Disclaimer: I don't own anything. I'm just playing in the sandbox.

Notes: This is my first fic in the fandom, and I don't have a beta. Feedback is appreciated. 3

Written a day after I watched 6.01.

Dean watched his brother drive away, and then turned, already expecting the flutter of wings, and the rumpled angel who accompanied it, "So? What'd you think?"

"I think you were right. There's something else going on here, Dean," Cas told him, regarding him with that same too-blue intensity, and a thoughtful look. Dean sighed heavily, rubbing a hand down his face in a weary gesture.

"God didn't bring Sam back, did He?"

"No. We don't know why your grandfather has returned, either."

"Yeah, I figured."

"I'm sorry, Dean."

"Yeah, Cas, I get the feeling I will be, too." Castiel just watched him, shoulders hunched in a way that made Dean think that maybe he had his wings tucked in close; it reminded him of the same way Sam would pull in on himself when he was angry or upset. The usual pang of loss followed that thought, quickly subsumed in the confusion and outrage roiling just under the surface. A year. He still couldn't believe it.

"A fucking year, Cas. Even Bobby knew!" It hurt, a lot, that both his brother and the closest thing he had to a father had kept the truth from him.

"I mean, what the hell? How could they think I wanted all this," he gestured wildly in the air to indicate suburbia in general, "instead of my fucking brother?"

Dean was vaguely aware that he was dumping all of this on Cas, who was just standing there, letting him get it all out, but he couldn't seem to stop. It had always been too easy to talk to the angel, and the last year of Castiel popping in and out of his life had done nothing to help with that.

"I don't think they thought of it that way," Cas told him, invading his personal space with ease, and Dean didn't tell him to back off. He hadn't been, lately, and he wasn't going to think about what that meant. He'd found a lot of things were easier when you didn't think about them.

"Yeah? Then what way did they think of it in, then? 'Cause I sure as hell don't understand."

"I think," and the angel slid a hand onto Dean's shoulder, right over the brand he'd placed there, with an ease that hadn't been there a year ago, "that they probably thought you were happy here, or at least, as happy as you could be, after everything. Bobby didn't want you to lose that," he finished, and Dean didn't miss the switch to the singular, green eyes darting up to shoot a sharp glance at Cas.

"'Bobby' didn't want me to lose that?"

Cas did his head-tilt thing, and something unnamable welled up inside Dean, but he firmly pushed it back down, giving himself a very firm 'no.'

"Sam has his own agenda."

Dean snorted, huffing a laugh that came out just this side of bitter, "When doesn't he?"

He turned his back to his friend then, looking out over the quiet street with a heavy feeling that he thought might be resignation.

"He wouldn't talk about it."

"Do you blame him, Dean?" Cas sounded honestly curious, coming up beside him so that their shoulders pressed together, and Dean could feel the warmth of the angel through the ever-present trench-coat. He shook his head, not looking up in order to avoid the intensity he knew he would find there.

"No, but…," he trailed off, shrugging helplessly. "Something happened down there, Cas. Sammy isn't. He's different," he finally settled on unhappily, not really knowing how to explain the wrong feeling he got when he looked at his brother. It was like seeing him as a meat suit for Luci all over again; Sammy just wasn't Sammy anymore. That thought hurt, all the more so because this time, Sam didn't have anything riding him. It was just his brother in there, giving him the bad vibes.

"Perhaps its just the influence of your relatives." But Cas didn't believe that, and they both knew it. He was still a shitty liar.

Dean scowled, "Don't even get me started on them." He'd be perfectly fucking happy not to run into his 'cousins' again. "We have even more in common now, Cas, 'cause my family is made up of dicks, too, apparently." They just didn't go around kick-starting the Apocalypse, and torturing people for fun and profit. That he was aware of, anyway. He grinned a little when the angel's lips twitched suspiciously, and a weight knocked gently against his shoulder. It occurred to him, then, that Castiel had probably caught the unspoken bits of that, too, and his grin widened a bit before fading altogether.

"Seriously though, man. Something weird is going on, and Sammy's right in the fucking middle of it, as usual." Why did it always have to be the Winchesters? Couldn't some other schmuck bend over for the world for once?

Dean was tired, and his brother's words were still echoing in his head.

You have to think about the danger you're putting them in by staying.

"Yeah. Fuck you too, Sammy," he sighed, sagging a little and knowing the angel wouldn't mind. Cas stood firm by his side, and there was probably some sort of philosophical meaning to be found in that, but he wasn't fucking thinking about that, either.

"Things will resolve themselves, Dean," Cas told him softly, and Dean felt a long-fingered hand running through his hair soothingly. He felt vaguely guilty sometimes, when they did things like this, even though there was nothing remotely sexual about it, but Lisa didn't know, and Dean didn't plan on telling her. He didn't tell her a lot of things, and he knew how unfair it was, but some habits are hard to break after being ingrained into him for a lifetime.

"Yeah, Cas, I know. It's the 'how' that I'm worried about." He'd finally gotten his brother back, and he still had Lisa, Ben, and Cas, and he couldn't help but wonder what he would have to lose for it, because in his experience, nothing came without a price. Freedom wasn't free; they had learned that the hard way, with blood, sweat, tears, the slow fade of a Falling angel's Grace, and the sight of their brothers falling into the Pit. It wasn't something he was going to forget, ever.

Dean felt, more than heard, Castiel sigh next to him, shifting so that he was full-on leaning against the hunter for a brief moment, "Changed as he is, Sam is still your brother, Dean. He always will be, and nothing will ever change that." His voice was fierce, thrumming with all the power of an Angel of the Lord, and Dean remembered a little green army man, stuck in the ash tray on the Impala's door, reflected in his little brother's eyes as he fought the Devil, and won.

He nodded, stuffing his hands deep into his pockets and knocking his own shoulder against the angel's lightly. "Yeah," he told him roughly, "he is, but I've changed, too."

Dean didn't have to look to know Cas was watching him curiously, probably with the head-tilt again. "I'll always be his big brother," he began haltingly, searching for the words, "I can't change that, and I wouldn't, but…" He shook his head, looking up to search the stars for answers he knew couldn't be found there. "I think maybe its time I try to let Sam fight his own battles." The words hurt, but they tasted like bitter truth, and he knew he'd made the right decision to stay behind.

Cas didn't say anything, just stood beside him silently for what felt like hours, and Dean was still staring up at the sky when the rustle of feathers accompanied a fleeting touch to his cheek, and he knew the angel was gone.