post-it notes from the end of the world;
or, six people castiel met while roadtripping across the continental united states of america.
"Yes," Castiel says.
They are standing awkwardly outside the doorway. Dean has his hands in his pockets. His eyes flicker downwards, away. "You gonna be okay?" he asks.
Castiel thinks, no. He thinks, of course not. He says, "It's not like I miss them, anyway."
"What?" Dean asks.
"The wings," Castiel says. He turns and goes.
The streetlight falls on his shoulderblades, hits them so hot it's like glowing pokers on open flesh. He would very much like to be drunk right now.
put another dime in the jukebox, baby.
what the fuck she texts back, so annoyed she'll spell out the full nonsense phrase, we are broken up, you don't get to ask me for favours. unless this is about the end of the world. She almost adds, it's not about the end of the world right? but figures that would weaken her position.
There is a three minute pause; Becky gets out of bed and washes her face. Her phone buzzes again, it's about castiel-- the angel. and i helped stop the end of the world!
nice of you to let me know the apocalypse is over, she texts, annoyed.
hes at a bus station, Chuck says, and texts her the address.
She really doesn't know why she replies fine you owe me and slips into jeans and a Supernatural t-shirt. But she thinks it might be because she has never met the angel that half of the fandom is totally enamoured with (not her half) and she kind of still wants to check if he's a threat to the epic love of Sam and Dean.
She should really get a new fandom.
It's light by the time she gets to Pittsburgh, parks at the bus station he's given her directions to; texts him, so what am i looking for. He sends her a picture of a man in a trenchcoat, dark hair, blue eyes, kind of cute in a squinty sort of way.
She pulls her jacket tighter around her shoulders, heads out into the carpark. Her keys are heavy in the bottom of her pocket.
A Greyhound pulls in. It's the end of the line; four people trickle out; a dark-haired woman, who goes for a cigarette as soon as she steps down the stairs; a tall man with a shaved head, and a little girl with dark braids, who is rubbing her eyes. Then a pale trenchcoat flutters, and she can see his eyes from across the vast expanse of concrete.
"Hi," she says. "Castiel?"
He blinks. "Yes?"
"I have this-- Chuck. He said you'd be here."
"Oh," Castiel says. "The prophet."
"That guy," she says. "C'mon, the blue sedan's mine." youre still dumped, she texts Chuck, one-handed. just so you know, i got him.
He gets in. He doesn't ask where they're going.
They don't really talk; he's fallen asleep against her window by the time she pulls out of the carpark.
She's not really sure what she's supposed to do with him, but Chuck hasn't texted her back, so. She drives around for a while, aimlessly; she knows from Chuck's drafts that Castiel spends a lot of time in cars, figures that might help him sleep. He looks like shit, seriously. She'd ask what mack truck hit him but she's not entirely sure she wants to know the answer.
(She thinks about asking Chuck if Sam is okay. Like the mack truck, she probably doesn't want to know.)
Eventually she gets bored and pulls into an IHOP parking lot. She's hungry, she skipped breakfast because she was trying to find him and it's still brunch time. She can probably get a hash brown, something deep fried and some goddamn coffee. Mostly she eats healthy, okay, today is a fucking exception to every rule. And she only dumped Chuck like, not very long ago; she's still allowed to be in the eating-a-lot stage of rom-com breakup mechanisms.
She pokes Castiel on the nose. "Hey," she says. "C'mon, dude, wake up."
He startles awake, flails a little bit.
Chuck used to do that, so she is a-okay dodging the arms. "C'mon," she repeats. "Food."
"I have no money," Castiel says. His eyes are massive, cocker-spaniel like.
She resists the urge to ruffle his hair. "I got this one," she says. "You helped preserve my existence, right? So the least I can do is buy you breakfast."
He looks totally confused, but follows her in anyway.
She is inhaling her coffee like it's oxygen, just breathing in and occasionally swallowing. she can feel his eyes on her, but hell if she is going to be parted from the giver of life and energy and everything that is good in the world.
She stops, lifts her head up. "Castiel," she says. "You should eat something."
He blinks at her.
"You look like shit," she says. "Have some pancakes."
He is halfway through a stack of boysenberry-syruped pancakes when he stops and looks at her, eyes wide and incredibly sad. "I'm not an angel anymore," he says.
