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Come unto me, ye who are weary and overburdened, and I
will give you rest.

- Matthew 11:28

[ it has been one month on earth, and ten years in the pit since the angels began to lay siege to hell, a breath of time for castiel, whose mind spans eons, a much shorter period than the innumerable great wars he has taken part in, a brief window in the scheme of all that he knows, and yet the garrison grows restless. not only his, but all those chosen to answer the call. with no word from heaven nor stirring in hell to proclaim the first seal broken there is little enough reason to worry, and yet there is much that rides upon this mission.

for all intents and purposes, it is a small one. five garrisons of angels, roughly one hundred angels like himself and a handful of powerful seraphs have been given this task, and castiel has watched his brethren dive into the pit and come back battered and empty handed, or not come back at all, and still there has been no sighting of dean winchester. castiel has fought, and he has healed, and he has fought again and like his brethren, turned up nothing.

do not worry, castiel, samandiriel says, a breath of fresh air in all ways, his grace a warming presence, uplifting and inspiring. we fill find him.

but castiel is not so certain. there is an unsettling weight in his breast. things have been far too quiet, too much time has passed for them to have learned so little, and the demons do not fight as they should, but castiel does not question his orders, never questions his orders, and he fights with cool ferocity and destroys demons by the handfuls and thinks that that, at least, is enough to make the expedition worthy. and yet he worries still, though his brothers and sisters continue to tease him and proclaim your grace is too heavy, castiel, you will never have the strength to carry dean winchester from the pit, but he has always been more careful than the other members of his garrison, more thoughtful and prone to melancholy gloom. they do not take this as seriously as he does, and castiel feels the weight of the importance of this mission with every fiber of his being. this is no mere pickup, the apocalypse itself rides upon the prompt rescue of one righteous man, and both heaven and hell are too quiet for him to rest easy.

it has been one month by hell's time since castiel has resurfaced for healing and for fresh orders. hester had said he was being reckless, the last time he had burst free of hell, that he was taking too long, spending too much time down there, that he's going to get himself killed, but castiel is done with waiting. perhaps she's right. perhaps he is reckless. but as far as he is concerned there is no greater task to warrant his recklessness, no better time to risk himself than now; they may tease him all they want, but he takes this seriously, doesn't understand why they don't, but then the angels have never had a great love of humanity, and that they should suffer greatly should the apocalypse come to pass (if it does, they will win, of course, michael will destroy lucifer utterly, so what is there to worry about?) does not concern them. truth be told, castiel has no strong attachment to humanity either, but he has always had a healthy respect for life, and watching them die in droves will bring him no joy. these are his father's creations, after all, worthy of care and respect even if they are inferior in all ways, and castiel would see them protected.

so he fights with more and more determination with every subsequent dive into the pit. he is weary and wounded but repels demons with ease, running them through with a blade of light, blasting them apart with the holy fire of his grace as he continues his descent, digging further, deeper, taking the paths less trodden, finding the furthest nooks of hell and scouring them entirely, turning up nothing, nothing, nothing.

he thinks to turn back for now, for he is fatigued beyond words, has gone too long in this dark and bloody place, risked much even by his own standards, and the demons here are dead. it's quiet, and there were too few of them for him to think that they could be hiding the righteous man in this dark corner when all of hell must know by now that the angels are everywhere, searching relentlessly. castiel thinks to turn away, to resurface for air and a much needed rest.. but there is one more path still, one more crater to search, and so he summons the dregs of his strength and descends one more time, one more level.

this floor is barren and bloody, reeking of cold despair and broken flesh and bone, but for all intents and purposes it seems empty. three demons are stirred up from the darkness, they fly at his face like crows but even so tired they are no match for him, for even the weakest, smallest of angels are far greater in power than the smallest of demons, and castiel is an ancient seasoned fighter. he runs them through, skewers two on his blade and snatches the third from the air with his fist and as it disintegrates in a burst of divine flame it howls like a jackal. there is silence afterward, heavy and miserable, and castiel thinks despondently that this must have been another waste of time, another dead end, and he is near to unfurling his wings to begin the long climb back toward the light when he sees it - the warm flicker of something bright and small and hidden, a stirring in the darkness, a soul. a soul alone, and brighter than it should be, bearing the warm white lick of light that marks it as different, as not belonging.

it happens often enough - souls end up in hell that do not deserve to be there, for one reason or another. those with pure hearts, who sacrifice themselves for loved ones, make poor mistakes, or are pulled here against their will. the innocent are at times incarcerated, and that is a great shame, but heaven does not have the time to search every nook of the pit for those who were wrongly shuffled, and save for instances like this, heaven and hell operate separately from one another, and generally do not interfere with the business of the other. but he has found this soul, as he has found a few others before it during his ten years here, and as he did to them, so he will also offer this soul its chance at salvation.

