Human Perspective

Walking beneath the enormous sky

Fuck this.

Dean rolled down the side window again, squeezed out and stepped onto the palm of a giant. He walked slowly and carefully along the car, then along what he assumed was a wrist, stepping over rows of bunched cloth—was it cloth? Anyway, whatever Metadouche was wearing, he had to climb over that.He had started climbing up the cloth toward the shoulder when a huge palm slapped over him and plucked him off like he was a bug. The palm closed over him a moment later. He felt a sudden stab of intense claustrophobia, tried to kick and squirm his way free; but then the palm opened up and he sat up, gasping in air.

“Are you kidding me? See, that's the problem; tenacity. When God was creating you, there was a lot of gossip flying around. I think some of the resentment came from the fact he was deliberately letting you lot be willful; it was terribly unfair. Were you sightseeing? All you have to do is ask.” Another hand came up, then fingers clamped around him and lifted him. Hey, wait a fucking minute …

“How many hands you have?” Dean yelled toward Metatron's head area. He was kind of proud of himself, taking all this mind bending shit in stride.

“I have four,” Metatron told him. “Most angels do, you can tell class apart by the number of wings. The more wings you got, the more of a big shot you are.”

“So, you only got two, that's secretarial pool level,” Dean snorted, heedless of the fact he was hanging between two fingers.

“All the grunts only have two, like Cannon Fodder, I mean Castiel,” Metatron replied. Dean could have sworn that he rolled his eyes, even in the expressionless visage that passed for his face; it just looked like a mask.

Suddenly Dean was swung around until he could see a spot in the near distance. It was lush and bright and pulsing There was something he could feel. The Garden. The nerve point of heaven. He and Sam had been there once before, they'd met Joshua there, been told that God was giving them the 'no soliciting' sign there.

“I know your little band of intrepid heroes is heading there,” said Metatron. “It makes sense, that is where the control room is more or less.”

Metatron tossed the car. It crashed down through the trees to the ground below, and burst into flames on impact.

Jimmy reeled back as a fireball suddenly rose before him, in the near distance. He had no clue what had just happened. He turned to go in a different direction, only to have the flowers slap at his face.

“But I can't go that way, it's on fire!” How absurd, he was arguing with flowers. But the moment he tried to turn to another directions the flowers became frantic. One even poked him in the eye. “Okay! But if we die, it's your fault!”

He ran on, hoping he could skirt by the fire, or that somehow it wouldn't take hold. But that was not to be. As he neared the site, the fire was already creeping in his direction. He hesitated again. The flowers yearned toward the flames. Finally, he gave in, jogging slowly and cautiously in that direction. When he neared the inferno, the flowers in his hands exploded into light and the light outshone the flame and when it dimmed again, the flames were gone.

Jimmy blinked at the aftermath as he ran by the blackened foliage. He could feel a vibration to the ground now. He had to be getting close.

Sam could feel a change in the atmosphere. The angels all seemed to react at once. Alat brought up her hand, and they all came to a stop. She turned back to the group. “He's near,” she said. Then she and the other angels all turned as one, and Sam, Jo and Pamela turned to see what they were looking at. They craned their necks up.

“What is that?” Jo said quietly. “Is that … an angel?”

“Metatron,” Sam whispered, looking at the giant form looming in the distance. “That's all it could be.”

“That is a big, weird, son of a bitch,” Pamela added at a whisper. “How the hell do we go against that?”

“We'll find a way, we always find a way,” Sam said, watching the figure move. This is what Cas was? This is what he left behind when Metatron stole his grace and threw him to earth, and yet he managed to pull it together, to be with Dean, when he was this?

The giant figure stopped and turned in their direction. Everyone went still and silent.

Metatron called out over the trees. “I can feel you, you know, and I know you're out there. I have Dean Winchester, just in case you were wondering. I haven't absorbed him yet because I figure you might want to do some negotiating. I'll just be over here in the garden when you feel like showing up.”

Cas and his group came to a stop.

“Balls.” Bobby exhaled, looked at Ellen. She sighed and shook her head.

“We keep moving, and we just hope Sam and his group realize the negotiating is a trap, but that they might have to play into it so we can get to the control room or whatever in this place.” She looked over at Cas.

“He would want us to keep going. He knows what is at stake. So, let's go,” Cas said. He found this created interval unnecessary. Ellen didn't need his permission. He rubbed at his stomach through his shirt and averted his eyes. He was a warrior, and this was a battle for Heaven: that's all that he needed to focus upon. Chayo and Gemi stood by, looking impassive. It was clear they were not looking at Cas for leadership, but they seemed to respect Ellen, and they nodded quietly to her when she turned back to them.

“It was foolhardy to think he would not sense our approach,” Alat was saying, “but this could also be an opportunity for the other team to strike. I am under the impression Dean Winchester is your sibling?” She directed this to Sam.

Sam nodded grimly. “Yeah and I'm all for negotiation, so, you can let me take point on that.”

“Ill-advised,” said one of the other angels. “Humans are easily compromised and manipulated through emotions. One of us should handle the talks.”

“Hey, back off, buddy, it's his brother,” Jo said. “If anyone is talking to Metatron about Dean, it'll be Sam, because Sam's invested and we don't know you from Jack.”

The angel gestured at Jo and then looked at Alat, as if using Jo to prove his point. Jo shot him a bird, and Sam stepped between them and gave Jo a look. Pamela just stood by, looking amused.

“Look, Jo is right, I'm going to do any negotiating for my brother.” Sam turned to look at Alat as well. “Even if you don't back me up.”

“She is right, we aren't invested.” Alat traded looks with the other angels. “Therefore our negotiations would be suspect and Metatron would know it for a distraction. He expects Samuel to come forth. You do know it's a obvious trap?” she asked, turning to Sam. “I speculated he has no intention of honoring any such deals and will likely attempt to absorb us if he can catch us. We must be very cautious.”

Jimmy thought he heard voices. That had never really proved very good for him, not since all of this madness started. He ducked behind a nearby tree and squatted down to wait for them to pass. He flowers rustled a bit, but didn't seem alarmed and stayed relatively quiet. Good, that was good. He patted one absently. He'd heard Metatron call out to whoever was here in the woods, at least to Sam, who was probably upset that Metatron had his brother. If Sam was in the woods then Sam might know where Castiel was, and then Jimmy could give him the flowers, then Jimmy could walk away because he'd done what needed to be done.

He slipped out of his hiding spot and headed toward the angel standing in the distance.

They had to be so close. Castiel watched his fellow angels, or what used to be his fellow angels, the ones who still had grace, who could still sense the divine. They were looking around anxiously.

Chayo brought them all to a halt, then pointed to what looked like a worn path into a thicket. “That must be it,” he said quietly to Gemi. “Can you feel it? Can you hear it?”

Gemi was nodding, his smile wide. “The heart of the garden,” Gemi said with reverence.

“Good,” Cas said, walking past them, “let's get these systems disabled, find out if there is a way to break the spell.” All business. Bobby, Chayo and Gemi walked along behind them, alert as they entered the dense copse of trees. Ellen trotted forward to come alongside him.

