His body, Castiel knows, changes almost daily, and he can't hear Jimmy protesting anymore. It used to be he'd go on and on about how he just wanted one steak, one burger, one helping of any red meat, but Jimmy hasn't made a sound since before the other angels left. Looking out the window of his cabin, Castiel sighs; even with all the snow outside, even as he shivers down to the bottom of his chest and draws his blanket and Dean's parka closer around his bony shoulders, his breath barely fogs the glass. Because they are so few in number, Castiel can count his heart's beats to the exact number. Their tattoo drags on like a funeral dirge: ponderously slow and thumping in desperation.
This body shakes so much in temperatures that don't begin to rival the worst conditions Castiel's seen. Its arms have lost so much since Castiel stopped eating, and both its cheekbones and its ribcage protrude, jutting in sharp angles from its face and chest, respectively. The collarbone has a deep hollow, in which it can collect water. Castiel knows. It happens often enough when he goes to shower; with a handful of his hair, shuddering with cold even though the water's running hot, he always stares at the accumulation that gathers around his chest.
Sighing, Castiel nestles his head into the threadbare pillow. Closing his eyes brings him no closer to sleeping like he promised Dean he would. All that happens is that his thoughts race and his worries multiply — what if Dean doesn't come back tonight, what if Castiel (as Dean's second) has to lead these people in their fight (he can't lead them, this he knows; he can't even fly anymore, let alone maintain his own body or acknowledge willingly that it belongs to him), what if without Dean he falls to nothing (he's given everything for Dean already; the others here would question him). His breathing won't slow when he tries to give himself over to rest, not that it could go much slower. But it could make less of a nuisance of himself. If Castiel has to obtain oxygen from this gas to keep this body moving, then responsibility to make this easy on him falls onto the body.
In its bright red numbers, the clock on the desk proclaims the time as 15:34, thirteenth December, 2011. Castiel gives the irksome thing a once over; nothing surprises him, and vaguely, through the haze of Vicodin and Concerta, he wonders why he thought anything would. It doesn't particularly offend him, the clock. It's the same model that Dean put in all the cabins, stolen during a raid on a mall full of Croats and synchronized so no one at Chitaqua would ever be confused about how many hours there were until check-ins. Castiel has missed one of his for today, but he can get away with this for now. He vomited this morning, kneeling before a filthy toilet and heaving up a stomach full of pills and bile and the Jack Daniels he took his medication with.
How long has it been — five days? six, maybe? — since he swallowed something that wasn't liquor or a pill? No one else keeps track of this; Dean's too busy for it and there are almost never group meals, let alone regular ones. Castiel doesn't know this body's mass either, just that it can't breathe right, and it's always cold, and that, when he stands, he sometimes gets a dizzy spell that — almost, in a debased fashion — reminds him of intangibility. As he pulls the orange pharmaceutical bottles out of his jeans' pocket, he also knows that he needs more Concerta. It doesn't work perfectly, but it stives off his body's hunger and it fights away the inability to concentrate that he's found of late.
Sighing, Castiel sits up on his bed. He mutters a Damn when the rush doesn't come, and slides on his moccasin things with the rubber soles. This parka, he remembers as he zips it up, ought to be with Dean, but he insisted that Castiel keep it when he wouldn't let Chuck take him to the infirmary. Castiel draws the hood up, and draws the blanket around his shoulders as a cape. Trudging out into the barren, pale sunlight feels Herculean, but he perseveres. He needs his pills.
Castiel shuffles toward the infirmary and wonders if this is how ghosts feel. The chill goes down to his bones — even through his multiple layers, the cold does not, he thinks, have that far to travel — and passing by the mess hall, he can smell the steaks they're cooking up. (Risa must be in there now; she always talks about how much she likes making steak.) All the way out here, it reeks of salt and pepper, whatever spices Risa's dragged into this (oregano? perhaps many things, but Castiel can't place any of them), and searing flesh — and he has to be several meters off from the kitchen, not to mention the barriers that the walls create — on the other side of the building, he pauses, slumping against the cabin that Chuck has to himself, letting his head loll back into the freezing wood. (The logic Dean had for this was that Chuck might need space, in case he receives another prophecy. This has yet to happen, and it probably never will.)
