Castiel can remember the creation of the material universe. He once knew the direct presence of God and the ecstasy of endless, boundless Love. He has seen empires rise and fall, seen species blossom and wither to dust, seen entire continents sheathed in ice and then reborn again, scraped raw and new.
He thinks he is about to die in the hot, airless confines of a rusted old car doing 90 miles an hour down a deserted South Dakota highway.
Castiel's stomach feels like its trying to turn itself inside out, and his eyes feel like they've been pounded four inches back into his skull with a dull hammer. Every shift of the Impala makes him want to-- he doesn't know what, doesn't understand this sensation, but he can't stand it. Something has climbed up into the back of his throat and jammed there, threatening to lurch out every time Castiel moves. He instinctively wants to keep it down, but at the same time he thinks this all might stop if he just gets it over with.
"Cas. Hey, Cas."
Dean's gruff voice breaks through from the driver's seat. Castiel doesn't open his eyes, concentrating on keeping his insides from reversing themselves.
"Cas," Dean insists. "Man, you okay?" Dean must have taken his eyes off the road, because the Impala sways a bit. "Cas. Say something!"
Castiel opens his mouth to tell Dean to make the car stop doing that, and then his body doubles up and convulses, his head snapping forward to retch nothing.
Dean swears and slams on the brakes, which squeal and shudder. Castiel's muscles spasm a second time, too hard for him to open his eyes, but then Dean is around his side of the car, yanking Castiel's door open and pulling him halfway out to retch again over the pavement. A thin stream of yellow bile is all that comes up.
Castiel manages to undo his seat belt, tries to step out of the car and ends up falling sideways against the door frame, head spinning.
Somewhere above him, Dean is calling him a stupid son of a bitch. The bracing hand on Castiel's shoulder leaves, and the Impala's frame jerks as Dean opens the back door and rummages around in the bags stowed in the back seat. A handful of protein bars are shoved under Castiel's nose a moment later.
"When the hell was the last time you ate?" demands Dean, worn too close to the bone to express anything but anger. He used to care when bad things happened to Castiel-- he might still care-- but he hasn't showed it in a long time.
Castiel stares at the bars. "I forgot," he says, after a long moment, dumbly surprised.
He's not an angel anymore. He has to eat now.
He wishes he still didn't remember.
Dean sighs, and it's... maybe not angry. Tired? Castiel takes the protein bars and doesn't look up, because if he's wrong and Dean's still mad-- worse yet, if he's got that broken expression on his face again-- Castiel doesn't want to see.
They both get back in the car, and Dean pulls back into the empty lane of traffic. The highway is deserted. They haven't seen another car or person in two days, which is-- well. Good, because anyone they see is likely to be a Croat. Bad, because that means everyone's either dead or a Croat.
Castiel wonders if he's ever going to stop feeling like someone has a fist around his esophagus when he has that thought, that sudden punching recollection that more than half the world's population is dead and one quarter of the United States is quarantine land. President Palin got unanimous congressional approval to seed the Canadian and Mexican borders with lethal anti-personnel mines just last week.
He blinks hard and takes a bite of a protein bar, struggling to keep breathing when it feels like there's a knife in his chest. His body is a sack of aches and awful sensations. "I'm sorry."
Dean is staring at the road. "We'll get you something else to eat at Bobby's."
His insides feel small and ashamed. He feels small, weak and powerless and trapped inside Jimmy's body, like somebody has cut off all his limbs-- all the limbs that really matter-- and left him to scream inside the meat that remains to him. Needing Dean to hear it, to know that Castiel is trying to do things right, he tries again. "I didn't mean to forget. I wasn't trying to just save more for you."
He did that once, two months ago. He passed out in the middle of looting an already-looted convenience store and woke up with Dean yelling in his face, looking more scared than Castiel had ever seen him. Afterwards, Dean didn't talk to him for a week.
But Dean seems to ignore him. "Should be at Bobby's in about an hour," is all he says, squinting down the highway. Castiel sighs and tries to ignore the way his throat still burns as he chews and swallows mechanically.
