When Colin calls Lawrence's cell, he is relieved. Work is good, the condolences are comforting, but Lawrence wants to do something to help. Anything to stop this evil from happening again to someone else, to stop another collection of loved ones from being left behind and at a loss. He agrees to come to the church immediately and after a quick explanation to Betsy, sets off.
He's glad the FBI has become involved with the case. Lawrence doesn't know much about federal procedure, but he assumes the FBI has better technology and more highly trained personnel. It's no slight to Norfolk's homicide investigation, but it's not exactly a common crime around these parts, thank God. Surely, the FBI can ferret out more details than the local police. The thought quickens Lawrence's steps and within moments, he's striding between rows of pews towards Father Dean's office. He hears Father Dean's voice.
"Here he comes."
Nothing that happens after Lawrence steps through the door is what he ever expected.
There are two FBI agents waiting with Father Dean and Colin. One is quite tall with wavy brown hair and a wide pointed nose. He is the one that Lawrence sees first, but his attention is snatched away almost immediately by the other. A wave of strange strong emotion ripples through both men, causing the shorter man to physically support himself against Father Dean's bookshelf. The tall man says something that Lawrence only distantly hears through a buzz in his ears.
His eyes lock onto the other man. There is a long uneven scar cut into the man's face. Lawrence feels inexplicable grief for it, for the pain it must have caused him, but the emotion is overwhelmed almost immediately by the shocking and painful longing burning in the other man's bright green eyes. No one's ever looked at Lawrence that way. In fact, Lawrence has never seen that look on anyone's face before, even when he sometimes accidentally steals a peek at the tender glances exchanged between lovers. He wonders if this is how people look at each other in total privacy, in their bedrooms as they run their hands over each other and talk to each other of love and desire.
The man's mouth, his full lips that remind Lawrence of Betsy, move once soundlessly. Then Lawrence hears the man's voice and it breaks his heart.
The word is nonsense, means nothing, but the wrecked whisper draws pinpricks of heat from Lawrence's skin. This is what Lawrence has been looking for ever since he stumbled into St. Paul's four years ago, confused and lost. This recognition, this promise of a shared history glowing in the man's now shining eyes.
"Do you know me?" he asks eagerly.
He is surprised by the torrent of hurt that cascades across the man's expression.
"It's me, Cas," he says desperately. "Don't you...don't you remember me? Remember us?" he asks, patting his own chest once, then gestures to the other man. "Please, Cas, you gotta remember." If Lawrence thought the man sounded wrecked before, it's nothing compared to the anguish he hears now. Time stretches thin for a moment, allowing Lawrence to realize how it must have been for this man and his friend if Lawrence is important to them. Years of separation and not knowing. The torment of suspended grief, unable to find closure one way or another. Lawrence feels a strong jolt of guilt and blanches. Somehow, this man makes everything inside Lawrence seem like so much more.
"I'm sorry," he says, words strangled. "I don't...I never could," he swallows. "I could only remember Lawrence."
"Yes, Lawrence," the man says and he takes a step closer, a fire building in his eyes. "It's where we're from, Cas. Me and Sam. We're from Lawrence, Kansas and you remember it because you know everything about me. Everything," he stresses and his presence is commanding, so intense that Lawrence feels his knees grow weak, feels himself leaning towards the man without conscious thought.
"Sam?" Father Dean interrupts. Lawrence can hear the frown in it. "I thought his name was George?"
The green eyed man ignores him and so does Lawrence. There is little he can focus on besides the man's powerful gaze. The longing Lawrence sees deepens, firms into determination. There are other things in those eyes, things that scare and attract Lawrence and he feels something slide under his skin, a flash of energy that he doesn't understand.
"No, this is bullshit," the man spits and to Lawrence's great surprise, he tears off his jacket. Colin stands, alarmed, but the other agent, Sam, holds out an arm.
"Please, just let him," he says.
Lawrence watches in amazement as the man rips off his white button down shirt, almost popping the buttons off in his haste and drags his tie off over his head. Underneath the button-down is a white t-shirt. The man peels up one sleeve and Lawrence is shocked to see thick red scars in the shape of a hand burned into the man's pale freckled skin. He grabs Lawrence's hand and presses it over the scars.
It's a perfect fit.
"Your name is Castiel," he says, low and intimate. "You gripped me tight, remember? You saved me. You put me back together."
Castiel. Lawrence rolls the name around in his mind, stroking and prodding it, trying to spark recognition, but there is none. He stares at the man's shoulder, at his fingers pale white against pink. It's not possible. There are no complimentary scars on Lawrence's palm, no way his delicate human flesh could survive the kind of heat that had seared these scars into the agent's shoulder without evidence. It doesn't make sense.
"I don't understand," he confesses weakly. He hates saying it. The last thing he wants is to disappoint this man and he doesn't even know why. Just that somehow, in his past, Lawrence has earned the emotions gleaming in the agent's eyes and he doesn't want to lose them before he knows exactly what they are. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"No," the man says and he covers Lawrence's hand with his own. "This isn't your fault, Cas, ok? This is on them. Those dicks did this to you."
From anyone else, it would have been raving, gibberish worthy of a mental patient, but Lawrence only nods and feels the knot he's been carrying for years loosen in his chest. It's ok. They've finally come for him and he can relax.
"Ok," he says. "Please, what's your name?"
Pain flashes in the man's eyes and Lawrence thinks he's beginning to understand that he is hurting for Lawrence more than because of him. Maybe he doesn't blame Lawrence for not trying harder to find him.
