonna need your teeth,
won't need your eyes
You won't find a thing to chew
Nobody's gonna look at you
Zager And Evans - In The Year 2525
Days. Nights. Those things don’t matter anymore. Is this world even still worth living in? When all we have is just endless nights; no food, no water? What are we even still fighting for? I know it's blasphemous to say, but maybe we humans don't belong here anymore. We are the Forty-Fivers; 4545 people, all “living” deep in a cave around one of the last non-toxic water sources the planet has left to offer. We survive, but for what? It's not like this will ever end. Why are we still fighting?
“Sam, stop writing in your girly diary and get ready. We need to hunt,” Dean growled before he threw an environmental hazard suit in Sam’s lap.
Sam gave his brother a bitch face before he closed the tiny notebook and put it back into one of his large jacket pockets. Even though the core of the city was rather warm – thanks to the magma stream under the cave – the outskirts were freezing cold.
Hunters usually lived in the outskirts and close by the tunnel to the surface. In case of mutant attacks, they were the first line of defense. So they were used to having to wear thick clothes, all of the time.
Sam sighed deeply as he practically crawled into the yellow suit, raising a questioning eyebrow towards his brother. “Something up? I'm not signed up for a perimeter check for the next few hours.”
Dean braced his helmet under his arm, already dressed in his yellow suit; an uncomfortable and kind of impractical layer of clothing, but it was the only thing protecting them on the surface. Well, protecting them from the toxic atmosphere. “Council said the last perimeter check was positive for mutants in the vicinity. Hurry up, we haven’t got all day.”
“Haha, very funny, Dean.” Sam rolled his eyes at his brother’s lame joke. When you live in a world of endless nights, you don’t know what daylight looks like. Well, other than the pictures and books available in the archives from the old days; so outdated phrases that involved daylight were pretty bad puns.
He pocketed his book and finished pulling on his suit, Dean helping him with the zipper on the back and making sure the suit was intact everywhere, from each zipper to every seam. They did this every time before they went out. While it wasn’t a mandatory process, Dean always told him he didn’t want to take any chances. Being compromised by the outer atmosphere meant not being allowed to come back into the city.
There were two people always stationed at the cave exit door. There was a quarantine chamber just inside the main tunnel exit. Hunters returning from their assignments were unable to avoid the chamber if they wanted to get back into Zion, so before the main doors would open, they would have to be disinfected and then scanned. If the body scan came up positive for radiation or other contaminations, the hunter in question would be exiled. That’s why they took immaculate care of their protective gear.
It would have been great if nobody had to leave the cave system. Their underground city, Zion, was the only thing that kept humanity alive. Their only food source came from mushrooms that they were able to grow in the caves and were synthesized into substantial nutrition. They were then pressed into easy to carry bars and everyone was given a ration of food and water at the end of a productive day.
People that weren’t productive didn’t get their ration. Everyone worked for the city, so the city worked for everybody.
Hunters had to leave the city though. Because Zion only had the one entrance tunnel, it was easily defendable. But if they didn’t do regular perimeter checks and venture out from time to time, they wouldn’t get the intel they needed about whether the mutants outside were planning an attack.
Last week the mutants had attacked another hunter, a young guy that was fairly new to their group. They damaged his suit and he wasn’t allowed to come back in. He had cried, yelled, and pleaded before he turned aggressive and was shot by one of the guards.
There had been 4545 people and now there were 4544. And that meant one couple would be allowed to have a child now. A couple that was yet to be selected by the Council of Six.
The Council of Six were the leaders, the decision makers, the rulers of Zion. The cave system could contain no more than the 4545 persons who resided within its walls due to the supply of food rations. It was up to the Council to keep the population in check.
Sam questioned if it even was such an honor to be selected. Questions he kept to himself though. Especially because his brother didn’t like it when he questioned things they couldn't change. He had always been a good soldier, following their Dad’s and the Council’s every command without a second thought or hesitation.
Questions get you killed. Their Dad had hammered that wisdom into their heads his entire life, up until the day he died. And then Dean’s mission was to look after Sam. Which meant Sam wasn’t allowed to question things. Or even think like that. Questioning things was dangerous. Just do your job. Protecting people. Hunting mutants. The family business.
A few loose stones rolled down the tunnel entrance when he and Dean finally breached the threshold after a thirty minute walk through freezing darkness. Clouds hung deep and black in the sky, the air was filled with dust and sand, storming around them like a swarm of dung flies.
They couldn’t see much with the naked eye so Dean gestured for him to put on the goggles. Heat signatures were the only way to locate mutants in this environment. Sam readied his rifle and followed Dean along a natural fence of rocks before he stopped him and gestured to look over it.
Sam could make out two faint heat signatures a few klicks away from them. “Damn,” he muttered. Mutants. Human shaped. Those were the worst.
