Characters: Dean, Sam, Castiel
Category: Gen, Angst, H/C, Episode Coda
Warning: Language. Brief scariness.
Summary: They're just two people, alone and clinging together in the dark. It's all so damn familiar.
Word Count: 2000
Author's Note: Credit where due—one bit of this was written for a prompt by hugglewolf at my Castiel party on Livejournal. After 5.16 I decided to expand it into a coda. Possibly I should not be writing fic while coming down off a fever, though.
Dean and Sam emerge from the motel room to find Castiel standing by the Impala. Not doing anything, just...standing there, head down, arms limp at his sides. He looks like a man lost and homeless, standing on the outside looking in. Which he is, Dean realizes.
"Hey, Cas." Dean approaches slowly, sets his duffel down in preparation of opening the trunk and packing up. "You didn't go far."
"I went to a pier in North Jersey," Castiel says. "There has been great flooding there, and the fog is thick. I walked along the boards and looked out at the ocean. I did not need the amulet to tell me that God wasn't there. I don't even know why I went."
Dean swallows, his throat thick and burning. "That why you came back?"
"I don't have anywhere else to go."
"Then stay with us," Sam says, and he pulls the angel into a hug.
Dean stands and watches them. Castiel's arms still hang loose at his sides, as if he doesn't know the proper procedure for dealing with a human embrace. But after a moment he hides his empty eyes against Sam's shoulder. And he just stays there.
Dean packs the trunk.
"Possible demonic activity in Washburn," Sam says, tapping along the edge of the newspaper with a pen. The diner is quiet at this hour, and the three of them are the largest group in here. Dean eats his pie slowly, savoring each bite, and Castiel stares out the window. He hasn't touched the coffee and pie Dean ordered for him, which is a damn shame. Dean will eat the pie himself, but the coffee is cold and worthless.
"Demons, huh? Lemme see." Sam passes over the newspaper, and Dean reads the relevant article.
Yep, that looks like the stuff. And Dean is angry enough now—at God, at Lucifer, at all of these supernatural sons of bitches encroaching on the lives of humans—that he wants to hit back in any way he can. They're going to find these bastards and rip them a whole cosmos of new ones.
Dean's lip curls. It might not be much, but it's something.
"Washburn?" Castiel turns his head toward them, slow and listless. Then he goes still, seeming to stare right through the brothers at something far beyond. The hairs on Dean's neck prickle, and he casts a glance behind him without thinking about it. Nothing but a local in a green John Deere cap, a waitress bringing him an omelet.
Castiel blinks, vision drawing back to the diner again, and looks Dean in the eye. "Yes, there are demons in Washburn. Five of them."
Okay, having Castiel around is obviously going to be pretty useful. Even a sad, limp Castiel like this one. "Sounds good." Dean hooks a finger in the edge of Castiel's plate and pulls the pie over to devour it in a few big, noisy bites. "Let's take 'em out."
In Washburn, Castiel just points out the window, left, right, straight ahead, and Dean drives them directly to the demons. It's nice. No research, no talking to locals, no digging through old newspapers or combing through internet forums full of red herrings and cat macros. Cas can't exorcise with just a slap to the forehead anymore, but he can still make holy water with a touch, so they're well-armed.
They have tarps painted with pre-drawn devil's traps that they spread at every door, every window. They have flasks and jugs of holy water and an angel at their backs. They have fury and frustration and really bad attitudes on their side.
Everything goes really well. Until it doesn't
He can't feel anything.
Castiel scratches his fingers on rough-hewn wood, imagines that he can feel paint there, thin lines of wards that trap him, drain his strength. He scrapes and scrapes, turning and turning in the narrow box as much as he can, trying to break the wards. Just one scratch in one line, that's all it will take.
He knows, somehow, that this is not paint, and it will not be touched by human flesh. Still he scrapes, and he feels Jimmy's nails strain and crack, feels sharp pain and fingertips suddenly slick with blood. He can't stop trying, he can't stop trying.
His breath is coming loud and fast now, puffs of hot air in the small space, so small, smaller than a coffin. It makes the air close and stifled, full of the scent of his own lungs, his own all-too-mortal fear. It's all he can hear, just that sound, the lonely empty sound of one man's growing terror.
It is black, utterly black. Darker than night, for Castiel can still see in Earthly night. Darker than the space between the stars, for even there Castiel sees all the comets and galaxies and nebulae and clouds of burning dust, can see to the edges of the universe and know intimately every point of light. Darker than the depths of a cave, for there Castiel feels the weight of earth, the hidden gems and veins of precious ore, the creatures that scuttle and swim and crawl and fly even where human eyes see nothing. It is darker here than all of those places, for here he cannot see, he cannot see anything but his own shaking mortal vessel, tearing at the seams.
He is in a void and he can't feel, he can't see, he can't hear, he is alone alone alone. He doesn't even know how long he's been here, and he should know, he should, he always knows when and where he is, it's the most basic of skills and he doesn't know he can't tell he can't tell why can't he tell? All sense of time is fled, every angelic sense and power, and he is alone and desperately afraid.
Please, Father, please please please...
