Apparently, I am not Barney Stinson. I cannot stop being sick and just be awesome instead. I keep being sick, and this happens. Blame the germs if this is half as weird as I think it might be.

Title: Veteran
Fandom: SPN
Pairing, Characters: Dean/Castiel, Sam, Bobby, Gabriel, Cast.
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Not mine in any way shape or form.
Notes/Warnings: I have no idea whatsoever what I should make of this. Seriously, none. Oh, and there are angels involved, as well as latin, which may or may not be a bad thing. Human!Castiel.
Spoilers: Set vaguely post S-5, so spoilers through S-5 to be safe.
Word Count: 7,500

Summary: Dean's been thinking about changing things much more often recently, what with Cas being around the way he is now, and with what Ellen left him in her will.

The apocalypse, rather than the world, ends not with a bang, but with a whimper, and suddenly, Dean can breathe again.

He's not entirely sure how it works. He knows he was standing face-to-face with Lucifer, nothing backing him and all of Hell backing Lucifer, and he knows he said yes. The next thing he remembers is waking up in a red green room. Or maybe it's just called a red room. Or a green room. Dean doesn't know. It's not like he's an expert on freaky angelic stuff.

What he does know is that it's like that time before Lilith was killed. It's not really a place – it's a place that isn't a place, like the waiting room in the hospital, full of people coming from opposite directions and heading away again without ever really intersecting.

At least this time it doesn't look a museum exhibit, so Dean feels less like a bull in a china shop. This time, it's red, which is why he thought 'red room' would be the right name. It's like the inside of a chain restaurant, only clean and empty. The floor is red carpeting; the ceiling is high, with a few shaded lamps hanging overhead.

Dean is lying on one of the soft, cushy benches they put in booths. He's always liked those. He sits up slowly, wondering how his brain is still functioning, wondering how he has any motor control.

He can't really remember what it felt like to have Michael inside him, to be a vessel. He's pretty sure that's a blessing in disguise.

The only way he can really be sure this isn't some mojo-ey mindfuck is that his tongue feels like it's growing mold, his throat is sore, and there's sand in his eyes. That doesn't mean he's at all optimistic, though.

Sam's still asleep on the other side of the booth. Dean has a moment of vertigo, staring at his little brother opposite him, the same way he was before he said yes to Michael. But Sam's not wearing a blinding white suit anymore. Sam's not smiling earnestly at him, and when Dean pokes Sam, says, "Dude, wake the fuck up," Sam's voice as he answers, "Mmmm…what?" is sleep-roughened and Sammy, not smooth and slick.

"Dean?" Sam asks, and Dean's not sure whether he wants to punch him or hug him.

"Yeah," Dean says, and then Sam's on his side of the booth and hugging him before Dean can really consider that right hook.

"You goddamn stupid son of a bitch," he hears himself muttering into Sam's shoulder.

All Sam is saying is, "I'm sorry."

Yeah, right. He damn well better be.

"Touching as this reunion is," a familiar voice drawls, "can we break it up, kids? You're making me blush."

"Nothing makes you blush, Gabriel," a deep voice filled with gravitas and purpose says.

Dean turns in his seat, and there they are.

Michael to the left, inhabiting a guy built like the scariest linebacker football has ever seen. He doesn't look at all like the type to go chasing a ball around a field, though. He looks like a rock. Calm, impenetrable.

Gabriel stands to his right, quicksand to Michael's stone, face half shaded, but grinning.

There are two more figures on Gabriel's right. One is a slim black man, whose expression is far more serene than the last time Dean saw it (possibly because, at the time, the angel in question was standing inside a flaming circle and had just been termed someone's "little bitch").

The other is a bit shorter, with messy dark hair, and a trench coat.

"Cas," Dean says, and curses the breathlessness of his own voice.

Castiel's eyes meet his own, and Dean feels warm all over. Cas is doing the thing where he smiles without ever moving his lips, and Dean has a feeling everything's going to be okay.

"May we sit?" Michael's deep voice asks. He sounds like peace and mercy and a day in June the year Dean turned ten, when his father had him baptized by Pastor Jim, just to be safe.

"Of course," Sam says. He still just sounds like Sam. Dean's not sure that means any less.

"So, how come we're still alive?" Dean asks. Might as well cut to the chase.

"Unlike some people," Gabriel says, looking pointedly at Sam, "Lucifer listens to his big brother." Here, he sounds like the sun and the moon; like a herald proclaiming the king's return, like vengeance and just a little bit like kindness.

"So, what, you just told him to go to his room?"

"No, Dean," Michael says. "It was significantly more complicated. Lucifer is back where he belongs for now; let us leave it at that."

Dean bites his lip in an effort to keep the words that threaten to spill out of his mouth inside.

"Your sacrifice is valued," Michael continues. "Remember that."

"It'd better be," Dean says. "Can you at least tell me why we're both still alive and apparently not paralyzed and brain-dead?"

"Heaven was not always as you found it," Michael says. "But we have not forgotten that we serve a higher purpose."

