Summary: With no memory of his own life to hold on to, he finds himself anchored to the story of two brothers in a book series called "Supernatural".
AN: Set pre -7x17 as if we didn't know anything about it except that Cas returns. Prompted by the wonderful Margaux which I then had to write. So nothing is mine really. This is now on AO3 (which is where anything else I may write will go too)
His favourite time is when he is allowed to visit the library.
It’s not a library, really, he’s read descriptions of real libraries from the books he borrows and this seems little more than a large and over-shelved store room. Books are few as many of the other residents tend not to read. Those that do often have their choices heavily monitored, the staff having to steer them away from books that could contain triggers or those that could be just a little too encouraging in ideas best suppressed.
He gets a free choice, because how can you prevent a trigger when the person can’t remember if they have any?
At first, at the very start when he was settled into this place, he hadn’t been able to read. The language he quickly reassimilated to, being more like instinct than memory, but looking at letters on a page was like staring at alien and unknown symbols. The symbols he absent-mindedly traced with his fingers did not match the language he was communicating in with these people.
At first he’d had no desire to read, so it didn’t matter. Until the pastor visited and there was a religious service of sorts that he felt both alien to and familiar with. What struck him was the reading from a book called The Bible. He read a story of a heavenly host and divine messages being delivered to those on Earth by God’s Angels.
He wanted to know more but is too shy to talk to the pastor. But he asked one of the staff members who works with him about the book and she looked delighted by his interest. She took him to the library and found a copy of the Bible, which she handed to him reverentially.
“This is God’s word. He watches over all of us and takes care of us.”
“He works here?”
The woman laughs.
“No, we have medical staff to do the hands-on taking care of. Without your memories you have so little to hold onto in this world, Doe, but have faith in him. Hold onto him.”
Doe, that’s what they called him. It was not his name. They’d explained that it was medical custom to name an unknown male John Doe. They joked that the last name stuck because when one of the more forward residents had tried to get friendly with him he’d looked like a deer in headlights. He did not understand the reference.
The staff member apparently realised he’d stopped listening because she changed tack.
“Is there a particular part you’d like to read, Doe?”
“I cannot read.”
“Oh. Have you tried?”
“Briefly. I felt unfamiliar with the connections between spoken and written word.”
“Well, I could help you with that. How about I read to you and I’ll point to each word as I say it for you to follow. I’ll find some easier books after that for you to try on your own, if you like.”
He considered. It sounded useful, and may give him something else to do rather than stare at the wall and fail to remember.
“I would like that.”
It earned him an encouraging smile. The woman led him to one of the quieter communal rooms and took a table in the corner where he could sit next to her and follow the text.
“So, was there something particular or should I start from the beginning?”
“I want to hear more about the Angels.”
He was relieved to find that once he’d started to relearn reading it came back to him quickly. As he slowly worked his way through the Bible with and then without assistance he felt like the words he was reading were familiar. Not just that they’d been read before in whatever life he had before this, but as if they’d been memorised, every story inscribed into his joke of a memory as an important event that happened. Some stories he could even imagine being there, like the one about the tower of Babel. (Though he was surprised that the people blamed God when surely the collapse of dried dung is inevitable rather than divine) He felt that this familiarity allowed him to improve his reading quickly. The doctors approved of his progress.
There were a lot of lessons given in the Bible. He didn’t particularly pay attention to them when he still had lessons to learn like ‘how to tie your own bow in a hospital gown’. He had enough rules to learn about the world around him without applying ones for worlds long expired.
His favourites were the Angels. He felt the portrayal of them lacking, craved for more. They were in the human world but not of it, maybe that’s why he identified with them. Because without his memories he can’t remember if he belongs anywhere. Here does not feel right, although it will serve until he knows where he is meant to be.
When another staff member found that half of what few memories he had were now large chunks of bible passages he was told he needed to read some other things to balance the perspective.
