edenbound: ((Heat) Fire)
edenbound ([personal profile] edenbound) wrote2010-06-11 02:12 pm

SPN: Waiting for the Hint of a Spark

Fandom: Supernatural
Main characters: Dean, Sam, Castiel, Bobby, God
Referenced characters: Chuck, a horde of Dean's fangirls (and fanboys), Mary, John
Contains: Angst, AU, God as a character
Rating: PG13
Summary: When Lucifer rises, Dean gets blinded. Of course, that doesn't stop people from thinking he's still meant to save the world. Oh, and God's an asshole.
Notes: I apologise for any inaccuracies relating to disability in this fic: research is no substitute for living it in reality. The attitudes towards disability in this fic are those of the characters and not necessarily my own.
Thanks to: [personal profile] feywood, for being my beta and my girlfriend and my cheerleader, all rolled into one. And [livejournal.com profile] starry_ice for the amazing art.
Accessibility: If you have a sight problem, or any other problem which makes reading this in the current format hard for you, I've uploaded an .rtf copy here, which you can download and therefore change the display however you wish. Anyone can also use this file to make a PDF. If there's a problem with the file, please let me know.
Art: You can tell [livejournal.com profile] starry_ice how awesome it is here, but I have also embedded a lower quality version in this post, under the cut. She might be adding another illustration if she gets chance, so check that post.





The last thing he remembers is Sam's voice, and he doesn't remember what he was saying -- no, the last thing he remembers is the light, the last thing he remembers is Sam's hand clutching his jacket, the last thing he remembers is awful pain, the bright obliterating light, everything sliding away -- The memories jumble together and jar at each other, shoving and jostling for position. They push out the present. Dean is aware, dimly, of a constant pain, a low-grade throbbing, with intermittent flashes of bright-hot agony. He can deal with that. He's dealt with worse. He dealt with hell, after all, as well as anyone can. He's aware of voices, too, but they don't come into any focus. He doesn't try to open his eyes. The bright flares of pain, cutting deeper and sharper than the rest, tell him that's a bad idea.

There's a voice inside him that says it's easier to just stay adrift. To let these dark tides of pain carry him to some kind of rest. That there can only be bad things if he wakes up to face the world again. That every time he's dragged back, kicking and screaming, things just get worse. And doesn't he deserve it? Doesn't he deserve a rest?

But some part of him knows that he's not the kind of man who is ever allowed to rest. Some part of him slowly pushes forward the memories, piece by piece, shoving together their jagged edges until they hold steady. He remembers the heavenly waiting room, and he remembers Castiel and the sign daubed in blood: the defiance and rebellion that was, the voice assures him, futile. He remembers going to Sam, he remembers being too damn late, and he remembers the weight of Ruby's death as she sagged against him. He remembers Sam.

But no more, after that. Just light. So much light. And then this disjointed darkness, and the pain. God, the pain.

---


There are people calling out to him, in the darkness in which he floats. So many goddamn voices. He thinks he can hear Sam. He thinks he can hear Bobby. He thinks he can hear his dad, and it makes him struggle and try to sit up and reach out and move to him, but --

It's a dream, he's suddenly sure it's a dream, and the realisation pushes him awake, pushes him up and out and he can feel the bed solid under him, feel sheets under his hands, feel sweat trickling down the back of his neck. The silence is heavy, the silence of night.

The darkness is still there, all around him, no light at all. And the pain knifes into him now he's tried to open his eyes, shoves him under again.

---


Dean wakes up again. He's not sure where he is, and he can't seem to open his eyes, but the moment he moves, someone jerks awake beside him. At least, that's what he assumes is happening, because there's the sound of someone's knee bashing against something, and the sound of a glass about to totter, and a soft curse. It's that, more than anything, that assures him he's really woken up this time.

"There any water in that glass for me?" Dean asks, startled by the way it comes out as a croak. He feels as if the entire Sahara desert has come and taken up residence in his mouth. He can tell it's Sam beside him, somehow. Hell, he'd be a pretty poor brother if, after all these years, he couldn't tell that it was his brother by the sound of his breathing, and the general feel of a nearly seven foot tall giant being in the vicinity. Or is that just him?

Dean wishes to God (wherever the hell he is) that he had a good cold beer, or something like that, instead of the tepid water Sam helps him to drink. That, or something that would make his brain stop drifting off on tangents. He feels... cut loose, like he's floating, like time has kinda stopped -- or carried on and gone on without him, maybe, which actually, considering recent events, is just about fine with him.

"Dean?" Sam asks, quietly.

"Why the hell can't I see?"

A sigh. That was pretty much the last question Sam wanted him to ask, obviously, but Dean has no idea why Sam thought he would actually refrain from asking. Probably didn't think so, and just wanted to pretend everything was fine and dandy. Well, it isn't, and Sam's just going to have to put up with that.

When he speaks, he's careful, though. "How much do you remember?"

"I remember coming to get you. I remember killing Ruby. I remember a really fucking bright light. That's all. Oh, and a hell of a lot of pain." Dean tries to sit up a bit more and then decides that's a bad idea. He can't see the room, but if he could, it'd definitely be spinning. And there would probably be two of everything. He lies back down, carefully, takes a couple of deep breaths before he turns his head in Sam's direction again. "I'm gonna kick your ass when I can get out of bed, Sam. You remember how we were trying to prevent the apocalypse?"

"Dean..."

Kicked puppy eyes. Dean knows the tone. "Sam, seriously. I'm gonna whup your ass."

"I hope so," Sam says, oddly, but Dean isn't paying much attention. There're more important things to ask about.

"So what's been happening? How long was I out?"

Sam's quiet for a moment -- thinking, Dean supposed. He talks slowly, when he does talk. Reluctant. "About... a week? Something took us out of there. I shut my eyes faster than you or something, I don't know, it didn't do anything to me but give me a massive headache. Something took us out of there, reconstituted Cas, grabbed Bobby too for good measure, and dumped us all in the middle of Bobby's living room. Bobby was not happy."

Dean frowns. "What took us out of there?"

Sam shrugs. He seems to have forgotten Dean can't see it, but that's okay. He hears the whisper of fabric moving, and he knows the tone of Sam's voice that means he just shrugged. "Castiel thinks it was God," he says, after a moment. Dean's starting to get tired of the hesitations and significant pauses.

"Castiel would," he says, shrugging. He tries to get more comfortable, but it's difficult. He feels weak and sore all over. He wants to beat his pillow into submission and make it actually act like, you know, a pillow, but he's not sure he has the energy. "What do you think?"

"I really don't know," Sam says. He's probably doing that ridiculous pouty frown thing now. He doesn't like not knowing things.

Dean huffs. He squirms around a little and then stops, eyebrows furrowing. "Wait. You said 'reconstituted Cas'? He didn't kick the archangel's ass?"

"Dude, no. He got pulverised," Sam says, and then, hastily, "Not that he didn't try."

"That's my boy," Dean says. He actually feels a wave of affection for the whole stupid lot of them: for Sam, for Castiel, for Bobby. He reckons it's probably drugs causing it, but he has no argument with that at all. He clears his throat after a moment. "So, uh... when am I gonna get my sight back?"

Sam doesn't say anything for a moment, and then he's taking the pillow from Dean and plumping it up just right. "You hungry? Maybe you should eat something?"

Dean's stomach rumbles, right on cue. "I'm hungry. But no, don't tell me, you're going to feed me soup."

"You are an invalid, after all," Sam says, and he takes far too much relish in that idea, Dean's sure. He's gonna be such a fucking mother hen. Mind you, Dean will be the centre of attention for a few days, and that'll be nice -- being the centre of Sam's attention, anyway. He could care less about anyone else. He can make Sam run around doing shit for him. That definitely has appeal, as a thought. And they probably need time together, rebuilding trust and all of that.

God, it's the drugs, getting to him and making him spout this... self-help bullshit. But it's not all wrong. He and Sam totally need some time together, some of which he's going to spend kicking the idiot's ass.

"I'll bring you something," Sam promises, pushing the pillow back under his head carefully. That pretty breaks off Dean's train of thought. He could swear Sam's about to pull the covers up over him, too, and tuck him in, which just -- no. No, no, no. He bats Sam's hand away. He can hear Sam walking toward the door, and, okay, how stupid does Sam think he is? Or how drugged? He knows, it's obvious, that Sam was avoiding the damn question.

"Sam," he says, warningly, and he hears Sam stop. He doesn't hear Sam turn, though he listens carefully for the shuffle of feet. Really reluctant, then, and not even about to pretend he doesn't know what Dean wants. If he was gonna pretend, he'd be back fussing about the covers and asking if Dean's comfortable, or something stupid like that.

"What?" is all he says.

"You didn't answer my question."

Sam sighs softly. "We don't think... You're not going to get your sight back, okay?"

'Okay'. What a dumb word. Because it's not okay, not in a million years. No sight means no shooting, no hunting, no hot chicks, not even any research, never seeing those dumb expressions on Sam's face ever again... and yeah, Dean kinda knew already, but the drugs and the floating, they let him block it out and pretend he didn't know. Too bad that he did know, really. Too bad that he just had to open his goddamn mouth and ask the stupidest questions, every fucking time.

Too bad he didn't just let himself drift away, didn't just accept that hey, this one time, this one time maybe there'd be some peace. He's got to have earned it by now.

Sam does move back to the side of the bed now. "Dean?"

He rolls over onto his side, away from the sound of Sam's voice, so that his back's gotta be to the door. He wants to squeeze his eyes tightly shut, but they're closed anyway. There's some kind of bandage round his head, and the knot has shifted, digs uncomfortably into him.

Sam touches his shoulder. "Dean?"

Sam should have got the hint by now. It's all but up on a blinking neon sign, after all. Dean pushes his head harder into the pillow, pulls the covers tightly around him, and doesn't answer.

He listens for the creak of the floorboards, the soft sound of footsteps, the noise of the door closing. He waits to see if Sam will come back, but there's nothing.

His stomach rumbles a protest. Dean ignores it. Eventually, he tumbles back over into sleep -- the strange disconnected floating sleep of the past few days. Voices just too low to hear scrape at his ears, demand attention, but he's not listening. Not now. Not anymore.

---


Castiel's there beside the bed when he wakes up again. He couldn't tell you how he knows -- he hasn't had anywhere near the same amount of time with Castiel as he's had with Sam, but he still knows him well enough for this. Then again, there's always been something strong about Castiel's presence. He's pretty much always known he was there. So he shouldn't be surprised, really. There's something about him that just screams angel, even when you can't see. Maybe it's even stronger when you can't see, Dean thinks. No distractions, then. No holy tax accountant get-up. Just pure angel-ness. Or whatever.

"Dean," Castiel says, quietly. "I know you are awake."

"Congratulations," Dean says. It comes out even bitchier than he meant it to, but that's alright. He just doesn't give a shit right now.

"You upset Sam."

"I'm the one who's gone blind and we're talking about upsetting Sam?"

Castiel sits down, judging from the dip of the bed. He sounds confused. "He is your brother. Normally, you would want to take care of him."

"Now isn't normal."

Castiel apparently has nothing else to say. The two of them can be quiet together easily enough, normally. Normally he'd kind of enjoy sitting with Cas in silence, for whatever time there's been for that, which was generally not much. But something about it now is just... too much, like Castiel's presence is pushing at him, demanding something. Dean huffs out a sigh.

"You're just staring at me, aren't you? Don't you know how creepy that is?"

"You have... suggested something along those lines in the past," Castiel says, carefully. Carefully, god damn it, like he's walking across a fucking minefield. Well, whatever, probably justified. Dean would probably hit him just for the satisfaction of nearly breaking his own hand, at this point. Trouble is, he probably couldn't be sure of hitting Castiel's face. Not even if the angel gave him three goes.

"What do you want?"

"Blindness isn't death, Dean. Your life isn't over."

"Isn't it?"

Castiel touches his shoulder lightly. "Your life isn't just about the things you see. I've seen you. You're tactile. You enjoy touching things, you enjoy working with your hands. Those things aren't gone. You just have to learn to adjust."

