Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural or anything associated.
A/N: I played with Greek mythology a bit in this one. Not too sure about it, but it's written. Please let me know what you think.
Ages ago, there was a war.
It was a great war, where men shouldered burning metal shells that would soon be pierced with sharpened spears, where men shouted out for glory, honor, and the far off dream of everlasting renown.
But it was not a man's war. It was the gods' war, and this is something Castiel has always known.
The greatest myths and fables that haunt the human mind are so poignant because they find their routes in truth, and with the Trojan War, this fact is more applicable than many would believe. God has always had His prophets, His chosen recorders and storytellers, and even when they didn't believe, this didn't change.
He sent an angel to a poet. He burned out his eyes and gave him the most majestic words; just enough mystic circumstance to please the time, enough mix of tragedy and talent to make for an everlastingly good story.
And Homer heard the words inside his head and transcribed with poetry a history, because, years later, God wanted it so.
Castiel knows this story, but with the passage of time, he finds himself reaching a different conclusion.
It's the early 2000s, but he stands in a distant, ancient world, concealed on the bloodied plain while men scream and die. It is glorious in scope but pitiful in reality, soldiers cut down in the most pathetic ways, disrespected in their death as their armor is stolen and hoarded. It is mankind at its best and its worst, and Castiel watches bodies pile up for the sake of higher entertainment.
There have always been other entities, smaller yet still powerful gods that sway the people's worship away from the true Almighty Father. These supernatural beings are hailed as hallowed and sacred, but Castiel knows they are not.
He can see the truth of it here, for with his sight, those Greek deities are clear and easily comprehensible. He watches as they scrabble amongst themselves, arguing and fighting, and so very petty. They're beautiful, glowing and glorious, but inside they are rotting, ugly, vindictive things; just like this war. Just like humanity, but worse because they should know.
These are not gods, so Castiel has always believed, just beings with strength and power.
For this war, the bleeding men who suffer for their dignity, was ministrated by the gods, and is continuously altered by their triteness and personal devotions. They disguise themselves and fight among the humans, trick them with wiles and fleshy masks. It is bestial and wrong, and these are not gods.
At least, that has always been what Castiel believed. Yet, his conviction is now a very shaky, crumbly thing.
His God is the Creator, the true Father of all that grows and is on the planet, and beyond that, the entire universe itself in all its grand scope. Castiel knows this, and in the past such thought would fill him with warmth and a knowing love. But, that is not the only reason why God is true while these idols are worth nothing.
God cares for His sons and daughters, for the sheep in the flock He leads. He wishes them joy and wellness, and when they must suffer pain, it is just and purposeful. They are His children, and above all else, He loves them.
And yet, lately, Castiel's Father seems less and less Holy and more and more like the selfish creatures that started this silly war. The truths Castiel wants to continue denying are as heavy and clotting in the air as the toxic scent of blood and death.
For where has He gone? Why has He deserted His children, leaving them with only half-sensical prophecies and commanders who cannot surely be following His will? Or are these all His true wishes, after all this time, for everyone to race around, unknowing and afraid, while He watches, holding all answers in His hidden hands?
Castiel simply no longer knows, and he doubts, and he is very much lost.
So he has come here, to a land and a war buried underneath time, dirt, and folly. Perhaps he came because, upon seeing this carnage and waste, the trust in his Father would burn bright again, for surely He cannot be like this. Or, maybe, it was in acceptance that He is, and this is what awaits him, what awaits everyone, what awaits Sam.
Castiel's powers are fading, and, cut off from Heaven and losing trust in his raison d'être itself, he is not surprised. He still mourns their loss, the loss of himself, but in this case, he carelessly abuses what he had left. Such travel is costly and dangerous, and the recovery he needs for one trip is costly. The trip back will be the same, and soon, these excursions will not be possible at all, even with the weeks of darkness that have become his rest.
He took his chance because he still can, because he wants to see.
