Actions

Work Header

Shadows Filled Up With Doubt

Work Text:

Castiel tunes out the whimpers that echo within concrete walls as he patrols the perimeter of the room, gun slack in his hands. From the corner of his eye, he can see a green army jacketed form stalking around another body chained to a chair. There's red all over.

“Where's Lucifer? What’s his next move? You will tell me or it'll only get worse. I was trained by the best.”

He flinches when the screams start up again. With each piece of skin Dean flays from the creature, a little piece of Castiel's soul is skinned away, too.

***

It begins after Robert Singer dies in his South Dakota home. Most of them had moved to Camp Chitaqua by then, but Bobby had remained steadfast in his home of fifty odd years. Said he was safer there than anywhere else. Only problem was, Enochian sigils and Devil's Traps didn't keep out people juiced up on the Croatoan virus. They didn't reach him in time.

The stoic look that descended on Dean's features when they burned Bobby's body gave Castiel shivers.

Less than a week after they laid the hunter to rest, Castiel and Chuck go on a supply run with a few of the younger men from the camp. Dean no longer goes on these runs, claiming Castiel can handle the Croats and that Chuck knows far better than anyone what they need at the base camp. He's right, of course. But Castiel knows it is less his own competence and more Dean finding the runs beneath him, leaving the former angel to babysit the prophet of the Lord. If it didn't involve eviscerating zombies, Dean couldn't give a shit.

They returned several days later, having had to travel into North Dakota as they've already raided everything in the immediate area that wasn't spoiled by those affected with the virus. Castiel doesn't bother checking in with Dean; that is Chuck's job. Instead, he heads straight to his cabin where he finds Shannon waiting for him – naked – and so he loses himself in the dark hair and dark eyes that remind him of no one and remembers the beauty of humanity for an hour.

He is sitting in bed, girl gone, smoking a joint when Chuck comes bursting into his cabin.

“Don't you knock?” Cas asks with a slow grin. His sexploits – Dean had taught him that word – were infamous around here now, after all.

Chuck's face is half panic and all seriousness. “Cas. It's Dean. You need to come now.”

He immediately swings his legs out of bed, joint forgotten. “Is he hurt?” Castiel slides his arms into a shirt and then they're out the door.

“No, he's not hurt. It's just...I didn't know. But some of the guys came up to me when I couldn't find him. Mentioned something about his last raid. And a demon.”

Those are words that would stop Castiel in his tracks normally, but right now he's too worried that wherever Chuck leads him, Dean will be at the end lying broken and bleeding.

They finally stop outside a cabin on the edge of the perimeter. They don't go out there often; it's normally used as a guard house.

Chuck turns to him, wringing his hands and looking incredibly frazzled. “He's been in there for two days, now, they said.”

“What is going on?” Castiel demands but even though Chuck flinches, he doesn't say anything more, just opens the door.

Castiel takes in the sight in front of him with a sharp inhale. There's a Devil's Trap chalked on the floorboards. In it sits a man, his head bleeding from a gash on his temple. His eyes are black and blue, his clothes ripped and bloody.

Dean is standing behind him, oblivious to Chuck and Castiel's presence as he leans over the man's shoulder, whispering something in his ear. In his hands, he holds a pliers.

The demon – for that's surely what he is – has no fingernails.

“Dean Winchester.” His voice surprises even himself; it's assertive and angry, loud. His blood is rushing in his ears, the adrenaline heightening his senses, and anger flows through his veins.

Dean's gaze turns on him and for a moment, it's still harsh. But then his eyes widen and a look of horror crosses his features. He glances down at the pliers in his hands and drops them. The thunk they make when they hit the ground shatters the thick silence.

Castiel steps into the room and says a quick exorcism; Latin is still ingrained in his mind, even if he's impotent when it comes to banishing demons hands-on. The demon's essence bursts out of the host's mouth and vanishes.

“Chuck,” Castiel says, eyes still on Dean who has backed himself up against a wall. “Get Tom and Jeff in here to clean up the body.”

Castiel stays there, never taking his eyes off Dean who has sunk to the ground, head in his hands. Within ten minutes, the body of the demon is dragged out. Blood smears across the floor.

“Burn it,” he says to Jeff as they pass by.

Once they've left, Castiel closes the door behind him, locking it. He walks towards Dean, stopping when he's a foot away.

“Dean.”

He doesn't look up. There's blood on the cuffs of his jacket. There's blood on his hands.

Castiel nudges him with his foot. Says his name again, a little quieter; softer.

“Dean. Look at me.”

He finally turns his head up, staring into Castiel's shadow. There are wet tracks down his face and his voice is rough with emotion. “Cas. Cas, I don't know what I was doing. It was just...we caught him. And he wouldn't tell us anything. It was so easy...”

Dean trails off and Castiel sighs, sliding down the wall next to him. He doesn't touch him, but they're close, jackets barely brushing against each other. It's getting dark outside and he can't see the bloodstains any more. He knows they are there, though, and they burn inside him like acid, a pattern that clings to his retinas when he closes his eyes.

“That's not you, Dean. You don't torture. We kill the bad guys and we keep on living. That's what you taught me.”

“It's not enough, though.” Dean's voice is hushed, wretched. “He was going to break. I could feel it. He could have told us where Lucifer was hiding. Maybe where the Colt is.”

“He couldn't have told you where Sa-” he corrects himself, “Lucifer is. And if he had, he'd have been lying. You think Lucifer lets demons go when they know where he is? My brother is not stupid.”

“Just a little longer,” Dean says before he tips into Castiel's body, head resting on his arm where it lies across his knees. His body is shaking.

Castiel knows it's just the crash from adrenaline, but still, he reaches across with his other arm and lets his hand run through Dean's hair. It's cut a little shorter than it used to be; Dean's picked up more military habits as the apocalypse has crept on. He probably learned them from his father. Dean doesn't shy away from his touch and for a little while, Castiel is grateful.

***

Dean had been Castiel's first time. After the sweat had cooled and they were lying together, legs tangled around each other and the stiff motel room sheets, Dean had smiled charmingly at him and said:

“Just so you know, Cas, this doesn't mean we're going steady or anything.”

That had been fine with Castiel. As an angel, he hadn't expected devotion or for Dean to change his ways. Sex had been pleasant, but that was it. In fact, he'd assumed Dean would have stopped caring about Castiel and sex at all since Castiel was no longer a virgin, his promise fulfilled.

As he'd become more human, though, he'd found himself starting to care. He felt jealous, possessive, angry, sometimes. Emotions that as an angel, he'd never known. He'd seen them, yes. Seen Paris destroy Troy all for the love of a woman. Seen empires crumble because of man's frailty when it came to succumbing to emotions. But now he lived them. They broiled up inside him until they spilled over and he was forced to lock himself in his cabin so that he didn't show the world how weak he'd become.