She chokes on her hash brown. "Jesus," she says, and winces. "Sorry, that was insensitive. But shit, Castiel, warn a girl before you throw something like that out!"
"Sorry?" he asks. It is more of a question than an apology, but she will take what she can get.
"Shit," she says, again. "I'm so sorry." (What do you even say to that? That's like, epic bender time right there. That's suicide watch kind of news.) She kind of wants to ask why but at the same time-- oh, whatever. "Why'd they kick you out?" she asks. "If you don't mind my asking."
He shrugs, poking sullenly at the top pancake. "I saved Dean," he says. "I saved Dean and then I got myself killed for him and when I came back I was stuck." His lip curls a little at stuck; she feels kind of bad for him.
"Well," she says. "My boyfriend was an asshole and then I dumped him. You want to go get drunk?"
The ten-year-old in the booth behind them cranes his head around. "It's eleven in the morning," he tells them officiously.
"It's happy hour somewhere," she tells him, and grins at Castiel. "I've always wanted to say that."
Castiel is an amazing drinker. Like, Becky is a total lightweight but she knows people who can hold their alcohol and Castiel is something else.
Chuck was big on the bourbon. She orders the girliest drink she can think of; it is bright pink and comes with two umbrellas.
While she sips it delicately, Castiel gets through three shots in a row. He pauses after the third one and turns to her. "Hey," he says. "You're the-- the one with the Sam thing."
"Shut up," she says, "seriously, you got in the car with no idea who I was?"
"I've died twice in the past year," he shrugs, downing another shot. "I'm starting not to care."
When he is drunk enough, she pulls him out onto the empty dancefloor and points him at the jukebox.
He picks I Love Rock n' Roll and stares angrily at the speakers until they produce noise, at which point he startles a little. He's still wearing the coat.
She should do something about that, she thinks. She has had enough of the pink things to make tugging at his sleeves feel like a good idea.
He bats at her hands. "What are you doing?" he asks.
They are standing in the middle of the room. There is almost no one else in here.
"Your coat makes you look dorky," she says.
"Dean's said," he says; for a second his voice is wrecked and stripped and raw. He shrugs out of it, balls it up and throws it so it falls sloppily into a chair in a corner.
She loops her arms around his neck and whispers, Oh, Cas. I'm so sorry.
She has known him for less than a day but he does not flinch from her touch and she knows he must be far gone.
They are sitting side-by-side again. She is eating peanuts.
He is watching her eat peanuts; his shirt is unbuttoned at the neck, tie loose. His eyes are like a weight on her, so piercing, so blue.
She tugs the end of his tie, watching it unspool under her touch and slip loosely to the floor. "I'm not trying to get rid of your clothes," she says, quickly. "It's just--"
"Non sum qualis eram," he says. His mouth moves around the syllables as though they are familiar, old friends.
She thinks that is Latin; she should know, because she did that research for that fic one time. She waits, fingertips resting lightly against the fabric of his shirt.
He shakes his head. "I am not what I once was," he says. "I should get a pair of jeans."
you didnt tell me he wasnt an angel, she texts.
They have walked to the Sears across the road. Castiel is in a changing room and she's leaning against the wall, waiting.
didnt want to complicate things, Chuck replies.
good going buster, she says. whats your credit card #
what, he says.
well im buying him clothes and not all of us have fandoms.
speaking of, he says. hes going to need some id. you know people right?
sometimes when people need things they outright ASK FOR THEM she replies, angrily, and turns her phone off (but not before she sends a quick email to sammylovesdean69, who everyone knows has connections).
The changing room door opens. Castiel is wearing faded blue jeans and a burnt orange v-neck.
She gives him a thumbs-up.
They find the nearest park and sit on a bench. There is a pond. It has ducks in it.
(On the way to the park there was a Salvation Army clothes bin. His trenchcoat and trousers and shirt are there, but not his tie. His tie is in his pocket.)
She says, "what are you going to do now?"
"Becky," he says. It is the first time he has said her name, and the intensity in his voice chills her stomach. "Sam's in hell."
She thinks she might throw up. "Fuck," she says. "Cas, I wasn't asking."
"He saved the world," Castiel says. "He did what he had to do."
