Cas walked in through the motel door, nodding to Sam as he sat down on one of the beds.
"Everything go okay?" Sam asked.
"We burnt the remains." Cas told her. "The ghost will no longer be an issue."
"Good to know." Sam closed his laptop. "And Dean?"
"Dean has gone in search of alcohol." He dryly informed him.
"Of course." Sam sighed. "I don't know why I expected anything else?"
Cas looked at him with curiosity. "Dean does this a lot?"
"I was lead to believe that it was a comforting pastime, despite the painful after-effects."
Sam scoffed. "Yeah, well. It can be fun, it's great to go out for a drink but... When you do it every night... you've got a problem."
"It is addictive?"
"Can be, very." Sam sighed. "Dean's using it to forget everything that's happening. He thinks that if he walks round blind drunk, it'll be easier."
"He told you that?"
"Course not. But I'm his brother; I know."
Cas contemplated. "In my experience, the consumption of alcohol did not improve the situation."
"It makes you care less about it. Not necessarily a good thing."
"And if it helps stop your brothers pain?"
Sam paused, noticing the care in the angel's eyes. He really cared about Dean.
"It would've done it by now if that was the cure." Sam sighed again. "I hoped that when you came back... he just seemed... different, this morning. I guess it's not enough."
"You thought my presence would affect him positively?" Cas tilted his head in thought.
"We thought you were dead. Dean took it hard, though he wouldn't let on." Sam shrugged. "And now you're back; I thought it would've been good for him, but he's just gotten worse."
Cas's face fell. "Do you think I should leave?"
"No." Sam said firmly. "You heard him last night. You left, and it hurt. Now you're back, and he has to deal. And he will eventually. Something's going to finally hit him, and he's going to have to face the fact that he can't go on like this."
Cas wondered at his words, playing the weight of them in his mind. Sam had said that just by being here he was making Dean worse, but somehow this was good? He considered that, perhaps, it would be best to leave, to stop imposing himself on the boys, on Dean; that perhaps the healing process for them would be far easier without him around. They were not the friends that they once had been for a very long time, and though the hunter meant more than heaven to him, he recognised that this feeling may not be returned.
But, despite Sam's past, despite their fallings out and his flaws in judgement, Cas trusted the younger Winchester. Sam knew his brother, and if Sam said it was good for Cas to be around, Cas was going to stay around.
"Very well." The angel said.
"So how did today go?" Sam asked. "Dean wasn't a complete dick, was he?"
Cas frowned. "How would you define 'complete dick'?"
"Dean was civil." Cas told him, then put some more thought into his answer. "He did not seem as... displeased to have me around as before."
Sam raised his eyebrows. "Seriously?"
"I'm no expert." Cas reminded him. "But... Dean certainly did seem happier."
"What makes you say that?"
"In the car, returning to the motel, he laughed."
Sam blinked. "He laughed?"
"Yes. For several moments. He stopped the car."
"Okay... what made him laugh?"
"I did." Cas said softly, hints of confusion, and just a bit of pride in his voice. "Though I do not understand the humour."
"What did you do?"
"I injured myself."
"Dean called it a paper cut. It was most uncomfortable."
To Cas's mild surprise, Sam cracked a smile. "You got a paper cut?"
"But, you're an angel? Angels don't get paper cuts?"
"As I told Dean, apparently I do." Cas huffed as Sam chuckled.
"Well, look at that." Sam smiled. "You are doing Dean some good, after all."
A half hour passed. Sam had gone back to the computer, Cas was still sitting on the bed.
To start with he had simply sat on the bed, relatively content with his thoughts. He thought about Dean, about whether that brief moment of elation earlier had meant anything. He thought about his impending humanity, and whether he'd enjoy it or not. He thought briefly whether there were any more of those magazines around.
However, the longer he sat there, the more confused he got. Not by any of these previous thoughts, interestingly; instead he was far more confused by a strange, encroaching invasion. His head began to feel heavy, like it weighed too much for his spine to hold up. That was somewhat disconcerting.
