What have I become
I’m yours alone
You do not care but I want more.
What else is right, and so pure
I’ll save a lifetime of love for you
But you don’t care.
The feeling demanded to be felt.
So while Dean was still lying on the carpeted floor of his motel room in the morning and there was still no daylight, his breaths came abrupt and stuttering. He wasn't sure he’d slept the night, wasn't sure anymore what sleeping felt like.
But the feeling wanted out. Whatever feeling it was, it pushed against his skin. Clawed into his innards. Choked him in every way possible. From outside and within, at his throat and in his chest and in his stomach. It almost made his heart stop. Or accelerate. Or jump out of his body.
The room had been so quiet all those hours since Anansi’s phantom had left. So when harsh sobs emerged from Dean’s throat, he almost startled. He couldn't move really, he couldn't get his muscles to work. He felt like he’d gained a hundred tons of weight that he couldn't carry.
He opened his teary eyes to the brown scratchy carpet and saw a few inches away from him the remains of his bottle of Whiskey. Broken glass in a puddle of soaked carpet and a ripped label telling what this used to be. He reached out his arm with much more effort than it should be and touched the wet carpet. Curled his fingers into the puddle that just wouldn't dry into the floor. And he didn't care about the blood streaming down his cut hand when he pulled it back and put his fingers to his lips. Whiskey, the scent of it and the hint of its taste grazing his lip.
When he closed his eyes again, all he saw was Cas’ shattered face. The way he’d looked at him. All he’d said. And he didn't remember if that had actually happened or if it was only a vision, a hallucination Anansi had given him. But it didn't fail to make him cry.
Dean couldn't say Cas and him were just friends. Or just hunting partners. Or just two people who’d met somewhere along the way and stuck together. Or just family, even if they were. Because in the end just means only. And Cas had never been only anything. He’d always been everything. An everything Dean started to understand.
He thought back to that one moment a couple of years ago, when he’d looked at Cas and realized they’d become friends. They were in Bobby’s backyard and Cas turned around to him, the South Dakota summer sun burning down and making his dark hair glow and his eyes look like pebble stones, so light were they. And then Cas smiled, and Dean thought he almost looked like a human being. And then he thought, but he will never be one.
What if Dean had been in love with him that whole time? What if it’d always been clear their hearts were meant to collide? What if they already had? What if they’d crashed together and shattered?
Maybe it was fate they’d met. Becoming his friend was some kind of choice Dean had made. Becoming a family had happened with time. But what if Dean had never had any control over falling in love with him? What if his subconscious had realized it already? And what if his subconscious had realized that sooner? Would he have started beating Cas sooner?
Somewhere inside him he’d probably always known it. He just wasn't initiated, nor invited to that knowledge. Not even informed about it. And now it felt like revelation, like relief, and Dean had a feeling of finally.
He sat up, suddenly, his head dizzy but somehow clearer. He clenched to his bleeding hand and felt the throbbing pain waking him up. And then the headache became too much to bear and he fell back down to the floor. The feeling demanded to be felt, even when it was a different one now.
“So where are we going then?“ Bert asked from the passenger’s seat.
“Indiana,“ Sam gave. “I think the darkness is following him.“
From the corner of his eye he could see Bert nod to himself. It had started raining while they were driving on along a road that didn't change and through surroundings that they only saw the outlines of, and the shadows the car’s headlights drew. And as Sam looked over he found him staring out through the windshield and into the dark around them. As though there was something worth seeing.
“You think we’ll find him?“ Bert asked.
He would always find his brother, Sam thought. And then he started smiling for some reason, an old reason, a reason he didn't actually have anymore. And then he remembered that there was nothing to smile about and it vanished from his lips. He removed one arm from the steering wheel and settled it by the window. His fingers grazed the cold windowpane, almost feeling the raindrops dribbling against it from outside. The seats and the car itself as it rumbled against the asphalt didn't feel right. It wasn't the Impala, and something in Sam’s face turned sour.
“You gonna be okay with this?“ Bert asked into the quiet.
Sam threw him a look, only now remembering he was still here, too. “What d’you mean?“
“I mean, you gonna be okay with finding Dean?“
“Well, we gotta find him.“ Sam stated, his voice matter-of-fact.
