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23 February 2014 @ 06:21 pm
Fic: Through the Desert (Supernatural)  
Title: Through the Desert
Characters/pairing: Cas, Dean, Sam. Vaguely Dean/Cas if you squint.
Rating: PG-13
Warnings/contains: A bit of blood.
Summary: 9.13 coda. Dean prays, and Castiel pretends not to hear him.
Notes: Many thanks to brightly_lit for the beta. Any remaining mistakes are, of course, my own.




Cas.

Dean’s voice nudges at his consciousness in the dead of night.

It’s been a week since Sam left for New Mexico, longer since Dean left them both on a bridge in Pennsylvania. Castiel sits in the driver’s seat of his stolen car, pulled over at the roadside between nowhere-towns.

His body no longer requires sleep, but apparently his mind hasn’t yet gotten the message that fatigue is unnecessary. Castiel finds that he needs time to sit and let it wander, give his eyes respite from the endless undifferentiated blacktop in his headlights, before he can face getting back on Gadreel and Metatron’s vanishing trail. He’s drifting now, lulled by the static-muddied voices of the radio show he isn’t listening to, his thoughts moving in slow eddies. The sound of Dean’s prayer shocks him upright in his seat and his pulse sounds loud inside his head. His stolen grace unfurls itself, a hum of power that doesn’t quite fit beneath his skin.

He reaches for the ignition key as if on autopilot, instinct outstripping awareness for a moment. Has the car started by the time Dean’s next words sound in his ears.

Cas, he hears, again. Look, you hear this, I don’t want you to come looking for me. Hell, you don’t even have to listen. You got bigger things to worry about, I get it.

Honestly, I dunno if I even want you listening.


A deep sigh.

I don’t know.

Dean’s voice sounds off, somehow. The familiar gruffness is there, but not. It’s flattened-out, drained of affect.

This is the kind of emptiness that follows soul-deadening tragedy, Castiel realises, and feels sick.

It’s human, to experience fear so physically, the way it churns in his stomach. He doesn’t know if his vessel reacted in the same way, before. He doesn’t know if he would have noticed.

I screwed up, Dean goes on. Real bad, I mean.

A pause.

Shit, that makes it sound like— You don’t gotta worry, Cas. It’s not like that, it’s not—

He breaks off, and Castiel can picture him in the brief silence. His scowl when the words aren’t coming out right, but just shutting up and shooting something isn’t an option; the way he rubs the back of his neck.

I’m okay. I mean, I’m alive. Sammy—Sam too. I just.

I cut out again. Had to. Fuck. I don’t even know. How long he’s been thinking like this. Where this even started.

Where do
I start.

Dean goes quiet again, long enough that Castiel reaches for his cellphone, hoping fervently that it has sufficient battery life left to make the call. He scrolls through his short list of contacts; is momentarily paralysed by having to decide which of Dean’s numbers to call first.

Don’t look for me, he hears, then. It’s okay. I think.

I think I gotta be alone, Cas. I just. I don’t know.


Nothing more.

Castiel stares at the phone in his hand for a moment. He picks a number and jabs the ‘call’ button, but hangs up before it can start to ring. He already knows Dean won’t answer.

Hearing the deadness in Dean’s voice, he wants nothing more than to reach out and shake life back into it. But he remembers the grim set of Dean’s face, as they stood on that bridge. He knows how immovable Dean can be when he has his mind set on something, even if that something is self-immolation. How determined to cut himself off from solace.

It occurs to him that if Dean knows for sure that someone is listening, then maybe he will stop talking.

He tosses his cellphone into the glovebox and closes it, kills the engine. Stares out into the absolute darkness that stretches away on either side of the road.

 

----

 



Come morning, he calls Sam, instead.

“Cas? Hey.” Sam’s voice is distant, disoriented, suggesting he hasn’t slept well, either.

“What happened?” Castiel asks him, without prelude.

“Dean with you?”

“No.” He hesitates. “I don’t know where he is.”

Sam’s sigh is audible. “Me either. I don’t know what to tell you, Cas. I said some things. I don’t think he really got it. Didn’t take it well, anyway. And then he took off. Again.”

“He might come back if you asked him,” Castiel says, and regrets it when he registers the exhaustion in Sam’s voice, the heaviness.

