Title: Bone
Author: apokteino
Rating: R
Genre and/or Pairing: Dean/Castiel
Spoilers: up to season five
Warnings: lots of graphic torture
Word Count: 8800
Summary: When Dean (raised from hell by some unknown force) and Sam stop the last seal from breaking, heaven decides to bring its own apocalypse. Late in the war, an angel with dark hair and striking blue eyes is captured, and Dean – Dean is his interrogator.
A/N: Feedback is adored! And the sequel to this story can be found in my livejournal (link in my profile).

There are less than ten bones in a bird wing, small and light, extending outward, most of the bulk in the muscle and feathers. Angels have one more, located where they intersect with the back. This bone, Dean figures, is there to support the wing when they want to rotate it in a way birds cannot. Why they would need to do this in human form - why wings are the only part of an angel that extend beyond the body - Dean's tried to find out a few times. But Dean's never really gotten a straight answer, even if it mattered.

Dean digs into the muscle binding that bone with his hand, hearing the high whimper start, then uses his leverage of being above the angel to snap the bone.

The whimper becomes a scream as Dean pulls at the wing, past the steel gray feathers streaked with black, pits of scars, able to feel the break beneath the skin. He feels the angel try to flap the wing, but the power of the wing is lessened because of the bindings, and Dean is able to force it down with his body weight.

The scream stops into a gasp, and then starts again.

Dean is satisfied, for the moment. The wings are the most vulnerable parts of the body, when an angel is within human form. They cause the most pain. Other things work, too, of course, because the bracelets repress the grace, allowing the flaws of the human body to peek out. Whips, knives, skinning - Dean's tried them all, and only breaking the wings made the angel scream.

He lifts himself off of the angel's body, hears the clank of the angel pulling at the cuffs binding him to a link embedded in the floor.

Dean walks out of reach, and turns around.

The angel is still screaming, pulling at the cuffs so hard his wrists bleed, face wrecked with tears and snot, full lips pale, his striking blue eyes filled with rage and pain. The broken wing flops restlessly, as if the angel can't stop himself from moving it, even though Dean knows every twitch must be agony. He picks up a whip from the far corner and waits.

It takes several minutes for the screams to stop. When it does, Dean asks the question again: "What is your name? Tell me your name, and the pain stops."

This is not the usual question. Dean is trying something different with this one.

("He's different," the psychic insists. "The others I have scanned, they are as cold as ice. Consciousness without emotion."

Dean nods, finally beginning to listen; to recognize, in the psychic's dark and disturbed eyes, that yes, something is different here. Psychics always scan the incoming angels sent for interrogation, in the dim hope of finding something. Only with the bindings can a psychic see into the angel, for the grace to dampened enough. Even so, the psychic's dark eyes are unseeing, and have been her entire life.

"He feels," the psychic says. "He's the first one I've seen who feels.")

The angel's mouth opens, and then closes.

If he were human, Dean would say he's trying to decide how revealing his name gives Dean something useful. But then, this one feels. Maybe his mind does work differently; maybe he thinks independently. It's too early to tell.

Dean waits a few more seconds, then starts approaching. "Have it your way."

The angel closes his eyes.

The angel, still nameless, is sitting, hands pulled in front by the cuffs, still chained to the link in the floor when Dean comes in. The wings are gone - he's managed to make them disappear into the ether, or wherever angel wings go, so his grace has been restored enough to allow the injuries to heal. Dean will have to force the wings out again with the spell. The whip marks are on his back and side are starting to heal as well, looking more like welts than the bloody ribbons of skin they were before.

Dean goes to the corner of the cell, where his tools are. It's encased in angel barriers, just like the whole of Texas, so even if the angel is loose Dean has a place to go he cannot reach. He picks up the sharply curved blade, useful for digging in -


Dean turns, startled. The angel is staring at him, blue eyes dark. Castiel stares at him. Dean doesn't recognize the name right off - not surprising. Dean's only studied the major ones, and some angels don't appear in literature at all.

"Good," Dean says. "Very good." He puts the curved blade down. "I'll keep my word."

"For how long?" The angel's - Castiel's - voice is low and rough.

"A day," Dean says calmly. "You get a day."

Castiel's lips twist, and that intense gaze flickers away. Probably wondering if it was worth the price.

Instead of leaving, Dean walks closer, still out of reach but close, and sits down, legs folded beneath him. Castiel doesn't return the attention, perhaps deliberately. He looks blankly at nothing, hands clenching and unclenching. Every once in a while, a shiver works through him, like he's cold. It's not warm in here, but not cold, so Dean finds this reaction interesting. A sign of stress, maybe. A good sign. Angels are different than the human souls in hell, so much harder to read, so much harder to break.

"Castiel," Dean repeats. "I don't recognize the name."

"I will tell you nothing more."

Not any time soon, Dean silently agrees.

After an hour of silence, Dean gets up and leaves.

("Get anything?" Sam asks.

"A name," Dean says. "Castiel. You know it?"

"Angel of Thursday, angel for travelers," Sam answers, not even looking up from his notes on the border patrol. Of course, he knows. Sam's the relentless researcher. "I always have wondered how they came up with different attributes with angels. They seem all the same." A pause, and Sam adds laconically, "They die all the same, just like we do.")

Dean's got one bone broken in one wing, two in the other, working on a third. The left wing is weaker for some reason, Castiel more attuned to pain in that one, and he's taking advantage of that fact now. Castiel tried to kick Dean when Dean approached, and he needs to be punished for that one, as well as refusing Dean's next question. Dean had to fairly wrestle the angel down onto his stomach to get at the wings, and he's got bruises all along his legs from Castiel's kicking. The pain is dull, and Dean ignores it.

