Hello everyone! This is my first Supernatural story. It's a oneshot, but I also have various drabbles I've written related to this, so I might turn this into a collection of oneshots and drabbles. It depends on my muse, and whether people want to read more. This isn't explicitly written as Destiel, but it can be viewed as that if you put on your slash goggles. However, it's primarily gen. Enjoy, and please let me know what you thought!
Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own Supernatural. Also, the title is taken from the song Angel With a Shotgun by The Cab, which I don't own. If you haven't heard it, though, you should check it out - it's the perfect theme song for Castiel!
Dean and Castiel are walking through a forest (which is classic Purgatory scenery, Dean has learned) when Dean hears a growl. That's not exactly unusual here, but it's never a good sign. That particular growl sounded very, very close and very, very vicious. Dean stops walking and looks at Cas apprehensively.
"Did you hear that?" he asks the angel.
Castiel turns to look at him. Thankfully, his eyes are focused and aware. He's still cuckoo for Coco Puffs and doesn't like conflict, but Dean can usually count on him to nut up (ha, ha) when they're about to be attacked. And in Purgatory, a nearby growl plus no cover equals an imminent fight. Dean doesn't need a college diploma to figure that out.
"I hear it," Cas says grimly.
Great. Dean kind of wishes he had imagined it. Normally he wouldn't be so reluctant about tangling with a monster, but this is Purgatory, also known as Monster Funland. Here, the monsters are stronger than ever and they can't be killed, just temporarily incapacitated. Worse, Dean's only weapon is one measly knife. He was expecting to gank Dick with that bone or die trying, neither of which required a lot of weapons.
He'd like to say that he has a fully-powered badass angel on his side, but Castiel is never a certainty these days, in the strength of his powers or the likelihood of his help. Most of the time, he won't fight and Dean has to take care of it. When things get bad and Dean's really in trouble, Cas will step in, but he's nearly inconsolable afterwards, convinced that because he participated in conflict something awful will happen, something even worse than Purgatory. Castiel claims that they're in Purgatory because he agreed to participate in conflict and fight Dick. Dean can't really argue with that because it's technically true, although the logic is pretty twisted. But that's what crazy is, right? Twisted logic.
"Do you know what monster that is? Or where it is?" Dean asks, forcing himself to focus on their immediate problem. He can't fix Cas, but hopefully he can deal with this monster.
"I believe it's an Orthrus," Cas replies. "They haven't been on Earth in centuries – well, not in corporeal form. All of these monsters were on Earth a few months ago, when they were inside me…"
Cas looks down, fiddling with the hospital bracelet on his wrist. Dean can see him shutting down, his posture hunching and his eyes clouding over. Shit.
"Hey, Cas. Look at me."
After a second, Cas obeys, lifting his eyes to Dean. There's guilt swirling there, and self-loathing, and it's such a familiar look – a Winchester look – that Dean's speechless for a moment. (When did their angel become so... human? So broken?) But Dean can also see the insanity lurking in Castiel's eyes, can sense his desire to hide inside his fragmented mind, and he can't allow that, not right now.
"I need you to focus, Cas," Dean says, holding Cas's gaze. He makes sure to keep his voice gentle but urgent. "Can you do that for me?"
You better, crazy or not, Dean thinks. You're all I've got down here.
But before Cas can answer, something leaps out at them, snarling. Dean recognizes that growl – they waited too long.
He pulls out his knife, slashing wildly at the monster. He gets a glimpse of two heads, mangy fur, teeth, claws, and what look like – antlers?
Dude, you fugly, Dean thinks.
The monster lunges at Cas, who flies to the opposite side of the clearing. Dean heaves a breath of relief. The monsters often go for Cas – attracted to his Grace, recognizing him, or both, Dean's not sure. But every time Dean worries, because Cas – well, nowadays Cas makes him feel very protective, that's all. But at least Cas had the presence of mind to dodge the monster.
The creature spins around, confused, and Dean takes the opportunity to rush at it with his knife. This might not have been the greatest idea, because the thing's fur is surprisingly resistant and the well-sharpened knife doesn't even draw blood.
Dean backs up, planning to try again and aim for one of its four eyes this time, but it's faster than Dean expected. Before he knows it, he's flat on his back, the monster looming over him, jagged claws digging into his shoulders. Dean twists back and forth, but the monster's got him pinned down good.
"Cas!" Dean grunts. "Where are you, you feathery bastard?"
The monster leans toward his neck – for a killing bite or to suck his blood, Dean's not sure. Maybe both. There are all sorts of monsters here, and they all get their jollies in different ways.
Cas, I could use a little help here, Dean thinks, just in case Castiel is in prayer distance. Of course, for all Dean knows, Cas could be right next to him, dithering because he "doesn't wanna fight." If so, screw that. Dean's in trouble.
Just as Dean gets a disturbingly close look at the inside of one of the monster's mouths (weirdly enough, it's green), he hears a familiar rustle of feathers. Seconds later, Dean's alone.
