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Fic: A Hole in the World

lady windswept hair
Words: 6,666
Thanks to: zelda_zee for the beta. And to uselessplayback and bhsbaby for encouragement.
Author's Notes here
Translated into Italian here.



A Hole in the World



Act I


“You don't have to do this,” Castiel says. The breeze rustles his coat and tickles his cheek, but he has no attention to spare for anything but Dean.

“Yeah, I'm pretty sure I do.” Dean musters up a lopsided grin, but Castiel can see that it’s just another false layer, another forced smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “I can't let the world burn because I like being me too much.”

“There might be another way. There might be--” Castiel doesn’t know why he is still protesting. He knows he should not, that this is what the prophecy foretold and yet--yet he does not want this.

“Maybe there is,” Dean says, and digs his toe into the grass and dirt, which are already softened by rainwater. “But Sam’s—we’ve run out of time to find it.”

“Dean,” Castiel says helplessly. He doesn’t know why his chest aches, or why his vision blurs. To the best of his knowledge, his vessel is uninjured--but there is an agony in his lungs he can’t account for, can’t explain.

“Cas, I,” Dean stops himself, and then starts again. “Ah, what the hell.” Dean grabs him by the shoulders, fingers clutching so hard it would hurt if Castiel felt pain the way humans do. Before he can react or say a word, Dean presses his lips to Castiel’s, forceful and rough in a rush of sensation that catches Castiel completely off guard. He feels dizzy--an incredible, unbearable lightness as Dean’s lips part against his and their tongues meet, and it is as if his sense of balance and stability is gone—the world tilting and realigning itself in new ways around him, Dean’s arms the only thing holding him up while Castiel feels his knees nearly give way beneath him.

And then it is gone.

When Dean releases him, Castiel stumbles back a few feet, managing to remain upright only barely. But the memory of Dean’s heat, the strength of his arms and hands, the brush of his lips—all of it lingers on Castiel’s body like an indelible mark. He doesn’t know what it means.

“I always wondered what that'd be like.” Dean touches his swollen lips, and with what looks almost like regret takes a step back. “I guess now we both know.” His eyes gleam brightly for an instant before his gaze cuts away again.

“Dean, I—" Frustration wells up within Castiel as the imprecise words of humans fail him. Castiel suddenly yearns to speak with Dean in his true voice—a longing he hasn’t felt this sharply since he first rescued Dean from clawing grasp of Perdition. But perhaps it would make no difference if he could; Castiel doesn’t even know what words he’s searching for, in his language or any other.

“Cas,” is all Dean whispers before he turns his face up to the sky and shouts, “I'm here, you feathery bastard! I consent--now come and get me before I change my fucking mind!”

A moment passes, and then brilliant golden light shines down on Dean from the sky like a spotlight. For a second, Dean’s hair and face are illuminated by Heaven’s glow, a transcendent wonder that stops the beat of Castiel’s heart. “Thank you,” Dean says, looking back at Castiel. “For, you know. Everything.”

Before Castiel can respond, the golden light envelopes Dean and Castiel stumbles forward, hand outstretched. But it’s too late, and his hands bounce off the light as if it were translucent glass, Dean trapped behind it and just beyond Castiel’s reach. Wind swirls around the clearing, blowing the boughs of the trees wildly and ripping up the grass and flowers all around them.

The windstorm ceases as suddenly as it began, and Castiel blinks as the light fades away, leaving behind nothing but the figure of Dean, kneeling on the ground.

"Dean--" Castiel gasps, putting a hand on Dean's shoulder and expecting it to burn. But there is nothing but the same warm flesh underneath his fingertips, and Castiel can feel his heart begin to lift in a foolish hope, a hope that he could not articulate before now: that Dean is not gone, not the true vessel of Michael--

"Castiel." It is Dean's voice, but it is not him. Castiel shudders and falls back a step when Dean stands with preternatural grace. Dean’s hand is at Castiel’s throat in an instant. "Tell me why I should not strike you down where you stand."

Castiel swallows against the pressure of Dean’s thumb and forefinger on his windpipe. He could let Michael destroy him now, utterly, and perhaps this time God would not save him. Perhaps he had served his fated role in bringing Dean to Michael, but a part of Castiel resists dying still.

It is not because Castiel fears death—indeed, a part of him would welcome the chance to lay down his burdens and rest in the arms of his Lord. Rather, it is something else--a longing Castiel could not name until Dean seized him in his final embrace, a longing that Castiel now recognizes has always been there, patiently awaiting the spark to ignite a flame that would consume everything in its path.

Now the fire roars, and Castiel knows the longing for what it is, and knows that it will chain him to this existence so long as Dean’s body lives—and perhaps, even beyond that. "Because I can help you."

Dean’s lip curls. “You dare suggest that I would need the assistance of one such as yourself? A renegade, a traitor--a disgrace?”

Castiel falls to his knees as the force of Dean’s arm presses him down. It is foolish to hope when he knows in a dim, abstract way how powerful Michael is. His holy fury is beyond comprehension, beyond description, and cannot help but destroy all it touches. It is foolish to hope, and yet Castiel cannot stop himself from believing that perhaps, if he can only survive, he might one day see Dean again.

“No,” Castiel whispers. “I am nothing, and you have no need of me, but I--I do not wish to die like this.”