Castiel cannot ignore his. Another bone, and Castiel screams.

Dean stays on him this time, pushing into the muscle where the bone lies beneath. Both wings arch, and the scream gets louder. A break in the screaming allows a sob, something clearly a sob.

"How many times have you been on earth?" Dean asks, in the space of that sob.

The answer doesn't really matter, beyond the fact that Castiel is refusing to answer. None of the questions Dean intends on asking at this point are important. He supposes Castiel could lie, but he's obviously chosen not to take that route.

There's no answer, and Dean pushes again. Another scream.

Dean gets up and returns to the corner. He picks up the curved blade, walks back as Castiel attempts to rise in some sort of attempt to defend himself, pushes Castiel back onto the floor and stabs Castiel in the wing with the curved blade, going underneath the skin into the muscle. Castiel thrashes as he screams, but it's uncontrolled, a helpless reaction to pain.

Dean settles his knee in the small of the angel's back, and waits.

The screams fade to whimpers as the angel adjusts. Dean's pretty sure the pain isn't lessening.

"How many times?" Dean repeats.

"Why do you care?" Castiel asks, shifting his head, the words coming out on a gasp that turns into a moan.

"Answer the question, and the pain stops," Dean says.

"I won't reveal any information, any battle plans to you," Castiel whispers hoarsely. "I will tell you nothing of tactical value."

"Maybe I don't need those things," Dean says reflectively. "Texas isn't the only hold-out to your angels-only apocalypse, and we're expanding our borders every day."

Castiel says nothing.

"You're not winning," Dean adds. "Your little plan to wipe the planet to introduce paradise isn't going so well, is it?"

"Go to hell," Castiel says.

Dean whispers into his ear, "Been there, done that."

Castiel tries to buck Dean off with a violent convulsion of his body. Dean grabs the hilt of the curved blade and twists. Castiel simultaneously goes still and stiffens, loosing another scream.

(Dean doesn't know what demon resurrected him. Sam swears up and down none would deal with him. But Ruby lived long enough to tell them that hell intended on taking earth, and how; Dean and Sam stopped the breaking of the final seal. Then the angels came, intent on their own fury, battering earth by killing billions in seconds, while hell lay sealed below.

Dean always thought that was ironic.

Sam just said, "How could we have known?")

Dean twists again. It's just like hell in a way, in that Castiel will not die as long as Dean doesn't stick him with an angel's blade. Even the sigils on the bracelets don't weaken angels enough for that. Dean can cause pain upon pain, and never kill his subject.

He waits for the screams to stop. It takes almost half an hour, and by then Dean figures Castiel's screamed his throat into silence more than the absence of pain.

"How many?" Dean says again.

"Four," Castiel gasps.

Four? Well, Dean supposes that could be true. Once they take vessels and force the human soul out, angels don't appear to flit between earth and heaven often. But really, the answer doesn't matter.

Dean gets up. "Good," he says. "The pain stops for half a day."

Castiel's head whips around. "Why the change?"

"Punishment for not cooperating to begin with," Dean says calmly.

"You are disgusting," Castiel replies equally calmly.

Dean is amused. "I'm not the monster."

To his surprise, Castiel looks away rather than retort. He shifts onto the side with only one broken wing bone, and curls his knees up, curving his back. His wings lay flat on the floor, pushed back so they're extended. They're huge, each nearly twenty feet long, but they're folded up now.

"Cooperate, and things will get better," Dean promises. "That's how this works."

Confusion and fear flash through Castiel's face. He still doesn't understand.

("You want to give an angel Stockholm's Syndrome?" Sam's expression clearly says, Dean, you are an idiot.

"Well. Yeah.")

That's okay. Castiel doesn't need to understand.

When the half-day is over, Castiel comes back fighting. Every time Dean gets near him, he tries to attack him, with his legs, butting his head, biting, even his wings despite the fact that they've never fully healed since Dean started training.

And training is what it is. No mistake about that in Dean's mind.

Castiel manages to strain one of Dean's legs pretty badly, give him a black eye, and split his lip. Dean almost whips the skin completely off Castiel's body in reaction, then when Castiel is weakened by it, breaks both wings again. He's cleverer this time, though, and uses rope to bind the wings in an uncomfortable position. Castiel will heal, but he'll be in constant agony as he does so. Dean asks no more questions. He just tortures. Castiel must partially break for this to work, after all. He assigns himself boundaries for this one, though he's never let slip sexual violence into his torture, and drugs would be counterproductive in this case, even if drugs were plentiful.

He tortures relentlessly, wondering if Castiel will push against the bindings completely. Like a ring of holy fire, push it far enough and the angel dies. All of the angels Dean has tortured have eventually done this, some so destroyed they can't say their last words, their belief that dead angels go to God. Dean isn't distressed by this. God's a bastard. He's pretty sure the angels go nowhere.

Castiel never pushes against the bracelets, or threatens that he will.

Castiel screams, but he never pleads for mercy.

Until he does.

It's a whispered, "Please."

Dean almost doesn't hear it. He's covered in blood, one of Castiel's wings is flayed open, and Castiel is shaking so badly the word almost isn't understood.

"What?" Dean says.

Castiel stares at him, as if unable to repeat the word.

Dean rises. He goes to the corner, picks up a key, and releases the cuffs from the link. The bracelets still remain, of course. Dean can take Castiel, if he attacks him. Dean doubts Castiel's capable of that right now, though.

"Get up and walk the perimeter of the room, and the pain stops," Dean says. He backs up a few feet. "Don't, and the pain starts again."

Castiel looks disbelieving. It fades into disgust, and Dean tenses. Castiel starts to get up, painfully and slowly.

