The first time Cas...no Steve... has an anxiety attack, he's at work and it's instigated by a very annoying customer trying to get more cash than they are owed. The man keeps insisting that Steve is shorting him change but Steve, no, Cas, knows his math, he was once made of geometric forms after all and more besides, he throws himself into everything with the intensity of a oncoming battle so he's memorized the cashier training for this moment. This is his job, his work. He follows everything to the letter (except for one little thing in the store room).
He stays calm, but the man then goes into insulting him, throwing around the words like "useless, child, stupid" the over cooked hotdog smell is suddenly even louder than it was before, the tag in the back of his new shirt is biting into his neck, and the lights way too bright (almost blinding, burning). He feels too hot.
Cas, Steve, runs a hand on the back of his neck, licks his lips, his heart is beating so fast as if he was in a particularly bad fight. He's not. Cas, no, Steve, he's Steve now, he's not in a battle, he's simply trying to do his job.
The customer demands to see the manager and Cas feels anger rise in him but he complies, fear, frustration, panic, swallowing up every cell in his human body. His heart hurts, he can't breathe. The man smells like bad deodorant. It's such a horrible smell. It gives Cas a headache.
"Go take your break." Nora orders, not unkindly, and Cas goes, punches his number in the other register to clock out, 10:30am, rather early for it but he's not complaining, he has thirty minutes.
Begin the timer.
He stumbles into the small store room and sits somewhere between the metal stock shelves, bare, Nora had told him, for the first time in several months from his efforts, wraps his arm around his knees and breathes.
He remembers being in a similar position during his healing after taking on Sam's Cage Trauma, he remembers trying to curl up and vanish into the void as Naomi tapped into his mind and-
No, no, no, he's out now. Even Dean had said, he's safe here and-
Castiel, no, Steve, swallows, his hand still aches from two nights ago. His body sore. Nora had offered him to stay home (ha!) but he'd declined. After all, this was his place now. His reason. Serve his fellow humans food and gas, he was doing a service, easing their lives. This is his work.
But he's not calming down. He feels all ragged and worn. Tired and too full of energy at the same time. His center feels swallowed up by a black hole.
Castiel, yes, Castiel, or Steve, Cas shoves his hands in his pockets between boughts of choking fear and worthlessness, the customer's words shouting in his head, "useless, stupid..." his fingers brush the hard side of his cellphone.
Dean had said to call him if he needed him.
I need you.
The phone picture he picked out for the background... it's the most calming of the phone's pre-downloaded selections. He knows he could choose his own picture but he hasn't had time between needing to sleep, eat, dedicate, urinate, wash himself, work and so forth.
It's the open sky.
Memories of twisting, spinning in the air, through dimensions, at faster than light speed. He was light, a wavelength of radiation. Castiel was-
Phantom limbs creak and crack, the pain is so deep, cored into his center.
He wonders if he can get a picture of Cirrus on his phone instead. There is a camera in it so yes, maybe he can ask Nora how to do it. They are friends.
He thinks they are at least.
Twenty five more minutes to sort himself out.
His hand shakes so bad, Cas can only smell dust and Cirrus' leavings. He needs to clean after her today, the last thing he needs is Nora find out and call the exterminators and Castiel can't be responsible for another death. She's a good friendly rat. Her favorite food are pork rinds.
The store room is dark enough he can think, the only light the little lights on the exit back door and on the electric panel. Cas can think clearly.
Cas isn't sure if this is worse.
I need you I need you I need somebody.
He holds his phone tighter. He can't breathe. He's going to die.
The large white numbers say 10:42 am. He's running out of time.
Call Dean. He thinks, Call Dean
He goes to the little phone icon, presses the button to go to his contacts. Dean's number seems to big, the numbers sharp and cold.
His thumb hovers, one second two.
He hits the button. Brings the speaker to his ear.
"Sorry can't come to the phone, if this is an emergency please call Sam or try one of my other, other-"
Cas hangs up.
A stupid phrase for it Cas thinks, hanging up.
An angel, eyeless and swinging...
The shakes are back. He's useless, worthless, alone, and-
Castiel freezes, glances up over just a peak from his arms.
There, in the center of the store room, is Cirrus. The rat, a mix of gray and white like a storm, stands on her hind legs raising her front towards him like she does when she's hungry.
"Oh hello," Cas gives her a small smile, "I don't have any pork rinds today, is beef jerky ok?" Dean had shoved a bunch in his pocket before they parted.
Squeak!!! The mouse answers.
Cas might not understand animals anymore but he can translate that easy enough. He uncurls, wincing a little at the strain in his body, and goes to his bag, hidden along with his sleeping bag under a shelf. He gets a single pack of beef jerky and returns, carefully sitting down across from Cirrus, cross legged and back against a wall. The rat trusts him more now, sometimes even sleeping by his bed roll at night, but he doesn't want to risk alarming her.
"Here my friend." He tosses a small piece closer to her, she makes a small noise, rushes forward and goes for it, snaps it up. He gives her a few more. She gets a little closer each time. He knows rats have a chance of carrying disease and if she bites him, he's human and could become very ill but right now, he can't bother to care.
A death wish perhaps and it wouldn't be the first time he hurt himself befriending another species.
Cirrus takes the last bit of food right by Cas' shoe.
"No more today, I'm sorry." He tells her. "I have no more to give you."
The rat twitches her nose at him. He thinks she'll turn around and leave. After all, why would she not? He has no more food.
But instead...she climbs up to sit on his ankle and, after a bit of time (10:55 now) curls up and falls asleep.
Cas leans back and stares at the ceiling. Something wet forms in the corners of his eyes.
The phone in his hand never buzzes untill it's time to go back to work. He forgot he set the alarm and thinks, just for a second, it's Dean calling him back.
But it's not.
Steve gently shoos the rat off him, promising to come back like he always does, and stands, dusts himself off, puts on a smile, and goes back to his work. His place.
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