The sherbet glow of setting sunlight bled in, crawling across the plains and mountains of bedspread and up to kiss his cheek with its warmth. Castiel Novak felt himself slowly rouse from a drug-induced sleep, his movements sluggish, and his body feeling as though it carried the weight of the world upon it. The light danced across his dark lashes, and he turned his head away from the brightness with an attempted groan, only to be rewarded with a vicious throbbing ache at his throat that trapped his breath in his lungs. Eyes still closed, he lifted his hand, rough palm sliding up across the thin blankets pulled up to his chest, before finally landing upon a great medley of chaos at his neck.
Bandages. Lots of them. Wrapped round and round and round, as if they were the only things keeping his head from lopping right off his shoulders. There were tubes as well. Two of them, embedded deep inside him, their long bodies leading off the bed somewhere, probably hooked up to whatever was keeping him alive at the moment. He could hear beeping at his side, some slow, some quick, which meant he was connected to even more ghastly machines. Castiel had a feeling he currently resembled some great science experiment gone horribly awry.
The pain wasn't so bad if he didn't try and make a sound. Just a dull ache each time he breathed in, barely noticeable with the way his mind was fogged up. Faintly, he could make out the sound of many voices. Unfamiliar and distant; some shouting, some speaking calmly, others laughing, intertwined with a chorus of squeaking sneakers on linoleum flooring and rickety wheels rolling by.
Nose wrinkling, Castiel slowly opened his eyes, and was greeted with the sleep-hazed sight of a small hospital room. Much like everything else in a hospital, it was clean and white, scenting sterile and fresh. Not too hot, nor too cool. He had a small window to his left, overlooking the city skyline, and a television mounted on the wall at the end of his bed. He was bundled up to his chest in soft linens and, upon further inspection, realized that he was completely naked beneath them, save for a pale blue hospital gown. Castiel pressed his chapped lips into a thin line, vaguely wondering of the state of the tan trench coat he'd been wearing this morning when…
That's when it hit him.
With enough force to make him gasp softly, memories invaded his mind's eye like a projector had been suddenly flicked on inside his skull. It'd happened fast, too fast. He'd only been out for a good fifteen minutes when it happened, and in the middle of the day, no less. Perhaps it was in his good fortune in such a case. Castiel had a feeling that if this had occurred late at night, he would have bled out on the sidewalk before anyone found him.
He'd never been mugged before. But, there was a first for everything he supposed. He never got a glimpse of the scoundrel's face when the edge of a blade had been put to his throat from behind. Judging from the voice that growled in his ear, demanding his wallet, the male could not have been much older than him. He had reeked of alcohol and sweat, and he was jittery, the blade nicking Castiel's neck as the hand that held it trembled. Either the man had been nervous, or severely hopped up on whatever he'd injected himself with to give him the courage to commit such a crime in broad daylight.
Castiel had been as calm as possible, reaching into the pocket of his trench to fetch his wallet. He didn't have much. He had just gone to the store to fetch a few things, so most of his cash had been spent. When the wallet had been snatched away, a voice had called out from a distance, perhaps a Good Samaritan attempting to stop the crime-in-progress, but it had been a foolish move. In his haste to escape, the man had sliced the blade clean across Castiel's throat. An accident, no doubt, but that didn't make Castiel feel any better. He clearly recalled the sickening warmth of his own blood pouring down the front of him, the manner in which the world had spun and tilted over when Castiel hit the ground in a great heap. There was no pain, really. After that, everything else had been fuzzy.
Except one thing. Castiel must have drifted in and out of consciousness in the time it took to get from the sidewalk to the hospital, because the next thing he recalled was a young male doctor talking to him, asking him questions. His voice had seemed so distant, as though calling to him from a long tunnel, though he'd only been inches away. Castiel could barely recall what he looked like, except his eyes. Bright, achingly-beautiful eyes, olive green and framed in incredibly long lashes. There had been a kindness in them, a strength, a determination. And, in that, even though blood was rushing out of his body with every passing second, Castiel had felt safe.
Remarkable, he thought, to be lying here, alive and only in slight pain after everything he had been through. Perhaps he had that doctor to thank for that.
The creak of a door opening alerted him, and Castiel turned his head just enough to catch sight of a young woman in teal scrubs entering the room. She moved quietly, carrying a fresh IV bag and a clipboard, her bob of dark hair bouncing along as she walked across the room to his side. A bright smile lit up her face when they locked eyes.
"You're awake," She walked around the bed. "Feeling better I hope?"
Castiel could only nod, since answering verbally was out of the question.
"Good. That's the pain meds doing their job."