“You okay, Cas?” she asked. “I'm thinking this is kind of rough on you. Dean being held as bait, being back here like this as a human soul. You okay for this?”

“I'm fine,” Cas snapped, then he exhaled hard, through his nose, and looked sidelong at Ellen. “Sorry, you're right, there is some … tension, but I'm clear in my mission and what needs to be done. Dean's abduction and my … distress are secondary to reversing what Metatron has done to my home.”

“Yeah, I hear that,” Ellen said, “Just as long as you're good.” They went silent and walked on—and right into a small encampment of soldiers who looked just as surprised to see them as they were to be seen.

Sam ran and Jo ran behind him. Pamela opted to stay behind with the angels and hope no one got eaten. Sam led Jo the edge of a field and stopped. He put a hand on her shoulder.

“You wait right here,” he told her.

“Nuh-uh, none of that bullshit,” she told him. “I'm not playing stay behind damsel.”

“Look, if something goes south, then I need you to run back and tell the others! No one is putting baby in a corner — you, not Dean's car.”

“Fuck your logic,” Jo said, crossing her arms, “fine. I'll wait here. Make it snappy.”

Sam nodded, then he turns and strode to the middle of the field, took a deep breath and shouted, “Metatron, I'm here to talk!” He swallowed hard when the giant in the distance turned his way and then started moving toward him. He counted five strides. He could feel the ground around him vibrate, see the trees sway—and then the clearing was washed in light. He blinked, feeling like he was looking up into a helicopter search light, (which ironically he'd done more than once in his life) only multiplied by a hundred. “How do I know you have Dean?” he shouted, an arm raised to shield his eyes. The brightness receded. Sam craned his head back to look up. The figure bent at its waist and held something up for Sam to see.

Sammy, what the fuck, man, it's a trap! Are you stupid?” his elder brother screamed from where he dangled between two huge fingers.

“So what kind of terms are you expecting here?” Sam asked, tone reasonable because he knew Metatron could hear him just fine.

Sam, get the fuck out of here!” Dean continued to shriek, thrashing around, legs kicking, looking like one of those toys you have on a pull string that dance. Sam internally scolded himself for thinking it was funny—time and place—he was picking up all sorts of bad habits from Dean.

“How about “get out of Heaven and never come back?'” said Metatron. “But see, I don't know how to make that one stick. The spell did its work by kicking everyone out, but it didn't have any guarantee about keeping them out. Hence now I'm having to deal with this absurdity. How about you get out of Heaven, take the ones who managed to get back in with you, and I'll keep Dean here as insurance so no one tries anything. That is, until he dies of old age, how about that? That's reasonable.”

No, it's not, and when I'm dead of old age, I'll still be up here with you!” Dean screamed. “Don't deal with this dickhead, Sammy!”

“How about you put it to a vote with your team of do-gooders hiding off over there in the trees?” Metatron asked. “I'll give you time to consult.”

Wait a minute, what the fuck are you doing up here, anyways? Was it the ladder, was I right?” Dean was cupping his hands around his mouth now to act as a megaphone.

“That isn't a deal, Metatron,” Sam said, then he gave Dean a thumbs up sign. “I'm not leaving my brother here as a hostage to our good behavior, and I'm not leading you back to my group, so, try again.”

In response Metatron suddenly tossed Dean in the air and caught him in his palm. Then he closed his fingers over him. “I suppose I could go the absolute power route and crush him,” Metatron speculated, “but revenge is a thing with you, isn't it? Underestimating you is another thing. Hmm.” He brought the closed hand holding Dean up, and tapped the chin of his mask with it. “How about I just absorb the both of you right now and take you off the playing board, or …” He moved so fast Sam didn't see it coming until a giant hand closed around him. “Now I have a set,” Metatron said gleefully. “Go on thinking you're unseen in the woods back there, maybe you wanna run back to Castiel now and tell him I have them both, and I'll be waiting. But the really interesting part, I suddenly realize is that if you were with Castiel he'd be here, which means you split up, which means …”

And then Metatron was striding away and from Metatron's hand, Sam saw Jo turn and run with all her might back toward the group.

Chayo and Gemi were, of course, a perfect unit and they delivered a long sword into Cas' hand, but then made short work of the soldiers guarding the inner sanctum. Afterwards, they rushed in eagerly and Cas, Bobby and Ellen followed in behind them. They found both angels staring at large screens that to the humans, Cas included, looked blank and dark. But Cas knew better.

“What do you see?” he demanded, coming forward.

Chayo pointed at one screen. “He has some of the systems online, but not all of them.”

Gemi shook his head. “The spell will not be connected to networks already set in place, we need to locate anomalies!”

“So, if you break the spell everything just snaps back into place? All the angels come home?” Ellen asked.

“In theory,” Cas said. “We're hoping to use the Horn of Gabriel, actually. It has its own spell to recall the host to heaven—at least that was rumored to be one of its powers. There is, unfortunately, no Gabriel to ask.”

“Where do we find it?” Bobby asked.

“I saw it in the armory when Ash and I went there, before I got sucked out of it for unknown reasons,” Cas informed him. “But we need to neutralize Metatron first, or we'd just be calling our people back to a potential slaughter.”

“He comes!” Gemi suddenly said, looking up at the sky above them. “He's coming very fast, he'll be upon us in moments!” Both he and Chayo looked at Ellen.

“Can we hide?” Ellen said, turning to Cas.

“We could try,” Cas said, “but I'm not sure it would do any good. We should …”

“What have we here?” A voice descended over them all. “While the cat's away, the mice will play. I always loved that saying. Also, the gang's all here.” A hand descended, opened, and Sam Winchester rolled from its palm onto the ground, gasping air. Bobby ran to help him sit up.

“Do you know what's in this hand, Castiel?” Metatron lowered another of his hands, loosened up his grip a bit. Ellen gasped when they saw an arm push between two of his fingers. “He's ornery,” Metatron said above them. “We don't really have to do a monologue, do we? I mean we all know why we're here, what we set out to accomplish, and the inevitable end to the story. It's very textbook at this point with the addendum that once I finish up here, I go find the rest of them out there. A sad epilogue to a heroic struggle. But such is fickle fate.”

“Let him go,” Cas said, firm and quietly. “You're right, there is no need for a monologue, and we all know what will happen now. But at least give him the dignity of being with us in the end. You can do that, surely? Or do you want me to give you some emotional response to satisfy your self-inflated ego? Do you want to hear that I love him and I would die for him? It's self-evident, as I do and I have before. What saddens me most is that you do this in the stead of a father you claim to love. I'm not sure how your version got so warped. I guess it doesn't matter in the end.” Cas' eyes never left Metatron's closed hand.

Gemi lost his nerve, He turned and started to flee into the surrounding woods, but Metatron plucked him up, held him aloft.

“The vessel is a bother,” Metatron said. Then he brought his fingers together and crushed Gemi's rib cage, and Ellen looked away quickly, and Chayo whispered a prayer, and the vessel's head flopped back and light poured from his mouth and eyes, and Metatron seemed to take a deep breath and the light flooded into him. He let the body drop.

“It doesn't have to be that graphic but I felt the need to do a display,” Metatron sighed. “Too many years of melodrama on earth.” Then he looked at his other hand, the closed hand holding Dean Winchester, and he shrugged. “Not a vessel, but the body is in the way,” he said.

