I got this idea from the song in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, A Canterlot Wedding. I like that song far too much.
By the way, I hope you're sitting comfortably because this one's super long.
Warnings: too many Castiels, language, implied/attempted rape, a wedding that never happens, 19 pages of shoddy present tense writing
The Only One That's Mine
People had been disappearing into an old house buried in the woods miles outside a tiny town in Michigan. It's the middle of summer and the air is hot and dry and clings to everything, seeping into every corner of the motel room the Winchesters are sharing and making their T-shirts cling to their backs and their hair mat their foreheads no matter how much they crank the air conditioning. Dean is lying sprawled on his bed, too tired to even fan himself with the papers piled around him and Sam is half asleep at the tiny table, his laptop buzzing in front of him as he idly flicks a finger over the trackpad.
"Where's Cas?" Dean grumbles, plucking lazily at the front of his shirt, eyes closed.
"I dunno, he's your angel." Sam mutters in reply, blinking several times to keep himself awake, "He said he went to scout the house out, right?"
Sam glances at the time, "Dean that was almost two hours ago."
"Shit, really?" Dean heaves himself up on elbows to look blearily at his younger brother, "That's weird. Maybe something happened."
Sam grunts and shrugs a shoulder. Dean's brow furrows and he fumbles his cellphone from his pocket, punching the buttons with fingers that feel swollen and numb in the heat until he calls up Castiel's number. It rings once…twice…three times…four times…then there's a click and a screech of static from the earpiece that makes Dean jerk and yank the phone away briefly. Sam looks up at his brother, blinking slowly as if his eyelids are too heavy to work properly. When Dean brings the phone back to his ear, he can barely hear Cas' voice through the static,
"Dean—ffzzzch—house in th—kzzzzssshhh—ap! The rooms—ffsshhk—full of duplicates—kzzzsch—cant' get out. The house won't let me—fffzzzsssch—aren't working! I don't know what's doing this but you need to—kzsch—nd Sam stay in the motel. I will try to find a wa—kkzzchsshh—ean? Dean, can you hear me? Don't—sshhzzzk—looking for me, Dean. Please, jus—ffzzzsch—ean! Dean! De—kssszzhck—beeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep."
The dial tone stabs into Dean's ear and he lowers the phone, clicking it shut as he does so, and looks to Sam. His younger brother is watching him, now wide awake, having recognized that look on Dean's face.
"I'm going after Cas," Dean says, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and squirming into his socks and a pair of old boots. Sam watches him carefully and then makes to stand up. Dean glares at him, "No, you're staying here. If Cas shows up again, I get the feeling he'll need some medical attention."
"Dude, he's an angel—."
"And he says he's stuck in a house." Dean replies hotly, stowing a gun in his thin flannel jacket and a knife in his boot, "He practically told me to make you stay here anyway." And he smirks in Sam's direction, snatching up the keys to the Impala as he heads for the door. Sam's glaring after him, though, in that bitchfacing, I'm-really-worried-about-this kind of way and Dean sighs, one hand resting on the doorknob,
"Don't worry about it, Sammy, I'll be fine. Me n' Cas'll be back before you know it."
The way to the house is up a winding driveway that's shrouded in thick trees and emerges into a yard overgrown with high weeds and winding vines of prickers. The whole square plot is surrounded by the closely clustered trees and right in the middle of it all is an old, run down, two story house. The paint is peeling, mostly gone, the windows are smeared with so much grime you can't even see through them, and there is, of course, a rumor that the place is haunted.
Dean parks the Impala beside the treeline, in the shade, and clambers out, making sure to lock his precious baby before wading through the waist high weeds, using his boots to stomp down any pricker vines that get in his way. The house squats like a grumpy old thing in the midst of it all, its dirty windows are lidded and diseased eyes that watch him cross the yard, the front porch a curving frown of rickety boards and cracked pillars of broken teeth. Dean tests the steps carefully with the toe of his boot before climbing up them and listening at the front door. Everything is silent save for his own breath, the sounds of an old house settling further into the ground, and the natural noises that nature tends to make.
The oldest Winchester tugs his gun from his jacket and eases the door open. Predictably, it creaks and moans on ancient hinges, opening wide enough for an average sized person to squeeze through before grinding to a halt and refusing to budge however much Dean kicks or rams into it. Finally, with a resigned sigh, Dean wedges himself through the crack and into the darkness beyond.
It's gloomy inside the crumbling house, all grays and faded blues and blacks, everything covered in dust and mold. The hallway in front of Dean is warped, the floor lilting sideways so that it's tilted crookedly and one wall buckles as it meets the ceiling. The place smalls of damp and ancient things better left forgotten, cobwebs strung from the ceiling and in the corners, the shadows creeping across the floor the only occupants. Dean sniffs and wrinkles his nose at the stench. Then he turns around to prop the door open with something…only to find that there is no door and he's looking a blank rectangle of old drywall covered in moldy wallpaper.
"Shit." The Winchester breathes and turns back to the hall, cocking his gun as he goes. The click seems horribly loud in the silence pressing itself around him. It is considerably cooler inside the house, remarkably so considering all the cracks and crevices that lined its outsides, and yet Dean can see no sign of daylight leaking into the house. All the light is cold and blue-white and dead.