Sex made him feel alive; for that minute of orgasm, he reached an ecstasy that rivaled communion with his brothers in the Heavenly Host. He found he liked dirty sex, rough sex, sex without words that allowed him to completely be in the experience, to simply feel. And when his mouth claimed Dean's, when he bent Dean to his will with a twist of his hips, his mind screamed mine, mine, mine! the entire time.

Ironic, then, that Dean had not had sex with anyone but him while he was an angel – despite his words which had indicated he planned to – yet, since Castiel had fallen, Dean was open for business, women in and out of his bed like a revolving door.

Some days it drove Castiel out of his mind. Other days, he was able to calmly accept it. Castiel had nothing to offer Dean anymore since he'd fallen from the angel club. He was useless.

Human.

***

It started with alcohol. After that initial bender he found it to be his best friend. It became his crutch when he was sad or feeling too much. The drug both heightened emotions and dulled the pain. He could spin the things he was feeling over and over in his mind while he drank but they were just out of his reach. It gave him the illusion of being an outside observer again.

For the first few months of living in the camp, everyone had left him alone with his whiskey and vodka. But Dean dragged him out of his cabin one night, insisting he needed social contact and that night was the first time someone challenged him to a drinking contest.

While Castiel was quickly losing the tolerance levels he'd had as an angel, he could still out drink an entire platoon of soldiers – so Dean said. After a while, the veterans of the camp went back to leaving him alone, unable to lose any more of their money or dignity to Castiel's iron stomach. But every time a new person joined the camp they heard of Castiel's drinking habits and thought themselves up to the challenge. It kept him in lube, condoms, smokes, and toilet paper.

When Dean found Chuck a year later – he'd survived the Croats initial attack because he'd been guarded by an archangel still and had been kept in a military safe house since – and brought him back to camp, Castiel quit the drinking games that went on in their makeshift bar. Instead, he and Chuck sat and drank together at a two-person table in the back, not needing much conversation. They got along well enough. He'd lost his reverence for the prophet, but still had respect for the man who could cook up some mean scrambled eggs and understood the need to lose himself in drink.

Castiel never failed to be amused by the rumors surrounding them. If anything, Castiel saw Chuck as a strange sort of father figure. Weird as he was eons older than Chuck, but when Dean stopped feeling inclined to converse with him for periods longer than twenty minutes, it was Chuck who took Castiel under his wing and explained the bits of humanity that still perplexed Castiel.

***

Castiel discovered he liked to dance. He wasn't very good, but even Dean had to admit his 'slinky hips' moved well to the beat. Chuck helped him out there, too, picking up a box of CDs from someone's house while they were out on a supply run. Dean kept the camp running on generators, so Castiel stole some batteries on their next run and traded a quart of homemade beer for someone's disc-man.

He found he didn't like pop. Classical was beautiful in its mathematical symmetry, symphonies washing over him like the chorus of Heaven. Heavy metal did nothing for him, though he'd become accustomed to the classic rock Dean still listened to from time to time.

His favorites, though, were those with Latin or reggae beats. Dean rolled his eyes at him, not understanding the music or Castiel's inclination to lose himself to it. But on what would have been the two-year anniversary of Castiel losing his virginity to Dean, he found a few battered CDs featuring salsa music wrapped in brown paper and string on his dresser.

The sex they had that night was surprisingly gentle and sweet. Castiel came with a sigh in Dean's mouth – lips locked in a kiss – ass clenching around his fingers.

Extracurricular activities were few and far between – unless you counted drinking and sex – but one day he walked by one of the women's cabin barracks and saw a blonde wearing low cut jeans and a flowy top moving across the floor in bare feet to a beat he couldn't hear. Curious, he knocked on the open door's frame and smiled when the girl started. The thing that drew him further in was that, after a moment, he remembers seeing her leaving Dean's cabin late last night.

“You dance?” he asks, running his fingers over the metal of the bunk bed closest to him.

She nods, a flush on her cheeks, a wary smile on her face.

“Do you?”

“Not well,” he laughs.

“You're Castiel, aren't you?”

“That's me.” He lets an easy grin slide over his face.

“Dean...well, the camp, really, talks about you a lot. I'm new here. They say you're an angel.”

He shrugs. “That's what they say. But,” he leans forward, into her space. He can see the sweat glistening on her forehead, smell the slight musk that speaks of their limited water supplies and humanity in general. “I don't believe everything they say, if you know what I mean.”

Her eyes widen and then she tosses her long curls over her shoulder in a laugh. “My name's Amanda. Let's dance.”

Her eyes are brown, her lips pink and smiling, her frame slimmer than he's used to. They move to a beat no one but them hears and she catches and corrects him when he misses a step. They move like that until it turns into something else, heart pounding in his chest as he lifts up one of her legs so that it wraps around his waist.

He swears he can taste Dean inside her, but he knows it's just wishful thinking.

After, they lie side by side with only the scratchy blanket covering them – more her than him – and she pulls a joint from her nightstand she shares with whomever sleeps above her. Used to the feel of cigarettes between his fingers, he figures it isn't much different and inhales deep on his first pull. He chokes and the lithe girl next to him doubles over in laughter, shoulders shaking. He frowns and tries again when she tells him to hold in the smoke. It doesn't hit him right away, but then it does, and it's glorious.

She's his other first.

***

The world around them is dying. Very little green is left anymore. The northern states are covered in ice and ghostly trees. The south is sweltering, plants dried out like burnt husks. There in South Dakota it's a mixture. The vegetation is still lush but it all pokes out from snow patches. Some of those in the camp keep a garden through hard work and a lot of babying the vegetables. They make do on a limited diet.

Castiel's able to pass off his weight loss due to that. Dean barks at him to eat more – they can't fight properly if he's too weak, he says – and Chuck just looks at him sadly.

Castiel thinks Chuck knows. That he knows the bottles disappearing out of the medicine stash aren't the result of black market trade. It almost makes Castiel feel ashamed. The thing is, Castiel feels stronger. And somewhere along the line, if he'd been born human, he'd have learned drugs made you think you were invincible. But Castiel hadn't been born a human. There's no D.A.R.E. teacher scolding him in his head and the hunters of the camp are either too focused on the hunt or themselves to worry about a sorry excuse of a former angel trying to find his next high.

***

The second time Dean tortures again, Castiel isn't there. He'd passed out on a combination of amphetamines and the heavy binge drinking they allowed. He doesn't know anything about it until he finds himself face-first in the toilet, staring at his own vomit and Chuck making disgusted sounds behind him even as he pats his back in a manner that is probably meant to be soothing.

“You're going to have a wicked headache, Cas.”

“I already do,” he growls.

How long he camps out on the floor, he doesn't know. All he realizes is that there's always a glass of cool water ready for him and a pillow he can rest his head on for when he's not throwing up.

“Never doing that again,” he states at one point, not even knowing if anyone's there to listen to him.

