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Consciousness teases and tugs at Castiel, urging her to wake. As she has many times before, Castiel intends to ignore that, but senses something... more.

Claire's arm. It itches.

She reaches up to scratch while still half-asleep, realizing only after the strangeness of the action. What need has she to obey the urges of a physical body, especially one as trivial as a - she feels carefully around the site - bug bite? Then she remembers what she's done, what Dean has done, and falls into despair once more. The world is surely lost, and as the angel who chose to align herself with neither Heaven or Hell, Castiel is surely lost as well.

Not that this bug bite, or the sharp ache spanning Claire's stomach, feels particularly angelic. Castiel sits up to investigate, and her breath catches in Claire's throat.

His proper body is sitting at the bedside.

No, Castiel realizes, breathing easier. The body bent over in sleep or prayer is not the facsimile that Gabriel taunted her (her) with, but the original. Jimmy Novak. Castiel tries to move - nearer, away, she isn't quite sure - but it hurts, the pain is present in ways she never before could have imagined, and she cannot entirely muffle a cry. She presses a hand against her stomach in an attempt to lessen the pain, but it's futile. The skin she cut is not yet healed, and she cannot will it so. She is - she is -

"Claire?" Jimmy asks. Gone is the hope, the reverence from their first conversations; gone too is the fear and pain of their last. This is a tone of desperation, one last stand before grief overwhelms. Castiel can sympathize, but she will not lie.

"No, Jimmy," she says, and Jimmy... he crumples. Face falling, shoulders slumping, arms dropping to the bed as he collapses into a defeated puddle.

"Amelia was so sure that we'd never see her again," he confesses into the bedspread, after a time. "I didn't, I - I did all the right things. Put out flyers, set up an Amber Alert. I figured... once you were done, once you didn't need her anymore, you'd give her back to us. But after a year of no signs, no voices, nothing, I thought maybe I was wrong." He laughs, bitterly. "And then two weeks later somebody in Mississippi calls up, says they've got an unconscious little girl here matching Claire's description, down to the birthmarks."

Castiel hesitates, but Jimmy seems to be done for now. "I am sorry, Jimmy," she says. "Claire would have been back with you by now, if things had gone... better." She doesn't feel right saying 'as planned' anymore, when it's clear that things are going as Heaven planned.

"It's the Apocalypse, right?" Castiel nods, and Jimmy says, "Yeah, that mass grave in Carthage was pretty telling." He heaves a sigh and sits up, expression determined once more. "So, here's what I'm thinking," he says. "You're trying to stop the Apocalypse after it's already started. Can't be easy. Really can't be easy while you're 'wearing' my daughter. Right?" He barrels ahead, not waiting for Castiel to confirm what he's saying. "So it'll make the fighting easier, maybe give you an advantage that'll save the Earth - to say nothing of my family - if you take me as your vessel again."

Castiel's breath catches again, painfully. Why, he thinks, why, he wonders helplessly, why did you have to come and offer this now? I had almost stopped, almost suppressed it - but no, that's a lie. He managed to suppress it as successfully as he managed to suppress the pain in his stomach earlier.

"I know, you said you were keeping a promise by refusing to take me back, but... please. Please, would you just - "

"I can't." What an awful feeling hopeless longing is.

Jimmy lets out a frustrated shout. "Why the hell not?"

"Believe me, Jimmy, I would like nothing more than to leave your daughter's body." Castiel flexes his fingers against his stomach, fighting back a shudder. That won't do; he's going to have to learn to, if not like, at least tolerate this body. It's the only one he's got, now. He pushes up the shirt of his hospital gown, revealing the bandages covering freshly-bleeding cuts, and says, "But I can't. I... I'm..."

Jimmy stares with horrified comprehension, and breathes out a disbelieving, "Human."

And that's not the worst of it, Castiel thinks grimly.