“Cass, I – Do you really have to go?”
There is nothing Castiel wouldn’t give to be able to say “No” and stay here with Dean.
“You know I can’t.”
“Yeah, I just…” Dean trails off, ending with a small shrug as he tries to smile at the angel.
They stand outside in a field near Bobby’s house. It’s wide and green as far as the eye can see. The tall grass blows gently in the breeze, fading into a forest of trees off in the distance. Castiel had said his goodbyes to both Sam and the elder hunter before being dragged off by Dean.
The Impala sits nearby, the inky black metal glinting in the last few rays of the summer sun. Dean glances up at the horizon, eyes lingering briefly on the sunset. Castiel doesn’t need to read Dean’s mind to know what he’s thinking. They’re almost out of time. Castiel wants to scream or cry or laugh or do something, but he can’t. It wouldn’t help anyways.
It seems so strange to Castiel. For months, he had sought his Father without any results and when he stopped looking, God finally reappeared. Moments after Sam Winchester fell into the cage, casting both Lucifer and Michael down, God had returned. He had proceeded to heal Dean and resurrect Castiel and Bobby. After much yelling from Dean, which Castiel had been supremely relieved that his Father had somehow found the man endearing and amusing as opposed to irritating, God had separated Sam and Adam from their respective angels and raised them both from Hell.
His Father had returned and set things right. At the time, Castiel couldn’t have been happier. But, now…
“Can’t one of you stay? Like an ambassador from Heaven or something?”
Castiel gives Dean a small, but weary smile. They’d had the conversation more than once over the last few days, “I’ve already asked, Dean. You know what the answer is.”
The man turns away at that, unable to meet the angel’s gaze any longer and Castiel will have none of that. It will be a very long time before he is able to be this close to Dean and the angel refuses to spend it staring at the back of his charge’s head.
Grabbing his shoulder, Castiel pulls Dean to him and kisses him, hard and fierce. There’s so much love behind it, but this is not a loving kiss. It’s hungry and desperate. Dean responds to him in kind, hand grabbing Castiel’s hair as his other hand clutches at his trench coat. They’ve only had a few months together like this and as Castiel gathers Dean closer, he finds himself very close to damning his Father for ripping them apart so soon.
The initial frenzy subsides as they slow down, deepening the kiss. His hand comes up to cup Dean’s cheek and is not surprised when he finds it wet. Somehow, Castiel has managed to do the same even though, as an angel, he shouldn’t be capable of tears. But, as always, when it comes to Dean Winchester, nothing is completely out of the question.
Castiel feels a pull, a tug at the back of his mind. Eyes opening, he sees the sun is only minutes from passing beyond the horizon line. His body must have tensed because Dean’s grip on him tightens as he looks at the angel, those beautiful green eyes filled with misery.
“No, Cass. Don’t.”
“It won’t be forever. Just until Heaven can be reorganized, then the gates will be opened for us again,” Castiel rests his forehead against Dean’s, “I will come back to you, Dean.”
There’s another pull, this time stronger as his Father calls his angels home, “I have to go.”
Reluctantly, Castiel begins to untangle himself from Dean, but the hunter stops him, “Cass, wait… Is there- Can you see me from up there?”
To emphasize his point, Dean glances up at the sky and, despite the circumstances, Castiel has to fight a smile at his human’s understanding of the nature of Heaven, “Yes Dean, I will be able to see you.”
“So, if I’m looking up, you’ll be looking down?”
It’s not exactly right, but Castiel nods slowly, confused by the question, “I don’t-”
A jolt of pain shoots through Castiel, one of the last warnings he’ll get before he’s forcibly dragged back.
“Cass?” Dean asks, concern in his voice as he holds Castiel steady as the pain momentarily subsides.
“I’m sorry, Dean. I can’t wait any longer,” Castiel says, even as he pulls the man to him.
His hand runs through Dean’s short hair one last time, the soft strands sliding though his fingers. They continue down, ghosting over the man’s face, quickly following every line and caressing every freckle. He hugs Dean close, taking in the smell of him one last time. Gun power, leather, the smell of smoke, and something so distinctly Dean. He memorizes everything all over again.
Dean kisses him softly, letting it linger before he pulls back, both hands on either side of Castiel’s face, “I love you, Cass. So, you better come back, damn it.”
“I love you too, Dean.”
With that he’s gone, immediately mourning the loss of warmth he feels when he’s with Dean. Castiel flies away from the man with as much haste as his will can muster and arrives back in Heaven just in time to watch them close up the gates. Bagnael is there, attending the one Castiel comes to.
