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12 January 2014 @ 07:22 pm
Fic: Restoration (Supernatural)  
Title: Restoration
Characters/pairing: Dean/Cas
Rating: NC-17
Warnings/contains: References to canonical character death; angsty sex.
Summary: After the events of 9.09, Dean calls Castiel back to the bunker. Dean can't accept what he needs; Castiel can't work out what he is.
Notes: Many thanks to teahigh for the beta. Any remaining mistakes are, of course, my own.




Cas? Cas. Listen. I know you said you were gonna stay away. Protect us.

Yeah, well. Change of plan.

Kevin’s dead. That fucker in Sammy’s head, he—and Sam—I don’t know. Fuck. I don’t know. I don’t know, and I got nobody left here to protect. I got you, and that’s it. I don’t even know if you can help. Just.

I need you here, Cas. Please.


 

----

 



Castiel arrives at the bunker in the quiet after rain, the damp air cold on his face. The remains of a pyre stand out back, black and wet. Fresh-dug earth a little way off, a red-brown scar in the bright grass; a shovel abandoned beside the grave.

He’s on edge with the itch of this new, ill-fitting grace within him, with the way it shines in his veins, rubs up against the edges of his self. It’s a horrible, nervy feeling. Like the first time he drank coffee as a human. He wasn’t used to its effects, and he found himself jerky and irritable and wishing desperately not to be so very awake, startling at the rumble of an engine, the clank of the Slurpee machine, the flutter of a bird against the window. He’s dislocated; at odds with himself. The grace he stole feels alien and merciless. It isn’t part of him, but it feels like it might swallow him whole.

Maybe that’s because of how he took it—what he let himself turn into, to survive. Either way, he doesn’t feel restored, he doesn’t feel right. He was telling the truth when he told Dean he was an angel again—but he knows, now, the angel who he used to be is gone. What he has left of himself is the man, and he doesn’t know if he can hold onto that. It frightens him a little.

And through it all, Dean’s prayer echoes in him, a hurt that reverberates like a note struck from a tuning fork.

Even though he lacks the strength for flight, depleted as he is after his escape, it has kept him going the whole way here. Kept him going even though he knows this is stupid, knows he should be running in the opposite direction as fast as he can. He can’t get it out of his head. However late, however inadequately, he can’t fail to answer. Not this time.

But the door of the bunker stands open, and there is nobody living in sight, and Castiel is afraid that he has come too late.

He reaches for his blade before he steps inside.

The interior of the place looks ransacked. The library is a mess of overturned chairs and scattered books; drifts of loose notepaper covered with Kevin Tran’s adolescent scrawl, pages wilting in a puddle of bourbon and broken glass. There is no smell of sulphur, though; no cold residual charge of grace in the air. The corridors ring with absence. Castiel relaxes his grip on his angel blade. But the fear that has hold of his heart won’t let up.

Nobody, he thinks, should be alone with this much nothing.

 

----

 



The kitchen. Utensils and shattered crockery on the floor, a ball of bloodied tissue paper in the sink.

The first bedroom along the corridor. Sam’s. It’s bare as a monastery cell: no pictures on the walls, no personal touches, single bed made up with military neatness. Hardly a sign that anyone has been here at all, except the knocked-over water glass on the nightstand, the wet stain beneath it on the floor. That, and the damaged panelling of the door, splintered inward at shoulder height by the impact of a fist, faint rust-red smears on the paintwork.

The next room. Dean’s. Empty, though the light is on and the door flung open. Castiel’s shoes crunch on shards of black vinyl. (Six bucks on Ebay, first pressing, some people just don’t know what they got, huh?) Floor strewn with a chaos of clothing and weaponry and papers covered with what might be arcane rituals or grocery lists. A broken coffee mug and a tiny Lego Batman and a spilled container of salt: the bizarre mixture of mundane and horrific that has always made up the Winchester version of normal.

