Disclaimer: Not mine, never have been, never will be.
Beta:
Unlimited praises and love for half_vulcan, who graciously took up the torch for this one *hugs dear* Any advice I didn't take and any remaining mistakes are all on me.
Summary: Dean's content in his new life, or thinks he is, but there's a growing nagging feeling that something's wrong- flashed images and almost memories that make him question. And for Dean Winchester questions need answers.

AN1: Written for castielfest for furius
AN2: This is a bastardization of furius's prompt "Dean, having forgotten Castiel, feeling haunted throughout his life."
AN3: Okay, 'here' *points to the far left* is my comfort zone. 'Here' *points to somewhere middle distance to the right* is where this fic lies… so yeah, hope it's at least in the vicinity of what you wanted.


"What're you gonna do now?" Dean asked the angel riding in the passenger seat of the Impala- the seat Sammy belonged in.

"Return to Heaven, I suppose," Castiel mused.

"Heaven?" he asked incredulously.

"With Michael in the cage I'm sure it's total anarchy up there."

"So what, you're the new sheriff in town?" Dean asked, trying to hide his disappointment.

Cas snickered, a sign of his time here with Dean, "I like that. Yeah, I suppose I am."

"Wow," the hunter huffed. "God gives you a brand new shiny set of wings and suddenly you're his bitch again." Dean hoped the words stung. His angel was leaving, and after everything he couldn't pretend to be happy about it.

Cas knew Dean didn't understand, yes, they were shiny new wings, but he could do what he wanted, he had free will. He could stay with Dean or go leave him in peace, it was his choice. "I don't know what God wants, or if He'll even return. It… it just seems like the right thing to do."

"Well, if you do see Him, you tell Him I'm coming for Him next," his gravelly voice growled.

"You're angry."

"That's an understatement."

"He helped. Maybe even more than we realize."

"That's easy for you to say, He brought you back," Dean snapped, his own emotions raging in conflicting torrents. It was over, Cas and Bobby were alive, but Sammy… "What about Sam? What about me? Where's my grand prize? All I got is my brother in a hole!"

"You got what you asked for, Dean. No Paradise. No Hell. Just more of the same." Cas turned to face the angry hunter, "I mean it Dean, what would you rather have, peace or freedom?" The words echoed his own predicament, even if he hadn't intended them that way.

Dean didn't answer. Cas would never understand. He wasn't destined to get what he wanted. He wanted his brother back. He wanted to give him the normal life they'd never had, the life Sam wanted him to have with Lisa. But he didn't want to be with Lisa. He didn't want that life, not without Sam. Heaven help him he wanted Cas, he wanted Cas to stay but he would never ask. It was something he knew he could never have. Cas, especially now, juiced up and full of Grace, would never return his feelings. Besides he'd promised Sam. He had to try to keep that promise.

If Castiel had been unsure of his next act Dean's pain and anger solidified his decision. Cas knew Sam's last wish, and no matter how he felt he would give Dean that chance, he deserved that much. When Castiel spoke again, it was quietly, face turned as if studying his lap, "I would have returned them if you had only asked," and with that enigmatic statement he was gone.

-

It was 6:38 on a Friday evening, the tail end of rush hour fading away and Dean Winchester was sitting behind the wheel of a SUV; Lisa in the passenger seat and Ben smiling happily from the back. He was fitting nicely into their family. Ben barreling into him full force when he'd shown up at Lisa's three months ago; Lisa's greeting a slower, barely contain version of the same.
It was surprising how easily Ben had accepted Dean into their inner circle, as if he'd always been there. And from the way Lisa looked at him, he wondered if to her he had always been. He guided the SUV into the small park; a veritable sea of SUV's littering the parking lot, all with eager children running about, around, and between them. Dean chuckled to himself at how mundane and normal it all seemed.
Part of him thought back over the past two years. The literal Hell he'd gone through, the fight to stop the Apocalypse. What he'd lost in that fight. Just as he was about to be swept away he felt Lisa's soft hand touch his shoulder, apparently having seen him 'going away' as she called it.
He wished he could go away, could change it, Sammy didn't… didn't deserve what he got, he was the good one. Dean was the one marked for Hell, not for family bliss, but he'd promised Sammy, so here he was.
He squeezed Lisa's hand and turned to Ben, "So, the Red Sox's new star pitcher ready for his debut game?"