He watched with curious eyes as she went about her business, checking his vitals and scribbling down notes onto the clipboard. She switched him to a fresh IV bag, and drew the curtains a little more, blocking away the harsh light from the setting sun and plunging the room into a cozy warm glow.
"My name is Tessa, by the way." She stated with a smile. "I'll be your nurse for the time you're here, and if you need anything at all, just press this." She gestured to a small pad and button near his bed. "I'll drop everything and come running. Okay?"
Castiel enjoyed the warmth in her bright brown eyes, the gentleness to her voice. He nodded in understanding.
"Now, you didn't have any identification with you when you were admitted, so we were unable to contact any family you may have." She chuckled, albeit softly, and handed him her clipboard and pen. "We don't even know your name, to be honest. So, any information you can give us, just scribble it down for me."
Castiel took up the pen and made quick work of writing down his full name and birthday, and as he was about to give her his contact information, the thought of his sister made his heart clench. God, how worried she must be right now. He was only supposed to be out for fifteen minutes. It had been hours. She was probably yanking her hair out with panic.
He hadn't even brought his cell phone with him.
He was going to get a mighty scolding when she finds out.
When he wrote down her name and number, Tessa gathered up the clipboard again, and read over his messy handwriting. "We'll get to contacting your sister right away, Mr. Novak. In the meantime, Dr. Winchester is going to come in and explain everything that happened during your surgery, just so you aren't left in the dark about anything."
Castiel's mouth went a little dry.
Dr. Winchester… Yes, he remembered that name from earlier. The doctor with the stunning eyes had called himself that.
He watched Tessa leave, and settled himself back against the plush pillow. Glancing over, he noticed a few dials on the side of his bed, with arrows pointing either upward or downward. Castiel brushed callous-tipped fingers over them, feeling the coolness of the smooth plastic, before pressing down on the upward arrow. The top third of the bed began to rise with a steady groan, and Castiel sighed in relief as he was able to properly sit up. Just as he released the button, there was a soft rap on the door, before it swung open with a gentle squeak.
Clad in a billowing white coat with a smile as dazzling as the stars, Dr. Winchester strode inside the room, and Castiel was struck speechless.
Well, had he been able to speak, that is.
He was carrying something under the crook of his arm. Something flat, and white; a folder perhaps? Castiel watched him as he came closer, watched the confidence in the way he carried himself, all broad shoulders and swayed walk. He watched the way the stethoscope draped across the back of his neck swayed to and fro, and how the natural light from the setting sun casted harsh shadows across ridiculously beautiful features.
"Alright, how are we feelin' tonight?" Dr. Winchester asked as he reached his bedside. His voice was deep, rough like a growl, but oddly soothing. "Think you can rate the pain level for me? One to ten."
Castiel lifted up four fingers in response.
"Not bad at all." Dr. Winchester extended a hand in greeting. "I'm Dr. Dean Winchester, the Head of the Trauma Department here at Wayward Saints. I performed surgery on you this afternoon. Do you remember me?"
Castiel nodded, joining their hands in a firm clasp. Dr. Winchester's palms were slightly larger than his, broad and warm to the touch. Incredibly soft, but Castiel imagined it had to do with all the hand washing surgeons did.
"Now, before I get started on giving you a run-through on the events of this afternoon, I have a little gift for you." Dr. Winchester reached under his arm, and pulled out the flat white folder, which Castiel now realized was actually a handheld whiteboard. He fished for the marker in his coat pocket, and handed them both over. "You won't be able to speak for a good week or two if we're lucky, so if you have any questions, any concerns, you just write them down. Okay?"
Castiel nodded once, and watched as Dr. Winchester dragged over one of the chairs near the wall, the legs scraping loudly against the linoleum. He planted himself comfortably into it, and leaned forward with his elbows rested on his knees.
"My nurse said we finally know your name now, too." He grinned. "Castle Novak, is it?"
Castiel wrinkled his nose with a frown and shook his head.
There was a sharp pop as Castiel uncapped the marker and scribbled his name down on the whiteboard, the tip squeaking loudly against the smooth surface. He made sure to write it in all capitals, and underlined the "I", just to be clear. He turned the board over.
Dr. Winchester narrowed those eyes of his as he read. "Castiel?"
Castiel nodded hard.
"You have terrible handwriting, Castiel." Dr. Winchester smiled. "May want to work on that, unless you're planning to get into my field. Doctor's are usually the only ones that can get away with having illegible chicken scratch."
A laugh attempted to escape Castiel's throat, but what he received was a sharp jab of pain. He lifted his hand and rubbed at the bandages, wincing with a grimace.
"Pain?" Suddenly, those soft hands were over his, gently pushing it aside and tilting his head back ever so slightly. "Let me see."
