1 year ago • 13 notes
The soft pattering of the screen door slapping back on its hinges calls Sam out of his reverie. Dean must’ve come back for something while he was out on guard duty and, all at once, Sam is reminded that he should’ve been out to perimeter check a while ago. He sighs, shifting his worn thumbs over Castiel’s flanks to nudge him around before he pulls back entirely.
“Listen… why don’t you get some sleep while I go and walk the line, and I’ll bring some breakfast back later? You look like you got ran over by a bus,” Sam sighs, smile half-cocked as he leans forward to brush the lightest kiss over Castiel’s pursed lips.
There’s no time or energy for wringing more from Castiel than what he’s already given, and it’s entirely not worth the potential argument, so Sam scrubs a hand through his hair instead and pads across the room for his pants and boots. The morning chill bites at him as he rolls his jeans on, but Sam ignores it in favor of throwing on an overshirt and toeing on his boots. The sun will be enough to keep him warm for the five hundred paces it takes to circle Goodsprings.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
They’ll have time for explanations later — time for Sam to crawl into bed and rub the ache out of Castiel’s tender shoulders. Time for kisses and confessions. He can let Cas rest for now; the desert is waiting.
Sam’s voice is a distant buzz in the fog pervading Castiel’s mind, lost in the sharp scream of what Cas knows he should recognize, but can’t. That smell is like death and brimstone and abandoned metropolitan highways in the chaos of the End, but whatever it is, whatever lurks in the dark of Castiel’s recognition, Sam doesn’t seem to notice. And perhaps Castiel is all too eager to lean on Sam’s assessment of the situation— after all this, he’s not certain he could handle another crisis.
Sleep and food are among the furthest things from Cas’ thoughts, neither necessary, though perhaps rest is becoming so. For the first time since this all began, real sleep as opposed to meditative rest doesn’t seem so far out of reach and Castiel sighs as Sam leans in, brushes their lips together and walks away. That lingering sensation of dread pits deep in his gut, but Cas finds himself no longer able to distinguish if it’s origin is the creak of that door, or the horrors he has witnessed in this week passed in moments.
As Sam disappears into the hall, Castiel hopes it’s the latter.
1 year ago • 13 notes
Sam sees the resignation biting Castiel’s posture before he utters a single word. Concepts like burden and responsibility are things Sam knows well. He knows the sting of failure and the ache that follows, the want to make amends. To shoulder the blame and try to cobble together the best possible solution with whatever options might be left. That’s what they had been doing here after all, second only to survival.
The silence of the room is a boon and a bother, something to shift focus onto and to crumple under in tandem until Sam can do nothing more but sigh as Castiel slithers from between his fingers and to his feet. The notion that he’s suffering in a way that locks Sam out is one that does rends at Sam’s quickly dissipating patience, and though he says nothing, the ache in his jaw swells under his clenching teeth. This isn’t the first time he’s heard these words — Dean, their dad, Bobby, even Sam himself have all shoved aside another’s concern for the sake of coping alone. Of suffering quietly. Less guilt that way, less weight on the overwhelming burden of trying and utterly failing. It’s written all over Castiel’s face, illuminated in his tightly drawn features: He’s tired and he’s hurting and he won’t let Sam in, not now that he’s in so deep. There’s hardly a point in even asking — the wall has gone up and it’ll stay up until Castiel has overcome this burden or he drowns in it, and there’s nothing about this that eases Sam’s nerves.
“I know it might seem that way now, but Cas — it doesn’t have to be that way,” Sam avers, scrubbing a hand through his sleep-worn hair.
It’s just barely light outside, cold and early still, but there’s no going back to sleep now, not with his stomach churning and the scent of Grace tugging his senses. He shifts and pushes himself to standing, snagging Castiel’s wrist lightly between his fingers. Sam wants this closeness, misses it inexplicably as he presses his nose into the crook of Cas’ shoulder and breathes deeply.
This impasse draws an unknown manner of sympathy from him, beats in his lungs hard and unwavering. He wants to help, he wants to make this — all of this — better. He wants nothing more than for the ghost haunting Castiel to be as real as any other so he might fill it full of rock salt, burn it to ashes, and finally let Cas breath easy in his own skin, but he can’t. He won’t be able to do anything at all until Cas lets him in and, even then, Cas has to want it. Sam knows better than most that sometimes people chose to suffer simply because they know nothing else.
“This — whatever this is — you don’t have to go through it alone, Cas. Even if it seems impossible, that’s what we’re here for,” Sam draws his arm around Castiel’s waist, fingers leaving faint impressions against his flank.
“That’s what I’m here for.”
There had been some hope lingering in Castiel’s heart that this might be the end of it, that Sam might accept this and leave the subject be. He doesn’t deserve such kindness, couldn’t be so lucky when luck is all that has kept this conversation unspoken until now, but he had hoped all the same. A loss for words is a sensation Castiel has rarely experienced, but as Sam insists and all but begs Cas to let him in, it is the only way to describe the lump in his throat, the otherwise inexplicable pounding of a heart with no other reason to beat. What is there to say? Nothing but more denial or the very confession he cannot allow himself to give, and Castiel tenses at the creak of bedsprings, at the soft pad of Sam’s feet across the floorboards before fingers curl tightly around his wrist. He expects many things, but the heat of Sam’s breath against the crook of his neck, burying himself there and breathing Cas in is very low on the list, and it clenches tighter in his chest for it— this would almost be easier if Sam was angry. Castiel doesn’t know what to do with this concern.
He feels weaker than he has since Grace returned to him, perhaps even before. His senses dulled, his mind hazy and perhaps for this first time in his life, Castiel finds himself wanting for an understanding ear. But the one person he trusts to share this with is the one person he simply can’t, the one person the truth might undo entirely, and it’s several long, tense moments before Castiel allows himself to settle into the bow of Sam’s arms, the warmth of him pressed against his back. It may seem to Sam that Cas is putting up a wall meant to keep Sam out, but it is not because he doesn’t trust him— that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Castiel will simply endure what he must to spare Sam, to spare everyone the burden of the truth of the Universe as Castiel is slowly, painfully coming to understand it.
