So I haven't been on here in a while, as you may have noticed if you followed me over from my multi-chapter fic, "Soldiers Fighting in a War Against Our Own Advice". Mostly this is because I'm kind of at a mental brick wall with that fic. I know exactly where it's going and I KNOW what I should be writing next, but I'm just not feeling it right now.
So, to get my creative juices flowing again, I've signed up for H/C Bingo on Live Journal. I've been given 25 hurt/comfort prompts and I intend to finish them all (even the really weird ones). I will be posting them here as well.
So enjoy. This one's pretty bittersweet. It came from the prompt 'insanity - always there'. More later.
Warnings: Slash, AU, mentions of character deaths
Castiel's light footsteps echo. The sounds bounce off immaculately white walls, and there is nothing to get in the way of them, nothing to soften or muffle the loud tapping of his shoes against the plain tiles. The halls are empty.
They are also dark. It's past 'lights out' and, thankfully, there hasn't been any trouble reinforcing that rule tonight. Castiel has good eyes, though. He walks a straight line to the door at the end of the corridor. It's a ridiculously familiar door, familiar in a way that nothing else in this building is to Castiel, save for what's behind it. He knows the dent in the top left corner, the discolouration seeping up from the bottom edge, the finger prints and peeling paint that surround the door knob. He turns it quietly and slips inside.
The man in the room looks up at him through the darkness. His eyes look like two black holes in his face now, but Castiel knows them well. In the light of day, they are the brightest green. The man shifts and his muscles tense. Castiel frowns. He had thought they were past this.
"Get out." It's an order, and it comes from the man on the bed. His voice is deep, raspy, but Castiel can hear the fear behind it. It stops him in his tracks. It's a primal fear, based on survival instinct, and it saddens him. He reaches into the pocket of his crisp, white coat and pulls out a small flashlight he keeps for these occasions. They happen almost every night, so he is never without it. He points it at his face and clicks it on.
"Dean. It's me." He says the words quietly, reassuringly. Dean knows him. He has for a long time now. Dean will remember him.
He does. The look of recognition that passes over his face is unmistakeable, and for a moment, Dean's handsome features soften. But his stance doesn't. He is still crouched, looking frightened, ready for fight-or-flight. Dean has looked at many people this way, but never once at Castiel. His heart clenches dully in his chest. That look? It hurt.
"Dean? Are you alright?" Castiel takes a cautious step toward him. Dean shifts, his back now pressed against the wall.
"Liar," he spits.
Castiel freezes mid-step. "I've never lied to you," he tells him, his voice hard and firm because the accusation was so false it was offensive.
"You did," Dean insists. "You told me none of it was real. You told me they were dreams."
"They are." Castiel can move again now, and he takes another step towards his patient.
"Liar!" Dean hisses, but his voice is quiet. That was one of the rules of these nightly visits: no attracting attention. No one can know. Castiel would be in trouble, and even though he'd had lied to him, Dean didn't want him to be taken away. Not him, too. "You're one of them."
Castiel shakes his head sadly, and he is close enough now to put his hand softly on Dean's shoulder. The man flinches, but he doesn't move.
"Who, exactly, do you think I am?" Castiel asks as he sits next to Dean on the bed. He keeps his voice low and calm, hoping to, in turn, keep Dean calm. He thinks it's working.
Dean glares at him, like he's angry that Castiel should have to ask. "You're an angel."
Normally it would sound like a cheap pick-up line, but Dean says it like he despises the word. It drips hateful venom and cuts through the silence of the room. Castiel is shocked at how much he resents being called an angel by this man, when he doesn't even know what it's supposed to mean.
"An angel? You've never spoken of angels before."
Dean leans away from him, his face twisted with betrayal. "Yeah, well, first time for everything, feathery little bastard."
A chuckle threatens to escape Castiel's lips, but he holds it back. Dean, despite his condition, had always had a sense of humour. This time, though, Castiel knows he's not joking. His hand reaches up and his fingers gently turn Dean's face so that he can focus on him. His eyes have fully adjusted to the dark now, and he can see Dean's reluctance to look directly at him.
"Dean, I'm not an angel," he begins, his voice soft. "I'm a doctor, remember? I'm nothing like what you dream of. How can I prove it to you?"
Dean snarls, but his face is heavier in Castiel's hand now, leaning into it. It's a comfort to both of them. "That's the thing. You can't. If you were anything else, I could test it. Holy water, salt, silver, dead man's blood… I could test you." Castiel nods as if he completely agrees, even though Dean has none of those things on hand. "But I don't know how to test angels," he says, and it sounds like an admission of defeat.
