last01standing: ([SPN] Brothers Winchester)
[personal profile] last01standing
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Dean still dreams of Hell sometimes. It's like it's been wired into his DNA. He'll think he's done with it all until something trips him off, a glint of black in someone's eyes, a flash of blonde hair that looks like Ruby or flips past the freaking Exorcist on television and the instant he closes his eyes, he's back there on the rack, a soul in front of him as Alistair offers him a knife.

"This one's an awful sort," Alistair tells him. "Just a dreadful member of humanity. Managed to get countless people killed—three of them women he claimed to have loved. And that's not to mention the young woman he murdered to drink her blood or the fact that he is the one who set forth Lucifer on the world."

Dean's fingers close over the hilt of the blade. His own body is throbbing under the weight of years of torment, years of denial and he wants to feel something like power again. Wants the rush that comes alongside control.

Plunging the blade into the warm flesh, he relishes the gush of the red that spills out through the flesh. "Dean," the soul says.

Only then does Dean look up to his face. "Sam?"


Alistair is prodding him from behind. Egging him on.

"Dean!" says another voice and God help him, it sounds like Cas. The angel, Castiel. His voice made of gravel; deep and broken.

The hand prodding him is more insistent now and he wakes up with a start, reaching for a knife that he no longer kept there. His pillow is damp, his hands still sweating profusely as he lunges for the threat.

He opens his eyes to see a pale face, dark hair, a frightened kid and stills his hand. Jesus, it's Cas--Lucas. "Dean," he says, voice small and terrified like he hasn't heard it since the kid was two.

"Shit," he hisses, suddenly wide awake. "Shit, Cas, I'm sorry. Are you all right?"

He's not the only one who has nightmares. Lucas screams in his sleep sometimes. Dean doesn't know if it's because of his mom getting murdered the next room or Lucifer murdering Castiel or whatever the hell happened to him up in heaven's boot camp but the poor kid has it almost as bad as Dean.

Even after all this time, years, Dean's still surprised by how young the kid looks. Nine years since the Apocalypse ended. Six or so since he'd pulled him out of that closet (gripped him tight a treacherous voice whispers in the back of his head). Cas is eight years old, but can probably still pass for six. "What's wrong, buddy?" he asks.

"There's a monster in my closet," he replies. His voice is steady, not a hint of fear except for the widened eyes.

Dean's mind flashes to Sam before he can stop it. When I told dad I was scared of the thing in my closet, he gave me a .45. He pushes thoughts of his brother away and pushes off the covers. "There's no such thing as monsters," he says automatically and thinks of Lucifer, Yellow Eyes and Lilith.

Cas fixes him with a look that's two parts Sam's bitch face, one part Bobby's you stupid idjit face and six parts Castiel's I don't understand you ridiculous humans face. He repeats his statement slowly and stubbornly. "There's a monster. In my closet."

(he was supposed to say don't be afraid of the dark.)

"You scared, buddy?" The kid shakes his head no, but Dean can't think of any other reason for him to sneak into his room in the middle of the night. Dean suspects Cas is far too old to still be scared of the dark but he offers a gentle smile. "You want to sleep in here for tonight while I take care of your monster?"

That one gets a nod and without prompting, Cas hauls himself into the bed, sinking under Dean's covers. Sneaky bastard. That much hasn't changed.

Cas's room is right next door to his. It's the bigger of the two bedrooms in the house. Dean doesn't need much space and moving into Bobby's room would have been a little too much for his psyche. So he'd painted the old room a pale blue, cleared out all the weaponry and clutter before giving it to Cas.

He knows Bobby would approve. Bobby understood family, especially the kind that came outside of blood.

There actually is a monster in Cas's closet. A boogeyman. The kind of thing that's attracted to magic like the wards Dean routinely reinforces around Bobby's house. They're pests more than anything, hiding in closets and feeding off the fear of the young. Leave them alone for too long and they start to grow. Every once in a while you hear stories of kids disappearing out of their beds never to come back. Bogeymen that no one took care of.

The boogeyman in Cas's closet isn't nearly to that stage. It's a tiny, ugly thing. The size of the ratty old Teddy bear Cas had cast off a year ago. It's the same color too, a brown tinged with gray. The eyes are red and it has vicious snapping teeth disproportionate to the body size.

Dean grabs a baseball bat from the top shelf of the closet, takes careful aim, swings and caves in the side of its head. The boogeyman shimmers when it slams against the wall, disintegrating back into nonexistence.

He takes the bat into the kitchen, washes the remnants of the boogeyman's blood from the wood and pours a bit of holy water on it to cleanse it (just in case).

