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Flesh of My Flesh

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Dean digs his hands into the earth, dirt gathering under his fingernails until they feel as if they’re pulling back from his skin. The ground is rocky, bits of shale leaving nicks along his fingers and he thinks back to the shovel in the trunk but something inside him knows he has to do this by hand.

 

His side aches, the wound deeper than even the vicodin and whiskey can reach. He’d be worried such exertion might actually do some real damage if he was the kind of person that worried about that sort of thing. He struggles against the bandage wrapped tight around his torso, obstructing his breathing even worse than the pain and the physical labor. He’s half tempted to take it off but shivers at the thought of reopening the wound.

 

***

 

“Not gonna work.”

 

Dean blinks at the back of Bobby’s head then down at the worn piece of paper the older man had shoved back into his hand.

 

“You take one look at it and that’s it?” Dean asks, his voice raising and Bobby sighs at him, moving to sit back behind his desk, his face set in the exasperated expression Dean knows all too well. He feels a hand on his arm and Dean shakes his brother off roughly, stomping forward to slam the paper down onto the desk. “Look at it again.”

 

It’s smooth from spending weeks in Dean’s front pocket, worn at the folds from being opened and scribbled on and folded back again. Spotted with sweat and a little blood, marked in different inks from a myriad of hotel pens, it holds sigils and dead languages, translations and a few choice words of frustration that Dean had not bothered to scratch out. This piece of paper was the only shred of hope he had left

 

“I’ve seen enough,” Bobby says evenly, pulling a large volume toward him and Dean

watches the older man ignore him for a full measure before slamming his hand down on the paper and snatching it up, wheeling around to storm from the house.

 

He had sacrificed for this information, lost sleep and time and tread on his tires. It would work. It had to.

 

***

 

He’s filthy and he’s barely half way through, arms aching and it feels like someone took his knife and jabbed it up under his ribs, leaving it there for safekeeping. He hasn’t hurt like this since Hell, a realization that sends a shiver down his spine despite the sweat on his brow.

 

He stares at the mound of dirt, a hump against the forest floor not unlike a freshly covered grave and he affords himself one more shaking breath before pulling out the piece of paper with trembling fingers. He wipes the sweat from his upper lip smudging himself with earth as he takes a trembling breath and without even realizing what he’s doing, he sends up a prayer.

 

***

 

“Dean!”

 

Dean’s feet stutter across the gravel and he has to make the conscious decision not to stop. The sound of his brother’s boots crunching against the loose earth gets louder as he clears the distance at a jog and Dean is fully prepared to shake him off when Sam grabs for his arm.

 

“You said you’d let Bobby look at it-”

 

“And I did,” Dean spits back petulantly, still moving towards the car. “Doesn’t change anything.”

 

“It’s not real, Dean!” Sam exclaims in exasperation. “We drove for days, talked to Shaman and priests and…” he struggles hands gesturing as he stutters, “devil worshipers.” Sam gulps and Dean just looks at him, jaw clenched. “And all we got was a piece of scripture and list of useless-” Sam cuts himself off as Dean turns his back, gripping the door handle and ripping it open. “Look I miss him too okay bu-”

 

“Are you gonna help me?” Dean asks, cutting him off and Sam’s mouth snaps shut, jaw clenching as his eyes go uncertain. “I can’t…I can’t get this on my own.”

 

Sam stands straighter, looking wide eyed at his brother before letting out a scoff of a laugh.

 

“You’re actually asking me to… there’s…there’s not even any real ingredients on there!” Sam argues, his voice raised in frustration and Dean cringes when the paper is ripped from his hand. “Dust and bone?” Sam reads, raising his arms in a “what-the-hell” gesture.

 

Dean snatches the page back. “Sounds like ingredients to me.” He folds it hastily and shoves it back into his pocket. “Are you gonna help me or not?”

 

Sam crosses his arms over his chest, shifting from one foot to the other as he regards his brother with caution. He swallows hard. “You can’t ask me to do this….”

 

“I can and I am.”

 

Sam shifts again, the silence heavy between them. “No.”

 

Dean sneers, bunching his shoulder in a careless shrug and maneuvering his body around the door to fall into the front seat. “Fine.”

 

“Where are you going?” Sam asks, panic lacing his words but Dean drowns it out with the roar of the engine.

 

“To find someone who will.”

 

***

 

Dean sculpts the earth like a mechanic, cursing and growling at how ineffective his hands seem to have become. He’s no artist, struggles to recreate nose and ears, fingers and collar bones. The earth is loose and dry, the tiniest rustle of a breeze carrying it away and Dean uses spit and sweat to dampen it, to make it stay. When it still won’t hold he opens a wound, packing the soil with blood.

