Title: Second Hand (II in the Second Verse)

Author: bellajayd [xanthos]

Pairing/Character: Dean/Castiel, Jealous!Sam, Ruby

Rating: R

Spoilers: YES.

Disclaimer: Supernatural does not belong to me. Just playing in someone else's sandbox.

Warning: Spoilers up to and including Season 4. Slash and implied UST on Sam's part for Dean.

Beta: Many, many thanks to aisling_door. Who hasn't killed me yet. Baci-Ooglies!![tm]

Notes: This is the second story in the Second Verse. You should read Second Best before this. Anna? What Anna?! That did not happen in this verse. This takes place earlier in the season. This is going AU from the first story on. Comments and constructive criticism very welcome! Flamers will be made fools of . . . by my beta. She's a librarian, be very afraid.

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Sam has noticed many differences in Dean since his return from Hell. Most of these new quirks explain themselves.

Ordering an entire pie at every diner.

The small black Bible that has taken up permanent residence in his leather jacket, and the demon-killing knife tucked into the waistband of his jeans.

Sam understands the magic of pie, faith, and steel.

He is grateful – so very grateful – that Dean was returned to him with even a scrap of his sanity remaining that he wouldn't care if his brother decided to paint the Impala pink and listen to pop music, so long as it helped him keep the demons in his mind at bay. It's the same reason he hasn't tried to stop Dean from his self-imposed mission to drink the nearest liquor store dry. If that's what Dean needs in order to sleep through the night, then Sam can't find it in himself to deny him what comfort he could find.

Sam is lost when it comes to helping his brother.

In an act of desperation, he calls Ruby and goes to meet her while Dean takes a shower.

Weeks have passed and Dean still isn't getting any better.

"Ha! That's cute Sam. Hell isn't like a cold, Dean's not just going to 'get better.' There is no getting over it. Trust me. I've spent a few centuries trying." Ruby's tone is swollen with bitter humor as she nibbles on some fries, "Then again . . . Heaven never staged an intervention for me."

His hand clenches into a bloodless fist at the reference to Castiel. The one who accomplished what Sam could not, the one who saved Dean.

Sam is smart enough to realize that he's not angry at the angel, but rather at himself for not being strong enough to help his brother – he was unable to protect Dean the way that he'd always protected Sam. None of the logic in the world, however, stops resentment from consuming him when he thinks about it.

A stranger had touched Dean intimately, held him close in an unyielding grip and pressed a permanent brand of possession into his purified and perfect flesh.

So, yeah, logic doesn't really help Sam when he thinks about the angel because he chokes on the shame of his greatest personal failures. Logic doesn't halt Dean's downward spiral and neither, it seems, does Heaven.

Sam is at his wits end.

Then, suddenly, it stops.

Dean starts sleeping through the night. When he wakes, his eyes are empty of fear and stress doesn't bracket his mouth. The air of barely leashed violence that had shadowed him since his resurrection is gone. His rough and ragged edges smooth out apparently overnight, leaving in their wake a Dean Winchester who is calm and still.

A Dean Winchester who doesn't drink, flirt, or fuck women. Who doesn't blast music or flinch away from his own reflection.

Who only orders one piece of pie after dinner.

Demons are exorcised quickly and efficiently without the venom of a personal vendetta. Even the pleasure of a hot shower seems to have lost its appeal to Dean; he's in an out of the bathroom in the blink of an eye, coming out fully dressed and ready to clean weapons or research without complaint.

Sam likes having all of the hot water to himself and the luxury of being able to spend a little alone time in the shower, but it's unnerving not to have to fight for the extra five minutes with his brother.

His faith is telling him to accept this for what it is: another miracle that has saved his brother from himself. Winchester intuition, on the other hand, is howling at him that there is something terribly wrong with Dean.

Sam is torn and his fingers have found a new home hovering over Bobby's phone number.

