A/N: Now you all know just how Zoë's introduction into the lives of the Winchesters wasn't mere coincidence ;)
The chore of calling Bobby and telling him everything fell to Sam, but only because after Dean told Sam, the elder Winchester declared that he was tired of telling the story. And it was quite a tale. The truth was that Sam felt wholly under-qualified for the task of passing on the latest information to Bobby. Mostly because he hardly believed it himself.
And who wouldn't give it the stink-eye? After years of not giving a rat's ass, God shows up and cleans house. The demons are in the basement and the angels are in the attic, and both are staying in their respective corners for a few thousand years. All angels but one: Castiel. Castiel, apparently, was punished for rebelling against the will of Heaven by being condemned to existence as a human being, but it was a 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink' kind of punishment. And Sam supposed he could see the back-handed gift Castiel had been given of no longer living to serve another, but it still seemed kind of not-worth-it considering all the power Castiel used to possess.
Although Castiel didn't look the least bit torn up about his new and permanent human membership.
Standing in the kitchen, Sam could see out the window into the backyard where Dean and Castiel were enjoying a bright, sunny Saturday.
At the moment that Sam looked outside, Dean had just said something that amused Castiel, and the guy smiled. Really smiled… and not one of those 'twitches at the corners of his mouth' smirks the angel used to do when Dean's wry humor caught him off guard. It was a full-blown smile that crinkled at the corners of his eyes and the bridge of his nose, of all places.
What wasn't new was that enraptured look on Castiel's face when he stared at Dean. There was no point calling it anything but a stare, because Sam's eyes would water just seeing how long Castiel went without blinking when he was focused on Dean. Human Castiel actually blinked once in a while, but it did nothing to diminish the intensity of his gaze. That was the same from angel to man.
But this time, when Dean noticed the intense look aimed his way, he smiled back. It was a genuine smile… one of those rare-gift Dean Winchester sincere smiles that actually went up into his eyes and seemed to reflect off the amazing soul that only Castiel and Sam seemed to believe resided in one Dean Winchester.
Dean and Castiel seemed to have a conversation without words in the backyard while Sam looked on.
Sam found himself shaking his head. Even amid all the wild crap Dean and Castiel had told Sam, the younger Winchester still got the feeling there were some things the two of them weren't telling him. Because Castiel seemed just a little too fine with having death to look forward to, and Dean wasn't furious about it like Sam would think he ought to be. There had to be something to that, something significant, but no one was volunteering. And Sam didn't feel like prying. Dean actually seemed happy, and Sam wasn't about to risk messing that up by being overly-inquisitive.
"I don't believe it," Bobby grumbled in his ear after a very protracted silence.
Sam snorted, coming back to the conversation by dragging his eyes away from the odd pair out the window. "Which part? That God showed up and put all of us hunters out of a job, that the human race is up one ex-angel, or that Dean and I are staying in one place for the foreseeable future?"
All Sam could do was chuckle into his cell phone. He completely understood Bobby's incredulity. He was living it, and sometimes he still didn't believe it.
"Hard as it is to believe," Bobby conceded, "it's the only explanation for the dead calm lately that makes sense." A pause. "But I don't know how I can just stopall this. I'm too old a dog to learn new tricks."
"It's not just you," Sam answered. "There are devil's traps and repelling wards all over this house. Technically, we don't need them anymore… but neither Dean nor I are in any hurry to get rid of them. Just can't bring ourselves to undo any protection symbols."
"Huh… and how's the lady who owns the place feel about them all over her house?"
"Zoë?" Sam smirked at the memory of Zoë inspecting the hunters' artwork inflicted on her home for the first time. You'd think they'd done a surprise remodel of her kitchen for all the praise she had for the improvements. "She actually likes them. She feels better having them here. Even if Dean or I wanted to tear them down, I doubt she'd let us."
"Hmmm… well, can't fault her for being cautious, demons or no demons. So… what's the story with you and this girl? Is it serious?"
Sam felt himself blush. "Come on, Bobby. It's a little too early to tell…"
"Don't give me that bull," Bobby chided gruffly. "I know you, boy. You can get attached faster than anyone I've ever met. Guess you had to learn how, what with all the moving around you did when you were little."
"Well, there were definitely two ways to deal with the nomad life. Bond fast or never bond at all."
"Meaning there's you and there's your brother."
Sam snorted. 'If only Bobby could see Dean now,' Sam thought to himself, Dean and his fallen angel.
"Still waiting for an answer," Bobby prodded.
"Anyone ever told you that you're as bad as a gossipy old woman?" Sam teased. Then he took a moment to compose a serious answer. "I really don't know, Bobby… but I haven't felt this good about someone since…"
No one had to say the name.
The succinct reply took Sam by surprise. "That's it? No 'it can't work, Sam' or 'stop trying so hard for something you can't have' spiel?"
"That's all Winchester talk. Never was the Singer philosophy. Even after all the grief I've gone through 'cause of my wife…" Bobby's voice seemed to catch just a little. "Well, I wouldn't give up a minute of the time I had with her.
"You deserve that."
Sam was not going to get all mushy and misty-eyed talking on the phone to Bobby Singer. He just wasn't. So he bucked up and said, "Thanks, Bobby."
