Vibeke turned to look at Dean once she had addressed Castiel, and he dropped his gaze to his feet. He knew what she was there for. He knew he’d have to think fast to protect Dean from what was coming, to phrase things just so that Vibeke and Meg couldn’t call him out on his lies, but would protect Dean, would protect their relationship. It wasn’t going to be easy, especially when Dean took charge, as he usually did.
‘So I’m guessing you’re the two demons we’ve been tracing, huh?’ Dean sounded annoyed. Castiel knew he was already agitated about being called back from their time together, and then seeing Meg would have set him on edge further. Of course his mind went straight to the case, rather than getting the angel and the demon out of the house as soon as possible.
‘Don’t insult me.’ Vibeke snapped back, using her grace to amplify her voice slightly. Castiel’s gaze remained firmly locked on his feet. Maybe he could just force them from the house, and then spin some excuse for Dean? Would that work? Or would it only be a very temporary solution?
‘Then what are you? And why the hell are you here?’ Dean continued to press. Castiel looked sideways at him, accidentally catching Vibeke’s eye as he did so. She looked appalled, as though she knew exactly what Dean and Castiel had been doing before they entered the room. Part of Castiel wanted her to know, wanted her to understand that he would do anything for Dean, and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it.
‘Do you even communicate with your pet?’
Castiel sucked in a deep breath, ready to put her in her place, but Meg steam-rollered over him to insult Dean.
‘I’m going to guess that even if they do talk, it’s basic stuff like pie, cars, blahblahblah. Dean’s very simplistic.’ She purred in her usual drawling tone. Castiel looked away from her in disgust, looking at his feet. As much as he wanted to stand up to her, he didn’t want her to blab to Dean about the events at the carnival. Sam spoke up, and Castiel realised that he’d been prompted by some silent signal of Dean’s.
‘I don’t know man, they appeared just after I texted you.’
Castiel finally spoke up, determined to give Dean some concrete information. He had the edge after all, being Dean’s boyfriend. Didn’t he?
‘Vibeke is another angel. I would assume she’s been covering Meg’s tracks, which is why I couldn’t detect any demons.’
‘Very smart, Castiel. We’ve been looking for her. She’s good at hiding her computer signal, it took a few tries.’
Castiel knew that Meg had been gesturing, but he couldn’t lift his eyes from his shoes. He didn’t have to wonder which “her” Meg was referring to for long, at least.
‘And why do you want me?’ Becky sounded scared, intimidated. Castiel wanted to protect her as much as he wanted to protect Dean from what could be coming. He should have paid more attention, he could have realised that the fake sites were drawing closer to Becky’s house and advised them to take precautions. He could have intercepted Meg and Vibeke and kept them away from Dean. But all he could think of was getting closer to Dean, of their physical relationship. What did Sam call it? “Thinking with his dick”. Castiel had definitely been doing that.
‘We don’t, not really. We just thought you might have been a decent access point.’
‘Okay, one of you needs to actually explain what the hell, or I’m going to start ganking.’ Dean growled in his usual terse tone. Castiel fought a smile at how predictably Dean it was. But he fought it well, because after all, if they began explaining then he wouldn’t be able to soften the blow, to explain it in the right way.
‘I told you, Dean’s a complete Neanderthal.’ Meg drawled again. Castiel was thankful that she at least was distracted enough by the opportunity to insult Dean. That would buy him some time to think, although he was finding it difficult when he was also listening to the conversation taking place just in front of him.
‘I’ve given Castiel time to discuss it with you, Dean. He clearly isn’t willing to talk, so I feel I must. We were trying to find the girl online who was discussing hunting, we assumed she would know you.’
Vibeke’s tone was businesslike, and Castiel felt nothing but loathing for her. He also wasn’t convinced that this was in any way the sort of work she should be carrying out in her position. Did no other angels care that her position was compromised when it came to him?
‘And what was so important you had to try and play Chinese Whispers on a chance?’
‘You’re to end this.’
Castiel knew, without raising his head, that she was addressing him again, and ignoring Dean. He knew that if it wasn’t for Dean speaking up and being his usual obstinate self, Vibeke wouldn’t have wasted any breath on him at all.
‘No, Vibeke. I told you how I felt then, it still stands. I’m sorry.’
‘And I’m sorry too, Castiel, my hands are tied. You know that.’ She cleared her throat and her voice became more rigid. ‘You must end this relationship with Castiel.’
‘And why would I want to do that?’ Dean sounded petulant as he replied, and Castiel groaned internally. Of all the questions Dean could ask, he had to pick the one that would create the most work for Castiel.