But Chuck apparently hasn't left. He makes a sympathetic noise and then pauses heavily enough that Castiel can't help but notice.

“What is it?” Cas asks.

“Dean...well, he tortured again. A demon. About the Colt.”

“Perfect,” he says before he has to make use of the toilet again.

He confronts Dean two days after the torture, three since he'd passed out, according to Chuck. He calls Dean to his cabin and is surprised when Dean comes through the door with a soft expression. He looks strangely naked; he's not wearing his usual ten layers. He has only a long sleeve shirt and a pair of worn jeans on.

He looks good.

Castiel glances up from the list he's making. He's in desperate need of coffee and he's also running low on smokes.

“Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas,” Dean says, stepping into the room and scanning it. He steps just close enough so that his arm brushes against Castiel's back. It's not quite a caress, but Castiel leans into it anyway. “You're changing up the digs. A gong?”

“Meditation,” he responds. “I do yoga to keep limber now. Trying to keep my reflexes in shape.”

“You could just come to practice.”

Castiel can't. He doesn't like seeing Dean sweaty, fumbling with the other men of the camp. Even if he has no interest in them – which certainly isn't true, there's a sweet boy barely nineteen he sees fawning over Dean and he doubts someone gets that look in their eyes around Dean unless they've been treated to his skills in bed – it stirs up something dark and bitter inside him. Other days, he spars with the female hunters of the camp and that burns worse in Castiel's gut.

“I believe I do satisfactory, not only in the field, but also in our private sessions. I don't recall you complaining.”

He offers up a quick leer and Dean laughs. Scrapes his fingernails down Castiel's neck as he leans in like he's sharing a secret. “Wanna fuck?”

Castiel doesn't, actually; he took a few pills just over an hour ago and whenever he takes this particular cocktail, he can't get it up for hours. Unfortunate side effect, but he loves the pleasant feeling it gives him. Unlike his other drugs, this one doesn't send him flying. He's just able to forget and feel happy for a little while.

But still, he's not going to turn Dean down. He moves his chair back from the desk, twisting in order to grab Dean's shirt at the collar and tug him down closer. He kisses away the lascivious smirk from Dean's face, his other hand reaching up to keep him in place, resting on his neck.

“C'mere,” he mumbles against plump lips, pulling Dean into his lap. He knows he's avoiding the purpose of Dean's visit, but he gets so little of Dean these days, he's going to take each moment Dean will let him have before he casts him aside for the next redhead that walks by. It's selfish. Something else he never experienced as an angel, but that's just par for the course, now.

Dean is already hard in his jeans as he straddles Castiel's thighs, placing his hands on either side of his shoulders so that he grips the chair tight. Castiel kisses him with a hunger he feels in his gut, even if he's not feeling it in his groin. The hunger is always there – has been since Famine came to town.

He continues to kiss Dean, making his way down the hunter's throat, leaving little nips of claim behind. He keeps his hand on the back of Dean's neck, but slides the one that had been clutching in his shirt down to his crotch, rubbing with a firm pressure. He fingers open the button on Dean's jeans, listening to the clicking of his zipper pulling down. Outside he can hear some of the other hunters yelling about something, but it seems fairly good-natured. The sound of vehicles coming to life nearly pulls his attention away; he didn't get his list to Chuck in time and now he's going to have to hope the prophet remembers him bitching about needing more cigarettes. It'll be another week where he has to scrounge if not. He can't help but wonder if Dean timed his visit on purpose.

“Cas, come on, man,” Dean breathes, thrusting up into Castiel's still hand on his fly, gripping his thighs tighter. It makes Castiel wish he hasn't taken those pills because Dean looks good enough to fuck, sprawled in his lap with his eyes lidded and his penis threatening to push out of his boxers.

Castiel slips his hand inside the slit of Dean's boxers, feeling the soft skin of his cock against the roughened patches on his palms where he's gained gun calluses, feels it leap eagerly into his hand as he slides the skin up and down the shaft all in the confined space. He draws it out slowly, amused as Dean winces as the tip catches inside his pants for a moment too long. By the time he is fully exposed, Dean is completely hard and his cock bounces against his stomach when Castiel lets go.

He uses both hands to grab at Dean's ass and slide him closer so that his dick is pressed tight between their bodies. He brings one hand up and licks a strip along it before placing it on Dean's dick. Dean watches all his movements with heavy eyes and breath, making a little gasp when Castiel closes his hand completely around his girth. He then leans forward, almost curling around Castiel, and kisses him hot and messy, hands tangling in Castiel's hair as he jerks him off.

Castiel enjoys the little tugs in his hair. Sure, he likes it when Dean tries to rip out whole handfuls, too, but these are gentle and Dean's fingers trail a line of fire down his neck and over his ears when they stray from his hair. He rewards Dean by making a noise in the back of his throat, licking up Dean's neck until he gets to his chin where he presses in a kiss even as he twists his hand wickedly. It earns him a laugh.

“Are you purring at me, Cas?” Dean jokes, tilting his head down so he can look into Castiel's face. The former angel lets his lips slide into a small smirk, making a “Mmmm,” in agreement.

Dean grins and nips at Castiel's nose and his heart aches because it's seemingly full of affection. Castiel ducks his head in an effort to not show the emotions he's sure are flashing across his face right now. He slides his unoccupied hand into the loose back of Dean's jeans, trailing fingers down his crack in an effort to break the sweetness of the moment because it's something he can't afford.

Dean jerks against him and breathes out a guttural, “Cas!” and his fingers tighten in Castiel's hair for a moment as he shudders. Castiel knows he's close, knows from the way his breathing escalates and his muscles tense. He knows because he knows Dean and that's what makes this so much harder. At the same time, making Dean feel this, feel pleasure when he's offered so little the rest of the time gives Castiel a power trip that's as good as the cocktails he takes. Making him come undone is a point of pride. So he moves his hand faster on Dean's cock, thrusts a finger into Dean's hole dry, and bites down on Dean's earlobe – the only part he can reach as Dean's head is thrown back – and Dean comes, spilling over his fist, coating Castiel's shirt in sticky semen. Castiel pumps Dean through it until he collapses, body entirely loose and head lolling about on Castiel's shoulder.

He brings his hand up to his mouth, licking away the fluid there to Dean's huffed out laughter. He reluctantly slides his finger out of Dean's body as the other man straightens, shifting in his lap.

“That was good for me, was it good for you?” he leers, waggling his eyebrows. He looks down only to see Castiel's entirely flat crotch. “Did you even come?” he asks, sounding confused.

Castiel shrugs. “Just not feeling it today,” he responds.

Dean stands up rather abruptly, rubbing a hand through the short hairs at the back of his neck after tucking himself back in. It almost seems as though he's embarrassed. He stares out the window for a moment. Castiel realizes he never thought to close the blinds and that any one of those voices he'd heard earlier could have seen inside. It gives him a strange thrill.

