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09 February 2012 @ 12:24 pm
fic, SPN: a world of gods and monsters (Dean/Castiel, Balthazar, others), R  
Title: a world of gods and monsters
Rating: R (for potentially disturbing content rather than sexual)
Word count: around 17400
Warnings: everything the prompt might imply, including: creepiness/horror, very much implied gore (there aren’t graphic descriptions but it’s there), corpses (one of which belonging to a minor) are used in not exactly ethical ways. Castiel isn’t in what I’d call a completely sane place. Also: in the epilogue, there’s something going on that might be considered dub-con if you define dub-con by extremely strict standards (in a not-really-sexual situation). I wouldn’t classify it as such but since it’s a fine line I mentioned it anyway.
Disclaimer: SPN isn’t mine. My main inspiration is public domain by now, but most definitely not mine either.
Spoilers: AU, so none for the show except for winks at canon.
Summary: wherein Castiel will do anything so that Dean doesn’t stay dead.
Author notes: written for this year's deancas_xmas round for the prompt 19th century body snatching/mad science. Castiel brings Dean back to life. All the supposed scientific/medical procedures in this fic are more or less inspired by Frankenstein (the classic movie), so just don’t expect anything described in this fic to be even remotely realistic/plausible/with a scientific basis of some sort (same thing about the academia-related part – for one, I’m pretty sure body snatching wasn’t a common practice in Kansas, but just bear with me here). Mildly inspired also by The Body Snatcher. Title from a line in Bride of Frankenstein. Endless thanks to joyyjpg for helping me fleshing the plot out.

The clock on the inn’s wall ticks too slow and too fast at the same time.

It’s also next to Castiel’s table and it’s giving him another headache on top of the one he has had since the conversation with his dean this morning.

Sometimes he wishes he never followed the path his family had chosen for him. Other times he wishes that he never took it as diligently as he has until now. (Medicine never was his choice, but he hadn’t even questioned it back then. He also had set to be good at it, if he had to do it.) He’s three months from his thirtieth birthday and he’s already one of the most respected teachers at Lawrence’s university; he burned through his studies, graduating two years before the due date. He doesn’t practice much, since most of his time is devoted to teaching anatomy to new students, but when he does, his patients only have words of praise for him. Of the entire teaching staff, everyone bets that in ten years, fifteen at most, he will become dean; not that everyone ever tells it to his face. Burning through his studies meant that everyone he works with is an acquaintance at best. The people he would call friends can be counted on one hand. Also, since he knows that he’s good at what he does, he never cared much for keeping good social relations.

Today he had enough proof that his attitude hasn’t paid off. At least, he should have tried to stay in the good graces of his dean, Dr. Zachariah Adler, but he hasn’t put much effort in it either way, also because he hasn’t been able to stand the sight of him since Castiel had his first class with him.

It was a very bad idea. If he thinks about this morning’s conversation, his headache gets worse. It’s six in the evening, the forsaken clock informs him; if he’s late –

The inn’s door closes with a soft thud and Castiel breathes out in relief as he glances at the man coming inside. He has never seen him in person, but from the clothes and the riding crop in his hand, it has to be the one he’s waiting for. Good. It won’t take more than fifteen minutes to settle what has to be settled, which means that when Dean arrives for their weekly meeting he won’t be found speaking with… a possibly compromising person.

“Dr. Milton?” the man asks, sitting in front of him and taking off an old, dusty black hat. The accent sounds British, Castiel notices as he raises his eyes and takes a good look at his future… business partner, he figures. He’s around his late forties, but under his old, dusty black clothes (clean, though) it’s obvious that he’s well built.

Of course he would be, Castiel reasons, considering the reasons why I am talking to him in the first place. He can’t afford to judge now, though; actually, he’ll have to thank Chuck Shurley, Adler’s assistant, for agreeing to give him the name and arranging the whole thing in no more than four hours.

At least his face seems honest enough. He doesn’t look particularly leery or dangerous as he sits back in his chair and flashes Castiel a small, knowing smile. His blue eyes glint in the approaching darkness of the evening.

“That would be me. You are Balthazar, I suppose. And I also suppose you know why I wanted to meet you.”

“Our common friend told me that, yes. And that you are having a disagreement with our very amiable dean, Dr. Adler. Am I wrong?”

“No.” Castiel clears his throat.

“Wouldn’t you employ me for the very same reasons that he employs me, though?”

“It is not enough,” Castiel answers. “The – the corpses you bring him are for his lessons only. Other than me, there are another eight people in the teaching staff. And we are all left with the ones the town administration provides. Which, as you know already, aren’t enough to begin with. And on top of that, I haven’t been able to work on my own research because of it. Of course, my research is nothing in comparison to the entire university’s functioning.”

“So what, dear, you asked Mr. Adler to share his piece of booty?”

Castiel grimaces at the choice of words, but as crude as it is, Balthazar has a point. He also pretends not to have heard the dear. He needs Balthazar to work for him – if it means that Balthazar doesn’t understand that it’s a bit too much confidence, then he will endure it.

“He refused. But the situation is… not optimal. We need more corpses. I wish I could say that I needed them for myself, but I cannot think about my needs first when no one else can work in the best conditions.”

Balthazar takes a further sip from the glass of whiskey he had brought to the table and then moves closer, his elbows on the surface, his face inches from Castiel’s. Castiel glances at his hands. They’re rough – but then again, if you drive a carriage during the day and dig out corpses in the night, they’re bound to be.

“How charitable. I indeed perfectly understand your point, Dr. Milton. I think I shall be happy to hear your offer. Because you have one, yes?”

