A little semi-political contemporary ficlet. Been sad about everything that you see on the news lately - bombings, shootings, inconceivable mass violence. And I been thinking about friends who've been through it. So upsetting. Writing always helps me deal. I think it's a get it out before it kills you kind of thing.
And now that you've read my autobiography... ha.
The T rating is not for sexy-times (sorry for the letdown - you horndogs!), but for the theme of loss and violence. It's a real pick-me-up, I know. Anyway, this one was mostly for me. But I decided to post it anyway, so hope you like it too.
Castiel picked at the loose thread on the pocket of Dean's maroon flannel shirt.
"You're worrying. Again."
Cas didn't look at him. He hated to disappoint, and Dean had asked him not to worry. But he couldn't seem to manage it. He was a worrier.
Dean always said that. A worrier. Cas didn't mind the categorization, Dean said it with a kind of fondness. What do you have to worry about? he'd tease.
"You'll be great," Dean leant down to whisper in Cas' ear. And Cas could hear the smile in his voice. That damn smile, it was practically debilitating.
Castiel peeked up at him through his lashes. Dean. Young, healthy, smirking boy of nineteen. Smooth and hard, all at once. Loving and tough, perfect like marble art and rough around the edges like rusted metal. Good through and through, perfect in everything he was. From his humor to his temper.
Castiel got lost in the green eyes, the smirk on full pink lips, the planes of his masculine but almost pretty face. And the freckles. Castiel loved those little, almost orange freckles. They gave away how much of a child he was, how youthful, a certain intoxicating naivety - the simplicity of his desires - happy family, happy life.
Dean stiffened in his arms, and Castiel watched as his brow furrowed and his eyes turned upward. "Do you feel that?"
There was a quiet moment before everything shook, everything was loud and the whole world tipped off-kilter; there was a sharp painful crack to Castiel's head, the force of the blow bodily displacing him from where he stood and then - everything just went black.
Castiel replayed the moment over and over in his mind for the rest of his life but he never was entirely able to piece it all together. He had blacked out.
. . . . .
"Dean?..." Castiel's hands searched blindly over rubble, stone and glass, and dust. Everything was covered in dust. His fingers skitted over the loose stone and shards, his mind searching frantically to find something familiar amidst the jumbled sensations, searching desperately for flannel or denim, calloused skin or soft hair.
When he finally felt it, warm, firm under his fingertips, the worn fabric of the flannel shirt blissfully familiar, his heart leapt with simultaneous relief and dread.
He blinked furiously, trying to force his eyes to focus; he strained to sit up, every part of his body feeling like it was lead.
"Dean?" he scratched out, and his heart twisted painfully when there was no response.
There was so much noise around, sparking and cracking and scuffling and crying... Castiel was desperate to see. With all of that distracting noise, he had to be able to see. He willed his eyes to fight through the dizziness, through the haze, as he hefted his body upright. He twisted toward where he still had his hand on Dean, he'd never allowed separation from that touch once he'd found him.
When he finally turned, he was met with the sight that ruined his world. There was his Dean, just lying there. Six feet of freckled, American boy laying on some cracked-up floor, a sheen of dust settling over him, over the soaking blood.
The dust was gray, and it hid the pinkness of Dean's lips, turning them white, dusted in Dean's hair, over his clothes and skin. Cas couldn't see his freckles anymore.
. . . . .
On March 26th, 2012 there was an attack.
The news reported twenty five dead, seventy injured.
They said it was lucky. Lucky that so few people died. Practically a failure as far as these kind of attacks were concerned. America would recover swiftly and completely, they reported.
Castiel sat completely still on the floor and stared up at the TV, watching the reports as if waiting for something. For days. Just sitting, watching, waiting for news that wouldn't come.
Lucky the man had said.
. . . . .
They told Castiel later that he had to be forcibly removed from the site.
He didn't remember that right away. It came back to him in the days following the attack, like a slow, painful bleed. The words didn't connect at first. Forcibly removed. They explained that Castiel had been in shock, that he had become unresponsive and belligerent and had latched on to one of the casualties, refusing to be parted from him. A boy, nineteen. Killed instantly.