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Another sigh. “Look. If he gets it, then maybe he’ll get in touch. If not—I don’t know. I really don’t.”

“Okay,” Castiel replies, and then, “Take care, Sam,” because that’s about the only thing he can think of to say and mean it.

He doesn’t know, either.

 

----

 



I know you got your own stuff, Cas. So, you don’t need to answer me, okay? There’s a couple things. I was gonna tell you. I think I was gonna. I don’t know.

Easier that I can’t see your face, right?


It’s long past midnight, and Castiel has been watching the entrance to the abandoned office building across the street since early evening. His vision has narrowed to a tunnel, his eyes hot and dry. After standing in the same position, in the same shadowed doorway, for so long, he feels as though he might no longer be able to move if he tried. His mind wanders again, only half-tethered to the present moment. He’s spent hours turning over Dean’s words, and Sam’s. All of those I don’t knows.

All these years, all these catastrophes, and still none of them is anything but lost.

He’s been waiting to hear Dean’s voice again, without being exactly conscious of the fact until he does. He realises he has been half-hoping for reassurance. I talked to Sammy, we’re cool, or, Got a two-man job to work, guess we gotta stow our crap for now, or just, Man, these motel showers suck, I’m going home.

But there’s none of that. Dean still sounds so empty of life and hope. And the honesty of that last utterance—easier that I can’t see your face—cuts into him. Dean fights against it so hard, most of the time. Much as Castiel would like to attribute it to some sudden attack of emotional openness, he knows that’s not how reality works. That’s not how Dean works.

This isn’t Dean trying to connect. This is Dean not trying to hold it together anymore.

Yeah, anyway, Dean goes on. I met a celebrity. Got a present from him.

Cain. You know the guy? Not the kind of douche I expected, gotta say.


A present. Castiel knows with sick certainty what that must mean. He exhales and it comes out a shudder, slides down the wall to sit back on his heels.

Guess there’s no point me telling you about it. You probably know more than I do. Hell, maybe you even had a front-row seat first time around, what do I know?

Guess maybe it’s better I don’t.


In fact, Castiel knows only a little. The bare bones of what happened. The fact that he who bears the Mark is cursed to wander the earth alone, without family or home or rest. To become something other than himself.

(He knows how easy that is.)

He knows, also, that Cain changed the course of things, in the end. Renounced Hell’s work; found himself a small measure of redemption.

But to do that, you have to fight. And his own salvation is one thing Dean will never fight for.

Working this one with Crowley, Dean says, then, calling him back to the moment. That was the other thing. How low can you go, right? Well, I guess you know. And I—look, don’t call me, Cas. I don’t need the lecture, I get it already. I just got no other choice.

Silence. Inhale; exhale.

Happens a lot.

If he had his wings, Castiel thinks, he would go to Dean right now, before he could take off again. Would carry him back to the bunker and keep him there; would let him explain, curse, struggle; yell himself hoarse; fight himself into exhaustion.

Perhaps then, with his rage run out at last, Dean might find it in himself to ask for help.

Perhaps; but probably not.

Ain’t sleeping much, Dean tells him—or not-him, or whatever absence Dean is really talking to right now. Waiting on Crowley again. We got the blade—dick came through on that one, I’ll give him that much. Now we just gotta find the hellbitch. Sleep when it’s done, I guess.

Guess you ain’t sleeping much either these days. So. Don’t need to feel bad for keeping you up at night, huh?


Castiel blinks at the sudden change of tack, the way it sounds, for a moment, as though Dean is addressing him and not some Castiel-shaped nothing inside his head. Dean breaks off for a moment, then, and Castiel pictures him swallowing cheap bourbon in an anonymous room, grimacing without pleasure at the burn of it in his throat.

Man, I hate the waiting part, Dean says, at last, and sounds as though he’s talking to himself again.


 

----

 



Later—it’s still dark, though he’s not sure quite how much time has passed—Castiel realises he is still sitting on the pavement. Half the host of Heaven could have passed before his eyes in the interim and he doubts he would have noticed.

He locks himself in his stolen car, curls on his side on the back seat. Half-awake, he finds himself dreaming about Purgatory.

