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Stairway from Zion 2b/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.


2.4: Dean

Dean wakes up to the hum of voices in the background. He keeps his eyes closed for a moment, not sure whether to panic, try to escape, or simply give up and wait for death. There’s certainly enough crying and shouting to merit at least one of the options. His chest aches badly and his breath is a little jerky, which adds to the theory.

His hands move surreptitiously, examining his surroundings. He’s lying on a bed. Not a hard steel or stone one like he’d always thought the Nest of Love would have, but one with actual sheets on it. He frowns, confused, and trail his fingers upwards, still keeping his eyes closed. There’s something coming out of his nose—an oxygen line. Well, at least he hopes it’s oxygen.

He’s pretty sure that he’s not in the Nest of Love. Which is surprising, to say the least. Dean concentrates on that adjective, studiously ignoring the flush of disappointment that sweeps over him. To take his mind of the possibilities and could-have-beens, he opens his eyes and looks around.

His settings are terribly familiar, although the last time he saw this place, there were considerably fewer people than there are now. Missouri usually keeps the three infirmaries spic-n’-span, but the room is absolutely chaotic. There are three beds, one of which he’s lying on, and the other two, the floor, the steel operating table, and even a walnut chest of drawers have people lying on them.

He looks up as Jo sits down onto the bed next to him, wielding a penlight and a clipboard with efficient menace. “Good, you’re awake,” she says, briskly checking his pupils with the light. “How’s your breathing? Do you still have a headache?”

“What the—I’m fine,” he says, batting the light away. “Ow!” he adds as she reaches for the shirt he’s wearing. It’s tattered and gives way easily under her hands. “Jeez, Jo, time and place.”

She gives him an unimpressed look and pulls the fabric aside. Dean glances down at his chest and whistles, impressed despite himself. His entire chest is mottled with deep bruises in an entire rainbow of colors, and a dirty white bandage is wrapped around his shoulder. Damn. No wonder it hurts. He hisses slightly as Jo presses the cold end of a stethoscope to his chest, but he stays quiet and concentrates on breathing.

“Well,” she says finally. “You’re not concussed, your breathing seems fine, and your shoulder’s been bandaged. By the power invested in me, I hereby kick you out of here. Go forth and do something productive. Come by tomorrow to get your bandage changed.” She scribbles down something on the clipboard, ripping a piece of paper off and handing it to Dean along with a clean shirt and a plastic baggie filled with pills. “Your clothes, your happy pills, your discharge sheet. Now scram.”

“Wait, what?” Dean demands as he peels the ruined shirt off and pulls the clean one over his head with slow movements, careful of the bandage on his shoulder. He picks up the baggie and stuffs it into a pocket, ignoring it in favor of Jo. “Jo, sit down for a minute and talk to me. What happened? I thought I was going to wake up in the Nest of Love, not here. How did the fight go? Did we win?”

Jo pauses and runs a hand over her forehead, and Dean notices the lines of weariness around her eyes and the streak of blood half-dry on her sleeve. “Jo,” Dean repeats, looking around the crowded room. “What happened?”

“We’re evacuating sector four,” Jo says tiredly. “Half of it’s been taken by the angels, and the other half is in flames. Everyone who can get out, we’re pulling them out.”

“But we crashed the zeppelins!” Dean says.

“Yeah, most of the refugees are okay,” Jo says with a nod. “Mom’ll brief you more on that later, I guess. I think that—”

“Wait,” Dean interrupts. “What happened to the others? Pamela, Victor, Gwen…”

Jo looks at him, her shoulders slumping. “Victor and Gwen are dead,” she says finally. “Pamela…”

“Captured?” Dean asks, his chest tightening.

A faint smile nudges at the edge of Jo’s mouth. “No. Small blessings. She’s in the other room.” She hesitates as Dean gets up, or at least tries to. “Look, she, uh…we think something exploded straight in her face or something. It’s not pretty, Dean. We…we don’t know if she’ll ever see again.”

“What do you mean?” Dean demands sharply.

Jo shakes her head helplessly. “Just watch yourself, okay? She’s in pretty bad shape.”

“Where is she?” Dean asks.

“Infirmary two,” Jo says, jabbing her thumb to the right.

