A/N: Hello everybody! This is my hurt/comfort-filled take on Destiel curtain!fic. It's my first time writing slash (although nothing's explicit), so please let me know what you think. This was originally going to be a oneshot, but it got kinda long so I decided to split it into two parts. Also, I have no idea why I continue to write Cas with some kind of mental difficulty. I swear, at some point I'll write him with a perfectly working brain. (And now that I said that, my next 'fic will probably involve End!verse Cas being high and out of it, or something. :D)
Warnings: slash (Dean/Castiel), brain damage/permanent injury, some ableism (discrimination against those with disabilities)
Disclaimer: I don't own it, although I wish I did, and this would definitely not happen in the actual show!
Please let me know what you think - reviews really make my day. The next part should be up pretty soon. Until then, enjoy!
Dean wakes slowly to the gentle sound of birdsong. Yawning, he turns his head to glance at the clock, careful not to disturb Cas, who is still sleeping, snuggled up to Dean like the little octopus he refuses to admit he is when he's asleep. The clock reads 9:30 in bright green digits. Dean panics for a moment before he remembers – right, today is Saturday. He has a job as a bartender at the local pub and he'd thought he'd overslept, but he doesn't work weekends. He's okay.
Relaxing back into the mattress, Dean turns back to look at Cas. He looks so peaceful in his sleep. Dean runs a careful hand through Castiel's dark hair, marveling at its softness.
Mornings like these, Dean can almost pretend that everything is okay. Castiel looks normal – human, yes, with his soft snores and sleep-mussed hair – but normal. Like this, it's impossible to tell just how much Naomi damaged Cas. Like this, Dean can pretend that he and Cas settled down only because they wanted to, and that being human is the worst of Castiel's problems.
Dean's brought out of his thoughts when he feels Cas stirring. He looks down to see Cas's big blue eyes (he can still remember them dripping blood, and he'll never forget that immediate feeling of wrongness) blinking up at him from his spot on Dean's shoulder.
"Hello, Dean," Cas says after a moment.
Dean smiles. He feels a rush of overwhelming love for the ex-angel in his arms (safe and relatively happy, if not whole), and he's unable to stifle the urge to kiss Cas, chick-flick moment or not. Cas responds eagerly. When Dean pulls back, Cas looks dazed and happy. (Then again, he often looks dazed now.)
"What was that for?" Cas asks.
Dean shrugs. It's hard while lying down, but he manages it. "Just felt like it."
Cas's brow furrows. Dean knows he's having trouble processing. Ever since Naomi, Cas has been, well… slower. Dean's gotten used to pauses in their conversations while Cas works through whatever Dean's just said, or tries to formulate his own sentences.
"Felt like…?" Cas eventually says, clearly giving up on trying to understand. Dean really hopes that this isn't a bad sign, and that today isn't going to be a bad day for Cas. Sam is coming over tonight, and Dean hopes that Cas will be up for the company.
"Felt like kissing you," Dean clarifies.
"Oh," Castiel says, and then frowns, puzzled. "Felt like what?"
Dean suppresses a sigh as he watches his fantasy of being normal crash down around him. (He should've known better. Winchesters can't be normal. He's always known this, more than Sam has, more than Bobby, more than anyone. But he doesn't always want to accept it.)
"Don't worry about it, Cas," Dean says wearily. "Let's get up – I'm gonna make pancakes."
"Pancakes," Cas repeats. "You're going… to make pancakes."
He untangles himself from Dean and sits up, reaching over to where his journal lies. (It's really a diary, but Dean forbade Cas to call it that because grown men, former angels or not, just don't own diaries.) It's always in the exact same spot in the morning to help Cas remember where to find it. Cas's memory really sucks these days.
Naomi really did a number on Cas's head. For weeks, maybe even months, she whisked Cas to and from Heaven, wiping his memory each time. It was essentially like receiving brain damage over and over. Of course, that was before she gave Cas actual brain damage when she performed a lobotomy on him. The idea was to blunt all of his emotions so he would become her perfect weapon. Unfortunately for her (and fortunately for them), it didn't quite work that way. Castiel could still tell right from wrong, and he managed to turn on Naomi and waste her. But he was a mess by then. Dean and Sam found him and helped him, but it became obvious that Cas had changed. He was mortal, his memory was all messed up, and he hadn't gotten away from that lobotomy scot-free.
