Actions

Work Header

Trade All My Tomorrows (I Thought of Angels)

Work Text:

Dean hits the brakes.

Baby lurches forward. The tires screech. Sam goes flying toward the dashboard. He moves with a shout, bracing himself for impact and screaming at Dean for the sudden stop because, and after all, this is technically his fault.

But it's not Dean's fault. Not really.

It's not his fault, because there's a voice in his head that sounds awfully like Castiel, and yet, the guy isn't here.

Dean.

"What the hell?"

Sam's watching him, incredulously, because this—this is insanity. Dean scrunches his face. Ignores his brother.

If I don't...

And then: nothing. Silence.

Dean listens. Sam stares.

"Dean, what the hell is going on?"

Castiel remains quiet.

"Albuquerque is gonna have to wait," Dean says, deciding that something is definitely not right. He looks to Sam, shakes his head. Throws baby in reverse and cuts the wheel. "We're heading back to the bunker."

 


 

"Cas?!"

Dean's a terrible brother. A terrible person, too, maybe, considering how he nearly killed both he and Sam and never gave an explanation.

"Dean!" Sam calls, on his heels, walking through the door of the bunker with furrowed eyebrows and an all too loud voice. "Dean, what's gotten into you?"

Dean doesn't answer. He's got a one track mind—heading down the stairs, placing his bag on the table, and reaching for his gun, fully intent on checking everything out room by room until he finds out who or what is causing this panic. Sam is far from deterred.

"Hey, Dean—Dean, would you just—"

He catches Dean by the shoulder, pulling him back and spinning him around. Dean moves with the action, red-faced and confused all at once.

"Look, Sam," he starts, getting antsy, "I don't have time to explain—"

There's a loud scream from downstairs that catches both their attention. It's gut wrenching, blood curdling, and nothing like anything they've ever heard before. Dean's nerves flare up.

"Cas!"

He tears himself away from Sam, legs moving before instruction. He's through the kitchen and into the hall without a second thought, stepping quick, not even considering how his presence might be received. All he can hear is Cas and that last scream. His heart pounds in his ears. His vision blurs at the corners and zeros in on where he needs to be.

Sam follows now, attention off trying to interrogate Dean and mind finally piecing it all together. He reaches for his own gun, drawing it steadily.

"What do you think's down there?" Sam asks, weighing in behind Dean, creating a second set of footsteps that will probably alarm more than calm.

"Don't know, don't care."

Dean's hard to talk to when it's like this. When it's down to nothing and one of their lives is at stake. He's all shoot first, ask questions later. All serious faces and self-sacrificing ideals. Especially if it means that they all get out of there alive.

"The bunker's warded against all evil," Sam says. "So either Cas let them in, or—"

"Or they're not evil." Dean's still stepping. He doesn't look back. "Not by nature, anyway. Flying ass monkeys—I swear to—if they even so much as touched Cas--"

He stays quiet after the statement. Picking up pace. Gun raised and aimed. There will be no prisoners.

"That scream didn't sound like Cas," Sam tells him. The statement falls on deaf ears. Sam knows. Because this is Dean. And this is Cas. Heaven help whoever comes between.

Nevertheless, they make it to the last room, see what it's become. Mounds of tossed and turned-over furniture. Bloody hand prints and patches that declare that a fight went down. A ring that shows a fire was lit. There are no visible survivors. There is no one but the two of them.

Sam steps forward first, lowering his gun to gape openly at the debris. He scans the room visually--the walls, the fixtures. The broken pieces. "Whoever it was, they didn't stick around."

"They weren't looking for us."

He turns, eyeing every inch. Seeking a clue. A sign. Anything at all. But there is nothing. There is Sam descending the stairs. His gun is put away, and his hands move freely as he touches everything in the room, like inanimate objects might come alive and spill the secrets of what went down to them.

Dean can do nothing but watch. There is something on the floor, by Sam's foot. A shadow of elaborate black detail. He points it out, and Sam glances down, frowning. He squints. Uses two hands to move the couch out of the way to get the whole picture.

It's then that they see it: the etch of angel wings into the floor. Sam freezes. Dean trembles.

Castiel, you son of a bitch— Dean's retreating into his head, whole body quaking, because this—this can't be it. Not it, it. No, never—
But if it bleeds, it can be killed. And bleed Castiel does.

