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Another Cruel Day in Paradise

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"I'm sorry, Dean."

"Hey, don't worry about it." Dean shrugs, grins, tries to look as casual and cocky as usual.

The soft look in Benny's eyes suggests he doesn't buy it for a second. "If there was any other way, Dean, you know I'd—"

"Seriously, Benny, relax. I'm a big boy. I can look after myself." Dean shakes off his pity with a smirk, bends down and grabs his make-shift bag of possessions along with his bedding and pillow. He can deal with losing his cell-mate but he sure as shit isn't giving up his pillow. That thing was hard won. "And let's face it, if you don't take Garth under your wing while you have the chance, he ain't gonna make it out of here in one piece."

Benny grimaces at the truth of that. "He's my responsibility. My family."

"I know, man. I know. You don't need to explain it to me." And damn it, Dean does understand. If the positions were reversed he'd do the same thing. Family comes first.

They’re all stuck in one hell of a fucked-up situation, no question. And it's not Benny's fault any more than it is Dean's.

Benny was the captain of the Andrea, a ship that suffered the same misfortune as Dean's poor Impala—landing on this godforsaken planet. More specifically, landing on this backwater shithole and not having enough cash to bribe the local officials into letting them leave.

Docking here was not in Dean's plans. This damn planet hadn't even been on his radar. He'd been on his way home from dropping off Sammy at the Nova Earth Academy dorms when an asteroid shower had forced him off-course. It should have been nothing more than an inconvenience, a day's delay. But then a massive tremor had ripped through his craft as he'd passed near this strange little planet's orbit. His instruments had gone haywire and the engine had stuttered and died, stalling for so long that Dean had been grateful to make an emergency landing without doing much more than scratching the Impala's hull. At the time he'd thought the worst of his luck had passed. That was before he met the planet's inhabitants. And before they'd impounded his ship and imprisoned him in this towering iron and concrete hell.

He'd been stripped, prodded, and searched in places that he didn't want to think about, slapped and shoved around by more than one guard, given the thinnest of prison overalls, collared like a damn dog and thrown in a tiny cell with a huge bear of man who looked as though he could rip Dean apart without breaking a sweat. Overall, it hadn't been one of Dean's better days.

Much to Dean's relief, Benny, his cell mate, had turned out to be more protective teddy bear than rabid grizzly. With a voice as comforting as warm cinnamon apple pie he'd gently talked Dean down from his escalating freak out. He'd let him claim the narrow cot furthest away from the imposing iron bars and turned his back as Dean pissed in the hole in the stone floor that passed for a toilet. Benny had patiently explained to Dean how the prison ran, who he could trust, who he should avoid. As the days passed, he'd was always there, watching out for Dean, protecting him from the other inmates, especially those who liked the look of Dean's pretty face and naked ass in the frigid showers a little too much.

In fact, Benny had pretty much adopted Dean like he was some kind of helpless puppy. Which Dean is not, thank you very much. Admittedly, he looks younger than his twenty one years and there seems to be something about him that attracts douchebags, but he's Dean freaking Winchester, oldest—and best looking—son of the legendary John Winchester. He'd grown up training with his dad and his old Marine buddies. Heck, he'd hunted wendigos and rugarus for fun. He's as defenseless as a cocked pistol. Certainly more capable of taking care of himself than Garth.

Garth was Benny's engineer, also his younger cousin. As skinny as a Seruvian stick insect and with a mouth that doesn't know when to quit, Garth has survived so far only because of his quick reflexes and astonishing turn of speed. Garth is a good kid, really, but somehow he always manages to say exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person. It's like a gift. An unwanted, non-returnable gift. Garth and Benny have been imprisoned here for nearly four months, two months longer than Dean, and now, out of the blue, Garth had been given the opportunity to change cells and bunk with Benny.

Dean hadn't minded too much when he'd first heard. Sure, he'd miss Benny's safe, reassuring presence, but, naively perhaps, he'd presumed that he'd simply be swapping cells with Garth. That wouldn’t have been too bad. Rufus might be on the cusp of strangling Garth with his own tongue, but the old guy'd never had a problem with Dean. He also wasn't one of the inmates that had tried to smash Dean's face into a wall and fuck him bloody.

Unfortunately, the powers-that-be had a different plan in store for Dean. Living arrangements that could pose a significantly greater danger to his health and wellbeing.

"You know I'll look out for you whenever I can. I'll still have your back." Benny grasps Dean's shoulder, guilt turning his grip fierce.

"Shit, Benny, relax." Dean claps Benny's arm before ducking out of his hold. "I'm not going far away. Unfortunately."

"Just...just don't piss him off. Don't goad him, don't be a smart-ass and don't try and be funny. In fact just keep your mouth shut and your eyes down."

"What do you mean, don't try and be funny? I'm freaking hilarious, man. This Castiel dude is gonna love me." Dean grins, trying to bury his nerves below bravado.

Benny cuffs Dean over the back of his head, affectionately, Dean thinks, or more likely in exasperation. "I'm serious, Dean. You need to tread carefully. His reputation—"

Dean knows all about his reputation. The cold twist of fear swirling in the pit of his stomach attests to it. "I know," he assures Benny, every trace of humor stripped from his tone. "I know. I'm not gonna do anything stupid, okay?"

"Okay." Benny nods, appeased at least for now. He throws his arm around Dean's shoulders, draws him into a hug. Dean can't help tensing at the sudden move, even though he knows Benny is just disguising the fact that he's whispering quietly into Dean's ear. Words that need to stay hidden from prying ears. "Two weeks, brother. Just hold on for two weeks. We're going to escape this hellhole."

Dean doesn't reply, just nods once sharply.

"Isn't this a touching scene—saying goodbye to your little bitch."

Uriel, the biggest dick in the place. Dean should have known that asshole would relish the opportunity to watch Dean suffer. Time to put on his game face. He steps back from Benny just as the cell door opens and Uriel shoves Garth inside the cramped space. Dean winks at Garth, smirks at Uriel, ignores the frustrated huff of disapproval from Benny. "What's wrong, cue-ball, you jealous? Sorry, baldy, you just ain't my type."

"Dean!" Dean studiously avoids the glare that Benny shoots him as he growls out the low warning. Instead he tightens his hold on his belongings, rolls his shoulders, tips up his chin, and saunters out of the cell, straight into Uriel’s reach.

A flare of blinding pain blossoms behind his left eye as the back of his head crashes against the solid iron bars, Uriel's gloved hand tightening like a noose around his throat. "I would not sully myself touching you, Winchester," the guard snarls, spraying spittle against Dean's face. "You're nothing but a filthy mud-monkey. I've scraped higher life forms from the soles of my boots."

Half a dozen wisecracks flash through Dean's head but with Uriel's fingers squeezing against his throat, he can't do anything but let out a strangled wheeze. Just as darkness edges across his vision, the guard's hand drops away. "As tempting as it is to end your pathetic existence right now, I believe it will be much more amusing to let Castiel play with you a while first."

The grin on Uriel's face is chilling. The glee in his eyes infuriating. Dean fights against the urge to rub at his throat, swallows carefully instead then looks up at Uriel's smug face and laughs. "Is that 'cause you don't have the balls to play with me yourself, junkless?"

The backhand from Uriel knocks Dean to the floor. His ears ring with the force of the blow. It's worth it. It's an open secret that Uriel's encounter with a pissed off Brachan prisoner left him with significantly less equipment than the rest of his race. As Dean heard it, the Brachan nearly chewed Uriel's nuts off before one of the other guards subdued him. Apparently the Brachan's mutilated body was left strung up in the yard for days as a warning to the other prisoners. Poor dumb schmuck.

