“Since when did you start taking orders again?” Dean asked. He was sitting, planted at a table, half turned in his chair, elbow propped up on the back of it.
Cas shook his head. There was a lump in his throat, but he couldn’t seem to swallow it. “It’s not an order, Dean, it’s a request. If I do it, the slate’ll be wiped clean. I’ll be right with heaven again. I won’t have to run. It’s a good thing.”
“Yeah, sounds real good.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, you get the little hellspawn on your hip, and then what? What do you even know about raising a baby?”
“I’ll learn,” he said without conviction.
“You’ll learn… how to raise the devil’s baby… all by yourself.”
“Not raise, protect. And I’ll only be by myself if Kelly doesn’t make it through the birth.”
Dean snapped shut, face suddenly taken. He chewed on that hard before a question came back out. “You’re gonna raise the devil’s baby with Kelly?”
Cas sighed, rubbed his tired eyes. He was stiff, and that was an odd kinda feeling again. The weeks he’d spent in heaven had been blank, numb. Painless. Now, it felt like three weeks of gravity had bottled up and waited for the moment he came back. It was all turning tricks in his shoulders right about now. Of course, that dead-set expression on Dean’s face wasn’t helping anything; He clearly wanted to yell, but he wasn’t. He looked like he didn’t want to be talking at all.
“I’m going to protect it,” Cas said again, slowly. “It’s only temporary.”
“How temporary? A week? A month? A year? Or you gonna raise the damn thing from infancy to eighteen and pay for its college? Provided it doesn’t kill you first.”
Cas tried to think of a lie -- something to call Dean off, but he was pulling from an empty bag. “I don’t know,” he sighed. Dean nodded, lips pressed in a thin line.
“That sounds like permanent to me, Cas.” He turned forward in his chair again, twisted his empty glass on the tabletop. There’d been bourbon in it. It’d stained the clear glass gummy. But it was empty now.
He turned it over and left it to cry a ring into the wood. “Okay,” he said, “now’s the part where you tell me what this is really about. I get it if you wanna make things right upstairs -- I do, but this ain’t that, so talk to me.”
Castiel shuffled, looked at his shoes, but they weren’t offering help. “I don’t know what you mean,” he lied.
“Yes, you do. You go missing -- without a word for weeks, and all the sudden you come back itchin’ to get back up in the clouds, so now you tell me what the deal is, because you at least owe me that. I checked morgues for you.”
There was that twinge again, worming up into Cas’ throat like a long-nailed finger. The wet edges of Dean’s eyes were putting it there, that little waver in his voice. Cas swallowed the taste of salt, and relented “Ishim,” he said.
“Ishim? What do you mean Ishim? What’s that bass-ackward throw pillow gotta do with anything? You catchin’ box time cuz he went belly up? Is that what this is about?”
“No, Dean, but he’s got everything to do with it. He’s an example for what not to do. How not to be. Seeing him again… It reminded me that sometimes the best intentions have a way of slipping between your fingers. Then, people get hurt. Important people…”
“What kinda people?”
“Please understand, for an angel, duty has a way of turning to devotion, to love.” Cas stopped short, looked up, and wet his lips, “and then…” He trailed, and watched Dean straighten at the table before he looked away. “Emotions are a dangerous thing for angels, that’s all I’m saying.”
“Yeah, they’re dangerous for everybody --”
“But, especially for angels, Dean. I can’t become what Ishim did. I won’t. Heaven made me an offer, and I need to take it. I can right the wrongs, and I can get my head right again. I can get back to duty -- or at least…” He rubbed the back of his neck, “devotion. I need some time. Just a little bit of time. I’m sorry.”
His brain was screaming it at him, now. “You don’t understand. I have to. Something’s… broken.”
Dean nodded, and finally dropped Cas’ eyes. He fidgeted a pocketknife from his jeans and rolled it in his palm. He caught a breath up in his shoulders and worried his lip before flicking it open and offering the handle.“Carve your initials on the table,” he said. His voice was raw.
He slipped off his chair and plopped it into Cas’ hand. “Your initials. Carve ‘em into the wood.”
Cas blinked, glanced past him to the tabletop. “Why?”
“Don’t over think it. Just do it.”
Cas tapped his teeth together as he eyed the initials already scored into the polish. It was a nervous habit he was just beginning to realize he’d developed at some point. DW and SW. Like the Impala. He shook his head, contested, but did as asked, and lightly etched a C below them. Dean tuck up beside him, and watched, leaned a hip into the lip of the wood.
“Your name belongs there beside me an’ Sam’s,” he said quietly, “just like you belong here. In the bunker. On earth.” He swung a finger in an arc between he and his brother’s, stilled over Cas’ and tapped it. “Now, look at it. This means if you wanna make things right with heaven, and the way to do that is Daddy Day Care with Hellraiser 2.0, then I’m behind you. But we do it here, and we do it together. You understand?”
Castiel tried to bite the feelings from his lips, but wound up with tears anyway. He couldn’t look up, couldn’t bring himself to Dean’s heavy stare. “I don’t think you’re understanding...” he said carefully. An ache tore through his jaw. “I don’t think you’re hearing me.”
“No, I heard you.”
Dean fingered Cas’ chin and Cas stilled. His heart was so far in his ears, he couldn’t have heard angels talking. Then, Dean dragged him into a slow kiss. Castiel melted, closed his eyes, and breathed Dean in. He felt the way Dean pressed against him. Memorized the soft plush of his lips and drag of his whiskers. Then, it was over; Dean was straightening Cas’ tie and his eyes were playing dodge ball. A beautiful flush on his skin now popping his freckles out and turning him into an expressionist artwork.
Dean cleared his throat, bit whatever lingering feeling he had off his bottom lip. “There’s nothing wrong with you that ain’t wrong with me too,” he said. “Like I said, feelings are trouble for everybody.” He glanced the table, tapped it again. “Now add your W and shut up.”