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11 April 2016 @ 05:03 pm
Fic - Endurance of The Human Kind - PG-13, Dean/Cas - Part Two  
Part two here! Heed the warning of 'medical', if that's an issue for you.
Header Info can be found here.
Part One can be found here.



Dean is standing out in the hallway, leaning against the nurses’ station desk when he sees Dr. Langdon coming his way. The man looks grave, staring down at the papers in his hand, and Dean doesn’t know if the expression is in regards to Cas’ labwork or just how someone looks after a night of work in the ER. Though Amanda looks far better than this man does, for sure.

“Hey, Doc,” Dean says, as brightly as he can when his heart is skipping double-time in his chest. He knows it’s just the flu, but he suddenly can’t stand the thought of it being anything else, and he’s not sure he wants to hear the lab results after all.

“Oh, yes,” the doctor says, looking up at Dean. “It’s Dean, right?”

Dean doesn’t think he ever actually gave the man his name and his back straightens on instinct, focus narrowing in on the color of the doctor’s eyes, the smell in the air around them.

“Amanda wrote it on Castiel’s chart. ‘Dean, the boyfriend’.”

Dean relaxes his hunter’s instinct, but keeps his back up a bit at the use of that word. Why does everyone keep insisting that Cas is his boyfriend?

Amanda comes out of the room then, leaving the curtain open behind her, and Dean can see that Sam is awake now, simultaneously rubbing at his eyes and trying to pat his hair down in the back. It is ridiculously adorable and makes Dean think of when Sam was little and would wake from his naps like a sleepy little hedgehog. Amanda hands Cas’ chart over to the doctor and smiles at Dean.

“His fever is down,” she says encouragingly and Dean flashes his own smile in return.

“Thank you, Amanda. You’re an angel.”

“And you are a terrible flirt,” she tells him, but she is still smiling, so Dean takes it as a compliment.

He follows the doctor into the room and Cas immediately reaches for Dean’s hand. He is sitting up now though, pillows arranged behind his back, and Dean feels a piece of his chest loosen at the sight of it.

“Well, good news and bad news,” the doctor says, without preamble, and Cas goes pale all over.

“Good news first, Doc,” Dean tells him.

“Yes?” Dr. Langdon asks Castiel.

“Yes, good news, please, Doctor,” Cas says.

“Your vitals look better. Your fever is down, your blood pressure is down, your oxygen is good. Still not great, but definitely better.”

“Amanda said my temperature was down to 101.”

“That’s definitely better then, Cas,” Sam says from his chair.

Cas looks pleased with this, but then steels himself and says, “What is the bad news?”

“I don’t like your white cell count,” the doctor tells him.

“What do those do?” Cas asks him and Dean thinks his Jehovah’s Witness story was a good cover, because most everyone knows what white blood cell counts mean.

“They are part of your immune system and help fight off viruses and infections and whatnot,” the doctor tells him. “And yours are very low.”

“What does that mean?” Dean asks and feels like his heart has stopped beating when he sees the look of utter worry on Sam’s face. Whatever it means, Sam knows and it isn’t good.

“He could have an infection. It could be something more serious.”

“Like what?” Dean asks and his voice sounds high-pitched and far away.

“Like cancer,” Sam says softly, almost without breath, and Dean suddenly wants to hit someone hard enough that his hand breaks and his knuckles bleed.

Cas didn’t become human just to die like one, straight out of the gate of all things.

“It’s possible,” Dr. Langdon says and then sets the chart down on the edge of the bed. “How about headaches? Have you been having a lot of those lately?”

“Yes,” Castiel says. “This began with a very bad headache.”

“Can I get you to sit up for me?” the doctor asks and Dean helps Cas into a better sitting position, then takes his hand again, squeezes it hard - for his own benefit this time, there is no way around that.

The doctor puts his hands on Cas’ neck, feels all around, up under his ears and down to his throat, then around the back. With his fingers resting gently against the sides of Cas’ neck, he says, “Can you turn your head to the left for me?”

Cas does, but he’s been in bed for so long that his head doesn’t turn very far before he is grimacing.

“And the right,” the doctor says and Cas complies with this as well, but again, his neck just doesn’t seem to want to move.

“Your lymph nodes don’t seem swollen, which is a good sign,” Dr. Langdon tells him, picking the chart back up again.

Cas slumps against the pillows and lets his eyes fall closed. Dean can see how exhausted he is suddenly and wants the doctor to tell them what’s next and then go away, so Cas can sleep some more.

“Your neck is extremely stiff though. Do you have a lot of trouble with bruising or joint stiffness?”

Dean thinks that of course Cas has a lot of trouble with bruising, in their line of work getting off the job with nothing but bruises is a good day.

“I creak like a rocking chair,” Cas says then and Dean barks out a laugh, because it is an unusual metaphor coming from Cas, but an accurate one.

Castiel had gone from being an Angel of the Lord to a man in his late-30s overnight and his body somehow creaked and popped more than either Dean’s or Sam’s.

“Hmmm,” the doctor says, more to the chart than to the people in the room.

“What ‘hmmm’?” Dean asks him, because he is suddenly imagining waking up every morning and not having Cas next to him and it is not sitting well with Dean at all.

