“Isn’t there anything you want, Dean? Something you want just for yourself?”
Dean doesn’t say anything.
“I wanted Stanford,” Sam says. “Jess. A wedding. I wanted to be a lawyer; help people. Not one of those lawyers who do anything for money, but the other kind, you know? The ones who’re dirt poor and volunteer and stuff. The good kind. I wanted to be a good man, Dean.”
“You are a good man, Sammy,” Dean says after a while.
“Yeah?” Sam’s smile is the shy one, the one where his dimples are only just peeking out and his eyes are sort of hidden behind his bangs.
Dean looks away. These days, she can barely stand to look in a mirror. Sometimes, she can’t even look her little brother in the eye anymore. Sometimes…
Sometimes she wishes Cas had never pulled her out of Hell. That he never remade her in her own image. That she was still wrong, with a dick and no tits, because in a way, fucked up as it is, that’d been easier. When she couldn’t dream and wish and want.
When everything she maybe, possibly thought of in the far reaches of her mind, like, so rarely it basically almost never happened, was completely and utterly impossible on every level imaginable.
“Dean?” Sam says again, and this time he’s close enough that Dean doesn’t have a chance of dodging one of his giant paws as it comes down to rest lightly on her shoulder.
“I want a baby, Sammy,” she hears herself say, and she curses her traitorous tongue. Because, dammit, she hadn’t meant to say that! It’s not as if it’s true or anything, except that maybe it is, it’s just… Dean doesn’t know. Maybe it’s one of those biological things; maybe it’s the fact that she was dead and now she isn’t. Except she remembers taking care of Sammy, of wishing that Ben really had been hers, that… That Sam never left Stanford, that he married Jess and had a hoard of kids that Dean could play cool uncle to (never aunt; never, because Dad’d done everything he could to beat that out of Dean).
Sam’s hand is heavy and tense on her shoulder. “Oh,” he says.
Dean glances at him. His eyes are wide and his forehead furrowed. Maybe, she thinks, he looks surprised but he’s not— Shit, he’s not Dad, okay? Sammy is her baby brother, and he’s never done anything but back her up, so it wasn’t like that was an issue. Which means that when Sam starts stammering something that might be words on another planet, sounding awkward as fuck, Dean cuts him off.
“Look, it’s not like that shit ever mattered before, ‘cause it wasn’t like it was ever possible, right? I didn’t want anything ‘cause…”
“Because Dad made you think it wasn’t something you could ever have.”
“Not just him,” Dean says, and her heart is a slow, dull pounding under her breastbone. “But now? Shit, I have fucking periods now, man! Everything I never let myself want? I can have that now. If I want.”
“And you want.”
Dean manages to nod, somehow. “Yeah, Sammy, I do.”
“When it’s over.”
“When it’s over,” Dean agrees.
Before it’s over, though, there are demons and angels and pagan gods and witches and a buttload of monsters. There’s the time she’s cursed so bad she doesn’t stop bleeding for days and Sam ends up having to take her to a hospital. What they do to her, how they cure her, what they take from her…
Dean clams up and refuses to talk about it. Sam hugs her – well, the bitch can try, right? – plies her with pie and burgers and beer when Dean refuses to talk and basically holds her – them – together long enough for Dean to get her feet back under her again, which is just in time for them to be trapped in TV-Land. Cas looks at her sometimes, mostly in her dreams when she’s sleeping, but he never says anything even though Dean’d bet her left tit that she knows exactly what he’s thinking. That, if he’d still been able to heal people, then it wouldn’t have happened, because then Cas could just pop another uterus in her or something. Then, there’d still be a goal worthy of fighting toward.
A reason to say no, to get up in the mornings.
A reason to never give in.
When it’s over, Dean’s alone in a cemetery with the car at her back and a patch of grass where there was once a hole in front of her. Sammy’s gone, Bobby is dead. Cas is dead.
Everyone except her is gone. It’s so easy, she marvels, to pick up her gun even though her vision is for shit and forget everything she promised Sam she’d do once it was over (it’s over now, the world is saved). The gun is loaded, she knows, loaded and the safety’s off. It fits comfortably in her hands, the way it always has, even when her hands were those of a man instead of a woman.
The flutter of wings, the crunch of dry grass crushed under the heavy weight of shoes; the sounds are easy to ignore in favor of the comfortable, welcoming weight of her gun in hand.
