Niall picks his grey, rumpled tanktop off the floor, lifting it to his nose and sniffing to check if its clean. He makes a face, shrugs, and then throws it over at Louis, “here, put dis on ‘n lets go.” Lou pulls it over his head and puts on a beanie as he walks past the mirror and laughs “shit mate, I think I’m turning into you!”
Dean’s never seen Castiel’s wings in reality, and now he never will.
Castiel talks about them quietly, only sometimes, when he’s feeling morose and nostalgic. Describes their span, the way they’d unfurl; how they were brown-black, dark, shiny when he was at his best. How warm they were.
Now they’re ragged, desperate things, and they shed feathers everywhere Castiel walks. He’s not strong enough to lift them, anymore; they drift against his back, trailing along the ground – or so he says.
Dean can’t see them; no one can see them now, not even Castiel, but he can feel them; how cold they are, how brittle. He falls during a hunt and looks so shocked and grief-stricken that for a moment Dean thinks he’s been grievously hurt – but, Castiel tells him later, it was only that he’d rolled over, and his wing had snapped, as easily as breaking a twig.
Castiel bleeds invisibly; carries the burden of cold halo and listless wings like manacles fastened around his shoulders and neck; and there is nothing that Dean can do to help him, nothing to stop the tide.
Castiel copes, or he is overcome; it changes, day by day. Sometimes he is quiet, pensive, and gentle; sometimes he is fine.
Other days he sleeps for hours on end, and won’t talk.
Other days, Dean catches him standing naked in front of the mirror, hands probing the unmarred skin of his back, looking for something to hold.