The destruction is so complete. It speaks of hopelessness, and Castiel knows no intruder was responsible for this.

It occurs to him, slowly, that there are guns missing from the wall.

Then panic takes hold of him, and he’s running down the corridor, frantic. His footsteps are a harsh echo off the walls, his breathing loud in his ears, a rasp of animal fear.

He thinks he would know, if Dean were gone from the world. He’d feel it, surely, that light going out; the absence of a soul that has touched him, changed him, so fundamentally. He thinks he would know, but he can’t be sure, not like this, and the uncertainty makes his head spin.

He stumbles to a halt before the open door of Kevin’s bedroom.

Dean sits slumped in the doorway, still, his head bowed. Something dangles between the fingers of his right hand, slender, gleaming in the half-light. Castiel thinks of the empty spaces on the bedroom wall and his heart freefalls.

But it’s only a bottle. A cut-glass decanter left behind by some Man of Letters, an inch of single-malt Scotch, aged who-knows-how-many years (gotta hand it to those librarians, man, they liked the good stuff) sloshing in the bottom as Dean stirs, looks blearily up at him.

“Cas?” he says. Slow, voice a dessicated whisper. “Cas. You came.” He seems puzzled. Perhaps he doesn’t even remember praying.

But Castiel’s world solidifies beneath his feet again and panic loosens its hold, and then he’s on his knees on the floor beside Dean, breathing, “Yes, of course, yes.”

Dean has a black eye. The swelling around it is already beginning to lessen, the bruising turning from red to blue. His face is blotchy, streaked with dried tears. His gaze is unfocused, and he stinks: sour sweat and vomit beneath the peat-and-gasoline tang of whiskey, and a dark remnant of woodsmoke still clinging to his clothes. There’s an unidentifiable stain on the front of his shirt.

He’s disgusting, and all that Castiel can think about is how much he wants to gather Dean into his arms, offer him comfort and something solid to hold on to, and how much of a bad idea that would be. So he ignores the tug of his human instincts, sits back on his heels and watches, cautious. Waits.

“I thought,” Dean says, after a moment, then stops. Wets his lips. “I thought you weren’t coming. Figured maybe you decided you knew better’n me. Stuck with that ‘I gotta stay away to protect you’ crap.” He sniffs. “I dunno.”

There is no accusation in Dean’s voice—there is barely anything in it at all—and so Castiel lets all those implications slide away. It was unwise of him to come, after all. They both know that. He thought about turning back more than once along the way.

But: I need you here, Cas. Please. Dean wanted him here more than he wanted his own safety. Probably, that has no more to do with love than with the fact that the idea of self-preservation is as alien to Dean Winchester as that of growing a tail or flying to Mars.

Still, a selfish little part of Castiel wants to hold on to it and never let it go.

He can’t say any of that. He offers an apology instead: “I am sorry, Dean. Escaping Malachi drained me. I wasn’t strong enough to travel any faster.” He dips his head. “I would not abandon you.”

So many things hang in the air between them. Every promise they ever make will hold an echo of betrayal.

Dean just nods, though. He raises the decanter toward his mouth for a swig, but stops before he gets there, unsteady; lets his hand sink back to his lap and looks at it. The knuckles are bloody.

“Kevin,” he says, after a moment, raising his eyes to look at Castiel again. “Guess you couldn’t have done anything about that. Brought him—” He breaks off.

Castiel shakes his head. “No. Even if I had the strength, there would have been nothing left to save. A death like that—it is absolute.”

He steels himself for anger—knowing already, perhaps, that it won’t ever cease to sting him as though he is human—but it doesn’t come. Dean hunches over, in on himself. “Figures.”

This time, Castiel does reach out to touch him. He pries the decanter gently from Dean’s grip and sets it down on the floor. He runs his thumb over the cuts on Dean’s knuckles. They’re rough, just starting to scab over. He slides his hand up Dean’s arm; finds his shoulder, his cheek, his forehead.