Even with the cabin's wall at his back, Castiel's legs tremble. This, he expects and despite knowing it would come, he curses it — how can humans carry on in casings that can't adequately withstand starvation? Wondering that doesn't help him fight away the smell of meat, nor does the distance he tries to put between himself and the kitchen, inching around to the cabin's door, ever leaning on the wall and groaning as, when he rounds the corner, he feels that sharp angle jam itself against his spine. Unlike everything else, this comes as a surprise: he thought that he had more flesh on his back, not muscle necessarily but something more than his two shirts, threadbare jacket, blanket, and Dean's parka. (How thin must he be now that, even with protection, the corner can still find his spine?)
That line of thought is dangerous and, chest heaving in a drowsy, apathetic rhythm, Castiel shoves himself off of the wall. Any more time around that stench and he'll find himself in trouble, not least because he could regurgitate again or, worse, Risa might come out and make him eat something. (She doesn't keep track of him, he reminds himself; that wouldn't make sense. She doesn't keep track because she's jealous that he's known Dean longer, and that Dean touches Castiel in ways he'll never touch her, and that at night, Castiel can straddle Dean's hips and put the points of his elbows to good work on Dean's back, and when that's over, he can fall asleep pressed up against Dean's back, hearing Dean whisper that he can't lose Castiel, because that is, anymore, the only way he feels warm. Risa only bothers making people eat out of some affected common courtesy.) Castiel still trudges in his bid to escape dealing with her and her snapping, aggressive, smiling insistence on self-maintenance — but his feet come up faster, or at least he thinks they do. He wills them to press forward; the infirmary is further off still, and they have what he needs.
"Hey, Cas?" someone at his back asks after him, when finally he's found his way past the constellation of cabins, with the infirmary in clear view. (Although, now that Castiel has come so close, the building seems to fade into a haze; he blinks his eyes and shakes himself around to see it returned to normalcy — why would it do that? And when did the sunlight turn so bright?) For good measure, Castiel shakes his head again. The voice behind him asks again: "Hey? ...Cas? ...You okay?" and he knows its hesitance without turning to face the source.
"I'm fine, Chuck." The words come up with an attached nausea, something clenching on his stomach and digging in its claws. (Hunger and nausea, physically, feel so similar. And why are his legs wobbling now? Why won't his feet move further? He wants — no, needs — his pills to stave off both of the dangerous sensations.)
"Are you sure? I mean... Dean said he didn't want you up and about, didn't he?" The Prophet does not trudge, as Castiel has, even though the snow is ankle-deep; he practically skips around to face the angel. Castiel draws in a deep, shuddering breath and looks down at the dirty little (former) mouthpiece of the Lord. Chuck's brow furrows, and he frowns. "...Are you sure you're feeling okay? You don't look so good."
"I'm fine," he says again, "why do I need to repeat myself?"
"I'm sorry, it's just... You really, really don't look like you're doing so well. Maybe you should go lie down for a while?"
"I just got up from lying down; I'm fine." (There's power, Castiel remembers, in the number three. Saying something three times must make it some permutation of the truth. The problem goes as such, though: the more he says this, the more his legs feel rickety and wavering beneath him and the less Castiel believes in the truth he wants to exist.) "What do you require?"
"Well, it was just... Since Dean's out on the hunt, and... He didn't tell you what he wanted to do about—"
Castiel does not hear the rest. The haze descends on his view again and, this time, shaking his head does nothing. His eyes roll back into his head. He sighs. His knees buckle, and, unaware of Chuck shouting for someone to come help, he collapses in the snow.
When Castiel comes to again, he feels a pain in one arm and something cold around his wrist. (Which rests above his head, and doesn't have nearly the mobility it usually does. Its fellow can still move as Castiel pleases, though the IV he feels there does complicate that.) With an impatient huff, he jerks his arm; the sound of metal clanking against metal greets him and, when he cocks his head up, sleepily forces his eyes to open, he sees a set of handcuffs and the frame of an infirmary bed. Castiel rolls his eyes and sees a glimpse of the stark white ceiling; the only things that keep him from slipping back into unconsciousness are the voices he strains to hear:
"What do you mean, 'he just collapsed'?"