Ben rolled his eyes, "'s not that big a deal. It's the start of the season, most teams go through three or four starters 'cause we all suck."

"Hey! None of that talk," Dean smiled at the kid, winking playfully.

"Yeah, okay, but stop making a big deal out of it, okay," Ben weedled.

"Yes, sir," Dean relented.

In the passenger seat Lisa smiled, shaking her head at her two favourite men.

They climbed out of the SUV and Lisa easily slid her hand into Dean's, he sometimes wondered if she was afraid he'd float off and disappear again if she didn't keep in physical contact with him. The sad part was he couldn't blame her. Even sharing the same bed he'd sometimes drift off, 'away'.
Then there were the times, when they were making love, her small frame giving beneath his, dark hair rumpled and free, he'd look down and see blinding blue eyes that weren't hers but held so much love there and gone in a flash. So, no, he couldn't blame her for holding on tight, and he tried not to think about why he didn't hold onto her just as fiercely.

-

From his first night at Lisa's he had the nightmares- were they even nightmares if they were real, fresh memories? The images of Sam and Adam, of Bobby lying there, dead by a flick of his baby brother's wrist. And the better nights when his dreams took him to his father's storage room, Lucifer freshly risen, and Zachariah threatening all their lives in creative and painful ways. Most nights he awoke to Lisa's soothing voice telling him he was safe, but some nights, like tonight, he awoke on his own, Lisa soundly asleep at his side.
Dean clambered out of their bed, making his way to the small bathroom. He'd spent his life fighting real physical demons, now it seemed that the monsters in his mind were going to be his death. Leaning over the sink, he squeezed the marble countertop as if its solid stone could give him strength. He closed his eyes before turning on the cold water and splashing some over his face. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly before opening them. When he did he gasped, for a flash of a moment he thought he'd seen a tan clad figure standing entirely too close behind him. What unnerved him more was that he wasn't afraid of the image. He actually felt calmer than he had in days. He shook his head chalking it up to his drastic change in lifestyle and returned to bed, crawling in behind Lisa spooning around her, wishing he felt the comfort he should have at her presence, her warmth.

-

After almost four months, Lisa finally confronted Dean. "Dean, you need to figure this out for yourself," her tone was loving and far from judgmental. "I want you to be here and you can't be with all these questions."

"Lisa," Dean didn't know what to say. As usual she'd read him just right. These half memories and flashes of someone or something that was and wasn't, were pulling what remained of his sanity apart.

"Hey," she shook Dean's shoulder, "I'm not kicking you out. I just want you to figure this out; never said you couldn't figure it out here." Lisa smiled and kissed Dean's temple. "You're always welcome."

Dean set out like it was any other hunt. He collected information; put together every instance of those haunting blue eyes, every time something seemed to be there on the edge of his vision or memory.
After weeks of thinking, writing, and trying to remember, Dean began to realize something was actively missing. He remembered Uriel, and knew that he was the angel-dick he'd dealt with for almost nine months, the one who'd wanted him to send an entire town to their death, the same angel who had told him to torture Alistair. He shivered violently.
He knew Zachariah was the bastard who'd tormented him and Sammy for over a year, and he remembered the freedom he felt when he shoved an angel sword through his smug head. But where'd it come from, whose sword was it? He tried to remember, he saw a flash of blue a split second before a mind-splitting headache overtook him.
Once he found that missing memory, others came tumbling to him. Places and things, situations he couldn't quite place, the sense of another person being there in all of them. Who had helped him escape the Green Room? Had rescued him from Zach and another trip to that terrifying future? Who had actually pulled him from Hell? He stared at the scar on his arm, tracing its edges and trying to remember. He just couldn't.
He needed help, someone who had been there with them every step of the way. He needed Bobby.

-

Dean stared at the phone as if it was some creature he should be ganking rather than a simple communication device- his mind provided words, 'the voice says I'm running out of minutes', they sounded familiar, the gravel voice rumbling through his head was familiar, warm. Shaking off the feeling he dialed a number from memory and waited.

