Castiel rolls his eyes. "I don't see why you're making a big deal about this now."
"I always make a big deal about this," Uriel responds gruffly. "I just usually keep it more to myself."
"So what changed?"
"Nothing, I just wish you wouldn't keep going out there!"
Castiel frowns at his cousin. "I've been going out there for years. I've come back with things and information that's helped our family. Saved our lives, actually."
Uriel sighs heavily. "I know, Castiel. I'm just afraid one of these days you're going to be seen, and we'll never see you again."
Castiel gives Uriel a reassuring smile. "I haven't been seen yet."
"Doesn't mean you won't be."
Castiel sighs good naturedly and turns to his nest, where his collection of odds and ends is piled. He rummages through the pile for a moment before finding what he's looking for and holding it up for Uriel's inspection.
"I'll take this. It's called a needle."
Uriel frowns at the long, skinny silver needle. It's about half his height and a bit formidable. But Uriel doesn't look convinced. "A needle."
"Yes. I'm not really sure what it's supposed to do," Castiel admits shrugging. "Something to do with fixing clothes. But it's sharp. I can use it as a weapon if I'm seen and can't fly away."
Uriel's frown doesn't lessen. Then again Castiel's not sure if he's ever seen Uriel not frowning. His wings are twitching unhappily behind him, but he's almost been won over Castiel can tell.
"I don't like it."
"Do you like anything?" Castiel prods him gently with the sharp end of the needle. "See? Sharp."
"Sharp enough to hurt a human?"
Castiel pokes him again, a little harder. Uriel winces, taking a step backwards and raising his hands in defeat.
"All right, fine. Just don't take too long. I won't cover for you if Michael realizes you're missing again."
"You never do," Castiel replies with a smile. There's one room in particular he wants to check out today and quickly. The humans who'd been staying there had had things with them that he's never seen before, and he was hoping to find something left behind. He would've tried to snag something earlier, but this was one of those couples that never left the room. They were supposed to leave this morning, though, and Castiel's anxious to get over there before the cleaning lady goes through.
Uriel gives him one last glare but jumps off the beam of wood they're perched on. His wings beat heavily in the small space between walls as he flies off. Castiel watches him go, dark brown feathers disappearing in the darkness. Grinning to himself, Castiel adjusts his grip on the needle and flies off in the opposite direction.
Castiel is thoroughly disappointed. The only thing he's managed to find is a couple of those smooth silver disks in the trashcan. Batteries, that's what they're called. But if they're in the trash they must be dead batteries. Castiel tucks them in the pockets of his trenchcoat anyway. They're shiny, and he likes how smooth they feel.
He's going over the room again, just to make sure he hasn't missed anything, when he hears the click of the door being unlocked. The cleaning lady must be earlier than usual. Heart pounding loudly in his ears, Castiel looks around quickly for a place to hide. The vent he entered through is too far away for him to fly to in time, but there's a framed picture on the dresser just a few inches from where he's standing. Castiel launches himself towards it, clutching the needle to his chest, wings drawn in close.
"That dude was skeevy."
"We've seen worse."
"Yeah, vampires and witches and shit. ...You don't think he's not human, do you?"
"I think he was high. We're dealing with a haunting, aren't we?"
Castiel frowns. That's not the cleaning lady. That's two men. Chuck, the owner of the motel, must've forgotten to get the room cleaned. Castiel sighs and leans his head against the back of the frame. If it had been the cleaning lady he would've just waited her out. But this was going to pose an interesting dilemma.
"What do you mean, supposedly?"
"All we have is people saying things are going missing, right?"
Castiel flinches as a large hand sets down a ring of keys just inches away from him. This hiding place might not last him very much longer.
"So what if one of the employees is a thief? Doubt the owner out there would notice. Oh, god, Sammy, I don't think this place's been cleaned."
There's a loud sigh. "One of these days we're staying in a nice hotel with decent mattresses and good water pressure."
Slowly, holding the needle tight, Castiel peers around the edge of the frame. The human who's closest, the one who'd set the keys down, has his back to Castiel. The other one, Sammy, is in front of him. His attention is elsewhere, though, so he doesn't see the tiny head peaking around the picture frame. Curiosity gets the better of Castiel, and he watches the two of them for a moment.
Sammy's the taller of the two, with longer shaggy hair and an unamused expression. It reminds Castiel a bit of Uriel, but Sammy looks like he'd be more okay with a laugh or a smile. His companion is wearing an olive green jacket and jeans. His hair is lighter and short, but with his back turned Castiel can't tell much else about him.
"What sort of a thief steals things like screws, socks, and only enough food to feed a squirrel?"
Green Jacket, Castiel decides to call him, shrugs. "Maybe they're a klepto? Or maybe there are squirrels. Or mice. Oo! What about gnomes?"
Sammy frowns at Green Jacket. "Gnomes."
"Yeah! Always stealing only your left sock. Known fact."
"Or the motel's haunted."
Green Jacket's shoulders drop slightly, and Castiel can easily guess he's rolling his eyes. "Fine. Spoil sport. I'm exhausted, okay?"
Sammy raises an eyebrow. "It's nine in the morning."
"Yeah, and I was driving all night while you snored. So I'm gonna hit the hay. You..." He waves a hand aimlessly.
"I'll do some research on the building," Sammy finishes for him, shaking his head. Green Jacket claps a hand on Sammy's shoulder. Castiel imagines an undefined face grinning widely.
"That's my Sammy."
Sammy rolls his eyes as he pushes Green Jacket's hand away. "It's Sam," he says, tone sounding annoyed, expression looking amused. Castiel realizes their attention is about to start shifting and pulls back behind the picture frame. He listens to the sounds of the two humans moving around, wondering again how he's going to get back to the vent. It's on the wall opposite where he is, close to the ceiling. If he can make it over there he should be able to squeeze through quickly enough. It's just a matter of flying across the room without being seen. And it sounds like neither of the humans are planning on leaving anytime soon. One of them going to sleep should help, but--
Castiel jumps, holding the needle out defensively at the sound of someone ten times larger than him far too close. Green Jacket has practically collapsed on the bed right next to the dresser, face smushed into the pillow and eyes closed. After a moment of stillness, Castiel relaxes and frowns at the human. He's never seen another one quite like him. Long, dark eyelashes, large, full lips. A smattering of freckles across every bit of skin Castiel can see. He wrinkles his nose, nuzzling his face deeper into the pillow, which Castiel finds oddly endearing. Especially considering the guy's human.
