A/N: And now, the moment you've all been waiting for: the very. Last. Chapter.
To everyone who reviewed, thank you. You are the reason that this story even got this far. As Chuck says, endings are hard. I hope you like my ending, or at least don't hate it, because I wrote it with you in mind and I really do care what you think of it.
As for the ridiculously fluffy fic you've been promised? It's in the works. It's gonna be a short oneshot, so it may even go up late tonight, if not tomorrow. I stay true to my word, folks. It will contain snuggles, tickling, and there will be at least a brief mention of Eskimo kisses. "But thecouchcarrot, you can't do all that AND keep Dean in character," you protest. "It just can't be done!" Oh yeah? Just watch me.
And now, without further delay, Chapter 7.
When Castiel returned, Dean was in Lisa's basement, shining a flashlight at her fusebox and muttering at it. Dean's back was turned to him, and Castiel took the opportunity to silently observe the man.
Dean's emotions were as clear as day. His overwhelming happiness was suffused with a tight anxiety, apprehension that had nothing to do with the apparent power outage. Castiel couldn't discern what he was nervous about without peering into his mind, so he let it lie. Dean's jacket had been cast on the floor, and the tension was visible in his taut shoulders, the slightly defensive cast of his posture. His shirt was an older one, just a little too tight, clinging to the defined muscles of his back, his well-worn jeans hugging his body in all the right places, and suddenly Castiel's thoughts were wandering into entirely different territory.
Making love with Dean Winchester had been the single most pleasurable experience of Castiel's entire existence. He had finally understood why Dean had been so concerned that he would die a virgin, and why Anna had chosen to fall. When sex was good, it was… incredible.
Dean was incredible.
That being said, Castiel knew that that particular session had been offered as a parting gift, the exception to the rule. Like a miracle, it was intended as an unrepeatable performance, a once-in-a-millennium event. An extraordinary singularity.
Watching Dean, Castiel wished miracles happened a little more often.
Finally the lights flickered on and Dean turned around, only to jump at the sight of Castiel. "Where the hell have you been?" he demanded angrily, even as relief and gladness coursed through him. He opened his mouth to continue berating, and then he stopped himself short, seemingly changing his mind. "Wait. No. You don't have to answer that. Just –" He sighed and clicked off his flashlight. "Okay, I've had enough heart-to-heart today to last me a lifetime, and God knows my manhood has suffered enough as it is, but there's some stuff I gotta say to you."
Castiel simply waited. Dean didn't need prompting.
Dean took a deep breath. "I owe you – so much," he began, faltering. "When Sam died, I couldn't. I couldn't see my way out from that dark place. I was spinning my wheels and I was stuck, trapped in my own personal hell and you – you pulled me out." His green eyes held Castiel's. "Just like you did before. There's no words for how grateful I am."
Castiel remained silent, sensing that he wasn't finished.
"You've seen me at my absolute worst, no exaggeration," Dean continued, chagrined. "I was a total dickhead to you, and you've been nothing but fucking awesome to me. I know you planned to head back upstairs as soon as this whole 'presence' thing got sorted out, but it's just when I'm starting to get my head on straight, firing on all six cylinders again and it just seems like you're getting the short end of the stick here, leaving right now, and I can't let you go in good conscience without asking – and I know I have no right to ask you this, but." That anxiety flared up again in him again, wavering and bright, and he paused a moment, his eyes flicking from Castiel to the floor and back again. "If you'd stay around a little longer," he said quietly, slowly, "I'd really like to try and make it up to you."
Castiel felt a strange, jarring hope. Like the world had suddenly shifted ever so slightly on its axis, and skewed everything imperceptibly, and maybe that extraordinary singularity didn't have to be so singular after all, and maybe the choices he'd made hadn't been as foolish as he'd feared.
"To answer your first question," Castiel began carefully, "I left because I wanted to allow you and Sam some privacy, which you usually indicate I don't give you enough of. I only meant to be gone for a few minutes, but I was contacted by a messenger from heaven. It seems that my brothers wish me to return, since God appears to have bestowed some sort of preference on me. They want me to negotiate and referee the new order."
Dean pressed his lips and nodded, looking downward and forcefully casual; disappointment and embarrassment sank heavily in his soul and burned.
"But I told them that I have unfinished business here."
Dean looked up, startled, eyes wide and disbelieving.