“We need at least eight every two weeks.”

Balthazar nods, finishing his drink. “Well, bugger, I already bring your dean five every two weeks. You do realize that it means digging up a lot of graves, Mr. Milton.”

“How much does he pay you?”

“Two dollars each.”

“I can pay you five each.”

“And that would be out of your own pocket?” Balthazar whistles, sounding slightly impressed. “You do take your job seriously, don’t you.”

“The university needs to run. And if no one else will step ahead and if the dean cares more about his career than about his students’ learning, then I have to. Of course, if you accept, you won’t mention any of this to a soul, including Mr. Shurley.”

“But of course, my dear Dr. Milton. Considering how much you’re offering me, I’d be a bloody idiot if I spoke about this to anyone, wouldn’t I.” Balthazar reaches down into his pocket and takes out a crumpled piece of paper and pushes it along the table’s surface. “That’s where you can find my humble abode. I usually am not there between midnight and the wee hours of the morning, but you will most definitely find me there after sunset. Since I don’t think there should be proof of our transactions, you should probably come there directly.”

“I should, indeed,” Castiel sighs. He’d rather do without all this secrecy, and without all the money this ordeal will cost him. But at least he would like to do his job in peace. If it means paying Balthazar for doing things that the same parents that pushed him to be a doctor in the first place would be horrified to hear about… he’ll have to live with it. “Very well. I will see you there in two days to discuss the details of… the deliveries.”

“Splendid,” Balthazar replies, extending his hand. “Maybe we should shake hands on it, yes? You look like someone I can trust without written agreements.”

“Why,” Castiel asks as he shakes Balthazar’s hand – it is rough, “do you have one with the dean?”

Balthazar smiles another thin, sly grin. “Your dean is the kind that would send me to the gallows if he needed it. I’m not the kind of person who does business without some reassurance, Mr. Milton. Or shall I call you Castiel?”

“And you feel that sure about me?”

“Oh, you’re already putting yourself in a difficult position by doing this – why should you have reasons to go on the gallows along with me? That stated, I know where everyone in this city lives.”

“What do you –” Castiel starts to reply, his throat suddenly going dry.

Balthazar sends him that insufferable grin again. “Do you think I don’t know how it ended with Burke and Hare? Where I come from, everyone does. No worries, my dear Dr. Milton, killing people is most definitely not my business. I know where to draw the line. You should learn to appreciate jokes a bit more.”

With that, Balthazar takes his hat, tips it towards Castiel and leaves the inn; Castiel puts his head between his hands, feeling it pound.

What did I just do? , he asks himself. Balthazar had been right – if someone finds out that he’s doing this, and paying out of his own pocket, they will both end up dead, and he has always considered such things as desecrating graves and stealing bodies disgusting. He remembers the first time he learned where half of the bodies he used to study anatomy on came from in this second year and having to swallow down his instinct to vomit.

He used to think that it was wrong.

And look at him now.

Dr. Adler will also be dean for a long time still, on top of that; Castiel wonders when a life that should be fulfilling under every circumstance started feeling as wrong as stealing bodies from graves is.

“Cas? You look down.”

Castiel forces himself to smile as he glances at the other side of the table. Or well, he forces himself until he has actually met Dean’s eyes, because then he doesn’t have to force himself anymore. Just hearing Dean shortening his name (no one else ever did that in his family; everyone in Dean’s has done it after Dean started) is enough to lift Castiel’s spirits.

As stated, Castiel’s friends can be counted on one hand. Dean Winchester is in that number, and also has the dubious honor of having been the first to be counted in that category. They used to be neighbors; the Winchesters owned the guns shop next to the law practice belonging to Castiel’s father and an associate. Both families lived above the shop and the office respectively, and while Castiel’s parents had never approved of him and Dean being friends, it was the one thing Castiel never wanted to hear anything about. He used to be on his own most of the time when he was a child, the same as now, but one day Dean had ended up talking to him while Castiel was reading his book – they were both five but Dean couldn’t read yet and wanted to know what it was about – and they have been friends ever since. Dean’s brother Sam is one of the other few people Castiel would count among the people he doesn’t consider acquaintances, but Dean is the only person he’s ever been close to.

Not to mention that he’s the reason Castiel still hasn’t done the last thing his parents are asking of him now – marrying a nice, possibly rich girl (or at least from what they consider a good family) and give them grandchildren. Not that they strictly need more of them – his brothers Michael and Raphael, who inherited the firm, and his sister Anna, who has married another lawyer, have enough children themselves, but apparently he’s supposed to follow their example.

Oh, if his family knew of what he thinks every time his eyes meet Dean’s gorgeous green ones they’d recoil in horror and find the whole grave-robbing affair a thing of no matter.

“It wasn’t a good day, I’m afraid,” Castiel answers, realizing that the beer he had ordered before is still almost all in the glass.

“What, your dean again?” Dean makes a disgusted face as the bartender leaves a glass of whiskey in front of him. “I hoped that I would stop hearin’ about him after you weren’t his student anymore.”

“I wish,” Castiel replies. Dean is right – he did complain about Dr. Adler enough when he was still studying and Dean was already working in his father’s shop. Castiel envies him sometimes. Running a store isn’t anywhere as hard as dealing with his petty dean, his petty colleagues and having to buy dead bodies in order to do your job. Of course, Dean has entirely different problems. Castiel shouldn’t complain. “Today I asked him if he would please consider taking care of the small matter that eight people can’t work with three corpses every two weeks only, and he kindly told me that we don’t have the resources to provide more and I should stop expecting to be handed things on a silver platter.”

“Weren’t you making plans to research something?”