Dean spits a frothy glob of bloody saliva onto the toe of Uriel's polished leather boots then wipes his arm across his mouth. He tries to avoid the kick that Uriel aims at his guts, and more or less succeeds, but the second, third, and fourth kicks find their mark and leave him curled on his side, struggling not to puke on the floor. Uriel barely gives him a second to recover before he's hauling him back up to his knees by the thick leather collar sealed around his neck and dragging him down the corridor like he's nothing more than an unruly pet.

"You think you're invincible, don't you, Dean Winchester?" Uriel snaps, cold rage evident in his clipped tone. "Think your antics make you brave, maybe even heroic."

Dean doesn’t think much of anything right now, other than that he’d quite like to be able to breathe. Uriel’s grip on his collar is fierce and unforgiving, the unmalleable leather digging into Dean’s throat. His feet scrabble to find purchase as Uriel marches him through the maze of twisting hallways, each one as dank and miserable as the last. Dean doesn’t successfully get his feet under him until Uriel comes to a standstill beside the locked door of another cell. "Let me tell you a secret, boy," Uriel says, barely sparing Dean a glance as he types the code into a keypad on the wall then presses his palm against the security pad which flashes green and triggers the door mechanism. "Your posturing, your wit and attitude—all it's going to get you is dead."

Uriel hauls Dean in front of him as the door slides open, cutting off Dean’s oxygen completely with a final brutal yank on his collar. "And," he growls in Dean's ear, "I'll be the one laughing when Castiel is tearing your dick off and feeding it down your throat. And with any luck, I’ll be there to watch as he's ripping your beating heart from your chest and bathing in your still-warm blood. You have a good night, Dean."

Dean stumbles and collapses gracelessly to his knees when Uriel shoves him into the cell, the door clanging resolutely shut behind him. Uriel's humorless laugh echoes into the distance, rattling against the stone walls as Dean heaves in desperate gulps of air, before rising slowly, unsteadily, to his feet.

The figure watching him from the opposite side of the small room is slighter than Dean expected, no taller than Dean himself. His ill-fitting orange coveralls hang nearly as loose as Dean's do. He stands still, perfectly still, head tilted at an uncomfortable angle, expression unreadable. If Dean didn't know better, he might think the man was harmless. He's not.

His eyes, a clear blue, unnaturally blue, brighter than any of the seas of Kepler, are focused intently on Dean. Fixing him in place as effectively as restraints might. Dean swallows hard, locks his knees to stop his legs from shaking. He feels like an ant pinned in place under a magnifying glass.

Castiel is one of them. If the shimmer of his pale skin and his luminous eyes didn't give it away, then the blue streaks weaving through his hair would. Every one of them seems to have colors winding through their hair. Apart from Uriel that is. His thick head is as bare and shiny as an eight-ball, and boy is he touchy about it. Guardians are what they call themselves. Guardians of this ass-end of a planet that Dean wishes he'd never set eyes on.

Despite the ridiculous amount of rumors spread between the towering walls here, no one knows why Castiel is locked up with them, prisoner on his own home world rather than free man. Dean knows that Castiel has killed at least twice. Has snapped the neck of one cellmate and beaten another until blood seeped from his eyes and ears and his gurgling screams could be heard in the next cell. Neither man was a great loss, but still, murdering one cellmate might have been the unfortunate result of a clash of personalities, murdering two is the start of a disturbingly bad habit. One Dean doesn't want to encourage.

The mounting tension in the cell hangs heavy, oppressive, pressing against Dean's chest, squeezing the air from his lungs, drawing the moisture from his mouth. Castiel moves first, breaking their uneasy stand-off. Dean flinches, visibly. Takes a step backwards before he can stop himself.

Castiel either doesn't notice Dean's skittishness or simply ignores it. He silently closes the distance between them, not stopping until Dean can feel his warm breath against his cheek. Dean would back away if there was anywhere left to go.

"You are injured."

Dean has never heard Castiel speak. He's seen him once before from a distance, but he's never witnessed him mix with the other prisoners or heard his voice. Considering Castiel's reputation, it should probably send shivers of fear down Dean's spine; instead, at the sound of Castiel's low-pitched gravelly rumble, the tense knot of apprehension in Dean's gut actually unclenches. Castiel's voice is reassuring, calming. Like a rescue ship in a storm. A comforting embrace in a cold starless night. Dean doesn't know quite what to make of that.

"I'm fine," Dean replies automatically, despite the fact that his throat is burning, his head is pounding out the beat of a mariachi band and it feels as though someone has recently used his stomach for a football. If Uriel's succeeded in cracking a couple of his ribs, Dean wouldn't be at all surprised.

Castiel looks faintly puzzled. "You are bleeding and bruised. Clearly you are not fine."

"I've had worse," Dean replies. "Uriel hits like a girl."

Cas shakes his head, confusion clear in the way he's squinting at Dean. "Uriel hits like a guardian. Although Naomi and Hester are female and guardians and they can punch very hard indeed, so maybe he does hit like a girl. That is irrelevant. You are human, ridiculously fragile, and obviously in pain. You should lie down."

"Hey," Dean says before he can stop himself. "I'm not fragile. Who says I'm fragile? I'm just as tough any of you asshats. Just because... ow, motherfucking son of a—"

"Fragile," Castiel reiterates as Dean breaks off with a pained grimace, cradling the bruised side of his face that Castiel just poked, unnecessarily roughly, to prove his point. "Bed," Castiel adds, sticking to his single-word sentences. He steps back out of Dean's space and nods in the direction of an empty cot.

Usually Dean would argue. He's a grown a man; he doesn't need to be told when to go to bed. Tonight though, he's simply grateful that Castiel is pointing towards an obviously unused bed and not his own rumpled one. He's tired, sore, and not feeling up to defending his virtue. Sometimes even Dean is capable of shutting his mouth and taking the path of least resistance.

"Not fragile," he grumbles, edging past Castiel. Keeping his mouth shut really isn't in his nature.

The cot is just as narrow and uncomfortable as the one he left behind. It's also stripped bare—no pillow, no blankets. And Dean's bedding, well, it's lying in the corridor somewhere, along with the meagre possessions he's scraped together over the past couple of months. Dean lowers himself down onto the bed cautiously, holding his ribs whilst trying not to look like he's holding his ribs. He lies flat on his back, arms wrapped around torso. Castiel crosses the room and lies down on his own bed, head on his pillow. Dean tries to keep the jealous scowl off his face. It isn't Castiel's fault that Dean dropped his stuff. It's entirely Uriel's.

They lie in silence for a few moments. Dean would like to sleep and put this miserable day to an end but with his head pounding and ribs complaining every time he twitches, he doubts he'll get that luxury.

"Dean," he says. "Dean Winchester. That's my name, you know, in case you were wondering." Attempting to chat with his psychotic cellmate might not be a wise idea, but it's either that or start humming some classic Metallica, and if Sam's complaints are anything to go by, that annoying habit could provoke even a pacifist into a murder spree.

"I know who you are, Dean Winchester," Castiel replies.

Dean doesn't know whether to be disconcerted by that or pleased.

"So, Cas, you must have pissed someone off to be lumbered with me as a bunk buddy, huh?"


"Um, Cas, short for Castiel. Yeah, sorry, that's another bad habit, I'll not—"

"Cas." Castiel plays with the word, caresses it with his tongue. "No one has ever... I do not mind it."

"Uh, good. That's good."

"And no, I do not believe I pissed off anyone. I imagine you have, though."

"No man, I'm loveable. Couldn't piss anyone off if I tried," Dean jokes half-heartedly, pleasantly surprised that Castiel doesn't seem to mind Dean's attempt at conversation.