‘Because he knows he shouldn’t be with a human, he knows he’s done wrong, and he knows he’s meant to be with me!’
Everyone fell silent as Vibeke’s words rang around the room. Castiel could feel his palms sweating and his heart rate spiking, and he knew it was over. He’d never have the chance to talk to Dean about everything the way he wanted to, bringing it up slowly and calmly so that the hunter would still want him. Dean would yell back, and it would all come out, and Castiel wouldn’t be able to explain that he’d done it for them, that he’d acted out of love and he’d never, ever try to hurt Dean.
‘Yeah, now you just sound jealous, Vib,’ Meg sounded apathetic at best. Was that the way it had come across to Dean? That Vibeke was jealous? Because then Castiel still had a chance, surely? But Meg wasn’t done talking. ‘Basically, Winchester, everyone knows about Cas screwing around with your memories, and there’s some crap about angels not being allowed to mate with humans. Oh, and Cas is betrothed to Vibeke, so she’s pissed about that. And I’m just here to watch your world fall apart.’
Castiel did not dare raise his gaze from his feet. He tried to get a sense of what Dean was thinking, or feeling, but the hunter was as closed off as ever. He almost seemed emotionless in the pause that followed Meg’s words, the small increment of time that stretched forever in front of Castiel, threatening to end all of his happiness. Whatever Dean was thinking, however he was processing the information and deciding what to do with it, he was keeping it from absolutely everyone. Even Castiel. When he finally spoke, the angel felt relief flood into every cell in his being.
‘Sorry to burst your bubble, babe, but that’s not going to happen.’
This had to be a sign that Dean loved him, that even though Vibeke and Meg were standing in front of them, laying out Castiel’s most selfish actions, Dean was still choosing to stand beside him, no matter what. He would never doubt the hunter’s intentions again, not after this. They were united, inseparable. Castiel smiled to himself at the thought.
‘Even though Cas has been deleting your memories? Even then?’ Vibeke pushed on, like Meg’s words had supported her point fully, instead of increasing Dean’s determination to ignore them both. Castiel knew that Dean would disregard her words completely, purely because she was obviously jealous of what they had. They were safe because of her inability to control herself.
Castiel could not have loved the human more than at that moment. He would give anything for that kind of unshakable faith in anything.
‘Dean.’ Sam cut into the conversation, and Castiel wished he wouldn’t. It sounded as though Sam were on Vibeke and Meg’s side, and that would not help Castiel keep Dean. Especially when he took so much of Sam’s opinion on board, however little Sam believed he did.
‘Leave it, Sam.’ Dean was abrupt with his brother, and Castiel made a mental note to repair the brothers once everything was over, as much as Sam’s reaction irritated him. Dean carried on, his words barely concealing the anger that he must have been feeling. Castiel could hear it in every syllable he spoke, clipping his words and making him over-enunciate. ‘You know what I see here? I see two chicks who’re after something they can’t have, and they’ll screw it up for anyone who’s getting in the way. So I’m sorry that you can’t have Cas, but he’s mine. Now, are you going to leave willingly, or am I going to have to make you? Because I’ve got an angel blade.’
If Castiel were a female in a romance story, at this point he would swoon over Dean’s masculinity, his bloody-mindedness. This was why he loved the hunter, his determination, his self-assurance in times of conflict, he was the perfect package. And he belonged to the angel.
‘You’ll lose your grace, Castiel. You’ll lose everything.’ Vibeke made one last attempt to appeal to Castiel’s better nature. But she still wasn’t paying attention, in Castiel’s eyes, because Dean was his better nature. Even if he lost his grace, he’d still have Dean.
‘I think you should leave, Vibeke.’ He spoke up, realising as he did so that he hadn’t contributed much to the argument, that he had been so internal that Dean had done most of the talking. It had all amounted to the same thing in the end, Vibeke and Meg were leaving, and he was standing beside the hunter, where he belonged.
‘This isn’t over.’ Vibeke threatened. Dean bristled slightly before biting out his reply.
‘Think it is.’
Everything went quiet again, and Castiel wondered why Dean wasn’t moving closer to him, winding their fingers together, or pressing close in an embrace that was tender, and passionate, and affirming, all at once. Did he not feel like it was a victory too? Did he not want to celebrate getting rid of another risk to their relationship? Maybe he was waiting for Castiel to look up, to stare into each others eyes as they did frequently.
‘Are they definitely gone?’ Sam broke the silence. Castiel looked up, scanning the room and the surrounding area quickly with all of his senses.
