Title: Consequences of Action
Chapter: 16 and Epilogue
Summary: AU: God has come home, the angels are in big trouble, Lucifer's playing on earth, and 2014 isn't exactly what Zachariah showed Dean. Dean/Risa, Castiel/Jo
Disclaimer: Supernatural was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is intended.
Notes: Thanks for reading!
Sam woke with a gasp. He remembered going to Lucifer and then…nothing until that conversation with Dean on what they should do. He knew he'd seen the things Lucifer had done and simply didn't remember them anymore. He thought that was a blessing.
He knew Dean needed him. After years apart, Dean still needed him and Sam needed him in return. Sam couldn't leave knowing it would tear Dean apart completely, even if it meant sacrificing a start on his own eternal rest to stay. He wouldn't be selfish. He'd stay for Dean.
He looked around at his surroundings. He was in a cabin, lying on a couch, with a pretty dark haired woman sitting in a chair watching him. Was she guarding him? Or simply curious?
To discover she was Dean's wife took what felt like a weight off of him. He had a wife, the beginning of that family Sam knew Dean craved. By the time Dean came inside, Sam was almost giddy. They were both alive and well. How did that happen? How did they fall into the Apocalypse and come out whole on the other side? It had to be a miracle.
It wasn't going to be an easy road for him, Sam knew that. He had a lot to answer for to those who already knew him. Dean, definitely. Jo. Castiel. Chuck. There were many things that were going to have to be said all the way around, but he wasn't going to shy away from that. He'd face it head-on.
Dean gathered those who knew the truth and it was decided that they'd let the camp think Dean had gotten information on Sam's whereabouts and rescued him from demons. That was where Dean had gone, rushing away without even telling his wife where he was going. Sam was amazed at how willing people were to believe that, and how accepting Jo and Castiel were of him after what they knew. He had long talks with both, telling Jo why he'd behaved as he had with her and Ellen, then admitting to Castiel that he'd become jealous of him during those months directly after leaving.
He liked the person Cas had become. He thought they could become friends given time.
Sam looked around at the camp Dean had created. He was sad that Bobby and Ellen couldn't be there with them, but grateful that there was some kind of life there to have. After all that had happened, he'd never expected to live. He'd never expected to be given another chance.
He wasn't going to waste that chance.
On the subject of Sam, Castiel was wary. Perhaps they could be friends eventually, but it was going to take some time. On the subject of his own shiny new job, he was prickly, even snapping at Jo when she'd tried to discuss it with him. He'd apologized of course, explaining that giving him a nice job and returning his original state didn't really make up for what had been done. Jo thought he was being stubborn, arguing that the world needed him.
Maybe I am stubborn, he thought, listening carefully for Jimmy's reply. There was none this time. Jimmy had pretty much said everything he thought needed saying and insisted Castiel was being pig-headed. It was the general consensus between the two. Dean, however, let him avoid the topic entirely. He rather thought Dean had had enough of heaven's wishes.
Gabriel appeared beside him. "It pleases me to have at least one brother I can relate to down here. Someone who knows the value of a good lay."
Cas set the book he'd been pretending to read aside and stared at him. "What do you want?" His tone was less than gracious, a thing that didn't offend Gabriel in the least.
"To discuss our promotion to heads of the department of human-angel relations. You've been avoiding me, Castiel. We've got to have one little talk on it sometime."
"I refuse the job. There's no more to be said."
"How's that working out for you? Come on. This is real hope and change, not some politician's idea of it.
Before he could make a remark on that, Gabriel continued.
"We've got the place to ourselves, you know. It's our house until things get going back to relative normalcy. We should have a party." He waved a hand at the ceiling, a disco ball appearing.
"No parties. Go away, Gabriel." Castiel picked his book back up, only to have it disappear from his hands. He gritted his teeth.
Gabriel heaved a dramatic sigh. "I like you better powerless." He made the disco ball disappear. "Okay, we'll do this your way. Hello, Castiel. Why the sour face? You should be rejoicing. What's got your boxers in a twist besides your job?"
Castiel shot a dirty look at him. "Dean sold out."
"Dean-o did what he had to to protect the last of everything he ever cared about, you thick-headed schmuck."
"He was manipulated."
"That is a very good point. So were you. Or do you think that initial attraction to Jo Harvelle was one hundred percent natural?" His brows rose. "I hear it took two tries to get you to really look at her - one for Jimmy and one for you."
Castiel looked away, shaking his head. "No. It's genuine. I love her and she loves me. There was no aid from heaven there."