“I wasn’t sure you were going to make it,” Bagnael says, as he holds his gate open long enough for Castiel to slip back through.
“It’s not as though I have a choice.”
Bagnael closes and seals the passage. Turning, he offers Castiel an understanding smile as he squeezes the younger angel’s shoulder, “This time will pass quickly. Far quicker for you than it will for him.”
Castiel concentrates on Dean. The man lies on the hood of the Impala under a clear night sky, looking up, “If you’re trying to console me brother, you’re not doing a very good job of it.”
Bagnael chuckles, “I know, but at least I am trying. Put yourself to your work Castiel and help this transition along. Perhaps you can speed things up. After witnessing what you did down there, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
After a moment, Castiel turns away from his vision of Dean and offers his brother a weak smile, “Thank you, Bagnael. I’ll see what I can do.”
Bagnael nods and Castiel leaves him to his post as he moves through Heaven, in search of his Father.
Admittedly, Castiel looks in on his charge far more often than he should. Dean behaves very much as he has always done. He eats the same unhealthy food. He jokes and fights with Sam. The two brothers still hunt whatever supernatural beings they are able to find. The boys frequently check in on Bobby and even hunt with him from time to time. Yes, Dean’s day to day life is very much the same as it always has been, but it’s the man’s nighttime practice that fascinates the angel.
Every night, without fail, Dean is outside looking up at the stars. At first bewildered, Castiel watches Dean take up his self-appointed post in both good weather and bad. Once, Castiel had been almost certain his charge was braving a hurricane just to perform this ritual and had he been able to fly down there he would have smacked Dean for being such an idiot.
He’s watched Dean fall asleep while performing his self-imposed duty, Sam always coming out to collect his brother or make sure he’s comfortable depending on the situation. He’s even seen Dean talking up to stars. How Castiel wishes he could hear what he’s saying, the temporary disconnect between the angels and the humans not allowing for that.
Time passes for both Castiel and Dean, a few months to Castiel equalling a few years to Dean. The angel and his human become somewhat of an attraction to Castiel’s brothers in the Host. Many have watched Castiel take time out to seek Dean as his charge looks back at the sky. It confuses and amuses most of them, angering those who still cling to the old ways. But, Castiel doesn’t care. For those brief shining moments, he feels almost connected to Dean again.
Finally, the day comes when the work in Heaven is almost complete. Soon, all the gates will be opened and the angels will once again be given Earthly assignments. Castiel has earned the right to stay with Dean, for however long he chooses and Castiel knows his Father is well aware of what this means. While Castiel might be called away every once in awhile, it will only be for short spans of time. Dean is Castiel’s and that is where he belongs.
So, it is with a light heart that Castiel turns his thoughts towards the Earth at the appointed time to search for Dean, knowing their separation is almost over. The angel only wishes he could let him know somehow. It takes a few moments for Castiel to realize he’s not immediately zeroing in on Dean. Normally, Castiel locates his charge within seconds. Now, he can’t find the man anywhere.
Without a second thought, Castiel is at one of the gates. Bagnael blocks his path, “Step aside, Bagnael.”
“Castiel? What’s wrong?”
“It’s Dean. I can’t find him. I have to-” Castiel tries to barge through the older angel, but Bagnael stops him.
“I can’t let you through, Castiel. It’s not time.”
“Something is wrong with Dean!” Castiel shouts. Even he can hear the terror in his voice. It’s beyond unangelic and draws the attention of those nearby.
Bagnael grabs Castiel and pulls him off to the side, speaking softly, “Get it together, Castiel. You can’t do this. Not after all this work,” Bagnael glances around, nodding at a few of the closer angels as they go back to their business, “Besides, even if I wanted to, I don’t have the power to pry them open on my own. Nor do you. One more day and the gates will be open.”
“What if he doesn’t have a day to wait?”
Bagnael has no answer for him, just a look of pity. Castiel tears himself from his brother’s grasp and stalks away. Fighting will get him nowhere. He finds solitude away from the prying eyes of his brothers and settles in for a tortuous wait.
As soon as the gates of Heaven are unsealed, Castiel hurls himself towards the one person he knows would be able to help him find Dean. Sam is easy to locate. He finds the man barricaded in a musky motel room, his laptop open next to him on the bed. According to the younger Winchester, Dean has been gone for some time. Sam had tried to track him down, but besides one short glimpse, he had been unable to find his brother.
Sam points Castiel in the right direction however, sending him to the place Sam knows Dean would eventually show up at. He just didn’t know when. This is fine with Castiel. He has all the time in the world.