He watches as Dean's hand smooths over the fabric of his shirt across his stomach before he turns back to Castiel. He wonders if Dean has been stalling, too. His face is less friendly now than when he walked in.

“What did you want to talk to me about, Cas?”

Castiel sighs, stands up from the desk. He paces for a moment, crossing his arms, then uncrossing them, crossing them again. He's still feeling a bit detached, a little too buzzed for the seriousness this conversation requires. It makes it difficult to start.

“Chuck told me about your latest...stunt.”

“Excuse me?” Dean asks, and the transformation is nearly instantaneous. One moment he's awkward, the next he's bristling with righteousness. Dean's emotions evoke almost as much whiplash as his own do.

“The demon. You tortured again, Dean. After you told me you wouldn't.”

“What do you care?” Dean states, sliding effortlessly into a nonchalant attitude, leaning up against the wall, hands in his pockets. It's the practiced look Castiel has come to think of as Dean's fearless leader personality. It's a front, just like everything else at this camp.

“Dean. It's not you. You don't torture.”

“I tortured for ten years. In Hell. I learned from the best. I am the best.”

Castiel glares. “You don't have to be.”

Dean's hands ball into fists, though they remain in his pockets, and he straightens up. “Aren't you the one who reminded me of what I did? Three years ago you put that scalpel back in my hand. I begged you not to and yet...if it meant the mission got accomplished, you wanted me to do it. Well, now I've got a mission to accomplish and if I need to torture some douche-bag demons to do it, then I will.”

Castiel physically recoils from Dean's words because he knows all too well that what he says is truth. Dean looks away when he does and Castiel wonders if he feels bad. What Dean doesn't know is how much that hurt Castiel to make him do it, then. That was the point at which Castiel knew he'd grown too close to Dean; when he didn't want to use Dean as a tool, to make him hurt by bringing up the part of him he'd tried to leave in the Pit. Even as an angel – emotions dulled by Grace – that had been the hardest order Castiel had ever had to follow. He'd seen no other option at the time. In hindsight, he should have known it would get them nowhere, even without Uriel defecting.

He doesn't know how to make Dean understand that. Sometimes, Dean is an obstinate son of a bitch and refuses to see things that don't fit with his world view. He can use it to justify his actions and that makes Castiel regret it even more. He didn't want to rebel, didn't want to leave Heaven behind, but in this moment, he wishes he had sooner. Perhaps things would have been different.

It does no good to feel regret, though, and he channels his sorrow into anger instead. He lets it build up in his veins, simmering until he has to let it out. His words are no less honest, but they come out hurtful rather than caring as he truly means them.

The taste of Dean still lingers on his lips, on his tongue, but it's bitter, now; sour.

“I can't believe you tortured again, Dean. What happened to staying human? What happened to caring about the people left in this world?”

Dean whips around, glaring. His anger is palpable. “You know what, Cas? You weren't there. You don't get to tell me what is and isn't right. You're not an angel anymore. You're a two-bit drunk. You're a stoner, for Christ's sake. Yeah, that's right. Chuck told me. I know it's not just alcohol and cigarettes anymore, Cas.”

“Do not take the Lord's name in vain,” he says, shock and dismay causing it come out a little quieter than intended.

“Fuck God. Fuck Him, fuck the angels, and fuck you. None of you are a bit of help to me. You've all left us here to fucking rot under Lucifer's thumb. No, you don't get to take the moral high ground anymore. Not when you're crawling in the dirt, just like the rest of us, Castiel.”

With that, Dean storms out of his cabin, heavy boots clomping all the way.

“I never left, Dean,” Castiel whispers to the empty air as he slides down the wall, clutching his head in his hands and trying desperately not to cry.

***

The third time Dean tortures, Castiel is with him, but he doesn't say a word. He sees Dean flinch when he glances at Castiel's face, though, and knows the sorrow he's feeling must show.

After that, Dean never looks directly at Castiel.

***

He finds it remarkably easy to fall into the 'hippie' lifestyle as Dean called. The drugs loosen him up. His prayers turn to meditation. He discovers the wonder of tantric sex sometime in 2013. He'd already been bringing people into his cabin, telling them the Gospels. He already knows he likes sex. After someone calls him baby for the first time, it rolls off his tongue like whiskey on ice.

The first time Dean walks into one of his meditation sessions, Castiel is sitting with three lovely girls, legs crossed in lotus, prayer beads clacking as he gestures slightly. The candles are new – Chuck found them on a raid, Castiel confiscated them. Incense burns Cas' nose, but he finds it pleasant. A reminder he's alive. The scent is cloying, but vanishes for a moment as Dean steps into the room.

Castiel doesn't stop his lesson, just puts up his pointer finger to let Dean know he'll be done soon. Dean stands and watches, silent and clearly annoyed.

“Ladies, why don't you go wash up now?” he concludes his teaching. “Our Fearless Leader needs to speak with me. I'll return shortly. So beautiful,” he tells them as they giggle on their way past him.

He grins up at Dean and winks, relaxed and amused by the anger pulling at Dean's features.

“What do they need to wash up for, Cas? It's the middle of the day and it's not like your groupies help out with the chores.”

“On the contrary. Most of these women tend our gardens. Some are Chuck's distributors.”

“Yeah, whatever. Point being, where are they going?”

“To get ready for the orgy, of course.”

Dean blinks. Then makes a face. “Oh yes, for the orgy, of course. What are you, Gaius friggin' Baltar, now?”

Castiel combs his mind, then smiles, a small laugh escaping. “A very apt description, yes. What?” he asks when Dean's eyes widen. “Chuck showed me a great many things before you decreed we could no longer use power for frivolous activities. He didn't have all the DVDs, sadly. I always wanted to find out what the opera house symbolized.”

Dean's lip curls up in disgust. “Whatever. I came to talk to you about the plans for tonight's raid but I can see you're busy. Be at my cabin, ten o'clock, if you want to be included.”

Dean turns on his heel and leaves. Castiel places the butt of his hands against his eyes and sighs. He's not drunk enough for this.

***

The fourth through tenth times Dean tortures, Castiel isn't with him. He knows he's being deliberately left at the compound so that he doesn't put up a fuss. Or so that Dean doesn't have to see his face.

He drinks more those nights because he knows he can't stop what is happening. He sees Dean growing harder, more violent. He's becoming the twisted soul Castiel rescued from Hell and he wishes he could rescue Dean again, but he's not an angel anymore. He's just a junkie.

Not being able to stop Dean from falling hurts worse than his own Fall did.

***

Finally, Castiel cracks.

He seeks Dean out, finds him perched on his bed, cleaning his guns. He wears a thigh holster on a regular basis now, having been caught without a second gun one too many times. Castiel also knows he keeps Ruby's old knife strapped to the inside of his lower right leg.

