.the heroes are dead
pairing castieldean [spn]
Dean is tense, spine coiled, all sharp angles and rough edges, and Castiel doesn't know how to make it better. He cannot make Dean forget. He cannot make Dean forgive, cannot make him forgive himself. But he can help, he can aid Dean in his time of need, and he does.
if only i could visit the places that you hide; you're broken (and i want it).
ben lee • sleepwalking
When Dean was small, he'd dream of angels. Castiel knows, because he was watching. Watching and waiting, old and young and ancient, graceful tips of his wings a hairsbreadth away from Dean's tiny palm, fluttering, sending ripples of love and warm breath inside him, into his dreams.
When he'd wake up, he'd say, "Mommy, I saw an angel."
And his mother said: Yes, darling. Yes, you dream of angels. The angels are watching over you.
And Castiel would rise, up and up and somewhere far but near enough that he would know Dean would sleep in peace.
When Dean's mother bursts into flames and Dean clings to his brother, eyes searching for a father that he'll never know again, Castiel's wings are nowhere near him.
If Dean sees any dreams, Castiel knows, they are no longer about angels.
It's a long, long while Castiel has to wait.
He is used to waiting, watching, observing as the world turns around and around and the people are born, changing and morphing into simple yet curiously complex creatures, disintegrating into nothing and new people, all the time, and Dean is only a speck amongst them all, and yet he shines the brightest.
Be strong, Castiel thinks, thoughts tossed into the wind.
He thinks: I am with you.
Castiel knows this: Dean's life is not a straight line. It is bruised and battered and it curves into all possible shapes, and every moment speaks of the one before, the next, those to come. His life is a continuous movement forward, up and down, sideways, scattered pieces glued together shakily, fragile and strong.
When Sam leaves and Dean is left alone with his father, Castiel sees possibilities. Potential roads, paths that could exist, ones he hopes will and ones he hopes will not. Sees the existence of things he would fight, things he would correct, mend, things he would love.
Choice, such a profound human skill. A or B. To do, or not to do. Castiel has seen the very worst choices, the best ones, the ones in between. He has seen their consequences, both awe-inspiring and terrible, and there is not much he can do to help Dean choose the right one, because there is no single right answer.
All there is — all there ever will be — is an endless amount of choices, possible outcomes.
He prays: Please.
The path chosen, once it appears, is in hindsight the only possible one. Dean Winchester, Castiel has learned, is nothing if not unpredictable.
"Bitch," says Dean, and Castiel can see the love in the lines where his mouth quirks slightly upwards, the fondness in the corners of his eyes, flutter of his lashes.
The punch to his shoulder is a curious one, Castiel thinks — no pain, no anguish, no fights to solve. Only the push of Sam's fist into Dean's arm, the tilt of his mouth when he grins and squints his eyes. Only the easy camaraderie, the tension unwinding from their backs, and is this how humanity functions? Is this how brothers make do?
Castiel watches, wistful, glad, and Dean shoves Sam away and chuckles when Sam catches up and says, "Jerk."
Castiel knows this: Dean is not a martyr. He is no hero, no saint. The things he does are not always done for the good of all but, rather, for Sam. The beloved brother, the alleged Boy King, the tainted man with demon blood coursing through his veins in a myriad of battles, forced evil and intrinsic good warring each other.
(He can only hope and pray that the latter will prevail and the former will perish, diminish and scatter into the non-existence it once came from.)
He also knows this: Dean will never, ever, abandon his brother. He may be flawed, he may be broken, but he died and went to Hell, and he would do it over and over again for the tiniest of hope that Sam would be spared. Saved. But he will never, ever, abandon his brother.
So Castiel knows: Acceptance is only the first step.
And this is how Castiel begins. This is how he knows, this is how he prays.
Let him save Sam, he thinks. Let him save him without undoing himself in the process. Let him succeed.
He sees Dean, hunched over Sam's still, silent body (corpse), sees Dean, cradling Sam to his chest, fingers clenching and unclenching against his shirt, his face, his hair. Sees Dean, saying Sam, Sam, Sammy, oh god no ohgodnonononodon'tsammyno, sees Dean, heart shattered into tiny bits and pieces, left with nothing but the air he breathes and the ancient, howling ache inside his chest, in the hollows of his bones. Sees Dean, damning himself in the process of saving his brother, and Castiel prays: not this. Not ever this.
Sees Dean, hunched over his brother and then hunched against him, sees him clenching his dead brother and then clinging to an impossible brother. Sees Dean falling into place again, like the pieces of a puzzle, the way he works and uncoils when Sam is back.
And Castiel knows this is only the beginning. The middle, the beginning of the eye of the storm, the silent sigh before the torrid wind. He knows: I will stand by him.
Dean fails. He fails, and he falls, down and down and down until there is nothing left but a rotting corpse and a grieving brother who feels gutted, empty, feels the same hollowness in his bones, the same ache in his chest, the same life-altering pain that Dean once felt.
But it is nothing to the fires of Hell, Castiel knows. Nothing to the ancient terror and grief that lie in shadows and crevices, hidden. Nothing to the endless stream of the dead, their screams and tears and cries of unutterable pain.
He thinks: Wait for me, Dean Winchester.
He thinks: Wait for me. I will come.
It burns, a violent tremor against his soul that only serves to make him push farther, further, makes him think of Dean and how he will live. How he will live again, and continue, and continue, and be glorious. Makes him think of arms clenching around bodies, makes him think of embraces lost in loss and pain but never forgotten, makes him think about the endless deandeanohgoddean in Sam's mind.
Makes him think of regret, and he will save Dean.
He thinks: You are the reason, Dean.
