Well, we're at the final chapter of this story. Thanks so much to everyone who has faved, read and reviewed! I'm so glad you all enjoyed this one!

Chapter Nine


(The resting place of heroes)

Dean continued to cast furtive looks into the backseat of the car he had, er, borrowed, to get them back to South Dakota and Bobby's house. They had somehow managed to bundle Cas and his wings into the car, and cover him in a blanket so anyone who happened to pass them wouldn't see the blood and, yeah, the freaking angel wings. Not that Dean could blame Cas for that, the poor guy was unconscious, and he was also hurt really bad. Dean was afraid that Cas had hardly any mojo left, which meant that healing was probably going to be a long and painful process.

But at least they had him back now. Dean felt that he could accomplish anything now that they actually had Cas back on earth and safe with them. It didn't matter how long it took him to get better, because he and Sam were going to be there every step of the way. And they were going to make sure that Cas never felt unwanted, or like he was a burden, ever again. It just sucked that it had taken this to make Dean realize just how much the angel meant to him. But he was family, he was Dean's brother, and Dean wasn't going to let him ever think differently. He was going to make sure Cas knew that in every way possible.

"Do you think he's gonna be okay?" Sam asked quietly after a long silence, he too casting continuous glances back at the angel.

"I don't know," Dean said truthfully, swallowing hard. "I mean, what he went through, and not just the torture, the psychological damage that asshat caused him…It's gonna take a while to get him back on his feet."

Sam nodded, swallowing hard. "I know. But we will."

"Damn right we will," Dean said firmly, glancing into the rearview mirror one more time before pressing down on the gas just a little more.

It seemed to take an eternity to get to Bobby's house, but Dean had never been so glad to see the place in his life as he pulled up as close to the house as he could in the stolen car.

"I'm gonna run in and get a bed ready for Cas," Sam said and hurried out of the car.

Dean got out too, his body truly protesting now after the long hours cramped in the car, and opened the back door, looking down at Cas' unconscious form. He was gonna need a hell of a lot of patching up, probably more than Sam and Dean were capable of, but it wasn't like they could drag him to a hospital when he had wings. It was gonna be a long night.

Sam hurried back out and together the brothers maneuvered their friend out of the car, and into Bobby's house to one of the upstairs bedrooms. Sam had stripped the covers off the bed, and laid down towels so it was ready for them to perform their first aid—or, more like field surgery in this case.

At Dean's urging, they lay Cas on his side, letting his wings settle behind him. That way they could also take care of his back.

Dean swallowed hard, again taking in the full extent of Cas' injuries. But he knew they needed to get him taken care of as soon as possible and standing around wasn't going to do any good.

He cleared his throat and turned to Sam. "Okay, why don't you start cleaning him up, and I'll go call Bobby."

Sam gave a tight-lipped nod and went to the bathroom to grab some washcloths and a tub of water.

Dean spared one more glance at Cas, before he went downstairs and grabbed a phone, dialing Bobby's cell.

"What?" Bobby's voice came over the line.

"Hey, it's me," Dean said, sinking into the chair at the desk.

"Dean?" Bobby choked out. "You out?"

"Yeah, we got out," Dean told him and explained what happened and why they weren't in Massachusetts anymore.

"Balls," Bobby muttered. "Well, I guess I have a long drive ahead of me. How's Feathers?"

Dean rubbed a hand over his face. "He's real bad, Bobby. Sam and I are gonna do what we can to patch him up. He's unconscious right now, which is probably a good thing." He sighed. "I think he's mostly human though. He hasn't healed any since we got topside, and he just looks…bad. Like when he was falling."

Bobby grunted sympathetically. "Well, if the angels cast him out, then he probably is cut off again."

"It's my fault," Dean said. "If I hadn't…"

"Dean, this is on all of us," Bobby told him. "You can't put this all on your own head. You're not gonna do Cas any good if you keep that up, so suck it up, and go take care of your friend, idjit."

Dean huffed a short laugh. "Okay, Bobby."

