There’s something wrong with Castiel. Of course, Sam thinks he’s nuts. “There’s nothing wrong with him, man, he’s probably just not used to having to sit in a car with your annoying ass for eight hours a day.”
“Sam,” Dean tells him, peering around the kitchen to see Castiel sitting on the couch and staring. Just staring. “I’m being serious, man. There’s something wrong with him.”
Like he’s just now realizing the severity of the situation, Sam shifts his position on the bar stool he’s sitting on and sets his coffee on the counter. “Like what?”
“I woke him up last night.”
“So? Pretty sure most old married couples end up doing that at some point.” Dean wants to hit him with the newspaper, but that’d just reinforce Sam’s idea of them--ugly house in the suburbs, a newspaper subscription, and a full-time nine-to-five job at a mechanic shop, Dean’s really living the life. The hunts with Sam on weekends are killing him, but he’s tried the no-hunting-whatsoever life. He feels like he’s missing a part of himself when he isn’t hunting.
“Sam,” Dean says, looking him right in the eye. “I woke up an angel from a nap last night. What part of this isn’t weird to you?”
“Look, man, I’m sure he’s fine. You probably bored him to sleep with all of your--”
“I wasn’t home, I had to stay late to wait for some asshole to drop his car off at ten.”
Still, Sam doesn’t seem as affected by this as Dean would like him to be. “I’m sure he’s fine, Dean,” he says again, awkwardly patting Dean’s shoulder. “Seriously, just--if you’re worried, talk to him about it. He’s kind of bad at lying to you after Purgatory.”
He doesn’t want to talk to Cas about it, though. “The last time Cas was sleeping was when you were gonna say ‘yes’ to the devil,” Dean says, “and I’m pretty sure we all remember how good of news that was.”
With a snort, Sam stands up from the bar stool. “Not everything has to be ‘end of the world’ big, Dean. Seriously. Just talk to him, all right? And--I dunno, call me, let me know what’s up.”
“What, you have somewhere to be? Where the hell did you find a hunt in the last twelve hours?”
Sam laughs, smiling at the floor. “A date, actually. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
Dean’s trying to make his mouth work around the words, “Careful, don’t sleep with her if you want a second date!”, but they get tangled in his throat; it’s probably a good thing. Sam has a hard enough time with the ‘everyone you sleep with dies’ thing, and Dean’s concern doesn’t need to make life harder for Sam. From the living room, Castiel calls out a goodbye, and Dean downs the rest of his beer before he heads to join him.
“Hey,” he says, trying to mask his concern. After dropping a painfully awkward feeling kiss to the top of Castiel’s head, he asks, “You all right?”
Castiel looks up at him, eyes wide, and for a long, agonizing moment, Dean wonders if he’s going to say, “No.” But the lines smooth out across Castiel’s face, and he has the softest hint of a smile when he says, “Yes, Dean,” and pulls him down into a kiss.
Two days later, and Dean’s not fooled anymore. “You slept for eight hours, Cas,” he says, when Castiel’s nursing a migraine at the kitchen table. “You’re an angel, you aren’t supposed to sleep.”
Castiel keeps rubbing his forehead. “I’m not sure what’s--”
“Bullshit,” Dean says. He’s rough, and his tone stings his own ears, but it gets Cas to look up at him, at least. “You knew what was happening the last time you actually had to sleep. So you’re gonna tell me what the hell’s going on before anything else happens.”
They hold each other’s gaze for a while. Dean’s heart beats heavily in his chest, thumping against his ribs almost painfully, and when Castiel sighs and pulls his hand from his forehead, Dean feels like throwing up.
“I believe I’m losing my Grace.”
Relief is the first thing Dean feels. “What, that’s it?” He laughs. “C’mon, man, you’ve lost your mojo before, you’ll get it back.”
He’s turned around to get another cup of coffee before he has to go to work when Castiel sighs again. “Not like this.”
The words themselves aren’t really what sets the fear in his stomach. It’s the way Castiel says it, like it’s a death sentence. “What d’you mean, ‘not like this’?” He swallows around the sudden lump in his throat.
“That time was different. And surely you remember Anna’s Grace being ripped out. This isn’t similar. It’s--more of an immediate pain than this, that’s for certain.”
If he’s being honest, Dean doesn’t see the connection to Anna at all. “So? She found her Grace, she was fine. Whatever’s going on with you, we’ll do the same thing, find it and get you back to normal.”
Castiel shakes his head. “It’s not--it won’t be that easy.”
“What do you mean it won’t be that easy?”
“I’m afraid there’s no way to stop this, Dean.”
He laughs, not because it’s funny--not by a long shot--but because there’s nothing else to do. “Cas, you said the same thing about the apocalypse. You got the Winchesters on your side; you’ll be fine.”
“This isn’t something--”
“You’ll be fine,” Dean says, roughly. The way Castiel immediately shuts up is a little painful, but he stops it, at least. “Maybe it’s temporary. You got your mojo back last time you lost it, so maybe you’ll get it back again.”
From the expression on his face, Dean thinks Castiel doesn’t believe that for a second, but he’s unwilling to keep burdening Dean with it. “Maybe I will.”
But Castiel gets food poisoning the next afternoon, when he isn't even supposed to need to eat. He gets nauseous, irritable, cranky in ways he never has before. By the third day, Dean's thinking maybe there is something to it, that maybe they need to start researching earlier than he’d expected.