"What did I say that didn't make sense, Dean? I saw him outside, headed this way. I knew you didn't want him up, so we talked. And then he just... fell over."
"Well, has Jane figured out what the Hell's wrong with him yet?"
"She hasn't been able to ask him; he's been out cold. ...She did make it so he couldn't leave. Not that he'd get far, I mean, he's pretty—"
"Has she even tried examining him?"
"What's she supposed to find that we don't already know?" (At these words, Castiel feels as though someone's filled his stomach with lead. The emptiness insists upon itself, growling from the hunger and the nausea, but with it comes a chill worse than he felt outside.) "It's been a week since anybody saw him eat anything," Chuck continues, voice flat and tired and exasperated. "...He's not an angel anymore, Dean. He's—"
"I want to see him."
"He might not be awake yet—"
Something slams against the wall on the other side of the door, most likely Dean's fist or Chuck (in turn propelled there by Dean's fist). "I don't give a damn," Dean growls. "I'm seeing him, Chuck, now: let. me. in."
Chuck's light footfalls skitter away down the corridor, and the door slams open; Dean has no more grace in closing it, or in the fevered way he stalks down the line of beds. Castiel closes his eyes and rolls onto his side. He will not, he resolve, move a muscle, because Dean does not need to see him like this or to worry about him when he is fine, despite what his location would suggest. (Why he bothers escapes him; he knows before Dean gets there that this will not work.) Even so, even though his ruse is pathetic at best, Dean's footsteps slow as he nears Castiel's bed. They don't hit the floor like gunshots, but sound more like the cautious approach of a cat.
"Cas," Dean sighs, the weight of the world in his voice. When Castiel does not move, he kicks the foot of the bed; it trembles, but he doesn't budge. "Come on, you dumb bastard. I know you're not sleeping." He kicks at the bed; it shakes; Castiel doesn't move. (It occurs to him that, if he holds his breath he'll move less. Maybe this will make Dean clear out sooner.) "...Cas. Come on..." This time, Dean pauses. His gloves hit the floor, one after the other, and with a rough hand and a tender hold, he jostles Castiel's foot. (Putting up any fight at all would give away Castiel's gambit, but still unbreathing, he marvels to himself at how easily Dean bends his leg. And how his chest burns, and how his lungs twist, and how all his thoughts turn and focus on one thing only: air.) "...Oh, don't make me beg, Cas. Just wake up. ...Come on, Cas — please."
Once more — and harder than before — he kicks the bed's frame, and this time, Castiel flinches. Spluttering, gasping, and coughing, he draws in rapid breath after rapid breath; his eyes jolt open and his chest heaves as he tries to make up for the oxygen he denied himself. (He never needed to breathe when he was an angel.) Dean waits for him to calm before his voice shakes in demanding: "Sit. up."
Castiel could argue. He could point out that his handcuffs make this difficult — but, he finds, they don't. The cuff slides down to the mattress. The only problem Castiel finds lies in summoning enough strength to move: he bends his arms and pushes, but he quakes and struggles and falls back into the mattress. Only on the third try does he manage to grant Dean's request, and sitting on his own makes his head spin. (This is not the rush that he has chased so diligently, but a trembling sensation, like what happened before he passed out.) Grunting, Castiel leans against the headboard and lets his head rest on the wall, lets his eyes close, and lets a moan escape his lips.
Dean's coarse fingers caress and trail down his cheek, then give it a light smack; Castiel hates the way his nose twitches, and how he whines. "Come on, Cas. Stay awake for me."
Castiel forces his eyes to open. He blinks, and turns to look up into Dean's gaze. He opens his mouth to speak, but he says nothing; instead, Dean swoops down on him and holds Castiel to his chest. (Under Dean's broad shoulders and musculature, Castiel feels so small. Did he make himself so small?)
"Dammit, Cas," Dean whispers into his hair. "How many times do I have to say that I can't lose you?"
Castiel nods, and wraps his one free arm around Dean's shoulders.