"Well, you know, technically, we had," Gabriel points out, inspecting his nails. "But guess what? Daddy's home."

"So you found God."

"Nope," Gabriel says. "He swanned back in of his own accord, just in time to help Mike out and give us all a little slap on the wrist."

"Really, well, can't imagine what for," Dean says, mostly to himself.

"I believe it was a general failure to adapt and move with the times," Michael says. "Specifically the failure to leave rather old-fashioned behavior behind."

"And when he says old-fashioned, he means Old Testament," Gabriel adds.

"Fine," Sam says. "So everything's back to normal in heaven. Doesn't answer the question."

"I am not just an archangel," Michael says. Privately, Dean doesn't think there's anything just about being an archangel. "I am also an angel of mercy."

"Me too," Gabriel says brightly.

Raphael speaks for the first time. "I am the angel of healing," he says. "Medicine. It was decided-"

"By Tzadqiel," Gabriel interrupts. "He's justice."

Raphael glares. "It was decided that you don't deserve punishment for your sacrifices."

"Yeah, thanks for that," Dean says. "Look, what are we doing here? Shouldn't you just dump us on earth somewhere and let us live in peace?"

"We wanted to thank you in person," Michael says calmly. "We felt you had earned that."

Dean remembers just a flash of what it felt like to hold Michael's essence inside his body. It wasn't as he'd feared; it wasn't the wrath of heaven in a glowing fireball of fury taped to the inside of his ribs. It was more like a completely calm alpine lake settling inside him. It wasn't about wrath or hate or any of the things the demons had Dean convinced it was. It was about heaven.

He shakes himself loose from the memory. "Okay. Well, thanks for saying thanks," he says. "Can we go now?"

"There is one matter left," Michael says, and looks over to Castiel pointedly.

He hasn't said anything yet, but that's not unusual. He's not the most communicative of guys most days, and with three archangels around…well.

"You're not gonna punish Cas, are you?" Dean asks, righteous indignation building up inside him. "He was the one who was trying to stop the apocalypse, unlike the rest of you guys!"

"Re-lax, Dean," Gabriel says. "We're not going to do anything to him."

"What's this about, then?"

"Things in heaven…" Michael clears his throat awkwardly.

"Things in heaven are in serious need of reshuffling," Gabriel says. "Too many of us starting marching to a weird-ass beat played by a drummer who was way out of his depth. We have to make things work the way they used to. Impose the old hierarchies the way they were meant to be. Possibly get cracking on some modernization allowing for free will and independent thought. Castiel here would be very much in the way. Radicals would turn him into a hero and conservatives would turn him into a scapegoat. We can't have that."

"So you're kicking him out."

"That's a bit strong," Raphael objects. "We're giving him a leave of absence. Just for a while. Until things have cooled off. A few decades."

If Dean were chewing, he would have choked.

He wonders how it is Cas isn't even blushing in front of Raphael, but decides not to worry about it. "So, basically you're asking if Cas can come hang out with us for a while," he says. A while. A few decades. Dean's not sure whether the feeling in his stomach is fear or elation.

"Well, yes," Michael says. "It would be a mutually beneficial arrangement. We don't want Castiel alone, and you could use his knowledge."

"I would be functionally human," Cas says quietly. "I would age with you. I would have no powers to heal or smite."

"That's fine," Sam says. "The apocalypse is over. God only – uh. We don't exactly know what to do with our lives next."

"Very well, then," Michael says.

The red room begins to dissolve into bright light around them.

"I will visit," Gabriel warns, his voice the last vestige of heaven Dean hears.

It's bright daylight in the real world. South Dakota has never looked so beautiful. Bobby's house is outlined sharply by midday sun, and the Impala glistens in the driveway.

Sam strides ahead to the porch to shake Bobby's hand, a gesture that seems woefully inadequate.

The metal on Bobby's wheelchair glistens in the sun, too.

"Cas," Dean says, in what, for him, is a quiet voice. "How can heavenly justice," and here his eyebrows go up skeptically and his hands form gestures that mean freaky mojo, "save us and not heal Bobby?"

Cas gives him a long look, and eventually asks, "First tell me this, Dean. If all your trials had been solved by celestial intervention, would you be half the man you are today?"

Dean doesn't have an answer for that.

"We aren't meant to solve all the problems in the world," Cas says. "That would defeat the purpose of having earth and heaven as separate entities."

Dean swallows around the lump in his throat, nods.

"I think you'll find, though…" Cas begins.

Dean turns to look at him. "I'll find?"

Cas smiles. It floors Dean. He's never seen Cas smile before. Not his Cas. Jimmy Novak, and the Cas of 2014, but never his Cas. It's amazing. "The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them."

"Watch who you call lame, kid," Bobby says, and, slowly, clutching the armrests of his wheelchair for support, stands.

He's weak – his legs have lost muscle in his months on the wheelchair, but he's managing. "Thanks," he says gruffly, in Cas's direction.

