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04 January 2010 @ 09:11 am
[fanmix] Beside the Highway  




Beside the Highway
A drabble set/fanmix by tiptoe39
Beta read by takhallus

Squint

This world is dark.

That is true even before the first seal shatters, even before the gates are opened. There is a light, an openness and a freedom to Heaven that is unmatched on any other plane. And Hell has a light of its own, too, though it is a harsh one. The denizens of the celestial and infernal planes can see beyond themselves, see beyond their immediate futures and their survival. But humans have no such sight. Their world is dark. And Castiel discovers, when he descends, that he has to squint and concentrate to see anything at all.

It is like peering into smoke, looking into these humans and their shortsighted decisions. They are myopic little dirt-dwellers, living their lives ignorant of the bigger picture that is forming all around them. Castiel remembers watching a bird fly into a closed window, then promptly forget glass isn't air and try it again. It strikes him as the perfect metaphor for humanity's feeble effort to shape its own future. It is all written plainer than stone to him and his kind, but humans just don't, or won't, see it. And because they fail to see the fruitlessness of their own actions, they persist in thinking they have control over their lives.

He stands on the side of the highway, just after first taking human form, and watches lives and dreams flicker by fast as revving motors can take them. This one is hurrying to get to his daughter's piano recital. Another is heading home to her husband. A few are just driving for the sake of driving, not knowing where they are going and trying hard to forget where they came from. Everyone seeking a future that is better than the past, for them, for their own satisfaction and their own pleasure. So selfish. So pointless.

So Castiel has to squint. Not just to see into the darkness but to narrow his vision enough that he can understand them. A human is to be his charge. He can't persuade the Righteous Man of his obligations without understanding what it is to see only what the human does.

He doesn't expect squinting to open his eyes.

1) L'Arc~en~Ciel - Blurry Eyes
The unchanging premonition continues,
and even those days are getting cloudy...
Why do you stare at the sky with those blurry eyes?

**

Wings

Humans have wings, too. Like foolish, flightless birds, they've forgotten how to use them, but they sit, weighty and unseen, on their backs. Reminders of the flight that they're no longer capable of, if they ever were. Castiel doesn't remember now whether they ever could fly. It seems too long ago. As long as he's known humans, they have been blind to their own possibilities, their own potential.

That's what's most frustrating about watching them. They really do have so much potential. A bit of him can understand why they were so loved. But it's hard to reconcile their capabilities with their achievements, or lack thereof. How can humans carry such wings and treat them as though they're nothing more than a nuisance, an extra weight?

The Righteous Man -- he has a name now, Dean is his name -- is no different. Castiel tells him that his purpose is great. Dean does nothing but dismiss him and complain to him. He'd prefer to be shaven clean of his obligations, wallowing in the mud and dousing himself in everything dirty and sacrilegious. Why, when he has such glorious wings, ebony and full, does he tear them down at every instance, demand that he does not deserve them?

Castiel wonders if Dean knows how very much he does deserve them. How he proves that at every juncture, whether it's returning to a house to save one last child before the place blows, whether it's demanding a town of sinners be saved, whether it's simply knowing that the crosses he bears will not get any lighter as time goes on but soldiering on nonetheless. That's why he's deserving. Because he takes on so much, knowing so little of the grand plan. Because he shoulders his wings without begrudging their weight and moves anyhow.

Castiel feels as though he's close to understanding something about humans now, but he isn't sure. It has something to do with humans, with their potential and their lack of awareness, with their desire to see their dreams fulfilled and their search for the knowledge that's already right there, that already drives them. He's close to a breakthrough, but he can't name it yet. When he closes his human eyes, though, he can very nearly feel it.

2) To Destination - EDEN
Injured black wings shine in the moonlight
and beautifully take flight
A kiss of faith now pours deep into my heart,
and I go into a dream...


**

Design

An angel's wings, on the other hand, are known to their owner. Castiel knows how to take flight, how to soar, how to travel far and land softly. His wings are functional parts of him. This is one reason he is so stunned to realize they are useless.