A startled look up, a visible second of realisation, and then Dean jerks away from him hard enough that he hits the back of his head on the doorframe.

“No,” he says, and there is the anger at last. “No, screw you, you can’t fix him, you can’t—” He stops. His hands are shaking. “You can’t.”

But he’s looking down again, looking at his own bloodied hands, and Castiel knows this anger is not for him.

 

----

 



Dean doesn’t want to be healed, but he lets Castiel take him by the wrist and lead him to the bathroom, sit him down on the edge of the tub and dab antiseptic on his cuts. Castiel doesn’t know why he allows one and not the other—except, perhaps, that humanity is all Dean can bear to trust in now, and this is a human thing to do.

Or maybe it is just that this way hurts.

When he’s done, Castiel stows the first aid kit away under the sink. “You need to clean up,” he says, and turns on the shower, and Dean gets up obediently.

The mirror above the sink is broken. Castiel hunts for soap and shampoo and a washcloth and sets them on the edge of the tub, and when he turns around he finds Dean regarding himself in the fractured panes with his fists clenched, his eyes fixed and dark. He looks over Dean’s shoulder and sees his own face vivisected by the cracks.

There is a symmetry to their faultlines. Whatever Castiel is now, he’s a new and ill-formed creature, sutured together out of disparate pieces of cold power and human feeling. And Dean, who has been broken so many times but always seemed so wholly himself, is coming apart at the seams.

Castiel places a hand on Dean’s back, between his shoulder blades. “I assume you don’t need my help.”

Dean gives him a wide-eyed look, almost incredulous, and for a moment Castiel thinks it is the prelude to a laugh. But then he turns to leave the room and finds Dean’s hand on his arm, pulling him back, and Dean saying “Cas, Cas, don’t go,” as though it hurts, as though it is being wrenched out of him.

He doesn’t meet Castiel’s eyes. He looks at his hand, where it grasps Castiel’s upper arm. He isn’t blushing, but the pained way he ducks his head when Castiel looks at him betrays a hundred shades of shame.

And Castiel is reminded of snatched, desperate moments in Purgatory; of death surrounding them on all sides, and the need to feel something else a matter of survival. Overstepping boundaries, overtaking caution, even overpowering guilt. He knew, then, that he didn’t deserve solace, felt his own selfishness for what it was and hated himself for it. Did it anyway.

The memories sidetrack his awareness, freeze him briefly where he stands, and his moment of hesitation stretches on too long.

Dean lets him go, steps back without once looking him in the face. He’s turning in on himself again. Opening his mouth around what Castiel is excruciatingly sure will be an apology, and Castiel won’t allow that, he won’t, he won’t.

He finds Dean again with his hands, the steam from the shower rolling up around them. Pulls him close and brings their foreheads together and says, above the sound of running water, “Okay.”

Dean’s eyes go wide, a shock of green in the white room. Castiel breathes out hard and holds onto him and says it again. “Okay.”

 

----

 



They end up pressed together naked under the spray, the wall tiles cold against Castiel’s back. Everything else is heat and steam, a little microclimate of their own, as though they’ve somehow pulled themselves into a pocket universe apart from the destruction and despair beyond the door.

Dean buries his face in the crook of Castiel’s neck as they jerk each other off. The moment becomes everything, and Castiel feels it all like a raw nerve. The water running in rivulets over his skin. The rapid thud of Dean’s heart against his chest, the pulse of Dean’s cock in his hand, the heat of Dean’s breath against his collarbone. Dean’s fingers on him, rough with callouses, working him relentlessly, and the low, urgent build of desire, making him cant his hips, thrust up into Dean’s fist as though this is the only thing that matters in the world. The two of them, touching, here, now.

This is going to complicate things. It is probably stupid. But it’s wrong in a way that Castiel can understand. With Dean pressed up against him, with his orgasm jolting through him and leaving him gasping, exposed and wrung out, he feels present. Here. Not separate from himself.

