THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT;
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Cas/future!Dean/future!Cas (and every variation thereof), Prophet!Chuck (if but briefly).
Warnings/Spoilers: Spoilers for 5x04. Angst, slash, dub-con, bittersweet endings.
Notes/Prompt: There were so many amazing prompts, but I only had the time to do one of them properly. Mainly because I'm a word-whore and I get carried away. >> Prompt was, 5x04 fic...kind of. Present!Cas somehow gets sent into the future with Dean. Future!Cas shows present!Dean how his relationship with present!Cas will end up. Future!Dean and present!Cas watch...or participate. Would love some present!Cas/future!Cas with future!Cas not being gentle. I didn't entirely stay true to all of it, but I hope you like it all the same!
Word Count: 21,000~
Summary: Castiel is sent to the future with Dean. Chaos ensues.
Many thanks to painted_pain for beta'ing the first few parts of this story, and of course sin_unforgiven for listening to me babble about my woes and cheering me on through the whole process.
The first thing he got when he ducked his head beneath the bar of the jeep and poked it into the open window was a fist to the face.
When Dean was zapped back to his present time and was snatched from Zachariah's seedy clutches, he hadn't expected the bastardly angel to follow him. Neither had Castiel, really, but fact was fact, and both Dean and Cas were several yards down the road before a third presence made itself known.
Everything happened a little too quickly for Dean's tastes. In the midst of his spin, Castiel froze, jerked his body in one long, terrible shiver, then realigned himself and glared daggers at the smug bastard watching them from the other side of the street. Zachariah had found them. He said something about following the traces of celestial ether, how Cas was clever but certainly not clever enough, and that, in hindsight, Dean's lesson probably hadn't been learned because of his damned trench coat clad companion.
The next time Dean woke up, he was in a ditch, and that only ever happened when he drank too much tequila.
"Goddammit," he groaned, then blinked open his bleary eyes and was greeted with a sign he would have been happy to never see again:
BY ORDER OF ACTING REGIONAL COMMAND
AUGUST 1ST, 2014
"Goddammit," he cursed again, and was just about to scramble up the side of the encampment and find another car to hotwire when the strangled wheezing of another's breaths greeted his straining ears.
He found him laying a few yards away, tangled up in a mess of limbs and heavy coat, and because he had never seen the angel unconscious before, Dean had no tact in stirring him from his slumber.
"Wake up, sleepyhead," he taunted gruffly, then clamped his fingers around the other's slim shoulders and shook him until glowering blue eyes fluttered open.
"That hurts," Castiel pointed out, and was met with a roll of the eyes.
"Whine about it some more, why dontcha?"
But Dean let go and Cas manoeuvred around to fit his fingers against his own forehead in a gesture more pondering than natural. His brow drew up, eyes crinkling with dissatisfaction, and after a few moments of contemplation, he dropped his hand and stared out into empty space.
"What?" Dean wasn't quite following this one-sided conversation.
"My Grace. It's muted."
Oh damn. Oh damn.
"Zachariah muzzled you?"
Castiel nodded once, curtly, then lifted up off the ground and started patting down his own body as if it had somehow become this strange, foreign entity. He was analyzing the statistics of the energy within him, summing up what he could and could not do, and the longer his assessment took, the deeper his frown became.
"It appears my body now has limitations."
"Can you get us back?"
"Don't answer that," Dean cut him off, already regretting his question.
They were screwed.
The last time Dean had taken a romp through the future, he'd been hit in the head so hard he was knocked unconscious.
This time, he was keeping an eye out for any incoming fist-shaped projectiles.
Oh, and the whole Sam-is-Lucifer thing. He'd keep that in mind, too.
So instead of sneaking into Camp Chitaqua like last time, he opted to make a loud, boisterous entrance by barging through the front gates and immediately ordering everyone around like a Grade-A dick.
His cover was perfect.
"Where's Cas?" he said to the nearest nameless face he came in contact with, and for a brief moment his mind flashed to the angel he'd left behind somewhere in the bushes (he couldn't very well risk having both of them caught), and for an even briefer moment his heart dropped down somewhere near his spleen and he thought how wonderful it would be if he didn't ever have to see that drugged up, fucked up version of Castiel ever again. He didn't hate the guy -- not at all -- but seeing Cas like that was really just... sad.
And Dean Winchester hated feeling sad. Sad was for weepy little girls. Or Sam.
He was pointed in the direction of the same cabin from last time (surprise, surprise), and upon pushing apart the same brown beaded curtain blocking the entryway, he found Castiel sitting in the same cross-legged position getting ready to incite the same orgy with the same people Dean had interrupted before.
So, okay, maybe Dean was starting to understand Sam's annoyance at being stuck in a perpetual time loop, but he sure as hell wouldn't ever tell his brother he'd learned how to sympathize.
"Excuse me ladies, I think I need to confer with our fearless leader for a minute."
