The road is straight and black and open. Sky is blue-bell clear as a warm breeze whips through the open window. Sam turns Dean's music up a little louder and anticipates his brother's disbelieving glare.
"Hey, I can appreciate more than Coldplay. Unlike you, I have a wide taste in music."
Dean sneers. "Right, like the crap on that abomination you grafted onto baby. Freakin' Dr. Frankenstein."
Sam sighs. "It was just an iPod." But Dean's intractable on this and Sam surrenders with an inner grin.
"Turn off's up ahead," Dean says.
They are meeting Castiel. The angel has been missing for two weeks. Dean went from worried to anxious to impossible to be with … until last night when he told Sam that Cas was alright.
"How do you know?"
"I do," Dean'd answered without any further explanation.
Then Cas calls them this morning and sends meeting coordinates to Dean's cell phone. As they approach Dean gets paler. Not that anybody other than Sam would notice, but Dean's nervous.
"Cas understood. You were out of your mind that night, Dean. We all were."
Dean nods and stays silent.
They park and exit the car. Another gorgeous vista. White tipped mountains look painted into the horizon. Side by side, they lean on the hood to wait.
The air shimmies and the angel appears. Sam greets him and then walks away a short distance. This isn't about him.
"Cas. You … okay?"
"I am fine. My brothers wanted to speak with me."
Dean's face goes suspicious. "You mean chew you out?"
Cas almost smiles. "I have been instructed again in the proper ways of angel-human interaction."
Dean is stiff, reserved. "I see."
Cas reaches out and holds Dean's arm. "I don't think you do."
"Cas … what I said. I shouldn't have … I'm sorry—"
"I told them to go screw themselves."
Sam blinks, unsure he heard right. Dean is staring open-mouthed.
"What?" his brother asks.
"I think we interact just fine," Cas says by way of explanation.
Dean breaks out in a grin. But then his face goes serious again. "I am sorry, Cas. Was way out of line—"
"Dean. I forgive you."
Dean squeezes the other man's shoulder a second and Sam knows it's behind them.
"So, it's fair to say your superpowers are still on Kryptonite?"
The angel smiles and Sam is amazed at how far Cas has come in understanding Dean-speak. "As long as other angels are around I'll have some abilities."
Sam starts at this reminder of the future Dean described. Won't happen. He … they won't let it happen.
"But for all purposes, my brothers and sisters are done with me. I am no longer welcome," Cas continues. "I am on my own."
"No. You're not," Dean says.
Sam understands he was wrong, Cas hasn't replaced him, just expanded their circle. And it's good. He walks over and stands on Cas's other side. "You've got us," he says.
Dean meets his eyes above the angel and Sam sees gratitude. It's so Dean to want his family together.
"Thank you," Cas says looking from Sam to Dean.
The angel's eyes stay locked on Dean's a few seconds longer than is comfortable and Sam thinks he should move away again when Cas says, "I have been trying to figure out what Lucifer has planned for us in Detroit."
Dean meets Sam's eyes again with a mixture of weariness and resignation. If it's Thursday, then the Apocalypse is looming.
"Yeah?" Dean questions.
"I will have more information for you shortly. I have more reconnaissance to conduct."
"You be careful."
"Of course, Dean. You, too. Both of you."
And with that, Cas disappears.
Sam hands Dean a cold bottle of beer and they lean back against the Impala and take in the mountains. Up here it's hard to believe what's out there … waiting.
Sam looks at his brother. Who he'd do anything for. Who'd fought an archangel to come back to him. It's enough to start restoring his faith. But he still worries. Lucifer will be waiting for him in Detroit. Soon. He'll face Lucifer. But he won't be alone.
"Dean, do you think we're gonna survive this thing?"
"Not asking about winning any more Sammy?"
"No. Just wanna not lose."
"You know, I used to think you never listened to me."
"I listened. Just didn't always agree."
"I think we're gonna survive this thing."
Author's Note: Thank you so much for sticking with this story and for all the lovely reviews and comments I've received. It was truly my labor of love. I need to acknowledge the incredible work of Eric Kripke, Sera Gamble, Ben Edlund and the rest of the Supernatural creative team for these magnificent characters and premise, the Show's director's, including the late Kim Manners, who give Supernatural its cinematic presence and inimitable style. And, of course, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles who breathe life into Sam and Dean, respectively, and showed us their souls. Playing in their playground is a privilege. And, thanks to my beta, for taking this tale to the next level.
Note that there is an illustrated version and a PDF download available at my Livejournal page.