Title: We Will Work with Each Other, We Will Work Side by Side
Author: Maychorian
Characters: Castiel, Dean, Sam
Category: Gen, Hurt/Comfort, Angst
Rating: PG
Spoilers: 5.13
Summary: Castiel is dizzy, and frustrated, and annoyed, and he has something to say.
Word Count: 1800
Disclaimer: This is my Father's world, but it's Kripke's playground.
Author's Note: Dang it, I got a whole bunch of ANGST in my H/C. ::kicks the ground:: This was supposed to be a fluff piece, but nooooooo. I also do not understand why it insisted on being in present tense, but there it is. Title from "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love". Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. I'm working a lot on my Big Bang.

We Will Work with Each Other, We Will Work Side by Side

Being ill is extremely unpleasant. Somehow Castiel has never realized that before. It's different when it's happening to you.

Waking is almost as terrifying as falling unconscious. To move in and out of darkness, nothingness, without conscious thought and against one's will... It is one of the most frightening experiences Castiel has ever had, worse than facing an archangel, worse even than realizing that he is completely alone with all the forces of heaven arrayed against him. Not worse than fearing he has failed his Father, though.

Castiel opens his eyes and immediately winces them almost shut. His head is throbbing, pounding, like nothing he's ever felt before. He is aware of his legs curled up toward his chest as if to protect himself, his body draped with Jimmy's trench coat. Someone else must have done that. He did not stay awake long enough to do it himself when he arrived in this time, swaying and exhausted past the point of caring.

He feels the presence at his back and slowly pushes himself over to look, curiosity stronger than pain and the desire to lapse back into darkness. Dean sits there, perched on the other side of the bed, watching him with a wry smile. "What wereyou dreaming about?"

Castiel blinks. This is what they did immediately before he sent Dean to the past the first time, only Dean had been the sleeper, Castiel the watcher. But he would do Dean the honor of answering his question as truthfully as he could. "It was...not good," he says slowly.

"Sorry to hear that, buddy." Dean pats his shoulder, clumsily. It's a kind gesture. Castiel nods his thanks, then gulps suddenly against the urge to vomit.

"Whoa... You're going pale, man." Dean pulls his hand back sharply, as if afraid that he had caused it. "Do you need a trash can or something?"

Castiel holds very still. Perhaps the room will stop spinning if he just holds still. He tries to figure out why Dean would make such an odd offer. "No. I don't need...to throw anything...away."

Dean snorts. "I mean to throw up in. Do you need to throw up?"

"I'd really rather not." Castiel closes his eyes and does his very best not to think about throwing up. At all. Ever.

"You might not have a choice." But Dean seems to understand that Castiel is trying to wait it out. He sits quietly for a few moments, and Castiel listens to his breathing, long and calm and smooth. It's...soothing.

"Are you going to be okay?" Dean's voice is quiet, genuinely concerned.

"Eventually," Castiel says. His voice sounds rough and gravelly, even more than usual. He has been very unkind to Jimmy Novak's throat, though not purposefully.

They are silent. Castiel keeps his eyes shut, but he does not sleep. After a time he feels Dean tug on the trench coat draped over him, disarranged when he rolled over. The man smooths it out over his chest and tucks it under his shoulders. Castiel is touched.

"I saw your parents," Castiel says, and he feels Dean jerk beside him, jolting the entire bed.

"Wha... Shit, Cas, I thought you were asleep!"

"No. I merely closed my eyes to prevent the room from spinning."

"Right. Of course. You poor bastard." Dean pauses. "Did you mention my parents?"

"Yes. I saw them. I felt the mark of Michael on them, and that was how I knew I had to come back to this time."

Silence for a few moments. "Were they okay?"

"They seemed very happy. They spoke of you." Castiel remembers standing at the corner, leaning against the wall to hold himself up, watching the young couple across the way. They walked along the sidewalk, stopping to look in windows, talking and laughing. Mary held her hand almost constantly on the gentle swell of her abdomen, and occasionally John reached over to touch it, too, his hand laying over hers. They talked of which toys they would buy for the child coming soon, whether he or she would be a baseball or a football fan.

"They loved you very much, Dean. Before they saw you, and until the day each died. They loved you with everything they had."

He wishes he could find the words to properly convey this.

"I know," Dean murmurs.

Maybe he should try harder. He tries to describe the scene to Dean, the words halting and uncertain. He watched them walk along the street for as long as he dared before traveling through time again. Castiel had also felt the eyes of Heaven looking down on the joyful couple, heavy and overbearing. He does not mention this to Dean.

When he runs out of words he falls silent again, then opens his eyes to look up at Dean. The man stares away, his face drawn in pain. It seems that Castiel's words brought no comfort, after all. What did he do wrong?

"I know...I know they loved me," Dean says finally, painfully. "Mom and Dad loved me and Sammy to death. To death."