He turns and walks into the house, Sam supporting him, and Dean just barely hears him ask, "So, are you going to tell me what happened or are you going to make me guess?"

"How…" Dean trails off, not sure he wants an answer.

Cas understands him anyway. "I've told you, Dean. Miracles do happen."


The world not ending leaves Dean a bit at loose ends.

He hasn't really talked it over with Sam yet. He's been chickening out, just in case that conversation leads to other, less nice conversations.

That first night, they sit around Bobby's kitchen table, eating burgers and toasting those who fell and those who didn't with their beer cans.

Cas is a marvel to watch. For the first time, he takes off his trench coat and suit jacket, and for the first time, he eats a burger. He's watched humans long enough to know how to use the bathroom, thank God, and he knows how and why humans eat and drink and talk and feel.

But Dean sees the look of mild confusion on Cas's face when he leaves the bathroom, he sees the way Cas's eyes slip closed as he savors the taste of the burger for the first time, he sees the tiny wrinkle in Cas's forehead when he shifts around on his seat to get more comfortable, and he sees the split second of wide-eyed shock on Cas's face when Dean puts a soft hand on his shoulder and decides they should toast Cas, too.

It's then that Dean really starts thinking about what they should be doing with their lives. He's kind of loathe to part with Cas now. He's gotten used to him in a way he didn't think he could get used to anyone who isn't Sam or Dad. But Cas…well, he's new. He's completely unused to anything that isn't heaven or a battlefield, and on the battlefield of the last two years, he's seen enough of the seedy underbelly of the human race. Dean doesn't really want to drag Cas from motel to motel using fake credit cards and eating food straight from plastic packaging.

He deserves better.

So does Sam, at that, no matter what mistakes he's made.

When the digital clock in Bobby's kitchen shifts from 11:59 to 00:00, they decide to go to bed. Sam takes the couch in the living room, probably because he hasn't been alone in his own body for months and any solitude is good, and Dean and Cas split the guest room upstairs. Bobby only has the one. There's a fold-out bed that hasn't been folded out, but the bed is a double, and Dean's shared it with Sam before. It's not a big deal.

It's a hot July night, so it's alright that Cas doesn't have pajamas, but they're going to have to take him shopping soon. Jimmy Novak is a smaller man than either Dean or Sam, and…

"Cas?" Dean asks, the thought having only just occurred to him. "What happened to Jimmy?"

Cas looks up from untying his shoelaces. "He moved on," Cas says. "Long ago." He sounds sad.

"I'm sorry," Dean says, and he is, but he also isn't, because it's just one more thing that means Cas stays.

Cas nods. "I would like to see Amelia and Claire. At some point."

"Sure thing," Dean says, privately aware that he himself would never have worked up the courage.

They both strip down to their boxers, Cas's movements uncoordinated and strange, Dean's clumsy with exhaustion.

The bed is soft and comfortable and Dean wonders if it's celestial that everything feels just a bit better now, or if it's just relief that makes it feel that way.

"I've never slept before," Cas whispers in the dark.

Dean resists the sudden, inexplicable urge to run a hand through his angel's hair. "It's easy. You'll like it. Just…close your eyes."

He wakes up twelve hours later, with Cas's head pillowed on his chest and his arms wrapped around Cas. It doesn't strike him as strange. Of course they'd move towards each other as two warm, breathing beings do. Humans are pack animals.

Dean sits up, careful not to move Cas too much. Midday sun is streaming in through the open curtains. He must have been more tired than he thought – usually, that would have woken him up. He has a weird ringing in his ear, and a leftover of a dream in his head, something that sounds like a mixed-up exorcism. Te Gladi, Vos Gladias, trea Nomine Sancto.

Yawning, Dean rubs at his eyes, and heads for the bathroom.

Cas is awake when Dean gets out of the shower. Awake, but still lying in the sheets, staring up at the ceiling.

"Morning," Dean says, sitting down on his side of the bed, towel still wrapped firmly around his waist. He can't quite place just where the sudden reluctance to be naked near Cas comes from.

"Good morning," Cas says.

"How are you?" Dean asks.

"I…" Cas pauses, then pushes himself upright, so he's leaning against the headboard. "I'm not accustomed to being any particular way. Angels just are. There is no how."

Dean pauses in his efforts to get dressed without dislodging his towel. He wants to ask Cas if he's okay, wants to say he's sorry, but he doesn't know how that won't come out all wrong.

"It's not bad," Cas hastens to add. "I'm just…unused to it."

Dean nods slowly in understanding.

Cas throws the covers back to go shower, apparently not at all aware of the concept of body shyness (which Dean totally doesn't buy, because he knows for a fact that Adam and Eve are the first recorded case of body shyness, with the snake and the fig leaves and shit). Dean averts his eyes hastily as Cas walks past, but he can't help noticing that he's wearing a pair of black boxer briefs, which makes Dean feel kind of weird. Who'd have thought they'd have the same taste in underwear?

Breakfast is Eggo waffles doused in sour cream and syrup. Dean eats three with his usual gusto, and then starts peeling an orange.

