I come bearing fic! No, not the fic that got me going—it’s a Mrs. Hyde fic. And no, it is not part of the “Hours”. She has done her first foray into the “Supernatural”, c wut i did thar, and has written a beautiful and lyrical piece centered around everybody’s favorite BAMF of the Lord. What’s great about it is that it has subtext, so everybody can be happy, right?
Enough of my chit-chat. Once again I allow my journal to be hijacked by my silent partner who is the biggest pansy in the world. *tips hat and scrambles off to finish her own fic*
Title: Vide Cor Meum
Author: Mrs. Hyde
Genre: General/Friendship/Spiritual; it’s only D/C if you want it to be (and not if you don’t).
Word Count: 5,800
Summary: Castiel contemplates humanity and their hearts
Author’s Notes: My first little foray into SPN fanfic. Can be gen or slash to suit. Spans Seasons 4 through 6, so spoilers for all three of those seasons.
Disclaimer: “Supernatural” is the property of Kripke Enterprises and Warner Bros. Television, and no profit is being made from this work and no copyright infringement is intended.
Castiel misses his heartbeat.
It is not something he would have ever thought to miss; having never had one, it was as alien to him as flesh and bone and blood and all those other strange parts that made up a human being.
Upon receiving his orders to take to Earth, he had dutifully searched and found a vessel—his vessel, of the bloodline that sang his name with every beat of their human hearts. He could hear it, calling softly to him beneath the rhythmic thump in the chest of the human, of Jimmy, the man whose form he would wear as he walked the Earth.
It is steady, constant, and Castiel hears it when he watches him, hears it when he speaks to him, hears it when he answers back, when he says “yes.” And when he flies down and pours himself out and in to fill that empty vessel, in that moment, for the first time he feels that heart beat, feels everything, the burning heat and light and sound of being flesh, of being Jimmy, of being human.
Then it is gone, clamped tight, shut down. He is no longer Jimmy, he is Castiel, and an angel has no need or desire for all those corporeal sensations, so powerful and overwhelming as to consume him; he who never felt those things, never felt anything, and so they stop. All vessels simply stop when filled; they do not grow, they do not change, they do not feel.
Their hearts do not beat.
So he thinks of it no more. He doesn’t want to think of it any more, of that searing, agonizing welter of sensation in that moment when he and Jimmy were one. It was painful; worse, it was human, and he is not, and he looks upon those mere physical things with something like contempt. That is all those little humans had, what they could see and touch; he is an angel, and he feels and knows all the Heavens and the Earth without those things. And so his heart doesn’t beat.
It is difficult, being trapped in this constricting, confining skin, seeing with his angel sight and yet not, looking out at the world from this strange, too-close perspective. Forcing himself to see and to listen the way a human did so that he could speak to them in kind with the grunts and noises they called words. He doesn’t like it. But he was ordered to be here, and so he does what he must, and he watches and he listens.
They all look the same to him, these small and limited little creatures that he can’t understand. He wants to, wants to know what it is about them that makes them what they are, that makes them his Father’s favored children. But he sees nothing in their faces and hears nothing in their words that mark them as made in GOD’s image. Yet still he looks, still he listens, and he tries to hear, tries to see what it is that makes them what they are.
He stops and he listens, and he hears their hearts beat.
He knew the sound; it was the first true sound he heard when he took his first steps on the face of the Earth before he wore his vessel. Back when he was still nothing but Castiel, power and light and mind; when he fought his way through the filth of the Pit, back up and out and away, and through it all he cradled close in the embrace of his wings the tiny, twisted, mewling little soul for which he had battled all of Hell to grant Salvation. It was warped and blackened by its time in torment, and yet he could see beneath the corruption that tiny, lingering spark of humanity that burned in a way that an angel does not. And as he was finally free, as he soared up to the Earth with his charge, he raised his voice and sang Hallelujah, and he sailed up through the air before plunging into the earth. Beneath his angelic touch the moldering corpse formed anew, whole and complete, and then he released the soul in his hands back into its body, and he knew that once again it lived when he heard that sudden, steady heartbeat.
It is Dean’s that he knew first—Dean that he knows first. The Righteous Man who broke the first seal, the One who would end the Apocalypse, Michael’s True Vessel—all these names Castiel knew, and yet it seemed to take no time at all for those names to drop away like so many shedding feathers until there is only Dean.
