Disclaimer: For the sick pleasure of myself and others. No copyright infringement intended.
Note: written for roque_clasique 's birthday comment fic meme. Happy birthday, very belatedly! Prompt was: End 'verse. 2009!Dean is busted-up hardcore and he only trusts 2014!Dean to help him get around and do everyday things. Thank you muchly to twasadark and ratherastory for the beta. I messed with it after the fact, so all mistakes are mine.
More notes: Very much inspired by roque_clasique 's painfully awesome fic Asterisms, with the same basic set up-- 2009!Dean never goes back to the past and they're still hunting down Lucifer.
WARNINGS: Slash, Dean/Dean, Smoking!Dean, Smoking!Cas, Language
Forever Ain't That Long
by wave obscura
One thing that annoys the shit out of Dean about Past Dean is the way he shuts his mouth completely every time he stops speaking, and always presses his lips together, and if he's said something he thinks is clever he'll raise his eyebrows and wait for a reaction.
Dean's become absolutely fucking fixated since he's noticed it, he can't stop watching Dean's mouth and doesn't hear a word he says.
They're eating lunch together at the picnic table on the hill. Dean's about to say something about it when Dean takes a bite from his can of chili and raises his eyebrows and says "do you have to do that?"
"That fucking lip-pressing thing. Every time there's a pause in the conversation. You have no idea how annoying it is."
"The fuck I don't," Dean replies, digging a cherry out of his fruit cocktail. "Makes you look like fucking Howdy Doody."
"Then stop it."
"You stop it."
A muscle in Dean's jaw pops out, then disappears. "You first."
Then the kid's eyes wander, go soft, pointing somewhere near Dean's shoulder. He does that a lot, out of nowhere, his face going all young. He's thinking about Sam again.
Dean feels sorry for the kid. He does. In his timeline it's only been a few months since he told Sam to fuck off. Maybe he still thinks he'll see him again. Maybe he still thinks Sam can be saved.
Maybe he needs to grow the fuck up.
Dean reaches across the table to smack the kid on the shoulder. "Hey. Why don't you go talk to Eli, see if he's got anything for you to do?"
Dean makes his the-wheels-are-turning face, like he's searching for an obnoxious retort, but in the end he shoves another heaping mound of chili in his mouth, mock-saluting Dean before heading down the hill.
Dean watches him go, pinching a cigarette from the box and lighting it with the citronella candle burning on the picnic table. It might be the last non-menthol pack he'll ever smoke, and even these are Liggett Ultralight 100s and they're like sucking on hollow tubes. After this pack he's got nothing but boxes and boxes of Camel Crush lights, all of which are so stale you can squeeze the packs between your fingers and hear them crackle.
It's also the last citronella candle, which means he can look forward to weeks and weeks of smoking shit-stale cigarettes while getting eating alive by mosquitoes.
Soon, but not now. Right now it's been way too long to remember what a good cigarette tastes like. So he props his elbows up on the picnic table and takes a long, hot drag, till the cherry's all hotboxed and pointed, invites the smoke into his lungs and tries to enjoy it.
But it's against the rules around here for Dean to have a goddamn minute to himself, so he's not even on his third drag when Cas takes a seat beside him.
"What the hell do you want?" Dean says by way of greeting.
"Eli talks of taking Dean on a mission. You shouldn't let him go. Not for a few more months."
Dean shrugs. "He can handle it."
"He's not you, Dean. No he can't."
Dean drops his fork in the can and slams it down on the table. "Meaning what?"
"Meaning he's always going to do what's right. Not what's smart."
"Aww," Dean says, elbowing Cas, "You worried about us? Worried he's gonna get us both killed?"
Surprise surprise, there isn't even a hint of humor on Cas' face. "I'm not worried about you. His scars will not appear on your body. That's over. With the angels gone, time is no longer fluid."
"Pisses me off when you start talking like that," Dean says."Go make yourself useful somewhere. Get outta my face."
