Title: Disconnect
Rating: T
Pairing: Dean/Castiel Pre-Slash
(Canon) Character Death
Summary: The first time Castiel met Dean Winchester. Too bad he was dead at the time.

Author's Note: Love to Mindelan as always, though her involvement in this particular piece was less hands-on than usual. (She definitely helped to get me in the right mood though.)

Dean Winchester's brother holds his face in his hands, thick bangs concealing bloodshot eyes. The harsh rise and fall of his broad shoulders belies the intensity of his grief and some part of Castiel's grace tugs him towards the young man, the instinctive need to smooth comfort over his ravaged soul is almost great enough to draw the angel in Sam's direction.

Castiel considers moving closer and allowing a small portion of his grace to seep into the large man, soothing away Sam's hurt, but he remains planted solidly in place. His eyes continue to follow the paramedics on the opposite side of the room, their actions illuminated in the circuitous flash of the ambulance's strobes, the vehicle's clinical light seeping in through the living room windows. The flurry of activity in the room is enough to overload the angel's senses, but his focus remains firmly on the two EMT's and the body that they're crouched over.

They're very careful as they lift Dean upwards, hands reverent in their steady grip on his body. It would be so very easy for their gestures to be coarse and unthinking, a rough 'one, two, three' called out indifferently before hoisting him unevenly upwards. They're not though, and through some unspoken agreement between the both of them, they lift him onto the stretcher as one in a fluid, synchronized movement.

Sam's shoulders heave forward as his tears begin anew. Rubbing the heel of his hand over his eyes does nothing to stop the renewed sobs and again Castiel feels that itch to reach out to him. Although the angel is incapable of the same show of emotion, he nonetheless feels the intensity of this tragedy just as strongly.

Someone has already laid a body bag out on the surface of the stretcher and Dean's long frame fits onto it perfectly. With practiced care, one of the EMT's tucks his legs into the folds of the bag while the other gently arranges his arms.

His brother's sobs increase as Castiel takes a handful of steps forward, moving closer to the stretcher to peer down at the corpse.

Dean Winchester has one of those faces that even in death radiates strength, intensity. Flecks of blood mar his cheeks and Castiel is met with the irrational desire to brush the droplets away, to preserve the beauty of the young man before him. In his true form, he lacks the corporealness to do so, but the want remains the same.

One unseen hand reaches out almost without the angel realizing what he's doing and caresses the smooth curves of Dean's cheekbones. He can't reallyfeel the smooth skin beneath his touch, but he can imagine the delicate firmness that must assuredly be there. It's... nice.

Castiel isn't used to the idea of blinking. It's a basic action that he's seen humans do millions of times - once every four seconds - but without a vessel it's not an action required of his true form. It seems to accompany the human feeling of confusion, however, and if Castiel could, he would do it now. This is the closest he has ever been to a human being, the first time he's ever touched one.

And it's Dean Winchester.

When the angel had arrived, Dean's green eyes had been filled with terror and remained open even as the hell hounds ravaged his body. They're closed now, his face more at peace without the lifeless stare, but Castiel misses those eyes. He would have liked to see more of them, see them reflect the precious emotions his father has gifted the human race with. Windows to the soul, they've been called, and though with very little effort, Castiel could simply bestow scrutiny upon Dean's actual soul, the eyes allow some sense of decision in what emotions are shown, what is displayed within them. Yes, he would have liked to see more of Dean Winchester than merely his terrified final moments and the anguished aftermath of his death.

Though the angel is still drawn to offer comfort to Sam, it is to Dean that he feels a connection.

And he hopes that someday he'll be able to peer unchecked into Dean Winchester's face and watch the array of emotions and thoughts displayed there for him to see. Though the vague hope that he feels deep within his grace is misplaced, given recent events, it is unlikely that he will ever see this beautiful human again.

It is confusingly painful to watch as one of the paramedics reaches for the bag's zipper. The sheer intensity of the emotion Castiel is feeling in this moment hits him unexpectedly and his fists clench tightly at his sides, knuckles white and hands trembling. He's not supposed to feel this. He's not supposed to feel anything.