Dean gets to his feet and pulls out the oxygen line from his nose with sudden impatience. His chest aches with every single breath he takes and it’s hard to walk in a straight line, but damned if he’s going to give up. Jo turns back to other waiting injured, and he takes his time picking slowly through the crowd, trying to step on as few people as possible. He succeeds in getting to the door without any further trouble and eases it open.

The corridors are even more crowded than the infirmary. Dean closes his eyes as the stink of fear and blood and urine and rust rises to meet his nose, and he quickens his pace. Infirmary two is across the hall, and he opens the door, fully expecting even more carnage to greet his eyes.

It’s just about what he expects: more injured lying on every single possible surface, hooked up to the ancient equipment that they’ve managed to pry from the Republic. He finds Pamela almost immediately—her head is swathed in bandages, but the tattoo on her back is a clear identifying mark. She’s lying on one of the beds, hooked up to a ventilator and almost completely still except for the soft rise and fall of her breathing.

“Pamela,” Dean whispers, all the strength suddenly leeching out of his limbs. The realization suddenly sweeps over him, belated but no less devastating: Victor and Gwen are dead, and Pamela may very well be joining them.

You saved the refugees, he reminds himself, but it’s hollow consolation as he looks around the room. Yeah, maybe, but the victory was a pyrrhic one at best. He’s never been very friendly with Gwen, but she’s—was—a damned good pilot, maybe one of the best he’d ever known. And Victor had always been a solid backup next, second only to Sam, and now both of the were gone—

Fucking angels. How many more would they take from him? Dean looks down at the preternaturally still Pamela and feels the old rage rising up within him, bouncing off with nowhere to go. I’d do it again, he thinks, recalling with a savage pleasure the slack expression the one angel had had right after Victor shot him. “At least they went out fighting,” he mutters, hoping that the words will do something to help fill the gap.

“Fucking angels,” someone agrees in the background. Dean blinks for a moment, startled by the echo of his thoughts for a moment before realizing that the speaker’s not actually talking to him. He turns around to see a crowd gathering around the last bed in the corner, staring at someone huddled in the middle. The speaker’s a short woman he doesn’t recognize, and while her right arm’s in a splint, that doesn’t stop her from gesturing wildly with her left. “Who does Ellen think she is, anyway, letting this piece of shit in here?” she says, jabbing her hand at whoever’s in the center.
“We should’ve killed it long before detox ever hit!”

It’s not a riot yet, but the mood’s getting ugly. Dean knows that it’ll take very little to tip it into violence. He eases himself off the bed and moves to get a better look at their unfortunate scapegoat, and he gives a little sigh as he sees that it’s Castiel. The angel is crouched in the center of the bed, his knees pulled up to his chest.

Fucking angel indeed—more to the point, stupid fucking angel.

The crowd seems hesitant to break into violence, though, maybe because Castiel isn’t actually doing anything or reacting to their taunts in the slightest. In the absence of all-out violence, a big guy reaches over and pushes Castiel. The angel doesn’t react except to curl tighter, pressing his chin down to his knees. Emboldened, the big guy reaches out to push again.

Dean’s hand snaps out and tightens around the man’s wrist. Shocked, the big guy turns to look at him, and Dean feels a rush of surprise sweep over him as well. Evidently his arm moved without consultation with his brain, but it’s too late to back out of it now. “No,” he says, his voice coming out rougher than he expects. “He’s mine.”

It’s a dumb thing to say, and Dean finds himself wondering about the words the second they come out of his mouth. To his surprise, though, the big guy gives a nod of understanding and steps back. Another surprise. Dean fumbles for a moment but manages to hide his surprise before the moment slips away. He crouches down, wincing at the movement, and looks carefully at Castiel. Castiel stares back at him, his eyes filled with the characteristic glaze of early initiation. No wonder he hadn’t reacted—early initiation’s tricky, and he’s known one or two who’ve nearly starved before they snapped out of the catatonia.

“I’ll deal with him outside,” Dean announces to the expectant crowd. He straightens up with a little difficulty and tightens his fingers around Castiel’s shirt. It takes all his strength and a good deal of wincing for him to pull Castiel out of the bed. The angel stands obediently enough, but the dazed look in his eyes doesn’t really bode well.

