Title: Sew Myself Shut
Disclaimer: The shows or characters ain't mine, ok?
Characters: Dean, Castiel (GEN)
Genre: hurt/comfort, angst, general
Word Count: 3,114
Summary: They're on the road to 2014. Dean needs stitches and Castiel's the one to do it. There's whump and angst and some touching, encouraging moment and all that good stuff.
A/N: Created for LJ hoodie_time's .challenge 6, for a prompt that asked for: "Dean has a very large wound that needs to be stitched. All he's got are a suture kit and a fallen/human Castiel who's never done this before. No pain medicine, no booze, no hospital. It sucks really bad."
A/N ii: Feedback is greatly appreciated. Enjoy!
It is the fourth unsuccessful swipe that makes Dean snatch the motel key from Castiel's fumbling fingers. Gingerly still holding onto his injury with his right hand, he attempts to slide the key down with his non-dominant hand.
Click. Dean always did consider himself to be ambidextrous. He chuckles lightly and regrets it instantaneously as pain shoots out in all different directions throughout his body.
He presses the key back into Castiel's palm while he, still with his left hand, awkwardly turns the doorknob clockwise. Castiel turns the key over in his palm, examining every aspect of it with curiosity.
"Y'know, we're going to have to teach you how to work those things. I mean, you're one of us common folks now, right? Homoerectus or whatever," Dean says, as he slowly tries peeling off his jacket, moaning quietly against the throbbing pain. Dean exhales, an attempt to expel the hurt.
Castiel frowns. "I believe the correct term is Homosapien. And, unfortunately, I'm not quite certain exactly what I can be considered currently. As far as I'm aware, I'm simply a being … an aimless and impotent … being."
Lowering his eyes, Castiel is seemingly fascinated with the motel key once more, but Dean can spot the melancholy that has risen to the surface, shallow pools forming in blue eyes.
"Well," Dean starts, "Homosapien or not, I've seen you dozing off these past few days. So if you're gonna hang around, you'll find that these things called beds are probably your best accommodations for sleep."
The place between his eyebrows wrinkles and Castiel probes: "Is that how you keep the thoughts at bay, Dean? Your search for the Colt? The Armageddon that only worsens with each day? The worry that your brother, wherever he is, will assent and give his body to Lucifer? Does Morpheus wash you clean of your trials and tribulations throughout your slumber?"
Already laced with physical agony, a quiet grief begins to overcome Dean's features at the mention of Sam. Tears prick at his eyes and he starts to feel his nose running. Immediately, he uses his forearm to wipe under his nostrils, forgetting that that particular hand was holding together his insides at the moment. He gasps inwardly, hoping to control the pain and not having the pain control him.
The attempt fails. Instead, Dean resorts to his best defense.
"Hell no," Dean says loudly enough so Castiel raises his head. "Sleep doesn't do jack shit for that. But that's what booze is for."
A wry smile and a quick nod of his head and Castiel says, "I should get started then." He moves as if to exit the room, but Dean stops him.
"Uh, before you do that … I need your help."
"Help?" Castiel repeats, wondering what on earth he can possibly do to help Dean. Now, of all times, powerless and hopeless. "What would you have me do?"
"Well, I was thinking," Dean quips bitingly, "I'd take a bath in tub of disinfectant chemicals and then contort my wrists and fingers so I could sew up the bleeding hole in my backside while you just stand there and look pretty. Could you do that for me?"
Shoulders slumped, head tilted, and lips slightly parted, Castiel says, "Yes, I suppose I could do that." Then, his brow creased, he adds, "However, I don't understand how a pleasant appearance on my behalf would help in this healing process of yours."
"That was a joke."
"Oh." A thoughtful pause and cautiously, "I see."
Rolling his eyes, Dean tries to suppress a chuckle. "Look, I'm going to try and be as clear as possible here because it's important that you don't get distracted by my awesome sarcasm and pop-culture references. You see this gash in the middle of my back here, right?" Dean turns around and lifts his shirt as much as possible before the pain involved in the effort outweighs anything else. "We need to get that fixed up. And I need you to fix it up for me."
