For real this time. Basically just using these characters to work out this abstract story idea. Sad, but hopefully good.
White Linoleum Heaven.
If Dean had one wish, it wouldn't be to live.
Maybe he should be surprised at himself for that. But if he had one wish, it wouldn't be to be miraculously healthy, it wouldn't be to live a long life, so much longer and more fair than this cut-short, montage of pain and discomfort that he was familiar with.
If Dean had one wish, it would be for people to tell him the fucking truth.
To be real with him.
He'd been sick forever, lived his whole life on the precipice of the biggest unknown. He'd flatlined more times than one person ever should be able to come back from. And he'd thrown more fits than any teenager should have to over not having come back from death with anything new to say.
No white light. No feeling of peace.
Each time he stopped breathing and his pathetically overstrained heart decided it'd had enough, everything simply went black. His life didn't flash before his eyes. Frankly, there wasn't much to flash. What would he see? Hospitals, doctors whose names he barely remembered, nurses who looked at him like a sad little puppy about to be euthanized, his father's haunted, graying face, his brother's stomach-turning attempt at a smile.
No. When Dean flatlined, everything just went black. And when he woke up, it was as if he'd been in a timeless, silent void.
He tried not to be afraid of the inevitable. But the idea of nothing, was so much worse than the idea of Hell.
The nothing was truly terrifying.
Emptiness. So that's it? He lives his whole life being stabbed by needles and split open from the chest cavity down and sleeping in uncomfortable beds built with wires in them, living half his days in a drug-induced haze, and then, what? Just... nothing?
Dean was angry.
And the people around him didn't even have the decency to prepare him by telling him the truth -
Dean, the next time your heart stops, you won't be coming back.
There was always some sugar-coated, polite way of telling him he was sick. Telling him what he already knew.
If he had one wish, more than being healthy, more than going to Heaven, more than Heaven existing, it would be that everybody stopped treating him like he was going to be fine.
If the Nothing was coming, he needed to be ready.
If this was his last chance to live, well, then he had things to do.
Dean had spent very little of his young life in the comfort of his actual home.
Recently, his new treatments had promised a possibility of a future, and an optimistic, very expensive specialist had shaken John's hand and smiled his pompous smile and sent Dean home. Presumably to live.
John's face had gone pale white when he'd noticed Dean's fingertips tinted blue. Again. Oxygenated blood couldn't reach them. Not with that weak example of an organ sloshing away weakly Dean's his chest.
There's another failed experiment. Another thousand of John's paychecks gone to waste on a treatment that was destined to fail.
Dean had tried to hide it. He thought, if he could make his father believe he was well, he could live like a normal boy, at least for a little while. And then one day he would collapse and die suddenly and it would be over and his father would have that brief period of time to look back on as having been happy. Dean thought if he lived normally, pushed hard enough, he would simply croak. There would be no soul-wrenchingly slow process of hospital death. It would be quick, easier on John and him both.
But he couldn't hide the physical signs. Not long enough.
The treatment had failed, and it was only a matter of time before it was evident.
Dean tried not to be upset about it.
He did want to live. And once again, his body told him No.
He did want his father to be happy. And once again, he'd ruined it for him.
In his most recent of teenaged personality shifts, Dean had begun attempting to bring his one wish for unabashed honesty to life. He'd become blatant. Crass. The Hospital staff were endlessly forgiving of his rude behavior and too-intimate questions, even if they were still condescendingly polite and vague about their answers. Dean demanded truth even if in the rudest of ways and was continuously disappointed by peoples' unwillingness to give it. He figured, if he was dying he could be forgiven his overstepping of bounds.
It was in April that his father snapped.
Dean knew it was his fault. He pushed him too far.
The rain against the window-panes in his little hospital room had been driving Dean absolutely mad. He'd moved to the window and stood there, watching, the whole world masked in the gray beauty that was this rainstorm.
Suddenly he had to feel it. He had to feel this act of God on his skin, so often untouched by anything but needles and sensors and latex-covered hands.
Nothing ever really touched him - not people, or grass, or water from the sky, or the hot metal from his father's old car... not dirt, or earth, or leaves or even a god damned breeze. And it was unnatural. It was unnatural not to know the feeling of such things, to be kept alien from them.