"Yes, they are," Dean growls, because there's no way he's working on the Impala's engine blind, or something dumb as hell like that. He'd do something he couldn't fix, he'd just mess up. So that's that for the smell of oil and metal, the satisfying feeling of carrying on from his dad, the memories of his dad and him working on the car together. So long, goodbye, the end. And the same for so many other things. So much else that Dean doesn't even really want to think about it.

"You will have to give up hunting."

"I thought you were supposed to be cheering me up."

"You could have a normal life," Castiel says. "You have to stop hunting, you have no choice about that, but you could use this chance to make a new life. One that doesn't revolve around guns and danger and the chance of being killed."

"One without asshole angels in it?"

"If you wished," Castiel says, and there's a trace of hurt in his voice.

"I didn't mean you," he says, tiredly. He turns his face into the pillow, feels the coolness of the fabric against his cheek and temple, almost soothing. "I just meant the rest of 'em. But, Cas, what made you think I ever wanted a normal life?"

"I have seen your dreams, Dean."

"That's cheating."

"Nonetheless," Cas says, and Dean thinks that that sound, that new note in his voice, means that he's smiling. He's not so good at reading Cas as he is at reading Sam, which is no surprise, but he thinks he knows that tiny smile. But he can't exactly check.

"Look, Cas, I..."

"I understand you need time," Castiel says. Dean jumps when Castiel's hand touches his shoulder, this time, but it just rests there, unthreatening and kind of calming. It makes Dean feel a little less adrift, somehow. A bit more solid and real. "I understand that you have to mourn the things you've lost. But Dean, you need to get back up again from this and make a new life. Sam needs you. Bobby needs you."

"What about you?"

"I need you, too."

"I meant, you, the angels."

Castiel makes a little noise. It kind of sounds like pain, like Dean punched him in the gut. "The angels are not... I am on the run now, Dean."

"You are?"

"I tried to stand against an archangel, Dean. I turned against my own kind. It doesn't matter what my intentions were, or whether it was you I did it for or whether I did it for God, or... I turned against my own kind. I am alone now. I am hunted. That is the way it is."

Dean wants to say no, not alone, but he's a stubborn idiot and Castiel isn't exactly the only one suffering. "So get on with your life your own way. You could make it a good one, not hang around with so many dicks," he says, which is more or less just turning Castiel's own advice back at him.

"Dean..."

"I need to sleep." Dean turns over and buries his face in the pillow. Castiel stays there for a while, Dean is pretty sure, but when he sits up and says his name questioningly, there is no answer, and when he reaches out, there's no one there. Which is what he expected. He lies back down and tries to fall asleep again. Or that's what he tells himself, anyway. He ends up just listening -- listening to the rumble of Sam's voice, downstairs, to Bobby moving around. Maybe even to Castiel, though he suspects that Castiel just flew out entirely. He always thought that when you lost your sight, people say that your other senses compensate. He's trying it out now, straining to hear everything until the silence throbs in his ears, until he hears his own heartbeat, sluggish with inaction, until he's sure he can hear every little chirping bird within a mile's radius.

He falls asleep like that, and the voices are clearer than ever in his ears. He still can't make out what they're saying, though. Not yet. Not that he cares. And yet...

They're getting louder.

---


Dean can only stay inert for so long. He's notorious for getting up and wanting to go, go, go, even when he's supposed to be recuperating from injuries that would lay any civilian low for six weeks. He's not quite reckless enough to get out of bed right away, most of the time, but it's always way before the recommended time. Usually before anyone's figured out he's actually capable of the movements at all.

He's not sure what the recommended time is, when you've just had your eyes burnt out by the devil, so he figures now's as good a time as any. Physically, he's not too bad. He's got a motherfucker of a headache, and whatever the drugs were, some presumably well-meaning but ultimately cruel person has decided he doesn't need any more of them. Okay. As soon as he gets downstairs, he's asking for more. Or, if Bobby's going to be a tightass about it, at least some fucking tylenol.

Hell's one thing. You knew that there'd be an end to the day. That you'd be whole again. Sure, he learnt about all the possible ways to feel pain down there, but that was a whole different context and there was always some kind of end in sight. As far as he can see (ha, very ha), this headache stretches out a long way before him, somewhere into the hazy distance.

Okay, maybe the drugs aren't entirely gone, because now he's thinking all this poetic shit. Or is that the headache talking?

Besides, there's the damn dreams.

He's at Bobby's, so he knows the room, for god's sake -- he's only been in this house, on and off, for most of his life, after all. He gets up and tries to assess how dressed he is. He's wearing boxer shorts and socks and apparently nothing else, which he doesn't care about but might not be quite the way to be seen in public. He gropes around and finds that someone left a shirt and a pair of jeans beside the bed. He suspects Sam, or Bobby, both of whom know him far too well and wouldn't want him to just walk downstairs half-naked. Smart guys, they are. Sometimes. Dean gets dressed carefully. He doesn't want to look like an idiot, with his buttons all done up wrong, or something like that. He wishes Sam or Bobby had been a bit smarter and left him with a t-shirt instead of something that required buttons, but hell, he's dressed in the dark before, this isn't much different. He gets it all done by touch.

He finds slippers, too. He feels them carefully and they're not anything ridiculous like bunny slippers, which is a start, but they could potentially be Barbie princess slippers or whatever. Mind you, that kind of thing wouldn't fit him, so he figures he's probably safe. He'd rather put boots on, but there are two problems with that -- one being that he has no idea what Sam or Bobby or Castiel might have done with his boots, and the other being that he's not going to be able to see where he's putting his feet, so maybe big clompy boots are going to be a mistake. At least the slippers will let him know if he's crushing something or whatever.

It's a bit harder to get as far as the doorway of his room. He could probably do it, with his eyes closed or a blindfold on, but this is different. He can't crack an eye open or cheat any other way. It's for real now. He moves carefully across the room, arms outstretched -- kinda wishes Sam were there to tease him about looking like a zombie or something like that, just to ease him through the horrible ridiculous meaningful moment. He finds the door easily enough, and despite a moment of wondering whether it opens inwards or outwards -- the things you don't think about when you can still see, seriously -- he manages to get it open. Then there's the whole issue of finding the stairs, and going down those successfully, which Dean isn't feeling so cocky about.

Still, if this is about to be his frigging life, he needs to get used to it. He's not always gonna have someone to hold his hand -- Dad taught him that when he was tiny, no need to go forgetting that lesson now. Dean finds the stair by almost pitching down it, base over apex, but he grabs the handrail and manages to arrest the motion somewhat. He even keeps his curses mostly below his breath, just so nobody worries about him.

Dean is nothing if not considerate, honest. Well, he might be lying about the honest part. And the considerate part. But he's sometimes considerate, okay?

Or he's heard the sound of Sam and Castiel discussing him, downstairs. Which is just irritating. They're not really being careful enough. Just because he's blind doesn't mean he's not going to make it down the stairs silently. He concentrates on the stairs first, though, not the eavesdropping, even as curious as he is. Falling right down them because he was paying more attention to the two of 'em bitching about him won't exactly be productive.

"I want to stop hunting," Sam's saying, when Dean reaches the bottom. "I know he's not going to take it well, but I just want to... stop. It's taken enough from us, you know?"

"I understand," Castiel says, quietly.

"I know that the apocalypse is happening and I know that... that Dean and I aren't exactly blameless. But I just... what's he going to do? He's blind. He can't... he can't fight. There's nothing he can do."

"He certainly needs rest. I advised him to take a break and to make a new life."

"Dean doesn't know any other life."

"I know."

"We lost our mother, we've lost our father, and now he's lost his sight? And we nearly lost each other? It's just too much. It's just -- how can heaven ask anything more from us?"

Dean thinks that maybe Sam is getting that scrunched up look he gets when he's trying not to cry. One part of him just wants to barge in and stop this stupid conversation, make sure that Sam is okay and cut off the chick-flick stuff before it really takes hold. But the other part of him definitely wants to know what they're up to, what they're thinking. It's not like they're going to talk to him, not about this, they're just going to treat him like he needs to be wrapped in cotton wool.

"I'm sorry, Sam," Castiel says. "Heaven has always asked for... great things."

"Dean can't do great things anymore."

"I think you're underestimating him," Cas says, then. "I have seen Dean in hell and even there... You shouldn't underestimate his ability to accept and heal and move on."

Which is kind of nice to hear, even if Sam thinks he's totally done for now.

"He can't hunt!"

"No, I know," Cas says. He sounds tired, Dean thinks. He sounds as if the weight of the world has suddenly descended on his shoulders. "I have no answers, Sam. I have been cut off from the rest of the host -- I am alone. I don't know what to do now. I don't know where to go, who I can turn to, and I'm being hunted. Hounded down by my own family. I want to help you and Dean, but there is nothing I can do. I have no healing power, no... mojo. I am completely cut off for the first time in my existence."

"I'm sorry," Sam says, and Dean knows, he just knows, that Sam is being a stupid dick and imagining that Dean would hunt him down, like Cas is being hunted, if... if things were different. Which he'd say he'd do, oh, he'd play the part, but god, he couldn't. He just couldn't.

"I had hoped for your help, but I understand that your first priority must be Dean."

"I'll speak to Bobby, see what he can dig up. I want to help you, Cas, I just... I have no idea what to do either."

"We will talk more later. For now, I believe I heard Dean moving around."

"You did," Dean says, going into the room, because that's easier than letting Sam or Cas come out and find him just standing around outside like an idiot. "Is there any food?"

"Dean! You should've called down the stairs, I'd have come and helped you," Sam says. Dean knows the expression that's gonna be on his face now, the exasperated affection. He wants to roll his eyes at Sam, but he's still got the bandage round his face.

"I'm not made of china, okay? I'm going to bump into plenty of shit and fall over Bobby's carpets or whatever a million times before I get used to this. Probably after I get used to it, too. You can't protect me from that."

"I'm gonna help you," he insists, and Dean knows that expression too. It irritates the life out of him, actually.

"Okay, forget food," he says. He moves through the room carefully, putting his hands out to feel things, and is unsurprised when Castiel's hand suddenly closes around his arm -- has to be Castiel's, because it's not big enough to be one of Sam's gigantic hands.

"Let me guide you," he murmurs.

Dean has had just about enough of this already. He tears his arm from Castiel's grip and blunders on a couple of steps more, finds the door and lets himself out into the fresh air. "I don't need a fucking babysitter."

Neither of them follow him, which is good. He doesn't care.

---


The gun is perfectly familiar in his hand. It took Dean a while to find it, but Sam hadn't thought to confiscate all his weaponry or something like that -- which proved he didn't know Dean as well as he should, if he'd been assuming that Dean would just blithely go along with the whole being blind thing. It's taken him all fucking day to set up a target and make sure that he won't get anything breakable in the line of fire, but he's determined to do this. He always used to say he could shoot blind: time to test it. The gun is a familiar weight in his hand, the smoothness under his fingers almost soothing. It was good to carefully clean and load it, good to bring it out back here to do some actual work instead of just saying okay, I'm blinded, that's it, game over, I give up.

That's a crappy way to live. He doesn't have to do that. He can still muddle through.

He aims as carefully as he can, and listens for the impacts of the bullets as best as he can. He pauses between each one, trying to get it right. He has no idea how he's doing, but it doesn't really matter. Just doing it, just denying the way this could end everything he's ever known -- that's enough. Or almost enough, anyway.

"Dean," Castiel says, and Dean startles and he knows that shot has gone wide. "My apologies," Cas says, then, before Dean can yell at him. "What are you doing?"

"Learning to shoot all over again," Dean says, cheerfully. He's actually pretty sure that at least some of those hit his target. Can't expect all of them to have hit, but some almost definitely did. He should've picked something that shattered or dinged or something when he got a hit in, but it was pushing his luck to find anything suitable for use as a target. Besides, he was sure Bobby didn't need this again -- anything else, well, maybe he'd have been the target next. "First time my dad took me shooting, I felt like I'd finally found something I was good at. I'm not giving that up so easily."

"Your father would not love you less if you couldn't shoot as well," Castiel says, softly, which is -- well, Dean hadn't been thinking that consciously, but now he mentions it --

"Have you met my father?"

"He was obsessed with his life's work, hunting down the supernatural, always searching for the demon Azazel. But his love for you and your brother was boundless. Stronger than you remember, I think. Certainly I think you underestimate your worth in his eyes."