‘Yes.’ He breathed a sigh of relief, and then placed a hand on Dean’s shoulder. The hunter hadn’t moved since they had set foot into the room and into the conflict. But he surprised Castiel, by shrugging his shoulder violently, knocking the angel’s hand away. Castiel felt baffled. ‘Dean-‘
The hunter turned slowly, his expression full of fury. He looked so angry that Castiel took a huge step back, his gaze sweeping straight back to his feet. Dean wasn’t supposed to be angry, not after he stood up for their relationship, not after he put up such a fight for Castiel. When he started talking, almost yelling at Castiel, he didn’t hold back at all.
‘I wrote it off when Charlie said it. But some random angel chick and Meg - Meg - say it too?’
Castiel raised his head slightly, blinking furiously. He couldn’t make sense of it. So Dean believed it, knew it to be the truth. Why did he lie to Meg and Vibeke then? Why not give them the break up that they’d been after?
‘How long’ve you been doing it?’ Dean demanded, and Castiel felt flustered. Did Dean think it was still going on? Castiel couldn’t even remember the last time he’d done it.
‘How long have you been screwing with my head?’
Castiel wanted to look anywhere but at Dean, at the anger on his face and the hostility radiating from him. He looked around the room, at Charlie shaking her head slowly, and Becky biting her lip worriedly. At Sam, who looked both disappointed and resigned. None of their expressions were any easier to take than Dean’s.
‘How long have you been erasing my memories, Cas? Do you know how fucking stupid that is?’
Castiel looked to his feet again, unable to speak. It was so much worse than he’d expected, having Dean find out what he’d been doing. He wanted to explain, to make sure Dean understood before it all came out, he didn’t want this. He didn’t want a fight. How did he begin to explain now?
‘Dean, it’s not-‘
‘Give them back.’
Give them back? Dean made it sound so simple, and yet it made Castiel feel nauseated just thinking about how Dean would take their rough start, whether he’d realise just how inexperienced Castiel was at the beginning of their relationship. He should have just given Dean all his memories back when he had the chance, and dealt with the blow out then.
‘What, did I reject you or something? Is that what you’re making me forget?’
‘It was rhetorical, Castiel.’
There wasn’t a trace of humour to Dean’s words like there might normally be when he’d incorrectly guessed the correct response. But more than that, Dean had used his full name. Dean rarely did that. He always said Cas. He was the one who started shortening his name, it belonged to him. Castiel got the sense that he had done it on purpose, to try to get under his skin. He wasn’t finished.
‘They’re my fucking memories, you don’t get to pick which ones I keep. Why the fuck did you do it?’
When Dean phrased it like that, it sounded so unreasonable, to reset his mind over and over. “Because I love you” seemed like such a poor reasoning for a decision that at the time worked for the both of them.
‘You can answer that one, douchebag.’
‘Dean-‘ Castiel tried to respond, but the words still wouldn’t come, especially not when Dean had just insulted him. He was clearly trying to get a reaction from the angel.
‘No, you know what, Castiel? You’re going to give them back. You’re going to put them back in my head and then you’re going to kiss my ass.’
‘Dean, please-‘ All he wanted was some time, for the hunter to alleviate some of the pressure so he could think straight and talk about this rationally, as a couple, as a unit. That’s what they were meant to be. Dean was clearly on another page entirely.
‘GIVE ME MY FUCKING MEMORIES BACK!’
Castiel’s head snapped up, scared of the tone of Dean’s voice. He saw Sam hurrying the girls out of the room from the other entrance, and wondered if Sam was just as worried about Dean’s temper.
He knew the whole thing was over. There was nothing left to do except give Dean exactly what he wanted. He stepped closer, lifting his hand up slowly to touch the hunter’s temple. Dean reacted faster than Castiel could have predicted, back-handing Castiel’s arm away with a loud smacking sound.
‘Don’t fucking touch me!’
‘It’s the only way I can lift the block, Dean.’
He felt helpless at that moment, but from the tic on Dean’s cheek, he assumed he was allowed to at least touch Dean’s face in order to reinstate the memories of their first few days together. He wanted to look into Dean’s eyes, press one last kiss against his lips, but he was afraid of what the hunter would do. After all, he did have an angel blade, and he wouldn’t hesitate to use it.
‘Close your eyes.’ Castiel said softly. Dean narrowed his eyes, but didn’t close them, Castiel focused on his nose rather than looking into his eyes. It was too hard to deal with that level of hatred from Dean.
‘Like hell I will.’
Castiel tried to ignore the contempt and focus on just giving Dean his memories back in the most painless way possible.
‘I don’t want you overwhelmed.’
