?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Stairway From Zion 4a/6 (SPN, R)

Title: Stairway From Zion
Rating: R
Warnings: Mentions of torture. Violence, war scenes, cursing, drug withdrawal, medical experimentation, species prejudice, sex. 
Wordcount: 63k
Summary: Orwellian AU. During the same raid that had Castiel crashing through the windshield of Dean’s getaway car, Dean loses both Sam and Anna to the hands of the angels. Human and angel should hate each other as circumstances dictate, but life has a funny way of changing the preordained path.
 
~*~

4.1: Dean

“Today, we gather to remember the dead, those who have died to save us. We honor them for the sacrifice, and we thank them for the blood they have spilled on our behalf: Rory Moore, Jerry Tyson, Elissa Thomas, Gwen Campbell, Victor Henrikson…”

The funerals take place a week after the destruction of sector four, and the list of the names doesn’t stop, not for a long, long time. Dean knows every single person from sector two on the list, and at least half of the others. The final tally of the dead goes just over a thousand people—most of them are sector four’s own people, but about a hundred of those come from sector two as well. Not included in the numbers are those who have been gravely injured and might never hunt again, like Pamela. All Dean can do is to hold out hope that he will never have to hear Sam’s name in such a setting.

Castiel doesn’t come to the funeral, which is probably a good thing.

~*~

In the daytime, Dean keeps busy. It’s hard to focus on his own troubles when more immediate ones like the bleeding wounds from shrapnel or smoke-injured lungs are right in front of him. He’s not on active duty and probably won’t be until Missouri gives the all-okay, but still, he’s up on his feet after a day or so and able to move around. Besides, he doesn’t have to do heavy lifting to help Bobby plan the new layer of defenses; they need to protect the compound now more than ever before since the fall of sector four. Castiel keeps busy as well: he’s been roped into helping Dr. Robert and Ash with their Croat/Grace experiments and their attempts to develop a more graduated detox program, something that Dean wholeheartedly supports.

He only wishes that it hadn’t come too late for Sam. But when Sam comes back—

If Sam comes back.

(No, when. When. Stay positive, Dean.)

~*~

It’s not until the fifty-day mark of Sam’s capture that it finally hits Dean that maybe, just maybe, Sam might be dead. He’s thought it before in brief moments of despair, always forcing himself to push the thought away. When he crosses off the fiftieth day with no news, though, Dean finally allows himself to reflect on the possibility.

“He’s dead, isn’t he?” he says out loud into the quiet of the room. “I mean…people don’t come out of the Nest of Love alive, do they? At least not in one piece.”

Beside him, Castiel stirs, his arm tightening over Dean’s chest. “I’m sorry.”

“Have you ever been in the Nest of Love?” Dean whispers, letting Castiel hold him still. “Do you know what they do to them there?”

“I’ve sent people there before,” Castiel says softly. “Not many. The Nest of Love is for…special cases.”

“And Sam’s special,” Dean mutters, half-laugh, half-sob. “I always knew his big brain would get him into trouble someday.”

Acknowledging it hurts like hell. Something inside of Dean bursts open, and Dean finally gives way to tears, holding onto Castiel like he’s the only one still tying Dean to this shitstorm of a world. Castiel doesn’t say anything like it’ll be okay or I’m sure Sam’s fine or don’t give up hope, because one thing the angels suck at is giving meaningless platitudes. He just holds Dean and lets him cry in the privacy of their room and the grief run its course. Dean lets himself go, because he knows that Castiel will never say anything a word to anyone else about Dean’s breakdown.

The angel keeps his secrets tightly, and shared ones even tighter.

~*~

“Keep on doing your therapy exercises,” Missouri orders, pointing the pen into his face. Dean grimaces and obediently squeezes the ball in his hand; it’s supposed to strengthen his arm muscles or something. “No running around. No hard exercise. And definitely no hunting or patrol, not for another week. We need you to recover fully before you go around doing zeppelin dives.”

“Cheers, Missouri,” Dean grumbles.

“Don’t ‘cheers’ me,” Missouri says, but her eyes belie the sternness of her tone. “Well, you look well enough. Nothing important missing, anyway.”

“So I’m discharged?”

“Don’t overexert yourself,” Missouri says absently, writing something down. He waits, and it takes a moment or two before she looks back up at him with a quizzical expression. “What’re you still waiting for? Yes, you’re discharged.”

“Freedom has never looked so fine, and neither have you,” Dean tells her as he hops off the examination bed, setting the ball back onto the table. “You’re all heart, Missouri.”

“Don’t let it get to your head,” Missouri tells him. As he heads for the door, she adds, “Castiel should be in the lab, if you’re looking for him.”

Dean grunts. He knows full well where Castiel’s been; the angel’s been missing all night but to be honest, there are only a few places he would go. The ‘lab’ is two floors up and actually a converted office, and it hardly seems to big enough to hold the masses of equipment inside. It’s high enough that it’s actually got a window to the outside air, but even with that and a fan it doesn’t seem to be doing much good in getting rid of the hot, smoky air.