There's no reason for Cas to listen to him. Not really. There's no real reason for anyone to listen to him. But they do and that's how it is, how it's been.
"My concern is only for him," Cas says, and then he gets up and walks down the hill and out toward the woods, where all the most able-bodied men and women are out chopping wood for the winter ahead.
It's also against the rules for Dean to get a decent night's sleep. He's just blown out the flame of his kerosene lamp when someone beats on the door.
Probably a tampon shortage, or two men fighting over a porno mag.
"Come," he says in his best Jean-Luc Picard voice. Damn, to watch TV again.
The door opens a crack and Cas slips inside. "It's Dean," he says simply.
"Croats. It was an ambush."
"No. But his leg has been... mangled. Risa has tended to the injuries, but."
"He's delirious. He won't let anyone touch him."
"Then don't touch him. Leave him alone."
"He's had nothing for pain."
"He's asking for Sam."
Dean rolls his eyes, fumbles for his jacket.
They've got him cornered. He's crouched at one end of the cabin like a wild animal, shirtless but still in his bloody jeans. The denim has been cut away and stitches railroad their way all up and down his leg in uneven black trails. Some of them have burst open and are oozing blood.
"Motherfuckers, motherfuckers," he's muttering, "motherfuckers."
"Everybody get out," Dean says. He takes the syringe from Risa and nods his head at the door in case they've all forgotten where it is.
Everyone meanders out slow, twisting their necks all the way around before they step out into the night, everyone but Cas.
"You're going to hurt him," Cas says.
Normally Dean would at least pretend to take offense, ask Cas what the hell he's trying to suggest.
"Nah," he says instead, "watch this."
He goes to Dean and squats down on his tip-toes, bending his neck to catch Dean's eye. "Dean."
Dean's eyes roll in his skull.
"Dean," Dean repeats.
Dean's cloudy eyes fall on him. "Uh?" he says.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
Dean scowls, then swallows. He seems to think it through. He looks up. "I don't... I don't know."
Dean nods toward the bed. "Get in bed."
Dean scrubs his moist hair. "Where's Sam?"
"Sam's gone forever, you understand that? Get the fuck in bed."
Dean nods, his brow still knitted in confusion, and begins to scoot himself across the floor, trailing blood and loose stitching behind him.
Cas comes forward, reaching out. "He needs to be carried."
"Fuck away from me," Dean snarls at the angel. "Could done something. Righteous fuck."
"I think that means he doesn't want your help," Dean says, nodding again at the door. "Just get out."
Cas is usually good at shrugging and doing whatever Dean orders, but now he hesitates, his stance open and almost challenging.
Before Past Dean showed up, Cas' smile had been getting goofier and goofier. First he smirked, and then he smiled full-toothed, and then everything that came out of his mouth was punctuated by the skittering, perpetually wasted laughter. He'd begun to smell like booze by early evening, then late afternoon, then by ten a.m., then all the goddamn time.
But now that Dean is here, it's like... it's like the motherfucker is becoming an angel again: a blank-faced, immovable son of a bitch who sees exactly what you are but doesn't understand goddamn nothing about nothing, all at the same time.
Dean sees both at that moment; the human and the angel. Both have something to say. Something Dean probably isn't going to like.
Dean raises his arms into a shrug. "You wanna stand here while he bleeds out? Fine with me."
"You loved your brother once," Cas says.
"So don't use him as a weapon."
Dean smiles and scoffs automatically, looking down at the syringe in his hand. He thinks about stabbing Cas with it, right in the neck, but the nano-second of pain certainly isn't worth the unbelievable high that would follow.
"You lookin' for broken bones, Cas?"
"Using him to hurt Dean," Cas says almost pleadingly, "will fix nothing."
Dean bends down again, giving the kid a faux-loving pat on the cheek. Dean's pupils are blown and glassy, his tongue is laying on his bottom lip like he's forgotten what it's for.
"Come on Cas," he says jovially, giving Dean a toxic smile. "He doesn't have any idea what the fuck is going on, do you Dean?"
The kid's brow pinches up.