He hadn't been too attentive the first time he'd been flung into the future, so sue him. He'd been freaked out and had been trying, quite desperately, to cope with all the changes, all the rifts a span of five years could create, all the back flips in personality every familiar face had taken on, including his own. But he'd already lived through this short span of time, and even though the thought of reliving it once again terrified him to the umpteenth degree (added comfort of a less-than-useless angel to keep him company or no) the knowledge of hindsight gave him an incredible sense of foresight.
Or, in other words, Cas was being a sarcastic little prick, and Dean hadn't ever really noticed that tone of voice before.
It was like a slap to the face now, crowding against him like something leaden and cumbersome.
"Drop the attitude. I've got something important to tell you."
Dean swallowed when Cas rose, then cursed that damnable foresight because now each drunken line and wasted sinew on the ex-angel's body seemed bitter and poised and ready to pounce. He looked like a predator, with hazy eyes and a sharp, dangerous smirk, and under the pinprick focus of that hazy blue, Dean found himself longing for his Castiel's more open, welcoming gaze.
"As you can see," Cas drawled, spreading his arm out in a sweeping gesture, "I haven't got all da--"
He froze on his own word, eyes widening when Dean took a step forward, and now that Dean was paying attention, he could really take in the reaction, the stark shock, the suppression of emotion which, quite honestly, was a bit of a surprise, because he was far too used to Castiel fighting to portray emotion rather than struggling to hold it back.
"Me, I know. We've been over this before."
If there was a god of Déja vu, he would be laughing right about now.
"What year are you from?"
There, right then, something flashed in the other man's gaze, and Dean's hands shook at how positively possessive Castiel now looked; his tongue darted out and swept across his lower lip, eyes flat, and dark, and narrowed. His mouth parted, and before he could even ask the question, Dean answered:
"Hm." Cas lifted a hand and tapped his index finger along his lips. "You said we've been over this before?"
Dean nodded, relieved at how accepting he was of this whole situation.
"Yeah. This is the second time I've been here."
"And the first time?"
The first time everyone died.
"Didn't learn my lesson," Dean shrugged, and then was pulled in, almost physically, by the line of Castiel's mouth, and how the edge of it curved up in a manner far too wicked to be angelic.
"That sounds about right," he said, and then pressed forward until Dean was almost certain he was going to trample him over. He moved past instead, not brushing shoulders, but, rather, jarring them, and then turned to look at Dean when Dean didn't immediately follow.
"Are you coming?" His smile, which seemed to rise and fall like a tide, and swelled larger until the bitter enthusiasm was practically overflowing, twitched. "Or were you planning on leaving me out in the wilderness all day?"
Dean fidgeted, practically jolted into action, because he hadn't even told Cas about other-him (Past him, Dean should say.) so facing Castiel's intuition head-on was somewhat intimidating.
"I can feel it," Cas explained once they were both out of the cabin and into the open air. "It's everywhere. His Grace is staining the sky."
He said this airily, fondly, and then something struck Dean and he froze in his tracks.
"Are you stoned?"
Castiel laughed, a touch of weird, cruel kindness in his eyes.
Castiel wasn't where Dean had left him. He took a few, private moments to die a little from worry on the inside, and then turned to the suspiciously mellow man standing beside him.
"I'm going to kill him."
"I can't let you do that."
"Why not?" And, okay, Dean might have sounded a little petulant there, but, dammit, he had a right!
"Because if he dies, I die."
"Fine. I'll kill you first," Dean gruffed, crossing his arms. His body turned to rigid stone when Castiel laid a familiar hand over his elbow.
"You'd miss me."
To which Dean replied with the smallest of noncommittal shrugs, and then proceeded to move forward, ignoring the subject altogether. Because for all the creepiness this future version of Castiel entailed, he couldn't really deny the protective urge that rose in his chest every time the other man showed some sort of vulnerability. He was a walking, talking mess; a breathing work of art that had shattered years ago and was now dragging about as shards of glass glued one atop the other in a twisted monstrosity of something that had once been holy. Dean wasn't entirely sure Cas even believed in God anymore, let alone if he was exerting any energy into finding Him. By the looks of it, this creepy, fragile version of a once-angel was having a hard enough time simply surviving in a world that was never his -- a world he never should have been a part of.
His thoughts were shaken, too convoluted to make any sense, so he pressed on.
"You're him. Can't you just, I don't know," he waved his hand around, indicating some unknown angelic movement, "track him, or something?"
Cas let out a rush of breath, his lungs too full of faux smoke and the essence of a mirage for him to breathe properly. He smelled like incense, sweet and threadbare, and somehow that was both welcome and intrinsically wrong.
"Two-thousand nine, right?" he asked, and Dean nodded. "We're far from the same person." Which was obvious enough, but the way his lips smiled and the way his eyes frowned spoke volumes more than his next words ever could intone.