Dean slides through the door and closes it quietly behind him. He spots Castiel bent over a slide on the table, his eyes intent as he tracks something in the glass. Dean watches for a moment from behind a desk, half-hidden by an array of glass tubes. Castiel shifts slightly and Dean knows in that instant that Castiel knows that he’s there, but neither of them make any acknowledgement of the other.

Dr. Robert’s voice is the one that breaks the stand-off. “Dean!” he says, and then a hand claps down on Dean’s shoulder. “What’re you skulking back here for?”

“Hey, Dr. Robert,” Dean says, trying to suppress an instinctive wince. He’s never liked Dr. Robert, which really makes no sense because the man’s never been anything other than perfectly professional. Castiel finally looks up, his eyes flickering briefly over them before turning back to the slide. “Just got discharged from Missouri.”

“Good, good,” Dr. Robert says. “We need more hunters in the fields.”

“Yeah,” Dean says, the awkwardness fading away as he’s reminded of the situation. The resistance—or the loose group of free humans that like to style themselves as a resistance—has never been particularly strong, nor the ranks of the hunters particularly large. “Missouri’s probably going to kill me if she finds out, but I’m going to sign up for barricade duty later, probably.”

“Singer’s in charge of that, isn’t he?” Dr. Robert asks, and Dean nods. “Well, I suppose it’s easier than all-out evacuation, but it seems like we’re sitting ducks while the angels play around in four.”

“Evacuation’s not very practical,” Dean says, watching the fine rigidity of Castiel’s stance. “If we abandon the compounds here, we’ve got no place to go.”

“Hmm. Well, we’ll just have to hope that a couple dozen extra artillery cannons are enough,” Dr. Robert says, turning away. Dean opens his mouth to defend the council’s decisions but decides against it. Evacuation’s a popular opinion, but those who advocate it have no idea just how fucking hard it’ll be out there. No, best to stay put. Dean closes his mouth and watches as Dr. Robert steps up alongside Castiel. “How’s it going?” the older man asks genially. He doesn’t wait for a response as he deftly picks up the slide and puts it under a microscope, leaning over to examine it.

Castiel moves out of the way. He stands just a pace behind Dr. Robert, his back military-straight. It’s been an uphill process, but Dean’s learning how to decode him: when Castiel stands like a freaking statue, it means that he’s feeling uncomfortable or defensive. Then again, that’s his standard mode of operation pretty much 24/7, so Dean doesn’t really know if this observation is worth much.

As Dr. Roberts fumbles with a stack of precariously piled books, Dean sidles over to Castiel’s side. The angel finally turns and looks at him directly, and Dean wonders if the lines of his face soften just slightly when Castiel meets his gaze. “What did Missouri say?” Castiel says after a quick, sweeping look that somehow manages to make Dean feel like all his secrets have been spilled.

“Discharged. I’m going onto the patrol rosters tomorrow,” Dean answers. “How’s it going?”

Castiel looks back at Dr. Robert. “Not well,” he says, and it’s amazing just how ominous those two words can be. He doesn’t say anything more, and Dean doesn’t bother supplying meaningless words to fill the silence. It’s somehow not awkward, but it’s not exactly comfortable, either.

And that about sums up his...well, for lack of a better word, his association with Castiel. Nobody knows where the hell Gabriel’s pissed off to, and since then the whole angel issue (more specifically, the whole Castiel issue) has fallen onto Dean’s shoulders. They share a room, even a bed. The situation would’ve raised eyebrows in normal circumstances, but with the fall of sector four, no one gives a shit, which is just the way Dean wants it. And to be honest, they’re not actually doing anything that would warrant gossip, anyway. Dean doesn’t know what he has with Castiel, but it’s not as easily labeled as the gossipmongers would make out.

“Well, Castiel,” Dr. Robert says finally as he straightens up, “I think we can write this off as a resounding failure.” The disappointment in his voice is palpable, but Castiel doesn’t move a muscle. “After all, there’s no use in detox if the result is degenerated neurons in the brain.” Robert gives a little sigh. “You’ve been up all night, haven’t you? You might as well get some rest,” he says, looking at Castiel. “I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Castiel says before heading out the door. Dean follows him at a slower pace, turning back to look at Dr. Robert, who’s gone back to tinkering with his toys again.

“So,” Dean says once they’re out of the smoky room and in the hall again. “You going to save the world anytime soon?”

“I think all hope for that is long gone,” Castiel says mildly. The lines of exhaustion are clear in his face, but he seems a little more relaxed now that he’s alone with Dean. “But Dr. Robert is adequate for a human, especially since he was trained in the Nest of Purity.”

“Yeah, I’ve always wondered why he left the Nest of Purity in the first place,” Dean says. “I mean, he’s not exactly like the rest of us common people, is he? He’s a freaking doctor. Don’t they have special rights for them or something?”

“Allowances are made for the Chosen,” Castiel says. “But any citizen may ascend to the halls of higher learning, although it’s admittedly rare for the ‘common people,’ as you say.” He looks contemplative for a moment and then shakes his head. “At any rate, quibbling over these things is irrelevant. We each do what we have to do.”

“Sounds like a ruthless way to live life. Tab A into Slot B, everyone just a cog in the machine,” Dean comments.

Castiel shoots him a sideways look. “I am an angel,” he says.