"And I've got an extensive medical kit in the upstairs closet. Even got an IV drip if you need it. Morphine too. No point it letting Cas suffer if he's already in such a bad way."

"Thanks, Bobby," Dean said sincerely.

"Just hold it together, son. I'll be there as soon as I can."

Bobby ended the call and Dean sat there a moment with his head in his hands. As much as he wanted to just break down right now though, he couldn't leave Sam to do this alone, so he pulled himself together, and stood up, going back upstairs and grabbing Bobby's kit from the closet.

He found Sam dabbing gently at Cas' back, a sick look on his face.

"He's been flogged repeatedly," Sam said quietly. "And some of it…the angles of the lash marks..." He swallowed hard. "I think he did some of it himself."

Bile rose in Dean's throat, but he had to stay strong. "That Samyaza bastard messed with his head, Sam. I wouldn't be surprised."

"This is just so much…" Sam whispered, gesturing helplessly to the ruinous patterns on Cas' skin.

"Hey," Dean reached out and gripped his arm. "We'll do it together. Bobby is on his way, but he left us this med kit here, says it has everything we need. Let's get Cas patched up and as comfortable as possible, okay?"

Sam nodded jerkily and then glanced down at Dean's hands. "Okay. But first you should wash you hands. You still have ash and harpy blood on them."

Dean looked down and grunted. "Be right back."

After he had cleaned up as much as he could for the moment, he went back and started digging through the med kit, pulling out what they would need. He found the morphine and a syringe.

"How much do you think we should give an angel?" Dean asked, half-heartedly.

Sam furrowed his brow. "Well, I don't know how much angel he has left in him," he said grimly. "Stick to a normal dose and then if he still seems to be in pain, we can give him more later."

Dean swallowed hard, and drew up a dose into the syringe, before injecting it into Cas' arm. The angel didn't even stir, and Dean shared a worried look with Sam.

"Well, let's get started," he said, cracking his neck. This was gonna be a long night.

It took them over an hour to clean and care for all of Cas' injuries. His body was literally covered with them. Between the lash marks, the cuts, and the burns, which were particularly nasty, Cas needed a lot of stitching and salving, and by the time they had finished, he was covered from practically his neck to his knees in bandages.

Dean finished it off by finding a pair of loose sweat pants for Cas to wear, putting off the inevitable as long as possible.

"Dean," Sam said finally after they got Cas into the clean clothes. "What are we going to do about his wings?"

Truthfully, Dean had been trying not to look at them, even though they were pretty hard to ignore.

"I don't know," he said truthfully. "Are they broken?"

"I don't…think so," Sam said hesitantly. "But they are damaged badly. We at least need to clean them up as well as we can."

Dean bit his lip but he nodded. "I'll get some fresh water."

Then he and Sam both took a wing and gently washed the blood and ash from the feathers. Some of the feathers were so badly burned that they had to pull them out, knowing they would only cause Cas more pain, and others were nearly torn out anyway, jutting crooked and painfully out from their original positions.

As they worked though, washing the dull ash from Cas' wings, Dean saw how truly impressive and even beautiful they were, even in such a poor state. His feathers were raven black, shot through with iridescent colors that could only be seen when tilted just right toward the light. It just made Dean angrier that Samyaza had ruined Cas' wings like this. Not only because it had caused his friend pain, but because it just seemed like a tragedy in general.

But the worst were the raw patches of skin that shone through at the arches of Cas' wings, where the rings had been driven through his flesh. The puncture holes were still there, caked with dry blood, and as Dean and Sam worked on flushing these out, Cas finally seemed to register what was going on, and struggled weakly, letting out heart-wrenching whimpering sobs and whispered pleas to stop.

"Almost done, Cas," Sam said gently, sharing a stricken look with Dean as they finished flushing out the last wound and simply left them unbandaged, thinking it would be too hard to bandage the wings anyway.