“And what makes you think I should care what you want?” Dean’s face is impossibly distant, cold.

“Nothing,” Castiel says. “But I wish to die in God’s service, and to help you before I do.”

Dean--no, Michael---stares at Castiel and a faint hum of power probes the back of Castiel’s mind, intrusive and very nearly painful. "You may prove useful, defiant one.” Michael drops his hand from Castiel’s throat, and Castiel falls onto the ground. “I will suffer your continuing existence, for now."

Castiel touches the base of his throat and marvels and how different the feeling is from the way Dean held him before, even though it is all Dean’s flesh. “I live to serve.”

Michael nods curtly. "Know that I will not hesitate to destroy you at my whim. So long as you are useful and obedient, you have a place and no angel will dare strike while I stay my hand. When you cease to be, also know that I will not make the same mistakes as Raphael.”

Castiel nods, and does not move to stand. "I will await your commands."

“Good.” Michael says and disappears.





Act II


When Castiel hears the call for help, he makes his way to the demon infested sewer immediately.

Bodies lie strewn about—angel, demon, all ultimately indistinguishable in death. Pinned up against the wall by two demons with a third delivering a rain of punishing blows to the abdomen is Dean.

Castiel disposes of two of the demons before they even realize he’s arrived, and the third drops Dean to the ground in order to fight. After a brief struggle, Castiel slashes the demon’s throat with his knife and kneels by Dean’s side.

“Dean,” Castiel says urgently, alarmed by the copious amounts of blood staining his face and shirt. “How badly are you--”

“Castiel,” Michael responds, and Castiel falls back, startled. He should not be, he should have known—but the way Dean’s bloodied body had looked trapped against the wall had driven all thoughts of Michael from Castiel’s mind. Now, however, Michael is impossible to ignore; it is Dean’s voice but not his tone, or his expression, or the way he addresses Castiel. “You resorted to weaponry. How human of you.”

Castiel sits back on his heels and closes his eyes. “Yes. Weapons can be most effective in dispatching demons possessing human hosts.”

“You use demon-craft instead of your own holy power? Their taint is upon you, and it is worse than the way humanity has sullied your Grace.” Michael stands Dean’s body up awkwardly, like a puppeteer who hasn’t quite learned all the strings connecting his fingers to the marionette’s limbs. As they speak, Dean’s body is beginning to heal, blood clotting quickly and wounds sealing themselves shut.

“You would have preferred I left you to their mercy, then?” Castiel stands as well, and meets Michael’s gaze without flinching. His gaze is distant and haughty in a way Dean probably was not even capable of.

“I was not at their mercy,” Michael replies, wiping a trace of blood away from Dean’s mouth with distaste. “I was merely awaiting the ideal moment to strike.”

“Fighting within a human vessel is... difficult,” Castiel says, because he understands this. “It requires time and training to fully integrate with--”

“You waste both our time with this nonsense,” Michael interrupts. “My might cannot be contained by this vessel properly and it is that which hinders me.”

Castiel opens his mouth to protest, but then stops himself, an idea creeping into his mind. “You should allow Dean to resurface in order to assist you in matters of this world.” The desire to be with Dean again surges through Castiel like a physical force. “He can--”

“I need no assistance,” Michael replies sharply. A moment later, he is gone.


* * * * * * * *


As the days slide by, faster and faster, and Michael continues to entrench himself in Dean’s body, Castiel feels the flicker of hope he had clung to so desperately beginning to wane. Everyday he wills himself not to think of the warmth in Dean’s eyes, or remember the touch of Dean’s lips against his, for there is no point.

There is no point, but most days he does not succeed.


* * * * * * * *


“Castiel.” It is Dean’s voice again, but it sounds nothing like him. Everything about it is wrong.

Castiel turns to face Michael, and he looks the same as Dean ever did, but carries himself differently, uneasily. Even the clothes that hang off his body seem ill-fitting. “You summoned me?”

“These bodies, these vessels.” Michael turns Dean’s hands over and over in front of him, examining them with curiosity. “They are such strange and fragile things.”

Castiel nods. He does not know where this conversation is headed—perhaps it will result in his imminent demise at the hands of a capricious archangel eager to vent his frustration on a target no one cares enough to protect. Or perhaps Michael has other plans for him—either way, Castiel finds he is starting not to care.

“This vessel does not respond to my commands the way I wish it to,” Michael says, and there’s a flutter of hope that makes itself known in Castiel, a hope that perhaps Dean is still alive and resisting, buried beneath the archangel controlling his body. Castiel quashes it as swiftly as he can, but it refuses to dissipate completely. “It is most frustrating.”

“When I first took my vessel, I faced some difficulties in terms of fighting effectively on this physical plane,” Castiel agrees mindlessly, mechanically. “Through time and sustained effort, I have learned how these human bodies function, and how best to maximize my vessel’s strengths and minimize its weaknesses.”

“Yes,” Michael glances at Castiel with a hint of contempt. “You have learned, haven’t you?”

Castiel steels himself against the sting and continues. “I had to cease fighting my vessel’s instincts, and come to understand human emotions, reactions.”

“You indulged in emotions, Castiel?” Michael asks, voice dripping with condescension. “Such things are beneath us.”

“Perhaps,” Castiel says. “But they must be understood, regardless, in order to optimize human capabilities. This understanding is, I believe, Lucifer’s greatest asset.”