“How could I forget?” Dean mutters, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “Reminded of it every damn day. I don’t know, man. There’s nothing physically different between humans and angels, I’ll give you that, but it’s just the way you move. Like you’ve got a stick up your ass. Like you’re up for military inspection any minute.”

Castiel shrugs. “Discipline has its rewards,” he says. “Perhaps the hunters could use a little more.”

“Yeah, or maybe you could use a little less,” Dean retorts. “You know, loosen up a little. Hey, what do angels do for fun?”

“Fun?” Castiel says slowly, tasting the word like it’s some new delicacy. “Diversion or entertainment?”

“Yes, Mr. Thesaurus,” Dean tells him, amused despite himself. “Big new concept to you, huh? C’mon. What do angels do in their free time? Gabriel was a useless jerk, but he did know how to party, I’ll give him that. Guy had more chocolate than anyone else in the compound. I’ve always wondered how he managed to get his hands on it all.”

Castiel looks at him solemnly. “I can assure you that chocolate is not involved in angel fun.”

“Yeah, I get that,” Dean tells him. “So, come on. They couldn’t keep you training all the time, could they? Or…” he trails off as Castiel stares back at him. “They did?”

Castiel doesn’t answer for a moment. Finally: “Do you remember the Nest of Joy?” he asks instead.

Dean frowns at the mention of the nest responsible for child-rearing and procreation. “Dad left when I was eight, man, and it was a long time ago.” He bites his lip, searching his mind for the shadowy memories of pre-detox life. “I...not really, Cas, sorry. But like I said, it was a long time ago.”

“Your mother died when you were four,” Castiel says suddenly. “I read it in your file.”

“Dude, that’s so not fair,” Dean mutters. “You get an insider’s peek at my life and I don’t know shit about you. Look, can we not talk about this?”

“Do you remember her?” Castiel asks, ignoring him.

Dean looks sharply at Castiel. It’s a waste of time; Castiel’s got his poker face on, and Dean might as well be trying to climb a sheer cliff. “Why do you care?” he asks instead of answering, determined to be just as unrevealing. “You really don’t have to try to psychoanalyze me, dude, because you kind of suck at it.” Castiel continues to watch him with that steady, unnerving gaze. Dean sighs and swipes a hand across his forehead. “No, okay? I don’t. Not really. I have this…I remember fire for some reason. Sort of. But I don’t know how or why or what, and Dad never talked about her anyway. So no, I don’t. Now drop it, all right?”

Castiel looks displeased, but he does drop the subject, which is enough for Dean. They walk along the corridor heading back to their room, but Dean’s feeling…edgy. Restless. It’s been a long time since he’s thought of Mary Winchester, but that touches too close to…well, to Sam. Dean casts his mind about, searching for some other, safer topic. “You know, you never answered my question,” he says finally as Castiel remains silent.

“What question?”

“The fun question. Well, all my questions are fun, but this one more than most. Seriously, do you guys make a point of looking stern and broody all the time? Your face is going to get stuck that way. If it isn’t already, I mean.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my face,” Castiel says even as the crease in his forehead deepens. Despite himself, Dean grins a little as he sees it. “It’s not important, anyway. I thought you were going to sign up for barricade duty?”

Dean pauses. “Yeah,” he says, feeling something sink in his stomach even as he says the words. He looks at Castiel—moody, broody Castiel with that half-irritated, half-exhausted look on his face. “I told Bobby I’d report as soon as I got discharged. World to save and all that.”

“And I believe that if I go any longer, I may collapse,” Castiel remarks a little dryly as they come to a halt in front of their door. “I need to sleep.”

“Yeah, and a shower,” Dean agrees. “You do look like shit.”

“Yes, you’ve told me that many times.” Castiel gives a very human sigh and for just a moment, sways slightly on his feet. Dean grips his shoulder and holds him fast, preventing him from falling over.

“Dude, you’re going to fuck up your sleeping schedule if you do that,” Dean tells him. “Just take a nap or something, or else you’re going to be up all night again.”

“I’ll risk it,” Castiel says, the corner of his mouth twitching just a little bit.

“I thought angels didn’t risk,” Dean points out. “Never go in without a plan, storm them all and be back at the Nest of Peace in time for dinner. Long live the angel way.”

“Yes, well, you constantly remind me that I should stop being an angel,” Castiel says, and Dean can hear the yawn building. “I worry about it terribly, I assure you.”

Dean raises an eyebrow, impressed despite himself. “Was that sarcasm? You’re a fast learner.”

“Go away, Dean,” Castiel says. His voice is low and commanding, but Dean swears that he can see just a hint of amusement in his eyes. “I’ll see you tonight.”

It’s not really a question. Dean watches as Castiel unlocks their door and stumbles his way inside, dropping even more of the angel rigidity in the privacy of their room. Smiling slightly, Dean closes the door behind him and heads out to report to Bobby in SR.

Bobby’s not there when Dean arrives, but Rufus is. “Hey,” Dean says. “Well, I’m in one piece and Missouri’s nowhere in sight, so I guess I’m ready to go back on patrol.”

Rufus raises an eyebrow as he looks Dean up and down. “Nothing falling off?”

