What Could Have Been

Chapter 33

Dean didn’t want to let Cas go, and Cas was making no effort to remove himself from Dean’s embrace.

Dean needed this. He was still reeling from the turmoil of fear-terror-fight-surrender-guilt-shock-grief-hope-relief-joy-happy, and that was all just from the past hour. Truth be told, he was still messed up from the events of the past month (give or take five years). Cas had been injured, Dean’s school had turned hostile, he had found out about his mother’s deception, his father had kicked him out of home, Sam had been killed in a car accident, Cas had vanished, Dean had made a demon deal, he had been ripped to pieces by a hellhound, he had gone to Hell, he had given up, he had gotten off the rack, he had butchered Alastair, he had killed Azazel, they had fought Heaven, and he had lost Cas. Somewhere before all of that crap he had been a normal teenage boy, relatively speaking. Everything was different now. He was different.

After everything he had been through it was surprising that Dean had not been sent howling to the nuthouse. He still felt brittle, like he could break apart any second, but Cas was here and Cas was alive and somehow that was enough to hold him together.

In the arms of his angel, Dean slowly began to settle. He soaked in the comfort his best friend offered and the tempest of his emotions gradually calmed.

They were going to be okay.

Finally at peace, Dean was able to pull back. He coughed a little and said, “I’m glad you’re alright.” The simple words did not even begin to cover what he felt, but he knew Cas understood.

With renewed strength, Dean stood to his feet and gave Cas a hand up.

Cas brushed at his clothes, frowning at the muddy, sodden mess. “I’m dirty,” he said.

Gabriel snorted a laugh. “Yeah you are, baby bro. No magicking yourself clean anymore.”

“Couldn’t you?” Sam asked.

“Now where’s the fun in that? Besides, nice hot showers are one of the better experiences humanity has to offer.”

A cold wind blew and sight shivers ran through Cas. “This i-i-is a st-strange sensation,” he said, teeth chattering.

“You’re cold,” Dean realised. “Hot shower it is, then. Come on, let’s get you inside and cleaned up. You too, Sammy.”

Dean started to herd Cas and Sam back to the house, but he glanced back at the archangel. “Thankyou, Gabriel. For Cas, and my mom, and – well, everything.” If Gabriel had not turned up when he did with the spell that would save them, at best Dean would be dead and at worst Dean would be an angel condom watching the world burn at his hand.

“One time only deal, you hear me? I’m retired from all of this angel business.”

“Does that mean we’re not going to see you again?” Sam asked.

Gabriel softened at the sad expression on Sam’s face. “Nah, I’ll be around, if only to bring a little mischief and mayhem into your lives. I am the Trickster, after all.” He snapped his fingers and vanished.

Sam sighed, shoulders hunched. “Bye Gabriel.”

The angel popped back again, making them all jump. “One more thing!” He levelled a finger at Dean. “You take good care of my little brother. And yours.”

“I will,” Dean promised, though he was sure that they would be looking after him just as much. But then, that was what family was for.

Gabriel nodded, and looked to Sam. He flipped a casual two-fingered salute and winked at him. “See ya later, Sammy.”

He vanished again, but this time Sam had a small smile twitching at his lips. Dean had no doubt that they’d be seeing the troublemaker again.

“Let’s get out of this night air before we all freeze, huh?” Dean said, snagging Castiel’s sleeve and giving Sam a nudge to get him moving.

Inside, Dad already had a fire roaring in Bobby’s fireplace and Mom bundled up in half a dozen blankets even though she was insisting that she was fine. At the sight of them, Mom shrugged out of the mound of fabric and swept her two sons into a hug.

“’s alright, Mom, we’re safe now,” Dean said.

“Thank god.”

Dean thought she was going to let them go but before she could Dad was engulfing all of them in his arms and squeezing tight. “We made it,” he said gruffly. “It was touch and go for a while there, but we won. You did good, Dean. I’m so proud of you.”

Dean felt warmth kindle in his chest. Hearing those words from his father meant a lot to him.

“We’re really racking up the chick flick moments lately,” Sam quipped. The family separated. Dad went to help Bobby with the clean-up operation outside while Mary bustled off to the kitchen to make everyone hot cocoa. Sam settled in front of the fire to dry off a bit, graciously allowing Cas to have the first shower “Since you’ve never had one before.”

Dean helped Cas shrug out of his trench coat and got the water running for him at the perfect temperature, giving him a basic run down on soap and shampoo before leaving him to it. He dug through Dad’s clothes to find some that Cas could wear until his clothes were washed, though Dean knew a trip to the shopping mall would have to feature sometime in the future. He couldn’t wear the same outfit every day now that he was human.

