Title: The Best Laid Plans
Summary: Castiel learns that even his most carefully executed plans aren't always adequate to stop the pain of life - human and angelic. Sequel to 'The Dilemma of Human Investment'. Not slash.
Rating: M
Disclaimer: 'Supernatural' was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is intended.

Out of all of the emotions the male vessel dampened, jealousy regrettably wasn't one of them, a thing Castiel discovered the hard way. It made interacting with Dean all the more difficult. At first, Castiel had been semi-fine with Risa and Dean, knowing it was for the best. He couldn't remain in Risa's body and have that life with Dean. He knew it and had resigned himself to enduring watching Dean and Risa together.

He'd gritted his teeth when Dean kissed her and tried his best not to remember how it had felt to be kissed by Dean. And he'd pretended he didn't recall how it had felt to be touched by him in that body. Castiel had forced himself to attempt to forget all of it…with little success. The memories wouldn't slide away into oblivion like he'd hoped they would and with each passing day, Castiel felt less than whole.

Did Dean have to touch her like that? Kiss her like that in full view of everyone? Keep his arm around her? Did he have to treat her like the girlfriend she was?

When those thoughts ran down, he thought about her: her underwear preferences and those many racy things he knew about her, his thoughts sliding into cattiness, driven by jealousy that just kept growing. He tried everything he could think of to negate it, but short of never coming around at all, he couldn't. The jealous feelings remained, because Castiel couldn't leave. Not anymore. He had to be near Dean. Their bond was far more than what it had started out now and there was no way Cas could leave forever. Dean was a part of him and had been since that first night Cas had spent with him.

Watching Dean with Risa was becoming tedious and he couldn't help the rather unkind thoughts and more that flew through his mind whenever he was there with them.

Those memories Cas had of being with Dean remained strong and clear. He'd watch Dean with her, remember that that was how Dean had been with him when he was in Risa's body, and dwell on it. Castiel wanted that again. He wanted more than 'hey, buddy' from Dean. He wanted those moments he'd had in Risa back.

Castiel wanted to be the one in her place and for the ache of incompleteness inside him to disappear.

I can't watch them kiss one more time. Does he have to do that hip grab with her out in public? Keep it in the room.

Risa Hope gave Dean a last kiss and turned to watch the man Dean and Sam called Castiel. He was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and an unfriendly frown upon his face. He looked annoyed, upset, and sulky. For awhile she'd thought he was simply jealous, but as time had gone by, she'd realized there was a lot more to it than that. He and Dean had a deep history, even if it wasn't a long one, and their feelings for each other were intense.

She'd learned a lot from hearing snippets of his thoughts whenever they were in the same room together, many of those snippets things that had shocked her. Castiel hadn't only thought about her, he'd thought about angels, demons and much more. Some of the things Dean had told her about and others…. Others she hoped weren't true, yet knew enough about what Sam and Dean did to understand that they most likely were. Risa put it all in context from what she'd learned verbally from Dean and thought she had an understanding of some matters.

Sam and Dean Winchester were hunters of the supernatural variety of game. It was their job. Dean had let her into some of the world he lived in and had continued to let her in further in slow degrees, the result of that being that she knew more than Castiel thought - about all of it. Angels, demons, ghosts, vampires, werewolves and more. There was always more to learn, so much so that a person could study their whole life and never discover all of it.

"Hey, Cas," Dean called, slamming the trunk closed. "You mind staying with Risa until we get back?"

The 'get to know her better' part was implied in the statement. It was important to Dean that Risa and Castiel get along and she'd tried her best to make that happen while Castiel had remained stand-offish and cool. The more she tried to befriend him, the harder he'd resisted, and the more she'd learned from his thoughts, an unwilling listener to his true feelings on many things.

Does she look like she needs me to babysit her? Or I need to be a babysitter? "Of course not."

"Great! Shouldn't be long and we'll bring back burgers in a couple hours. One for you, too."

And once more he ignores the fact that I don't require sustenance. Amazing. I'd think Dean would remember that by now.

As she walked over to where he stood, she decided it was time to make him talk to her. Surely he knew she could hear him? If he wasn't aware of it, she thought he was going to be mighty embarrassed over some of the things he'd been thinking for the past few months. Risa stopped directly in front of him, waiting to speak until the Impala was gone. "Castiel."

"What?" His attention was on the direction the Impala had driven off in.

"Could you stop thinking so loud? Your bellyaching is giving me a headache."

He froze, gaze sliding to her. His eyes narrowed a fraction. "Repeat that."

