Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or any other content of Supernatural
Dedication: To the lovely Aziraphale-Aysa, happy birthday!
Spoilers: Up to 6x11, Appointment in Samarra
AN: This was inspired by wasabi covered peas, which proves that inspiration can be found in anything, if the one looking is only desperate enough.
Forgive and Forget
They were small and green, and really, Dean should have known better.
But it was just one of these days. Those days when your ginormous probably-not-soulless-anymore brother woke you with a heart attack simply by actually waking you when he was supposed to be still locked up in the panic room until everyone was completely convinced that he didn't think he was Jack Nicholson anymore. Those days when you realize everyone had gone back to their usual MO of making important decisions like letting out said ginormous, re-souled brother without even consulting you, and not that he wanted to bitch about it, but was he the only one who even remembered where that tactic had brought them last time? Those days with too much fighting, too little things to shoot in the head, and not nearly enough beer to get him through it. So, when Dean decided in the evening the best thing he could do was get out, be on his own, find the nearest bar and get himself too drunk to care anymore, he really didn't think anybody had a right to blame him for it. After all, Bobby had decided that it was safe to be around Sam again, even though his empathy still seemed a bit rusty, and Sam himself spent most of the time apologizing for the horrible things he did during the last months, as if apologies would change anything. They certainly wouldn't change that Dean had blown his one chance for a normal life, and it also didn't change the fact that Bobby – though insisting that he trusted Sam again – still seemed a bit paranoid. Dean couldn't blame him, hell, he couldn't blame Lisa, either. He couldn't even blame Sam, or at least he tried to convince himself of that. Maybe a small part of him did, but the bigger part that had always been so desperate to protect Sam and see the best of him silenced any thought in that direction. It was wrong, it was not true, it wasn't Sam's fault because it hadn't really been Sam. And maybe, after a few more shots, Dean might even believe that.
"Tough day?" the bartender asked as she poured him another one.
"Tough month." Dean replied, though he might as well have said year, it would be closer to what it felt like.
"Oh, I know how those get," the bartender said, "just call me if you need another one." With that she turned to other patrons. Not that there were many of them, but maybe he was just too depressing or something.
This was wrong. He should be out celebrating over saving Sam's soul, but he just couldn't feel it. Not in a soulless-I-have-no-emotions way, obviously, but more that he couldn't combine what he knew he should feel with the things he actually felt. Maybe it had been one blow too much, or maybe several, but he couldn't just bounce back to how things were before, at least not that fast. So here he was, just where he always seemed to end up – on his own in front of a bottle feeling like crap. Not to mention he didn't exactly have a lot of people to celebrate with, even if he wanted to. Once again, his circle of acquaintance had shrunk to three persons, one of them expecting a behavior of him that he couldn't provide, the other one he'd prefer to avoid at the moment and the last one being busy fighting a war. Sure, Dean understood that Castiel would be occupied, but that didn't mean he had to like it. And no, it wasn't that he always needed or for that matter wanted the angel's attention on him. It was just that whenever he thought about the civil war his friend was fighting, he couldn't help but wonder what heaven or the other angels ever did to deserve this much devotion from Castiel. Also, he hadn't forgotten the ease with which Lucifer had destroyed Castiel, and how Raphael had already proven himself to be just as capable. And now that he didn't have to worry about Sam's soul anymore – only about how well the walls held – a part of him imagined just how dangerous a war between angels could be.
Also, Castiel still hadn't answered to his last prayer about how things with Death had gone down – and when exactly had prayers become a cell phone substitute, anyway? It still felt weird to just talk to the air.
"You don't need to talk when you pray to me, Dean."
Dean hardly flinched when he noticed the angel sitting beside him, watching him as if he was the most curious thing on earth, or wherever else he usually hung out.
"Little warning next time," Dean muttered, but it didn't have the usual energy. "So what, now you're spying in on my thoughts? Cause I gotta tell you, man, still creepy." Especially now. Nobody should hear the things he thought these days, even about Castiel. Not since… but no, he wouldn't think of that.
"I am able to discern messages you're sending me even if you don't vocalize them," Castiel said, though Dean thought it seemed as if he was the slightest bit uncomfortable.
"Really?" Dean said, raising his eyebrow. He could think of dozens of occasion when he might have silently called out in the middle of getting his ass kicked, but the instances when the angel actually appeared to get him out of trouble could be counted on one hand.