Cas is asleep by the time Dean goes back to the room to check on him. Eight years old and still ignorant about the world of supernatural just like the rest of the kids his age. Dean's childhood had been over by eight, his dad taking him to shoot and teaching him about salt on windshields.

Dean can't go back to sleep after this so he goes outside and turns on the floodlights Bobby had installed in case of a zombie Apocalypse and props open the hood of an old Ford Firebird.

He works until the sun comes up, so focused that he doesn't realize Cas has woken up until a soft voice says, "The monster's gone now. I checked."

Dean starts, nearly cracking his head against the hood of the car. "Jesus, Cas, you're like a ninja."

Cas grins up at him, a rare sight that brings a smile to Dean's face as well. Castiel the angel was never quite comfortable with facial expressions and he feels like Castiel the boy never had the instincts programmed into him. "I like ninjas," he says. "You got rid of the monster."

"Wasn't a monster, it was just a trick of the light," Dean assures him. "Nothing you needed to be afraid of. You're safe."

"I wasn't afraid. The monster's been there for days. It was getting smaller too. I just thought you were going to want to know about it. I think it would have started to smell if I was quiet another week."

A rush of affection sweeps through him. Only a Winchester could starve a fear hungry boogeyman. Cas is standing too close to him, staring just a little too hard but that's normal. That's just his kid. His Cas.

He wipes the sweat off his brow. "What do you say to some pancakes, buddy?"

Cas always says yes to pancakes. He's got a sweet tooth even bigger than Dean.

He plays the radio as he makes the pancakes. Cas hovers underfoot, peeking up under his elbows to watch the process with birdlike curiosity even though he's seen it a hundred times before. The grave voiced announcer is rumbling on about the kind of incident that Dean used to follow up on but doesn't anymore.

Setting a pancake down in front of Cas and starting on a few more of his own, he reaches up to turn off the news. "Don't," Cas says. "I want to hear."

"Kind of gruesome, kiddo," Dean says. The radio has been spewing words like family slaughtered, eight year old son missing. It feels like deja vu. He remembers four different stories like this over the past three years. They'd always caught his eye causing him to track the progress of the investigation, that little tickle of hunter's instincts that refuses to leave. "You're a bit young to be listening to stuff like this. World's a scary place."

"My mom died because of something like this," Cas says matter-of-factly as he squirts a dollop of whip cream onto the pancake and takes a bite. "I want to hear it."

Dean hesitates and then bumps the volume.

Cas comes across the picture about two weeks before school ends for the summer. He's rooting through one of Bobby's old boxes of junk at the time and Dean guesses he should be happy the kid hasn't turned up a gun.

"It's you," Cas says, turning his head slightly as he studies the picture.

It's one of Bobby's war book photos. The whole box is filled with them, the tiny Polaroid's chronicling twenty years or more of hunts and hunters. It's the four of them in this one. Dean, Sam, Bobby and Castiel huddled together on the night just before the end. Dean's in the middle of it, half drunk because it was their last light on Earth, one arm over Sam's shoulder, the other over Castiel. Castiel is the same as he remembers, wearing the same trench coat, the same suit, the same slightly pained expression he'd worn since he strolled back from the banishing spell as a functioning human. Bobby has his arms crossed over his chest like he can't believe he has to stop an Apocalypse with these idiots.

Sam looks half terrified, half resigned. He's the only sober one of the group, the kingpin of their plan. Sam Winchester who wrested back control of the Devil only to jump into the cage and trap them both.

It doesn't feel like it happened almost a decade ago. It feels like it happened last night.

"Who are these other people?" Cas asks, tracing their faces with the tip of his finger.

Dean moves to sit down next to him on the floor. "Let's see," he says. "The older guy in the middle is Bobby. He's—" Dean hesitates. "You know how I'm not your blood but still family? That was Bobby for me. This used to be his house."

Cas turns to look at him blue eyes wide. Dean remembers how it was when he was a kid. How it was almost impossible to think of other people living in the same place before him, someone else owning the Impala...

"What about the others?"

Dean lets his fingers trail to Sam, his heart clenching. "That's Sam. Sammy. My little brother."

"Didn't know you had a brother," Cas mumbles. "Why haven't I met him?"

"He was gone before you were born." There's something wet building up on the edges of his vision.

Cas either doesn't notice or chooses to ignore the emotion coating Dean's voice. He'd bet on the latter. They have a rule against mushy chick flick moments. "How about this one?"

"Castiel," Dean says, the angel's full name uncomfortably long on his tongue.