Sam gives him a weird look.

Dean shrugs, eyes wide, his standard whadda ya want look. What he's not saying is that he's thirty-one, he's not getting any younger, and he has a life ahead of him now, not just an endless series of suicide missions. He may as well start taking care of himself.

Cas appreciates waffles even more than he did burgers. Dean hadn't figured he'd have a sweet tooth, but with Gabriel as a big brother, it stands to reason.

"So," Sam says casually. "Any plans for today?"

Dean swallows around the last of his orange and says, "Yeah, thought I'd take Cas here shopping. He's going to need more clothes than just the suit and tie now he's a real boy."

"Cool," Sam says, nodding.

"Y'wanna come?" Dean asks, not really expecting a yes.

"No," Sam doesn't disappoint. "I really need some time to…think, I guess."

Sam's always needed a lot of time to think.

"You up for it, Cas?"

Cas nods around his mouthful. Once he's swallowed, he says, "I am eager to experience human life."

Bobby is walking very slowly through the salvage yard, with a cane and the aid of walls and stable car parts. Dean knows he's better off than he would be if he hadn't been healed by angels – in a normal case, he wouldn't have been able to hold his own body weight on his legs. In any case, he's months of physical therapy and hard work away from being back to his old self.

In a way, Dean's pretty sure that's better than a full on miracle lame-can-walk deal.

As they drive into town, the Impala purring sweetly all around them like the goddess she is, Dean considers sources of income. Maybe it's the fact that he suddenly has two people to pull through, maybe it's the end of the apocalypse, but something's got Dean dreaming of the straight and narrow today like he hasn't since he got his GED.

They pull up in front of a mall, the sprawling expanse of American capitalism begging to be exploited.

"So, what's your style, Cas?" Dean asks as they stand on the escalator up to the men's department store.

"My style?" Cas asks in confusion.

"Yeah," Dean says. "You know, are you really a suit and tie guy, or are you secretly a skinny jeans man? I mean, men's clothes aren't complicated like chick shit, but still. Decisions to make."

"Decisions," Cas repeats, weighing the word in his mouth like a bar of gold.

Dean smiles to himself.

In the end, Dean gets a new pair of suit pants, a pair of khakis, some cargo pants, and about five different kinds of jeans for Cas to try on. "Just try 'em all and tell me which you like best," he says.

Cas is a quick learner of human ways. He figured out how to wash his own hair (Dean knows, because he got a noseful of Cas's hair on the escalator, and it smelled of Dean's shampoo), and his cheeks are smoother than Dean remembers them ever being, so he must have borrowed Dean's razor, too. Dean finds he doesn't really mind, but it goes on the list of things he's going to buy Cas.

In the end, Cas decides on two pairs of jeans and one pair of corduroys, because they're comfortable. They'll keep the suit, of course.

Shirts are a wholly different matter. Cas, apparently, is a guy who likes t-shirts, which Dean gets (he's just glad there's not another dude in the family who picks the one button-up shirt in the entire store that has fugly olive and fuchsia stripes all over it. Where Sam got his taste in clothes is anyone's guess).

Dean doesn't really know what's motivating Cas's choice in shirts. Most likely, he just goes for what strikes him as the most aesthetically pleasing. This leaves them with four t-shirts, two of which are blue, one of which is black, and one of which is purple. They also find two button-up shirts Cas likes – grey and blue. Dean makes him get a hoodie for the next time they end up in Minnesota, just in case, but they can always go clothes-shopping again in winter.

It takes a lot of effort not to blush as he points out that Cas will also need more underwear, but he manages, and Cas reacts so matter-of-factly Dean wonders if he's been hit with a stupid stick. He buys a six pack of socks while he's at it, and hopes Cas's shoes will last a while longer.

They hit a pharmacy next. Dean points Cas in the direction of toiletries with a basket and tells him to find himself shampoo, deodorant, conditioner, a razor, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving cream, and anything else he can think of.

Dean, in the meantime, gets advil, gauze, medical tape and the rest of the junk he noticed was missing. He's pretty sure most first aid kits on the planet need restocking after what's been going on for the last few years, and the Winchesters are always prepared.

A sweet old lady asks directions to the food court, which Dean gives, before Dean rejoins Cas. Dean's never noticed quite so much how much he loves humanity now he's been instrumental in saving it.

Cas has drifted away from the hygiene products and is staring at nail polish.

"Dude," Dean says. "What?"

"I find this intriguing," Cas says. Dean foresees the questions about body art and nipple piercing he thought he'd left behind, when Sam entered puberty and developed a sense of shame, coming back twice as strong.

"How 'bout some other time," Dean says. "Lemme see what you got."

Cas has everything Dean told him to get. He seems to like brightly colored bottles with fruity names, and there's a joke in there somewhere about feathery people liking bright, shiny things, but Dean's in too mellow a mood for that kind of humor.

Their last stop for the day is groceries.

"People can eat all this?" Cas asks in tones of great wonder.

Dean laughs. "Not at once. And trust me, you don't want to eat half the shit that's here."