"Words are usually clearer than thoughts." Castiel briefly looked sideways as if he wanted to avoid Dean's eyes, or maybe only as if he considered if he needed a drink himself.
"Then why did you hear them now? I wasn't even calling for you." Because the last thing he wanted was a constant angel watch on his brain that called Castiel every time his name popped up in Dean's thoughts.
Castiel paused, but finally he looked directly at Dean – stared more likely – and sighed. "I was… focusing on you, that's why I heard."
"Oh. Okay. Any reason for that?" Dean asked and a part of him wondered whether he should be worried, but Castiel just shook his head.
"You are not endangered, if that is your concern. I… there was no specific reason." He sounded tired and embarrassed, as if he couldn't accept that someone in his position would actually do something without a very specific and important reason for it.
"So what, you were checking in to see if I've got time to hang out or something?" Dean smirked and waved the bartender over. "You know, other people just ask."
Castiel shifted uncomfortably. "I was merely trying to find out whether you were still in need of assistance. You tried to contact me a while ago."
"Two weeks, man. Where've you been?" Dean asked, then he turned to the bartender. "Get him one of these, as well. Oh, and leave the bottle. Thanks, sweetheart."
She left and Dean pushed the shot into Castiel's hand. "There, you look like you need it."
"I believe that assessment is correct," Castiel said and downed it in one gulp. He waited for a second, then frowned. "It doesn't seem to have an effect."
"Yeah, give it a moment," Dean said, "or considering your freaking angel-anti-drunk-mojo maybe a few more bottles of that stuff. So, where've you been?"
"I was tracking down a weapon."
"And judging from your cheery demeanor that must have gone over really well," Dean said when the angel didn't volunteer more information – not that he had expected any.
"I am not cheery." Castiel frowned at him for a second, then he made an annoyed sound. "That was sarcasm?"
"Well, at least you're getting better at spotting it," Dean said and poured them another shot. "So, what happened? Was Raphael faster than you?"
"No, I was able to secure it. However, it appears I was severely overestimating its actual power and meaning."
"That's not so bad, is it?" Dean asked. "It's gotta be better than that dick getting his hands on a really powerful one, right?"
"It means that I wasted two weeks on finding something that is of no use for me," Castiel said for clarification. Dean couldn't stand it when he sounded like that. Too exhausted, nearly defeated. It always reminded him of a zombie filled future and a hollow laughter. "What did you need, Dean?"
The question surprised him. He had expected Castiel to be exhausted but ready to return to his celestial battles as soon as possible, especially if he wasted that much time already, but here he was, drinking another shot and looking at Dean as if he really hoped there was something he could do. Or maybe he just wanted to feel useful, or do anything that actually meant something… And even that Dean couldn't provide.
"Nothing," he said, carefully watching for any sign of disappointment on Castiel's face but finding none, "actually, I've got good news for once. I had a little chat with Death. Well, a chat and a bet, actually, and not even that worked out that great… The point is, he did it. He got Sam's soul and put it back, and he raised some kind of wall inside his head so he won't remember hell."
"That is good news," Castiel said, but Dean could nearly see how his thought went, that he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"It is for now," Dean said. "So, you're up for celebrating?" He still didn't feel like it, but he guessed that was what would be expected from him. He also should have expected, that the damn angel knew him too well to fall for that tired mask.
"If you were here to celebrate your brother's return, he'd be with you," Castiel said and frowned at him.
"Yeah, well… it's complicated," Dean said, mostly because he really didn't want to talk about it. "Just wanted to get out for a while. We can still drink to it."
For a second Castiel looked as if he wanted to comment or tell Dean that he could see inside his soul or some other bullshit, but then he apparently got the clue and nodded. "That we can."
It was ridiculously close to "normal", sitting here at a bar with another guy, both of them tired and exhausted, after crappy months, or years actually, not talking about it, but on some level sharing just how much their lives sucked. And though Dean would bite his tongue before admitting it, this was actually… comforting in its normalcy, or as normal as things in his world could ever get. Besides, a human and an angel sitting in a bar… sounded like the beginning of a really bad joke. In reality, it was probably the first time in weeks that he actually managed to relax. Maybe for a few moments he could just pretend that this was normal, or his life, having a drink with a regular friend… who was an angel, okay, no way to get around that one, but still… And that was already way more thought than the simple moment deserved. Not that it was a moment.