“Not that I disagree with you, cause I don’t,“ Bert said. “But why, though?“
“Because we need him.“
Bert sighed and Sam threw him another brief look. The other hunter was leaning back into his seat, still staring ahead and his mouth and face open like he wanted to say something.
“Because we need him to find Cas.“ Sam said. “Because, for whatever reason, those two, they always find each other. It’s like they’re drawn to each other or something. I can’t explain.“ His fingers left the window and wiped across his face, leaving their cold feeling all over it. “And because I need him,“ he then said, painting the words in a dark color.
Dean was his brother. And Dean was his protector. And Dean was his world. And Dean was a monster. Dean was like a tool to use, like an instrument to play. Dean was like vibrating strings. And vibrating strings must be treated carefully, because they can make the sound turn wrong. And because they can ruin the music. And because they are so careless themselves. A nicely exposed bestiality. It’s the most fascinating thing. And also the most dangerous.
But he did, in fact, need his brother. He hated him. He hated what Dean had done. He hated everything he’d missed and hadn't seen sooner. He hated Dean like he’d hated his dad. And he hated everything about that one single moment that had made his world collapse over his head. That one moment he’d finally seen what was going on between Dean and Cas. And he’d memorized that moment, and he’d turned it into a thirty-year-old voice.
A voice in his head that kept ranting there, like a one-man-show nobody had ordered. But no matter how much hate and anger and despair it spread, it also said that there really was something worth seeing. The one detail he’d never seen before. That one thing he didn't want to believe. That one thing the monster inside his brother didn't want to believe.
You can see something a million times over and not recognize it; and then suddenly you see it for the very first time.
It was unsettling to be in such a comfortable warm place and still know he was in danger. He was tied to a chair, after all. At some point, Cas had fallen asleep to the calming sound of waterfalls and the scent of fruits and river swimming in the air. When he woke this morning it was by the rustling of leaves as the tree growing in this room started moving again. It seemed it always danced when its creator entered.
“Good morning, Castiel,“ Anansi said as he walked towards him in his elegant and yet electric way of moving. There was a smile shaping his face that didn't tell anything. But it was arrogant for that matter. He was carrying a big silver tray, balancing it before his body carefully, though it had nothing on it.
The trickster put it down on the coffee table and sat down next to Cas in a chair that he swore hadn't been there before. With a waving gesture some sort of breakfast appeared on the empty tray. Cas couldn't tell what it all was, the only thing he thought to recognize was the pastry he’d seen Anansi eat the day before. There were other dishes, though. Ones with little balls wrapped in what seemed to be cooked leaves, ones with glossy pastries shaped like triangles, and ones with slices of different kinds of fruit. It also held a steaming cup and a glass of water, and then another glass with a milky white liquid in it that surely wasn't milk.
“Now,“ Anansi said, “would you like some coffee, Castiel?“
Cas turned to him and shot him a dark glare. Hospitality wasn't what he’d expected, even though he hadn't been harmed in any way so far. But how could he be sure that not every single dish and beverage on this tray was poisoned? Maybe it was a test. A trick. Another experiment. He shook his head.
The trickster cocked his head and smiled. “You think I’m about to poison you?“
Cas peered at him from the corner of his eye, then back down to his thighs. He’d been sitting in this chair for about thirty hours and his legs felt numb and yet ached. He felt stiff and tired and at the same time like he was about to melt.
Anansi chuckled. “I have no intention to harm you, Castiel. But, of course, you won’t believe me.“ He leaned to the tray and took a spoon from a jar of sugar. About seven spoons landed in the coffee, before he turned back to Cas, the cup in his hand. “Here. Have some coffee.“
“I prefer it black.“ Cas stated, hard-headed.
“Ridiculous. Also, I don’t need your permission.“
Cas looked at the trickster with a frown, then watched the dark grey of the other’s eyes turn bright and somewhat charged as he felt a force stream through him. It moved his body, made him lean in and open his lips. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to fight the intruding force, but it was too strong.
Anansi smiled. “There you go, my friend. How about some juice now?“ He took the glass with the milky white substance and put it to Cas’ mouth. “I know it looks strange, but it’s only banana juice. My favorite.“
Cas wished he would go away. He didn't want to be fed, he didn't want to eat or drink at all. He didn't want to find Anansi was kind and friendly. He wanted to feel as much in danger as he actually was, even when that was a sick thought to have.
