"… highway to hell… I'm on the highway to hell… And I'm going down… all the way down…
I'm on the highway to hell."
Dean banged the final chord before opening his eyes and grinning at his 6 member audience. Ellen smirked at him from behind the bar while Jo and Carmen clapped with their usual gusto. Ash gave a two thumbs-up and winked at him from the pool table. The young couple on a date, who had been ambushed with tonight's special – AC/DC – continued to ignore him, just like they had the whole evening.
Dean sighed inwards, the cheerful grin never leaving his face, gently placed the battered guitar, worn from years of use, on his lap before wheeling himself down the short ramp, off the stage. Ellen had installed it as soon the doctor had pronounced him fit to go home.
"Hey honey," Carmen waddled over to him as soon as he was on the flat surface and gave him a quick kiss. "That was good."
Dean smiled, "You know… one of these days I'm actually gonna convince you to run away with me."
"I'm ready. Can your drive carry three people?" She asked indicating her very pregnant belly.
Dean laughed genuinely. "Ash won't mind?" he asked.
"Nah, man… Just take her. It's better than seeing you two flirting right before my eyes," Ash replied shielding his eyes in mock horror.
"Serves you right for stealing her from under my nose," Dean replied half-seriously as Carmen relieved him of his burden before waddling over to her husband to give him a kiss. The kiss turned into a full-blown make-out session that stopped sometime between Ash setting her down on the pool table and Jo whistling and cat-calling. The date-couple was staring at them in horror. Dean laughed.
"Hey Ellen," he moved to the bar. "One for the road?"
"You sure?" Ellen asked sceptically.
Dean gestured to his wheelchair. "How bad do you think it's gonna get?" he asked jokingly, hoping she couldn't catch the despair in his voice. He was an idiot.
She bent over the bar, making sure that Jo, Ash and Carmen were not looking – which thankfully they weren't – before lowering her voice to a whisper, and asked "Bad day?"
Dean dropped his act, letting his true emotions surface, and sighed wistfully. Ellen nodded and quickly poured a double bourbon. Dean gulped it down in one shot, letting the whiskey slowly burn down his throat and quietly thanked her before turning around, his trademark grin back in place.
Apart from Bobby, his boss at the garage, Ellen was the only he dared to be sad around. He kept even Sam out of the loop these days, because he knew exactly what his loving brother would do. He would come here, pack all of Dean's stuff in his car and take him back to California with him… which was exactly what Dean didn't want.
"Hey Jo!" he called. "Wanna walk me to the car?" Jo walked up to him and guided Dean towards the parking lot.
"How's ma baby?" Dean asked when they were well out of ear shot. Ever since he was stuck with this… thing… it was impossible for him to use his Impala. Bobby had fixed up some van for him – "easier to carry your wheelchair around," he'd said – but it wasn't his Baby.
"Well…" Jo stalled. "She misses you."
Dean smiled. If there was one person in the world who could understand how much the car meant to him, it would be Jo. That is why he had handed the keys to her. Sure, Sam had bitched about it for weeks… for weeks… but Dean was resolute. On his first tour, he'd made the mistake of giving her to Sam… and he'd totally douched her up. Ipod jack! Kesha! Dean was pretty sure his Baby had cried blood. At least he didn't have to worry about that with Jo. Besides, he could see her whenever he wanted… even have Jo take him out on drives if the weather was good enough.
"Tell her I miss her too," Dean replied.
"I will" and Dean knew she actually would. This was one of the few quirks they shared… they actually talked to their cars. That and their love for REO Speedwagon… though Jo was the only one who knew about that… and of course, he'd threatened to use his ninja skills on her if she told anyone.
Jo waited patiently until Dean had safely manoeuvred himself in the driver's seat then folded the wheelchair behind him. "You don't have to do that. I can do it myself, you know," Dean protested but… "Not when I'm around, you can't," Jo cut in matter-of-factly. Dean smiled, "All right, ma'am." He tipped his invisible hat to her and started the engine. "See ya around, Jo."