Cas follows Dean closely, watching his every mood. "This is not what you usually eat," he points out when Dean completely skips the frozen, pre-cooked meals.

"Yeah," Dean says, "but that's because usually I'm not at Bobby's, and usually I don't have much time."

He doesn't realize why that sentence sounded strange in his mouth until two minutes later, when he remembers that he said 'I' instead of 'we'.

Cas's big blue eyes guilt him into buying Fruit Loops and a few bars of milk chocolate just before the cash register, and Dean realizes he's going to have to build up immunity here.

The list Bobby gave them was pretty long, even without the things Cas pleaded for; the lady behind the register gives them a look and says, "Buying this much food…you'd think the world was ending."

Dean laughs until his stomach hurts and his eyes tear, and then he just starts crying.

"Post-traumatic stress," Cas tells the lady quietly, as he bags the food and puts it in their cart, already laden with clothes and toiletries.

In a way, Dean guesses he's right.

Cas's hand on his back, rubbing slow, soothing circles, is warmer than it ever was before, human, grounding him, as they lift all their purchases into the Impala's backseat.

His fingers are just as gentle two minutes later, stroking the nape of Dean's neck as he falls apart behind the Impala's steering wheel. Dean's chest feels tight and uncomfortable and he's never cried like this, not since he was four years old and he finally realized that Mommy was never coming out of the house.

It's nothing in particular and everything at once. It's relief and sadness and grief and triumph. It's my Daddy's dead, and I don't know what to do for Sammy and I went to hell, but it's also, I never thought it would really end, and we did it.

Just when Dean thinks his lungs can't take much more sobbing, Cas shifts closer on the bench and folds his arms carefully around Dean's shaking body. He pulls until Dean can rest his face in Cas's shoulder and Cas can kiss the top of Dean's head and whisper, "It's alright."

When Dean stops crying and has his breathing under control again, he inhales deeply one last time, Cas's particular scent in his nose (Dean's shampoo, clean sweat, sunshine) and sits back up.

Cas's eyes are bloodshot, too, and there are tear tracks down his cheeks. God only knows they've had enough to cry about in this war.

They sit in silence for almost ten minutes before Dean manages to say, hoarsely, "Thank you," and turn the key in the ignition.

They're halfway back to Bobby's when he says, "Remind me to teach you how to drive."

They both know that, coming from him, that means, I love you.

If Sam and Bobby notice their puffy eyes and the tear stain on Cas's coat, they're both smart enough not to say anything.


They hang around Bobby's for about two weeks, soaking up sun and peace. Bobby trains his legs and works on cars. Sam helps him sometimes, hangs out with Dean and Cas others, but mostly, he reads, or goes for long walks. Dean's not going to push him. That's never worked well.

Cas walks around in jeans and t-shirts. Now he's actually expected to waste time on its upkeep, his hair is almost perpetually messy, but it suits him. For the most part, he goes barefoot. "I like to feel the ground under my feet," he says, and what Dean hears is, I like to feel.

He spends his days teaching Cas to be human.

Well, that's not really accurate. Cas catches on quickly, mostly by observing and copying. He spends his days with Cas.

It's very restful company. Cas knows when not to push him. He also knows when he should. And Cas has yet to see the many and varied delights humanity has to offer.

He buys Cas a copy of Harry Potter, and one of The Importance Of Being Earnest. It pays off. Dean's lounging on the sofa next to him, reading Dan Brown (because it cracks him up, but he's not sure Cas would appreciate the absurdity), when he hears Cas laugh for the first time. It's a full, deep sound, and Dean wants to hear it as often as possible.

He takes Cas to the movies, too, but there really aren't that many good things running. They go to a horror flick, but Dean's kind of forgotten what the appeal was in the first place. Cas tilts his head to the side and says, "That's a gross misrepresentation of an actual fatal wound."

Vampire movies are out of the question, as are any involving hell and demons. At least for now. There's a decent DiCaprio flick running, that both Dean and Cas agree wasn't utterly heinous, and one movie Dean will never admit he actually watched, given that it featured some chick who used to be in High School Musical. Of course that's the one Cas likes best, but he's not overwhelmed by anything.

"I know how to fix this," Dean says, as they discuss the disappointment of the thing with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz on the way home from the movies.

Two nights later, with Sam and Bobby safely out for the first time since the world didn't end, at a bar somewhere, Dean pulls out the latest thing he's purchased for Cas. He's starting to think he has a soft spot for the guy.

"If you tell anyone I did this, I will end you," Dean warns, and pops the movie into Bobby's DVD player. "But I've never met anyone who doesn't like this movie."

He's right, of course. There really isn't anyone who doesn't like the Princess Bride. That doesn't make it any less embarrassing.

Gabriel pops up just at the best part, licking an ice cream cone. Dean starts, but Cas seems unsurprised, which is, well, unsurprising.

"Interesting," is all Gabriel says.

"How're things upstairs?" Dean asks.