Dean knows there was a time in his life when he didn’t need someone next to his side like that, like Cas is now. Before Cas came along, and then after, when Cas was more a pain in Dean’s side than anything, where the appearance of him in their space usually meant trouble of some kind. But that was so long ago it feels now and Dean knows these days that Cas is the first thing he looks for in the morning, before he even looks for the bathroom, and to wake up everyday without Cas there, looking and never finding - he knows he can’t do that now.

It’s like a ton of bricks hitting him and Dean tries to push it away, throws his shoulder into the emotions and moves them off to the side, can’t think about it, what it all means, can’t think about it, Cas really being sick. He just can’t think about it.

“I’d like to do a spinal tap,” the doctor says and Dean hears Sam take a sharp breath in, a little jerk of air, and Dean stiffens his back at it.

“What is that?” Cas asks, more exhaustion than fear in his voice.

“We use a needle in your back to take an extraction, to check for infections. In the meantime, I’d like to get you started on antibiotics, just to be safe. No medicinal allergies, correct?” the doctor says.

Cas shakes his head.

“Good. I’ll put that order in right away.” The doctor nods at Cas, then at Dean, and leaves the room.

“What?” Dean asks, turning on Sam as soon as Dr. Langdon is gone.

“What?” Sam asks him back.

“You made a noise,” Dean tells him accusatorily.

“What noise?” Sam asks, seemingly genuinely confused at this absurdity from his brother.

“It was a sharp intake of breath,” Castiel says, head back on the pillow, eyes closed tight.

“I’m just worried about you, Cas. That’s all,” Sam says.

“That is not all,” Cas tells him, “But I am far too tired to argue the point with you.”

“Yeah,” Sam mutters. “Okay. You get some rest for now, buddy,” and he stands up, puts a hand on Castiel’s knee. “I’m going back to the motel, get a little shut eye, and then come back in a few and relieve Dean for a bit.”

“I’m not leaving him,” Dean says, but he is tired, and at the moment that’s all the fight he has to give Sam on the matter.

“Of course,” Cas says. “I appreciate you staying through the night, Sam. Get some rest.”

“You and me both,” Sam tells him and gives Cas a half-smile before leaving the room.

“I’m gonna walk him out,” Dean tells Cas. “Five minutes,” and Cas is nodding, his eyes staying shut through it all.

Dean walks Sam out to the visitor’s entrance of the emergency room and then puts a hand on Sam’s shoulder.

“Alright, Sammy, what?”

“Spinal taps hurt like hell, man,” Sam says and swipes his hair back behind his ears. “Like a lot.”

“How would you know?“ Dean asks, because he’s been by Sam’s side for almost every hospital stay and never remembers a spinal tap being done.

“Do you remember when I was like seven and I got so sick and Pastor Jim had to take me to the hospital?”

“Of course,” Dean says, because what he remembers most about that was his fear that he hadn’t called Pastor Jim soon enough coupled with his fear that he shouldn’t have called Jim at all.

“They did a spinal on me then.”

“I don’t remember that,” Dean tells him, brow furrowed, trying to recall watching someone stick a needle in Sam’s back.

“Pastor Jim wouldn’t let you stay in the room. I was screaming for you, but I guess he figured you’d take the needle and shove it in the doctor’s eye when you saw how much it was hurting me.” There’s a laugh in Sam’s voice, but less funny and more like he knows Dean would actually have done it.

“I can’t believe Jim wouldn’t let me in the room to be with you. What an asshole,” Dean says and then stops and adds, “I mean, rest in peace and all that.”

“Right,” Sam tells him. “Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Maybe I was just scared.”

“Right,” Dean says back and they both know neither one of them believes it.

“Anyways, I don’t need to be here for that part. You’ve got it. But you should think about getting some sleep when I come back,” Sam tells him.

“Right,” Dean says again.

Sam reaches out and puts a hand on Dean’ shoulder. “Whatever it is, Dean, we’re aren’t going to let him go through it alone. You’ve got his back and I’ve got yours, right?”

Dean gives Sam a half-hearted smile and says, “Right,” one last time.

He watches Sam drive off in the Impala before heading back inside.

When he gets back to the room, Cas’ eyes look glassy again and Dean can see the sweat clinging to him everywhere, so he finds a clean towel on a cart in the hallway and uses it to wipe Cas down, briskly and against protest.

“You’re starting to stink the place up,” Dean tells him when Cas swats ineffectively at the towel.

“I will just continue to do so and my face hurts,” Cas tells him and shoves at Dean again.

“From your headache?”

“From my everything-ache,” Cas says.

“Try to get some sleep,” Dean tells him and Cas closes his eyes again.

Dean sits there watching him, trying not to think of the four-letter L-word that keeps creeping into his mind every time he looks at Cas, instead focusing on his new mantra, ‘It’s just the flu, it’s just the flu, it’s just the flu,’ and wonders if force of will works anything like a tulpa.

Amanda comes in after a bit and hangs a new IV.

“Antibiotics,” she tells Dean and then comes back a minute later with a cup of coffee and says, “And antibiotics for you too.”

“Yeah, this’ll cure me right up,” Dean says with a snort and salutes her with the cup. He really hopes Sam asks this nurse out because somebody ought to treat her to dinner and some flowers.

