Chapter 1: Dean Stands Alone
Dean stands alone in a graveyard in Kansas, where the Apocalypse didn't start. Bobby's body, head twisted, is lying in the grass, splashed red with what used to be Cas.
There's nothing to indicate Sam was there at all. Dean crawls over to where he disappeared, looking for the key laying in the grass, sure he saw it glinting down here just a second ago, but there's nothing.
Dean searches for as long as he can, but he's broken and busted up and so very tired. He lays down to rest for a moment, between the untouched grass where Sam had just swan dived into Hell, the bloody red patch of Cas, and Bobby.
He falls asleep.
He wakes up to his face throbbing, but he doesn't care. He slowly drags together a pyre for Bobby and sits and watches until the fire dies away. It's incredibly illegal, incredibly open, and insane that no one catches him.
He keeps Bobby's hat. There isn't a big enough piece of Castiel to bury or burn. He finds a shred of trench coat, torn and bloodied, and tucks it in his pocket. There's nothing left of Sam at all. He wants to lay back down in the graveyard until he dies of exposure, but that seems melodramatic, so he goes into town, finds a motel, and asks for a single room.
He stays in the motel, drinking and sleeping it off, for a few days. He's charged for a week, but it seems longer. He's hungry for the first time in days and goes out to the Impala to go grab whatever's closest.
He catches sight of himself in the rearview mirror, and the sight shakes him out of it a little. The left side of his face is purplish black with sickly yellow green at the edges. He looks like he's rotting. He drops into the driver's seat and turns his head back and forth, trying to make out his own features underneath the swollen jaw and discolored skin.
It wakes him up. He's starving. He stops at the drive-thru on the way out of town, orders enough for two and scarfs it all down in the parking lot before heading to Sioux Falls.
Dean had imagined the house would feel different, like it would know Bobby wasn't ever coming back. But it's just Bobby's house. He'd considered finding a place for the hat here, propping it up on a shelf or something, but having it sit in the front seat of the car had been too depressing. He'd dropped it into a river and watched it float away a couple hours before the South Dakota border.
There is whiskey in the cupboards, food in the fridge, and there are books everywhere. One of them must have the answer to getting Sam back. Dean heats up some left overs, pours himself a glass and drops onto the couch to read.
He works the phones when he's sober and bored. Sometimes he lets them ring. Sometimes he's so drunk it seems like a good idea to answer the phones after all. He probably gets Griggs arrested for impersonating an officer, but Griggs is a moron, so jail probably at least saves him from a nasty death by monster.
He gets despondent. He's not actually stupid, but he's not Bobby. He's not Sam. He can't find answers in dust and wood pulp.
He tries things his way. He makes calls. A lot of his old psychic contacts have dried up since what happened to Pamela. A lot of his hunter contacts dried up after word spread that Sam was the Antichrist.
And after they killed Gordon.
And after word got out that they started the Apocalypse.
And after word got out that he and Sam were constantly being dragged back from the dead. Supernatural was one thing, but Hunters didn't want to deal with shit once it got esoteric.
He's reached the end of his rope after a few weeks. Bobby's got a few half finished bottles of painkillers in his medicine cabinet. Dean's already soaked in whiskey. All of it combined would probably be enough. The idea of just going to sleep and not waking back up is appealing until Dean muzzily remembers that he'd probably just end up throwing it all back up.
Well. His gun's on his nightstand.
The argument against it that he's been using for the last month- that he has to save Sam- is failing. He can't do it. Not this time. He's probably blown his last shot at Heaven. Maybe he could spring Sam from Hell from the inside. Or maybe he'll just go back to Alistair's rack and get what he deserves for letting his brother die.
He gets up off the couch and is walking toward the stairs when he sees the mail slot clack open and clack shut.
For some reason what drops catches his curiosity. He bends to pick it up.
It's a letter. Pastel pink.
It's addressed to him. In the corner, where the return address should be, there is just a name. Missouri Mosely.
He tears the letter open, perplexed to find an old Easter card inside. It looks like a cheap gas station one, and the pile of orange stickers on the back advertise that it must have been the last card on sale. The cheerful little message about Easter eggs is crossed out and underneath is written, in black pen and oddly blocky script: Wait and see, you damn fool.
Dean goes out the yard and works on the cars. It keeps him busy. It keeps him sober. It keeps him alive. There's a hollowed out body to a 59 El Dorado that could be worth some money after a little paint.
Priming it is sweaty, tedious work. Even out in the chilly, damp air Dean works in his T-shirt, tossing his jacket and shirt underneath the metal shell. He's gotten most of the quarter panel done when he hears his cellphone ringing from the house.
That phone hasn't rung in over a month and it takes him a moment to realize what the sound is. He runs for the house, grabbing it on the last ring.
It's a wrong number.
Everyone he knows is dead.
He doesn't even go back outside to the cover the car or grab his stuff. He opens a fresh bottle of whiskey and sinks back into Bobby's couch.
He feels guilty about the binge in the morning. He should have been working on the car, Bobby's water and electric cost money. He should have been back at the books, trying to save Sam.
He almost pours the last of the bottle out, but can't quite force himself to do it. He drinks some water and goes out to the yard. He's less hung over than he expected to be: the sun blazes, but doesn't burn.
He walks over to the El Dorado. He should have covered it, but it doesn't look like there's been any harm done. He stretches, then grabs his buffer from the hood of the car.
And that's when he sees him.
Castiel is asleep on the ground under the car.
He's wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, and for some reason, a grey bathrobe with black stripes. His head is pillowed on the clothes Dean left under the car.
Dean dives through the window, nearly landing on him.
The yelling wakes Cas up, but Dean still grabs him and shakes him, just to make sure he's really there. Cas gives him a confused and slightly irritated look before responding, "Hello, Dean," as though he had just stepped out for some milk instead of just reappeared from the dead after a month and a half.
Dean hugs him fiercely, and Cas pats him on the back uncomfortably. Dean drags him inside.
Dean isn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but he still keeps an eye on Cas for the first few days. Not only did Cas come back from the dead, because really, who hasn't? But a quick search of his clothes reveals a plain black billfold with a South Dakota Drivers License, a social security card and an insurance card. All of these are made out with the name Castiel Novak on them, who is apparently thirty three years old, a hundred and sixty pounds, and an organ donor.
In a long and storied history of scary and bizarre, somehow that takes the cake for Dean.
Having two people in the house breathes life back into Dean. He gets the car primed. He works the phones. With Cas around they even get back to researching.
But it's evident after only a few hours of having Cas back that all they can do is research.
Cas is human now.
And while that's disappointing as far as killing their hope for an easy magic solution to getting Sam and Bobby back, it's not the end of the world. It's almost nice. Cas is always around now and teaching him to be human is kind of fun when Dean's not trying to save the world at the same time.
He brings Cas different things to eat, and even makes a few things. He only has three specialties- bacon at the perfect crispiness, Chef-Boyardee, and the defrost button- but Cas has never eaten anything but White Castle so he's not hard to impress. Dean shoplifts some clothes for him and teaches him how to do laundry. They have an interesting night when Cas learns that there is a huge difference between a human alcohol tolerance and an angelic alcohol tolerance. Dean finds a cassette player in the closet of the room he set up for Castiel and plays him the tapes from the Impala.
He teaches Cas how to fix some easy things on the cars. He finds a TV for free out on a curb and steals some old Clint Eastwood movies. He teaches Cas to play cards and cheat at poker. He teaches him how to shoot a rifle and a nine millimeter and how to hold a knife.
Cas picks up on things quickly too. He doesn't really understand the movies, but he gets good at the song lyrics. He'll never be a great bluffer, but he can count cards.
He's doesn't really understand how his mortal body works, and oddly that seems to be the hardest part of the learning curve for him. He doesn't eat if Dean isn't around to eat with him and Dean will come back from errands or working and be able to hear Cas's stomach growling. Sleeping and the necessities that surround it don't really seem to click for the Angel either, and for the first couple of weeks Dean is forever finding Cas dozing all over the house and sometimes the yard.
Cas understands that Dean set up the other extra room for him and that he should theoretically be sleeping there at night, but Dean usually finds him on the couch or on the porch swing in the middle of the afternoon. Dean would push harder for him to try to normalize that, but after a lifetime of working nights and getting less than four hours in a day, Dean is just as bad and between the two of them it becomes acceptable to fall asleep on pretty much any mostly horizontal surface on the property at any time.
One morning Dean finds a few strange deaths in Montana and asks Cas if he wants to go check it out. Cas isn't up for it and Dean finds that he doesn't really mind sitting out a potential case.
It's nice not being a Hunter for a little while.
Dean feels like a dick – well, it's worse than that, but he can't even put together the words for how bad he feels about it- when he finally realizes that he may be enjoying teaching Cas to be human, but that doesn't mean Cas is dealing with it well.
It doesn't even occur to Dean that Cas is essentially crippled now until he comes home one day from picking up Chinese food to find Cas in the kitchen, screaming and raging and hurling dishes at the walls.
"Cas!" Dean yells, dropping the take out in the hall way and running into the kitchen. "Cas!"
Cas doesn't stop, doesn't turn, just heaves a coffee mug against a part of the wall that's already dented.
Dean grabs him under the arm and heaves him against his chest, but it's like Cas can't even tell. He launches himself toward the cupboard, Dean wrestling him into a hold even as the former Angel tries to move. He grabs a plate off the cupboard, spins just hard enough to break Dean's grip and comes circling around ready to whack Dean with the dish. Dean catches his arm and hurls the plate of his hands, but Cas is still fighting.
Dean slips on a piece of plate when Cas pushes back against him. Cas drops, carrying Dean after him even as Dean gets a grip on him. He winds up forcing Cas to the floor on his stomach, only managing it in the end because he has just enough height on Cas and just enough weight on Cas that the little bit of awareness of the situation helps him overpower the other man.
"Cas! Calm the fuck down, jesus-fuck what are you doing?" Dean barks. Cas has stopped shrieking, but he keeps struggling against Dean's hands for a few more moments until he stops with a shaky breath and Dean realizes that there is blood on the linoleum. He's holding Cas down in broken glass.
"Cas? I'm gonna let you up. You're gonna hurt yourself if you don't calm down. We have to take a look at your hands."
Cas doesn't respond. He goes so limp in Dean's hands that Dean's afraid he's passed out, but when he jostles Cas the other man replies with a dead but reproachful sounding, "Don't shake me, Dean."
Dean hauls Cas up to his chest like a life sized, too-heavy-for-this rag doll and manhandles him to the bathroom with Cas only taking the occasional helping step, like a toddler who doesn't want to go to bed. Dean makes him sit on the counter while he looks at his bloody hands, forearms and knees.
"You're lucky, you just missed a few major fucking arteries here."
Cas sighs and leans back against the mirror, unresisting as Dean mops up blood with a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide.
"What the hell happened?"
"I broke a plate," Cas replies.
"You don't say."
"And I couldn't fix it."
"So you decided to go for the matching set?"
"I can't fix anything. Not anymore. I don't think you understand what I used to be, Dean."
And that's the moment that it kicks Dean in the stomach. In his mind, Cas just got normal. In Cas's mind he's lost everything. It would be like if Dean woke up one morning not just without limbs, but blind and deaf as well.
And he's been making the poor bastard spaghetti-os.
"No, Cas. I don't think I do," he replies. He grabs a tweezers and starts pulling shards of glass out of Cas's hand. There are only a few, and they're small. It could have been a hell of a lot worse. Cas hisses with every shard of glass and porcelain that Dean tugs out of his flesh. If it had been Sam, Dean would have teased him about not being a baby, but Cas clearly isn't in a place where he can be pushed.
Cas doesn't say anything else. Dean focuses on fixing the only thing he can. He holds Cas's arm over the sink and pours the hydrogen peroxide over it. Then the other. Then he wraps it them both up in gauze.
Now Cas looks like the one who was going to kill himself.
"I'm sorry, Cas. I shoulda…" Dean starts, then finally looks up at Cas, who is still and expressionless like before, but now has red rimmed eyes on top of it. Cas clears his throat and shakes his head. Dean walks him up to his bedroom, tells him to lay down and then goes downstairs to clean the kitchen.
Dean stays up most of the night trying to figure out anyway to help.
He can't. Obviously he can't, but he starts thinking of things Cas might like. He likes the patch of wildflowers in Bobby's yard. He likes when they order take out. He likes when they play cards.
Dean can work with that.
Chapter 2: Of all the weird things- Cas likes the grocery store
Dean starts trying to get Castiel to like things after the incident in the kitchen. He didn't realize before that he was just trying to get Cas to like the things he liked, and now he is making a concentrated effort to find things that Cas likes all by himself.
This would be easier if Cas knew what he liked.
Cas likes listening to music with Dean. They sit in Bobby's living room and listen to Bobby's records and Dean's tapes. So Dean takes him to a record store in town to pick out his own music. Cas actually knows most of the old music. Classics. Boring piano and harp stuff that Dean would never listen too. But apparently there were fewer musicians back then so Cas can remember some of them. He picks out a few records and he and Dean listen to them, but wind up going back to Lynyrd Skynard.
Dean points out the flowers by the house and asks Cas about starting a garden. Cas seems to like the idea, but is hesitant about actually making it happen. Dean doesn't push but he slips a few packets of seeds in his pocket the next time he's at the grocery store.
Dean wakes up one night to screaming, and he's got a knife, his handgun and the rock salt rifle already in his hands before he knows what's happening. He's out of bed and ready to hunt in seconds.
Then he realizes that the screamer is Cas. He bounds over to his room, throws the door open and has the gun up and ready. The room is empty except for Cas, wailing and writhing around in this sleep. Dean grabs his shoulder and shakes him awake. He has to get pretty rough before Cas finally comes to.
He presses two fingers against Dean's forehead as he comes out of it. Dean flicks on the light. Cas is white as a sheet, clammy and cold to the touch. He shakes his head and pulls his hand away.
"Nightmare?" Dean asks.
"Um… yes. I suppose it was," Cas replies breathlessly. "I've never…. Uhmm…"
"What about?" Dean asks.
Cas gives him one of those looks. The trapped sort of look he used to give Dean when he wanted to give him some kind of hint or information and couldn't.
"Umm… Hell," Cas finally admits. "When the garrison… came for you."
"Oh," Dean replies.
"But now it's over."
"Yeah. It is."
"Yes. I'll go back to sleep now," Cas says.
"Yeah. Alright." Dean pats Cas's knee, grabs the weapons he set on the nightstand and leaves. He goes back to his room, sets the guns and the knife somewhere that makes them easier to get too and lays back. He stares at the ceiling, half dozing for a little while before guiltily getting back up.
He finds the whole concept of a 'first nightmare' unfathomable. And then he realizes that he finds the whole concept unfathomable, and then he feels weird. Maybe he should have done more for Cas, but he can't think of what. Writhing, screaming, sheet twisting nightmares are, and have always been, a fact of his life. He and his father had gotten to the point where they would just shake each other awake across the space between motel beds. They barely even woke up to do it. Dean can't imagine not having nightmares.
He wanders around the house for a little while, then goes to check on Cas. Cas is lying stock still in bed.
Too still to actually be asleep.
"Yeah. Just checking on you."
"I can't sleep."
"Well. You were conked out in the yard for an hour today."
"Right. I only need a certain amount of sleep," Cas sighs rubbing his hands over his face, the bandages on his forearms flashing white even in the dark room.
"Right. Come on. There's still left over Chinese. You're losing weight."
"So are you," Cas tells him.
It's true. All of Dean's weight came from muscle. You lose muscle when you're not garroting monsters and digging up graves every day.
Cas throws his blankets off and crawls out of bed.
He and Dean go out to the kitchen together. Dean tosses the Chinese food in the microwave and sets out plates for both of them. Cas scarfs it down like he's starving and Dean makes a mental note to keep a closer eye on when he actually eats.
He considers asking Cas about coming into Hell for him. He'd always pictured it as Cas dropping out of the rocky outcropping overhead and grabbing him by the shoulder, but he's never actually asked.
He looks up at the struggling, mortal, trying man in front of him, nibbling at a shrimp as though there is something about it that he doesn't trust, and decides not to ask.
After all, he knows what he has nightmares about.
Dean steals a couple of long sleeve shirts for him and explains to Cas that he has to wear them and that they don't want people to see the bandages. Cas cottons on to the concept a little too quickly for Dean's peace of mind.
He takes Cas out running errands.
Of all the weird things- Cas likes the grocery store. He keeps picking up strange looking fruits and going "What is this? Is this good?"
And it's the first time that Dean's really seen him look interested since he came back. He lets Cas get whatever he wants. He doesn't know what half of it is. There's a kind of fruit that looks like a nerf ball, yellow and spikey. Another that looks like it's made out of wedges of wax all stuck together in the middle. Stuff he's heard of but never tried, like mangoes or passion fruit.
Cas finds the bags of marshmallows fascinating. Dean gets smore stuff.
