Healing is nothing. For all of its drama healing is nothing but a touch of Grace to stimulate cell division, the body's normal growth wound to 1000 times its natural speed and made perfect. Castiel once breathed life into dry bones and spun Grace into flesh with less than a thought; compared to that healing could barely count as a blessing.
He wonders sometimes if Raphael wasn't right. Perhaps Lucifer had been the one to bring him back. He doesn't understand why his Father would be cruel enough to bring him back incapable of even so small a miracle.
Castiel's never heard the sound of a shotgun blast before today but it's burned into his consciousness now, as much a part of him as his wings and his Grace. Dean's out of his sight for a just a handful of seconds when that sound comes tearing through the air like a wave of force, and even with his ears ringing Castiel can make out the grunt and dull, wet thud that freezes his Grace around his borrowed bones.
He finds Dean in the shadow of the dilapidated farmhouse, the witch long gone and to Castiel, completely forgotten; Dean's torso is a ruin, his clothes blood-soaked and his chest already moving in jerking, unsteady gasps as he fights to breathe with lungs too shredded to hold air. When Castiel goes to his knees at his side he can sense Dean's soul is already so close the the surface he can sense it through the sigils.
Castiel's about to reassure him this will be temporary – Dean's soul being in his body is too important to Heaven's plan for him to stay dead- but Dean clutches at Castiel's sleeve, panicked eyes wide and Castiel can read the only thought in his mind: Cas. Help me. Dean tries to speak but all that comes out is a helpless, wet, choked sob that lodges in Castiel's Grace like jagged glass. Hurts.
Castiel doesn't have the words to say he can't help. That gift's been stolen from him but Dean's so far gone he's forgotten. Dean's hand spasms on his sleeve, terror bright in his eyes and Castiel sees he doesn't understand.
The last time Dean begged him for something Castiel turned against Heaven.
Dean's eyes roll back and the world tilts. He pulls out his sword and slashes the blade across his palms, barely aware of what he's doing; pain shivers up through his Grace but Castiel pushes that aside. He'd sculpted Dean's body and blood from his own Grace, back when he had so much more of it; they sing through each other's veins in a way Castiel is still only beginning to recognize. He presses one hand against the brand on Dean's shoulder and the other to the bloody wounds on his chest. Blood for blood. Dean is welcome to all of it, for all Castiel cares. It occurs to him for a moment how similar the wounds on his hands are to stigmata but he doesn't have time to dwell on it. It's not as if blasphemy hasn't become his occupation as of late.
There's one long, torturous moment of silence, where the only thing Castiel feels is Dean's failing heartbeat under his hands, then a tingle races across his skin. Dean's faltering heart strengthens and his breathing steadies as the wounds slowly close and Castiel takes a moment to indulge in a grim smile.
A moment is all he's granted before pain drills through his chest. He doesn't have to look down to know his shirt is slowly soaking through with blood, he can feel the material sticking to his skin as wounds open and bleed.
He must have made a sound; just as he starts tasting coppery blood at the back of his throat Dean's eyes blink open, looking around for a second before focusing on Castiel. "Cas, what the fuck are you doing?" he whispers, touching Castiel's blood-drenched shirt in horror.
"Be quiet and be still." Castiel lets out a relieved breath when he feels the tether wrap around Dean; he hadn't been sure he'd still be capable of that trick. He's already shaking so hard it's all he can do to maintain his hold, he doesn't have the energy to indulge Dean by arguing about this. Dean's eyes glare up at him with impotent fury but Castiel pays it no mind. He's never known any creature who hated being saved more than Dean Winchester.
His lungs collapse, two hard stabs to his chest that double him over and he's never known this kind of pain existed; it's worse than when Raphael smote him from the face of the planet, worse than anything he's ever felt in his long existence. Castiel doesn't know how humans live in these tissue paper bodies, fragile shells that can be destroyed by nothing more than bits of ordinary metal. He wonders, distantly, if this is what falling would feel like. The thought brings no panic. He doesn't know what it says about him that he's less afraid of falling than of Dean dying for even one moment.
The anger's gone from Dean's eyes; there's only pleas there now, Cas, that's enough, I'm okay now, just stop. He wants to tell Dean he can't, this has to be seen through or it won't hold but his mouth is too full of blood. His vision is hazy, Dean turning into a blur under his hands. He doesn't know if this is Dean's heartbeat he's feeling or his own. He's not sure he can even draw that distinction anymore.
Just a few more seconds. He's never known a second could be so long before.
The tether loosens and he feels Dean's arms catch him before he can fall on his face in the dirt. "Miserable, stupid son of a bitch," Dean whispers, his hand shaking against the pulse point in Castiel's neck. He doesn't have the energy to open his eyes but he feels Dean tear his shirt open and then hears him suck in a horrified breath at the damage. He feels Dean press something against his chest, his shirt perhaps, and if Castiel could make his voice work he would tell Dean that was unnecessary; he can feel his strained Grace already starting to knit the wounds, albeit much more slowly than he would wish. "You die and I swear to God, I will bring you back and kill you myself."
Dean often says illogical things like this when he's distressed and Castiel's learned to decode the affection hidden there. He feels Dean's arms reach under him and lift him up, Dean so careful to cradle Castiel's head against his shoulder. He can hear Dean's heart beating, following the rhythm Castiel whispered to it the day he and Dean met. He must have said something, or tried to, because Dean's voice is rough when he murmurs, "Shh, Cas. You're gonna be okay. Let's just get you outta here." He feels Dean let out a ragged breath. "Promise me you're never doing something this stupid again."
That's not a promise Castiel's going to make and they both know it. Dean sighs as he adjusts his grip and Castiel wonders if it's his imagination when he feels Dean's lips brush against his forehead. "Remember what I said, Cas. And I swear, if you bleed all over my baby I'm gonna kill you twice."
Castiel knows that's how Dean sometimes says thank you. He lets Dean carry him back to the car without protest, the pain easing as Dean's heartbeat slowly sings him to sleep.