When Castiel watches these men scramble forward with stained metal and hope that is bloodthirsty but hope all the same, he can see fate looming over their heads. Fate is like a guillotine, and everyone is slipped into its hold upon birth. One may struggle and beg, work the wood and try to slip away with blood a freely given sacrifice, but in the end, the blade will fall when and how it was meant to, and this is all.
Castiel watches one man, a special man, a being loved by the entities that hide away on their mountains. He has a supernatural taint running through his veins, but he is strong and marvelous. His body sings with ability and power, his arms and legs a flurry of vengeance and need. Trojans fall around him, and Achilles does not smile.
His eyes, underneath their helm, are shadowy, mechanical things, and here is a man that fate has always ruled with greedy decrees. A man doing what he knows he must, even while his soul sputters out in his chest at the injustice. A man that proves that fate is inescapable.
Or is that really true?
Fight here and die here. Fight here, perish young, and the world will always remember your name. Go home and live. Enjoy the years, spare your father, and raise your son.
Two fates. Two choices.
Castiel already knows the ending of this tale. Achilles fights and so he will perish, predicted and expected, and the city burns. Yet, as he views the carnage, Castiel is reminded that it did not have to always be so. Achilles, the greatest warrior, could have gone home; the option was there, proposed to him and open. But he stayed for revenge, and for the tantalizing promise of glory all the same.
Was the second gate ever open? Was it a true promise or nothing more than a dusty lie in the end? Was Achilles' choice a true one, or was his decision already a predestined, accursed thing?
Castiel doesn't know.
What truth is there in choices when those choices are already carved in ancient, dusty stone?
It all hurts, swimming like a cloudy, liquid thing in his head, pounding in time to spears against shields. A Greek races forward thinking of his wife, and a Trojan slices open his belly while praying for his son, guts and blood and life slobbering onto the ground. The gods laugh, and Castiel feels his eyes burning.
So he leaves, whisking himself away by dipping his dirty fingers into the ever-sinking reserve. He doesn't know where he ends up, just jolts back into now and feels himself falling, black clawing at the edges with no mercy for his eyes. Castiel feels himself hit the ground, the whispers of the unhappy grass he crushes, and he guiltily craves the darkness that he expects to hit him.
Only it's different this time. He goes under, leaving the garish reality behind him, but Castiel does not get peace. He watches helplessly as beautiful people with honey-slick bodies laugh behind his eyelids, golden hair and bronze limbs animal and speckled with blood.
Voices like angels whispering, "Go on, baby. Die for me."
The sun and the moon dance around each other for a while, exchanging flirtatious glances and ephemeral promises while a broken soldier dreams.
Worn-down tires slip along dewy grass, and Castiel wakes up, eyes snapping open. He sits up immediately, head turning towards the disturbance, which turns out to be a teenage boy and his friends on bikes. They're in a field, but Castiel collapsed on the outskirts, hidden, and if Castiel believed, he'd have said protected.
For the first time, as Castiel watches the boys soar by, racing to impress one another, friendship mixing with the desperate need to be liked, he doesn't praise God for his creations. He just sees bloody puddles, gaping mouths and thinks, "You'll all be dead soon."
It hurts, a gaping loss of air as it puffs past his lips, something he didn't always notice or need. Castiel stands up, and one of the boys turns at the surreptitious rustling of something like leaves. He sees nothing and goes on.
These days, it takes a cell phone to find the Winchester brothers, but Castiel needs away right now so he totters out on the thin limb that says they might still be in the same motel. He appears on the bed farthest from the door, instantly stocking the fact that Dean's in the bathroom and Sam is conspicuously absent. Castiel glances at the clock and the lack of wrappers and coffee cups, deducing the other's location while he waits.
Soon enough, Dean walks back into the room, pace slowing to a stop when he spots Castiel sitting alone.
"Cas," he greets shortly, and Castiel says, "Dean," and that's all the formalities they possess.