Now there is something. There are wings—wings. There are blood and wings and oh, god. Oh god, Cas is—

No. No. Hell, they might not even be Castiel's wings. Castiel's strong. He's capable. A badass son of a fucking bitch when he's pissed off enough. Plus, what does Dean even know about Cas's wings? He's seen them once, and only once, and it was dark and they were in the attic of some ratty old building and detail was completely blind-sighted by anger and confusion.

Dean takes a minute, forcing himself to take a step back and breathe. He calms a little, shovels away most of his anxiety and tries to stay focused. If you're—if you're alive, say something.

There is nothing. There is something. There is everything all at once, but nothing that they need. Nothing that will help them piece together what went down.

Dean's thinking, freezing up and seizing breaths in his chest. Sam is staring. Still sizing up the damage and assessing scrapes and bruises of the inanimate.

"Cas, come on."

He's talking out loud now, pleading, begging. Sam stops where he is, eyes going soft as they move to stare at his brother. His expression turns sad, and Dean tears his gaze away, because he can't, he can't

"Dean," Sam says, suddenly. Alarmingly. This isn't a surrender, this is an introduction. Dean looks up, ready, finding Sam by the corner of the room, squatting down like he's just made the biggest discovery of the century.

Dean doesn't remember him even moving, but he's not going to turn this down. He follows Sam, stepping between the decor of the room to stand next to the finding.

At the toe of Sam's boots is the beginning of a trail of blood. Dean squints at it, stepping along inch by inch. Following it like the lost follow a river. He watches his boots, watches every step, too horrified to take his eyes away from where his answer might lie.

He moves quick, quick, and stops. Abruptly. Hitting the wall where the blood does. And there—there is something.

There is Cas.

"Cas!" His voice breaks this time, horribly.

"Cas, hey, hey—c'mon, buddy," Dean pleads, moving fast again, diving down to kneel at Cas's side. He tries to move him, to shake him awake, but something stops  him from carrying on.

The upper back of Cas's trench coat is stained red, soaked through the fabric and spreading. Dean's eyes go wide. He knows Sam's looking now, mouth open and body frozen, staring as Dean's hands start to shake.

"Help me get him up."

Sam hesitates. He glances at the floor, at the wings burned into the ground beneath the couch. "Dean—this is—"

"Shut up," Dean snaps. "I know. I know. Okay? Just—just help me get him up."

They each grab an arm, an under arm, and on the count of a very hesitant three, they tug upward, dragging Cas to standing level. Cas stirs, making a noise lost somewhere between a choked sob and a strangled scream.

Sam's eyes go wide. "Dean—"

"Where do you want him?" Dean asks, cutting Sam off. He's looking at his brother earnestly, almost pleading. "Sitting up, on his stomach—what's best?"

Sam's pulling faces. Freezing. Opening his mouth and coming up with nothing.

"Sam."

"I—um."

Dean huffs, readjusting his grip. "Stomach it is," he decides. "Ain't no way he's sitting up on his own."

He goes to move, but Sam doesn't budge. "Wait."

Dean does. He looks to Sam expectantly. "Can you hold him? Have him lean against you so I can get to his back?"

"Yeah," Dean says, "Yeah. That'll—that'll work."

 


 

Sam positions them on the bathroom floor so that he has easy access to everything—the tub, the first aid kit, the injuries at hand. He's got Cas between Dean's legs, stripped of clothing from the waist up and leaning against Dean's chest for support. Dean's pale, hands trembling as he shifts to stare at Sam over Cas's left shoulder.

"I need him to stay awake."

Dean swallows thickly. Deep scratches mark the length of Cas's back, with two more prominent gashes lining up at his shoulder blades. Dean looks away, forcing the contents of his stomach to stay down. He clears his throat.

"I can't see his face from here, so you're gonna have to tell me when he's drifting."

Sam glances up, analyzing Cas in the mirror behind Dean's back. His eyes are closed, and he looks awful: pale and sick and bruised all over. Sam reaches down to pick up the cloth. He flips on the tub, runs the fabric under warm water. "Keep him talking."

Dean grunts, shifting again, putting his weight back onto his hands. "Cas, Cas, hey—you were hurt pretty bad, but Sam's gonna stitch you up. You're gonna be good as new."

Cas says nothing as Sam wrings out the cloth over his back. Water drips down his shoulder blades, turning red once it hits the wounds. Dean watches it: droplets running the length of Cas's spine until they fall into the waist band of his pants. He frowns, deeply. Sam wipes the cloth around the edges of Cas's shoulder blades.