"I suspect Uriel would disagree with you."

Dean snorts, then winces and exhales unsteadily through a spasm of pain throbbing across his stomach. "Maybe you have a point, Cas."

"He wants you out of the way," Cas states bluntly, squashing the next quip that Dean had lined up. "He wants you dead and believes that the easiest way to achieve that, without having to bloody his own hands, is to lock you in here with me."

Dean doesn't know what to say. Is this the point where he should beg for his life? "Because you....because you killed those other men?"

"Mainly, yes."


"I do not intend to kill you," Cas says levelly, as though they are not discussing Dean's imminent death.

"Okay. Thank you?"

"I believe you are different. Not like some of the animals locked within these walls. I have watched you, Dean. You are a good man. I will do everything within my power not to hurt you."

Dean is saved from replying to that odd statement when the cell is suddenly pitched into complete darkness. Lights out, then.

"Go to sleep, Dean Winchester, you are safe here." Cas's voice is a soothing lilt in the darkness. And despite the dropping temperature and the discomfort of his injuries, Dean finds his eyes closing and sleep welcoming him.

He dreams of drowning. Of ocean waves rising up and grabbing him, folding him in their midnight blue embrace and swathing him in their cold arms. The dream should be terrifying; Dean sleeps sounder than he has in weeks.

Dean wakes sleep-hazy and confused, but not unhappy, to find a blanket spread over him which was not there when he fell asleep. It's coarse but warm and heavy and smells faintly familiar. Unsure of how tender his injuries are after a night's sleep, he sits up slowly, relieved when nothing aches too badly. He pulls the blanket up around his shoulders, protecting him for at least a little longer from the chilled morning air, and looks across at Cas, who is sitting on his bed studying Dean intently. That's not at all disturbing.

"You were cold," Cas answers Dean's unasked question.

No shit, he was cold. The temperature in this place varies from finger-numbingly glacial at night to fires of hell hot by midday. "You didn't need to, but thanks," Dean says.

"My body temperature naturally adjusts itself to the environment," Cas explains. "You humans are vulnerable to the elements."

Dean thinks he might have just been insulted, but it's not like he can argue biology.

"It's almost time to cleanse and eat."

Dean doesn't know how Cas can tell what time it is, but he's right. No sooner has he said it than the siren's piercing blare vibrates through him and the cell door slides open. Another day in hell begins.

Despite his new cellmate, Dean's daily routine remains mainly unchanged. As usual, he visits the nearest toilet block to piss, shit, clean his teeth with the foul, chemical tasting mouthwash they use here and shave with one of the laser-razors affixed to the wall. Showering is a problem. That’s when Dean is at his most vulnerable. More than once Benny has saved his ass, quite literally, beating down Dean's would-be suitors before they can take advantage of his nudity. Cas, who seems to stick to no one's schedule but his own, does not shower first thing in the morning when everyone else does, and although he isn't actively attempting to kill Dean, they’re not exactly best buds. Dean certainly doesn't feel comfortable asking him to watch his back. So without knowing for sure that Benny will be able to time his visit to the showers to coincide with Dean’s, and with his ribs still tender, he doesn't rate his chances of surviving unscathed. Dean knows he can't avoid showering for long, but a day or two won't hurt.

Dean still eats alongside Benny and Garth, Benny elbowing Kubrick out of the way so Dean can sit down. He ignores the sly comments from Gordon and Roman about his change of residence. Pretends he doesn't see the bets being placed on how long he'll last before Castiel splashes his insides across the cell walls. He even bites his lip and turns away when Uriel sneers and asks him how he slept.

After breakfast—if the turgid slop that fills their bowls can be classed as that—he is chained to another prisoner and herded on to a rickety old bus along with thirty others and driven to a dilapidated mine where he spends the next nine hours chipping away at never-ending tunnel walls with a dull-edged pick axe and sweating his bollocks off. Guardians patrol the prisoner-lined passages, deadly sleek blades strapped to their legs and whips and canes flexing in their hands. Slacking and laziness, imaginary or real, is punished frequently and with enthusiasm. Prisoners, young and old, sick and tiring, are beaten without mercy.

Cas doesn't work in the mines. That's not unheard of. Not everyone does, not every day. Dean isn't sure how Cas spends his days. He's something of an enigma. The fear the other prisoners have of him is obvious, but surprisingly many of the guardians seem to have a healthy respect for him, too. He certainly doesn't suffer the same abuse and beatings that most of the other prisoners do.

Dean never sees Castiel during meal times or out in the yard with the rest of the prisoners. Every night when Dean returns to their cell Cas is there, sometimes with a book in his hand, sometimes sitting cross-legged in the middle of the tiny room, eyes closed either in prayer or meditation. Dean tries not to disturb him. Tries to stay out of his way and avoid irritating him at all. But despite Dean's worries and Castiel's reputation, the other man is actually a pretty decent roommate. He doesn't take back his warm blanket; in fact, he also finds Dean a pillow to go along with it. Dean's measly collection of belongings also appears one night, lying on his bed when Dean returns to his cell. Cas barely acknowledges Dean's thanks but his lips quirk up in a smile and he nods. Cas isn't big on the whole talking thing and Dean quickly discovers that easy silences are preferable to awkward attempts at conversation.

The first time Cas does initiate a conversation, Dean ignores him.

"You smell" is Cas's opening gambit, so Dean thinks he can be forgiven for scowling and trying to catch another few seconds of sleep before the siren sounds to signal the start of another day of misery.

"You have not showered for at least three days and you smell revolting."

"I've washed," Dean mumbles from under his blanket.

"You sweat like a pig. Your armpits smell like Esculpan mold and your feet appear to be turning green." Cas doesn't pull his punches. "If you do not shower today, I fear for your health and my sanity."

"Cas," Dean whines and tucks his feet up under his blanket just as the siren screeches, automatically setting Dean's nerves on edge.

"Dean Winchester, get out of bed and go shower."

"You know, you're not my mom."

"Dean." There's all manner of threat in that last growl that even Dean can't ignore.

"Fine." Dean throws back his blanket and scowls at Cas. "I'm going." The ‘and if I don't come back in one piece it's all your fault’ is silent, but Dean thinks his abrupt and stormy exit speaks for itself.

Because Dean couldn't possibly be that lucky, Benny isn't anywhere to be seen at the dingy shower block. Gordon, however, is there along with Roman and Kubrick. Dean lingers in the line for the showers for a few minutes, lets several people go ahead of him, but it soon becomes obvious that Gordon isn't leaving in a hurry. He stands under a piss poor stream of water leering at Dean, legs spread confidently apart, blatantly tugging at his dick until it’s thick and swollen, slipping through his soaped up fist at a leisurely pace. It's not until a captured Oldscant warrior joins the back of the line that Dean grudgingly decides Gordon might be the lesser of two evils. He at least only has one dick.

Dean strips quickly and dives under a free shower near the corner of the room. He keeps his back to the wall, his muscles coiled and his eyes wide open. A tiny bar of soap is all he has to wash with and he scrubs it roughly across his chest and arms, then tries to work up enough of a lather to wash the grease and grime from his hair. It takes less than a minute for Gordon to make his move. Despite his vigilance, Dean finds himself taken off guard when Gordon rushes him. The bastard goes straight for his ribs, the yellowing boot-mark shaped bruises signposting Dean's current weak spot. Dean still thinks he'll be able to fight him off. One-on-one he can beat anyone in a fight; he can definitely take down Gordon. He throws his weight forward, shoves Gordon backwards, but before he can do much else, Kubrick, the slimy rat, springs from nowhere and kicks out the back of Dean's knee. Knocked off-balance, Dean slips on the wet floor. He tries at least to throw himself out of Gordon’s reach, but then Roman grabs his arm, swings him into the wall, punches him quick and hard in the kidneys and Dean suddenly can’t think, can’t catch his breath. That’s when Gordon grabs his balls and twists.