Michael’s expression darkens at the challenge implied in those words. “Then tell me: what must I know about these humans?”





Act III


“I’m gonna do it,” Dean had said as he bit into his absurdly large cheeseburger. “I’m going to say yes.”

Castiel had stared at him uncomprehendingly for a long while, but the defeat in Dean’s eyes had been unmistakable. “You’ve changed your mind then.”

“Sammy’s been missing for—” Dean had trembled visibly then, voice cracking. “And we haven’t seen Lucifer in just as long. I can’t--”

“Dean,” Castiel had said helplessly, not knowing what else to say.

Dean had put his food down carefully and taken a deep breath. “We always knew it’d come to this.”


* * * * * * * *


“What is this place?” Michael asks as he sits across the table from Castiel. He surveys the diner with suspicion. “Why have you brought me to this… establishment?”

Dean and Castiel had sat in this precise diner less than a fortnight ago, in this very same booth, and the memory of Dean collides and shatters with the physical reality of his body sitting across the table, inhabited by someone else.

Castiel is spared from having to answer by the middle-aged waitress ambling up to the booth. She smiles at Michael--who stares haughtily back, as if affronted that she dare look at him at all--and then turns to address Castiel instead. “What can I get for you, honey?”

“Water and cheeseburgers for us both, please,” Castiel says, and Michael raises an eyebrow when she leaves; it’s an expression Dean might wear, and yet it looks nothing like him at all. “I have no need for sustenance, Castiel.”

“It is merely a way for you to better understand humans,” Castiel explains patiently. “Food is an important motivator of their behavior, and a means through which they acquire the nutrients required to repair their physical bodies.”

“It does not surprise me that they are so dependent on such things.” Michael holds Dean’s body rigidly, back ramrod straight and chin jutted high into the air. Dean wouldn’t sit like that; Dean would be slouched back into the booth comfortably, as close to relaxed as he could be in this familiar setting.

“Some humans find the act of eating pleasurable.” Castiel remembers Dean’s face as he’d taken the first bite into his cheeseburger, and how he’d said, ‘Why do you think I drove all the way out here? Best damn burgers in the country!’

“They derive pleasure from the grotesque act of masticating dead animals and vegetation?” Michael stares with open disgust at a couple of humans eating a few tables away.

“Humans find joy in many areas of life.” Castiel thinks of Dean’s smile after he’s finished eating, his contented sigh and eyelids fallen to half-mast. “Is that such a terrible thing?”

Michael returns his attention to Castiel, cold focus unsettling through Dean’s once lively, affectionate eyes. “They are as God made them and therefore worthy of protection regardless of their attributes. And so I will guard them until He returns and tells us to do otherwise.”

Castiel cocks his head to one side. “You do not believe as the others do? That he is dead, or has abandoned us forever?”

“Our father is why I fight, Castiel,” Michael says fiercely, eyes suddenly blazing to life. “It is true that Lucifer disobeyed, but that is not why I cast him down. I did so because he sought to countermand God’s orders and lead a crusade to destroy His creations—humans. And now,” he shakes his head, “now he is on the precipice of succeeding.”

The waitress returns with their cheeseburgers, and Castiel takes a bite into his, watching as Michael picks his up doubtfully. “Your vessel favored this particular food,” Castiel says, but as soon as the words leave his mouth he knows they were a mistake.

“My vessel?” Michael narrows his eyes at Castiel. “And what was my vessel to you?”

“The righteous man I raised from Perdition to stop the apocalypse,” Castiel says quickly. “My charge.”

Michael’s eyes narrow further, but he seems to accept the answer, lifting the burger to his lips and taking a bite. Castiel waits, hoping for some spark of familiarity in his eyes, some faint recognition—

--a hope which promptly vanishes when Michael spits out his food, revolted.


* * * * * * * *


“I don’t even know why I got this room,” Dean had said, dropping his bag onto the table. “It’s not like I’m gonna need a place to sleep anymore.”

Castiel had stood silently while Dean sat and bounced on the edge of the king-sized bed dominating the middle of the room. “But I guess I don’t need to save money where I’m going either.”

“You will likely not be going anywhere,” Castiel had said. “Michael will come for you, wherever you are.”

Dean had stilled on the bed. “Yeah, I figured.”

There had been a long pause before he’d looked up with an expression Castiel could not decipher. “You know, if you were anyone else, I’d be giving you my last day on earth speech.” Dean had dropped his gaze to the green bedspread. “But you’re not. So I won’t.”


* * * * * * * *


“More, Castiel?” Michael asks when he appears next to Castiel in the motel room. “Haven’t we done enough already? Surely I understand humans as much as is required by now.”

Castiel surveys the room for traces of Dean left behind, but there is nothing—not even a wrinkle on the bedspread to mark Dean’s passage through this place.

“If you feel prepared to confront Lucifer and his army already, then perhaps we should cease in this little exercise,” Castiel suggests mildly. When Michael does not reply, Castiel continues, “Humans require sleep to regain energy and operate at full capacity. I believe even when inhabited by one of us, the body still requires some form of rest, though not to the extent needed by humans.”

“They spend nearly a third of their lives unconscious,” Michael says, striding through the room restlessly. “Rather inefficient, isn’t it?”

Castiel runs his fingertips over the place Dean had once sat. “Perhaps. But it allows them to dream—a state which can be most revealing.”