“We have to get closer,” Dean yelled over the storm. Sam nodded and followed him down a rocky path. They had to tread carefully. Something as simple as slipping on the rocks could mean their death.
The heat signatures moved further away from them, but they kept up the pursuit. Dean was never one to give up when it came to the safety of Zion. When they reached the time marker for their oxygen tanks, Sam wrapped his fingers around Dean’s arm to stop him. “We should turn around,” he called out, “the tanks are half empty!”
He could practically feel Dean’s frustration oozing off of him. “They’re toying with us, Sammy. Only a few more minutes until we’re in range.”
Sam could feel and hear the way his heart was pounding in his ears. “They aren’t worth it, Dean. Let’s go back and refill our tanks. We’ll try it again.”
Dean growled something, but he finally relented and they turned around. The last thing Sam heard was a loud thump when his brother fell to the ground; a large, fast shadow jumping over them with a growl, swinging its thick tail against Sam's body, knocking all of the air out of his lungs. Sam hit the ground and his vision went black.
…. :::: :::: ….
When Dean woke up, he immediately started to panic at the feeling of being restrained and without his helmet. He was sitting, tied to a metal pole with his hands bound behind his back, desperately trying to make sense of his surroundings. Why am I not dead? That didn’t make sense, from what he remembered, he should be dead.
He was under a glass dome, but definitely still on the surface, the endless darkness looming over him evidence of that. And he knew he had to be hallucinating because what he was seeing just couldn’t be… things like that didn't exist anymore, only in books and stories about the time before the big war.
He was surrounded by green plants. Trees, he believed they were called, that had branches full of red round things. Dean once saw a picture of a tree in his father's journal. It looked exactly like this plant.
“Sam?” he called out for his brother, but no one was in sight.
Then he heard a door opening behind him and footsteps approaching. His panic was temporarily forgotten as he tried to turn around, but the rope was extremely tight and Baby, his reliable rifle, was nowhere in sight. A shadow fell over him and suddenly a man in white scrubs and a long, beige coat knelt before him.
Dean was stunned by the man’s intense blue eyes, plush lips, and dark brown hair that looked like he had walked through a hurricane. Dark stubble framed his rather attractive face and when he started to speak in a gruff and deep voice, Dean was stunned speechless. He had never met someone so beautiful before. “I'm sorry for restraining you. I wasn’t sure if you would attack me.”
“Where’s my brother? And how am I not dead?” Dean asked carefully. Whoever this pretty guy was, he must be a mutant if he was able to survive outside, on the surface. And Dean’s sole mission was to kill those things to protect their city. His home.
The other man touched his forehead; feather light touches with soft fingertips. That’s when Dean realized he was injured, he could feel a sticky wetness against his skin and there was a faint coppery smell. He must be bleeding.
The man carded his fingers tenderly through Dean’s hair and gave him a sad look. “Your brother is in the room next door. He isn't injured. I can bring him to you, if you want. But first I would like to treat your wound. Is that okay?”
Dean just wanted to see his brother, he didn’t care about the stupid cut on his forehead, but it’s not like he was in a position to argue. This man had all of the power and he didn’t want to piss him off. So Dean just nodded carefully and said, “You didn’t answer my question. The atmosphere is toxic, how am I not dead?”
The other man pulled a leather kit out of his coat pocket and opened a small white bottle with clear liquid in it. It smelled like the alcohol Gabriel used on them when they had to get blood drawn for tests. He poured a small amount of it on a white piece of fabric before he leaned over and started to clean the blood from Dean’s face. Dean hissed from the way it burned.
“I'm sorry,” the man replied, his other hand cupped Dean's cheek as he rubbed his thumb soothingly over the skin. Dean didn’t know how to feel about that. The guy had obviously never heard of things like personal space and boundaries, but for some reason Dean started to feel calmer.
Blue eyes met his when the mysterious man spoke again, “You aren’t dead because the atmosphere in here isn't toxic. If you leave the dome without protection, you will die.”
Could the guy be human then? Mutants couldn’t breathe the clean air in the cave, but if this man could, maybe he was just another survivor.
“Are you hungry?” the mysterious man interrupted his internal reverie with a softly asked question.
Dean eyed him suspiciously. “So is that what this is? You’re a cannibal?” That made way more sense. The man was keeping him and Sammy here in order to eat them.
The man tilted his head before he frowned and shook his head. "No. I eat vegetables and fruits. I grow them here."
“Bullshit,” Dean barked as he quirked his brow in disbelief. He took another cursory look around the room, taking note of all of the different green and brown plant like things he’d never seen before. That’s when he realized... “Shit. I’m already dead, aren’t I? You’re Yama, right? Here to judge my life?”
The mysterious man sighed deeply before he got up and went to one of the trees, plucking a round red thing from it. He walked back to Dean and knelt close beside him. “My designation is C.A.S.42, but you can call me Cas. It’s what my nurse called me.” He held the red shiny thing in front of Dean and added, “And this is an apple. Do you want to try it?”
