Title: Has Finally Found Me
Summary: "There's only one small condition."
Pairing: Dean/Castiel. Sort of.
Spoilers: Up to and including 5x14.
Word Count: ~9,000
Warnings: May contain traces of crack and BE spelling.
Disclaimer: (Insert witty disclaimer here.)
Author's notes: Beta-read by the lovely mclachlan. Also, if you don't know Foreigner's I Wanna Know What Love Is, you're seriously missing out.
At the end of it all, there's debris and the dead, but there's also this: a new sunrise over planet Earth. The angelic choirs lift their voices to the sky up above and God's in his heaven.
All's right with the world.
"Zachariah," he acknowledges, looking out over the battle field stretching out in front of them. They fought on opposite ends of it, him and the Winchester brothers surrounded by demons and the angelic forces trying to get to them, and Castiel feels something like happiness at the thought that they get to stand side by side now, at the end of all things.
"Heaven's come to a decision, Castiel."
"Regarding your fate."
"I thought that Heaven would have more important matters to worry about."
"You are allowed to reenter the Heavenly Host, Castiel," Zachariah says, ignoring Castiel's attempt at human levity entirely. "Your services will be rewarded."
"Really." Zachariah smiles and Castiel suddenly remembers the fact that after Uriel, Zachariah has always been said to possess a somewhat twisted sense of humour.
"There's only one small condition."
Dean and Sam Winchester have survived the Apocalypse.
They struggled and they fought and they doubted, but after it was all over and done with, Dean's impossible dream came true: just the two of them, riding off into the sunset together with Led Zeppelin blasting out of the speakers. Of course that's disregarding the fact that the Impala ran out of gas about half a mile into their heroic send-off because keeping tabs on mileage hadn't exactly been on top of Dean's list of priorities when the Devil was trying to kill him, but still.
They've made it, and now they're going to party.
Of course, since it's a party Winchester-style it mostly consists of them and Bobby going on a three-day bender. Inadvertent nakedness concluded the festivities.
They're never speaking about that again, by the way.
Eventually they get back on the road, Sam and him, because that's what they do, and so it's no surprise that Dean is lying on a squeaky motel bed watching really bad porn when Castiel appears out of nowhere.
To his dying day, Dean's going to deny that he emanated anything resembling a girly shriek upon the angel's appearance. Since actual witnesses' accounts of the event are sparse, he's even going to get away with it.
"Cas," he says, once he's caught his breath and is sure that he's not going to have a heart attack any minute now. "Um."
"Dean," Castiel acknowledges him and looks around the room. "Where's Sam?"
"Out. Getting food. Cas -"
Dean doesn't get to finish that sentence, because all of a sudden Castiel blinks out of existence, reappears right above Dean on that squeaky motel bed and proceeds to hug the stuffing out of him.
"Dude," Dean wheezes.
"I'm sorry for infringing upon your personal space," Castiel says, releasing him. He doesn't make any move to get off the bed though, so Dean scrambles off himself and barely keeps himself from wiping his hands on his jeans.
"Dude, why are you naked?"
"An internship," Sam says, inspecting the fry in his hands before popping it into his mouth and chewing vigorously. He's survived the Apocalypse; he figures he can deal with a couple of clogged arteries.
"Yes," Castiel repeats, clutching at the coat Dean's draped over his shoulders once he'd stopped laughing.
"As a Cupid."
"Zachariah informed me that I am in need of lessons of humility."
"By being naked?"
"God created all human beings in His image. There is no shame in being naked."
"Give me back my coat, then," Dean says immediately. Castiel glares at him before shrugging off the coat.
"He was joking!" Sam says. "Joking, Cas. You can leave on the coat."
"Please," he adds after a small pause.
"I have to earn my way back into my garrison by gaining practical experience and expanding my angelic competencies, starting from the bottom and working my way up in several month-long internships which will prove that my career prospectives mesh with the long-term goals of my garrison." Castiel frowns. "I don't actually know what that means."
"Maybe Zachariah's possessing some dude who works in a HR department?" Dean suggests.
Sam stares at him. Castiel stares at him. He raises his hands. "What? I've written resumes before, you know!"
"Right," Sam says. "Anyway. And you're starting by being a Cupid?"
"Yes," Castiel. "It is a very honourable position and deserving of my utmost attention. Bringing love to humans is a privilege indeed."
Dean snorts, steals a fry from Sam. "Yeah, but you're still naked."
"Wha - ?" Before Dean's come fully awake, he's already sitting up, clutching a knife in his hand. Squinting into the semi-darkness of the room he immediately slams his eyes shut again.
"Coat. Over there on the chair." He points in the general direction. "I think there's also some jeans."
"These are your clothes, Dean."
"Whatever, okay? Just put them on!"
Dean doesn't open his eyes again until he's heard rustling fabric and is safe in the knowledge that Castiel is decent again – or as decent as he's ever going to get. He envies Sam for snoring peacefully in the bed next to him and considers poking him awake out of sheer principle.
"I am sorry for disturbing your rest," Cas says formally, standing in front of Dean's bed and staring down at him. Dean could get up, of course he could, but he's only wearing boxers because he's actually started to sleep again now that no more people than usual are trying to kill them. He wouldn't want to encourage Castiel, give him the wrong impression, or anything.
