“You know why we never go on hunts in the fucking desert? Because, it’s really fucking hot,” Dean grumbles to Sam, watching as his brother straightens up and wipes the back of his hand across his forehead to unstick his sweat-soaked bangs. Sam shoots Dean an ‘I’m too tired for your complaining’ look and digs the shovel into the hard-packed desert sand. The two hunters are in some godforsaken Nevadan desert in the height of summer, hunting down some spirit with a nasty tendency of dragging both locals and tourists out into the desert to die by posing as a lost woman in need of help. Of course it has to be in a desert during fucking summer. “This is why the Winchesters can’t have nice things.”
“Your complaints aren’t even making sense,” Sam replies, redundantly swiping at the sweat trickling into his eyes. Dean makes a face and wraps his hands back around the shaft of his own shovel, feeling the newly formed callouses on his hands throb in protest. They’ve already dug two holes and are now on the third, all in search of the sand-swallowed bones of the woman who had originally died out there when no one would help her in the first place.
“Are you sure we’re even in the right place? If I have to dig one more damn hole I’m gonna fucking bury myself in it,” Dean gripes, throwing his back into penetrating the hard crusty layer at the top of the earth.
“This has to be it. We found her necklace right here, remember? If that’s not an indicator her bones are down here, then I don’t know what is,” Sam reassures him. Dean’s about to make a wise crack back at his brother, but the poor kid looks so exhausted and sun burnt Dean doesn’t have the heart to. They’re both suffering out here, underneath the scorching, all consuming heat of the sun overhead, so they might as well not make it any worse for each other.
“Sometimes our job fucking sucks,” Dean grunts as he scoops out another shovelful of sand and flings it over his shoulder.
“Sometimes?” Sam jokes, and Dean manages to grin at him before striking the head of his shovel back into the sand. It feels like he’s in an oven, like his insides are being baked inside of him, and his skin is crisping black all over his body. Yeah, Dean really, really hates deserts. He’s way too hot and sticky, wearing just a white crewneck shirt and sand-laden jeans, which is practically naked for someone who typically wears four layers of plaid. Sam’s only faring a little better in his gray tank top and jeans, the cotton clinging to his upper body from the amount of sweat it’s drenched in.
“Come on, let’s just get this over with. I don’t want the bitch showing up on top of things,” Dean instructs, shoveling a mound of sand out of the way with newfound determination. Sam takes another stab into the ground too, and the two of them work for a while in silence, the only sound overheated pants from the two of them coupled with grunts of exertion. Dean is pretty sure he’s never felt this tired digging up bones before. Each strain of his muscles stretching and contracting aches, and his bones feel like brittle lead weights inside of him as he bends, straightens up, and then bends again in a relentless process. His clothes feel like they’re trapping the heat and making it even worse, and he has to blink continually to get the sweat out of his eyes. He tastes the salty tang of it on his lips and in how parched his mouth is. They drank the last of the water they took with them about an hour ago, and now all Dean can think of is the warm Coke he has in the Impala and how it sounds like heaven right about now.
Sam stumbles as he sends a shovel full of sand flying over his shoulder and Dean reaches out a hand to steady him, looking up at his brother assessingly. He has to squint, feeling like the overpowering light of the sun might fry his eyes out of his head if he’s not too careful. “Doin’ okay, Sammy?” Dean questions, knowing Sam must be just as dehydrated and exhausted as he is. Sam nods determinedly, bending at the waist, muscles in his arms and back bunching as he wedges the blunt edge of the shovel into the sand. The hole must be a good four feet deep now, but still no sign of remains to salt and burn. Dean swallows dryly, his mouth as parched as the sand his booted feet are buried in, and is about to return to digging when he hears a distant “Help!”
“Did you hear that?” Dean asks Sam, standing up and peering out over the top of the hole in search of the voice’s owner. Nothing. Dean turns in a full circle, eyes narrowed against the harshness of the sun, but all he can see is miles of desert on all sides, a few cacti here and there, along with the heat haze rising off the sand and distorting the view. Sam has stopped digging and is now appearing a lot more alert, also looking for the source of the plea.
“Help!” they hear again, coming from behind them. Dean spins on his heels, Sam following his lead, only to see no one there. His search and rescue instinct is quashed when Sam speaks up.