He walks to the concrete wall, puts one hand on it to steady himself, and begins walking the perimeter of the cell. He limps, the one wing dragging on the floor, and carefully stumbles past the corner with the angel barrier. Once he's completed the walk, he returns to the center of the cell where the ring is embedded in the floor the few square feet he's been living in for months now and sits, trying to fold the uninjured wing, which is half solid and half falling through the floor, the way angel wings tend to do sometimes, ungainly when fully physical. The other drags, leaving gore behind.

Dean approaches Castiel, kneels next to him on his good knee. "Good," Dean says softly. He doesn't let his apprehension show when he reaches out and lays one hand on the side of Castiel's face, a human gesture, intended to be comforting. Reinforce the behavior you want.

Castiel starts and stills, eyes wide as he stares at Dean.

"Good," Dean repeats, and brushes his thumb along Castiel's cheekbone. This is the first touch Dean's given that isn't pain. Dean withdraws, and says, "Half a day."

Castiel bows his head, but it's probably wishful thinking that it means defeat.

Castiel's tucked in a corner, knees up and wings gone, when Dean returns. His head is lying against the wall, and his arms are limp, the back of his hands on the floor. It's a posture that indicates exhaustion if nothing else. He doesn't look directly at Dean, eyes focused on a few feet away, gaze deliberately sliding past Dean's face.

Dean goes to his corner and picks up the curved blade. Castiel's eyes track it warily.

"What is your vessel's name?" Dean doesn't stop approaching, watching Castiel's breathing quicken.

Castiel tries to make himself a smaller target, curling up tightly into the corner.

Dean heaves an internal sigh, then walks over and grabs Castiel by the hair, pulling him up. At that moment, Castiel strikes. Lower than Dean, he sees the opening to hit Dean's throat and takes it.

Dean twists back and falls, gasping for air. The blow didn't land entirely, or Dean would asphyxiate. Castiel tries to push his advantage, landing random blows, before Dean recovers and slams Castiel's head into the wall. Castiel crumples temporarily, and Dean hits him again. And again. He breaks most of the bones in Castiel's face, then starts dragging Castiel into the center of the room, Dean's own breathing still ragged. He chains Castiel there.

Dean goes to the safe corner, rubbing his throat, anger burning low and deep.

He grabs hooks, long ones that link to chain. "Every time you attack me, the pain will be so much worse, Castiel," Dean says, the words almost throttled by his throat.

Castiel stares up at him, fearful and defiant.

Dean speaks the spell. Castiel moans as his wings appear against his will, but Dean doesn't waste any time. There's five other links in the cell, though Dean's not used them before now.

Castiel tries to beat Den with his wings when Dean gets close, but Dean just uses that to his advantage, pinning one wing in an awkward position. He grabs the hook and slices it through muscle until it goes out the other side. Castiel groans, but doesn't scream. Dean takes the hook and pulls. Castiel screams, and Dean chains the hook. He repeats this two more times on the left wing, then twice on the right, pulling the wings in different directions, tearing muscle and ligaments.

Castiel screams helplessly.

For added effect, Dean cuts huge rents into the wings, bloody feathers falling. Castiel pulls at the cuffs with so much force he's probably breaking wrist bones.

Dean leaves, screams echoing, and leaves Castiel that way for four days, coming back only to inflict more injuries to the pinned wings.

The fourth day, Castiel tells him the name, and Dean loosens the hooks.

"Good," Dean says, hand resting on Castiel's head.

Dean returns a few hours later to find Castiel lying down, ten feet from the ring in the floor. The wings have disappeared, though probably not recently given the extent of Castiel's other injuries, which have laid another layer of blood on the floor, slowly drying.

Castiel doesn't rush Dean as Dean half-expects. He opens his eyes, but there's a dullness there. It's been almost three months. Dean's tortured four angels, and half committed suicide by this point.

Castiel just watches Dean, wary.

"Show your wings to me," Dean orders.

Castiel's entire body tenses. Dean knows what he's asking. He's asking Castiel to deliberately make himself vulnerable, an idea that must be anathema to Castiel's nature. Castiel stares at the floor, breathing fast. Then he shakes his head. No.

"Have it your way," Dean says, placing the blame on Castiel. The bracelets will still attach to the chain he'd left at the link, so he starts getting close to Castiel, watchful because he's sure Castiel will resist.

Castiel stands and backs up, not stopping until he hits the wall.

Dean grabs him by the wrist and twists his arm behind his back, Castiel finally starting to struggle, but failing against Dean's strength. He tries to twist out of the grip, dislocating his shoulder in the process, but Dean just drags him back to the center of the cell, kicks the back of Castiel's knee so he falls to the floor, and chains him again to the link.

Castiel stares up, terrified. Then his wings appear. Not for long, no more than a second.

Dean stops. It wasn't quite what he was thinking of, but technically, Castiel has followed the order. "That'll do," Dean says wryly.

"Half a day?" Castiel asks, voice quiet.

"Three hours," Dean says.

Castiel exhales and nods, apparently accepting the shortened reprieve.

Dean leaves without touching him.

("I don't like you torturing," Sam admits.

Dean sighs. "It's necessary." Though it probably bothers Dean less than Sam would like. "At least something good came out of hell. What little we've been able to get from the others has saved lives."

Angels attack the borders of the free world every day.)

At the end of the three hours, Dean comes back to find a worried Castiel.

It's interesting, how Dean's able to note the separate emotions. It was more difficult with the others, like they felt things less. The pain affected them, but in a different way. It was misery, and eventually they learned to fear it, but the worry, the confusion, these are new things.

"Show me your wings, and don't hide them again this time," Dean says, sitting a few feet away.