The unforgiving silence there. How loud it is when you are prey. How everything else, everything warm and worldly, bleeds away, but your wretchedness will always make room within itself for pain.

How you tell yourself it is a good pain, a purification.

How it keeps on being pain.

He shifts, half-conscious and uncomfortable; slides back into dreams. He dreams of Hell. How simple the task seemed, back then: find a single soul, and save it. Now, in his dreams, he watches Dean pulled away from him, forever out of his reach. Castiel yells for Dean to move, take a step closer, reach out and grasp his hand, but Dean stays where he is, and Castiel watches the flames lick at him and swallow him whole.

His eyes blacken before the rest of him does.

 

----

 



Castiel tries to stop letting himself dream, after that. It doesn’t help.

 

----

 



Dean talks to him in the dead hours of the night, mostly. Sometimes very early in the morning, when the sky is lightening from black to grey. Castiel comes to associate his voice with darkness, so that he startles when he hears it in the middle of the afternoon:

Working a job. Salt-and-burn is all. Just like old times. Something to do while I wait, huh?

There’s this deputy. Kinda reminds me of Pam. You remember Pam? Damn well should.

Feels like she’s seeing right through me, gonna point her finger and call me out any damn second. Like she knows I ain’t who I say I am.

I can lie with the best of ‘em. Don’t I know it. Don’t know what’s gotten me so rattled.

Daylight, maybe. Not used to it right now.

Gotta go. Don’t call me.


 

----

 



Always the same goodbye. Don’t call me.

Castiel never does, though he thinks about it often. He knows that Dean isn’t talking to him; not really. He is the conduit through which Dean talks to himself.

He thinks that perhaps Dean prays because he thinks he can rely on Castiel not to listen—thinks himself unimportant again, now—and that hurts in a way Castiel is only beginning to understand.

 

----

 



He used to be able to talk to Dean through dreams. He tries it, now; reaches out in the late night or the early morning, after Dean’s prayers have gone quiet, after Dean has had time to drink himself to sleep. Perhaps he will find Dean more willing to talk to him there, he thinks, with his defences softened by sleep, his thoughts guided by the half-logic of the unconscious.

But, somehow, he can’t find them the way he used to. Dean’s dreams are shadows, aborted things, never quite given free play. They huddle in at the corners of wakefulness, manifest themselves as tricks of a sleep-deprived mind in a way with which Castiel is intimately familiar from those early nights spent staring at a storage closet ceiling.

Ain’t sleeping much. Castiel begins to suspect that was an understatement.

Castiel sees these poor, half-formed dreams vaguely. They are foggy phantoms; and he finds that he can see through them, too, indistinct snatches of waking life.

It’s difficult to focus, at first. The shadows twist away from each attempt he makes to look at them, drifting, centreless, lost. So he tries again, and again. In the moments when he lets his own mind wander, he reaches out with it and touches the shadows and holds his mind still in the midst of them, letting them swirl around him. He catches glimpses of the phantasms that lurk in them, and they are monstrous: twisted, flame-eyed, devouring.

Castiel has long known that Dean is prone to nightmares; but inhabiting them himself is different from dry and simple knowing. The memory of them creeps up on him at odd hours of the day, leaves him on edge, a nameless sadness having made itself at home at the heart of him. They cluster more thickly every time.

But all he can do is look through them. Look out of his own life and into Dean’s—or whatever it is that Dean is living, now, because it doesn’t feel like life. Piece by piece, it takes shape before his eyes.

Castiel used to watch Dean while he slept. Now, he watches Dean while he doesn’t sleep.

And Dean seems to have given up on trying. He sits up late into the night, cleaning guns, sharpening knives, drinking. Picking up his cellphone and dialling Sam’s number and throwing it back down on the table without pressing the ‘call’ button.

It’s usually after doing that a few times that he starts talking to Castiel.

Cas, don’t call me, he’ll start with, or Cas, don’t worry about me.

I don’t know if you can hear me, Cas, sometimes. It confuses him at first. He’d thought Dean was talking to him because he didn’t expect to be listened to, not because he didn’t expect to be heard. At first he can’t understand why Dean would think himself cut off.

