Written: Friday 9 May 2013.
Pairings: None, although there’re several could-be-preslashes lurking about.
Genre and tropes: Angstfluff. Shh. It’s a genre. Also, bunkerfic, reading to sick people, hurt/comfort, and the idea of home.
Word count: 2200.
Spoilers: Episode coda to 8x21.
Summary: The bunker doesn’t really feel like home right now. Dean is restless, Sam’s a mess, and Castiel just won’t heal. Until one day, for no obvious reason, he begins to get better.
Notes: Just in case anybody doesn’t recognise it, the book in question is The Wind In The Willows.
In her last text, Charlie asked how things were going back here at the hobbit hole. Coming from her, that’s... well, sweet, because Dean knows what she means by it, only just now Dean isn’t entirely sure it won’t be a grave instead.
Castiel doesn’t get better.
His wound doesn’t fester, but it doesn’t heal either. And he barely opens his eyes for days.
Whenever he does, he’s far too mellow: happy to lie there and blink sleepily up at them, and just smile a bit, like he’s peaceful. Like he thinks his part is done.
It isn’t like him. And Dean has seen Castiel be not like Castiel too many times before, and lost him every time.
It isn’t relaxing.
Dean snaps at Sam, then has to apologise because Sam looks so bedraggled and tired, but does it again every few hours anyway. They comb through the Men of Letters’ archives, trying to work out what “cure a demon” means - apparently being the scribe of God doesn’t mean you get the director’s cut on interpretation, and Dean isn’t about to go begging to Metatron or any other angel if he doesn’t have to - but Dean can’t concentrate when he knows that Castiel is lying in his bed, pale and soft and staring at the insides of his eyelids with a faraway smile.
The bunker feels oppressive. Dean isn’t used to staying in one place too long, and home is all very well, but right now it doesn’t feel like one. He has his family in it, sure - well, his brother and the guy who keeps running away from being family and almost freaking dying - but for how long?
Also he doesn’t really feel like going on a supply run when either one of them might keel over anytime. So even the kitchen isn’t looking so hot right now. Which sucks, because Sam was just getting used to having amazing food dropped in front of him twice a day and Dean had been starting to collect these awesome recipes off all these websites and even sneakily subscribed to a few news feeds with cooking ideas, and now Sam is sort of looking at Dean in a worried and woebegone way when he finds dinner is peanut butter cups and beer, but Dean just isn’t sure he can keep this up.
In her last text, Charlie asked how things were going back here at the hobbit hole. Coming from her, that’s... well, sweet, because Dean knows what she means by it, only just now Dean isn’t entirely sure it won’t be a grave.
Then one day it all turns around.
Castiel’s wound begins to knit over. His colour improves, and he stops staring serenely into nothingness and starts fretting with the sheets and getting bored with bed rest and pulling things apart to see how they work.
He even gets fed up with Dean nagging at him to keep his fluid levels up and to stay in bed until he can manage to levitate a pillow without keeling over. Not only does he narrow his eyes into that pissy old look that’s so completely and utterly Cas, he throws the pillow at Dean’s head. Dean ducks out of the room, closes the door, leans back against it and grins, stupid and broad.
It makes no sense. But damn if Dean isn’t planning on taping this gift horse’s mouth shut and giving it a nice friendly slap on the rump and telling it to live long and prosper.
The next morning, Dean is up earlier than usual, with a spring in his step. He’s humming to himself as he makes coffee, and he decides to cook up some kind of savoury veggie pancakes because they’re all out of bacon but there’s plenty of eggs and Sammy needs his spinach and also when did he buy all those zucchini? Plus they’ll be awesome with that chunky tomato salsa he made last week which needs to be used before it goes all funky.
And if he makes enough for three, and heads off towards Castiel’s room with a couple of plates and two cups of coffee... well, Castiel’s guts were pretty well knit up by yesterday evening, so he might at least want to try food by now, right? Also Dean’s pretty sure that fried grated-zucchini-and-cheese-and-spinach-
He gets only halfway down the corridor before he hears the voice.
“... that small inquiring something which all animals carry inside them, saying unmistakably yes, quite right; this leads home! ‘It looks as if we were coming to a village,’ said the Mole somewhat dubiously, slackening his pace, as the track, that had in time become a path and then had developed into a lane, now handed them over to the charge of a well-metalled road. The animals did not hold with villages, and their own highways, thickly frequented as they were, took an independent course, regardless of church, post-office, or public-house.”
It’s a voice Dean recognises, though faintly. Not one he knows well, he thinks, or has heard for a while. He feels vaguely irritated by it on principle, which is odd, because it isn’t actually doing anything annoying. It’s light and smooth, and there’s a warm sort of cadence to it that stirs up far older memories: memories of Mom reading to him in the afternoons, while Sammy was having his nap.
But that isn’t important. The important thing is that there’s somebody in their bunker. And worse, it’s somebody in Castiel’s room, and Dean isn’t standing for that.
