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If I Fall For You

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"The way I feel about you," Hannah says, touching her fingertips to her heart, then gesturing towards Castiel, who sits a foot to the left, both of them perching on someone's garden wall, "It feels... warm.” Hannah frowns softly, hand sinking to rest on Castiel’s thigh. He looks at her hand, but doesn’t move to dissuade her touch. He likes to touch her in passing, he likes contact – that’s the only reason Hannah even dared.

Hannah shakes her head, looking forward across the road, gazing at a neat shrub overhanging a gate. Sunlight plays on its leaves, cutting an angled, messy shadow across the painted wood below it. “Perhaps it's my vessel,” Hannah says. “Perhaps it's me. But I feel elated." She smiles without meaning to, something she finds she does a lot when Castiel is around. The smile dims to a smirk, and she goes on, "Like there's hope, and I finally have the guidance I need. It's something I've never felt before, Castiel. It's incredible. It's— It..."

She trails off there, lacking the words she needs to continue. Her hand slides back to her own thigh, holding her other hand. Since acquiring her vessel, her fingernails haven’t grown, but it hasn’t escaped her notice that Castiel has been chewing his own nails to keep them short. Neither of them have any desire to talk about it. Castiel doesn’t need to be reminded that he’s breaking.

"It's very human," Castiel finishes.

Hannah nearly recoils, but then remembers that coming from Castiel, comparison to humanity is a compliment. There is nothing in creation that Castiel loves more than people. He loves them unconditionally, even with all their flaws, their rituals and incomprehensible sporting events, their poverty lines and wealth divides, their real estate systems, their odd ways of eating things, and their inherent need to distinguish themselves from others by means of drastic physical alteration.

Hannah’s thoughts drift momentarily, recalling an incident the other day, when some woman working in a pharmacy expressed her sympathy about Hannah’s hairdresser cutting her hair so badly. Hannah’s only response was to frown and stare. Had Castiel not stepped in at that point to pay for his pain medication, Hannah might have told the woman her appearance was rather unfortunate too.

Once they left the pharmacy, Castiel remarked to Hannah that her behaviour reminded him of himself, years ago. “That is,” he said, “before Dean enlightened me – probably out of pity. I was clueless, and endlessly perplexed as to exactly what these humans were trying to communicate to me. Yet, their presence, and Dean’s influence— It lent me fascination.”

He rested against the hood of his car to steady his slouching figure, and he uncapped the lid of his medicine. “The human race was a deadfall for me. I was enticed by – I don’t know, something unobtainable. Freedom and choice – everything angels rail against. But I became trapped by precisely the things I wanted. Caught between two worlds. Now I’m as much one of them as—” He chuckled, tipping back a couple of pills, eyes on the sky as he swallowed. “As Superman. Captain America, perhaps. Out of place, out of time. Living amongst them, as one of them. But never as human as I’d like to be.”

“You want to be human?” Hannah asked, with an unsure frown, perhaps of disgust.

Castiel looked at the orange bottle resting in his palm. “No,” he said. He put the bottle into the pocket of his trenchcoat and turned towards the car. “Not any more.”

In the two days that passed since that conversation, Hannah learned the cultural (and personal) significance of both Superman and Captain America. Castiel enjoys talking about things Dean taught him. Fiction remains a confusing subject for Hannah, but she understands why humans love it. She gets love now. She loves when Castiel speaks with a smile, when he moves his hands.

And that’s what she said to him, not two minutes ago. Now, Castiel looks expectantly at Hannah, still waiting on a response. He’d compared her to a human, and he didn’t seem to mind that Hannah had to pause to think.

Hannah smiles at him gently. Castiel is as dewy-eyed as he often is when he isn’t talking about war; there’s something comforting about those eyes.

“Yes,” Hannah finally agrees. She swallows, and it takes her a few tries before she can vocalise the words waiting in her mind. “Yes. What I feel for you, it – it’s human.”

It feels strange to embrace the traits of another species. Maybe she always had a little humanity in her. Maybe she was meant to feel it all along, but it took the experience of love to make it ripen. Love itself is not a human concept, Hannah thinks. It’s a theory without boundary. God Himself is – was – capable of love. But for her to feel it like this? In her chest, in her fingers, pulling together in an aching, encouraging feeling – it’s more potent and more energetic than love ever was in Heaven. It’s needling and specific now. I love this thing, she can now say. I love this angel. This...

This man. Castiel.

Castiel gives a slow smile, too tired, but still his eyes seem brighter than the sun that lights them. “What you’re saying – it’s very sweet, Hannah.” His head dips down, eyes lowered. He sighs, “Truly, I’m flattered.” Hannah is sure he ought to sound happy, but he doesn’t. He licks his lips, eyes flicking away, lashes alight with gold. “But...”

"But what?"

"But..." Castiel draws a breath, a line appearing between his eyebrows. "But Dean..."

Hannah's eyes widen slightly and she inhales in surprise, then she is immediately unsurprised.

Of course.

Of course. It feels like so long ago that Castiel gave up his army, his cause, gave up everything for Dean Winchester, but now he’s doing it all again: letting himself die, burdened with the knowledge that his beloved human mentor is no longer representative of all Earthly blessings. The very thing Castiel had fallen for in the first place had now fallen too: into demonity.

Hannah fixes her gaze on the pebbles on the sidewalk, and nods. “Oh,” she says, in a way that comes out lighter than she really feels.