"Messy," Gabriel answers. "The angels are protesting being stationed below the Seraphim and Cherubim now they have the freedom of speech."

Cas looks incredibly guilty, and Dean has no idea what Gabriel is talking about. It doesn't seem to matter, though, because Gabriel just settles in next to them to watch Inigo kill the six-fingered man.

As the credits roll, he ruffles Cas's hair affectionately, and then says to Dean, "You should talk to your brother."

Then he's gone.

These days, Dean's been sleeping like a baby. He wakes up with fragments of the old hellfire dreams, and the strange Latin chant from the first night has gotten longer and longer in his head (Te Gladi, Vos Gladias, trea Nomine Santo, Albrot, Abracadabra, Jehova elico. Estote meum castellumque nonconspicuus, in quisque magiceum opum), but in Dean's book, any chant that actually includes the word "abracadabra" has to be a big fat hoax.

He's not sure, but he thinks it might have something to do with sleeping next to Cas.

Sam doesn't sleep as well as Dean does. Then again, he doesn't have Cas.

The next morning, over breakfast, Bobby asks, casually, "Have you boys thought about what you want to do now?"

Dean, Sam and Cas all stop eating and look at Bobby like kids who've gotten caught with both fists in the candy jar.

"Sort of," Dean admits.

"Yes," Cas says.

Sam says nothing.

A phone rings in the living room, and Bobby leaves to get it.

"What have you been thinking?" Sam asks.

"A lot of things," Dean says. "Michael wiped out a whole load of demons when he sent Lucifer back down under. I've been thinking we could maybe…take a break from hunting."

"Thought you always said this was it for you," Sam says neutrally.

Sam's never neutral, though.

"Things change," Dean says.

"Is this about Cas?" Sam asks.

Cas has conspicuously left the kitchen.

"Yeah, kinda," Dean says. "I mean, he's one of us now. And, I dunno, seems like he'd be kind of screwed over to get thrown out of heaven for a lifetime only to spend it living in a motel room."

Sam shakes his head, snorting.

"What the fuck's that supposed to mean?" Dean asks.

"Do you even see what you're doing here?" Sam asks back.

"What, taking care of my family?"

"No, falling in love with an angel."

"What?" Dean asks.

"Dude, you've been dating the guy ever since we got here. Don't tell me you're only realizing this now."

"That's not – we're not…" Dean doesn't know how to explain himself and Cas in a way that would make sense.

"Yeah, right," Sam says blankly.

"What is this?" Dean asks. "I mean, what the hell is wrong with you? I thought you were the one who always wanted out of hunting."

"I am!" Sam says. "I was."

"Was?" Dean repeats.

"Well, can we stop when there's still evil shit out there?"

"I'm not saying we can never hunt again," Dean says. "I'm just saying…on the weekends or something."

"And what do we do during the week?"

Dean rolls his eyes. "We get jobs like normal people."

"But we're not normal!" Sam argues. "We'll never just fit in with civilians."

"We'll figure something out," Dean says. "Look, Sam, I'm thirty-one. I've been part of this since I was four. I'm tired."

"Me too," Sam sighs, running a hand through his hair. "But…I had Lucifer inside me. I drank demon blood. I'm not sure I can just look people in the eye and pretend I didn't do that."

Dean's teeth clench on automatic. "Maybe you should've thought about that before you said yes to Lucifer."

"It was the only way to get you to say yes to Michael and end this," Sam says, gesturing vehemently.

"You know what?" Dean says. "That's it. I'm out. I want a goddamn break. I want a house, and a job, and I want you and Cas and me, together, but if you can't see that, your fucking problem. Go hunt. Fine by me. Heck, go to frigging law school. Yeah, that's a great idea. You'll make a good lawyer – you can never believe anyone else might be right."

He turns and storms out of the kitchen.

Bobby finds him an hour later, out in the salvage yard.



"I got something that might help you."

Dean snorts.

Bobby's leaning hard on his cane, though, so Dean goes with it.

Bobby hands him a thick packet of papers. "Ellen…" he coughs. "Ellen asked me to carry out her will. She wanted you to have this."

Dean is quiet for a long time, holding the package.

"Thanks," he says eventually.

His only answer is the uneven sound of Bobby walking back inside (cane-step-step-cane-step-step).


Ellen left Dean the Roadhouse. What was left of it, anyway.

She left him the savings she made off of it, which is enough for Dean to start his own business. She left him a list of the regulars, with contact info. She left him a list of empty bars on dusty highways just past the outskirts of small towns. She left him the house rules, and she left him a handwritten journal of her experiences in the Roadhouse.

Dean wonders why he didn't think of it sooner.

He talks to Cas about it, in the dark of their bedroom that night. "What do you think?" he asks, and tries not to think about Sam telling him he's practically dating the guy.

"I think it would make you happy," Cas says.

"And you?"

"And me."


Sam doesn't apologize, but neither does Dean.

The next day, they get into the Impala and speed off to the closest of the bars on Ellen's list.

They check out three more before they agree it's definitely the first one.