After a few moments, Green Jacket rolls over to his other side, and Castiel remembers he's supposed to be figuring a way out of here. He takes a chance to look around the picture frame again. Sammy--or Sam, he'd insisted, has settled down at the desk across the room, right below the vent. He has a computer out and looks completely focused on his work. It's not the best of circumstances, considering the vent is only a few feet above Sam's head, but Castiel has to take it. Uriel had had a point about Michael. He's been getting a little more irritable about Castiel leaving lately, and it would be better if Castiel didn't spend an unnecessary amount of time away. He shifts his grip on the needle so that it's ready to attack, swallows heavily, and with a powerful beat of his wings, throws himself into the air.
In his peripheral, Castiel can see Sam jump to his feet wildly, but Castiel is already through the vent, safe and headed home.
Dean wakes up as Sam re-enters the room. Groaning and rubbing at his eyes with the back of his hand, he looks up to where Sam is setting down a bag of food and a couple cups of coffee on the table. Sam picks back up one of the things of coffee and holds it out for Dean wordlessly. Dean takes it gratefully, taking a long sip before speaking.
"Other than the fact the building has bats?" Sam says, opening the bag of food and tossing a sandwich wrapped in foil in Dean's direction.
"Bats?" Dean echoes, opening the foil on the sandwich. Sam nods, moving to open up his laptop.
"One flew past me earlier. Went in the vent."
Dean makes a face of disgust. "That's creepy."
Sam shrugs. "Found a plan for the building, though. And get this," he says, spinning the laptop so Dean can see. "There's this section in the center that's been closed. Something to do with health codes."
Dean frowns at the screen, taking a large bite from his sandwich. "Looks like the perfect place for a monster to hide," he says through a mouthful. Sam gives him a bitchface for the manners but doesn't comment.
"Exactly what I thought. Think we should take a look tonight?"
Dean nods as he swallows. "Maybe this'll actually be a simple in and out case."
Sam snorts. "Yeah, I wish."
Castiel is polishing the batteries with his coat when Uriel flies up to his nest. He looks relieved, Castiel notes, but still rather annoyed.
"What are those?" he asks instead of a greeting. Castiel smiles, amused at the gruff tone.
"They're called batteries. They power things, but these ones are dead," he explains. "I think they're pretty."
Uriel looks skeptical and still annoyed. Not that Castiel would ever expect anything different. There's something Uriel wants to say, Castiel can tell, but he's not going to try to pull it out. There's silence instead for a while as Castiel continues to polish.
"Michael was asking about you. I came by earlier to get you."
Castiel forces himself not to wince. "I was held up," he admits quietly. "Why was Michael asking for me?"
"He didn't say. What held you up?"
"Chuck forgot to get the room cleaned, and I had to get past a couple tenants."
Uriel's eyes widen. "Did they see you?" he hisses urgently. Castiel glares at him, jaw hard. In reality maybe he was a little shaken by the experience, but there was no way he was going to let Uriel know that.
"No. I know what I'm doing, Uriel."
Uriel's lips press together into a thin line, and he seems to consider Castiel.
"So does Michael want to see me?" Castiel asks, bristling.
"He didn't say. It might be wise for you to spend some time with everyone, though."
Castiel sighs, setting the battery down. Uriel probably has a point. He has been spending a lot of time alone lately. His nest is the only one so separated from the rest of the family, and he prefers to be there, with the human things he's collected. It's not that he doesn't love his family, he does, it's just that it's hard to be there since Anna died.
"Fine. I'll come."
There's something almost like a smile in Uriel's eyes. That makes Castiel feel a little better, but he's still not looking forward to the rest of the day. Uriel takes off, large wings snapping out behind him. Castiel follows, jumping off the perch at a run.
It's a good thing he's following someone because Castiel's mind is elsewhere the entire flight. For one thing, he's a little worried about Sam and his friend. It sounded like they would be poking around the motel, and if they find the family.... They've had a scare with being found once in Castiel's lifetime. That was when Anna had died. His uncle Gabriel had disappeared then too. Castiel doesn't want to know what losses they'll sustain if it happens a second time.
"Cassie!" A jovial cry breaks Castiel out of his thoughts, and he realize they've arrived. Uriel gives the blonde with brown-grey fluttery wings who'd let out the excited cry a stinkeye, but Castiel smiles as he lands.
"Balthazar," he greets. "It's good to see you."
Balthazar grabs Castiel bodily, yanking him in for a bone-crushing embrace. Castiel pats his shoulder awkwardly, watching as Uriel frowns and walks away. Castiel rolls his eyes. Balthazar and Uriel have never gotten along.
"How are you?" Balthazar asks as he pulls back, still holding Castiel firmly by the shoulders. It's almost as if Balthazar's afraid Castiel will disappear if he doesn't keep a grip on him. His wings are certainly twitchy enough.
"I'm well. You?"
Balthazar shrugs. "Eh. Same old. What brings you back?"
Castiel smiles tightly. Balthazar may seem like he doesn't particularly care about much of anything beyond himself, but Castiel knows his cousin better than that. And he knows Balthazar is stinging from Castiel's prolonged absence. Then again, it's not like Balthazar couldn't have come to see him himself.
"Uriel said Michael's been asking about me," Castiel replies. There's a brief moment of disappointment, but it's quickly covered up by amusement.
"Michael's always itchy about one thing or another," Balthazar says with a grin. "No need to worry about it."
"I know," Castiel says, nodding. "But I figured it would be better to make him happy now than let the itch worsen."
"Probably smart," Balthazar agrees. "So are you just staying as long as it takes to calm Michael down?"
Again, the question seems casual enough, but Castiel knows better. Uncomfortable with the tension, Castiel gives Balthazar the most sincere smile he can muster.
"You can just tell me you missed me."
Balthazar gives him the most exaggeratedly offended look Castiel has probably ever seen. "I have no idea what you could possibly mean!"
Castiel shakes his head in amusement. "You could always visit, you know," he says quietly. The expression on Balthazar's face falls.
"As could you."
Castiel gives him a pained look. "Balthazar..."
"I know she was your sister, Cassie, but she wasn't the only one we lost. We lost my dad too, remember? And I haven't run off to hide."
Castiel frowns at him. "I don't think you could survive living on your own. You need people to annoy. It's your life force."
Balthazar would usually take a comment like that and roll with it, but this time he just stares at Castiel, wings unnaturally still. "We all miss you," he says, almost quiet enough Castiel doesn't catch it. Castiel sighs.
"Except for those who blame me for Anna," he says bitterly.
