This bears pretty much no resemblance to what I was thinking of writing when, yesterday, I indicated I was going to write an epilogue.
I have no idea what happened but I decided to just go with it.
Hope you enjoy!
I don't belong here. But this is what they wanted for me. I'll do my best for their sakes. I'll try...
Curiosity interrupted Dean's troubled thoughts as the young humans flew onto the parade ground, carpets hovering feet in the air. They smelled male and female, excited and afraid and intrigued and nervous. Emotions buzzed like a swarm of insects around Dean as the other dragons around him reacted to the spectacle. They'd all been eagerly awaiting this day. Dean had been dreading it.
Who would want me? Maybe someone will now, when they don't know me, but if they learn how I failed...
A smell struck Dean's nose, sweet and tangy, tickling his senses. With the humans clumped together it was difficult to figure out which he was scenting, though he tried. The elder dragons who had helped train them had explained that there were various signs that a human would be a compatible rider – many minor hints, such as a pleasant aroma – but the true test would be the bond. The elders swore he'd be able to sense it immediately, but he'd never felt a connection like that with any person. Dean's gaze swept over the line of people, simultaneously seeing the vibrant colors of hot and cold playing over their bodies and the washed out colors that apparently was what humans saw vividly all the time. Before he could isolate which human smelled so nice, the dragons were ordered to their demonstration. Dean did the formations by rote, not bothering to grandstand as the others did. Nothing was going to come of today.
Watching the humans demonstrate their abilities gave Dean the opportunity to isolate which one drew him. As they scattered and came together in complex patterns, a sense of right hit Dean like a hard landing on stone, jolting his entire body. A boy, eyes glowing with hot blue, body coruscating in shades of red and yellow and green, so hot and alive, dove down and skimmed the ground only to soar fearlessly back into the sky. Without any clue how he could tell, Dean knew the man and he would connect.
He wasn't sure that was a good thing.
The humans finished their display, the instructors explained that they should get to know each other, and Dean held back uncertainly. Everyone said connecting with a rider was fantastic, like no other feeling in the world, but the prospect of losing his privacy, of someone being able to sense his thoughts, of being around a person from whom he couldn't hide, frightened Dean. They'd know when he was sad or angry or lonely, know when he was being pathetic or cowardly or weak.
But the pull drawing him towards the stranger was powerful and undeniable.
The word was given that they were free to mingle and Dean started towards him – Castiel, so Uriel named him – but Gordon cut him off, barreling across the field to confront the boy. Dean watched hopefully for a moment, optimistic that Castiel would rebuke the jerk, but instead Castiel greeted Gordon warmly and enthusiastically.
Dean sighed. He felt nothing towards any of the other people present. What was the point? The only human he wanted to meet didn't have the least interest in him.
Just as he'd expected.
Every day, Dean's training broke for lunch and he returned to his stall to eat alone.
Almost every day, he walked down the halls of the stable accompanied by a wonderful sweet smell, a sense of unfulfilled connection, and the sound of crying. Castiel was unhappy and there was nothing Dean could do because Castiel wasn't his rider.
Every day, that tore Dean up inside.
It was Gordon's responsibility to help Castiel, just as it was Castiel's responsibility to take care of Gordon. From the first days of training, it was drilled into every dragon's heads that while there were multiple riders with whom they might be compatible, once a dragon and rider were bonded it was wrong for another dragon to interact with that rider. It was drilled into the dragon's heads that while their humans were strong and brave and capable, they were also vulnerable, especially physically, in comparison to dragons. All their lives, they were isolated from others, unused to the constant communication that all dragons were accustomed to exchanging with each other. This was a boon for pairing riders with people but the dragon could never take it for granted. Apparently, humans struggled to make deep connections with even one dragon, since they weren't adapted for empathic bonds as dragons were. If another dragon got involved with a bonded rider it muddled things up. Dean didn't want to do anything to hurt Castiel, didn't want to cause him confusion, didn't want to complicate his relationship with Gordon. Thus, as difficult it was, every day Dean stayed away and didn't offer the comfort he longed to give.