"Dean," Gordon gloats, squeezing Dean's nuts like they're a goddamn stress toy. "I was starting to think we'd never get a chance to have some fun without your muscle around. What's wrong? Benny dumped you now that he's found himself a new bitch?"

"Fuck you," Dean wheezes, regretting it immediately when Gordon yanks on his balls hard enough to double him over in pain.

"No, Dean. Fuck you." Gordon grabs the back of Dean's neck, pushes his head down and without any preamble shoves a finger into his asshole. Dean presumes it's his finger. Without lube and with Dean’s muscles clamping in terror, it feels as thick and unyielding as a baseball bat. Dean cries out, can't help it. The burn is excruciating. Then Roman's in front of him, yanking Dean's head up by his hair so it's level with his crotch. Roman stuffs his thumbs into the corners of Dean's mouth then pushes the head of his cock past Dean's pried open teeth, muffling his screams.

"Be a good little girl, Dean and I won't let everyone use you," Gordon says, screwing his finger in and out of Dean's ass. "Gods, has no-one been using this fuckhole? You're as tight as a virgin. You're gonna break my goddamn dick if we don't get you loosened up." Gordon spits on Dean's ass and Kubrick sniggers like a fucking schoolboy. Roman's thumbs wedge open Dean's mouth and his thrusts gain speed and force, his cock slamming in and out of Dean's stretched lips, hitting the back of his throat and making him gag. Kubrick's cock, an ugly looking thing like a purple headed slug, slaps against Dean's cheek. Dean shuts his eyes, tries to block it out. Gordon's erection grinds against his ass. Drool drips from Dean's mouth, down his chin. Tears escape from the corners of his eyes. The humiliation is overwhelming, worse even than the pain tearing through him.

"Leave him alone."

Dean nearly sobs in relief when he hears that familiar deep voice.

"Fuck off," Gordon grunts, sliding his finger out of Dean ass and pressing the head of his dick against his hole.

"Step back from him now and I may not kill you."

"Go and find your own piece of ass, moron." Gordon spits back, and Dean wonders if he realizes that it's Castiel he's talking to.

"No." The answer is curt. The accompanying sound of a fist making contact with flesh more than welcome, and so is the abrupt removal of the dick from Dean's mouth. The hands gripping Dean, pressing fresh bruises into his skin, fall away all at once. Dean's knees buckle. He collapses to the floor, onto all fours, spewing up mouthful after mouthful of sour bile. The fight goes on around him; it's short and brutal. Roman squeals like a stuck pig and Gordon's rasping moans indicate that a broken nose might be causing him breathing problems. By the time Dean's stomach has stopped trying to turn itself inside out it’s gone quiet. Everyone has vanished and he and Cas are the only two left in the showers.

“Are you Okay?” Cas asks, carefully helping Dean to his feet.

Dean shivers, his skin pebbling as cold water rains down on him, washing away the blood and puke swirling around his feet. “Sure, Cas. I’m just peachy.” Sarcasm as usual Dean's default setting.

Castiel shakes his head, and urges Dean under a shower that is running lukewarm rather than freezing. His palm warm on the small of Dean’s back. "You are a frustrating man, Dean Winchester. If you had waited for me to accompany you instead of stomping away like a sulky child, then this entire situation could have been avoided."

"What?" Dean gurgles. His head is tipped back, mouth wide open and filling with water. It's tepid and has a metallic bite, but it tastes better than bile. He swirls it around his gums and spits it out before meeting Cas's eyes.

"I would not have sent you here on your own, Dean." Cas rolls his eyes and Dean thinks proudly that some of his habits might be brushing off on his cellmate. "You are an idiot if you think I would."

"What?" Dean repeats, like the dumbass Cas apparently thinks he is.

"You are an exceptionally pretty human, Dean. You must know this. Parading around naked in the showers without anyone watching over you is an incredibly stupid thing to do."

"Hey, I wasn't parading around naked; I was trying my best to remain unmolested. And you—" Dean pokes his finger at Cas', now he takes a moment to appreciate Cas's very naked and very nicely defined chest. "You—" Dean tries to focus on his indignant retort, but it's hard to drag his mind away from how broad Cas's shoulders are, how lean his waist is and how perfectly grabbable his hips are, "—were the one who told me to go shower."

"Not alone." 'You idiot' is unspoken this time, but heavily implied in Cas’s expression.

Cas stands watch while Dean finishes washing himself with what remains of his soap. He's careful not to linger too long on the bruises blossoming across his torso and refuses to go anywhere near his ass in front of Cas. Cas’s words sift throw his head while he washes the last of the soap from his hair and suddenly Dean realizes what he said. "You think I'm pretty?" he blurts out much to his own embarrassment.

"I think you are exasperating," Cas retorts, just a touch too slowly, an unmistakable flush spreading across his cheeks. He rolls his eyes, again, at Dean's snort of laughter and pushes Dean out of the showers, handing him a threadbare towel and his clothes.

"You must be more careful, Dean," Cas says as he escorts Dean back to their cell, scowling at a guardian who smirks at Dean's slightly pained and slowed steps and bruised mouth.

"Trust me, Cas, I am careful. I don't particularly want my ass passed around in the showers."

"I don't just mean in the showers, although I would prefer if you would allow me to accompany you from now on. I mean you attract too much attention. From the other prisoners and the guardians. They observe you closely."

The fine hair on the back of Dean's neck prickles at that. The thought of being constantly watched causing an itch to crawl under his skin. "I'm not...I don't—" Dean huffs in exasperation. "I'm no different from anyone else. I don't do anything—"

"You give others your food when they are in need. You insult the guardians to focus their attentions on you rather than your friends. You protect everyone you can with little thought to your own safety. You even stepped in between Kevin and Naomi's whip at the mines."

"How do you even know that?" Dean twists around and stares at Cas as soon as they step back inside the relative safety of their small cell.

"There is little that happens in this prison that I do not hear about, Dean." Cas's voice is low, barely more than a throaty whisper, but it's fierce all the same. "And I know that you must be more cautious."

Dean opens his mouth to argue, to ask what else Cas knows, to demand less cryptic explanations, but all it takes is Cas's finger resting against Dean's slack lips and the slightest shake of his head to silence him.

Cas rebuffs Dean's invitation to accompany him to the mess hall for breakfast. Dean's not really surprised and he'd die rather than admit it, but the rejection stings. He's still a little shaky, feels off-kilter, unsettled. Cas at his side would have been a steadying crutch. He acts as though he doesn't care though, tosses a cocky smile at Cas as he walks out the cell.

Cas's gaze burns into the back of his head. Dean can't see it, shouldn't be aware of it. But he feels it like a bolt of lightning. A ripple of electricity juddering down his spine. His face flushes red and a warm glow settles over him. The forced smirk on his face settles into an easy smile. Cas might be a hard guy to read, but he likes Dean. Dean's sure of it.

The news of Castiel's actions soon spreads—the sorry state of Gordon's face giving the rumors credence. Benny mocks Dean about his new boyfriend, but underneath his teasing is relief that someone else has Dean's back when he can't.

The days pass. Castiel and Dean's relationship grows from wary to accepting. From tolerance to friendship.

"Why are you locked up with us?" Dean finds the courage to ask one night as they lie in their respective beds in the dark.

There's no response for long enough that Dean presumes Cas does not want to answer. Then Cas's words dance through the air, hesitant and hushed. "Because I do not share the views of our council. Because I do not believe that our race is superior to all others. Because I am too dangerous to be allowed freedom and too useful to be disposed of."