Castiel snorts – right. He’s currently trying to treat a child with a degenerative disease that progressively paralyzed his spine, and he thinks that given enough time he could come up with a way to operate it, but that isn’t going to happen in a long time.

“That will not happen anytime soon. But enough about me. Tell me about what happened to you. I can’t think about any kind of sickness anymore for today. Or about corpses.”

“I can believe it,” Dean agrees as he takes a sip. Castiel tries not to stare at his Adam’s apple as he swallows. “Well, the only big news is that my stupid little brother finally asked Jess to marry her.”

“But that’s wonderful!” Castiel exclaims, and he really is happy to hear it. It’s the first good news he’s heard today, for one; and he remembers Sam starting to speak fondly about that same girl at least five years ago. He has met her maybe twice, but she seemed quite lovely, and definitely fond of Sam as well. It’s not every day that two people who genuinely love each other marry, or at least it isn’t every day for Castiel. The last few weddings he has attended were all of family members, and feelings had not been contemplated in all of them. “You could have come and told me, though.”

“He only said that it was a done deal yesterday evening. And you remember what happened that last time I came by and that friend of your mother’s living in the house near yours told your brother.” Dean says it like it’s no big deal, but Castiel knows it is. He also hates that Raphael still thinks that he has any business with Castiel’s private matters. He has heard enough times the speech about needing to be in his circle, talking to people his status rather than wasting time with people like Dean Winchester. (They all like Sam slightly better, since he did go to law school; they have no idea about the sacrifices that everyone in the family went through to find the money, but Castiel never tried to explain it to them. It’d be worthless.)

If only they knew. Dean’s lips are wet when he puts his half-drunk glass down on the table’s surface. They’re so red and soft, and Castiel sometimes wishes that he could reach out and trace them. Or that he could be so bold to move forward and kiss them, obviously not in a public setting, but he knows it’s never going to happen. He wouldn’t dare saying it or even implying that he has never looked at a woman and found her beautiful in the way he’s supposed to.

He won’t ever tell Dean that he’s been dreaming about him rather than about any girl he has known since he was sixteen or so. Oh, he would know that Dean wouldn’t care – apparently some cousin of his on his mother’s side was found in a… compromising situation and when word got out, he had secretly told Castiel that he never understood why not. Sure, he never would do it, but what’d change for anyone else? He doesn’t feel… guilty about it, even if everything he has been taught tells him that he should. But whenever he looks at Dean he wonders how it could possibly be a bad thing to love someone as beautiful as he is.

That’s not the matter. Castiel knows that if he told Dean half the truth, at some point the second half would come out and he doesn’t want to go there. Ever.

“You know that I don’t care, but I understand it. I still hope I will be allowed to come to the wedding, though.”

Dean’s laugh is small but it lights up his eyes and face, and if only Castiel could kiss that smiling mouth. “Of course you are, what a question. It might even do you good, to get out of that gloom you live in.”

Dean doesn’t know how right he is, Castiel muses. Between the university and his own house, which is too big for him to live in alone (but since it’s comfortable enough and in a decent position he has never searched for another) sometimes he feels as if he lives in a grave.

“And what about you?”

Dean shakes his head. “Nothin’ new. Or nothin’ that interesting, anyway. The shop’s doing fine. I might start earning something again for real soon.”

Of course, Castiel thinks, they had put a mortgage on the shop in order to pay for Sam’s studies. Dean had it extinguished a couple of months ago.

“Then… well, my dad is still braggin’ at me after it ended up badly with Lisa, but you know, if you find out that you’re both thinking about marrying only because you think you should and we happened to like each other enough… you know, right?”

Castiel nods. He knows. Indeed.

“Anyway. Maybe now that Sam will give him some grandchildren, he’ll stop waitin’ for me to do it. But apart from that… it’s all right. Could be worse, could be better, but I can’t complain. Hey, I wouldn’t want to deal with what you get, that’s for sure.”

Anyone else would have felt offended, but Castiel knows the tone – Dean is merely joking and if he was in his own place, he’d say exactly the same thing.

He takes a sip of his now lukewarm beer, and the silence between them is companionable rather than uncomfortable. Castiel should probably be worried that the only part of the week he looks forward to is Thursday evening, when he and Dean meet regularly, but he can’t bring himself to care.

--

Two days later, he meets Balthazar outside his house as Balthazar leaves it. They settle on a day every two weeks for Balthazar to bring the corpses and for Castiel to pay him. It’s good to know in advance, he figures, also because he can make sure that he’s alone to receive the carriage driver.

The entire business still leaves him with a bad taste in his mouth, but in the following month work is a lot easier, there’s not arguing between teachers anymore and Dr. Adler cares about what happens in his own faculty so much that he doesn’t even notice that there are more bodies available than they should.

He still wishes he could use them for his research, but everyone’s benefit comes before his own.

--

“You know,” Dean tells him three Thursdays later, “this whole marriage thing is making me feel envious. Don’t tell Sam though. He’d try to make me feel better.”

“Envious because you wish to marry, as well?” Castiel tries not to sound as if he’s discontent.

“It’s not even that. It’s… I’m happy for him. I am. They love each other and that’s hard ‘nough to find, I guess. I wish I found that, too, at some point, but I’m not even sure that it’s ever happening.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Castiel replies. True, Dean hasn’t managed to find someone, arranged or not, since they were old enough to care about girls that way; the closest he came to proposing was with Lisa Braeden, but that didn’t go through in the end. Sometimes Castiel wonders why – Dean is certainly handsome, he has a good position even if he might not be extremely rich, when he cares about someone he gives all of himself for them, and he’s the best person Castiel knows. He doesn’t understand why whenever he seems to like someone it always ends before it can get somewhere.