After forty-five minutes someone new comes in the room - a young female doctor with dark skin and her hair pulled back in a bun.

“Hi there,” she says to Dean. “You family?”

“Yes,” Dean answers simply.

“Okay then. I’m Dr. Parrish and I’m going to do the spinal.”

She picks up Cas’ chart, looks it over, hums to herself a few times and then sets it back down.

“I’ll be back,” she says and disappears through the curtain.

Dean can hear the emergency room brightening up for the day, the soft sounds of the sleeping drunks snoring away being replaced by a shift change and ‘good mornings’ and ‘how are you feeling today’. In the curtained areas next to him someone is bustling the sleeping, grumpy man out of his room and the boy with the broken arm has long since been replaced by an elderly lady from a nursing home with some sort of heart problem. Dean can hear the rhythmic ‘beep-beep’ of her monitor.

An orderly comes in a few moments later, takes Cas’ IV bag and sets it on the gurney, kicks the brakes off and starts to wheel him away without even looking at Dean. Cas wakes with a start and his hand flies out looking for Dean’s own.

“Whoa, there,” Dean says. “Where are you going? He’s scheduled for a test.”

“I know that,” the orderly says, shortly. “I’m taking him for the test.”

“Hang on,” Dean says and gathers up their coats and things - Cas would kill him if he lost that damn trenchcoat - and starts to follow after the orderly and Castiel.

“You can’t come with him,” the orderly says.

“Watch me,” Dean tells him, using the same menacing tone of voice he reserves for when he is about to smite a demon.

The orderly seems nonplussed about the whole thing and just shrugs. “Fine, but they’ll never let you in the room with him.”

“Just wheel the cart, buddy,” Dean tells the man and catches Cas’ eye long enough to flash him a confident smirk.

Cas relaxes instantly.

The orderly takes them through two big swinging doors and down a long white hallway that seems like it will never end. They round a corner into another hallway with a series of rooms marked ‘X-Ray’ and ‘Ultrasound’ and ‘Procedures’.

He stops outside one of the procedure rooms, settles Cas’ gurney against the wall, and walks away without a word to either of them.

Dean scowls at the man’s retreating back as he goes.

“Well, he was a pleasant fellow,” Dean says and turns to grin at Cas.

Cas has suddenly gone pale though and Dean steps up to his side in an instant.

“You okay, Cas?” he asks and places a cool hand on Cas’ feverish forehead. “Gonna be sick on me again?”

“No,” Cas says, but he doesn’t sound like he believes it and Dean suddenly wishes they had thought to take the basin with them when they left the ER room. “That brisk movement has made me a bit dizzy though.”

“Here,” Dean says and moves the gurney into a more horizontal position. “Lay down, close your eyes, it’ll pass.”

“I am a liar, Dean,” Cas says then, curling up on his side. “I am going to be sick.”

“Okay, just…hang on,” Dean tells him and looks around wildly for anything, anyone, that can help.

There is a door open on one of the procedure rooms and Dean throws their coats down on Cas’ feet and rushes into the room, grabs a wastebasket, and comes back. He holds it next to Cas’ bed and the other man rolls over until his head is hanging off the side and goes as pale as a ghost, which Dean knows for a fact can get very pale, though certainly more translucent than Cas is now.

Nothing happens though, no retching or dry-heaving on Cas’ part, and after a minute he lays back down, flops his head back against the gurney pillows and lets out a strangled sob.

“I thought I knew suffering,” Cas says and it is a whimper and a cry. “Will this never end?”

Dean can’t help himself, he rolls his eyes and sets the wastebasket down on the floor next to his feet.

“Settle down there, Drama Queen,” Dean tells him.

“Do not mock my pain,” Cas says.

“Life is pain, Highness,” Dean replies and then wishes he could take it back, because Cas won’t get that reference - and Dean mentally puts Princess Bride on the list of things to introduce Cas to - and it kind of sounds like Dean is mocking him.

Cas rolls over to face the wall and Dean lets himself perch on the edge of the gurney.

“Listen, man, I know this sucks. I know you hurt and feel like shit and hospitals are jarring at the best of times and terrifying at the worst and everybody is throwing a lot of human stuff at you right now, but just…just hang in there, okay? I need you to hang in there.”

Dean takes a deep breath, lets it out slow, mulls the words around in his head for a moment.

“I need you to be okay. I can’t do this without you, you know.”

“Yes, you can,” Cas mutters to the wall.

“Fine, but I don’t want too.”

Cas says nothing, just reaches back a hand and takes Dean’s own in his fingers.

A man in a white coat and horned-rimmed glasses comes out of one of the procedure rooms then and looks at Castiel.

“Mr. Winchester?” he asks and Dean answers, “Yes?”

“He means me, Dean,” Cas says, but doesn’t turn away from the wall or unlace his fingers from Dean’s.

“I’m Burt, I’ll be assisting Dr. Parrish,” the man says. “I’m going to take you on in the room now.”

“I’m coming with him,” Dean says and his tone of voice brokers no argument.

Burt shrugs. “Unorthodox with adults, but allowable,” he says and starts dragging Cas’ gurney away.

Dean has to jump up off the edge of the stretcher - Burt is surprisingly strong - and follows Cas into the room, settling their jackets down in one of the chairs and plopping himself down in the other.