Despite himself, Lawrence laughs, a puff of surprised amusement that brings a strange amazed light into Dean's eyes. It's just the irony in the midst of this tangle of bizarre events that Lawrence should be again saved by a man called Dean.
"Now, this is too much." Father Dean refuses to be held back by Sam's long arms and shoves around Colin, pushing into Dean's personal space. "If you're not who you said you were, then just who are you? And please, give me one good reason why I shouldn't call the police on you right now. Impersonating an FBI agent must break dozens of laws."
His words are unquestionably angry, but like always, he sounds calm and in control. He sounds like the sure and confident man that Lawrence trusted with his life and well-being.
"I have a great reason, but I'm not sure you'd believe me," Dean says. His fingers release Lawrence's, leaving him feeling bereft as his own hand slips down Dean's arm. The warm skin makes Lawrence think of summer and sitting under the great oak tree on the outskirts of town on lazy church picnics. Lawrence wants to get closer, to soak up the heat.
"I'm afraid that's not good enough," Father Dean says and Lawrence hears him pick up the phone. Panic pulses in his chest. The police will come and take Dean away. Lawrence will lose him. Again. He can't be alone again. Not after so long.
"No," Lawrence commands, startled by his own intensity. "Don't."
"Lawrence?" Colin's voice. Concerned and perhaps a little scared. He's not used to Lawrence causing a fuss or demanding something for himself. It's not his way, but in this Lawrence will not stand down.
"These men know me," Lawrence says. Hope flickers in Dean's eyes and Lawrence wishes he had more to offer him than this. "If you were desperate to find a loved one, would you not do anything to find them?" With reluctance, Lawrence lets Dean's gaze go and turns to look at the Father. His deep brown eyes are pitying. "Even if it means breaking laws?"
"Is that true?" Father Dean addresses both men. "Were you searching for Lawrence?"
"Yes," Dean says immediately, with deep and true conviction. "I can guarantee you that I've never stopped looking for Cas since the day he...the day I last saw him."
The other man, Sam, watches Dean with tremendous sadness and he nods. "Not once," he murmurs, memories Lawrence can't imagine casting shadows in his eyes.
"It's why we were asking all those questions," Dean continues. A new side of him appears to Lawrence as a grin grows at the corner of his mouth and a smug sparkle lights in those green eyes. "You see, Cas here, he's a pretty big deal. If the wrong people knew he was here, there'd be trouble. We can't take any chances."
This is surprising news to Lawrence. "Am I really important?"
"More than you know, buddy," Dean says. And then he winks. A short flutter of his eyelid that spills a torrent of hot shivers from his head down to his belly and out through his limbs. This man does such strange things to Lawrence's body.
"That's kinda hard to believe," Colin says, troubled.
Dean shrugs. "Lot of things are hard to believe. Doesn't mean they aren't true."
"Yes, I agree," Lawrence says. He steps around Dean, in front of him to face his two friends. "Thank you for your concern. But if I'm ever to find out who I am, I need to speak with these gentlemen. Please trust me." Perhaps it is low to use their friendship to draw promises from Colin and Father Dean, but Lawrence senses this is the most important decision of his life without memory. He locks eyes with Father Dean, sees the short struggle, then the eventual acceptance.
"Be careful," he pleads. Then he shakes his cell phone at Lawrence. "Call me every few hours."
Lawrence digs out his own cell and holds it up. "I promise."
Behind him, Dean snorts with laughter. "You join the 21st century, Cas?"
More clues, stacking up. Lawrence turns a shy smile on Dean. He is more than ready to learn about himself. Dean's own smile fades slowly as his eyes catch on Lawrence's mouth and become dark with some emotion Lawrence simply can't identify. "Dean?"
"I just..." His voice lowers into a ragged sigh. "I just missed you."
"I'm sorry." I missed you too. Lawrence doesn't say it, but it's true because for the first time in four years, he feels, really feels and it's like waking up after a very long slumber. "I'm glad you found me," he offers instead because he doesn't know how to explain the way he feels inside.
Dean's hand curls around his wrist. "Come on. Let's go and find your memory."
Somehow, Lawrence doesn't think it'll be that easy, but he could almost believe that this man will fix him through the strength of his will alone. So he lets himself be pulled and he lets himself hope.
Dean didn't think it was possible to be both elated and pissed at the same time. Like beyond rapturous side by side with livid. But all he has to do is look at Castiel again and he knows it's more than possible. It's exactly how he feels.
The important part is that it's Castiel. His Cas. In the flesh and blessedly not dead. The same big blue eyes and messy bedroom hair. The same pointed nose and five o'clock shadow. He's even sort of wearing the same thing, though without the trench coat. A white button down shirt tucked into black pants. Probably a work uniform and that's part of where 'livid' starts.
How could Cas not know what he was? How could an angel forget? Dean begins to wonder if he's even still an angel. Surely, an angel wouldn't need to eat or sleep and Cas would have noticed if he didn't do those things for years. Those archangels did a number on Cas and then dropped him in the middle of nowhere, scared and alone and without Dean to take care of him. Dean can hardly abide thinking about it because hot anger bursts in his chest every time and makes him feel sick with it.
He always imagined if he ever found Castiel again that he wouldn't let anything stop him from touching him. Maybe he didn't realize this at first, but as time went by and Dean really understood what he lost, he thought if he saw Castiel again, he'd want to pull the angel into his arms and hold him as long as Cas allowed it. But this man, this Lawrence, doesn't know Dean. Not really. Dean can see that Cas recognizes something in him, if not his identity, some long forgotten emotion. But it's not the same as having Cas back. The old snarky demanding Cas that gave up everything for Dean and then disappeared without letting Dean do the same in return.