Doors line the hall and Dean steps up to the nearest one, pushing it open with one hand while bringing up his gun with the other. It looks like this was once a living room, the floorboards groan as Dean moves across them, the furniture has collapsed and rotted, the fireplace is boarded up with rotted wood, and a lamp has been tipped over and crushed underfoot before being swathed in dust. Dean crosses to the windows on the far side and, grimacing, rubs his sleeve on the glass, trying to remove some of the dirt and grime. All it does is smear it around. With a sigh, he turns and finds himself face to face with Castiel.
"Cas!" He yelps in surprise, taking a step back, "Dude, fuck, didn't I tell you not to do that?"
Castiel stares at him and Dean frowns, looking his companion up and down. There's a dangerously hungry look in Cas' eye that Dean doesn't recognize, has never seen on the angel's face before. And it scares him. It's not a lustfully-hungry kind of look.
It's the kind of look he's gotten from vampires or ghouls or other meat-consuming beasties and it says he'd go great with some homemade ketchup and potato wedges.
"Cas…?" Dean curls his finger a little tighter around the trigger, lifting the gun just a little bit higher, "You okay, buddy?"
There's a familiar head tilt—no, wait, it's definitely not familiar. Cas cocks his head so far to the right he's almost letting it rest on his shoulder, his neck curving at a horribly awkward angle. Then he lunges forward without a single warning, mouth opening wide, hands reaching, and Dean is so surprised that he trips backwards and rams his shoulders into the window.
Castiel leaps on him, grabbing the front of his jacket and tearing at it with his inhuman strength. Dean struggles, shouting wordlessly, and they both end up falling to the floor and sending up a cloud of dust. Castiel lifts Dean's shoulders up and slams him back down against the hardwood and Dean's skull bounces off the floor, dazing him. He blinks several times, trying to reorient himself, is dimly aware of Cas' hands tugging and yank and pushing aside his jacket, his shirt, feels hot breath on his neck, and then shouts in pain as Castiel's teeth clamp down hard on his collarbone. He pushes back, the pain clearing the fog from his brain, the heels of his boots skittering across the floor as he tries to lever the angel off of him.
With a guttural growl, Castiel pulls back and Dean takes a swing at him with a fist. Cas grabs Dean's wrist and pins it to the floor with one hand, the angel's free hand trailing down to Dean's belt. His fingertips slide underneath the hunter's shirt and then curl into the hem of his pants. Dean struggles, bucking and shouting for Cas to stop, his other hand still clutching the gun but unwilling to use it. Castiel ignores his pleas and there is a wicked grin on his face, an eager, horrid thing that it not Castiel at all. It is vulgar, and poison, and just plain wrong.
"—full of duplicates—!"
This is not his Castiel.
Whatever this house is, whatever it does, this is not his Cas. Dean knows Castiel, knows him intimately, knows him by touch, by sight, by scent, by his presence in the room.
This is not his Castiel.
And with that acknowledgment, Dean's resolve hardens. He raises his gun and presses it into this not-Cas' head. Castiel freezes at the touch of the gun, blue eyes widening, that grin slipping away as he stares down at the hunter beneath him.
A second before Dean pulls the trigger, the Not-Castiel squeezes out a fractured,
And then the gun goes off and dust and smoke and ash explode into the air. The fake Cas is gone and Dean is left panting on the dirty floor. He lies there for a moment, shaken, his gun hand trembling.
Then, swallowing thickly, he rolls to his feet, dusts himself off as best he can, and walks out of the room. He does not look back.
There are doors along the walls and a flight of stairs at the end of the hallway. Dean pauses in the hall, frowning. He doesn't want to check every single door but if he doesn't, he could miss his Castiel. On the other hand, he has no idea how many fake Cas' are waiting to try and trick him. He doesn't know the rules of this house, doesn't know if the fake Cas' can leave the rooms or, if he were to shout, if they would swarm him and…and gang-bang him or something. And what was Castiel doing? What was his Cas, the real Cas, seeing? Was he trapped in a nightmare somewhere with a fake Dean? And if there was a fake Dean, then what was he doing to the real Dean's Castiel?
Dean tries very hard no to think about it.
He moves off down the hall, pressing his palm against some doors and listening at them cautiously. But they were all cold, petrified wood and remained just as silent. Dean stands in the middle of the hall for a while, thinking, looking around at the doors, and then he grips his upper arm through his coat sleeve in an almost instinctual manner, as if it will tell him which direction to go. But the handprint on his arm does nothing. He's on his own.
"Well, nothing for it," Dean sighs and pushes open a door at random.
As soon as he steps over the threshold, gun once again at the ready, he sucks in a surprised breath. The room is not a half-rotten disaster; it's not even a room at all but a small, walled in garden. The sun is shining a warm and brilliant yellow overhead, there are vibrant green vines climbing the brick walls, and the place smells of freshness and newness of life. There is a fountain in the center of a small winged cherub filling a relaxing centaur's overflowing wine cup from a never-ending jug, there are rose bushes and tulips and lilies and rows of weeping hearts surrounding it, and a small stone path winds around behind the fountain which is perched in front of an impossibly large apple tree whose fruit is ripe and red and bright.
Dean glances over his shoulder and sees the rotted door sitting in the perfect brick wall, completely out of place. He licks his lips, frowning a little, and then follows the path around behind the fountain and the apple tree, his finger still on the trigger of his gun.