Sometimes he's aware that he behaves like a twelve year old girl.
Today is not that day.
Clutching the sheet a bit more tightly around him, Dean pats on the bed. Castiel ignores the invitation and remains standing, looking unusually grave for someone whose sole mission it is to bring love and eternal romantic bliss into the hearts of unsuspecting humans.
"What is it?" he asks. "Is something – wrong?"
"I think I may experience difficulties in completing my assignments," Castiel says.
Dean blinks. "Come again?"
"Exactly!" Castiel says earnestly. "However, my subjects seem to be reluctant to fall in love with each other."
"This is singularly frustrating. If I am not able to complete this internship successfully I will not be promoted."
"So you'll have to keep on wearing your birthday suit?"
"Right!" Dean says. "What can I do to help?"
"We're in a bar. Again."
Dean smiles broadly at the waitress in the hope that she won't notice him talking to bit of thin air to his left and toasts her with his beer bottle.
"Why are we here again? In the middle of the night? What if Sam wakes up and I'm gone?"
"Sam will not wake."
"I'm sure he appreciates that," Dean mutters, glancing around the bar. It's a dingy place, but not in the slightly dark and romantic sense that could promote two lost souls being drawn to each other only to live happily ever after. No, this place is just rank, which is why Dean's glad that they serve beer in bottles because by the looks of them, every single glass in this place contains a separate and thriving biotope. It's long past midnight on a weekday, and the only people in here are the alcoholics and the homeless, and none of them particularly look like they want to mate with anyone.
"Who's your assignment?"
Dean waits for a moment, then says patiently, "You know I can't actually see you pointing. What with you being invisible and all."
"It's the waitress. Her name is Suzanne."
"And who's the lucky guy?"
"Mike Johnson, in the corner to your right. He's just ordered another beverage. The union of their bloodlines has been prophesied for millennia."
You never would have thought by looking at them. The waitress's got a pinched look around her lips. Her eyes are dark with exhaustion and annoyance, framed by eyebrows the colour of the roots of her once bleach-blonde hair. She's got a nice enough body, sure – maybe her tits are a little bit on the small side and her bum's a bit disproportionate, but she looks like a nice enough girl. Mike, on the other hand, is in his mid-forties, hurtling down the road to baldness and beer bellies with every single shot he pours down his throat. Judging by the line of glasses building on the table in front of him, he doesn't care.
Castiel's clearly got his work cut out for him.
"So what do you want me to do?" he whispers.
"Please observe the following situation."
It seems like the air next to Dean has been sucked away, and Dean knows that Castiel's transported himself somewhere else. It's not hard to guess where he's gone, because Mike starts clambering up from the table and staggers towards the bar and Suzanne.
"Sweetheart," he slurs. "Have we met before?"
Suzanne doesn't seem to be impressed by the supposed love of her life either, because she ignores him entirely in favour of pouring another round of beers.
"I said," Mike says. "Have we met before?"
"Yes, Mike," she replies eventually. "Every single week for the past two years."
"Son of a bitch." Mike sounds impressed. "So why am I only noticing now that fine rack you've got there?"
At this point, Dean drains half his bottle in one go. This is going to end in disaster.
Suzanne shares his opinion. "Piss off," she snaps, and loads her tray with beer.
Mike deflates like a punctured bicycle tyre. He's not an aggressive drunk, because he doesn't make a move to keep her from serving another round of customers. Instead he's looking dejected in the way a guy would look if his favourite football team just lost the Super Bowl.
"Do you see my problem?" Cas' voice to Dean's left reflects his disappointment at his failure.
"I thought they were supposed to fall in love! What the hell, Cas?"
"What am I doing wrong?" The honest confusion in Cas' voice reminds Dean that the only time Cas himself had got up and close with love had been in a brothel, paid for by yours truly.
"He's supposed to woo her! I don't know, roll out the chick flick shit, not use pick-up lines that would fall flat in a porno!"
"But you've used that pick-up line."
"That was different!"
"I do not understand."
There's a glum silence emanating from the vacuum to his left. Okay, this has to be hard on the guy: He's battled Archangels, tried to find God and faced Lucifer himself in the Apocalypse. He's survived to tell the tale, but his professional failure when it comes to making two humans fall into love, or at least into bed together, is absolute. At this very moment, Suzanne is taking off her apron and then picks up her purse and leaves the bar without a second glance at Mike, who's obviously decided to drown his sorrows in another half dozen shot glasses.
"I mean," Dean tries. "What's your problem? You get your assignment, you do your mojo and then the lucky couple falls in love and lives happily ever after."
"It's not that easy. I have to plant love in their hearts. My mojo, as you put it, only helps in inscribing the sigil itself on the heart, but the emotion itself has to come from me. It has to be a reflection of my own feelings."
"Your own feelings are drunken lust followed by a compliment about her rack?"
"Actually, I patterned my approach on your own exploits."
"You seem to be quite successful in your romantic pursuits."
"My romantic pursuits? Cas, I don't want to marry these ladies! That's not love!"
Dean decides that he fails at life.
"You know it's not!"
"No, I don't," Cas states. "My love for my father and brethren does not match any human emotion."
"So what do you want me to do?"
