Title: Hear Me Now
Genre: Hurt/comfort with a side dish of fluff, humor, and a drop of angst and horror.
Pairings/characters: Cas/Dean + Sam
Word count: (Ch 1) ~5000
Warnings: Language, Dean, my sense of humor. :_D Spoilers up to 7x03
Disclaimers: Since you probably already know that I don't own Supernatural, let me just point out that I don't own H. C. Andersen's Little Mermaid or M. G. Lewis's The Monk either, and have shamelessly borrowed and edited parts of them.
Summary: Dean had never been good at letting go of people he cared about. Castiel was no exception.
A/N:I was so happy and encouraged by your response to my first SPN fic, Boredom, that I finally managed to finish one of my older projects. Yay! I'm still desperately shy and insecure about my work (this one particularly confused the hell outta me because I decided to alternate between present tense and past tense – I kept getting them mixed up, so please tell me if I failed to fix any of the slip-ups!), but I really wanted to do something with Cas, preferably with some Cas/Dean, and if I could label it a fix-it fic, even better!
The 'Now' parts take place during the 2-week gap in 7x03 – the rest are scattered all over seasons 5 and 6, I guess.
Where'd you go? Where's your home?
How'd you end up all alone?
Can you hear me now?
Hollywood Undead – Hear Me Now
"... I don't know what I'm supposed to do."
"Oh for the – just read the script, dude."
"... Right. Uh, this is Castiel. I am currently unable to answer your call because I'm too busy smiting demons and... ganking evil liches -"
"- bitches, Cas."
"I thought you had misspelled it."
"Contrary to general belief, I can spell, o Mighty Heavenly Auto-Correct. Bitch."
"I was under the impression that to be a bitch one must have female geni -"
"Jesus, Cas. Just finish reading..."
"... Ganking evil bitches, some of whom are actually male. If you're Dean, Sam, or Bobby, leave me a message. If you're not, leave me a message and tell me how you got my number."
Dean swallowed. Not that he was in the habit of calling dead people just to hear their voices or anything, but even in the light of his earlier emo-fests with Dad and Sam's voice-mails, this probably qualified as a tad bit unhealthy.
"Hey, Cas," he said, throat and lips and voice dry. "It's Dean. Uh... listen, things have been a little crazy after you went swimming, you know, with Sam being all Fight Club and shit, and me being immobilized and locked up with Tyler Durden and the unnamed dude, and my cast is driving me fucking nuts, man, I swear I've had this itch in the back of my knee since leaving the hospital, and I'm just about ready to start climbing the walls and eating Rufus's ugly as fuck curtains, and -"
He paused to draw breath because passing out wasn't on his to do list for now, and continued in a slightly softer, marginally less frantic tone.
"- And I guess I just needed someone to talk to, and it's not like you can zap away in the middle of a conversation now, right?" He gave a weak laugh and did not think about how it wasn't like Cas could hear him now, either.
He waited for a moment anyway, just in case.
"Yeah," he murmured after a minute or two had ticked by. "I know, man. Fucked up all the way to freaking Pluto, I know, but hey, it's the Winchester way, right? 'Sides, I bet Pluto's feeling pretty lonely up there. Not even a planet anymore, seriously, what kind of shit is that? You're a planet for hundreds of years and then bang, suddenly you're not, just because some douche-bag in a lab coat decided you were too small to be one."
He could almost see Castiel's baffled expression, the spark of curiosity that would make Dean take a comfortable position and launch into a wildly colorful tale of how great an impact Pluto had had on his childhood and how he felt personally insulted by the degrading attitude modern scientist had shown towards his friend and how Pluto would always be a planet to him, oh, the greatest of them all, sigh, swoon, starry eyes, batting lashes, a hand held against his heart.
And then there would be Sam looking amused and annoyed at the same time, scowling and hastening to clarify to their undoubtedly simple angelic friend that the only Pluto that had been present in their childhood had been the plastic dinosaur figurine Sam had named after Mickey Mouse's dog. And then Cas would probably try to prove that he wasn't a complete idiot and mention something like being present at the time of the planet's creation, all casual and shit, and then rush to assure that he definitely agreed with Dean, once a planet, always a planet, right?