"You tell yourself that. Some are meant to be, Castiel. Dean and Risa. You and Jo. True, there was added incentive, but you made the choice and so did she. You could have fought it and didn't. You did exactly what you were supposed to." He shrugged. "And so did Dean. Forgive him for it. He agonized over it and I gotta tell you, Michael was desperate himself. He was under a time crunch. We all were."
"Dean mentioned that."
"He wasn't lying. The earth was about to explode in a rash of Lucifer prompted disasters. He let Mike in just in time to prevent that point of absolutely no return."
"He was backed into a corner."
"Maybe. Maybe not. God came home, Castiel. He's up there now tidying up the mess we left it in and Michael came down here to clean things here. It's done. Humanity lives to see another few decades or centuries or more. Are you really going to linger on Dean doing what he thought was necessary at this point? Are you going to let it come between you? You've got a good friendship. It'd be a shame for this to destroy it." Reaching out, he gripped Castiel's shoulder. "Take a walk with me. I think we need to have a serious discussion about who you are, get a few things straight."
He didn't want to. He didn't want to go anywhere with Gabriel, but since he knew refusing would have no effect, he went anyway.
As they walked, Gabriel spoke. "Do you recall anything about the lost unit at all?"
Michael had mentioned them. "They were always spoken of in whispers, how they disobeyed, became too close to humans and abandoned their jobs. They behaved in selfish ways."
He nodded. "Collectively, they were an inquisitive bunch, drove Zach nuts to interact with any of them and to tell you the truth, Mike wasn't too thrilled with them either. They were supposed to watch, be neutral parties. It's true they disobeyed. They let their emotions overwhelm them and control them, a big mess in the end. They took human wives, had babies, taught those things they knew - things that weren't meant to be introduced in rapid succession."
"Michael claimed I'm one of them, but I can't be. I'm not old enough."
"You're older than you think you are." He peered out over the water. "You are one of them, Castiel, the only remaining member of that unit. I looked it up. I opened sealed records. You hadn't yet deployed to earth when the rest disobeyed. You'd stayed behind to search out a 'few more things'. Michael was called in to the throne room, told to inform you of your new assignment. Your memory was wiped of your previous station, your powers capped in accordance with your new duties and your records sealed to all. With the sheer numbers of all angels in those days, it wasn't much to slip you into a unit. Anna's was perfect. She had the influence you needed when you needed it."
"Anna rebelled, ripped out her own grace, and fell to earth," he pointed out.
"Like I said…. The influence you needed when you needed it. The pieces all fit." Raising a hand, Gabriel snapped his fingers twice. "There. Much should be clearer to you now."
He staggered a little as memories flooded his mind and he gasped at the sudden rushing. He remembered it all. The thrill of tracking down the answers he'd been asked to procure. The excitement of going to be among the first angels to actually interact with humans, meet them, learn about them. He'd been longing for it, wanting it, needing it - like the rest of his unit. They were all willing to accept humanity.
Castiel frowned, remembering that day his old life had ended and his time in Anna's unit begun. He'd finished all tasks assigned to him and begun to prepare himself for leaving heaven, but Michael blocked his way. Michael informed him he was being reassigned, that his new posting would be a better one, something Cas hadn't understood because how was being demoted a good thing? He recalled confusion, surprise, anger…and then very little emotion at all. His dream wasn't a dream, but rather a fragment of memory returned to him. He'd had emotion before that moment, much like the archangels, only without their level of overall power.
How far he'd been demoted due to the collective actions of his unit!
"Destiny plays out for all of us," Gabriel said with a sigh. "If you'd been allowed to go then, who would have helped Dean Winchester?"
He stopped walking altogether and stretched one hand out to lean against a tree. "I disobeyed and was disciplined. Twice. Once then and later, when I was told I was too close to Dean."
"It was to His purpose that you saw what you saw to do what you did."
"I'm lost like they were." The realization made him tremble a little. He'd done exactly what his first unit had done. He'd mingled, he'd experienced, he'd loved, married - in a manner of speaking -, and taught archaic knowledge to humans. He hung his head, eyes closing. He'd taught an awful lot to Dean. He'd created a child with Jo. He'd -
Gabriel snorted. "Do you want forgiveness for your disobedience?"
He opened his eyes, slowly shook his head and stood up straight. "While I'm sorry I disobeyed, I can't regret the outcome."
"All you have to do is ask for forgiveness. I did and believe me, I've done a lot more than you ever have. I don't recall you ever sending men into space for being a pompous ass like I did. Ask. It's that simple, Castiel."