Castiel's answer is perfectly straightforward. Dean's also pretty sure that he's got the song to match on a tape somewhere and vows to salt and burn it at the next opportunity.
"I want to know what love is."
"He wants to know what love is?"
"And he wants you to show him?"
"Shut up, Sammy."
Dean concentrates on his coffee and contemplates drowning himself in it. He doesn't know whether you can, in fact, drown yourself in a cup of coffee. It seems like an undignified way to go, but the alternative would be to carry on living and, yes, show Castiel what love is, in a way that contains neither brothels nor pickup-lines.
Dean's way out of his depth, here.
"I don't know why he didn't ask you," he says. "Because you're totally a hearts and flowers kind of guy, right? I mean, you eat salads."
"Salads aren't automatically the way to a woman's heart," Sam points out.
"That's not the point!"
"Why didn't you say no?"
"Have you tried saying no to Cas? He'd have just given me that tilted head, wounded puppy look!"
"He was invisible at the time."
"So? I would have felt it!"
Sam's starting to eat his pancakes in a superior sort of way, drizzling maple syrup over them and then cutting off precise triangles. He's enjoying this way too much for a guy who's well-versed in romance and tormenting suffering older brothers but who hasn't got laid by a chick who wasn't a werewolf or a demon for half a decade.
"Anyway," Dean says. "You've got to help me out here. Cas says he's coming over tonight."
"You want to sexile me?"
"Well, he said he wants you to show him." Sam waggles his eyebrows in what's probably supposed to be a suggestive way and fails.
"No, dude. I thought I'd rent a chick flick, maybe buy a couple of those magazines, I don't know, Cosmo? Isn't that what women always read when they can't get laid?"
"I don't think that's a good idea, Dean."
"You got any better ones?"
Sam wisely refrains from replying and concentrates on the rest of his breakfast.
"Hey, Cas. Glad to see you, um, made it."
Sam snorts over his laptop and Dean shoots him a look promising certain revenge for his lack of empathy.
Cas is naked, as always, but Dean's staring at a fixed point over the angel's head while he helps himself to the jeans and tee shirt that Dean's laid out for him. There's no way he's watching Love Actually or whatever the fuck it's called with either an invisible angel or a naked dude.
Because that would be awkward.
"So I thought we could start off by watching a movie."
"A movie," Castiel repeats, wrapping his tongue around the word like he's never spoken it before. Come to think of it, he probably hasn't.
"Yeah, you know. It's like a demonstration."
"I know what fornication is, Dean."
"It's not a porn film! Christ!"
"I was merely making an observation based on your usual viewing habits."
"Guy's got you pegged," Sam remarks. "You know, figuratively."
Dean can actually feel himself flushing, all the way up from his chest to his cheeks. There's not enough Nair and superglue in the world, because Dean's revenge? It's going to be epic.
First of all, however, he's got a romantic comedy to watch.
He picked the film because it had 'love' in the title and he figured that he couldn't go too wrong with that, right? Ten minutes into the film and he wants to shoot himself. It's bad enough that he picked a Christmas movie in the middle of July, but the entire film is populated by nerdy British dudes and that actor who got sucked off by a hooker in a car once.
Cas is probably going to think that never ending romance can be achieved by a nice cup of tea and not having sex, ever, after having watched this crap.
Castiel himself doesn't speak once during the entire film, though, not even when Dean starts shifting restlessly on the bed besides him. He could really do with a beer right now, because the chicks in this film aren't even hot and Sam makes little choking noises over in his corner every so often that have nothing to do with whatever he's pretending to read and everything with the varied romantic declarations on screen.
Sam's a dick and Dean needs to get drunk.
He figures it's the sheer shock of being subjected to this shit that makes Dean remain motionlessly in front of the tv while the credits roll. Castiel is equally inanimate, and awkwardness settles over them like a scratchy woolen blanket.
Sam's the one to take mercy, in the end. "So," he says brightly. "That was pretty illuminating, wasn't it?"
"Who is Claudia Schiffer?" Castiel asks.
"German model. Very blonde, very hot. And married."
"But Daniel loved her."
"Not really," Dean hedges. "You know, he just thought she was pretty hot. Which she is."
"So he didn't love her."
"I don't understand." Castiel frowns at the tv screen as if daring it to yield its innermost secrets.
"And the Prime Minister? Why did he think that the size of Natalie's thighs would be relevant to future happiness?"
At this point, Sam starts faking a coughing fit and escapes to the bathroom to find an outlet for his merriment.
Nair and superglue are going to be the least of Sam's worries.
"I really appreciate you doing this for me, Dean."
"Yeah, well, don't mention it. Cases have been pretty sparse lately, 's not like we've got anything else to do."
"Bobby says it's zero."
"That's good to hear."
Castiel doesn't quite smile at Dean, but he does manage a satisfied heat-tilt. It randomly occurs to Dean that he's never heard Cas laugh. He wonders whether it's because Castiel's not actually capable of the particular human emotion of happiness, or whether it's because so far his interactions with the angel have been less than amusing.
"So," Dean says. "I sent out Sammy to get me some magazines today. Maybe you'll learn something from them. Chicks seem to dig them."
"Why did Sam buy them?"
"Because he's a girl."