Human. It was a strange concept. Cas had always been Dean’s angel and in a way he still was, wings or not. But he wasn’t an all-powerful celestial being anymore and that would take a lot of getting used to. Dean tried to think of all the things Cas would need to do and learn now that he was human and it was an overwhelming list. But there were also a lot of things that Dean couldn’t wait to show him.

Cas emerged from the bathroom wearing jeans and a plaid shirt that were too big for him, with the buttons mismatched and his hair sticking out in all directions. Dean smirked fondly and ruffled his hair just like he would with Sammy, except he smoothed it into place after. “Looking good, dude.”

“I feel a little ridiculous,” Cas confessed.

Dean chuckled. He fixed the buttons of his shirt for him and folded up the sleeves so Cas could use his hands. “We’ll fix you up with some better fitting clothes soon,” he assured him. “Go and try some of my mom’s cocoa. I’ll be out in a sec.”

Dean stripped off his filthy clothes and luxuriated in the hot spray of the shower, feeling infinitely better as he watched the mud and grime and blood wash down the drain. Fifteen minutes later, feeling refreshed and relaxed, he dried off and slipped into a pair of his most comfortable sweat pants and an old band t-shirt. He padded out into the hallway and called to Sam that the shower was free.

“Took you long enough,” Sam griped as he stomped up the stairs, but at the sight of Dean he smiled a little and said, “You look better.”

“I feel better,” Dean agreed. “Go on, still some hot water left.”

“Thanks.”

Dean joined Cas and his mom in the kitchen. Cas was sipping on a cup of cocoa, closing his eyes and letting out a small moan of appreciation with each mouthful.

Dean raised his eyebrows.

“I think he likes cocoa,” Mom grinned. “He burned his tongue on the first sip, but he got the hang of it in the end.”

Dean smiled and mentally crossed cocoa off the list of human experiences he wanted Cas to try. “Mom makes the best cocoa.”

“Indeed,” Cas rumbled.

Dean accepted his own cup and cradled it in his hands, soaking in the warmth before blowing gently on the steam and taking a careful sip. It wasn’t long before the rest of his family joined them.

Looking around at the people who meant the world to him, Dean was overwhelmed with gratitude that they had all made it out of this mess alive. For a while there he had doubted that his other self had done the right thing when he went back and changed history, but Mom was alive, Sammy had the chance to be a fairly normal kid (death and resurrection notwithstanding), the world hadn’t ended and Dean had grown up with an angel for a best friend. It wasn’t the perfect, ideal life, but it was Dean’s life and he was happy.

“So what now?” Sam asked.

It was a good question. “I dunno. What do you wanna do, Sammy?”

Sam shrugged. “Well, I think I’ve had enough adventure to last me a while. I kinda miss school, to be honest.”

Dean smirked. “Nerd.”

“Geek,” Sam shot back.

“I’m not a geek.”

“Says the guy who dresses up like batman every Halloween and knows every line from the Star Wars movies.”

Sam had a point there, though Dean would never admit it.

“Guess you’ll be heading back to Lawrence, then.”

“Guess so. What about you?”

Dean looked to his parents.

“What do you want to do, Dean?” Dad asked. He was giving Dean the choice.

Dean thought about it. He did miss home, but he couldn’t help but feel that small town living in Lawrence, Kansas was a part of his past now. He wanted to know what the future held for him.

Cas would need help adjusting to life as a human. Bobby could use some company around here. And Dean was still having dreams about people in trouble; people who needed his help.

Dean was a hunter. He might need some time to get back into the swing of things, but hunting was what he had always wanted to do – what he was always meant to do.

“I’m gonna be a hunter,” Dean said.

Sadness flashed across Mom’s face for a second, but she found it within herself to offer a faint smile. “Your grandparents would be proud of you for carrying on the family business, Dean. I know you are going to help a lot of people.”

“You’re not angry?”

“No. You’re your own man now. It’s your choice to make. I’m going to miss you, and you’re going to have to call me regularly to let me know how you are, but as long as you promise to be careful… I think I can be okay with this.”

“Me too,” Dad said. “And if you ever need help, don’t be afraid to call us. I think your Mom and I would make some pretty badass hunters ourselves.”

Dean smiled. “I don’t doubt it.”

“Make sure you visit us lots,” Sam said.

Dean reached out to ruffle his hair. “’Course I will, runt. Someone needs to keep you outta trouble.” He looked to Bobby. “You cool if I stay here?”

“I’d love to have you, son,” Bobby assured him.

Finally, Dean looked over to his angel. “So, Cas, whaddya say? You with me?”

Cas smiled at him. “Always.”


The End

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