Alright, this is the fourth and final part of my mini-story! I meant to get this done by Friday but the dreaded "real life" popped up and took up my writing time. For future reference, if you ever want to know what's taking me so long, I usually give some explanation (aka: excuse) on my Livejournal (accessible via the "homepage" link on my author's page). Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed: ramen-is-my-goddess, supreme dramon, xelloss100, ChaosGarden, Silver Mirror, daniidomene, Alpha Kan't Spell, and Sexy-Tacos-Emo-Waffles! Thank you everyone for giving this story a chance, I hope you like the ending! ^_^
Since he was already at the Winchesters' house and not the type to wait for anything, Gabriel pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called Castiel up less than five minutes after agreeing to join forces with the Winchester brothers. Dean couldn't hear Cas's side of the conversation but from Gabriel's reaction he seemed to be more than a little wary of the older Novak's presence at the house. Nonetheless, fifteen minutes later Dean heard a firm knock on their door.
Dean barely had it open before Castiel slipped inside, his lips pressed in a thin line and blue eyes flashing. For the first time he seemed nearly oblivious to Dean as his gaze immediately locked on his brother who was currently slouched down on the couch next to Sam. "Gabriel, why did you come here?"
Gabriel just smirked, hiding all the uncertainty he had let slip with Sam and Dean behind a mask of cocky bravado that just seemed to rile Cas up more. "In all honesty I came to put the fear of God into these two, but after landing a few punches I decided that we might as well work together to figure out what's going on in that messed-up head of yours."
Dean watched as Cas's hands fisted at his side and walked up beside the younger man to lend some silent support. "Thank you for your concern, Gabe, but I'd rather you just leave if your only intention here is to abuse us. Even if you claim to be here to help, I am aware of your opinions concerning my mental health and I don't think my current attempt to understand my condition is something that you'd be willing to support."
Lifting a brow, Gabriel finally pushed himself off of the couch, walking across the room to face his brother more directly. "You mean that whole reincarnation thing?" Castiel's eyes widened only a fraction but Dean noticed it and Gabriel noticed it. "Oh yeah, I heard about that whole thing and I think you're all nuts but…" Gabriel heaved a belabored sigh, "as much as I occasionally wish I could, I'm not just going to abandon my flesh and blood. If this is what you feel you need to do, then I'm going to support you to the best of my willing ability."
By this point Sam too was on his feet, the four of them all gathered in the entryway and watching as Cas and Gabe stared each other down. Finally Castiel's brow drew up before he gave a slight tilt of his head. "You are truly here to help me? Even given my current theory of the source of my false memories?"
Gabriel actually seemed to think it over for a minute before reaching up and clapping Cas on the shoulder. "I'm actually here to help—I am now anyway—even if you are bat-shit crazy."
Rolling his eyes, Dean put a hand on the small of Cas's back and guided him away from Gabe and toward the couch their brothers had recently vacated. "I'm getting real tired of you real fast."
"But unfortunately you need my help."
That caught Castiel's attention and he turned his head to look back at Gabriel even as Dean pushed him down into his seat. He seemed concerned again. "How exactly are you intending to help?"
Before Gabriel could answer back, Sam—ever the peacemaker—spoke up first. "From what Dean told me last night, the two of you agreed that it would be best to try and delve deeper into those dreams you've had." Sam's eyes met Dean's to confirm and Dean sent his brother back a small nod. A little more confident now, Sammy continued. "When we explained the situation to Gabriel, he offered his services as a…a…"
Gabriel finally broke in as Sam floundered with what to call him, "As a hypnotist."
Dean almost laughed at the blank stare Castiel sent Gabe's way. "Really?"
It was Gabriel's turn to roll his eyes. "Yes, 'really'. Don't give me that look. As much as I don't want to see into that little soldier's brain of yours, don't think that means I can't."
Castiel frowned before his gaze slowly drifted back to Dean. As their eyes connected again, protective green meeting stormy blue, Dean felt a jolt run through him as he remembered Sam's words from earlier that morning. Looking at the flashes of emotions rolling through Cas's eyes, Dean searched for any sign of attraction, of the physical attraction Sammy claimed he saw on Cas's face last night.
When Dean actually found it himself, it nearly knocked the air right out of him. Beneath the confusion, the fear, the determination in Cas's eyes Dean saw a shy sort of lust that really should not have been that sexy on a dude. Holy shit. Cas was totally smitten for him. Though "smitten" was still a really stupid word.
Snapping out of his thoughts, Dean's head whipped around to glare at Sam as he fought down an embarrassed flush at having been caught staring at another guy's eyes for what felt like an hour. "What?"
"Dude, we've been talking to you for the past couple of minutes. Pay attention."
