I just had to write some more for 5X13. Where WAS the comfort? I intended to put a little more in this story but got kind of wrapped up in the angst. There are some great follow-ups to 5X13 out there already...but my muse insisted, so here it is.
Disclaimer: I make no money. Not even on this story. Kripke has all the best toys, and I just play with them.
JUST AN EARTH-BOUND MISFIT, I
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night...
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies Tongue-tied and twisted Just an earth-bound misfit, I
-Pink Floyd "Learning to Fly"
He is flying. The two human souls he carries with him are wrapped in what's left of his waning grace, and he holds them together as they move impossibly fast through time. He shelters them from the solar winds, from the oblivion and destruction leeching at him as he plummets without north-south or up-down rationality, and his very being threatens to come apart.
He wakes up alone. He is in an unfamiliar place; feels chained to the earth, and tethered within the much abused body that houses him. Even the limited range of human movement is beyond his capacity at the moment, to say nothing of angelic travel. He tries to reach his grace, and has to clench his teeth at the near physical pain of the desperate scrabble for healing that is met only with wisps of power so thin that they only serve to make his head spin from the wasted effort. He is alone, powerless, useless.
One time, in Rome, he came to a smooth landing on a moving chariot. Once, he touched down on a buoy in the middle of the ocean during a storm. And once, he touched down precisely in even the sulphurous depths of Hell.
Now, he's lying in a bed, on his side, with no memory of how he came to be here except... Except a landing that viciously jarred his fragile human container. He tastes blood and feels pain and pressure in places he know he shouldn't. Internal organs aren't supposed to be painful. Turning his head causes too much vertigo, so he closes his eyes and forgets the notion of examining his surroundings visually. He senses no immediate danger, as he lies listening to his own shuddering breaths. His breaths rattle in and out, bringing on a fit of painful wracking coughs, and he tastes, warm coppery fluid.
Miserably, he lurches uncoordinated limbs toward the edge of the bed, and a wastebasket. He grimaces as the fit dies down and he stares dizzily into the container. Fortunately, it was within reach, and at the very least, he will not have to spend any time lying in a pool of his own vomit and blood. Something is ridiculously familiar about the shallow depths of this container...
"You with me Cas?..."
"That's it...easy man...You look like shit."
Dean was here. Brought him here...
His hand blindly finds an already damp cloth and he wipes his mouth. The taste can only be described as vile, but he does not possess the necessary strength to do anything about that just now. Instead, he curls in on himself and prays devoutly for unconsciousness.
He is flying. He is passing through wind and rain and the eyes of storms. He glides through clouds, and solid matter, and his brethren sing powerfully beside him; inside him, and all around.
He wakes up alone; weighted down with pain and fatigue. The feeling in his body is something akin to having had all of his internal organs removed and replaced with heavy, freezing stones. A groan escapes his lips, and startles him in the silence. He needs to get out of this place. He has to find Dean. He has to find Sam. He pushes himself up on an elbow, and is alarmed to find that the heaviness in the rest of his body is countered by an equally disorienting lightness in his head. Dizzy, he forces himself the rest of the way to a sitting position.
One time, Castiel lead the garrison in a battle that lasted twelve straight days and nights. Once, he single-handedly tore down the stone walls of a citadel to get to a demon inside. And once, he stood at the epicentre of an earthquake and held his ground.
He finds his feet uncertainly, and waits for his addled brain to quiet so he can focus on John and Mary Winchester, so he can find Dean, so he can find Sam, so he can get out of this place. So he can stop Anna.
He is flying. He is passing through matter and energy, and within seconds he is stumbling to his knees on hard cement. It's daylight, and he is in the middle of a crowded sidewalk. On observing his dishevelled appearance, people generally give him a wide berth. He feels a familiar bubble at the back of his throat and the airway constricts as he fights back a cough, eyes watering. Where is he? Where are the Winchesters?
He catches the sympathetic eye of a pretty blonde woman, and her husband wraps his arm more firmly around her, as he steers her carefully around the angel leaning precariously against the storefront. John and Mary Winchester, he realizes. They're still alive. He doesn't see or sense Anna's presence. Although...there is something...he stumbles painfully to his feet and trails the couple. He senses something familiar lingering on them...a presence...John Winchester, sensing the trench coated figure weaving clumsily behind them like a drunk, turns and gives him a pointed look, that says as kindly as possible, to keep his distance or risk a fight.
Michael. Michael has been here...has been in their minds...
His legs betray him, and he falls to the ground, catching himself with his hands, skinning them. He has to leave this time. He has to find Sam and Dean.
In the middle of the sidewalk, he closes his eyes and gathers himself for the long leap forward.
He is flying. He is hurtling through time and space and tearing through dimensions and spaces between time and atoms, beyond a human understanding. He feels his grace rip and warp and the tattered edges of his being flutter insanely in the transcendental winds He can feel his hold on his form, on his reality of his very existence, slipping... And then he is standing there, confronted with his own pale face. He blinks rapidly at the dark haired man that has become his physical body, confused as to how he can be outside that form looking at it and inside it simultaneously...
Then he is falling backwards, and Sam is catching him, and Dean appears miraculously beside him.
"Cas!" steadying hands grab his arm and hold him upright, "The sunnuva bitch made it!"
He looks down at his hand and realizes he is in fact in his own body and surprisingly whole.
"I did..." he mutters all wonder and light-headedness, "I'm very surprised."
Darkness rushes up to meet him.