"I can't go back, Gabriel."
"You don't have to. You can ask and receive without returning. Look, what Mike said is basically true. You are an angel and you are more than that. You've achieved your destiny, done what you were supposed to and fulfilled your duty. It's a fresh new day from here on out. Isn't that what you've been searching for each morning? Ask for forgiveness and move on from here. You have Jo, your child, and your friends. You have a semblance of humanity and most of your old powers, plus some that are different variations of those old powers. You're blessed."
"I still feel."
"Which is your natural state. You have the ability to let Jimmy surface. I can do it, too, but my vessel long ago decided he no longer wished to surface. You've a win-win situation. You have your life with Jo and Jimmy has a half-life. He can interact with his daughter, which was what he really wanted."
"Nothing is ever simple, Gabriel."
"This time, it is."
They talked awhile longer and over the next few months, Castiel thought about all those things Gabriel had said.
In the end, a third of the remaining angels were disciplined and cast out of their place in heaven.
Michael oversaw the punishment, remembering that earlier conversation with Gabriel. One-third had been the number Michael had put forth as likely for punishment. He was amazed he'd judged it so well.
When he was finished, he stood before the throne and gave his final report.
"Dean Winchester is well. I corrected a few health concerns that would have developed over the next decade before leaving him. His wife is in excellent health herself, her pregnancy progressing as it should. Castiel is being stubborn, but with Gabriel hanging around him, I believe he'll soon accept his position on earth. Jo Harvelle is healthy and so is the child. She'll be delivering in a couple days. I did take a few moments to reassure her of the future. She'd had anxiety after what had just occurred. I thought it unwise to leave her worried."
He listened for a moment, then bowed his head.
"My experience with Dean has given me much to consider. I…." He swallowed pride he knew he shouldn't even have. "I was wrong about them, the humans. I shall endeavor to be a better example on the subject of them to my brethren."
When he was dismissed, Michael walked out of the throne room and into a throng of angels waiting to hear from him. They wanted information and Michael gave it to them in a manner he thought even Gabriel would approve of.
He told them a story of two men, brothers, and their struggle.
The time had come and Jo was scared to death.
She hadn't had any trouble so far, but there was always a first time, right? She lay on their bed - in what was supposedly the right position for this-, trying not to whimper, groan, or even scream, though that time was fast approaching where she wouldn't have a choice. The level of pain was growing.
It was only her, Castiel, and heaven help her, Gabriel in the cabin. She saw no reason why Gabriel had to be there.
Already she was drenched in sweat, wanting it to be over without actually doing this. Wasn't there some way to skip it? Couldn't Gabriel snap his fingers and fast forward or even make it be over? He claimed he couldn't, that she had to go through it.
"Get him out of here." Jo liked to imagine her voice was calm, though she knew the words were a harsh growl. If he couldn't make it all be over, then what good was he? He might as well leave. She panted and shifted on the bed, attempting to find a position that didn't hurt. It was a futile effort. Everything hurt.
"Let's get this baby delivered!" Gabriel's voice was offensively cheerful in the middle of the pangs of pain gripping her lower body. He snapped on gloves and appeared to be in delivery room scrubs with cherubs printed all over them. "Spread 'em and let me have a look."
"No." She shook her head.
Castiel ran a cool cloth across her forehead. "You can't keep the baby in there, Jo," he told her in a soothing tone. "It's coming out whether you want to do this or not."
"He's not seeing me naked." Jo thought she was being fairly reasonable about that.
"You're being irrational," he began, only to stop and wince when she grabbed his hand and squeezed as hard as she could. "However, if causing me pain makes you feel better, my hand is yours to maim."
She felt Gabriel's hands on her knees. His reply was tinged with amusement. "You don't tell the expectant mother she's being irrational or unreasonable, Castiel. She's being perfectly reasonable at the moment. Deciding who's going to be face down between your legs to catch the baby is an emotional decision."
"Thank you," Jo gasped out before a contraction hit. When it passed, she shook her head again. "Don't try sneaking a peek either."
"I wouldn't dream of sneaking a peek, Jo. You know I'd look outright." His hands remained on her knees. "I want you to consider something a minute here. Can you do that, for me?"
"What," she snapped, fast losing any sense of humor she had as the pains increased.
"There's not one human doctor here on earth right now with the experience to deliver a human-angel baby. I'm the only one who can do that for you."
Jo about cried at that. "You suck, you know that?"