He feels human.

Dean shudders and comes in his hand with a sound like a sob, sags forward without lifting his face from Castiel’s neck. Castiel holds him tight, turning to mouth at his jaw, wanting to kiss him and kiss him and never stop.

 

----

 




Eventually, Dean peels himself away. He takes a step back, a hand on the wall to steady himself, fingers slipping in the steam. He looks more sober, now; but his eyes are wide and unsure, his voice still hoarse.

“Fuck,” he says, and squeezes his eyes shut. “Cas. What are we doing?”

I need to give you comfort, Castiel thinks, and, I need to stop feeling your pain.

“I don’t know,” he says.

Dean looks at him for a moment longer. Then he turns away, and starts pulling on his clothes. Castiel follows suit.

Dressed, he picks broken glass out of the sink, only realising he has cut his palm when a spot of stoplight red splashes the white porcelain. He stands holding his hand up in front of his face, fascinated by the belated sting he feels when he sees the cut, by the bright thread of blood trickling down his wrist. By how easy it still is for him to bleed.

Bleeding. It is a human thing to do.

 

----

 




Castiel doesn’t have the strength to travel fast or far, but it would be dangerous to open himself up to the communications of angels at the bunker. If they sense him, he and Dean are both done for. So he leaves Dean at the table in the library, intent upon his laptop amid the mess, his face washed clean of colour in the pale glow from the screen. Castiel makes sure the door is locked behind him.

He walks away from the bunker, away from the road. Walks for miles, walks for what feels like hours, and at last finds himself in smoke-thick darkness. There are shadows beneath the trees and in the humps and hollows of the ground, so abyss-black that they swallow his human senses. The silence is absolute. The cold regard of the stars goes through him like an arrow.

How new and vulnerable a creature he is. How lost and uncertain. He looks up and he no longer sees a way home.

He stares back at the stars. Closes his eyes and opens his mind and reaches out.

For a moment, nothing. Then:


…Malachi…out of his mind…killed dozens…


…never the same since…


…no, nothing…irreversible…


…that’s what they’re saying, anyway…


…wait…


…thought I sensed something…


…never mind…


…no…nothing…no concern of ours…


…not one of us…



Castiel opens his eyes. The sting of the night air makes them water.

 

----

 



Dawn is stealing up in the east when Castiel gets back to the bunker. He finds Dean asleep at the table, his laptop still open and pushed off to one side. An old tin mug—one of the few intact kitchen items left—stands at his elbow, half-full of cold instant coffee. His feet are bare, perilously close to that puddle of drying-up liquor and the remnants of the bottle it came in.

Rather than wake him, Castiel removes his own shoes and creeps to the kitchen, finds cleaning materials, old newspaper, a dustpan and brush.

There is a Post-It note stuck to the door of the refrigerator. It reads, Stop leaving the milk out, fuckface! in Kevin’s messy handwriting. Castiel crumples it in his hand and tosses it into the trash.

He blots up the spilled whiskey. He sweeps up the glass.

He resists the brief impulse to give the cut on his right palm a twin on the other side, draw this body’s humanity to the surface again and watch it spill out in living colour.

He rights the remaining chairs; arranges Kevin’s scattered notes in neat stacks on the table; replaces the books on their shelves, caressing their cracked spines with apologetic fingers.

There is a bright plastic spring (it’s a toy, Cas, haven’t had one since I was a kid, they’re awesome) lying in one corner of the room, incongruous amid the other debris. Castiel blinks at it, until he sees the ballpoints caught in the coils and realises someone must have been using it as a pen holder. He untangles the coils and sets it gently upright. Thinks about how other children must have had bicycles or swing-sets or video games, but what Dean remembers is this one simple thing.

(If he were a simple thing, then maybe he could make Dean happy. But if he was ever simple, that was a long time ago. He couldn’t manage it now. It is not a human thing to be.)