“I’m not. Just statin’ the obvious. Then again maybe it’s meant to be. And – well. My family is fine, we’ve had some tough times but things are picking up, my little brother is happy, I have at least one good friend, I shouldn’t complain too much.”

Castiel’s heart swells a bit at that – it shouldn’t make him happy, but… he can’t help it. Whenever Dean says things like that, and it happens only when he has drunk more than usual, it always makes him feel as if at least someone values him for what he is rather than for what he’s doing with his life. Another thing he has never understood is why Dean doesn’t have that many friends as well – he always was a lot more inclined to talk to people than Castiel, but Castiel has never pried into that either. Dean usually says that he never had much time for other people, not since Mary Winchester died run over by a carriage when Dean was eight and Sam was four, and Castiel knows well enough that from that moment Dean spent his life mostly caring about raising his brother and worrying about getting food on the table while their dad cared for the shop. And that had drastically lessened the time Dean had for other people, as he puts it.

Still, sometimes Castiel wishes that he had the courage to say it. To tell Dean that he could be that person he wants, that his fingers itch to touch him in ways that wouldn’t be considered appropriate even between two friends, that maybe the fact that neither of them can be with anyone else means something. (Maybe the fact that Castiel has never even kissed a woman or had one means something, too. Dean knows, of course. Once he even tried to bring Castiel to a brothel, which has been referred to as den of iniquity ever since, and it ended up so badly that he never tried again.)

But he doesn’t. He will never. He knows that. As much as he knows that this is all wishful thinking.

Dean can’t know, and won’t know, and Castiel shouldn’t fall prey to his own desires.

He should worry about what present he should get Sam and Jessica for their marriage instead. It’s in three months, but he should start to look around. He likes to be ahead of things instead of arriving at the last minute.

--

Three Thursdays after, Castiel sits in the inn knowing that he looks more similar to one of Balthazar’s bodies rather than to a respectable human being. Dr. Adler has started to suspect something and obviously he has called Castiel into his office and tried to find out if he knows why the town administration is suddenly sending in more corpses, and that lasted enough to leave him wiped. Of course, he had two classes to teach later, ant to tell the mother of that child he was trying to treat that won’t be able to operate because he has nothing to research on. By the time he’s arrived to his and Dean’s usual meeting spot he’s dead tired and hoping that Dean has something fun to report to him today. He needs a laugh, or a reason to smile. Just seeing Dean’s face would be enough, but….

The clock ticks, slowly but steadily, and Dean doesn’t come.




It’s eight in the evening when Castiel gives up and decides to go to the guns shop; maybe Dean got caught up in business and he couldn’t close early.

When he walks there he finds out that it’s closed. He goes upstairs, where Dean lives with his father, but when he knocks on the door, no one answers.

Then the door of the apartment in front of the Winchester one opens. Castiel turns towards it.

“Castiel?”

It’s Ellen Harvelle, who has rented that apartment since Castiel can remember and since her husband (with whom she ran a small inn, the Roadhouse, on the other side of the street) died because of a fever some ten years ago; now she runs the inn with her daughter, Joanna. Dean usually has dinner and lunch there, whenever he isn’t meeting Castiel in their usual place.

“Ellen. I was wondering – did something happen to Dean? We were supposed to meet, but he never showed up.”

Ellen’s face is pale as she shakes his head. “Dean – he was goin’ out of the store to grab something to eat at my place. There was this carriage driver goin’ too fast because apparently he needed to bring someone important someplace quickly – he ran right over him.”

“You can’t – he’s in the hospital, he has to –

“He died a minute after it happened,” Ellen says quietly. “His father’s gone to the hospital, ‘course, but to see if there’s someone that can… well. Fix him up before they bury him. It wasn’t pretty.”

Castiel doesn’t even hear the last half of the sentence.

As soon as Ellen says he died, his blood turns to ice and his knees give out, and he has to steady himself against the wall to avoid crashing down on the floor.

--

The funeral is on the next day.

It’s the second-worst day of Castiel’s life.

He gets someone to cover for his classes after a lot of bribing and promises, and there aren’t many attendants. John Winchester, who looks seventy instead of fifty-five, Sam and Jessica, who look devastated (Castiel thinks for a second about how sad their wedding will end up being, too, and it makes him want to cry all over again, especially because it had every reason to be a joyful one), the Harvelles, Lisa Braeden, a couple of other girls that Dean had been half-serious with. Bobby Singer, an old friend of John Winchester’s. Castiel, too. No one else.

The ceremony is also short and not particularly moving, since Dean hadn’t set foot in a church since his mother died and the preacher knew it too well.

Castiel wishes that at least the grave wasn’t composed of just one stone with only the name and the dates of birth and death, but he knew better than to offer to pay for it.

Dean Winchester, Jan. 24th, 1863 – May 2nd, 1892. It doesn’t say nearly enough.

He stands next to Sam while Dean is buried, and neither of them tries to hide that they’re both crying.

“You know,” Sam says after the preacher is done speaking, “I feel so useless. I don’t think that Dean would have wanted us all to cry.”

Castiel nods, remembering one conversation they had when they were fourteen or so. “Once he told me that he hoped people would laugh at his funeral. Obviously he was supposed to have led a long and happy life and they would have laughed because they would only talk about good things.”

“It’s so –” Sam starts, choking back a sob. “He didn’t – he deserved a long life. He had just stopped paying off the mortgage. And that son of a bitch who ran him over – well, not the driver. The guy on the carriage. You know what he told my dad? He ran out on the street, he heard the noise from inside the house.”

