*dies* Okay, well, in response to my emphatic blubbering over my current writer's block, a friend of mine gave me the INSANE prompt : "WRITE THE LONGEST DEAN/CAS FIC YOU CAN IN ONE HOUR!" And I did it. I'm kind of proud of how long I got it, actually. :D But if it seems ridiculously rushed...THAT'S CUZ IT IS, LAWL.

I hereby call a challange for anyone who reads this to write their own "Dean/Cas in one hour" fic and post it, then leave me a review stating that it exists on your account. HI HO SILVER, AWAY!

Note: This takes place in a semi-alternate timeline in which, at the end of season five, Cas never exploded, but instead is still all sad and human.


It's over.

Those two little words cover it all. Sam is in hell, Lucifer is bound once more, the freak natural disasters have abated, and that's that. Dean, Castiel, and Bobby stand around in the wake of the tumultuous climax and stare at the ground where Sam Winchester had disappeared when sacrificing himself eternally for the greater good. Dean feels that this should be a more emotional moment for him, but all he can feel is irritation and disappointment. There was still hope in those final moments that one more Hail Mary pass would be thrown their way, but it looked as though the Winchester luck had finally run dry. Of course. Dean doesn't expect anything less from the dick of a god this planet is saddled with. Even so, he can't find sorrow within him. He's been mourning Sam since this plot unfolded. Now all he feels is tired.

No words are exchanged between the three men. After a long while, Dean simply turns and heads back for the car. Bobby marches after him with helpless concern. Castiel follows because he has nowhere else to go.

This is not the end of the world.

But as the three of them file slowly into the Impala, it's difficult to imagine how that would feel any different.

"You'll stay with me."

They are the first words spoken in hours. Dean's fingers tighten around the wheel of the Impala. Bobby looks warily at him from the passenger's seat and stiffens as if he thinks the younger man will burst into flames at this address. Dean loosens his grip and shakes his head. "Bobby…"

"I don't wanna hear it," Bobby mutters. "I know you got nowhere else. You ain't leavin' me alone with him, anyhow." Bobby's eyes gesture to the rearview mirror, and vicariously Castiel in the backseat.

Dean spares a glance at the fallen angel and sighs. "He's not a kid, Bobby. And I'm pretty sure he can hear you."

Castiel looks up for a moment, but then his gaze goes blank again and he continues staring ahead.

"Well he's not human and he isn't gonna make in it this world as one without some help. I'm an old man, son, I can't take that burden on myself. Not even if I wanted to."

Dean really doesn't feel like worrying about Castiel's problems right now. He's too worn out in every imaginable way. All he wants to do rest for once in his goddamn life. But Bobby's right. After everything he's done Castiel at least deserves not to be abandoned like some stray animal. "Yeah, I get that."


Dean grunts and catches Castiel's numb expression. "Alright, yeah. We'll…we'll take care of him. We'll take care of you, Cas."

Castiel's voice is small and sad when he replies. "Thank you."

Dean supposes that the first night he'll get drunk off his ass and pass out in a dreamless stupor to try and deal with the immediate pain. It'll be easier that way, if he only accepts the reality of his loss in doses. But it doesn't work out that way. He isn't sure why, but there is utterly no desire within him to drink when he at last reaches Bobby's house. Instead he watches without interest while Bobby pours himself and Castiel a few glasses of scotch before wandering to the guest bedroom and sitting alone to contemplate the day in total sobriety. The pain filled thoughts are there, like they've always been, but they're masked over with something that is strange, cold, and selfish. Sam, his baby brother, who he had been trying to protect all his life, is gone. There is no fighting it anymore. It is true, it has come to pass, and now, though part of him still railed against it, he just wanted to move on.

How can you think like that? The weakening luster of Dean's former self raged. Sammy's burning in hell and all you care about is yourself? How you don't feel like dealing anymore?

Dean can only muster a mental nod in response. He hates it, he doesn't want to be okay with Sam's death, but he has no choice. He promised to let Sam go, after all. He promised to stop thinking of Sam as that kid he needed to protect. Sam was a man. He made his own decisions. And he had also promised he would come to terms with them. For once, Dean will just shut up and listen to his brother. After so many years, so many fights, and so many efforts to get through to each other, he owes him that.

With an exhausted sigh, Dean lowers himself onto the bed and succumbs to sleep.

Dean makes a true effort to bounce back over the course of the next few days, and it's starting to work. He busies himself with as much work as he can handle, tinkering with cars in Bobby's junkyard and fine-tuning his Impala from early in the morning to late in the evening. It's something to do at least, and Dean's grateful, because without it he feels like he'd go insane. If Bobby minds he doesn't say anything. At the end of each day Dean feels a little bit lonelier, but also a little more stable. Then he remembers Castiel.

