Genre: episode tag, moody angelic ruminations
Pairing: Castiel/Sam/Dean; Castiel POV
Word Count: ~2400
Summary: Castiel sends lore home from Bethlehem, and thinks on his duties as an angel in a world under siege by the Darkness--as well as Sam’s, and Dean’s.
Notes: Tag to 11x07 “Plush”; implied spoilers for 11x08 and 11x09. Because I'm surely not the only one who heard Sam say This is everything Cas dug up in Gaza, every last bit of prebiblical lore and wondered how Castiel got there, and how long he plans to stay.
Castiel has heard them called scars.
But this is not a dead land, tissue thick with hasty cells and severed nerves. It is not unfeeling, or past; and it hasn’t that tender keloid skittishness. Scars, he’d seen in the airport to get here, in the long lines where he’d removed his shoes and his coat and stood torpedo-like in the third eye of the TSA. Scars, on the fingers of the agreeable agent who stamped his invisible passport in Madrid. And the little girl outside the Italian restaurant in Tel Aviv--her face. Those were scars.
These are veins, wending in bulbous purple clusters. Tickling at the ankles of the people like stray dogs, or looming above them in a sky made wary by all who stare up at it, watchful. (Not everyone stares, of course, and not all the time.)
Castiel follows the veins to Erez, tongue loaded with new Hebrew, new Arabics--fashionable dialects he’d discovered and learned on the bus ride here--and he understands his power as an angel. He thinks on Metatron and his bed bugs, his drained cell phone; the papers tucked into the sleeves and coats and purses of all his companions and Castiel, after fifty-seven hours of travel by human invention, understands. Even with his wings broken, he has freedoms.
He can see the veins of this place, tracing the concertina and the soldiers in places but outspread and wild in others--always moving and tender and very, very much alive.
Castiel is in Gaza to understand the Darkness, and finds himself reminded that she is hardly the first to be confused with death, where in actuality things are a good deal more complicated: A desert taken for deserted, a heart for a carcass.
He’d caught Dean’s expression, for instance, when he’d explained his need to travel here, his desire for a ride to the airport in Kansas City.
Gaza, seriously? Dean had said. And you’re just gonna waltz right in?
Dean has a certain tone when he’s written something off for dead. He’s used it in reference to entire regions, planets too often too recently--even if this time is different, and has nothing to do with his own plans, his own destiny. But Dean’s wrong. (As usual, Castiel’s beginning to notice. Dean is wrong as usual.)
This place is full of veins.
Castiel sends its lore home, first via SMS and then in a box filled with antiquities and marked for post to America, when he can’t send the pictures at a resolution Sam appreciates. If Castiel is annoyed by this, he lets his annoyance fall from him as he stands in line at the post office. He imagines the day, two thousand years from now, when he returns to bring these out of Kansas, back to Bethlehem. He first imagines flying with his own wings--mental reflex leftover from the first few billions years--but ultimately decides that, like this box, he’ll take the human planes again.
Thanks, Cas, Sam texts, a few weeks later when he has the box. Looks like half of it’s in Aramaic, but I’ll do what I can. Stay safe, okay?
It might be a hint--come home--but Castiel’s not really sure. Castiel has no trouble reading Aramaic, and perhaps might be a boon to Sam’s endeavors, but right now he is in Gaza and maybe they’ll need more books and maybe he should stay. Castiel’s read them, of course; and if he’d caught anything direct and helpful, he’d have simply said so. He suspects there can’t be anything in them to help with the Darkness, but perhaps the Winchesters will prove him wrong. Sam doesn’t have the fluency to be taken in by rhyme; perhaps he’ll be better suited to cobbling something together. Man invented Boeings, after all, and Castiel doesn’t think any angel would have ever thought of that.
Maybe Sam wants him home, and maybe not. Castiel can’t really tell. He doesn’t excel at Sam’s level of subtlety, and Dean’s he can’t begin to fathom. He wishes selfishly for a moment that he’d forced Dean along with him.