Cas, crouched in front of her as he folds his hands over hers and takes the gun away, is not as easy to ignore, nor is the sensation of her body healing in a wave of warmth and sunshine and the best pie she ever tasted.
“Dean,” Cas says.
Cas’ eyes are blue and endless. Sometimes, Dean thinks she could look into his eyes forever. “Cas, I can’t,” she says. “Sam— Sammy, he…”
“I know.” One of Cas’ hands moves from hers, down to where the buckle of her belt is pressing into her abdomen. “Do you want me to?”
Cas smiles, wry and shy all at once. “I’m restored, Dean. If you wanted me to, I could make planets dance across the sky.”
Dean sort of laughs, except it’s really more of a sob. “That’d be awesome, Cas. Is Mars really red? I always wondered, and— oh.”
Cas’ hand isn’t really glowing, but the heat it’s spreading through Dean’s lower abdomen feels like it should make Cas at least flash a little. It lasts a lot longer than when Cas healed her just seconds ago, but then, he is basically rebuilding an organ this time.
“I can do anything you want now,” Cas says when he moves his hand away. It looks like he dips into one of the pockets of his overcoat, but Dean is almost positive that what Cas pulls out? He so didn’t keep in a lousy pocket. Maybe, like, in another dimension of space or something. It’s hard to tell with angels sometimes. Dean remembers, though, one night ages ago now, when Cas hadn’t been in the best of headspaces and Dean had been closing in on shitfaced, herself.
Cas does this thing sometimes, where he talks and his voice drones on but you can’t stop listening. That night, Cas had explained about angels and souls. Or, rather, that angels don’t have souls because the soul is a human possession; it’s why they’re so valuable and why demons make deals for them. Angels, they’re different, because they have grace, the stuff of Heaven. Cas’d said a lot, once he got going, about incompatibility and how grace had the potential to burn souls up like fire and dried grass. Souls give humans power, love, passion, free will and so much more that angels don’t have – are never supposed to possess, because angels are warriors of God and their purpose is to serve.
Or so he’d said, anyway.
The ball glowing brightly in Cas’ hand right now is not exactly like the one Dean and Sam found in that briefcase that belonged to Famine. It’s different, because there’s more gold to this one, and it’s a little smaller and looks frail, somehow.
Cas says, “Will you look after my brother, Dean?”
“Angels weren’t meant to spend prolonged time in a vessel or be on Earth. We aren’t meant to be gods or humans.” The thing in Cas’ hands flickers. “Archangels are Heaven’s most fearsome weapon, Dean. No one argued the word of Michael or Raphael up there. You know about Lucifer. But Gabriel?” Here, Cas sounds almost mystified. “He was kind,” he whispers. “He helped us when we were new, showed us the way. He’s always been different, even to other angels like me, not just the archangels. I know he spent a lot of time with the cherubs—” Both Dean and Cas wince at the mention of the frigging naked cupids— “And that he often spent time in heavens belonging to humans like you. We didn’t question him, because he was an archangel. He might’ve been different, but he was still powerful enough to wipe us out on a whim. And then, of course, he disappeared.”
“He was a trickster, Cas,” Dean says.
“He also protected the ones in need of protection,” Cas points out. “Considering what he was, he had a lot of emotions. Most of my brothers would say too many, but I don’t agree. When I found him in his constructed reality, his grace was just as overpowering as I remember, but it was…fractured. Heavier. Beautiful. Dean, it was human.”
The ball of golden light in Cas’ hands is starting to make a frightening lot of sense, Dean thinks, and she isn’t sure if she likes the conclusion she’s coming to.
“Anna didn’t have a soul, she had a fissure of grace. Dean—”
“Demons would kill for that,” Dean says.
“Angels would kill for it,” Cas snaps. “It’s not supposed to exist. In fact, if I hadn’t seen it myself I’d say it’s impossible.”
“What about you, then?”
Cas looks away.
“Would you look after my brother, Dean?”
“Cas?” Dean asks again, this time with more of a demanding tone. Cas’ eyes are wide open, filled with the kind of emotions Dean could’ve sworn the angel didn’t even know existed back when they first met. “You were human, man. Gabriel never was, he was just— well. But you fell.”
“And now I’m restored. But…”
“I feel, Dean,” Cas almost whispers, as if he’s afraid someone might hear him. Who knows – maybe someone can. “I’m not supposed to, I— Dean, please, will you accept my brother? I don’t know how long I’ll be able to sustain him like this. Souls aren’t meant to be without bodies.”