Castiel knows why. Dean thinks it's his job to know these things. Castiel forces eye contact again, his hand still cupping the other man's jaw.
"I'm not an angel," he repeats. "I promise you I have never lied. I am no more an angel than Ava is a psychic, or Lenore a vampire, or Ruby a demon. They are all dreams, Dean, I promise you."
Dean huffed. "Dreams or not, Ruby's still hell spawn." Castiel laughs quietly, and can't help but agree. Ava is a doctor and Lenore and Ruby are patients here, just like Dean. And Castiel has to admit, even for a mental hospital, Ruby is psychotic. He doesn't bring her up very often, though, not in Dean's presence, because Dean… well, Dean is psychotic too. In a different way, of course, but the man still had a room at St Joseph's Mental Institution. Castiel could never be sure how Dean would react to the sound of her name, so he mostly kept it out of conversation. This had been a slip up, but fortunately Dean let it pass.
"So you believe me?" Castiel asks, hopeful. For a moment all he can hear is the faint whir of the air conditioner, fending of the heat of the summer night. Everything else is silent. He can't even hear Dean breathing.
"Kinda," Dean answers finally. Castiel tilts his head in confusion and Dean smiles. "I know I'm right, Cas." His body finally relaxes and he leans back against the wall, leaving very little space between him and Castiel. "I know they're not dreams. They're real. But I believe you believe they're dreams."
Well, wasn't that ironic?
Dean continues. "I don't know how that works, but I know you don't lie, not to me. So maybe you're a good angel." Castiel briefly wonders why Dean would automatically assume most angels were not good, especially since Castiel himself is supposed to be the very first Dean had ever met. He shakes away the thought. Dean's head was filled with monsters. They were everywhere to him. Why should angels be any different? "Maybe you're a good angel, and you just don't know it yet."
Castiel's answering smile is marred with regret. Regret for the things that had happened to make Dean this way. "Maybe," he agrees, because he doesn't want to bring down Dean's good mood. He is calm tonight, more himself than he had been yesterday or the day before, and Castiel enjoys it.
"Hey, Cas?" Dean asks after a minute of comfortable silence. Castiel's lips twitch upwards at the nickname Dean had given him.
Dean turns to face him. "Why are you here?"
Castiel frowns. "If you want me to leave –"
"Shut up, Cas, you know I don't. I just mean, you're always here, after 'lights out', when you're not supposed to be. I don't care much, but I'm pretty sure you'd get fired if anyone else found out."
A lump formed in Castiel's throat. This wasn't fair. Times like these, Dean was just so sane. Times like these, he didn't belong here. It wasn't fair.
But times like these never lasted long.
"And if they don't fire you, they'll take you to the demons. I know you don't believe they're real, but that Ava chick? The psychic one? Don't trust her. She seems like a nice girl but she'll turn on you. She knows you're an angel now. She'll take you to Alistair and Lilith and… and Ruby." He spits the last name on the list and Castiel wonders if maybe Dean isn't quite as calm as he'd thought.
"I'll be careful." It's a promise. He won't stop coming on these visits, he's too emotionally attached to stop now, but he'll be very, very careful. No one will know.
Dean nods, satisfied. "Good. Now answer my question," he orders impatiently. It makes Cas smile faintly.
"I'm here because I want to be. I come at night because I know you have trouble sleeping. You get restless, and you don't like being alone for too long. And maybe I'm flattering myself, but sometimes I hope that I keep the nightmares away, at least for a little while." He shoots Dean a half smile. He isn't talking about the dreams that Dean is here for, the ones he can't distinguish from reality. He's talking about the nightmares that wake him screaming, the fires that stalk him in his sleep, the death of the boy that replays itself over and over again while he lies unconscious, unable to stop the torture until he wakes.
Dean shudders. He doesn't like to think about the nightmares. They're why he rarely sleeps. But there they are, right at the forefront of his mind. Castiel freezes again, and he knows he shouldn't have mentioned anything. Dean's eyes have glazed over and he's staring at the wall ahead of them like it's not even there. Castiel knows what he's seeing instead. Dean's told him before.
A raging fire. His mother's long blonde hair. Her white nightgown is burning and so is her skin. He can smell it. A shout – it's his father's. Dean can see his tears. That's odd. John never cries. "Take your brother outside, as fast as you can. Now, Dean, go!" Sam is there. Gangly little Sammy, his awkward geek brother who still, at 16, hasn't even kissed a girl. He's terrified. He's not crying, but his eyes are wide with fear and his lip trembles and Dean just wants to save him. He's never wanted anything more than to just save Sam. They try to run. Dean tries to block out the sounds of his parent's screams. Sam trips. He cries out for Dean. The flames devour him.
