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The Blind Leading The Blind...

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Supernatural Fic - Marked
colourful, hills
blind_author
Title: Marked
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Blasphemy (pretty much on the same level as the show) and Dean has mild dirty thoughts.
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural; the setting or the characters.
Summary: Dean/Cas, pre-slash.  A brief interlude set immediately after 5x08.  Castiel could have raised Dean from Hell without marking him.  He intended to, in fact.  But once he’d grasped Dean’s soul, Dean…refused to let go.


Marked

Dean has nightmares of Hell.  Which really isn’t a surprise – all things considered, Dean would have been very suspicious if he didn’t have nightmares.  His dreams are blood and pain and screams not his own and a razor smile that’s either Alistair’s or his; he can’t tell.  They leave him sick and shaking and torn between drinking himself into a coma and never sleeping again.

But sometimes…sometimes Dean dreams about something else.

A light pierces Hell’s darkness.  The other demons beside him shriek and turn from it, but he looks – he can’t help himself.  It’s beautiful.

It comes close, and it touches him, grips him.  After the unrelenting heat of Hell’s fire, he’s forgotten what it’s like to touch something cool.  Dean grips back and clings tight as it gives him wings and Hell falls away.

The place they go is cold, and something vast and fiery tries to pry him from the shelter he’s found.  He resists; curling closer, holding tighter, and his shelter twists around him as the flames dig into it.  It cries out in a voice like glass and water, and Dean presses deeper, lashing out at the choking heat – it won’t take him, it won’t!

And it doesn’t.

He almost falls apart in relief.  He feels weak and shaky, like ice melting away in the sun, like the fire almost tore him to shreds.  But his bright, cool light breathes strength back into him, breathes for him until Dean is breathing through his own lungs again.

Sometimes, Dean thinks he dreams about Castiel.

--

Dean expected Cas to zap away as soon as they were out of the warehouse – he came, he tried to help and got beaten around for his trouble by yet another douchebag angel, so Dean figured he’d fly off to keep searching for God as soon as he could, not slide into the backseat of the Impala without even a curious glance for permission.

Dean’s not going to kick the dude out or anything, but it’s still a big flashing neon sign that all is not well in the land of Castiel.

So now he’s expecting Cas to say something – about a new strategy, or a new possible location for God, or about the Trickster being a freaking archangel – but he just stares out the window like one of those meditating holy men.

Cas doesn’t say a lot – small talk isn’t really his area – but there’s a difference between not saying much and saying nothing.  Sam’s usually the one who headshrinks people and figures out their inner emotional trauma or whatever, but his brother is giving him a look that says ‘he’s your angel, Dean, you say something’.

Well, this time Dean can be the one to bite the bullet.

“So, the Trickster is an archangel,” Dean prods.

Now Sam’s look is saying ‘Dean, you’re an insensitive jackass’ (which he isn’t…and even if he is, he doesn’t mean to be this time), but Cas just turns to meet Dean’s eyes in the rearview mirror with a little fold between his eyebrows.

“Yes,” Cas says, flat and toneless.

Anyone else would be irritated that Dean’s stating the obvious, but Cas just looks expectant, like he’s waiting for Dean to say something intelligent and profound.  Like he thinks Dean wouldn’t have bothered getting his attention for anything less.

It’s kind of creepy.  Or it would be, coming from anyone else, but Dean’s used to Cas by now.  Enough to know that this – the thousand-yard stare and complete lack of irritation at stupid statements – is Cas feeling depressed and despairing.

He seems marginally better than he was after they trapped Raphael, but still – if that asshole Gabriel broke his angel, Dean’s turning this car around and frying him.

Sam apparently takes Dean’s spectacular failure at operation ‘cheer up Cas’ as a cue for his own attempt.  “Hey, Cas, I’ve always wondered about angel hierarchy – I mean, every religion seems to have different ideas, and you’ve told us the Bible gets a lot of things wrong, so anything you could tell us would be helpful.”

Of course, Sam tries to cheer the angel up by being a geek, but it seems to be working; Cas is leaning forward and his eyes have brightened.  Dean’s willing to concede the victory this time.