“What did he say?”

“That Dean should have watched the road. Ellen saw it all. When he started walking, there was no one in sight. And then he complained that he had to go because he was late for some academic meeting. Can you believe it?”

Sam sounds outraged and Castiel is starting to suspect that he might know who was on that carriage.

“Was that – a man in his fifties, some six inches taller than me, with bald hair and – wearing a top hat?”

“Yes. He said he didn’t need another corpse to deal with, apparently – Cas?”

Castiel realizes that he has just stopped dead in his tracks.

He won’t tell Sam that it was his own dean, but the bile that he had felt rising towards his mouth already tastes a lot more bitter right now.

And meanwhile, as he watches earth being thrown over the coffin, he feels as if half of him is gone. He thinks about what is his life going to be now. No more Thursday evenings passed in companionable silence, no more Dean calling him Cas, no more Dean making his day better by smiling at him. The only person who has ever made his life a good place to be is gone, and Castiel isn’t sure that he can accept it now. Or ever.

--

While he walks back home, he thinks about how Dean had looked when they closed the coffin over his face. John Winchester couldn’t find anyone to fix him right; there wasn’t blood anymore, and they had buried him in his best clothes, but Dean’s ear had still been half torn, his nose still visibly broken and his lower lip split. His fingers were all bent wrong, as if someone had broken them and didn’t bother to fix them. Maybe, Castiel thinks bitterly, now he won’t even get to rest there. Maybe his body will end up on either Castiel’s or Zachariah’s table, since it’s not as if Balthazar looks at the names before starting to dig. For a second Castiel feels guilty because he knows how the loved ones of the people he dissects in order to explain anatomy to his students feel, but it isn’t nearly enough for his mind to drift from the subject it has fixated itself on.

Dean deserved better.

He deserved better than being run over by the person that Castiel loathes most on this planet, he deserved better than being buried under a heavy rain with only a few people attending, he deserved more than a simple stone, he deserved that long and happy life he had wanted. He deserved to find that person who’d love him the way he wanted (even if it couldn’t have ever been Castiel himself), he deserved to spend a lot more Thursdays drinking quietly together with Castiel at their table.

He deserved life, and no one can give it back to him now. It’s gone. All gone.


Is it?


The thought hits Castiel with such a force that he has to stop in the middle of the street, as he walks back to the university.

Of course, is the first answer he gives himself as he starts walking again, forcing himself to. Life is life and death is death. I learned that first thing. Only God can take it or give it.

Except, except, except. Which God takes away Dean and leaves Dr. Adler alive? Castiel isn’t sure that he can buy the answer that all the best die young because God wants them with him. That’s pretty selfish, for one, and God should be above something as petty as selfishness. Dean shouldn’t have died, but he had and Castiel can’t accept that it has a sense. If there’s a God somewhere, He’s not here. That, Castiel can be sure of. He has never doubted of His existence, because after all if someone like Dean was in his life then someone up there surely must have liked Castiel enough, but right now he’s tempted to change his mind at least a little.

Still, it changes nothing. Bringing someone back to life is impossible. He shouldn’t even –

Didn’t you want to research on how to bring back to life dead tissue? , a traitorous little voice asks him. If you can bring dead tissue back to life, how hard can it be to do bring someone back altogether?

Castiel tries to silence it. Dead tissue is something, a brain is another.

And the child you wanted to save had an injury in his spinal cord. It’s still nerves that you have to fix, isn’t it?

As Castiel walks into the building and takes off his sopping wet coat, he’s desperately trying not to give in to the temptation. It’s insane. It’s immoral. It’s against nature. It’s against everything Castiel has been taught, it’s against every sense, you can heal damaging tissue but you can’t do it when there’s no other support system, and yet –

And yet he didn’t deserve to die, and all the people who taught you that playing with life and death was immoral are still living and didn’t really think much of him, did they? Do they deserve to live while he deserves to rot in that pitiful grave of his?

“Milton?”

Castiel stops dead in his tracks in the main hallway as he walks to the third class he should have given today, which will technically be his first.

“Dr. Adler. Is there a problem?”

“I’ve heard that you weren’t here this morning and that someone else had to cover for you. You could have bothered to inform me.”

“I am sorry. I had a funeral to attend and it was very sudden. I could not find you when I was here this morning and I couldn’t –”

Next time, you will warn,” Adler hisses. “Especially when it’s not a funeral you are strictly required to attend.”

“Excuse me?”

“If someone in your family had died, I would have known.”

“It was a friend,” Castiel replies, realizing just after he said it that he shouldn’t have. Adler doesn’t care about it, and when he hears someone snickering behind him and whisper oh, so he does have some friends after all, something inside him twists. A friend that died because of you, he doesn’t add.

“Next time, you will come to me first. As if I need more problems with you after yesterday.”

“What… what happened yesterday, if I may ask?”

Adler snorts, and Castiel wishes he never asked that question a second after it leaves his mouth. “I was late coming here and someone ended up under my carriage. Well, thankfully he was a no one – he should have watched the road. And now go do your job.”

By the time Castiel has reached the classroom, he has taken a decision.

It might be insane, and if there’s a God and a Heaven and a Hell this will damn his soul forever, but if he can do it, or try to, then nothing else matters.

--

That evening, he goes straight to Balthazar’s house. He knocks twice, hard; Balthazar opens the door promptly, a cat nestled in the crook of his arm, and he raises an eyebrow a second after his eyes meet Castiel’s.

“Now that’s a surprise. I hadn’t thought this was our meeting day, dear.”