But he sees Dean look down at the Mark on his arm again and again, sees the frown with which he regards himself in the mirror, sometimes; the way Dean stares into his own eyes for a moment, as though waiting for something. Castiel starts to get the idea.


 

----

 



A little while after Dean stops sleeping, he stops eating. Castiel doesn’t notice this; his glimpses of Dean’s life are too sporadic for that. Dean tells him, or the not-him Dean talks to when he prays.

Two days and I don’t feel anything. Didn’t even notice. Guess I’m goddamn Superman, right?

Then he laughs, and it’s an old, rattling sound that doesn’t belong in his throat.

 

----

 



Dean stops looking at women in bars. Castiel watches him, one night, as a pretty brunette bartender approaches him with a wink and a smile, and he grunts monosyllables at her until she gives up and goes away. He stops watching TV, stops listening to his blaring heavy metal in the car. He walks into a liquor store and lifts a bottle of whiskey off the shelf and puts it back down and walks out again. He stops switching on the charm when he talks to strangers, and without that smile he has always faked so easily, he looks haunted and hollow. Passers-by regard him with anxiety, now; clutch their wallets close.

Castiel wants to laugh at the absurd smallness of their worries.

He watches Dean dig in his first aid kit for painkillers and take two and two more and then two more. Sit up at the table in his rented room staring at the burn and writhe of the Mark on his skin. It looks like something living. When he touches a fingertip to the edge of it—cautious, as though the skin there no longer belongs to him—Castiel feels the jolt of it with him. The pain of it, making his nerves sing, hot and bright and alien.

He feels the burn of it behind Dean’s eyelids, too, the thrum of its power within his skull. When Dean looks in the mirror—which he avoids doing more and more—Castiel sees the febrile glow of it beneath his skin, the unearthly light it kindles in his eyes. Awake in the night and on fire with it, he doesn’t look like himself anymore. He looks like a prophet in the desert, a soldier making ready for a suicide mission, a commander sitting up on the eve of battle while his people sleep.

Like one of those men who are no longer themselves, but the instruments of other things; of gods or wars. Things that work through them, roar through them, destroy through them. Destroy them.

Faith and fire and loss all do the same thing, in the end. They consume.

 

----

 



Maybe if I could just get rid of all the crap, Dean says, one night. And then a hollow laugh, and, Ninety percent, right?

There’s something there Castiel doesn’t understand, a memory he isn’t part of. A conversation that happened when he wasn’t there: when he was lost and amnesiac, or under Meg’s care in the psych ward, or dragging himself through Purgatory, hoping to lose the next fight. It reminds him, again, that Dean isn’t really talking to him.

And that he isn’t there now, and Dean has horrors piling up around him, horrors knitting themselves tight into the fabric of his being, and he won’t call for help.

I don’t gotta be okay, Castiel hears him decide. Just gotta do what needs done.

He wants to tell Dean that he’s wrong. What he has to do is turn around and come back and be Dean again and not this, take his self back from the thing that is feeding off it. Hunting down Abaddon is only the mission he has chosen to burn himself out on; what needs to be done is something else entirely.

He keeps his silence. He holds it through long nights of uncertainty. Dean won’t hear him in any way that could help.

 

----

 



The Internet throws up report after report of bodies found in out-of-the-way places. Sometimes small groups, more often a dozen or more. No connections between the victims; all stabbed; all recently disappeared or seen acting strangely in the days before they died. Demons.

Sometimes Castiel finds the reports himself. Sometimes Sam sends him text messages. They’re terse, usually, and Sam doesn’t call. Castiel saves them all anyway. He understands they’re saying something important; something Dean would be able to read more easily than he can.

Dean isn’t here. He is cutting a mile-wide swathe through the ranks of Abaddon’s armies, getting closer every day. But—cutting sounds too controlled, deliberate. Dean is not in control. He rages through them like a forest fire, a hurricane, an unstoppable force.

Desperately seeking an immovable object.

 

----

 



Dean’s voice sounds shaky inside his head, though whether with anxiety or rage, Castiel can’t say.

Fucking Crowley told me to calm the fuck down, Cas, you believe it? Like he didn’t set this whole thing up.

Not the whole thing. Castiel knows that. Dean would never have followed a plan set out by Crowley without his own self-hatred for a goad.