Burt proceeds to ask Cas a bunch of questions - basically all the same ones they had gone over in the ER - about Cas’ medical history, which is currently nil, and take all of Cas’ vitals. Dr. Parrish comes in during the vital-taking and busies herself with getting out a bunch of instruments.

Dean’s no pussy - he hunts demons and vampires and wendigos for a living - but the little setup of sterile this-and-thats has his stomach churning. He’s glad Cas is facing him and not the equipment.

“Okay, Mr. Winchester,” Burt says, after taking the last of Cas’ vitals, “It’s time to get started.”

“You’ve left this on,” Cas says and holds up his arm with the blood pressure cuff still strapped around it.

“Nope, we’ll be leaving that on,” Burt says and then attaches an oxygen clip to the end of one of Cas’ fingertips. “That too,” he says.

The doctor opens the back of Castiel’s gown and Dean realizes it is the one time Cas has ever been showing skin that Dean hasn’t enjoyed himself. Cas looks all too pathetic and Dean’s chest feels like it has rocks in it and he knows the blurry vision he has must be from lack of sleep, yet he can’t help but think it is from how he can’t seem to catch his breath, short shallow in and outs as he watches the doctor prepare herself and Cas waiting there, small and vulnerable next to her.

Dr. Parrish wipes at Cas’ back with something cold, based on the way Cas shivers, and Dean waits for an, ‘Oops, guess that was colder than I thought, sorry,’ from her, but gets nothing. She is all business.

“Going to inject you with a numbing shot now,” Burt says and before Cas can reach out his hand for Dean, the doctor is sticking a needle in Cas’ back, quick and efficient.

Dean takes Cas’ hand in his own, pulls his chair closer so he can lean down, look Cas straight in the eyes.

“I got you, man,” Dean says and then, “I got your back.”

“Your terrible puns are not helping,” Cas tells him, but one corner of his mouth turns upwards, so Dean takes it as a win.

The doctor drapes a cloth with a hole in it across Cas’ back, lines it up where she wants it, and then picks up a much larger needle than the last one.

“Does he get something for pain?” Dean asks.

“He can have something after we’re done, if he needs it,” Burt tells him and comes around to Dean’s side of the gurney and starts pushing Cas’ legs into an upwards position. “Bend your knees to your chest, please.”

Dean thinks Burt could have asked before he started moving Cas around like a toy doll, but Cas complies and the doctor nods at Burt. The assistant leans over and places a tight hold on the lower half of Cas’ body.

“Do not move,” the doctor says and Dean squeezes Cas’ hand tighter.

The needle goes in then and Cas makes a horrid face - the same face he made the day he had his first dislocated shoulder and Sam had to put it back in place for him, Dean bracing him from behind the whole time.

Dean can see Cas isn’t breathing regularly, pain knocking the air out of him, so he puts his face right up to Cas’ and says, “Remember that first morning, when we snuck out early for pancakes because you were so hungry afterwards?”

Dean remembers it, the way Cas had been grinning from ear to ear, sweaty and sated, eyes gleaming back at Dean and he had suddenly declared he was ‘ravenous’ and demanded pancakes and Dean had laughed so long at the ridiculous human-ness from the other man that Cas had ended up smacking him repeatedly in the head and Dean had wrestled him to the mattress and tried to engage in another round of naked fun. Dean had had a lot of first times with people - first and lasts often being one and the same - but he had never had a moment like that, delight rippling through him like a current of electricity.

Cas tries to nod in response to Dean’s question and the doctor barks, “Still. Hold still.”

“Do you remember when Sam walked in on us in the shower together and we tried to convince him that we were water conservationists now?” Dean asks.

He knows there are other people in the room with him, knows he is sharing his and Cas’ most private moments with them, these strangers, cold and sterile as they seem, but he also knows that Cas needs this right now, needs to be reminded of all the good things that come with being human and that Dean was there for all of them, that he’ll be there for all of the bad things too.

Because he will. Dean may doubt a lot of what he and Cas are doing, may not know the words to call it or the shape it takes in his mouth, but he knows this, knows he will be there for Cas through all of it, in whatever way Cas will have him.

“Do you remember the night it was raining and we came out of the church and the moon was shining down through the rain-clouds?” Dean goes on.

He remembers that, of course, remembers it was the first time he and Cas had kissed just for the sake of kissing. It hadn’t led anywhere - after a moment of clutching each other’s jackets and moving against one another’s mouths, they had been too wet and cold, and had gone back to the motel and stripped off their clothes and climbed into bed. But it hadn’t gone anywhere then either. They had just stayed there, like that, against each other, falling asleep with exhaustion and waking to more soft kisses in the early morning light.

Looking back on it, it seems like such a cheesy memory to cling too, such a clichéd romance novel moment, but Dean remembers it because it was the first moment he had known he was in this for more than just the sex. It had been true all along, it had just taken Dean until that night to realize it, that waking up with Cas was maybe the best part about it all and that kissing in graveyards under the moon and the rain was sometimes all they would have the energy for and that was okay too.

“Do you remember in the morning?” Cas asks him through gritted teeth.

