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Three

Isn’t it something in your eyes
Isn’t it something in the smile
Isn’t it something that can change my point of view
____

 

The sight that met his eyes was almost the weirdest thing he’d witnessed in a long time. He stood in the doorway. The room was clad in stainless steel and cozy in its coldness and the shiny tiles covering the walls were stained with all the history this place held. It smelled like soap and there was a false kind of peace in the air that almost drowned out the quiet clatter.

Dean stood by the sink and was doing the dishes, and it was weird.

Sam paused where he was, observed and looked at his brother’s backside, as though it was a piece of art. It was Dean’s very own art of distraction and denial. An act, like he was oh so fine while he was oh so not. He was killing thoughts.

Even through his red plaid shirt Sam could make out the majestic tension in his brother’s shoulders and how the back of his neck held all the things he didn't say. His hands were working with tempo and dead precision and determination. The way they would while working a shotgun or a knife or his patented sharp tongue. What he was working with now were only dishes, but they were also so much more. They were something he cleaned. And funny as it might seem, a strong and stubborn hunter like him doing simple chores in a home that hadn’t been theirs for that long, cleaning up a mess, as little as it might be, had always been one of Dean’s strong suits.

Sam was helpless. His family — half blood, half adopted — usually functioned, in their own kind of way. They were okay, because they always found a way back to each other. And now they were wrong.

They dreamt about being more powerful, and in doing so they missed the whole point. They missed each other. They missed out on how to live with each other and how to function.

Yet, here was Dean doing the dishes like the good housewife and Cas sleeping off his new found exhaustion in his new found room. And where was Sam? Sam stood there, observing and looking, and he didn’t understand what he saw.

So Sam made coffee. Because that was something he understood, that was something he could do.

As the coffee maker stopped with its painful noise and offered him the gift of caffein, he took it thankfully and brought it to their kitchen table. Dark polished wood that was some sort of shelter for them, ever since they’d moved in here. A place to talk.

Dean finally turned around and dried his hands. His face was stiff and bilious, bleak almost. Blocked eyes, bitter mouth, bossed brows, and brooding. But at the sight of Sam, it melted into something else entirely, remembering that he wasn’t the enemy.

The brothers sat down and drank their coffee. The air held the pleasant scent of Arabica and of the present bent of the present bending. They lived in the moment for here and now and felt like peace and lie, and the sink cried out its distant gurgle by the last bit of water drowning in the drain. There was no talking, after all.

All was eerie and peaceful and they almost waited for something to happen. And then nothing did.

****

The Impala’s black frame came to a halt in a gravel driveway in front of a large white building with grey roofs and many windows. The lawn and the lavender bushes to both sides of the stairs leading to its main entrance were lovingly tended to. The damp and cool autumn air fogged up the surroundings in this early morning and made everything, no matter how peaceful it felt here, look haunted.

Dean turned off the engine of his car and cleared his throat. He fumbled with his black tie and watched a particularly uninteresting spot on the lawn. He felt uneasy. Concentration seemed to be slipping out of him like sweat in summer, as he was trying hard to focus on anything but the man sitting shotgun.

He didn't want him to be here. Thoughts of all those moments where he’d felt weak and irritated came up. Thoughts of hands and what he could do with them, and thoughts of how good it made him feel to win the upper hand over someone else. They kept invading his mind like the enemy’s troops. He closed his eyes, cleared his throat again.

“So,“ he said, somewhat hoarse and staring at his hands. He felt Cas look over at him. No, he’d been watching him all along.

Dean cleared his throat a third time, desperate to get rid of that lump. Then he explained their latest case. He wished he would have done so back in the bunker, at least he’d had Sam there who could have taken over. But his brother had been too eager to send them away as soon as possible to even consider wasting any time.

Also, it was likely Sam wanted to get back to Bert. Though, Dean wasn't sure if it was because Sam liked the guy so much, or if he only felt the need to finally complete that case in Hazardville.

Here, at the Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut, they had patients falling into some sort of stupor. Bert had told them on the phone about it and Dean had wondered when they’d started to take cases and orders from him, of all people. They were mental hospital patients, to be fair, people who were already labelled crazy turned even more so.

Dean hadn’t said out loud what he thought about that. That in all likelihood it wasn't even a case. That he didn't feel that itch in his gut that he always felt whenever something appeared like their kind of thing. But it had felt like the perfect excuse to, once again, run away. From the thin air coating the bunker nowadays and from his little brother’s infinite questioning about feelings Dean didn't feel, nor felt the need to talk about, or problems that weren’t there. Dean could deal with it himself, thank you very much.

Of course, he also wanted to run away from Castiel.

