Stricken

Dean wakes up on the edge of the lake, on his knees in the muddy shoreline, and everything aches.

His heart is beating wildly in his chest like it's trying to escape, his lungs working overtime in an attempt at forcing him to breathe. His eyes feel dilated, feel too sensitive; it's raining, pouring, and it's overcast but his vision is blurred at the edges like he's stared too long in the sun.

His skin is the first thing he takes notice of though, because it feels as though its trying to claw it's way off his body. It's a slow, prickling burn and he feels it first in his hands – light in the beginning, almost an itch more than anything. It gets worse the more aware of his surroundings he becomes, scratches at him incessantly. He tries to push it to the back of his mind, tries to ignore it.

He tries to move, but the second thing he notices is Castiel. Two strong hands on the dripping wet shoulders of his t-shirt, a pressure that holds him in place. Castiel's knees are planted in the mud beside Dean, trench coat abandoned, his once-white sleeves pushed up to his elbows and he's a mess; mud caking his arms, in his hair, dripping down his face. Everything is wet and muddy and Castiel smells of blood and sweat, smells too intensely of life and something about it is unsettling in a way it never has been before.

The lake he's beside is familiar. He remembers parking the Impala at the top of the hill, of descending into the forest with Castiel, but he can't remember why; he can't remember what they'd been hunting. He vaguely remembers an argument – or maybe there hadn't been an argument, maybe there had just been a misunderstanding – but he remembers hitting the ground with a solid weight on top of him. He remembers fighting, remembers punching and kicking and trying his damnedest to get it off of him – and now he can't remember if it had been Castiel he'd been fighting or not.

It's all such a horrible haze, such a cloudiness in his mind, that he wants to say it's a dream. He wants to say that he's awake now, that it was all something in his head, but the bruises and cuts are real; Castiel's hands gripping his shoulders are real.

Castiel is what he tries to focus on, to ignore the strangeness in his skin and the way his heart and lungs seem to be working so hard, but it's a mistake. It's a mistake because Castiel continues to hold him, the heat of his hands against already burning skin maddening. Every pull is met with resistance, with the grip on his arms tightening, and it makes things a lot worse; it makes the prickling in his skin worse, makes the blurriness around his eyes worse, makes him angry.

"Dean," Castiel says then, and it's easy to hear him over the rain, but his voice is so strange. It's grating, uneven and rough, and it works its way down Dean's spine and it's awful. He wonders if Castiel can hear it, if this is what he really sounds like underneath the skin and bones of his vessel, if he's ever thought of making it stop.

He briefly realizes that he's staring at Castiel's throat, like it's something that should be ripped apart until he can find that sound, whatever is making that sound, and remove it.

Castiel's eyes follow his and his expression doesn't change, but his grip on Dean's shoulders tightens and that's all Dean sees before he's thrust underwater. The rush is cold and unsettling, like everything is being stripped away, and for a moment he panics – wonders what the fuck Castiel is doing. The edges of his mind are crushing in, his lungs burning, and then it's suddenly over and he's gasping into the rain, hands clinging desperately onto Castiel's arms.

He's shivering, cold and miserable, but there's something throbbing in the back of his veins, something thick that's clouding his mind. It's belated but he realizes when he stares back at Castiel, at the corner of his eyes tightening and his grip stiff and unrelenting, that the 'something' that feels wrong is him.

Because Castiel is holding him carefully, like one might hold a mountain lion that seemed particularly interested in their face, and maybe he's not as calm as he'd once appeared.

"Cas, what the fuck."

Castiel doesn't let him go, doesn't loosen his group. "It bit you."

And it's an awful rush back to him, of half-memories and half-feelings. Because now he remembers that hike through the woods, remembers that the creature had crawled its way out of the lake and had been hiding amongst the leaves in the rain. He remembers it lunging at him, all barred fangs and claws, and he remembers the awful, hideous tearing of flesh and bones when Castiel had torn its head from its shoulders.

He doesn't remember how they got to the lake, but he remembers lunging at Castiel.

The look in Castiel's eyes, the emotion where there typically is none, is unsettling. He's apprehensive, suspicious. It's worse when Castiel glances at Dean's hand at his elbow, where his grip has become threatening, and Dean realizes he hadn't even known he'd moved his hand there.

"Did you call Sam?" he asks.