In the shade of the incredibly large apple tree is an intricate table of metal and glass and a matching set of chairs. On one of these chairs, the one facing towards Dean, is Castiel. He is holding a white porcelain teacup in his hands and is looking at Dean with wide blue eyes.
"Cas?" Dean asks hesitantly.
"Dean." Says Castiel and smiles fondly, "I was wondering when you would find me. Please, sit with me." He gestures to the other chair.
Dean's eyes narrow but he takes the seat, his hand still on his gun, "What is this place? Why is there a friggin' garden in the middle of a house?"
"It is Paradise." Castiel answers smoothly, taking a sip of his tea, "Sometimes the space between dimensions is thin and people can slip through accidently. That doorway back there just happens to be sitting on one. And it just so happens to lead to the Garden of Eden."
"The Garden of Eden, seriously?" Dean looks around, "Tiny garden."
"You are only seeing a portion of it." Castiel takes another drink of tea and sets his cup down on the saucer with a clink. It seems unnaturally loud and for a second Dean can't figure out why. Then he notices the silence. It's as quiet here as it was in the house; there is no bird song, no wind rustling the branches, no insect noises, nothing aside from the occasional movement from him or Castiel.
"What are you doing in here?" Dean asks. His finger has loosened on the trigger but he is still holding his gun against his leg under the table.
"Waiting for you, of course." Castiel says and he smiles that warm smile again, the one that only Dean has ever seen in their secret moments together. But it's not reaching his blue eyes, not quite. Maybe this is the real Cas and he thinks Dean is a fake one.
"Kind of quiet for the Garden of Eden." Dean comments, looking around, "There aren't even any butterflies or anything. Where are all the animals?"
"Are you hungry, Dean?" Castiel asks suddenly and reaches up into the branches of the apple tree overhead. The perfectly green leaves rustle as he disturbs them and then he withdraws his hand. Clasped against his palm is the very image of a perfect apple, the kind of apple that shows up in a kid's plastic play set, the kind of apple that the Evil Queen would give to Snow White. It is bright red and shiny, round at the top and tapering down at the bottom. Castiel rolls his fingers across it, observing it for a moment, and then holds it out to Dean.
The hunter looks at it for a moment and then takes it. The apple is heavy and smells sweet and Dean's mouth waters with smell. He brings it to his face, sniffs, and opens his mouth to take a bite when he sees Castiel watching. And of course his Castiel stares at him, it's what he does, but there's something about the way this Castiel stares at him that unsettles Dean. Castiel's smiling that soft, warm smile again but, again, it's not reaching his eyes.
Dean suddenly feels like he's a small mouse being watched by a snake.
Like he's Eve about to take that bite of the forbidden fruit while Satan watches.
He sets the apple down and gets quickly to his feet. Not-Castiel watches him with a forlorn sort of expression.
"Don't go," Says Not-Cas in a sad voice, "Don't leave me here by myself, Dean. It's lonely here. I want you to stay with me forever in Paradise."
"You're not my Cas." Dean says and he leaves the Garden and the Not-Castiel behind.
The next door he tries leads him into a small room where the walls are lined with mirrors and there an infinite number of Dean's stretching on forever and ever. It hurts his head to look so he squeezes his eyes shut and paws for the door handle to leave. Only it's not there anymore and when he opens his eyes again, the door has altogether vanished and he is simply standing in a room full of mirrors.
But something has changed. The infinite number of Dean's have condensed; now there are four of them, one on each wall, each of them staring at him and smirking. But Dean is a hunter and he sees the differences between the four of them. He doesn't like what he sees.
"Look at him squirm," Sneers a Dean with the soulless black eyes of a demon, "He's so pathetic, so lost, no power at all."
"Ignorance." Says another Dean with a blank expression and a pair of golden wings sprouting from his back.
"Humanity." A child Dean counters, no more than twelve. He's holding a sawed off that looks awkward in his small arms.
The fourth Dean says nothing and simply stands there quietly with his arms crossed. He looks soft to the real Dean's hunter eyes, like a person who was never raised to fight evil at all.
"Who are you all?" He asks hotly, raising his weapon.
Demon Dean lets out a harsh laugh, "We're you, idiot. All your little broken pieces. I'm the piece you left in the Pit. Or rather, the piece you took with you, the piece your precious angel can't fix."
"What do you want?" Dean doesn't believe for a second that any of these reflections are pieces of him.
"To explain the rules." Says Angel Dean, "I am, by the way, the part of you that is the Righteous Man, the part of you that would have said 'yes' to Michael."
"And I'm your morality." Says Child Dean, still clutching the shotgun, "The rules are simple: Find Castiel. Find your angel, the real Cas, and you can leave."
"If I don't?"
"You'll be stuck here forever." Smirks Demon Dean.
"Constantly hounded by Castiel's who aren't really yours." Comes the flat reply from the Angel Dean.
"And tormented by the idea that the very same thing might be happening to your Castiel." Says the Child Dean.
Dean looks around at all three of them, watching him expectantly, and then turns to the fourth Dean. He is standing where the door should be, his arms still crossed, still quietly following the situation.