They are in the grocery store for over an hour. Dean leaning heavily on the cart handle while Cas walks along in front of him, peering at everything as though they are in a museum.
Dean's trying to figure out what in the hell they are actually going to make out of their bizarre collection of fruit and cans. And what he's going to do if Cas develops expensive tastes. Their cash situation is starting to worry him. He's got fake cards, but they've been in town too long to start relying on them for anything.
He's going to have to think of something. He's got a slightly mentally unstable angel to support after all.
"But I could help," Cas argues as he buttons up the shirt that Dean had laid out for him. He'd given up on trying to get Cas to do something-anything- else with his hair, which Cas refuses to cut and has started combing back with product he found in Bobby's bathroom. He looks like he runs a speakeasy.
Dean doesn't usually care how Cas dresses or what he looks like when they go out in public, but they are going out to hustle pool and cards tonight. Bobby's house costs money, it's too dangerous to run credit card scams when they've been in one place so long and a sales girl followed him the last time he ran to shop-ko, so he needs to cool it on the shoplifting too.
"Look, man, you're good at playing cards, but you're not good at playing people. We're not going to play, we're going to scam. You're not good enough at talking to people yet."
"I talk to people all the time," Cas huffs. "People are very kind to me." He drops down on the floor and starts tying his shoes slowly and methodically.
"Yeah, Cas… that's because they think you're retarded."
Cas asks a question like "What's retarded?" in the same reasonable, measured tone that he asks questions like "Why aren't pennies gray too?" or "What flavor is bubble gum flavor?"
"Like… slow, mentally. Mentally childlike."
"Oh. Why do they think that?"
The full answer is long and hard to explain. It's also pointless because even if Cas knew why people thought that there isn't anything he could do to change it yet. He's learning and he's doing so well considering what he's going through. He's only flipped out once again since the plate thing and the bandages are already off. He tries to be normal in public, but he's still a grown man who takes several minutes to tie his shoes, has no concept of personal space and has developed a tendency to touch two
fingers to Dean's shoulder or elbow as though making sure he is still there.
He'll get shoelaces figured out. Personal space is a problem that they are working on. Dean has given up on getting any personal space for himself for a while until Cas doesn't need to ask so many questions or stops needing to do the arm touching thing. Personal space as it applies to women is difficult as well. Women tend to crowd Cas and middle-aged potato-mother types, the ones who assume he's retarded the fastest, are forever touching his shoulder when they talk to him, like he's a child.
And Dean's not sure exactly why the arm touching thing developed, but he does know it started after Cas started having nightmares and after the night Dean had blown out a tire on the highway and gotten home three hours after he'd expected to be back. He'd come home to find Cas, sitting silent, still and starch-white on the couch. He'd expected it to stop, and not put any further thought into it when it didn't.
"Don't worry about it. It's simpler if they think that. Until we… get you used to things.
"Dean, I am several millennia old. I am used to all kinds of things."
"Human things, Cas. Like shooting the shit over cards."
Cas looks at him suspiciously. "What is shoo-"
"It's an expression," Dean cuts him off.
"Cas? Two beers and that's it, all right?" Dean says, handing Cas a few bills. Cas has been drinking a lot, and while Dean understands just how glass his house is on that front, he's seen a little too much of future Cas's dead grin on Cas's face after he has overdone it and it scares him. Earlier in the week he hid all of Bobby's meds in the panic room. God knows Castiel deserves to drink himself through a spot of depression, but after the demon blood detoxes of the last year, Dean can't handle the idea of trying to wean Cas off pills.
"Can I have a shot?" Cas asks.
"Is that enough money for a shot?" Dean replies.
"Right. I'll ask the bartender."
He folds the money into a tidy square and tucks it into his breast pocket, then he reaches out and taps two fingers against Dean's elbow. Dean's about to ask him not to do that in the bar. Out in public during the day it's an odd enough gesture and goes along with enough of Cas's other quirks that people assume "retarded". In a bar, on top of the ongoing personal space issue, it's going to read "lovers".
Well. Whatever. Dean'll work it into the scam. The kind of mark he's looking for, at this kind of bar, would freak at being wiped out by a fag. It'll make them bet stupid.
Dean walks around the bar a little bit, relieved that there is a game in process tonight too. He wasn't sure if a game was a regular feature here and he doesn't want to try bringing Cas to a casino quite yet. Big crowds still make him jumpy and it kills Dean to drag Cas through them. As an Angel, it didn't matter if Cas got lost, or was surrounded by people. Cas has explained that Angel's don't get lost, they are all seeing, and of course there were always the wings. As a human, mortal and impotent, Cas is terrified of getting lost.
So, a small local bar it is.
They drop into a booth and the waitress- cute, blonde, curvy- bustles almost immediately over with water and menus.
"Start you boys off with anything?" she asks, turning to Cas, who looks at her blankly.
"Cas?" Dean prompts him. Cas turns the blank look on him and the waitress's smile gets a little fixed. "She wants to know what you want to drink."
"Oh." He tugs the little square of money out of his pocket and holds it out. "Could I have a beer, please?"
Dean grabs his wrist and pushes it gently down to the counter. "Not yet." Dean didn't realize he's only really ever taken Cas to a bar, not to a bar/ restaurant. New scenario, new skill set.
The waitress's smile goes from fixed to soft as she looks at Cas in the same way the older potato mother women do. " 'Course. What kind, sweetheart?"
Cas looks at Dean again. Usually Dean would go over the options with him, like a bizarre kindergarten teacher, but he's got to work.
"Two Millers," Dean says.
Dean narrows his eyes at her in surprise. "No?"
"Coming right up."
"I don't pay first?" Cas asks. They're having trouble with the concept of money, and Dean knows that he is over complicating it with their reliance on theft and cheating.
"Not when there's a waitress. She'll come back with a check when we're done," Dean tells him, trying to keep one eye on the poker game. Cas scoots a menu toward himself.
"Can we get something to eat?"
Dean wanted to avoid spending any more money than what he'd already given Cas, but he can't remember if Cas ate today.
"Fine. Stay under eight bucks." Dean shows him where the prices are and tries to gage the progress of the game while Cas picks something out, and seeing if anyone is giving them any weird looks. An old guy at the bar looks pretty skeptical of them, a woman is sizing them up, the other waitresses are shooting them slightly sad looks.
Their waitress brings them their beers. Somebody at the card table finally pulls their winnings toward themself.
"Kay. I'm gonna go play. If you have a question ask our waitress, if you need something, come get me."
Dean decides on his way over to play himself a little soft. He knows what he looks like, he's going to have to sit somewhere where he can keep an eye on Cas and the likelihood of Cas coming over and needing to whisper something in his ear is too high. He might as well play into the situation.
It works. They let him into the game. There are two guys his age, two that are probably mid fifties, and one real old codger who always deals and doesn't talk.
Dean's first hand is playable but nothing special and the guys all know better than to be reckless with a new player in the mix. The pot's barely enough to pay for Cas's onion rings, and Dean decides to just take it.
Talk opens up on the second hand. The older guys are going deer hunting. One of the younger guys is shopping for an engagement ring. The other's going to Afghanistan.
Dean tells them that he's moved into his father's old house after he passed and he's getting it fixed up. He loses a little money on the second hand.
Over at his and Cas's table the waitress is checking in on him. She points the jukebox out to him, then, when he looks interested actually takes him over and shows him how to use it. She even makes change for him so he has quarters. Dean mentally triples her tip.
The bets begin to creep up. Going-to-Afghanistan raises too much not to be a bluff. The other's call. This pot is shaping up to be a solid win. Dean realizes that he's going to eventually need to either leave Cas home for a night to go to the casino's or just suck it up and drag him along. This is way too friendly, way too small time.
A girl from the bar slinks over to Cas. Dean keeps any eye on her but his cards are good. The younger guys are getting sloppy. He draws the four he needed. One of the older guys folds. The girl puts her hand on Cas's shoulder. The old codger raises.
The girl takes both of Cas's hands in her own and sets them at her waist. She presses a button on the jukebox. Hotel California starts to play.
Dean calls the raise. Getting-Engaged raises again. The girl steps closer to Cas. Dean shoots a look at their waitress, who is watching Cas and the girl with her lips pursed. Dean calls the new bet, pulls another card and winds up with a flush he'd be willing to start betting heavily on if this weren't the only time the codger had raised and if the man weren't completely unreadable.
The girl is sort of dancing with Cas. More spinning slowly with him. Cas actually looks like he's following the rhythm well, which falls so far out of Cas's general awkwardness that it sticks out to Dean. The other older guy folds. So does Going-to-Afghanistan. The girl presses her face to Cas's ear and Dean see's Cas's eyes go wide. He takes a large and sudden step back, and hits the jukebox with a crash, when he tries to move away he's too crowded by the girl to move. People are watching.
"Shit," Dean sighs. "'Scuse me, fellas."
He sets his cards down and lopes over, grabs Cas's forearm and pulls him out into breathing room.
"Geez, touchy," The girl taunts.
"Okay, just move along," Dean tells her. He's giving her the benefit of the doubt. Coming on to a guy in a bar isn't a crime and Cas seems pretty normal until he hits some sort of roadblock.
"Fine, princess, he's all yours."
"Back off," Dean barks. If she's going to be a bitch then fuck her. Cas reaches out and presses two fingers to Dean's shoulder. The girl scoffs and stalks away.
"You gonna be alright?" Dean asks. This is not a good time for Cas to have an episode. People are watching them and Dean's got a lot of money on this hand.
"Yes. I'll… I'll just sit back down and finish my appetizer."
"Okay. I'll finish this hand and we'll leave."
Cas goes back to their table. The waitress appears instantly.
Dean goes back to the game. At least now they all know that he's planning to win this hand. The last younger guy folds as Dean sees the waitress returning to their table with a little plate full of different types of dipping sauces.
"That guy a buddy of yours?" The codger asks. It's the only thing he's said all game.
Dean hears the implication. It bothers him more than he though it would.
"And where'dya meet him?"
Dean's done. He looks up at the Codger, and with just a little bit of an edge answers, "Fallujah."
Codger nods and taps a finger to the side of his head.
"Not when he got there," Dean replies.
Codger nods, and then folds. Dean takes his winnings, leaves behind enough for a round of drinks. He goes back to his table, asks for the check and he and Cas polish off the last of the onion rings, trying all four of the different types of dipping sauce that the bar offers.
"So... what did she say to you?" Dean asks as they settle into the Impala.
"That I was cute and that I should go back to her place so that she could swallow me down."
Dean snorts. "Do you know what that means?"
"I would assume she was referring to oral sex," Cas replies. "If her intent was to actually eat me I doubt she would have advertised it in that manner."
"How did you learn about oral sex?"
Right. Cas uses Sam's computer. Dean's still surprised at how easily Cas gets around the internet for a guy who needed a couple of tries before he got buttons down. Cas can't type, but he's been pretty good with using the computer for research.
All kinds of research, apparently.
"Oh. Sure," Dean laughs. "You should have seen the look on your face though. You looked like you though she was going to eat you."
"She grabbed my penis through my clothes. I was startled."
Dean laughs. Cas echoes and they turn on the radio.
Dean counts out his winnings on the coffee table. After his and Cas's bill, the round of drinks for the other players and the thirty dollar tip he left for their waitress they're up about a hundred and fifty bucks. Not too shabby for a night's work.
As he's folding up the bills and tossing them in the coffee can where they keep their cash Cas holds out a couple of crisp, folded twenties.
"Where did you get this?"
"That woman put my hand in her pocket. I took this."
Dean nods. Cas managed to lift almost a hundred bucks. "Nice man. I'll have to teach you to pick pocket."
"Can we listen to music?"
Cas puts on one of his classical records and sprawls out on the couch. Dean sits at the coffee table, researching, until he hears Cas star to snore lightly, then goes upstairs to get some shut eye himself.
In the morning Dean spends half an hour looking for Sam's computer before finding it in Cas's room.
When he opens it up, it's very obvious how Cas learned about oral sex.
Dean suddenly realizes that Cas takes weirdly long showers and tries not to think about it.
Chapter 3: Old Habits Die Hard
Old habits die hard.
A string of people die suspiciously in a hotel just down the highway from Bobby's house. The article about the deaths attributes them to accidents due to improper maintenance and cites the bad wiring and odd air conditioning malfunctions.
It's been almost six months since the apocalypse, six months since Sam went to Hell and Bobby died. About five since Castiel seemingly sprung out of the ground. Dean is itching for a hunt.
He finally takes Sam's duffle out of the Impala, carefully unpacks it, puts everything in it into a drawer in the dresser in Bobby's rom and is ready to pack it full of Castiel's stuff when he realizes that they are staying in town. The hotel is only 20 minutes away. They could come home for dinner and then go back to hunting later.
He tosses a few changes of clothes, a toothbrush, and some deodorant into the bag anyway, just so he feels prepared.
He grabs Cas out of the yard where he's started tilling up the ground near the house for a garden and tosses him the duffle. Cas clearly recognizes it. He turns it over in his hands for a moment before he looks up, expectantly.
"Come on. Haunting at a hotel downtown."
Cas just nods and follows him out to the car.
It's a tame, straight-forward hunt. There's a ghost story consistent with death records and both are consistent with the spirit's MO. The graveyard is just outside of Sioux Falls. They run into another hunter- Greg Kilgerny, who is relieved to find out that someone is in the old Singer house, and seems to equate this with someone like Bobby being back in the mix. He gives Dean and Cas a couple of dangerous amulets to lock away somewhere safe. Cas wraps them carefully in a worn and over bleached towel.
They go out for a burger while they wait for dark to fall so they can go torch the body. When they go back to the hotel to double check that everything went over as planned it turns out that the hotel owner was in the middle of being attacked when they ghost went up in flames. Her name is Chelsea. She's grateful. And hot. And she gives Dean her number.
He and Cas are on their way home before midnight, Cas sitting with his legs drawn up to his chest, looking small and tired.
"You alright, man?" Dean asks as they pull back into their yard.
"Yes, Dean. Fine."
"You sure? Cause you don't seem like the Happy Chef of ghost flambé." Dean asks as they trudge into the house. He sets his guns out on table and starts to clean them.
Cas drops onto the couch. "What's flambé?"
"You know, I don't actually know. It's something you set on fire. What's wrong?" Dean sets a few guns out for Cas to clean as well.
"I don't want to be a Hunter," Cas says. His voice is quiet and grave, as though he is admitting to some horrifically depraved crime.
"Oh," Dean replies.
Cas curls back up and closes his eyes. "I was a soldier for so long, Dean. Forever. Literally. And I have all those memories, compressed into this skull where they don't fit right and sometimes I can't think around them. It's been too long an eternity. I don't… I can't fight anymore. I'm something different now and I can't add more pain and fear into that mess. I'm so sorry."
"No, that's fine. I mean… you don't have to."
"You want to go back to it. You miss it." Cas settles further down into the couch, like he's going to go to sleep.
Dean doesn't know what to say, so he doesn't say anything. Cas doesn't move or open his eyes. Dean keeps takes apart the next pistol. "No. Whatever. We don't have to hunt."
Cas lets out a sigh that Dean could swear sounds disappointed. "Dean, this is what you are."
The anger flares up suddenly. Like a struck match. Dean is angrier than he's been in months. He bites it down before he replies, because he's not angry at Cas, but it takes a while to bring the rage down.
"No, Cas," He says eventually. Cas looks over at him, as though surprised the conversation is still going. "This is what my father made me."
Cas doesn't reply, just keeps looking at Dean, his bright blue eyes soft, but focused. Quietly paying attention as Dean realizes that he's started digging and he can't stop until he's done.
"He treated us like we'd enlisted into his revenge quest. I was making sawed offs when I was nine. I was sixteen years old, helping him kill monsters while everyone else was in school. I wouldn't even have gotten a GED if Sam hadn't pushed for it. And nothing I did was good enough. Ever. Never a clean enough shot, never a quick enough reaction. We could never be happy, it was always our responsibility to make sure everyone was safe first and we never could." Dean finishes cleaning the gun and starts disassembling the next with trembling hands. He keeps his eyes on his work, he knows Cas is watching him and he can't bring himself to look at the former Angel's expression right now, not when Dean can't stop talking and Cas just admitted that he has millennia upon millennia of the same thing Dean is bitching about experiencing for a handful of years, so much of it that it clogs his mind up.
"And always: Watch out for Sammy! Watch out for Sammy, watchoutforsammy watchoutforsammy. Because he wouldn't. We weren't important enough for him to watch out for. And I did watch out for Sam. I taught him to walk. I taught him to talk. I used to steal toys for him. I taught him how to talk to girls. I was supposed to keep him from finding out about monsters when Dad couldn't hide the journal or the trunkful of salt. You know what Dad taught him? How to shoot. How to hold a knife. How to drink whiskey. And every time Sam talked back, or ran off, it was my fault. Cause I wasn't raising him well enough." The pieces of the gun fall from Dean's hands and he wipes a hand over his mouth.
