Title: Domesticated [ For DeanCasBigbang ]
Warnings/Tags: Fractured Fairy Tale, What the Hell's Happened to Dean?, Animal Transformation, Romance, Humor, Dreamwalking, I Swear to God I Did Not Mean to Make a Beauty and the Beast Knock-Off, ... Does this Make Meg Gaston, (Temporary) Major Character Death, Graphic Depictions of Violence
Summary: Being the only angel in the entire Pacific Northwest can be tiring, even if these days Castiel spends more of his time shoveling manure than fighting off the hordes of hell. It's an occupational hazard, unfortunately; he earns most of his living rehabilitating wild animals a few miles outside Spokane. Wild animals like Dean, for instance— a mountain lion who's entirely too smart for his own good. There's a man in Castiel's dreams named Dean too, but that part's just a huge coincidence.
"What will you do when we find Dean?" Castiel asks, retracing his steps from that morning. He walks at the front of their little group, very aware of Sam's gun in his coat pocket and also aware of just how little a normal bullet would do to a demon. Meg and Sam walk behind him, her pose flirtatious until you looked closer and saw the friendly arm around him hid a knife pressed into the tendons of his neck.
"Haven't decided yet," Meg says gaily. She sounds incredibly pleased with herself, even giddy. "Probably some fun variation of the usual: death, dismemberment. Disposal. The three Big Ds of mob murders everywhere."
"Is that what this is about? Mob trouble?" Castiel asks, and doesn't have to work to sound confused. Meg talks about Dean as if he were a person. Is it possible there are there two? Sam said Dean was in danger, and this must be what he was talking about, but how did Sam's brother Dean and Sam's pet Dean become intertwined?
Castiel is leading them to the car, but he's doing it as slowly as he can, trying to work out how he can get Sam away from Meg long enough to try to exorcise her. Killing her outright is probably beyond what pitiful dregs of Grace he still possesses, but if he could just get the two of them separated...
The smell of sulfur drifts by Castiel's nose, followed, chillingly, by the smell of wet dog.
As soon as he thinks it he sees them everywhere, shades and shadows sliding over the forest floor with nothing to cast them, invisible bodies brushing aside dead branches and thick bushes. At least ten of them are keeping pace with them as Castiel guides them through the thickly wooded preserve.
This... this may be something he can work with.
As he walks, Castiel brings a hand up as if to steady himself, and wiggles his fingers enticingly. "Here, boy," he murmurs, as quietly as he can.
Nothing. Just the cold damp air of late autumn. He bites his lip, hard, and does it again."Here!" Father, please, he thinks.
A large unseen tongue licks him, a head butting up under his palm, and Castiel lets out a quiet, shuddering breath of relief.
"Growly?" he whispers, and is nearly knocked over by the force of the dog's excited headbutt.
The thing about hellhounds is that they belong to hell entire, and are seldom loyal one demonic master over others.
Meg laughs at him. "Sorry, some of my babies are a little frisky."
The other thing about hellhounds is that once they do choose that master, their devotion is all-encompassing.
"Oh, fuck," whispers Sam, who seems to just have realized he's surrounded.
"That's right, Thing Two," Meg says with nasty satisfaction. "Hellhounds, just for you and Dean-o. You aren't getting away from me again."
While she gloats, Castiel's hand surreptitiously finds the massive hound's head again. "Growly," he breathes. "I need you to do something very important."
The beast's rumbling growl is more felt than seen.
"Can you find Daddy? Can you get Daddy for me, Growly?"
The hellhound is off with a joyous bark that sounds like funeral bells, and the rest of the hounds mill around them in confusion, their keening howls all the more terrifying for their silence earlier. Meg brings Sam up short.
"What did you do? Where is it going?" she says, furious, and Castiel tries for fear and bewilderment. He doesn't have to work very hard.
"What? What's going on? What was—?"
"Oh, shut up," she snaps. "You're positive this is the right way?"
"Yes," Castiel says, mouth going dry at her tone. "Why?"
"Because my babies don't think so. They can't smell Dean anywhere," she says, and Castiel's hit by something he only sees the shadowy edges of, throat closing on the overpowering reek of sulfur. As he falls he knocks against Meg's legs, and she kicks him onto his back.
"Fuck, fuck," Sam curses, cringing away from the invisible pack, and then Meg is crouching down and there's a tug at Castiel's coat pocket.
Castiel scrambles away but Meg has the pistol in her hands, turning it this way and that before looking up with an expression of sad disappointment. "Oh, Jimmy, what do we have here?"
"Wait," Castiel says, hands coming up in front of him as she aims straight at his heart. "Wait, I didn't—"
"You got one chance, and you blew it."
"Too bad, so sad, Jimmy-boy," Meg says, and shoots.