Castiel’s lips part, the sensation of Grace warming the air around them apparent for the first time since he returned. He doesn’t have a clue what he intends to say, he simply knows he can’t leave this to fester, and Cas curls his hand over the back of Sam’s where it rests against his hip, fighting the steadily growing urge to step away from this as much as he needs it. To simply back out of this situation entirely and spare them both the grief.
But whether through sheer luck, or perhaps fate, Cas finds himself interrupted by the screech of the back door slipping shut.
It’s little more than the quiet squeal of a rusted hinge— quiet enough to miss easily and perhaps Castiel only heard it at all because some part of him was searching for a distraction. But it sets his nerves on edge, and Castiel tenses in Sam’s hold, gently pushing Sam’s hands away from his waist and shuffling a step or two forward.
It could be nothing. It could be Dean back early from watch, it could even be the house creaking in the wind. But it isn’t. Castiel can feel it, something dark in the pit of his stomach, something familiar in a way he should be able to pinpoint, but his tired mind fails him and Castiel can discern little more than a certainty that something is wrong and a faint rotten smell that wafts in over the desert dust.
1 year ago • 13 notes
Castiel’s smile doesn’t meet his eyes and the weight of the incongruity nudges Sam into sitting, fingers tapping loosely against Castiel’s warm palm. Little white lies about attitude and health are lip service in the Apocalypse; no one expects an honest answer to the question are you okay when half the world’s infected with a demonic virus. But Sam can see how ragged Castiel looks, so much more worn down than he seemed just hours ago. It’s a heavy, indelicate sort of gravity that seems to wrack Castiel’s whole form, bends his shoulders in and crooks his back until the dark lines under his eyes and the hollows of his pale cheeks seem a virulent brand of suffering Sam hasn’t been witness to.
The question isn’t about Castiel’s well-being now — it’s obvious that something’s not right. No, now Sam’s curious about what Castiel might be hiding in lieu of his restlessness. Why does he feel the need to try and lie about it? To save Sam some grief? Or maybe he thinks Sam will be of no help, and Sam himself isn’t entirely sure that’s off-base. What power does he actually have to help an angel with whatever might be ailing him? He has nothing at all.
Frustration creases Sam’s face, narrow little lines that draw his lips tight and his eyes thin as he sucks in a breath. Regardless of what Cas might have intended to mean, Sam knows this much: that whole I’m fine, Sam is utter horseshit.
“Has anyone ever told you what a bad liar you are?” Sam shifts up, leans forward into Castiel’s space as his legs work themselves free from the blankets.
The morning is still cold, frigid air prickling the hair on his arms, but Sam ignores it for now, choosing instead to twist Castiel’s fingers toward his own again. His voice crackles under his words, hoarse from the chill and sleep, but he still begs attention, needles Castiel gently for a glance and then another before they’re quietly facing each other.
“I get it, Cas. I really do. Whatever’s going on with you, it’s something you don’t wanna talk about and that’s fine — I’ve been down that road before plenty of times,” Sam starts, a shivered sigh pittering out between his teeth. He raises Castiel’s hand to his face, a brief, uncomplicated gesture, before he presses worn knuckles to his lips.
“But what am I supposed to say when you look like you went twelve rounds with Superman on a bad day?”
Sam shifts, legs folding over the edge of the bed as he comes to rest at Castiel’s side.
“I may not be able to fix it, Cas, but — whatever it is — you’re not doing yourself any favors by choking it down and pretending like nothing’s wrong.”
That small ghost of a smile leaves Castiel’s face along with the narrowing of Sam’s eyes— he can feel what’s coming, long before Sam says a word, before he turns and fights for Castiel’s gaze. Truth be told, Castiel has been more than surprised by Sam’s distance these past weeks; keeping to himself, not asking questions, quietly accepting far more than Castiel would ever expect of him. It’s not in Sam’s nature to let so much pass unchallenged, and he knew eventually Sam would not be able to keep silent on the matter. But still, he finds himself unprepared.
Shame flashes hot across Castiel’s face at the accusation. Yes, he is lying. Yes, he has lied many times in the last few days alone, and even though he would not dare think that Sam could be fooled so simply, it was easier to justify when the truth of it remained unspoken. Now it is staring him in the face and Castiel gathers himself as best he can in this state, tense and so sure that this morning is about to take a turn for the worst. Just when Castiel thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse.
“Sam—” Cas begins, voice low and tired, ready to defend despite exhaustion weighing him down, despite his uncertainty that he has it in him to fight at all. But he’s interrupted by the warmth of Sam’s hands cradling his own, by the reassurance in Sam’s tone and the brush of lips across the ridge of his knuckles. It’s so contrary to Castiel’s expectations that he finds himself staring in shock, searching Sam’s expression and his words for understanding.
This isn’t an accusation at all. This is concern— nothing more, nothing less. And though Castiel is sure that Sam doesn’t understand the gravity of what he is doing here, what he is trying to accomplish, the guilt clenches tight in his chest all the same.
Castiel wilts under Sam’s gaze, head down and fingers curled gently into the cup of Sam’s palm. As much as he wishes he could, he can’t dismiss this entirely— to do so would surely turn this conversation toward the dark Castiel has been admittedly wholly undeserving of avoiding so far. It is difficult, perhaps even more so than the early days of his Fall to admit when he is this far out of his depth. But he owes Sam this, owes Sam whatever honesty he can afford to give. However little that may be.
“I’m not…,” he begins, sighing and shaking his head. “I’m not all right. Not at all.”
The admission burns with shame, still shaking fingers running through the tangled mop of his hair. It’s a painfully human attempt at hiding his face from judgment, so much so that even now, Castiel is intensely aware of it. But he steels himself as best he can, sucks in a leveling breath and manages to meet Sam’s eyes once more.
“I am sorry, Sam. Truly. But this is something I have to do on my own. You can’t….”
Castiel stops, realizing there is nothing he can say to make Sam understand. Perhaps in the beginning — when this was just about responsibility, about setting things right because he was the only one who could — but not now. It’s moved so far beyond that now, and even if this wasn’t Castiel’s duty, even if Sam did possess the power to help, Castiel simply could not afflict Sam with all that he has seen. All that he has endured. Castiel’s mind is overrun by memories barren worlds torn apart, of brothers broken and slain, of Sam—
“I can’t,” Castiel murmurs, hands sliding from Sam’s grip as he pushes himself up to his feet. “It’s my burden to bear.”