“There are five ranks of angels,” Cas intones, sounding like a professor giving a lecture.  “The archangels are the first and highest in God’s favour – Michael, Raphael and…Gabriel.”

Cas hesitates over Gabriel’s name, and Dean has a moment where he thinks Sam’s just made everything worse, but then Cas just closes his eyes and sighs and it’s such a human gesture to make that Dean is brought up short.

“Lucifer was an archangel,” Cas comments quietly.  “And only archangels have seen God’s face.”

Dean’s heard that one before, and he still thinks it’s total bullshit, but he doesn’t mention that – he can be sensitive when he wants to be.

“The seraphs are next in rank,” Cas goes on.  “And they delegate the archangels’ orders.  They aren’t as powerful as archangels, but there are many more of them – Zachariah is a seraph.”

“Middle management, huh?” Dean snorts.  “Yeah, he seems the type.”

Cas gets that look on his face, the one Dean mentally subtitles with ‘humans are strange and I don’t understand them’.

He can admit he tries to get Cas to make that face as often as possible.

“Never mind about that,” Sam cuts in quickly, before Cas can ask for an explanation (Dean’s brother is a spoilsport).  “So there’s archangels, then seraphs – what’s next?”

Cas tilts his head (another thing Dean tries to prompt as much as he can) and Dean can practically see the angel mentally shelving away his questions.  “The erelim.  They are the garrison commanders, and they’re linked to forces of nature.  Anna was of the erelim.”

Another depressed-angel face, but Cas seems to snap himself out of his contemplative funks really quickly when he has something to explain because he barely blinks before continuing.

“The malakim are the most numerous of the angelic host – the foot soldiers that make up the garrisons.  The only angels below the malakim are the cherubim, and they are messengers only.  Reports of miracles or angelic sightings are usually the result of cherubim roaming the earth; as the weakest of the host, their true forms do not damage humans so they are able to descend from heaven without vessels.”

“That makes sense,” Sam enthuses, sounding like an eight year old girl presented with a pony.  “So what do cherubs look like?”

“They can manifest as whatever they desire.  Anything from a pillar of flame to a gentle gust of wind, though they commonly choose to manifest a human-like appearance.”

“But the rest of the angels need vessels?”

“I could manifest as whatever I desired.”  It might be Dean’s imagination, but Cas sounds defensive, almost grumpy.  “But my power…can’t be diluted.  No matter what I tried to present myself as, I’d still blind and deafen you without a vessel.”

Dean grins.  “So you’re too awesome to contain?”

And that gets him both a furrowed brow and a bonus head tilt – score two for Dean Winchester!

“So what rank are you?” he asks.  “Pretty high, right?  I mean, you kick lots of angel ass, and they wanted me out of the pit pretty bad…”

He adds an eyebrow wiggle for good measure, which makes Sam roll his eyes and of course, flies straight over Cas’s head.

“Actually I’m a malakim,” Cas corrects.  “Very low in the ranking.”

Now Dean’s confused, and he’s not the only one.

“They sent a malakim down to hell alone?” Sam looks like he’s seriously questioning whatever passes for angelic strategy.

But then Cas is the one looking like he suspects them of mental deficiency.  “Sam, if I’d entered Hell alone, I would have perished almost immediately.  Demons may have difficulty truly injuring us in this realm, but their power is amplified significantly in Hell.  And there are powerful demons which are more than capable of killing an angel.  Tens of thousands of my brothers and sister stormed Hell alongside me – mostly malakim and their commanding erelim, and even seven seraphs descended with us so they could locate Dean.”

Tens of thousands of angels to pull him out of Hell.  Yeah, that’s going to be one of those things Dean doesn’t think about.  Ever.

But Sam never leaves anything alone.  “The seraphs were meant to locate him?  So you’re saying that you rescuing Dean was never part of the plan?”

Cas nods.  “It was intended that a seraph would find Dean and give his soul to Michael for restoration.  I’m a malakim, so I was intended as…cannon fodder.”

Just when Dean thinks there’s nothing angels can do to make him hate them any more, Cas comes out with stuff like this.

“Cannon fodder?” he grates, resisting the urge to clench his hands on the steering wheel until his knuckles pop.

But Cas doesn’t seem to understand what Dean’s problem is – he’s got that look on his face like he thinks Dean is going to understand this if he just explains it a little more.