“You had time to dreamwalk, Castiel?”

Castiel glances up in time to catch Michael’s profile against the window, and for a second, the archangel seems to recede into Dean’s handsome human features. “I should have made more time.”


* * * * * * * *


“You’ll take care of her, won’t you?” Dean had asked, patting the steering wheel of the Impala lovingly. “Make sure nothing happens to her after I’m—you know.”

“I will protect her from harm,” Castiel had vowed solemnly.

“Good,” Dean had replied. “Because you’re—you’re all she has left now.”


* * * * * * * *


“This space is very small,” Michael says as he shifts in the driver’s seat uncomfortably, trying to maneuver his arms and hands around the steering wheel without directly touching it. “Why have you brought me here?”

Castiel watches him struggle and then looks away. “I don’t know.”


* * * * * * * *


When Michael and Castiel appear in front of the entrance to Camp Chitaqua, Chuck and Bobby are waiting for them.

“Hey guys,” Chuck says, and swallows nervously when he makes eye contact with Michael. “You must be Mike. Michael.”

“And you are the Prophet,” Michael replies, tone low and reverent. “You speak and write the Holy Word.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s me.” Chuck scratches the back of his neck. “But we should probably keep all the Prophet and angel of the Lord stuff on the down low for now. I mean, from the other hunters.” Chuck’s gaze darts to Castiel and then Michael. “They don’t know you’re not still Dean.”

“Dean did not tell them?” Castiel asks.

“You know Dean,” Bobby says gruffly. “Idjit up and left one day with nothing but a damn note. Said he’d be back soon, and didn’t mention anything about—” Bobby cuts off, and glares stonily at Michael.

“You wish for me to conceal my identity and my glory?” Michael asks, and Castiel can hear the irritation building in his voice. “To pretend that I--”

“That’s how I saw it happen,” Chuck jumps in hurriedly. “The others—the hunters--they won’t follow anyone except Dean. They don’t trust anyone, especially the angels. They blame you guys for starting this whole… apocalypse.”

Castiel expects further dismay and protest, but Michael shocks him by simply nodding. “If that is what is foretold, then so shall it be.”

Bobby blinks at Michael’s acquiescence, and Chuck seems amazed. “It shouldn’t be too difficult,” Chuck says cautiously. “You can tap into Dean’s memories, right?”

“Yes,” Michael says, and then his voice shifts into something rougher, more worn. “And Cas here already gave me the 411 on being human, so I think I can figure the rest out.”

Bobby and Chuck’s eyes widen, and Castiel takes a step back. For an instant, it almost sounds and looks as if Dean has returned, hands in his pockets and stance loose and easy. But then Michael straightens and rearranges Dean’s features into a map of calm indifference. “Was that adequate?”

Castiel does not wait for their response.





Act IV


The preparations for the final battle are underway and proceeding briskly now that Michael has summoned the other angels to Earth, forging an uneasy alliance with the human forces. The humans watch all the vessels known to be inhabited by angels—including Castiel—warily, suspiciously, and it bears out Chuck’s theory that they would not follow Michael if they knew the truth.

As for the angels, they stay far away from the hunters and work on their own arcane rituals. They make plain to Castiel that he is not welcome amongst them, leaving him in a strange limbo between two camps that both grudgingly accept his help but want nothing else to do with him. Chuck is too busy writing tomes of scripture to do much else, while Bobby looks at Castiel accusingly, as if he should have been the one to stop Dean from going forward with his plan. A part of Castiel does not disagree.

From what Castiel has overheard in snatches of conversation amongst the angels, Michael’s combat abilities are rapidly improving, and he will soon to be the embodiment of his full might and majesty on Earth. It is a thought that chills Castiel, for the more Michael gains in strength, the more Dean fades away.

Castiel spends his days avoiding such thoughts, and concerns himself mostly with retrieving all of the obscure ingredients needed for the angelic rituals. The work is tedious, time consuming, and requires focus that saps Castiel of energy. It is a relief.

One day, when Castiel goes to drop off some dried herbs in the makeshift storeroom set up at Camp Chitaqua, Michael appears beside him. “You have been avoiding me,” Michael says, and it is not a question.

“I have been preoccupied,” Castiel says. “I had not thought my absence would be noteworthy.”

For a moment, Michael’s expression flickers, shifting to something that almost resembles emotion. “It is not noteworthy.” Michael smoothes Dean’s features over again. “I am merely concerned that you might render my mercy towards you foolish and misplaced.”

“I seek the end of the apocalypse as much as you do,” Castiel replies wearily. “And you needn’t waste your energy on tracking my whereabouts—Zachariah is already keeping a very close eye on me.”

When Castiel turns to go, Michael asks, “Why do you not look at me when I speak?” Castiel stops. “Is it this vessel that disturbs you?”

“No,” Castiel replies too quickly. “There is no reason. I cower in your presence, nothing more.”

“You lie. I sense no fear in you—unlike the others.” Castiel stands very still while Michael peers closely at him. His next words are inflected with surprise, “You... care about this vessel. About this human body.”

“No,” Castiel whispers, but it’s too late.

Michael laughs, a small, startled sound. “Is this wretched thing the reason you turned against your own family? Against your home?”

“I did what I thought was right,” Castiel says, but he—and now Michael—both know the truth.

