I'm a firm believer in considering something "General" if it isn't about the romance - but there is an undercurrent of slash - (with all my favorite guys in the same place, it was bound to happen) - and a het romance for Castiel - (if you want to know what it is, it's under Characters/Pairings in the Header Info). The story itself is more about Cas' journey - not quite an angel, not quite a human, and stuck in the Black.
I wrote this halfway through season Five of Supernatural. The Apocalypse hadn't happened yet - so let's say post-horrific-and-angsty-apocalypse AU for all three boys. Firefly timeline is set between the end of the series and the beginning of the movie - (read: no Book, because Book meets Castiel is a whole different story).
Castiel is being swallowed by The Black and losing his Heaven. Also, they’re on the Firefly ship. PG-13. 4,628 words. Totally written for The Guy Cousin, because he deserves Serenity.
Title: Too Far From Heaven Or Just Close Enough
Category: Angst, AU (altered reality), Crossover, General
Characters/Pairing: Castiel, Dean, & Sam and Inara, Jayne, Kaylee, Mal, River, Simon, Wash & Zoe with Castiel/Kaylee
Warnings: Mild Language
Summary: Castiel is being swallowed by The Black and losing his Heaven. Also, they’re on the Firefly ship.
Word Count: 4,628 words
Date Written: 02/12/2010
Disclaimer: “Supernatural” belongs to Eric Kripke and The CW. “Firefly” belongs to Joss Whedon and Fox. But none of those people are me. This story, however, is all mine and yet it generates me no wealth.
Author's Notes: The timeline for “Supernatural” is post-apocalyptic AU of horror and angst. For “Firefly”, it’s set between the end of the series and the beginning of the movie. Sheppard Book has already left for Haven because Book on the ship with Castiel, or the Winchesters for that matter, is a whole other story. Also, writing Book intimidates me the way writing, let's say Giles, does. "General" because it is more about Cas' journey, despite the undercurrent of slash and the actual het pairing. This is the first time I have ever done a full-on Cas POV. It made for a different writing style than I am used to, trying to capture his voice - but it flowed pretty easily, which is a good sign, I hope.
Dedication: For The Guy Cousin. The Black can be over-whelming, but I have faith you will make it out the other side. Also, because “Firefly” rocks and he knows it. I apologize to said cousin for the undercurrent of slash. That would be homoerotic subtext, dude. I seriously tried not to, but it seems I have a problem. And for Joss Whedon - no matter who he kills in his ‘Verses, I gotta love the man because he gave us our ship, Serenity. And that’s all that matters.
Castiel felt odd.
It had started about three days into their trip. It got worse every day. The farther into the Black they went, the less of Heaven he could feel. It was slipping away from him and Castiel found himself desiring more and more mortal things.
It had started with the food. They had good food after Persephone, fresh fruit and vegetables. And meat. They took turns cooking. Castiel liked Mal’s coney dogs the best. Sam had assured him there were no actual dogs in the meat, but Castiel didn’t think he’d have minded either way.
Then he found he liked to sweat. He’d been sitting in the cargo bay up on the walkway, legs dangling off, next to the girl. They did it often, not speaking, sometimes venturing into each other’s minds. It was good exercise for him mentally, kept him all angel-ed-up, as Dean often said when he caught Castiel meditating. But mostly, he and the girl just sat there, in silence and peace.
Jayne had come in then, hung up a punching bag and started pounding on it with his bare fists. Cas had tipped his head and stared.
“What’s the point of that?” he asked River and thought she snorted.
Castiel continued to stare. Then she pushed him. He fell straight down, stretched himself out and landed on his feet. He looked immediately up, but she was already gone.
So he approached Jayne, slow and cautious because he thought the big man might forget what exactly he was suppose to be punching. Castiel was an angel but he still didn’t relish getting swung at by Jayne Cobb.
Castiel stood, tilted his head, stared. Jayne kept punching, Cas kept staring.
Finally, Jayne stopped and turned his gaze on Cas. “You’re creeping me out. Stop it.”
“What’s the point of that?” Castiel asked and pointed at the bag.