"Be careful," Dean instructs. Sam lets out a breath, expression unreadable. His eyes drift to the mirror again.

"Dean."

"I got him," Dean says. "He's breathing, I can feel it. Just—just focus."

There's a lot of blood, on Cas, on Sam, on Dean. So much that Dean is fairly certain that if Cas wasn't an angel, he'd need a transfusion. The sight makes him sick, rising bile to his throat. He looks away, up, toward Sam.

Sam locks gazes with him, sighing. He dips the cloth back under the water, repeats the process until diluted rivers of red run down Cas's skin. "I'm doing the best that I can, Dean."

Dean's gaze falls to Sam's hand. He hears Sam breathe softly, but he doesn't look up. He never looks away. He can't.

Sam presses a little harder, scrubbing at spots where the blood's dried in clumps. "Keep him talking. Don't worry about what I'm doing—I'm cleaning him up so I can see what I'm dealing with. A lot of it's dried, which is good. I don't think he's bleeding anymore."

"Yeah, but how long was he down here like this?" Dean's eyes are hard now, emotionless and purely asking. He can't afford to think about what the answer to his question means. He can't afford to think about how Cas's last words were in his head merely hours ago.

They share another look, the two of them, and Dean watches Sam glance away with an expression of mixed pity and worry. Neither of them wants to think about the answer to Dean's question. Sam's eyes drop down to Cas's back. "Keep him awake."

"Cas," Dean repeats, trying to lean his head back far enough to catch a glimpse of Cas's profile. "Stay with me—c'mon."

"Tired," Cas mumbles.

Sam exhales in relief. Dean looks at the ceiling. "You can sleep later. For days, if you want. Right now you gotta stay with me."

Cas stays quiet. Dean shakes his head in disbelief. Sam swaps out the wet cloth for a brown bottle. He pours some of the contents onto a piece of gauze, and Dean watches as the white coloring turns blood orange.

"This might sting."

Cas sets his jaw (Dean can feel it against his shoulder) in preparation. Dean wishes there was a way to magically get Cas out of this mess. To take away all his pain and suffering.

Since that's far from an option, though,  he opts instead to rest his cheek against the side of Cas's head, just to let him know that he isn't going anywhere. At first, Cas does nothing, but at the first contact of the orange liquid against the cut, Dean feels Cas's faint grip on the hem of his shirt. He makes a low noise, a wail suppresses in the back of his throat and hidden in Dean's shoulder.

"Sorry, Cas." Sam lies: "Almost done."

Cas presses his chin down into Dean's shoulder.

Dean winces for him, trying to understand what went down. What went wrong. How Cas might be injured and what this might mean. How there were wings stained to the floor with no body attached.

When his breathing starts to quicken—with both sadness and rage—he pulls himself away, mentally. Turning instead to focus on Sam again.

But Sam isn't moving. He's freezing, hands faltering in their place before stopping altogether. Dean frowns at his brother, and finds that Sam is now staring at the glowing spots of Cas's injury. 

"Cas," Dean's voice comes out rougher. "Are you—can you heal yourself?"

"No," Cas answers, surprisingly. "Not enough grace."

"Okay," Dean says, slowly , nodding when he catches Sam's gaze. "Sam's gonna stitch you up then. You think you can handle it?"

Cas nods faintly, though his head lolls into Dean's neck. He lets out an exhale in one big whoosh

"Sam, I think he's gonna pass out."

"Not yet," Sam says. "Keep him awake until we're finished."

"It's too much—"

"Dean, we thought he was dead. For all we know this could be the icing on the cake. I need to know that this is the worst of it."

"This is the worst of it," Cas interrupts. He lifts his head slightly, just enough to have the motor function of his mouth uninhibited by Dean's body. "I am—I'm not dying. I will be fine."

Dean stares at Sam, eyes hard and gaze harder. "If something happens, I will bring you back and kill you again myself."

"Sounds promising," Cas mumbles. He lowers his head to rest it back on Dean's shoulder. Dean does not look away. Sam holds his gaze, backing down steadily, because now there is this: there is pain and emotion. All of it building.

"Okay?" Sam asks, not waiting for an answer. He picks up the thread, the needle, the hydrogen peroxide and alcohol. Pushes the first stitch through.

Cas muffles a scream.