Dean stared at the ‘apple’ for a moment. With a shrug he looked at the guy and leaned forward to take a bite from his hand, figuring if he was dead, eating supposed food given to him by this stranger wouldn’t kill him. When the juice of the food hit his tongue, Dean had to refrain from groaning outright.
He’d never tasted anything like it. Dean couldn’t even begin to describe the way its flavor made his taste buds sing with pleasure. Hell, if he was dead, maybe he’d already reached Kolob.
“You like it,” the man stated with a soft expression that spoke of contentment.
Dean nodded and stared at him in awe. “Are you Bog?”
"I'm C.A.S.42," he repeated. The man looked around the room and sighed before he asked, "If I unbind you, will you promise to not attack me? I can get your brother for you."
“I’m not gonna attack you,” he assured, more than ready to have the damn ropes cut off.
The weird man – Cas – squinted his eyes at him and tilted his head again before he untied the rope around Dean’s wrists. “Your brother refuses to get out of his suit. He said he can’t go back home if he’s undressed. Is that true?”
Dean rubbed at where the rope had dug into his skin and nodded. “It is. Which means, if I’m not already dead, then I will be.”
Cas suddenly took Dean’s hand in his and gently slid his warm fingertips over the irritated skin. The guy seriously had no comprehension of personal space. When Dean pulled back, the red marks on his skin were gone. “I don’t understand,” Cas murmured with a frown. “Why would you die?”
He pointed to his body and helmetless head. “I’m exposed. I won’t be allowed back in my home. And I will not let myself become one of those fucking monsters. I’ll blow my brains out before that happens.” Dean looked down at his mark free wrists and furrowed his brow. “How did you do that anyway?”
“I have the ability to regenerate cells of all living beings.” Cas touched Dean’s cheek and stared at him intensely. It felt like his stare was drilling into his flesh. “You won’t turn into one of them. You can die of radiation and the viruses out there. But you can’t become one of them.”
Dean snorted in derision. “Well, then there’s your answer. I step outside, I die. And since I’m not allowed back home anymore...” He sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, if you could grab my brother I’d appreciate it.”
“What if I help you repair your suit?” Cas asked after a moment, leading him to a door.
Dean shook his head. “The damage is already done.”
There were no empty platitudes from Cas, no “sorries” or anything of the like. Just a nod of acceptance as he opened the door for Dean. Sam was sitting in his suit on a bench, his arms tied up against it, like Dean’s had been.
The man moved to sit next to Sam on the bench in order to untie him when Sam looked up in shock. “Dean! Damnit, are you okay?”
Dean nodded. “M’fine, Sam. What happened out there?”
Sam shook his head before he breathed out, “We were surprised by a Leviathan. He jumped you and I only saw you get knocked to the ground before he hit me with his tail." Sam nodded towards Cas. "He saved us. He saved us without a suit."
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s Bog,” Dean replied as he shrugged. “Your suit’s okay? You can get back home?”
Sam rolled his eyes as he stood up. “He is not Bog. He’s obviously a mutant. And what about you? I’m not just giving you up like this. There must be something we can do to... I don’t know... repair your suit or trick the scanner.” Sam’s voice broke as he added, “This can’t be it.”
“Sammy, you know damn well that the scanner can’t be tricked. And hey, at least we get to say goodbye. Not a lot of people get that chance.” Dean took a deep breath. He wasn’t about to lose it in front of the god, or mutant, or whatever the hell he was.
After he had watched them quietly with a head tilt, Cas offered, “You can stay if you want. I have enough food.”
Sam turned to Cas with a raised eyebrow. “How can you have food?”
“I grow food in my garden,” Cas answered, pointing in the direction he and Dean had come from.
At Sam’s gobsmacked expression, Dean chuckled. “My Bog theory is seeming more and more likely, right?” He turned to Cas and asked, “Can you give him one of your apple things?” He turned back to his brother and added, “You gotta try one of these things.”
Sam gave Dean a pointed look. "Funny, Dean. Hey, if you want me to get contaminated and stay, just say the word."
Dean chuckled and shrugged. “Worth a shot.”
They followed Cas into the other room and Sam froze in the doorway, taking in the lush green trees and colorful plants. "What the... Are those actual trees and plants? Like in Dad's journal?"
Dean nodded. “Crazy, right? Gotta admit, I wondered if the old man had been lying at some point. Guess when I die, I’ll owe him a big apology.”
Sam still seemed out of breath. “You know what this means, right? If we could find a way to decontaminate the plants, we could grow them in our city. There would be enough food for everyone. Maybe we could even have more people–”
“The plants aren’t contaminated with any viruses or bacteria,” Cas calmly interrupted, but Sam shook his head.
