Title: Hear Me Now (2/2)

Author: angeltrap

Rating: Pg-13/T

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 2) ~4500

Warnings: Language, Dean, my sense of humor. :_D Spoilers up to 7x03. Wincesty jokes, though I'm not sure if this needs a warning – the actual show has way more of this and no warning at all...

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: Can I consider this a finished multi-chaptered fic? Because I'm really bad at finishing multi-chaptered fics. XD

Seriously, though, I was so happy and thrilled about your encouraging comments on the first part, so thank you once more. ;_; Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be off to chew on my nails and being terrified that chapter 2 won't be as good...


Chapter II

:::

NOW

-beep-

"... 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."

-beep-

"Hey, Cas? You gotta stop doing that, man. Seriously. I know you have a thing for watching me sleep – still creepy as hell, by the way – but I mean it, I can't sleep when I keep waking up to or, I dunno, dreaming about you looking like some emo kid after getting caught in a rain. Don't wanna wake up to your ugly mug again, okay?"

Silence.

"... Fine, then. Miss your face, happy? Just... just can't see it like that. Not like that."

"Yeah. Bye, Cas. Call you later."

:::

The next night, Castiel came and didn't leave before sunrise. His hands were cold on Dean's face, and the hunter could only sit on the couch all through the night, frozen and staring straight through the echo of the angel, willing the apparition to either disappear or to become truly Castiel.

He thought he heard whispers, but it was only when the pale morning light started to slowly inch into the cabin and Castiel's pale, cold lips were ghosting against his, that he realized what the words were saying.

Dean! Dean! Thou art mine – Dean, Dean, I am thine! In my veins while blood shall roll, thou art mine! I am thine! – Thine my body, thine my soul!

Sam woke up to the sob that managed to slip past his defense. Dean wasn't sure if he'd been awake all night or not, but he knew that he was so damn mad at Castiel's blood for not rolling in his stupid, borrowed veins anymore that it hurt.

:::

THEN

"So... Was it true, that thing about angels turning to sea foam?"

Castiel watches him with great interest as he fills shells with rock salt, careful and precise and thinking that it's pretty therapeutic, actually, like the nostalgia of remembering the lazy Sunday afternoons of his childhood at this or that motel room table, still too young to go with his father, so happy and proud to be able to help him somehow anyway, Dad's half-assed excuses about having too big and clumsy fingers for that still sounding like the most reasonable explanation in the world. His legs are crossed at knees, then at ankles, at knees again, reached out in a stretch, folded under him – and he enjoys the feeling of actually having two legs even more than he hates not being able to find a comfortable position.

"As far as I know," the angel confirms, eyes fixed on every silver shell, every move of Dean's fingers as he pours the salt in, an oddly fascinated look making itself at home on his faze. "Can I try that?"

Dean pauses, glances up and raises his brows before cautiously pushing one shell and the salt bag across the table. Castiel picks the shell up by the rim, delicately and only with the index finger and the thumb, and examines it with curiosity before dropping it on his other palm, watching as it rolls across it and right back onto the table.

The hunter can't help smiling at that.

"I actually checked the story you told me," he says nonchalantly, crossing his knees the other way. "Turns out it didn't end with this chick Ariel taking a swan dive into the sea – or, allegedly, it originally did, but Andersen made changes at the last moment. Apparently, instead of ceasing to exist, Ariel joins some spirits lingering in the air – called the 'daughters of the air', actually – who tell her that even without some douche she can gain herself an immortal human soul – by wandering as a spirit doing good deeds." He pauses. "Wonder why we never seem to come across anything like that..."

Castiel looks up from trying to pour salt from the paper bag into the shell and ends up burying the shell in an avalanche of rock salt. "You did research?" he asks like it doesn't mean anything.

"Yeah," Dean says, because it means a hell lot. "'Daughters of the air', Cas? You just told me a while ago that demons turn into air when they die. Cease to exist, lose all consciousness, just like angels who just turn into sea foam instead. But the air spirits Ariel meets seem pretty conscious to me, and so does she. So... what really happens to angels and demons when they die?"

Head-tilt number three: blank, slightly confused face. Castiel is wondering why Dean finds this important. "I'm not sure. I haven't died yet." He pauses, then adds, "Or at least I seem to have trouble staying dead for long enough to find out. Perhaps we do retain a sort of consciousness after all. Then again, it could be something Andersen added simply because he didn't want his story to end in tragedy."