He was presented with ‘A study in Pink’ and ‘Harry Potter'.
A third staff member suggested he should try picking for himself now he could read. He was allowed into the library.
They don’t see much point in buying books in new, when they are treated so indelicately by most of the residents. Most are donations that even the jumble sales and charity stores didn’t want. He only knows that he wants to know more of Angels and in the end picks one called ‘My guardian angel’ and one called “The Angel experiment.”
The first is disappointing, some sappy story of a woman and a dead lover supposedly watching over her from heaven. Angels have far more important work to do, he thinks, and they are not human. They are God’s soldiers. The second book features children genetically modified to have wings, and although they are not angels they are fighters which at least seems more appropriate. It gets difficult to read when he reaches the part where they are being experimented on in an institution called ‘the school’ because the pages are mangled, defaced in a way that suggests it triggered something in the last person who read it. As he works his way through he finds that the sterile environment where horrific experiments are run does make him a little paranoid about this place, where everything is clean and pale and doctors inspect you regularly.
His favourite book remains the Bible. He goes to the services held by the pastor to learn more about the word of this God. He tries to take the kind staff member’s advice and hold on to God, and although the text resonates with him it does not feel quite right. It is aimed for a world too different from his own, archaic teachings out of sync with his life. He still likes the angels, but their perspective too seems archaic.
He takes the advice to pray to God for remembrance and recovery.
He doesn’t think he believes this God is still around.
The next time he is in the library he does not try and look for angels. The searches only prove disappointing. He looks at a pile of books that have just been brought in and takes the first that looks interesting. It’s called “Supernatural”.
He loves it. There are no angels, but there are demons and monsters and these two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, that hunt them. He’s not sure why, but he connects with this book like he did with the Bible, like it’s one already familiar to him somewhere deep and hidden in his mind. He feels intensely protective over the two main characters, though of course they are fictional. He manages to find two more from the series in the pile, and then another, and then finds through searching another box underneath that somebody had donated the full set of books. He can only take one out to read at a time, though. So his favourite time becomes when he can visit the library and get the next one.
He reads them voraciously. They’re addictive, the cases that vary with each story and the slowly unfolding plotline. He feels bad for Sam, the poor boy with the Demon Blood in him, destined for some unknown and unwanted purpose. And he dies, but he doesn’t, because his Brother gives his soul to save him and now he has the weight of that on his shoulders too. Sam certainly has a bad lot drawn for him.
But it is Dean he feels really bad for, whom his heart aches for. Trying to be loyal to an absent father, trying to keep his brother alive, trying to save people. Giving the ultimate sacrifice of his most precious possession, his soul, to save his brother. He’s crude and rough and promiscuous and drinks too much and yet he is righteous, his soul is still goodness. If it is possible to fall in love with a fictional character he thinks that’s what’s happening.
One book ends with hellhounds, hell, Dean being taken and dragged into the pit and then he goes to get the next one, to find out how Dean will escape – because they always do, they have to – and finds that it’s the last book.
No. it can’t stop there. Can’t end there.
He has progressed in this time, getting on well with staff and patients, still quite quiet socially and a little clueless on etiquette. He tries to take tips of confidence from Dean, tips of bravery as he tries to still find his way in this world he can’t remember. But with Dean dead, his soul being tortured, he feels like throwing away what little he has because what is even the point.
He finds the publisher’s address and sends a letter to Carver Edlund.
Dear Mr Edlund,
My name is, well, I don’t know. I can’t remember. Sorry, this is not a good start to a letter. I have been in a psychiatric institution – just for amnesia – ever since I can remember (which is admittedly only a few months because of aforementioned amnesia). Consequently my ‘people skills’, if I ever had any, are ‘rusty’. Please bear with me.
You probably get a lot of fan letters, I hope you do not mind another.