"You're not yourself," Castiel tells him. "I couldn't leave you."

Leave me, Dean wants to say, and the more he thinks it the more his skin seems to burn. Let go of me, just let go of me for one second.

"I'll be fine. If we don't tell Sam-"

"Dean," and there's a strange pause, wherein Castiel's finger dig tightly into Dean's shoulders, eyes narrowing. "Shut up."

The water hits the back of his head again as Castiel thrusts him underwater, ears and eyes and nose flooding with water. It's an immediate rush of feeling back into his mind, of cool water against the itching underneath his skin.

When Castiel pulls him back up he's gasping and sputtering, choking on lake water and air and whatever is running through his veins.

Everything about Castiel is wrong, his mind tells him. There's something brimming there underneath the surface, power and fire and light, and it's something awful that leaves a bad taste in Dean's mouth. Castiel's eyes are too bright, too much. His whole body radiates, like a flame left unattended, and it hurts to look at it, hurts to hear him speak.

"Leave," Dean gasps between breaths. "Just fucking leave. You here – you being here is driving me mad, Cas."

And Dean wonders briefly if he even can, if that's why he's still here. Because Castiel's grip on him is desperate now, and he's still as strong as ever, still too strong to be human, but he's not leaving. He's kneeling there in the mud, kneeling there in the rain, like he's grounded to the spot.

It hurts to keep resisting. Because he can tell that something is wrong, can tell that something is different, but it keeps moving just out of his reach. The longer he stares at Castiel the louder the noise gets, the more he starts to hate looking at him.

Castiel looks away for a moment, just a turn of his head and a downcast of his eyes, and maybe he feels guilty for having to do this – and it's such a sudden hint of vulnerability that Dean finds himself latching onto it instantly.

"Cas," he mutters, and the opening he gets when Castiel looks back at him is so glaring, so wide that he can't not take it. He presses forward, too fast, too sudden, and it's teeth clashing when he finds Castiel's lips, gripping his arms tight enough to bruise.

And Castiel's grip on his shoulders falters, hesitates, and Dean shoves him backwards into the muddy bank. His back hits the ground hard, jarring his elbows from where they're stiffly still holding onto Dean's shoulders, and Dean is straddling him before he can get his bearings. Knees on either side of Cas' thighs, digging into the mud, fingernails digging into the skin of his arms and – fuck – he's warm, he's so god damned warm.

It burns the whole way, like something trying to escape, and Dean can't keep the grin off of his face, can't keep from laughing into the makeshift kiss, because this is all too easy. Castiel is all contradictions beneath him, all tension and compliance, like he wants to push him away and can't bring himself to do so. His hands are still on Dean's shoulders, clenching desperately, but he lies unmoving, eyes wide.

And then Dean is pressing off of Castiel, hands shoving roughly against his chest, and he's on his feet. Steps over Castiel, slips in the mud and steadies himself again, and he is free. He's out of the water, he's on the ground. He can see the pile of their stuff on the grassy bank, where Cas had thrown his trench coat and Dean's pack, and Dean is just thinking of the dagger – because he knows it's over there, it has to be over there-

His leg stops moving when Castiel grabs it, when he jerks him backwards and he ends up falling onto his back onto the bank, all of the air rushing out of his lungs. It's an immediate snap of pain through his back and head, a pounding that drowns out the rain in his ears, and then Castiel is dragging him through the mud.

He tries to grab at him, but it's difficult to see – he ends up grabbing a handful of mud and grass and it pulls out of the ground with ease. He claws at the ground, at the mud, at Castiel's hands on his leg – then he's at the edge of the lake again and Castiel kneels beside him. The hand around his leg is gone, instead curled around the front of his t-shirt, and Castiel gives him an exhausted, irritated look.

And then he shoves him underwater.

It's difficult to tell how long he's under – but it feels like too long and he's left wondering if Castiel remembers breathing is something humans do. The blurriness around his eyes becomes worse, becomes difficult to see even the murkiness of the water. Breathing becomes impossible, becomes him gasping and inhaling water, and he has just enough time to think I'm going to die like this before he realizes he's laying on his back on the muddy bank.

Castiel is sitting beside him, soaked and muddy and angry, but it's just the curl of his fingers around Dean's arm now. And he can tell by the rise and fall of his chest, the way he's breathing through his teeth and glaring with glazed eyes that he's reaching his limits; he's exhausted. He doesn't know how long they've been out here, how long Castiel has been playing Marco Polo in the lake with him.