Castiel reaches out for the magazines on the table before him, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and OK! spread out in all their glory. He gives them a tentative poke like he's not sure they're not going to explode in his face the moment he touches them. Given the facts that Castiel's an angel of the Lord and that Cosmo's cover promises to reveal the secrets to better blowjobs, Dean's not actually sure that they won't.
"What should I do with them?" Castiel asks.
Dean shrugs. "Read them? I don't know, man, apparently these are like manuals to understanding women. I figure if you want to find out how they tick in their love life you could start there."
"Thank you, Dean."
Castiel dutifully opens Cosmopolitan and starts reading with the same focus he usually reserves for making dire announcements about Dean's and/or Sam's imminent death. At first, Dean is just watching him: Castiel is sitting ramrod straight on the chair, hands on the table, eyes on the page in front of him. He doesn't put up his feet on the table like Dean would; he doesn't lean his head on his right hand like Sammy would when he's tired and trying not to be. He doesn't rub his nose, or blink too often, or run his hands through his hair. After a while Dean realises that he's started to fidget himself to make up for Castiel's lack of it.
Maybe he should have joined Sammy in hustling some pool, because those mags sure were expensive.
"There's a quiz here. It might be relevant."
"What's it say?"
"'Are you in love or forcing it?," Castiel reads out loud.
Dean's revulsion at those words manifests him choking on his own spit, which promptly proceeds into a coughing fit.
"Okay," he wheezes eventually. "So are you going to take that quiz, or what?"
"I don't know. I thought maybe you would be able to answer those questions."
"But I'm not in love!"
"Well, you may be forcing it, then."
Castiel's is taking this far too literally, clearly. Then again, Dean's promised to help the dude out, and he's not one to renege on his word.
"Hit me with it, then."
If Castiel wore glasses, he'd be pushing them up his nose right now as he frowns at the page in front of him and starts to read.
"What bums you out more: being alone or dating a guy you don't totally click with? a) Being alone. b) Dating the dude."
Well, this is easy enough, since Dean's never met a girl who he's totally clicked with. Also, he doesn't date, but still – if you equate 'date' with 'getting laid', it comes out all the same.
"Date the dude," he answers automatically, and then amends, "Or, you know, sleep with the chick. Whatever."
"When people say, "Hey, how's Prince Charming doing?", you a) Blush and get the warm fuzzies. b) Switch to a different topic."
"Aw, come on! Blush and get the warm fuzzies?"
"I don't know what fuzzies are," Castiel says.
"Better keep it that way. And, yeah, b), I guess."
And then the quiz goes on. And on. Dean finds himself hypothesising about entirely unlikely scenarios, such as whether he'd brag about his potential Mr Perfect at cocktail parties – yeah, right – and part of him starts to suspect that Castiel has been sneaky and developed a sense of humour in his spare time and is actually enjoying tormenting Dean to within an inch of his non-existent love life.
Castiel spends an extraordinary amount of time tallying up the results, only to conclude that, "Cosmopolitan tells me that you, baby, have something more precious than diamonds: totally legit love."
"That's what the magazine says," Castiel confirms. "Who were you thinking about when you took this quiz?"
"No-one! It was just a quiz! Also, we're never talking about this again."
"If that's what you want, though I see no shame in being in love."
"Well, I'm not. You're also forgetting that the point of this little exercise was to let you have a feeling for how chicks feel about being in love. You know, so you can do your job and not get kicked out of Heaven. Again."
"I regret to say that my observations are inconclusive. Women seem to be interested in the private affairs of other people called celebs, how to lose weight and wearing clothing generally considered fashionable. Finding love is regarded as being somewhat competitive and depending on the shade of your lipstick or the length of your hair."
"There you go," Dean says.
"But what is love?" Castiel asks, and they're back to square one.
Two weeks into Castiel's internship as a Cherub he's still naked and a failure.
The nakedness has stopped surprising Dean and Sam at some point, even though it becomes a tad awkward when Castiel materialises in the Impala just as they're being overtaken by a police car. This they can deal with.
On the other hand, so far Castiel has failed abysmally at making anyone fall in love, and this includes the predestined couple hailed as the new Romeo and Juliet in angelic circles. He's been a bit tight-lipped about the whole affair, but apparently it ended in Juliet throwing herself at Romeo and declaring him to be her 'new man' and asking whether he wanted to be exclusive as a sign of their burgeoning relationship.
It has to be noted that the duration of their acquaintance at this point had amounted to a total of 30 seconds.
According to Castiel, Romeo had politely but firmly declined the lady's advances and swiftly left the premises via a convenient bathroom window, never to be heard from again.
Sam imposes a complete stop on the watching of romantic comedies and the reading of Cosmopolitan, and while Castiel looks a bit put out at not getting to watch the second part of Legally Blonde, he understands that now's the time to bring out the big guns.
Which is the reason they're going to Bobby's.
"So let me get this straight," Bobby says, once he's poured himself a generous glass of whiskey. "Castiel's a Cupid and can't do his job because he doesn't know what love is?"
"Yeah. Basically. I mean, in a nutshell."
"Well, no offence, but what do you want me to do about it?"
Sam is strangely hesitant to put forward their plan now that they're actually here. It may have something to do with the fact that Bobby once threatened their dad with a shotgun and has an impressive amount of weaponry stored in strategic locations around the house.