He’d thought he’d grab Sam and start driving. Oh boy, had he been wrong. He’d never even spared a thought on the terrible possibility that his stupid brother could team him up with the person he least wanted to be around. That he would leave him alone and stewing in the boiling air of temptation. It was like a drug he didn't want to be addicted to. Like Sam put him into a tank full of acid, merely to examine how it affected him. Or how fast he would dissolve in it.

It sounded so romantic. And it wasn’t at all. If anything, it was dangerous.

Inside Silver Hill Hospital they were now talking to a sweet young lady. She was dressed in light blue hospital gowns and white shoes and kept making eyes at Dean. Now and then, she threw her long hazelnut colored hair back over her shoulders in a flirting manner and smiled like someone, who didn't yet get to look behind his handsome features and his boyish allures. She didn’t know the monster.

Dean remembered the last time he and Sam had been to a mental hospital. How they had checked in as patients to investigate a case. How the only thing he’d had to do to convince people he was crazy enough to be here had been telling the truth.

“I don’t know, it seems to affect all sorts of patients really,“ the young nurse said. “Patients with anxiety disorders, or trauma patients, or Borderline patients, even the ones with eating disorders. They just zone out all of a sudden and can barely be talked to anymore.“

“They don’t talk?“ Dean asked.

“They do talk, sometimes,“ she answered, staring at her hands now. “But only about… lions.“

“Lions?“

“Lions. Like… they’d flinch, out of nowhere, and babble about lions.“

At this point Dean would normally exchange a questioning look with his partner — which would usually be Sam — to see what he was thinking about all the weird. But he really and definitely and clearly didn't want to look at Cas now. He thought, he’d only find him staring at his shoes again, or clenching fists into his trench coat.

The angel kept quiet through the entire interview, only stood next to him and listened, letting Dean do the talking. Like a pet dog staying by the side of its master and waiting for orders and instructions.

And when Dean asked to question a couple of the patients, and the nurse agreed, Cas went to walk after Dean again, following him around. Like a damn puppy on a leash.

Dean turned away from the nurse’s flirty look and held up one hand. “No,“ he said, staring him down with knitted brows.

Castiel flinched to a halt and looked at him in confusion.

“You go question some more of the staff.“ The angel cocked his head. “You’re bad with people, like really bad. You don’t go anywhere near those patients, unless I say so.“

“I can come and watch.“ Cas said. “You talk, I’ll watch.“

“You’re not here to watch, Cas. You’re here to do your damn job. And right now your damn job is to interrogate the staff.“

“The staff are people, too, Dean.“

“Yeah, but they’re healthy. You won’t do too much harm to them.“ He looked him up and down, then frowned. “Probably.“

He turned on his heel, not seeing the look on Castiel’s face, and paused in the middle of the cafeteria area. Several patients were still gathered after breakfast, he had a look around to figure out where to start.

There was a guy in what seemed like his late thirties sitting in one of the corners. He was all by himself and deliberately watching him. Intensely. His hair was a mess standing in all directions and hanging into his face where piercing eyes stared at him so bluntly, it could almost be mistaken as seductive.

Dean walked over to him and sat down. Now that he was closer he could see the patient, dressed in pajamas and a grey bathrobe, looked all drugged up. His eyes reddened and glassy and lids on half-mast and his lips parted and dry. He was leaning back in his chair sluggishly and relaxed and hardly seemed to care about manners. If you made the effort to actually regard him, you could see everything through the hole in his pajama pants between his legs that stood wide apart. As though he wanted everyone to see he wasn't wearing any underwear.

Dean did regard him. He examined him from top to bottom like an exhibition piece at the museum. For some reason that guy didn’t only seem like he had something to say, but also reminded him of something. He needed three minutes and twelve seconds of staring to figure it out. And then there were four things circling his mind.

One, the guy across the table was checking him out.

Two, the guy across the table had a good time provoking people.

Three, the guy across the table was intoxicated by whatever the hell kind of drugs they provided him with here.

And four, the guy across the table came awfully close to appearing like that 2014 version of Cas. The one in Zachariah’s future vision he’d shown him to coax him into saying yes to Michael. Dean always wondered if Zachariah had known that it hadn’t been the state of war or the poor shape everyone seemed to be in that had convinced him that it was a bad future. What had convinced him was the way the future versions of himself and Cas had interacted. It was a mere hint of a memory in the very back of his head now and it felt like a lifetime ago. Much like Hell or the apocalypse. That future felt incredibly long ago.