Castiel's blood froze, then boiled. There was nothing, nothing he could do. He was about to watch Dean—good, caring, decent, righteous, beautiful Dean—be crushed out of his human body and sucked into a cosmic wavelength for his soul's power. He was shaking, he knew he was; he could hear Sam screaming useless threats. He could hear Ellen trying to offer reason, and there was nothing he could do, nothing he could do.

Then all the hair on the back of his neck stood up, his flesh raised in goose bumps and as he half-turned, a body came running out of the woods, blazing light, and it hit him with a great force, and they both fell to the ground.

He couldn't breathe. Then he realized that he didn't have to: it was grace. Grace was filling his senses, weaving through his soul, recalling him to what he was and was meant to be. He exploded outward.

He was aware of another soul, small and human, and he cradled it, bringing it inside himself to protect it, as he surrendered cognitive thought for long moments while his grace reunited with the fabric of creation. When he came forward again as the center of his own thoughts, he was standing in the gardens of Heaven. He could feel souls around him, and the presence of another angel. He flexed his wings and cleared his throats, as if it had been a while, and it had. He felt oddly calm in being and purpose; he flicked his wings.

“Crap,” said the other angel.

Castiel would have wrinkled his brow, if he'd had one. It was very quiet; in his head at any rate. Where were his brothers and sisters? In confusion, he raised his voice in a song of praise and question, but he heard nothing in return. Alarm prickled his senses. Something wasn't right; he was missing something. He turned to the other angel, started to speak—but something on the ground caught his attention. Why were there human souls in the garden? And, as a thought, why was he here? He'd never been here in his long existence, never been summoned here. He had entertained thoughts of what it might be like, but never set foot here. Something inside him escalated the alarm.Tthe soul he'd sheltered during his reconstruction: it was filled with dread and worry and hope.

“Brother,” the angel before him said, “Welcome back. I can see you have some confusion, but you are home now, and together we can put right what the humans have destroyed! Look, even now there are still insurgents in this sacred place!”

“What do you mean?” Castiel asked in confusion. “We are in heaven, what would they have destroyed? Where is the host? Why did I get left behind? I don't …” Someone was praying to him.

Sam was shouting, but they weren't listening. There was another angel now, and Cas had vanished before their eyes in a blaze of light, so logic dictated that the other giant towering over them was the Angel Castiel, restored with his grace. Only Castiel wasn't paying any attention to the fact that Metatron was crushing Dean in one of his hands. He seemed to be conversing with Metatron; their heads were tipped toward each other. Screaming “Cas!' was having no effect. So, Sam Winchester started to pray. He was, unbeknownst to himself, very good at praying, and a number of angels had listened to his prayers over the years. They knew his destiny, so it was only right they record his journey from child to vessel of Satan. The consensus among the angels assigned to catalog his prayers was that Samuel Winchester was forthright and clear and spoke with intelligence, not asking for outlandish wishes, but merely offering his humble praise and asking for his brother and/or father to be all right.

“Castiel, I'm here to ask you to remember yourself and your time on earth and what we've been through together since you've returned to Heaven. I don't ask for myself, but for Dean, who the angel in front of you is crushing to death in his hand! Come on, Cas! Cas, hear me!” He looked at Bobby and Ellen, Jo and Pamela and the other angels who were in the fringes of the trees. The ones who had come upon this scene. “Pray!” he shouted at them.

The form towering above them tilted its head, as if listening.

Alat emerged from the trees, came to Sam's side. “Hear us, brother, we beseech thee, Angel of Thursday, that in your mercy you might deliver us back to our homes!” Sam gave her a thumbs up, and she looked puzzled.

Sam watched Metatron reach out with one of his other hands, watched as he gripped Cas' arm and leaned in to speak urgently. One of Metatron's hands was behind his back; Sam saw a great blade slipping from nowhere into his hand. Then, for the first time, Castiel looked down. Sam jumped up and down, waving his arms, and Castiel tilted his head. Jo was also jumping up and down, and Bobby and Ellen were waving both hands, and the entire chorus of 'Castiel' rose as if in song.

“Never mind the rabble,” Metatron was saying. “What we really need to do is clear the garden out and get down to the business of figuring out what to do.” “You're confused, I know, but I can clear it all up.”

The souls were crying up to him, many prayers reached him. He heard the cry of 'Cas!' It was a very intimate thing, the shortening of his name, the removal of the tribute to his Father.

Cas, we've talked about this. Personal space?

His name's Cas. What's your name?

Cas... Cas... I know you're in there. I know you can hear me. Cas. It's me.

Castiel looked up at his brother before him.

He reached out and then grabbed the wrist of the arm with the tightly closed fist. He summoned his blade in the time between moments and as Metatron tried to pull back, Castiel neatly severed his hand from his arm. He backswung to take Metatron's head, but Metatron had his own blade, parried—and with a beat of wings, he vanished.

Everything inside Castiel wanted to give chase. To chase Metatron to the ends of the cosmos and smite him beyond recognition; but there were more pressing concerns. He pried at the fingers of the severed hand, peeled them open to reveal a human in the palm. He was broken, turning blue. Castiel released his blade back to its dimension and rolled the human into the palm of his own hand, dropping the severed limb to the ground below. He cupped this human in two of his hands, and he lifted him close to his mask, and he breathed grace into him to heal him.

Sam sank to his knees, shook his head. Jo grabbed his head, hugged it against herself. Bobby leaned over, put his hands on his knees.

“I'm dead and I'm too old for this,” he said.

Ellen laughed, put her hands on her hips, kept looking up, watching Cas hold Dean close to his face. “Well, now what? Metatron took off, and the only one of us capable of catching him is busy with Dean.”

“He's secondary at the moment,” Alat said, the other angels murmured around her. “I can feel the spell weakening as we speak; nowCastiel's grace is restored, it should create a negative space within it ,and it will fade away. Once that happens we'll be restored to our proper forms, return these humans who are with us to their homes and fix what Metatron has put asunder. You will of course return to your heavens and know peace.”

“We'll talk about that,” Ellen said. “I got a friend who thinks their needs to be tourist visas, and I'm inclined to agree with him. Wish he was here to see this, though. He'd love this garden.”

Dean opened his eyes and blinked them several times. He was lying on his back and the air around him was shimmery and glow-y and fuck, he was still in Metatron's hand, wasn't he? He sat up, scrubbed a hand over his head and glanced up at the mask before him. He started to say something, but then he noticed something was different. The mask itself was featureless, a smooth, shiny white surface, but the eyes regarding him weren't silver but blue: big, glassy blue circles that were staring at him with an unblinking stillness. He got on his knees, and then slapped his hands against the mask.

“Cas!” he cried.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas returned. Dean, yes, Dean — and his memories righted themselves. “Metatron tried to kill you. I didn't know how to stop him, but then Jimmy came and he'd found my grace.” Cas placed a hand on his chest. “I kept him safe in here when the grace expanded my soul. Metatron fled and I would have followed, but you needed me. The others, they'll need me.” He trailed off, and Dean pressed himself against the mask. He cupped his palm over Dean, held him there. He wished for his vessel so he could greet Dean properly. It must be disconcerting for Dean to see him like this; but Dean was always was tenacious and unabashed about things. When Dean pushed back, Cas moved his palm back and put two of his hands together to give Dean a platform to stand on.