Castiel has no response at first, just looks at Dean with inquisitive eyes.
After a moment, he says, "Is that … what you said earlier, about disinfectants and sewing your flesh … that's true, isn't it?"
A beat. "Yeah," Dean replies. "Have you done this before?"
Castiel answers immediately this time, looking almost skittish. Worried, even. "No. No, I can't say that I have. It sounds rather … painful … on your part."
"It ain't no picnic in the park, that's for damn sure," Dean says, as he lays face down on the bed. He groans loudly and then exhales deeply. "Though I've never had a park picnic, so I guess I really can't compare."
It's too quiet suddenly. "Cas, you still here?"
"Yes." Dean hears a sigh followed by: "What do you need me to do?"
"Okay. First thing's first. In the bottom of my duffel bag, there's a suture kit, all right? It's a cushiony red case with a –"
"I found it," Castiel confirms.
Dean hears the sound of unzipping shortly followed by Castiel's voice. "Are you certain you want me to do this, Dean? I've never fixed," he says, echoing the Dean's words, before continuing "someone before – not … not in this way."
"In case you haven't noticed, Cas, there's no one else that can do this right now. I'm not seeing another option here."
Almost woefully, Castiel murmurs, "Of course."
"All right," Dean says, voice steady and clear. "There's a pair of scissors in that kit. You're gonna get them out and cut my shirt open."
A successive series of snips and tears is heard and Dean keeps going. "You're gonna push it to the sides so it doesn't get in – "
Dean tilts his head a little. "At least you're a quick study, huh, Cas?"
"Depends. What do you see?"
With that, Dean harshly plants his face into the mattress. "You're gonna hafta give me more than that, Cas. All right. First – is there anything surrounding the cut that might contaminate it? Soil? Fabric from my clothes? Anything?"
It's silent for a moment and Dean can imagine Cas's squinted eyes surveying his skin, back and forth like a pair of spheres on those toys that are in offices – the ones with the five orbs but only the end two would move. (Dammit, Dean thinks, mouth screwing itself up into a frown [there and gone in a flash]. Sam would have known the name of that thing. Sammy always knew.)
"That doesn't appear to be the case," Castiel discloses.
"Good. That's good. Means less cleaning. Now. How's the bleeding?"
"Minimal, if any at all," Castiel says, less hesitantly this time. He clears his throat. "The blood is coagulating ... I think."
"I think you're right. I'm in a helluva alotta pain, but it doesn't feel like I'm oozing blood or anything. Okay. So … describe the cut to me. Length, depth, et cetera."
"Do I require a ruler or measuring device of some sort for this?"
With a small smile, Dean shakes his head. "Nah. Estimation."
"An estimation? My approximation is that this wound is two and seven-sixteenth inches long and one-half inch deep. Give or take a sixteenth of an inch, of course, due the lack measuring instruments. Alternatively, using the Metric system, I would say the wound is sixty-two millimeters long and fourteen millimeters deep. It should go without saying that this conversion, too, is an estimation considering the original measurement was also one."
"So you're basically telling me that it's not too deep, but it's pretty long?"
"Yes, I would agree with that synopsis."
Dean sighs. "Let's get this show on the road then. On the bathroom sink, there's a washcloth. Put some soap on it. We're gonna hafta –"
"Clean the wound," Castiel finishes.
Dean blinks in astonishment. "Yeah."
Castiel takes slow strides to the bathroom sink, but he goes and returns almost instantaneously.
"That was way too quick. Did you do what I told you to?"
"You said it yourself, Dean. I'm a quick study. Are you ready?"
"This is the easy part. I'm ready."
Dean feels a cool damp cloth pressed onto his wound and he winces. The cloth moves in circular motions, but the pressure is the same and Dean reacts with more than a wince.
"Damn it, Cas! Ease up! You're washing the exterior of a human being, not the exterior of a freaking car!"
Castiel clears his throat. "My apologies," he says, and suddenly Dean barely feels anything on his back at all.
Seconds later, Castiel announces that he's finished and Dean asks for the suture kit, extending his fingers above his head for access.