"Well, it's not as if you're doing much to change those idiots' opinions," Balthazar argues. "You're still going out there, collecting things and risking yourself--"
"Yes, and if we hadn't been going out there, the whole family would've died instead of just Anna and Gabriel," Castiel bites. "Michael may still be scared, but it's better for us to live in some type of harmony with the humans rather than stick our heads in the sand!"
"And what if you're next, Cassie?" Balthazar asks, suddenly quiet again.
"Then I expect you to look after the family the way Michael won't. Get Uriel to help."
Balthazar makes a face of disgust at that idea but seems to decide it's time to change topics. "So how long are you staying?"
Castiel sighs tiredly. He's already drained, and he's only just arrived. "I'll at least stay until tonight. Okay?"
Balthazar smiles, soft and genuine. "Wonderful."
Sam and Dean have flashlights and handguns tucked away in their jackets as they walk through the quiet hallways of the motel that night. Apparently the only way to get to the closed area of the motel is through a long space between walls, and the best way to get in that space is through the kitchens. The brothers had already done rock paper scissors to see who would lead the way through the inevitably cobweb-y and mildewy space. Dean had lost, which didn't seem to surprise Sam at all, and so with a look of disgust plastered on his face, Dean slides in through the creepy looking hole in the wall.
Progress is slow, having to walk sideways and be careful not to knock their heads on low-hanging beams or climb over pipes on the floor. Dean's already got what's sure to be an impressive bruise on his knee and is in the middle of muttering complaints about everything when Sam grabs him by the elbow.
Dean whirls to glare at him, but Sam's shining his flashlight at the wall in front of them, eyes wide and shining in the dim light.
"What?" Dean hisses.
"Look," Sam replies almost reverently. Dean follows Sam's gaze and the beam from his flashlight and frowns.
"A nest? So, what? There's a bird?"
"That's not just a nest," Sam says, shaking his head. Dean looks closer. It is a nest, small, circular, and made out of a mix of fabric, insulation, and other soft things. But next to the nest is a strange mix of keys, batteries, coins, wire, gum wrappers, cogs, string, so on. There's even a needle that's separated from the rest of it.
"It's all the stuff that's gone missing," Dean realizes. "A bird ghost?"
It's hard to tell in the darkness, but Dean's pretty sure he's currently on the receiving end of an epic bitchface. Sam gestures with the flashlight.
"A bird doesn't organize like that."
And, okay, maybe Sam has a point there. The coins are organized by type, the string by color, the batteries by size, the wire by color and then size.
"So... what is it then?"
Dean lets out a heavy sigh, and they start creeping their way back out.
It's later that night (or morning, Dean's not sure anymore) when Sam lets out a “ha!” of triumph. Dean looks over to him, eyebrow raised in a question.
"It wasn't a bat."
Dean frowns, turning down the volume on the TV. "What? You mean this morning when we got here?"
Sam nods, looking up at him with bright and excited eyes. "It was our little thief. A little person. They're a relation to fairykind in some legends. Only about six inches tall and look completely human otherwise. Sometimes they've got other animal appendages, like tails. There's a whole children's book series called The Littles about them. Also The Borrowers,The Secret World of Arrietty, so on. I'll bet our little person has wings."
Sam shrugs. "Maybe. All I actually saw was black wings. I just assumed it was a bat."
"So how do we kill it?"
Sam frowns disapprovingly. "I don't think it's dangerous, Dean."
"It's stealing stuff," Dean points out incredulously.
"It's not hurting anyone!"
"That you know of. Why is it stealing all that stuff anyway?" Dean asks. "Gearing up for some sort of spell or something?"
"Most little people don't even have any sort of powers, Dean--"
"But you don't know that this one doesn't. And how do we know there's just one?"
Sam doesn't look happy at this argument. "They do usually live in big family groups...."
"See! I bet they're all living in the walls like some infestation of rats or something."
"Look, can we at least talk to it first?" Sam asks wearily. "I don't know if it'll even speak English, but as far as we can tell it's not actually hurting anyone. And if that's true, I don't really see the point in killing it!"
Dean grinds his teeth for a moment, considering the options. "When do you wanna go back?"
Sam looks a bit relieved, which Dean tries not to be offended by. "Let's just go now. We've got no clue when it'll go back to it's nest so might as well go now?" It's stated like a question, and Dean sighs.
"Yeah, okay, sure. Let's go. You're leading this time, though."
Sam doesn't argue.
Castiel returns to his nest exhausted and a lot later than he'd wanted. Michael was placated though, at least for the time being. And Castiel would never admit it, but he'd enjoyed spending time with Balthazar and a couple of other cousins. The fact remains, however, that he's exhausted. He collapses face first in his nest and is asleep almost immediately.
When he first wakes up he's not sure why, he just knows he's rather still be sleeping. There are hushed voices, he realizes through the fog of sleep, but they're rather loud for the hushed voices of his family. So that means...
Heart jumping to his throat, Castiel moves before his brain has quite caught up. Wings snapping out, he throws himself into the air and flies as fast he can away from the unnatural light invading his nest. But he's not fast enough. A cry rips through Castiel as something large and strong closes around him, one of his wings bent the wrong way, crushed between himself and whatever it is holding him. Heart thudding painfully in his throat, Castiel thrashes, trying desperately to get free.
"Hey there, struggling's not gonna help, little guy."
Dread threatens to completely overcome Castiel. He recognizes that voice. It's the man with the green jacket and freckled face. Which probably means Sam with the long hair is there too, and Castiel knew he should've taken a closer look at the threat these two possessed.
Swallowing heavily, Castiel stills and takes a look at his situation. Green Jacket is holding him tight in one hand and, god, Castiel had never realized how unnaturally large humans really are. Green Jacket's hand is just about as big as Castiel is himself and has no problem preventing Castiel from flying away. The fact that one of his wings is bent wrong and being crunched isn't helping either. Green Jacket is looking down at him with round green eyes that are twinkling in the dim light, and he looks surprised at the mere existence of the person he has in his hand.
"I'll be damned," he says, awed.
"Dean, I think you're hurting him."
Castiel looks quickly to where the voice is coming from, and there's Sam standing right behind him, looking just as surprised by Castiel as Green Jacket is, just maybe a little less hostile.
Dean--Green Jacket's name is Dean--frowns. "You gonna flit off on us?" The question, Castiel realizes belatedly, is directed at him. Castiel glares in response.
"We just want to talk," Sam adds earnestly.