"What's this, a chick-flick moment?" Dean asks. He fights the blurring of his voice, the fact that talking about his dad still makes something tear inside him. He knows how much his dad loves him, god yes he does, and he could wish that his dad had loved him less. Maybe Sam would say the same thing about him, after everything. Probably would. He'd probably be right, too.

"It is the truth."

Dean shrugs a little. "Well, whatever. So, how many times did I hit the target?"

Castiel hesitates, then. Dean figures he's counting. "What were you using as a target?"

Dean rolls his eyes and starts to walk over there. The first time he did this walk he fell over a lot of crap, but he's mostly cleaned it up by now. He stumbles a little bit, and Castiel is immediately there, steadying him. Which Dean knows he means well and all, but it just gets irritating. He's spent most of the day avoiding people because of this, after all. He shakes free of Castiel and keeps walking, stops when his fingers touch the pitted wood of the old sign he was using. "This. S'funny, I can't feel any bullet marks..."

"There are none," Castiel says, in this really gentle voice which is really, really annoying. Although, Dean's kinda grateful that Castiel isn't trying to sugarcoat this crap, make him believe that things are going to be okay when they aren't or something like that. He's honest, at least. Dean likes that. Don't lie to the blind guy, that really gets on his nerves.

"None at all?"

"You didn't hit the target once, Dean." Castiel takes his hand and guides it to where there is a bullethole, about a foot away. "One of them is here. The one nearest to the target."

"That's not too bad," Dean says. "I could work on that."

"Dean..."

"Look, if I want to delude myself, just let me, okay?"

Castiel sighs softly. "Okay. I came out to say goodbye to you. I need to... I cannot stay in one place for very long at the moment."

"I know, I know. Hunted."

"Yes. Bobby and Sam have protected you all from angels finding you, with my help, so you are in no danger as long as I leave."

"Would we be in danger if you stayed?"

"I believe so, yes. My actions have brought some... considerable wrath down on my head." Dean thinks Castiel might've accompanied that statement with a wry smile. Too bad he can't fucking see it. "And they believe that you owe them something."

"Do I?"

"I do not believe so. You did fail to prevent the apocalypse, but that was not their eventual end in any case. And you are blind and as such, little good for their further plans. If you have a debt to the angels still, for raising you from hell, your debt is to me."

Dean nods a little. "Okay. Is there anything I can do to help you? Pay my debt a bit?"

"Stay safe," Castiel says, very safely. "And... try not to be too hard on your brother. I believe you will need each other more than ever before this is done."

Dean can't keep the bitterness out of it. "Co-dependent and fucked up, that's us. Apart from when demon bitches and demon blood are better."

"You should talk to him about what happened. Ruby was more... culpable than even you believed." Castiel touches his shoulder lightly. Dean can't remember if that's a new habit he's picked up since Dean hasn't been able to see him, or if he always did it. "Take care of Sam."

"Always," Dean says, with a little nod. He feels it when Cas leaves, like a breeze, and he hears the rush of wings.

---


Dean is trying to have his breakfast when the doorbell rings. Of course, he doesn't have to get up and go answer it -- it's not his house, and he's the goddamn blind man -- but something in him, like a pricking of the thumbs or however the quote goes, knows that this is going to be trouble. The kind of trouble that doesn't wait for him to finish his eggs and bacon. And seriously, this blind thing has few perks and one of those is that Sam makes him breakfast. He should at least get to eat it.

Bobby gets the door and Dean steadfastly ignores the murmur of voices, piling several more forkfuls of egg into his mouth. You never know what's going to happen, after all. He might as well savour it while he can.

"Dude, that's gross," Sam says, and everything is almost normal. Dean's even kind of grinning.

"You're gross," he says back, and then Bobby just has to let the stupid girl in.

"Dean Winchester," she says, in this breathy awed voice, which is the first thing he knows about her. There's something familiar about her voice, actually, but he can't quite place it. Probably nothing. He's known so man girls, after all. He hears her moving closer to him. "Dean Winchester," she says, almost in a whisper. There's something kind of sexy about the breathiness of her voice. Presumably, she also gets a look at Sam, and her tone definitely cools there, when she says his name. "Sam Winchester."

"Uh, yes," Sam says. "Bobby, what does she..."

"You needn't talk about me like I'm not here," she tells him. Dean decides then that he likes her for now, no matter what bad news or complication she's bringing. Any chick that stands up to a giant moron like Sam has got to have some balls. Even if the point is that she's probably tiny and, you know, a woman, and therefore doesn't have balls.

It all makes sense in Dean's head, anyway.

"Okay," Sam says, with a huff, "what do you want?"

"I wanted to talk to Dean," she says, with that breathy over-awed tone she had before. She walks the rest of the way over to him and before Dean knows it, she's touching the bandages over his eyes. "I'm sorry for your wounds," she whispers, and Dean suddenly feels very very uncomfortable all over again.

"I don't need pity, thank you, and would you mind not touching the exhibits?"

Dean hears a snort that's probably Sam, but might equally be Bobby, and the girl drops her hand. "Of course. I'm sorry, sir."

"Why the hell are you calling me sir?"

"You don't know?"

He's pretty sure she's a wide-eyed stereotype right now, and she's boring him to boot. "No, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I've been having... visions. I know what's happening. I know that the apocalypse has begun. I know that you have been trying to stop it." Her voice becomes even more full of awe, which just sounds ridiculous to Dean, on his side of things. He's not sure she realises that Dean Winchester, the real thing, is a bit of a manwhore (it's an awesome word, okay, and he's not ashamed to admit it) and a bit of an asshole and definitely all kinds of jerk, and he's not sure she's registered that he's, hello, blind. She's probably just been reading Chuck's books or something. There's probably a scene in something he's recently written that involves Dean thinking that there's probably a scene in something he's recently written that involves Dean thinking that --

The point is that she's probably just overdosed on Chuck's books. She's going on, anyway, and Dean tries to focus. It's only polite, after all.

"I know that you're destined to stop the apocalypse. I wanted... I had to come and see you. I had to touch you."

"I'm not quite that easy," he protests.

"I didn't mean like that," she says, disappointedly, a bit more normal-sounding now. Which is all to the good, she was definitely starting to freak him out.

"Well, I'm sorry, but your visions are wrong. I'm not going to save anyone."

"But I -- "

Dean's breakfast has probably gone cold, what was left of it. And his coffee is rapidly getting that way. And it doesn't take very much for his anger to heat up, these days. These are all the excuses that Dean piles up in front of himself to explain why he flies off the handle. Take your pick. "Look, your visions are wrong. Just accept it. I don't even know how me and Sam got this far. We're dysfunctional as hell, we can barely keep ourselves together, let alone the world. Furthermore, it might have escaped your notice -- but somehow I don't think it can have -- that I'm wearing bandages over my eyes because I'm blind. You ever heard of a blind guy being able to save the world, huh? It's not going to happen. Just give up. Just give up and leave me in peace because I'm not going to help you and I don't want you to touch me and I don't know what the hell else you want from me but you're not going to get it. Is that clear?"

There's a resounding silence.

"I'll show you out," Bobby says, to the girl. There's a sort of hitching quality to her audible breathlessness now. Dean sure hopes she brought her inhaler along, or whatever.

"You okay, Dean?" Sam asks, quietly.

"What do you think?"

"I think you've got a lot to get used to." Sam comes round the table and puts his hand on Dean's shoulder. It's just the sort of touchy-feely crap that Dean's never thought he really needed, but oh man, apparently he does need it. And it does help. "I'll be here, Dean."

"Are we going to have a chick-flick moment?"

"Dude, we always have chick-flick moments, and half of them are your fault. At least half."

"Bitch," Dean says, and Sam punches his shoulder lightly.

"Jerk," he says back, but all Dean can think all of a sudden is how much he wants to see Sammy's face, just his face, just his eyes, just his stupid grin -- anything of Sam.

Never again.

How's he supposed to save the world when he's this pathetic?

---


"Dean?"

"Yeah, Bobby," Dean says, stretching his legs a little. "I've known you were there for the last five minutes. Kinda creepy, just standing there watching me."

"I was tryin' to think of something to say to snap you out of your fit of sulking," Bobby says, cuffing the side of Dean's head lightly as he comes to stand beside him. "It got tiring, watching you wallow in it."

"I'm -- "

Bobby makes an impatient noise. "Oh, I know you're blind. You think I'd forget? You think anyone's going to forget? Of course I know you're blind. But that's no excuse to sit around doing nothing and snapping and everyone. You've got to get back on your feet and start doing things again. You've had your time to wallow in self-pity."

"I did get up and try to do things again," Dean says, the bitterness surging up in him like bile. "You seen outside? The bullet holes in everything but the thing I was aiming at?"

"Never said you'd be able to do exactly what you want to do. That's no excuse not to do anything. So you dropped half your candy on the ground, are you goin' to throw the rest after it and just sit and cry about it?"

Dean sits up straighter. "My eyes aren't candy, for fuck's sake, Bobby! How would you feel if you went blind, huh? Now suddenly I can't do anything, I'm totally cut off from the life I wanted to live, I've lost everything. It's not like fucking dropping some candy. If you do that you can always go and steal some more, if you've got no money. This isn't a tantrum, Bobby!"

"Looks like one to me. You want a pacifier? Maybe a baby blanket?"

Dean's hands close on the arms of the chair, gripping them hard. "Fuck you! You have no idea how this feels!"

"No?" Bobby's voice gets closer to him, and Dean can hear the anger in it. "Everybody loses things, Dean. You don't think my life half ended when I had to kill my wife? You don't think your dad's life half ended when he lost your mother? You may not think that's the same thing, but if you ever bothered to stay with a girl longer than five minutes, you might know what that connection is like. You lose half of yourself. Now I'm only saying this because I know that I came out the other side, and your daddy came out the other side, and god knows we were still both messed up in our ways but we moved on. You've lost your sight, it's different, it's something you've had all your life that suddenly you have to do without, but it doesn't mean you don't have to build a new life in much the same way. You got a chance to make your life a good one, why throw it away?"

"Bobby -- "

"I understand, you know," he says, more softly. "You've lost your sight, and your sight is one of the most important things in the world to you, and you didn't ever think about losing it. It's a part of you. But it ain't you, you idjit, and I am not going to let you sit there and waste away like some fucking fairytale princess because you think life's not worth living now, or some sort of crap like that. Hunting isn't that important. Nothing is that important. There are thousands of blind people in the world who get on with their lives just fine, and you're going to be one of them. Hear me?"

"Bobby -- "

"Now get up and go for a walk or something, you've been sat there all day. And then you can have a shower or something, 'cause I can tell you, you're starting to smell pretty ripe."

"You just want to get rid of me," Dean says, a little weakly.

"Who wouldn't?" Bobby says, cuffing him round the head again and hauling him to his feet. "You're a nuisance. Go on. Walk. Shower. Then maybe I'll show you where everything is in the kitchen and you can try and learn to cook for yourself."

"Bobby, I'm -- "

"If you're about to say 'blind', you're gonna get filled with buckshot like your daddy before you, or something worse. You are going to learn to take care of yourself in my house because I ain't gonna go round babysittin' you. Got work to do."

"I was going to say, 'I'm not hungry'," Dean says, smugly.

"You will be, when you've been out for a walk and had a shower," Bobby says. "Now go, or I'm serious about that buckshot idea. You have no idea how much fun it is."

"I'm going, I'm going," Dean says, and can't help but smile, just a little.

"And Dean? We all blame ourselves for this bullshit. I know what's going on in your head well enough to know you're probably playing the blame game too, no matter what your mouth is saying. But it ain't anyone's fault. It ain't your fault. It could have turned out differently -- hell, could've turned out worse. We have to just work with the hand we've been dealt."

Dean stops for a moment. "I know," he says, quietly.

"S'long as you do," Bobby says, gruff. "Now get walking. I don't want to see you back here for half an hour."