"Don't ever change," Dean had said to Castiel once. The irony of it stings him sometimes.
The journal is a way for Cas to keep track of everything. His memory is so bad now that he usually needs things repeated to him. The journal helps, but only a little. Dean watches as Cas reaches for a pen, his hand trembling – a result of the lobotomy. Castiel always shakes a little now.
"Dean, what's the date?" Cas asks.
"Uh…" Dean has to think about it a little. It's a Saturday… January… right, Sam's visiting… that would make it – "January 16th."
"Thank you," Cas says. He begins writing in the journal, continuing aloud, "January 16th. 9:45… in the morning. Dean is making pancakes for… breakfast. Oh – it says here that Sam is coming over for dinner tonight. Is that true, Dean?"
"Yeah. Amelia's visiting a few friends upstate, so Sam thought he'd take the opportunity to visit us."
There's the now-standard pause as Castiel processes Dean's sentence. Eventually, he gives one of his little half-smiles that somehow make his face about ten times brighter. "That'll be pleasant. We haven't… seen Sam in a while."
Dean nods in agreement. That has almost been the weirdest thing about them settling down. He and Sam have spent time apart before, of course, and they've even settled down, but that was only when they thought the other was dead. It's weird to live in the same town and yet still not see each other for days or weeks.
"Right," Dean says. "I'm gonna go make the pancakes now. I'll let you know when they're ready."
"Okay, Dean. Thank you."
Dean looks at Castiel, hunched over on the bed with his journal, one last time before he heads to the kitchen. It's stupid, but he always feels a little on edge when he leaves Cas alone. He knows that, despite everything, Cas is far from helpless. But the paranoid, protective side of him would just prefer to have Cas in his sight at all times.
Dean's just finished mixing the pancake batter (one of the few things that he knows how to make from scratch) when Castiel ambles in to the kitchen, yawning and rubbing his eyes. He's got a blanket draped around his shoulders, and his journal clutched in his hand. Dean turns to him and grins. Sometimes Cas really is too adorable for his own good. Not that Dean will ever admit to thinking that.
"Good morning, Dean."
"Hey, Cas. Go ahead and sit down; they're almost ready."
"You're making pancakes?" Cas asks, sounding faintly surprised.
Look in your journal, Dean wants to say. You wrote it down. "Yeah."
"Mmm," Cas hums indifferently. He wanders over to the table and sits down, clasping his trembling hands together. He then proceeds to stare out of the window as Dean flips over the pancakes. Castiel spends a lot of his time staring blankly at or out of things. Dean's not sure where his mind is during those moments. He doesn't like to consider the idea that Castiel's thoughts are as blank as his gaze, but he can't help but wonder.
Five minutes later, Dean announces, "Okay, they're ready."
Cas slowly turns his head to stare at Dean. He looks puzzled. Dean's not sure if it's a processing issue or a memory issue this time. Instead of clarifying verbally, he just starts putting the pancakes on a plate.
"…Oh," Cas says after a moment. Dean sets some of the pancakes down in front of the former angel, who just stares at them disinterestedly.
"C'mon, Cas, why the long face? You love pancakes."
Cas shrugs. The incredibly human gesture always throws Dean a little, no matter how many times he sees it. And he sees it a lot. The lobotomy didn't erase Cas's emotions, but it did dull them a little. Nowadays, Cas often seems kind of… disconnected. Sometimes, Dean finds himself remembering the raw pain and fear in Castiel's eyes as he'd said, "I'm afraid I might kill myself," and he finds himself almost glad for the botched lobotomy. Sometimes being a little disengaged is a good thing. But he can't allow such apathy when it's about the deliciousness of pancakes.
"I even put blueberries in them to make them healthier for you, you little health nut," Dean says.
Castiel tears his gaze away from the window again and looks up at him, his eyes soft with amusement. "Thank you, Dean. That was very… thoughtful."
Dean suspects Cas is just humoring him, but whatever. He watches as Cas slowly picks up a fork and knife with shaky hands and starts cutting the pancakes. Dean resists the urge to grab the plate from him and cut the damn things himself. Castiel needs to be able to do things on his own. Dean can't baby him too much. He's still trying to learn that.