He learns things while on Earth, learns that humans say that it is their eyes that are the windows into their souls, but Castiel knows better; he had seen Dean’s soul, held it in his hands, knows it—and he knows that Dean’s soul is not in his eyes, but in his heartbeat. There is the slow, even, steady beat against his ribs as he sleeps when his sleep is peaceful, but when he dreams and remembers before it speeds up, hard and heavy and painful and those times Castiel can’t help but wonder if it will simply batter its way out of the body that contains it. When he is awake it beats steady and strong, like Dean himself, and then there is the quick way it thumps once or twice when he looks at women, which is often, and then there are those soft, fluttering heartbeats like wingbeats when he looks, really looks, at his brother.
Castiel knows that the human heart is nothing but flesh and sinew, nothing but clay, and that the human soul is something more, something intangible, but as he comes to know more about them, more about Dean, he can understand why for so long humans thought that their souls were in their hearts. He grasps those strange human phrases such as “heart in your throat” or “heart in your stomach” or “my heart lurched” or “my heart stopped” or even “my heart broke,” those nonsensical descriptions that have no meaning in reality but that he comes to understand mean not something that they do but rather something that they feel.
At least, he thinks he understands. But he realizes not long after that he doesn’t—at least, he didn’t, not until he begins to feel too.
He is a warrior, and he does as he was told. He has fought and he has killed in the name of the LORD—but he has never fought or killed humans, never humans. He knew there were angels who dispensed the wrath of GOD against the humans who defied Him, but Castiel was never one of them until suddenly he is told he must become one, and when he receives those orders he feels a horrible twisting in his middle as if his vessel’s heart had suddenly lurched.
It is his vessel’s heart, of course, not his—he is an angel, and he has no heart. And yet, despite the fact that he does not and that his vessel’s heart no longer beat, he feels something in his middle where that heart was, where his would be, when he sees Dean’s accusing look, hears the sharp staccato thudding of his heart as it beats in anger, anger towards him. It is that same twisting lurch that fights its way up into his vessel’s throat, and he opens his vessel’s mouth and speaks with its voice, his own true voice straining against it, desperate to tell Dean that he is only following orders, that it is not his choice, that he never wanted it to come to that.
He can’t tell him that when he heard that annihilation was no longer required, his vessel’s heart lurched again, only this time it was with his relief. He could never tell him that. He can’t even acknowledge it himself.
Yet somehow, they know. He said nothing, gave no sign, and his vessel’s heart doesn’t beat, but his superiors don’t need to hear that to know that he is changing, that his sympathies are shifting, even before he realizes it himself. As he stands before them in stunned disbelief, chastised and penalized for the first time since the beginning of time, he wonders briefly and bitterly if that is why humans are GOD’s favored children—not because He wanted them to be, and certainly not because they deserve it, but because of the insidious way they twist you and turn you and in the end they force you to love them.
He tries not to feel when Dean is conscripted—doesn’t want to feel—and yet he does, and it is as though his vessel’s heart drops like a stone into its stomach when he sees Dean walk through that door towards that demon. Castiel can see the flicker and the darkness of his soul in the painful thud of Dean’s heart against his ribs as he walks away.
It is when he hears the sudden, pounding terror of Dean’s heartbeat that he knows it has all gone so terribly wrong, and it is his own sudden rush of fear when he hears that heartbeat falter that keeps him fighting against the demon even when he knows that he is outmatched. He can’t help the sweeping relief he feels when Sam appears, his heart hot and racing with corruption, and he is ashamed of that relief because Sam’s demonic heartbeat is unclean, but all he cares about is that it means Dean is safe.
Sam’s heart quiets soon after; his has always been quieter than Dean’s and harder for Castiel to read, but when he turns on him in the ward of the hospital, his eyes cold and his voice hard, Castiel can hear his fury in the beat of his heart as clear as Dean’s ever was and he can say nothing, because he knows that Sam is right because Castiel has failed. He doesn’t know if he failed in his orders—were there even any such orders to begin with?—all he knows is that he failed Dean.
As he sits quietly next to Dean as he sleeps, his heartbeat steady and strong, faced with the treachery of his own kind, his own brothers, Castiel can’t help but think that maybe humans do deserve to be GOD’s favored children.