It's for the better.
Though he knew it was foolish, Dean had watched Castiel in the months since the pairing ceremony. The incomplete connection drew Dean so strongly that he couldn't resist. The human was amazing: hard-working, studious, strong enough that he never resorted to using his carpet to navigate the complex, agile, and completely fearless even at high altitudes. In comparison, Gordon seemed bumbling to Dean's eye, so focused on his strength and speed that he didn't care when his execution was sloppy, so convinced he already knew all that he needed to that he didn't bother trying to improve himself.
Castiel deserves better than Gordon, and he definitely deserves better than me.
No amount of justification cured the tightness in Dean's chest when he knew that Castiel was upset. No amount of justification stopped him from feeling that Castiel's pain was his problem, that he should intervene.
Dean couldn't have said what was different that day. The sound of crying was perhaps a little louder. The irresistible smell that Dean led to the tack room instead of Castiel's bedroom, and it was still none of Dean's business.
He couldn't leave it alone, though. Gordon should be there, should comfort Castiel, but Dean wasn't surprised he wasn't. Gordon was a selfish asshole.
I may not be the dragon that a rider like Castiel deserves, but maybe I can help him. Maybe I can do something useful.
Dean's steps led him to the tack room without his conscious direction. Castiel lay slumped over a pile of blankets, face hidden, shoulders shaking, dark hair disheveled, white shirt marked by sweat stains left by the exertion of his morning training. The usually brilliant, swirling colors as heat ebbed and flowed in Castiel's body seemed more dull than usual.
A low keening drew Dean's attention and he followed the sound to find Sammy curled in a tight ball, face hidden beneath his wing, tail tucked under him. Sam had grown so much the past few years but, frightened and upset, he looked small and defenseless. His brown scales shimmered iridescent with the heat emanating from within him. Worried, Dean approached, nudged him, felt his brother's pain and embarrassment.
*What's the matter?*
*Those jerks were bullying you again, weren't they?* Anger surged in Dean. *I'll stop them, I'll make them regret ever coming near you, I'll—*
*No, Dean! Please don't!*
*Why not? They deserve it.*
*It won't help. I don't need you to fight for me.*
As difficult as it was to leave his brother vulnerable, Dean took a deep breath to calm himself and let his irritation go. *Then what do you need?*
*Please, stay with me...*
Moved, Dean curled his larger body around his baby brother, encircled him protectively, and found his anger dissipating in the face of the comfort that Sam took in his presence.
*I'll never let anyone hurt you, Sammy.*
*I know you won't, Dean.*
Pain and helplessness tore at Dean.
I should intervene…but maybe it doesn't have to be the same this time. Maybe I don't have to fail Castiel like I failed Sam. If I do nothing, if I don't even try, he'll continue to suffer alone.
Dean was acutely aware of how much it hurt to suffer alone. He couldn't leave anyone to that if he could help it, not even a stranger, and Castiel wasn't exactly a stranger. He's not a friend, either. He's never met me, never noticed me. I shouldn't interfere. Pushing away his conflicted feelings, Dean nuzzled at Castiel's elbow and felt a jolt like electricity through his body. Castiel jerked his head up and turned his tear-streaked face towards Dean, and he wondered if Castiel had finally felt the connection between them.
Are you alright? He longed to ask. How can I help you?
Maybe it'll be enough for me to be here. I can try. I have to try.
"...you're...um...was it Dean?"
Dean nodded, pleased that Castiel remembered his name, heartened that maybe he'd done the right thing after all by intervening.
Maybe, in some small way, I can be enough for even one person.
"Dean, it's like you're not even trying!" snapped the Commandant angrily. Dean shrugged his front shoulders indifferently.
That's because I'm not even trying.
"If you are not going to take the selection process seriously, you'll be removed from the school."
Why should I bother with the selection process? My rider is already at the school, I know who he is, but he doesn't want me and I have to accept that.
"You know how this goes. One year. If you aren't selected in one full year, you'll have to go home. You've only got one more chance for selection left."