Castiel considers this for a moment. Now that's he's more awake, he could probably fly away fast enough, and then he could warn his family of the danger. He's not sure how reliable his wing is right now, though, and Sam seems sincere enough. It's Dean he's worried about. Those green eyes hold something dangerous, and it leaves Castiel wondering if he would've realized how much a threat these two were if he'd been able to see those eyes back in the motel room.
But for some reason, Castiel trusts Sam to not snatch him out of the air like Dean just did. If Castiel flies past him instead of the direction he'd just attempted, he should be able to get away from Dean's grasp even if his wing slows him down. So Castiel meets both humans' eyes and nods his consent. Dean doesn't look happy about it, but he does loosen his hold. Castiel launches himself into the air before anyone can react. There's a loud curse behind him, but Castiel pays it no heed, hurtling through the darkness.
His wing, though, isn't beating like it should. The entire limb is screaming at him in pain, and suddenly Castiel's not hurtling forward but downward, the limited light telling him he hasn't even made it two feet. He hits the ground a lot faster than he expects, and the ground is a lot softer than it should be.
"I told you you were hurting him. Look at his wing."
"Good. Can't fly off now, can it?"
As his panic clears, Castiel realizes he hasn't landed on the ground but in Sam's hands. Sam's moving them now, setting Castiel on the wooden beam that holds his nest. Castiel scrambles to his nest, wrapping his injured wing close around his body. He's fuming at himself, furious that he's managed to get himself in such a hopeless situation. He can't even make it out to warn his family. He's going to die. Balthazar and Uriel were right.
"I'm Sam," Sam is saying, indicating himself. "This is Dean. He's sorry about your wing."
Castiel doesn't look at the humans, preferring instead to work on grooming the mussed feathers on his wing. Small bolts of pain course through the wing with every touch, but Castiel refuses to let it show in his expression, teeth grinding together in anger. It's quiet for a few moments.
"Do you have a name?" Sam asks. He looks a bit awkward from what Castiel can see out of the corner of his eye. Castiel doesn't particularly feel like giving the humans his name. They're not hurting him, though (or, not anymore), and they're not going anywhere. So instead of answering, Castiel looks up to glower at them. Sam, though, looks apologetic enough so Castiel lets his scowl settle on Dean. Dean recoils at the look.
"What?" he says defensively. Sam shoots him a frown of his own.
"What do you think, Dean?"
Dean rolls his eyes. "Oh, come on! Fine, I'm sorry!"
Castiel only continues to scowl, drawing his wing in closer. It's angled weird, he notices. He wonders if it's broken. Hester had broken her wing a few years ago. She'd been unable to fly for a month and even then it continued to bother her for weeks. Of course, Castiel might not live long enough to endure that.
"Convincing," Sam mutters. Dean shoots a frown of his own in Sam's direction.
"What am I supposed to do? Grovel?"
Sam gives a long-suffering sigh before turning his attention back to Castiel. Meanwhile Castiel hasn't taken his eyes off Dean, as if if he glowers hard enough and long enough he'll bore holes through that freckled forehead.
"Maybe we could take a look at your wing," Sam suggests. "Fix you up? Unless you've got a friend to help you out...."
Castiel just barely keeps his wings from snapping out in surprise. They don't know about the rest of the family. They don't know. If Castiel manages to keep them in the dark about his family, they might be able to continue on living without Sam and Dean ever intruding. Castiel might never see them again, and Balthazar would kill him for disappearing, but it's like Anna's sacrifice. He could do it.
Jaw set, Castiel lets his wing fold back behind him and slides out of his nest. He draws himself up to his full six inches and, still glaring directly at Dean, nods.
"My name is Castiel. You may try to fix my wing, but after that I will ask you to leave the motel. And don't ever come back. This is my home. I have done nothing to harm you or anyone else. I just want to live here in peace, without humans like you interrupting my sleep and snapping my wings."
Both humans look taken aback at that, the tension in the air crackling like static electricity. It breaks in one sudden moment when Dean bursts out laughing. Sam and Castiel both stare at him incredulously, but Dean only grins widely down at Castiel.
"You got balls for such a little dude."
Castiel simply scowls at him. It is nice to see that face smiling. Suddenly he doesn't seem to be quite so dangerous, like when Castiel had seen him sleeping. But Dean still hurt him. And Castiel isn't moving from this spot until he's guaranteed they'll leave, even though he knows he can't trust their word.
Dean shrugs carelessly. "If you ain't dangerous, we'll leave first thing in the morning. No point in staying." He actually holds out his hand for Castiel to step onto, and though Castiel would much rather take Sam's hand, he walks up to it. He grabs the needle as an afterthought and mentally says goodbye to his home. He doesn't figure he'll be coming back.
"Do you ever blink?" Dean asks, trying hard to focus on the small feathery wing under his fingertips. They've taken Kitty-el or whatever his name is to their motel room, and the little person is sitting on the bedside table as Dean tries to bandage up his wing without snapping it in two. His other wing is settles behind him, rigid with tension, and his bright blue eyes haven't stopped staring at Dean. If looks could kill.
Sam, meanwhile, seems endlessly amused by all this. He's watching everything from his seat at the table and keeps letting out poorly concealed snorts of laughter. Dean shoots him a glare but quickly pulls his attention back to the fragile wing.
"Castiel," the gruff voice corrects shortly. Dean raises an eyebrow at him.
"All right, Castiel. Cas." He watches the little angry face carefully for a reaction to the nickname. Castiel squints slightly, but he doesn't make any protest so Dean rolls with it. "How'd you get stuck living in the shittiest motel known to man?"
"I've been here my entire life," Cas replies, sounding offended.
"Yeah?" Dean says, surprised. Sam's eyebrows are hidden in his hair, and he leans forward in interest.
"So you were born here?" Sam asks. Castiel twists around to look at Sam.
"I fail to see why that matters."
Sam draws back quickly. Clearly pushing the question of whether or not there are more of Cas's kind here is not going to work. Dean throws Cas a winning smile as he turns back around.
"So what's with the collection of stuff back at your nest thing?" he asks brightly. For some reason the stupidly cheerful seems to work with the little guy. Cas bristles, and Dean bites back a comment about how patching up his wing is hard enough without Cas moving constantly.
"Most of it is just things I think are interesting," he answers, gaze finally dropping. "I use some of it when I need to, like the string. I fixed my jacket once with it." He tugs his trenchcoat to the side to show Dean the sewn-up side of his suit jacket. Which, by the way, suit and trenchcoat for someone half a foot tall? What?