It is that thought, that feeling, that first moves him to do the unthinkable and to defy his orders. When he hears the angry drumbeat in Dean’s chest, when Dean turns his back on him, he feels his vessel’s heart crawl painfully upwards into its mouth once again and he speaks.
He lives in terror of discovery after that, fearful that his brothers will find out what he has done, and yet they do not. As such, when he is told that his orders and his actions were all in vain, that it was a sham in the face of a destiny foretold and that his fighting was for nothing and that he must let Dean go, he feels that horrible sinking sensation in his vessel again and he cannot do it. That feeling gives him the strength to go to Dean once more, to speak, to act.
Only this time, they do find out. They find out and they find him and they seize him and wrench him from his vessel, and while there is briefly a glorious moment of freedom, space to spread his arms and his wings wide, where he is himself again, only Castiel with no restrictive ties the world holding him earthbound, it all comes crashing down on him when he feels a sudden rush of panic because he is without his vessel, because he is weightless and adrift—and he can no longer feel his vessel’s heart.
Then there is only the agony and the ecstasy of divine torment, of wrath and punishment and justice and he knows that he has strayed, that he was wrong, that he must atone.
When he returns and takes his vessel, first the new and then the old, their hearts do not beat.
And yet even then, they feel—he feels, even though he doesn’t want to, tries not to, but he does all the same. He ignores it as best he can, which is not well at all, but he cannot let it cloud his judgment or interfere with his actions. He turns his back the painful twisting in his vessel’s chest as he betrays first Sam then his own sister and then worst of all Dean, because he is an angel and he does not—cannot—have a heart.
It is a different kind of agony to face Dean again after that, to lie by omission as he is held in waiting for the End. He can hear the confusion and the fury and the helplessness in his soul in the wild beating of his heart, and he feels own his anguish knotting his vessel’s heart and he wants to cry out, Can you not see, Dean? This is not what I want! Can you not see me? But then he remembers that no, he cannot—he can see into Dean, but Dean cannot look back because Castiel has no heartbeat.
Dean is only human, and he cannot see what he cannot feel and touch, and so Castiel’s words mean nothing. But Castiel can, and he hears Dean’s words and he hears Dean’s soul and he listens. Dean speaks to his doubts and his fears and the feelings that twist his vessel’s heart, and in one shining moment, he realizes that Dean can see things that he cannot feel or touch, things Castiel has never seen or understood. He knows that he was the one who could not see because Dean sees with his heart and Castiel does not. He cannot, because he has no soul, no heart, but Dean does, and in it he knows, has always known, why humans are GOD‘s favorites, because they have souls and hearts and they burn with the light and will and love of GOD Himself.
In that moment, Castiel sees.
And then he acts. It is easy—there are no doubts, no fears, because Dean is there and he says this is right, and so Castiel knows it must be right, that it is right, because these wonderful, miraculous Children of GOD are all that matter and he would give anything and everything to save them.
So it is that he sends Dean to face his destiny, but this time on his own terms, and Castiel knows this is right, and so when he turns toward that burning, absolute light of Heaven’s wrath, he does not look away because this is right. For the first time, beneath the strong, steady beat of the heart of the little human standing beside him, he feels another, quieter, just a tiny flutter inside his vessel. Inside himself, and just before he dies he thinks with something between fear and wonder, that is my heart.
But then there was no heart, no nothing, he was nothing, because he was dead—and then suddenly he wasn’t.
He was here and alive and he was Castiel and inside he swelled with something so huge and powerful that it threatened to burst from his fragile human vessel because for an instant he knew that GOD was there, that GOD raised him, that GOD saved them, and his faith bore him up and out and they had won.
But, no, they had not. GOD may have intervened, but he had not returned, and Lucifer was free and there was still a battle to be fought and now he did not know what to do. His faith was still there and he held it tight, but he was assailed on all sides by his doubts and his fears and his feelings and his heart.
And it is his heart, now. He’d paid little attention to the soul to whom his vessel belonged; first because he was just a human, not an angel, and later because he was not Dean. When he rushed back into being and awareness, it was jarring to realize that only he resided in his vessel now, that there is an empty place inside of it that he now fills, that Jimmy’s soul had moved on with the destruction of his body, and that now it was purely Castiel’s body—Castiel’s heart.
