Dean shut the door of the motel with a careless kick, juggling the fast food bags and bottle of Jack in his arms before he could dump it all on the stained approximation of a kitchen bench in the corner.

It had been two days since Raphael's little visit and Dean hadn't been back to Lisa's - unwilling to risk her and Ben should he get a visit from another angelic hit squad. Now that it had happened once he'd found himself kinda surprised someone hadn't taken a swipe before. Then again, the symbols on his ribs were probably still working their mojo on most of 'em.

It begged the question of how the king dick of the archangels had found him in the first place. But whatever, Dean just figured his life sucked that way.

Fishing a few fries out of the greasy bag, he slumped against the bench, dragging the bottle of Jack towards him across the surface. It was one thing he hadn't allowed himself to indulge at Lisa's. With the exception of beer, he'd been almost painfully alcohol free while playing houseguest - unwilling to disrespect Lisa's hospitality like that. Not to mention, he never wanted Ben to remember him as the drunken greasemonkey reeking up his mother's couch. He'd gotten damn well hammered with Stu a couple of times, but the old man had always offered him his own couch on those nights, often with a not so subtle tap of the side of his nose to show his understanding of Dean's unspoken promise to himself. It had always wigged Dean out a little – that nose-tap.

And so tonight would be the first time since Sammy had taken the dive that Dean would get to properly drink himself under the table in solitude. A melodramatic part of him was looking forward to it. Of course, he never even got the seal cracked before the familiar sound of wings had him gripping the bottle so hard he could have sworn his knuckles creaked. Because he already knew it wasn't Raphael. He could fucking feelit.

"Hello Dean," Cas said, and Dean very nearly gave into the desire to smack his head down on the bench-top.

"D'ya reckon you could come back in, oh, say -" Dean eyed at the bottle in front of him speculatively, making a show of gauging its contents, "- half an hour?"


Dean sighed as he turned around, finally raising his eyes. Cas was standing in the middle of the motel room - solid and real and painfully, painfully familiar. As Dean watched, the angel turned his head, taking in their slightly seedy surroundings. It wasn't one of the best rooms Dean had ever stayed in, but it was all he'd been able to afford with his last fake card. A part of him was a little indignant that Cas seemed to be judging it.

It wasn't until Cas turned his all too blue eyes back on him that Dean realised what was wrong with the picture before him. "You fucking asshole," he accused. Cas tilted his head in that way that made Dean want to punch him. Definitely punch. Nothing else. "I thought you let the poor bastard have his body back." Dean waved a hand down to the angel's vessel.

Castiel followed his gesture, tugging at the damn coat with an almost fond familiarity that Dean didn't really know what to make of. "I did," Cas said simply, looking up. "This is not the body of Jimmy Novak."

Dean snorted, pulling the bottle towards him again mostly just for something to do. "Looks a hell of a lot like him."

He watched Cas's eyes follow his hands as he twisted the top off the Jack and tried and failed not to remember the last time those eyes had watched him so closely.

"I had it made," Cas explained as Dean took his first swig. "From the base components of Jimmy's physical body."

Dean couldn't help it – his eyes widened. And he totally did not choke a little on his drink fuckyouverymuch. "You freaking cloned him?"

Cas looked down again, flexing one hand in a way that made Dean shift slightly. "I believe that is the technical term, yes," the angel replied nonchalantly - like he wasn't talking about something out of a science fiction movie. "He gave me permission," he added, looking up.

Dean closed his mouth. So what if that was going to be his next point of argument. Fuck it. "And you couldn't just clone him before, because…?" he demanded, because hell, he needed something to aim all this friggin' anger at.

"It was against the rules."

Dean didn't stop himself from rolling his eyes. "And now?"

"Now, I am the rules," Cas answered, voice low and gravelly and everything Dean would never admit to missing. Dean took another swig to cover his surprise at that statement - practically feeling Cas's gaze burning across him. The hot familiarity of it was stifling; perfect and suffocating in equal parts and all of the sudden Dean couldn't do it. The banter; the flippancy… he was just… he was just so damn tired.