Once they had finished, they positioned Cas' wings as gently as they could, folded on the mattress. Sam pressed a pillow into the small of Cas' back to keep him from rolling over and then they carefully pulled the towels from under him and covered him in a blanket.

"You should take a shower," Dean said to Sam, trying to fight back the bile in his throat. "Then I can patch you up too."

Sam shook his head. "You go first. I'm just gonna look online a little, see if there's any first aid tips for bird wings."

Dean didn't argue, he simply retreated to the bathroom as quickly as possible and cranked the shower as high as he could. Then he stumbled toward the toilet and finally emptied the contents of his stomach.

He sank to his knees, trembling as he finished throwing up, and hoping the shower had masked the sounds from Sam. He was just finally falling apart. He'd kept it together through Hell, kept it together while caring for Cas, but now he was alone and he didn't have to be strong anymore.

He wiped his mouth, flushed the toilet, and then stripped out of his filthy, ruined clothes. He was going to have to burn them to get the smell of Hell out of them.

As he stood under the scalding spray and the water darkened in the tub below from all the blood and ash on his skin, he finally let the threatening tears come and allowed himself to break.

After Dean had felt able to face the world again, and Sam too had gotten a shower to wash Hell off of him, the brothers swiftly and efficiently patched each other up. They were both literally covered in bruises and abrasions, some worse than others. Dean's right side was purple from his busted rib, and the burn on his thigh was worse than he'd thought, almost a third degree. But those were his worst injuries. Sam had long cuts on his back and shoulders, from the harpy attack, and clawmarks on his right shin from the first hellhound attack that Dean had almost forgotten about.

"Well, between the two of us, I think we might just make a whole human," Dean said wryly as he finished suturing a particularly deep cut on Sam's back, and taped some gauze over it.

His brother grunted and pushed himself out of the chair he had been sitting in backwards, grabbing a clean shirt off the back of it, wincing as he pulled it over his head. "Yeah, well, I'd say we were lucky."

"Don't I know it," Dean murmured, glancing over to the bed where Cas was still comatose. Neither of them had left his side, even to patch each other up, even though they could have benefited from a better area to work.

"You want me to take first shift?" Sam asked.

Dean shook his head. "No, get something to eat and then get some rest."

Sam sighed. "Alright, but I'm making you food too."

Dean didn't argue, knowing it would be pointless. His stomach was still messed up, but he knew he needed to get some real food into it.

Sam came back a little later with a sandwich and a fresh bottle of water. Dean eyed him.

"No beer?"

"Once you're hydrated again," Sam informed him firmly.

"Whatever," Dean muttered cracking open the bottle and gulping half of it anyway. Truth be told, what he was really hankering for was a hot cup of coffee. He'd need some if he was gonna stay up with Cas tonight.

"Oh, and coffee's in the pot staying warm," Sam told him as if reading his mind.

"Thanks, little brother," Dean said gratefully. "Now go to bed."

Sam huffed. "Alright. But call me if he wakes up or anything happens." He was at the door before he turned around. "Dean…"

"Yeah, Sam?" Dean muttered, picking at his sandwich, hoping Sam wasn't going to start some kind of conversation he didn't want to get into now.

"What happened back in Hell…I just want you to know that I don't think any differently of you. You did what you had to do. Like Cas."

Dean swallowed down the lump suddenly in his throat. "Sammy, what I did…it wasn't for the greater good. I wasn't myself, I…"

Sam shook his head. "Neither was Cas for a while, with the power of those souls inside of him…point is, Dean, I think you can relate to each other. Hell, so can I when I was on the demon blood. I know Cas doesn't blame us for those things, so…maybe we can use ourselves as examples to help him understand that we can forgive him too?"

Dean watched his friend's unconscious face, still creased in pain even now and then turned to Sam. "Okay, whatever you think will work, we'll try it." He hoped they could get Cas to believe them. He knew it wasn't going to be easy, not after everything he had said and done, but he was going to work at it until Cas felt like he belonged without shame and without guilt. If he had to go to places in his own mind he didn't like to do that, then so be it. It would be worth it in the long run.

