And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important?

(- The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint Exupéry)

It looks like endless benevolence has its limits, after all. Angels might be things of inertia but they aren't things of patience and Dean guesses it applies to angel-based gods (God, actually; can't get more monotheist and hardcore conceited than improved Cas) just the same. The door and windows have returned in all their useless glory, like an unreliable comet that has a completely unmeasurable orbit. And it does, of course, have some kind of a point because there's no way he got those back just for waking up so pretty. Still, Dean's not inclined to discover it without his immediate circumstances forcing him to.

He ignores the need to piss and doesn't move a fucking particle of himself off the bed, knowing it would give his bladder stupid ideas. He's not sure what he's trying to accomplish with torturing himself like that but he knows what he's trying to avoid: making any use of the sudden generosity of his loving apocalypse sweetheart. Sudden generosities are the worst (you always gotta pay for them later). Especially when it's the eldritch horror husband to bestow them upon him.

The word still echoes sharply and bitterly in the tiniest crevices of his chest, even though he's got no idea how long has passed since his wedding slash funeral slash conjugal rape. To him, not much. Feels like day two to his brain that still failed to settle down after being divine propofoled straight into fuck knows when. His (his?!) body reminds him that no, it ain't day two. Weeks, it says. If you're that lucky. Might as well be more.

He's never that lucky.

Whatever now lives inside – it hums. Resonates some kind of tranquility within him, but all it does in the end is create a rift between the layers of his consciousness. He's getting stressed about getting de-stressed. So he gets de-stressed, which stresses him. Rinse and repeat, a perpetuum mobile once set in motion, unlikely to ever stop. The gesture makes him think of petting a whimpering dog to soothe it in fear. It all makes his skin crawl: the pity-born mercy, the pecking order position where he's an animal, a trapped, scared one at that. And the awareness of it simply happening—because he shouldn't be hosting any mojo, any sentient unborns in his body—strips away from him the ability to think clear enough. Which fucking sucks because he needs that one a whole fucking lot right now.

There's a knock on the door, the sound itself immediately overriding the alien calmness with a surge of electricity and alertness to the back of his head, where it burns to the point of pain and forgets to cool down. Great, because right next there's his deliberate lack of response being equally deliberately ignored. And then the door opens, the relatively pleasant view of the bland other side unfortunately being ruined by not that pleasant one of Castiel, Castiel's ego, and Castiel's Plan For Today, whatever the fuck it is.

Dean doesn't ask what brings him here. He doesn't give a fuck, lost all and any fucks along with his new flesh's virginity. Doesn't even do as much as to breathe in Castiel's direction. He's way more interested in the wall and all the amazing nothing it has to offer. He doesn't bother to decipher Cas's current expression, not this time. It hardly matches his words. It never matches his actions. And if he came here to fetch him? Well, fuck. He came to fetch him, then. It doesn't matter whether he smiles or frowns doing it, there's just no probability of a good outcome. And since Castiel has a monopoly on miracles now like he's the Monsanto of fate, he can't count on those, either.

"Dean."

Warm, so incredibly warm and sweet and Dean hates it, the weight of his name on Castiel's tongue, always so soft and reverent and kind, until Dean uses the angels' least favorite syllable one time too many or in the least convenient context and the facade cracks and he's reminded what's beneath. Sometimes it's just so easy to get lost and fooled for a moment when the tone wraps around him, ripe with memories of what it meant before, of a world, life and a love lost, gone. Except for, maybe, leftovers of his own, hanging on fine threads of absence of anything else.

Castiel's face blurs in front of his eyes and it's a problem enough that it even landed there. He must have looked up instinctively. Because he was called. Called in the way that used to give him comfort and confidence once.

But the bell doesn't mean food anymore. Dean blinks his misery away—there's never been a benefit from showing vulnerability, not for him.