They don't talk about Sam. Dean never mentions him and Cas, who originally tried to be comforting, has realized that Dean can't talk about him yet.
"I umm… I can't let people get killed. Like that Chelsea chick. I can go out and save people. I do have to do that. But maybe… maybe I don't have to be running all over the country sacrificing absolutely everything to do it."
Cas sits up. "Maybe we've lost enough."
Dean chokes, trying to cough or sneeze or do anything to cover up the fact that he's crying. Trying not to outright sob.
Cas scoots over on the couch, and hugs Dean.
It's not a consoling hug. It's not a "hope it gets better hug". It's the way you hug someone when they're back from the dead. It's the way you hug someone when you are so glad that they are there, and so glad that they are alive and it pushes Dean over the edge.
Not for long. He gets a hold of himself pretty quickly, but he lets himself slip for just that moment, because this is Cas. He's seen Cas at his absolute weakest, and if Cas sees him the same way the world won't end.
He clears his throat. "Okay, man. Come on. Enough with the chick flick moment."
But Cas just replies, "I don't know what that means," and doesn't let him go.
Dean didn't realize that Cas was such a manipulative bastard. He probably didn't used to be, but Dean supposes that he rubs off on people.
He and Cas wind up at the little movie theater near their house later in the week. Just in time to see Chelsea. The hotel manager. Just walking into a 5:00 pm showing of some random comedy. Like you do.
Cas has been quiet and strangely focused all day. He's been working in his garden, which is probably the only garden with mugwort planted all around the petunias because "They look nice like that". He suggested the movie because he'd been working all day and wanted to do something relaxing and fun.
That's when Dean should have suspected that something was up. Cas doesn't really like movies, and he definitely doesn't find them relaxing. The whole ruse falls suddenly into place when Cas spots Chelsea at the door and waves her over.
He then shoots Dean a deeply smug look and as soon and Chelsea has walked over to them declares that he's tired and has changed his mind and he'll just walk home. He practically skips out of the theater.
"Your friend's not subtle, is he?" Chelsea asks. She sounds shy, a little tentative. Very aware that Cas invited her and Dean didn't.
It's only been… maybe a week? A little over a week tops since they ran into Chelsea. Dean had been planning to call, but he and Cas have been busy. They've been making safe boxes and researching what kind of herbs they should have readily available in the garden. Dean's been calling everyone in Bobby and Ellen's books, checking in on whose still alive and if anyone's seeing anything weird. Cas was part right, hunting is what Dean is, but that doesn't mean he has to go out and rack up even more of exactly the kind of issues that Cas was talking about. They can do this. They have given enough. They're trying to become a sort of headquarters, so that they can be hunters without actually hunting.
"Well…" Dean shrugs. "He's… his hearts in the right place but his brain is a little… scrambled. Subtlety is not really something he's good at."
"Oh…" Chelsea looks uncomfortable. Dean feels bad.
He shrugs and clears this throat, and then realizes that Chelsea knows what he and Cas do. She knows about ghosts.
He decides to try something that he's never tried with a woman before. Honesty. Not crazy honesty. There's just no point in trying to tell her that Cas used to be an Angel of the Lord. That was a stretch for him, it's going to be a straight up bitch to get Chelsea to believe him.
"Yeah… he's just… we've got a rough gig. "
Chelsea bites her lip. "Did something… happen to him?"
"A lot of things happened to him."
"So you guys… hunt ghosts together. Ghosts are real. That is not something I expected to learn about the world this week. Ghosts are real. Still getting over that one."
She's got a beautiful smile, all teeth and laugh lines. She looks genuinely happy when she smiles, Dean notices.
"Yeah. So are vampires, zombies, werewolves, demons, changelings. Sometimes you run into weird stuff."
Chelsea laughs uncertainly. "There's weirder stuff than zombies?"
"Uh yeah… zombies are pretty run of the mill. You get stuff like ghost sickness, hoodoo curses, mad scientists who find ways to live forever. There was a manic depressive man sized teddy bear one time."
Chelsea nods again, her deep brown eyes looking a little glazed over.
"Big foot's a hoax." Dean feels like this is all diarrhea of the mouth. You don't go out on a date with the grateful girl, you take her up to one of the rooms of her mediocre hotel, you rock her world, you enjoy yourself, you kiss her goodbye, you get behind the wheel.
She laughs. "Well, clearly. Otherwise what kind of crazy world would be living in?"
Dean laughs back. He has no idea what he's doing. He feels like all his joints are attached wrong. Like his feet and hands are too big and he might knock something over if he tries to move.
"You know… I didn't really want to see this movie."
Dean nods and steps back. That's what honesty gets you. "Yeah… that's… uh… Fair enough."
She bite her lip and looks up at him from under her dishwater blonde bangs. "I was actually thinking that I might go for a walk," Chelsea continues. "And now that it turns out there all these monsters out there, I was hoping you'd come along. You know. To protect me." She gives him a smile that is just a little bit mocking.
Now Dean really doesn't know what to do with himself. That could be genuine, 'let's go talk and walk' or the 'let's go get it on in the back of the Impala' which would put him on more comfortable ground. "Oh. Yeah. Right. I could do that."
They walk. They talk. They tell each other about their lives. Chelsea talks about her business and her family- three sisters, all older. Dean talks about hunting and taking care of Cas and growing up on the road. He tells more stories than she does. She seems interested, but Dean's not sure how much of it she really believes.
It's a bizarre experience. Dean has never been himself with a woman. There have been a couple of girls- not so different from Chelsea- saw the ghost, saw him hunt it, saw them naked, saw him leave town, but even then he's still usually the guy from his fake ID and always at least "Dean Winchester: The Guy Who Just Saved You From
Certain Death" and never "Dean Winchester: Alcoholic Dropout With Zero Real World Skills"
"So… What happened to Sam, if you don't mind me asking." Chelsea inquires carefully as their walk takes them back around to the movie theater.
Dean stops. He and Cas have been researching ways to save Sam every night for months, but talking about Sam, in the way of "Remember when Sam…" or "The time when Sam…" had been off the table. Sam only stopped being an utterly forbidden subject in the last week. Cas was awake in the afternoons more often now. He had found sitcom reruns useful for understanding the world. He like "Three's Company" but Dean was doubtful that he understood a damn word of it. He had also discovered talk shows. He had patiently explained to Dean, in a mixture of Angel and Doctor Phil, that it was unhealthy for them not to acknowledge that they missed Sam and that Sam was a hero and his name should be spoken aloud.
The moratorium on Sam stories had been lifted. A strict ban on talk shows had been immediately set in place.
"He… I'd really rather not talk about it. He's… ummm."
"Oh," Chelsea sets her hand to Dean's back. "I'm sorry. Forget I said anything."
"Sorry. It's a rough gig. That's why we're retiring."
"You and Cas?"
"We both uh… need someone to watch over us, I guess."
They're weaving around the parking lot when Chelsea stops next to a silver Prius. Dean doesn't realize that it's her car until she starts digging out her keys.
"This was a nice night, Dean," she says quietly.
"Yeah, it was."
She sets her hand at his elbow, leans up and kisses him, just one soft press of her lips to his. "Tell Cas thanks for the date. Hope I see you again."
Dean's not sure what to think as he watches her drive away. He had a nice night. But he can tell that it's not so much about Chelsea, who is fun and beautiful and apparently, incredibly understanding, and more about the fact that he just had a night different than any other in his life. He spent a pleasant night of conversation, with someone other than Sam or Cas, he didn't kill anything and he didn't pretend to be anyone else.
He just feels weird.
"Did you enjoy the movie?" Cas asks when Dean walks into the living room. He's sitting on the couch eating what looks like an entire bowl of the weird green fruit with all the seeds in it that he'd turned out to love. He's grinning at Dean in a way that could be classified as wicked.
"What's with the Parent Trap, Cas?" Dean sighs.
Cas lowers his eyebrows. "What's the-"
"The set up. The sting operation. Why?"
Cas shrugs and takes a huge bite from his bowl. "I think you need more companionship."
"I need more companionship?"
"Yes. And she liked you." Cas chews contemplatively. "Are you mad at me?"
Dean wants to be. Not yelling mad, just… a little mad. But he isn't. And he doesn't really want to investigate why that is.
"No. I'm not mad," He walks past Cas, slapping the side of his head, just a little, as he walks past. "Pull that shit again though and you will eat that fucking Mugwort."
He hears Cas snort at that, and Dean goes up to bed.
Chapter 4: I'm Not Your Ward
Cas finally finds a hobby. He likes to cook. He likes food. He likes directions. It's a perfect combo. He makes fancy, fiddly, multi-ingredient things- many of which are very green. Most of it's great, but Dean's sure a man can't live on that many vegetables, so every once on a while he sneaks out for a cheeseburger.
Dean goes out with Chelsea again. She takes him to a horror flick and they go out for drinks afterward. They wind up in the back seat of the Impala, making out a little bit before Dean realizes that the shot of whisky he talked her into when he found out that she had never tried it went straight to her head. He drops her off at home.
Dean gets a job. A guy at a body shop down the highway found the old car frames that Dean was trying to sell online and asked to interview him, when Dean showed up in the Impala the deal was pretty much clinched already. It seems a little silly to be employed somewhere else when he lives in what was a body shop at one point, but he doesn't have the money to start Bobby's business back up and he doesn't know how to run it if he does.
Working a regular job like a regular guy is bizarre. It's the limitations that stick out at first. Dean has never had to be at the same place at the same time every day before. He's never had a supervisor or a lunch break either. It's a little suffocating at first. He spends the first few weeks very aware that if he got in the Impala and drove away there would be actual consequences.
He wonders if it's just a little bit of what Castiel feels like now.
Cas has clearly realized that this job means that Dean is in every way supporting him, and Dean tries as best he can to make sure Cas knows he's contributing too. Cas does all the cooking, most of the cleaning, and he's the one who's home now when people call and need to talk to a Hunter's superior at the CDC, or need to know where to find a Valean Amulet in Oklahoma.
Far from just wanting Cas to know he's a part of the team, Cas goes a little "Guardian Angel Overboard" when he feels like he's being taken care of too much and then Dean suffers the consequences.
The thing that Dean really does enjoy about being a regular Joe is having coworkers. He's never had coworkers before, unless you count Sam and Cas-which, really, you can't- and he enjoys the experience. He likes joking around with the guys at work. Eating his lunch in the break room and jabbering about their weekends and the last game.
Even after you account for the still slightly emotionally unstable former Angel of the Lord at home and the phone calls at three am where some one yells "Shit, Winchester- how do you kill a Djinn?" and then hangs up after the answer, it's a pretty normal life.
For him anyway.
The first time someone at the body shop asked him if Cas was his wife he'd only been there for four days. He should have seen that one coming. A single guy does not bring his lunch every day and he definitely doesn't bring himself good cooked lunches with a little slice of every piece of the food pyramid. A single guy also does not check in at home on his afternoon break everyday just in case someone there has flipped out and set a beat up old car door on fire again for no discernible reason.
"Wife?" Dean asks blankly before realizing that on top of all these things "Cas" is also not a name people come across regularly. "Oh. No, he's," Dean fumbles for a just a moment before deciding to dive into the army buddy who needs a caretaker story. It's just enough of a fumble to make him sound suspicious, and he knows it.
Thomas, the guy that asked, just nods along though. Apparently his question was less about the lunches and the phone calls than just about the fact that Dean talks about Cas all the time. Dean probably should have realized that Cas is his only constant topic of conversation. Before he started this job Cas and Chelsea were the only people he'd exchanged more than a few minutes conversation with in months, and when the guys asked "So whatchya do last night?" Dean can't answer "spent three hours trying to translate a twelfth century Italian grimoire with the use of a very suspect translation website so I can spring my brother from Hell. You?" but he can answer, "Hung out with Cas."
And once he's explained that Cas isn't quite all there, he even feels less awkward about talking about what they do. They made dinner together. They went to the wetland by the park and fed the ducks. They sat around and listened to albums.
Most of the guys don't pry. Dean looks out for an army buddy who needs to stay with him. Fine. A few of them obviously think Dean's not being entirely truthful about the nature of the relationship, but they don't say anything and Dean doesn't care what they think.
It's a weird little life. Job. House. Acquaintances that could become friends. Woman he's been out with more than once. Cas.
The guys at work play soccer. They invite Dean along. Dean doesn't know how to play, due to never having completed an entire unit in gym in his patchy high school career, and Cas is having a really off day. But Cas insists that he go. Apparently it's very important for them not to be isolated from Dean's coworkers. Dean doesn't want to leave him in the house alone when he's like this, and drags him along.
Apparently just pick up in the park soccer on Wednesday night is a big deal. Everyone has brought their wives or girlfriends and their kids. There's a huge patchwork of blankets surrounding the field.
Cas agreed that him coming with was the most sensible solution to get Dean to go without Dean needing to worry about him being alone, but once they get into the park the two-fingers-to-the-elbow starts up again.
Thomas spots them and waves them over as they pick their way through the blankets. His girlfriend, Sophie, and his two young sons are spread out on a huge blanket with an honest to god picnic basket on one corner.
Thomas is an enthusiastic guy, to the point where he's a honestly a little too much before that first cup of coffee in the morning hits Dean's blood stream, but he's friendly and he shakes Cas's hand like the suddenly glaring fact that only Dean didn't bring a girl isn't weird at all.
Cas shakes Thomas's hand, staring at the park around him as he does. His eyes are bugged out and as soon as Thomas drops his hand he touches his fingertips to Dean's elbow again and asks quietly, "Why are people eating out of a basket out here?"
Dean grits his teeth. He was right about this being a bad idea. "Because it's a nice night. It's a picnic, Cas. It's fun."
"Do you want to play soccer or should we go get you a blanket from the car?"
Cas looks around the park again. "I didn't bring a picnic."
Thomas smile gets a little worried. He shoots a look at his girlfriend who smiles sweetly. "Cas? You're more than welcome to sit with us. There's plenty. Do you like pasta salad?"
"Umm… I've never tried it." Two fingers to the elbow again. He gets a little out of it in crowds sometimes, but usually if he's outside he's fine.
Sophie looks at Dean, for permission, Dean's gotten used to that.
"Here, try some." She hands him a little portion sized Tupperware and a plastic fork. Cas takes them, takes a bite and chews it contemplatively. Everyone watches him. He realizes this.
"It's very good." Something seems to occur to him and he perks up a little. "I would enjoy having the recipe."
"Oh, it's simple. I'll write it out for you."
"Alright, Cas, let's go get you a blanket from the car."
"I…. I thought I was invited to sit here?" Another elbow touch. What is going on today?
"Of course," Sophie answers.
"We'll get it for you and set it next to Sophie's so there's more room." Dean sets his hand to the small of Cas's back and starts guiding him back to the car. Cas realizes
that he still has the Tupperware and fork and sets them down carefully on the blanket before coming with.
"What's wrong, Cas?" Dean asks.
"I didn't expect the park."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't want to tell you yet. It's fine."
Dean's a little taken aback by that. They've been operating with this unspoken rule that they explain everything. Sam was the only forbidden topic for a while, and now even he's back on the table.
"Do you want to go home?"
"Dean, I don't want you to miss a social function for me. This is important."
"You don't seem fine, and you're worrying me."
Cas sets his hands to his head for a moment, like he needs to squeeze it back together, then drops them to his sides. "I am fine, Dean. I'll sit with Sophie and she will be kind to me and we will eat cold pasta in the park."
"And-" Cas cuts him off. "If I am not fine I will tell you."
Dean doesn't push, even though he wants too. He digs a blanket out of the backseat and tosses it to Cas, who quietly points out there is blood on it. The other blanket is clean.
Back at her blanket Sophie has set out a whole meal for Cas. Fried chicken, pasta salad, and a little Tupperware of strawberries.
One of the things that's surprised Dean most about his quiet suburban life is how kind people have been.
Dean lays the blanket out for Cas, who drops onto his stomach and picks up the container of pasta salad.
"Alright," Dean drops down to his haunches and sets a hand on Cas's shoulder. "You hang out with Sophie, swap recipes, watch me get my ass kicked."
Cas gives him a brittle smile and Deans goes out onto the field.
"So… That's Cas huh?" Thomas says, as he shows Dean the best way to move the ball between his feet.
"What's… different about him?"
Dean quirks his head. "You mean what kind of crazy is he?"
Thomas's shrug is uncomfortable and apologetic. Dean realizes he was a little harsh. "Sorry. It's hard to explain. He's usually a lot better than this. Something about the park is setting him off and he's trying to pretend it's not," Dean huffs out the last part. It feels good for a second to admit that Cas frustrates him, and then he instantly feels bad about it. Taking care of Cas is what's kept Dean from blowing his brains out or turning into a drooling mess, but that doesn't mean he doesn't occasionally get cabin crazy.
"Sophie'll watch him. Her brother's autistic. Cas'll be fine with her. Come on. Let's teach you to kick a ball around."