"Why do you feel the need to protect others when you know it will only cause you pain?" Cas asks Dean the following night as he helps Dean peel the bloodied shirt from the sluggishly bleeding welts on his back.

"Because it's the right thing to do," Dean gasps as his shirt is finally pried free from his skin and the cold air hits his wounds. "Because it’s what I was raised to do. It's who I am."

"A hero?"

"A big brother." Dean smiles through the tears spilling from his eyes.

"Why do they do it, Cas?" Dean asks, picking at the bleeding blisters on his hands. "Why do they lure us here and keep us like this?"

"It''s complicated, Dean" Cas replies.

Dean raises his eyebrow and stares when Cas fails to expand.

Swivelling around and sitting up, Cas plants his feet on the floor and his hands on his knees, sighs deeply and reluctantly explains. "Our planet's population is dropping, severely. The mines couldn't find workers, couldn't maintain production. Several shut down altogether. Without the mined vibranium to use in our shields, to trade, the economy crashed and the council struggled to keep control. It was agreed that the mines could make use of the prison workforce but our prisons were barely occupied."

"So you kidnap innocent people and enslave them? That's not complicated. It's really fucking twisted, but it's not complicated."

"There's more to it than that, Dean," Cas says, but Dean couldn't care less about convoluted grey reasons and excuses, he just cares about the black and white bare facts.

"I can't believe that no one's noticed. How many people are stuck in here?"

"There are roughly one hundred and fifty inmates at this site. There are at least three more prisons at other locations, though."

"Shit, that's a lot of people to go missing. A lot of ships to have lying around."

"The captured ships are broken up and sold off for parts. The council makes a huge profit from selling off the power cells alone."

"I'll kill them," Dean says with renewed fury. "If they've torn up my baby, I'll fucking kill them all."

"What's the name of this planet, anyway?" Dean asks Cas, late one night when the blanket covering him can't stop the cold from sinking deep into his bones. He can't think why he's never asked the question before. It's never seemed important somehow.

"Paradise," Cas replies. "My world is called Paradise."

"Seriously?" Dean snorts. "Well, isn't that just really fucking ironic."

A few nights later Cas pads silently across to Dean's bed, invisible in the pitch black of lights out. "They know about your intention to escape," he whispers in Dean's ear. "You need to be more careful, alter your strategy, change your plans and warn your friends."

Dean's heart stutters for a beat, then pounds out a furious staccato rhythm. It's not Castiel's unexpected appearance or the worrying news that makes his heartbeat race, it's his proximity. It's the hot breath brushing against Dean's ear, it's Cas's earthy scent tickling his nose. Dean lays his hand on Castiel's arm, feels the muscle jump under his palm, licks his lips and tries to ease the sudden dryness in his mouth. "Thank you," he replies. "You," he whispers softly, "you should come with us...when we leave...come with me."

"I wish I could, Dean," Cas says, "I truly wish I could." Then his mouth presses against Dean's before he fades back into the shadows soundlessly. The taste of air and sunlight lingers on Dean's lips until he falls asleep.

"I don't know if I can hold on for much longer." The words squeeze from Dean's throat reluctantly a couple of nights later. His eyes are clenched shut trying to block out the grim reality of his life. Uriel's handprint burns angrily across his face. His back is ablaze where the marks of Naomi’s whip are scorched into his flesh.

"You can." Cas's reply is steel and iron and determination. Resolute and unshakable. "You will not let them break you. I will not let them break you, Dean Winchester."

Dean grabs on to Cas's strength, lets it anchor and cradle him until the sanctuary of sleep arrives. In his dreams Cas lays with him, curls around him, shelters him from the pain and suffering, whispers reassuring words against his skin. Cas holds him steady until dawn when the rising sun silently sweeps away Dean's moment of weakness.



Another day. Another morning crammed on a bus. More hours spent in unbearable heat, hands cramping around the splintering wooden handle of his pick, avoiding the flick of a whip or the whack of a cane.

Dean still clings stubbornly to the dream of escaping. With every swing of his pick, every drop of sweat that runs down his neck, with every sliver of stone that bites his skin and every single particle of dust and grit that stings his eyes and crawls down his airways, he thinks about freedom. About home. He thinks about his family, wonders if Sammy knows his big brother is missing, if his dad is searching for him. Dean refuses to accept that he might die here. He's not going to let that to happen. Not going to put Dad and Sammy through the nightmare of not knowing if he's dead or alive. Living with his mom's disappearance was bad enough; he'll not put his family through that twice.

The sun is still blazing high in the sky when they are chained back up and returned to the bus. All of them but one. Dean can't drag his eyes away from the empty seat in front of him. It feels as though a hole's been punched straight through his chest. He glowers when he sees Naomi, snarls when he sees the blood dripping from her whip. Fury rages up from the pit of his belly. His muscles strain against the iron binding him. The prisoner beside him shifts nervously, tugging at their connected chains as if to restrain Dean or maybe remind him that it's not just his own life at risk if he can't contain his anger. Dean grits his teeth, forces his eyes away from the murderous bitch. Instead, he stares out of the dirty window at the vast landscape, flat dusty plains of burnt reds and grainy browns. He hums under his breath, tries not to think about Alfie—about how young he was, how weak he'd grown lately, how afraid.

Back in the compound, Dean washes briskly in a trough of muddied water in the courtyard rather than risk visiting the showers without Cas. Exhausted and disheartened, he eats with Benny and Garth, trying to find the energy to crack jokes and keep his and their spirits up. It's a struggle to pretend that he's not losing hope. Benny looks as miserable as Dean feels. Alfie was only nineteen years old. He should have been at home with his family, having fun with his friends, partying and screwing up like every other teenager, not dying at the hands of a criminal and sadistic regime. He was supposed to be coming with them when they escaped. Too late, Dean thinks. It's going to be too late for all of them soon.

For once it's a relief when the siren blares and they are ushered out of the mess hall. He returns straight to his cell rather than spending the thirty minutes of free time they are allowed after dinner out in the yard. Even the sight of Cas lying relaxed on his bed reading—lips pouting pink and kissable, blue-streaked hair mussed and his eyes sparkling in the light—is, for once, not enough to distract Dean or lift his spirits.

"Hey," Dean greets Cas, as he slumps down on his own bed, fingers caressing the blanket that Castiel gave him.

"Hello, Dean. You look tired."

"Yeah, well, a day spent in the mines will do that to a guy."

"No," Castiel says, closing his book and placing it beside him on the bed. "It's more than that. It's not just your body that is weary, it's your soul, your heart."

"Yeah," Dean sighs, scrubbing his hands over his face. Cas is right. Usually Dean would hide his cracks until the depth of night but he's too drained and defeated to fake his usual tough front. "This planet of yours is fucked up, Cas."

"My planet is beautiful," Cas counters. "The council, our rulers, they are the ones that, as you so eloquently say, are fucked up."

That's not a distinction that Dean cares about, not tonight. Besides, a handful of individuals can't corrupt an entire planet. There has to be a serious level of ignorance or apathy from the whole populace to permit this level of evil to prevail. "That's bull, Cas. Your government might be the masterminds behind this whole shitfest, but everyone else obviously just stands by and lets them get away with it. Your leaders don't exist in a vacuum; your people are happily letting them commit obscene acts of cruelty.”

“Dean,” Cas interrupts him. “That’s not true, my people—"

“Your people,” Dean cuts him off, too pissed to listen to excuses. “Your people do nothing as we are abducted, imprisoned, and worked to death. Your people ignore the fact that the vibranium dragged from the earth and rock comes from slave labor. That innocent people are dying to make them rich. That boys like Alfie are being whipped and beaten to death while they turn a blind eye."