"You know, we could check stuff out for you," Dean said, not really sure where the idea came from, but desperate to say something. "Weapons, I mean. When you get a hint we can look into it for you. Just so you don't spend weeks on… whatever it was."
Castel looked at him wide-eyed, as if that simple offer was the most surprising and maybe the kindest thing he heard in weeks. "I… appreciate that," he finally said, "thank you."
Dean felt uncomfortable. "Yeah, well, it's not like we have anything else to do at the moment, like being Crowley's bitches or looking for Sam's soul or doing anything with the Campbells, so-"
"Dean." The single word was enough to interrupt Dean's rambling and he felt himself flush. "Thank you." Castiel repeated.
Before Dean could embarrass himself anymore, the angel looked up as if he was listening to a voice only he could hear.
"Angel radio calling you again?" Dean asked.
Castiel nodded, though the look on his face said clearly that returning to Heaven was the last thing he wanted to do right now. "My presence is needed."
He stood, but before he could disappear, someone crashed into him.
"Sorry," the man slurred, "didn't see you there."
Castiel stared at him. "That is fine. You should go talk to your wife about your fears instead of drinking." Dean couldn't help but grin.
"Yessir, I will." the drunk promised. "Thank you sir, just gotta get my keys, somewhere around here…" One of his hand fumbled over the bar, knocking over a bowl of peanuts, while his other fell to the pockets of Castiel's trench coat, and that was definitely where Dean drew the line.
"Okay, get out here." he muttered and pushed the man away who left surprisingly quick. "Wallet still in there?" he asked turned to Castiel.
"I don't carry a wallet, Dean." Castiel replied and sounded as always genuinely confused. "Though I don't understand this man's behavior."
"Drunk, Cas. They don't make that much sense," Dean said rolling his eyes. "Seriously, you haven't picked up on that one yet? They tend to do and say stupid things. Like stuff about breeding with goats?" He smirked at that and even Castiel nearly smiled.
"I believe I understand your point," he said. "Though I really need to go now, Dean."
"Yeah, you do that," Dean said. "And really, you can drop whenever you want." He paused. "Except when I'm taking a shower, we do not have to do that again, kay?"
Castiel smiled, nodded and was gone in a flutter of wings.
"Where'd your friend go?" the bartender asked when she returned.
"Job calling," Dean replied shrugging. That was when he caught the glimpse of color.
On the stool Castiel had sat on, there were still some of the spilled peanuts, but among them, there were small balls, the same size and shape as the nuts had, but bright green. Dean frowned at them. They looked a bit like those crazy spicy nuts Lisa had brought home once, some Japanese stuff that had nearly burned off his tongue. Lisa had laughed at him and Ben had shoved a hand full into his mouth, probably only to gloat on how un-destroyed his taste buds had been compared to Dean's.
They were small and green and Dean really should have known better. But he was slightly drunk, and it didn't seem to matter anyway. So he took some and ate them. It wasn't as freakishly hot as he had expected, and actually, they didn't taste that much like peanuts, but Dean didn't care and just washed away the taste with another shot of whiskey.
In retrospect, it was just one of those days.
To be fair, he didn't notice anything weird that evening. The strange things didn't start until the next morning. The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was Sam again, but unlike yesterday when his first instinct was to get the gun from under his pillow, this time he only smiled broadly.
"Morning, Sammy…" he said sleepily.
"Er… morning," Sam said, for some reason confused about Dean's reaction. And really, why was that? Only because yesterday he had wanted to put a bullet into his head? …why exactly had he wanted to do that again? "Well… er… good to see you're up, I made breakfast, so if you want something, there's fried egg and bacon and…"
"Aw, you're awesome!" Dean grinned even wider. "Seriously, best little brother ever, did I tell you that recently?"
Now, Sam looked completely freaked. "Er… No, not really."
"Not? I should do that, because you are," Dean said.
"No, it's okay, I… I kind of sucked as a brother, and you know how I sorry I am about that, right?" Sam asked.
Dean frowned. Why would Sam be sorry about his behavior? Something gnawed at the back of his head, something about "Hell yeah, there was something to be sorry about", but he really couldn't think of what that something was. But apparently Sam was waiting for something, so he provided. "Eh, don't beat yourself up about it. Nobody's perfect." It was generic enough that Dean was pretty sure Sam wouldn't notice that he had no idea what he was talking about. Fortunately, it seemed to work.