"Do I have a family?"
They make it outside the church in a silence filled with furtive glances before Cas finally speaks. Dean looks at Sam. Sam shrugs. Neither are certain what they should tell Cas. Dean's worried that if he tells Cas the whole truth, it'll screw with his mind. Or make him run screaming in the other direction.
So he settles for partial truth until they can get somewhere private and get hold of someone who knows what the hell is going on.
"You have a Father," Dean says.
Cas gives him an odd look, like he knows what Dean means, but he doesn't press the issue. "Where are we going?"
"Back to our hotel so we can talk more." At that, Cas falls silent again. When they get to the Impala, he peers at it for a long moment, long enough that Dean feels hope of recognition glimmer. Though he'll be pretty annoyed if Cas remembers the car and not him, as much as he loves his baby. But Cas eventually opens the back door without comment and slides into the seat.
At the motel, Dean leads them without thought to his own room. Sam veers off with an excuse that he needs to grab something from his room, but Dean gets the impression he is trying to give him a moment alone with Castiel. The thought of which he appreciates, but which also freaks him right the hell out. Especially when he opens the door and gestures Cas inside. He remembers all those stupid Castiel stand-ins he invited back to his room and fucked like some pathetic loser.
And now he has the real thing and Dean doesn't know what to do with him.
"Um, you thirsty?" He asks, more to have something to do than out of true concern.
Cas shakes his head. "No, thank you."
They stand in awkward silence, facing each other and the two feet between them feel like two hundred. Not that Dean doesn't enjoy watching Cas because honestly, he could look at the man for the rest of his life and never get tired of it, but he hates the unease between them. So he is both relieved and surprised when Castiel suddenly surges forward, closing the space between them down to less than six inches.
"What was the exact nature of our relationship?"
The last time Castiel was this close to Dean, he slammed Dean against a wall. Dean's skin tingles in memory and a strange anticipation, as if he's somehow trained himself to watch for unexpected and delicious violence from Cas. "We're friends," he croaks.
"But it's more than that," Castiel insists. He presses his hand against the mark on Dean's shoulder. "This forged a bond between us, didn't it? There's always a special bond when someone saves another. I feel the same way about Father Dean."
Dean frowns and tries not to let the extremely petty jealousy he feels over that statement say something rash. Something like, Fuck that other Dean. You're my angel. Instead, he takes a deep breath and leans into Castiel's hand. "Yeah, Cas. There's a bond. You saved my life more than once."
"Is your life so dangerous?" His eyes are on his hand, on Dean's shoulder and they are wide with fascinated wonder. "Am I that brave?"
"Yes," Dean answers with a tiny puff of laughter. "Yes to both. In fact, I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to forget again once you remember."
"No." With a final squeeze, Castiel lets go. Dean misses him fiercely. "You don't know what it's like to forget like this. It's very lonely."
Dean's heart twists in his chest and against his better judgment, he tugs Cas forward, gentle enough that Cas could escape, but without leaving any doubt of his intention. Cas allows himself to be tugged and their chests hit each other. Cas smells strongly of something sweet, some kind of pastry and Dean grins into his hair. He's got his angel back and he smells like pie. Strong arms wrap around Dean's waist, pulling him flush against Cas' body. He buries his face into Dean's neck and it's so good. So very good that Dean could gladly die from it.
"You're not alone, ok?" Dean whispers into Cas' hair. "I've got you now."
He feels Cas draw a shuddered breath before he relaxes, tension leaching away in Dean's arms. They stay that way for a long time or what feels like a long time, but is in fact far too short when Sam opens the door and walks in.
"Oh," he says, surprised. "I'm sorry. I can just-" He gestures over his shoulder, but Dean shakes his head.
"No, get in here. We gotta find out what's going." The last thing he wants to do is let Castiel out of his grasp, but while it's extremely nice holding him, it's not helpful just now. Hopefully, there'll be plenty of time for that later. "Hey, Cas?"
"Yes." His eyes are bright. Dean swallows back the sudden strong urge to kiss him.
"I need you to trust me, alright? 'Cause what I'm about to do is going to be pretty surprising."
Cas nods without hesitation. "I'll try not to become overwhelmed with shock and awe," he says and Dean blinks. Four years as a human and Cas has developed a sense of humor, albeit a pretty feeble one.
"Well, that encouraging," Dean says. He rolls his eyes at Sam, who grins in return. A familiar feeling returns to Dean's chest, a feeling he hasn't felt in years and he thinks it's interesting that the last time he felt normal is when the world was in danger of ending.
Dean steps away from Castiel into the center of the room and looks up. The looking up is not necessary, but Dean always does it anyway. "Yo, Anna!"
Nothing happens. That's ok because sometimes it takes a few tries to get her attention when she's off doing whatever not-quite-angels do in their free time.
"Hey, Anna, need your help here, babe," Dean bellows. The look Castiel is giving him is priceless. One eyebrow is raised slightly higher than the other and then, to Dean's utter delight, his head cocks to one side. It shouldn't be so...hot. But it very much is.
He doesn't have time to fully enjoy it though because the air trembles around them. There's a brief fluttering noise, then Anna materializes out of thin air before him.
"It's been a long time, Dean," she says with a grin and makes to bestow on him the usual hug when her face changes. The way she is standing, Castiel is behind her, but she freezes anyway, shock contorting her features as she apparently senses him. Whirling around, Anna's mouth falls open. For his part, Castiel looks equally surprised, though Dean is certain it's because a woman exploded into existence before his very eyes rather than because he recognizes her.