"You heard me." Grasping his arms, she rose up onto her tiptoes like she was going to kiss him and said, "I can hear you, moron. One more internal crack about my underwear or anything like it and you get a kick to the groin, okay?" She lowered back down and slid a speculative gaze along him. "Unless that won't hurt you?"

"Why wouldn't that hurt me?"

Risa shrugged and turned away, opening the motel room door. "Well, you being an angel and all, I'm not sure it would hurt you." She stepped inside and slammed the door, only to find him directly in front of her in the room now. Risa gasped at how he was suddenly just there, close to her, and stumbled back against the door. He was almost too close even, his expression displaying more emotion than she'd ever seen from him.

Curiosity, anger. Both blazed, lighting his vibrant blue eyes with an inner fire.

She swallowed hard. He wasn't just curious and angry, he was seriously pissed.

"You know. How? How are you hearing me? Explain now."

Fear rose up inside her. Angels were fearsome things and in her exasperation she'd been flippant to him. Sam and Dean may be that way to him, but she was a different story. She didn't think Castiel would allow her to be that way, not if he could stop her. "I don't know how I hear, I just do. And you're not exactly easy to ignore with the running commentary on everything from Dean kissing me and my underwear choices to Sam's taste in music and the state of current events. You never shut up, Castiel." Well, in his head he never shut up. Though to be fair, her thoughts weren't always the most complimentary either.

"Why haven't you said anything before now?"

"A good researcher studies before drawing conclusions. I know how to do research. I've listened, researched, drawn conclusions and my conclusion is that you're an angel."

"What else do you know?"

"I know about you and Dean. I know that somehow you were in me, used my body to be with him, but…why don't I remember it?" Her hands were shaking and her legs felt weak, as though they could collapse any second and send her sliding to the floor. Still, she persisted, uncertain why she did when this glimpse of him frightened her.

"You wish enlightenment, Risa?"

"Yes. That and peace with you for Dean's sake. I've tried to be nice and you're impossible. You've been such a…a…a dick to me it's frankly been pissing me off."

A snort of laughter issued from him. "A dick."

"That's funny somehow?"

"You have no idea."

"Explain it to me."

He shook his head. "I'm not required to explain anything to you." He stepped closer, body brushing hers, that stare seeming to sear through her.

Risa tensed, standing as still as possible, wondering what he was going to do, but the only thing he did was frown and step back from her, moving to the opposite side of the room and snagging a beer from the cooler in the corner. He opened it and leaned against the dresser, drinking it as he watched her. It was a strangely human thing to do right then, but she supposed he'd been around Dean and Sam enough to behave the way they did on occasion.

"You're a smart woman, Risa. Putting all of that together."

She remained by the door, ready to open it and flee if she had to, though she knew it'd do no good since he could apparently move in a blink.

When he was done with the beer, he set the bottle on the dresser and crossed his arms. "What are you planning on doing with the knowledge of my angelic nature?"

"Honestly? Nothing. What could I do?" She slid her palms along the door behind her. "From your thoughts, it's clear that both Sam and Dean know, along with Bobby Singer. Who would I tell? Them? They already know. I have no plan of action, I just…I wanted things clear between us. I wanted you to know I could hear you; that I know things from your own thoughts."

"Like what? What do you know, Risa? Give me some specific things you've become aware of in the time you've been hearing my thoughts."

"You're an angel. There's an angel war going on that you're a part of, yet you're still able to find a refuge with Sam and Dean. You come to see them because Sam is a friend and Dean is much more than that to you. Those things that happened a couple years ago really were the Apocalypse in progress and Sam and Dean were instrumental in stopping it."

He tilted his head back a fraction. She had the impression he already knew the answers to the questions he was asking.

"I know all the bad things that go bump in the night and sometimes in the day are real. Dean and Sam fight them so that the world is a bit safer for everyone else. I could go on for awhile with what you thought about these past months." She relaxed a little. "Like I said, you never shut up."

He sighed. "You say you know about me and Dean?"

"Yes. Your feelings. His feelings from what he said to you. You had a romantic relationship with him, for some reason it ended, and now I have the relationship you had."

He pushed off the dresser to stand upright again. "Then you know why there can't be peace between us, Risa."

She had what he longed to return to. He wanted back what was gone. "Castiel -"

He stepped back across the room towards her. "Tell Dean I had to go. He or Sam can call me. I'll be on earth." Castiel disappeared in a blink and Risa sagged against the door.

While she didn't regret calling him out on the thoughts matter, she regretted that there couldn't be a peace between them. There never would as long as she was there in the very place Castiel wanted to be. Risa would have liked to have developed a friendship with him, as he was important to Dean, but it wasn't looking like they were going to have anything at all.

