Reading The Name
Reading the name makes his heart freeze. Looking up and seeing Bobby, looking just like he did before Lucifer snapped his neck, sitting in the lounge, the water stained copy of "Motor Trend" that he had been reading hanging from his hands nearly makes Dean's heart explode.
Bobby's mouth is hanging open like a flytrap and he manages a strangled, "Boy!" before they're launching themselves into a hug. Dean's fighting down tears and failing and Bobby's not much better.
When they finally let go, Dean ducks in to tell his boss that something's come up and he has to go. He doesn't even ask why. Dean works hard, he's the best body shop guy they've got (years of torturing a classic car that he treated like a war vehicle/bedroom has given him some serious skills in that department) and Dean has a suspicion that Thomas and Jose talked to the boss man when Dean missed two days because of Cas getting sick. Dean works his ass off, and no one challenges that sometimes he needs to go home to take care of his roommate.
He and Bobby don't even talk until they get to the Impala. Dean's already whisking the "Human or Not" test supplies out of the trunk when Bobby sets his hand against Dean's arm.
"I don't need it."
"You don't need it?" Dean demands of a man who had a fully demon and ghost proof panic room in his basement. Bobby shrugs and Dean smirks. "Well… now I'm not letting you in my car until you do it." He passes Bobby the flask of Holy Water. Bobby takes a quick surreptitious swig, holds a hand full of salt and cuts himself with a silver and then an iron knife.
"How long you been back?" Bobby asks.
"I'm not back, Lucifer didn't kill me."
"No… he beat most of the life out of me, then Sam took the wheel, told me it was going to be all right, grabbed Michael and jumped into the cage," Dean's tears kick back up a little bit as he relates this information. As much as Cas has started carefully opening up talking about more of Sam than what'll it'll take to get him out of Hell, it still stings to bring him up. Bobby takes his hat off his head and holds it over his heart for a moment. A salute.
"So, Sam took on the Devil and won. This really is post-apocalypse America," Bobby huffs out a shaky breath.
"Yeah. What did you think it was?"
"Honestly? I was putting Vegas money on Heaven," Bobby says.
Dean wipes at his eyes. He's trying not to be insanely obvious, but this is too much. On top of everything else, he doesn't know how to handle getting Bobby back. His life works. He's been trying hard not to think about it, but he's been terrified for the last couple of months that he might really be happy, and now this.
"I… burned you, Bobby," Dean finally says. "I built a pyre in the graveyard with my eyes swollen mostly shut and I gave you a Hunter's funeral."
"Well… thanks?" He laughs, a tight held back chuckle. Dean echoes, then clears his throat. "How'd you come back?"
"I don't know how I got there, just woke up by a river in Nebraska. Clean dry, in my usual clothes, but a bathrobe on top of them, with more cash than I left for the apocalypse with and the keys to the car I brought in."
"You got miracled a 2008 Camry that needed an oil change?" Dean scoffs.
"Looks like," Bobby replies.
"Cas came back in a bathrobe too," Dean says. His brain is buzzing like a swarm of flies and he feels like he's just talking to try and reign in the thought that had been threatening to overpower him.
Cas is back.
Bobby is back.
Sam must be back.
"Cas is back?"
"Just showed up in the yard one day like he'd sprung out of the ground," Dean sighs. "A couple weeks after the whole show down. And he's human too."
"At your place. We live in your house."
Bobby looks completely stunned. "You… you live there?"
"Yeah. I… I went almost straight there."
Bobby's already heading back inside for his car. Dean doesn't go after him but does stand rooted to the spot until he comes back. He lets Bobby pull out in front, then tails him a little too close all the way back to the house.
Bobby pulls all the way up to the house and hops out of the car, looking up at the house and around the yard in what is either horror or shock.
Dean walks over to him, not sure what to say. "We… cleaned up a little. Hope you don't mind." He and Cas have been working on the house. They fixed up the porch. Put some new paint on it. Before Dean had landed his job they had sold off about half the cars for scrap to add to their gambling and pick pocketed money.
"How long have you two been here?" Bobby asked.
"Seven… maybe eight months."
Bobby shakes his head and rushes into the house. Dean follows him inside. He's glancing around the living room, staring at the bookshelves like there is something horrible about them. He jumps when Chelsea ducks her head around the kitchen entrance. "Hey, Dean," she glances back at the kitchen slightly guiltily before saying in a voice obviously meant to tell Cas that they've got company. "Who's your friend? What are you doing home so early?"
Dean can hear the careful shuffling of Cas hiding books that might look odd to normal people.
He holds up a finger, requesting a minute before he responds to her, and then calls out. "Cas? Come see who's back."