so castiel reaches. to a soul in hell he must look a very foreign thing, a massive creature of light, in shape vaguely humanoid but in movement strange and surreal, not quite the correct proportions, a little to the left of what a human shape might be, too long, too disproportional, but wrapped up and hooded to keep its truest form concealed. but he has two arms that end in two hands with long fingers and palms like points of light to match those at his feet and shoulders and brow, like a constellation given form, stars given life. from his hood peer two blue eyes, the color of the depths of the ocean lit from behind like candle flames, and a halo of white light wreathes his head, thin as thread but bright as the sun itself. castiel unfurls his wings, and they are as shadow made form and lined in silver light, and in their depths shines the cosmos itself reflected and across countless feather forms, stars and galaxies made manifest and moving, painted into him, endless.

castiel leans toward this little soul, and casts his light down softly to peel the shadows away from it like filthy clinging garments, his palms open and gently pulling. his voice rings out in the space between them, unspoken but heard, rough like crushed glass and yet sonorous as a bell.

Come with me. You are safe, now. I will not harm you. ]

Date: 16 Dec 2015 23:15 (UTC)
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( for all that time passes far more quickly in hell than it does above-ground, the stretch of years that lay across dean winchester's shoulders in rigid, unbreakable lines weigh heavy with each passing tick, each sounding chime. each soul he tortures for the sake of it, relentless and unyielding, and in the back he can hear the sound of alistair's taunting laughter, the tone of his voice tinged with that knowing smugness.

all it took was a little push, didn't it dean?
when i said you were meant for this, i wish you would have believed me.
we could have gotten this underway so, so much sooner.

he hates the bastard. hates himself for giving in just to get off the hook – both figuratively and quite literally – but his hands are sure, steady when they close around the implements at his disposal, a hunter and a fighter in every sense of movement. when put to the task, he delivers beautifully every time, and the devil himself might have been impressed had he deigned to look into these little sessions from time to time. ( something that should not be, because even though he is far from the righteous man these angels are searching for, he still doesn't belong here.

but the things you do for family, right?

sammy's life for his own, and he would do it all over again if he had the chance, a thousand times over if it means keeping his little brother safe, alive, even if he doesn't think for a second that the moron is upstairs trying to find a way to bring him back. even when he'd made him promise that he wouldn't. )

he waits, and he waits, the months and years passing by him in a slow crawl of blood and creeping darkness, the day-to-day routine playing over and over again in his head and he thinks, maybe, that he's finally become numb to it. that it doesn't mean much to pick up a blade, a hook, listen to the resulting screams and not even dare to blink. there's fire all around him, and he breathes brimstone, every bit the monster he's always been afraid of becoming.

and still, he doesn't belong here. and still …

he's never begged for salvation. never thought himself worthy of it for all the things he's done, all the things he hasn't, and while it wouldn't have been any sort of surprise to anyone that he spends a large chunk of his time attempting to atone for the things that had led him here, there's a small bit in the back of his mind that is convinced that he could be stuck downstairs until the proverbial end of the world and it still wouldn't be enough.

faith is one thing, really believing is another, and sam has always had him beaten in that respect. give him something tangible, something he can put his hands on, something he can see with eyes that have already seen too much with as few years as he's been given so far – but here he is, hanging out in the pit by dint of being selfless, by caring more for the only blood family he has left over himself.

( and it's always going to be about sammy. always, always, the one name that continuously rests on the back of his tongue in those quiet, dark and breathless moments when he briefly loses his hold on himself. sam, sam, you'd better be taking care of yourself, you son of a bitch. because he can threaten as much as he wants from downstairs, every one of which he would follow through with if he ever found himself topside again. )

and in his own little corner of hell, it's quiet. for once, or at the very least, he's been down here so long that he's learned to tune out the sounds of screams in the distance. ( one more reason to think he's been numbed to it all, and it's such a proficient argument that he dares anyone to try for a rebuttal. ) he's oblivious to the war being waged all around him, to the presence of angels and the diminishing numbers of demons, content in his own right to focus on any one thing that makes those years pass by a little faster.

but they've come for him – he has come for him – and it's with that first burst of bright, cleansing light that his attention is finally snatched to his surroundings, the darkness around him melting away, shadows crawling back to where they'd originated and leaving him feeling oddly exposed, naked and confused.