“I’ll just sew it back on,” Dean says with a casual shrug, and Rufus grins. “C’mon, Rufus. I’m sick of planning demolitions. Let me go and set some mines instead of just watching them on paper.”

“Well,” Rufus says, “Bobby’s been itching for more hunters, so I guess you’re good to go. He’s in the Plaza, if you’re looking for him.”

“Thanks a million, Rufus,” Dean says, slapping him on the shoulder before leaving the room. The Plaza’s a courtyard that’s semi-open to the air. It’s vulnerable to angels from the sky, but any angel who tries landing in there will get their wings blasted out of their ears by a rain of grenades. Dean can see Bobby as he heads out onto the bumpy cobblestones, the rim of Bobby’s cap jerking up and down as he argues with someone—Risa. “What’s up?” Dean asks as he draws closer.

Risa whirls onto him. “Stay out of this, Winchester,” she snaps. “Mind your own freaking business.”

Dean holds up his hands. “Hell, don’t screw me over for things I haven’t even done yet, Risa. What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” Bobby says briskly. “Risa, tell Roy that if he don’t shape up, you have permission to kick his ass into the holding cells, all right?”

“About damn time,” Risa says. She gives Dean a sharp nod and leaves the scene.

Dean watches her go and turns back to look at Bobby quizzically. Bobby shakes his head and says by way of explanation, “Roy’s a damned idjit, end of story.”

“Oookay,” Dean says. “Fine by me.” He claps his hands together. “I’m ready for duty, captain sir. Where can I get started.”

Bobby frowns. “Missouri cleared you?”

“Yep,” Dean says.

“You sure you’re ready?” Bobby asks.

Dean frowns. “What’s with the questions? Yeah, Bobby, I am.”

Bobby sighs. “A month ain’t near enough time to get over Sam,” he says, his voice quiet. “I loved that boy like he was my own son, you know that. I ain’t over it, and hell, you two were as thick as thieves.” He shakes his head. “We need men, but not that bad.”

Dean forces himself to stay calm at the sound of Sam’s name. “I need something to do,” he says, trying to keep his voice level. “Don’t make me stay in SR, Bobby. I’ve got Missouri’s clearance, I’m ready, and if I just sit around I’ll fucking claw someone’s eyes out.”

“We can’t fight the angels on sector four,” Bobby says. “They’ve got it and ain’t letting go. We ain’t out for vengeance here, you hear? We’re here to protect who’s left.”

“I got it,” Dean says through gritted teeth. “Damn you, Bobby, I don’t need the goddamn lecture. I’ve been planning this shit for the past couple weeks, remember?”

“Hell of a difference between paper and patrol,” Bobby says. “Sure you can keep yourself together?”

Dean takes a deep breath, and then another one before he finally speaks. “Yeah, Bobby. I’m sure.”

The skeptical expression doesn’t leave Bobby’s face, but Dean knows well that Bobby’s been hurting for hunters, no matter how much he claims otherwise. “Fine,” he says at last, resigned. “But you have a nervous breakdown in the field and I’ll let Missouri drug you to the gills.”

“You’re all heart,” Dean tells him. He relaxes a little as the conversation wanders out of dangerous territory. “So. Where do you want me?”

Bobby gives him directions, which Dean obediently follows. Dean recognizes the other hunters in his shift in only a very vague way, and the unfamiliarity sweeps over him in a crushing wave of grief at the loss of his old team. He bites the inside of his cheek and forces himself to ride it out, determined not to have a Moment in front of relative strangers. Thankfully, they either don’t notice or pretend not to.

Following Bobby’s plans, they set to work laying mines by the northeast entrance. It’s a hot day, and there are few buildings around to provide shelter. There are piles of trash, though, and the smell is overwhelming as the heat grows stronger. Dean brushes away the flies but otherwise savors the heat and the strain in his muscles. It’s a reminder that he’s alive. That maybe there’s something worth living for.

He doesn’t stop until the bell that signals lunch break, but the packaged sandwiches are a welcome sight. Dean takes his and retreats to a shady corner, letting the hot breeze sweep over the back of his neck. He chews listlessly, letting the stilted conversation of the other hunters flow over him. Probably too much time spent with a socially inept angel has changed him, because he doesn’t feel like joining in the other hunters’ talk. It’s not just him, though, as the others fall silent one by one as well.

The afternoon patrol leaves to sweep the perimeter shortly after lunch, and they get back to work. Afternoon shift is pretty much the same—work, punctuated by brief conversations. Dean doesn’t expect much more than that, and the monotony is soothing. The whistle announcing the approach of afternoon patrol startles Dean out of a listless reverie, and he looks up to see the truck approaching the gates. “Martin!” Olivia Lowry yells as she hops out of the driver’s seat. “We got some refugees in here!”

Dean’s head snaps up, and he can see the others react with a similar frisson of surprise. Refugees from the ass-end of nowhere. Theoretically, he supposes it’s possible: when they evacuated sector four, they did it in such a damn rush it’s possible they’d leave someone behind. But after so long…who could possibly survive in the ruins after so much time?