The first time he forces his only remaining friend back into focus, he finds Castiel sitting at the same table he sat down at when he first arrived, still in Jimmy Novak's clothes and sleeping with his head in his arms. It occurs to Dean that the man probably hasn't moved much in the few days he's been here. Castiel is so lost that he can't even think beyond sitting and staring. Some habits die hard, Dean supposes. He gently shakes Castiel's shoulder and his head quickly pulls up.

"Cas," he admonishes flatly. "What the hell are you doing?"

Castiel blinks the sleep from his eyes and adopts his normal expression of dull confusion. "Sitting."

"I can see that," Dean deadpans. "I mean what are you doing? You've been sitting here for nearly two days."

Castiel blinks up at him. "Yes."

Dean lids his eyes in exasperation.

"What is it you believe I should be doing?"

"I don't know, Cas. Eating? Sleeping? Watching Cinemax? You can't sit here playing Debbie Downer for the rest of your life."

Something horrified dawns in Castiel's eyes and he swallows hard.

Dean sighs. "At least change your clothes."

Castiel looks down. "I don't see the point."

He knows that Castiel isn't just talking about changing his clothes, but it's easier to play dumb. "Because you're not a cartoon character. Out here in the real world people change their clothes every day."

Castiel is obviously annoyed, and Dean finds this terribly bothersome for a person who used to be defined by his patience. "I am aware of that. These are the only clothes I have."

"So go borrow some of mine, and take a shower while you're at it. We'll get you some of your own later."

Castiel turns a look on him that is completely unreadable and then looks away. "Very well."

Dean rubs the back of his neck before reaching out a hand and awkwardly patting Castiel on the shoulder. "You'll get the hang of it." Then he walks away, sure that his little prompt would do the trick.

It doesn't do the trick at all. Castiel is still entirely too unaccustomed to the quirks of a human body. He knows basic things—humans tire, humans hunger, humans urinate and sweat and sometimes bleed profusely, but without experience he can neither predict nor identify the presence of these things under his own skin. The next time Dean catches sight of him, looking baffled and wet in a casual T-shirt and sweat pants after a shower, he seems so vulnerable that it makes his heart sink. As Castiel sits on the couch and shivers from the cold—entirely unaware what has caused this involuntary act or that he can remedy it—Dean berates himself for not taking better care of him. He may have gone about this all wrong. Maybe dedicating himself to rehabilitating this socially retarded new human is a better project than Bobby's old junkers. He watches Castiel slowly figure out the remote control to the television and smirks, grabbing his car keys and deciding to make a gesture of good will.

Dean creeps back into the house about thirty minutes later with a paper bag in hand and strides into the living room to see Castiel still sitting bent forward on the edge couch with his arms tucked between his legs and focusing uneasily on the television screen.

"Anything on?" Dean asks conversationally.

Castiel turns his head to stare. "That depends on what you're willing to subject yourself to."

Under any other circumstance Dean might consider that a joke, but as it is the cynicism in his tone is out of character for this year's Castiel and eerily reminiscent of another. "Right. You find some Queer As Folk reruns then?"

Castiel doesn't even bother to inform Dean that this reference is lost on him. He simply ignores the comment and turns back to the screen.

"Okay. Well uh, look, I know you've kinda been having a rough time of this mortal thing and all…"

Castiel again looks up at him, this time with less disparagement.

"So here," Dean showed the paper bag in his hand before reaching inside. "I thought this might make you feel better." He pulled out a hamburger wrapped in foil and held it towards Castiel encouragingly, offering a slight smile.

Dean lets out a breath, leaning against the doorframe of the bathroom and rapping on it for the third time with his knuckles. "Cas," he calls. "Cas, I'm sorry. I guess…I-I didn't really think it through."

The only reply is a few sickening wretch sounds coming from a man who just this moment is learning how to vomit.

Dean grimaces. "No more burgers. I promise."

Several minutes later, Castiel emerges, looking disheveled and shaky with wild blue eyes. "I am not angry. You had no way of knowing the…effect…that simply seeing one of those again would have on me. Nor did I."

Dean clears his throat and muddles through his pangs of guilt. "Welcome to the world of upchuck. How was it?"

"Disgusting," Castiel reports. "Frightening. I don't want to talk about it."

"Fair enough." Dean's always been a firm believer that what comes out of a man's body is his own business. "You good now?"

Castiel nods. "I will manage."

"Guess we'll just have to find something else for you to eat. You don't have any hang-ups about pie, do you?"

Castiel shrugs.

"Yeah, okay. That'll be lesson number one. In the meantime you should get some sleep."