He said a prayer for Jimmy, for his soul and his sacrifice, but he did not know if anyone in Heaven would hear it because he was cut off—cast out.
He had fallen—he had rebelled. At the time it had seemed so clear and so simple, but now, isolated and alone and weakened and trapped on the Earth, the enormity of what he has done slams into him with a force more great and terrible than being smote from existence. He is alone and he has nothing, nothing but his faith—and Dean.
He clings to those two things, although at times he isn’t sure if they weren’t one in the same. But it hardly matters, because he needs an anchor, something to hold on to, to hold him down against the rushing waves and currents of all that he now feels.
His power and glory held his vessel still when he first filled it, but now he is diminished and his hold is weaker. Now, sometimes he slips, and when his feelings rise up, sometimes his human body does too. He can smell and taste things on the air that he didn’t before, and when he does his body sometimes responds. It is too much, these sensations, and he thinks wryly that he finally knew why he was ordered to keep them reined in before—how easily an angel could be overwhelmed and induced to fall by these amazing human senses, to give into the hedonism of human flesh. Castiel does not—he is no longer receiving orders from Heaven, but he has his mission, and he cannot afford to be distracted by human physicality.
It is not merely the physical that rouses his body—it responds to what he feels, too. His jaw clenches in frustration, his brow furrows with his confusion, and the minute blood vessels in his face open wide when he is uncomfortable. But it is his heart most of all that changes with what he feels, and now he personally knows why humans believe their hearts to hold their souls. It doesn’t beat, not all the time, but sometimes when these new, frightening emotions well up his control slips, and then it does.
They terrify him, all these strange human things that have been thrust upon him, and those on top of his own weakness and confusion. There is no longer the certainty and tranquility of Heaven—just his endless fear and doubt. He wonders how humans live with it—how they can stay so strong and upright and good in the face of their own crippling uncertainty and that they do only impresses upon him again that humans are worthy of all the devotion and love that he can give.
He is a soldier—he follows his orders. Now he has no orders, and the thought of no longer being told what to do is enough to make his human heart give a beat of fear. He did not eat of that fruit in the Garden—free will was not a gift of the angels. Before he had watched in disgust how humans misused it, how they took their gift and turned their world into a mire of suffering. Yet now he finally understands just what a perilous gift that it is, and sees that in trying to take it for themselves, it is the angels who have destroyed everything. Because now he has taken it for himself as well, and it frightens him beyond anything he has ever known. He does not want it; it is not for him, he is weak, and he just wants things to make sense again—to be told what he should do.
GOD could tell him—and so he resolves to find Him. But the Earth, which had always seemed so small from Heaven, is now staggering in its enormity. He searches anyway, because it is direction, it is a purpose, something he otherwise lacks. He hurtles from one end of the globe to the other, searching, calling, and in his desperation his hold slips and he feels his heart beat. As he calls to his Father, he wonders if He too can hear it, can hear what His soldier has finally learned, hear what he has become.
But he doesn’t find out because GOD doesn’t answer. It was easy to die for his Father, but it is so hard to live for Him because He will not tell him how.
Still he searches, but in lieu of the Word, there is still Dean, and also Sam; while they doubt and they fear, they are not paralyzed by it. They move and they work and they have simply decided to stop what they were manipulated into starting. Castiel can only watch them, and for the first time he knows what it truly is to envy—because he envies them, these little creatures that he once disdained. He envies their strength, their determination, their will—all these things and more that he can read in the strong, steady beating of their hearts. And he even envies that—those even, steady drumbeats make the occasional faltering flutter in his own chest seem so very weak in comparison.
Dean’s heart is strong, stronger—strong enough to stand in the face of the greatest of the angels and to refuse him, to defy him, to mock him—something Castiel would have never even contemplated. And Sam’s—his heart is darker and heavier now, weighted down with the guilt of what he had done, and yet it continues to beat, never stopping, never giving up. Castiel pins his faith on those two hearts, that they will keep on beating even when his wavers, when he wavers, because they are strong and courageous and will keep on fighting, keep on beating.