 

----

 



He calls Sam again, eventually.

Sam sighs down the phone at him. “I’m worried too, Cas,” he says. “You know that. That’s why I’ve been tracking those kills. I just—I guess I don’t see what I can do. We don’t know where he is. You couldn’t just zap straight there if we did know. And even if we could force him back here, where the hell do we go from there?”

Castiel sighs back. “I don’t know either.”

“Look.” Sam sounds weary. “I get that you think I should talk to him. But I tried that, and all he did was take off again. I can’t make him get it, Cas, I can’t make him come home, and I’m not gonna lie and act like it’s all okay. We do that every time, we pretend like everything’s fine for a little while and then it all… turns to crap. Again.”

“I understand,” Castiel says. “I’m sorry, Sam.” But he registers the uncertainty in Sam’s voice, the fear that is starting to outweigh his determination to do it differently this time. Soon he will crack, and go look for Dean, and Castiel will help him. And they’ll start the whole sorry cycle over again, because at least it’s a pain that they know.

“Look, it’s not—don’t be. Just—stay in touch, okay?”

“Okay,” Castiel says, and hangs up.

He remembers Purgatory again. Remembers how much he wanted to stay.

 

----

 



I feel weird, Cas. Like I’m not—

I know what I’m doing. I know I’m doing it.

But it doesn’t feel like me. It’s like being—here, but not-here. Does that make any sense? I kinda doubt it.

I don’t know why. I don’t know.


 

----

 



I’m dreaming. Awake-dreaming. Honestly, it’s freaking me out a little.

Never thought I’d say that about a nightmare after some of the crap I’ve seen. But—

I see stuff, I see
Sam, I see—

I don’t know.


 

----

 



Castiel looks through Dean’s eyes and he sees black smoke and flame and blood arcing through the air, a white bone blade that swings with savage grace.

He feels it in flashes of heat and light and noise, dislocated fragments. Everything in a confusion of violence, and he can’t tell if what he sees is what Dean is really seeing, or what is really happening, or if those are even the same thing anymore.

 

----

 



I don’t know how I got here, Cas. One minute it’s night and I’m driving, just about to roll into town and get a room. The next—it’s morning.

It’s morning and I’m in the middle of nowhere, demon parts everywhere.

I’m sure they were demons.


That last part sounds like a question, Dean’s voice uncharacteristically quiet. For a moment, there’s nothing of the warrior in him.

The last time Castiel heard him this lost, this afraid, he was lying in a hospital bed after Alastair had beaten him half to death. So much has happened to them, between then and now, and yet Dean is hardly any different, really.

He still has no idea how to ask for help.

The memory hurts, but Castiel holds on to it anyway, because that was Dean and not some hollowed-out vessel of violence. He couldn’t make it better then; and he probably can’t make it better now, if Dean doesn’t want him to. But he already knows he’s reached the breaking point. He can’t keep waiting. He can’t not try.

He can’t let Dean live with what might happen if he doesn’t.

Castiel scours the Internet for reports of the killings, making a single mug of coffee last an hour in the corner of a cybercafé as he presses ‘refresh’ insistently and the girl behind the desk regards him with vague curiosity.

Finally he comes up with a result: a group of bodies found in Cherry County, Nebraska, on the Sandhills. He Googles the location and comes up with photographs of desolate, undulating land. The middle of nowhere. That sounds about right. It’s unlikely that Dean will still be in the vicinity, he knows, but it’s the best starting-point he has.

He sends a text message to Sam before he leaves. He doesn’t wait for an answer.

 

----

 



Castiel asks around in the nearest town, and gets nothing but a few confused looks. He knows he must look strange, desperate, but he can’t bring himself to care. His fear is the threat of a supernova inside his chest.

When his questions yield nothing, he listens in on conversations unseen. It’s a small town; surely someone must have noticed something. But in all the wild local speculation the incident throws up, there’s nothing that helps. Some people are convinced there’s a big cat loose on the Sandhills; others offer theories straight from the pages of trashy detective novels. None of them has seen a stranger in a black car.

Their myopia makes Castiel’s teeth itch. How can they be so blind to the world around them when his world is burning itself to ashes?