Day and night, Castiel keeps watch. He was called on by one of his brothers for a mission once or twice, but declined and had otherwise been left alone. The angel isn’t sure how long he has stood in the dilapidated building, unseen by humans who happened his way. He knows it's been long enough for him to memorize the cracks and holes in the blue walls over and over again. He even has the comings and goings, the new arrivals and the deaths of the little mouse family that lives there down to a science.
The building is surrounded by similar derelict structures, but after a while Castiel becomes vaguely aware of the life and new development that seems to be slowly creeping into this particular neighborhood. What traffic he can see from the nearby broken window is generally light, except in the afternoons. Sam checks in as frequently as he can, but the angel never has any news for him. It tears at Castiel, watching Dean’s younger brother leave with such defeat lining his every movement.
The angel never leaves and as always, Castiel is positioned at his post the fateful night that Dean Winchester finally makes an appearance.
Castiel had been counting the holes on the far wall for the millionth time when Dean unexpectedly walks into the room. For a second, the angel thought he might be hallucinating, but Dean is there, looking so much the same as he had the day Castiel had been dragged back to Heaven. Same well-wore jeans and scuffed up boats, a green jacket over a blue shirt.
Dean makes his way into Castiel’s room, shotgun held loose at his side as he scans his surroundings. Never one to be subtle, Castiel steps into the middle of the space, now fully visible.
Dean whirls on him, gun raised as he takes Castiel in. A few tense moments pass before he recognizes the angel. Castiel watches as his face shifts from surprise to confusion to a look of complete disbelief.
“Cass,” Dean drops the gun and runs to Castiel, wrapping his arms around the angel. Castiel holds him as close as he physically can, “God, I was worried they were never going to let you come back! I missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too, Dean. So much.”
Dean pulls away, eyes studying Castiel. Tears glisten in the man’s eyes, his smile brilliant as he looks his angel over. Seeming to come back to himself a little, Dean clears his throat.
“Listen man, much as I hate to say it, we’re going to have to save the welcome home festivities until later. Right now, I’ve got to find Sam. He should be around here somewhere.”
Castiel furrows his brow, bewildered, “He…should?”
“Yeah. Just finished up a hunt. Sammy got knocked on his ass by hench-demon number one while I was messing with this jumped up witch. Had to haul him off of Sam,” Dean shrugs, giving Castiel a sheepish grin, “I must have got knocked out fighting the mook, because the next thing I know I wake up and there’s no one here.”
“Sam is not here.”
“Sam wouldn’t leave without me, Cass,” Dean says, rolling his eyes.
“I’ve spoken with Sam a number of times, many of which were nowhere near this building.”
“Wh-what?” Dean looks shaken, “Why would he just leave me here?”
“He didn’t want to, Dean, just like I didn’t want to go. Sam had to.”
“What does that mean? Is he in trouble? Is Sammy hurt?”
Dean is panicking and that is the last thing Castiel needs him to do.
“He’s fine. Truly, he’s…” A thought crosses Castiel’s mind in that moment, making him pause, “Do you want me to get him? Will you stay right here if I go?”
“Well yeah, Cass,” Dean says, exasperated, “If you know where my brother is go get him.”
“Goddamn it, Cass. Yes! I’ll won’t move just go get him!”
Castiel stares at Dean for one last long second before flying towards where he knows Sam will be. All the while, he prays this is not a very bad idea.
Dean doesn’t know what’s going on here, but he knows that his angel and his brother have a lot of fucking explaining to do. He kicks a broken bottle out of his way, as he paces the room. Luckily, he doesn’t have to wait long. Castiel pops back in, Sam in tow.
“Dean?” Sam says, brokenly. He starts towards Dean, but stops abruptly.
“Yeah, Sam,” Dean says, “I’ve been looking for you.”
Dean’s eyes scan his brother, relieved to see that Sam looks healthy and has all his parts intact. Same brown floppy hair and ridiculous puppy dog eyes. Dean smiles at his brother, but it falters when he looks over Sam’s clothes.
“What the hell’s up with the monkey suit, Sammy?”
Sam glances down at himself, as if he’s surprised to see the tuxedo he’s wearing, “I uh- What exactly has Cass told you?”
“Nothing. Why, was he supposed to tell me something?” Dean eyes his angel warily.
Castiel is a lot of wonderful things, but he did have a tendency to leave out crucial details because he didn’t think they were of “import” or some annoying shit like that. Castiel just stares back at him. His expression is as impassive as ever, but something else lurks in those unearthly blue eyes and it’s making Dean uneasy.