"I'm not him."
I never will be again.
Dean tried not to wince, failed, and when he was caught beneath Castiel's cold gaze like a specimen under a light, all he could do was turn his back and march forward, one foot in front of the other.
Walking was just about the only thing he remembered how to do.
There had been some insult to Dean leaving him out in the wild, alone, back pushed uncomfortably against the edge of a tree root until he came back to get him, but Castiel had a divine sense of patience, and enough of a grasp on ineffability to understand that, when looking at the bigger picture, waltzing up into a strange encampment, walking hand-in-hand with Dean, figuratively speaking, would probably be a bad idea. So he stayed put, folded his hands across his lap, and sat stiff-backed on the ground, as if he was unsure how to let his limbs loosen and relax inside his own -- his vessel's? -- skin. The dirt was cold and the air was musky, and the scent wafting through the pines told him that the seasons were changing towards something a little more biting. He, however, was impervious to the chill and the relative silence.
There was no silence. That was a childish thing to think. He occupied his mind with compartmentalizing the different sounds that rustled and creaked and slithered and creeped along the forest floor and up amongst the furtive limbs of towering evergreens. There was life all around him, despite the death Dean had spoken so relentlessly about. Of course, the man's eyes had been turned only to those of his own kind; to humanity, and its apparent downfall. But there was more to this earth than people, more to God's creation than man, and it stung somewhat that Dean was so oblivious to these striking, undeniable truths.
Castiel was surprised that this much of the planet had remained intact. He had expected Lucifer to let the earth burn -- that his siblings and the Devil were all out to set this beautiful creation aflame -- and for this reason he fought so adamantly against both sides. It was wrong. If Castiel knew nothing else, he knew that it was wrong. Lucifer's extermination, however, seemed solely comprised of all the sentient creatures on the planet that he considered an abomination, or unworthy. The thought made a shudder slide down his spine, because although he was glad most of the planet had survived, he was still deeply disturbed that so many innocent people had been killed.
He had always been fond of humanity. It had taken Dean Winchester to mold that fondness into loyalty.
A beetle was scrabbling at the heel of his dress shoe when he heard it.
There was something very distinguished about the sound of a car engine rumbling across the road; about shouts of celebration and blaring white noise Castiel had caught Dean listening to many times before. It filtered through the air as if through a funnel. The first whisper of movement came tickling at the top of the atmosphere, and with a single, solid shove, the rest of the cacophony came spilling down into the angel's immediate presence.
Dean had told him to stay put.
Castiel was fond, and Castiel was loyal, but Castiel was also his own being, and could make his own decisions for himself.
Besides, the music was Green Onions, and he liked that song.
Decision made, he blinked into existence just off the side of the road, letting the music guide his destination.
Only, well, maybe things weren't calibrated as perfectly inside his own head as he'd thought, because instead of teleporting 'just off the side of the road' like he'd planned, he ended up popping up smack dab in the middle of the street.
He blinked, confused for a moment as to how he could have possibly misjudged that, and then was brought back into the present by the sound of tires screeching against asphalt. He glanced up just in time to see the jeep go veering into a ditch.
Castiel blinked again, and this time he was right beside the wreckage, bent over, peering into the window to make sure no one was hurt. He'd lost his healing powers before this whole debacle, so he knew for a fact he wouldn't be much help if anyone was actually injured. The best he could do was provide emotional support, and even that was iffy -- something best left to someone like Dean, or, better yet, Sam.
Unfortunately, as Dean had told him earlier, Sam was Lucifer right now, and so probably wouldn't be very sympathetic to their cause.
The first thing he got when he ducked his head beneath the bar of the jeep and poked it into the open window was a fist to the face.
Which, really? That was just rude.
Dean, also, had warned about flying fist-shaped projectiles, so Castiel supposed the fault fell on him for that one. He hadn't been excepting it, but at least he hadn't been entirely stripped of his grace when Zachariah had gagged him. His more extreme powers were gone -- time travel, healing, the basics -- but he still had his wings, his ability to sift in and out of this particular plane of existence and into another, the way he moved in and out of destinations as if they were little more than a single step away.
And he was still, fortunately, veritably impervious to clenched fists.
He heard a silent, muffled curse, and then backed out of the way when the door was wrenched open and a disgruntled figure jumped out.
"What the hell," he said loudly, then whipped around and pointed a gun in Castiel's face.
Castiel was unamused.
"Dean," he said, voice its usual low, gravelly self, and then he tipped his head down and gave the other man a silent warning. He didn't know if a bullet would actually hurt him at this point, but he didn't really feel like taking that chance. Still, the utter unknown of it all didn't frighten him in the least; if anything, it just annoyed him.
He didn't have to think long on it. Dean lowered the gun almost the same second Castiel had spoken. His eyes were uncharacteristically wide, something halfway hunted staring back at Cas in confusion. The angel could feel the press and pull of his emotions dragging their incorporeal fingers across his own skin, and nearly shuddered himself at what he found.