Squirming a little Cas turns around and demands. "How do you know him? Where is he?"

Dean hesitates for a long moment, unsure of how to explain Castiel to this minute human version of him. He can't use words like angel or soldier because Cas takes everything he says at face value and he definitely can't tell a kid he knew him in his past life. "He was probably my best friend," Dean says finally. "He left about the same time Sam did."

Only for Dean to find him again two years later.

Cas seems satisfied with the answer, turning back to the photograph to study Castiel. "He looks like me," Cas declares firmly.

"Yeah, he does."

The photograph ends up on the refrigerator because Cas decides Dean's family is important.

It hurts every time he looks at it but he's proud of Cas all the same. Family is important.

The next morning Cas is sitting on the foot of his bed. For a moment Dean thinks he's somewhere else, some other time as an angel in a trench coat looms over him before sending him into the past. "Cas," he mumbles.

"I dreamed I was falling."

"You what?"

"Falling," he repeats, crawling into bed next to Dean. "I dreamed I was falling."

Dean slings an arm over his shoulder. The boy is shaking, drenched in sweat. The clock by his bedside says it's 3:03 and it's been a long time since Dean had real occasion to be up at this hour. "It's alright," he mumbles into Cas's tangled mess of dark hair.

"Did I fall, Dean? I think I did. I don't remember."

It happens three nights in a row. Cas never remembers in the morning but it's enough to scare the living daylights out of Dean. Seven years and barely a hint of angel related dreams. Now, three in as many nights. Dean almost wants to blame the solemn black and white photograph staring out at them from the refrigerator but ever since Cas pinned it up, he's found himself incapable of taking it down.

The radio is talking about the murders again. The body of the son from the slaughtered family found dead as well. The newscaster calls it a tragic end to a gruesome story. But it's not the ending. Can't be, because the guy who did it is still out there.

Cas is off at school again, another week left in second grade, with the teacher who sees socially awkward and immediately links it with disorder because for her it's impossible to even consider fallen angel.

And just like that he gets it. Wonders why it took him this long to make the connection. He's been willfully ignoring most demonic omens for the past seven years but something about these incidents had grabbed him, forcing old instincts into being. It's only now that he realizes why it's stuck with him.

All of the kids are Cas's age.

He has to go back and check but it's true. He didn't spot it at first but each and every one of them were born in the early months of 2011. Roughly nine months after the Apocalypse ended.

He thinks of Claire Novak sitting on her front step, blonde hair shining in the moonlight.

What are you looking for?

Falling angels.

If the unexplained shower of shooting stars after Sam slammed the cage on Lucifer was any indication, there'd been dozens.

They're all dicks and probably deserve the messy deaths for trying to start the Apocalypse. What right did they have to join his species anyway?

But Castiel is staring out at him from the picture on the refrigerator and Cas will be home in about thirty minutes. If something is after fallen angels, his kid's going to be on that list.

If anyone tries something on his kid, Dean will fuck their shit up.

Unfortunately that also means research time; he needs to find out everything he can on fallen angels and what kind of thing might want to prey on them. It takes him about two hours to realize the only lore anyone had on any fallen angels was lore on Lucifer.

An hour later he realizes the only information he can get would need to come straight from heaven.

An hour after that Cas strolls through the door, backpack slung casually over his shoulder. Dean looks up, guiltily. He's broken out most of Bobby's occult books, trying to locate the spell Castiel had used to communicate with him while he'd been in heaven.

He'd forgotten when Cas would be home. He'd promised himself that he wouldn't be Dad. That he wouldn't drag his kid into that world, wouldn't make childhood a boot camp.

Cas tosses his backpack on the couch and grabs an apple from the fridge before sitting at the table across from Dean where he looks at the books curiously. "What kind of monster are you looking for?" he asks.

There aren't a lot of things left that can throw Dean for a loop but his eight year old kid asking him about monsters Dean's made damn sure he doesn't know exist is one of them.

Taking a bite of the apple even though Dean knows it has to be difficult because of that mess of missing teeth in his mouth, Cas looks at him thoughtfully. "Was it supposed to be a secret?"

Blinking owlishly, Dean barely has the presence of mind to shut the book he has in front of him. "There's no such thing as monsters, kiddo."

"Yes there is," Cas replies. He's not belligerent, not unsure, just stating a fact like everyone should know it. "There was a monster in my closet and you killed it with a baseball bat."

"You had a nightmare. It was just a shadow."

Cas fixes him with one of his past self's I don't understand your inferior human mind looks. Dean squirms a little in his seat. "Dean, I don't understand why you're lying."