His brain began to feel fuzzy, next. His thoughts were difficult to track.
His eyes too. They felt dry, and the lids felt thick and heavy. And the light felt too bright.
His chin drooped, resting on his chest, and his thoughts turned sluggish, and stopped.
Sam didn't notice to start with. He was on the computer, absorbed in Nephillim Lore, but after a while looked up, down, and up again.
For a second he was confused by what he saw. Cas appeared to be looking at his crotch, and Sam feared an awkward situation might occur. But then he realised he wasn't moving, except for the slow, rhythmic, up and down motion of his shoulders as he breathed.
Cas was asleep.
Sam frowned, unsure of what to do. If it was anyone else, anyone human, he would let them sleep. But Cas? Angels don't sleep.
He went over to the bed, and gently shook his shoulder. Within seconds the angel blearily opened his eyes, blinked hard, and opened them wide. He was wide awake again.
"Cas?" Sam asked. "Were you asleep?"
Cas wiped his hands over his eyes. "I don't know. I am unfamiliar with the feeling."
"Angels don't sleep." Sam pointed out. He sat down on the bed, watching as Cas shuffled on the bed. "What's going on?"
"I don't know what you're referring to." Cas said a little too quickly.
"And they don't get paper cuts either." He told him. He shook his head slightly, pleading. "Come on, Cas; just tell me."
Cas was getting more well versed in subtext. He knew that while Sam didn't say it, the words this time hung on the end of the sentence.
He considered his reasons from earlier, the ones that had made him not tell Dean. He hadn't told the elder Winchester out of fear – he didn't want to disappoint him, he didn't want to see that look on his face again, and he didn't want the hunter to make this feel... well, he didn't even know how he felt about it, but for some reason he knew Dean wouldn't make him feel any better about it.
But Sam? Sam was different. Sam wasn't his closest friend, Sam wasn't the brother that Cas had given his life up for, who he had given up everything for.
But for some reason, right now, Sam was the one who was there for him. Sam was his friend, and Sam would, if not understand, would at least be the right person to listen.
"My grace is falling." Cas told him.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that I am becoming human." He clarified gruffly. "I have a limited supply left, and as soon as that has gone, I will have nothing left. Permanently."
"You're... you're human?"
"Not yet. But I will be."
"How long have you known?" Sam asked quietly.
"Hours." Cas told him simply. "Zedkiel visited me this morning."
"One of my sisters, known for her forgiveness. I expect she was chosen for the job as a sign of loyalty to whichever new leader heaven has."
"You didn't ask?"
"She did not go into detail; she merely made it clear I was no longer welcome there."
"And was this before or after Olivia?"
"Before. She overheard our conversation; it spurred her decision change. She said she would find it more entertaining to watch me fall before she kills me."
"No wonder Dean was pissed."
"Dean does not know."
Sam blinked, surprised. "You're telling me? Not Dean?"
"I... I did not feel that I could tell Dean this. I expected he would react unfavourably."
Sam paused, watching the angel. His face was stony, as ever, but he noticed the dewy shine in his eyes. The angel was hurting. He should've been able to turn to Dean... but Sam saw that right now, he couldn't.
"We'll take care of you." Sam reassured him. "But you need to tell Dean. Trust me, it'll be ten times worse if he finds out on his own."
"You believe that?" Cas asked.
"Yeah!" Sam told him. "One of things last year that..." He trailed off, rephrasing. "You kept stuff from him, and that hurt. If you want a way to earn back his trust, this is a start."
Cas didn't say anything. He looked down at his hands, at Jimmy's hands. Looking at his right hand he traced it gently with the other, remembering its journey. He had raised Dean from hell with that hand, and he had opened purgatory with it too. But this hand was soon to be little more than human, just another unremarkable body in a sea of them.
He still didn't know how he felt about that. But he was pretty damn sure he wasn't going to get through it without Dean