“Shit, it’s gotta be the spirit! We need to finish digging!” Dean nods and continues to dig, him and Sam working even faster than before as the cries get louder and more urgent, sounding closer, though Dean still can’t see where they’re coming from. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? He thinks, scowling to himself. To get people to wander off in search of something they’ll never find?
Six feet in and not a single bone in sight. Dean feels a surge of panic, again wondering if maybe they are digging in the wrong spot entirely -- again -- and now they’re going to have to start from scratch. Dean straightens out his back, standing upright again, feeling sweat trickling down his back. He’s just about to voice his concerns to Sam, but he doesn’t get the chance. As soon as his eyes slide over to Sam, who is still obliviously scooping away, he sees the woman standing just a few feet behind him, suddenly in the hole with them. Her skin is a deep tan, the perfect tone to compliment her pale blue eyes and golden blonde hair that’s falling down her back in light waves. She’s wearing a red and orange tie-dyed sundress that billows around her as the unforgiving, searing desert wind blows. Her lips are painted bright red, making her smile both alluring and disturbing.
“Won’t you help me?” she asks, startling Sam into almost tripping backwards in his haste to stand up and pull himself up out of the hole. Dean’s hunter instincts kick into gear as he follows Sam’s lead. He’s searching for a weapon, only to realize the best one he has is the shovel in his hands, considering he stupidly left his gun loaded with iron rounds in the duffle bag he brought with them out here to carry the salt and gasoline. The shovel’s blade is too cheap to be made of iron, so it’s just his luck that it’s ineffective towards spirits of any kind.
“Fuck off, bitch. I have sand in places where sand should never be and I’m so not in the mood right now,” Dean retorts, using disinterest as his best defense. Two beats of charged silence follow the statement, and then her hair is turning into flame from the ends on up; bright, fiery orange tongues lapping up the strands and shifting in the blistering breeze. The fire dances over her shoulders, her hair now incandescent, and when she opens her mouth to speak, her tongue is twin flames flickering out between her lips. “Shit!” Dean yells, trying to stagger backwards and distance himself from the spirit, Sam scrambling to follow his lead. Dean raises the shovel threateningly, but the spirit passes right through it, her body phasing through the solid object like it’s nothing.
Dean takes a swing at her with it anyways, because it’s ingrained into him to fight, but the blow is harmless, cutting seamlessly through her upper body without deterring her even a bit. If anything, the movement just unbalances Dean, causing him to stumble forwards before regaining his footing and stopping himself from falling flat on his face. The actions puts him into a vulnerable position inches away from the spirit, so close he can feel the extra heat from the flames fanned around her head on his face. The spirit takes the necessary step forward to close the space between them, grabbing Dean’s face in one sweltering hand, and before he can tear himself free, crushes their lips together. Dean’s surprise doesn’t last long; a sudden hot-as-literal-Hell wave of heat so powerful and all-consuming it feels like pure flames dive down his throat and light up his entire body from the inside out, like he’s inhaling molten lava. Dean collapses in a heap on the sand, his world going a blinding white as he crumples.
He vaguely hears Sam shouting his name in panic, but just barely, considering every ounce of attention he has is on what it feels like to be incinerated from the inside out with some fucking supernatural spirit fire. Dean writhes on the sand, not even registering how it burns his already sun-reddened skin, wondering how it’s even possible for the ferocity of the heat inside him to increase. It feels like liquified hellfire and it’s pumping through his veins in place of the blood he swears must’ve boiled and evaporated away. The older Winchester’s eyelids flutter, seared red from the sun and invisible blaze, but he catches a glimpse of a familiar figure standing over him, the bottom of his trenchcoat brushing over Dean’s thigh. Dean’s nearly hyperventilating at the pain, but forces himself to peel back his eyelids and see if it really is Castiel blocking his view of the spirit or if this is just some sick delusion spurred on by the heatstroke.
Dean pries his eyes open just in time to see Cas pull his arm back and then snap it forward, driving a strange blade composed of some gleaming, irridescent white stone through the spirit’s chest. The creature throws back its head and gives out the most feral, high-pitched scream Dean has ever heard, so loud and shrill it nearly renders him deaf. The brightness of its body all but blinds him as it arches its back and erupts in one massive white flame, disappearing as the inferno sputters out. As soon as the spirit is gone the worst of Dean’s pain vanishes as well, leaving the hunter feeling like an extra crispy Salem witch, every breath rasping his bone-dry throat as he blinks up at the spinning sky.