“Dean,” he says softly from the doorway.

Dean doesn't turn to look at him. Castiel notices the tension in his shoulders though when he speaks.

“What do you want, Cas?”

Castiel scratches at his three-day growth of a beard, feeling twitchy. He's going to need another upper soon. Preferably some caffeine, too.

“Don't just stand there,” Dean's voice is gruff, but he's rolling his eyes so Castiel knows he's more annoyed than angry.

Castiel steps in to the cabin, the wooden floor sounding hollow with the weight of his heavy shoes. He clears his throat, can't help the laugh that slips out. Dean finally looks at him. He looks old, haunted. There are circles etched deep beneath his eyes. He probably sleeps less than Castiel, nowadays.

“Chuck told me you're leaving tonight. Going south.”

Dean grunts in what is meant to be acknowledgment, cocks the gun in his hands, peering at it. He seems to deem it satisfactory and places it on the right side of his body with the larger collection. He picks up a knife from his left side and grabs a whetstone stone from the night stand.

“It's a big trip. You've got a lead on the Colt?” Castiel feels awkward. He's not normally this hesitant and it's not like it was his fault Dean shut him out for so long, but he still feels as though he's the apologist here.

Dean sighs dramatically and finally looks up into Castiel's eyes. Says, “Yes, Cas. We've got a lead, down in Kansas. I figure we'll be gone a week at least.”

“That's great,” he responds, probably a little too enthusiastically. He fidgets again, scratching at his belly now, inadvertently pulling up his shirt a bit. He catches Dean's gaze flicker down to his hand. That simple glance sends a rush of heat right to his groin. He lowers his eye lids, licks his lips.

Dean is all business, though, and he ignores Castiel's blatant tease. He turns his attention back to the knife he's sharpening. “Did you want to come or something?”

Yes, Castiel thinks, smirking. Instead he responds, “I can be packed in an hour.”

Dean nods. “See that you are.”

***

Castiel rides alone, the Jeep that he tends to consider his loaded down with supplies rather than people. He brings up the rear, humming along to the CD in the player though it often jumps and skips. It takes about eight hours to get to Wichita. Half way through, Castiel takes a few uppers and caffeine pills to keep awake. He's not the only one taking drugs this time; the drive around Omaha is dangerous. They not only have to avoid Croats, but the military quarantines as well. Everyone has to be on their game.

They arrive before dawn that next morning and their convoy pulls into a dilapidated motel where Dean instructs everyone get a few hours of sleep before they drive the extra twenty minutes into the little town where the Colt is supposedly being kept.

A few of the men who were passengers and slept on the way down take up guns and go to patrol the perimeter. Dean sits on the bed of the truck he drove. After a moment's hesitation, Castiel joins him.

“What are you doing, Cas? You should be resting.” Dean's face is hard as he stares at the horizon.

Castiel shrugs, the movement fluid where once it was stilted. “I don't require much sleep.”

“I need you sharp,” Dean says, turning to look at him. His eyes are unreadable.

“I'll be fine,” Castiel smiles. He knows it's the caffeine talking and that he could crash at any time, but he's used to that, too. He can fight through it.

So they sit there like that, neither talking, but it's not entirely uncomfortable, either. When the sun has been up for about an hour, Dean checks his watch and hops down from the truck bed, his shoulder bumping into Castiel's as he does so.

“Time to get everyone up,” he says gruffly, starting to walk away.

“Dean, wait,” Castiel hears himself saying. Dean stops as he slides off the truck. He walks up to the hunter whose face is guarded and tired. He reaches one hand up and lays it on Dean's cheek in a gesture that's almost tender and presses his lips against Dean's. Dean doesn't move closer, doesn't touch a hand to Castiel, but neither does he pull away.

After a minute, Castiel tilts his head so that their foreheads touch and whispers right against Dean's mouth, “For luck.”

Dean steps back, face still guarded, but perhaps a little softer. “Come on, Cas. Let's get these lazy bones up.”

It's the first time they've touched like that since Dean stopped including Castiel in his raids four months ago. It leaves a smile on his face.

***

Of course, the Colt isn't in the tiny Kansas town. What waits for them is a trap which isn't surprising. Within twenty minutes, the fighting is over and only Cody, one of the newest to their camp, is killed and all fifty of the demons waiting for them have been exorcised, stabbed by Ruby's knife, or taken captive in impromptu Devil's Traps.

Stephanie, a pretty blonde who isn't one of his girls, is the only one who takes Cody's death hard. Apparently, they'd been dating, or whatever one did at the end of the world with someone you liked. Castiel watches as Dean takes her over to the side and talks to her quietly. He inches closer so that he can hear.

“There'll be time to grieve later, okay, Stephanie? Cody fought well, he died trying to keep the world safe. But we can't let his sacrifice go to waste by not keeping it together. We don't know if there's more demons coming or not. We don't have the Colt. We can't fall apart, yet.”

The girl's tears come to a stop and Dean helps wipe them away before he pulls her close and kisses her on the forehead. Castiel is intrigued to see the gesture is more fatherly than anything.

The girl shuffles away to some of her friends who all pat her on the back as they shift gear and set up a perimeter around the old farmhouse where the trap sprang. Dean catches Castiel staring at him and his gaze hardens again. He walks towards him, then past, saying, “Let's go. We've got some demons to interrogate.”

That makes Castiel's stomach drop, but there's a spark of hope that lights inside him because despite it all – the sex, the torture, his tendency to disregard Chuck and Castiel and all those who knew him before – there's still obviously compassion left in him.

It's that thought that gets Castiel through the first two demons.

It takes ten hours for the first to break. What it reveals is worthless. Dean slices its throat with Ruby's knife in a rage, blood splattering on his face as the demon's scream is choked off and the body falls limp to the ground.

Castiel wants to vomit which is only in part because he hasn't eaten in over a day. It's strange. As an angel he could have killed anything that stood in his way. He'd watched from above as Uriel took out vengeance on Sodom and Gomorrah. Barely blinked during the Crusades. Lives, then, were inconsequential to the bigger picture. Looking back, that twists his stomach more.

But instead of criticizing, Castiel puts his hand on Dean's arm – who starts like he's been in a trance – and takes the knife. He brushes the worst of the blood off Dean's face with his sleeve. He guides Dean out of the wooden barn, where they'd brought the prisoner after redecorating it with symbols enough to remind Castiel of the first time he met Dean in his vessel form, despite his protests and takes him out to the vehicles where someone offers them both sandwiches and water. Castiel doesn't eat until Dean's had his fill.

If Dean's going to do this to himself, Castiel will make sure that spark of life left buried deep down but revealed by Stephanie's misery is maintained. The hardened man scanning his motley army in front of him may be their Fearless Leader, but he's still Dean and Castiel never wants him to lose that. It's why he fought so hard against Dean saying yes to Michael. It's why he Fell. Dean might not want him around, but Castiel's not going anywhere. It's not like he has anywhere else to be, anyway.

