Unperfect

Title: Unperfect
Author:
Recipient:
Pairing: Dean/Castiel
Rating: R
Warnings: None
Spoilers: None
Word Count: 3600
Notes/Prompt(s): Written for ‘s Renegade Angels III fic exchange. The prompt: Dean is curious about Castiel’s wings; Cas is shy about them.
Summary: “They look like wings, they look like my wings, and I cannot show them to you.”

They’re at a graveyard, checking names, when Dean glances over at Castiel and see his shadow on the short-cropped grass. His eyes widen: while part of the shadow looks just like Castiel, the slim slump-shouldered man frowning over a weathered grave stone, part of the shadow is unmistakably wings.

They start at Castiel’s shoulder blades, arch up a bit behind his head and then slope down his back, falling in a cascade that nearly touches the ground. They look at least twenty feet wide, even folded up as casually as a man tosses his tie over his shoulder during supper.

Dean looks at Castiel, who is just a man in a trench coat to the naked eye; and then at his shadow again and the fascinating, beautiful silhouette of his wings. When he looks up again Castiel is gazing at him, unsmiling, and Castiel’s shoulders twitch when he turns away. When he casts a shadow again, the wings are gone.

*~*

They’re eating breakfast—or rather, Dean and Sam are eating breakfast and Castiel is nursing a glass of water, having refused even the diner’s fruit plate—when Dean says, “So where do your wings go when you’re not using them?”

Castiel gazes at him. “What do you mean?”

“Well, like when we were walking over here our shoulders brushed but I didn’t feel anything. But I hear them when you use them. That is what I’m hearing, right?” he adds, because the mildly confused expression on Castiel’s face doesn’t change. Sam kicks Dean’s foot under the table, but Dean doesn’t know what he’s saying wrong and so just kicks him right back.

“Ow,” Sam says pointedly.

Castiel pays no attention to the kicking and sips his water. “I believe it is.”

“So,” Dean encourages. “Where are they right now?”

Castiel furrows his eyebrows, perplexed. “They are still there. You have seen them.”

“I’ve seen their shadow,” says Dean.

“You’ve seen them?” Sam says.

“Just their shadow,” Dean tells him. “It was pretty cool,” he adds, looking at Castiel. “They’re big.” He licks his lower lip and Castiel’s perplexed expression smooths into something a little more focused.

Castiel says softly, “They exist even when you can’t see them. You could say they exist on a different plane of reality. I wouldn’t bring them out in public.” He sips his water again.

“Are they white, like in paintings?” Sam says, unaware of the gaze Dean and Castiel are trading back and forth. “Or rainbow-colored, maybe?”

“They are … bright,” Castiel says at last, uncomfortable, and Dean takes pity on him.

“They’re just hidden under the coat, right? And sometimes you bring them out for a stretch?” He slurps the last of his coffee and tosses a few bills onto the table. “We should hit the road.”

“They are not exactly hidden,” Castiel says, rising, but at that point Dean slings an arm around his shoulders to guide him out of the diner.

“No big, Cas,” he says jovially, and Castiel gives him one of his small, gentle smiles.

But that afternoon, while Sam is at the city’s morgue and Dean has coaxed Castiel into bed for the hour they’ll be alone, Dean kisses Castiel’s naked back and notices how smooth it is, how unblemished, with taut muscles and skin that goosepimples under his lips. It takes Dean a moment or two to realize he’s looking for something that isn’t there, and he whispers, palms sliding over Castiel’s shoulder blades, “Are they here, tucked away?”

Castiel stretches under him. His eyes are closed, his mouth looks blurry and pink from kisses, and his cheeks are flushed and scratched with stubble burn. “They are there,” he manages to gasp, and his arms tremble as he pushes himself back in a silent demand. “They are not put away.”

Dean licks his spine and kisses his shoulder. “Are they here?” He kisses Castiel’s other shoulder. “Here?” He kisses lower down. “Or here?”

“They are there,” says Castiel with a hitch in his breath, and Dean stops asking questions to focus on getting Castiel’s breath to hitch that way again.

*~*

When Dean touches Castiel, which he does a lot more often now, he notes the things that are different about him and other people. Castiel’s skin is warmer, for one thing. He has soft hands: Jimmy sat at a desk most of his working life; aside from a few scars on his fingers (cooking accidents, as far as Dean can tell) he never did a thing to mar them. Castiel, of course, heals instantly when he gets injured and so has not left a mark on Jimmy’s skin.

(Or, Dean admits to himself, not so instantly anymore, and he looks more and more tired every day. But he doesn’t sleep, even when Dean pulls him down and orders him to. He closes his eyes and breathes slowly but Dean knows he doesn’t sleep.)