Cas clearly recognizes how shaky his tone is. There's a crash, like a book dropping. Chelsea's face snaps toward Castiel, concerned, before he rushes out of the kitchen and freezes in the doorway.
Dean suddenly sees him the way Bobby must and realizes just how long they have been here. Cas's hair is nearly down to his shoulders. Chelsea had taken the product away from him about a month ago and given him conditioner. His hair hangs around his face in waves. If he was blonde he'd look like just like the angels in old paintings. Or if he didn't have a raggedy quilt from the trunk in Bobby's room wrapped around his shoulders. Cas had never felt cold before and he hated it. He'd been wrapped up in that blanket since the first chilly fall day and Dean had made a point of never explaining to him how the furnace worked because he didn't want to think about the electric bill.
Cas pauses for just a split second when he sees Bobby, then crosses the living room in two half steps, half leaps, and claps Bobby into a hug, wrapping them both in the blanket.
"You came back!" Cas yells.
"Yeah, son, you too," Bobby says. The hug goes on a few moments past appropriate, and then a couple of moments into awkward. Dean realizes that between Chelsea being a very tactile person and his own reluctance to correct Cas, they may have skewed some of Cas's perceptions of acceptable expressions of affection.
Bobby pats him on the back and finally pulls away. Cas stares at him with dish plate blue eyes. "We… umm… we should give you lunch," he stammers. "Hospitality dictates that we should feed you. I made alfredo. We can… we can heat it up and then you can eat it with us."
Bobby laughs, but it's distracted, he's still looking around the room like there is something wrong with it. He steps a little further back from Castiel and shoots a questioning glance at Chelsea, who steps forward into the living room.
"So… this is Bobby." Chelsea tucks a hand into her pocket and holds the other out to him. He shakes it. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Chelsea."
"She just found out about ghosts a couple months ago. She helps out sometimes now," Dean supplies. "She reads Latin."
"And Cyrillic and French," Chelsea adds.
Bobby shakes her hand and Chelsea excuses herself, with a slightly awestruck, "I should let you guys catch up. Cas, give me a call about that chupacabra thing, okay?"
"My time will probably be spent on catching up for a while," Cas tells her, still staring at Bobby.
"I get that, sweetheart. That's fine. Whenever you've got the time."
Chelsea lets herself out with a little wave back at the shaken men assembled in the living room and Bobby waits until the door closes behind her, then goes directly to the bookshelf and starts pulling volumes off the shelf, flipping them open and checking pages.
"Bobby, what's going on?" Dean asks.
"These are all my books!" he hisses.
Cas looks alarmed and takes a step toward Dean.
"Of course they're your books," Dean responds. "Who else's would they be?"
"I came straight here after I came back to the land of the living and packed all the books, weapons and spell stuff up! I brought the books out to my place in Mitchell! I sold damn near all the weapons off!"
Cas takes another step toward Dean, quirks his head like he always used to and asks, "When?"
"When I came back. Three months ago," Bobby says. "But look at this," he holds out the book in his hand, pointing to the notes scrawled in the margins. "This is my handwriting. These are my notes. This book is in a rubbermaid on a shelf in my basement an hour away!"
"We were living here three months ago," Dean says. "There's no way you couldn't have noticed. We had the garden planted and the yard cleaned up and the porch painted. And we were here."
"You weren't," Bobby says. "The place was dark and musty and full of cobwebs. Like no one had been in here since we left, and everything I took is still here. What in the hell is going on?"
"Cas?" Dean turns to him. "Ringing any bells?"
"I… it could be side by side realities… but I don't understand how you would have been switched back and forth between them."
"What would I have seen?"
"A human body would not have been able to withstand the transition. You would have been split open like a hot dog in the microwave," Cas says. He touches two fingers to Dean's arm, which he hasn't done in a really long time, and Dean damn near does it back, just to make sure that Cas is still there.
"What in the hell going on here?"
The three of them walk through the house. Bobby mentions something every once in a while like "I sold that gun to Donovan." Or "Milgerny cheated me out of the fair price on that opium."
And Cas and Dean will respond with who they've talked to in the last three months. None of them have mentioned Bobby.
The third time this happens Bobby pulls his phone out and dials a number, panting out an intense breath of relief when there is an answer.
Dean can hear the voice on the other side of the phone. It's a woman. She asks what's wrong.
And then Bobby replies, "I'll tell you when I get home, Karen. I'm on my way."
It takes a second for Dean to place the name. He's only met her twice. Once when she chased them through Bobby's nightmares and once when she was dead and making pies in Bobby's kitchen.
"Okay. Are you sure you're okay to drive? You sound a little strange."