Dean was on the roof of the hospital for three hours before hospital staff found him, ushering him inside with words as harsh and placating as one would use reprimanding a five year old who'd walked out of the house without permission. They spoke to him as if he had no comprehension of how dangerous it was for him to be cold and wet in his condition.
But he knew.
Some things were just too important not to risk it.
When they returned him to his room, soaked to the bone, shivering, his father was pale as a ghost. He was livid. Scared, Dean realized. John screamed at him, demanding to know what he was thinking, and if he had any idea how dangerous it was, and asked if Dean was trying to kill himself, and to kill John.
Dean would have apologized, but he was just so angry.
He screamed at his father like he never had before, about how if he was doomed to live every day of his life in that white linoleum-tiled prison then he would rather die.
He screamed that he had to feel the rain on his skin. He had to - it was mocking him from the window for hours - so natural and reckless. And he had to know how that abandon, that nature, felt. Because it wasn't fair for the rain to fall without him, for the world, his life, to go by without him.
The look of pity on John's face turned Dean's stomach.
John abruptly pulled his son close and hugged him tight, sobbing into Dean's short, wet hair.
Dean supposed it was a significant moment. He supposed he should cry too. But he couldn't.
Maybe he didn't have the energy. He was so often tired.
John was reluctant to ever let him go again, it seemed. But Dean had started to shiver more fiercely, his health, as always, ruining a perfectly good moment.
He was commanded to take a hot shower, get warm, put on dry clothes.
He looked at himself in the fogged mirror - pale, sickly, weak-looking. His lips not as pink as they should be, despite the shower's warming effect. His eyes sunken-looking, due to the near-purple shadows around them, beneath them. The green faded to a tired brown, any spark that might have been there sapped away by medicine and a failing heart. Any muscle he could have had in his potentially size-able teenaged form, long since atrophied, making his broad frame look strange without the mass that was so blatantly missing.
He was thin, sad-looking, he realized. Unnatural.
It was hard not to feel sorry for himself. He had, after all, got caught with monumentally bad luck. A bad ticker and all of its complications, and a rare blood-type.
Something that helped him fight the self-pity was a bizarre sort of rationalization he'd adopted. He figured, if it was all about fate, and that fate said one of the Winchester boys had to die, then it should be him. Of course Dean would take that bullet for Sam.
Dean knew it was an absurd way to think of it, but then, the idea that it was him instead of Sam, gave him some comfort. Rationally Dean knew it didn't make sense, but he could ignore that easily if the notion gave him some small degree of satisfaction.
He would die for Sammy, of course he would. And someone had to be sick. Dean was just glad it was him and not his little brother.
He could be strong and die with a sense of accomplishment.
There were countless days of nothing - wandering around the hospital, watching tv. He wasn't in the mood to chat with anyone. So his days stretched on, long and uneventful. This was enragingly frustrating knowing that e would have so many fewer days than everyone else.
When his new roommate arrived and the staff bustled around reading the room, Dean asked the nurse if they were already making preparations for Dean to be gone. Her eyes were briefly shocked, before they faded to a sharper, disapproving stare.
Dean felt pleased with his effect on her.
Dean peeked over at the boy in the other bed. Pale, thin, frail... par for the course. But he had wild black hair, and when he glanced over, having felt Dean's scrutiny, Dean could see he had beautiful, blue eyes. They still had their spark.
And better, he looked similarly pissed off.
Once his roommate was settled in, all the doctors and nurses finally shutting the Hell up and leaving them in peace, Dean geared up for the initial challenge.
"You ever gotten laid?" Dean asked casually. It was a test.
No one had ever passed.
"No," the boy answered, unfazed, entirely honest, and in a surprisingly deep voice. "You?" he challenged back.
"Nope." Dean smiled at the anger in the boy's gravelly voice, the dare to press further.
Someone finally passed the test.
Over the hours and soon days, Dean found out that his new roommate's name was Castiel. And to Dean's mounting pleasure, he matched his every merciless question with one of his own. Every answer more blatant and honest than the next.