"And what are you?" Dean ventures, gesturing with his gun, "Which bit of me are you, huh? My sense of style? My stoic attitude? My way with women? Maybe my perky nipples…"
"None of those." The fourth Dean says in a low voice, "I am your love. I am that which you share with Sam, with Bobby, with Mary and John, with Ellen, Jo, Lisa, Cassie, and many others. You gave a piece of me to each of them." He unfolds his arms and holds out his hands like he's waiting for a hug,
"But you gave all of me to Castiel."
Demon Dean and Angel Dean start laughing and it's mocking, high and mean. The Child Dean stares at them, leaning heavily on his sawed off like he's gotten too tired to hold onto it. The fourth Dean is still holding out his hand. The real Dean takes it, almost impulsively, and feels the cold metal of the door handle beneath his fingers.
Before he leaves the room, he turns around and shoots the mirrors so they shatter. But the voices of his selves chase him out with the clattering of broken glass and even after he closes the door, he can still hear them ringing in his ears.
Dean bypasses the rest of the doors in the hall and stomps towards the stairs, fuming and not a little hurt. His hand is clenched around the gun in his hand and he's so lost in his frustration, he doesn't notice his breath frosting in front of him.
The floorboards creak and moan at his angry passage, bending under his heavy booted stomps. Dean doesn't care, his thoughts are elsewhere. He thinks about the Demon Dean in the mirror that sneered at him and called him pathetic and he feels an uncomfortable chill in his belly because it reminds him far too much of that year before the hell hounds came for him, when the Dean in his head screamed that he was going to become a demon. He thinks about the Angel Dean with the golden wings and the empty expression calling him ignorant and he remembers the fight in the alleyway with Castiel when he almost said yes. And then he thinks of Cas and he thinks of the way the angel says his name when he wants something, he thinks of the way that trench coat hangs from his bony shoulders, he thinks—.
The floorboards under his foot crack, splinter, and then cave beneath him. Dean flings out a hand, reaching for the edge, but more pieces break off and he's sent tumbling into a black abyss below. He loses his grip on his gun and it's gone before he can even see it fly away.
He falls down and down and then there's a flare of red that makes Dean wince and he slams into something hard. The air is hot and sulfurous, it hurts to breath, the heat pressing against him and clawing into his lungs with white-hot pokers. He blinks, rolls to his feet, and freezes.
He is in Hell.
Worse still, he is surrounded by racks full of screaming souls. They are bound by chains and meathooks, leather straps and barbed wire, some of them have needles or knives sticking from their bodies, others are simply bleeding from numerous cuts, some are so mutilated they are beyond all recognition. The air reeks with the smell of infection, of blood, of burnt flesh and hair, there is a thing mist of red, a haze over the eyes, and everything is lit in a throbbing, dull crimson glow.
Dean feels sick. And then he has to double over and dry heave because he also feels like he's home.
He wipes spittle from his chin and spits onto the floor, looking around for a way out. This cannot really be Hell, it has to be another room in the house, but for Dean it seems very real. This is Hell as he remembers it, right down to the tacky blood on the floor that clings to the bottom of his boots like old chewing gum. The screaming of the souls on the racks are paper thing metallic needles in his ears and spins on the spot, not knowing which way to turn, afraid to get to close to any of the racks, afraid that if he takes one step away from this spot then he will slid back into his old persona and pick up the knife and take to the bodies laid out before him.
Then he hears a cry that he recognizes, a pitiful sound screaming along with the rest, but this one is calling his name.
It's Castiel's voice.
Dean's running through the racks before he realizes what he's doing. He screeches to a halt, muscles seizing, breath stopping in his throat, bile rising in his stomach because he's close, so close, to the souls and they're right there and he's acutely aware of the knife in his boot and the best place to slice and he's shaking now, he can't stop it, he's going to—
The hunter shudders and takes off running again, telling himself that the tears in his eyes are from the stench. He weaves through the countless racks and the howling souls, following the sound of Castiel's cries until he comes to a spot relatively clear of the racks. They form a circle around one and strapped to it, naked and scarred, is Cas. His skin is pale and it makes the angel banishing sigil on his stomach appear all the more red and inflamed in the gloom of the Pit. His wrists and ankles are nearly shredded from the barbed wire that has ripped into them, pinning him to the table, there are lacerations on his arms, and tears streaking his bloodied face. Dean's heart clenches into the size of pea as he stumbles to a halt beside the ruined angel.
"Cas! Cas, it's me! It's Dean!"
"Dean, help me!" The angel moans, back arching against the rack, his frame quivering as the barbed wire bit into his flesh, "Please, get me out of here! I don't want to be here!"
"Hold still, Cas, just hold on!" Dean tugs the blade from his boot, keeping one hand on Castiel's shoulder, "I'll cut you free! Just hold on, buddy, I'm here for you! I'll get you out of here! I'll get us both out of here!"
"No!" Castiel gasps as Dean starts cutting away the barbed wire on the angel's wrist, "No, Dean, you don't understand…"
Dean manages to free one of Castiel wrists and moves around to work on the other, "What don't I understand?"
"Only one of us can leave."
The knife snicks through a strand of wire as Dean pulls back, gaping at Castiel. The angel is looking at him pleadingly, begging Dean to take him away from the Pit, "What do you mean only one of us can leave?"
"When you cut me free," Castiel breathes, "You will take my place on the rack. Please Dean," His voice cracks and he whimpers, "Please take me away from here. I'm an angel, I don't belong here. Please, please, I want out. Take my place, Dean, please!"