Dean moves to stand behind him, pushing Castiel forward. The angel doesn’t move. “Snap out of it,” Dean hisses into Castiel’s ear. “Damn it, listen to me and move your ass, because if anyone gets to thrash you it’s going to be me!”

He closes his hand around the base of Castiel’s neck and pushes him forward. Castiel twitches, a full body movement. There’s a slight hesitation before Castiel begins to shuffle forward, with Dean maneuvering him around the wounded on the floor. The back of Dean’s neck prickles with the force of the looks he’s getting, but he studiously ignores them, moving Castiel out the door and closing the door behind him with studied nonchalance.

The hallway is just as crowded as before, but Dean manages to steer him through the halls with relatively little trouble—none of the others have followed them out, and it’s difficult for people to tell angels apart from humans unless they’re looking very closely. Castiel keeps his head down and thankfully follow Dean’s lead, and he’s able to get them both to his room without further trouble.

His room’s tiny, but it seems like safe haven without the stink of blood and urine. Dean closes the door behind him and locks it before sagging onto the bed with a sigh of relief. He puts a hand to his chest and presses gingerly, wincing as the bruises emphatically tell him that they’ve had quite enough excitement for the day, thank you very much. “Damn,” he says out loud to the silent angel. “That was close. What’d you do to piss them off?”

Castiel remains mute. Dean sighs again and forces himself to get up from the comfortable bed, tugging Castiel down to sit in the only chair in the room. “You look like shit,” he says, studying the matted, oily state of Castiel’s hair and the sad state of his clothes. He runs a finger along Castiel’s lips, feeling the soft skin crack under his touch. “And you’re dehydrated. Moron.”

Dean looks around for a bit, patting his pockets down as if hoping to pull a bottle of water from his pants. He doesn’t find one, but he does pull out the painkillers Jo gave him. Dean looks at them for a moment before setting them on the table and continuing his search. From a drawer in his bedstand, he pulls out what he hopes is a clean glass and fills it with water from a gallon bottle under his bed. Castiel looks at the water like he’s never seen it before and makes no move to take it. When Dean presses the glass to his lips, though, he drinks it willingly enough, draining the whole glass. Dean watches him with a mingled feeling of relief and irritation.

“So,” he says, setting the glass on the bedside table. “You’re just sitting in the infirmary and minding your own business, and in storm a bunch of humans intent on kicking your sorry ass. You know why that is, Castiel?” He pauses, not really expecting an answer. Castiel doesn’t offer one, but his eyes do move to focus on Dean’s face, which he takes as a good sign. “Sector four’s burning to the ground,” Dean says as Castiel continues to watch him, the focus somewhat unnerving. “I guess people aren’t going to be very happy about angels for a while.”

Castiel continues to stay eerily quiet. “I bet you’ve done worse,” Dean says, more to fill the silence than to hold an actual conversation. “I mean, you were one of the Host, right? That means you did your share of killing. Did they matter to you? I was, uh…there were kids there, Castiel. A bunch of your friends were loading them onto zeppelins. What were they going to do to them? Do you guys have some secret torture chamber—no, wait, you do, it’s called the Nest of Love.” He closes his eyes as the familiar wave of pain crests through him again, intensified by the all too physical ache in his chest. “You angels killed Gwen and Victor. I guess I shouldn’t hold out hope for Sam being alive, should I?”

He scrubs his face with his palms, suddenly wanting a shower. The spray won’t wash off the memories, but maybe when he’s cleaner he won’t feel so…filthy anymore. Not just physically, but by what he’s seen and done. Of course, it’ll only be temporary, and it definitely won’t wash away the things he’s done and seen done to others.

His eyes snap open as he hears a rustle in front of him. Castiel stands in front of him, and for a moment Dean feels a frisson of fear work its way up his spine: if Castiel wants to attack, Dean’s in a vulnerable position, especially as he’s already injured. He edges away from Castiel as the other man sits carefully at the edge of the bed, every movement filled with slow hesitation.

Unbidden, an image rises into Dean’s head—Sammy. John Winchester had taken his children out of the Republic when Dean was eight and Sam was four, almost four years after the death of Mary Winchester at the hands of the angels. Dean’s initiation totally, utterly sucked, but at least it had come relatively quickly. Sam took a while more before Jess finally managed to trigger the flood. While Sam had been in early initiation, though, Dean recalls that Sam had been so clingy, holding onto an eight-year-old him like he was a lifeline.