He lies there panting for a moment, then pushes himself up and brushes some leaves off his clothes. Gingerly, he inspects his aching shoulders. It feels like they're on fire (and yeah, having been in Hell, he knows what that feels like). There are four holes in each shoulder, torn through his shirt and skin and oozing blood.
"Awesome," Dean mutters.
First aid materials in Purgatory are practically nonexistent, and Dean really doesn't want to tear up his shirt. It gets cold sometimes, and there are no other manmade materials here. He wants to hang on to the ones he has as long as he can. Luckily, he manages to find some moss that makes a decent enough bandage, if not an entirely sterile one. It's not like his shirt would've made a clean bandage, either. There's no laundry in Purgatory.
Once he's got that all figured out, Dean sits back and waits for Cas.
It probably doesn't take that long, but Dean can feel himself getting antsy. He hates to admit it, but ever since they arrived and Castiel disappeared for a bit, Dean has had trouble letting Cas go off by himself here. It's partly concern for Cas and partly fear of being alone. Of course, admitting that would be the epitome of a chick-flick moment, and even thinking it is pretty bad, so Dean spends the next few minutes playing Back in Black in his head (and maybe singing along a little). He misses AC/DC.
He misses a lot of things. But he doesn't want to think about that.
Dean looks up from his intense contemplation of a twig on the ground (and cuts off his mental soundtrack of Highway to Hell) when he hears Castiel return. To Dean's surprise, Cas is soaking wet, his hair plastered to his forehead and his clothes waterlogged. He looks a bit like a drowned puppy. But his hair also reminds Dean of that ruined future version of Cas, and the water reminds him of this Cas, possessed by Leviathans, walking into a lake. He doesn't really want to think of either of those things, so he pushes them aside into the large box labeled Shit I'm Not Gonna Deal With.
"Cas?" Dean says, standing up. "What happened?"
"I fell into a lake," Cas says, with an honest-to-God pout.
"I meant to drop the Orthrus into a lake," Cas says. "But he didn't go down easily. He scratched me. And he hung on when I tried to drop him, so I dropped too, and then I got wet. He scratched me, Dean."
"I didn't know there were lakes in Purgatory."
"Me neither. That was a happy accident, really. My other plan was to drop him very high in the trees, but a lake worked better."
Dean shakes his head and rubs a hand down his face, because – his life. Just – how is this his life?
"Dean, you're hurt," Castiel says, instantly all wide-eyed concern. He walks right up to Dean, his usual disregard of personal space even more irritating now that he's drenched and smells like filthy water. Cas reaches up to prod at Dean's shoulder, and Dean can't hold back wince, because, well... it hurts like a bitch. Which is appropriate, considering that Orthrus-thing looked a lot like a dog. But Cas had called it a he. Too bad; Dean had been building up to a really good joke.
Castiel jabs at Dean's shoulder again, causing a fiery twinge of pain to shoot down Dean's nerves, and Dean hisses. "Dude, can you heal that or do you just like poking at it?"
A second later the burning feeling is gone, and Dean looks down to see that the holes have almost closed up. Well, there's the answer to his question. The healing isn't quite the perfect job that Castiel used to do – maybe his powers aren't as strong or his mind can't focus as well. But the pain has disappeared, and the bleeding's stopped, and that's all that really matters to Dean.
"Thanks," Dean says. Castiel smiles. Then he just stands there, dripping wet and occasionally shivering. Dean tries (and fails) to hold back a sigh. Much of the time, having Cas around feels like having a hapless guard dog that is sometimes helpful but mostly helpless.
"Maybe you should dry your clothes too," Dean suggests. "It'd be more comfortable."
Cas blinks and does that little head tilt of his. It probably never occurred to him to dry his clothing. Cas has always been pretty disconnected to his wardrobe – well, except for that trenchcoat. It's good to see him wearing the trenchcoat again.
A second later, Cas is dry, and the gross-water smell is gone. Dean sighs in relief and sits down against a tree. Cas joins him.
They are silent for a moment. Dean tries to come to terms with the fact that he has survived yet another near-death experience. That's becoming pretty commonplace nowadays. He's not sure if he's thankful or not.
"He scratched me," Cas says again, breaking into Dean's admittedly morose thoughts. "The Orthrus. He scratched me."
"Yeah, you said that," Dean says. "Sorry, man. Rough fight. Did you heal it?"
"I wasn't fighting him, Dean. Not really. I was just... transporting him somewhere against his will. But he scratched me anyways. I didn't like it, Dean. It hurt. I really didn't like it."
Oh, Dean realizes. Here comes the breakdown. That's another bit of math that Dean's learned in Purgatory. Castiel plus conflict equals breakdown. Dean had hoped to avoid it, but when does he ever get what he wants?
And sure enough, Cas is losing it. Dean just hopes that he still has the energy to piece Castiel back together – as together as he gets now, anyways.
"I want to go home," Castiel whimpers. He sounds incredibly small and scared. "I don't like it here."
He looks at Dean, his eyes wide and terrifyingly shiny, his lip trembling. He looks at Dean like Dean can help him. But all Dean can do is open his idiot mouth and say, "What home?"