It was just outside the parking lot that he turned on the radio and Traffic's Dear Mr. Fantasy filledthecar. Well, that's just peachy, hethought. Even the Angels are conspiring against me.
The ride home lasted about 10 minutes. Dean parked in his garage and got his wheelchair out. It had taken lots and lots of practice and even more patience, especially on his therapist's part, before he could manage do it on his own.
The phone rang as soon as he shut the door behind him. "Hey Sam," he said without even looking at the id. Apart from Bobby and people at the Roadhouse, Sam and Jess were the only ones who had this number.
"Uncle Dean, don't like rabbit food. I want pie," a little voice asserted. Dean huffed a laugh.
"Hey babygirl! Give your mum the phone, will you? I'll set her right." The phone was handed over to Jessica. Dean could hear his niece smirking. "What is it I hear about you feeding my babygirl rabbit food?" he chided, knowing the phone was on speaker and his niece was listening in.
"I am sorry, Dean…" Jessica replied, knowing the script by heart. "It won't happen again."
"Okay. Now give it to my babygirl," he ordered and the phone was handed back to his niece. "Okay sweetheart… listen… mommy is probably tired so why don't finish your rabbit food and I'll make sure she gets pie for you tomorrow. Okay?"
Deanna mumbled something incoherent and handed the phone back to her mother. "Thanks Dean," Jess sighed. "I don't understand how you are the only one she'll listen to?"
"You named her after me," Dean grinned. "What did you expect?"
Jess sighed smilingly. The next 30 minutes were spent in small talk with minor interruptions like "I hate carrots… carrots are good for you… eat your broccoli… broccoli is blah… if you eat you veggies you'll grow big and strong like Uncle Dean… Uncle Dean has a chair with wheels. I want a chair with wheels…" among other things.
"I'm done Uncle Dean," Deanna replied triumphantly as Dean heard Jess clean away the dishes. "Okay Dean," Jess was back for the last time. "I'm taking her for a bath. We'll call as soon as we're done, so you can put her to bed." The call clicked signalling the end of the conversation.
By the time Jess called again, Dean too had prepped for the night. He was sitting on his bed, a torn copy of Slaughterhouse 5 on his lap and his guitar – this one a welcome home gift from Sam and Jess after his first tour – by his side. The phone rang and Dean picked it up on the first ring.
"We're all set," Jess said before putting the phone on speaker. Dean turned on his speaker, set the phone beside him and picked up the guitar and started playing Zeppelin's The Ocean. He finished with "…Now I'm singing all my songs to the girl who won my heart… She is only three years old and it's a real fine way to start."
He heard his niece sigh sleepily – another reason he loved her… awesome taste in music – and whisper "good night uncle Dean". "G'night sweetheart," he replied. Then Jess came back on "Good night Dean", "G'night Jess," he replied before clicking the call shut. He didn't believe in goodbyes.
He looked at the clock on his mantle. It was 9:30 PM. He spent the next 3 hours re-reading his favourite book before dimming the lights and drifting off to a fitful sleep.
Dean shouted into the phone and saw the rookie, Max, jump, hitting his head on the bonnet of the Dodge he was working on. "Sorry," Dean mouthed before continuing with his conversation.
"Sam, how many times do I have to tell you, I am fine?" He didn't know if it was a good thing or bad that he could actually feel Sam bitch-facing at the phone.
"You are in a wheelchair, Dean. You're not fine," Samreplied, oh so tactfully.
"Well then… I'm as fine as a man in a wheelchair can be," Dean retorted. This conversation was getting on his nerves. "Look Sam," he continued. "I get it, okay? I get that you are worried about me. But I can take care of myself. I'm a big boy." He hoped this would be enough to get his brother to lay off of him.
"Fine," Sam replied, before half-assedly covering the mouth and saying "you ask him."