“I was created as a soldier, Dean,” he says quietly, almost bleakly.  “I was intended to go to Hell, and hopefully slay a few demons to ease the seraphs’ passage before I fell.  But it…didn’t quite work out that way.”

Dean’s still furious – goddamn angels treating Cas like he’s disposable, something they can hurt and brainwash and then toss aside – but he’s momentarily distracted by the idea that the angels didn’t mean for Cas to pull him out of Hell.

If it really was a free-for-all – whoever found Dean first got to patch him up – then they definitely won the angel lottery with Cas.  If Zachariah or Uriel had pulled him out then they’d all have been screwed.

Not to mention, the thought of having their hand seared into his shoulder – well, the thought of any mark on him other than Cas’s – gives Dean all kinds of the creeps.

But yeah, they’ve got a badass angel who’s willing to help them save the world without playing meat suits to archangels, while they could’ve been stuck with some douchebag with a stick up his ass.  Not that Cas doesn’t have a stick up his ass, but it’s the kind Dean can deal with.

Which sounds much more sexual than he intended.  And now he’s trying not to think about the ass of the angel in the backseat in case Cas really can read minds.

The whole ‘try not to think of how sexy Cas is’ thing is happening way more often than Dean likes.  Seriously, if he doesn’t get this under control, someday Cas is going to dream-walk into a sex dream starring himself, and aren’t the ensuing questions going to be wonderful?

Sam’s voice breaks into his increasingly pornographic thoughts – thank god.

“So what went wrong?” Sam asks.  “I mean, no offense, but if Dean is meant to be Michael’s vessel I thought Michael himself would have pulled him out and fixed him up.”

“That was the intent,” Cas admits.  “No archangels descended to Hell – they couldn’t be risked in the assault – and while the seraphs were intended to locate Dean and deliver him to Michael to be restored, all the seraphs perished within the first ten years.”

Okay, that’s something Dean needs explained right now.  “The first ten years?”

“Our attack upon Hell lasted for over thirty-five of Hell’s years,” Cas explains, sounding genuinely bewildered that Dean and Sam didn’t pick this up.  “You don’t think we can descend at will and pluck souls out of the pit, do you?”

Actually, Dean kind of did.  But obviously he knows better now, and can’t quite wrap his head around it – over thirty-five years fighting demons in Hell?  Without sleep or shore leave or anything resembling rest?  And maybe angels don’t need rest, but still; that can’t have been good for Cas.

“Towards the end, our forces were heavily weakened and scattered throughout the many levels of Hell,” Cas continues.  “I was alone and pinned when…I found Dean.”

I found Dean. It’s just three words; there’s no reason they should push the air out of Dean’s lungs and make his head swim, but they do.  Because those three words are saying that Cas fought hordes of demons to reach him, grabbed him from the teeming souls of Hell and dragged his ass out of the worst situation Dean had ever gotten himself into.  It’s like a gut punch, like a kick to the nuts, like looking into eyes with something alien and ancient behind them that says he deserved to be saved.

It’s likes those dreams he has that make him think of being saved, instead of being condemned.

A light pierces Hell’s darkness.  The other demons beside him shriek and turn from it, but he looks – he can’t help himself.  It’s beautiful.

Cas is still talking.  “I grasped Dean and we ascended.  It was much easier to leave Hell than to enter it.”

“I’ll bet,” Sam mutters.

It comes close, and it touches him, grips him.  After the unrelenting heat of Hell’s fire, he’s forgotten what it’s like to touch something cool.  Dean grips back and clings tight as it gives him wings and Hell falls away.

“Michael was meant to restore Dean,” Cas says absently, and now he seems to be telling the story just for the sake of telling it, of knowing he’s with people who’ll listen to him.  “The angels believed he would feel a measure of gratitude towards his saviour, and that it would make him more willing to accept his role as Michael’s vessel.”

Dean snorts at that – he can’t help it.

“But something went wrong,” Sam pries.

Dean thinks he knows what.

The place they go is cold, and something vast and fiery tries to pry him from the shelter he’s found.  He resists; curling closer, holding tighter, and his shelter twists around him as the flames dig into it.