It's cheap, as houses go, because it's practically falling apart where it stands, but between the four of them, they fix it up as pretty as it's ever going to be. They work for two months straight, and when they're done, Dean's proud to call the place home.

Dean doesn't watch Castiel as he strips off his shirt while they work. He doesn't watch sweat bead on Cas's collarbone as the August sun beats down on them and they paint the final coat on the outside.

He doesn't get a strange feeling in his stomach when Cas smiles at him, and he definitely doesn't feel better about life on the rare occasions when Cas laughs.

Or if he does, it's nobody's business.

He does sleep better next to Cas.

They discover that as soon as they move into the two stories above the bar. There's enough space for a separate room each for Sam, Dean and Cas, though it feels kind of weird to not be living at Bobby's anymore.

That first night, he wakes up from a hell nightmare. He hasn't had one of those since June. There are at least three Latin sentences pounding against the insides of his skull. He stares at the ceiling, waiting for his breath to come back.

That's how Cas finds him.

"I can't sleep alone," Cas says.

Dean moves over without a word and holds the covers up for Cas to crawl under.

Sam doesn't say anything when he notices that Cas's things are in Dean's room.

The night before the bar first opens for customers, Sam pulls beer from the tap for both of them. Getting all the delivery stuff sorted out was actually the hardest part of setting up shop. It meant getting fake ID that looked really, really real, the kind with a name Dean would keep for a long time.

The thought scared him, at the time.

"Dean," Sam says. "I'm not sure I can do this yet."

"Yeah," Dean says. He's not sure Sam can either.

In the end, Sam goes on a road trip. To find himself. Which, a few years down the line, Dean will totally laugh at him for. But not quite yet.

Dean lets him take the Impala.

He has a great truck Bobby gave him ("Free of charge, ya idjit"), and that's less conspicuous in town. It's not like he doesn't have serious doubts, letting Sam have his baby, but it seems like the right thing to do.

Sam leaves as the first trees begin to lose their leaves. He goes in the late morning, and by early afternoon, the first customers are trickling in. People from the town nearby, sure. They've met Dean and Cas already, and they're intrigued.

Chuck is one of the first people to come. He and Dean shake hands almost solemnly, and Dean gives Chuck an orange juice. He doesn't need to drink anymore.

More hunters come than Dean thought would show up. He called everyone on Ellen's list, sure, but he didn't expect instant success.

The names Harvelle and Singer have a lot of clout in the hunting community. Winchester, not so much. Mostly, people look at each other and shift uncomfortably, but Dean's working on that.

It's a good day, really, though Sam and the Impala, two constants in Dean's unsteady life, are somewhere far away already.

Then again, he's considering that Cas and the bar could be two new ones.

Gabriel, Michael and Anna show up an hour before closing time. They've all been to visit a few times.

"I like what you've done with the place," Gabriel says, easily audible over the din.

"Thanks," Dean says.

He's not really watching Cas hug Anna. He doesn't care.


Gabriel pinches his cheek before he leaves, and says, "He'll be back. Oh, and stop kidding yourself. You care."

He and Castiel close the bar at three in the morning and wipe down the tables as if they've done it a thousand times before.

He pours them both a shot before they go to bed, in celebration.

Dean doesn't even try blaming the alcohol for what he does next, though. He says, "Cas, there's this thing I keep dreaming about. I wanted to ask…you ever heard it?"

"What is it?" Cas asks. He's still as slim as he always was, but his muscles have gotten more definition on the Winchester program. He still hasn't figured out how to make his hair lie flat, and Dean hopes he never does.

"Te Gladi, Vos Gladias, trea Nomine Santo, Albrot, Abracadabra, Jehova elico. Estote meum castellumque nonconspicuus, in quisque magiceum opum. Nomino Santo Saday, qui est in imperium magnum," Dean begins to recite.

"That's the conjuration of the sword," Cas says, smiling gently at him.

"Oh," Dean says. "Right. Um. And that is…?"

"It's the spell to consecrate your sword before use. It's…" Cas reaches over the scant space between their heads (they never did figure out the personal space thing) to run his hand through Dean's hair, which has grown out a bit. "It's how I blessed you before you accepted Michael."

Dean kisses Cas.

It's not a big thing with fireworks and noise. It's a soft, sweet kiss, like the end of a long slow slide of inevitability.

Dean hasn't kissed anyone in almost a year. He's missed it.

"Dean," Cas whispers as they part. Cas has never kissed anyone.

Dean presses another kiss to Cas's palm, which is on his cheek, and waits for Cas to react.

Cas pulls him close and kisses him again.

They've been sleeping together for months, but that night is the first time Dean pulls off Cas's clothes himself, the first time he lays Cas out and feasts on him. The first time he makes his angel gasp and buck and whisper his name, the first time he hears Cas moan for him, and the first time he makes Cas come.

They tangle together in an ungainly mix-up with lube and fingers, and Dean huffs out a laugh against Cas's skin as they work to get it right. Cas smile back at him, and lifts his body just so, so that it all clicks together and makes perfect sense. Dean slides inside Cas like he's always meant to have been there, and they make love, slow and easy, like everything has always been between them.