Castiel purses his lips and stares down at his cuffed hands. He's probably trying to decide what to do, which makes Dean decide to give him a moment longer. The fact that he's wavering without added persuasion is promising. Quite promising.

Slowly, Castiel nods. The wings appear. They're stretched out behind him, one canted oddly to the side. Dean gets up and circles Castiel, who follows him with a terrified gaze, pulling at the cuffs.

Dean touches the curve of one wing, not hurting, just smoothing his hand along the flight feathers. They're very stiff, though breakable. They don't cause as much pain as the bones or muscles do, so Dean usually doesn't pay attention to them. But Castiel's fairly panting with terror regardless. Dean completely circles Castiel, until he's facing him again.

"Very good," Dean tells him.

Castiel doesn't go limp with relief, but he relaxes slightly.

Dean kneels before him like he did before, reaches out and touches Castiel's face, purposefully gentle. Castiel stares at Dean, a bit of mingled fear in his eyes, but mostly curiosity, like he can't figure out why Dean is touching him this way.

Dean withdraws. Instead of leaving, however, he gets the key to the cuffs from the safe corner. Castiel eyes him with surprise and wariness. Dean unlocks the chain, freeing Castiel from the link in the floor.

"Come here," Dean commands.

Castiel hesitates. Dean allows the hesitation.

"Now," he adds.

Castiel moves forward on his knees the few feet necessary to reach Dean. Dean touches Castiel's face, then lets his hand fall to his shoulder, then moves it along his back. Castiel reacts by violently trying to get up, and Dean has to be quick to take hold of Castiel's wrist and yank him back down.

"Don't move," Dean orders.

Castiel tries to twist out of Dean's grip momentarily, then stills. He breathes fast as Dean touches where the wings intersect with his back, skimming along the thick muscle bound by soft skin, the feathers starting maybe an inch away, soft beneath his fingers like down. Dean supposes it is, actually.

"I've never really understood why angels have wings like this," Dean comments.

Castiel twitches and gives Dean a skeptical look.

"Why is this the only part of you that shows?" Dean asks.

Castiel licks his lips, clearly debating answering.

"You don't have to answer that," Dean says. "I'm just curious. You obeyed, that's all that matters right now."

There's a split second of a dark smile, then it's gone.

Curious reaction, Dean thinks. He moves back to Castiel's front, his neck and shoulder. Dried blood cakes off at Dean's touch, which he purposefully keeps light. "See?" Dean says. "It doesn't have to hurt."

Deciding he's made his point, Dean gets up. "Half a day," he tells Castiel.

When Dean returns, Castiel tries to rush him.

He manages to slam Dean into the wall next to the door, but that's where the attempt fails. Dean strikes back, hitting Castiel solidly across the face, taking a wrist and snapping it, then shattering his knee with a separate blow. Castiel moans, but doesn't fall. He tries to hit Dean again, but adrenaline is coursing through Dean now, and Dean dodges. He pushes Castiel to the floor, then leaves him and gets the angel blade.

Castiel stills, surprising Dean. Dean blurts, "You don't want to die, do you?"

Castiel blinks.

"Cuff yourself," Dean says evenly.

Castiel shakes his head, but he backs up as he does it, limping badly.

"Now," Dean orders.

"You'll torture me again anyway, what reason do I have to comply?"

"You'll be punished," Dean agrees. "And you'll be given the chance to be good."

"Be good? Be good?" Castiel spits.

Dean attacks, Castiel clumsily tries to parry with his hands. He's got nothing else. No doubt at his prime he's powerful, but here, now, weakened, Dean gets through. The angel blade goes through Castiel's shoulder, who grunts painfully and falls.

Dean pulls it out, throws in the general direction of the corner, and drags Castiel to the middle of the room, cuffing him.

When Dean forces his wings out, Castiel already has a glazed look in his eyes, anticipating the pain.

It comes.

("Hasn't offed himself yet?" Sam asks over lunch. It's something that appears to be chicken, but probably isn't. What does heaven against chicken, anyway? Dean wonders. They're damn near extinct.

"Nope," Dean answers. "That psychic is right. He's different."

Sam eyes Dean's bruises and cuts. "Really.")

Dean cuts and cuts. Castiel screams. On it goes. He could probably stop now, but that latest attempt to escape has pissed Dean off, though he knows he'd do the same in Castiel's place. Actually, he did do the same, for a long time. Maybe he'd finally succeeded, and dragged himself out of hell.

Dean is Castiel's hell.

It's when Castiel breaks into sobs that Dean finally stops. "Please," Castiel whispers. "Please stop."

"Promise me on - " Dean thinks, "promise before God that you won't attempt to escape again, and the pain stops."

Castiel gasps for a moment, Dean with his hands in Castiel's wing, covered in blood. "I promise, by my father," Castiel says.

"Good." Quiet, firm. Dean lets go and gets up, leaving Castiel shivering on the floor, bleeding. He carefully puts his tools in the corner, organized properly again.

This is a swear Dean is pretty sure Castiel won't break.

He returns to Castiel, still cuffed to the floor, and uncuffs him. Castiel doesn't even attempt to rise, eyes focused on some random distance. Then he physically moves Castiel so Castiel's head lies on Dean's thigh, Dean's legs folded beneath him. Castiel looks utterly confused, and Dean carefully doesn't smile. Instead, he runs his fingers through Castiel's dark, almost black hair. Tuffs begin to come up as Dean loosens the dried blood, massaging the scalp.

Castiel's eyes flutter shut, still looking vaguely confused, but relaxing, like a whipped dog would to finally receiving a gentle touch.

Castiel's breathing evens out, though Dean is sure he's not sleeping. None of the others ever did, even with the grace repressed.