"We thought that maybe you could... tell him?"
Sam's voice absolutely did not skip just there. It didn't.
"Tell him what?"
"You know." Dean uses the same smile that's shown some success with old ladies he wanted to convince that he wasn't about to rob their house, thank you very much.
"Spit it out, boy!"
"We want you to tell Cas about love, okay?"
When Bobby doesn't answer right away, Dean seriously considers making a run for it. Wheelchair or no, Bobby is still one scary son of a bitch, and Sam's started to look longingly at the door, too.
"And would there be a reason why you two boys are incapable of doing the job?"
"It's not like we haven't tried!" Dean says.
"Making him watch porn isn't trying."
"I was going to save that one for last," Dean admits. "But we figured, you've actually been married, so you're way ahead of us in the experience department. And honestly, at this point Cas needs all the help he can get."
"Why is this so important to you?" Bobby asks and judging by the gleam in his eye Dean thinks that he might be asking about something else entirely.
"He asked me to help him," he answers. "It would suck for the guy to survive Lucifer trying to rip his wings off only to be thrown out of Heaven because he didn't pay attention in Human Emotion 101 way back in angel school, right?"
"Right," Bobby agrees. "And the fact that you and Sam are emotionally stunted has nothing to do with it."
"Not at all," Dean says, kicking Sam's shin when he sees his brother's chest puff up in protest. "But it would be good if he got as many angles on this as possible."
Bobby looks down at his glass of whiskey before picking it up and downing it in one go. He grimaces, shrugs.
"What the hell," he says. "This is about as interesting as my days get nowadays, anyway."
"Do you really think this was a good idea?" Sam asks Dean later, when they're both outside, killing time while Castiel is conducting is interview with Bobby.
The air around them is fluttering with heat and the distant horizon melts over seamlessly into the sky. Dean's found a couple of old cans and set them up on one of the fences, and now they're both teenagers again, shooting shit off a fence just because they can and call it 'practice'. It's been years since they did this, just the two of them. The passing of time is marked by the fact that neither of them misses a shot, because they've learnt that they can't afford to do so.
Dean takes aim, feeling himself become calm in the way he always does when he's actually concentrating on shooting. There's one target left, a dented can of Diet Coke. He hits it square in its middle, sending it flying off the fence. It lands in a small cloud of dust a couple of feet away and Dean raises his arms in victory.
He sits down next to Sammy in the shadow of a car wreck and takes a swig of the beer they brought out with them.
"I don't know, man," he says eventually. "I figure it can't hurt."
"What do you think will happen to Cas if he doesn't figure it out?"
"He will," Dean says, repeats, "He will, Sammy. Else I'll kick his ass."
Sam steals Dean's bottle of beer and finishes it off. Dean would protest, but the heat's made him lazy and he's too comfortable to start a scuffle that would end with him getting dust in interesting places.
"It's not something you can just beat into the guy, you know," he says.
"So? He just needs a little jump-start in emotions, that's all. I mean, come on, you can't say that Cas is emo-ing out all over the place at the best of times. And you've heard him, apparently he doesn't love his brothers 'like that', which isn't exactly surprising given that most of his brothers are dicks and have tried to kill us. Bobby'll talk to him, give him something to think about."
While Dean's theory is beautiful, it's also sadly flawed: An hour later, Castiel emerges from the house wearing a pair of Bobby's pants, a faded lumberjack shirt and, oddly enough, a baseball cap. He informs them that while Bobby found their talk enlightening and has finally faced his wife's death, his emotional catharsis subsequently necessitated the liberal application of alcohol. Before passing out, Bobby told Castiel to tell Dean and Sam that they better get off the premises fast if they don't want to get shot at the nearest available opportunity.
Dean and Sam both love Bobby like a father, but in this instance they both feel that a strategic retreat is the appropriate course of action.
"You think you got the hang of it now?" Sam asks Cas later. "Did talking to Bobby help?"
"It was a beneficial experience for Bobby," Castiel replies. "He needed to confront his issues surrounding the loss of his love."
Castiel pops in three days later to inform them that his latest assignment consisted of a couple who'd burst into tears as soon as they'd met each other, because the thought of an eventual separation had simply been too much on them. To keep himself from the inevitable pain, the young man promptly joined a monastery, following the theory that you can't lose what you haven't got in the first place. The woman, on the other hand, has started to write poetry.
Cas even brings along some samples.
This has all been a terrible mistake.
Three weeks down, one week to go.
Castiel's taken to stopping by every second day or so, to keep them updated on his assignments and to generally look like a lost puppy.
It's not like Dean and Sam don't feel sorry for the guy, because they do, but nothing they've tried so far seems to stick. In an act of desperation, Sam goes online, because if Wikipedia can't fix it, nothing can. What Castiel learns from this is that love is unusually difficult to constantly define, even compared to other emotional states and that paraphilia is the sexual passion towards objects.
In the meantime, Sam's finally found them a case after a couple of weeks of them flopping around all over the US map. It's just a ghost, and Dean is amazed at the sheer mundaneness of the case ("Any weird noises? Flickering lights maybe?" - "Oh my God, how did you know?") except for the part where the jilted ex-husband used to be built like a brick shithouse and not even death and translucence keep him from slamming Sam right through a door, knocking him out cold.