“Even if that is true, there’s a law that we aren’t allowed to bring anything in from the outside world. Even if it means a new food source. Zion has survived this long because of its strict laws. No one will risk an infection that could wipe out our city.”
Cas frowned and looked at his trees with a thoughtful expression. “I understand. The biological weapons claimed as much life as the radiation. It’s wise to be cautious.”
“But it’s unwise to not be open to new possibilities. To... I don’t know, make our lives better! Our lives have only been about surviving and it would be nice if it could be about living for once,” Sam added with a low growl. “Maybe I can talk to the Council? I mean, if you’re willing to share your food, maybe there’s something we could do.”
Dean rolled his eyes at his brother’s optimism. “They’re not gonna listen to a Hunter, Sam. You know that.”
“Then I’ll make them listen, Dean!” Sam scrubbed his hands over his face in frustration. “Things need to change. I know you don’t want me to talk about this stuff, but you know it isn’t right. To live like this, day after day, just barely surviving. Getting real food could change everything.”
Finally starting to get frustrated, Dean couldn’t stop the way his voice grew low and adamant, “You know what happens to people who challenge the Council. So, you’re gonna go back, you’re gonna survive, and maybe get assigned a Milowda now they’re down another person. You get me?”
“We can't just ignore this, Dean. The fact that a place like this even exists is like the miracle a lot of people never dared to hope for. People have a right to know,” Sam pleaded with him.
Dean sighed. Sammy had a point, but he also knew what attempting to convince the Council to do anything outside of their strict rules would bring. Like when they tried to sneak Gunner back in after his suit ripped. Gunner was shot on sight and Dean was thrown into the sunchamber as punishment for attempting to disobey. He’d been kept in that bogforsaken room for four months, but it felt more like forty years. Dean could only imagine what they’d do to Sam if he tried to bring anything from this weird dome place. “I agree, man. But I don’t want you to get thrown in the sunchamber. No human should be forced into that situation.”
Sam looked away for a moment before he sighed deeply. “I will be careful. But you can't expect me to pretend this place doesn’t exist.” Sam turned to their mysterious savior with a frown. “Is my brother going to be okay with you?”
Cas tilted his head before he nodded. “He can stay as long as he wants. I will take good care of him.”
Sam gave Cas a long look before he frowned. “I’ve got a lot of questions, but I need to get back before the timer runs out and my tank is empty.” Sam looked down at the GPS navigator around his wrist. “I only have twenty minutes left. If I run, I can make it in time.”
Dean yanked Sam into a hug and patted his shoulder. “Get outta here. Bitch.”
Sam pulled him tighter for a moment, whispering, “Don’t give up… and be careful. I will visit you as soon as I can. Jerk.”
Dean chuckled and drew back. He took a deep breath and nodded. “Be safe. I’ll pray for you.”
“You too,” Sam replied in a determined voice before they accompanied him to the airlock.
“You are welcome to visit or stay anytime,” Cas offered and Sam gave him a grateful nod.
“Thank you. For everything.” Sam nodded before he left through the airlock, waving at Dean one last time before leaving the Dome.
Dean sighed and waved back as he watched his brother’s form disappear. He folded his arms against his chest, willing himself to not fucking cry. Spending his entire life with his baby brother by his side… Dean didn’t even want to think about the fact that he may never see him again.
“Do you need a hug? I heard it could bring comfort in times like this,” the weird mutant suddenly offered.
“You’ve heard, huh?” Dean scoffed and shook his head. He dropped his arms and fixed the guy with an expectant look. “What’s your deal, anyway? Do you usually rescue random Forty-Fivers?”
Cas rubbed his hand over the back his neck. “I didn’t know there were people like you. I only know the others outside and they aren't very friendly.”
“How come you don’t need a suit? Sam said you rescued us without one.”
Cas nodded before he waved for him to follow. The Dome was bigger than he had thought. Complete with long white, sterile hallways and rooms adjacent to the huge glass dome in the center. Cas opened one of the doors at the end of the hallway. It contained a bed with a white metal barrier, a few books, and a small table with paper and colorful pencils. There was a dark stain on one of the walls and Dean's trained eyes immediately recognized it as an old bloodstain.
“This is my room. Nurse Meg looked after me here, um, that was before the others killed everyone and went outside. They left me alone because I’m not like them. The doctors said something went wrong, that I'm broken because I didn't turn out like them.”
Dean regarded him for a moment, trying to piece together the puzzle of the man before him. Or mutant. Whatever the hell he was. “So, how long have you been here?”
“Since before the darkness, when the sky had still been blue,” Cas replied and showed him a paper on which someone had drawn in blue with white… clouds he was guessing, and green plants like in the dome. There was even a weird yellow and black insect on a colorful plant.
Shit. He didn’t even know how long ago that was. Blue sky hadn’t existed in centuries. Dean furrowed his brow and shook his head. “Are you immortal?”