The sun beats down mercilessly overhead. The sky is a high, surreal blue that Castiel will never get used to seeing over a world that is now alternately empty and savage beyond belief. (He sat beside Dean on a park bench underneath a sky like this, once, on a day after the sky didn't rain fire.) They pass cars abandoned on the shoulders of the highway, in the ditches. Most of them sit with their doors hanging open, dark stains all over the seats and the windows and the pavement. At one point, Dean has to slow down to steer carefully around a large van that was left blocking half the highway. Castiel sits up straight with his window rolled down, tightly gripping a shotgun, in case somebody jumps out from behind the van as the Impala rolls slowly around it.
Nobody does. They drive on, and dead traffic gets worse as they get closer to Sioux Falls, at least until Dean takes the turn-off to Singer Salvage.
Castiel notices the way Dean's hands flex on the steering wheel, the hard set of his jaw that means he's grinding his teeth again.
"He'll be fine," Castiel says, and it's wrong, it's all wrong, but he has to say something. (Sam knew what to say right.) "Phone lines are down in most of this part of the state. He wasn't working alone."
Something-- just a little something-- goes out of Dean's shoulders. "Bet he's not too happy with half of Sioux Falls shacked up in his yard," says Dean, in a solid attempt at normalcy, the state they had three years ago that looks so good in comparison to what they have now.
Castiel manages a dry chuckle, remembering the way they had last left Bobby. About a year ago, a woman named Jodie Mills, the sheriff of Sioux Falls, had driven all the way up to Camp Chitaqua to demand Bobby's help ("From what I figure, you're pretty much the damn zombie apocalypse expert, Singer. We need you."). He'd ended up going back with her, and last they'd heard, he and Mills had set up Singer Salvage as a camp for survivors and civilians-turned-hunters as Croatoan swept through the Midwest.
Last they'd heard had been two months ago.
"I think he enjoys having people to call idjits," Castiel says.
"Yeah," agrees Dean, with the strained shadow of a laugh. "And that sheriff-- she's probably keeping 'em all in line."
Castiel nods. "Yes."
"Yeah," says Dean again.
The car falls silent. Thankfully, that's when they pull around the last bend before the salvage yard, brakes squealing as Dean slows.
The gates are hanging wide open.
"Oh, no," falls from Dean's mouth, and he punches the gas. Castiel scrambles to grab his shotgun from the back seat again, grabs a handful of extra shells and shoves them in the pocket of his coat-- the good pocket, not the one with a hole right through it. The Impala skids to a stop in the dust in front of the house, and Castiel barely has time to hand Dean his own shotgun before Dean is shoving his way out of the car.
"Dean, be careful," Castiel cautions, scanning the yard around them, the stacks of crushed cars and the rusting sheds. It's deserted. The tents that used to fill Bobby's yard are all ruined, nothing but shredded canvas flapping in the wind; one or two of the shanties of plywood and corrugated tin that were built up against the side of the house have been knocked over. The firepits are full of cold black ash and the sun is still shining overhead.
"No bodies," Dean mutters, moving up the porch steps. "Where the hell is everyone?"
"I'll go around back," Castiel volunteers quietly. His palms are sweating.
Dean's right. There are no bodies. There is blood-- a big pool of it in the dust just around the corner of the house, a splash on the peeling sky-blue clapboard.
"Bobby?" Castiel calls in a low voice, as he circles the back of the house. The back door hangs open. The sensation in his stomach-- it must be nausea-- is back, filling up his throat. "Bobby Singer?"
He steps cautiously into the kitchen, scalp prickling. It's distracting. His body never used to do things like that. "Bobby--"
Sudden movement has Castiel jerking to the right and lifting the shotgun, finger tight on the trigger, only to find himself staring at--
"You idjit ," Bobby growls, lowering his own sawed off shotgun. He's missing his hat, and the front of his shirt is covered in blood; his withered legs list to one side of the chair. Castiel's heart pounds with relief. " What the hell you think you're doing, creeping around here?"
"Is it safe?"
"Hell no," snaps Bobby. "But as far as I know, there ain't no more Croats around right now, if that's what you're asking."
"Dean," Castiel calls, more loudly, his voice embarassingly shaky as the rush of stress hormones catches up with him. He hates what his body does to him these days.
A moment later, Dean strides in from the front. "Bobby," he says, deep relief suffusing his face. "You're okay. I thought--" He stops, visibly pulls himself back together. "What the hell happened?"
"The hell you think," Bobby demands.
"Lots of 'em."
Tentatively, Castiel asks, "And the others?"