"How long will I sleep?"

"I don't know, man. However long you need to."

"How will I know when I've reached that point?"

Dean rolls his eyes. "When it's daylight out, alright? Don't worry so much about these things, Cas. You'll get the hang of it."

Castiel does not end up properly grasping the human sleep cycle. Dean knows this because the ex-angel always looks haggard and behaves in a bizarre, narcoleptic fashion that leads him to occasionally doze against a wall while standing for too long and wake up startled. He doesn't learn much about taking in food when he needs to either, but there is one indulgence he catches onto quickly.


At first Bobby plies him with it because he himself is usually partaking in a drink or two, but soon Castiel realizes that with twenty-four hour access to a fridge full of beers and a cabinet full of the hard stuff, there's no reason not to take it whenever he feels the urge. It turns out that urge is often. The first few times Dean comes across Castiel drunkenly passed out on the couch, he chalks it up to an accident. After all, he doesn't have that super angelic tolerance when it comes to alcohol anymore, so misjudging and going a little overboard isn't farfetched by any means.

By the third time Castiel is drunk, Dean sits next to him watching television and regards him suspiciously between commercial breaks. Castiel doesn't say anything, simply taking a drink every now and then, and does not attempt to justify his newfound pastime whatsoever. Dean doesn't say anything either. Hell, wouldn't that make him hypocrite of the year? No one knew how to drown their troubles like Dean Winchester.

The fourth time, however, it's broad daylight and Dean is more than a little irritated to see Castiel stumbling around the house rubbing his head and blinking out of synch. He tosses the dirty oil rag he is using to towel off his hands down onto the kitchen table and stares his roommate down. "Okay, Cas. What gives?"

"What?" Castiel raises his eyebrows.

"You've been hitting the bottle pretty hard lately, don't you think?"

Castiel reaches out and grips the back of a chair, leaning forward against it in a graceless attempt to be casual. "No. I don't."

"Well this shit needs to stop," Dean warns. "Bobby won't be happy when he realizes you're drinking him out of house and home. And hell, it…it's not good for you to drink all the time, you know that, right?"

"I'm not stupid, Dean," Castiel slurs. "And I'm not…a child."

Dean holds up his hands. "I didn't say that. It's just that you don't have the iron gut you used to and—"

"Yes," Castiel interrupts with a sudden and shocking edge of venom. "I understand, Dean."

Dean shakes his head. "Whatever." Screw the bastard anyway if he was going to be like that. Dean heads back outside to his cars and resolves to try and talk some sense into him later, when he's sober. If that time ever comes.

"What the hell is the matter with him?" Bobby gripes as he peers through the blinds of his office window where Castiel sits outside, bottle in hand.

Dean musters up a glance but quickly goes back to sifting through the papers on the desk. "Beats me."

"He say anything to you?"

"About what?"

"About starting a stamp collection—what do you think I'm talkin' about, you meathead?" Bobby scowls, then turns back to the window. "Boy's gonna drain this place dry if he keeps it up."

Dean huffs. "He's depressed. He'll get over it."

"A depressed angel. Huh." Bobby snorts in mirthless laughter. "Damned if that doesn't bring us all down a notch. What's he got to be depressed about, anyway? Last time I checked we were on the winning side of things."

Dean pauses for a long moment as he tries to simplify Castiel into a sentence. "If I were a lion and woke up one day as a kitten, I'd be pretty pissed, too." He really doesn't want to have this conversation and he really doesn't want to admit his concern. Drunken Castiel unnerves him. Images of a burnt out, stoned up loser from a future scene keep stumbling through his head. He tries to draw Bobby's attention back to the case he's currently browsing through with a dismissive addendum. "Cas is fine. He's resilient."

"Yeah, I figured," Bobby says as he turns away from the window. "But I've about had it up to here with babysitting. If he's gonna stay here, it's high time he had a use. He's goin' with you on this case."

Dean balks. "What? Bobby—"

"I'm not having him hang around here drinking himself into a coma. I don't care if he's weaker now, he's still gonna pull his own weight. He wanted into this life, he's in. Simple as that. And who knows; maybe it'll be good for him. Get him to stop thinkin' about whatever it is that's eating a bottomless pit in his gut."

Bobby does have a point. And it's not like Castiel is the worst sidekick he could have: it had been proven useful many times in the past to have a wingman with literal wings. It might be just the thing to snap him out of his drinking binge at least. "Yeah. Alright."

The drive is much more uncomfortable than Dean expects. Castiel is in a terrible mood, which would be difficult to tell for anyone who didn't know him as well as Dean does. To everyone else he probably always appears to be in a bad mood. But Dean figures this is mostly because the man is nine kinds of hungover and does him the kindness of leaving the radio off, which only serves to make the silence between them deafening. Dean's gaze constantly flickers to his passenger. "Buck up, Cas. You might actually enjoy this."