"Castiel," Anna breathes. She makes a motion with one hand as if to touch Cas, but stops when Cas backs away, his eyes filled with apprehension. Dean winces slightly. If Cas remembers unconsciously the emotions attached to Dean, emotions that make him seek comfort in Dean's arms, then it matches his emotions connected to Anna would be less pleasant. Dean doesn't know all the details, but he's had enough conversations with Anna about Cas to know that they fought before she tore out her grace, that Castiel had been appalled when his respected leader chose to disobey so egregiously.
"What are you?" His voice isn't quite cold, but it's definitely more aloof that he's been so far. Dean doesn't realize how different he's sounded until Cas reverts back to his old distant tones, the kind he used when Dean first knew him.
"I don't understand," Anna murmurs, almost under her breath. Dipping her head, she examines Cas through lowered eyelashes and the way her eyes glaze a bit makes Dean think maybe she's looking on the inside rather than the outside. "Oh, Cas, what did they do to you?"
"Who are you?" Castiel demands. His eyes, now a frosty blue, snap to Dean's face. "Dean?"
Long past time to jump in, Dean leaps to Cas' side.
"Sorry about that, buddy. This is Anna. She's your...sister, I guess," he says as he cups Castiel's elbow and gives it a comforting squeeze. "Nothing to be scared of, I promise. She might be able to help you with your memory."
Dean ignores the tiny annoyed huff Anna lets out. He knows she wishes he wouldn't make promises like that, but he's only saying that Anna'll try to help and Dean also knows that's true. Besides Cas, Anna is pretty much the only angel Dean really trusts and that includes some pretty powerful archangels Dean met during the war that only ever offered assistance. He just can't be sure they weren't the same ones that stripped Castiel of his identity and tossed him out in the sticks.
"I can try," Anna clarifies. Another cautious step brings her within touching distance of Castiel. "I don't know what was done to you, Castiel, but I've known you for a very long time. We were as close as Dean is to Sam once." Castiel doesn't exactly relax, but his icy expression thaws somewhat. "If you'll let me," she says, raising a hand to indicate that she wants to touch his face. "I might be able to find out what's wrong with you."
It's Dean that Castiel looks to rather than Anna. At Dean's encouraging nod and purposeful invasion of his personal space, Castiel takes a deep breath and nods at Anna. Dean doesn't exactly understand why Cas is ok with his touches now when they rarely touched before, but he's not about to complain. Especially not when Cas pushes into the hand on his back and Dean feels warmth soak into his skin.
Anna raises her slender hands to each side of Castiel's face and closes her eyes. Subtle energy cuts the air, raising the hair at the back of Dean's neck. Cas jerks in place and he grabs Dean's free hand, but doesn't move away from her. Minutes pass, the three of them connected in a strange triangle of ancient power and if Dean concentrates, he can almost feel the probing tendrils Anna sends through Castiel's mind and soul, searching for answers. The energy builds as Anna dives deeper, coalescing to something nearly unbearable and just as Dean considers asking Sammy to cut in, the power dissipates.
"Wow, Cas," she gasps. "You really pissed off the upper management."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean asks, alarmed.
"It's like a curse, I think," Anna explains, brushing away a lock of static-filled hair from her face. "I can see it, but I can't touch it. It's extremely powerful."
"A curse? What kind of curse?" Beside him, Castiel sways, weak from the intrusive probe. Dean circles his waist with one arm and tries not to worry about how Cas isn't more curious about what would seem insane to any normal person, things like powerful curses and mind melds.
"I don't know," Anna admits. "But I think it's been personalized." At Dean's bewildered look, she continues with a grim smile. "I think it's possible to break it, but that only Castiel can do it."
"So, what? The archangels put him in a Disney movie?"
"Angels?" Castiel's malaise breaks at the word. "You believe my memory was stolen by...angels?" Not quite to the point of running from the crazy, Castiel nonetheless sounds quite skeptical. Which strikes Dean as both ironic and hilarious considering all the impassioned speeches he'd given Dean about faith in their past.
"You believe in angels, don't you?" Dean asks. He thinks he could probably let go of Cas, but he's not so inclined. "I mean, you seem pretty involved in your church."
"Of course I believe in angels," Cas says, irritated and Dean hides a smile. There's the conviction Dean remembers. "But why would they want to hurt me? I'm no threat to anyone."
"Actually," Sam interjects, breaking the silence he'd fallen into during the others' weird ménage a trois, "You've made decisions that have changed the course of human history." The faint pride in Sam's tone makes Dean want to give him a hearty slap on the back.
"Well, that's just ridiculous," Cas denies. For the first time in several minutes, he pulls away from Dean. Step by step, Castiel retreats until his back hits the wall and Dean feels the situation slipping out of his control. "I'm just a waiter. I was just hoping to find my family, my friends. Someone who remembered me, maybe loved me. Not...not this angels and changing the world and having my brain scanned by a woman who pops out of thin air!" Dean's never seen Castiel this worked up, not even in Heaven's waiting room when he went off about the depressing part of humanity.
Dean's world narrows to a pair of scared blue eyes and he doesn't realize he's moving until there's nothing in his field of vision, but Cas. His hands find Castiel's face, covering his cheeks the same way Anna had just moments before. He feels Cas' breath hitch.
"I know you're scared. I'm sorry this isn't what you expected, but this is your life, ok? And there's some scary shit in it. Trust me, I know." Dean hears the bitterness filter into his voice, but does nothing to stop it. "You got a raw deal. We all did, but we have each other. You do have family and friends. I just need you to stick with me a little longer."