"What are you doing here, Cas?" Dean asked, subdued and much wearier than he'd intended. But the hell with it; the sooner Cas did what came for, the sooner Dean would be left to his Jack and the sooner he could get back to pretending a certain angel didn't exist because it was too goddamn hard to do anything else.

"I…" Cas started, and something in his voice made Dean look up despite himself. He wasn't expecting to see the little Cas-approximation of a smile on the angel's features. It was almost like a punch to the gut. "How would you say it?" Cas continued, fixing him with a sure gaze. "I… resigned."

Dean's brain tripped over itself. "You - huh?"

He watched as Cas wandered towards him - blessedly stopping a few feet away to lean against the bench himself because Dean didn't think he'd be able to handle any sort of hardcore proximity right now.

"I have left Heaven for the time being," Cas explained, and Dean wanted to throttle him for his tone – casual, unconcerned, like he was discussing the damn weather and not the ultimate rebellion. Again.

"Won't God be pissed at you?" Dean heard himself ask, feeling slightly blown away again when Cas's answer was another small smile as the angel stared down at the tiling beneath his feet - like grout held all the freaking answers.

"More than likely," Cas agreed and Dean couldn't help it - he scoffed.

"And you're okay with that?" he asked incredulously.

The smile disappeared and suddenly Dean was watching a stubborn determination cross the angel's features - an expression he hadn't seen since Cas had been spitting blood, a horseman gloating over him.

"After all I have done, I deserve this choice," the angel said resolutely, steely gaze on the grout. "I deserve to have what I want."

The words were dropping from Dean's lips before they'd really checked in with his brain first. "And what's that?"

Cas looked up, fixing him with a look that spoke… everything. Dean found his breath hitching slightly as he gripped the bench behind him.

"I think you know," Cas said plainly. And it was too much - after everything. God he'd left; he'd left…

Dean didn't realise he'd squeezed his eyes closed until he felt a warm grip cover his own on the bottle at his side and he sucked in a breath at the sudden closeness. A gentle tug had the bottle out of his grip; a light clank told Dean that it had been relocated to the bench, followed a moment later by warm fingers tracing down his jaw.

"Dean, I -" A hesitation. "Please open your eyes." Cas's voice was low and soft and right. Goddamn. There.

For a full second Dean struggled with himself before he surrendered and complied.

Cas was closer than he'd thought. The heat of him was like a physical touch; his gaze deep and blue and making something twist sharply in Dean's chest. "You fucking left," he whispered harshly, damning his voice for its broken accusation. Cas's fingertips found that damn spot on the back of his neck and Dean felt his breath stutter again.

"I came back," the angel countered, tone intimate and very, very real.

And it was the one answer that cut the deepest; it should have had Dean raging. It would have... except then Cas was leaning into him, breath hot on his mouth as his eyes slid shut...

The first touch of lips was light, almost chaste - like the damn angel was asking permission. And in a way, Dean realised, he was. He was being given a choice, just like Cas had always goddamn promised. He could pull away - distance himself. He could stick to his guns, insist Cas fuck off and never come back. It would be so easy to let the anger have free reign. So damn easy...

He could have his pride. He could have his fury. He could be safe. Or he could trip over whatever the fuck this feeling was building in his chest and fall.

Ridiculously enough, in that split second of uncertainty it was an unbidden memory that made the decision for him. One of Sam, his brother's face a mask of well worn exasperation at any one of Dean's many, many antics. Dean couldn't even really remember the exact circumstances of this one - it was so common.

"Don't be an idiot, Dean."

So... Dean wasn't.

His hands found their familiar grip on the collar of Cas's coat and Dean pulled, forcing their bodies flush as he opened his mouth under the angel's and Jesus fucking Christ it was the best feeling in the world just tasting him again.

Castiel had worried. After the initial sweet realisation of his feelings, after he'd spread his wings and flown towards earth, had come the uncertainty. Dean had told him not to come back. Bitter, black words that had cut Castiel deep at the time - that still did. It was one thing to realise his own desires, but he was loathe to press them on an unwilling recipient.