There’s little about Castiel that gives away his angelic nature, really. He doesn’t walk above the ground. He doesn’t glow in the dark. There’s no breastplate or any other kind of armor beneath his clothes. He doesn’t smell like cookies or clouds or roses—he smells like the soap he borrows from Dean, and his clothes smell like they need a wash.

When Dean looks at him—which he does, all the time, and sometimes Castiel watches him back (like when they’re in bed, and they’re both still panting and their hearts are still pounding, neither of them can look away—they lie pressed together and they can’t look away)—he wonders if he would see an angel if he didn’t know he was looking at one. He suspects he would only see Cas, a tired man who needs a shave and whose hair needs a good brush.

Dean doesn’t see a halo. He doesn’t see wings.

*~*

In a guest bed in Bobby’s house, they lie on clean sheets and Dean says, his fingertips learning the geography of Castiel’s back, “Do you have a halo?”

“I have a … nimbus. You could call it a halo.”

“A nimbus, huh? Can I see it?”

“You cannot.”

“Why not?”

Castiel raises an eyebrow at him. “Because it is my true form. Seeing my true form would burn out your eyes, and that would truly be a pity.” He leans over to kiss Dean’s eyelids.

Dean refuses to be distracted, even though Castiel’s kisses speed up his heartbeat. “Like, just a hint. A peek.”

“No,” Castiel says and kisses Dean between his eyebrows.

“And it never, like, gets free by mistake?” he asks, squinting at Castiel’s head. “When you’re relaxed, like your wings that time in the graveyard?” Castiel sits back with a sigh, and Dean says, “I saw them. You know I did.”

“Yes, I know. I suppose I wasn’t paying attention.”

“So where do they go?” He touches Castiel’s face. The truth is, he loves these cheekbones and that mouth and the slender throat where he can feel Castiel’s pulse beating—but these things belong to Jimmy, not to Castiel. It’s the things he can’t see that fascinate him, the things that make Castiel something holy, something unearthly.

Castiel sighs again. Sometimes he is very patient with Dean. Sometimes he is not. “For me to bring them out visibly requires drawing on a great deal of power.” His hand closes on Dean’s shoulder, over the burned skin, and Dean shivers as he thinks of how much power Castiel must possess, how much power Jimmy’s slim body must contain.

“Just show me once and I won’t ask again. I want to see them, all, you know, white and fluffy or however they look.”

Castiel smiles to himself and murmurs, “White and fluffy,” in an “You’re adorable” kind of tone.

“Well?” says Dean. “Aren’t they? Or are they tons of colors and smooth? Are they black and look like bats’ wings?” He runs his fingertips over Castiel’s back as he speaks, not sure if he’s trying to get a rise out of Castiel or distract him into revealing himself.

Castiel sighs and climbs onto Dean, and kisses him deep—his own method of distraction. They’re still new enough at this that just a kiss leaves Dean trembling and wanting more. “They look like wings,” Castiel murmurs, “they look like my wings, and I cannot show them to you.”

*~*

Tell Dean Winchester he can’t do something, and he will go out of his way to prove that he can. He approaches it like any other mystery, and when you have mystery, you start with the lore.

He gets out their books on angels and looks at the drawings and prints again. Angels are represented in various ways through the centuries: sometimes as androgynous youths in white robes, sometimes men in armor, sometimes blonde women in blue. Their wings are usually white feathers, though sometimes they are multi-colored, green, red, blue and yellow. Sometimes they don’t have halos: sometimes they are surrounded by white or golden light from head to toe.

“That’s an aura,” says Sam when Dean asks him. “Saints are supposed to have them, too.”

“But auras come in all colors,” Dean says, frowning at the prints.

“Yeah, but if you’re especially good or happy, your aura is supposed to be white or yellow.”

“Or gold,” says Dean.

“I guess. I’ve read that’s what inspired the halo. Instead of a full-body aura, it was moved to just around the head, and then over the head. It’s just symbolism.”

“Have you ever seen auras?” Dean says, wondering if they’ve been missing something that might actually have helped them all this time.

Sam shakes his head. “Never. I don’t know if we’ve run into anyone who actually can. There’s supposed to be a certain kind of psychic who can, but—” he shakes his head again. “It’s rare. Why all this angel research, Dean? Why not just ask the source?”

“The source? Oh—Cas.” Dean shifts in his chair. “He doesn’t like to answer questions about himself.” And lately they’ve been too busy tearing off each other’s clothes to have any serious discussions when they’re alone.

“Most of this is just conjecture, anyway,” says Sam, sweeping his hand over the books. “No angels on the earth for two thousand years—everybody just built off each other’s theories.”

“Some of them have to be right, though.”

“Sure, but who?” He pats Dean’s shoulder and rises. “What do you want for dinner? Pizza?”

“Sure, pizza’s good,” says Dean and turns back to his favorite of the pictures: a young male angel in gold armor with gold and white wings, his body surrounded by white light. That it bears more than a passing resemblance to Castiel has nothing to do with anything. Nothing at all.