"I doubt that," he rumbles.

"Come on, you're telling me that the way you feel putting a few rounds into some ugly supernatural creeps doesn't appeal to you? It's better than therapy."

"I do not require therapy."

Dean sags slightly. "Life of the party as always. You just gonna leave me to do this on my own then?"

Castiel turns to look at him. "Of course not."

Dean nods, mildly perplexed by Castiel's still evident loyalty. It isn't even mentioned that Castiel is no longer sworn to protect Dean—the bond between them is simply more than duty, and it is so close to the old Castiel he knows and loves that it brings momentary warmth to him. "Shouldn't be much of a hassle. Just your run of the mill disgruntled spirit. You know the drill."

"Salt and burn the afflicted's earthly remains," Castiel affirms.

"Top of the class," Dean praises. Castiel spares him an amicable glance. Dean initially intended to bring up the whole drinking issue on this trip, but he isn't about to ruin whatever it is they're having right now. He's too emotionally constipated to know where to begin if he wanted to.

After all the things that Dean has seen and done in his life, especially throughout the last few months, this case is as thoughtless as running a mundane errand. They stealthily break into an unoccupied home in which a murder has taken place to try and find what human remnants were lingering around to keep a spirit chained to its lost mortality. Since the body of one Arlene Westerly is already cremated, this promises to be an interesting hunt. As soon as Dean has the lock picked, he discretely ushers Castiel inside and they begin the search.

"How will we go about this?" Castiel asks as he takes in the entirety of the space before them. It is riddled with cat paraphernalia, from ceramic statues of Siamese poised watching from the window sills to pictures of fat Persians littering every wall to taxidermy former pets sitting stuffed and lifeless on furniture.

Dean shudders at the sight and browses around cautiously in case the spirit decides to make an impromptu appearance. "Something from this lady still exists somewhere in this house. It's gotta be a real personal object, something that had a lot of meaning to her before she died. Like a uhh, a doll or a piece of jewelry, sometimes even things like photographs."

"I see."

"Go check those shelves over there," Dean gestures across the room and Castiel obeys, wandering to the shelves and gingerly picking through the elderly dead woman's belongings.

Dean peruses the endless line of cat related knickknacks and pictures on the mantle, wondering what ever possesses a person to develop obsessions like this. Not that he's really one to talk about obsessions. Plenty of folks would say that he's crazy, what with him being so dead set on a career of chasing ghosts and demons. It definitely speaks to someone's taste for punishment when they go through as much as he has and still gets back on the undead horse. He looks over as he hears a sliding sound to find Castiel pulling out a large, faded red, leather-bound photo album with the word "Memories" inscribed on the front. He turns to Dean and holds it up. "Will this suffice?"

"Give it here, let's see," Dean holds out a hand, but just as Castiel moves forward, a shriek sounds from somewhere in the house and they both freeze. Dean's hands quickly go to his shotgun. "Don't move."

Castiel isn't given the option to do as he's told before he is suddenly propelled through the air and slammed into the opposite wall, losing the book in his hands in the process.

"Shit!" Dean whips around, aiming his gun at empty air, eyes darting from wall to wall. Then the hissing starts. Deep, angry growls swell from every shadow and hidden corner of the house, but no source can be scene. Dean takes a slow step away from the army of phantom felines and backs into a cold spot. He turns just in time to raise the barrel of his gun to the furious face of an apparition and fires a round of rock salt. The ghost scatters to the wind.

Dean lunges for the photo album on the ground. It has fallen open to display images of several cats—some dressed up and placed in ridiculous, humiliating settings, and Dean begins flipping through it for something that stood out. The angry caterwauling persists so loudly that Dean has to consciously keep himself from covering his ears, but just then he comes across a single page in the book that is not dedicated to past pets. It is an old black and white wedding photo of a young woman and a young man, but more importantly than that, below it is pinned a lock of blonde hair next to a pen-written note.

"To my angel Arlene,

I will forever cherish every part of you. Maybe one day we'll grow old and gray and lose our swinging charm, but to me, you'll always be the classy broad light years out of my league that I fell in love with.


Dean quickly grabs the lock of hair and turns just in time to see the irate spirit advancing on him. The visage of the old woman changes, however, when she sees what it is that Dean holds in his hand. Her expression suddenly turns to great sadness, a hand going to her throat, and the maddening cat cries die down to a dull roar. Dean quickly salts the remains in his hand and sets it aflame with his lighter, watching as the spirit before him slowly evaporates with resignation and mournful eyes looking past him to the wedding picture until she is no more and the house is finally silent again.