After a while, even Dean relaxes. He starts planning patrols in his head, thinking how he's going to have to shift patrol leaders around because they're promoting a few. Human society has adapted in the five years since the end of the world, and Texas is essentially self-supporting these days. The control center where he and Sam live is actually near one of the borders, and serves as a military base of sorts. The underground portion of it has become a useful prison, though Castiel's the only living angel on base right now.

Dean does this for almost an hour, he figures by his internal clock, his fingers starting to ache. "Cas," he says, and wonders why he shortened the name. "I'm leaving now. You have a day."

Castiel's eyes open. He shifts himself off of Dean's leg silently, sits up when Dean rises to his feet, and watches Dean all the way out the door.

Castiel is waiting for him when Dean returns. He's sitting on the floor, wings disappeared. There's still fear in his eyes when he looks at Dean, though, as there should be. Dean goes to the corner, takes a whip, the fear growing in Castiel's eyes.

But Dean settles opposite him. "When were you first on earth?"

Castiel stares for a long moment. Dean is starting to recognize these stares as part of Castiel's personality. Always looking at Dean like he's a confusing and terrifying puzzle. None of the other angels had tried to reason out Dean's motives. "Long ago, before humans."

Dean nods. "What was it like?"

Castiel brings his eyebrows together, a wrinkle appearing in between. "Beautiful, and wild. But harmonious - there was no killing, not then." Pause. "Three hours?"

"No," Dean says. "You'll answer more questions than that."

"I will tell you nothing of tactical value," Castiel warns. "No matter what you do to me," he adds softly, looking away.

"Loyalty," Dean says. "I get it." It's an area he'll have to attack eventually, but not now. Castiel will attach himself to Dean. A human would. Dean's pretty sure a feeling being will, too. "Why are your wings scarred? I've never seen an angel with scarred wings like yours."

Gray shot with black, ripples of scar tissue hidden beneath. "A battle," Castiel says finally. "In my true form."

Not terribly specific, but this is the longest conversation Dean's had with Castiel so far. "Do they hurt?"

Castiel blinks, wary, shoulders tensing. "Only if you hurt them."

"I won't unless you make me," Dean says. Placing, again, the responsibility for his own pain on Castiel. It's not exactly fair, but fair isn't the point, here. Humans hate angels. Dean hates angels.

Castiel doesn't answer, not meeting Dean's eyes and looking worried. It says, quite clearly, that Castiel knows very well Dean will hurt him again.

"Come here," Dean orders.

Castiel doesn't move. "I'm not a dog," he whispers.

Dean rises, whip in hand. "I'll whip you like one," he promises.

Castiel rises to his feet and starts backing up. Dean follows, getting close, but Castiel doesn't attack him. Every time he has, Dean has punished him severely for it, far more than when Castiel refuses a question. Castiel raises both arms, but it's defensive, curling into it, trying to make himself a smaller target. Dean realizes he's decided attacking causes too much pain. Castiel backs himself into a corner, terror and defiance in his eyes.

Dean gets even closer, but doesn't whip him. Instead he reaches out and touches Castiel's cheek. Castiel's whole body jerks, then, with an abruptness that surprises Dean, Castiel leans into the touch, eyes half-closing.

Dean exhales, suddenly taken by the sensation. Warm, human contact. No not human. Castiel had forced out some poor soul to get this body.

Dean withdraws his hand and starts whipping.

He punishes Castiel severely for the disobedience.

Afterwards, Castiel lying on the floor in too much pain to move, he thinks about what he's doing. Castiel has responded, every step, like Dean would expect a human. Castiel does feel. He feels mostly pain and terror, but he feels those things with an absoluteness Dean cannot shake. Dean has never felt guilt over torturing angels. They are more merciless than demons.

Castiel makes him feel the slight simmering of guilt, slowly rising.

(Once, they made a stand. It was over Los Angeles. Nothing stands there now, every building torn down to its foundations.

Sam, Dean knows, has not felt guilt or anything else when killing an angel since. It was Sam who summed it up: "You can kill angels. You just have to be smart about it. Never attack directly. There's ways of weakening them, hurting them, drugging their human bodies once their grace is repressed. You just have to be smart about it," Sam repeated.)

"Please," Castiel says with a shudder, coughing up blood - internal injuries from the force of the whipping.

"Do you want the pain to stop?" Dean asks, looking down at Castiel.

"Yes," Castiel whispers.

"Then be my dog," Dean says.

Castiel curls around Dean's leg in response.

Castiel passively allows Dean's touches, confused and yearning. He leans into the touches, sometimes. A pat on the head brings a shiver, a touch to his wings a shudder. Something about it pleases and disturbs Dean at the same time; he shuts down that train of thought. Castiel struggles to escape when those touches turn to pain, but he doesn't attack Dean again.

Nevertheless, he refuses to answer Dean's next question. "What is your rank?"

So it turns, again and again. Dean expected this response to this question, and he'd debated about it in his head beforehand. It's not quite classified information, but it will tell them how much Castiel knows, how much useful information he has. That Castiel refuses to answer, still refuses to answer, tells Dean he's only half broken to Dean's heel. But he doesn't commit suicide. This one is different, something whispers.

He takes the angel blade, watching Castiel still. Castiel's chained, but he's not even moving away as far as he's able.

Dean throws the blade in front of him.

It's in his reach, but Castiel doesn't touch it. He understands. He looks up at Dean and he understands Dean's intent. None of the others were capable of this; they would be confused by Dean giving them a weapon, but Castiel knows the weapon's useless in this room, chained as he is. Half-trained as he is. Dean wondered if Castiel knew what Dean is doing, and now Dean has his answer.

"I want to live," Castiel whispers.


