Actual, real SPN fic! WOO. Well kind of. I'm considering this AU-ish because it's essentially my own version of what happened after season five's ending, considering I haven't seen season six yet. I know a little bit of what happens, but didn't when I started this, so I'm just gonna keep going with it. A few things might happen the same, though.

Essentially, the idea is that Cas Falls (I capitalize it as a style thing, so apologies for that if it bothers anyone. Sorry!) a few months after the season finale, and this is him dealing with being human for a longer period of time than he did earlier. Been done, yes, but suddenlyhuman!Cas is my favorite thing to write/read, because I love analyzing how it would be to start feeling all these random things that we don't really think about. Also, I'm from Texas so it just makes sense for me to make him end up there for a short time because, really, awful place to suddenly be able to feel things in my opinion.

Not sure how many chapters it'll be, but I've got most of it done already.

Uhh. WARNING FOR EVENTUAL SLASH (Dean/Cas). I tend to not write outright romance, but it's there (especially in later chapters). Just. Very slow in coming to fruition.

hands of time

The Fall slowed everything down.

It's been a month and Castiel finds himself on the same bed in the same dingy motel room and he stares at the ceiling, paint peeling and flaking and the clock on the wall ticks at a slow, steady pace. There's static softly drifting from the T.V. because he couldn't take anymore inane babbling and he can hardly work the thing anyway. Apparently this is the kind of place where people stay for extended periods because the manager hasn't asked him to vacate yet and probably won't unless he stops paying. He's still in the slacks, shirt, tie, and trench coat that Jimmy was wearing the day Castiel dropped into him, even though they are no longer kept immaculate by his Grace. They are over worn and dirty and despite the fact that he has a bag full of clothes he can change into, he still can't bring himself to do it. He showers, scrubs until his skin is red and raw, thinking every time that maybe he just needs to accept this, to let go – but then he's back in his old outfit again, wrapping the trench coat around him.

It's pathetic really.

And his stomach is aching and his head is throbbing and pounding.

He knows he should eat but he can't. It took three days of pain and vomiting up brown bile for him to realize that he was hungry, thirsty – that he needs food now. That not having it hurt in a way he has never known he could hurt. And even then, he chewed slowly and deliberately and even now he can't make himself eat or drink until the pain becomes unbearable.

Earth was created to drive man insane, he decides.

The ticking of the clock and the static fill his head and overpower his senses and he thinks he must have passed out from lack of food because it's suddenly midday. Everything is lost in the haze, but time moves so slowly. Every second aches through his bones and stretches him and tears at him and he can feel himself dying. Can feel his cells and his organs and his blood pumping through his veins and every second these horrible human things get slower and slower and dwindle and he's deteriorating at an achingly slow and horrendous pace. He wants to scream, but a month of hardly using his voice has taken its toll and all he can do his stretch out his mouth and let out a raspy, breaking groan.

The room becomes stuffy and oppressive and he decides to check out. He leaves the shirt, tie, and slacks but keeps his coat. At the moment, it's too hot to wear it, even though he tries desperately to ignore the sweat, so he folds it neatly in his bag and hits the road going south.

His first sunburn is a surprise and he picks at his skin too much and creates sores that take a week to heal. A woman at a gas station tells him that something called aloe vera can help but finds it difficult to believe someone who has tanned leather hide for skin and a smile full of crooked teeth. Man had always been beautiful in his eyes but seeing them from their own makes him sick. He later discovers that she was right of course and he feels his first pangs of the feeling called, "guilt." He also discovers the sin of vanity, struck with fear that maybe it will one day be his fate to look like that and get treated with the same disdain and he doesn't think he can bear it. Nature is beautiful, but cruel. The bright blue sky means nothing but unbearable heat that he can't get away from, and clouds provide cover but can lead to wind and storms that tear at his body - things he knows he knew as an angel, but feeling them now, wrapped in vulnerable human skin, they are monstrous and awful and so different that he can't recall how it all felt before it could hurt him. He learns that towns in Texas are definitely too far apart and that the weather is too dry and that the air burns his skin and his eyes.