Dean picks up soccer pretty quickly after the guys find out he doesn't know how to play and they all help him warm up. He doesn't have enough control of the ball to play offence, but he's good at kicking the ball away from people and getting it to someone on his own team. Despite the slight chill of the night Dean's red and sweating by the first time they break. He jogs over to the patch of blankets, which now includes Jose's wife Marta and their twin girls. They are both sitting in the grass with Castiel, all intently focused on something between them. Dean shrugs out of his jacket and drops it on Cas's blanket.
"How's he doing?" Dean asks Sophie quietly.
"Honey, he's fine. We've got this covered, go play."
It's not a game so much as a picnic with intermittent periods of soccer. All the players break after a couple more goals and spread back out amongst their families. The breeze feels good on Dean's overheated skin, but it must be getting cold out. Back at the blankets Cas has pulled on Dean's jacket and the kids have been tucked into sweaters.
Cas is still sitting with the twin girls. They're all watching something in the air.
Sophie hands Dean a few containers of pasta salad and chicken. Marta pushes over an enchilada that's still warm.
"This is amazing," Dean says, though a mouthful of chicken. "I feel bad we didn't think to bring anything."
"Don't worry about it," Marta shrugs. "You boys will bring something next time. Right, Cas?"
Cas doesn't reply and when Dean looks over at him his head is craned further back, staring at something in the sky with his mouth and eyes wide open.
Dean reaches over and shakes Cas's knee. "Cas? What is it?"
Cas stays silent, but Carla, one of the twins, leans out from the other side of him. "He's watchin' the kite. He got real quiet, but it's not even doin' anything."
Dean shakes him again. "Cas? What about the kite?" Still nothing, and Dean's starting to worry. This is new, and doesn't exactly bode well. "Castiel? Cas?"
Cas tears his eyes away from the kite for a moment, and looks at Dean. Cas's face is tear streaked. He doesn't look good.
"Cas, you okay?"
"Dude, you're crying," Dean says this in a whisper, as though the group of people around them might not have noticed that Cas is having some sort of episode.
Cas looks surprised by this information. He palms over one eye. "I just..." he puts his other palm to his other eye, and Carla puts her little hand over his knee. "I really like this park."
Dean sits up. This is going nowhere good.
"Okay. Okay…I think we might need to head out."
He sets a hand on Cas's shoulder and Cas bats it away. "No… no I don't want…. I don't want to leave."
"No I just… I think I used to come here in heaven."
Even Sophie is giving him a sad look now.
"Cas, come on."
Cas drops his hands from his eyes and looks back up at the kite, still a little dazed. "Dean, can we go sit in the Impala for a few minutes?"
"Yeah, good plan, come on."
He grabs Cas around the arm and hauls him up. Cas comes along willingly and Dean walks him along to the car, dropping him into the passenger side.
"So… this is a Angel memory/human mind issue right?"
Cas drops his face into his hands and nods. "It's very… overpowering. I don't… I'm sorry. I think I scared Sophie and Marta."
Dean shrugs. "Don't worry about it. You didn't do anything wrong. They kind of get it."
Cas rubs his hands over his face and down his neck, holding his hands just under his ears for a moment before tugging at the buttons of Dean's jacket. "I'm not sure if it's the same park, and it looked different in heaven. It was the memory of a man… the heaven of a man who thought differently. It's different, the colors are…"Cas runs his hands over his forehead and closes his eyes. Even out of the cool breeze his cheeks are still flush and pink. There's sheen of sweat across his forehead. Something occurs to Dean.
"Cas? Hold still I'm gonna touch your forehead."
"Why?" Cas asks, leaning back in his seat so Dean can reach.
Dean sets his palm over Cas's forehead. He's roasting.
"I think you're coming down with something."
"You're irrational and moody and burning up. You're sick. Come on. We've got to get you home. You need… soup and cartoons and to lay down."
Cas rubs his hands over his face again. "Dean… I'm not your ward," he growls. "I'm not your obligation."
"No, you're family!" Dean barks. "So just wait here while I get the blanket and your pasta salad recipe. And don't throw up in my car!"
Cas sighs, sounding defeated, but doesn't say anything else.
Dean books back to the field, makes their excuses, thanks Sophie and Marta again and goes back to the car. Cas gets sick on the way home and Dean winds up holding him up in a ditch while he loses the pasta salad and the chicken.
Cas's opinion that Dean isn't obligated to take care of him and should be out engaging with their community apparently doesn't apply when Cas is sick.
Dean can't even blame him. He's never seen anyone so miserable. He spends a couple of hours sitting in the bathroom with Cas while Cas throws up. For some reason Dean feels like this is his fault. Like if he'd realized that Cas was sick earlier then he could have kept him home and he wouldn't have gotten this sick.
He does what he would have done if Sam was sick. Gets him an ice pack for the fever, some juice to wash away the taste. Cas won't drink the juice because he doesn't want to throw it back up. Dean starts rubbing his back after Cas has been almost constantly upchucking for about forty five minutes and starts muttering about how this is the worst part of being mortal so far.
He doesn't fall asleep so much as pass out in the bathroom. He won't go back to his bed in case he has to throw up again and he's only out for an hour before he does just
By morning the dry heaves set in. Cas looks like death warmed over. Dean calls into work. By the afternoon Cas is getting delirious and Dean is getting scared.
He can't shake the feeling that the flu isn't something you can go to the ER for, and, starting to panic, he calls Chelsea, who basically orders him to get Cas to the hospital.
He is surprised that Chelsea meets them at the ER, but more surprised when he's told he should have brought Cas in last night and they'll have to admit him.
Apparently, not only did the poor bastard get his first flu, it compounded with some food allergy that they're going to have to figure it out, and then throwing up that much made him dehydrated, which, perversely, made him throw up more.
"I have to stay here by myself?" Cas asks woozily while Dean fills out his paperwork. He's still dehydrated with a wickedly high fever and he's not all there. Chelsea's sitting on the other side of his bed, holding his hand. Cas keeps looking down at it, as though continually just remembering that she's doing it.
"They're going to make you feel better, and you can get some rest. Then you can go home with Dean. Couple days of movies and soup and you'll be good as new," Chelsea tells him.
Cas looks at her critically. "I had to stay in the hospital the last time I was human. I got pain medication."
"No pain medication, Cas," Dean says absently as he wonders how suspicious it is going to look if Cas has no medical history. Then he remembers the miracle of the insurance card and wonders if there is a way to find out if he already has an invented medical history and if there is a way to get to it and find out what Cas is allergic too.
Cas sighs and looks back at Chelsea. "You're very lovely. You remind me of the Angel of Coronations. But only your face. Because she is a bitch."
Chelsea laughs awkwardly and brushes Cas's hair back from his forehead. "That's sweet. I think."
Dean checks the last box and tosses the clipboard onto Cas's nightstand. "Chelsea? Could we get a minute?"
Dean waits for the door to close behind her before leaning over.
"Cas? Listen to me, this is important."
Cas nods dourly.
"If I leave you here, you need to be as normal as possible. Got it? No talking about demons or angels or monsters or ghosts."
"Why?" Cas asks. "I mean… I know…but… why are you so worried?"
"Because there are things that can happen if they think that you're crazy and or that I can't take care of you. They might try to take you away from me."
Dean's not sure how this works with someone like Cas who doesn't seem like they can take care of themselves, but he remembers his father bending down to talk to him very seriously the couple of times he and Sam wound up in the hospital when they were young, with those same words. They might try to take you away from me.
Cas grabs his hand, squeezing it before Dean can pull away in instant, embarrassed instinct.
"Okay. I'll be normal."
"You'll leave me here by myself?" Cas asks again.
"Visiting hours are only until nine. I'll hang till then. Watch some crappy TV. Go acquire some jello. You need to get some sleep. And let go of my hand."
"This is a pleasant gesture of affection," Cas says with no feeling behind it. His eyes are starting to drift shut.
"Not when you're a dude," Dean tells him. Cas lets go.
"Okay. No affection for dudes," Cas sighs. His eyes are shut and they don't open when the nurse comes in and grabs the forms. Dean makes a jello request. The nurse, youngish with a Swedish blonde face and box black hair smiles at him and promises to be back with a few.
Chelsea comes back in, drops into her chair and wraps her hand back around Cas's. Dean turns on the news quietly. They're both a few bites into their jello and Cas is breathing steadily by the time Dean speaks.
"Thanks. For dropping in with us. It's really… nice of you."
"Well. You did save my life."
Cas starts to snore lightly.
"There's… something else going on here isn't there?" Her tone is quiet, more like she doesn't want Dean to hear her than she doesn't want to wake Cas. "With Cas?"
Dean digs at his Jello. "You're not going to believe me."
"It's all true? The stuff he's been fever dream mumbling?"
"What?" She looks confused more than surprised, even when Dean clarifies "The guy whose hand you are holding is Castiel. A former angel of the lord. The angel of Thursday, actually."
Chelsea looks down at her hand. "And how did he become human?"
"I don't know. He came back from the dead that way. Remember all those storms and gang wars earlier this year? That was the apocalypse. Cas, my adoptive father Bobby, my brother Sam and I stopped it."
"How?" Chelsea's look of cautious patience is being changed into something Dean can't quite place.
"It's hard to explain. Sammy… let Lucifer take over his body. Lucifer killed Bobby and Cas. Sam managed to get control of the wheel back and he threw himself into Satan's special cage in hell, along with the Archangel Michael, and stopped the whole war."
"Satan. The Devil killed Cas?"
"Blew him up like a water balloon of guts hitting the pavement and then he showed up asleep in my yard dressed like any random armchair quarterback a few weeks later."
Chelsea doesn't reply. She thumbs over Cas's knuckles.
They eat more jello and turn their attention back to the news.
If the mysterious deaths in that gated community in Phoenix aren't another changeling infestation Dean's the Queen of England. Dean knows that Carver and McGee are in Tuscon, he stands, whips out his phone, remembers Chelsea and stops, then realizes that she knows what's going on, and now that she knows about Angels, she knows more than most Hunters do.
He calls McGee, asks if they can go check it out, walking around a little bit like he was just going to stretch his legs a little. Cas shivers, Dean pulls his blankets up.
He and Chelsea eat another jello cup. Cas wakes up. Dean forces him to pick at his own jello cup. Cas seems deeply suspicious of the concept of flavored gelatin, so they open all of them until he finds a flavor that makes up for it.
Chelsea leaves. She presses a quick kiss to Dean's forehead this time. "I'll bring you guys some of my famous soup once you get home. Bye."
Nick at Nite is having a Three's Company marathon. Dean stays until the nurses kick him out.
Cas makes a full recovery. It turns out he's allergic to arugala, which Dean is convinced isn't a real food anyway.
Chelsea brings them soup and doesn't kiss him at all when she leaves that time.
McGee calls back, it was a couple of changelings working together, a few kids and two mothers did die, but they saved most of them, more than they would have if Dean hadn't called. They tell him that they heard about a vamp nest in Connecticut and ask if he knows if anyone's in the area. Dean makes calls.
He and Cas go to the next soccer night. Thomas and Jose teach Cas to play. He's truly terrible at kicking the ball, but winds up to be a surprisingly good goalie.
Things go normal. They stay normal.
And then one day at work, Dean gets assigned a car for an oil change, finishes his work, notes the shoddy cabin filter, and goes to the lobby. He calls out the name like a nurse coming out into a waiting room and chokes halfway through it.
Chapter 5: Reading The Name Makes His Heart Freeze
Reading the name makes his heart freeze. Looking up and seeing Bobby, looking just like he did before Lucifer snapped his neck, sitting in the lounge, the water stained copy of "Motor Trend" that he had been reading hanging from his hands nearly makes Dean's heart explode.
Bobby's mouth is hanging open like a flytrap and he manages a strangled, "Boy!" before they're launching themselves into a hug. Dean's fighting down tears and failing and Bobby's not much better.
When they finally let go, Dean ducks in to tell his boss that something's come up and he has to go. He doesn't even ask why. Dean works hard, he's the best body shop guy they've got (years of torturing a classic car that he treated like a war vehicle/bedroom has given him some serious skills in that department) and Dean has a suspicion that Thomas and Jose talked to the boss man when Dean missed two days because of Cas getting sick. Dean works his ass off, and no one challenges that sometimes he needs to go home to take care of his roommate.
He and Bobby don't even talk until they get to the Impala. Dean's already whisking the "Human or Not" test supplies out of the trunk when Bobby sets his hand against Dean's arm.
"I don't need it."
"You don't need it?" Dean demands of a man who had a fully demon and ghost proof panic room in his basement. Bobby shrugs and Dean smirks. "Well… now I'm not letting you in my car until you do it." He passes Bobby the flask of Holy Water. Bobby takes a quick surreptitious swig, holds a hand full of salt and cuts himself with a silver and then an iron knife.
"How long you been back?" Bobby asks.
"I'm not back, Lucifer didn't kill me."
"No… he beat most of the life out of me, then Sam took the wheel, told me it was going to be all right, grabbed Michael and jumped into the cage," Dean's tears kick back up a little bit as he relates this information. As much as Cas has started carefully opening up talking about more of Sam than what'll it'll take to get him out of Hell, it still stings to bring him up. Bobby takes his hat off his head and holds it over his heart for a moment. A salute.
"So, Sam took on the Devil and won. This really is post-apocalypse America," Bobby huffs out a shaky breath.
"Yeah. What did you think it was?"
"Honestly? I was putting Vegas money on Heaven," Bobby says.
Dean wipes at his eyes. He's trying not to be insanely obvious, but this is too much. On top of everything else, he doesn't know how to handle getting Bobby back. His life works. He's been trying hard not to think about it, but he's been terrified for the last couple of months that he might really be happy, and now this.
"I… burned you, Bobby," Dean finally says. "I built a pyre in the graveyard with my eyes swollen mostly shut and I gave you a Hunter's funeral."
"Well… thanks?" He laughs, a tight held back chuckle. Dean echoes, then clears his throat. "How'd you come back?"
"I don't know how I got there, just woke up by a river in Nebraska. Clean dry, in my usual clothes, but a bathrobe on top of them, with more cash than I left for the apocalypse with and the keys to the car I brought in."
"You got miracled a 2008 Camry that needed an oil change?" Dean scoffs.
"Looks like," Bobby replies.
"Cas came back in a bathrobe too," Dean says. His brain is buzzing like a swarm of flies and he feels like he's just talking to try and reign in the thought that had been threatening to overpower him.
Cas is back.
Bobby is back.
Sam must be back.
"Cas is back?"
"Just showed up in the yard one day like he'd sprung out of the ground," Dean sighs. "A couple weeks after the whole show down. And he's human too."
"At your place. We live in your house."
Bobby looks completely stunned. "You… you live there?"
"Yeah. I… I went almost straight there."
Bobby's already heading back inside for his car. Dean doesn't go after him but does stand rooted to the spot until he comes back. He lets Bobby pull out in front, then tails him a little too close all the way back to the house.
Bobby pulls all the way up to the house and hops out of the car, looking up at the house and around the yard in what is either horror or shock.
Dean walks over to him, not sure what to say. "We… cleaned up a little. Hope you don't mind." He and Cas have been working on the house. They fixed up the porch. Put some new paint on it. Before Dean had landed his job they had sold off about half the cars for scrap to add to their gambling and pick pocketed money.
"How long have you two been here?" Bobby asked.
"Seven… maybe eight months."
Bobby shakes his head and rushes into the house. Dean follows him inside. He's glancing around the living room, staring at the bookshelves like there is something horrible about them. He jumps when Chelsea ducks her head around the kitchen entrance. "Hey, Dean," she glances back at the kitchen slightly guiltily before saying in a voice obviously meant to tell Cas that they've got company. "Who's your friend? What are you doing home so early?"
Dean can hear the careful shuffling of Cas hiding books that might look odd to normal people.
He holds up a finger, requesting a minute before he responds to her, and then calls out. "Cas? Come see who's back."
Cas clearly recognizes how shaky his tone is. There's a crash, like a book dropping. Chelsea's face snaps toward Castiel, concerned, before he rushes out of the kitchen and freezes in the doorway.
Dean suddenly sees him the way Bobby must and realizes just how long they have been here. Cas's hair is nearly down to his shoulders. Chelsea had taken the product away from him about a month ago and given him conditioner. His hair hangs around his face in waves. If he was blonde he'd look like just like the angels in old paintings. Or if he didn't have a raggedy quilt from the trunk in Bobby's room wrapped around his shoulders. Cas had never felt cold before and he hated it. He'd been wrapped up in that blanket since the first chilly fall day and Dean had made a point of never explaining to him how the furnace worked because he didn't want to think about the electric bill.
Cas pauses for just a split second when he sees Bobby, then crosses the living room in two half steps, half leaps, and claps Bobby into a hug, wrapping them both in the blanket.
"You came back!" Cas yells.