It wouldn’t have done, of course. To have left Sam with the Darkness and all the winter wheat of Lebanon, Kansas and forced Dean onto a plane to the Levant, but he wants Dean to see the desert. There’s this strange impulse in him that wants to show Dean the desert, and the boys with their football outside this mosque, the girl typing the novel behind the desk at the post office. He wants Dean beside him.
Within arm’s length, perhaps. Where Castiel can touch his hands to Dean’s shoulder and find some sense of what he’s thinking, what’s wrong. Because something is wrong. Mark or not. It’s small and meaningless in the scope of the world, Creation, Darkness, but it unsettles Castiel in the same way as the big ones. He’s afraid it will tear Dean apart before Castiel can ascertain what it even is.
And then of course there’s Sam. Sam and the Cage. Not that he’s been approached. Not that Sam has broached the subject formally with him.
He is coming to terms with the idea that the Winchesters tell him very little, indeed. In the end, he supposes he’s no different.
But Sam seems to have forgotten that whether he means to speak to God direct or not, every angel will hear his prayers as well--all who deign to listen. He hears every word.
Castiel wonders if Sam recalls who loosed him from that Cage the first time. Not that he could again now--not with the power of the universe balanced as it is. But Castiel, too, has seen the inside of the Cage and he raised Sam from it as surely as he’d once raised Dean.
Then it occurs to him that Sam may truly not remember. Maybe that’s a memory he’d taken, swept up with the rest of the trash and rubble. It is not a proud memory for Castiel, after all. And sometimes he is vain.
I wish you could see this desert, Castiel texts from Bethlehem.
I wish you could see this desert, Dean.
He doesn’t know what time it is in Kansas, but he knows it doesn’t really matter. Dean’s awake every few hours either way, and he checks his phone obsessively. Dean doesn’t respond immediately, though. And days later, Dean still hasn’t replied.
Castiel isn’t one to get hung up on this, though he’s seen enough Netflix now to understand that he should. That’s the way of things on this planet; so many love stories hinge on texts such as these. Castiel knows he’s breaking convention by not minding much, but he’d at least like to be sure that Dean is present to receive them. If something had happened, surely Sam would have said, but like the rest of them Sam has low standards and long leniences and he might be distracted.
He wants, again, to have Dean at arm’s length. Perhaps closer. And he wants Sam’s face in his hands--(do you remember the Cage? do you truly? if you don’t I’m at fault; please do not go back)--and Dean’s back against his own. To ascertain their substance, the warmth of them. The hot veins that knit and surge with their souls and memories and their humanity. He just wants to make sure.
Castiel watches the sun set on the children in the street in Bethlehem. The entire city is dark.
There’s something in the sky tonight, maybe, says a man as he passes.
Maybe, maybe not.
The man tells Castiel about Katyusha, sings a little song. He has not been in Palestine long. He speaks fondly of Afghanistan, except for the bombs. And Katyusha.
She was a woman once, he says. Before she became a weapon.
He hums, gravelly, Katyusha’s song.
The Darkness isn’t so bad, you know, he says. Then Castiel realizes that’s not what he said, not exactly.
The darkness isn’t so bad, you know, he said. It makes my daughter feel safe. The man hums the rest of his little song as he wanders away, leaving Castiel to the night.
I might stay, Castiel informs Dean. There may be other resources here, he tells Sam. Have you found anything? he asks the both of them.
Maybe, texts Sam, cryptic. did u know mermaids dig air guitar? texts Dean, worse.
What Castiel wouldn’t give to know what Dean meant--even if the answer was just nothing, nothing at all. What Castiel wouldn’t give to be able to fix Sam with a stare, command honesty; confidence; confession. What he wouldn’t give to understand the pulse of the both of them.
Because what Castiel wants, more than anything, is to help.
He wants to be able to help.
But he can’t protect Dean from the Darkness. Or protect him from her protection, as it were. Castiel feels a twinge of something--perhaps jealousy but likely fear. And he can’t help Sam with the Cage. Not anymore; not this time. Castiel can’t skirt customs in Tel Aviv; he certainly cannot breach Hell.
Still, he wants to help.