“Dude, you have two animal heads on your shoulders and you don't seem to have any eyelids. Is there a face under the mask or is the mask your face and do the bird and deer talk?”

Castiel wondered why he worried for even a moment about his appearance being disconcerting; but before he could reply, Dean rapid-fire borderline insulted him again.

“Do the animal heads eat or anything? Can they talk? Why do you have freaky extra heads? The extra set of arms is cool, Metadouche explained that; did he have extra heads? I think I was too busy dying to notice. Thanks for the save, by the way, can we go home now and you can put on Jimmy?”

“I'm sorry my heads are off putting,” Cas said. “I think we need to speak to the others on the ground.”

“Hey, come on, don't get all stiff on me. Your other heads are fine. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings about having three heads. I'm used to people with one head, so it was a little freaky, that's all, but not in a bad way. I just …do they know you and I are together and we have sex? Do they watch us have sex? I think you should have mentioned you had three heads when we got together, that's all. I think you know, that's some kind of courtesy, to your boyfriend. Oh by the way, is it okay if my other heads watch? I mean, I don't mind, I think, but you shoulda said.”

“Are you done?” Cas asked. “I'm going to alter my mass to get closer to the ground.”

“Nah,” Dean grinned, “I'm never done.”

Dean suddenly got that feeling in the pit of his stomach; sort of like he was falling. He flailed around and grabbed onto a finger, holding it tight. Then the hand he was in started to drop, and he sucked in his breath, but the hand stopped, held steady again.

“Dean!” Sam cried. The fingers of the hand parted and Dean could see his brother there.. Dean blinked at him in surprise, then released his arms from around Cas' ring finger, slipped between them and dropped to the ground. Sam ran over to him, grabbed him by the shoulders and looked him up and down. “You're okay,” he said needlessly. Then Jo was there, arms tight around Dean's neck as if to make him not okay at Sam's request.

“You dumbass! You weren't supposed to get caught!” she half-screamed in his ear. Then Bobby was thumping his back, and Ellen was giving him a look of bemused exasperation, and Pamela waved with a smile, and there were strangers, too. When he could pry Jo off, he looked around at them.

“Hey,” was all he had to offer at the moment.

One of the strangers moved up to where they were, craning her head up to look at Cas. “I'm Alat of the Seventh Hall,” she cried up to him, “Brother, we need to right what Metatron has done and bring our kin home!” She put her hand against a finger; Cas was still squatting with his hand on the ground.

Cas nodded, then seemingly reached into his chest with his own hand and then lowered that hand to the ground. The soul of Jimmy Novak climbed down from the palm and turned to look up at Cas. They didn't say anything to each other; Jimmy walked over to where the rest of them were.

“Good job, Jimmy,” Ellen said, smiling as he walked up, “that was brilliant and you saved us, Dean especially.”

“Uh, yeah, thanks, dude,” Dean said. “You okay?”

Castiel watched them. He had never felt so alien or apart from them as he did now. He used to, in his early days of walking the earth, feel something of an outsider. But a human, a righteous man, had pulled him in, had accepted him and showed him what belonging truly meant. He'd always thought he belonged in Heaven, but closeness and companionship and then love had shown him what his father had created on earth, and he had found he wanted more. He wanted the love of Dean Winchester and a life. Cven if Dean was but a moment in his long existence, he still wanted to share that moment on earth. He had been uneasy with it then, and he still was to a degree now: wanting something. It wasn't really allowed.

But Dean had showed him the rules sometimes didn't matter: it was what was right and good and selfless that held sway. But wanting Dean wasn't exactly selfless. Castiel didn't care. Another dreadful influence learned at the feet of the elder Winchester, or maybe it had been learned in his bed. Dean leaned back against his hand, tilted his head to look up and back at Cas, and when he thought Cas was looking at him, he smiled.

Castiel wished for his vessel and to return to his life on earth and be with Dean for the rest of his; but Alat was watching him, too, and just where did the stronger obligation lie? He had inadvertently enabled Metatron to perpetuate great evil against his own kind. So the lessons of Heaven would prevail after all; he knew he must do what he could to set things right. That meant sending Dean home alone until the deed was done. And there was no telling how long it might take. He might miss his moment with Dean, and that was unexpectedly painful.

“We should get the humans home,” Alat said, “for there is much work to be done here.”

“Wait a minute, by humans, you mean me and Sam, right?” Dean turned to look up at Cas. “You're staying here, aren't you?”

Castiel would prefer to have this conversation with Dean in private. “Can we talk about this after it's a bit calmer and I take you home?”

“That's code for I'm going to tell you something you're not going to like,” Dean snorted, “but fine, whatever.”

“Party at the Roadhouse!” Jo suddenly yelled. “Come on, you gotta get trashed at least once in Heaven before you go back to being a living person; and we deserve it, and all you guys are invited, too!” She pointed at the assorted angels. “Hey, Cas, can you get to an acceptably reasonable height because you're gonna be a tight fit if you're going like that! Also, can you give us a lift? I mean if it's shorter than running all the way back. Oh, y'know, we need to try and find Ash, too. Nice of him to leave all the heavy lifting to us.”

“I can give you a lift and I can reduce my mass but past a certain point, without a vessel I'm afraid I will start to look like vaporous light to you,” Cas said. “It's harder to maintain a form, it takes a lot of energy to keep a perceptible shape at that density …”

“Come on, Mom, Bobby, Pamela, whoever wants to travel Angel Air! Cas is giving rides!” Jo proclaimed. Then ran over and climbed up into his palm. “Dean, Sam, shake it, let's go.”

Sam came over and boosted himself up and Dean followed more slowly; he accepted a hand up and plopped down on his ass. When Cas started to lift his hand up, everyone else sat, too. Dean kept his back to Cas and started gloomily at Sam instead until Sam started pretending to be interested in seeing if Cas had fingerprints to avoid looking at him. He flopped onto his back and closed his eyes instead. He left the sway of Cas' footsteps rock him. He was literally in the palm of his boyfriend's hand and he wasn't even alone: he was in a group in the palm of his boyfriend's hand.

No one could ever say that again. That was a unique unto the cosmos sentence, copyrighted by Dean Winchester© and his inability to do anything normally.

He was gonna get dumped. Dean didn't get dumped; he was always the dumper and never the dumpee. But he was now: Cas was gonna take him home and try to let him down easy, but this was Cas they were talking about, poster angel for awkward human social interchanges. It would be a mess. Cas would explain how he had to return to Heaven to help put right the great wrong he'd done, not realizing that just by the fact there were angels in Heaven again, he'd already done it. And then Dean would be a big, hairy, hot, mess of manly repression and lonely drinking; he could see it clearly. Sam would be sympathetic, and look at him sadly all the time, and try to get him to talk about his feelings, and wow, this was his life, huh? Welcome to it.