Dean waited patiently for Jess to come on the line and start the conversation over, instead… "Uncle Dean, when are you coming?"
Low blow, Sam, Dean thought, before saying "Hey babe, I have some work problems. I'll be there as soon as I can. Okay?"
"Okay," Deanna replied. "Come soon."
"And tell your dad that he is a word you are too young to know for doing this." He waited patiently for her to convey the message to her dad. It was amazing how well his almost four year old niece parroted his messages.
He heard a soft guffaw before Sam was back on the line with, "Jerk! You are corrupting my daughter."
"It's your fault, bitch. You handed her the phone," Dean replied.
"So you're coming, right?" Sam asked again… his childlike enthusiasm back.
Dean sighed. It had been almost a year since he had met his only family… the last time being Christmas, when they had visited him. Now, with Deanna and Jess' schools and Sam's odd office hours it was practically impossible for them to travel all the way out to Sioux Falls. So, they wanted Dean to come visit them. Dean hated the idea of travelling alone, especially given his special dislike for airplanes, but it had been too long since he'd seen his niece. Phone calls and Skype can only do so much, nothing beats the real deal. "Okay," he replied. "But I'm not promising anything."
"That's awesome!" Sam glee'd. "I also have a vacation due… maybe we can go on road trip. You used to love those, remember…"
'Used' being the keyword, Dean thought. Though he still held road trips in extremely high regard, the prospect of being stuck in a vehicle that was not Impala for more than 30 minutes and the hardships of being "that guy in a wheelchair" was not something he looked forward to. Not to mention why anyone would want to go on road trips with him anymore was beyond his understanding. He was slow and crabby and screamed himself awake every night. He wasn't exactly an ideal road-trip material. But he kept it all to himself and listened to Sam excitedly plan a family vacation.
"Hey Max," Dean called on his way out.
Max, a really twitchy kid with history of abuse as long as Dean's leg, looked up from his usual spot on the floor. For some reason, he always sat in the corner behind Bobby's old truck for lunch. Dean's heart went out to the kid. "Ye…yeah?" he stammered.
"Tell Bobby, I'm going to Ellen's."
"Ok…kay," Max stammered.
Dean turned and wheeled himself out the door. "You're not gonna take the car?" Max asked behind him. Dean stopped. "The weather's too nice. I'd rather walk." He mentally cringed as soon as the words escaped his mouth. He knew the guy was looking at his back in sympathy. It was a look he hated. He took a deep breath and wheeled himself down the ramp. Like Ellen, Bobby too had made sure all the exits of his garage were wheelchair friendly.
Dean stepped onto the footpath and wheeled himself in direction of the Roadhouse. The Roadhouse was only two blocks away. Normally, Dean would have taken the car, but today he was in no condition to drive. The nightmare last night had been one of the worst ones. He could practically smell the rotting flesh and blood, and those white white eyes staring at him in evil glee. He had no intention of getting up, let alone going to work, but he still had appearances to keep.
"It not funny," Sam would say. But it was. It was damn funny. How ironic that Dean Winchester, the fighter, the solider, the eternal jock, the one who had played football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, hiked and drove and enjoyed an active extremely social life and generally took his legs for granted more than any other man he'd met, was stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. But he didn't complain. He had people who loved him, who worried about him – even if that made him uncomfortable – who really cared for him and he wasn't so selfish that he couldn't see how much his being depressed all the time hurt them.
So he put up appearances. Went to work, went to the bar, flirted with girls and let guys buy him drinks, sang for Deanna, talked to Sam and Jess and gave them parenting advice… mostly because he'd practically raised that giant of his brother and knew him better than anyone in the world and by extension his daughter too. But sometimes, he just couldn't do it anymore. Sometimes, he wanted nothing more than to strap into his van and drive off the pier. But he kept fighting. For Sam and Jess and Deanna and all the people who loved him. And today was one of those days.