“Things are changed,” Castiel replies. “I need your help.”

You need my help, dear?” Balthazar’s voice is midway between amused and surprised as he lets Castiel in. “Well then, welcome in, my friend. Let’s see what little old me can do for you, yes? Please, take a seat.”

Castiel can’t help noticing that even if the house is small, it’s very neat. It’s only one room, with a bed in the corner and a stove in the opposite one. There are quite a lot of books lying around – more than he’d have expected. There’s also a table with some quite good bottle of brandy on it, he notices. And there’s a lone stocking that most definitely belongs to a woman half-hidden under the bed, only part of it visible on the floor. It’s no matter. This isn’t what he came here for. If Balthazar wants to be comfortable with the considerable extra money he earns from his secondary job, or to pay a woman with it, he’s welcome to use it in any way he wishes.

Castiel sits on an old but comfortable and clean armchair in front of a fireplace. Balthazar takes a twin one on the opposite side, the cat still in his lap. He hands Castiel a glass filled with the brandy that was on the table.

“That’s on me,” Balthazar says amiably. “After all, it’s mostly thanks to you that I can afford it, so it’s only right that I offer you some. So, what’s your problem, Castiel?”

Castiel tries not to mind that Balthazar thinks they’re on a first name basis right now. “I told you that I needed bodies for my research.”

“But you were renouncing it.”

“Well, I changed my mind. I will need a lot more corpses. And they should be for me only. I also need you to help me in person for at least one thing, if you will accept.”

“That’s not much to go on, I’m afraid. How can I decide to accept or not if you don’t tell me what it is that you need? Other than… a whole bloody lot of corpses, I figure.”

Castiel ponders how much he should tell.

Then again, he can’t dig Dean out of his grave on his own.

“If I pay you fifteen dollars for each corpse and another ten for that help in person, would you accept?”

Balthazar’s eyes glint at that, and Castiel thinks that he looks eerily similar to the cat he’s holding close. “My, my. I suppose that for that price I could do it. And if I decide not to, you can be assured that whatever information you share won’t leave these walls.”

It has to be enough.

“I need you to help me dig out a certain coffin and to put the grave back as it was. Then I need help bringing it to my home.”

“Well, other than a carriage I also own a small wagon. I suppose that could be done. The problem is of a different kind.”

“Which would be?”

“Well, I provide corpses for your dean and for you lot already. For your teaching purposes. If you need more, I am not sure I can do this without raising a lot of attention. Which I am quite sure you don’t want.”

Castiel had figured that it would be a problem.

Fine then.

“You can bring me the ones I already paid you for and a couple more, all at the new price. Adler can keep his. I will take a leave of absence. A long one.”

“You sound like a man on a mission,” Balthazar replies, putting the cat down and looking straight at him. “Very well, that’s settled. You’re paying, you decide. But are you going on your mission alone?”

“I am,” Castiel replies. He could do with help, but he isn’t about to risk asking anyone that he knows.

“Fine. Do you need to do this… digging now?”

“As soon as you deem safe.”

“In a couple of hours then. It should be all good, especially with this weather. No one will be around, in this rain. And well, I suppose that if you need further help, you could always ask me. I won’t raise your price.”

“I’ll think about it,” Castiel cuts short. He isn’t sure that he wants to get deeper into this with Balthazar, but the offer is tempting. After all, Balthazar has nothing to lose, as much as he doesn’t, not with what he’s getting into. He decides not to rule out the option completely.

Who knows.

He’s compromised enough already. But if it means that he can bring Dean back, then he doesn’t care.

--

Two hours and a half later, he thinks he might be growing a new respect for both Balthazar and his secondary profession. His arms are hurting from all the digging, and the fact that it’s raining isn’t helping much at all. Balthazar is looking at him in a way Castiel can’t describe properly, since it’s not clear whether he’s impressed with Castiel for getting his hands dirty or if he pities him because he’s lousy at this. They’re done uncovering the coffin only because Balthazar did three quarters of the job, after all.

“You know,” Balthazar says as he motions for Castiel to lower himself into the hole they just dug in order to take the coffin out of it, “I was wondering what’s so special about this particular person.”

“Not your business,” Castiel blurts as he grabs his side of the coffin and hauls it up on his shoulder as Balthazar does the same.

“Suit yourself. You seem quite invested. Is someone you particularly wish to dissect? They must have been special.”

Castiel snorts as they push the coffin out of the hole. “The contrary.”

He doesn’t offer more and Balthazar doesn’t ask; when Balthazar gets out of the hole first and offers him a hand to help him out, Castiel doesn’t refuse it.

“Listen, do we need to cover it up? This job is filthy enough without –”

“Yes,” Castiel replies without hesitation. Dean’s family has suffered enough, they don’t need to think that Dean’s grave has been violated. “It’s an extra five dollars, if you need further convincing.”

“In this case I might reconsider,” Balthazar replies casually, and Castiel grabs his shovel again. Another half hour and everything is covered again; sure, it’s not exactly as it had been before, but no one will notice. Thankfully the ground was still fresh when they came here. They put the coffin on the back of Balthazar’s wagon and Castiel sits on Balthazar’s side as they ride outside the graveyard.

“Something tells me that this is personal,” Balthazar whispers as they head for Castiel’s house. “Isn’t it?”

“Why would you care?” Castiel replies.

“Well, considering how rich this business is going to make me, it might be that I’m interested in what exactly is going through your brilliant mind. But by all means, keep your secrets.”

Castiel is afraid that he won’t get to keep them hidden from long, not from Balthazar at least, since he needs him.

But everything in good time.