By the time he’s done, Dean is stirring. He lifts his head very slowly, as if the weight of the sorrow he carries is a tangible thing.

Maybe things would be easier if it were. It could be measured, then; dealt with.

“Cas.” Dean’s voice is muzzy and hoarse, sleep-caught.

“I’m here,” Castiel tells him.

Dean blinks, pulls himself incrementally upright, his eyes gaining focus. “Been back long?”

“A while.” Castiel inclines his head, indicating the newly-cleaned room. Dean looks around him. His face stays carefully blank, and after a moment he clears his throat.

“So,” he says. “You didn’t hear anything. Anything that could help us find that fucker.”

Castiel shakes his head, and Dean seems to shrink in on himself again, ready to sink back down into miserable inertia. Castiel thinks that he understands the urge to tell a comforting lie, now; understands it more viscerally than he ever did when Heaven and Hell were preparing for war and the end of all things was looming over them.

But he can’t. Dean would never accept it. So he just takes a step closer and says, “You should go to bed.”

Dean shakes his head. “I’m done sleeping,” he says.

There’s an edge of determination in his voice. He sounds as though he means forever, and it occurs to Castiel that maybe he does.

That Dean will still kill himself over this, if he is allowed to do so.

Castiel moves closer. Reaches out to raise Dean’s head, to meet his eyes, to run a thumb along the stubbled line of his jaw. Dean stills and stares at him for a moment, his expression uncertain.

“I can’t make you,” Castiel says.

And Dean mutters, “Lying bastard,” and then he has handfuls of Castiel’s shirt, is pulling him down and in close and kissing him. Reaching up and twisting fingers in his hair, hard enough that Castiel sucks in a sharp breath. And then something in him that he can’t quite identify takes over, sparks deep in his chest and has him lifting Dean to his feet and shoving him back against the edge of the table, pressing up between his legs and kissing back so hard it has nothing to do with pleasure.

Dean makes a low, pained sound in his throat and wraps around him. Inclines his head so his neck is exposed, offering himself up for bruises. He trembles in Castiel’s hands and his bare skin breaks Castiel’s heart.

He would rather give Dean comfort than do this. But then Dean hisses, “Cas,” and he does it anyway, leans in and presses his teeth down like an animal and sucks hard. Watches the bruise form, spreading out in slow motion, creeping like wet ink.

He does it again and again, and each bite is the ghost of a kiss.

Later, he sucks more bruises onto the insides of Dean’s thighs. Takes Dean’s cock into his mouth with two spit-slick fingers pressed inside him, feels the flutter of Dean’s pulse there, the dark, momentary thrill of scraping teeth over sensitive skin and having Dean curse and shake and thrust helplessly up into his mouth. Dean comes when Castiel reaches up and drags ragged fingernails down his side, a broken little moan escaping him, his fingers going slack in Castiel’s hair.

He looks wrecked, afterwards. His eyes are unfocused, his breathing uneven, and he’s clumsy when he stands upright, the strength gone out of his legs. The new bruises on his neck stand out more vividly than the remnants of his black eye.

Dean pushes Castiel away with both palms on his chest, steps out from between him and the table, muttering about needing to go shower. Castiel doesn’t try to stop him.

 

----

 




He doesn’t know what it is in him that has him doing this. It burns dangerously close to the edge of something he keeps locked away but has never quite managed to destroy, something his stolen grace speaks to and coaxes like a flame from an ember. But the memory of power surging in his veins isn’t all he feels; not anymore.

His frustration—it’s an earthly thing. He offers comfort and sees Dean turn from it every time, and it makes him want to lash out in spite and it makes him want to fall to his knees and plead. It comes out in bruises and in kisses that hurt, and in confessions that fade to nothing before they ever make it past his lips.

And this—this is a human thing to feel.

