And so this one ends as well. Yet the whole darn verse just keeps on going and going, there is a sequel to this one, Deify (shameless plug peoples) and the full master list is now on my profile, fortunately there is a plan, and an end. Unforunately it would seem that this verse has taken over my life. Thanks again go out to readers and reviewers and alerters!

Yeah

I'm beaten down again, I belong to them
Beaten down again, I've failed you
I'm weaker now my friend, I belong to them
Beaten down again, I've failed you

By the time Dean comes out of the house, Castiel is sat in the dirt outside staring up at the stars while his simple blue jacket flaps loosely behind him, doing nothing to keep him warm against a chill wind he does not really feel. The hex bag Dean gave him is still in the left pocket, it feels wrong, feels dirty in such close proximity to him, makes his stolen skin creep, crawling in a way that should no longer be strange to him, not after two weeks of carrying the bag, but it does, he hates it, does not believe he needs it, has told Dean as much, told Dean that he can take care of himself, does not need the hex bag to hide himself. The hunter insisted and Castiel, still afraid, still worried that a misstep will land him with no where to go and no one to turn to, agrees to carry it. Knows that it gives Dean peace of mind for him to carry it and at the moment Castiel needs Dean, needs that solidity and constant of one who has experienced torture similar to his own.

At first neither speaks, neither are the type to talk about what happened in the kitchen, the uncharacteristic burst of anger and frustration, and neither wants to discuss the implications there, because what that implies, the possibilities there, the doors that it opens that both know will never be closed, it scares them. There is a lot to say though, so many platitudes and promises to make things right, so many questions about how the other is coping, assurances and cares, circumstances being what they are, but just as they are not the sort to talk about emotional outbursts, Castiel not understanding them and Dean being less than comfortable with them, the angel even goes so far as to believe that the hunter views them as something of a weakness, is so desperate not to display them and yet, cannot help but show what he has been taught. He has been taught fear, he has been taught despair and anxiety, loathing and distaste, he has learnt nothing good. Except, perhaps, kindness. He has experienced that at the hands of these brothers, has witnessed the way that they treat others, friends, allies, strangers.

It is Castiel who breaks the silence first, not because he wants to talk about what was done to him, not even because he needs to, though some humans, he knows, would say that he should. He talks because the sound of a voice, even his own, makes he feel like he is not alone, talks because he knows that it will eventually draw a response from Dean beyond the crunch of the man joining him on the ground, and at the moment, any form of response will do. Any voice, any word, even his own, to distract him from the mutterings on the edge of his awareness, threats, pleas, calls, endless promises of safety and protection that he knows are made to be broken. There is so much that he can say, so much that should be said, but all he can find is three words.

"I am sorry." Beside him, in the dirt, he hears Dean shift, hears the dull clink of a bottle and a gruff noise of dismissal, even though neither is exactly certain what is being apologised for. Not sure if it is for being captured, for not fighting off the archangel, for putting Dean in this position where he has to care for a broken angel, for his outburst in the kitchen or for any one of a number of other little things during the last two weeks, for everything that has happened. Yet Dean seems to have dismissed it as no apology necessary, takes a swig from the bottle of whatever it is that he has brought out with him, waits silently for Castiel to continue, his silence the only indication that he is willing to listen and Castiel knows that even if Dean sometimes seems to have the attention span of a gnat, he is actually far better at listening than he lets on, has to be in order to do what he does.

After several more moments where the only sound is that of their breathing and the night, Castiel continues and Dean still listens in silence. He begins with the archangel, is almost calm, almost completely cool and collected, so like his old emotionless self that for moment he can fool himself into believing he is alright and there is little indication there of what is to come. He is still calm when he talks of the fight, of the blows rained upon him by brother and sister alike, the white of their fury and the agony they felt at his betrayal, the cold words of condemnation from Zachariah, the harsh announcement of his punishment, his initial punishment. It is not until he speaks of Jimmy Novak that his voice cracks, his stoic mask wavers and he does not dare to look at Dean, does not want to look and see sympathy there, see pity, or perhaps condemnation, so he continues on and his voice trembles slightly as he tells of the days in the cell, the hours of simply hanging there and he feels cool glass pressed into his hands as Dean offers him a drink. Castiel accepts it, not because he thinks that it will help him or affect him, but because he knows that this is just the way that Dean is, that the liquid that burns and numbs as he swallows it is just Dean's way of showing support.