"Okay, well, I'm going to bed now. Come get me in a few hours," Sam told him. He turned to leave again, and then glanced once over his shoulder as he paused at the door. "G'night, jerk."

Dean felt one side of his mouth turn up involuntarily. "G'night, bitch."

Sam smiled back and then left.

Dean settled back into the chair he had pulled up to the side of Cas' bed and prepared for the vigil.

Cas was mostly still comatose, but eventually, he seemed to start feeling the pain again, because he began moaning in his sleep, shifting slightly. His eyes were squinted in pain and Dean watched as several tears slipped loose.

He checked the time, and then gave Cas another dose of morphine. It seemed to help a bit, but Cas still had episodes every once in a while, and Dean wondered if they were nightmares.

There wasn't anything he could do about it though, except make sure that Cas was as comfortable as possible, and be there when he woke up so he knew he wasn't in Hell anymore.

Dean shuddered, still unnerved by the whole thing with Cas only being able to leave if he wanted to—that was freaking twisted even for Hell. Dean's time had been more simple: take the pain or serve it. This was something else entirely. But then, it was the angels, and if Dean had learned anything, it was that they were usually a lot worse than demons in so many ways.

Still, the idea that Cas thought he had deserved that punishment, the sight of the backwards lashmarks on his back, and his disbelief at first that Sam and Dean had been there at all…Dean nearly had to run to the bathroom to vomit again. How could he have driven his best friend to think that? If there was any justice in the world, it should have been Dean chained there taking the punishment, not Cas.

"Cas, I'm so sorry," he whispered to the unconscious angel. "I don't know how I'm ever going to make this up to you, but I swear that I will do everything in my power to do that. No matter how long it takes."

Cas' wings trembled slightly, feathers bristling as he moaned again, fighting to find a comfortable position and Dean stood to adjust his pillows and tuck the blanket around him again. It wasn't much, but for the moment that was all he could do.

Dean hadn't meant to fall asleep next to Cas' bed, but the truth was, he was just simply exhausted. He didn't wake until the next morning when a creak of the floorboard behind him had him jumping in his chair.

"Easy, son."

Dean groaned and rubbed a hand down his face as he saw it was Bobby. "God, you scared me," he muttered. "When'd you get in?"

"Just now," Bobby said, coming fully into the room and settling a hand on Dean's shoulder as he glanced toward the bed, before squinting, taking a double take. "The hell?"

"Yeah, Cas' wings are physical at the moment," Dean said, and instantly stood to check Cas' pulse, his bandages, fixing his pillows again. The angel seemed pretty much the same as before.

"Well, I'll be dammed," Bobby muttered, shaking his head. "How is he?"

Dean swallowed hard, shrugging helplessly. "I don't know. Sammy and I did what we could, but…he's hurt pretty bad, and we're not sure what to do about his wings. They're not broken or anything, but I get the feeling the fact they look like this goes deeper than just physical damage. You know anything about angel's wings?"

"Not really," Bobby muttered. "But we can see what we can find, I guess. Why don't you get your brother up and come down for breakfast."

Dean glanced back at Cas. "I don't really want to leave him alone."

"He's not gonna wake up anytime soon, Dean," Bobby said firmly. "Even I can tell that."

Dean gnawed his lip, but knew Bobby was right. "Okay."

Bobby's hand descended on the back of his neck. "We'll get him back on his feet, son," he said quietly.

Dean felt his throat tighten. "I know, Bobby, it's just…"

"I know," Bobby nodded, then squeezed Dean's shoulder firmly. "Good to have you boys back."

Dean spared a wan smile. "Yeah."

It was three days before Cas woke up. Dean was practically going mad with worry, wondering if Cas had suffered some kind of internal damage, or maybe even damage to his grace, something they couldn't even fix if they wanted to. They spent the time trying to find out anything they could on the care of angels, but came up with nothing, and no real lore on angel's wings in particular either, apart from what they already knew about angel feathers being used in some spells. Sam found out as much as he could about bird care, and they determined that short of having broken wings to split, there was really nothing they could do, and that the ruined feathers would probably come out in the next molt and come back with new ones.