"Hello," Bobby snapped at the phone.

Dean swallowed, "Hey, Bobby."

"Dean?" the old hunter whispered, shocked.

"Yeah."

"My God, boy, it's good to hear your voice." Bobby wasn't sure he'd ever see or hear from Dean again, after he'd left. "Everything alright?" he asked hesitantly, knowing Dean wouldn't be calling if there wasn't something going on.

"I just… I need your help."

Ten hours later, Bobby was pulling up to Dean's doorstep in Cicero with every angelic text he could find.

"Ya know I didn't even have to look for these, just knew where they were." Bobby shook his head, "Our lives are more than a little odd, even for hunters."

"Your tellin' me. Hey, Bobby? What do you remember about the last couple years?"

Bobby furrowed his brow, pulling back as if examining the man in front of him. "What kinda question's that?" he asked.

"Just, when we first summoned whatever plucked me outta the Pit… well, do remember what it looked like? Or who carved those protection symbols into our bones? Who banished those angels so we could try to save Adam?"

Bobby was taken aback by Dean's barrage of questions, "Well, o' course, I do."

Dean just looked at the older hunter expectantly.

Bobby huffed, "Fine then, it was… an angel…" Bobby suddenly looked confused. "Well, I'll be damned."

Dean nodded. "See, it's like something's just been erased."
Dean popped open a beer and handed one to Bobby, "I get flashes, blue eyes, tan cloaked figure, but nothin' useful."

Bobby nodded taking a heavy swig of his beer, "We could try the summoning ritual from before," he offered hesitantly. "That is if you think this thing is worth finding out about."

"What are you talking about, Bobby, of course it's worth finding out about," Dean's voice was gruff and angry.

"I only meant that some things are better left buried."

Shaking his head, Dean calmly explained, "I gotta know, Bobby. I got to face it."

Bobby stood, "Saw an old stable on the way into town, should suit our needs. You go scope it out; I'll find the right incantation."

-

Dusk was falling when Bobby pulled up to the stables, it would be full on night by the time they were ready.

Dean took a deep breath, "Let's do this thing."

He watched as Bobby spoke the words of the familiar incantation, waiting for any sign of the creature's arrival- though he wasn't holding his breath; it had taken hours before it had appeared the first time, there was no reason to think this time was any different.

Unlike his first appearance, Castiel was not trying to make an impression. He merely appeared in front of the pair of hunters, no lightening and blowing apart of flimsy wooden doors.

As soon as the blue-eyed figure appeared Dean's mind began racing, filling in every half memory, every feeling he'd been trying to place for the past eight months.

Before Castiel could say a word, question why he had been summoned, Dean was falling on his knees, the name, "Castiel," a ghost on his lips.

Castiel knelt down to his hunter, "Why did you call me?" he asked sadly. "I removed every memory I could. Why?"

Dean let his eyes bore into the angel's, "Because I needed to know."

"Dean," the angel sighed, pressing their foreheads together.

All those feelings that were missing from his life suddenly began to fill him; just being this close to his angel (and those words sounded so perfect in his head) was the balm he'd been searching for, but never quite found with Lisa. He remembered the last time he'd seen Cas, the words he'd spoken, 'I would have returned them if you had only asked', and the pain he'd felt in that split second before the angel vanished from his life forever. In the firmest voice he could muster he made a declaration to Cas, "Don't leave again."

Castiel wrapped a hand around Dean's neck, holding him gently in place, "Sam wanted you to have a normal, happy life."

"I don't want normal, I want you." The words escaped his lips before he'd had the time to think, but he wouldn't take them back for anything. They were true, even as he said them he knew that much.
He hoped Lisa would understand, she'd seemed to know there was something missing, keeping Dean from being fully with her and Ben. Hell, maybe, she'd known before he had, he could see their relationship was changing, still she'd been so supportive and there for him.

Castiel leaned forward, mouth brushing softly against Dean's ear, "She understands. I have heard her prayers," answering Dean's silent questions.

Dean's moss agate eyes drifted closed as he let his entire body lean against his angel's, "Stay."