it's unlike he's ever seen before, and of course it is, because with that whole lack of faith thing he has going for him? why would he ever think to find himself face-to-face with an angel of the lord, one that not only has spent the better part of ten years searching for him, but has come to retrieve him himself, with the rest of his garrison at his back providing any sort of cover he might need?

no. there's no way this is real. no damn way, and even with those elongated, outstretched hands reaching for him and that intangible voice inside his head telling him that everything is going to be fine and dandy, that he's safe, he doesn't dare believe it.

who the hell are you?

forgive him for being immediately defensive; he's always had a handful of trust issues when it comes to something he doesn't understand, doesn't think he should need to, and … well. the list of people he trusts with more than just holding onto his wallet is short, only has two people on it, and he sure as shit doesn't think there's going to be room for this humanoid freak show of light on it.

Date: 17 Dec 2015 02:10 (UTC)
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( look. look around you, take in just where you are and ask him if he feels justified in being wary. he's surrounded by demons, little devils, can't trust anything as far as he can throw it, and – well. it's not as if that's ever really been much different, but in the pit, it just serves to keep him on his toes, the broken thing that he's ended up.

and he still doesn't believe in angels, or god, or any of that nonsense that sam has been trying to instill in him since they were kids. ( you gotta believe in something, dean. don't you want that sort of connection? ) everything in hell is lies and deception, and this bright, bright wash of light over him could be as much of any of that as it could be salvation in the form of shining blue eyes, but he's not buying it right off the bat.

he's not that stupid.

this thing peers at him as though he's looking into him, and that … makes him slightly uncomfortable. like there's an itch that he can't quite reach no matter how much he squirms for it, and he resigns himself with a small, almost-not sigh that there has to be something bigger going on here. that here has to be a reason for such a being of light to enter the depths of hell, even if he can't bring himself to believe that it has anything directly to do with him.

you mean back upstairs.

that isn't to say that he wouldn't immediately jump on that chance, but if this is some kind of trick, he has to play the game. there isn't any real explanation his brain is giving him on why there would be ulterior motives to get him topside again, but he can't rule that out, because the second he does everything will go to shit and he'll be blaming himself all over again for not having the ability for forward think well enough to have seen it coming.

and then it asks his name. and, all right, sure – why not. dean winchester.

like that's really supposed to mean anything. the name winchester has only ever been attached to misery, to torment, and sometimes? he hates it. hates the weight it carries, if only by dint of living in john's shadow and trying to be the man he would have wanted his oldest son to be.

and not to look a gift horse in the mouth or anything, but uh … why do you wanna drag me out of the pit?

Date: 17 Dec 2015 21:19 (UTC)
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( one can't really expect a celestial being such as an angel of the lord to understand something as frivolous as the justification behind a human being's choices, their emotions and where they take them. someone that has spent the majority of their lifespan watching the evolution of humanity as a whole, looking in from the outside can't possibly understand their whims, their mistakes, their means of repentance when it all comes back around again –

and even more so, there is this unfathomable creature dean winchester, with his jagged edges and steadfast will, cracked and chipped but just as resolute as he ever has been. he breaks the mold, and does it with a smirk, because conventional just isn't his style.

but it still stands to reason that he wonders whether or not he really does belong in the pit, a thought which still swirls around in his mind, would continue to do so if it weren't for the sudden change in the being before him. that sound – he can't quite put a word to it, perhaps because there isn't one – reverberates all throughout the surrounding space, like the residual vibration of a pinged tuning fork, and he stops. stops thinking, stops poking and prodding long enough to fully regard castiel with the whole of his attention.

because all he'd said was his name. and that's never been enough to give someone a stroke.

he is the one they've been looking for? who the hell are they, and why have they been looking for him in the first place? he wants to ask more questions – something that he normally wouldn't do, because talk is cheap and there's so much more promise in action, less room for a margin of error or some downright shady shit.

with words, it's easy to lie. he's done it often enough himself that he should more than know the ins and outs, but with the desperation practically shivering through the one standing before him, pleading with him to please come, he thinks it might be in his best interest to just … go with the flow of things for a while. see where it takes him.

and if it's up and out of the pit –

yeah, okay, fine. you get me the hell outta here and then i get to ask why you're looking for me in the first place.

his expression is almost expectant, as if he doesn't expect the other to deny him such a simple request, and he does inevitably step forward – into the warmth, the brightness of those outstretched hands, the overwhelming rush of it enveloping him the moment he's close enough.

sound fair?