As Castiel hands over the kit, Dean feels his fingers are ice cold. Mentally, Dean thinks: That'll be fun. As if I'm not already getting chills with my body's damn clamminess.
Swiftly and almost automatically, Dean threads the needle. He places the end of the thread in his mouth and jerks his head backward so the thread is detached from the spool in one motion.
"Take this," Dean orders, holding the threaded needle above his head.
Castiel's frigid fingers brush over Dean's for only a second, but Dean can still feel timid fingers hovering above the spot from which Dean's hands just dropped.
"Come on, Cas. Don't wimp out on me now. I'm gonna give you directions how to do this, all right. Don't have a freak-out."
Sounding almost indignant, Castiel replies, "I assure you I have never been nor am I now in possession of a …," he pauses to enunciate, "freak-out."
"All right. Here goes nothing. I'm gonna just keep explaining. Stop me if you get lost. Sound good?"
"It sounds … adequate enough," says Castiel, still staring at the foreign needle clenched between his index finger and thumb.
"In the kit, there's something that looks like a scissor, but isn't. The needle driver. Grab that. Use it to pinch the needle. Now start about a quarter inch away from the wound and … well, dig in. Then push upward so the needle resurfaces on the other si – urgh, sonuva…!"
Castiel completes the first step in stitching quickly and forcefully, the needle in and out in less than a second.
Dean's face planted into the mattress, he shouts out, voice muffled, "A little finesse would be nice, please!"
"I'm sorry," Castiel utters, ruefully. A tentative pause. "Perhaps it would be best if I do not continue."
"No. You gotta keep goin'," Dean states without an ounce of uncertainty. "Sorry for yellin' at you. I'm acting like a wuss. You gotta finish the job, Cas. You hear me?"
Castiel clears his throat. "Yes. What is … our next move, as you say?"
"All right. Pull the suture until there's little left on the side you started with. Now loop the long suture twice around the needle driver. Then, open up the driver and grab the end of short suture. Pull in opposite directions until you see the suture close over the skin."
Shortly after Dean is done explaining, Castiel announces, "I've finished."
"Okay, good. Now do that a couple of more times to secure the knot won't come apart. Then all ya gotta do is grab the scissors and cut off the extra thread – just not too close to the knot."
Dean hears two quiet snips.
"Are we finished?"
"Heh, heh, heh. Unfortunately, we're not even close. You gotta close up the whole wound. So … for an inch and half long wound … you're probably gonna hafta do this nine more times."
Dean imagines a silent sigh from Castiel and says, "You're doin' good, Cas. You're doing good."
"Thank you … I suppose. I have never healed a man in this way. It is not my forté. I would much rather have imbibed copious amounts of alcohol by this point in time."
A wide grin fixes itself in Dean's mouth, but it is concealed from the light, so Dean adds: "You and me both. But c'est la vie … or whatever." Dean wrinkles his nose and redirects his thoughts to the task at hand. "Need me to go over the steps again?"
Immediately, Castiel responds a confident "No."
"Right, right. I forgot. Super angelic memory and all that. All right, then. Have at it."
Castiel keeps working and improves with each stitch he performs. Now, he's gentler. More vigilant. Takes his time. The way the world's going, Dean won't be at all dazed if Cas will become his personal surgeon. (Dean's sure civilians won't last long, even worse for those in the medical field, who will probably constantly be in contact with people who've caught the Croatoan virus. They'll be goners for sure. More abandoned hospitals to raid for supplies, Dean thinks, in the most ironic positive way.)
Honestly, though, Dean's just glad he can feel human (or supra-human, he guesses) touch again. It'd been too long since felt a reassuring hand rest against his skin, easing his worries, if only for a second, (it was a second Dean never took for granted).
"You are lucky," Castiel states, interrupting Dean's thoughts.
"That no major organs were hit," Castiel goes on to say, almost surprised that Dean questioned his initial statement. "You and I both know that matters could have taken a far more perilous turn."
"Yeah. I mean, the Croat could've infected me instead of tryin' to stab me in the back. Then, I'd hafta blow my own brains out. And, well, that would've been awkward." Dean's words are dripping with oversaturated sarcasm. He knows that, in this case, that only helped make his true feelings clear. Exactly what he wanted to prevent. There will be repercussions for this and they will suck.
