Title: World Tumbling Down
Characters: Dean and Castiel, Sam
Pairing: Dean/Castiel
Rating: R
Warnings: Graphic descriptions of injury. Bring a trashcan if you have a weak stomach and strong imagination.
Word Count: 2667
Notes: THANK YOU! to c00kie for the beta and handholding, and 9_of_clubs for the encouragement. Title from Within Temptation's "Our Farewell".
Summary: Lucifer always got his way, in the end.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. It all belongs to Kripke and CW.

World Tumbling Down

It was over.

It was all over.

But it was never meant to be like this. Not this way. Not with the world in tatters.

The angel turns his head aside to avoid being totally blinded, stumbling across the uneven ground as the light begins to slowly dwindle.

The shockwave spreads outwards, flinging away everything from it in a scorching storm of dust and gravelly grit as the earth quakes and groans.

He is too far to protect them. Why is he too far? Why now of all times in Creation? Why had he even agreed to this? He never should have...never never never.

Castiel barely notices Sam's scream of denial as Dean's face contorts into an expression of surprise. That lithe muscled figure falls ungracefully to the ground amid the sound of rising wind and Lucifer's laughter, victorious in defeat. All Castiel can think in those moments before the end is a long silent scream of no, sprinting forward toward the blinding light that marks the forced return of Lucifer into his prison, the words he hears ringing like demented bells in his ears and the taste of ashy defeat in his mouth. It cannot be...

The explosion tears through the air and throws him to the ground, stunning him for a mere instant before Castiel picks himself up from the ground and continues. Above it all Lucifer's bitter laugh rings, bitter yet triumphant in terrifying madness and rage. Castiel heeds it not— Lucifer's power is spent. Spent on a final act of revenge just as the shockwave began.

A vengeance Castiel is terrified may have been all too successful.

The continuing temblors make the going difficult in the eerie half-light from the reforming seal; no longer quite blinding, but making the trip treacherous in the long shadows and harsh light. It is of no concern to Castiel, though his arms and hands are torn and scraped and a finger or two are at an odd angle, his knees bruised and aching terribly. He blinks the blood out of his eyes after a particularly nasty fall and wild roll across the ground; he has more important things to worry about than these petty injuries, and Dean will surely need all the care he can give.

After a time that seems an eternity he reaches the spot where Dean has been flung; Sam lies a few meters away. A distant part of him notes that Sam, though unconscious is still mostly whole— Lucifer's anger must've just missed him. A small bit of relief at that goes through him that is instantly shrivelled when he drops down heavily by Dean's side.

Dean Winchester lies limp, broken on the ground. The dark blond hair Castiel loves to run his fingers through after Dean comes fresh from a shower is singed and burnt, caked and matted with blood and black-grey dust. Numerous gashes and wounds litter his body, blood running sluggishly, clotting and drying in the dust covering him. A long slash runs across his chest, red, ugly. Scratches mar that beloved face, and a long streak of drying blood runs down its side from an ear.

Castiel sucks in a deep breath, summoning all his Grace, all of his power that he can bring to bear and desperately praying for more, even though he knows it is futile. His Father no longer hears any of His children, angelic or human.

The angel gathers Dean into his arms, cradling him with infinite care not to jostle mangled limbs overmuch, shielding him from the light that waxes and wanes as Lucifer struggles, screaming in desperation to escape.

Blue eyes close in concentration, lips set and thin as Castiel concentrates and funnels all he has into sustaining Dean's life while he heals him. Castiel does his best, retreating into detached coolness, shutting out the sound of Lucifer's impotent promises of vengeance, shutting out iCas/i, the howling, raging part of him that is already beginning to shatter into mindless grief. He barely registers Sam's slow, torturous crawl with his remaining arm across the blackened, cracked ground, wheezing in the choking air to collapse next to them, lying still except to cough up light pink froth. An artery here, a vein there; a slow bleed forming in the brain where Dean hit the ground head first: Castiel sends his power tearing after each and every hurt, soothing, healing, as time fades into insignificance. He spends his strength recklessly, seeking out the places where the damage is great, mending them as fast as he can, all the while jealously guarding and coaxing the waning flame that is Dean's life-force.