Dean squeezes his eyes shut. "Ever think I might be trying to protect you?"

The look on Cas's face tells him no even before the kid opens his mouth to say, "I'm eight years old. I can protect myself."

"Not quite how it works there, buddy."

"Is that what happened to them?" Cas has turned to look at the photograph on the wall. Bobby, Cas, Sam and Dean before they took on Lucifer.

"We stopped the Apocalypse together," Dean says. Because they did. It tore Dean's family apart but they stopped the freaking Apocalypse.

"What's the Apocalypse?"

"End of the world, buddy. We beat the Devil and saved everyone."

Cas's eyes go wide. "Can I hear that story?"

Dean hesitates. It's been a very long time since he told this story and even then he'd only told it once, told it to the Novaks who deserved to hear more than anyone.

He doesn't think he can tell that story again, not now. He stands up and ruffles Cas's hair. "Maybe later, kiddo."

When Cas scrunches up his nose and takes another bite of the apple, he looks completely and impossibly human.

Cas has one week left of school so while he's gone, Dean closes the salvage yard and spends the entire time reinforcing the wards on Bobby's house. Most of the wards were cast in iron, still holding strong but half of the protection had eroded in the years since Dean had moved in. Without the threat of Lucifer constantly looming over his head, Dean hadn't seen the need for it but his hands remember. His dad had traced the same signs over and over each time they moved, inadvertently leaving a trail of safety in every motel he ever visited. Dean had taken up the mantle afterwards, keeping the wards up. Keeping him and Sammy safe.

Bobby's panic room houses the remnants of Dean's past life. The trunk of weapons he'd kept in the back of the Impala, Bobby's veritable arsenal of weapons and occult books, Dad's journal.

The contents have started to gather dust, so much so that Dean feels his eyes start to itch the second he steps inside.

He'd never planned to come into this room again. He'd wanted Cas to live the normal apple-life. The kid of life that slipped through Sam's fingers and Dean can only remember in dreams.

But if he's right and there is something out there taking out fallen angels and the poor bastards that make up their families, he's not taking any chances.

He's still working on confirmation about the cases. The police hasn't made the leap so there were no convenient newspaper articles about serial killers who left a trail to follow.

Five cases, though. Five cases over the past three years. Families slaughtered. Kids missing. Then, a week later the kid's body.

Confirming his hunch is harder then he expects. He forces himself to keep digging through reports of unexplained phenomena around the time of Lucifer's fall but around that time, the whole world had been filled with omens.

In days when entire towns disappeared, there weren't a lot of people who took note of random ancient oak trees popping out of nowhere.

When he needs a break, he cleans guns. When he goes into town for groceries, he picks up a couple different padlocks and the old weapons trunk reappears in the back of the Impala.

He wonders what he's doing. He has no plans to leave this place. It's the first home he's had since he was four, but hunting is still in his bones. The itch to move never goes away.

There's word of another set of murders in Blair, Nebraska. The kid's missing. Just like the others. A few more days and there will be another body.

He buys bags of rock salt, spends an afternoon shooting cans off the top of a junked out pick up. Cas doesn't comment on any of the behavior but he notices. There's not a lot of things Cas fails to notice.

There's something in the air. Something Dean hasn't felt for a long time. Something Dean hadn't even realized was missing. The air is thick and heavy with the promise of a hot summer. The kids coming back from school all have smiles on their face. Lightning flashes at twilight followed by the immediate roll of thunder.

He wakes up to Cas at his bedside more than once, the kid shaken by the storms, terrified of falling. He wraps his arms around the boy, smirks up to the sky and tells him that the angels are bowling.

Cas scrunches up his nose and tells him angels don't exist and if they do they definitely don't bowl.

He dreams of Sam too, has been dreaming of Sam since Cas found the old picture. Sam on the rack. Sam in the passenger's seat of the Impala. Sam wrapping an arm around Jess's waist. Sam sucking Ruby's blood. He dreams of Jess on the ceiling, Mom burning as the blood drips down, Dad screaming No! for a hundred years in hellfire. He can smell in the air, the acrid smell of smoke, the cloistering fumes that turn breathing into choking, the heat of the flames.

When he wakes up, the house is burning.


(no subject)

22/6/11 22:27 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
This feels so real to me that I am feeling the grief as well. How good is that? It was painful to look at that picture and into the panic room, but I wanted to look. See? That's what I mean. I am mesmerised by your characterisation of Cas; he is such a perfect pitch between himself and an innocent child, I wish every story I read was this well-written.

(no subject)

23/6/11 00:33 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
You're a complete sweetheart. Writing wee Cas was a ball.