"You did that yourself?" Dean asks and, yeah okay, he's actually impressed. Cas nods. Dean points at the needle laying next to the little man.
"You use that?"
"No," Castiel replies, as if it should be obvious. Dean waits for an explanation, but it seems like that's not going to happen. Dean sighs, refocusing his attention on the wing. It would be so much easier if Dean's fingers weren't about the size of the feathered limb.
"I used an earring stud," Cas says quietly after a few silent moments. Dean's fingers freeze, and he looks to Cas's face to see if he can tell if the little guy is just messing with him. Cas is picking at the thread on the patched up spot on his suit, and Dean can't quite get a good look at his face.
"An earring?" Dean echoes. Cas nods, looking up to meet Dean's stare, face absolutely sincere.
"Resourceful," Sam comments. Dean manages to keep himself from jerking in surprise at Sam's voice. So maybe he forgot Sam was there. He's just focused on this damn wing, that's all.
"What's the needle for then?" Sam continues.
"Like a sword," Dean says Castiel is impressing him more and more. Cas, however, looks confused.
"A sword," Dean repeats, gesturing like he's holding one. "You know, long, pointy thing?"
Cas only shakes his head. Dean frowns at him, a bit appalled.
"You ever watched any movies like, I dunno, Indiana Jones? Pirates of the Caribbean? Star Wars? Those aren't really swords, but they're the same idea. Lord of the Rings!"
Cas looks like he's starting to worry he's under the care of a madman, and Sam's turning red with suppressed laughter. But, really, how does a person not know what a sword is?
"That's all human entertainment, Dean," Sam says, voice shaking with giggles.
"Yeah, but he lives in a motel!" Dean protests. "You never just spent an evening watching the TV from the vent or something?"
"Usually when the television is on that means there are humans, and it's wise for me to not be around," Cas replies dryly, injured wing twitching slightly as if to emphasise his point. A strange bubble of guilt swells up inside Dean's throat, which he chooses to push aside and ignore.
"Right. In that case, let's finish wrapping up your wing and then we're doing a Lord of the Rings marathon."
"Whoa, wait, what?" Sam says, quickly, sitting up. Dean shrugs.
"We don't got anywhere we need to be, and little dude here is kinda laid up for a while. Probably wanna relax for a while, don't you?"
The confused stare hasn't lessened in the slightest. Which doesn't exactly surprise Dean, to be honest. Less than an hour ago, they met by Dean yanking Cas out of the air mid-flight and crushing one of his wings. Now Dean's suggesting they watch Lord of the Rings together, and Dean's not even sure when that sudden change happened.
"I... suppose..." Cas says slowly, cautiously.
"Awesome," Dean declares. "Sammy, you can get us the movies online, right?"
Sam's still looking at Dean like he's grown another two heads, but he nods, pulling open his laptop. Dean grins as he finishes wrapping up Castiel's wing, the little person's wide and bright eyes never leaving his.
It all has to be some cruel plot to get Castiel comfortable. That's the only explanation he can come up with as he watches Dean get overly excited about the appearance of some big, fiery beast on the computer screen sitting at the foot of his bed. It's a cruel plot to get him comfortable, and as soon as he lets his guard down they'll kill him. Well, he’s not going to let his guard down.
Castiel's wing is thoroughly, if a bit sloppily, bandaged, and he's trying hard to keep it stationary behind him. Dean had insisted Castiel would be more comfortable on one of the pillows, and so Castiel has found himself sitting on the pillow next to Dean. Sam is sitting on the other bed but seems more interested in watching Castiel and Dean rather than the movie. Castiel makes a half-hearted attempt to pay attention to it, but well. Dean's exclamations and thrilled expressions are far more... entertaining. And interesting. And confusing.
Eventually the movie ends, and Dean shoves the computer back towards Sam, demanding he find the next one. Dean turns his gaze to Castiel, eyes bright and glowing.
"So? What do you think, Cas?"
"I didn't understand it," Castiel replies honestly, choosing to continue ignoring the nickname. Dean looks somewhere between appalled and offended.
"What? What didn't you get?" Dean asks like he's ready to launch into a detailed and highly unhelpful explanation.
"It's simply just too foreign for me," Castiel says with a shrug. "Even much of the language was just...." He gestures vaguely. Dean frowns thoughtfully.
"Maybe it'd be easier if you read the books."
"Are you kidding me?" Sam intones. "Dean, those books are so hard to read! We don't even know-- Can you even read, Cas?"
Castiel starts at the use of the nickname from Sam as well. He stares at Sam in surprise for a few moments before realizing he asked a question.
"I can read some basic things," he answers with a shrug. "Haven't seen enough to figure it all out, though."
Sam and Dean go right back to bickering after that admittance, but Castiel doesn't pay any attention. He's instead focusing on flexing his wing experimentally without alerting the humans. It's not broken luckily, but it still protests loudly at any movement. Flying isn't an option apparently, and Castiel doesn't know how he feels about making a run for it on his feet. He's fast, sure, but humans can cross a room in less than twenty strides. And humans are generally clumsy and could easily step on Castiel because of their lack of wings. Honestly, Castiel has never understood how they keep their balance without wings. No, his best bet would be to wait until Sam and Dean fall asleep except that Castiel has no clue when that might happen. As far as he can tell their sleeping schedule consists more of whenever they get tired, and it seems they can go a while before that happens.
"Look lost in thought there, little buddy." Dean's voice breaks through his contemplations, and Castiel looks up with a jerk to see Dean smirking at him good naturedly. "Wanna watch Two Towers?"
Castiel shakes his head. "I want to know more about you two. What do you do? You don't look like pest control. Nor do you act like it."
Dean looks surprised at that, glancing over to Sam who looks just as surprised.
"Uh. No. We're not pest control. We, uh..." Sam starts slowly, looking to Dean for help.
"You ever seen anyone--other than yourself--who," Dean seems to grapple with words for a moment. "Who ain't exactly human."
"A man brought in a cat once," Castiel replies slowly, confused as to how this has anything to do with his question. "It was one of the few times I've actually seen Chuck do something."
Dean chuckles. "No, I mean like, well... like a monster."
"Yeah," Dean nods. "Vampire, shapeshifter, demon, ghost, so on."
Castiel frowns at him. "I have no idea what you're talking about." If this conversation weren't sounding oddly similar in topic to the one Castiel had overheard this morning Castiel would be sure Dean was stringing him along.
Dean sighs, sharing a glance with Sam before continuing. "Okay, well, there are these monsters, things who hurt people, out there. And me 'n' my brother hunt 'em. And kill 'em."