So he stays with Dean through the second and third demons until they finally get a name – Crowley. Supposedly he's the big Crossroads demon. And supposedly, Lilith gave him the Colt after obtaining it from Bela.

After that session, Dean collapses with exhaustion and while he's sleeping, Castiel slips into the barn and slits the remaining two demons throats with the knife. Dean is pissed at him when he wakes up four hours later but then he tells everyone to pack up and Castiel almost thinks he looks relieved.

***

Castiel discovers Vicodin when he breaks his foot running from Croats. He's out of commission for two months, and frankly, he checks out – high on painkillers which are good and yet never enough – so that when Chuck finally stages an intervention by depriving him of the pills until Castiel has to get out of bed in search for more, he hardly recognizes the man who stands on Dean's porch. Yes, it's Dean, the hair still that bristle short length, his eyes green, the same army jacket he's been wearing for over two years now. But Dean is yelling at Chuck so loud Castiel can make out most of the words one hundred feet away and Chuck is cringing and clutching a clipboard tight in front of him like it'll protect him from Dean's wrath.

It's only when Dean gestures right to where Castiel stands on the steps of his cabin that he realizes they're talking about him. He limps over – ankle still weak because he hasn't tried any of the physical therapy Risa showed him – and he watches as Dean's eyes get unimaginably colder. Castiel tries to smile but he's afraid it's more of a grimace, pain shooting up through his leg, bitter withdrawal and desperate need clawing in his gut.

Once he reaches them, Dean turns away and speaks to Chuck instead. “Get him out of my sight until he can be useful again. And I don't care if he's internally bleeding and dying; don't give him any more pills.”

That hurts more than it should, so Castiel reaches out, catching Dean's sleeve. “Dean-”

The hunter stops and shakes him off like he would a bug with his face exuding the same amount of contempt that he would for a particularly annoying fly. “Don't touch me, junkie. Go bury yourself in your booze and women until you get the gonads to fucking fight again. That's what you do best, right? Whore yourself out? Two months for a broken foot, Jesus fucking Christ.”

A hysterical giggle slips out of his mouth without his permission. “I thought you'd gotten past trying to label me, Dean.”

Dean's eyes flicker over him from head to toe and it shouldn't make him horny, but it does. He watches the other man purse his lips before uttering, “Pathetic,” and stalking off.

A kernel of despair blossoms in his chest as he gazes after Dean. Something has gone terribly wrong in the past two months and it's Castiel's fault. If he hadn't tripped...if only he'd been a little faster running from the Croats...if, if, if.

He doesn't know if there's anything left of Dean to save, now. And if there isn't, that doesn't bode well for the rest of humanity, including himself. Lucifer is still out there and he's succeeding in slowly eroding the last hope of mankind, without even having to show his stolen face.

He turns and sees Chuck staring. “What?” he asks, bitter. “You want to take a shot, too?”

Castiel leaves as forcefully as he can, wincing with each step. Chuck continues to stand there in front of Dean's porch, clip board still in his hands. Castiel refuses to acknowledge the deep sadness in the man's eyes, an emotion that shouldn't belong to a hapless prophet who has no Lord left to prophesier for. He knows Chuck cares, but he shouldn't see that love shining amidst something akin to disappointment. It leaves him more disquieted than Dean's disdain, like Chuck knows something they all don't.

***

It goes on like that, even when Castiel is able to go back on missions two weeks later, his recovery sped up by determination, Megha's home-made brew which holds the kick of drugs but none of the side effects, and Risa's workouts. Dean doesn't look at him and his torture sessions are each more brutal than the last.

Most of the time, Castiel is high on Vicodin, his favorite pill of them all. But even through the haze of drugs, each strip of flesh peeled away is as though it comes from him. He winces inwardly even as he forces himself to watch the blood trickle down skin, the salt pour down throats, and the never ending frostiness of Dean's gaze.

They learn Crowley is a demon unlike the rest. The demons mock him, but they show respect for him as well, something very unusual in demon hierarchy.

He keeps a dopey smile on his face, winks and laughs. If Dean's upset, at least it's with him and not the rest of the camp. As long as he takes his anger out on demons and Castiel, he won't lose it during a mission; won't give in or give up.

***

Dean torturing is a sight to behold. He's strangely beautiful, lit by whatever sunlight seeps in through the cracks of the buildings where he performs his task. His face is still and hard as though carved from marble. Castiel has never seen another man so built to perfection. He would rival the Greek demigods.

With each word of Latin muttered in an effort to convince and cajole, Castiel breaks apart.

***

They finally find Crowley in late 2014. Or rather, Crowley finds them. The house seems to run on electricity still, rather than generators. The lights are all on, there's a fountain running in the front yard, and a black Bentley in the driveway.

Dean, Castiel, Risa, and two men that Castiel can't remember the names of step into the inviting house, two demon guards hot on their heels goading them in. They're greeted by a man in a black suit calmly drinking from a scotch glass in an overstuffed chair by the fireplace.

“About time you chaps figured it out.” The demon's voice is crisp with a British accent. Castiel idly wonders if the demon's host was from England or if it's an affectation the demon picked up on its own.

“Where's the Colt,” Dean spits out, gun raised.

“Now, now. Is that anyway to treat your host? Sit down a spell.”

“I'd really rather not,” Dean responds, voice brittle.

Crowley sighs, standing up. He takes out a long-barreled gun, holds it up teasingly. “Looking for this?”

“How do we know it's the real thing?” Risa speaks up.

“Dean knows, doesn't he?” the demon asks, a small smile on his lips.

“Prove it,” Dean hisses.

Crowley shrugs, raises the weapon and for the briefest of moments, Castiel experiences true horror, believing the demon will shoot Dean and that this is all a trap set up by Lucifer.

Instead, Crowley shoots both of their guards easily and their essence flickers out with a reddish glow. The bodies slump to the floor.

“That enough proof for you, mate?”

Dean nods tersely and reaches out to take the weapon.

“Ah-ah. What are you going to do for me?”

“Do for you? I thought you were willingly giving the Colt to us.”

“Perhaps,” Crowley says, picking up his glass with his free hand, taking a sip. “But I want a guarantee.”

“What's that?” Dean scoffs, keeping his gun cocked though he lowers his arm, gesturing for the rest to do so as well. Castiel keeps his high, even after an exasperated look from Dean. Crowley merely smiles at him, though.

“You remind me of someone I was once very fond of. Although you'd never have caught him with a gun. Once misplaced a sword, even. He's gone now.”

For a moment the demon looks almost sad before he swallows it down with another polite sip of alcohol.