“What happens to souls without bodies?”
Cas just gives her this look that make her feel all of ten inches tall. “You’ve been to Hell,” Cas drawls.
Dean feels cold. “He’d become a demon?”
“Okay, okay! Jesus!” Dean rolls her eyes. To be honest, she feels kinda nauseous, and the stone of grief in her gut is pressing outward in any direction it can. She knows, for sure, that any second now she’s gonna break down. “Will he remember?”
Cas shrugs, and the gesture is so human, so Sam, that for a moment, Dean wishes Cas hadn’t taken her gun. “I don’t know. This has never happened before.”
“Okay. So.” Dean wets her lips. “How, how’ll you…?” She motions at the soul, then at herself.
Cas tilts his head a little, then he moves closer, until the ball of light disappears inside her stomach. She can’t feel it happen, even though she’s looking. There’s no sensation of burning heat or blistering cold, just an uncomfortable sense of nothingness.
“There,” Cas says. “I think it’s a boy, but I can’t be sure.”
“Angels don’t have a gender, Dean,” Cas reminds her. “Our vessels do.”
They don’t exactly hug, but they’re still kneeling on the ground, and they rest their foreheads together. “Can you bring them back?” she whispers, only faintly aware of the tears trailing down her cheeks.
They end up in Alameda, CA. For the longest time, they avoided California like the plague, but now, when they’re settling down, it seems more than appropriate. The house they find is rundown, no doubt about it, but they manage. It takes them a while to restore it, at least partly, and for the longest time Dean doesn’t say anything about what she let Cas do to her.
Sam looks at her, sometimes, like he wants to say something but can’t.
Their house has two floors (well, one and a half, technically, because the second floor is a lot smaller than the first), and they put most of their effort into making the first floor habitable. The kitchen is there, after all, as well as the living room, bathroom and one of the bigger bedrooms (okay, so maybe it’s technically an office or a dining room or something, but whatever).
But then, well…
Sam catches on fairly fast. In fact, Dean only manages to hide that she’s throwing up every morning now for maybe a week, probably less.
“Dean,” he says, after he’s rubbed circles on her back and handed her a glass of water to rinse her mouth out. “I know you’re not drinking.”
Dean looks at herself in the mirror, and in a way she knows what Sam is getting at, because she looks haggard and her hair is greasy. Sam looks better, but only marginally. He hadn’t been in Hell long, but time doesn’t matter down there. He has nightmares, same as Dean, and Hell leaves its traces.
“Cas, he—” Dean closes her mouth, breathes carefully through her nose. The nausea eventually fades, but she’s still aware that Sam was instantly ready to leap back in action. She thinks he’s ready to be whatever she needs him to be. “He made me whole again,” she says when she can speak.
“Whole?” Sam gestures at his own stomach. Dean nods. “Okay.” Sam breathes out heavily. “Okay, so, what, you went out and got yourself knocked up straight away? First chance you get, and you go to some stranger?”
Dean shakes her head. She steps closer, until she can whisper in Sam’s ear. Sam’s frowning, but he obliges by leaning down a little. “Cas did it.”
Sam’s expression turns funny. “Please tell me you didn’t have sex with Cas. Shit, Dean, how am I supposed to look him in the eye—”
“No, bitch,” Dean snaps. “Listen. He had a soul that— that he put in me, right? Said it was the soul of our favorite trickster.”
“That’s impossible,” Sam protests. “They don’t have souls, man!”
“I know! Listen,” she demands, then, in an undertone, tells him everything Cas told her. Their house is protected and warded against basically everything, but that doesn’t mean that caution is overrated. Between Sam and Dean, they know their way around some heavy stuff. Throw Bobby and Cas into the mix, and they’re pretty much set, but that still doesn’t mean they should be reckless.
“Holy shit!” Sam curses.
Dean grins, wide and sunny. “I know, man!”
Sam shakes his head, but there’s a smile fighting to break out, right there. Dean can so spot the dimples. “You’re gonna have a baby, dude.”
“You’re gonna be an uncle, bitch.”
“I need to sit down,” Sam declares and collapses onto the toilet.
Cas drops by more days than he’s gone. Each time, he brings more stuff they need to fix up their house. He shows up with tools and paints, wallpapers and floorboards, insulation and fucking windows. They don’t ask where he gets it, because they need it all. It’s not like they have much money to speak of and they’re grateful as fuck.
