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they have changed me, and I am not the same man

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When Castiel finally appears, Dean doesn't jump at all. There was a time that would have pleased him, just a little, but things are different now. Sam changed somewhere along the way, and somehow Dean missed it completely. And that's just not something he's okay with, and it's something he needs to deal with. As soon as he makes sure Sam doesn't have to end all of this, he can go back and fix things. If it's possible to fix this.

God, that might just be the worst of it, not knowing if he can.

Looking across the scrapyard at the preteen in a blue hoodie leaning against a stack of cars, Dean frowns. One thing he can say, at least he knows why he and Sam drifted apart, how the both of them changed. He's got no idea what happened here.

Swallowing, he says, "Well, it's about time. I've been screaming myself hoarse for about two and a half hours now."

"What do you want?" Castiel doesn't move. It's a little disconcerting, him - her standing so far off, when he - she used to stand too close. Dean doesn't like it, hasn't liked anything that's happened since Castiel interrupted his fishing dream not even a week ago. Everything since then has been absolute crap, and this cold shoulder is just crap-icing on the crap-cake.

"You can start with what the hell happened in Illinois."

Castiel frowns. "What do you mean?"

"Oh, where do I start?" Dean rolls his eyes. "How about the beginning, huh? Why not?" He jabs a finger at her. "You were gonna tell me something, before you got your ass dragged back to Heaven."

"Nothing of import." Castiel looks away.

"Cut the crap." Dean moves into her line of vision, watches her glance away, moves again. "'Nothing of import' wouldn't have been enough to get a Heavenly recall. Tell me."

"Dean, I can't." She looks up, meets his gaze, and he may not know Castiel with this face so well, but he knows that look. "I'm sorry."

But sincerity isn't getting anybody too far in his book right now, so Dean just snorts and mutters, "I bet you are."

"Get to the point. Why did you really call me?" Castiel steps closer, looks up at him, expression almost blank, vaguely curious. Perfectly angelic, Dean thinks spitefully. "It's about Sam, right?"

"That can wait a minute, I'm not done with you yet," Dean says, looking down at this blonde girl with a headband holding her hair back. This kid, with green eyes a perfect match to her mom's, not a bit of her dad in her face. It should probably make this easier, but it just reminds Dean of everything that's wrong. "I still got a bone to pick."

"What about?"

"Your vessel." Dean spits out the word.

Castiel blinks, and there's a flash of emotion that's just as quickly gone. She lifts a hand up, looks it over with disinterest, then tugs a strand of hair into her field of vision, letting it fall through her fingers. She looks up at Dean, face blank again. "What about her?"

"What about -" Dean sputters, but regains his train of thought. "That you're still in her, for one. She's just a kid. And you heard Jimmy as well as I did - he was willing to take you back."

"If you heard him, surely you heard me?" Castiel raises an eyebrow. "He may have been willing, but I was unable."

"And why was that, exactly?" Dean crosses his arms, frowning. "You guys can't double dip?"

"I made a promise that I would not."

"To who?"

"Claire Novak." Castiel rests a hand on her shirt, looking down, and Dean could almost swear she looks wistful. He opens his mouth to speak, but can't find the words. And he must have been wrong - when she looks up, her eyes are narrow, and her expression is dark. Before he can say anything about how incredibly wrong that promise is, she bites out, "Do not presume that because she is a child she cannot understand what she has done.

"She wanted one thing from me when I came to her - her parents safe. She knew what that meant, without being told - that she would be giving up her life for theirs. She consented to my presence, knowing this. You may hate to look upon this vessel, upon me, but do not disrespect her decision." She hasn't taken her eyes off him, and the anger in her words is palpable. Dean wants to ask what they did to her, that she could be so mad, but he's not sure he really wants to know. "She chose this. As you must choose."

Dean blinks; her face is too blank and her voice is carefully flat. Like she wants to pretend the last minute didn't just happen. "Wait, what? Choose what?"

"If you will help us." With slow, deliberate steps, Castiel walks around Dean. He follows her movements with his eyes, turning to keep sight of her when she moves too far. "I know what your question is - can Sam kill Lilith?" Dean stares at Castiel, who is staring at nothing. "The answer is yes," Dean's Adam's apple bobs, "but with grave consequences to himself. We believe it is you, Dean, not your brother. You must choose whether or not to accept it."

Castiel turns sharply, as easily in Dean's face as when the angel was two feet closer to it. "Stand up and accept your role. You are the one who will stop it."

Dean swallows again, thinking. Hoping. If he does this, then Sam - he can fix this. He can fix them.

This crazy stuff with Castiel can wait. He has bigger things to deal with.