Cas shook his head. “I can be killed. But my cells regenerate like everything I touch. I can heal living matter. That is why I don't die outside.”
“Then I don’t get how you’re broken. It sounds like we could use people like you.”
“I don’t think I'm broken just because I like to create things instead of destroying them. The doctors said I was a failure, because they wanted to create more of the others. For the war outside. In the end, all the doctors died at the hand of their own creation.” Cas shrugged before he gave Dean a thoughtful look. “There are a lot of unused rooms. You can choose one that you like.”
Dean nodded and let out a sigh of acquiescence. “I, uh… I’m not good at shit like this, but… thanks. For lettin’ me stay. For saving me.”
Cas tilted his head, his expression confused. “I preserve life. It's what I do. There is no need to thank me. Come to the dome when you are hungry.”
“You actually part droid, or just that bad at socializing?” Dean asked as he chuckled. At least it made him feel better about the whole thanking him thing.
The guy actually looked worried for a moment. “I apologize. It’s been a while since the last time I've talked to someone. My ‘people skills’ are ‘rusty’,” he said, accentuating his words with air quotes.
He shrugged and looked away as he asked, “So, uh… which room should I take?”
“Whichever room you're comfortable with. I only use the upper level,” Cas explained before he quietly added, “I never go in the basement. The bad things are down there.”
“Bad things?” Dean asked as he turned back to look at him.
Cas just nodded quickly and abruptly left his room. Before Dean could stop him, he went back to the dome. And damn, the guy was fast. The five seconds it took Dean to decide whether or not he should go after the weirdo, Cas had crossed to the other side of the dome.
“Dude, what’s your deal?” Dean called out as he drew closer to Cas.
Cas shuffled his feet on the earthy ground before he knelt down and let his palm hover over the ground. It started to glow and a few seconds later, a plant grew from the soil. It had a large, rich yellow blossom and a round, brown inner part. Cas plucked it and handed it to Dean. “A welcome gift for your room. It's a sunflower. It’s not the actual sun, but may it brighten your days in this darkness.”
“Man, I thought I was bad.” Dean shook his head in amazement as he grabbed the flower. He was no fan about talking it out, emotions, all that shit – not that any Forty-Fivers were – but Cas seemed outright terrified. Dean moved to kneel on the ground next to him and looked at the guy expectantly. “You gonna run away and grow me a flower every time I ask you for details?”
Cas looked away before he slowly shook his head. His voice sounded like a frightened child as he said, “I'm afraid of the basement. I don't want to talk about it. I can't. I'm sorry.”
“Hey,” Dean said as he leaned down to catch Cas’s gaze. Their eyes locked and Cas followed when Dean sat up and finished his sentence, “That’s okay. Just say that. Don’t run away from me. I’ll understand you better if you tell me.”
Cas nodded slowly. “I'm sorry. I haven’t needed to explain myself in over six hundred years. I'm not used to talking.”
Dean chuckled. “And I’m kinda shit at understanding body language. So, if you’re stuck with me as a roommate for a while, we should probably find a good middle ground.”
It was the first time he saw the other man smile. It was barely there, but still... it made his blue eyes shine even brighter. “I'm happy you're here.” He then looked shocked and turned away again. “I'm sorry. I'm not happy that you got separated from your brother. Though I still don't understand why he couldn’t just stay too. I have enough space and I'm all alone.”
The weird urge to comfort this man was a little surprising, if not entirely unsurprising at the same time. Apparently, being a big brother was so ingrained in him, that he’d project it onto the nearest available person. Or mutant. Dean nodded and explained why Sam couldn’t stay, “Because this isn’t our home. Our home is about ten klicks that way.” He pointed to the east.
“Are there many humans like you at your home?” Cas asked with a head tilt.
“Enough of us,” he answered vaguely. Even though Dean was stuck here, at the mercy of this mutant, that didn’t mean he was an idiot. The Forty-Fivers had lasted and lived through the dark times for a reason. Never trust anyone.
And Cas seemed to accept his answer without question. He was either really bad at spying, considering Dean had all the time in the world to be interrogated. Or maybe he really wasn’t spying at all and simply just a strange mutant that was somehow different from the rest of them. “I could show you the plants and food you can eat.”
Dean nodded and moved to stand, holding his hand out for Cas to take. “Alright. Show me.”
Cas tilted his head before he took Dean’s hand in both of his, not to pull himself up, but to slide his fingertips over the back of his hand as he slowly stood up. “You’re strong,” he stated, sounding confused before he let go of him and went to the trees. Dean’s hand still tingled from the contact.
Shaking out his hand, which wasn’t making the tingling go away, Dean decided to try and focus on what Cas was showing him. Apparently, he was able to eat a lot of the plants in the dome. “Cas, buddy. Maybe it’ll be easier if you just show me what I shouldn’t eat?”