Dean paused for a moment before he spoke again.
‘No funny shit.’
Castiel sighed, knowing that funny shit now included any and all contact between them other than his fingers on the hunter’s temples. If he could just have one more kiss … but it wasn’t going to happen.
‘I understand, Dean. But please close your eyes.’
‘Sam? If he tries anything …’
Dean turned to look for where Sam had been standing, and he gave an agitated sigh when he realised that they were alone. Yet he still closed his eyes, trusting Castiel. Maybe there was a glimmer of hope for their relationship too? Maybe Dean would cling on to their happy memories and understand why Castiel held back on them as well as the less wonderful moments. He lifted the blocks, hoping Dean would stumble into him slightly, just so they could have some real contact. He was flooded with all of the images he had blocked, feeling ashamed when he caught glimpses of Dean’s conversations with Sam, or Dean’s perspective of some of their more intimate moments. Castiel had seen himself in a mirror before, but he’d never looked quite the way he did in Dean’s memories. Were they tinted by his emotions in some way? Castiel wanted to ask so many questions about the whole phenomenon, but he was aware enough that this wasn’t the time to do so.
He stepped back, letting go of Dean’s face reluctantly. Dean kept his eyes closed, and pursed his lips as he dwelled on what he’d seen. Castiel wanted him to leave them alone, to thank him for just giving them back, to agree to start again, as unlikely as that would be. And if not, he wanted Dean to take his time, remembering every touch, every kiss, every whisper in the dark; to remember that they had something worth fighting for.
‘Did you see everything?’ Dean broke the silence eventually, sounding calmer. Castiel felt the hope flare up, the pathetic wish for Dean to focus only on the good between them. He just had to be extremely honest, about everything, and then Dean would understand, and stop being so angry. Then they could rebuild.
‘I could see all the images, yes, but I couldn’t hear your thoughts about anything.’
‘And you put back every memory? Every single one?’ Dean persisted.
‘Yes. Our first date was at the paintball. I only erased about a week.’
‘Good to know.’ His tone was sour. That wasn’t what Castiel was expecting, though he knew it would be like Dean to be sarcastic when he was upset, as a way of masking his emotions. The angel could hear the hurt underneath the bravado, and he knew there was only one way to try and make it right.
‘Dean, I’m sor-‘
‘Don’t you dare,’ Dean interrupted, finally opening his eyes again. ‘Don’t you fucking dare say you’re sorry. You did it on purpose, Cas. I can’t even … I’m going for a drive. Alone. Don’t follow me. If I find out you’ve been in the back, invisible, watching me the whole time …’
Castiel felt defeated. Dean wasn’t meant to hate him still. He didn’t think he had the strength to move, let alone follow his lover when he’d expressed the need for space. But he could give Dean space, couldn’t he? And when he returned later, he’d be calmer and they could talk things out. They had to talk things out.
‘You’d better actually mean it this time.’ Dean walked towards the exit that Sam had ushered the girls through, turning back at the doorway to glare at Castiel with a loathing the angel had never seen before. ‘If it wasn’t obvious, Castiel, we’re done.’
With that, he walked out, slamming Becky’s front door moments later. Castiel was rooted to the floor, unable to move, or take in what Dean had just said. They were done? Finished? That was it?
It had to be hot air, Dean just needed to cool off on his drive. Then he would come back and tell Castiel that of course he would try to listen, their relationship was everything to him and life wouldn’t be right unless they were together. In the mean time, he had to wait it out, away from Sam, Charlie and Becky and their opinions about what had just happened.
He dragged himself to their room and sat on the bed, cuddling the pillow that still smelled faintly of Dean. His chest hurt as he replayed their conversation, and he realised how badly he’d handled it. He wanted a do over, a way of explaining it all properly to Dean, so that he wouldn’t break up with him and tear him apart. He didn’t have that option any more, and he hadn’t felt good the last few times he’d removed Dean’s memories either.
Was Dean thinking about him? Not about his mistakes, but of him, of them, how they were together? Was he reliving their first tenuous kisses, or the way he sucked on Castiel’s thumb in the cafe? The night that Castiel was too scared of the notion of sex, so Dean traced his hands over his head, his face, his body. The night Castiel tried to pull away, and Dean surprised him with a candlelit dinner. There were so many good moments between them, Dean wouldn’t just turn his back on it all, would he?
The door creaked open, and Becky stuck her head around the door.
‘Hey, you wanna talk?’ She asked quietly. Castiel shrugged, and nodded at the same time. She stepped into the room, snapping on the light - Castiel hadn’t even noticed the lack of light - and shut the door softly behind her, before she padded across the room and jumped onto the bed, crossing her legs underneath her. ‘I’m sorry that he got mad at you.’