Jayne looked at it, then at Cas. “It’s fun,” he said. When Castiel just stared at him in non-understanding, Jayne sighed and shrugged. “Gets out your aggression in a positive manner is what Mal says. Keeps you in shape is what Wash says and don’t let the little guy fool you, he is in shape. But mostly, I like the way it gets your heart racing, blood flowing, sweat. The sweat is good,” and Jayne stepped away from the bag and motioned for Castiel to step up.
Cas did. He looked at the bag for a long moment and then swung. His fist connected and his knuckles stung and he felt. He swung again. Then again. And again.
“Not hard enough. Never gonna sweat like that.”
Castiel tried to swing harder, but hitting this bag was foreign and he felt out of place and he knew Jayne was staring. Cas had never felt self-conscious before. He didn’t understand it.
“Hold,” Jayne told him and Cas did.
Jayne reached out, slid Castiel’s trench coat off and tossed it haphazardly aside. “You don’t have to wear that gorram thing all the damn time,” Jayne cussed at him but smiled.
Cas looked apprehensively over at his coat, felt cold and naked and not right without it. Jayne slid up behind him, leaned over and pressed his mouth to Castiel’s ear.
“Feel a little nervous? A little worked up? Got yourself all space-headed now? Don’t feel right at all, do you?” His hands were on Castiel’s hips, fingers digging into the sharp hip bones there, his breath in Cas’ ear and Cas wondered how un-heavenly it was that he liked that.
“Now swing,” Jayne ordered and Cas did.
Jayne held onto his hips, wouldn’t let him turn, wouldn’t let him stop. And Castiel felt it; the beating of his own heart, the pumping of his own blood and the sweat.
It was a cold pasty chill at first, but his cheeks were flushed and his breathing was hard and even the sweat clinging to him was right. He pounded and pounded and reveled in the sweat flowing off him. The smell of it, the taste as it crossed his lips, the salt and the heat and the chill of it.
Jayne stopped him when his knuckles bled. The bigger man looked him up and down, snorted. “You’re a sight,” he said and laughed.
Castiel looked himself up and down too, then up at Jayne and felt self-conscious again. He faltered, stumbled over to his coat and slid it on.
Castiel walked away, knowing he should say thank you to Jayne but finding the words trapped in his throat. He didn’t like it. Out here in the Black, he just felt odd.
An hour later, Jayne found him, shoved a stack of medical scrubs at him. “Here. Put these on and take a gorram shower. You smell. And you’re all gross. We’ll get you some clothes on Beaumont.”
“Clothes?” Cas asked but Jayne was already walking away.
Clothes. Maybe something soft and smooth and green like Dean’s eyes. Castiel wondered if the desire for new clothes was un-heavenly too. Found he was caring less and less about that and startled himself.
He really thought the Black was swallowing what little of Heaven he had left.
After the food and the sweat, Castiel found he craved companionship. It started with River, sitting side by side with her, talking without words or even thoughts. It was nice and comfortable, and every now and then she’d lean against him, rest her head on his shoulder and close her eyes.
And it didn’t feel odd at all.
Simon came to him next, asking him about intentions and River being sick and young. Castiel hadn’t understand a single bit of it, but when he repeated it to Sam, Sam understood. Cas sought the doctor out after that, reassured him, almost smiled at that absurdity of it, because even though that was waking in him, never with his River.
Simon had been relieved, insisted he had never really thought that, and then asked him to share a brandy and play some chess. Castiel preferred whiskey but he took the brandy and said thank you. He didn’t know how to play chess at all, it wasn’t one of the human games Dean had taught him. He was embarrassed to say so to the doctor, but Simon seemed pleased and excited to teach him and Castiel felt good and warm at the boy’s smile, so he let him.
Sometimes, Castiel would come to sit on the couch and read some book or another, and find Kaylee sitting there. She always moved over, made room for him, but Castiel’s chest would suddenly feel tight and sharp with pain, and he would retreat to read in his quarters instead.
Jayne continued to appear out of nowhere at times with things he thought Castiel needed. Clothes. Candy. Fresh fruit. A gun. Once, a grenade that Mal took away from him later. A little necklace that Jayne got at some shop and insisted it was for Cas. Castiel didn’t have the heart to tell him it was a charm pendant that wards off possession, and that he really didn’t think he needed it, because he didn’t really think he could be possessed. But then he thought about the Black eating away at his insides and put the necklace on.