Castiel stiffened, the sudden realization of how close Dr. Winchester was robbing him of breath. He felt soft thumbs brush across the layers of gauze, a gentle tug and adjustment of the tubing running out of his throat. He could hear Dr. Winchester's steady, even breaths, could lift his gaze and count each fleck of gold in those green eyes, examine the galaxies of freckles on that soft looking skin. He decided not to swallow down his nerves, for fear of another painful jolt, and wet his chapped lips instead.
Dr. Winchester's hands stilled, and all at once, their eyes met. The gaze was soft, questioning, but lasted only a moment before the other man quickly drew himself away. Castiel turned his attention to the window and scratched at the back of his neck, cursing his pale complexion when he felt the kiss of heat bloom on his cheeks.
"I'll, uh…" He heard Dr. Winchester stammer. "I'll get Tessa to up your dose a bit, just so you're more comfortable. All right?"
Castiel only nodded, and just when Dr. Winchester opened his mouth to say something else, the door to the hospital room flew open.
The familiar half-shriek of his older sister filled the silence, and she hurled herself inside, rushing to his bedside and taking one of his hands in both of hers. She looked an absolute wreck. Her blonde hair was half up in a messy bun, tears danced in her wide eyes, and her clothes were mismatched and practically thrown on without so much as a thought. She must have picked up whatever she could reach and rushed to the hospital as fast as humanly possible. She was trembling, absolutely trembling, and Castiel felt terrible for having caused her such worry.
"Oh God, look at you." She lifted one delicate hand and just barely brushed her fingertips over the gauze on his neck. "I knew I should have been the one to go out to the store this morning. They were just chocolate chips for Gods sake. I should have gone."
Castiel shook his head. No, how could he ever allow her to blame herself? His sweet, strong, protective big sister.
"Are you okay?" She asked, brushing his unkempt dark hair back.
He offered her a reassuring smile, and nodded.
They both looked up at the sound of Dr. Winchester's voice, and the other man was staring at Castiel's sister like she had just sprouted a second head.
Rachel stared back. "…Dean?"
Castiel could only blink, his gaze flicking back and forth between them.
"What are you doing here?" Rachel asked softly, straightening her posture like the proud woman she was, though one of her hands remained clasped with Castiel's.
Dr. Winchester quirked a brow. "I work here."
"You know what I meant." She bit out.
"I'm your brother's doctor." Dr. Winchester frowned. "I performed surgery on him this afternoon when he as brought in. I was actually just about to give him a walkthrough of all that happened, if you'd care to stay and listen. It'd be good if you knew everything he'll need in order to recover properly."
Castiel's jaw worked but, of course, no sound escaped. He wanted to cut in, ask how on earth Rachel and Dr. Winchester could possibly know each other. But, as he felt the weight of Rachel's body dip the mattress when she sat next to him, her cheeks stained in tears and her grip tight on his hand, he thought best to save such miniscule questions for later.
"After I'm done speaking with you, a couple police officers are going to want to come in and have a word with Mr. Novak about what occurred this afternoon." Dean stated, those green eyes finding Castiel's. "They shouldn't be long. I've informed them already how you need your rest. They'll only ask a few questions, maybe get you to sign a statement, and then leave. That alright with you?"
Castiel nodded, though he could already feel whatever energy he'd woken up with already begin to seep from his body. He leaned himself further against the comfort of the pillow behind his head.
"Now, if you have any questions for me as I walk you through the surgery, just scribble them down and I'll answer them as best as I can." Dr. Winchester's full, too-soft looking lips pulled back into a smile, and he winked. "And try and keep it legible."
Castiel found himself smiling back, the warmth returning to his cheeks.
There was something incredibly rare about this man, and for the life of him, Castiel couldn't figure out what it was.
"Black coffee, three sugars. Am I right?"
Weary hazel eyes lifted from the stack of papers scattered across the main desk in the Mary Winchester Medical Clinic, and fell upon the fresh cup of steaming coffee Gabriel suddenly placed there. Dark brows quirked, and then Gabriel could've sworn he saw every ounce of exhaustion vanish from that handsome young face, especially when those eyes rose to meet his own.
"Well?" He asked again, resting his hip on the side of the desk. He had his motorcycle helmet tucked under his arm.
Sam Winchester stared dumbstruck at him for a moment, and then spluttered over his words. "U-um…" He lifted a hand, and ended up knocking a medical file onto the floor. "Crap." He murmured, reaching down to scoop it back up. Gabriel grinned all the while. "Sorry. I mean, uh… y-yeah… Yeah. Thank you."
"You're welcome." The Head of Cardiology swept his caramel hair back away from his face and glanced over at the clock. It ticked close to three in the morning. "Thought you might need it for the night ahead." He tapped at the stack of papers in front of Sam. "Getting your reports done?"