Dean, but not Dean.
"Cas?" Dean said, his finger twitching against the trigger of the gun. "I thought you'd burned the damned coat a long time ago."
"Did you see that? Goddamn, I shot that Croat's ass full of lead!"
Yeager had done good today. He did good most days, but today he'd been exceptional.
Which was why it was such a shame that Dean had to kill him.
His job sucked. No one would deny it, because no one else wanted it.
"Yeah," Dean said roughly, not really one to dish out compliments, but the subtle smile on his face was enough to appease any of his men. Yeager was happy, ecstatic even.
Dean could see the signs.
Yeager's fingers twitched uncontrollably against his leg -- not a nervous motion or even a result of pent-up energy, but rather something far more violent. His nails dug into the fabric of his jeans, scraped along them, trying to dig closer to the flesh below. When he smiled, it seemed tight, and when he turned his head to speak more directly to Dean, it was obvious (to anyone who was looking) that his pupils were just the slightest bit dilated. Over time, the symptoms became more and more obvious. The man's laughter died in his throat, the tightness to his eyes deepening until it looked like he didn't speak because he couldn't.
Dean was going to kill him, and that... that really just put a damper on his entire day.
Dean pushed back the sickness that roiled up inside his stomach. There were so few people left, so few reasons to keep going, that for a long, serious moment, Dean considered letting Yeager live; letting him infiltrate the camp until everyone within was either devoured or infected. Enough. That's it. The end.
He turned up the music, trying to drown out his own thoughts with the smooth, instrumental style of Booker T. & The M.G.s.
He'd give the guy a beer. The thought flit through his head quickly, and he had to hold onto it, grab it and wrestle it down before it flew right back out of his head. He'd give Yeager one last beer; he deserved at least that. Every guy deserved at least that.
The matter was settled then, and Dean was all set to drive back to Chitaqua so he could murder the man riding shotgun, when a rather unfortunate event occurred.
Someone ghosted their way into the middle of the road.
Dean hadn't seen a ghost in years. He almost missed them, to be honest. His surprise was so sudden, he couldn't stop the involuntary muscle spasm that prompted his vehicle to go careening into the nearest ditch, because that was where vehicles often went careening towards. He'd been going pretty damned fast, but he'd slammed on the breaks and slowed down enough that, by the time he wrecked, the damage wasn't anything too sinister. It was mostly superficial.
His anger, however, was bone-deep.
"Shit," he hissed to himself, glanced to the right to make sure Yeager was alright (Though, honestly? He was kind of hoping the man had died in the crash. Made things easier later on) and then looked to his left and drew in a ragged breath when he was met with a face that was surprisingly close.
His first instinct was to punch the ever-living hell out of the idiot poking his head into the jeep -- he couldn't help it. You live in a world of violence, you learn to react in kind.
Still, all that accomplished was to seriously bang up his hand. Which should have been the first warning sign, really, but Dean was currently seeing red at the moment, and so couldn't really focus on anything except the blinding, furious urge to shoot someone in the face.
That deflated in less than a moment, though, because when he jumped out and pointed his gun, when he got a good long look at the guy; when blue eyes had struck through his heart like a stake, and the sheer intent oozing from the pores of the other's skin beat against his body like a physical weight, he realized it wasn't a ghost at all, that is was -- Cas.
And not just 'Cas', but Castiel, the angel of olden days; unless Cas was playing some elaborate prank on him, and Dean wouldn't really put that behind him, the sadistic bastard he was. Still, he couldn't deny the uncanny, somewhat creepy feeling that the other man was peering straight into his soul. Plus, where the hell had he found that trench coat?
To confirm his screaming suspicions, Castiel canted his head to the right and peered through him in that intrinsically Cas manner that he hadn't been subject to in a long, long time. The man before him was way too lucid, with eyes far too bright and far too clear to be comforting.
Dean was still floundering to grasp the foreign concept of Castiel reverting back to his old self when the stark realization that his men were watching struck him suddenly.
Yeager, who had been riding with him, was disgruntled and a little bit nervous. The truck they had been following, that had thankfully not fallen into a ditch, had come to an abrupt stop, and both men inside had hopped out.
He thought for moment whether or not he could successfully lie to them, and then he remembered, quite suddenly, that, oh yeah, they'd just wrecked, and, right, this Cas-clone standing before their shamelessly agape mouths had just appeared out of thin air.
He had a lot of explaining to do.
"It's alright," he said out loud, his voice harsh and commanding. "It's Cas."
The others knew of him, of course. Cas, Castiel, that weird human that they didn't know a lot about. The guy who'd come to them pretty much clueless in the ways of self defence, and had ended up learning his way around a gun quite intimately. Not as intimately as the women he'd also learned his way around, but, hey, that was just one more thing he could be infamous for. Cas had known their leader before most of them even knew about the apocalypse; he could be trusted.