This, this is nothing, however, to the way that he breaks when he talks of Jael, of the younger angel's betrayal of him to Zachariah the first time that he was called back, the first time that Castiel realised just how far he had slipped. Jael who seemed to find such pleasure in hurting him. As he speaks he gets to his feet, paces, restless, frustrated, can tell Dean what was done to him, but cannot say how it made, makes, him feel, was taught nothing but fear and anger, how to feel them, not how to express them, repress them, prevent them from taking over his existence as they have done. He understands now, understands how a man can be driven to become what he despised in life, cannot fathom how Dean lasted as long as he did, when Castiel was so ready to break so soon.

The bottle is almost dry now, and Castiel is almost at the end of his tether. This is all so much, too much, the emotions and the torture, Dean's quiet understanding and everything that bubbles so close to the surface and he wants to scream, scream at the Heavens, scream at Hell, at Lucifer, at Zachariah, at his Father. To ask why, to get answers, to break free of the restraints of this damaged mortal body and unleash the might of his true voice, his true form, to find out why his grace will not work as is should.

Dean watches him, silent, knows that if he speaks, if he opens his mouth to try and placate, to try and calm, Castiel, something in him will snap. So he watches and he listens, watches as the angel paces, can see that he is upset, listens to the rise and fall of his voice, the way that it cracks and breaks, sometimes a yell, more often a whisper, sees tears that the angel cannot acknowledge begin to form and still he keeps his distance because what more can he do? Castiel still shrinks away from any form of touch and Dean is so far from dealing with his time in Hell to be able to help another deal with their own torture. He can watch and he can listen and he is not surprised when Castiel turns to him for answers that both know he will not be able to give.

"Why?" Castiel demands, face contorted in an agony that is too stark, too new, an unknown expression on the face that used to be impassive, where expression seemed foreign and experimental. "What could they gain from this? What could it prove? What does it achieve, Dean?" He cannot answer, does not have one and he watches as Castiel demands and rages and waits until rage gives way to broken sobs, a sound that he has heard one too many times in those dreams of when Castiel was being tortured, sounds he does not ever want to hear again. When the angel sinks to his knees on the hard ground, Dean finally moves closer, kneels in the dirt beside his damaged angel and places a hesitant hand on his shoulder, to let Castiel know that he is there, that he understands all the pain and the doubt and the fear, the self loathing and the recriminations, the what ifs and the whys and he is helpless to stop this pain, helpless to aid him and he hates that it is this way, hates that he can do nothing while Castiel shatters before him and all for something that Dean wanted. When there is silence, when the sobs stop and they are once more surrounded by the sounds of their breathing and the night, they sit together, listening to nothing, and though it is far from comfortable and they are far from alright, Dean knows for the first time he has someone who can understand and who will not judge, and though all that makes things somehow worse, it gives him the tiniest glimmer of hope that maybe, possibly, he really will be alright, they both will, that maybe they can help to heal each other and that the three of them, Castiel, Sam and Dean, can win this war together.

The sound of heavy wings and an unfamiliar voice behind them shatters their fragile peace. "Castiel."

Or maybe not.

I'm beaten down again, I belong to them
Beaten down again, I've failed you
I'm weaker now my friend, I belong to them
Beaten down again, I've failed you

I'm beaten down
I'm beaten down
I'm beaten down
I'm beaten down

Yeah

Reviews are little Castiels that fly above our heads and mini Deans under the bed. A small Sam in hand and a tiny John by the chair, a review that can show how much you care.

Artemis