Jayne grunted at him a lot and whenever he motioned at Cas with his finger, Castiel followed him. Jayne always had something for them to do and Castiel always did it. Punch a bag. Lift some weights. Shoot a gun. Cas didn’t like that last one but he liked the way Jayne watched him while he did it. So he gripped the metal and showed Jayne he could.
After that, he made friends with Wash. He thought it was a little off the way Wash declared one day that they were going to be friends, but everything humans did was a little off, so Castiel wasn’t all that bothered by it. He’d been sitting on the couch, staring straight ahead at the wall, not really thinking much, when Wash had plopped down on the couch, pushed at Cas with his feet.
“Schooch over,” Wash demanded.
Castiel looked around and then at Wash. “There is nowhere to schooch to,” he informed him.
Wash sighed and stretched his legs out anyway, placing his socked feet in Cas’ lap. “Tell me a story,” Wash said.
Castiel looked at him, curious. “Very well,” he answered and told Wash a story about a boy whose father had asked him to do something terrible, and whose brother had asked him to do something terrible and how the boy’s heart was broken in a million pieces for it. How the father had left them alone in a very bad place, in a world of fire, to do his bidding and the boys had cried and begged for him but the father never, ever came.
Castiel rubbed at Wash’s feet as he spoke and sshhed at Wash when he cried. After, when they’d rested in silence for some time, Wash sat up. He leaned over and kissed Castiel on the cheek.
“I would like to be your friend,” he whispered and Cas recognized it not as a question but as truth. “I think we shall be friends now,” and Wash stood up. “Come, let us be as manly friends and shoot some hoops.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Castiel said matter-of-factly and met Wash’s eyes.
Wash laughed and pulled him to his feet. “Come on, little buddy, I’ll show you. It’ll be good fun. You’ll work up a sweat.”
Cas liked to sweat, so he followed after his new friend.
It was Zoe who said it first, said it ever. He knew his little River knew it, but they would never speak it to each other. So Cas was surprised when Zoe sat down next to him one day, on the workbench in the cargo bay and said, “So, you’re an angel, huh?”
“I was,” Castiel told her.
He faltered, wondered how to explain to her about the space and the black and the pain and the radiating nightmares and retreating memories of his past life.
“I don’t know,” he stated simply. “I am something not either thing and so I don’t know which to be.”
Zoe nodded her head like she understood. “Can’t say as anyone else could quite get what that’s like for you, but you know, out here in the Black, nobody really knows which to be.”
She patted his leg and walked off.
After that, Castiel put Zoe on his mental list of people he called friend.
Once, Castiel caught Kaylee in his room, looking at the sizes of his clothes.
“Going to town on the next planet. You need things,” she said.
“I have everything I need,” Castiel told her, while looking at the floor.
Kaylee shrugged and later returned from town with new clothes for him anyway.
Then one day, when he was curled up on the couch with a book Simon had loaned to Sam and Sam had loaned to Dean and Dean had not read but handed over to Castiel and said, “Write me a book report so I can pretend I read it,” and laughed like it was a really good joke, Inara approached him.
Castiel had watched her sometimes, thought about beauty and light and good warm things, but she always frowned and looked away from him and he didn’t like that, so mostly he just watched.
He could smell her before she sat down, so her presence wasn’t startling, but when she ran her long fingers across the back of his head, stroked them through the short hairs there, Castiel jumped, jerked out of her grasp.
“Ssshh,” she whispered. “Hush now,” and stroked his hair, scraped her fingernails across the nape of his neck. He pushed into her touch, realized how much he longed for it.
Touch, what he craved next.
She scratched at his neck, ruffled at his hair, then pulled herself up on her knees and turned him so she could knead at his shoulders.
Castiel knew the point of this exercise was relaxation, but all he felt was tense and tightness and his beating heart.
“Sshh,” she whispered and kissed his ear. “Come to my room. I have a present for you.”
Cas jerked out of her grasp, pulled away, stuffed himself as far into the corner of the couch as he could. “Can’t,” he muttered and dropped his eyes from her.