“How about we continue our talk of yesterday,“ Anansi said.
“Why are you doing this?“ Cas asked.
“Because I want to know why you are doing this.“
“Why are you in love with Dean Winchester?“
Cas looked up at him, into his daring eyes and arrogant smile, then away at the pebble stone wall. He could see now that the jellyfish-shaped lamps on it and those hanging from the ceiling were moving as well. Like they were swimming in water, the way the tree was moving its branches like there was wind. Everything in this room seemed to be moving, everything seemed so alive. So charged with something. So peaceful.
“How can one love a monster, Castiel?“ Anansi continued. “How can an Angel of the Lord fall in love with a Monster of Hell? And then fall from Heaven for him? And then be corrupted by him? And then fall from grace and become human, only to experience the ugliest face of humanity?“
He took one of the leaf-wrapped balls and held it before his face, looking at it as the leaves unfolded themselves and revealed a golden ball of yet another glossy pastry coated with sugar and sweetness. “All his kindness being met with violence and pain. Getting his heart broken and being humbled and humiliated by the one he rescued from hellfire. How can you still love him, Castiel?“
Cas felt something in the air change. The jellyfishes seemed to dim their light. The waterfall legs of the coffee table seemed to slow down. The tree stopped moving its branches. And Anansi’s face seemed to darken as he bit into his pastry. And then, in one fell swoop, as though lightning had struck somewhere, Cas felt that danger he’d missed before. And he realized then how short life can actually be. And how deadly it ends.
And he looked away. He didn't want to listen to the trickster anymore, he wanted to listen to himself. And while that strange force inside him, Anansi’s unfamiliar powers, was still pulling and pushing him, he realized he was too easy to contemplate and to convince. So he would only listen to himself, and he should never stop.
Anansi was watching him, and when he leaned back in his seat, Cas felt like his mind was invaded. It was like someone was rummaging around in his billion files of memories in there, stacked and put away in shelfs upon shelfs full of paper and picture books.
And then he remembered that one day. They were in Bobby Singer’s backyard, the South Dakota summer sun burning down. And when he turned around to Dean, his dark blond hair was glowing and his green eyes were blinding like headlights in the night, and he started counting the freckles on his face. And he smiled and Dean smiled back, that genuine kind smile that faded away as soon as it appeared. And Cas remembered the ways it had been back then. They’d been friends, and allies, and companions in a war somehow both of them had caused. And at some point they’d built that odd understanding that their ways wouldn't part, even when the war would be over.
But Cas also remembered how it had felt to be Dean’s friend. A creature the Winchester didn't understand. An angel he’d believed wouldn't exist. A supernatural being he didn't trust completely. How Dean liked him and also denied him. As an angel. As a human. As a being maybe. Or simply him as a person.
Dean would never love him back the way he loved him. The way he loved him despite everything he’d done to him. The way he loved him despite his brokenness. And maybe he was a fool for that, but as long as that darkness inside Dean danced out of sight, Cas imagined only the stream. The stream of water and of air and of life and world and earth, the stream that would always make him go back to the monster. The monster that was also Dean Winchester, a man.
The only sight Cas had left had been cut into black steps, up or down a stairway he didn't recognize. And that was the only way he could see Dean. A monster, but a man. A violator, but a victim. A killer, but dying. Maybe Dean didn't deserve to be loved. Maybe loving him was the only way to make him deserve it.
Essentially, we only heal by adding a deeper sense to our wounds.
“Okay, thanks, man,“ Sam said into his phone, then hung up.
“Where we headed then?“ Bert asked.
“Crown Point, Indiana. Bill said he talked to Dean the other day and told him about some teacher at the High School there who could help.“
There were just outside Saint John, about ten miles away. It was afternoon and they’d been driving half the night and all day, but you couldn't really tell as it was still dark outside. Sam either couldn't sleep or felt terribly sleepy, the lack of daylight seemed to mess up his whole system. He hadn't seen a deer or even any birds for almost two days, and he wondered if all of them had fallen into winter sleep. Or were just hiding. Or had been erased from the planet altogether.
They only had around twenty minutes of driving left until they’d reach Crown Point, and Sam felt tenser by every minute passing. Bert’s car was moving slowly, barely anywhere near the speed limit, and the miserable noises the engine and the tires and the entire frame made left Sam in the unreasonable fear that they wouldn't make it in time. Or in general.