"Everything's fine. I'll tell you about it when I get home."
"Kay. Love you."
"Love you too."
Bobby hangs up and looks up into Dean's incredulous face.
"Karen? Karen, your wife Karen?" Dean demands.
"Cas and I aren't the only ones back."
They won't let Bobby just take off. Bobby's so afraid Karen won't be there when they get to Mitchell that he won't slow down. Dean and Cas pile into the Impala and follow Bobby down I-90.
"Cas, that side by side reality thing, you think that's what's going on?"
"Even for an extremely short time, say just the few hours Bobby was in our house… making that happen on Earth is beyond anyone's power. I only suggested it as a hypothetical possibility based on the fact that it can be accomplished in Hell, but reality is essentially meaningless down there."
"Are you sure there aren't any players on the board with that kind of mojo? Or anyone who could have potentially gotten it? Maybe some big-daddy demon who fell into the top spot with Lucifer locked down?"
Cas shrugs. "This could be accomplished in Hell because reality isn't… fixed there. It's a completely different…thing than on Earth. No Demon, no Angel could do this."
Bobby turns off the freeway. Dean follows.
"What about someone more powerful. What about Death?"
"Death! The horseman. He could have brought us all back without even straining himself."
"Perhaps. But why would he?"
Bobby pulls into a neighborhood then a driveway. Dean pulls up beside him.
Karen is in the house, she accepts Bobby's crazed hug with a surprised smile, and then sees Dean and Cas. Dean belatedly realizes that Cas is still wrapped in his blanket.
"Oh my god," Karen manages. She looks from Cas to Dean, then back before finally stuttering. "L-l-l-et me go get the pie out of the fridge."
"We'll be right there."
Bobby takes them down to the basement and shows them all the books. Even the one that Cas and Chelsea were going through at kitchen table when Bobby showed up.
Karen comes down to check up on what they're doing. She gives Cas a sweater. They go eat pie.
Dean is freaking out. Months and months of the same old, run of the mill weirdness, and now this. Karen's pie tastes just like it did, and he's only a few bites in before he realizes that the reason she looks so different this time around is that in addition to being alive- she's older. She's as old as she would have been if she'd never died.
And she knows what happened last time. They both do. Bobby says he remembers what happened but not how it felt.
Bobby updates them on his last few months. He ran into Karen at a diner after he'd packed up everything in Cas and Dean's house. Walked in and she was sitting there, just like she was waiting for him. He ran the full test on her, they talked about what happened last time. She had a house in Mitchell, he loaded up a truck and moved then and there.
He does home remodeling. He's quit drinking. He's retired from hunting, though Dean can tell that he sees some appeal in Cas and Dean's version of retiring. They all eat three pieces of pie before Cas hesitantly asks for the recipe.
Karen ushers him into the kitchen to copy out her recipe card and Bobby leans in when they're out of ear shot.
"I'm not sure I should be telling you this, and I don't want Karen to know," he starts. "And Cas… doesn't seem all there."
"He's fine. Mostly," Dean interjects.
"Dean, I had my phone when I woke up. And the first thing I did was call you boys. You, Sam and Cas."
"I never got a call. I've got the same phone, same number. So does Cas."
"Calls went to voicemail, but here's the part that's making me… scared as all hell. All three voicemails were the same. None of them were any of you. It was a man's voice: young, not a voice I recognize, a little nasal on all three phones. And on all three it said the same thing."
"Wait and see, Bobby."
Karen and Cas come back, Bobby leans away and Dean stares down into his pie.
It's dark by the time they leave. Bobby calls Cas and Dean's phones while they're still in the living room. Everything works. Dean's new voicemail, with no mention of monsters on it, comes up. They exchange a look. Dean realizes that Cas's voicemail is still "I don't understand, why do you want me to say my name?" he'll help him change it later.
Karen sends them home with a lasagna.
Dean tells Cas what Bobby told him. Cas nods and they both fall silent for miles.
Cas keeps looking at Dean as Dean drives, like he wants to say something but has no idea what. Dean's relieved. He's fighting down the rage that feels like molten lead in his stomach.
Something is screwing with them. Something is building this little life he has. Something invented a life for Bobby. Something made Cas human. Something made Cas suffer. Something kept Bobby from seeing them.
And Sam could be out there somewhere.
"I could call him. Sam," Cas offers, as though he read Dean's mind. Dean shrugs. He wants to know. He doesn't have the guts to call Sam himself. When Cas calls the number's been disconnected.
"Not that it means jackshit," Dean huffs. "What in the hell is going on?"