"Yes, sir." Sam said as he sipped gingerly from his coffee, mindful of its heat.
The young intern placed the cup carefully back on the desk, away from where his long gangly limbs could send it flying, and gathered up the stack of reports. "After I file these, I have a break for a couple hours while Andy covers my shift here. I'll find a room to sleep in, and then we switch at five."
"What've you done so far?" Gabriel asked, plucking a caramel from the pocket of his leather biking jacket and unwrapping it. He popped it into his mouth and chewed slowly, savouring the way the sticky sweet candy moulded and clung to his molars.
Sam sat up straighter. "I've treated two rashes, mended three fractures on a couple teenage boys who had a skateboarding accident, applied countless stitches to an array of patients…"
"Enjoying yourself?" Gabriel cut in.
The weariness returned to the boy's features. "It's… exhausting."
"Ah well…" Gabriel tapped on the lid of the coffee cup. "Thus why I brought you this. Trust me when I say that coffee is an intern's best friend, especially on the 48 Hour Rush. You're gonna be dragging yourself around these halls for many nights, kiddo. Try and squeeze in as much sleep as you can." He smiled. "I used to take naps in the supply closet when I started out here."
"Seriously?" Sam gaped.
"Yup." Gabriel grinned proudly. "You do what you can here to succeed. Though, I wouldn't recommend sleeping in closets for you. Considering your size, I doubt you'd hide very well."
Sam's eyes flickered away, almost bashfully, and God damn him, Gabriel couldn't help but find it sickeningly adorable.
"You heading home?" Sam asked softly, gesturing to Gabriel's helmet.
The Cardiologists jaw cocked softly, and he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He hadn't been home in a while. Though, home isn't really what he'd call his penthouse loft in the city. "Yeah. Clocking out late tonight. I have the day off tomorrow."
Now, it may have just been his overworked mind, but Gabriel could've sworn Sam's face just fell. "So… I won't see you tomorrow?"
Gabriel smirked devilishly, his brows lifting. "Do you want to see me tomorrow?"
"N-no! No! I-I mean… well, yes, I do, b-but… not like… No, that's not what I meant." Sam covered his face with those enormous hands of his. "Crap."
"Jeez, I fluster the fuck out of you, don't I?" Gabriel reached across the desk, and gently uncovered the young intern's face. "You can relax around me, you know. I won't bite."
Sam visibly swallowed. "I don't want to piss you off anymore than I already have."
"Piss me off?" Gabriel frowned with a shake of his head. "You haven't pissed me off."
"I called you an asshat…" Sam said shamefully, sipping at his coffee once more.
"That?" Gabriel snorted, flicking his hand dismissively. He took a step back from the desk, and switched his helmet to his other arm. "Puhlease, kiddo. I've been called worse."
"So, you aren't upset?"
"I've no reason to be." Gabriel smiled, and this time is was genuine. "You're a good kid. You got ticked off and lashed out. It's what we all do. All that matters to me is that you have a whackload of potential, and I know you're going to do well here. Just keep your head on straight, and your passion in your work. Don't let anyone bring you down."
"Yes, Dr. Wesson." Sam's eyes swam with determination. Determination to excel, to defy odds and be the best he could possibly be.
Reminded Gabriel a lot of himself, come to think of it.
"I'll leave you to your work." Gabriel nodded once. "Get some rest, and have a good night, Winchester."
"You too, sir."
Gabriel left the quietude of the clinic and took the shortcut out of the ambulance bay doors, the cool kiss of night air hitting his cheeks as he stepped outside. All around him, the city lights shone from within towering skyscrapers and buildings, their forms silhouetted against the blue velvet night sky.
He made his way over to his motorcycle sitting lone in its space without the company of Dean's precious Impala next to it, his boots scuffing against the asphalt. His keys jingled as he took them out, and his heart sat heavy in his chest. Heavy with the thought of having to return back to his loft, to the walls devoid of family photos, the rooms lacking the echo of laughter and chatter; a place that didn't even creak with footsteps in the long hours of the night.
Sometimes he couldn't handle going back there, to the silence, the emptiness, after the chaos and company of the hospital halls. It was maddening, almost deafening, how Goddamn quiet it was. When he could, he'd camp out in his office, or snag a place in the on-call rooms or a motel down the road. But with the interns doing their 48 Hour Rush, those beds belonged to them.
He never regretted the decision that he made, leaving his family. If he hadn't, God knows where he would have ended up. Given their track record: dead, or worse. He had no shame in choosing his career over them; they had chosen themselves, their own problems, their own selfishness, over his well-being. It was only fair.
If loneliness was his only punishment for stepping up, and taking control of his life…
So be it.