"Yeah, son, you too," Bobby says. The hug goes on a few moments past appropriate, and then a couple of moments into awkward. Dean realizes that between Chelsea being a very tactile person and his own reluctance to correct Cas, they may have skewed some of Cas's perceptions of acceptable expressions of affection.
Bobby pats him on the back and finally pulls away. Cas stares at him with dish plate blue eyes. "We… umm… we should give you lunch," he stammers. "Hospitality dictates that we should feed you. I made alfredo. We can… we can heat it up and then you can eat it with us."
Bobby laughs, but it's distracted, he's still looking around the room like there is something wrong with it. He steps a little further back from Castiel and shoots a questioning glance at Chelsea, who steps forward into the living room.
"So… this is Bobby." Chelsea tucks a hand into her pocket and holds the other out to him. He shakes it. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Chelsea."
"She just found out about ghosts a couple months ago. She helps out sometimes now," Dean supplies. "She reads Latin."
"And Cyrillic and French," Chelsea adds.
Bobby shakes her hand and Chelsea excuses herself, with a slightly awestruck, "I should let you guys catch up. Cas, give me a call about that chupacabra thing, okay?"
"My time will probably be spent on catching up for a while," Cas tells her, still staring at Bobby.
"I get that, sweetheart. That's fine. Whenever you've got the time."
Chelsea lets herself out with a little wave back at the shaken men assembled in the living room and Bobby waits until the door closes behind her, then goes directly to the bookshelf and starts pulling volumes off the shelf, flipping them open and checking pages.
"Bobby, what's going on?" Dean asks.
"These are all my books!" he hisses.
Cas looks alarmed and takes a step toward Dean.
"Of course they're your books," Dean responds. "Who else's would they be?"
"I came straight here after I came back to the land of the living and packed all the books, weapons and spell stuff up! I brought the books out to my place in Mitchell! I sold damn near all the weapons off!"
Cas takes another step toward Dean, quirks his head like he always used to and asks, "When?"
"When I came back. Three months ago," Bobby says. "But look at this," he holds out the book in his hand, pointing to the notes scrawled in the margins. "This is my handwriting. These are my notes. This book is in a rubbermaid on a shelf in my basement an hour away!"
"We were living here three months ago," Dean says. "There's no way you couldn't have noticed. We had the garden planted and the yard cleaned up and the porch painted. And we were here."
"You weren't," Bobby says. "The place was dark and musty and full of cobwebs. Like no one had been in here since we left, and everything I took is still here. What in the hell is going on?"
"Cas?" Dean turns to him. "Ringing any bells?"
"I… it could be side by side realities… but I don't understand how you would have been switched back and forth between them."
"What would I have seen?"
"A human body would not have been able to withstand the transition. You would have been split open like a hot dog in the microwave," Cas says. He touches two fingers to Dean's arm, which he hasn't done in a really long time, and Dean damn near does it back, just to make sure that Cas is still there.
"What in the hell going on here?"
The three of them walk through the house. Bobby mentions something every once in a while like "I sold that gun to Donovan." Or "Milgerny cheated me out of the fair price on that opium."
And Cas and Dean will respond with who they've talked to in the last three months. None of them have mentioned Bobby.
The third time this happens Bobby pulls his phone out and dials a number, panting out an intense breath of relief when there is an answer.
Dean can hear the voice on the other side of the phone. It's a woman. She asks what's wrong.
And then Bobby replies, "I'll tell you when I get home, Karen. I'm on my way."
It takes a second for Dean to place the name. He's only met her twice. Once when she chased them through Bobby's nightmares and once when she was dead and making pies in Bobby's kitchen.
"Okay. Are you sure you're okay to drive? You sound a little strange."
"Everything's fine. I'll tell you about it when I get home."
"Kay. Love you."
"Love you too."
Bobby hangs up and looks up into Dean's incredulous face.
"Karen? Karen, your wife Karen?" Dean demands.
"Cas and I aren't the only ones back."
They won't let Bobby just take off. Bobby's so afraid Karen won't be there when they get to Mitchell that he won't slow down. Dean and Cas pile into the Impala and follow Bobby down I-90.
"Cas, that side by side reality thing, you think that's what's going on?"
"Even for an extremely short time, say just the few hours Bobby was in our house… making that happen on Earth is beyond anyone's power. I only suggested it as a hypothetical possibility based on the fact that it can be accomplished in Hell, but reality is essentially meaningless down there."
"Are you sure there aren't any players on the board with that kind of mojo? Or anyone who could have potentially gotten it? Maybe some big-daddy demon who fell into the top spot with Lucifer locked down?"
Cas shrugs. "This could be accomplished in Hell because reality isn't… fixed there. It's a completely different…thing than on Earth. No Demon, no Angel could do this."
Bobby turns off the freeway. Dean follows.
"What about someone more powerful. What about Death?"
"Death! The horseman. He could have brought us all back without even straining himself."
"Perhaps. But why would he?"
Bobby pulls into a neighborhood then a driveway. Dean pulls up beside him.
Karen is in the house, she accepts Bobby's crazed hug with a surprised smile, and then sees Dean and Cas. Dean belatedly realizes that Cas is still wrapped in his blanket.
"Oh my god," Karen manages. She looks from Cas to Dean, then back before finally stuttering. "L-l-l-et me go get the pie out of the fridge."
"We'll be right there."
Bobby takes them down to the basement and shows them all the books. Even the one that Cas and Chelsea were going through at kitchen table when Bobby showed up.
Karen comes down to check up on what they're doing. She gives Cas a sweater. They go eat pie.
Dean is freaking out. Months and months of the same old, run of the mill weirdness, and now this. Karen's pie tastes just like it did, and he's only a few bites in before he realizes that the reason she looks so different this time around is that in addition to being alive- she's older. She's as old as she would have been if she'd never died.
And she knows what happened last time. They both do. Bobby says he remembers what happened but not how it felt.
Bobby updates them on his last few months. He ran into Karen at a diner after he'd packed up everything in Cas and Dean's house. Walked in and she was sitting there, just like she was waiting for him. He ran the full test on her, they talked about what happened last time. She had a house in Mitchell, he loaded up a truck and moved then and there.
He does home remodeling. He's quit drinking. He's retired from hunting, though Dean can tell that he sees some appeal in Cas and Dean's version of retiring. They all eat three pieces of pie before Cas hesitantly asks for the recipe.
Karen ushers him into the kitchen to copy out her recipe card and Bobby leans in when they're out of ear shot.
"I'm not sure I should be telling you this, and I don't want Karen to know," he starts. "And Cas… doesn't seem all there."
"He's fine. Mostly," Dean interjects.
"Dean, I had my phone when I woke up. And the first thing I did was call you boys. You, Sam and Cas."
"I never got a call. I've got the same phone, same number. So does Cas."
"Calls went to voicemail, but here's the part that's making me… scared as all hell. All three voicemails were the same. None of them were any of you. It was a man's voice: young, not a voice I recognize, a little nasal on all three phones. And on all three it said the same thing."
"Wait and see, Bobby."
Karen and Cas come back, Bobby leans away and Dean stares down into his pie.
It's dark by the time they leave. Bobby calls Cas and Dean's phones while they're still in the living room. Everything works. Dean's new voicemail, with no mention of monsters on it, comes up. They exchange a look. Dean realizes that Cas's voicemail is still "I don't understand, why do you want me to say my name?" he'll help him change it later.
Karen sends them home with a lasagna.
Dean tells Cas what Bobby told him. Cas nods and they both fall silent for miles.
Cas keeps looking at Dean as Dean drives, like he wants to say something but has no idea what. Dean's relieved. He's fighting down the rage that feels like molten lead in his stomach.
Something is screwing with them. Something is building this little life he has. Something invented a life for Bobby. Something made Cas human. Something made Cas suffer. Something kept Bobby from seeing them.
And Sam could be out there somewhere.
"I could call him. Sam," Cas offers, as though he read Dean's mind. Dean shrugs. He wants to know. He doesn't have the guts to call Sam himself. When Cas calls the number's been disconnected.
"Not that it means jackshit," Dean huffs. "What in the hell is going on?"
They sit in silence for a little while longer. Cas turns on the radio. Dean speeds. They're home in under an hour. Cas takes the lasagna inside. Dean stands by the car for a moment, then kicks the tire for all he's worth, pops open the trunk and grabs the same bag he took out earlier. He storms into the kitchen, grabs Cas and pins him back against the counter. Cas pushes back, with a startled cry, and Dean pushes him back harder.
"Dean? What are you doing?"
"I never tested you. When you came back. I just accepted it was you."
Cas gulps, but loosens under Dean's hands. "Alright. So test me." He holds his arm out. Dean pours the holy water, sprinkles the salt. By the time he pulls the knife out he already feels less crazed and ashamed of himself for flipping out. On Cas of all people. He's holding the knife but can't bring himself to put it to Cas's skin.
Cas tugs the silver knife out of his hand and pulls a shallow cut across his forearm. Then takes the iron knife and does the same. He sets them both on the counter.
"Would you like me to test you as well?" By all rights he should sound angry. But he doesn't. He sounds serious and genuinely concerned and Dean doesn't deserve it.
Dean drops his head into his hands. "I'm sorry. You can if you want. I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to… I shouldn't have pushed you."
"No it's not."
"I understand. It's been a trying day."
Dean steps back and lets him go. "I'm sorry," he says again before going out to the couch and falling back onto it. He hears Cas moving dishes around in the kitchen. He finally emerges with two mugs and sets one on the coffee table in front of Dean.
Dean hates tea. He picks up the mug anyway.
"You're upset about Bobby," Cas says. Dean almost snaps at him for being obvious, but decides he's not trying to medal in douche tonight. He just threw Cas against a counter, and Cas is trying to help. He's only had Dean to learn from, it's not his fault he doesn't know how.
"Not quite." Dean sips his tea. It's got a dry, hay like taste, almost completely covered by honey. It's not so bad.
"You think Bobby and I both being back, not to mention Karen, is proof that Sam is out there somewhere too. He might even be back in this house in another reality."
"Do you think he's back too?"
Cas is quiet for a long time before he answers, "If he is, would you want to find him yet?"
"What the hell does that mean?"
"Bobby didn't find us here. Bobby came and found things to sell, and a life to say goodbye too and then he found the love of his life waiting for him a diner 15 years after her funeral."
Dean looks up out of his tea and back up at Cas.
"He seems very happy. It's almost as though…" Cas clears his throat. "It's possible to see it as a reward for service. Bobby fought well for years and lost much. I… I used to believe that those kinds of sacrifices were rewarded."
"Which still brings us back to who is behind it. Gabriel used to create realities, maybe it's not a side by side reality. Could an archangel be behind this?"
"Raphael was the only one left. I don't see him doing this. He doesn't believe in rewards."
"Maybe he's doing this to keep us out of the picture. Keep us all… pacified while he sets up round two."
"I suppose it's possible… but I don't… I don't think that's what's happening. You didn't answer my question. If Sam is out there… in his reward… would you want to find him and… drag him out of it? If he's happy?"
"I feel like we're all just being screwed with!" Dean bursts out. Cas sets his hand over Dean's. Dean lets him.
"And what if he isn't ?" Dean replies. "I mean… look at you. You didn't get rewarded. You're stuck down here with all the fun extras of cold and allergies and the flu and nightmares and a big fat stop-service on any and all mojo. Are you telling me that you're happy?"
Cas casts his eyes down before answering, in a small voice, "Yes."
Dean lets that settle. "Oh. Okay. Good."
"You really don't believe that good things happen. Do you?"
Dean picks up his tea with the hand that isn't under Cas's and takes a sip. "I once saw a rapist die in a freak car crash on a hunt."
Cas quirks his head. "Okay. Closer."
Dean shrugs apologetically.
"We should reciprocate Bobby and Karen's hospitality. We should invite them over for dinner."
"Yeah. I'd like that." Dean tugs his hand away from Cas's. "Okay. I gotta work in the morning."
"Yes," Cas agrees.
He shuffles up the stairs behind Dean. He stops at Dean's bedroom door.
"Dean… will you promise me something?"
"Promise that you won't run after Sam without telling me first?"
Dean has to admit that's fair. "Yeah. Cas. Okay."
"And when you run off anyway, promise it won't be to do something that'll get you killed?"
Dean feels almost as bad as he did when he pushed Cas into the counter.
"Okay. I promise."
"Okay." Cas clears his throat. "Okay. Thank you."
He sounds a little shaken up and Dean realizes that Cas got parts of his family back today too. Dean almost smirks at the thought of Bobby realizing that, for at least one person, he's a substitute for God.
Cas sweeps a hand over his eye and Dean steps forward and hugs Cas, who squeezes him back in a way that nearly scares Dean.
Chapter 6: Dean Still Thinks of Cas as Fragile and Simple
Dean still thinks of Cas as fragile and simple. He tries to remind himself that up until this year Castiel was an immortal, all seeing warrior of God that got beat up just as badly as anyone else did, but he tends to mentally default to an image of Cas clutching a beer in a whorehouse and looking terrified.
He feels younger and more fragile as a human and Dean has to keep reminding himself that Cas, for lack of a better term, is growing up. He does a better job remembering this than Chelsea, who still molly coddles him. She braids his hair and hugs him like a little girl hugs a dog, arms thrown around the neck. Bobby treats him like he’s broken.
But all three of them are shocked when, while researching a truly weird case in Ohio that turns out to be a sort of singing curse mania, Cas, in his blanket, with his hair braided and drinking the broth out of his bowl of soup like it’s a giant cup, reaches out absentmindedly and grabs the FBI phone as it rings.
“McTavish.” He nods along for a moment then sneers, “You think I don’t know who I put on this case? Donnelly’s one of my best agents. If he says those bodies need to be exhumed, you hand him a damn shovel,” and hangs up. Bobby’s staring. Chelsea’s jaw has dropped. Dean is mostly trying to imagine Cas, the hair, the blanket the whole nine, actually out on a case.
Cas dispassionately flips to the next page in his book and picks his soup bowl back up. Bobby shrugs and goes back to his own book. Chelsea rubs her hand over his back a few times before going back to hers.
Dean looks down, more at his juice glass than his book, thinking.
Dean expands the scope of his research. He’s looking for Sam on Earth and in Hell now. He goes through the obits, the arrest records and even the engagement announcements everyday looking for Sam or the couple of aliases they use when they get split up. He sets up a Google alert linked to his phone.
He gets… a little reckless. It’s part exhaustion, part hopelessness, just a little bit relief. Cas can take care of himself, take care of business if Dean’s gone for a few hours. Dean’s even gotten one of the junkers in the yard running and started teaching Cas to drive. He doesn’t go over 20 miles an hour, the plates are discards and the registration is forged under the name “Horton Hornswagle” but it moves. Cas takes it down the back roads to the grocery store (unless there has been any kind of weather).
Just one of those things being true would be enough for Dean to start thinking about making some bad decisions.
All of them together… he can feel himself thinking these things and keeps fighting to remember that just because if Dean took off to go hunting for Sam, Chelsea or Bobby would take care of Cas, that Cas is to a point of becoming human now where he could survive without Dean, doesn’t mean that he’d be okay with out Dean. They’ve built this family together that Dean doesn’t quite know how to explain to himself.
And he promised Cas he wouldn’t.
One day at work the google alert on Dean’s phone goes absolutely ape-shit. He ducks into the bathroom to check it, not even bothering to wash up first and smearing grease across the screen.
Heart racing, he reads through the first five before he realizes what’s going on and nearly throws the damn thing against the wall.
Apparently, a bunch of kids who spent too much time on their computers had set up some… internet thing so that all of the Twilight web traffic got redirected to an… under appreciated… book series that had miraculously come into the funding to start publishing again. Just in time to reveal it’s main character’s last names and get one of them mysteriously back from Hell.
So now he’s got a tattoo and a hand shaped burn (which he covers up all the time anyway, because there is no possible explanation for it) that make him look like a nerd. His “Sam Winchester” google alert is sending him all sorts of things that he doesn’t need to ever see, and it’s useless for actually finding Sam.
Dean dials Chuck’s phone number as he walks out to the field behind the garage where he won’t be over heard.
“Hello, You have reached the voicemail of,” a brisk female voice started followed by a “Chuck Sh… oh crap” then back to the robotic woman “cannot take your call now. Please leave a message after the beep.”
Dean leaves a message that he even admits is just an off the cuff list of ways he’s thinking of ganking Chuck then hangs up with a promise to call back when he thinks of more.
That burning anger that his misery is back up for public consumption pushes him toward the edge. A couple snobby bitches who don’t realize that their oh-so-impressive German cars were actually built in Mexico push him over. He buys a bottle of whiskey on the way home and by the time Chelsea and Cas get home from her (finally successful) trip to get Cas to trim his hair and then a detour to the bookstore on their way home, Dean is more than halfway through it. He pours some for Cas, who knows that Dean is drunk, and then a shot for Chelsea who seems to think she needs to stay and take care of them. She takes a second shot, decides that she doesn’t want to drive in the snow after two and goes upstairs, dropping into the bed in Bobby’s old room, where she sleeps if she’s there late working on a case.
