Better than a Burger
Summary: A Destiel story. Dean is feeling very conflicted about being "zapped" everywhere by Castiel, so he decides to write his feelings down on paper. Castiel is too angelic to fully grasp the concept emotion, so enlists the help of Dean and Sam to sort it through.
How do you describe something that surreal? Is it even possible? Because every time I try, my words fall flat. I guess that I just can't do justice to something that comes from Heaven. I'm only a mere mortal, after all.
But still, I have to try. I have to articulate this because the feeling is practically eating me alive. If Dean Winchester has to work through his freaking emotions, you know it's some intense shit you're dealing with.
So here I am, sitting at the crappy motel desk, writing on crappy motel paper about my feelings. Never thought I'd say that—or I guess, write that.
Let me put it this way: the first time Castiel flew me somewhere, in that moment, I believed that God could exist.
Sure, the world is full of bad shit that's trying to kill you twenty four hours a day. Sure, bad things happen to good people. Sure, we can't save everyone.
But when I was there, in the air with Cas, I was completely and totally convinced that to have something that perfect, God had to be involved. There was really no other way that it could exist without something destroying it.
Maybe I call it 'zapping' and pretend I don't like it, but that's because the feeling is overwhelming. It was crisp, clean, cold, and breathtaking. It was warmth, safety, love, and kindness. It was everything all at once, and nothing could have made it better.
Dean Winchester is not a coward. Dean Winchester is a badass guy. But Dean Winchester is not ashamed to say it scared the shit out of him.
It was like coming out of the bathtub and into the cold air as a little kid. You feel completely out of whack—you're cold and wet and dripping and just want to be dry. But then there's that feeling of your mom wrapping a warm towel around you. It encloses you and makes you feel safe. Nothing beats that feeling—nothing.
I hadn't felt that since I was four.
It had been snatched away from me, and little Sammy never even got the chance to experience it. So yes, Castiel is a 'rogue angel' and he's done some bad things, but I will always remember that he was the one who gave that feeling back to me.
But in my experience, things like that are too good to be true. They're like some sort of drug—something I could get addicted to as easy as breathing. It gave me that sensation I was always lacking, that one little aspect of my person that I never really had. It made me whole, and I loved it.
And that's why I couldn't have it.
See, the thing about me is that I'm self-deprecating. Sometimes it seems like I only exist so I can hurt myself. So when offered the one thing that made me happy besides Sam and Baby, I didn't know what to do with myself.
And of course, when I'm faced with a situation I don't know how to react to, I shut down. I become a big, stupid creature of denial, and I just say no.
No more this. No more that. No more zapping.
And just as fast as it came to me, one of the best things I'd ever had was gone. No one could be blamed but myself, of course.
But that didn't stop the other feelings. I don't think any power that I have in my very well-stocked arsenal of denial and self-harm could have stopped those. And by those, I mean my feelings for Castiel.
Okay, that's going to send the wrong messages. What I mean is…well, it's hard to explain.
Say you go to a burger joint, and you have the best cheeseburger of your mortal life. You've never tasted anything so deliciously juicy and flavorful. What are you going to hold accountable for that perfect cheeseburger: the cheeseburger itself, or the restaurant that provided it?
It'll be the restaurant every time, I guarantee it.
So you'll come back there as often as you can—the cheeseburgers are so fantastic you just can't help yourself.
Before you know it, you've fallen in love with that angel.
Cheeseburger joint. You've fallen in love with that cheeseburger joint.
Obviously this writing crap isn't helping me at all. It's just getting everything more confused in my head. I should probably stop, but this beats some quack "therapist" any day. Plus, Sammy's been giving me those looks lately. You know, the "I'm worried about you and it's taking everything in me not to talk about it" looks.
See, what I'm trying to say is that Cas is my burger joint. He's my drug dealer. He's who I come to for a good hit and a nice high.
So it's not love, not really. It's more of an addiction.