Suddenly his stomach tanked out and he knew they were being lowered to the ground. He sat up quickly, and sure enough, Cas opened his palm completely so they could just walk down his fingers to the ground below and over to the Roadhouse. Walking the dumpee plank, that is what it was; so he squared his jaw and he did it, he marched right down to the ground. Ash was coming out to greet them now, and there was hand shaking and congratulations and blah blah blah look we did it again, we're great big heroes, only Dean was a hero who was going to get dumped because of Cas' enormous martyr complex. He should have seen this coming, he really should have.

Only he didn't want to think about it anymore. He didn't want to think about anything remotely Cas-related at all. Then this giant glow stick came over and hugged him. He flailed his limbs and squeezed his eyes shut; pushed at the tall, gangly glowing thing until it let him go.

“You're upset with me,” it said. He could hear Cas in its voice, and he could hear bells and tinkling and maybe the wind blowing, and it was really weird. It was more the inflection than it was the tone; without Jimmy's vocal chords he guessed this was Cas unfiltered.

“Look, I know what you're going to tell me, all right, I get it. You sound weird, you didn't sound this weird when you were enormous.” Dean was squinting now. “Can you hit the dimmer switch?”

“It's hard to adjust to this height,” Cas said again in a weird overlay of several voices at once; but he did start glowing dimmer until Dean could make out a sort of shape with four arms. “What do you think I'm going to tell you?”

“Cas, please. You're going to tell me how this was awesome, but now you're needed in Heaven and angels and humans are a bad idea anyways, and you're going to, I dunno, kiss me or something and then poof, you're gone.” Dean snorted, turned away. “You can do that now, you know, you don't gotta wait until we get downstairs again.”

He felt hands on his shoulders, his back; he felt something touch the back of his head, the mask probably, because Cas didn't have a nose.

“No,” Cas said, “that's not what I want. Yes, I need to help my brothers and sisters, you can understand that, I know. But my place is with you. I wish to return to you.”

“When?” Dean demanded and was met with silence. He stood there a good few minutes before shrugging all the hands off and half-turning to face Cas. “Yeah, that's what I thought, so pretty much I could be dead before you're done up here. Save us both the trouble, Cas.”

Dean waved him off. He started walking toward the bar, listening, waiting for Cas to come after him; but he didn't. Just as well.

“Finally!” Jo said when Dean walked in, “Were you out there getting some big hero macking?” but her grin faltered when Dean looked at her and walked on by. “Where's Cas?” she asked. He didn't answer her; instead he went to the bar and sat down next to Sam. Ellen just gave him a beer, didn't press him for any answers. He sat there a moment, then picked up his beer and retreated across the room to a table in the corner; and although they all watched him, they let him have this, they let him have his time alone.

He'd thought he could be happy; he had been there for a while, hadn't he? It had all been so brief. And here he'd sort of got into his head that he had a second chance, that somehow they could fix all of that “Cas dying and going to heaven” stuff, because that's how it worked for them. They died, they came back. That would be great, wouldn't it? A giant cosmic break in his giant cosmic cruddy life. But no, he got the one angel in heaven who actually gives a fuck about the order of the universe and thought that the burden of all creation rests on his giant shoulders and he had some obligation to the massive dicks he called his siblings; he got the angel who thought he couldn't ever be selfish and he couldn't ever have anything for himself.

He got the one fucking angel that was just like him.

But Dean didn't want that anymore. He wanted; he wanted what he wanted. His life, on earth, his brother, his car and most of all, he wanted Cas.

It was so fucking unfair, but his life had always been that way; why should it change now?

He heard a footstep. he looked up. Ellen sets another beer on the table in front of him. She sat down opposite him. So his five minutes of alone time were up, then; now he'd be expected to talk about it, and his feelings, and his resentment about having to endure this family tradition made him slouch and fold his arms and turn his face away.

“You okay, kid?” Ellen said, ignoring his attempts at erecting a force field to keep his sometimes overly concerned family at bay.

He decided not to say anything. Instead he picked up the second beer, and took a healthy chug of it, and kept the bottled tilted against his lips, and didn't look at her directly.

“That good?” she said. “I take it something went on with you and Cas. You going to keep us in the dark about it? Seems to be we're supposed to be celebrating, but if something is keeping you from participating, then we'd really like to hear it. It's ain't hard to notice Cas isn't even here.”

“He's off wiping the other angels' asses, what more do you want to know?” Dean snorted, took another chug of beer.

“How about I reach over this table and smack some civility into your head for starters,” Ellen growled at him. “The more I need to know is what Cas did, or said, and what's going on from here? You know we need him to get you and Sam back home.”

“Glad you're in a rush to get rid of us, too,” Dean said, sitting up, putting the bottle back on the table. “All I've heard since I've been here is to take my ass home. Maybe I should have listened the first time.”

Ellen reached over then, clapped her hand on his arm. He looked at her, a bit wide eyed. There was pushing Ellen, then there was pushing Ellen; but cut him a break, he just got dumped.

“You got a lot of nerve being upset over someone else's overblown sense of obligation,” she said, then shook her head and sighed. “Is that what this is all about? Cas wants you to go home and he wants to stay and help put Heaven back in order?”

“So what? Now I'm a selfish prick, is that it? I can't help but think the fuckers got themselves into this mess, so why does Cas have to bail them out? He was fine on earth, even as a human, he was fine except for that little detail where he got shot and died, he was fine. He was happy even, I think.” Dean trailed off. Ellen slid her hand down his arm and put it over his hand. Fuck, just what he didn't want to do and yet here he was volunteering info. “I thought maybe he and I …” Dean heard himself say. Then he just shut up, because there, he'd spilled his fucking guts. He hoped she was happy: family tradition upheld and he didn't even have Baby here to lean against. After they'd sat there a few minutes he said, quietly, “I want to go home.” Ellen just nodded and squeezed his hand.

Jo watched her mother sit down with Dean. She looked at Bobby, who shook his head at her. Sam gave her a half-hearted shrug from where he was sitting next to Bobby. Yeah, okay, so maybe she had to butt out of that, but there was another member of this party missing. She marched around the bar and headed for the door. Ash jumped up to follow her, and together they went outside. She stopped and looked around, expecting there to be nothing — but to her great surprise, there was this weird, four armed figure they'd come to know as Cas, sitting on the porch swing at the end of the patio, looking pretty dejected. He was also still pretty big, even though he'd attempted to be more human-sized, and he was making the swing sag.

“We're out here for a pep talk, aren't we?” said Ash. Jo stopped and looked at him, hands on her hips.

“Yeah, we are, and you're actually kind of good at that. Look, you're the first friendly face he saw in heaven. You got him out of his own private Idaho and brought him to the Roadhouse.” Jo nodded toward Cas like Ash should go over and talk to him.

“Yeah, then I took him to see Jimmy and got him punched in the face,” Ash reminded her, “twice. You actually knew him before he died.” He sighed when Jo grabbed his hand. “Okay, fine.” He let her drag him over to the angel on the porch swing.

“Cas, we're out here to be the pep talk committee,” Jo said, and Cas lifted his mask to look at her. The elk on his shoulders flicked its ears, but otherwise ignored her; the eagle appeared to be asleep. “Ah, to hell with it, Cas, what happened? You and Dean seemed pretty tight when he first got up here.” she released Ash's hand and squeezed onto the bench beside Cas, and froze when the bench gave an ominous squeak. “Tell us about it. Maybe we could help,” she finally ventured, once she thought the bench wasn't going to splinter beneath them.