"Dean, I know you're angry, you don't have to hide that," Sam said. "I get it, you're trying to help me through this, but I… I'd really feel better if you didn't just pretend nothing happened."
Dean grinned again, stood up and reached out to ruffle his brother's hair. "Sammy, as far as I'm concerned, nothing has happened."
And congratulating himself he went downstairs to get some breakfast, leaving Sam completely confused. Downstairs, Bobby was sitting at the breakfast table drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper.
"Morning, Bobby," Dean said and sat down. "Left me anything?"
"Don't get cheeky," Bobby said without looking up. "I had thought you'd be more hung-over than that."
"Why would I be?" Dean asked.
"Because you went out to get drunk yesterday?" Bobby said and stared at him as if he had grown a second head.
"Why would I do that?" Dean asked. He didn't have any reason to get drunk, did he? Because he couldn't remember anything he'd want to forget, and Bobby was right, if he actually had drunk enough to forget whatever it was, he'd have one hell of a hangover.
"Yeah, why could you possibly do that?" Bobby said rolling his eyes, then fixing them on Sam who just entered the kitchen. "Help me here, whatever reason could your idjit brother have to drink himself into oblivion?"
Sam flinched, but didn't answer.
Dean frowned. He had gone to a bar yesterday, he remembered that. And there had been whiskey, and talk, though not much, and shared misery and…
"Right!" Dean said. "I got it now. I wasn't out to get drunk, I just went and had a few drinks with Cas."
Bobby looked at him as if he had mentioned that one time in St. Cloud, which just for the record he never would, before he asked incredulously "So 'I have to get out of here' now means you go on a date with your angel?"
"Castiel?" Sam asked and stared at Dean. It actually was a bit creepy.
"How many other Cas do we know?" he replied. "And what the hell, Bobby?"
"No, it's just, I mean, I really, really need to talk to him, I think I said some awful things, I've got to apologize." Sam started rambling.
Dean rolled his eyes. "Since when does Cas care about apologies, anyway?"
"You're the expert," Bobby replied snorting and turned to his newspaper again.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean asked in protest, but Bobby didn't see it necessary to answer. Dean sighed. That was so typically for his family… At least the breakfast was good, the eggs just perfect and the bacon deliciously crispy. Whoever had taught Sam to cook like that had to be a saint, so Dean's current annoyance faded quickly. He actually wasn't sure what had caused it in the first place.
Sam slowly went over to the table, still looking like a kicked puppy, and Dean was getting a bit tired of it. "Dude, seriously, drop the martyr face already! I told you, as far as I'm concerned nothing happened, it's over, let's never talk about it again."
Now Sam stared at him as if he was the holy grail or something like that. "You mean it?" he asked hopefully.
"You what?" Bobby asked and stared at him as if he had lost his mind.
"You heard me, and now let me eat in peace," Dean replied and started to dig in. For a second he thought he'd seen a glimpse of green, but then it was gone, and he was sure it was just his imagination, or maybe some spice. He should do something nice for Sam, and Bobby. Get them some chocolate, maybe.
To be fair, the eggs were delicious.
Dean's good mood didn't diminish during the day. In fact, it grew with every hour. It grew when he shared some sweets he found with Sam and Bobby – although they stared at him as if he was insane, but if that new habit disturbed Dean, he got used to it pretty fast – and when Bobby suggested a hunt, Dean was all over it. This was what they were good at, and how long had he been looking forward to hunting with his brother again? …not that he actually could think of a number, and maybe there had been a time when that had been the last thing he wanted, and it was possible that said time wasn't that long ago… but he couldn't follow that thought for long, he was too distracted by green sparks at the corner of his right eye that disappeared when he looked at them, and all he remembered was that he should bring Sam into a candy store, just to give the kid a treat.
The thought came as a surprise. Taking his brother to a candy store? That sounded more like something he'd planned over twenty years ago, not now. Maybe there was something weird going on… but it was probably better to concentrate on their new case-to-be.
"Sounds like witches," Sam said at the first look, and Dean could only agree.
"Awesome!" Dean grinned at his brother and Bobby. "Let's go get them."
Again, the both of them stared at him, and really, it was getting old. "What?"
"Awesome?" Sam repeated. "You hate witches."
"No, I don't," Dean said. "I mean… not that much…" He stopped. There was some dislike against witches, he could remember that, but not exactly what they had done to make him hate them so much… "Yeah, well, doesn't matter, right? They kill people, we gank them, all business, right?"