"We killed everything that came at us," says the old hunter, sagging back in his chair. He looks old, and so very tired. "But lots of us got killed. Plenty more got infected. Only just finished burning 'em. Jodie and the rest that're left made a supply run to Sioux Falls while the way's clear."
Dean is frowning, on the edge of suspicion, like he can't quite put his finger on something. "Bobby, you okay? Anything... wrong?"
"No, half the people livin' here just got slaughtered and I'm peachy keen!" Bobby barks. There's a sullen silence in the kitchen before Bobby draws a steadying breath and says, "You didn't come all this way down here just to chat, Dean. What're you after?"
"We're--" Castiel stops and has to clear his throat, suddenly unable to put the idea into words. It makes him shake, makes him sick with hope. Bobby looks at him. "We're... going to find my Grace."
The idea came to him a week ago, at the funeral service of the woman who had handled much of the cooking detail at Camp Chitaqua. She had cut her wrists with a paring knife. Castiel spent much of the evening in a haze from the alcohol that had been passed around, grieving possibly more than anyone else-- not just for Julia, but for everyone he had lost since the beginning of the end.
Saraquel, Miniel, Hadriel, Kuliel and countless others in the siege on the gates of Perdition. Uriel, whose death had gone cold and unmourned by the choirs of Heaven, leaving Castiel to his own conflicted misery. Anael, whose death had been a long, slow thing, begun with self-inflicted mutilation and ended in such a way that it had almost been a mercy to put her out of such pain. All the multitudes of voices that Castiel would never hear again, the particular hum and crackle of each angel's individual wavelengths, the tinted shine of Grace inside their interchangeable human vessels...
And then, in thinking of Anael-- Anna, who deserved to be remembered by the name she had chosen for herself, the choices she had been tortured to insanity for-- the thought occured to him. That his rise from Perdition had not been a delicate thing. That his raw and shrieking return to Earth had blasted down the trees of decades like so much dead wood, and surely could have flung off some small parts of his own flayed being. That somewhere, buried in the earth of the Righteous Man's grave, there might be a fragment of his Grace yet remaining.
Castiel is ashamed that he has never wanted anything so badly as this, the possibility that something may yet save him from the sticky, binding prison of Jimmy's flesh.
Bobby raises his eyebrows. "You think that's possible?"
"Cas thinks so," Dean says. Across the kitchen, Castiel meets his eyes for just a second, and there's something there , something that's not awful and empty-- hope, it looks like hope in Dean's eyes, desperate and clinging as it is.
Castiel's heart leaps incredibly. He has put hope into the eyes of the man who destroyed the world. This is why Dean defended Castiel's suggestion of a road trip all the way up from Camp Chitaqua to South Dakota, on dangerous roads and with ever decreasing availability of gasoline. The idea of what Castiel will be able to do when he gets his Grace back is enough to make Dean believe again, believe in Castiel again-- a Castiel who doesn't fail at the most basic tasks, who doesn't need help to accomplish things that children can do. Who doesn't need to be taken care of.
"Well, you ain't going on empty stomachs," Bobby announces. "Can't imagine you found much to eat on the way up here. I'll get you something."
Castiel's stomach grumbles out loud at that moment. He sees Dean crack a grin, and despite his flush of embarassment he can't help but make one in return, feeling suddenly lighter than he has in months. They're going to find his Grace, get it back, and Dean is smiling at him, and things will be better, things will be okay, he needs to believe that.
Bobby curses. "Damn thing's jammed," he says, jerking at the wheels of his chair. "Been busted for weeks. Can't-- get it to--"
Castiel puts his shotgun down on the kitchen table and strides over to help, smiling as he reaches out a hand. "Let me--"
It happens so fast.
The moment he's within arm's reach, Bobby slams the butt of his shotgun into Castiel's knee. There's a horrible noise and Castiel screams as it buckles from underneath him. The pain is horrible, bolts of shooting agony bright enough to make his vision grey. Suddenly Bobby has an iron grip on his wrist, hauling him forwards across the floor. Castiel drags like dead weight, reeling with nausea, and the fingers of his free hand scrabble at the floor, Bobby's boot, trying to gain purchase on anything as his vision spins. Dean is yelling, Castiel can't see anything straight (is he still screaming?), and Bobby-- there's the flash of a knife, aimed at Castiel's bare wrist ("--son of a bitch, Bobby -- Cas, move!"), a glimpse of Bobby's face transformed with rage--
The retort of Dean's hand gun explodes in Castiel's ears just as a second flare of pain shoots down his arm. Bobby's hand goes suddenly nerveless and Castiel collapses to the floor, moaning as he curls around his throbbing knee. There's blood pouring from a cut on his wrist.