Dean imagines being able to see the angel's mojo, dripping off of him like the rain and lakewater, flowing by them in rivulets that go back into the body of water. The hand holding him is still impossibly warm, still a lure of temptation at his side, and he wonders briefly if that's Castiel's new defense.

It's different now. His own breaths are ragged, nose and lungs burning, and it's easier to see – even with the rain in his eyes it's a lot easier to recognize his surroundings. There's still an itch at the back of his mind, like something trying to claw it's way out of his spine, and he doesn't realize he's digging his fingers threateningly into Castiel's hip until Castiel's eyes snap to his.

It's a lot more difficult being aware he's losing control.

"Cas," and his voice is rough, damaged. He doesn't know if it's a warning or a plea for help.

"Let go," and it's not a request, it's low and threatening, and... and so tired. The angel is so, so tired.

"Or you'll break it?" Dean asks and his voice is amused without his consent, even as he forces his fingers to unclench. He slides them across Castiel's side, hooks them in the buttonholes of his shirt, curls his hand into a fist so tight it hurts his palm. "If you can, you should. You should do it right now."

He doesn't let Castiel get his bearings, just pulls him roughly by the front of his shirt, hears the tear of fabric where it's tight in his fist, and kisses him again. It is mostly teeth, mostly rain and the taste of blood in his mouth, and he is catching himself wondering if you can drown angels, if he just moves over – if Castiel will be able to fight back. Because Dean feels like a live wire, all energy and adrenaline that stems from the poison in his veins, and he's going to crash so hard when it wears off, but Castiel is wearing so thin.

And maybe it's desperation, but Castiel clutches at the back of his head, hard enough to hurt his scalp, and presses into him like it's something he started.

It's like he's suddenly underwater again, choking on water and trying to breathe, because one minute he is full of adrenaline and violent and the next he is hyper-aware and himself. He jerks away, like suddenly above water, but Castiel grabs the wrist holding his shirt and there's a lake to his back and an angry angel holding him and he stiffens between both – unable to move.

Castiel is pulling him up then, to shaking legs and they move so few steps, maybe a foot or two.

"You are going to fight this," he growls, and Dean can't think – is suddenly aware of his heart beating against his chest, of Castiel's lower lip bleeding, of the rain pounding in his ears. Then Castiel falls into the lake, still clutching onto Dean, and Dean barely has time to take a breath before he's pulled under.

He let's himself be taken underwater, holds onto Castiel in some feeble attempt to keep himself from fighting back, and he tries. He tries to stop whatever is still boiling under the surface, and the water does help – it makes him angry and he wants out, but that's the poison talking.

It takes a half minute before his lungs begin to ache, before he has to curl his hands tighter against Castiel's arm, against his bare waist, to keep himself there. It starts to feel like he's drowning himself.

He is gasping for air when Castiel pulls them to the surface.

They are waist deep in the lake, water lapping around them from the storm, and for the first time in what feels like hours Dean is suddenly aware of the goosebumps on his skin. The water is chilled, temperature in the air dropped by the front, and Dean is so suddenly cold that it shocks him still.

Castiel isn't as warm as he should be – and he does look tired, looks beat – but it's the only warmth underneath Dean's hands. He keeps his hands at Castiel's waist, cold enough to shake but still too toxin-filled to realize it.

Castiel is looking in his eyes like he's searching him through, like he's looking for something that he has to find before he can let go. He doesn't find it, doesn't let go. His grip on Dean tightens and Dean takes another deep breath before Castiel pulls him under again.

It's stopped raining by the time Castiel slowly drags the both of them to shore. The sky is still dark and Dean wonders what time it is, at how long they've been trying to get hypothermia in the woods. He's cold, dripping wet, sore and bruised and fucking exhausted.

He doesn't know how Castiel is still moving, how his legs are pulling him and Dean along the bank and up into the surrounding forest. Castiel pulls him like he's blind, like he can't move on his own, and he leaves the pile of their stuff on the ground like it's dangerous – like giving Dean back his bag of weapons is still a Very Bad Idea.

The Impala is up the hill somewhere, past the trees and parked way too far away along the side of the road, and Dean regrets this entire outing with every step. Castiel is clutching his upper arm, nearly dragging him through the thicket, and Dean tries to breathe.

