Genre: gen, 11x23 tag
Characters: Sam (POV), Castiel
Word Count: ~2300
Summary: The last thing Sam needs in his life today is Cas's taste in music. But those are Cas's hands on the wheel, not his, and maybe some rules aren't meant to be broken. Driver picks. Dissociative Sam headspace post-11x23. Spoilers for 11x23, of course.
The last thing Sam needs in his life today is Cas's taste in music. But those are Cas's hands on the wheel, not his, and maybe some rules aren't meant to be broken. Driver picks.
Cas was gentle. Didn't touch him, didn't even come particularly near. He didn't tell Sam to stop staring at the sun. He just asked for the keys and said, Sam, I'd like to take you home.
Enochian exists in the imperative case, or else in sentences without subjects; and angels' English tends to be the same. But Sam, I'd like to take you home.
Cas had lined up for a basket catch, like maybe he'd thought Sam would toss him the keys. But that's a little too easy, too freeform; and for some reason Sam doesn't think can survive the arc of them--liquid motion through air, evidence of gravity exerted, sound produced, matter extant. It'd be too real.
Instead he walks the keys right into Cas's arms and presses them into his open palms, heavy like fingers kissing gravestone.
And then they're driving, Cas is driving, and he puts a song on the radio that must be to his taste because he doesn't bother tuning to a station. The music just appears, from Cas's will to the Impala's speakers. It's the first thing that makes Sam really hate him, in all of this. Because why the fuck would you bother with the world that just got saved, that always needed to be saved, if you weren't going to at least acknowledge its radio waves? It's stupid and it shouldn't matter and Sam cannot possibly be mad at Cas right now, not when they're still falling through the freespace at the end of the world, full-stop, expected to start staring down some next doomed clause. Not when Cas has spent all that time on their behalf, on the world's behalf with--
This must be very strange, says Cas, after the first hundred miles of America. Sam doesn't remember stopping for gas, but maybe, like the radio, they're not actually using it.
To see me in this visage, I mean, says Cas.
For a moment Sam's not sure what other visages would have been less strange, but then he gets it. In Cas's mind, his body still belongs to Lucifer.
To Cas, this body is not something he's taken back, or even something that's been returned to him. It was Lucifer's, so it is Lucifer's, it will always be Lucifer's, and Cas is only borrowing himself. That's why he won't touch Sam--hasn't even looked at him, actually. (Maybe the song he's played on loop like seven times now isn't even to his taste; maybe it's meant to be to Sam's. Sam figures that thank fuck, at least, it isn't to Dean's.)
Cas still feels owned.
You're you, Cas, says Sam. When I look at you--or your "visage" or whatever--I just see you. Fuck Lucifer. Fuck all of that; I see me when I look in the mirror. You're you, I'm me, and Dean--Dean's always Dean.
Sam stops. Maybe it would have been better to stop at I'm me. Dean always being Dean approaches dangerous ground--because sometimes Dean's a demon, and that gets Sam into trouble. Sometimes Dean's a bomb.
The point is, Sam says instead. I mean, I can't tell you how to feel. But Jimmy trusted that body to you; it was never Lucifer's. I'm fine; just, uh, take care of yourself, okay?
Sam's not sure he ever felt differently, to be honest. Lucifer thrust Cas so deep even Crowley couldn't find him, but Jimmy Novak's body was never really Lucifer's. It had never felt entirely real. Only holographic, somehow.
Cas doesn't answer, and Sam doesn't think his faith in Cas has actually helped Cas any, but he lifts a hand from the wheel and touches Sam's shoulder. Then his hand wanders back to his own lap. It's replaced by the half-touch of his knee against the bottom of the steering wheel.
Go ahead, Sam thinks. Tap the beat against your thigh.
But there is no beat, and Cas's trousers billow in ways jeans never do, and Sam looks away.
He watches the prairie roll past them. It feels like they're not moving at all.