*~*

There are things about Castiel that drive Dean crazy in a bad way—his habit of appearing and disappearing without warning, his utter lack of a sense of humor, his literal interpretation of everything—and there are things about Castiel that drive Dean crazy in the best possible way. His hips, his fingers, the purposeful grace with which he moves, the steady gaze he focuses on Dean, the arch of his throat when he wants to be kissed there.

Dean’s combing his fingers through Castiel’s hair, smiling at how it makes Castiel moan softly in his chest, but what he’s really trying to figure out is if he can feel that aura Sam was talking about—something warm, maybe, or electric, just a change in the air between the earthiness of Jimmy’s body and the holiness of Castiel’s being. There’s nothing that he can find—just Castiel’s soft hair and warm skin.

He kisses Castiel’s shoulder and wraps his arms around Castiel’s chest. Castiel whimpers and reaches back to hold Dean’s face. “Why did you stop?”

“‘Cause I’m thinkin’,” Dean murmurs and wraps his hands around Castiel’s wrists like manacles. Castiel inhales and breathes a little harder as Dean draws his hands slowly up Castiel’s arms, which feel like human arms, the lean, strong arms of a man in his prime. Castiel arches when Dean reaches his shoulders, and turns back his head for a kiss.

“What are you thinking?” he whispers against Dean’s lips, and Dean kisses him as they move from sitting up against the back of the bed to lounging against the pillows, legs tangled together.

“How much I shouldn’t want this,” Dean whispers and swallows, and Castiel pulls away, frowning.

“You have regrets.”

“No,” Dean says, pulling him gently back. “Just, sometimes I feel like I’m corrupting you.”

“You make it sound as if you hold me down and force me. You do not,” he adds, searching Dean’s face anxiously, and Dean chuckles.

“I know, Cas. It’s not that. It’s more …” It takes him a moment to find the words, particularly since Castiel is looking at him with so much worry and tenderness, arms around his neck. “It’s more, I wonder if I can’t see your halo or your wings because I’m not worthy to, or if you’re losing them because of me.”

Castiel sits back and regards him, his arms wrapped around his knees. “One has nothing to do with the other. You are not corrupting me by loving me.”

“Then what I am I doing?”

Castiel’s brows furrow. “You are loving me,” he says patiently. “As for the rest, it has nothing to do with you. It is just what happens when angels dwell on Earth. We … lose a little bit of what we were, in order to live among you.”

“That really doesn’t help, Cas.”

“Come here,” Castiel says and Dean goes into his arms willingly. Castiel kisses his forehead. “Don’t let it trouble you.”

“But why can’t I see them? I just want to see them.”

Castiel sighs again and strokes Dean’s hair. Several seconds pass before he whispers, “They’re ugly.”

“They’re … ugly,” Dean repeats. “They’re ugly? How could they be ugly? They’re wings.”

“I,” Castiel says slowly, “did not emerge from Hell … unscathed.”

“So, they got—”

“Damaged. Yes.” Castiel exhales. “They function. They’re strong. But they’ll never look the same. Please stop asking me about them, Dean.” He kisses Dean’s mouth as he pushes Dean onto the pillows, and Dean goes willingly, his lips parting and his hands flat on Castiel’s back.

*~*

These things are true: Dean has never been in love like this before; Dean has never known anyone like Castiel before; Dean knows he doesn’t always do things right, but he gets a lot of points for effort. Castiel is, all things considered, pretty happy for a guy who doesn’t show emotion.

But there’s the wings issue, and Dean has gone from mere curiosity—I mean, wings, how is that not awesome?—to needing to see them, like peeling back a bandage to check on a healing wound. He refuses to believe they’re ugly. He wants to prove this to Castiel.

*~*

“Okay,” Dean says. There’s not enough money for two rooms that night, which is really irritating when Dean wants to be alone with Castiel, but fortunately there’s still the Impala and plenty of deserted, wooded roads around the little town.

So he has Castiel in the back seat and their coats are already tossed into the front and Dean has Castiel’s tie grasped in his hand, and he says, “Okay,” again as he licks Castiel’s ear.

“What, Dean?” Castiel whispers, the grumble in his voice even gruffer and deeper.

“I get that you’re shy about the wings. It’s just, you’ve seen every part of me, at my worst, when I’d been dead for three months. So that couldn’t have been pleasant. Or pretty. I was probably pretty horrific.”

Castiel sighs and extricates himself from Dean’s grasp. Dean moves away a little and licks his lips as Castiel leans his elbows on his thighs. “You are determined.”

“You know me.”

Castiel chuckles dryly. “I do, very well. You are not going to let this go until you are satisfied.”

Dean grins and repeats, “You know me.”

“I learned long ago how voracious your appetite can be.” He sighs. “Very well. Come along, we should get out of the car.” He opens the door and climbs out, and Dean follows him.