Dean stares at the spot for a moment before shaking himself out of it. "Cas? Cas!" he rushes to his partner's side, setting his hands on his shoulders where he has fallen against a wall.

Castiel rubs his head and winces. "What…what happened?"

Dean sighs in relief. "You got sucker punched by a ghost." He reaches down and hauls Castiel to his feet. "Talk about your crazy cat ladies."

Castiel is somewhat disoriented. "Where is the spirit now?"

"Taken care of," Dean replies easily. "The good old lock of hair. Piece of cake."

"I…" Castiel looks Dean up and down. "Is that it? You've taken care of it?"

"Yeah. Like I said, just your average salt and burn. No big deal." Dean shrugs, but Castiel is nonetheless displeased.

"Oh," he frowns.

Dean claps him on the back. "Don't worry Mad Max, I'm sure you'll see more action next time. There're always plenty of freaks to gank."

Castiel does not reply.

The car ride back is twice as strained and awkward, and Dean isn't sure why. He had been certain that a little sense of purpose would boost Castiel's morale, but if anything this only seems to have made it worse. Dean eventually stops trying to make idle conversation about nothing and clears his throat to prepare for at least a handful of serious words. "Look, Cas, if you're still upset about the whole ghost thing, don't be."

"I am not upset," Castiel drones.

Dean snorts. "The important thing is that we got her. I mean getting our asses kicked was ninety percent of what me and Sam…" Dean trails off, suddenly feeling cold. He hasn't mentioned Sam out loud since his death, and the accidental thrusting of him into conversation freezes him up solid.

Castiel is looking at him now in equal shock, appearing afraid to make mention of this.

"…well, you know," Dean finishes lamely, swallowing the lump in his throat. "Anyway…you'll get the hang of it."

Needless to say, the rest of the car ride is even more tense and silent than before, and Castiel's slide towards alcoholism remains under the rug.

Castiel still fumbles with anything human. He now has all his own clothes—though Dean picked them all out since the former angel could not be bothered to offer input other than "clothing is irrelevant"—but doesn't properly assess the when and why. Sometimes he will change his clothes as many as three times a day, and Dean doesn't even bother questioning why. He also struggles badly with tasks of personal maintenance like clipping his nails and shaving his face, and often has the nicks to prove it. All of these bumbling idiosyncrasies might be endearing if he weren't almost always a little drunk.

What's even more interesting is that he purposely avoids the subject when it is commented on. Whereas before Castiel never avoided difficult subjects nor saw any significant reason to, now he dismisses Dean and Bobby's accusations of drunkenness entirely and changes the topic of conversation to something else. This is most definitely disconcerting to Dean. The Castiel he knows is anything but elusive when it comes to answers. Castiel used to candidly answer every question without a second thought. This was why it had tormented him so when under the thumb of the other angels, forced to keep things from Dean and Sam that he felt they deserved to know. Now he drinks alone and lies about it. He is about as fallen as angels get.

Castiel does whatever he is asked, but no more than that. Dean drags him out of the house whenever possible to try and teach him a thing or two about cars, sure that he can busy the depression away. After all, he finds it just a little bit offensive that the reason Castiel is upset is because he's turned into a lowly mortal like the rest of them. Besides, as far as he is concerned, Heaven isn't all that great anyway. And he won't pretend he isn't a little sore to think that Castiel regrets the actions that led him here. It always ends the same, though, with Castiel watching Dean disinterestedly and eventually wandering off when the first chance arises.

"Remind me not to ever sign up for one of your pep talks," Bobby says one morning while they sit together drinking beers over a table covered in research. "I don't know what you said to the guy, but damned if he ain't worse than before."

"If you wanna talk to him, be my guest," Dean grunts.

Bobby holds up his hands in refusal. "No thanks. Gettin' all touchy-feely with him is really more your department."

Dean raises an eyebrow. "Why's that?"

Bobby stares at him like the answer is obvious, but when he realizes by Dean's vacant expression that it isn't, he nervously clears his throat and changes the subject. "All I know is it doesn't look like he's just snappin' out of it any time soon. He keeps going on like this and he'll drink himself to death in ditch somewhere and we won't know about it until the cops call Mrs. Novak to tell her they found her husband's body."

Dean stiffens at the thought. "Jesus, Bobby. That's not gonna happen."

"Maybe not, but something's gotta change here."

Dean sighs. "I know."

The next day, Castiel goes missing.

