Angel: So that's everything, huh? No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away, and what's left?
Written: Thursday 2 May - within an hour of watching the episode!
Pairings: Castiel/Dean preslash.
Other characters: Slight sightings of Charlie and Sam.
Genre and tropes: Hurt/comfort, preslash, a little fluff, bunkerfic, Castiel being grouchy.
Word count: 2k.
Spoilers: Assumes knowledge of 8x21 ("The Great Escapist").
Summary: Let's just say it picks up directly from the end of the final scene, Dean makes more stew, and there is some discussion of the nature of angels.
Castiel looked even worse when Sam got the car door open, and they saw him in the light from the interior rather than the black-and-white glare of the headlights.
“Fuck,” Dean couldn’t help spitting out, because that was way too much red. “You look like you went three rounds with a meat grinder, man.”
Castiel rolled his eyes. “I’ll try not to get blood on your upholstery, Dean,” he grumbled, all rough with pain. Then he fainted.
to HRH: found our frodo.
to HRH: looks like galadriel swiped his ring but at least he managed to flap his way out of mount doom.
from HRH: omg does that mean you’ve got him there at Rivendell?
to HRH: Yes you nerd we’re all at rivendell.
from HRH: im the nerd? :P
So, Dean found himself making Dad’s kitchen sink stew for two.
He was tempted to try the aeroplane spoon thing with Castiel, actually - both because he was a stubborn son of a bitch and insisted he was “fine” almost as much as Sam did, with more glowering, and because the faces he’d make would be hilarious.
Hey, you took your giggles where you could find them.
Sam ate half a bowl, and Castiel ate none, and refused drink and stitches and painkillers and blankets and a wash and the old teddy bear with buttons for eyes that Dean found in one of the bedrooms and plonked down on his lap in frustration. Castiel peered at it, bewildered, then gave Dean a weary sort of why-do-I-put-up-with-you look. Sam snorted, then snickered, then let his head loll back over the head of his chair and just sort of giggled at the ceiling and whatever childhood memory he was trawling through, so Dean sighed and manhandled him up and into his bedroom so that he could pass out for another day or two in peace.
When he got back, the teddy bear had vanished, and Castiel was hunched into a painful little ball in his chair.
Dean hovered in the arch, thinking of all the things he could say to this guy. All the things he never got a chance to say before Castiel vanished again, and came back different. Different every time.
“How’re you holding up there?” was all he said, in the end.
The Castiel-shaped huddle seemed to consider this. Then, “Better,” it decided hoarsely.
Dean snorted, not being a complete simpleton.
Because, seriously? Castiel had come to them. Things had to be pretty bad before he did that, right? considering how much shit he’d let them help him. Actually checking in with his friends was probably the definition of ‘last resort’ for Castiel.
And still he kept pushing away everything Dean offered him. The dick needed something and he wouldn’t let Dean give it to him.
Castiel lifted his head just enough to scowl at Dean with one eye over the edge of his arm.
“Yeah, sure,” Dean agreed, all sincere and sweet and with an eye-roll for good luck. “Because when I have a hand-sized gut wound, that’s just when I wanna go paragliding. Budge up, chuckles.”
He slid onto the other end of the couch, and Castiel grudgingly shuffled his feet out of the way. They were bare, and Dean was struck for a moment by the incongruity of that: the pale, fine arch of it so near his knee, near enough to touch, and the stupid weirdness of the fact that Castiel had toes.
There was a long, pulled-tight minute of silence. Castiel didn’t seem inclined to break it: he was just watching Dean, steady and weirdly peaceful, like he was happy to do that all night.
Dean cleared his throat, and carefully didn’t do anything stupid like patting Castiel’s foot. “Seriously, man. If you need - I mean, if it’d help, you can do that soul-touching crap. Or whatever.”
Castiel’s head tilted a little further to his left, or maybe it was just sort of slumping against the back of the chair, and his eyes did that thing they did where they seemed to get sharper and deeper all at once. Like a question.
“I’m not biting your belt,” Dean added hastily. “I know how often you don’t wash that. Also it’s covered in gut.”
Castiel sighed a bit, as if Dean was giving him a migraine or something, and said like it was obvious, “I only need you, Dean.”
Dean’s stomach did an odd little skip. “You. Er. Well, obviously, because I’m aw- no, sorry, what?”
Castiel’s foot shoved rudely under Dean’s calf, and Dean found himself on the receiving end of the full angelic exasperated eye-roll. “Family, Dean. Recovering alone is unpleasant, and your prayers are noisy when you fret.”
“You’re a grumpy little shit, you know that?” Dean informed him, while the skipping in his stomach upgraded to a full swooping ballroom dance and crept onto his face in the form of a stupid grin.
The corners of Castiel’s eyes crinkled up ever so slightly. “Bite me,” he said, deadpan.