He begins to hitchhike eventually, because he also discovers that human legs are less efficient than angel ones, but these rides make him feel dirty and examined and they never last for long. Today, about two and half weeks after venturing from the motel, he's sitting in the back seat of a car belonging to a couple headed to a water park. The husband is failing to quietly reassure his wife that he didn't just pick up the guy from some movie called Texas Chainsaw Massacre and she just keeps looking in the rear view mirror with a smile that has too many teeth and wrinkles that are nervous and shaking. They go ten miles before it becomes unbearable and they happen upon a gas station - salvation. He lies about his destination, rests in the truck stop, and then continues on his way a few hours later walking until he collapses again, wrapped in his dirty trench coat in dry unforgiving grass and he wonders when he'll be able to wash his clothes again or if he should even bother.

In his pocket, there's a wallet given to him by Dean, before the Apocalypse and the Fall and everything (Just in case, you know? Don't want you to be stuck in a hospital again) that has bits of plastic with strange names written on them that places accept as money, though he doesn't really understand why. Why did he not pay more attention to the little details when he was in Heaven? It all seemed so trivial and he flitted over these small things because he truly had no need to understand their use or their importance. And, really, these things were only minutes old in his mind. He's existed for so long that these new inventions, these strange objects, are still fresh and foreign and he hates them, longing for carriages and horseback and gold tender and things he can understand.

He doesn't know what he's looking for. Death maybe, but if that were the case, he would have let go at those first pangs of hunger. Suffered through it until he found a release. But he didn't. Cowardly, weakly, he gave in. Even though he fights it, he always eats eventually. He drinks. Sleeps. The want to survive is somehow greater than his want to escape and he doesn't understand why.

Maybe if he dies, they'll just bring him back like they did last time, before he Fell.

Not because he's important, but because this is a better torture than anything they could conjure up in Heaven.

Back then, after the Apocalypse had been averted and some unknown force brought him back (It wasn't my Father, Dean. God has abandoned us), he had healed Dean and ascended back to Heaven, more powerful than ever, with the ability to reshape and reorganize everything. He could have be high in command, part of the force that could reinvent paradise. But his gaze was ever downward and too focused on that leather coat and swish of brown hair over pale green eyes and when he conspired into Hell to save Sam he knew that there was no going back. One last act of rebellion in the Winchester name and he screamed as his Grace was ripped from him.

And as much as he wants to hate them, hate Dean and his spirit and his might, he can't. He keeps that cell phone on the charger every chance he gets, just in case he gets the nerve to call him up – keeps it close to his hand as he sleeps so he can reach for it and stare at Dean's and Sam's and Bobby's names when nightmares wrack his tired brain trying to remember kind faces and far away concepts such as "friends."

Really, he should call Dean. Tell him that Sam's alive because he's sure that Sam hasn't revealed himself yet.

It should be good news, but there's a pit in Castiel's stomach that's become an all too familiar feeling. It's different than what he's come to recognize as guilt, and it's definitely not hunger, but he can't place a name or an emotion on it and he wishes that it would go away.

A car rushes by and he flinches, glad that he happened to collapse far enough away from the road to not be in too much danger. His hand fingers the phone in his trench coat pocket, because he honestly doesn't know how much longer he can survive like this. There's dry, hard grass poking into his face and neck and it itches and he hates it. Every inch of his body hurts and even though he knows it's probably because he's not taking care of himself very well, he finds it easier to just blame the human condition and his frail and dying body.

He shoves to his feet and manages to hitch a ride into the next town, a place called Sherman, and checks into a motel where he finally musters the courage to open his phone and call Dean.

It rings for about half a second before – "Cas?"

Castiel's voice chokes out in a terrified croak, rusty vocal cords trying to remember how to say things other than can I hitch a ride for a few miles? and my car broke down, I just need a tow but all he can think about is that raspy voice on the other end of the line. The rough, slightly angry voice of a man whose friendship and idealism drove the perfect soldier to shatter into this frail and broken thing and despite all that it's the nicest, best sound he's heard in months and he closes his eyes and swallows hard. Dean's said his name about three more times, with increasing volume and he manages, "Dean. I – "

"Where have you been?" His voice has a bite to it, and Cas winces, before Dean's tone suddenly changes. "I mean shit – Cas. Cas…Look. I'm at Bobby's. You know where that is, come on." Bobby's? Castiel wonders what happened to Lisa's, but then he knows Dean and Dean's unwillingness to just be happy so it's not too big of a surprise. He wonders what Dean expects him to do with that information. But then –

"I can't," he stammers, pathetically. "I – "

I'm human, Dean, he doesn't say. A twinge of fear tells him it's because he's sure there's no use for him unless he's an angel. And he knows that this reluctance, this fear to tell Dean what might make him unwanted or unneeded is what it means to be selfish, a concept he never had a use for before but he's clinging to it now.

