Walking Far From HomeIron & Wine
There’s a little shop in Oklahoma with red shutters and flowers in the window. The girl inside is named Marie, and she is upset because her dog Marigold ran away two nights ago and has not been seen since. She gives Castiel a thirty percent discount because he only has a five dollar bill crumpled in his coat pocket and she says he looks like he could use some kindness. He walks out with a bouquet of mixed flowers, and two hours later, Marigold the dog appears with her leash tied neatly around the lamppost outside.
Her name is Katie, and she walks hand-in-hand with her mother down the sidewalk in Kansas. Her mother is talking to her friend on the phone, and Katie tries to jump over every crack in the cement. Her mother tells her to knock it off, and when Katie doesn’t, shakes her hand away. Katie is used to this; she keeps skipping after her mother, singing jump-rope rhymes quietly to herself. They pass a bus-stop, and Katie jumps once and halts, staring up at Castiel with wide-green eyes as her mother carries on oblivious. “What’s wrong with your wings?” she asks, and Castiel tells her, “They are becoming something new.” He gives her a daisy, petals bright white, and she smiles at him before moving on, hop-skipping down the road to reach her mother’s side.
Two towns over, there is a gravestone. Castiel stands over it, shadow flickering as the sun sinks below the trees, and watches silently. Finally, he puts the bouquet of flowers down and bows his head. “Goodbye Mary Winchester,” he says, and goes to catch the next bus west.
An abandoned warehouse has been surrounded by fencing and warning signs that tell Castiel over and over again that this is ‘DANGER: DESTRUCTION ZONE’. He ignores their hazards and breaks the locks to get inside. The dust has layered over the concrete, and the blown-out windows have had boards nailed across them, letting in light only in thin streaks that make bars across the darkness. But he does not need his sight to find what he is looking for. He kneels down and brushes his fingers across the wings still charred into the floor. “I understand why you did it, brother,” he whispers, and stays beside Uriel’s wings for a long time.
A beach in California has pink shells in the sand. He sheds his coat and leaves his shoes and socks up the beach and rolls up the bottoms of his pants so he can walk barefoot in the waves lapping up the shore. A seagull cries above him, and watches the water wash away his footprints behind him.
A guard at the border stops him as he tries to walk across into Canada. “You can’t do that,” she says, and Castiel asks, “Why not?” She explains he needs a passport, and Castiel tells her that is ridiculous. “My father did not create the earth with lines,” he says, and taps her gently on the forehead. The guard wakes up in her booth with no memory of the afternoon and, as she discovers with her doctors’ appointment the next week, no more cancerous cells either. Castiel continues on, and hikes his backpack higher up on his shoulders. The weight of the tablet is barely noticeable as he watches the flight of geese below the clouds.
A bear in the forests of British Columbia got his hind foot caught in a rusty trap. The teeth dig into his leg, and he lies in his hollow below the uprooted pine tree and moans quietly to himself. Every movement radiates pain through his body, and his snout is dry from lack of water. He has been waiting to die for three days. The hands are gentle when they cup his face, and he will never harm those hands, nor the one attached to them. “Be still,” Castiel tells him, and the bear whines as he lays his head down on the moss. And then the hands are at his legs, prying away the trap with the strength of ten bears. The pain recedes, and when the bear turns his body to sniff the foot, it no longer bleeds, though the fur is caked with blood. The hands are gone. And so is Castiel.
She still has her hair, that long blonde hair that shimmers down her back like liquid sunlight. She laughs as she exits through the high school doors surrounded by a group of friends, the sound high and bright, but her laughter ceases when she catches sight of him across the street, her green eyes go wide, her mouth opens in a gasp. But he is not her father, and she knows it. Her face softens with a small smile, and she offers a little wave. Castiel returns it, turns to leave, and Claire Novak watches him go.
A hole in the ground is home to a library, and a kitchen, and two brothers whose prayers tug him closer and closer and make the heart that isn’t even his ache within his chest. “I can’t,” he whispers, late at night while the bus rolls down the highways with its sleeping passengers. “I can’t.” They don’t stop praying, though, and no matter how Castiel tries to block his ears, he can always hear them.
There’s a tree in a meadow that is eternally green, even in the darkest days of winter. Castiel places his hands upon the trunk and feels the thrum of Grace that once was. “It is a nice tree Anna,” he tells the sky, and thinks that maybe the wind that rushes through the branches is his answer. He sits on the grass and leans his back against the tree, and folds his hands in his lap. His backpack lies nearby, safe here for now. He has time to rest.
The only sound is the gentle hum of insects and the rustle of leaves above him, and Castiel shuts his eyes. “I think maybe I would like a tree,” he says, and he smiles with his face turned to the sun when the prayers begin anew.
“Do it, Castiel,” she says, and her heels click on the floor, a steady tap-tap-tap against the sound of Dean’s beleaguered breathing.
Dean’s hands scrabble uselessly at the back of his, scratching and pulling and clawing, and his pleas are whispered around the fingers choking him. “Cas, no, don’t do this, please, don’t…”
“Do it, Castiel,” she says again, and the blade shimmers in his hand as he raises it above his head.
Dean’s eyes are swollen shut, but his head turns with the movement, and Castiel isn’t sure anymore, whether that’s blood running down from his eye, or whether, after killing Dean hundreds of times, he’s finally learned to cry.
He lifts his head to Naomi, stares at her across the bodies strewn over the floor. “Please,” he whispers, voice breaking on the word, “Please don’t make me do this.” Not again, not again.
He’s already killed Dean 682 times, and he can’t do it anymore.
“It’s already done,” she says, and Cas feels his arm fall, without his permission, and Dean falls silent with the blade buried in his chest. His limp fingers slip from around Dean’s neck, and the body collapses to the ground, bones twisted, face a broken mess.
“No…” Castiel whispers, and reaches up to wipe below his eyes. It comes away red.
“Again,” Naomi tells him, and Castiel hears the telling sound of footsteps coming around the corner, the familiar voice calling his name.
“Cas, Cas, where are you? Cas, where are you man…?”