Castiel comes nearer and nearer and, only at the edge of the bed, he stops; his concerned, soft eyes weighing Dean in carefully. Like he's having a Good Day and wants to be Considerate or something.

"You got it all wrong," Cas says and Dean has no fucking clue what that is about. But if Cas thinks Dean's gonna ask, he's in for a big surprise.

"Okay," Dean comments nicely, dryly. "I got it all wrong. Oops."

"About the dogs," Castiel explains. "It's not how you think it was."

"Cas." Dean sighs tiredly because no, no, no, not another wild fucking parable, no.

"It's vital."

"It's vital that you stay out of my head, you nasty Peeping Tom asshole."

"You were crying," Castiel tries, placating and contrite. "I simply knew you would be too recalcitrant to tell me why."

Ah, okay. And for the record, he wasn't crying. His heart was just losing focus by trying to revive and relive something very dead.

"You're a fucking joke, you know that?" Dean huffs.

Castiel grimaces for a really small moment, a glimpse behind the curtain of anger, before he tames his face back into that " oh, I'm here to help you, I'm your family, sweetie" warmth of goddamn Hestia and all the hearths ever put into flame to worship her name. Dean wonders if Cas ate her, too.

Castiel's smile widens a bit. If he has any insight on being a joke or devouring leftover ancient deities recently, he keeps it to himself.

What he does do is offer an answer for the question Dean didn't ask.

"It's very sad you feel so hurt by a threat that is, essentially, just perceived and not real," Castiel says, his tone making it feel more like a preamble to something both dangerous and stupid than anything on the sadness palette or even anything vaguely related.

He perches on the bed. Dean stiffens and gravitates towards the wall, away from Cas as much as he can without actually moving from his spot. His internal don't sit on the bed don't sit on the bed don't sit on the bed can be heard from space even if his thoughts aren't being actively invigilated right now. Castiel, on his part, neither leans in nor retracts. After Alastair, Dean well knows that this nonaction is an action. A statement which Dean can read just fine. "But I have found something wonderful in your heart as well. Hope-giving," Cas adds, voice shaking minutely. Whatever he saw there has to be of value since it has him so elated he has to keep it clipped. Not good. At least not for Dean.

"So, was it lighter than a feather? Can I enter the underworld now, Barky? Can I get a driving license? Some ice cream?"

"You already have, Kore," Castiel laughs. "Enjoy your new kingdom."

"That's not the reference I was making."

"No," Cas admits softly, tenderness of it spreading over his face in a way Dean remembers so well and can't fucking take now. "This one is mine. And," he adds, seeing that Dean is about to say something on the subject because that's right he damn is now that Castiel's at it, "before you open your mouth, Dean, do remember the word rape originally refers to abduction."

"It didn't when you fucked me," Dean mutters.

"In fact," Castiel continues, ignoring Dean's words again because he somehow never quite catches them out when Dean reminds him about his body being Cas's free to use tantrum hole now and supposedly forever, "not even that applies to you. You chose to come with me."

"It's not called choosing when your leverage is the only imperative, Cas."

"Are you sure that was your only imperative, Dean?" Cas counters, clearly amused with something (thing being Dean, probably).

"I'm fairly fucking sure she got to see her mother every once in awhile at the very least," Dean hisses, throwing Castiel's input to the trash where it fucking belongs.

"Ah," Castiel nods and laughs as if he was giving Dean a point or something. "Well, your mother is dead."

Of course he then takes that point back. Dean can't keep those. Because if he's right then Cas is wrong, which is, duh, wrong. And, for the same fucking record, he is wrong. He is fucking, fucking wrong.

"And this is such an obstacle to your omnipotence why?" Dean prods, hoping to get a reaction.

"Considering how little you truly know about your mother, perhaps it would much be better for you if she stayed that way."

Okay, not that one. Not that reaction.

Dean imagines spitting in his face, over and over and again but puts that nice thought away. There's relatively safe shit talking and then there's biologically contaminating the God with disrespect in physical form and no, that wouldn't be safe at all. There are people in this house and it's his last job to protect at least them if he can't much help anybody else.