The hangover Dean has in the morning makes the list of his top ten worst hangovers of all time. He hasn’t drunk more than a whiskey chaser with a beer in months. Cas keeps wine and beer and in the house and Dean hasn’t really bothered to go out and get anything else.
Cas finds him hunched over the toilet, sweating like a pig and hurling like a champ. Cas gets mad when he realizes that it’s not the flu, but he still calls into work for Dean and brings him juice.
A team of hunters in Oregon call to tell them about a strange amount of Demonic omens just over the border in Minnesota. It’s a little closer to home than the stuff they’ve been dealing with and Cas goes into a sudden, complete panic, about possession. Now that Cas is no longer the thing that is occupying a body, but the body itself, he could be possessed. Dean digs an anti-possession out of Bobby’s desk for him, Cas puts it around his neck immediately. He fishes out the second one.
“We need to give this to Chelsea,” he says.
“Yeah, man,” Dean grabs Cas’s hand, clenched around the charm. “We will.”
“No… we… we should go now. She’s not protected!” Cas insists. Dean can’t talk him out of it. Chelsea doesn’t answer when they call. Cas calls her over and over again until she does answer, understandably scared.
She’s out on a dinner date.
Dean’s not sure why that seems weird. She’s not his girlfriend. She still kisses him on the cheek a lot, but just as much as she kisses Cas. He hasn’t taken her out in… four months? She eats dinner with them all the time and sleeps over if they’re researching too late at night. She and Cas make breakfast sometimes. But it does still seem weird. They segued from a state of dating to a state of non-dating easily, without sex or fighting, and Dean’s not sure how it happened.
Cas gets a little garbled and excitable, Dean takes the phone away from him and tells Chelsea that they’ll meet her outside so they don’t ruin her date and to just tell the guy that she forgot something and a friend is dropping it off.
Dean splashes a little holy water on her when they get to the restaurant anyway. She passes the test.
“He a nice guy?” Dean asks as he fixes the necklace around Chelsea’s neck.
“I think so.”
“Good. He tries to pull anything, you know we’ll kill him.” Dean smirks and kisses her on the cheek.
It’s strange to be part of an actual team.
He and Cas go home and research. Cas obsessively touches the charm around his neck for the next two hours until Dean just can’t take it.
“Cas? Stop that. You aren’t going to get possessed in Bobby’s house. There are devil’s traps under all of the rugs and salt under all the doors. You’re safe in here.”
“It’s just…” Cas shudders. “It’s just the worst thing I can think of. The worst.”
Dean knocks his knee against Cas’s. “Hey… if you’re that worried about it, do you want to just tattoo it on?”
Cas looks intrigued. “How does a tattoo work?”
“They push ink under your skin with needles. It doesn’t really hurt that much.” Dean unbuttons his shirt and pulls it aside so that Cas can see. He’s a little surprised when Cas reaches out and runs his fingers over it lightly.
“You can feel where the ink is, a little bit,” Cas comments. “Under your skin.”
He seems to be thinking pretty seriously about the idea. He runs his fingers over the ink again, tracing his fingertip around the edges.
“Cas? Whatchya thinking?”
Something about the way that Cas looks up at him his guilty and Dean doesn’t understand why. Cas stops moving his fingers, Dean grabs his hand in his, noting distantly how comfortable that has become and just how limited his ability to deny Cas comfort (or undermine what Chelsea sets as a standard of normal) really is.
“It’s strange to think about purposefully scarring my skin.”
“Well. You can’t lose it and it works.”
“Yes.” Cas’s forehead scrunches. “This would cost money.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ve got it.” He’s got savings for the only time in his life. Protecting Cas is a completely reasonable thing to bite into them for.
“How much money?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Cas purses his lips. Now he’s annoyed. “I have two hundred seventy five dollars and fifty eight cents. Would I be able to purchase this?”
“How did you get money?”
“Chelsea pays me to clean the hotel room sometimes when the other maids are ill or off.”
“Oh,” Dean says finally. “Why didn’t you tell me that?”
Cas shrugs. “It’s very dull work.”
Dean takes Cas into town in the morning. There are four tattoo parlors in Sioux Falls and one of them has an open appointment. It’s a two hour wait. They drop into chairs and listen to the buzzing in the other room. Cas has a paperback that Chelsea lent him that seems to be pretty engrossing. Dean has a book of Hell lore with a relatively plain cover.
Dean watches while Cas shows the artist the charm and explains what he wants. It’s still strange to see Cas interact with people outside of himself, Chelsea and Bobby. He’s gotten pretty good at normal and he gets asked where he’s from now more often than Dean quietly gets asked what’s wrong with him, but it’s something he turns on and off. He’s admitted that he finds it draining and so he doesn’t bother to pretend with the three of them.
Dean’s surprised when it takes almost three hours for Cas’s tattoo to be done. He and Sam just got the ink in and got out. But when Dean ducks back to check on Cas he sees why. It’s Cas’s tattoo, it’s Cas’s money, Dean found a crazy long search history about tattoos and he knows that Cas doesn’t like black so he isn’t surprised that Cas’s tattoo is a little different. It’s dark blue, with the edges of the flames in a lighter blue so that they look like waves in the water, little beads of the former angel’s blood blossoming up between them as the artist works. There’s also a little line of enochian symbols down one side, also in shades of blue.
Dean asks what they mean after they get home. Cas shrugs and looks up out the the window at the sky before answering, “It seemed prudent to be protected against both sides. Since I stand in the middle.”
There’s nothing out of the ordinary about the rest of the day, so Dean’s not sure why he’s so antsy by the evening, but he is. Cas spent the afternoon absorbed in his book. Dean called and threatened Chuck’s voicemail again. Cas fell asleep on the couch.
He needs some air.
He leaves Cas a note and goes to the bar, vaguely interested in a couple hands of poker.
There’s a woman in the parking lot when he pulls up that makes him reconsider. He realizes, with something like horror, that he hasn’t slept with a girl since Anna.
Over a year ago. What is wrong with him?
He sees her eyes rake over the car and when he gets out he smiles at her. She offers him a cigarette and he accepts. He doesn’t usually like to smoke, but it’s a good excuse to talk to people.
Her name is Santia. She pronounces it very dramatically and laughs when Dean repeats her with a cheeky grin. She’s already touching his arm.
She dropped out of nursing school. She thinks the fact that he’s a mechanic is sexy.
She asks about the car. He tells her it was his dad’s. She asks if they can go for a ride. They get in. She gives directions. It starts to snow slightly. Dean’s not surprised when they wind up in a well concealed dead end. Santia gives him a look and slinks out the passenger side door and drops into the back seat. Dean leaves the engine running, cranks the heat up so high that the legos in the register rattle and follows her.
He’s just a little bit worried she might go monster on him, but he’s not entirely out of practice yet and he’s got a gun and a silver knife in the glove compartment.
Dean is very aware that this is where he had sex last too. With Anna, who was brave and about to die and had forgiven him for things that were unforgivable while she kissed him and stroked her palms over his arms.
Santia is tugging open the buttons of his shirt now. She makes a noise like a purr when she sees the tattoo and runs her tongue over it. Dean wonders what he’s getting himself into.
She brings her face up to his, but moves when he tries to kiss him, running her talc soft cheek across his, her lip gloss making her lips stick against his ear as she whispers filthy things to him and tugs his jeans open.
She’s wearing perfume… it’s heavy and sharp. Almost venomous. Dean lets his head drop back against the seat. He tries to catch her lips again when she moves, but she drops to his neck, nibbling along a tendon.
She pulls his cock out and strokes him hard. It doesn’t take much. It’s been so long. Her hands are soft and strong, she’s good at this and his body is desperate for it.
She thumbs over his slit, with a hum of approval when he’s already just a little wet there, then sinks down to the impala floor and takes him into her mouth.
From a technical standpoint- like if he were awarding points in the blowjob Olympics, this would be the absolute best blowjob of his life. Tens across the board even from the eastern block judges. Her tongue is amazing, the word nimble springs to the part of his mind that’s still thinking, her mouth is perfect. He’s already ratcheted so high that only strength of character keeps him from exploding down her throat the first time she swallows around him.
But he’s not enjoying this at all.
It’s… girly and embarrassing and he would never admit this to anyone, but he doesn’t like “hook ups”. He doesn’t mind one-night stands, but there is a difference. He doesn’t like sticking his cock into whoever is passing by. He likes to have spoken to a girl, know something about her. Maybe have saved her life. He likes to run his hands through her hair, over her skin. Kissing. Eye contact. He likes to feel like she knows he’s getting her off, and maybe, even if it is just for the night, that she likes him, and he’s glad she’s there.
He sort of feels like Santia saw him pull up and thought to herself that she had better suck his cock before her perfect technique got rusty.
His mind fighting his body keeps him from coming, but doesn’t affect how hard he is. Santia’s breathing heavy from the effort now, but just keeps sucking him.
He doesn’t like this. He can’t see her, folded up on the floor between his legs. He tries to stroke her hair, but it’s styled with something that catches in his hands and she pulls his hand away and pins them to the seat.
Dean’s about 70% sure that this was an installment of Casa Erotica.
She ups the tempo, the suction, the tongue action and he can’t help it anymore. He comes hard. She swallows and then she’s climbing into his lap, her pants already pulled down.
He presses two fingers inside her. Tries to kiss her again. She leans back, mewling and moaning and putting on a show. When he touches her clit it’s pierced. He gets her off, she grabs his hand and sucks his fingers clean.
He wishes he’d stayed home.
And now the awkward part. How does he take her back to the bar?
His phone rings, solving the issue. He answers it.
“Dean, are you okay?” Cas asks. It’s his ‘trying to be reasonable when I don’t want to’ voice. He uses it when he knows he’s asking for something that he shouldn’t be asking for.
“Yeah. I’m okay. I’m just out for a drive. Needed some air. Went to the bar.”
“Alright. It’s snowing.”
“Cas. I’m fine.”
“I know. I just… I can’t drive in the snow. If you drink too much at the bar I can’t come get you. You’re making me very nervous.”
“Cas. I’m not drinking. I’m okay. It’s barely snowing. I’m coming home.”
“Okay. I mean… you don’t need to. If you need air.”
“Will it make you nervous if I don’t though?”
“Kay. I’ll be home in half an hour.” He pulls up his pants and shoves the phone in the pocket.
“Girlfriend?” Santia asks.
“No,” Dean replies, offended. He’s never had a girlfriend, but he likes to think he’s the kind of guy who would be faithful if he did.
“No!” Dean gives her the traumatized army buddy story. She seems unmoved. This bothers him. He could pretend that he doesn’t want women to look at him like he’s a hero, but it’s a transparent lie.
“Good,” Santia smiles. “Cause this is a great cock and I’d love to take it for a ride sometime.”
Dean’s not sure how to reply to that. He goes for awkward smile.
He takes her back to the bar. She still doesn’t kiss him. He goes home.
Cas is sitting on the counter when Dean gets home, blanket around his waist, shirt unbuttoned, tugging at the plastic and bandaging on his chest with the tube of tattoo cream they gave them at the shop sitting on his lap.
“How ya feeling?”
“Fine,” Cas replies. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you to come home.”
“It’s fine,” Dean shrugs. “I was all aired out.” Dean drops down into a kitchen chair and pulls over a book from the pile of Hell lore.
“I’m worried about you.”
Dean’s heard that a couple times since Bobby came back. From Bobby, from Chelsea, from Tom at work.
It sounds different from Castiel. Especially when he keeps going. “You’ve been tired and obsessive and moody and withdrawn since you started to believe that Sam might be back.”
“Wow, Cas. Covered everything?”
Dean hates it when Cas tries to be snarky. He doesn’t answer. Cas goes back to his bandage.
“Cas. I’m fine.”
“Going through the obituaries twice a day is not fine.”
“He’s my brother, Cas. He might be wandering around thinking that we’re all dead. He could be anywhere. I can’t… Cas… I can’t just…”
“Wait and see?” Cas asks.
Dean huffs. “Don’t make me hit you.”
Cas deflates. Dean feels bad. The more normal Cas gets the more Dean thinks he can treat him like he’s just one of the other guys and it doesn’t always work.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.” He stands up and goes over to the counter. He pushes Cas’s shirt back off his shoulders. “Here. I’ll do it.”
Cas drops his hands down to the counter, Dean takes the edges of the bandage in hand. He decides not to yank it off at the last minute. Cas has made it vehemently clear that he does not appreciate the “not really on three” trick.
Dean peels it off slowly, even though that makes it hurt more. Cas makes a face.
“Looks good.” He tosses the bandage in the trash, picks up the cream off Cas’s lap and pours a little on his fingers. He’s already got it spread over half the tattoo before he realizes what he’ doing. And then there’s nothing for it but to keep going.
It seems like Cas is thinking the same thing. “Dean, it scares me that you are doing exactly what you always do.” Cas leans forward, hugging Dean suddenly. Dean sighs but lets him. “You hurt yourself when you’re obsessing about Sam. You went to Hell for him and I had to pull you out.”
Dean gulps, remembering the nightmares that Cas wakes up from about that. He settles his arms around Cas’s shoulders and Cas keeps going. “You hurt the people around you. You…screw things up. Please don’t screw things up.”
Dean, for the millionth time this week, doesn’t know how to reply. So he just sits and waits for Cas to stop hugging him.
Cas doesn’t. He just sighs, “You smell bad.” But he doesn’t let go.
Dean doesn’t let go either.
Chapter 7: Smoky the Bear Would Approve. Cas Will Get Over It
Dean gulps, remembering the nightmares that Cas wakes up from about that. He settles his arms around Cas's shoulders and Cas keeps going. "You hurt the people around you. You…screw things up. Please don't screw things up."
Dean, for the millionth time this week, doesn't know how to reply. So he just sits and waits for Cas to stop hugging him.
Cas doesn't. He sighs, "You smell bad," but he doesn't let go. Dean doesn’t let go either.
He let’s his palm slide up over Cas’s back, the way Chelsea does, surprised when he feels his fingers go over the neckline of Cas’s shirt and he feels Cas’s bare neck against his fingertips.
Cas sighs and turns his head, so that his face is against Dean’s neck. Dean shivers at the alien feeling of the former angel’s stubble dragging over his skin, then, startled at his reaction, Dean jerks away. The movement is covered when his phone rings at the same moment.
“Chelsea” flashes on the screen. Dean’s eyes dart to the oven clock. It’s quarter to ten. Not too late for her to call, but still weirdly late.
“Hey, Chels what’s up?”
“Umm… okay… I don’t… I might be being ridiculous.”
Dean recognizes the fear in her voice. “What’s wrong?”
“The guy from the date? Well, it didn’t work out, and I ran into him a couple times in the last week, and… I umm… now I think he’s following me. I think he’s outside my house.”
Dean looks up at Cas. “Cas, get dressed to go out.” He’s already moving toward the door, Cas following. “Okay. Chelsea- lock the doors. All the doors. When we were cleaning guns a few weeks ago, I left a rifle in your closet and a box of salt rounds. Get them, go up to your room, stand in the corner. He comes through the doors, you blow him full of holes.”
They’re outside, Dean’s popping the trunk, shivering in the frigid cold. He grabs a knife and hands Cas one. “You won’t kill him, but it’ll hurt like hell, and keep him down long enough.”
“For me to fill him full of holes.”
“Dean-“ Chelsea starts.
“When you get upstairs put the phone on speaker, put it somewhere so we can here what’s going on. Here’s Cas.”
Dean tosses Cas the phone. He doesn’t really track what the conversation is. He hits 90 on the freeway and kills the lights on the Impala as they come down the highway and turn into Chelsea’s neighborhood and parks a few houses down.
“Are we really going to kill this man?” Cas asks. He doesn’t sound like he’s against it, just like he thinks he ought to clarify. Dean can hear Chelsea commenting on this question in the background.
“Probably not. We’re just going to see if he’s there, if he is, we’re going to rough him up a little bit.”
“He says we’re going to rough him up a little bit…right. We’re here. I’m going to hang up now.”
Cas tucks the phone into his pocket and pulls out the knife.
“Dude, not yet. Put it away.” Dean smacks the back of his hand against Cas’s arm. The last thing they need is to be the armed creepy dudes sneaking around a girl’s house.
Cas slips his hand under his coat, hiding the knife, and they head toward the house. Like he used to do with his blade under his trench coat.
Dean almost hopes the guy is there. After the weird day with Cas, and the half great, half terrible blow job with some random girl who probably doesn’t even remember his name, he just wants to carve up a pervert until he screams and then go get some shut eye.
It’s a little unhealthy. He’s okay with that.
He and Cas take opposite sides of the house. They don’t find the guy. Dean finds footprints in the snow. They go around the yard, and to just outside Chelsea’s window. Chelsea comes home with them without even pretending to put up a fight about it.