--

Castiel’s house is a family property – his grandfather had it built on what used to be the outskirts of town in order to use it during the summer. This before the city got big enough that the location couldn’t be considered in the countryside anymore, but since no one was living in it permanently and Castiel found the position comfortable enough, no one objected when he asked to use it as a residence. No one had used it in years.

That’s not the entire point. The point is that Castiel’s grandfather also liked to offer huge dinners to the entirety of his neighborhood during the summer, provided that they were rich enough, and there’s an ice cellar that was once used to store meat. No one has used it for a while, or at least not to store the quantities of meat it once used to, but it’s still functioning and it’s going to work perfectly for what Castiel needs. He and Balthazar drag it downstairs and Castiel tells him to leave it there. He’s going to deal with it later. He hands Balthazar a handful of bills before Balthazar leaves and tells him he will be back tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night is good, Castiel thinks. Tomorrow night means that he has what remains of this one and all of tomorrow to make plans.

Before attempting to do anything, though, he throws away his now useless clothes – they’re covered in mud and earth, and he’s filthy. He’s not going to even touch Dean’s body while covered in this. He draws himself a bath, glad that he never wanted to hire someone to do such things for him. The less people around, the better.

After he cleans himself up, he puts on some old but still good clothes, picks a bag with his instruments and goes downstairs.

He breaks the coffin open and he wants to cry at the sight. Thankfully, a few hours haven’t done much damage, but whatever had been done to fix Dean’s face before he was buried hasn’t lasted.

It’s nothing of import, Castiel figures.

After all, he has spent the last ten years working with corpses.

John Winchester might as well have asked him. He’d have done a much better job.

--

He spends the entire night trying to fix what can be fixed of Dean’s injuries, only a small lamp oscillating from the ceiling to light the entire cellar. It’s cold, probably as cold as Hell’s deepest level (where Castiel is probably headed), but Castiel couldn’t care less, not when he has tears in Dean’s skin to mend and bones to fix, as much as he can. Not when he also has to determine the precise cause of death – he’s never going to manage this if he has no idea where to start from.

When he closes the cellar door as the sun is rising, he has stitched every tear in Dean’s skin that could be stitched, and he’s positive that it was because of spinal fracture. Dean was literally run over, the carriage’s wheels passing over his back and snapping the spinal cord in two. The driver hadn’t even tried to stop, he thinks bitterly. Maybe if he had tried, or if the carriage had only hit Dean instead of running over him, he might have been paralyzed instead of dead.

Oh, but he will fix it.

Castiel goes to his bedroom, sits at his desk and writes one letter to Dr. Adler and another ten or so to the people he was treating. The first is about the leave of absence, the others kindly ask his patients to come directly to his home for the visits.

Who knows. Maybe, in this entire ordeal, he might learn enough to help that child he couldn’t treat before.

He mails them, and then he walks back home and heads for his bedroom again.

He won’t be of help to anyone if he isn’t well rested this evening.

He dreams that it’s a Thursday and that he and Dean are having their weekly drink, Dean’s eyes laughing and Castiel’s heart pounding slightly harder than its usual.

--

That evening, there’s a knock on the back entrance.

When Castiel opens it, Balthazar is there with his wagon, a blanket covering the contents.

“I figured you might prefer discretion,” Balthazar explains, still smiling that small, knowing smile. “So, where do these two go?”

“Cellar,” Castiel replies. Obviously, the part that wasn’t used to store meat. “I will take one.”

“You really are willing to get your hands dirty, aren’t you?” Balthazar chuckles, putting one of the bodies on his shoulder as Castiel takes the other.

“It’s worth it,” Castiel says as he leads the way. He has dragged down two huge tables that were once used for his grandfather’s dinners.

They will have to do.

When they’re done, there are two blanket-wrapped bundles on the two tables. Castiel’s hands are itching to cut.

“That will be all?” Balthazar asks, his hand outstretched.

“For now,” Castiel confirms handing him another pair of bills.

“Well, dear doctor, you know where to find me if you need something else. You know, I like people who are willing to get their hands dirty. I might be even willing to dispose of what you don’t need anymore for free. If not… I will see you in another four days.”

--

He turns the first body on its stomach. It’s a woman around fifty, with a stab wound in her heart.

He should feel sorry, but he can’t allow himself to feel anything right now.

He thinks about the night after he finally obtained his degree. Dean had insisted on buying him a drink at the place where they used to see each other every week; Castiel remembers how Dean’s arm had felt around his shoulder, about the way he laughed. He remembers that Dean got drunk a lot faster than Castiel did, and Castiel had to drag him home, but it wasn’t a hardship. Not at all. Not when he had Dean’s side against his, warm and there and alive.

He grabs his scalpel and cuts.

--

Three days later, he receives a letter from Dr. Adler, requiring that he come back to his job immediately.

Castiel tears it in pieces and doesn’t answer it.

In the afternoon, he takes a pause to visit one of his patients upstairs and for a light dinner. When he gets back into the cellar, he barely glances at his grandfather’s tables and at the bodies on them – the first one he dissected is covered now, he doesn’t have a use for it anymore – and walks inside the ice cellar.

It is working – Dean’s body is still in good enough condition. Of course, there are scars on his hands, and the stitches will have to stay because the skin didn’t reform itself under them, and he’s pale, so very pale, his lips almost blue, his eyes closed.

Castiel runs a finger over Dean’s cold, cold bottom lip, once, as he has always wanted to when he was alive.

Oh, but he will be again if it’s the last thing Castiel does. He only needs to find out how.

And fast, he reasons – the more Dean stays dead, the more there could be complications. He might have to replace some organs – who knows if any are failed?