“What’s going on here?”
Sam answers with a question of his own, “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Dean is seriously starting to question whether or not Sam got hit a little too hard during the fight, especially considering the suit. Sam hates dressing up. Not only that, it’s a dumb question. His brother fucking knows what they’re doing here.
“We were on a case. A powerful witch and her hired demon cronies were killing people in town as part of some spell the old hag was working up. We tracked them here and got into a fight. I must of got knocked out after saving your ass, because it’s all black after that.”
“That’s all you remember?” Sam asks, crestfallen.
Dean looks between the two of them, annoyed, “What is wrong with you two? Yeah, that’s the last thing I remember, because that’s the last thing that fucking happened.”
“Dean, that-” Sam stops, eyes tearing up and Dean is seriously about to walk over and smack him, “That happened 30 years ago…”
Of all the things Dean expected Sam to say, that was not it. He’d expected something like, you’ve been out cold for a few days. The witch blasted you with something disgusting and slimy and that’s why the world seems to have lost it’s mind. Maybe even, you got really fucking smashed last night and this is all just a really, really bad dream. If Castiel and Sam are trying to screw with him, he’s really not in the mood for it.
“Hilarious, Sam. I get the hell beat out of me saving you and your idea of a “thank you” is to play a lame practical joke? Seriously dude, this is all you’ve got? I thought I’d taught you better than this,” Dean grins at his brother.
Neither Sam or Cass crack a smile. The bottom falls out of Dean’s stomach, because this isn’t right. Sam would have copped to a joke by now. Instead, his brother is looking at him, all teary eyed, like he’s not seen him in…30 years.
“The fuck?” Dean manages to choke out. He looks away from them and begins pacing again, hoping the movement will help, “What’d that bitch do? Rip Van Winkle me or something? Is she still around here, because I’d really like to gank something right about now.”
“No Dean, I took care of her,” Sam says.
Dean turns to him, eyeing his brother, “And, you… How the hell can it be 30 years from now – then, whatever, if you still look like that?”
Sam falters, “Look like what?”
“Like Sam! You’d be what? Almost 60 by now?”
Sam looks to Castiel, in abject horror, but Cass ignores him, walking towards Dean. He locks eyes with the angel.
“You’re seeing what you want to see, Dean.”
“I can’t just imagine him younger, Cass. If he was really that old, he’d look like-”
“And, he does look like that,” Castiel interrupts, still edging closer to him. Dean gets the distinct feeling that Cass is moving in on a particularly skittish animal. Dean being the frightened, furry little woodland creature in this scenario.
“Then why Cass?”
Castiel pauses, taking a steadying breath, “Because, you’re dead, Dean.”
Dean doesn’t know whether he should double over laughing or punch Cass in the face.
“So what? I’m a fucking ghost?” It was meant to be a joke, but no one is laughing. Hell, neither one of them is even smiling. He turns back to Castiel, “Dude, I touched you earlier. I could feel you. Pretty sure ghosts can’t do that. And, Sammy still looks like Sammy. Are you sure you guys aren’t the one’s hallucinating here?”
“Dean, look at Sam,” when he opens his mouth to reply, Castiel stops him, “I mean really look at him.”
Sighing, Dean does. He stares at his little brother who stares back at him, a strange mixture of grief and hope warring on his features. And, maybe Dean just really needs some sleep, but does Sam’s face seem a little less smooth than it should?
Dean edges closer to his brother, slowly becoming aware of more grooves that shouldn’t be on Sam’s face. Of laugh-lines at the corners of his eyes and furrow lines on his forehead. Of brown hair and eyebrows slowly giving way to the march of gray. His hair is shorter than it should be. Though not unfit, he's nowhere near as trim as he once was. In fact, Sam’s whole musculature has changed. He’s softened, giving way to the years and years that it’s so obvious he’s already lived.
“Sammy?” Dean chokes out, reaching out to touch Sam’s shoulder. He can kind of touch his brother, but Dean can’t feel him and from the look on Sam’s face, neither can Sam.
“Yeah, Dean,” Sam whispers, tears now falling down his weathered cheeks, “It’s me.”
“I don’t – What happened?”
“The witch. She got to you before I could. You were distracted and I…” Sam trails off, looking away, “I couldn’t get there in time, Dean. I’m so sorry.”
Dean pauses, the words hitting him. They jar something in Dean. Flashes of memory. The big burly demon underneath him as he pulled him off Sam and pinned him to the ground. The sudden white hot pain in his back and the feeling of not being able to breathe.