Forty-five minutes later they’re back in the house. Chelsea’s shakes are already worked down, and she’s laughing with them. She’s sitting really close to Cas, even for her, and the laugh is fake, but she’s laughing.
Dean some how winds up making hot chocolate. Some deep buried memory of what people get when they’re upset in the winter. He has old, vague memories of stealing some for Sam once because they saw it in some holiday special and Sam had never tried it and Dean couldn’t remember if he had or not.
When he comes back from the kitchen Cas has relinquished part of his blanket to Chelsea, and their hands are twined on top of it. He quietly blames Chelsea for the fact that Cas has learned to be a little clingy and drops down on her other side.
They don’t talk about the guy. Chelsea says she’ll go down to the police station and file a report in the morning, but other than that, they talk about cases. Cas shows her his tattoo. They both suggest she get one and Dean learns that Chelsea actually has a tattoo. A rose on her ass that she got when she was eighteen. Apparently it’s not her least regretted decision of all time. She says she’ll think about the anti-possession tattoo.
They finish the cocoa. Dean dumps the mugs in the sink. Cas goes to rinse them out and Dean hangs downstairs with him, letting Chelsea have the bathroom first.
“I’m glad she’s staying with us,” Cas says, squirting soap into a mug and scrubbing it out. “I don’t think I’d be able to sleep if she had stayed at home. Is that condescending?”
“Condescending?” Dean asks.
“Because it sounds like I don’t think that she can take care of herself?”
“That’s different. If it was simpler- ghost, monster, whatever. We’d just hunt it, it’d be dead, we’d let her sleep in her own bed. We can’t just go kill some dude. It gets complicated.”
They go upstairs, Chelsea is in her room and they slip into the bathroom to brush their teeth. Cas still does this very methodically. Even after months of being human he still puts exactly a pea size dot of toothpaste on the brush, as per instructions.
Chelsea walks by, apparently on her way downstairs from Bobby’s room. She quirks an eyebrow at them. “You two brush your teeth together?”
Dean looks between Cas and Chelsea in the mirror. “Is that weird?” Of all the things that he knows are weird between him and Cas, this never would have occurred to him.
“No. Not really. It’s adorable.” She shrugs and continues on her way.
Dean shoots a look at Cas before nudging the door closed with his toe. “So… you wouldn’t be able to sleep is she wasn’t under our roof tonight, huh?”
“No. I don’t expect so.”
Dean nods, spits, rinses. Cas gives him a little bit of a look. The toothpaste tube says to brush for two minutes and Dean never does.
“You two spend a lot of time together. Get along. Get a little cuddly. Do you maybe have a little crush on Chelsea?”
Cas’s industrious brushing slows. “I don’t understand anything you just said to me.”
“Do you know what a-”
“Yes, Dean, I know what a crush is.” He sounds impatient, but not pissed. “And I don’t have romantic feelings for Chelsea. She’s important to me. She cares about us. She is our friend. What is ‘cuddly’?”
“Holding her hand all the time and sharing a blanket on the couch.”
“We do that,” Cas says, flicking a finger between the two of them. Dean flushes in embarrassment. Cas isn’t wrong.
“No we don’t,” he says.
Cas looks askance at him. “Yes we do.”
“We don’t… cuddle,” Dean asserts before throwing out. “It’s different with a girl.”
“Oookaay,” Cas says, his sarcasm undercut by the toothpaste foam around his mouth. “And why do I need your permission for any of this?”
“Because I went out with her first.”
Cas spits, rinses and rubs his tattoo (Dean can’t believe that was just this morning. He’s gone from tattoo, to dull afternoon, to random chick in the woods to picking up Chelsea from some stalker freak and now this).
“You’re weird tonight,” Cas says finally. “Are you okay?”
Cas looks disbelieving. “Okay. Goodnight, Dean.”
Dean sleeps better than he was expecting to and wakes up with the feeling of a dream fading away. The details are fuzzy, a few images stand out like flashes in closed eyes after looking into the light. Sam in a bathrobe sitting silently in the corner of the tattoo parlor, watching Chuck burn a handprint onto Cas’s chest while Cas sat still and unconcerned.
It’s not really a nightmare but it makes Dean feel scattered and uncomfortable. He goes to check on Chelsea. Her room is empty. He goes downstairs, then up to check Cas’s room when the kitchen, living room, and panic room are all empty too.
Chelsea is in Cas’s bed. Dean’s first reaction is embarrassment, then something… dark and sticky in his chest that he doesn’t understand, then something like relief when he realizes that it is the least intimately two people have ever slept. Cas is on his stomach with his face buried in his pillows. Dean wonders how he breathes like that. Chelsea is snoring lightly, one arm thrown haphazardly over her face.
Dean goes back downstairs and puts on a pot of coffee. He considers making everyone breakfast, but all he can make is bacon and Cas… tutted in disappointment the last time Dean attempted pancakes.
Dean waits a little longer before starting bacon anyway.
The smell wakes everyone else up. Chelsea makes crepes, Cas watches in fascination. It turns out Chelsea wound up in Cas’s room because Cas has been slowly pulling all of the blankets in the house into his room, like a bird building a nest. The thermostat outside reads neg 20, and Dean’s pretty sure it was even colder last night. The simplest solution had been to just curl up under them and keep warm with Cas.
It’s a pleasant breakfast, like a family breakfast must be, only punctured by the way that Dean suddenly… notices the way Cas actually does touch him. Hand on his shoulder when he asks a question. Squeezing his hand for no reason. Dean decides that he’s just being overly self-conscious because they’ve got an onlooker. Cas hardly does any of these things in public, people don’t usually see them like this.
The cold hits Dean like a slap in the face when he goes out to the car for work. It takes him four tries to get the Impala to turn over. Work is deathly boring. No one’s leaving their houses and the temperature is inching down even lower. Dean texts Chelsea the location of the thermostat with express orders not to tell Cas where it is.
He and the guys finally give up on sitting in the chilly garage and move up to the heated break room. He got razzed about the girl he was texting and told them mostly the truth. Chelsea had stayed with him and Cas. He’d changed “crazy stalker” to “furnace on the blink” but still got weird looks. Apparently, even if she’d freeze to death if you didn’t, it was a little weird to just completely platonically put up a beautiful, single, female friend. Particularly when you already lived with a traumatized army buddy who seemed to be getting better and better, but still wasn’t picking up on the whole personal space deal.
When the boss starts letting people go home early because it’s too cold for anyone to come in, Dean volunteers first.
When he gets home Cas is making tacos, and he and Chelsea are watching Ellen.
And Ellen’s guest? Carver Edlund.
Dean walks in and sees him on the screen, hunch shouldered, with that same look as always on his face, like he expects to get struck down by some random and humiliating accident.
“I’m gonna kill him,” he growls, throwing his coat onto the arm of the couch and dropping down next to Chelsea to watch this whole train wreck.
“So I take it you know him?” Chelsea asks.
“Not for long,” Dean says.
“Oh, don’t kill him.” Chelsea sticks her lip out. “He’s cute and he must be getting rich. Set me up.”
Dean shakes his head. There is whiskey in the freezer… but the bad hangover binge hadn’t been the last one and he knew Cas and Chelsea had started keeping an eye on his drinking.
But there is also a beer in the fridge. If he only has one then it’s social. “You’re not his type.”
Chelsea sticks out her lip, faking a pout. “Gay, huh?”
Dean wasn’t expecting that. “No! He uh… he likes dominatrixes. Actually.”
Chelsea wrinkles her nose at him. “How do you know that counts me out?”
Dean’s mind forces an image of Chelsea in thigh high leather boots onto him before he can stop it. Now he definitely needs a beer.
“What’s a-” Cas starts from the armchair.
“Please don’t answer that,” Dean sighs, walking to the kitchen. He hasn’t even stood up before Cheslea is saying, “It’s a woman who sexually excites men by causing them physical pain or making them sexually submissive to her in role play games. Dominatrix usually has the connotation of a woman who is paid for services and may not actually have sex with the men who pay her. If a woman is a Domme it would usually mean that there is an actual sexual relationship involved.”
Dean’s not sure why he expected Cas to look shocked. He forgets that Cas is as old as time and has probably seen every sexual perversion ever, if not over the course of history, at least on the internet.
Cas nods. “Oh.” After a few moments he works up to “Ew.”
Dean silently agrees and decides to pretend that he doesn’t know Chelsea knew that and try not to wonder why she sounded like she swallowed a gender studies textbook before she explained.
“So really, how do you know him?”
“He’s the prophet,” Cas supplies. That actually seems to floor Chelsea. Dean’s never seen her floored.
Dean rolls his eyes while Cas explains that Chuck Shirley is a Prophet of the Lord and Dean sees the glazed look in Chelsea’s eyes when she realizes that a former angel (who is making her tacos and in whose bed she spent the night) is telling her that a prophet is hawking a book series that he wrote about the guy that she once dated and how they all saved the world on a goddamn talk show.
Dean recognizes the look. It’s the one he gets himself whenever he tries to make his life sound like it really happens.
They eat tacos. They answer the phones. Chelsea googles a bunch of stuff about the Supernatural books. When it turns out that the newest book starts with a mysterious force pulling Dean out of Hell, who turns out to be an Angel named Castiel she finally seems to believe it.
She also finds some fan art that Dean did not need to see. He wishes he knew what in the hell was so thrilling about his devastation.
Garza and Coffrey call from Nebraska, there’s some sort of weird witch thing going on. There’s a small body count, but they think they can handle it.
Chelsea goes back to looking up Supernatural stuff. Dean explains that it’s really his life. It all really happened and he’d appreciate it if she did not go poking around his and Sam’s life story.
They all decide to take a night off from research, which, since it’s too cold to leave the house ends up just being having another beer and watching a movie on cable. Dean can’t just sit in the house and not research, so he grabs a book off the shelf at random and starts paging through it.
Garza calls back, things in Nebraska took a weird turn. Research is back on before the first commercial break. Nothing is lining up with anything anyone has ever heard of. Evidence is pointing to superhuman, but motive is pointing to human. They call Bobby, who starts researching at home.
They’re still looking at midnight, and just when they’re about to go to bed another death happens. A little girl. They stay up till two, and still find nothing.
Dean is tired and frustrated and he hates everything the next day. And it’s even colder, which means he’s away from the books, helping no one, for no reason. Bobby calls at lunch to ask some questions about when he and Sam hunted Samhain, before sighing that everything Dean told him killed his theory, but they’re still working on pagan gods.
The shop closes early again and Dean books home. Cas and Chelsea are bent over the kitchen table with Bobby. Bobby’s got a glass of juice. It takes a moment for Dean to realize that it’s weird to see Bobby researching without whiskey. It’s good, it’s just strange. Especially when he learns that three more little girls died and they’re not any closer to finding the thing that’s doing it.
Reading languages from Angelic memory with human faculties makes Cas a little disoriented, by nine that night he’s digging his fingers into his eyes and complaining about the lights looking weird. Chelsea figures out he’s getting a migraine. Cas throws his book down in frustration and makes a fresh pot of coffee.
They keep reading. Garza keeps calling. It’s getting worse. More girls are dying. A pattern isn’t emerging.
At eleven Bobby finds some lore on a goddess of childbirth who may have gotten shaken loose during the apocalypse war and started reclaiming children that she felt were owed to her. They need an obscure, wooden stake from a certain tree to kill her. Chelsea finds one in a museum in Arizona. Dean makes calls and organizes a dagger relay between Arizona and Nebraska. Three hunter teams, and no one has to postpone their own hunt for more than an hour.
The shut the books, hit the lights, liberate some of the quilts from Cas’s bed and return them to Bobby’s. Chelsea decides to sleep in Cas’s bed rather than the couch, because it’s still too damn cold.
Dean drops under his blankets, fully dressed, and is only asleep for two hours before his phone rings again.
It’s Garza. The stake didn’t work. The monster’s not a goddess.
Dean walks down the hall and bangs on everybody’s door, they’re back at the books in ten minutes.
Dean’s reading over something he thinks he read when he got home, about vampires, which they’ve already crossed off the list when something occurs to him- the MO doesn’t line up with anything they’ve ever seen. But parts of it line up with some things and parts of it line up with others.
“Guys?” Dean says, looking up from his book. “What if we’re looking at a hybrid?”
“Hybrid…” Bobby asks. “As in a mommy and daddy monster who loved each other very much?”
Dean shrugs and pushes the book over. “Could be a lamia. It eats children. That covers part of it, and the rest… we were thinking witch originally, but went for Goddess because of the souped up powers? What if it’s a human lamia hybrid? Or maybe… the fact that we cant’ find it… it could be a shifter lamia hybrid. Hell, at this point it could be a shifter/lamia hybrid that’s also a witch.”
“I’ve never heard of a lamia outside of Greece.” Bobby runs his hands over his face.
“A hybrid creature does explain the unlikely combination of powers,” Cas yawns.
“We’re running out of time and ideas here, the magic stake didn’t do shit. We’ve gotta have something to go on.”
Bobby agrees. They run the idea past Garza, who’s pissed about the mishap with the stake, but thinks there is merit to the hybrid idea. They’ve got a blessed silver knife, which will take out a lamia, shifter or human.
They keep researching, while Garza and Coffrey hunt, looking for a back up plan if they were wrong about this too.
It’s almost four am when they get the call. Ding-dong the monster’s dead, all signs point to a hybrid situation and they saved three girls just in time, who are in the hospital already and expected to recover.
Bobby throws down his book and goes up to bed. Cas sighs in relief like every muscle in his body just relaxed all at once.
And Chelsea let’s out an honest-to-god whoop, grabs Dean around the face and kisses him full on the lips. He pushes her away in surprise. He can fell that his cheeks are a little flushed, which seems crazy from just a kiss.
He glances over at Cas, who is looking at them in that head-quirked way that he used to.
“Fucking brilliant, Dean!” Chelsea crows. She gets up, rushes around the table, hugs Cas from behind and goes upstairs.
Cas yawns. “You should go to bed, Dean. You have to get up early.”
“You should watch out with her in your bed,” Dean sighs. “Apparently she’s an enthusiastic celebrator.”
Cas shrugs, he looks like he’s going to comment on that for a moment and then gives up.
“Good night, Dean.”
When Dean gets to work in the morning he’s painfully aware that he got three hours of sleep last night, and he feels like he’s dead. three hours of sleep used to be enough to propel him through a couple of days of horror, fighting, and near death, and now it’s barely enough to get him back up to the break room to do nothing in the cold.
So he’s really not up for Jose’s grin. Or the fact that the rest of the guys have found out about Supernatural. Apparently Jose’s younger brother, and one of the other guy’s daughters have started reading them. And they know about the Winchesters. They know about the Impala. Dean only gathers that they don’t know about Castiel the Angel yet because that book isn’t coming out for another couple months.
They think that Dean’s some sort of hardcore nerd or bizarre criminal that assumed an identity from a crappy pulp book for no sane reason.
Dean decides to hit back hard. He tells the guys that Chuck was Sam’s roommate in college (he’s pretty sure Chuck is older than he is, but no one’s going to know that) and that because Chuck’s father was kind of a mess too, Sam told him about their own father’s weird little issues. He cribs pretty liberally from Henricksen’s description of his home life, getting more brutal than he needs to because this topic is not going to come up again, especially not with Cas in the mix. He is killing this here and now.
He tells them that his father thought demons and all that stuff was real. That he dragged Dean and Sam around with him and that’s why he’d never finished a unit in gym and that he’d finally committed suicide (which is almost true) when they were just sixteen and they’d been raised by their Dad’s friend Bobby after that. He also tells them that Sam was killed and he doesn’t want to talk about how.
It accomplishes what he wanted it to accomplish. No one says shit about the books from there, and Dean winds up sitting in a corner of the break room drinking his coffee and reading a newspaper from two days ago while the guys watch TV in silence before they’re let go early again.
Dean doesn’t even want to think about the state of his paycheck this week.
But the couple of silent hours do get him thinking… he’s had the feeling that he’s being screwed with for months, and now, when all he’s trying to do is live a quiet, inconspicuous, anonymous life, Supernatural happens.
He has a theory.
When he gets home Chelsea’s gone. She’s decided to go back to her house. She promised she’d call over so much as the hair on her neck standing up.
It makes the house seem strangely quiet.
Dean convinces Cas to order Chinese and they sit at the table, eating quietly. They’re both tired and disappointed. They both think they could have saved more of those little girls.
Dean drops down on the couch after dinner and goes through the newspapers online. Obits. Arrests. Wedding announcements. He’s never sure which one would be the worst to see Sam in. Dead is pretty bad, but probably not permanent. In jail could be solved. Married is probably the worst. If Sam really is off on earth somewhere, happy and apple pie’d… Dean probably won’t be able to take that away from him twice.
Cas is going back over the hell lore.
Dean doesn’t even realize that he was asleep until he’s waking up from his dream with a crick in his neck and a blanket thrown over him.
