Title: Lost and Found
Part Three: Culmination
Part Three Summary: AU: Dean and Jo face a new chapter in their life together, while the mystery of Gwen's past becomes entangled in an ongoing case.
Disclaimer: 'Supernatural' was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is intended.
Notes: 1) Thank you to all who've left comments and criticisms and to all who will in the future! 2) I do have notes and the beginnings of a plot arc for a possible continuation of this AU, though it will be posted as a separate story as it would be a different arc for the characters. - ETA 5/15/11: The continuation of this story is called 'Nothing and Everything' and is being posted here on , on my LJ, and on my website. as of today, 2 chapters are completed and posted.
Castiel left the presence of God with a feeling of peace and purpose…and several scrolls for those who might not be thrilled hearing the news from him. The scrolls were all official and like the one he'd received about his meeting: only able to be opened and read by the intended recipients.
He returned to heaven, pondering the change in himself. He'd received the guidance he'd craved with such desperation and the assurance he'd needed to continue. Many of his questions had been answered, even a few he'd had about Dean and Sam, and he was certain of his role now.
He was in a position of leadership as a reward for his service. Those choices he'd made, the ones he'd agonized over, they'd been the right ones after all in the end. It wasn't the full leadership that Michael had had, nor had his powers increased beyond the little extra he'd been given after Lucifer had killed him. He was to do exactly what Uzziel had said they should: be a good steward until the day God returned home and that day would be soon.
A smile tugged at his lips. Soon. The word meant different things to humans and angels respectively. 'Soon' could still mean thousands of years, yet he had confirmation. God had always planned to return and he'd been watching all of them, assessing their reactions and actions. He wasn't disinterested. He loved them all and gave them the lessons they needed when he saw that they were needed.
Lessons in stewardship, in free will, in pride. The list could go on.
He was to share duties with Uzziel, like they were already. Uzziel would take care of overseeing the departments, while Castiel's focus would be on the AMP, only with changes. Excitement tickled at him. He could hardly wait to share those changes with everyone!
New department, new positions, new rules over all the angels.
She should have ditched this place and gone down to earth.
That was the one thought running through Abigael's head. She should have heeded the calls coming in from Dean Winchester instead of staying here to make certain Balthazar and Uzziel behaved themselves, but wasn't sure Castiel would approve of her talking to Dean. She was still technically under Castiel's tutelage and therefore subject to the rules he'd laid out for her. Talking to Dean was one of those rules and Abigael didn't want to jeopardize her own training in some way.
Ellen, however, hadn't been one of those rules, so she'd spoken to Ellen, felt her out about Castiel's whereabouts and determined in seconds that likely, the humans Cas knew wouldn't know where he was. Was it possible Dean could be calling about Castiel; that he did know where he was? She supposed it could be so.
Abigael resolved to go down and talk to him if Castiel didn't show up soon.
"Come on, Abby," Balthazar drawled, attempting to bring her into the argument they were having. "Don't you think he's got to be dead?"
Both pairs of eyes turned to her and she tamped down her growing irritation with both of them. Uzziel and Balthazar were trying her patience equally these days. She wondered how Castiel did it. Did he ignore them for the most part? It was the only explanation. Humans didn't irritate her, these two did. She thought she'd rather be on earth watching over humans than up here watching these two argue over which one of them had to have murdered Castiel.
There was no proof, yet they assumed it was the truth. They were as bad as some humans could be, jumping to conclusions without any proof of anything.
"No, I don't."
"Don't you believe me capable of murder?" Balthazar was overly dramatic on the last word, but his gaze indicated that he was very interested in her answer.
She stared at him. "Of course I think you're capable of murder," she soothed, "just not of murdering Castiel. Inciting others to murder in order to further Castiel's career maybe, but murder him? Nope."
Raising a finger he pointed it at her with a narrowed gaze. "I don't think I like you," he announced.
"You're breaking my heart," she told him, noticing a few more angels stepping into the room, Ariel, Mariel, and Jael among them. The argument between Uzziel and Balthazar was prime entertainment for the rest of heaven at the moment. She sighed. She'd attempted to keep it quiet and gotten nowhere for her efforts. News traveled too fast.
He turned his back on her, facing Uzziel. "You. It's got to be you."
"I've never trusted you," Uzziel spat.
"I never trusted you first," Balthazar retorted.