“Oh, Castiel,” she said and he shivered at the way she said his name. No one ever said his name like that. Most days, these days, Sam was the only person who ever called him anything but Cas.
Castiel pulled his knees up, curled his fists into little balls. “Can’t,” he whispered again. “Can’t do that.”
“Can’t?” she asked and Cas shook his head.
“Never,” he said, so quiet that he repeated it again just so he could hear himself say it. “I’ve never…consummated. Once, when we thought my brother would kill me in the morning, Dean took me to a brothel…”
“Do I look like a brothel?” she asked and Cas knew he had offended her.
He looked up, met Inara’s eyes and wondered if the wetness on his face was tears. He had cried before, sobs and hysteria, but never had there been wetness. “No, you don’t. You are…I didn’t mean…I can’t.” He steeled himself, shushed his wetness, bit down on the Black. “It’s too much. I’m not ready.”
Inara smiled and it was brilliant. “I’ll keep that in mind," she said, and pulled back from the couch. “But that’s not my gift for you at any rate, Castiel,” and he shivered again at his own name. “Come to my room,” and she held out her hand.
Cas let her pull him down the hallway, her warm soft hand curled around his. It felt comforting and safe and not odd at all. In fact, it felt right.
In her shuttle, after he hesitated in the doorway until she pulled him in, Inara shut the door, instructed him to remove the green pullover he was wearing and sit in the chair near the sink.
He did, pulling off the shirt as he went. “The undershirt as well?” Castiel asked, throat dry and sticky at once. He looked down at the white shirt Simon had given him the day after his first weight session with Jayne.
“No, I just don’t want to ruin that shirt of yours. Green suits you,” she said and then turned on some old device in the corner that Castiel knew he should recognize but couldn’t quite place.
Something came out of it then, a music so soft and beautiful and familiar that Castiel’s breath caught and his chest ached and he remembered a long ago when he had discovered love of Earthly things for the first time.
He cried, the wetness returning and he didn’t mind when she stood next to him, held his face against her chest and stroked his hair. The music was beautiful and Inara was beautiful and even through the tears, he felt warmth and happiness and good things.
When his crying stopped, she tilted him back in the chair, turned on the water in the sink and began to wash at him. He let her, felt her fingers wet him, stroke at his hair, scrub hard and furious against his scalp and he moaned and pressed into it.
The music played and her fingers stroked and Castiel felt all the things in the Universe for the first time in a very, very long time.
Life settled for a while then and was good.
Sam had found a friend in Simon and though he didn’t often listen to their words, Castiel liked the hum of their mingled voices as they spoke with each other. Sam had taken an interest in the layers of River and Castiel liked that. Simon didn’t seem to mind so much either. He must have known there were things Sam held in as tight as River did. Sam talked with both the siblings on books and the world and better days.
Sam was interested in learning to fly, said it could be an important skill for the future, which only made Castiel think badly on a time when they wouldn’t be on this ship any longer. But Wash reveled in having a student, took pride in teaching Sam everything and insisted he spend a fair amount of time in the engine room, because a pilot who doesn’t know the inside of his own baby is no pilot at all.
Sam was content, if not happy, and Castiel liked it.
Dean still spoke little and drank too much. He slept fitfully and screamed for Castiel and Sam at night. He cried alone, without tears and he didn’t smile often enough for Cas’ liking. But he got an old pair of tools from Kaylee and let Wash lead him around showing him things to fix. He read books on engines and parts and gadgets and sometimes, posed questions to Kaylee at dinner.
And each night, Dean asked Castiel how his day had been and listened when Castiel relayed the things he knew today that he hadn’t known yesterday. Dean seemed to like that Castiel liked it there, and though that didn’t seem like quite enough to the new Castiel who needed things, he knew for now, for Dean, it was enough.
Sometimes Castiel would find Dean in the kitchen, playing cards with Kaylee. Kaylee would be smiling, bright and beautiful and laughing. Dean would be smiling too. Once, Castiel heard Dean laugh, a real solid Dean-laugh that Castiel hadn’t heard in a lifetime.
That Dean had a friend in Kaylee made Castiel glad. He wanted to tell her so, but every time he tried, that tightness and pain returned to his chest. So he never did.