"We do not all turn a blind eye. I did not turn a blind eye. I did not stand idly by, Dean." Castiel stands abruptly, his voice and eyes hardening to marble. "I argued and I fought."

"Yeah?" Dean spits back, ignoring the cold chill that spills through his blood at Cas's icy tone. "Well, I don't see you doing much fighting now. All you do it sit there and let your pals slowly kill us."

Castiel draws himself up, straightens his spine, stretches his neck and raises his chin, looms over Dean. It's as though he's soaking up all the light in the room. Dean shrinks back instinctually, hunches his shoulders, ducks his head. For the first time in weeks, Dean is afraid of Castiel.

"You should show me some respect, Dean. I have suffered for you. My brothers and I rebelled for you. We took up arms against our own kind for you. My brothers died—"

"I'm sorry," Dean backtracks as Cas's voice crackles with fury. "I'm sorry, Cas. I'm just tired and frustrated and I didn't know. I didn't mean—"

"Well, well, well, what do we have here? You boys quarrelling? And after I'd heard tales that you were bosom buddies." Zachariah, an even bigger dickbag than Uriel, stands in the doorway, grinning inanely.

Dean rolls his eyes, crosses his arms, and decides to ignore him. He is so not in the mood for this shit. Castiel, however, seems happy to turn his wrath in a new direction.

"Zachariah." Cas spins round, facing the guardian and blocking Dean from his view. "What do you want?"

"Come now, Castiel, there's no need for that tone. I'm only here to see how you and Dean are getting along. I thought you might need to be encouraged to have a little fun with your new friend. I must say, though, it looks like he's doing a pretty good job of getting you in a playful mood all by himself."

"Do we look like fucking kids in a playground to you, chuckles?" Dean can't stand the crap that Zachariah spouts. He monologues like a goddamn Bond villain. Obviously he's in love with the sound of his own voice. Heaven only knows why; he talks like a weasel with a head cold.

"Dean, be a good boy and let the grown-ups talk," Zachariah dismisses him. And maybe Dean can't see the dickhead’s face because of Cas standing in the way, but he can hear the self-satisfied sneer in the guardian's voice.

"Listen to me, you smug son of a bitch—" Dean jumps to his feet and tries unsuccessfully to brush past Castiel.

"Dean, not now," Castiel growls, without so much as looking in his direction. Dean's indignant protest is on the tip of his tongue, but then Cas casually shoves him back and steps up right in Zachariah's face, so close they're standing nose to nose, and all of a sudden Dean feels totally out of his league. Like he's on the sidelines watching two titans face off.

"I am not your puppet, Zachariah."

"You are whatever I say you are, and right now, you are a weapon to yield as I see fit."

"I will not harm an innocent man."

Zachariah laughs as though Castiel is joking. "Do you think you have a choice? The only reason you are still alive, Castiel, is because you are useful when dealing with pests, and Winchester, well, he is the most troublesome pest we have encountered for some time. Not only is he insufferably irritating but his family is becoming problematic. Somehow his father has traced him and his ship to our planet. We are dealing with the matter, but if his father persists and finds his way here, I don't want this imbecile to still be alive to tell tales."

Unexpectedly buoyed by Zachariah's enlightening speech, Dean can't resist butting in. "Why don't you just kill me yourself, then? You not got the cojones to do your own dirty work?"

"Paperwork, Deano," Zachariah replies evenly, stepping back and fishing something out of his inside jacket pocket. "Some of you vermin can disappear without leaving behind so much as a ripple, but you, kiddo...your death is going to require paperwork. If we eventually have to admit to your daddy and his friends that you were here, it's only going to be after you've been tragically slaughtered by your psychotic cellmate."

"I won't do it, Zachariah," Cas says.

Zachariah looks unfazed, boredom drips from his tone. "One way or another you will."


"Why do you have to fight this every time?" As Zachariah speaks, two other guardians step in through the cell door, crowding into the confined space. "Do you forget how much you enjoy it? How much you love the rush of power, the pure base hunger?"

"Please, not him. He's not like the others. He’s…he’s special." Cas’s voice suddenly softens, and it's only now when he sees the anger and defiance drain from Cas and fear replace it, that Dean truly starts to worry.

"Special,” Zachariah scoffs. “There’s nothing special about him. He’s nothing. Less than nothing. And he needs to be dealt with. You were designed for this, Castiel. Our Father had such grand plans for you; I can only imagine how disappointed he'd be to see what you've become."

"He never wanted this." Cas stumbles backward. Zachariah presses forward with his two goons at his shoulders. There's nowhere for Cas to go though. Dean squeezes in front of him, tries to place himself between Cas and Zachariah like a shield. He knows it's a useless move even as he makes it. "He never wanted any of this," Cas continues, but the tremble in his voice is obvious. "He wanted us to live in peace. To love our people and protect our planet."

"Which is what we are doing, Castiel."

There's nowhere left to go. Castiel's back is against the wall. Dean is a flimsy barrier between him and Zachariah and he sees the exact moment in Zachariah's beady eyes that the guardian tires of the talking. Dean tries to stop it from happening, but he'd have as much chance as stopping an erupting volcano from spewing lava.

"Now," Zachariah orders. "Hold him down."

Dean is thrown to the floor, a boot stamping down on his leg to discourage him from intervening. The two goons grab Castiel, pinning him against the wall. Zachariah unfolds his hand to reveal a syringe, filled with a dense inky liquid. Cas’s struggles increase at the sight of it; the two guardians just barely keeping hold of him as he tries to buck away. With cruel detachment, Zachariah pushes the syringe against the side of Castiel’s neck and injects the contents slowly but steadily into his body. Instantly, Cas jerks backwards, his head smashing against the wall. Every muscle in his body seems to go rigid, a vein pulses under the skin in his neck. Then he lets out an anguished scream that rips through the small cell like a sonic boom. Holding his palms against his ears, Dean watches in horror as Castiel's eyes roll backwards and his body goes limp. The last of the contents drained from the syringe, Zachariah nods to his two subordinates who dump Castiel's unconscious form onto his cot.

"You have a good night, Deano." Zachariah smirks down at Dean. "If you're very lucky you'll be dead before dawn. If you're not...well, I'll let Castiel finish you off in front of your friends. Maybe they'll forget their pathetic little dreams of escaping when they watch Castiel rip you apart and leave your eviscerated carcass spread across the hallways."

The door slams shut behind Zachariah, locking with a stomach-dropping finality.

On his bed, Castiel whimpers, low and pained. Dean swallows trying to dissolve the bitter taste of fear flooding his mouth. He has to drag himself up to his knees before he can find the strength in his legs to stand. He lurches towards Cas's bed, steadies himself with a hand on the wall as he watches Cas's unconscious body tremble. His face is barely recognizable, an ashen mask of agony distorting his features. Sweat beads at his hairline, drips down the bridge of his nose. His eyes are closed, but clenched in rigid lines of pain rather than relaxed with sleep. Dean reaches out, but cowardice stops him just short of laying a comforting hand on the other man. As the seconds tick by, Castiel's groans turn more feral, the tremors rippling through his body grow more violent until his back is arching up off the bed and his fingers are clawing gouges into the thin mattress. Dean stares, unable to help but equally unable to look away.

It ends with a blast of light. Like a star bursting to life. A brilliant white explosion that is breathtakingly beautiful until it is blinding. The shock wave it radiates hurls Dean across the room. His vision disappearing in a blaze of pain, unconsciousness swiftly following when Dean's skull collides with the stone floor.