Dean hangs back as the gate swings open, and he watches as Olivia lowers the window and has a short, heated conversation with Martin. “Take them to the infirmary,” Martin orders Olivia, who gives a sharp nod and starts driving the truck into the compound proper. Martin looks around, suddenly becoming aware of their audience. “The rest of you, get back to work!” he says in response to the curious looks they give him.

Dean shrugs and puts them out his mind. He’s got greater things to worry about, anyhow. He’s flagging a little—seems like he’s not quite up to par despite physical therapy—but damned if he’s going to give up.

~*~

Painkillers, Dean thinks longingly. His body aches like a son of a bitch, reminding him that he’s been relatively inactive for the better part of a month, and hey, maybe spending an entire afternoon in the sun laying mines wasn’t the best idea ever. Dean leans his head against the cool steal of the compound doors for a moment, debating the merits and flaws of painkillers. Yeah, they’re drugs, and the last thing he needs is to get an addiction. At the same time, surely it’s not natural to feel like every muscle’s on fire.

He’ll get Missouri to judge, he decides. With a titanic effort, he levers himself up from the door and stumbles the interminably long distance to the infirmary. To his utter disappointment, Missouri’s not there when he pushes open the door. Instead, there’s Dr. Robert, puttering around a couple of beds with a number of rather frightening-looking apparatus. “Great,” Dean mumbles, dragging a hand across his face.

“Dean,” Dr. Robert says, looking up at him. “Can I help you with something?”

“Yeah,” Dean says, forcing the words out. “I was, uh. Looking for Missouri?”

“She went out,” Dr. Robert says, “but feel free to hang around and wait.”

“Yeah, sure,” Dean says as he eases himself down onto an empty bed. For a moment, he’s tempted to simply lie back there and potentially dieo n the spot, but he remembers that the sheets of the infirmary are clean and he, well, he’s somewhat not. “When she’d say that she’d be back?”

“Uh,” Dr. Robert says, sounding distracted. “Ten minutes? I’m not sure. She went to discuss something with Ellen.”

“Ah,” Dean says, unable to summon up the energy for anything more eloquent. He eases himself into a slightly more comfortable position on the bed, glancing over with idle interest at the other two patients in the room. “So what’s going on?” he asks, more to break the uncomfortable silence than anything else. “Thought you guys cleared out the long-termers ages ago.”

Dr. Robert looks at him for a moment. “A patrol picked up these two earlier,” he says. “Refugees.”

“Oh, really?” Dean asks, his interest piqued. He pushes himself gingerly out of the bed and wanders over to check out the two figures in the bed. “I saw Olivia come in with a couple earlier.”

“Did you,” Dr. Robert says neutrally.

Dean shakes his head in absent irritation, but whatever annoyance he feels towards Dr. Robert is forgotten as he looks at the two in the beds. One of them’s a kid, can’t be much older than ten. The other’s a teenager on the cusp of adulthood—fourteen, maybe. Fifteen on the outside. Both of them could stand to gain much more weight and use a lot fewer drugs, if the bruising along the insides of their arms is any indication. “Shit,” Dean mumbles, dragging a hand across his face. “So they picked them up outside? They come from angel-occupied 4-C?”

“Apparently so,” Dr. Robert says.

Which is not very helpful, but the details are just semantics at this point. Dean grits his teeth as the old irritation burns in his chest. Damn it. He really, really hates it when angels fuck with the kids, the noncombatants, those who can’t fight back if their lives depended on it. Carefully, Dean reaches out two fingers and lays it on the older boy’s wrist. The pulse that beats there is thready, weak.

“Fucking angels,” he mutters, running a hand through his hair. Dean wraps his hand around the older boy’s, wishing that he could do something more than this.

“Weren’t you supposed to be waiting for Missouri?” Dr. Robert’s voice cuts through his thoughts. “You could try her office, you know.”

“No,” Dean says. His aching muscles seem somehow trivial compared to what these kids have been through, and anyway, sitting’s better than walking at this point in the game. “I’ll wait for her here.”

“Suit yourself,” Dr. Robert says, but he doesn’t sound pleased. Frankly, Dean couldn’t give a shit what Dr. Robert feels at this point in time.

~*~

He’s not sure how long he sits there, just staring blankly off into space. He doesn’t register the twitching grip under his hand until the third time it happens, and then Dean gives a startled yelp and sits up straight, ignoring his complaining muscles. “He’s waking up!”

Immediately, Dr. Robert heads on over, none-too-gently pushing Dean out of the way. The older boy’s eyelids are fluttering slightly as he struggles back to wakefulness, and Dean feels an inordinate amount of excitement bubble up in his chest. “Hey,” Dean says as Dr. Robert checks the boy’s pupils and causes him to wince away. “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

“Ryan,” the kid mutters. “Where’s Ryan?”

“Who’s Ryan?” Dean asks, gentling his voice as much as he can.

“My brother,” the kid says, and Dean feels his heart clench in his chest. “S’okay?”

Dean glances over at the younger boy in the next bed. “He’s going to be fine,” he promises, somewhat rashly. He doesn’t look at Dr. Robert, who doubtless would expose the lie. “What’s your name, kid?”

“Joe,” the kid says, swallowing painfully. “Joe Silver. Where’s Ryan? I have to see Ryan.”