Castiel doesn't say anything else, so Dean shrugs, throwing this and that into his bag, none of it noteworthy, none of it important. It's all just things, little bits and pieces that won't amount to anything in the end, memories that don't bring a sparkle to Dean's eye anymore.
Dean starts talking, and while Castiel is listening, because it is Dean, he thinks, human eyes fastened on the other while his mind flutters, lost.
Finally, Castiel creaks his jaw open and starts, "Dean," only it's low and commanding, and Dean stops everything and faces him, curiosity glued together with annoyance.
"Have you ever read Homer?" Castiel asks him, and Dean's brow furrows. "You mean the guy that wrote about some other guy trying to get home while all the gods fuck with him? And some bitch turns his friends into pigs?"
"The Odyssey, yes, that's one," Castiel answers simply. A sad, drowning part of him wants to smile, but he doesn't. "But he wrote another, The Iliad."
"The one with the war," Dean replies automatically, and Castiel nods, but Dean's narrowed eyes still convey only confusion and suspicion, as if Castiel is about to send him out to battle the entire Olympian Court alone.
As if he doesn't know that Castiel would never leave him that way. Even if he wanted, he could not. Harsh facts; unfair reality. Truth.
"The Trojan War," Castiel clarifies, and his mouth feels dry, tongue a withering slab. "To be accurate, only a short piece of it."
"What are you getting at, Cas?" Dean demands, and Castiel obliges. As always.
"Achilles, the greatest hero, refuses to fight after he is slighted. His dearest friend goes out for him and is struck down by Hector of Troy."
"And Achilles gets off his ass and kills him," Dean finishes, sitting down on the opposite bed, hands on his knees. "What's your point?"
"Troy burns because of him, because of that choice," Castiel continues, watching Dean intently. "Achilles vanquishes their only hope of survival, and beyond that, he himself goes on to perish, as the gods foretold."
"And?" Dean prompts, so Castiel says,
"Do you think that he was right?"
"Of course he was," Dean doesn't even hesitate, and Castiel waits. "That guy was like his brother, and Hector or whatever killed him."
The words are stones, heavy as they crack open the floor.
"Son of a bitch didn't deserve to live after that."
"But Achilles had a choice, to return home and live or fight and be doomed."
"There's no such thing as a choice," Dean grunts, but there's laughter in the back of his throat, black and acrid. Burnt. "They all say there is, but when it comes down to the wire, it's all predetermined bullshit."
Dean stands, springs crying out their freedom after so many years of abuse. He plants his feet on the ground, angry, his back an unreadable thing.
"Isn't that what your buddies are always telling us?"
Castiel gets to his feet, walking around the volatile, complicated, messy thing that's seething on a cheap motel carpet. He stops inches from Dean, where he can see his eyes, furious, tinted green, and lost.
"There was a time you did not believe that."
It's a whisper, but it's loud in unwanted ways. It's like a sudden thin beam of light shining into the omnipresent darkness, a small, insignificant thing that burns all the same.
Because Castiel sees.
The conversation was meaningless jargon really, a way for the worries frothing in Castiel's mind to seep out into reality, a way to hint at his troubles through esoteric, arcane means. But it reveals, because the itch in the back of Castiel's mind cannot be ignored, and the slight thoughts that began to build days ago in a different time are all abruptly, irrevocably true.
Because Dean's eyes are dead things.
Still green. But they're dead and waiting to be rotten.
When Castiel watched a battlefield, he zeroed in on the man who would become a hero for a time, until he became hated by a world that would come to hate war. His eyes were hidden underneath a helmet of sparkling but mediocre divinity, but Castiel pushed past, and what he saw tore at him like a fierce gale of wind.
His eyes were blank, resigned pools, colored but nothing more. He was a doll, doing what the world told him he must, accepting a fate he never wanted because he was chosen.
When that arrow hit his heel, Achilles was already dead.