Seconds, maybe minutes later when he comes around, Dean’s head is thundering in time with his rapid pulse. His hearing dulled by a muffled roar that slowly fades away. Shimmering lights dance in front of his eyes, and for a moment Dean is afraid that he's permanently blinded. Gradually though, the sparks drift away, leaving him stunned and breathless but able to see.

What he does see makes him doubt that he is actually awake and not still caught in a dream. He pinches his thigh, twists the skin between his thumb and finger, hissing when he feels the sting. But still Castiel is glaring down at him. Except it's not Castiel. It can't possibly be. Castiel's blue eyes are beautiful and filled with kindness; they are not as hard and unforgiving as flint. Castiel's lips are plump and soft, enticing, not a thin cruel line. Castiel has never stood naked, erect and unblinking in front of Dean.

Castiel does not have wings.

Immense wings that almost touch the ceiling and look as though they could span the width of the cell if Castiel stretched them out fully. Wings that shine so black every color imaginable shimmers just below their surface.

Dean stares wild-eyed, scuffles backwards on his butt until he's scrunched in a ball in a corner of the room. Castiel watches him, head cocked to the side, eyes narrowed and calculating. Like a hawk might watch a mouse. Then he flicks his tongue out of the corner of his mouth, licks his lips, grins, and pounces.

Dean finds out how much strength is hiding in Cas's new form when he's gasping for breath with Cas's hand wrapped around his throat, caging him against the wall. Dean's feet kick in a futile attempt to reach the floor. "Stop," Dean coughs, choking as Cas's hand forces his prison collar into his windpipe. "Please, don't. Let me....let me help you."

Cas doesn't even appear to hear Dean. His grip doesn't change, stays a steady pressure against his throat as his naked body presses against Dean, his cock full and heavy pressing against Dean's thigh.

"Please," Dean begs, barely audible, his fingers clutching desperately at Castiel's arms, trying unsuccessfully to shove his friend back. "Don't do this, please." Cas leans into Dean, his nose nudging at Dean's neck like he's scenting him, his hips thrusting forward, dragging his cock against Dean's leg. If Cas was conscious of what he was doing, if Dean's breath wasn't starting to rattle in his chest, he might enjoy Cas rubbing against him. The thought that he's going to die here miles from his home and family, without seeing his captors brought to justice, without seeing his friends find freedom, is more than enough to squash the thrill of feeling Cas's hot body pressing against him. And Cas, when he's himself, when he's not out of his head on whatever Zachariah dosed him with, Cas is going to hate himself if he does this.

"Please," Dean tries one last time before unconsciousness reclaims him. "This isn't you, Cas."

It’s a shock when Cas's grip actually relaxes. A moment later his hands drop away entirely, leaving Dean to crumple to the floor, the wall the only thing keeping him upright.

"Cas?" Castiel says, his voice even deeper than usual, eyes squinting in confusion. The name obviously foreign on his tongue.

"Cas, come on. You don't want to do this. You can fight it." Dean claws at his throat, wheezing as he greedily sucks in oxygen.

Castiel reaches out, his fingers skim over the ridge of Dean's cheekbone.

"You know me, Cas," Dean gasps, forcing himself to calm his breathing now that his chest no longer feels like it’s being crushed from the inside. "I don't know what Zachariah gave you, man, but you have to try and remember. Remember who I am. Remember who you are."

Cas's wings flare in a dark arc behind him. Feathers whipping the air around Dean leaving him awed and speechless. Castiel's wings are magnificent, mesmerizing. Considering how afraid he should be right now, it's insane just how much Dean wants to reach out and touch, to run his fingers over those strong shoulders, to trace across the junction where those powerful wings stem from Cas's back, to tangle his fingers in the soft depth of his feathers.

"I am Castiel, a warrior. You...I do not know who you are."

Dean blanches at the complete lack of Cas in those stilted words. "Your....your name is Cas and you are my friend."

"Cas," Castiel repeats again, his eyes unfocused and distant as though he's searching for a thought, a memory that's just out of reach. For a second it seems that maybe Cas is remembering, but then he blinks, frowns, shakes his head, and focuses on Dean with a chilling glare. "My orders are to smite my enemy. I was created to follow the orders of my father."

"No, Cas," Dean pleads. "You were not created to kill. You don't believe that. You're kind, good. You care. You rebelled, Cas."

"No!" Castiel yells, his fingers digging into Dean's biceps, shaking him so violently that Dean's eyesight blurs and he feels the blood vessels bursting in his arm. "I would never do that."

"You told me, Cas." Dean perseveres, trying to break through Castiel’s drugged fugue. "You told me that you rebelled. That you and your brothers stood up and fought for what was right. You told Zachariah that your father believed in peace and love, not violence and fear. Zachariah is using you, Cas. I swear."

Dean thinks it's all over bar the blood and guts when Cas throws him across the cell, his wings blasting out behind him in a—beautiful, they're still beautiful, Dean thinks—threatening display of power, filling the room. "Please, Cas, please. Listen to me."

"No! " Castiel roars. "Silence!" Clutching his head, Cas backs away from Dean. " are lying."

Slowly, cautiously, Dean pushes up to his feet. His head aches, so does most of his body and he can’t stop his hands from shaking. But he thinks, he desperately hopes, that he might be getting through to Cas. It feels as if he's balancing on a narrow ledge though, and he's not sure if Cas is going to push him over the edge or drag him to safety.

He doesn't approach Cas. He wants to, badly. But he know that, for once, he has to be patient. He gentles his voice, holds his hands out, palms forward, trembling. "I wouldn't lie to you, Cas, never. You're my friend."

"I'm...I'm a soldier, a killer. I have no friends," Cas stutters, his voice breaking. He sounds lost and confused, looks it too with the way his eyes are flickering from Dean to the walls closing in around them. His wings snap in, folding tight to his back, and he stumbles unsteadily on his bare feet. It might be suicide, but Dean can't stop himself from leaping forward, laying his hand on Cas's arm. His skin is hot under Dean's fingers. The contact sends sparks of static zipping from the tips of Dean’s fingers straight to his heart.

"You have me, Cas. You'll always have me."

Cas looks at him, sees him, actually sees him, for the first time since Zachariah drugged him. The confusion and distance drains away leaving his blue eyes alight, sparkling bright and wet. And his lips—his lips are plump and soft and just a little dry… and brushing against Dean's.

Dean’s heart soars. His thighs shake from pure relief and suddenly Cas is holding Dean steady rather than Dean supporting him.

"Dean." It's mumbled on a breath, damp and reverential against Dean's mouth. "I remember you."

"Of course you do, Cas." Dean pauses to nibble at Castiel's lips. "I'm unforgettable."

"And exasperating," Castiel adds breathlessly. “And mine,” he growls it so quietly into Dean’s mouth that Dean thinks maybe he misheard him.

They kiss until their lips smart, holding on to each other, afraid to lose their connection. "You shouldn't have been able to do that," Cas eventually says. "Shouldn't have been able to reach me like that."

"Well, I'm special," Dean says, brushing off the wonder in Cas's eyes with sarcasm and a smirk.

Cas doesn't roll his eyes or scoff, he simply agrees without hesitation. "Yes, you are, Dean. You are special." Then he's walking Dean backwards towards the bed, laying him down, pressing kisses against his face, trailing his fingers up and down Dean's arms. "Can I do this?" Cas asks. "Is this what you want? Am I what you want?"

Dean has never wanted anything more in his life. He smiles. "Yes. I want you, Cas."

"Even like this?" Cas's wings quiver, drawing Dean's attention back to them.

"Yeah," Dean exhales, reaching out tentatively. "Can I...can I touch them? I don't want to hurt you."