He was just outside the Roadhouse when he heard it. A low voice… rough and gravelly… accompanied by the guitar.
"Tell everybody I'm on my way… new friends and places to see. With blue skies ahead, yes I'm onway… there's nowhere else that I'd rather be…"
Dean stopped short. He knew the voice… some nights it was the only thing that got him through all his nightmares… a safe anchor that gave him the strength to fight...a "Home".
Somewhere in Iraq, almost 5 years ago
Dean slowly moved his head to the side and cracked his eye open. The dark and the blood made it impossible to see but he could sense that he was still on the rack and he was alone. He couldn't believe that that motherfucker Alistair had left him alone mid-torture. Maybe it was worse than he thought. Maybe he was just hallucinating and the searing pain would soon jolt him back to reality.
Major Dean "Blood Hound" Winchester, US Special Forces, had been on Alistair's track for the better part of the War. Alistair McAllister, aka Ali Sayed Hussain… aka Alfred Edwards… aka Albert Reynolds, was a sadist mercenary who called himself a "Freelance Artist specializing in persuasion and information extraction". He and his partner, known only as 'Yellow Eyes', had been active for more than 30 years, but their artwork on American soldiers in Iraq was what had led Dean on their trail. He was this close to closing in on them when Bela Talbot, one of his best assets and someone he trusted with his life, had betrayed him and handed his team to Alistair on a plate. A part of Dean was grateful that everyone else, including Bela, was dead… at least they weren't suffering anymore.
But Dean was kept alive because Alistair claimed Dean was his masterpiece. So every morning he got down to work carving and slicing until Dean passed out… then waited until he was awake before starting over. Meanwhile 'Yellow Eyes' tended to his wounds and gave him blood. Maybe he had some misguided sense of righteousness… maybe it was a part of torture Dean didn't know. Sometimes they gave him food… sometimes they didn't… but the blood was always there.
Dean had no idea how long he was in the captivity… could be weeks, could be years. And the only time they left him alone was at night, when he was trussed in his cell, covered in his own filth. That is how Dean knew this wasn't real. But he didn't care... not anymore. He'd finally lost his will to fight… to live. He hadn't been able to feel his legs for the past few days. He'd even stopped fighting the blood. He was just waiting for the day the Alistair got bored of him and allowed him to die.
Just then he saw a thin ray of light. Thisisit, his half-dead brain told him. Alistair had won… the Angels had lost. He waited for the torture to commence when… "Major Dean Winchester?" the voice was low, soothing… calm. A sense of peace pervaded him. He nodded slightly. He was already dead, what had he to lose?
A sharp intake, then searing pain shot through his body as something held his shoulder down and cut his wrist straps. "I am Lieutenant James Novak, United States Marines. We've come to take you home."
"Home…" Dean repeated as the hands moved down his torso. "My legs," he remembered. "I can't feel my legs." Those were his last words before he succumbed to exhaustion.
Dean couldn't believe his ears. There was no way this was the same guy. He was too forgone with pain… of course, he couldn't remember what the man had sounded like… but this is what he'd imagined it to be.
The song finished and the audience clapped heartily. The man must have been encouraged, because Dean heard him clear his throat and start again.
"Heart don't fail me now… courage don't desert me… don't turn back now that we're here…"
Dean gaped. The man was singing a frigging Disney song. Dean knew only because Dee was in her Disney phase and forced Dean to watch the movies and discuss them with her – the only time he regretted the fact that he loved her so much.
He pushed the doors open and directly wheeled himself towards the bar. Ellen was sitting behind the counter on the stool and Jo had dragged a chair so she was directly in front of the guy… blocking him from Dean's view. Carmen and Ash were nowhere to be seen. A few of the afternooners, who came regularly for lunch, had stopped eating and were listening intently to the man. Dean couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy. The man was good… he was really good. That voice was made for singing… for talking… Hell, he wondered how the man hadn't found his calling as a phone-sex operator yet.