A familiar sound made Dean stop writing mid-sentence. Actually, he didn't just stop writing; he stopped everything. There wasn't one muscle in his body that moved. He had thought it sounded like the flutter of wings, but he couldn't be sure. It was always best to be on guard. Even if it was wings, that couldn't guarantee Castiel. He told his beating heart to shut up, it was so loud he was sure the entire motel could hear it. All his weapons were on the other side of the room, except for his gun, which was under that bed. Could he make it to there?
He definitely recognized that voice. He could recognize that voice anywhere, any time. It resonated through him and made him shiver. He was about to turn around and reply, when he remembered what he had just been doing. Looking down at the desk, his heart practically skipped a beat—and not in the good way.
There was a sudden flurry of sounds and movement. A chair slid across the ground, creating a hollow, echoing noise through the tiny room. It was accented by the crumpling of papers which being hurriedly hidden under a laptop. In the rushed process, a lamp was knocked over, adding the thump of the base on the ground and the crack of the light bulb to the medley of noises. Finally, it stopped, and Dean stood up and turned around, a more-than-slightly embarrassed look on his face.
The angel tilted his head inquisitively. It was one of those times that made Dean wonder why Castiel didn't talk unless it was absolutely necessary. It was probably because angels had some intense telepathic communication thing, so speaking with actual words was far too primitive. It reminded him of when Cas rode in the car, and he almost cracked a smile at that.
"Oh, just…you know, writing," Dean said, answering the question that hadn't even been asked—not out loud, anyway. His voice contained no conviction. The tone practically held up a neon sign that there was more going on, and he hoped that Castiel understood humans enough to know when to not press for information.
Apparently he did, since his reply had nothing to do with what Dean had been doing.
"Are you distressed?"
The question was asked so casually that Dean didn't even think about it at first. When he did, it seemed out of place and strange.
"I'm—am I what?"
Why would Cas be asking this? Had something happened? Was he alright? Was Sam alright? He had been gone for an awfully long time…but that wasn't something to be too concerned about, he reminded himself. Dean had sent him to get food at a place about half an hour away since all the nearby burger joints were terrible. Food hadn't really been tasting as good, lately, Dean had noticed.
Just as Dean was calming down again, Castiel continued his long-standing tradition of saying weird things.
"I sensed your anguish and I came to help."
What could Dean say to that, really? He didn't know, so he just stared at Cas. His mouth was the slightest bit open, displaying his surprise. Castiel took advantage of the silence to continue his strange streak.
If this was a cartoon, Dean's lower jaw would have just hit the floor. He could practically feel the hypothetical vibration through his skull right then. Or maybe that was just shock. Either way, it was unsettling.
"I…Cas…what are you talking about?"
In a rare show of emotion, Castiel started to blush. His face was flushing a pink color that reminded Dean of a perfect strawberry shake. He should have asked Sam to get him one of those. Was it too late to call? It took him a couple seconds to break away from his daydreams of good milkshakes, but when he did, Dean was thoroughly confused.
"Cas, what's going on!"
The slim little angel's face just got even pinker. It was getting to the point where Dean wondered if it was healthy anymore. What if too much blood was rushing to his face and he just…popped? It was a seriously troubling idea.
"'S'up," Cas mumbled again, staring at his shoes.
Had he suddenly lost all his badass angel nature? Why was he acting so strangely?
Looking up into Dean's eyes like a dog expecting a beating, Castiel blinked deliberately. He looked as if he was about to burst into tears, and Dean definitely couldn't deal with that. He was a hunter, not a therapist, for crying out loud!
"Well, nothing much," Dean replied slowly, attempting to make Cas feel more comfortable. It just came out as caustic.
Thinking Dean was making light of something he seemed to be taking so seriously, Cas looked down quickly in shame. It only served to make Dean feel guilty as hell.
"Hey. Hey, Cas, what are you doing?"
His voice was sweeter now, more sincere. He said Castiel's nickname, reminding him that they were friends, that Dean knew him well enough to call him that. He was comforting, he was kind, and he was the Dean that Castiel loved.