Twice, Cas saw Dean emerging from Kaylee’s sleeping quarters. It was innocent, Castiel was sure. Still, it made him feel strangely heated and restless inside.
He didn’t like it.
“Simon says he and Kaylee aren’t like dating or anything,” Sam told him one day.
Cas looked up, startled. “Okay,” he answered.
“I just thought you might want to know…that they’re not, like, together,” and Sam made a vague gesture with his hand, waving it through the air at Castiel.
“Okay,” Cas said again.
Sam shrugged and walked off.
Cas kept his book on his lap, but mostly just stared at the pages absently until Jayne came and got him.
It’d been more than two months when the Captain finally stood next to Castiel on the walkway. Cas had come hoping to sit with his River, but she was down below, practicing sword-fighting techniques with Wash, both of them using sticks that wouldn’t so much as hurt a puppy-dog.
He stood and watched them and when Mal sidled up beside him, Cas asked without looking over, “It’s a game, yes?”
Mal chuckled. “Yes, Castiel,” and Castiel closed his eyes at the name. “They are playing. That’s nowhere near a real session and if it was, Wash would not be the one conducting it.”
“I thought she was teaching him,” Cas said and even he could hear the smile in his own voice.
They stood then, for moments, maybe more, until Mal spoke. “Do you like it here, Cas?”
“Sam is proving himself well and I’ve seen Dean with a gun. I could use them.”
Castiel turned to glare at Mal and said, “No one uses them.”
Mal shook his head. “That’s not what I meant,” and waited patiently while Cas studied him. At last, Castiel sighed and turned his eyes back to his friends in the bay.
“Dean won’t let us stay. He never does.”
“Maybe I could talk to him.”
Cas shrugged, because he knew it wouldn’t do any good, just piss Dean off, but he supposed if they were going to go, the better to get out of the Black.
“You could be useful too,” Mal told him.
“I can’t…do anything anymore,” Castiel said and felt a weird lump in his throat and chest.
“I beg to differ,” Mal said and pointed down at River. “You can do plenty. And frankly, I could use a non-military-esque advisor, since the Preacher left us.”
“You want my counsel?” Castiel asked, amazed and proud at once.
“It’s nice to have a friend,” Mal said and then added, “Probably won’t listen to a damn thing you say, but still.”
Cas sighed, clenched his hands into little fists. “Can’t stay, Mal. Can’t ever stay.”
“Just…think about it. If you want it. In the meantime, what the hell are you waiting for?”
“I’m sorry,” Cas answered, looking over at the Captain. “I don’t understand that statement.”
Mal sighed, turned to face Castiel and put a hand on his shoulder. “All this time here; made lots of friends, found things you like, made yourself useful. Just that one person that you can’t look at, barely speak to and she thinks that you don’t like her.”
“I don’t know…”
But Mal kept talking like Castiel hadn’t spoken. “And we both know that’s not the case at all. Is it, Cas?”
Castiel blushed, felt his cheeks burn and looked away from Mal, whose hand was still on his shoulder. “I can’t.”
“Seems like time to me.”
“No, I mean…I don’t know what to say to her,” and it was almost a whisper. “I can’t talk to her…least of all…I can’t,” he finished lamely.
Mal laughed and Cas jerked away from him.
“No, no, I’m sorry. I’m not laughing. It’s just…she’s the easiest person in the whole world to talk to, you know?” Mal said and shook his head. “Just get her started and let her go. All you have to do is listen. And really listen. Not just nod your head and pretend. Listen like there will be a quiz later on.”
“I’m good at listening,” Cas said, slightly reassured.
“Yeah, but sometimes it’s the most ridiculous, inane babble in the world. Or like, girly stuff. But just…”
Mal nodded and grabbed hold of Castiel’s shoulder again, only this time he steered him away from the cargo bay and off toward the engine room.
Outside the door, Castiel tried to walk away but Mal pulled him back. “If Dean makes you leave this place, you’ll be more than sorry that you didn’t make her understand how very much you don’t dislike her.”
Cas nodded, wiped the sweat from his hands. Sweat, it seems, wasn’t always a good thing.