"You have no faith," he says, and means it.
Dean is shuttered, tense, waiting to strike, a coiled snake in the pit of his stomach uncoiling, its head rising and Dean cannot comprehend — cannot truly realise what lies ahead and what he is fated to do. Refuses to realise, Castiel knows, but Dean's mind is a jumbled mess of aches and memories, and he knows Dean is not alright. Knows faith would not help Dean, knows it would only serve to guide him along the right path but that is something Castiel should do. Will do, because he raised Dean from perdition and that makes Dean his. His protégé, his human, his to protect and guide and mend. His to heal.
He thinks: I will not fail you, Dean Winchester.
Dean, asleep, is painful to watch. Castiel knows what he sees in his dreams, knows the memories and the way rest eludes Dean for as long as they keep on ravaging his mind. It is simple, awakening Dean. A whisper of words carried to Dean in silent reverie, a graze of peace brushing against his mind, a silent murmur of noise that no man could ever understand.
He wakes up in a similar manner — painfully, quickly, years and years of habit forcing him to fumble for his weapons while his mind is still inside his dreams, his memories. Castiel does not move an inch. He is watching, waiting, much like he is used to doing.
Dean, awake, is painfully beautiful, radiant, and the sun filtering through the flimsy curtains makes him glow in the haze of an early morning, little specks of light settling in his hair, inside the hollows of his body. Eyes still sleepy, tired, Dean gives him a look.
Castiel, for once, is not entirely sure what it means.
He says, instead, "Dean."
And Dean grunts out a "What?", fingers clenching and unclenching against the hilt of the knife, and when he rolls out of bed it is only take a few steps away, back curved against the wall as though he was made to stand there, against the wall, holding it up with all his might. It's his way of shielding himself, Castiel knows, and yet something clenches in his chest, his vessel's lungs and heart constricting in a way he didn't think himself capable of feeling.
Because Dean stood back. Retreated. Saw Castiel, and did not wish to be near him.
Castiel thinks: You are mine, Dean Winchester.
Thinks: I will not abandon you.
"You were dreaming," he says instead, because those are thoughts he cannot utter. (Both for Dean's sake as well as his own. Angels are not possessive by nature, and yet for Dean, he continues to make exceptions, only Dean is not ready to hear it. To know what he means to Castiel, how false his disbelief in his own worthiness is. Dean is not ready, but he will be.)
He says, "Memories," and Dean is tense, spine coiled, all sharp angles and rough edges, and Castiel doesn't know how to make it better. He cannot make Dean forget. He cannot make Dean forgive, cannot make him forgive himself. But he can help, he can aid Dean in his time of need, and he does.
Steps forward, against him, fingers raised and he murmurs "Dean," and Dean slumps against him, asleep and at peace as he should have been from the start.
Things go wrong, as they so often do, and Dean is a wreckage, a whirlwind, an exploding star.
It is incomprehensible, this human need, this want. He cannot understand why Dean drowns himself in alcohol and women, because for all the things he's seen in his long, long (endless) life, for all the things he knows about Dean and for all the terrible, immoral deeds he has seen humanity capable of doing, this is something he fails to understand. The need for comfort, yes. But Dean is not looking for comfort — he shies away from it, instead, and makes himself believe that the alcohol he drinks — inhales — and the faceless women he touches are enough to stave off the cold, the darkness.
He wants to say: There is no need for such measures, for I will look after you.
He wants to say: You are loved.
He says: You know what becomes of those who lie to themselves, do you not?
Dean sends him a glare that would make him flinch if he were anything less than what he is. But he is what he is, and Dean does not frighten him. (Only the things lurking inside Dean, around him, the dark, secret things Dean doesn't know are there and the things he does, but ignores, a desperate attempt at living up to being fine.) When Dean blinks, Castiel is already gone.
He sees Dean, and he sees Dean alone. He sees Dean fighting, killing, loving, desperate and unutterably determined to protect those he loves (and a litany of samsamsamsammy runs through Deans head, Castiel knows, on repeat, on repeat, over, and over, and over again) and Castiel sees Dean glorious, broken, slumped against his car and it's like his spine is too big, stretching his skin too wide and too far, vertebrae pressing inside, pulling outside, muscle and bone and sinews all tangling together into knots until Dean's naught but a silent shadow, curved in on himself.
It isn't ideal, Castiel thinks.
He thinks: This is a start.
His palm — a normal, human hand, nothing at all to suggest the terrible deeds it has done, nothing at all to tell this man is no more a man than God — is light and warm on Dean's shoulder, and he presses it closer, tighter, into Dean, he likes to think, because this is where they begin.
Dean jerks, says, "What the—"
And Castiel nods in greeting, observing the hand that is touching only air, now, and sees the veins, the scraped knuckles, the bony fingers, and sees a human mind. It is a comforting thing, he thinks. To have this human hand, to be capable of touch, and comfort, and the feel of someone else beside you.
Dean exhales, inhales, exhales again, a monotony of unconscious action and need, and Castiel is thankful. Dean is breathing. Dean can breathe. Dean curves back into himself, against his car, but his spine seems to sag inside his skin, muscle and bone and sinews untangling, gently extracting themselves out of each other, their sullen embrace long forgotten, and Castiel inhales, exhales, inhales again.
He thinks: Soon, Dean. Soon.
He thinks: This is how we begin to heal.
The pads of his fingers are soft and insistent on Dean's cheek, and Castiel hopes they convey the strength of his devotion, the love he feels, the love their Father feels, the thoughts inside his head. He hopes Dean understands them, him, what he's thinking and what he sees when he looks at Dean. Oh, how he hopes.