1 year ago • 13 notes
Chapter IV; Book IV
log books: one; two; three; four
enochian phrase index
The days pass with a sneaking uneasiness Sam often finds in research; a quiet, weary sort of mulling that sets his nerves on edge just enough to keep sleep from coming right away. Despite the uncertainty, Castiel never strays and, if Sam counts his blessings, it’s only when his breath evens out for the long haul before morning, just as his dreams swallow him up.
That’s what seems to quell Sam’s trembling skin as they both sink down into the mattress and curl into the warmth the blossoms across his cheeks — Castiel, despite his wings and the aggression harbored by those in the camp, elects to stay here even when all the world is open to him now. He could go anywhere, Sam thinks, find a solitary island or some lone, primordial forest unaffected by the Croatoan virus and its far-reaching path of destruction, but he doesn’t.
Sam has to swallow hard and steady himself to keep from asking questions. Part of him doesn’t even really care to know; if Castiel finds himself content with their little home in the desert then Sam doesn’t care to rock the boat. But his mind does wander when he gets caught up in the rote trudging around the camp’s perimeter back to that sorry, weary morning when they both sat against the bareboards and offered their condolences for the world they let burn, the aftermath of so many monumental mistakes.
It had been two weeks since then — two weeks since Castiel stumbled back inside away from Sam’s prying questions. He let Cas go without standing to follow, all too aware of the gravity that comes with regret and the perfect hindsight and terrible inaction, and when the cold night came, Castiel wandered back into their bedroom, evident as any proper human. There was a strain there, something cautious that tugs on Castiel’s features in the shuttered dark. It’s easier when there’s no pretense, no obligation to speak, so they don’t. Sam reaches out instead, curls his fingers around the waxing curve of Castiel’s palm, and sinks in without a word ‘til Cas sees fit to press against him and blanket them in that shimmering warmth.
It’s like that for days, the brief tension that slowly eases away as they both find themselves falling back into their usual routine. Cas doesn’t have to eat, but he still pecks at the food Sam brings back from the cafeteria, still scratches florid scrawl into his journals for Sam to study, but every so often Sam will catch Castiel looking off to the distance, features stiff. It’s not a forlorn listlessness that Sam sees, but a bizarre sort of focus that draws Castiel’s attention until he blinks and chews the edge of his lip and threads his fingers through Sam’s.
Sam thinks nothing of it at first, thinks nothing of the momentary distractions and stare drifting in and out of hyper-focus, but the gravity shifts hard one morning when Sam reaches out a sleepy hand to grab nothing but air. He manages to crack one eye open, sunlight running raw those his lashes, and then another before he realizes he’s there alone with nothing but the cold sheets.
This isn’t the first time Sam’s found himself in an empty bedroom; Castiel’s been restless since the night after the meeting, and Sam hasn’t brought himself to press for answers when Cas sees fit to wander outside at night, not when he spends so much time cooped up in their little house for fear of inciting the others in town. It always finds a way to unsettle him, however. Castiel with his Grace returned — he could go anywhere he likes and never come back, and the fear still plies on Sam’s nerves, even in this sleep-logged state. The dread trembles on his lips, a murmured prayer that cycles end over end in Sam’s mind for Cas to come back, to wander in from the desert or down the hall safe and sound. The drone of pleasepleaseplease would almost be enough to lull Sam back to sleep if it weren’t for the insistent sun and the sharp bite of fear turning his stomach, and Sam is halfway to sitting up when the air around him contracts warm and tight, then bursts under the heavy scent of Grace.
“… Cas?” Sam shifts and skitters back an inch, hand darting out to catch Castiel’s as the bed sags underneath his sudden weight.
He looks haggard; Sam can see the weary creases under his eyes, the tight, pinched stare that reminds him all too much of Castiel suffering the throes of humanity.
“What— where were you?” Sam’s voice is still fractured from sleep, but his fingers are warm, and he does his best to lace their hands together, tugs carefully around Castiel’s wrist.
These days, he doesn’t like asking questions, despite the handicap it imposes on his inquisitive nature, but this isn’t just something he can ignore. The distracted exhaustion is too clearly evident.
“Are you okay?”
Even in the days without Grace, two weeks never seemed so long. While a single day could sometimes stretch on from sunrise to set at an agonizing pace, it was little more than flawed perception getting the better of him, and he would wake one morning to realize that days, even months had passed with little assurance they had come and gone at all. It was a sensation Castiel never had the chance to grow accustomed to before Grace returned to him, one that he looks back on with little understanding now that the world spins like a cog in a machine and Castiel can see each moving part. But time’s relativity—the very law of this universe that Castiel sought to exploit betrays him in the end, and Castiel slides back through space to perch on the side of the bed he shares with Sam nearly a week gone since his departure, but with only minutes lost.
Castiel has lived months in the span of these two weeks—how many exactly, he has lost track. But it doesn’t seem to matter beyond the slowly dawning realization that the lingering effects of his travels are becoming harder to shake. Castiel thinks back on a journey to the past that nearly cost him his life in an attempt to save Sam’s, of recovery in a Lawrence hotel room that lasted much longer than either Sam or Dean knows. Castiel has far more power in him now than he had then, but there’s an ache in his bones as he settles that’s too familiar to ignore.
It hardly occurs to him that Sam might notice.
It wasn’t a conscious decision—at least, that’s what Castiel tells himself now. His mind is so knotted up with thoughts that he can’t quite pinpoint anymore when this stopped being something he had to do alone, and became something he had to do in secret. Nevertheless, he has done his best to keep his departures and arrivals to nights when Sam slept soundly, to days alone in the house while both brothers tended to the camp. More often than not, Castiel could return within minutes of his parting—the closer the branch on the tree, the more accurately he could manage his time—and on more than one occasion Castiel even returned in time to watch himself depart. But the further he began to travel, the more difficult the journey home became, and sometimes hours would be lost in leu of moments. If he were to be honest with himself, it was sheer luck that he hadn’t been discovered already.
Perhaps, then, he shouldn’t be caught off-guard when warm fingers lace through his own, when Sam’s concern lights the air around them and only then is Castiel certain he has returned to his world at all. Castiel’s mind clears for the first time in days, and he realizes that Sam should have still been sleeping, if Castiel timed this right. He left Sam curled around him a week ago, though he realizes now that there is more sun peeking through the blinds than he expected. He may have lost more time than he thought, and for long moments Castiel says not a word, hunched over his knees and rubbing at his tired face with his free hand.