But if I don't at least pretend to care about finding a rider, they'll send me away and I won't be able to help Castiel any longer.
"Singer, am I making any impression on him at all?" Zachariah asked, exasperated.
Maybe that would be for the better. Castiel is with Gordon. He might like me and enjoy my company but he doesn't need me.
Singer snorted and Zachariah sighed.
*Boy, are you going to pretend to care? You think this is what your ma and pa wanted?* Singer paired the words with frustration and disappointment. A year ago, that would have cut Dean to the quick, would have driven him to redouble his efforts, would have spurred him to find any rider who would take him rather than risk disappointing the memory of his family.
That was before he'd met Castiel.
He shrugged again. *If I'm not picked, I can hunt Azazel.*
*You idjit, we talked about this. If you hunt Azazel, he'll kill you.*
*It's not my fault that none of the riders are right,* Dean replied, knowing that Singer was sensitive enough that he'd sense that Dean was holding something back. It didn't matter. Even had Singer not trained Castiel, there was no way that Dean could tell him the truth. *I'll try.*
"Well?" insisted Zachariah. "Singer, is he going to try?"
Agreement that Zachariah could presumably sense filled the air, and Dean repressed a sigh. He'd bought at least one more reprieve before they sent him away.
He'd have that much more time with Castiel.
Dean's heart beat out panic as Castiel's hand passed over the base of his tail again. It felt so damn good, made Dean think so many impossible things about his friend. Just my friend, nothing more, not my rider, not my companion, not my anything. He should jerk away, try to pretend he didn't love the way it felt, but he couldn't bring himself to do so. Arousal shot heat through his mind and he was embarrassed, sure that Castiel could feel his every emotion.
What does he think he's doing? Why is he doing it? I wish I knew what he was thinking. I wish I could tell him not to stop.
Dean pushed the thought away, the moment passed, and Castiel returned to practicing setting up the harness.
The next evening, they met up again, Castiel's cheeks bright with heat, his eyes aglow with it, and the distinct smell of human release lingering in the air.
No amount of trying not to think about what that might mean could keep the beautiful human out of Dean's dreams that night; he woke panting and far too hot, floor of his stable stained with a pool of his release.
I need to stop thinking of him like this. It can never be.
It'll be better for both of us when Zachariah sends me away.
Shock rocked him and he blinked slowly at the Commandant.
"Well, Dean? Are you interested in bonding with Castiel?" Zachariah's voice was thick with doubt., the usual cool morass of colors that were uniquely the Commandant's sickly to Dean's eyes. His expression slipped into shock when Dean nodded enthusiastically. "Really?"
Oh, Maker, yes, last night and this morning weren't a mistake. I didn't misunderstand. This is what I want, Castiel said, and he meant it, he really meant it. He must have been planning this. Why didn't he say anything? Does it matter? I need him. Am I allowed to feel that way? Maybe I'm finally allowed to care for him, maybe he'll finally be free of Gordon. I won't bond anyone else. If I can't be with him, I'll do what I should have done all along, go after Azazel instead of coming to the Citadel.
"Very well. I'll have a talk with Gordon, and you and Castiel should be able to bond tomorrow. However, if I ever have cause to think you made this choice simply to avoid being sent home..." Zachariah trailed off ominously but Dean ignored the vague threat. Zachariah had no idea what he was talking about.
The Commandant left and Dean paced his stall nervously, certain that once things were settled Castiel would come to see him. They could curl up again as they had that morning and lay together and the loneliness that ate through him so often would finally be held at bay. I have Castiel. I never have to be alone again.
Unless something happens to him. Humans are so small, so breakable. I can't let him get hurt. I have to take care of him. He's already been hurt, but he seems less sad than he used to be. And he wants to be with me.
What if he wants to be with me the way I want to be with him?
He probably doesn't.
But now I'll get the chance to find out.
His thoughts went round and round, morning warmed and brightened into afternoon, and he waited impatiently, sick with anticipation.