Dean takes another step away from the rack, shaking his head. Castiel reaches towards him with his one free hand and goddamn it if Dean doesn't want to run back to him and clasp his hand and promise him that everything will be all right. But this is not his Castiel; once again the house has tried to trick him. He would free his Castiel from the rack and he knew that his Cas would beg to be freed…but not if it meant Dean was to take his place. Cas had gone through Hell, literally, to raise Dean from Perdition and he would never wish Dean back into the Pit.
"Dean!" The Not-Castiel pleads, still reaching for him with a shaking hand, "Dean, please don't leave me here like this! Dean! Take my place, I can't do this anymore!" He trembles and a fresh wave of tears run down his cheeks, "Please Dean! Dean! Don't leave me!"
The barbed wire suddenly comes to life and wraps itself around the Not-Castiel's wrist, pulling him back down to the rack again. Not-Castiel lets out a heart-breaking cry and writhes against the hold, screaming Dean's name, begging him to take his place, tears and blood spilling own the sides of the rack. Dean feels a twist in his gut, a horrible wrenching deep inside him that makes him ache as he turns around and walks away.
Not-Castiel's screams follow him, echoing above the rest of the cries of the souls around him as Dean runs through Hell, trying to find a way out.
Dean runs until his shirt sticks to his front and his back, until his breath is a raspy scrape of stinging gravel in his throat, until his feet feel as if they are made of cement bricks, until he has to stagger to a halt and wheeze his heart back into a normal rhythm.
The heat of this fake Hell is unbearable. Dean peels off his jacket, leaving him only in his T-shirt, and is about to tie it around his waist when there's a sound behind him. He drops his jacket and spins around, whipping his knife up but there's no one there. He has long since left the garden of racks behind and is now standing in a forest of twisted trees made of rusted metal and jagged obsidian, the ground beneath his boots lumpy with broken bits of human bone. The sky is such a dark crimson it is almost black and that red mist still clings to everything. The air smells of smog and pollution, of garbage and roadkill and fires burning in the distance.
Tense and feeling all sorts of things that just make a mess in his head, he slowly turns to retrieve the thin flannel covering. Only someone has picked it up already.
Castiel is standing a few feet away, his face pressed into Dean's jacket and inhaling, his eyes closed in some sort of ecstasy as he takes in Dean's scent. Dean stares at him, his knife still clenched in his hand. He doesn't know what to trust.
"Dean…" Sighs Castiel, his eyes still closed as he rubs his cheek into the thin flannel material, "Dean, Dean, Dean, I have been waiting for you. What took you so long to find me?"
"I…Cas?" Dean says uncertainly, "Is that really you?"
"You're hurting my feelings, Dean." Castiel says, "How can you not recognize me?" He opens his eyes and they are completely black, dark pits devoid of emotion.
"Demon." Dean spits and steps backwards.
"I can show you the best time you have ever had." Demon Castiel whispers into Dean's jacket, "Stay here with me, Dean. Just you and me in Hell forever."
"No." Dean growls and dives into the trees, running from this corrupted Castiel. For a while, he feels the demon's eyes on his back and then the metal and stone forest closes in around him and he's alone. He keeps running for a while until his body starts to protest and he has to slow down to a walk. His legs ache, his belly is empty, and he's covered in sweat and smears of blood.
He keeps walking.
The metal and obsidian trees start to take on angular shapes, become more square and coiling around one another as they lean closer and closer to the ground. Eventually, Dean comes to a clearing where there is a group of trees tangled together and reaching up into the sky, creating a perfect set of metal and rock stairs.
Dean doesn't even look over his shoulder as he begins to climb.
When Dean walks through the door in the sky and steps back into the hallway of the old house, he's instantly struck with a wave of cold that makes goosebumps erupt over his exposed skin and his teeth clatter in his mouth. He wraps his arms around himself and looks around for where to go next, his breath misting in the air in front of him.
He heads for the stairs again because he's tired of the ground floor and logic says that warm air rises. But, if anything, it's even colder on the second floor. There's frost seeping into the crevices between the wooden slats, he's shivering so hard he thinks maybe his eyeballs are going to rattle straight out of his skull, and he really wishes he hadn't taken off his jacket.
There are more doors on the second floor and Dean's fed up and desperate. All he wants to do is find his Castiel, the real Castiel, and get back to the motel, the heat of which now seems like a far away dream. He kicks open the first door he comes to, steps through, and instantly wonders why there's a kitchen on the second floor.
The kitchen is warmth but it is a warmth that stings into Dean's skin, prickling it with bursts of pins and needle heat. There is pleasant golden sunlight streaming in through the windows, lighting up the polish granite counter tops and the stainless steel kitchen hardware. There's a radio playing Coldplay quietly into the morning light and then there's Castiel. He is wearing boxers—Dean's boxers, the hunter recognizes the pair—and a rumpled white T-shirt over which he's tied a bright blue apron. His hair is bed tousled and he's humming along with "Yellow" as it plays from the radio.
Dean tries to say the angel's name but the cold has dried his throat and all he manages is a cracked whimpering sort of noise.
But Castiel hears it and turns around and he smiles when he sees Dean standing inside the door, "Dean. It's about time. Would you like something to eat?"
Dean swallows and manages to ask, "Are you my Castiel?"