Unlike them, Cas doesn’t sleep, and he’s taken to carpentry and woodcarving. Most of the furniture he brings is broken or flawed in some way that only Cas can see, and he always spends time fixing and reupholstering and sanding and who knows what the fuck else. By the end of it all, Sam and Dean have a sort of complete collection of mismatched furniture. It’s beautiful, of course, and it fits together because it’s Cas.
At some point, he takes over fixing the downstairs bathroom and builds a bathtub from scratch for them. The mosaic tiles he uses for it are in so many shades of blue that Dean would have a hard time naming them all. The end result is really fucking beautiful. The tub is long enough even for Sam to stretch out comfortably in without being too deep, and the sink is part of it all, somehow. They probably have the most unique house in all of Alameda – possibly in all of the state.
At some point, Dean becomes really round. It’s a bit after Sam badgered her into seeing a doctor for regular check-ups, most of which Sam is present for as well. It’s Sam who decides to put together a baby book, and it’s Sam who fawns (ha! Fawns!) over ultrasound pictures. Cas comes along once, and he smiles when he hears the baby’s heartbeat.
Dean, she’s just content that her baby is real.
The neighbors think they’re strange, but they don’t really care about that. Dean is pregnant, but she isn’t married, she lives with her brother, and the strange man who pops by more often than not isn’t the baby’s father. It’s Dean who fixes the car, and it’s Sam who tends to the garden. She doesn’t cook or bake, and she doesn’t own a single skirt or dress, and her brother has longer hair than she does. So, yeah, they think the Winchesters are a little bit strange, all right.
They go jogging sometimes, her and Sam, pace slow and calm compared to what they’re used to. They don’t do it so much toward the end of the pregnancy, but definitely in the beginning, before Dean gets so big that moving at all is uncomfortable. In fact, the closer to the end of it they get, the less Cas leaves at all.
By the time Dean goes into labor, he’s pretty much been a permanent fixture in their house for over a week.
“Oh, shit,” Dean says.
Sam looks over from where he’s frying eggs for a late night snack. Dean was supposed to butter the toast so the bread requirements of their sandwiches would be ready and waiting for the eggs. She’s sitting down on one of the kitchen chairs, not really moving much, and her stomach is almost pressing against the table top. Her stomach is still right now, but before, when the baby was kicking, it would move and look sort of creepy. Kind of like there was an alien inside, fighting to get out.
Dean clears her throat, then sticks her hand down her trousers. Now, just because her doctor (and Sam and Cas, busybodies that they are) told her several times that the likelihood of her water breaking was slim, at best, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been thinking about it. Like, when she has trouble sleeping or something. Still.
“I think I’m in labor?” Dean says, tone less than certain. She’s had fake contractions before (Braxton Hicks, whatever) and they usually pass fairly quickly. But this time, well— “I’m leaking?”
Her fingers are a bit wet, don’t smell like ammonia (meaning she didn’t piss herself; this pregnancy shit is seriously nasty), and, yeah, that was another contraction right there.
“Oh. Uh. Eat up and go to bed?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
It had been Cas’ idea that Dean should give birth at home. In all seriousness, it makes sense, because Cas trumps a doctor any day of the week. So, Sam and Dean, they eat up, and if Sam hovers a bit more than usual, then Dean can’t really fault him for it (even if she snaps at him).
Cas enters the kitchen when Sam’s doing the dishes, covered in a thin film of dust. “It’s finished,” he declares, and looks moderately smug.
“About time,” Dean grouses. She manages to get up by sheer stubbornness alone, but she doesn’t shake the hand Cas places at her elbow as they walk toward the nursery. Cas had forbidden both Sam and her from entering the room about two weeks ago, so whatever the angel dude’s been up to in there, he’s been very hush-hush about it.
Cas frowns, then moves one hand to the small of Dean’s back. “You’re in labor?”
Dean laughs. “Yeah, man.”
“You should rest.”
“I will. Just let me see the room first, then you and Sam can drag my heavy ass to bed all you like.”
The nursery is downstairs. It made sense at some point – though Dean can’t remember when, exactly – for Sam and Dean to sleep upstairs while the baby’s room was downstairs. Of course, the baby’ll stay with Dean for a while at least, but once the brat starts sleeping through the night, then there’s a room of its own for it, ready and waiting.