Dean moved to Ellen and she wordlessly handed him a beer. "Who's that guy?" Dean whispered, not wanting to interrupt the man. Ellen shrugged. Dean nodded and moved in direction of his usual table… the one beside the stage, which had a well-worn raincoat carelessly thrown over it and a knapsack and a duffel stacked beside it.
From his new vantage point, Dean could see that the guy was unkempt. He had that whole Hippy Love-Guru thing going for him. He was wearing tattered faded jeans that looked almost white, a white t-shirt and dirty blue shirt over it. The guy was bending low over the guitar and all Dean could see of his face was a part chin and messy brown hair.
The man finished the song, his fingers ghosting over the last few chords and looked up as the entire audience, including Dean, broke into a well-deserved applause. He looked up and Dean could see his face clearly. It was the same guy, alright. Only his hair was a bit longer, he had a couple of days worth of stubble and his cheeks were hollow. A far cry from the crisp clean-cut man Dean had seen in his files. But his blue eyes sparkled with the same intensity as they had in the personnel photograph.
The guy smiled and threw a quick glance over his audience, bowing to each and every one, before settling his eyes on Dean. His tired smile disappeared as his expression slowly changed from confused to knowing to open disbelief. Then he broke into a grin, set the guitar down and strode over to Dean.
"Major Winchester? It's a pleasure, sir!" he said extending his hand.
"The pleasure's all mine, Lieutenant," Dean replied shaking his hand. "I am not a Major anymore. Call me Dean." Dean said dropping his hand and gesturing to the empty seat.
The man thankfully sank down in the chair. "Dean…" he said, as if testing the feel of the word on his tongue. "Castiel," he replied.
Dean did a double take. The man was called James, if he remembered correctly. James seemed to sense what Dean was thinking. "It's my middle name," he clarified. "I go by it now-a-days." Dean nodded. Whatever his name was, this man had saved his life.
"So… what brings you here?" Dean asked.
Castiel shrugged. "Just passing through. I am hiking to Vegas," he replied nonchalantly as though it was the most normal thing. "The last driver dropped me here."
"Hiking? To Vegas?" Dean asked incredulously. In olden days, he had thought about it a lot. A road trip by himself… maybe with Sam… and his car on the back roads of US, with nothing but wind and roads between them. Then he'd enlisted, and every dream had been shot to shit.
Castiel brushed it off, "I like travelling. I'm a nomad at heart."
But before he could comment any further, they were interrupted by a very loud bout of coughing. Dean looked up to see Jo standing behind the man, glaring down at him. He looked around to see the entire bar staring at them. Even Ash and Carmen had made an appearance. Carmen looked as impeccable as ever, but Ash was flushed, his hair dishevelled and he had a foolish smile on his face. Dean understood why they were missing.
He turned his attention back to Jo and beckoned her. She came to stand beside the table, her gaze never leaving his face. Dean felt trapped under it. He looked at Castiel who was giving him an identical look. He sighed. "Castiel, this is Jo. She's like my kid sister, but you'll never catch me saying it," he added smiling. "Jo, this is Castiel." He didn't elaborate further, instead turning his attention to the bar. Castiel followed his gaze. "That's Ellen," he continued. "She's the owner and Jo's mother. And one of the scariest people you'll ever meet. That sex-bomb over there is Carmen," he said indicating the pregnant girl, "and the bum with the bad mullet beside her is her husband, Ash." He leaned forward and lowered his voice a bit, "don't let the appearance fool you. He's a frigging genius with computers… dropped out of MIT because it wasn't challenging enough." He looked up to see Ash beaming at him. "And everybody," he added raising his voice again. "This is Castiel. He's… uh…" He lowered his gaze and nervously rubbed the back of his neck. "He's… uh… he's the man who saved my life." He looked up as the entire bar broke out in a commotion.
