by The Paisley Elf ()

Rating: PG for language

Pairings: None, but since my slash goggles are always on, this could very easily be conceived as Dean/Cas pre-slash if you wanted to.

Set-up: This takes place during "The Song Remains the Same", right after Castiel transports Dean and Sam back in time. I've taken a few liberties with the dialogue that occurs during the episode, just to fit a little better with what I've got here.

At first there was only darkness, and the familiar lilt of air that swept beneath his outstretched wings as he took flight. Castiel tightened his grip on the brothers and concentrated, not on taking them elsewhere, as was the usual procedure, but elsewhen. It was a different sort of concentration all together, one that had proved difficult even with all the powers of Heaven at his disposal. This time, however, it was a blinding, breath-taking jolt. What was left of his angelic power was simply not enough to keep him stabilized as the three of them rocketed, not forward, but sidewise, hurtling through time with an intensity that made Castiel's teeth rattle.

A spasm convulsed through his body, his grip on the Winchesters slackened. He was pulled away from them and, a moment later, there was impact. His knees slammed into the ground, sending a shock of vibration throughout his entire body. He reached out to catch himself but was too slow—he sprawled over to the side, his back hitting something solid. A car…the Impala? But no, the Impala wouldn't be here, shouldn't be here, anyway, if everything had worked properly. Castiel knew that something very important was going on here, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything but the pounding in his head.

It was all very interesting, these sensations. Castiel's previous experiences with injury had been nothing like this. Those had been sharp bursts of pain that then disappeared, wiped completely away by the power of Heaven. Nothing at all like this dull ache, building up to a crescendo in his head and chest, or like these shudders that slid up and down his frame like waves of icy water. Was this what it was like to be cold? Interesting indeed.


Two figures rushed toward him, their forms a blur of motion amidst Castiel's hazy vision. Their voices, however, were instantly recognizable. Excellent—he had indeed managed to bring Sam and Dean here.

A second later and they were at his side.

"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Castiel replied. It was the Winchester response, after all. Besides, surely there wasn't anything-

A bitter taste filled his mouth and he coughed, sending a thick spray of blood splattering down to the pavement.

There were hands on his shoulders now, steadying him as he closed his eyes, disoriented. The solid presence of the brothers was a welcome relief amidst the dizzying display of lights that had exploded behind his eyelids. Their voices were hushed, worried.

"Dean, what the hell are we gonna do? We can't just leave him here, and we definitely can't bring him anywhere near Anna while he's like this."

"I don't know, man. How was I supposed to know that 'this will weaken me' actually means 'this is gonna beat the shit out of me and leave me half dead' in angel-speak?" Dean sighed, and even though his eyes were still closed, Castiel knew he was running his hand over his face in that familiar expression of frustration and worry.

"I will be fine," Castiel managed to get out. He struggled for a moment and was eventually able to blink up at Dean. Everything around him was swirling and dipping in and out of focus. He wanted to remember this new experience, so he catalogued it away for later study. "The two of you should go."

Dean caught Castiel's chin in his hand and peered into his face.

"Dude, you're barely holding yourself up, and your pupils are the size of pancakes. You don't get a vote."

"We can't stay here, people are starting to notice," Sam said, flashing a fake smile at a passerby who had slowed down to stare. "We really don't want anyone calling the police and dragging Cas off to a hospital."

"Right." Brows furrowed, Dean looked up and down the street for a moment, then his face lit up. "You know what, I got this."

He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small silver flask.

"Um, I don't think getting wasted is going to help anybody here," Sam said, dubious.

Dean scowled at him, all while his fingers worked off the cap.

"Will you hush? I've got this under control." With that, he splashed a good portion of the flask's contents onto the lapel of Castiel's coat. The strong, acrid smell of the alcohol made Castiel's stomach roll with nausea and he swallowed forcefully, determined not to vomit. He never had before, but he had no doubt that it would be an entirely unpleasant experience.

"All right, buddy, let's get you on your feet," Dean said, then turned to Sam. "Help me get him up, then you go and find Mom and Dad's address while I get him checked into that hotel down the street."

Sam looked vaguely shell-shocked, as though the fact of what they were here to do had only just sunk in. Still, he nodded, and hooked an arm under Castiel's shoulder and, with Dean on the other side, began hauling him upwards.

The ground beneath Castiel's feet tilted and he tipped forward, prompting Dean to slide an arm around his waist, holding him steady.

"Okay, I'll just go find a phone book," said Sam, slowly transferring his share of Castiel's weight over to Dean. "Make sure you put him someplace where he won't be disturbed. And, uh, take care, Cas, okay?"
Castiel attempted a reassuring smile, but was interrupted by another fit of coughing. It felt as though his throat was burning, a stark contrast to the chills that shivered out from his chest, all the way to the ends of his fingers. A small trickle of blood escaped out the corner of his mouth and he wiped it away with his sleeve, hoping to conceal it. Judging by the tight expression of Sam's face before he turned to leave, however, he hadn't hidden much of anything.

"Cas, I'm gonna need you to help me out here, I don't think I can drag your ass all the way there," Dean told him, tugging him forward.

Never in his entire existence had Castiel imagined that he would find himself in the position of relying on a human to assist him in something as simple as walking-or really, that he would ever need such assistance at all. He was determined to make himself as light of a burden as possible, so he focused on taking one small step at a time.

By the time they reached the door of the hotel, Castiel's breath was coming in gasps, and the edges of his vision were starting to go black. It was taking every ounce of his willpower not to simply collapse to the floor, but he didn't want to disappoint Dean.

"Okay, we're almost there," Dean said. "Now, for this to work, I'm going to need you to pretend to be with me."

At first, Castiel thought he'd misheard the hunter.