He does not doubt them, but he doubts himself. How can he not, when he is weak and lost and afraid? When he is with Dean and Sam, when he hears their powerful hearts beating, his own little heart tries to answer, to beat in return, because they are humans and they are his friends and he wants to reach out to them the only way he knows how, but his heart is quiet—it is weak. Yet it is his own fragile and failing heart that gives him the strength to do what Dean did, what Sam did—to refuse Lucifer himself.
When he is confronted with the fallen angel, he does not see the flesh that clothes him—how could he, when with his angelic sight he can see nothing but the fire and the power and the splendor of the Morning Star, the light and strength of home and Heaven burning from within him with such wondrous beauty that his heart trembles in awe and he nearly falls to his human knees to bow before him.
But then he remembers Dean and Sam, and he remains standing. His faith in them holds him upright when Lucifer looks upon him, when he speaks to him, when he says his name (and there is a moment of shock when he does and Castiel almost contradicts him, almost corrects him, almost says his name is Cas; he doesn’t remember when he had stopped being annoyed by the mangling of his name, but when had he accepted it as his own?). And still he stands as he listens and he hears Lucifer’s words, hears his gentle persuasion, hears his offer to join him. But he hears what was behind it as well—the arrogance, the indifference, the smug contempt for his vessel, his casual surety that he would one day take Sam.
But more important was what he doesn’t hear.
Lucifer has no heartbeat.
Castiel does. And for the first time he feels pride in that fearful, stuttering little thump in his chest, and that pride gives him the strength to refuse.
But then there is no pride, no feeling, no heart, for surely his finally just stops and there is nothing left but a gaping emptiness and crushing desolation when GOD refuses them.
His faith, his purpose, his Father, and his heart—gone.
All that he has left is Dean.
He realizes not long after that he does still have his heart when it rips him out of his numb cocoon of despair by coming alive with his rage, his burning fury when Dean betrays them, betrays him, turns his back on everything that they fought for, that he died for. It hammers against the ribs of his human body and he wants to scream, That is my heart! Can you hear it now, Dean? Can you not see me?
And in the face of that last betrayal, when there is nothing left, he welcomes the black oblivion of banishment where there is no pain, no feeling, no Dean, and no heart.
But it was his heart that awoke him. He heard it, and he felt it, and it beat and beat and kept beating, strong and steady, and now, it did not stop.
Then everything else came rushing in, the burning heat and light and sound of being flesh and it did not stop, did not end, and he would have cried out in the pain and the terror of it, but he could not because he could not move, could not see, and the only thing he had to anchor him was the slow, steady beat of his heart.
He keeps hold of it when he finally rises up from the darkness to find himself trapped and powerless and helpless, when his body is suddenly alive with aches and pains and touch and sight and smell and every movement is a torment, but beneath it all there is still his heart.
And there is still Dean’s heart. They had both lost their faith and Castiel had given up—but Dean had not. Still he fought, fought for humanity, for his brother, for him, and Castiel was humbled for he had doubted and he had despaired, but Dean was still there, still strong and sure and magnificent and human.
Castiel is not strong or sure, and so he cannot be human, but what is he now? He is hardly an angel, hardly even himself any longer, and he wonders if perhaps all of him that had once been Castiel has finally been burned away and now all that is left is Cas and the steady beating of his human heart.
It is little surprise then, when he feels it hitch and stutter in his chest that he falls to his knees, stricken with paralyzing fear, and he thinks is it not working? Is it breaking? Is my heart breaking?! And it is the thought and the threat of the loss of his heartbeat, that one remaining constant in this unfamiliar form, that helps him find the strength to overcome his fear and his pain and launch himself at the smug, mocking face of the Horseman and take back his heartbeat.
He remembers later, though, that when humans say their hearts are breaking it isn’t what they do, it is what they feel. When the black despair of defeat crashes down upon him, when he knows that GOD is gone and Sam is gone and that they have failed, he thinks that surely then, that is his heart breaking.
But he does not know until he gets the sudden, unexpected phone call from the human prophet who tells them where Dean has gone and he and Bobby race to his side and he sees Dean, standing tall and sure and defiant and trying so hard to speak to his brother, and even in his fear and despair his heart beats steady and strong—but Sam’s doesn’t. Then, and only then, does Castiel know his heart is breaking.