Date: 18 Dec 2015 01:27 (UTC)
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( if there's ever been a thing that he would have never thought to find himself in the face of, it most certainly is the fact that he's being taken in by an angel, as physically as anything could be in the intangible realm of hell, taken in and surrounded by the thing that drives the holy. his grace surrounds him in a warm blanket of light, electrified, so much so that he faintly shivers from the feel of it, and it's all at once so overwhelming that he's not quite sure he'd made the right decision. that something has to be wrong, here, and that he's just signed his own death warrant ten times over.

but then they're ascending, and though dean doesn't have much of a view from inside an angel, he can hear just as well as if he were back on the outside. the demons screeching, calling out to his rescuer in the sense of you will not take him, slamming into him bodily and slowing their already meticulous progress upward. he would worry that they won't make it, but there's a tiny little voice in the back of his mind that assures him he has nothing to worry about, that castiel will remain good to his word, get them both out without anything horrible getting in their way.

they're so close – so close – and he feels the jolt when something slams into castiel, jostling him from what he'd found as a moderately comfortable way to be … well, wrapped up in grace, and he can't help but to think this is it, it's all over, we're not gonna make it and i'm gonna be stuck down here for the rest of eternity.

but then he hears that voice, and freezes, immediately at full attention and wishing he weren't stuck inside. that he could somehow contribute, do something.

… alistair?
ah, hell.

of course he would recognize that voice. he doesn't think he'll ever be able to forget it – it's ingrained into him, burrowed deep into the back of his mind, a nearly constant presence telling him what he's capable of, what he's already achieved, and just how proud he is of the progress he's made. that sort of thing stays with you, you know? in that haunting, incredibly fucked up way. like a nightmare that hangs around even after you've woken up, staying in the periphery of your vision in a shadowy haze.

he's tensed, on edge, and even though he knows full well there is nothing he can do from his current vantage point, it doesn't mean he's going to stay quiet. docile.

back off, alistair. your little jailbird's about to fly the coop.

dean … that … is not going to help any. you do realize that, right?

Date: 18 Dec 2015 07:31 (UTC)
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( this is going to be an incredibly bumpy ride, he's almost certain, and even though it means ending his four-decade stint in his own personal hell, he can't help but to feel like this isn't going to end quickly, or go off without a hitch, because if alistair's presence means one thing, it's that they know what's happening.

which … dean still doesn't fully comprehend himself, because why would an army of angels fight their way into the depths of hell just for him? for a righteous man? it can't be him they're looking for, can't be this broken and sorry excuse for a soul, because it doesn't make any goddamn sense and he can't form enough of a hypothesis on his own to draw any sort of conclusion. which … just means that he'll have to wait, something that he's told himself already, for castiel to explain just what in the blue hell is going on here.

and of course he's still fighting from the inside, even if the demon can't hear him, because he's never quite been able to keep his mouth shut when it really counts, and there are a few things he's been wanting to say to that piece of demon garbage ever since he'd been dragged down. well, okay, more than just a few things that he can think of, but some are more important than others, and they all happen to be variants of fuck you.

maybe it doesn't matter that the demon can't hear him, better that he can't just by dint of not inadvertently making things worse for castiel himself. ( because really, all he needs is this mouthy righteous man goading a demon when it's already too much to carry him in the first place, fatigued as he is, having fought so hard for so long already that he's surely about to collapse. ) if castiel draws on that misplaced bravery, by all means, make use of it – because this poor little human soul is only going to remain useless while they're still in the pit, and it's all he can do to yell, words falling on deaf ears.

but it still makes him feel just the slightest bit better. and. sometimes that's all you can do.

the slight release of tension within him is all but lost when alistair presses in close, pinning the angel to the nearest surface, and that sound – that sound – it leaves him wincing, worrying and close to feeling a lick of fear that hadn't been there a moment previously. he can all but feel the shuddering of castiel's grace around him, shimmering and flickering as though on a low-grade power grid, surging and ebbing in a way that would have set his teeth on edge and his heart to racing.

castiel –

he's confused, angry and helpless, but it all seems to be over far more quickly than one would have thought. he doesn't see the bright flash of light as the seraph descends above them, but he feels the angel's grace taking on a more substantial wave, all but shivering back into its original shape around him, and he … he doesn't dare relax, because they're not out of the woods yet, but …

hey, you okay?

there's a part of him that doesn't expect an answer, at least not until they're perfectly in the clear, but he can't help but to ask.