She can't look at him, can in fact barely breathe. She thinks she might be crying.
He swallows. "I didn't want to leave anything out," he says.
She closes her eyes. "Sometimes it's okay to do that, Castiel," she says.
His hand is on her shoulder. Her heart is heavy on all her limbs, so she does not move away. The warmth of him seeps through her jacket; it just makes her feel sick.
"Sam is real," she says, slowly, like the words are barbed hooks dragging up the inside of her throat. "Sam is real, and he is in hell."
He won't meet her eyes. His head is bent, in profile.
She listens to the sound of their breathing for a little while, and then bites her lip. "What about Dean?" she asks.
"Dean is with his son," Castiel says, like it hurts. "It's all about fathers and sons, isn't it, in the end."
They sober up. She splashes water on her face in a diner bathroom and slides into the booth, opposite him.
They eat quietly, slowly.
She says, "You can stay with me for a while, if you want."
He is all vulnerability, stripped and naked. "I--"
"I'm getting you IDs, anyway," she says. "You're not an angel anymore, you're gonna need a social security number. Just stay at my place for a while."
He frowns. "Will you have posters of Winchesters on the walls?"
She grins; this is poking a bruise for both of them, but maybe that's healthy. "I'll put one of Dean in the guest room."
She introduces him to The Young and the Restless; they sit on her couch and eat popcorn and icecream and she tells him which melodramatic overreactions are acceptable for day-to-day life while he frowns at her and burns bacon.
She doesn't check morethanbrothers for a day and a half and the community almost implodes. It only makes her laugh.
She doesn't tell anyone about Sam, of course, or about the end of the world.
He fills out a bunch of credit card applications under fake names, says Dean showed him how. His hand is steady, when he prints neat blocky blue letters.
(She calls in sick at work. It's not like she hasn't done it before, for lesser reasons-- cough kinkmeme cough.)
He leaves on the third day.
There is a note on the table when she gets up in the morning, and a cup of coffee brewed the way she likes it. Thank you, it says. For everything.
It's not that she wasn't expecting it, but she wishes he'd let her just drive him to a bus stop, or something. It wasn't that she wasn't expecting it, but it still hurts.
She sighs and emails sammylovesdean69 to say thank you.
hi, Chuck says.
what do you want now? Becky asks.
i miss you, he says.
when i was around you wanted me gone, she says. Her fingers keep slipping on the keys.
not ever, he says. there was just-- a lot of shit going down. the winchesters needed me, and i couldn't let them down.
god, she says. that is not an excuse for everything.
it was the apocalypse?
cas left. how did you know he was coming?
"Hi," he says. He looks like he has not shaved in about a week. It's not sexy.
"You weren't here just before," she says.
"About that," he says. His hair is sticking up. He's biting his lip. On the plus side, he doesn't smell like bourbon. "So it turns out I'm, um."
She folds her arms across her chest. "Yes?"
"Still in love with you?" he tries. "And I was trying to protect you?"
"Chuck," she says.
"Okay," he says. "I'm kind of-- I'm God."
She says the first thing that comes to mind. "And Firefly still got cancelled?"
i never said that i was brave.
The vinyl is bright red, like a caricature of a 90s cartoon. She splays her fingers across the edge of the table and stares at her piece of pie.
The door swings open, and she looks up, automatically. Her heart skips a beat, several even. "Dad," she breathes.
He pauses, catches her eye. He is wearing dark blue jeans, faded at the knee, and a green cableknit sweater. His shoulders are wrong.
She remembers being twelve years old, remembers the shape of wings settling around her shoulders. She stands up, puts her hands in her pockets. "Hi, Castiel," she says.
"Hi, Claire," he says. It doesn't sound like her dad's voice, not even close. The intonation is all wrong.
"Mom's in the bathroom," she says, clipped, emotion threatening to seep through despite her best efforts. "You can't be here when she gets back."
His hair is ruffled, messy. When he walks towards her it is tentative, a baby bird flying for the first time. He looks like her dad, but he moves nothing like him.
It is like, she thinks, getting stabbed in the eyeballs and the stomach.
"I thought I should tell you," he says, "the end of the world's been and gone."
For a moment hope is a thing with feathers going beatbeatbeat in her chest and everything inside her is straining upwards, onwards; she is a creature of pure unmitigated want. She says, "My dad?"