Castiel's lips curled upward, unable to hide the warmth unraveling within him any longer. "The presence has been identified, yes, but the problem is far from solved. Sam may be tainted, but he is no demon; he cannot hold a vessel in his state, at least not for extended lengths of time. Knowing you and your refusal to learn the meaning of the word 'impossible,' I would guess that you plan to procure a vessel anyway, perhaps even restore Sam's true body. And if you insist on such an insane mission, you'll need my assistance." Castiel forced himself to say the rest, to say it before Dean had to say it, when it would hurt much more. "Our… relationship has been unique, and now that Sam is back, things are… different. I understand if you would like to return to the platonic –"
And the rest of his words were lost in Dean's passionate kiss, leaving Castiel weak-kneed and breathless. "Platonic, my ass," Dean muttered hoarsely. "Fuck that noise."
Castiel couldn't agree more.
Explaining things to Lisa was surprisingly easy, since Sam had luckily mastered the whole popping-into-visibility thing. Without him, Dean would have looked like a lunatic hallucinating his dead brother, and a well-meaning Lisa probably would have sent him to the loony bin. As it was, she understood, and she was actually quite happy to meet Cas, who she'd "heard so much about." As sad as it was to leave, Dean was restless and ready to get on the road; he didn't want to delay Sam's problem any longer than he needed to. To be honest, he was ready to really drive again, to get back into the ceaseless rhythm of the highway and feel the reassuring growl of the Impala's engine work its way into his bones. So, that evening he made his goodbyes.
Ben was standing in the hallway, his face scrunched up, rubbing his cheeks quickly in the clearly futile hope that Dean wouldn't see the few fat tears that spilled over his eyelashes. Dean knelt down to his level and offered him a Kleenex.
"I think there's s-s-somethin' in my eye," Ben croaked, scrubbing his fist against his eye vainly.
Dean nodded in agreement. "And you know, it is allergy season. You remember what I taught you?"
Ben snuffled and held up three fingers. "Chicks dig a man with confidence," he recited in a quavering voice, "family comes first, and always spread the peanut butter, then the jelly."
"Exactly," Dean affirmed. "Now, I wanted to give you somethin'…" He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a cassette tape, rubbing the smooth plastic case with his thumb. "This," he explained, holding it up in front of Ben, "is a tape of all my favorite Kansas songs. Kansas the band, that is. And since I'm from Kansas the state, I thought I'd leave it with you as a little reminder." He looked at the tape; the name of the band was scrawled on the label in black marker, written more than a decade ago. Gettin' old, Winchester. "This tape has gotten me through a lot of hard times, and I hope it does the same for you."
Ben's eyes were wide and awed. "Thanks, Dean," he breathed, taking the tape gingerly like it was his most prized possession. Then worry flashed over his face, and he looked up at Dean anxiously. "Can I – can I say goodbye to the Impala?"
"Sure." Dean clapped him on the shoulder and gave him an understanding smile. "Why don't you run out there right now."
Ben dashed out the door, and Dean's eyes followed him from the window as ran to the Impala and threw his little arms over her, resting his cheek on her hood lovingly. Dean's heart squeezed painfully. Fuck it, I don't even care how selfish it is. I do wish he was mine.
"It's been good for him, having you around," Lisa murmured, coming up beside him and watching Ben. "Now that you've stopped trying to teach him how to beat up the other children."
Dean turned to face her, wearing a perfectly straight face. "Well, I realized that violence isn't the answer. Firepower is. I gave him a loaded Glock and told him to take it to school."
Lisa rolled her eyes. "Ha ha, so very funny. I can't believe I ever distrusted you."
Okay, no more putting it off. It was time to have yet another moment of painfully girly honesty, because Lisa fucking deserved that much. "Lisa…" Dean licked his lips, trying to find the right words. "I can't thank you enough for letting me stay here." He chuckled wryly. "Being both legally dead and lacking any marketable skills, we both know I'm basically unemployable."
"I don't know," Lisa countered playfully. "Judging from my yard, I think you could've found something in landscaping eventually. I know a few guys who aren't too picky about visas."
Dean smiled. "In any case, you took me in, and you took care of me, and put up with my tendency to cry like a teenage girl watching 'The Notebook.' The debt I owe you in Kleenex and beer alone is staggering. So, I know I can never repay you, but…" He pulled a wad of bills out of his back pocket and folded it into Lisa's hands. "I'd like to try anyways."
Lisa's eyes went big. "Where –"
"Don't ask," Dean cautioned. "Trust me, you don't want to know." He had used the last of his fraudulent credit cards and gotten as much cash as he could from the ATM. It was hustling pool and card-sharping from here on out until he could apply for some new ones. He had a feeling Lisa would have some moral qualms about the origin of her money, but it was literally the least he could do for her.