In the morning, there's frantic passion and hunger and the realization of how long they could have been doing this; now, they sink into their sheets together and are content.


Sam sends postcards sometimes. Sometimes he calls. Sometimes he emails. Nothing consistent, nothing frequent. He's ganked a few ghosts between South Dakota and California, caught a vampire in Salt Lake City and a Kelpie in Wisconsin.

Once, he sends Dean a picture of the Impala, just so that Dean can see she's still okay.

Bobby comes by at least twice a week, now his legs have gotten better. The first time he sees Cas reach up to kiss Dean, he says, "Mazel tov," and what may or may not be, "idjits," under his breath.

Gabriel grins widely when he finds out. "About time, too," he says, and slaps Cas on the back.

Cas raises an eyebrow at Gabriel, but Dean can see the flush creeping up his neck.

Michael nods in acceptance, and doesn't say much on the subject (unsurprising, given that Michael doesn't say much in general. He never wears the same vessel twice, either, because no one but Dean can contain him for that long, so they usually have a hell of a time figuring out who he is), though Anna shrieks loudly.

Chuck says he's glad he doesn't have any more visions, because he does not need to see that. But he smiles anyway, and sips his orange juice, and Dean knows he's cool with it.

Sam comes back on a Tuesday in March.

The telltale rumble of the Impala's engine on the parking lot alerts Dean – he'd know that motor anywhere. Cas is in town, getting groceries (he's been damn near insufferable ever since he got his driver's license), and Dean's calculating this month's expenses, while googling some of the cases the hunters leave in the bar for him to check out and redistribute to hunters in the right area.

Dean's outside before Sam gets out of the car.

"Sammy," he says.

"Yeah," Sam says.

"How are you?" Dean asks.

"Better, now." Sam answers.

They're hugging the next second, with manly backslapping, and possibly a few tears.

"Damn, I missed you," Dean says.

Sam grins. "Look at you, all soft and domesticated."

"Shut the fuck up," Dean grins back.

Cas finds them trading stories over tap beer.

"Hi," he says quietly.

"Hey, Cas," Sam says, smiling at him.

Cas smiles back tentatively.

"C'mon, babe, get over here. He won't believe me about that time Bobby's friend…" Dean trails off, looking at Sam. "What?"

"Babe?" Sam asks. "I knew it!"

Dean feels his ears going red.

"No, seriously, I get I-told-you-so rights from here until eternity."

Cas smothers something that may have been a chuckle, and Dean glares at him.

Of course, that only makes Sam laugh harder.

By the time he's done clutching his sides, Cas has put all the food in the fridge, and is starting to take the chairs off the tables in preparation for opening time.

"Dean?" Sam asks slowly. "You…don't have a job opening here, do you?"

"You kidding?" Dean asks. "I got a job opening, and I got a room with your name on it."

Sam beams at him, and Cas kisses him and whispers, "I love you," in his ear, just low enough that Sam can't hear it, and Dean feels something he's not sure he's ever felt.

He feels whole.

AN: Whew. 7,500 words. I can honestly say I have never written a story this long in one sitting before. The fact that I wrote it all at once makes me kind of suspicious of my characterization, because I always feel like it slips then. On the other hand, I really, really loved writing this. It just flowed so well.



"The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them." ~ Matthew 11:5

Conjuration of the Sword


Te Gladi, Vos Gladias, trea Nomine Santo, Albrot, Abracadabra, Jehova elico. Estote menum castellumque praesidium contra omnium hostes, conspicuusque nonconspicuus, in quisque magiceum opum. Nomino Santo Saday, qui est in imperium magnum, et his alio nomine: Cados, Cados, Cados, Adonai, Elohi, Zena, Oth, Ochimanuel, primoque ultimo, sapientia, via, vita, virto, primoque ultimo, Sapientia, Via, Vita, Virto, Principio, Oso, Oratie, Splendoro, Luce,Sol, Fono, Gloria, Mono, Porta, Vite, Lape, Scipio, Secredo, Pravo, Messiah, Gladi in Omnium meum negotia regnas et in illos res quem me resistant, vincite. Amen


I conjure you, O Sword of Swords, by three Holy Names [given above]. Be my fortress and defence against all enemies, visible and invisible, in every magical work. By the Holy Name Saday, which is great in power, and by these other names [given above], the First and the Last, Wisdom, Way, Life, Virtue, Chief, Mouth, Speech, Splender, Light, Sun, Fountain, Glory, Mountain, Gate, Vine, Stone, Staff, Priest, Immortal Messiah: Sword, do you rule in all my affairs and prevail in those things which oppose me. AMEN

Apparently, it's stronger when in Latin.

This and all other Angel factoids were pulled from Gustav Davidson's A Dictionary of Angels.

Well. That and Wikipedia, of course…

But please don't blame Davidson and Wiki for the mess I made of their nicely organized mythology. I'm just playing, I swear…