But there was only silence where the angel's gravelly voice was supposed to be, and Dean was left to fill it himself.
"Yeah. I guess I'll... call you later. Oh, and Cas – your voice-mail message still sucks. How you managed to screw up my magnificent script I have no idea, but dude, you seriously need a new one."
Dean supposes it's a sign of how accustomed to the angel's sudden appearances he's become – or perhaps of the five empty shot glasses standing in a pretty little pyramid in front of him – that he doesn't even start at the sudden sound. He makes a small, non-committal noise to show that the angel's been noticed, and keeps staring at the shot glasses. They're not the usual clear ones, they have a nice drawing of a city skyline circling them, and Dean wonders why anyone would use them in a bar where things get broken on a daily basis.
"We've been looking for you for hours. Sam's tearing the town apart." Castiel hesitates, then adds, "I think he almost got himself arrested for accusing the sheriff of, hm, confiscating you. And, uh, for punching him. I managed to convince the sheriff that he was only besides himself because you have diabetes and your insulin shots hadn't disappeared with you."
Now, that gets Dean's attention. Forgetting trying to recognize the city depicted in the glasses he turns to gape at Castiel, mouth falling open in awe. "You pulled a con? Seriously? You? And you were convincing?"
Castiel looks uncharacteristically proud – heck, even smug – and Dean remembers the fake badge hanging from the angel's frozen fingers upside down and feels a surge of pride as well.
Then, a little belatedly, he asks, "But wait, hours? Why didn't you just call?"
"We couldn't reach your phone. And, of course, you were hidden from me. You left the car and your bag and didn't say a word about where you were going – we were afraid you'd been abducted."
Dean digs his pocket for his phone and mutters something about how he never gets himself into damsel-in-distress-like situations like that because that's so Sam's area, even if he doesn't always wake up exactly where he falls asleep and okay, sometimes it involves people with sharp objects surrounding him when he wakes up and stuff, but that never counts as getting kidnapped, it's always a part of an elaborate plan to infiltrate the enemy camp.
But he kind of gets what Cas means, because apparently his battery has been dead for God probably doesn't know or care how long, and he's pretty sure that had it been Sam and his phone instead, the local law-enforcement station would have suffered much more casualties than one sore sheriff-jaw.
He starts to apologize, feeling kind of sheepish and guilty all of sudden, caught red-handed in a cookie-jar – wait, that doesn't sound very logical, does it, except if the cookie-jar is really big, which naturally means really big cookies and really big chocolate chips as well – not that Dean likes chocolate chip cookies because chocolate? Girl-eeeeew. Now pie, pie is the dessert of real men, the food of champions, the sustenance of heroes – but sometime during his contemplation on gender and nutritional products Cas has pulled out his phone and is now apparently talking to Sam.
"... Just fine. I don't see any cuts or bruises besides the ones from the hunt. No, he doesn't look like he's been beaten for cheating at poker. M-hm. No, no signs of inappropriate use of pool cues, either. What? … Yes, Sam, in all senses of the word. Not even a slap from the bartender, as far as I can tell. U-hum. Yes, fully dressed. Yes, fly done. What? No, not sober – he's been sitting at a bar for the last few hours, it would be highly unlikely – no, not that drunk. Sam, please return to the motel now. I'll bring him there so you can inspect him yourself because apparently the word of an angel of the Lord doesn't count as reliable."
Dean pouts, because he still thinks it's unfair that Sam has gotten bigger than him, especially because the kid seems to take that as permission to mother-hen and big-brother over him to his heart's content, but honestly, it's kind of nice, too, to know that he cares. Castiel's kind of nice as well, he decides as the angel hauls him out of the bar to do the zap where no one can see, for someone with a stick so far up his ass it's probably poking at his brains – but then, that probably explains why Cas is sometimes a little slow to catch on Dean's jokes.
"Hey Cas," he blurts out softly as they stagger across the motel room, slightly dazed by how the floor under his feet was pavement just a second before. "She said thanks. Man, t'was weird. Never had anyone thank me for ganking them before. Evil things, I'm tellin' you – into all kinds of crazy shit..."
