Castiel can only hold back the sending on the sigils for two minutes, twenty-four seconds and one microsecond more before the alarms in Heaven will ring, alerting the angels to his and Meg's presence. He wishes he didn't have to do this. Wishes he could just explain there may be something among Heaven's weapons that could be used to eradicate the Leviathan, but his first tentative, weak attempts at contact after leaving the asylum convinced him that no reconciliation was possible. There was no forgiveness in Heaven for those who played god. Heaven was in full scale anarchy with several angels jockeying for the top spot, but the one thing they all agreed on was that Castiel should be dead.
There are now only two minutes, 8 microseconds left before his power will fail and the alarms will ring. Castiel intends to make every moment count.
At least he does until everything starts to shift one minute, 33 seconds early. He has just enough time to warn Meg when the memories he used to cobble together a mostly uncrackable safe for Heaven's weapons disappear and Castiel finds himself in a room with Dean, Sam and a few witches.
He's not ready to see them yet and shame makes him aggressive. "I don't have time for this," Castiel snaps, sending the witches straight to the ether. He's immediately sorry afterward, though he can still feel the remnants of the summoning in Jimmy's solar plexus they were no doubt responsible for.
Unless Dean? Did Dean call him here somehow? Even without knowing that they're … Castiel raises his eyes with hope, but Dean seems mostly preoccupied with glaring suspiciously at Castiel. Instead it's Sam who speaks first.
"Hi, Cas," Sam says with something like shock, and Castiel nods at him, glad to see that Sam is looking better since Castiel shifted his hallucinations. He knows Meg called the Winchesters once he got well enough to leave the asylum, but he hadn't expected to see either of them until there was a solid plan for annihilating the Leviathan.
"Nice entrance," Dean finally says, looking angry as he struggles with some rope wrapped around him. "How'd you know we were in trouble?" Castiel can hear the weight of accusations behind Dean's words. Have you been watching us this whole time?
Castiel checks, but Dean has no signs of a concussion or other injury that would signal he'd been unconscious. He thinks he should heal him just to be sure, but doubtless Dean doesn't want to be touched by him unless it's absolutely necessary. "I was summoned here," he says instead, choosing to answer the question Dean asked aloud, even though it should be obvious. Dean snaps to attention at that and abandons his struggles with the rope in surprise. How could Dean not notice a summoning happening?
"Cas, just to check — you and I aren't married, right?" Dean sounds even more angry if possible, but for some reason, Sam has started laughing.
Oh. It was that kind of a summoning. Castiel studies a spot to left of Dean's gaze while he tries to think of a lie, but he'd been expecting the Winchesters to ask about Crowley, not about this. "It's nothing you did," he says finally. "Dissolving the bond is a complicated business, but as soon I can find an angel to adjudicate, I'll take care of it," he says instead. (Never mind that Rachel carried the forms for six months, already filled out for him. That was before when Castiel thought he'd have time to explain everything to Dean after the war was over) Dean has always hated witches and now Castiel can see why. He never meant for Dean to know about the marriage, but now that 'Emmanuel' has had some experience of that kind of union (though it wasn't what would be called legal in either Heaven or Daphne's state, especially as it was technically bigamy) he wonders if the moral thing to do would have been telling Dean.
Castiel risks meeting Dean's eyes and sees a lot of complicated things happening in his face, anger, astonishment, something like wonder and something else Castiel doesn't know how to read.
It's all too much and — Castiel won't be proud of this later, he was born a garrison soldier after all — he flees.
This is the part Castiel hopes Dean never finds out: Rachel carried the necessary forms for six months, and even filled them out for him, but Castiel never seemed to have the time to carve his sigil on them.
By the time Castiel returns to Heaven, Meg has already stolen the weapons in that particular cache and is lying low in a soldier's memory of a particularly welcoming homecoming while she waits. Demons can't enter or exit heaven on their own, and Castiel can't steal the weapons and hold the sendings back at the same time. Their partnership is a mutually beneficial arrangement. If Castiel worries about this one going as badly as his last one did, at least he knows the Winchesters are already aware of it.
Castiel finds Meg perched on top of a television while the soldier and his wife share some acts of marital fidelity on their couch. She sidles over to Castiel and asks if he's ever had sex while watching someone else have sex. "I've never had sex," Cas says without thinking.
"Dean drinking too much to ever put out?" Meg says knowingly. "All the more reason to —"
"My relationship with Dean goes beyond carnality," Castiel says haughtily and changes the subject to how they're going to get back to Earth while carrying the weapons without being spotted.
When the call of "Caaaaaas" rings out, Castiel tries to ignore Meg's snickering and the not-quite-soft-enough comment of "whipped" as he flies off to meet Dean, dodging several sentries who have been posted among the inter-dimensional super strings.
"What?" he says when he gets there, though he suspects he knows when he sees Sam isn't around. "Dean, this is a very bad time —"
"You're avoiding me," Dean says.
Castiel can't blame him for thinking something that is so obviously true, but it's not like Dean ever wanted to talk before. "It changes nothing for you," Castiel says. "Forget you found out."
"Ignoring what was going on with you is how things got so twisted around between us last year, Cas. The whole so-I-married-an-angel thing. What the hell is going on?"