Castiel leaves the storeroom with Michael’s derisive laughter ringing in his ears.



* * * * * * * *


“You have been ignoring my summons,” Michael says, appearing beside Castiel in the empty cathedral. He grabs Castiel’s elbow to hold him in place before Castiel can transport himself away.

“There is much work to be done,” Castiel replies. It is a lie; preparations for the rituals are nearly complete and Castiel has had an abundance of time to respond to Michael’s calls—if he had wished to.

But Castiel did not wish it, and chose to find other methods of filling his time: searching half-heartedly for Sam, doing reconnaissance work on Lucifer’s army, even praying. Unfortunately, prayer offers little comfort, as Castiel finds his thoughts and pleas turning inevitably towards a subject he had hoped to bury by now; but still it remains, immutable and ever-present.

“Too busy to respond to my commands?” Michael’s grip tightens on Castiel’s arm. “Do you remember who it was that spared your life? Do you remember the reason why?”

Castiel yanks his arm away. “I assumed that any work that needed to be done could be handled by one of the others. Zachariah, perhaps. He is—they are—far more powerful and capable than I.” That much, at least, is true. Castiel can feel his abilities waning with every day that passes, and soon the day will come when there is nothing left but the limited physical prowess of his vessel.

“The others.” Michael pauses. “They fear me. Fear to speak and look upon me. As for Zachariah—you already know that is he insufferable.”

“What, then? You wish to speak with me?” There’s a sneer Castiel can’t quite suppress, but he doesn’t care if it displeases Michael and his ridiculous ego. He does not care about very much anymore.

“I do,” Michael says, and Castiel turns back to him, surprised. “I have... doubts about the coming battle, about its outcome. When last I fought Lucifer, I seized the element of surprise and put him down before he could fully muster his strength and begin his uprising.”

“But circumstances have changed,” Castiel says slowly. “He is prepared for us.”

“Prepared may be an understatement. He has been laying the foundations for his apocalypse for millennia—equipping his army and readying himself ever since I cast him into Hell.” Michael shakes his head. “The cause is just, and that should be enough to sustain my faith—but I find myself wondering, truly, whether I shall prevail this time. Whether my glory and righteousness will be enough.”

Michael’s expression is somber, quiet, and Castiel does not know what to say. “The prophecy speaks of your victory.”

“A prophecy that failed to mention your insurrection? A prophecy that insists that I carry on this Dean Winchester charade?” Michael catches Castiel’s flinch, and his voice softens. “I cannot be assured of victory, not even by the Holy Scripture. And that is why I came to ask you, defiant one: what is it like to die?”

Castiel stares up at the ceiling, crisscrossing rib vaults above them seemingly reaching up towards the Heavens. “I don’t know. All I remember is Raphael’s fury descending upon me and then—then I was awake again, alive, elsewhere.”

“You did not see our Father in that instant?” Michael asks, and there is a pleading in his eyes that Castiel has never seen before. “You did not feel his presence surround and restore you?”

Radiant sunlight streams in through the stained glass rose window, but it does not warm Castiel. “No.”

Castiel doesn’t need to glance over his shoulder to know that Michael is gone.



* * * * * * * *


“I spoke to the Prophet,” Michael says, materializing on the bench beside Castiel. It startles Castiel, more than it should, and he understands now for the first time why Dean always used to object to the abrupt intrusion.

“I see.” Castiel contemplates leaving, but he suspects Michael would simply follow.

“He told me you miss Dean. And that every time we speak, it pains you,” Michael recites the information much like he recites the daily progress reports: dispassionately, sternly.

Castiel watches a family—a mother, father, and little girl—lay flowers together at a gravestone a few hundred feet away. The child bursts into tears, prompting her father to pick her up with a soothing sound. “Yes,” he says, because it seems foolish to deny what they both already know to be true.

Castiel waits for a rebuke, or perhaps more scorn, but instead Michael regards him with a thoughtful expression. “Cas.” Michael’s voice shifts, features softening, and it is Dean staring out at Castiel again. “You’ve been looking for me?”

Castiel jerks off the cemetery bench and backs away. “What—” Castiel can feel his heart thundering in his chest, fear and hope warring for space within him. “Is that--”

“It’s me,” Dean says, and his smile makes Castiel’s heart ache. “This is what you want, isn’t it?”

Castiel blinks, and the illusion breaks down—suddenly it is only Michael again, feigning Dean. “This is what you’ve been using to speak with the hunters,” Castiel says, horrified that he believed the lie for even an instant. “To placate them.”

Michael lets the mask drop, and inclines his head to one side. “I’ll admit, it’s not quite perfect yet. Dean had quite a... complex vocabulary.” Michael shrugs. “But if it would please you, I could speak to you like him. It is hardly any trouble now.”

“No,” Castiel says, and then repeats it again more emphatically. “No. It is not what I want, and do not do it again.”

“Why?” Michael’s brow furrows in confusion as he stands. “Is this not what you crave? To hear this vessel’s speech and mannerisms? I already possess his body and memories, and it is such a small thing to—”

“No,” Castiel shudders and looks down at the hard-packed dirt of a grave beneath his feet. “Save your parlor tricks for the hunters. I do not—I never want to see you act like him again.” With that, Castiel jumps away, over and over again, until he’s certain that Michael is not following him.