Of course Dean had to deny it. "I have been paying attention."
Sammy's lips quirked up in an infuriating, knowing little smile. "In that case, what do you think?"
Crap. Sammy knew he hadn't been paying attention, he didn't have to call him on it in front of Cas and Gabe. Looking back as Castiel, Dean realized by his expectant expression that it had probably been Cas himself who had asked Dean a question and Dean couldn't bring himself to just make up an answer. "…Fine, I was zoning out. What'd you ask?"
If anything, Cas seemed to relax at Dean's stupidity, the rigidity in his shoulders loosening. "I asked if you thought that this would really help. As my condition was originally your theory, do you think this is the best course of action?"
Dean looked up at him before releasing a short breath, "Hell if I know for sure, but it makes the most sense to me right now. Cas, I really do think you and Jimmy are connected somehow, and your dreams are definitely no coincidence, so maybe letting Gabe there poke around in your memories a little might at least give us a new lead."
Despite Dean's lackluster response, Castiel seemed to gain some confidence from his words. A minute passed and Cas just stared straight into his eyes, something Dean was becoming more and more used to, then Cas forced his eyes up and over onto his brother. "Very well. Since you appear to legitimately want to help, I would be…grateful for your assistance, Gabe."
"Now that's more like it." A smirk was back on Gabriel's face as he came around the couch and stood next to Dean. There was a new seriousness sparking in his golden eyes though, a hint of professionalism that caught Dean off guard. "So basically what I'm going to do is put you in a trance-like state, but to do it right you need to be completely willing for this to happen, got it?"
"I understand. Are we doing this now then?"
Hearing—more than that, sensing—unease building up in Cas, Dean leaned forward. "Do you want to do this now? We can wait if you need to psyche yourself up."
Gabriel cut in with a drawl, "Yeah, maybe you want to watch a movie, have some tea and biscuits, and I can just sit here on my ass waiting for you to grow a spine and agree to take short nap."
Dean was about to verbally rip Gabe a new one but Castiel opened his mouth first as he frowned up at his older brother. "If I am truly a reincarnation of Uncle James, which seems more and more probable given the nature of my dreams—my memories, I have little doubt that allowing you even the slightest access into my subconscious could be a very…difficult experience for me."
The older Novak's smirk softened just slightly, enough to make him look mildly concerned about Castiel's comfort. "Hey, you think that if I thought this would be dangerous I would've let these bozos convince me to join in?"
Dean and Sam both scowled over at Gabriel but more of the tension melted from Castiel's shoulders. Clutching his hands together in his lap, Cas gave a small nod, "No, I suppose not. But you are certain nothing you do will have a negative effect?"
Not waiting for Gabe to come back with another joke, Dean moved up to sit next to Castiel on the couch. "Don't worry, Cas, me and Sammy will make sure he doesn't do anything funny." And Dean meant it. He was going to be watching Gabriel like a hawk. While he was doing them a favor by helping out, Dean had barely felt comfortably letting Sam in on this. It felt like he was intruding on something intimate—not that Dean wanted to let his mind go down that road. Damn Sam and his big mouth.
But Cas just gave him a small, thankful smile—and no, that definitely wasn't helping Dean's wandering thoughts—and ignored Gabriel's protests that he knew what the hell he was doing. "Thank you."
"Great, everyone's watching out for you, we're all happy, yadda, yadda, yadda. Are we doing this or what?"
Pulling his eyes away from Dean, Cas stared up at his brother in what probably would've been exasperation had he not been so nervous. "Yes, Gabriel. We are 'doing this'. What do you need me to do?"
Gabe rolled up his sleeves and rubbed his hands together as they finally got down to business. "All you gotta do, bro, is lean back and relax. I know that's a foreign concept for you, but you'll just have to try your best."
Castiel frowned but settled back against the couch cushions, not looking at all at ease. Sammy blinked down at them, wearing a face Dean knew all too well meant he wanted to help but didn't know how. "Hey, Cas? Do you want to take your coat off for this? Maybe it'd be more comfortable for you."
Dean wanted to smack himself for not asking first. Sure Cas still looked as stiff as a board, practically drowning in that tan trench coat, but Dean hadn't even thought that the younger man would be uncomfortable with it on. It was as if it was a part of him, and by the way Castiel's eyes suddenly became guarded at Sam's question he felt the same way. "I'd rather—"
"Oh, for the love of…" Gabriel interrupted Cas with an exasperated huff of air, "I don't even care if it'll make you more comfortable or what, but you're taking the damn trench off, Castiel. You wearing it around like a security blanket is starting to weird me out now."
Sam lifted a brow at Gabriel's reaction. "Why does that weird you out?"