Castiel looks slowly between the two humans. "You're brothers?"
"That's what you took out of that?" Dean asks incredulously. Castiel shakes his head.
"No, it explains a lot about what you were talking about when you first arrived, but I didn't realize you were brothers," Castiel explains, still frowning between the two of them. He supposes it makes sense. The two humans don't exactly look too much alike but neither did he and Anna. But these two definitely act close enough to be siblings.
"You were the bat!" Sam exclaims. Castiel starts, staring at Sam in confusion until he remembers Sam had caught a glimpse of him flying into the vent.
"You were listening to us?" Dean asks. Castiel shrugs.
"Not closely. I was mainly trying to figure out how to get back to my nest without being seen."
"Did you take anything?"
Castiel shouldn't be surprised at the harsh accusation from Dean, but he is. His throat constricts, and he has to swallow heavily around it before he replies.
"I was here before you arrived, scavenging the room from the people who'd just left."
"Dean." The name is hissed, and Castiel glances to Sam to see him frowning at Dean significantly.
"What?" Dean says defensively. Sam just sighs, looking thoroughly disappointed.
"I'm tired," Castiel mumbles, pulling his knees up to his chest. Suddenly he feels so drained and really would love nothing more than to curl up in his nest and sleep. He isn't holding out hope for his nest though, and he'd be happy to settle for whatever he can get right now. He just wants to sleep.
Dean looks surprised at Castiel's declaration. "Oh. Right. Yeah, you're probably exhausted, aren't you?"
Castiel nods mutely, and there's a sudden shifting as Sam and Dean start moving. Castiel resists the urge to just lay down on the pillow and fall asleep there. It's just too close for comfort to Dean. Really, he shouldn't be sleeping in the first place, even that is too much of a risk, but Castiel couldn't care less right now.
Castiel looks up blearily to see Sam smiling down at him. He's got what looks like a hand towel in his fingers, holding it up for Castiel's inspection.
"It's clean, I promise."
Castiel doesn't think Sam can actually make that promise, not with Chuck running the motel, but there's nothing that makes it obviously not clean. Still, he doesn't know why Sam seems to think this is important. He stares at Sam blankly, waiting silently for an explanation.
"Unless you want to sleep on a pillow," Sam says with a shrug. "Just figured you'd be more comfortable without one of us less than a foot away. Probably safe too. We both roll over a lot in our sleep."
Oh. It's for a makeshift nest. That's... nice. Thoughtful. Castiel slowly pushes himself to his feet. "Thank you," he says, glancing around for Dean. He's disappeared somewhere. Castiel shouldn't care.
Instead he climbs over to the bedside table and arranges the hand towel so it'll be comfortable. He purposefully doesn't look to see what Sam is doing but pays attention anyway. It's only when Castiel is settling down to finally sleep that he realizes Sam had been talking as if he was going to sleep as well. Alertness tries to course through him, and he lifts his head slightly to confirm that Sam is getting ready for bed. If Castiel only has to get past Sam instead of both the humans.... But he has no idea where Dean went. He can too easily imagine being on his way out only for Dean to return and get angry, maybe even enough that he finally kills Castiel. Sam notices Castiel watching him and stops.
Castiel nods, giving him what he hopes is a reassuring smile. Sam smiles back just as tight and awkward before flicking off the light and climbing into his bed.
"'Night, Cas," he murmurs. Castiel doesn't reply. He'll wait, he decides, for Dean to return before he makes his escape. He'll pretend to be asleep while Dean gets ready for bed and then make his way home. It's too risky otherwise. Castiel tries to clear his tired senses to listen for the shower running or someone just outside the door, but the effort only seems to make him more sleepy. Castiel's not even aware of finally falling into a sleep so deep he doesn't hear Dean finally return.
Sam and Dean leave that morning. Dean helps Castiel reach the vent so he can make his own way back to his nest. Dean had offered to take him back through the kitchens, but Castiel had declined. As he steps into the vent, Castiel can hardly believe it. Dean had shrugged carelessly, saying they had another hunt to follow and since Cas wasn't dangerous they had no reason to stick around. Castiel had had no idea how to read the human's expression, especially with his eyes downcast and not meeting Castiel's gaze. There's a part of Castiel that wants to turn around and maybe thank the brothers or at least just see if Dean is watching him. Maybe Cas could read his expression now. But thanking them for sparing his life would be ridiculous. And, really, Castiel doesn't care about Dean and his expression.
The air comes on as Castiel slowly makes his way back to his nest. He pulls his coat tighter around his body and blinks back the tears that form at the strong, cold gusts. By the time he finally reaches his nest, his hair is blown every which way, he's shivering, and tears have dried uncomfortably on his cheeks. He's feeling so miserable that he doesn't even notice Uriel until he's almost run right into his cousin.
"Where have you been? What happened to your wing?" Uriel demands angrily. Castiel blinks at him owlishly before the urgency in Uriel's tone sinks in. He runs irritably at his eyes, trying to get rid of the cakey dried saltwater feeling and giving himself a moment to gather his thoughts. Slowly, and more than a bit unwillingly, Castiel tells Uriel what happened. He omits some details like the movie and how Castiel is oddly disappointed that he'll never see the brothers again. Uriel inspects Castiel's wing, his own pair bristling.
"You're lucky to be alive," he grumbles. Castiel sighs heavily. He's still wiped out and doesn't have the mental capability of dealing with his uptight cousin right now.
"I know," he says quietly. He still doesn't fully understand why he is alive. By all accounts, it doesn't make sense. Uriel is probably frowning at him disapprovingly, but Castiel can't see it nor does he care.
"It doesn't seem to be broken, but it is sprained badly. The bandaging was done well, and it should heal fine." Uriel steps back into Castiel's line of sight. "You should come back home until you can fly again."
"No," Castiel repeats, staring Uriel down with steely eyes. "I'll stay here in my own nest."
To Castiel's surprise, Uriel actually backs down. His dark eyes seem to assess Castiel for a few moments, his frown deepening. "Something else happened."
Castiel meets Uriel's frown with one of his own. "Nothing else happened."
"You haven't smiled once all morning."
"I just had a close brush with death," Castiel snaps. "I think I'm allowed to be more somber after something like that."
Uriel blinks in surprise at the fierceness in Castiel, but he luckily doesn't push it. "Are you sure you won't come home just for a little while? Let someone more qualified look at your wing..."