"You don't know who Sam is, do you? You don't even know your own fuckin' name."
"Sam?" Dean says. The name falls from his mouth like a string of drool.
"Dean. Stop," Cas says, low and growling.
But he presses on. "Trying to get us killed, right? Both of us? Why? Tell me, Dean. Who the fuck is Sam?"
"Yes. Sam. Tell me. Who is he?"
"Where's Sammy?" He asks dumbly, and Dean throws his head back and laughs.
He's still laughing when Cas tosses him onto the front porch. He laughs all the way back to his cabin.
Then he punches a hole in the wall.
"What if he can't fight off the infection?" Dean asks Cas the following morning. They're at the picnic table again and it's a nice day. To save shoes they all go barefoot when it's warm enough, and the orange and red leaves swirl around their naked ankles. "Will I die too?"
Cas squeezes the filter of the Camel Crush until it snaps. He likes the menthol flavor. He doesn't really like smoking but like everyone else the boredom is starting to get to him, the days and days of nothing much to do, now that they're stocked and barricaded for the winter, safe as they're ever going to be, nothing ahead but the final battle with Lucifer, looming death.
"Not now," Cas says, holding the quickly-dying citronella candle up to Dean's cigarette. "Only now is left."
"Comforting," Dean says. He holds the cigarette between his teeth and picks at something stuck beneath his thumbnail.
"You should be with him."
"Even if he lives, he'll never walk on that leg again."
Dean blows a smoke ring that dances on the tip of Cas's nose before it dissipates. "That bad, huh?"
"Then someone should put him down."
"You believe that's what he'd want?"
"That's what I'd want."
Cas takes a long drag off his cigarette. "Nobody asked you."
"Hey, handsome," Dean says drunkenly. He looks like shit, sunken and sallow. His leg is no longer a swollen mound of oozing pus, but it still looks like it belongs to Frankenstein's monster.
"Right back at ya," Dean answers, taking a seat next to the bed. "You hurtin'? Better not be. Used up half our supply of painkillers on your pretty little ass."
He should have known Dean wouldn't think the joke was funny. He shrivels into himself, eyes going filmy. "You coulda-- I don't need--"
Dean nods. For a minute they study each other and don't really say anything.
Dean's got more freckles then it's right for a man to have.
"You should grow a beard," Dean says. "You look like a little fucking girl."
"Can I have a cigarette?"
"Risa says they have to find me crutches. To use, like, forever."
Dean shrugs. "Forever ain't that long. Not for us."
When Dean's well enough to get out of bed, he won't. He keeps pissing in a coffee can and avoids solids so he doesn't have to get up and take a shit. The people who volunteered to care for him--a girl named Tina who reminds Dean of Ellen and a flamboyant young man named Sean--do everything for him. He won't even shave himself.
Dean stops visiting.
One day he's settling a fight between the Smith brothers--quit your little pissing match before I shoot you both in the face, basically-- when Cas appears beside him.
Dean lectures the brothers at length, perhaps only to see how long Cas will stand there without trying to clear his throat or tap Dean on the shoulder. He goes on and on and on, until the brothers slink far enough away to turn and run.
Dean pulls a cigarette from his shirt pocket. "What?"
"Dean needs to get out of bed."
Dean turns away from Cas, wanders up the trail, back to the picnic table on the hill. "Let him lay around and be a cripple if that's what he wants."
"He won't survive."
"What makes you such a fucking expert?"
It's a really stupid question. Dean isn't surprised when he doesn't get an answer.
"Dean. Get the fuck up."
Dean's laying on his back, propped up by pillows, in fact every goddamn pillow in the camp, practically. Sean's at his bedside, reading aloud an old issue of The New Yorker, something about beach shacks and warring winds. They're moated by a river of beer bottles and skin mags, a coffee can full of piss on the floor.
The forearm crutches lean against the headboard, still gleaming and unused. Dean's men scoured the fucking countryside for those, and it pisses him off that Dean's too good for them, hasn't even tried to use them.