It's dark, here at the bottom of the ocean. It's cold, too, with no sunlight to warm it.
The coral has grown too strong to pull against, and Castiel is fixed in place like an anchor, watching the whales swim overhead.
That vague, vast shape Castiel has been walking towards is now coming to him of its own accord, rising up from the black depths like the Leviathans of old.
There's no escaping it, and the gloomy twilight of the broad oceanic plain dims in Castiel's eyes.
"Damn it, Cas!"
—summer grass and peridot—
—not yet— please, Father—
"Cas, you moron," Dean laughs, pulling the angel's face down to his.
This isn't a dream, but it feels like one.
He sits with Anna on her porch in Georgia, and he remembers this, remembers the achingly sweet sticky taste of fresh peaches and the shock of feeling something kick against his palm when he rests it gingerly over her thin cotton sundress.
"I think she likes you," Anael says, lips touched with a small, tender smile.
"Sister, have you heard—?"
"I have. I'm not going, Castiel, ever again," she says, bringing her hand to rest over his on the broad moon-curve of her stomach.
"I don't need it anymore," she says, simply.
He feels strangely hurt by this. "We're your family. You don't need us?"
"I listen to the silence of our Father," she says softly, lifting one hand to cup his cheek. "And I think I'm ready for the next part, Castiel. I'm ready to move on."
There's a door.
There's a door, and not much else, a soft creeping mass of lightdark that refuses to be pierced by the eye. But there is a door.
"Come in," someone calls from the other side. Castiel puts a hand on the worn brass knob, turns it, and it sighs open.
In the room beyond, there are three men sitting around a low felted table, cards in their hands and chips piled high in front of them. One looks up, an expression of polite interest on his hatchet-like face when he sees Castiel hesitating at the threshold.
"Ah. Hello, Castiel."
"Castiel?" The second man, eyes a faded blue, hair dark and threaded through with silver, looks up, then at his watch. "Oh, buddy, you are way early. Like, decades way early. What happened?"
"I was... shot?" Castiel phrases it as a question, because he's looking down at his chest and the shirt is whole and clean, the skin underneath unmarked when he pulls his collar away to examine it.
The third man at the table is the rodent vendor. "Gee, Dad," he says, slumping back in his chair with a roll of his eyes. "You're right, this is all working out so well!"
He has wings. Castiel only notices when he moves, because the walls rustle and sway and Castiel realizes they're surrounded by them, layer on shifting, singing layer of deep crimson and dark ochre feathers.
"Oh, like you helped at all," the second man snaps, dropping his cards on the table. "Castiel, what about Sam and Dean?"
"Sam?" Castiel says, then "Dean," because Meg is going to kill him—
"Calm down, birdbrain," the vendor says, standing up. The wall of feathers stirs and chimes faintly, ringing with the music of the Spheres. It's been so long since Castiel heard it. "Your little frenemy is coming as fast as his fat little legs will carry him."
"That is not how this works," the first man says reprovingly.
"C'mon, I totally won this round," the second man says, gesturing at the cards.
The first sighs, and the room subtly darkens. "I really have no idea why I tolerate this insolence."
"Yeah, well, fuck you too old man," the vendor mutters, flipping him the bird as he swaggers up to Castiel.
Wings, wings everywhere, feathers smooth and glimmering like stones or scales. "Listen up, little soldier," the vendor says, eyes the gleaming topaz of a snake's. "If you were looking forward to retirement, tough titties. You've still got a job to do."
Castiel jolts awake— alive— with mud in his mouth and the first few drops of a bitterly cold autumn rain lying wet on his cheeks.
Crowley is standing over him, hand resting on the slope of Growly's invisible back. In his other hand a piece of staurolite sits, icy white light slowly dimming back to ruddy brown.
"Well, that was disappointing," the demon says. "I expected celestial pyrotechnics of some sort or another. Heavenly choirs. Flaming wheels. Singing cherubs, at the very least. On what occasions do those beastly things show up, anyhow?"
"Meg," Castiel gasps.
"Yes, Growly's been telling me how naughty you are, not mentioning that treacherous bint works at your little pet shop," the demon sniffs. "Probably just an oversight, that."
"'m telling you now," Castiel wheezes, rolling onto his hands and knees in the cold earth. "Please help me stop her."
"Really, it would be my pleasure," Crowley says, watching as the angel struggles to his feet. "Do we have a plan then?"
"Find her," Castiel pants out, "Before she finds Dean."
But she's already found him.
The heavy steel bars and mesh fence wall have been ripped open, metal chewed and torn to jagged pieces by the maws of the hounds. They dance and jump around the trunk of the single old oak, baying and clawing at the branches that curl and twist like the tentacles of a kraken. Resting on one of the higher branches is Sam, ashen-faced and clutching his side where blood drips down in long dark ribbons.