Suddenly Castiel was the centre of attention. Everyone was making a beeline for him, patting his back, shaking his hand… congratulating him… thanking him for getting their boy home safe. A few of them had brought out their phones and were clicking his pictures. Ellen offered him free lodging and food and drinks whenever he was in town, Ash offered up his special skills, Carmen hugged him and kissed his cheek and Jo gave him her phone no. By the time they were done, Castiel had turned an alarming shade of scarlet and was shaking in his chair.
Dean leaned forward as soon as the last of the patrons had dispersed. "Wanna get out of here?" he asked.
The man relaxed, "Oh… yes!"
Dean beckoned Jo and asked her to pack a couple of lunch specials and told her to inform Bobby that he was taking the day off. Jo nodded before disappearing inside. She returned a couple of minutes later with a large brown bag and handed it over to Dean. Cas pulled out his wallet, but Dean stopped him. "My treat. I never got to say thank you." The man reluctantly put the wallet away and stood up, snagging his raincoat along the way as Dean led him out the door.
"So where's your car?" Castiel asked once they were in the parking.
"Back at the garage. I walked here," Dean replied, before realising he had said 'walked' again. He really had to start using wheeled more often. He waited for the standard pity look, but the man only nodded and gestured him to lead the way.
Dean gave a relieved sigh and turned right. He knew of a secluded spot by the water reservoir that was frequented by horny teens during the evening. It was the closest thing the town had to a lover's lane and it was mostly quiet this time of the day. They could eat their lunch in peace there.
Dean wheeled down the way, Cas walking beside him in silence, the raincoat shushing against his jeans. Once or twice, Dean raised his eyes and looked at him, only to find him staring back. But he looked away as soon as he spotted Dean looking at him and stared at the ground instead. They were progressing quite nicely till they came to a slope in the path. Dean struggled for a bit, until Cas gave an exasperated grunt, took hold of the handle bars and effortlessly pushed Dean upwards. "You don't have to do that," Dean protested.
Dean turned around to look at his helper, but the man was looking straight ahead… concentrating on the road. His expression was calm, no pity or sympathy visible in his eyes, like this was something he did every day. Cas rolled his eyes. "I don't do anything I don't want to," he replied calmly. For some reason, it made Dean feel better.
Cas let go as soon as they were on the flat ground and Dean missed the pressure. He looked at Cas, back at his side, and smiled thankfully. Cas casually returned the smile, then looked straight ahead.
Dean found the spot easily. It had been one of his haunts back in the day. He'd lost the count of girls he'd brought here. He set his wheelchair beside a large boulder and motioned for Cas to sit on it. Cas shrugged his raincoat off and draped it on the rock before sitting down on it. Dean smiled and opened the bag. Ellen, bless her heart, had packed an extra order of fries and an extra slice of pie. Dean extracted her famous bacon cheeseburgers and handed one to Cas, before picking up where they'd left off at the restaurant.
"So Lieutenant… is there a reason you go by Castiel now-a-days?" he asked cheekily. He knew it was none of his business, but from what he'd heard of the guy, he was one of the best trackers they had and had a very bright future ahead of him. Cas looked uneasy and Dean could see he was tensed. "It's… it's okay," he assured. "You don't have to tell if you don't want to."
Castiel took a deep breath. "No! That's alright. Dishonourably discharged," he replied before lowering his voice. "I was deemed unfit for the man's army."
"Oh!" Dean gasped. Discharged under DADT. He had lived in that fear himself, until he was assigned undercover missions that enabled him to swing around and chalk it as a part of his cover. His best friend and second-in-command, the late great Gabe Collins, had initiated the idea. Hell, the guy was one-man 'Den of Iniquity' and conveniently blamed it on his job. Dean still missed him after all these years.
They ate in silence until Dean found his voice again. "Thank you," he said.
Cas looked up at him and shrugged. "Just doing my job," he replied nonchalantly.