"Do angels even molt?" Dean demanded.

Sam shrugged helplessly. "I have no idea."

But on the morning of the third day when Dean was taking his shift, Cas groaned and stirred, eyes fluttering as his head tossed from side to side. Dean was instantly on his feet, leaning over the bed, one hand gently laid over Cas' shoulder to make sure he didn't hurt himself.

"Cas? Hey man, open your eyes, it's okay."

Cas groaned again, and finally blinked his eyes several times before they stayed open, flicking upright to focus on Dean.

Dean offered a smile, trying to encourage Cas not to fall unconscious again. "Hey, buddy, how you feeling?"

Cas just stared at him for a few long seconds. "Dean?" he finally said, his voice gravelly.

"Yep, it's me," Dean said and then grabbed a fresh water bottle he had put by Cas' bed for when he woke. "How about something to drink?"

Cas didn't say anything, but looked eager, running his tongue over a cracked lip, so Dean uncapped the bottle and helped prop the angel's head up so he could sip slowly at the water. That seemed to help Cas get himself together, because he looked around, finally seeming to actually focus on things. "W-where…?"

"We're at Bobby's," Dean told him quietly. "We…we got you out of Hell. Remember?"

Cas' face scrunched up, but he nodded once. "Yes," he whispered. "I remember."

"Okay, good," Dean said, not knowing what else to reply. "Um…I'm gonna leave for just a second to go get Sam, okay? He'll want to know you're awake."

Cas didn't reply, and Dean simply hurried from the room, shouting down the stairs to where Sam was in the kitchen.

"What is it?" Sam replied a second later, running toward the stairs.

"Cas is awake," Dean said quietly.

Sam's eyes widened and he barreled up the stairs, past his brother and into the room. Dean hurried on his heels, hoping his brother wasn't simply going to fall on Cas like a giant puppy and squash him.

"Cas?" Sam called as he came in the room and went to sit on the side of the bed. "Hey, how are you doing?"

Cas squinted up at him. "I am…sore," he said softly.

Sam and Dean shared a look. "Yeah, I bet," Sam said and touched Cas' forearm above the bandage they had wrapped around his torn wrist. "We were worried, you know. You were unconscious for three days."

Cas furrowed his brow. "Sorry."

Dean shook his head. "No need to be sorry, Cas. It's not your fault. We just wanted to make sure you were okay."

"Is it alright if we check your wounds?" Sam asked then.

Cas nodded once, though looked too tired to really argue either way, and simply stayed limp as Sam and Dean gently tugged the taped gauze from Cas' wounds and checked them, making sure none of them had gotten infected or anything. They were fine, except for the fact that they still hadn't healed any more than a normal person's would have.

"You seem to be doing okay," Dean told him. "You in pain at all?"

Cas shrugged one shoulder. "I'll be fine," he said softly.

Sam frowned. "Cas, you don't need to suffer through this, we can give you medicine."

Cas closed his eyes and Dean could practically feel the inner struggle going on inside the angel as well as the obvious lines of pain on his face. He swallowed hard and carefully touched Cas' shoulder.

"Cas, it's okay," he said. "You don't have to serve penance, or whatever. It's okay to admit you hurt. We're not gonna think any less of you. And seriously, man, these wounds…they can't feel good."

Cas' chest shuddered with a soundless sob, and he finally opened his eyes again. "Okay, I'll take the medicine."

Dean felt relief wash over him as he nodded to Sam to get the morphine. He smiled at Cas as he saw the angel relax slightly with his decision too.

This was good. This was progress.

Of course, it wasn't that easy. It was never that easy.

The days dragged on, and Cas was still bedridden. He only spoke when spoken to, he slept most of the time, and he was drinking and eating. The Winchesters might have pushed the sustenance on him, but he didn't refuse it either, so Dean knew he must need it, even if he only ate a little at a time.