Castiel glanced back up and beamed. It was the smallest smile Dean had ever seen, but it held so much emotion. Maybe that was because Castiel was the only person who revealed less emotion than Dean, so when he did, it was a big hullabaloo.
"I…I just read somewhere that you ask people ''s'up' when you are engaging in conversation. It's the colloquial term for 'How are you on this day?'" Cas grinned sheepishly.
"Cas, have you recently found the Internet?"
"Yes, Dean! It is a vast expanse of knowledge! I never dreamed it possible that humans could accomplish something so marvelous!"
Dean chuckled. The excitement on the angel's face was refreshing, after all the shit they'd been through. He laughed harder than he had initially expected, but God—it felt so good. Bubbling up from his belly, the laugh forced his eyes to crinkle and his hand to grab the chair for stability. It always felt better to laugh with Cas. Damnit, Castiel's 'drug' was better than heroin.
"That being said, I think you should be careful. There's probably some things on there you wouldn't want to see."
"Like the Pizza Man?" Castiel asked, his deadpan face having returned. Any hint of his bashful, grinning self had long since disappeared.
"Yeah, like the Pizza Man."
Thinking back to the Pizza Man brought memories of Meg back, and Dean would sooner have those memories stay buried. Meg was a little bitch. She was manipulative and crazy and had completely adulterated Cas. That was supposed to be Dean's job.
Dean's job meaning taking him to a strip club, of course.
"Anyway, Cas, I'm not distressed. You can go."
Castiel nodded. He turned as if he was about to leave, but then stopped. His back facing Dean, he just stood, still as stone. His trenchcoat hung loosely on his back, and his shoulders were tensed. Dean could tell his was thinking about something serious. That's the posture he always had when he was about to drop a heavy bomb.
"Actually, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather stay, Dean."
Although that wasn't quite the "bomb" Dean had expected, it certainly complicated writing about his feelings.
"Yeah, sure. Go ahead." Yeah, Dean was a sucker for polite, trenchcoat-wearing angels.
"Thank you. You may get back to your writing, if you want. I'll just sit over there and watch over you."
Sometimes Cas could be sweet in the creepiest ways.
So, Cas just visited. He popped in for a little chat. That's why I cut off like that. Apologies, and all that jazz.
I would continue my chickflic sob story, but he's sort of just sitting there in his chair, watching me. It makes it hard to vent all my deepest emotions out on paper. I wonder what he would think of me comparing him to a drug dealer. He'd probably just accuse me of sacrilege.
Right now I'm writing to look busy more than anything else. I guess I should probably just go talk to him, but he has that look on his face. You know, that look. The one where he is about to say something life changing. He had that look the first time we met. The terrifying combination of nonchalance and monumental is the part that really freaks me out. You never know what he's about to say until it sort of just smacks you in the chest and takes the wind out of you.
All that being said, he's starting to fidget. He never fidgets because he's an angel, and angels don't do that. That's a human quirk. Angels are perfectly content sitting at chairs and staring into the distance for days on end, or so he's told me. That's no big deal to them, apparently. Obviously Sam and I have really screwed him up for good if he's starting to fidget.
On that happy note, I bid you adieu. You can't put these sorts of things off forever. The little dude clearly has something he has to get off his chest, and it's making me antsy just being in the room with him. And besides, I'm craving a cheeseburger.
Dean turned around in his chair, swiveling his body in a full 180 to face his friend.
"Hey, I'm done writing."
"That's wonderful, Dean."
"Yeah…I mean, I guess so."
All that met Dean was silence. Cas sure didn't make conversation easy. Well, when in doubt, be blunt, Dean always said.
"What's bugging you, Cas?"
The angel had been staring at his hands which lay in his lap, one on top of the other. He peered at them like they held the answers to all the questions of the universe. Dean's question stirred him out of his haze.
"I was only thinking."
Dean grinned. "Don't hurt yourself."