And yes, Dean remembers that too. They’d woken the second time with full rays of sunlight streaming through the window, tired and sore from the night of digging that had come before. That morning was the first time Dean had consented to letting Cas take the reins, letting himself be opened up for the man and spread and filled and Dean’s heart had been pounding so hard in his chest, but Cas had looked down at him almost the way he used to, back when he was an angel and could still see inside of Dean, could see all of him, and Dean had felt more open from that look than anything else that had happened that morning.

“Yes, Cas,” Dean says, voice almost a whisper. “I remember that.”

The doctor does something with the needle - Dean can’t really tell from this angle - and Cas makes a horrid grimacing face and then instantly relaxes.

“Okay,” the doctor says, seemingly satisfied. “Just lie still, don’t move, I’ll be right back.”

She bustles out of the room and Burt looks at Dean and says, “The worst part is over.”

Cas’ eyes have fallen closed now, but he is still holding Dean’s hand, grip slacking slightly, and Burt busies himself with Cas’ chart. Dean has nothing to do but sit there in the silence now, no sounds even filtering in from the hallway. His eyes are stinging from exhaustion and Dean realizes he has hardly slept at all in at least twenty-four hours, the hunt having come before all of this.

Dean’s eyes must have fallen shut as well then, but they jerk open when Dr. Parrish comes back into the room, the light from the hallway dancing against Dean’s eyelids right next to the glaring ones from overhead.

She looks at Cas’ back, seems satisfied, and then pulls the needle out. Cas’ eyes fly open and he grips Dean’s hand tighter, but makes no noise and in a second, it is over. Burt bandages up Cas’ back, while the doctor scribbles some notes on the chart.

“Okay, I need you to roll over onto your back and stay that way until the ER doctor gives you clearance to start moving around again. Try to rest, take it easy, for the next few days but immediately following the procedure is critical,” Dr. Parrish tells Castiel.

Burt helps Cas roll over until he is laying completely flat on his back, one lone pillow under his head the only incline he is allowed.

“Any questions?” the doctor asks Cas, without looking up from the chart.

“No, thank you,” Cas tells her, staring up at the ceiling above him.

“When will the results be in?” Dean asks her.

“A few hours,” she says, which Dean finds a highly unsatisfactory and bullshit answer, since that could mean two hours or ten, for all he knows.

She leaves the room without another word and Burt carefully wheels Cas’ stretcher back into the hallway.

“An orderly will be along,” he says and goes back into the procedure room, shutting the door behind him.

Dean doesn’t want to jostle Cas about by sitting on the edge of the gurney, so he just stands there, awkwardly holding their coats, while Cas stares at the ceiling.

“Stop it,” Cas says after several minutes of silence.

“Stop what?” Dean asks and is alarmed for a moment that Cas might be hallucinating.

“Staring at me. Being weird. I don’t know. Just stop it. You’re making me anxious.”

“Well, you’re making me anxious!” Dean shouts unintentionally. He quiets his voice then and says, “Damn, Cas, I hate hospitals and I hate sick people and I hate not knowing what’s next and I really hate not having anything to kill to make this better, but I love you, so where I am suppose to be staring except at you?”

There is a long moment of nothing, no response from Cas at all, nothing but Dean’s angered breathing slowing down again.

Then Cas asks, soft and unsure, “You love me?”

“Of course I do, man,” Dean says, but his chest hurts like rocks have settled in there again, can’t stand how casual he sounds, because he knows that isn’t what Cas meant.

Cas turns his head towards Dean and Dean barks out, “Hold still, the doctor said to hold still!”

Cas is just laying there, pale with fever tint to his cheeks, hair sticking up in every direction, worse than Dean has ever seen it, wet with sweat, his blue eyes glassy and dull, one insignificant blanket covering that stupid hospital gown he has been in for hours now, and he is staring up at Dean with something that looks like love itself.

Dean breaks inside then, all of those heavy rocks he has been carrying around all day - or maybe longer than that if he is honest with himself - crumbling into powdered dust and floating, drifting down through his body, swirling into his bloodstream and flying out of his control.

Maybe none of this was ever in his control to begin with.

“Cas,” he says and his voice sounds like it is filled with the gravel of the shedding stones. “Cas, I love you,” Dean says and he pushes one hand out from underneath the coats he is still holding and reaches for the other man. “I fucking love you, okay?”

Cas twines their fingers together, careful and light, like Dean might break, but he is smiling - lips dry and the palest of pinks under the hospital lights, but still smiling, wide and open, at Dean.

“And I’m not going anywhere, so…you’re just gonna have to put up with me staring at you a lot more from now on.”

Cas is grinning now and it almost seems like the color has returned to his face for a moment, a second in time, right when he grips Dean’s hand tight and says, “I love you too, Dean.”

Castiel can’t move, so Dean does the work himself, leaning down to kiss this stupid, stupid man that he loves more than anyone should. Cas does not taste great, but Dean couldn’t give a shit about that, and he kisses him for everything he’s worth.

When they pull apart, Cas yawns and Dean laughs, because they are both idiots but he suddenly knows that the really stupid one here is him, that it ever took him this long to realize any of this.

They are standing there like that, holding hands and grinning at each other like the dorks they are, when the orderly - a different one than before - comes back to retrieve Cas. This one pushes the gurney a lot more gently than the last - for which Dean is grateful, no jostling about after a spinal tap he assumes - and Dean has the long walk back to the emergency area to repeat his new mantra to himself.