There’s probably some dumbass psychologist bullshit to explain the phenomenon, no doubt linking back to their tragic childhoods or something. Dean looks at Castiel, who studies him back with eyes that convey a plea that the angel won’t or can’t say. “Damn it,” Dean mumbles, exhaustion sweeping over him suddenly. “I am really, really not paid enough for this shit.” He holds up a hand in warning. “You grope me on the ass or anywhere and I’ll toss you to the wolves,” he warns. “And I’ll enjoy it.”

He shifts himself up against the wall, settling into a comfortable position on the bed. It takes some rearranging, but eventually Castiel ends up with his head pillowed against Dean’s arm, his face pressed into Dean’s neck. Dean listens to Castiel’s breathing and waits for the aftereffects of the battle earlier that day to rise up—rage, hate, fear. He hates the angels, and he’s not sorry that he killed them. He’d do it again in a heartbeat, one like the steady staccato that he can feel in Castiel’s chest.

Dean presses his free hand to Castiel’s chest, seeking out that heartbeat. Castiel stirs slightly, making as if to curl closer. “No moving around,” Dean snaps half-heartedly. “My chest aches like holy fuck and I’m seriously not in the mood tonight.”

Castiel stills instantly, the soft rise and fall of his chest becoming his only movement. Dean curls his fingers around Castiel’s back and lets himself relax. The rage still lurks at the edge of his consciousness, but exhaustion quickly overtakes it as he slips into sleep.


He wakes up to banging on his door. “Dean Winchester, I know you’re in there!” Ellen shouts through the door.

“Mmmph,” Dean says eloquently in reply. He shifts in the bed, freezing as his hand comes into contact with a solid body. Oh, right. He’d slept with an angel—well, another angel, anyway. And a male one to boot. And it really, really wasn’t as much fun as it sounded. Castiel’s eyes flicker open sleepily once or twice before startling awake to full attention. With surprisingly quick speed, Castiel’s sitting upright on the bed, cross-legged and watching Dean attentively. The only sign that he’s been asleep is the tousled state of his hair.

“Dean!” Ellen bellows from the other side of the door, and Dean jumps. His chest protests at the movement, and Dean has to take a moment and just wince as his body’s various pains and aches clamor for attention.

“Fuck, Ellen, I’m coming!” he yells back when he can manage to take a breath. “Just hang on, okay?”

It takes a minute more for him to pull himself free of the covers. The floor’s cold, and it takes yet another minute for him to work up the nerve to step on it. When he finally does make his way to the door, he feels like he’s aged a thousand years and with arthritis to boot. He pulls back the latch and confronts Ellen in a fine snit, which doesn’t help at all. “The angels are gone,” she says tightly as he looks at her inquiringly.

“Not even a good morning?” Dean asks.

“I haven’t slept for thirty-six hours, Dean Winchester, so do not fuck with me. The council’s got their hands full trying to arrange new supplies, housing and medical care for the refugees, and you’ve got nothing so far.”

“I was recuperating from serious war injury,” Dean protests. “Have some mercy, Ellen.”

She raises an eyebrow. “Jo said that you were fit to be discharged.”

“Discharged, maybe, go back into the front lines, no. Why are the angels my problem, anyway?”

“Because they’re gone and you have spare time,” Ellen says briskly. “Both Gabriel and Castiel are gone, and one thing we can’t let them do is to go back to the Republic. So finding them is a bit of a priority.”

“Ah,” Dean says, acutely aware of Castiel behind him in the bed. “I see. I’ll get right onto that, then. After I’ve cleaned up.”

Ellen gives him a nod. Dean looks at her and sees the lines of weariness in her face that definitely weren’t there the last time he saw her. “Ellen—you okay?” he asks, a bit belatedly.

She sighs. “Just find the angels, Dean, and don’t let them get away,” she says tiredly. She gives him a small smile. “Good work in the battle, by the way.”

Yeah. Dean blinks rapidly for a moment as cold memory rushes back. “Damn,” he says, more to himself than to Ellen. “Is, uh…is Pamela going go to be okay?”

