Double updates just 'cause.
So, I'll mention again that this is being cross-posted on Ao3 (Using the same username). Lately I had been getting several comments about how Cas has been taking this huge change, and where he had been.
So warning: if you hate me by the end of this chapter, or the next, ya'll asked for it.
July 6, 2014
His own thoughts would be the end of him. Rising water inside his mind that trapped him with the rushing of currents back and forth. Swirling round, round, round. This, this would be the end of him. His own thought, own feelings would drown him. Drag him down to the deepest darkest depth of his very being so he could just wallow.
That would be if Sam Winchester would just leave him to it. That's just not the way that a Winchester worked. Then again not even Gabriel left him alone for more than three minutes.
So that is how Castiel found himself at his brother's coffee shop. A still-steaming cup o' joe accompanied by a small plate that held up a corner of coffee cake roofed with a layer of brown sugar. He sat at his normal table out of old habits. From a time that wasn't too long ago when his husband would be fidgeting in the chair across from him on Sunday mornings much like this one.
Instead, his older brother was pestering him within near perfect four-minute intervals. Cas mostly ignored this, and in some spots of the book he held, didn't even register the real world. Koda Singer's universe seemed to be proving to be a nice one to escape to. Even though most of the books turning point don't tend to be in the main characters' favors. His eyes paused on one word as the chair across from him scraped the floor. Creak of the boards as someone shifted weight as they sat. His breath caught in his throat as his line of thought overlapped the words on the page in front of him.
Dean was closely followed half down the curled page by fire.
Castiel's head jerked up, and for a moment he saw it. One cruel, burning moment, he saw Dean. Just like he had at the grill out not two days before. Those green eyes looking at him with a watchful glance. So for that second Castiel could believe it had all been a very bad dream. For a second, his life was together again.
But the real nightmare happened to be his everyday life. The splash of freckles disappeared. Green morphed to hazle and the short hair grew to just past chin length. Dean was not in front of him, only the closest person Castiel would get right now.
"How you doing Cas?"
"Sam," Cas let out a small huff of disappointment. The younger Winchester's shirt was unbuttoned, his tie loose. Castiel made a pointed effort to seem interested in whatever was underneath his nail beds. There was some dirt here and there, no sign of paint.
"Castiel." Sam let out a near lawyery growl. "How are you doing?"
Cas set his book down, looking at the front cover with a few character's faces. "How do you think? The house is quiet. I still catch myself waiting for him." Cas took a moment before pushing the powder submerged cake toward Sam. Maybe he wasn't exactly drowning alone, but an inanimate item wasn't best company. "It's almost as if I've been thrown back in time to before I met him. Just… different."
He shakes his head. "I'm in a house that had just been the right size seven months ago. Now it just seems, empty."
"Like all the life has been sucked out of it?" Jess -who Castiel frankly hadn't noticed- offered.
He gave a solemn nod.
"We know the feeling." Even though Cas couldn't see, he could tell in that moment the couple clasped their hands together. Sam offering his strength and Jess doing the same. Two pillars supporting each other.
Cas cast his eyes to the book title. "How is he?"
"Stubborn as always." When the statement only caused a small knowing smile, Sam's tone changed. "Doc's still concerned about his head. Leg's still bothering him, and his headaches are touch and go most the time. Not like anything's ever really stopped him."
Listening to his brother-in-law's voice, Castiel's fingers curled around Dean's necklace. His husband's ring shifting around his finger, his own keeping the amulet company around his neck.
"We pushed back the date, hopefully we can break the engagement to him in a couple months."
Now that was new. "You've moved the wedding?" Castiel looked up at the two.
"Of course we did," Jess offered a smile. "Dean's family, if he can't take too much of all this in at a time then we'll hold back what we can. Can't have a wedding without the best man." They looked at each other with an ounce of joy. "I learned that from the Winchester family."
Cas just honestly needed a distraction at the moment as he continued. "What of the guests, your parents?"
"My parents understand, but if anyone is too upset about it then they can gladly uninvite themselves."
Castiel remembered meeting Jessica for the first time. How shy she seemed around Sam's family. Just how her skin would crawl at a few Winchester customs. She hasn't been that girl for a long, long time. Cas knew how well she could fit into this hurricane of a family. They were crazy, but he knew first hand that it was one hell of a ride. He felt fingers wrap around his own. Jess giving his hand a gentle squeeze.
"We got this," her lips curled. "We just all need a little time to heal first." Jess has stood and thrown her arms around Castiel. "I'm willing to bet that this will only make us stronger." She set a hand under Cas's chin so he'd look at her. "You'll get him back," she whispered. Jessica set a soft kiss to Castiel's forehead. She kissed her husband-to-be on her way out. Cas couldn't help letting the edges of his own lips turn up. Sam had found one hell of a woman.
"I'm very happy for you Sam, to have a woman such as her."
"And I'm happy that you have my brother, and he has someone like you."
Cas shook his head.