"Okay," Dean says finally, after watching Castiel suffer all day and not knowing what to do about it. "What the hell's going on with you?"
"I'm losing my Grace," Castiel says again. "I'm--I’m becoming human."
"And why is this such a bad thing?" Dean tries not to feel offended. Humanity isn't always pretty, but it isn't always this bad. "Man, it's like you're being pelted with "fuck you" rocks."
Castiel frowns, but for the most part ignores him. "This is one way for it to happen. Anna's was very quick, very painful."
"So why isn't God fixing it?" Dean asks, dropping next to Castiel on the couch. "I mean--He likes you, right?"
With a snort of laughter, Castiel curls against Dean. It's stupidly nice to be able to have moments like this together, especially with Cas as out of it as he has been for the last week or so. "I'm not sure if "like" is the right word. I should have died many times over, Dean, and instead I have been punished with reincarnation, with making mistakes, to essentially live as... Human. I'm not sure that’s something my Father would do if He liked me."
Dean shrugs. He says, “What’s so special about you?” after Castiel goes quiet. “I mean, God must like you on some level. He never brings back any of the others, so why does he keep bringing you back?”
"Perhaps I’m an underdog.”
Castiel's eyes droop closed. "You are supposed to root for the underdog, are you not?”
For the most part, it’s easy to pretend that Castiel’s not really dealing with something serious. They’ll find a way out of it, Dean tells himself. Castiel’s taking it way too seriously, like he does with most things, and Dean’s sick of having the world shit on them, so he grabs the optimism and doesn’t let go.
Just when Dean thinks things can't possibly get any worse, that he's done with the bad news, Castiel drops another bomb on him.
"Dean, I haven't been completely honest with you."
Everything feels cold, all of a sudden, and Dean swears he feels his heart stop. "What else is there?"
"When Anna's Grace was ripped out, and she fell... She was essentially reborn as a new person."
"So, what, you're going to--to die, be reborn as a new person?"
Castiel shakes his head, reaching forward to turn off the stove. It's so old-married-couple to be making dinner together, but Dean's surprised at how much it calms his nerves. Since he and Castiel have been cooking instead of ordering out for the last few nights, he hasn't felt quite as pissed off as he was before. Like therapy, he supposes, then snorts at the thought.
"No," Castiel says, reaching forward into the spice cabinet after consulting the recipe. "I don't believe so. In this case, I imagine things will happen fairly quickly. That's not what I meant, however."
"What did you mean?"
"It's customary for an angel losing Grace to lose their memories, as well."
Absently, Dean pokes at one of the carrots cooking in a pan on the stove, and says, "So? You lost your memories when you were pretending to be Emmanuel. You got them back, though."
"While that's true, I doubt this situation is similar in any way, Dean."
He's not really interested in cooking anymore. Castiel really has bad timing about this entire ordeal. "So--So is it all at once, or gradual, or--" Because he's not sure if he can handle watching Castiel slowly forget memories only to wake up one day with Castiel terrified because he doesn't recognize Dean.
"At once, I imagine. When my last shred of Grace leaves me. It's not without flaws, my theory, but it's the best I've been able to come up with."
Dean feels like passing out. He can imagine it now; the two of them doing something inane, like watching a movie, or driving down the interstate to meet Sam for a hunt, or even just standing in their kitchen and doing exactly what they're doing now, and Castiel's gone; completely gone. "All right," he says, trying to get his breathing back on track. "Any idea how long you have?"
"Not very," Castiel says. He could at least sound a little more disappointed about it, at least for Dean's sake. "A few weeks, perhaps. I wish I could tell you more, but my knowledge is almost as limited as yours.”
"All right, so why can't we just find your Grace and get your memories back?"
"My Grace isn't being taken from me," Cas says, finally turning off the stove and stepping away. "I'm losing my Grace. Things are a little... different."
Dean remembers hearing about the Castiel from the 2014-future-from-Hell losing his Grace because the Garrison disappeared, and something like fear comes right at him. "Why? I mean, why are you losing it?"
"Fallen angel," Castiel says, shrugging his shoulders. Dean would never admit it aloud, but it's one of the more adorable things Castiel does. Human gestures always are, with him. "My assumption is that they've come to the conclusion I won't be rejoining the ranks, which is true."
Dean feels like he has thousands of questions, uncertain about everything and nothing, because there's a voice at the back of his head going, "You're going to lose him, just like you lose everyone", and Dean silences it with the rest of his beer sitting next to the stove. Castiel watches him do it, but says nothing. "So they're being whiny dicks about it?"
With a sigh, Castiel goes back to dinner. "As you always describe them, yes. They're being "whiny dicks" about it."
"So they see a fallen angel and give him enough time to see if he's going to rejoin the Holy Army, and if they don't, they just rip him to pieces?”
"...Figuratively speaking. There's no actual ripping involved.”
Dean almost laughs in spite of himself.
Sam says he’ll get to research, starting with what remains of Bobby’s collection of books. “I’d ask Cas if there’s a place he knows of, too, but--I don’t want to overwork him.”
He’s fine, Dean thinks, but doesn’t say, because Castiel’s been off all morning, and he’s not going to risk it if they end up getting stranded, or if Castiel never comes back as Castiel.