"Well, yeah," Dean snorts, "'cause if that's true, it means you angels and demons become the best of buddies when you die."

The angel looks vaguely amused as he tries to sweep the extra salt from around the shell in front of him and manages to knock the whole thing over. "It does sound rather comical. Still, I wouldn't necessarily see that as a bad thing. In fact, it seems to me that after death we all unite for a common goal: life. Demons become the air that you breath; angels become the water that sustains you." He glances up, and the corners of his lips twitch a little. "Most of the monsters you hunt go up in flames when you kill them, and while their souls go to the Purgatory, a part of them becomes the fire that warms you. That's also why fires attract so many spirits."

The hunter raises a brow and leans back in his chair, sweeping a hand across his mouth in an unconscious gesture as he thinks about it. Well, sure, if you put it that way...

"So you're saying that basically, everything supernatural eventually becomes a part of the four elements that create and support life?" he asks, practically itching to to boast to his geeky little brother about all this. "That's water, fire and air, though – we're missing a piece here. Where does earth come from, then?"

This time, Castiel's expression is definitely amused. "Where do you think? Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, I believe the words go. Humans are the missing piece, Dean. Together, we are life."

Dean blinks. He'd only wanted to point out the inconsistence in the angel's stories, not get his head stuffed even fuller of this deep shit! "But... we're not supernatural," he tries. "How the hell are we -"

"Nothing," Castiel interrupts him firmly but gently, "in this world is quite as supernatural as a human heart. It's frail and can give in at the slightest pressure, but it can be incredibly strong. It gives you physical strength, it gives you emotions, it points the way when you are confused, it can be broken and fixed in a million different ways, it can believe and doubt, and when it ceases to beat, it passes on its strength to earth, to plants and animals and new humans. Why do you think so many creatures are after it?"

Dean can almost hear Elton John singing, 'It's a circle of liiiiiife, and it moooves us aaaall' and is about to shatter the all-too solemn and serious and suffocating atmosphere by turning his inner radio station into an outer one by singing it himself, when Cas suddenly looks down at the silver shell and the pile of rock salt and honest to God pouts.

"It's not as easy as it looks," the angel admits grudgingly, and Dean laughs and pushes thoughts too vast and heavy to be thought to the back of his mind as he reaches out to help his friend.

:::

NOW

Dean had asked Sam to stay up with him – not exactly with a "Stay up with me, Sammy, and hold my hand, I'm scared", it had been more along the lines of "Let's have a Star Wars marathon tonight, dude! Lucy's not invited." but still, he had tried to make sure he wouldn't be alone all night.

And he wasn't, not exactly, but it wasn't Sammy who kept him company for most of the night. At one o'clock, the first Death Star went kaboom and, showing extreme disrespect towards what had once been his favorite scene, Sam fell asleep, going from alert to snoring in a fraction of a second, head falling back against the couch.

Castiel was a black shadow against the white of the TV screen, and, absurdly, Dean thought briefly of asking the deceased angel to sit down and watch the movie with them before the icy hands were on his face again, fingers stroking his jaw, thumb pressing gently at his lower lip before being replaced with another pair of lips.

Dean! Dean! Thou art mine – Dean, Dean, I am thine! – came the whispering again, whispering in far too many voices to be just Cas – In thy veins while blood shall roll, thou art mine! I am thine! –Mine thy body, mine thy soul!

When dawn reached through the dusty windows of Rufus' cabin, stretching its fingers to tickle the side of Sam's face, Castiel pulled back and was no longer there.

Sam woke up, stretched and turned to look at him, looking shocked and alarmed at seeing the tears on his face. Dean shrugged if off as having just finished watching the last episode, 'Vader turning goody-good to save his son, man, and those ghosts at the end, gets me every time', and knew that he'd have to do something about this because Sam wasn't convinced, and soon there would be questions.

:::

-beep-

"... Dean, Sam, or Bobby, leave me a message. If you're not, leave me a message and tell me how you got my number."

-beep-

"Please, Cas. You can't keep doing this, man, you can't. I can't. 'Sides, you can't just waltz in and recite all that 'thine my body, thine my soul' shit and then waltz right out again – you promise something like that, you get your body and soul here right the fuck now, and I don't even freaking care if you want mine in return, you can have them for all I care. You promise me the moon, you'd better go get it."