"Cas, wait," and that's all the warning he gets out before his legs buckle underneath him, send him back on his knees in mud and leaves, and the fall almost brings Castiel with him.

Castiel falls beside him anyway.

And there's a trace of understanding there, like even with his mojo drained and his powers exhausted Castiel is still an alien presence that is too strong, too full of stamina. He watches Dean sit on the ground, breathing evenly, and he seems to remember that humans need air and time and patience and rest.

Castiel's shirt is hanging loose, half unbuttoned, dripping wet and completely fucking distracting.

He thinks of warning Castiel he still feels strange, but the words don't come out. Instead it's just a low groan in the back of his throat as he grabs onto the shirt he's ruined and pulls Castiel to him again.

Lips part against his like he'd read Dean's mind, moving against him – and that's a thought: if Cas could read his mind, if he could tell if there's something lingering there that shouldn't...

Castiel lets him undo the last two buttons, lets him slide his cold hands across his equally chilled stomach. Dean feels in control, but not enough to stop – not enough to tell Castiel to leave.

It gets worse the further his hands go, the more they pull Castiel against him. Because the voice in the back of his head – the voice that he knows should be there – telling him this is isn't him, this is a bad idea, this is an angel, this is Castiel, that voice is completely gone. There's none of his normal inhibitions, none of his common-fucking-sense, and Castiel is so willing. Dean is aware enough to feel bad for this, to feel guilty, but not enough to stop.

He is more interested than he has ever been in the underside of Castiel's slender wrists, in how they fit so neatly in his hands. The skin is cold and he smooths both thumbs across the veins there as his hands travel further up Castiel's arms. Those blue eyes watch him like a hawk, watch every movement like it's something he has reason to be wary of, like this is something he isn't part of.

The ground slides slick underneath Dean's knees when he presses Castiel into the mud and leaves, makes it easier to use his weight to pin him with his mouth. The slide of his tongue across Castiel's lips is warm, wet, but it makes him wonder what a trail down his throat would taste like. His fingers move underneath the soaked, cold sleeves that are pushed up to Castiel's elbows, but it makes him think of soothing those fingers across the small of his back instead.

Everything he does to Castiel is just out of reach of being enough, just out of reach of being satisfying, and it makes him go further and further.

The skin underneath his hands is slowly starting to warm, all smoothness and complacency. He traces lines up Castiel's ribs, so suddenly fascinated by the curve of Castiel's throat that he doesn't immediately feel the angel stiffen against him.

It's the exhale against his mouth, the breathed, "Dean," that is all warning and brittle patience that makes him reconsider the way his fingers are digging into Castiel's sides. There's no pain in Castiel's eyes or voice – nothing human that should feel the skin breaking underneath Dean's nails – but it's less the way Dean is seeping into Castiel and more the grip he's losing on himself.

He wonders where this second wind came from, why he's suddenly so full of energy.

Dean pulls back as much as he can, but his grip doesn't lessen on the ribcage he's clutching onto. He stares at his own hands like they're a disconnected part of him, like they're something he has no control over.

"Dean," Castiel says again, voice low. Dean thinks he could make him pliant again if he kissed him, could make him less restricting if he was distracted, and the thought settles so unpleasantly at the back of his throat that his breath catches for a moment.

Deans pries his fingers from the red and bruised skin at Castiel's sides and moves back to sit on his heels. He doesn't move when Castiel slides back and moves to his feet and there's a long, tense moment where he stares at the marks his nails have left on Castiel's skin and Castiel watches him, completely and utterly lost.

Castiel extends a hand, like he's going to haul Dean to his feet again, but his outstretched hand freezes halfway there – as though he's suddenly thought better of it. The hand is momentarily inviting, like Castiel's skin is something that would be better suited underneath Dean's hands, and Dean curls his hands into fists against his knees again.

It takes a minute to stand on his own, takes a long minute to get back on his own two feet. Castiel doesn't move to walk ahead of him.

Dean inhales and starts back up the hill, fists still curled tightly in his palms. He thinks of mentioning that being enclosed in the Impala together is probably unwise, but his mind and his body are still too disconnected to coordinate.

They're moving back through the woods like nothing happened – like all of this is under control – and Dean's skin itches underneath Castiel's gaze the whole way.