Date: 18 Dec 2015 08:48 (UTC)
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( ah, that might be something they end up having in common. the desperation that drives a broken and battered being, a wilted soul, when there's so much farther to go and no energy left to expend, it can only be that push and pull of desperation that does any good at all. for him? it's always the adrenaline. the rush of blood pounding in his ears when there's nowhere left for him to run, when everything in him is screaming for him to stop, slow down, breathe or it's all going to come to an abrupt, painful end.

he doesn't know how to do anything but push. doesn't know when enough is enough and when to stop before it all breaks, and it's something that's followed him from earth to the pit, will follow him back out – and though he breathes a little easier when they finally break away from the pull of hell, his surroundings ripple and shimmer, and he finds himself transfixed by this private little pocket in timespace that is … well.

far too beautiful for any word he could have willingly put to it.

tugged free of the protection of the angel's grace, he can't help but to look around him, eyes scanning the endless depths of the floor's shimmering surface, the purples and blues and endless light swirling together to make everything seem to tilt on its axis, briefly making his whole world shift and turn completely upside-down.

what the hell –

he thinks it more to himself than the angel, and when he doesn't get much of an answer to his question, his attention turns back to him, hesitant concern written all over his expression even as he stays nestled securely in his embrace. he feels more than sees the pulse of castiel's grace as it works on healing him, and there's no surprise to him at all that the other needs a damn break. a vacation. do angels take vacations? is that a thing for them?

never mind. clearly, there are more important things to think about than angel vacations.

dean settles back into his previous position, the whole of him almost curled in on itself as he allows the quelling, calming quality of castiel's personal space seep into him. they're not in the clear, yet, are they? he shouldn't be allowing himself to relax as he is, but of course he would still be largely useless were trouble to come find them again, and it has him grumping all over again that he hadn't been able to do anything at all to assist the angel on their ascent from the pit. ( he tries to convince himself that it doesn't matter, that he wouldn't have been any match at all against even the lowliest demon in this state, but it doesn't mean that he can't still be grouchy about it.

that's kind of his lot in life, anyway. )

so. he settles, and he waits, the thrum of castiel's grace surrounding him and lulling him into a more secured sense of ease. and he waits for the angel to come back around.

Date: 19 Dec 2015 06:03 (UTC)
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( it's almost funny, in that satirical, mocking way that time does seem to stand still here. that for all it had seemed to speed by him in the blink of an eye down in the pit, he wouldn't have been able to tell you how long they lingered between time and space itself had you deigned to ask him, and there's something so satisfying about that that he can't bring himself to think about anything else. it's one thing for time to fly, another for it to crawl, and something else entirely for it to stop. it's … a calming sort of thing, truth be told, and he doesn't quite mind being caught up in it.

it's far from over, that which had been set into motion the very first time he'd raised a hand and struck against a tortured soul; and it's even longer still before he knows the full breadth of what he's done, that the coming apocalypse could have been staved off for just a little longer if he hadn't given in. if he'd held on just as long as it had taken an entire army of angels to fight through the varying layers of grit and grime and sin to get to him, to raise him up, as if he really were something worth saving.

if he hadn't given up.

it's something that will haunt him, plague him with a vengeance until it's all over and done, and even still, it will follow him like a lingering shadow, a cancer metastasized and ingraining itself ever deeper within him along with all of his past mistakes. shortcomings. reasons in spades that he isn't worth the time and effort put forth by the holy brigade, but it's too little, too late for that, isn't it? because here he is, wrapped up in the grace of the one that had nearly died to save him, and he doesn't know a goddamned thing about what his is all about.

ignorance is bliss, or so they say, and sometimes, dean winchester should be the happiest human being on the planet.

when castiel speaks to him again, he still has no idea of how long they've been in this little pocket paradise, but he can't deny that he's reassured by the sound of the angel's voice, tangible or not. he still sounds like he isn't up for the rest of the trek back topside, but he does sound like he's a little further away from the jaws of death, and that gives dean a bit of hope.

something that he's been sorely lacking as of late, but it isn't without reason.

you okay there, clarence? hey, he can't help but to jab a little, here, even if he's just been risen from hell and might just be back on his way from a dirt nap, and sometimes … he doesn't know when it's best to keep his dumb jokes to himself. like, probably, right now, but the words have already slipped out of his mouth and are probably well on their way to confounding his resident savior. sorry about that, castiel.

i don't really think i'm going anywhere, so if you need to regenerate some more of your mojo, by all means. i'm good.

meanwhile, he's still just as broken as he's ever been in the miserable extent of his mortal life, but he isn't about to show any sort of weakness now. not while he's still –proverbially – breathing, in any case.
Edited (rethinking words hours later, yeah that's how i roll. ) Date: 19 Dec 2015 10:24 (UTC)