Your books are the best thing I have in my life. The thing I feel most connected to. I have no family, no friends who are not employed to look after me and no memory. I have nothing to hold on to in this world. But I am, I think, helplessly anchored to the story of Dean and Sam. Like the fate of these two brothers is the most significant thing in my life.
That probably sounds crazy. It is just amnesia I am here for, honestly.
Please tell me that the story does not end as it does in the last book, with Dean trapped in hell forever. No, I know it doesn’t end like that. It can’t. So please tell me what happens next. I highly doubt I am the first to ask this, but I can hope that you will deign to answer me.
Dean can’t be dead, not like that. I refuse to let that happen. If I could go into hell myself and grip him tight and raise him from perdition I would.
But I cannot. Because he is fictional and at the mercy of his author.
Please, please say you had mercy on him. He deserves to be saved.
He doesn’t sign a name. He does add the return address, the work address for the orderly who runs the library. He has become quite friendly with her. She checks the letter to make sure it doesn’t have anything blatantly crazy or threatening in it, which would mean he wouldn’t be allowed to have it sent. She finishes reading and looks at him in a gentle pitying way. But she sends it.
Thank you for your interest in Carver Edlund’s work. Unfortunately he has been an official missing person for 2 years and so cannot read your letter. We apologise on his behalf.
The reply hits him like an ocean. First a wave of depression, that he’ll never know what happens, if Dean is saved. Then a current of thought pulls him sideways, that missing is not the same as dead; that Carver Edlund could still be out there with the answers.
But how could he find them? He’s trapped here. The publisher wouldn’t take him seriously, and if he heckled them too much the doctors would just revoke his letter-writing privileges. And he only even learnt to write again so he could send the damn thing.
The depression pulls him back under, and this all develops so suddenly that he’s put under instant extra monitoring, meds reconsidered and prescribed to tackle the change. A therapist tries to talk to him about it and he explains why he’s so upset about the fate of a fictional character.
They decide he’s become unhealthily invested in the books and confiscate them.
When that makes things worse, they reluctantly return them.
It makes things a little better.
It’s a fortnight later when he receives another letter.
My name is Becky Rosen, #1 Supernatural fan and self-appointed manager of our missing author’s literary affairs. The publisher lets me sort through the fan mail so it doesn’t clutter the office.
Your letter was heart-wrenching. I have never seen someone so dedicated short of myself. It was beautifully tragic and I just couldn’t leave you in this state.
Carver Edlund wrote more books. They weren’t published for various reasons, but fortunately I managed to access all the files he had on his computer. And I want you to be able to read them. Understand that nobody else save myself and Mr Edlund has been allowed to read these.
I wasn’t even going to let you see them, because
Chu-Carver was adamant about not publishing. But some of the things you said in your letter changed my mind. I’m sure you haven’t read them but you almost directly quoted from these manuscripts unintentionally! I felt it was a sign.
I will send the first instalment with this. After that please contact me for the rest, I’ll provide an address and a number. I hope reading the rest will help you.
When he’s finished the letter he is handed a parcel. He opens it, finds a manuscript entitled ‘Lazarus Rising’. That can only mean Dean. Dean is back he’s alive he’s alive he’s alive!
He opens the pages, reading frantically. Dean is back, saved, and they are trying to find out who managed to do it. They’re in a barn and a man walks in, except he’s not a man really, though his heart gives a jump to read that brief description and think that it sounds like him. But he is just a human, and this being who saved his Dean is Castiel. An Angel of the Lord.
Dean doesn’t deserve anything less.
The manuscripts arrive steadily and Cas reads manically, depression all but gone right from when he received Becky’s letter.
It’s not a happy story for the most part, but then it never really is. What it is is vivid and he can imagine it, picture it with such clarity that it’s like he’s in the book sometimes. He feels fiercely protective still over Dean and his brother, glad they have an Angel on their side to help them. Castiel’s development interests him, from obedient soldier to doubts to choosing to fight for the Winchesters and rebelling. For Dean, all for Dean.