"Did you hit your head, boy?" Bobby asked.
"Yeah, I'm not the one randomly staring at people," Dean muttered.
"Dean, are you sure you're feeling alright?" Sam asked.
"Never felt better," Dean said, ignoring the small pangs that were usually the first sign of a really bitchy headache. "So, let's go gank some witches, or what?"
Sam looked helplessly at Bobby, who only shrugged and gave them an irritated look as if to say "what am I supposed to do about it?", but finally, they could leave for Larchwood, Iowa. Dean was looking forward to it, and the green spots in his vision weren't that distracting, either, really.
All in all, the case started out really good. For some reason Sam seemed to see things differently, though Dean figured that his brother could have a bad day once in a while as well, so it was no reason to worry. Dean didn't quite understand why Sam expected him to be angry at the waitress serving them at the diner in Larchwood, although he was surprised to find he had apparently ordered a vegetarian burger. It wasn't as bad as he expected, either. Maybe he should get Castiel to try one of these. The angel had seemed to like burgers, but ever since Famine he had seemed disgusted by the mere idea.
By the time they had talked to the police officers investigating the murders, Dean had come to the conclusion that Sam just must have had a really horrible day, otherwise he couldn't explain why his brother had shouted at that officer. There must have been something about a mistake during the investigation, but Dean couldn't exactly remember what it was, and anyway, he was sure it wasn't worth getting this angry about it, so he just tried to share his good mood and the candy he had bought at the last gas station, which shortly reminded him that there had been something going on with the change, but really, did that matter right now? Maybe it did, because the only effect his offer seemed to have was making Sam as well as the police officer stare at him as if he was lobotomized. His honestly confused "What?" wasn't graced with an answer and for the rest of the conversation Dean wasn't included.
"I can't believe you said that!" Sam was fuming when they left the police station.
"What? It's not like he did anything wrong. …much," Dean added, hoping it would make him look more as if he hadn't zoned out during the conversation. It wasn't typical for him to do so, but what other explanation was there for him just not knowing why Sam was so angry at that cop?
"Are you kidding? He screwed up the whole thing! Those other two kids might still be alive if that idiot had been able to follow a simple, obvious lead! How often is a coven stupid enough to basically present themselves on a silver platter?"
Dean really had no idea what Sam was talking about. To be honest, he was slightly distracted by the ringing in his ears.
"Dean? Are you even listening?" Sam asked.
"Yeah, sure…" Dean answered automatically. "I'm fine."
"Really? Because you don't sound like it. Are you sure you're okay?"
Now that he thought about it his throat did feel a little scratchy… And the former signs of a headache started to develop into a really annoying one. "Eh… nothing to worry about, Sam, might just be getting a little sick, that's all."
Sam muttered something that sounded like "brain damaged", but Dean decided to let it slide this time.
"Please tell me you're not going to act like this when we're going after that coven, Dean," Sam said.
"Course not! Besides, you're the one always trying to cuddle the monsters." But Dean's protest didn't seem to impress Sam. "Hey, I'm a professional!" Dean added.
"Then act like one!" Sam said. He already sounded nothing like the apologetic self he'd shown the last two days, and for a moment it annoyed Dean, but then he realized that Sam hadn't done anything he had to apologize for and the annoyance disappeared. Maybe Dean could buy him ice-cream… but the headache seemed to think this was the perfect moment to officially arrive, and he felt an unpleasant pressure on his eyes. No, maybe not ice-cream. Pie, though. Nothing wrong with pie. And killing those witches for killing children, he first needed to concentrate on that. Concentrate on ganking them, not on the fact that the blood on the pictures they'd been shown was more green than red in his eyes…
Usually, this couldn't even have happened. Dean hadn't lied about being a professional, and with all his experience he usually would have known that it was a damn stupid idea to go on hunts – especially witches – when anything was wrong with the hunter. By the time they faced the witches, however, all Dean saw was green. There were still differences between dark und bright, he could see outlines and shadows, but no other colors. His throat was burning, his head ached, there was too much pressure on his eyes, but mostly, his world was green and his mood ridiculously good – too good to see all that as a problem. In fact, it felt as if it was fine, just as whatever Sam was so hung up about was fine, or as Castiel's constant absence was fine. And maybe, with a little more time to think this through, he might have realized something was up.
