Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Title belongs to T.S. Eliot.
And The Dead Tree Gives No Shelter
No matter how many times she sees it, the bruises standing out starkly against his pale skin cause her heart to ache. She sits on the edge of the hospital bed, her thigh pressed up against his, his warmth reassuring her just as much as the rise and fall of his chest. She takes his hand in hers and brings her face to his, studying the broken skin and dark circles, before her lips descend gently to his. The faint trace of blood she tastes grants her a bitter sense of déjà vu, when she whispers her love in his ear; her tears are halted by the overwhelming sense of not being alone. Castiel steps into her line of vision on the other side of the bed, his expression blank when her bloodshot eyes briefly meet his.
"I am sorry I didn't see this coming." He offers, something to break the silence. She doesn't look away from Dean and Castiel looks towards the heavens in exasperation; he needs Dean to end this, to end the apocalypse, and to do that, he also needs the sources of Dean's strength, especially the one sitting next to him. He weighs his words heavily, unsure of how much to reveal. Her pain is as raw as her anger and both pervade the tension in the room, cutting through to his soul.
"We need Dean to stop Lucifer. He is the only one who can."
"Why him?" She asks, not taking her eyes off the unconscious man in the bed. She doesn't miss the hesitation before she gets an answer.
"Because he was the one to start this…and it is written, that the first seal shall be broken when a righteous man spills blood in Hell." as he recites the words, he thinks of Alastair taunting Dean with them, throwing them and his father in his face.
"As he breaks, so shall it break." Aidan whispers, recalling the memories she stole form the ancient vampire regarding the Seals. When he hears her words, Castiel turns to her, his face questioning.
"Does he know?" She asks as the angel walks further into the room to stand next to her and Dean.
"Yes." His voice is low, gentle as he stares at the broken man.
"He is strong enough to do this…he just doesn't know it yet." She says, meeting and holding the angel's gaze. Her eyes don't hold the malice he saw when they met in Bobby's house; instead they are oddly neutral, almost searching. His breath, the breath of his host, catches in his throat at the darkness in her eyes, eerily calming. He tries to peer into her mind, to find the thoughts that accompany the strange look she's giving him but he doesn't get far. A look of revelation crosses her features and her gaze turns icy once more, Castiel realizing her intentions a moment too late, his efforts to block her from his mind in vain.
"You should really start questioning the source of your orders." Aidan can't help but sneer at the angel, watching his clear blue eyes turn stormy as he realizes what she knows, and how she knows it. His mouth sets into a frown and she thinks he might be feeling anger for the first time in a long time.
"It is not my place to question my orders, I-"
"Need to start thinking for yourself. And you need to start questioning these orders you're getting." She cuts him off, rising from her perch on the bed, taking a step towards him, "Unless they come direct from your God, you owe it to yourself and to humanity to question them. I think that after everything that's come to light, He'd understand." A moment of silence passes between them, neither willing to back down.
"I have to have faith that these are His orders. Without that I have nothing." Castiel says, taking a step towards her, anger blemishing his expression.
"We can't afford for you to go on faith. How do you know you can trust your superiors? How many of them did Uriel get to?" Aidan questions, her stance defiant and unyielding.
"You sound like Anna." He says after another moment of silence and watches as she takes a step back, watches the pain his words unintentionally inflict mar her beauty, watches as the strength drains like the colour from her face until nothing but insecurity and anger remain. Another new emotion grips his soul; regret. He remains quiet as she composes herself, eventually bringing her eyes up to meet his again.
"I'm going to pretend you never said that. I'm going to go get a coffee and hopefully, when I come back, you aren't here." Before he can say anything else the door is closing behind her, leaving him alone with his thoughts. He sighs and lowers himself into the chair next to the bed, all thoughts of an apology vacating his mind when Dean stirs beside him.
"Are you alright?"
"No thanks to you."
The angel is gone when she returns, just like she asked. Dean is awake, fresh tears drying on his bruised skin; his eyes darting up to met hers when he hears the door open. He looks away just as quickly and Aidan can sense the shame he feels for his responsibility in freeing Lucifer. She quietly circles the bed to perch by his side, places her coffee on the table next to him. He finally meets her gaze again when she takes his hand in hers, her fingers gently massaging the skin, trying to lend some sort of assurance. He intertwines his finger with hers, holding both of her hands in his.
"I'm sorry." His voice is coarse and broken.
"You didn't know. You have nothing to apologize for, Dean."
"I broke the first Seal." His voice breaks again and fresh tears fall silently from his eyes.
"Do you know how many souls do exactly what you did? All of them eventually." She leans in, holding his face in her hands, willing him to understand, the strength in her darks eyes lending him calm. She lowers her lips to his, gently as not to hurt him.
"Castiel told you?" Dean asks, surprised.
"He did. He also told me that you're going to be the one to end this. I believe he's right."
