Pairing: Subtle Dean/Castiel. Behind the scenes Sam/Ruby.
Notes: Spoilers up until the most recent episode (4x10). Written because I had a theory and couldn't let it go. Beta'd by goldie. Feedback = A++. Ignored one glaring fact of canon, but you'll catch it if you're caught up.
Summary: Jack Daniels and I Love Lucy isn't enough. Neither is Heaven.
The hotel is smaller than the last but just as horribly decorated. It's the first thing Dean notices about hotels now. The wallpaper, the grimy sinks, the loose windows that rattle in the slightest hint of wind. Duck pillowcases and chipped timber shelves. When they book in for the night Dean takes a moment to stare, take it all in, so that he'll see it when he closes his eyes.
Sam doesn't even look up, three quick stops; bed to dump his bag, bathroom to splash his face, bedside table to grab the keys.
"Don't wait up," he says, and his heart is breaking in his eyes. Dean wants to reach out and smooth his thumbs over Sam's eyelids, press it out of his skin but he's too fucking afraid to touch his brother now.
Sam's the one with demon blood in his veins, pumping, over and out and through. Sam's the one whose palms have touched and teased and pleasured a demon whose heart is as blue as the night sky, dead and devoted.
But Dean's the filthy one. Dean is unclean, unholy and the pressure of burning fingertips against his shoulder will never take that away.
He cocks a smile too late and he knows it, can see the crease of concern in Sam's baby face but licks his cracked and dry lips and grins wider. "Use protection, Sammy. I'm sure they got extra small in stock."
Sam's smile doesn't reach his eyes but he still jangles the keys in his hand and leaves.
Dean has hunkered down with every bottle from the bar fridge and sat through three episodes of I Love Lucy on late night tv before he realizes that Sam didn't ask to take the Impala. It takes another two bottles of Jack Daniels before Dean figures out that he doesn't mind.
It's still raining when the knock comes.
It's almost silent, like the brush of knuckles against wood. A sliding sound, too low on the door. Probably a kid, or a dwarf or you know, whatever. Dean doesn't know if his legs will even work enough for him to get up. They feel kind of like liquid but he shuts that thought off -- he knows what liquid legs feel like, and it isn't fucking this. Fuck. He closes his eyes tight and tries to slow the racing of his heart, echoing screams and red bleeding into his waking thoughts.
The bottles are empty and he's all alone. The rain is still falling like it doesn't give a shit. The tv is down low because Lucy's voice always gives him a headache and he's about to get up and crawl to the fridge when the knock comes again, more insistent this time.
Dean groans and rolls over, falling from the couch more than getting up and it only takes a little half shuffle before he has somehow managed to get himself to his knees and from his knees to his feet. He only sways four times on his way to the doorway and he takes (feels? Since 'takes is in the next part of the sentence) a mild bit of pride in the fact that it only takes him a minute to figure out the lock on the door.
The door falls open before he can pull, the weight leaning against the other side pushing it open and Dean feels like a bucket of cold water and sobriety have been dunked over him.
On his knees, skin sweaty or just wet from rain, rivets of pink water over his shoulders and down his chest, pooling at the waistband of dirty black slacks is Castiel. He's shirtless, shivering and his eyes are so wide and so blue that Dean can't breathe.
"You didn't do the door trick," Dean slurs and Castiel manages to tilt his head up just enough that the red of his mouth is glaringly obvious even in the dim hotel room light.
Castiel swallows hard and Dean follows the movement over his throat, eyes drawn to the disarray and loss of composure. Something is very, very wrong and his stomach sinks with sudden clarity. He knows before Castiel speaks but it doesn't hurt so very much until he lowers his eyes, blue so fucking blue, lashes dark against the curve of his cheek and says
"I fell." voice gravelly and tired.
Dean has been punched more times in his life than he can count or remember and it never felt quite like this. Never like the thrill of anger and horror that cascades over him in a bad rush. He wants to reach out and shake Castiel until his teeth rattle in his fucking head but he can't move.
Castiel looks up again, or rather, his head lolls back a little and Dean recognizes terror in his eyes. Castiel is afraid. Castiel just fell from the fucking heavens. Castiel is helpless, helpless and empty just like the rest of fucking humanity and Dean is laughing before he can stop himself.
It's a harsh barking sound more than a real laugh, the sound that Bobby's dogs used to make when they were injured and didn't want anyone to come close, too afraid that whoever did would make it worse.
Castiel swallows again and looks as though he might not be able to stay on his knees much longer, as though he's seriously considering just passing right out on the floor.
"It..." Castiel has never been one for talking but he's never had so much trouble before, Dean thinks a little hysterically. "It hurts."
Dean thinks, well of course it fucking does you idiot but the word that comes out instead is "Why?"
Castiel smiles, honest to fucking god smiles and then blinks, startled and falls face first into the gritty gray carpet.
Dean stares at the back of his head, mussed and damp, traces the lines down Castiel's back where the red-pink water is darkest.
On screen, someone warbles 'Yes life is heaven you see'.