But Dean didn't have that much time, not when they were chasing the witches with Sam gutting one, another one being thrown into her own boiling kettle, and the third one attacking, knocking Sam down with what looked like a baseball bat. It did give Dean the opportunity he needed, though. He tackled the witch brought her to the ground and lifted the knife over his head when he realized – this was just some girl. Sure, she'd made some mistakes, and some bad things must have happened that made him and Sam hunt her in the first place, but she is not a monster, not a demon, just human. Whatever she'd done, could it really be bad enough to deserve death?
She screamed at him to let her go and Dean couldn't think of a reason not to. So he released her. The girl surged up, her dark red hair flaring behind her and the next thing Dean knew was that something hit him in the face and he tumbled backwards. The girl's steps faded away as she ran. Dean wasn't sure why – it wasn't as if he was going to follow her. Then again, they had attacked her… for some reason… and that freaking headache wasn't getting better. By now it felt like a claw was holding his brain and slowly started squeezing. He tried to shake it off, but it didn't work.
With a sigh Dean went to Sam who was just shaking off the dizziness from the hit.
"Dean? What happened?" he asked.
"She's gone," Dean said. "Ran off."
"What? Why didn't you stop her?" Sam sounded surprisingly upset for Dean not attacking some mostly innocent girl, but Sam's reactions had been a bit weird all day.
"Let's just get back to the motel," Dean said instead of explaining his train of thought. He only regretted that he hadn't had time to invite the girl for cake. "Nothing we can do here anymore."
"Dean, you're freaking me out," Sam said.
Dean looked at his completely green brother. "Yeah…" he admitted, "me too."
Sam didn't talk to him during their ride home, and Dean was actually glad about it. He needed all his concentration to distinguish the different shades of green making out the road. When they finally arrived and Dean stepped out of the car, he had to hold on to his baby so he didn't fall over. There was dizziness, yes, but the most disturbing thing was that now his whole world seemed to consist of the same, bright green color. No shadows, no outlines, nothing but a monotonous green.
"Are you okay?" Sam asked, sounding worried.
Dean nodded, more automatically than anything else. "Fine… just fine… it's just so…"
"So what?" Sam asked.
"Green," Dean answered. Then, he felt a hand on his forehead. "What the hell, Sam?" he asked angrily and pushed his brother's hand away.
"Dude, you're burning up! Why didn't you say anything?" Sam demanded.
"It's nothing," Dean said. "Just need a nap and I'll be fine."
He didn't expect Sam to believe that, so he wasn't surprised when his brother took his arm and helped him up the stairs.
"I can walk alone," Dean muttered but he didn't fight it. At least like this he didn't have to advertise that he couldn't even see. No need to worry anyone with that, not if it would be gone after sleeping a bit. He hoped so, at least.
"You said a little sick, Dean – this isn't a little," Sam said when he put Dean down on one of the beds.
"Yeah, whatever," Dean muttered but obviously Sam couldn't just let it be.
"I'm serious, Dean, we can't work like that. You can't go hunting when you're a total wreck! You even let that witch get away!"
"Yeah, and why not?" Dean asked the ceiling, or what he thought was the ceiling – it all looked like a green paste, anyway.
"Why not?" Sam repeated. "Dean, are you even listening to yourself? They're witches! They've been killing children! And you ask why we should not let them get away? Dean, this is worse than that cop! You know what they're like, how could you let her get away?"
"I'm sorry, okay?" Dean said. He really didn't want to argue, not when his brain felt as if it was jumping against his skull, trying to get out.
"Sorry? She's out there, probably planning how to kill us next. That won't change just because you're sorry!"
Of course a sorry didn't change anything, Dean knew that, and he had this feeling that he should know something else, he could nearly see it. Something about how Sam could even say that to him, not after all he'd done and said sorry for, but what good had that word done? He couldn't think it through, though. The closer he came to that eluding thought, the more his brain seemed to fight against the bone surrounding it, and his eyes felt as if they'd pop out of his skull any second.
"I'm off to find where that witch went", his brother continued speaking, but Dean was hardly listening, just nodding, "you stay here, you sleep, you get better, and then you might try to think of something better than sorry!"
He heard the door slam shut, but he couldn't react. All he felt was a burn in his throat, his eyes, everywhere. The damn taste of… fire… or gas… as if he had tasted it somewhere before. It seemed so damn familiar... And Dean couldn't take it anymore.