"Relax, Jo. We'll get you through this. I promise you."
"He's doing it," Castiel told her in a firm voice. "Let him see if you're dilated."
Face burning with embarrassment, she let her knees relax. In minutes, that emotional discomfort fell away as true, blinding physical pain gripped her. Jo had never felt such pain in her life. She thought dying hadn't been nearly as painful as giving birth, pushing when Gabriel told her to, finally rewarded with the cry of her baby.
Awhile later, on clean sheets, with a freshly washed baby in her arms and Castiel lounging beside them, Jo looked down at their baby. He was red and wrinkly and the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen in her life. She touched one little hand, marveling at the softness of his skin.
Despite the pain, despite the sheer ickiness of the process of giving birth, she'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Castiel moved closer, his hand over hers. "We did it," he whispered, a tiny pleased grin curling his lips. The wonder on his face had to match her own she decided. "We really made a kid."
Jo smiled. "He's beautiful."
"He has your nose."
"Your eyes." Though time would tell if he really did have that pretty blue shade.
He slid down to put his head on her shoulder and be closer to the baby. "You've made me very happy, Jo. I want this moment to last a lifetime."
"There'll be more moments. A million and more for years and years." They were content together, a family for an angel who'd never thought he'd ever have one and a woman who hadn't thought she'd ever be a mother. Jo turned her hand to clasp his.
Ellen Harvelle had left Jo with many words of wisdom on various subjects. She thought of a few of those words right now.
She recalled Ellen sitting across from her, a cup of coffee before her, drinking it black. "Someday, you're going to have kids, Jo." With the Apocalypse in full swing, it hadn't seemed likely, but Ellen had kept going anyway. "Listen to me. You are. I have to believe you are. I have to believe this'll all blow by someday. When you have them, you'll see a different world open up in front of you, with choices you never thought existed. Your life will change, but I want you to know, it'll be good." There'd been a hint of tears in her eyes. None fell, but Jo had seen the sheen of them. "I know it'll be good for you, baby."
Ellen had been right and she hoped that wherever Ellen was, she was looking down and smiling, because it was good. Life now was very good.
Jo was grateful to be alive.
She was grateful for Castiel and for their son, and she was grateful for their friends.
She couldn't ask for more.
Chuck sat back in his chair and considered the years leading up to this moment. So many things had happened that he was grateful to have been around for. He felt himself blessed to have been chosen for his job, despite the hardships and pain of it. If he hadn't been chosen, he never would have met any of them and his life would have been far less rich.
After Lucifer had been returned to his prison, the infected had disappeared, as though they'd never been there at all. Without the threat, civilization began to stabilize. Governments were able to relax restrictions and begin to pull back together. Recently, they'd begun once more to receive the occasional radio and television signal. Dean had teared up when they tuned in the ABC local channel. Chuck found it funny that the first thing that channel had chosen to broadcast was a marathon of the seasons of LOST. Dean had hooked up a huge tv in the main lodge and most of the camp had turned out to watch the episodes. It had been like a party.
The birth of Jo and Castiel's son had been a comedy of errors that included Gabriel carrying the boy about the camp like he was the proud father and not Castiel.
The boy was named Will, short for William after her father. Castiel had chosen the name itself. Will had no last name or middle name. Jo had chosen to name him that way because Cas didn't have a last name or middle name. Jo's expression then had hinted at some secret knowledge. Chuck knew what Jo knew, though he hadn't written it down. That part of Jo's conversation with Michael wasn't for anyone but her. It had been a special assurance.
Risa gave birth a month early at Castiel's favorite rest stop, with Dean delivering his own daughter - in a rainstorm. Predictably, they'd named her Mary. Chuck hoped their next child would have a name that wasn't in the usual Winchester book of names.
Sam slowly made friends in the camp and discovered he had a lot in common with Natalie. There was a friendship there between the two. Maybe it would become more. Chuck just didn't know. Maybe Dean was the family man and Sam never would be. Strange how things turned out in the end.
Castiel realized he didn't have to give up his family and friends to do the heavenly job he'd been created for. Cas was different than the original unit. Unlike them, his disobedience hadn't been a selfish thing. He'd done so to help Dean. As the months passed, he'd taken little trips about the earth, observing efforts to rebuild civilization and reporting his findings back to Dean. Chuck knew that before the day was done, Castiel would finally ask God for forgiveness, that act Gabriel had been telling him to do, and he'd find a new peace in his duties. He'd embrace the new day that had come completely, with faith fully restored.