Dean grabs him by the collar, hauling him upright. There's desperation in his face. "Cas? Cas! Is it infected?"
Castiel struggles to breathe again, to think past the pain that clogs up his limited little meat brain. "I-- no," he gasps, wrapping his other hand around his bleeding wrist and pushing his thumb against the pulsing veins between the bones of his arm, the way Risa showed him how to. "No, it's fine."
"Are you sure?"
"It's fine," Castiel repeats, more harshly than he meant to. But he can't, he can't handle anything except breathing without wanting to scream again, scream in pain and frustration and the bone-deep agony of being trapped in a form that goes no deeper than bones. A Castiel who still needs to be taken care of.
Something goes shuttered and brittle in Dean's eyes. His teeth grind hard and his hand falls from Castiel's collar and he stands up abruptly, and that's the moment when Castiel catches up with the realisation of what just happened. Slowly, like the bones of his neck have locked up, Castiel turns his head to look.
There's sunlight shining through the kitchen window, and Bobby's slumped in his wheelchair, head tipped back against the back of it and one hand dangling slackly over the armrest. There's a single neat hole in his chest and a dark, wet stain seeping down his already bloody shirt.
Shaking all over, Castiel pushes himself slowly to his feet, but once up, he can't reach out, doesn't dare to touch Dean. He knows he wouldn't be thanked for that. Dean just stands there, staring at Bobby's body with burning eyes. His pistol is still in his hand. Very minutely, his hands are trembling; his jaw clenches like he's trying to grind away his emotions through sheer force of will.
"We've got to bury him," Dean forces out finally, his voice a nearly unrecognisable grate. "I'll--"
He lifts one arm and then stops, hand hanging uselessly in midair. Dean's whole body wavers with the force of the grief trying to slam through the walls locked around his heart.
"I'll find a shovel," Castiel says, because he's learned how to be helpful.
Lift. Carry. Fetch. Run. The things a human does to be of use. Never smite. Never fly.
(Dean didn't like to fly with Castiel even back when he still could.)
It turns out they don't need to dig a grave. Near the treeline at the edge of the yard behind Bobby's house, a small backhoe stands next to a series of rectangular holes, six feet deep and three feet wide. There are five rectangles of bare, sunken earth where other graves have already been filled, headstones of scrap metal with names welded into them jutting from the earth.
One of the open holes is full of blackened bones and charred flesh. Castiel counts at least seven skulls, one of which is very, very small. In the trees just behind the backhoe, he finds more bodies-- whole and unburned, sticky with blood and crawling with flies. Sheriff Mills is among them.
Castiel doesn't cry, although he wants to be sick again because his stomach almost can't handle the stench. He just wonders how many people got away, and how many able-bodied Croats went after them.
A shovel in his hands, Castiel stands there helplessly as Dean carries Bobby out of the house, his body wrapped in an old bed sheet. Dean's face looks like it's carved from granite. He jumps down into an empty hole to lay Bobby down gently, then sloshes gasoline and salt all over. The hand Castiel offers to help him back up is ignored. Standing too close to the edge of the hole, Dean strikes a match and throws it down, not flinching as the flames roar up at his face.
The body burns hot, coils of greasy black smoke rising up into the bright sunlit sky. Castiel and Dean stand in silence for what feels like forever, waiting for the fire to burn down. The back of Castiel's neck starts to hurt; his legs ache from standing but he can't sit, not while Dean is still standing.
Finally the fire gutters low. Castiel is unable to look in the hole and see what's left, but he knows that even a rudimentary scorching is enough to consecrate the bones if there was salt in the fire. Bobby Singer will not return to this Earth.
"I can fill it in," Castiel volunteers, his voice low. He takes a cautious step forward. "If you would like."
Dean snatches the shovel from Castiel's surprised hands and attacks the pile of earth heaped up beside the hole.
Castiel licks his lips, feels the hole yawning in his chest. "Dean."
"Go back inside," Dean growls.