Castiel walks up the road a little, unbuttoning his shirt, and he drops it onto the tightly-packed dirt. He turns and says, holding out his hand, “Stop there.”

“Okay,” Dean says and stops walking. He’s about ten feet away from Castiel but can see him well: his eyes have adjusted to the darkness and with Castiel out in the middle of the road, there are few shadows from the trees.

“If I tell you to cover your eyes, you will cover your eyes,” Castiel goes on, and Dean nods.

“I will.”

“I hope you won’t regret this,” Castiel says.

“I won’t.”

Castiel inhales and closes his eyes a moment. He shrugs his shoulders, and wind begins to rush through the oaks and beeches that line the road. Dean’s heartbeat speeds up and the hair rises on his arms, and there’s a distant rumble of thunder.

He sees the shadows first, arching over Castiel’s head; and then the wings’ shadow spread out on either side of Castiel’s body, the expanse wide enough to brush against the shivering trees on each side of the road. Dean takes another step toward him and again Castiel holds out his hand. “Don’t, don’t,” he gasps and Dean freezes in place.

The air crackles like before lightning is about to strike. Sweat pours down Castiel’s body and he’s gasping as if he’s running for his life. As Dean watches he can see first a shimmer, and then a wing-shaped glow. Castiel drops to one knee and Dean shouts, “Cas!” and starts to him again.

Castiel holds out his hand to stop him and Dean stops. Castiel crouches over his bent knee and as Dean watches, the glow becomes solid—becomes actual physical wings, twenty feet across, white at the top and shifting subtly from color to color until the long violet feathers at the bottom. He can see where they were damaged, too, as if something had snatched out handfuls with nasty claws. Still, they glow white and gold all around, even in places where feathers are missing, and they look powerful and miraculous.

They’re the most beautiful thing Dean has ever seen.

The wind dies down and the air stills, and Castiel looks up at Dean. He attempts a smile before he pitches forward and the wings disappear.

“Cas!” Dean gasps and goes to him, pulls him up and gives him a shake. “Cas, c’mon, open those baby blues, c’mon.”

Castiel’s eyes don’t open, but his hand flails out and lands, hard, on Dean’s shoulder, right over the handprint scar. Dean gasps as he feels — he doesn’t even knowsomething leave him, travel from his body and into Castiel’s, something that leaves his head reeling and his ears ringing like someone just fired a gun by his head. He bends over Castiel as if to protect him from an explosion.

They’re both breathing hard. He feels Castiel’s lips touch his cheek, and Castiel whispers, “Now you know. They are ugly. They are damaged and they won’t heal.”

“They’re beautiful,” Dean whispers to him. “They’re so beautiful.” He kisses Castiel’s forehead.

He feels Castiel smile against his cheek, and they stay kneeling on the road for a while.

*~*

Dean knows Castiel is faking sleep again, for his sake, but he pretends he doesn’t notice and goes on stroking Castiel’s hair. He feels oddly contented with the universe right now: Sam is safely asleep in the next bed, and Castiel is breathing slowly against his side, and they all finished the last hunt with only some minor bruises and scrapes.

The world will go on turning.

Castiel inhales and whispers, “I used to be perfect.”

“You still are.”

“No. I will never be what I once was.”

Dean tweaks Castiel’s ear and Castiel huffs. Dean can feel him scowling, but he’s okay with that, too. “So you used to be Daddy’s Untouched Angel. And then you got sent down here and I got to teach you about pie and classic rock and sex. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a lot more perfect than you ever were, because now you know what you want and what you can do, and you’re not just Foot Soldier number eight-six-three. Or whatever.”

“And my wings?” Castiel whispers. “They are what you expected?”

“Yes,” Dean says, certain and firm. “They’re exactly what I expected. Gorgeous, even if they’ve been damaged. You got that because of me, and don’t think for a second I’m not aware of that. That I’m not—” He swallows. “Grateful. For what you did for me. What you’ve given up for me.”

“I see,” Castiel murmurs, and Dean wonders for a moment if he’s said the wrong thing.

He says, “I’m not crazy about you because of that, you know. I’m grateful, yeah. But I’m not—I mean—okay.” He sits up and Castiel does as well, solemn and watching him closely. Dean takes Castiel’s hands in his and says, “You’re an enormous nerd, you’ve never met a book you couldn’t read a few pages of no matter what kind of a hurry we’re in, you have no sense of humor and why you want me I’ll never really understand, and that’s why you’re perfect. Nothing to do with halos and wings. Just you.”

Castiel studies him with those grave, serious eyes, and then holds his face and kisses him. “I am glad,” he says simply and lies down again, his arm curved in invitation. Dean takes it and sighs as he fits himself against Castiel’s side. He never understood other people’s definitions of perfect, anyway.

End.

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