“You should go to bed,” Cas tells him as soon as he sits up.
They stand up together and go up to brush their teeth. Dean lets something in the back of his mind nag around Chelsea’s little smile about two dudes and oral hygiene.
And then it does get weird.
Just before they part ways in the hallway Cas steps into dean’s personal space, slots his hand against Dean’s face, leans forward and kisses him.
Dean’s first impulse is to shove him away and he’s already got his hands on the other man’s shoulders before he stops.
It’s a Cas thing. Let him explain.
He doesn’t kiss back but Cas is already pulling away and quirking his head. It’s a non-human, not understanding gesture. Dean feels safer already.
“What the hell was that?”
Cas shrugs. “Curiousity. I see it on TV. Chelsea says it’s nice.”
“Then kiss her,” Dean says, taking a step back. “You can’t kiss me.”
“My apologies.” Cas is just standing there, like all he did was shake Dean’s hand. And there’s something… unthreatening about it. Dean’s too tired for this. And it’s just a Cas thing. It’s okay. If he just lets it go, it’ll be like it never happened.
“Okay… so let’s… I’m going to bed. Okay?”
“Okay” Cas replies. “Good night, Dean.”
And then he just turns around and walks back to his room, like he hasn’t just broken all rules of being a Hunter, a roommate or a dude.
The spell’s not hard to find. The hardest part is hiding what he’s doing from Cas especially after Chelsea goes back home and isn’t there as an extra distraction. The ingredients are a little harder to find, and even harder to keep fresh, because he can’t let them freeze outside in his trunk and while Bobby’s house is full of nooks and crannies for hiding things, Cas knows where they all are, and if he found out what Dean was planning he’d freaking kill him.
And Dean would deserve it. It’s stupid. It’s dangerous.
But… if he’s wrong, nothing will happen. He doesn’t think that defense will work on Cas though, because if he’s not wrong then he’s up against a very good chance that he’ll get smote.
Outside of what he’s actually attempting he is being as safe as he can. He found somewhere really remote so that he won’t get arrested. He dug out one of the old Angel blades from Bobby’s attic. He set up a couple of holy fire Molotov cocktails. He is even prepared to put out the ring of holy fire when he’s done. Smoky the Bear would approve, Cas will get over it.
He drives out to the broken down warehouse after work. Cas thinks he’s working late to make up the hours he missed when it was so cold. He sets up the ring of oil first, then chalks the symbols, then pours the herbs and does the chanting. He tosses the match the second he feels that weird inside-the-spine itch that you get with this kind of magic.
A tall, handsome, slender blond guy appears in the middle of the circle, but the jacket jeans, and mostly the smirk are familiar.
“Gabriel?” Dean asks.
The man in the circle looks ready to get to the smiting for just a second before he notices the lawn chair. And the beer.
“Dean Winchester.” The voice is different. Deeper but with that same snark. “I’m not sure if I’m flattered or creeped out. You and Castiel looking for a third? Cause I think I’m out of your league these days.” He says this with a sweep of his arms down his new body.
Dean rolls his eyes. “Yeah. You upgraded. Congrats on ditching the short stack.”
Gabriel shrugs, drops into the lawn chair and pops open a beer before tossing one to Dean. “Fair’s fair. Eighteen hundred years ago that guy was a catch. He was tall with very few visible scars and all his own teeth. Yowza.”
Dean crosses his arms in front of himself. “So. You’re back too.”
“Mmmhmm. It’s all very prodigal son,” Gabriel agrees. “How did you know I was back?”
“Call it a hunch.”
“Ah. Sure. You got Castiel back. You saw the unsinkable Mr. Singer and his lovely wife, and- let me guess- you invoked a god damned Archangel because you think Sammy is out there somewhere. Am I warm?”
“Nail on the head, jackass.”
Gabriel drinks deeply. “Don’t get me wrong. I love screwing with you and Cas is an easy mark, but you must have noticed that this is not my MO. A bunch of ressurections and happily ever afters? Look at you. You’ve got a nice house. Decent job. Friends. You’re a hunter without ruining your life. Your father’s back.”
Dean’s jaw drops, “My-”
Gabriel holds up a hand. “Sorry- I meant Bobby. Papa Winchester is still not on earth. And admit it. You’re not that broken up. He’d fuck up you’re nice little world.”
“Fake little world. Plastic little reality.”
“Nope. You can tell the difference. This is the real deal. No one’s fucking with you. This is just the world now.”
“And whose got that kind of mojo?”
“Me,” Gabriel says. “Though I’m not doing it and I didn’t come by it fairly.”
“What about Raphael? He’s the other Archangel right? Unless the rest of you dicks crawled back.”
“He’s missing. Everyone else is still dead. I’m going it alone these days.”
“And the worst of it?” Gabriel’s head drops back against the lawn chair. “Since I’m the only one, and I suddenly returned onto them after a long absence, all those wide eyed little bastards up in heaven think I’m God now. The little surge in power from the belief is a trip, but…” he sighs. “It’s no fun.”
“Any word on where God actually is?”
“Still gone. And if he ever comes back the bitch owes me some serious babysitting money.”
Dean picks at the label on his beer. “Can you bring Sam back?”
Gabriel doesn’t answer. Dean finally looks up.
The look of pity that Gabriel is giving him surprises him.
“Come on. You’re practically God, you just said you had the power.”
“I do have the power. I just can’t find him. No one can.”
“Why the hell not?” Dean demands.
“I DON’T KNOW!”
For a moment, Gabriel’s wings burst in Dean’s vision, and he’s overwhelmed by how huge they are. How bright.
“Why won’t you look around you?” Gabriel asked. “There’s a long grift going on here buck-o and for once- for fucking once- it’s not trying to deliver you into Hell. Why don’t you just calm your fucking tits, and wait and see what happens.”
“Wait and see?” Dean repeats.
“Wait and see.”
Dean’s first instinct is to grab one of his molotovs and watch Gabriel roast, but the look Gabriel had given him, like he actually felt bad, surged up in his mind. He pulls his hand back, and tightens it into a fist.
Gabriel sighs and pulls himself out of the lawn chair. “Look. I’ve got a soft spot for you and your merry band of trouble makers. You free-willed the apocalypse into non-existence. Respect. So I’ll tell you what. I’ll keep an eye out. If it starts to look like Hell is working on something, I’ll drop in.”
“And if you suddenly see Sam?”
“I’ll drop in. Couple conditions-” he flicks a finger around the circle. “This doesn’t happen again. And you just try to believe something good could be happening here.”
“When did you go all Kumbaya?”
“About the time I got brought back two feet taller with abs,” Gabriel grinned.
Dean smothers the fire.
“Oh, also? I turned your phone off. You’ve got four missed calls. You’ll see why that’s funny later.”
He slaps Dean on the back fraternally and disappears.
Chapter 8: All Four Missed Calls
All four missed calls are from Castiel. He went to the bookstore and his tire went flat. He’d called Dean, more and more annoyed with each voicemail as the store got closer and closer to closing and Dean still hadn’t picked up.
Dean called Cas back.
“Hey, I’m alright. Sorry. My phone must be acting up.
“I know you’re alright. I also know you’re lying to me. I called the shop. You weren’t even open late today.”
Shit. Dean drops his forehead down onto the steering wheel. “I’m sorry. Are you still at the bookstore?”
“No. Someone helped me and took me home.”
“I’m glad you’re alright.” He was a girly thing to say, but it was best to walk carefully with a totally pissed off Cas.
“Come home. I’m mad at you.” Cas hangs up on him and Dean checks the ringer volume on his phone, cranking it all the way up, before tossing the phone onto the seat.
He wonders when he started living the kind of life where his response to “Come home. I’m mad at you,” is to hurry.
When he rolls up to the house he can see both Cas and Chelsea in the kitchen. The greeting he gets from Cas is cold. From Chelsea just a little pitying. Dean points to the books in front of them.
“Are we hunting?”
“Not really,” Chelsea says, “Just background. Not all of us grew up with this.”
“Were did you go?” Cas asks. It’s not a demand, it’s just very obviously a question that Cas expects to have answered. Dean knows that lying is going to make it worse, but he just can’t face up to telling Cas quite yet. He needs a second before he watches that hard set of Cas’s eyes burn.
“I… just needed some air,” he says, pouring himself a mug of hot water and dropping a tea bag into it. It’s that night time, makes-you-sleepy stuff that Cas likes
“And?” Cas asks. Dean hears his chair scoot back and then feels the very light lift of his jacket as Cas pulls something off of it.
And then he makes a sputtering sort of noise and Dean turns to see the post it in his hand. It says “Kick Me. I’m into that.”
Cas lifts the paper to his face and sniffs it.
“You summoned Gabriel,” Cas says, then repeats it- shocked to furious in four seconds.
“You summoned a Goddamned Archangel.” Castiel barks. “Did he know where Sam was?”
“No. He says that no one does. But hey, your brother’s alive.”
Cas looks like he is seriously considering decking Dean right in the face. He spins, grabs his book off the table and storms up the stairs.
“That is the second most pissed I have ever seen him.” Dean rubs a hand over his face and turns to Chelsea. She is giving him a very disappointed look.
Chelsea holds up her hands placatingly.
“Dean, I love you boys. I really do… but you realize that you’re a codependent mess right?”
“I’m always a codependent mess. It’s my thing.” Dean replies. “And I may have taught Cas to be a codependent mess. I’m not going to stop looking for Sam. You both should know that.”
“We know. I know. Bobby knows. I just… Cas and I… and Bobby… think it would be good for you to maybe ease up on the hunting and do other things.”
“You need a night off. Just one. Call the guys at work. Have a poker game. You liked the soccer games. You like your co-workers. We’ll even help set it up.”
“Chelsea, we can’t have people over to Bobby’s house for a damn play date. There’s a cast iron demon proof panic room in the basement that looks like it’s where we gut our virgin sacrifices. There’s an arsenal next to it. And then there are the huge piles of lore everywhere.”
“We’ll lock the basement. We’ll move the bookshelves. Poker night. This is happening. Don’t make me go to your work and invite your little friends.”
Dean grabs a book and takes his tea into the living room. He thinks about telling Chelsea to leave. He thinks about going upstairs to talk to Cas. He winds up reading on the couch until Chelsea leaves and then just going up to bed.
Cas is talking to him again by the next evening. Though not with all that much enthusiasm. Dean also figures out, by pure chance, that Cas has hidden away all of the myrrh in the house. Dean feels a little shiver when he remembers that he did the same thing with the pain killers.
By Thursday Cas has swung wildly in the opposite direction. He’s affectionate and laughing a lot. It’s almost like he’s excited about Friday and the stupid poker game. It’s nice, really. Big excitement about a little normal thing.
Well. Mostly normal. Cas and Chelsea are planning it like it’s a dinner party. Dean has learned from TV that poker between friends involves snacks from bags and beer from cans but Chelsea and Cas are preparing hors d’oevres. Dean’s a little embarrassed but it’s not like anyone’s going to turn down Cas and Chelsea’s little sandwich roll up slice things. Or those spicy meat balls.
Thomas, Jose, and Matthews are all up for it. Dean fixes up the box that Bobby made to hide all of the labeled phones. Chelsea puts flower pots on it so it looks less suspicious than a random wooden thing in the middle of the kitchen. Also less like dudes live there. Dean huffs and is ignored.
Friday just gets steadily weirder. Chelsea comes over early. She braids Cas’s hair so it looks neat and old fashioned. When Cas does it for himself he looks like a hippie. It’s hard to figure out how Chelsea makes it seem classy. The she irons one of his shirts for him. Dean gives Chelsea a refresher in poker while Cas puts the appetizers together.
Thomas shows up first. Dean notes that he, as a totally normal guy who is not badgered by female friend or an ex-angel, has shown up with a six pack. He does, however, dive right into Cas and Chelsea’s slices of rolled up sandwich things. He’s very polite about the house. Particularly the way that the wall paper behind where the bookshelves used to be is a totally different color than the rest of the wall. Thomas thinks the old cars in the yard are funny.
“Cas, you gonna play?” Thomas asks.
“Yeah. And you better watch out. He’s pretty good,” Dean tells him, patting Cas on the shoulder. He’s gone from excitable to gradually more nervy and Dean’s not sure why. He likes Thomas, Jose, and Matthew.
“Well… I’m not staying long.”
Dean stops. “Wait. What? Where are you going?”
Cas shrugs and looks at the floor.
“Cas- where are you going?”
“I have a date,” Cas admits, looking up suddenly.
Thomas whoops like a junior high kid. Dean feels like the floor has just gone out from under him.
“You have a what?”
“A date,” Cas repeats.
“And you didn’t mention this because?”
“I was mad at you,” Cas says shrugging. Dean’s aware that Thomas is looking at him like something’s really weird. He can practically feel Chelsea preparing to dart between them.
There’a a knock at the door.
“I’ll get it,” Chelsea volunteers. Cas turns and follows her.
“She’s picking you up?” Dean demands.
“No,” Cas answers.
Chelsea opens the door and does a double take. So does Dean, but for a very different reason.
“Hey, Castiel,” says the lanky blonde in the doorframe with a familiar smirk. He steps inside and takes Chelsea’s hand. He kisses the back of it. “Chelsea, beautiful as ever.”
“Who are you?” Cas demands, stepping toward Chelsea protectively.
The blond looks affronted and Dean reigns in an urge to punch him.
“You don’t recognize me? I’m hurt. Here. Imagine. Two feet shorter, still devastatingly handsome, just in an old fashioned way. Really old fashioned.”
Cas’s eyes narrow, then fall wide open. “Gabriel?”
“Nice to see you two, little brother.” Gabriel smiles. “Like the long hair on your vessel.”
“What in the hell are you doing here?” Dean demands.
Gabriel shrugs. “I heard you made spicy meatballs.” He walks right past them, then turns on his heel. “Oh, and I brought someone.” He snaps his fingers and Chuck appears in the foyer, looking clean cut and exasperated. Chelsea jumps back.
“Hey.” Chuck waves. “How’s everybody been doing?”
“You don’t know?”
Chuck’s eyes fall shut for a moment. “Prophet humor. Classic.”
“I meant the voicemails I’ve been leaving you.”
“I haven’t gotten any voicemails.”
“Now that’s too bad. There were a couple of those that I was proud of, like the one where I was going to shave all your skin off.”
Chuck grimaces. “Well then… let’s start drinking.” He slips past them and into the living room.
Chelsea throws up a time out sign. “Wait- hold up. Exposition time- who’s the cute blond?”
“Gabriel. The archangel that Dean summoned. He’s notoriously capricious and dangerous and spent most of the last two centuries pretending to be a pagan god of deathly petty vengeance,” Cas hissed.
Chelsea nodded, then laughed and dropped her head to her palm.
“What is funny?” Cas demanded.
“Sorry… just… a mechanic, and archangel and a prophet walk into a bar.” She laughed again. “I haven’t been properly bored since I met you guys.”
Cas doesn’t think it’s funny. He crosses his arms and rounds on Dean. “You had to provoke him didn’t you?”
He storms off after Gabriel and Chuck. Dean can hear Gabriel talking exuberantly to Thomas and Chuck’s squeaky muttering.
Chelsea shrugs and follows. There’s another knock at the door. At this point Dean’s ready to usher the Easter bunny in and give him some of that salad shit that Chelsea keeps at their place.
It’s Jose and Matthew. Dean welcomes them into the living room. Gabriel is doing card tricks. Chuck already has a glass of whiskey. Jose recognizes him as “the writer”. Dean sees him puff up at that, and deflate instantly at the hateful look Dean gives him.
Cas is tugging at his shirtsleeves. Dean’s fighting an urge to forbid him to go. Cas is getting better at faking normal, sure. He’s really close with Chelsea, he deserves “companionship” too, but it’s just so weird.
Chelsea’s handing out the poker chips. Dean’s surprised to see them for a moment before he realizes that no one should bet money against Gabriel and Chuck.
“So, Gabriel,” Jose starts. “How do you know Dean?”
“I actually grew up with Castiel. Cousins.”
Thomas smiles a little more. “Castiel, huh? I didn’t realize that was your full name.”
“Yes,” Cas replies. He’s standing behind Chelsea, looking bizarrely human.
“Our family’s religious.” Gabriel shrugs. “I’ll deal.”
“No.” Dean grabs the cards out of his hands. “You won’t.”
There’s another knock at the door. Cas bites his lip. Chelsea grins. Dean moves his chair so that he can see this girl.
Cas opens the door. Dean catches Thomas leaning over to peek too.
There is a brief greeting on the theme of “Hey, it’s cold, come in.”
And a tall lanky guy with glasses and a tulip in his hands steps inside. Dean’s wondering what the hell angel is crashing the damn poker game now.
Thomas whispers, “Wait- is Cas…”
And then lanky and glasses leans down and brushes his lips over Cas’s and it finally clicks.
“Son of a bitch.”