Finally, Castiel comes to stop in an abandoned parking lot in an abandoned town. He walks to the only vehicle parked in the back, which gleams in the warm sunlight, and opens the passenger side door. It’s only when he glances over at the empty driver’s seat that Castiel closes his eyes and puts his head in his hands.



* * * * * * * *


“You’ve been here a long time.” Michael appears in the Impala’s driver’s seat with his hands folded primly in his lap.

Castiel looks up briefly before returning to staring resolutely at the dashboard. “I suppose I have.”

“Such a cramped space,” Michael comments. “Do humans really use this as a means for transport?”

“Is there something you wish of me?” Castiel asks, because he does not have the energy to indulge in Michael’s whims or demands anymore. Castiel should be well rested; he has stayed in this spot for days and yet there is an exhaustion he cannot seem to chase away.

“I came to inform you that the ritual shall be completed in three hours time,” Michael says. The leather creaks as he leans back in his seat. “Do you understand your part in this plan?”

“Yes.” Castiel says nothing more, though Michael seems to be waiting for him to continue.

“Good.” A silence falls before Michael breaks it. “What will you do once I have cast down Lucifer and brought about Paradise?”

“I expect to perish well before then, and so have given the matter no thought,” Castiel replies flatly.

“Surely you have--”

“No,” Castiel interrupts. “Was there something else you needed of me?”

Michael goes quiet. When he speaks again, his voice is soft. “What do you think will become of us if we die?”

“I don’t know.” Castiel exhales deeply. “But you are a revered archangel. Your fate will likely be different than mine.”

“Perhaps. But perhaps not.” Castiel glances over at Michael, whose head is bowed. “Do you think we will see Father again?”

“I don’t know.” Castiel says again, and puts a palm over Dean’s necklace still hanging around his neck; it is cold to the touch. “Probably not.”

“Then is this existence—is this it?”

Castiel rests the side of his head against the window and watches his breath create mist on the glass. “As far as I know.”

“And you are not afraid?” Michael stares out the windshield, face mostly concealed by shadows. “You do not wonder what is beyond the veil?”

“I trust that God will lead to me to peace,” Castiel says, but he’s not sure he does anymore.

“Such faith,” Michael murmurs, almost to himself. “Is it your faith that has led you down this path? That caused you to disobey?”

Castiel wants to say yes. It would be noble, and easy, and perhaps inspire Michael to look at him with a tinge of respect in his eyes. “It is not as simple as that.”

Michael turns to look at Castiel, and for once, there is no judgment in his expression. “Dean Winchester.”

Castiel stares down at the fabric of his coat covering his knee—his vessel’s knee. It is strange to him how the delineation has grown ever more unclear in these past few months. “I thought I could protect him.”

“I can’t bring him back,” Michael says, and when Castiel drags his gaze up to meet Michael’s, there’s no scorn or cruelty there. “I tried to.”

Castiel closes his eyes and rests his head back on the glass. He waits for Michael to disappear, to leave Castiel alone with the thoughts and emotions he has battled unsuccessfully ever since Dean disappeared, but Michael simply sits in silence.

So instead, Castiel waits for his remaining three hours to pass.






Act V


It does not surprise Castiel when the final blow comes. Already his vessel is injured, slowed by various attacks he could not avoid, by the blood dripping into his eyes, and by the sickening crunch of his left leg breaking into pieces. It is almost a relief, in fact, when the jagged knife perforates Castiel’s lung.

“Castiel,” a familiar voice says, as arms too strong and steady to be human catch Castiel when he falls. There is a dizzying rush of disorientation before Castiel finds himself lying back on dew-kissed grass, staring up at the full moon glowing benevolently down overhead.

“Michael,” Castiel says, and he can taste iron in his mouth. The wounds all over his chest and legs struggle to close, but he knows it is too late; this body is beyond his power to repair.

“They won’t allow me to heal you.” Michael kneels beside him, voice confused and stricken. It is odd to hear him like this, speaking as though he cared about Castiel’s fate. “I am forbidden from—from saving a traitor.”

Castiel nods; he expected no less. Though it does surprise him to see Michael again, and he says as much.

“I defeated him,” Michael says, but his expression is neither triumphant nor joyous. “But where is Paradise? And why are you still—”

Castiel coughs violently, blood racking through his throat to splatter over the front of his clothing. It does not hurt, but it causes Michael to bend down over Castiel with something that could be mistaken for concern.

Castiel blinks rapidly as his eyes lose focus. He feels lightheaded. “You should return to Heaven. The others will surely wish to... rejoice.”

“Not with me,” Michael replies softly. “I destroyed the Morning Star.”

“You should go,” Castiel repeats as he looks up at Dean’s face and body and sees no Dean in either. “There is nothing for you here.”

Michael wipes at the blood on Castiel’s face. “There is nothing left for either of us, is there?”

Castiel’s vision blurs again, and he thinks that this will probably be the last time he will ever see Dean—even if it is only the shell of Dean. The thought causes a sharp throb of pain that has nothing to do with the injuries littered across Castiel’s flesh. “Dean.”

Michael’s expression shifts rapidly through a range of emotions before settling, ultimately, on something that looks like Dean. “Yeah, Cas, it’s me.”

Castiel shakes his head as Dean’s face comes into sharp focus again, eyes sad and gentle. The evening that had once been brightly illuminated with moonlight is dimming, and the shadows across Dean’s features are longer than ever. “No, you’re not.”

