"Cas, why are you that late? We could've used you two hours ago when we took out the fucking nest!"
Dean looked enraged while Sam was just watching him in this disappointed way of his. Castiel slumped down a bit more, shame and guilt looming over him.
"I'm sorry, Dean. Sam."
The older Winchester huffed something along the lines of 'better be' before he rose from his chair to grab another bottle of beer. He was limping slightly. Castiel felt even more horrible.
Two days later the Winchesters called him for backup again. They'd managed to find themselves a case in the town they'd passed on their way back to the bunker and had gotten into a troublesome situation. This time Castiel made sure to turn up on time, killing the monster before it could do any harm. At least that's what he had thought.
It took Dean's startled "Sammy, are you alright?" for him to see that the younger hunter was bleeding at his shoulder.
"Yes, Dean, don't worry. The thing just scraped me before Cas killed it."
So he had been late again after all.
Something was not quite right with him, Castiel realised. It hadn't been too long since the angels had fallen, not too long since he'd lost his wings and his grace, but he had managed. It had been complicated to get used to the changed conditions and he was still struggling sometimes, but Castiel had thought he'd gotten to know about his changed set of abilities.
Apparently, he had been wrong.
Not only had he lost his ability to teleport and was bound to drive a car, but his reflexes had suffered as well. Still, it hadn't been this extreme before, had it? When he'd made a quick move the world hadn't needed a split second longer to follow, Castiel was certain, still it did.
Besides the brothers, the former angel of the lord didn't talk to anyone, not really at least. When he stopped at a station to get some gas, he usually just nodded and offered a curt 'thank you' before going back into the car and he wasn't taking any cases alone. At first Castiel's intention had been to find his brothers and sisters to help them to accommodate down on earth, but in the last days he just couldn't really find the energy to keep going.
He was more often staying in his car, driving around aimlessly before parking wherever he was every once in a while when his new need for sleep or food forced him to. It didn't help much for restoring said energy anymore, though.
He felt useless, restless and absolutely bone-tired. Three things he'd never felt before in his long life, not like this. He'd gotten down to doing nothing except waiting for Dean or Sam to call only to rush to wherever they were and failing at protecting them. Castiel didn't even know why they even still wanted his help, why he even bothered to go. Things got even worse when he helped. At some point the brothers would realise that as well.
So he stopped responding to Dean's calls, to their prayers he was still able to hear. He had turned them down at first, but Dean had been too stubborn to accept that. Of course he had, the righteous man.
And just like this Castiel had been completely alone. He realised only when an old lady asked for directions that he hadn't used his voice for nearly two weeks. The woman looked quite concerned at the scratching tone and the cough the sudden use caused. Castiel quickly left after that, no need to draw attention to himself.
It somehow went worse from there, sometimes he would feel so unsteady on his feet that he had to brace himself at a wall or his car to keep from toppling over. And when he'd stumbled into another angel at a gas 'n sip, he needed such a long time to realise that he'd been nearly killed before he managed to dash off.
That night Castiel leaned against his car's door, forced to sit down when his legs had stopped working underneath him. He missed Dean and he missed Sam. He missed them laughing at some kind of joke he couldn't understand and he missed the little mischievous spark in Deans eyes when he laughed.
Sometimes Castiel tried to conjure the image of the hunters smile behind his closed lids, remembering the crinkles around Dean's eyes or the odd thing he did with his tongue sometimes. Somehow that made the gnawing feeling in his chest even worse. But that didn't stop the angel anymore. It wouldn't go away no matter how, and like that he could make sure to not forget the faces of those humans he'd grown to love like his own family.
The calls had stopped coming a week ago, the texts shortly after. Castiel should be happy about it but he found that he wasn't.
He was currently stranded on a little, rarely used highway somewhere on the countryside, he'd forgotten to fuel his car. Consequently the former angel had tried to push the vehicle from the street as best as he could to not get into the way of any other drivers. Four people had been coming by since he'd stood there, no one had spared him more than a quick glance.
The fifth car actually slowed down and stopped next to him and when Castiel looked up from where his eyes had been fixating a little bush of grass, fighting its way through the hard crust of warm sand and stone, he saw a black impala.
Dean had once told him that those were rare cars to see and this model had been sold in a limited number only. So what were the odds of Castiel not only seeing one but that one also being the one to stop next to him?
The paint job was flawless and shone in the afternoon sun, it had been polished not too long ago, but the drive on the dusty streets had covered the lower parts in a layer of sand. It still looked amazing, even Dean would approve of this handling.
"Cas! I hope you've got a good explanation for ignoring us, 'cause– holy shit, you look like chewed on and spit out."
"Charming Dean, really."
That had been Sam's voice, that was for sure, Cas had never been able to recreate how they sounded that realistically. But how could they been here?
He opened his mouth to say something, anything, but nothing came out. Instead it felt like he was a demon and someone had forced holy water down his throat, only that this hadn't happened. That was why Castiel could do nothing more than stare up at the Winchesters, waiting for what was going to come. They should've figured out that they were better without him, maybe they'd come to kill him that he couldn't 'screw up' any more.
"Cas? Cas! Castiel, can you hear me?" Sam's voice pulled him out of his hazy thoughts and the former angel saw that he'd crouched down in front of him. After a long while Castiel managed to nod, feeling like time had slowed down significantly what he knew wasn't possible, at least not for him.
"Good, great. Can you tell us what happened?"
Castiel's eyes wandered higher, finding Dean standing next to his brother, frowning rather impressively down at him. And it was his fault, again.
"'m sorry," he rasped, flinching at the pain that shot through his raw throat.