Castiel can use his wings to fly high above the fray, to see the whole shape of creation and the immensity of the destiny that has been laid on the shoulders of the world by the One who created it. He can see until forever, as though the universe were an endless scaffolding of a building not yet completed and he were dancing along one of its beams. Endless angles and places for walls and doors in this Tower of Babel that stretches up past the clouds and into the open sky. So much of the foundation already laid, so much of the structure already in place. And it continues, the work of Creation, even today. Castiel can watch it all from above, but he cannot change it.

And why should he want to? It is a design more complex than his limited mind could grasp. He has perfect faith in its fairness, in the inherent justice of the universe. It's the range of his vision that allows him to believe so perfectly. He sees all. He is not limited by the blind scramblings of a human race still convinced it can shape its own destiny.

His charge, Dean, is the one who mentions it. It's a halfway comment that doesn't mean a whole lot, something about Castiel having a human tongue to taste food with, but he doesn't care what he's eating, and isn't that a waste? At the time it doesn't strike Castiel as particularly insightful, and to tell the truth it probably isn't. But he begins to substitute other nouns into the sentence, as an idle word game. Why have human eyes if he does not see things as humans do? Why hands that make fists, if he fights with his mind instead? And it hits him hard when he tries it: Why does he have wings to fly with, to see the whole of Creation and the Plan, if he cannot do anything to alter it?

Perhaps it would be better if he didn't know of his wings, the way humans do. It occurs to him that Dean would be unsatisfied with that answer. "No," he'd say, "it would be better if you took those wings and flew up there and tried to do something about it."

It's such a heretical thought that Castiel berates himself for days.

3) Takahashi Youko - Zankoku na Tenshi no Thesis (The heartless angel's thesis)
But you're going to understand one day
That you have those wings on your back
In order to aim for the distant future

**

Texture

These are the things Castiel knows about himself and his existence:

He's an angel. He does the work of the Lord. His task is to push forward the wheel of creation, move the universe toward its destiny. With that in mind, he has a job to do. It is to see the Righteous Man through to his destination, ready him for the fight ahead. One job, one cog in the giant machine. That is all. It's simple. Elegant. Perfect.

The things he knows about Dean are these:

Dean likes hamburgers.

And chicken, and sour beer, and sauces that get all over his fingers. He also likes the feeling of the motor revving as he presses on the pedals. He likes pretty girls and their smooth skin. He likes passing through long skinny stretches of highway at midnight with the radio turned up and woods on either side. He likes taking jobs, he likes finishing jobs, he likes finding new jobs. He likes breathing dirty air. He likes fighting. He likes sex. He likes life. He picks and chooses from a thousand and a half different pieces of the human experience and follows each path to its limit. It's as though Dean's life is a patchwork quilt, and he hops from patch to patch, fabric to fabric, texture to texture with no logic, just a pursuit of what feels right and good.

No wonder, Castiel thinks, no wonder these humans can't see beyond their own noses. The human world is so rich in so many ways. Even a hamburger, Dean informs him through a mouthful of the stuff, isn't just taste. It's how it looks on the plate, it's how the potato chips crunch in your mouth. It's the smooth coldness of the lettuce and the crisp tang of the bacon, the smell and the feel of it as well as the taste. So much more than just flavor goes into it. That's why Dean's smile is so wide, why he seems so satisfied with something as simple as a meal.

Given a world this full of sensation and texture, is it any surprise humans don't have the space or time to consider the larger picture? And how shapeless is Castiel's life in comparison, with only the larger picture to focus on and none of the immediacy and intensity of the human experience?

At Dean's urging, and on an idle whim, Castiel lets his consciousness seep down into his human vessel. He takes a bite of hamburger and tries to experience it with all five senses. The ensuing moment in time overwhelms him, and he draws back, shaken. He'd had no idea. Humans can do this, deal with this, every day? Impossible. Castiel doesn't think he'd be able to survive it.

Dean looks across the table at him, and his gaze is a little triumphant.

4)  Tokio - 19-ji no News (7 o'clock News)
Is it such a bad thing if I toss away all my other loves
and jump right into you? ...
In this city without fire,
Let's fall in love and raise some smoke.