Cas was all too eager to spill his guts; he had none of Dean's macho enhanced reservations.

“I don't know,” he said, sounding plaintive. “Dean thinks I am just going to abandon him for duty and I understand, in a way, why he would think that, as I've done it before, but this is different.” He put one of his hands on his chest. “I was human. I was human with a human soul and I can't forget that. I remember what it was like to feel like a human and I still love him. I don't know why he thinks any of that has changed. But he does, he thinks somehow, because I am this again, I've forgotten it all.”

“Well, then, you got to tell him that,” Ash said, “he's kind of hard-headed.”

“Boy, that's an understatement,” Jo snorted, “but Ash is right, you got to go in there and make him listen to you. I bet he stood out here and stonewalled everything you tried to say because he got it into his head he was right. It just makes you want to slap him sometimes. You need to go in there and get in his face, Cas, and tell him what you think. Don't just accept what he said and let it go at that. He's not always right you know.”

Cas seemed to hunch up his shoulders, and he looked between Ash and Jo a few times.

“I do know, but I feel I should let him feel as if he is; he's better at being a human than I am, he's been one longer.” Cas folded one set of his hands in his lap. The elk head half-turned toward his mask face and lipped at it; he used another hand to push it away.

“Do they have names?” Ash sort of let burst out of him, and then shrunk back at Jo's hard look.

“Their names are Castiel,” Cas said, “they are me. I know humans have a hard time with the concept of being multi-dimensional. Dean was asking me if they ate,” he trailed off glumly.

“Come inside and have a beer,” Jo said, standing up. “Come on, sulking out here isn't going to help, and why are you letting him get away with this? You said you loved him, I think you know he loves you or he wouldn't be acting like a jackass. You got four arms! I'd kick his butt,” Jo added with a grin. “Let's get you some liquid courage and let you go, come on.” She waved a hand back and forth at him. “I only got the two hands, but I'll let you hold one if you come inside.”

Castiel lifted his head and looked at her, then slowly reached with one of his hands and wrapped it around hers. Jo hissed in a breath, but kept smiling. First, his hand was huge; second, it kind of felt like an electric tingle and it ran up her arm, made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Castiel then offered a hand to Ash, and Ash held up his own hands and shook his head.

“Mal Culo doesn't hold hands. He offers his support in other ways, like handing you beers.” He shrugged at Jo when she snorted at him. Then Castiel grabbed his hand anyway, and he half-yelped.

“It occurs to me that I don't have to follow your conventions when you are in my home,” Castiel said, rising and towering over them. “You are my friends, and even though I never knew you in life, Mal Culo, you have been nothing but kind to me in my death. I wish to show my support by holding your hand.”

“Dude, it feels like I got one hand on that old blender we had behind the bar and the other hand on the metal bucket sink! How are you doing that?” Ash said, obviously not offended by the hand-holding.

“Yeah!” Jo said, “I was trying to think what it was like, it feels like that! That blender was, like, from the fifties and it had a short or something. What is that, Cas?”

“I don't know, perhaps it is your interpretation of the pulses of my grace,” Cas said. Then Jo tugged on him and he ducked down to follow them into the bar.

Dean looked up as Jo came in, leading Cas by the hand and then …why the hell was Cas holding Ash's hand? Oh, but what did Dean care, Cas dumped him already, so Cas was a free agent, right?

Ellen slapped his arm, stood up. “If you're going to look at him like that, at least talk to him,” she said, and smiled in exasperated fondness when Dean folded his arms and looked away. “Okay, have it your way,” she called over her shoulder as she walked over to her daughter leading an angel to the bar. “Heya, Cas, now that we're upstairs the brews gotta be a lot more potent, right? Let's try that round of shots again!”

Cas was looking at Dean, he could tell, so he didn't look toward the bar, but he sighed and closed his eyes when Cas answered Ellen.

“I've been asked to drink many beers at once since I have four hands and three notional mouths,” Cas said, sounding a little baffled.

“Well, I dunno, can you drink through the mask?” Jo said, “Could be you only got two mouths, but you can still hold four beers!”

“Watch the wings!” Bobby growled, and Pamela made a similar complaining noise, but Dean still refused to look. “Is that as small as you go?”

“If I want any coherence at all, yes,” Cas said, sounding very put out. “I'm sorry, I'll try to fold them in tighter. It would be much easier if I had my vessel here, uh, no offense.”

“Too late for any of that,” Dean heard Jimmy say. “But don't worry about it, I think I'm making peace with it.”

“Here, four beers!” Ash was saying, “In the big glass mugs, I figure an angel like you might appreciate what we got on tap. And …holy crap, how did you do that?”

“Holy shit, you can drink through the mask,” Jo was laughing, “that's just fucking weird!”

“Joanna Beth, watch the mouth, I don't care if you are dead,” Ellen said. Dean finally looked up. There was this towering, giant, slightly glowing four-armed celestial being perched on a bar stool surrounded by his family. And by that, Dean didn't just mean his family, because Cas had earned his place in that family, too. Sam caught his eye, and looked like he might get up and come over, but Dean shook his head and slouched down. He took his empty beer bottle and picked at the label. Sam shrugged and turned back to the others.

“Make the eagle drink a beer!” Jo was yelling, “Hey, Castiel Eagle, you wanna beer?” Cas then obliged her by holding a mug up for the eagle head to stick its beak into, and Jo cheered. “All three of you at the same time!” she shouted. That's when Pamela turned on the jukebox and everyone got a round to drink at the same time that Cas was going to attempt to drink with all three mouths at once.

It sort of started to degenerate soon after that, because what did you know, it didn't take a liquor store to get an angel drunk in Heaven.

The party was in pretty full swing and Cas had knocked Bobby off his stool with his wings twice and the elk head was some kind of beer-swilling lush, and Dean happened to look up and see the mask turned in his direction, just looking at him. He ignored it at first, turning his head away, resentful that he was the only non-drunk in the place now. Hell, even Jimmy was rosy, and Pam was pretty much in Jimmy's lap. Sucked. He risked a glance at Cas again, and now the mask and the eagle were staring at him. He pulled a face, shrugged at Cas and rolled his eyes. Then Cas got up and knocked Bobby off his stool a third time, and it made Dean wonder why Bobby didn't just move, but then Cas was suddenly coming at him.

“I'm going to talk to you,” Cas said, pointing at him with three hands. The fourth hand was using the ceiling to steady himself. “And you're going to listen. I don't want any of your … there is a colloquialism about this …it has to do with your mouth. And I don't want it.” Cas sort of got lost a bit then. He stopped, swayed, shook his main head.

“You don't want any of his lip!” Jo shouted helpfully from the bar.

“Yes, thank you, Jo,” said the elk head, because it was facing Jo's way. “So, none of your lip, Winchester. Yes, I used your surname, just like your idol uses surnames when he means … serious things. Business, when he means business. Wayne, your idol Wayne, first name John, him.”