“Yeah, I am,” Dean says, and he manages a small, crooked smile. “We won, Cas. We won and I got my body back—that’s my reward.”

Castiel feels the blood-flow through his body slowing, sluggishly leaking out of his open wounds and struggling to maintain sensation in his limbs. “I don’t believe you,” Castiel whispers, but he tries to lift a hand to touch Dean’s cheek anyway, to see if the smile there is real or merely his imagination “I don’t, but I want to. I want to so badly.”

“I’m safe, Cas, I swear.” Dean takes Castiel’s hand in his, and presses it to his cheek. “I found Sammy and we’re all good, we’re all ourselves now. You don’t have to worry anymore.”

“I always knew you would.” It’s getting harder and harder to think clearly, and Castiel’s words slow and muddle in his mouth. “I always believed in you.”

“I dunno why you did, but I’m glad,” Dean replies softly. “And now we’ve got all the time in the world to figure out this thing between us.”

“I’ll stay on earth,” Castiel murmurs, breaths coming out more short and labored. “I’ll stay forever. I’ve almost completely fallen and I—I’ll live and die with you.”

“It’ll be just like it was before.” Dean’s fingers stroke through Castiel’s hair so tenderly Castiel can barely feel it. “We’ll ride around in the Impala, eat pie, stay in crappy motel rooms.”

“Yes,” Castiel exhales, and he can hear his voice fading. “And we can—we can do all the things we never could before. All the things I never understood before.”

“Everything.” There are tears running down Dean’s cheeks, soaking into Castiel’s palm. “We can do everything.”

“Dean.” Castiel’s eyelids feel so heavy, and it takes all of his energy to keep his gaze focused on Dean. “Don’t go.”

“I won’t, Castiel,” Dean whispers. How strange it is to hear his full name fall from Dean’s lips, Castiel thinks, but it is beautiful. “I’ll stay with you. I promise.”

Castiel is tired--a deep fatigue he has never felt before, and perhaps this is what it is like to need sleep. He has never slept before, never had dreams or nightmares before, but he thinks now, looking up at Dean, cradling his face--Castiel thinks he would like to go to sleep now.

He hopes that Dean is there when he wakes up.


Fin.

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Comments

( 304 comments — Leave a comment )
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watermaline
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:59 am (UTC)
I am literally in tears right now. Just...wow. I'm broken.
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:02 am (UTC)
I know the feeling! :(
mclachlan
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:01 am (UTC)
This may be the crown jewel of the fandom.

Well done.
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:02 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
hydr0phobia
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:19 am (UTC)
I was so looking forward to this story and you did not disappoint. At all. I am not alone in this room and now I am trying to hold back my tears and IT IS SO NOT WORKING OH GOD BAAAAAWW
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
Awww, thank you! I should probably warn people not to read my sad stories when in the company of others... ;)
wandersfound
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:25 am (UTC)
This is so sad but so beautiful.
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:04 am (UTC)
Thank you :)
spacefragments
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:40 am (UTC)
god, after oz i'm convinced you write the best-worst endings. if that makes sense.

i don't believe dean was truly back, but i suppose it was nice of michael to give castiel that.

amazing work, really.

edit: 6666 words? that was on purpose, right? ;D

Edited at 2010-01-15 05:42 am (UTC)
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:06 am (UTC)
Thank you!

And no, Dean wasn't back, but Michael did genuinely care.

6666 words? that was on purpose, right? ;D

Hah, actually, I just noticed when I finished writing that it was in the ballpark of 6,700 words. I doubt it's exactly 6,666 words, but I thought it was fun ;)
jenwryn
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:44 am (UTC)
Oh, shit, this is lovely and it made me cry and I can't think of a thing to say, and... yeah. ;
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:06 am (UTC)
Thank you :)
bhsbaby
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:13 am (UTC)
Oh honey you already know how I feel about this.

It's beautiful, it's gorgeous, it's heartbreaky, and I loved every fucking second of it.

A Hole in the World indeed :(
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
amaresu
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:43 am (UTC)
The only reason I'm not in tears right now is because I don't want to explain that to my coworkers. This is heartbreaking. Also very well done.
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
uselessplayback
Jan. 15th, 2010 06:44 am (UTC)
\o/ it is posted! Again you are making your readers cry! Again I am entertained by this! Also, you already know (at great length) how I feel about this story, but I will summarize again:

OH GOD, IT SUCKS TO BE EVERYBODY.

<3
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
It is posted, omg! With only a week to spare before the end of hiatus, so yay! And thank you, as always, for putting up with my ceaseless whinging about my writing--I definitely would go crazy without you (well, more crazy).

And, well, victory can be so bitter :( (Especially when I'm writing it)
ladyyueh
Jan. 15th, 2010 08:07 am (UTC)
you made me laugh and now you've made me cry.

Goodness!

It's gorgeous. And wow, just wow.