He sets the plates down, quiet as he can, and wishes he had his gun.
“’Oh, never mind!’ said the Rat. ‘At this season of the year they’re all safe indoors by this time, sitting round the fire; men, women, and children, dogs and cats and all. We shall slip through all right, without any bother or unpleasantness, and we can have a look at them through their windows if you like, and see what they’re doing.’”
“The anthropomorphism of these animals is inconsistent,” comes Castiel’s low grumble as Dean slinks up to peer around the half-open door. “If they live in burrows and navigate by smell and are wary about humans and dogs and cats, why are they tall enough to look through humans’ windows? And why does the Mole wear a waistcoat and coat and boots when the Otter is happy to dive in and out of the water at a moment’s notice chasing mayflies? Is he naked? And if so why is he welcome at a picnic where the other animals are clothed? Humans don’t appreciate sudden displays of nudity.”
Castiel is stretched out comfortably on the bed, sheets half kicked off and slithering onto the floor, hands laced neatly over his chest. His colour is better again today. He’s got pillow creases on his cheek, his hair is all mussed up on one side and crumpled on the other, and he’s looking all scowly and bemused in that way he gets when he secretly thinks something’s kind of interesting but is going to make you explain it in stupid amounts of detail.
Only he isn’t alone on the bed. That scowl is tilted trustingly up at the long-dead archangel who’s sitting beside him against the headboard, socked feet stretched out carelessly in front and crossed at the ankle, with a book open on his lap.
Gabriel musses up Castiel’s hair some more, and tips him a wink. “Just wait until you see Toad primping up for the party. Hairbrush and all.”
Castiel lets out a messy, complaining sort of exhale.
“Seriously, kid,” Gabriel says, and that sounds more like him, except for that weird soft note that’s still there, “just let it go, I promise you it’s fun once you get into it.”
... Dean has no words.
But he can’t just leave. Because what if... uh... what if...?
And also he has to tear Gabriel a new one. On general principles.
“The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow,” Gabriel resumes, and his voice is that wistful sort of murmur that draws you in and holds you. “Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered round the tea-table, absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture, had each that happy grace which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture: the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation.”
Gabriel pauses for a moment. His eyes slide sideways from the page just as Castiel tips his head back to look at him, and Dean catches a brief glint of blue, and a sense of something shared.
He suddenly feels like he might be the one intruding here.
But they have to know he’s here, right? Angel senses and all? Okay, maybe not Castiel if he’s still all woozy in the head, but Gabriel?
Also, at some point he should probably wonder how the guy was alive again, but seriously, this is their life, so that’s really the least weird thing in this scenario.
“Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness in their eyes...”
Dean leans back against the frame of the door, just outside in the corridor, just out of view of non-xray eyes, and listens with a stupid lump in his throat.
Gabriel’s voice wanders deeper and slower over the next few minutes, as the two little animals wander through the human village on Christmas Eve and look in at the light and warmth and family of the homes of others. It never stops, though, or even falters, as if the two outcast angels have no need to say anything else, or even to share another look.
“Shabby indeed,” Gabriel reads softly, as the Mole, trailing across the lonely field beyond the village, catches the scent of the home he abandoned long ago, “and small and poorly furnished. And yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day’s work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.”
Okay. Okay, this is getting freaking maudlin.
If that Mole wants his home, he can damn well sack up and go... have make-up sex with it, or what the hell ever.
With his friends.
Dean slips back down the corridor, to collect the plates. Two plates. Two mugs. Because Dean is awesome at balancing things.
“’I know it’s a shabby, dingy little place,’” he hears behind him, almost weary, nothing like the broken agitation that he’s pretty sure Mole’s meant to be feeling right now. “’Not like your cosy quarters, or Toad’s beautiful hall, or Badger’s great house. But it was my own little home and I was fond of it.’”
He nudges the door open with one foot.
“Okay,” he announces, too loudly. “Angel room service. Sorry, no kielbasa. Dessert not included because archangels get to summon their own sugar high.”
Castiel blinks a bit, looking sheepish as if he’s been caught out. But Gabriel grins, slow and wide, the shadows in his eyes slipping away as he pulls on the motley.
“Nice of you to join us, Martha Stewart. Who’d you con out of the digs?”
“You need cheerier bedtime stories,” Dean informs him, plonking breakfast down on the chest of drawers by Gabriel’s side of the bed. He goes around to help Castiel sit up, and gets an eye-roll for his trouble as Castiel pulls himself to a sitting position with hardly any trouble.
“I was going to skip ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’,” Gabriel protests lazily, and summons ten lumps of sugar to drop into his coffee.
Castiel eyes Gabriel’s cup with faint revulsion, and takes the one Dean hands to him black. He looks faintly smug about it, and it’s the most comfortable Dean has seen him look in... longer than he can remember.
He decides that maybe he won’t chew Gabriel’s ear off just yet.
Besides, he’s got a grocery trip to plan.
“He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there. The upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own: these things which were so glad to see him again, and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.”