Cas pointed at the trees a little further away from – what he had now learned – was the vegetable garden. “You shouldn’t eat those berries from that tree. They‘re poisonous to your organism.”
Before Dean could ask why Cas was growing poisonous trees in the first place, Cas answered his unasked question.
“The trees filter poison from the air, which is produced in the form of berries, to protect itself. I use the berries to paint the outer walls of the Dome to keep the aggressive creatures from coming too close.”
“Good to know,” he said as he looked around, soaking in all of the colors. “Anything else?”
Cas gave him a thoughtful look before he pointed at a plant with a lot of round, dark red fruits that smelled very sweet. “Those are grapes. You can eat them, but I want to use them to make wine. It’s an alcoholic beverage. You’ve probably never had one, but let me assure you, it's worth the wait. If there’s a particular vegetable or fruit you really like, tell me and I’ll grow more of it. Some of them only taste good when cooked. There is a kitchen that I can show you.”
Dean shook his head in amazement. He had no idea what cooking or a kitchen was, but from what he’d seen, he doubted it was something bad. “If what you show me is anything close to the taste of that apple, I’m sure I’ll like it.”
Cas plucked some small red fruits from a tree that appeared to grow in pairs. He threw the stem away before he pressed it to Dean's lips. “Taste this, but be careful when you chew. There is a small pit in it.”
Dean cleared his throat and gently took the fruit from Cas’s fingers and placed it in his mouth. When he bit down, the juice of the fruit exploded against his tongue and he was unable to hold back the groan. It was way better than the apple. “What is this?” he asked around the fruit in his mouth, mindful of whatever a pit was. He guessed it was the hard thing that hurt his teeth.
Cas gave him another barely there smile. “It’s a cherry. You seem to like sweet things. Maybe I should make you a pie? I have a cookbook and I can make a lot of dishes from the old world.” He looked away, but Dean could see the other man appeared pretty happy. “It’s nice to be able to share this with someone.”
“No idea what a pie is, but if it tastes like that, I won’t have a problem eating it.” Dean looked around. “What else can I try?”
Cas led him to another tree full of red and yellow fruits that looked slightly furry and soft. He picked a red one and held it out to Dean. “This is a peach. It's very juicy.”
Dean took it from him and took a large bite, his mouth filling with juice and the meat of an intensely sweet fruit. “Dude.”
Cas suddenly reached forward and used his thumb to rub away the juice running down Dean’s chin. “Do you like the peach as well?”
“Uh, yeah,” Dean said as he furrowed his brow and took a step back from him, feeling a bizarre warmth from the contact. “I like everything so far.”
Cas nodded and pointed to a basket. “I wanted to cook a soup with vegetables.” He picked up the basket – which contained a few different, dirty looking vegetables that didn’t look as delicious as the cherries and peaches. “It won’t be sweet like the fruits, but I'm sure you will like it. Follow me.”
“What’s soup?” Dean asked as he followed him through the garden to the hallway of rooms. He hooked a right and they stepped into what he assumed was the kitchen. It looked a little bit like Gabriel’s lab.
Cas put the different vegetables in a bowl and into a sink before he pulled on a tap and water came out if it. Fresh water, unlike the supply they had back in Zion. All of his thoughts about soup were forgotten as he stepped closer.
Dean reached out and ran his hand under it. “Wow,” he murmured as he splashed it on his face. He couldn’t help but laugh as he flicked the water on Cas’s face. “Water!”
Cas scrunched up his nose before he smiled. “I have a feeling that you will love the shower.”
“Shower?” Dean asked as he splashed some more of the water on his face, shaking out a few of the droplets from his hair.
Cas nodded before he put the vegetables down and waved for him to follow. “The bathroom only has a community shower, but you can close the door with a key.”
He opened a door down the hall from the kitchen. It was a large room that was covered in white tiles. There were two separate little stalls that Cas showed him as a toilet. Dean jumped for joy over the idea of never having to use a sandroom again. Cas then led him behind a chest high wall that separated another part of the room. The wall actually held several lockers and a long bench in front of them. That’s when he saw what Cas called a shower. There were several large circular metal protrusions all along a large tiled wall.
Cas reached forward to pull on a tap and water started to come out of one of the metal circles. It was surreal. “This is the shower. You can wash yourself here. I can give you towels to dry your body.”
Dean reached out and let the water run over his palm. Without thinking about it, Dean started undressing then and there. He tossed the his clothes over the side of the wall before stepping under the stream. “Holy shit.”
Cas looked at him with big eyes before he reached to the tap and turned it. The water turned warmer. “You can adjust the temperature like this. I… I’ll get you a towel.”
Dean groaned in appreciation and turned the knob a little more, really hot water now cascading down years long aches in his muscles. “Can I just sleep in here?” he asked, only half joking.