They would also realize that the man who had teleported himself in front of their truck and had inadvertently made Dean wreck looked, acted, spoke, and generally exuded like a completely different person.
Dean, however, could only deal with one mind-blowing headache at a time, and right now his mind-blowing headache was reserved exclusively for Cas.
He still had to kill Yeager.
God, his day sucked.
"Back in the truck!" he barked out, and was satisfied when the men jumped into action and followed his command immediately -- with the exception of Yeager, who lagged noticeably.
When they were settled comfortably back in their places, Dean waved his gun towards the back of the jeep he had been driving and gave Cas a pointed look.
If Castiel hesitated, Dean might have shot him.
Castiel didn't hesitate.
He disappeared with the sound of rustling feathers, and by Yeager's surprised yelp coming from somewhere behind him, Dean was assured, even without having to turn around, that Cas had just angel'd himself into the back seat.
The familiarity of his exasperation with the entire situation was somewhat of a comfort. Dean took it where he could get it, and he couldn't get it often.
The confirmation was a bit of a relief, as well. The Cas he knew was nearly completely human; he'd lost his mojo ages ago.
When Dean hopped into the jeep and backed the thing out of the ditch it had crashed into, he glanced in his rearview mirror to find Castiel staring at him with an intensity one might only find on rapists or stalkers. Or stalker rapists.
"Look," he said before the probable-illusion could say a word. "You've got a lot of explaining to do, but right now just sit down and shut up."
If Lucifer didn't kill him, the stress certainly would.
Chuck's head was going to fucking explode.
Just because the apocalypse had tipped past nigh and went rolling down near, didn't mean he'd lost his job as Camp Chitaqua's resident Prophet. Keeping track of the supplies was more of a weekend job, really. Usually, he spent his free time holed up in his own cabin, drinking himself into a mindless stupor, just so he could throw out all of the visions he got onto the blank pages (or sometimes walls) that were available. If he didn't get it out, it would just keep screaming at him from within.
He hadn't stopped writing about Sam and Dean. He'd just stopped publishing it.
It was a really messed up situation, to be honest, because his mind had gone on the fritz the second Sam had said yes to the Devil, and the only thing he ever got from Sam's side of the story were blips of emotion. There weren't ever any instances of him recognizing his surroundings, or even being aware of the situation at hand. Dean had asked him about it enough times; had fought for some way to use Chuck's annoying 'powers' to their advantage. If they could track Lucifer, then Dean would have an easier deal out of hunting him.
No such luck, however, and Chuck had been knocked back down to the mantle of 'hardly useful'.
He didn't think about it much. It didn't matter; not really.
Still, the situation at hand was giving him the most epic, mind-boggling headache known to man, and no matter how much he drowned himself in booze, the flashes just wouldn't go away.
He'd had it bad when he had dreamt up the meeting between his 'characters' and himself.
But dreaming up the meeting between his characters, and his characters' past selves, was definitely a big fucking lead-in for the worst day ever known to man, ever.
He groaned, curled in on himself on the couch of his cabin, and tried his damnedest to block out the insanity that was beating against his skull.
He saw how it was going to end.
Castiel wouldn't shut up.
"Zachariah has sent your past self to this time before. What ever lesson he was trying to teach you, however, was not learned as effectively as he had hoped."
"Shut up," Dean said, groaning ineffectually to himself.
Cas ignored him.
"I was caught between, and now we are both here, repeating the same lesson, though perhaps on a different scale."
"God, do you even speak English?"
Dean would have been more upset had Yeager been listening to the entire tale. As it stood, the man looked about two ticks away from jumping someone in a murderous rage. They would have just enough time to make it to camp before the symptoms turned violent and Dean was forced to kill him.
All-in-all, it was a bad day.
He was about to say something to that affect when he noticed that the jeep had gone quiet and that, for some untold reason, Castiel was now willing to heed Dean's command. He was a little late, yeah, but the angel had finally stopped spilling his entire story in front of Yeager, and for that Dean was thankful. The mystery as to why, however, was solved quickly; a glance in the rearview mirror revealed that Cas was burning a hole in the back of Yeager's seat with the intensity of his gaze.
Dean realized easily enough that Castiel, angelic being that he was (God, he was having trouble processing that thought inside his own mind.) probably sensed the threat in the other man, sensed the change of emotions, the way they morphed into something far more demented over time.
They were close to the camp by now, and it was all Dean could do to set his eyes forward and focus on simply not driving into any more ditches. The truck he was following made it to the gates first, and the men jumped out, all cheer once again. The mission had been pretty successful. They'd not done much more than shoot a group of Croats in the face, but, hey, in these times the little things mattered, and pumping a zombie full of lead was definitely an accomplishment to be proud of. It was practically a sport now; even the teenagers did it, and the recruiting age for hunters (the irony just kept growing and growing) was getting younger and younger each year.