All the floors in the house, except the bathrooms, are hardwood. In the nursery, Cas has spread out several rugs to soften the floor. Most of them are different colors, some of which would look more at home in a gypsy camp than a regular house, but Dean likes it. She likes the mishmash of colors and the wood of the furniture.
“Sam explained that all human children must have ‘glow in the dark’ stars on the ceiling. They’re spelling out an angel repellent.”
Dean laughs. “Thanks, Cas. This is awesome.”
It is, even if it looks nothing like the nurseries most families have. It’s awesome, because it’s personal and warm. The furniture – the crib and rocking chair and so on – are all cherry wood or something, dark and red and polished, and the upholstery varies, just like in the rest of the house. Some is patterned, some isn’t, and they always subtly match and clash at the same time. This time, Cas’ gone for all colors between blue and green, while the walls are leaning toward orange, with one wall covered in black wallpaper patterned in orange, green and blue passionflowers.
“There’s a stuffed animal in the crib,” Cas says. “It’s a pony. I thought it was…soft.”
The pony is soft. It’s also lavender purple, has sparkling wings and a horn. “Thanks, man.”
Cas never understood the difference humans made up between male and female, and Sam and Dean are hardly the most appropriate teachers, so when Dean thanks Cas for the work he put into creating the nursery, she’s kind of sure that he doesn’t grasp on just how many levels she’s grateful that the room isn’t covered in pastel colors.
“Wow,” Sam says from the doorway, eyes round. “This is the coolest baby room ever.”
“I know, right?” Dean grins and rubs her stomach. “This is one lucky baby.”
It’s not long after that Dean finds herself in bed, Castiel standing guard over both her and Sam as he makes sure they get a full night’s rest.
The labor lasts a ridiculously long time.
It’s painful, even with Cas there to take the edge off, sweaty, dirty and it fucking hurts like a bitch, all right?
“Oh, God, that’s disgusting,” Sam says at one point.
Dean wishes she had her gun so she could show him just how fucking disgusting his brain is.
“Bobby, Bobby! Hi, it’s Sam.”
Sam sounds like a total dork. Dean’s sure Bobby’s grousing at him (it’s, like, four in the morning or something), but he probably doesn’t mean it because, well. They’ve all been looking forward to this baby being born just as much as Dean has.
Cas sits next to her in bed, the baby cradled in his arms. “What will you name him?” he asks. He sounds reverent, and he’s so careful when he strokes a finger down a plump baby-cheek.
“I don’t know,” Dean says. She’s fucking exhausted, but she can’t sleep yet. “What do you think?”
“Is Gabriel wrong?” he asks, sounding both hesitant and wistful. “That’s who he used to be. Is it stupid to name him after who he was?”
“I don’t know,” Dean says again, this time more seriously. “There’s this tradition where people name their kids after relatives. Me and Sam are, you know?”
Cas nods, a little contemplative furrow between his eyebrows. “Maybe Gabriel Johannes?”
Dean smiles. “Yeah, sure. That’s a good name, Cas.”
“You named him?” Sam butts in, eyes wide and hair all over the place. “What?”
“Gabriel Johannes,” Cas repeats again. “They were good friends once, him and Johannes.”
Cas smiles. “You call him John the Baptist.”
If they talk more after that, Dean doesn’t know, because she falls asleep with her head on Cas’ shoulder.
They’re Winchesters, so life isn’t exactly normal, but they move on, slowly at first. Gabe grows; of course he does. He’s walking in almost no time, and then he starts talking. It’s a little weird how much he looks like Sammy did when he was a kid. Personally, Dean thinks it’s the floppy hair more than anything.
At some point, Sam goes back to school to get his Master’s (it’s not Stanford this time, and it’s not law school, but the local community college) and works extra at a local library. Dean gets a job fixing up old cars. It’s harder as a woman, because when she was a man, people’d just look at her and assume she knew what she was talking about when it came to cars. Now, it takes time; she has to prove herself in a way she’s never had to before. In the beginning, the only reference she has is her car, but once her business starts taking off for real, she has a whole scrapbook full of old cars she’s fixed for a dozen or so different clients.
They don’t hunt anymore, but they’ll always be hunters. In a way, they’ve become a hub, same as Bobby, because people call when they need help, drop by every now and then with news or to borrow a book or something. Or they need refuge for a couple of days, or just some place to rest up.