"Sorry, Cas." Sam lies: "Almost done."

 


 

As it turns out, and as Dean called it, Cas passes out long before the end of it. He makes it pretty far, mumbles something in a language neither of the brothers can decipher, and then drops limp on Dean's chest. Sam says nothing.

He finishes quickly, quietly, working with steady hands, and when he's finished. He stands, putting away the supplies before leaning down to help get Cas up.

"He'll stay in my room," Dean states, and its not a question. Not an offering despite how he tries to sell it. "His room's too far, and he's a lot heavier than he looks. We'll never make it."

Sam cocks an eyebrow. He doesn't press it. Dean continues. "I'll take the couch. I just—his room's too far to keep an eye on him."

Sam doesn't argue. Together, they manage to get Cas in Dean's room and situated on the bed, on top of the covers and on his back. Dean frets for a moment about how the position will affect Cas's injuries, but after some reassurance from Sam, he decides it's doable for now.

When they leave, Dean closes the door softly behind them. He moves away as soon as it's done, careful not to hover. Sam follows.

"How did you know he was in trouble?"

"Intuition I guess." Dean shrugs, speaking only once they've reached the kitchen. "Maybe its that profound bond crap. Finally picking up on my end, you know? 'Bout time I get to have some fun with it."

"This isn't exactly what I would call "fun","' Sam crosses his arms over his chest. He's leaning against the counter, and Dean can't stand it. Not any of it—the way his nerves itch and his conscience is screaming or how everything's all in bouts of we could've lost Cas.

Most of all, though, he can't bare the look that Sam is giving him. A knowing, semi-smirk and psychoanalyzing mix. Dean clears his throat, looks away.

"I think—you should go."

Sam starts, "Dean—"

"To Albuquerque," Dean finishes. "We kind of just ditched a case. Can't really just leave people to their own devices with this crap."

Sam's expression changes. It's subtle, slight, and yet Dean still notices it. "And Cas?"

"I can handle him," Dean assures. "He's through the hard part, mostly. Physically."

“You’ll call me if you need me?”

Dean nods, lips pursed. Sam nods back.

 “He’ll be okay,” he says.

Dean nods another time. He does not speak.

 


 

Cas wakes a day later. By then, Sam is long gone, and Dean is on his second cup of coffee. He pushes the door open carefully.

"Mornin', sunshine," Dean sits on the edge of the bed, holding a glass of water in his hands. He motions to it, and Cas sits up slowly, letting Dean guide the rim of the glass to his lips.

He pulls away after downing a good half of it, carefully lying back on the pillows. Dean places the water on the bedside table before turning to face the wounded angel. "How are you feeling?"

Cas stares at him. Dean hates that, too. The silence. The injury. The way Cas is looking at him like it doesn't matter. Like he has no reaction to the situation at hand. His eyes are blue, piercing and half lidded, and Dean wants nothing more than to scoop him up and shield him from every threat in existence.

It's too much. he glances away, momentarily, for a fraction of an instant. Cas catches it. He must, because in the moment Dean's not looking at him, he changes his composure entirely.

"You don't owe me, if that's what you're worried about," Cas says. His eyes are open now, a dull blue, as he watches Dean sadly. Dean blinks. Frowns deeply.

"What?"

"When god commanded that I pull you from damnation, he did not go as far as this. After the apocalypse, I should have left—"

"Cas—Jesus."

"But I did not. I betrayed Heaven. I betrayed you." He pauses, an empty expression crosses his face. "You do not owe me this."

"Owe you what?" Dean presses, leaning closer, nearly hovering. "Do you—why would we—Cas. You're family. We're not doing this—we're not doing any of this because of some jacked up guilt trip you think we're on."

Cas won't look at him.

"You were a human in my charge. I got too close. That was my mistake."

Dean feels a pang in his chest. "You don't believe that."

"Angels are not to become affiliated with humans. I should have known better."

"Christ. That's what happened? That's what's got you talking like this?" Dean retracts, only slightly. Pulling back to sit closer to the edge of the bed. He wants to press closer, to fix this, but Cas isn't telling him anything and he doesn't know how. "They—they what, Cas? They come down here, beat the crap out of you, and reprogram you? Just like that?"

Cas stays quiet.

"Castiel," internally, Dean's fuming. "Cas, look at me."

When Cas does, it's heart breaking. Piercing blue with an ocean of sadness. It lasts for as long as one would think. "I am sorry for any trouble I have caused. As soon as I can be, I will be out of your way."