This is not the first time he has found himself lying to Sam, but it is exceedingly more difficult each time.
"I’m fine, Sam," he dismisses, doing his best to tug a smile across his face. It does little to conceal the lie, but Castiel is simply too tired to try harder. He can only hope that Sam won’t pry, no matter how foolish that hope might be.
Castiel turns then, blinks and meets Sam’s eyes, hazy with lingering sleep. He tries not to think of all the horrible things he has seen, nightmarish realities that Sam’s soft expression conjures unbidden, but it’s near impossible. Castiel almost doesn’t want to stop it—it’s the drive that keeps him going, keeps him searching when all hope seems utterly lost.
Idly brushing an unruly lock of hair from Sam’s forehead, Castiel settles his gaze back on the edge of the bed. ”I was restless. I apologize if I worried you.”
1 year ago • 27 notes
There’s something so defeated and near-tangibly human in Castiel’s words that Sam feels his breath catch in his throat. It’s like a sharp slap, an all too vicious reminder of what Castiel had been only hours before and won’t ever be again — of the universal difference between what they both are on the basest level. But Sam knows that fretful reluctance, the sensation of not being able to look ahead and see what the world might be, of only being afforded the chance to look back on every failure. He knows, with a terrible intimacy, the feeling of being lost on the road paved with good intentions, sifting memories through his fingers in a desperate attempt to figure out how it all went wrong and still coming up empty-handed. It’s a uniquely human trait, an underlying process that unites everyone of the upright, thumbed variety, and seeing Castiel sit there, shoulders slumped in tacit defeat bewilders Sam to the point of silence.
Cas has always had an answer, even when he was nothing but a human like the rest. Always, no matter the circumstance, no matter how tired or worn or aching, he always had an answer for any question Sam put to him, and this has been a truth Sam has come to rely on as much as any other certainty in his life. The sun rises in the East, when in doubt: salt, Dean will always turn down the first shower, and Cas will always have answers, without fail.
It’s been like this since the beginning, even before the Croats and Bobby dying and the hostile takeover of Heaven and Hell on Earth. In the early days of Cas’ fall, back when he and Sam shared few words, there was nothing that Sam could propose or interject or ponder aloud without Castiel having at least a half-graveled comment on. Even when he was met with nothing but terse, succinct observances, there was always the reassurance that Castiel knew infinitely more about the universe and its inner workings than Sam ever would.
They grew together like that, their relationship forged not only on Castiel’s need for a guide through his fall to humanity, but the sheer magnitude of scope he offered Sam seemingly for no other reason than because Sam asked. They went on for hours like that, sitting on Castiel’s pitiful cot late through the night, chattering on about Enochian or angelic customs, or the exactness of a translation in Cas’ journals, or the misinformation of free will and the closeness of magick and science and religion.
It had eased the transition between bedrooms, stilled Sam’s fluttering heart when they laid there in bed together those first few nights while he listened to Cas’ hushed tones filling the air above them as he sought to explain the nature of stars and how literally any matter in existence could be turned into a black hole if compressed to a small enough point or that, if each universe was put end to end to end, it would easily fill a googolplex but the effort itself would be an undertaking only God could manage and that was the more practical reason why angels left the other universes alone unless the situation called for it. Sam was lulled to sleep by the gentle murmurings of time and space and how everything bends around each other in a way that effectively negates a center, tales of great feathered beasts roaming around primordial earth, and the delicate chemistry involved in vampiric digestion.
Even as a human, Castiel always had an answer, and now he sits heavy under the weight of his burdens, as blind as Sam to what should be done. The notion rattles Sam, an unfamiliar quivering in the pit of his stomach that curdles the words in his mouth as he swallows hard and tries to will the brief flair of nausea away. How can he sit here and tell Cas that everything will be okay when nothing, so far, has been? How can he promise that they’ll mend the rift with the other survivors when he has absolutely no proof or point of reference to show otherwise?
“Would… would you have done it differently? Knowing what you know now?”
It’s a question Sam has thought on at various times in his life — that weekend after he got back to Palo Alto, only to see Jess’ golden hair burn away around her like the cruel effigy of a halo set alight. That night in Cold Oak, when Sam chose to spare Jake Talley, just to be killed later by the same guy and force Dean down to the crossroads to make a deal. Accepting Ruby’s help after Dean’s death, killing Lilith, leaving for Stanford in the first place. Sam’s considered every moment, tried to pinpoint the true beginning, one he could’ve stopped.
He’s asked himself over and over what he’d do, if given the chance. If maybe he should’ve taken Lucifer up on his offer and spared more than just a few hundred people scattered across the face of the Earth. If maybe he should’ve put aside his arrogance and considered the sobering notion that there were only so many ways for this to go, and all ended in a huge death toll that he could have easily stopped with one word instead of fighting against an agency they never could have stopped.
Every single decision accounted for, every failure. All paths marked along the map in glaring red ink and Sam wonders if Cas will have an answer for this, or will it be yet another question that baits the silence around into suffocating forms.
Sam’s silence weighs on Castiel; he knows he has revealed his own limitations in such a fundamental way, he can feel has uprooted much of how Sam views him, and has since the day they met. It’s true that Castiel knows many things, but his knowledge only extends as far as his experiences, and his sight. He understands the inner workings of the Universe because he was there to witness its creation, can dissect the nuances and variable translations of human languages and dialects because he is fluent in them all. Biology, physics, magick, alchemy—they are all systems built on rules that he understands at the most basic level, therefore even the questions he has not had an immediate answer to, he has been able to riddle out with little difficulty.
It seems ironic, that the subject a being who had once been an angel would know the least about would be angels themselves. But it is not just an excuse to say that God works in mysterious ways; all of Castiel’s knowledge of his own origins is based on observable fact. What he knows of angels as they exist in Heaven, on Earth, Fallen and cast out, of half-bred Nephilim and the Reborn he has either seen with his own eyes, or has been told of it by a brother or sister who had. And to Castiel’s knowledge, there is no record of this, of a human taking Grace for themselves—the chance of surviving an attempt was so slim to begin with, its no wonder.