His senses all seem to have gone to shit -- he’s having trouble focusing enough to understand what’s going on, why the white stone blade is sitting harmlessly on the sand inches away from his face and how he can’t connect the dots to it and the spirit dying its fiery death. He hears voices, sees Sam’s face hovering over his own and looking down worriedly at him, mouth moving like he’s speaking but Dean can’t make out the words. Strong arms gather Dean up, pulling him against a solid chest, and Dean lets his head loll back, limbs hanging limply as whoever it is -- not Sam, because Dean can still see Sam standing by his side -- brushes the sand caked to the side of his face off and lifts him up, not unlike a child. Dean’s eyes roll haphazardly, trying to find the face, and he feels relief when they finally land on the ethereal blue of Cas’ eyes. Dean wants to dive into the azure depths and swim, cool off his charred skin.
There’s a rush of displaced air against Dean’s skin and when he blinks his eyes open next, he’s stretched out over what he recognizes is the back seat of his baby. The cool, familiar leather presses against his scorched skin and something about it is oddly comforting. Dean wants to pass out and sleep for the rest of eternity, but the voices pull into focus for a moment and he’s too interested to just block it out, as much as his entire being is pining for sleep and relief from the pain it’s in. “--any spirit, Sam. It was a spiritus sol, an ancient sun spirit that roams deserts and has been around for centuries. You did not find any bones to burn because there were none. The only way to kill a spiritus sol is to impale it through the heart with a dagger carved of moonrock and enchanted with an incantationis luna.”
Dean is dipping in and out of consciousness, the voices that are his anchor having momentarily ceased. “How did you know to find us and everything?” Sam finally asks, causing Dean’s vision to tunnel as the sound pulls him back from the brink of unconsciousness.
“Dean’s distress after the spiritus sol poisoned him reached me through the bond.”
“Yeah, about that. Is he gonna be okay? What exactly happened to him, and what can we do to fix it?” Sam asks, Dean hazily catching his eyes in the rearview mirror. This makes him realize that Sam is driving the Impala and Cas is riding shotgun. In Dean’s loopy state of mind he finds something about the whole arrangement funny and might laugh if his lungs didn’t feel burned to a crisp in his chest.
“We will need to look into finding a cure, because when I tried to heal him with my Grace, he was unresponsive,” Cas replies, and Dean wonders if maybe he’s hallucinating it, but he’s sure there’s a note of worry in the angel’s voice.
“Okay, yeah, I can do that. If I drop you guys off back at the motel, do you think you could look after him while I head to the library and research some lore on spiritus sol and see if I can come up with a cure?”
“Certainly, Sam. You need not drop us off; I can fly.” Cas answers, reaching back to press two fingers to Dean’s forehead, which is sticky with drying sweat. Dean is watching and listening in a daze, hearing the conversation in bits and pieces. Certain things register in his mind, like Sam’s dubiousness, but the rest is lost to him.
“Your brother is in good hands. If his condition worsens, I will call,” Cas promises, and something about that must satisfy Sam, because he nods and tells Cas to get going.
Another rush of air and the boneless sensation that comes with flight, and everything disappears to black.
Dean comes to feeling like his whole body is engulfed in fire. He blinks his eyes open rapidly, trying to see so he can put it out, but his skin is only sun-reddened; no flames lap at his flesh in attempts to melt it from the bone. “Sam!” Dean chokes out in horror, needing his brother to put out the invisible flames. Dean flashbacks to Hell, back to feeling his bones char in the lake of fire, over and over and over again. Cool hands are suddenly on his wildly thrashing arms, pinning them down firmly but gently, and his eyes lock onto the vividly blue eyes that can only belong to Castiel. “The fire! You gotta put the fire out!” Dean begs, eyes wide as he continues to writhe on the motel bed he’s been laid upon. Cas’ touch grounds him, a point of reality he’s clinging onto for dear life, because nothing makes any sense.
“I need you to be still, Dean. You are not on fire. You have sun poisoning from the spiritus sol.” Cas explains, and the authority and control in the angel’s gravelly voice does ease Dean’s panic enough that he stops struggling against the hold.
“It hurts,” Dean whines disjointedly, though he might as well had just said his entire body feels like it’s been thrown into a volcano. Cas’ eyes narrow sympathetically -- a display of emotion Dean has trained himself over the years to perceive -- and he curves his palm to fit the side of Dean’s face. The hunter allows his eyes to slip shut as he leans his head into Cas’ touch.