This is a hyperbolic colloquialism, Castiel recognizes. But Dean does not seem to be speaking metaphorically.

"Do you think it would be better if we hadn't been born?" Dean asks.

Castiel opens his mouth to respond, but before he says anything "No" rings out across the room, clear and firm. Castiel rolls his head over, sees Sam standing in the doorway. "No, Dean. The world might be better if I had never been born. But it would be a hell of a lot worse off without you."

"Sam..." Dean tilts his head toward his brother, exasperation and...something...else coloring every movement. "Come on. Don't say shit like that."

"What? It's true." Sam steps closer, sparing a moment to give Castiel a nod, as if to welcome him back from the land of unconsciousness. "You save people. You kill monsters. You make this crappy world a better place with every day you're in it."

"You do that, too," Dean says, a hint of warning in his voice.

"No. I screw up. I get myself killed. I get other people killed. I get you killed. That's what I do."

Dean makes a small, hurt noise deep in his throat. "Sam, no."

Don't say things like that, Castiel hears.

"Sam, c'mon. You're a hunter, too. You've saved lots of people."

"And how many more did I put in danger just by existing?" Sam's legs are stiff, his movements stilted as he walks toward the bed. He sits on Castiel's other side, facing his brother. Castiel feels oddly hemmed in, trapped by his inability to move. It is very uncomfortable.

"If I weren't here...Dean... If I weren't here, your life would have been so much easier. I don't...I can't even tell you much I wish that it had been."

Dean whimpers. It is a true, genuine whimper, tiny and pained, so full of grief that Castiel's once-immovable heart gives a sympathetic throb. "Sam, Sammy, don't you get it? If you weren't here, if you weren't alive, if you had never been born...I would have killed myself a long time ago."

Both men say nothing for a long, fraught moment, merely staring at each other across Castiel's prone form. Castiel, completely without meaning to, lets out a loud sigh that rattles his rib cage and makes the room spin again.

Dean grabs hold of this distraction, glaring down at Castiel with muted fury. "I'm sorry, are we boring you?"

"I do find both of your continued determination to martyr yourselves extremely vexing, yes."

They're both glaring at him now. Or perhaps they are simply staring at him in shock. Castiel is still unskilled at reading human emotions, and with his grace so drained he cannot sense what they are truly feeling. It's annoying.

With another, shorter sigh, Castiel presses his hands to the bed at his sides and begins to push himself up. It is very hard work, and his head begins to spin and he considers asking Dean to get him that trash can, after all. Once they realize what he is doing both brothers help him, gripping his shoulders and arms and pulling him up. Then Dean pushes him back against the headboard while Sam props a pillow behind his back. Both boys are making distressed, irritable noises at him, scolding him for not laying still and relaxing, but they seem to understand his need to sit up.

Once propped upright on the headboard, his trench coat in his lap, Castiel sags and pants. He closes his eyes, gulping down the nausea. His hands have gotten tangled in Dean and Sam's sleeves at some point in the proceedings, and he does not let go. He needs them to be close.

"You are...both wrong," he manages to say at last, and he opens his eyes to look at them, each in turn. "If it was not you, it would be another pair of brothers. My superiors have been planning this confrontation for generations upon generations. You never had any power of stopping it from coming."

Dean tilts his head, preparing to protest again, and Castiel squeezes his arm. "But..." He has to stop and gulp air again.

Dean pauses and waits, expectant but patient.

"But... I am glad that the two of you ended up in these roles. There could be no one better to defend the human race. You... You are strong. If the task had not fallen to you, surely the world's suffering would be ten-fold already."

They are looking at him, their eyes piercing. They want to believe.

"You are strong." Castiel repeats, gripping them both. "Strong and stubborn and willful and immensely irritating, which is the only reason you are still standing. Being with you is the most frustrating and aggravating experience of my life, and my life has been long. But... I would not trade it. I would not trade it."

Dean glances down, then looks back to Castiel and gives him a small, twisted smile. "Yeah. Go Team Free Will." Then he winces and carefully pries Castiel's hand off his arm. Castiel lets him go abruptly, hoping he hasn't bruised him.

Sam pats Castiel's chest carefully with his free hand, as a child would pat a baby animal, gentle and bemused. "Yeah, and we wouldn't want another angel, either."

"You wouldn't have me without Dean's powers of persuasion," Castiel says earnestly. "You wouldn't have anyone, you wouldn't, no other angel..."

The room is spinning again and he has ceased to make sense. Castiel blinks dazedly, unable to meet Sam's eyes, as there appear to be rather too many of them.

"Okay, that's enough of the Dizzy Angel Talk Show," Dean says. "Time for you to go down for your nap, buddy."

Castiel attempts a protest, but it is useless. They lower him to the bed again, and he sleeps.

He dreams of heaven and does not feel the tears that slide down his cheeks, nor the rough, blunt fingers that wipe them away.