**


Jealous

So it comes down to this: An angel whose vision is infinite, who can see the far reaches of the eternal plan, finds himself jealous of a blind, foolish creature who has no ability to discern beyond the tip of his own nose.

Jealous, because seeing forever has left him with the knowledge that he is not meant to live, to feel the way Dean can. He was created for a purpose and that purpose is single, finite, unquestionable. There is no reason he should doubt. There is no reason he should want. He is immune to material needs or sinful urges that would cause him to go astray. He has no motivation to want anything different from what he has.

Except that he wants to want it.

He wants to know what it is to be a creature swayed by the enticement of physical attraction or the yawn of hunger. He wants to hear music and understand why some melodies make humans want to dance and others make them want to cry. He sees, he hears, but he does not interpret, and somehow that saddens him. He is a color-blind man in a colorful universe and he doesn't know what it is to tell reds from oranges from yellows.

Dean is so certain. With all his shortsightedness and all his distractions, he's certain of right and wrong. Castiel has long considered himself certain of such things, by default. But Castiel has also seen wars, and he has seen torture and he has seen death, and how they pile up as bricks in the wall of the Divine Plan. He sees the justice in them.

But Dean says it's not right, it's never right. He says Castiel is wrong to force him into that small room with that disgusting piece of filth. Castiel knows it's horrible, but many horrible things go into the puzzle pieces that create destiny, and if one of those things includes Dean having to torture someone than so be it.

But it deadens Dean's eyes and takes a piece of him away that Castiel finds he misses when it's gone. And Castiel envies him the ability to be moved by it. No one's ever given Castiel the permission to be moved.

Perhaps that's why he considers it a small victory when he discovers Dean moves him.

5) L'Arc~en~Ciel - Neo Universe
Morning will come, brilliantly,
even to the innocent angels that cannot fly...
The miracle you dreamed of won't come anymore,
but the faraway sky leads you.

**

Reality

By the time he gives up his life, he's already decided his cause is just.

It's neither because of nor in spite of the fact that he's doing it to thwart the very objective he's been working toward for thousands of years. It's a just cause on its own merits. This is the decision he's made. The first decision he's ever really made.

Dean is right. What's real isn't an infinite design over which he flies with useless wings. What's real is what can be sensed, touched, felt. If not by a dysfunctional thing like him, then by the people who matter. Dean matters. This human world matters.

He's missed that his whole life, and now he knows it with not only the clarity of pure belief but also the brilliant flame of experience and proof to punch through walls of doubt. All his life he's lived with one and not the other. Experience is unnecessary when you have the vision of the Lord behind your eyes. It's even part of the lore of the angelic realm that experience undermines faith. Just look at humans, the old saw goes. Look at how their faith has eroded over the years, as they wrote and studied and analyzed more, how much less credence they're willing to give God. Reality is the antithesis to faith. Angels shun it. Castiel wants to embrace it.

It's not Dean he's dying for. It's reality. It's truth. He's so certain of its existence that he's willing to give up his own. He wonders as the archangel swoops low in the sky and aims his bolt of flame, will that truth seep out of him and blast across the universe as he dies? It's possible. If so, he'll happily die to allow that revelation. He closes his eyes and sees the brilliance that comes before the darkness.

And after the darkness comes the dawn.

6) Ruka Yumi - Truth
The key to opening up tomorrow is reality...
I believe because I want to believe
So I want the lies to hate me

**

Static


He awakens to a world far worse than the one he left.

He can feel it almost immediately -- the presence of the one who has been freed, loose and searching for his body, a rumble of heretical rage and madness like a smell of smoke on the air. And the panic of the angels buzzes in his ears like static, but that's all it is, the vague buzzing between stations. He's in a dead zone, lost to the communication that he used to hear as easily as his own voice. Someone has ripped out his antenna. He's whole, but patches of him are out of tune.

As he floats from place to place, trying to pick up a signal, he hears nothing that comforts. What he does glean is a sense of how dire his situation is. His race has turned its back on him. He's betrayed them, and they've exiled him. He's alone. An outcast. Hated.

He wants to weep with happiness.