"Don't be, Cas, just don't talk, okay?" Sam turned his head up as well and asked, "Do we have water in the car?" Which Dean denied. Why did he want to know? Was he thirsty?
"I can- I can get water. But car... run out 'f gas... but-"
Sam interrupted him, gripping his arm firmly to gain his attention.
"You're staying right here with me. Dean is going to get something to drink, got that?"
Castiel didn't get that but he could feel blood on his tongue so he couldn't respond.
The whole time Dean was gone Sam didn't attempt to ask another question and the former angel was glad about that. He was selfish enough to not have to admit his uselessness, he wanted to keep them around a bit longer. Not much, but he didn't want to be alone again so soon.
Apparently Castiel had lost consciousness at some point since the next thing he remembered was the feeling of cool plastic pressing against his lips. Sam was still next to him, but he himself was in a different position. It took him a minute to understand that he was seated in Deans lap, head tilted back a bit so that they could make him drink the water in the bottle.
It felt heavenly to feel the smooth liquid lessen the burning in his mouth and greedily Castiel tried to get more.
"Hey hey, easy there buddy. Don't overdo it. Nice and slow." Dean's rumble close to his ear made his skin prickle and the pain in his chest ease for a moment. Then, everything was clashing down on him again. His uselessness, his weakness and his shame. The guilt of being a burden to those he had to protect, the fault of making everything worse.
"Hey, buddy? Cas? Sam, what should I do? What's happening?"
There was a hint of panic in Deans voice but he couldn't understand why. Wasn't it him who should be feeling those things? Why were they still here?
"Cas, you have to calm down! Castiel!"
Things faded out.
When Castiel opened his eyes the next time his head was cushioned slightly above the rest of his body and everything seemed to shake around him. It turned out that he was lying in the Impala's back seat, head in Dean's lap. Sam was driving.
But why? Dean rarely let anyone drive his car, not even his brother. And when he did he was always sitting in the passenger seat, refusing to grant that place anyone else.
Still, there he was.
"You are an idiot," the older Winchester said as he noticed Castiel's open eyes.
"Dean!" Sam reprimanded from his driving position.
"What? I'm not wrong, am I? He's been starving himself, for god's sake! He looks like he hasn't slept in days, and drinking doesn't seem to be anything that had crossed his mind recently!"
"Dean! Just shut up for once, will you?"
Castiel was too exhausted to react much to the argument taking place above his head.
"Didn't want that. Tried to... but 'twas odd."
No one replied and he slipped back into something that wasn't quite sleep.
Next time he woke up it wasn't on his own terms but thanks to Dean pulling him out of whatever it was. He wasn't in the Impala anymore but in the bunker, which meant he had been out for solid five hours, Castiel wasn't sure what to think about that.
Sam entered the room which seemed to be Dean's bedroom, a steaming mug with a straw in hand.
"Cas, how are you feeling?"
He wasn't sure what he should respond to that, because he just didn't know what was happening to him right now, so he only stared at Sam blankly. Fortunately he didn't seem to mind and instead just handed the mug over to his brother, smiled weakly at him and left.
Castiel was propped up against Deans chest, secured by an arm slung around his waist. It wasn't particularly uncomfortable, just confusing.
"What happened to your side? You've got a nasty gash there. We cleaned and bandaged it as best as we could, but it was already infected. Sam will make you swallow some meds as soon as you've eaten enough that your stomach can manage chemicals."
Castiel had to think about that for a while, his memories were dizzy and scrambled.
"I think... it was an angel, I met him accidentally... he wasn't too happy to see me... I s'pose."
Pleasantly surprised, he noticed that while speaking was still very painful, he couldn't make out the taste of copper on his tongue anymore. That had to be a good thing.
Dean sighed deeply behind him, involuntarily pulling Castiel closer.
"Look Cas, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't notice that you– I don't know. I think it kinda slipped my mind that you're new to the whole human-thing."
Why was Dean apologising? He hadn't been the one to keep showing up late or letting people get injured.
"To be honest, sometimes I forget that you're an angel and don't need the things we need. And so... I forgot that you might have that problem as well."
Castiel blinked even though Dean couldn't see him.
"I– I don't understand."
Another sigh and the arm around his waist disappeared, most likely the hunter was stroking back his hair as he tended to do sometimes when he wasn't sure what to say.
"You haven't taken care of yourself, not properly at least. And I know I'm not the best role model, but humans have to sleep regularly, eat and drink and even have some quality-fun time once in a while."
Castiel was at a loss for words. He'd failed in something every human did every day, the most basic thing of life, meaning staying alive. It was pathetic.
As if Dean had caught his thoughts, the arm returned and the second hand holding a deliberately colder mug hovered in front of Castiel's face.
"Don't worry, this time Sam 'n me are helping you. You would be surprised how difficult living actually is, but you'll get a hang on it. But for now you've to drink that."
The former angel didn't move, he was stunned into silence.
"I know it smells horrible, but Sam's right, we can't let you eat anything heavier than soup right now, your stomach wouldn't agree with that. C'mon Cas, little sips."
Castiel complied in the end, he just kind of let go. He leaned back into the strong hold and let himself be taken care of. Of course he knew that he didn't deserve it and that he should be the one helping the brothers, but it felt too good to do something against it.
The soup felt good in his body, and warmth chased away the pain Castiel had started to get used to. It was silent and peaceful and for some reason Dean looked at him as he did with Sam. There was love in those eyes and that more than everything made the former angel believe that he could be useful. Because Dean still believed that.
The words that followed him to sleep were the hunter's muttered question of "why didn't you just say something? We could've helped, we're family."