It's quiet for a while as both of them begin to eat. Dean moans aloud when he takes his first bite of syrupy goodness. "Damn, I'm a good cook."
Castiel doesn't respond, but Dean's used to that. The angel never got his humor even before the brain damage, so it's very unlikely that he'll get it now. Dean suspects that Cas doesn't even try to keep up with his pop culture references and jokes anymore.
"Dean?" Cas asks when they're almost done.
"Can we… go to the park today?"
Cas looks up at him with huge, pleading puppy dog eyes. God, why'd he have to be saddled with a brother and a boyfriend (and wow, it's still weird to think of Cas like that) who could win Olympic medals in making puppy dog eyes? Dean sighs.
"I dunno, Cas. I mean, Sam's coming over tonight and that's already a lot of activity for one day."
Dean waits as Cas figures out his sentence. After a moment, Cas says, "I… didn't know that Sam is coming tonight. That'll be nice. We haven't seen him for a while. But Dean, I am capable of… going to the park and having Sam over tonight. I am not an infant, or an invalid. I can handle it."
Dean frowns. "I know you can," he says, ignoring the doubt and nagging feeling that he's lying as he says the words. "I didn't mean to imply that you weren't up for it, it's just – we need to get ready for Sam, and stuff."
Wow. Real strong argument there, Winchester.
"But I want to go to the park," Cas says, faintly pleading and petulant, pulling out the puppy dog eyes again. And it's still so rare for Cas to actually really want to do something that Dean knows he's screwed then and there.
"Fine," he concedes. "After breakfast, we'll go to the park. But we need to be back in time to make dinner."
Making dinner – what a weird thought. It wasn't too long ago that nearly all of his dinners involved greasy diner food or pizza deliveries (and not the porno kind of deliveries). Now, a year later, the gates of Hell are closed forever, Dean is shacked up with a brain-damaged former Angel of the Lord, and they're going to cook a nice dinner for Sam. Dean still can't believe it sometimes.
"Thank you, Dean," Cas says, looking distantly happy as he pulls out his journal and a pen. "10:30 in the morning. Dean made blue berry pancakes… and they were good. We are going to go to the park soon…"
Dean easily tunes Cas out. He's not entirely sure why Cas always insists on narrating his journal entries out loud as he writes them. He suspects it's yet another attempt to hold on to the memories better, but it's led to some embarrassing moments.
("Dean and I made love this morning… Dean and I cuddled on the couch and watched the film Beauty and the Beast today… I told Dean that he was pretty this afternoon because the sun was shining and it made his eyes look very green, but he told me that men are not 'pretty' and I should say that he is 'rugeddlee ruggeddly handsome' instead…")
Dean dreads the moment when Cas forgets that he's only supposed to write journal entries when just Dean is in the room, and narrates some embarrassing thing down in front of everyone. The entries are also a constant reminder of Cas's new, simpler state of mind. Dean remembers the angel who spoke every language and wonders how much of him is left. Sometimes Castiel will say things that seem just like the old him, but then he'll write down journal entries that sound like the work of a third-grader. Dean can't figure it out. Honestly, he doubts Castiel knows either. His brain is scrambled, and random bits of it are cut out. Who knows why he does anything that he does, least of all Castiel himself.
11:00 finds them strolling down to the park, taking in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. Sickeningly enough, they're holding hands. Dean normally wouldn't allow this kind of thing to happen, but they're currently walking past grumpy old Mrs. Marsance, who seems literally ill at the sight of two guys holding hands. It's fun to bug her. (Plus, Cas had given him puppy dog eyes again.) With one eye on his neighbor, Dean leans over to give Cas a chaste peck on the cheek. Mrs. Marsance scowls and looks away while Dean smirks.
"You should not provoke her, Dean," Cas says, frowning, obviously (and surprisingly, Dean can't help but think) picking up on the exchange.
"Whatever, Cas. If it bothers her that much, she can move. Otherwise, maybe I'll, I dunno, open her mind and broaden her horizons or something."
Cas furrows his brow, confusion swirling in his blue eyes. "…What?"
Dean suppresses the urge to sigh. Cas probably lost track of the conversation again. He's explained to Dean that it can be very difficult for him to carry conversations, because not only does he have to focus very hard to understand and process everything that is said, but he often forgets what they were talking about in the first place.