“I didn’t let go, did I?”  It’s not really a question.

“No, you didn’t,” Cas acknowledges.  “I returned to Heaven and I was prepared to pass you onto Michael, but you had entwined yourself in my Grace so thoroughly Michael couldn’t extract you without destroying the both of us.  Although he…tried.”

Dean’s come to learn that when Cas does that – flattening his voice and pausing like he’s trying to pick the right word – it means the angel is covering up something really nasty that happened to him.  Like when he got dragged back upstairs for a little heavenly ass-reaming.

It cries out in a voice like glass and water, and Dean presses deeper, lashing out at the choking heat – it won’t take him, it won’t!

And it doesn’t.

Okay, Dean needs to be calm about this – if he seems upset, Cas will freak out and shut up.  It’s like he thinks he’s protecting Dean when he keeps quiet on whatever his douchebag brothers have done to him; like he thinks whatever happens to him doesn’t matter.

So, Dean’s trying for casual – nonchalant, even – when he asks, “So, what do you mean when you say he tried?”

Cas frowns.  “It wasn’t pleasant.  You should understand that souls in their pure form are very raw and their responses are quite primal.  You were aware that what Michael was doing caused me pain and you…didn’t approve.  Eventually Michael realised that his attempts were only increasing your hostility towards him, and left you with me.”

He almost falls apart in relief.  He feels weak and shaky, like ice melting away in the sun, like the fire almost tore him to shreds.

“I attempted to draw you from my being, but you resisted – Michael’s attempts to take you had made you frightened and wary.  So I withdrew from Heaven and took you to the place where your body lay, and there you loosened your grasp enough to permit me to restore you.”

But his bright, cool light breathes strength back into him, breathes for him until Dean is breathing through his own lungs again.

For a moment, the air seems so thick Dean’s half-convinced he won’t be able to breathe it.  That he’ll drown like a man underwater, like a fish in air, like a soul struggling in Hell.

Sam seems to feel the silence that’s…well, not exactly awkward, but certainly not comfortable.  And, being Sam, he tries to break it.

“So is that why Dean’s got the…?”  Sam makes a gesture at his shoulder that’s probably meant to refer to the handprint that Cas seared into Dean’s shoulder.

Cas doesn’t quite shake his head, but it looks like he wants to.  “No – the restoration process cleansed Dean’s body entirely.”

And that one’s news to Dean, but then this whole conversation has been news to him.  He figured the mark was some side-effect of being yanked out of Hell or Cas fixing him up, or maybe even an angelic signature – Cas’s way of telling everyone that he’d been the badass who pulled Dean out of Hell.

“So, what happened?”  If Dean’s voice is a little rough at the edges, no one will ever get him to admit it.

“When it came time to place you back in your body, you…resisted.”  Anyone else might drop their eyes or fidget, but Cas just keeps staring, still as a bronze statue.   “You clung, and wouldn’t let go.  You insisted I remain with you, and you didn’t want to let me out of your sight.  I promised I’d find you once you were restored, but you weren’t easily persuaded.  In the end, you didn’t release your hold until I imbued you with some of my Grace.  It…leaves a mark.”

Dean honestly has no idea what to say to that.  Instead of being a signature or a side-effect, the mark on his shoulder is where Cas put a piece of himself inside Dean.  And not in the fun sexy way either – that he could joke about, shrug off.  But Cas shoving some of what’s basically his soul into Dean as a promise that he wouldn’t leave, that he’d come back to him…

Yeah, Dean has no idea what to do with that.  Absolutely none.  It’s probably a good thing he’s driving because if he was having this conversation with Cas face to face, he’d probably say something incredibly stupid like how at times Cas’s faith in him seems the only bright spot in a fight that looks increasingly hopeless.  Or do something incredibly stupid, like grabbing Cas by that crumpled tie and kissing him (seriously, that idiotic tie always looks like Cas stopped halfway through knotting it, and it always makes Dean’s fingers itch to adjust it).

Come to think of it, Cas is the only angel Dean’s ever seen who didn’t look like he was ready to sit down for a board meeting.  Sure, Cas has got the neatly pressed suit that never seems to wrinkle or stain, but then there’s the messed-up tie and the trench coat that sometimes makes him look like a creepy flasher.  Even from the beginning, Cas stood out among all the other Stepford angels as the only one that showed even a hint of individuality.