 

He works feverishly, determined, pushed by something inside him that he doesn’t really understand. Only acknowledges that this has to work. He has to make this work.

 

When he steps back finally, he sees nothing but a crude outline of a person, arms overlong with a torso like a stump, features uneven and he’s never felt more defeated. He wipes his forehead with the back of his wrist, heaving a sigh that pushes against the bandages around his ribs, burning and throbbing out of sync with his heart beat.

 

He consults the page again, wiggling his fingers into the front pocket of his jeans and pulls out the sliver of bone, feeling his stomach roll at the remembrance of what it took to get it.

 

***

 

“You need to hold still,” Crowley says through gritted teeth and Dean bangs his head back against the table, tugging at the restraints.

 

Sweat slicks his torso and he doesn’t dare look down where Crowley is working on his flesh. Instead he stares up at the ceiling that’s cracked and flecked with bits of Raphael, trying to breathe slow and easy. He should have drunk more before they started.

 

“Almost there,” Crowley soothes but his tone is too jolly for Dean’s liking, the hunter glaring fiercely at the demon which proves to be a bad idea seeing as Crowley is reaching for a large pair of pruning sheers. “This part is going to hurt.”

 

He isn’t lying. When Dean comes to he finds himself patched up, a white bandage wrapped tight around his torso, a small dot of red seeping through just under his rib cage. A full bottle of whiskey sits on the tray next to the table and Dean makes a swipe for it, groaning in agony as the wound burns hot, an ache so deep he nearly goes under again.

 

He manages to get two gulps down before it comes back up, the retching so painful he doesn’t try again, just lays there in the silence counting each agonizing breath.

 

“Curious thing…”

 

Crowley’s voice creeps from the shadows and Dean jumps, hands scrambling for his firearm but it’s nowhere nearby, the movement sending another wave of pain induced nausea through his gut. The hunter glares at the demon that is examining a thin taper of bone clasped in the jaws of hemostats. Dean swallows hard.

 

“…Enochian?” Crowley asks, taking a lazy step closer and Dean wets his dry lips as the surgical light throws the carving into relief.

 

“Give it,” Dean demands, his voice nothing more than a broken rasp, hand shooting out, but Crowley holds it just out of his reach.

 

“You know I thought that after your last little stint in Hell you’d be remiss to make another deal with a demon.”

 

“This isn’t a deal. This is you give me that and I don’t kill you.”

 

“Sounds like a deal to me,” Crowley replies giving him a smile that’s more bared teeth than anything else.

 

Dean swipes again and Crowley lets him take it, Dean’s fingers fumbling with the instrument to get it to let go and the bone falls into his lap, small and white against the denim of his jeans. It’s rough the notches of the sigils scraping the pad of his thumb as he feels it, this piece of himself.

 

“You think this’ll work?” Dean asks absently, dragging his thumb back and forth along the curve of the bone.

 

“Of course not,” Crowley says and Dean looks up at him, mashing the slight part in his lips as he sets his jaw in determination. Crowley merely smiles in response. “Like that’s ever stopped you before.”

 

***

 

Dust and bone.

 

That’s all. No incantations or strange concoctions just a little bit of earth and a piece of himself. He struggles back down onto his knees, his side aching as he scrapes away a bit of soil using his pain as a map to find the right spot. He places the bone there and holds his breath as he smoothes the dirt back to cover it. He waits.

 

And waits... and waits some more, the span of a hundred breaths passing in and out of his aching chest. He feels his lungs expand against his wound and then retract again, feeling empty, so much more of him missing than a little sliver of bone.

 

Dean crumples the paper in his palm, bringing his fist to his forehead and gritting his teeth against the stinging behind his eyelids. He forces himself to his feet, letting the ball of paper fall to the ground to rustle away with the dead leaves. He stares down at the pile of dirt, wanting so badly to kick it and scatter it into the wind, trample over it until it’s flat, but he hurts, just hurts and he doesn’t have it in him right now, disappointment and anger weighing heavy inside him.

 

He’s no God, was foolish to think he’d be able to create something rather than destroy it, to think that because he could build a car from scratch and bring it back from the dead he would be able to do the same with a man.

 

He closes his eyes on the earth body, feeling nauseous with pain and exhaustion, moving to turn away, but before he can even take a step something inside him pulls tight, like a belt cinching around his chest forcing the air from his lungs and making his knees buckle.