When Dean and Sam returned, she gave him Castiel's message and watched the disappointment in Dean's eyes. Over the next couple days, she paid very close attention to Dean whenever Castiel was mentioned in conversation and came to the conclusion that there was so much more to them than met the eye. Deep down, Dean loved Castiel. Closer inspection displayed it all open to her in Dean's eyes. It was evident and she wasn't sure why she hadn't seen it before. Perhaps it had taken seeing that very love in Castiel's eyes to realize it and Risa returned home with both a greater sense of what must have happened and the sadness of knowing the man she loved didn't love her the way she wanted.

The call Castiel received a week later didn't come from either Sam or Dean. It came from Risa, which surprised him, for he hadn't even known Risa had his cell number. Perhaps Dean or Sam had given it to her.

He materialized in Risa's living room, not bothering to tell her he was coming. He simply appeared in front of her. She was curled on her couch, a box of tissues beside her, a wastebasket of used tissues on the floor and an empty tissue box on the coffee table. Her face was splotchy from tears, her eyes swollen, and breath hitching. She was devastated by something.

All combativeness disappeared and he crouched down in front of her. "Risa?"

She stared at him, then looked away. "We need to talk, Castiel."

"What about?"

"About how things were, how they are, and how they could be."

"I don't understand."

"I'll explain." She laughed and immediately started sobbing. When she'd pulled herself together again, she wiped her eyes with a tissue. "Look, I know you were somehow me for awhile and that during that period you had a relationship with Dean. We covered that already. That's how things were. I don't understand all of it or why I don't remember, but it feels true to me. I know you still have feelings for Dean, that being male now didn't stop that, and your feelings aren't light. You love him. You love Dean as a brother, a friend, and you still love him with that romantic love, though it's tempered somewhat by the male body. That's a lot of love." She licked her lips, dabbed her nose with a tissue. "I know you're jealous of me. You think a lot on how things were. This is how it is now. I do understand several things, Castiel. I understand loving Dean, because I love him too, and I think there could be peace between you and I - united in our love for him."

"How," he asked, wondering just what she was heading towards.

"First, I need to explain why I'm sitting here in the dark crying like my world has ended." She shifted on the cushion. "It's because it has. I want you to listen very carefully to what I have to say, think hard, and help me decide what to do here, because I can't make this decision on my own."

He listened with growing pain, sorrow, and regret at what she had to say.

Over time, Dean had almost grown used to waking up to find someone standing over him. This time, that someone was, oddly enough, Risa. He wondered when she'd gotten there, how she'd known what room they were in because he hadn't called her yet, and why she was just standing there with her back partially to him and arms crossed. Why hadn't she woken either of them up? It was damned peculiar, like something Cas did.

He sat up and cleared his throat. Her back straightened even more. He waited for her to say something. She didn't, standing silent and still.

"Risa?" She turned and Dean's mind exploded in memories. It was a thing he'd experienced once at Zachariah's hands. He drew in a harsh breath that made him cough. "Cas."

Castiel was there, in Risa's body. She stared at him, studying him a long moment before flicking her gaze to Sam's bed. "I've been waiting for you both to wake." She took a step towards him, then back from him. "How do you feel?"

Memories swirled in his mind. Cas crying silently on a park bench and looking frightened, then later, the tears gone and wonder in her eyes. There was the entire learning curve she'd gone through - they'd gone through - and then it had been gone and Risa replaced Castiel by Cas's own actions.

"How do you think I feel," he gasped out. "I just learned that a chunk of what I thought I had with her was actually with you in her body."

She bent her head. "You remember why I had to change your memories."

It wasn't a question and Dean had all of that swirling through his mind as though it had just happened yesterday. He knew the reason and understood it. Still, it didn't keep him from feeling hurt by it. "Why are you back in her," he asked, piling the pillows behind his back and leaning against them. "You chose to go back to Jimmy, Cas, and stay there. You left her and us behind."

"If you don't mind, Sam should be awake to hear this as well. It'll affect him too. A delicate situation has developed for Risa."

"Delicate situation? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Exactly what it sounds like. Delicate. Needing great care."

What sort of situation needed great care?

Sam stirred and woke, his reaction not what Dean had thought it would be. He was wary at first, then censorious in tone. "Cas? What are you doing here like that? Tell me you didn't choose -"

She held up her hand. "There's a matter we need to discuss, Sam. I haven't chosen earth."

"Then what's going on?"

