Title: Ain't Looking Back on the Seeds I've Sown
Summary: Castiel tries to leave everything he loves behind. It doesn't go according to plan. Written for the silverbullets prompt "You're not getting out of it that easy."
Characters: Cas, Sam, Dean
Disclaimer: I had them tied up in my bedroom closet for a while, but it turns out that restraints are no match for heavenly-bestowed powers, and Castiel gave me a Very Disapproving Look™ before they left. So, you know, they're not actually mine at all. Alas.
Warnings: A little bit of swearing, a little bit of angst, a little bit of schmoop. I think it works.
Neurotic Author's Note #1: Written in a hurry. No beta, no revision, nothing.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: No, I haven't worked on my Big Bang, why do you ask? *headdesk*
Neurotic Author's Note #3: Props and internet cookies to anyone who spots the Bon Jovi reference. ;)
In the end, it comes down to a choice. It always does.
It's Sam who finds him, sitting quietly at the bus stop on the outskirts of town, staring at the grass blowing in the field. It's warm out, and sunny, even at this early time of day. Castiel sits with his ankles crossed, hands folded in his lap, the moisture from them creasing the ticket held between his palms. It reads 'one-way' along with the name of a destination that he thought might be interesting to visit. He feels a little bad about taking the money to buy the ticket —God knows Sam and Dean have precious little of it to spare— but he fully intends to pay it back, and it's certainly not the worst thing he's ever done, by far.
Sam drops onto the bench next to him. There is no one else for miles. "Nice day," he remarks mildly.
Castiel says nothing, but his gaze drops to his lap, to the new creases he's just made in his bus ticket.
"I thought I might find you here. Where you going?" Sam reaches over and easily plucks the ticket from his hands, his own graceful fingers looking cleaner than Castiel remembers seeing them in a long time. He must have taken another shower this morning, Castiel thinks, because he smells of soap and the fruit-based shampoo for which Dean mocks him. "Enoch, Utah? Wow, Cas. I would have thought the irony quota in your life was more than filled by now."
"It seemed appropriate. It was as far as I could go with what I had."
Sam nods. "You realize I can't let you do this, right?"
He stares out at the field. "I really wish you would."
"So last night was, what, your way of saying goodbye?"
They celebrated last night. He doesn't remember ever seeing Dean smile that way before, open and easy, ignoring all of Sam's pointed reminders not to mix alcohol with his medication. Dean was relaxed, broken leg propped up on a footstool, gesturing happily with the hand holding his beer, the other hand casually hooked into the cuff of the sleeve of Castiel's trench coat, keeping him by his side as effectively as if he'd trapped him there with chains and Enochian symbols.
"C'mon, Cas, have another. You won't be properly human till you have your first proper hangover after getting properly drunk. We're celebrating, right Sam?"
Sam simply rolled his eyes and nodded, smiling back. "Yes, we are," he said, and handed Castiel another beer.
Dean raised his bottle. "So here's to ganking the bitch and making it out without losing any of the few friends we got left," he glanced at Castiel, but Castiel wasn't about to point out his error, not then. "And here's to being out of the damned hospital, too. The food there sucks even more than Sam's cooking."
"I don't recall you having any complaints," Sam remarked, but without any rancour.
"Like I said, better than hospital food," Dean let his head fall back against the sofa, looking blissful in spite of the cast encasing his leg from mid-thigh to the tip of his toes. The most he'd done so far was complain that he couldn't relieve himself properly while wearing it.
There was more beer after that, and then things got a little blurry. He remembers simply lying down on Sam and Dean's newly-acquired sofa after drinking several glasses of water pressed upon him by Sam, and then waking up this morning with a very unpleasant headache and the sensation of the inside of his mouth being covered in cotton. The decision to leave was an easy one, then, with no one around.
"You thought you'd just sneak off and no one would notice?" Sam asks quietly, when he doesn't answer the first question.
"Not until later. You and Dean were asleep." It felt cheap, sneaking off like a thief in the night, but it was the best plan he could come up with. He's not sure he would have been able to leave if he'd had to look either of them in the eye while he did it.
Sam sighs, leans back against the bench, then to Castiel's surprise he unfolds one long arm and brings it over Castiel's shoulders, resting a large hand against the back of his neck. In spite of himself Castiel shivers a bit, the touch sending a small thrill through him. He has to force himself not to lean into the touch, not to think about everything he's leaving behind. Sam's thumb rubs circles on the side of his neck, and it feels like no time at all has passed, like they're still just starting out, learning their way around each other, the first thrill of discovery still thrumming through their veins.
"You're going to break his heart if you leave."
He shakes his head. "Dean will be fine."
"You don't really believe that. You know him. Apart from me, you're the one who knows him best."
He shrugs. It feels human, but everything he does feels that way lately. "I can't stay. Not after what I did."
Castiel twists his hands in his lap. "I can't..."
Sam tightens his grip just a little. "Cas, it's not like what you did is a huge secret anymore. Dean knows, I know, and we're good."
He shakes his head. "You don't know. You can't."
"You'd be surprised," Sam says, his tone still mild. "I may not have done exactly what you did, but I think if we started comparing notes on doing morally offensive things because it seemed like the end result justified it all, I think you might find I can at least sympathize. What," he smiles a little sadly when Castiel looks up, startled in spite of himself. "You thought you had a monopoly on doing really regrettable things? Sorry to disappoint you, but it's a pretty big club you joined. You and I could be keynote speakers, though."
For a moment he allows himself the luxury of thinking about Claire and Amelia, of wondering whether they're all right in spite of his failure to honour his promise to Jimmy. Another in a long series of bad decisions.
"Every choice I've made is wrong."
"Including this one," Sam points out, which really doesn't help. "That's the whole catch with free will —you get to make your own choices, but then you have to live with the results."
"What I did is unforgivable." They both know what he means, Sam perhaps better than anyone. "I can't go back."
"Sure you can. Haven't you learned anything by now?" Sam scoffs, but his tone is gentle. "Dean will forgive you. It doesn't matter what you've done, or how many times you did it, he'll forgive you."
"I don't deserve it."
"No, but then no one does. You don't earn forgiveness, Cas, don't you get that? There's no balance, not in this world. Do you think that if we tally up all the lives we saved and compare them to the tally of the lives we cost, it all evens out? You can't make it up, that's not how it works."
Castiel stays silent, and Sam sighs again, as though he's running out of ways to explain himself.
"You don't earn forgiveness, but that doesn't mean you're not going to get it, either. That's just how Dean is," Sam says, and his voice is filled with wistful-sounding regret and gratitude. "Even if sometimes I wish it didn't come so easily to him."
Castiel wishes the bus would come, but it's not due for another twenty minutes. He's still not accustomed to human modes of travel, to the distances, the waiting. He's never been patient.
"I can't let you do this to him. You don't get off that easily, Cas. You don't get to break his heart and get away Scott-free and leave me to pick up the pieces."
"He has you. You have each other. I thought, now that you have this new home..." he fumbles for his words. "You will be happy together. The way you were meant to be."
Sam makes a small noise that sounds like it can't decide if it wants to be a laugh or a sob. "Aw, Cas," he slides closer on the bench, until Castiel can feel the heat from his thigh seeping through the fabric of his pants leg. "You stupid fuck. That right there? If that doesn't make you a Winchester, I don't know what does. Sure, we'll be okay, we always are. We bounce back. But what makes you think that your being gone is what's going to make that happen?"
"You're soul mates," he feels compelled to point out. He tries not to think about how nice it feels to be this close to Sam again. This past year, between the war and the secrecy and the lies, there never seemed to be time for this. Even when there was time, he'd found himself going out of his way to avoid spending time with Sam and Dean, too consumed with guilt to feel comfortable looking them in the eyes, let alone anything else.
"Hey, Cas, look at me," Sam says, and reluctantly he looks over, schools himself not to flinch when Sam very deliberately uses the hand he's got on his neck to pull him closer, breath sweet against Castiel's face. "Let me put it to you in terms I know you'll understand. Dean and me? Being together is a necessary but not sufficient condition for us to be happy. Do you get it?"
He swallows, doesn't want to believe what he's hearing.
"I left him at home. You are damned lucky he mostly bought my story that you went out to get more milk so we could make pancakes and then got yourself all screwed up because you don't understand public transportation. Otherwise he'd be out there looking for you, screwing up his leg even more. He's expecting us back any minute. So we're going to pick up some milk and then I'm taking you home."
"What if I say no?"
"Then you're a bigger dick than I thought," Sam says amiably enough. "Here's the thing, Cas. Now that you're human, I am bigger and considerably stronger than you, and I have no problem throwing you over my shoulder and carrying you back whether you want to come or not."
"But I'd rather you came willingly."
He nods, gathers himself, follows Sam back to the Impala. They buy two pints of milk and a pie at the grocery store —his suggestion, although Sam approves— and he holds himself very stiff and very still in the passenger seat while Sam drives them back, watching the scenery roll past the window. He's still not accustomed to that particular optical illusion, finds himself staring out the window, fascinated by the limitations of human perception. The wheels churn up dust and bits of gravel from the road until they pull up into the short driveway outside the house.
Dean is waiting for them outside, hobbles carefully down the porch stairs on his crutches and makes his way more confidently toward them once he's on level ground. He makes a beeline for Castiel, a smile spreading from ear to ear, as though he hasn't seen Castiel in ages and is absolutely delighted to see him again.
"Hey, Cas, took you long enough." He shoves himself into Castiel's personal space, heedless of his own instructions in that regard, framing him with his crutches, and peers into the plastic bag Castiel is clutching in both hands. "You bought pie! That's awesome. Pie for breakfast is even better than cold pizza."
"I thought you wanted pancakes," he can't help it.
"Pie is way better than pancakes. Besides, why buy pie if you didn't want me to eat it?"
"Dessert, Dean," Sam says. "You know, that thing that comes after dinner?"
Dean scoffs. "But breakfast is better, right Cas?"
"I wouldn't know."
"All the more reason to try it!" Dean's grin grows even wider. "I made coffee already. Come on, we need to heat this sucker."
Cas watches him for a moment as he turns, his movements jerky and halting until Sam steps in smoothly to take him by an elbow, steadying him until he's up the stairs and through the front door again.
"You sit," Sam tells his brother, nudging him toward the sofa. "You're supposed to be resting, anyway. I'll put the pie in the oven and bring you coffee, and don't get used to it, because the minute you're out of that cast, you're on your own again."
"Are you telling me I should be milking this? And here I thought we had a full-service arrangement, Sammy."
"In your dreams."
Sam disappears into the kitchen with the bag, leaving Castiel alone with Dean, who's trying to put away his crutches, sit and talk at the same time, with varying levels of success. Castiel catches his elbow a little awkwardly, but Dean clutches at him anyway, using him for leverage until he can just let himself drop onto the sofa. He gives Castiel's arm a grateful pat, then pats the sofa beside him.
"Take a seat, Cas, I won't bite. Well, not unless you want me to," he leers, and Castiel finds himself blushing, much to his discomfiture.
He does sit, though, and doesn't pull away when Dean edges closer, bad leg stretched out away from them to rest on the coffee table, and ever-so-casually lets his hand drop onto Castiel's knee. Castiel doesn't squirm, even though he wants to. He can feel Dean looking at him, but doesn't raise his eyes to meet his gaze, not even when Dean rubs his thumb in circles over his thigh in a gesture almost identical to Sam's earlier one.
"I'm glad you decided to stay, Cas."
He can't hide his surprise. He risks a glance over at Dean, finds nothing but acceptance there, and love, and maybe the beginnings of redemption. Because Dean knew —the whole time— and he still forgives him. Always has and always will. Castiel's bus ticket is folded away in Sam's pocket, never to be spoken of again. In the kitchen he can hear the faint shuffling sounds of Sam making breakfast, humming to himself entirely off-key. The smell of apple pie is just beginning to waft through the open door, rich and full of promise. He nods, allows himself a small smile.