“Maybe we should open up a new Roadhouse,” Sam says one evening.
They’re out in the garden, watching Gabe tussle with the dog Sam brought home a couple of weeks ago and wouldn’t return (Dean thinks they should’ve at least talked about getting a pet before just bringing one home).
“Then we’d have to move again.”
“Not if it’s nearby. I know you need more space for your cars, so, you know, maybe we could buy something that we can use for both? It doesn’t have to be a bar, either, it could be a bookshop, or a café, or something else, you know. Hell, it could just be a garage, man.”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“It’s just, I don’t like that we open up our house to hunters. It’s not that I don’t want to help, ‘cause I do, but Gabe’s… He’s so little, you know? I keep thinking that something could happen, and, yeah.”
Dean nods. She hands her brother a beer, then sits back in her lawn chair. Cas built them, just after Gabe was born, and the entire set of lawn furniture they own now is ridiculously comfortable. “Yeah, I know,” she says. “Maybe just a garage?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Sam echoes.
“Gabriel’s very happy,” Cas says one afternoon. It’s just the two of them in; Sam’s out with both Gabe and the dog at some traveling carnival or other. Dean wasn’t listening.
“He’s always laughing or smiling,” Dean answers. “Then again, he’s, like, three so it’s either that or the complete opposite.”
Cas nods. “I read the books Sam gave me on child rearing. But what I meant was: his soul is in balance, Dean. You all are.”
Dean considers that, then shrugs. “I guess, yeah. I mean… When you first brought me back I was pissed as hell at you. You know that, right?”
“Yeah,” Cas acknowledges. “When I held you in my arms I saw you, Dean. I knew every part of you, from your very first thought to your last. But I didn’t know humanity, or denial or pride. I knew of you, but I didn’t know you.”
“I wanted to be a girl, you know, when I was little. Dad—” Dean clears her throat. “Dad didn’t like that. Thought I was, well, a sissy. A faggot. I guess I was ten? When he caught me and Sammy playing dress up? I never forgot that. Never let myself…”
“You never let yourself be you again,” Cas fills in, frowning a little. “How did Sam find out? Of course, I know the difference between men and women now, and he should’ve been surprised when I brought you back whole. But he wasn’t. Was Bobby?”
Dean shakes her head. “We were at Bobby’s when we played dress up,” she says. “It was his wife’s old clothes. When Dad caught us… It wasn’t the first time we did it. And, I dunno. I think maybe him and Dad never agreed on, well, me, I guess. And Sam… Just because I didn’t let myself think about it, or want, or, shit, wish, that didn’t mean I never read books, you know? Do you know how many gay bars I’ve dragged him to since he ditched Stanford?”
“A lot, I’m wagering.”
Dean sort of laughs. “Yeah, you could say that. I don’t like guys, never have, so I guess he got that I didn’t go there for that. Most I did was kick back with a beer or two, and I’d paint my nails.” She’d paint them black and ignore Sam looking at her, then she’d drag him to a bar, order one beer more than usual and just soak up the environment of a place where slurs like dyke and faggot didn’t exist.
Being a woman hadn’t ever been about what kind of clothes you were allowed to wear – not to Dean at least. To Dean, it was about your plumbing being right instead of all messed up and wrong. She still wore boots and flannel and ripped jeans. But now she had hips, tits and a pussy underneath it all. It was everything she’d ever wanted, even from before she knew the words to describe what was wrong with her – or after she stopped herself from wanting it, for that matter.
“You know how terrified I was when you brought me back and I found out what you’d done to me?”
“I tried to apologize at the gas station. It didn’t go well.”
Dean laughs. “Shit, man, you tore that place down around me.”
“In hindsight, it wasn’t the best decision I ever made.” Cas sort of smiles. “Getting to know you and your brother was the best decision I ever made, by the way. Knowing you set me down a path I wouldn’t have found if it weren’t for you.”
“I don’t regret it, Dean.”
“When’s the last time you were upstairs?”
Cas shrugs. “I like it better down here.”
“You make a good mother, Dean Winchester,” Cas says, and his smile is small and awkward and happy all at once.
There are signs, of course. Like the detachable bunk bed Cas starts building one day. It’s not like Gabe needs a big bed yet or anything, but even if he did, he’d only need one, not two.