In his mind he brushes Sam’s hair from his temples, calming the strong, sure march of Sam’s pulse. He feels the thrum of Dean’s heart in his chest.
Castiel takes to the desert, many thousands of miles away, and finds its heartbeat. There’s enchantment in this desert, and a thousand epiphanies, mostly half-formed. The intimacy of bodies and flesh, which he knows from the movies; the way he wants the Winchesters beside him as, he suspects, he never would have understood before. The blood of the desert. The easy way his love of humanity meant a love for the Winchesters meant a love for God meant a love for land, for the planet, for every human. Metonym. The way he knows, at his core, that to love the Winchesters means probably, today, to leave them. To abandon embraces and confessions and even burritos and whiskey and whatever other shared things they’d had and to remember that to surmount the Darkness is to love Creation and to love Creation is to be here, in the desert, far from home. From what Castiel has only just learned is home.
He’s learned a good deal from the Winchesters, but some things must be unlearned.
You’re an Angel of the Lord, Castiel, he thinks to himself.
It’s never been his duty to choose between the Winchesters and Heaven, power and friendship, humility and hubris, or any other trial he’s been tasked with these last long, Apocalyptic, febrile years. It’s not so simple as that, in the same way these sands are not simple, these borders are not scars, these veins are not dead. But it is his duty to love the way only an angel might.
This time, he finds himself at Rafah. A child, sucking down sabrfruit in the shade of her mother’s shadow, sees Castiel for what he is; she doesn’t offer Castiel any, but she thanks him for its sweetness.
Castiel does not believe he has ever had any hand in fruit. Still, there is work he can do here. This desert has a need for angels--the way they’d been needed in old times, before righteous men and flirtations with the subversion of perdition and all too many other transgressions.
The whole nine yards, Castiel shorthands.
It’s a phrase from a newspaper, a novel, and possibly Dean’s mouth.
Castiel is presently 11,730,400 yards from Dean’s mouth.
Castiel remembers what it had been to kiss April Kelly.
He stares up at the looming border before him, and feels the pulse of the desert, reads the twist of its veins, paying its steel no mind at all. He waits his turn in the procession of heartbeats funneling in towards the gate. He hums a little song.
Castiel is an Angel of the Lord, and to challenge the Darkness, for an angel, is to love God’s Creation. To remember the world they are all trying to save. It is to be far from home, further than arm’s length from those he wishes to embrace; it is to remember that he is an angel, and his arms are longer than his vessel’s. His heart is larger.
I will do all I can, he thinks, and texts nothing. His resolve is not to the scale of letters.
He looks out at the life of the desert, the inflections of Dean’s voice and the brace of his shoulders and Sam’s eyes and his breath and all of them that is not there--not here--and tries to remember this absence is not emptiness, or void.
He has a duty here. He needs to be content to love from afar.
Sam, he thinks--as though Sam could hear him as well as he hears Sam’s prayers. Sam, if your duties take you afar--
Dean, he thinks. He thinks, as usual, of that feeling he’d had on that first night, when he’d held Dean’s wrist and Dean had turned his arm to reveal Cain’s scar. The bodies in Louisiana. The irradiation he’d felt under Dean’s blows, the smell of gasoline and innocent blood all around them. His own fire, in that warehouse, in the middle of Rowena’s spell. Castiel realizes he doesn’t actually want Dean afar. He doesn’t want Sam afar.
But this isn’t about what Castiel wants.
At noon the line at Rafah is still long--stopped for some silly, ambiguous, torturous reason--and Castiel looks up at the sky.
He tries to have patience with the creations of God’s creations. With the spin of the universe, the demands of his commitment.
I wish you could see this, he texts to Sam and Dean both. He adds something about what the fruits are like; how Tel Aviv gleams; what kinds of music the people here play on their cell phones. Silly things Sam and Dean will roll their eyes at, or forget they’ve read, or ignore entirely.
He may never come home. Nor Sam, nor Dean (not really). He can try to accept this.
Maybe, he thinks finally, this is what it means to comprehend God and the Darkness both.
Castiel breathes to the pulse of the desert.