A silence to prove how much Dean was not crying.

"... Just don't... don't do this to me, Cas. Please don't."

:::

As far as the hardest decisions Dean Winchester had ever made went, deciding to burn Castiel's coat was among the top five.

It was also in the top five of the things that were the hardest to actually do, because a part of him expected the angel to zap up and demand his coat back, full of indignant fury and assuming that Dean had only attempted to burn it as a silly, immature prank.

Cas remained – stubbornly, if you asked Dean – absent, but Sam caught him, sitting hunched on a log in front of a fire, before he could part with the article of clothing, or even hide the fact that he'd been hugging it to his chest like a safety blanket.

"What's the occasion?" his younger brother asked in the patented Winchester tone of attempting to dig things out of your family members: careless, nonchalant and radiating 'watch me being so utterly uninterested that you'll never guess I'm gonna drag some truths out of you' all around.

Knowing it was too late to hide the coat now, Dean snuggled it closer to his chin, trying to make it look like he was just using it as a sort of pillow between his chin and bent knees. "What do you mean?"

Sam smiled and gestured at the fire he'd built in Rufus's backyard. "The bonfire? Gonna dance around it naked and with flowers in your hair to see your future husband or what?"

Dean blinked, frowned and made the expected gagging sound at that. "Dude, what the hell. Not even real magic, I'm pretty sure the real spell had something to do with spinning around and walking backwards to a well or a lake to see the face of – whatever, I don't even know why I know that," he added hastily when his brother's eyebrows hid under his ridiculous bangs.

"Yeah," Sam commented, apparently not to anything in particular, and took a seat on the log next to him, uninvited but so very welcome. He was quiet for a moment, then pointed out, "Besides, not much sense in doing any sort of magic, white or not, to see the face of your husband, right? We know what he looks like, already."

Dean froze. Had Sam been awake after all? Been awake and very kindly decided to do nothing?

But Sam was grinning. "Come on, Deanna. Everyone knows you've been the official desperate housewife of the Winchester household for some twenty-six years. You can whine and bitch about it all you want, but you still bring me the beer when I sit down to watch some soccer. And you get hooked on things like Dr Sexy MD."

Dean flushed and growled and pushed his brother away and took great care to take all that, down to the blush, to an exaggerated degree, because for a moment he'd thought that Sam would say something about Cas. "Silence, man! You're so sleeping on the couch tonight."

Sam gasped, clapping his hands together and looking like Christmas had come early. "But that's where you sleep, honey! Does that mean you're ready to forgive me for my fling with Lucy?"

Okay, that was just unfair. Sam had no business using Dean's favored weapon – turning everything shitty about their lives into a big joke – against his angsty moment!

"Only if you promise not to see him again," he muttered, sticking to his role more to make his little brother think he'd managed to cheer him up than for anything else.

"Well, that's just the thing," Sam said, all seriousness and solemnity. "I've been trying to kick him out – tell him it was all just a mistake and won't happen again, thank you very much, and that I have a desperate and very, very angry wife to take care of, but he just doesn't seem to get the hint. I was wondering if we should call Cas, you know, to take the trash out. He could have you in return."

Oh, shit.

"That – that's human trafficking, Sam!" Dean stuttered, mentally flailing and reaching for words to get him over his currently hammering heart, icy fingers and sweating forehead. Samknows samknows samknows! "That's like – like – like telling the plumber that you're a little short on cash right now but that he's welcome to have a go at m – at your wife, which by the way is very much not me!"

"Oh, Dean," Sam heaved a heavy sigh and threw one of the tree-trunks he called his arms over his brother's shoulders. "I'd never sell you for working plumbing! Now, for getting Lucifer to leave the building – permanently – that I could consider. Though to be honest, I still wouldn't trade you to anyone but Cas. Kind of promised to be sort of a surrogate hubby for you and take care of you in his place while he's gone, I don't think he'd be happy if I auctioned you to anyone else."

Dean's heart was pounding a frantic what what what against the trench coat held to his chest; he noticed a change in Sam's expression, attitude, even posture, as he dropped the game and cut straight to business, reaching out to pry his fingers from around the coat with a soft smile.