He's been dead. He's alive now. The dichotomy was never so stark as it is. Now he knows the fear of annihilation, and the thrill of having cheated it. The experience of resurrection has brought him into awareness of his limits. Not just a cerebral knowledge of them, but having touched them, broken past them. He's no longer a static existence. He can push the limits of what he is, grow, change. He can transcend his mission and become something more than an angel.

Perhaps that means he's becoming more human. For the first time, the concept doesn't seem like a step down. He's a little giddy at the thought of it. Were he totally human, his heart would pound with excitement. He's not; it doesn't. But he holds close the knowledge that it could.

7) Akino Arai - Utawanai Uta (A Song Without a Song)
Searching for that time when I was alone and lost...
Look, I can see it on the other side of my memories
I can hear a song nobody is singing, listen

**

Selfish

The confession comes far too easily and is met with far too blank a look. He doesn't know why he's disappointed. Doesn't Dean understand the magnitude of what he's just said? Shouldn't there be more of a moment of silence, more of an understanding? But then again, why should there be? This world has never been about him. He's never had an ego to hold up. He's a part of creation, that's all. He plays his role, and the bigger picture builds up around him.

Only now things are different. Now he dares to hope he has a part in changing the shape of the future, and now he's starting to believe he's worth something. He gets it, now, why humans are so selfish and petty. Castiel is looking at the world through eyes that are only his for the first time in his life. He used to see things from above, from a plane even higher than that of his own existence. As though he were watching himself from above. Now, his being is firmly within this one body, this one vantage point.

No wonder humans tend to think they are the star of their own passion play. They never see out of eyes that aren't theirs. What happens always happens to them and no one else. When Sam says he wants to drop out of the hunt, Dean immediately sees it as a failure on his part, or the sign of a lesson that he needs to learn before he can be rewarded by having Sam back on the job with him. When in fact Sam is dealing with something that started while Dean was dead, that Dean has really very little to do with. It's selfish of Dean, but for the first time Castiel watches and understands. Because Castiel is starting to feel like this separation is his chance. Not Dean's punishment, not Sam's travails -- Castiel's chance.

So he waits for Dean to be alone. And he takes the stage in his own starring role.

8) T.M. Revolution - Dokusai (Tyrannical) - Monopolize
Calling you every day and every night will drive us apart,
But the longer I'm alone, the more my loving heart
can't breathe and is crushed by the night.
I'm getting possessive because I love you.

**


Laugh

It's his last night on earth. He's going to spend it with Dean. Dean thinks otherwise. They have a close call in which Castiel is unable to understand exactly what happened, but he does know Dean thinks it was a disaster. Nonetheless, Dean claps a hand on his shoulder and tells him he's never laughed so hard.

Castiel's never laughed, period. The look on Dean's face makes him want to try. He smiles. A little. It doesn't feel real; it feels forced and false. What would he know of smiling anyway? He's never needed expressions. The closest he's ever gotten is feeling his eyebrows get heavy and knotted when he's been frustrated, or feeling the uncharacteristic itching at his eyes when he thought for a moment that Dean was... but he wasn't, and it was gone.

Now he might die tomorrow -- it's so much scarier to face dying knowing what death is! -- and what he wants to do is learn how to laugh.

Laugh because when Dean laughs it looks as though his smile will crack him wide open and a cloud of pure mirth will come forward. Something silver and magical. And that in itself stills Castiel's heart with wonder. In that ephemeral cloud of laughter that he's pictured in his mind, he's broken another barrier. He's just imagined something that doesn't exist.

He shouldn't be able to do that. He's a creature whose purpose is to support Creation. He shouldn't have the ability to create things on his own. Humans can imagine things, though, can think outside the existing possibilities of life. That's why they think they can change their destiny. Think? No, they can, they will change their destiny, and if Castiel can be of some little help he will consider himself blessed.

Because he's started to think the way they do. He's started to see beyond the Plan, into something different. Just seeing humans, being among them, has given him that power. He's grown from every human he's met. Every life that has touched his has sharpened his vision. He has seen a universe that was immovable for thousands of years become something that changes every day. He's changing, too, constantly. He's brand-new every day. That's good. It's a good thing. It makes him smile.