 

----

 



He turns around, in the end; decides he’ll drive back to Lebanon and talk to Sam in person. It’s early morning and he’s at the side of the road again, on his way to the bunker, when he hears Dean’s voice again. It’s thready, a ghost of itself.

I did it, Cas. Abaddon. It’s done.

She kept laughing.

I stuck a knife in her gut and she was still laughing.

What was so funny, Cas? What was so fucking funny?


There’s a hitch like a sob in Dean’s voice. Castiel hears it and cold clutches at his heart. Dean sounds so far away. He sounds as though he could be saying goodbye.

What are the odds of Castiel’s finding him in time?

And then:

Last place I remember is Lexington. Don’t exactly know where I am now. Think there was a tire place a couple miles back. I think. I don’t know.

Castiel exhales. He lets himself feel dizzy with relief for the brief moment before apprehension at what he might find kicks in. He pushes it down; tells himself that so long as what he finds is Dean, then he can deal with anything else.

He reaches for his cell. Stay where you are, he sends.

He types out another quick message to Sam, and then tosses his phone into the glovebox and starts the car. He focuses his eyes on the road ahead, and tries hard not to think about anything else.

 

----

 



Still, his mind finds places to wander. Memories of hurt to match the hurt he expects to find, the hurt he can’t begin to imagine healing.

He remembers waking human. The intensity of feeling. The way everything was bright and close and violent, offering no respite. The realisation that to be human is to be an open wound. That you have to go on, nonetheless.

You screw things up, and you have to seek redemption. You have to seek it knowing you might never find it. You have to do it even though it hurts. There is no way past the pain, only through it.

He knows he will try to take the pain away, anyway, for Dean. He knows he will fail. He can only be on the other side of it, waiting.

 

----

 



The Impala, and then the blood on the grass, tell Castiel that he’s in the right place. But he can’t see Dean, and the dread inside of him grows, threatens to take over.

There is so much blood.

There’s a dilapidated building—a barn or a storage shed—a little way off. Castiel hears noise in the shadows beside it; is there as fast as his legs can take him.

Dean is leaning against the wall, supporting himself against it with his left arm. His right, the one with the Mark, hangs at his side. He hangs his head, too, his eyes closed, darkness pooling in their sockets. Blood spatters his clothes, runs down his face; smears his palms and stiffens his hair. In the shadows, Castiel can’t see how badly he is wounded, can’t tell how much of the blood is Dean’s own.

At the sound of his footsteps, Dean raises his head, opens his eyes. Blinks them, focusing.

“Cas,” he says. “You came.” He blinks again. “You were listening.”

Castiel steps closer, grasps Dean’s shoulders, looks him over for injuries. He’s shaky, too warm to the touch, and the way his arm hangs limply down means it will probably need to be looked at, later, but Castiel can’t make out anything life-threatening. More than anything, what he sees in Dean is exhaustion.

“You were listening,” Dean says, again.

Castiel steps back, holding him at arms’ length, and looks him in the eyes. “I was always listening,” he says, and at Dean’s stricken look he wants to take it back but he can’t, he won’t.

Dean looks away for a moment, and then returns his gaze, and says, very quietly, “I’m sorry.”

Castiel shakes his head. He reaches over to cup the side of Dean’s face. Dean’s eyes close briefly, and he doesn’t lean into the touch but Castiel can feel him trembling, can see that he wants to, that in another moment he might give in.

“I’m tired, Cas,” he says.

“That’s good,” Castiel tells him. He risks a glance down at the Mark on Dean’s arm. It still glows, but more feebly now. Its work is done for now.

That doesn’t mean this is over. Castiel knows that. The Mark is a conduit for dark powers, and Dean has opened himself up to them by taking it on. They will come back. They’ll try to claim him again, and if they can’t be stopped, Dean won’t be the only one in danger. But, for the first time since Dean left, since he saw the Mark, Castiel thinks that maybe they have a chance of ending this.

Even Cain saw a way to free himself in the end. And Dean is a better man; if he could only see it.

Dean’s head sinks forward. His cheek leaves blood on Castiel’s hand. “Doesn’t feel good,” he mumbles.