Dean is angry, panicked, and feels utterly helpless as he paces the floor of Bobby's living room. He's searched everywhere for that stupid son of a bitch and hasn't seen a single sign of him. He tries telling himself to calm down—after all, if he's used to anything at all it should be Castiel randomly disappearing—but rationality does little good when he imagines all the different kinds of trouble he could be getting himself into out there. He's already checked the local bars, the grocery store, the gas station, and even the churches, having spent the rest of the evening just driving up and down the roads searching. Eventually Bobby advised that they give up the hunt and let Castiel come back to them on his own time, but Dean is having a difficult time with this. He is unable to help himself from grabbing his keys and heading out again. Maybe he'll check the strip club. It's a hell of a long shot, but even if Castiel isn't there he can at least find a distraction from the worrying.

He makes it all the way to his car before he sees Castiel. The downtrodden amateur human is walking up the path to Bobby's house, eyes on the ground and lost in thought. Dean's relief is immense, but so is his rage. He slams the car door to the Impala and marches down to meet Castiel. "Where the hell have you been?" he barks.

Castiel looks up without remorse, then glances behind him. "Out."

Dean clenches his teeth. "Yeah, well a little notice would've been nice! We looked everywhere for you."

"It was unnecessary for you to do so. I was only walking."

"Bullshit," Dean spits. "You were drinking."

Castiel gives him a sidelong glare and continues past him towards the house.

Dean sees red. He's had it. He shoves Castiel hard, sending him off balance and making him whirl around to blink at Dean in shock.

"Fuck you, Cas! This stops here and now, this is the last time I find your sorry ass drunk at all goddamn hours of the day and night! You hear me?"

"I do not wish to have this conversation." Castiel clips, moving around Dean and heading towards the junkyard instead.

Dean follows. "Well that's too fucking bad! We're trying to help you here. If you weren't too busy feeling so fucking sorry for yourself you'd get that!"

Castiel growls. "I don't need your help. And I do not feel sorry for myself."

"The hell you don't. I get it, Cas, okay? You don't think I get it? You ain't what you used to be. You did what you felt was right and in the end you got the raw deal, but so did the rest of us. You don't see us drinking ourselves into an early grave."

"There is no early grave for a man who has cheated death as many times as you have," Castiel mutters, disregarding Dean's point altogether.

Dean bites his inner cheek, unable to decide if that is a snide remark or simply a vintage-Castiel statement of naivety. "Why are you doing this, Cas?"

"I am surviving, Dean," Castiel says gruffly. "I fail to see why how I choose to do so is any business of yours."

"You call this surviving? This isn't surviving, Cas, and it's not coping either."

"I am doing what I can," Castiel defends minimally, suddenly deflating.

"You're not doing shit."


"No, you're not. All you're doing is biding your time until death, and that's just pathetic."

"Enough!" Castiel shouts in frustration, turning to face him. "That is enough, Dean! You do not have to remind me that I am pathetic."

Dean scowls. "Cry me a river. That's your problem—you're so wrapped up in all those fancy powers you lost that you can't do anything else!"

Castiel's eyes flash a dangerous shade, but Dean holds his ground. "What would you know? You have no idea the implications of my lost abilities!" he cries. "I can never go home! I am cut off from my family forever! I cannot hear them, I cannot contact them, and none of them have even spoken to me since I have fallen! I am not even worth that to them!"

Dean's lips part slightly. He hasn't really considered that.

"And my father? My father doesn't care! Clearly he doesn't care about a single child when he has so many to spare! He did not care enough to stop them from killing one another when simple words would have done so! If this is the father I come from, I would prefer that he did not exist at all!" Castiel's tone takes on a more desperate edge. "Apart from which I am not afforded a moment's peace in this new life! I-I cannot sit still for a more than five seconds, I cannot concentrate, something is always—wrong with this body! It is always cold or tired or hungry, it always itches, or hurts, and I cannot control any of it! So if I can dull these awful senses and subdue this body with something, I will do so!"

"That's just…" Dean softens quickly, holding out a hand and realizing with regret that he may have pushed too far. "Cas, that's just how it is. Everyone goes through the same thing, it's part of being human…You'll…after a while you'll get the—"

"Get the hang of it?" Castiel snaps almost hysterically. "No, I am not 'getting the hang' of it, Dean! How would you like it if you woke up one day in the body of an earthworm? Would you 'get the hang of it', or would you be too busy cowering at how terrifying your world has become!"

Dean slowly advances and tries to touch Castiel's arm, but he jerks it away. "It's okay, Cas."

"It is not okay! You humans and that infernal word, it doesn't mean anything! And it certainly doesn't fix anything! You may understand what it is like to be human, Dean, but you do not understand what it is to have spent your entire life as something else!"

Dean grabs him firmly this time and forces him into his body with a rough motion, arms gripping around him hard. Castiel struggles emphatically, trying to shove Dean away with all his strength, but the grip only tightens.