‘It’s not your fault, Becky.’ Castiel rolled his head back against the headboard, feeling tears prickling his eyes and a lump in his throat. ‘It’s my fault.’
‘It was just an expression Cas. But don’t beat yourself up. Love makes us all do crazy things.’
‘That’s what I said to Charlie.’
‘And it was a good point. If it helps, when I saw you together, I got so jealous. I mean, you have something with Dean that most people would kill for. This is just a fight, right?’
‘I don’t think so. He said we’re done.’
‘I heard. I’m sorry Castiel. Maybe he’ll calm down and take that back?’
‘Me too.’ Becky’s shoulders sagged. ‘Do you mind me being here, Castiel?’
‘Of course not. It’s your house.’
‘Right. Well, you can stay, you know that, right? Even if Dean comes back and he’s still mad, and he’s an unreasonable jerk, it’s my house and I want you to stay.’
‘Dean would just leave. And probably take Sam with him.’
Becky pulled her hair to one side and began playing with it, no longer looking at Castiel.
‘Well, if that happens then it happens. If Sam and I are meant to be, we’ll last through Dean’s moods too.’
‘Thank you, Becky.’
Becky stood up from the bed, and approached Castiel, reaching down and kissing his forehead gently.
‘I’ll leave you alone now, but come find me if you need anything, okay?’
Castiel nodded, and watched as she slipped out the door, listening for her soft footfalls and her whispered conversation with Sam. But he’d barely heard more than Becky recounting their conversation before he felt the strong pull that could only come from some Heavenly presence. He was being summoned, and he had no choice but to obey, to zap out of Becky’s house and towards the command.
He arrived in a stark white room, surrounded by a mass of other angels. Some he recognised, some he didn’t. They all stood in a circle, around the edges of the room, all except for two angels. Vibeke, and other woman, who sported a brown bun and a grey pant suit.
‘Hello Castiel,’ she began immediately. ‘I’m Naomi, Vibeke’s superior. I’ve been informed of your recent activities. Is there anything you would like to contribute before we decide on your punishment?’
Castiel didn’t feel overwhelmed by Naomi getting straight to business. He didn’t even feel anger over Vibeke’s actions. It wasn’t a surprise either, that she would run to her supervisor. But Castiel didn’t have any room for emotion, not with the ache of losing Dean consuming him.
‘Just that I’m already being punished. Please bear that in mind.’
Naomi cocked her head slightly.
‘How are you being punished, Castiel?’
‘Dean Winchester no longer wants anything to do with me. I don’t think you could invent any kind of torture that equals losing him. But go ahead and try, it’s a distraction, at least.’
Naomi looked at her hands for a moment, and then back at Castiel.
‘The problem isn’t your relationship with a human, Castiel-‘
‘We’re to take no humans for our own!’ Vibeke hissed. Naomi barely moved her head in acknowledgement.
‘Father said not to take any wives, he didn’t want procreation. But given Castiel’s preference for a male vessel, and that Dean is male, we can waive that issue. They won’t reproduce.’ She spoke over her shoulder, her eyes on Castiel. ‘However, Castiel, you have deceived him, and lied to us. Your punishment will fit your lies, not your choice of partner.’
Castiel didn’t care either way. Dean had removed himself from the equation, however much Castiel wanted to believe it was, as Becky said, just a fight.
‘You’re to lose your grace, and live as a human.’ Naomi decided. ‘That will be your punishment for acting so selfishly and thoughtlessly. But we’re not completely cruel, Castiel. You have one month in which to try to win Dean back over. One month. And when that month is over, if Dean is still resistant, we will obliterate you.’
Castiel couldn’t even see the option of death as a punishment. It was being offered as a way out, a chance to be freed from this pain, which would only get worse the longer he was without Dean.
‘I accept.’ Castiel nodded. Naomi smirked.
‘You don’t have a choice, Castiel. However, now that you are to be human, you are freed from any obligation to Vibeke.’
With that, Castiel found himself hurtling through time, and space, and essence, Vibeke’s scream of indignation following him as he fell to earth, fully human. He expected to liquidate on impact, but the ground received him as a firm bed would have, and he bounced slightly before coming to a stop. He looked around at the darkened street he’d landed in, the pavement lit by a sickly orange light, the houses appearing as silhouettes against a sky almost as dark. The only thing that Castiel could tell from his landing site was that he was nowhere near Becky’s house. He had no idea where he was.