Dean grins again, and goes. He doesn't say thanks, though. Bobby avoided the chick-flick moment with the whole I-look-on-you-as-a-son shit. Least Dean can do is return the favour. And a walk doesn't sound like that bad an idea, even if he's going to fall over everything on the way and get lost on the way back. Bobby or Sam or maybe even Cas will have his back. Hell, Bobby will probably watch him like a hawk the whole time. He's not fooling anyone when he acts like he's got more important stuff to be doing. Dean kinda wishes he wasn't watching, the fifth or sixth time he stumbles, but hey. He's blind. It's a bit hard to be graceful and shit when you can't see a thing.

---


Dean is peeling the skin off an apple. He's not actually planning to eat it, but getting to carve something into bits is good therapy, he figures -- it's always worked before, if on a bit of a larger scale. And fuck, he's bored. He's been zoned out for the last couple of hours because they're just talking and talking and talking. This is about the third time the argument has come back round and Dean isn't getting any more fond of it. They're all kind of ignoring him -- mostly by his choice -- and trying to talk among themselves. Castiel is tense as hell, which Dean can tell without needing to be able to see him, and Sam is quieter than usual, because he knows how much of this is his fault. Bobby is... well, Bobby's exasperated.

Dean? Dean is bored. Dean is bored out of his fucking skull. Which has never, historically, been a good sign.

Sam huffs out a sigh. "So what are we gonna do?"

"I'm sure heaven had some plan," Castiel says, thoughtfully. "Some idea of where to go from here. Dean has said that they intended this to happen -- we know that they intended Lucifer to rise, so... if we knew what they were planning to do now..."

"Which is no good to us when we're on the run from heaven," Bobby says, impatiently. "We need to come up with something of our own."

"I apologise," Castiel says, stiffly. "I am unused to independent thought. I followed orders, before, little more."

"Can't use that excuse forever," Bobby says -- Dean would actually say he snapped, which he wasn't really expecting, but hey. Everyone's tempers are fraying.

Dean would roll his eyes, actually, except Sam is still insisting that he wears the bandage. He's not sure how it makes any difference, but maybe they're all just antsy about the idea of seeing his strange blankly blind eyes. He would be a bit freaked out too. And at least this way he doesn't have to pull too many clever tricks about making his eyes point at whoever is speaking or something like that, just to show he's still perfectly able to follow it all. He just has to sit here, playing with the apple and the knife and -- whatever it is Bobby's left out on the table. Dean has no idea what it is. Some kind of charm or amulet, he guesses.

He wonders if this is why emo kids end up cutting themselves. Knife out, boredom hits, what the fuck else is there to do?

"We've got to do something," Sam says. "I... We started this."

"You started this," Bobby starts saying -- gently, but he's still saying it -- but Castiel shakes his head.

"I, too, played a part. As did Dean. As did Mary Winchester and John Winchester, and other angels, and many demons... It is everyone's responsibility."

Bobby is too, well, Bobby, too much fond of Dean or Sam to point out the obvious: that he hasn't done anything to contribute to this clusterfuck, that anyone knows of.

Dean is getting really, really bored of all this. Any minute now, they'll be back to, 'So what are we gonna do?' Because apparently the answer is bitch and moan and play the blame game -- wasn't someone telling him not to do that, just a couple of days ago? -- rather than come to any solid conclusions.

He clears his throat. "What about Chuck? What did Chuck say?"

The other three are suddenly silent.

"Well, go on. Can't be worse than this, right?"

"He... he has predicted that you'll be the one to save the world, still, Dean," Sam says, in that pacifying and gentle sort of way he's been getting in the face of Dean's undeniable snappishness. It's irritating, but Dean figures he probably pretty much deserves it. He might've had a shower and started trying to look after himself, at Bobby's insistence, but that hasn't really translated to a better mood. And he's been waving the knife about. Cutting an apple, okay, but still a knife.

"Too bad. I thought he might have said something useful."

"Perhaps he's right," Castiel says, tentatively. "Perhaps... He is a prophet, after all. Heaven's plans -- "

"Screw heaven's plans," someone mutters, and Dean reckons that's probably Sam, though he's not sure Bobby doesn't share the sentiment. Who doesn't share the sentiment?

"I'm blind," Dean says. "Heaven's plans are already screwed. And who knows that they'd have been any good for us if we'd gone along with them anyway? Heaven was working towards heaven's own good -- sorry, Cas, but it's true. It might just have been more of the same old crap. So what are we going to do now that that isn't going to work? Just sit here and wait to be wiped off the face of the earth? No thank you. We've got to figure it out."

"Chuck says -- "

"I do not give a damn what Chuck says," Dean says, very slowly and clearly. "Dean says, 'Can't be done.' So just shut up hoping and expecting that just because Chuck and some weird chick had visions, that they're somehow going to come true. There's no way. There is no magical fix-it for blindness or you guys would have tried it already. And I can't do anything without my sight -- you've all seen what my shooting is like these days."

"Your shooting is not all of you," Castiel says, which is sweet but just irritating. Dean gets up, letting the chair scrape painfully loudly over the floor.

"I told you. I'm out of this. Make some plans that don't involve me."

It's satisfying that he can make it all the way out of the room now on his own steam, no need for any help from the three musketeers.

---


It's the middle of the night. You'd think it would be better to be blind in the middle of the night -- nothing to see, anyway, except late-night tv or porn, and the former is usually crap or reruns of shit Dean's seen a million times before, and Dean's not in the mood for porn at all. Hasn't been, really, since he got back from hell. It's just not all that satisfying, and Dean would rather a real living body, real companionship, than just the company of his own head and his nightmares and neuroses and all the baggage he brought back with him.

It's worse, though. It's worse being blind in the middle of the night because all Dean can do is just lie there and not look up at the ceiling. He folds his arms across his chest, twiddles his fingers, even tries to count sheep. None of it works. He tries to think about other things, but when you're lying alone in the dark, the real dark, then there's nothing else really to think about. It's blindness or the impending apocalypse, and Dean is not sure which is worse to just lie there thinking about. Neither of them seem to be going away very fast at all.

He's not sure going to sleep would be any better. There's always the voices.

"Hey God," he says, to the unseen ceiling. "I always thought you were probably a bastard. I guess I was right, with all this apocalypse shit. I'm glad you and me understand each other."

There's no reply, obviously, and Dean feels pretty stupid.

"It's rude, not to even answer a guy," he says, and then rolls over onto his side, bunching the pillow up below his head.

This is his life. Better get used to it, he thinks, bitterly, because nobody is going to come along wielding a magic wand and make sure he's alright.

---


"Why did you let in another one?" Dean hisses, roughly in Sam's direction. He's not entirely sure where Sam is, but the general sense of a big hulking dude with a faintly guilty expression will do.

"He let me in because he wanted to believe in the message I've heard," the guy says. He obviously has sharper ears than Dean gave him credit for -- that, or he's just a really good guesser. Either works, Dean doesn't even care. He listens carefully, trying to figure out where the guy is, but still jumps when there's the sound of knees hitting tiles and then smooth large hands cover his. "My lord," the guy says, which is just, what the hell, what the fucking hell, what the fuck is happening to Dean's life? He jerks his hands away.

"Look, whatever you think I am, whatever you're hoping for, it's not... It's not going to happen, okay?"

Dean suspects that Sam is laughing, and hiding it pretty well. He can't hide it from Dean, of course, not even when Dean is blind. Dean knows him far too well, knows the smirk that's surely plastered all over his face. He'd glare, but it loses its effect without proper targeting, and a bandaged face isn't really specially good at conveying the whole glare thing anyway.

It goes both ways, though. Sam probably knows him well enough to know he'd like to be glaring right now. Not that it'd make any difference if he did. Sam is probably always going to find this hilariously funny.

Dean wonders sometimes why they haven't killed each other yet.

"You're the Messiah," the man says, and he takes Dean's hands again. His hands are dry, smooth, cool, and he holds Dean's hands firmly but without hurting him. "I've seen this. You have to believe me."

"I really don't," Dean says, still trying to extricate himself. It's kind of shameful that he can't quite do it, but he doesn't want to punch the guy in the face or something like that. Not yet, anyway. Depends whether he keeps spouting bullshit.

"You do," the guy says, earnestly. "You're going to be our saviour. You can't turn your back. You can't turn a blind eye."

"Very funny," Dean says, this time with a hell of a lot of frost in his tone, and he gets his hands free. He gets up, too, maneuvers around the stupid kneeling guy and stumbles a little, but makes it over by the window. He faces as if he's looking out of it.

"The prophet says that your blindness will turn to true sight," the man says, apparently un-fucking-daunted. "He says that our pleas don't fall on deaf ears."

"Well, he's right in that I'm not deaf. Yet. Maybe some asshole angel will unleash his true voice in my vicinity again and do my hearing in too, but right now, I'm not deaf." There are whole buckets of bitterness in Dean's voice, but he has a goddamn right to it. He'd defy anyone not to be bitter in this situation, for god's sake.

Or Lucifer's sake. What does it matter at this point?

"You're the only one who can save the world."

"Then the world isn't going to be saved."

"We have faith in you."

"We?" Sam asks, quietly. There's something disturbingly credulous about his tone.

"All of us. All of us who are having these dreams, who listen to what the prophet says. We all know that Dean will be the saviour."

Religious fervour. Jesus, Dean fucking hates it. It's kind of okay when it comes from Cas and it's about God, because that's just the way that Castiel is made. He can't help it. But when it comes from a human, Dean just doesn't get it. Everyone goes through shit in their lives, and why some people think that some big deity up above is going to help them with it, he doesn't know. As far as he can tell, if God exists at all anymore, he's a big asshole.

Religious fervour makes even less sense when it's focusing on him. He can kind of get it when you're talking about an all-powerful, all-seeing and all-knowing God -- it's not for him, but hey, he can see the appeal. But not him. Especially not now, but not ever. God, everyone knows what he's like. Even Sam and Bobby think he's about to fly apart at the least pressure. He's pretty sure that by this point, they're not wrong.

"I wish you wouldn't believe in me," he says, quietly. "I do want to save the world. Of course I want to save the world. Not because I'm some Messiah, but because it's my world too. But I'm not... I'm not whatever you think I am. I never have been and I never will be. I'm just a guy. Worse, I'm a guy who went to hell and broke there. I did horrible things. I'm not Messiah-material. I can't help you. I'm blind and I don't know what to do, I have no idea what to do."

"Your blindness will become true sight," the guy says, almost gently, which kinda makes Dean regret being all quiet and serious and not just slugging him in the face.

"My blindness isn't becoming anything but irritating. It just is."

"Chuck said the same thing," Sam says, fake-nonchalently. Dean gets it, really. Sam wants it to be true. Hell, needs it to be true.

"Please go," he says, to the guy, who is probably still kneeling on the floor. "I'm not going to help you."

"I still believe in you," the dude says. "I was glad to meet you, Messiah."

Dean doesn't reply. He listens to the guy's footsteps as he leaves the room, listens for Sam's footsteps coming back. "It's all bullshit," he says, quietly. "It's all bullshit."

"I hope not," Sam says. "It's the only hope we've got."

Which is something Dean really didn't need to hear anyone say aloud.

"Sorry," he says, and Sam doesn't say anything.

---


"Dean," Castiel says, quietly. Dean doesn't even bother to jump -- sure, he's surprised, but he's been jumping at small noises all day and he's just tired of it. No more jumping around.

"Cas." He swivels a little in his seat, tilts his head as if he's looking up at where the voice came from. He doesn't know why he bothers, it's just -- it makes him feel that bit more normal. "So, are you going to tell me I'm the only hope for the universe and that you believe I'm going to save everybody. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope, etc?"

"No," Castiel says. "Who is Obi-Wan Kenobi?"

"It's... You know, never mind. I'd say I'll watch Star Wars with you someday, but I won't be able to."

"I am sorry."

Dean shakes his head, dismissing it. "So what are you here for?"

"I thought you would appreciate company."

"Look, if you're here to guilt me... just say it. Hit me with it, I'm ready."

Castiel puts his hand on Dean's shoulder, uncomfortably close to the old scar. "No. I am simply here because I wanted to be beside you. We are friends."

"Could've fooled me, sometimes."