Castiel feels a swelling up in his own breast. He thinks if he opens his mouth it might come out as a laugh. His lips part. But whatever it is, it dies there. He realizes then that it was a confession. A spoken emotion. And it's too powerful for him to say now. He might burst into flame if he does. And he has to live long enough to die tomorrow.

So he asks Dean to tell him jokes. And that's how he spends his last night on earth.

9) Siam Shade - Ooki na Ki no Shita De (Beneath a Tall Tree)
Even if the years pile up,
I want to stay just like this
Laughing with you beneath a tall tree
So let's go on this road, never looking back

**


Highway

It wasn't his last night on earth, not yet, anyway, and here he is on another night. He and Dean have an appointment. Until then, he waits.

He's here again, standing beside a highway, watching the cars go by with the dreams and hopes and fears of a thousand different people hurtling along as fast as they can. When he first came to earth, he did much the same. That night he had thought it was all foolishness. He'd seen only a pack of ants, skittering through the mud, looking for the next best thing or running from the worst.

Now he sees the tapestries of a thousand precious moments running into each other and building up a sea of rich color. The mother heading home to her sick child. What depths of emotion and devotion he can touch, just reaching out his hand to her. What she wouldn't give for that red-haired ball of delighted energy. It still amazes her that Freddy came out of her belly. Who is she that she could create such an amazing child? Castiel wants to answer her: You're a mother. That is a miracle.

The nervous businessman who's having an affair is calculating how to get away with it and fool his wife. Castiel pities him, because he is cheating himself by cheating on her, thinking he can juggle a thousand pounds of stress. He wonders if any of the people caught in that unfortunate situation will have the power to step outside of the cycle of heartbreak and wrench their destiny in a different direction. When he first descended, he wouldn't have thought it possible. Now, he's not so sure.

There's a boy barely out of his teens driving along with a guitar and a dream. He doesn't know where he's going, and Castiel loves him the most of all, because he's off in search of his future. He'll get lost, he'll have heartbreak and despair, but the sun will keep rising each morning and he'll keep converting each storm-tossed night into a soulful song. Whatever it is he's after -- fortune, fame, satisfaction, peace -- Castiel genuinely hopes he'll get it.

Every human being with the strength not just to carry on but to become better, to break out of the old ways, to change the shape of the world one brick at a time. Castiel's in awe of each and every one of them. But it's time for his appointment now. So he reaches through space and time and touches Dean's shoulder.

"Don't ever change," Dean says to him.

Castiel's beside the highway, where he was when he first descended. That's the only thing that hasn't changed.

He laughs.

10) Sakamoto Maaya - Kissing the Christmas Killer
I was heaven sent
Traded for the words I swore that every piece of me would still belong ...
You came along
Now I'm going all against the promises that I made,
And here I am falling for your love,
Or am I lost in heaven?
I don't know anymore.


Complete song translations
48 MB Zip file containing cover art, mp3s, drabble set and song translations
 
 
 
latvela: castiellatvela on January 6th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
You weren't kidding about the antidote to porn!

You are really climbing up my list of authors to look out for :D There's some wonderful insight on Castiel (and Dean) here, and each snippet just builds on the other. When I started this comment I was planning to put some quotes in but I gave up when it started getting long.

I read every line. It's just all these small insights that build on each other and we see how Cas views Dean, the world, himself. And the last part, about Cas reaching through space and time to to touch Dean and bring him to the roadside and safety, is exactly how I pictured that scene happening! ♥ Lovely work :D
Tiptoe39: Cas smilestiptoe39 on January 6th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
*lets out a long breath*

Pardon me a small, selfish interlude: I am... very relieved to get this comment. I was really proud of this work, but the fanmix part overshadowed it so nobody clicked through :/ That's the way of the internet but it's still nice to know somebody read and enjoyed it. So I thank you so much for that.

Thank you so, so much. I am so glad you enjoyed. I do see something sort of wonderful and magical about Castiel's character's journey, and I wanted to posit some specifics on what it is that draws him more and more into the human sphere, so I'm glad it rang true.

Thank you again!