We are not worthy!
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you! I like to bounce my readers along the spectrum of emotions... :)
thevinegarworks
Jan. 15th, 2010 10:23 am (UTC)
Oh, man, those angels are some fierce bastards. D:

So good, with how tragic the ending was it was also quiet and dignified and peaceful.
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
Dude, fierce is right. These angels do not comfort you after they steal your boyfriend's body... :(

Thank you! Quiet and dignified and peaceful was what I was going for; I enjoy a dramatic ending as much as the next gal, but in a way, I think the tragedy of Dean & Castiel's romance is a small and personal one set against a backdrop of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, nobody but a few humans know or care that Dean is gone, and none of the angels besides Michael care how much it hurts Castiel. And that's one of the hardest parts of it all--how alone Castiel is in his grief.
kiasca
Jan. 15th, 2010 10:33 am (UTC)
I'm crying here T_T and I'm at work, thank god there is nobody to see me cry my eyes out

Is the only death!fic I've let myself read and I don't regret it, I like the pace of the story, poor cas' pain on seeing Dean but not him but Michael and the end with Michael impersonating Dean for him.

Really well written and told. A relly good piece.
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much :) I'm glad you decided to take a chance on this story--even if it was deathfic.
janie_tangerine
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC)
Oh my, you successfully made me cry. Kudos because while fic has made me come close it actually never happened and ha, just, kudos to you again. I'm a speechless mess and I usually don't even read death fic but this was all kinds of good and the end destroyed me. Though it was good to see Michael sort of really caring about what happened, at least he let Castiel have that. Argh ;___; and every time Castiel went into the Impala I sort of couldn't take it. This was just so great though, and the writing was gorgeous. And now I'll go pick up a tissue. ;)
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! And I have to admit, when Castiel when to the Impala I couldn't really take it either :(
entangled_now
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)
This is completely beautiful but damn it's also broken and heavy and it hurts so badly.
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. It is tragic, even if they ultimately saved the world :(
mulder200
Jan. 15th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
This was so beautiful and yet so incredibly sad. At least, Michael was merciful to Cas in the end even if it was a lie.
bauble
Jan. 15th, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you. And yes--at least Cas was with someone who cared about him at the end, even if it wasn't Dean :(
r0knr0ll
Jan. 15th, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
I'm reading this on my phone on the train to uni and I will hate you forever for making me cry in a public place.

Your writing never disappoints.
bauble
Jan. 17th, 2010 08:56 am (UTC)
Thank you :)
awesomepants87
Jan. 16th, 2010 12:35 pm (UTC)
::sob:: beautiful and sad. excuse me while I go cry in the corner.
bauble
Jan. 17th, 2010 08:57 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you :)
spilled_notes
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:43 pm (UTC)
I really want this to be canon. Like, I don't care if the kiss is in it or not, and it wouldn't be, but you really have no idea how much I want to send this to Kripke and demand he make this canon. It's just, it's perfect. It's so angsty and emotional and true to Supernatural, and I want it so bad that it hurts. (Maybe because I know that Cas is going to die. I just know. He'll be one of those impact deaths.)

On a more related note, this hit me so hard because like we all have, I've lost family members and you know, I've always wondered what they encounter when they cross over to that unknown side, and no one on this Earth or in any other galaxy could possibly tell us because no one alive knows what it's like to die. And just, Castiel's idea of resting in God's arms and the way that he died so peacefully, like, I just. I don't even know. It's so beautiful and God damn, why do you have to be so fucking talented? Jesus Christ. I almost feel ashamed to even attempt writing in your presence.
bauble
Jan. 18th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
Maybe because I know that Cas is going to die. I just know. He'll be one of those impact deaths.

Yeah, I'm pretty convinced he's going to be an impact death too :(

And thank you so much! But I assure you that any talent was unearthed only after ten years of hard work, writing, and practice. Hopefully, in another ten years I'll be even better :)
girl_wonder
Jan. 17th, 2010 05:40 am (UTC)
This is really delicate and horribly true. I feel like this is exactly what WOULD happen. Michael beginning, just beginning to doubt. And the end, god that kills me. Well done.
bauble
Jan. 17th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
chaviola
Jan. 17th, 2010 08:34 am (UTC)
Oh god.
bauble
Jan. 17th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it...?
libriscum
Jan. 17th, 2010 08:35 am (UTC)
OH MY GOD SO GOOD AND SO SAD! Thank you for writing a convincing Michael!fic, there just aren't that many of them yet, and this is just SO SAD!

And the last scene *goes off to cry.*

So thanks. *sniffle*
bauble
Jan. 17th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you. Glad you liked it :)
moriker
Jan. 17th, 2010 09:19 am (UTC)
Broke me.
bauble
Jan. 17th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it...?
juanitatequila
Jan. 17th, 2010 09:53 am (UTC)
MY EMOTIONS ARE IN TANGLED KNOTS. D: D: D:

I just absolutely loved how you interpreted Michael as someone COMPLETELY opposite from Dean. & poor Cas having to endure all that. </3 THAT ENDING OH MY GAWWWWD. I DON'T EVEN...

Edited at 2010-01-17 10:07 am (UTC)
bauble
Jan. 17th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much :)
ori_cou
Jan. 17th, 2010 10:05 am (UTC)
That was beautiful...Thank You.
bauble
Jan. 17th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
wingsunfurled
Jan. 17th, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
Ouch that really hurt but was so beautifully written. The ending was heartbreaking yet I can't think of any ending that could have been happier or at least as peaceful for Cas at that point. Argh their lives are so tragic ;___;
bauble
Jan. 17th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
Their lives are terribly tragic, aren't they?

Thank you :)
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( 304 comments — Leave a comment )