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These days Dean makes sure to firmly tighten whatever scrap of cloth is pretending to be a towel high around his waist before he even leaves the shower let alone the actual bathroom.

Dean has always been comfortable in his own body; the scars and imperfections on it were soothing and familiar. The story of lifetime he could be proud of writ in flesh.

After his stint Down Below he had made it a point to avoid looking at his own reflection. He wasn't afraid of what was missing, new flesh for a new story, but of what was already there. Dean feared the legend that had been engraved on his body by another author.

Castiel's first handprint is boldly emblazoned on his shoulder, faded to dull silver like permanent war paint declaring Dean Winchester as Heaven's Warrior. He wishes he could remember Castiel coming into Hell and hauling him out because it must have been an awesome sight: the hordes quailing in fear before the Holy Tax Accountant.

He wonders what it felt like to have that first hand reach out and touch him, to be reborn.

Nowadays, Dean stares directly at himself in the foggy bathroom mirror. He doesn't dread what he sees anymore, doesn't fear his own reflection. Hell doesn't flash behind his eyes or guilt roil in his belly. Castiel's handprints tell another story now, with new meaning layered upon them.

Despite his best efforts, the tissue thin towel slips from its precarious perch on his hips and Dean makes no move to catch it. He feels no shame in his nudity, no need to hide himself.

Castiel's second handprint is revealed, still tender and new.

Dean feels something at the sight of it. An urge filters through his blood, burning like a good swallow of aged whisky.

He's transported back a week, to the moment when he received the second mark.

Dean was staring into another mirror in another bathroom, mind crumbling under the weight of his guilt and the horror of his actions. He muttered prayers under his breath for God, for anyone to help him because Dean didn't think he could go on like this.

The oldest living Winchester was standing on Earth but the Pit lived behind his eyes.

There was no answer from God, the Devil, or even his brother who is in standing in the parking lot thinking about calling Ruby.

For an angel who claims his purpose is not to perch on Dean's shoulder, Castiel has an impeccable sense of timing. He appeared in the space between the tick-tock of a second.

"Let me help."

A painful sound ripped from his throat, and Dean realized that it his laugh. "How can you help me?"

There was a shifting, a gathering of invisible wings. "I can – "

"What? What can you do?" Dean didn't even have the strength to shout, or the pride to raise his gaze from his hands listlessly gripping the sink as the steam from his shower stifled his breath.

"I have battled through the flames of Hell for you Dean, and pulled you from their bonds. I can do so again. I will free you from the Hell you have fashioned for yourself." Castiel made this utterance with the confidence and faith of a being that had never once faltered or failed. Dean thought that it was this infallible certainty that marked Castiel as inhuman and not his peculiar mannerisms.

"Yeah, well, when you can stop me from feeling let me know." He wanted to hate the angel for nurturing the small seed of hope he'd managed to hold onto. It would only hurt more when reality extinguished it.

"Dean." Castiel was standing behind him with one hand resting over the mark on his shoulder. Dean was about to mouth off because, hey, personal space, when Castiel reached around his waist with his second hand and splayed it over his hip, long fingers trailing down into the valley of his Adam's girdle.

Everything stilled as if the world itself was waiting with bated breath to see what would happen next.

Then Castiel pressed down with both hands and everything exploded.

It was obscene and profane and the most sacred moment that Dean can recall.

Pleasure and pain.

Filth and purity.

Rebirth.

From then on Dean's world is like listening to the piano cover of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Calm and muted.

It's perfect.

That was then, and now Dean is once again standing in front of another mirror staring at the handprints that have been seared into his flesh. Too much time has passed since Castiel last touched him; he can feel emotion bleeding color back into his world.

He places a hand over the second brand and murmurs the name of his faith manifested in human form, "Castiel."

The angel appears in the bathroom with flashing eyes. His presence normally fills the room, but now it is as if he can barely contain his holy form within the vessel. He is shedding energy in roiling waves that lap up against Dean and suck the moisture from his skin like a lover's mouth.