Castiel tilts his head to the side and sets down the spatula in his hand. He crosses the kitchen to stand in front of Dean and rests his hands on Dean's shoulders, rubbing his palms across the Winchester's arms to try and warm him up, "I am anything you want me to be."
"I just want my Cas…" Dean groans and lets his head rest on Castiel's shoulder, "I just want to go home."
"Shhh," Castiel smooths a hand through Dean's hair, whispering lightly in his ear, "I'm here for you, Dean. I have been and always will be. And wherever I am is your home."
Dean sucks in a breath to answer but pauses, breathes out against Castiel's neck, breathes in again and says,
"Then where are you?"
He pushes Not-Castiel away. He knows this is not his Cas because this fake does not smell of virgin mountain snow, of lightning storms, of cheap shampoo and gun powder, of Dean's skin and Dean's clothes.
Not-Castiel looks at him with a hurt expression, "I am here, Dean. Don't you want to stay with me? I can cook your favorite foods. I can clean up for you. I can do whatever you want me to do."
"But you can't be my Cas." Dean says and he backs out of the room, despite the way his stomach is growling after the smell of cooking food. As soon as he shuts the door, the warmth is gone and the cold seeps back into his limbs, worse than before, piercing him right into his belly and making him cringe.
He thinks he might freeze to death before he finds the real Castiel.
Dean checks room after room after room and finds dozens of Castiels.
None of them are his.
He finds a room that opens into a fake Heaven where a soldier Castiel waited to make him an angel. He's met a vampire Castiel, a Castiel willing to murder Sam to let them be together, a cannibal Castiel, and even a Castiel who just wants to kill him. Dean loses his knife in that fight.
Now he's weaponless and freezing and he doesn't know if he's any closer to find his Cas or not. He fumbles with the frost covered handle of another door and manages to get it open, wincing at the pain in his stiff fingers; he thinks it might be frost bite. Beyond the door is a sunny garden with rows of chairs and a rose entwined arch under which stand Castiel in a pristine black tux, holding a bouquet of flowers. He looks around as Dean opens the door and there's a wide smile on his face. There's also a preacher standing at the alter.
Dean nearly chokes and quickly closes the door. That was not his Castiel. He and Cas had spoken in length about the concept of marriage and had never really finished a conversation on it. Angel culture and human culture differed greatly.
Almost desperate and ready to curl into a corner and let himself freeze, Dean tries the door at the end of the hall on the top floor. When he opens it, he is greeted with dusty old bedroom that matches the rest of the house in its ruin and state of decay. Curled up on the old, rotting four poster bed, shivering with his coat wrapped tightly around him is Castiel. Dean races across the room and leaps onto the bed, coiling his arms around Cas' shivering form and drawing him close, trying to share what little body heat he has. He presses his lips into the back of the angel's neck, trying to get him to respond.
"Cas?" He whispers, "Castiel? It's Dean."
"It is cold, Dean." Castiel says and rolls around so that he is facing Dean, tucking his head under Dean's chin and pressing his frozen fingers into Dean's chest, "It is so very cold."
"I know," Dean says, holding Castiel tighter against him, "It's okay, I found you so it's all cool. Er, you know what I mean." He kisses Cas' hair and finds it stiff and frozen, "We'll warm up and then we can leave and get back to the motel and get out of this town."
"I do not want to leave." Castiel says, tilting his head back to stare at Dean. His eyes are chips of ice as he encircles his arms around Dean, "I want to stay here with you forever, just the two of us, keeping each other warm for eternity."
Too late Dean realizes he has made a mistake. Castiel is an angel, he does not feel temperature changes, he would not have been affected by the cold like Dean is. The eldest Winchester tries to pull away but this Not-Cas is holding onto him tightly. Dean struggles, thrashing in Not-Castiel's grip, kicking his boots across the rotted, frost coated blankets beneath them, but the fake does not relent. He mashes his mouth against Dean's, forcing the man to kiss him, worms his tongue into Dean's mouth and Dean feels as though someone has shoved liquid nitrogen into his mouth. He tries to breath and it aches deep in his lungs so he tries to curl up to conserve his warmth.
Not-Castiel is having none of it. He flips around, twists so that he is pinning Dean to the bed, holding the hunter's wrists over his head with one hand while the other works off Dean's belt. Dean growls and curses, trying to lever this fake Castiel off of him, but it's not working. Not-Castiel unzips Dean's jeans, sitting on his thighs so he's helpless to move, and slides icicle cold fingers into Dean's boxers. The Winchester bucks and automatically tries to shrink away but Not-Castiel grabs a hold of him and starts massaging him with his fingers. Dean trembles, partly out of the pleasure of it, partly from the cold, but mostly because he's furious. This pathetic excuse for a fake has no right to even try.
Fury bolsters Dean's adrenaline and he brings one leg up sharply, upending the Not-Castiel so that he tips sideways. This loosens the fake Castiel's grip and Dean manages to yank his hands free, bringing up a fist to smash it into Not-Castiel's temple. They both fall sideways off of the bed, hitting the floor with a heavy thud, and Dean scrambles away from the fake, numb fingers fumbling to do up his pants.