And Dean is the same. Castiel grabs at his face, fingers digging into Dean's cheeks in a craze, and while those eyes scrunch up from the minute pricks of pain, nothing changes.
Dean's talking, a "What the hell, Cas," but it's jumbled, crushed against a palm covering half of Dean's mouth, uncaring. There's struggling, but it doesn't reach Castiel, and he still grasps the face he turned against Heaven for, searching for the eyes that convinced him to do so.
"Gone," he mutters, barely noticing the word slip out, because Castiel feels so unexpectedly lost. His Father's absence has been a deep pain pulsating within him for a very long time, impossible to ignore yet so tempting to push down and down and down. Yet even in that pain, that sense of purposelessness, as if Castiel had been dropped onto a map without guidelines, bleeding and graceless without direction, there was Dean. Dean who believed in the cause. Dean who shone.
Dean who needed him.
And Dean no longer believes. Dean accepts.
Dean is calling his name, this repeated mantra of "Cas," relentless and too painful.
"No," Castiel all but growls, hands clenching tighter. He's too used to being focused and driven, pushing it out, having a mission, following another's lead too, too blindly. He can't handle this rush inside of him, this crashing sea of emotions spinning wildly, crashing against everything inside of him and causing it to splinter.
"No," he orders again, this time against Dean's lips, sudden and pleading, done without the ever-leading thought.
Castiel kisses Dean, and it's not about love, or being soft, or blissful revelation. It's about convincing this man that he cannot do this, that he cannot slip away and leave Castiel with this shell of a thing, trained and set but nothing substantial, nothing alive. It's all acting on pure emotion, messy and brutal, tongue and teeth and need.
Dean struggles at first, turning from unmoving and shocked to wildly bewildered in nothing more than a second, twisting as if he could break Castiel's grip. Castiel holds him there, and speaks to Dean in the only way that makes sense to him at the moment, and maybe Dean gets it, because he eventually tries to speak back, shifting his lips against Castiel's.
No, it's not about love. It's not about love at all, and that's not because Castiel doesn't love Dean. But that's not what it's about. It's just not.
Castiel pulls back, and it's, "You're not allowed to do this," before he surges back in, giving Dean no quarter. He doesn't deserve one, and Castiel moves his hands from Dean's face to his shoulders, squeezing until it has to be painful. He barely registers that Dean's are shaking uncertainly at his side, fingers twitching and occasionally hitting Castiel's trench coat, unsure of whether they should grab or push away.
"You," Castiel hisses, livid and panicked, "Promised."
And Dean did. Not in words of the exact kind, but in others sugared with the same sweet taste. He promised in his actions, in the road he traveled down, in the way he dragged Castiel and everyone else with him.
Somewhere in there, if he wasn't biting at Dean's neck, needing reaction and life, Castiel might think about fate again, about the truth in decision and destiny. If Castiel wasn't moving his arms to claw at Dean's back, forcing him closer, he'd wonder if it was fair to blame Dean when there might not be one true decision in the world.
But really, Fair can go down into the deepest pits of Hell, because the idea of fair has never been kind to Castiel. It spit on him, brought him to his knees and kicked him into the dirt, laughed as he fumbled, lost. Fair left him with Dean, his tainted brother, and wings battered with holes from lies and empty vows.
Castiel pushes Dean onto the bed and all traces of struggling are gone. Clothes slip away and lines fade as heels scuff the chalk, and Castiel doesn't open his eyes, keeping his secret, unanswered prayers to himself as he touches sweaty skin and kisses bleeding lips.
When it's over, Castiel's awake but Dean isn't. Sam's still not back, and if Castiel were himself, he'd wonder and worry. But at the moment, he's not, and there's only one question he needs to be answered.
Time shuffles past, and it feels as though there's a fire under his skin, burning and scorching until he can't stand it anymore. Finally, Dean groans, eyelids flickering, answering everything.
Castiel doesn't realize he's crying until Dean wipes a tear from his cheek, staring at it as though he doesn't understand.