"Get out," Dean says to Sean. "Take the fuckin' piss bucket with you. Throw it away."
The kid is scared shitless of Dean. There was a time when that would have made him feel bad.
"You're done playing nurse, you understand me? Don't come back to this cabin again."
"Yes, sir," the boy says, reaching down to scoop up the coffee can. He waves to Dean. "See ya, hun."
"Later," Dean says, and Sean creeps out the door.
When they're alone, Dean pauses for a moment to let the silence and tension build.
"So this is what you're doing, huh? Gonna lay there piss drunk all day."
"You said it, pops," Dean replies indifferently. "You said. All be over soon anyway, right?"
"Get up, Dean."
"Get your ass out of that bed."
"Why?" Dean burrows down in the pillows and throws an arm over his face.
Dean rolls his eyes. "Do it for me."
"Because I said so."
"I've always had you," Dean says, "So fucking what?"
But then he thinks about it for a moment, and takes his hand away from his face and looks at Dean like he's startled. "I'm not wearing any pants."
"I know what your dick looks like."
"Doesn't mean I want you admirin' it," Dean says, wincing as he begins to pull himself up. "I know how much you like it."
"Yeah it's awesome," Dean replies. "Get the fuck up."
It takes a long time to get him dressed and out of bed. Dean obviously hasn't done a whole lot of moving in the last couple of weeks, and he's stiff and the leg is so painful that he just plain moans out loud when it's moved wrong.
"Arm around my shoulder," Dean instructs, "I'm gonna hold these crutches up for you. Before you grab them get your balance, wait for the pain to ease off, whatever. We got all the time in the world."
"Quit your whining."
He uses the elbow and wrist of one arm to hold the crutches upright and parallel; the other he hooks around Dean's waist. He lifts. Dean hisses and moans and pants, practically dangling from Dean's shoulder.
"S'not healed enough yet."
"Yes it is. Now fuckin' stand up."
Dean puts some weight on his good leg, grabs the crutch on his good side, then looks at the other one like he's about to leap off a tall building.
"Go ahead," Dean says. "I got you."
And then Dean is standing on his own. He looks at the crutches, down at his legs. He wrinkles his nose in distaste. "This sucks."
"Too bad," Dean says, "walk."
Dean inches the length of the bed, crutches trembling, the bum leg lagging behind him; dead weight. The toe catches on an uneven floor board. When Dean's forward momentum jerks it forward he stops dead, biting hard on his bottom lip, all the color fading from his face.
"Breathe," Dean says. "Breathe through it."
"Fuck you," Dean hisses through his clenched jaw. "Jesus Christ, fuck you."
But he keeps going, past the end of the bed, across the dusty floor to the window. Then he turns himself around and keeps going the other way.
He's still trembling but seems more steady, more sure of himself, so Dean falls back, far enough to give him a little space but close enough to catch him.
"Good," he says. "That's real good."
"Fuck you," Dean repeats, swinging the bad leg forward with a groan. "Don't talk to me like I'm in the special fucking Olympics."
After a few more weird, jilted, half-hopping-half-swinging steps, Dean is shaking badly, sweat dripping off his chin, into the dents of his collarbone. Dean hovers again, keeping his arms in a wide circle around Dean's body as he labors back to the bed. When he gets back to the bed, he turns around again, starts heading to the window.
It's like the harder it gets, the more Dean's stupidly determined to keep going. Would be no surprise if he turned right back around and kept crutching along until he collapsed and fucked up his other leg.
Dean remembers feeling like that. Like he was running under God's foot, like something ominous was pressing down on his shoulders just enough that moving forward was hard and slow going. Like something could grind him right into the earth and he'd still try to wriggle out from underneath.
Dean remembers feeling like that.
"Dean," he says, laying a hand on Dean's chest to stop him moving.
Dean smirks. "Can I go back to bed now, boss?"
"You know we did the best we could, right? The best we knew how?"
Dean looks skinny and small and feeble, hunched over on those crutches. He squints at Dean like he's disgusted by what he sees. "We did the best we could?" He repeats.