"You know, I am almost one hundred percent sure I shot you," Meg says, finger on her bottom lip.
Laying in a bloody heap at the bottom of the tree, surrounded by snarling hellhounds, is Dean.
"No," Castiel whispers, walking slowly forward.
"Well, obviously," Meg answers with an eyeroll, and raises the gun.
"No," Castiel says.
"You said that already, Ji—"
Castiel's sword is just as he remembers it, alive and vibrating with intent as it sinks into Meg's chest. It grates down against her ribs before it pierces her serpent's heart, her eyes going huge in her girlish, lying face.
She drops where she stands, hands twitching up to grip the hilt, and Castiel walks on to where the puma lies, blood and viscera bright on the frozen ground around him.
"What the fuck is this?" Meg screams behind him. He looks back at her.
"Justice. And the will of the Host."
"An angel?" she howls. "Goddamn cocksucking—"
Crowley steps up then, to grind the blade in deeper with the heel of his shoe. "Die quickly, there's a love."
"You think this is over," Meg spits, shuddering as her borrowed body disintegrates into red-edged ash. "You think you've won. War is coming, angel, the war to end all wars, and you've just picked the absolute worst fucking side—"
Her face flakes away, revealing a skull the color of ancient stone, screaming silently for a moment before it, too, crumbles away into a pile of nondescript grey powder.
"Well," Crowley sneers, "that was astonishingly cryptic and vague." He gives the ashes a kick. With no prompting from his master, Growley lets nature call right in the middle of the sooty stain.
Castiel's vaguely aware of the hellhounds pulling back, of Sam sliding down off the branch, kneeling next to him on the hard sod.
"He held them back until I could get away," the young man says, voice thick with tears. "He— God, Dean—"
Castiel isn't aware he's crying as well until he sees the drops dampening the fur on Dean's cheek. He strokes them away with his thumb, and it occurs to him that this is the first time he's ever touched the cat without a crate or cage between them. His fur is softer than Castiel thought it would be.
"Dean is my brother," Sam says. "He's a human being, but he's been cursed. I did everything I could to change him back, but someone saw him and they hunted us down and brought him here. And now he's—"
Oh, Father, no.
"Sam," Castiel says grabbing his shirtfront and jerking him forward, "Sam, what does he look like?"
("Cas," the man murmurs against Castiel's fingertips, a hint of a laugh coloring his voice. "Tickles.")
"Dean?" Sam asks, voice coming out shattered. "He's—older than me, shorter. He has green eyes—"
"And freckles," Castiel whispers, hand falling nervelessly from Sam's shirt. No.
He looks down at the lifeless body of the puma, blood freezing sharp and crystalline along the edges of the gaping slashes in his chest, along his flanks. Castiel slowly pulls the puma's head into his lap, smoothing his fingers over Dean's closed eyes, the whiskers at his mouth and brings his face in close.
"Dean." Tears scald his eyes. "I'm sorry," he says. Sobs.
("Brother. Brother, I have fallen in love.")
"I'm so sorry, Dean, I—"
("I think I'm ready for the next part.")
Castiel's vaguely aware of Sam beside him, and Crowley's grim shadow over his shoulder.
"I think you were my next part," he whispers, agonized, and kisses Dean's muzzle.
"Um?" Sam says, a small hiccup of sound.
Castiel's face is buried in Dean's neck, arms wrapped around his body. He doesn't respond.
"Um— Mr. Novak?"
"Sam, please," he murmurs brokenly.
Dean's body moves in his arms and for a moment Castiel thinks Sam is trying to move him away, and he grips Dean with all the strength he last left.
"Ow," the mouth at Castiel's ear says.
"Li'l tight there, Cas. Having trouble breathing."
"... Dean?" he says, not lifting his head. Because if he's just imagining that voice— if he's dreaming again—
"Cas, seriously, I love you but I love oxygen too, okay?"
Castiel sits haltingly back, and there he is— Dean, bloody and bruised, but alive, laying in the circle of Castiel's arms with a little grin that belies his flippant words. As Castiel watches, he shivers, gooseflesh breaking out over his skin.
"Holy balls it's cold," his Dean, freckles and all, says through chattering teeth. "Give me your jacket, Sam."
Sam's face is crumpling, his shaking hands coming up to grip Dean's arms. "Dean—"
"No, get off me, I don't want a hug, I want some motherfucking clothes!" he snaps, but Sam will not be deterred, and then all three of them are hugging each other so hard it might be leaving more bruises.
"Well, that's my cue," Crowley announces, edging away as if he's afraid they'll include him. "Glad that all worked out. I'll just be off. Oh, and Castiel? You owe me."