"I'll be fine, cousin," Castiel replies firmly, wrapping his uninjured wing closely around himself. "Thank you for your concern."
Uriel seems to recognize the dismissal and nods, taking a step back. "I'll return later today to check up on you."
Castiel's not thrilled with that idea but doesn't really have the energy to argue. Instead he just nods, tension seeping out of his body as Uriel jumps into flight. Without the tension he feels like his limbs are made of jelly, and Castiel stumbles to his nest. It takes far too long for him to finally fall back asleep.
The days pass by in a blur. A paralytic sense of lethargy settles in as Castiel waits for his wing to heal so he can get back to business as usual. Uriel visits regularly and even Balthazar shows up once, but they're the only life Castiel sees for weeks. He doesn't tell Uriel when he finally decides his wing could hold up if he doesn't strain himself. He knows Uriel will only try to talk him out of it, tell him he should let someone take a look at the wing just to make sure, so on. Castiel isn't in the mood. He's more cautious than usual and actually leaves his nest late in the evening to hit rooms while occupants are sleeping. Of course if the occupants all have sleep schedules like Dean and Sam it won't actually do Cas any good.
He's lucky, though. In the first room he comes to there's a family of five all asleep, and Castiel takes his time picking through the bags in the bathroom and the odds and ends on the tables. He takes a pair of tweezers and some earbuds before heading for the next room, which is unoccupied and uninteresting. He passed by the next room, which has a very loud couple. The next room is skipped as well when Castiel notices the occupants staring wide-eyed at the ceiling. In the next room he finds a comb, the next one a small sock, the next nothing. One room he looks through the vent to see if it's safe, sees the television on and starts to move away. Belatedly Cas realizes he recognizes the people on the screen and quickly turns back. It's the old man with the grey beard from that movie Dean and Sam had shown him. And, there, yes, is that fire creature Dean had been excited about. Cas actually remembers this part. The old man had died. Except... Wait. The movie continues past what Cas remembers, showing the fire creature and the old man falling and continuing to fight. Castiel watches, confused, for a few moments until he realizes this must be the next movie. Slowly, eyes glued to the screen, Cas sits down where he can see best and settles in to watch.
He still doesn't understand a lot. Talk of a ring and things like Eye-zen-guard and Gone-door make no sense to Castiel. There are a few new characters that Castiel doesn’t recognize, like a bunch of men on horses and a woman with blonde hair that’s almost white. There’s also a character that Castiel can’t decide if it (he?) is a good guy or a bad guy. It even seems to have two different names, which isn’t helping how confused Castiel is. But two of the short characters, the one with the ring that’s important somehow, and his heavier companion, travel with this character. Sometimes they seem to trust him, but really this character who crawls on all fours and is a rather sickly grey, seems to be more of a creature to the two. An inconvenience. Something that’s useful for the time being, but they’ll dump as soon as their interest wanes. Castiel catches himself wondering if Dean and Sam saw him like that.
Castiel blinks wildly, snapping back to reality when one of the occupants of the motel room turns off the television. In a daze, he pushes himself to his feet and gathers his findings. There are a number of other rooms he could check out, but it's late and Cas is lost in thought. He imagines Dean finding out that Cas has seen the movie and his insistence that Cas must now watch the third one. He sees Sam's bemused expression easily, his eyes rolling as Dean launches into an explanation of why one movie is better than another and who's Cas's favorite character and why and so on. The entire journey back to his nest is like this. He dreams of dwarves and elves and hobbits, Dean and Sam's faces on all of them.
Castiel wakes late the next day to Uriel standing over him with one of the deepest frowns Castiel has ever seen on him. Castiel starts the day dutifully nodding at the correct intervals as Uriel tells him in great detail how idiotic it was for Cas to fly and risk human contact and not telling anyone. At first Cas can't figure out how Uriel knows until he sees his loot from last night. Uriel finally talks himself out and, with one last scowl, leaves. Cas lets out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and moves to reorganize his collection.
That night Castiel goes back to the room that had been playing the movie to see if they'll watch the final one. But the room is vacated. Trying not to feel too disappointed, Cas searches the room for any forgotten treasures and leaves with one of the largest earrings he's ever seen. He hides it under his nest so he won't get another lecture from Uriel.
"Dean, seriously, get your own computer for your porn," Saam says with an exasperated sigh as he enters the room. Dean barely glances at him as Sam throws the supplies from the salt-and-burn they'd just returned from on his bed.
"'S not porn," he mumbles distractedly. Sam frowns, clearly confused.
"What're you doing, then?"
Dean doesn't get the chance to reply before Sam's looking over his shoulder at the laptop's screen.
"Paradise Motel? That's Cas's motel. Dean--"
"It's been closed," Dean interrupts, pointing at the notice at the top of the screen. "Health code. It's being sprayed for pests tomorrow."
It's quiet for a moment.
"You think Cas knows?" Sam asks softly.
"He doesn't know what a sword is or how to read," Dean replies tersely, jumping to his feet and throwing all his belongings back in a duffel. "And if his wing is still healing, he can't fly."
"What can we do, though? We're a thirteen-hour drive..."
"Eleven if we push it," Dean says as he throws his duffel over his shoulder. "We're leaving. Now."
Castiel is tired. He's been tired a lot lately, come to think of it. He would've thought he'd be twitchy and impatient while his wing had healed. Instead he'd been perfectly content to stay in his nest and sleep. Now that his wing has mostly healed, other than the two excursions at night, Cas has still just stayed home and fiddled with his collections. He's playing with the string right now, typing a variety of knots and untying what he can. He's completely lost track of time, lost in a sort of hypnosis as he works. So when Uriel flies up, stumbling as he lands, Cas is rather startled.
"Pest control," Uriel manages to gasp out. As Cas stares at him in shock he realizes Uriel's dark skin actually seems pale, and he's having trouble breathing. His brunette wings are making little aborted, twitchy movements.
"Michael... Raphael... tried to fight..." Uriel shakes his head, distressed. "People are dying... fast...."
All at once Castiel understands. There's a strange hissing noise in the distance, and Cas realizes with a sinking feeling of dread what it is. A surge of adrenaline courses through him, and he grabs Uriel by the hand, trying to tug him to his feet.
"We need to get out of here," Cas says urgently. "Come on."
But Uriel shakes his head, coughing harshly, wings' movement growing steadily more erratic. "Go," he breathes. "Get out--" Uriel collapses in a heap, wing still twitching madly. Castiel shakes Uriel's shoulder.