"He's coming back, Dean. He'll be wanting his coat back, then," he said, confiscating it so Dean couldn't exercise his pyromaniac tendencies on it. "Besides, it's not like Cas could ever be a regular ghost, anyway – I'm guessing that's what the coat and the bonfire are for. Burning it probably wouldn't even help. We don't know what happened to his body so there would still be that, and in any case, angels don't have souls the same way we do – I don't see how he could stick around as a spirit..."

And suddenly hearing Sam talk about it in such a matter-of-fact way was just way more than Dean could bear.

"He does!" he blurted out before he could stop himself. "He does have a soul, Sam, he does, I gave it to him, or he gave it to himself, I'm not sure, he kissed me and sort of took it, didn't even ask if I wanted to give it to him – you know, it was like in the Little Mermaid, not the Disney one, no crab butlers or gay fish kings or anything and I'm sure as hell not a prince anyway, but he – he said it'd only work with a kiss and mutual love and shit, Sam, I didn't even know I loved him, but he's haunting me now so he has to be a ghost so I have to love him, right? Because otherwise he wouldn't have a soul to haunt me with, he'd just be, I don't know, in the angel-demon after-world where – Oh shit, man, I'm sorry, I didn't even tell you about that, he comes to see me every night, just stands there and is creepy and now he's started to kiss and paw at me, too, but honestly I just didn't think it'd be great for the both of us to be seeing dead angels –"

And then Sam's large hands were cradling his face between them, thumbs sealing his lips shut on both sides to silence him, holding his head in place and forcing his frantically moving eyes to settle on Sam's, to focus on one point – the same point on which he'd focused for most of his life.

"Dean," his younger brother said, calm and forceful and gentle, like when he was interrogating a particularly hysterical witness, which Dean supposed he was, in a way, "Dean, I know. I know."

"You know?" Dean asked weakly, and considering that he himself had just spilled most of it it was kind of ridiculous how alarmed he was by this revelation.

Sam grinned a little and took one of his hands off his older brother's face to dig his phone from his pocket. "I know," he said again, punched a few buttons and held the device against Dean's ear.

It was a voice-mail.

"Hello, Dean."

If Dean had heard the sob-gasp that escaped from him at that, he would have willed the earth to open and swallow him, right the fuck now. As it was, though, he had better things to do, so, the cell phone pressed against one side of his face and Sam's hand against the other, he focused on solving the mystery.

"Or Sam, actually, since it's Sam's phone, but as it should be clear by now, the message is for Dean. Sam, I trust you to know when to play this to your brother.

I'm beginning to realize that I've taken much more than I can carry with this Purgatory deal", and Dean thought, no fucking shit, Sherlock, and wondered if Cas would have gotten the cultural reference, "– I should have listened to you, Dean, and I'm sorry I didn't. Not for myself but for the grief my decision caused for you. All the rest I can handle, but the Leviathan... I'm not sure I can even force them out even if this plan to open up Purgatory again and put the creatures back where they belong works. I fear that one moment, I'll come to my senses to see that I've hurt you. That cannot happen."

The hunter had to draw a deep, shaky breath to rein in his sudden urge to scream and wail at the stupid, self-sacrificing streak that apparently didn't only run in his family by blood but by association as well. Sam's thumb was there to catch the first tear before it could even fall, and Dean was grateful for it, because it would have been the first drop of an ocean had it been allowed to go its way.

"As it now seems that I won't make it through this alive, I can only leave this message to mitigate the pain and sorrow I know will follow. Dean, it is for the possibility of situations exactly like this that I kissed you back in that spa Sam hijacked for you. Even now I have no way of knowing if it worked, and only my death will tell, since you haven't chosen anyone over me after that – not in that sense – but my heart rests easy on that matter. If you don't love me, I would have no reason to return, anyway, and will be gone for good. If you do... well, I suppose that means I'll be heading to either Heaven or Hell like any other soul. Probably the latter, considering the things I've done recently."

Dean looked at Sam, who answered his gaze with a sympathetic look, apparently knowing the message by heart, well enough to know what part his older brother was listening to at the moment. The fire painted half of Sam's face orange and the other half black, loaning a fiery glint to his eyes. All of sudden, Dean felt warm, too warm.

Sure, they'd both been mad at Cas, but they'd both also been to Hell, and it wasn't something they'd ever wished on him. It hadn't been a Sunday walk around the park for either of them, but Dean could only imagine the torture a former angel would be put through.