"Anna probably told you that angels do not have feelings," Cas says. He's sitting down while he's talking, to judge from the movement of his voice and the fact that his hand moves off Dean's shoulder. "It is true, to some extent. Certainly I have always had some emotions, but clearly not on the level that you have. It is not possible to have truly strong emotions -- like fear, or relief, or joy -- when you simply have faith that God will give you all these things. You cannot feel love, individually, only love for God's creation as a whole, because you cannot choose a part which is more worthy. Everything acts as given to it by God. It is not possible to feel achievement, for you know that it was ordained for you all along."

"What are you saying?"

"When you doubt, when an angel begins to doubt these things, a space opens up for these things. For a more personal love. For achievement. For pride. For hope, and despair, relief..."

"How do you feel now?"

"I do not know. I have so much to learn." Castiel reaches up, touches that shoulder lightly, just over where the scar throbs on Dean's shoulder in response to the touch. "I have begun to feel pride, for bringing you out of hell. I was so full of awe for you, for the part God had given me to play, I did not think of the things that I did, to get you out. The fight that I undertook, alone..."

Dean's silent for a moment, then, "Have I ever thanked you properly?"

"You have never needed to." Castiel closes his hand on Dean's shoulder and squeezes gently. "I have come to understand you, somewhat. I know that you have mixed feelings about it. Now you must be wondering why I brought you back at all, for this, to lose your sight and have your brother start the apocalypse. It doesn't seem worth it."

"It isn't."

"And yet, these are years that you will not face that torment in hell."

He's trying to avoid thinking about the specifics of that torment. Even now, it still sometimes feels as though he can feel it, flashes of pain deep inside him, like he's about to tear open. He shakes his head. "Doesn't matter, if I have to go back there."

"For whatever it is worth, I will not allow that."

Dean smiles, just a little, and reaches out, finds Castiel's shoulder after a bit of groping at thin air, and squeezes it in response. "Thanks, Cas."

"It may not be worth anything, in the times that are coming."

"It's something, though. It's definitely something. And, well, you wanting to do that for me, that's worth a lot, too. For our friendship."

Castiel does not say anything. Dean suspects that he nods. There's a few moments of silence, then, more comfortable than Dean would have thought it could be. When he and Sam are sat there in silence it feels like there's a ton of things that no one is saying, a ton of things that maybe need to be said. A weight in the air, that makes Dean's shoulders feel strained, that makes every muscle in his body draw tight. They can't just relax anymore.

Cas is different. It's okay just to sit there in silence with Cas. Dean doesn't even think much, despite his own personal darkness. It's not like lying alone at night.

Eventually, though, Dean does break the silence. "Do you still pray? Or whatever it is that angels do?"

"Yes," Castiel says. "I believe God is still out there. Perhaps not so infallible as I had believed, or perhaps focused on something else, but still... somewhere out there."

"Do you believe he listens?"

"Yes. No. I do not know, anymore. I pray anyway."

"Right. What's it like? How do you pray?"

Castiel is looking up at him, troubled, Dean is sure. "I simply... speak to my father. Cry out to him."

"Just like talking, huh? Like you're on the phone."

"I... suppose so, yes."

"Huh," Dean says, and doesn't elaborate now. Castiel's silence remains questioning for a moment, trying to draw him on, but hey, Dean's a master of that and he's not going to be drawn. He settles in his chair, stretching his legs out, and tries to just listen. He can hear Castiel's small movements beside him, and the unspoken question that hovers on his tongue. He can hear Bobby talking to someone out front -- can't be Sam, he can hear him humming to himself as he's doing some research or something. He can hear cars, once even a siren, far away.

Castiel settles, eventually, and doesn't say anything more. He is very close to Dean, so that Dean can almost feel the warmth of him, and he can still almost feel the warmth of Castiel's hand on his shoulder.

It's impossible to feel alone, like this.

---


He's floating in the darkness again. Some part of him knows he's asleep but all he can really focus on is the voices. So many of them now, so many it's hard to tell what they're saying -- but Dean knows, in his heart, what they're saying. They're asking him to save them.

He has no idea how. He tries to tell them, but he has no voice. He simply has to listen.

---


Dean wakes to voices. For a moment he isn't even that sure that he's awoken, but he knows the feel of the bed under him. He frowns and sits up, shaking his head a little as if to shake off the voices, but they're still there. He can't hear Sam or Bobby anywhere around, which is bizarrely reassuring -- they're always there, in the dreams. He finds his clothes by feeling carefully, and gets himself dressed. He's quicker at it now, since Sam got the hint and dug out all his t-shirts, instead of making him deal with buttons, but there's always the risk that he's going to put the shirt on backwards or inside out or something stupid.

He finds his boots, too. He's tired of walking around in slippers. The walls -- or whatever he walks into or steps on -- are just going to have to deal with it.

He's got used to feeling his way downstairs, too. It isn't hard to navigate his way out of his room, though he has to kick the damn slippers aside to do so. He gets down the stairs with only one stumble, too, which counts as a good day. Normally, if he stumbles once, he'll stumble all the rest of the way downstairs.

He can hear Sam and Bobby now, but only because they're in the kitchen. He heads on in. As he came downstairs, the sound of voices got louder, which is another reassuring indication that he's probably not hallucinating. It gets even louder as he moves through the house.

"What the hell is going on?"

"There's a lot of... people standing out on the lawn," Sam says, almost neutrally. There's something damningly amused about his tone, though, which Dean would be a shitty big brother if he failed to notice.

"Oh?"

"Yeah, they're... they're here to see you."

"God knows why," Bobby grumbles. "You're a nuisance. Have I mentioned yet that I want you to go away and stop bringing trouble here?"

"Sorry, Bobby," Sam says, actually apologetic. Dean smirks when Bobby makes this sniffy little noise that means Sam probably just got glared at for being an idiot.

It's eerily like the dream, in one way. He's almost sure he recognises some of the voices out there from it. They're talking, but it's not distinct because there's so goddamn many of them talking. Dean listens carefully, and then flinches when he realises.

"Dean."

"Messiah."

"Save us."

It's just -- he's said, a hundred times now, he doesn't know what to do. He isn't some god damn Messiah, he can't save the world, and he's blind. He's blind! He can't even put a shirt on his own without worrying that he's messed up the buttons or something.

"Dean," Sam says, softly. "You okay?"

"Who the hell is telling them all this crap? Why do they think I can be the saviour they want?"

"Maybe they know something we don't," Sam says. "Maybe -- "

"If you're about to say 'they're right', Sam, I am never going to speak to you again."

Sam closes his mouth with an almost audible snap. Funny how that threat still works after so long -- and after Dean has never been able to keep it up for more than a day, if that. It was harder when Sam was younger, when it was just him and Sam in their own little world, and he thought that it always would be. Before he knew that Sam could leave. Now, it's easier, with Sam's sulks to keep reminding him he's mad. But he could never do it permanently, never lock Sam out of his life forever.

Not that he's arguing with the idea of having a threat that still works against his brother. He hasn't the bulk or coordination now, to win in a proper fight against him. Dirty tricks must suffice.

"I'll try and find out," Bobby says. "If only because I want 'em out of my front yard."

"They have to leave sometime, right?"

"Yeah, but it's a question of sooner or later, and I'm hopin' it's not later."

Dean goes over to where the window is. He tries to kinda keep out of sight, but since he has no real idea of the position of the windows relative to him, he's not sure how well he succeeds. He can hear the voices clearer and clearer.

"Dean."

"Messiah."

"Save us."

There's no goddamn escape, is there? Not in dreams or in waking life.

Dean leans back against the wall and breathes a sigh of despair.

"You want breakfast?" Sam asks, and he just shrugs. He hears Sam moving around though, guesses that Sam's decided to take the shrug for a yes. That's fine with Dean. Nothing's going to be solved by starving himself, after all.

He just -- he wants to do this, he really does. He wants to just go out there and say yes and accept this, this whatever it is, this destiny. He wants to say yeah, I'll do, I'll do it, I'll fix the world. He wants to be able to tell them -- to be able to tell Sam and Bobby and Castiel, most of all -- that things are going to be okay. And if he had any idea, even just one idea, he'd do it. God, he'd give anything. Because this is his and Sam's fault and if he'd got there faster or spoken to Sam more kindly or just... taken any one of a million different paths, they wouldn't all be here. He has no idea what's even happening in the world, whether the seas are boiling and the skies raining fire or anything dramatic like that. Sam and Bobby don't tell him. It could be happening, and he's just sitting safe here. But he knows of nothing he can do.

"At this rate, I'll be praying too, just to make them goddamn go away," he mutters. Bobby makes a sympathetic sort of noise, which figures. It's worse for him, it's his front yard. He can hear Sam crossing the room, coming up to stand beside him at the window.

"They even have a news reporter out there," Sam says, with interest.

---


"Dean," Sam says, right by his ear, and Dean wakes quickly and quietly, the way he's always woken when he thought Sam needed him.

"Something wrong?" he asks, quickly. "Why is it -- oh."

"Sorry," Sam says, but he doesn't sound so terribly sorry. "I just -- I needed to come in here."

Dean sits up, slowly. He feels like his head is splitting apart again. He rubs at his temples. "Did you have a bad dream or something?"

"Not a bad dream, really."

"But you had a dream?" Not a bad dream, he said, but -- but Dean can't help worrying. Still, this time, it's him with the splitting headache.

"Yeah." Sam's silent for a moment, and then the bed dips a bit more as he moves. "I, um, I had the dream all your... followers have been dreaming, I think."

"You what?"

"I had the dream I think all your followers are having. The people who come here."

Dean doesn't know what the hell to say to that. He's so goddamn sick of this, this dream, and all the voices, while he's awake and while he's sleeping, constantly telling him he's the one when he knows he isn't, he can't be, when he has no idea what everyone is expecting him to do.

"Dean," Sam says, softly. "It's alright. I'm not gonna -- fuck, you have enough pressure already. I get it. I just wanted to come and see you."

"Did you have to wake me up?"

"Dean..." There's an awful note in Sam's voice, uncertainty and wavering and fear, and Dean can't but respond to it. He flails out, grabs Sam's shoulder, drags him into a rough hug. He holds him as tightly as he can.

"We're gonna make it through this. You and Castiel, you'll think of something. Or someone else will. Everything's going to be fine."

"Yeah," Sam says, breath ruffling Dean's hair. "Yeah, I know."

"You wanna come and sleep with me?" Dean asks, only half-teasing. "You used to sneak in my bed when you were scared of nightmares."

"I..."

"It's okay, you know," Dean says, more serious again. "I get it. We've got to stick together. Go on, go grab your pillows."

"You're asking me for a sleepover?" Sam asks, trying to tease, and Dean sits up more and thwacks him with the pillow.

"Go get your fucking pillows, bitch."

Sam goes to grab his pillows. Dean is already half-dozing again by the time he gets back, but he makes room. It's a narrow bed, especially considering that neither of them are exactly small. They make it work, though. For a while they just lie there in silence, and, okay, there's some things they should be saying, issues they should be working through or whatever, but Dean just wants to lay there and listen to Sam breathe and know that if nothing else, they have each other, if nothing else, they're both alive. And when he can focus on that, he can kind of believe that they're going to be alright.

"Sam?" he says, after a while.

"Mmf?"

"I dream, too," he says, quietly. "Of... floating in darkness. And I hear all these voices calling out to me, and asking me to save them, and I don't know what to do. Even in the dream, I just don't know what to do."

"Dreams don't have to mean anything," Sam says, and Dean nods a little.

"No, but -- the voices, some of them... Like that girl that visited, I'd heard her in my dreams before she came. I'm sure of it."

Sam doesn't say a damned thing.

"I wish I knew what it meant."

"Probably nothing." Sam makes a little derisory noise. "You know, it's going to your head. Everyone asking you to save them. You're just getting too big-headed again. You think you need to save everyone, even if you deny it like hell -- you always think you have to save everyone, it's so fucking stupid because sometimes you just can't. And all you're doing, you're dreaming of it and making yourself think that it's something real and important, even when it isn't, because you believe those people are all asking you to help them, that you're the only one who can. But it doesn't have to be true -- it isn't true, Dean. You don't have to save everyone."

"Thanks."

Sam doesn't say anything.

"I wish I could believe you," Dean says, and Sam sighs beside him.

"Me, too," he says.