The fear slowly drains out of Castiel's face. Again, Dean is reminded of their last moments together, except this time it's Dean asking for trust when it seems impossible. And maybe Dean falls just a little bit more in love with Castiel when he turns his cheek slightly into Dean's hand and nods. "Alright."
"Alright," Dean echoes. Reality rushes back in and he realizes it's very quiet. Turning his head, Dean checks over his shoulder. Anna and Sam look like a treeful of owls, eyes wide and staring. Dean smirks at them. "You're gonna get flies in your mouth," he advises Sam, who shuts his mouth and glares at Dean.
"Ha." He turns to Anna. "Do you know how Cas can break the curse?"
She shakes her head. "Not exactly, no. I was never high enough in the ranks to really know how punishments are doled out. Most of the time, whenever an angel considers disobedience, they're snapped back for…a stern lecture, shall we say?"
"Right. Bible camp, I remember," Dean says, lips curling with distaste.
"Yes. But as bad as that is, it's not really the highest level of punishment," Anna explains, arms crossing over her chest. "You see, there's a difference between an angel who disobeys and an angel who falls. Fallen angels become human, as you know. Those of us who choose that way forget too, but we generally never remember. I was an unusual case and that's why they came after me. That and they knew the other side could use me if they got a hold of me."
"Yeah, so instead of taking care of you, they were sent to kill you," Dean says. Not really Castiel's finest moment, Dean thinks to himself and he shoots Cas a surreptitious glance. Let no one say that Dean looks at Cas through rose-colored glasses. Dean's seen him at his worst and his best.
"It was because of the corruption in the ranks," Anna says. She sounds remarkably forgiving, but then, Dean knows things have straightened out a little upstairs. Which is one of the reasons Anna is still a free agent. "Normally, fallen angels can't be punished like other angels because they're human. Our Father's most treasured creation. This is not to say that humans can't be punished, of course, but not like angels. It's one of the reasons more angels choose to tear out their grace rather than disobey and remain angelic. I've heard…and this isn't a certainty, but I've heard that angels who choose the second path are given…tailored punishments."
Dean and Sam exchange an uncomfortable glance.
"Meaning?" Sam prompts her.
"Meaning that archangels like to fit the punishment to the crime. If they figured out why Castiel chose to disobey, they might have built his punishment based on that." Anna sighs, heavy and hopeless. "Which is nice information to have, but not really helpful. Even if we could figure out why he disobeyed, it doesn't mean we'll understand the punishment."
"He disobeyed because it was the right thing to do," Dean says. "Because people's lives were at stake and Cas always liked humans."
"Ok, stop." Dean jumps at Castiel's sudden outburst. It isn't like he forgot Cas was there, but Dean can't quite keep in mind that Castiel doesn't automatically know everything they know. His face is void of emotion, the kind of blank mask people develop when they have to distance themselves from situations too insane to comprehend. Like say, finding out you're an angel.
"I'm not human?"
Awkward glances fly around the room before Dean steps up, reminding himself yet again that this is his problem. "I told you it wasn't what you expected."
If looks could kill. Although Dean's relieved to see emotion back in those eyes. "Let's just pretend for a moment that you aren't all lunatics," Cas says slowly. "If I really am...an angel." He nearly chokes on the word. "If that's true and we're all angels-"
"No, no. Me and Sam aren't angels. Just you and Anna," Dean clarifies and he tries not to smile because it's not like Cas could know any better, but seriously, Dean as an angel is even more hilarious than Dean as a preacher. "We're humans."
"You're a human and I'm an angel," Castiel says, looking down at the floor as he puzzles through the confusion written into every line of his face. "And we knew each other because...I watched over you?" he asks, lifting questioning eyes to Dean's face again.
"Sort of," Dean says, grinning. "Though you didn't, you know, perch on my shoulder or anything."
Cas doesn't crack a smile at the joke. In fact, he looks positively shaken. Again, clearly not what Cas expected. Which leads Dean to wonder exactly what Castiel expected of their relationship. And why he can read the slightest hint of disappointment under Castiel's shock.
"Even so," Cas finally says, his Adam's apple twitching as he swallows hard several times in quick succession. "The way it felt when you were inside my mind," Cas says to Anna. "I could sense you. If you were looking for me, how come you couldn't sense me for years?"
It's a great point. "Yeah, how come that?" Dean asks.
"I can only barely sense you now, Cas," Anna answers, chagrined. "I don't know. It's like your grace has been...dampened. I had no idea you were with Dean until I was in the room. I might have known you were here if I'd been visiting this town, but otherwise, no. It makes sense, now that I think about it. If you were to live as a human, you'd have to be as far removed from your grace as possible. Otherwise, you wouldn't need to sleep or eat or any like that."
"See, that's what I was thinking earlier," Dean says triumphantly.
"Dean," Sam says with a suddenness that sends Dean on instant alert. "The demon. What if the demon sensed Cas?"
He may be a second behind Sam in this connection, but Dean catches on quickly and his stomach drops. Why it's taken him this long to make the connection, Dean doesn't know and he kind of wishes he hadn't because even without his memory, Dean know how Castiel is going to react when he understands that these deaths might be because of him. He hears Anna ask about the demon, hears Sam explain the situation to her, but only just barely because most of his attention is focused on Cas, on the way his puzzled confusion melts into horrified realization.
"It's my fault?" he whispers. "All of them...Peter...they're gone because of me?"