"This is exactly why I did it, Dean. In the days of the end of the world – I learned to fear death for what it did, for taking me away from those who are important to me. I couldn't risk becoming sea foam and losing what I am, losing you, not without at least trying. Once you cease to exist, you can't come back. I needed a soul – a human soul that would move on after my death, that could always be brought back with enough power. You and Sam have both come back from Hell – both with my help – and I'm confident that I can fight my way out of there as well.

As I said earlier, I don't think I can control the Leviathan to go peacefully with me. Watch out for their tricks, Dean – they're likely to target you and your brother and Bobby, and I'm afraid they've had access to everything I know and remember of you. I'm sorry. Look after Sam, and let him look after you – I'm told that caring is a two-way deal."

Dean glared at Sam, because that last bit was so obviously scripted or at least fed to Cas by him that he could practically hear Sam's voice through the angel's. Still, he couldn't help but feel relief; the ghastly Castiel that liked to stare at him not getting any sleep wasn't real, wasn't the real Castiel who actually liked to stare at him sleeping, and suddenly it all made sense. Bitches were trying to drive him up the wall and dared to use Cas as their poster-boy! Such insolence!

Sam smiled and nodded towards the phone, and Dean turned his attention back to what was apparently the end of the message.

"Dean... I must say, I'll be very sad if it turns out you didn't love me after all – though luckily not for long. I'm also counting on my permanent removal from Team Free Will not being too hard for you if you didn't love me. But if you did... if you do love me...

If you love me, you have given me a soul of my own. If you love me, I will find my way back. I know now that I am no god, but I will become one if that's what it takes to return. And then I hope you'll let me take you out to, quote, 'smite demons and gank some evil bitches'."

-beep-

"You have no more new messages."

Sam lowered the phone from his ear, snapped it shut and hid it in his pocket again, all the while eying his brother for reactions. After a while he seemed to realize that the shiny eyes and hitching breath were the only response he was going to get for now and smiled softly. Dean felt the large palm against his cheek slide to the back of his head, and the next thing he knew he was pulled into a protective, bone-crushing hug, held there in his brothers arms like a frightened child, and moment later he realized that his treacherous fingers had decided to betray how deprived of all friendly human contact he'd felt by tangling themselves into Sam's shirt.

If he was perfectly honest, he couldn't even bring himself to care, because Castiel was not a rotting corpse groping him and trying to freak him out every night, Castiel was a strong, fierce warrior, fighting and smiting his way out of Hell as they were speaking – of course he was, because Dean had absolutely zero doubts about him having gotten a soul of his own – heck, he probably had Dean's as well.

He could hear Sam's grin in his voice, feel it in the arms that encircled him, as his little brother spoke. "See? This is where I get to say, 'told you so'. Accompanied with my patented evil laughter, which was no doubt the biggest reason Lucifer picked me as his stuntman in the first place: Mwahahahaha. Ha." Dean was grabbed by his arms and pushed back so Sam could look him in the eyes. "Seriously, though, you should have told me about the fake Cas trying to creep into your bed, dude, would've taken care of it before. And don't worry – we'll find a way to keep it at bay at least until Cas can drag his ass here and exercise his divine justice on it. Come on, man – let's put the fire out and head to bed. Maybe I'll sleep on top of you to keep the Leviathan from getting to you..."

"Shut up, bitch, I'd be a freaking pancake in five minutes," Dean chuckled, but got up and helped his brother put out the fire anyway. As they turned to head indoors – Bobby was already calling from the window, nagging about how he was never ever going to cook for their ungrateful asses again if they couldn't be bothered to be there when the dinner was ready – Sam swept the trench coat from the log where it had been waiting to be picked up and handed it to his older brother.

Dean was spared having to use Sam as a blanket by draping Castiel's coat over himself instead. He dreamed, undisturbed, of voice-mails and mermaids that night.

Castiel was coming home.

:::


1) Castiel's nocturnal visits and the thine-my-body-thine-my-soul thing are borrowed (with some changes) from the Bleeding Nun episode of M. G. Lewis's The Monk. It struck me as sufficiently creepy and awesome to fit the situation here. :D

2) Should I have added a spoiler alert on Star Wars? I did pretty much spill everything important that happens in the last movie. XD

3) Still kind of waiting for this to happen in the actual show.

Please tell me what you think!