"Who said thanks?" Castiel asks absently as he helps Dean sit on his bed, then gently pushes him onto his back, apparently knowing that if the ex-missing person isn't horizontal by the time Sam gets here, there will be hell to pay and a long, extensive lecture on treating to an injured friend to be suffered.
Dean blinks up at him, vaguely aware that he's more buzzed than he should be after such an amount of alcohol, but he chalks it up to hitting his head in the hunt earlier that day, the blood-loss that followed (thankfully not from the head, but several other cuts), the exhaustion of having slept very poorly the night before, and – come to think of it, he isn't quite sure if he's eaten anything today. There, all very valid reasons to be a little out of it, and with Cas and Sammy watching over him, it's perfectly okay to be a little confused and tired and tipsy like this. It's only for a little while, anyway.
"The demon," he slurs, and he isn't sure if it's the shots or the head trauma and possible concussion turning his words into Lucky Charms that have spent a little too long floating in milk, but he's confident that his companions will tell him if it's something to worry about. "The demon chick we stabbed today. Went on a full-scale havoc parade, killed things and probably drowned puppies just for kicks before we got her, fought tooth and nail and almost beheaded Sam and chopped me into sushi-sized bits, but then – I guess you two didn't hear it, you were on the other side of the room, but when I killed her, she just looked at me and freaking smiled, and said, 'Thank you.' Talk about freaky."
He can still see the young girl staring at him with pitch-black eyes and a soft, blood-stained smile, Ruby's knife poking out from her ribcage. He doesn't say it, but he thinks that after thanking him – the very moment she died – she sort of turned into herself and added, 'I'm sorry'.
He gets the feeling that the latter wasn't addressed to him but the poor girl she was riding, but that doesn't fit anything he knows about these things and he's finding it hard to accept.
Castiel, however, is smiling, eerily similar to the gentle smile on the dying demon's face, excluding the blood (for which Dean is pretty happy). "It seemed to me that she was a very young demon. Newly-made. Most demons remember their former lives – perhaps, in her moment of dying, she remembered it vividly enough to be grateful that you stopped her from killing any more innocents."
Dean pouts, because no one should be grateful for being returned to Hell, and – wait, that isn't what Ruby's knife does, is it? Exorcizing the bitches does that. The knife kills them for good. Doesn't it?
Which makes him wonder, "Where do demons go when they die, Cas?" because he knows where they come from, and going back to Hell where human souls are turned into demons to begin with just seems a bit illogical.
The angel blinks, as if he's surprised that Dean doesn't know. Dean thinks of all the demons he's killed, and doesn't feel guilty so much as ashamed that he has never bothered to find out, especially after his own all-too-close shave with demonhood back in Hell. "Well, obviously they can't go to Heaven or Hell because they simply don't have enough of a soul to go anywhere. What remains of their former souls – their heart and mind, you could say – turns into air when they die, Dean. They cease to exist as such and lose all consciousness. I like to think that since there is no final judgment for demons, no Heaven or Hell for them, they repent for their crimes by becoming something that's vital for life."
Dean thinks it sounds beautiful like a fairy tale and just about as credible, but it gives him hope, and in any case he's prevented from answering because suddenly the room is full of worried, angry little brother flailing around and subjecting him to a thorough inspection and enough nagging and griping to last a lifetime.
The first time it happened, Dean was piling himself a night snack, half-buried in the fridge in an attempt to find anything edible. He'd fallen asleep on The Bold and the Beautiful (because apparently not even his liability to getting hooked on anything on TV could make him stomach Ridge Forrester, Jesus, what a douche), and Sam had either tried to be thoughtful or been too occupied playing chess against his imaginary friend and hadn't poked him awake for dinner.
Then again, perhaps it had been because his gigantor brother had consumed everything edible in the house and had let Dean sleep on purpose, hoping Bobby would arrive with new rations before Dean realized that this was the case.
Not that it mattered one bit when suddenly there was a familiar "Hello, Dean," right behind his back, because whatever he'd managed to scrape together went flying and crashing to the floor along with the plate as he whipped around.
Castiel's voice was sand-paper and whiskey and tortured screams and just like it had always been, except for when it had been different and left windows shattered and Dean's ears bleeding.