He is very deliberately ignoring the fact that Dean Winchester's wounds are most certainly mortal, that Dean is very literally broken in two. Lucifer's last deadly burst of power sliced into his abdomen just above the pelvis. The shockwave that sent Dean flying like a child's toy has worsened the damage, the force of it tearing the wound wide apart— Dean's lower half hangs from his torso by a thick cord of flesh and skin. The only reason Dean has not bled out fully before is that the same burst of power that cut him in half charred and cauterised the edges of the wound, just enough to keep him from bleeding freely. That, and Dean's indomitable will to live, which is fading fast, as quickly as the blood and fluid that flows from the reopened wound and deep burns.

Castiel knows it is not enough, that even were he at full strength, he would have found it difficult to heal such injuries to another being outside of himself on his own, not to mention ones wrought with the malice of a seraph's curse, and tether the soul to its shell at the same time; that despite all his efforts Dean's life is flickering and fading beyond his reach. A frustrated scream tears from him, as detachment shatters and he summons strength from reserves he had not realised he possessed and feeds the flame of Dean's life with his own. Every nerve, every sense is heightened, tensed.

The angel's eyes blink open at a light touch on his thigh. Hazel-green eyes meet blue, their sparkle dull in the unsteady light from Lucifer's infernal prison. Dean is lucid, however, and the affection and relief in his eyes make Castiel feel as though sky and ground have suddenly reversed themselves. He curls a free hand around Dean's left bicep, perhaps the only place left mostly untouched by injury.

His throat tightens as Dean's mouth shapes Sammy? and he quells the pang of hurt that surges in his chest at that, because Dean's life, death, beyond and in-between has always been about his brother, the other half of his fatally entwined soul; Dean would not be Dean without his Sam. Sam seems to know his brother wants him, because he reaches out with his long arm and steadies himself on Castiel's shoulder, pulling himself upright, gasping, face scrunched in pain: Castiel watches, growing increasingly alarmed as Sam coughs harder and blood trickles from a corner of his mouth. Sam's lips are faintly blue and growing darker. He is obviously hurt more than Castiel suspected, but Dean—Castiel cannot save them both, and though it would pain him greatly to lose Sam, who has become a dear friend, he cannot lose Dean, not while he can still do—

Dean manages a weak shadow of his usual smile for his little brother, who has tears running down his face, gasping as he struggles to breathe. Dean's own breaths are shallow, a bare rise and fall of his chest. His skin is bloodless, white eggshell porcelain, the freckles livid. The brothers share one of their silent looks, those that say nothing and everything important; Sam whispers for Dean's ears alone, harsh words of grief and fear and worry and love, and Castiel looks away and tries not to hear; there is no room for him in that, Dean's oldest and strongest bond, and he would never dream of intruding on its sacredness.

Another touch and Castiel turns back, to a meaningful look on Dean's face. Sam is faced away from them both, shoulders shaking, his silence broken by liquid-sounding coughs. Castiel sucks in a breath, shaking his head frantically. Dean cannot be expecting him to do this, he simply cannot; cannot be asking him to give up on him, to stop trying to save him, to stop trying to save the one being he loveslovesloves above all others, the man he betrayed his kind for, the one he has sacrificed all for—

He shuts his eyes. He will not look, will not accede. He will not let his world, the one he has dreamed and made for himself and Dean come tumbling down. Not after all the pain and blood and tears shed. Anger stirs the energy he has left; it swirls faster and surrounds Dean's life-force, strengthening and fanning its fire in a desperate dance. He will keep doing so even if it kills him, because life without Dean is unimagineable—

"Cas", so soft it nearly goes unheard is his undoing. Castiel opens his eyes. Dean is looking back at him, that pleading, commanding, stubborn look on his face etched in pain, so familiar, the green room in Heaven where the late, unlamented Zachariah tried his trickery to suborn Dean's will, and countless other occasions since. Another whisper of "Cas" and the words, mouthed with great effort: "Stop. Hurts. Help Sam."

Castiel can barely see now for tears. He does not realise it, but a low keening starts deep in his chest, a piteous sound as he trembles and rocks slightly back and forth. Castiel cannot believe, refuses to accept he is losing Dean, right now, in this manner. Dean, who taught him to live, to doubt and feel and question and all the little and great things of human life; Dean, who he loves with all his being, who he raised from perdition, fought with, argued with, screamed at, scolded over his eating habits, kissed and made love with all over this land in so many ways and times and places: Dean who he is losing now and forever to possible oblivion and an uncertain fate. The Heaven he knew is devastated, as is Hell and God has forsaken His Creation and made no other provision, and it is all too soon, too soon, they should've had had more time before this...