"I don't know," Castiel admits. Something of pain flashes across his face, but it's not physical. "Why can I not throw myself into the fire?"

Because there's something human in you, Dean thinks. It sounds so human - to fight to live when there's no point. Dean's well acquainted with the feeling, as is Sam. And here Castiel is, an imperfect reflection of humanity.

"I'm not right," Castiel mutters.

Not right or wrong, but malformed. Other angels would see it that way. This one feels.

"What happened to you?" Dean asks.

Castiel tilts his head, staring at the blade. "I was reeducated."

Dean shuts down a shiver, the thought he's doing the same, taking advantage of the flaw, instead of eradicating it. He calmly walks over and picks up the blade. "What's your rank?"

Castiel's face falls to his chained hands and he releases a low sob.

Dean doesn't let that stop him.

Days later, weeks later, the time seems indeterminable, Dean has his answer. A seraph. Dean stares at the blood decorating the floor and walls, and thinks it's such a small word for what Castiel is.

Dean left Castiel bleeding and whimpering. He's in much the same state when Dean returns later in the evening, lying on the floor, as still as the dead. The wings are still out, injured. He has hurt Castiel so badly Castiel is having trouble healing. Dean wonders if he can kill an angel this weakened. He shuts down the thought that he'd regret it if he did.

To his surprise, Castiel speaks first. "What do you want?" It's not a demand. That kind of whisper, filled with halted breathing, can't be.

He's not cuffed to the ring. "Get up," Dean says.

Castiel obeys, finding his feet with difficulty.

Dean gets a short chain from the corner and chains Castiel's restraint bracelets together. Castiel watches with terror and mild confusion. Dean takes the key as well. Dean hooks one finger through a ring and orders, "Come on."

He opens the door.

There's a barrier a few feet from the door, and no guard; Dean didn't want one. With this and the safe part of the cell itself, Dean felt fairly comfortable. He breaks one of the lines of chalk, rendering the border inert.

Castiel is breathing quickly, but he doesn't run. Dean's still got a hand on the chain, and he starts pulling, forcing Castiel to follow him down the hallway. They're still in the prison, dozens more barriers between them and anything else, but he knows Castiel won't attempt escape.

He has to be rewarded for that.

These are not Dean's quarters, though Castiel may well think they are. This is where Dean goes to clean the blood off, before returning to the rest of the base. He drags Castiel through dark hallways lit by a few lights here and there, covered with bars. They don't flicker as Castiel passes; his grace is too restrained for that. He fairly yanks Castiel to the room he'd chosen, and shuts the door behind them. It's small, but private. There's a single bedroom, attached to a bathroom.

"What are you doing?" Castiel asks, shivering again.

For the first time, it strikes Dean that Castiel is naked. And covered with blood. "Can you disappear your wings?"

Castiel frowns, then shuts his eyes and concentrates. A moment later, they're gone. Castiel looks tired as a result, shoulders slumping.

Dean nods. "Good. Get in the bathroom."

Castiel obeys. Dean turns on the bath water, watches the bathtub fill.

Castiel eyes it with fear. Dean wonders if he thinks Dean will drown him in it. "Get in," Dean orders.

Castiel dips his head, and steps over the side to stand in it.

"Sit down," Dean says, a touch impatiently.

Castiel obeys, the water sloshing up to the sides, then looks up at Dean.

Dean grabs a washcloth, tells himself it's not guilt that's making him do this, and starts washing away the blood. Castiel's lips part like he's about to speak, but he says nothing, watching Dean's face the entire time, never turning away, never looking at Dean's hands, only Dean's eyes, as if there's the mystery.

After a few minutes, Dean says, "Clean the rest off."

Castiel hesitantly takes the washcloth, and begins to awkwardly clean himself, wrists still chained together. Dean sits on the toilet seat and watches.

"You were good. Do you understand that?" Dean asks suddenly.

Castiel's head jerks. "This is a reward?"

"Yes," Dean says shortly. One a human would appreciate, but Castiel isn't human.

Castiel stops moving and stares at his hands. Dean's about to yank him out of the bathroom, uncertainty rising, when Castiel says, "Thank you."

Dean lets out a breath, forces himself not to show surprise. "Lean back," he orders. "So I can get your hair." He doesn't shampoo it. Most people don't use shampoo as such anymore, just soap made from lye. He does get the bloody flakes out, though, and Castiel's dark hair becomes plastered to his skull, strangely making him look shorter.

Fairly satisfied, Dean has Castiel get out of the tub, and he lets the water go down the drain. Castiel just stands there, dripping, and Dean gets a good look at him. He doesn't look as bad as Dean would expect a human to, but Dean can tell Castiel has lost weight. His ribs show, faintly along his front, exposed in the back when he exhales. Dean wonders if repressed grace can't restore mass, but doesn't ask. There's no scars otherwise, but slowly healing welts, some still tinged with blood scabs, from the whip.

He leads Castiel out of the bathroom, and points at the foot of the bed. "Lay down."

Castiel obeys.

Dean chains him to the bed post, gets a piece of chalk and draws an angel barrier at the door. There's no window to worry about, fortunately, this far underground. He lies down on the bed.

He doesn't expect to sleep, and he doesn't.

He takes Castiel back to the cell in the morning, goes about some errands, then returns.

("Goddammit, Dean, what were you thinking?" Sam demands. "Taking him out of the cell?"

"I know what I'm doing," Dean says calmly. "Did you notice that said angel did exactly everything I said?"

Sam shakes his head, but not in denial.)

He leaves Castiel unchained. Castiel kneels near the ring, waiting. He meets Dean's gaze, and something there tells Dean that Castiel knows what's coming next.