"Stop it Cas. Amnesia or not you are still my brother. Sure we have shit that we need to sort out right now. But once that's passed we can deal with what comes next. I don't think this is the end."
Now that was a flat-out lie, and Cas knew it.
"You two can get back-"
"Sam, stop." Cas breathed.
"It can go back to how it was, Doc said so."
"We can do this Cas. Tell him who you are."
"You can go over an reintroduce you, and-"
"And do what?" Castiel's knuckles hit the table in his frustration. "What would you rather me do, Sam? Walk up and introduce myself? What am I supposed to say then? Hello, you may not remember me but we've been married for the last six years?" Cas drug his hands over his face.
Sam's eyes were now inspecting the patterns of the tablecloth.
Castiel finally had the opening he needed. "I'm terrified, Sam. I'm terrified to be around my own husband. That - that I'll do something that will trigger a memory and he gets overwhelmed like he had in the hospital."
Sam had finally looked up. He was prepared to give a half-assed reassurance that was far from the truth when Cas continued.
"Don't you dare tell me that won't happen. I know his migraines are still bad. I know that if he's flooded then he'll shut down. Honestly? I think he's better off like this." Castiel's voice betrayed him, hinting to the tears that he's been keeping back so well up to this point.
"What?" Sam's eyes widened as his voice dropped. "Cas, that can't be true."
"It is. It's not like this is the first time." Cas wiped at a blurry eye. "I haven't seen him laugh like that in so long. Like he had at the grill out. The last time I'd seen it was before your father's death. Not that he's never smiling, but it always seems like there's that one little piece missing."
He paused, "a piece that broke off when you left, and completely shattered when he lost John."
Sam sat there completely silent. He never imagined the conversation taking this turn.
"You don't understand how badly he was beat up after you left. He had a spot on truck 67 waiting for him. He was happy, hell, he was proud that you were going to college. I worked here serving coffee or a last-minute substitute manager. He'd tell anyone who'd listen, Sam."
Castiel wiped up the counter, glancing out over the cafe in front of him. Gabriel had him watching over the place as he and Kali had their fun. There was this one man who came in near-daily before his shifts wherever he worked. If Cas had a guess, he was a first responder of some kind. He knew Charlie was, and most of the friends she talked about were first responders. From his post behind the counter, Castiel could catch several times when the green-eyed man would speak of his 'kid brother.' Whoever greeted this man would stay and listen to how his brother was, and that he was going to college. Kid was smart, had scholarships waiting. Hopefully, he'd go to follow the family business. Cas saw countless faces of locals or people just passing through town on a day to day basis. Though this one customer always had caught his eye. He'd also seen him move his attention anywhere else whenever Cas looked over. Working for his older brother ensured he had a constant paycheck that could go towards his own education in the fall.
It would be the next week that Gabriel would shoo Castiel from behind the counter and go do whatever. Doing whatever entailed a coffee, chair, and a book. Currently, Cas was in the middle of the first of the Us series. There were five in total and the last was still in the works. Gabriel had also told Cas that if he didn't go home after this 'break' he'd fire him. Not like the older Novak would do such a thing, but the idea of a day off was really starting to sound good. The page he was currently on had his eyes glued to the paper. Cas automatically lifting the mug to his lips to sip on the last few drops. By the time he got to the end of the chapter the mug had been abandoned on the table. He had to force himself to close the book and set it down.
Taking hold of the mug he made to go take it to the counter. That happened to be interrupted by a broad chest. One that Cas ran right into.
"Sorry!" He squeaked, holding onto the ceramic cup a little tighter for lack of what to do with his hands. At least he wasn't messing with the sleeves of his sweater.
"No, no. My fault, I wasn't paying attention." The man before him rumbled. Cas looked up to have blue eyes meet green. He knew this man was a frequent customer. His father or Charlie would accompany him most of the time.
"That makes two of us."
"You're alright, I'm alright. We're both good." Cas picked up his book without glancing away from the taller man. "Have a good day." With that Cas went around and got the hell out of dodge. Hopefully Gabriel didn't notice how red his face had been.
He would hardly get around the corner of the cafe along the sidewalk. During his retreat he'd heard muffled stumbling and quiet 'I'm sorry's. Now, the footsteps sound slightly rushed and uncoordinated. Almost as if this wasn't part of the plan.
It hadn't been.
Cas turned at the same time the man who bumped into him had stopped.
"Damn it must have hurt." He paused, trying to downplay the shock of having gained Castiel's attention. That was done by rambling. "I think I'd know a thing or two about pain, I work for the fire department."
"What hurt?" This whole situation, as entertaining as it was, was also confusing. Castiel patted his sides to test for damage.
"When you fell," he cleared his throat as Cas shot him another confused look. "From Heaven, I mean."
The mother of all terrible pickup lines. But Castiel couldn't help but like this man more for it.
He turned around, holding out his hand. Why the hell not? "Castiel Novak."
Green eyes hesitated for a second, deciding if the moment was actually happening. Then he jumped on the opportunity. "Dean Winchester."