“Anyway. I want two things, Dean Winchester. One. That you don't shoot me when I turn the Colt over. Two. You fix this mess. Kill the Devil and then help make the Earth the way it was again. I miss it, quite frankly. There's no good TV to whittle away the time with anymore.”

“Wow, you don't ask for much, do you?” Dean remarks, snidely.

Crowley shrugs, a sinuous movement even on his somewhat bulky frame. “We want the same things, Dean. If I hadn't been trying to keep the gun hidden from Lucifer and his gang of thugs, I'd have gotten it to you sooner.”

Dean stares at Crowley for a minute or two before he calmly hands Castiel his gun. “I'll do what I can, Crowley, how about that?”

The demon sighs dramatically. “I suppose I'll make do. Care to kiss on it?” The demon grins, a hint of sparkle in its eyes.

“My word is enough.”

Crowley shrugs again, hands the Colt over, butt first.

Dean hefts it in his hand, giving it a once over. Then he raises it and before Crowley can do more than suck a breath in, Dean aims and shoots a bullet directly at his forehead.

The dark head of the demon lands in a quickly growing puddle of blood with a thud. Everyone in the room is silent, even Castiel. He doubts anyone is upset over the loss of a demon, but everyone is shocked by Dean's actions.

Dean walks over and crouches down by Crowley's head. “I learned a long time ago not to make deals with crossroad demons. You're all worse than door-to-door salesmen.” He stands, gazing directly into Castiel's face as though challenging him to say something. Castiel stares right back but keeps silent.

“Alright. Move out. We've got a long drive ahead of us.”

Before they get into the vehicles, Castiel pops a few amphetamines while Dean's back is turned. They burn down his dry throat. He doesn't spare a glance back at the house with three dead bodies left to rot.

***

In the end, Castiel has nothing left to give except his body, a body that isn't really his, even, though it's been his home for too many years sans its owner. It's why he doesn't call Dean out on his suicidal plan. It's why he remains silent and doesn't warn the others, either. His Dean is too far gone to know or care anymore. He sees how tired Dean has become, how he feels less than nothing without Sam.

Despite the torture, despite the fact that Dean is more like the creature he pulled up from hell than the Dean who convinced him to turn his back on heaven, who told him they weren't going steady with a wink, Castiel is glad Michael never responded to Dean's cries. Dean is hollow, but it's of his own making, not because Castiel's brother carved out his mind.

Though he can't see it anymore, he knows Dean's soul still outshines any other. He is righteous and God gave him free will. If the path they're on fails, he believes it is what God wants and he cannot question that. Maybe the world must be purged. Perhaps only then will Dean be set free from his own personal hell. That is all Castiel prays for now, in his last whispered words to a Father that hasn't been home in a very long time.

***

Their last night on Earth, Castiel stays sober. He wants a drink badly. His blood is singing for a Vicodin. He feels antsy and the depression seeping in is less because he figures they'll all die tomorrow and more because he hasn't had an upper in nearly a day.

It's midnight when Castiel hears a knock at his door. He has no doubt of who it'll be and honestly debates with himself as to whether he'll respond or not.

“Come on, Cas. I know you're in there!” Dean hollers at him and he sounds like he's been drinking.

Sighing, he stands up from where he was kneeling by the bedside. He greets Dean at the door in low-slung flannel pajama bottoms and no shirt. It's not like Dean hasn't seen it before. “What do you want, Dean? Come here for another lecture on how insouciant your plan is?”

Dean pushes past him into the cabin, a bottle of liquor in one hand. He doesn't smell drunk though, so that's positive at least. He was probably at their makeshift bar toasting to a last night on earth with the others in the camp. Castiel wonders if he's already bedded someone, but he doesn't smell sex on him either. That's a scent he recognizes well.

The hunter plops down on his desk chair with a huff of breath and twists the lid off the bottle. “Got any glasses, Cas? I didn't bring any glasses...”

Castiel shakes his head, shutting the cabin door behind him before too many bugs creep in. They seem to be the sole things thriving in the barren wasteland that has become of the earth. It's dark, but his battery powered desk lamp lights up Dean's face with a healthy glow and for once he doesn't look like he's made of stone.

“What are you doing here?” he asks, honestly curious.

“A guy can't see his friend on the night before they die?”

“I wouldn't exactly call us friends, Dean. You've hardly talked to me for months now besides strategy meetings.”

“Oh, someone's bitter,” Dean chuckled. “I would have thought you were too busy with your harem to notice me. I mean,” he gestures to the collection of prescription bottles that lie strewn across his desk, “How you can even get it up is beyond me. Or maybe you don't.”

Castiel starts then pauses to clear his throat. His voice comes out deeper than usual. “Perfect antidote to the absinthe.”

Dean takes a sip from his bottle, setting it down heavily on the desk. He leans forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. “I don't get it. What happened to you? Why did you start all this shit? Alcohol, I get. But the drugs and the love guru crap. It's not you.”

“Not unlike how torturing people isn't you, Dean.”

Dean's face clouds up for a moment. “I'm doing that to save lives. It's not people I'm torturing. It's demons. And I got the Colt. That's the whole point of this. Of tomorrow. So don't tell me I did something wrong. Not when it got the job done.”

“You used to tell me the end didn't justify the means.”

“Yeah, well that was before your dick-less brothers left this planet to rot. I'm doing what I have to in order to save humanity.”

“Lofty goal,” Cas says, eyebrows raised. He leans with his hip against the wall, crosses his arms over his chest. “Is that kind of reasoning something Alastair taught you?”

Dean surges up out of the chair, his facial features stormy with anger. He raises a fist and Castiel wonders if he's going to stride right over and punch him. He wonders if he'd welcome the pain.

But Dean doesn't step closer. He lowers his arm and collapses in the chair, head in his hands. When he doesn't say anything after a while, Castiel begins to speak.

“You want to know why I do drugs? It's because I Fell, Dean. I'm not an angel and I haven't been for a long time. You know that. Drugs, rock and roll, sex...I figured, why not bang a few gongs before all the lights go out. There was nothing left for me. There was nothing left of me. Mortal. Useless. And you couldn't even look at me.”

Dean looks up at that. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Castiel rolls his eyes. “Don't be stupid, Dean. I followed you because I felt it was the right thing to do, because I had faith in your plan, in humanity. But I Fell for you.

When Dean laughs, Castiel stares at him before opening the door and going outside, letting the door slam behind him. It's cold out.

Dean joins him moments later. “Hey. You can't just say that to a guy and then leave.”

“I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. You asked; I answered.”

“Yeah, well, great job. I'm just trying to understand.”

Castiel breathes in and out harshly through his nose. Emotions are swirling like a twister inside of him again and all he wants to do is go inside and take some of those pills.

“Why did you come here tonight? Surely, it wasn't to rehash us and our past relationship. I know you don't do talking. You taught me that years ago, too. So there's no need to talk. Tomorrow we kill Lucifer, our brother. If you want to fuck, fine. If not, I'd like to sleep in peace instead of arguing, thank you.”