“He’s right over there,” Dean says, something curling in his gut at the helpless plea in Joe’s voice. “Hey, settle down. You need to rest.”

Joe tries to lift himself from the bed, but Dean holds him down with a gentle push to the shoulder. “Sir?” Joe asks as he pushes weakly against Dean’s grip. “Sir, is he okay, please just tell me that he’s going to live—”

“His blood pressure is dangerously low,” Dr. Robert says with a frown. He heads over to a cabinet and pulls out a monstrous-looking needle that has Joe’s eyes widening and his struggles doubling. “I’m going to give him something to help pull it up. In the meantime—” Dr. Robert flips Ryan’s limp arm over and frowns at the purpling there— “Tell me what happened.”

Joe’s eyes dart back and forth between Dean and Dr. Robert, his chest fluttering rapidly up and down. “Ryan,” he insists. Dean gives Dr. Robert a look, and the older man sighs and throws up his hands.

“He’s over there,” Dr. Robert says, pointing. “He’s in one piece. Now instead of panicking, could you tell us what happened?”

Joe tries to get up from the bed again, but Dean, feeling like a complete asshole, holds him back. Dean doesn’t miss how Joe’s eyes linger on Ryan, desperately soaking up every bit of information he can. Finally, Joe sags back against Dean, and Dean winces to feel just how light the boy is. “Croat,” Joe mumbles. “I had to stop the shaking somehow,” he says, his voice wavering. “I didn’t want to, but I had to, I didn’t know what else to do. The angels dosed us up on something, and when we got away Ryan started seizing and I had to do something—”

“Wait, backtrack,” Dr. Robert says. “Where did the angels keep you? What happened? How did you get away?”

Joe takes a deep breath, almost gulping for air before he speaks. “We were in section 4-C and got swept up pretty fast in the first raid. The angels, they kept us in this…this place.” He swallows, his fingers clenching compulsively.

“Place,” Dr. Robert says. “Right. Can you be more specific, son?”

Dean bristles at the patronizing tone of Dr. Robert’s voice, but Joe doesn’t seem to notice. Joe shakes his head, but Dean doesn’t think that it’s because he’s unwilling to answer. “There was a man,” he murmurs. “He got us out.”

“A man,” Dean says, but Joe doesn’t seem able to volunteer any more. “Okay.” He looks at Dr. Robert, who seems unsurprised. “Doc?”

Dr. Robert seems to consider Joe for a moment, his look cool and assessing before it finally softens. “Okay,” he says. “Let’s deal with that later. You gave him Croat? How much?”

Joe shakes his head wordlessly, and Dr. Robert sighs. “And of course, the tox screens aren’t back yet. Did you give him one vial? A standard dose?” A pause, then a weak nod. “Okay, then that’s forty-percent solution of a hundred-milligram dose. Way too high for a child his size, even for a regular user. Did you—”

“Not a user,” Joe mumbles. “We don’t touch drugs.”

“Well, evidently you did,” Dr. Robert says briskly, and Dean’s eyes narrow at the cool dismissal. “Let’s just hope that whatever the angels gave you, it’s Grace and not something else we don’t know about,” Dr. Robert mutters. “But I don’t think it’s Grace. If Joe gave Ryan Croat with Grace bonded to his cells, then he should be in adjusted detox right now. This isn’t it.”

“Sir?” Joe asks blearily. “What’s going on? He going to be okay? Ryan?”

“Hey,” Dean says softly. “Settle down, kid. I know you’re scared, but you’re safe now, I swear—”

“No,” Joe mutters. Evidently pulling some last shred of energy from hell-knows-where, he surges up from the bed in a sudden fit of violence, almost making it off the bed. “Lemme go! Ryan!”

Dean clamps down on his arms, feeling like utter shit but knowing that he has to stop Joe from hurting himself. As Joe’s struggles grow wilder, Dr. Robert sweeps in, holds his thrashing arm down, and slides a needle into his arm. “What the hell?” Dean demands as Dr. Robert presses the plunger down and Joe’s movements slow. “You’re hypoing him?”

“You had a better suggestion?” Dr. Robert says coolly.

“What about his brother?” Dean hisses, sure to keep his hand steady on Joe’s back as the younger man sags. “He’s worried about Ryan!”

“Worrying’s not going to much good, I’m afraid,” Dr. Robert replies sharply as he gives the eerily still Ryan a sideways glance. “The boy’s going to need to rest, and worrying through detox will do no one any favors.” He jerks his head to indicate Ryan. “I’m going to need quiet to work on his brother.”

Dean inhales deeply and holds it for a moment before finally letting it out in an explosive breath of air. “Damn it,” he says, not sure why he’s cursing except because he has to. It’s the logical choice, of course. And even Dean can see some situations in which emotion is just not practical or plain stupid. But that doesn’t stop it from feeling right.

Dean tucks Joe into the bed, pulling the blankets up around him. He rests a hand on Joe’s shoulder for a moment, trying to shake off the totally unreasonable feeling that he’s just done something morally wrong. When he finally looks up, he sees that Dr. Robert has scooped Ryan up in his arms, evidently preparing to cart him away. “Hey,” Dean says, surprising himself with the roughness of his voice. “Where’re you going?”