No one hears him, or if they do, they pay him no attention. Castiel only has eyes for Dean, and he's delighted to see the problem is mutual; Dean stares, apparently mesmerized by Castiel's face, and with his face squashed in next to theirs Sam says, "Uh, guys?"
They ignore him.
"Guys, it's one in the afternoon and hellhounds aren't exactly quiet. Somebody's going to come and— guys! Oh Jesus, my eyes, Dean! Take the fucking jacket!"
"An angel," Dean says dumbly, wrapped in a scratchy wool throw Castiel dug out of his closet. "I've been touched by a freaking angel."
Castiel hands him a cup of instant coffee, and Dean gives him a deeply skeptical look. "You do remember you've literally spent hours telling me how much coffee sucks, right? This coffee in particular?"
"I did," Castiel says, happily. He can't stop smiling, and his smiles make Dean smile, make him sigh like it's a horrible inconvenience and set the coffee aside to pull Castiel down next to him on the couch.
Sam, sitting in a chair adjacent, leans in with avid interest. "You're an angel. That's amazing, that's— I mean, we knew there were demons, obviously. We've met Meg before, and— and she shot you. But you're— are you immortal? Is there a heaven? Is there a God?"
"Ah," Castiel says. "Well. You see, we've been—"
Dean overrides him with, "Hey, can the big questions wait until I get some clothes on?"
Sam throws Dean a look and Castiel blurts, "Bitchface," because he's heard Dean describe it so many times but never knew what it looked like until now, and Sam's face goes blank with shock and Dean is sent into peals of laughter, leaning into Castiel's shoulder with his blanket sliding down to his hips.
"Your clothes? Sorry, burned them," Sam snips. "With how furry your ass was, I didn't think you'd need them anymore."
"That's right, you… how did this happen?" Castiel says then, waving a hand at the frankly distracting acres of bare skin Dean has on display. "A puma? How—?"
"There's this asshole we run across every now and again," Dean sighs, taking advantage of his new position to nuzzle under Castiel's jaw, rubbing against it in a decidedly catlike way. "Goddamn Trickster. Fucking hate 'im."
"He's big on lessons," Sam adds. "Apparently Dean needed one."
"He told me how to break the curse, before he fucked off," Dean murmurs into Castiel's ear. "Thought it was the stupidest cure I'd ever heard of."
"What?" Sam says. "Dean, you never told me that."
"Kinda hard to sign 'true love' with paws, Sammy."
"True—?" Sam stares at them. "True love?"
Dean's not looking at either of them, face turned in to Castiel's shoulder and a blush working its way up his cheeks. "'S what I said, isn't it?" he mutters.
Castiel's chest is on fire, joy burning cleanly through the terror, the sadness, the dull despair that's haunted him all these centuries away from heaven. He understands, now.
"But… you've been a mountain lion this entire time, right?" Sam asks. "And you…? With Mr. Novak?"
Castiel lifts a hand to cup Dean's cheek and gently urge his face upwards; when Dean finally does look at him, flushed vividly red along the bridge of his nose, Castiel kisses him: lingering, open-mouthed exaltations.
"Guys, I am still here," Sam says, words half-strangled.
Dean ducks his head and his voice comes out a little unsteady as he says, "The real question is why are you still here? Go get my clothes, bitch. Cas owes me pie."
"Jerk," Sam shoots back. "And Cas… Is that your real name? Cas?"
("Listen up, little soldier.")
"My name is Castiel."
("You've still got a job to do.")
"I'm an angel of the Lord," Castiel tells him, and Dean snickers into his collarbone.
"Yeah, 'cause that thing you do with your tongue is just so angelic—"
"Leaving," Sam says, covering his ears with his hands and making for the door. "So, so leaving."
It's different like this.
"Now," Castiel breathes into Dean's mouth. "Now, Dean, I—"
"Angelic my ass," Dean says on a choked laugh, shuddering against him. "Yeah, now is good, now is— fucking great—"
Different, and yet exactly the same. Castiel is greedy for this, for the affirmation that this is his Dean, again and again and again: the starburst scar at his shoulder from a shotgun blast, the raised clawmarks on his hip Castiel can fit his own hand over and dig in as Dean moves; the green-gold of his eyes going dark and hazy, slipping closed when Castiel begins to move with him.
Castiel remembers the Voice of the Choir, the glorious harmonies that spun the planets in their orbits and made the stars shine, but he has never heard anything so beautiful as Dean's voice cracking as he groans, "Love you, oh God, so much."
"Love you," Castiel tells him back, means it with everything he is, everything he was. The world turns, and he is finally turning with it, his scraps of Grace twining themselves around Dean's soul so intricately and intimately they may never be separate again.
"I love you," he gasps, and surrenders to it.