"Cas," the hunter whispered, frozen with the kitchen counter against the small of his back, his hands clutching the edge of it for support, and he remembered another meeting in another kitchen in another time and, it seemed, in another world. The angel was eerily familiar and unfamiliar just as he had been back then, and just like then, Dean was mad at him and utterly afraid of him at the same time.
But Castiel just stood there, unspeaking, drenched in the trench coat Dean knew was dry and neatly folded in his duffel, dripping black water, bleeding black blood and weeping black tears, and after a while Dean couldn't handle it anymore.
He closed his eyes and definitely did not sob, and he woke up on his side on the couch, the remote pressed up against his cheek, stomach growling, and very much alone.
Question: How do mermaids breed?
Answer: No fucking clue, they clone?
Dean has never been all that interested – though he remembers being a curious teenager once, watching The Little Mermaid with a nine-year-old Sammy and wondering if Ariel's boobs meant mermaids had the rest of the usual feminine equipment as well, and if they did, where the Hell did they keep it – but looking at his legs – leg – freaking fish tail – he's suddenly very interested.
Because breeding means sex, and sex Dean has plenty of interest for.
The curse of the water spirit is supposed to last until the next new moon at most – only four days away – and of course it isn't like Dean's gonna dive into the lake to see if they have any underwater taverns where he could attempt to find an interested mermaid, but hey, never hurts to consider all options, right?
To be honest, though, he finds the sudden lack of two legs and what's supposed to be between them pretty unsettling.
"Hey Cas," he says, leaning his head back to look at the angel sitting on the rock behind his back; attempts to take him out of water have failed miserably, and now he's forced to recline in the shallow waters near the shore, fishy parts under the surface and only a naked chest on display for any unfortunate passers-by, so that Castiel can look over him while Sam looks for a place with – God forbid – a bathtub. "How do merfolk have sex?"
Castiel blinks at him, looking slightly outraged but mostly confused. "I'm not familiar with their reproducing habits. In fact, I think that actual merfolk don't have the tail of a fish and are closer to human structure, except for the gills. I would assume they mate much like humans do."
He says mate, like animals mate, and Dean supposes that he has enough evidence to conclude that most angels see humans as nothing but animals – and that just leads to a whole bunch of philosophical questions about what actually counts as an animal and so on, and Dean doesn't really want to go there, so he focuses on the funny little flip his insides do around the point where his skin turns into scales at the way the angel pronounces the word.
Castiel seems to take his silence to mean that the answer was not satisfactory, and hastens to evaluate, "But I suppose that if merfolk do have the tail after all, they probably reproduce much like fish, by shedding their gametes into the surrounding water, with the actual fertilization and growth of the egg taking place outside the -"
"Oh, gross, Cas," Dean groans, screws his eyes shut and hits the back of his head against the rock as if it could erase the information from his mind. More flipping happens, but this time it's certainly situated firmly in the stomach department, and Dean has absolutely zero interest in puking in the lake he's going to have to marinate in for God knows how long.
Castiel does the frown-head-tilt combo number five: he's trying to figure out what he did wrong this time.
"Anyways," Dean grumbles in a feeble attempt to change the topic, lifting what should be his legs above the surface, both fascinated and terrified by the way the tail can bend almost bonelessly where his knees and shins and thighs should protest, "if real mermaids don't have the tail, why did the bitch put one on me?"
Not that he's a freaking mermaid, of course. Maybe mermen are fishier than mermaids?
Castiel regards him with a serious expression. "I believe the spirit was feeling a little put off that you wanted to kill her. The spell she flung at you was probably just her being spiteful." He pauses. "She probably thought it extremely humorous," he adds.
"Spirits with a sense of humor are always the worst," Dean mutters and examines the scales gleaming from the rays of the setting sun catching on the water on them. He has gills and he's fucking glittering in the twilight settling snugly around them, and he's looking at four more days without a penis. That can put a man on a somewhat sour mood.
Castiel seems to sense this, and offers an attempt to comfort him: "You are a very pretty color, at least."