"This is a shitty bedtime story," Dean says, then, and Sam chokes out a little laugh.

"Guess it's your turn," he says.

"Never told many bedtime stories."

"Liar," Sam says. "For someone who has to lie for a living, you're really bad at it. You told me stories all the time. Stories about Dad, and how great he was..."

"Pity you never believed me."

"Maybe I believed you a little too much."

Dean shifts a little, uncomfortably. "You want one of those stories now?"

"Anything."

So Dean talks. Mostly he just rambles. It all just comes out in one stupid gush -- the years without Sam. The things John did. The things he did. The monsters they faced and the people they saved. And how much he missed Sam. And it's ridiculous, but the weight between them seems to lessen, just a little, like maybe this is one of the things they have to talk about, one of the things they have to talk out.

Under the sound of his talking, there's the sound of Sam's breaths evening out, and Dean listens for that, and when finally Sam is breathing in the peaceful rhythm that Dean knows means sleep, he stops talking. He finds Sam's face in the dark, touches it lightly.

"Sam," he says, softly, unhappily -- wanting to see his face, his grin, even his scowl, wanting to be able to lie there and watch him sleep and know that, for the present at least, he was going to be safe.

It doesn't take Dean long to fall asleep too, anyway. And if his arms have found their way around his little brother, protective, then it's not his fault. You're not responsible for shit you do in your sleep. Obviously.

---


He thought maybe he'd be safe, with Sam there. But as soon as he falls asleep, the voices are there, clamouring for his attention. It's almost painful, the cacophony of voices, and the knowledge that he still doesn't know what to do. He keeps hoping one of these voices will just tell him, that he'll wake up and know, and that he'll be able to make everything okay.

"I can't," he says, into the darkness, but it seems like no one hears him. It's like there's more of them every night, more and more of these voices, more and more of these pleas -- in other languages, now, not just English, but he can understand all of them all the same.

"Dean."

"Messiah."

"Save us."

"You have to."

Dean can't even move. And they don't hear him -- he shouts over and over again, but they don't hear him, and he can't reach them, can't help a single one.

---


"Dean! Dean, Dean, it's okay, sshh, just a dream -- "

Dean wakes with an almost violent jerk. Sam is gripping him tightly, all up in his space and talking total nonsense, like he's some kid with a nightmare. Dean will never, in a thousand years, admit that it's actually soothing.

"It's okay. Just a dream," Sam says, trying to convince both of them. Dean can feel Sam's breath on his face, uneven, and he can almost taste his brother's fear and worry. He nods slightly, takes a couple of deep breaths.

"Is it morning?"

"Yeah," Sam says, slowly pulling away. There's a smirk on his face, Dean can hear it in his voice, but it's forced. "I've been awake a while, but you wouldn't let me move. If you wanted cuddles -- "

"Oh, fuck you," Dean says, tiredly, and gets up. Sam scrambles up too and grabs him some clothes, tossing them towards him. He more or less catches them, too, which is an improvement. "Go make me some breakfast, bitch."

"Yes, ma'am," Sam says, and dodges Dean's thrown slipper. Still -- the slipper almost hit Sam, which is also an improvement. Dean actually feels kinda good as he's pulling on his clothes, even if he does put the shirt on back to front the first time he tries. He can still hear the voices, but at least they're not in his head, they're those idiots out on the lawn. They're probably on tv by now, which is just ridiculous -- so much fuss over one blind guy who can't even do anything.

Dean even manages to find his belt all by himself.

When he makes his way downstairs (only two stumbles), he knows immediately that Cas is there. It's the unnerving feeling of being stared at that does it. People know it's rude to stare, but Cas ain't people, as he's proved on numerous occasions. "Good morning, Cas," he says, pushing his way past and plopping down at the table. "Where's my breakfast?"

"How did you know he was there?" Sam asks, plunking down a bowl of cereal in front of him. "We're out of bacon, by the way."

"You'd better brave the crowd and go and get some."

"We're getting giftbaskets of food from some of these people," Sam says, and he definitely sounds amused, the fucker. It's amusing as hell, as long as it isn't happening to his. "We don't need to go shopping."

"If there's no bacon, you need to go shopping."

"Dean," Castiel says, with a very patient air, like he's loath to interrupt but he does have important things to say. Which is fair: Cas probably has to be somewhere else fairly swiftly, or risk getting pulverised again. Even if God or whatever is gonna put him back together, Dean is pretty sure that pulverisation has got to be uncomfortable. Stands to reason Cas would want to avoid it.

It's just irritating that that has to get in the way of Dean's breakfast. "What is it, Cas?" he asks, spooning up a mouthful of cereal. It's way too sugary, and a bit too mushy already, but hey, it's food. Dean's eaten worse. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Dean does not plan on missing it.

"I had a dream," Castiel says, very seriously.

"Oh, not you, too," he groans. Dean is pretty sure that Sam looks up at that and, after what Dean assumes is probably a questioning look from Cas, with that silly headtilt of his, he probably nods.

"I had the dream, too," is all Dean actually hears, but he's getting good at this guessing game thing. Keeps his brain active. Stops him going mad.

"I dreamed that Dean would be the one to save me. That Dean would keep me safe."

Dean huffs. "Yeah, so is the whole world, apparently. Dick move on some angel's part, I'm assuming."

"An angel could not do this," Castiel says, which is also fair, given that he is, you know, an angel himself. It's also irritating, because, you know, it's not so easy to explain away then.

"So what or who could be doing this?"

"I do not know," Castiel says. Dean waits a second, but he doesn't elaborate.

"Aren't you going to investigate it?"

"It gives people hope," Castiel says, after a moment. Dean catches the sound of footsteps moving toward the window. "This is the future I saw for you when I pulled you out of hell. A leader of men and angels, a man the whole world could unite behind. I thought you would bring..." A shrug. "I thought that I was a part of something very great. Because when I looked on you, even in the depths of hell, your soul shone, Dean. Brighter than the rest. I knew it had to be you that I was sent to find, because no other soul could be such a beacon. I knew you would do very great things."

"So you're back to 'help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi', huh? I thought you were gonna give me a break."

"I do not understand," he says, very stiffly.

"He's just... being Dean," Sam says, with a little huff. "Also known as, an asshole. Look, Cas, I know you want to believe that Dean's going to do this, but... he has no idea what to do."

"It will come to him," Cas says, and Dean feels Cas' eyes on him again, like Cas is trying to look right through him. He spoons up another mouthful of mushy cereal and tries very hard to look as if he doesn't care. "I know it'll come to you, Dean. I have faith in you."

Which is probably the most disconcerting thing he's said, actually. An angel has faith in him? That sounds like the best recipe ever for trouble. Dean's pretty sure he's read something about a jealous God.

---


He doesn't know how many times now he's dreamed of floating in blackness and just hearing all those voices, but he's utterly sick of it. Dean has no idea what time it is when he wakes, clutching handfuls of the covers and panting as if he was underwater. They need to get some kind of talking clock for him, something like that. He hates the directionlessness of the world now -- no time, and the way it feels like he's floating, without solid things to take hold of and keep himself feeling, you know, sane.

He's had enough of these goddamn dreams, more than anything.

He sucks in a couple of deep breaths, trying to calm down again. His heart is pounding hard, like it's trying to come out of his chest. He doesn't even want to think about the dreams he was having. The voices he heard. He could've sworn he heard every voice he's ever known, and all of them saying that only he could do anything, only he could save them.

It's all so much bullshit.

"You hear that, God?" he mutters. "You're supposed to be all-knowing after all. You're supposed to know what's going on in my mind. Well, it's all bullshit. All of this."

There's no reply. Of course there's no reply, Dean thinks, but somehow -- somehow he keeps expecting one. He sits up, and just... lets go, lets it all spill out. Like someone's innards spilling out through a gash in their abdomen, he thinks, with a twisted smile. Fatal injury's the only thing that'd bring him this far, really, after all.

"I'm sick of this," he says, to God, to nobody, to the air, to anything that's listening. "I am so fucking sick of this. I'm so sick of being the one expected to fix everything. I don't know what the hell to do. I don't know how to fix things. I know it's my fault -- not just mine, I know, but I broke in hell. It doesn't matter how hard it was to get me to break, the point is that they got me to break and that started all this crap. And I could've, should've, stopped Sam somehow."

He stops, sucks in another couple of deep breaths. The air feels weird, heavy, and he wonders if maybe he's getting ill, running some kind of fever or something. He's got to be ill -- by some people's standards, he's praying. Just... talking to God, like he's talking on the phone. Which he'd never normally do.

"I know I should fix things," he says, and his voice cracks horribly, "but I don't even know how. Who the hell could fix things? You'd need to be, I don't know, omnipotent or whatever, to be able to put Lucy back in his cage and get everything back to the way it should be."

I am omnipotent, a voice says, a voice that is nowhere and everywhere. Or so everybody tells me.

He's definitely ill. He's hallucinating, now.

No, you're not.

Okay, so he's talking to God. That's... not actually at all reassuring. Dean clenches his fists. "You should have fixed the world already, if you're God and if you're omnipotent. I'm sure plenty of people are asking you to."

They are, but they are not important in this. By the way, I apologise for not responding before. That was rude of me. But you didn't sound very... convinced.

"Everybody's important," Dean says. Actually, he might even call that a snarl. If this is God -- and, you know, odds are against it: could be an angel, could be a fever dream, could be an ordinary everyday run of the mill dream, could be... it could be anything! -- if this is God, then He's apparently an asshole. Which doesn't surprise Dean in the slightest, it's what he's always thought. But. There's going to be a lot of disappointed people in the world.

And it makes no sense at all that the big guy would talk to him.

It makes plenty of sense.

"Will you stop that? Get out of my head!"

No.

Dean clenches his fists harder. His nails bite hard into his palms. "What the hell do you want? What are you waiting for? Go and fucking fix the world already, if you've got time to hang around and chat with me."

I was waiting for you to ask, the voice says. It's probably blasphemy to think it sounds amused.

"Me?"

Yes. I was waiting for you, Dean Winchester, to ask.

"I'm not even a Christian!"

I know.

"Are you telling me this whole clusterfuck is all about you wanting me to have some fucking faith? All of it? The whole apocalypse shit? All the crap that my family has gone through? And you wonder why I don't believe in you? What the fuck?"

Just as angels don't go around wearing white fluffy robes and playing harps, perhaps I am not exactly a... Hallmark God.

"Damn straight. That's been obvious since day one. It was pretty cruel to do that shit with the Tree of Knowledge and all of that." Dean wishes, really wishes, that he could see right now -- just to have something to glare at, anything would do. He wants to hit this guy, he wants to hit God, which is just -- probably the worst idea he's ever had, and so typical of him to want that he wants to laugh, too. He wonders if he's maybe a bit hysterical. "So, great, God's an asshole."

Yes, I probably am, the voice says, musingly. This is bending Dean's brain in crazy directions, he has no problem with admitting.

"So are you going to fix the fucking world or not?"

I suppose I will, now.

"Wait. So what the hell was this all about? Were you really waiting for me to ask? For me to have faith? Because man, just because I'm bossing you around and telling you what to do doesn't mean I wouldn't ask any other god to do it too. I haven't got any scruples about that. I'd ask Allah if I thought he'd do any good."

I never thought you would understand it.

"All this crap about me being the Messiah -- "

It's not crap, Dean. And it's not all about you. People now have renewed faith. That's worth a lot.

"To you, maybe!"

I never claimed a lack of self-interest, the voice says. It still sounds very, very amused. Look after Castiel, will you? He's one of the more interesting of my children.

"You -- "

Sleep, Dean, the voice says, and suddenly Dean doesn't have a choice.

---


"Dean," Castiel says, right in his goddamn ear, and Dean starts up. Castiel grabs his shoulder and eases him back down, a note of apology in his voice. "Dean, what happened? I felt it. Lucifer is gone. The angels are no longer on earth."

"It's -- it's over?" Dean asks, dizzy and disorientated. Last night, he -- there were no voices, after he fell asleep again. He has no idea what he dreamed about, but there were no voices, no one demanding anything from him. Just peace, and darkness.

"Yes, Dean, it's over," Castiel says, and there's a smile in his voice now, like he can't even contain it. It's hard to imagine Castiel smiling like that.