He can understand why.
And the Angels the mythology, it seems right, seems to fit in a way the interpretations he found after reading the Bible just didn’t. He enjoys learning more about them, about their family that doesn’t have a real concept of family (Which he with no family relates to). But he sees why Cas went against them. Why he could do it for the family of two brothers. For Dean even when he has his doubts about Sam. Most of the Angels still thought in the archaic ways of the Bible, but Cas was able to see why that was wrong.
Supernatural had long ago replaced the Bible as his favourite book, or books really. Both resonated with him but these books drew him in, had none of the outdated feel of the Bible. ‘The Winchester Gospel’, Castiel refers to it as. They certainly feel like gospel to him, from a world run by the author, their God.
One night, he sends a prayer to Chuck.
He thinks he believes that he is out there, and that he can hear it.
They had allowed him to read the manuscripts on the condition that he reads them in the community room, as if that will lead to him being less isolated and more sociable. It didn’t really work. Many of the patients were also insular or otherwise loud and disruptive, and the cast rotated as people were transferred around. The closest he got to a friendship was exchanging exasperated looks with a small scruffy man whenever somebody kicked off. They never had need to broach conversation, he always read and the man would either sit and watch the world of the community room with contemplation, or else occasionally scribble in a notebook. He didn’t even know the man’s name. Without one of his own he forgot that other patients had them. The only ones he cares about were those in the Supernatural books.
When he finishes what Becky notes as the last manuscript, ‘Swan Song’, he’s at a loss. It’s finished, and not with Dean in hell this time, though it’s a bittersweet ending all the same. Sam is in the cage with Lucifer. Cas is vaguely described as going to sort out inevitable chaos in heaven. Dean goes back to Lisa and lives an ‘apple pie life’.
Dean is safe and as happy as he could get a chance at being despite the circumstances. It’s resolution. He should feel satisfied.
But he doesn’t.
He can’t agree with the ending. Dean may want to try a normal life but he is not normal, it wouldn’t work. Lisa is not the one for him. He doesn’t really think she’s good enough for him but he has enough self-awareness to recognise the pricklings of jealousy towards a fictional character. He knows he could never really be with Dean, though he’s certain he would be if he could. Or at least he’d want to be. But he doesn’t think he is worthy of Dean either. There is one person he believes is worthy of Dean and that deserves Dean as much as Dean deserves him but it’s not even a person. It’s Castiel.
How could they part like that? How after two years and all that they did for each other, all that Cas sacrificed for Dean and never once do either of them admit feelings that are more than platonic. That cannot be right. They are clearly destined for each other, joined by their ‘profound bond’. Is Cas so unfamiliar with emotions that he does not recognise this love as something different to love for his father or father’s general creation? Does Dean not think he has the right to have feelings for an Angel of the Lord? His heart aches on their behalf.
With no more new material to read, he goes back through the old, searching through every Dean/Cas moment and compiling evidence for why they should in all rights be lovers, not just friends. He covers the manuscripts with sketches of the characters, nearly always Dean and Cas. He tries to transfer his perfect images of his Dean onto paper. Through a mixture of narcissism and desire, Castiel is modelled on himself.
He finds himself expanding points he’d noted down until he has an entire essay on their love and then two and the doctors start to worry about obsession again. He tells them that it’s therapeutic to focus on people whose stories that are completely accessible when his own is nonexistant, forgotten. They mostly leave him alone after that. He notices his meds change.
As he’s reading back through he also pays attention to Chuck. His scenes were always more awkwardly written, as if the Chuck the author had felt uncomfortable writing them in. But then why write them if you thought nobody else would read them anyway? He amuses himself thinking that maybe the god, disguised as a mere poor prophet of the lord, is forced to write them out of a divine compulsion to document everything. But that implies that everything in the books is real and he knows that it unfortunately is fiction after all. Chuck is God, but only of this world that he can only wish to be real.