Ellen checks her PDA and shakes her head. For a moment, Dean fears the worst, but then she says, “Her name’s not showing up in the fatalities list. Other than that, you’d have to ask Missouri, Jo or Dr. Robert for more information.” Her eyes soften as she looks up. “Maybe you could go check on her before hunting the angels down.”

“I’ll do that,” Dean says softly. “Thanks, Ellen.”

She nods and walks down the corridor. Dean closes the door quietly behind her and leans against the door for a moment, focusing on his breathing. He’s aware of Castiel’s gaze on him, and hell if he’s going to have a Moment in front of the angel. “What?” he demands, his voice rough, staring defiantly back at Castiel.

“Dean?” Castiel says slowly, his eyes darting around the room.

“No shit,” Dean tells him, folding his arms.

“What are you doing?” Castiel asks, his voice low and hoarse as his gaze finally settles on Dean. He pushes himself up from the bed, still looking confused.

Dean raises an eyebrow, surprised despite himself. “What, you’re talking?” he says, pushing himself roughly away from the door and wincing as his ribs protest. “Nothing. Just grieving, but you wouldn’t know anything about it.” That’s an unfair statement now that Castiel’s gone through initiation, but the anger that exhaustion managed to keep at bay yesterday comes flooding back, triggered by memories of Gwen, speared in the pilot’s seat. “I mean, your buddies had fun shooting the shit out of defenseless people. Is that what gets you off, huh? Breaking up families and destroying our lives? What, you’re jealous that you can never have one of your own?”

Castiel doesn’t say anything; his head tilts slightly to one side, but that’s it. Dean groans and just as suddenly as it came, the anger seeps away, leaving nothing but disgust—at the angels, at Castiel, but also at himself. Dean sighs, running his fingers through his hair and wincing as he feels the soot and ash still stuck in it. “Look, what’s done is done, I guess, and lynching you isn’t going to help. Especially now that you’ve seen the light and everything. Or whatever.” He shakes his head. “I, uh…I’m going to try to do something productive. Shower, eat. Find Gabriel. Focus on not dying.” He grimaces as his chest reminds him why exactly dying might be imminent. “You, uh…stay here, I guess. The guys from yesterday might try to beat you up again. Stay here, don’t break anything.”

He turns his back on Castiel, intent on finding some clean clothes for the shower. He knows that the angel’s staring at him, and if looks could kill he’d probably be dead ten times over by now. But Dean’s had angels shoot at him, strangle him, wing him, knife him, so on and so forth, and a stare is a piece of cake in comparison.

It’s an angel thing, probably. Anna has—had the same kind of look, the one of sweeping intensity that intends to catalogue everything about you in seconds. It hadn’t fazed Dean much either, except for those times maybe when they were in bed together. Dean would be this close to falling asleep when all of a sudden the hairs on the back of his neck would stand up and he’d know that Anna would be staring at him again, the look on her face twisted with pain and something else that neither of them would ever talk about. Ever. Besides, after his little vacation in Hell, they didn’t touch each other again and so that Look never had cause to bother him as they moved into separate rooms.

And then, well, she died.

Dean takes a deep breath, forcing himself not to turn around and demand that Castiel stop staring, because he’s not going to let a little déjà vu bother him. Not all angels are the same, he reminds himself, and that applies not just to Anna but to any angel who’s gone through initiation. They’re not bound to some destiny or mold, just like the people who’ve gone through Hell aren’t all demons who care only about blood.

But hell, it’s hard to be fair sometimes.

He grabs a spare change of clothes and retreats to the refuge of the hunters’ showers, which thankfully are free of the stink of blood. Two out of the eight stalls there are occupied when he enters, and he slips into the one at the end and bolts the door shut. The water’s lukewarm and has an unpleasant rusty odor, but the feeling of it pounding on his back is a welcome relief.

Technically, they’re supposed to conserve water, but Dean feels like he’s earned a nice long shower filled with peace and quiet. The erratic spray pounding over his back and shoulders helps wipe off the physical soot and smoke, but it does nothing for the heavy knot that seems to have seated itself in his stomach. It’s made up of a lot of things, he knows, and it seems impossible to unpick. At the heart of it is Sam, and all a sudden a wave of longing hits Dean hard enough that he finds himself leaning against the stained walls for balance. Sam’s always been the soulful care bear type, and he knows how to deal with all this shit in thirty seconds flat. Dean, well, Dean’s the fucked up one, he always has been. His job is to keep Sammy safe so his brother can save the world.