"I read the files and talked to your CO," Dean replied. "I know how you kept searching for me for months, even though the orders were retracted after a few weeks. I also know how you defied almost every single order to get to me. I don't know what I'd have done if you hadn't…" Sudden tears sprang in his eyes as he remembered what the man had done for him. He normally never let his guard down before anyone, but this man had seen him at his worst. "Thank you…" he whispered his voice cracking.
Cas didn't know what came over him. He reached forward and gently placed his hand on Dean's knee. He expected Dean to jerk his hand away or look up, but Dean wordlessly placed his hand over Cas' and squeezed it lightly. They sat like that for some time, soaking in each other's warmth, until Dean shook himself and looked up, his eyes still wet. He gave a shy smile before slowly retracting his hand and opening the bag once again. He removed the packaged pie slices from the bag and handed one to Cas along with a plastic spork. "You should try this," he said opening the plastic cover. "Ellen's pies are a legend."
Cas smiled and followed his example. He was lost after the first bite. The pie was amazing. A Perfect combination of fruity, chewy and crunchy. Pure Heaven. He said so, and watched his companion beam with pride. "Be sure to tell her when we get back. Ellen likes to be appreciated for her work," Dean said. They fell back into a comfortable silence, until Cas cleared his throat.
"Is there any place I can spend the night?" he asked. He wasn't really keen on staying at Ellen's following the afternoon's revelation and the reaction that had followed.
Dean nodded. He understood the need to be alone. "You can crash at my place," he offered "for as long as you want."
"No… I… I wouldn't want to impose," the man protested.
"Oh c'mon. It's not imposing among friends," Dean replied. Cas titled his head back and squinted at him. If Dean found it cute he did not mention it. He just shrugged. "You rescued me from hell. The least I can do is shelter you from crazy fans," he grinned.
Cas laughed. A strange throaty laugh that made Dean's stomach flutter. He charted it as nervousness. "Okay," he replied. "But only if you let me help around the house."
Dean nodded, "Whatever."
The ride was home was filled only with faint strains of Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. Cas was quiet the entire trip and Dean hadn't felt the need to interrupt him. He parked in the garage and struggled to unload his wheelchair, his muscles stiff from all the exertion. However, he was thankful that Castiel hadn't offered to help. Instead, he'd just stepped back and with an exception of "are you alright?" waited patiently until Dean took his time to get down and unlock the door, before silently following him inside.
He dropped his bags by the door, before stocking over to the sofa and thumping down on it.
Dean dropped the keys in a bowl by the door and turned towards his guest. "Uh... make yourself at home," Dean said, quite unnecessarily considering Cas had already removed his shoes and shirt and was sprawled uncomfortably on the couch. He pushed aside the thoughts of how pathetic the guy looked… especially since he knew what he had once been… once more reinforcing the points that "God didn't exist" and "Good things did not happen to good people".
He went into his room, leaving the door open and prepped for the night. Normally this would be the time he would call to check on Deanna, maybe sing her to sleep, but today he was so damn tired and his entire body was on fire, no thanks to the unceremonious overexertion, that he was in no mood to pretend. He just wanted to drop down and let the unconsciousness take over.
It was bright. It was so bright, it was blinding. Dean could feel the pressure on his wrists and legs where the leather straps cut into his skin. A rotten stench filled his nostrils but whether it was the room or him, he had no idea. He had already lost the count of days, but in his last bout of consciousness he had heard last of Gabe's screams before they dragged his limp body outside. Gabe had been the last surviving member of his team. He was grateful Gabe had finally escaped this Hell. He was probably in a better place now… maybe even eating desert with the Angels.
Just then he heard the door creak open and the bastard walked in smirking… smirking! "Well… that was unfortunate," he said. "Seems your friend could not handle a little pain. Anyways… do you have anything to confess today?" he asked rubbing his hands together.
"Yeah! The day I get out will be the day you regret laying your eyes on me, you bastard," Dean tried his best cocky grin, but it came out as a grimace.