‘Cas is my boyfriend, Cas is my boyfriend, Cas is my boyfriend.’

He’ll wrap his head around that word eventually.

Cas can’t sleep, once they get back to the room, no matter how exhausted he is. Dean can’t blame him on that - he has been in and out of consciousness for over twelve hours now and eventually he has to wake up just enough to start suffering from boredom.

Amanda must have gone off shift while they were in the procedure room, because there is a post-it note on the bedside table from her, along with two yogurts and a spoon. The note says, ‘I hope Castiel feels better. The food is for Dean. It’s the best I could rustle up. The other is for Sam. Take care, Winchesters.’

The other is her phone number, scrawled along the bottom of the note in loopy handwriting. Dean laughs in delight over it for a full two minutes.

Eventually he heads down to the gift shop and picks up a crossword puzzle book and a People magazine, as well as three donuts from a vendor cart. He eats all three donuts and both yogurts while Cas looks on in disgust.

“I’d offer you some, but you know…blerghblergh,” Dean says and mimes vomiting.

“I can’t believe I love you,” Cas tells him in mock-disgust, while Dean grins stupidly in a way he suspects he will from now on, whenever Cas says that four-letter word, the same one Dean had been trying to push down not too long ago.

The daytime nurse comes in - an older woman with dark skin and even darker hair - and changes Cas’ IV bag. Dean instantly gives her his best flirty smile, more on instinct than anything, but she stares blankly back at him.

“Do you need anything?” she asks Castiel.

When he just shakes his head, she leaves the room, ignoring Dean completely. He is positive she won’t be bringing him any yogurt or coffee, like his beloved Amanda had.

Dean works on the crossword book after breakfast, asking Cas for help whenever he gets stuck, until eventually Cas drifts off to sleep again.

At some point Dean gets up to go to the bathroom and afterwards he splashes water on his face and looks at himself in the mirror. He’s not winning any hearts looking like this, that is for damn sure. He wants to sleep, but he’s not sure he can, not until he knows Cas is going to be okay. Or Cas is not going to be okay and then they will make a plan of action. Dean likes a good plan of action, even if this one doesn’t involve fire or sharp stabby knives.

The new nurse comes in once more to change Cas’ IV and a different nurse comes in to check his vitals. She wakes Cas up with a rough shake to the shoulder and Cas whines as he opens his eyes.

“Maybe don’t jostle him after a spinal tap,” Dean says with no apology in his voice.

“Oh, he’s fine,” the nurse tells them both with a dismissive wave of her hand. “He can move around now.”

“I’d like to hear that from a doctor,” Dean tells her and is glad when she doesn’t come back in again after that.

“Dean,” Cas says, once he is awake again and clearly bored out of his mind - Dean gets it, he read the entire People magazine he was so bored, even the parts about those god-awful shows on The CW Network. “Do you think this is something serious? Wrong with me?”

“Nothing’s wrong with you,” Dean says quickly. “Your body is perfect. It’s a wonderland.”

Cas rolls his eyes. “I’m seriously asking you.”

Dean sighs and sits on the edge of Cas’ gurney, looks him straight in the eyes. “I can’t imagine it. It seems so ironic and cruel, for you to get sick now. But you’re human and humans get sick. So I don’t know. But whatever it is, we will kick its ass together. Okay?”

“Okay,” Cas says and nods his head. “Thank you.”

Dean stays perched there on the edge of the stretcher until Cas speaks again.

“Dean, I have to pee.”

“It’s about time,” Dean tells him, because they’ve been pumping fluids into the man like the freaking Hoover Dam.

He goes and gets the nurse - the one who seems to like Cas just fine but has some sort of distaste for Dean, though she’s better than the one that was shaking Cas like a rag doll - and as soon as the doctor approves Cas getting up out of bed, the nurse spots him for his walk to the bathroom. Dean thinks this is ridiculous, because the woman doesn’t look like she could hold Cas up if he fell, but Dean is right there, walking beside him, so it’s okay, he supposes. Cas insists that everyone wait in the hallway while he goes in and when Dean protests, he glares at Dean and says, “Give me some dignity, man.”

Dean barks out a laugh and waits in the hall.

Cas is shaky on the walk back to his room-area and tired once he gets settled in bed, but it is a vast improvement over anything he had been able to do five hours ago.

‘Hell, it’s an improvement over two hours ago,’ Dean thinks to himself..

Cas is barely back under the covers when a doctor comes in. It’s not Dr. Langdon now, but a short, stocky woman with dark curly hair, pale skin and a pointed nose. She flashes them both a charming smile and Dean decides he likes her right off the bat.

“So, Mr. Winchester,” she says and Dean keeps his mouth shut this time. “I’m Dr. Hamfred and I have test results for you.”

Cas is sitting up and Dean moves to perch next to him on the gurney and take Cas’ hand.

“You have an infection,” she says and Dean feels anxious and relieved at once.

“So, not cancer?” Cas asks her.

“No, it seems not. But you have some sort of a bacteria. Have you been in questionable water areas lately? Swimming pools? Lakes? Anything?”

“Yes,” Cas says. “A swamp.”