"What are heaven's plans?" Dean stands in front of him, and he's already got the curved knife out.

"I can't answer that," Castiel whispers, small and not defiant at all, save for the words.

Dean expected this. Castiel warned him, after all, and he's fairly certain that Castiel's never lied to him. His grip tightens on the blade, and he considers giving the demand again. Instead, he says, "Show me your wings."

Castiel closes his eyes, and a tear slips down one cheek. He obeys.

Dean cuts deep.

Castiel is a bloody mess by the time Dean finishes, not because there's some end line when torturing an angel, but because he is too tired to continue. Castiel began resisting partway through, though by that point he didn't have the strength to be very successful at it, but it was enough Dean had to chain him again. Castiel's screams echo in Dean's head all night.

He left Castiel with his wings tied and the curved knife buried in one of the wings, so the torture would continue for Castiel all night.

He's panting roughly when Dean enters the cell in the morning.

"Answer the question," Dean orders.

Castiel shakes his head silently, face lined with pain.

Dean finds himself falling to his knees in front of Castiel. "Be good," Dean begs. "Be good."

"I can't betray my family," Castiel whispers.

Dean takes a deep breath. "Did you know when we first captured angels, we tried to trade prisoners?"

Castiel is silent, but his surprised blink confirms his lack of knowledge for Dean.

"They said no. Killed the people we sent to ask, actually. That family of yours doesn't care for you. They don't feel. And you, Castiel, you feel, don't you?"

"Yes," Castiel whispers. Soft, always soft whispers, like speaking too loud hurts.

Dean reaches out and touches Castiel's hand with his own, the other pressed over the cuff around Castiel's wrist. "Don't make me hurt you."

Castiel looks - sad. "I will do what I must."

Dean snatches his hands away, abruptly angry. He rises and stalks to the corner. He picks out the angel blade, and returns. Castiel is breathing fast again, terror the cause instead of pain. For a split second, Dean considers driving the blade through Castiel's heart. But then he calms.

The angel blade will cut Castiel's true form in a way a normal blade cannot, save for Castiel's wings. It's made more stabbing than cutting, but Dean makes do. The tip of the blade is sharp, and drags through skin easily. The wings are broken and stabbed through. Dean's not entirely sure Castiel will survive this.

Castiel screams.

Dean repeats it over and over: "Where do you belong?"

Castiel gasps and shakes, eyes restlessly searching the cell as if the walls have answers, but says nothing. Every time Dean reiterates the question, he touches Castiel, soothing caresses. He watches as Castiel begins to expect that touch, the only kindness, nearly lost in the cruelty.

It is days before Castiel has the right answer, too weak to move. "With you," Castiel says hoarsely, and Castiel has never lied.

Dean releases Castiel from the cuffs, removes the curved knife carefully, and pulls him into his arms, knowing that even this will hurt, with so many injuries all over Castiel's body. Castiel goes submissively, shaking, and curls into the physical contact. His eyes go soft and glazed, and he places a hand over Dean's heart, scratching lightly with his blunt fingernails.

It occurs to Dean that he has finally tortured someone into loving him.

Dean sets up a video camera in the cell.

"What are heaven's plans?"

"How many angels are there?" And so on. Castiel answers dozens of questions about numbers, garrisons, and tactics. Some make him think, because they are difficult to explain in human terms. When he tells them of the multiple heavens - of each soul having its own heaven, save for soulmates who share one - they are surprised. He also informs them that the angels have not yet dared to interfere with the human souls travelling to heaven. He says that the archangels worry that such an act might finally cause God to act. Some angels reckon this is entirely a reason to begin destroying human souls, or forcing ones bound for heaven to hell.

Then Castiel says, "And there are also the fallen angels."

This is the first piece of information that Castiel has offered independently. "What do you mean?" Dean asks.

Castiel frowns. "There are those among us who have fallen, torn out their grace and been born into human form from human parents."

"There are angels walking around distinguishable from humans?" Dean presses. It's a horrible possibility.

"They have rebelled against heaven by doing so," Castiel assures him calmly. "They would be on your side, not heaven's."

"Can you find them?"

Castiel tells him about Annael. She's still lost somewhere, but the angels believe her to be alive.

If she can be found, she can confirm the authenticity of what Castiel says, or even have more information, since she is of a different rank. Not that Dean doubts the truth of Castiel's words, but the others will; they have not lived inside Castiel's skin for months. They don't know how he feels - or believe that he feels. The fatal flaw that broke Castiel, if he can be called broken.

The questioning goes on, but eventually Dean calls a halt. Castiel doesn't need to sleep, of course, but Dean does, and no one but Dean will ask these questions. Dean is fairly certain Castiel wouldn't answer another human, though he doesn't test it. Sam and the others may think Castiel is broken because he's answering questions, but Dean knows it's not that simple. Castiel is not so much broken as driven to the point of insanity, and choosing to live the only life he knows now. Being Dean's.

He brings Castiel to the quarters he'd set up when this whole plan started.

He has Castiel take another bath, bracelets uncuffed this time. Castiel leans into Dean's touch, absentmindedly putting his hands underwater then raising them, for apparently no other reason than to watch the droplets fall. Dean smoothes them off with his hand, and Castiel looks up at him, blue eyes thoughtful.

The bed is small, but Dean brings Castiel to it anyway, and has him lie there in Dean's hold. Castiel settles there quietly, comfortable. The fear has not faded, but been partially transformed by Dean's gentle touch into devotion, like Dean's an alchemist, turning iron to gold.

But it's really Castiel. This one feels.

Dean is almost asleep when Castiel speaks. "How will I be killed when you have all my knowledge?"

Dean stops breathing. It hadn't occurred to him that Castiel would be killed once his knowledge was exhausted.