“I’m sorry,” Castiel says lowly, turning his apologetic eyes to Hannah. He doesn’t look content at all. “If there is anything I can do to make you feel better, please—”

“No,” Hannah interrupts, shaking her head once with a smile. She sets her hands on her knees, still smiling. She doesn’t know why she’s smiling, but she’s sure it’s a positive thing. “I’m okay,” she says, nodding again. She looks directly at Castiel, holding his eye. “I enjoy feeling like this. It feels pleasant. Love, it’s—” She grins, marvelling at the glowing sensation inside her.

“It’s amazing,” Castiel says, sad eyes now gleaming with mirth, however subtle. “Love can make the darkest days seem just the smallest bit more bearable. Loving somebody – or something... Yes, it gives light. Brighter than Heaven could ever be.”

The smile slides from his face, thoughts overtaking him. He cups his hands together and rests them together on his knees, stifling a single cough in his throat. “My light is going out.”

Hannah understands he means two things by that. First, he means it literally: Castiel’s grace is nearly gone now. Fading light.

Secondly... “We could find a way to help Dean,” Hannah says. “There must be a way. We always found a way to do things before, we can find a way now.”

Castiel breathes in, and meets Hannah’s eyes as he does. “You would allow that? We have our mission, I thought we couldn’t afford any—”

“If my own grace was taken away, Castiel, I wouldn’t waste a second. I would get my power back at all costs. But you would rather die than live with the knowledge that the person you love is gone.” She watches his eyes close, his expression now one of grieving. “I want to help you get your light back, Castiel. If you won’t let that light be your grace, then let it be your love for Dean.” She reaches across and grips his thigh again, and smiles when Castiel sets his hand on hers, warmer and bigger, but weaker. He curls around her fingers, providing a thrill for Hannah but seeking nothing but comfort for himself.

Slowly, Hannah tilts her head to see Castiel’s face. “There’s more than one way to show love, it’s not always romantic,” she says, with more tenderness than she ever realised could be put into a voice. “I don’t know a lot about it but I know enough. I can love you and never need equal reciprocation. But you still love me, Castiel, I don’t have to question it. Perhaps you won’t let it infiltrate you, you don’t want to love again because you’re afraid it might kill you the way your love for Dean is killing you. But you could easily love me as a sibling, or a friend. I’d like that very much.”

Castiel lifts his head enough to let Hannah see his eyes, wet with unspilled tears. “I do love you,” he mutters. “You are a very good friend, Hannah. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.” He gives Hannah’s hand a reassuring squeeze, a tense smile lifting his downturned lips.

“When we find Dean,” Hannah says, “promise me one thing.” She turns her hand over to set her palm to Castiel’s, pleased when Castiel folds their fingers together, locking down. “Promise you’ll tell him how you feel. Tell him you love him, like I told you.”

Castiel takes a breath to argue, but Hannah lifts her other hand and sets a fingertip against Castiel’s lips. “This is not a debate, Castiel.” She lets her hand fall an inch, and she touches the pad of her thumb to the dimple in Castiel’s chin. Facial hair jabs at her skin, and she gazes into Castiel’s eyes for a few seconds, then her hand lowers to touch their joined fingers. “We’ll find a way to save Dean. And then save you.”

“In that order,” Castiel says.

Hannah nods firmly, smiling. “In that order.”

Castiel’s eyes crinkle at the sides, a frown and a smile and a bowed head giving away his mixed emotion, the squeeze on Hannah’s hand offering thanks. “I really am sorry,” he says, in a voice almost too quiet to hear.

“No.” Hannah gets to her feet, keeping hold of Castiel’s hand. Her movement startles him, and he looks up, one half of his face in the sun, the other in Hannah’s shadow. “Don’t be sorry,” Hannah says. “You should never need to apologise for your emotions.” She pulls Castiel to his feet, gripping his arm when he staggers off balance.

“You know,” Castiel says, amusement in his voice, “I think that’s the most human thing you’ve ever said.”

Hannah helps Castiel to the car, never once letting go of his hand. “More human than saying I love you?”

“Yes,” Castiel says, practically collapsing into the passenger seat. “Humans often prefer to keep their feelings hidden. They can love someone for years, needing them – in battle, in friendship – and be like family to them, and never once tell them how they feel.”

Hannah actually chuckles at that. “I’m no expert on humans, Castiel. They seem hugely disadvantaged to me, but that’s my own view. Yet, one thing I know with absolute certainty is that not every person is like Dean Winchester. Maybe once you tell him how you feel, you’ll find he feels the same.”

“I know he feels the same,” Castiel replies, plugging in his safety belt. “Nobody would keep me around for so long if they didn’t love me.”

“I hope that’s not true,” Hannah says. She walks around the car to get to the driver’s seat, and ponders their exchange as she goes. Once she’s secure in her place behind the wheel, and has adjusted the rear-view mirror, she looks across at Castiel. He’s lying on his cranked-back seat, tossing a pill down his throat. Hannah sighs. “It probably is true. But it’s good, Castiel. Knowing he loves you is good! We could use this to save him. Love saves people, like you said. Lifts darkness.”

“Yeah.” Castiel shuts his eyes, exhaling. “Wake me when we get there, won’t you.”

“Of course.”

Hannah watches him settle, watches him give himself over completely. The simple act of falling asleep in a car she’s about to drive suggests to her that Castiel trusts her with his own life, and with Dean’s life, however fractured those lives are at present. Castiel trusts Hannah with everything he holds dear – and, just like nearly everything else Castiel does, demonstrating trust is most certainly an expression of love.

Smiling to herself, Hannah keys the ignition and settles in for a very long but enjoyable drive.

{ fin }