“Agent Starsky, FBI,“ Dean said after clearing his throat. He showed him his fake badge and gave the guy his most convincing, stern look. “You mind answering a few questions about the incidents in this hospital, Mr…?“

“Carl“

“Mr. Carl—“

“No, Carl’s my first name.“

Dean’s eyebrows rose, he temporarily shook with how lazily the guy spoke and how unaffected he seemed to be by downright anything. His eyes were still glued to Dean, he appeared like he wasn't paying so much attention to what Dean said but mostly to how he looked. Dean felt naked.

“So, uh, Carl,“ Dean started again. “Did you happen to see anything?“

“Like what? Someone poisoning the patients? Someone sneaking around or…“ He arched an eyebrow. “Or something unusual?“

“Yeah, like that. So, uh, did you?“

“No.“ Carl gave with a smirk.

Dean looked annoyed. “Nothing at all? Not even things you wouldn’t consider unusual, like say… flickering lights? Strange smells? The temperature dropping?“

“I am merely a patient here, Agent Starsky. I do have limited time out of my room and am clearly not designed to pay much attention to my surroundings.“

“You mean you’re on meds clouding your brain.“

“That, too.“

“So, what? Those patients were all normal one day, and all zoned out the next? Just like that?“

“It seems.“ Carl answered. Then he smirked and added, “But now that I think about it, there’s one thing coming to my mind just now.“

Dean leaned in closer, quirking his brows in expectation.

Carl’s smile grew wider. “You are very nice to look at.“

The hunter blushed a little by that and cleared his throat once again and leaned back into his own space. “Mr.— Carl. I need to remind you that hindering FBI investigations can be reported and lead to charges, as can holding back information important to the investigation. So what is that thing you wanted to tell me?“

“I already did. You’re handsome. That’s what I wanted to share.“

Dean shut his notebook, exasperated, and stood up to go question someone else. Not far from Carl there was a much older guy in a wheelchair. Coming closer, Dean found him staring out of the windows, almost unblinking.

“Excuse me, Sir. I’m Agent Starsky, FBI. May I ask you a few questions?“

When there was no answer, he put a hand on the man’s shoulder and leaned down to look him straight in the eyes, but the man didn't even seem to notice his presence. So, one of the victims. Dean’s hand waved in front of his face, he even pulled funny faces — only for his own laugh of course. The man in the wheelchair still didn’t react to him.

“Dean,“ he heard, instantly stiffening and clearing his throat.

His brows knitted into a tense frown when he said, “Put your magic fingers on Mr. Comatose here, would you.“

Castiel looked puzzled.

“To work your mojo, dumbass,“ the hunter gave a little too loud. Though, as he looked around, he found nobody was paying them any real attention. Except for Dr. Flirty in his corner.

So Cas put two fingers to the man’s temple and concentrated. After a moment, he drew away and stated, “This man is dreaming of lions. He is not hurt in any way. In fact, he is in peace.“

“Yeah, great, that’s very helpful, thank you, Cas.“

Dean wasn't thankful at all.

“I didn’t want a sneak peak into his head, dammit. I want a reason why he is like that.“

“I cannot ascertain that, Dean. I’m sorry.“ He looked to the ground.

Dean snorted. “Awesome. So you’re completely fucking useless.“

****

That investigation had done pretty damn nothing. Save for seeing with their own eyes whatever spell or curse affected those people, and almost having heart attacks by one of them screaming “LION!!!“ at them in the middle of a moment of consideration how to go on — a plastic cup of bad coffee had flown all across the room then — they didn’t know any more than before. Dean was thinking witches.

When they entered their motel room that Sam had so kindly booked for them, Dean tossed his car keys onto one of the beds. They had one room instead of two separate rooms, which Dean would have preferred, and he remarked how there was too little space between the beds. He’d need at least a mile of distance to be content, or a wall or something. He thought of body fluids and disgusting rituals — of course related to witches, not to the room situation. Without a warning, he felt so disgusted, he wasn't even hungry anymore.

Then his phone rang and he was relieved to find it was Sam.

“Where are you?“ he shot out of the blue.

“Uh,“ Sam was caught in surprise. “I’m with Bert? Hello to you, too.“

Dean ignored the sass and skipped right to case talk. He filled his little brother in on what they were dealing with and what his thoughts were and how he didn't have a clue. Dean’s sentences kept involving I’s and Me’s and My’s and Mine’s, so at some point, Sam asked him about what Cas thought. Dean didn't know what to say for a moment, because, to be fair, he didn't give a rat’s ass.

Sam ignored all the unspoken things, like the fact that Cas was, in fact, there, or that this was not the Dean Winchester one-man-show. Instead he told his brother about how he and Bert weren't any closer to solving their case in Hazardville either. Twenty missing people now, Sam said, whatever kidnapped them sped up its work. He told Dean that they might have a witness now, but since they hadn't talked to him yet, there wasn't anything else to tell.