That's where Dean used to wake up. He told Castiel once that as far as dreams go, this one was pretty accurate. Dean had tried to save him, but firefighters had gotten there before he could. They dragged him out, kicking and screaming, and by the time they got back in, Dean's parents were dead. So was Sam. Dean had failed.
But Dean doesn't wake up that way anymore. Now the dreams last seconds longer, just enough for Dean to see Ruby there, standing by the house, her eyes black as night.
After the fire, Dean had been sent here, to St. Joseph's. A few months later, he'd met Ruby. And he flipped. Something in him just snapped. Castiel had no idea why, but Dean had decided he needed a scapegoat, and Ruby was it. He convinced himself that she'd started the fire, that it was demonic warfare. She did it to kill Sam, because Sam was special. Sam was perfect. Sam was the best of them all and he could have saved the world from the demons, Dean just knew it.
The demons couldn't have that. They sent Ruby to kill him.
At least that's what Dean told himself had happened. Ruby was a psycho, but her file said she'd been living Israel when Dean's family was killed. Castiel had checked, though he didn't know why. Maybe Dean's stories had just gotten to him. Maybe he checked because he wanted Dean to be right so that he didn't have to be here, locked up like a bird in a cage, living a life of medication and meal schedules and monotony. It didn't fit with what Castiel could see in Dean, buried underneath the torment and the delusions. Light. Energy. Goodness.
But it didn't matter. Dean was just another nutcase now, just like Ruby, just like the rest of them. That's all. There were no demons that would prove him right, no angels that would come to save him. They would only eat away at him from the inside of his mind until one day there would be nothing left of the man Castiel knew.
"Dean?" Castiel waves his hand in front of Dean's eyes, trying to snap him out of it. "Dean?" He wants to scream the name if it could sweep the images away quicker, but Castiel still has to be quiet. He'd promised he wouldn't get caught.
Dean blinks, and his eyes are wet. He shakes his head and swallows, trying to forget. The nightmares were bad enough when he was asleep. Now he has to deal with their memories while awake. It's like he just can't manage to escape it, and it's not fair. He starts to shake, and Castiel feels awful. Why did he always say the wrong things? Dean buries his head in his hands.
"God, I must be going crazy."
And that was without a doubt the most painful thing Castiel has ever heard. The words slice into him like a knife through his chest. Because it doesn't matter that Dean is madder than a March hare in November; Castiel has never once heard Dean admit it. And he wasn't even admitting to being insane for the right reasons. He thought his reactions to his memories were crazy, and that… that was just not true. The knife twists, hitting his heart, and then Castiel is doing the most unprofessional thing he'd ever done in his whole career, and that includes paying nightly visits to a mental patient that are quite obviously against the rules, simply because he wants to.
He's kissing him.
He pulls Dean's hands away from his face, tilts his chin so they're eye to eye, and kisses him. Their lips just barely touch, a soft brush of skin against skin that sends a shiver down Castiel's spine, before he pulls back. His face in still just inches from Dean though, personal space be damned.
"You're not crazy." No, this is the most unprofessional thing he's ever done. "You're not. You know why? I remember now." Castiel doesn't know what he's doing. This is wrong, for a person in his position to be encouraging this kind of behaviour. But he can't let Dean say things like that. It hurts too much. And to be honest, he doesn't even care if he gets fired, because he hates this job; it's too dark and too sad, and Castiel just isn't built for it, so as long as he can pull some strings and take Dean with him, he doesn't care if they make him leave. "You made me remember. I am an angel, Dean. You were right. You're not crazy. I remember."
It's the first lie Castiel has ever told Dean, but he doesn't care because Dean actually looks hopeful, and that's something Castiel has been aching to see since he'd first started treating him.
"But you're not so bad. Not a dick like the rest of 'em. Right?" There's that assumption again, that all angels are scum even though Castiel's the only one he's ever met. He smiles and shakes his head.
"No. A good angel."
Dean scoffs and rolls his eyes as if to say finally. Finally someone believes him. The relief that flashes in his eyes is jarring, and Castiel thinks that it might just be worth the lie. Maybe even worth all the ones that will have to come after it, too.
"Told you," he mutters, before crushing their lips together again.
So, what did you think? Like it? Hate it? Send me a review! They always make my day, and I'd love to hear what you think of this because it's my first ever AU and I want to know if I did good.