Abigael shook her head. This refrain from the two had been going on since they'd discovered Castiel was gone and no one could find him. Nothing she said mollified either and she crossed her arms. Any second now and they were finally going to come to blows. It had been building for hours.
Yup. There they went.
Sighing once more, she sat on the dais and watched them punch, scratch, and generally attempt to maim each other while a crowd gathered to watch as well. She'd had the guards hold them down earlier and confiscate their swords, so there was no fear they'd actually kill each other.
Really. She rolled her eyes. Did they have to be at each other's throats within hours of Castiel disappearing?
Stupid men, came a faint voice and she heartily agreed with Risa's assessment. They were being stupid. There'd been no indication Castiel was dead aside from him being missing and it didn't have to mean he was dead. He could be hiding out because he was sick of all of them and needed a break. She wouldn't be surprised if he had. After all, his stress levels at present -
The doors to the throne room opened, slamming against the wall with a bang. A light grew, the throng of angels watching the fight parting. That light was cool and warm at the same time, blinding, yet soft. It made her want to step closer.
Castiel stood in the middle of the open doorway, that light emanating from him. He looked over all of them, long moments where he studied each face present, then strode forward. As he passed, angels either backed up or fell prostrate. He stopped beside Uzziel and Balthazar.
Abigael gasped. His face, it was radiant, but in a way that hadn't been seen in centuries. The glow he had was a remnant of the glory and magnificence of God, an aftereffect shown on angels and humans both of having been in God's natural presence.
Castiel had seen God.
The implications of that alone….
There was a new confidence in how he stood and held himself and the intensity of that glow indicated he'd been in God's presence for…days. That was where he'd been. When he'd left heaven it had been to see God.
"Castiel?" She pushed herself up to stand and took a single step towards him. The light shining from him fascinated her and she wanted to touch his face and see if that light would slip over her.
He nodded once at her and cleared his throat. Uzziel and Balthazar stopped, breaking apart. Chagrin and shame crossed their faces when they saw it was him there, the one each had accused the other of murdering. "This in-fighting stops now. We have work to do. I can't baby sit the two of you. Either get along or you're both out of heaven."
"Cas…." Uzziel stood up straight. His clothes were rumpled and he smoothed them with quick movements.
"Ooh, such a forceful pronouncement," Balthazar quipped, though it lacked his usual irreverence.
Castiel stared first at one, then the other, then raised one brow. "Do either of you doubt me?"
"No," they replied in unison. Embarrassment in their actions was clear in how they stood, their shoulders slightly hunched. Uzziel's arms were crossed and Balthazar slid his hands into his pockets.
"Good. Balthazar, test our remaining brethren, leaving no one out. Every single angel must be tested whether they wish it or not. Be thorough in the testing. Leave no room for doubt on the ability of any to adapt to a life on earth as a human. This is no longer a simple AMP matter, but one for all of heaven."
Why? Why live as human, Abigael wondered. She'd not thought the AMP was about really living as a human, merely being able to pass for one if needed.
Levity left Balthazar completely and he took a step forward. "Castiel, that will take a very long time. To be so thorough…I'll need to re-test some I've finished with using added criteria."
"Then do it. Real change and a new day begins now. You'll test them or I'll find someone who will."
A glimmer of respect flickered in his eyes and he nodded. "Very well." He left without his usual swagger.
"Uzziel, see to the smooth running of the departments as the testing process continues. I'll have more to discuss with you and Balthazar shortly, but let's get the ball rolling first."
"May I ask -"
"We need to get heaven shiny, Uzziel. I think you suspect part of the reason and have since long before the war was over."
An intense light grew in Uzziel's eyes. "The day?"
The confirmation sent a wave of sound throughout the room, angels murmuring to each other in excited tones.
"We need to be good stewards now more than ever. Especially with what has been entrusted to us. Will you stand with me still?"
"Of course. I promised I would, but what has been given to us?"
Castiel shook his head. "We'll have a press conference in a few hours. This will ultimately affect all of heaven and even the earth. Contact everyone connected to heaven in some capacity. All should attend, even the lower ranks. If…when…they balk," he removed several scrolls from his coat, "give them the scrolls addressed to them."
"It's that important? That all are there?"
"It is. Once more heaven will work together, all of heaven…and all of it's resources."
"Then I'm already on it."
He glanced around him. "The rest of you have work already assigned to you. Be about it."