Dr. Robert looks at him and raises an eyebrow at the interrogative tone, but Dean refuses to back down. “Trying to keep them alive,” Dr. Robert says.

“But Ryan should be here when Joe wakes up,” Dean says.

“‘Should’ being the key word here,” Dr. Robert says in an odd voice. Dean frowns. The overtone of exhaustion is clear enough, but there’s something else in his voice that Dean can’t quite identify. “Back off and let me do my job, Winchester,” Dr. Robert says. “I’m doing my best.”

“You better be,” Dean says, but there’s no real force to the threat. It’s hard to be intimidating when you’re suddenly sweating for oxygen, because for some reason the room is just too damn small. Dean looks down at Joe’s unconscious face one last time before pushing past Dr. Robert. The pressure in his chest doesn’t let off once he’s in the corridor, but Dean refuses to give into it as he stalks down the hall in quick, angry strides.

He gets all the way to the relative privacy of the garage before his legs finally give out. Dean sinks against the wall, hating the shaking that courses through him, hating the stupid urge, illogical urge to just curl up in a ball and cry his fucking eyes out. He digs his nails into his palms and struggles to get his breathing under control, but every breath comes out sounding like a high, wounded cry of pain.

Sam, Sam, I tried, I swear, but no one would tell me where the fucking Nest is, I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, I would have killed to save you, Sam, are you okay, please tell me you’re okay, I’m so sorry

Get a hold of yourself, Dean. These brothers are Ryan and Joe, not Sam and Dean; they’ve got nothing to do with you, Dean, other than the fact that you’re both pairs of genetically related humans with XY chromosomes. You’re not Joe. Sam’s not Ryan. Get yourself under control, soldier.

You’ve got work to do.

“Fuck you, Dad,” Dean whispers. “Just shut—the fuck—up—”

But the admonitions do have some good. Dean finds the terrible urge slowly dissipating like smoke: traces of it still linger, but it’s no longer overwhelming to the point of pain. He takes a deep breath, one that sounds normal and not like a cry of pain. He takes another one and another, riding out the last of the shakes until the bitter end.

~*~

Castiel wakes up when Dean pushes the door open, something that Dean can’t quite bring himself to be sorry about. “Hey,” he says roughly as he sheds his jacket and throws it onto the table.

Castiel doesn’t say ‘hey’ back, as it’s probably against their Angel Code of Cool or something. But he does push himself up to his elbows, blinking slowly at Dean in a truly unnerving way. “Hello,” he says finally.

“Go back to sleep,” Dean says, not looking at him. “I’m just going to take a shower.” He turns his back onto the bed, rummaging through the piles on the floor in search of clean clothes to wear. And if he flings the shirts with unnecessary force, well, that’s got nothing to do with anything.

A warm hand wraps around his arm, stilling his latest angry throw. “Dean,” Castiel says, managing to convey an entire universe in that single word. Dean closes his eyes and takes a deep, shuddering breath as Castiel’s arm wraps around his shoulders. He wants to throw Castiel’s arms off; he wants to turn around and return the hug. He does neither, letting Castiel’s breath stir his hair instead. Neither of them say anything. Their relationship is built in a series of heated fights and careful silences, something that can be alternately aggravating and welcome.

“You’re wearing the trench,” Dean notes when his heartbeat finally slows to a moderate speed. “What do I have to do to get you to take it off before you go to bed? It smells like crap and I don’t want it stinking up the bed.”

He can feel Castiel’s head shift slightly on his shoulder. “I’ll take that under advisement,” Castiel says. “You yourself could stand to be a little cleaner.”

“I said I was going to take a shower,” Dean says, but he doesn’t try to break free. Castiel huffs softly, and the breath of air sends goosebumps running down Dean’s spine. “Go back to sleep, you dick,” Dean says quietly. “It’s late.” He pauses. “Or maybe not. I guess you’ve been asleep all day.”

Castiel makes a shrugging motion against Dean’s back and abruptly, lets him go. Dean stumbles momentarily at the loss before righting himself and picking up the nearest clothes he can find. “What happened? Was patrol that upsetting?” Castiel asks. Dean glances at him sharply, but Castiel’s looking back at the bed, his hands fussing with the blanket.

Dean doesn’t say anything for a while, debating whether or not to talk. “I hate it when it’s the kids, Cas,” he says finally, striving to keep his voice as calm as possible. “I just really, really hate it when your dick pals come after the kids.”

Castiel’s eyes widen fractionally, which is a big reaction for an angel. “Has there been another attack?”

“No,” Dean says. “Just—” and all of a sudden, the frustrations of the entire day spill out in a deep, shaky sigh. “Just life. Life as a human under the angels. Nothing new.”

“What happened?”

Dean shrugs, turning his back onto Cas. “Nothing.” He laughs, sounding manic even to his own ears. By the time it finally peters off he feels exhausted, almost drained. Well, more exhausted than before, and drained almost empty. Castiel’s silent throughout all this, but Dean can feel his eyes on his back, the ever watchful gaze sweeping him from head to toe. “You think it ever ends, man?” Dean says finally, leaning his forehead against the wall. “You think that there’ll ever be a day when it’s all just over?”