Castiel hoists Dean’s good arm around his shoulders, supporting him. He makes for the Impala. “We’ll fix this,” he promises, with as much certainty as he can muster. “We will.”

“You’re so damn hopeful,” Dean tells him. “’S dumb as shit, you know that?”

Castiel gets the Impala’s passenger door open one-handed, Dean leaning half on him and half on the car. His cell chimes as he does so. “Sam,” he says, without needing to look. There’s no-one else it could be. “He’ll be here.”

The expression that flashes across Dean’s face is anguish and hope and fear all at once, and he shutters it away, but not as fast as he would have, once. He lets Castiel manoeuvre him into the passenger seat; lets his head fall forward again so that his voice is muffled in Castiel’s shirt.

“So,” he says, “this was the easy part. You.”

Castiel leans back, stills with his hands resting on Dean’s shoulders. He thinks that maybe he should object to being the easy part, but he can’t bring himself to mind. He can’t begrudge Dean something in this mess being easy.

“I dunno if I can make this right,” Dean admits, then, and it might be the closest he ever comes to saying, help me.

Castiel leans back in, close to him. “I know,” he says, with his mouth in Dean’s blood-soaked hair. “I know.”

And he holds on, and Dean lets him, and they wait.
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( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
borgmama1of5borgmama1of5 on February 23rd, 2014 08:45 pm (UTC)
I just recced this on rocksalt_recs.

It looks like you just started writing in the SPN fandom--I hope to see lots more from you, even if everyone of you stories so far has made me cry!
tiamaria: tornanactoria on February 23rd, 2014 10:25 pm (UTC)
Wow, thank you! Yes, I've only been dabbling since December, but I'm hoping to stick around. ;)
♔beenghosting on February 24th, 2014 01:34 am (UTC)
Ahh, this is heartbreaking. This Mark thing can't be good. I think you managed to show Dean's downward spiral really subtly and his confusion felt very palpable. Poor guy. :(

Lovely as always! <3
tiamaria: tornanactoria on February 24th, 2014 08:45 am (UTC)
Thank you! ♥ ♥

Yeah, it really can't be good. IDK, with the Knight of Hell connection I've got a feeling that it'll somehow allow Abaddon to possess him or something. /pointless speculation.
Sanshal: 2014 BBsanshal on February 24th, 2014 03:31 am (UTC)
Wow; really nice... Dean's confusion felt so real; and Cas was the perfect counterpoint to it: the perfect reflection- still as a placid lake, to showcase the gradual slip through the darkness.

And Welcome to the fandom... Looking forward to more from you!
tiamaria: tornanactoria on February 24th, 2014 08:42 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm glad you liked it.
cuddyclothes: Marilyncuddyclothes on February 24th, 2014 04:31 am (UTC)
Excellent story! This is one of the few non-crack SPN fics I've read. It's quite touching.

I was confused by one thing--Cas is an angel again, and I know he now emotionally understands what is going on. But the physical things, like itching eyes--would that happen? Nit-picky.

But really, an excellent story.
tiamaria: tornanactoria on February 24th, 2014 08:41 am (UTC)
I was confused by one thing--Cas is an angel again, and I know he now emotionally understands what is going on. But the physical things, like itching eyes--would that happen? Nit-picky.

Ah, that's okay -- I think about this sort of thing a lot, too. ;)

Back in the Famine episode, Cas is affected, but he attributes the hunger to his vessel, which suggests to me that the body he's in does experience physical discomfort, but he's able to ignore it until it becomes pathological since it doesn't pertain to his needs. He doesn't quite have the same disconnect now, since he's both the angel inhabiting the vessel and the person it belonged to beforehand. So I'd say it's feasible. YMMV, of course. :)

Thanks for reading -- I'm glad you liked the story!

Edited at 2014-02-24 08:43 am (UTC)
frozen_delight: dean + samfrozen_delight on February 24th, 2014 08:57 am (UTC)
Wow, this was heartbreaking and so intense that I simply couldn't stop reading. Considering what we discussed the other day, the good thing about the writers doing things clumsily or half-heartedly is that the fanfic writers can then expand on them and make sense of them. In particular, I thought that the way you handled the theme of Cas having regained his grace, but not his own grace, and still remembering what it was like to be human was absolutely excellent.
Thank you so much for writing and sharing - it's been a great read.
tiamaria: tornanactoria on February 24th, 2014 10:28 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading! ♥ ♥

I thought that the way you handled the theme of Cas having regained his grace, but not his own grace, and still remembering what it was like to be human was absolutely excellent.