Dean turns to face him, pushing aside slow growing seeds of embarrassment over his nudity.

"What did you do to me?" Both marks are tingling in the presence of their maker.

Castiel doesn't give an inch, "I should ask you that."

"What?"

The holy warrior drops his head in seeming discomfort, "I can feel what you feel," Dean is left staring down hopelessly at a wild tangle of hair, "I've been feeling through you."

"Yeah, well, ever since you touched me I haven't been feeling much at all." A bit of Dean's old vim and vigor creeps back into him.

"Then maybe I've been feeling for you." Castiel's head snaps up, and the force of those borrowed emotions blaze from his divine eyes.

Dean turns away hoping to escape the weight Castiel's stare, but their eyes lock in the mirror and he is left using words to deflect the angel's attention. "What was it like to feel for the first time?"

The angel cocks his head and slowly licks his lips in thought. "Overwhelming." Castiel knows that this word cannot hope to describe what he experiences, what he feels, how his sense of being is forever altered. In moments of private contemplation, he believes that women must undergo the paradigm shift in that single moment when they realize that they carry new life. Even now new emotions well within him, threatening to further loosen his fraying control.

He hopelessly smoothes a hand over the wrinkled lapel of his trench coat momentarily annoyed that it will not lay flat. Using one emotion to distract from another is a something that Castiel has learned to appreciate in these recent days.

Dean observes his actions with a bemused glance. "Uh huh. So what'd you do with all of these feelings?"

An expression of sweet awe moves over Castiel's face, softening his harsh expression. "I ate pie."

Dean laughs and a small smile ekes its way across Castiel's lips. "Yeah. Pie is good, huh."

"It is fading, Dean." Desperate huger lurks in shadowed edges of his voice.

"I know, and just when I was starting to get used to sleeping through the night." Dean can feel a sour puddle of fear collecting in his stomach.

Castiel takes an impossible step closer, eyes burning into Dean's through the mirror. He places one hand on Dean's shoulder and they are pressed back to front. "I can do it again," each word formed by divine lips lands wet and heavy on the nape of his neck.

This, Dean thinks, is what the Serpent sounded like as he tempted Eve. A feeling of calm spreads through him, radiating from the first handprint. "What, you mean hi-jack my feelings?"

"Yes." The angel's second hand is creeping around Dean's waist, over the gentle swell of his hipbone.

"Isn't this gonna get you in trouble or something?" Even now, he would sacrifice himself for another.

"Do you know what I felt from you Dean?" Castiel asks this softly, his tone the afterthought of a rabbit's shadow.

Dean flashes back to what he felt in Hell. He feels ashamed.

"I felt love Dean. In everything you did." Castiel's voice is unwavering as he speaks. "It's what drives you, what motivates you. You are a being made of love, from love, for love – to be loved. It is what makes you worthy of God's forgiveness."

Dean's eyes are wide, pupils blown, and he's panting for air. "That love gives you a nameless power. Even feeling it secondhand, siphoned through my marks on your soul, filled me with a might that I have never known. "

Castiel has crowded nearer and they are plastered together, Dean is shoved against the sink with his forearms resting against the mirror. Each desperate breath he takes mists their reflection. The angel has a hand hovering above his second mark, and Dean is sure he feels lips pressing against the pulse point of his throat.

Dean is trembling, both marks are aching and all he feels is NEED.

"Do it," a barked order from a General to his Lieutenant.

A look of reverence flows over Castiel's face and the moment stretches until Dean is ripe with anticipation.

The angel touches his Father's most beautiful creation, one he has dared to mark as his, and destiny finds a new genesis in their sharing.

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Next Time: Dean and Castiel continue to, ahem, "share." Uriel wonders when Castiel became more badass than him. Dean considers turtlenecks. Ruby wants to hit Sam with a clue by four.

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