And it is in that moment that he gathers every inch of his human body, of his magnificent human heart, and he stands and faces down the two greatest of the angels—he defies them, and he mocks them—all for Dean.
When Lucifer turns to him, all light and hate and cold fire, he can see the murder looking out from Sam’s eyes, and even though his heart no longer beats, Castiel’s does, strong and steady, like Dean’s, and right before he dies, he thinks with defiance and pride, that is my heart.
And then there was no heart, no nothing, he was nothing, because he was dead—but then suddenly he wasn’t.
He is here and alive and he is Castiel, an Angel of the LORD, and his faith roars up from inside him so huge and glorious that only his glorious human heart can contain it, because he knows that GOD is there, that GOD raised him, that GOD saved them, and they have won.
Dean does not see because it was not something that he could feel or touch, but Castiel reminds him that he is human and that he must not look with his eyes but with his heart, because then he will see, and he will know then that GOD was there all along.
Then he left the Earth and returned to Heaven—Heaven, not home, because he knew in his human heart that his true home would be, would always be, on the Earth in the hearts of the Children of GOD, as, he at last understands, GOD had always intended it to be.
He leaves his body, bursting forth in celestial light and glory and he spreads his arms and his wings wide and this time there is no fear. He is not adrift because he looks down at himself and sees the way his light and power and mind all radiate outward from that single burning point, and though there is no beat in his center he can look at it with joy and think that is my heart.
He carefully tucks his human body away, somewhere safe. It was a crawlspace when he first filled it, and then a prison when he was trapped inside it, but now it is the agent of his own divine transformation into what GOD surely wanted His messengers to be, and so he cannot help but regard it with both fondness and reverence—most of all for his human heart. He does not put it to rest as with the soul that once inhabited it, merely keeps it safe, just in case one day he needs it—in case Dean needs it.
He is finally free, and as he soars up from the Earth and into Heaven, he raises his voice and sings Hallelujah. He returns to his brothers bringing the Word that GOD had not forgotten them, GOD had not abandoned them, that GOD was there and all around them burning bright in the hearts of humanity, and that to serve them is to serve GOD.
But they do not hear him—they cannot hear him. He can only stare at them in numb disbelief, these small and limited creatures that are his brothers, who he can no longer understand. The once-united choir of Heaven is now a discordant maelstrom of confusion and fury, and anguish knots his angelic heart and he cries out, Can you not see? But he knows that no, they cannot. They are only angels, and they can only see what they can feel and touch, because they have no hearts.
His angelic heart is not enough for them, and even as he ruthlessly takes advantage of their loss and need for purpose and direction, as he kills his own brethren in the name of the LORD, he aches for his human heart and the slow steady beat that once filled his mind and sang with the will of GOD. He still feels, even without it, although at times he resentfully wishes that he did not have a heart, that he could not feel the anguish and remorse of what he does. But he knows that in the end he will take the pain and the guilt and even his brothers as they are, because those are the things worth fighting for.
When he hears his name, hears Dean call his name, he is an angel, and so he has no heartbeat. When his voice can no longer be ignored (he never wanted to ignore it, not his or Sam’s, and it hurt him so terribly to do so that to finally answer is a joy and a relief), he returns to his human body because Dean needs it. There is a rush of feeling, of the familiar sensations of shape and form, of flesh and sinew, and he cannot help but think of that strange human saying of being uncomfortable in one’s own skin. But he is not human; he is an angel, and so perhaps it is fitting that he has turned that phrase upside down as he realizes just how uncomfortable he was out of his own skin.
He is an angel, a servant of Heaven, and once again his power and glory hold his body still when he fills it. It does not grow, it does not change, it does not feel.
His heart does not beat.
It is painful to feel that stillness in his human chest. In becoming human, he had gained a heart. In returning to Grace, he has lost part of it. He wonders, when this is all over, for better or worse, if there will even be enough of it left to make his human heart beat again.
He wings his way down, leaving the madness and confusion of Heaven behind, streaking through the atmosphere towards the sound of his name, of that voice, of Dean’s voice. A strange sort of excitement fills him at the thought of it because he is going home, to Earth and with humans and with Sam and with Dean, and then he is there and he sees them, he feels them, and he hears their hearts, and he is home, and he knows this is my heart.
Dean looks up, and he stares, and he sees.
Castiel’s heart beat.