It was funny how, with so many things happening, still nothing actually seemed to happen.

****

He felt his pulse in the fingers that reached for the doorknob. It was cold outside, and dark, but he felt heated. And it was silent out here, too, and lonely, but he felt his head throbbing with the many voices shouting at him in various stages of denial and agreement.

He shouldn't go in, he should go back to that bar, he couldn’t move, but he needed to. He felt tremors of emotion thunder through him, shaking him awake and at the same time into some sort of trance. He shivered because it was cold, but he was also sweating. All that tension and anger, and then denial and the will to avoid doing it. But so many parts of him screamed and longed for it. For a relief, for a way out, for a release of all that pressure, for feeling powerful while he was weak. It was a mess and he was about to lose control. He turned the knob because he couldn’t get over himself. The monster took over.

The door closed behind him and he didn't dare to make steps into the room yet. He needed to see first and needed to find in the dark what was bright as day. And there was Castiel, an Angel of the Lord, a beautiful creature, so friendly and so gentle, and all the same a force of nature and a warrior of Heaven.

Cas was standing by the window and turned to face him. A Dean was on his lips, but it never found its way out. He stood there as if frozen to the ground and his face was a silent mask of untellable mysteries.

Dean hesitated, then he moved, slow steps across the room, dull sounds of heavy boots on dirty floor boards. As he reached his friend, he halted, breathed into his stomach, in and out and in again. He had a false calmness to him that was almost dangerous.

He reached out his hand and settled it right below the angel’s chin and his thumb came to a halt right under his lower lip. Cas’ breath brushed against the skin of his hand in a tickle, like a soft breeze of cooling wind, or a gentle kiss of a lover. His own breathing was dancing the way children would while playing in a cluster of colorful autumn leaves flying about in the sunlight.

He leaned in a little and air came in and out of both their lungs, shared and used and familiar. Like the favorite pair of jeans you keep wearing.

Then he pushed Cas against the cold window. Dean’s hands clawed into the fabric of his white shirt, intense and reckless. His face looked tense and unloving. He grabbed for his blue tie, shoved him, hurled him around, threw him down. Castiel landed on all fours on the floor, a gasp erupting out of him like an earthquake. Dean towered over him, staring him down, so he stayed down, so he didn’t move or complain. So he didn’t fight back.

He looked so weak, Cas. So naked and raw. He looked like an animal, something that would obey to him, someone who could be his punching bag. And then Dean’s aimless and harrowing foot kicked him. He fell on his side, and a figure moved on top of him. A figure that wasn't Dean anymore.

This was a Dean he didn’t know how to stop being.

He turned Cas back onto his stomach, didn't need to see his face or his eyes. He pushed him against the ground. His mouth was only an inch away from his ear where stuttering gasps and moans flew in. He split his legs. Cas feared his back would break, Dean’s sudden urges felt so heavy.

The only thing Dean felt was how well it worked. His hands clawed in and his legs pushed against and his entire body was a weapon forcing another down, fierce and unrestrained. He felt his pulse speed up like a sports car and his heart beat was so erratic it almost hurt. Adrenalin shot through him like gasoline and he needed to get it out of his system.

He bit into a shoulder, feeling devilish, as he threw his fist down into flesh and bones and forced himself between legs. His hands found a throat to wrap around and took away the air and turned it into quiet gurgling. Then he thrashed down again, hurled a face against wood, blind and murderous. There was a distant cry of pain.

This was not his friend. This was his victim, his so needed vessel to release his tension. He needed to fight it, needed to fight the victim he was himself. He needed to fight what he hated. He needed to feel worthy enough to win, he needed to be the winner. Control was what he needed. Because the world was violent and only fighting was a working strategy. And the monster was his sword.

There was no denial anymore, no feeling of being not enough, no worthlessness. There was only this beautiful sensation of peace, relevant and glowing like a halo. The ugly room around him didn't look so grey and dark anymore. It felt like blankets over blankets of soft fabric wrapped around him like a shielding cover between him and the rain. Like no one could ever hurt him again, like he wouldn’t ever be the victim again. It felt like a bedtime story, read by a loving father who didn't hit him.

He felt powerful and mighty, as though he’d overcome his childhood fears and doubts. As though he’d finally found a way out of the wilderness he’d always been sent into to be alone and survive alone. He succeeded. Look! He’d done it! See what I’ve become!

See what I’ve become.

Stop. Wait. He looked down to the trembling, shaking shape of his best friend, covered by him and bruised and used. By him.

Fuck.