Which does nothing to cheer Dean up, because Sam has already pointed out – gleefully – that his scales match his eyes very nicely. He doesn't deny it, though. The fin, pale green and translucent and with shining reflections of the water lapping gently around him dancing on it, is his favorite part, though he'd rather sell the Impala than admit that to anyone.
Apparently his training is finally beginning to settle in Castiel's mind, because after considering it for a moment, the angel makes another attempt to cheer him up, utilizing a technique Dean has taught him only a few weeks ago: distraction.
"Did you know that the mermaid of the original fairy tale was not actually a mermaid?"
Dean tilts his head back again, staring up at the angel, baffled and curious. "What, the chick in The Little Mermaid?"
Castiel nods, leaning forward and placing his elbows on his bent knees and looking so very normal and human that Dean finds his mouth falling slightly open in amazement. "Yes – the one in the original story, written by a... Mr Andersen, I believe." He tilts his head a little, looks at the glittering golden bridge the setting sun makes on the surface of the water, and says, "She was an angel, originally, though Andersen did not know it – thought the story was his own, not an idea someone whispered in his dreams while he slept."
Dean remembers all the times Cas has communicated to him through dreams and wonders if this is the way angels remember and honor their dead, by coaxing humans into writing down their stories, and feels chilly all of sudden, trying to imagine the ever-present, ancient angel by his side gone and barely remembered in a children's story.
Castiel looks back at him and smiles a little. "The angel Ariel – I suspect someone went and whispered that name to whoever scripted the animated film – was enchanted by the idea of loving a mortal man and having an immortal soul. When she asked, the great Metatron told her that humans only live such a short time because they are allowed eternal life in death, while an angel's lifespan can last eons, but, Heaven-born as they are, they don't have a soul that would go on after their death. Perhaps Andersen's subconscious picked mermaids over angels because he was not ready to accept that angels could die and that when they do, they no longer have a place in Heaven."
Dean's heart gives a painfully loud thump, thump, thump, and suddenly he thinks of being electrocuted and doomed to die of a heart attack all those years ago, thinks of his silent acceptance and hope that perhaps, perhaps he'll finally see his mother again, and his tail twitches nervously, splashing water all around, because damn, there will always be a place for Cas in his Heaven, it won't be Heaven without him, and if there's no place in Heaven for Cas (like Cas is telling him) or Sam (like everyone else is telling him) then Dean isn't going either, dammit.
"So what happens next?" he asks because he doesn't really know the original story and is pretty sure that the Disney version has a lot less to do with souls and immortality.
The angel's look softens more. "Metatron revealed that Ariel's two desires could be combined: that she could gain a human soul if a human loved her and kissed her, as the last one would transfer a part of the human's soul to her. In reverse, if the angel fell in love with a human and the human chose someone else over her, she would die before her time, soulless, and turn to sea foam, ceasing to exist."
Sea foam? Dean blinks and feels a little dazed, like something is tickling the back of his mind but staying just out of sight. Sure, the case with the comatose girl slaughtering people with her fairy tales had proved to him that most of the things he'd learned to think of as kids' stories had originally been incredibly gruesome and violent, but this was something else.
This was real.
Realizing that the hunter isn't going to say anything, the angel shrugs, and it looks incredibly strange because Castiel just doesn't do shrugging. "The rest of the story goes very much the same as in Andersen's version. The angel took human form to approach a man she had set her eyes on, but later discovered that he was already in love and to be married; on his wedding night her frightened brothers and sisters offered her a way out of her early death, asking her to kill the man with the angel blade she'd left behind and let go of her love for him, so she could return to Heaven with them."
Absurdly, Dean thinks that listening to Cas say this stuff is the biggest, fattest chick-flick moment he's ever encountered even in actual chick-flicks.
Still, he's pretty damn sure the Disney Ariel had never been told to butcher Prince Eric in his marriage bed, so chances are that the ending is different from the wedding-on-a-boat one with King Triton doing the gay rainbow thing, too.
"She took the knife," Castiel continues gently, "and went into the room where the man and his bride were sleeping – but in the end, she couldn't stab him, and, I suspect, was rather relieved to know she'd die without a soul, since it meant that she'd cease to exist altogether and never have to suffer again."