The earth was recovering. The people in it were recovering. And Sam and Dean were recovering. Chuck had seen the evidence of that when Dean had uncovered the Impala and taken her from the shed. He'd washed her up, filled up the gas tank, and he and Sam had taken her for a drive. They didn't go far, but the point was, they went together. Chuck thought there was great significance in that fact.
He placed the pages he'd revised in their spot in the final entry of stories. Most of what he'd written wasn't what he'd expected. He'd thought there would be goodbyes and anguish over loss. Instead, he'd found new beginnings, the old selves sloughed away to reveal fresh new people born from those experiences. Smiling in pure satisfaction for a job well done, he lined up the binders all in a row on the shelves. He'd labeled them and added a master list of what was in each binder.
There was a knock on his door and he looked up as Jo opened the door and peered in. She gave him a once over and shook her head. "You're not ready yet."
"Yeah, I had a couple last minute things to add."
Stepping inside, she looked around the cabin. "Yeah? Like what?"
He was glad he'd cleaned. "I don't think I should say."
"Why not? Is it something bad?"
"No, not really." Chuck stood and tucked his shirt in, then reached for his tie and held it up. "Do I need a tie? I mean, I don't think it really matters what I'm wearing."
"You don't have to wear the tie if you don't want to. That was purely Jimmy's idea of what's appropriate."
"Good. I'm not wearing it."
"Comb your hair though."
He combed his hair, looked at his reflection. He hadn't had a drink all day, so his eyes were clear and he'd gotten enough sleep the previous night, so they weren't bloodshot, either. He'd remembered to shave. "Jo…."
She came to him, put one arm around him and looked in the mirror as well. "You clean up nicely. Come on. Everyone's waiting."
The party was in full swing when he walked into the clearing with Jo. Someone had created a huge banner that read 'Congratulations Chuck'. He tried very hard not to cry.
For two hours, he received hugs and well wishes, his stomach rolling with anxiety. He was more nervous than he'd ever been in his life. This topped anything he'd previously experienced.
Dean raised a glass and cleared his throat. "Chuck, I just want to say that out of all the prophets I've ever met, you're my favorite."
"Thanks, Dean, but I'm the only prophet you've met."
There were more toasts and as the sun began to lower in the sky, Castiel stood. "It's time, Chuck. We shouldn't keep him waiting."
He started to walk to the path into the woods, then returned to Jo, leaning over to say in her ear, "You wondered what I was writing. It's nothing bad, just…you're pregnant again."
Her smile froze, a tinge of panic in her gaze. "No, I'm not. We've been rocking the contraceptives without fail. The odds -"
"Yeah. Twins this time."
"But…but…" Her mouth opened and closed several times. "We used protection. Sometimes even multiple methods. Not like the last time when he forgot!"
"You're pregnant and no, you won't need two tests this time. Just the one, because you know how your body feels in that state. You know it's true."
Jo closed her eyes, sighed, and reopened them. "Somewhere, my mother is laughing. Twins. Great."
"It is great. You and Cas are good parents. Some of the best." Chuck followed Castiel into the woods. As they walked, nervous tremors grew in earnest. "I'm excited," he told Cas. "Really I am. I mean, how many people in history get invited to go up bodily, but mostly I'm…."
"Scared," Cas filled in for him, giving him a long look. "You'll be fine. I hear many changes have been made since God returned." He stopped walking and pointed. "There's a clearing up ahead. Gabriel is waiting. He'll take you up, stay with you awhile, long enough for you to become acclimated. This is a good thing, Chuck. Remember, we'll all see you again someday. This isn't goodbye. Not anymore."
Once, Castiel would have been awkward with a handshake, but now, he gave Chuck a hug and a reassuring pat on the back.
Chuck left earth for heaven and didn't look back.
Castiel strolled into the tiny clearing and waited. Someone else was taking over the story now. In the world somewhere, was a person taking over where Chuck had left off. He could hardly write about events after his own ascension to heaven. Chuck's days of prophesying were over and while the lives of Sam and Dean were still in progress, it was the lives of their children that were going to matter more as the years passed. That didn't mean they wouldn't be written about by the new prophet. It was simply the end of one era. The Winchester gospels featuring Sam and Dean were complete.
He found he was a little sad for that.
Only minutes passed when Gabriel returned. He held two glasses, thrusting one at Castiel. There was confetti on his shoulders and in his hair that disappeared as it fell to the ground.
"Snuck you out some punch. Try it."