Or like the time when he comes home with a tattooing set, complete with as much black ink as they could possibly use. He teaches Sam how to use it, teaches him the signs and the sequence of Enochian that spells out the mumbo-jumbo for ‘invisible to angels’ crap she and Sam both have carved into their ribs. Dean watches them practice, then as Sam sets the gun to Cas’ chest and starts filling in the anti-demon possession tattoo. The Enochian ends up scrawled out all over Cas’ back.
Some nights, Cas mentions Amelia and Claire, but only in passing.
The last night before Cas leaves, he brings burgers from some fancy place in Europe. They have pie for dessert and they drink a few too many beers. Sam’s eyes are glassy and wet, and Dean knows she probably isn’t in any state to judge.
“I want this,” Cas assures them both, his eyes that wide, innocent blue. But he looks content and at peace in a way Dean thinks he hasn’t ever been before. “I’m too human to be an angel. Heaven is…” Cas looks away. “They’re squabbling amongst themselves, trying to find something to blame.” His voice is quiet. “It’s inconceivable to them that they might have been wrong, and with Michael gone leadership falls to Raphael. Heaven used to be my home, but I love you.”
“Home’s where your heart’s at, yeah?”
“Something like that,” Cas agrees.
“But Gabe, he doesn’t remember anything. From before, I mean,” Sam butts in.
Cas glances to the floor, where Gabe had been busy building something with the blocks Cas carved for him only last month. “Perhaps,” Cas agrees, his eyes soft. “But he is trying to rebuild a Viking settlement.”
Sam and Dean both turn to look at what the kid had been up to just a couple hours earlier.
“Gabriel was older than this planet,” Cas says. “I’m older than mankind, older than most life forms you’ve ever heard of. When I was made, Earth was an empty rock. It’s not impossible to think that some of the memories might stick. Not all of them, but—”
“You won’t remember us.”
“I’ll know you. I’ll love you, and hate you, and call you my parents. I will die and return to Heaven.”
“You’ll be an angel again?”
Cas shrugs. “Who knows?”
Dean swallows, the lump in her throat in the way. “Look, maybe this is all wonderful to you, but me and Sam, we’ll lose our best friend. You get that, don’t you? We’ll miss you like hell. Shit, we’ll fucking mourn you ‘cause in a way it’ll be like you’re gone, man.”
Cas puts a hand on Dean’s shoulder, right where he left his handprint all those years ago. “If I go back to Heaven now I’ll be an outcast. You might recall Raphael and I don’t exactly get along. I won’t have companions, I won’t have a garrison; I’ll be alone for essentially the rest of time. I’d rather have a lifetime as your child, Dean.”
“Can’t you just be you?” Sam asks.
“Heaven, Earth…” Cas trails off. “It’ll be the same, won’t it? Humans don’t live forever. When you’re gone, I can’t follow. Not like this.”
Dean narrows her eyes. “Why? You just said that you could go back to Heaven—”
“The Gates are open now,” Cas cuts in. “They won’t be in forty years.”
Dean feels the lump in her throat solidify. She knows what happens when the Gates close, when the angels leave. She hated it then, and she hates it now, but she won’t ever let Cas fall like that (again, even though it technically never happened the first time around, sort of). “You should say goodbye to Gabe first,” she says. Sam starts, stares at her, but he doesn’t protest.
“I already have. When I put him to bed.”
“And Sam’s done with the angel and demon proofing?”
“Ye—” Sam clears his throat. “Yeah, I am.” He puts one of his giant hands on Cas’ shoulder. “You sure, man?”
“Yes.” Cas smiles, then leans over and kisses Sam on the forehead, just once. “Thank you, Sam.”
Cas’ lips are dry and warm on her forehead, his breath humid and spicy as he says, “Dean, you’re worthy. Thank you.”
Cas glows, but it doesn’t burn their eyes out the way it would have before, when Cas was all angel and didn’t have a soul. It disappears into Dean just as easily as Gabriel’s soul did not that long ago. When it’s done, when Cas is gone and Jimmy stares back at Dean, cheeks wet from tears and eyes scrunched up, Dean shakily stands and locks herself in her bedroom.
She doesn’t come out until Gabe climbs into bed with her the next morning (she wants to ask how he got into her room in the first place, but, well, Sam the bitch probably picked her lock).
“Cas is happy now,” Gabe says and squirms closer.
“Uh-huh.” Gabe nods. “I told him I’d be the best big brother ever. He smiled and said I already was.”