Here he was, in some crappy motel room, on his own and in pain, and every single fucking thing was green, and everything else was getting worse with every second. This was so not how Dean had expected to die. …again. But that was what it felt like. Dying, and a taste of fire…
No, not fire… ozone… or maybe... Dean surged upwards when he recognized it. He had smelled this before, in an abandoned barn when Anna had regained her grace, and in the green room when he finished Zachariah and in a way every time Castiel entered a room.
"Cas? Can you hear me? I think I need a little help here…" His voice was hardly more than a croak, and even those few words were painful, but this was probably his only chance, so he tried again. "Cas, please…"
Gasping for breath, Dean got himself into a sitting position, muttering under his breath pleas and threats and help. He had to get out of here… somehow. Maybe someone could help him… He didn't believe in it, not really, but he didn't see another way. He definitely wouldn't lie in some crappy motel room waiting for death. Carefully, he stood, and for a second it seemed to work, but then his legs bent, and he fell.
Before he hit the ground, there were hands on his arms holding him up,
The laughter bubbling up was liberating and painful at once. "You're late." he muttered into the general direction he assumed Castiel's face to be.
"My apologies," the angel replied, "I wasn't aware that… what happened to you?"
"It's fine." Dean heard his voice say and nearly wanted to throttle himself. "All forgiven, not your fault. Whatever it was. And I think I'm dying."
He felt a hand on his face, close to his left eye. It was unexpectedly soothing, relieving the pressure from inside, and although he might have leant into it, he definitely did not whimper at the touch.
"Dean… did you find a couple of green pearls?"
For a moment the question confused Dean, and of course, trust the angel to bring up something completely random at a time like this, then his brain started working. "You mean the peanuts?"
"They're not peanuts," Castiel said calmly. "I assume they're poisoning you. Give them to me, you will feel better once they're removed from your possession."
"I can't." Dean answered.
"Why not?" Castiel asked, taking away his hand. Dean flinched when the pain returned. The angel seemed to notice, as not even a second later he put his hand back gently, as if he wasn't sure if that was really what had helped.
"Ate them," Dean said. "They looked like freaking peanuts."
He could imagine Castiel's exasperated face, though he couldn't see it. "You shouldn't have, Dean," he said. "They are harmful enough when consumed by angels, but to a human…"
"Sorry, okay? But you shouldn't have…" Dean stopped. He really couldn't remember what Castiel shouldn't have done, but at least he realized that this was a bad thing. "I'm sorry," he said instead.
He actually felt the angel hesitate, then his other hand touched Dean's face, relieving more of the pressure. "Don't be," Castiel said. It was more of a command, really.
Maybe it was that tone, or maybe because Dean felt he hadn't done anything else during the last day, but he couldn't let it go.
"No, I really am sorry. Not for the peanuts. More like for the last weeks. I've been a dick, and I never really… I'm sorry for that."
Castiel shifted a little movement of dark green on lighter green, but Dean couldn't stop. "Hell, I feel like I've been apologizing and forgiving for ages, like I can't even remember what I did before, but not to you, and I think you deserve one. Like, a lot."
"Dean. Stop," Castiel said, "that is not necessary."
"Hell yeah, it is. I need to-"
And then he stopped. The dark green silhouette of a head had moved right in front of him, and then there were lips on his, short and chaste, and a second later air hit him.
"You're already forgiven." Castiel's voice muttered, but the most remarkable thing were the blue eyes piercing through the green.
Dean couldn't say how long he had stood there, taking shallow breaths, focused on Castiel's eyes while everything slowly slid back to normal. The pressure inside his head disappeared, the colors returned to the world around him, and slowly a haze lifted itself off his memories.
"Dean?" Castiel's voice sounded as calm as ever, as if he didn't just wake Dean from a green nightmare in the most clichéd way imaginable and as if he wasn't still holding Dean's face between his hands. Dean was surprised to find that he didn't mind.
"Give me a minute... What the hell was that?" he asked.
Castiel looked at him as if he had to ascertain that Dean was ready for that knowledge, then he sighed and nodded. He also let his hands fall to his side again. It wasn't that Dean was disappointed at the loss, only that the air seemed unexpectedly cold in comparison. "Those pearls were what I secured before our last meeting," Castiel explained, "I assumed they were a weapon since they were stolen from the armory, but as it turned out there were merely an… invention by Gabriel."
"What, he left them around for some poor bastard to eat and die?" Dean asked. "Wow, that's a dick move even for him."