Yeager twitched, his features going so blank they were practically set in stone. Not good. Definitely not good.
As soon as the jeep came screeching to an abrupt stop, Dean hopped out, watched out of the corner of his eye as Yeager did the same, and then circled around the back and snatched up a couple of beers. None for Cas, he thought consciously, then tossed one to each of his men and popped it open. The hiss and fizz was familiar and comfortable, soothing in a way.
It still couldn't distract him from what he had to do next.
Dean drew his gun, ripped it out of its holster with the speed and dexterity of a man with too much practice, pointed at Yeager, and--
And Castiel was standing in the way.
Dammit. Fucking dammit.
He nearly barked out an insult, nearly shouted for Cas to move his stupid angel ass so Dean could fucking shoot this man dead, but his voice caught in his throat the second Castiel laid a hand on the back of Yeager's neck and the man dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes.
Cas tilted his head, regarded the unconscious figure laying in the dirt just a few inches from his feet, and then turned so he was facing Dean, and Dean honestly couldn't help the intense sense of déja vu that went hurtling towards his body and smacked him straight in the face. He felt choked, utterly incapable of forming a single sentence, barely a sound, because the familiarity of it all, the similarity, just plain hurt. He couldn't explain it, but what was left of his heart had just been tugged clean out of his chest, and now someone was holding it between clinging, too-tight fingers, and it was all he could do to not drop to his knees and start gasping for air like a fish floundering for water.
"Are you going to shoot me now?"
He was still pointing the gun. Right.
Dean lowered his arm, his hands trembling more than he would ever admit, then swallowed thickly when Cas straightened out the angle of his head and took a step forward.
"Is he... what did you do?"
There were those words he'd been trying so hard to form. They came out tight and rough, but at least they weren't as shaken as he'd feared they might be.
"No," Castiel replied, turning his gaze once again back towards the body laying on the ground. "He isn't dead." A pause. "And he isn't healed. He's unconscious."
Dean stepped forward, edging closer to the body on the ground, and despite the fact that, sure, he'd have to deal with this issue eventually, the thought of having just a little bit of respite brought such a great relief to him that his shoulders sagged.
"Why?" he said involuntarily, and when he glanced up he was surprised (or maybe not-so-surprised) to see the angel staring at him attentively.
"We have things to discuss," was his simple answer, as if killing a man would only make Dean's schedule that much busier. And Dean couldn't help it -- he really, honestly, truly couldn't help it -- when he laughed at those words. Because, really? That was absolutely, unrepentantly Cas.
"Right," Dean said, then looked over Castiel's shoulder to find his men staring at him in confusion. Oh, yeah. He'd forgotten.
"Report back to the main base," he gruffed out, all traces of humor leaving his voice, and was satisfied to see them heed his command immediately. It was nice to be in charge sometimes.
Hauling Yeager back and putting him in a holding cell reminded him that, more often than not, being in charge was shit.
Dean was going to kill Cas -- both versions, if he could pull it off -- because worrying about a damned angel so much probably wasn't even all that healthy. And the future one, the one who'd probably had a little too much dope that morning, wouldn't fucking stop laughing long enough to give him a straight answer about anything, so all Dean could really do was head back to Camp Chitaqua and hope for the best.
Cas could take care of himself; he knew that. He wasn't the man's damned babysitter. But they'd had a plan, and Cas wasn't usually one to ignore plans, or disobey orders -- Dean's orders, at least -- and part of him had thought, wrongly, obviously, that their fucking friendship meant something to the guy, because you just didn't leave your friends hanging like that, but nooooo, Cas had to up and get lost down the friggin' rabbit hole, and hadn't even cared that he'd left Dean to fend for himself with a crazy junkie version of his not-quite-frien--
"Hey," said Cas, his voice grating through the air like a wispy piece of metal. "Stop thinking so much. Watching you is hurting my head."
Dean crossed his arms and glared.
"Then stop watching."
Cas just shrugged, humming a bit to himself some tune that sounded vaguely familiar, but continued to stare at Dean as if he was the most fascinating thing in the entire world. They'd both eventually trekked back to Cas' cabin once they'd realized that finding the angel would be impossible, and had been hanging out there ever since. Cas seemed okay with waiting ("I'm a big kid. I can take care of myself.") but Dean was about to tear out his own hair with all the pent up nervous energy coursing through him.
"He's probably found you," Cas pointed out -- literally pointed out, his index finger directed towards the man leaning against the wall on the other side of the room. He, himself, was currently sitting cross-legged on the carpet where he spent many a day convincing innocent, naive women that the best way to 'connect' with the world around them was through sexual debauchery.
"What?" Dean hissed, sounding somewhat offended, and a pinch too protective. "Why would he do that?"
Was that jealousy Cas sensed? He smirked at the thought, flashing his teeth in a wide, vicious grin.