Dean hates the way his stomach drops. Curling in on itself and twisting horribly. "You can't really believe that's for the best."

"I do," Cas says, looking away again. "I had forgotten, but Heaven has reminded me of my mission. And it does not involve human relations."

"Then why were you in my head?"

That strikes something. Cas gapes at him, lips parted, eyes flicking electric for a spare moment. He locks gazes with Dean, though it doesn't last long. He closes his eyes. Says nothing.

Dean jumps in. Sitting up straighter. More confidently. "You knew it would work, right? That I could hear you if you spoke to me."

Still, Cas says nothing. His eyes remain closed, but his face twitches. Dean inches closer to him on the bed. "All those times I prayed to you. All that talk about what a profound bond we share, and yet, never once did I hear you like you could hear me. Didn't you ever get curious?"

He moves closer still, by the pillows now so that if—and only if—Cas wants him to, he can break the final wall and mesh their personal bubbles into one. "Or did you know?"

"Nanaeel," Cas blurts. His eyes widen when the word slips, and Dean's imitate them. "Ialpon. Monons. Noncp."

Words spill out of his mouth one by one until Dean's head is reeling in a language he barely even recognizes. He wants to ask, but Cas's expression crumples, and Dean can't bear to cause him any more pain. Not today.

"Alright," he places a hand on Cas's shoulder. "Alright, okay. Get some rest, okay? Try to sleep."

 


 

Dean calls Sam a little while later, when he's perched at the table with the internet at his fingertips and no ideas in his head. This is torture. Sam picks up on the third rings.

"Hey," he says. Dean can't hear the tires against the road through the phone. "How's Cas?"

"How familiar are you with Enochian?"

"That good, huh?"

"Well he's awake," Dean informs, sighing as he leans back in the chair. He scrubs his free hand down his face. "But he's talking nonsense. And there's about as many websites on broken angels speaking gibberish as you might think."

There's a pause. "You want me to come back?"

"No," Dean holds a bit of information to himself—that part about heaven, that reiterated speech. The I serve heaven, I do not serve man, and I certainly do not serve do not serve you. No. He wants to hide that. To hold that back for all eternity. Because if he lets it go, that makes it real. Because if he loses the angel—if he loses Cas, well that, that will hurt something awful.

"No," Dean repeats. "I've got it."

"If you're sure."

"Yeah," Dean trails off, drumming his thumb against the tabletop. His eyes roam over the screen. His fingers drift toward the keys. He drags the mouse up to the search bar, types in Enochian translator. It takes about four tries before he finds a site that won't give his laptop a virus, but in the long run, he finds one and translates what he can remember.

Sam doesn't stay quiet for long. "Oh, " he redirects, "hey, did you find out what happened?"

The mouse hovers over the first word NanaeelMy power, it reads. Dean sucks his bottom lip into his mouth.

"Not yet, but I've got a pretty good idea."

 


 

The next time Dean goes to check on Cas, it's dark out, and he's got about the understanding of a two year old in all things angel. He knocks on the door softly before entering, pulse in his throat and nerves flaring.

"You back to speaking in tongues I can understand?"

He asks it haphazardly, fully expecting Cas to spew out Enochian words by the dozen, but instead, he's met with silence. He frowns, spinning. "Cas?"

On the bed, Cas is shaking, a trembling pile of limbs and blankets.

"Christ, Cas."

Dean moves closer, placing his phone on the bedside table so that his hands are free. "Roll over. I need to see your back."

Cas does as he's told. His actions are stutter-y, and he quakes under Dean's touch. Dean's cautious, gentle. This is Cas.

He peels back the bandages slowly. Peeking down at the stitched-healing skin.

"Everything looks okay. This your grace?"

"Yes," Cas says, weakly. Dean puts the bandage back in place. "It's healing from the inside out. My normal form first, then the vessel."

Dean steps around the bed, doing his best to yank the covers out from under Cas and up over his form. Cas looks up at him. Time pauses. "You do not have to care for me."

And just like that, it's at full speed again.

"Shut up," Dean snaps. Cas does. "God, you're stubborn. You're—you're sick, Cas, whether you like it or not. And whether you like it or not, people care about you. And they want to help you."

"Dean, I am an—"

"An angel of the Lord. Yeah, yeah—an angel that got too close to the humans in his charge. Boo-hoo. Shut up and tell me how I can help you."