He will take care of that when time comes, though.

--

He pays John Winchester a visit the next morning, in the shop. Dean and Sam’s father still looks fifteen years older than he is as he welcomes Castiel in and turns the sign on the door on closed.

“I don’t think I have to ask you how you are doing,” Castiel says. John gives him a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.

“’Course you don’t have to. You know how I’m doing. Because you’re doing the same damn way,” John answers, and Castiel can’t deny that. Not when he’s been feeling half empty since the second he learned that Dean was gone.

“It’s that – Sam is trying to see if at least he can corner that bastard who was on the carriage, but I doubt it’s gonna end well. I should’ve never survived him.”

Castiel has doubts that Sam is ever going to manage it. He wishes it could happen, but this isn’t how life goes.

John goes to a cupboard in the corner and takes out a bottle of whiskey and a couple of glasses, offering Castiel one wordlessly. Castiel takes it.

“To Dean,” John mutters as the glasses clink against each other. “I can’t even say whoever he is. If Dean was right, then he’s nowhere right now.”

The words are there on the tip of Castiel’s tongue, itching to be left free. He’s in my basement, actually. And if everything goes right…

But he doesn’t say anything.

He wishes he could, but it’s better that he keeps this secret.

The whiskey burns down his throat, but when he leaves, after promising John that he will drop by soon, his step is steady. He always had a good tolerance.

--

The second body is a man in his mid-thirties. His neck is broken. Fell down from the stairs, Castiel figures.

An accident.

How unfortunate. A small, faint voice asks him, how is it that they both died because of accidents, but you’ll never try to bring him back?

He isn’t Dean.

He thinks about one time when they were fourteen. Or better, Dean was about to turn fourteen but that year had seen less earnings than usual, and he wouldn’t receive anything for his birthday. When Dean had told him that, always shrugging as if it didn’t matter, Castiel had gifted him on the spot his copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which he had lent Dean at least ten times before. Dean had looked at him with such thankfulness, Castiel hadn’t even known what to answer. His heart had started beating slightly faster. He recalls that moment as clearly as if it had happened yesterday.

He cuts.

--

One week after he closes himself in his own house, he receives a letter from Michael. He reads it once. His family is concerned after Dr. Adler contacted them because of Castiel’s odd behavior. At some point, it’s said that they hope it’s not because Dean Winchester is dead – surely Castiel has more important matters to think about, including his reputation.

He tears it in pieces and doesn’t answer it, either.

When, half an hour later, he uncovers one of the bodies Balthazar brought in yesterday to find himself in front of a kid that can’t be older than fifteen, who has most definitely died of polio, his throat tightens. What am I doing? he thinks. But then he remembers Dean the first time they met, telling Castiel that he wanted to be friends, and he cuts.

--

After another visit to one of his patients, he decides that he should go see Sam. They haven’t seen each other since the funeral and he should go.

Sam lives in a small house, not too far from the shop. It’s a nice place, Castiel always thinks whenever he visits there. It’s definitely not a mansion, but it has two floors, nice furnishing, and it’s perfect for housing three people comfortably.

Castiel knows that Jessica is supposed to move there after the wedding. If the wedding happens anytime soon, he ponders as he knocks on the door. It’s early in the evening, and the light is on, so Sam should be –

“Cas,” Sam says with a small smile after opening the door. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I thought I would visit. If I’m not –”

“Of course not, come in. Can I offer you anything?”

“No, thank you. But you can tell me how you’re doing.”

Sam sends a small smile his way as he motions for Castiel to sit on an armchair in front of the living room’s fireplace. He takes another next to it. “Not so good. I mean, it’s so strange – Dean was always there for my entire life and now he’s gone just like that. If only it had had some sense I could begin to let it go, but… I can’t accept it.”

“I’ve been thinking the same,” Castiel replies quietly. More than that, but there’s no need to dwell into that now. “It’s… it feels empty, doesn’t it?”

“So much,” Sam agrees. “We… me and Jess are taking another six months. I mean, from the planned date.”

“For the wedding?”

“Yes. I can’t – it was supposed to be three months from now, but I’m not sure I can do it so soon. I was afraid to ask, actually, you don’t know how excited we both were, but she was the one suggesting it first. He was supposed to be my best man,” Sam whispers as he looks down at the ashes in the fireplace.

Castiel wishes he could tell him, he might be, if I have a say in it, but even if he managed to do the unthinkable, he isn’t so sure that it would be wise if it was to happen.

It occurs to him that if he’s successful, it will be a problem to find a way to tell Dean’s family without any other fuss happening – he might be doing something insane, but Castiel knows too well that if Dean did come back and it became public, it would be a disaster. Castiel himself would be arrested at best and find himself with a noose around his neck at worst, Dean would spend his life with scientists observing him and maybe managing to kill him all over again, and if anyone else found out how Castiel did it (not that he has an idea for now) it could bring to disastrous conclusions.

Stop it now, the traitorous small voice says. You can’t handle the consequences.

I will deal with the consequences after, he thinks, silencing it.

It’s not as if it isn’t all moot, if in the end he can’t bring Dean back after all.

part II/end here
 
 
feeling: okayokay
on rotation: random mozart
 
 
 
cassiopeia7: Dean: readingcassiopeia7 on February 9th, 2012 11:45 am (UTC)
Ah, you trickster, you! Part II posted before the first part and I thought I'd missed something. Yay for not missing! *runs off to read*
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural + nick cave = otpjanie_tangerine on February 9th, 2012 01:46 pm (UTC)
Nah, I just decided that I wanted the first part showing up before the last one. ;)