He'd meant to ask in words - give the question clear meaning - but the sight of Dean, bitter and in pain and knowing Castiel himself had caused it all… He'd needed the touch – a desire that had surprised him with its fierceness. The kiss had been the question - the choice. Gently given and taking all his strength to keep it that way. But he had promised.

And Dean had chosen.

With hands and mouth and a singular determination Dean had chosen and Castiel had never felt anything so very incredible. He could perhaps be forgiven for not realising they'd made it across the room until he felt the back of his legs hit the bed.

Dean pressed him into the mattress with an almost violent urgency; mouth, teeth, touch – all claiming him with a ferocity that should have given Castiel pause. Instead, each painful grip, each bite a hair's breadth from breaking skin just seemed to drive him higher.

The sharp edge of pain in such acts as a human had been thrilling – he remembered clearly the sensation of Dean marking him in front of the mirror in Bobby's ramshackle bathroom. As an angel, though, it was something... more. The sharpness, the thrill was still there but it was Dean's feeling, Dean'sneed behind the actions that struck him with the most force.

Castiel gasped into Dean's touch – blunt fingernails making tracks down pale flesh.

Dean was skating a razor's edge of emotion. Pain, passion, fury, need, and something deeper... The feelings broke over Castiel with a singular intensity. He had worried that he wouldn't be able to experience intimacy as humans did, wouldn't be able to revel in the violence of the sensations. He'd never expected to be not only wrong, but to have his increased grace add a whole new element to it. Dean was the emotional equivalent of a siren in the moment and Castiel couldn't have silenced him if he'd wanted to. With every touch, every kiss he was drowning a little bit more – and by Heaven he never wanted to resurface.

Somewhere in the melee Dean had managed to divest Castiel of half of his clothing. It was only as Dean leaned back to yank his own t-shirt over his head that Castiel realised he was in such a state. His coat and jacket were gone, leaving him in the crisp button down shirt that wasn't so very buttoned now that he noticed. His tie was nowhere to be seen. The only item of clothing that seemed to have escaped the onslaught seemed to be his pants – something that became a moot point a moment later when Dean leaned over him, scraping his teeth over one pale hip bone as his hands made quick work of the belt.

Castiel hissed at the sensation – a sound that turned into a broken moan a moment later as Dean proved once more that he was much faster at buttons and zippers than Castiel could ever hope to be. "D-Dean... ah!"

Dean's touch was sure and deliciously hard and those hands... by Heaven, how had Castiel ever thought he could live without those hands?

Castiel arched off the bed at a particularly deft stroke only to bite back what might have been a whimper a moment later when the touch abandoned him. He looked up in time to see Dean shuck off his jeans before leaning down and yanking off Cas's shoes, one by one. His own pants were next and Castiel revelled slightly in the ridiculousness of an angel of the Lord having to lift his hips so as to allow pinstriped undergarments to be yanked off.

And then Dean was over him – on him – skin hot and brash and oh so delicious as he ground downwards. Their bodies fit together with a familiar slide of intensity and Castiel moaned as Dean's mouth claimed his once more – lips and tongue working to make him lose all rational thought. And for a time he did - world condensed down to touch and breath and skin. And while Castiel lost himself in the sensation he knew instinctively that Dean wanted more - it was in every rough touch; every determined press of hips… It wasn't until Dean fisted one hand in Castiel's shirt that they somehow still hadn't managed to lose and growled into his neck that Castiel felt the pause – the frustration. It took only a cursory brush of Dean's mind to find the source.

"You won't damage me," Castiel told him, voice gone one side of wrecked. He didn't say it wouldn't hurt – because it would. But in a way he wanted it to – he wanted the intensity. He wanted the sense of sacrifice because Dean - no matter what the man himself thought of the matter - Dean deserved it. And then, because Dean still hesitated, Castiel moved for him.

The trickle of grace he used to ease the way only slightly dulled the sudden burn as Castiel shifted, pulling Dean into him. Whatever pain there was though was drowned very quickly in the crash of emotion from the man above him - Castiel found himself gasping at the strength of it.