“I’m not familiar with grief,” Castiel says quietly. “I suspect that what I…feel…for Anna is not nearly as strong as what you do for Sam.”

“Are you over her?” Dean asks. The desperation in his voice surprises him. “Anna. Are you—are you okay with it? Will you forget her? Can you forget her?”

“We are trained to remember,” Castiel says, which isn’t an answer at all. “But not as people, not as humans would. We remember them as…objects. Lessons. Morals to be learned.”

“Long live the Father,” Dean whispers.

“All hail the Host, and the Nests over which they govern,” Castiel says, and it sounds like a pronouncement of doom, not unlike the dying crackle of a funeral pyre. “Our lives we commend to the glory of Zion and its angels. Amen.”

“Freaking hooray,” Dean says bleakly in the silence that follows.

“What happened?” Castiel repeats patiently.

Dean runs a hand through his hair, tired down to the bone. He turns to look at Castiel, who regards him in turn with calm blue eyes. “There were two kids. They’d just gotten away from the angels. And damn it, Cas, they looked like utter crap. The angels dosed them and starved them and it just…shit. The older brother, uh…Joe. He was trying so damn hard to save his little brother. Gave him Croat to help with the detox, but I guess it didn’t quite work out.”

Castiel frowns. “He was worried?”

Dean snorts. “Well, yeah. It’s an older brother thing.” He laughs, more than a little self-deprecating.

“He was worried,” Castiel repeats flatly.

“Almost hysterical,” Dean says as he drops heavily down on the bed. “Poor kid. Poor, stupid idiot of a kid.” He rubs his face. “And now I’m self-pitying. Again. Nearly fucking broke down earlier.” He takes a deep breath. “I hate this.”

Castiel’s quiet for a moment. Finally, he says, “If he had been given Grace by the angels, he wouldn’t have been worried,” he says. “Not in early detox. Grace suppresses emotions, and worry is an emotion.”

The tone of his voice is strange enough that Dean looks up at him. “What do you mean, Cas?”

“Are you sure the angels gave them Grace?”

“Well—” Dean begins. He shakes his head, recalling Dr. Robert’s words: I don’t think it’s Grace. “You think that the angels have cooked up something else?”

“I don’t know. What exactly did they tell you?”

“They, uh…they got captured, drugged, and managed to get away when somebody—a man, whoever the hell he is, got them out. Then they ran, Ryan started to seize, Joe gave him Croat before they finally found us.” Castiel’s silent for a long moment, and Dean has to resist the urge to shake him. “Castiel,” Dean repeats, his voice louder. “What do you think happened?”

Castiel takes a deep breath and opens his mouth as if to answer. He closes it again slowly, shaking his head. “I can’t…I can’t answer that,” he says finally. Dean’s about to launch into a tirade about angels and secrets when Castiel adds, “I don’t know enough.”

“But you think something’s wrong,” Dean says.

“I suspect,” Castiel corrects.

“Well, excuse me,” Dean growls. “Stop nitpicking at semantics and just spill it out, Cas. What’s going on?”

“I don’t know, Dean!” Castiel says, his voice loud enough to shut Dean up immediately. “I just—” he breaks off. He looks frustrated, the expression on his face peculiarly human. “I wish I did know,” he adds.

He’s looking up at Dean now, his gaze locking onto Dean’s with a powerful, almost frightening intensity. Dean looks back at him, shaken by the strength of Cas’ gaze. “Whoa,” Dean says slowly. “Is—is everything okay, Cas?”

The moment seems to stretch on, and it’s an age before Castiel’s head drops and he looks away. “I’m sorry.”

Dean laughs wearily. “Sorry about what? Being an angel, you can either apologize for nothing or the whole universe. All or nothing deal going on.”

The side of Castiel’s mouth twitches slightly, but he doesn’t say anything for a long moment. “You care about these children.”

Dean waves a hand, embarrassed. “I just don’t like seeing kids fucked up.” He swipes a hand across his forehead. Damn, he’s exhausted.

Castiel regards him with an indecipherable expression before he reaches out to lightly touch Dean on the shoulder. “Go wash up, Dean,” Castiel tells him, and despite the softness of Castiel’s voice, it’s worded as an order. “We can deal with this tomorrow.”

“I’m fucking busy tomorrow, asshole,” Dean mutters, but there’s no real force to it.

“So are we all,” Castiel tells him more than a little dryly. “Life continues, much as we may rage against it.”

“That sounds poetic. I didn’t know you had the heart of a philosopher inside that stoic angel shell,” Dean tells him. Castiel’s face doesn’t change, but Dean gets the not-so-subtle impression that he’s rolling his eyes. “Anyway. I’m sorry that I woke you up. Go back to sleep.”

Castiel nods and sits back down on the bed. Dean gathers up his clothes and heads out the door, turning off the light on his way out.

~*~
Chapter 4b

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
vulgar_snail
Jul. 10th, 2011 06:12 am (UTC)
Your link for Chapter 4b is not right. (it sends me to where you post entries)

But, really awesome story! I'm really enjoying reading it.
daymarket
Jul. 10th, 2011 06:18 am (UTC)
Eeep, sorry! Fixed now!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

March 2014
S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Page Summary

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Taylor Savvy