"It's what I'd do. If I was flung to the past, the first thing I'd do would be to seek you out."
Goddamn, Cas missed this version of Dean. He couldn't get enough of him -- he practically soaked up the other man's presence with the intensity of his focus. He ached so much for this man; for the simple want to be near this man. It was insane, really, how different both Dean's were; how different five simple years had made them. If Cas had any say in this whatsoever, funky rips in time or no, this Dean was gonna stay put for a very long time. Because he wasn't willing to let him go just yet.
"Why don't you make yourself more comfortable?" he said, inadvertently using a line he said to most of the women who found their way into his cabin. The hidden meaning of the words had been entirely unintentional. He did really just want to see Dean settle down and stop standing so rigidly in the corner. It was making him nervous.
"I'm fine," Dean said harshly, eyeing the carpet with trepidation.
Cas barked out a laugh. The look was familiar.
"I don't bite," he said smugly, then added in a dark, hard-to-place tone, "hard."
Dean snorted, but aside from tightening his arms around himself, made absolutely no attempt to move.
"You don't like me," Cas said suddenly, and was rewarded with the tiniest of twitches from the other man.
"I didn't say that," he argued, shifting around uncomfortably on his own two feet.
"Sure you did. You're saying it right now," Cas pointed out, dipping his head down as if to indicate Dean's nervousness.
"No," Dean reiterated. "I didn't say that." He was being stubborn, perhaps, and he might have been lying to himself, even, but to some degree something inside of him didn't want to hurt this odd, fragile person, so he didn't want his discomfort to be made known. "I don't not like you." And, damn it all, that had come out wrong, because the tone only served to make Cas quirk a single, thin eyebrow.
"But you don't like me," he pointed out, some sort of humor to his tone.
"No, it's not--"
"It's okay," continued the other man, flipping a hand through the air like simple gestures such as that were common and natural for him. Dean stared, transfixed, at how animated he was. "I don't blame you. You're just not used to it."
Dean swallowed, something dark and deep and foreboding settling into the very bottom of his stomach.
"Not used to what?" he asked.
Cas, whose features had changed about a million different times, finally gave Dean another one of those scary, seemingly vicious smirks.
"To other men."
Cas shrugged, kicking his feet out in front of him and leaning back on his palms, his posture sinuously provocative.
Dean shook his head, gave a little laugh.
"You've had a little too much to smoke, man. You're way off," he said, but his breath hitched on that last word, and his eyes widened when Cas curled his legs inward and rose from the floor.
"Am I?" he replied, then pressed in closer to Dean, stalking him like a predator closing in on its prey. He broke past the barriers of personal space, breached the boundaries of 'comfortable' and 'right', until he was practically nose-to-nose with the other man. Dean leaned back, braced himself against the wooden wall of the cabin, but other than the steady beating thrum of his heartbeat fluttering crazily in his chest, he made no move, no sound.
"Because I like to think I'm pretty spot on."
Was Cas going to kiss him?
Dean shuddered at the thought.
And it was weird, too, because despite the fact that he knew he could definitely take on this scrawny little excuse for a human being-- it was the last two words that really did it in for him. Human being. Cas, this one at least, was human. And that stung somehow, made Dean feel guilt and regret and maybe just a shard of the same kind of pain that clung relentlessly to the not-quite-angel in front of him now. Because even though Cas was currently threatening him in so very many ways, all Dean wanted to do was reach out and gather him up in his arms. It didn't make sense, and hell, it even made Dean die a little on the inside from sheer embarrassment, but he thought, maybe, just maybe, Sam's 'touchy feely feel-good' methods might work. That, perhaps, all Cas needed to start fixing himself was some kind of shelter, some kind of protection from the storm.
He had just steeled himself to do something stupid, like reach out and hug the pathetic (scary, somewhat demented) man in front of him, when the beads leading to the entrance of the cabin were pushed to the side, and a very familiar face came barging into the room.
A very familiar face.
"Hey, Dean," said Cas to the newcomer, and he didn't even have the grace to take a step back, to put some distance between them.
Dean, the future one, had at least some propriety about him, because he froze to the spot and stared at the two people practically rubbing up against each other on the wall.
"Cas," he said in warning, his voice dropping to a growl. "What are you doing to him?"
"I'm just having some fun," came the petulant reply, and Dean, who was currently pushed up against the wall, rolled his eyes. Fun at his expense, sure. Had he really been thinking about embracing this crazed idiot not five minutes earlier?
"Quit playing games," said the other Dean, and it struck the real one, abruptly, that the other's reaction wasn't quite what it should have been. He was calm, seemingly level-headed, and though his gaze lingered on his mirror image, he didn't seem all too surprised to see his twin traipsing about.