In minutes, it was only Abigael left with him. She put her hands in her jacket pockets to keep from raising them to touch his face. Would that light feel warm to touch? Or was it just light? "What about me? I have no job at present."
"When preparations are completed…. There's a position for you."
"Doing what?" He said it as thought it was a brand new job, which couldn't be. There hadn't been new jobs created since before God had left heaven. "What is it, Castiel?"
His smile was slow and pleased, a genuine smile. "Something I think you're perfect for." He glanced around the throne room. "But first, I need you to answer Dean's calls for me while I head to the first of several meetings I already have arranged. He thinks I'm missing?"
She glanced down at the floor. "I may have gone to talk to Ellen when we couldn't find you. I thought she might have an idea where you were without bothering the Winchester brothers. You don't want me talking to them without you, but I didn't think you'd object to me seeing her. I'm sorry. I got back from seeing Ellen and Balthazar and Uzziel were fighting. I ended up refereeing them. Few were listening for any calls from anyone. Should I have gone to see him? Disobeyed your original instructions?"
"How long would you have waited before seeing him?"
"I'd figured another day."
He nodded. "An adequate time frame." Castiel glanced at the doors. "Abigael…. I can't wait until later to tell you. It's too exciting." Stepping close, he gave her the news in a low whisper, news that sent a wave of pleased excitement crashing through her.
"I don't know what to say. Cas -"
"Say nothing until God returns, then thank Him for the position."
Abigael grinned. "I will."
"Go see Dean now." He gave her instructions. "Then find me when you return. I've a side project for you to work on."
Abigael slipped down from heaven and onto Dean's porch. She stood just outside the door, trying to decide if she should rely on her human training and knock or fall back on her angelic nature and simply appear. She chose to knock and withstand Dean's scrutiny before he'd open the door and let her inside the house.
Everyone else was asleep and had been for hours, but Dean couldn't sleep. He paced the living room, a thumb full of whiskey in a glass, taking a sip every now and then. Why was it when he thought he didn't have to worry about anyone, there was always one more to worry about? What was it with the angels and going missing? First Uzziel, now Cas?
A knock on the front door interrupted his thoughts. It was soft, tentative, and he checked out the window, then again out the glass at the top of the door before opening it. "Abby?" Was it her though, or was it Risa? She was wearing different clothes than the last time he'd seen her, tennis shoes now, jeans, t-shirt, and light jacket over it of the sort Jo preferred to wear. Her hair was down, loose about her face and shoulders. She didn't look like an angel. There was too much emotion on her face. Couldn't be Abigael. "Risa," he tried again.
"Hello, Dean. You were right the first time. Abigael."
"Oh." He shrugged one shoulder. "You look…emotional." Why was she waiting on the porch? Why not just zap in like the rest of the angels did?
"Thank you. Castiel taught me well. May I come in?"
He opened the door wider for her.
She stepped inside the house. Abby looked like just another human standing there, apparently taking what he'd said as a compliment and he closed the door.
Dean cleared his throat. "Well, it's about time one of you showed up." He moved to the couch. Bending, he set his glass on the coffee table. "Where've you been? I've been calling. What the hell's going on up there? Is Cas okay?"
She stepped closer. "He's fine, Dean. He was away and didn't tell any of us where he went. Uzziel and Balthazar got it into their heads that the other killed him and got into a fist fight in the throne room. I was trying to keep them from each other."
"No loss if they did kill each other," he muttered.
She started to laugh, nodding. "I assume you're referring to Balthazar?"
"You think it'd be a loss?"
"I decline to answer. Castiel put a stop to the fight when he arrived."
"Where was he?"
"Sorting out heaven. Getting some fatherly advice."
"Fatherly…." He swallowed hard as her meaning sunk in. "Cas saw God? Seriously?"
She smiled and he could see the excitement there on her face. "He did. Dean, things are good, really good. Everything is finally where it should be again. We have a purpose, heaven, all of heaven, united in that purpose." She came closer. "What can I do for you tonight?"
"Why didn't Cas come? It was him I called for…mostly."
"He sent me as proxy and also his deepest apologies that it has to be this way for short while. He's unable to leave heaven until the initial stages are complete. They are delicate matters and require some negotiations between the parties involved. He's the only one given the authority to speak in the matters. When the negotiations are completed -"
"What kind of negotiations?"