Cas can actually see the poison now as it silently seeps closer from the direction Uriel had come. It may be the panic pounding heavily inside of him, but he's already having trouble breathing. After one final attempt to drag Uriel with him, Cas launches himself in the air and flies as fast as he can.
He has no idea where to go. He's never left the motel building and, frankly, the idea terrifies him. The poison catches up quickly, or maybe he loses his sense of direction and flies straight into it. He feels himself lost control of his wings slowly, his breathing growing more and more ragged. He's not sure how, but he ends up in one of the motel rooms. Knowing his wings are going to give out at any moment he dives for one of the beds, burying himself under the covers in a desperate attempt to escape the poison.
There's a steady, low-pitched sound.
The warm, rough thing shakes all around.
It's bright, too. Brighter than anything he knows.
The sound shortens and breaks, the pitch higher.
It's a voice, Cas realizes.
Another voices joins the first one. "I don't think he's--"
"No, look, he's moving! Cas!"
Cas fights through the fog and blinks slowly, the source of the bright light coming into focus. It's yellow and round, and there's a face now blocking his view. A face with green eyes.
"Hey! Cas, buddy, you with us?"
Dean. And Sam. And there's a distinct lack of walls and ceiling, which means they're outside. Heart jumping wildly to his throat, Cas flattens himself against Dean's palm.
"Whoa, hey there," Dean says gently. "Breathe, dude. Probably not gonna be up to full capacity for a while, but you're good. You're fine."
"Smart move hiding in our old room," Sam adds. "Don't think we would've found you in time otherwise."
It all comes back to Cas in a rush. His heart thudding painfully in his throat suddenly makes him feel sick. It's his fault, he realizes. He'd been too lethargic, too tired and lazy, and hadn't done his job. He hadn't checked on Chuck for who knew how long, hadn't checked his papers to see if there was something Cas needed to know. Now... Now all of his family is dead.
Both Dean and Sam are talking, fast and worried. Cas ignores it, though, and allows himself to be pulled back into unconsciousness. It's easier than dealing with reality.
“Whoa, whoa, Cas, hey, Cas,” Dean says quickly as he notices those tiny blue eyes starting to roll. His heart has already been thudding painfully in his throat and having the little body go limp in his hand again doesn’t help. He’s about to start prodding at him, but Sam reaches out and stops him before he can.
“Sleep might be the best thing for him right now, Dean,” Sam says gently. “He needs to get that poison out of his system.”
Dean concedes to that logic grumpily and lets Sam convince him they should get out of the area and start driving. It’s a testament to how well his brother knows him that Sam knows he doesn’t need to suggest a destination. That’s not really the point of driving right now. Dean takes off his flannel shirt a bit awkwardly with Cas still in his hand and sets it on the seat between himself and Sam before gently placing Cas on the shirt. It’s not much, but hopefully it’ll do.
The drive is quiet for a while, Dean not willing to turn on music in fear of disturbing the unconscious little person. They’re about an hour out before Sam finally voices Dean’s thoughts.
“What’re we gonna do?”
“What do you mean?” Dean asks gruffly, knowing the answer all too well.
“About Cas,” Sam replies patiently. “His home’s gone. Maybe we could find other little people for him to make a home with?”
Dean hums noncommittally. It’s an idea. But unless Cas has any idea where to look that could take years, and Cas had said he’d never left the motel, right?
“Or he could stick with us.”
Sam looks over at Dean sharply. “What?”
Dean shrugs. “He could stay with us. Six inches could be an advantage.”
“You mean with hunting?” Sam asks incredulously.
“Well, why not?”
“He could get killed!”
“He almost just got killed, Sam!” Dean barks, wincing almost immediately when Cas’s wings twitch suddenly in his sleep. “I’m just saying someone his size could be helpful. Sneak into places we can’t, be like a fly on the wall and all that.”
Sam’s quiet for a few moments, and Dean can feel his piercing stare on the side of his head. After they pass the next mile marker, Dean sighs heavily, glaring over at his brother.
Sam’s stern stare dissolves quickly, and he shakes his head. “Nothing. Nothing.”
Dean doesn’t believe him for a second, but he also isn’t really sure he wants to know the answer so he doesn’t push it and turns his attention back to the road.
“I think it should be his decision, Dean.”
Cas wakes up disoriented. It takes him a few moments to remember everything again, and he resists the urge to fall back asleep. He opens his eyes to see he's not back in the motel but some other enclosure that could probably only fit four or five humans. It might actually be a car, from what he's seen from windows, and there are already two humans inside of it.
"You okay, Cas?" Dean asks quietly as Cas looks up to see him glancing at him with a worried expression. Dean seems to be in charge of the vehicle, trying somewhat to keep his eyes forward. Cas pulls his coat around him tightly, frowning at the plaid fabric in his immediate area, and considers lying. He can't feel his wings, and for a moment he's concerned they're not there.
"No," he says finally.
"Feel sick?" Sam asks. Cas supposes he does. He can see his wings still twitching out of the corner of his eyes, and everything is being filtered through a thick fog. But that's not the problem.
"I--" It doesn't matter now, he reminds himself. They're all gone. "I do have--did have others there with me," Cas says slowly, eyes fixed on a scuff mark on his right shoe. "My family."
It's quiet in response to that revelation. Cas is pretty positive Sam and Dean and sharing a significant look over his head. Cas is also pretty sure he doesn't quite care.
"Do you know if there are more of your kind?" Sam's voice asks, and Cas looks up to him and frowns. Sam shrugs. "We could take you to them if you know where they are. It's just hard to believe you're the only one of your kind left."
Cas blinks at Sam owlishly as what he just said sinks in. "I've never thought about it," he admits.. "But I did... I did have an uncle who disappeared a few years ago. Gabriel. He... I suppose he could be out there somewhere." The thought of seeing Gabriel again is almost too much for Cas to really imagine. Balthazar would be so thrilled.... It hits Cas like a punch to the gut that even if they do find Gabriel, Balthazar will never reunite with his father.
"But you don't know where he could be?"
Cas shakes his head. "We all just assumed he was dead."
"Well, we'll keep an eye out," Dean offers, and Cas turns to him. Dean gives him a weak, crooked smile. "Meanwhile, what if you hung around with us? Someone your size could be helpful."
"Or could get killed more easily," Sam argues quickly.
"No, I... I would like that, actually," Cas interrupts. "Help you hunt, correct? Monsters?"
Dean beams at him. "Yeah! Sam's right, it's dangerous--"
"I don't care," Cas says stubbornly, pulling himself to his feet. "I want to help."