Sam's not sure what he'll do now, except resolutely not plan Dean's funeral. He doesn't need to be reminded that they don't have any friends. Dean's gone and he means as little to the world as the hundreds of thousands of souls he took down with him. (Because that's the appropriate term, isn't it. Takedown. They'd wiped a mid-sized city out of the entire fucking afterlife and turned it into a weapon--hadn't batted an eye. The kicker is, Sam hadn't felt bad about that then and he doesn't feel bad about it now. If he and Dean were gonna make that sacrifice, time and time again, maybe it's about time the dead pulled their fucking weight.)
Stop, Sam tells himself. He can't rely on old habits. He's already gone that route--the bitterness and the hatred and the hopelessness and violence and blood. The problem is, when it comes to Sam's gameplan after Dean's gone, he's already exhausted most of his options. There aren't really any roads less traveled anymore.
But he imagines actually rounding up everyone they knew, hosting Dean's big stupid party, and he knows that's never going to happen. They have--people, maybe. People who care about them. People Sam can make a part of his life. Jody's in their corner, maybe even Claire. Dean liked that sheriff in Minnesota; and there was always Werewolf Garth, off doing culty werewolf things. There was--Eileen, maybe. Sam swears this list is usually longer. He thinks about it whenever Charlie comes to mind, and with her Sam's desire to fling himself off the nearest mountaintop. You know, in Kansas. He tries to make these people mean as much as they can without destroying himself.
He's thought about the list a lot lately--a sort of heroic reveille--trying to remember why Earth mattered at all, why they had to stop the Darkness, why any of this cosmic whirlwind needed to be stopped, why they needed to stop it, why no one--not him, not Dean--could just give in to the Empty. This is sort of a secret--at least, it's the one thing Sam would never have told Dean--but it's not inherent. That desire to keep the world turning isn't always obvious and natural and golden; and Sam feels like if Dean ever knew that, that'd rock his worldview even more than God Himself. He'd implode. (Oh God.)
But maybe Dean already believed that, deep down; maybe he didn't need Sam to set that example.
Now Sam will never know.
But the hardest thing about this whole year wasn't figuring out how to save the world--not for Sam. It was remembering why they needed to. It's not nihilism, or disillusionment. It's just hard.
The abstraction of it is hard. Maybe he just hasn't logged enough time sitting around in hipster coffeeshops or dropping acid or whatever it is people do to commune with their higher planes, but he's pretty sure that scale is bullshit. "Save the world" is only ever metonym for what you know about the world, and once God makes you pancakes it's hard to remember that world is where you live. This is why using the fucking radio like it's meant to be used is important. It's why all their little scraps are important.
Usually, Sam can walk himself back through the people they've met, the places they've seen. He can be happy about drip coffee and off-brand cereal and winter wheat and The Good Wife seasons 1-3 and Dean's shoes strewn at the foot of the stairs. He can revel in the twelve or twenty hours they know people, or in the fantastical sense that they've known Crowley longer than either of them have managed to stay alive. But right now, Sam can close his eyes and dream all the friends they've ever made and all he'll feel is nothing, nothing at all.
He feels empty.
Cas, I'm not-- Sam starts. Cas veers over the line; it's great to know his powers of conversation are so unexpected they can surprise an angel.
I'm not really sure what just happened, he finishes.
What do you mean?
I'm not really sure what just happened, Sam repeats.
Do you feel tachycardic? Cas asks immediately. And he must still be keeping his distance, hand and grace alike, if he bothers asking.
What? No, says Sam. I didn't say I felt shocky, I just--
And you're aware that God, and the Darkness... And Dean-- Cas says slowly, as though he's making sure Sam still knows his color wheel, or his food groups. Except for the part where he's talking about God, and the Darkness, and Dean.
I'm aware, Sam replies, syllables curt and cutting. He's aware of their itinerary, these last few days. This last hour. But for a universe that just got saved, it doesn't seem to mean a whole lot. Nothing fits together, makes any sort of worthwhile sense. It's like everything that's just gone down, or maybe everything that's ever gone down, has come unmoored from Sam's perspective--his place in it all. It's empty.