Castiel walked in about then, his bright blue eyes taking in the scene around him with the same stoic, analyzing manner of a trained warrior. He, too, was unfazed by the presence of his own double, though his eyes kept straying back to the familiar form. Dean figured that Cas was used to viewing his own body like a separate entity. It would definitely make it a helluva lot easier to cope.
"Great," said future-Cas, and finally, finally, he took a step back. He clapped his hands together, then rubbed his palms against each other in a potently diabolical fashion. "Everyone's here. Time for the orgy."
Dean froze, every muscle in his body contracting almost painfully. He shot a look at his Cas, but saw nothing but confusion in the angel's eyes, and was then drawn to staring at what should have been the evidence of a reflection.
Other Dean was completely unrepentant in the scowl he threw Cas' way. He looked more exasperated than pissed, like a man who had put up with this kind of bullshit plenty of times before.
"Try to keep your libido in check, would you?"
Cas shrugged, flashed a grin.
The sudden bark of laughter that reply garnered echoed obnoxiously around the room. It felt hollow to Dean, but he blamed that on the odd effects of watching himself interact with another version of Castiel. The banter back and forth was somewhat... disturbing. He didn't really have another word to describe it. They seemed like strangers, at best, and enemies at worst, and the more he watched, the more apparent it became that Cas didn't particularly like him... future-him... whatever, anymore. Or, at least, it sort of looked that way. The sarcasm was new, oddly strange, but the bitterness was hard to miss, and even though it wasn't directed at him, technically, it... it still sort of was. Which hurt, actually, but he wouldn't say anything about it.
Cas, after quelling the laughter that tried so hard to take control of him, flashed his foggy blue eyes towards Dean, pinned him more thoroughly against the wall, then turned to the other Dean, the one that was native to this particular strand of time, and quirked a brow in the same manner he might otherwise have tipped his head.
"And what important matters do we have to discuss, o fearless leader?"
Dean, too, it was easy to see how he closed himself off from Cas, as if that natural chemistry they had between them hadn't just been severed, but had been stomped on, and burned, and the ashes had washed away with the coming storm.
"Are you blind?" The words might have been more insulting, but instead they were just cold. "We need to deal with them." He waved a hand in the general direction of their past counterparts, indicating the source of his frustration.
He wasn't ignorant to the looks Cas kept throwing his past self's way. It was as if the other man was incapable of focusing on him for too long; as if Cas was instinctively drawn towards the other Dean. Jealousy, under such a circumstance, didn't make sense. But the guy had an uncanny ability to read people, and his assumption that Dean was jealous of himself had been absolutely, unabashedly correct.
"I've already put in my two cents," replied Cas, and he crossed his arms with a little smirk, inadvertently (or perhaps intentionally) copying past-Dean's stance.
"We are not having an orgy," Dean reiterated, whether simply to drive the point home, or because he had to. And the thought of that second option, the need to state that there would be no sexual debauchery between the four people standing in that room, of course brought to mind the rather interesting, somewhat sad realization that Cas, the future one, actually would consider doing something like that.
And yeah, sure, Dean himself (the past one) was a regular lady's man, but he had to draw the line somewhere, and even he had come across a few waitresses in his day that he wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.
Cas seemed insistent, and Dean had no doubt that the man could be relentless if he so chose, but something about the other man's posture, about his stiff demeanor and the way he held his lips tightly together seemed indicative enough to give the ex-angel a hint.
"Fine," he said, letting out a sigh, and then he was turning once again, disregarding his Dean in lieu of staring at not his Dean. He didn't say anything, either -- just stared. It was unnerving, and it made Dean fidget.
"What?" he finally bit out, practically shouting the single word, because otherwise his voice might have cracked.
"Oh, nothing," said Cas, but his smile sang a whole other tune. It made Dean feel positively hunted, and for lack of anything better to do, he turned towards his future self and gave him an almost pleading look.
What the hell was he supposed to do with that? Cas looked veritably hungry, and Dean didn't feel like being eaten today, thank you very much.
The other Dean just spread his hands out, palms upturned, in supplication. He didn't know what to do, and hell, even if he did, he wasn't going to help. That was just his way. He had more important things to think about.
Like the angel that was currently burning a hole into his neck.
Figuratively, of course, otherwise Dean might have made some move to protest.
"What?" he said, ignoring how similar the single word sounded to what past-Dean had just said.
Castiel tilted his head to the side, let his gaze flicker from the Dean he knew to the practical stranger he was currently regarding. He didn't say anything, though; only continued to stare. He did it for so long that Dean was starting to feel antsy.
This entire situation could go and fuck itself, for all he cared. None of it made sense, and it was stupid and ridiculous, and he just wanted to go back to his cabin and pass out for the next couple of days, until the little ghosts from the past were finally whisked away once again.
But that was a whim that would remain unrealized.
"Alright," he said, pointing to the other Castiel and the other Dean. "Explain."
There was no question as to what, exactly, they were supposed to be expounding on. They started from the beginning.