annundriel: ([spn] Bound to Lose My Meaning)
[personal profile] annundriel
Questions and Answers
Castiel, Dean Winchester
PG
1299
Spoilers for 4.16. Pre-slash or not, depending on your preference.
Castiel doesn't know what to say.

Sometime last year, [livejournal.com profile] cautionzombies asked me if I'd ever written a coda to "On the Head of a Pin." It took awhile, but now I have. ♥


”Find someone else, it’s not me.”

Castiel doesn’t know what to say. Unused to dealing with humans at this level, the appropriate words—the right words—fail to make themselves known. He’s aware that Dean’s emotions are in turmoil, that they’re dipping as low and as dark as that pit he pulled Dean out of. This much is readily apparent, even to Castiel. He thinks, perhaps, he should leave. There is nothing he can offer Dean, no comfort, and while the pull of Heaven on his grace is small, but insistent; there are places more important than Dean Winchester’s bedside.

Except…

His Superiors may have a point.

A broken sound slips from Dean, miniscule and jagged around the edges like the glass that shattered the first time he tried to speak with Dean after he’d been remade. Dean’s flesh is so fragile, so easily bruised and cut; he’d almost let Alistair irrevocably harm him tonight. It makes something deep in Castiel ache and he feels…unhappy. Unsettled. He shifts in his seat, trying to ease the feeling. It doesn’t help.

Dean’s chest shakes beneath the thin layer of his hospital gown. All of his muscles are tight, trembling, his face a mask of pain and suffering and—no, that’s wrong. This is different, something else entirely. Dean stripped bare.

Castiel’s seen it before, back when Dean’s body and soul were broken and breaking and Dean struggled in his hands like a wild thing, forcing Castiel to grip too tightly. He’s seen the exposed nerves, seen the side of Dean he only ever lets his brother see and, even then, rarely. Here it is again, in human form; Dean’s vulnerabilities laid out for Castiel to see.

It’s such a small moment, so insignificant when compared with what came before—a siege to Hell, hundreds of angels—and yet it’s here that Castiel feels powerless. In this hospital room, the smell of life and death and antiseptic teasing at the nostrils of Castiel’s vessel, he is without power. He sits, forearms on his knees, fingers woven together, and searches his many and varied years of experience for anything akin to this. Seeks counsel the way he seeks revelation. Nothing comes close; Castiel’s own experiences on Earth, with humans, are few and far between. He was never built for this. He’s not sure any of them were.

Save for Anna, she was always—

Anna. She’d offered him comfort earlier in the—mistaken, she must have been mistaken—belief that he’d needed it. Fingers pressed to the back of his hand, she’d tried to give him the human reassurance of skin on skin.

He looks at Dean’s hand tucked beside his thigh. It is not a small hand, relatively, but it looks fragile now, incapable of the strength Castiel knows it possesses, the strength he—no, they need it to possess.

Unsure of his welcome, Castiel turns toward Dean, angles his body until he can reach for him over the bed rail and brush his fingers against the back of Dean’s hand. He receives no visible reaction from Dean, though Castiel can sense a change in his heart rate, a subtle catch to his breathing. His muscles tense infinitesimally, but he doesn’t move. Dean doesn’t pull away or ask him to stop. Doesn’t lash out at him like an angry dog the way Castiel thinks, if he’s honest with himself, Dean has every right to.

No, Dean stays still, lets Castiel touch him, fingers moving gently over the back of Dean’s hand. Castiel watches the path his fingers traverse, fascinated by the small, distinct differences between the body he possesses and Dean’s own, between himself and Dean. The way the shapes are so similar, and yet the content is worlds apart. He feels constrained in his vessel and wonders how humans can stand being caged in such a way before he remembers that they’re not. To them this is normal. They know nothing, remember nothing but the confines of flesh and bone, muscle and sinew. He traces each of Dean’s knuckles, the knob of his wrist. It isn’t until Dean’s fingers twitch against the knit of the blanket pulled over him that Castiel looks up at Dean’s face.

Dean’s turned away, chin down and face half-hidden. Castiel is not well-versed in the nuances of human emotion, but he knows enough, can see enough of Dean’s face to recognize pain. To recognize the fragility of the body before him. His gaze drops from Dean’s face to the IV snaking out of his opposite hand.

They ruin so easily.

He wishes this weren’t the case. If he could, he would fortify Dean’s body in some way, shore up Dean’s soul. Give him some of the strength Castiel has pulsing through his grace, some bright, hopeful thing to cling to.

He can’t, though. Castiel has nothing to offer Dean but this; the touch of skin on skin, fingers careful against Dean’s hand. The reminder that he is not alone.

Dean shifts, a subtle movement of tendon and muscle, and his wrist turns, the back of his hand slipping away from Castiel’s touch to be replaced with his palm. The lines and callouses are rough under the tips of Castiel’s fingers even after so short a time in renewed skin. Proof that Dean likes to work, and work hard.

Only no, Castiel knows this isn’t quite right. Dean works hard because he must, because they make him. Because no one else will. That is the lot of the Righteous Man, to do the work no one else can. Something in Castiel twinges, like a bowstring drawn too tight. He feels strange and ready to snap and Dean, his eyes closed as he lies in his hospital bed with his palm upturned, cannot see it.

Castiel looks at him, takes in the line of his brows, the point of his nose, the surprisingly delicate curve of his eyelids and sweep of his lashes. He takes in the gashes, clean now but bleeding so freely earlier, and thanks God and Heaven and all of his brothers and sisters that Sam Winchester was there to intervene no matter his method.

He wonders if this thought, too, would make Anna look at him with pity, with what she believes is understanding. Maybe it is. Deep within he knows that he is in danger where Dean is concerned.

Yet here he remains.

Carefully, slowly, Castiel presses fingers to Dean’s hand. He follows its natural landscape, the dip down into the cup of his palm, the miniscule canyons of his heart line. Dean’s life line, interrupted, presents Castiel with an enigma. He cannot remember if it was always bisected, if Dean’s fate, his death and resurrection, were always stamped so clearly here or if that is his own doing.

Dean’s fingers twitch and Castiel looks up from his study to find Dean’s face turned toward him. His eyes are open, faint slits of green showing beneath his lashes. Castiel feels caught, as though he’s been doing something he shouldn’t and now Dean will berate him and tell him to go. He should go, he must go, and yet...

Dean’s skin is warm beneath his hand, blood pumping steadily beneath his skin, repairing itself. Minor miracles occur every second of every day but Castiel has no idea what to say.

He shifts to move away from Dean, but Dean is faster than he looks, even like this, and he traps Castiel’s fingers against him.

“Stay?”

A single syllable flung into the distance between them, breaking the silence of heart monitors and intercoms, small and big both. Heaven pulls at Castiel’s grace and he relaxes his fingers beneath Dean’s, not saying a word because he doesn’t know how. Instead, he stays. Dean asks, so Castiel stays.
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