Date: 21 Dec 2015 02:01 (UTC)
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( just one more thing that he couldn't feasibly wrap his head around even if he were given ample time to attempt to do so; fighting for a decade, ten straight years in order to get to him? unfathomable. ridiculous. stupid. even though, once he's topside he will be grateful beyond all measure of the word for being given a … what would it be, now? second, third, fourth chance at life? just one more chance to right the wrongs he's made, blah blah blah, be the righteous man the entire army of heaven believes him to be?

yeah, he's still trying to understand that, and for all the bullshit he thinks it is, he still doesn't think it's going to ever even remotely make sense to him.

more importantly, castiel needs to continue resting himself, even though he's pretty sure the guy doesn't know when to call it quits. ( the pot calling the kettle black, here, but that's neither here nor there. )

he's not sure why he'd bothered with the pop culture reference in the first place – old habits die hard, maybe – but the re-giving of the angel's name has him chuckling, the sound of broken glass rolling around in the back of his throat. a small amount of amusement where there otherwise wouldn't be any at all, and even if they're far from being in the clear, he still feels lighter than when they'd still been in hell.

small victories, you know?

yeah, yeah, i know, but – never mind.

the aspect of being healed is a new one – especially when he's painfully aware of the fact that he remains as nothing but a soul, a wholly intangible thing, and he can't keep himself from wondering just what healing a soul should entail. much like a deep burn must be debrided, the dead skin removed in order for new cells to grow, there has to be so much of his soul that needs cleansing in order for it to begin to heal at all. he's quiet, for a small moment, as he thinks; of course, it isn't the aspect of pain that bothers him, because he's a winchester and pain tends to come with the job description. more like … it's just weird, really, to think he's probably about to be badtouched by an angel in order to set the healing process in motion.

whatever you got, i can take it. let's hurry up and get this over with.

he should be thankful that this option is being given over to him, but it's the roughness in his thoughts that give rise to the thought that he might not be, even though he's never been one to look the proverbial gift angel horse in the mouth.

Date: 22 Dec 2015 03:17 (UTC)
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( better that he just go ahead and get it over with, because he won't ever be more ready than he is right now, in this very moment – a moment that stretches on endlessly in their little corner of private universe, squared away and briefly shielded from that which might have followed them from below.

dean knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt and more deeply than he would ever willingly admit that there is darkness in his soul; within, without, surrounding him in the shroud of his mistakes like a twisted little security blanket. mistakes, shortcomings, wrong paths taken and wrong decisions made, every turn he's ever made from the moment he was born to the moment he'd been dragged to hell as a hellhound's chewtoy. and he can feel it, somewhere deep within the shell that remains, when castiel begins to peel all of that away – when he sets to scrubbing away the dirt, grime, filth that has coated him like oil, slick and sickening, a wrench in his gut.

it hurts. it hurts more than he can think to put words to, more than he thinks anything has ever before, and he's been through it all. bullet wounds, monster bites, claw swipes and blade slashes, and none of it amounts to the gritting, grinding, cleansing pain that slices through him now as a hot knife through butter. if he were to try to put words to it, he might say it feels like he's being flayed alive, laid open and stripped of flesh that he currently is not possessed of, and if the waves that radiate from him are any indication, he could have screamed his throat raw, and it still wouldn't have been enough to soothe.

the worst has passed.

thank … thank god.

it's a thought that doesn't linger very long, just a tiny little thing in the forefront of his consciousness, perhaps not something that he fully believes in yet. god is something that sam has always busted his chops for not believing in, for not having faith in anything beyond the distance of a bullet or the sureness behind a blade, and really, he dares anyone to argue with him. there has never been any god in what they do, only luck and skill, and even finding himself in the presence of an angel of the lord still has him casting doubts.

( doubts that will, eventually, fade away. but for now … )

it's numbness that creeps over him once the actual healing process begins, the bites and pieces of his fractured soul being mended and stitched back together as though they had never been chipped away from him. truthfully, were anyone to ask him, he would say he doesn't remember the last time he'd felt whole – not even when he'd been younger, before the years had sullied him and left him as something undesirable beyond the long hours of the night in a strange bed, a warm body to satisfy. it's disorienting, above all else, and when that question comes, it's a small stretch of silence that serves as the initial answer.

… dunno. uh.

another pause.

weird. kinda tingly.