“Son of a bitch…” Dean chokes out, faltering for a moment.
“Dean, I’m sorry!” Sam says miserably.
“It’s okay, Sam,” his brother shakes his head, but Dean stares at him, making him look him in the eye, “It’s okay.”
Sam breaks, hiding behind his hand. Dean wishes he could comfort his brother, but he knows he can’t.
He turns to Castiel, “Why could I touch you?”
“I’m an angel, Dean. The normal rules don’t apply for me, but I can only partially touch you. I don’t-,” Castiel pauses, which Dean figures is the angel equivalent of bawling his eyes out, “I can almost feel you, but I can’t truly touch on you this plane anymore.”
Dean nods, “But… Why am I still here? Shouldn’t I have, I don’t know, gone into the light or through the tunnel or whatever the hell it is people do? Shouldn’t a reaper have reaped my ass by now?”
“I believe you needed to find your brother. You were waiting for him,” Castiel looks down, suddenly uncomfortable, “and for me.”
Dean looks between his broken brother and his emo angel and decides he’s had just about enough of this crap.
“All right, so I’m fucking dead! That’s bad enough, but do you two really need to go all Demi Moore on me? No chick flick moments, damn it! Seriously, where did I go wrong with you guys?”
Sam looks up, clearly tore between shock and being angry with Dean for ruining the moment with his inappropriate remarks. He receives one of Sam’s bitch-faces for his troubles and while it looks strange on an old man, it provides a world of comfort to Dean. Castiel just stares at at him like he’s the most complex puzzle in the universe.
Finally. Back to business as usual. Dean decides that if he wants to keep the ball rolling this new and far more preferable direction, he needs to take this fucked conversation off of him as quick as possible.
“So, did we drag you away from something important, Sam? Or do you just dress like James Bond all the time now?”
Sam blinks at him for a moment before he catches up, “No! Well, yes… I guess.”
“Wow, that was helpful.”
“I was at my son’s wedding reception.”
“Your..? I have a nephew?”
Sam blushes, “Yeah. I hunted for awhile after you… And, I don’t know. One day I met this girl and we hit it off and…” Sam ends with a shrug and a goofy smile.
So, Sam finally got his happy ending. Dean couldn’t be happier. He grins at his brother, “I’m happy for you, Sammy. You and my nephew, uh…?”
He really doesn’t know what to say to that. The two Winchesters stare at each for a few minutes, Sam drinking the sight of his long lost brother in and Dean basking in the glow of Sam’s contentment.
“Well,” Dean says, smiling, “I guess we should get you back there, huh?”
Having already said his goodbyes to his brother, Dean watches unseen as Sam dances with his wife, all smiles. He watches his nephew, who looks every bit like the Sam Dean remembers, spin his new bride around the dance floor. He takes in all the happy people watching the two couples and finds himself extremely grateful that he was able to see this.
Threading his fingers through Castiel’s, he keeps his eyes on his family, “You know, I’d have you out there on that dance floor if I was still alive.”
“Sure!” Dean turns to Cass, grinning, “You don’t think I can dance?”
Castiel’s eyes remain forward, “I know you can. You proved it that night in Hipsky, Colorado. I don’t think the patrons of the Timbers saloon have ever seen such a display of skill.”
“I was drunk! That doesn’t count!” Dean laughs, pulling the angel closer to him.
“Sam was mortified,” Castiel smiles, turning to face Dean.
“Yeah, well. He needs to be every once in awhile,” Dean pauses, leaning in, so their foreheads touch, “What about you? Were you ready to disown me?”
With one last glance at Sam, Dean directs his angel outside. It’s a clear night, the stars shining high up above them. Dean wishes he could still feel the cool night breeze he knows is blowing by them, as he listens to the leaves rustling in the distance.
Wrapping his arms around Castiel once again, Dean keeps his eyes trained skyward, “Did you ever see me looking up at you, Cass?”
Dean looks at him and smiles, “Good.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there, Dean.”
“Don’t be. It wasn’t your fault,” Castiel looks as though he’s about to say something, but Dean continues, “So, what happens now?”
“You’re no longer tethered here.”
Of course it’s not a direct answer, Dean’s not sure why he expected one from Castiel, “Well, where are you headed?”
Castiel tilts his head to the side, “I’m already where I’m meant to be.”
Dean smiles and pulls the angel in, kissing him softly. He doesn’t pull away as he whispers against Castiel’s lips, “Take me home, Cass.”