Castiel wakes an hour later. It's enough time for Dean to have sobered up enough to pretend to deal with this, for Dean to have dragged Castiel's body onto the hotel bed and pulled the scratchy blankets back. Enough time for him to have toweled off the worst of the pink water, and the tips of his hair. Enough time for Dean to have put his war face on.
Castiel blinks open his eyes and Dean's carefully prepared "What the fuck" speech goes out the window. They were never that blue before, he thinks, never that fucking blue. Only they were and he knows it, but he's never seen his brother's heartbreak in Castiel's open eyes and he doesn't know if he can hold it.
"Morning sunshine," Dean sing songs and smirks. Castiel blinks and shudders hard, sitting up and rubbing at his arms like he's cold and doesn't know how to deal with it.
"Put the heat on -- temperature is a bitch, angel boy."
Castiel nods like he understands and then laces his fingers together like he's trying to regain composure while being half naked and terrified. Dean can relate.
The whir of the hotel heater is constant, the rain has stopped. Dean reaches out with his hand, palm up and carefully presses each of his five fingers against Castiel's bare shoulder, then his palm, flat. He grips for a moment and then eases up pressure. The red mark is already fading before he's even fully pulled his hand away, but realization flashes dark in Castiel's eyes.
"I'm not the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition," Dean doesn't think about what it means that he can recite those words back "but I'll do what it fucking takes to put you back."
Castiel shakes his head hard and then stops and touches two fingers to his temple like he's trying to stop feeling dizzy. "Dean," he says simply and looks up, face quirked in distaste at the foreign sensation of disconcertion and still trying to pull off stern and all powerful.
"Cas, man. You don't want this. You don't." Dean thinks that if it weren't three am in the morning and his brother wasn't off fucking a demon, or saving lives, or eating burgers, and if he wasn't coming down off the alcoholic buzz of the year, this entire situation probably wouldn't be happening.
But Castiel took a hard fall and came to Dean. Dean knows all the things he's done and all the things he doesn't deserve, but his Daddy taught him about compensation and redemption and he knows where to fucking start.
Castiel shivers again and touches his mouth as though he's stopping the words. Dean wonders if he's ever had to practice restraint. He can't talk big anymore. Dean's heart aches.
"Dean, I wanted this." It comes out shaky, hollow, but sincere. It cuts Dean like Alistair's knives never did and he closes his eyes to block out the sensation.
"You don't even know what you just asked for."
Castiel hasn't turned his face away; Dean can feel the burn of his gaze even with his eyes shut.
"It was not a decision one makes lightly. It was not easy. It will not ever be easy. But I know what I've received. I do not wish to be saved."
"You think you don't deserve to be saved?" Dean snaps out and the bitterness in it chokes him.
Cool, damp fingers touch his cheek, his jaw and then grip his chin, forcing his head up (and when had he ducked it? When did he start fucking hiding from this?) and the soft, whispered "Dean" nearly breaks him.
That's when the hotel door bursts open and Sam pours into the room with Ruby hot on his heels. Sam's mouth is open but it's nothing like the look of terror and confusion on Ruby's face.
"Um, am I...interrupting...anything here?" Sam asks and he pauses and stammers like he's walked in on Dean making out with his middle school teacher in a supply closet instead of the most profound moment of Dean's adult life.
Dean's throat is too rough to speak so he makes a vague grunting sound instead and Castiel lets his fingers slide away from his face.
There is a long moment of awkward, tense silence. Without another word Ruby and Sam back out of the door and shut it behind them. Castiel shuffles over on the bed and looks up like he's expecting something.
"Lie down," he commands and Dean raises an eyebrow, opens his mouth to make a joke about how he's not that kind of boy but something in Castiel's tone makes him reconsider. He gets off the chair and slides into the bed beside him. Castiel moves until he can reach over and press his palm against Dean's shoulder, right over the blistering scar.
"I pulled you from hell because I was ordered to." Castiel's words are a warm breath against Dean's face and everything should feel wrong, should feel weird or awkward, but it doesn't. Sam's intrusion has receded in his mind, replaced by this, whatever it is. "You pulled me from Heaven without even being aware of it."
Dean grits his teeth and he growls out "You fucking fell," before he can put a filter on his mouth.
Castiel only smiles though, tolerant and fair. Dean hates it and loves it all at the same time. It reminds him of his mother, the hazy memories he has of her mediating his and Sam's fights. Like she knew all the answers and loved them so much she wanted to share them.
"Dean, you feel too much. Your --" Castiel takes his hand away and it burns, almost, like a memory he didn't know he had, but then Castiel's fingers at his forehead and it startles him because he knows that trick by now -- but he's human. Just human and nothing happens. "Your mind won't let you rest. Won't let your heart rest. It's feeling too much and."
Castiel leans forward and rests his forehead against Dean's, closes his eyes and relaxes. His entire body just goes slack and pliant and he breathes deep. "Mine was not."
They lie together, heads close, breathing deep until eventually Dean realizes Castiel is asleep.
"Yeah," Dean breathes into the quiet. "Okay."