"C-Cas-" Dean's voice staggered and Castiel silenced him with a kiss - reassuring with a hot, slow slide of tongues. It was a language Dean seemed to grasp quickly. When Castiel shifted, rocking slightly Dean took the cue for what it was and picked up the rhythm. And nothing, nothing had ever felt so right for Castiel as the feel of Dean like this.

The burn of friction was easily soothed with another slight push of grace and Castiel watched as Dean's eyes blew wide at the sensation, his hips staggering in their rhythm slightly. But only for a moment. Heat bled into Dean's gaze as he shifted them, hitching one hand under Castiel's knee and Castiel arched off the bed at the first hard, deep thrust. "Ah!"

Castiel's grip found the headboard almost automatically as Dean set a hard, driving rhythm. It was a feeling unlike anything Castiel had ever experienced. With each brutal thrust, each broken grunt Dean claimed him and it was all Castiel could do to hold on against the tide. Because he had to. Because Dean needed this, Castiel felt it - he needed to mark and thrust and affirm, in the basest of senses. He needed to take control. And Castiel would let him. Because Castiel needed Dean.

That every driving thrust was working Castiel towards flying apart was just an unexpected benefit.

Castiel didn't realise how close he was to the edge of control until Dean shifted slightly in mid-thrust and something deep inside flashed pleasure, unadulterated and sharp through his vessel. The headboard splintered in his grip and he gasped a ragged moan as he felt his bound wings flex against their confinement.

It was not something he had foreseen. Coming apart as a mortal had been release, perfect and passionate. Coming apart as an angel - losing that kind of control - it would be dangerous. But there was no stopping, no going back. The feel of Dean's fingers digging into his flesh was proof enough of that. Castiel arched off the bed again at a particularly well-aimed snap of Dean's hips. "D-Dean… ah! Dean – close your eyes…"

Castiel's voice seemed to hit Dean like a physical force, sending a shudder through his frame, and before Castiel could react Dean was pitching forward, his mouth capturing his own in a hard kiss. Dean's orgasm hit them both, its intensity driving Castiel over the edge with him. Castiel only had a second to hope that Dean had followed his instructions before his wings ripped free of his control and he gasped as he came. And the feel of it - the intense, heady release was exquisite.

Castiel was left panting in the aftermath, savouring the heat of Dean where he had collapsed bodily onto him - face buried in Castiel's neck. It was an automatic gesture to wrap first his arms and then his wings around Dean's quaking form. The slight jump then soft groan from Dean as Castiel's feathers slid across the man's back was a surprise.

"You can feel that?" Castiel asked softly, flexing the feathers of one wing across Dean's skin.

A renewed shudder was enough answer but Dean nodded into his neck anyway. "Mmhmm," Dean murmured, voice thick and sated. "What is it?"

"My wings," Castiel replied, and it was only his reflexes that kept Dean's vision intact as the man jerked away, apparently to stare down at him incredulously. Castiel made the act a bit difficult by covering Dean's eyes with one hand.

Dean huffed. "I can feel them but I'm not allowed to look at them?"

"They are a manifestation of my true form," Castiel explained. "It would hurt you to look upon them."

Even with his hand covering Dean's eyes Castiel could feel the man rolling them.

"Of course it would," Dean huffed, and Castiel felt a tug of affection as he reigned in his power, re-binding his wings before moving his hand. Dean blinked down at him, face debauched and - for a split second before he could school it - utterly open. In that moment Castiel had never felt so sure of anything as he was of this; of this between them.

Something of the sentiment must have shown on Castiel's face because Dean's eyes slid from his, a slight flush rising on his neck and Castiel very nearly laughed at the thought of Dean blushing at anything, let alone following an act as carnal as that they'd just indulged. The kiss he pulled Dean down into was languid and deep - an affirmation of the feeling even now throbbing behind his ribs.