Still, admitting it is as difficult for Castiel as it must be for Sam to accept; Castiel has never done well without the direction of Heaven. This harsh, alien reality they call their own is evidence enough of that, a direct effect of walking the line and throwing the rules to the wind. He wasn’t made for this, for rebellion and free will and understanding the world beyond rules, but God, if he could take anything back, he would. He would have asked the questions he should have from the beginning, instead of playing his part and allowing all that happened to Sam and Dean from the time they were children until he fought through Hell to retrive the Righteous Man pass unchecked. He would have stuck by their sides from the beginning instead of following the orders passed down to him not from God, but from bitter angels desperate for the End. He would have fought Re-indoctrination, he would have left Sam in Bobby’s panic room, he would have, he could have….
It hits him then, with all the impact of a nuclear blast, just what he must do. It’s not divine providence, it’s not God’s Will passed down to him through light and presence. It’s nothing more than a simple epiphany that should have occurred to him hours before, and yet somehow, is stronger for it.
Castiel may no longer be the angel he once was, but he is still a being of Grace. His resources are limited, but strong, and though his foresight is all but useless without the strength of Heaven at his disposal, he can see clearly the paths traveled to reach this moment, and all the worlds those choices could have left them with instead.
He could fix this. He could fix this world, could give these people back their homes, their lives. Everything that Heaven above and Hell below took from them, Castiel has within his power to give back. All he must do is find the right moment, the right turn not taken. Somewhere out there in the tangle of parallel worlds twisting off into infinity in the dark of his peripheries lies one, at least one where humankind survived without a death toll in the billions.
It has to.
"I have to…." Castiel stumbles to his feet then, running a hand through unruly hair as his words trail off, hardly aware he’d spoken them aloud at all. The dog that had been sitting calmly and quietly at his feet rises with him, ears perked but eyes uncertain as she watches him. Cas can feel Sam’s eyes move over him as well, but he doesn’t look back, steps up onto the porch with thoughts racing and makes his way unsteadily toward the door.
This will take time, time he isn’t sure he has. But then again, time is relative; Castiel needs only the will and the means, and he has both. It only remains to be seen which he will run out of first.
1 year ago • 27 notes
“I wasn’t the only one,” Sam answers without thinking.
Even in the silence, he knows he’s right. Dean may not have understood the Grace in the exact same way — heard what Sam could only smell — but they both had felt Castiel’s overwhelming presence in their own way, something that plied at Sam’s curiosity more than he could help.
“Is it… a vessel thing?” he asks finally, shifting in place to cross his knees over each other.
To anyone else this might be a mundane portrait, the two of them sitting here on the back of a porch, hanging out with some friendly mutt. Funny that it should all be so much more complicated than that. Sam settles back, fingers skittering to a uncertain halt as he looks beyond the Castiel he knows to grasp at the Castiel that truly sits before him.
It’s been years since the first time they met, some vaguely fateful moment amongst a cadre of fateful moments, but that doesn’t stop the breath from pittering out of Sam’s lungs like a light that can’t quite catch its circuit. He spent so long withering and willing himself back and forth through that fight, desperate to prove himself to the arrogant sons of God, to show that he had made the right choice and he only wanted to save the world from the demon that tore his brother away from him, but it never worked. Every decision only thrust him further down that path, further away from the salvation he’d been craving for so long. Yet here they are — despite misgivings and failures — Sam is able to sit here with his hand pressed against someone who never should’ve looked at him twice.
He swallows hard, leans in with a gentle nudge because he needs to be able to feel Castiel out, needs to reach him and feel him push back so they both know this is real and despite the odds, this could actually be okay.
“I never noticed it before. Never. Not even when I first met you, but I… I still knew it was you. I’ve been smelling it all day — reeking of it,” he admits, eyes cast downward as he licks the sun from his lips.
A mark. All the angels are gone, but the instinct is still there, and Castiel has been marking him this whole time, branding him in a way that Sam couldn’t understand until now. The realization burns on his cheeks, lips tipping upward in a bashful smile that dimples his face.
“So… if there were angels here now, what would they know about me?” He’s cheeky this time, sly in a way that doesn’t happen often with Castiel about, but Sam can’t let the opportunity to ask slide right by, not after what Cas has just told him.
Sam always has questions. So many questions. It’s the way he enters the world, how he navigates a constantly shifting landscape of legend and mythos and prophesies come to pass. Dean has always been a creature of experience, who learns by doing, making mistakes, and trying again. But Sam is best served by the information he gathers, compiled and analyzed and put to use. It’s endearing, Cas thinks, how eager Sam is for it—he’s certain he’s never known another human being to be so curious.
And on any other day, Castiel would be happy to oblige him. He lives for the opportunity to share his knowledge, but right now… he just doesn’t have it in him right now.
Sam is trying so hard to distract him; Castiel can see that plain as day. He smiles and he presses and grins in a sly way that Sam very rarely shows. Castiel can feel him, a golden red presence in his mind pushing in through the darkness of his periphery just enough to make itself known. It’s the closest to a true distraction since Sam first posed the question about this mysterious scent, and Castiel nudges back gently, warmly, as much as he can manage with all this heavy guilt and thoughts scattered to the wind.
What would the Host think of Sam, bearing Castiel’s mark in more ways than one? Castiel doesn’t know. He will never know, and though he could guess, it’s not something he can put into words, Enochian or otherwise. Silence falls between them once more, and Castiel is reaching out in a different way now, untwining his hand from Sam’s and brushing warm fingertips over the scrape of Sam’s jaw, into his hair, thumbing the soft swell of his lips. Sam’s eyes close and he leans into it, wholly trusting in a way that clinches like a vice grip around Castiel’s heart, and the sigh that escapes him then is ragged, shaken, trailing fingers down the side of Sam’s neck before dropping his hand aside entirely.
"I don’t know," he says, and it’s a broken admission, voice lowered and eyes downcast as he collects himself, collects his thoughts. It’s not just this—though Castiel hopes actions speak louder than words here—it’s everything. He doesn’t know why Dean could sense it, too. Doesn’t know why even Sam could sense it in the first place. This—all of this is uncharted territory in a way far beyond even the days after his rebellion, when they rewrote the story and changed the world, for better or worse.