"Important ones." She shrugged, moving to where she could turn and lean against the back of the couch. "I'm not trying to avoid the question. I simply have no answer to give until the matters are settled. Castiel doesn't want me to say anything yet and by the time I can say something, he'll likely tell you before I can. So, how about you tell me what you need and I take care of it?"
"It's okay. Anything you ask and my responses will be relayed to Castiel. I'm here in proxy for him, not as myself. If he disapproves of my actions on his part, he'll fix it himself."
"You're like his right hand angel now? Last I saw, you were a trainee."
"I'm a fast learner." Abigael crossed her ankles. "And I don't know if I'd go so far as to say right hand angel. Uzziel and I are close to him, Uzziel more so than I and Balthazar…."
Didn't she understand? Castiel had always come himself. He'd sent her here. This meant that he trusted her like himself, even as an extension of himself. "You're here in proxy. You, not them. You. Abigael. He's never sent anyone else to speak for him before. It means he really trusts you. Been a long time since he's trusted any other angels like that. Means something."
She was pleased by that, smile widening. "What's your request?"
"Would you erase my home location and phone number from Ben and Lisa? Ben especially. I think he's more inclined to try and find me again if the notion hits him even if he isn't interested in this life anymore. I'd rather not have further surprise visits. One was more than enough."
"Do you wish the particular state you're in to be removed or only the town and street address?"
"State, if you would." That would be the best course of action.
"I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks." He slid his hands into his jeans pockets. "How is Castiel? I mean really?"
"He's absolutely sure of his purpose now. We all are. We remember what we were created for, a thing many of us forgot in our jealousies over humanity. Heaven has entered a new phase of existence. Hopefully improved."
"And Cas is in the middle of all the action."
She laughed. "He is. Until next time, Dean." Reaching out, she touched his arm, squeezed it lightly before disappearing.
An angel had said goodbye. Dean thought a moment on that. Abigael gave Cas credit for teaching her about humanity, so as utterly human as she seemed, it was due to Castiel's teaching. He may not act completely human himself, but he could obviously teach others how to do it. He grinned, relief sliding over him. Cas was in the middle of whatever was going on and it sounded like it was good things.
Well…. At least he was getting some kind of action.
He went up the stairs, moving carefully and skipping the fourth step, as it creaked every time. In their room, he stripped and slid beneath the covers beside Jo. She stirred and shifted, hand reaching out for him, patting his leg. Her voice was sleepy.
Dean slid closer, holding her hand in his, pressing a kiss to her temple. "Cas is okay. Abigael came by. She says it's all good up there and he's fine."
"Mmm…." She squeezed his hand. "M'glad." In seconds, Jo was asleep again and Dean cradled her in his arms as he himself drifted down into dreams.
The next couple days before Jo's appointment seemed to pass alternately in fast swoops and slow arcs. Excitement and nervousness entwined inside Dean, doing a jog in his stomach as he walked with Jo into the building. They were going to see the first picture of their child today and he could barely wait, though a little afraid that it'd show something was wrong.
He sat beside her in a chair, nearly holding his breath, his attention focused on the screen.
It looked a bit like an alien, curves and lines that didn't make any sense at first, but when it finally dawned on Dean what they were seeing, he grinned wider. That was a little face, a little arm, a little leg….
"That's our baby," Jo said. She gripped his hand tightly, her grin as goofy as he knew his was.
"It sure is."
The technician tapped something on the keyboard. "Do you want to know the sex? I can tell you right now."
Jo nodded. "I do."
Dean shook his head. "Not me. Surprise me." He got up from his chair and waited outside the room for a minute, hearing Jo's ecstatic cry through the closed door. The cry could mean anything. Boy, girl, she'd be happy with either just like he would.
The tech printed a picture and Dean couldn't help himself. He had to show it to everyone they passed. It was like a compulsion. The women in the waiting room ooh-ed and aww-ed, but the strangers on the street didn't care. Dean dismissed them and guided Jo into a chain store. Time to make a few wallet sizes. One for him, one for Jo, one for Ellen…. Would Sam, Gwen, and Bobby want copies?
When Dean had gone, the tech held a stylus to the screen. "See right here. If your husband knew what he was looking at, he would have been able to see it himself. Your baby is flashing us everything, Jo. You've got a healthy boy in there."
"Seriously?" Her stomach lurched, only in a good way.