Long moments later they lay quietly together, Castiel revelling in the puff of Dean's breath across his bare chest as his fingers carded soothingly through the man's hair. Dean lay sprawled half on top of him as he dozed – almost as if he was instinctively trying to make sure Castiel couldn't go anywhere. It would have amused Castiel if the slight desperation in it weren't so apparent.

Dean was not a creature of words, Castiel knew, but in this case he didn't have to be.

Castiel had hurt Dean, more than he'd realised. In hindsight, of course, it was obvious. Castiel knew Dean had a deep-seated fear of abandonment - one circumstances seemed eternally and cruelly destined to perpetuate. People came and left and every time Dean's very soul chafed a little bit more. Castiel could see now that Sam's departure had been slowly destroying him from the inside out. What he hadn't anticipated was that his own absence would do almost as much damage.

Human emotions may have been a strange and mysterious creature to him, but even Castiel could see he had work to do to gain back the trust he'd unknowingly torn. And he would. Because the one thing he was absolutely certain of in this situation was that Dean was worth it.

Castiel was pulled out of his musings a minute later when Dean broke the silence. "So. You're choosing me over Heaven," Dean commented – obviously trying to be casual but his voice flirting with discomfort nonetheless. Castiel almost smiled, knowing how dearly it would have cost Dean to get up the courage to say such a thing.

"No," Castiel declared, swiping one thumb across the sweet spot at the back of Dean's neck - enjoying the feel as Dean stretched against him in response. "I'm choosing me over Heaven."

He felt Dean pause against him before a rumble of laughter spread through their skin. "You're nuts."

Castiel felt himself grin into the darkness.

"I'm free."

Dean awoke some time later to cooling sheets, the bed too big and empty around him, and for a split second he felt a moment of panic before he registered the sound of the shower. For some stupid reason the realisation that Cas was indulging in his much-loved hot showers again made him smile into the darkness as he stretched, feeling well-worked muscles tug nicely under the movement.

He should have felt strange, self-conscious even. Last night had been... intense. The feeling of Cas beneath him, around him – surrendering to him in the most intimate of ways... It should have been weird. But while he felt slightly chagrined by his very obvious loss of control he couldn't seem to muster up the appropriate awkwardness to go with it. Because after months of numbness - deep and gnawing - he felt...


He wasn't kidding himself. There was no way this...this whatever-the-hell-it-was was going to last. He'd been around too long and had been through too much to fool himself into thinking this warmth in his chest was going to be anything but fleeting. It would be ripped from him just like everything else in the damn world. But for now – just for now – he would enjoy it.

In a way, that was more of a freaking miracle than the feeling itself. Not too long ago Dean hadn't thought himself capable of such abandonment; feeling for the sake of feeling – not anymore.

"Dude, you're such a friggin' pessimist."

Dean froze. Because no. Just no. He spun, the sheets tangling around his middle as he jammed himself bodily against the headboard and stared wide-eyed

Sam grinned at him from the end of the bed. And it was all there – every detail. Right down to the way he'd jammed his giant man-hands into his jacket pockets as he jiggled back on his heels. Dean wanted to throw up. "You're not Sam," he choked.

The not-Sam's eyes crinkled, painfully familiar. "True – sort of," he conceded. "But I'm not who you think either."

Then very suddenly, with a faint beat of wings Cas was at the side of the bed. He was soaked, obviously having transported straight from the shower - though, Dean noticed, he'd had the forethought to whammy some sweat-pants onto himself at least.

Dean watched with a numb sort of shock as Cas growled - actually growled - as he stalked a step towards the Sam impostor, shoulders tensed and obviously ready for a fight. Then the not-Sam flicked his gaze to the angel and… smiled. Not a smirk; not a triumphant grin - this was an honest to God, genuine, welcoming smile. Cas jerked like he'd just run into a brick wall before practically falling into a seat on the side of the bed.

The fuck?

"Hello Castiel," the not-Sam said, his voice light and… fond?

Castiel actually started to shake. "Father."

Dean's eyes just about popped out of his head. Holy mother of - well… "Father?" he asked incredulously when it became apparent Cas wasn't capable of words. "Father, as in 'our holy'?"