And yeah, Anna was different, but that was after she’d been human for about two decades.  Gabriel is clearly not the poster boy of rigid obedience either, but again, he’s been a Trickster for however many centuries he’s been kicking around down here.  Cas is the only angel who’s turned his back on Heaven’s plan and never tried to be anything but an angel.

Dean has no real idea what that means, only that it means something.

At least Cas seems cheerier – his stare isn’t as distant, and the line of his shoulders has relaxed.  Not a whole lot – it’s still Cas – but it’s much better than the rigid, ruler-straight-spine thing he had going on before.  Dean’s not sure why discussing going down to Hell and getting worked over by Michael would make him cheerier, but he’s not going to question it.  If Cas finds hope in weird things, then that’s okay with Dean, as long as he’s still got hope and isn’t going to become the bitter junkie Dean saw in Zachariah’s twisted future.

“I should go,” Cas says, in a decisive tone like he’s just finished some sort of great debate.

Sam looks startled.  “You’re still going to look for God?  After what Gabriel said?”

Sam’s usually the one who glares at Dean because he thinks his brother has said something offensive – though Dean’s not that bad, he just doesn’t pussyfoot around – so it feels pretty damn strange for Dean to be the one elbowing his brother sharply in an effort to get him to shut up.  If Cas wants to keep looking for his Dad, that’s fine with Dean – it’d be pretty damn hypocritical of them to try to stop him.

“Considering that Gabriel has been absent from heaven for hundreds of years, I’m not inclined to listen to his opinion on the matter.”  Cas actually sounds snarky, and Dean doesn’t bother holding in his grin.

Usually, Dean can’t help feeling a bit uncomfortable when Cas pulls his vanishing act – there’s always the grim reminder in his head that it might be the last time he sees Cas, that this time might be the time the other angels catch up to him, that Dean would never even know where or how he died…

But this time, he’s feeling strangely at peace with it.  After all, if he’s got a piece of Cas’s Grace riding around with him, then he’s going to feel something if Cas is in trouble, right?  After all, Cas always seems to show up just when they need him.

Suddenly, Dean’s wondering if the whole being marked thing goes both ways – if there’s a bit of himself that somehow got stuck inside of Cas.  Again, that’s in the hippie spiritual way, not the sex way.  Maybe Cas always shows up at just the right moment because he and Dean have a freaky soul-bond thing going on.

Dean’s pretty sure even the idea of that should freak him out.  But instead it feels…comforting, like the gun or knife tucked under his pillow before he goes to sleep.

Still, this is probably one of those things they should talk about or clarify or some shit.  Maybe.  Hopefully not.  They don’t need to mention this ever again, right?

But Cas is still here, and still staring, with the kind of look that first gave Dean the idea that angels could read minds.  He’s sure Cas is about to say something big and earth-shaking and profound – the kind of thing he says because he still doesn’t get that humans don’t say shit like that.  The kind of thing that he’ll just throw out there and Dean will end up stewing about for days after.

Like, ‘good things do happen’.  Or, ‘I’ll hold them off’.  Or even, ‘I did it, all of it, for you’.

So Dean’s ready for it, he’s bracing himself for it, but all Cas does is make that little expression that on anyone else would be a smile and on Cas is a small tilt to the corners of his mouth and a softening of his eyes.

“I’ll find you later,” he says.

And then he’s gone.

Dean knows a promise when he hears one, and somehow that feels just as weighty and world-tilting as…well, everything else Cas has said to him.

Strangely though, he’s still feeling pretty good.  Considering they’ve just found out a maybe-sort-of-potential ally is an archangel in hiding who wants them to ‘play their roles’, Dean’s way more cheerful than he should be.

Though if Sam keeps snickering like that, Dean’s going to slap that gigantic forehead of his, just see if he doesn’t.

End.

--

AN: The ranking of the angels is taken from a few different sources and mashed together in a way I found vaguely in-keeping with what the show does with angels – it doesn’t actually conform to any religious text.

themusecalliope has created a wonderful podfic of this story - find it at AO3.


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This is beautiful :) You made my day.

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