“I know, Dean. Sam and I will find a cure,” Cas promises, using his free hand to smooth Dean’s hair back in an act of comfort. Dean bites his tongue to stop himself from whimpering. Why is Cas brushing back his hair when his body is being incinerated from the inside out?
“So hot,” Dean manages to rasp, though the words feel like sandpaper coming up his dry throat. He wishes he had a better way to make Cas understand just how much pain he is in, because the angel doesn’t seem to understand. If he did, he wouldn’t be nearly as calm as he is. Dean feels like he’s gonna to die, plain and simple. He tries to comprehend what Cas just said, and all he can remember is him saying Sam’s name. “Where’s Sam?” Dean asks, suddenly worried for his brother. Did they leave him back with the spirit? Did the spirit get him? Is he okay? “Sam!” Dean yells, straining to sit up against Cas’ hold and look around.
“Sam is at the library, researching,” Cas replies, watching Dean with wary, concerned eyes.
“M’brother’s not here,” Dean pants shakily, Cas’ words not making any sense to him. “He s’okay?” Dean asks, needing the confirmation.
“Yes.” Cas replies kindly, and in any other state of mind, Dean would be pissed at being talked to like a child who’d lost their mom in a shopping mall. Right now, all he feels is an overwhelming surge of relief that Sammy is safe. God, he’d hate himself if anything were to happen to his little brother. Content with the knowledge that Sam’s not in danger, Dean slumps back down onto the bed, letting his eyes close again as his body sinks into the mattress, cushioning his too-heavy bones. He feels two fingers press against his forehead, and in turn opens his eyes weakly to see what’s going on.
“Your temperature has risen to one hundred and four point nine degrees,” Cas remarks quietly, even his voice now betraying his worry. Dean’s not sure why his temperature matters, doesn’t care why the number is significant. The flames are still there in the background, burning him away, but if he doesn’t focus on them he can just about suppress the urge to scream. Castiel reaches for a bottle of water perched on the nightstand near the bed and uncaps it, one hand cupping the back of Dean’s neck to support him as he presses the water bottle’s rim against Dean’s lips. “Drink,” he instructs. Dean complies, parting his lips around the opening and swallowing back the cool, wonderful wetness that spills into his mouth. Once he starts drinking, acute need takes over and he’s unable to stop, guzzling the water until there’s not a single drop left. Cas pulls the empty water bottle back and replaces it on the nightstand, then carefully lets Dean’s head fall back into the mound of pillows.
Dean’s about to ask for more water, his thirst now like a ravenous lion clawing at his insides, when his stomach lurches sickeningly and he feels his gag reflex spasm. His eyes snap open in alarm as his stomach heaves, and then the hunter is falling gracelessly off the bed in his effort to vault out and run to the bathroom. Cas catches him before he can trip and fall to the ground, coming to kneel beside the hunter he’s supporting with a solid arm around his waist. By then, Dean’s unable to stop his body from rebelling against the much-needed hydration, and he’s violently ill, retching up the water he’d just drank all over the floor and down the front of their shirts. His muscles ache as his body expels all the water, leaving him a trembling, nauseous mess after he gets the last mouthful up. Gasping and shivering, chest rising and falling in time to the rapid rhythm of his heart, Dean sags weakly against Cas, all energy spent.
Cas rubs circles against Dean’s back, the motion oddly jerky and too fast to be natural, as if he’s never tried it himself, only seen it done before, but it’s soothing. Dean just wants to sleep, anything to make him feel less like shit. Cas easily maneuvers him back onto the bed, then mojos off his soiled shirt, leaving the hunter’s chest bare. The heavy weight of cotton removed from his skin feels great, and he wants to thank Cas but he’s forgotten what his tongue and lips need to do to form the words. Dean opens his eyes so he can look at Cas, wanting to see those too-bright eyes, and is pleased to find Cas is staring back at him. The angel manifests a washcloth, dripping wet, into his hands and spreads it over Dean’s neck, and holy mother of fuck, does that feel like heaven. Dean moans at the relief it brings. When he focuses on Cas, he sees the angel with a fond little smile on his face, and a particular question bubbles up through his muddled thoughts.