After salting and burning the fucker, Dean drags Sammy to the Impala and drives them to their motel. Sam starts coming around just as Dean has finished dragging his dead weight onto the bed. Of course.
"Hey," Sam's voice is rough. "What happened?"
"Old Mr Burns didn't take kindly to you ogling his woman, dude."
"Is she all right?"
Never mind the fact that Sammy's probably got a concussion and splinters in interesting places, he's got to ask about the girl first.
"Sure," Dean says. "Bit shaken up that her psycho ex-husband actually meant it when he said that death wouldn't do them apart, but apart from that she's just peachy. Unlike you."
"Man, I feel like I got run over by a truck."
"I don't think so."
"Let's get you cleaned up, then."
"Am I interrupting something?" Castiel asks as soon as he's popped into existence in front of the TV. As always, his fingers twitch with the instinctual need to give them both a proper greeting, but he's learned by now that neither Sam nor Dean appreciate a full-on body tackle.
Normally Dean would make a show of clapping his hands in front of his eyes and demand that Castiel put on some clothes. Today, he simply raises his hand in greeting and then goes back to picking splinters out of Sam's hands, and, in one nasty case, his right cheek. Boy's lucky he didn't lose an eye, what with the way that wooden door splintered.
"Hey, Cas," Sam says, eyes half-shut and leaning back on the bed.
"Just a hunt. Ghost. Didn't want to go – ouch!"
"Keep still," Dean says. "And stop talking, Sammy. Wouldn't want to scar that pretty face of yours, huh?"
Dean carefully pulls out the splinter with some tweezers and then disinfects the wound. He'd been joking about Sam's pretty face – because his brother's face is stupid, everyone knows that – but he wouldn't want the cut to get infected either, because then Sam would actually have a valid reason to bitch and moan, and that would suck balls.
Next are Sammy's hands. Considering they're the size of shovels, it takes a good while before he's done cleaning them up. Giving Sam a final slap on the shoulder, he goes over to the counter and pours two drinks.
"You want one, Cas?" he asks.
"No, thank you," the angel replies, still standing in front of the tv and looking like he's waiting for orders.
"More for me, then." Dean downs both shots in one go, causing Sam to protest, "Hey!"
"No alcohol for you, Sammy," Dean says. "I don't think you've got a concussion, but we wouldn't want to try your luck. Really, it's for your best."
He grins, pours himself another shot and drinks it under his brother's glare.
"Thanks for patching me up, man," Sam says, leaning back on the bed and closing his eyes. "I think I'm just going to sleep now."
He proceeds to do just that, despite the fact the he's still wearing his jacket and boots. Dean takes off his boots for him, and because he's in a magnanimous mood, he also takes the blanket off his own bed and covers Sammy with it. It wouldn't do for him to catch a cold, after all.
"Have a seat, dude" he says to Castiel.
"I should probably go," Castiel says. "My superior is demanding to speak to me."
"You're not in trouble?" Dean asks, slightly alarmed. His sample of Castiel's superiors consists of a total of one. Still, Zacariah's a grade A dick, and if the guy in charge of Cas' 'internship' is anything like him, he's going to find new and interesting ways to punish Castiel for trying to meet expectations and failing.
"I don't believe so, no," Castiel says and Dean releases a breath he didn't realise he was holding. "I came to you tonight because I had a question."
"And? What is it?"
"Never mind." Cas' eyes sort of crinkle around the corner, as if he were trying to smile but isn't quite sure how to go about it. "You've just answered it."
But Castiel's gone, and Dean's left with a sleeping baby brother and half a bottle of Jim Beam. He's also pretty sure that there's an all-new episode of Dr. Sexy M.D. ontonight.
He's had worse nights, to be sure.
"So I've made a reservation," says Sam one morning in Manhattan.
"Wha'?" Dean mumbles around his tooth brush.
"A reservation," Sam repeats. "For a restaurant, tonight, 8 pm."
Dean rinses, spits, and stares at Sam in the bathroom mirror. His brother is standing right behind him, preparing to shave, and Dean remembers when he taught him how to do that and Sam had to stick little wads of toilet paper all over his face if he didn't want to bleed to death.
"It's for you and Cas," Sam clarifies. "Apparently this place is like the romantic hotspot in the West Village right now. You're never going to find more happy couples in one place than this one. I just thought that Castiel could give it one last shot before his internship is over, you know?"
"So let me get this straight," Dean says slowly. "You've booked a table in a snobby restaurant full of couples and you want Cas and me to go there? Like, what, as a couple?"
"No! But he can't go by himself, that'd be weird."
"He could just be angelically invisible and avoid all the awkwardness of, you know, not actually eating. Or drinking."
"So you don't want to go?"
"This doesn't have anything to do with the fact that that chick at the museum batted her pretty eyelashes at you, didn't it?"
"She give you her number?"
"Yes," Sam admits. "She did, okay? We've got a date tonight."
"So you want to spread the love? I'm not going on a double date if that's what you're aiming for."
"As if I'd want you there anyway, you'd probably scare her off!"
"Damn right I would, if she's not hot. Only the best for my Sammy."