Dean snorts his disbelief before speaking, "I can't do it." He's avoiding her gaze again.
"Yes, you can. And you're going to. And I'll be there every step." Dean's protests are cut off by the hard tone she uses, her eyes hard and serious. He watches her for another second, secretly allowing himself to believe her, even if only for a brief moment. He swallows and pushes that belief down, the Winchester mask back in place just as Sam opens the door, but not before Aidan notices. A small smile graces her lips before she excuses herself, allowing the brothers a few minutes alone. The moment the vampire is out the door, the youngest Winchester starts.
"Dean, what the hell happened?" Sam's expression is worried, although patronizing at the same time. Dean hates it.
"Cas needed some help. Job didn't quite go as planned." The older brother answers, his chin stuck out in defiance, arms crossed over his chest despite his aching body.
"Why did you agree to it?!" Sam is pacing now, trying to make him see reason.
"They needed help. I was the best man for the job."
"No Dean, they were just using you. You of all people shouldn't have been torturing Alastair." Sam stops when he realizes what he's just said. Dean's eyes are as cold as ever.
"Why not Sam? Because I'm good at it? I did what needed to be done." His words are a growl, daring Sam to continue.
"Yeah, bang up job you did. If I hadn't been there, you'd be dead. Again." Sam misses the flicker of pain that crosses his brother's face, followed by a newfound resolve.
"If it hadn't been for Uriel, Alastair wouldn't have gotten out of that devils trap! And you are not supposed to be using your creepy demon powers! Which you obviously have been if you were strong enough to kill Alastair. You practice every night? Or just the nights you're not screwing the teacher?" Dean's words come out like venom, intended to maximize the damage, but Sam just brushes them off like so many times before.
"I'm trying to save us all. What have you done?" Sam asks, the final nail in this conversational coffin. Both brothers sit in silence, neither wanting to continue and unwilling to back down. After a moment, Dean runs a hand over his face before trusting himself to speak again, "Can you go and see when I can get out of here?"
"Sure." Sam nods, truce temporarily in place, and exits the room, joining Aidan at the nurse's station. The young nurse behind the counter smiles nervously at the youngest Winchester, running a hand through her hair.
"They won't tell me anything." She says.
"I'm his brother; he wants to know when he can go home." Sam demands, not in any mood for flirting or manners in general. The nurse scowls before composing herself and looking up his file on the computer.
"You might want to stay away from Ruby for a while; she seems to be clouding your judgement." Aidan says evenly, her warning not missing its intended target.
"You too? Stay out of it." He says, his eyes angry.
"We'd like to keep him for 24 hours for observation; he can go tomorrow once the doctor has been by." The nurse informs then, trying to break the sudden tension.
"I'll be back then." Sam says, taking a step closer to Aidan, staring her down, "Don't ever tell me what to do again."
"Or what?" Aidan asks, cocking her head to the side, daring him. He remembers her own demon blood coursing through her veins, another chosen one of Azazel.
"We'll find out who's stronger. Back off." With the last warning barked out, Sam turns on his heel and leaves the hospital. Aidan sighs, smiling an apology at the nurse and turns back towards Dean's room. Her smile fades when she sees him, standing in the doorway, the frown on his face telling her that he's been there for the last few minutes. She averts her eyes to the floor while she walks to him, not missing the glare she's getting.
"I don't need you fighting my battles." He says once she gets to the door, she crosses her arms across her chest in defiant response. He knows she won't back down from this, and he appreciates her help, even if he doesn't want to tell her that. He looks to the floor, bottom lip in his teeth, debating with himself before explaining, "I don't want him trying to hurt you, I can't trust him anymore and I…I don't know what he'll do." Aidan remains quiet while she ushers her lover back to his bed, wondering how much of her powers she should reveal to him. When he's back in bed, staring at her, she knows she can't hide anything from him; they need to be honest, open and trusting if they intend to win this.
"Something besides the demon power is clouding his judgement. I don't know what it is; he psychic powers are strong enough now to shield him from me. I suspect that Castiel knows. But you don't need to worry about your brother hurting me; he's not strong enough yet. He just thinks he is." She says, fiddling nervously with the sheet on his bed.
"What are you saying?"
"When I touched you…in Hell…it was like a dam broke. I knew then what Azazel had done, what I had done to get there, what I can do. There was nothing gradual, no getting stronger like with Sam. It was just all…there." She looks into his eyes, scared of what she'll find there. Instead of anger or fear, there is understanding and curiosity. His hand slips over hers.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I was scared of how you'd react. But with the way things are going, I think you need to know."
"With this war, we're going to need all the help we can get."
A/N: Sorry it took so freaking long! I have bits and pieces written here and there, I think they're going to match the finale well, even if it was unintended. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it, please review! Your feedback helps me decide where to go with this! Thanks so much for reading! Cheers!