Disclaimer: we all know they're not mine... one day...
Okay, I know this has already been done before. Probably quite a few times by now. But still, my first attempt at a one-shot, and I just couldn't resist this idea that jumped into my head right about when Cas started coughing up blood. Poor Castiel!! And Jesus, how much more uncaring could Dean have been?! He's supposed to care about Castiel, not just dump him in a motel room and leave him. And Sam, shame on you for not objecting to that. You're both lucky I don't come down there and beat you up myself for leaving the gorgeous Castiel alone in a motel room unconscious and chucking up blood in a completely different time zone, no matter what mess you had got into...
Of course, I realize these are fictional characters. Ahem.
Still, on with the one-shot! Its basically just a little bit to stick on the end of the episode. And its the beginning of half term, so I might as well do something to take my mind of the homework sitting on my desk. :D
Warning: contains blood (of course) and NO slash.
When Castiel woke, his head was pounding, his stomach heaving, and his chest throbbing painfully. Fumbling memories of the previous day drifted through the fog in his mind, disjointed and unravelled into meaningless phrases and expressions, like a film cut in the wrong order. He'd been to the past... was he still there? He had a vauge notion of hands grabbing him, welcoming him back. Or was that just some kind of hallucination of some kind? He lay still for a few minutes more, trying to deal with the thundering headache, feeling the creeping warmth of blood seeping from his nose. Was that what had woken him? With a huge effort, he forced his eyes open and focussed blearily on the ceiling above him.
Slanting orange light reached across it from the window, blazing white headlights occasionally speeding past and making the shadows twist and bend. Castiel watched the dancing, flashing movement until it began to hurt his eyes, and then turned his head heavily to the side. The curtains had been dragged half-heartedly shut, leaving a large gap in the centre through which the lights of the city peeped. The room was dull, panited in shades of grey and blue but for the strip of gold leading across the floor from the window to the tip of Castiel's sleeve. Beneath the window, Dean Winchester lay sprawled over the sofa of the motel room, one arm crooked across his eyes. The other had fallen off the cushions at some point and his bent fingers were resting on the floor, the neck of a bottle held loosely between them. Amber liquid, dark as ink in the blackness, shimmering gently within. Castiel stared at him for a few seconds more, taking in his haggard, exhausted form.
His stomach suddenly lurched and he let out a rough moan as a bitter taste invaded his mouth. He pushed himself onto his side, curling his arms around himself, trying to breathe. The heave came again, and a splutter burst past his clenched lips. Blood sprayed out, flicking over the bed. Castiel's throat stung and before he could pull himself together a dry sob shook his chest. He froze, shocked. He'd never cried before. Hesitantly, he reached out to his vessel's consciousness, hovering in the back of his mind. Jimmy was in agony, a terrible pain that bled through into Castiel as soon as they touched. He winced sharply, and then felt that uncomfortable bitterness force itself into his throat once more. This time, he knew he wasn't going to be able to keep it down. His arms trembling, he eased himself upright and then, head spinning, vision blotted with dark spots, he rose to his feet. The whole world tilted maliciously beneath him and he staggered to one side, struggling to see straight. He could just make out a door opposite him. A bathroom.
Swaying unsteadily, his knees buckling every other step, he struggled over to the door. He fell heavily against it and it dropped open. He stumbled through and landed heavily on his knees against the bath, his hands clutching desperately at the edge of the tub. He couldn't breathe. He choked, the sound a grating bark, and blood burst from his lips and trickled from the corner of his mouth in a thick, stomach-turning stream. His human body reflex told him to swallow, and before he could stop himself he had. He gagged, his stomach seething, and his vision blacked out. With a desperate lunge, he launched himself towards the sink at caught at its porcelin lip with wiry fingers. He dragged himself up and rested his chest heavily on the edge. He felt as if his organs were trying to force themselves up his throat one after the other and suffocate him. He gasped and retched, and then it started coming out and his conscious mind flinched away from the experience.
Sam opened his eyes with a dull wince as a crash brought him out of his dreamless sleep. He was lying on his front, his face burried in the stale-smelling motel pillows of the bed closest to the door. Dean's bed, he knew, but they had put Castiel on his and Dean hadn't wanted to go to sleep when Sam had finally let the alcohol push him into a blissful coma. It was probably Dean who had caused the crash - broken something while dancing drunkenly to the AC/DC music he had managed to download to Sam's I-pod. Sam rose ungracefully to his hands and knees with a tired grunt and cast his gaze around the room. To his surprise, Dean was asleep on the sofa across the room, still clutching his bottle. Sam blinked in confusion and turned his gaze to the digital clock beside his bed.