Cas does not speak for a good couple minutes. He lets Dean maneuver him so that the blanket encompasses him, but does not touch his back. Dean holds his breath.

"I appreciate your concern," Cas says, finally. "And if you insist, I suppose I cannot stop you. Not—not like this."

There's something to his tone. Not quite disgust, but not exactly enthrallment. He shivers again. Dean places the back of his hand on Cas's forehead.

"You've got a fever," Dean stands. Cas watches him closely. "So as far as I'm concerned, you're not going anywhere for a while. Hell, I'd be surprised if you even could."

This time, Cas groans, rolling to shove his face into his pillow.

"Constant fluids and medication," Dean tells him. "I'll be back with two aspirin."

"It will not help," Cas professes.

Dean pauses. For a moment and a moment only. He thinks about how he got here—from stabbing the stranger of Castiel to begging the same angel to stay with him. He wants to laugh, but the serious expression on Cas's face keeps his laughter at bay.

"Humor me."

 


 

When dean returns, Cas downs the two pills Dean gives him. He grimaces as they slide down his throat, and does his best to hand the glass back to Dean. His arms tremble. Dean catches the glass before it falls.

They say nothing.

It's like that for a while, with everything: getting Cas to eat and drink and shower. The only thing he doesn't fight Dean on is sleeping. Everything's a struggle, and it's got Dean on the phone nearly by the hour. Though, and after the second day, Sam's too preoccupied by the case to offer any help.

So Dean lets Cas be. He spends most of his time in the last room of the bunker, using all his might to try and scrub the blood and stains out of the floor. It fades a bit, but not by much. Mentally, he makes a note to get a rug to cover up what cannot be undone.

He questions a few things, like how Cas's stomach is suddenly grumbling and his sleep pattern went from nothing to every hour. But he never presses. He never asks specifically what happened. Why Cas is suddenly way more human than before. Instead, he bites his tongue.

On the fifth day, he lets it go.

Cas's fever is still burning, just lower now. He's fresh from the shower—with dripping hair and new bandages where he's situated on the couch (Dean managed to at least wrestle away the sheets from him to wash). And he's doesn't try to pick a fight when dean hands him a bowl of soul. It could be a good or bad sign.

"We need to talk," Dean says, and finally, finally, Cas looks at him, eyes wide and searching and open. There's a sliver of hope in the pit of Dean's stomach.

"I've decided to give you what you want. So here you have it: if—when you're better—you don't wanna stay with us, fine. We can't make you. Hell, you could smite us if we tried," Dean talks cautiously, feeling the way his lips curve around the words. They taste bitter, ill, even. He does his best to keep the grimace attached under wraps. "But what are you going to do? Where are you going to go?"

He asks the questions a little harshly. But he can't stop, won't stop until Cas gets this through his thick skull. He keeps his eyes down, centers his focus on the fabric of the pair of his sweatpants that Cas is wearing.

"You go on these rants about how Heaven taught you this big lesson, but, Christ, Cas. Are you thinking about this properly? Do they even consider you as one of them anymore? Are you still an angel to them, or are you human now?"

There's a moment. A beat of painful silence where Dean's sure it'll all come crumpling down. Where Cas will leave and Dean will have to explain why the only person who puts up with their crap on the daily finally decided to come to his senses and get the hell out.

But Cas doesn't leave. Cas says: I'm freezing.

Dean says: You're burning up.

But Cas keeps shivering, curling in on himself under the one blanket Dean threw around his shoulders. He places the bowl of soup on the coffee table. Dean sighs, ready to turn around and leave. "I'll grab you more blankets."

Wait.

It's the voice again. Castiel's voice. Showing up and dropping into his thoughts like the worst kind of poison a man could take. For the second time in a week, Dean wants to laugh. It's more out of disbelief than anything else, because, damn, does Cas sure know how to get a man's attention.

He wants to laugh, to ask why now? Out of all times? But he can't. He's frozen, deep rooted to the spot and spinning, visually scanning Cas's expression. The angel(?)'s caught somewhere between his usual stone-cold facade and crumpling, and its in this moment that Dean wonders if he's ever seen Cas cry before.

"They killed that part of me." Cas chokes out, and it's the break in his voice that brings Dean back to humanity. He watches as Cas tries to console himself, fighting newfound human emotions to give in and outright wail. "the angel part. They took—you saw. What they did—they—they cut it out, Dean. Cut them off—I'm—I don't know what I am anymore."