"No doubt. I've never seen one clearer and I've been at this awhile. You're carrying a boy."
A boy. A little boy with Dean's mischievous grin and pretty eyes. A boy who'd some day be as lethal to girls as Dean had been. A boy. By the time they left the building, Jo was dying to tell someone. It didn't matter who. She wasn't sure how long she could keep her excitement in check. Several times, she almost spilled the beans to Dean just on the short drive to the store.
With Dean occupied printing out wallet sized pictures, she stepped outside and took out her phone, dialing her mother first. Her hands shook. "Mom? It's a boy! Don't tell Dean!"
"He doesn't want to know?"
"No. Wants to be surprised."
"Be careful not spilling that news, Jo. Sweetie, that's great. I'll start some buying later this week. I've had my eye on a few things for you."
She made the round of calls, swearing each person to secrecy, and by the time Dean emerged from the building, she felt a bit more serene. When they finally had the baby, Dean was going to be thrilled. She couldn't wait to see his expression when he saw they had a son.
"What are you smiling about," he asked, grinning like an idiot himself.
Drawing her close, he caressed her cheek. "Me too."
Only a couple more months and they'd meet their child. Their boy.
Jo looked forward to that.
It was a good day to relax in a hammock. Sam hadn't ever had many days he could do just that, so he took advantage, setting up the hammock Dean had bought not long after they'd moved in, and coaxing Gwen into it with him. It didn't take much to convince her to play hooky from anything resembling work. She was more than willing to 'canoodle' as Dean would call it.
He wasn't going to do research or even think about cases for a single day. He was going to relax, stare at the sky, and not do one damn thing all day. Heck, he might even do some yard work later.
Sam stared up at the tangle of leaves in the tree above them, Gwen tucked against his side. A warm breeze swept over them. By noon it'd be another scorcher, but right now it was nice. The hammock swayed slightly as Gwen shifted, her bare foot sliding along his, then up a bit beneath his jeans leg.
Dean and Jo had left early for her appointment and should be back any time. Jo had called already to tell them the big news. A boy. She'd been unable to wait until delivery day to find out and also unable to keep from calling everyone and telling them. It was going to be hard to keep Dean from finding out. Sam figured Dean was probably going to be the only one who didn't know they were having a boy before the actual day. She'd also said he was making a couple wallet sized pictures, one for her and one for him.
"Tell me Dean won't give us wallet sized pictures," Gwen said drowsily, sliding her hand along his chest.
"Ten says he will."
"You still trying to recoup the loss from him putting your bags in my motel room months ago?"
"Maybe." He slid his hand under the edge of her tank, skimming it along her side.
"The proud daddy."
"It's nice to see him happy, I mean really happy, looking forward to something instead of looking back and regretting. We both had too long of the latter."
They lay in the hammock until the sound of the Impala coming towards the house roused them, then fought their way out of the hammock and helped take the bags of groceries into the house. Grocery bags in the kitchen, Dean cleared his throat and held up an envelope with dramatic flourish.
"Just show it to them," Jo told him, taking a plastic bag into the bathroom and coming back out.
"And the winner is," Gwen said, a twinkle in her eyes.
Dean removed the picture and held it up.
"You're having a…space alien," Sam asked, tilting his head a little in an attempt to see all Jo had already called and talked about.
"Baby," Jo corrected, flicking his arm with her fingers as she passed him.
"Ouch." He rubbed the spot, though it hadn't really hurt.
She smiled sweetly.
"Two arms, two legs, head, fingers and toes." Dean tapped it with a finger, then handed it to Gwen and placed his hand flat on Jo's belly. "It's a beautiful baby in a beautiful bump."
Gwen touched the picture with a finger. There was a fraction of a second of longing in her eyes, quickly gone. "Congratulations, guys." She handed the picture to Sam and went in the kitchen with Jo to help put away the groceries.
Sam saw the longing and even felt a tiny twinge of it himself as he studied the picture. When he looked at Gwen, he could almost imagine her with a baby in her arms and the image didn't freak him out as much as it once would have. That had to be a good thing, right? "So, boy or girl?"
"Don't know, don't care," Dean replied, taking the picture back. "The baby is healthy, Jo is healthy, and that's what counts."
Frankly, Sam would be surprised if someone didn't let it slip to Dean. It'd be a miracle if he got to the delivery room without a good idea he was going to have a son. He was right, however. That Jo and the baby were healthy was what mattered. "It is what counts," Sam agreed.