Cas smiled softly. “I fear the water won't stay hot. I use electricity to warm it up. You will be freezing after a while.”
“I guess that settles that,” he groaned as he shook his head under the water and laughed.
“So you don't have showers where you live?” Cas asked curiously as he held his hand under the stream.
Dean shook his head. “No. Once a month we’re allowed a day for bathing with recycled bath water. It’s maybe lukewarm if you’re lucky. And it’s not…” he let out a soft groan and finished, “it’s not like this.”
“This water is recycled too. It flows through a filter of cleaning plants and sand.” Cas looked rather proud in that moment. “A lot of plants have incredible abilities.” He splashed some water in Dean’s face like Dean had done earlier.
Dean barked out a laugh and cupped his hands to fill with water before he tossed the pool in Cas’s face.
Cas made a pretty funny and indignant noise before he stared down at his wet clothes. “You made my clothes wet.”
“Don’t start a water fight you can’t win,” Dean teased as he chuckled.
Cas pulled off his weird coat and quickly removed the white scrubs. His body had more muscles than his bulky clothes would have suggested and his skin was only marred by a couple of weird tattoos. Not that he had time to look at them before Cas started the shower next to him and splashed a lot of water in his face.
Dean shook his head and smiled. “That’s it!” He opened his mouth and let it fill to the brim with water. He smacked his cheeks and spit the water in Cas’s face.
Cas let out a very funny squeaking noise as he tried to defend himself, covering his face with his hands before he splashed water back at Dean. Cas’s water was much warmer than Dean’s.
So instead of splashing him again, Dean pulled Cas under his shower before flipping around to switch places. He groaned in contentment at the feeling of hotter water.
Cas shivered under the water of the other shower and gave him a wide eyed look before he sneaked closer under the warm water again, closing his eyes for a moment. “I like warmth. It reminds me of the sun.”
“You’ve seen the sun?” he breathed out in awe as he moved slightly to share the shower with him.
Cas smiled without opening his eyes. “Yes, it's bright and warm. You can't look at the sun because it's so bright it hurts your eyes. But if you close your eyes and face the sun, you can feel the warmth on your face and all you see is red through your eyelids. And the sky was so blue and endless. I wish you could have seen it.”
Dean sighed and closed his eyes as he tried to imagine it. “Me, too.”
“I wonder if you can still see the sky on the highest mountains?” Cas wondered out loud after a moment.
He opened his eyes and looked at Cas. “Well, no tanks last long enough for me to ever find out.”
He wondered if the sky had the color of Cas’s eyes when the man before him opened them. “This is our world now. And I'm glad I can share water and food with you to make your life at least a little bit better.”
Dean genuinely smiled then. He supposed if he had to spend the rest of his life in exile, there were worse ways to spend it than with a nice mutant with an endless supply of food. “Thank you for sharing it with me.”
The water started to get cold and Cas shivered. He smiled up at him. “Time for a towel.” He turned and went around the wall to grab something before he brought a huge, soft looking white towel back to Dean, handing it to him with a smile before he wrapped himself up in his own.
Dean toweled himself dry before wrapping it over his shoulders, chuckling contentedly as he soaked in the softness. “Is… is there stuff I can do? You’ve done so much for me, I’d like to do my share.”
Cas was almost completely vanished inside the towel as he dried himself and hung it over a metal bar when he was done. “I can show you how to cook and you can help me wash and cut the vegetables. You can also help me feed the animals.”
“Animals?” Dean was entirely incapable of keeping the excitement out of his tone as he pulled his pants back on. He’d only ever heard stories about animals.
Cas nodded. “I have three rabbits, a couple of chickens, and a cow.” Cas pulled his coat over his scrubs. “Do you want to meet them?”
Dean nodded enthusiastically as he threw his shirt over his head. “How have they survived?”
“The laboratory has a huge catalog of stored animal DNA… Over time I learned how to create and revive animals from those cells, but I only did it with a few. I keep them healthy and they keep me company. But they are poor conversationalists,” Cas explained slowly as they left the bathroom. He pointed at the wall and something in silver letters. “This place was known as the ARK for its catalogs of the different types of DNA. It was a military laboratory back in the day. The primary mission was to create the perfect soldier… one that survived an atomic war. But they also had other projects here.”
“Like what?” Dean asked, finding himself more and more distracted from his loss by the sheer, overwhelming amount of positives of being stuck here with the mutant.
“Like the storing and cataloging of animal DNA. I sometimes believe that creating me wasn’t an accident. While I was mostly classified as a failure and left alone, there was one professor who taught me a lot. He once told me when everything is over, I would need the knowledge to revive those animals. I sometimes think that he meant after the war and the radiation. That my mission would be to repopulate the planet once it was safe outside again. Sadly, he died before I could learn everything about my abilities and their purpose.”