Dean doesn't think he's ever been this angry, not in a long time anyway. He brings up his foot and smashes the heel of his heavy boot into Not-Castiel's stomach as hard as he can. Then he does it again. And again. Then he reaches down and grabs the fake by the collar hoisting him up so he can punch him in the face over and over and over again until the shirt in his grasp tears and sends Not-Castiel falling backwards into a wall. Dean glares at him but the fake does not get up.
The cold seeps back in through the chinks in his angry armor and drags ice chips through his joints, making them ache. It seems even colder than it did before. Far too cold. No human being could ever last in this kind of cold. Dean's almost forgotten that it's summer outside this house.
He needs to find Cas. It's the only thought on his mind as he stumbles out of the room.
He's cold, he's hungry, he's lost, he's frustrated, and—goddamn it but he's lonely.
The Winchester is standing at the top of the stairs on the second floor, his hands clenched over his bare arms, his shoulders hunched, shivering so badly he can hardly think straight.
"What do you want from me!" He shouts into the quiet of the house, a cloud bursting between his lips with the words, "Just give me back my Cas! You're not going to trick me with these fakes! I know my Castiel and I want him back! You'd better give him up or I swear I'll burn this fucking place to the ground!"
No one answers him.
With a frustrated scream, Dean kicks at the wall beside him. It yields no result. The overpowering urge to destroy something is making his blood boil hot, pushing back the cold again. He takes a swing at the rotting railing of the staircase and knocks one of the poles off. Snatching up, ignoring the icy splinters that stab into his palms, he swings it around, smashing it into the steps and the walls as he stomps down the stairs. He slams it into the doors he passes, scrapes it along the walls, and bases it into the empty space where the front door should be until the old wooden pillar snaps off in his hands and spins away across the floor.
Dean presses his forehead against the wall as the anger seeps away and the cold settles in once more. The hunter wraps his arms around himself and leans back against the wall, staring down the hallway at all the doors and the stairs and crooked floor and the buckled ceiling and the whole hopeless situation stretching out before him.
"Cas…" He says, teeth chattering so much that the name is barely audible, "Where are you?"
He wants to stay there, leaning against the wall, letting the frost creep over him and molding him into the house because he's so fucking tired and upset he can't take it anymore. He thinks about the people who have disappeared into the house and wonders if this is what happened to them. Did they try to find a way out and only ran into twisted and macabre versions of the people they thought they knew? Did they defy those fakes over and over again like Dean until they had lost all hope and given up, either to the cold or to one of the fakes? What was this place? What did it want?
Dean shudders, both from the cold and from the fear of just disappearing forever into a house where no one will ever find him.
The Winchester pushes himself off the wall and stumbles down the hall again, running his sore hands over the doors as he passes them, murmuring Castiel's name over and over and over again as if doing so will finally lead him in the right direction. He just wants his Castiel. He wants to hold his Cas, feel the heat of Heaven's fire against his skin as it leaks through every pore in Cas' body, he wants to press his lips to Castiel's and play with his tongue, he wants to touch Cas in all the ways he knows Cas likes, he wants to force the angel to make all those desperate little noises that make Dean want to throw him onto a bed and take him.
He just wants Castiel.
Out of sheer hopelessness and the desperate desire for his angel, Dean tries another, swearing to himself that it's going to be the last door he tries. He just doesn't have the energy anymore.
The room inside is just as rotted as the rest of the house, frost clinging to the rotted curtains on the window and making them stiff like cardboard. Icicles are dangling from the cracked and crooked chandelier on the ceiling, the rug on the rotting hardwood is eaten through and patched with bits of ice, the fireplace against one wall has collapsed into a pile of rubble, there is a bookcase that has fallen to the floor and cracked in half, and the only other thing in the room is a couch so old the back has rotted off.
But Dean is not paying attention to the state of the room, only to the room's occupant.
It is Castiel. Or a Castiel, he does not know if it is his.
But the oldest Winchester steps inside and gently closes the door behind him. The Castiel on the couch appears to be asleep but his hands are tied above his head with frozen rope, hooked to a metal stake stabbed into the rotting fabric of the couch. His shoes are missing, as well as his socks, and his feet are in the same predicament as his hands, except that his legs are spread apart, each ankle staked down individually. Castiel is still wearing his stupid trench coat and dress clothes but the shirt has been torn open and his tie is dangling loosely around his neck. His pants are pushed down to his knees and his boxers are rumpled and tacky looking.
Dean swallows a mouthful of curses and frozen air and pads carefully across the room to this Castiel. If this is not his Cas, then Dean thinks he might fall over and die of despair.
"Castiel?" He asks, leaning over the rotted couch. There is no breath coming from the angel's mouth, "Hey, Castiel?"
"Please…" Castiel breathes in a tired sort of way and Dean is instantly on guard, "I can't…no more, Dean, please, no more…this body is tired…"
Dean feels in ache in his chest but he has no idea if it has anything to do with the cold or if it's the terrible weariness in Castiel's voice. He can't help but drop a hand on the angel's shoulder, running a thumb over Cas' collarbone in a comforting sort of way. Castiel's eyelids flutter and then the bluest blue that ever existed it looking at Dean's face with a wary recognition.
"You are insatiable." He whispers and this time there is a puff of steam from between his dry lips.
The words slip out before Dean can stop them, "Are you my Cas?"
"I said I would be whatever you wanted."
"I don't want anything but you." Dean says and the words sound stupid. He feels pins and needles creep across his face and realizes that he's blushing.