Because, well – heaven's not really Cas's home anymore. But Earth isn't either. The closest he's ever come to home would be Bobby's place, and that's gone, too. (It's not just Bobby's house that's gone. Dean still can't believe that sometimes.) But Dean's words, while true, just cause the tears in Castiel's eyes to spill over. Fantastic. Score one for Dick Dean.
Cas hitches a breath and sobs, "I just – I don't wanna be here anymore, Dean. I wanna go away. I wanna see the bees again, and feel the sun, and smell the flowers, and I don't wanna fight or get jumped at or yelled at or –"
"Shh, shh," Dean soothes quickly, because Castiel's voice is approaching hysterical and they need to be quiet here. (Also because Dean can't stand listening to this once awe-inspiring creature fall apart. It's happened before, but he's still not used to it. He never will be.) "It's okay, Cas. It's okay. We're gonna get out of here."
"No, we're not," Cas sniffs, swiping clumsily at the tears on his face. Dean tries to ignore the awful feeling he gets when watching an angel cry. "Purgatory is designed as a battleground for monsters, and a waiting room for other souls. We can't 'get out,' Dean. We have to wait, without any insects or honey to make it better."
Dean shifts a bit, unsettled, because that sounded like sane, old Cas knowledge (well, minus the insect part), and Dean doesn't want to hear that. But then he rallies himself and says, "Well, I wasn't supposed to be able to get out of Hell, either, but you managed that. We'll be fine, Cas. Trust me."
"Of course, Dean," Castiel sighs. "I do trust you."
Dean hears what he leaves unspoken: It's myself I don't trust. Well, frankly, Dean's not entirely sure he trusts Cas either, and he trusts himself least of all. But that's not what Cas needs to hear right now, and that's not what will get them out of here.
Castiel seems to be calming down, and Dean breathes a sigh of relief. He never signed up to soothe hysterical angels, but it's been a job he's had to take on in Purgatory. Each time he's worried that he won't be able to calm Cas down and that Cas will fly off or waste all his mojo or do something else catastrophic. And each time it's a painful reminder of how changed and broken Cas is. But Dean's success rate at soothing Cas has been good so far, and that brings Dean some measure of triumph. He'll take his victories where he can.
Silence falls upon them, broken only by the occasional sniffle from Cas. They seem to be decreasing in frequency. Dean leans his head back against the tree serving as his backrest and closes his eyes. He hears Castiel shift around and then Dean feels a sudden weight against his side. Startled, Dean stiffens, opens his eyes, turns his head and – yep, sure enough, he's got a crazy angel head on his shoulder.
"What d'you think you're doing?" Dean asks, wondering if he should feel violated. He has to turn his head to the side so he doesn't get a mouthful of Cas's hair when he speaks.
"Resting," Castiel answers, his tone guileless and relaxed. Dean reminds himself that Castiel is an angel and doesn't know that dudes don't do this. In fact, Cas isn't even a dude, not really. He's just… wearing one.
Cas sighs deeply and melts a little further against Dean. He seems completely calm now, his breaths soft and even and his expression blissful. He turns his face towards Dean, practically nuzzling his neck. Dean wouldn't normally allow this kind of... behavior (he refuses to call it "cuddling"), but he can feel the drying tear tracks on Cas's face, and he once again feels that powerful protectiveness swell up inside him. He gives up on feeling uncomfortable and just laughs a little as Cas burrows into him. It's not like anyone can see them anyway.
"You've gotten really touchy-feely since you went crazy, you know that?" Dean asks, recalling Castiel's forceful group hug when he and Sam had first seen him at the mental hospital.
"I really wish people would stop calling me crazy," Cas mumbles, his words muffled because he's talking into the crook of Dean's neck. "S'not very nice."
"Well, sorry, princess. Being nice is my greatest concern here, after all," Dean quips. He does feel a little bad, though. By this point, calling Cas crazy is practically affectionate, like calling Sam Sasquatch. But clearly Cas doesn't see it like that.
"Being nice should be everyone's greatest concern," Cas responds sternly, though the effect of his tone is lessened because he still won't move his head enough to speak clearly. "And m'not a princess."
Dean rolls his eyes. Castiel scoots a bit closer to Dean, who brings his arm up around Castiel's shoulders to make sure he stays steady. Then Dean leans his head back against the tree again, closing his eyes and enjoying the rare moment of peace. Dean feels the weight of Cas's head on his shoulder, his soft breath on Dean's skin, his strangely human warmth pressing against Dean's side. He feels solid and real, and Dean comforts himself with the thought that even though Cas isn't all here mentally, and may never be again, he's still here with Dean physically. He's still alive. They both are.
It's a small comfort, but again, Dean will take what he can get.
Orthrus is a two-headed dog in Greek mythology. There's only one of him, though, not a species like I made it out to be in this 'fic. Also, I made up the antlers and the green mouth. But I wanted my monster to be based on something "real."
I hope you enjoyed the story! Feel free to leave a review. And if my muse is compliant, I may update!