"There are a great many things I don’t know, Sam. I’ve never… known this to happen, to anyone. I have no point of reference." He sighs, shrugs his shoulders up and then drops them back down on an exaggerated exhale that provides no relief to lungs unused, to body sustained by Grace. "I can… assume that you recognize it because you are vessels. I can assume the effect was dampened by my own. But I… I don’t know.”
Castiel scrubs a hand through his hair at that, shoves unruly bangs away from his face and closes his eyes for a moment of darkness and peace. It’s almost ironic, that one can see the path ahead and still be utterly lost, and Castiel catches himself missing the days before Grace, when as disconcerting as wandering in the dark was, he had an excuse. Wandering, it seems, is part of the human condition.
"Even my foresight fails me." Castiel laughs, a quiet sob of a sound that could almost be bitter with a little more conviction behind it. This is hardly what Castiel intended to say—he hadn’t intended to say anything more at all, but the words spill out of him with a surprising ease, and Castiel doesn’t have it in him to stop them. "It’s as if every path, every one is lost in a fog, and all I can see is the road we traveled to get here. What was, what could have been."
1 year ago • 27 notes
It burns him.
The deafening silence, the solid drag of sunlight, Castiel’s final, resigned breath — Sam can feel his skin crawling in protest, urging him to speak up until his tongue is shriveled with effort and he chokes out a waning shudder.
“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” he starts, fingers flexing possessively around the slope of Cas’ knuckles. “They’re… they’re just talking out of anger, y’know? Just give ‘em some time to cool off, it’ll get better.”
Sam believes it, every word, but there’s an uncertainty wavering at the edge of his voice, a carefulness that makes his throat ache. How long will it be this way? How long will the other survivors be irrationally pissed at the one person in the whole world who actually managed to stop a measure of devastation in their lives?
Nothing seems to settle. All this damnable spite itching under his skin crashes into his silent soliloquy of thank you thank you thank you because Cas, despite his misgivings, chose to stay. If only for now, for this one moment out here where it all began, Castiel has given Sam the chance to sit here and soak in the way the light hits the sharp angles of his face and the tender pads of his fingers. Cas has spared Sam enough time to drink him in.
“They might think they want you gone right now, but they’ll see, Cas. I promise you. People say a lot of things when they’re pissed… stuff they don’t mean, stuff they’d never say otherwise,” Sam tries, and now his voice has fallen gruff under the gravity of the topic.
This reminds him too much of those arguments with Dean and the demon blood, their last fight before Sam ran off to kill Lilith. Even the people that love you are capable of calling you a monster; the more you care about them, the more it hurts to hear what they think of who you are.
“You didn’t deserve to hear that from them. I didn’t realize you were there until—” Until it was too late.
He caught the scent of that soft, sweetness — the smell Sam has come to associate with Castiel’s Grace — far too late and now Castiel suffers for it.
“That is you, isn’t it? I don’t know why I never smelled it before but… but I know it’s you,” Sam admits finally, turning to face Cas now. Their fingers are still interlocked, woven over and under as Sam leans against the frame of Castiel’s shoulder.
But Castiel did deserve it. Sam is a kind, gentle soul in a way that Castiel still finds difficult to quantify—the sort of man who would and has taken a bullet to spare another even a moment of pain. It’s one of the things Castiel has come to love about Sam: his gracious, caring nature that is so contradictory to the life he has lead. But this time, this moment, Castiel knows if he is undeserving of anything, it is Sam’s kindness, his loyalty. His love.
There’s something pleading in Sam’s tone, something desperate. Castiel does his best not to think about Sam’s voice in his head, begging the absent Almighty for Cas to still be here, but it’s impossible. It will be a long, long time before Castiel can manage to put that from his mind, and instead he tries to take some comfort in this. That even if Castiel is undeserving of anything but scorn, Sam still fears losing him. Almost as much as Castiel fears having no choice but to go.
"Perhaps," Castiel sighs, allowing Sam to take his hand, even daring a careful glance his way as Sam turns. It’s dismissive in the worst way and Castiel knows it, but he simply does not have it in him to argue. He doesn’t have it in him to remind Sam that it could be months, years before they begin to forgive. He knows he wouldn’t have to, anyway—Sam knows it already.
Castiel can’t blame them. Not after all they’ve been through in his Father’s name, at the hands of the Host. At his own hands. If he had acted from the beginning and not allowed the fear of expulsion from Heaven get in the way of what was right, none of them would be here now. This world would still be in once piece—Castiel can see it, if only dimly. Other Earths in other times on other paths where humankind remains as it once was. They are distant, perhaps unreachable in the tangle of so many other worlds gone wrong, but they are there nonetheless, despite all the doors now closed to him.
It’s humbling in the worst way, and Castiel almost loses himself in the what ifs and should have beens before the warm weight of Sam’s form against his shoulder draws him back.
"Smelled?" Castiel begins to ask, his uncertainty forcing his gaze toward Sam despite his hesitation. Sam’s eyes hold his and suddenly, Cas understands, remembers their early morning and what Sam wrenched out of him with too-eager hands. Castiel heaves a sigh that’s almost mournful as his gaze drops slowly back to the ground, to the dog still sitting quiet and still at their feet.
"It’s… a mark," he says. His mind is still working through so many infinite possibilities, plunging him into a haze that leaves this whole conversation somewhere in the realm of dreamlike and surreal. It seems so ridiculous to be going on about the inner workings of the Host in a world without angels, in a world ravaged by them and left for dead. But Castiel has never had an easy time denying Sam anything, and truth be told, the distraction is a welcome one. Numbs just enough that Castiel focus his mind. "An imprint. In the days of the Host, one could tell what garrison an angel belonged to, who they spent their time with all by reading this… frequency. A signature, embedded in their Grace. Honestly, I didn’t know humans could perceive it at all."
1 year ago • 27 notes
It’s all Sam can do at this point; beat his feet over the cold asphalt and hope that Castiel is where Sam hopes he is and not flown away altogether. Those accusations were nothing Castiel deserved to hear, but he has nevertheless, and there isn’t anything Sam can do to take it back or soften the blow.
The sun has cast a glow over the town now, heading closer and closer to noon, and in the moments it takes for Sam to reach their little house, he prays for the first time since they came to the state of Nevada to ride out the end of the world. Maybe it’s useless, some stupid knee-jerk reaction leftover from more innocent times, but Sam prays despite it all, begging with the full force of all the hope he has left that Cas will be waiting for him when he throws back the door.