‘Fucking swamp monsters,’ Dean thinks and grits his teeth. He already basically wants to kill them all, but now he really wants to kill them all.

“A swamp?” she asks, incredulous. “That has to be a hell of a story.”

“There was an incident,” Cas tells her, as casual as could be. When the doctor only raises an eyebrow at him, he adds, “My remote control airplane went down.”

“That’ll do it,” she quips and looks back at his chart.

Dean doesn’t know if he should be impressed or horrified at how easily the cover stories are slipping off Cas’ tongue these days.

“So, what’s the plan, Doc?” Dean asks, because he really does do better with a plan.

“I’d like to run some lab-work again. CBC, Chem-7, the like. More antibiotics and fluids and we’ll go from there.”

“May I have something to drink?” Cas asks and licks his dry lips.

“When was the last time you threw up?”

Cas looks at Dean for help and Dean says, “This morning. Early.”

Dr. Hamfred flips through the chart again and says, “I think we could do a little liquid and see what happens. You’re getting hydrated now, so if you want to chance it, let’s chance it.”

“Thank you,” Cas tells her.

“Alright, someone will be in to do your labs shortly.”

“Ask for their best tech,” Dean tells her, though he doesn’t know if it’s the doctor’s job to request things like that. She better make it her job, because nobody even close to that Missy-girl is getting near Cas with a needle again. “His veins roll.”

“I’ll note it on the chart,” Dr. Hamfred says, before flashing them both another winning smile and exiting through the curtain.

Cas is smiling too, when Dean looks over, and Dean sighs in relief.

“Good news, huh?” he asks.

“Yes,” Cas says. “I get to drink again.”

Dean laughs, because that’s not what he meant at all, but anything that makes Cas smile is good in his book.

He texts Sam the update and a hour later, after the lab tech - an older guy with grey hair and a grey beard who is all business, but only has to stick Cas once, much to Dean’s eternal gratitude - has come and gone, Sam shows up at the hospital, looking slightly more rested and freshly showered.

“How did you get a bacteria?” Sam ask Cas, as soon as he is in the room.

“The swamp,” Cas says disgustedly and Dean suspects swamps will be Cas’ mortal enemy from now on.

“Oh,” Sam says and then smirks. “Well, I’m not surprised, given how you were flailing around in there.”

Cas cuts Sam a short look and says, “I do not know how to swim.”

“Right,” Sam says, almost sheepishly. “Of course.”

Dean makes a mental note to teach Cas to swim.

“You should go get some sleep now, Dean,” Cas tells him.

Dean wants to argue, wants to say that he’s not leaving here until Cas does, but he is exhausted and now that they know, basically, what it is, he thinks he probably can sleep, at last.

“Just for a little while,” he says though.

His eyes are crossing and blurring around the lines of his sleep-deprived double-vision, so he can’t really argue beyond that.

He kisses Cas then, half on his cheek, half on his mouth and presses his face into the side of Cas’ own.

“Just for a little while,” he says again.

He can feel Sam’s eyes on him, but for once, he doesn’t care. He loves Cas and Cas is going to be okay now and Dean is going to get some sleep and everything is better and right and frankly, Sam can take his emotional blahblahblah and shove it right back up his skinny ass.

At least that’s what Dean tells himself under the blush on his cheeks.

He takes the car keys back from Sam then and heads out to the parking lot. He really is having double-vision though, so instead of driving back to the motel, Dean just pulls some blankets from the Impala’s trunk and curls up in the backseat. It’s an emergency room, he can’t be the only family member taking a nap in the back of their car and Dean has certainly parked the Impala weirder places for a quick snooze.

He wads his jacket up under his head and is asleep before his eyelids close.

He wakes four hours later to the afternoon sun glaring down on him and Dean thinks four hours of sleep have never been so restful to him in all his life, even with the cramps in his legs from the backseat.

He hits a bathroom on his way back to the ER and his face looks much more like his real self again. Still he washes up and runs his fingers through his hair before heading to the family entrance of the emergency area.

In his curtained-off section, Dean finds Sam standing next to Cas’ gurney, holding a basin under Cas’ chin and Dean goes cold all over at the sight of it.

“What happened? Is he worse? Why didn’t you call me?” Dean says in a rush and it comes out accusatorily and that is exactly how he means it. He knew he shouldn’t have left Cas’ side.

“I am fine, Dean,” Cas says with an air of impatience and then holds up the toothbrush in his hand. “Sam is just helping me brush my teeth.”

“Oh,” Dean says and flashes Sam an apologetic look. If the exasperated expression on Sam’s face is anything to go by, he’s not buying it.

“Have you thrown up again? What did the lab results say?” Dean asks Cas, with as much cool as he can manage given that he thought Cas might have been dying again there for minute.

“My WBC count is much better,” Cas says and it takes Dean a second to realize Cas means his white blood cell count. “And I ate a whole piece of toast and half a cup of broth,” and Cas sounds so proud of himself that Dean has to beam with pride too.

“That’s great, man,” Dean says and he genuinely means it, even though it seems ridiculous to congratulate someone for eating a piece of toast.

“The nurse brought us a wet washcloth as well,” Sam tells him. “We were going to wash him up a little after the teeth brushing is over.”

“I’m very excited to not be sweaty anymore,” Cas says and he seems so much better that Dean can’t wait to kiss him.