That left them with only one conclusion. He was—apart from the wings—for all intents and purposes, human.

But Cas seemed to withdraw into himself more and more as the days progressed. Sam and Dean shared worried looks, but there was nothing much they could do. They tried to engage Cas in conversations, but he wouldn't answer with more than monosyllabic replies if he could help it.

Dean knew he should do something, intervene, but he just didn't know what he could say that would actually help Cas. He was afraid anything he said would simply make it worse.

Then one day, it all came to a head.

Cas was sitting up in bed, his wings folded and resting on the pillows behind him, as Dean removed the stitches that they'd had to use to close some of the worst wounds.

Sam was readying fresh gauze with cream for the worst of the burns, when he commented, "Some of these are still pretty bad, Cas."

A dark look crossed Cas' face before he schooled his features. "I will heal eventually, you know," he said curtly.

Dean glanced up at him. "Yeah, we know, buddy. It's okay."

"No, it's not," Cas suddenly snapped, and both brothers stopped what they were doing to look at him in surprise. Cas had his hands fisted into the blankets draped over his lap. "It's not okay that I'm powerless, it's not okay that I'm worthless. It's not okay, that I'm a… a burden." He glanced aside, throat bobbing. "As soon as I heal, I'll leave. I promise. I'll find somewhere else to go."

"Whoa, pump the brakes," Dean told him, holding up a hand as Sam too watched with an open mouth. "Where the hell is all this coming from?"

Cas looked down at his lap, refusing to look at either brother. His hands still gripped the sheets and his jaw clenched. "I'm no good to you. I'm just gonna…ruin everything."

"Cas, why would you say that?" Sam asked as gently as possible, sitting on the side of the bed.

"Because I always do," Cas said simply. "I thank you for pulling me out of Hell, but I don't belong here. It's not…fair…that I stay and ruin your lives."

"Cas, you're not ruining our lives," Dean said firmly, disbelief in his voice. How the hell could Cas think that after the time they'd spent getting him back and caring for him, watching over him all this time?

The angel shook his head, obviously distressed. "But I saw you. I saw how you were when I was gone."

"What are you talking about?" Dean asked.

Cas' face crumpled. "When I was in Hell, Samyaza showed me what you were doing. I saw you. You were happy…" he glanced between them. "It won't be that way now. Not anymore."

Dean and Sam shared a wide-eyed look.

"Cas, that bastard was lying to you," Dean told him firmly.

"Why should he have?" Cas asked bitterly.

"Because he's a dick," Dean said angrily.

Sam cut in, giving his brother a look. "Cas, you were only gone about a week our time before we went to Hell to find you."

"But why would he lie?" Cas demanded.

"To get in your head," Dean told him. "I heard him back there, he was bitter. I don't know why, but he had his own issues that he was forcing onto you. But I do know one thing, Cas, and that is we were certainly not glad you were gone." Dean swallowed hard, clenching his trembling fists at his sides. "I mourned you, you know. We all did. We were not happy, we were not unburdened, we were friggen' devastated because we thought you were dead."

Cas looked at him, slight disbelief on his face. "Then why did you look for me in Hell?"

"Because I started having nightmares about that bastard torturing you," Dean told him. "And every time I woke up, this scar was burning. That's how I found you, through some kind of connection or whatever because of the scar you gave me pulling me out of Hell. So you know what, Cas? I think deep down, somewhere in your subconscious, you were calling for help the whole time. You knew you weren't supposed to be there, you knew you wanted to come home."

Cas' face crumpled, and he took a shuddering breath. "But how did you know I was alive? You risked everything. Why did you come?"

"You think I could have lived the rest of my life dreaming about you in Hell every night?" Dean demanded, voice shaking. "Cas, no matter what bad blood might have been between us, I would never have left you to that. Ever. You're still my friend, man. There was no way I could live with that."