Handsome, one of the nurses at the hospital had said. Sweet looking. So young. Such a shame.
Such a waste.
. . . . .
Castiel spent months torturing himself. Do you feel that? he would hear, when he was asleep, when he was awake, when he was walking to town, when he was brushing his teeth.
Do you feel that?
Anticlimactic last words of a person who deserved so much better. Who had so much to say. It was last thing Castiel ever got to hear in his voice. No strong, teary goodbye. No last I love you. No muttering of Help, or even of Castiel's name.
It had been that quick.
Do you feel that? Gone.
. . . . .
Castiel was regaled as a survivor. He hated it. The way they clapped for him, the way they treated him as if he'd done something right. As if Dean, standing two inches to his left had somehow gotten it wrong.
They patted him on the back and said they were sorry, asked him what it was like, told him it would get better.
What was it? What was supposed to get better? Not Dean. He never would. Not the constant memory of that day.
Castiel was doubtful of all their hopes.
. . . . .
Castiel lived his life. He owed that to Dean, someone who'd loved life so much, who lived every moment. Sometimes Castiel wondered if somehow, subconsciously, Dean had known that his life would be short, that it all would be ripped away in an instant. He wondered if that was why he was always so capable of having fun, of seizing the day.
Castiel tried to be that way too, in Dean's honor.
He did his best. He survived. He laughed and loved and met new people, made love to people who truly cared for him, who he cared for in return, only slightly less than he knew he'd been capable of before. He even vowed to spend his life with someone. And he didn't regret that.
Because as much as this man loved Castiel, he understood him even better. He knew Castiel perfectly enough to understand that embedded in the deepest, darkest parts of the man, was shrapnel from that day. And it wasn't himself he would find buried in Castiel's bleeding heart, but Dean. And he was ok with that. He understood.
And Castiel was endlessly thankful.
He loved Dean. Today. Yesterday. Forever. He loved him alive, he loved him dead.
. . . . .
It was many years before Castiel could think of Dean and not see him lying there, dead. Years, before he could smile about him, without it turning his stomach.
But when he got to that place, it started to get better. He started to have hope after all.
He put together a collection of pictures of Dean. He cried a lot while he was doing it, smashed a brand new picture frame against the wall once. But he was able to get through it. And when the collection was done and arranged, he hung it up on the living room wall in his little house.
His husband came home to find Castiel standing in front of the newly arranged memorial, staring, lost. He set down his briefcase and came up behind Castiel, wrapping his arms around him gently. He examined the pictures carefully - a freckled, homegrown kind of boy, with an honest smile and orange freckles and mischievous green eyes. The collection was a montage of his life. Snapshots of a youth that tragically didn't lead anywhere.
He got a feeling when he saw him, Dean, like he knew him. Like in a way, he mourned for him too.
"It's nice," he told Castiel.
Castiel gave him that familiar expression that said I'm sorry I drag you through this, not being able to let him go.
He forgave him, always. "He looks fun," he commented with an honest smile. His eyes focused on a picture of Dean, close-up, crouching and holding a super-soaker, his poor unsuspecting brother partially seen in the distance, his back to Dean.
Cas laughed a little at the image.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath and walked away from Dean, holding his husband's hand tightly in his own.
. . . . .
People seemed to want to find great significance in what was done to them, the victims of that day, as though it was supposed to mean something. And in the early days it had made Castiel angry. But he understood now, that this was just humanity's way. We have to try put it all together, to know there was a reason. Without the reason, the power of our grief is overwhelming.
So much so, that when someone is there one minute, and gone the next, we simply cannot comprehend.
But Castiel didn't let it drive him crazy, he didn't let it break him. He had lived through it. He had thought about it long enough to know, that sometimes there was just no way to make sense of it.
Just like no snapshot of Dean, no single memory or even a conglomeration of them, could paint Dean the way he truly was.
Castiel often found himself wearing worn flannel shirts, absently playing with a loose thread around the pocket. He couldn't quite remember when he'd started doing that. His husband teased him for it regularly, and Castiel simply smiled at the affection in the teasing and went back to toying with the thread. Something in the act calmed him. It was a nervous habit, he guessed.
After all, he was a worrier.