There's a sigh on the other line and a muttered fuck and then Dean's asking him where he is. Saying to stay put. That he'll be there as soon as possible and to just hang tight.

Then the line is dead and Castiel feels what it's like to cry for the first time.

Pathetic and needy and broken he clutches motel blankets and hates himself for this weakness. His eyes burn and he wills himself to stop, that he doesn't have enough water inside him for this, but the tears keep coming because something inside him finally broke. And he hates how conflicted human emotion can be, there's the release of all the emotions he's been feeling for the past two months but there's also a bright sliver mixed in. Hearing Dean's voice sent a pulse through his fragments of Grace and this small piece of familiarity and hope is enough to ease some of his aches and pains and he drifts off into a sleep that offers no dreams.

A loud knock at the door wakes him up.

His first impulse is to hide, his heart is beating so fast he thinks he's going to die, that it's going to burst through the thin layers of skin and muscle and he's going to die. This is fear, he decides. A different kind of fear than when he first woke up in this body – that was a dull, aching fear that came with knowledge of what he knows had to have happened – no, this is acute panic. Mind numbing, confusing panic, and he's frozen in place even though every part of him wants to escape and to hide.

The knock comes again and the cogs in his brain begin to turn and he remembers.


He rushes to the door, yanks it open and –

"God, Cas, you look like a lumberjack."

Dean lets out a hollow laugh because that's how he deals with awkward situations.

Castiel touches his own face, feeling the coarse and untamed hair that has grown on his chin and jaw. He knows that humans shave but the one time he tried it, he bled and wouldn't stop bleeding and it was really unpleasant so he decided that it didn't warrant worrying about. It had, of course, kept some people from picking him up as a hitchhiker, but most truck drivers saw him as a kindred spirit and tended to see no harm in picking him up. At one time, he thinks that his eyes may have been what won them over, but he fails to see how human eyes could ever have the same amount of depth as his old ones. Human expression doesn't rely on them as much, whereas, when he was an angel, they were all he needed to get his point across.

He finds it hard to look at Dean. His eyes are stinging again, his head throbbing.

Dean's body language doesn't read as being uncomfortable. He's bracing himself, feet solid on the ground, wondering what to do next, wondering which one of them should make the next move.

"I…haven't mastered shaving yet," Castiel mutters, finding his voice suddenly as he sheepishly looks up at the man in the doorway. He wants to chuckle or something at the end of this sentence, but being human hasn't suddenly made him capable of frivolous displays of emotion or expression. When he says this, it's not to make a joke.

He's purely honest as always and the recognition that passes across Dean's face doesn't go unnoticed. If anything could convince him that this was, in fact, the angel he once knew, Castiel knows that that was it.

"Or haircuts," Dean adds, looking at the brown hair that hangs down over Cas's eyes. Maybe Dean wants to laugh – Castiel thinks that this would be appropriate, considering his reaction to the angel being mussed up before. But the look on Dean's face is not one of amusement. Cas hopes it's not pity because he doesn't know if he could handle it.

And suddenly Castiel crosses the threshold and wraps his arms around Dean and grips tight. The man doesn't know what to think of course, because, while Cas was always up in his personal space before, it was always in a hovering way. Never touching. And certainly not hugging. But Castiel doesn't care. There's an emotion inside him, inside the aching pit that's been there since day one, that's reaching out for something familiar in all this chaos.

They don't say it, but Castiel knows that Dean knows.

That he's human.

That it's not the same as before, when he carved the sigil in his chest.

This time, he's truly Fallen.

But Dean keeps quiet, waits on him while he grabs his ratty duffle and leads him to the Impala.

disclaimer: supernatural © eric kripke