 

----

 




Castiel listens to the angels, the angels who sensed the presence of his mind and said, not one of us. He listens out for mention of Kevin, of his own name, of Sam and the angel who took him. He gets nowhere. Dean stares at his laptop, looking for evidence of angel kills, and at Kevin’s notes, looking for divine guidance or something of the sort, and at his hands, looking for nothing.

They clean up the bunker. They repair the damage as best they can. And they reach for one another in the debris, because holding on hurts, but letting go is unthinkable. Castiel still thinks about the gentleness he wants to give, and Dean still twists out of his hands when he tries, breathing hard with headlight-caught eyes.

It becomes a kind of ritual.

 

----

 




He finds Dean sitting on the bed in Sam’s empty room, staring at the water stain below the nightstand. Castiel fucks him on the floor, his cock slicked with nothing but saliva, their breathing harsh and loud in the silence. Dean doesn’t make a sound until Castiel comes inside him, and when he does he grunts like he’s in pain and too far gone to call out for help, the muscles of his back taut and tense and desperate.

Castiel goes still with his lips millimetres from the nape of Dean’s neck, the place where freckles form in summer and Dean thinks that nobody notices them.

He thinks about pressing a kiss there and doesn’t. He pulls out of Dean’s body and rolls off of him onto the floor, and watches while Dean fumbles his clothes on and picks up the abandoned water glass and doesn’t look him in the eye.

 

----

 




He helps gather up the debris in Dean’s bedroom. It’s in the worst mess of all, but eventually the floor is cleared, the weapons arranged neatly along the walls, the pieces of broken records swept into trash bags and removed.

Dean makes up the bed with hospital corners neater than those in any impersonal motel room, and when Castiel sees the tightness in his jaw and the lostness in his eyes and moves close to him, Dean shakes his head and shoves him up against the door instead. They kiss and push and pull and move up against each other half-clothed and frantic, as though they’re expecting to be caught. As though they are not supposed to be here.

Dean sleeps on the couch, now.

 

----

 



Kevin’s room is the hardest. The thought of closing the door and leaving it to the dust, like a museum exhibit, has its appeal. Castiel thinks he understands, now, why humans do this. It’s equivocal; it skirts finality.

This place won’t stay undisturbed for long, though. Someone or something will come looking for them soon enough, and whoever does so won’t feel any reverence for a dead boy’s possessions. So they add pages of notes to the stacks in the library, and fold away teenage boy clothes and bag up tangles of headphones and cellphone chargers and tattered paperback books until there’s nothing left.

Castiel finds Dean staring down at an iPod, tiny sliver of glass and plastic cradled in his big hand.

“Never had this shit when we were kids,” he mutters, and Castiel feels in it the briefness of Kevin’s life, the helpless rage that seems the only sane response to how easily it was cut short.

He sees the incipient violence in Dean’s frame, too; the moment when he struggles not to hurl the thing at the far wall. Then it melts away, and Dean winds the headphone cord neatly around the iPod and adds it to the pile of dispossessed things.

After they finish cleaning up, Dean goes to the library without a word and drinks until he passes out on the couch. Castiel doesn’t try to stop him; just watches him sleep, listens to the beats of their separate hearts in the dark room.

 

----

 



Love is supposed to feel like coming home. Castiel thinks he read that somewhere.

But every time Dean pulls away from him feels like being exiled again.

 

----

 



There’s another room, an empty one, at the far end of the corridor.

Castiel finds Dean standing in its doorway, looking in at the plain white walls and the bed with its bare mattress.

He doesn’t look up when Castiel approaches him, but after a moment, he says, toneless, “This was gonna be yours,” and then Castiel realises what it is they have been doing.

They’re not putting this house in order for future use. They’re not restoring a home, rebuilding a fortress against the slings and arrows of a hostile world. This kind of damage can’t be repaired.

They are mourning a thing that never was.