He was reading a Chuck passage in the community room one day when one of the patients kicks off, yelling about something incoherently but clearly angrily. It distracts him from his reading, and he glances over at small & scruffy to exchange exasperated glances.
It strikes him that the man looks like the description of Chuck. He thinks maybe his mental image of Chuck is this guy but as an alcoholic writer instead of a psychiatric patient.
He re-reads the passage describing Chuck.
He looks back at the guy.
He looks exactly like Chuck.
Chuck the author is missing.
As he knows from having amnesia, patients here aren’t always traceable.
He stares at the guy.
The guy looks at him, at gives a small smile. Almost imperceptibly, he nods.
Somehow he makes his way over to where the small and scruffy man is seated. He can’t believe it until he has vocal confirmation.
“Chuck?” he whispers.
“But-how-what-why are you here?”
Chuck looks up at him and smiles like he imagines a parent might, kind and protective.
“I’m watching over you.”
This doesn’t make sense to him, he was expecting alcohol addiction or manic depression or amnesia but not that.
“But you don’t know me”
“But even I don’t know me.”
“Who am I then?”
Chuck beckons him closer and he kneels up next to his legs. Chuck lays a hand on his head, like he’s seen the pastor do to give blessings.
“You are my Castiel.”
He startles, tips his head to the side in confusion. Maybe the man is crazy, thinking he is a character from the books he wrote. He tries to protest but is shushed.
“I will explain tomorrow, there is not time tonight. There is good reason why your memories were lost, so do not force them. I will explain what I can. Tonight just try and have the faith to believe me.”
He – Castiel – stays kneeling, dumbstruck. At that moment the nurses come in to start sending everybody to bed.
It’s all true.
Maybe he should question this when the source of the knowledge is in a psychiatric hospital but he can feel that it’s true; knows it in his gut.
There are things he doesn’t understand though. At the end of Swan Song Castiel is brought back to life a more powerful angel than before. So how did he end up memory- and grace-less in a human institution like this? And he’s been here months but the book finishes in 2010 – two years ago. What happened in the intervening time?
“The actions you took in the days after the averted apocalypse were well intentioned, but destructive. It stripped you of your Grace along with more intangible things. You were saved, and you were cleansed, but it meant removing all memory of who you were and what had happened. In the end it meant removing almost every memory you had because it was like a black ooze over everything.”
“What had I done?”
“It is best you do not know, though I am certain you will find out eventually.”
“It must have been bad, though, really bad, if cleansing me did this much.”
Chuck hmms in a way that doesn’t indicate an answer.
“Why did you even bother to save me?”
“Because there is purpose for you yet”
“Where? What do you mean? Do you mean – with Dean?”
Dean has been at the edge of his thoughts all through this, his love of a fictional character and his adamancy that Cas is the one for dean both brought together with the startling new reality of his identity.
“Dean did not react well to your actions and retains resentment because it is easier for him to manage than the simple loss of what you were to him. But there is a saying, ‘forgive and forget.’ I hope that if you forget, he can forgive. He needs you in more ways than he’ll admit.”
“But that – that means I get to meet him, to see him, right?”
“In time. I do not think they are quite ready to let you leave here yet.”
“But - but if you tell them the truth, surely they’d –“
Chuck laughs “I’m afraid telling a truth like that is the kind of thing that would get people put in here.”
Castiel sags. “But –“
“I will let you know when it is time. Focus on preparing for the outside world.”
It is the 22nd of March and it has been about 6 months since Castiel’s first memory, of waking up in this institution. And yet he also remembers further back, memories borrowed from over peoples words overlaid with a personal conviction that he was there.
He’s made such good progress they’ve decided he can start interacting with the outside world again proper.
He tells chuck the good news.
“This is perfect timing” He tells Castiel “Tomorrow is an important day”
“What do you mean?”
“It is time for you to meet Dean.”