Date: 24 Dec 2015 02:11 (UTC)
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( well, that would have been a little bit comforting if he'd known. maybe. ( he's spent a little too long in the pit with all of those tortured souls, many of which have been tortured by him to think that there is no joy at all to find in such a thing, because even though he's far from admitting it aloud or even to himself in his own head – consciousness? since he doesn't currently have a physical form – there had been some taken on his end, and it's a slippery slope he's been stumbling down ever since he'd been taken downstairs. surely, he can't fall any further than he already has, but it's always been, for him and sam, that just when they start to think things can't get any worse, that's when they choose to take a nosedive.

suffice it to say that this – this pain – might not be the worst thing he's ever been put through, but by now, he's pretty sure he's been put through the ringer a couple of times over. at least there's no joy being taken in it. )

dean doesn't intend to be puzzling; he's never been in the habit of beating around the bush, always giving the most precise and, more often than not, blunt answers that come to mind – mostly because he has never been possessed of a brain-to-mouth filter and it all just comes tumbling out of him without so much as a second thought to offending someone. whether or not a joke he makes might be taken as off-color, or if it would have simply been better to keep his mouth shut from the very start. he's coherent enough, all things considered, and the fact that castiel happens to think that he's speaking in riddles or possibly another language entirely isn't even a blip on his radar. for the very first time since he'd been dragged to hell, he doesn't feel the layer of grime clinging to him, the slick sort of sin and ruin that encompasses everything it touches.

it's … there are no words for it. and even given that he's never been all that great with them, he's almost convinced that the word he's looking for hasn't been invented yet. the closest he can come is thinking that he feels whole for the first time in years, having bits and pieces and shards of himself unerringly chipped away, left to turn stale, erode for so long that he'd simply resigned himself to it.

yeah. whole fits.

it's a moment, maybe more before he gives anything back to the angel, so overwhelmed by everything that he still has no idea just how long they've been there, how long it's been since they made the climb away from the grips of hell itself, castiel himself running on nothing but angel fumes and the strongest will of anything he's ever seen. he can't think, can't wrap his head around the idea that he might not remember this, because how could he not? surely, when he wakes up topside, he'll –

i might not? the hell am i supposed to think when i just … wake up? there's a grim sort of pause, and if anything bleeds into his words next, it's the slightest bit of uncertainty. … am i gonna remember hell?

he can't help but to ask, because there's a part of him that won't let him get away with not, even though the rest of him is nearly terrified of the answer – because he's pretty sure he knows it.

Date: 25 Dec 2015 06:21 (UTC)
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( dean has never fancied himself an open book – even for as much as sam tends to be able to read him like one, even when he's lying through his teeth and expects it to go off without a hitch, to find belief where there shouldn't be any. ( much like sam has always begged him to have a little faith even when their futures look bleak, and when you're staring down the proverbial barrel of the gun meant to kill you? it's … kinda hard to find faith in anything, especially when you're surrounded by nothing but destruction, death and general chaos.

always the beacon of light, aren't you, dean?

it's no big thing that he can't find the right words to lend a meaning to what he's feeling, because that's just par for the course for our resident monster hunter; it's sam that's good with words, and so long as there's a general blanket understanding of what's just happened, how it's made him feel outside of that whole being-flayed-alive feeling, they're good. he's clean, he's whole, he's so close to being back where he needs to be that he can almost taste it – on the tip of his tongue, catching behind his teeth, almost choking him with the realness of it all.

suffice it to say that this is all pretty damned overwhelming, and he likes to think that he can take a lot without feeling over-encumbered. there's still something of a heavy feeling sitting in the middle of his chest, right over his heart, and he can't put a finger on what it feels like, exactly, but … hell, it's better than everything that had bled into him in hell, and he thinks he'll be just fine with it. ( and maybe, somewhere along the way, he'll figure out what it means. maybe once he's topside, maybe once he's had a bacon cheeseburger and a beer and hugged his brother so tightly that he just might pop.

there are a lot of maybes. always have been, always will be, and there's not a lot that he can do to change any of that. his life is mapped out in maybes, would-have-beens, could-bes, endless possibilities tracing the lines of years he has left, and he has no fucking clue what he's supposed to do with them now that he's being given another chance to right his mistakes. )

there's a quiet sort of calm that creeps over him at the angel's words, the sort of calm that has a lingering wariness to it, even when the eye of the storm has passed. he thinks again that he's clean and he's whole, and this celestial being is about to take him back to the life he'd left behind, a brother and a father-figure and everything else he'd been convinced he would never see again, and – jesus, forgive him for just a second, because this is all so heavy that even though he's consciously accepted what's happened, it's still taking him time to acclimate to it.

an equivalent to what could have been a sigh shivers around him. he knows they can't stay here, knows that he has things he needs to get back to, needs to find sam and bobby and figure out this whole mess – but he doesn't like not knowing, doesn't like not having a single damn clue about what he's supposed to do from here on out, because how can you just pick back up from forty years ( or, topside, four months ) in hell like nothing ever happened?

you promise me. there's a firmness in his words, resolution. you find me, and if i don't remember, you beat it into me. got it? this ain't something i wanna let stay in the dark.

he doesn't want to forget this, because it means a debt will remain unpaid, and there are already so many things that he can't do anything about that he doesn't want this to be added to the list. there's another small moment of silence, and damn it all, there's no profit in holding off until the very last minute, is there? might as well get this over with.

yeah, yeah … i'm ready when you are.