Castiel sat on the end of Dean's bed, body facing Sam. "When I left, I tried to fix things in a way that would leave Dean happy. I thought that Risa would help to make him happy." She glanced at Dean. "I was right to an extent, except I didn't know she'd develop a fast-moving cancer that I can't heal from the outside. I was arrogant, assuming a responsibility I shouldn't have taken. Risa is dying. At the rate it's spreading inside her, her doctor's estimate of three months is…extremely generous. She has, at best, a single month remaining."

Dean felt like he'd been punched in the gut. He'd lost Cas and now he was going to lose Risa too? He squeezed his hands into fists, a wave of helplessness crashing over him. Not both of them. He couldn't lose them both!

"How long has she known?" Sam tossed back the covers and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

"About fifteen hours."

"How did you know?"

Leaning his head back, Dean tried to understand what Castiel was telling them. Risa dying? Sick with cancer? He couldn't seem to process the news, going back again and again to how alive she'd seemed. Risa simply hadn't looked sick to him. Nor had she acted like she was sick.

"She called me."

"Why did she call you," Dean asked, gaze moving to her, voice harsh. "You've kept as far away from her as you can without actually ignoring her when you're with us. Don't think we hadn't noticed."

"We thought you were jealous," Sam explained with a yawn.

"I know what you both thought and while there is truth to it, I had to keep a distance. Jimmy's body does dampen feelings, but not completely. I still felt everything from regret and sadness to jealousy and anger and so forth, simply not the way I do in Risa. I needed emotional distance from her," she turned on the bed, now facing Dean, "and from you, Dean. Risa called me because I had forgotten one thing."

"And that is?"

"The mostly open connection between angel and vessel."

Dean thought back, remembering what Cas had told him when they'd gone to see Raphael's vessel. "You were in your vessel already. Jimmy is your vessel."

She looked embarrassed, cheeks flushing. "Yes, but," her brows rose, "I'd also taken Risa as a vessel. Changing her memories didn't change that fact, nor did it close that connection. I neglected to make certain the connection between us was severed. She…." Castiel sighed and looked down at where her hand rested on the bed, smoothing the covers as she went on. "She could hear many of my thoughts when we were in the same room together."

He exchanged a glance with Sam. That certainly explained some of Risa's facial expressions over the past months when she and Cas had been in the same room.

"I didn't realize it until she confronted me about it last week and even then I was so upset by it that I forgot to close it then as well. I erred."

"She went a year hearing you and not saying anything?"

Castiel returned her gaze back to him. "Seven months," she corrected. "Five of the year were what you and I spent together."

"Okay seven months." He adjusted the covers in his lap. "Why didn't she say anything?" He couldn't imagine Risa staying silent on anything.

"She wanted to be certain her conclusions were correct. I didn't think to guard my thoughts around her. There were times I wasn't exactly complimentary towards her and other times when I thought on things that had occurred."

"Does that mean Jimmy could hear you when you were in her?" Sam put a hand on the edge of the bed and leaned on it.

"Provided I wasn't guarding my thoughts or in a state of extreme emotional distress, yes."

"Where's Jimmy now?"

"Back at Risa's house waiting for my return." She returned her gaze to the ceiling. "Dean, I can't heal her -"

"Can't or won't?"

"Can't. I tried. I can't heal her from the outside or the inside. It won't take. The only thing that keeps the cancer from advancing in her body is my presence. Like with the reproductive system, it freezes in that case, unfreezing when I leave her. We did try. She thinks she'd be dead already if I hadn't taken those days…months…in her. I don't understand why I can't heal her. I've healed you, brought life back to Bobby…. Why can't I heal her? It makes no sense. It should work and it doesn't." Getting up, she stepped to the dresser and back, pacing in slow strides. "She knows about angels, vessels, and…us, Dean. She put much of it together on her own from my thoughts and knows that for five months, I was her much of the time, two or three days every four or five days. She knows."

"And?" Dean took a quick glance at Sam. He was quiet, observing, taking it all in.

Cas paused in her pacing. "This is the reason I'm here now, in her. She wants to offer me her body as a permanent vessel. One, so Jimmy can return to his family and two…." She licked her lips, and took a deep breath. "So you will have one of us remaining with you in an…intimate capacity." She blinked several times. "She asked to see what our relationship had been like and I obliged her. I shared my memories with her."

His emotions were mixed: grief at knowing Risa was going to be gone soon, hope at the possibility of having Castiel back, and anger at the entire situation. A lot of anger, some of it directed at Castiel. She'd changed his memories, taken away something that had been precious to him and he wasn't ready to forgive her for it. "Who says I still want you? Maybe it's her I want." He didn't mean it, but he didn't try to stop the words from leaving his lips.

He saw Castiel flinch and Sam grab her wrist in a tight grip before they both disappeared.