They sit in silence for a little while longer. Cas turns on the radio. Dean speeds. They're home in under an hour. Cas takes the lasagna inside. Dean stands by the car for a moment, then kicks the tire for all he's worth, pops open the trunk and grabs the same bag he took out earlier. He storms into the kitchen, grabs Cas and pins him back against the counter. Cas pushes back, with a startled cry, and Dean pushes him back harder.
"Dean? What are you doing?"
"I never tested you. When you came back. I just accepted it was you."
Cas gulps, but loosens under Dean's hands. "Alright. So test me." He holds his arm out. Dean pours the holy water, sprinkles the salt. By the time he pulls the knife out he already feels less crazed and ashamed of himself for flipping out. On Cas of all people. He's holding the knife but can't bring himself to put it to Cas's skin.
Cas tugs the silver knife out of his hand and pulls a shallow cut across his forearm. Then takes the iron knife and does the same. He sets them both on the counter.
"Would you like me to test you as well?" By all rights he should sound angry. But he doesn't. He sounds serious and genuinely concerned and Dean doesn't deserve it.
Dean drops his head into his hands. "I'm sorry. You can if you want. I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to… I shouldn't have pushed you."
"No it's not."
"I understand. It's been a trying day."
Dean steps back and lets him go. "I'm sorry," he says again before going out to the couch and falling back onto it. He hears Cas moving dishes around in the kitchen. He finally emerges with two mugs and sets one on the coffee table in front of Dean.
Dean hates tea. He picks up the mug anyway.
"You're upset about Bobby," Cas says. Dean almost snaps at him for being obvious, but decides he's not trying to medal in douche tonight. He just threw Cas against a counter, and Cas is trying to help. He's only had Dean to learn from, it's not his fault he doesn't know how.
"Not quite." Dean sips his tea. It's got a dry, hay like taste, almost completely covered by honey. It's not so bad.
"You think Bobby and I both being back, not to mention Karen, is proof that Sam is out there somewhere too. He might even be back in this house in another reality."
"Do you think he's back too?"
Cas is quiet for a long time before he answers, "If he is, would you want to find him yet?"
"What the hell does that mean?"
"Bobby didn't find us here. Bobby came and found things to sell, and a life to say goodbye too and then he found the love of his life waiting for him a diner 15 years after her funeral."
Dean looks up out of his tea and back up at Cas.
"He seems very happy. It's almost as though…" Cas clears his throat. "It's possible to see it as a reward for service. Bobby fought well for years and lost much. I… I used to believe that those kinds of sacrifices were rewarded."
"Which still brings us back to who is behind it. Gabriel used to create realities, maybe it's not a side by side reality. Could an archangel be behind this?"
"Raphael was the only one left. I don't see him doing this. He doesn't believe in rewards."
"Maybe he's doing this to keep us out of the picture. Keep us all… pacified while he sets up round two."
"I suppose it's possible… but I don't… I don't think that's what's happening. You didn't answer my question. If Sam is out there… in his reward… would you want to find him and… drag him out of it? If he's happy?"
"I feel like we're all just being screwed with!" Dean bursts out. Cas sets his hand over Dean's. Dean lets him.
"And what if he isn't ?" Dean replies. "I mean… look at you. You didn't get rewarded. You're stuck down here with all the fun extras of cold and allergies and the flu and nightmares and a big fat stop-service on any and all mojo. Are you telling me that you're happy?"
Cas casts his eyes down before answering, in a small voice, "Yes."
Dean lets that settle. "Oh. Okay. Good."
"You really don't believe that good things happen. Do you?"
Dean picks up his tea with the hand that isn't under Cas's and takes a sip. "I once saw a rapist die in a freak car crash on a hunt."
Cas quirks his head. "Okay. Closer."
Dean shrugs apologetically.
"We should reciprocate Bobby and Karen's hospitality. We should invite them over for dinner."
"Yeah. I'd like that." Dean tugs his hand away from Cas's. "Okay. I gotta work in the morning."
"Yes," Cas agrees.
He shuffles up the stairs behind Dean. He stops at Dean's bedroom door.
"Dean… will you promise me something?"
"Promise that you won't run after Sam without telling me first?"
Dean has to admit that's fair. "Yeah. Cas. Okay."
"And when you run off anyway, promise it won't be to do something that'll get you killed?"
Dean feels almost as bad as he did when he pushed Cas into the counter.
"Okay. I promise."
"Okay." Cas clears his throat. "Okay. Thank you."
He sounds a little shaken up and Dean realizes that Cas got parts of his family back today too. Dean almost smirks at the thought of Bobby realizing that, for at least one person, he's a substitute for God.
Cas sweeps a hand over his eye and Dean steps forward and hugs Cas, who squeezes him back in a way that nearly scares Dean.