"You aren't the one to make that call," he decides to comment because no, it's not possible to leave it all that alone. Cas could, at the fucking least, stop his stupid fuck ass from judging the dead. Some sense of boundaries is required, after all.

"I'm afraid I am," Castiel states, jovial.

And yeah, never had a thing for other people's boundaries, that guy. Now he has that thing even less, fuck given so scarcely it's would be the new smallest particle known to man if any scientist had the proper tools to measure and the balls to simply approach it.

On the first, brief glance Cas's new smile is a bit patronizing but far from mocking (yet?). Deeper down, Dean sees, it bears something small but worse in it, still just a point on the horizon of horror but definitely coming. Like the other shoe, like a consequence. Dean simply doesn't know of what. But his skin, run over with chills so bad it gained its own sentience, is sure and screaming. Whatever it is, it will come here. It will come here. Something in him knows, the exact same way horses know of storms to inevitably roll in like power mad kings and blindly destroy instead of owning.

Combined with the fact that Castiel is still sitting on the bed, veiled with that tender yet secretly toothful smile of his, it makes his blood run cold. And run fucking backwards because it too wants to flee. Away from the smiling thing on the bed, from the ball of tar and fire which has sworn to be Dean's last and only and intends to keep this promise in ways Dean can't honestly imagine and comprehend (again, yet).

Even Alastair's power and reach had limits, despite of creativity being boundless. Even Alastair knew he'd have to let him go eventually. Even Alastair offered an out, offered growth, regardless of its direction. Castiel doesn't. He only will grant Dean the unbecoming, hoping Dean will eventually come to him, clad in his most apologetic, sparkling and tender gaze, in the most ornate dress, his body wet and waiting, just for him, entirely for him, and he will ask for it nicely.

So far, right now…no?

Because so far, right now, every second of Cas there, on that bed, is the evening when he spread Dean's legs and ripped the last bit of Dean's body away from sovereignty. Every breath he doesn't take (because what's the point of appeasing Dean now, right?), drags him back to when the ring scoured and drowned and remade him into a doll on shiny strings, with tarnished insides, with numb, knifeless, porcelain hands, with a few tears void of life or meaning.

Cas's baobab is heavy on his chest now, so heavy it aches as he tries to breathe right, crushed with old, old branches, cut with sharp splinters. He's too aware of the ring just like that, of his tiny, tiny gold shackle which threatens to bind him to Castiel's mouth, to his yearning lap and its desires at any moment. His soul rattles with fear, with pain, and he prays to nowhere, to nothing, to the oldest bones, to the end of ends, hoping Castiel doesn't hear it now, still too busy with internally jacking off to whatever treasure he supposedly found in Dean's head.

The thing does. It feels Dean's fear, understands it, and it's scared. It calls to him. Please say daddy won't hurt you, mommy. Please say daddy is good. Please say he's good. It cries and it's the weeping of a lost, hopeless child, Dean can't find anything monstrous in its misery, though he tries, wants to so fucking bad. He aches. He remembers crying like that, too. On parking lots, in motel rooms, in front of his mother's photo, in John's multitudes of absence. To no one because there was no one. It sobs and sobs, his body echoes with it, and Dean's not surprised, not able to blame; a child, no matter how many rows of teeth it grows, has always the same eyes, eyes that see through things, see the elephant-eating boa constrictor beneath the mirage of a hat, beneath the so called matters of consequence and perpetual pardoning of old rats.