“Fuck,” Dean whispers, leaning his forehead against the wall, his hands clenching into fists. What are the chances that Sam’s still alive? What are the chances that Dean’ll ever see him again?

Slim. Most likely, none.

Fuck you, angels, not if Dean Winchester’s got anything to do with it.

Possessed by a sudden frenetic energy, Dean turns the water off with a hard jerk and gets dressed hurriedly, not caring about the sodden red of the bandage on his shoulder. He’s not sure exactly what he’s going to do, except that if he stays here with all these thoughts in his head for one more second he’s going to start smashing things. He needs to move, to do things, to wear himself to exhaustion, because when he’s exhausted, he doesn’t have to think. Like yesterday. He remembers how quickly he dropped off to sleep, even with an angel curled up against his shoulder.

“Gabriel,” Dean says out loud. Right. Ellen wants him to find the angels. Dean wants to find the angels. He knows that Gabriel’s said again and again that he doesn’t know where the Nest of Love is, doesn’t know where Sam might be, but Dean ignores past evidence in favor of the illusion of hope.

Fired up with new resolve, Dean’s ready to go charging through the compound, but his aching chest reminds him that while he could be a whole lot worse, he’s certainly not back to one hundred percent. Painkillers, he thinks, suddenly reminded of the packet on the bedside table in his room. And, oh yeah. Castiel. Also in his room.

He briefly entertains the thoughts of skipping the pills or going to beg Jo for a new prescription, but neither idea pans out: while the water did some good in loosening up his muscles, he’s starting to ache all over again, and Jo’s got enough on her plate without him bothering her. Dean refuses to hide from Castiel—it’s his damn room, his damn pills. Besides, he’s got nothing to prove.

Dean takes a deep breath and swings the door open. Castiel is still in the room, in the bed, almost exactly as Dean left him. Dean tosses his old clothes into a basket by the door before working up the nerve to look Castiel. The angel looks like a mess who desperately needs a shower, but something about the stupid blue puppy dog eyes has Dean feeling ridiculously guilty. It’s an annoyance and a relief all at once: annoying because he owes Castiel nothing, and relief because he once thought that he might never feel guilt again, not when it comes to things he’s done.

He buys himself a few more seconds by swiping the painkillers off the table and downing one in a glass of water. Without looking at Castiel, he says, “You know, I’m not your prison guard. You’re free to do whatever.”

The silence stretches on, and Dean decides to beat a hasty retreat while he still can. His hand’s on the doorknob when Castiel speaks, his voice low but clear. “Where are you going?”

“Looking for Gabriel,” Dean says, shoving aside uncomfortable sentimentality for the familiar irritation with Gabriel. “You haven’t seen him around, have you?” Dean asks, turning around. “It would make my life a hell of a lot easier.”

Castiel frowns and shakes his head. “Not since before,” he says, and Dean instantly knows what before he’s talking about. Yeah. Before Initiation and After Initiation. There was a point when he was twelve when his life was like that as well, before more important lines of distinction appeared. Damn. The guilty feeling in Dean’s stomach squirms, and it’s absolutely ridiculous, because it’s not like he’s done anything wrong. A small petty voice in his head reminds him that he saved Castiel’s sorry ass yesterday, and he mourns what happened to Anna probably more than Castiel ever can. Besides, it’s not like Dean doesn’t have reasons to hate the angels. The image of the children is still fresh in his mind, and there’s Sam. Sam who’s gone, and hell, that brings his thoughts back to Anna again…

Dean coughs and clears his throat. Gabriel, Gabriel, be pissed at Gabriel. It’s safer. “Yeah, well, he’s pissed off the middle of nowhere and it’s my job to dig him out,” Dean says, his voice rough. He reaches for the doorknob again before sighing and turning back. “Look,” he says to Castiel, feeling the weight of the angel’s gaze on him. “I, uh. Look.” Dean takes a deep breath. “I suck at this shit,” he mutters to himself before looking Castiel straight in the eye. “I’m sorry about Anna.”