The joke fell flat on Cas. "I'll try not to," he replied solemnly.
"No, really, Cas. What's up?"
Castiel hesitated, and then looked up at Dean, his face the very definition of worry. "Dean. I had—no, I have—this…sensation."
"You're gonna have to give me a little more to go on here, Cas."
"It feels as though there is some sort of…pressure…inside my vessel, pushing out." Noticing Dean's panicked expression, Cas quickly reassured him; "I'm sure it's not anything supernatural, though. I would know by now if it was, I'm quite sure of that. Though I'm completely bemused, Dean. Is this some sort of human feeling?"
"It sounds like you're feeling an emotion, Cas. Congrats, and welcome to humanity. It sucks."
Ignoring Dean's pessimistic quips, Castiel continued. "But I've felt emotions before. Anger made my face hot and my fists tighten in preparation to burn beings with my Grace, and sadness was almost undistinguishable from the former. Confusion usually led to anger, as well. They all seem to, these emotions. But this is new, Dean. I don't understand it."
Dean decided to play along. He could be Cas' therapist for a few minutes; he owed the guy that much for all he'd put him through.
"When did this 'sensation' start?"
"Well, I suppose once I pulled you out of Hell."
Dean grunted in surprise, and Castiel's eyes widened the slightest bit: a big show of emotion for an angel.
"You don't think some Hellish residue got stuck to me, do you, Dean? You were down there longer than I; is that possible? Angels know very little about that place, to be completely honest."
Dean shook his head, trying to look as wise as possible. "No, of course that's no possible." For all his knowledge and experience, Dean was actually at a loss. He had no idea whether or not that was possible, but he didn't want Cas to start freaking out. Who could say what an angel having a panic attack would look like?
Castiel nodded slowly, trying to reassure himself that it was a crazy idea. There was no such thing as "Hellish residue." Demons didn't leave ectoplasm, after all.
"Okay, Cas, tell more about the physical part of this sensation." Dean crossed laid his right ankle on his left knee and attempted to look attentive and professional. If Castiel thought it was silly, he didn't let it show.
Swallowing thickly, Castiel racked his brain for the human words to describe it. Everything was so much easier in Enochian. The other angels just understood, whether you said it correctly or not. Dean was no angel, though, and simple words would have to do for now. It's not as if his brothers and sisters would understand whatever this was. Castiel was sure it was something completely and utterly human.
"It's comes every now and then, and suddenly I find it hard to control my vessel, like something else is struggling for jurisdiction. It's not Jimmy Novak, though. He is completely unaware of it, as far as I can tell." Dean tried to push that comment somewhere else in his mind. He hated being reminded that what he looked at every day wasn't Cas, not really, anyway. It was some poor guy who had a family and was trying to look out for them.
It didn't faze Cas though, and he continued like the words were inconsequential. To him, they probably were.
"Then there's the pressure in my chest, like I told you about. My cheeks get really hot, but not in the angry way. My pupils dilate; I can sense the change in the amount of light I receive. It feels as though my throat constricts, and my breathing gets heavier. When recognizing these symptoms as some sort of fever, I attempted to heal myself—to no avail. It doesn't add up, Dean."
Dean didn't understand it either, or maybe he did, and he didn't want to admit it. He was that kind of person. Instead, he did what he always did in situations that made him feel threatened: he called his brother.
"Yeah, and he said something about his breathing getting heavier, too. Do you think angels can get that ghost fever thing? It seems really weird, Sam."
His brother's voice came through the phone, echoing through the room on speakerphone. Dean could practically see Sam wrinkle his forehead in exasperation.
"What!" Dean snapped back. He didn't feel like being patronized. He was worried about Cas. Dean had seen seemingly "minor" things kill his friends and family before, and he wasn't about to let it happen again—especially not to Cas.
"Well, I don't want to overstep here, but…"
"Spit it out, Sasquatch."
"Well, that sounds a lot like love, Dean."