 

He falls, clutching at his side, feeling it throb from the inside out. He can’t tell if the ground is shaking beneath him or if he’s merely trembling himself apart. He tries to get his hands underneath him to push himself up but he can barely breathe, pain threatening to crush him as his palms sink into the loose earth. The pressure inside him is immense, pushing and pulling at the same time, making him feel as if he’s going to explode from his skin.

 

His eyes fly open when he feels a hand clamp around his wrist, tighter than a vice and stronger than steel, pulling him down into the dirt. He gasps, tugging back but it doesn’t let go revealing a dirty wrist and Dean’s heart is slamming so hard against his rib cage he fears it may break him. He twists his hand in the grip, curling his fingers around its wrist, the flesh searing hot under his palm.

 

With all his strength he pulls, trying to get his feet beneath him to use the leverage of his legs but it’s as if another force is trying to wrench the thing away from him. He delves his free hand into the earth, grappling for something other than dirt and feels the burning sting of a collarbone connecting to a shoulder. He latches on and tugs.

 

He hears a gasping breath, one that’s not his own as a head breaks the surface and Dean grits his teeth, nails digging into the burning flesh feeling as if his muscles are tearing from the strain. Shoulders, chest, hips all break the surface but it’s only when the knees clear that the earth releases her hold and Dean falls backwards from the force of his pull, Castiel’s body falling over him in a ball of searing hot limbs.

 

Dean lays back against the forest floor, eyes wide, breath coming in short pants, the pain in his side nearly doubling his vision. He looks down in awe as steam rises from Castiel’s flesh in soft curling wisps, his shoulders rising and falling with his labored breath.

 

“Cas!” Dean exclaims, finally finding his voice, shaking Castiel where he holds him at the wrist and at the shoulder, feeling as if his skin is sealed with his.

 

Castiel lets out a sharp hiss as Dean rips the flesh away in his attempt to let go, grabbing onto Castiel’s face to get the man to look at him.

 

“Cas…Cas can you hear me?”

 

Blue eyes open and it feels like they pin Dean to the ground, his heart beating wildly out of control. Dean sees confusion, fear, disbelief and shock all flashing rapidly across Castiel’s face. Dean’s hands smooth along his cheeks, trying to clear some of the dirt away, his skin finally beginning to cool. Castiel’s eyes close, tongue coming out to wet his filthy lips and shakes his head as if trying to clear it. When his eyes open again he looks just as shocked as he did the first time he opened them.

 

“Dean?” he questions, his voice nothing more than a dry croak and a vibration in his chest and Dean feels his face may break from the smile that rips across it.

 

“Yeah,” he breathes, still holding Castiel’s face in his hands. “Yeah it’s me.”

 

Castiel blinks slow, looking down at himself, naked except for the layer of earth on his skin and his eyes catch on the mound of dirt, steam still rising from the hole he’d been drug out of. His brow creases in disbelief. He looks back at Dean who is studying his face intently, looking for any sign of trouble, his eyes skeptical like he doesn’t really trust what’s in front of him.

 

“You… you brought me back?” Castiel questions and the grave look on his face makes Dean pause, giving only a slight nod of affirmation. Castiel’s brows smooth, blue eyes wide with astonishment. “How?”

 

Dean blinks back at him, looking down at Castiel’s body and immediately looks away, an uncomfortable blush heating his cheeks. “Uh…well… You know…a little bit of dirt and a…a piece of rib-”

 

His voice cuts off as Castiel’s eyes grow wider, a feat Dean didn’t think was possible. Castiel’s hand grapple against the other man’s shirt and find the bandaged wound. Castiel presses his palm to it and Dean growls, trying to wiggle away but is distracted as Castiel looks down at himself, trying to smudge away the dirt on his rib cage and even in the dim light Dean can see the symbols on his skin, white like a faded scar. He swallows hard

 

“It’s…it’s not ‘gripping you tight and raising you from perdition’ but… I guess it did in a pinch.”

 

Castiel blinks back at him, the look of awe giving way to exhaustion, relief, and something else Dean can’t quite place before Castiel bows his head, forehead resting against the hollow of Dean’s throat. Dean brings a hand up to cup the back of Castiel’s neck, fingers tentatively curling against the sinew of his muscles.

 

“You made me new,” Castiel whispers breath tickling against Dean’s throat, the rawness in his voice making Dean’s fingers press harder into Castiel’s skin. His other hand moves to press flat against his rib cage, feeling the other man’s heart beat steady and true against his skin.

 

Dean closes his eyes as he rests his head back on dried leaves and for the first time in what feels like months, despite the wound at his side, he takes a full breath that doesn’t ache.