Oh, I'm glad you like my take on that. I just find it endlessly fascinating, the idea that he's sort of somewhere in-between the two now.

Considering what we discussed the other day, the good thing about the writers doing things clumsily or half-heartedly is that the fanfic writers can then expand on them and make sense of them.

This is one of the reasons I love fandom. ;) I still hope canon won't half-arse the Mark stuff, though; I'd love some sort of darkness/redemption arc for Dean, and Sam being the rescuer for once.
caranfindelcaranfindel on February 24th, 2014 02:59 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful!!! Dean talking to himself through Castiel just breaks my heart. All of this breaks my heart, while at the same time making me unreasonably happy.
tiamaria: tornanactoria on February 24th, 2014 03:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! ♥ I'm glad you liked it. :)
Kalliel: free fallkalliel on February 25th, 2014 12:56 am (UTC)
This is so, so excellent. I love Castiel's narration here, and his sensitivity to the idea that if Dean thought someone was actually listening, he might stop talking. And just. The things that occupy Castiel here, and the things he takes notice of and reflects on, and the narrative effect of that distance between what Castiel hears and what Dean's off doing is just sublime. And I love the section about the dreams/angelic dream-walking/sleep deprivation/mark of cain/amazing extravaganza/of slashes on my part. This makes me crave canon movement on the mark of Cain even more than I already did. Really gorgeous work. <3

Thank you for sharing!
Kalliel: free fallkalliel on February 25th, 2014 12:57 am (UTC)
Oh oh, and Castiel's management of his body and his newly regained grace. <3333333333
tiamaria: tornanactoria on February 25th, 2014 12:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading! ♥ I'm so nglad you liked it. Yes, I really want to see where they're going with this in canon, too. And I love not-human-anymore-but-still-sort-of-human Cas...
i_speak_tonguei_speak_tongue on February 25th, 2014 03:36 am (UTC)
That was heart-crushing. So so good. Beautifully written.
tiamaria: tornanactoria on February 25th, 2014 12:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! ♥
Jaelijn: *SPN* Dean and Casjaelijn on April 13th, 2014 02:56 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is great! :) Really enjoyed this, and especially Cas' perspective - I'm only just starting to write for this fandom, and I find this POV both devilishly difficult and completely fascinating. It's a great reminder that Cas isn't human, and you manage him so very well here.
Again, great job!
tiamaria: casanactoria on April 13th, 2014 04:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed this. :)

Honestly, I'm... not convinced that SPN's angels are particularly successful as an attempt to write the 'inhuman' (as if that were possible). But Cas is complex, and not always very consistently written, so it's a fun balancing act writing him in any case. Lots of ideas to play with. ;) Thanks again!
Jaelijn: *SPN* Castiel with Catjaelijn on April 13th, 2014 05:32 pm (UTC)
You're very welcome!

Also, interesting point. Naturally, I agree that Cas is very complex - I think the thing that sometimes strikes me as being underplayed (and not even just in fanfiction, but in the show as well) is not necessarily that the angels react different or even behave different than humans, i.e. "inhuman", but that they can do things that are "superhuman" (if that descriptions is appropriate in the context :)) in an entirely practical context, like, for example, being able to actually hear prayers, or go without sleep. Of course there's a lot more to Cas especially than that, but I find it adds an extra level of realism when we get little glimpses like that. Exploring that from the inside perspective I find very interesting - so yes, definitely great material for a writer. :)
Thanks again for this fic!
tiamaria: d&canactoria on April 13th, 2014 10:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think 'superhuman' as it's generally understood is probably a more fitting word here. :)

And yes, I agree that we don't actually see a whole lot of it in the show. Which I guess is partly just to enable the format -- they're always finding ways to sideline or depower Cas, because Sam and Dean hunting the monster of the week isn't going to be much of a story if they can just call on their superpowered friend to smite it to smithereens. ;) But it's definitely something to explore in fic.
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