He is flying. Above him, Michael's wings are spread impossibly wide, and it creates a shadow that falls over him. Below him, Anna moves with her typical grace. His brethren sing and chorus joyfully in his ears. He notices that he is doing something strange...he is flapping his wings, like a bird. He is beating them rhythmically, and above him, Michael does the same, and below him, Anna does as well. But this isn't how it's supposed to be, this isn't how they move. This isn't how slow they move...like large, cumbersome birds. Michael abruptly changes his course and begins to climb upwards towards an impossibly large sun. Instead of heat though, it is radiating cold, and burning with silvery glacial tendrils of flame, hung there like a disc in the atmosphere, instead of beyond the earth, in its proper place where his Father set it. Castiel struggles to keep up with his older brother, and below him Anna beats her wings and passes him, rushing toward Michael and the silver sun. As he climbs, the cold of the strange sun intensifies. Anna surpasses even Michael now, flying higher and higher. Her wings are beautiful, shining in the light, and even Michael pauses to watch her climb.
Suddenly, her beautiful wings burst into icy, silver flames, and she screams as they twist and warp, and then she is falling, plummeting past him.
Michael looks down at him, and shakes his head.
The silver sun intensifies, freezes him to the core. The atmosphere thins out, and he can't get enough air. He tastes blood.
"Damnit Cas! Breathe!"
Strong hands haul him upright and his lungs and his chest ache as he fights for breath. A violent cough assaults his frame, but he is prevented from crumpling forward. He tastes blood, and something else more acrid. The unpleasant sensation on his skin has to be what cold feels like. Intellectually, he knows this, but oh how he didn't realize what the feeling really meant until now, until he is at its mercy. His body shudders and betrays him in a bitter rush escaping from his lips that brings release, though not relief. His stomach protests violently, cramping, as he is held away from what his body is desperately voiding.
"Holy shit..." someone mutters beside him, "Easy..."
A hand falls gently massaging over the back of his neck, as he coughs, and his body allows him a respite.
The voice is familiar; expectant.
He struggles to open his eyes, groaning weakly as the light pours into his senses.
Everything swims as he is tilted back some and rested against something firm.
"I think he's going into shock," comes another voice out of his hazy surroundings.
He's so cold. The glacial sun that killed Anna is freezing him. He doesn't think he's flying anymore, but that doesn't stop him from feeling like he's falling.
"Michael..." he rasps weakly. His brother...maybe his brother is still here...can still save him. He doesn't want to freeze. He doesn't want to burst into silver flames and fall to his death. "Brother, please..."
The voice that answers isn't his brother.
"It's OK, Cas...You're safe. Those dicks aren't here."
He doesn't understand what that means, or how these words are supposed to reassure him, but the tone is soothing, and the falling sensation tapers off as cozy weight settles over him. A warm hand rests lightly over his racing pulse.
"Its gonna be OK. I've got you."
He shivers and swallows past the constriction in his throat. His insides are aching, and he abandons the laborious task of trying to fully open his eyes.
"That's it..." Something soft and worn wipes gently at his chin, cleaning away the coppery, unpleasant moisture there, "Just breathe."
Sensation fades, and blessedly, pain fades with it.
He is flying. Up, and up, he races skyward out of the pit, out of darkness.
He opens his eyes. He is lying on his side, swathed in warm blankets. The cold is gone, and the pain is beginning to recede to a tolerable level.
"Dean?" he ventures. His voice sounds like gravel over sandpaper.
The eldest Winchester appears and sits on the empty bed opposite him, "Hey. You with us?"
He can hear the shower running in the background: Sam.
"Yes." He winces. Talking is not the best idea he's discovering.
Dean shakes his head.
"No more playing Doc Brown for you."
Castiel swallows and squints up at the human, trying to read the man, "Who is...?"
"Never mind, Cas."
Dean shifts uncomfortably, then after a pause murmurs, "Anna's dead."
Castiel's mind jumps back to the dream with the silver sun. She fell.
"Michael showed up," he continues cautiously, watching the angel's reaction, "turned on the pyrotechnics."
Once he called these beings family. Once he fought beside them, suffered losses with them, gloried in victories, flew with them effortlessly, faster than thought.
" 'Went through the usual fate/destiny spiel, and gave me n' Sammy the return ticket."
She is dead, his sister. And now his brother is bent on destroying the oh so fragile family he's made for himself on earth. His Father is nowhere to be found. Heaven hates him, hunts him, seeks his demise. One of his only friends and allies is the vessel of Lucifer himself. The Righteous Man is burdened, doubting, fighting hopelessly against impossible odds. And he, Castiel, can barely complete a simple task; can barely bend time, or travel any distance without the smallest wind or solar flare blowing him apart.
Dean clears his throat, "He's wrong though: about all this fate-destiny shit."
It's a statement, but he looks to Castiel for confirmation.
Dean pauses uncertainly, lowering his voice, "He is, right?"
Castiel feels Sam's eyes on him again, asking if Anna's right, asking if his destruction would save humanity. He hesitated. Hesitates again.
Dean clenches his jaw, looks down at his hands.
"He's wrong," the angel whispers.
Green eyes flicker back to his face, a wry smile lighting them, and Dean nods, in world-weary understanding. Castiel can feel his eyes growing heavier, as mind seeks to escape the insistent ache of his body.
"Get some sleep, Cas."
He is flying. His feet leave the precipice understanding what he leaves behind, what he risks. But out here in the shadow, the soul he gripped tight and brought forth from the flames, the soul of the world, the soul of broken, beautiful humanity beckons.
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