Dean thought Castiel knew more about him than anyone else he'd ever met. It was strange, to be understood. With the constant barrage of questions from doctors and nurses and therapists, it was refreshing to think someone really knew him.
And he knew Castiel - obviously starving for the same kind of understanding.
In a short few days, they were utterly fused, as if moving parts of one big, failing machine.
The first time they touched and it wasn't to help stand up, or help walk, or shove playfully, it came as a kind of reaction. Like cause and effect. Like a natural transition.
They were lying side by side on one of their small beds, staring up at the TV. The movie they were watching had a passionate, daytime-TV kind of glossy love-scene.
Castiel simply laid his hand over Dean's groin, and Dean let him.
It was curious, experimental.
They'd never had to be told that sex was out of the question. They never got the chance to meet anyone but other sick people. They never got to socialize, to date, to park, or make out at the movies.
Their parents and doctors figured it was one uncomfortable conversation that the curse of their children's illness had spared them.
Besides, with all of the medication they were on, and the weakness of their bodies, it seemed pointless to fret about promiscuity.
It was essentially impossible.
But despite his body's inability to push blood through his veins with any measure of excitement, and despite the harsh medications, Dean looked down, watching Cas' hand stroke and squeeze him through the thin material of his pants, praying for reaction.
Once the show had cycled to commercial three different times, Dean simply sighed sadly and let his head fall back against the pillow.
Another emasculating defeat. Another thing of which he was simply not capable.
He closed his eyes, his jaw clenching. He wanted to scream. But he didn't. He wanted to cry, but he would never allow that of himself.
He felt Cas' hand slide from his disappointing privates up his abdomen to his chest, where it looped around until Cas was holding him - like a hug. Cas leaned up and kissed Dean's lips unexpectedly.
Dean's eyes opened to see the stoic boy above him.
He kissed him back.
The next time they touched, Castiel slid his fingers under Dean's t-shirt to trace his fingers over Dean's scars. Multiple surgeries had left Dean with a veritable - the length of his chest and abdomen, and Castiel's fingers skitted lightly over ever every line and bump. Dean's breath caught in his chest, and it had nothing to do with heart failure.
The next time they touched, Dean reached his hand underneath the thin blanket to find Cas beneath his pants. Any jealousy he had for Cas' near-immediate reaction to his touch was eclipsed by the thrill of feeling the hot, hard length of him in his hand.
In his life, Dean had hardly even felt himself.
It was entirely new. And for Cas too, he could tell. Dean wanted to hate him for his pleasure, but he couldn't bear to. Somehow, Cas' pleasure was his pleasure too, if not viscerally. But the look on the boy's face when Dean stroked him long enough to have him shaking, biting his lip, was all Dean's. He owned it. He caused it, and that made it his.
Doctor's and nurses had permission to look at Dean and touch him without his personal consent all his life. But Dean himself had never touched anyone. That was all changed now.
After that, Dean and Cas spent a lot of their alone time trying to cop a feel without the hospital staff noticing.
They were oddly happy. Content almost.
They'd carved their own two-man Heaven out of the over-sterilized linoleum prison of the Hospital.
Of course any happiness they had would have to be impermanent. They were fragile, broken things, the both of them.
And Dean had always known it would be him who left Cas behind. He'd always been sicker, closer to giving out. Cas would fight to the bitter end, he had no doubt. Dean would ask him to, just on the odd chance that Cas would get his miracle. He cared enough about the boy at this point to want him to live, even if he didn't get to himself. Dean wanted, with surprising desperation, for Cas to escape this death sentence.
Dean had always been certain his own time was coming soon.
Cas' eyes demanded the truth, above all else.
What Dean loved, more that the sweep of his incorrigible black hair, the swell of his pink lips, the ease of his touch, was that Cas' eyes demanded honesty, and nothing less.
Yet Dean's lips could not give it. He broke his own rule. But his eyes, wide and greener than they'd looked in a long time, said on their own, as if surprised by their own honesty...
I'm not ready.
I'm scared. And I'm not ready to die.
And the sigh of relief Dean gave for that moment of the purest honesty he'd ever offered another person, was breathed into Cas' lips. The relief caught by the blue-eyed boy just as the truth had been.