"I don't think I should."
"Jesus Christ, Cas, just go inside." Dean won't look at him; his back's turned, and he's hurling dirt into the hole with fast, savage swings of the shovel.
"If anything comes for you--"
"Then I'll shoot it!" Dean explodes, suddenly stabbing the shovel into the pile of dirt as if it's something he wants to kill. Castiel jumps. Dean still doesn't turn around, but his shoulders are hunched and hard like an animal with its hackles raised. "At least I know how to use a goddamn shotgun!"
So does Castiel. Bobby taught him how.
Castiel turns around and goes back into the house.
He does the things a human does to be of use. He grabs some of the empty duffels from the Impala and fills them from Bobby's pantry, taking canned meats and powdered soups and jars of homemade preserves from the stunted crab apple tree in Bobby's back yard. He takes two rolls of toilet paper from the downstairs bathroom, another from the one upstairs; he bangs on the false walls panels in the study and finds a stash of six more rolls in one hidden compartment.
There's laundry hanging to dry in Bobby's living room. Castiel loots the lines for what's most in need back at Camp Chitaqua: socks, underwear, jeans and sweaters. Shivering slightly in the damp air, he strips off in the living room and puts on a change of clean clothes that fit as best he can find. He pulls back on his boots and Jimmy's grubby, threadbare trench coat, leaving the rest of his dirty clothing in a pile on the floor.
(If he wears Jimmy's coat, then he's still wearing Jimmy's body, and it doesn't belong to Castiel.)
Upstairs, every bedroom contains at least three mattresses and all the detritus of occupation by people now dead. There are crayon portraits on the hallway walls. Castiel strips the beds of their sheets, noticing details against his will: the woman who left long blonde hair on the pillowslip of the rollaway cot was neat and made her bed tidily; the top bunk in another room was occupied by a teenage boy, judging by the fresh stains on the sheets that Castiel decides to leave behind. He folds up blankets as small as he can and jams them tight into the footwells of the Impala's back seat.
All of the books, Castiel decides to leave alone. He's read every single one that pertains to the Apocalypse, and in most cases he's actually the authority on what those books got right and wrong. He might be stripped and powerless, but the names of the prophets are still seared into his brain, as are the foretellings of the End of Days, the titles of every fallen angel of the First War and the maps of the labyrinthine fortresses of Hell. And the monsters-- the ordinary horrors that haunt the mythologies of mankind-- have been rapidly disappearing since Heaven closed its gates and left Lucifer to walk the planet with impunity. As have pollution and disease. Rivers are bursting through dams and factories are rusting away to nothing with unnatural speed, hastened on their way by floods and tornadoes that leave the land cleared.
Mankind isn't the only thing Lucifer intends to cleanse from the Earth. By the time humanity is gone, it's actually going to be a perfect world to live in. That thought has made Dean cry more than once, shoulders shaking with choke-throated sobs when he thinks Castiel is asleep.
Dean comes back in as Castiel is trying to zip shut a duffel bag crammed full of ammunition. He's filthy and sweating, red-rimmed around the eyes but obstinately stone-faced.
"You about done?"
"Yes," Castiel confirms, glad that he hurried. In the back of his mind, something wails for the fact that this kind of achievement is now the highest he can aspire to. He tries to ignore it.
Seeing the laundry hanging in the living room, Dean goes in to change, throwing his dirt-streaked shirts on the floor as he goes. Castiel made sure to leave a set of clothes Dean's size on the lines. When Castiel tries to wipe some of the grimy sweat off Dean's back with a kitchen towel, though, Dean throws Castiel's hands off with an angry shake of his shoulders. Like Castiel is a dog, shoved away for asking to play at an inopportune time.
Castiel feels his mouth pinch, and stands there with the cloth hanging uselessly in his hand to watch as Dean strips the rest of the way off. He takes in Dean's nudity with a kind of resentful hunger, wishing that he was making Dean uncomfortable and wishing that Dean was stripping for him at the same time. The muscles on Dean's back and shoulders work smoothly as he pulls on underwear and jeans, snorting at the fact that briefs are his only option. The sight stirs a longing pull in Castiel, makes him shift his stance so that the waistband of some dead stranger's damp jeans chafes a little.
Before leaving, they make a sweep of the salvage yard for any straggling Croats. Castiel's cut wrist throbs and stings under the stiff bandages.