Castiel's fingers dig into his hair, smearing blood. He clenches them in fists close to his scalp and clasps his arms in front of his face, trying to muffle the sound of his own breath. He needs to get hold of himself, he needs to figure out what to do, but the fear is such a mighty thing. It has grasped the entirety of his frail frame in a terrible grip and refuses to let him go.
There is a voice, faint and muffled outside his tiny grave, and Castiel tries to hold his breath to listen, lungs aching, throat hitching with borrowed tears. "...Think the sonofabitch took him this way..."
"...What the hell is this? That's the sign for 'angel,' isn't it?"
"What the...? Fuck, Sammy, find a crowbar!"
Castiel breathes, hot pants that turn into sobs as wood creaks and cracks and breaks, and light floods in, blinding him. He falls out of the void like a newborn calf, all limbs and blood, unable to find his feet, to stand, to even move. He is paralyzed in the light, senses crowding back in, and he can hear and see and feel again.
"Oh, fuck. Shit, shit, shit. Cas, Cas, we got you..."
Hands and arms that are not his own grip him and raise him up. Warmth that is not his own terrified breath settles around him, supports his sagging head. Cool fingers brush along his bloody fingers, gently tug them out of his hair, and a work-worn palm slides along the plane of his cheek.
"We got you, Cas, we got you. You're safe now. We sent the whole pack of 'em back to Hell and we broke the box."
"Jesus, Dean, these symbols are bad... I can't read 'em all but this is 'torment' and 'emptiness' and, and, that's Castiel's name, and they're all bound up together, they knew what they were doing to him..."
"Yeah, but it's over now. It's over."
Castiel turns his face into the warm bend of shoulder and neck, hides his eyes against human flesh, the steady pulse of a heartbeat. He knows where and when he is—out of the void, thirty-four minutes after being forced into it. With Dean and Sam Winchester. Fingers card through his hair, unmindful of the blood, and he leans there and feels.
They're just two people, alone and clinging together in the dark. It's all so damn familiar.
"I called God a bad name," Castiel murmurs.
"He was asking for it," Dean says.
"I really don't think He minds," Sam adds. "He's big enough to handle it."
They ferry Castiel out of the cellar where they found him, each with an arm around his slender back. They leave behind the broken box and overturned altar, bloody sigils and other detritus of satanic ritual. All has been doused with salt and gasoline, and soon they will baptize the place in holy fire. First, though, they must get their angel back into the light.
Sam leaves Castiel to Dean, hurries back into the house with matches in hand. Castiel blinks in the daylight, squints against it, turns questioning eyes to the man beside him. "They were ready for us. For me. It was a trap."
"Yeah, they were waiting for you. Weren't expecting me and Sammy, so we wasted 'em anyway." Dean leans him against the Impala's bumper and lifts his hands, gravely inspecting skin and flesh still striped with drying blood. Castiel's fingers healed while Dean crouched there by splintered wood, cradling the shaking figure against his chest, while Sam ruined artifacts and poured gasoline. He still needs to be sure that everything is whole and working. "Hunters are going after me and Sam, and demons are going after you. Kind of makes sense, I guess."
"They knew..." Castiel says slowly, working it out as he goes, "they knew that such a gathering would draw angelic attention eventually, but none of my brethren had molested them. My name was on the trap. It was me they sought and... They sought not my death, but my subjugation. Passing strange."
While he speaks Dean holds his hands, almost absently, rubbing them between his fingers to strip off the blood, to warm them and make sure every joint retains full range of motion. Now he lowers them back into Castiel's lap, ruffles his hair the way he did Sam's once upon a time. "You're an important dude, Cas. Of course demons are after you."
"Not so important."
"You're the only angel who opposes the Apocalypse. That's pretty important."
Castiel stares at him, blank and lost, and Dean hesitates. "You...you still do, don't you? You're still with me and Sam in this? No matter..."
He shuts up. It didn't even occur to him that Castiel might leave them now, might reject them as his Father did. Dean was...damn, he was trusting this strange, powerful being to have his back, always. What if...?
Castiel's eyes soften and he tilts his head, finally meeting Dean's gaze with strength and purpose. "Yes, I am with you. No matter what."
A foom of orange and yellow breaks every window in the cellar, and Dean and Castiel turn their heads, watching. The fire is bright and beautiful, cleansing. Dean squints against it, but Castiel's eyes are open, clear and curious. Sam exits the house at a run, then halts with them to watch the bloom of flame.
Sam gives Castiel a concerned look, sees that he's still quivering faintly, and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Sorry it took us so long to get to you, man. There were...traps, and I think maybe a distraction ward or something. Took us awhile to exorcise them and we didn't even realize you were gone at first. It was weird. But I'm sorry, we should have been looking out for you."
Castiel looks at the hand on his shoulder, then up into Sam's face. "I...prayed," he says. "While in that box. I prayed for my Father to save me, for I could not save myself."
Sam's face lengthens in sympathetic pain. "I'm sorry, Cas, that must have..."
"No, you misunderstand." His face is broken open, brilliant and clear. "My prayers were answered. You came." He looks to Dean. "You saved me."
They are silent, watching the fire.
"We should get out of here before someone calls the Fire Department," Dean says.
They get into the Impala, Sam and Dean in front, Castiel in the back. All three doors close in the same instant. And they drive.