"It wasn't me."

"I felt it. I heard Him, Dean."

"It wasn't me," Dean says, stupidly. Castiel squeezes his shoulder.

"It was. He said so. Because of you, God did this."

"All I did was pray..."

"And God made everything right again. I have already told Sam and Bobby, but I -- I wished to speak to you myself. If all you did was pray, then why... why have I not been answered?"

"God's an asshole, Cas," Dean says. It's an attempt at being gentle, but mostly Dean's just tired. And something very important has occured to him -- so important that he's not sure how the hell he overlooked it, even in the first seconds after waking. Not everything is fixed.

He's still blind.

"But -- "

"He waited for me to ask because he wanted me to show faith, or something. Not any human being, not any angel, just... me. Dean Winchester. I was supposed to show faith and then he was going to fix the world if I did that. Well, and set me up as some kind of Messiah in the process, get people to renew their faith and whatever. Judging from the crowds outside last night, I guess he got what he wanted. Probably made a few headlines too."

"But -- "

"God's an asshole, Cas. Help me get up."

There's a pause, and then Castiel reaches to help him up, making sure he doesn't trip. "Dean? Your eyes..."

"Are still fucked," Dean says, as dispassionately as he can.

"I thought he would -- "

"Let's just get downstairs," Dean says. He finds his clothes and fumbles them on, even though the only thing he can find is a shirt that buttons up down the front. Castiel even helps him with the buttons, and Dean thinks he's probably not imagining the slight reverence in his touch, and the way he thinks Castiel is looking at him. He bats Castiel's hands away. "Look, I've got this. I haven't become suddenly incapable of looking after myself."

"I apologise," Castiel says, quietly. Dean has him go down the stairs first. He doesn't know what the hell he's supposed to do, even now -- he doesn't know how he's going to deal with people asking him what he did, how he's going to deal with telling everyone what a fucking asshole God turned out to be. He gets to the bottom of the stairs and Sam is there, trying to hug him and saying stupid sappy things, and Bobby's gonna say he's proud and Dean just -- can't, he can't do this.

"Sam," he says, pushing away a little, and then, "Sam. Listen to me. I didn't do anything. I just -- I prayed, okay? I prayed and God answered back and said that since it was me asking, he'd fix things."

"You prayed?" Sam asks, mostly just sounding confused, and Dean slips past him and pushes into the kitchen, makes a beeline for the cereal. It isn't where he left it, so he spends a moment groping around for it before Bobby puts it into his hand.

"Thought God would fix everything," he says, quietly, and Dean shrugs.

Sam is beside him again, crowding into his space. "Dean, your eyes aren't...?"

"Exactly," Dean says, and tries to find a goddamn bowl for his cereal. "I don't want to talk about it."

"I was sure he would be -- rewarded," Castiel says, almost mournfully. "I don't understand."

"God's a dick," Dean says, brutal. "What's there to understand?"

"Dean..."

Dean doesn't even bother trying to be all sensitive or whatever it is Sam wants from him. He wants to eat some goddamn cereal. Actually, he'd rather have bacon or something but he's just not feeling up to all the fumbling around that means. He just wants to eat and then get out of here, get out in the sunshine. He has no idea what the weather's like, but he can't hear the patter of rain -- it's silent out there. It might be cloudy, he supposes, but at least it'll be fresh air.

There's no sound out there. The people are gone too. Dean didn't think about that, but that's a relief too. That's a reward in itself, that God made 'em go away. At least it means he can go outside in peace now. No more people kneeling and calling him Lord, nobody chanting about him being the Messiah and having to save the fucking world. No more of that. Dean's so relieved he almost even smiles. He's aware, though, that Sam and Bobby and Cas are all staring at him, all trying to figure out what the hell's going on.

He hopes that they tell him, when they figure it out. It'd sure be nice to know. Though the staring is going to put him off his dinner, if they're not careful.

"I thought he would reward you," Castiel says, again.

"Well, he didn't," Dean says, as evenly as he can. He's still having trouble finding the milk. Jesus, he can't even find the milk and he used to think he'd still be able to shoot?

"You deserve it," Castiel says, and Dean whips round. He hopes he's facing at least one of them, preferably Castiel, or he probably just looked like an idiot.

"Who cares if I deserve it? Obviously God didn't think so. I talked to God, I got him to fix the world, what more do you want?"

"Dean -- "

"I wish he'd fixed my sight. Obviously, I wish he'd fixed my sight. But I'm not going to crawl on my knees asking for it, and I'm not going to whine about it. I can deal with this."

Castiel tries to interrupt this time, moving closer to him. "Dean, your pride should not -- "

"I don't care! I am not crawling on my knees to beg that asshole to make me able to see again. You're acting like I'm not myself without my sight. Which would you all rather, huh? You want me to be able to see, or you want the apocalypse to be over?"

Sam makes an impatient noise. "I'd rather you were able to see! You're -- you're such a bitch without your eyes."

Castiel and Bobby say nothing. Dean takes a deep breath.

"See, Sam?"

"I wish you could still see," Sam says, but without as much conviction. Dean shrugs.

"I don't. I'd rather the apocalypse was over. I can deal with this. You think I can't deal with this, Sam?"

Nobody answers him -- at least not for a moment -- and Dean has just had enough. He leaves the bowl and the cereal where they are, gives up trying to find the milk and heads for the door instead. It takes him a minute, but it's already unlocked and he lets himself out. It is a sunny day, like God decided to fix the weather too, and a shaft of sunlight that's surely bright gold falls over Dean's face right away. He's not wearing the blindfold anymore, the bandage that kept his eyes safe, and -- it actually kind of hurts, the intensity of the light, even though he can't see. He takes a couple of deep breaths, sucks in the cool air, and stumbles away from the door. He's going to get lost like this, but he doesn't care. He'll find his way back, or they'll come and find him. It doesn't even matter.

The sunshine feels good on his face, on his outstretched hands. He's -- he's at least saved this. This much of the world he'd known. So he can't see the sun, he can't just... get in the car and drive, can't shoot or hunt. Maybe Cas was right. Maybe it's time for him to build a life of his own. And maybe Bobby's right, maybe -- maybe he's been moping way too much.

"You're an asshole," Dean whispers. "But thanks."

He's not really expecting an answer, so he isn't surprised or disappointed when he doesn't get one. He doesn't want to spend too much time talking to God anyway -- too much asshole might rub off. Dean's a jerk, but not of cosmic proportions.

He finds somewhere to sit down, grass under his feeling hands, and the sunlight falls down around him. He thinks about how blue the sky must be, how white the few clouds might be. He thinks about the road, how it'd stretch out before them.

Okay, there's things he'll miss. There's things he'll always miss. But -- there's this, too.

---


Dean doesn't know if he dozes off or what, but when he thinks about it again he's pretty sure it's later and the sun is higher. He sits up, listens for a moment to the world around him, and then turns his head in the right direction so that, if he could see, he'd be looking at Castiel. "What are you doing out here?"

"Did you want to be alone?"

"I don't know."

Castiel doesn't answer that -- not aloud, anyway. Dean thinks he might have nodded. He shifts and hugs his own knees, waiting. he's pretty sure Castiel's got something to say. He usually does. He's hyper-aware of everything. Of the slight movements of Castiel's body -- Jimmy's body, anyway. He feels like he could almost hear Castiel's heart pumping, the soft movements of his breath in and out. He feels -- he feels oddly at peace, maybe because he thinks this is over. He half-remembered a dream he might have half-had, while just sitting there in the sun. He doesn't know what it was, but he feels... lighter.

"Dean," Castiel says, quietly, waking him up out of his second reverie.

"Yeah?"

"I feel sad for you. That God didn't..."

"Look, Cas, you don't need to apologise or pity me or whatever. I'm fine."

"But Dean -- "

"I'm fine. Look. This shit... It happens. It happens when you don't expect it and you just have to fucking deal. I've spent so much of my life trying to undo things. Died for Sam to bring him back. Broke in hell and now I've spent months trying to turn that back, pretend I'm whole again, fix all the rest of the shit that broke. Deny everything that's changed between me and Sam. It's not going to work. This shit happens, you know? Pamela got blinded. Dad died. I should've died. Sam should've died. Maybe we should just... let things be. Be like normal people and actually try to deal with this crap."

"Have you been thinking about this long?"

"Five minutes," Dean says, with a bit of a grin, which feels strange on his face until he thinks about how long it is since he just let himself smile. Maybe he hasn't been blind all that long, really, but it's felt like so long. He's not even sure of how many days and nights, not even when he tries to think about it properly. He's not sure he cares. He can start making things count now, if he wants. And he thinks -- he thinks he does want.

Castiel laughs, quietly. "It is... profound, for something you just thought up."

Dean shrugs. "What about you, Cas?"

"Angels have, for a very long time, been... unchanging." There's a whisper of fabric, a hint of movement, and Dean thinks that Castiel probably shrugged, human-like. "It is very hard for us to change. But we can. Anna changed, before she fell. I am changing. I... have changed a lot since I met you."

Dean nods a little, nudges Castiel's knee -- he thinks it was his knee -- with his foot. "So?"

The sound of another shrug. "I don't know. We can change. Maybe that means we must change. It would have frightened me once."

"Now?"

"I don't know."

There's another silence between them -- one of the comfortable ones. Dean just tries to listen, to absorb -- like instead of seeing with his eyes he can see with his ears, his nose, his tongue, his skin. He tries to imagine what everything around him looks like. Maybe there's a muddy patch over there, maybe a patch of flowers... He can smell flowers, anyway, and he can taste just a little dust. It has been pretty dry out. No mud, then.

"I thought that everything would be fine, after what you did," Castiel says, slowly. It sounds like he's thinking it through, slow and careful, so Dean just lets him. "I thought that it would be a 'happy ever after'. But perhaps I was naive. God does not promise a happy ending."

"Not even when you die? I thought Christians were big on an afterlife."

"I don't know. I thought it was a happy ending. But I am not a human." Castiel shrugs again -- there's no other action that sound could be, Dean thinks. "Perhaps I was wrong."

"God is an asshole, after all."

Castiel doesn't seem to have an answer for that. They sit in that warm quiet for a while longer. Dean thinks he can hear birds, the obnoxious tweeting of something going on and on like a broken record, and the flap of wings of some larger bird. He thinks he can hear insects. He never really paid attention to the little details before, he thinks. Not like this. He didn't store it up so he'd know that this sound means this kind of insect, this smell means this kind of flower. He took it all for granted.

He's starting to sound like one of those moralistic kiddy books or something. Like a proverb. You don't know what you've got until it's gone, etc, etc. Didn't Joni Mitchell sing something like that?

"Would you like to be alone a little longer?" Castiel asks, softly.

"I don't mind," Dean says. He listens for the sound of Castiel getting up and going, listens for the sound of his movements, but he doesn't hear anything. The presence is gone, though. He guesses that's what it sounds like when someone flies out stealthily -- he didn't even really catch that flutter of wings he's sure he's heard before.

He could go back to the house and try and talk all this through with Bobby and Sam. He could do that. But he's much more comfortable just sitting here. It feels like he's letting go of things, one by one, like he's easing one finger off the grip of something at a time, trying to take it out of his own disobedient clutching hand. He thought it'd hurt more. But instead it feels like things are shifting, falling into place.

---


Dean heads back to Bobby's house after a while. He stands outside the window and tries to listen in without them seeing him. He feels for the smooth coolness of the glass, for the pitted splintery wood of the window ledge, the flaking paint. It feels like a revelation under his fingertips, his brain supplying stupid detail. He can't remember the colours, but maybe he'll ask. He can smell the faint scent of rot, thinks he should probably tell Bobby about it. Might be something he wants to fix up.

"You think he's gonna come in soon?" Bobby's asking. Dean has no idea what Sam says or does in response. Bobby sounds exasperated. "He's not going to like this."

"Chuck's an idiot," Sam says, nearer the window than Dean expected, all of a sudden. He eases back a little, presses his back against the wall, feels it shape his back and make him stand straight. "I thought he'd quit bringing books out when he realised we were real."

Bobby makes a noise that sounds like a snort. "Are you kidding me?"