His world is breaking apart, the blocks falling hissing rattling, crumbling powdered ash and stone, vanishing into the ephemeral dust.

Dean is only just hanging on now, burning gaze fixed on Castiel. Dean is waiting for Castiel's answer.

A harsh sob, a fervent kiss, warm chapped lips to cold, a hot tear falls where the kiss still tingles; and Dean feels Castiel's power slowly withdraw.

Castiel could not deny Dean was a lost cause, and Cas could never ever deny Dean anything for long. Even death.

Light flares, a searing glare. The seal, this time unbreakable and a true binding is about to fix permanently into place. The noise is terrible and Sam collapses, stunned. Castiel just avoids it, clinging fiercely to Dean, covering him with his body. He looks down into Dean's face and sees a brilliant, tender smile—it's his smile, the one that Dean gives him and only him, catches a miraculously distinct "Take care", while his eyes and expressive face say love you and sorry and a million other emotions he has no name for and Dean could never say—

As the light dies, finally, so does Dean Winchester's own light flicker, fade, and go out. His face is content, the lingering trace of a smile at the corners of the slack mouth.

The last block comes crashing down and his dreams, their dreams are ended.

Castiel slumps backward, his arms still holding a Dean grown heavier in death. His future is as bleak and featureless as the grey skies above him, an eternity without Dean. Without love or joy. He feels tears slip down the sides of his face, over the temples; his body bruised, aching, hurting everywhere, the sheer defeat and the overwhelming grief he dares not examine lest it crush him now.

Castiel turns towards the still unconscious Sam. Sam must be seen to, and Castiel extends a flow of healing energy to stabilise him and begin repairing the internal damage to his lungs and organs. Sam is hurt, but he will live, Castiel will make sure of it. He will fulfil Dean's last request as faithfully as he is able. Sam will never want for the care Dean asked for him, as long as he lives, which will be very long. And after Sam's own passing—Castiel will go on and on, until death becomes a blessing never to be received.

Time kills mortal memory. No one now living besides he and Sam remember Dean Winchester as he was, his beauty of form and soul. The story of Dean and Sam Winchester and how they saved the world will fade into myth and legends and fragmented stories by a fire and be eventually lost. But Castiel will remember when Sam forgets, and forget Sam will, even though he struggles not to— forgetting is the way of mortals and their memories. It is Castiel's joy and his burden of sorrow, that he will remember Dean as he was, his memory always fresh. When no one else is left and Castiel is the last creature on Earth, he will still remember that he loves Dean, and he will remember how Dean was lost, and always the memory of what was. Now. Forever.

It is this that decides him. Dean would not grudge him this, and Sam will understand—Castiel is sure that Sam will, even if it will take much time to accept.

Lucifer's malice has dissisipated with his sealing and Dean's death, and only lingering traces of it remain. Castiel banishes those traces, and swiftly fixes Dean's body, erasing outward traces of the horrible wounds it suffered, restoring its familiar beauty, making it whole for the second time in his life. The internals are more troublesome, but he will make do and adjust; there will be time enough later to fix those, time bought with Dean's blood and life. Restoration is a painstaking process, and Castiel wants to make sure he has every exact detail right, drawing on his memories of Dean. Every scar, every mark, every freckle he has known and cherished and loved.

When it is done, he pauses, gathering the last of his faltering strength. Emotion and grief have carried him so far, but the high is dropping and he, bloodied, broken in more ways than easily seen is beginning to feel exhaustion as he has never felt it before in all his millennia of life. Silently thanking the spirit of Jimmy Novak, wherever he may be now, Castiel leaves his old vessel behind, incinerating it with a thought as he leaves, and enters the body of Dean Winchester as the ashes blow away on the wind.

Castiel stands up in Dean's body, familiar and yet not, seeing Dean's fingers (not his, not yet Castiel's, perhaps never), stretched before him as a part of himself. He will have all of eternity to get intimately acquainted with Dean's body from the inside, though there is little he does not already know. He stretches his wings, and no one is there to see as a pair of shadowy wings, there and yet not, flare and settle.

Castiel bends over, picks up Sam as gently as a mother a baby— or an elder brother his younger sibling. The angel adjusts his hold on his charge and stretches his wings. A soft fluttering beat and the spot they stand on is empty.

Far above the ashes, amidst grey haze and cloud wrack, the sun is rising. Day has returned.