He finds nothing except the bloodied body of a little girl, hanging half in and half out of a crushed car eight feet up in a stack. Castiel pokes her limp tiny hand with the tip of his shotgun, then pulls her down and slides his knife through her left eye, just to make sure.
His tongue feels leaden with the weight of prayers that he holds back against the push of instinct, because he has no desire of his own to call for his Father any longer, and Castiel's freedom to follow his desires is, apparently, what he gave up everything for. But how is it, how can it be that Castiel can be so thoroughly stripped of his powers and yet still so fundamentally compelled to fulfill the function for which he was created?
Shaking all over, Castiel walks back to the Impala on unsteady legs. He feels disconnected from his body. Then he lays eyes on Dean, leaning against the hard lines of the Impala's battered, muscular black body, and his entire being narrows down to that one sight, that one desire. He feels drained, dry, starved of something more important than food.
He can do whatever he wants now, can't he? So why isn't he doing-- anything? Why hasn't he gotten anything worth falling for?
Dean looks up at the sound of Castiel's footsteps. His eyes are exhausted, but his mouth is so very lush, Castiel realises distantly. Utterly intent, iron-cored and unwilling to be swayed by anything in the world, Castiel strides forward and opens his mouth to tell Dean exactly what he wants .
Gruffly, Dean says, "Gear looks good. How much you get out of the medicine cabinet?"
Just like that, Castiel is derailed. He fumbles for words. "The..." He knows stem cells and hormones and gas exchanges and dendrites. He doesn't know human medicine. "I... found bandages. And a suturing kit."
"Yeah, okay, great," Dean says, a touch impatiently. "Penicillin? Peroxide? Morphine? Aspirin?"
At Castiel's blank stare, Dean's expression of tired annoyance morphs into sharp, sudden frustration. "Dammit, Cas," he snaps, shoving off the side of the Impala to stalk back towards the house. "You didn't think maybe that was important?"
"I didn't know we needed-- I'll go find it."
Dean shoulders past him, his expression thunderous. "I'll get it," he growls. "No sense sending you off to come back with more fucking jam."
Standing alone in the empty yard, surrounded by the shattered fragments of the convictions that were so strong ten seconds ago and feeling suddenly more fragile than ever without them, Castiel stares after Dean. He's still shaking, and he's hungry, and the weight of Jimmy's trench coat is making him sweat in the bright afternoon sun.
After a long time, he gets in the Impala very carefully, bones aching as he settles stiff and uptight against the worn leather. Sam's presence breathes in the empty car. The deep, wide creases pressed into the seat cushion beneath Castiel's thighs remind him that he is very literally taken the place of someone to whom he will never compare, in Dean's eyes.
Rationally, Castiel knows that Dean's temper has nothing to do with him, and that it isn't his fault for not knowing what medical supplies Dean would want. He has no reason to know how humans bottle the cures to maladies that he can-- could once -- repair on a sub-cellular level in a matter of seconds. This doesn't change the fact that he can't seem to make his humiliation-tight muscles relax, or that his throat is full of the burgeoning fear that Dean will come back and tell him to get his Fallen, human self out of the car.
He wonders if Dean's words will ever lose their power to pull him completely apart.
Five minutes later, Dean slings a plastic grocery bag full of small bottles that rattle and click into the back seat. The Impala rocks as he slides into the driver's seat and shuts his door, key clicking into the ignition. The engine labours for several long seconds before it starts with a growl, but the time it takes for that growl to catch makes Dean's face tighten, half wincing and dully dreading that this might be the time the Impala's old engine won't turn over.
It does. Dean's face relaxes back into dull exhaustion, his weariness deep in the lines around his eyes.
"It's going to be okay," Castiel says suddenly, uncontrollably. He hears the brittle, nearly manic edge of his own voice, how wrong it is in the heaviness between them, but he can't stop himself. "We are not far from your grave. We'll make it there in a couple of hours, and we'll find my Grace, and-- I'll get my Grace back. Once I can summon my sword again, I will be able to-- we can-- kill Lucifer. I'll be able to do that, Dean. We're--"
He takes a deep breath, trying to steady his trembling, clenching insides, to find the core of himself that believes the way an angel should. "We're going to find my Grace."
"Yeah," says Dean quietly, "okay, Cas."