He remembers, sharply and painfully, Sam. Small, vulnerable, a crying child he often didn't know how to comfort deep and real enough to make his tear-stained smiles last. He remembers him now - small, vulnerable, a faint figure burrowed in sheets, his breathing, his warm skin, the only proofs of his existence here, combined with, but in reality mostly only parallel to his. He remembers, most of all, how bad he fucked up. As a brother. As a parent. Because in the end, that's his past, his truth. And this monster kid here - maybe it will rip him apart, to unrecognizable pieces, and eat the world one day but now, right fucking now, its crying is ringing in Dean's ears, in his ribs, his heart, and it feels just wrong, everything in him is desperate to make it stop, make it better, just fix it, because he's more attuned to kids' pain than he ever was to his own, and it's louder than his better judgment, than the baobabs he hears spreading and growing, than the background static noise of Cas's "not" rewiring power flowing in him, hitting him hard into the core of his consciousness anytime his thoughts attempt to shut the fuck up and rest for a moment.

So even though he wants to be deaf, he can't. Inconspicuously, he lifts his hand to take a strand of hair away from his face and deliberately lets it rest on his stomach when the task is done. He tries to think we're gonna be okay, kid, daddy ain't your problem and he can fuck off right now, just watch. Dean doesn't bother with correcting it about his debatable motherhood status, that wouldn't exactly help. And technically, he's been Sam's mother in every possible way, down to giving him life (but, like, with hellhounds instead of a c-section), so what difference can it make now? None? Less? He needs a solution not a discussion on semantics, you don't debate those with children when you want them calm and quiet. In reality, he's the only adult in the room, he's gonna fucking act like it.

Just goddamn watch and learn. This is how you get daddy to fuck off back into his shitty lane.

Dean slowly and gradually pulls a friendly tone and a matching expression right out of his ass as he keeps all his positivity there, the only place where it can still kinda fit.

"Hey, Cas? You think you could make the call to get off that fucking bed, too? I kinda need to take a leak and you're in my way." Castiel just raises his eyebrows curiously as if there was anything to be shit damn curious about here. No, Cas. There's not. Does he fucking think this is a challenge or what? Dean rolls his eyes with an obscene dosage of drama but doesn't think it's enough to give proper effect yet. "Oh for crying out loud," he groans. "Move, I'm pregnant."

That does get Castiel going. Going oh so bad and alight in newfound kindness he even courteously nods and gestures at the door, the "i-am-a-creep-nice-guy-and-i-have-chivalry-for-breathing-containers" douchebag fuck that he is. The curiosity in his eyes grows into scrutiny that Dean really, really doesn't like.

Looks like he's in for a comment, he thinks with bitter resignation as he gets off the (vacant! wow!) bed.

"Go wash yourself while you're at it," Cas decides because yikes, things have conditions here, of course they do, even pissing does, why wouldn't it.

He's not pristine fresh and his boobs probably aren't sparkly and shiny, his entire box of bones kind of slowly floating towards the edge of uncomfortably void of hygiene, which definitely isn't his thing but direct contact with the body he's actively trying to avoid in terms of any consideration and acknowledgment isn't his thing either. And then there's also pure simple spite. Spite beats soap.

"What for? Do you want to mop the floors with me later or what?"

"Just do it."

"It's not a Nike commercial, Cas. I don't feel like it," he shrugs, already at the door.

"Dean," Cas urges, soft but making no place for debate. "Do you want to go on your own accord or do I have to move your legs for you?"

"No," Dean debates anyway.

"Take a bath or I will come there and wash you myself, as thoroughly as I please," Castiel comments evenly.

To Dean it sounds kinda along the lines of "I haven't fucked you in a bathtub yet, but I'm happy to try" and no, simply no.

Threat beats spite. Soap beats threat, Castiel wins. Even facing the door, all senses away from him, Dean can feel his small, satisfied smile all over his back. He cans down the heebie-jeebies it gives him. It's not a particularly good moment to experience them.

"Put your stupid kinks in a tiny box and ship it to Alaska, Cas," he sighs.

"Until I do, meet me and my tiny box of kinks in the kitchen when you're done, Dean," Castiel declares, deciding the conversation is finished.

No, it's not.

"Why."

"For lunch," Cas answers tiredly.