In his state of delirium, he has no inhibitions -- he’s overcome with desire for an answer to a question he’s always had, and doesn’t understand why he’s never asked it before. “Cas,” he starts, watching the angel perk up to attention at the sound of his nickname, “why are y’always makin’ sacrifices for me?” And he’s not just referring to Cas letting Dean puke up his guts all over Cas’ shirt just now, either. It’s almost comical how Cas’ eyes widen like a deer caught in the headlights, but the stunning blue softens at Dean’s genuine openness.
“Because I care for you, Dean. I believe the term is ‘compassion’.” Cas replies. Dean nods, accepting the answer and feeling himself smile.
“That’s good, ‘cuz I care about you, too, y’know,” Dean breaks off into a fit of coughs, then squirms uncomfortably at the realization his jeans are sealing in heat around his legs. Cas must sense Dean’s problem, because he lays a hand over Dean’s denim-sheathed knee and suddenly Dean’s pants are gone. The hunter breathes a sigh of relief, and maybe he’s just imagining it, but he swears Cas chuckles. The angel helps Dean turn over onto his front, and then the blissful sensations of an icy-cold wet towel navigating the planes of his back take over and he loses himself in the most wonderful sensation he’s felt in all his life.
Cas continues to cool Dean’s sweltering skin with the wet towel, his free hand running through Dean’s spiky hair and scratching gloriously at his scalp. Something about the gesture breaks Dean’s heart in the sweetest of ways. “Always lookin’ out for me,” Dean murmurs into the pillow, feeling himself teetering on the brink of unconsciousness. The only response he gets is the towel sliding around the back of his neck. “Don’t deserve it,” Dean mutters, even in this state of mind his self loathing coming to the surface. Cas just keeps massaging Dean’s back with the cloth as Dean drifts in and out of coherency. His heart is melting in his chest, and not from the fire raging within him from the ‘sun poisoning’ or whatever the hell it is. Dean can’t remember ever being treated this way, never been take care of like this by anyone accept his mother. Sam’s the only one who’d probably ever do anything like this out of the goodness of his heart, and Dean would never let him. It’s a strange and fantastic thing, how Cas is touching him, taking care of him. Each movement is gentle, careful, like Dean is something to be treasured, something precious in the eyes of the angel. It’s a ludicrous concept to Dean, but right now, he’s grateful for it.
He’s inches away from conking out, exhausted from such speculative thoughts, when the shrill tone of Cas’ default ringtone snaps him out of it. Cas stops his administrations in favor of answer the phone. “Sam? Yes... Yes. It’s at one hundred and five point two degrees now... Yes. He is somewhat delusional, and he has reached the point where he is no longer sweating. My Grace is still ineffective.” A long silence, and then the tone of Cas’ voice has changed. “The poison must be extracted the same way it entered his body, correct?” Sam must agree on the other end of the line. “How did it enter him? I will have to rouse him into a more lucid state to find out, then I will proceed. I will inform you of how it goes.” Dean hears the sound of the dial tone, and then Cas’ hands are back on his back with a newly dampened cold towel.
“Dean, Sam just called with the lore he discovered at the library. The spiritus sol poisoned you, but neither him nor I know how it did so. The only way I can draw out the poison is to use my Grace to reverse it in the exact same way that she administered it. I need you to tell me how she poisoned you. Did she bite you anywhere?” Cas asks, turning Dean onto his back so they can see each other. Dean furrows his eyebrows in confusion.
“What poison? Whatcha talkin’ ‘bout?” the hunter slurs, blinking up dazedly at Cas.
“The spirit would have had to make physical contact with you in some way to infect you with her hyperpyretic poison. Did you touch her?” Cas asks patiently, manifesting a towel wrapped around a handful of ice cubes and gliding them over Dean’s collarbone. The instant relief it brings to Dean’s feverish skin is distracting him from trying to recall. In fact, the whole event seems shrouded in fog and confusion, the lines between reality and what Dean imagined blurring in places. “Dean?” Cas prompts just as he’s about to pass out again.