Dean feels his heart give a loud thump thump again, painfully heavy against his ribcage, and his breath catches because suddenly he realizes that Castiel looks sad, and for the first time he remembers how old the angel actually is, wonders if he maybe knew Ariel, debates on asking him and is pulled from his thoughts by Paranoid when Castiel's phone rings. Black Sabbath blares out into the quiet evening and scares the duck family on the other side of the lake into a hasty exit; Dean is still congratulating himself on managing to change the angel's ring tone without being noticed while the angel answers.
Apparently Sam has found a place for Tuna Dean; despite all the Little Mermaid jokes his bitch of a brother has thrown, they all agree that it's probably a bad idea to have Dean wait out the rest of his curse in wild waters where other water spirits and monsters could reside.
"The address? … Good. I'll bring him there."
The angel puts the phone back into his pocket, and Dean leans up, tilting his face towards him and expecting fingertips on his forehead. Instead, there's a splash, and Castiel is standing knee-deep in the water.
"I need to make sure you land in water and not on the floor," he offers as an reply to Dean's questioning look, and then bends and hooks one arm behind the hunter's back, the other under where his knees should be, and picks him up with embarrassingly little effort.
Dean definitely doesn't squeak, but he's willing to admit that he's kind of still gaping by the time he finds himself in Castiel's arms in a freaking spa.
It doesn't help that Sam's there, too, looking smug and amused at his brother's predicament.
"What the Hell?" the older brother blurts out, gaping at the vast hall around him; chlorine-scented water lapping gently at the edges of at least five different pools under the glass roof arching over them in a huge half-globe, the lighting dim and blueish and reflections of the waves dancing on the white tiles of the floor.
Sam's grin widens. "It just so happens that there was a spa nearby in desperate need of being emptied of all customers for at least four days due to suspected acid leakage to the pools. Conveniently, the staff is not required to take any action besides evacuating themselves, since the big shots in charge of the state's healthcare have put their best and brightest on the job. Officer Young from the healthcare department even had the foresight to turn off the security cameras and cover them with plastic to avoid causing them any damage during investigating the waters." His face settles for a positively gloating smirk, and Dean's pretty sure he taught the kid that one. "Go on, you can tell me how awesome I am."
"You just hijacked a fucking spa for me," Dean said, still kind of shocked but managing to fake a quivering lip and a teary voice. "That's the most romantic thing anyone's ever done for me."
Sam beams and turns to dig something from his bag, already launching into an explanation of possible ways to reverse the curse before four days have passed; Castiel smiles and takes the steps into the kids' pool, which should feel offending, but doesn't because Dean knows it was picked simply because the deep end is deep enough for him to swim around and the shallow end shallow enough to sit there with his companions, and because the water here is warmer than in the rest of the pools.
This time, he's not even all that surprised when the angel doesn't put him down as soon as they're standing in the water, but keeps walking, carrying him, trench coat billowing behind him in the turquoise-tinted water, until Castiel is submerged up to his neck and Dean's weight is almost completely supported by the water, and he still doesn't let go, just cradles the hunter in his arms like he's something light and fragile –
… light and fragile like the kiss still tingling on Dean's lips when the angel finally does let him go, turns and stalks out of the pool again as if nothing out of ordinary has happened.
1) The bit about how fish reproduce is pretty much a copy-paste from wikipedia because heck if I know a thing about fish. :D
2) H. C. Andersen's Little Mermaid was apparently originally a play (or opera – can't remember), later rewritten as a fairy tale and much later adapted into an animated film by Disney. I remember coming across the story in an old book we had when I was a kid, back when I was around ten, and being both shocked by the suggestion that the mermaid murder her love on his wedding night and extremely intrigued by the soul-subplot. It was only years later, though, that I realized that the soul thing tied to Christianity and Heaven. I'm not sure if it was said in the show the demon souls go to the Purgatory as well (if it was, I chose to deviate from that, sorry :D), but I don't remember them saying anything about what happens to angels after they die, and in wondering about that I immediately thought of this fairy tale and wanted to write about it.
3) Metatron is in some branches of Christian mythology (eg. Judaic) considered the highest of angels, a place reserved for Michael in the branches that don't have Metatron. He's described as the "heavenly scribe".