Dean was speechless, and that wasn't very common for him. He usually had a retort for everything, and he knew he would mentally slap himself for letting this get his guard down later. It was just like Sam to say something so cheesy, too. He should have expected his little brother to be sappy and useless. Bobby was next on speed-dial. Hopefully he would be a little more helpful.
Looking over at Castiel sitting on the motel chair across from him, Dean saw the little guy had a completely blank face. It was like all emotion had just dropped off of him and flew out into a void, never to return.
"Cas?" he asked softly, waving his hand in front of the the angel's general field of vision.
"Dean? Dean, I'm sorry, but that's just what it sounded like! Dean! Dean, I—"
He snapped the phone shut with strong hands, probably more forcefully than necessary. Walking over to Castiel, he crouched down in front of his chair.
"Hey, buddy? What's going on in there?"
Slowly, Castiel dragged his eyes to meet Dean's. The look was so morbid, so deadly serious, that Dean stopped breathing; he couldn't even remember how to go about inhaling. Those blue eyes shone with emotion so deep that Dean couldn't believe he had thought Castiel's face blank. If the emotion had been sucked into a void, than the void was these blue wells.
One, two, three, four, five, six…Dean lost count how many seconds they were there, simply staring at one another. There was no silent communication like one might expect. They didn't reveal the solution to the universe or divulge their deepest secrets to one another, and nothing was implied or resolved. It was just a look—a long, long look.
And it was perfect.
When they say that time goes by slower in those moments? That every second lasts a lifetime? Don't believe what they tell you. When you have a moment like that—if you're blessed with a moment like that—you better fucking cherish it. Time goes by so fast you'll barely know it happened, and memories aren't much kinder. They fade, merciless and cruel, as you struggle to hold on to them. Dean knew this better than anyone.
But there was one other thing that Dean had learned. If you try—if you really, truly try, you might be able to trap them there.
So Dean stared into the aqua orbs and tried.
They sat together for who can say how long, but it felt like barely any time at all. Dean felt like the entire experience was falling down a waterfall—he was suspended there for milliseconds, maybe seconds if he was lucky, but he was going to crash soon, and there was nothing to break his fall.
Was that feeling excitement, or fear?
The air around was tense, sizzling, like electricity was coursing through every molecule, every atom, every single quark of the room. It didn't affect those two, though, so they just sat, and looked, and waited.
And then it all broke.
Those blue wells overflowed, and suddenly there was a salty track left on a perfectly serene face. The dam broke, and suddenly it all came flowing out. The face never changed—it was the eye of the storm—but the eyes held nothing but chaos.
Dean saw the pain in his best friend's eyes—his only friend's eyes—but all he could do was watch. He was suspended there; sitting, his legs and knees complaining, he could do nothing. Helpless, he waited for the storm to pass.
Confusion, fear, loss, loneliness, anger, resentment, hate, forgiveness, and understanding flashed through the wells. It was a marvel the little angel didn't implode, that the only difference in his entire being was the constant supply of salt water cascading down his face.
Delicate hands rose up to his face and felt the water tentatively. As if frightened of the humanity it symbolized, Cas pulled his hand back like he had been burned. Only a second later, he touched his wet cheek again. Wiping away a few tears, he brought his hand out before his face and looked at them. He stared at the glistening droplets of liquid, his eyes never moving, never ceasing to overflow.
"What is this?" he whispered, his voice barely a breath on nonexistent wind. He didn't dare talk too loud, for it would make the whole experience real.
And Dean was finally free.
"Love," he replied, almost giddy. "That's love."
Cas stared at his hand in awe, his eyes finally changing, widening the tiniest bit. He met his with Dean's, and he smiled. It was barely a curve to his lip, as if he was too drained to manage anymore. Being human can do that to you, thought Dean.
Reaching out ever so slowly, Cas brought his hand to Dean's cheek. It was warm, with the cool wetness of his tears dampening his skin.
"It's love," Cas agreed. "And I want you to have it."
No burger would ever compare to that.