"Is that what you would have wished for?"
With the question voiced into the air, Castiel pauses his work, gently placing the ice-cold needle driver at the far right of Dean's sweaty back. Dean whimpers softly, but the coldness of the metal is balanced by Castiel's now-warm hand still securely fixed on Dean's back.
The question lingers, but stillness soon takes over. There is no sound, no movement.
"A death wish? After everything those around you have sacrificed, you would betray them by surrendering so easily."
What was once a too-quiet room threatens to become one filled with fury. Irate, Dean barks, "It wouldn't be betraying 'em 'cause they're all dead. Six feet under, or trapped, sharing a body with the friggin' devil, or God knows what else. Point is they're gone. And they don't care anymore. So why the hell should I?"
A moment passes before Castiel lifts the needle driver from where he had set it. "This wound of yours," Castiel says, delicately massaging the clammy skin around the wound with his thumb. Dean presses his lips together tightly in anticipation for when Castiel's thumb slips into the wound.
It doesn't. Castiel just continues studying the area with his fingers, speaking simultaneously. "It may get infected. Isn't that how the human body functions? We can complete the procedure perfectly, but in a day's time, it may develop an infection that will eventually spread throughout your entire body where it would then shut down your organs, one at a time in a painful process that will have you begging for an end."
Derision makes its way into Dean's mouth before he can even think twice about his words. "Bio one-oh-one. You aced it, Cas. Kudos. Really."
"Nonetheless, if I'm not mistaken, human bodies are able to adapt fairly well to these procedures. We can finish these sutures and in a few weeks, the wound will have healed itself. We can then remove the sutures."
"Yeah," Dean scoffs. "We'll remove ugly little black marks of thread and get a big ugly red one instead. Scarring sucks."
"Of course," Castiel says with sudden realization, a twinge in his features. "Of course, there will a scar. A reminder of a time past when things were damaged, shattered, and lost on a daily basis. And I presume that it will hurt, from time to time, sometimes more than you can bear. But then you will have those days where you simply forget because you might be enjoying the air after a thunderstorm, brisk and fresh, or the warmth of the sun on your face and the coolness of an alcoholic beverage in your hand. Perhaps these days will come often and you may come to appreciate the beauty that my loving father –" Castiel redresses his statement, "my absent father put into this earth. Perhaps you will take comfort and pleasure in the fact that you are able to witness that beauty. Because you are alive. Because you fought to put back together such damaged and shattered things.
"Scars remain. But the human body…" Castiel lightly traces the knotted sutures with his index finger. "The human body moves forward despite it all. My father put such great thought into his creations. It never quite ceases to amaze me. How remarkable you all are."
Castiel shakes his head, briefly. "So, then … will you risk receiving an infection? Would you have me keep going with your sutures?"
Dean feels Castiel's fingertips rest against his skin.
He closes his eyes and he remembers. Remembers Cassie's playful fingers tugging on his ear and Lisa's hands clutching his in fear when he visited her so long ago, promising her a safe world for her and Ben. (He thinks about the security and the future he promised them all.)
Dean remembers Ellen's slap, her hard palm on his face because he hadn't kept in contact; Jo's small and twitching, but persistent, fingers applying gauze to a bullet wound. Remembers Bobby's bear hugs of relief, hands moving over him, making sure he wasn't a shapeshifter or a spirit, despite what all the tests said; Dad's proud squeezes on his shoulder, held there only for a few seconds, but feeling like an eternity to a six-year-old Dean who hit his first mark with a gun; Mom's grip around his four-year-old waist, pulling him close to her after he tries to jokingly escape bath time; Sammy's slippery hand in his as they crossed the street, always wanting to break free, but never daring to really let go of his big brother. (He thinks about the determination and the justice he promised them all.)
Dean presses his cheek into the mattress, fingers clinging at its thin cover to prepare himself for the pain that is to come.
"Yeah," Dean says to only person he's got left. (It's enough.) "Keep going."