“She was my sergeant. In the Host,” Castiel says, his voice very low.

Dean raises an eyebrow. He knows that Anna had been a sergeant, but this is new information. Well, it explains her reaction that day, why she hadn’t let Dean shoot him. “Huh,” Dean says, mildly impressed. “She mentioned once or twice that she commanded, but other than that, she was pretty quiet on her old life.”

Castiel studies him for a moment, his head tilting to one side. “You knew her,” he says. “Not just as an angel.”

“Well, I definitely knew her in a biblical sense,” Dean says. He runs a hand through his damp hair, more rueful now than anything else. “Broke it off after a while, though. Things just happened and, uh, I couldn’t.” It’s a cheesy line to say, but it’s true that the breakup was completely Dean’s fault. Anna had been there after Hell, willing to take on Dean and his tons upon tons of baggage—the nightmares, the screaming, the way his hands sometimes wrapped around the back of a razor and refused to let go. But Dean—he’d—

“Anyway. It’s over,” Dean concludes. He trails off into silence.

The corner of Castiel’s mouth tugs down slightly. Thankfully, he doesn’t pursue the subject, diving for safer ground. “Where do you think Gabriel is?” he says instead.

Dean sags, thankful. “I thought I might try his room,” he says, his mind switching to more practical matters with no little relief. “I mean, start with the basics, right? And then go through the logs and see if he did his past couple shifts, which he probably didn’t. Go to the storeroom and find how much candy is left. You know, the basics.” He waves a hand in the air for emphasis and winces as his chest reminds him why minimal movement is advised. “Fuck.”

Castiel shifts on the bed, and Dean freezes. The air is suddenly filled with tension, and it takes more than a moment before Dean realizes that Castiel has merely shifted position, coming closer to the edge of the bed. “Give a guy some warning, Cas,” Dean says weakly.

“I apologize,” Castiel says, although he doesn’t look very sorry. Still, it’s a pretty big victory, managing to get an actual apology from an angel (a Fallen one, but still).

Dean takes a deep breath experimentally. His chest aches, but the pain’s manageable. “Yeah, well, just don’t do that again,” he says gruffly. Another breath, stretched into what feels like an eternity of awkward silence. “I’ll, uh. I’ll go look for Gabriel now. I guess.”

“Yes,” Castiel says. It’s a simple word, one syllable, more an exhalation of air than an actual word. Yet Dean still manages to hear a tone in it that pokes at the guilt with a stick. Embrace it, Dean reminds himself. It’s a reminder that you still have a conscience.

It’s easy to be kind to your friends, your family. Not so easy when it comes to strangers. Even damn harder with an angel.

“Why don’t you come with me?” he says impulsively. He has to stop and take a moment to process the words after they come out of his mouth, but his eyes don’t miss the way that Castiel straightens up, a bit of life coming into his eyes. “You’re an angel, maybe you’ll see something that I miss.”

Castiel doesn’t say anything; he just nods and rises from the bed with the smooth, fluid grace of the angels. It’s more than a little disconcerting at the way the guilt recedes as Castiel comes to his side, the Look scanning him up and down and no doubt cataloguing everything about him, from the hole in his shirt to his shoe size. Everything physical, anyway, Dean just hopes that with Castiel’s complete ineptitude when it comes to emotions, he won’t know a damn thing about the thoughts currently whirling through Dean’s mind.

He turns away. “Let’s go get you cleaned up first,” he says gruffly. “Then we can start.”



( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 8th, 2011 02:20 am (UTC)
Wha... Agh! *fumbles around looking for button that leads to more* Whhh... More?!

;_; More???
Jul. 9th, 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
...and up, bb! *hugs* Enjoy the next chapter!
Jul. 8th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
Um. So I stumbled on this story about an hour ago, and just FYI I'm erecting a statue in your honor. Possibly using my theology studies to create a religion.