Michael? Lucifer? he thought groggily, looking around once more. But he couldn't see any dark, silent figure waiting in the shadows, no hidden menace ready to throw another speech at him about how it was only a matter of time. And there was another thing that wasn't there, he realized. Castiel was gone from the bed Sam had last seen him on. Maybe he had recovered and left already. Sam flinched as another crash reached his ears. On the sofa, Dean jerked slightly, muttered something, and rolled over onto his side. Sam's eyes turned to the dark bathroom, the door of which was hanging open.
Amazed it had taken him so long to notice, he scrambled off the bed and made his way towards the bathroom, rubbing a hand across his face. He reached it and stopped, suddenly at a loss. Castiel expressed no hatred towards him, no desire to see Lucifer's demon-blooded vessel gasp his last breath. In fact, over the last few days he had become scarily like Dean; refusing to admit that things might be going from bad to worse, ignoring the option of just killing Sam before he could do anything evil. But still... Castiel was Dean's angel. It sounded childish to put it like that, but it was true. Castiel stood at Dean's shoulder, looked to Dean for plans. Sam glanced over at his brother.
"Dean?" he hissed, his voice small and thin.
Dean grumbled something inaudiable and twisted his face into the arm of the sofa. Sam bit his lip, turning his gaze back to the door. He inched forwards slightly, peering into the bathroom.
Castiel was draped over the sink, his whole body shaking. His shoulders heaved slightly and he coughed wetly, a dull spattering sound reaching Sam's ears. Sam swallowed hard, gripping the door knob tightly, ready to slam it shut should Castiel whip around and glare at him, furious at the intrusion... but Castiel didn't look like he was going to be doing much of anything any time soon. His white-knuckled hands clung to the sink, his forehead pressed against the mirror as he spat weakly into the bowl. Suddenly cursing himself for being such a wimp, Sam cleared his throat softly. Castiel didn't seem to notice. His laboured panting sent a silvery mist rushing across the mirror, spreading and vanishing in seconds. Sam wet his lips, then opened his mouth to call out. Before a sound could pass his lips, Castiel's legs abruptly gave way beneath him and he sank towards the floor. His vice-like grip on the sink flopping lax.
Sam jerked forwards, his heart lurching in surprise, and managed to snatch his arms under the angel's before he hit the floor. Castiel was light - Sam knew that - but now his limbs felt brittle as bird bones. Suddenly fearful, Sam lowered the angel carefully to the ground and leant back against the bath tub, his feet braced against the opposite wall of the tiny room, Castiel held gently against him. His fear faded a little as he took in the sound of the angel's heavy, rasping breathing.
"You okay, Cas?" he asked breathlessly, relaxing his hold a little. "Castiel?"
Castiel moaned and then abruptly twisted to one side and retched. Sam froze, his own stomach clenching, but all that emerged from Castiel's pale lips was a short stream of blood mixed with saliva. The angel coughed again, the blood dripping onto Sam's shirt. Then he fell limp once more, dropping back against Sam's chest. Sam caught at his shoulders to hold him upright, eased him cautiously back against the bath tub so that the angel was slumped beside him.
"Castiel?" he called softly, rocking up onto his knees and leaning forwards. "Hey, Cas, you hear me?"
Castiel nodded tiredly and his eyes flickered open, glazed and dim. His chin was covered with blood, blood which had trickled down his neck and soaked into his shirt collar. Sam felt another thrill of fear, but pushed it under control. This was an angel, he reminded himself. Angels healed fast. He squeezed Castiel's arm slightly, trying to get the angel to focus on him, but Castiel's eyes remained terrifyingly blank.
"Hey, man, come on," he urged. "You okay? You want me to get Dean?"
Castiel shut his eyes tightly in a long blink, and then slowly shook his head. "No... I feel... better now," he mumbled.
Sam's eyebrows jumped. "You sure about that? You don't look much better."
Castiel finally focussed on him, his eyes still a little misted but narrowed. "I am alright," he insisted, pushing Sam's hands down with fumbling hands. As soon as Sam released his grip, the angel instantly began to slip towards the ground again. Sam grabbed him, pulled him up once more.
"Yeah, I can see that," he said, trying to smile.
He looked around, looking for some way to help, and his eyes fell on the stack of towels beside the door. He leant over to take one, then shuffled forwards. He dabbed at Castiel's bloodied neck and chin. The angel's eyebrows furrowed slightly, but he didn't try to stop him. Maybe he didn't have the energy.
"How do you stand it?" he muttered at last after a few minutes of silence.
Sam glanced up, arching one eyebrow questioningly. "It?"
"This," Castiel said, gesturing to himself with a wave of one trembling hand. "All the... complications."
Sam blinked, and then shook his head. "Comes with the job description, I guess. You just stick it out until it gets better."
"And if it doesn't?"
Sam finished wiping the blood away and lowered his hands, his eyes on the towel rather than Castiel. This time the angel stayed upright, leaning back against the bath, dishevelled and weary. Sam raised his shoulders in a small shrug.
