This story is also available at this location on The Archive of Our Own, where all my current stories and comments can be found. I am no longer updating this site.

The fight when Sam had returned and seen the shredded remains of the motel room had been nasty, short, and loud. No one had come to investigate, though. Dean figured that if management didn’t care about the explosion of a couple hundred square feet of glass, a little yelling wasn’t going to attract much notice.

Sam stomped back out. (And where was he going? Lying to Sam wasn’t so bad in itself, but it made the questions fall apart in Dean’s throat, as if his voice was still wrecked from—from whatever.)

Dean stayed and did his best to make the room minimally habitable. He had to break into a supply closet down the hall for a broom and new linens. His shirt was soaked with sweat and his bruised hands stung from a thousand new cuts by the time he gave up. He stripped the shirt off, then realized that he had nothing to replace it with, and right now the thought of wearing one of Sam’s was unbearable. He sat down on the coverless bed, resting his arms on his knees. At the moment he’d found Sam, he would have sworn he could never feel this tired and alone again.

The door clicked open, and Dean raised his head, Sam’s name already on his lips.

Castiel stood outlined in the light from the hallway. There were no wings this time, mercifully.

“Now what?” Dean asked, unmoving. He had no guesses and nowhere to run anyway.

Castiel’s gaze didn’t waver from Dean’s face, but Dean still had the feeling he was looking around the room, weighing everything Dean had done to put it to rights.

He crossed the floor, which was still sparkling with glass dust, until he was standing inches from Dean’s knees, so close that Dean had to wrench his neck up painfully to see the angel’s face, composed and even maybe a little bit joyful.

“You need more,” Castiel said, still in that tone that wasn’t amused and wasn’t indifferent; Dean didn’t know what it was, but he didn’t like it.

“Please be more cryptic,” he said, but it came out sounding deadly serious.

Castiel knelt, one smooth movement, not at all human—he moved, Dean thought, like the wings were there all the time. Lion, Dean thought, and didn’t know why.

His hand was normal, just another possessed body, warm against Dean’s cheek. “Your thoughts are wrong. But you are still worthy. I can show you.”

Whatever Dean was expecting, it wasn’t to be pushed flat against the cheap cool sheets, one hand to his chest and the other making quick work of his fly.

“Fuck!” His arms flailed out to the side, pushing uselessly against the old and sagging mattress. “What the—get off me!”

But Castiel’s hand had already found its way to skin, fingers curling around Dean’s cock, and it had been so long, months in the ground and even longer before that, he was alive and the angel was above him, smooth and terrible but so warm. Dark hair, dark eyes, and even if Castiel didn’t love him there was love there for something, a reflected heat that Dean could use.

By the time Dean’s hands reached Castiel’s arms, he was panting, not fighting. His fingers slid over the cotton of Castiel’s coat—fuck, this was weird, not that he hadn’t had sex with fully clothed people but usually it was in alleys, Castiel’s tie was flopped down onto Dean’s chest, what was he doing?

“You don’t have to want what is wrong,” Castiel murmured, hitting a perfect rhythm as if he’d been watching Dean long enough to know exactly what got Dean going.

Dean gritted his teeth and let his hands fall back to the bed. “Doesn’t your God say this is wrong?”

Castiel smiled, dimpled and guileless. Dean wished he hadn’t. “I am commanded to make you fit for what is to come.”

Then he moved down, bending his head, swallowing Dean’s cock in one smooth motion. Dean’s eyes snapped open as he groaned. There were still stray triangles of mirror clinging to the ceiling. He could see fragments of himself, writhing under Castiel, piece after piece of him pinned up there, moving past the razor edges and back; he should be bleeding.

He turned his head, pressing his face into the bed. He could smell Sam. Sam had laid down here, had fucked some girl whose name he didn’t even know while Dean rotted under the ground.

Castiel’s mouth was warm and wet, a perfect masquerade of a human. The neon lights from outside turned the light in the room red. Dean closed his eyes and clenched his fists around handfuls of the sheet. If he didn’t touch Castiel, maybe this wouldn’t make him fall any further.

Coming was a relief, a second when Castiel made good on his promise and Dean’s thoughts disappeared, turned into radio static. Gone, the way he wanted to be gone, the way the Colt would have made him gone. He wondered where the gun was now.

Too soon, he noticed how chill the air was on his wet skin. Without looking, he pulled himself back into his shorts and did up his jeans. He could hear Castiel’s even breathing, the only sound in the room.

“What happened to my scars?” he asked, staring at a reflection that captured half his tattoo. The ink was still there, but the only other violence evident on him came from Castiel’s touch. The rounded, cratered scar where Sam had shot him was gone, replaced by someone else’s trackless skin.

“Is not my mark sufficient?” Castiel asked, with no hint of mockery. Already Dean felt a little comfort at the sound of his voice, his certainty buoying Dean up in the sea of meaninglessness and suffering around him.

“No,” Dean said, curling over onto his side, bringing the heels of his hands up to dig into his eyes. Maybe Castiel wasn’t going to burn them out of their sockets, but he still didn’t want to see.

“It will be,” Castiel promised.

And with a sound like a murder of crows taking off, he was gone.

Dean’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. Air rasped in his lungs. For just one moment, earlier in the day, he’d let himself hope in a miraculous reprieve. Sam had once lectured him on the Greek myth of Pandora, how all these horrible things were in her box, and then there was the ringer, hope, at the bottom. Dean knew better. Hope hadn’t been misfiled. Hope was how they got you to take the elevator down.

He didn’t want to believe Castiel, but he knew now how very weak and cowering he was. All those months in Hell had been very instructive on that count, even if he didn’t remember the details. Castiel was going to hollow him out. He was going to lose all that remained, and it would be good riddance, except that most of what remained was Sam’s.

Castiel was going to finish what Hell had started. Even aboveground it had taken him hours to think of Sam, minutes to ask Bobby about his brother. He was already forgetting why he’d made the deal to begin with. And now he was already missing Castiel’s touch, gentle and judgment-free.

His life was all blade and no handle; even if he wanted to hang on—and he did, he’d swear it—he wasn’t that strong, to get cut to the bone again and again.

“Sorry, Sam,” he whispered. He said it now because, when the time came, he didn’t think he was going to remember why it needed saying.

Dean wondered, as his body shook in the center of the empty bed, how long it would be before his eyes were as black as Castiel’s wings.

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