Just so you know.
Jul. 9th, 2011 05:55 am (UTC)
Chocolate is a totally acceptable offering. ;D Also feel free to direct errant prayers towards Godstiel, because even though it's a bit loltastic Misha Collins is still really hot when he gets all growly and badass. XD Next chapter's up!
Jul. 8th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
Dammit, you should be required to like notify us all individually the minute this thing is updated. *flails like a flailing thing*

What I mean is, it's good, post more soon!
Jul. 9th, 2011 05:56 am (UTC)
THAT'S WHAT COMMENT REPLIES ARE FOR! :D *pokes you with a big pokey thing* Next chapter's up, enjoy!
Jul. 8th, 2011 03:57 am (UTC)
This is awesome! Can't wait to read more; really liking the world you've created here. :)
Jul. 9th, 2011 05:56 am (UTC)
Thank you, hon! <3 Next chapter's up!
Jul. 8th, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
::goes to click next:: Whoa wait... what happened?!?!

AH! No! I need more! Now!
Jul. 9th, 2011 05:56 am (UTC)
*performs mindblowing magic* And...here you go! Link to 3a's up. Enjoy!
Jul. 8th, 2011 09:55 am (UTC)
Oh I am loving this but it kills me every time it stops. Love the imaginative take on the apocalpyse and please, please, please tell me the next chapter is posting soon.
Jul. 9th, 2011 05:57 am (UTC)
*revives you* Here you go! Hope you like the next chapter. :)
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:13 am (UTC)
Noooo, I was already prepared to keep reading without any breaks until next week and then suddenly there's no next chapter ;____;
I've always loved your writing to pieces but this one? I have no idea how you do it, just please keep doing it. Brilliant, brilliant and once again BRILLIANT.
Jul. 9th, 2011 05:58 am (UTC)
Hahaha, I do it on purpose because I'm evooooooool. XD Also because the most annoying message in the world is "Posting error: TOO LARGE." (@#)$*#($ ELLLJAY COME ON BE NICE. *puppy eyes*

Next chapter's up, hope you enjoy!
Jul. 8th, 2011 12:40 pm (UTC)
Fallen angels don't have the best of it, do they? The humans dislike and distrust them, but they're stuck. At least, if they don't want torture and death at the hands of the Republic. Or the same, but from Hell, instead.

I'm interested to see how/why humans go through Hell, and if the demons have a reason to want the angels other than "Let's stab 'em with hot pokers! It'll be a hoot!"

I'm wondering how exactly so many people have gotten hooked on Croat. Do they simply become addicted after using it to ease the Grace detox, like some heroin addicts become dependent on methadone? Or is something they can get through other means? I'm wondering exactly how long Sam/the others have been using. I'm hoping Sam hasn't been on Croat since age four! :/

Feel free to ignore me if it's something I best learn later! :D

Jul. 9th, 2011 06:01 am (UTC)
The demons don't figure too largely in this fic. I'm guessing, though, that Dean went to Hell to pay Sam's debts. Drug addition can be a pesky thing, and Dean's nothing if not willing to sacrifice for his brother. *sighs*

And about Croat, I think this was mentioned in the very beginning: it sharpens the senses and reflexes, and when you're fighting an enemy with razor-sharp wings and superior machinery, you need all the advantages you can get. A number of them do get addicted from the detox, but also a number (Sam) get addicted because it's a high in a seemingly bleak world. (Depressing. Meh.)

Anyway, next chapter's up! :D
Jul. 8th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
Hm. Interesting! I wonder what Gabriel is up to. That last line sounded ominous.

And I love the way Castiel seems to have latched himself unto Dean now.

Looking forward to more.
Jul. 9th, 2011 06:02 am (UTC)
I know, poor Cas. Dean's just about the only stable thing he has, but Dean himself has Problems up the wazoo. Next chapter's up, hope you like it!
Jul. 9th, 2011 02:39 am (UTC)
Agh! Where's the next bit?? No clickty-click for more epicness!

:D In all seriousness this is bloody epic, read it all yesterday/today and I'm so looking forward to the next update....which will be soon yes? Pretty please :D

Brilliant work so far!!

(if it wasn't 3:38am I would detail how, what and why I'm loving this, but know that I am/do :D)
Jul. 9th, 2011 06:03 am (UTC)
<3 Not bad for 3:38 am! When I'm up around that time, the most I can manage is like, "Duhhh me like chapter me want more." So yeah, you're plenty eloquent enough, and I'm glad you liked it! XD Next chapter's up!
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