He can't meet her eyes and she stills, heart crashing, dashing itself on jagged rocks of disillusionment. "Claire," he says.
She is old enough, damaged enough, to know that the way he keeps saying her name is not a good sign. "Yeah," she says. "Yeah, okay." She looks at him, thinking, you are the last place I will ever see my father.
"I'm sorry," he says, and looks it.
He has been in her body, she has been in his mind. She knows he means it but that doesn't stop it hurting. She swallows, hard. "You know they say-- I don't who says it, someone does though-- they say that waiting's the worst part, right? Well they're so wrong."
His fingers under her chin are cool, clean. "This isn't your fault," he says. "You know that."
She shakes her head, looks away. They are in public, she thinks. This is how you draw attention to yourself. "I know," she lies, bitterly. "It's yours."
(She keeps thinking, if only she had been stronger. If only she had been strong enough to say stay.)
He hugs her, all awkward spiky angles like her dad never had, and she hates herself for sinking into it, for letting his warmth surround her like for a moment she's safe.
She steps back, away. "I'm sorry," she says. Her voice is choked, teary. She hates how her voice sounds when she cries. "You have to go, Castiel. You can't-- my mom's fucked up enough."
He looks like her dad for a painful second, "Claire."
"I can totally swear, my life is a trainwreck, that's like the one good thing I get." But this is Castiel and he came to find her; he didn't have to. This is Castiel in her dad's body and it's selfish and totally fucked up but she maybe isn't ready to let that go, not yet. "We're staying at Olive Tree Motel, meet me at ten out back by the dumpsters. We'll talk then."
It almost hurts to turn away from him, because he is so almost her dad and also something more, something solid and strong and protective that she sometimes wishes she could trust. She sits down anyway, and has a forkful of pie.
(It doesn't taste nearly as good as it did before he walked in.)
She spends the rest of the day trying to figure out how she is going to tell Mom that they can stop running. (It is weird, how she and Mom work; they are always wrapping each other in cotton wool, it is a wonder they ever get anything done.)
She can't think of the right way to do it. She sits on the end of her bed and eats her tv dinner and talks about how much she hates this town, because that's what they do, snark to get through the shit that Dad left them with.
(They'd take more, if they could get him back.)
Mom kisses her forehead, says, "go shower."
It's ten. She leaves the shower on and climbs out the window.
He's waiting, hands in the pockets of his jeans, an awkward position that doesn't really suit him.
It occurs to her that this is the kind of place little girls get stolen from, with the light low and the alley narrow; but once an angel stole her dad and then her and there's not much you can follow that with. "Hi," she says.
"Hey," he says. "You should tell your mother."
She looks at him, at the way the light does not gravitate to him, at the way he seems all of a sudden fragile, the way he doesn't fill up all the space around her. "You aren't an angel anymore," she says.
He shrugs. "It isn't a big deal," he says.
"Just the biggest," she says. She doesn't say, are you okay? That would be a stupid question. "How'd you find me?"
"Persistence," he says. "I had a lot of time to kill."
"Hey," she says. Because she does not forgive him, but she trusts him and sort of loves him, in a way she doesn't really want to understand. "Thank you for trying. You didn't have to."
He rolls his eyes. "Of course I did, Claire." (It is the lightest, most human thing she has seen from him. She remembers her dad and it's like daggers in her heart, ripping her to shreds.)
"You forget," she says. "I was in your head. Thank you."
She doesn't close the distance between them, but the tension lessens, a little.
He says, "Your dad loved you so much."
She says, "I know."
The next town over, she spots a For Sale sign. "Mom," she says, "this looks like the kind of place we could get a dog."
"they're gone," he said. "my dragons are gone."
Maggie hates both Ed and Harry. Like, genuinely hates them.
It is raining and this van isn't tiny but it's packed, with equipment, with people, with a marked lack of air. She's driving, because it is dark and rainy and she doesn't want to die. Ed and Harry are in the back, covered in the remains of a collapsed house, because she really cannot stand looking at them right now or she will lose it.
She can hear them trying to whisper quietly; do you think she's going to kill us and she's really really mad, Harry, and Maggie quit babysitting when she was twelve because it was the most boring fucking job ever.