He stumbled to his feet, a little shaky, got off Cas, let go of him. Cas looked up, not at him but past him, then back to the ground only an inch away from his eyes. His cheek rasped against the floor, as he slowly sat up. Castiel wrapped his arms around his own body and his eyes fixed his knees and his hair was all messy by violent hands pulling at it. There were no tears in the angel’s eyes, because he never cried.

Dean’s hand found the smooth spot between Cas’ neck and shoulder, and, after all, Cas looked up at him. The touch was so gentle and soft and full of Sorrys, while the hunter’s eyes were intense and hard and broken completely.

And that was it. It took away the pain. Castiel had flames and burns and scars and chaos within, but he wasn't sure anymore if he could see the monster. Dean looked at him like he did, he touched him like he did, and Cas fell right back into him. It was all so foul.

Sometimes you care enough about something to lose control over it.

****

There was a bottle of liquor in his hands and it was Vodka. Now, Dean didn't like Vodka, but he hadn't managed to find anything else. It was half empty.

He looked at his hands, bruised and red with someone else’s blood. The sight was familiar, and then, it wasn't familiar at all. It used to be the blood of enemies, of monsters and demons and such, and now it was the blood of a friend.

It was late at night and Dean was practicing the fine art of drinking it all away. He was tired. Tired the way people are tired by the long lasting darkness during winter. He needed rest, a warm bed and warmer sheets to wrap around himself and to protect himself from what he’d become. But he couldn’t, because sleep requires peace and he didn't have any of that and he was still no taller than that moment.

So he was sitting outside in the cold, again, and drinking his fear away and yet fearing himself. He was the one everyone should be afraid of. He was the one hurting people. He was taking it out on others. He was living his perfect fantasy of making it all good by passing on the pain. By being the winner and not the defeated.

And sometimes he wished someone would beat him up for that. So he could be the victim again, instead of the committer, the way it used to be. Having his ill thoughts and sick feelings beaten out of him. Kill that monster.

He had another long sip of his bottle, felt the instant burn of liquor down his throat, but it didn't drown his sorrow. It couldn’t make him feel better, while all he wanted was to feel right. But it didn't drown that, it didn't work, why didn't it just work? Why hadn't Cas made him stop? Why hadn't he helped him stop? Why was Cas such a coward? He should have said something, he should have fought back.

But he hadn't complained. Dean sure would have stopped, would have understood. Cas was an animal. Another thing in his charge that he had to look out for and keep safe. Another burden that used to be a support.

It was all Cas’ fault.

****

Castiel was striding among racks and racks of food and liquor and other things. His hand was holding brown paper bags with a chicken logo on it, containing food from a diner. His other hand was brushing the racks, desperate to find what he needed. He’d been searching for almost half an hour now and he came to the bloodcurdling conclusion that he was helpless.

He would have to get better at this. But human stores were so confusing and so irritating as well. It would be easier, he thought, if each store only sold one thing, the way liquor stores worked. You walk into a liquor store, you know you’re going to find liquor in it. But you walk into a supermarket, it’s as though you could find anything. Then again, that’s probably what they’re going for. The broad variety of choice. The miracle of a thousand things hidden behind a single word.

He stopped and sighed. He wished he had Dean here to tell him where to go and where to find. Humans were so limited, but Dean always seemed to know all that was important. But, only once, Castiel wanted to handle it himself. An easy task. Though, for him it felt much more difficult than a battle in heaven with hundreds of angels’ lives depending on him. He would have died for all of them at any time. And now the only person he would be at peace dying for was Dean.

What, though, what if the person you’d take a bullet for stands behind the trigger?

“Excuse me,“ he said, tapping a shoulder clad in a red vest, making the guy, who couldn’t be older than eighteen, turn around. “I need pie.“

The guy blinked. “Sure. You’ll find that at the cash register over there.“

Four minutes and thirty-five seconds later, Castiel stood in their motel room and almost startled Dean to death.

“Jesus, Cas!“ Dean exclaimed. He put a hand to his chest where his heart was pounding off beat in his ribcage. Castiel could sense it.

He handed Dean the plastic bag with his favorite everything. A bacon-cheeseburger, fries, and apple pie. He watched the hunter’s every move. Cas was scared in a way, or tense, hoping he’d gotten everything right.

Minutes passed and silence was the superior feeling in the air. Castiel was stiff, hoping for the best and expecting the worst, and he swallowed that desperate lump down his throat. The room slowly absorbed the scent of fast food and sugar and Cas was waiting. Waiting for the right spark to light the world on fire.

“Thanks, Cas,“ Dean said, his voice no more than a scratch in the sand.

Cas smiled. Then the earthquake began.