Sam's - well, apparently, God'seyes turned back to him and Dean found himself faced with the weight of the smile. Must have been the face wearing it, though, because it didn't seem to floor him as completely as it had Cas.

"Got it in one," God congratulated, sounding so painfully like Sam it made Dean's hands clench in the sheets.

"Mind telling me why you're wearing my brother's face?" Dean growled. Somewhere in the back of his mind a little voice reminded him that he was talking to God and should probably be showing a little more respect. But then a louder voice, the one that had lived through the pain and torment of the last two years told it to shut its cake-hole. Dean saw out of the corner of his eye that Cas seemed to go a little more rigid at his words, shooting him a quelling look, but Dean ignored him - watching instead as God chuckled.

"It's the only one he has?" the damn deity quipped, like the shit was some kind of inside joke. When Dean didn't let up on his scowl, God sighed. "This is Sam," he explained. "I'm just… hitching a ride, so to speak."

Dean gaped. "You're hitching a-" he stopped, brain working at a furious pace as he tried to process what the words meant. Sam was alive. Sam was here. Sam was…. "My brother's possessed by God?"

"Just temporarily," God assured. "I just needed him out of the way long enough."

"Long enough for what?" Cas suddenly said, voice still mildly stunned but regaining a thread of his old gravel. Dean glanced at Cas to see he seemed to have pulled himself together a bit, frowning as he looked up at his Father.

The look God turned on Cas then was one of utmost… pride. Dean recognised the expression from those few moments he'd managed to impress Sammy with something sufficiently chick-flicky. "For you, stupid," God said fondly.

Dean felt his eyebrows hit his hairline. It didn't hold a candle to the look of confusion on Cas's face, though.

God laughed, seeming to be having a great deal of fun with the conversation. "Oh kid, do you have any idea at all how utterly awesome you are?"

Dean flicked his gaze to Cas again to see the angel's frown deepen, even as God continued.

"I tell ya too – you came out of left field," the deity enthused. "I thought it'd be Anna. Hell, even Uriel was on the right track before the whole flock to the Devil thing-"

Yeah okay, Dean was officially lost and he didn't even have to look at Cas's face to know he wasn't the only one. "What the hell are you talking about?" he interrupted.

God's focus switched back to him and Dean blinked at the look of utter happiness adorning Sam's features. It was almost a slap to the face, realising how long it'd been – even before Sam's death – since he'd seen that look.

"I'm talking about choice," God supplied simply, like that was all the damn answer they needed.

Dean glared until the deity continued. "Angels were my first children," God started, turning that damn fondness back on Cas – like rainbows were shining out of his ass or something. "And they are beautiful - full of grace." A sigh and a familiar raking of a hand through girly, boy-band hair. "But I made my mistakes – just like any first-time parent. My biggest one – obedience."

Dean noticed as Cas's eyebrows hit his scruffy hairline at that.

"It's hard-wired in there – right down at soul level," God continued, voice heavy. "It's all well and good for a while – but eventually every baby bird needs to spread their wings and leave the nest - start making their own mistakes, their own choices. Angel's aren't capable of it – or rather, they didn't think themselves capable – not until now." And then the proud smile was back, as God in a Sammy-suit beamed down at Cas. "Not until you."

Dean frowned. "Funny – your 'children' seemed perfectly capable of making the choice to try and end the world not too long ago."

God made a noise somewhere between a snort and a laugh, a sound Dean never would have associated with anything even remotely holy. "Teenagers, hey?" the deity said, a strained sort of flippancy in his voice and Dean suddenly wanted to punch him – Sam or no Sam. God cleared his throat. "Even so – they weren't following their own path – they were following mine – one I set down a very long time ago when I was a little more, well -" God chuckled a bit awkwardly, like a grown juvenile-delinquent looking back on his wild days, " - wrathful."

"And a little less absent," Dean muttered.

"Dean," Cas said, his voice ticking warningly, but somehow that only seemed to increase the anger bubbling in Dean's throat.

"No Cas – don't tell me you don't want fucking answers too," Dean growled, never shifting his glare from God. "Where the hell were you? Why didn't you stop it?"