Devastation upsets his balance and he tumbles into the wall, palms smacking it in an effort to hold himself upright. His eyes are fever bright with grief and denial and Dean can't understand how the Father ever thought Cas didn't show his emotions on his face.
"If there is a demon," Anna says, tone measured and thoughtful. "It's certainly possible it would might have sensed and hunted Castiel. Angel blood is very powerful."
Cas makes a gagging noise in the back of his throat. Dean shoots Anna a quelling glare. For an angel that spent years as a human, she can be a little insensitive. The last thing Cas needs now is a reminder that his friend is dead because of something he can't help.
"Look, we don't know if there really is a demon. It's the real reason we were here because the murders were suspicious. It's what me and Sam do. We hunt down evil bastards and kill them. If there is a demon after you, it's not your fault. Demons are just evil. They're sick and twisted. And we're not going to let the son of a bitch kill anyone else anyway."
A heavy silence fills the room as Castiel digests this new bit of information. His revulsion slowly melts into a kind of pained determination that Dean already doesn't like before Castiel's eye snap up from the ground and says in his gravest voice, "Then if you want to catch it, you'll need my help."
Just as he thought, Dean does not like this.
"I don't like this," Dean says for the tenth time.
Lawrence...Castiel. He must remember his name is Castiel. Or the less regal moniker Cas that Dean seems to favor. Castiel doesn't know which word he likes better, but he does enjoy the strange little thrill he gets whenever Dean uses 'Cas'.
Although he wishes Dean would be quiet right now.
They are strolling down a darkened street, through stacks of shadow. When Castiel turns his head, he can barely make out Dean's face. Mostly he can see the pinpricks of light where his eyes are. Or see his mouth moving as he complains about their plan. But Castiel doesn't see how they could do things any differently. If a demon is looking for him, then they must make him available to draw the demon out.
Cas understands that Dean doesn't like this plan because he worries for Castiel's safety. Castiel doesn't blame him. If he's an angel, and Castiel is still having trouble accepting that, he is a diminished one. He doesn't really have a way of protecting himself, but he trusts Dean. He's seen the weapons Dean carries on his person, knows the kind of damage they can do. Plus, Sam is also nearby, hidden close enough to join them at a moment's notice. Anna is no longer in the town because she feared the demon wouldn't dare approach a full-blown angel, but Castiel knows she will come if they call for her.
They reach the end of the street, the same one on which the first victim met his fate and turn a corner. A old streetlamp shines a weak beam into their faces and Castiel sees that Dean is scowling as he searches the street.
"Do you see anything?" Castiel whispers to him.
"Why're you whispering?" Dean asks in a normal tone. "We want the bastard to know we're here," he adds in a louder tone, which echoes down the small space between two nearby buildings. "No," he says to Castiel with a sigh. "Let's just sit here for a minute. Let the asshat come to us," he says and sits on the bench under the lamp. Castiel joins him.
Neither speaks for several minutes. Though he knows it's rude, Castiel can't keep his eyes off Dean's face for very long. He's a very handsome man, the sort Castiel sees on the television shows he occasionally watches. But all those men never interested Castiel. Nor the women. He can't figure what it is about Dean that makes his eyes trace over every line and angle of his face, down the bridge of his nose and across his lips. His eyes catch on Dean's scar once more and he is overwhelmed by curiosity.
"How did you come by that?" Castiel asks, only realizing after he's done so that Dean might be sensitive about it. He doesn't have time to retract the question before Dean is answering.
"I've pissed off some pretty powerful creatures," he says flippantly. "I tried to stop one in particular from killing Sam and he repaid me by trying to rip off my face."
Castiel shivers. Such a dismissive tone for a horrific event. He's struck by the urge to draw a finger over the scar, but he doesn't. Their relationship is not what Castiel thought it might be. Instead, Castiel is an angel sent to protect Dean. An angel that failed in his duty, apparently. Guilt freezes in his chest, sending his gaze away from Dean. His hands clench in his lap.
"Hey, you ok?"
"Well, well. Now this is unexpected. The Dean Winchester."
A new voice, cold and cruel, rings out over the empty street. Dean leaps up from his seat, pushing himself in front of Castiel to face the woman sauntering around the corner of the street they just exited. Castiel's stomach twists. This just keeps getting worse and worse.
The demon turns her beauty into a frightful mockery. The way she moves her body, languid and sensual, is at odds with Betsy's sweet innocence. Anger consumes Castiel's vision and he is grateful for Dean's presence because otherwise, he might have done something reckless.
"Do I know you?" Dean asks. Castiel didn't think he'd ever hear Dean's voice sound so glacial. He shivers again.
"Well, we've never been formally introduced, but who doesn't know the man who stopped the apocalypse?" She wags a finger at him. "You've been very bad for business, Dean." Castiel feels Dean's body tense, knows he's getting ready to fling an insult at her, but the demon doesn't give him a chance. Her gaze swivels to Castiel and she shakes her head.
"I might have known it was you. It's always the quiet ones, isn't it, Dean?" Glancing at Dean, she makes a face of obviously fake surprise. "But wait a minute! If you're here with him, that must mean..." Betsy's dark brown eyes fill with malice as she looks back at Castiel. "You're the angel Castiel. The one that yanked Dean from hell. You know, at one point, there was quite a bounty on your head. When Lucifer was still out and about. You and Sam Winchester. The Chosen one's two greatest weaknesses."
It's too much for Castiel to comprehend. This demon knew him because he...he pulled Dean from hell? And Lucifer, the Lucifer, wanted to capture him? Castiel looks at Dean, but Dean is focused solely on the demon, a look of such pure hatred on his face that Castiel feels sick to his stomach.