Dean shook his head in amazement. “Is it possible there’s notes or journals or anything he left?” Hell, it’s how Dean knew things other Forty-Fivers didn’t, his dad’s journals and stories. Not that he could read the journal, but Sammy could and he’d read to him.
For a moment Cas looked uncomfortable. “Maybe on the lower floors, but I don't go down there.” He shook his head before he led Dean to the dome again. He pointed at one of the doors in the back of the huge glass building. “The animals live there. I keep them there so they don't accidentally go somewhere dangerous.”
Dean nodded, feeling a little giddy. “Can we see them right now?”
Cas nodded and slowly opened the door. Dean could sense that the air was thicker and smelled... not great. A massive black and white animal was the first one that came into sight. It made a loud moo noise when they entered.
“This is the cow. She gives milk that I use to bake,” Cas explained with a soft smile.
Dean’s eyes widened in surprise, he approached the animal and stroked over her neck. She was incredibly soft. “Hi,” he said in amazement to the creature. He looked back at Cas and asked, “What’s her name?”
Cas tilted his head. “Her designation in the DNA catalog was Pecora Bovidae Bos Primigenius.”
Dean started scratching the cow behind her ear. “How ‘bout we call you Cora?”
The cow mooed again and licked over Dean’s hand. Cas gave him a soft smile. “I think she likes you and her new name. If you want to, you can name all of them.” He pointed at a huge enclosure next to the cow with two fluffy two legged animals in it and three four legged furry ones with long ears.
Dean climbed over the fence and the two legged creatures scattered. He barked out a laugh as he tried to catch one. “These rabbits are fast!”
Cas leaned against the fence and pointed at the furry animals with a bright smile. “Those are rabbits. You're chasing a chicken and they don't like to cuddle that much. The rabbits though…”
Without thinking about it, Dean went to the real rabbits and picked one up. They were even softer than the cow. He started petting it, unable to hide the smile. “This is amazing.”
“The chickens produce eggs we can eat and the cow produces milk. I believe the rabbits were kept as pets because they are soft and nice to look at. Sometimes I pet them for hours and it makes me happy,” Cas explained to him.
“I get that,” Dean said as he practically cuddled the small creature in his arms.
“You’re good with them. I'll show you tomorrow how to feed and collect the eggs and milk. If you want to, this could be your work here.” Cas had joined him to pet one of the other rabbits between its ears.
Dean nodded in excitement. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
“Good.” Cas stood up and gave him a smile. “I’ll prepare a meal. Stay with them as long as you want to. I know it was a trying day for you.”
“Okay,” Dean said as he gently put the rabbit down and proceeded to try and catch a chicken again.
In the corner of his eye he noticed Cas putting the rabbit down and climbing over the fence, leaving the room. Now alone with his thoughts, Dean let the reality of his situation sink in. For the first time in his life he was separated from his brother, the person he had always been responsible for, taken care of.
Their situation had been a special circumstance. When their mother, Mary, was assigned to John, their father; they had unexpectedly developed feelings for each other. The majority of the time, people were assigned their Milowda based on how far apart they were from each other in the gene pool. It wasn’t unheard of, but it was rare when the Milowdas actually fell in love.
Having kids was a whole different process. You had to apply to the Council of Six for permission to procreate and your application was only reviewed when a Forty-Fiver passed away. Dean had been planned, applied for, earned. And there was a factor in his upbringing that hadn’t existed for a lot of other children. Love.
And then everything changed. Dean was three when Mary got pregnant with Sam.
Accidental pregnancies weren’t uncommon, but it was standard procedure to terminate the unapproved pregnancy. Their Mom, ever the kind and loving woman, pleaded with the Council to take her instead. She went through multiple trials, arguments with John, punishments… when finally they permitted her to carry the pregnancy to term and live for the first six months of Sam’s life to provide him enough milk.
The day Sam turned six months old, the guards stormed into their domicile and dragged his mother from a weeping and bereft Dean. The last memory he had of his mother was her being dragged from his arms like some sort of criminal.
After that John had become a shell of the man he once was. With the loss of Mary and the guilt of being left with the child she had died for, he could barely function. So, four year old Dean suddenly became responsible for his six month old baby brother. He had to be a mother and a father to a child, even though he still was one. But it stuck. His entire life, everything he ever did was for Sam. He didn’t think he had an identity outside of Sam Winchester’s Big Brother. And now?
Now he was separated from him for the first time in twenty five years. Now he was on his own. Well, not entirely, considering he was now unwitting roomies with a mutant with a heart of gold. Dean felt numb to it, years of having to keep his emotions hidden for fear of being sent to the sunchamber. He might not be smart, but he knew full well the shockwaves of his loss were going to hit him sooner rather than later. Still, it was just easier to distract himself from his thoughts. To focus on taking care of something, even if it was a cow, rabbits, and chickens.
Dean smiled down at the animals. “Alright. Let’s name you guys.”