“I figured you’d like it, having a place of your own,” Dean goes on. “Move in, get comfy.” He doesn’t say, like Sam didn’t, but Castiel hears it clearly anyway. “Maybe stick stuff up on the walls. Some art crap or whatever. I was gonna help you decorate.” He swallows. “We were gonna do stuff. Like, I dunno, have pancakes for breakfast or some shit. And maybe sometimes we’d get pizza and make you watch dumb movies, and you and Sammy could bitch about the plotholes and Kevin could bitch about being stuck here with a bunch of lame old guys. Like kids his age are supposed to. Just like, you know. Just—people.”

“None of us is just people, Dean,” Castiel says, gently.

Dean takes a breath that makes his shoulders shudder. “Yeah. But we were gonna pretend.”

Castiel can’t help himself. He reaches for Dean’s hand and takes it, slow and undemanding, lacing their fingers together.

Dean looks down, and for a moment Castiel sees beneath his surface. Sees how he shines with wanting this, sees the moment when he almost gives in to it; is still seeing it, like the afterimage of the sun, when Dean disentangles their hands and presses up close into his space, pushing fingertips into the hollows of his hips, digging for violence.

Castiel kisses him and it feels like punishment.

 

----

 




“We can’t keep doing this,” Dean tells him, later.

A few days have passed since Castiel arrived here. He’s not sure how many; less than a week, though. It feels as though they’ve been in this desperate limbo forever.

He sits beside Dean on the couch. Dean stays where he is, eyes ahead, exactly still.

They never talked about this, whatever it is, before. Not in Purgatory, and not now. Castiel thinks maybe he should have known this was coming, but the hollow of dread that it opens up inside him won’t go away.

“I’m using you to stop hurting,” Dean says. He looks like he’s in pain, and Castiel can’t tell whether that’s because of what he is saying, or just because he’s saying it. “It’s not. I don’t want.” He stops; draws in a shaky breath. “I’m not cool with that, Cas.”

“With using me?” Castiel asks him, “Or with not hurting?” His voice sounds steady. He feels detached from the dead calm of his words, floating somewhere above them, falling away from the gravity of the earth.

Dean shrugs. “Does it matter?”

“Yes.”

For a long moment, Dean says nothing. Castiel begins to think he’s not getting an answer.

Then: “This shoulda been different.”

“What do you mean?”

Dean shrugs again and raises his eyes to the ceiling, the gesture somehow managing to encompass all of it: the bunker, their lives, the world. Them.

Castiel watches him but doesn’t move to touch him. After a moment, he offers, tentatively, “Maybe it still can be. One day.”

Dean laughs, short and bitter. “You really got the hang of that cockeyed optimism shit, huh?”

Castiel opens his mouth to correct him. He’s no optimist. He is just offering a comforting lie. He doesn’t even know which of them he is offering it to. But he’s doing it because it is a human thing to do, and because he will give Dean all of his humanity, all of his self, if Dean will let him.

He stops short before his thoughts can form themselves into words.

He knows Dean won’t accept comfort. He knows distraction has done nothing to assuage his grief. Perhaps the one thing he can do for Dean, right now, is hope.

That is a human thing to do, too.

So he gives a tiny smile, the first either of them has managed in a long time, and says, “I guess so.”

Dean doesn’t reply to that. But they stay there, sitting side by side, until night has fallen.

 

----

 



That night, Castiel hears the angels say Metatron and Gadreel and Guess who he was wearing?, and he knows the world is coming to claim them again.

He shakes Dean awake on the couch. Dean blinks sleepily at him for a moment and then his eyes clear and he takes in Castiel’s grave expression, and resignation settles in.

“We gotta get out of here,” he says. “Don’t we?”

Castiel nods. “Gadreel,” he says, “The angel who took Sam. I never met him, and I don’t know what his intentions are, but I know he’s capable of terrible things. And he’s with Metatron.”

“Shit.” Dean scrambles to his feet. “The other angels have it in for them, they have it in for Sammy, too.”