"Guess that was a stupid thing to think. And this is worse, Bobby -- have you read it? It's basically calling Dean the second coming. Talking about how he's a Messiah."

"Yeah, I read that bit." There's an odd sound to Bobby's voice that translates even through the glass.

"What?"

"Maybe it's kinda true," Bobby says.

Dean's had enough. He doesn't want -- he doesn't care about the fucking book. But he's so sick of them both dancing around and around the fact that yeah, apparently he is some sort of fucking Messiah. He isn't the one he'd choose for the job, but he's apparently it. And now his job's done, he's sure of that, and he doesn't want -- he doesn't want it to change anything. Turn over the last page and shut the book, happily ever after from here on in. No one asking about him, no one pushing for more, just leaving him alone. Every dog must have its day, and his has come and gone.

He gropes his way away from the windows carefully, so they don't realise he was hanging around outside listening, and goes to find somewhere to sprawl out in the sun again. His limbs feel heavy. He's hardly been doing anything, but he's exhausted.

He falls asleep quicker and easier than he has in a while, no fear of the blackness that's become his day and his night regardless.

---


At first he's seized with a vague slow feeling of panic. He's floating in darkness. He knows that he's asleep. It's entirely different to the warm buzzing alive world he was just realising was still there around him. It's a world away. It's the cold dreadful world of the voices, of the dreams that were haunting him.

But the panic is slow to rise, and quick to ebb away. The voices are here, but hushed and fading, and they no longer babble together in an awful cacophony. They're separate, soft and clear.

"Dean," one says, and he thinks it might be the voice of the vaguely asthmatic fangirl that came to see him.

"Messiah," a guy's voice says, one Dean doesn't recognise. He doesn't try to fight or struggle or say no. He just lets them say it, lets it wash over him, and lets them slip away.

"You did it," a woman's voice says, warm and proud, and that's -- that's his mother, he knows it.

"Dean," his dad's voice says, and Dean's throat is tight and he knows somehow that in the waking world, there are warm tears on his cheeks, drying to salt trails in the sun.

"Thank you," another voice says, and, "I will never forget," says another, and another, and another. And slowly, slowly, they're all fading out, and Dean feels -- not a pang of loss, because he wants them to go, but still, he feels each of them disengaging, feels himself becoming only himself again, and he thinks that maybe it wasn't only his voice, alone, that cried out to God, but all of these with him. Even if they weren't the ones that shaped what he said, even if they believed in what was going to happen so much more than he did.

The voice was his, the faith theirs.

Poor God, he thinks, with a wry smile that he knows has twisted his lips in the real world too. So much of an asshole. Didn't even get what he wanted -- faith from Dean Winchester. At least not the kind of faith he wanted.

When all the voices are gone, Dean drifts into real sleep. Maybe the first real sleep he's had since he came out of the first haze of pain. Maybe the first real sleep he's had since before hell.

He dreams of the world he can no longer see, bright colours, but he doesn't notice all the scents and sounds, and he knows which world he wants.

There's a part of him that still thinks this is like a stupid scene from a movie, a happy ending moment that doesn't exist in real life, that it's all stupid and not what he wants or needs, or even deserves. There's a part of him that definitely, definitely thinks it's stupid.

But you can't help what you dream, after all, and it's not like he chose to dream about this. Might as well just rest while he can, and not fight it. It's kind of nice, in a weird Disney sort of way, after all.

It strikes him, with a clarity that he'll remember even when he wakes up, that maybe he didn't get his eyes healed, but he got something out of all of this, because he feels for the first time like he can cope with this. Like he can maybe go on, and make a new life.

He's come this far, after all.

---


When Dean wakes up, the air is significantly cooler. He guesses it's evening, now. He listens for a moment and then sits up. "Sammy," he says, quietly, and he's pretty sure his brother jumps, just a little.

"I'm not even going to bother asking how you knew it was me."

"Dude, I've been living with you in tiny motel rooms for most of my life. I'd be shocked if I didn't know you with my eyes closed."

Sam doesn't say anything to that. Dean feels ridiculously light, like the fact that he's kind of accepted... everything, even being blind, has lifted the horrible strain right off him. No more feeling like Atlas. He sits for another moment in silence, listening to Sam's breathing, trying to guess what the expression on his face is like, and then tosses the blanket off, stretching out. He's pretty sure Sam is actually smiling -- a little bemusedly, but smiling.

"So, what do you think we should do now? I reckon I should change my name to Sunbeam Moonglitter, for a start, and then we should get the hell outta Dodge. A lot of crazies who think I'm a Messiah know we live here."

Sam stares at him for a moment -- he can feel Sammy's eyes on him -- and then laughs, an honest laugh, head thrown back a little and everything. Dean wants to see it, but he settles for hearing it, for slapping Sam's back lightly and feeling the tremors of his laughter shaking through into him.

"If you really want, you can be Sunbeam Moonglitter," he says, mock-pacifying. "I can be Raindrop Moonglitter, if you like. And we'll think up something good for Cas, so he isn't jealous."

Sam sounds a bit like he's asphyxiating. Dean pounds his back helpfully, until he says a very emphatic ow.

"That's true, I guess Bobby might hate us a bit if we did that, might even break out the buckshot," Dean says, thoughtfully. "Just imagine him having to deal with all the crazies. Inundated with gift baskets. And having to write 'Sunbeam Moonglitter' on the address to forward stuff to us."

Sam snorts again. Dean suspects he's laughing half out of pure relief, and that's okay with him. He knows the feeling. But he quiets down again, and nudges Dean lightly. "I thought..."

"What?"

"I thought you'd be more bothered."

Dean shrugs slightly. "I'm bothered. Part of me's bothered, anyway. But..." Another shrug, nothing better to express his total and utter ambivalence to the whole Messiah business. "We have to get on with life. This Messiah gig won't keep us in gas and provisions for long."

"So you want to get back on the road?"

"Maybe." Dean shifts slightly, hugs a knee to his chest. "Maybe we need somewhere of our own, to settle down."

"We?" Sam asks, quietly.

"Well, okay, it's going to look a bit weird, three attractive young guys shacking up together, but I figure we can still get girls okay. If nothing else, I can pull the pity card," Dean says, gesturing to his eyes with a nonchalence that surprises even him, just a little. "At worst, I'll have to resort to admitting I'm the Messiah, but I'm pretty sure I can still manage without that. You, well... I'm not so sure. You might have a bit more trouble." He grins and Sam makes an indignant noise, and Dean plunges on, because he has to. "And we'll totally have to teach Cas how to do it, right from square one. And I promised him we'd watch Star Wars with him, someday, so he can figure out why the hell I kept calling myself Obi-Wan Kenobi. I can't watch them, exactly, but hell, I know them inside-out anyway."

"Not sure he's going to be impressed that you cast him as Leia," Sam says, and then makes a face. "Oh, god, I just imagined him in that slave girl outfit."

"Kinky," Dean says, grinning. "Not sure he swings that way, though."

Sam reaches out and whacks him round the back of the head. It takes Dean a minute to connect a hit in return, but that's mostly because Sam is ducking wildly. He's laughing, they're both laughing, and it feels so goddamn good. He has no idea how he ends up trapped under his giant of a brother, but he knows Sam's weaknesses, every single one of 'em, so he manages to roll them over a couple of times before they have to stop. He ends up lying on top of something spiky, but for a moment he can't even bring himself to care.

"Alright, alright," Sam says, when he's caught his breath. "So how're we gonna do this?"

"Let's just get in the car, and drive until we want to stop," Dean says. He gets up, drags Sam up too, staggering a little. "Let's just do that."

"Okay," Sam says, voice soft. He has his hand on Dean's shoulder, steadying, strong. "Shall we go now?"

"Are you kidding?" Dean gives him a light shove. "I haven't eaten all day."

"After that?" Sam asks, strangely eager. Dean turns, grins at him.

"After that, we can go wherever you want, Sammy."



Commenting: Either here on DW, or here on LJ.
disastrously: A fox, with a piece of bread in his mouth. (Default)

[personal profile] disastrously 2010-06-11 04:55 pm (UTC)(link)
Your portrayal of blindness was actually really good. It was amazing. and your format was also very nicely done and readable.

As for the fic, I loved it despite having never watched Supernatural at all. It was great.
disastrously: A fox, with a piece of bread in his mouth. (Default)

[personal profile] disastrously 2010-06-11 05:24 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh yes. Very vey much. Also, if I gave you huge, giant, immensely large puppy eyes could you describe the cover art? Because if it's good cover art I'd like to know <3
kuhekabir: (Default)

[personal profile] kuhekabir 2010-06-11 07:16 pm (UTC)(link)
this was just what i was looking for! amazing, Thanks for sharing :)
samjohnsson: It's just another mask (Default)

[personal profile] samjohnsson 2010-06-11 09:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't have enough knowledge to comment on your portrayal of blindness other than to say you made it sound real. And the resilience you gave Dean was wonderful. Thank you for this!

[personal profile] amethystfirefly 2010-06-12 01:45 am (UTC)(link)
I really like this. <3
vanillafluffy: (Metallicar)

[personal profile] vanillafluffy 2010-06-12 02:50 am (UTC)(link)
Amazing story. God was definitely an asshole.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone, etc, etc. Didn't Joni Mitchell sing something like that?,/I>

Actually, that's Cinderella, an 80s hair band that Dean would definitely know, since they were in heavy rotation on MTV back in the days wwen MTV actually played music.
vanillafluffy: (Florida oranges)

[personal profile] vanillafluffy 2010-06-12 04:32 am (UTC)(link)
Point. "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot---" I, on the other hand, geeked a bunch of 80s hair bands and saw Cinderella a couple times in concert....

[personal profile] roque_clasique 2010-06-12 03:01 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, you did such a fabulous job with this! Great characterization of Dean and Sam, and Cas was awesome (more interesting of God's children indeed, LOL). And the ending had me grinning :) Thanks so much for the great read.
cream_fudge: (Milla)

[personal profile] cream_fudge 2010-06-12 01:10 pm (UTC)(link)
So much love for this! <333
You really impressed me deeply with your convincing portrayal of a blind Dean. The story was gripping and ypur characterizations were spot on. You did such an amazing job with this!
Thank you so much for sharing.

(Not really important, but just incase you'd like to know. I think I've found a typo: "If there's any water in that class, I could do with it," I'm guessing you meant glass, right there. ;D)
cream_fudge: (Milla)

[personal profile] cream_fudge 2010-06-12 01:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, I know that all too well, it happens to me all the time. It doesn't matter anyway. I'm just always happy if someone tells me about typos, that's why I even mentioned it. :)

I really, really enjoyed this story very much... in fact I rec'd it in my journal over at lj. (Um, not that my flist is that huge, because it really isn't or that I'm in any way popular, because I'm sooo not, but I thought maybe it makes you happy to know anyway. *shrugs*)
http://cream-fudge.livejournal.com/51947.html
dossier: the ancient ancestor of Herbatus Unimoosis (Default)

[personal profile] dossier 2010-06-13 01:08 pm (UTC)(link)
really interesting! I love stories where the characters have lost something, or gained a disability. Dean's swift acceptance after God's reply is a bit of a gift after all, I think. Dean and Sam are so beautifully characterized and ♥ for God's specific mention of Castiel, too.

I love the ending because it's so wide open. I can imagine it going off in several directions with only my imagination as the limit, so I'll be wallowing it around in my head for a while.
bochan: (Default)

[personal profile] bochan 2011-06-11 10:00 am (UTC)(link)
This is a really interesting story - I like how you portrayed how Dean (and the others) dealing with his blindness, and the fact that he accepted it in the end. So much of the series is caused by the fact that none of the Winchesters seems to be able to accept things - they always want to change events, even the ones that shouldn't be.

Also: God really IS an asshole. :D
winchestergirl: (Default)

[personal profile] winchestergirl 2011-06-25 03:55 am (UTC)(link)
would you have a pdf you could email me please? I know I'm late to the game but my old laptop ate the folder I had with all of 2010's bigbang fics in it.

thanks

winnie
winchestergirl: (Default)

[personal profile] winchestergirl 2011-06-25 10:26 am (UTC)(link)
thank you so much hon :D d/l now :D