Dean closes his eyes. Those words Cas spoke that one day run rampant through his mind, the ones Cas let slip: Nanaeel. Ialpon. Monons. Noncp. The translations haunt him:

My power. 
Burn. 
Heart. 
For you.

Cas is crying when Dean risks a glance again. Silently, but still so. Tears falling down his cheeks as he stares at Dean desperately.

Dean feels everything: anger, pain, sorrow, rage—he wants to end the ones who did this. Wants to make them feel whatever Cas is feeling, even if Cas won't say it directly.

Dean spins, heads toward Cas and squats in front of him. "You listen here. No one—and I mean no one—can ever kill that part of you. You hear me? No one can ever kill any part of you unless you let them."

"I thought they were—" he stops, swallows. "I had assumed that was the plan. And then, this..."

"You thought you were dying," Dean muses, and in a way, he sort of feels like he's dying. His mouth is dry and his tongue is borderline numb and his hands are shaking and his heartbeat is drowning any last ounce of thought in his head. "You—you thought you were dying, and your first instinct was to what? Give me some parting words through my head? Leave me wondering what the fuck was going on until I got back and found you on the—"

"I killed the last just before you arrived," Cas explains, and it covers the explanation for the scream. Dean scrubs a hand over his face. Sam was right, then.

"I heard you," Cas continues, "but I could not find the words to speak."

Dean flinches involuntarily.

Cas, you son of a bitch—

If you're alive—

Say something.

He cuts himself off, forcing the reiteration of desperation away from his head. Out of his nerves. "Do you know what that felt like, Cas?"

Cas wipes at his face, dragging the length of his forearm under his eyes. Over his cheekbones. Dean sighs, taking a seat beside him. 

"It felt like losing you."

Cas slumps, dejectedly. “I feel like I lost myself."

"We'll get through this," Dean tells him, fixing the blanket to have it encompass Cas properly. "You're one strong son of a bitch. You've got grace and willpower, and hell, that's all anyone really needs. Wings don't define you. You do."

Cas nods, but its sunken. Dean can't stand it. He reaches forward, nerves shaking on the inside, hands darting for Cas's shoulders to pull him in closer, until he's tipped over and leaning into Dean's chest. It's like an awkward hug, and Dean curses himself for being so bad at this.

Nevertheless, Cas turns into him, pressing his face against Dean's sternum. He does not move. "Thank you, Dean."

 


 

It's a dull, consistent ringing that wakes Dean up, and for a second or two, he blinks around with blurry vision, trying to recognize where he might've ended up for the night. There's no real recollection of lying down anywhere, or even falling asleep in his memory. So when he finds that he's on the couch with a Castiel sized weight on half his body, he's more than a little surprised.

He fishes for the source of the ringing quickly, hand digging around in the pocket of his jeans that Cas isn't on top of. He takes it out, answers the call quickly, keeping his voice low.

"Hello?"

"So get this," Sam says, way too energetic for the aftermath of a hunt. "Apparently, we were headed in the complete opposite direction—remember, you said you thought it was a vamp nest, right? Well, it wasn't. Turns out it was a Vetala. Two of 'em, like you said. Hunt in pairs and everything."

"Oh," Dean blinks, trying to clear his throat to not sound like he just woke up. "Yeah. Yeah—Vetalas, right."

"Yeah, it was the—did you just get up?"

"No," Dean lies, glancing down at Cas, who appears to have been woken despite Dean's efforts.

He's looking at Dean, like he usually does, only, this time, it's different. His eyes are wide, big and red-rimmed to make the iridescent blue that much brighter.

"Maybe. It doesn't matter. You on your way back?"

"Should be there by nine tonight," Sam explains."You and Cas still doing alright? He ever tell you what happened?"

Dean.

"Yeah," Dean says, looking down at Cas. He keeps the gaze there, not reading into it, but simply looking. He conjures up the words in his head, and yet, he isn't the one to speak.

If I don't...

Dean stares, wide-eyed and in awe, because this is what Cas said the first time. This is what he never was able to finish. The thought Dean couldn't process and the words Cas couldn't speak. 

If I don't make it—if they kill me, know that I...

"Dean?"

"Yeah," Dean dismisses. "Yeah, Yeah— I'll, I'll tell you about it when you get here."