He had time, just before the end, for Cas to reciprocate physical affection just once.
The doctors had spoken to John and informed him that his son was done for, and at Dean's very calm, rational insistence his father had agreed to allow him to take his leave from the medicines that supposedly kept him alive, though weighing down his mind and physiological responses.
It was in his last week, after most of the medication had time to work itself out of his system, and Dean's breath came short and rattled, his limbs weak and cold, that Castiel climbed into his bed and showed him what he'd been missing.
The exertion was almost enough to kill him, but he felt so alive somehow, with Cas' lips on his, his hand working cleverly, lovingly, to bring him to ecstacy.
Dean thanked him.
And then he let his only friend cry into his chest, for hours. All night. Until Castiel had fallen asleep against Dean's body, sobs still shaking him even as he drifted into unconsciousness, and Dean was able to keep the boy's warmth, something so hard for Dean to come by now, tucked against his body as he thought over his life up til then.
It was sad to think this was the best night he'd ever had.
But he wasn't feeling sorry for himself. Not with Castiel's body laid against his own.
Saying goodbye to Sam and John was hard. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to say - I love you. Thank you, for being there, for being you, for taking care of me... I'm sorry, for a lifetime of suffering, even after I die...
He had brief spikes of rage at the injustice of it all.
But overall, he found himself too tired to rail against the world in anger. He realized, he'd been suffering a long time. If he was never going to get better, maybe death was more merciful.
He didn't want to be afraid. He'd heard about other kids who died young, and managed to have a certain grace about themselves, as if they were wise beyond their years. He'd always heard those kids died peacefully, like they were ok with leaving life, like they were certain something was waiting.
But Dean wasn't certain. He was terrified.
He did his absolute best not to let it show, for his family's sake. It was hard enough on them to watch him die in vein, but to know he was so desperate not to...
It would be awful for them.
So he put on his brave face.
And every spare alone moment, Castiel whispered in his ear about the world beyond, the next life.
Dean couldn't bear to tell him he'd been dead before, and there was nothing waiting for them. He didn't want Castiel to be scared - for Dean or for himself. Besides, Castiel's assurances were comforting. And Dean wanted to believe.
On the last day, he thought he finally did.
It had gotten too hard to breathe, the doctors had given him something to help him along, and his mind's defenses melted away with its numbing force. He finally allowed himself to believe...
Maybe something would be waiting on the other side... Maybe this wasn't all for nothing. Maybe... maybe he would get to be happy.
The last thing he saw was his father - John's red eyes, wet streaks trailing down his cheeks, his beard looking grayer than it ever had before, a placating smile on his lips - John loved him. It was a smile for Dean's comfort, to tell him it was ok.
Dean loved John. So much in that moment that it hurt. He tried to smile back, he tried to squeeze his father's hand. He couldn't feel if the message had gotten through to his body or not, but he hoped it had.
It was his last hope.
Dean closed his eyes, and the world slipped away from him; the silence took over.
It was an empty forever; blind and deaf and lacking in anything to touch, to orient yourself.
But somehow, Dean was aware. And somehow, he wasn't afraid anymore. Because he didn't have to wait long... before Castiel was there with him.
It was a sad reunion, selfishly joyous on Dean's part. But Castiel didn't seem to hold it against him. Besides, they had forever to talk it out.
They talked and touched and imagined a whole new world around themselves.
Suddenly, with Castiel to share it, the timelessness of this place was not a curse, but a blessing. Dean realized, Heaven was as real as Cas had told him. Heaven was spending forever with someone who loves you, someone you simply don't want to do without. And they could feel, they weren't sure how, but they knew that they would be happier still, when one day their other loved ones joined them - Castiel's wayward father, his brothers and sisters. John, and Sammy, the little brother Dean so longed to see happy, to know in friendship as a brother should. He wanted to see his father, light and happy. He felt his mother's presence, waiting for her husband, somewhere in the nothing. But Dean wasn't upset. He knew that when John came too, they would all be together.
Castiel whispered it, as he had about heaven, and Dean knew it was true.
Heaven was the nothing. The place where nothing is there to come between you.