"Fire up the grill, Sammy."
"We're celebrating." He took the picture, wedged it in the lower corner of the picture Ellen had gotten framed for them of the four of them in front of the house. In that framed picture, Sam and Dean stood together, with Jo and Gwen on the outside of them. "You think you'd ever see the day when we'd have all of this? Home base, two women who love us and put up with us. Marriage and babies and…hunting still all in it." Dean adjusted the picture, straightening it. "I never thought this was possible, Sam, but here we are."
"I think that's cause for some celebrating. Picked up steak and a few other things."
"Sounds like a good idea to me."
Sam watched Gwen as he worked at the grill, as they ate, and later, as they sat in chairs talking and laughing. She wanted more. She wanted the things Dean was giving Jo: marriage, family.
Could he give her more? Would there be some moment in the future where he could release the hold on his fears and emerge from them? Or was this moment where they were at all they'd ever have between them?
Castiel was in the kitchen when Dean got up to get a few more beers to take outside.
"I heard you were busy," Dean told him, reaching into the fridge. "You weren't going to be able to come down for awhile."
"I was. I still am. I'm in the middle of negotiations. A couple parties involved are being disagreeable and we've taken a break to cool down. I'm confident arrangements will move on as they are supposed to when we return to our negotiations shortly."
"What's going on? You have a new position?" He set three of Gwen's favorite beer on the counter and six of his and Sam's beer.
"Something like that. More like a title to the position I've already been in, with a department beneath me."
"Cas, that's great. So what are you, ambassador to humanity? Special angel number one?" What position had he had? It had sounded to Dean like he'd been doing a little of everything, but mostly been the 'face of new heaven'.
"It is great. It's a new program, one that takes the principles learned in the AMP, but actually puts them into practice in a way never before undertaken. We've never had this job before. If the program does as expected, balance will be kept. Angels will be a presence on earth. An unnoticed presence, but a presence. However, it means a change in our interactions."
The tone of Castiel's voice alerted him to his meaning. "Let me guess. You won't be coming around anymore?"
"Basically, yes. The importance of this project means I can't be on earth visiting. I have to be up there, making sure everything runs smoothly, and when I'm here, I have to be meeting with the angels in my program, assessing them, keeping on top of their jobs, making sure nothing goes wrong. That's my role. I'm meant to guide other angels in their earthly jobs."
"Makes sense your time would be taken up with that."
He glanced at the floor. "I will be thinking of you, of all of you -"
This felt strangely like a goodbye and he hated to think of it that way. Castiel had been there for many things and to think that he might not be there in the future…. It made him feel like he was losing a friend. "I get you'll be busy, but I've told you before: come when you can, Cas. Friends are always welcome."
"Thank you, Dean."
"You wanna come out and say goodbye to everyone? Have a beer, hang out until you have to go back?"
"It's not a goodbye."
"Be honest, Cas, because it sure feels like one. You ever coming back?"
He looked at the beers on the counter. "If it were a goodbye, I'd say it. This is not one. We'll see each other again." Castiel's glance returned to him. There was certainty in his eyes for a brief second before he disappeared.
Slowly, he gathered the bottles and returned to the party outside.
Gwen was doing research when she realized someone was reading over her shoulder. She paused in her writing and cleared her throat, glancing without turning her head. "Do you do this to Sam and Dean?"
Castiel came around her chair to stand at the side of the table. "On occasion."
"I presume that since I'm the only one here, it's me you're here to see?" She shoved her notebook and pen to one side, closed the lid of her laptop, and turned in her chair, crossing her legs. "Or are you planning on waiting? It'll be awhile. Dean took Jo to buy a few more maternity tops. Her favorite blouse wouldn't close over her stomach this morning." Since Dean had done the laundry, she suspected he'd tossed it in the dryer and accidentally shrunk it. He wasn't careful when he did laundry. Of course, Gwen wasn't particularly careful either. She didn't have clothes that could shrink like Jo did. She'd been careful not to buy anything like that. "I'm not sure where Sam is, but he's not here."
"You presume correctly. I'm here to see you." He picked up the open file folder and looked at it, flipping the pages and reading through the information Jo had already put together before setting it back down. "You've no ill effects from the events of last week?"