"I know you don't wanna hear--"
"Is that how you justify it to yourself? Seriously?"
"It's true, Dean. We weren't his keeper. We couldn't stop--"
"We did the best we fuckin' could? Really? Is that your line?" Dean tries to crutch away but gets tangled, loses his balance. Dean catches him just before he falls, but the leg twists and Dean lets out a wail that makes tears spring to both their eyes. "We did the best we fucking could? You sound like Dad."
Dean hauls Dean back onto his good leg.
"Did the best you fuckin' could. Look at you." Nails claw at his shoulders. "You fucked upeverything."
"Why didn't you findhim? Why didn't you dosomething? You fucked up everything."
Dean's not sure what hell to do, so he holds Dean tight to his chest so he can't flail and hurt himself. He struggles only feebly, maybe just because every movement hurts him, maybe because he wants to be held. "It's true. You can't... you can't keep blaming--"
"I'm gonna save him," Dean says, still clawing. "I can still save him, I can still--"
"--stop. No you can't. No you fucking can't."
"Fuck you. I'm not ever... I'm not ever gonna give up. I'm not like you."
Dean shakes him a little, just a little, just enough to make it hurt. "Don't you understand? You fucking moron? This is how we lost him in the first place, because you never give up. Because you're not like me. This is why we're never getting him back. You're a fuckingidiot."
"Fucking idiot," Dean echoes, "You're such a stupid fucking-- think about what's happening to his soul. He's fucking trapped in there and it's your fucking fault, it's all your fucking fault, so you take your 'best you fucking could' and you shove it up your ass.' I fucking hate you."
"I fucking hate you too," Dean says, but there's no energy behind the words, no anger, in fact he's crying now, and he's got Dean trapped so hard that he's practically crushing him. "You were supposed to protect him and you didn't and you're a fucking failure and you should have stayed in hell."
"Someday you'll go back there and rot. You'll fucking burn. Never get off the rack. Never. Hang there and burn away."
"Like you deserve," Dean echoes. "Like we deserve."
"I miss him," Dean mutters into his chest. "He was a little shit but I fuckin'..."
"He was a big shit."
Dean laughs, snotty and tearful. "A huge shit."
"Dean. I'm sorry."
Dean pulls away, shaking his head. "My leg. My leg is fucking killing me. I wanna. I wanna lay down."
"Get the fuck off me." Dean jerks himself away, tottering dangerously on the crutches, blank and sweaty and ashen but also numb, like maybe he's somehow maxed out on pain.
And he keeps going.
Dean will never be sure what happened, just all the sudden something in him burns; something in his brain registers the sensation as an emotion, but he can't pinpoint what it is, whatever it is it's something he lost so long ago that he can't even put it into a category. His stomach churns. He doesn't know if he's going to vomit or explode but surely it's one or the other.
And then, out of nowhere, Dean is achingly, blindingly hard.
Whatever's in his chest flares, and he closes his eyes against dizziness, and he turns and stomps out of the cabin, leaving Dean unsteady on his crutches in the middle of the room. He slams the door behind him.
"CAS!" He roars in to the darkness. But the grounds are empty except for a man passing by with a bucket of river water-- some grunt, Dean can't even remember his name.
"You," he says. "Where the fuck is Cas?"
The man drops his bucket, clearly shocked that Dean is addressing him directly. The water sloshes into the cuffs of his jeans. "Sir?"
"Castiel. Where is he?"
The man's eyes dart around the camp, like he expects Cas to pop out from behind a tree. "I don't-- I wouldn't... I'm not--"
"He needs help getting to bed," Dean says, jerking his thumb behind him. "Get in there and help him. Now."
The man hesitates, then hastens inside.
From inside the cabin Dean screams one alarming, choked little cry and then everything is silent.
He lowers himself down on a lawn chair on Dean's porch. He's still tight in his jeans. Uncomfortable in every sense of the word.