"If you think like that, it never will," he said. "I mean, me and Dean... we just have to keep each other going. If we don't stop, we don't have to think about how everything's gone to hell. If we don't stop, we can believe that there's something we can do to make a difference."
Castiel sighed quietly. "The more I learn," he said slowly, "The more I'm beginning to think..."
He paused, and Sam looked up, meeting his gaze at last. Castiel blinked at him, his lips parted as words teetered on his tongue. He took a breath, shaking his head slightly.
"That... that being human is more of a curse than a blessing," he said at last, avoiding Sam's eyes. "That your race is wraught with emotions it cannot control."
Sam took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then he sank back against the bath beside the angel once more, his own heart heavy in his chest. When an angel started to doubt them, things were really starting to fall apart. The more he thought about it, the more Castiel's words seemed all too true for comfort. They were well and truly stuck in a devestating situation. If they said yes, the world would be torn apart in an angelic war. If they said no, the world would die slowly over years of demons spreading over it, tainting every innocent and pure thing until the world was as good as hell. They weren't invincible, and in the war that was looming up Sam very much doubted that he and Dean would survive long, especially considering the bullseye targets above their heads. Their only hope was a miracle, and miracles just didn't happen to Winchesters.
His eyes moved to the doorway, where he could just see Dean's boot, caked with mud, hanging off the arm of the sofa. Faced with the sight of his sprawling, drunk-into-a-coma brother, he felt a strange kind of comfort. The sight took him back to years and years earlier, when he used to come home late to find Dean slouching on the sofa with a beer in his hand, singing loudly and out of tune. Drunk because he had got so bored waiting for Sam to get back, still cooped up in the motel because he hadn't been able to leave without knowing he was home safe.
It had never been about winning.
When their father had gone on his obsessive quest to avenge their mother's death, it had been not simply to kill a demon but to stop himself from going insane, to ground himself in reality, to fight against anything and everything so that he would never again not know what could be lurking around the corner. When John Winchester died in a hospital ER, Sam and Dean hadn't kept fighting because they wanted to. It was because if they hadn't, they would have hated themselves. Because they no longer had a life to go back to. A combination of luck, ruthlessness and raw desperation had led to a bullet in the yellow-eyed demon's head. And after that... well, there was always a fight left to join.
Like fighting for Dean's soul.
Like fighting for sanity once he failed.
Like fighting the evil that lingered in the basement of an abandoned house.
Not because they wanted to; because they had to. Because they had forgotten how to live a life in which they had to worry about morgages or managers.
This was another battle they had to fight. They had been sucked into it, and there was no way out. So there was only one thing left to do... to keep fighting.
But how to put that into words Castiel would understand?
Sam wet his lips, glanced over at the angel. "Maybe we are," he said slowly. "But what're you gonna do about it?"
Castiel looked up at him, his brow furrowing. "What?"
"Yeah, its tough. And yeah, our lives pretty much add up to crap. But there are people out there who are, you know, happy. I've walked past maternity wards in hospitals and seen mothers holding newborn babies, seen the smiles on their faces. I've been that happy once. Its gotta count for something, right?"
Castiel blinked slowly. "I too have seen... happiness. But it can be so fleeting."
"But those little moments are enough to show us what things could be like if we find a way through this," Sam added. "I mean, as long as there's that chance, shouldn't we fight for it?"
Castiel stared at him for a moment, his eyes narrowed, as if trying to pick out a lie in his words. After a few seconds of silence, he wiped his sleeve across his mouth, pushing away the last few flecks of blood which rested on his lips. He uncurled slowly, snatching at the radiator to pull himself up to his feet. He groaned and clawed his hand through his hair.
"I feel better now," he said quietly. "Much better, in fact. Thank you for helping me, Sam." He paused, his eyes flickering over to the Winchester. "You speak with wisdom I should have known."
Sam smiled. "It's okay. You sure you're okay to-"
He broke off with a start as Castiel abruptly vanished from sight, melting into the air like a ghost. He sat still for a few moments, still holding onto the bloodied towel. Then he peeled himself away from the floor, rose to his feet, throwing the towel into the bath. He made his way back into the other room, stiffling a yawn. On the sofa, Dean flinched slightly as the bathroom door swung shut.
"S'mmy?" he mumbled, his voice dry and gravelly. "You okay?"
"Yeah. He took off."
"Uh?" Dean rolled over, peering blearily around the room. "Oh," he said. Then he shut his eyes and went back to sleep.
Sam grinned and crossed to his bed, falling onto the pillows without bothering to pull the sheets back. His eyes aching with tiredness, his last glimpse of the world before he dropped into darkness was the blazing numbers on his digital clock.
Very random, and I reckon I went off on a very strange tangent there.... thanks for reading! Reviews are very welcome.