Castiel smiled slightly. "He left them around for angels to find. Michael, mostly, from what I heard, and sometimes Raphael. They were designed to make them more… forgiving towards whatever Gabriel had done to enrage them again, and also make them forget just what exactly they were angry about before."
"And in the process he tried killing them?" Dean stared at the angel skeptically.
Castiel shook his head. "Their effect on angels is temporary, and not nearly this strong. I understand that for humans it would be… overwhelming."
"Yeah, say that again," Dean muttered, "still, I can't believe I actually took that stuff…"
"It wasn't your fault," Castiel said, "they do have a certain… alluring effect, even to angels."
"Yeah, right, and a mere mortal… I get it," Dean said. "But what's with all the green? What, the color is some kind of turn on for your guys?"
"You're being ridiculous," Castiel replied, nearly in a huff though he didn't answer.
"Says the guy who lost poisonous peanuts in a bar." Dean said.
Castiel looked directly into his eyes. "I do apologize for that." he said as if Dean had accused him of doing it on purpose or something.
"It's fine, Cas, really." Dean said. "Sorry, what was that apology for again?" Alarm flared on Castiel's face and Dean couldn't help but laugh. "Just kidding."
"I'm glad you're feeling better." Castiel said, and if Dean hadn't known better, he'd thought it was sarcasm.
"Yeah, whatever you did there worked." Dean said, though he didn't know himself why he brought it up. Maybe because it hadn't felt nearly as awkward as he had thought. Not that he had thought about it. "Unorthodox method, but yeah, not complaining here."
And the damn angel actually had the nerve to look confused. "It was the only method I knew."
"Right," Dean muttered. "How exactly does that method work?"
Now Castiel frowned at him as if he was deliberately slow. "It's a reversal, Dean. The pearls forced you to forget and forgive every wrong. If a wrong you did is forgiven, you are freed from their effect."
Dean nodded. It made sense. Mostly. "That's how you 'forgive' in heaven?"
Now Castiel avoided his eyes as if he actually had learned at some point what embarrassment meant. "It was a gesture of forgiveness."
"Right," Dean said, and maybe it showed his loose grip on reality that he was smirking already that short after a near-death-experience. "Forgiveness."
Castiel's frown deepened. "It's a traditional sign of forgiveness among angels."
"Of course," Dean said, "so when you guys talk about forgiving sins and…"
"You're being difficult again, Dean." Castiel interrupted him. "I should go."
Dean laughed. It felt good. Easy, free, and as if he really had needed it. "Don't worry, I'll stop. Promise."
Castiel made a little huffing sound, the one that said "Though I can't help to be entertained by the your magnificent sense of humor, puny human, I will pretend that I'm completely unmoved" – at least that's how Dean had dubbed it, and he wouldn't accept any other name. "Be that as it may, I really don't have much time."
"Wait." Dean didn't know exactly why he did reach out, but his hand grasped Castiel's arm. "I mean… We should go get a drink."
Castiel hesitated, as if he really wanted to do just that but wasn't sure how to combine it with his duties. "Your brother will worry," he said instead.
Dean looked down. The memories had returned and with them the same uneasy feeling he'd had before. He didn't want to deal with all that right now. It would be better to have some drinks with a friend and not worry about Sam or how easy he had accepted forgiveness. …and that was another word he'd never see with the same eyes. The point was, he hadn't known how to treat Sam before this green nightmare, and now he had even less of an idea. What he did know was that he had one hell of a day, he nearly died, but now he felt better, and he wanted to keep that feeling a bit longer. For the moment he was fine, and he was… forgiven, and not nearly as freaked out as he should be, so this was what he wanted right now – go out, have a few drinks with the one friend he managed to keep, and ignore everything else for a few hours. And really, they both needed it.
"I'll text him," he said finally and put a hand on Castiel's shoulder, "come on, let's take a night off."
Castiel looked at him closely, and whatever he saw seemed to convince him. "I'd like that."
Dean grinned and slung an arm around the angel. It reminded him of another evening too long ago, and just seeing how easy that camaraderie could be restored was comforting, even while he could feel the difference of the situation buzzing on his skin. But whatever it was, this was not the moment to think too much. Instead he just steered the angel into the direction of the nearest bar, and since this felt way too much like a moment, of course he couldn't keep his mouth shut, though at least Castiel had never minded his attitude.
"So, anything you need to be forgiven for?"
They were small and green, and Dean really, really should have known better. But in retrospect, maybe it was worth it.