Dean's at Bobby's for Thanksgiving - something he and Sam only manage once in, like, five blue moons - when it happens.
'It' being the appearance of a ridiculously tall, ridiculously hot woman in the kitchen. Although she'd probably be a lot hotter if she wasn't wearing a trenchcoat.
And a. A tie.
"Dean," says the woman, in that monotone, and -
"Ha," says Dean, "see, that's - that's really good. I mean, you almost got me thinking - but you aren't, obviously, 'cause that's. That's just. Crazy."
The woman looks at him. Her eyes aren't even a little bit blue.
"What, is this 'funniest angel in the garrison' time? Whose practical joke is this? Gabriel's?"
And no, she's still looking at him.
"You're Gabriel, right? I mean, you're obviously not a demon, because, hello, Bobby's, and freaking anti-demon alarm systems and sigils out the wazoo, and - "
"Dean," says the woman, again, although with the way she says it, it probably translates to, 'you're rambling'. And Dean should definitely not know what that translates to. Because this person is a complete stranger. A stacked stranger. In a trenchcoat. Not even in a hot-damn-is-she-naked-under-that-trenchcoat trenchcoat, which would signal that this is a dream and that Dean can just relax and enjoy himself and wake up in the morning with an uncomfortable hard-on, but the trenchcoat, the trenchcoat-trenchoat, the one that always smells like ozone and lightning and burgers.
"Right," says Dean, weakly, which is, of course, exactly when Sam chooses to enter the scene.
"Hey, man, have you seen Bo - oh my God."
Fifteen minutes and two saltings and three dousings later (the woman had glowed under the holy water, with a full-body halo, which, yeah, pretty much gave it away), Sam's getting on Dean's case for not doing all the appropriate security checks. He actually uses that word. 'Appropriate'. Dean's starting to get a headache.
"Look, I knew it was an angel." Dean's not mentioning who they both know the angel is, though. His brain might just explode if he does that.
"Yeah, but you can't just assume - "
"I knew," says Dean.
Sam stares at him, and mutters something like, "more profound bond, huh," which Dean definitely does not hear.
He does, however, toss the angel a dish-towel. It's the really ratty one that Bobby has hanging on the hook by the stove - the one with the stains on it that could be from ritualistic pig's blood or just very, very rare steak - but the woman dries her face on it with no complaint.
"Thank you," she says, all polite-like. Her mouth still glistens with holy water. Dean looks away from it. At her shoes. They're still perfectly polished, damn them.
"So, who's the meat-suit, this time?" Dean asks, but shuts up very quickly when she looks at him again, this time in the way that communicates general disapproval of Dean's lack of compassion towards his fellow human beings. "Sorry," he says, and feels like an idiot when Sam stares at him again.
"I have been 'grounded'," the angel air-quotes, and that's - that's downright uncanny, how familiar that is, and how wrong it is with those slender, soft hands instead of - instead of the other ones. "My persistent insubordination has led to the temporary confiscation of my preferred vessel, and I have been placed in another mortal body, in which I will stay until such time as God feels that I have learned my lesson. I do not, of course, have any of my powers. I must be humbled."
Dean's kind of freaked out by the idea that God confiscates vessels like most pissed-off parents confiscate mobile phones and, and cars. "So… you're mortal, now?"
"For the time being."
Sam blinks. "And how long would that be?"
"Until such time as - "
" - as God decides, yeah, but - this is dangerous, isn't it? What if someone comes after you while you're all - " Sam waves his hand " - helpless?"
"I am not helpless. I am now familiar with the use of firearms, and I - I thought I could join you in your demon-hunting."
"No," says Dean, mostly because the Impala is a chick-free zone unless he's boning said chick, which - "Just. No."
Those big, brown eyes turn to Dean, solemn and slightly hurt, and - how do they feel blue even when they're not?
"C'mon, Dean," says Sam, and sounds exactly the way he sounded when he was eight years old and was trying to talk their Dad into keeping that little stray dog he'd taken a liking to.
"No. That - who does that body even belong to? Is her brain going to turn to mush, or something? And what happened to Ca - to Jimmy's body?"
"Mr. Novak's body is in reserve," replies the angel, because Dean - Dean can't call her by that name, he just can't - but, hell, it is what it is, right? Que sera sera, and all that?
"Reserve? What the hell does that even mean? Is there, like, some kind of garage or something where Heaven keeps its spares?"
The angel - Castiel, fine, he's finally admitting it - tilts her head. "Dean," she says, and her voice is genuinely wondering. "How did you know?"
Dean's jaw drops.