The thought struck him like a blow from nowhere, screamed into his mind and tore his circling doubts to shreds. A thought suggested that there was no way that Castiel could call to him, even if they had a bond, but it was impossible to credit in the face of the urgency and terror he felt digging into his brain and crackling through his very bones. He'd felt like that once before, when Sammy had called to him as Azazel attacked.
He hadn't been in time then, and Sammy had died.
Dean would never make that mistake again.
Castiel needed him.
Slamming the door of his stall open, he barreled into the hall, letting his instincts draw him down the hallways, taking a turn so quickly he slammed into a wall.
Castiel – Castiel – I'm coming, Maker, I'm coming as fast I can – I just found out I get to have you, I'm not going to lose you now, please be alright, please don't be – don't be – don't be...
Another turn, and Dean took in the scene in an instant: Castiel, his body swirling cool tones, the tangy smell of his blood sickeningly thick in the air; Gordon, almost incandescently hot and suffused with rage, his teeth dripping with red that swirled the same cooling colors as Castiel's body; the hallway deserted, not another person or dragon there to prevent or forestall the inevitable as Gordon moved in for the kill. Fury wiped every thought from Dean's mind and he roared, the mighty sound echoing through the building, and charged. Gordon barely rounded to meet him before Dean was on him. The catharsis of battle kept Dean from thinking. All he had time for was the fight, lunging and dodging and weaving for an opening. All he had time for was the all-consuming thought that whatever happened, Gordon had to be kept away from Castiel. Gordon was larger and stronger than he, but Dean was faster, and the knowledge of Castiel's suffering spurred him on.
Failed you – I failed you – I fail everyone I want to protect – I can't beat Azazel but I can beat Gordon, I know I can – don't die, please don't die, I need you, I need you, I need you...
Dean shrieked in anger, Castiel's voice reaching him faintly, and threw himself into Gordon as hard as he could. Afterwards, he could never say how he ended up atop the larger dragon, his teeth sunk into Gordon's throat. Words reached him from the humans who had at some point arrived, arms held out to try to calm him, but he couldn't hear them over the sound of his own anger and Gordon's distress and fury.
*Dean, stop.* Singer's curt voice won through the cacophony and Dean loosed his bite reluctantly. Gordon sputtered on blood and fell back limp. Sick satisfaction filled Dean's thoughts. I hope he dies. He hurt Castiel. No one gets to hurt Castiel. *I know, Dean. He hurt your rider. No one will blame you. But it's over now.*
Yes. Gordon hurt my rider...my rider...my Castiel...Cas…oh no, is he...? No, no, no, no, no…
Rounding, Dean found Castiel in an instant, nausea wracking him as he saw how cold his colors had grown, saw him slumped against the floor in a pool of chill blood. Carefully, Dean settled to the ground and stretched his head towards Castiel, nudged him as gently as he could. Castiel lay so still Dean was terrified, but the moment they touched Castiel tensed and screamed in pain and Dean felt overwhelmingly guilty.
What can I do, how can I help, how can I fix it, don't die, don't die, please don't leave me, I can't be alone again, Castiel, I can't fail again, don't go...
"Dean..." Castiel reached for him, fingers grasping weakly at his eyebrow, tugging on his whiskers. Please be alright, tell me how to help you, I should have been here sooner, I should have stopped Gordon, I should have rescued you ages ago… "Thank you, Dean..."
Why do I fail everyone I love?
"Come on, Dean, he's waiting for you!"
Castiel's alright, and he wants to see me.
It seemed impossible, but Hannah's words were undeniable. Joy he didn't deserve coursed through him and Dean bolted towards Castiel's room, knocked on the window. The smell of sickness lay thick in the air, but Castiel was alert, if weak, and wanted to see him. It was a dream come true.
"Did Commandant Zachariah speak to you? And are you...? I mean, are we...do you want to?"