"Let go of me!" he gasps out, angrily trying to tear away, but it's no use. There was a time when he could have effortlessly swatted Dean away like a fly if he so chose, where any unwelcome touch could be instantly thwarted, but now he is impotent. Dean's body is stronger than the one he has. Castiel's struggle stutters to a halt, and he does something else that he has never done in the span of his existence. He buckles against Dean's frame in defeat, hands stuck grasping the shirt over his back, and shakes with sudden, frantic sobs.

Dean doesn't say a word, tightening his arms as though he can physically hold Castiel together.

Castel has once again vanished the next day.

Dean is sick with worry, but he's rather certain that looking for him will do no good. Judging by the missing bottle of Vodka from the cabinet he didn't go alone. He decides not to tell Bobby this, leaving the old man to his research and instead wandering about the house, poking around Castiel's empty room and watching the windows for his return. He doesn't know what to do anymore. He can't give up on Castiel, but he feels powerless to help him. Castiel is right. His problems are bigger than Dean knows how to deal with and this upsets him greatly. He's spent so long telling himself that being human isn't so hard that he never even considered what it was like to be an angel. In the body of one, he wouldn't know what he was supposed to do or how he was supposed to behave either, and most assuredly it would scare the hell out of him. He supposes that telling Castiel to get used to it hasn't been very helpful. But God, he just wants him to be alright.

Dean hopes that he comes back. He'll apologize, he'll do whatever is desired, but he can't lose Castiel too. Not after Mom, Dad, Ellen, Jo, Sam…His chest aches as he wishes for his brother. Sam was always so much better at this kind of thing; he would know exactly what to say to Castiel if he were here. He would know how to fix this. He was always the brain to Dean's brawn.

Dusk falls and when Castiel has not returned, Dean finally decides to look for him. He wanders out into the junkyard with his hands stuffed into his jacket pockets and wanders around the sea of broken vehicles. When he comes to the end of one row, he finds Castiel sitting on the hood of a car, knees drawn up, back to him. Dean doesn't approach right away, surveying the scene briefly before noticing the bottle of Vodka sitting near the tire, untouched and unopened. Dean blinks in surprise and musters up his courage, wandering casually over. Castiel doesn't look at him, so he simply crawls up beside him and sits on the other side of the hood.

A long period of silence passes between them, during which the sky goes completely dark. Then, when it starts to get cold, Castiel finally lets out a quiet sigh. "I've failed you."

Dean looks over, expecting that this comment was directed towards the sky and therefore God, but Castiel is looking at him instead. Dean stares back at him. Castiel, entirely sober, looks pitifully lost and ashamed, exactly as he did those few nights before the apocalypse in which they had exchanged the woes of deadbeat dads. Dean pulls a confused face. "How?"

Castiel frowns deeply. "You told me to never change."

Dean's mouth opens, his stomach in his throat. It's true; he had said those words. That Castiel genuinely attempted to hold himself to that standard gave an unkind jerk to Dean's heartstrings. "You haven't failed me, Cas."

"But I am very different now," Castiel reasons gently. "I cannot help it. You were right about my feeling sorry for myself. …And the drinking." He looks away.

Relief springs in Dean's chest. "Yeah, well it's…it's not all your fault. I haven't really been the easiest guy to deal with lately. Or…ever."

Castiel gives him another sad look. "I am sorry, Dean. You have lost your family as well, and I'm in no position to complain. I was selfish."

"That's a human thing, Cas. It happens," Dean offers.

Castiel heaves another sigh. "Perhaps I have been intentionally distancing myself. You and Bobby are all I have left in this existence and…I cannot even protect you from a single malevolent human spirit. It does not bother me to be useless for my own sake as much as I fear for yours."

"Maybe you just don't give me enough credit," Dean suggests with a snort. "I survived a pretty long time before you came along."

Castiel leers at him with the barest hint of exasperation in his eyes.

Dean rolls his eyes. "Okay, so maybe a guardian angel was a nice addition to the team."

Castiel shakes his head. "It's all a moot point now. How can I care for you when I cannot even care for myself?"

Dean draws in a breath and rests a hand on Castiel's shoulder. "Cas, it's not your responsibility to take care of me. I'm a grown man. And anyway, don't you think you did that long enough? Maybe it's not such a bad thing to let us be the ones watching out for you for a change."

Castiel folds his arms over his knees and stares ahead. "I will mend my ways. I will not consume alcohol, I will help you destroy evil creatures, and I will eat as much pie as you deem necessary."

Dean can't help but laugh as Castiel says this with the utmost seriousness. "You haven't changed, Cas."