But then they made it to the motel listed first in the Yellow Pages and Sam released a long and harsh breath when he stopped the car. After asking at the reception if a Jim Rockford had checked in here and he got a yes and his room number, he released another sigh. The fact that Dean had checked in as Jim Rockford made him wonder if Dean actually wanted to be found, even when he’d turned off his phone.
He knocked on the yellowish door of room 237, but nobody answered. He could feel Bert watching him from where he waited in the car. A foul stench and a hint of Whiskey came from inside the room. What if he was dead? What if his brother lay in there, rotting in his own fluids? What if he was too late?
Sam squared his shoulders, made a step back, and kicked in the door. The light inside was diffuse, only one little lamp on the nightstand was on, painting the interior in shadows and sparsely lighted circles of brown light. The stench grew more intense as Sam stepped inside and found a dark stain in the carpet, covered in the remains of a glass bottle. There was a plate with a half-eaten rotten cheeseburger on the table to his left, a swarm of flies buzzing around it. On the windowsill a couple of dead butterflies, which should make Sam wonder. But then he found him.
A stiff shape, lying on his back on the floor. His face was pale, his lips dry, his eyes shut. He seemed dead as much as the cheeseburger was rotten and as much as the bottle of Whiskey was destroyed, and Sam’s heart stopped.
And when it started beating again, an erratic and wild rhythm, his breaths came like hick-ups. He fell out of his stupor and bolted towards the stock-still figure of his brother, falling down on his knees beside him and clawing his fingers into the fabric of his brother’s plaid shirt.
And it was like a wake-up call, like a magic word resurrecting the dead, like the kiss erasing the endless sleep. Dean stirred awake. He grumbled and opened his eyes. And they were so full. Full of tears. Full of red. Full of no green. Full of pain and regret and weakness.
“Dean,“ Sam said again, pulling his brother up by his shoulders.
Dean fell into his chest, grumbling something unintelligible. And it was when Sam wrapped his arms around him and ran his hands up and down his back that he realized Dean was crying.
“It’s alright,“ he said. “It’s okay, Dean.“
Dean sniffed into the side of his neck. He was shaking, he was cold and stiff like a dead body.
“How long have you been lying here?“ Sam whispered.
“I sat up earlier,“ Dean slurred, his breathing heavy and heaved. “But I had to lie down again.“
It was sick how they acted, Bert thought. They were talking to each other like nothing had ever happened. Like this was just some random day in some random place in some random circumstances. None of them mentioned what had happened between Dean and Cas. Or the fact that Sam had found his brother on the floor of a stinking motel room next to broken glass and a puddle of spilled Whiskey that filled the air like loud noises. None of them even mentioned the fact that Dean was almost painful to look at.
His skin was so pale and grey, it was as though he’d aged by at least ten years. And his eyes were reddened and dull at the same time, teary even, and framed with dark shadows. He cowered on his chair at the table opposite to him, and Bert thought he was uglier than he’d ever seen him. Ugly in every possible way. And Sam scurried around him like a flushed pigeon, handing him coffee and food and towels and a drink. As though Dean hadn't had enough.
“So, I thought we’d start looking for Anansi where it all started,“ Sam said, finally sitting down with them.
Bert wondered about how Sam didn't say they were actually looking for Cas. How he’d only said Cas’ name once ever since they were here. Maybe it was because they all knew the stakes, the goal here. Maybe it was because Anansi would ultimately lead them to Cas. Or maybe it was because the name Cas alone had made Dean all miserable. You don’t poke a wounded animal, after all.
“You wanna start in Hazardville?“ he asked.
Sam managed to remove his eyes from his brother and looked at Bert for the first time since he’d left the car. “Yeah. We gotta start somewhere.“
The light in this room wasn't so diffuse anymore as they’d turned on more lamps, and Sam seemed still tense but also relieved in a way. The quiet muttering of the brothers to each other filled Bert’s mind like a background noise. The easiness of it all, the calm and almost normal way they treated each other, all the words they didn't say. It wasn't only sick, it was also wrong. It was an act. In the interest of world peace.