"I am…with you, Dean," he mumbled, unsure of how Dean could have been confused about that fact.

Dean sighed, obviously uncomfortable with having to explain himself further.

"No, Cas, I mean with me sort of with me."

Castiel blinked, still not quite understanding.

"Like, romantically with me, okay? Jesus, you angels are thick. No wonder you've never gotten laid." Then his voice went a little softer. "Sorry, I know you're a little confused right now. Just pretend that you're really into me, okay?"

It wasn't difficult. Castiel was still numbingly cold, and Dean's entire body was radiating heat. It was easy for Castiel to wrap his arm tighter around Dean's shoulders, to lean his face into his neck, breathing in the warmth and security.

They shuffled over to the check-in counter where a man with an impressively large mustache stood, eyeing them with reproach.

"Can I help you?" he asked with a tone that suggested he'd rather do just about anything else.

"Yes, I'd like a room, please," Dean told him. Castiel stayed silent, doing his very best to appear as though he hadn't just been lying bloody on the roadside only minutes before. "One with a king-sized bed, if you don't mind."

Dean hugged Castiel toward him, wearing an expression that could be considered mildly obscene.

"In fact, if you have a honeymoon suite available, that would be even better," he continued with a wink.

Castiel was finding it increasingly difficult to remain upright, and he swayed in place, blinking away the spots of light that had begun to dance in front of his eyes. The clerk seemed to notice that something was amiss, because he asked,

"What's wrong with him?"

"Oh, he just started the party a little early," Dean told him. He made a drinking motion with his hand, and Castiel suddenly understand the purpose of all that foul-smelling liquor on his coat. "We met at Woodstock, you know. Isn't he gorgeous?" He beamed up at the man, who looked supremely uncomfortable.

"All right, all right, I'll get your key," he said, obviously eager to end this meeting. "Goddamn hippies," he muttered, rooting around under his desk. He emerged a moment later, slapping a small copper key down onto the counter.

"There ya go. Wanna buy some dope while you're here?"

Dean paused for a moment, obviously tempted, but eventually declined. He pulled out his wallet and slid a wad of cash across the counter.

"And, uh, do not disturb," he added. "I'm sure you understand." He delivered one last flamboyant smile before dragging Castiel off down the hallway.

A few minutes later and Dean was lowering Castiel onto a bed, gently pulling off his trenchcoat, shoes, and tie.

Okay, I don't think anyone's going to intrude, now that they think I'm up here playing grab-ass with an angel," Dean told him. "Like I wasn't headed to Hell already," he mumbled wryly.

Finally being horizontal was an intense relief. Every single bone in his body ached with a vengeance, as though angry with Castiel for even attempting this sort of feat without the power of Heaven at his disposal. Never had that lack of power been more apparent. No longer able to simply wipe away his pain and discomfort, he would just have to endure. Was this what if felt like, being human? Castiel supposed he had better get used to the fact. He had rebelled, after all, and things were only going to get worse from here. He had made his choice. He would have to suffer the consequences, no matter how daunting.

"Dude, you're shaking." Dean's voice, ringing with worry, cut through the fog of Castiel's thoughts. "Here." He pulled an armful of extra blankets out from a closet and deposited them on top of Castiel. "That should help."

"I'm sorry." Castiel hadn't expected to speak. He had not meant to say anything, but the throbbing in his head had risen to hammer-like intensity, his thoughts were thick and muddled and he suddenly found himself voicing all of the things that he normally worked so hard to keep to himself.

"I'm sorry that I'm failing you. I'm losing my abilities, slowing you down. You should…" His throat was suddenly tight, and he swallowed. "…you should ally yourself with someone else. Someone who isn't so…useless."

That last word seemed to trigger something in Dean, almost like a memory, and he turned, insistent.

"Cas, don't ever say that, you are far from useless. You got us here, didn't you?"

"Barely." Castiel was surprised by the bitterness in his voice, a bitterness that turned physical as he coughed up yet another mist of blood.

Dean handed him the box of tissues from the bedside table.

"Yeah, maybe, but we're here regardless. Thanks to you. Besides, Cas, you're a friend. My friend. And nowadays, that's a pretty big deal." He sat down on the edge of the bed and fixed Castiel with a stern glare. "So no more of this pity party crap, okay?"

Repentant, Castiel nodded.

"Now, I have to get back to Sam and go deal with this Anna nonsense. I wish I could stay, but…well, you understand, right?"

Castiel did understand. Dean's family was in jeopardy, and they came first. Had to come first, if any of their insane plans were going to work, if they were going to save Sam and end this Apocalypse.

Dean had already done more than Castiel could have ever hoped for. It was so different from his heavenly family, so aloof and detached, such a sharp contrast to Dean, who emanated warmth and fondness, no matter how hard he tried to mask it with a gruff exterior. Dean, who had called him his friend.

Castiel wanted to speak this, to thank Dean, for everything. He had a sense that he might not have been so eager to share these sentiments if he was not quite so disoriented, but no matter.

"Dean…" he started, but the hunter held up a hand. It seemed as though Dean somehow already knew everything that Castiel had been thinking.

"I know, I know, I'm the wind beneath your wings," he said, because he just wouldn't be Dean if he didn't make a light-hearted remark in favor of letting his eyes and smile do all the talking. He ruffled a hand through Castiel's hair before standing up.

"Feel better, okay? And don't wander off-watch some television, or use the Magic Fingers if you get bored. We'll be back soon."

With that, he was out the door, off to do battle with a being far beyond his capacity to handle. A typical day for a Winchester.

Inky shapes were staining Castiel's vision, growing steadily larger, casting the room into darkness. There was nothing else he could do for the brothers now. They were on their own.

Perhaps now, in this past time, God would still be listening.

And so Castiel closed his eyes and prayed, and waited for Dean to return.