Dean tries to narrow his focus, attempting to envision the spirit and remember what she did. He knows him and Sammy were digging a hole, looking for something, but that part doesn’t matter. The spirit had been all fiery, Dean remembers that part clearly, and how she had set Dean on fire too. Even fire inside of him! How did she do that? With a sudden burst of clarity, Dean blurts, “She kissed me!” Cas’ jaw tightens and his eyes harden just enough that Dean notices, but it isn’t an emotion he’s used to seeing on the angel’s face. It’s so unfamiliar he can’t even try to name it. Dean’s eyelids droop as he drifts back towards sleep, proud of himself for remembering, when his body is suddenly wracked with a torrent of heat, his insides igniting like a forest fire catching wind. The hunter coughs out a strangled cry, back arching as the flames intensify and devour him, causing him to writhe as his body rejects the sudden onslaught of pain.
“Dean!” Cas gasps, his hands on Dean’s shoulders, anchoring his thrashing body to the bed. “Can you hear me?” he asks. Dean can, but he can’t reply because he’s too busy biting his tongue off in efforts to not scream. His eyes are rolling back into his head blindly, lost in the abyss of fiery torture, when suddenly soft, deliciously cool and slightly chapped lips part his own. Dean’s bewilderment dissipates into nothing the very second Cas’ lips molding and shaping his with a desperate, determined edge. It’s both foreign and wonderful, the scrape of stubble over his skin paired with the absolutely incredible icy cold relief centered on the point of contact. Dean, even in his delirious state, has the presence of mind to kiss him back, lips moving with muscle memory. Not just because kissing Cas is dousing the flames encompassing him, but because somewhere in the back of his mind, he knows he really, really wants to, and has done for longer than he’s willing to admit.
The two fall into a rhythm of lips pushing and pulling, rising and dipping, as if this is all their mouths were ever made for. Cas’ hands have come up to cradle Dean’s head, keeping him in place, but the movement isn’t necessary anymore, seeing as Dean has stopped flailing. The pain feels like it is being drawn out through each kiss, and Dean is nearly dizzy from the starbursts of pleasure and relief Cas’ lips give. The heat -- the poison, that is-- is being leached away as Cas’ cool Grace passes through their joined lips and begins to extract the supernatural venom. Dean could cry from the euphoria, that is, until the poison responds to Cas’ Grace and fights back tooth and nail, targeting Dean’s core with another blast of heat straight from the very pits of Hell.
“Fuck!” Dean barks out as he contorts in agony, tearing his mouth away from Castiel’s. His entire body is seizing up at the pain; it’s like the sun went supernova right in his fucking chest. He goes from cationic to convulsing violently in seconds, and Cas is yelling his name in panic, pinning his upper body to the mattress with a strong, steady grip on the hunter’s shoulders.
“Dean-- Dean, listen to me! I need you to fight through the pain, okay? I’m going to take it away. I’m going to fix you,” Cas claims, voice tinged with diligence and protectiveness. “You are going to be fine,” the angel promises, and then drops his head to kiss him with renewed passion. Dean’s body is bucking underneath Cas’ grip, but as soon as Cas is using his thumb to gently tilt Dean’s head back and deepen the kiss by tracing the curve of Dean’s bottom lip with the tip of his tongue, his body stills. A detached part of Dean’s mind revels in the kiss itself, not just how it soothes the heat ravaging him from the inside out. The dry rasp of skin on skin, the wet slip of Cas’ tongue as Dean allows the angel access, craving a deeper, more intimate touch.
Cas’ Grace is battling the poison for dominance, and the war is wrecking havoc on Dean. The paradox of pleasure -- sweet, cool relief like mountain springs on sun-torched skin -- and pain paired with desperation is taking everything the hunter has to hang onto. Cas’ lips anchor him in reality, otherwise he’d be lost in the fiery blaze. The angel’s tongue laps into his mouth and Dean returns the favor, barely able to comprehend anything beyond Cas’ touch. He feels the Grace inside him, channeling itself down his throat and seeking out the poison, and it feels more satisfying than an orgasm. Well, aside from the blistering pain of the poison dragging Dean through living Hell as payback.
“The poison is almost all out,” Cas kisses against Dean’s mouth, then resumes his task with even more zealousness as he senses victory. The poison must detect the imminency of its defeat, because it throws its all into filling Dean with a white-hot inferno of mind-numbing agony. It’s at that exact moment that Cas pulls back, leaving Dean gasping for air and unable to get any with the heat choking his lungs. Castiel looks exhausted and drained, wheezing as if he’d just run a marathon as he collapses onto his forearms Dean’s has just enough time to feel concerned before the poison is rising up, seizing the moment to stake its claim over Dean once more with a newfound determination. He cries out as the swarm of black dots that were eating at the edges of his vision bore into his eyes, pulling him down into a dark and fiery abyss.