... there was no way that should be arousing. Dean’s dick was weird.
Shit. Where was a beer when you needed one? It was really good to have something to do with your hands when you needed a moment to fiddle and stare meaningfully and manfully off into the distance.
“So you’re good?” Dean asked after a minute, because he had to be sure. “Just you in there now?”
“I...” Castiel trailed off, and frowned at his hands. It was a mystified kind of frown, like they were new and strange and maybe a bit wonderful but he didn’t know quite how yet. “Yes. For the first time in... longer than I knew. I am... good.”
“Okay.” Dean nodded to himself, then nodded again. “Okay then. That’s... good. Great. We got you, then.”
The edges of Castiel’s mouth softened in the way they hardly ever did but which always made Dean’s chest do strange things. “I suppose you do.”
They were quiet for a while longer, as the clock ticked softly in the corner, and the warmth of Castiel’s foot crept through Dean’s jeans to warm his calf, and Dean watched the strong, worn shape of Castiel’s hands lying loose in his lap.
Then, wonder of wonders, Castiel volunteered words.
“I saw something very strange today, Dean.”
“I saw one of my brothers die, and leave no wings scorched into the ground.”
Dean made a sound a bit like “huh?”, because Castiel sounded sort of frowny and sort of thoughtful and the subject of dead angels was a bit of a minefield and Dean had no idea where this was going.
“I could see, before he died, that he was... different, somehow. The shape of him, beyond his vessel, was strange: all straight lines, you see, very few resonances. But the same was true of almost every angel I’ve seen lately and I’d thought... I assumed my perception was flawed.”
It was very possible that Dean had learned more about angels from various horses’ mouths today than he had since... well, Anna. Was it something in the air?
Castiel swung his head around from vague air-staring to focus on Dean, fierce and soft.
“Dean, he had no wings anymore. Neither does she. She has fixed us, and honed us, and sanded down every little imperfection and flaw that has grown over the years, to keep us pure. That is why so few angels are capable of free will, Dean: every seed is burned out of them.”
“But you -” Dean began, but Castiel shook his head like it didn’t matter and carried on over the top of him.
“But she, Dean, she and the angels who wield her tools. They can see all this, and it does worse to them. They have no wings, Dean. They lost their faith long ago.”
Castiel was staring at him like he was beseeching him to understand something very important, only Dean wasn’t getting it.
“Hold on. How can something be an angel without having wings? Or faith? I thought that was what you guys were, well, made of.”
Castiel looked away for a moment, but Dean caught the edge of a smile. “So did I.”
On impulse, Dean reached out, and ran the pad of his thumb down the long arch of Castiel’s foot. It jerked a little, and Castiel made a startled, indignant noise that made Dean burst out laughing.
“Seriously? You’re ticklish?”
Castiel pulled a face, nose wrinkling up ridiculously, and caught Dean’s hand. Dean let him have it, and gave him a bonus grin.
“So, uh. You’re not looking to head back upstairs?”
Castiel looked down at their hands, and carefully threaded their fingers together. The warm press of palm to palm felt like a promise, and it made Dean’s heart squeeze tight.
“It seems that Heaven has been sick for millennia. It doesn’t...”
He stopped for a moment, then went on more quietly.
“It doesn’t excuse what I did. But it is... easier. It means that I was not the one who betrayed it.”
Dean let out all his breath in a long rush.
“Yeah,” he said, and felt his voice scrape. “I get that.”
“No,” Dean said firmly, because he could put his foot down, dammit. “If you’re set on sleeping in my bed, I’m set on you losing the shoes. And the coat. And the jacket. And also the blood, Jesus Cas.”
Castiel’s long-suffering sigh sounded a lot like home.
(The teddy bear, it turned out, was watching them creepily from the dresser on Castiel’s side of the bed. Sneaky son of a bitch had probably planned it all.)
Dean woke up in the middle of the night to an empty bed.
He padded through to the kitchen, trying not to get all panicky or resentful over it because that was dumb, because obviously Castiel had just got up to get himself a glass of water. Or something.
He hadn’t. Not exactly.
Castiel was sitting at the table taking small mouthfuls of leftover stew. He looked small and pale in his oversized shirt, sleeves pushed up above his elbows, and he was smiling faintly at nothing, as if the stew was telling him things. He should have looked frail, maybe even vulnerable; but all Dean could see was the guy who was stronger than any of the power he’d ever wielded, and any of the crap that had been thrown at him. And who still wanted to sit at Dean’s table and eat his Dad’s stew.
There was no possibility of mistaking him for anything ordinary.
Dean slid wordlessly into the chair beside him, and listened when Castiel began to tell him about the first time humans had thought to put hot peppers in their mouth.
from HRH: will swing by on saturday. have to see if your Robin up to scratch. l8r!
Dean felt himself start to smile.
(No, really, that angel died without wing shadows.)