"Okay, okay," says Sam, probably sensing that Dean's brain is in the process of frying itself. "Dean just wants to know that no one's being hurt. Right?"
"Right," Dean croaks, after a while.
"This vessel has not been acquired by force." Castiel manages to sound both placating and annoyed, in a how-could-you-even-imagine-I-would-steal-a-body way. "Myrna Solanov is a Russian nun. She surrendered herself to God and asked to be used as a vessel. She will, of course, be returned to her body once I am no longer occupying it."
"A. A nun." Dean's mental cohesion crumbles, just like that - not just because exactly three out of ten of his adolescent sexual fantasies had featured nuns, but because - because a large number of his adult sexual fantasies feature nuns, too.
Sam looks floored, as well, which - okay, is comforting. Except that it's also annoying. "Uh," says Sam. "Right. That's - that's a really pretty nun, though," he says, and stutters when Dean glares at him. "Not that I - I don't mean - "
"Sister Solanov was blessed in both form and manner," Castiel agrees. "But most of all, she was blessed in her devotion."
"Um." Dean tries, desperately, not to imagine Ca - this vessel in a nun's outfit. "Right, that's - that's great, devotion is great, and that - you can stay at Bobby's, can't you? Until this whole thing, uh, blows over - "
"It will not 'blow over'." Air-quotes, again. "I was told that occupying this form would be necessary to my spiritual growth and discipline, and would, eventually, lead to an epiphany about the nature of love and loyalty. Apparently, without such an intervention, I will likely head down a dangerous path of duplicity, betrayal and self-deceit."
Whoa. "How is a woman's body - a - a nun's body - gonna help with all that?"
"Probably because existing on Earth as a woman is a uniquely trying experience," Sam says, and Dean stares at him. "What? Just because you see every woman you meet as a sex object doesn't mean some of us don't have actual conversations with them."
"Yeah, if by 'actual conversations' you mean wild monkey sex with crazy feminists - "
"Sera was a humanist," Sam says - sniffs, actually, like a superior little bastard. "Our pillow talk was enlightening."
"I would like to meet this Sera," Castiel puts in, and Dean has this blinding, momentary vision of lesbian orgies that he quickly - desperately - shoves out of his mind. Out of an airlock, even.
"I'm not sure that would be a good idea," says Sam, looking both flushed and panicked, and, okay, so apparently Winchesters have identical kinks, and Dean does not need to know that.
"Just - um, no. How come you're not in a nun's habit? If that's - that's the vessel's job?"
"Shut up, Sam," says Dean, because, seriously? He does not need to know that, either.
"A habit is impractical for a more rigorous lifestyle," says Castiel. "I retained Mr. Novak's clothing."
"Ha bloody ha, that's brilliant. Okay, then. Sam and I are gonna go off to Werewolfville tomorrow, and you - you're gonna stay here. With Bobby."
Castiel straightens her shoulders. Her shoulders, and Dean isn't thinking about - "No," she says.
"What did you say?"
"I will not resign my duties even if my form has changed," says Castiel. "I am meant to battle the forces of Hell, and I must continue to do so, whether I am mortal or immortal."
"You could die," Dean says.
Sam rolls his eyes. "Yeah? And you don't think Big Daddy can bring him back? Her back. Er. That's - God's done that before, hasn't he? Obviously, he wants Cas to understand... mortality, and - and other stuff - "
Like what it means to live with a pair of massive tits? Not that Dean's been looking, or anything. "This isn't a good idea," he says, as a last, token protest - because if Sam's determined to bring Cas along, and Cas is determined to come along, then Cas actually coming along is kind of inevitable. Especially since - let's be honest, here - Bobby will probably freak at having an ex-immortal, ex-male angel staying at his place. The fact that Crowley keeps randomly showing up doesn't help, either. It sure as fuck doesn't make it safer.
"I will prove to you that it is a good idea," says the - the woman, God, Dean isn't going to begin coping with that anytime soon.
"You do that," says Dean, and steps away from the hand Castiel had raised to - possibly - touch his shoulder. And damn it, Cas looks hurt again, but Dean had enough problems maintaining personal space when Castiel's vessel was a man, let alone - "I'm just gonna - I'm gonna grab a beer. You two," and he gestures vaguely at Sammy and Cas, "talk. About. Girl things."
"I'm not a girl," Sam calls after him, as Dean beats his retreat.
"You so totally are, Mr. Sleeps With Feminists," Dean retorts, and ignores the feeling of two very earnest - very unblue - eyes boring into his back.
A sequel is available here.