"None save the usual ones." Nightmares and such. The average effects pretty much everyone had. She knew even Sam and Dean had nightmares and of the sort that made hers seem like rainbows and kittens.
He looked almost like he'd expected some health complaint from her and she shifted position a little, resting her arm on the edge of the chair back. "You tell me. You're the angel with all the healing powers."
"Your physical health is good, Gwen. You've no anomalies within you to cause problems in the future."
"Well, that's…good to know." She noticed he didn't mention mental and emotional health. Did that mean anything? Or was it Castiel being Castiel? She didn't know him well enough to know.
"Yes." His head cocked. "You've been curious about your father for a very long time now. I should have said a few words immediately to assuage your curiosity."
"That's quite a segue, from my health to…that. I still would have gone looking, even if you'd said something."
His nod was slow. "Human curiosity." He shifted the pile of folders at the end of the table, fanning them out, then restacking them. "While the information in Neal Campbell's journals will give you some details about him, you should know that your biological father was a good man, honorable, and from a long line of such men. He did die trying to protect you. You were special to him, his precious child, and now you're special to Sam, like Jo is to Dean."
She studied him. "That's not how you meant the word that day. 'Special'. You said it with significance."
"You're being special to Sam isn't significant? Or being special to you father?"
"Not how you meant it," Gwen said again with a quirked brow.
"Does it matter?"
There was another choice here to make. Did she pursue this line of questioning or let it go? "If I asked for the truth on how I'm special, would you answer?"
A tiny smile played on his lips. "Are you asking?"
Castiel stepped to the wall, hand raising, a finger touching the picture Dean had added to the bigger picture. When he turned back to her, that hand slipped down into his coat pocket. "You're special to and for Sam. What else needs to be said?"
She let loose a snort of laughter. "Dean's right. Angels are maddening creatures."
That half-smile lingered and he held out his hand. In it was a flash drive.
"The full information on your birth family, both sides. I had Abigael put it into a portable data storage unit."
"You know computers?"
"Her vessel worked with them. She accessed the knowledge. You have all of the information you could possibly need, going back one hundred and fifty years. Is that sufficient or shall I take it further?"
She stared down at the drive. Castiel and Abigael would have been thorough, she knew. Any question she had would have an answer. It was tempting, very much so.
But did she need to know?
She shook her head. "Thank you, but no."
"Why? You've spent months searching. This information will fill in all of the blanks."
Gwen took a deep breath. "You once told me that my birth parents didn't matter, that what mattered were the ones who raised me and who I choose to be today." She shrugged. "I choose to be Gwen Campbell, very much loved daughter of Neal and Patricia Campbell. They raised me, loved me as their own, and I never felt that I wasn't theirs. Neither Aaron or Mia defines who I am except in genetic material. The only reason I'd need such information is if I need health questions answered and you just told me I'm healthy. I know who I am, Castiel."
He set the drive on the table. "You're lucky. Many never do know who they are. The information is yours regardless. Keep it, save it, destroy it. Your choice." He was gone before she could say anything and Gwen picked up the drive.
If she kept it, she'd cave and look at the information and she wasn't sure she needed to be delving any deeper into her biological family. How important could that information be anyway? It dealt with people she'd never met and had barely any connection to at all. It meant nothing.
She headed outside.
His errands finished, Sam returned home to find that Gwen had a fire going. It was a small one, but a fire nonetheless.
Sam approached her. "A fire in this heat?"
She looked over her shoulder at him. "I had something to burn."
"What was it?"
"Castiel came by. He'd had Abby transfer information on my parents to a flash drive. Gave it to me."
"And you burned it? Why? You could have known about your father."
She crossed her arms. "Neal Campbell was my father. Aaron Carys was a man I never had a chance to know, a stranger I happen to share genetic material with. Maybe I was special to him for the short time he had me with him, but I have no feelings for him. Castiel was right. I don't need to know some hidden past to know who I am. I'm a Campbell by raising and they're the family I claim as mine. They raised me to be a hunter. That's who and what I am."
"You're not curious anymore?"
"I'll always wonder a little what he was like. Mia claimed he was like you. Maybe she was lying, I don't know."
"To be trusted by the Campbells so often, he had to have been smart, competent, good at what he did."
"But obviously flawed like the rest of us. He married a witch and was deceived for three years."