Sure enough, Cas continues, "I'm sorry, Dean, what were we discussing?"
"Don't worry about it, Cas." Dean tries to keep the frustration out of his voice, but a little of it bleeds through. He hopes Castiel doesn't notice. He's not frustrated with the ex-angel, not really. He's more frustrated with Naomi and Cas's deadbeat dad and their entire shitty situation.
"Okay," the former angel agrees placidly, and Dean finds himself once again feeling almost grateful for the detached thing Cas has going on sometimes. If he noticed Dean's annoyance, it didn't bother him.
They're almost at the park when Dean notices an ice cream cart nearby. He can practically feel himself salivating. He hasn't had ice cream in too long, and the sign advertising "Ice Cream of All Flavors!" is calling his name. Dean stops walking, pulling Cas to a halt, too. He needs ice cream now.
"What is it?" Cas asks, glancing around vaguely.
"Dude," Dean says, pointing at the ice cream cart. "Ice cream. We're going there."
"Ice cream?" Cas looks faintly disapproving. He pulls away from Dean to dig his journal out of his jacket pocket. (The trenchcoat is long gone. It was too associated with Angel Cas, and Cas is human now. Plus, it got really bloody without angelic dry cleaning.) Dean hadn't even known that Cas had brought his journal. He watches as Cas rifles through it until he finds what he's looking for, and then continues, "Dean, it is January. It's cold. Ice cream is cold too. You should not… have cold ice cream when it is cold."
"No, man," Dean says, shaking his head. "You've got it all wrong. Ice cream is best when it's cold outside. It's refreshing and awesome and – and I don't even know why we're still standing here. I'm getting some no matter what. You want any?"
"Oh. Uh, I don't know. It's a little cold for ice cream."
"Yeah," Dean says. You already said that. "Well, follow me while you decide. Ice cream tastes even better when it's cold outside."
He walks up to the cart. Behind it is a middle-aged woman, and behind her is the menu, which Dean immediately starts dissecting. They have popsicles and ice cream cones and many, many flavors..
"Hey, Cas," Dean says with glee, nudging the former angel with his elbow. "Check it out. They have apple-pie-flavored ice cream."
Cas just stares at him expressionlessly. He's looking a little distant again. Dean holds back a sigh and leaves him to it, turning to the lady behind the counter, already imagining the pure bliss of apple pie in ice cream form. He needs to meet the genius who came up with that.
"I'll have a double scoop of your apple pie ice cream on a cone, please."
"Coming right up," the woman says, grabbing the scooper-thingy and heading toward the ice cream. But a moment later she frowns, saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, but it seems that we're out of apple pie ice cream."
"Figures," Dean mutters bitterly. Sometimes he really wonders why the world is so against him. After all, he's saved its ass multiple times. "Uh, I guess I'll have a double scoop of Rocky Road on a cone, then."
"Alright. And for you, sir?" The vendor asks, addressing Cas, who is standing beside Dean.
Cas stares blankly at her in a way that Dean knows makes people uncomfortable. Sure enough, she shifts uneasily on her feet, frowning slightly. After a moment, which Dean knows was Castiel processing her question but the vendor probably thought was Cas trying to see inside her brain or something, Castiel says, "…I'm sorry?"
"Would you like anything, sir?" the woman repeats.
Cas still looks confused, so Dean clarifies, "She wants to know if you'd like to order any ice cream."
"…Oh," Cas says after a moment. He looks at the woman and says earnestly, "It is very cold outside, because it is January. I believe you should… not eat ice cream when it is cold outside."
Dean watches as the lady's eyes get softer as Cas speaks, filling with a kind of mistaken understanding that never fails to irritate Dean. God, not this again.
"So you don't want any ice cream?" Dean asks brusquely.
"Um." Castiel stares up at the menu like he's mesmerized by it. Dean's worried that he's spacing out again, but after a moment he realizes that Cas is trying to read the menu. It takes a long time for him to read things now, which is probably one of the reasons the journal doesn't always work that well, now that he thinks of it. But really, it takes Cas a long time to do everything nowadays
After a while, he can't stand it anymore. The woman is watching Castiel with maternal concern and pity, and if they stay here too much longer Dean's gonna snap and start yelling at her.