There is rat feces in her hair.
"Hey," Ed says, tentatively.
She thinks she might be growling. She sucks in a deep breath. "Yes, Ed?"
"There's a dude over there with a car."
There is a dude with a car on the roadside. He's not wearing a raincoat, doesn't have an umbrella; he is in fact sitting on the hood of a car with his face tilted up to the stormclouds.
She'd think he was doing fine, but the back end of the car is kind of a tangled metallic mess, so she's going with no.
Maggie is so not in the mood for this, but she is a good person, and this way Ed and Harry might shut up for two seconds. She pulls over.
He says his name is Cass. Water has seeped down the back of his shirt and he is sitting kind of awkwardly in the passenger seat, staring out at the road.
She can hear Harry muttering about something about girls' names, but Harry is short for Harriet so there.
She asks if he's okay, what happened to his car.
He looks away, says, "I'm not a very good driver."
Harry says, "At least I didn't crash anything!"
Ed says, "Harry, you killed a house."
She drums her fingers on the steering wheel, imagines what they'd look like strung up in a row by the necks. "Both of you killed the house," she says. "It is both of your faults that the house is dead."
Cass blinks. Wisely, he says nothing.
"So," Harry says, "you staying in town?"
"That was the plan," Cass says. He cranes his neck around, looks in the back.
(There is a bag of salt wedged between Ed and Harry. She winces but keeps her eyes on the horizon.)
"That's a lot of salt," he says. His tone is noncommittal, careful.
"It's always useful," Ed says. He sounds like an idiot. "You know, right, Harry--"
"Yeah," Harry says, "you can um. Preserve meat. Like bacon. Not like human flesh. That's-- really not what we do."
She has a sudden mental image of them travelling around the country killing people and salting their flesh. This is so not a good impression.
"So what do you do?" Cass asks, and Ed and Harry launch into a long, convoluted and nonsensical explanation of the Ghostfacers "phenomenon"-- "We had four hundred hits last month!" Ed proclaims, excitedly.
She strongly resists the urge to hit her head repeatedly against the wheel.
Maggie feels a little bad about leaving Ed and Harry to get Cass to motel reception, but here is the thing: a ceiling almost collapsed on her, and there was a ghost, and her hair is a total disgusting mess not to mention her clothes which will have to be burned: in short, she is desperate to get a shower, like so desperate she would probably shank her own grandmother for clean hot water. It feels so good to get clean hair, even if she can watch all the grossness that was previously there spiral down the drain.
When she emerges from the bathroom, in clean clothes and socks with her hair in a damp ponytail, Spruce has emerged from begging off any kind of movement this morning to set up the cameras in front of Cass. Ed and Harry are sitting next to Cass on the bed, one on either side; it's like a witch trial video, she thinks.
Cass is saying, "And that's how you ward off any demon you're unsure of-- but it's only temporary so you need to follow it up with research as soon as possible." He's holding up a piece of paper with a sigil drawn on it in blue pen. Right above that, in blocky neat letters, it says Protective Circle.
Ed leans into the shot. "And we'll be back with more from our demon expert after these messages."
"You're watching Ghostfacers!" Harry mugs. She really has no idea why she's dating him.
The camera clicks off.
Maggie says, "Hi guys."
"Hi, Maggie," Spruce says. "Good pickup."
Harry is practically starry-eyed. "This dude," he says, gesturing vaguely in Cass' direction, "this dude is amazing."
Ed says, "Can we keep him?"
After they're done picking his brains on camera, the boys disappear into Ed's room, presumably to gossip over the shade of Cass' eyes.
The man himself is standing, awkwardly, by the door.
She laces her fingers across one knee. "Hey," she says, to stop him going. "Who are you?"
"Just some guy," he says. His hands are behind his back; he's shifting from foot to foot. "I don't matter."
"It's dangerous hunting alone," she observes, quietly. "Especially when you crash cars."
His smile is shy, kind of secret. "I can't actually drive," he says. "It's probably a good thing I made it out this far."
She thinks, what kind of hunter can't drive? She wonders if he used to have a partner, but it's none of her business so she doesn't ask. "You want a ride to the bus stop?" she asks, instead. "We're sticking around for the next couple days, but I can take you up tomorrow morning if you're in transit."