“Don’t you dare succumb, Dean Winchester, I need you to stay with me! Don’t let the poison overcome you,” he begged, “You have to stay with me!” The raw, desperately commanding pleas pull Dean up towards the surface, and something about the angel’s feral tone scares him into believing the situation is more dire than he feels capable of comprehending. He senses Cas’ mouth on his again, kissing his unresponsive lips so hard Dean knows they’ll be swollen if he survives this. The hunter feels Cas’ Grace rushing through him, choking the stubborn last remains of the poison, vicious and unyielding as Cas’ will to heal Dean. The Grace is making him feel funny, striking something at his core -- his soul? -- and tugging at him in places he didn’t know he had. He clings to it with all his might, aware Cas’ Grace is the only thing keeping him afloat.
As if the Grace is a part of him, or maybe it’s the bond tethering soul and Grace forged in Dean’s rescue from Hell, Dean feels Cas exert every last bit of power into completely obliterating the poison from his system, removing all traces of the supernatural venom from his body. A wall of white rises up behind his eyes at the same time he feels the weight of Cas’ body collapsing on his, completely spent, and then the wall is crumbling down on him, and Dean spirals into a state of unconsciousness that is finally free of heat or pain.
Dean, even just coming out of his comatose like state, can sense Cas’ presence, perched on the edge of his bed, watching over him. Cas probably thinks he’s still asleep. “It is truly astounding,” Cas whispers to the hunter, and Dean peeks through his eyelashes for just a second, long enough to see Cas’ eyes are liquid fire the color of that line where the ocean meets the sky, “The lengths I am willing to go to for you. The sheer number of people, entire cities, nations, planets I would decimate in a heartbeat just to protect you. How there is not a single thing I could refuse to sacrifice for you. You were my human charge, Dean Winchester. I rescued you from the deepest pits of Hell, marked you with my Grace, so all of Heaven, Hell, and earth would recognize it was I who saved the Righteous Man.
“They would know it was Castiel who gripped you tight, they would see the mark ensuring my holy wrath if anyone dare touch or harm my charge. I engraved my name into the very marrow of your bones, branded each cell of your body I reconstructed, the fibers of my Grace I infused into your very soul to repair it from the damage inflicted upon it in Hell. It is unmistakable that you are mine and mine alone. You never were just my ward. As soon as my hand wrapped around your mangled flesh, our bond was forged with a strength, a viscerality, a certain brand of metaphysical depth that could never be broken. Even the intimacy that came with these things I had never imagined possible in my millennia of existence, but now that I have it, have you, I will not let anything take you from me.”
Dean feels something blossoming in his chest, something warm and beautiful, and the only thing he can name it with is affection. Sleep tugs at him, beckoning for him to slide into its welcoming arms, and he succumbs with Castiel’s name on his lips and devotion for the angel in his heart.
When Dean wakes up, he sees Cas sitting in the exact same position, eyes trained intently on the hunter. “How are you feeling?” Cas asks him, his voice soft, as if not to disturb the fragile silence. Dean takes a deep breath, mentally going over his physical condition.
“Ow, still sunburnt,” Dean replies with an amused grin, and Cas smiles back at him as he presses two fingers to Dean’s forehead and heals his skin. “Damn! If we could bottle your angelic aloe vera, we could make millions.” Dean sits up, pushing the blankets covering his legs off and untangling his feet from the sheets twisted around them, and moves over to sit on the edge of the mattress next to Cas, swinging his feet over the side of the bed to rest on the floor. Cas’ eyes engage his own for a long moment, and Dean swears he can see Castiel’s true being through the ethereal blue. Dean Winchester is a man of action, not a man of words, which is why he chooses not to overthink what he is about to do. He closes the small space between them, brushing a cloying kiss against Cas’ lips, and makes sure to actually take his time to revel at the feel of it. Reluctantly, he pulls back to gage Cas’ reaction.
“I cured you, Dean,” Cas says, eyes narrowing in confusion. He tilts his head in that way of his and Dean chuckles, smiling fondly.
“That wasn’t for the poison,” Dean explains. “This is for… just for us, Cas.”
By way of answer, Cas leans in once more, lips curling into a smile against Dean’s.