"Yeah, thanks," Sam says before shooing Dean out of the bathroom so he can follow his shaving ritual in peace, slamming the door shut.
Dean smiles to himself for a moment – his geek brother's got a date – before turning around and hammering on the door, yelling, "Bitch!"
He's got an image to uphold, after all.
Dean realises that trying to uphold his image is going to be a moot point after this evening, because his amount of stupidity is truly epic when it comes to Castiel. This is why he's currently sitting in an uncomfortable suit in an uncomfortable chair in an uncomfortable silence with Castiel looking at him over the table. Castiel's wearing one of Dean's suits – it's slightly too long and slightly too wide, but the light's dim in this place anyway, and it's not like Dean cares, right? They're just lucky they're in Manhattan and not Tennessee or wherever, because the maitre d' had taken one look at them, seen Cas' wide-eyed stare and Dean's awkward smile, immediately pegged them as being on their first date and had two flutes of complimentary champagne brought to their table.
This place has complimentary champagne and a menu that's written in French. Suddenly Dean is very glad that he's nicked Sam's credit card to pay for this little foray into civilisation.
Also, Sam better get laid tonight if he's already banned his brother by sending him on a fake date with a temporary Cupid.
"This wasn't necessary, Dean," Cas says eventually, when Dean's done with squinting at the wine list and wondering whether he'd ruin the mood by ordering a beer.
"Sure it was," Dean says. "Look around you, this place is full of couples. According to Sam, it's romance central right now, which is just what you need, right?"
"Sam knows about this?"
"Dude, Sam booked the table. Of course, he's busy himself tonight, so he probably didn't want me to get bored."
"Sam takes good care of you," Castiel says. "And you of him."
"He's my brother," is all Dean says and really, that's enough. There's nothing in the world that could be more than this; nothing Sam or anyone else could say or do that would make these words untrue. They're everything.
The waiter comes over to take their order and before Dean can say anything, Castiel looks up and smiles at the man. "I'll have some water, please, and he'll take a beer."
"Beer?" Dean asks as soon as the waiter's left. "Did you read my mind?"
"I estimated this to be your most likely choice."
"So what do you think I'm going to order?"
"Steak," Castiel replies immediately. "Considering the fact that you are fond of red meat and the menu doesn't seem to indicate that burgers are available, you're going to order a medium rare steak."
"Damn, you're good," Dean says. "Let me guess, you're going to order... nothing?"
"I'll have whatever you're having," Cas says and smiles again.
When did Cas go from eye-crinkling to full-blown smiles? Also, why is he smiling at all? Seriously, he's got one more day to make someone, anyone, fall in love, and based on his track record his chances don't look too good.
Then again, Dean's happy if Castiel's happy. He tells himself to stop worrying about this stuff and just enjoy the meal, because this'll come as close to home-cooked food as he's ever going to get, even if it's going to be French and kind of gay.
Castiel's only picking on his food, taking a bite here and there, which makes sense considering he doesn't actually need to eat anything at all. He's got plenty of opportunity to observe all the other couples in the restaurant – and there really are a lot of them. There's the couple at the very next table, where she's twisting strands of her hair and nearly knocking over her glass of wine causing him to grasp her right hand and squeeze it. If Dean were one to appreciate sweet moments he'd sure appreciate this one, but as it is he just hopes that Castiel's watching them as well and filing the scene away for future reference.
Alternatively, there's the two women a couple of tables over. Their faces are illuminated by a single candle and they're eating their food without really seeing it because they're too busy staring at each other. The kind of places Dean usually frequents don't really encourage lesbians to be out and proud, not if they don't want a dozen 'invitations' for a threesome, but here these two blend in just as much as Dean and Castiel do. One of them resembles Cassie a bit, the way she wears her hair, and Dean wonders how she's doing right now.
He hasn't thought of Cassie for a very long time.
"So, what are you going to do after this is over?" Dean asks.
"You playing at being Cupid," he clarifies.
"I don't know," Castiel admits. "Zachariah has been rather close-mouthed about my next assignment."
"Is it going to be on Earth? Or are you just going to be zipped back up to Heaven?"
"Angels have started walking the Earth again, Dean," Castiel says. "This era is... relevant. That's not going to stop in your lifetime."
"Notice that you didn't actually answer my question."
"Because I don't know the answer. What are you going to do now? Azazel is vanquished, and so is Lucifer. Your mission is accomplished."
"Hell if I know." Dean shrugs, takes another bite of his really excellent steak. "What we do, it's the family business. I never figured I'd do anything else."
"Sam's going to end up married and with 2.4 kids one day."
This is the one certainty Dean's kept throughout all these years, that had formed at the back of his mind way back before Sam even applied to Stanford. Hunting was never a way of life to Sam, it was just a way to reach his goal. Now that they've both come out unscathed at the end, there's nothing driving Sammy forward anymore: Not the search for dad, no thirst for revenge, no frantic search to save Dean from a trip to hell. Oh, Dean's sure that they're going to keep doing their gig for a while, but in the end Sammy's going to settle down with a nice girl and an iron-clad fake identity and enjoy the life of the average American male.
Surprisingly enough, Dean finds that he's all right with that, which is why he wishes Sam nothing but the best of luck for his date tonight.