Castiel does not understand this, but smiles faintly anyway. "Thank you."

"And you're sure as hell not useless. You've still got more knowledge than a damn encyclopedia and you're still one of the toughest sonsa'bitches I ever met. Angel mojo or not."

Castiel considers this. "Yes, but I am severely limited now."

"As long as you can still fire a gun and drive a stake, you're alright by us."

"Will you teach me what I need to know to survive here?" he asks.

"Anything you need to know, Cas," Dean agrees.

Castiel pauses for a long while, and when he speaks he meets Dean's eyes and his voice is heavy with affection. "It was misguided of me to lament the loss of those who willingly abandoned me for doing the right thing, when all along you have stood by me while I did the wrong one. I will miss my brothers and sisters, but I do not love them way that I love you, Dean."

Dean flushes slightly, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Yeah?"

"Of course."

Dean's not sure why he can't simply accept this and move on, or why he just stands there staring at Castiel like he expects something more. In a spur of the moment bout of courage he decides to vent his feelings in return. "I owe you a lot, Cas. Thanks for everything. I…I asked an awful lot of you over the years, and well…you never let me down. I can always count on you. …And I've never been able to say that about anyone." He smiles, but Castiel doesn't return it.

Instead the former angel is looking at him with a mixture of warmth and confusion, head tilting slightly to the side in a familiar gesture, and Dean swallows hard under his intense stare. "…You are welcome, Dean." He glances down before connecting their gaze again.

Dean carefully reads Castiel's face before snaking a hand back behind his head deftly catching Castiel's lower lip between his own. When he pulls back, the confusion in Castiel's face is replaced with awe, and the warmth with fire. He regards Dean with a flustered breath before leaning forward to resume the kiss.

Dean is as surprised by his own impulse as he is by Castiel returning it, but if Castiel isn't complaining then neither is he. He just doesn't know why it feels like such a natural next step. Maybe Castiel has been dealing with sexual urges for longer than he admits, because any sense of his previous shyness shown toward the matter is nowhere to be seen. Dean only pulls away when they're both panting and his speech is slurred with arousal. "Cas…"

The man in question watches as Dean stands, gripping the front of Castiel's shirt and pulling him to his feet as well. "Yes, Dean?"

"I think there's one more human experience you oughtta to learn about," he panted in return.

Castiel licks his upper lip in an act that is entirely without sexual intention but does wonders for Dean's libido all the same. "Teach me."

Dean wakes early in the morning completely nude. These are both unusual for him being that Sam never would have allowed either of those things to take place in his presence. He rolls over and finds his bed empty, which makes him sit up and begin pulling his clothes on straight away as sleepy dream images along with snapshots of the previous night flash through his head. He's never liked it when Castiel disappears, but after a night of passion of all things it's just plain rude. Provided last night really happened. Dean is still woozy, and hopes desperately that he doesn't wander out of his room to find Castiel with a bottle in hand, never having confessed his true feelings or vowing to change his ways.

When Dean makes it to the kitchen, Bobby sits at the table and won't meet his gaze. "Morning, Bobby," he attempts to greet cheerily.

Bobby looks up briefly, saying nothing.

Dean pauses, fidgeting awkwardly. "Something…wrong?"

"Nope," Bobby denies. "Nothing we're ever, ever gonna talk about at least. You get me?"

Dean flinches. "Oh. I uh…guess you heard that."

"See, now that's talkin' about it." Bobby folds his paper, standing up and retreating with panic to his study, breakfast forgotten.

Dean shakes his head, letting out a breath and looking around him. He glances down the hall to see the front door wide open, and outside Castiel sits on the porch. Dean walks down the hall and out the door with his eyes set on the figure. Castiel indeed has a drink—but nothing more than a cup of coffee cradled in his palms between his legs where he sits. Dean looks down at him. He can't help but think that at this moment, Castiel, with his expression calm, his bright eyes, clean white T-shirt, never before worn, unwashed blue jeans, and the golden early morning sunlight touching his skin, has never looked more angelic. Dean sits next to him and breaths in the cool air deeply. "You okay, Cas?"

Castiel nods, eyes trained on the horizon. "Yes, Dean."

Dean leans back against the step behind him and yawns. "So, what did you think?"

"When?" Castiel asks.

Dean is put off before he catches the playful smirk on Castiel's face. "Seriously, Cas."

Castiel blushes, but attempts to be serious. "Pleasing. Exciting. …Strange."

"What?" Dean laughs and nudges his leg with a foot. "Strange, damn. Well, hey. I guess all of us thought it was strange the first time."

Castiel smiles at Dean before turning his peaceful gaze back to the yard in front of them and taking a drink of coffee. "I'm sure I will get the hang of it."