"He made a mistake and she killed him." He shrugged. "My mistake like he made freed Lucifer. Maybe dying was a mercy for him. He didn't have to try to put the pieces back together when his mistake cost everything."
"I had a father who loved me and a good and kind mother. Neal and Patricia. Whoever Aaron Carys really was can stay buried with him. It means nothing to who I am."
Putting an arm around her, he watched with her as the fire released her past back to where it belonged. Some questions didn't need to be answered.
When the fire had burned down, he drew her to the Adirondack chairs near the hammock under the large tree and held out a thin chain. He'd spent all day finding what he'd wanted. Three rings: an engagement ring, a worn wedding band, and a tiny baby ring, all put together on a silver chain.
"What's this," Gwen asked, taking it and studying the three rings.
"A promise." He stepped closer, sliding a finger along the chain.
She tilted her head back to look up at him. "Sam?"
"These rings represent things you want out of our life, my promise to you that, while I'm not to any of those places yet, I'll try to get there."
"I don't need marriage or kids. I'll be happy being the favorite aunt to Dean and Jo's kids."
"No, you won't. You want more and I know it. I want you to have those things you want, Gwen, but you'll have to be patient with me. I'm not there yet. I may never be there. Can you stay with a man who might never be able to give you the things you want?"
She held up the chain. "Put it on me?"
"As long as it takes."
He clasped the necklace about her neck, his hands shaking with relief that she'd said yes. He dropped a kiss to the nape of her neck. "You're sure?" The rings nestled down beneath the neckline of her tank.
"Do you think I would have accepted it if I wasn't?"
His shoulders relaxed. "You're unpredictable."
"Me?" She faced him again, set her hands on his chest, gripping his shirt.
"You're sort of a wild card."
"I am not. You knew I'd take the necklace."
He shook his head. "No, I didn't. Could have gone either way."
A hand raised, caressing his cheek. "No, Sam, it couldn't have." She slid that hand around his neck, urging him to lean down. Raising up on tip toe, Gwen pressed her lips to his, a gentle kiss that felt like a return promise, a vow of sorts taken between them. She'd wait for him and maybe, God willing, he'd be able to fulfill his promise to her.
Night had fallen.
Abigael stepped to the still smoldering embers of the fire and reached down, picking up the flash drive. It had melted, but not fully. Castiel had been certain Gwen would do something like that and make that choice not to take the easy way he'd offered. Of course, there were things Gwen wasn't aware of in her past that she might still need to know, things that went beyond Mia's plan for her, and more to her family than the scant bits she knew. Who was Aaron Carys really? Perhaps that information would come into play in the future and perhaps not. Time would tell. Abigael pocketed the drive, then sat on one of the chairs beneath the tree.
Her assignment began tonight. Well, sort of.
She was the first in a new department of angels. For a long time, guardian angels had been human fiction. They'd become a reality at last.
Uzziel's initial plan had been shaped into something more, a thing that had led to the department God had told Castiel to create. The angels who'd learned to blend in and live as human would take a hands-on approach to certain key individuals - archangel vessels among those -, living on earth as human, watching over their charges, keeping them safe until Death was to claim them. It was a cross-departmental arrangement and order would be kept.
They had to have wisdom and discernment to know when they should step in and when they were to step back. This wasn't a light job. She wasn't going to be protecting her charges from life. There'd be accidents, bumps, and scrapes, sometimes serious ones, but if something tried to interfere with the order, she was to use her wisdom and discernment to decide if she was to intervene. It was going to be difficult, requiring her to be aware of all around herself and them. She couldn't just intervene whenever she felt like it. She had to know for certain and without one doubt that it was time to step in and protect the children.
Could it be done? Would any of them have a complete success rate with all of the things in the world that would attempt to influence the people? Free will had to be taken into account, and other things such as fate.
As the first, she was going to be watched, a daunting prospect to have all of heaven's eyes upon her. Castiel had confidence in her and that calmed her.
Abigael was the first guardian and Dean and Jo's son her first charge. On the day Sam and Gwen had a child, if it occurred, that one would also be hers. She was attached to the Winchester family now, as much, if not more so than Castiel. Their children would literally have an angel watching over them.
As always, the lines would live on and she, Abigael, would watch over the children to the best of her ability. Smiling, she relaxed in the chair and crossed her legs, glancing at the house.
The Winchester brothers had finally found a definition of normal to call their own.
For the moment, all was well in their world.