But there's no denying to himself that he does.

Castiel doesn't turn back to watch as the thick, plastic material closes around Dean's body, finally hiding the sloppy, bloody mess from view.

Sam does though, tear-streaked face lifted from his hands to watch every last, heart-wrenching moment until Dean is out of sight, knowing that the image of his brother's too-still body and lifeless eyes will be forever imprinted in his memory, though it is no longer visible. Even in death, even beneath the gaping holes that the hell hounds have perforated through his brother's chest, Dean still looked as though he could be speaking, smiling, Dean.

Castiel considers moving closer to Sam once more, but the coroner steps in before he does, simultaneously business-like and sympathetic. "Mr. Winchester, did your brother have any arrangements planned?"

The angel takes this as his cue to leave. He's witnessed what he has been sent to see and departs the scene, mouth set in a grim line as his wings carry him towards Heaven. He doesn't understand, though. He is not meant to feel the same grief and pain that comes with the emotions of being human, but the tragedy in what he has just observed has touched him deeply and he doesn't understand.

It does not take him long to reach the boundary between the mortal and celestial realms and then even less time to report in to his superior, though for the duration of the short flight his mind continues to turn circles and his heart pounds with unfamiliar feelings.

Zachariah senses all of this, of course – how could he not? – but the vapid smile that he bestows upon Castiel as he turns to face him does nothing to alleviate the angel's confusion nor does it offer any sense of comfort. Instead, he surges forward into the matter at hand, asking mildly whether or not Castiel has accomplished the task he had been sent forth to perform.

"I witnessed the death of Dean Winchester, yes," Castiel's response is strong, mercilessly free of the doubts that he is feeling about the entire endeavour. In his true voice, however, his confusion is more difficult to conceal and is openly apparent in his answer.

"Excellent," his superior chooses not to comment on this barrage of unwanted emotion, offering another vague smile. "I would have liked to see it myself. How was it? Entertaining?"

The sheer irreverence that he shows towards the death of one of their Father's creations is shocking without even drawing reference to the intensity of the grief that had existed in Dean Winchester's final moments. Castiel does not comment on this, however. If nothing else, the trip to Earth was a learning experience. An uncomfortable one that still has him reeling, but a learning experience all the same.

"Oh, it's more than that, little Castiel," the angel before him simpers unkindly. "There's a reason we had you witness that emotional little scene. A plan, you might say. Orders from above." Zachariah laughs outright at this as though the proceedings of the celestial realm, unchanged since they had begun, are now something to scoff at, but Castiel can do little more than listen, not daring to question.

"You see, the wheels of the cosmos are in motion again and we need Dean Winchester as a part of the proceedings. It's all in the master plan, of course."

Here, Castiel cannot help but to interject, puzzled. "But Dean Winchester sold his soul for his brother's life, it currently resides in hell."

Zachariah doesn't seem to take the out of line comment as an offense. "Ah ha, I believe you've touched on something important, brother. We need Dean Winchester, but Dean Winchester is in hell... What could that possibly mean for the little angel strategist who stands before me?" His words are facetious, in the realm of Heaven their true angelic forms aren't strictly corporeal enough to stand or sit, but the minced words still incite their desired effect.

"You... wish for me to raise Dean Winchester from hell." Castiel's words are not so much a question as a very hesitant-sounding statement.

The smile on Zachariah's face is miles wide and this time entirely unpleasant. "I'm putting you in charge of the operation. Gather whoever you need and report back to me when you are ready to go." The angel turns, a clear dismissal. "Oh, and Castiel? I would hurry if I were you. A righteous manlike Dean Winchester probably won't do too well down there."

The harried speed of Castiel's resulting flight through the celestial kingdom is enough to turn the heads of those he passes. As he flies, the confusing tumult of emotion beating through him offers a spark of something entirely new.

He will see Dean Winchester again.