Also, Cas has brushed his teeth now, so this kiss is going to taste a thousand times better than any of the ones they’ve shared in the past twenty-four hours or so.

Cas lips are wet and minty and Dean gets toothpaste on the corner of his own mouth when he goes in for it, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care. Cas is going to be okay and Dean gets to keep him forever now.

Sam clears his throat awkwardly then and Dean realizes they must have been kissing for longer than they thought. When he turns around, Dean gives Sam his best, ‘I’m gonna get laid’ face and Sam just rolls his eyes.

“So, I’m going to the cafeteria to get food now. I think you guys got this handled,” Sam tells them with mock-disgust.

“Thanks, Sammy,” Dean says and he is genuine about it.

“Yes, thank you, Sam,” Cas tells him.

“No problem, man. I’m really glad you’re going to be okay, Cas,” and Sam gives Castiel that look that says he means every word and maybe even possibly would die to protect Cas and Dean suddenly wants to hug his little brother for how much he loves him.

Sam excuses himself to head to the cafeteria and Dean picks up the wet washcloth and starts wiping Cas down.

He runs it through the other man’s hair, the cold wet water dripping down across his face. Cas leans into it and when Dean scratches hard at his scalp with the cloth, Cas lets out a sigh and a moan. Dean washes over his face then, pressing down around his eyes and mouth, clearing out all the leftover remnants of sickness there. He smoothes the cloth around Cas’ throat and neck, wipes at the pools of sweat gathered on his skin.

Cas is humming to himself with happiness the whole time.

Dean unties the top of Cas’ gown and pulls it off, letting it hang at his waist. He scrubs down Cas’ arms, across his chest, watching the water glint in the light. He rubs across Cas’ belly and up under his arms and Cas sighs and leans back against the pillows when Dean is done.

“So, sponge baths. That’s a thing we could try.”

Cas sighs, but he is smiling, so Dean takes it as a ‘maybe’.

He helps Cas back into the gown and perches on the edge of the gurney again.

Dean is just sitting there, watching Cas lay back against the pillows, eyes closed in peace, and it feels like maybe this time, this time they might have gotten a break. But it almost seems impossible, because they are Winchesters, and they never get a break. He shouldn’t count his eggs yet or his living friends, because there aren’t that many of them left.

He doesn’t know how Cas does it - it’s not like he is an all-knowing angel anymore - but after a moment Cas says, “Stop worrying, Dean.”

“I’m not worrying,” he says petulantly, because he hates that Cas caught him.

Cas opens his eyes and pushes himself upright, so that he can look directly at Dean, in that intense way that makes it impossible for Dean to look away.

“You are. And I understand that. But you have to know…I’m right here. And I’m not going anywhere.”

Dean wants to say something to that, something glib to ease the tension, something thoughtful to show Cas he appreciates him…just something. Instead he leans forward and kisses the other man with everything he’s been holding inside this whole time.

And not just the last day or two, but the whole time, since the day he looked across the room at Cas and couldn’t imagine his life without him.

It feels like they are melding together then, with the way their mouths are moving against one another, and Dean wishes he could stay there like that forever.

Or at least a very long time.

Instead they are interrupted by someone yanking the curtain open and Dean and Cas break apart like two kids caught necking under the school bleachers.

It’s the nurse again, the one with the dark eyes that latch right onto Cas, softer now than when Dean first met her.

“You, sir, are getting a room,” she says and she sounds so pleased about it.

“You pulled it off, Janice?” Cas asks her and leave it to Cas to learn the woman’s name.

“I did. They are coming to take you up to Floor 5, where you will be in observation for probably another twenty-four hours, just to keep those fluids and antibiotics pumping. And then, I think you’ll be set to go home.”

She sounds genuinely happy for Cas and Dean takes back all the harsh things he’d thought about her.

“You are a dream, Janice,” Cas says and Dean feels his mouth drop open at Cas using Dean’s own techniques on the lady.

He doesn’t know if he should feel proud or jealous.

“Good luck to you, Castiel,” she tells him and then yanks the curtain even farther open as she leaves the room, still completely ignoring Dean, which whatever, Dean’s too happy right now to care that much.

“Your own room?” Dean says, impressed. “Do you think it’ll have a door?”

Cas laughs and takes Dean’s hand.

“Thank you,” he says and he sounds so sincere, so utterly genuine. “Thank you for everything, Dean.”

“Of course,” Dean tells him. “You know you don’t have to thank me for any of this.”

“Still…” Cas says and squeezes his hand.

Dean squeezes back and he knows he is grinning like a loon, but he doesn’t care. He honestly doesn’t care. He kisses Cas again and he knows the curtain is open now, but he doesn’t care about that either.

Mmmm,” Cas says against Dean’s mouth, before pulling away. “I appreciate it. But I am well looked after now and feeling better. You and Sam should go back to the motel, get some proper rest.”

Dean doesn’t want to leave Cas at all, but he knows the man is right, so instead he says, “I’ll just stay until they take you upstairs to your new digs.”

“You don’t have to,” Cas protests.

“But, Cas,” Dean says and presses another quick kiss to his mouth. “You should know by now…I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere.”

And Cas is smiling as he pulls Dean in for another kiss.


The End