"Yeah, too bad I threw his ass back in prison," Dean spits. "So if we could skip the small talk, I'd appreciate it. It's been far too long since I smoked a demon."
Out of the corner of his eye, Castiel sees Sam moving towards them, slowly as if he is waiting for Dean to make his move.
"Welcome to the show, Sam," Betsy says without turning her head.
"Well, come on then," Dean challenges, holding his arms outright. "We haven't got all night. There's a show on TV I want to watch later."
"Very funny," Betsy snaps. "And if you think I'm moving from this spot into any Devil's traps, you're not as good at this as your press would suggest."
Castiel sighs. There are a number of those traps strewn around the areas where the demon killed before, but Dean had admitted he didn't think they would be able to herd the demon into one because it's harder to hide the traps out in open streets.
"Fine by me," Dean says and he nods at Sam. Sam begins to run at the demon, a bottle of holy water in one hand and a knife in other while Dean lifts a shotgun to distract her.
Then suddenly Dean and Sam go flying and that's when Castiel realizes that this demon is far more powerful than either brother anticipated.
Sam lands with a sick crunching sound twenty feet away. Dean is not so lucky. The demon flings a hand at him, a delighted smile turning her face truly ugly and Dean's back strikes the brick wall of the building behind their bench. Hands grasping at his throat as the demon strangles him, he slides up the wall until he is hovering nearly six feet off the ground.
The demon is saying something, but Castiel doesn't understand it. His senses blur, reality turns to nonsense and its worse than panic, darker than rage. The demon is hurting Dean, killing Dean and if Castiel doesn't do something, he'll lose Dean again. Forever. Alone without Dean. Alone like all these years, like all the thousands of years before.
It grows within him, builds and builds, stretching and fighting to escape.
His soul catches fire.
This is exactly why Dean hadn't liked this plan.
The demon bitch is closing his throat, Sam is staggering to his feet and clutching his ribs too far away to reach Dean in time and Castiel is frozen to the spot.
To his surprise, Dean is more angry than scared. It's not that he wants to die. It's just that he's already done it several times now and he's fairly certain he's not going downstairs this time. So, he's sort of made peace with the idea of dying. He's just pissed he's doing it before he's had more than a day with Castiel. And that day without Castiel really knowing Dean.
Dean struggles against the demon because if he's going down, he's going down fighting. Maybe Sam'll get Anna's attention in enough time that she'll be able to save Sam and Castiel's life. It's a bit of comfort anyway. With extreme effort, Dean moves his head until he can see Castiel.
If Dean could, he'd gasp at the expression on Cas' face.
It's wrath, plain and simple. Righteous anger. He looks every bit like the angels described in the New Testament, the ancient merciless warriors that could destroy whole countries in the blink of an eye. A demon is killing Dean and it's Castiel that terrifies him. Energy begins to crackle in the air, tossing and buffeting Castiel's hair and clothes and that's when it happens.
Huge shadowy shapes explode out from either side of Castiel's body, larger and a hundred times more fucking scary than they were in that barn years ago. The wings lift and stretch as if glad to be free of their confinement. They are ragged and dark, almost black in color. Feathers stick up out of place here and there, a testament to the battles they've seen. Dean feels like he could stare at them for hours, but then they are gone and so is Castiel.
Dean panics for a split second, but then Cas reappears behind the demon and grabs her by the shoulder. Her hold on Dean breaks and Dean braces himself for the fall, but it never comes. Cas holds him up, almost as an afterthought it seems because he is glaring at the demon.
"You will not hurt anyone again," he commands and lays his palm on her forehead. It's a variation on the exorcism Dean's seen angels use before because after the golden light shines out the woman's mouth and eyes, she falls limp the ground, coughing and very clearly alive.
"Lawrence?" she asks weakly. Dean's heart skips a beat. He didn't realize Castiel knew this woman.
"You're safe now, Betsy," Cas answers gently, stroking fingers through her hair. He helps her sit on the ground and says something else to her, more comforting words before turning his attention back to where Dean is still pinned to the wall.
"A little help here, please?" Dean says, but the teasing tone doesn't quite make it into his voice. If the wings weren't a good enough clue, the way Castiel is looking at him leaves Dean in no doubt that Cas remembers exactly who and what he is. It's not just the recognition that sets Dean's heart thumping a hundred miles an hour. It's the absolute hunger that is turning Cas' eyes as black as his wings.
"Dean," he says and Dean thinks he can actually feel Castiel's voice vibrating through his body.
Cas walks toward him as he slowly lowers Dean's body and as soon as Dean's feet hit the ground, Castiel's arms are around his waist. Dean thinks it's a victory hug until Castiel's lips cover his and his shock is enough to keep his motionless for a moment. Then it hits him, really hits him that it's over finally. Those lonely years are over. His angel is back and he's giving Dean a hell of a kiss.
So Dean gets with the program and throws his arms around Castiel's shoulders, tugging him so hard that Cas falls against him, pushing Dean into the wall.
It hurts, but Dean doesn't care.
It's like waking up after a very long slumber.
There's a lot of cleaning up and explaining to do after they kill the demon. They take Betsy back to Castiel's apartment and call Father Dean, who brings Colin along to help settle her. Dean kind of starts wondering about those two and makes a mental note to ask Cas about it later. Cas explains as best he can what happened and with Betsy's verification that something had taken over her body, they manage to convince the other two of the truth. He leaves out the bit about being an angel and since Betsy can't really remember how she got control of her body back, none of them are the wiser.