"Dean," Castiel says. "I want to thank you for your help. I know that my request was unorthodox and I appreciate your assistance in this matter."
"Anytime. You know that."
"I do know that." Cas smiles again, and Dean's slowly getting freaked out here. If he didn't know any better, he'd say that Cas has got really good at pretending to be human. This wouldn't normally be a bad thing, but displaying too many human emotions is counterproductive for an angel, and he doesn't want Cas to get dragged off to Heaven again for a little reprogramming.
"I have one last assignment. Would you like to accompany me?" Castiel asks. He takes his napkin off his lap and refolds it neatly, putting it next to his nearly full plate.
Dean wonders when he's had the time to learn about napkin etiquette, but then Cas is reaching out his hand to him and of course he takes it. They rematerialise in the run-down bar they'd originally started out in, somewhere in the middle of nowhere late at night, with Castiel sitting beside him on a bar stool like he belongs there. Dean kind of feels sorry for the guys at the restaurant because they didn't deserve their angelic dine-and-dash. Maybe they'll call Sam, because he left his number to make the reservation, to bother him about the unpaid bill. He just hopes it won't kill his chances of getting lucky tonight.
Suzanne is working behind the bar, drying off glasses. He also spots Mike, sitting in the same corner he sat last time.
It's all a bit exactly like last time, except now Castiel is sitting next to him, observing both Suzanne and Mike carefully before turning to Dean.
"My superiors have given me one more chance," he says. "When I explained my predicament to them, they were quite understanding."
"Yeah, but how are you going to do it?" Dean asks. "Not that I'm not rooting for you, because I am, but so far there's been zip from your side on the romantic front."
"I have learned my lesson," Castiel says. "I understand, now."
"How?" Dean starts to asks, but at that very moment Cas blinks out of existence and a gust of wind touches Dean. It's a casual caress, enveloping his hand and then his cheek. He shivers as it tickles up from his neck to his ear, lingering there for just a moment before moving on across the room and towards Mike and then Suzanne.
Suzanne nearly drops the glass she's holding; Mike topples over his chair in his haste to stand up.
Obviously Dean's heard about the phrase 'they only had eyes for each other' before, but he's never seen it being demonstrated live and in action. Suzanne opens her arms just as Mike rushes into them; they're clutching at each other like their lives depend on it. It's like one of those hugs Dean's had to watch a dozen times in all those chick flicks with Castiel over the last couple of weeks, only this time it's not followed by the swelling of cheesy music and a fade-out. No, here Mike leans his forehead against Suzanne's and whispers something too low for Dean to hear, making her laugh. She buries her head against his chest, and tucks her hands in the back pockets of his jeans, seemingly content to sway gently to non-existent music with Mike holding her tightly.
Really, if Dean were a sentimental guy at all, he'd be a little touched right now.
"So?" Castiel asks. He's back on his bar stool, studying the happy couple a few feet away.
"I didn't think you had it in you," Dean admits.
"Maybe I had a good teacher."
"Yeah." Dean smiles, seeing Mike and Suzanne kiss. "Maybe you did."
"I wanna feel what love is!"
"I know you can shoooo-ooow me!"
After a day of being slowly driven insane by a brother who would not stop singing that song even under threat of death and dismemberment, there's nothing better than a cold beer.
Sadly they blew into town way after its total of one store had already closed for the night, and so Dean has to settle for a soda from the motel machine instead. He's debating the merits of 7Up versus Sprite when the lights start flickering and a gust of wind grazes his cheek.
"Cas," he acknowledges the angel, settling on Sprite because it all tastes the same anyway. He points to the machine.
"No, thank you," Castiel declines.
"They gave you your clothes back?"
Castiel looks down at himself, at his crumpled trench coat and the tie that's been askew for the last two years.
"They did," he says. "My internship has concluded successfully. I've been placed elsewhere now."
"You would call it being a guardian angel," Cas says.
"So you're going to perch on someone's shoulder?" Dean asks. "Seriously?"
"I will keep them from being harmed, yes. Specifically, you and Sam."
"You are my assignment, Dean."
At those words, Dean feels something like happiness bubble up in his stomach.
"So you're going to stick around?"
"If you don't mind."
"Nah," Dean says. "I don't mind."
Cas smiles and honestly, dude looks good like that, like a weight's been taken off his shoulders.
"I have to go now," he says. "But I'll be back soon."
"Hey, Cas? How did you – I mean, what made you get it in the end? You know, the whole love thing?"
Castiel takes a step towards Dean, like when he was a Cupid and could barely keep himself from hugging Dean and Sam in greeting. Normally Dean would embark on a strategic retreat because he's really not the hugging type. This time, though, he just... stays.
However, Castiel makes no move to hug him. He studies Dean for a moment, his gaze lingering on him until Dean's tempted to crack a joke or something. Before he can pull away, Castiel's raised a hand and put it against his cheek, stroking across Dean's cheek bone with his thumb.
"You did," he says softly before breathing a kiss against his mouth.
Dean stands in front of the motel for a long time after Castiel's gone, still holding his unopened soda. He knows that Sam is waiting for him inside so they can try and get dinner, or maybe just watch some TV before going back on the road tomorrow.
Cas is going to be back tomorrow.
Smiling, Dean cracks open his can of Sprite and drinks.