Snorting, Gabriel pushed past Sam and practically wrestled the tan jacket off of his reluctant younger brother. "He inherited it when Uncle James died. It was Uncle James's coat and if this actually works things will be just a little too freaky for me if he's wearing it."
Okay, now Dean didn't want Castiel wearing it either. He had thought that it had looked similar to the translucent one he had seen Jimmy wearing over twenty years ago, but he hadn't realized that it was basically the same freaking coat. Mind made up, Dean casually reached over and helped Gabriel pull the offending piece of clothing off an objecting Castiel.
Between the two of them it wasn't really even a contest and a minute later found Castiel sitting next to Dean looking practically naked in his button-down and tie while Sam went and hung his trench up in the coat closet. Gabriel looked a little too proud of himself and sat down on Cas's other side, Sammy coming back to stand beside Dean. Meanwhile Cas looked more lost than ever, his knuckles white as he pressed his clenched hands against his knees. Taking pity on the poor man—though not enough to give him back a dead man's jacket—Dean reached over and rested his hand against Castiel's hunched shoulder. "You okay? You still want to do this?"
There was a pause before Cas gave a tight nod. "I…yes, I still wish to proceed. Although I would have preferred to keep my coat on."
Gabriel grinned as he ruffled Castiel's already mussed hair. "I'm sure you would've. Now, for the last time, lean back and freaking relax. God, you're worse than Michael."
With a short glare at his brother, Cas grudgingly slumped back again to rest against the couch cushions. He did nothing, however, to dislodge Dean's hand on his shoulder, even leaning into it, and hell if that didn't spark a pool of warmth in Dean's stomach. "Excuse me for not finding this the most soothing of situations." Castiel let out a long breath, "This is the best I can do, so you will either be able to work with me or not."
"Alright, alright. Don't get your briefs in a bunch. Could you at least close your eyes for me? Please?"
Castiel unenthusiastically obeyed and, after his blue eyes darted to meet Dean's once more, let them flutter shut. Even though the eye contact had dropped Dean couldn't look away from Cas's face, pale skin dusted with a five o' clock shadow and brow furrowed just slightly. Dean pressed his hand a little harder against the young soldier's shoulder as he felt unease rolling off of him in waves.
His touch seemed to help a little and Gabe even offered him a quick nod of thanks before turning to fully face his brother. As Sam leaned in to watch, Dean managed to tear his eyes off of Castiel's face, focusing instead on Gabriel as he softly began to speak. That serious spark was back in his eyes, his voice low and lacking its usual snide undertones, "Alright Castiel, I need you to listen carefully to the sound of my voice and do as I say. First off, I need you relax a little more."
Cas's face scrunched up but before he could open his mouth to protest Gabriel interrupted before he could get so much as a word out, "I know you said that this is the best you got, but I'm going to help you do better. This is only going to work if you allow it to." Gabe's softer tone seemed to be winning Castiel over because he gave a small nod before he nestled a little further back into the couch. Apparently pleased with the response, Gabriel continued on. "Okay. First thing is I want you to try and slow your breathing down. Inhale a deep breath, count off five seconds, and then let it out."
Dean swore he saw Cas roll his eyes beneath his eyelids but dutifully did as he was told; sucked in a breath then let it out slowly. In and out, over and over until Gabe was apparently satisfied that the rhythm had become natural for his brother. "Good…Now, slowly let your muscles relax, starting at your toes and working your way up to your neck. Let yourself just sink back into the couch."
Despite Dean's silent predictions, after a few more minutes of Gabriel trying to work Cas over, Dean actually began to feel the muscles in the younger man's back under his palm begin to loosen. Castiel had kept up with the measured breathing and now almost seemed to be asleep, which was apparently exactly what Gabriel wanted judging by the small smirk of success on the other's lips. The smirk fell away, however, as he once again started to speak, keeping his tone soothing and low, "Can you still hear the sound of my voice?"
"…Yes." When Castiel answered back, his low voice was slow and sleepy, like he was actually in a freaking trance. It was actually kind of impressive on Gabe's part, not that Dean was going to say that out loud.
"Good. I want you to delve deep into your memories, your dreams. Do you remember them?"
"…Yes." Castiel's brow pinched together a little and Dean almost thought that he was waking up but, no, it was more like sleep-talking now. "They aren't mine…"
Seeing that his brother was getting agitated Gabriel was quick to calm him back down, using his words while Dean's hand almost subconsciously slid from Castiel's shoulder to the back of his neck. Dean let the fact that he was practically petting Cas roll off of him; he didn't like the idea that even in such a relaxed state this shit still bothered the guy. "It's alright, Castiel. Usually you try to push them away, keep them sealed in your mind, but now I want you to let them open."
"…I don't, don't want—"
"It's okay, let them open." All three of them watched, practically holding their breaths, as Castiel seemed to process this new information. Dean didn't know what he was expecting but when Cas's shoulders slowly drooped down and the crease smoothed from his brow it looked like someone had taken the weight of the world off his shoulders.
"Did you let them open?"
This time Cas only seemed capable of giving a small half-nod, but Gabriel pressed on. "Good. Now, I want you to find the dream—the memory that's the strongest. I want you to picture it as a closed room and you are standing on the other side of the door. Can you see a door, Castiel?"
Cas squirmed a little in his seat but gave another small nod. Dean tore his gaze from the scene just long enough to glance up at Sammy behind him who was watching Gabriel work with rapt fascination. Able to relate to the mix of emotions on the other's face, Dean was once again reminded how glad he was that he convinced Sammy to take the day off of work. This would've been way too weird without having Sam next to him.
Carrying on as if he didn't even notice the eyes on him, Gabe leaned forward a little, closer to Castiel, and watched his brother's face for any reaction. "Alright. Now, I'm going to count to three. I want you on number three to envision what is on the other side of that door…on two to open the door up…and on one, step inside and let it become a part of you." Cas squirmed a little more, clearly even subconsciously wary of the idea, but let out an almost inaudible sigh and relaxed again as Gabriel's countdown washed over him, each count held out for a few beats to let Castiel's mind do as it had been told. "Three…two…one…"
Dean didn't think it had worked until he physically felt the change in the other. Beneath his fingertips, Cas's skin had dropped a few degrees within a second, like the younger man had just been thrown into a walk-in freezer. Hearing Sam let out a small little strangled noise, Dean's eyes darted back up to Castiel's face to see a cloud of moisture rush past his lips on the man's next exhale. What the hell? "Uh, Gabe?"
"Shh." Gabriel's eyes were sharp as he stared at Cas, but if you looked closer you could see barely-concealed confusion play across his face.
"Can you hear me?"
"…Yes." Dean sucked in a breath at the sound of Castiel's voice. There was something…something different about it. It was lighter, less graveled and lacked the clipped tone gained from years of military service.
Gabriel's eyes narrowed before, after only a second of thought, they widened again as if struck with a sudden realization. "What is your name?"
Nope, that wasn't Cas anymore. Dean met Sammy's gaze and saw the same trepidation in his younger brother's eyes that was racing through him. Apparently though Gabriel was more shocked than either of them, his eyes still wide as he sat back. "Fuck, it's actually working."
Dean blinked over at him, more than just a little freaked out but doing his best to hide it, "Wait, isn't that a good thing, that it's working?" If they had broken Cas, he wasn't sure if he was going to be able to live with himself.
"It, it means I'm doing it right—which was a given from the start—but it's working too naturally….This reincarnation thing might not be so farfetched after all." Staring for a moment longer, Gabriel rolled his shoulders, physically shaking himself off, before he leaned back in, trying to school his features back into a serious expression. "Now shut up, I'm working."
Dean bit his lip to keep himself from pointing out that it was Gabriel himself who had interrupted their work solely out of concern for Castiel's well-being. All of Gabriel's attention had zeroed back in on his brother, his honey brown eyes narrowed again in concentration. "James, are you still with us?"
"…Yes." Hearing Jimmy's voice coming from Cas's lips just felt wrong, even with all the similarities between the two. That Dean was actually right, that something not entirely natural was happening to Cas—it made his blood run cold.
Dean nearly jumped as a hand suddenly fell onto his shoulder and he looked up to find Sammy staring back down at him, a supportive, though strained, smile on his lips. As lame an attempt to console Dean as it was, it did work a little. Nodding once to show that he was alright, Dean turned his attention back to the two Novak brothers as Gabriel cautiously launched into a new set of questions.
"Do you know where you are?"
"…My home." As he said that, Cas's face pinched up in confusion. It wasn't Castiel's normal confused expression, no sign of the head-tilt Dean was already so familiar with.
"Tell me what you see."
"…I see…cracked paint…empty rooms…Why are they empty?"
Dean frowned, "That sounds like when we moved in."
"Shh! No comments from the peanut gallery." Gabriel shot Dean an annoyed look as he hissed out the warning before his voice turned soft again as he looked back towards Cas, "So, James, the rooms are empty. Look around again, pay close attention. Is there anything else strange about your home?"
All three of them had to bite back a sound of surprise as Castiel's eyes slowly opened back up, revealing a gaze that didn't belong to him. His normally electrifying blue eyes were clouded over, almost, almost half-dead, the sight not made any better by Cas's now too-pale skin. He stared straight ahead as he spoke, as if he didn't even see them huddled around him. "…There, are people here…I don't know them."
"Can you describe them to me?"
"…A man…tired, serious…two boys, younger than Claire."
As soon as Gabe had asked the question Dean had pretty much guessed what Cas—Jimmy's answer was going to be but it still sent a shiver straight down his spine. Gabriel kept his calm though, and didn't miss a beat, gently pressing Jimmy for more information, more confirmation that this was actually true, about why it was true. "You don't sound too upset about strangers being in your house, James."
"…They're good people" Cas's expression softened, "…I miss Amelia and Claire…Haven't seen them in so long…"
Dean's jaw tightened, not wanting to interrupt and break the spell but needing to ask; "Ask him if he remembers the night of the robbery."
"Dean, Gabe said be quie—" Before Sam could even finish berating Dean, both of them were silenced as Castiel's eerily blank gaze was suddenly on both them, piercing straight into their soul. Except it wasn't Cas, it was James looking through Cas's eyes and it was damn intense. Dean had to fight to not jerk his hand away from Cas's back, probably would've if it didn't feel like all the blood had just been frozen in his veins.
"…The robbery…That man broke in, the father wasn't home…I protected the boys…I protected Dean."
Dean felt like he was choking, unable to get enough air down into his lungs to breathe. And hearing his name come from the other—it was weird, it was creepy, but it spiked straight into Dean's heart. Damn it. How much this, this thing, this person had meant to Dean when he was little, what he had meant to Dean, it all came rushing back. Trying to speak, the only thing Dean managed to force out was his name. "Jimmy."
"Hello, Dean." Dean really did stop breathing, the air caught tight in his lungs, as Cas—Jimmy—suddenly but slowly reached out and ran his hand down Dean's jaw. His fingers were freezing, his icy fingertips leaving a trail of cold as they slid across his skin. "…I'm glad to see you're safe."
This was way too much to try and take in right now. "Jesus…Gabe—"
The older Novak seemed to know what he was thinking without Dean actually having to say it out loud which was perfect because Dean honestly wasn't sure that he could, "Tell me about it. This just went above my pay grade…" Clearing his throat, Gabriel tried to recapture Jimmy's attention who had until then kept his hazed eyes locked firmly on Dean's, "James? How old is Dean?"
A frown appeared on Cas—Jimmy's face and his hand slipped away from Dean's face. Dean couldn't decide if that was what he had wanted or not but was grateful as air began to flow back into his body as his jawline was left tingling from the chill. "…No more than eight."
Eight? When Jimmy had looked at him, what had he seen? Absorbing the information in stride, Gabriel continued, "And Sam? Do you remember Sam?"
Jimmy gave a small nod as Dean felt Sammy shift behind him. "…The younger brother, no more than four…Both too young for what happened that night."
Glancing back at Sam, Dean noted the small frown on his brother's face and knew that they had the same thought. "Jimmy only remembers us as kids…"
Gabriel grunted in confirmation and leaned back as Jimmy's blank stare returned to the far wall, Cas's chest expanding slowly with each inhale and his breath clouding up from his pale lips on every exhale. If a question was not addressed directly to him, Jimmy seemed to ignore it completely, as if he were deaf to their side conversation. Nevertheless Gabriel almost whispered as he glanced up at Dean and Sam, his eyes flashing as his mind struggled to connect dots that shouldn't exist, "If any of this is actually true than maybe…maybe Uncle James's awareness—whatever was left over—left once Castiel came around. Now that I think about it, the timing is too perfect not to be a coincidence. Cas was born almost exactly nine months after Uncle James died. I remember because the day we got back from his memorial was the day Mom told the rest of us that she was pregnant again."
Dean ran his free hand over his face, "This is all so freaking weird." It had been his idea in the first place and Dean had been nearly a hundred percent sure that Cas and Jimmy were one and the same the day after they had met at the bar. But having it confirmed like this was something else. It raised so many questions about life and death that Dean had never wanted to think about but, more than that, seeing Jimmy take Cas over, using his body—identical though it was—like a living ventriloquist dummy, was flat out disturbing. Even if it was Jimmy, watching the color drain from Cas's skin was not okay. "We should get Cas back soon. If the guy gets any colder he and Jimmy might be moving on."
After a long second Gabriel nodded. By the look on his face Dean could tell that he wanted to know more, wanted to keep asking questions, but the deathly pallor seeping across Cas's body said that it would have to wait for another time. Shaking his head to clear it, Gabe turned back to face Jimmy, "Right. Right, let's see what we can do."
The illusionist took in a low, even breath to steady himself before speaking, "James? It is time we let Castiel come back to us, so I am going to speak to him now and you need to let him be able to hear me." Jimmy's eyes flickered closed and for a heart-pounding second Dean didn't know if he was ignoring Gabe or if he was going along with it. If Jimmy didn't let Cas back in and things continued, if Cas's body got colder and colder, he really would die.
Gabriel's jaw tightened but forged on ahead, "Castiel? Give me a sign that you can hear my voice."
Dean felt Sam's hand tighten on his shoulder as all three of them waited for something, anything to show that Cas was still in there somewhe—Dean's thoughts stopped short as he saw just the slightest twitch of Cas's lips. "There! I saw him move a little. Keep going!"
Releasing a quick breath, Gabriel nodded. "Castiel, I need you to begin to separate yourself from that memory. I need you to separate yourself from Uncle James. That room I asked you to form, I want you to search for the door that you came through, look for it in your mind. Can you find it?"
Cas's brows pulled together slightly, almost like he was confused or, worse yet, worried. Dean tried to force that thought from his mind, that Cas was having trouble escaping whatever place they had led him into. Gabriel knew what he was doing, he wouldn't let something happen to his brother. "Walk over to the door, Castiel. I'm going to count to three again, but this time we're going to go back the way we came. On three I want you to open the door, on two I want you to separate yourself completely from James and the memory, and on one you are going to step through the door and close it behind you." As Gabe took a deep breath, Dean's hand pressed harder against Cas's frigid back. He wanted to help but he had no idea where the hell he would even start.
Before a single answer came to mind, Gabe had already started his countdown, going even slower this time, "Three…" No reaction from Cas. "Two…" A small, strained, off-beat exhale. It wasn't much, but it was something. "…One."
As soon as Gabriel counted to one all the strength seemed to evaporate from Cas's body and he slumped to the side, no longer to even keep himself upright. Gabriel started forward but Dean beat him to it, already in position, and pulled Castiel against his chest, the young soldier's head rolling listlessly into the crook of his neck. "Gabe—He's not breathing!"
"I'm working on it!" Leaning even further in, Gabriel was trying to fight down his panic and keep his voice calm. "Cas, when I snap my fingers, I want you to wake up and for God's sake start breathing!"
Lifting a hand into the air, Gabriel snapped his fingers, the sharp noise almost immediately drowned out by a loud, shuddering gasp as Cas came back to life in Dean's arms. Sucking in big breaths of air like he had been drowning, Cas's hands reached out and grabbed tightly onto Dean's arms, clutching so tightly onto Dean's shoulders that Dean was sure there'd be hand-shaped bruises there tomorrow morning.
But Dean just took it all in, welcomed it—anything was better than seeing Cas slouched over like a corpse. He pulled Castiel closer as tremors wracked his body, the young soldier trying desperately to regain control of himself. Cas was still freezing cold and Dean swore under his breath, rubbing Castiel's arms, hoping that the friction would start to warm him back up. "Hey, Cas! Cas, you with us?"
With a stuttering inhale, Cas let it out with a small strangled noise as he lifted his head and looked up. When their eyes met, a sigh of relief slipped past Dean's lips. His blue eyes were clear and bright again and, though it was frightened and shaking, that gaze was definitely Castiel's. "D-D-Dean…Wh-what ha-hap-pened?"
"Easy there, bro." From the other side of the couch, Gabe ran his hand down Castiel's back. "Take it easy, deep breaths. You went in a little deeper than I was expecting but you managed to fight your way back out of it."
Dean hadn't even realized that Sam had left his side until a blanket was draped around Castiel's shoulders. Looking up, Dean offered his brother a thankful nod, before turning his attention back to Cas, pulling the blanket tighter around him. Castiel tried to protest but was too weak to do anything more than a fairly pathetic murmur. Hearing the noise, Gabriel snorted and patted Cas's back. "'Take it easy' means you have to let us take care of you, even if it means losing a bit of your dignity."
Out of the corner of his eye, Dean saw Sammy glance between him and Castiel, but missed the almost sly look that sparked in his eyes. If he had seen it, he probably would have been much more suspicious of his next suggestion but as it was he was too focused on getting blood flowing back into Cas's extremities to pay close attention to his brother's plotting expression. "Hey Dean, you should take Castiel back to your bedroom and have him lay down for a bit while you warm him up. He looks ready to pass out and he definitely can use the rest."
Gabriel opened his mouth but Sam cut off any complaint with a conspiring look that went unseen by both of their brothers. Gabe in turn rolled his eyes then with an exaggerated sigh pulled his hand away and began to roll down his sleeves, "Sam's right, Cas, you should probably lay down for a few minutes. I hear prolonged possession can take a lot out of a guy."
The snide joke finally drew Castiel's attention up away from Dean's face just long enough to level a half-hearted glare at Gabe, the effect ruined by his deathly-white skin and shaking limbs. Seeing the glare only made the older Novak smirk though. "While you pull yourself together, Sam and I can attempt to whip some food up so your stomach doesn't try to eat itself when you wake up."
Dean scoffed but his eyes grew soft with concern as he turned them back to Cas. As bad as the suggestion was delivered, it was plain to see just but looking at him that Castiel needed some serious rest. "They're both right. Come on," straightening up, Dean pushed Cas away just far enough so that he would be able to stand, "let me get you back to my room. Can you walk?"
Castiel swallowed as Dean stood, clearly seeing that this was not a fight he would be able to win. "I, I should be capable of walking—" While he spoke, Cas tried to push himself up but as soon as his weight was no longer supported by the couch his voice cut off as his knees buckled.
Gabriel and Sam both moved forward to catch him but Dean was already there, grabbing Cas around the waist before he hit the ground. It wasn't the most graceful catch in the world and Dean had to readjust his grip a few times before he was able to support Castiel's weight without feeling like he would fall over. Damn, the nerd soldier was heavier than he looked.
A weak growl broke past Castiel's lips, definitely not happy with himself for being so incapable. His face drew even further down into a glower as Dean pulled Cas's arm over his shoulder, Dean having to bend down just a little to accommodate Castiel's slighter frame. "That's alright, don't sweat it. Let's just take this one step at a time."
Again, if Dean had given Sammy more than a fleeting glance as they made their way out of the living room he would've seen a rather smug little gleam in his eyes. He didn't look at Gabriel at all which was probably for the best. There was an even more calculating look in his eyes but, after a quick warning glare from Sam, stayed quiet as Dean led Cas to his bedroom.
Stumbling into the back bedroom, the one that used to be their Dad's, Dean lowered Castiel onto the bed as gently as he could. It basically amounted to him dropping Cas down onto the old mattress, Castiel letting out a strained grunt at the impact. "Sorry, you alright?"
Like hell he was. He was still shivering for God's sake. "Sure you are. Lay back, alright? Keep that blanket around you."
Castiel grudgingly did as he was told, almost seemed to give into it now that it was just him and Dean. Letting himself fall back onto the bed, Cas let out a long, shivering breath and his blue eyes fell closed again. Watching him lay there and just shake, well…no one could really blame Dean for what he did next.
Swearing under his breath, Dean climbed up onto the bed and pulled Castiel close, rubbing his hands back up and down the younger man's arms. "Jesus, you're still ice cold."
As soon as Dean's arms had gone around him, Cas had stiffened up in shock, blue eyes flying back open and staring wide-eyed at Dean's face. Then a huge shudder ran down his spine and slowly, almost subconsciously, he relaxed and wormed his way a little closer towards Dean's body heat. As he let Dean hold him, Castiel swallowed then breathed against Dean's neck, "D-Dean…It's t-true, isn't it. Everything you said, it's all true."
Dean frowned, his chin resting on Castiel's mussed dark hair. "Looks like it." The other's tone had been flat, but again Dean could feel the emotion that wasn't present in his voice seeping off of him. Knowing for certain now that Cas was Jimmy, that Jimmy was part of him, his memories buried somewhere in Cas's mind, it made a little bit more sense. When Jimmy had been around, Dean could sense what he was feeling and Castiel must have inherited the trait. Dean would have to ask Sam if he could feel it too or if it was just him. Later though, much later.
After a long pause, Cas spoke back up, Dean feeling the light fluttering of the soldier's eyelashes as his let his eyes close again. "If it hadn't happened to me, I don't know if I would have believed it, this, that such a thing was possible."
Dean felt his own body begin to relax too. He had been so wound up watching Castiel being pushed back in his own mind that he was almost glad to get some rest himself. Feeling Cas alive, himself, and actually beginning to warm up was definitely helping. "Same here. But now that it happened, I can't say I'm sorry for it."
"N-no, I suppose not. Even if the end result w-was me getting hypothermia." Dean smirked at Cas's attempt at dry humor. "I h-have wanted answers all my life and now that I know the truth I f-feel like I can start fresh. In a way, having Uncle James's memories, knowing now what t-they are, is almost a comfort."
"Yeah. This might sound weird—" Dean cut himself off, "Nevermind. After today, nothing is going to sound weird, so…Getting to talk to Jimmy today was creepy as hell but, at the same time, really…really good. I don't know if he even knew how much he meant to me. I didn't think I'd ever get to talk to him again, or that he'd even remember me."
Castiel shifted against him and if Dean wanted to be more honest with himself he'd probably call it cuddling. "You meant a good deal to him Dean, p-perhaps all the more so because you met him in his final days, when he most needed someone to be there for him." Cas paused long enough for Dean to realize that the other's shivers were finally beginning to subside. "I will admit, some of the most pleasant memories my Uncle gave me were those of you and Sam as children. It gives me a glimpse of a you I never would have gotten to know otherwise."
"Cas…" Dean's voice trailed off at the other's words. Hell if he knew what to say to that. What he did know was that just lying here on his worn-out mattress, trying to get Castiel warmed back up and relaxed, absolutely not cuddling, and trying not to think about any feelings Cas may or may not have for him and the warm feeling in his own stomach, was that as soon as Cas walked into his life a hole that he had never admitted to being inside him since Jimmy disappeared had instantly been filled. Again, now that he knew who Cas was, who he used to be, it made sense. He had met Castiel less than a week ago but he already felt so familiar.
But more than that, Dean felt safe when he was with him in a way that not even having Sammy back made him feel. Dean had always taken care of Sam, taken care of himself but, other than his father, there was only ever one person in Dean's entire life who had really kept him safe…and that was Jimmy. And ever since that night at the bar, he knew that Cas would, could do the same. And as much as Dean had never been attracted to any man before in his life…Castiel was what he had been waiting for, was everything he had ever wanted in a partner. And that was a very frightening thought, not just because he was a dude and, yeah, the fact that Dean was okay with that was a miracle itself, but because there was nothing to make him stay.
By the time Dean had figured all of this out, Cas's breathing had evened out against his collarbone, the man half asleep. The familiarity of it made Dean felt like he was going to break down. Before he could stop himself, words were slipping past his lip, "Stay with me."
It was the plea of a desperate six-year-old. If Dean had given himself the chance to think about what he was really asking for, he never would've been able to open his mouth. That Castiel would stop whatever his life had been before to move out to the middle of nowhere with a guy he had met less than a week before to do God knew what for the rest of his life…Dean couldn't have let himself think of that, because he needed to ask. Having Cas here, like here here, in their house, in Dean's arms, just felt way too…too right to give up. Jesus, Dean was thinking like a woman now. But apparently so was Castiel.
As soon as Dean's voice reached Cas's ears Dean freaking felt a wave of relief roll through Cas's body. "…Are you certain?"
Thank God. Taking in a deep breath, Dean's arms tightened around Castiel, "I'm dead sure. We can talk more after you've gotten some rest, but I mean it." And he really did mean it—he wanted a freaking relationship with the guy lying in his arms. He had no doubt the idea of this, of having someone new in his life, of having a male someone, was going to take some getting used to, but it honestly felt like if Cas left now it would be like Sammy leaving. It would've hurt that much.
Cas was definitely fully awake now, his heart beating about twice as fast. "I…don't know, I shouldn't, but I just…I feel, I feel—"
Dean could sense what Castiel wanted to say, even if he couldn't find the words for it himself. "It feels like you're home."
He felt Cas's eyes blink open in sudden realization, "…Yes. Yes, it feels like I'm finally home."
Whether it was Jimmy's influence or the strength of Castiel's own feelings, Dean didn't really care. They could figure that out later, as long as Cas stuck around. "It's good to hear we're on the same page. So if you've got nothing else going on right now, you should really consider sticking around for a while."
When he felt Castiel smile against his chest, Dean knew that he wouldn't have to convince him too hard. "I…will certainly consider it."
Yeah, Dean should've known Cas could be a little bit of a smart-ass when he wanted to. Look at his older brother. But rather than call him on it, just the feel of Castiel's eyes closing again reminded Dean that they should probably both get some actual sleep in before said older brother came looking for them. "Good, but in the meantime, what's say you and me get some rest."
Castiel had finally stopped shaking, the tremors reduced to slightly shaking fingers as he gripped at the blanket draped around his shoulders. "That would probably be wise. Will you, stay here or—"
"Are you kidding, I need some shut-eye almost as much as you do." And as weird as sleeping in the same bed with a dude should've been, it wasn't. The only man Dean had ever felt comfortable relaxing around was Sammy. And what's more, it felt like he and Cas had done this before. Maybe it was some sort of a carry-over from the nights Jimmy must've watched over Dean as he slept.
Whatever it was, Dean was thankful for it. He seriously was tired, exhausted after the emotional roller-coaster he, Cas, Sam, and Gabe had all gone through that day. Closing his eyes, Dean let the feel of Castiel's heartbeat begin to lull him to sleep. "'Night, Cas."
Right as he was about to doze off, Dean got the reply he had been waiting for twenty two years to hear.