"My absence was necessary. They needed to learn-"

And Dean couldn't help the poison bark of laughter. "You sick fuck."

"Dean!" Cas warned again and Dean ignored him.

"People were dying down here and you were trying to teach a goddamn lesson," Dean accused. And yeah, so using the guy's own name in vain directly to his face was a little weird, but fuck it. "What about your other children, huh? What about the humans?"

Dean expected anger – maybe defensiveness. He never expected to have that damn look of pride suddenly turned his way.

"Humans, I've found, are surprisingly good at looking after themselves," God replied.

Dean glowered, trying and failing to find an adequate comeback to that.

God continued, something in his borrowed eyes softening. "For what it's worth, I never wanted it to be like this. The shit you've seen - what you've been through…" God sighed, rubbing the back of his borrowed neck in a gesture Dean thought was way too human for the supposed freaking Creator. "I don't envy the role you've had to play," he continued. "Sammy either. I owe you - big time. And I know that bringing Sam back only pays a fraction of that debt but, well -" God spread his hands in a placating gesture, "- I had to try."

Dean glared. Because the damn bastard had got only one thing slightly wrong: bringing Sam back was everything. And Dean got the feeling the fucker knew it too - he was just trying to be freaking subtle.

"You say I was the first to choose my own path?" Cas suddenly spoke up, and at God's nod continued. "You are incorrect."

God blinked. And Dean sort of wanted to kiss Cas. Two years ago he never would have seen the angel standing face to face with his Holy Father and telling the damn bastard he was wrong.

"Gabriel chose well before me," Cas explained. "He left Heaven."

And then suddenly that motherfucking smile was back. "Ah, yes – Gabe," God remarked ruefully, like a parent talking about a rambunctious teenager. "Gabriel did go his own way, it's true – but it was nowhere near healthy," God explained. "He was running from something, not towards it. No, Cas – you'll be the one that did this – you'll affect this change."

Dean snorted. Change. Lessons. So friggin' typical. What the hell was in the water in Heaven that made everybody from there think they knew what was right for everyone else? Hell, even Cas still had it a bit - the difference with him was he allowed people a choice of the path they wanted to take, whether he thought it was the right one or not. Seemed he'd learned God's stupid lesson well before God had, in Dean's opinion. Speaking of…

"One thing I don't get," Dean interrupted. "If this was all about Cas making his own damn choices, what was with the cupids' order? Isn't that interfering?'

God cocked his head, a small smile finding its way onto Sam's lips. "A little, yes," he admitted, turning his gaze back to Dean. "But you're a stubborn blockhead."

Dean spluttered as God gestured to Cas. "The cupid was more of a shove for you than him. He was already well on the path to holding you above all others. And while you may have grown to feel the same way you never would have acted on it."

And while Dean gritted his teeth and glared, he couldn't deny the little voice in the back of his head telling him the bastard was probably dead right. Fuck knows it had taken him long enough with the whole damn universe hinting and winking and nudging them together before he'd gotten the point.

"You sent Raphael," Cas interjected, and Dean's eyes widened at the tone. And the glare. Castiel, angel of the Lord, was glaring at said Lord like he wanted to take a bit of a swing. Dean would have cheered if the words he'd spoken hadn't caused such a spike of ire in his own chest.

"I didn't send him," God denied, voice tipping in that faux innocent way that Sam had never perfected. "I just... arranged for a certain ring of holy fire to fail."

"You let your rabid dog off his chain," Dean supplied and Cas growled – actually growled.

"Dean could have died," he accused and even Dean felt the need to take a step back from the tone.

God, for his part, just looked back at his angelic child and smiled in that infuriating way of his. Like Cas was a dog that had learned a new trick. "But he didn't – you came."

Blue eyes narrowed. "And if I hadn't?"

"Would you have stayed away?" God asked, a hint of a smirk playing at the edge of his mouth.

"No," Cas said automatically.

And Dean blinked at that - the absolute lack of hesitation in the response - and something warm in his chest gave a little tug.