Dean's eyes are narrowed when he responds. “There never was an us, Cas. Just a guy and a fallen angel doing their best to fuck up the plans of The Man.”

“There was an us, Dean, and you know it. I gave up everything for you. I gave up my home, my being. I'd have moved the stars for you, if it could have made anything better.” His blood is boiling with frustration but he all he really feels is a hollow ache inside himself.

“Yeah, well, it wouldn't have, so stop,” Dean's voice is harsh, cutting through the crisp night air. “Cas, I don't know why you're spouting off like a Hallmark greeting card, but. Just. Stop. I can't hear it.”

"For what it's worth, I would give anything not to have you do this," Castiel whispers, words echoing like ghosts from the past.

Dean clutches at him then, fist thumping against his chest, and Castiel plants his feet and takes it all. Now they're getting to why Dean came to visit him tonight of all nights. It breaks him, to see Dean like this. But somehow, it makes him whole again. Castiel holds onto the hunter as silent sobs rack his body.

“I could really use God, right now, Cas. Please. I don't want to have to kill him...I'll do anything...”

Castiel knows Dean isn't talking to him any longer, but he cradles Dean's head close anyway, saying, “It's okay, Dean. I'm here. I'm here, always. It'll be okay, I-” promise, he thinks but doesn't say because he's never wanted to break his word to Dean, even when he had to.

***

They fall into bed easily after that. Dean came looking for comfort, for strength. For redemption. Castiel will give him whatever he needs.

Castiel doesn't voice I love you because an angel shouldn't love one human more than another. Because I love you is supposed to be a beginning and this is the end. Besides, Dean wouldn't want to hear it. So instead, he says it with the fevered kisses he presses to Dean's face, with the way he surges into Dean's palms as they slide up his sides, over his ass, up his thighs encouraging Castiel to open for him.

He lets his legs fall apart, wrapping back around Dean's waist, holding him close. He bites at Dean's exposed throat savoring the flavor there, breathing hot puffs of air onto his clavicle. There's an urgency to the sex, but it isn't rough. It's clingy and slick; the sweat drips into his eyes from his hair, stinging. He gives back as good as he gets, meeting each thrust with his own. He runs his hands down Dean's back until he reaches his ass. He pulls Dean closer to him until he stops thrusting even, just stays still, buried to the hilt. He needs to be surrounded by Dean, needs to be in Dean himself. He brings one hand back up, inserting his fingers between Dean's lips who groans around them, flicking his tongue out, getting them soaked and dripping with spit. He trails his hand over Dean's crack, gathering up sheen before dipping between the cheeks.

Dean shudders against him, pushing in still deeper and in that moment, Castiel wishes he was still a true angel because he would leave the vessel and completely envelope Dean with his natural form, create a barrier around him from the rest of the world. It doesn't matter that Dean wouldn't want that. Castiel is screaming in his head that Dean is his and no one can hurt him.

He can't say that out loud, either, though, so he shoves his tongue into Dean's mouth, laying claim and being claimed. It's not Heaven, but it almost feels worth it.

They fuck like that, Dean hardly moving his hips, Castiel moving inside of him in turn until they both groan out their ecstasy. Castiel keeps a hand on the back of Dean's head as he rests his forehead in the shallow spot where Castiel's neck meets his shoulder.

Dean lets out a gasp. “When did we stop this? Why did we stop this? That was fucking amazing, Cas.”

Castiel breathes deeply when Dean shifts off of him. His body misses the weight immediately, but at least Dean stays close, tucked into his side. “You were busy,” he says, shrugging like it's no big deal. He can't put another burden on Dean right now. Not tonight. Tonight is about forgiveness, not regrets.

Dean is still sharp, though. He's trained himself to read people; he doesn't need salt and scalpels to do it, either. Especially since Castiel's always felt too open, too raw around him. No, Dean's gaze is enough torture for him in this moment. A look of horror and disgust crosses his face that Castiel knows is directed at himself and he tries to turn away. Castiel grabs his head with both hands, kissing him fiercely, then softly mumbling, “No, no, baby. It's okay.”

“I can't believe you even want to look at me. After everything I've done. What I'm going to do,” Dean says when Castiel lets their lips part.

“It isn't about that, Dean. I still have faith. Faith in you.”

“How can you? How can you still have faith in me? When all that's left is this broken shell?” Dean's voice is angry now and he pulls away, flopping onto the bed next to him, one arm slung over his eyes. His body is tense.

Castiel slowly peels the arm from his face, but Dean's eyes scrunch closed. He waits, staring until Dean opens them again and looks at him. “Because we're all a little broken, Dean.”

Dean inhales sharply. He scrubs a hand across his face. “Cas, I wasn't there. After everything you've done for me, I wasn't there for you. I'm...” sorry lingers in the air, unspoken but not unfelt. Castiel can see it in Dean's eyes, in the way his fingers trace a scar on Castiel's arm, left from a bullet that grazed him.

Some people can't say the words. Castiel reminds himself it’s too late for regrets through the rest of the night as they fuck, suck, and caress each other to orgasm five more times until the sky lightens and they're so weak and worn out, their fingers can barely clutch the skin they want to.

Some people don't need the words.

They fall asleep.

***

Castiel is right behind Dean when the Devil flicks the Colt away from him after Dean is unable to pull the trigger on the angel wearing his brother. He's allowed one last touch of his hand to Dean's shoulder, right on the mark he never meant to leave all those years ago. Dean's eyes are terrified and sad.

“Go,” he tells him, jaw set. But Castiel won't leave his side.

Lucifer turns to them both. Stares at them with compassionate eyes that don't belong to him and says, “Whatever you do, you always end up here. No matter what choices you make, whatever details you alter, we always end up here. I win, so...I win.”

Castiel keeps his eyes open even as Lucifer snaps his fingers and Dean's neck with them, his body falling to the ground. He wants to puke but it doesn't matter because he knows what comes next.

“I didn't think you'd make it this far, brother,” Lucifer says, voice soft as sin. “You're sure you won't change your mind from that offer I made you?”

Castiel remembers a ring of holy fire and Death all around him. “Never.”

“Not even when I can offer so much to you? The other angels are gone! It can be you and me, washing this planet from the filth that's contaminated it for so long. I'm sure Dean's screaming on the rack right now, even as we speak; I'll let you keep him as a token of my regard. Whole. Sane.”

Castiel knows, if God is just, if God exists at all – and he has to believe it, despite all the evidence to the contrary – Dean has finally found his rest and it is not in the fires of Hell.

“No?” Lucifer asks, a smile on his face. “Truly peculiar, you are.” Then his face is somber again, almost sad. “Would that I didn't have to do this, brother.”

The last thing Castiel registers before closing his eyes is the barrel of the Colt pointed at his face.

Then, he falls.