"That would be--" he says, "thank you."
"No problem," she says. "Thanks for being on the show."
His mouth quirks up at the edges, unexpectedly sweet. "It was fun," he says. "Hey, Maggie, you're the researcher, right?"
She nods. "That's me," she says.
He takes a breath. "I was looking at your van," he says. "You don't have anything protective inside?"
"Kind of new at this," she says, awkwardly. "Mostly we focus on ghosts, you know?"
"The thing about the supernatural," he says, "you mostly can't just find the one type of monster. You should read The Lesser Key of Solomon, the Lemegeton-- if you know how to summon them, you know how to stop them. He got a bunch of things wrong, but the gist of it's close to what you'll need to know."
Her hair falls in her eyes when she looks at him. "Okay," she says.
He sounds sad. "It should be in most theology libraries, shouldn't be hard to find."
"Okay, Cass," she says.
He stops, in the doorway. "Thanks," he says, "for getting me."
"No problem," she says. She smiles. "See you in the morning."
She carries a copy of A Wrinkle In Time with her wherever she goes. She thinks he might need it more than she does.
He runs his fingers across the bent, creased cover. "Is this a sacred text?" he asks. He's paused, half-up the steps into the bus, head tilted as he looks at her.
The sunlight flares on his hair, bright, shining.
"You know how you said I should read The Lesser Key of Solomon?" she asks. "Well, you should read this."
His eyes widen. "Thank you," he says.
She smiles. "The Ghostfacers card is in there too," she adds. "In case you ever feel a pressing need to work on a lowbudget ghost hunting webshow with a tiny audience."
"Stay safe," he tells her.
She shades her eyes, watching the bus pull out.
He waves, from the window.
Harry kisses her when she gets back. "So yesterday was exciting," he says.
"Yeah," she laughs. "Exciting is a word you could use."
"I wonder if he'd consider being our intern," he muses. "I bet he makes a mean cappuccino."
they're all blood, you see.
[red lodge, montana]
He is a dark-haired man, but his skin is pale. He is wearing a turtleneck and raking his hand through his hair; it used to be that you could see shadows behind him, like wings.
She is saying, "Your brother is dead." Her voice is rich and timbred; there is millennia in it, and heat, and blood.
He says, "Many of my brothers are dead. Many of those were killed by my hand."
There is an element of ritual to the way they speak; two elements meeting that should never, but with no malice. There is air between them, as though it could keep him safe from her wrath, if she let it fall.
She says, "I didn't know how much he loved me."
He says, "You sound sad about that."
and after this our exile
[pike creek, delaware]
You are every rage and you are every joy; you are the sum of love and by that standard you are the sum of hate. You are the culmination of thousands of years of evolution that made the first word; you are that first triumph and that first loss of dumb innocence.
This is what you are: every language; every picture. Your victories come when wars end, when swords are forged into ploughshares, when words still actions. You triumph in diplomacy, in laughter; in Romeo and Juliet, in the love of enemies despite everything. Your losses, your great disasters come in silences, in places where words cut and left wounds, in places where no one said this is wrong because of the weight of all the words unspoken.
You are humanity's greatest achievements and its worst debasements, but you are also everything in between.
(It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.)
Sometimes they call you Metatron. Lately, they've been calling you Chuck.
Her name is Becky Rosen. You could know everything about her; somewhere inside of you, you do.
You almost left her. You thought you could do that, go home; you thought that was something you were capable of. Apparently not.
The part of you that might be capable of leaving her is not the one that is standing in front of her saying, "Seriously, you gotta let me buy you dinner." If it was the part that knew everything, you'd be doing something right.
She has her hands on her hips. "You are God," she says, "and you won't find me Cas."
"He's kinda pissed at me," you say, because he is, he's a pissy angel and he's cranky all the time and he'll just frown at you disapprovingly because that's what he does. Technically, you rank him. That's kind of a cool thought.
"So am I," she says. "And yet you're here."
"You write porn about Sam and Dean Winchester, you never have the moral high ground." You know it is a bad idea before it finishes coming out of your mouth.
The air is chilly, like there is actual frost in it, like the force of her disapproval has made the actual atoms in the air shrink up into themselves to get away from her. She doesn't have to say anything, and she doesn't.