"Well then, it's a moot point isn't it?" God shrugged. "You needed a push. I pushed."

"You're a prick, you know that?" Dean said, a sneer pulling at his lips, and for once Cas didn't pull him up on insulting God to his face.

God smiled then, and it was almost... tired. "No, I'm a father. And like all fathers, I only have so much time to teach my lessons. I'm not going to be around forever."

Dean's eyes widened at that, but it was nothing to the expression on Cas's face. The angel looked like he'd just had the wind kicked out it him. Dean reached out without thinking, one hand closing around Cas's wrist as Death's words from the diner came back to him full force. "Regardless, at the end I'll reap him too."

God's eyes ticked down to Dean's touch on Cas's wrist and a small, almost sad smile tugged at his lips. "I'm just so tired," he said softly. "But this," he said, gesturing to Cas. "All of this needed to be learned before I went."

"You're not returning to heaven," Cas uttered numbly, and it wasn't a question. Something in Dean's chest gave a little tug of sympathy at the tone - like the damn angel's heart was cracking a little.

"No," God agreed. "But I'll be... around - at least a little while longer."

"And Sammy?" Dean asked, afraid for a moment that he'd be stuck with a holy brother, but God just smiled.

"I'll leave Sam," he assured.

A thought occurred to Dean then – one that made him feel like a total dick for not thinking of it sooner. "What about Adam?" he demanded. "Kid doesn't deserve to be stuck down there any more than Sam -"

"Adam has been returned to heaven," God answered. "Where he belongs."

And Dean supposed that would have to do.

"What of Michael and Lucifer?" Cas asked quietly. It took Dean a second to lose the distasteful look on his face, but he did it. Because while they'd made his life a living hell, they were still Cas's brothers. Dick brothers, but brothers nonetheless.

God's eyes crinkled with an unnamable emotion. Something between fondness and resignation. "They are taken care of," he said cryptically.

Dean raised his eyebrows a little at the tone. Because for all the words themselves were ominous, the feeling behind them wasn't.

"And now," God concluded, pushing out of his lean against the wall. "I'll get lost. Let you get to reunion-ing."

Cas's wrist was wrenched out of Dean's grip as the angel shot to his feet, looking like he wanted to reach out but stopping short. "I don't - will I see you again?" he asked, and Dean could hardly fault him the little thread of desperation in his tone, 'cause while God was still a prick in Dean's opinion, he was also Cas's dad.

Dean watched as God reached up and did what Cas couldn't - cupping one side of the angel's face fondly. And yeah, the picture of Sam's body doing that to Cas was just a little creepy in Dean's eyes, but whatever.

"We'll meet again," God reassured him. "I promise."

And then he was stepping back and Dean's throat was closing up as it really began to dawn on him that Sam - his Sam was almost back…

Then God looked up, straight at him - a shit-eating grin on his face. "Oh, and Dean," he added slyly. "Take care of my car."

And then he tapped his nose, in a very un-subtle and entirely familiar way. Dean's mouth dropped open. "Sonofabitch!"

Then God's eyes slid closed and Sam's whole body staggered sideways. It was only Cas's intervention that stopped the great man-boy from ending up on the floor, Dean was sure, the angel grabbing one shoulder to steady him. Dean froze as Sam looked up.


"Yeah," Sam gasped with a shuddering breath.

Dean had never heard anything so sweet in his life. He was out of the bed and pulling Sam into a hug before he actually thought about it, feeling the cracks in his world mend together and the universe right itself. Because Sam was here and alive and real in his arms. And fair enough, Dean had a dick of a God to thank for it, but he just didn't fucking CARE right now...

"Uh… Dean?"

"Yeah?" he choked around the lump in his throat.

Sam's voice was painted seven shades of uncomfortable. "You think you could put on some pants?"

For a moment there was silence. Then…

"I think he looks fine," Cas commented matter-of-factly, and Dean suddenly could not stop grinning.

Oh yeah, life was fucking good.


AN: Thanks so much for reading :) Next in the series: Tripping Extras (check it on my author profile)