"Wrong!" Alistair replied as something hot burned into Dean's skin. He screamed involuntarily. "Yes! Scream Dean. Scream for me," Alistair said.
"Wrong!" The stinging continued until Dean's screams were nothing but hoarse whispers.
"Do you have anything to confess?" Alistair asked again. There was an edge to his voice and Dean could see he was holding something. Something Metallic. Devil's knife! Alistair's signature weapon. Alistair meant business today. Which meant he was desperate. Which meant Dean still had hope. Something must have shown in his face, coz Alistair looked at his knife, as if carefully studying it. "What? This little thing? You don't have to worry about this, Major. You have to worry about me. Just tell us what we need and we'll let you go."
Dean mustered all the strength he could and spit at his captor. Alistair found it highly amusing. "Wrong!" he glee'd as Dean felt a sharp sting in his abdomen and blacked out.
When he came to, it was dark. Pitch black and he couldn't breathe. A heavy weight was crushing on his chest, he realised. He tried moving his hands and legs but he was trapped. He wanted to scream for help, but he couldn't give them the satisfaction. He struggled harder, frantically moving his arms with as much strength as he could. Then Alistair spoke up, "Dean…" he whispered from afar… a low rumbling sound. "Dean... Dean…"
"DEAN!" as something yanked the weight away. Air came rushing into his lungs and he was glad he wasn't upright. He would have been knocked back down. He struggled to raise himself as his eyes slowly blinked open.
He was in bed. His own bed… in his own room! He wasn't hallucinating… he really was home. He belatedly realised something cold pressing against his lower back, steadying him, murmuring soft assurances near his ear. He turned in direction of voice and came face to face with the man who had made it possible.
"Cas…" he whispered raising his hand and gently touching the other's cheek. His fingers pricked at rough stubble. He could see the blue eyes wide with concern… not pity, not sympathy… just concern.
"Nightmare?" Cas asked, his voice low… soothing… just like it had been that day. Dean nodded slightly. He couldn't lie to Cas. He didn't want to. This guy had seen him more vulnerable than all the other people in his life combined.
The hand on his lower back moved upwards until it rested on the back of his neck and gently pulled him forward. He went without a fight as strong arms wrapped around him and cradled his head on the strong shoulder. "It's alright," his comforter murmured stroking his back. "It's okay. You're safe now. I got you."
Dean nodded silently into his neck and melted into the embrace. A part of him wanted to break down, but he couldn't. He wrapped his arms around his guest, soaking in his warmth. Finally Cas released him and stood up.
Dean immediately lamented the loss of contact, but this was for the best. The man was tired and Dean didn't want him to leave without getting a proper rest. Plus, there was the fact that he was leaving. Dean had no business forcing his sorry crippled ass on this guy, no matter how good his intentions were.
Maybe because he was quite lost in this train of thought that he didn't see Cas shrugging off his jeans, draping them across the back of a chair and turning back to bed. It was only when the bed creaked and Dean felt something warm beside him that he jolted out of his thoughts and stared at the calm face on the other side. "What are you doing?" he asked confused.
"Well… I had a really long day… and I'm really tired… and if you don't mind I'd really like to go back to sleep." With that Cas moved in little closer, draped his arm around Dean's shoulders and gently lowered them both down. The hand around Dean's shoulders moved to his waist, as Cas pulled them both close together.
"Cas… what are you…?"
"Shut up, Dean. I prefer to sleep in silence," Cas cut-in, reaching behind him and putting off the light. Dean hadn't slept in complete darkness for the last four years, but something about the strong arms around him made him feel safe. Like he didn't have to look over his shoulder anymore. He gave in to the heat and draped his arm across the warm waist, closing the tiny distance between them, and cradled his head in the nook of the other man's neck. "Goodnight Cas," he whispered against the warm neck.
"Goodnight Dean," a sleepy voice answered as the arm tightened around him, pulling him even closer, and soft lips brushed against his hair.
Then everything fell silent.