Cas nodded, understanding in his eyes. "I see now. You did it out of guilt," he said blandly.

Sam shot Dean a look and the older Winchester felt something inside him break. "No, Cas! I didn't! I came because I needed you back. Because you're part of this family, you idiot! I wanted you to come home! So no talk about leaving!"

Cas shook his head, emotions roiling in his eyes. "I can't," he choked out.

"Why?" Dean demanded.

"Because," Cas forced out, voice shaking. "I can't stay unless I know I have a place here."

"Of course you do," Sam told him.

"I mean really," Cas gritted out, shame flooding his features, but determination too. "I am cast out of Heaven, I have no where to go. If you are truly serious about inviting me into your family then I will stay but if not…" He took a shuddering breath. "If not I…I just can't…"

Dean felt something break inside of him. "Ah, dammit, Cas," he groaned and sat on the side of the bed, reaching out to take Cas' shoulders, forcing him to meet his eyes. "Listen to me, and listen good, because I'm only gonna say this once. I don't hand out the family card lightly, you know that. But I meant everything I said back in Hell, that was not just some lies I made up to get you out of there. Cas, I have lost too damn many people that I cared about. Too many people I called family. I know you know what that feels like. But I want you to join this family, I want you to be my brother, I want you to be my equal. Not someone I call on just when I need help, not someone I demand stuff from when I'm too lazy to get off my own ass to do the hard things. I want you to drink with us, I want you to eat dinner with us, I want you to watch movies with us. Hell, I wanna teach you to drive and how to fix a car, and how to pick up a girl. This, right now," he pointed between the three of them. "This is a new beginning. We've all been to Hell, we've all gotten each other out, we've been through too damn much to ruin the bond we have. Long story short, Cas, I've been a shitty friend, but I hope you'll let me try to be a better brother to you."

Cas looked at him, then Sam, eyes shining. "You really mean that?" he asked in a strangled, hopeful voice.

"Hell yes," Dean told him. He glanced at Sam who nodded, eyes welling with tears. Dean felt tears welling in his own eyes and pulled Cas into a firm embrace, so he wouldn't see them, careful of the angel's wings. "Welcome home, brother," he whispered.

He felt Cas' breath hitch, and then the angel's arms tentatively wrapped around Dean's back. Dean then felt Sam's hand fist in the back on his shirt as his little brother joined the embrace as well. Cas' wings twitched and, though injured, curled around the Winchesters, as if wrapping them in a second embrace.

It was a long time before they pulled back and Dean wiped his eyes roughly on the back of his hand. "Okay. Officially enough chick flick moments for the century."

Sam huffed a laugh and even Cas was smiling, eyes wet, but filled with joy.

"Look Cas," Dean said. "I'm not pretending this is gonna always be easy, but that's family. As long as we remember that, I think we'll be able to get through anything."

Cas nodded. "Yes. And…I look forward to starting this new family with the two of you."

Dean grinned and stood up again. "Okay, well, the first thing we're gonna do is get you out of this room. You need a change of scene, and we need to get you some pop culture. So, I'm gonna set up the couch, see if we can make room for your wings, movie's in fifteen. Your choice: Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Sam, make the popcorn."

Sure, they knew it wasn't going to be a smooth trail. Cas was still messed up emotionally and physically, but so where they all. Dean's nightmares of hell had only been reawakened by the trip downstairs, and Sam had a wall in his head that could still crumble if the right kind of pressure was applied. But it was the fact that they were all equally broken that meant they were better equipped to hold each other up.

Because sometimes, it wasn't about all the missing pieces that you had to patch up with ever-weakening materials. It was about the fact that when you and the people you loved put together all the pieces you had, and shared the burden, sometimes you could simply be whole together, and that was enough.

Keep an eye out for a new chapter of A Thing or Two About Being Human on Monday!

Also, this story has a sequel! Because we totally need some more h/c and family feels after this one. I'll be posting the first chapter of it, "The Thing With Feathers" next Friday so stay tuned!