Lisa gazed at him, all soft and doe-eyed, and she squeezed his arm. "You'll always have a place here, Dean. And…" She tucked her hair back, uncertain. "So does Cas."
Dean froze. Does she –
"I saw you kissing last night, on the patio," she explained apologetically. "Don't worry, I didn't wasn't spying on you or anything, I just went to check on you and. There you were!" She laughed nervously. "I just thought I should tell you that you. You don't have to hide him from me." Her eyes were just a little too bright. "I'm happy for you, Dean, I really am."
Dean stared at her for a moment, and then swept her into a tight hug. He was going to start a campaign to get Lisa canonized – no, knighted. She didn't realize it, but she was damn lucky that Dean was too brain-damaged to date her because she was way too fucking good for him. "You take care of yourself, Lisa," he told her, his voice thick. It's gotta be that goddamn allergy season. "If you ever need anything, just give me a call, and I'll be back before you can say 'get off my futon.'"
Ben trudged back in then, his eyes red but his face carefully dry. "Okay," he announced forlornly, his high little voice plaintive. "She's all yours."
Dean swallowed a chuckle, and he saw Lisa bite her cheek. "Thanks, buddy." He rested a hand on Ben's shoulder. "And remember, this isn't the last time you're gonna see her. We'll be back as often as we can, alright?"
Ben looked up mournfully. "You promise?"
Dean smiled. "Promise."
"Good, cuz I'm gonna miss – her," Ben said, obviously switching words at the last minute. Then he threw his arms around Dean's waist and hugged him fiercely.
Dean hugged back, trying not to topple over. "She'll miss you too," he replied sincerely. Fucking allergies!
Lisa shot him an apologetic glance and coaxed Ben off of him. "C'mon, honey." Ben pried himself off Dean and clung to her arm instead.
Dean grabbed his bag and opened the door, giving them both a grateful smile. "Thanks, guys. For everything. See ya 'round."
"Goodbye!" Ben wailed.
He closed the door behind him, feeling equal parts pain and relief. He'd miss them, he'd miss the hell out of them, but he didn't belong there. He would always feel like the guy on the fold-out bed, a bad comedian doing a piss-poor impersonation of the average Joe.
He got into the Impala and saw them watching him out the window, and he waved one last time. They waved back, and then Lisa let the curtain slide shut.
And that's the end of that chapter, Dean thought with a twinge of wistful sadness. Hope Chuck is getting this down. It's friggin' poignant.
I wonder whatever happened to Chuck.
Sam flickered into the seat beside him. "Wow," he murmured. "They actually like you. Too weird."
"Of course they like me," Dean retorted. "I'm friggin' loveable."
"That's not exactly the word I'd use to describe you," Sam replied skeptically.
"What, then?" Dean arched his eyebrows and did his best Blue Steel impression. "Dashing? Charismatic? Badass?"
"Deluded," Sam corrected. "Unhygienic. Possibly diseased."
Dean smirked. "Hey, I'm not the one who got the clap."
"Can this conversation be continued while driving?" Cas asked.
They both jumped, and Dean was fucking glad they were still parked. "Warning!" he snapped. "Give us some goddamn warning, Cas! We talked about this. Just – cough or something!"
Cas coughed politely.
"Better," Dean muttered.
"Call me when you stop for the night," Cas continued. "I'll be waiting." And then he disappeared.
"Alright." Dean fumbled in his box of cassettes and pushed one into the tape deck. "Let's get this show on the road."
As the opening chords started, Sam grinned.
"Back in black/ I hit the sack /I've been too long, I'm glad to be back…"
And they drove off into the night.
A/N: Thank you, every one of you, for reading. I don't know if this is a site-wide issue or just my account, but my story-traffic meter thingy is broken, so I don't exactly know how many of you there are. But I do appreciate it.
I know I didn't wrap up everything in a tidy bow. But the way I see it, it's just like on the show: every ending is also a beginning. If this story were on the show, I see this as a jumping off point for a season-long story arc that culminates with Sam getting his real body restored. "Why can't Cas just do it?" you might ask. "I mean, Dean didn't have any scars when he was raised, plus it was months after he died, so that means Cas can do the 'create your own flesh' thing." Um, because the demon-blood-taintyness thingy, that's why. And because I said so!
Please, please review. I worked hard to make this story believable from a canon point of view, true to the characters that the show has developed, and still entertaining and slashy as all hell. I hope I didn't disappoint. I'll catch you all on the next fic!