Now he wants to talk. Castiel knows he has no right to be bitter. Dean has very good reasons for being angry with him, but he's doing all he can to make things right, and in the meantime he's stuck traveling with a demon he doesn't trust on the mere hope that she'll be a good ally against the Leviathan if he helps her with Crowley. "Heaven hates me," Castiel says, wondering if this is just a very long, very trying test of his father's. He'd shifted Sam's hallucinations, because it was the right thing to do, not because he wanted Dean to like him again, but he feels a pang, knowing that Dean has a fresh reason to be upset with him. "What did you need from me, Dean?" he asks, trying to refocus the conversation. "I'm looking for a way to stop the Leviathan, and I can't, I can't do anything about the other."
"I think a deserve some kind of explanation," Dean says. "In layman's terms." Castiel's sure that's not the right phrase for what Dean's asking, but he doesn't have time to get into a discussion of English idioms. Instead, he quickly sketches out that when he started falling the year of Lucifer's return, his being got bound to Dean's. "When a member of the Host becomes fixated on a single person and subsequently falls, the two are entered into a pact. They belong to one another. It's a … severance package? Since no angel has been restored to power after a fall like that, no one knew it'd stick," Castiel says.
"I'm your sorry you left Heaven consolation prize? And I didn't get a fucking say in it?" Dean says, his voice climbing higher and getting louder with each word.
"Usually the other person doesn't really mind," Castiel snaps. He glares at Dean for good measure. It's not like Dean needs to rub it in his face. "This hasn't happened for three thousand years. I had no way of knowing — things were different then. I wouldn't have chosen you." Wouldn't have chosen to be bound to someone unwilling.
"Hey, fuck you, I'd make an awesome husband," Dean shoots back.
Not from the available evidence, Castiel thinks darkly. It's because Dean is an assbut, not because he's disappointed Dean isn't happy. It's not. Castiel doesn't want the bond either. It's dangerous, after all, and he wastes no time telling Dean so.
"You said you were working on annulling it?" Dean asks.
"When I can get a moment to consult the scrolls," Castiel says. When I can get a moment to find the scrolls, he thinks. "As long as the bond has never been consummated, it can be annulled."
"Perfect," Dean says. "So all we gotta do is stay out of serious danger and avoid falling on each other's dick. Easy."
Castiel doesn't get flushed. He's watched humans copulate since before they moved out of caves and nothing takes him off-guard. The arousal his vessel is experiencing must be hormonal. He wonders if there are any studies of the long-term side effects of inhabiting the same vessel. Given that Balthazar was one of two angels he knew to have inhabited their vessels for long and constant times, and was loudly appreciative of human-style copulation, he thinks it's a distinct possibility. In fact, Castiel is sure he's heard Sam or Dean mention that Gabriel snapped up a lot of half-clad women, as well. If Castiel were still in charge of Heaven, he'd order a study be done if no one had done it yet.
"That would be a rather exceptional set of circumstances," Castiel says. "We'd have to be at least partially unclothed, and at least one of us would have —"
"Just see if there's anything in those weapons that will help us against the Leviathan," Dean says.
"Right." He resists the urge to call Dean sweetie and kiss him the cheek, the way that Castiel used to watch Dean and Lisa part.
"Wait!" Dean says. "If this happened last year, why didn't you get it annulled then?"
"I — you didn't use to ask this many questions, Dean."
"I learned my lesson," Dean says with the faintest twist to his mouth. "You want this, don't you?"
"The bond, it overwhelms my —"
So Dean knows that, too. But it still doesn't have to change anything. How can Castiel ever make amends if Dean is forever getting stuck with the consequences of Castiel's choices? "After the Leviathan are gone, I will find a way to dissolve this bond between us and we will go back to being the mildly antagonistic comrades we've always been."
"And that's what you want?" Dean asks, fixing Castiel with a skeptical look.
What's Castiel supposed to say? No, it's not what he wants, but he lost all rights to that when tore down Sam's wall, opened purgatory declared himself a god, and set the Leviathan loose. If Dean is so bent on getting Castiel to admit what he wants, then fine, Castiel will show him. He pulls Dean up from the bed, one-handed, lifting him by his shirt just enough that Castiel can get lips on him and grope around underneath that shirt with the other hand. He doesn't know if it's right or good, but it's what he wants. "You are insufferable," he says, breaking away to give Dean room to breathe.
Dean doesn't look upset at all. "It's your fault," he smirks. "You married me."
Castiel's vessel makes a low sound of frustration that he realizes is a growl. "What do you want from me?"
"I don't know," Dean says, all insouciance gone from his tone. "Space and time to figure it out before — before you do anything permanent," he says. "Sometimes I can forget," Dean says. "But sometimes I remember," Dean warns.
Castiel doesn't expect Dean to forget; that's too much to ask of any being. But this won't work if he can't forgive, and Castiel tells him as much.
"I know," Dean says. "I just want to try. I — Sam and I, we're a little short on family these days," Dean reaches down into this duffel next to the bed and pulls a phone out of it. "I got you a phone," Dean says. Castiel appreciates the gesture for what it is, tacit trust that Castiel will need to be contacted, because he won't be spying and keeping tabs on the Winchesters, and a tacit promise that Dean will be contacting him.
"I'd still be your friend," Castiel says, "I'll always be your friend. You don't have to try anything."
"Oh, Cas. Half the reason I'm still mad at you is that I stopped being so mad at you months ago."
"That makes no sense."
"Welcome to human/angel relationships," Dean says. "Now let's go get Sam, I'm starving."