He took a cautious sip. It smelled as though a single sniff would knock out a herd of elephants at fifty yards. "Not bad."
"Not bad? I'll have you know that's Mike's recipe. Well, mostly his. The original concoction was Dean's, but Mike tweaked it for a mostly angelic crowd."
"It'll get you smashed," he coaxed.
Castiel set the cup aside. "My days of drunken frolicking are done, especially from drinking Michael's atomic punch. It smells lethal."
Gabriel drained his cup, tossed it away, and reached for Castiel's. "I like that. Atomic. Michael's Atomic Blaster punch."
"Cute. How's Chuck adjusting?"
"Trading stories with the Apostle Paul, but I predict the party will really get rolling when Daniel shows up. The lion's den story is always a hit, though Chuck's doing pretty well holding his own with them. Him getting pieces of you in his hair got quite the reaction."
"Happy to contribute to his adjustment," he replied with a dry tone.
"Even Raphael's telling the story and you know how he is." He drained that cup as well. "The introduction of a prophet into heaven has everyone out and about that can be at present."
"So can I report that he's well?"
"You can. Better yet, come up with me and see for yourself. The party is hoppin', my friend. No, it's better than hoppin'. I never thought I'd see some of my brothers partying like they are, but I tell you, Castiel, getting punishment over and done with has done something for them. This whole liking humanity thing you and I got going on?" He motioned between the two of them with two fingers. "Becoming more in vogue these days. Who knows, in a couple thousand years? Might be the norm all the way."
"Pleased to hear it."
"So, you coming?"
"No. Tender my regrets. I'm not ready to venture into heaven. My place is here. Maybe," he quirked a brow, "in a couple thousand years I'll come to visit."
"Suit yourself. Meet me in the usual place next month."
Castiel sat on a log after Gabriel had gone. He'd been thinking a lot about the things Gabriel had told him and, with a little trepidation, began to pray like he once had, sitting quietly.
This time, he received an answer.
Dean Winchester felt a stab of deja-vu when he turned from grabbing a beer from the cooler.
His daughter was playing with Cas and Jo's son with more energy than he ever remembered having. Risa pretended to be playing with them, though he could tell she was doing little more than occasionally catching and throwing the ball. He was half afraid the exercise would send her into labor. She was nearly there now. Hopefully, he wouldn't have to deliver this one, too. While he loved being a father, he wouldn't wish having to deliver his own child on any man.
His heart seemed to swell with emotion every time his daughter held her arms up to be picked up and called him 'daddy'. She was precious to him. He couldn't wait to have another.
Jo and Castiel were sitting on one bench holding hands. They'd had an argument about something Chuck had told Jo before leaving, whatever it was leaving Cas looking smug and Jo mildly annoyed. When Jo turned away, Cas waved at him, grinned, pointed at Jo's stomach and held up two fingers before giving him a thumbs up. She looked back, caught him and socked one fist into his arm. Dean took that to mean Jo was pregnant for a second time and smiled.
One thing that amazed Dean about Castiel was how good a father he was. He enjoyed every part of it, even the not-so good parts.
While most of his powers had returned, there were marked differences in Castiel. Jimmy surfaced most days, his limit of time eventually tapping out at an hour. Usually, he spent the time with Claire, though with her grown and wanting to lead an adult life, there was less of that. She wanted to be outside the camp, helping settlements rebuild. Dean suspected she had a boyfriend somewhere out there now. Jimmy continued to profess love for Jo, but as far as Dean knew, that profession of feelings was as far as it went.
Castiel's feelings never faded, the angelic coolness never returning. Dean didn't quite understand the entire story behind it, something about a disobedient high class of angels, proactive measures taken against Cas, and centuries of a power level not natural to him. Whatever. Did it really matter? Cas was Cas, not the angel who'd saved Dean from hell and not the near human he'd been. He was both and neither, growing and changing with his experiences.
None of them were the same as they'd started out. They'd all been changed. They'd all grown.
Occasionally, Castiel met Gabriel to discuss 'world matters'. He never said what those world matters were and Dean didn't press him. Castiel's reluctant job was off-limits as conversational fodder and few besides their immediate group knew the truth.
And then there was Sam.
Dean's gaze turned to his brother. He was deep in a discussion with Rick and Mya, hands moving as he made a point. They still had their ups and downs. They still fought and argued and got under each other's skin. Yet despite it all…Dean couldn't complain. He had his family.
Life was good.
If they could survive the Apocalypse, they could survive anything this new world sent their way.
It could only get better from here.