“You're drunk and you're going to fall on me,” Dean told him, jumping up from his chair. “I'm going outside.” That galvanized Cas back into motion, and Dean's eyes widened, then he yelped, then two of the four hands managed to grab him and they were fucking huge and apparently made of adamantium and he was forced back down in his chair and Cas loomed over him, then bent down and got the mask right in his face.

“No,” Cas said slowly, “you're going to stay in here and talk. I am certain that I'm enunciating clearly and I managed to tone down the reverb from my other vocal chords. Humans are so limited. I've never had to mute my chorus before; I have a fine singing voice, you should appreciate it more. I tried more than once to sing your praises when we were having sex. It was very difficult with the one set of chords, but you seemed to appreciate it, it always made you go harder and faster.”

Okay, enough,” Dean half shouted to drown Cas out. “That's personal stuff, like the personal space. I know good and damn well Sam had that talk with you, remember the TMI talk, you gotta remember that? Besides, what's to talk about, we had our talk,” Dean put a hand on the mask and tried to push it back with no success.

“Plenty,” Cas said, apparently unperturbed that Dean was pushing on his face. “You're making broad assumptions for me, and I don't appreciate it. What do you see when you look at me now that you didn't see when I was wearing a borrowed face? Should I be upset with your shortcomings in this regard? Is this like those shows where extremely shallow human men made highly uncalled-for remarks about women who aren't wearing make-up? It's like that, isn't it?”

“I told you about a million times to lay off daytime TV,” Dean said, “and, no, it's not like that. What do you think I am? Do you think I'm like that? I'm that guy who cares about what you look like? I got news for you, I should have been more creeped out you were wearing a borrowed face; how the fuck creepy is that? Y'know, Jimmy's sitting right over there, I'm sure this is creeping him the fuck out right now. You were wearing a dead guy, but no, my problem is with your back to nature look here? Come on, you know me better than that. You know what it is? It's your fucking overblown sense of responsibility!” Then Cas shook him and his forehead struck the mask.Dean flailed and got both hands on Cas' mask and pushed back. “What the fuck?”

“You can't talk about overblown senses of responsibility,” Cas informed him loudly. “That is an invitation to endless comparisons that could keep us at this for eternity. There's a colloquialism for this as well,” he half turned to look back at the bar.

“Pot and kettle! Tell him it's the pot and kettle one!” Jo called.

“Yeah, thanks for all the eavesdropping, Jo,” Dean yelled back. “I get it, I got my own clusterfuck of happenstance going on here, too, but the point remains, you're dumping me!”

The bar got quiet then. Cas tilted his mask a bit and Dean had to be getting the hang of this now, because he could tell Cas looked confused.

“Colloquialism, Cas,” Dean supplied, “it means you don't want to be with me anymore.” Then his teeth absolutely rattled as Cas shook him some more.

“You don't get to decide that for me!” Cas said. “You're the one who taught me that I decide things for myself. You gave me free will and you dare to make that decision for me?”

Cas released him then, stood up to his full height of just below the ceiling beams. All of his hands were clenched into fists and hanging at his side; Dean Winchester got the feeling he'd just crammed his foot into his mouth and all the way down to his spleen. But of course he still had to open his stupid mouth.

“Well, that's what you said, out there, you were gonna stay here and fix everything for everybody and I'll probably be dead by the time you're done,” Dean said, throwing his arms out in a shrug.

No,” Cas hissed, “that is what you assumed. I might have an understanding of how you work; of how you feed into your own guilt, but that doesn't mean I wish to be part of it. You weren't even willing to discuss it, you took it upon yourself to decide for me. It makes me wonder if, in fact, it's what you really want.”

“What? No!,” Dean cried, jumping to his feet, craning his head back to look up at Cas. “Why would I want that? We were happy, weren't we? I mean, I was; I felt like you were.” He rubbed his face. “Maybe I was giving you an out so you wouldn't feel guilty about wanting to stay up here and help? Have you thought about that? No. Maybe I was doing it for you.”

“Jo,” Cas said.

“Bullshit!” Jo sang out merrily.

“Yes, that,” Cas nodded and folded one set of arms. “All this extraneous false justification for your assumption is tiring,” Cas informed him coolly. “And even if you were doing it for me, stop it. I don't want you to self sacrifice for me; it's redundant, I would find a way to do it back and then it would cancel out any sacrifice on anyone's behalf.”

“You are drunk,” Dean said, “I don't even know what to say to that, because what was that?”

“A plea for an alternative to our current situation where you will return to earth and die before I ever see you again. Remember that is your interpretation, not mine,” Cas said. “And if we are going to be technically realistic about it, upon your death you would come here and theoretically I'd see you again, but that's muddling the point. I also understand that time being a more finite thing to humans, it's much more precious. Now I find I can relate, having been human for a while and coming to terms with the fact that I did have a set parameter of fluid time in which to work. I found myself thinking it was not enough to spend with you.” Cas did what looked like a whole body shudder. “I didn't like time very much when I was human.”

“Okay, well, I'm not sure what to make of that, again, but somewhere in that you said you thought you didn't have enough time with me. That's the part I'm going to latch onto for this conversation,” Dean said.

“I've had enough,” said a new voice from the bar area. “You two boneheads are just going to find a way to mess it up again, so let me make a suggestion,” Bobby sat his beer on the counter, turned on the bar stool and leaned back against the bar. “Make Heaven the nine to five job with holidays and weekends off. You're an angel for God's sake, colloquialism intended, you can commute. And what's more, I must be drunk for butting in on this, but someone has got to talk sense.”

Cas had been looking at Bobby, but now he turned back to Dean.

“When you died, all I could think about was that it was too short, I didn't have enough time,” Dean said. “You and me, we found this thing we both wanted, maybe even needed, but we didn't get enough time.”

“Maybe we never will, but we should at least try,” Cas answered him. “Nine to five with holidays and weekends off.”

Dean nodded. “Yeah, okay, we can try.”

Then large hands were around him, and he was lifted One hand was on his ass, supporting him, one cupping the back of his head, one edging under his shirt. He got his arms around Cas' neck; somewhat and kissing the mask was weird at first, but there were sorta lips there, like he could feel the face under the mask, and after, a few moments, it wasn't weird at all. Dean tried to get his legs around Cas, too, and he started having all sorts of strange, sorta kinky thoughts about, well, if Cas had three heads, six eyes and four arms, what other multiples did he have? Cas' fourth hand was now sort of rubbing on Dean's thigh suggestively, and Dean had more kinky thoughts about four hands and that led to some aggressive noises and then a chorus of get a room from the bar area. Dean shot them a bird with one of his two arms. Then hee pulled back, licked his lips, pressed his nose against the noseless mask.

“So, what else you hiding under that robe?” He wiggled his eyebrows, “Anything we gotta get a room for? I'm hoping multiple things we gotta get a room for,” then he grinned big because a) he was hilarious and b) that was a hell of a compliment. Then Cas ruined it all.

“I'm not sure....oh. Oh, in this form I do not possess genitalia,” Cas informed him. “To be fair, my current vessel is the only vessel in which I paid attention to that, and I only paid attention after you paid attention. But, I have four hands,” he said cheerfully.