It's very early in the morning by the time by the time they drag themselves back to the hotel where they find Anna waiting impatiently for them.
"Finally! I was so worried! Why didn't you call me?"
Dean opts not to tell her how much she sounds like a nagging housewife. "Cas saved the day."
"Cas?" Anna looks at Castiel and a happy light fills her eyes. "Oh, I see. Welcome back, Castiel."
"Thank you, Anna," he says formally, but Dean sees the smile hiding just under the surface.
"How did you break the curse?"
It's something Dean's been wondering himself, but hadn't wanted to ask. He wasn't sure if Castiel wanted to talk about it.
"I don't think the archangels knew exactly what I was feeling when they created this punishment," Cas says lightly.
"What do you mean?" Sam asks.
"I was only allowed to remember if I fell in love," Castiel answers.
Anna sighs a soft sad 'oh', but Dean doesn't quite get it. Or at least can't quite get past the 'Castiel in love' thing. Surely he meant...well, because he remembered when Dean was in danger, so who else could it be? But he didn't want to presume and after all, if it was Dean, it's not like the Lawrence-Cas knew him long enough to really fall in love-
"What they didn't understand was that I was already in love when they punished me. I didn't fall in love with you in a day, Dean, but when you were in danger, I remembered I loved you," Castiel continues. He says it in a bland matter-of-fact tone.
"Ok, maybe I'm just being stupid, but I don't get it," Sam says. Dean gives Sam a mental pat on the back because he'd ask the same thing if he could string two words together.
"The archangels guessed I disobeyed because I was becoming intrigued by the feelings of love; that I was in danger of falling in love with Dean. So they removed me from Dean and Dean from me. They stripped me of my memories and dampened my grace, effectively turning me human. If I never fell in love, I'd live a human life alone without the one thing that I sought when I disobeyed. If I did fall in love, I would remember I was an angel and then be forced to give up the person I loved."
Dean finds his voice quickly at that. "Wait a second. Why'd you have to give up the person you loved?"
When Castiel looks at him, he suddenly understands Anna's sympathetic sigh. Regret and fierce longing shine in Castiel's eyes. "Angels can't love humans in this manner without threat of punishment. Threat of death, to be more precise. That's the punishment. In effect, the archangels were daring me to fall in love, so I would be faced with this choice. Give you up, risk death or fall and be reborn as an infant, again without you. And either way, I wouldn't be able to help you anymore," he says and his tone is so very flat as if he can't let the emotion escape in his voice or he couldn't handle talking at all.
"That's just..." Sam trails off.
"Fucking twisted," Dean finishes for him. He feels sick inside. For some reason, Dean has assumed that everything will be ok now. That since Castiel has remembered him, they can be together. It never once occurs to him that love was against the rules. His happiness is exchanged for anger yet again and Dean is sick to death of these yo-yoing emotions.
"Castiel." Anna's eyes sparkle with excitement. "No, you don't understand," she says as if they'd been arguing. "Things are different now. Remember my friends? They could help you. They could help send Jimmy to rest. You might be able to stay in this body and be with Dean."
Dean is shocked that the word actually comes out of his mouth. The cautious smile stealing over Castiel's face is wiped away. There is an awkward and tense silence, then Castiel turns to Anna and Sam.
"Could we please be alone for a moment?"
Anna gives Castiel a long searching look, then nods and flaps away. Sam takes the slower path, stopping to squeeze Dean's arm on the way out the door and then Dean is alone with Castiel. Who looks pretty angry.
"Do you know what your greatest fault is, Dean?" he asks.
Dean raises an eyebrow at him. "I'm just too pretty?" The joke falls completely flat.
"You're a hypocrite," Castiel says bluntly.
"Your father sold his soul to save your life and you were so angry, yet you did the same thing for Sam a year later. You won't let anyone sacrifice themselves for you, but you give and give of yourself until there's nothing left. Not even your soul," Castiel says furiously. His arms hang stiff at his sides and a hint of that energy Dean felt when Castiel's wings appeared sizzles in the air before him.
"That's not..." Except Dean doesn't really know what it's not. It's certainly true that he was angry with John for selling his soul and of course, he did do the same thing for Sammy. But it's not the same. "That was to save his life. My life isn't in danger. What if you become human and it doesn't work out? You've already given up everything because I asked you once and look how that worked out."
"I'm willing to risk it," Castiel says. It's like he didn't listen to Dean at all.
"But I'm not-"
"You are." Faster than Dean can follow, Cas is in his space, body pressed against Dean's. "I think you're worth it. I've already lived four years without you. I don't want to suffer even another minute in the same manner."
"Cas-" Dean feels himself growing weak against Castiel's passion. It's so hard to resist reaching out and taking what he's wanted for so long. "What if the archangels don't let you stay in this body?" He swallows hard and then asks the question that has him really worried. "
What if you regret it?"
Cas smiles. "What if I don't?"
Dean rolls his eyes and huffs. "You're a douchebag."
"Perhaps. I've just been told I might not have to suffer a punishment I don't think I deserved in the first place. You'll forgive me if I'm insistent." His laughing smile turns to steeled determination. "This is my choice, Dean." Slipping one arm around Dean's waist, Castiel cups Dean's cheek with his free hand. "I'm doing this. The only question is, will you have me when I do?"
All of Dean's life, he's looked out for others. For Sammy and for his dad. For all those people who were threatened by evil and didn't know how to fight it. He's saved the world, for crying out loud and now someone Dean loves is looking him in the eye and asking Dean to be a little selfish.
Maybe it's time Dean took something for himself.
Dean reaches for Castiel and Castiel falls.