You swallow. "I'm gonna go find him," you say. "That would probably be a good idea."
Turns out you don't have to look far.
"Chuck?" he asks. He is walking up Becky's driveway in Doc Martens and jeans. His sweater is too big for him; this is the kind of thing Becky's people would love, you think.
"Hey," you say. When he was an angel you always wanted to show him the width and depth and breadth of you; now it would burn out his eyes. It doesn't matter, anyway. "Come inside, Becky's been worried about you."
He stops and tilts his head at you and looks like who he was, before. "She dumped you," he says.
"Still dumped," you say. "Working on it."
She is a flurry of tiny happy human being, arms wrapped around Castiel in the time it takes him to step in the door. (It's not even creepy, like she is with Sam; it's warm and friendly. You totally did something right texting her that morning.)
He doesn't even stand there awkward like a board; he hugs her back, gently, carefully. "It's nice to see you, too," he says.
(See: there is always a plan.)
She hits him in the shoulder. "That," she says, "is for not calling."
"Ow," he says. "I came back eventually."
Her eyes light up. "Yeah," she says. She hugs him again. "You're still a dick."
"I know," he says. He is smiling.
Eventually Becky has to go to the bathroom; she leaves Castiel with you with firm instructions to not let him leave under any circumstances. You figure your chances of dinner with her are riding on this.
You and Cas sit next to each other. You say, "So how's the roadtrip?"
He frowns. "You don't know?"
"I write the Winchesters," you lie. You know the physicality of it; Ohio to Montana to Texas to Delaware. What you do not know is the way he felt about it.
He shrugs. "Humanity is strange and complex."
You grin. "You like us," you say.
"I had my head explode for Dean," he says, frowning. "Of course I do."
Not like this, you think. You clap him on the shoulder and hope you have not hit any of the scars. "Welcome to humanity," you say, thinking of the way he was in Zachariah's future. "Sometimes it doesn't suck."
Becky and Castiel are baking cookies which is, really, not something you would have expected from them. The kitchen smells faintly of burning things. Something is dropped; something else is spilled. Becky says, "Cas, what are you doing," which you are pretty sure means she's just added the wrong ingredients.
You almost say, ah, domesticity but you think she might hit you.
You put your feet up on the coffee table and stretch your consciousness down to the darkness, down to the screaming places, and then deeper.
Sam Winchester, you say. Time to blow this joint.
This isn't the part of you that is all-knowing, but this is something that you know to be true:
Sam will say, come home with me, Cas. He will say, come get Dean with me. He will say, this is where you belong.
Home will be, as ever, a 67 Chevy Impala on an open road. Castiel will slide into the back seat, and he'll smile, and it will reach his eyes.
You will smile too, and Becky will smile, and their dust will swirl into the air in front of you. She will trace her fingers through it and say, where is the divine plan in this? and you will touch your fingertips to hers in a heart and grin stupidly and say, there.
i remember once i ran after you and tagged the fluttering shirt of you in the wind.
(He is, even now, good at denial.)
He is still in Lawrence, now. He has still circled around Kansas, has made concentric circles through the whole country, has stopped here.
Once, when he was an angel, he stood on the sidewalk outside the house that held Dean's first laugh, first word, first smile. Once he pressed his hands to the wood and felt it echo through him, even through the fire, even through the hurt.
He is not what he once was, but he is here.
Sunlight falls on his shoulders and he thinks Dean must be happy now because that is the only way the world makes sense and he has travelled; he knows that it does.
There is a hand on his shoulder. He does not flinch; he is getting used to the idea that some humans like to touch, that not all of them are Dean and Dean was not a representative sample. (He wonders if Dean is different now, with his son; he does not begrudge Dean that. Love is a terrifying thing.)
He is getting used to the fact that there is nothing to shield him from their hands, from their voices, from their sadness that filters through him numbing and cutting both.
"Hey, Cas," Sam Winchester says. "It's been a while." He is smiling. It is like the sun.
(The other thing that he is vulnerable to, now: their joy.)
one: i love rock n' roll //joan jett & the blackhearts
two: so long marianne //leonard cohen.
three: a wind in the door //madeleine l'engle.
four: rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead //tom stoppard.
five: ash wednesday //t.s. eliot.
six: shirt //carl sandburg.