“Yeah, that's a definite plus, but how am I gonna …” he looked back toward the bar, which had gotten suspiciously quiet. Most everyone was staring in their direction, with the exception of Bobby, who was staring at his beer. “Uh, how about we go home and you put on your Jimmy suit,” Dean suggested, then immediately felt like the most insensitive jerk in the world because for fuck's sake, Jimmy was right there. “Let's just go,” Dean urged him, “we can discuss it there.”

“It's only Wednesday on Earth,” Cas said mournfully, “and it's … 11:30am in Kansas; I have to work.”

“What? You …we just got through working that was enough working for a couple of weeks, you can take a Wednesday off!” Dean said, exasperated. He looked to the bar for vindication. No one there looked the slightest bit inclined to help him, so he snorted at them. “Cas, you're not working right now anyways, so you might as well take the rest of Wednesday off.”

“Do you really call it a Jimmy suit?!” Jimmy finally burst out, apparently unable to hold it back anymore. “Seriously, is that what you call it?”

“No-ooo,” Dean rolled his eyes. “We call it a vessel, tell him Cas, we call it a vessel.”

“Mostly we call it a vessel, but Dean does, on occasion, call it the Jimmy suit or meatsuit,” Cas said with a little shrug, arms still full of Dean.

Sam piped up then, because he had apparently decided to be drunkenly helpful. “He does, but don't worry, he likes it a lot. Cas mostly takes good care of it.” Sam raised his beer. “He just needs to learn to be quieter with it when it's go time, if you know what I mean.” Then Sam snorted drunkenly and laughed at his own joke and those around him groaned.

Cas then set Dean on his feet, even though Dean made annoyed protesting noises, and stood looking down at him.

“You're right, I'm derelict in my duty, and if we're to make this work, then I have to adhere to the compromise we've reached. First I convey you and Sam home, then I'll return here and assist as I can until 5:00pm, at which point I'll return to the bunker until 9am the following day,” Cas told him, and held up a hand when Dean looked like he might protest. “Today is not a holiday,” he informed him. Then he turned, moved to the bar and plucked Sam from his bar stool. Sam, unused to being with someone larger, didn't really protest at this indignity and just looked at Dean with a mild drunken smile when Cas sat him down next to his brother.

“This blows,” Dean told Cas, straight up, “you been slacking all morning but now work is important? We were …celebrating, maybe not in the same way as everyone else and … can you really just … wait for this?” He made a vague gesture at himself, then whipped his head around to stare at the bar when someone laughed. “Shuddup, you're no help over there!”

“Are you going to say your goodbyes?” Cas asked Dean and Sam.

“No,” Dean said, “you'll be here every day, so we can just pass notes or something. Later!” Dean yelled toward the bar. “Some of you are losers!”

Then he got a touch on the head, and so did Sam, and they were standing in the bunker war room. Mary Patricia spilled tea all over herself, then got up and promptly took Sam up to bed, and Dean got pissed that his piece had to work until five.

“I'm late because even though someone knew I would be here by five, they failed to go and dig up my vessel.” Cas stretched and rolled onto his back. “You could have helped.”

“Your vessel was pretty ripe,” Dean said, lazy smile, scratching his hip. “I figured you could deal with that. Did you like the flowers Sam planted for you?” He rolled, molded himself to Cas' back and stuck his nose into Cas' hair.

“Yes, so thoughtful, I also notice you remembered my blanket.” Cas made a pleased rumbling sound; said blanket was wound around his legs. He turned his head to look back at Dean. “That must have been upsetting. My condolences.”

“Eh? Oh. Yeah, it was, but it's all good now.” Dean flopped an arm over Cas' waist and pulled him closer. “Uh, are you going to take lunch breaks at work?”

“I don't see why, I don't eat,” Cas said, sounding puzzled.

“I know, but it's required by law during a work day that's eight hours,” Dean said. He could almost feel Cas' confusion. “Thirty minutes at least. When I'm not on the road or working a case, we could have lunch together: how does that sound?”

“I wouldn't want to violate any conventional work-related laws,” Cas said, “though I expect this is a caveat you are making for yourself, since the rules of Earth do not apply in Heaven.” But he sounded amused. His hand covered Dean's where it was resting against his waist. “Very well, I will take a work-related lunch break of thirty minutes on days you are available. Noon to 12:30.”

“We don't gotta eat,” Dean told him, licking the back of his neck.

“No,” Cas sighed, “of course not. Why would I expect conventionality from you?”

“We could make it work even if I'm on a case, y'know. We'll have a motel room,” Dean said conversationally, ending with a yawn.

“I doubt Sam would appreciate that,” Cas told him. “He doesn't seem to appreciate it here where we are pretty much a hallway away. I think the bed next to him might be some sort of forbidden place. I don't appreciate getting TMI lectures, they bore me and Sam is very self-righteous when giving them.”

“You think that's all Sam's self-righteous about?” Dean chuckled. “We'll work on it.” He let his fingers rub absent circles against Cas' waist. “About what you said, I mean, yeah, it was upsetting. I was pretty upset. I was actually kind of devastated.” He stopped for a moment, wet his lips. “Cas, I think I need you to hear something from me; but I'm not sure how you'll handle it. It's a big deal because I haven't said it much. I uh, I don't tend to want to because, uh, nothing is permanent for me. But, I think you know, you should hear it, because this means something and I want you to know if something needed to stay permanent, this is what I'd pick.”

Cas was lying there, pliant, warm, head turned to look at Dean expectantly. When Dean tugged him to turn him onto his back, he complied easily, smiled up at Dean.

“Thank you. I'd pick this, too,” Cas said, reaching up to touch Dean's chin.

“Okay, great, great, but that's not it, that's not the thing I need to say to you. I, uh, wow,” he turned his face, laughed a little, “this is a lot harder actually doing it then when it was in my head.”

“Why?” Cas asked. “You can tell me, Dean. In truth, I've been meaning to ask you if you had reservations now that I'm no longer human. It's understandable if you do ,and I'd want them known so if it would make you comfortable,I could do my best to mimic my former human nature. I'm aware there is a certain alienness to the way I inhabit the vessel as an wavelength that wasn't there when it was my only form.”

Dean just gazed down at him a moment longer. “I love you,” he told him. That was what he'd wanted to tell him this whole time. Cas smiled up at him, put an arm around his neck.

“Good,” Cas told him, “because I have loved you, too. First I loved you because you were my Father's creation and you were my mission, but I love you now for myself. I love you, too.”

People who loved Dean had a way of leaving him; that was true. But if he let that be his motivation for holding people at arms length the rest of his life, what would he ever have? Once, not so long ago, that had been good enough for him. Maybe it wasn’t just Cas who’d learnt to look at things from a new perspective. Maybe it wasn’t just Cas who’d been renewed. Here was a new beginning with someone who could be by his side for the rest of his life and maybe beyond it, too.

“Yeah," Dean said, "that's good, because you know how the song goes, all you need is love”, He grinned big at Cas' baffled expression. “Even though you're an angel again I don't see any reason why you can't pick up where you left off in your exploration of the sixties. Trust me, you're gonna love the Beatles.”

Then Cas was kissing him and every thought in the world would just have to wait.


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