“Go in there and ask her what the difference is between a Powerstone 900 and a Triomanta 54.”
“Powerstone 900. Triomanta 54,” Cas repeated.
Mal fussed with Castiel’s shirt collar and then turned him towards the door and walked off.
In the morning, he missed breakfast, but Kaylee came with him to the kitchen and made him cider and they ate protein bars that were not good.
But Castiel felt good.
Castiel felt right.
She stroked his neck and called him her sweet angel, and Castiel knew Kaylee didn’t know but he loved the endearment all the same, maybe more for it. She smelled good and sweet and real and the Black felt a very long ways off now.
Jayne came in, asking if there was cider and Kaylee handed him a cup and told him to go away. Jayne looked between the two of them, grinned at Cas and said “We’ll talk later, little man.” Kaylee whacked Jayne’s arm with a spoon and pointed him out of the kitchen.
Castiel smiled, drank his cider and tried not to think about Dean making them leave this place.
At dinner, Castiel sat between Sam and Kaylee and enjoyed the way he could smell them both and feel their warmth and then he looked around the table and realized, he could smell them all. Could feel them all. And it wasn’t the Black. And it wasn’t Heaven.
It was Home.
“Dean,” Castiel said and looked over at his friend. “I like it here.”
The nightly chatter stopped abruptly but Dean kept eating.
“Dean?” Cas asked and felt his voice falter for a moment. He steeled himself for the fight. “I like it here.”
“I heard you the first time, Cas. Now eat your dinner.”
“Dean,” Sam said and leaned across the table to catch his brother’s eye. “I like it here too,” and Sam reached down and squeezed Castiel’s hand in his own.
Cas squeezed back.
“Not now, Sammy,” Dean said and his voice left no room for argument.
Cas thought Mal must have figured he was the Captain of the ship anyhow because the man simply said, “You stay, you start coming on jobs. Wash, those things that pretend they are potatoes, please.”
River, sitting on the other side of Dean, reached over and ran her hand along the unfading mark of Castiel’s own that still lingered on his arm. “See, Dean, just because we live in the Nothing, doesn’t mean we have nothing.”
Dean shook her off and Simon made a motion at Jayne, who promptly reached over from the girl’s other side and thumped her on the back of the head. “Your brother says to stop fussing about in other people’s brains. Except Simon’d say in a tight-ass prissy sort of way.”
“I’m not a tight-ass priss,” Simon muttered.
Jayne and Wash exchanged amused glances and then burst into laughter.
“Mal, make them be quiet,” Simon whined.
“Yeah, cuz that always works,” Mal replied.
Next to him, Kaylee linked her arm through Castiel’s and kissed his shoulder. Sam squeezed Cas’ hand again, then let go and picked his fork back up. Castiel bit his lower lip, tried to remember a time when he had told a much younger Dean that they should hold onto the good things while they still had them.
On the other side of the table, Dean looked from Castiel to Sam and back at Castiel. Cas could remember something from his past life, when Dean had cried wetness tears and clung to him and begged for God’s forgiveness and Castiel’s own, and prayed for his weakness to vanish so he could do the job he knew he had to do.
Castiel couldn’t remember if it had been the last time, or the only time, Dean had cried in front of him, but he knew it was the time that had made him truly love this man and call him brother.
Now, here in this kitchen of warmth and light and good things, Dean’s eyes shone with tears. The man swallowed hard, nodded his head at Castiel and then nodded at Sam as well, before casting his eyes back to his plate.
He didn’t take anymore bites and Cas could see Dean shaking, so he slid a leg further under the table and hooked it around Dean’s own. He saw Dean nod down at his plate, take a deep breath, pick his fork back up and begin to eat again.
Castiel left his leg through Dean’s and his arm through Kaylee’s. He reached over, ran a finger along Sam’s knuckles before picking up his own fork and trying to swallow those things that weren’t potatoes at all.
Cas couldn’t wait to hit a planet with real food again.
Because he liked food. And he liked to sweat. And he liked companionship and good friends and touch.
And he smiled, because he really, really liked Kaylee.
Filled with warmth and love and grace, Castiel knew there was no Black inside him. There was no Heaven anymore either.
There was only Serenity.