The man steps out of the cabin. "He uh-- he's in bed. He, uh. I think he lost consciousness."
Dean nods. "Go. I better not hear any rumors going around, you understand me?"
"Yes sir." The man scoops up his bucket and takes off.
Then Cas is sitting next to him on the porch, out of nowhere and unannounced, of course, puffing on a Camel Crush. He holds the already lit one up to Dean, then pulls another out of his shirt pocket. Dean takes a drag and chokes on the mouth-awakening burst of menthol. Cas lights the other cigarette.
"Dean," he says.
"You once threatened to physically harm me if I ever used the phrase 'mysterious ways.'"
Dean waits for Cas to continue but he doesn't. "Yeah. So?"
"I won't use it," Cas replies. "But it's true. He does."
Cas shrugs, a human gesture he picked up from somewhere that annoys Dean to no end.
"Meaning what, Cas? Goddamn it."
"That feeling you had earlier. It was similar to what you humans call... 'pins and needles.'"
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
"Restoration from a state of numbness."
"Cas, I swear to Christ, if you don't start speaking English--"
Cas butts out his cigarette and disappears into the night so quickly that Dean can scarcely believe he's lost most of his mojo.
Dean sits there until the cigarette burns his fingers. Then he goes back inside and curls up on the bed next to Dean.
He wakes up half bathing in autumn sun with a splitting, splitting fucking headache. What happened last night is still fresh and nasty and bubbling. He lies there and watches Dean sleep and has that feeling again. He sits with it, isn't sure what to do.
Truth is, Dean is fucking beautiful when he sleeps, even with his face all pinched up in pain.
He's still staring when Dean stirs and opens his eyes.
"Ohhhh God," he moans.
"Pills are right behind you on the nightstand."
Dean buries his face in his pillow, panting, the bones in his shoulders rising and falling. "Can you... Jesus Christ."
Dean gets out of bed, walks around to the nightstand. With a sleepy, goony smile Dean opens and says "ahhhh" and Dean tosses the pills in his mouth. He curls his hand around the nape of Dean's neck, holds his head up to the glass of water. He doesn't let go, even after the pills are swallowed.
He was able to feel tenderness once, long time ago. He still knows how to go through tender motions, finesse a person, treat them right, make them feel good, make them happy. It's robotic, has been for a long time, since before Croats, before hell, since before the person Sam became.
He can justify it to himself however he wants. The world is coming down around them, Sam is gone forever, the future is uncertain except for a long and endless trail of pain fashioned from shit-- all that.
Instead he puts the glass back on the nightstand and leans down and catches Dean's bottom lip between his own, stubble tickling stubble and it's warm and it's rough and it's nice. He likes the way he tastes, the way he's warm and alive and familiar. He thinks maybe he feels return pressure but that could just be his own blood pressure rising or the same ignorant, positive thinking that once upon a time got his baby brother killed. In the moment it doesn't matter.
He pulls away just slightly, feels Dean panting against his cheek. Then he sits up to fully survey the damage.
"Why did you do that?" Dean's face is young and startled, brow furrowed in accusation. "Why the fuck did you do that?"
Dean smirks. "You'll understand when you're older."
Dean sits himself up with a little breath of pain. He yanks Dean by the collar, pulls him back again just inches from his own face. "Don't you pull that shit with me. Why? Why did you do that?"
Dean doesn't have any answers that Dean wants to hear. He can remind Dean how futile it all is, how they have nothing to lose. He could tell Dean that for once in many, many years his organs don't feel sick and withered inside him.
He could talk about how for the first time in his entire miserable life, he loves himself and how that makes him want to use a pansy-ass phrases like "soul mending," how it makes him want to skip and jump rope and admire fucking rainbows.
He could follow up with a joke about ultimate masturbation.
Instead he cups Dean's face, using his thumbs to blaze trails through the stubble.
He kisses Dean again, and this time Dean doesn't demand an answer.
Note: To view LOVELY artwork made for this fic by the very talented animotus, please see my livejournal account (you can find the link on my profile).