Date: 26 Dec 2015 01:07 (UTC)
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( yeah. they can't stay here. no way that he could be that lucky, just to be able to take a little bit more time to catch his breath, let it all sink in. castiel, this angel out of nowhere has other things he needs to attend to now that he's rescued the righteous man, and he can't be expected to babysit him for the rest of forever. ( not that dean would call it as much, hell no, but it's still going to take him a while to get his head back in the game, and having a little bit of help along the way never hurt anyone.

but that's neither here nor there. )

the angel has made his promise – because it's been made clear that this isn't over, that even though he might not remember what's transpired here, they aren't finished with one another. he can't really think to wonder what it all means, what else is going to be in store for him or his brother, but having gone to all this trouble just to bring him topside again must mean there's something in the works, gears turning and wheels rolling even if he has no idea what it's going to be.

he supposes it comes with being a winchester. their lives are never going to be easy, even when those lives have effectively been forfeited, there's always going to be some sort of loophole that drags him back into the thick of it all over again, a never-ending circuit of heartache and pain the likes of which he's convinced no human being should ever be put through. he's been run through the ringer, dropped into hell and strung up and hung by chains, and who the hell knows what's going to be waiting for him once he's back above ground.

castiel brings him in close again, and the warmth that emanates from the touch of his grace fills him once more with that pleasant thrum of electricity, peaceful in the sense of security. he's never felt safe like this before in his entire life, and damn it all, he wants to be selfish and stay like this – even though there's no way in heaven or hell or the middle ground that it could ever be that way, so he tries not to get all that comfortable, even with as simple as it would be to lull himself into the happy place brought on by the other's close proximity.

it happens all too quickly, at least, that's what it feels like; breaking through spacetime, back into the dimension he belongs to, and of course the transition from the intangible to the tangible is blocked from his consciousness. he doesn't remember those last words, the grate of them over every inch of his being as his soul is bound once again to his body. a body that lay broken and bloodied and decayed in an unmarked grave, a hole in the ground meant for nothing but a hunter, because their kind could never deserve anything more than that.

his mouth tastes like dirt, dry and gritty and there isn't a single point on him that doesn't hurt – ache from disuse – and clawing up through the clumps of grit and grime finds him gasping out a thick breath once he's broken the surface, eyes narrowed into slits from the too-bright shine of the sun overhead. it's sensory overload, too much too soon, and he's so damned disoriented that his stomach momentarily revolts against the rest of him, twisting and turning in that painful i'm gonna hurl way that upends everything and turns the earth upside down until it sees fit to right itself.

he doesn't puke. holds all that bile at the back of his throat by sheer force of will as he pulls himself up from the shallow grave, head feeling as though it might just split itself open, but it's driving force enough that he walks the empty road for what feels like a lifetime – maybe more than one – the sun beating down at his back, asphalt shimmering from the heat in front of him until he finds the abandoned convenience store.

and a mirror.

of course he's going to check himself out – because you can't remember being made into kibble for a hellhound and dragged to hell, hell itself and then find yourself digging up out of a hole in the ground and not check for anything weird, out of place. ( can you? no, of fucking course you can't. ) and there they are, the same old familiar scars in all the same familiar places, no broken bones or marks that he's never seen before until he raises the left arm of his shirt. there it is, plain as day, darkened and standing out in stark contrast even against tanned skin, raised and almost angry.

the print of a hand as though laid in paint, burnt sienna over golden brown, shining like a new scar. he places his own hand over it, the brush of fingertips in a test as his eyes narrow at his mirror image. he tries to remember – because there has to be something there – and he can't, and it scares him so badly and makes him so angry that it's all he can do to pull his shirt back down into place. ignore it. because he has to find sam, has to find bobby, take everything as far back to normal as they can go.

it'll all come around.

it has to.

doesn't it?
Edited (WRONG FUCKING ICON.) Date: 26 Dec 2015 01:14 (UTC)