Dean could hardly believe it. Castiel was worried that Dean wouldn't want to be bonded. If the situation wasn't so critical he'd have laughed in shock. The distressed look on Castiel's face killed his humor, though. Comforting him, keeping him safe and warm until he healed, was more important than giving voice to Dean's shock that Castiel could possibly think that he was inadequate in anyway. When Dean had given him every reassurance he could think of, Castiel pulled close to him, body warm and comforting against Dean's face.
"I love you, too," Castiel breathed into his ear. Dean froze, breath caught in his throat. He could hardly believe it. "Please stay with me."
Dozing, Dean was only vaguely aware of Castiel returning for the evening. The past year, the past weeks, had been the best of Dean's life. Castiel's family had welcomed Dean so warmly, and he and Castiel had finally reached an understanding. He'd wanted Castiel so long but he'd never dared hope that Castiel wanted him back. Cas did and it was glorious. For once, everything Dean had lost didn't loom so large. Revenge didn't seem so important. He and Castiel were together, truly together, and Dean wouldn't risk that for the world. He'd never take the chance of leaving Castiel alone as Dean had been left alone.
It was impossible to know what the next few days and weeks would bring. A vision flickered in his mind of Castiel, small and broken after Gordon's attack. When they went to war they'd face other dragons, larger and crueler than Gordon, they'd face hunger and sickness, the perils of the mountains, hardships of all sorts.
At least they'd face them together.
Castiel crawled over him, snuggled close, and Dean licked him, tasting the tang of his skin.
Tomorrow everything changes. Anything could happen. What if...
"At least we'll be together," murmured Castiel affectionately. "At least neither of us will ever be alone again."
Sometimes it's like you can read my mind. How do you do that? How did I live without you? I never thought I'd love anyone again.
I've lost everything before, and I can lose everything again, except you.
I can't lose Cas.
An echoing thought answered, if he dies, I'll die. I can't lose Dean.
As depressing as the prospect was, Dean took heart from it. Supposedly impossible, it was only the second time he'd sensed Castiel's thoughts, and Dean was as certain of what he heard this time was he was positive that he'd heard Castiel call for help the day that Gordon attacked him. All dragons and riders shared a bond, but he'd heard of none like theirs.
Because of Castiel, Dean wasn't alone anymore. He couldn't think of anything more important than that.
In this life or after, we'll be together.
I wish he could hear me say I love you.
It's alright. He knows. I know he knows. Sleep well, my beautiful Castiel. No matter what comes, I'll be here to keep you safe.
I won't fail. I won't.
I'll do whatever I must, be whatever I must, to be the dragon that you need – to be your Dean.
A sense of peace suffused Dean as Castiel fell asleep, and Dean joined him in slumber, ready to face any nightmare so long as he could sleep curled up with the human of his dreams.
Author's End Note:
So, a few people asked me for Dean's PoV, so I took a stab at it. I once vowed to myself that I'd never write a "here's the same story from the other PoV!" thing unless I really thought the second PoV had a lot to contribute that wasn't in the original story...I have no idea if that met this requirement but whatever, here it is, and I hope you all enjoyed a glimpse of some of the other end of things.
This story is *finished*. I could conceive of writing a sequel (...or multiple sequels...) at some point in the future, but by "the future" I'm talking a minimum of six months from now, and probably longer. I've got a lot of WIP that I am determined to finish before I play with too much new stuff. (or so I keep saying, sigh).
For my regular readers: don't expect any new updates for a couple weeks, as I will be putting my head down now and focusing on my Rare Pair Big Bang (which, reminder, is an Explicit Dean/Jimmy/Castiel Baseball AU, that will be around 100,000 words long and will be released, along with art, on May 15th, so be on the look out!) Once that's done my plan is to finish the sequel to and then focus on Abnormal until it's done, then probably Halflings, and then probably What Do I Stand For. I'll likely write a few more Writing Prompt Wednesday stories in there but I can't keep having them grow into 40,000 word long fics, lol! :)
As always, for the most up-to-date information on what I'm doing with my writing, or if you just want to get to be friends, follow me on my Tumblr - a href=" "unforth-ninawaters/a.
Thanks for reading, everyone! :)