It stinks of blood.
The room is deafening in its silence, broken only by the click of Naomi's heels on the stainless white floor as she walks over to the white leather chair. Beside the chair is a metal tray, loaded with familiar metal instruments that bring nausea to Castiel's mouth. He knows those.
How can you not know what has been inside of his brain?
The lights are blindingly white and hard to look at directly. The whole atmosphere brings a clinical feeling with it, rather similar to the hospital that he and Dean investigated on one case. He half expects to smell the stench of chemicals- antibiotics and disinfectants-and see the white curtained beds.
But Castiel knows the moment that he is brought in that that their purposes are vastly different. Hospitals are supposed to heal you. This room is for the opposite.
They don't need many guards to bring him in. Castiel's body is limp and boneless- the blood trickling from his eyes blinds him. He has not slept for an eternity, and there are bruises all over his body. He's fairly sure that there is internal bleeding in his stomach.
But even if he could find the strength to fight them off, it wouldn't last long- Naomi has the controls embedded in him, the manual to control his every move. She could drop him at the slightest provocation.
"Bring him here."
The hands around his arms tighten and Castiel is jerked forward until he's being held in front of Naomi, dangling from their grips. He lets his gaze drift to the floor, refusing to look in her eyes.
Naomi grabs him by the chin and jerks his face up till his eyes meet hers.
"You know that this is necessary, Castiel," she speaks soothingly, "you know you have disobeyed. This is your punishment."
Castiel laughs. It comes out broken and bitter and doesn't sound a laugh at all. "Go to hell."
Naomi doesn't get mad. She just clucks in disapproval and leans back. "It seems we will have to use more permanent measures than last time, Castiel," she tells him. "You brought this upon yourself."
Castiel ignores the rising panic in his stomach clamoring for his attention and spits at her feet. It comes out bloody and lands on the white floor, a drop of scarlet blood on the colorless floor.
Blood on snow. Humans have always loved that metaphor.
"Put him in the chair."
They drag him over to the chair and slam him down into the seat, leaning him back until he's prone, open, vulnerable. He coughs, more blood dribbling down from his mouth and fights back the tide of dread washing over him.
Naomi sits in the adjacent chair and picks up one of the lethal devices. Castiel slumps back in the chair. So this is it- there is no stopping this.
She's right, though, as much as he hates to admit it. He has brought this upon himself- his choices, each and every one, have led him here. He had a chance to avoid this.
But she's wrong, too.
If given a chance to go back, he wouldn't change those choices for the world. Not if it meant hurting Dean more than he has already. Despite everything, he still believes he and Sam were right. Everything he has done has been for them. Everything.
And he wouldn't change anything if it meant losing that.
She raises the scalpel, and Castiel wishes he could say something to give her pause, something defiant. But he has never been able to think of words like Dean has. He is not a diplomat- he is a strategist and a warrior.
But there is one thing that he can say.
"Screw you," he blurts out, and Naomi's eyes flash with anger, the first sign of emotion that she has shown thus far.
She makes the first cut. Castiel screams.
The world goes white.
Dean moves over to him with a concerned face, arms extended as if he's a wild animal, keeping him at bay. "Cas?" He demands, and Castiel notices absently that his hands are shaking ever so slightly.
Cas moves forward, and his hand slips under his coat, grabbing the angel blade. He doesn't draw it out, not yet- something stops him, a ghost of some old feeling flickering through him.
"Cas, you in there?" Dean snaps his fingers, and Cas's gaze snaps to him instantly. "Look, I'm sorry we got angel sigils. But, uh, we were kinda freaked out after Samandriel, and you were kinda- I mean, you looked like you did back when you were Heaven's bitch, remember?"
Castiel tilts his head, slightly confused. Dean nods and grins, albeit a little nervous around the eyes.
"See! Like that. Damn. You haven't done that head-tilty thing of yours since Lucifer was still up and kicking!"
Dean moves forward slowly, puts his hands on Castiel's shoulders, and his face shifts from the nervous, almost fake grin. He stares into Castiel's eyes, and before he speaks, he pauses, looks Castiel over. As if he can't believe he's actually there. Is solid and real.
"But this is you, right man?" He whispers. "You're you. And you're okay?"
Castiel knows this is the time he needs to draw out the angel blade, needs to strike deep into this man's heart. But the look on Dean's face makes his mind jumble, and his heart shivers.
All that Naomi has told him is that Dean Winchester is a threat to Heaven's cause- that he's killed plenty of their agents, such as Zachariah. He has made deals with devils and sabotaged previous plans beyond repair. Much of Heaven's current state of disrepair owes itself to Dean Winchester.
But Castiel senses deeply that Dean is more than that- or was more than that to him, once. There is something between them, a history, that passes unspoken.
"Cas, look buddy," Dean speaks again, and a hand goes up to his cheek, gently caressing. "I need to know if you're in there."
Castiel almost lets himself nod and sag forward into Dean's shoulder- almost lets himself find safety and comfort within Dean's arms. It would be so easy, and something itching in the back of his brain is telling him he's done it before. It would be effortless.
He almost lets himself.
He would, but for the momentary stab of white-hot pain that bursts through Cas's head, and he stumbles backwards, going immediately for his pocket. He grabs the angel blade and holds it up in front of him by instinct, a talisman against whatever monster is . Dean almost rushes forward but then seems to think better of it. He stops a few feet away from Castiel, arms still outstretched as if to heal him. To lay hands on him.
And then Castiel realizes that he hasn't stopped at all- he is suspended in time, a frame of life frozen. The work of an angel.
"I warned you, Castiel," Naomi tuts from behind Castiel, and he whirls around, eyes wide- a deer in the headlights. She shakes her head, clucking her tongue in disappointment. "You must do your duty to Heaven. God only knows that you have much penance to do."
"I don't think I can do it," Castiel whispers, trembling. He knows that angels are not to fail to complete their orders- it goes against their biology, their physiological makeup. They are supposed to carry out their missions without complaints or second thoughts.
But he. He doesn't have a word for what stops him- it is too vast and vague to comprehend- but he does know that he cannot kill Dean.
"You can and will," Naomi tells him. There is an uncontrolled edge of rage in her voice, her hands clenching into fists. "Or I will bring down such wrath of Heaven down upon you, Castiel, that when I am done you will not be able to think at all. Let alone question orders."
Castiel whimpers. He can't kill Dean, that is true- but he also cannot go back to the chair. He doesn't remember why he can't do that either. It is completely irrational. There is no logical reason for either- mind memory for one, he supposes, and muscle memory for the other- but he can't.
"Do you want a taste?" Naomi roars, and pain deeper than space and sharper than the gates of Hell floods Castiel's every sense. He keens, bending over at the waist, and hot, thick blood pours from his ears and nose, rises inexorably in his throat. It trickles from his eyes alongside a flood of tears. His knees buckle and he collapses, sobbing into the floor.
Naomi kneels down beside him, so close that her whisper touches the hairs on his ear. Castiel moans as she smooths back his hair from his face with a gentle hand.
"If you do not kill Dean Winchester," she breathes, "I will tear off both of your wings and hang them on Heaven's gates."
An eternity later Castiel rises from the ground, blood and tears and snot still running over his face, and draws the angel blade. Dean backs away, but Castiel is determined.
He wills himself to move forward as he grabs Dean's arm, wills himself not to stop as Dean shouts in shock.
"No, Cas, please don't do this," Dean pleads. Castiel closes his eyes and lets himself press a kiss to his brow.
He raises his arm and brings down the blade.
Dean stops pleading.