The roiling scent of charged air and sweetness hits Sam as he enters, but it’s latent, distilled reeking leftover from the early morning. Castiel hasn’t come back through, Sam can feel it in his bones, but he pushes their bedroom door open anyway and peers inside.
“C’mon Cas, please. Please just — just be here. Please.” He says it to no one this time, too nervous to breathe above a whimper, but he ambles on towards the back door, hands shaking as he brushes his fingers over the doorknob.
This was his place, once upon a time. Before he fell completely and there were still angels fighting all over the map, Cas would come out here away from the rest of the camp and wrap himself in the shifting blanket of stars. Sam used to think it was a comfort, connecting with a vastness that represented so much, but now he knows the truth. Cas was trying desperately to grasp at what little he could before the ability disappeared entirely.
This is where it all began for them, if Sam had to give their relationship a true starting point. It was that night, here on the back porch, when Castiel fell truly and Sam had done everything to catch him as the last of his Grace disappeared.
The door creaks as Sam nudges it open, and for a single moment, the deju vu is overwhelming. Every battle they’ve fought from that fated night, every embrace, every bruise, every single whispered comfort has shaped Castiel into the human he was. But now he’s an angel again, as he’s meant to be, sitting crumpled on the end of the porch, and the sight of it knocks the breath out of Sam in a way he couldn’t prepare himself for.
Castiel is still, shoulders dipped in a distantly familiar way as he leans forward, an amiable camp mutt sitting quietly at his feet.
Sam doesn’t say anything at first, save for the sudden exhalation of relief. This is a silence that feels almost blasphemous to break, so he moves instead, feet treading over the dusty, bare floorboards until he’s toeing the edge of the porch absently before he sits.
It’s the beginning all over again, separated by inches and eternities, but Sam isn’t afraid this time. Only guilty that he can’t make this any better, that he can’t take back what the others said or make them see why this was the best possible choice.
The wind blows through, cuts over the worn holes in Sam’s jeans, but does little to startle him. It’s warmer and lighter on the porch, as if Castiel is almost incandescent, and Sam takes comfort in that, draws in a breath as he reaches his hand out to brush his fingers over Castiel’s knuckles.
The sound of Sam’s voice is a quiet melody repeating in the back of Castiel’s mind, growing louder as Sam’s familiar weight tugs at some distant well of Grace within him. It’s like gravity, like a comet pulled in by a star, orbit slowly decaying until the fire swallows it whole. Truth be told, it’s been so long now since Castiel has heard anything but the resonance of his own voice inside his head that he almost doesn’t recognize it for what it is, almost doesn’t realize the words aren’t being called aloud. But it hits him almost as solid as the smack of the screen door against its worn frame, and Castiel slumps under the weight baring down on his shoulders.
He wants to be hurt. Sam’s pleading to those no longer listening, so afraid that Castiel has left him and this place for good—he wants to sink into the depths of how low that makes him feel, knowing that Sam would think that. That Sam could honestly believe Cas would just leave when he fought so hard not even twelve hours ago to convince Sam he belonged here. But he can’t. He can’t because beneath that crushing shame lies an even heavier guilt, because there is some part of Cas that thought about it, that feels even now like he should leave this place and never come back. It’s all the rest of the people here seem to want—the monster driven from their homes.
It’s the guilt that burns brightest, right along with the rest. With everything he should have done, and didn’t. So when the back door creaks open and Sam emerges onto the porch—so very like he did that night months ago now—Castiel can’t bring himself to look at him, can’t bring himself to move at all.
The floorboards groan under Sam’s weight, and Castiel senses that same deja vu that plagues him in those first few moments. Here he is, perched on the porch step as Sam lingers in his periphery, silence weighted with so many things unsaid. But things are different now. They are different now. Castiel crouches here in torn jeans and one of Sam’s shirts, and they don’t speak not for uncertainty and awkward distance between them, but because nothing needs to be said. Instead of casting his gaze to the sky, Castiel’s eyes dip down toward the earth, toward the shaggy, dusty-brown dog sitting patiently at his feet. Different, but perhaps the same.
Castiel draws gentle fingers across the dog’s neck, lets her tilt her muzzle into his palm and nudge sweetly, encouragingly. But he takes very little of the joy in it he would have on any other day. Sam crouches down, boots thumping against wood as he sits at Castiel’s side, and still Cas hasn’t looked, isn’t sure he trusts himself or what he’ll do if he does. He drops his hand from speckled fur as the dog tilts her head Sam’s way, just watching, studying, and no sooner is his palm resting against the torn denim pulled taut across his thigh than Sam is reaching for it, fingertips ghosting along the ridge of his knuckles and it’s such an intimate gesture and so much more than he deserves that Castiel nearly chokes on it.
He sighs instead. And the silence feels less certain now than before.
"They want me to leave," he says, voice a rough scrape that comes from deep in his chest, and further still. It’s not a question, not a plea. Just a quiet, resigned statement of something they both already know.
1 year ago • 27 notes
It takes little more than the throb of Sam’s pulse for it to all click. Dean’s resurrection, the overwhelming abundance of the smell the seems to cling to him, the ringing that only Dean can hear that somehow fades and swells in time with the scent of blue. Of Grace.
Sam cringes, eyes screwing shut for a moment as he tries to steady himself.
His voice comes to him in a short, tight burst and he almost feels guilty for leaving Dean after what he just had to deal with, but he has to go.
“I need to go find Cas.”
Perhaps he’s always known. Not just some persistent niggling in the back of his mind, a fear of what could come to pass under these most unfortunate circumstances, but true, concrete assurance that it could never be any other way than this. Castiel has seen the path laid out before him—tangled amongst an infinite number of everchanging variations, but he has seen it nonetheless, and his foresight leaves him with this sensation that all his painfully human hoping and wishing has been utterly in vain.
It was always going to end like this. Nothing good could ever last.
He had been so reluctant to let Sam go. He may have only been delaying the inevitable, but in those early moments of the day, Castiel learned once more how to appreciate minutes over eons, and he’d been so unwilling to give up a single one. But it was all selfish want, and Cas sees that now more clearly than ever, now in the wake of all that has come to pass, and this bitter guilt that hums through him like tainted Grace. He may not have gone to the school with Sam and Dean, may have remained out of sight as Dean had asked, but that certainly did not mean he hadn’t been there to witness it.