"I'm having pregger lady morning sickness, I can't."

"It's much past morning."

"Oh, but I will be having it in the kitchen regardless," Dean assures. "All these scents will surely have me faint," he drawls, getting some twisted sense of fun he knows he will later deeply regret, but shit, he just can't help it. "I will stay in my sweet abode, alone, with my good old barbiturates, some silence will do me plenty of good. I think I'm having a migraine too? You think I could be having a migraine, Cas?"

"Dean," it's strained now, a whiff of wind before a wall of rain hits you in the face kinda thing. Dean can't help but wonder if it's "next time" time yet.

"Yes, my lawfully wed kaiju?"

"Bathtub. Kitchen. Now," and each word is more clipped.

Dean knows it's fucked and stupid, but the millisecond of being truly empowered by putting Cas off his balance still sounds worth whatever pile of teeth he'll have to spit out later. He turns around with over-acted lightness and eyes wide open in bombshell level candy surprise.

"But my abode?" he asks innocently, marveling at the silly, stupid ire in Castiel's glare, the flashes of a grimace on his lips before he wipes it off and collects himself.

"Darling, do you want to have your kitchen sickness now?" Castiel retaliates pleasantly, looks like he collected himself enough to play along, putting Dean on the most direct road to damage, which is knowledge Dean possesses but ignores.

"Will that excuse me for seventy years of coming back to my well being on a shezlong two centuries and a continent away?"

"Let's find out," Cas smiles, the most charming thing his face ever contorted into, proof number nine billion of shit being so, so wrong and alieny in him these days.

First hit of pain has Dean on his knees so fast he didn't think to let go of the door handle. His stomach hurts as it were going to launch itself into space and explode; like he's been force-fed a gallon of bad milk. His head follows close in intensity, shooting fireworks in front of his eyes, a grand fucking celebration of bad milk astral era or some shit. Later came very soon, then.

"That angel-cancer again?" he grits, pretty sure he'll go blind and choke on his own stomach within the next few minutes.

It calls him again, distressed, confused. But at least not hurt, which is something. The whole ethical dilemma of monsterness is a problem for future him, if there even is a future him to tackle that.

"No," Castiel offers with cold, impersonal courtesy. "It's just your predicament, worth a few years in your abode. Ready for another handful?"

"Go to hell."

Next surge, much stronger than the first. Dean groans and lets go of the handle, breathing so hard and sharp the still air of the room is cutting his nostrils. Castiel crouches to meet him eye level. "I will, when it's time to collect you, dove," he says gently with the same sweet insulting tone and blesses him with wave three. Dean falls on his back, can't move, and knows if his stomach decides to puke now, he's done for. "What's the matter, Dean? We're not even in double digits yet. There's still a long way to seven decades."

"Just kill me and go fuck a parrot zoo."

Wave four.

"I know your limitations, we're not there yet." If Cas in any way commented birdfucking, Dean didn't hear it because he's screaming. "Now," Castiel says, louder and clearer and the pain slowly recedes back to three, two, where it stays. "Will you crawl to the bath or do you need me to carry you there?"

Oh, so it's not kindness, it's just a necessity to be able to get answers. Slowly, Dean scoops himself back into a standing pile of stupid. Because that sure was stupid.

"I'll walk," he says with leftovers of dignity.

He straightens himself proudly and leaves the room with the confident step of a million-making super model, shuts the door with force of a thunder, very close to Castiel's smug dickwad face.

When Cas can no longer see him, Deans sags and uses the wall for support to make it to the bathroom, counting every step.

He snorts. Honestly, what else is there for him to do now? Nothing. He stops in his limping bathroom journey and takes a sweet moment savoring what he did, internal earthquake be damned.

"You shoulda seen daddy's face," he whispers. "Looked like a fucking clown that got shit in his margarita."

what's a margarita?

Asking the right questions from the start, this one. Dean walks on, proud.