"Dean?" And there's a way that Castiel says his name that makes Dean know this is his Cas and that Castiel has been going through the same thing as Dean. Only he gave in and let the house have its way with him.
"What did he do to you?" Dean growls, cursing his fingers because they can't seem to remember how to untie knots and keep slipping over the rope binding Cas to the couch.
"I told you not to come after me…" Castiel breathes, and he's tracking Dean's movement.
"Don't care." Dean rattles out a breath that seems as cold as the air around him. He's pressing closer and closer to Cas and the heat the angel radiates, trying to warm himself up. But cold feels as though it has seeped into his very core and he's so tired, he's so very, very tired.
"Don't close your eyes." He hears Castiel say and jerks because he hadn't even realized that he was drifting off. He shakes himself and picks at the rope until it finally falls away. Castiel sits up, rubs his wrists, and reaches down to quickly undo the knots at his ankles. Dean is staring with half-lidded eyes at where Cas' pants are bunched at his knees.
"Cas, did he—"
"I am all right, Dean." Castiel says flatly and swings his legs over the edge of the couch, getting to his feet and pulling up his slacks. He quickly does up the buttons, fumbles with his shirt for a moment and finally gives it up for a loss, there are too many buttons missing. Dean is shivering again, choking on his own breath it's so cold, but he's watching Cas very carefully, just to be sure.
Castiel's fingers are deft but have an awkward unfamiliarity about them as he tries to tighten his tie, a crease appears between his eyebrows as he fights with the fabric, and there's a flicker in his blue eyes that says he's watching Dean watching him. Dean feels the floor tilt underneath him—backwards, forward, backwards, forwards—and realizes that it's him; he's swaying on his feet.
Hands as hot as a furnace grab his shoulders and Dean hisses in pain. Something warm is wrapped around him and he blinks, trying to focus through a haze of cold. It's Castiel's trench coat. Cas has an arm around Dean's shoulders, supporting him easily, and his other hand is running over Dean's arms, his chest, his neck, his face, his leg, checking for injuries. His fingertips brush the handprint mark beneath the sleeve of the hunter's shirt and an electric tingle makes Dean quiver. Cas pauses in his study and then leans forward and gently kisses the corner of Dean's mouth, then his chin, then his neck, and then gently mouths his collarbone before pulling back. It burns, a streak of fire down his skin, but Dean is pleased with it.
This is his Castiel.
"Cas…" He croaks, one hand coming up to press against the angel's chest, "You're such an…idiot."
"No," Castiel insists, "You are. Come on, we're getting out of here."
"Tired…" Dean's not even aware that he said the word.
Those blue eyes stare at him for a moment and then, without warning, Cas has swept Dean up into his arms bridal style and is carrying him out the door of the room. Dean wants to make some crack about marriage and thresholds but the words get jumbled up and all he can manage is a weak chuckle. Cas glances at him and there is a smile in his eyes that doesn't appear on his face that says he understands. Dean pushes his face into Cas' shoulder and takes a deep breath of the angel's scent, shivering as his cold body clashes with the raging heat of Castiel's, not caring about the burning sensation boiling across his skin because this is his Castiel.
Dean is dimly aware of the creak of a door and then a rolling wave of heat that makes him whimper, the sunlight accompanying it even worse because it burns through his closed eyelids. Castiel sets him down, leans him against something hot and metallic and Dean smells rubber and oil and motor parts that have been sitting in the sun and sighs because this is his baby and they're outside and they're out of the house and it's over.
A hand digging briefly in his pocket makes him open his eyes a little, squinting against the sunlight. Castiel rifles through his jeans, finds the Impala's keys and pops the trunk. Dean watches him in a daze, feeling flushed with heat and still frozen at the same time. Cas pulls a jug of holy oil from the trunk, walks up to the house, and pours it across the porch in a complicated pattern. Then he spreads his wings and lifts into the air to pour it over the caving roof, down the crumbling chimney, and splash it across the walls. The colors and lights in his wings flare and sparkle in the air, catching beams of sunlight and making them flare golden.
The snap of a lighter and the house whooses up in flames, the tongues of orange and red lapping eagerly at the old rotted wood. Castiel turns his back on the poison house, pulling his wings in as he does so. But even in his half frozen, dazed state, Dean does not forget the image of Castiel standing in front of that roaring flame, the firelight dancing through his translucent, many colored wings, the feathers bending and refracting the light into a cascade of wordless wonderment.
Then Castiel is bundling Dean into the backseat of the Impala and Dean wants to say that Cas doesn't know how to drive but apparently the angel has been learning behind Dean's back because he yanks the wheel around and speeds them down the driveway.
"Don't fall asleep, Dean." He calls into the backseat, "Don't fall asleep, I am taking you to a hospital and then I will get Sam. Dean. Dean! Dean, don't fall asleep! Dean!"
But Dean does. He closes his eyes and tips backwards and falls into blackness.
And when he wakes up in the hospital, stuffed with tubes and covered in too many blankets, Castiel is curled in the bed beside him and Sam is in snoring in a chair at his bedside.
Cas brushes his fingers through Dean's hair and traces a finger down Dean's earlobe, "How did you know it was me? How did you know I was your Castiel?"
Dean smirks and it feels good so he grins,
"How did you know I was your Dean?"