"I don't understand why I'm still affected while you and Sam are fine." Then Castiel sneezed again, almost spilling his bowl of soup all over his lap.
"Yeah, me and Sammy are just awesome that way." Truthfully Dean had no idea why Castiel hadn't been to shake off Pestilence's sickness, especially since he'd withstood it better at the time, but hours later he was still sneezing and feverish and had a hacking cough Dean really didn't like the sound of at all. "Finish your soup."
"There are no special healing properties in chicken soup, Dean," he countered, jabbing ineffectually at the broth with his spoon.
"Man, you're cranky when you're sick." Castiel glared at him - or at least started to before he sneezed again and fell back shivering against the motel pillows, a picture of perfect misery. It almost made Dean feel bad, messing with him when he looked so pitiful. "C'mon. It'll warm you up, at least."
Castiel gave him another look, as if he suspected Dean was still making fun of him but wasn't sure how. He did eat some more, even if he spent the whole time using all of his angelic might to make sure Dean knew it was only to shut him up. Dean didn't much care how passive-aggressive he wanted to get, so long as he got some food in him. "You feeling any better?"
"My chest hurts," he said, and with how hard he'd been coughing Dean wasn't surprised. "It's still...still hard to breathe. Cold." Dean knew the shivering was worse than a few hours ago, his teeth chattering no matter how many blankets Dean piled on top of him, and the medicine they'd forced into him didn't seem to be doing much good. He thought the fever had inched up too and wished he'd asked Sam to pick up a thermometer while he was out. "I'm not doing well, am I?"
Dean took the bowl away and pulled the blankets up around his shoulders. "Being sick sucks, Cas, no way around it. I caught pneumonia one time and was flat on my back for three weeks."
Castiel grabbed his hand. "Thank you for taking care of me, Dean. This must be-" He took a deep
breath, his free hand moving to his side and Dean remembered that Pestilence aside, Castiel had just woken up in the hospital the day before. "This must be tedious."
"Cas, you dragged yourself out of the hospital, hopped on a bus and helped us kill a Horseman. This is literally the least I can do."
Castiel closed his eyes and huddled under the blankets. "The bus was...unpleasant. Even worse than the car," he said, and Dean fought down the impulse to be offended on his baby's behalf. "It reeked of despair and human excrement."
Dean laughed. "Yeah, now you know why we drive everywhere."
"And it was slow. I didn't think I would get there in time. That you and Sam..." His mouth twisted, first in pain, then in frustration from the pain.
"You're all right."
"No, Dean, I am decidedly not." Then he sighed. "I'm sorry. That was unnecessary."
"Like I said, being sick sucks." Dean brushed his hair off of his forehead. "And anyway, you did get there just in time to save our asses, so don't think about that anymore."
"No one wanted to sit next to me on the bus," he said, so mournfully Dean had to bite his lip to keep from laughing.
"You were probably giving off spooky angel vibes. Making them feel all guilty for their sins." Castiel gave him that are you making fun of me? look and Dean changed the subject because really, he kind of was. "You'd said on the phone you were too hurt to fight Pestilence. What changed your mind?"
"You were in danger. You and Sam. I couldn't stay there helpless while you were..." He closed his eyes. "If I could make myself stand I needed to be there." He paused. "And I overheard one of the nurses mention something about a 'psych consult,'" pronouncing the words as if he wasn't quite sure what they meant but knew it couldn't be good.
Dean chuckled. "Yeah, time to leave." Before he could say anything else Castiel was hit by a coughing fit. He clutched hard onto Dean's arm, his eyes wide; Dean put one hand on his chest to steady him. "You're okay, Cas, c'mon, you're okay," he said, hoping he wasn't lying. When the spell finally passed Castiel was shaking; Dean knew he was too and hoped like hell it didn't show. "Shh, shh," he whispered, helping Castiel lay back. His breathing wheezed and Dean could feel how hard his heart was pounding. He wished Pestilence wasn't dead so he could kill him all over again, slower this time. "I got you, you're okay."
Every time he suffered through one of the coughing spells it took a little longer for his breathing to get back to normal, something Dean was desperately trying not to think about. Dean put one hand to his forehead, trying to gauge the fever, and Castiel sighed. "You're warm," he said, slurring a bit.
He nodded. "Yes. You're warm." He fumbled for Dean's other hand and pressed it back against his chest.
Dean watched him for a moment, then sighed himself. "That's it. Scoot over." Castiel blinked at him in confusion but obliged; Dean kicked off his shoes and slid in beside him.
"Hey. Least I can do, buddy. Just don't tell Sam, okay? He'll rip on me forever. I know I would." He wrapped one arm around Castiel's waist and felt him let out a soft breath.
"Oh. That's...how are you so warm?" He shifted so his back was flush against Dean's chest, cinching Dean's arm tight around his waist and holding it there.
"Told you, Cas, I'm just that awesome." He could feel Castiel's heart still racing. "Get some rest, okay?"
He began to say something but instead started coughing again. Dean tightened his grip, whispering, "Shh, shh, I got you, I got you," into his ear and stroking his hair until the fit passed.
Castiel slumped against him, breathing hard. "Am I going to be like this forever, Dean?" he finally said, his voice barely audible.
"Nah. You get some rest, you shake this off, you'll be just fine..."
"That isn't what I meant." He looked up at Dean, his eyes red and glazed from fever, and Dean had a flashback to a different Castiel looking at him with red-rimmed eyes.
And yeah, Dean did know what he'd meant. "I don't know, Cas. It could be you just burned yourself out with the banishing trick and it'll all come back on its own."
"Or it doesn't and I'm useless like this forever."
"Bullshit." Warning bells were going off in his head; useless had been the word the other Castiel had used. "That's like saying Sam's useless if he doesn't have freaky demon powers, and you know that's not true. You didn't need angel mojo to take out Pestilence and you still know a shit ton more lore than I do." Castiel just looked at him, doubt all over his face, and Dean wondered what it was he needed to say. "Look, I promise, we all get through this alive and you still haven't gotten your juice back, we'll find a way to get it back. I don't care if we have to track down God and force the son of a bitch to help, we'll do it."
"What if there isn't a way, Dean?"Then I'll help you through it. We'll figure it out. But you don't ever call yourself useless again, you got me?"
The look he gave Dean was almost heart-breakingly grateful, even if Dean could tell Castiel didn't completely believe him. He closed his eyes and Dean moved so Castiel's head rested on his arm. Castiel sighed and pressed close to him. "I don't like being cold," he said, his voice quiet and distant.
"I'll keep you warm, Cas," Dean whispered. "Get some rest."
He felt Castiel nod; a few minutes later his breathing finally went slow and deep. Dean pressed his face into Castiel's hair for a moment, wrestling down the surge of panic. He'd thought stopping the Croatoan outbreak and patching things up with Sam meant that future was dead. He tried to put the memory of that Castiel out of his mind, the Joker smile and the broken laugh and the drugs and the girls, a funhouse mirror of Dean on his worst day. I like the old you, that Castiel had said, and Dean wished he'd had the chance to belt his future self for letting things get that far.
Whatever screw ups he'd made then, Dean resolved to make damn sure he didn't make them now. "You won't wind up like that," he whispered, "angel powers or no. Swear to God, if that miserable bastard's even listening." His arm was falling asleep but he didn't dare move, not when Castiel was finally quiet. "You, me, Sam, we're gonna to be okay. I'll make sure of it."
He stayed up listening to Castiel breathe for a long time before finally falling asleep himself. And to Dean's enormous relief, if Sam had any reaction to coming back to the room and finding them sleeping curled around each other, he kept it to himself.