They practiced the fine art of procrastination. But Bert knew, you can’t run away from problems forever. At some point you need to face and talk about them. It was like a weird play he was watching. The Winchesters went on with their charade, discussing the case like any other. Like they hadn't been played with and fooled. Like they hadn't been frustrated all along the road. Like they weren't broken. They simply put a bandaid on their problem and hoped it would hold long enough. Hoped that not all was the end. That it wasn't all over.
He looked out the window to the garden behind the motel, the lawn dark green and black and the trees standing in silence. And at the autumn leaves falling from these trees, leaving them all naked and raw, but still beautiful. They’d be uncovered and unprotected for the entire coldness of winter, only to bloom and blossom again in spring. But not like nothing had ever happened. Like they grew stronger with every lost leaf and with every season of nakedness. Like a test to show how strong they really are.
Just like Bert felt tested. Ronald Weasley had had to rise to challenges, too, after all. He couldn't keep being the sidekick forever. Not in this. Not with the Winchesters, no matter how oblivious they were to their own misery. It sounded crazy what they were about to do. Looking anywhere and nowhere for a creature powerful enough to erase them from this planet with a blink of an eye. And then even forcing him to release Cas. And then trying to kill that creature. It was a little out-of-their-minds suicidal.
But sometimes you need to make a hazardous step to realize that behind the fear there is freedom.
It was a long drive to Connecticut and the darkness seemed to follow them everywhere they went. The Impala’s wheels and her humming sounds felt right under and around him. They hadn't spoken a word since they’d headed out of Crown Point in the morning.
Dean looked into the wing mirror from his seat next to Sam behind the steering wheel and found Bert’s rusty red car still right behind them. He leaned back into the smooth leather of the bench and closed his eyes. Sometimes you need to lean back when dizziness repeats every question. He had a giant spiral of those questions with no answers in his head that just kept spinning and spinning.
He felt like there was venom inside him. Like his lungs and throat and teeth were covered with its foam. And like something had hit him in his brain. He could feel his heartbeat in his head, and his headache along his spine, and his sickness in his chest, and his stuttering breaths in his stomach. All was twisted and happening in all the wrong places. As though he had been remade of chaos. He almost wished he was back in that room on the stinking carpet, all by himself and shutting his eyes to everything.
He hadn’t needed to be anyone there.
“Dean,“ Sam said, and he nearly jumped out of his skin, his brother’s sudden voice slicing through the silence like a sword.
Dean sighed, kept his eyes closed, his head still resting against the bench. “I know.“ He said. “I know, Sam.“
He could feel his brother shift on his seat, his breathing loud as the engine. And when he eventually opened his eyes again and sat up, he found Sam’s face grimacing. He didn't believe Dean knew anything.
“I fucked up,“ Dean continued. “I know I fucked up. I know there’s no excuse for what I’ve done. And I know I need help.“
“Definitely,“ Sam cut in, his grimace transforming into at least eight layers of thoughts. “But that’s not what I was going to say.“
Dean shot him a frown, trying to read his face. Something had definitely hit him in his brain. His sight was blurry and full of dark spots, and he thought he’d just heard his brother cut him off in the middle of admitting all his mistakes.
“You and Cas,“ Sam went on. “You have feelings for him, don’t you?“
“What?!“ Dean burst out and crossed his arms. He looked out the window up into the sky, stars corrupted and outdone by all the black spots in his vision. He wanted to throw up.
“Answer the question.“
“Well, I uh… I feel that he’s my friend,“ Dean stammered. “He’s family.“
Sam shot him a brief look. “Dean.“ And it was that type of Dean that told him to cut the bullshitting.
Dean sighed, wrapped his crossed arms around himself a little tighter. “Yeah,“ he mumbled.
“So… you’re gay then?“ Sam asked.
Dean flinched. “No!“
“You’re in love with a man. I think that makes you gay.“
“I’m not gay!“ Dean nearly yelled. He straightened up on his seat, stopped to be that shrinking form of miserableness and stared at his brother’s profile, like he could kill all the words leaving Sam’s mouth that way. He wanted to open the door and jump out of the driving car.
“Why are you defending yourself, Dean?“
“Cause you’re saying I’m gay!“
“Saying someone’s gay is nothing offensive.“
“But I’m not gay!“
“You’re in love with Cas.“
“Exactly,“ Dean gave. “But I’m not into men! It’s only that one man. It’s only him.“