Castiel blinks twice, then looks at Dean as though he's said something fantastical. "You want to touch them? They don't disgust you? Scare you?"

"Are you kidding, Cas?" Dean asks as he finally allows himself to touch soft feathers. "You're stunning. Your wings are...fuck, Cas, they're beautiful. Are they...why...what did Zachariah do?" Both men tremble as Dean's fingers comb through Cas's wings, teasing the feathers apart.

"He forced me into my natural state. Usually....usually I restrain my true self."

"You mean...this....your wings...this is you...this is....shit, I mean, do you all—"

"No." Castiel drops his head and licks a gentle path up Dean's neck, not stopping until he reaches the barrier of the collar. "My brothers and I are different. We were created to be warriors. To protect and to fight. We are feared, even by the guardians."

"Why...why do you let them keep you here?" Dean gasps as Castiel slowly peels the prison uniform from his body, rolls the flimsy underwear down his legs until Dean can kick it free, leaving him as naked as Castiel. "Couldn't you just break free?"

Castiel kneels over Dean, his fingers painting random patterns across Dean's skin as he speaks. "They have bound me. They keep me restrained with rituals and sigils. I cannot break free without the Leviathan elixir that Zachariah drugged me with. Even then it is a false state, one that overwhelms me, and which I cannot control. My instincts go wild, into overdrive. I'm more like a...a feral beast than a warrior."

Dean catches Castiel's hand, stilling his movements. "You don't seem like a beast now, Cas."

"No." Cas smiles. "I don't know what you did, Dean, or how you did it, but for the first time in a long time, I feel good, real, like me, not like a flickering shadow of myself."

"And your instincts," Dean says, drawing Castiel's hand up, skimming his lips over his knuckles. "What are your instincts telling you to do now?"

Cas's smile turns wicked. "They're telling me to kiss you."

"Is that all?" Dean asks, licking his lips, staring very obviously at the way Castiel's cock is thick and swollen and jumping eagerly between them.

Castiel's wings sweep outwards, rising above him, the black feathers twitching in sequence, sending ripples of color across their width and a breeze caressing Dean's skin. Dean shudders, his own cock suddenly aching and demanding attention. He needs to touch Cas right now. To run his fingers through those feathers, to feel them surround him, to feel Cas touch him, fill him, own him.

"No, Dean, that's not all." Castiel grins at the hunger in Dean's eyes. "They're telling me to claim you. To mark you up and make you mine. They're telling me to fuck you, Dean." Cas grabs Dean's hands in his own, pushing them above his head and holding them there as he leans over him. His mouth grazing the shell of Dean's ear. "Do you want that, Dean? Do you want me to make you mine?"

Dean bucks his hips up in answer, his cock rubbing against Cas's, the friction a frustrating tease more than anything. "Fuck yes, Cas," he gasps. "Just...just stop fucking talking and just fucking do it."

"So demanding for such a delicate human." Cas smirks, but before Dean can complain, Cas is kissing the words from his mouth.

Cas takes Dean apart slowly…with his mouth, with his fingers and finally—when Dean's skin glistens with sweat and he's clutching handfuls of Castiel's feathers, when he's writhing and begging, his voice hoarse with desperation—finally with his dick, and it's all Dean can do to remember his own name.




Dean lies cradled in Cas's arms, their legs tangled loosely together, Cas's wings covering them both like a warm blanket of air. Even exhausted and close to sleep, Dean can't stop carding his fingers through those silky feathers. Especially now that he knows how much Cas enjoys it.

"Zachariah will be back," Cas says, cruelly interrupting Dean's blissful moment.

"Mm," Dean mumbles, reluctant to shift his thoughts from the pleasant place he's drifting in.

"He will be upset."

Dean sighs. "I know."

"You are still in danger. We both are." The worry in Castiel's voice comes very close to ruining Dean's afterglow.

"Again, Cas, I know."

"You are not concerned?"

"Right now? No." Dean nuzzles the smooth skin under Cas's jaw.

"May I ask why?" Cas says, prodding the tip of Dean's nose with his finger, forcing him to give up his nuzzling.

"You may."

"Dean," Cas growls, "you are being irritating again."

"I thought I was special."

"You are especially irritating."

"That's the way it is, is it? Now that you've ruined me for anyone else, the sweet talking ends and the insults begin."

"Dean, you are..."



"Your lips say infuriating, Cas, but your wings say lovable."

"You have no idea what my wings say, Dean."

"That's where you're wrong, birdboy. Your wings are clearly saying that I'm awesome and you love me."

"How can you possibly know that?"

"Because I'm special."


Dean laughs, because as exasperated as Cas is pretending to be, his wings are wrapped snugly around Dean and brushing soothingly against every inch of skin they touch. It's glorious.

"I love you, too, Cas, if that makes you feel any better," Dean admits. And as crazy as it sounds, as impossible as it surely is, Dean knows irrefutably that it’s true. That the butterflies in his gut, the tingling in his fingers, the pressure in his chest, the way his heart seems to be beating out a new rhythm - is love. Pure and simple. Well, the thought flits briefly through Dean’s head, it's either love or a coronary.

"That does help," Cas says, pressing his lips to the tip of Dean's nose and smiling contentedly when Dean responds by peppering kisses against his jaw.

"You really aren't worried about what the morning will bring?" Cas asks again and Dean relents and answers seriously. Only so that Cas will let the subject go and allow Dean to progress from cuddling to something a bit more energetic.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried, Cas. But I think everything is gonna work out."

"Really?" Cas sounds skeptical to say the least.

"Really. Even though Zachariah drugged you and forced you to become a—"

"—A weapon," Cas supplies.

"A gorgeous winged warrior," Dean corrects him, combing his fingers through the tiny downy feathers hidden underneath Castiel’s wings. "You fought against him, against the poison. You fought and you won. You're strong. And together we're stronger than him."

Cas shivers against him, his wings ruffling and puffing up before settling over Dean again, gently caressing his skin. "It will not be easy."

"Easy is boring, and we won't be alone. We have friends and allies and my dad."

"Your dad?" Cas says, drawing back from Dean, looking at him in confusion.

"Yeah, my dad," Dean says with a little shrug. "That's what's gotten your boss man so stressed out. He knows John Winchester is bearing down on him, and trust me, when John Winchester is on a mission, nothing and no one gets in his way."

"He sounds fearsome."

"He certainly can be."

"Do you think he will like me?"

"Like you?"

"Well, I am in love with his son. I imagine that will crop up in conversation at some point."

Dean chuckles, tickled by the image of Castiel and his dad having an awkward ‘rules for dating my son’ conversation. "I'm pretty confident that when he finds out you've saved my life more than once he'll go easy on you."

"I did also nearly kill you," Cas reminds him.

"Maybe we'll gloss over that part."

"And it's possible that now that we're mated, my wings will not be easy to subdue."

"Well, Sam once had a girlfriend with whiskers and a tail, so I think he'll cope just fine with wings."

"Good," Cas says rolling over and covering Dean's body with his own, trapping their erections between the clammy heat of their bellies. Dean whimpers in response and presses up against him.

Within minutes they're so consumed in each other that they only just notice the walls shuddering around them as a huge explosion detonates in the distance. Dean smirks against Cas's chest as the vibrations shake the bed below them. "I think my dad's arrived."

Cas dips down and catches Dean's mouth with his own, rutting against Dean as he does so. "We'd better make this quick then, hadn't we?" When Cas's wings burst out to their full impressive height behind him Dean doesn't think that will be too much of a problem…

"Wait a minute," Dean gasps a second later, just before Cas's mouth sinks down over his cock, "what do you mean, 'now we're mated'?"