It hadn't occurred to him.

"You won't," Dean promises recklessly. "You won't be killed, Cas."

Castiel is quiet for a long moment. "You make me yours when you call me that."

For a second, Dean is confused. Then he realizes the part of Castiel's name he was leaving off the part that means 'of God'. He shudders, wondering what that makes him in Castiel's mind, and kisses Castiel on the forehead.

Castiel squints at him, then returns to picking lightly at Dean's shirt, where it lays over his heart. He doesn't appear concerned about dying. "There is something else," Castiel says softly, and now some hesitance arises.

"What?" Dean braces himself.

"It was I who raised you, not the demons," Castiel tells him, voice a whisper again, like Dean is holding a knife. "I fought through hell and scarred my wings to find you. I touched your soul and saw it was broken, so I healed it with myself. And your soul touched me in return. Then I placed you in your body, and left."

Dean sits up abruptly, dislodging Castiel, who carefully assumes a sitting position on the bed so he can look Dean in the eye. He wraps his arms around himself, bracelets glimmering in the faint light.

"That's what changed you, isn't it?" Dean whispers, sick.

Castiel nods, looking up, far away past the ceiling, to somewhere else altogether. "Yes. I was considered tainted after that. I disobeyed, once, refusing to fight."

Dean stares at him, then places a hand over his own heart, where Castiel's had lain. Pieces of self exchanged.

Dean and Sam. Sam and Dean, supposed to start the apocalypse. And in ending one before it began, introduced another, from the side that was supposed to protect humanity. Dean, who woke up from hell more put together than he should have been. Dean, who remembers enough, doesn't he?

He moves Castiel into his arms again, seeing again the bruises and the cuts, the surge of helpless guilt. And Castiel goes, like before, head tucked under Dean's chin, soft dark hair still faintly damp.

"I love you," Cas whispers.

Mine, Dean thinks, and closes his eyes to it.

The camera sits in the cell, and Dean reads off a list.

Sam's list of questions exhaust what Cas knows of ways to hinder or kill angels. There's a lot more than what they learned from Ruby, as it turns out. More insidious ways, for the most part. Cas also offers a viewpoint of how angels think, how they plan. From the excitement in Sam's eyes when he'd handed him the list, that's probably the most important part; the rest of Castiel's knowledge made less relevant by the passage of time.

Afterwards, he takes Cas to the one place in the outpost's prison that has a window. Cas stares at the sun without blinking.

Texas spreads wide and hot.

There are other holdouts, but Texas is the largest. Barriers against angels extend thousands upon thousands of miles, and every inch of those miles is guarded. Angels don't use humans as their agents, so the greatest dangers to the sigils are secondary ones, things like the weather, manipulated into vast storms or large droughts. The larger the barrier, the less that stuff works, so they're constantly moving the barriers forward, a mile at a time.

At night, Cas presses into Dean's body, every gentle touch Dean is willing to give Cas takes like a new and wondrous act. Dean gives and gives, hopelessly lost.

One morning, the alarms sound.

The border has been breached. Dean doesn't know where, doesn't know how, but there's only one action to take. Dean sits up in bed, the sound echoing through his quarters and his head, and for a second he's frozen. Then he's up, looking at Castiel, grabbing him by the wrist and pulling him out of the room. He goes to what was once Castiel's cell and picks up the angel blade, ready to rush out for battle. What form that will take, who the hell knows, but Dean is determined. Cas stops him, not by action, but the lack of it.

Cas is standing still, head cocked. Listening. The lights in the hallway flicker.


"They say I must come home now," Cas says.

"No," Dean says immediately.

Cas blinks and looks at him, then raises his wrists to look at the bracelets that restrain him. "You must take these off."

Dean feels sick. Cas looks calm, almost emotionless, like when Cas was first captured. But Dean knows that isn't true at all.

Dean swallows, then holds out his hand. "Come with me."

Cas takes it, and follows.

The keys are locked away, as good as throwing them into a random dark place. They're outside of the prison, and Dean has to break multiple barriers to let Castiel past. The keys were not intended to ever be used, except when the angel dies. Even then, cutting off the hands was safer. They're in the most secure part of the building, a copy of Bobby's panic room. Castiel can't enter, these wards built with iron.

Dean unlocks the cuffs with shaking hands, and cannot force out the words he knows he should say.

Castiel says, "I will."

There's a rush of wind, and he's gone. Flying being proof of how much the angels have breached.

Dean feels his back hit a wall, and then he's sinking to the floor. The alarm continues to blare, but Dean decides one more body won't do any good. He takes a moment to wonder if Castiel will come back for him, and take his vengeance, now that he hears his family's call again.

Some indeterminable amount of time later, Dean feels a touch to his cheek, and Dean startles so much he smacks his head against the wall as he stands, eyes opening.

It's Cas.

He stands there holding an angel blade, blood dripping from the tip. He's got a slash of blood in his side and a bloody lip. The alarm bells still ring, but all of the sudden Cas shudders, like something within has snapped. The borders corrected, Dean realizes, as the alarm falls into silence. Then Cas drops the blade, it briefly ringing before falling with a clatter.

Cas drops to his knees and curls his arms around Dean's leg. "Your dog," he murmurs, the stark blue of his eyes showing his devotion.

Dean chokes and falls to his knees, and embraces Cas briefly. "No," he says. Then he kisses Cas, gentle as any other carefully measured touch he's given, but far more sincere. He can taste Cas's blood, bitter and sweet.

Cas blinks, but smiles. Castiel chooses with a shattered mind, but he chooses. Dean tells himself that's all that matters, and counts Cas's smile as a victory.

Dean smiles back.