Castiel stood not two feet away from Sam, cloaked by Grace as he and his brother admitted the lie they told to keep Cas safe. He stood there, arms crossed and jaw clenched as Maggie spouted accusations that crackled in the air around her like lightning, radiating a special sort of rage that only the truly betrayed could conjure. He stood there while Sam and Dean defended him to a room full of silent, angry voices that shouted again and again for Castiel the angel—the monster to leave. And more than once, he had to restrain himself from making his presence known, and begging them both to just stop.
Castiel had thought he’d made peace with his past long ago. He was an angel, after all—a soldier of God and agent of Fate who was created for the sole purpose of carrying out His will. Despite the atrocities he committed, and even more he assisted, he had only been trying to be a loyal son and brother, had only been trying to do good in his Father’s name. But if Castiel has learned anything over the course of this last year, it’s that the road to Hell truly is paved with good intentions. That people can die and worlds can fall in the hands of even the most sincere heroes, and he never did enough. Not nearly enough to prevent this horrible reality from coming to pass.
Everything that Maggie said, spat like a curse in his brothers’ faces was true. She may not have known the whole story, and never will, but sitting here now on the back porch of their quiet house, Castiel knows that doesn’t make it any less so. He has laid cities to waste, burned demons from their hosts and left them to die. He took Jimmy Novak from his family and his home, and sits here now in stolen skin with only the vague hope that Jimmy found his way to Heaven, that his wife and daughter are there with him now. He let Sam out of Bobby Singer’s panic room that night, knowing what he would do in his quest for vengeance, knowing that his actions were ensuring Lucifer’s release from Hell.
And he knew, from the moment they discovered the tree born of Balthazar’s Grace, that there was a chance he could take it, that there was a chance he could use its power. But instead of risking himself then, sparing them not one, but two gun battles that would claim lives, he waited until circumstances were dire to try.
All because some sad, selfish part of him hadn’t wanted to die.
The truth of it hits Cas like a hammer blow to the gut. Mortality in of itself was a new concept for him, something he still has a difficult time getting his head around. Death never scared him before—it was his duty to lay down his life. He was a Guardian, and despite the pawn he became, he was sworn first and foremost to protect. But that was different. He was different, and it would almost be amusing if Castiel weren’t so utterly ashamed.
He’d left the room in such a rush, he burst a streetlamp on the way here, set the dogs barking and the radio in the saloon spewing static. But it breaks the tense silence that stretches on in the vastness of his consciousness, in the emptiness where a chorus of voices once cascaded like falling water. It’s almost distracting enough to pull him from this vicious cycle of what have you done and why haven’t you done more, but only just, only long enough for Castiel to suck in an unnecessary breath before he can feel Sam approaching. And for the first time in a very, very long time, catches himself wishing he wouldn’t.
1 year ago • 33 notes
Castiel’s words are hardly more than a coo, mourning dove soft amidst urgent kisses and the sudden shock of their hips making contact. There’s something in the way the gentle trill breaks over his skin and settles, the way the discordant chime knells under Castiel’s tongue; Sam can feel the meaning behind those words with a certainty he’s never felt before. If he didn’t want this, then he never would have let their bodies come together. If he didn’t want this, then they never would have shared a bed. Sam can feel the truth in the way Cas grabs his hips and drags him in, taste it on his tongue. He is wanted here, wanted despite their differences.
Sam lets his knees fall open as Castiel presses for touch, hikes his thighs up as Cas rocks against him, moan punctuating the early morning air. There’s nothing separating their bodies now, save the thin cotton of their boxers, and it shows in the heat the seems to flash from Cas’ skin to Sam’s own as he grinds their hips together, arousal evident in the bruising hardness caught between their bodies. This is nothing like the morning they shared before; they were both earnest then, desperate even, but Castiel hadn’t known how to proceed and Sam was so nervous to hurt him somehow. But now, with Castiel’s pale shoulders digging into his chest as he licks a hot, wet trail against Sam’s ear, it seems the roles have almost reversed and Sam is being pulled apart by someone all too happy to see it happen.
“Tell me… tell me you want this,” Sam forces out finally, a scant whimper that upends the groan caught on his tongue. His throat rattles with the desperation of it — Sam knows this is okay, but that isn’t what he wants. No, as much as it shames him, he wants to hear what only Castiel can tell him.
He can feel the fever crawling down his neck, sparking light between their skin as he hisses and jerks, hooking his ankles together tightly to buy leverage in Castiel’s thrusts. This isn’t like the aching need he felt before, wanting to reach that height with his face buried in Cas’ hair. No, this burns somewhere deeper, itches and needles at him until Sam’s attention is split between the pleasure building between his thighs and the ache that bites deeper.
“Tell me what you want. Please.”
There is desperation there — need in pleading tone of Sam’s bitten words that is at once an echo of and wholly different from the press of nails in his skin, the hook of Sam’s legs behind his thighs. These are words that spread across Castiel’s skin like liquid fire and jolt him to a sudden realization of what he had missed before, what his whispered reassurances and fingers tangled soothingly in sweat-damp hair had failed to express. It should be obvious, Cas thinks. Surely Sam wouldn’t think otherwise, not here and not now, but if Castiel knows anything of Sam Winchester, it’s to never underestimate the depths with which he will fall, with certainty that he deserves no more.
"I want this," Castiel breathes, rough pad of his palm sliding up the flat expanse of Sam’s chest, finding leverage in the hook of tight fingers under the curve of his shoulder. And perhaps this is the first time in all his long existence that he has, that he has wanted anything at all — not just this moment, not just right now, but all these long months in the desert with Sam at his side. Grace may have returned to him, he may exist here in this moment as a being caught between two planes, not wholly existing in one or the other, but regardless he is certain with everything within him that he belongs here… with Sam.
And that’s it. That’s what Castiel missed before, what Sam’s words dragged from the depths of his chest and begged him to say. It’s not jut the act that he wants, but the man, and Castiel nuzzles his face under the curve of Sam’s jaw, feels his pulse racing against wet, swollen lips as the air around them flutters with the pulse of electric Grace.
“I want you.”