Castiel stops him with a hand on his shoulder. “You can’t stop them. The most you’ll do is get yourself killed trying.” He exhales; thinks desperately. “Do you want to leave Sam with nothing to come back to?”

“What?” Dean says. “So I just gotta do nothing? Fuck that.” But he doesn’t move to walk away when Castiel lets him go.

“If Gadreel is with Metatron,” Castiel goes on, “Then Metatron knows about this place. It won’t take a huge leap for him to assume I’m here. And Metatron may have no further use for me as an ally, but he won’t hesitate to use me as a distraction. Many of the other angels hold me equally responsible for what he did. If he sees that they’re getting close to him—and they are…”

“Then he’ll toss them a clue, send them our way,” Dean finishes for him.

“Exactly.”

“I’ll get packed up.”

“I can’t come with you,” Castiel tells him, and Dean says, “I know” and looks at him for a long minute in the dark and then turns away.

 

----

 




Dean packs clothes, weapons, salt and holy water, his laptop, a folder of Kevin’s notes. Practical things. The rest, he puts into a sturdy trash bag: his remaining records; the plastic slinky; Lego Batman; the old whiskey decanter, wrapped in a pillowcase. He stares at his father’s journal for a long moment before slipping it into his rucksack, and Castiel feels it with him, the wrench of untangling the sentimental from the necessary, love from survival.

Finally, Dean ties the top of the bag in a knot, hefts it over one shoulder and his rucksack of clothes over the other, and makes for the garage.

“What will you do with those?” Castiel asks him, sharply, indicating the trash bag and its contents with a nod.

Dean shrugs. “No reason to carry this crap around with me. Dump it at the Goodwill, I guess.”

“Don’t,” Castiel says. Dean looks at him questioningly, and he can’t find anything else to say.

After a moment, Dean lets out a huff of breath that isn’t quite a laugh, and shakes his head.

“You know,” he says, “once upon a time I woulda been shocked, you not being all about the charity.”

But he sets the bag down, and Castiel chooses to interpret it as a promise. Needs to, maybe.

He is leaving something of himself here, too. He would like to have it to come back to.

The urge to give comfort will have no place in what he must become, now. Nor will the weakness that has him giving in to other, darker, more complicated things because it is better to give them than give nothing. But hope—tiny, battered, irrational; bright as a good heart in Hell—that, he can let himself feel.

It is a human thing to do.
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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
frozen_delight: dean + samfrozen_delight on January 12th, 2014 07:48 pm (UTC)
Wow, this was beautiful and sad and devastating in all the right ways as well as overflowing with the silent, understated and wonderfully complex psychological insight that is a hallmark of your writing.
Thanks so much for writing and sharing.
tiamaria: d&canactoria on January 12th, 2014 08:50 pm (UTC)
Well, make me blush, why don't you? ;) Though, seriously, thanks so much for reading and leaving such a lovely comment. I'm glad you liked it. ♥
scifiangel: Destiel kissscifiangel on January 13th, 2014 02:59 am (UTC)
Wow, you have me tearing up. Our boys are so broken. I so hope canon isn't as sad, but it probably will be.
tiamaria: d&canactoria on January 13th, 2014 08:27 am (UTC)
Yeah, I suspect there will be angst, doom, and woe everywhere, as per usual... :'(

Thanks for reading! ♥
darkrose_9darkrose_9 on January 13th, 2014 02:00 pm (UTC)
Ugh. This was gorgeous and beautiful. I felt so sad while reading it, and it will be headcannon forever now.

Nobody, he thinks, should be alone with this much nothing.

This was my favourite line, and my favourite scene was the one with Cas stepping through all the destruction and neglect to find Dean.
tiamaria: d&canactoria on January 13th, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading! I'm glad you liked it. :)

it will be headcannon forever now.

But hey, maybe the next episode will fix everything and Kevin will come back from the dead and everyone will be happy and kittens and rainbows and... oh no, wait, this is SPN we're talking about. Damn.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )