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Hear My Train A Comin'.

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When Dean woke at 8:00 am to his ringing alarm, a wave of peace fell over him. He felt refreshed and calm, happy even, he noted, as he groaned and stretched out the remainder of his sleep from his mind. Miracle bounced his way up onto Dean's bed and he focused on the softness of the dog's fur, he breathed it in, keeping his mind on nothing but the sensation, pulling Miracle close to his chest. “Hey, Buddy,” he said, feeling a warmth spread through him. “Good morning”. He swayed his body side to side, rhythmically, and planted his head against his dogs, feeling the subtle wetness of Miracle's nose near his ear. He tried to hold onto the feeling of peace but could feel it fade as he remembered the visit he had in his dream last night. As his mind wandered out of the present, his grip around Miracle loosened, the dog took that as his queue to jump from Dean's arms onto the concrete floor. Dean faltered. He stared at the dog. The dog stared back up at him, panting, waiting. “11:59 am” Jack had said. “at 11:59 am you’ll believe me”.

Dean had a sense of foreboding as he made his way to the kitchen. His stomach felt like it had very quickly tied itself into a noose. He turned the corridor and was hit by the clanking sounds of Sam making breakfast in the kitchen. Eggs, by the smell of it. Dean took a moment to steady himself. He knew he couldn’t cause a scene, he couldn’t let on to what he and Jack had discussed in his dream just moments ago. He inhaled deeply and pushed down the guilt and pain that had found its way up to this throat and clenched his fist as if his hand could hold all of the tension and pressure he had started to feel. He turned and walked into the kitchen. Sam was indeed cooking eggs. Healthy eggs, not the way Dean liked them; not sunny side up and doused in oil. He noticed the toaster had the familiar stream of smoke rising and instinctively walked over to the appliance.


“It's hot,” Sam said, sparing a glance up from the fluffy scramble that he was pushing around the pan. Too late Dean registered what he had said, catching the toast as it popped out of the toaster in his bare hands. He huffed cartoonishly and dropped them as delicately as he could onto a plate in front of him. “You want one or two pieces?” Sam asked, this time keeping his eyes on the eggs. Dean blindly reached into the breadbasket and placed two more pieces into the toaster, his mind elsewhere. Dean couldn’t help but drop his resolve. His eyes trained on his brother's back. He desperately tried to swallow down the pain. That was Sam for you; Sam had already been for a run, was cooking breakfast for them both, and even when Dean had only been awake for five minutes, Sam still made sure Dean got the warm toast. He knew Sam was worried about him, worried about how he was going to handle the loss they had both been through now that Chuck had been dealt with and things were settled. Dean silently stood behind his brother as Sam added bacon to a second pan. Dean knew that if Jack was right… If his dream was real… He couldn’t bring himself to finish the thought.

-

The boys sat in silence as they ate. Dean, intent on staring at his food, felt sick from forcing himself to eat, but he knew it was the only way to not freak Sam out. He had to carry on as if nothing was wrong. He had to keep it together. At one point he looked up and Sam's eyes caught his. Dean smiled a little at him from across the table. which evidently had been unconvincing. Sam's mouth formed his signature worried line and his brows furrowed. “You cooked, I’ll clean. I just gotta wash the taste of these eggs out of my mouth first”, Dean stated as he rose and collected their plates. Sam had polished off every bit of food, but Dean had only eaten all he could manage without barfing, leaving just enough food to not arouse any suspicion. Sam seemed to agree with this sentiment.

“I gotta shower anyway, I smell like… well, I smell like I just got back from running five miles.”

-

Dean walked in a daze back to his room. He looked at himself in the mirror, unseeing. 11:59, he recalled. What was the time now? He knew it was probably 8:30ish, 9:00 at a stretch. He was too scared to look at his watch, too terrified to pull out his phone from his pocket. Dean, as if on autopilot, took his toothbrush and toothpaste out of the mirror cabinet and squeezed the tube onto the brush. There's no way that his dream could have been real. He tried to tell himself. There’s no way! Hadn’t Jack promised the last time that He saw them that He would be a hands-off God? Visiting people in their dreams didn’t exactly count as being hands-off. Dean relaxed a little, bringing the brush up to his mouth. He decided he would try to put his dream out of his mind for now. It was probably just a nightmare. A really lucid nightmare. A really lucid, really specific nightmare but hey, he’d been through some weird shit... so why wouldn’t that transfer over into his dreams? It was probably PTSD. That's what Sam was always saying, anyway. Like the times when Dean randomly found himself unable to breathe sometimes, or when he woke up sweating, Sam standing over him, having evidently just woken him up, or even like that one time when he felt his heart beating irregularly while he was out buying groceries and called the ambulance only to find out that all those years of eating crappy diner food hadn’t actually caught up with him. PTSD had probably leaked into his dream to promise him another reason not to rest.

-

Dean felt restless. He could feel the seconds ticking by and tried in vain to ignore them. He felt itchy, fidgety. He looked around at his room before deciding to make his bed to keep his hands busy. As he threw his nightgown from his bed to his chair, he tried to further convince himself that he had nothing to stress about. What, he wondered, could possibly happen at 11:59 am that would convince him that Jack had truly visited him in his sleep? Maybe a burning bush will appear before him. One of the OG Gods classic signs. That’d have to be it, he decided. Although he recalled a time when Lucifer had tricked Sam with a burning bush, nothing less would assure him of the doom Jack promised in his dream… If that even was truly Jack... He hastily plopped his pillow back at the head of the bed and pulled his covers up. Dean had made his decision, a dream was all it was, PTSD, maybe, but there was no way in hell Jack had truly visited him last night. He ran his hand over his hair, trying to tame it, and pulled his door behind him as he left his room.

-

As promised, Dean made his way back to the kitchen where he washed up from breakfast, feeding Miracle the scraps he couldn’t bring himself to stomach earlier. He was starting to relax a little. At this rate, he wouldn’t even notice when the doomed hour rolled by. He figured he just had to keep busy, and he had the perfect job for it. It had been months since all of the crap in the back of the impala got a deep clean, and with Chuck out of the way and nobody's life being in any imminent danger, now was the perfect time to drag out some elbow grease and give all of their guns and knives a nice spit-shine. And so, Dean got to work, bringing all of the weapons from the boot of the impala, into the weapons room.

-

Hours passed, while Dean focused on nothing but his task at hand, his dream long forgotten. He surveyed the weapons on the counter in front of him. A shotgun, that was all that he had left to clean. He dismembered the gun wiping it down with a rag before reassembling it. He noticed that it was relatively clean already. The chambers even seemed to have no real build-up in them. He finished putting the shotgun back together and placed it down, before absentmindedly checking his watch. It had only taken him two hours to clean every single item from the car, he noted. He got up to get himself a beer and froze, dead in his tracks. Ice ran down his spine as he slowly lifted his watch again. 11:59 am exactly. Dean's stomach jolted. His mouth was suddenly dry. He tried to swallow down the panic rising inside him but he knew, he knew that that was it; that was the sign. How, without even thinking, could he have looked at the time for the first time all day and it be exactly 11:59 am? The dread was too much for him, he had to steady himself. He planted his hand on the table to stop himself from falling over. “Sam will die in three days.”

Chapter Text

Dean sat staring blankly at his laptop. He knew it was only a matter of time before Sam joined him in the library to look for news; for a case. So, when he had finally pulled himself together, he had absentmindedly walked to his room, retrieved his laptop, and made his way to the library. His laptop was nothing more than a prop as he sat there, frozen, his mind reliving every second of his dream from that night... 


He awoke to find himself sitting on some familiar moss-covered rocks with a fishing rod in his hand and two cold beers beside him. The air smelled clean and damp, and the only sounds were his breathing and the trickle of the muddy water below his feet. He’d been here before, he recalled. As soon as he was able to grasp and pull out the memory, he noticed he wasn't alone. To his left, rod in hand, beer beside him, sat Jack. He gave Dean a warm smile. Was it warm? Dean questioned, maybe it was full of pity.

“We’ve been here before,” Dean stated, staring at Jack, confused.

“You took me here when I was dying”, Jack prompted. Dean's uneasiness rose as he looked around. 

“No… I mean-- I-- We’ve been here before.” Dean said standing up now, dropping his fishing rod into the water. “We’ve been here. We’ve been here in my head.” Jack’s calm, wise, air he had about him up until this point, slipped away. 

“You… You remember that?”, Dean’s head tilted to the side as he tried to find the memory in his mind. 

“I--”, he shook his head trying to clear it. Trying to grasp at anything, “I don’t know”. Jack set down his fishing rod, and without taking a single step, appeared to Dean’s side. He placed his hand gently against Dean’s arm before taking a seat on the rock where Dean had sat and patted the stone beside him, implying that Dean should sit.  

“I’ve come to tell you---”, He began, looking into Dean's eyes, once he had taken his seat beside him. Jack seemed to be struggling to continue. He stared at the river watching the water pooling around the rocks as it rushed around the bend of the stream. Dean searched Jack's face, he had so much he had wanted to say to him, so much he had regretted from what little time they had spent together. All of that melted away when Jack spoke again “...Sam will die in three days.” Dean’s heartbeat rose and became audible as he sat on a rock in his mind, waiting for some kind of further explanation as to why Dream Jack could say such a thing. “I’m so sorry, Dean, I’ve tried everything, We-- We’ve tried everything. No matter what happens… it's always the same.” Jack’s bottom lip wobbled as he spoke and Dean could tell he was trying his hardest not to cry. “I can’t figure out how to stop it…” Dean dragged his eyes away from Jack unseeing. The air felt heavy; like the two of them sat in a dome. There was no breeze, that was it, Dean noted. The trees sat completely still. No bugs either; no chirping, no swatting. 

“This isn't real”, he stated almost as a question. “It’s a dream… Sam-- Sam's fine and will be fine and you’re--- well, you’re gone.” Jack's eyes closed somberly. 

“Dean, I’m only telling you because you told me to… you want me to say that you think you should spend the next few days with Sam, doing what he loves because no matter what, every single time I’ve changed this message… no matter what I say… it always ends with Sam getting killed by a vampire in that stupid Barn in stupid Ohio!” Jack was crying now. He looked just like the boy that he, Cas, and Sam had raised together, not some omniscient being. Dean pulled Jack into his arms. His eyes found their way to the river in front of them again. The river had stopped moving. Dean struggled to understand. 

“It’s okay, kid,” he said, patting him on his back. “It's not real, this is just a dream”. Jack pulled away from him, wiping his tears. 

“You keep saying that.” his eyes pleaded, “You will see when you wake up, and at 11:59 am, you’ll believe me”, He shook his head gravely. “I’m so sorry, Dean. I hope you can forgive yourself. I hope you can forgive me. I think Chuck must have done something. He must have made a fixed point in time and I can’t figure out how to change it. I’m so sorry”. Dean placed his head in his hands. He was confused and tired and the river wasn't working properly and now Jack was crying and probably mad at him for something he’d done that he can't seem to put his finger on. Everything was slipping away. The rocks under him were crumbling. Jack brought his hand up and pressed his index and middle finger onto Dean's head and that’s when Dean woke up.

 

Now, Dean stared at his black laptop screen thinking it over. His rage had taken over from his grief. He would save his brother one last time, even if it was the last thing he ever did.

Chapter Text

Dean replayed the dream over and over, trying desperately to commit every detail to memory. He dissected every bit of information that he could remember, beginning at the start. He remembered the way he felt; calm for a moment, then suddenly an uneasy sense of familiarity as he noted it wasn't the first time he'd been visited by Jack. He remembered the recognizable feeling in his stomach as soon as he saw the rod in his hands. Now awake, he still couldn't seem to fully recall those other dreams. The memories seemed so close, in the back of his mind, hidden just out of reach. Had Jack taken those memories from him? If so why? It made no sense. Jack had seemed to confirm that he had visited him when he asked if he could remember the dreams… If they had spoken in his sleep before, then why couldn’t he remember. A freakin’ time loop? Dean started to piece it together. “Dean, I’m only telling you because you told me to… you want me to say that you think you should spend the next few days with Sam”. Logically, Dean knew he had never told Jack such a thing, so the only way that made a lick of sense was if he’d told him in the future. So, they’d been through this before. Jack did make that abundantly clear, Dean realized. Together he and Jack have lived through these three days before. That was the part he was having a hard time making sense of. If he’d lived through it, why could he not remember? Why did Jack just meet him at the finish line, hit the reset button, and send him on his way with a little dream pep talk? That was, after all, what was happening, wasn't it? At least it must have been in the previous loops… This time, however, the pep talk in question seemed more like an obituary. “A fixed point in time… ”, Jack had said. Dean stared at the blank laptop screen in front of him. Jack had pretty much told him that it was impossible. Impossible. As if that was the magic word, Dean dragged his chair back and snapped out of his negative thoughts. A flame of hope flickered alive deep in his chest. He’d done impossible things before, in fact, that was his specialty. 

He made his way out of the library, his booted footfalls echoing through the hallway as he walked to the basement. He hadn’t been down here in a while. Not since he lost Cas. He'd always hated this room. It was cold and musty and smelled like old, moldy paper. The air seemed thinner than usual, Dean noted, as he looked around the room. His eyes settled on the corner where… where the empty came. Dean couldn’t waste any time thinking about that now. He would not let himself slip into despair, not while his brother's life was on the line. A pang ran through his whole body and came to rest in his stomach as he accidentally let a horrible thought in. What if this doesn't work. What if Sam dies and I am left all alone. A huge shudder made Dean physically convulse at the thought. He placed a hand out steadying himself against one of the shelves to his right. His stomach rolled as he pulled his eyes closed tight, willing himself to focus on the job at hand. Full of renewed conviction, he paced the room, stopping at the shelves and pulling what he needed into his arms. He set down the necessary supplies in the middle of the concrete floor. It was important to work fast; he'd already wasted enough time letting the pure anguish he felt overwhelm him and, if he wasn't careful, Sam would notice his absence and come looking for him. He drew a circle on the floor in chalk and placed the large metal bowl inside. He opened jars and shakily poured the contents inside the bowl. Dean had done this a thousand times, and yet he found himself triple checking that he’d placed the ingredients in the right order and ensuring that he used the right amount. His breathing had picked up and his heart was hammering loudly in his chest. He lit a match and dropped it into the bowl. The contents sparked as he took a few steps back. A moment passed as Dean held his breath. 

“Hello, Dean”. Standing before him in a long emerald dress stood Rowena. Dean exhaled, relieved. 

“I need your help”. His voice came out shaky and clipped. Rowena walked slowly toward him, her eyes flitting across his face.

“Are you okay, Dean? Is something wrong?” Dean let out a humorless laugh and squinted at her. 

“Oh, I’m aces.” he smiled. “I’m gonna need you to rustle up some kind of mojo that’ll take Sammy out of commission for a few days.” Rowena cocked her head to the side.

“Easy enough, but can I ask why I’d be doing that?”, Her brows furrowed. She knew something was up, the way she looked at him, she could tell it was something big.

“Turns out Chuck, uh--” Dean closed his eyes and shook his head. He felt dizzy. The damned air in this damned room was getting thinner by the second. “Jack said Sam’ll die in three days.” he swallowed hard and looked up at Rowena. Rowena placed her hand upon Dean’s forearm. 

“Why don’t you sit down and start at the beginning”. Dean sighed and rubbed his hand over his mouth before nodding and walking over to his place by the wall. He slumped back down to the concrete and pulled his legs up against his chest. Rowena stood across from him, refusing to sit. Dean absentmindedly rubbed his left shoulder, and began telling Rowena the events of the last week or so. He explained all about how Billy had been gunning for the God gig and how Cas had paid the ultimate price to keep them safe, to give them their best chance. He decided not to share the exact details of how that went down, however. Nobody needed to know that but him. He spoke of how he, Sam, and Jack had defeated Chuck, and how Jack had taken his place at the top of the food chain. His voice started to shake as he shared the details of his dream with Jack from that night. He noticed that Rowena’s worried look turned to one of pity as he spoke of his dream. The look made his mouth dry. After a long pause, Rowena crouched down beside him, placing her hand on his shoulder. 

“I’m so sorry, Dean. I’ll look into it, but it seems there's not much I can do.” Dean fixed his gaze on the wall in front of him. He clenched his jaw hard and swallowed down the lump that had risen in his throat. “It’s about the soul, you see. When a special soul like yours or your brothers is set to be reaped by fate, there’s no real stopping it. The effects are set in stone, or in time. To change that would be impossible.” Dean closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the brick wall. Tears started to brim his eyes. He sniffed and brought a shaky hand up to his face, wiping away the one stray tear that had fallen. He knew messing with fate or The Fates had been useless in the past. He wondered how many times he’d attempted this exact same thing, how many times he’d had this exact conversation with Rowena. He swallowed hard and looked at her. She looked gentler than he’s ever seen her. Her severe makeup seemed a stark contrast between the kind, sympathetic look her face wore. 

“So there's nothing you can do?” He asked, his voice gravelly and uneven. Dean saw for a moment, the very faintest moment, a small look of uncertainty that flashed across her face, “What?”, he pressed, sitting up straight. Her brows slowly lifted as she realized she’d been caught out. She shifted slightly, uncomfortable, as she looked away from Dean. “What is it? There’s a way isn’t there!”, He couldn’t help it, that one micro expression became his everything. He had found hope and he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to hold onto it. 

“No, No, Dean” She rose and was backing away from him now. “There is only one way to save Sam and honestly, if I tell you, I think he may kill me for real this time.” Dean’s eyes searched her desperately, trying to piece together what the answer could be. 

“I swear to god, Rowena. If you know something and you don’t help me. I am gonna kill you.” He balled his hand into a fist, holding all of his sudden rage, and hope, and anxiety in his hand. Rowena shook her head. 

“I can’t, Dean. It’s wrong. It’s not fair to Sam”. 

“You know what’s not fair to Sammy? Him dying five minutes after we finally put an end to all this Chuck crap!”, Dean roared. “He’s supposed to grow old, have kids, a family, the whole nine! Not get taken out on the job! If anything, that used to be my deal. It was never meant to be his!”, His jaw shook under the pressure of trying to force down the lump in his throat. One strangled sob erupted, almost like a gasp, as he angrily swatted his tears from his cheeks, “Not his.” Rowena stared at Dean in silence, seemingly wrestling with herself internally. “Please”, Dean’s voice was full of quiet desperation, unrecognizable.

“Very well... If you're sure. I’ll help you.” she sighed, defeated. “As I said earlier, When a special soul like yours or your brothers is set to be reaped by fate, there’s no real stopping it. A soul like that, the power it holds.” Dean looked confused. “It’s rare to have a soul that’s been to heaven and hell so many times. Not to mention the durability it’s created on your soul to have it travel to different dimensions like you have? The scarring upon you boys’ souls has created a kind of callus upon them strengthening them. When Chuck sentenced Sam to die, he made a sort of highlight, if you will, on that day. The fates marked it, and if no soul is reaped in that barn on the specific day as intended…. well, it's not possible. They will find a way to ensure a soul that looks as large and scarred as yours or Sam's is reaped on that day”. Dean got it. He nodded slowly, full of newfound determination. 

“They can take me instead”.

Chapter Text

“Nothing weird coming over the wire, social media looks clean. You got anything?” Sam tore his eyes off his laptop screen after receiving no response, “Dean?”

Sam's voice cut through Dean’s thoughts. He found that he had been scrolling on his laptop without really paying attention to what he was seeing, his thoughts on his inescapable demise. He felt suffocated by the inevitable writing-on-the-wall. His time was finally here. Each agonizing second that ticked by was another second closer to his end, and Dean was terrified. He had died before but almost every time he’d had a plan, an ace up his sleeve, or a determined God who refused to let him rest. This time felt different though. He was reminded of how it felt waiting out his crossroads deal, counting the seconds ‘till the hellhounds came a-knockin’. Again now, there was no plan B. No angel ordered to pull him back onto the board for an apocalypse. No way to cheat the system. Not that he would try anyway. There was too much at stake. Sam had died again, and again, and if this spell with Rowena had a single chance in hell at working, he would definitely rather die than risk Sam’s life. That was, of course, his main goal, after all, to keep Sam safe. Dean found himself having to remind himself of this each time he accidentally allowed some of the terror back in. Keep Sammy Safe, he repeated internally, over and over. Dean allowed his eyes to slowly focus and saw that the page he had been staring at on his laptop had been his Facebook feed. He must have been gazing at it for over an hour, simply scrolling endlessly down his feed. He stopped on a post from a random Facebook friend named Joseph Allen. He couldn’t place the name, so could only assume he was one of the many random “friends” he'd once saved on a job. Often after saving someone's life the vic' would ask for a way to keep in touch, figuring they’d feel safer knowing how to contact him Sam or Dean in case they ever crossed paths with another monster. It seemed to give the survivors a sense of security.

“I got something”. Dean turned his laptop toward his brother and pointed at the post.

“The town of Akron Ohio, Invites you to join us starting 10 am this Saturday for our forty-third annual--” Sam looked Dean in the eyes, sighed, and continued reading. “Pie Fest”.

“Pie fest”. Dean repeated enthusiastically, pumping his eyebrows.

“Really, Dean?” Sam scoffed, “You don’t wanna stick around here a few more days, see if a case turns up?” Dean smiled at his brother convincingly. He knew that no matter what they did they would end up in some barn in Ohio, where he had been assured by Rowena he would finally bite it for good. As long as Dean didn’t leave the barn alive after entering, she was certain that the spell would take Dean’s life, and therefore his soul, as a replacement for Sam’s. A part of Dean considered taking Sam and getting on a plane to Japan, New Zealand, anywhere, just as long as it was far, far away, but Rowena had assured him that there was no way to outrun his fate now. He assumed the flight would be canceled at the last minute and Sam would find a case in Ohio and head off without telling him and he couldn’t risk that, no matter how much he trusted Rowena’s handy work. He figured that even if he let Sam in on what was going down and locked both himself and Sam in the bunker, they’d somehow magically wake up in the barn in three days, anyway. At least this way he could go out doing some of the things he enjoys, and he was determined to spend the remainder of his time on earth living his life to the fullest.  

“Yeah, no, man. Life’s looking up. We’re free to be the people we wanna be, do the things we love.” Dean wiped his hands against his jeans, trying to rid them of some of the nervous sweat that had appeared on them. Sam furrowed his brow, as if unconvinced by his brother's optimism. “And, man, do I love me some pie”. Dean stated shutting his laptop dramatically as if a tangible period at the end of his statement. Sam nodded slowly.

“You seem… Good”, he breached. Dean swallowed his guilt.

“I am”, Dean lied, “I mean for once in our lives, Sam, things are actually good. We’re finally running the show.” He stated in his best confident tone, “Imagine all of the things you can do now that Chuck isn’t scripting us. You could go back to school, finally finish that law degree.” Sam scoffed. “... Or you could open this place back up,” Dean’s hands gestured to the library walls and war room around them, “Take your place as the Chief again,” Sam's eyes scanned around the room as if transported back in time by his imagination. A warmth spread across Dean's chest at the sight. “You could even quit the life completely, grow your hair down to your toes, and become a corporate douchebag”. Sam rolled his eyes, Dean chucked, “Point is Sammy, there's endless possibilities for you now.” Sam frowned.

“What about you?” Dean nodded solemnly. He realized he had taken his speech a little too far; had made it a little too Sam centric, and that his younger brother had started to see through it. 

“Me? I’m obviously already way ahead of you. Booze, babes, and pie, Sam. That's what I’m gonna do. A.S.A.P. and A. much A.P.” He grinned at his brother, his throat dry. 

“Right--” Sam's lips formed a thin line, he seemed unsure how to continue, “I, Uh-- I noticed you’ve been spending some time in the basement”. Dean swallowed hard, his facade faltered. “I know that losing Cas again hasn’t exactly been easy”.

Dean was filled with a morbid relief that his brother had assumed he was making visits to the basement on behalf of his grief over losing Cas. He felt a guilty comfort knowing that his mourning masked the true reason for his recent stopover at the dank location he had found himself drawn to each night. The basement was the one area of the bunker he refused to allow himself to visit, up until just moments ago. He swallowed hard, trying in vain to bring some relief to the dryness in this throat. Dean shook his head and pushed his chair back, scraping it against the floor. 

“Yeah, well”, he began, walking toward the decanter that sat in the corner of the room, "I’m fine. Cas’s dead and he ain’t coming back.” He poured himself three fingers of whiskey and downed the glass, before refilling it with another four, and walking back over to his seat. 

“No point crying over spilled blood”. Although he had. After Cas was taken from him he had spent hours sitting on the cold concrete floor, his back against the wall where Cas had pushed him, sobbing, unable to stop. The last thing he remembered doing was ignoring his brother's calls knowing he wouldn’t be able to choke back his tears long enough to speak. When he eventually came to, his sobs were ragged and his face was dry. Had he not eventually seen the time on his phone, he wouldn’t have known hours had passed.

Each time he thought of Cas he felt like he would puke. His whole body ached like he was being internally crushed by one huge stone. Nights were the worst. The dark, quiet of his room felt as if it was smothering him as he lay there each night tossing and turning, hoping sleep would eventually find him. His own mind tormented him, replaying his last moments with Cas over and over. He tried to push the memory away and think of something, anything else, and yet nothing seemed to be able to keep his attention long enough. Happier times with Cas, memories of his smile, his laughter, the fond disapproving looks he often gave Dean, these memories satiated him for a time, but his mind would always rip a hole in his more pleasant thoughts, forcing him to once again agonize over the image of Cas’s tear-soaked face as he smiled his way toward his resolution. Dean had found himself drinking more and more every night, relying on an inherited knowledge that he had learned far too early, unfairly early, in his life; that alcohol could act as a barrier between him and the things he couldn’t handle, it could guard him against any pain... If he only drank enough. 

“What about you and Eileen”, Dean’s stomach twisted as he realized he had brought up Eileen as if she was Sam’s equivalent to Cas. The implications of which, Sam didn’t comment on, he just sighed and smiled at his brother though his smile didn't reach his eyes. Dean relaxed a little at this. He knew that over the years, his brother, among others, had made comments and offhand remarks about his relationship with Cas. Each time these comments were made, Dean had found himself becoming less and less angry and irritated at the connotations. However, this was before Cas had thrown a spanner in the works and highlighted the reality of the situation. Cas had finally uttered a simple four-letter word that explained the mutual appreciation, respect, loyalty, devotion, tender fondness, and sometimes passionate rage that they had, up until that point, left unspoken between them. Not that it mattered, Dean noted, Cas was dead and in the empty, the two could only meet again in heaven where, even then, it would be nothing but memories. Dean still couldn’t help but regress to the familiar irritation that spread through him at every mention of the two of them together. The pure rage and frustration rivaled how he used to feel during the first arrivals of these kinds of comments. The feeling that used to make him want to gank everyone else in the room, so the two of them could just go about their time together in peace, without anyone judging them or making it weird. This time though, he could only blame himself for that feeling; the anger could only be turned inward toward himself. Sam shifted under the silence. Dean could tell that Sam had felt the air change as he ran through his inner monologue. Sam just wasn't aware that the anger plainly written on his older brother's face wasn't directed at his silence.

“I know you like her a lot, Dean” Sam swallowed, “I do too. She-- Well, we decided we should keep taking a break. See other people. Make sure what we have is real, ya know?” Dean licked his lips and nodded.

“Just don’t--” Dean closed his eyes for a moment, before looking up at his brother again, albeit sternly this time. “Don’t take it for granted”. Dean trained his eyes to his glass, inhaled, and threw his drink back.

Chapter Text

While alone in his room, under the pretense of packing his duffle bag, Dean had said an excruciating goodbye to Miracle. He hugged the dog tight to his chest, breathing in the fresh scent of his dog shampoo. Dean’s heart ached as he ran his hands along Miracle's tummy. After lingering in his room for as long as he felt he could get away with, Dean unfurled his arms, allowing Miracle to stand back on all four legs. Dean unwrapped the t-bone steak he had snuck from the kitchen and placed it in the silver dog bowl at the end of his bed. “You be a good boy for Sammy, okay?” he said, ruffling the fur on the top of his head. He stared at Miracle, the pure, innocent, tangible figment of hope that the dog had become, nodded to himself, and with a swing of his bag up to his shoulder, he left the room.

-

Dean silently followed behind Sam toward the passenger side of the Impala, his footfalls falling meticulously in time with his brothers. He bit his lips together, trying to keep himself from bursting with laughter. When Sam arrived at the door, he turned his body to look across to the driver's side, expecting to see his older brother. Instead, he saw an empty garage. Confused, Sam sharply turned. Dean sidestepped quickly, trying to stay in line with Sam’s back. 

“Dean?” Sam called into the seemingly empty garage. Dean placed his hand over his nose trying to quiet his snickers. Sam spun around to look behind him and Dean grinned gleefully, knowing he was most likely caught out, while he dashed madly to the side trying to run to get behind his brother again. Sam scoffed, a confused smile rose upon his face, “What the hell are you doing?” Dean chuckled, threw his head back and his arms up in defeat, before groaning playfully at being detected. 

“Ughhh! I had you going for a while there, man.” He laughed, wagging a finger at his brother. Sam shook his head, bemused. 

“Okay”. He snorted while turning around and reaching for the passenger door handle. 

“Hey, no. That's my seat, this time”, Dean stated, bumping his brother's shoulder and pulling the car door open. He looked at Sam’s uncertain, yet appreciative face and climbed halfway onto the seat while throwing the keys at him. Sam caught the keys one-handed and walked around the front of the Impala before climbing into the driver's side and closing the door with a groan. 

Dean rummaged in the glove box as Sam turned the keys in the ignition bringing the engine to life, the accustomed purr filled Dean's heart with a subconscious feeling of security. Sam backed out of the garage and allowed the engine to lull for a moment while he pushed at the button on the keys, causing the roller door to groan as it slowly lowered itself closed. Dean pulled out a thin strip of silver and flashed it quickly at Sam. 

“You’re not using these are you?” he asked whilst popping a tablet from the pack and chucking it in his mouth. 

“What even is that?” Sam asked, his brows pulled together as he tried to angle himself to see the packet, glancing between his brother and the side view mirrors.

“Anti satan seeing tranquility meds,” Dean replied, fishing his flask out of his jacket pocket and washing down the tablet. Sam’s lips formed a thin line as he took off onto the road, his eyes fixed out of the windshield.

“As in the Valium that I was prescribed in the psych ward? Isn’t that a little outta date?” Dean shrugged. 

“Probably. The box isn't in here. Does that mean I should take extra... or does that mean it’ll work too well?” Sam shook his head in disbelief. 

“It theoretically wanes over time... but I also heard that’s just a lie big pharma pedals to get people to buy more”. 

“Theoretically...” Dean repeated, popping another two tablets and opening his flask again. 

“You okay?” By the look on Sam’s face, Dean could tell his brother was anxious to try to breach the subject once more. 

“Peachy”. Dean replied before swallowing down the third pill. Sam sighed and shook his head again. 

“Dean--”

“Sam--”, Dean repeated in a mirroring tone. Dean threw up his best smirk. “I’m fine... As fine as I can be. Can you just lay off and let me--” he scratched at his face, “Let me be fine”.

“You’re obviously not fine, though.” Sam's voice rose, as he gestured to the vague area between them, where the pills sat, still keeping his eyes on the road in front of him.

“I’m dealing”. Dean barked. “You’d think after years of overly melodramatic speeches about how I need to deal with my own crap, constantly bringing up every”, Dean put on a lower voice, imitating his younger brother, “‘unhealthy coping mechanism’”, his eyes widened, “--I supposedly have. You’d be happy, I’m finally taking shrink prescribed angst tranqs”.

My ‘shrink prescribed angst tranqs’, and yeah I’m fine with it. I’m happy if you’re happy... but I also know, it’s gotta be bad or you wouldn’t even consider taking any kind of anxiety medication”. Dean licked his lips and scooted down in his seat, resting his head on the backrest and closing his eyes. He focused on his breathing, trying to calm himself down. 

“Are you gonna put on some music or should I”. he asked after a while, changing the subject. Sam sighed, and even with his eyes closed, Dean could tell that his brother had given up on trying to push him to talk. 

“You can. You always do anyway”. Dean peaked up at his younger brother. Sam looked heavy-hearted and the sight made Dean’s stomach twist. He wanted to open up to his brother but he knew that it was way too risky. Sam had a history of being the only one who would be able to talk Dean out of sacrificing himself. He’d probably break into a rousing, yet overemotional, inspirational speech about finding some kind of third alternative; some hope for a future where they both could live, and Dean knew that the concept of that was far too inviting, too tempting. He considered, for a brief moment, sharing the exact details of Cas’s death; the other equally terrible grievance that was currently haunting Dean. However, instead, he replied.

“Driver picks the music”. Sam scoffed, flicking the indicator before changing lanes. 

“Since when has that actually been the rule when I’m the one who’s driving?” Dean smiled at this. He was always reminding Sam that the Impala was his car, after all, and without him, there wouldn’t even be a radio.

“Just no Celine Dion and we’re cool”. Sam rolled his eyes and nodded toward the glove box.

“Jackson Browne, Late For The Sky album”. Dean shook his head, irked, and fumbled around in the glovebox for the cassette. The Grand Illusion by Styx being the first tape he was able to find.

“You sure you don’t mean this one?” Dean asked, brandishing the tape in his brother's face. 

“Why even ask if you’re just gonna make me listen to your music?” 

“Kidding. Jeeze.” Dean chuckled, rifling through the tapes again before fishing out the yellow cassette case with a picture of a Chevy Bel Air on the cover, pushing it into the tape slot and pressing play. The title track played throughout the car. 

“All the words had all been spoken

And, somehow, the feeling still wasn't right

And, still, we continued on through the night

Tracing our steps from the beginning

Until they vanished into the air

Trying to understand how our lives had led us there

Looking hard into your eyes, there was nobody I'd ever known

Such an empty surprise to feel so alone

Now, for me, some words come easy

But I know that they don't mean that much

Compared with the things that are said when lovers touch

You never knew what I loved in you

I don't know what you loved in me

Maybe the picture of somebody you were hoping I might be?

How long have I been sleeping?

How long have I been drifting along through the night?

How long have I been dreaming I could make it right

If I closed my eyes and tried with all my might

To be the one you need?”

Dean looked out the car window as the guitar solo started. He choked down the lump in his throat as he watched the fields fly past. He realized he’d never really paid attention to the words of the song which was a wild concept considering it had sat in the glovebox of the impala his whole life. He’d been forced to listen to the tape too many times to count, and yet this time, for the first time, he couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down his cheeks.

Chapter Text

Dean knew that he had fallen asleep in the Impala. A bubble of calm had claimed him after he had taken Sam’s valium, lulling him into a deep sleep for the first time in months. When he woke, however, he found himself stirring on the cold concrete floor of the bunker’s basement, his body stiff from the hours he had spent curled up crying. A rush of fear washed over him as his eyes tried to adjust. 

“Well, this is just horrifically depressing”. Dean’s head snapped, startled, toward the familiar voice. Towering over him stood a man in blue denim jeans, a black shirt, and a dark green jacket.

“Michael?” Dean croaked confused, his voice hoarse from crying. The blonde man standing above Dean sucked on his teeth. 

“...Close”.

“Adam”. Dean concluded, his throat tightened.

“In the-- well--” he gestured down at his body, “--not flesh. Nice dream you were having here?” he asked, critically assessing the cement walls. Dean groaned at the realization and rubbed his hands over his eyes, wiping away the rest of his tears. He was feeling the same foggy confusion as the previous times he’d been Incepted and tried to clear his mind of the remaining feeling of agony from his nightmare, before pulling himself up to his feet and wiping the dust from his pants with his still shaking hands. 

“What are you doing in my head?” Dean grunted. “We thought you died”.

“Oh yeah, that. I did.” Dean realized by his brother's tone that he quite possibly harbored some resentment about this. “When Chuck blew up Michael, he kind of wasted me... for good. I ended up in heaven. Thanks for mourning me by the way”, Adam walked over to the wall and leaned against it. “...Again”. Dean pinched the bridge of his nose.

“I’m sorry I didn’t drape myself in black and wail for seven days,” he sighed, “but Sam and I definitely did mourn you-- are mourning you”. Adam raised his brows.

Dean paused, his brain catching up, “Wait, how are you back?”

“Oh, I assumed you’d get to the point eventually. Our mutual friend, Jack. Apparently, it's easier to create a bunch of new angels rather than resurrect the old ones... It turns out us angels are an endangered species, now'days''. Dean hesitated, the fog of his dream still swirling somewhere just beyond the surface.

"Are you saying Jack made you… an angel… rather than play cat-burglar-and-mouse with the empty?" Dean’s breathing increased as his brain caught up, comprehending the words and their implications. Adam eyed him quizzically.

"Yeah... You know if you keep hyperventilating, you're going to wake up before I can even do the job that I was sent here for." Dean tried to steady his breathing, rattled by the fact Adam had noticed his distress. Adam looked deep into Dean's eyes which were now getting heavy. Can I pass out in a dream? Dean wondered. “Jack lasered your ribs clean purely so he can send me here to tell you this... so I feel like it's probably important?” He narrowed his eyes, recalling the message, “He said to let you know that your plan with, uh, Rowena... checks out." Dean put aside his thoughts of angels, allowing the positive news to echo in his mind. Adam looked smug as Dean opened and closed his mouth repeatedly, taking in the words.

"I'm gonna die? Like, for real this time? It works?"

"It works".

"And Sam?"

"Granted he doesn't do anything ridiculously stupid, which seems to be asking a lot with you two, there's no reason why he shouldn't go on to live a long, and reasonably average, life". Before he had time to think, Dean wrapped Adam in his arms tightly, slapping him on the back, and let out a relieved chuckle. "Yeah, alright... That's enough". 

"Thanks," Dean murmured, releasing his brother. Adam backed away, looking confused and uncomfortable as he replied. 

"Right, well, I’ll pass that along", he cleared his throat, a little of the hostility from he had earlier had dissipated at the moment of the unexpected familial touch, “Dean, I know it's not really my place but I have to ask, don’t you think that maybe you should... tell Sam”. Dean raised his brows in a mix of shock and annoyance. “I mean, you have the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to him. Let him know that it was your choice to die; tell him you’ve made peace with it”. Adam shrugged.  Dean stared at the wall beside where Adam stood, at the place where the blackness had oozed from, before reaffirming his decision. 

“It’s better this way. Trust me. If I die in some heroic bid to save him, he’ll never accept it.” Dean explained, straightening himself up, “He’ll try bring me back and he won’t care what price he has to pay to do it. Then I’ll have to start the whole damned thing back at square one. If I die on a D-list hunt like Chuck planned for him, then, sure he’ll be sad for a while, but knowing Sam, he’ll move on eventually. He’s a big boy, strong... and never wanted to be part of this crap anyway”. Adam shook his head; his rage had evidently returned as he listened to Dean’s justification.

“You guys really are codependent, huh?” He voiced as he flashed his brows up, his growing frustration had clearly reached its boiling point. “Too bad that brotherly love didn’t extend to half brothers…” Dean clenched his jaw and brought his gaze to his feet. His guilt and anger swirled violently in his stomach. “You guys really just used Michael--” Dean groaned, interrupting, throwing his hands up and rolling his eyes in annoyance.

“Michael betrayed us, Adam! Chuck needed to be stopped!”

"You don’t get it, do you! You don’t know what it's like to have an absent father!” Dean spluttered out an attempt at a scoff. He was shocked to be on the receiving end of this speech, so shocked that he could do no more but listen whilst shaking his head in astonishment. “To constantly have to work to get a scrap of approval from a total stranger! Michael knew! He understood me! He was me... and now he’s dead because of you!” Dean closed his eyes and smiled in exacerbation. He tried to breathe calmly, nodding to himself before replying.

“Oh, I get it. I get it more than you know… I’m sorry, Adam, I am, but honestly, I’d do it again.” Dean grinned, his eyes wide with anger, “It was the whole freakin’ world, versus you and Michael, and I’m sorry for your loss... but it seems to me like you could have been a lot worse off if it weren’t for us! Because of what we did you’ve got nobody riding your ass as a flesh puppet for the first time in a decade, and hey, you even copped a new heavenly health care plan”. Adam turned his back, shaking his head. He walked away from Dean running his hands through his hair in frustration before stopping, wrestling with himself, and slumping his head. Adam raised his head slowly to stare at the wall in front of him before speaking again, in a hushed, gentle tone.

“I loved him, Dean”. He sighed and turned around again to look his half brother in the eye. “I loved him and you guys let him die like he was nothing ”. He swallowed and shook his head again, looking Dean over once more with a passionate loathing and deep betrayal. Then Adam faded from the basement, leaving behind nothing but the all too familiar sound of thrashing wings.

Dean awoke, sitting bolt upright in the passenger seat of the Impala, panting with his body drenched in sweat. Joni Mitchell’s voice breathed in contrast through the speakers.

“...I'm frightened by the devil

And I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid

I remember that time you told me, you said

"Love is touching souls"

Surely you touched mine...”

“Dean? You okay?” Sam’s voice drowned out the lyrics as Dean settled back down into the seat, closing his eyes and calming his breathing.

“Yeah, just a nightmare.” he nodded to himself. “ Don’t worry, Sam. It's all over now”.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you’re ready for this” 

Oh, I don't have a choice. This is my destiny. It's just so beautiful”. 

“Are you crying?”

“What? No. You’re crying. I’m not crying… I’m gonna go get some… uh”

“Pie?”

“I’m gonna get some damn pie!”

 

Dean had almost revealed too much again. His anxiety had yo-yoed all day. He had elated moments of contentment, even bliss as the hours ticked down, feeling more at peace with his decision, enjoying simple moments with Sam. The lighthearted wisecracks they shared between them gave Dean a window into Sam’s future; a long and happy life that, according to what Adam had relayed from Jack, he would now certainly get to live. However, the knowledge of this didn’t stop the complete and utter dread from sneaking up on him whenever he was alone. After a long morning of savoring each bite of his favorite food, Dean had convinced Sam to accompany him to a bar. He’d found a shitty dive online called “Tipsy Taps”. The name caused an eyebrow raise from Sam but he seemed to agree that it looked like their usual kind of place in the pictures, so he was willing to come along for a little while. Now, Dean found himself alone in the bathroom staring at himself in the mirror. Waves of heat pulsed through him at the reminder of his ever-present doom, causing him to violently dry heave. He desperately wanted to share his terror, let Sam attempt to comfort him in some way, but he knew that there was no hope, no possible words that could calm the panic that surged through him, he’d have to find another way to suppress the anxiety inside him before he’d accidentally to let too much slip and Sam clued in on what was going on with him. 

Dean sighed as he returned from the bar, placing a black plastic drinks tray down on the small wooden table and sliding onto the stool beside his brother. Sam, deeply interested in his phone, acknowledged a quick “Thanks” to his brother without looking up. 

“Yeah,” Dean replied and placed a shot of whiskey in front of Sam, before sliding one in front of himself. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam noticed the shot glasses, his phone now forgotten as he placed it aside with an explosive sarcastic chuckle.

“You can’t be serious?” His brows twitched, fluctuating between amusement and concern as he saw the tray, four shots and two pots of beer between them.

“As a heart attack. Why, do you have somewhere you need to be in the morning?” Dean grinned at his brother before motioning his head toward Sam's shot, gesturing for him to pick it up. Sam sighed. 

“Aren’t we a little old to be doing shots?” Sam laughed, “I don't know about you but I’m definitely finding it harder to bounce back”. Dean put down his shot in annoyance. He knew it was his last night on earth so he’d be damned if he didn't get to spend it getting absolutely shitfaced with his baby brother.

“Just-- Indulge me please, Sammy. Just this one time. I mean how often do we get to go drinking somewhere where we’re not actually working a case, huh? Never. That's when. So I say we use this opportunity to get absolutely hammered and then tomorrow we can finally see what it feels like to be just plain ol’ hungover. No having to talk to witnesses, imitating government officials, digging up graves, any of that. Just-”, he presented his hands as if displaying an exciting notion, “Hangovers”. Sam scoffed and shook his head. 

“I’ll drink... If you talk”. Dean took a beer off of the tray and began drinking it. 

“Nothing to talk about.” He shrugged. Sam rolled his eyes. 

“Nothing to-- Sure, okay. Except, I know you, Dean, and I know that you’ve been acting like everything's fine when it clearly isn’t.” Sam grabbed at his beer and placed it in front of him. “I know for example, that I’m finding it hard to get used to everyone being gone. Eileen, Jack, Cas? They were our family Dean and I want to be able to talk to you about it. I’m sick of you shutting me out. I don’t have anyone else to talk to about this stuff because they're all either dead, missing, or completely freaked out after Chuck used them as a damn pawn in some perverted Winchester-centric melodrama.” He sighed. 

“You done?” Dean sat staring at his brother, brows raised, as he lifted his shot glass again and motioned for Sam to do the same. Sam shook his head slowly in disappointment. 

“Fine! You want me to say, I’m not okay? I’m not okay, Sam. Look, if I thought there was any way you could help, I would’ve come asking you but there's not a single thing you, or I, could possibly do to change things... so there's no real point in talking about it... Now, If you don't nut up and shut up. I'm gonna go ahead and do all of these shots without you, and I know you've been dying for an excuse to drunk dial Eileen so--” he raised his shot higher into the air. Sam begrudgingly lifted the small glass in front of him and the two brothers threw back their drinks. Dean sniffed and exhaled at the burning in his throat while Sam huffed out forcefully. 

-

The night continued in a somewhat repeated fashion, Dean insisted on drinking more and more while Sam attempted to start up further conversation around Dean’s feelings, poking holes in his facade. Dean tried to steer the conversation away from him by focusing on Sam's issues; asking questions about Eileen. Which had worked for the most part until Sam point-blank asked, 

“Have you prayed to Jack?” The question took Dean off guard, the third and final of the darts for his round hit the wall a few inches off the board and bounced onto the floor at Sam's feet.

“Uh, Yeah,” he admitted, walking towards the wall to retrieve the darts and write down his score. “Why? Have you?” Dean passed the three darts to Sam.

“Tried. I guess he meant it when he said that crap about raindrops, huh?” Sam asked, eyeing the board. Dean stared at the bubbles in his beer, watching them rise up from nowhere, glide upwards toward the surface, and explode. 

-

Sam had left not long after that. He pointed at his phone. 

“Don’t laugh but I am going to call her.” 

“Yeah, man. You say ‘Hi’ from me”. Dean encouraged, giving Sam a slap on his back as his younger brother waded his way through the bar toward the exit. 

“Your man giving you a hard time?” a man with beautiful dark, hair, eyes, and skin leaned his body over Dean’s chair, towering over him. 

“My, uh?--” Dean twisted around awkwardly facing the man. He wore a white shirt that unbuttoned low on his chest.

“Boyfriend? The giant with the 70s do?” Dean's eyes widened as he pulled his top lip up in disgust.

“My brother”, he chuckled, correcting the man, “just left to call his ex-girlfriend.” The man raised his brow and gave Dean a knowing smile. 

“Yikes. Sorry. That’s pretty funny. I have to admit I am glad he’s not with you, though”. The man looked unwaveringly into Dean's eyes as he drank the remaining quarter of his beer. Dean’s eyebrows shot up and his mouth fell open for a brief moment at the realization that he was being hit on. He blinked and closed his mouth, trying to feign composure.

“Luke”. The man stated as he extended a hand toward Dean offering him to shake it. Dean stared at it for a full three seconds before grasping the man's hand in his own, figuring, hey why not go out with a bang?

“Uh, Dean”. 

“Lovely to meet you”. Luke stated his voice low. “What are we drinking, tonight Dean?”.

Chapter Text

Dean lay tangled in the white sheets of an unfamiliar bed, an arm draped over his abdomen. 

The street light streaked in through the blinds in front of where he lay, tingeing the room in streaks of yellow and contrasting blue tones of darkness. Luke’s breathing rang through the room as it got caught in the back of his throat. The comfort of Dean’s buzz had worn off and he now lay awake as his mind raced, collecting negative thoughts as if his brain was doused in honey and pushed down a hill. Dean lay staring at the window, unseeing as he tried to remember when exactly he had decided to give himself over to his nihilism. He seemed to be unable to recall the moments leading up to where he now lay, the way he had given in to temptation; the trepidation transforming into desire. He lay in his guilt, his disgust, his pure self-loathing, as tangible as the wet patch he’d created in the sheets that now soaked into his leg. Dean gently removed Luke’s arm from where it encaged him and placed it upon the man's own side. He gingerly freed himself from the sheet around him and quietly pulled his clothes back on, his head pounding, before tiptoeing toward the door and pulling it closed gently behind him. Dean retrieved his phone from his pocket, the brightness taking him off guard momentarily.

“Auto brightness my ass”, he mumbled croakily to himself as he typed the name of their hotel into his maps app. After dragging his heavy feet three blocks he found the location he had visited the day before, fumbled with the lock for a moment, and gently opened the door, placing his keys on the table by the door slowly and silently as he possibly could and making a b-line toward the bathroom.

Dean stripped off and climbed into the shower, desperately hoping the cool water would cleanse him of a modicum of his regret. It wasn’t as if Dean hadn’t slept with a man before, it's just that it had never been a choice he felt as if he would actively make. He stood staring at the white bath below his feet as he recalled all of the times he had been poked and prodded and pulled at and scraped by a manor of strange men and women. He focused his thoughts specifically on the times he had set his jaw and forced his eyes closed tight as he’d allowed older men to explore his body, their leathered hands searching him frantically, pulling his head down to their crotch, or simply touching themselves while moaning in his ear.

He had frequented truck stops and dive bars mostly. Sometimes, when money was particularly tight, he’d pick up intel from a local; find that area's rest stops, parks, lookouts, alleyways, wherever the town’s lonely closeted gay men visited, that’s where he learned that the money would be. It was fast cash, John would leave for months at a time, sparing a Ben Franklin or two from the home and life insurance payout and expecting it’d last until he returned. Of course, it barely covered the price of a motel for two weeks. John didn’t take too kindly to being asked for more money, It seemed he'd assumed that seeing as Dean was old enough, he should be applying for after school jobs. Obviously, John didn't know that Dean had dropped out by then, and it's not like anyone would take a highschool dropout who was never in one place long enough to even add any job to his resume anyway. He’d tried taking what he needed with a five-finger discount, and that sure as hell didn’t pan out. So, say John was out on a hunt, Sammy fast asleep, Dean did what he could to afford a bottle of Jack (to numb his self-loathing), a meal each for him and Sam, and keep a roof over their heads, all the while terrified that his dad would find out. Dean remembered the way he'd spoken too much to his dad about his time at Sonny's, about some of the friends he'd made while there, the way John made all sorts of implied cracks about what boys do at boy’s homes... until Dean reminded him that the night his dad finally came to collect Dean, he had been about to take a girl to the school dance.

He remembered his seventeen birthday; his first-ever solo hunt, the two lesbian nuns, the way his dad never brought it up again, he didn’t even send him on a job again until years later, like he was trying to make a point; as if Dean didn't already know that there was something biblically wrong with him. He didn't even know how John knew. He guessed he had been too sensitive, too emotional. There was no way John knew about the way Dean was drumming up the funds. No way John could have possibly known that over time Dean had figured out that he could find peace, instead of self-pity, during the act. No way in hell John could have had any idea that Dean had managed to have learned how to enjoy it. Dean figured there must have been something else, some way John could see it, like many others throughout Dean's life had seemed to, like it was somehow branded deep into his soul; a flashing light upon his forehead reading slurs every time he had an improper thought. 

He lathered himself in soap, scrubbing at his skin as his thoughts turned to hell. Alastair cutting into him and pulling him apart just so he could put him back together again and violate him, pumping into him, laughing, while Dean’s screams gurgled as his throat filled with blood.

He thought of all of the times he was with Benny in purgatory. Their simple need for flesh, at the time seen as a necessity, helping to keep them sane during dark nights, had quickly turned into a disgrace that he had looked back on with regret when he arrived back in the real world. He pushed Benny away, and even then, people could sense it, Sam could sense it, the way he continuously questioned Dean's loyalty, his relationship, with the vampire. 

Dean tried not to think of when his eyes were black. The filthy shit he did while traveling around with Crowley, the things he has to remind himself don't count because he was a demon.

Dean often woke up hard and ashamed, his subconscious mind had evidently missed the memo; It was as if his nights were plagued with all the thoughts he had pushed away during the day. He ran his hands through his hair. He tried to recall the exact moment he had allowed the alcohol to give him permission to actively focus on what he had, up until now, vehemently avoided. He was suddenly unable to stop the events from the night before from erupting into his mind. Luke’s dark skin became light, his eyes once brown, had turned blue, his curly hair became straight. Dean remembered the moment of climax, the way he imagined Castiel holding him, Cas, breathing heavily in his ear, Cas’s moans being silenced by his mouth.

Dean’s stomach rolled, causing him to heave. A foamy brown liquid spilled from his mouth to his feet, where he watched it swirl in circles before it slipped down the drain. He groaned, his stomach ached. He wasn't certain if it was because of his hangover or his guilt. At least he knew he would be dying today, he reminded himself. A small solace. Part of him longed for heaven; a large part that he had spent years trying to cram down deep inside, hoped desperately that heaven would allow him to relive the memory of last night from the view of his own imagination. A knock on the door pulled him from his thoughts.

“Dean?” Sam croaked from the other side of the bathroom door, “You woke me up. Now I’ve gotta pee''. Dean sighed. 

“Hang on a sec”. He shut off the water and wrapped himself in a towel before ripping open the door and dragging himself to the bathroom sink. 

“Big night?” Sam asked as he shuffled over toward the toilet. Dean pulled his toothbrush out of his toiletry bag atop the sink, where he had placed it before heading off to the pie festival just the day before.

“Yeah. Understatement, but yeah.” Dean replied squirting toothpaste onto his brush. 

“Yeah.” Sam agreed, “Wish you stopped me from calling Eileen”. Dean rolled his eyes and placed the toothbrush in his mouth as he heard the splatter of Sam's urine hitting the toilet.

“Mmm, Nah. Life's short. It’s good you called her”, he mumbled, barely coherent, toothbrush still in his mouth. Sam flushed the toilet. 

“She was pissed, it was the middle of the night, and she looked like I’d woken her up... But I guess, she did ask me out to dinner? Said she’d visit Wednesday from South Dakota.” Dean leaned over the sink and spat. 

“Good”.

 

-

 

Dean had gotten two hours of sleep before he heard Sam leave for his morning jog. The sun had risen early and glared at Dean through the shut curtains. Dean begrudgingly rolled over away from the light as Sam returned, two coffee’s in hand. 

“Hey, man, I know you gave that whole speech about a pure hangover day today but I think I just caught us a case”. Dean sat up slowly, his head pounding.

“Here? In Akron?” He asked, outstretching his hand at Sam over the other side of the room.

“Yeah, a group of teens were Gossip Girl-ing in line at the cafe. One of them was going on about how people keep asking her for info on their friend’s... neighbors?" he shrugged, "Apparently, yesterday they were found drained of blood, their two kids are missing too. This girl was really loving all the attention but, you know”, Sam walked over to Dean and handed him the coffee, “she was doing the whole “It’s sick that people keep asking me about this'' shtick... while giving out all the facts to anyone who will listen.” Sam groaned as he sat on the edge of his bed.

Dean knew this was Chuck’s doing, a nice little breadcrumb path that was supposed to lead to Sam being slaughtered in a barn somewhere. Too bad Jack had caught on and Dean had thrown a spanner at that plan. Dean sipped at his coffee tentatively, while he considered his options for the rest of the day. Saving people and hunting things.

Chapter Text

The rest of the day passed relatively smoothly. Sam and Dean visited the crime scene and confirmed that they were probably dealing with some vamps. The tongue thing was a new one but Dean couldn’t figure how it could possibly be something relevant to his own upcoming demise so he decided to label it under crazy and leave it at that. 

That was, up until one of the officers working the case had shown them the drawing of the mask. Of course, Chuck would add in some random villain from dad's journal, Dean thought, had to make extra damn sure the case had been enticing enough to get our asses onto the right trail. Dean was ready. He found himself filled with a new kind of adrenalin spurring him forward, keeping his heart steady. He would take out as many of the Vamp-mimes as he could before he bit it. After all, even if Chuck was no longer the real big bad in this story, the victims were still very real; their lives still very much in danger. 

Saving lives was what Dean was good at. Isn’t that along the lines of what Cas had tried to tell Dean before the angel had died? That it was in the saving of the lives not the killing of the monsters that had set Dean apart? That he wasn't the hate-filled, revenge-driven man that his father was; that Dean too, believed he had inherited? That he, in fact, was so full of love, that he fought purely because wouldn't ever be able to rest, simply knowing that there were people out there who needed his help? 

 

-

 

It took less than no time to find the new potential target and scope out their house. Dean hadn’t even noticed that the sun had set. He was deep in conversation with Sam, one eye on the house, as it had crept its way beyond the horizon, for what would be Dean's last sunset. Hours passed. Sam's booming laugh reverberated through the impala at Dean’s lame jokes. Sam rolled his eyes at Dean’s actually funny jokes. Everything was as it had always been. 

After they got the information they’d needed, they made their way to (you guessed it) a barn(!) Dean drove up to the ominous wooden building with his stomach twisted. He knew he was at the end of the line and wondered how it was possible for this time to have passed so quickly. Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess, he decided. He tried to smother himself in the urgency of the situation, desperately reminding himself to focus on the kids. These two kids; two brothers (Ironic. Even for Chuck it was a bit on the nose). They were everything to Dean, now. If only he could save these two more lives, maybe his life would be worth something. He sent up a silent prayer to whoever was listening; to Jack, just please, let it all be worth something. Dean climbed out of his impala for the last time.

“Is this the place?” Sam asked, completely unaware of any of the thoughts that plagued his brother’s mind. Ha! 

“Dark, creepy, something out of Wes Cravins erotic fantasy? Yeah, it's one hundred percent the place”. Dean confirmed, both with himself and to his brother. This is the place I'm gonna die. Dean walked over to the boot and withdrew his keys from his jacket pocket (that he had only just nervously placed inside it) and opened the cache. Immediately, his eyes landed on the small wooden box in the corner that he had never actually had a chance to use. He lifted a ninja star from the box, flashing it in Sam’s direction. 

“Come on, one time?” It was now or never after all. 

“No,” Sam replied, logically, almost seeming disappointed that Dean would even suggest such a ludicrous idea. Dean knew he was being stupid but at this point, he no longer cared. He honestly couldn’t explain it, even to himself, but the concept of not being able to ever use a single ninja star on a case was now filling him with such an intense and unstoppable distress that he childishly couldn’t help but to keep pushing. 

“Why not?” 

“No”. Dean's heart sank. He knew if he had shared the true reason for wanting to use this specific weapon, his brother would have of course humored him, but he obviously wouldn’t even begin to explain any of that. He tried one last futile attempt.

“But we could...” Sam stared at him with a straight and obvious answer still written on his face. Fine. Dean pocketed a single star stealthily, as he threw the box into the boot.

“I’ll go with the machete.” He said, as he playfully ripped the knife from his brother's hands. Sam didn’t need to know about the pocketed ninja star, besides, Dean decided, it’d be awesome if the last thing he ever did was dyingly throw a ninja star at his brother's feet.

 

-

 

When Dean’s back first met the wooden supporting post in the barn he figured he’d gone and gotten himself a brand new internal bruise. He found the pain a new flavor of strange. A deep, thick pain that he couldn’t recall ever having felt before, but he brushed it off as he remembered that there was still one last vampire left to kill… or be killed by, he supposed. The most important detail being, That this last vampire was still alive and kicking, or more accurately, alive and grabbing him and pushing him into whatever it was that was maybe gonna start to be a problem really soon, and therefore Sammy was still at risk. Suddenly, though, Sam appeared behind, what would have been, the shoulder of where the vampire would have been standing had he not just fallen to the ground, newly decapitated. The next moments passed in a blur. Dean realized before Sam did, that his weird, wrong pain was making his breathing sound kind of hairy. Sam was looking around like he always did after killing a nest; like he was shocked at how well everything turned out like he was proud of how well they’d both fought.

 “Alright,” he began, putting his knife away. “Let's go find those kids, get ‘em out of here”. Just do that. Please, Dean thought, suddenly unsure if he was able to go through with his swan song. He didn’t know if he could say goodbye, not again, but he also knew that if he didn’t, Sam would never get the closure he needed to move on. 

“Sam”, Dean breathed, hand to his chest. Is it poking all the way through? He wondered. Thankfully, after placing his hand on his chest, he found that it wasn’t, therefore it wasn’t as traumatic as it could have been for Sam to be looking at him. The stench of the wet dirty hay-filled barn clogged Dean’s nostrils as he continued to focus on his breathing. 

Sam seemed to still be working in slow motion; It took him a long time to accept just how bad things are. He pulled his hand away from Dean’s back and stared at the blood that had appeared as if it were an alien lifeform. I’m gonna die bro just … wake up and accept it, Dean pleaded internally. Sam, still in a daze, tried to physically remove Dean from whatever he was impaled on as if Dean were simply over exaggerating. 

“No, no, no, no, no. Don’t-- Don’t-- Don’t move me. Don't move me”, Dean pleaded, Rowena’s voice echoed in his head, reminding him that if he were to, by some miracle, leave that barn alive, Sam would die. Dean knew that this was his true end. He knew he had some important things to say and struggled to focus at the best of times, death's door was no exception. He felt like he was suddenly drowning an ocean of thoughts, being thrown around, knocked about, by huge waves of pain. He felt trapped, tumbling, underwater. Everything seemed rippled and distant. He couldn’t feel his feet, he couldn’t really feel anything, but the endless waves of hot pain. 

“Uhh, right”, he found a thought, “Alright listen to me”. God, this is really it. I’m really gonna die this time, “Umm”, focus, “You find those boys and you get them someplace safe, alright” Dean put on his best authoritative face. Purpose. Good, Sam will need something to get him out of this barn. A reason to leave. The look of denial was still on Sam's face. 

“Dean. we ”, he gestured between them both, “Are gonna get them somewhere safe”. Don't make this harder than it needs to be. It takes some time and some convincing words that Dean barely realized he’d managed to get out but eventually Sam started to accept the finality of the situation. 

The acceptance from his brother started to make Dean feel lighter, and with the lighter feeling, Dean noticed, it made it harder to tell just what, exactly, he was saying. Each sentence he spoke felt like it was from a snapshot of time that had passed long ago. He would occasionally find himself surprised that he was still impaled there, at that moment, talking, like it was a dream he had just woken from and now was sliding gently back into sleep. He had started to fade away quicker now. Sam had started looking at Dean differently; he looked really scared, and his fear was starting to scare Dean now too.

Dean felt shocked that he could tell when his eyes started to sting, he knew he was arguing with Sam about some stupid plan of his to save his poor dying older brother, but Dean couldn’t exactly grip at the words he spurred as they tumbled out of his mouth. He knew Sam wanted to think they could somehow walk away from this. Dean, however, knew this was the only way. This was… it was hard to keep his mind on what was going on around him. He warned that out loud, he hoped. He thought he mentioned it, at least. 

All he could think of was his little brother, his poor baby brother, and his scared as hell face. What a tough, amazing person Sam was, trying so hard now to stay strong for him. That's what Sam’s always done, his whole life. I remember when I was so intimidated by him that I stood out in front of his dorm room for hours, Dean recalled in a daze. Good. I am saying some of this shit out loud, He noticed, as he caught a moment when Sam’s words lined up with Dean’s own thoughts. 

“The Woman in White”, Sam confirmed. Sam. Dean's chest pain had gone. He knew that should have been worrying to him, but it wasn't; It was nice. He couldn’t feel much of anything anymore, only a faint tingle in his wrist where his brother clutched him tightly, trying to keep him alive with the force at which he held him. Sam. My baby brother. I love you, Dean tried desperately to tell him.

 

Dean’s last thoughts in this life were one’s full of guilt. He considered his brother's face, so completely full of grief and fear and he knew he was the source of that pain. He pleaded with his brother, suddenly completely stricken with the horrible idea that Sam would resent him for choosing this for them both; that Dean had chosen to die rather than watch his younger brother die.

“I need you to tell me that it's okay”, He implored, using what felt like the very last words he would be able to muster. 

“Dean, it's okay.” Sam spluttered, completely distraught, “You can go now.”




 Dean gave in. He let go of this world and relaxed into his eternal rest.









“Come on, Dean. It’s time to go.” Crowly appeared, extending his hand toward Dean as the scene around them froze. On Crowley's finger, a white stone ring flashed under the moonlight. 

Chapter Text

Crowley delivered Dean swiftly to heaven with a wink. 

“Is this hell?” Dean asked as he blinked at the sudden bright sun that shone down on them where they stood, in the empty field peppered with wildflowers. It didn’t feel like hell to Dean, however, maybe that’s the point, he considered. He had been conned before. 

Maybe Lucifer was somehow still alive and took the crown from Rowena, finally killing her. 

Maybe this whole thing had been a trap. 

Maybe he never had to die. 

Maybe Sam’s life was never in any danger. 

Dean's mind raced as his breathing increased. He felt somewhat calm still, despite the possible danger he was now in, despite the very real possibility that he was about to be tortured for all of eternity. He tried to feel the weight of his fear but it seemed lighter, like it was hidden from him, lifted from him, unwillingly. The air around Dean smelled clean, open. Birds sang from a nearby tree. 

“Come on, Dean. You really think I’d agree to come back without an upgrade to a starring role?” Crowley droned, shaking his head and pointing at the ring he wore. “King of hell has less appeal once you find out you’d be after your own mother's sloppy seconds.” 

“You’re Death?” Dean asked, squinting and shifting his weight on his feet. Now more confused than anything. 

“Ding-ding-ding. I’m just here for the big delivery, though. Wanted to make sure I got you up here myself. All things considered, I still like to think of you as the Ross to my Rachel, the Salt to my Pepper, The--”

"Alright. Okay. I get it.” Dean cringed, “You wanted to see the big finale. How the hell did you snag yourself Death’s precious-- How are you even walking around for that matter?” Dean questioned. 

“You’re mate, Jack. Seems he has good taste. I was always rooting for that little runt. Turns out he's quite the safe-cracker. Managed to clear the lot of us out of that place. Or at least whoever was left”. Dean looked at Crowley who stared at his nails, flipping his hand around to view them from different angles. He glanced up at Dean’s irritated face. “What is it, Dean? Is there something you would like to ask me?” He drawled, feigning ambiguity. Dean set his jaw.

“Is he out?” Dean groaned, rolling his eyes.

“Is who out?” Crowly grinned at him.

“Quit playing around, Crowly! Cas. Did Cas make it out?” Dean bellowed, only barely resisting the urge to punch Crowley in the jaw, Death or not.

“Oh, would you look at the time?” Crowly brought his bare wrist up to his face and turned it over for Dean to see, “It appears I have another soul to collect.” 

“Crowley!--”

“I’ll be seeing you,” he promised ominously as disappeared in a snap of his fingers. Dean stood there alone and confused for a moment before he decided to wander around for a while. He didn't see much of anything, just a bunch of trees and empty fields, until he came upon a building. He walked toward it, only to find Bobby. 

 

-

 

Dean drove around heaven, after receiving the lowdown from Bobby, exploring oddly familiar roads with Sam on his mind. He wondered what Sam would be up to now that he no longer had his older brother around; now that he had no real reason to stick to the family business. Now that he had no family. Dean imagined Sam alone, having to be the one to take Dean’s lifeless, punctured corpse down from where it stuck, impaled before rigor mortise set in. He pictured Sam taking his body to his car, having to retrieve his keys from where they sat in his jacket pocket, and climbing into the front seat. Sam would have to call the police and he would need to release Dean’s body to them along with the bodies of the pile of vampires. Sam would have to wait around and let the police take his statement, and wait around again until they ensured it checked out against the two kids' stories. Dean imagined when Sam was finally able to claim his corpse back, that it would be hard, and heavy, and would have started to smell. He pictured Sam, by himself, having to source, and cut, and collect enough wood for a pyre for Dean. He imagined Sam standing alone watching his older brother's body in flames, inhaling the stench of his singed hair and burning flesh, with nobody but his dead brother's dog to keep him company. 

He drove on.

He pictured Sam walking around the bunker alone until he couldn’t do it any longer; until he decided to stop spending his time around ghosts. Dean drove through the wilderness, big cypress trees rose up on either side of the road as he tried his hardest to imagine a life where his brother would be happy. 

He imagined Sam as a father. Dean had always thought that his baby brother would make an excellent Dad. He was kind, and caring, and could be authoritative and unyielding when he wanted. He had been amazingly patient with Jack and his leadership skills were obviously up to snuff, considering how he ran a whole operation of apocalypse world hunters. Dean pictured Sam having a little boy, he recalled the time they had looked after that baby shifter how he had wanted to name the kid John, after their dad, which was crazy considering how well he got along with the guy. He was probably looking at Dean through death colored glasses too. So, he figured, he’d be practically a god to his brother now. 

Dean liked to imagine Sam would have named the kid after him just like their mom named them after her parents. Probably called the kid Dean John or Dean Bobby. He wasn't sure which. He chuckled to himself, alone in his car, imagining the poor woman Sam ended up with, having to deal with either name. Maybe they would insist on calling the kid by their middle name. John Dean sounded way cooler, like James Dean, hell, even Bobby Dean sounded awesome. Sam, stubborn as he is, would hate that, probably end up stitching the kid's name on all of his clothes to prove a point or something. Dean pictured the poor kid running around in a park somewhere in suburbia with his name embroidered on his overalls in bright yellow and smiled. 

He pictured that same kid, playing catch with Sam, the two of them with matching haircuts, whoever his wife was, (he didn't want to assume Eileen but he couldn't really picture anyone else) watching on from the front porch. He imagined Sam's house filled with pictures of their family, as he taught little Dean how to do some crazy hard math equations.

Dean knew deep down, as he skidded down the dirt roads of heaven, that Sam would be okay. Sure, maybe it would take some time, and sure maybe he’d still have moments that were worse than others, but he honestly could picture Sam getting on with his life. Worst case scenario, Dean imagined Sam, old, maybe looking relatively similar to he does now but like some thick grandpa glasses and messy gray hair, having a cry in secret as he sat in the Impala (that he hopefully kept as a shrine to Dean and never ever actually drove). And then maybe one day Sam’s life will come to a gentle end. He’ll die with family around him and get to say a proper goodbye. That's what Dean would want for Sam, he decided, as he drove onto a bridge, slowing the Impala to a stop. 

Dean got out of his car and took a look around him. It was a decent view. Nothing to write home about but the kind of view he had been searching for. Something that felt right. He breathed in the damp fresh air. The sound of the river rushed below him. He breathed deeply. He had made the right choice. He knew Sam would live a long and happy life and Dean was finally feeling at peace with himself about paying the price for that. He knew with such an intense certainty deep down in his soul that he would be happy here in heaven, and he knew that one day Sam would return to him, maybe on a day like today, maybe on this very bridge. Dean could easily see it happening. He could already feel his brother behind him. The two of them, greeting each other and hugging it out, finally able to really see each other again.

Chapter Text

Dean continued to explore heaven. He was finally starting to feel content, relaxed, at the idea of this being his new home. His little thought experiment, however lacking in imagination it may have been, had helped him come to terms with leaving Sam alone on earth; helping Dean find a sense of peace with his decision.

After what felt like about an hour, driving aimlessly along back roads, Dean found his way into a town, buildings and houses rose out both windows, and traffic littered the streets. This new area was bursting with life: people walking dogs, going for runs, unpacking groceries from their cars, sitting out the front of cafes sipping at coffees, and standing in a queue, waiting at the atm. Dean searched for any familiar faces as he slowed the Impala to a generous crawl. He boarded on self-inflicted whiplash as peered through all windows and mirrors of the car, hoping to find anyone he recognized.

Finally, he came upon a Gas-N-Sip and pulled the car in to fuel up. He ripped open the driver's side door and slammed it shut, his mind elsewhere. As he stood with the pump in his hand he considered that maybe this new and improved heaven was not specifically his, maybe this place was big enough to house every soul at once. He wasn't sure if the citizens wandering the streets were people he had interacted with in life and simply couldn’t remember, or if they were strangers, souls collected over all of human history. It was something that he had, up until now, not even considered at all. He wondered at the idea. What would he do if he walked in to pay for the gas and had to line up behind Marie Antonette or Jimi Hendrix(?!), for that matter. He was somewhat disappointed when he climbed back into the Impala after paying, having recognized nobody in the store. 

Dean hooked his car around and continued back the way he’d come from. He figured he’d head back to what seemed to be his corner of heaven, or at least where the people he had known from his life had all seemed to have settled down. He had so many questions, and the nagging feeling in his stomach that had been easy to ignore at first was now growing stronger, as he considered trying to contact the one person he knew would have the answers; the one person he felt both desperate and also incredibly anxious to see.

For a moment Dean considered taking an easier path; praying to Adam instead. After all, he was curious to find out how his younger brother was adjusting to being a literal angel of the lord. Dean wondered, If Castiel had made it out of the empty, then maybe Michael had somehow made it out as well. If so, what did that mean for Adam? What would become of their bond now that Michael was no longer crammed in his brother's vessel? Were the two of them walking around with the same face, and even if they could sort out whatever was going on between them… could angels even be together? Was it allowed? More importantly, Dean wondered, do angels have the capacity to feel emotions the same way that a human does?

Dean thought of Cas standing mere inches from him, blue eyes shining with tears, his content smile. Castiel had somehow managed to find the exact words that Dean didn't even realize that he'd longed to hear; words that cut into him like a fishing knife, gutting him open. Dean had been so deeply rattled by the concept of being so completely exposed that he hadn't even begun to process what Castiel was actually saying. Castiel, an angel, a warrior, a divine being the size of the Eiffel tower... no, the Chrysler building, had said that he loved Dean. Human, flawed, run of the mill, Dean. There was no way in hell that Cas could have possibly meant that he loved Dean. Not in the way that--.

Dean flicked his indicator and turned down the dirt road he had driven down earlier. He remembered the look and feel of Castiel's true form. The white glowing figure that had reduced itself into a human body, his huge luminous wings curled around the two of them as Cas gripped him from behind in an attempt to stop him from murdering his own brother. The feeling of power that Cas radiated even then, while Dean's poisoned, demonic blood coursed through his body. How could a being so tremendous, whose very voice could shatter glass and burst eardrums, how could an infinite being like that, possibly know how it feels to love? 

Dean found himself back on the bridge where he had imagined meeting Sam earlier and pulled the impala off to the side. The driver's side door creaked as Dean got out of the car, his jaw set in an attempt at bravery. 

“Castiel” he called into the sky, immediately cringing at how formal Cas’s full name sounded coming from his mouth. 

“Cas- uh,” he looked around, somewhat crestfallen at the lack of immediate arrival on Cas’s part. He wasn't sure how to continue, his eyes flicked around him and he set his tongue between his back teeth, shaking his head in irritation. 

“Hey man, if you’re not busy I wouldn’t say no to a local tour guide.” He opened his arms up, baring his soul, a smile on his face. Still nothing. The sound of crickets chirping, frogs croaking, birds singing, and the river below him rushing by rang through his ears like a slap in the face. He nodded, his anger growing. 

“Look I get it, you’re probably helping Gandhi, Marilyn Munroe, Martin Luther King; someone important with this whole move to Heaven 2.0 so…” he trailed off, rubbing his hand over his mouth. Dean shifted the weight on his feet and shook his head again, turning to place his hands on the warm roof of the impala. 

“You know what, Cas- Actually? No. Fuck that. If you can hear me you better get your feathered ass over here right now. You owe me that much.” He clenched his hand into a fist. 

“I’m betting Jack would have let you in on this whole save Sammy deal. So, I’m finding it hard to believe you didn’t know I was coming.” He slowly looked around again. Still nothing. He licked his lips staring into the black shine of the impala’s roof, trying fruitlessly to subside his growing rage. 

“You dick”. He muttered, shaking his head again. He smiled humorlessly. 

“You know what Cas? Thank you.” he nodded, his eyes beginning to sting, “Thanks, wherever you are, for proving me right here, buddy.” Dean ran his hands through his hair.

“You know you’re whole speech before you bit the big one-” He began a slow clap, his hands slapping together boomed into the otherwise peaceful sounds of the forest around him. Dean turned around and shouted at the sky, “Wow, man, That was impressive, especially the part where you died before I could even get a word in edgewise.” he chuckled, completely exacerbated.

“Very convenient for you, huh? Dropping a bomb on me, then taking the easy way out, leaving me there, alone, with all of that? Real Grade-A performance!” his voice shook as it dripped with sarcasm. Dean tried to swallow the lump rising in his throat. When he spoke again his voice was lower, softer. He knew Cas wasn't coming now. There was no doubt in his mind anymore; no small hope that he'd turn around and Castiel would be standing there with his dumb face staring at him.

“You know what? You changed me too, Cas, but not for the better. Huh hoh, no! You made me weak!” He pulled his clenched fist up to his chest, his hand shook with rage and fear. A rogue tear broke free from his eye, immediately Dean swatted it away.

“You made me trust you! You made me believe you’d be there for me, Cas. That you’d always be there for me; protecting me! God, I wish--” He took a deep breath in, “I wish I never met you, man. I really do.” Dean paced toward the side of the bridge, loose stones crunched against the concrete under his feet. He grabbed at the railing to steady himself, his whole body threatened to give out. 

“I was better before I met you; stronger, and I hate you for that. I really-- Man, I fucking hate you!” He was crying now, the tears streamed down his face with no resistance. 

“I fucking hate you, so damn much,” Dean whispered as he rested his forehead against the cool metal barrier, sobs ripped through him. His breathing spluttered as he no longer tried to hold himself together. 

“You're a goddamn coward Cas, you know that?!” He barely managed to croak, as he let himself slowly slump onto his knees. He gripped at the lowest bar on the railing and closed his eyes tight. 

“I-- This hurts-- Cas-- This hurts so damn much...” Dean knelt there gasping for breath as he cried. His heart ached. 

He replayed Cas’s death over and over in his mind, Cas’s eyes full of tears, but also, disturbingly full of peace, as he was swallowed by the black, bubbling tar of the Empty.

Dean remembered Cas’s lifeless body after Lucifer had run him through with an angel blade. Sam tried to help him lift Cas into the lakehouse but Dean pushed him away, frantically guarding his body. He remembered standing by Cas’s corpse waiting, hoping, believing that he would return before they could burn his body.

He remembered Cas, human, stubbled, his bare chest carved open, how small and powerless he looked crumpled lifelessly on the couch.

He thought of Cas in purgatory, his hand slipping out of Dean's grip somehow, despite how desperately, how tightly Dean gripped him.

He thought of Castiel walking into the water, disappearing as his body disintegrated, leaving behind nothing but his trenchcoat. Taking it from car to car, motel to motel just in case Cas returned.

He pictured Cas his body exploding, bones, sinew, and muscles reduced to molecules as it sprayed red mist over the graveyard.

He remembered how Cas had sacrificed himself, taking on the wrath of Raphiel alone, in a desperate attempt at stopping the angels from raising Lucifer, so soon after Dean and Sam had even met him. 

Cas, a being, basically as old as time itself, had easily managed to stay alive his whole damn life before meeting the Winchesters; before plucking Dean from his eternal damnation, and ever since that day, all he had done was die. Castiel had died for them over and over. He died because he was too trusting; he believed in the good in everyone too much. He died because he was too wrapped up in making the world a better place for humanity, and as if that weren't enough, he had died making heaven a better place for them when their lives finally ended. Castiel had died over, and over again, protecting Dean, and Dean had died over and over again watching him do it. Now, Cas was alive again and Dean had died, and even in death, Dean was dying; smothered by emptiness, skewered, carved, imploding, exploding, torn apart completely. 

Dean's anger had been taken over by his grief, and his grief eventually subsided leaving him defeated. Defeated, and alone, and standing on a bridge in the middle of nowhere in heaven, his breathing returned to some semblance of normalcy.

Dean sniffed, whipped a hand over his face, and nodded to himself in acceptance, he made his way back to the comfort of his impala and crawled into the front seat.

"If you can hear me Cas, I'm sorry." he sighed, "I mean it. I really am, but, I also meant every damn word of what I just said." He sniffed and swallowed, allowing a moment to himself, attempting to choose if he should continue, elaborate, but decided against it. Instead, he turned the keys in the ignition and the impala purred to life. He continued to retrace the backroads of heaven, hoping to find his way back to Bobby; back to family; back to comfort. 

Chapter Text

Then.

 

 

Castiel had woken to the sound of clashing blades. His vision swirled around him as he blinked forcefully, his brow furrowed as he tried to understand the happenings around him. Light beamed from all directions in streaking brilliance cutting through columns of thick dripping blackness. There were people too, vessels, or psychic imprints of what had once been vessels, colliding with each other in battle, or else running every which way in a desperate attempt to avoid getting completely enveloped by waves of bubbling tar. Castiel pulled himself into a sitting position, simply marveling at the sight around him as the reality of the situation set in.

He was awake again; he was in the Empty and somehow he had woken up, more importantly, he wasn’t the only one awake. He watched as angels and demons in both corporeal and spiritual forms attacked one another in a biblical massacre. Screams and wailing echoed through the nothingness surrounding them. A hand fell upon his shoulder. 

“Castiel.” He looked up to find Dagon standing over him. Their form flashing between that of the Asain woman they had possessed and their yellow-toned true form of a man with long hair, a beard, and the tail of a fish. Dagon pulled Castiel up one-handed, by his neck. “I’m going to enjoy getting back at you for my death”, They smiled, as their other hand dragged, backhanded, gently down the side of his face. Quite suddenly, however, fear and confusion flitted across their face as a blade appeared through their chest, burning the essence of their spiritual form in a flash of electricity. 

The blackness beneath their feet rose up and engulfed Dagon in a sludgy tomb, pulling the demon down into the shadeless expanse below, devouring whatever was left of them. Castiel dropped to the ground, or whatever was it was that was beneath his feet. An Ophanim form stood over Castiel in place of Dagon, offering a hand out to him through his eye studded, wheeled shape, and pulled Cas up to a standing position again. Castiel blinked up at the form, now recognizing the angel Gadreel.

“Quickly, Castiel. The others are not far!” He boomed as he turned, implying for Castiel to follow. In a daze, Castiel stood and looked around before breaking into a jog to catch up to Gadreel’s now retreating form. A boom behind him caused Cas to whip his head around him as he watched Cherubs and Marquis of hell brawling in dazzling explosions. He ignored the fight as he jogged towards Gadreel. Cas recognized Seraphs in the distance to his right; angels he had served alongside, pulling Elohim, to their feet, before being swallowed by a huge hole in the nothingness, pulling them quickly down further into the empty. Castiel ducked as he ran, only barely dodging a stream of pyrokinesis aimed to his left, at Valefar; a demon that Castiel and his battalion had previously trapped and killed during the middle ages, now, engulfed in flames and writhing around as tendrils of the Empty attacked his lion body. 

In what appeared like the very center of the chaos, where Gadreel seemed to be leading him, a mix of angels fought futility against the Empty. Castiel's stomach sank as he neared the group, he recognized everyone there; their true forms, his brothers and sisters. Their many many wings between them thrashing about, as they cut and jabbed and threw everything they had at the Darkness around them. With them, however, in the middle of it all, stood Crowley and Jack. The angels surrounded them as if in an attempt to form a protective shield of Seraphs, Archangels, and Ophanim. Castiel, his mind suddenly vacant, started to sprint toward his son. 

“Jack!” he called, as he rushed past Gadreel toward the group. Jack spun on the spot and as his eyes met Castiel’s, a wave of fear mirrored back at him.

“Castiel!” Jack's voice was barely audible over the sounds of the battle raging all around him; the clanging of swords, the blood-curdling screams of death, the painful wailing. 

 

Castiel was suddenly flung off course, his body rolling miles through the air before he slammed down, head first, into the blackness. A blow landed into his back as he attempted to push himself up to his feet, thrusting him back into the muck of the empty. 

“Oh, Cassandra. Tsk-tsk-tsk.” A voice screeched, “No. I don’t think you’ll make it out of this one.” Above him, Castiel heard the suction of teeth, as he felt a kick to his side, causing him to roll over and curl in on himself in pain, his fear mounting. Castiel spared a quick glance above him, confirming his suspicions regarding the identity of the assailant.

“Yeah, no.” Lucifer shrugged, “It’s not looking good, buddy.” He pulled an archangel blade from his pocket and smiled down at where Cas lay. As his smile grew so did he, his form expanded; his six wings, covered with eyes, unfurling in a display of power.  

“I can’t let you leave--”, he cocked his head to the side and stuck out his bottom lip, “--Sorry. It's just that I hate you, and I’d rather just get this over with now, rather than have that awkward moment... having to track you down once we get outta here… I’m sure you understand”. He plunged the sword into Cas’s top right wing, pinning him to the ground. Cas cried out in pain, a white-hot ache ran through him to his center, his other wings flapped around desperatly as he tried to free himself. 

“Oh, crap! Did I miss? My aim’s a little…”, Lucifer waved his hand over his shoulder, “...off. I think it’s the rage”, He said, nodding. “Yeah... My therapist says I should work on it. You never know when I could be in a dire emergency and only able to see red, ya know?” He unstuck the blade easily and ripped Cas’s wing up, bending it at the wrong angle. Cas inhaled sharply, desperately attempting not to show any of his fear or pain. Lucifer smirked before slicing the blade down in one long cut along the bone. The burning ripped through Castiel like a bolt of lightning. He groped aimlessly at Lucifer's legs, grunting in pain as he desperately tried to pull himself up so he could fight back. Lucifer rolled his eyes and simply kicked his leg out, his foot hitting Cas in the face. 

“Goal!” Lucifer yelled as he sent Cas flying backward. Cas’s vision blurred, his grace leaked in a steady stream from his eyes. He hastily blinked in an attempt to clear his view and managed to make out various other angels and demons, off to the sides, watching him. They had given Lucifer a wide berth, intent on not interfering; staying safe, and out of the way. Lucifer was on him again, his legs pinning Cas’s arms to the ground, his wings on Cas’s legs. Lucifer leaned down over his younger brother, his hot breath smelled of rotting flesh as he brought his mouth to Castiel’s forehead and planted a wet kiss. 

“Let's try for all six shall we?” He whispered in Cas’s ear as Cas squirmed beneath him in another futile attempt at breaking free. Lucifer carved into Cas’ other wings, peeling back the skin and iridescent feathers as he worked, slicing and cutting them, before throwing the dismembered pieces aside, singing all the while. Castiel kicked and scratched and screamed and tried to fly away and nothing worked, Lucifer just kept carving away, singing. 

“And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, Little boy blue and the man on the moon, When you comin' home, Dad, I don't know when, but we'll get together then, You know we'll have a good time then.” 

“Stop.” Cas barely managed, “Please.” 

“Uh-uh-uh”. Lucifer brought the blade up to Cas’s chin, angling his head up to meet his red, glowing eyes. “You still have one wing left, Cassie boy”. Cas coughed, his grace leaked off from his mouth, choking him.

“I meant-- stop-- singing” he spluttered, setting his jaw and looking hard into his older brother's eyes. Lucifer closed his eyes and nodded slowly, his mouth formed a counterfeit frown. 

“That hurt my wittwe fewwings.” 

At the speed only granted to God’s favorite son, he began to chip pieces of Cas’s torso away. 

Lucifer, no longer pinning him down, blurred in movement all around Cas, stabbing the blade in at an angle, and plucking at the chunks formed. Cas attempted to break free again only to be pushed to his knees so Lucifer could now start the yet untouched areas of Castiel’s body. 

Cas’s vision seemed to fade out at the edges. He was unsure if he would be able to attempt to fight any longer. He was no match for Lucifer here, all alone, in the empty. He wondered, if he died in the empty, what would become of him? Perhaps he would simply continue to feed the empty, unable to wake ever again, his most horrible thoughts plaguing his dreams. He hoped that maybe he would now sleep; a dreamless eternal rest, and found solace at the concept. At least he wouldn’t be stuck here reliving his worst moments; his deepest regrets, over and over again. Perhaps he would finally be at peace. A bright stream of light exploded in front of Castiel as he fell back down into the darkness, his eyes fluttering closed.






 

 

Now.

 

 

Castiel awoke in his bed. The same brick walls on one side, as there had always been, the same cement wall on the other. His body ached badly as he tried to sit up, bringing a sudden rush of memory back to him. Castiel looked down at his hands, at Jimmy Novak's hands, and tried to concentrate on inspecting his true visage beneath them. His head exploded with pain at the strain it took to focus his grace. His hands, the glimpse of his celestial form, caused his stomach to roll. His fingers leaked grace, flesh dangled from various bones, and was ripped and torn clean off others. He whimpered at the sight, immediately reducing back into his vessel's form, silently praying to himself to forget the image.

“Cas?” Balthazar stuck his head around the corner of the door. Castiel slowly and gingerly pulled himself into a sitting position before clearing his throat. 

“You can come in”. He replied. Balthazar entered the room and stared at Cas, shaking his head. He was now wearing a smart, fitted suit, looking at ease in his vessel again. 

“You certainly haven’t looked worse”. Cas swallowed hard, trying not to think about what he’d just glimpsed.

“You’re supposed to lie.” Cas croaked, as he pulled the blanket around him, causing a smile from Balthazar. 

“Yes, well. Seeing as how you were the one to send me to that rotten place, I figure I’m deserving of some leeway regarding my manners”. Cas’s chest fell, another memory he had tried to forget. One that had plagued his dreams in the Empty. Evidently, his face displayed his regret and shame as Balthazar replied hastily. “Ohh. uhh, It’s okay, Cas. You’ve more than made up for it since. So none of that famous guilt complex that you’ve stolen from those two apes you’re so fond of”. Cas sighed as he recalled his misguided reason for ending his brother's life in the first place.

“You tried to help protect Sam and Dean from me, you must not resent them as much as you like to pretend”. He noted. Balthazar sat on the edge of Cas’s bed slowly, trying not to move him. 

“How do you know it wasn’t about helping them, so much as it was about pissing you off”. Balthazar smiled, garishly. Cas rolled his eyes, then paused for a moment, before remembering his last thoughts in the Empty. He slowly lowered his brows, deciding to voice his query. 

“Are we in Heaven?” He asked, searching his brother's face. Balthazar cocked his head to the side. 

“Where else would we be?” 

“So, I died?” Cas questioned, “Lucifer-- he killed me?” Balthazar burst into a chuckle. 

“You believe that if you were to die in the empty your soul would go to Heaven? Why, that is quite a cute notion, Cas, but no. You aren’t dead. I imagine you’re in a great deal of pain, yes? When, tell me, was the last time you heard of any soul having pain in Heaven?” Cas considered this for a moment and noticed his chest felt lighter. Another vesseled angel suddenly entered Cas’s bedroom, this time, however, without knocking, without even using the door.

“Gabe”. Balthazar nodded at him. 

“Baby brother”, Gabriel replied, “Other... baby brother. I heard you’d woken up. Wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. Couldn’t decide on a muffin basket or a home-baked pie, though... so I brought neither.” he shrugged. Cas’s brows furrowed. 

“Welcome me to the neighborhood? What are you talking about?” He asked, looking between the two angels. Gabriel and Balthazar looked at each other in confusion. 

"I heard this was all you… now you say you have no idea about any of this?” Gabriel squinted at him. 

“Any of what?” Castiel asked, curiously. Balthazar chuckled.

“Figures. Cas did none of the grunt work, and yet, he gets all the glory.” He said looking at Gabriel, who shook his head.

“I bet at this point it's just how things work around here. Something changes and “Hey, it must have been Castiel.” Typical".

“Will one of you please tell me what it is I am supposed to have done?” Cas asked, irritated now.

“The Empty Heist? The big upgrade? None of that was you?” Gabriel questioned. Cas’s stomach flipped as he stared at the blanket on his legs. His brows sinking lower down his face. He faintly recalled a dream in the back of his mind, among the millions of dreams from while in the Empty. He tried to focus on it, as his eyes darted around. His two brothers shot worried looks between them as they watched him. 

“I-- I remember Jack-- He visited me-- spoke to me, in my dream”. Cas tilted his head, trying desperately to remember.

“And did he ask for a set of blueprints in these dreams, perchance?” Balthazar asked.

“I--” Cas coughed hard, a completely non-angelic thing to do. His throat screamed at him, begging to be cleared as he attempted to hack it free. After a moment the choking subsided and he was able to breathe again. His brothers stared at him as he pulled his hand away, now covered in splatters of his grace. "I think, perhaps, I need to see Jack,” Castiel stated, as he slowly attempted to pull himself up off the bed, his body barely moving in response. He felt heavy and he suddenly gained tunnel vision for his efforts.

“Woah, there horsey. I wouldn't do that if I were you.” Gabriel began, rushing to Cas’s side and placing a hand upon his shoulder. “You just about got ripped a deluge of new ones back in the Empty.”

“I’m betting a single splinter would take you out at this point. Kill you for good this time, and as much as I love to find out where you’ll be sent now that there’s no more Empty, I personally wouldn’t recommend being that particular guinea pig”, Balthazar agreed. 

“I wouldn’t want to get so much as stubbed toe”, Gabriel overemphasized. 

“I get it”. Cas grunted. “I saw Jack there, in the empty. I need to speak to him. Have you seen him? Did he make it out?” Gabriel and Balthazar looked at each other again. 

"Uhh…” Gabriel looked everywhere but at Castiel.

“The thing is…” Balthazar began, “You-- Uh, What you need to do is--”,

“You need to rest, Cas-tration. That's what you need to do”, Gabriel finished. “You need to sit tight and don't worry that pretty little head of yours about a thing because we’ll take care of everything, okay? The lot of us. Michael, Metatron, Joshua, and Good ol’ Balty here, we’ve made a little counsel for the angels and we’re-- ” He shrugged.

“We’re looking after it”. Balthazar chimed in. Gabriel nodded and presented his arm toward Balthazar.

“Exactly. We’re looking after it.” Gabriel agreed. Cas narrowed his eyes. 

“Looking after what?” 

“Everything--”

“It--” Balthazar and Gabriel stated together.

“Just heal, li’l bro, I promise we’ll fill you in on all of the chaos as soon as you’re ready. For now though--” Gabriel began.

“Sit here doing nothing?” Cas suggested, sarcastically.

“Exactly” Balthazar agreed, “Just have yourself a nana nap and focus on getting better”. Cas sighed. He knew he was not much use to anyone in this condition but he still needed answers and he was getting increasingly bothered at his brother's evasiveness.

“Is he okay? Is Jack--”

“Jack’s fine!” Gabriel replied, “You think heaven would be running at all if God went kaput?” Castiel relaxed further, his eyes started to feel heavy. 

“We’ll bring you into the fold, once you’re all healed up, Cassie, I promise,” Balthazar said patting the blanket on his legs. The pain made Cas flinch and inhale sharply. “Oh, sorry!” Balthazar grinned. “That was an accident, despite what you may believe, A happy accident, but still… an accident”. Gabriel chuckled and pushed Balthazar's head as he passed. 

“Come one, let's give the man some space… He did just save us, after all”. Cas stared after them as they left his room. His eyes were heavy again. He desperately tried to remember what Jack had spoken to him about in his dreams but he could only vaguely recall that it had something to do with Death’s ring and also how Death and the empty had worked together in the past, yet none of that had anything to do with this evidently new Heaven he now sat in. He felt worse off and more confused than he had been before anyone else had entered the room. He still didn’t fully understand what the bunker was even doing in Heaven. He slowly closed his eyes and began to fall asleep.

 

 

“Castiel”. A prayer close by caused his eyes to spring open and his breath to hitch. The air suddenly seemed to have left the room, his vision became blurry and his ears rang. He thought he might be about to pass out.

“Cas- uh, Hey man, if you’re not busy I wouldn’t say no to a local tour guide.” Castiel's eyes burned at the words. He began to sob, deep ragged breaths rang through his room, as gripped at his chest as if desperately trying to hold his body together. His pure anguish overtook him as he realized, Dean is dead.

Chapter Text

The gravel crunched under Dean's boots as he walked from the Impala toward the Roadhouse. The old, wooden building looked dark and empty as he approached.

Maybe it's not even opened, Dean worried, trying to peek in through the window. He shrugged before turning to the door and pushing on it gently, half expecting it not to budge. The door opened with a groan. He slowly walked inside, his footfalls causing the wooden floorboards to creak to life. There was not a person in sight, although Dean swore he’d heard a scurrying sound… He turned towards the pool table where he was certain the noise came from, before taking quiet steps in the same direction, looking for anything he could find to use as a weapon.

“Shhh!” A voice rang out from behind the bar area causing Dean to stop in his tracks, his head snapping toward the sound. Dean bellowed at the faceless intruder.

“I know you’re there!” His eyes searched for further movement, “Show yourself! I’ve got-- uh… a gun!” Dean rolled his eyes at himself. Good one, Threaten to kill someone who's already dead... The motion behind the bar had Dean focus his attention forward as suddenly a mass of people appeared, surrounding him.

“Surprise!” The group yelled in an uncoordinated mess of voices, as they rose mistimed from their hiding spots throughout the Roadhouse. Dean laughed, a little hesitant at first, before breaking into an all-encompassing chuckle. He beamed at the faces around him. His Mom and Dad, Ash, Jo, Ellen, and Bill… Dean guessed? He’d only seen pictures. Bobby was there with his wife Karen too, along with Keven and Channing, Charlie, Pamela, Pastor Jim, Rufus and... his Daughter(?), Mick Davies, Ketch, Balthazar, Metatron, Samandriel, Gabriel, and Dean faltered as their eyes connected, Cas. Mary reached him first, ripping him from his gaze, throwing her arms around him. 

“Dean”. She smiled, pulling back, her hands placed upon his shoulders. The soft floral scent of her hair was just as familiar in heaven as it was on earth. 

“Mom”, Dean choked. He looked into her eyes. He knew that realistically he was able to meet her again in this new heaven, but only now with her in front of him, did he understand. He wrapped his arms back around her and closed his eyes, pulling her tight. 

“I’m so sorry”. Dean couldn't bring himself to open his eyes yet. He gripped his mom's back feeling the ache in his chest that started the day she had died, the first time she had left the land of the living; when he was only four years old. 

Mary hugged Dean just as tightly. “It wasn’t your fault, Dean. It wasn’t anybody's fault really, It was just an accident”. Dean wrenched his eyes open and pulled away from Mary. 

“But Jack--”

“I’ve spoken to him since. He didn’t have a soul, Dean. Even if he did, he’s just a kid, a baby, and I really was just in the wrong place at the wrong time… plus he did warn me to leave him alone”. She smiled sadly at her son. “Just-- Please don’t tell me you blamed him for my death.” Dean looked at his mom and swallowed. She shook her head and sighed, the ghost of a knowing smile played at her lips.

“Son.” John, in his familiar brown leather jacket, stood beside Mary now, giving her a nod as she stepped aside. Dean noticed that the rest of the guests mingled over by the bar, taking seats, and began drinking, allowing their family room to catch up. 

John smiled hesitantly, before enveloping Dean in his arms giving him two quick taps on the back. Dean couldn’t bring himself to speak. He wasn’t quite sure exactly what he could say. 

“I remember everything from before, Dean. I just wanted to say thank you.” John looked at him sternly. Dean’s mouth fell open slightly as he racked his brain for what he could have possibly done to warrant such a positive reaction from his dad. “I know I was never in the running for father of the year... and looking back on it, I know I could have gone easier on you kids.” John sighed, “What you did for me, reuniting your mother and me like that, I don’t think I’d have done the same thing if I were in your shoes.” Dean was able to close his mouth now. He raised his brows and stared at John for a moment, struggling desperately to find a nice way to explain that he definitely knows that his dad wouldn’t have done the same for him. As time ticked by, however, he decided a simple nod and slap on his dad's arm would have to say enough. 

By now a swarm had formed around him. His father, seeming content, made his way over to the bar where Ash stood behind the counter. The sea of people ebbed and flowed around him while the Angels stuck to themselves in the back corner of the Roadhouse. Dean tried to make eye contact with Cas, but it seemed that the angel was in a deep conversation with Balthazar. He considered going to interrupt, to say hello, to wrap Cas in a hug if not purely so he would be able to convince himself that Cas was truly, tangibly here and alive... or... well... not in the empty. He took a few steps toward him before Jo, the first of the crowd, approached, grabbing Dean's arm. She looked like she did the day she died, moments before she was torn to shreds by a hellhound; same grey v-neck shirt, same green jacket. 

“Congratulations! Sticking to it this time?” She asked with a hug. Dean must not have responded to her dig with her desired amount of amusement. “Oh, come on, old man, heaven’s not so bad. None of that here”, she said gesturing at his remorseful face. Dean’s stomach dropped as he looked her over, he still couldn’t help but feel responsible for her death. A weight on his conscience that he thought he had dropped long ago.

“You’re just a kid”. He breathed.

“Yeah, I bet I could run laps around you now.” She grinned up at him. Dean managed a smile in return.

“Alright, quit hogging the guy, will you”. Ellen called as she wandered over from behind the bar and pulled Dean into a hug. “You’re a damn fool.” She declared as she released her grip. Dean stared at her, comically offended. “Who in the hell goes out from tetanus? If you just got your shots like everybody else you wouldn’t be here now, and I wouldn’t be worried about having yet another ex-hunter up in my place, drinking me out of house and home”. Dean laughed.

“She has a point”. Bobby stated from behind her. He reached over Ellen's shoulder and handed a glass of neat whiskey to Dean, who shot him a thankful look. 

“And here I was thinking I’d be good for business.” Dean swirled his glass and threw back a mouthful for dramatic effect.

“You would be if I wasn’t giving away friends and family discounts every night”. Ellen called over her shoulder as she made her way back toward the bar.

“Hey, that’s on you!” Dean boomed, his hand cupping the side of his mouth. 

“Don’t worry about her, she just likes complainin'. Seems the angels are handing out unlimited pocket money here”, Bobby explained, seemingly astonished by this. “You’ve met my wife, Karen”. He confirmed, standing behind her and placing his hands on her arms. Dean nodded.

“I’m sorry for your death.” She stated warmly. 

“Yeah, uh, thanks. You too.” Dean replied, before taking another swig of his drink.

“Come on, love, we better give Dean some space,” Bobby explained, taking Karen’s hand in his and heading over to a table. 

Dean was alone now; the crowd of people had peeled off into groups. Dean glanced toward Castiel, whose back was angled toward Dean. He still seemed to be in a deep, and very enthralling, conversation with Balthazar. 

From over at the bar, Rufus made eye contact and lifted his drink. Dean nodded and raised his in return before downing the last of it.

Dean made his way over to a bar stool, he was only a few feet away from where the angels all huddled. Cas’s muffled voice soaked into the air around him, feeling simultaneously relaxing and irritating. Dean sat, looking out at the crowd of friends and family that had gathered for him, his heart warmed as he took in their faces. Jo stood over by the pool table, cue in hand, as she waited for Pamala to break, pointing out the angle she thought the older of the two women should take. His mom and dad stood talking to pastor Jim and Mick. Bobby and Karen spoke to Ellen and Bill. Charlie, Channing, and Keven sat together laughing at something evidently hilarious. 

“Another?” Dean turned to see Ash smiling at him as he placed another four fingers of whiskey in a glass down on the bar mat next to Dean's hand. 

“Thanks, man”.

“Of course”, He nodded, narrowing his eyes. “How are you finding it this time; the new and improved Cosmic Siesta Condominium?” He asked, dramatically flicking his hair off his shoulder. Dean smirked.

“Yeah, I love what they’ve done with the place”, Dean gestured around him with his glass before raising it back up to his mouth to drink. He exhaled sharply as the liquid hit the back of his mouth. He grunted. “What about you? This was kinda always what your heaven was, right? You gettin’ any royalties for this?” Ash scoffed. 

“Lucky for them”, Ash motioned with his eyes over to where the angels huddled in the corner nearby, Dean’s stomach tightened. “I am a man of the people and therefore am delighted that the plebs can share all of the pleasures heaven really has to offer.” Dean nodded as he raised his glass.

“I’ll drink to that”.

Ash walked over toward the group of people on the opposite end of the bar as Dean, once again, failed to make eye contact with Castiel as he stood in the corner, his body glued in an irritating angle, toward the back of the room. 

Mick approached Dean at the bar, sliding onto a stool beside him. 

“I’m sorry for your loss, mate”. He said lifting his drink.

“Yeah, me too,” Dean replied, raising his brows and throwing his drink back. “I was pretty tempted to enforce The Men of Letters Code for you once we figured out that Ketch had done you in.” Mick glanced behind them into the crowd to where Ketch sat talking to Mary and John, “But, turns out the Asshat actually proved useful and got onboard Team Free Will. So-- I guess--” 

"You don’ have to apologize to me, Dean. The internal affairs of the Bri'ish Men o’ Le'ers were never your responsibili'y. I'm just sorry it took me so long to see that their way of doing things was wrong.” Dean scoffed.

“Took you a hell of a lot less time than it took Ketch. Look, Mick, in our-- in my book... your okay, alright? We’re good, man, really.” He sighed, “Now, you gonna shout me a Death Day bottle of the top shelf stuff, or did you really just come over here to get me to absolve yourself of some guilt?” Mick laughed shakily, raising his brows.

“Yeah, maybe a bit of both, actually.” He said lifting his hand to get Ash’s attention.  

 

-



The night was winding down and after receiving a “Thank you” and “Sorry” from Pastor Jim and a few inappropriate remarks from Pamela, the Roadhouse, that had once been bursting with vibrant life, was now a dwindling drunken shit show. Dean sat at the bar again after making his way around the room stopping by to check on almost everyone, joining in on whatever conversations they already had going. He’d played pool with Keven as Channing watched unamused from a seat in the corner. Jo tried and failed to start up a doubles game. Channing stated she would rather watch and instead spent the whole time on her phone. Dean assumed she had a lot of dead friends because she didn’t look up very often and considering they couldn’t get service from Earth, he had no idea what she could possibly find so interesting. 

Dean and Keven sat at the bar now, a drink sat in each of Kevin's hands.

“You’re double-parked”. Dean commented. Keven’s eyes were glassy as he brought them up to Dean’s questioningly. Dean glanced emphatically between both drinks. He was feeling the alcohol but had built up a tolerance over the years and clearly... Kevin had not. 

“Oh, yeah. Ha!” Keven poured one glass into the other and set the spare glass back down on the bar. “Did you know you can get drunk in heaven? I didn’t know you could get drunk in heaven”. Dean shook his head. 

“I just got here, remember?” Keven scoffed.

“Pssht! You’ve been here for days you were just like in a different wavelength or something.” It was Dean’s turn to look at him questioningly. Keven shrugged. “I don’t know, man, it's like a heaven thing. Time’s all screwy but like in a good way, apparently.” he shrugged again. Dean shrugged back at him, raising his brows and pulling down the corners of his lips. “You know Crowley reaped me?!” Keven stated, spilling his drink as he swung himself around on his barstool so his whole body now faced Dean. Dean nodded.

“Me too. Weird, huh.” Keven threw back a mouthful of his vodka cola. 

“Weird?! I want to kill the guy!” He stopped mid-thought, “Can you kill Death? Surely, right? Because Crowley wasn’t always Death, right?” his eyes narrowed, “Unless it was like a promotion because he was so good at being an asshole”. Dean chuckled.

“Kev’, Uhh, Thing is… Crowley actually sacrificed himself to trap Lucifer. So while, yeah, he’s still an asshole, he’s just slightly less of a complete dick bag. So, you know, you may wanna pump the brakes on any assassination attempts”. Kevin jumped up off his stool and nodded solemnly. 

“He killed my girlfriend, Dean”. Dean's eyes widened as he grimaced.

“Oh. Yeah… Sorry...” 

“Don’ worry about it,” Keven said, trying to hold in a burp. “I should probably make sure she's okay”, he explained before stumbling off, over to where she sat in the corner still playing on her phone. Dean shot the rest of his drink and placed it on the bench. His buzz had finally given him the courage he needed. He’d decided he would go bust up the angel's dumb little clique that they’ve been hiding in all night and insist that they all mingle like adults.

 

“Can it be my turn for attention?” Dean paused and swung around to where Charlie sat alone in a booth by the window, her phone sat in front of her on the table.

“I already gave you attention earlier, didn’t I?” Dean asked, pointing at her and narrowing his eyes.

“Hardly. That was a drive-by at best. Come. Sit.” Dean did as she asked, sliding himself in opposite her. 

“Fill me in on everything I’ve missed. I want details. The juicer the better.” Dean grinned. He’d missed Charlie, this Charlie; his Charlie. He hated himself for getting her killed trying to find a cure for the mark. He felt so guilty and sitting here, across from her. He couldn’t help but spiral, thinking about how he projected his guilt onto Sam, how he’d told Sam that it was his fault she was dead. He rubbed his hand over his stubbled mouth, trying to push those thoughts away for now. 

“Uhh, so, after you died--” Dean stopped, closing his eyes at the image of her in the bathtub. His heart sank.

“After I died…” Charlie prompted.

“I am so sorry, Charlie. You shouldn’t have gotten dragged into all my crap--”.

“Uh-Uh. No, Dean Winchester Pity Party, please. We are here to celebrate and if you’re gonna be a downer you should just leave”. Dean was taken aback.

“It’s my party...”

“--And what? You’ll cry if you want to? It's actually our party”, she raised her hand and twirled her finger in a circle “--and I’m sure if I asked, they'd all agree with me, that nobody wants your bad vibes stinking up the place”. Dean lifted his hands in surrender. “...So, you were saying?”

“Um, yeah, okay, so, uhh,” he shook his head. “Sam and I found a way to remove the mark--” 

“The M.O.C. Gasp. Show me”. Charlie reached her hands across the table pulling at the sleeve on Dean’s red button-up shirt. 

“Okay. Okay”, He ripped his arm from her grasp, “Would you quit it and let me do it. Jeeze”. He pulled his shirt off both arms and set it down on the seat beside him before dramatically circling his arm up and slapping it down on the table in front of them, “Ta-da!” Charlie smiled and nodded at his bare arm, impressed, before her eyes landed on Dean’s other arm, just by his T-shirt sleeve. Her smile faded as her face turned to a look of unease. 

“What’s that?” Dean followed her eyes to his arm where he saw red puckered scaring hidden by the black fabric.

“I--” Dean lifted his T-shirt sleeve from his arm and Charlie gasped, clasping both of her hands over her face.

“What is that?” she repeated. Dean's eyes wandered from his arm to Charlie's face, over to the corner where the Angels stood. Cas was facing him now, his brows furrowed and his head tilted, his eyes bore into Dean’s. Dean lowered his sleeve and moved his head back to face Charlie, before ripping his eyes from Cas’s. He swallowed. Charlie followed to where his gaze had been, her eyes widened. “I know what that is! It’s in those Carver Edland books!” Dean rolled his eyes. He didn’t know if anyone had updated Charlie on all of the Chuck crap but he couldn’t get into all of that right now, he couldn’t handle it. He shook his head and rubbed at the scar on his shoulder.

“It’s been gone for over a decade”. Dean’s eyebrows pulled together. Balthazar, Gabriel, Metatron, Samandriel all burst into laughter from the other side of the room, turning to look in Dean's direction. Castiel looked awkward and embarrassed as Metatron said something and they all started up again louder, roaring with laughter. Gabriel hit Cas on his shoulder, causing Cas to flinch. Charlie, now curious, decided to call out to Cas. She raised a hand.

“Castiel” she boomed throughout the whole Roadhouse. Cas looked over at Dean, who in return kept a steady gaze. After a moment, evidently deciding that it was safe, Cas wandered over to the table and sat himself down next to Charlie. Dean knew this was usually the time that he would jump up and grip Cas tight in an embrace, but instead, the awkwardness and irritation caused Dean to stay glued to the chair, his arms folded on his chest. Jo followed shortly behind the angel placing down six shots and two beers on a plastic drinks tray. Dean could only assume Charlie had ordered them the drinks earlier. Dean took the shots and dealt them out; two each, sliding them across so they sat in front of each person. 

“If I’m going to drink I may as well do it properly” Cas stated and rose slowly, pushing a shot each back toward Dean and Charlie. The pair looked at each other, confused, as Castiel sauntered off toward the bar. Dean broke into a smile as he realized what Cas was doing.

“Umm okay?--” Before Charlie could continue Castiel was back again holding three full bottles of bourbon in each hand. He took his seat back beside Charlie. Dean eyed Cas as he lined the six bottles up and took off their lids, a small smile danced on his lips. Dean’s chest grew warm.

“That's better,” Cas stated when he was satisfied, glancing between Charlie’s astonished look his drinks. “It’s roughly the equivalent of one shot”. He explained to Charlie.

“Okay... well then, on the count of three”. Charlie picked up a shot in one hand and lifted a finger on the other. Dean and Cas raised their respective drinks as Charlie lifted a second finger, and as her third finger flicked up, the three of them downed their beverages. Dean spluttered as he placed his first glass upside down and picked up the second one, before throwing it back and doing the same with the third. He exhaled sharply and closed one eye tight as he tried to keep the burning liquid down his throat. He looked up at Charlie and Cas across from him and laughed. All of Cas’s drinks had been drained, however, Charlie had only managed to drink one of her shots. Castiel sighed. “I’ll sip on it,” she explained, defensively. Dean snorted and Charlie shot her hand up, blocking Dean's face as she addressed Castiel, “So, What have you been up to?” She asked. Cas smiled.

“I’ve been resting; regaining my strength. Most of us angels have only recently returned to heaven after barely defeating a noncorporeal prison afterlife, designed specifically to trap us in an infinite loop of our deepest regrets, in an ecclesiastical battle. What about you, what have you been up to, Charlie”. Dean’s mouth fell open ever so slightly. 

“A L.A.R.P.er friend who died after me, made me binge-watch "The Good Place" with her because she swears that they got Heaven creepily accurate in that show. So, I’ve just been doing that for the last few days... Apart from that, I’m thinking about teaching I.T. classes, and maybe getting a cat”. She nodded. Cas smiled at her.

“Oh, uh, yes-- Jack has seen that show and in all honesty... that was the basis for his design… So, technically it wasn’t actually an accurate depiction until recently”. Dean searched Cas’s face. He couldn’t ever remember a time when Jack had mentioned watching that damn show. In fact, he was pretty sure that Castiel had mentioned it to all of them an annoying number of times. Dean knew the whole freakin’ plot of the show because Cas had told him about it one time on a long drive, trying to keep him awake. Dean figured Cas must have convinced Jack to watch it after all. Cas avoided looking at Dean. Charlie glanced between the two.  

“I have to pee.” She stated, suddenly jumping up. Castiel slowly rose from his seat again allowing her to slide out and into the crowd. Castiel eyed her as he sat back down, his brows lowered.

“What is it?” Dean asked at the obvious confusion on Cas’s face.

“Souls shouldn’t need to urinate”. He said, before turning back and looking Dean in the eye for the first time since sitting down.

Dean watched Charlie’s red hair duck through the remaining group of people around the bar, before she settled on a stool, and started chatting to Jo. Dean slid his hand across the table, coming to a rest on Cas’, getting his attention. He positioned himself so his head lined up with Cas’s and pointed behind the angel's shoulder. Castiel turned and followed Dean's finger to where Charlie sat at the bar. Dean chuckled.

“She's not peeing. She just left to go hit on Jo.” Dean looked back at Cas, watching his face change as he came to an understanding.

“Oh,” Castiel stated, as he slowly turned back to Dean, before he inhaled sharply, his free hand grabbed at his rib.

“Hey, you okay?” Dean asked, his voice gruff, as his thumb traced a line down Cas’s index finger. Castiel swallowed hard and pulled his hand from Dean's to sit on his own lap. Dean’s stomach tightened.

“I heard your prayer, Dean”. Castiel looked away, his face expressionless. Dean sat staring at Cas, watching him silently. He sighed, closing his eyes, before speaking. 

“Cas-- I--”. Cas shook his head.

“You said you meant it.” He reminded Dean. Dean rolled his eyes and lolled his head back against the booth, staring unfocused at the spinning ceiling. He shook his head and plopped it back down to look at Cas. 

“Seriously, man? I clearly didn’t know that you’d been benched. I was pissed.” he shrugged, grinning, “I thought you were dodging my calls”. Cas regarded Dean, sharply, as Dean extended his legs under the table, a leg on either side of Cas’s, a familiar touch, a comfort that neither had been able to afford in a long time.

“You don’t think I’m "a dick", that I’m "a coward", that I,” Cas air quoted, ““didn’t let you get a word in edgewise”... and you don’t "hate me?"” Cas asked in a clipped voice. Dean nodded and licked his bottom lip. 

“Maybe the edgewise part…” He smiled at him, flashing his eyes. Castiel stared back at him with a blank expression. Dean sighed. “No, man, I obviously don't hate you, or think you're a coward or a dick”, Dean stated in a rushed voice as he leaned in close across the table, before resting his back against the booth and shaking his head. Castiel looked at Dean. It was one of those looks that made him appear to be trying to read Dean’s soul; as if one’s and zeroes scrolled behind Dean’s eyes, and Cas was the only one who could understand it. Cas sighed before opening his mouth. He looked uncertain as he wrestled with himself, trying to decide if he should voice his thoughts.

“Do you truly believe that I make you weak?” He asked. Dean swallowed, his chest ached. His shoulders slumped. 

“Cas--”

“Castiel.” Dean jumped as Mary’s hand fell on Cas’s shoulder gently. Cas whipped his eyes up to the woman beside him, smiled, and stood. John stood slightly off to the side behind her, watching. Dean suddenly regretted those last three shots, his breathing increased. It felt like the whole night of drinks had suddenly hit him all at once.

“Mary. It’s so good to see you.” Castiel extended his arms and embraced her. “How have you been?” 

“Great actually. We all love what you’ve done with the place,” she said mirroring Dean's exact remark from earlier, as she pulled away from the hug, and placed a hand gently on his shoulder. “This is the boy's dad, John. John, this is Castiel.” She said, seemingly excited, gesturing between the two. John extended his hand. 

“It's nice to meet you, Castiel. I’ve heard good things”. Dean’s heart hammered in time with each millisecond that passed, while Castiel stood staring at John’s outstretched hand. Castiel looked blankly at Dean, then to Mary, then back at John’s hand, before coming to a rest on Dean again. 

“My apologies, Dean, Mary, but I’m afraid I can’t exchange pleasantries with you, John”. He stated, and turned away, walking through the remaining clumps of people and out the door. Dean stopped breathing.

“What the hell’s his problem?” John grunted at Dean as he slid into the booth beside him. Mary slid into the seat across from Dean, where Cas had just been. She eyed Dean. 

“Uhh, I don’t know”. Dean replied in a daze. He swallowed and inhaled sharply. “I’m gonna…” He pointed his hand to where John sat and flicked it slightly, gesturing for him to let Dean out. Mary’s mouth formed a thin line.

“Yeah, sure,” she stood and motioned John to do the same. “We were just gonna head home now, anyway”. She stated. 

“Right,” John said, looking confused as he stepped aside. Dean grabbed his red shirt from beside him, and the two (still full) beer bottles that Charlie had ordered them, and slid out to where his parents stood awkwardly beside the booth. 

“Right. So, uh--” Dean began.

“So, we'll catch up another time.” Mary stated, “How about that new Mexican restaurant by your Dad's house, John?” John made a face.

“Maybe we can save that until we can all go there together, Dean can remeet the ol’ man”. 

“Uh, yeah, sure. Sounds great”. Dean replied, barely paying attention, trying to get out the door. He positioned himself so he could see out into the night. There was no sign of Cas anywhere that he could see. Dean wondered where in heaven Cas lived, or if he just turns into rain and leaves here like Jack supposedly does on Earth. Dean didn't notice the silence, two bottles to a hand as he pulled his button-up back on over his arms, popping the collar.

“You in some sort of hurry to get away from us, son?” John’s voice was low, snapping Dean back to the present. 

“I-- Uhh, Sorry, Sir-- I just--”, Dean began suddenly full of fear and anger and frustration. He didn’t want to have to pray to Cas again if he could help it. He hated how vulnerable and needy it made him feel. He also knew from past experience that there was no way he would be able to get out of this conversation any time soon. If John wanted to talk, there was no escaping, in fact, he’d better come up with a full and comprehensive report on the damned topic. Dean’s heart sank. He knew he had missed his chance to actually talk to Cas, he knew he’d probably flown off by now.

“I’m sure we can catch up another time. Can't we, John.” Mary asked, extending her arm toward him, “Say, tomorrow night at that Burger joint? What's it called, the good one?” John ignored her and stared at Dean. Dean felt like he was shrinking under the weight of his dad's gaze. He figured he’d try his luck now that his mom was there as a buffer, maybe, he could make an escape.

“Burgers sound great mom, text me the address,” Dean replied, throwing Mary a quick smile and ducking through the crowd and out the door.

Chapter Text

Dean walked out into the cold night air of the parking lot, glancing behind him. No hand on his shoulder stopped him from leaving; nobody followed. He smiled to himself. There were only a few cars left in the lot and none of them looked anything like he’d ever seen Cas drive. Dean wasn’t sure if Cas would even be driving but he did notice that he had definitely walked out of the Roadhouse, rather than simply vanish, so it was a good place to start. Dean lifted his chin trying to see into the distance. He didn’t find any car lights along the road. He marched around to the right side of the building, the gravel crunching beneath his feet, scaring the nearby cicada into silence. He paced the whole Roadhouse, his boots sinking slightly in the wet grass at its rear, before turning the last corner and spotting Castiel standing with his back resting against the slatted wooden wall.

“Trying to bum a smoke?” Dean asked as he approached. Cas turned his head slowly to Dean before looking back up at the sky. Dean followed his gaze. Dean’s drunken eyes spun, unfamiliar constellations blurred, lighting up the inky black sky above him causing him to let out a low whistle. Castiel glanced at him before raising his eyes skyward again, a small smile danced at his lips.

“It’s wonderful isn't it?” Dean’s eyes flicked from the angel back to the foreign stars that blinked from the infinite expanse above him.

“Yeah... Kinda creepy... but it's impressive.” His voice was high, his enthusiasm evidently counterfeit. Castiel studied Dean. 

“I would tell you that you have nothing to be afraid of, but I wouldn’t want to make you feel weak”. Cas blinked, trying to hide his smile. 

“Was that-- Did you just make fun of me, Cas?” Dean asked, propping himself carefully beside Castiel against the splintered wall, one hand in his pocket, the other gripping the two open bottlenecks. Cas smiled, his eyebrows raised smugly. Dean chuckled, shaking his head as he searched the dark field around them. Small bugs flicked about into the warm light, from the window to their left. 

“You wanna tell me what all of that was about, in there?” Dean asked, breaking their silence. Castiel’s face became immediately unreadable.

“Not particularly.” He replied, squinting back up at the stars. Dean stared at Cas, irritation began bubbling away inside of him. 

“Just a flat,” he gestured a line with his hand horizontally, “No?” Cas sighed. He inhaled deeply, turning his whole body toward Dean. 

“Dean, I--” Castiel frowned to himself before he continued, “I don’t believe your father should be in heaven,” Dean's eyes widened. “Yes, he saved many lives... but that was simply a byproduct of his incessant need for revenge and nothing more. The way you and Sam were raised…” Cas trailed off, shaking his head as he stared at Dean, daring him to object.

Dean opened his mouth, then exhaled, and closed it again. An annoyingly familiar shiver ran through his spine and caught in the back of his throat, the kind of deep and intense shiver that always snuck up on him, especially, when he was thinking about the old days; when it was just his dad, Sammy, and him, going from motel to motel; job to job. Dean had pleaded John’s case to Castiel before. The first, and most extreme time being the argument Cas had started after he’d read John’s journal. Castiel was adamant that the only reason Dean and Sam had defended the man was because of some kind of quasi-Stockholm-syndrome style “abusive brainwashing” that made them feel “obligated to crave an ounce of respect and dignity” from him. Dean didn’t want to bring all of that up again now. 

“He’s not Hell level bad though...” Dean stated in a strained voice, his eyes searching Castiel. Cas shook his head and huffed quietly. He squinted back up at the stars for a moment before a smile began to grow on his lips.

“Perhaps he should get a middle place. Jack could create a pocket afterlife where John Winchester would be forced to live all alone with only vegan food, light beer, and the musical stylings of George Michael, to keep him company.” Cas smirked, satiated somewhat by his imagination. Dean frowned.

“Why George Michael?” Cas looked at him.

“I would assume your father wouldn’t have approved of his flamboyant personality or sexual orientation”. Dean laughed as John and Mary walked out of the roadhouse and into the parking lot, their voices echoed goodbyes through the flat open area. Dean and Cas locked eyes. 

“Would you, like to join me in my office, so maybe we can, uh, talk properly?” Dean asked, pointing the beer bottled hand toward the Impala. Castiel nodded and followed Dean toward his car.

Dean opened the back door and bowed grandly, bottles clinking, gesturing for Castiel to get in. He looked curiously back at Dean before climbing inside. Dean got into the driver's seat of the car and lay his back against the door, placing a bottle down on the floor by the pedals. He raised his legs in front of him, his feet on the passenger seat. His vision spun. Castiel, after a moment of uncertainty, copied Dean's position, facing toward him from the back seat. 

"So--" Dean began, taking a sip of beer and breathing in Castiel's scent that now blossomed throughout the car. "The empty, huh?" Cas smelled like petrichor mixed with a woodpile; like electricity and nature. The smell was just further evidence responsible for putting Dean at ease; proof that he was truly with Cas again. “How was it? Does it make your top ten list of vacation spots?” Cas smiled at Dean solemnly.

“What about you? How are you adjusting to heaven?” he asked, dodging the question. Dean laughed humorlessly.

“Yeah, okay.” he shook his head, “Umm. It’s alright. Keven said something in there--”, he tilted his head toward the Roadhouse, “about how I’ve been here... for days?”

“Yes. When creating this new world, Jack decided to add in a soul’s ability to control the element of time if needed. It seems to help when a soul has a hard time adjusting, they can skip forward to a time where they feel more comfortable. So, for you, that was the surprise party that Mary planned for you.” Dean raised his brow.

“What you’re telling me is that: I was the kid who threw a tantrum when they were dropped off on their first day of daycare, then slept until their mom came to get them?” Dean nodded overenthusiastically. “That's great.” his voice dripped with sarcasm. Cas sighed and Dean drank a large gulp of his beer.

“It's nothing to be ashamed of, Dean. At this very moment, there are thousands of souls doing the very same thing.”

“Yeah, well. I don’t like it. I missed days without even realizing it. I wasted a hell of a lot of time driving back roads in life, I don't wanna do it without my permission in death, especially if the roads I’m driving are only, like, five miles long. It's messed up, man.” Cas nodded slowly. 

“I’ll register your complaint with Jack.” Dean folded his arms around himself and nodded.

“Now, your turn. The Empty. Spill.” Cas shook his head.

“What do you want me to say, Dean?” He shrugged. “That it was horrible? That I’m still not completely convinced that I made it out?” he sighed, massaging his temples. Dean nodded, his eyes out the back window as Mary’s blue Camaro pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road. He watched it as its lights slowly faded into the distance. 

“No offense, Cas, but don’t you think that if the Empty was trying to give you some kind of jerk around, they’d have gone with something a little more, uhh, lively? I mean maybe it’s just me, but surely they could have given you a Dreamscape complete with a drink of rum in a pineapple, or coconut, or some kind of fruit, and our-- or, uh-- your feet in the sand somewhere, right?” he shrugged. “So, why the shitty version? Me, dead, you, all powered down, sitting in a car avoiding my old man?” Cas swallowed, avoiding Dean's eyes.

“It’s more believable this way,” Cas replied, his voice barely a whisper. Dean nodded, he scanned the impala without seeing as he took in the words then placed his beer down and clapped his hands, rubbing them together.

 “Well--” he began, leaning over and opening up the glove box, “I guess you’re gonna have to just wait it out and see. Or--” he tossed a cassette at Cas, who caught it one-handed, looking at Dean questioningly, “You can tell me what that says because you know you it's not possible to read in dreams.” Cas lifted the tape, turning it towards him, a smile breaking out across his face.

“Jimi Hendrix?”

“Yeah, we’ve done Zeppelin, so Hendrix is the next natural option.” Dean smiled, his eyes on Cas as he leaned over and picked up the beer again. Cas’s expression turned tender as he smiled at Dean. Dean cleared his throat, trying to ignore the feeling in this stomach. “So, uhh, now that's all sorted. What’s with the booze in heaven? How are we getting drunk in the Matrix?” Cas frowned.

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, I mean, uh, I’m a soul now, right? I’m really just a floating ball of light, so, like, how is it that I’m able to even pick up a glass, let alone drink anything without a mouth or stomach? We can’t even take a leak unless we specifically want to, right?” Cas shook his head.

“Well, Uh. Your vision as a human was restricted to the confines of what Chuck equipped you with; you could only see souls as what you’re mind was able to comprehend. Now that you have left the limitations of your human body, you’re are able to experience things on a hyperspectral wavelength.” Dean nodded slowly, his eyes narrowed. “As for the “booze”,” Cas air quoted, “I guess it’s simply another part of the intricate metaphysics that Jack designed, specifically to ensure the souls of Heaven can experience the highest possible degree of tranquility while in the new Heaven, He created”. Dean watched, drinking, as Cas talked about Jack with such pride and happiness, causing a warmth to spread throughout Dean’s chest. Once Castiel had mentioned metaphysics, however, Dean knew not to try to understand; He figured he’d take Cas’s word on the matter.

Cas, looked away, his own smile faded. Something pulled at the inside of Dean's stomach. There was a painful quiet for a moment as Dean sat, watching Cas’s composed features. 

“It’s unsurprising to find your soul's residence isn’t actually a location”. Cas stated, breaking the silence between them.

“My residence?” 

“Yes.” Cas smiled. “For most people, it’s the house they grew up in or the home they started a family in. Sometimes people share their soul’s residences; Families. Ash for example. He brought Harvelle’s Roadhouse here. Ellen's soul didn’t yearn for another location, whereas her husband William, and Jo, both wanted their family’s home. Ellen still lives at the family home but it wasn’t her soul's specific residence.” 

“Right.” Dean nodded, squinting. “So, Baby’s my heavenly digs?”  

“Yes. It seems you feel most at peace in the Impala.” Cas confirmed. Dean tilted his head and pulled his mouth in at one corner, considering this. “What is it?” 

“Uh-- No. It’s uh-- it's just…”  Dean's voice came out higher pitched than he intended.

"What, Dean?” Cas demanded. Dean chuckled awkwardly.

“I don’t want to complain. I mean, I’m wrapped. Heavens great. You guys have done a bang-up job and all… It’s just--” He hesitated a moment. “...I wouldn't mind it... if you pulled some strings and used the ol’ nepotism card to get me access to my old bed.” He stated almost as a question. “I mean, I totally understand it if it's too big an ask, but I did get stabbed in the back and these seats ain't the comfiest night's sleep”. Castiel smiled and Dean relaxed a little. “Is that a maybe?” Castiel looked out the window in front of him for a moment, contemplatively.    

“You’re referring to your room in the Men of Letters bunker?”

“I was just asking about the bed, but yeah, I guess it would help to have the whole room. You know, in case it rains or something.” Cas’ smile grew wider for a moment before he returned to looking back out of the window with a sigh. 

“The bunker is here already.” Cas smiled again, unconvincingly this time. “I’m sure Jack would be more than happy for you to stay in your room”. His eyes flicked between Dean and the window as if he was scared to look at him for too long. Dean sat staring at Castiel. He was excited at the prospect of seeing Jack but was also confused about how exactly that would be possible, considering the last he’d heard, Jack was still claiming to be hands-off. Dean had figured Jack’d dematerialized back into pure energy or something after he appeared in his dream, but now, it’d seemed that wasn't the case. He was unable to truly worry about that though because he found himself unable to ignore Cas’s horrible attempt at a fake smile. He wanted to question it but felt unable to speak up, as his thoughts turned to the very likely possibility that it had something to do with the last time they had seen each other... and Dean wasn’t sure he was ready to bring that up yet, especially now that he’d downed more liquor than he’d had in a long ass time; he wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep his shit together. Castiel dragged his gaze back to Dean, his eyes flitting across his face.

“Unless you would prefer Jack move out?” Cas questioned, misconstruing Dean’s silence. Dean scrunched his face, offended.

“What? No. It’s just--” He sighed. He stared at the back of his seat. It was the only thing between them, a notion that both pleased and irritated Dean. His eyes focused on the stitching in the leather as he considered his next words. He wanted to ask Cas how he was; how he truly felt. He wanted desperately to know if he was okay. He wanted to know if Cas felt the weight of their silence the way that Dean did. Dean swallowed some more beer, trying to pull together every ounce of courage he could muster when a thought reoccurred to him. He furrowed his brow and looked back at Castiel. “What about you? Do you have some angelic castle that you’ve been living in when you’re up here?” Cas’s eyes met Dean’s. He opened his mouth for a moment before closing it again. 

“I--” He stared at the fields through the window across from him again. “Angels have never had homes until now, having no need to rest, or eat, or even be entertained. I have been staying at the bunker with Jack, but I’m happy to relocate. I want you to be able to feel comfortable”. The silence grew as Cas continued to attempt to look interested in the dark, empty grass paddocks outside. Dean resumed staring at him, completely perplexed. The corners of Dean's mouth lifted as he shook his head, brows still notched. 

“You’re not moving out, Cas. Come on.” Dean growled warmly. Cas brought his eyes back to Dean’s, his smile grew as his gaze bore into Dean. “We’re family”, Dean reaffirmed. The two stared at each other for a long time, their eyes taking in every inch of each other's faces, studying each other, searching for microexpressions; any involuntary movement that would reveal each other's thoughts. Castiel’s smile slowly disappeared and was replaced by a pained look. Dean’s jaw clenched as his chest started to ache at the sight. He swallowed hard. “I need you, man. I-- I Just--” Dean sighed, he looked down at his lap. He closed his eyes hard, and breathed in and out slowly, steadying himself. “I need some time.” His eyes widened at his words. “Not as in, "I need time alone". I mean like I need--” Dean was cut off by the overwhelming and pleasant pang he felt at seeing Cas beaming at him. He swallowed again and chuckled, nervously. Castiel's eyes softened.

“Thank you, Dean. I’ll stay then.” Dean cleared his throat again.

“Good.” he nodded to himself “Good… So, uh, you gonna be able to drive because I’m still a little bit, uh--” he dangled the now empty bottle between them.

“Yes. I’m sober. I didn’t want to say anything earlier, but I really would have needed at least fifty-four bottles to catch up to you and Charlie”. Dean chuckled. 

“I mean if there was ever a time to drink fifty-four bottles of whiskey I would have loved it to have seen that tonight.” Cas laughed.

“I don’t think that would have been wise... had I been "wasted", I doubt I would have been able to remain as polite as I was to your father.” Dean rolled his eyes as Cas swung his feet down to the floor and pulled open the door beside him. The creaking sound filled the still night air around them. The muffled sounds of music pulsed from inside the Roadhouse. Dean flung open the driver's door as Cas slammed his own door shut, then the blonde picked up his last beer and scooted over into the passenger seat, watching as Cas groaned and clutched his torso as he slid into the driver's seat and closed the door.

“The Empty really gave you a beating, huh?” Cas’s mouth formed a thin line as he stared out of the Impala’s windscreen. He sighed then turned to Dean.

“It was Lucifer.” Dean’s mouth fell open and his brows dropped. He pulled his jaw closed, clenching it in anger.

“Lucifer?” He murmured savagely. Castiel looked back out of the front window. 

“It seemed he was certain he would be a part of the group of angels Jack had come to rescue, given Jack’s forgiving nature and Lucifer’s biological advantage. Rather than help fight the Empty, he took it upon himself to execute his personal vendetta and...” Cas sighed. “I was useless. I did nothing to help further Jack’s infiltration. I barely made it out of there alive. It was bad Dean. It was really bad. I--”. Dean placed his hand on Cas’s shoulder and nodded at him, gruffly.

“Hey. I’m sure you did the best you could, man. I doubt anyone blames you for getting taken down a notch by the actual devil.” Cas pulled his lips into a thin line and reluctantly nodded back. Dean slowly lowered his hand and pulled on his seatbelt, then sighed, and took a gulp of beer. Cas brought the Impala to life as he turned the key, the engine purred. 

“Should I put this on?” Cas asked, flashing the new cassette tape from his pocket.

“Woah, Cas. No way. I can’t be there when you listen to it.” Dean laughed. Cas shook his head, baffled, but didn't reply as he placed the tape back into his trenchcoat. The gravel crunched under the Impala's wheels as they pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road. Dean smiled.

“I can’t believe you’re here, man-- I can't believe I’m here.” he laughed, astonished, as he watched the world zip by out of the window. Cas sat in silence staring out at the road ahead of them. The car had made its way into a farming area. Barns littered the horizon, lighting up distant paddocks full of grain.

“What?” Dean asked at Castiel's lack of response. Cas repositioned his hands against the steering wheel, sighing deeply. “Cas, What is it?” Dean questioned again, his voice gruff and now full of worry. Castiel flicked the indicator and pulled the Impala off to the side of the road. He leaned his head against the steering wheel for a moment, collecting himself, before turning in his seat to face Dean.

“You’re not supposed to be here, Dean. Sam is, Jack told me... I get it, honestly, I wouldn’t have expected anything else from you-- it's just-- I--” Castiel eye’s frantically searched Dean, imploring him to understand, and he slowly shook his head. Dean sighed. 

“Yeah, well.” Dean shrugged. “It is what it is, I guess”. He took a long swig from his beer. Cas sighed again and wiped a hand over his mouth in frustration before starting the car. 

The two were silent as Cas drove on. Dean’s thoughts were of Cas as they sat there silently in the front seat. Dean felt safe again for the first time in months; relaxed, deeply calm, and he knew that it was simply Castiel's presence that he had to thank for that. He wanted to elaborate, to bring up the prayer he had so carelessly yelled at Castiel earlier, let him know that this is what he had meant by feeling weak; that Cas made him feel safe, protected, cozy. But Dean also knew that drunkenly admitting that would only make things more complicated. Lucifer suddenly plagued Dean's thoughts, the way he ran up the stairs in the bunker, completely euphoric at the prospect of Cas’ return, not an ounce of doubt or fear for the first time in his entire life, only to have everything come crashing down around him. Dean swallowed hard. He tried desperately to stop his grief, pain, any feelings really, from completely overwhelming him as he sat there, so close to Castiel but feeling so far away. He was suddenly pulled from his thoughts. A smile spread over his face as he turned to Cas, quizzically.

“Was that just four right turns in a row?” Dean asked.

“We had to keep the bunker hidden. We didn’t want anyone to stumble upon it accidentally.” Dean nodded slowly.

“Right... because the super-secret hidden bunker needs to be even more hidden.” He replied, sarcastically.

“Exactly,” Cas stated in earnest while pulling up the brakes and switching off the car. Dean unbuckled himself and turned to open the car door.

“Dean, wait,” Cas spoke as he reached out, his hand lightly clutched at Dean's wrist for a moment before he undid his own seatbelt. Dean turned towards the angel, Cas’ blue eyes shone in the moonlight. “Before you go in there's something I have to tell you.” He sighed, “There's something you need to know about Jack.”

Chapter Text

Dean staggered into the bunker feeling uncertain and anxious about what he may be walking into. He followed Cas’ frustratingly light footfalls down the stairs and into the war room. The clang of his rubber-soled boots on the metal steps echoed throughout the room. He came to a stop at the bottom of the stairs. 

“You redecorated”. Dean’s voice reverberated as he gestured his chin toward the tiled wall beside him. Castiel turned to look at him blankly. Dean smiled, squinting, and shook his head. “Joke,” he explained, then nervously smacked his lips, before he sat himself down by the map table slowly, drunkenly, almost missing the chair completely on the first attempt. He placed the remnants of his beer on the table beside him and cleared his throat. Cas’s brows furrowed.

“You’re nervous”. He concluded. Dean scoffed, looking away. 

“I’m-- I-” He shook his head and sucked his teeth, before chuckling and nodding, then flashed his eyebrows up. Cas stared at him, studying him, with a smirk on his face. “Yeah, okay. Alright!” Dean laughed. “Shut up!” Cas shook his head and took a seat beside him, bending forward, his eyes alight with warm kindness.

“I’m sure he’ll forgive you if you want me to go wake him up now?” Dean's eyes bulged.

“And then have to deal with trying to get him to go back to sleep? Nah. I’ll pass, thanks.” Dean turned as a short, hippy-looking man with wavy grey hair, in long denim overalls, and no shoes appeared from in the hallway. 

“Castiel.” He nodded toward him, “and you must be…” Cas shifted, sitting up straighter.

“This is--”

“Dean Winchester.” Dean interrupted, placing his bottle on the table, standing, and extending his hand. “And you are?”

“Penemue, but you can call me Penny.” The man replied, taking Dean's hand in his and shaking it. “So, you’re him, huh?” Penny asked. Dean looked to Cas awkwardly before plonking himself back down in his seat. Castiel stared down at the floor by his feet.

“Uh… Probably?” Dean squinted at him. 

“Is Jack asleep?” Cas asked, slowly raising his eyes to Penny. 

“Since about seven o'clock. Kelly headed home pretty much straight after that. Jack made you this in art therapy” Penemue replied, handing Cas a piece of paper. He smiled down and the image, curiosity caused Dean to groan slightly as he rose out of his chair again, and walked over to Cas, peering over his shoulder at the image. The drawing was done in crayon of a small brickwork house, crass in detail but rich in talent. The building was shaped like a rectangle with a triangle for a roof, it was colored in red and orange bricks, with a yellow door and blue windows. The house sat atop a green hill, and spilling out of each of the two windows, and into the sky, were two large black outlines of, many-eyed, many winged monsters that smiled at each other. 

“He kept calling it a welcome home present.” Penny shook his head, “He was a little confused.” Cas smiled and turned to Dean, holding the picture out to him.

“I think it was meant for you.” Dean slowly gripped the picture, his hand brushing against Castiel’s soft skin. Dean inspected the drawing closely, it dawned on him what the drawing was probably supposed to depict; the two giant inconceivable creatures that hovered out of the house's windows and into the blue sky, were most likely Cas and Jack, their true forms.

“Uh, thanks.” He nodded, flicking the paper. “I’ve always known what my room was missing was some of God’s crayon art”. Dean grinned as he pressed the paper to his chest and nodded to himself. He placed the drawing into his back pocket. 

“Well, I’m gonna head home,” Penemue stated, his eyes flicked from Cas to Dean. 

“Yes. Thank you, Penny.” Cas said, before clearing his throat. 

“Unless you need anything”. Penemue addressed Cas, then unmistakably, glanced at Dean again. Dean rolled his eyes and trudged back over to stand by his seat, lifting his beer to his mouth.

“No. That's all. Thanks Pen, you’ve been a big help”. Cas nodded overenthusiastically. Penemue eyes narrowed for a moment before he shook his head, then disappeared in a beat of wings. Dean leered at Cas, licking his lips and putting his free hand in his pocket. 

“What’s with Mrs. Doubtfire?” Cas shook his head.

“Penemue is an old friend. He's been on Earth for over a Millenia providing your people with wisdom”. Dean frowned and sat back down, placing his feet back upon the map table, crossing his ankles, and leaning his back against the chair.

“If you two are such great pals, then how come I’ve never met him before?” He asked, taking another gulp of his beer.

“Penemue was one of the first angels stationed to watch the people of Earth. Once he saw all the wonders of humanity first hand...” Cas smiled, “he helped you by teaching your people to read and write. To the legions of heaven, this was seen as a blasphemous act that could lead to free will, and therefore, corruption and sin. He was cast out of heaven shortly after. He never returned to who he had once been, he wandered earth alone for eons. The only reason he’s agreed to rejoin us here in Heaven is because he fell in love and his husband--,” Cas swallowed, “died. Decades ago. They are finally reunited in this new Heaven.”

“I don’t even know where to start with that. So he’s been hanging out on earth this whole time? Where was he when all of… everything ... was going down? Just saying, could have used the extra firepower” Cas set his jaw.

“He was on the run, Dean. Need I remind you how impermissible it was for angels to fraternize with humans, up until very recently?” 

“Oh, so that's-- you’re, uh--” Dean swallowed, “fraternize-ing? Like he, uh, his husband-- they, uh, get a free pass now in heaven to… fraternize?” Dean flashed an attempt at a smirk. Castiel narrowed his eyes and tilted his head, before his eyes widened and rolled to the back of his head, dramatically.

“That wasn’t intended as a sexual innuendo, however, yes, the council is somewhat laxer regarding their rules on interdimensional “fraternizing”.” He air quoted, “For example, all Nephilim are to be monitored, rather than slew from now on... for obvious reasons.” 

“The council?” Dean questioned, his brows raised. Castiel nodded.

“Oh, yeah. Uh, Heaven is being run by an elected council of angels now. We have taken it upon ourselves to create a democracy.” Dean pulled the corners of his mouth down and nodded, raising his eyebrows. 

“Impressive.” he stated, “So, who exactly is on this council? Just so I know who to suck up to if I want a deluxe suite.” Cas pulled his lips tight.

“There’s Michael, obviously.” Dean opened his mouth to speak, Cas closed his, patiently, a smile formed on his mouth, signaling for Dean to continue. 

“I’m guessing Michael isn't walking around looking like Adam now, right? Now that Adam’s, uh, like... an angel?” Cas nodded.

“He’s found a new vessel. A twenty-three-year-old french man who was comatose from a motorcycle accident, yet, just alive enough to pray for death. It's quite a sad story, but the vessel is now vacant so Michael intends to stay in it for as long as possible. That's another thing The Council encourages; The use of empty vessels rather than continuing to break up families.” Cas rubbed at his eye. Dean could tell Cas was getting tired, his injuries were clearly bad enough for him to need to sleep which Dean knew meant that his grace was fading.

“Well... good.” Dean nodded. “You alright, man? We can finish this conversation in the morning if you need some shut-eye?” Cas grinned sheepishly. 

“I’m okay. I’ve been cooped up for days, subjected to bed rest. It's nice to be able to converse, be around people, again.” Dean nodded, as he tried not to take Cas’s comment to heart, hiding his smile behind the bottle and taking another drink.

“So, the rest of The Council.” Dean prompted while attempting a serious face.  

“Right. So there's Metatron, which honestly surprised me, considering how he was the reason so many of us died, and all of us fell.” Cas considered his words, “Well, I am too, so I suppose that’s a little hypocritical of me. His followers have always been fanatics, I assume they believe he’ll keep heaven relatively conservative.” Cas shook his head, clearly weary. “There's also Gabriel,” Cas evidently noticed Dean’s confusion at this. “He is an archangel so it’s an understandable choice.” 

“And he’s on board with it?” Dean asked, clarifying the reason for his drawn brows.

“He seems to have found a renewed devotion for our family since making it out of the Empty.” Dean nodded. “Then there's Joshua, again, an understandable choice considering his popularity among the more traditional voters. Then Balthazar, and me.” Castiel stated quickly, looking somewhere between embarrassed and humble.

“You?” Dean emphasized, he put his feet back on the floor and leaned forward, toward Castiel.

“Yes… I’m not sure what the thought process was there but it seems I made the cut.” 

“You’re not sure-- Cas, no need to act modest.” Dean teased. Castiel rolled his eyes with a smile. 

“I’m pretty sure I was just voted in as a regent to Jack.” Dean downed the remainder of his beer and dramatically jumped up from his chair at the same time as setting his empty bottle down on the map table. He stood over Cas, looking down on him from above. Cas stared up at him, the inside edges of his brows raised and his mouth pulled together in a line of uncertainty. 

“You got the damned job because you earned it.” Dean placed his hands on Cas’s shoulders then pat Cas on the cheek gently. “Now, let's go to sleep because just looking at you is making me tired.” Castiel sighed and rose. 

Dean stood back, giving him enough room to leave the table, followed Cas out of the war room, and into the hallway. Dean stopped short once he reached the wooden door marked with an 11, while Castiel continued walking until he came to a stop at room 15, turning back to face Dean. Dean clenched and unclenched his jaw as he watched the uncertainty spread over Cas’s face. Dean wanted to speak, to say anything at all but his mind suddenly drew a blank. His throat closed over with the intense and sudden memory of Castiel’s tear-streaked face as he was engulfed by the bubbling black goo of the Empty. He inhaled sharply and swung open his bedroom door before taking a hesitant step back, his eyes still on Castiel. Cas’s brows furrowed as he searched Dean's face. Dean swallowed in a desperate attempt at coating his dry throat. He studied Castiel’s face for any sign, of any clue to, what he could possibly be thinking, his nonexistent heart hammered loudly in his nonexistent chest. After what felt like an eternity, Cas walked up toward Dean and into room 11, flicking on the light. Dean let out a breath he didn't realize he had been holding and followed the angel into his room.

Castiel took his regular place on his side of the bed. He watched as Dean gingerly removed Jack's drawing from the back pocket of his jeans. He lay it against the bed smoothing out the creases and placed it upon his shelf by the picture of himself at three years old held by his mom. Then Dean, full of feigned bravado, pulled off his shoes, socks, jeans, and red button-down shirt, and climbed in under the covers, only wearing his black t-shirt and underpants.

“You really sleeping in all that?” He asked, taking in the sight of Cas sitting atop his blanket in his trenchcoat, suit, and shoes.

"Oh, uhh--" Cas swallowed, standing up, he began to remove his coat. Dean jumped up and retrieved his phone from his jeans pocket as Castiel continued to get undressed, his eyes trained away from the angel. Dean unlocked his phone to "(1) new message from Mom". He opened the message and climbed back into bed.

"Dean. Sorry about all that earlier with your Dad and 👼Castiel👼. I've had some words with him so hopefully, he'll be on his best behavior tomorrow night. The place is called "Heavenly Burgers" 💩 name, I know, but it's good, I swear. I'm personally skipping lunch so I have enough room for two 🍔🍔 🤫. Meet us at 6:00 pm so we have time to catch up. Looking forward to seeing you! 😜”

Dean chuckled to himself as he felt Cas climb into the bed beside him. He texted a quick reply.

"Sounds good. I'll be there. Nice use of emojis 🍔🥧🤡🥓🍺🎸👻🗡️". Dean pressed his thumb down on random emojis from his most recently used list, his head snapped toward the angel, as Castiel's laughter boomed through the bedroom. Cas was now shirtless and under the sheets, looking over Dean’s shoulder at his phone.

"Who in the hell taught her how to use emojis?" Dean chuckled. Cas shrugged.

"I like the way she used the cherubs on either side of my name". Dean laughed and placed his phone down on the nightstand beside him, plugging it in to charge. He felt grateful for his mom. Having his dad back in his life... death… maybe wouldn't be as horrible as he had imagined with Mary there to keep John in check. He considered his memory, the one he had been too young to really remember until he'd ventured into the previous heaven, one of many moments where he had to comfort his mom when John and she had been in some huge dumb argument over nothing. He wondered how long it would take, with eternity together in heaven, before his parent's love-filled reunion turned sour. 

"What are you thinking about?" Castiel asked, interrupting Dean's thoughts. Dean peered at him. Cas' blue eyes shone at him, full of concern.

"Just thinking about Sammy, missing out on all this family bonding." Dean fluffed up the pillow behind him and lay down. 

"If it's any consolation, it'll feel like no time before Sam arrives". Dean angled his head backward to look up at Cas. 

"Yeah, that's the opposite of what I wanna hear". Cas sighed and lay down. "You think you could get any of your angel pals to pop by and deliver a message to him for me? Maybe someone who could take your usual gig while you're stuck up here?" Cas considered this.

"I may be able to convince Abner to watch over you brother. What would you have him say?" Dean shrugged.

"Something along the lines of "Hi, I'm not trapped in a prison of my happy memories for all eternity? I get to walk and talk and be... kind of... alive…" ...or something." Cas nodded slowly, uncertain.

"You think that's wise? Sam might find it harder to move on if you're still in contact with him. He may try to bring you back". Dean scoffed before thinking over Cas's words. 

"Is there a way he could bring me back?" He questioned. Cas sighed.

"I don't know, Dean. The two of you are constantly defying all odds so I wouldn't rule anything out. Why, though? Are you not at peace?" Cas warm breath curled scentless around Dean's nose. Dean sighed.

"I mean, I wanna be. There's nothing wrong with this place, it's just… what am I supposed to do up here with all this spare time? Play golf? Open a brewery? I'm already itching for a hunt". Cas pursed his lips, his eyes searched Dean's. "What?" Dean asked, his brow lowered.

"Something's deeply wrong with you". Dean's brows shot up as he exploded in laughter.

"Wow, thanks, Cas, that's very sweet of you". Castiel rolled his eyes.

"I mean something is preventing you from finding peace. You seem to have unresolved issues that are keeping you from accessing the tranquility available for you here." Dean huffed and licked his lips squinting at Cas. 

"Yeah, I don't think I'm gonna be able to solve any of my unresolved issues anytime soon... so that's awesome." Dean sighed. His stomach felt tight suddenly as he worried over the concept of being out of place in heaven forever; Being trapped in an afterlife where everyone was happy and at peace while he walked around, perpetually bitter over dying young. There was something he could do to make heaven feel a little bit more like a home all he had to do was move. Move one arm. Just lift that one left arm and place it upon Cas's torso. He searched Cas' eyes while the angel's azure eyes bore into him in return. He so desperately wanted, at this moment, to ask Cas to go through his dramatic as shit speech with him. He wanted to dissect it together, word by word; ask for clarification of each sentence, to ensure he could comprehend what exactly Cas had meant. Yet, Dean knew he should wait until the morning until he had a clear, sober mind. It seemed possible, it wasn't too far away, after all. Maybe in the morning, when the room stops spinning, Dean will have found the courage. "Night, Cas," Dean said rolling over and turning off the lamp beside him. Castiel sighed and turned off the light on his side. 

"Goodnight, Dean." Castiel's voice spoke into the dark.

Chapter Text

Dean woke slightly to an arm in his face. His memory flooded back and he took a moment to mentally fist pump at the evident lack of a hangover. Heaven's perks were starting to pile up.  

The back of Dean's head was hidden in Cas’s armpit. Castiel's arm lay atop Dean’s, his hand slotted between Dean’s hand and the bed. Dean breathed in deeply, closing his eyes again, relaxing into the soft memory foam of his bed, a small smile on his face as he started to drift off again. 

When Dean woke the second time that morning his face was buried into Castiel's neck, whose arm draped protectively over Dean’s waist. Dean inhaled loudly through his nose, a grin spreading to his eyes, crinkling in the corners. He peered up in time to see Castiel’s eyes flutter open, a moment of confusion flitted across his face before he pulled his arm back from its clasp.

“Sorry.” He croaked, squinting down at Dean. Dean’s smile faded, though he kept his arm where it lay on Cas’s chest. He plonked his head back against the bed, by Cas’s neck. They’d woken up in the same bed together before a fair few times. When they’d watched movies together, or when they’d had limited options from hotels, even when Dean needed to get shitfaced and vent to his best friend about whatever current apocalypse was kicking his ass. 

He should have seen Cas’s reaction coming, really. Each time he had woken up tangled in Cas’s limbs Dean had made some kind of shitty comment. “We clearly need to get laid”, or sometimes a simple “Get off me, Sleeping Beauty”, and on the rare and special occasions when Cas still had his grace (and therefore had stayed awake all night, simply happy enough to not wake Dean from where he lay, a cage of limbs enveloping the angel) he’d hit him with something along the lines of “What the hell is wrong with you, man? That’s so creepy”. You know, just to make sure he really let Cas know how safe and comfortable and loved he had made Dean feel. 

“Don’t worry about it”. Dean mumbled into Cas’s neck. After a short moment of waiting in vain for Cas’s arm to find its way back to him like a fleshy seatbelt, Dean pulled his arm back and propped himself up on his elbows, squinting up at Cas. Castiel stared at Dean, eyes flicking across his face, searching him. “Morning, sunshine”. Dean said, clearing his throat. Castiel, his hair sticking up at all angles, adjusted the pillow behind him slightly and pulled himself up into a sitting position.

“Good Morning. How did you sleep?”

“Yeah, good. Really good, actually. What about you? Did you manage to get some Z’s?” Dean asked, hesitantly, while Castiel continued to search his face.

“Uh, yes. I did. I actually dreamt last night… not a nightmare, a dream... for the first time in…” Cas glanced upwards in thought “...since I was last a human.” Dean smiled.

“A dream, huh? What about?” He smirked suggestively. Cas squinted at him for a moment before replying.

“I dreamt that I was a cook at a restaurant. I had a vast selection of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from along with various herbs and spices. I knew exactly what flavors worked well together and people came from far and wide to taste my meals.” He smiled to himself, his eyes distant as he recalled his memory. “It was incredible”. Dean’s stomach squeezed. He swallowed hard and subconsciously licked at his lips, then inhaled sharply and pat Cas on his bare shoulder. 

“Okay, Gordon Ramsey. Well, I’m gonna put on a pot of coffee, you wanna join me?” He asked as he pulled himself up out of the bed, placing his robe on from where it draped over the back of his chair, removing his phone from its charger, and placing it in his robe pocket.

“Yeah, a coffee sounds good.” Castiel agreed. He rose carefully from where he sat and placed his shirt, pants, and socks on, and the two of them walked from Dean's room into the kitchen. 

Cas sat stiffly at the kitchen table, watching silently as Dean filled the pot with water and poured the ground coffee into the filter. The room filled with the smell of the heating beans. Dean turned toward Castiel abruptly.

“Okay, man. We need to talk.” He nodded, his brows knit together as he peered through his squinted eyes at the angel. Recognition spread across Castiel's features slowly at the realization of Dean's inferred topic of conversation. 

“We don’t have to talk about it, Dean”. He stated, his eyes fixed to the knot in the wooden table in front of him. Dean swallowed then huffed out a short humorless laugh.

“Trust me. We do.” Dean croaked. Castiel put his head in his hands, rubbing at his eyes.

“I don’t mean to diminish what I had said back then, but you were correct when you said that it wasn’t fair of me to say that to you. I had fully intended for those to be the last words I would ever speak. I’m more than happy for things to go back to the way they have always been between us”. Dean’s mouth opened slightly as he attempted to make sense of Cas’s words. The alarm beeped from behind him to signal that the coffee was ready and Dean took that as an excuse to turn away from the angel, his demeanor breaking, his heart plummeted. 

Cas wanted things to go back to the way they were? Dean considered, for a moment, the implications of that statement. Did that mean that, in some reality, things would have changed between them? That implied that at that moment before the Empty had taken Cas, he had meant "I love you" as in… "I love you", right? Dean’s breathing increased as he stared at the pot in front of him. Castiel seemed to have just casually implied that he, a literal angel, a powerful, cosmic being, had previously told Dean that he loved him. Not like a brother, not like the overused vague “Family” type of love that they often spoke of, but love; Cas loved him.

Dean’s chest rose and fell rapidly. He felt like he had been cheated. He hadn’t even known that Angels were capable of having feelings and emotions like that. Love seemed too finite and far below such immeasurable beings. Now, standing there staring blankly at the ever cooling dark liquid before him, Dean realized he was too late to his revelation, before he could even comprehend Cas’s true meaning, the words were snatched back from him, leaving him breathless and alone.

Dean tried desperately to restore his facade, his mind raced ahead of him as he struggled to understand how any of this could have possibly happened. Could Castiel’s monologue have been some kind of deathbed confession that he had overemphasized internally and now regretted? Was he taking his words back because Dean had yelled all that pent-up, frustrated bullshit in his dumb prayer the other day? Dean stared at the two mugs he didn’t realize he’d placed on the bench. One read “I hate Mondays” with a picture of Garfield, the other, a present from Jack to Dean that read, “Don’t talk to me until my coffee has had its coffee”. Dean’s hands shook as he filled the mugs. He felt the anger rising inside him. He wanted to punch the wall, run away, yell, cry, instead he simply lifted a mug in each hand and slid into the seat opposite Castiel, placing Sam’s Garfield cup in front of Cas. He avoided looking at Cas and sipped at the scalding hot coffee. 

“What’s wrong?” Cas questioned, frustratingly immediately. Dean sniffed and placed his drink down in front of him, dragging his eyes up to meet the angel's blue ones.

“Nothing. Why?” He asked, attempting his best straight face.

“You’re mad at me.” Castiel declared it as a statement.  

“I’m-- I’m not, man. Just drop it.” He chuckled in frustration, lifting his coffee and taking another try at sipping down the boiling hot liquid.

“Dean?” Cas’s voice was thin, gentle.

“Cas,” Dean warned. Cas sighed in exacerbation then raised his cup to his lips, blowing tentatively at the steam before carefully drinking. “So, what time’s the kid usually get up?” Dean asked, changing the subject.

“Not for an hour or so, usually”. Cas replied. Dean raised his brows and nodded. 

“Great.” He took a swig at the now slightly cooler coffee. Dean’s phone buzzed from inside the soft gray fabric of his robe pocket. He fished it out and clicked on the screen where it read: "(4) new messages from Charlie Weasley". Dean still hadn't gotten around to reading Harry Potter or even seeing the movies but he’d googled the plot after Charlie had changed her ID in his phone, which he figured was practically the same thing. 

“Yo, I feel like we should catch up properly when you get a minute. Hit me back.” Dean frowned reading the next text. He felt Cas’s eyes on him. “You and Cas seemed super weird last night. Is everything ok? I’m obvi here if you wanna chat.” The last two texts were just a gif of one of the Kardashians, the short one, a phone to their ear with a subtitle that read, “This conversation is already too long. Bye.” and afterward Charlie simply wrote “You”. Dean chuckled and replied.

"Give me five minutes. I'll call you". Dean placed his phone down and skulled the rest of his coffee making eye contact with Castiel.

"I'm gonna hit the showers and then I gotta call Charlie. I'll meet you in Jack's room in an hour?" Confusion and hurt flashed in Cas's eyes.

"Would you like me to let you know if he wakes up before then?" He asked before taking another sip from his mug.

"Yeah. That'd be great, thanks." Dean placed his empty cup into the sink and walked from the kitchen without looking back.

 

-

 

Fifteen minutes later Dean sat on his bed in fresh clothes. Dark Jeans, a white t-shirt, and a light blue denim button-up. He clicked Charlie Weasley in his phone and brought it up to his ear. Her voice rang through the other end almost immediately.

"What up, bitch?" Dean smiled.

"Hey, Charlie. How'd you pull up?" Charlie scoffed on the other side of the phone.

"Duh, no hangovers in heaven, dude. I've just been out for breakfast with my mom at some waffle house just outside of the eighteen hundred's city. Have you driven out there? It's crazy, there are all these people in, like, legit horse and carts. It's so rad." 

"Yeah… No… I just drove about an hour north and ended up in some small town then drove straight back here and days had passed so… I'm happy to stay at base camp for as long as I can". 

"Oh, yeah! I've heard about that! Apparently, it's happening to a bunch of the newbies, like, if they have nobody here, time speeds up for them. Wild that it happened to you though, like, basically everyone you know is here, right?" Dean chuckled and repositioned his cell to the other ear.

"Yeah, almost... But your mom, huh? That's awesome! When do I get to meet old lady Middleton?" Dean picked at a loose thread on the hem of his shirt.

"Funny you should ask. I'm actually gonna be organizing an event and I'm trying to get everyone I know to commit to coming, just in case the whole thing is a bust and nobody turns up." Dean snickered. "So, it's a Pride march...” She paused a moment before continuing, “I'm thinking, like, anyone can walk, there'll be drag performances, live music, food trucks, and stuff. I'm organizing it with this angel, and he ran it all by the Council, so it's all going through the official channels, and everything, so hopefully it'll be good and... I'm rambling." she laughed.

"Uh--" Dean swallowed. He poured as much enthusiasm into his voice as he could muster. "Well, I'll definitely go to support you. I can try get a group of us to go. We'll be your ally cheer squad". Charlie was silent for a moment, the only sound was Dean’s heartbeat in his ears. He continued to wonder how he even had a heartbeat without a body.

"Thanks, Dean.” she began, her voice was hesitant, "Sooooo…” She drew out the vowel, “You wanna talk about Castiel?" Dean cleared his throat.

"Sure. What about him?" He scratched at his nose, squinting in hopes of a nonchalant tone.

"Well, I don't know? You two seemed so happy and normal the last time I saw you. But then, last night, you were obviously avoiding each other until I Parent Trapped you... and then you both just disappeared without saying goodbye? Super weird behavior if you ask me". Dean nodded to himself, his eyes trained on his closed door.

"Right, uh, yeah. Sorry about that. Things got a little weird so I figured I'd go with the ol' Irish goodbye, ya know?" There was a rustling sound on the other end of the line that Dean could only assume was the sound of Charlie nodding.

"So, I can invite Castiel to Pride too? Like, things won't be awkward for you?" She questioned.

"What? No. Things are fine. Do whatever you wanna do."

"Okay, sure. Good. Because I'm thinking I might try set Castiel up with this Gayngel helping me organize the whole thing." Dean froze, his heart pounded in his chest. 

"Oh, who-- Um. Thing is-- like, you uh-- you--" Charlie's voice cut through Dean’s attempt at some kind of sentence.  

"Yeah, he's like this big rustic farmer, like, painter, looking guy--”

“Wait, his name isn’t Penny, is it?” Dean interrupted. 

“Oh, cute. So you’ve met?” Dean scoffed.

“Yeah, the guys married, Charlie. Got some dead guy he’s already committed to.” Dean’s breath hitched “Wait that is what you mean, right? Set him up as in… set him up?” 

“Uh, yeah, duh! But… Damn. Well, maybe we can both be on the lookout for someone because honestly, like, I'm not one hundred percent sure-- and I don't wanna be overbearing here, but, I get super closeted vibes from Castiel, don't you? Like, he really gets my Gaydar pinging and he totally deserves to be happy, don't you think?" Dean sighed as he rubbed his hand over his face.

"Okay." He sighed, "Okay, enough. I can see what you're doing."

"What do you mean?" Charlie asked, her voice seemed genuinely uncertain. Dean suddenly found it hard to breathe. A voice in his head screamed at him to hang up the phone and throw it at the wall. He imagined how satisfying it would be to watch the glass rain down across the floor as physical evidence he’d evaded a moment of vulnerability.

He had told Charlie about Cas before the two of them had met and she seemed to immediately start, not so subtly, dropping hints about how “dreamy” or “handsome” he seemed based on Dean’s descriptions alone, which would have been totally fine... if she wasn't a raging lesbian. She clearly saw it on Dean’s face from the get-go and had been gently trying to pull it out of him ever since. All of it was just so overwhelming. With the morning’s epiphany bouncing around his mind and tearing at his stomach, he couldn’t help but feel as if he’d backed himself into a corner. He was sick of being so afraid, he just wanted to rest, to put the heaviness he carried down for just a moment, and yet, he now felt like he’d just exposed himself to Charlie without her even asking. 

"Please tell me you're joking". He managed. There was a pause from the other end of the phone. Dean rested his head in his spare hand as he waited.

"I-- Ugh, okay. I maybe was testing the waters a bit but… I was right though, right?" Dean closed his eyes and sniffed. He didn’t know what to say.

“Yeah,” he admitted. He cleared his throat, attempting to imitate his usual bravado, “Yeah. So this whole thing you just testing the waters, or is there really gonna be live music and food trucks at this march?” Dean had a knock on his door. He inhaled sharply. “Hold on a sec,” He placed his hand over the receiver and swallowed hard. “Yeah?” he called, gruffly. Castiel opened the door a crack, his brows raised. 

“Jack’s up if you wanna…” he trailed off as he gestured a head tilt toward Jack's room down the hallway. 

“I’ll be right there,” Dean nodded. Castiel smiled an awkward smile and then shut the door behind him. Dean dropped his back onto his bed and lifted his phone back up to his ear. 

“Yeah, Charlie, I gotta go. God’s just woken up.” He chuckled. 

“Sure, tell him ‘Hi’ from me and that ‘I’m a big fan of his work’.” Dean laughed. 

“Okay will do.” He pulled his phone from his ear and brought his finger to the “END CALL” button when he heard Charlie speak again from the other end.

“And make sure to give Cas a big kiss from me”.

Chapter Text

Dean opened the door to Jack's bedroom and froze. His mind raced as his eyes scanned the visuals around him. He hesitantly took a step into the room, his boots sinking ever so slightly into the grass where the concrete floor had once been.

Long lush green grass replaced the whole flooring throughout the room, bright wildflowers peppered the area. In the corner of the room, where the concrete wall met the bricks, a large apple tree bloomed. The tree had four brilliant red apples the size of basketballs hanging from the front branches, each of the apples printed with a letter to spell out the name “Jack”. The ceiling of the room was missing completely, or at least it would seem that way had they not been in an underground bunker and had Dean not been able to recall the absence of a gaping hole in the earth when he arrived last night. Clouds scattered the light blue sky in unnatural shapes. A cloud the shape of a bunny, hopped by as Dean made his way wide-eyed, toward where Castiel stood, Jack, now a toddler, balanced upon his hip. In the chair in the far corner sat another angel, a woman with dark hair, eyes, and skin, her hair pulled back out of her face, a book upon her lap and a pen in her hand, she regarded Dean carefully. A tank sat on the table beside her, inside it a snake slept under the warm light. Jack turned in Cas’s arms and beamed a smile at Dean. 

“Dean!” Jack called. His voice came out much higher pitch, younger sounding than Dean had ever heard. Jack wriggled frantically in an attempt at an escape and Castiel placed the toddler on the ground. Dean laughed as Jack ran kneelessly toward him, his torso covered by a shirt that read "In my defense, I was left unsupervised". Jack enveloped Dean's shins in a tight hug.

“Woahhhh” Dean bellowed at the impact. He bent down, placing his thumbs under Jack's armpits, and groaned dramatically as he lifted the kid and placed him against his hip. 

“Hey, little man.” He chuckled, “You’re heavy for such a small thing, aren’t ya?... Must be the weight of the world that's on your shoulders.” He grinned at the angel in the chair who shook her head, smiling. 

“I’ve missed you!” Jack squeezed him and plonked his head against Dean’s chest.

“I missed you too, kid! You do all this? Your decorating skills are intense!” Jack stared up at him blankly. 

“We think he must have. Nobody else has claimed it as their work”. Cas answered from where he now sat on Jack's bed. 

“Well, it's awesome.” he ruffled his free hand through Jack's hair, “Thanks for the drawing yesterday. Cas gave it to me, but if it was supposed to be for him, I can give it back.”

“Nooooo.” Jack rolled his whole head with his eyes, “I gave it to you, silly!” he smiled “A welcome home present!” Dean smiled confusedly at Castiel. 

“Well thanks! It’s good to be back. I’m glad you remember me, buddy, after all you did, taking on the empty like that? It's good to see you're still kicking.” Jack looked confused again and his whole body became slack as he lifted his arms up, signaling for Dean to place him back down on the ground. 

“Come play,” Jack said, curling his hand around two of Dean’s fingers and pulling him over to a pile of toys by a box at the end of his bed. Jack released Dean, who placed his hands upon his knees as he groaned, and bent down to sit in the grass at the end of the bed. Castiel smiled down at them as Jack started rummaging through the toys, handing Dean a Transformer and a Barbie. The Barbie looked like it had seen better days, its clothes had been removed and its hair stood up straight. Dean thought she looked like she’d had a particularly fun night. 

“That’s my mom and dad,” Jack explained to Dean, “and this is my other dad, and my other, other, dad.” He handed Castiel a fire truck and a rubber duck. “And this is me!” He grabbed a yellow beanie baby and plopped himself down, his diaper meeting the grass. 

“Hello. My name is Jack” he said walking his teddy over to Dean.

“Hey, Jack! I’m, uh, Kelly?” Dean replied looking between Castiel and the angel in the corner for confirmation. Castiel grunted as he clutched his ribs and took a seat in the grass between Dean and Jack. 

“Can Rebecca play too, Jack?” Castiel asked, causing Jack to peer over Dean's shoulder at the angel sitting at his desk. He frowned and shrunk back down staring at his bear in his hands. 

“It's okay, Jack. I can just watch.” Rebecca smiled. She made a note in the A4 book she had placed upon her lap. Dean came to the conclusion that this Rebecca was perhaps whatever the Godly alternative of a child psychologist was.

"Hey, Beck. Dean" Dean raised a hand. "Sorry, Cas didn't introduce us, he still lacks certain social skills... I'm sure you're aware". Rebecca smiled and waved.

"Do not worry. I know who you are. Feel free to just ignore me. I am merely here to observe." She said nodding and raising her book. Castiel looked smugly back at Dean as if she'd just proved why he hadn't introduced the two earlier. Dean rolled his eyes and placed the barbie sitting down in the grass, leaning against his leg, and stood the transformer up in his hands. He lowered his voice.

“My name is Castiel. I am an angel of the lord, I like long walks along the beach, world peace, and insects”. He imitated in a clipped voice. Castiel wiggled the Firetruck on the ground. He chuckled.

“I’m Dean Winchester. I have the largest heart out of everyone created throughout all of human history, and we’re all aware of this, but you’re never allowed to ever speak of it or I will ignore your very existence for the remainder of eternity.” Dean stared at Cas, his eyes narrowed. 

“Yeah, well? Uh-oh, Jack! I made a stupid suicidal plan again,” He rambled, and placed the transformer behind his back, “So now I’m dead.” He shrugged, sarcastically, his eyes wide.

“Hey, come on Dean.” Castiel’s voice was slightly higher, “Cas only learned that from us!” he said as he moved the rubber duck around on the ground as if it were speaking.

“I don’t like this game.” Jack wined, throwing his arms down dramatically.

“Yeah, Cas, see? You’re upsetting the kid.” Dean said, twisting his back to direct his words to the transformer behind him. 

“I’m sorry! It’s just that I’m so damn mad all the time!” Cas said, imitating Dean, firetruck in his right hand again. “I just have this anger inside me that I can't stop feeling. I’m so full of hate and rage and only I can die to save the people I love because I deserve death”. Dean scoffed and shook his head. Dean’s impossibly high-pitched Kelly Barbie squeaked.

“Okay, Cas. Time to stop showing off for the shrink.” Dean placed her hand upon Castiel’s knee.

“I’m Jack, and I say that we all are going to see a movie at the theater, and mom buys me popcorn, and Dean laughs really loudly at the jokes, okay? Go!” 

Jack picked up the Beanie Baby in one hand and pushed Dean's other to his back, implying that he should retrieve the Transformer. Cas seated Dean!Firetruck and RubberDuck!Sam beside BeanieBaby!Jack and smugly looked expectantly at Dean. Dean rolled his eyes and placed the Transformer!Cas by the others before he stiffly walked Barbie!Kelly toward where the group of toys sat, pushing her torso back up when it fell, halfway. Dean cleared his throat and pursed his lips sitting up straighter to be in character. 

“Howdy, everyone! I brought y’all popcorn.” He peeped. Dean did a double-take, realizing that Cas’s mouth wavered as he attempted to hold his laughter in.

“Why, Castiel, You’re looking mighty thin, you are. May I offer you some pop-corn-n.” Dean chuckled as his acting skills faltered. 

“I want some!” Jack put his Beanie Baby’s hand up. 

“Well, here ya go sugah.” Dean sing-songed, as he made Barbie!Kelly jump over to BeanieBaby!Jack, and put her hand on his.

“Why, Kelly, I love your accent! Where was it you said you were from again?.” RubberDuck!Sam asked. 

“Oh, I’m from,” Dean snickered, “Kentucky?” He asked, laughing. Cas’s eyes closed as he burst into laughter, he leaned back clapping, his whole body shaking as his laughter boomed throughout the room. Dean watched Castiel with a proud smile on his face. It felt so good to make Cas laugh again. Jack looked between the two and giggled.

“You’re silly, Daddy.” He said, throwing himself back into the grass and laughing.

“You are!” Dean beamed and tickled Jack's belly. Jack stumbled as he attempted to pull himself up to a sitting position. Still smiling, he crawled on his knees toward Dean. 

“Can I show you a secret?” Jack asked, holding Dean's shoulders.

“Sure kid. You can show me anything you want.” He said, smiling at Jack and attempting a serious face. Jack laughed and brought his hand up to place his index and middle finger to Dean’s temple. 

 

Suddenly Dean's vision changed. He sat upon a brown leather couch in a warm room. There were paintings on the rustic wooden walls and a lit fireplace. Atop the mantle sat photos and books. Dean felt the soft fabric of the white shaggy rug beneath his feet. Upon the dark wood coffee table at his knees sat notepads and pens. In front of him stood Claire Novack, she held a marker in her hand and was tapping it against the easel next to her, Miracle sat at her feet. Dean tried to blink but his eyes didn’t close. He looked beside him to see Sam sitting on an armchair with Eileen on his lap. They yelled words that Dean couldn’t make out. It sounded like everything was underwater; the sounds were echoed, yet muffled. He looked to the other side of him. Cas sat grinning at Sam, bouncing Jack on his lap. 

 

Dean inhaled sharply and blinked.

 

His lungs expanded. 

 

He was back in Jack’s bedroom. 

 

Dean’s lungs retracted. 

 

Castiel stared at him, his mouth agape, his brows drawn. 

 

Dean’s lungs expanded. 

 

Jack looked up at him quizzically. 

 

Dean’s lungs retracted. 

 

Rebecca leaned forward on her seat toward him in worry. 

 

Dean’s lungs expanded. 

 

A knock from behind him made Dean turn as Kelly Kline popped her head around the door.

 

Dean’s lungs retracted. 

 

“Kelly. Hello. It’s lovely to see you, but If you’ll excuse me for a second. I have to speak to Dean”. Castiel grabbed Dean by the forearm and gently pulled him up to a standing position. 

“Uh, yeah,” Dean muttered as he breathlessly followed Castiel through the grass and into the hallway. 

Castiel pushed Dean toward the tiled wall of the hallway so Dean could steady himself then placed his hands on Dean's shoulders and searched his face, bobbing up and down and side to side, attempting to view him from different angles.

“What’s wrong, Dean?” Dean swallowed in an attempt to coat the dryness in his throat. “Dean? Answer me!” Cas growled.

“I’m fine,” Dean managed.

“You’re not fine, you’re--” Cas cocked his head to the side, “Are you having a panic attack? What did Jack show you?” Cas’s eyes were wide with concern.

“Cas, could ya give me a second, please?” Dean tried swatting Cas’s hands off of his shoulders but he seemed to have the strength of a three-year-old (not the godly kind).

Castiel's blue eyes bore into him. The angel snapped his index and middle fingers up to Dean’s head. Dean felt the familiar ecstasy of Cas’s grace flowing through him. His breathing slowed, his muscles relaxed. He exhaled tremendously, closing his eyes and slumping slightly against the wall. 

“Wait,” Dean murmured. He grabbed at Cas’s left hand that still gripped at his shoulder, “Wait a minute-- You--” He flung Cas’s hand off of him. “You have no Grace. What the hell are you doing!?” He pushed at Cas's chest lightly.

“Dean, I--” 

“Do you have a death wish? What the hell is wrong with you?!” 

“What’s wrong with me?” Castiel laughed, “Dean, what’s wrong with you? We're in heaven, my grace is slowly but surely renewing itself. You've been mad at me all day. If you weren’t yelling at me now for healing you, you'd be yelling at me about something else.” Dean scoffed.

“Yeah, Okay”. He grunted sarcastically and shook his head, avoiding eye contact. “It’s not about you risking your life for me, again. Why would it be?”

“You have been avoiding me all morning, long before this…” He sighed, “Did I do something wrong?” Cas’s voice was softer now. His eyes were wide and full of concern.

“No,” Dean admitted angrily.

“Is it because I... spooned you?” Dean cringed at the use of the term spoon. He scoffed and rolled his eyes. He felt heat rising in his cheeks.

“Guh, no, man! That was fine. I said it was. Maybe, I’m just stressed about going to see my folks later after you made shit weird last night.” Dean knew this was a low blow but Castiel was standing too close to him. He needed space, he needed to break something or go for a drive or something. Dean desperately wanted to go back to that morning, he wanted to be half awake tangled in Cas’s limbs, and if he couldn’t do that he needed to push Cas away, far away.

“Oh,” Cas nodded. “I was trying to stand up to John for you and you don't need me to protect you, because that makes you feel weak right?” he hissed.

“One, I sure as hell don't need you to stand up to my old man for me, and B, Would you give it a rest already?! I obviously didn't mean any of that!” Dean scrubbed at his mouth in frustration.

“Well, you said that you meant it.” Castiel reminded him. 

“Yeah, well, I say a lot of things.” Dean shrugged, his eyes wild. Castiel sighed and took a step back. He sniffed and nodded at Dean, seemingly content with his answer or at least content enough to drop the argument for now.

“What did Jack show you that caused you so much turmoil?” he breached gently. Dean shrugged.

“I-- I’m not sure.” he looked down at his boots. 

“Dean...” Dean shook his head slowly.

“It was… I think it was the future. Sam, Eileen, Claire, we were all--” he let out a burst of air in an exasperated laugh, “playing Pictionary.” Castiel’s head twitched to the side and he smiled broadly. 

“I assume that he wanted to show you that heaven will eventually start to feel more like a home, he can probably sense--”

“That something’s deeply wrong with me?” Dean finished, looking up into Cas’s eyes as he repeated Cas’s words from the night before. Cas sighed. 

“I said I didn’t mean it like that…” a smile reappeared on his face, “I say a lot of things,” he repeated. 

“You’re telling me,” Dean stated, holding Cas’s gaze. Castiel sighed again.

“If you would like, I could come with you and apologize to your father for my behavior,” Castiel suggested, missing the point of Dean's dig. His voice was gentle, his eyes roaming over Dean’s face.

“I don't know, man.” Dean sighed, he turned his eyes to the ceiling and pushed his head to the cold tiled wall, “Only if you actually want to”. 

“I don’t, but I will do it for you”. Cas smiled solemnly. Dean snickered, he couldn’t help but still feel trapped in the small hallway, Castiel merely a foot away.

“You do whatever you want.” he cleared his throat, “So are we good now? Can we head back in?” Dean raised his brows and glanced back at the doorway.

“Only if you’re done being mad at me”. Dean laughed a single frustrated chuckle. 

“I was never mad at you!” he shook his head in bewilderment. 

“Dean.” Castiel’s voice remained calm, level.

“Cas, I swear to God,” Dean replied, his anger slowly fading at the sight of a smile expanding over Castiel’s face. Dean’s own mouth reluctantly wavered as he rolled his eyes and shook his head. “It's not funny.” He stated, biting at his lips to keep himself from smiling. Castiel snickered and shook his head again. 

“I sent the angel Azrael to watch over Sam. He will be delivering your message and will let you know what Sam’s reply is.” Cas squinted at Jack’s door, avoiding Dean's eyes. Dean’s heart squeezed.

“Thanks, Cas.” He replied, gently, then noticing the sound of his own vulnerability he cleared his throat and continued, “Wait, so you have this poor son of a bitch acting as my own personal interdimensional mailman?” Dean asked. Castiel dragged his eyes back to him.

“Their name is Azreal and yes, you said the new me, right? Is that not what I was?” Dean’s chest tightened and a shiver caught in his throat again. He swallowed hard.

“Oh, is that what this was to you? A job? We’re coworkers, huh?” He chuckled humorlessly, “Because I seem to remember a time, not too long ago, where we were family --”

“Dean--”

“No, Cas I get it. Loud and clear. Things are going back to exactly how it was before. When we were just coworkers. ” He grinned wildly at the angel before nodding to himself and marching back toward the door marked with the number 22.

“Dean? Talk to me, what’s wrong?” Castiel’s voice was barely audible from behind him.

“Nothing.” Dean sighed, “Not anymore,” he slammed the door behind him.

Chapter Text

Dean spent the next few hours getting serious grass stains in his jeans while playing with Kelly and Jack. He ignored Castiel every time he tried to join them. After a few not-so-subtle digs under his breath and awkward looks from Kelly, Cas gave up trying, retreating back to sit on the corner of Jack's bed where he would only speak when spoken to. It wasn’t long before Rebecca left and Penemue took her place, conjuring up easels, palettes, canvases, and pots of bright colored paints with "NON-TOXIC" labels written on them in large, bold letters. 

Dean stared at the blank canvas in front of him for a full half-hour feeling uncomfortable, awkward, and still very pissed off from his argument with Cas. Penny walked the group commenting on everyone's work, stopping to take notes on his clipboard as he stood behind Jack, questioning the reasoning behind the three-year-olds choice to use his fingers over the paintbrushes that sat unused on the lip of his easel. 

“I hear Jack is taking a more hands-on approach to the whole God thing”. Dean remarked, glancing at Kelly and chuckling at his own wit, attracting the unwanted attention of Penny.

“I see you still haven't started your painting, Dean''. The angel remarked shaking his head, his long curly grey locks swishing around his shoulders. 

“Yeah, I’m still looking for the right muse,” he said, placing his hands into a square and stepping back to view the blank canvas through his fingers. 

“You know in my experience a child won't gain anything worthwhile from a parental figure who uses humor as a juvenile, not to mention overtly transparent, defense mechanism". Penny commented calmly from behind him, his voice low enough for nobody else to hear. 

“Well in my experience”, Dean began loudly, causing everyone in the room to peer at him from behind their easels, “not only are all shrinks a complete crock of horse, uh” he looked over at Jack who beamed up at him, “... dung, but also every single time any angel is rocking the whole “holier than thou” attitude you got, they’re overcompensating for some serious sin-age. So...” He turned, narrowing his eyes at the angel behind him, feeling the entirety of the last few day's frustrations inside him coming to a boiling point, “What’s your guilty pleasure? I’d pick you’re a secret harbinger of Wrath. You definitely look like the type to enjoy a good smiting whenever you get the chance, and honestly, with you junkless assclowns, Wrath is always the safest bet." He stepped forward, closer to Penny, who looked at him with wild confusion. Dean wasn't gonna let this random angel psychoanalyze him without paying for it. He sucked his teeth and notched his head to the side. "That being said, I have heard about you. Shacking up with a dude? You know, you’ve gotta be all sorts of messed up, choosing a male vessel, knowing what you do about yourself?” he shook his head looking the man up and down. Penemue inhaled sharply as if he had been slapped in the face. The room fell silent. Dean's heart sank. His anger had dissipated leaving him achingly empty again.

“Dean.” Cas’s voice was barely above a whisper from behind him. The hurt in his voice jolted through Dean like a live wire. Dean set his jaw and closed his eyes at the sound. He inhaled slowly and nodded to himself. 

“I’m gonna head out. Have a look around this place a little before I meet up with the folks for dinner”. He said, staring at the grass at his feet. He trudged past Penny, who scurried out of Dean’s way. 

Dean practically ran down the hallway toward the garage. A large part of him wanted to turn around and head back the other way, to burst back into the room and scream, “Sorry!” at them all before rushing back out and into the freedom of the late afternoon air. Instead, he continued to march toward the front door, desperate to get to the Impala before he had a full-blown breakdown. He wondered as he climbed into the comfort and safety of the car, what Castiel would be doing now. 

A disgusting thought occurred to Dean, he realized that he wished that Cas had chased after him. He wished that he’d grabbed his shoulder and stopped him in his tracks, pushing him against the wall, yelling at him in his commanding voice about how insensitive he was being. He wished that Cas had called him an asshole and had boomed at him about how obvious it was that he was projecting his own issues onto a seemingly reasonable guy who was doing nothing but trying to help the people that Dean cared about. He wanted the excuse to yell back at him, to punch the wall in anger and scream about how of course he was gonna be acting a little off when he just found out that the man he had been in love with for over a decade, give or take, had previously been in love with him in return but now, for some unknown reason, had finally had a glimpse at the real Dean Winchester and decided that it wasn't his cup of joe. Dean put his head in his hands and rubbed at his eyes. 

“Stuff it down with brown,” he said to himself as he turned the keys in the ignition and set off down the road. 

 

 

After taking the three left turns in a row to get back to his corner of heaven Dean typed the address for “Heavenly Burgers” into the GPS app in his phone. He drove the opposite direction from where he explored the other day and quickly found himself in the middle of a large town. The town was full of women in poodle skirts and men in three-piece suits. Dean figured this must be where Grandpa Winchester had ended up, a 50s era town, full of charming Americana businesses and sprinkled with awesome muscle cars.

He pulled into the parking lot beside a bar that seemed to be simply named “Bar”, according to any and all signage that was welded to the top of the corrugated building. He walked inside and pulled himself onto a barstool. The place was empty apart from a group of old men in suits with cardigans, chewing on tobacco and smoking cigars. Dean ordered himself a double from the young blonde in a pillbox hat who stood behind the bar. She smiled at him through her bright red lips before giving him a once-over. At his lack of enthusiasm in return, she rolled her eyes and left the whole bottle of bourbon pushing it toward him. Dean scoffed at her and shook his head before refilling his glass, slapping a Ben Franklin on the sticky bar mat. The lady walked over toward the till and brought back ninety-six dollars on a small silver tray. Dean pocketed the change then, dragging the bottle off the bar with his free hand, he headed to the jukebox in the corner. 

Dean immediately noticed the Hymns by Johnny Cash album and placed the bottle of scotch down on the jukebox before he scrounged his back pocket for the leftover change. He clicked the button for the second song titled, “I Saw A Man” and Johnny Cash's voice droned out of the speakers. He chuckled to himself as he refilled his glass, fishing around in his back pocket for more coins.

“Last night I dreamed an angel came, He took my hand, he called my name, He bid me look the other way, I saw a man, I heard him say.”

Dean mimed along to the words as he chose his next song, “Lead me, Father”. Dean smiled thinking of his vinyl back at home, the one he and Sam had found in one of his dad's storage units after he’d died. He felt relaxed listening to Cash’s voice, a gentle buzz coating his brain, the slight burn in his throat. He clicked, “I call Him” next and added more coins into the slot.

"He said if I be lifted up, I'll draw all men to me, He turned and then I saw, The nail-scarred hands, That bled for me, I touched the hem of his garment that fell round him there, My life my heart I gave, My soul was in his care.”  

Dean wondered for not the first time what Cash had gone through to write a song like this as he downed another glass. He read through the other records in the jukebox as he flipped through them, his mouth parted as he threw up the coins in his hand, bouncing them against each other over and over as he tried to decide which other songs to spend his money on. He clicked the big white plastic button when he came to a rest on Elvis Presley's “First in Line”.

“When I awoke my heart beat so and in the dark I saw a glow, This was no dream he turned my way, Again I heard my Savior say, He said if I be lifted up, I'll draw all men to me, He turned and then I saw, The nail-scarred hands, That bled for me, I touched the hem of his garment that fell round him there”. 

The song ended and Dean’s second pick began. Dean shoved the rest of his coins back into his pocket. 

“When my hands are tired and my step is slow, Walk beside me and give me the strength to go, Fill my face with Your courage, so defeat won't show, Pick me up when I stumble, so the world won't know”. 

Dean walked over to the barstool. He lifted his hand to get the bartender’s attention and she sauntered back over to him. 

“Lead me Father, with the staff of life, Give me the strength for a song, That the words I sing, might more strength bring, To help some poor troubled, weary worker along”

“Yeah, uh, have you got anything that comes in some kind of fruit? Like, maybe a coconut or something?” He asked, filling his glass again. 

“When my way is light but I still can see, With a strong hand, strike out the blindness in me, Show me work that I should carry on for Thee, Make my way straight and narrow like You wanted to be”.

The lady handed Dean the thin cardboard menu from a few feet beside where he sat on the bar. “Oh, uh, sorry,” he said and scanned quickly at the menu glancing up to see the irritated look on the woman's face as she picked at her bright red nails impatiently. “Um, I’ll take one of these,” Dean decided, pointing to a random picture of an orange and yellow drink with a slice of pineapple on the rim. 

“Lead me Father, with the staff of life, Give me the strength for a song, That the words I sing, might more strength bring, To help some poor troubled, weary worker along”

The bartender glanced down expectantly at the metal tray. “Oh, right.” Dean jumped up and fished the coins from his back pocket and placed the appropriate amount from the menu upon the tray. Dean’s third song began as she returned with his bright drink.

"Well, the blue's still in the water and the blue's still in the sky, And way beyond the blue there's someone watching from on high, My clothes may be ragged and my shoes may be worn, But I've been a wealthy boy since I've been born”.

Dean placed the straw aside and took a gulp of the sugary liquid. He cringed at the sweetness as he placed the drink back down upon the bar.

“Trouble in paradise?” Dean spun around quickly, his hand flew to his chest in shock.

“Damnit, Crowley! You scared the shit outta me.” He growled. Crowly smiled smugly at him from the stool to his right, dressed in his regular expensive black suit with the stark addition of the new bling he was rocking on his index finger. 

“Well, they do say that death sneaks up on you.” Dean rolled his eyes and tried to have another go at drinking the fruity drink in silence.

“Because I call Him when I'm troubled and I call Him when I'm weak, And He always pulls me through my troubles some way and I believe, He'll be there (He'll be there), He'll be there (He'll be there), Like He always is to answer when I call Him,”

“What are you doing here?” Dean asked eventually, sick of Crowley silently sipping his beer and watching him.

I’m having a drink in the most depressing dive bar in all of Heaven because I’m Death and a former demon. So naturally, this is the only joint in this godforsaken place that feels like home. Your real question should actually be, what are you doing here, Dean?”

“Well I ” Dean mimicked his tone, “Am thirsty... and Heaven has a zero percent hangover rate.”

“My mother used to tell me I should take it slow, The pace is not what matters, it's the direction that you go, Keep your feet upon the path and your eyes upon the goal, You'll have all the joy a heart could ever hold,”

“Wow this is bleak. You’ve been here, what, a week? And you’ve already given up? I mean, I knew it would be bad but I never thought it would be this bad”. Crowly crowned over the music.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Dean asked, before downing the last of his drink.

You, Dean. The rest of your eternity sitting your sculpted arse on a bar stool. That's what you've come to. The great Dean Winchester, reduced to nothing more than one of heaven's little barflies. It's a shame really.” Dean scoffed and shook his head.

“So what? You just come to gloat or you tryna work out some sorta deal? Because I thought that was more your old gig.”

“And I call Him when I'm troubled and I call Him when I'm weak, And He always pulls me through my troubles some way and I believe, He'll be there (He'll be there), He'll be there (He'll be there), Like He always is to answer when I call Him,”

“Oh, no deal. No. You’ve misjudged me, Dean. I am merely suggesting that you should be back at the bunker, looking for a workaround, and yet here you are, the closest to hell you can possibly get in heaven, drinking-- What is that?--” He peered at Dean’s glass, “A Mai Tai-- and listening to The fifties version of bloody Morrissey!”

“Like He always is to answer when I call Him,” 

“What would be the point? I go back down there, I’m only gonna end up back here again, eventually.” Dean’s last song began.

"When they gave out eyes like diamonds, That would shame the stars that shine, My darling, my darling, You were the first in line”

“Exactly my point, you’ve given up”. Crowly stated and shrugged before downing a mouthful of his beer. Dean's hand gripped tighter around the rim of his glass.

"When they gave out lips like honey, That hold a new thrill every time, My darling, my darling, You were the first in line,”

“Yeah, well, at least it's an eternity in Heaven. Sure as hell beats the alternative.” He kept his gaze on the bubbles as they exploded at the surface of his drink.

“There may be others that know you longer, Who pledge their hearts to you, But there's no other could love you stronger, Any stronger than I do,”

“Oh, yes, because you’re famous for accepting the lesser of two shitty options.” Crowley droned, sarcastically.

“Don't refuse me, say you'll choose me, I'm yours, oh please be mine, My darling, say I'm your darling, The first and the last in line”

“Well, I’m not seeing you come up with any alternatives.” Dean shrugged, his eyes wide.

“I wish I could interfere, Dean. I would, you know. I’d send you back there right now if it were up to me. Chuck really did a number on the order and even if I could send your soul back down there, the way it is, Sam would be killed in a second.” Dean sniffed and shot the last of his drink.

"There may be others that know you longer, Who pledge their hearts to you, But there's no other could love you stronger, Any stronger than I do,”

“Yeah, Rowena read me the terms and conditions”. Dean’s voice was quiet as he poured himself another glass of bourbon.

“That doesn't mean that there's not another way though. I'm sure if anyone could find a loophole, it'd be you, Dean.” Dean tilted his head, his brows lowered.  

"Don't refuse me, say you'll choose me, I'm yours, oh please be mine, My darling, say I'm your darling, The first and the last in line”

“Wow, Crowley. You’re actually kind'a nice as Death. How's that work?”. Dean asked, squinting at the man beside him. Crowley grinned as if thinking of an inside joke.

“Yeah, you don’t go telling anyone now, or I’ll have to drag you to hell,” He raised his beer “literally.” 

Chapter Text

When the timing was right Dean said a quick “Bye,” to Crowley and staggered his way from the bar, down the street, and into the restaurant where he’d promised he’d meet up with his parents. He tried to push down the nervous thoughts that bubbled up in his mind and instead try to remind himself that a family dinner out at a restaurant was something he never even dreamed of as a possibility. Sure, they were a child short, all dead, and stuck with the annoying and ever-present reminder that the food they were consuming wasn't even real food, but it was a family dinner nevertheless. Dean walked in through the front doorway where he was then stopped by a busboy in shorts, suspenders, and a bowtie, who asked him what name his booking was under. Dean replied an awkward,

“Uhh, maybe Winchester?” The two went back and forward a few times until Dean proposed “Mary,” and the man led him through the first room and out onto a back patio. 

The patio was very white. The roof was made of clear perspex, through which the sky could be watched as the cloudless blue faded into dusk. Dean took the seat in the corner with his back angled so he could face toward the door and scratched at his face as the waitress poured him a glass of water. He thanked the lady and then downed the glass, willing himself to sober up.

His parents smiled at him as the busboy led them over to their table. Dean stood, his chair scraped against the wooden decking. 

“Dean,” Mary beamed, her arms wide. Dean made his way around the table to her side so she could pull him into a tight hug. She laughed as she let him go.

“Glad to see you got here nice and early,” John remarked, holding his hand out. Dean eyed John's hand for a brief moment, then, trying not to read too much into the obvious change from the hug that he'd been greeted with the night before, he grasped it in his own and shook it firmly. The three of them took their seats; John and Mary on one side, Dean and an empty seat on the other. 

“Nice place,” Dean stated as he refilled his glass. 

“Just wait until you try the grub,” Mary responded enthusiastically. Dean nodded and smiled.

“Yeah, I heard it’s good.” He chuckled, teasingly. Mary rolled her eyes.

“Okay, well, just wait, and then you’ll see why I can’t shut up about it.” She laughed, her face displaying her best attempt at being stern.

“So, Dean.” John’s deep voice commanded, “What have you been up to since we last saw you? Getting into all sorts of trouble, I’d bet.” His voice was gentle but his eyes stared at Dean with a hardness behind them.

“Uh, yeah, well, you know,” Dean shrugged, “I’ve been mainly helping potty train god, nothing out of the ordinary.” His parents laughed a little at this, causing Dean to relax into his chair. “What about you guys? You shacked up in the old family home or did you finally get that vacation house by the lake that you always wanted, mom?” Mary’s eyes lit up and she hit John on the arm gently with the back of her hand.

“Oh my god, remember the lake house!” John nodded enthusiastically.

“I can’t believe you remember that, son,” John shook his head at Dean in disbelief. “We only visited the place one time for a couple of days”. 

“They were so keen to sell it to us that they rented it to us, like some kind of try before you buy!” Mary piped in. “God, I loved that place”.

“Yeah, I know. You just had to go and get yourself knocked up so we couldn’t afford the damn place.” John chuckled. Mary scoffed. 

“You really wanna joke about who’s fault Sammy was?”

“I told you at the time that the--” John turned to Dean and cleared his throat before turning back toward Mary. 

“Sam was an accident?” Dean asked, his mouth physically agape.

“He was a surprise, not an accident” Mary concluded, “There's a difference.”

“Anyway,” John cleared his throat again. “You should really be getting out of the house, Dean. The kid I remember would always be getting into trouble, bringing this girl and that back to the hotel. It’s a shame that you’re here so soon, and I’d hate to think that you’re not even enjoying yourself.” Mary shook her head ever so slightly and eyed the menu in front of her. 

“No, really. It’s fine. I’m actually just happy to be spending time with, uh, Jack and Cas, ya know.” Dean responded glancing down at the menu. John eyed him as the waitress returned. 

“Are you ready to order?” she asked, flipping open a little book and retrieving a pen from her apron. Mary looked up at the boys expectantly. Dean nodded in reply and John shrugged. 

“I’ll get one of the Monster burgers, and the Roosevelt with a side of fries rather than a salad.” Mary grinned up at the waitress as she wrote it down.

“I’ll also get the Roosevelt,” John added.

“Uh, yeah. I’ll have that too” Dean stated. “You guys sell beer?” he asked as he flipped the menu, taking in the text for the first time. The waitress pointed at the drinks section of the menu across the table. “Oh, I’ll just get the house, uhh--” he looked between his parents, “You want a jug?” John and Mary looked at each other and then nodded. 

“So a jug of house beer?” the waitress confirmed. 

“Yeah,” John replied. Dean nodded. 

“Please.” Mary chimed. The waitress read back their whole order and once content that she had written it all down correctly, she let them know that “there shouldn’t be too much of a wait”, and headed back toward the kitchen.

“See this is the kind of thing I’m talking about”, John boomed across the table, through the busy restaurant. “Pretty little thing like that and she doesn’t even get a second glance from you nowadays... You seem different. You're not out here having fun, I hate to think that you could have settled down if I didn’t drag you into the fight. I had no idea how big this would all become for you boys. I thought it would be one and done; get yellow eyes and then you’d go on to have a family of your own.” Dean opened his mouth to respond. Mary trained her eyes to her glass in front of her, taking little sips “--I know you said you have a family and that's great! I’m glad you and Sam were able to reconnect and that the two of you stayed close, but I wanted more for you. You never even had the chance to have kids of your own.” Dean sniffed, pulling the strength from inside him to cut through John’s speech.

“I have a son," He swallowed, "Jack is my son. Sure, it's not the most conventional family," Dean smirked, "but Cas, Sammy, and I, we raised that kid and I think we did a hell of a good job... all things considered.” Mary pulled her mouth into a sympathetic smile and brought her eyes to Dean’s. John shook his head.

“I don’t mean some kid that you co-babysit every now and again, Dean. I mean a proper family. You can’t even see the difference, can you? The shit you kids have gone through; the path that I started you on? If anyone should get the wife and two point five kids, it's you boys. It breaks my heart to see you here, on such high alert that you can’t even seem to manage to cut ties with any of heaven's bitch boys.” 

“John--” Mary murmured.

“It breaks my heart, Mary” John grumbled, interjecting. 

“No, really, dad. It’s fine. I’m fine,” Dean interceded.

"No, it's not. You’re not”. He replied.

“John--” Mary tried again. John sighed and turned to Mary.

“What?” he asked, irritation in his voice.

“We’ve been through this, John...” Mary prompted. John laughed a roaring chuckle and turned back to Dean, leaning across the table.

“Mary seems to think you’re some kind of queer, shacking up with that strange fella in the trench coat,” he stated casually in a low voice so nobody would hear. “What’s his problem anyway, did ya find out?” Mary’s head fell into her hands as Dean raised his brows and tried to remember how to breathe, his mouth flapped open and closed for a moment as he huffed out an attempt at a cool and laid-back laugh. 

“Yeah, I’m not--” was all he could manage as he repeatedly let out huffs of air and scrunched his face up. 

“See,” John began sitting back up straight in his chair. “I told you he’s not a fairy. No son of mine, well, maybe he used to be a bit soft as a kid,” John amended, “but he grew out of that like all children do, right boy?” John gave Dean a curt nod and Dean stared at the white wooden table. He didn’t reply. “The angel, maybe. That I could see. He seems a bit off, you know, he’s too prissy; uptight. There's definitely something wrong with that angel, wouldn’t surprise me to find out he’s a queer.” Dean shut his eyes and tried to focus on containing the rage that was screaming inside him.

“Yeah.” He mumbled, shaking his head. He smirked and opened his eyes, staring directly at his father, seeing Mary’s worried, shocked look out of the corner of his vision. “Yeah, no.” Dean raised his voice. “Cas is, uh,” he shook his head, his eyes glanced around unfocused as his smile grew, “He’s just lookin’ out for me.” he swallowed, “All he ever does is look out for me.” He cleared his throat and trained his eyes back to his father. “Ya know, the thing is John, I think I’m still soft. Hell, I wanna be soft, and Cas? Cas is my family, always will be. So if you have a problem with that, you have a problem with me.” he scoffed, “--and come on, dad, let's not act like you actually managed to beat all the queer outta me”. Dean narrowed his eyes across the table. Mary licked at her lips, her smile grew solemnly before she turned toward John, her eyes full of concern. 

A familiar thrashing of wings broke the sound of cutlery clinking against plates and the low hum of chatter from the other tables. Dean snapped his head toward the sound. A young girl with black braids stood at the edge of the Winchesters table, smiling sweetly down at them. Their conversation, on hold as the family stared at the angel. The entire restaurant fell silent as they watched in curiosity. 

“My name is Azrael,” The angel chirped. Slowly the waitress returned through the doorway and weaved through the patio, her eyes upon the angel. “I have a letter for Dean Winchester,” the small child announced to the room.

“That’d be me,” Dean squinted at them and held his hand out. Whether due to not seeing it or simply deciding they would prefer to read the letter themself, they ignored his hand and uncrumpled the scrunched-up ball of paper from the pocket of their oversized navy suit. The waitress gently and slowly placed the Winchester’s plates in front of each of them, her eyes flickered between the table and the angel as she worked.

“Dean,” The angel began in their high voice, “You complete and utter…” they glanced down at Dean as they trailed off, their eyes wide.

“Go ahead,” Dean approved, pouring a glass of beer and trying to ignore the eyes of the entirety of the restaurant’s patrons on him. The angel shook their head and handed him the impossibly creased paper. Dean held the paper high in front of him, hiding his face from his parents. 

“What is it, Dean?” Mary’s voice was gentle. Dean read the letter, ignoring Mary's question.


Dean,

You complete and utter jackass!
You freakin’ coward!
You DICK!
How could you do this to me?
Yeah, Rowena told me everything!
I can’t fucking believe you actually did this to me
again!
How many goddamn times have we been through this, Dean?
Why don’t you believe in me? Why don't you believe in
us?
You should have come to me!
We could have found another way together.
We ALWAYS find a way!
I can’t believe you left me here all alone.
Do you have any idea how selfish you are? You
 fucking
I wish you were here so I could beat your ass!
I hate you so much for this, man. Fuck!

I’m working on finding a way to bring you back.
I’ll figure something out.
I can only imagine heaven is getting sick of you climbing the walls by now, anyway. Just hang tight, maybe think of it as a vacation?
I promise I’ll get you back here. 

There’s no news on Jack or Cas.

There’s also nothing popping up on the radar, either. 

I summoned a reaper. Word is that the vail doesn't even exist anymore, apparently, you die and you either go straight up or down.
He said he now works some low-level job up there in heaven counting souls or some shit.
Seems they’ve all been transferred to a new department and all the ghosts are M.I.A. (Guessing the majority of them went to hell) (I'll ask Rowena when I see her). 

Also, Gath and his family had me over the other night for some kind of pity dinner. 

They’ve all been healed.  

Not only them but Everyone, every goddamn thing we ever fought; human. 

It's like Jack just snapped his fingers and every Vamp, Wolf, Ghoul, Rougarou… everything… suddenly human!?
Man, I don’t know what to make of it. 

With that, and Rowena as the queen of hell, it's all quiet. 

She called me up the other day and asked me to help her out tracking and killing a demon that snuck up out of hell and was killing twins.
No IDEA why just twins.
We still haven’t managed to zero in on the thing but it’s nice to be needed. 
A part of me wonders if she maybe let Paimon escape on purpose just so I’d come help and then she could work on making me forgive her for helping you live out this suicidal plan?!?

She’s coming back around tomorrow to teach me some more witchcraft from this grimoire that she's been looking for.
She thinks it might help us find the thing. 

I miss you, man.

I'm drunk so I’m SORRY if this makes NO sense. But ALSO I'M NOT SORRY AT ALLLLLLL! ASSHOLE!!!!!!!!





Dean chuckled. 

“You got a pen?” He asked the young angel. They shook their head.

“I do,” Mary chimed, diving for her bag on the floor and rummaging through it on her lap.

“Thanks,” Dean replied, reaching across the table and clicking the pen open.

 


Sammy.

Thanks for your eloquent letter. It’s so very nice to hear from you too. 

Jack and Cas are topside with me so that’s probably why you haven’t bumped into them in the bunker’s bathroom the last few weeks. 

Jack’s been pretty busy, it seems. He busted Cas and a bunch of other angels from the Empty and managed to take the place out for good.
We think that it messed him up pretty bad.
He’s fine, just a little different. Hell, maybe it's a good thing?
He finally gets to be the age he should be.
Guess he figured he’d done what he set out to do; make a paradise on earth, or as close as it comes, and now he’s packed up and retired at the ripe old age of three. 

I guessed about the vail. Kev’s up here, as big a lightweight as ever, by the way.
He and Channing seem happy enough to be reunited. 

I’ll definitely recommend Jack get’s breakfast for dinner tomorrow night as a treat for HEALING EVERYTHING?!
THAT’S AWESOME!?

That’s great to hear about Garth and the family.
I can only imagine what breastfeeding little Sam and Cas would have been like so I’m sure that the transition can’t be too hard on ‘em. 

Be careful with the witchcraft, Sam. Don’t do anything I wouldn't.
You know how that shit can be.
With Rowena Queen of hell... I trust her... but you gotta keep one eye open, okay?
I better not see you up here anytime soon.
I didn’t clock out so you could throw your life away.

Don’t worry. I haven’t given up on getting back down there.
Just… If we can’t find a way you gotta promise you’re gonna let me go, okay, man?
Heaven’s been upgraded to some kind of earth simulation so I’m good; no more 50 First Dates.
And hey, communicating like this ain’t so bad. Sure, snail mail is a little outdated but having an angelic postal service kind of makes up for it, right?

I’m literally sitting across from Mom and Dad right now.  Kind of officially “came out”... So, there's that... Just if you didn’t know... You knew... You obviously knew... But yeah... Officially I’m out now so Yeah. Weird.

Oh, man I almost forgot. Crowley is wearing the Death bling. Crazy! 

Smell ya later, bitch.

The one and only,

DW.


Dean scrunched the letter up and raised it by his shoulder.

“Heads up,” He threw the letter to the angel and they caught it in one hand. They looked down at the ball of paper and, with another fluttering sound from their wings, they disappeared.

“What was all that about?” John grunted, his face was beet red.

“Oh, uh… Sam and I are penpals now, I guess.” 

“Sam?” 

“You can speak to Sam?” Mary asked. Dean sat up straight in his chair.

“Yeah, I guess it pays to hang out with heavens “bitch boys”” Dean shook his head, “You know you can just pray to any of them, right? You could've just asked if someone could bring Sammy a letter of your own. Angels may be dicks but it's kind of their job to look after humanity… Just sayin’”

“Dean, I-- Angel’s are kind of rare around here. I don’t know if you noticed but the entire restaurant just crapped itself at the sight of one of them.” Mary’s brows were low, “Maybe you can’t really see how strange it is, you had, like, ten whole angels come out to your surprise party”. 

“Yeah, Son. Mary’s right.” John stood from his seat calmly. “Not all of us are fucking the help.” He shook his head slowly, his eyes closed tight as he breathed deeply. “I can’t do this Mary.” He opened his eyes and looked down at her. His expression was hard. “Dean, I--” He shook his head again. “I’m trying to stay calm here but--” he laughed humorlessly, “You’re acting like everything's fine. Like you didn’t just-- How are you even here, Son? How is he? It’s wrong-- I-- You know that it's wrong.” John swallowed and shook his head one last time before he turned on his heel and marched through the crowded patio, out of the restaurant. Mary stared after him, her mouth agape. She slowly turned in her chair back toward her son.

“Dean. I--” She sniffed, “I’m so sorry. I tried to tell him. I--” Dean chuckled.

“It's okay, Mom. Really. I think that went better than I could have expected, honestly,” Mary sighed. Dean smiled sadly at her. “Can’t believe you knew and didn’t say anything.” Mary grinned, her eyes were still somber.

“Are you kidding, me? The way the two of you looked at each other. Who didn't know?” Dean scoffed.

“Yeah, well, I think I might have been too busy looking at him to notice that he started to look away.” Dean shook his head and raised his eyebrows.

“What, you think he’s moved on?” Mary’s smile reached her eyes, crinkling in the corners. “I don’t think so,” She laughed gleefully before taking a bite of her burger. Dean shook his head.

“He pretty much told me flat out.” he shrugged. “It seems that level of luck ain't in the cards for me, even in death, but,” he shrugged again, “I’m just lucky to be able to spend time with the guy.” Ignoring the pain in his stomach, Dean took a mouthful of burger and nodded enthusiastically. He dramatically rolled his eyes back in his head and pointed at the burger. Mary nodded.

“I told you!” She grinned then lowered her voice, “Dean, if you say he told you he's moved on then I believe you but what I don’t believe is that he ever stopped looking at you.” She took another large chomp and smiled at the burger in her hands.

Chapter Text

Mary had the honours of driving a shitfaced Dean back to the bunker. Dean hated leaving his car in some random cherry pie town all alone but worried that maybe the new heaven was so heavily inspired by Earth that he'd find his way into a car accident and become a quadriplegic or wind up with a DUI... and after the way he'd been burning all his bridges since getting to heaven, he figured he was on a fast track to having to disappear on a long drive somewhere, never to be seen again… therefore losing his license seemed like a bad idea.

Mary, the sneak that she was, had plied her son with copious drinks after John had dramatically vacated the premises, and via snarky comments and sarcastic jokes, the two had managed to have what closely resembled a deep and meaningful conversation. She let Dean know that she would be there for him and that she was proud of the man he had become. Dean, in response, mentioned that if he had made things between her and John so unbearable, Ketch always seemed to be sniffing around for her. Mary replied with a playful swipe to his head. 

 

-

 

Dean tried his hardest to slowly shut the metal door of the bunker with the utmost silence, his mouth bared all his molars as he flinched while it creaked on its rusty hinges. He walked toe first across the balcony and down the metal stairs, his eyes trained in front of him as he lowered down each step quietly. 

"What are you doing?" Castiel's voice spoke from where he was seated, watching, from the map table. Dean straightened up in a jolt and exhaled sharply.

"Trying not to wake you up. The hell are you doing awake at this time? Shouldn't you be resting, trying to heal?" Dean asked, trudging himself down the remainder of the steps.

"I wanted to find out how your dinner went. You were obviously incredibly anxious about going because of me; because of my behavior towards John". Cas stated, raising a beer and taking a large pull as if as a metaphorical period. Dean huffed out a single laugh, walked over and plonked himself into a seat beside the angel. He shook his head.

"Of course you waited up. I've been acting like a whole new level of asshat all day and you just sat here waiting to make sure my dinner wasn't too salty." He chuckled in disbelief.

"It wasn't about the meal in itself, I was more concerned that you--" 

"I know, Cas" Dean smirked.

"So…" The angel squinted at him. "Do I need to visit your father in the morning to make reparations?" He sniffed and avoided Dean's eyes. Dean laughed and sighed deeply.

"Nah, man. I'm pretty sure he's long forgotten about that," Dean held his hand out towards Castiel and flexed his fingers in a grabbing motion, gesturing for Cas's beer. Cas shook his head but gladly handed his Dean the green bottle. "Yep… I'm pretty sure some uptight angel is the last thing on that man's mind right now". Dean continued, almost manically immersed in the newly elated chaos that had become his relationship with his dad. Cas tilted his head on an angle, the way he always did when Dean made a comment that he didn't understand. Dean's stomach tightened at the sight of it, he raised the drink to his lips and threw back a gulp in response.

"Dean, what happened?" Castiel's pressed. Dean rolled his eyes and handed the bottle back, Cas cradled it in his lap as he leaned toward him. "Dean, please". His voice was so gentle that it made Dean's heart squeeze. He shut his eyes tight and breathed in deeply, he felt the weight of the emotions swirling around in his chest. When he opened his eyes again they had a newfound vulnerability to them, his eyebrows raised in the middle. He licked at his lips.

"I can't do this anymore, Cas". He laughed softly and swallowed hard as he brought his eyes to the man beside him. Castiel placed the beer on the table, his eyes wild with worry as they scanned over Dean's face, waiting for him to continue. Dean swallowed again, attempting to clear up the tightness that had appeared in his throat. 

"Can't do what?" Castiel asked after a moment, in an attempt to pull Dean back out of his head. Dean sighed and rubbed his hand across his mouth. He nodded as he felt a drawbridge lower in his mind. One second was all he needed and he could always pick up the pieces after. 

"I'm in love with you, man". He inhaled a huge breath, smiled, and shrugged nonchalantly. Chuckling, he shook his head, "Have been since…" he closed one eye as the other looked off to the side, puffing out air from his cheeks, "...pshhtt... forever?" He laughed. "I don't know when exactly." He swallowed and glanced at Castiel's face, noting how it had frozen into that damn frustratingly unreadable expression again. "Yeah…" he raised his brows and nodded to himself. "I know that you said something back before you kicked it... and that was just some sort of deathbed mixup or whatever but…" he sighed again and opened his arms displaying his hands and shimmying them, "Ta-dah". He chuckled. Castiel sat there staring at him, still unmoving, still emotionless. Dean’s mouth twitched downwards. "I'd offer to move out and sleep in Baby but she's in the fifties so I'm gonna have to wait until I can get a lift back there…" he squinted at the statue that had once been his closest friend, "If that's okay?" Still no response, Castiel pulled his brows together and stared blankly at the space between the two of them. Dean scoffed and leered at Cas, licking his lips in annoyance and nodding. "Okay... cool then. Thanks." he bit sarcastically as he rose from his seat and began to make his way to his bedroom. 

Dean’s heart sank. He knew this was never going to go down great but he had never expected Cas to be so cold. He had expected some kind of “Oh, Dean I’m sorry but I don’t feel the same way. I’ll always be there for you, but in the way, an angel is there for their charge”. Some kind of bullshit promise that things would remain relatively similar to how they’d always been. That’s what Cas had asked for, after all, after he’d changed his mind.

He never imagined Cas would just sit there and stare at him like he'd just announced he'd grown a second head or had been recently getting really into murdering innocent children.

"Wait, Dean", Castiel's voice spoke with urgency from behind him. Dean turned slowly, his brows raised. 

"What is it, Cas. I'm kind of beat and I really just want to go to bed". He drowned impatiently.

“I hated your father ever since that moment in the hospital; after you fought Alistair, do you remember?” Dean blinked slowly at the angel in exaggeration.

“Really!? Cas, you wanna talk about--”

“--You said to me that the apocalypse was too huge for one man to shoulder,” He smiled, his eyes glazed over as he spoke, “I remember you apologizing to me for not being able to be the man either of our fathers wanted you to be.” Cas brought his eyes up to Dean’s. 

“Why are you bringing this up now?” Dean asked, narrowing his eyes in irritation as he shifted his weight and placed his hands in his pockets.

“Not telling you, that you were the most,” Cas sighed, “exceptional man I had ever met, and that I never went on to meet anybody who could possibly hold a candle to you, that was one of my most common dreams in the empty; one of my biggest regrets”. Dean pulled his mouth into a sad smile. Here we go, He prepared himself, Here comes the polite rejection. “The first feeling I ever remember having felt was guilt.” Castiel continued, his eyes darting off to the side as he remembered, “From the moment I pulled you out of hell and back to the earth, the very second I started to communicate with you, I felt tremendous guilt. For the trials I was ordered to put upon you.” He chuckled, his eyes crinkling in the corner as they flickered back to Dean's crestfallen face, “And it’s so hilarious now, to look back on everything, knowing that all of us angels, we had all been so completely full of feelings the entire time. We had only been told that it was so deeply wrong. So that we would be better soldiers; so that we would remain meek and more willing to obey.” He grinned at Dean, “It was like that fucking story The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Dean's brows raised in shock at the angel's use of curse word, then after a moment shook his head slowly, his brows furrowed and Castiel beamed at him. “Really? You don’t know that one?” the angel specified.

“Is it really relevant, right now, Cas?” Castiel nodded, his eyes wide. Dean shifted his feet awkwardly staring at his boots, the growing pain deep in his chest was becoming unbearable as he waited for Cas to hurry up and get to the final blow.

“I believe it pertains to you as well.” Castiel gestured his hand toward the chair where Dean had been sitting. Dean sighed and shook his head while rolling his eyes, then obediently took a seat. 

“Okay, Reading Rainbow. Let’s get this over with.” He snatched up the beer from the table and downed the remainder of the liquid. Cas smiled.

“The tale centers around an Emperor who was an inherently wealthy and very greedy man." Cas began, sparing a glance toward the man beside him to ensure he was paying attention. Once satisfied he continued, his gaze on the floor just past his feet, a small smile upon his mouth. "One day a charlatan arrived in the city under the guise of being a garment maker and proposed to create a lavish outfit, especially for the Emperor. The swindler claimed that only the intelligent and competent were able to see the fabrics." He flicked his eyes toward Dean again, who nodded begrudgingly to let the angel know to continue, "The Emperor, in his vanity, was ecstatic at the idea of such a rare item. He commissioned the charlatan and in the next few weeks after some back and forth between them regarding the” Cas finger quoted, “unexpected additional costs,” He nodded to himself at his use of air quotes, “The Emperor asked to view the clothing to see how much progress had been made. To his horror, he could not see anything at all when he was led to the looms that supposedly displayed his elaborate outfit. Being that he was such an arrogant man, he pretended he had never seen anything so beautifully crafted in his life--”

“Am I the Emperor in this story because--”

“What? Oh... No, Dean, let me finish.” Cas demanded. Dean sighed impatiently and Cas’s eyes flitted around as he tried to remember where he was up to. “Long story short, the Emperor held what I assume would equate to a modern-day fashion show. By this time the townspeople had heard much about this supposedly incredible fabric that was only visible to the superior amongst them. So, when the Emperor strutted around naked, his people pretended to love his clothing in fear of looking foolish. In the end, one small child very loudly, with innocent abandon, spoke up and pointed out the Emperor's nudity. After that one child pointed out the truth, everyone in the town square began to jeer at the emperor for his lack of clothing and complete gullibility. The moral of the story being that the Emperor isn't the only true fool, but to remain silent is also a form of foolishness.” Cas clasped his hands together in his lap and smiled up at Dean. 

“You’re the kid, the angels are the townspeople, feelings are the clothes, and Chuck is the swindler?” Dean nodded. “Again, don’t really see how that’s relevant right now, Cas”. Cas laughed, a single breathy explosion from behind his lips. 

“Because I’m in love with you too, Dean,” Cas stated simply in a monotone voice, as if he could have been talking about something as mundane as the weather. After a long pause of silence, Cas began to chuckle at Dean’s gaping mouth. The angel had known the man beside him for over a decade and the stoic yet shocked mask he wore was one he had rarely seen upon the man's face. He continued, hoping to calm the evident internal crisis Dean seemed to be having. “Dean, you too have been made to feel that feelings are wrong and yet everyone has them." Dean blinked in response, his jaw clenching as he truly took in Cas's words. The angel laughed. A sound caused Dean to feel like he'd just touched a live wire. "We're not hurting anyone, not really, so why are we like this? Why did we wait until death to admit this to one another, if not for fear of looking foolish? Now we look foolish!” He shook his head, “I was so wrapped up in trying to be the angel my father wanted me to be and then, well, Chuck was the greatest disappointment in all creation so… what I’m trying to say... is that… you became my religion a long time ago, Dean.” 

Dean’s eyes roamed up and down between Castiel’s bright blue eyes and his pale lips as he struggled to breathe air into his lungs. He shook his head ever so slightly in a moment of disbelief before, as if suddenly possessed by a fearless and confident version of himself, he lunged from his seat and bent down over where the angel sat. Dean hesitantly lifted his hand to cup Cas's face then slid his fingers back across his angel's soft yet stubbled face. He gripped his hand into the hair at the back of Cas’s neck. The men stared deeply into each other's eyes, everything was laid out in the open now, their entire souls were visible to one another, through the pain and yearning in both their emerald and azure eyes. Panting, Dean darted his head forward a fraction closing in the distance between them. His chest rose and fell quickly as his eyes flickered from Castiel's lips back up to his eyes as if silently begging for the angel's permission. Cas inhaled sharply and closed the space between them. 

The pair's lips crashed together, moving gently against each other. Dean's world seemed to stand still as he finally found a sense of peace. No other thoughts plagued his subconscious for the first time in his entire life. He was simply there, in that moment, kissing the love of his life for the first time. Their mouths parted and the men's tongues met. Suddenly Castiel let out a deep noise of content from the back of his throat. At the same very moment, the bunker lights exploded, raining sparks all around them.

Dean pulled back, his eyes wide, his smile wider. He stood and surveyed the area in the pitch blackness before chucking at Castiel in the darkness that now enveloped them. He swallowed hard before he spoke, and when he did his voice shook, exposing the feigned swagger he attempted to muster.

“Not that I’m not flattered, Cas." Dean cleared his throat, "but how’d you manage to pull that off? These lights ain’t even real, right?” Dean felt Cas stand from the chair mere inches from him. The angel's hand glided down Dean's arm searching for his hand until their fingers interlaced. His skin was soft and warm and left a familiar pleasant feeling of electricity where his fingers traced.

“It’s to do with the frequency of the multi-spectral--” 

Dean’s mouth found Cas’s again, he couldn't help it. He felt as if he could have personally been the one to explode the lights around them, like, he himself had just taken on the power of a million suns. He was the highest he'd ever been, grinning as he pecked little kisses onto the angel's lips, silencing him.

“Mmmhmm. Angel. Thingo.” Dean affirmed between kisses.

“Yeah,” Castiel replied, chuckling somewhat breathlessly, “Angel. Thingo.” He began returning the kisses until they became slower and the two’s lips parted again. Dean pressed himself against Cas as their tongues found each other. Their breathing became heavy.

“Wait,” Dean murmured and pulled himself back. He swallowed and tried to concentrate on letting the blood flow back toward his brain. “I’m sorry for earlier, for everything, really. I’ve been going crazy… like, all of this shit?! I can take on another damn apocalypse but all the emotional crap’s gonna be the thing to finally drive me over the edge”. Castiel chuckled, his warm breath floated against Dean's lips.

"I've found this new heaven to be rather confrontational too, actually. It's strange that living.. or I suppose… working toward a future in heaven, can make you reassess what is worth working for...” Cas began.

“Meaning?” Dean spoke into the darkness. Castiel clicked his free hand and the lights suddenly repaired themselves. Dean squinted at the sudden brightness.  

“Meaning, I think this place could do with a few indoor plants... And you. All I've ever really wanted, both before heaven and now with you unfortunately here with me... I've realized all I've ever wanted to do I want to do with you by my side". Dean's breath caught.

"Alright," he slapped Cas on the shoulder. His chest rose and fell rapidly. "I'm in." He chuckled and shook his head. "God damn it, you romantic, son of a bitch." His laughter broke up his words into a staccato as if he could hide his vulnerability behind the words. Dean sighed and swallowed hard again as he scanned Castiel's face, "You still on board if I need a good five more years just to process all of--" he gestured his hands up and down before the angel, "--all of this?" His smirk wavered. 

"Dean... for you? I can wait an eternity". Cas smiled softly then pressed his lips gently against the tip of Dean's nose. Dean sighed and let his eyes flutter closed, relief spread through him. When Cas pulled back again the last of Dean's bravado had disappeared and he smiled tenderly.

"Just gotta say. This went way better than I imagined it panning out". He grinned. 

"Me too". Cas smiled, taking Dean's free hand in his.

"Cool", Dean cleared his throat, "Cool… we, uh, we should go to bed and kiss some more… right?" Dean's eyes narrowed, his anxiety suddenly returning as if Cas hadn't continuously just spent the whole night making every chick flick Dean had ever seen now seem like they had embarrassingly lackluster declarations of love. 

"I would like that very much" Cas grinned and if Dean didn't know any better (which he did) he could have sworn the angel was enjoying watching how easily he could turn him into a flustered bumbling idiot.

Chapter Text

“Hey,” Cas whispered into Dean's ear before planting a kiss on his temple. Dean’s reality formed around him as his memory came rushing back. His mouth quivered into a grin as he turned his head and body away from the angel beside him in his bed. He cleared the sleep from his throat before he replied.

“Morning,” he grunted in his best attempt at a normal, casual tone.

“How did you sleep?” Castiel’s voice was unusually soft and thin from where he now sat above him, peering over Dean in an attempt at seeing his face.

“Ah, yeah,” Dean sniffed, still grinning to himself, “Not too shabby.” He managed to take a deep breath and pull his lips into a straight line, biting down on them as he drew his brows in and glanced up at Castiel, only for a millisecond; It was too much. “You?” Dean asked before springing up from the bed, swinging his legs over the side, and sitting facing the wall. He wondered if the pounding of his heart was audible as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

Castiel sighed melodramatically from where he remained seated in the bed with two pillows pulled up behind his back to prop him up. Dean twisted himself around, worry and confusion plastered on his face.

“What?” he asked, a touch of venom to his tone.

Rather than reply Cas simply smiled, his brows raised as he smirked knowingly at the man in front of him. Dean shook his head and scoffed.

“Okay...” he nodded and turned back toward the wall. Dean swallowed loudly, his throat feeling incredibly dry all of a sudden, his eyes darted around as he considered fleeing. He knew there was no real escape now though, nowhere he could run that would free him of his true feelings, not now. He had let the dam wall burst inside him and there was no building it back up. He shook his head again and sighed, then without any warning he threw himself backward, his back hitting the mattress and his head on Castiel’s thighs. “Alright!” he chuckled. “Fine. I’m sorry”. Cas grinned down at him, his eyes crinkling in the corners. 

“I slept very well,” Cas finally answered as he ran a hand through Dean’s hair. “Very, very, very well”. He clarified as he placed his other hand on Dean’s chest, his thumb rubbing against his bare skin. Dean beamed up at him, shivering at the feeling of Cas’s hands on him. 

“You want to go round two?” Dean asked somewhat breathlessly as he felt himself harden. Cas nodded as he leaned down meeting Dean halfway. The pair's mouth’s joined in a kiss.

 

-

 

An hour later the men lay panting, staring at each other. Dean was the first to speak.

“That was…” He grinned as he trailed off.

“Intense?” Cas finished. Peppering kisses on Dean’s freckles. 

“Yeah!” Dean breathed. “But I was gonna say…” 

“Amazing?” Cas interjected again, his kisses landing upon the man’s lips now.

“Loud?” Dean chuckled. “Was I… loud?” Castiel pulled himself back and beamed at Dean.

“I suppose,” he laughed. “I definitely recall that I was very loud too, though”. Dean sighed, still smiling he turned to stare at the ceiling as he shook his head in disbelief. 

“Too loud?” He questioned, sparing a glance at the angel beside him. “Jack? I mean, is he--”

“He’s still asleep,” Castiel sighed. “It may help that his room is on the other side of the bunker.” he laughed. 

Dean turned to face the angel. He shook his head again. “How are you… so… I don’t know… you seem so cool with all of this?” He swallowed. “Like I’m not, not cool with it,” he clarified in a rushed voice, “I just mean--”

“I’ve wanted this for so long,” Cas stated, cutting through Dean’s rambling. Castiel shook his head. “So." He emphasized the periods between the words with kisses on Dean's lips, "Long.” Dean nodded as Castiel’s hand found the scar on his arm again, as it had so many times throughout the night. Dean swallowed hard.

“I have too.” he admitted, “I just… I don’t know. It wasn’t important, ya know? We always had more pressing shit to deal with and with Sam always being around and--” he swallowed and turned on his back so he was staring at the ceiling again, “I don’t know. I mean it was important. It is important. You’re important I just mean--”, Cas’s eyes narrowed as he smiled at Dean who was now unable to stop ranting. “With everyone always like… looking at me... you know, with Sam and Bobby and Mom and then all the angels, and even Crowley and shit. I felt like it was-- was like, always,” he made pushing gestures away from his body with his hands. “And then I would always feel so damn guilty and like, sick-- physically sick, just thinking about how you-- you didn’t know any better, so you didn’t really, like, mean to be there it was just an awesome bonus having this real-life super-soldier on the team, you know. And you-- like it wasn’t about-- how I felt.” he sighed and turned back to look at Cas who studied him silently. 

“I think I understand.” He nodded.

“And besides, I didn’t even think that you could… I mean-- Anna when she said she gave up her Grace, she wanted to do it to be able to experience love. And I-- I really, really held onto that, you know? Like love and-- and sex they’re not things that you could ever…”

“We've already been through this, Dean.” Cas’s smile had faded a little.

“No. I know. It’s just…” he sighed. “I don’t know. Nevermind.” Dean put his hand on where Cas’s sat on his scar and pressed his forehead against the angels.  

“Wait... are you--” Cas pulled his head back, his eyes flitted across Dean’s face, “trying to apologize for not telling me sooner?” Cas asked. Dean swallowed and shrugged. 

“I mean... kind of?” Dean sat up, “We could have had years of this, while we were both on earth. Alive.” 

“We have it now,” Cas reminded him.

“Yeah, but we could have had,” he gestured to the bunker around them, “All of this. For real.” Dean sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “I could have gone to hell. Or heaven… the other heaven. You could have been stuck in the empty. There was no guarantee things were gonna work out here-- Ever. And I let that happen-- I--”

“You were never going to go back to hell, Dean.” Cas pulled himself up to sit beside him, his hand rubbing up and down Dean’s right arm. “And as for the rest of that there's no point in worrying about what could have been, we’re here now and--”

“You don’t-- you didn’t know that for certain. I could have. I’ve killed. We both know I’ve killed more people than I can even count.” Castiel squinted in shock as his head cocked to the side.

“I-- I thought you knew... We’ve discussed it before. When an angel claims a soul it leaves a brand… And then-- You-- at your surprise party-- I thought--”

“You claimed my soul?!” Dean pulled his arm free from Cas and placed his hand upon the handprint on his left arm. 

“For heaven!” Cas exclaimed, “Not for me-- I would never...” he trailed off at the sight of Dean relaxing a little at this.

“You claim-- when?” Dean turned toward Cas again. Cas shrugged sheepishly as if that was enough of an answer, then, at the look on Dean’s face realized he should elaborate. 

“What they had you doing in hell. Nobody deserves that. Your pain and self-loathing radiated like a supernova in that place. I couldn’t stand it.” Dean shook his head and placed his hand on Castiel’s.

“You really had my back from the very start, huh?” Cas smiled bashfully. 

“And your front.” 

“And my sides,” Dean added.

“And your sides.” Castiel agreed. “I’m sorry. If I knew you were unaware I would have clarified. It’s incredibly frustrating sometimes. It’s like you can see right through everything I say, and yet, then other times apparently you have no idea what I’m hinting at." Dean scoffed at the irony of this statement. "I can’t imagine the stress I put you through, having to walk around for a decade believing there was a chance you were going to end up back in hell when I could have just communicated more clearly that it was impossible.” Dean shrugged.

“I don’t know. I’ve died since then and managed to get a golden ticket... I guess I was just kind of wondering when the scales wouldn’t balance in my favor anymore. And uhh-- with everything...” Dean trained his eyes at the door in front of them, “I know that Hester chick said I “corrupted” you, I was the reason you were kicked out of heaven. That and then, you know… It’s not like many churches are handing out fliers with two dads on the cover. I guess I kind of assumed I was probably heading down after your whole dramatic reveal and swift exit to the empty... The shit that you woke inside me...” Cas smiled sadly and pressed his lips to Dean’s scarless shoulder. 

“Heaven has never actually had any issues with same-sex relationships. Gender and Sex are inconsequential to us. It’s definitely a human thing.” Cas smirked. Dean raised his eyebrows and rubbed at his eyes again.

“Yeah. I guess you’re all junkless light globes and we’re the ones with all the hang-ups.” Cas snickered. 

“Did that just feel junkless to you?” Dean leered at Castiel.

“Alright, cowboy. No need to get cocky.” Grinning, Cas put on the best imitation of his own confused face.

“No need? Are you sure?” Dean rolled his eyes and bumped his head and shoulder against Cas from where the angel peered at him, “I mean I figure there may be some need… is that not the whole point...”

“Ahahahah. Okay, very funny. You win. I just... I...” Dean’s smile fell as he turned back toward the door. “My point. Ages ago...” He cleared his throat. “I kind of told John about… you. Or more accurately me I guess… the way… I... Uhh, feel... about you.” Cas’s brows shot up. 

“You told your father… you… love me?” Cas clarified.

“I-- I honestly don’t know. I think it was more of an implied thing?” Dean smiled and narrowed his eyes playfully at the angel beside him, “I was liquored up and angry and it's all kind of a blur now.” He laughed. 

“And Mary?” Cas asked.

“Oh, Mom knows!” Dean grinned. “Clocked it a while ago apparently…” Cas laughed at this. 

“I wish she’d mentioned something to me.” Dean chuckled.

“Sounds like my worst nightmare but--” he sighed, “Me too, I guess. Would have been nice to play Pictionary on earth as one big happy family like Jack showed me, rather than wait for everyone to come here so we can finally, I don’t know, relax.” Cas nodded sadly. 

“You still really want to leave here don’t you?” He asked. Dean gave Cas a quick kiss on his cheek then jumped up out of the bed.

“No point worrying about what could've been.” Dean quoted Castiel's words back to him. “Coffee?” he asked, pointing toward the door. 

“Yeah.” Cas smiled sadly from where he sat on the bed, unsure if he should ask Dean if he had considered what the angel had considered; terrified that if he mentioned his thoughts out loud Dean may lose his only chance at ever finding true peace.

Chapter Text

The calm events of the morning allowed Dean to really picture himself living it up in this new domestic life in heaven. Just Castiel, Jack, and him; a strange blended family (with the addition of Kelly between the rough hours of 1-7 pm). 

Rebecca (The Child/God Psychologist/Angel) sat in her usual place in the corner. It irked Dean that she didn’t seem to want to engage in conversation. He’d entered the room with a usual polite, “Good Morning, how have you been?” and rather than ask it back the angel simply answered “Well. Thank you.” Dean then pushed further by asking “What have you been up to since yesterday?” to which she replied a short “Nothing much”. 

Cas shot Dean a coy, smug look as if he’d just further proved why he’d elected not to introduce the pair yesterday. Dean rolled his eyes and watched as Cas and Jack bounded around the latter’s newly upgraded bedroom like the irritating morning people that they were.

 

-

 

After finishing his coffee in silence, it didn’t take long until Dean was well and truly immersed in the one-thousand-and-eight-piece puzzle of the Galileo Galilei that Jack was supposed to be doing, while in reality the tiny God was pulling Cas’s hair into all sorts of strange baubles and sticking various glittering stickers all over his face.

“You look so pretty,” Dean remarked with an eyebrow pump as Cas flinched at the pain from Jack’s toddler feet pinching his thigh to the grassy floor of the bedroom. 

“You’re next.” Cas joked then laughed at the excitement upon Jack’s face.

“Yeah, great. Thanks for that”, Dean said sarcastically, shook his head, then squinted at Jack, directly in his eyes, “You even put a single one of those stickers on me, kid, and I’ll rat on you to your mom about who really finished off this puzzle she got you.” 

“And yet, I don’t recall anybody asking you to do it?” Cas commented under his breath before sucking in air through his teeth in pain. “Ow! Jack. Gentle.” Jack fumbled backward up toward Castiel's knee and bent down to kiss the general area of the hair he’d just pulled back into a ponytail.

“I’m so, so sorry!” He exclaimed between cartoonishly wet-sounding kisses.

The sound of thrashing wings rang out through the room and all eyes turned toward the young angel Azrael, their hair still in two meticulously neat matching braids by their shoulders. 

“I have another note for Dean W--” they called throughout the room “Oh, hello Castiel, Rebecca.” They beamed at the other angels sweetly. Rebecca replied with a curt nod.

“Azrael, How are you this morning?” Castiel asked as Azrael handed a much cleaner and much neater piece of paper to Dean than the one he had received from Sam just the night before. Dean didn’t hear their reply as the voices in the room faded away while he concentrated on Sam’s handwriting.

 


Jerk,

Sorry about that last letter. I really let the whisky take over last night.
If it makes you feel any better, I’m definitely paying for it this morning.
On that note,
when we manage to get you back down here, I promise I’ll replace that bottle you bought, to replace the stuff Ketch left us.
Wow. Okay yeah, not that I’m not glad that they're okay, but how long have Jack and Cas been partying it up in heaven with you?
I’ve been praying till my voice turned raw, would have been nice if they let me know.
Cas should have come down here and talked to me in person? Why send this kid? Is everything okay?
What do you mean about Jack… He is just… three? He
is three?! Like... what are you saying? Do you mean as in he looks three? 
Tell Keven I say “Hi”. That's really great to hear. He never deserved any of the shit Chuck put him through. I’m really happy that he gets to finally see Channing again. 
Potentially dumb question but if heaven is as free-range as you’re saying it is have you come across Jessica? It’d be great to know if she's… I don’t know, happy? At peace? Okay?
Don’t worry about the witchcraft stuff. I know what I’m doing. 
Erm... Regarding the last part of your previous letter… when you say you “Came Out” you mean like…
Sorry, I don’t want to assume... but… being “Out” means being out in heaven like it does on earth right?
Or is there another meaning? 

Love, Sam.
I am very pr I want you to know that... if it is the same as on earth then obviously, I didn’t know.
I mean, I know you’re obviously in love wi
I still love you either way. I’m just confus
Did they take it okay? If that's what IS you’re saying. If not then 
Have you spoken to anybody else about this? Say Cas for example?
Yeah, I had heard from the random reaper I managed to get a hold of that Crowley had managed to get the Death gig. 
Hit me back. 
I have a lot of questions. 

Love, Sam.


 

Dean ignored the eyes upon him as he chuckled to himself at the hot mess at the bottom of Sam's otherwise legible letter. He walked over to where Rebecca sat and gave her a little smile before rummaging around in the desk drawer for a pen. He grabbed at the sparkly blue gel pen, realizing with a mild irritation that it was the closest he would get to a ballpoint. He cleared his throat dramatically and circled his arm, flourishing his hand over the paper.

 


Samuel,


The glittery pen broke through the paper and ripped a small cut down where the comma was. Dean looked around erratically for a flat surface to write on and had decided on a wall when Rebbecca handed him her clipboard.

“Thanks”. He grunted and went back to work.  


Jack is a literal toddler. He can barely count to five, he can’t do day trips to earth alone.
Cas is probably almost up to doing day trips alone. He went ten rounds with Satan and won so he’s obviously got a few scratches.
Everything is okay, do not stress your hippy-haired head.
I haven’t seen Jess but I’ll see what I can do. Maybe you should write her a letter and see if it’ll be passed on?
I’ve got a line on how to come back so don’t worry about any of that witch shit.
It might take a while but just go about your days like you normally would... Or maybe safer than you normally would. 

It means the same thing in heaven as it does on earth, jackass.
I may have had a word with Cas about it. 

Don’t be weird.

Dean. 


Azrael was crouched over where Cas and Jack sat. Cas was gently trying to coerce Jack into playing with the young angel's hair in favor of his own which they seemed to strangely also be very emotionally invested in. Jack, however, was curled at an angle away from the stranger, burying his head against Castiel's chest in an act of shyness. Dean inhaled deeply and cleared his throat to get Azrael's attention. The angel laughed as they stood back up.

“That's okay, Jack maybe next time”. They grinned, as they wandered over toward where Dean stood with his arm extended. The young angel took the letter and disappeared from the room in the sound of whipping wings in the air. 

“How’s Sam?” Cas asked, angling his head away from the renewed perseverance of Jack’s grabby hands. 

“Oh, he’s as cool as ever.” Dean grinned. “Yeah, working with Rowena to try to bring me back.” He nodded. Cas’s smile quivered slightly. “You think he could maybe get a line to Jess. You remember we talked about her before... his ex from Stanford?” Dean asked.

“Uh, Yeah”, Cas shrugged. Pulling Jack’s hands from his face absentmindedly, “I don’t see why not”.

“Cool,” Dean nodded. “Cool. And, uh, if Sam happens to ask you somehow... I have a plan.” He swallowed hard and sat back down in front of the puzzle. He placed the clipboard and pen down beside him in the long grass before remembering that Rebecca may want the clipboard back. She smiled as he lifted it, and himself, up from the ground halfway, then shook her head and pointed to the desk, signaling for him to keep it beside him. He shrugged.

“A plan?” Cas asked quietly from behind him. Dean slowly turned toward the love of his life.

“Not a real one, Cas. Don’t worry, I’m not ditching you”. Cas nodded slowly then rubbed absentmindedly at the pulled hairs on his scalp, his eyes stared blankly at the grass between them.   

“I’m back” Azrael giggled from the middle of the room as if their wings hadn’t already signaled this to everyone.

“You are!” Cas smiled up at them, “Jack look who it is. What do you think, shall we give Azrael a turn at getting a makeover, now?” The braided angel didn’t even spare Dean a glance as they passed the new letter to him behind her back and crouched down to the position they had just been in only moments before. 

“Yeah, thanks,” Dean said sarcastically, placed the letter in one hand, widened his eyes at Rebecca, and gestured with his thumb to point at Azrael as if to say “This guy, am I right”. Rebecca’s mouth barely moved into an attempt at a polite smile as she immediately flicked her eyes back toward Jack. Dean rolled his eyes and opened the newest letter.

 


You’re saying you’re Gay? Since when?
Or are you Bisexual? Pan? Aromantic but Bi? Queer?
I’m just trying to make sense of this Dean, you aren’t exactly saying much.
What did Cas say? What did you say to him? When did you talk to him about it?
Did Dad freak? Mom? What happened?
Are you gonna tell Jack? Or does he already know because he’s God? Is he even still God?
Can you check about Jess before I write a letter?
It seems like a lot of emotional shit to put me through if you don’t even know for sure that she's gonna read it.
How do I know this is really you for that matter?
Why are you only now suddenly telling everyone you’re... bi(?)?
What's your plan? Can I help? 

SW.


 

Dean sighed and flipped the page over. 

 


 

I said don’t be weird... and yet...
I don’t know, man! I know sex is something that only occurs annually for you... if you're lucky,
but I'm obviously getting laid more often than that.

So, I’m sorry if that meant I didn’t give you a play-by-play every single time, place, or gender.
I don’t know what else you expect me to say. 

 


 

Dean flipped the page back and reread the letter. He sighed again and spared a glance to the angels behind him. Cas had seemed to manage to convince Jack to give him some space. He now sat with his hair still mangled and his face still bedazzled, grinning at the chaos that was being unabashedly unleashed onto Azrael's hair. Dean shook his head.

 


 

I told Cas that I love him. That's all.
You clearly knew first, so don't get pissy.
Dad lost it, obviously. Mom apparently knew.
I guess I'll tell Jack? I don’t know. He’s still God.
Cas said he’ll get your letter to her.
It’s not really me, I'm actually a twelve-year-old German girl named Heidi.
I’m not telling everyone.
Relax. I have it sorted.

Dean.

 


 

Dean shook his head and reread his response. He folded the paper until it resembled a messy square and whistled two tones; one high then low, as he flicked the paper in his hand toward Azrael. The angel jumped and straightened up. Their hair was now sticking up in at least nine different plumes from their head, tied with mismatched hair ties, and their cheeks had layers of glittery animals and flowers stuck to them. Dean lay his back down into the grass as Azreal made the journey from the room and to earth once again.

“You okay?” Cas asked, moving to lay down beside him. Dean chuckled breathlessly. 

“Just Sammy, being… well, Sam, I guess”, Dean rubbed at his mouth. “Giant nerd has to know everything about everything”.

“He does love knowledge.” Cas agreed.

“Yeah,” Dean mumbled to himself. He watched, transfixed, as Jack wandered over and wriggled himself between their two bodies, his mind silently sending a prayer to the small child next to him, pleading that Sam would believe that they were all truly working on some way to bring him back, at least for long enough to buy a little time; at least for long enough that Sam may learn how to live without him.

Chapter Text

Dean noticed the familiar, slightly lifted, slightly absent, heavenly churning of his stomach as he counted down the minutes until Penemue would arrive. He’d left the Galileo puzzle unfinished and when Kelly arrived, Dean stood staring blankly at Castiel (his hair now back to normal and his face stickerless), Kelly, and Jack, while they worked on the few remaining pieces of the puzzle together. When the time came for the angel's shift to end, Rebecca gave the four of them a joint wave and disappeared.

Dean felt as if each moment passed impossibly slow, waiting in nauseous anticipation. Penemue did seem like the type who wouldn't turn up on time, right? Dean pondered, as he bit at the corner of his cheek absentmindedly, and hoped that he hadn't cost Jack his favorite shrink.

Now, Kelly sat on the ground by Jack’s bed playing with the small god and trying, with the help of Cas, to convince Jack to wear a green hat with protruding frog eyes atop the brim. She insisted she needed at least one non-blurry picture of it, and it seemed to be an impossible task.

Finally, after being a whole ten minutes late, Penny arrived in a thrashing of wings and without looking around he got to work transforming the center of the room into a creative space for Jack’s daily art therapy. Dean shot a look at Cas, who nodded encouragingly at him in response. He attempted to swallow the air in his throat and stared at the grey-haired angel as he opened the playdough containers he'd just summoned from thin air. 

"Pen, uh--" Dean cleared his throat, "a word outside?" He asked and gestured to the door with a jerk of his head. Penny slowly placed the last remaining tub down and looked hesitantly over to where Cas sat on the edge of the bed. 

“Jack, let's have a look at this brightly colored, malleable clay that Penny brought you, shall we?” Castiel asked, gently taking the transformer from the toddler's gip and replacing it with his own hand. He led a wide-eyed Jack over to the short table and spared another reassuring smile at Dean, as he sighed and ducked out the door.

 

-

 

Once in the hallway, Dean sucked at his teeth and stared at his feet. He felt the heat rising to his cheeks. He didn’t actually have a plan beyond saying "sorry" and now that he was here, standing in front of the overalled, barefooted angel, he knew that “sorry” was a pretty piss poor apology. 

“Look man, about yesterday--” He began. 

“You mean your homophobic tantrum?” Dean sighed and rubbed his hand over his mouth, he switched the weight in his feet awkwardly and nodded slowly.

“That's the ticket,” He confirmed. Penny shook his head, his eyes trained on the door. “I’m sorry, okay?” Penny scoffed. 

“Oh, you are? Well, that's fine then”. He spat sarcastically. “Look, I don’t get what Castiel sees in you, but he’s been a dear friend of mine since before your species was even amoebic, so, if you’re fine keeping your opinions to yourself from now on, I’m fine with pretending you’re more than just some ignorant little parasite that has somehow managed to Gaslight Cas into believing he needs you around”. Penny turned to walk back toward room twenty-two but Dean shot his arm out, quickly stopping the angel by grabbing at his shoulder.

“Nope.” Dean managed. Penny shot his head toward Dean, his eyes sparkled with a newfound level of rage. They boiled in a display that roughly translated to an undeniable threat, such as... smiting Dean then and there. “No. See, I’m not okay with that.” Penny glowered at him. “I-- uh-- Would it help to tell you I was having a really bad day?” Penny laughed, a loud thunderous sound with zero humor. 

“You know, when I reconnected with Castiel, he was bedridden and completely distraught; absolutely inconsolable, because not only had you just revealed to him that you had passed away, but you also told him that you hated him. The man was awake all of five min--”

“I didn’t know about Lucifer or the emp--” Penny flicked his hand up and Dean’s voice cut short. He recalled feeling this feeling before. Penny had taken his voice from him.

“Shut your insolent mouth for five minutes, you swine!” Penny shook his head, his eyes wild as if it was now taking everything he had, to not to start throwing punches. Dean rolled his eyes and bowed, grandly, sweeping his arms out to the side, imploring the angel to continue. “Castiel has watched angels like me leave heaven and never return for millennia; a length of time that you cannot even fathom. He considered what I had done a sin, as all angels did, and some even still do... And yet, the lengths that the man in there,” He pointed to the door, “has gone to for just an ounce of gratification, a mere crumb of respect... from you... is ludicrous.” Dean nodded overenthusiastically and widened his eyes in an attempt at communicating what ran through his head. I know, you idiot, give me my voice back so I can actually explain this to you. To Penemue, however, Dean simply looked as if he were being impatient again. Penny looked Dean up and down, his upper lip twitching with rage. “Castiel is in love with you.” He continued, shaking his head some more, his grey curls bouncing around his shoulders. “And I know you are aware otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen such specific words in your thinly masked attack toward me yesterday. So, and please, do think before you answer, how have you apologized to him”. With a wave of his hand, Dean felt his voice return. He rubbed at his throat and licked his lips before speaking. 

“Well... I let him fuck me in the ass, for starters.” He grinned, finally happy to be the one in control of the conversation. Penny’s face softened from that of pure anger to the slightest, most minuscule raise of his eyebrows. Dean swallowed. He was glad he could steer things away from talks of feelings, and vulnerability, all that junk, plus he just really liked the feeling of seeing Penemue's shocked face. Penny’s mouth slackened as he searched Dean’s face as if trying to decide if he was joking or not. “So, you get it now? Are we good here or...?” Dean glanced at the door. 

“You-- You're gay?” Penny’s brain seemed to be working in slow motion. Dean turned back toward the angel.

“I’m something…” He shrugged, “I love Cas. Does the rest really matter?” Penny still seemed confused.  

“It sort of does. Why-- Why say all of that then?” Dean looked at the wall and scratched at his face.

“Look, I’m not saying I don’t have issues... I'm working on it. I guess I had to reach a new level of rock bottom yesterday as far as self-loathing goes so I could figure out that's not who I wanna be anymore… I gotta start living my death... not like I'm going anywhere." A thought occurred to him, "Aren’t you the one who’s a celestial therapist, you telling me you didn’t twig I was projecting?” He flashed the corners of his mouth down and raised his brows, “Maybe I didn’t need to work so hard.” Penny scoffed out something akin to a laugh and shook his head. 

“You did actually apologize to him too, right? You didn’t just--” Dean lolled his head back for a moment, rolling his eyes, before facing back toward Penny.

“I apologized. okay?!” 

“Properly? Because Cas was-- I’ve never seen him so--” Dean put his head in his hands. 

“There were speeches, tears, the whole deal. Now, we're done here, okay? I apologized. I meant it. I told you why I was being a dick, even though it's really none of your business. We’re good.” Dean slapped Penny on the shoulder and trudged toward the door of Jack’s room.

“Did we just become best friends?” Penny chuckled, causing Dean to turn sharply. He considered it for a moment. 

“Well, I guess I don’t hate you”. Penny grinned. 

“Me either.” He stated, his brows raised as if he was shocked to learn of his own feelings. Dean turned and placed his hand on the doorknob. “Oh, and Dean. You know you’re not actually stuck here right? You know there are options?” Dean’s hand fell from the golden handle. 

“What the hell did you just say?” 

Chapter Text

Then.

 

 

 

Castiel stirred in his sleep. Each time a new dream seized him he had been tricked into believing he could make an impact upon the memory, as if they were not dreams, and were, in fact, rather, hellish events that were transpiring then and there; that he had some semblance of control over their outcomes. And yet, each time he would find himself unable to change anything. He watched, trapped inside of his vessel as his chest squeezed at the sight of his own hands, when he struck his angel blade into friends and family members that he had known and loved for millennia, or when he saw the anguish he felt mirrored back at him from the dazzling green eyes of a very beautiful man.

Castiel found that he began to bleed apart; he had wandered his regrets over and over in the timeless void of the empty and eventually, whilst inside a dream that he could now no longer recall, that squeezing inside of his chest had intensified until it finally became almost unbearable. Then, he felt himself split in two, away from his memory’s body. He turned to look back upon himself, his true form a dazzling light exploding out of what was once merely another vessel. It was strange, seeing his body move and breathe and live without him inside of it, after years of living within it on earth. He looked down at the hands of his true form and turned them over, simply marveling at them without judgment for the first time in over a decade.

 

The room around Castiel bubbled and churned into another memory. 

Castiel sat inside his vessel (on a large, grey, suede sofa that Dean had found on the side of the road) watching a zombie get its head “bashed in” with a stop sign. Dean returned from the bathroom and plonked himself gracelessly onto their new sofa. Cas could tell that he was supposed to be watching the TV screen but he couldn’t help but stare blankly at it, as Dean, seemingly carelessly, stretched himself out horizontally, across the couch. He placed a cushion between Cas’s thigh and the armrest, and lay his head atop it, and put his feet up the opposite end.

“You don’t mind, do you?” Dean asked, looking up at him.

“Uhh.” Cas swallowed hard. “No”. He felt frozen... and unusually aware of his arms.

“The armchairs are great but I gotta stretch out the ol’ knees, I’m falling asleep”. Dean grinned and turned back toward the TV. Cas’s heart was beating hard and fast and he, much to his chagrin, also felt it beating in his crotch.  

“Maybe you should go to bed?” Cas felt himself say. Idiot. His chest squeezed again. Hello old friend

“Yeah, but we may as well finish the episode, right? If I don’t make it all the way to the end, you can just kick me off”. Castiel felt himself explode from his memory’s vessel again and stood up, passing straight through Dean where he lay, and crouched on the floor in front of the sofa, facing the man, content to watch him as he watched the television. He was close enough to count the freckles on Dean's face. Close enough that if he were not merely a manifestation of his own subconscious doomed to wander like a ghost in his deepest regrets, he may just be able to run his thumb along the lines at the corners of Dean’s eyes; the tangible proof that the man that he loves had felt, at the very least, the barest amount of joy needed to have these very human markings of happiness eternally etched into his face. The Castiel frozen in time continued to stare unseeingly at the tv. 

“Are you sure? We could always just pause it, or, if your knees are sore, I could try--”

“I’m sure. Shut up, I’m trying to watch this.” Dean interjected, a small smile twitched at the very edges of his mouth for a moment, and his eyes filled with something Castiel couldn’t place, a spark of something audacious yet chaste that made his heart ache at the site of it. Castiel shook his head as the memory version of himself began to speak again. 

“Dean, I’m just worried about you. Your bed would be a better place for you to get some rest or I could--”

“Dude, you’re not up to healing lately, don’t even try it”. Dean mumbled without looking back at him this time. The original Castiel sighed deeply. This was a rather pleasant regret, Castiel noted, in comparison to a long list of regrets he’d wandered. 

“I could try--” and that was it. Dean sat up with a sigh and paused his phone, causing the television to stop. He patted the memory of Castiel on his forearm and then stood up, while Castiel stared at him in confusion. Idiot. Castiel chastised himself again. 

“Keep some fuel for a real emergency, Amelia Earhart,” Dean retorted as he stretched himself, his joints cracked and popped as he moved. 

“Amelia Earhart didn’t run out of fuel. She was raptured after her plane was shot down by the Japanese Army, to spare her an unjustly painful death.” Dean turned to stare at the vesseled Castiel for a good five seconds and as if by magnetic force the free-range Castiel moved from his spot on the floor, content to simply watch Dean’s face journey as he processed this new information. 

“Whatever. Point is, I’m going to sleep. So, you won.” Dean flashed his brows and sauntered off out of the room. 

“I won.” Castiel frowned and with a sharp and shallow exhale, he felt himself get snapped back into his body.

 

 

 

The walls began to melt into a wave of black goo transforming the scene inside Castiel's head into yet another memory. 

Castiel found himself sitting on the ground, his back against some cool metal, his breathing was shaky, he watched silently as Dean rushed around, moving various torture instruments and devices around the room in a panic.

“Dean?” He felt himself say. Dean turned toward him sharply. 

“What, you need something else?” he asked. Castiel’s chest squeezed again at the sight of him, the youthful look to Dean this new memory jolted Castiel free of his memory’s form and left him down on all fours, gasping for air.

“No.” The memory version of him continued. “I feel regret...” He explained. “About you, and what I did to Sam.” Castiel watched himself as he hyperventilated, wondering how he had managed to remain so calm at the time. As if his anguish wasn’t completely debilitating, having finally realized that Dean had been right all along; that he had made a huge mistake entrusting Crowley over the Winchesters. As if it wasn’t excruciating realizing that this was the first time he had felt any negative side effect from having free will. Dean turned back to move more of Crowley’s machines.

“Yeah, well, you should.” 

“If there was time, if I was strong enough, I’d fix him now.” The original Castiel explained, desperately hoping to gain some kind of absolution from the man that he now realized he should have clung to as an ethical compass; his north star for morality, an unshakable myriad of human emotions contained in a single body, with a lifetime of making the only right decisions in these types of dilemmas. “I just wanted to make amends before I die”. Dean turned toward him again, this time a small fire flared in his emerald eyes. He sighed deeply.

“Okay.” The Castiel, doomed to live out this memory for the first time, searched inside himself at this response. 

“Is it working?” he asked, although he could feel the lack of it doing so, and therefore knew the answer to his own query. Idiot

“Does it make you feel better?” Dean asked.

 

And then he froze. 

 

Castiel sat upon his knees and looked to his memory’s form beside himself and noticed that it too, had stopped moving. He wondered for a quick moment if perhaps the empty had taken pity on him, or if maybe he had lived out his sentence and now he would finally rest in a peaceful dreamless slumber for eternity, or die and give his energy to the monster that presided over this afterlife. 

 

“Cas?” Castiel’s head snapped toward the sound, his eyes brimming with tears.

“Jack?” He grinned, laughing.

“Yes. Hello Cas, It’s me!” Jack stated as if Castiel could have possibly forgotten. He rushed forward as Castiel pulled himself up off the concrete floor. 

“How are you here?” Castiel asked. Jack threw his arms around the angel, muffling the end of his question in his shoulder. 

“Are you okay?” Jack asked, pulling back and looking him up and down.

“Yes. I’m fine, Jack, How are you here?!” He asked again, a little urgency rising in his voice as the danger of his reality set in. 

“It was Dean. He-- Cas it's bad. I--” Jack shook his head trying to clear it, trying to get his emotions under control. “Cas, I have to free you from the empty. It's the only way we can save Sam.” Castiel felt as if his brain was working in slow motion.

“I-- No, Jack, It’s not safe. You have to leave, now! You shouldn't be here--” Jack lifted his hand in a fist and opened it up presenting a white stoned ring to Castiel. 

“You have to put this on. You have to become Death.” Jack stated as if he were explaining something incredibly obvious to a child, for the thousandth time. 

“Become Death? Jack, no. You have to leave before the empty finds you and keeps you here for good this time”. 

“It can't, Cas. I have God's power, now. The empty can’t claim my soul anymore. Dean helped me make a door in here, but you have to put the ring on, we need a new Death so that I can get out of here.” Castiel frowned and wiped the tears that had formed in his eyes. 

“You-- you’re--” Jack is god? It was too much to accept right now, “I’m not... becoming Death, Jack. No-- I-- I died. This is where I belong”. 

“You don’t belong here, nobody belongs here. This place? It’s horrible, please...” Jack began, he looked uncertain, “--please, father.” Castiel swallowed hard. 

“I-- I can’t,” Castiel mumbled, he looked down at the memory version of himself, an insufferable past echo of the man he was; his flawed, self-righteous attempt at seizing power for the good of heaven. He knew he was not in any position to take on that level of responsibility. 

“You would really rather leave me here, doomed to wander this place alone than come home for your family?” Jack asked, tears of his own now streaking his cheeks. Cas shook his head, still unable to meet Jack’s eyes, his heart ached. 

“I can’t,” he stated more forcefully this time. “You’ll need to find somebody else. I-- I can’t”. He sniffed. Jack exhaled sharply as if he'd just been the victim of a physical blow. 

“Fine.” He yelled angry at first then, backing away from Castiel and shaking his head he continued, softer this time. “I’ll find another way and I’ll be back for you. Just… don’t add this to the list of memories you regret, okay?” Jack’s voice was barely a whisper as he tried to keep himself from sobbing. Castiel fell back to the floor, shaking. “I promise I’m not gonna let you stay here, okay? I have Amara on my side now and together we’re gonna fix everything, I... just have to save Sam first.” 

“Jack”, Cas looked back up at him blinking through his tears. “Are you really God?” Jack smiled and sniffed. 

“No. I could never be God, Castiel, all I can do is try and fix His mistakes.” Castiel smiled at this. 

“I am so...” Cas’s voice broke as his smile wavered “...proud of you. My beautiful, son.” Jack smiled down at Castiel with a look of pity and grief and nodded.

“I will make sure to earn that pride.”

 

 Now.

 

 

 

 


Castiel sat by Jack’s small table watching as the toddler molded a vaguely humanoid shape made of a concoction of playdough combined together to create a rainbow swirl of clay. Dean sat on the other side of Jack, occasionally chuckling at himself as he penned down yet another letter to his younger brother back on Earth. Dean sipped at the glass of whiskey he had refilled a number of times this evening already and handed his newest piece of paper to Azreal, who left the room in a thrashing of wings. 

“Dean,” Jack began, looking up at the man to his left. 

“What is it, little man?” Dean asked, sparing a quick glance at Cas and a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. 

I miss Sam.” Jack declared. Pushing the humanoid figure toward Dean and adding two branching shapes to the back of it. 

“We all do,” Castiel explained, placing a gentle hand on the child’s shoulder.

Jack continued to stare at Dean, his eyes holding the hidden wisdom of a toddler god. 

Chapter Text

The next two weeks passed in a relatively similar pattern. Dean would wake up late, grab a coffee, and head to Jack’s room where the toddler would be already up and playing with Castiel while Rebecca watched from over in the corner, making notes in her a4 book. Kelly would join them at around midday, at roughly the same time, Azrael would appear with the first letter of the day from Sam, and Dean would switch from coffee to beer or whiskey. The angel therapist shift change happened and everyone would get involved in whatever creative task Penemue would conjure up. Dean would leave at around five pm to start cooking, and an hour later the five of them would sit and eat a meal together. Penny and Kelly would then leave and Cas or Dean would read Jack a bedtime story while the other washed the dishes. The two would finally meet in Dean’s bedroom, fool around a bit, and fall asleep, ready to do it all over again the next day. 

On this particular night, Sam had just informed Dean that it had been one whole month, Earth time, since Dean had died. 

Dean was in the kitchen, wearing a grey oversized hooded sweater underneath his apron, rewarding himself with what was roughly a shot of Johnny Walker Blue, straight from the bottle, each time he finished chopping up a random vegetable to throw into the pot of (what he hoped would eventually turn out to be a) semi-healthy pasta sauce. 

He didn’t notice Castiel enter the kitchen until he felt the angel's arms wrap around his waist and his chin rest on his shoulder. 

“Does ash gourd go in Pasta?” Castiel asked, pulling back and running his hands over Dean’s backside.

“That what this is?” Dean plonked the knife down and scratched at his mouth, before grabbing at the bottle again and taking another gulp on the burning liquid. Dean watched as Cas huffed out a laugh and took a Tupperware container out of the drawer, he then proceeded to use his hand to brush the vegetable off the chopping board and into the plastic container. Castiel waited until he was turned away from Dean, and walking toward the fridge, to speak again.

“You’ve been drinking more and more every day.” He stated, calmly. 

“Yup,” Dean responded and grabbed at the zucchini that sat waiting in the pile of vegetables beside the chopping board. He got to work, slicing and dicing trying to ignore the anxiety he felt, though distantly, thanks to heaven.

“Is it just stress about tomorrow, or?” Dean turned sharply to Castiel.

“Tomorrow?” Castiel sighed deeply.

“Pride, Dean. We’ve discu--”

“Yeah, right. No, I remember.” he turned back to the board and then gently placed the knife down and shook his head, his heart pounding hard in his chest. “I was thinking I could stay here, maybe look after Jack if nobody else is gonna be here.” Castiel approached Dean, stood beside him at the kitchen island, and peered up at him in an attempt to get him to meet his blue eyes.

“Kelly and I were literally just talking about bringing Jack along, Dean, you were in the room at the time.” Dean swallowed, he nodded and stared at the zucchini. “I’d love for you to come.” Castiel’s voice was soft, he placed his hand upon Dean’s. Dean sniffed, his stomach tightened.

“Yeah, I don’t know, man. I don’t really think that’s my scene.” He pulled his hand out from under Cas’s and grabbed the bottle again taking multiple deep pulls of whiskey. 

“Charlie told me you’d already mentioned that you were going.” Dean chuckled to himself humorlessly. 

“Did she now?” He shrugged, “Well, that was before...” Dean turned to look at Castiel for the first time. He saw the hurt that he was trying to avoid feeling himself, plainly etched on Cas’s face. He spun himself around and took a few steps away, intentionally blocking his eyes out with his hand so he couldn’t see Cas’s face. “Don’t, Cas.... Just-- You go. You’ll have fun. Go get your pride on without me, you don’t need me for that”. Castiel puffed out a frustrated laugh. 

“You’re still ashamed of me.” He concluded, his voice breaking. Dean sighed and closed his eyes tight. He shook his head before he turned to look at Cas.

“Cas, I’m just-- I’m having a real hard time… with-- with all of this.” He finally admitted. He walked his heavy feet toward Castiel. “I don’t--” He chuckled grimly. His eyes flicked back and forth, unseeingly, at the concrete floor between them. “I don't... want to be here.” His throat felt dry from forcing the words out. Castiel stared at him, his brows furrowed, waiting for him to continue, to elaborate. Dean licked at his lips. “I thought I’d be able to do it this time”, he looked up into Cas’s eyes, “You know? Really stick it out.” He shook his head, “I felt like my fight was finally over; There's no big bad lurking around the corner. For the first time in my life, there was no real reason I had to keep going. So, I figured, one last time. Maybe I could go down swingin’, save Sammy in the process, then I could finally let myself take on the big sleep…” He sighed, “I guess it took it all finally ending for me to realize, I didn’t really need a reason forcing me to stick around. Turns out, I kind of wanted to live after all.” He chuckled, and with a shake of his head, he grabbed an eggplant in one hand and the knife in the other and started chopping. 

“Dean,” Cas’s arms were back around his waist hugging him from the side while Dean continued to awkwardly cut at the eggplant. He laughed softly and twisted his torso around while poking his elbow into Cas’s arm. He peered at Cas out of the corner of his eyes.

“You’re making this unnecessarily difficult, Cas.” Castiel smiled and kissed his cheek.

“You’re allowed to be upset about dying. You barely even made it past half of a human life expectancy.” He placed his lips to Dean's cheek again. “You don’t need to keep these feelings to yourself, you know that right? You’re not some burden to me, I don’t only enjoy your company when you’re in a good mood, I love you. All of you, not just the parts you deem more attractive.” Dean sighed and placed another zucchini on the chopping board. 

“Yeah, I just didn’t--” He scrubbed at his face with his free hand and placed down the knife again. He then picked up the bottle of Johnny Walker in one hand and raised his index finger on the other, gesturing for Cas to wait a moment while he took another shot. He threw back another mouthful, huffed out a sharp breath, and squinted at the burning in the back of his throat as he placed the bottle back down on the bench. He sighed. “You know it's not about you, right?” He licked his lips and turned in Cas’s arms. “I don’t want you to think that…” He stared at Cas’s neck, “...you're not enough”. He swallowed in an attempt of pushing down the lump that had formed in his throat. He was still unable to look into Cas’s eyes. Castiel placed his forehead against Dean’s who in turn exhaled deeply and closed his eyes.  
 
“Come with me tomorrow”, Cas pressed as he nuzzled his nose against Dean’s. Dean inhaled shakily, his eyes fluttered open and he placed his lips against Castiel’s softly in a kiss. 

“I will.” He replied pulling back, then gently shook his head, scoffed, and took another deep breath in. “I don’t think I'm exactly gonna fit in. I don't even know what the hell I’m supposed to wear, but I’ll go.” He laughed and turned back toward the food as Cas lowered his arms. 

“I’d say you can just wear what you normally would but it seems you’ve changed that up lately”. Castiel walked away to place the stove on and moved the oiled pot (that Dean had already prepared) over the fire. Dean gathered up the veggies and bumped his hip against Cas's, gently gesturing for him to move out of the way. He then dropped all of the chopped-up vegetables into the pot.

“What, you don’t like it? Sam and I used to rock a hoodie all the time, back in the day. I forgot how comfortable they are.” Dean pulled at the soft grey fabric on his torso. Cas smirked.

“I was worried you'd decided that, now that you finally had me, you didn’t need to make an effort anymore”. Dean scoffed as he opened a can of tomatoes.

“Hey, that hurts a little, man. I think I look like a total DILF.” Cas placed his hand on Dean's shoulder and rubbed his hand back and forth.

“No, you do look cute, very cuddly. I just don’t think it's appropriate attire for a celebration. It seems to say “I’ve given up” more than anything”. Dean raised his brows. A jolt of anxiety surged in his stomach.

“Yeah…” He sighed and turned to look at Cas again. He approached the next topic carefully. “Cas, say I do find a way out of here... you’re not gonna come with me, are you." He rushed his words as his eyes darted all over the room, "What with Jack being here, and the council probably needs you--” Castiel's eyes lit up as if everything had finally fallen into place; as if finally understood why Dean had been so hesitant to talk about his discomfort. Dean continued to avoid looking at the angel and instead busied himself. He pulled a wooden spoon out of the drawer and stared nervously at the pot as he waited for the vegetables to soften, and Cas to respond.

“Is that what all of this has been about? I-- Dean.” Castiel shook his head, grinning ear to ear. “Kelly has already stated to me that she wants Jack to go back down to Earth. He’s alive, and semi-human, albeit also a God," he mused, "but a confused and childish God who now needs to relearn the alphabet and simple addition. I-- I can’t believe you sometimes--”

“And that's another thing, how come Jack remembers who I am but, what, he just blocked out all the horrible things I said to him?" He focused on pushing the vegetables around in the pot, lathering them in oil. It was all coming out now. Everything he'd been so careful to avoid talking about; everything he'd been scared shitless to mention, yet, had been eating him up inside for the last two weeks/month(?). "He chose to be this version of himself, right? Nobody did this to him? Why'd he just up and choose to Benjamin Button himself; become a freakin' infant Mother Teresa?" He sighed and turned toward Cas, trying to ignore the pit still very annoyingly present in his stomach, "He didn't like the shit I said, so he just decided to forget all about it? I ain't buyin' it." Castiel shook his head and opened his mouth to reply but Dean cut him off "--And don't think I did notice you didn't answer me about the Council.” Castiel grinned, bewildered and Dean frowned, squinting at his resolve in confusion.

“I’m healed..." Cas began, "I’m able to go back and forth from here to earth but I doubt the council will even really need me and there's always Angel Radio…” he shook his head, and placed his hand in Dean's, looking deeply into his green eyes, “I honestly believe with my entire being, that Jack elected to forgive you, Dean. I think that somewhere deep down he remembers how you treated him, but he has also seen the way you've instantly and furiously accepted him as your son again." Dean nodded slowly at this and ran his hand over his mouth, Castiel chuckled, "I-- Have you really spent these last two weeks trying to choose between Heaven or Earth, us or Sam?” Dean licked his lips and placed the wooden spoon on the side of the stove, a smile growing from the corner of his lips as he turned back toward Cas.

“I’m an idiot, alright. We already know this." He swallowed hard, leaning in closer to the angel, grinning with newfound excitement, "Cas-- I-- ,” He flustered, then he grabbed Cas’s face in both his hands and planted an overexaggerated kiss on his lips. He drew back beaming, “What do you say, after tomorrow's complete shitshow you and I finally head on home.” He laughed. Castiel lowered his brow and cocked his head to the side in confusion as he studied Dean's face, then his head slowly righted itself, and his face grew into an exacerbated smile as he realized, Dean had done it; he'd already figured out his one way of getting back home.

Chapter Text

I hate this, I hate this, I hate this, Dean’s internal monologue repeated on a loop as he tightly gripped the Impala’s steering wheel and completed his fifth lap of the area, in search of a parking space. The city was huge and the segment that they'd chosen as the location for the festival backed onto a beach. People dressed in all sorts of colorful glittering outfits wandered out onto the main road with very little care, resulting in Baby’s horn getting an extreme workout.

“Dean, relax”, Castiel finally grumbled from the passenger seat, he slammed his hand against the dashboard, bracing himself against the sudden force at which Dean hit the brakes. Dean shot him a look.

“We’re already running late,” his voice rose, “and this damn parking situation would be the death of me if I wasn’t already dead!” He slapped his hand down on the horn again, while someone dressed in a rainbow flag cape gave them a haphazard wave as they jogged awkwardly in front of the car. “Come on!” he yelled at them, throwing his hands up.

“You’re the one who insisted we could fit--” 

“Cas, not now!” Dean warned, then his face softened. A silver car backed out in front of him and he flicked the indicator up. “Yes!” He pulled the Impala into the parking space and turned the key, exhaling hugely, he twisted toward Cas, watching the angel as he unbuckled his seatbelt. “I stand by this morning's decision.” He licked at his lips and pumped his brows at Cas who turned to him with a grin. Castiel was dressed in his normal get-up minus the coat and jacket, his sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, his tie was missing, and a few of his top buttons were undone. It wasn’t like Dean hadn’t seen him completely naked... but for some sick reason the relaxed, slight show of skin had been driving him mad all morning and he knew that if they didn’t clear the pipes, so to speak, he’d be a distracted mess all day. Now that roughly an hour had passed from their trip up to “the big city”, as it was so aptly named, Dean was already starting to look at Castiel with a considerable amount of hunger again. Cas shook his head. 

“You’re ridiculous,” he opened his door, exited the vehicle, and looked over the roof to where Dean would appear. When seeing nothing but the gleam of the sun bouncing off the car, he then crouched down and peered back inside the impala. “Come on,” his voice imitated the tone he would use when he lifted Jack from his highchair. 

“Ughhhh,” Dean flung his head back against the seat and ran a hand over his mouth. “I don’t wanna.” He chuckled, closing his eyes tight.

“I know.” Castiel sighed. “I also know, that you know, that you’re being stupid”. Dean looked up at him with fear in his eyes and swallowed audibly. 

“I feel like I should have worn leather chaps or something”, He stared down at his dark blue jeans, and began picking at a thread on the sleeve of his plain black t-shirt. 

“I could create some for you if you’d like,” Cas asked, shifting his weight on his feet, “You’re making us even later.” Dean sighed and cartoonishly swung the driver's side door open, flopping himself out of the car and slamming the door shut. The air outside was hot and smelled like a mixture of saltwater and deep-fried food. He walked over to Castiel’s side of the parking space. 

“I obviously don’t actually want to wear chaps, man.” He tapped his hand against the small of Cas’s back and nodded his head toward the general direction that everyone seemed to be headed, annoyingly away from the beach... “Alright, let's get this shit over with”, he shook his head.

It wasn’t a long walk but it felt like miles. Dean had that feeling, the one that he would often get on a hunt. Like, a sixth sense that would let him know that there was something else coming; like, he’d maybe missed one of the monsters that lurked in the shadows; like, there was something watching him. He tried to ignore it but the feeling was getting stronger the more crowded the area they were heading seemed to get. He knew that there was nothing that could actually be wrong in heaven though, and he reminded himself that he was a grown-ass man who had literally killed Hitler and Death so, shouldn't be hyperventilating! Finally, though, the air became so thin that he determined it was unbearable and found himself gripping at Cas’s bare forearm and pulling the angel up against a random shop’s brick wall, which Dean now rested his back against, his eyes were wide and roamed around the crowd feverishly.

“What is--” Cas began then looking at Dean, the shock Cas wore seemed to fade into one of tenderness. Dean chuckled breathlessly and whispered hoarsely.

“Fuck off, it’s not funny.”

“I’m not laughing” Castiel's voice was gentle, he stood as close as he could to Dean, his back angled against the crowd. “Do you want me to help you?” Castiel asked softly. He’d learned from the last time he’d tried to cure Dean Winchester's panic attack without asking first. Dean nodded and slid his hand down from its grip on Cas’s forearm into his hand, their fingers intertwined. Cas smiled tenderly. Dean rested his forehead on the angel's shoulder as Castiel’s grace trickled into him through his fingertips, he sighed feeling the euphoria flooding his mind, and relaxed muscles he hadn’t even realized he had been tensing. Dean felt the exact moment Cas’s grace receded, the angelic elation inside of him faded almost as soon as it had begun, leaving Dean with a shot of oxytocin. Dean lifted his head, his eyes boring into Castiel’s, sky blue and full of love. The crowd seemed to fade away as if the two of them were alone on the crowded street. He planted a quick kiss on Cas’s lips and grinned. 

“Alright,” he cleared his throat, “let's find this bar and get some beer in me quick before I need you to do that again”.

 

-

 

Turns out that the bar that Charlie had asked them all to meet had a beer garden that spilled out onto the main street where the march was already taking place. Castiel and Dean dodged and weaved through the group of people on the road that stood directly out the front of the beer garden, seemingly held up by the traffic of the other many, many groups taking part in the march. Charlie, dressed in glitter and rainbows head to toe, stood from where she sat at one of the picnic tables and approached them at the gate, yelling at the security guard to allow them in while the crowd clapped and cheered as the march started moving again. 

“Hey!” Dean yelled in Charlie’s ear as she squeezed him into a hug. 

“You made it!” She shouted back, releasing Dean, then throwing her arms around Castiel, “I thought you guys weren't coming for a minute there!” Castiel huffed out a laugh and gave Dean a sideways glance.

“The traffic was jacked!” Dean nodded at her, ignoring Cas’s look. “This us?” He asked, pointing at one of the many picnic tables with big green shade umbrellas and large cardboard reserved signs. 

“Yeah, anywhere here’s good!” She stated, flourishing her hands at all four of the picnic tables. Dean looked over at the table of people that Charlie came from. His eye contact caused Penemue to stand and climb out of the seat, and Castiel to leave Dean's side to meet the other angel halfway. Dean did a double-take and slapped Charlie on the shoulder. “That Mamma Middleton!?” He didn’t wait for a response and trudged over to the already packed table, leaving Charlie laughing, following in his wake. 

 

-

 

It didn’t take long for Dean to relax. He’d always been pretty good at adjusting to uncomfortable, or frankly, wack-ass circumstances, and he wondered why he ever thought this would be any different. He was among friends, after all, and it wasn’t like he couldn’t charm the pants off any strangers (literally, however, these days he’d laid that to rest). He now sat buzzed, beer in one hand, and clapping his spare against the bottle at a huge group of men holding a “Twinks from the nineteen-twenties” sign, while they made their way down the street. Cas sat at the back of the beer garden with Jack on his shoulders (so the toddler could see the commotion) and appeared to be in a deep conversation with Kelly and Penemue. While Dean was interested in knowing whatever the hell the group behind him was talking about, he truly was happy enough to just sit and watch the march, occasionally making small talk with Simon, Penemue’s husband. 

Simon was bald and wore thick-framed glasses. He was pretty lanky and if Dean had to pick, he’d guess he was some sort of academic, a professor of something maybe? Just one of those people that made Dean feel like a dumbass purely because he enunciated every letter so clearly. 

A waiter in a mesh shirt eyed Dean as he took the table number and replaced it with three baskets of fries. Dean swallowed and trained his eyes to the grooves in the wooden table. 

“Thought he was gonna ask for your number for a minute there,” Simon piped, swooping in on a fry. Dean chuckled awkwardly and widened his eyes knowingly at the man across from him. He picked at the fries and glared unseeingly as the “Dykes on Bikes” rode down the street on an assortment of motorcycles. 

“I gotta get me a Harley one day,” Dean muttered in response. Simon laughed.

“Pen told me you’re new at… all of this. Sorry if it’s awkward. I’m not really good at indoctrinating baby gays into the fold”. Dean pulled his lips into a thin line. 

“Yeah, uh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t-- I’m not--” He turned his beer in his hand. “I mean--”

“Oh,” Simon cut him off and nodded, “Just Castiel?” Dean shook his head slightly, grinning to himself.

“Uh, I--” He swallowed. “It’s complicated.” He narrowed his eyes at the man across from him. Simon raised a brow in response, nodding feverishly. 

“I’ve been there... Look, I know this can be pretty overwhelming… but there’s no actual rule saying you need to figure any of it out… ever… and if anyone says otherwise they’re not worth listening to.” He grinned at Dean, “I’m just glad you’re here, I know it means a lot to them.” He gestured discreetly with his eyes to where Penny and Cas sat at the table behind them. Dean nodded. 

“I mean, I kind of do have it figured out.” Dean admitted, “It’s just that nobody else really gets it… but thanks.” He sighed. 

“Try me.” Dean chuckled humorlessly and rubbed a hand over his mouth 

“I guess-- it's like,” He felt the heat rising in his cheeks, “I don’t know, like-- Okay. Maybe I don’t have it figured out as much as I thought I did but-- It’s like, when I think about it-- All I know is that I’m done.” He gestured his hand in a line, horizontally, as if metaphorically drawing a line in the sand, “Like, I’m officially calling quits on all of it; Hanging up the hat. Ya know?” He grabbed a pinch of fries. “If something happens and this,” He raised his brows and twitched his head toward Cas, “Doesn’t pan out. I’m...” He laughed. “I don’t know, I don’t even want to think about that. But yeah, I’m-- it’s-- it's only him”. Simon nodded and stared off into the middle distance as if lost in thought, he brought his beer to his mouth and took a drink then replied.

“Yeah, I get that.” Dean nodded and chucked his handful of fries into this mouth. 

“You, uh-- You happy with everything?” Dean asked, pushing the fries aside in his mouth, then amended his question, “Heaven, I mean.” Simon squinted at him through his glasses. 

“Of course. Are you not?” Dean smiled and threw back his drink.

“You’re not bored? You don’t ever just wanna grab Penny and head back down to the main lobby?” He eyed the bubbles exploding at the surface of his beer. 

“Life was… not exactly everything I’d hoped it would be… besides, it's not like there's anything missing here that’s worth having.” Dean glanced up to see Simon still staring at him curiously, he trained his eyes back on his drink. “Sorry if I'm overstepping, but Pen mentioned, he told you how to go back… but he's also mentioned to me that it helps when people who aren’t at peace start by replicating what they did on earth.” He smiled gently. “What did you do for a living?” Dean scoffed out a laugh. 

“I, uh,” He chuckled, “Me and my brother, we hunted monsters.” He nodded at Simon's confusion. “Demons, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, ghouls. You name it, we killed it.” 

“Monsters exist?” Simon stared blindly at the marching group of whatever the hell the people in leather dog masks were. 

“Not really, anymore. Demons, yeah, but everything else is gone now.” Simon raised his brows.

“You must have been good at your job,” He laughed. Dean considered this. 

“It was mainly, uh,” He threw a thumb over his shoulder, “The Little Guy.”

“Right,” Simon said, nodding. “The Child God.” Dean laughed. 

“Exactly”.

“I can see why you can’t just return to life as you had it on earth then, I suppose.” He sniffed and suddenly had a strange gleam in his eyes as if he had just made a scientific breakthrough, “Odd concept, that heaven may be too perfect for you”. Dean huffed out another awkward humorless laugh.

“I must be strong and carry on, ‘cause I know, I don’t belong here in heaven”, Dean mumbled Eric Clapton’s lyrics. Simon looked worried.

“What about you? Are you taking the proverbial elevator back down to the metaphorical lobby?” Dean smirked.

“I mean, it’s the plan.” He nodded, “No guarantee. These types of things have a way of not working in my favor but,” He shrugged, “I must be strong and carry on”, He repeated in a mockery of himself. 

“When?” Simon asked.

“Plan is tomorrow. Today’s supposed to be something of a last horah, you know, party as much as I can, while I can, even though this ain’t even real beer,” he shook his head in disgust at his glass but Simon was no longer paying Dean any attention. He stood as a new group of people marching lined up outside of the bar. It was the largest group yet, Dean noted, he wasn't able to see the end of the crowd of people marching, as it twisted back down the street, and around the bend. Penny was suddenly at Simon's side, his hand rubbing circles over the man's back as tears formed in both of their eyes. Dean stood as he read the sign being held at the very front of the group, in large black letters it read, "Those who lost their lives to the AIDs epidemic".

 

-

 

Dean was actually waisted. The sun had set long ago. Jack and Kelly had left pretty much straight after the march ended and Penny and Simon weren't far behind. Mrs. Middleton left after that, whereas, Charlie joined Cas and Dean out to some club's after-party that she insisted they all should visit, on account of her "party" scoring free drinks. At some point, Charlie had left with a bubbly blonde girl while Dean and Cas stayed. Castiel mainly sat talking to various different people. The angel seemed content to simply watch Dean, admiring him as he was, completely immersed, in his element.

 

Now, Dean sat on the sand, socks, and boots off, wearing a fluffy pink cowboy hat that he didn't exactly remember how he acquired and was slowly, contently, chomping on a hotdog. The only light came from the parking lot behind them and the white glow of the huge full moon reflecting off the ocean. Cas sat beside Dean, so close he was practically on his lap, grinning ear to ear, and staring down at his burger. While their new friend, "Steve Phoenix" (a drag queen in impossibly tall stripper heels) towered over them both. Her heels sank into the sand as she hobbled over toward them.

"No, you really are an angel, Castiel. Not just a literal angel, a metaphorical angel. Like, by human standards!" She held her wig onto her head in one hand as she attempted to sit down in the sand without falling over, or dropping the burger Castiel had just bought her. 

"Thank you, Steven", Cas grinned, his eyes glassy. "You make an attractive woman". Steve laughed and made eye contact with Dean.

"Steven!" She repeated incredulously, "I mean, you can't make this shit up!" Dean nodded overenthusiastically and took another bite of his hotdog. 

"He's a good one," Dean agreed, mouth full, patting Cas on his thigh.

"You have got to be fucking kidding me," a familiar voice called from a few meters away, causing everyone's heads to snap toward the sound.

"Oh, hey, man". Dean called, laughing. Glaring at them from the footpath by the food truck, stood Adam and a stranger with long dark hair and a very perky nose, who Dean assumed could only be Michael. The two dropped their hands from each other's grip and Michael turned back towards the food truck in the beach parking lot, to place their orders. 

"What are you guys even doing here?" Adam asked, strolling over toward the three of them.

"Well, this guy", Dean pointed to Steve Phoenix, "just annihilated a cover of, uh--" Dean furrowed his brow and hit his hand against Cas's chest.

"It was Beyonce," Castiel answered, smiling.

"It was Beyonce," Dean repeated, theatrically, narrowing his eyes, "and as for Cas and I… Well, I reckon you could take a wild stab at it." He threw the last of the hotdog into his mouth. Adam's mouth twitched down as he glanced between the two before the epiphany hit. He opened his mouth to respond but Dean cut him off before he could speak. "How's, uh, the whole becoming an angel thing going for you?" Dean asked, wiping his hands on his jeans. Adam seemed in a daze at this new information.

"Uh, it's--" 

"Michael," Castiel interrupted as the archangel approached the group.

"Castiel, you're looking well," Michael replied. Dean scoffed out a laugh. The four of them turned to look at Dean who lowered his head in embarrassment.

""Castiel, you're looking well". It rhymed", he explained under his breath.

"Nice to see Death hasn't changed you, Dean", Michael nodded curtly toward him and handed Adam a hotdog, before unwrapping his own.

"Thanks, man. Nice skin suit, by the way. He strong enough to hold you're giant ego?" Dean looked to Castiel beside him in hopes of some kind of positive reaction to his joke but instead found only an eye roll. Dean sighed. "Kidding, man, geez."

"This is awkward. Should I leave?" Steve Phoenix asked, reminding the other four of his presence.

"No, it's fine" Adam piped up before anyone else could answer, and plonked himself down in the sand. He rearranged his hotdog into one hand and then extended his free one toward Steve, "My name's Adam, I'm Dean's younger brother," Steve Phoenix shook his hand "and this is my main man, Michael," he pointed with his thumb up at where Michael stood above them "who is, uh... kind of Castiel's older brother." Dean shook his head, looking like he was trying to keep the hotdog down.

"Dude, don't word it like that". Michael sighed and took a seat. 

"Oh, so, wait, are all of you angels?" Steve asked, a hand over her mouth as she spoke with it, full. Dean raised his hand.

"Not me." he pointed at Adam, "He's fresh out the box". Steve seemed to accept this, more or less. 

"Oh, okay? Cool?" he turned to Adam, "What's it like?" Dean raised his brows, interested. Adam addressed his brother, answering his question from earlier.

"More or less the same as before. I lived with Michael inside of me for over a thousand years so... it feels like that... but I'm the one who flys myself places now?" He took a bite of his hotdog. Steve pursed her pink lips and raised her brows at Michael.

"I-- You lived inside of him for a thousand years?"

"It's not like it sounds," Castiel shook his head, eyeing Adam who wore a satisfied grin. Michael looked like he wanted to walk into the ocean. 

"You still feel like you?" Dean sniffed, "Like it's just you but... better, right?"

"I mean, yeah. Obviously, I can see way more shit than I could before, and I barely understand any of it yet, but I don't have to take a dump ever again, and this new heaven still gives you the perks of pizza and hotdogs, so I guess it is kind of just a heavenly upgrade." Dean pulled his mouth down at the edges, raised his brows, and nodded, satisfied.

"Why? What's making you so curious?" Michael asked, his eyes narrowing. Dean looked at Cas, a knowing smile exchanged between them as Castiel scrunched the wrapper of his burger in his hands. 

"No reason", Dean shrugged. He breathed deeply, filling his lungs with the night's salty air. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Dean woke knowing something was wrong. The air was thin and with each struggling breath, his tired lungs wheezed audibly. Fear. It had been a while now since he’d felt fear like this. He could taste the feeling on his tongue. It coursed through every single cell in his body, screaming at him that something was deeply, deeply wrong. The darkness surrounded him, engulfed him, and in that darkness, he was finally able to find clarity. I’ve been buried alive… again. He placed his hand above him to the lid of the coffin, expecting to feel wood or fabric and instead his fingers pressed against the cold metal. What the hell did Sam bury me in? Dean started to wonder with panic, his breathing increased becoming somehow even shallower despite the fact he was noticeably filling his entire lungs, his chest rose and fell with great effort and his heartbeat drummed loudly in his ears. He smacked his fist against the metal, then began hitting it over and over again, trying desperately, albeit in vain, to make even the smallest of dents, knowing that the only alternative would be to run out of air. The metal thumps muffled pathetically against the six feet of soil between him and the real world. The skin on his knuckles split, stinging. 

“Cas!” He called hoarsely into the nothingness. “Cas, help!” his hands scratched at the box clawing across the sides, his nails bending back and bleeding as the skin peeled away. Eventually, his eyes began to adjust to the metal casket around him. The sigils seemed to stare back at him with mirrored horror. The Malak box. Sam had buried him in the Malak box. Dean tried to swallow the bile that had risen in his throat. Why would Sam do that? Did he really not believe it was Dean who was sending him letters? Was this just a precaution in case something else had been fucking with him? That made sense. Sure. That's what this is . Sam buried his body in the Malak box. His breathing started to slow, despite knowing deep down that nothing had really changed, despite knowing that he was still very likely to die again if someone didn’t get to him very soon. He knocked against the metal three times quickly, three times slowly, then three quickly again; Morse code, SOS. “Yo, Cas. You guys gotta speed things up a bit here. Maybe... should have sent me down post grave dig.” He breathed. The sound of what he assumed could only be shovels, seemed to grow closer. The sic of the metal head into the dirt, the shuffling sound, the slide, then the toss of the dirt landing somewhere else, vibrating suppressed through the ground. Eventually Metal met metal, he heard the shovels being thrown aside, hands brushing hurriedly against the top of the box, and then finally, with a groan of rusted hinges, Dean was met by the blinding light of the morning sun. 

A hand seized his shoulder and ripped him to his feet. He blinked at the form in front of him, his eyes still trying to adjust to the brightness. “Gotta say, it was a bit touch-and-go for a minute there.” He admitted, coughing into his elbow.

“Was it now?” A sickening jolt ran through Dean’s spine, exploding like lightning in his stomach. He blinked rapidly in the direction of the voice, trying desperately to clear his vision. He found himself standing alone in a treeless empty field that seemed to stretch on as far as he could see; he was completely and utterly alone, barring the single person standing in front of him. A smirk on his face, arms crossed against his chest, looking the same as ever, with the exception of the addition of horrific milky white irises, stood John Winchester.   

“Dad-- Er, Sir, I-- What have you done?”

“Dad? I suppose you could still call me that, Dean. I mean I was like a father to you in a way, wasn't I? Taught you the in’s and out’s of the world, of our world…” Dean swallowed, unable to do much more than stand there, frozen, listening in pure dread and utter confusion. “And he is in here too, by the way, good ol’ Johnny Boy. He’s telling me all sorts of fun little family secrets. Seems that not only did you take up an appetite to the way I taught you to carve up the riff-raff, but you clearly got one hell of a kick outta me popping your rosebud.” He sighed his smile just a touch wider than John's, his eyes disgustingly empty. 

“Alistair.” Dean barely managed. “You fuckin’ bastard! Let him go.” Alistair laughed gleefully.

“Let him go? Hmm… I could do that… Is that truly what you want, though? You know the way he feels about you, yes? The way that he, even now, is screaming inside me.” Alistair tapped John's finger to his temple before continuing, “He's begging for me to leave you alone, you know. Not because he’s worried about you. No, simply so he would no longer have to look at you. The disgust he has for you…” He sounded almost impressed. “Well... it's a special kind of hatred. Would you really want him walking around in the world, spewing his hate to anyone that will listen? My brand of torture is more brazen than that, but if you prefer his subtlety… I'll offer you a deal. Your dear father,” He bowed overdramatically, “or her. ” Alistair presented his hand with a twist of his body, gesturing behind him to the six-pointed star where a small blonde girl had been splayed out, nailed by her hands and feet to four of the star's points. Her head wore a crown of barbed wire, tieing her to the topmost point. Her mouth had been sewn together crudely with thick black, blood-soaked cotton.

"Em--Emma?!" Dean rushed towards her without a second thought. Alistair appeared at his side, John’s hot breath on his neck.

“So what will it be kiddo? Option A: Commit patricide against the man who despises you to your very core. Or option B: Filicide against the child who already tried, and failed, to commit patricide against you ?” Alistair rubbed John's hands together eagerly, “The poetic justice of it all!” He grinned, again, far too widely. Dean swallowed hard as Emma’s eyes widened up at him in horror.  

“I-- No,” Dean murmured, his voice barely above a whisper. 

“Come on, Deano! Times a-wastin', the train’s a-comin'!” Dean flinched as John’s voice yelled at him. “Choose now or I’ll do it for you, boy!” Dean’s eyes remained glued to Emma’s. The daughter he never got to know. The baby who grew up far too quickly and the relationship that was doomed before it came into being. Alistair forced something into Dean’s hand, he ripped his eyes away from his daughters and stared in dread as his hand wrapped itself around the hilt of the familiar weapon and rose on its own accord. Dean tried to gain control of his movement, his arm shook under the strain of attempting to hold himself back but the first blade continued forward until it finally hit home. He plunged the bone straight through the center of Emma’s chest. She choked on a scream as blood gushed from her mouth. John’s hand slapped hard against Dean’s back. “That’s my boy.” Dean turned to his father in horror but somehow standing in John’s place now stood Chuck, grinning up at him far, far too widely. “I always knew you’d make the right choice”. Dean turned back to Emma in complete terror, pulling the blade out as if he could undo his mistake. He gazed up at her face but instead of finding Emma’s brown eyes, he met the burnt, empty sockets where Jack’s eyes had once been, staring blankly back at him.

“Why, Daddy?” Jack asked, his brow furrowing in innocent confusion. “Did I do something bad?”



 

Dean sat bolt upright in his bed. His throat felt raw. A bright light shone at him from the two bedside lamps. What appeared to be arms wrapped tightly around him, pinning him in place. Castiel’s voice murmured in his ear repeatedly, but Dean was unable to make sense of the words he repeated over the undeniable sound of somebody yelling. Dean's body was wet with sweat, his hair and the blanket clung to his clammy skin and he wondered distantly if he had actually managed to piss himself in his sleep. 

“You’re okay. Shh, You’re okay.” Cas recited as he rocked Dean back and forth. Dean realized, as he caught his breath and clamped his mouth shut, that he himself had been the person who he had previously heard yelling. “Shh, You’re okay.” Castiel dug his chin into Dean’s shoulder and yanked the blanket down to their feet before continuing to rock them both back and forward as the world righted itself. “It’s okay. You’re okay”.

“Fuck”, Dean whimpered and swallowed down the dryness in his throat. He closed his eyes tight and blinked away the tears that had formed. 

“It’s okay.” Cas echoed again. “Everything’s okay”. Dean’s breathing slowed until finally, it returned to a somewhat normal pace, only then did Castiel’s grip loosen around him, and was Dean able to swat at the few stray tears on his face. “You okay?” Cas lifted his head from Dean’s shoulder, his voice was gentle. Dean turned to him, seeing the concern plainly visible in his blue eyes. 

“Uh,” Dean shrugged. He didn’t want to lie. 

“Did you have a nightmare?” Cas asked as if it wasn’t blatantly obvious. Dean nodded, a smile wavering on his mouth that didn’t reach his eyes. Cas ran his hands up and down Dean’s arms, then clasped Dean’s hand in his own, and with his spare, he continued to rub Dean from his arm to his back, tracing circles over and over. Dean let his eyes flutter closed, focusing on the feeling as it almost instantly calmed him, easing what little confusion and fear remained leftover from Dean’s dream. "Sorry. I heard you calling me but I wasn't sure if you still wanted--"

“It's fine, Cas. I-- Fuckin’ nightmare… in heaven” Dean sighed, opening his eyes. “You know I used to consider that one of the selling points for this place over Earth back in the day.” He shook his head then rested it against Cas’s shoulder. Castiel let out a single humorless chuckle. 

“It is a selling point. As is lack of anxiety, and yet here you are. Dean Winchester, the one exception to the rule as per usual.” Dean did smile at this. “Want to talk about it?” Cas asked hesitantly. “You don’t have to of course it’s just--”

“You prefer to know? I know.” Dean squeezed Cas’s hand. Dean had always been willing to tell Cas more about himself than anyone else he’d ever known, more than he’d ever even told Sam if he was being honest with himself, and it wasn’t like it was only for his own benefit. Dean knew that Cas, a being of infinite knowledge, seemed to grow incredibly irritated by being kept in the dark... about anything. That’s something that would never change between them. In the past, when they were merely "platonic brothers in arms", it seemed miraculous to Dean that the more he had revealed, the more Cas seemed to accept it all, completely, without an ounce of judgment. They’d both been through horrific shit that they’d regretted and over time Dean had found himself sparing fewer and fewer fucked up details. Cas had seen him as a friggin demon attempting to kill his own damn brother and he still seemed to accept him as a whole. “It was the usual-- Well, the newest usual, it’s obviously been a while since I had any nightmare at all but…”

“The one where Sam speaks to you in made-up sign language while--” Dean began shaking his head but Cas continued, oblivious, “--your mother bleeds out while giving birth... but you can’t understand him and are too busy paying attention to Amara while the two of you make out.” At the sight of Dean's now pailing face, Cas planted a kiss on Dean's hair. Oh yeah, that one. Dean had forgotten about that nightmare. Cas used to have to incept him at least once a week, obviously hearing him yelling from a few rooms down. Calmly he would let Dean know that he was dreaming and that the hand gestures Sam made were not even real sign language, Mary had long since died and Amara was M.I.A. and therefore wasn’t likely to randomly appear amidst a crisis to distract him without his consent…

“Not that one. The Emma one.” Dean sighed. “It was a bit different. Started out waking up six feet under this time and then... Dad-- or uh, Alistair… huge asshat… like just a-- a big ol’ meany,” Cas lowered his hand from Dean’s back and grinned at him.

“A demon… Mean?” He placed his finger to his mouth as if pretending lost in thought, “Seems somewhat plausible... do, please, go on.” Dean bumped his shoulder against Cas’s playfully and then his smile faltered. 

“I think it was just, you know, hell stuff, getting mixed in with today’s gay little events,” He nodded to himself, avoiding looking at Castiel.

“You mean yesterdays.” Castiel corrected, then shook his head once, “Not the point. If…” He paused, his eyes narrowing as he tried to choose his words carefully. “Would you prefer if I had a female vessel when we return to earth?” Dean’s eyes widened and his stomach lurched, he stared at his legs, that same bitter taste on his tongue returning from his dream. “Dean?” Cas hummed from beside him and placed his hand gently on Dean’s shoulder. Dean swallowed the bile in his throat and scrunched up his face, turning to look at Castiel with a look of pure disgust. 

“Why the fuck would you ask me that?” Castiel’s lips turned up ever so slightly in the corners as he lowered his hand. His eyes were perfectly warm when he replied.

“I’m curious and it is possible.” Cas stated calmly before bonking his forehead against Dean’s shoulder, “Would you prefer it?” his smile grew.

“You’re a fucking dickhead, you know that?!” Dean shook his head, his eyebrows raised in bewildered anger. 

“You still haven’t answered”.

“Of course not! You shouldn’t even fucking ask me that, Cas. You are you. That’s fucking disgusting. I-- How could you even--” Dean turned back, mid-rant to see Castiel beaming back at him, his words coming to a halt in his throat. Overwhelmed, he swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. “You’re a fucking dick!” his eyes stung. 

“I was just checking!” Castiel laughed. “I didn’t mean to upset you.” Cas rubbed a number of circles on his back again, “Believe it or not I do also get insecure from time to time.” Cas admitted, causing Dean’s anger and sadness to begrudgingly dissipate, “Granted, I wouldn’t exactly want to have to go searching for a new vessel…” Cas sighed, “Though it isn’t “disgusting” as you put it, I am not my body, just as you are not yours; we merely inhabit our bodies.” Dean scoffed, “However, ” Cas amended, “I have sat through enough romance movies to know that you should never change your appearance for love. It never turns out well.” Cas seemed to think on this for a moment, “Except for in Grease... but that film also makes the exact opposite point too... Perhaps it's the misogyny?” He questioned, “I suppose I shouldn’t take heed from a film that ends with a flying car with zero context”. Dean couldn’t help but smirk at this. 

“I've said it before and I meant it, Cas: Never change". Dean planted a kiss on Castiel's cheek. "Unless you really want to!" He added as an afterthought, backtracking, slightly worried that maybe Castiel had become an amazing actor and was honestly hoping for a different answer. Dean took a beat and reminded himself of the unrealistic likelihood of that being the case. "Besides… you shouldn’t listen to anything you hear in a musical, period. Start there. Totally insane, the lot of them.” Cas smiled and settled back down in bed, propping himself up against the pillows. 

“We should get some rest before sunrise.” 

“Yeah, fine, but I’m still pissed at you for even asking me that”. Dean placed the now dry blanket (thank you, Heaven) back over his torso and cuddled up against Castiel’s chest, nuzzling himself into his slot between Cas’s neck and the pillow. “Remind me to tell you about that case Sam and I worked when we ganked Calliope at that school, in the morning.”

“The musical about Chuck’s books? You already-- Did you not tell me everything?” Dean grinned, burying his smile against the pillow.

“Dude, I said in the morning”. Cas sighed melodramatically.

"Fine. In the morning." Castiel stretched his wings out, invisibly encircling Dean in his protecting embrace, and planted a kiss upon the top of his head. "Goodnight, my love". Dean stared up at him, his cheeks flushing, his green eyes dancing in wonderment. My love.

"G-Goodnight," Dean swallowed, suddenly boiling hot again. "I love you." Dean croaked. He licked his lips and turned away from the angel attempting to get comfortable enough to fall asleep again, before immediately giving up, spinning back around, sitting up and leaning over Cas, staring into his eyes. "We should have sex again before we go to sleep". Cas grinned, chuckling.

"You just make it so unfairly easy," He remarked, placing a hand over Dean's cheek and leaning in to kiss him.

Chapter Text

Dean shuffled his way, coffee clutched in hand, toward Jack’s bedroom while Castiel explained himself defensively, “I was a completely different being then, and although it did seem tedious to wait the entire night out, it was oddly peaceful just watching the earth in its natural state from such a different angle than I would normally perceive it”. Dean shook his head. 

“The whole damn night by the side of-- you realize you could have, I don’t know, gone to Vegas, or something? Scammed us some-- wait, who do I think I’m talking about here, you would have never done that back in the day”. Cas grinned as Dean wiped the sleep from his eyes. 

“I have learned a lot over the years but I’d like to think that my inclination toward swindling games of chance came post rebelling heaven.” He teased, “I do wish I could have seen the show. I wonder if my being there would have convinced them of your true identity.”

“I think they would have just assumed that you were the most committed fanboy out of the three of us-- I-- If you were there when they--” Dean pinched his nose, “I would have probably set fire to the whole freakin' building--”

“Triggering Calliope’s stress response, resulting in making yourself useless--”

“Better that than if you--” Dean swallowed, catching himself and shook his head, “I don’t know why I’m getting worked up thinking about this, you and I…” his audible gulp seemed to echo through the bunker's corridors, “...We’re literally dating ”. The two men stopped in front of door twenty-two. Castiel’s hand hovered over the handle before he turned toward Dean, an eyebrow raised.

“Technically we’re not, seeing as you’ve never been so kind as to ask me out on a date.” Dean’s brows shot up. 

“Haven’t I?” He grinned at Castiel’s smugness fracturing into a frown, “Maybe you were just so sure I was ‘Something’ you ‘can’t have’ to figure out I’d been trying to gently test the waters on and off there for, what, twelve years?” Cas lowered his hand, turning toward Dean abruptly.

“First of all, I said that because I knew I was about to get taken by the empty and therefore, was about to die for what I could only assume at that moment, would have been the final time, not because I didn’t believe you felt at least some kind of attraction toward me. I have been in your head many, many times, watched your breathing increase and your pupils dilate in my presence, and I've even seen you think about me in your dreams, remember?” Dean opened his mouth to reply but Castiel continued, cutting him off, “--However, I did also feel the shame surrounding your feelings about me.” Dean glanced down at his feet, his brows knitted together as he felt a pang of guilt run through his stomach, “It was all incredibly confusing so please excuse me if I didn’t pick up on the fact that asking me to eat diner food one-on-one is what constitutes ‘being asked out on a date' by you.” Dean bit his lips in an attempt to stop his smile, before hiding his grin behind his cup of coffee, taking a sip while Castiel stared him down. He couldn’t pretend he wasn’t still a bit all over the place when it came to their relationship, but at least he had managed to somehow, maybe miraculously, thanks to heaven, let go of the shame he felt around his feelings. He took a beat and glanced up at Cas, maybe it was less so to do with heaven and more to do with the angel himself, accepting Dean so completely. 

“You’re so mad at me”. Dean chuckled, he hit the back of his hand against Cas’s arm playfully, his green eyes dancing with his new epiphany, “You try to not think about saying someone’s name in your head, it’s all you can think of after that! You shouldn’t have told me you can hear my prayers even when I don’t say them out loud. I mean, really, that was on you! Of course it was gonna end up happening in my sleep.” His heart warmed as Castiel’s anger seemed to recede into an eye roll. Dean licked his lips. When he spoke again his voice was soft, intentionally allowing his words to overflow with a nice and neat, yet rare, allowance of vulnerability, “When we get out of here we can go on a proper date,” he sniffed, “Whatever you wanna do”. Castiel sighed, completely defeated. 

“I’ve always wanted to go to one of those places that let you paint your own crockery.” Dean shook his head and opened Jack's bedroom door. 

“I was thinking, a fancy restaurant, maybe a movie… should have known.” He turned back behind him as he walked toward Jack’s bed and flashed Cas a meaningful grin; one that he hoped conveyed his thoughts as followed: That was a joke, and I’ll paint the whole fucking world with you if that's what will make up for you having to deal with loving me. He then placed his now slightly shaking hand lightly upon Jack's shoulder and nudged him gently awake. He cleared his throat, “Hey little man, it's time to get up”. Jack squinted up at Dean, his nose scrunched in confusion at the man above him for a moment before breaking into a yawn. Dean’s chest squeezed at the miniature, yet unmistakably, Cas-like facial expression. Castiel smiled and took a seat at the end of Jack's bed.

“Good morning!” Jack beamed at them both.

“Morning, Jack.”

“Hey, kid.” Dean walked over to the desk and grabbed at the chair. He pulled it through the grass, ripping out the occasional wildflower as he brought it toward the bed and plonked himself down into the wooden seat. Dean blocked his nervous face from view by the coffee mug as he downed the remainder of the beverage, trying to wake himself the hell up so he could get his emotions under check. Jack wiggled himself free of the bedsheets and stumbled over toward Castiel, tapping him on the shoulder, then leaning in towards his ear and covering his own tiny mouth with a cupped hand.

“Cas, are we doing it today?” He whispered, innocently, childishly loud. Dean put the mug down by his feet, while he and Cas stared at one another in confusion. 

“Doing what, Jack?” Cas asked, ripping his eyes from Dean and pulling Jack’s blue flannel pajama shirt down from where it had risen over his belly. Jack looked toward Dean knowingly. Then the three of them exchanged looks of uncertainty between them.

“What do you know, Jack? You-- You know what we’re gonna ask, don’t you?” Dean asked hesitantly. Jack hobbled back from Cas, smiled, and placed his hands over his mouth. 

“I don’t know,” He giggled. “Is it now?” He laughed again and slid down, ass first, off the bed. He kneelessly made his way through the grass floor over toward Dean. “I thought it was now before but I don’t know when it was.” He handed him a piece of paper, “Did I show you, yet?” Dean attempted a reassuring smile at Jack, then set the piece of paper aside between his thigh and the chair. He slid his hands beneath Jack’s armpits, launching him up onto his lap, then retrieved the piece of paper, sparing a hesitant look at Castiel before opening it up. 

The drawing was, Dean realized, the exact image he had received from Jack just over two weeks ago when he had first arrived in heaven. The very one that he had placed in his room by the image of him and his mom. Depicted in crayon, two large black many-winged, many-eyed angels loomed out of the windows of a brick house atop a green hill. Jack grinned up at him from where he sat patiently on his lap. Cas shifted as if intending to set out to their side but Dean turned the paper around for Cas to see from where he sat. 

“This-- Jack-- Why’d you--”

“It’s a welcome home present…” He repeated as if exasperated by their lack of understanding, “Can we go home now?” Dean grinned down at the small god upon his lap, his throat blocked with a sudden lump of emotion. He tried to clear it in vain.  

“Yeah,” Dean ruffled his hand through Jack’s blonde hair. “Yeah, we can, kid.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure about this?” Castiel asked for what was probably the billionth time that morning.

“Dude, I swear, if you ask me that one more time--”

“I’m just saying that there may yet be options we haven’t considered.” Cas paced the length of Jack’s room, stopping only to speak. 

“I know, you mentioned that. I told you, best of both worlds, literally. That's what we’re going for here.” Dean finished writing the letter on his lap and folded up the paper. “Azrael!” he yelled at the sky, cupping a hand over his mouth. Azrael appeared in a thrashing of wings, their signature braids neatly intact. 

“Am I to assume that you have your reply ready?” They chirped. Dean licked at his lower lip and grinned at Cas before striding over to the younger angel and handing them his letter. 

“Thanks, kid, this should be the last of ‘em.” He nodded, still grinning, sparing a glance at Castiel who continued to pace.

“Now?” Jack asked, sitting up from where he lay horizontally across his bed. 

“Not yet.” Castiel and Dean answered at the same time. Cas’s voice, a touch more agitation to it. Jack flopped himself back against the bed in an elongated sigh.

“Cas-- Would you quit pacing for a minute?!” Cas came to an abrupt stop and glared into Dean’s eyes. “Come here”. Dean demanded, causing Cas to roll his eyes and trudge over to where Dean now stood in front of the desk chair. He placed his hands on Cas’s shoulders and maneuvered his head so it aligned with Cas’s line of vision. “Why are you freaking out?” He asked in a voice that was so gentle that it sounded somewhat foreign to his own ears. Cas sighed, closing his eyes and rested his forehead against Deans. 

“What if this... changes things between us?” Dean smiled and closed his eyes, replaying those words over and over in his head and into the silence. 

“What if it doesn't?” He countered, causing the warmth of Cas’s head against his to retreat. Springing open his eyes, in time to see Castiel shake his head, Dean continued to smile.

“But what if it does!?” Cas asked, gaining a wrinkle above his eyebrow as his eyes started to widen with worry. 

“You can’t think like that, man. You know there’s no point in worrying about things that haven't happened yet.” Cas sighed and shook his head again, slowly this time and maintaining eye contact. Dean swallowed at the look of pure fear on his face. “Alright,” He decided to change tactics, nodding to himself, “I promise you here and now”, He sniffed and ran a hand over his mouth before plonking it back on Cas's shoulder, “If you start to worry about my feelings, you let me know and I’ll kiss you so hard--” he laughed, Cas did not. Instead, Cas looked blankly down at the grass at his feet as he took a step backward, causing Dean's hands to fall back by his side. Dean felt lightheaded at the lack of emotion on Cas's face. It made him feel immediately, shockingly, disgustingly empty. He swallowed down the lump in his throat in an attempt at avoiding bursting into tears. “Don’t--” Dean swallowed. “Cas, don’t you dare pull away from me because of this.” His eyes scanned the angel as Cas’s pulled closed tightly. “If anything does change between us, it sure as shit ain’t gonna be because of me.” his voice cracked, causing Cas to slowly glance up at him.

“Dean--” 

“I love you. That’s impossible to change. I know -- I hate to say it-- but, I fucking know... because I tried, Cas.” He cleared his throat, trying again, in vain, to clear the damn lump. Castiel sighed and turned his head off to the side, unseeing, staring at the surrealist apple tree, his face breaking into distraught. “Cas?”

“I’m sorry.” Cas turned back to Dean, then closed the space between them and pressed his lips upon Deans. His hands buried themselves in Dean’s hair, while Dean's hands grabbed at Cas's waist, pulling him in closer. When they eventually came up for air Dean whispered, his eyes clamped shut.

“I love you,” Dean repeated against Cas’s lips. Cas sighed again and nuzzled his nose against Dean’s before pulling back and planting a quick kiss onto the tip of it. 

“I love you, too,” Cas replied, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards solemnly, some of the worries eased from his mind.

“Now?” Jack’s voice rang out, causing the two men’s attention to snap toward the bed where he lay, still watching the clouds. 

“Not yet, buddy. Real soon though. Right, Cas?” Dean looked at Cas knowingly. 

“Very nearly ready, Jack.” Cas smiled, almost authentically.

Another sound of wings whipped through the air.

“They’re ready when you are,” Azrael announced before immediately disappearing again, leaving only a gust of wind in their place.

 

-

 

Jack sat on the edge of his bed in between Dean and Castiel. They all stared down at his small hands while Cas rubbed circles on the back of the yellow cotton shirt that he now wore.

“Sorry,” Dean began hesitantly, interrupting the thick tension in the air that had been suffocating him, “But, I can't stop thinking about how earlier you said you knew how I felt about you.” He burst out, staring at Cas, “Why the hell didn't you say anything sooner?”

“As I said,” Cas’s eyes remained on Jack as the two squinted down at the toddler's hands, his voice was level, “I also felt the shame you had surrounding those feelings. How self-important would I have to be to force you to acknowledge something you felt negatively about because of the potential positivity that may, or may not have come from it?” He continued to rub circles against Jack's back, “Besides I-- I'm not sure, it confused me. I didn't know how to let you know that I felt love for you, that I wanted you and wanted to be with you. I was content to remain in your life however long and whatever way you would allow me.” Dean was getting impatient. He wouldn’t have admitted it earlier but he was actually kind of nervous about the whole return-of-the-king thing. He buzzed with nervous excitement that seemed to come in waves along with imaginary best-case and worst-case scenarios that played out in his head. The most horrible of all being the potential for him to get to earth just in time to see Sam bite it immediately because they’re fucking with the rules of death, again. He tried to clear that from his mind.

“But we could have had all of this. Sooner."

"Could we?” Cas asked, still intently staring at Jack’s hands. “Even if you had allowed yourself to have that kind of happiness, you said it yourself, the timing was never right.” Dean scoffed. Castiel continued critically, “At what time should I have prioritized my declaration of love? When I was human and you were busy avoiding me for the sake of hiding Gadreel?” His hand remained the same pace, rubbing around, and around, almost hypnotic regardless of the new exacting note to his tone, “When you were plagued by the mark of Cain? Or a demon? Would then have been a good time? Or should I have waited until you were human again, but dealing with an unwanted infatuation with God's sister?” Dean sighed.

"Okay, I get it."

"Perhaps I should have told you immediately after I was freed of Lucifer's possession, nothing inspires romance quite like having your evil sibling being forcibly ejected from your body.”

"I said I got it," Dean repeated, more aggressively this time.

"I know,” Cas, clicked his tongue, his eyes widened with his smile and his voice now absolutely dripping in sarcasm, “I should have told you via text message whilst searching for said brother, 'My dearest Dean, I have been plagued with the memories of your thoughts and emotions for many years--”

“Cas--” 

“--And it dawned on me some time ago that not only do I now identify as a gay man but I also believe that you may indeed reciprocate my own desire to explore both further emotional and carnal intimacy with one another--”

“--I hate that word... Cas--” 

“--I do, however, also still understand that your upbringing may be a hindrance to this plan due to: your negative emotions around said reciprocation, continued assumptions that I am “straight”, your constant performative masculinity, and persistent, albeit somewhat lessened with time, jokes regarding people of the LGBTQIA+ community.” Jack and Cas both straightened as something charged filled the air. “Feel free to work on these things if they're the only insignificant human problems between us and our everlasting happiness and please respond post-haste, glittering love heart emoji.” Castiel grinned as Jack turned and beamed up at him.

“I said. I. Get. It.” Castiel’s hand dropped down from Jack's back and he turned to look Dean in his eyes. 

“It only became more impossible as the years went on, and you seemed content to no longer attempt anything other than a… physical... relationship... with anyone else and even that was a rare blow I was able to shoulder.” he shrugged, “If I was to simply be your platonic life partner whom you co-parent a Nephilim with… I would have been…” he shook his head, then placed his hands over Jack's ears as he continued, “I truly considered myself to be lucky. I would have been happy to go without sex. I could have shamefully pleasured myself until the end of my days purely using a combination of memories and imagination.” He dropped his hands and smiled at the toddler below them who looked between them both, clearly confused. A laugh bubbled up out of Cas at the new flush over Dean’s cheeks. He leaned over and ran the back of his index knuckle over Dean’s cheekbone. “I just wanted you. I always will.” Dean sat staring at him for what felt like an eternity, opening and closing his mouth; completely flustered.

“I'll never get used to hearing you say shit like that.” 

Stuff  like that, Dean.” Cas amended. 

“Sure. Don't swear, kid.” Dean managed to mumble in Jack’s direction. 

“Are you ready?” Cas asked, smiling a genuinely fearless grin at him. 

Stuff yeah, I am! Let's do it.” Dean nodded, smirking. 

“Jack. If you wouldn’t mind.” Cas gestured his hand toward Dean, and Jack swiveled around climbing up onto his feet before standing, wobbly, on the mattress. He brought his hand up toward Dean. 

“Wait. I just wanna say one thing really quickly!” Dean held his palms up, looking between the two questioning faces. He lowered his hands and glanced down at Jack who stood frozen, gaping at his dad. “Please, let this be kickass.” He grinned, then crossed his hand from head to heart, then shoulder to shoulder, clapping his hands together at the end. “Amen.” Castiel rolled his eyes as Jack giggled, continuing forward, and placed his small hand on the opposite shoulder of Castiel’s hand marking, burning its print onto Dean’s arm.

Chapter Text

Dean closed his eyes to the onslaught of new sensations. From a distance, cutting through the echoing of voices around him he heard the distinct sound of Castiel's voice calling his name. 

Dean, focus”. He cooed. “Penny, I need you to take Jack to Kelly’s if that's okay, while we work on the next step?” He heard more talking but the sounds wavered in and out, becoming muffled then organized again, fluctuating between making sense and being an overwhelming onslaught of sound, sparking an intensely lucid memory in Dean. 

 

He was immediately transported to the time that one of the many, many elementary schools he attended had an optometrist come by. He was about seven? One by one each of the kids were called from class. The minor disruption was enough to make the class unsettled all day, and it was a fun ass day! He remembered feeling excited the whole time that he followed the lady’s clicking navy heels down the linoleum corridor to the nurse's office. He shuffled back into the dark green seat. The weather was hot, sticking his legs to the plastic. The optometrist smelled like peppery perfume that made his nose itch while she put funny thin-rimmed circular metal frames on him and proceeded to flick different lenses down over his eyes. 

It wasn’t like he couldn’t see before, he never had any issues with his eyesight that he could think of, but when she flitted the fifth lens over the oversized owl frames, he inhaled sharply. It was like he was suddenly aware he’d been missing so much more. He remembered the pores in the woman's nose, the way he saw each dust particle floating in the stream of light that burst from the window. He was sent “home” with a slip of paper, the optometrist's findings, her recommendation, and the discounted bill if they purchased him glasses through the school. 

John asked Dean to read Sammy a bedtime story that night, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and once Sam was asleep, John tapped Dean on the shoulder, scrunched up the slip, and threw it into the trash can from across the room. 

 

Dean, you have to focus”. Cas repeated. 

“I am”. He mumbled, feeling the way the words fell out of his lips. 

He felt the air moving around him, like a current, waves of something lighter than water, more electric than air. It felt nice.

 

It felt kind of like that hot tub he and Ronda Hurley fucked in when he was nineteen and completely high out of his mind. 

 

“Dean,” Cas’s voice was closer now, his hands were warm on Dean’s forearm. “I’m going to guide you down to your body, do you think you can follow me?” Dean swallowed, feeling Castiel’s voice touching his skin. 

“I--”, He could feel himself slipping away again, into another memory, this time it was of his time with Cas. 

 

 

Dean walked into the room, seeing the cigarette-stain-yellow wallpaper and brick wall, first. His eyes roamed around the room, taking in the way the corners seemed to drip like melting black-licorice ice cream. Two Castiel’s sat side by side on the edge of the king-sized bed. One, a disheveled looking, very human guy, in a somewhat abridged version of his Gas’n’Sip uniform, the other, Dean recognized immediately as the regulated version of Cas’s brilliant true form. Both versions stared toward the bathroom door where steam seeped out from the crack at its bottom, where it met the greyish brown carpet. Dean made his way toward the two Cas’s. 

“Hey,” Dean’s voice was quiet, yet strong and determined. He stared down at Cas’s true form. The human memory of Cas continued to stare as if transfixed, at the bathroom doorway, while the other glanced up toward Dean’s voice, his two topmost sets of wings fluffing up in shock as their eyes met.

Dean? ” Dean smiled at the surprise he could sense on Cas’s face. He wasn’t exactly an expert on angels true forms and how their emotions translate on a face made of eye studded rings but with Cas, it wasn’t exactly like it was hard, and it was funny, it was truly fucking hilarious, that he really didn’t expect Dean to be coming by anytime soon. 

“Yeah, man. You packed and ready to ditch this place or…?” Slowly the orbiting wheels around where Castiel’s head would be spun as if gears in a machine, trying to piece together his surroundings. Cas’s real face always reminded Dean of this Sextant-globe thing that Bobby used to have in his spare room growing up. An Astrolabe-- he was pretty sure that was the name for it. Cas stood and wrapped his arms around Dean, engulfing him in a hug, his wings enfolding around him. Dean swallowed hard before worming his arms through the gaps between Cas’s wings and wrapping them around his back. Cas pulled back before Dean did and sidestepped away awkwardly around the bed as if he needed to be a good three feet from Dean, and the bed behind him made that objective too difficult. 

I’m not leaving here Dean.” Cas’s voice, his true voice, was indescribable. It sounded both like and unlike himself; like a whisper, a scream, and a choir all at once. Dean held up his hand, displaying the garish white stone ring on his finger. 

“You don’t have to leave if you don’t want to. I’ve spoken to Jack, I know he’s been in here a few times, floated a few different ideas past you, and every time you’ve been pretty stubborn about sticking around.” Dean sighed and plonked himself down on the bed where Cas had just been sitting. Sparing a quick glance at the frozen human version of Cas beside him. He smiled sadly and stared at his hands as he continued, “I get it. I do. I know what it's like to want to give up... but you--” He shook his head and ran his hand over his mouth. “I need you, now. More than ever.” He nodded slowly and brought his eyes back up to Castiel’s true form. “Chuck’s doomed Sammy, Cas. I-- I’ve tried literally everything I can think of, not a single thing has panned out. Jack and I, we lived through this about a squillion times and I can’t-- I can’t save him, Cas.” 

Dean,” Cas’s voice was full of pity as he slowly made his way back over and crouched at Dean’s knees. 

“Jack’s about to reset us again, and this time-- this time I’m not getting my memories. I told him to just send me on my way without all this-- all this pain, this goddamn pain from watching him die over and over again. I-- I can’t do it anymore, man.” Dean could feel himself smiling as the lump in his throat became unbearable and his eyes started to sting. “I just need you to help Jack make it nice up there for him,” he could barely manage to speak, his voice shook so deeply, “Please.” He sniffed.

I --”

“Before you say no again, Cas, I need you to do this for me, okay? I know this place has done a number on you and now you wanna rot in here. I know I’m a part of the reason you don’t know how much we all-- We didn’t tell you enough how much we... and I know you don’t care if staying here hurts us because you feel like it's what you deserve or whatever but I-- If you ever cared about any of us at all, You have to help me now, okay? I’m not Jack. I’m not some all-powerful being who can see the " bigger picture" and can accept you sacrificing yourself as “an act of free will” and I’m sure as shit not just gonna sit back and watch everyone I care about leave me. So, if you're out, Jack’s out, and now-- now Sammy’s… I need to know that he’s gonna be okay. He deserves so much better than reliving his memories… You-- You both deserve so much better.”

“... I’ll help you… but I-- I can’t leave--"  

 

 

Dean? ” Cas. Dean remembered where he was. Bed. Jack's room. Cas in front of him, one hand still on his wrist, the other cupping his face. Eyes stay closed. Yeah, Good

“Hey. Yeah, I’m still here.” Mouth moves to speak.

This is overwhelming you. I’m just going to fly you down myself, okay?” 

“Um, Yeah, good idea. I only just now realized you’ve been talking in my head, huh?” Dean smirked. Truthfully, he was a little scared to open his eyes. Even if it wasn’t his only job now that Cas’d taken flying off the list, he’d probably keep them closed purely out of fear of what the hell an angel might be able to see in heaven.

“Angel radio,” Cas murmured, millimeters from Dean’s face, using his human voice. 

“Right, makes sense.” Dean absentmindedly scratched at the back of his head, surprised whilst in the act, that it was both: a completely unnecessary nervous reaction because his head didn’t even itch and, even more surprising, he could feel he had a human head still, which no offense to Cas’s true form but if he found himself scratching a bunch of wheels with eyes on them he’d probably pass out… but also probably wouldn’t... because surely angels don’t do that.

Before he could fall into another train of thought that seemed to cascade into another unbelievably lucid memory which had the capacity to entrap him for who knows how long, he felt a slight tug at his hand and the air around him (that weird electric current of smokey water that he could somehow breathe under) seemed to zip past him, or did he move around it? He wasn't sure. Castiel pulled them all the way through heaven, and Dean felt the exact moment they arrived back on Earth. He couldn’t tell how he knew exactly, only that it felt like returning to the bunker after a long hunting trip; like he knew he was gonna have the best sleep that night despite all his cuts and bruises. When they finally stopped moving Dean heard Cas’s voice in his head again.

Okay, Dean. We’re here. You just need to reach out into your body in front of you and you should naturally be able to do the rest. You’ve already given yourself permission to be your own vessel so all you have to do is--” Dean didn’t wait for Cas to finish, he placed his hand out blindly in front of him to where he sensed his body lay on the table and fell inside it. He felt himself filling his body up and woke with a deep, yet gentle, breath. He opened his eyes and looked around the room, a grin plastered on his face. The place was a shithole; A falling down dusty cabin in the middle of nowhere that smelled of the ugly mildewy red carpet and bird crap that blocked out the windows in thick chunky streaks. He looked down at his body, dressed in jeans and a white henley top. He turned his hands over, watching them flickering in and out of focus, his grace floating around underneath. 

“How... do you feel?” Cas asked, hesitantly from where he sat on the table beside him, evidently having also made his way back into his body, trusty trenchcoat, and everything. Dean nodded. 

“It's still a lot.” Dean managed, he could hear the anxious heartbeats of the people in the room on the other side of the door, the scurrying beetles in the forest around them, the bird's wings as they flew above them. In fact, all of his senses were in overdrive. If he didn’t have any grace flowing through him at this precise moment he would definitely be having a migraine, a panic attack, or a fucking aneurism. 

“Step three?” Castiel asked, holding up an angel blade and handing Dean a leather necklace with a cork stopper jar pendant. Dean slid himself across the table and closer to Cas and rested his forehead against Cas’s shoulder. He nodded, planted a quick kiss, and then tilted his head up, displaying his neck.

“Hit me.” 

“Are you certain, Dean? This will hurt quite a bit”. Dean smiled.

“I’m sure. No offense, man, but this ain’t me. I feel... off... Plus, it’s not like we're getting rid of the whole lot, right? It’ll be fine.” Cas sighed. “I’ll be fine,” Dean emphasized, before lifting his head again. Castiel dug the tip of the knife into Dean’s neck and drew a line, chanting Enochian. 

“Gisg Don Un Drux Fam Or Graph Don, Un Drux Gal, Mals Don Med Gisg Graph Veh Gisg,” Dean peered down watching as his very new grace swirled out from his neck and into the identical bottled necklace in Cas’s hands. He could feel himself slowly returning to normal again. The sounds around him quieted down, his nose began to itch until finally, by the time Cas placed the cork stopper on, Dean felt heavy again, he shook with exhaustion and anxiety. Dean sighed and rolled his head around, stretching his neck, noticing the dull pain in his back from three distinct spots, two wings, and the puncture wound from the barn. He felt tragically, amazingly human... with a small kick; like he’d just shot a triple red eye. He nodded at Cas’s wondering look and stuck his thumbs up. 

“Bare minimum level of divine…” He stifled a yawn and grinned at the tiredness he felt, before speaking again in a gentle tone, “Cas, you know you don’t have to do this, right?” Cas smiled.

“I am well aware, Dean.” He handed Dean the angel blade, “I want to.” Dean sighed and nodded. 

“Alright then, here goes nothing.” He stared down at the blade as he twirled it in his hand, before placing it on his lap.

“Do you remember the words?” Cas squinted at him as if he was in some kind of rush. Dean tapped his finger against his temple. 

“Steel trap. Now, give me your neck so I can slit your damn throat, already.” He scoffed and laughed at the absurdity of it all, grabbing at the other necklace and popping the cork topper while Cas politely complied, angling his neck toward him. Dean’s hand wavered as he picked up the angel blade, he brought the tip to Cas’s neck and rested it gently against the top of his Adam's apple.

“You don’t have to worry about hurting me,” Cas mumbled, Dean watched as his words caused his neck to bob around beneath the blade. 

“Alright, last chance to change your mind.” Dean sniffed, trying to keep his face as calm as possible, his spare hand sliding up Cas’s chest and coming to a rest at the back of his neck to steady his hand.

“Whenever you’re ready, Dean”. Cas smirked. Dean sighed and pushed the blade gently into Cas’s neck, piercing open the skin. He dropped the blade onto the table with a clank and hastily grabbed his necklace as if Cas’s grace would bleed out everywhere if he didn’t hurry.

“Uh-- Um-- Gisg Don Un Drux Fam Or Graph Don,” Dean watched as Cas’s Grace swirled around and around in the air and found its way toward the glass jar like a homing device. “Un Drux Gal, Mals Don Med Gisg Graph Veh Graph--” 

“Gisg.” Cas amended, peering down at Dean while still grinning.

“Fuck, uhh- what?” Dean's hands shook violently now as he held the necklace, jar first, in both hands up closer to Cas’s neck. 

“The last part. Grisg, not Graph--”

“Oh, so, uh, Mals Don Med Gisg Graph Veh Grisg.” He sped through the last part and watched as the grace settled itself into the necklace. He fumbled around in his lap for the cork stopper, his eyes on Cas’s neck watching as Cas healed himself. Once the wound was closed and healed as if it never even existed, Dean let his eyes fall down to the bottle, he found the cork resting on his knee and jammed it into the jar with a tremendous sigh. “Let's never do that again.” He chuckled awkwardly. Cas grinned at him and plonked his forehead against Deans, fastening the necklace around his neck before reaching down to Dean's hands and bringing them up to assist him in clasping the other necklace upon Dean’s neck. 

“There.” Cas placed a kiss on Dean's mouth before pulling back. Dean turned the Grace-filled bottle around between his fingers.

“Look, I know I said this was a good idea before and everything but I think I was a little swept up in the romance of it all. You really think the whole, you were mine I wear yours is a good idea? What if something happens to me? What if someone uses me to get to you or something? There's about a billion--” Cas cut him off with a kiss.

“Nothing bad is going to happen.” He mumbled against Dean's lips. Dean scoffed, pulling back. “I mean it, Dean. If something were to happen to you, I’d sense it, I’d be there in time. My Grace can protect you from anywhere in the universe now, and vice versa. Plus, we can always call to one another to release our Grace and it will find its way back to us. That's another part of the spell. ”  

“Huh? Well,” Dean swallowed and raised his shaking hands to cradle Cas’s face, tucking his hair behind his ears. “That’s,” He cleared his throat, “Even more romantic than I… first thought.” His throat was thick as he leaned in and kissed Cas’s mouth again, their breathing deepened and Dean felt impossibly light-headed when they finally came up for air. Cas sighed. 

“Are you feeling up to venturing out to the other side of the door?” He asked, flicking his eyes suggestively toward the dark wooden door to Dean's right. Dean raised his brows slowly and nodded. 

“Can’t leave the fans waiting...” He grinned and slid off the table, hip-checking Cas as they both walked toward the door.

Chapter Text

Sam knew he’d been overly angsty all day, silently attempting a smile whenever anyone reminded him that their idea was foolproof and that he shouldn't worry, nodding when Eileen gave his hand a squeeze as if the look on his face would convince her that he wasn’t brooding over all of the holes in their swiss cheese of a plan. He’d made sure to bring Miracle along so he had some sort of buffer, something he had to do while Rowena worked, and he figured Dean would probably appreciate seeing the dog again. 

Sam stared at the underbrush of the forest floor beneath his feet, watching Miracle in his peripheral vision as the dog sniffed around the nearest tree trying to decide if it wanted to take a piss or not.

It’s not like Sam was even worried about what everyone thought he was worried about... If he was being honest, Dean would probably be fine, make it back to earth in one piece, and finally, start living his best semi-human life. It was more the guilt that was making Sam mute.

What if Chuck had seen this one coming? What if Dean scored a touchdown and then everything Sam had worked for went up in smoke? That’s what was eating at him; it was a fucking paradox of bullshit spinning around and around in his head, making him feel worse and worse. He felt horrible for thinking it, then felt bad for feeling bad, and worse for feeling bad about that! But, he did deserve to finally be happy! After everything, they all did! Dean did too, of course, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t shitting himself at the possibility that Dean’s happiness would smash apart his own. He tried to remind himself that it wasn’t like Dean would ever actually risk it; he always put Sam first, and even if something were to go horribly wrong Dean wouldn't rest until he could make another deadly trade, starting their fucked up little cycle all over again, which... yeah, guilt.

Fucking, Dean literally killed himself for Sam again. After they’d specifically had, like, infinite talks about never doing that again. And each talk was pretty much verbatim, "I know we said last time, that time was for real, and the time before that was for real... but this time actually has to be for real!"  Dean had even specifically given him some bullshit speech about how they’d finally get to live their lives now that Jack was running things upstairs. He didn’t even try to ask Sam for help, just “Oh, poor little Sammy’s in danger again, better kill myself!”, Sam sighed and whistled one long note.

 

“C’mon, boy!” He crouched down, somewhat restricted in his jeans, as his brother's dog came bounding over and clipped the leash back onto his collar. Sam made his way back inside, dried leaves and twigs crunching under his boots as he went. 

 

 

-

 

 

“He said this is the last one,” Azrael chirped, handing Sam another note. He unfolded the paper and smiled. 

 

 


 

“Dicknose, 

Get the snacks ready. 

I’ve been almost every kind of messed up non-human thing that there is. 

I’m about to punch out the last one on my bingo card. 

Ready or not, here I come… 

but obviously... let me know when you’re ready.” 

 


 

 

 

“They’re ready,” Sam announced to the room. Rowena nodded and opened the first ziplock bag from where it sat amongst a bunch of crap upon the remnants of, what could only be assumed, was once a dining table. Sam cleared his throat absentmindedly as Rowena began spreading the contents upon the table. Eileen grabbed Sam's hand and squeezed it again reassuringly. This time, however, Sam couldn’t even manage to lift the corners of his mouth in a failed attempt at a smile, when Rowena began chanting, slowly making her way up the length of the table in her black jumpsuit, all the while continuing to spread Dean’s ashes. Azrael watched the three of them silently from the corner of the room, completely fascinated. 

Id quod mortuum, nunc oriatur. Hoc quod cecidit, nunc revertatur. Id quod mortuum, nunc oriatur.” 

“It will work, Sam,” Eileen affirmed. Sam nodded, keeping his eyes on Rowena as she repeated the spell that brought back the body of his mom… He swallowed and tried to ignore the anxiety he felt. “I know”. He mumbled, bringing his hand to his temple and tapping his fingers against it. 

Hoc quod cecidit, nunc revertatur. Hoc quod cecidit, nunc revertatur. Orimini. Ori mini.” 

Sam blinked and missed it. One moment his brother's ashes were lying scattered upon a table and the next he.. Sam turned sharply and placed his hands over Eileen's eyes as he scrunched up his nose. 

“Interesting...” Eileen giggled, clearly having already seen. 

“You could say that again,” Rowena chimed, clearly enjoying herself. 

“Just-- Get his clothes on already.” Sam shook his head trying to rid himself of the image. 

“How about I turn this toothbrush and hairbrush into a vessel for our dear friend Castiel while you three do the hard part, and wait for me in silence from the next room, hmm?” She asked from behind where Sam stood, his hand now lowered from Eileen’s eyes as he blocked out Dean’s body from her view with his own giant torso. He grinned down at her. 

“Yeah, sounds good!” He laughed and sidestepped as Eileen craned her neck and stood on her tippy toes as if attempting to get another peek at Dean’s junk.

“Come on, you,” He chuckled and placed his hands on Eileen's shoulders, spinning her around gently, toward the door. 

 

 

-

 

 

“Okay, they’re all fully clothed and decent in there,” Rowena brushed her hands together as if whipping off some imaginary dust from all the hard work she’d just put in, “Although I don’t see what harm it would have done, allowing those two to see each other naked-as-the-day-they-were-born, it may have finally got the ball rolling on all of the unacknowledged feelings that those two have between them,” She sighed and placed her hand on her hair, fluffing it, “Oh well... repression it is.”

“Thanks, Rowena.” Sam tried not to smile too hard. “Azrael, you can--” The angel left before Sam finished the sentence. “--Go? I guess?” He laughed. Rowena sat in the armchair beside the couch and leaned forward snatching up a piece of pizza. She turned it over, unimpressed, before throwing it back into the box and shutting the lid. 

“I assume you made that poor Angel collect this...” She gestured to the coffee table, “...oily monstrosity from the store while you two continued to make googly eyes from the comfort of the sofa?” 

“I mean-- I rang ahead--”

“They wouldn’t stop staring at us,” Eileen explained.

“No wonder the miserable thing ran before we could say our goodbyes!” Rowena blurted, “A month-long friendship with one of God's favorite soldiers, foiled, by being used as a mere errand boy because you two couldn’t hack being marveled at?” she continued teasingly, “A little sexual curiosity never killed anyone, Samuel. I would have expected better from you.” Sam scoffed. 

“Sure, yeah, totally.” He huffed. Eileen folded her legs up under her and grinned.

“Sam’s shy about that kind of thing,” She explained.

“What?! No, I’m not? I-- I’m normal about-- I just don’t-- I don’t like people watching me make out with-- why are we talking about this, anyway?” Sam lifted the leg of the coffee table that was closest to him and unhooked Miracles leash. 

“Repression runs in the family, it seems.” Sam scoffed again. “You know there is a spell for that.”

“I’m good,” Sam glanced at Eileen, “Right?”

“We’re good,” She smiled warmly in return, “I’m just teasing.” She poked her finger into his ribs playfully, “It’s very easy”. Sam rolled his eyes. 

“Thanks.”

“Well, okay. It’s here if you change your minds,” Rowena sighed. 

The lights in the cabin flickered and burst as a loud screeching sound filled the air. Sam’s ears popped and he looked around at the two women beside him. Everyone looked toward the dining room door expectantly. Blinking in pain, Sam scrambled to lift Miracle onto his lap and place his hands over the dog's ears, pinning them to his head while he wiggled around in his lap. The loud screeching eventually subsided and Sam swallowed hard.

His brother was on the other side of that door. His heart hammered in his chest as he relaxed his hands from Miracle's head and the dog took it as his queue to leap from his lap back down to the dusty floorboards. He could hear muffled voices from the other side of the door. Dean’s voice, Cas’s, distinct low rumbling sounds. 

“You left the necklaces, right?” Sam asked, ripping his eyes from the Dining room door to spare a glance at Rowena.

“I’m no amateur, Sam.” Rowena bit, clearly offended. Sam nodded and trained his eyes back to the door. Eileen ran her hand up and down Sam's arm.

He was still here; still alive. The plan had worked. He had nothing left to feel anxious about. He was gonna get to live out his new and thrilling life. He beamed at Eileen, then swallowed hard as tears began to well up in his eyes. He sniffed and turned back toward the door as the voices in the next room went quiet. Sam truly had nothing to worry about now that he was going to live. He felt the frustration bubbling up inside him at the silence from the other room. When the voices started up again, this time accompanied by creaking wood and approaching footsteps, Sam rose as the Dining room door opened. He handed Miracle's leash to Eileen and stepped over the dog and around the coffee table making his way toward his brother as the two angels entered the room.

“Cas.” Sam nodded in the general direction of the trench-coated man without taking his eyes off Dean. 

“Hello Sam,” Cas replied.

Sam smiled at Dean and then swung his arm up with as much force as he could muster, socking his older brother hard as he could, right in the jaw.