Dean told me we were brothers, Cas says suddenly. At this point on this road, when you were leading our army and I was accompanying him to the grocery store. He said we were brothers.
Sure, says Sam. Okay, Cas.
It's not that he disagrees, but Dean's penultimate words or whatever mean as little to Sam as anything else right now. So sure, brotherhood, family don't end with blood, etc. Okay.
Guilt, I suspect, was a motivating factor, Cas continues. As I've found love rarely needs saying, I suspect our conversation was primarily about Dean's guilt.
Why are you telling me this? Sam asks.
Cas touches his shoulder again, not quite smoothly enough to be reflexive, still stuttered by Lucifer's remnants.
There's nothing else you could have done, Cas tells him.
Sam keeps his mouth shut. He grinds his teeth. Because he fucking knows. He's the only one who could even say that for sure--except Dean who's gone who did nothing 'til the last second and then did everything, Dea who's gone and doesn't count anymore, he's gone, he's gone he's gone--because everyone else's instant goddamn impulse was to start Last Night on Earthing it. He's not fucking guilty about what happened. He doesn't see Lucifer in Cas. He isn't having a fucking breakdown; he just wishes people would stop thinking they knew anything about him, what this feels like, what this means to him. He wants to be mad at Dean, but he's gone. He's done. And Sam can't be angry any more.
Hell, he's not even disappointed in God--because like Cas, Cas in Jimmy's body who was never Lucifer's, part of Sam only ever saw Chuck as Chuck. Not God. The whole time Amara was busy being his sister and Chuck was eating Chinese takeout and Prophets were being made and broken, souls set to rest, towns revived, and Sam never once directed his prayers down the hall, to their guest bedroom.
Maybe Chuck was the part of God you asked about ears; but he was not the God Sam prayed to.
So maybe it's not abstraction Sam has an issue with. God actually makes less sense to Sam as a schmuck in a vessel than as abstraction outright; and he supposes he's never really thought about the Darkness as Amara, the baby, the child, and finally the woman. Vessels are a courtesy to humans, Sam's pretty sure, but they've never served him.
They'd helped Dean--Dean's angel in a trenchcoat, his femme fatale in black, his God who finds use for a spatula. Family drama, cycled through the cosmos several thousand times. It's the only story Dean really knows. So that had all helped Dean, and Sam had gone along with it. Or at least, Sam thought it had helped, right up until about four hours ago. Now he's not sure.
Sam has never felt so alone. It's not just because Dean's not here; if there's anything the last few years have taught him, it's that. Sam can't live without his brother, but Dean's presence didn't always mean Sam wasn't lonely.
This goes above and beyond.
Would you like me to play something else? Cas asks. The same song he'd begun is the same song now. Figures they'd be twenty minutes from the bunker before he asked.
Once we stole this tape from a library, Sam says. Some single; one song per side. Dean played that fucking tape nonstop, halfway across the country.
Cas turns on the actual radio. But this is central Kansas; it seeks and seeks and never finds anything.
Sam's pretty sure he's slipped through the cracks, too. He's not sure how all their lives and all their fights led up to this, not sure where it counts, what's prepared them. He's not even sure what it means that Dean is gone, that the Darkness (and God?) are gone. Even without the threat of cosmic imbalance, Darkness without God, Sam's still not sure how the universe can exist without him. He's not sure how God can die.
And he's not sure how he just lost Dean.
Sam feels eliminated.
So it's probably fitting that there's a stranger in the bunker, and that she wipes Cas out the same way Sam feels the rest of the world is going, end of days or not.
For the first two minutes, Sam doesn't care if she pulls the trigger. Then he knows she won't.
Then he's wrong about both.
Castiel's taste in music, or Sam's taste in music, or what Castiel thinks must be Sam's taste in music--"Transatlanticism" by Death Cab For Cutie:
I'm not confident about some of this characterization--sorry, Sam--or the actual import of this piece, but freewrites will be freewrites.