"Just get a double scoop of vanilla, Cas. That's a classic."
"…Okay, Dean. I will have…" Cas trails off, probably having forgotten his order. Luckily, the vendor isn't entirely useless.
"Double scoop of vanilla, got it. Would you like it in a cup or cone?" The woman directs her attention to Dean while asking the question, another thing that happens often when he's in public with Cas. It annoys Dean, but he has to admit that sometimes it's easier to just answer than to wait for Cas to figure it out. He tries to decide if a cup or a cone would work better for the ex-angel. It's hard for Cas to handle utensils with his constantly unsteady hands, but he might lose his grasp on a cone entirely –
"I'll have a cone like Dean, please," Castiel cuts in, surprising both of them. Dean wonders how Cas can remember that Dean ordered a cone but constantly forget what someone said two seconds ago.
"Sure thing, sweetie," the lady says kindly, smiling at Cas, who tentatively smiles back.
Dean wants to punch her.
A few minutes later, Dean and Cas are walking away from the cart, a few dollars lighter, ice cream cones in hand. Fortunately, Dean managed not to punch the vendor, but he's still fuming (no matter how delicious his ice cream is).
"Doesn't that bother you, man?" Dean bursts out after a few silent minutes.
Cas looks at him in confusion. "Doesn't what bother me?"
"How that woman treated you. How they all treat you. Like you're – retarded or something."
"Yeah. It means… slow. They treat you like you're stupid."
Castiel frowns. "But… Dean, I am… slow."
"Well – I mean, you're brain-damaged, yeah, but you're not retarded. There's a difference."
Cas just stares at him uncomprehendingly, and Dean curses his lack of eloquence. Then again, maybe it's better that Cas doesn't really get it, doesn't really understand just how much society patronizes him. Or maybe he gets it and just doesn't care. It's so hard to tell with Cas sometimes.
"Cas?" Dean prompts after Cas is silent for a long time, even for him. Castiel glances at Dean and frowns.
"I'm sorry, Dean. What were we discussing?"
Dean thinks about letting it drop, but then he remembers the pity in woman's eyes, and the way people always talk down to Cas, and even his own occasional thoughts and doubts and assumptions.
"I asked if it bothered you that people tend to treat you like you're stupid."
After a few seconds, Cas shrugs, the gesture practiced but still alien. "No, it doesn't bother me, Dean. People… are nice to me, and I know they mean well. Most of them, at least."
"But they're so patronizing," Dean grouses.
"Dean," Cas says, stopping their meandering around the park to face Dean, placing a quivering hand on his shoulder. He looks straight at Dean, and not in his usual blank or distant way, but with his old, angelic, I-can-see-your-soul intensity. It amazes Dean that after everything, Cas can still look at him like that. Dean stares at him, effectively trapped by his gaze and the shaky but somehow anchoring touch on his shoulder.
"Listen to me," the former angel says, his voice filled with rare power and focus. "I do not care what other people think of me, or how they treat me. I… only care what you think of me, and how you treat me. You are the only person who matters. Do you… understand?"
Dean feels strangely like he's been given some kind of benediction, some confession or confirmation that he hadn't even realized he needed. He swallows, his throat suddenly dry, and whispers, "Yeah."
Now he feels even worse about those occasional thoughts and doubts that he has. He resolves to try harder to have faith in Cas. He's never really been one for faith, but for Cas, he'll make an effort.
"Good," Cas replies. He holds Dean's gaze for a moment longer, then drops his hand and turns back to his ice cream cone. They continue walking, Dean still slightly stunned. You are the only person who matters.
"We should get back soon," Dean says after a while. "We need to get ready for Sam."
"Sam's coming over today?" Cas asks, the old surprise coloring his tone. "Good. We haven't seen… him for some time."
"Uh-huh," Dean says. He thinks about Cas, about brain damage, about faith and independence and intelligence. He watches Cas skillfully eat his ice cream despite his trembling hands.
On their way out of the park, Dean takes Castiel's free hand. Cas gives him a rare smile and Dean doesn't even try to deny the mushy feeling inside of him.
Sometimes chick-flick moments are okay. Not that he'll ever admit that to Sammy.