"I just wish Dean could pull his head out of his ass and figure that out for himself. Kid deserves it just as much as you do."
Sam looked out the window again. Castiel had moved closer to Dean. At some point, Dean had convinced Castiel to take off his shoes and socks to stand barefoot in the grass. Dean's shoes and Castiel's were stacked together in a tangle of tongues and laces while the two men stood shoulder to shoulder with their toes splayed in the blades of green. Castiel's hand ventured out, somewhat absently, and a finger found one of the belt loops of Dean's jeans to hook on to. There it hung like an afterthought, a small anchor attaching the two of them together.
Sam smiled lopsidedly to himself. He wouldn't tell Bobby (because it wasn't his to tell), but Sam was pretty sure Dean hadfigured it out for himself. It just ended up being with someone no one would have predicted. Dean, lady's man of the century, had found his perfect match in a man who once sported wings and a halo.
Naturally Dean, being Dean, hadn't actually told Sam anything. No big gay love announcements of together forever and ever. But Dean told Sam in his own way. Three days ago, Dean and Castiel were out front, having a discussion in front of the Impala (presumably about the car and Castiel's distinct lack of adoration for the old Chevy). Sam had stepped out on to the porch to head to work and stopped when he saw them by the car, waiting because he didn't want to interrupt. Dean and Castiel seemed unaware of him watching. Sam didn't hear the conversation, but he definitely saw Dean's face pull the most petulant, childish, pouty look he'd ever seen on a grown man. It looked pretty ridiculous, even from a distance. Castiel suddenly chuckled, shook his head in fond exasperation, and leaned into Dean's personal space to drop his forehead on to Dean's shoulder. Dean didn't flinch away or tense up; he just stood there and let Castiel fold against him. Dean's immature expression melted away, he rolled his eyes with a ghost of a smile, then he pressed a quick kiss to Castiel's jaw. That was all. Castiel pulled away, the semi-argument apparently resolved, and Dean turned to head back into the house when he looked up and saw Sam. He had to figure he'd seen them. But Dean didn't get flustered or try to make up some lame story about what Sam had witnessed. He just tossed Sam the keys to the Impala and said, "We need to get you your own car. I'm tired of you going off in my baby." And that was pretty much the 'are you two? – yes, we are' about Castiel.
Not that Sam needed anything more than that. Just the soft looks on his brother's face when he looked at the former angel were enough.
"So how's Castiel taking the whole 'demoted to puny human' thing?" Bobby asked.
"Actually… really well. It was pretty rough there in the beginning, but… I think he's finding his niche."
The one carved out at Dean's side.
"That's good… if he's stuck like this, might as well make the best of it."
Sam stopped himself from confirming that Castiel definitely was making the best of his situation. Instead, he just fought a smile and thought of that sweet exchange he witnessed by the car.
"Well," Bobby heaved a sigh, "suppose you two want me to put the word out about all this business about the end of hunting."
"You do know all the people; you're the one with the connections," Sam pointed out.
"Well, I can tell you right now that about half of them will think I'm full of shit. Hell, I think I might think it. I just can't imagine…"
"Yeah… me neither, really. But I wantto… you have no idea how much, Bobby."
"Actually, figure I do." Bobby paused awkwardly. "I'll see you boys when I see you. Good luck."
Good luck trying to live like a normal human being. Tackling vampires and demons was easy… for a hunter, assimilating into a normal lifestyle was the challenge.
"You too, Bobby. I'm sure we'll see you sooner rather than later. We're not losing touch just because there's no more hunting."
"After all the gray hairs you two have given me, you're obligated to make it up to me… and being strangers wouldn't be the way to go about that."
"You bet, Bobby. Who knows… maybe we can get together during the holidays."
"Oh hell," Bobby groaned, "I'm not ready for that shit yet. I'm just trying to figure out what the hell to do with all the salt I have… supposed I could start a beef jerky business."
Sam laughed. "I'll talk to you later, Bobby." He hung up the phone and looked back out the window. Castiel had taken off his ever-present white jacket, and (for once) he wasn't layered in thermals underneath. All he had on was a plain t-shirt, leaving his arms bare. Somehow, it managed to accentuate his new humanness, seeing the bony jut of elbows and wrists. He was holding his arms out to the sun, turning them over as if he could see the sunlight dancing across his skin. For all Sam knew, Castiel used to see the sunlight dance.
Just then, Zoë came around the corner of the house into the backyard, her arms laden with bags of food from Hildegard's. Dean spotted her before Castiel, preoccupied with watching his skin soak up the sun. Dean waved to her and went to help her carry the food to the patio table. Dean had suggested they eat lunch outside. Sam knew that was for Castiel, who liked the open sky and wind in his hair.
The second he set eyes on Zoë, her blond hair tousled by the wind and decked in jeans with well-worn holes in the knees, Sam felt that flutter-clench-gasp of the unknown. That sense of so many possibilities for them, uncharted places to discover together, with each imagined future more exciting than the last. He was honest when he told Bobby he hadn't felt like this since Jessica. There was just something about everything Zoë was that Sam was drawn to… inexplicably and gloriously. And there was no hiding who and what he was with Zoë.
In short order, the three of them in the backyard were standing around the table, which was situated so that it fell into the shade cast by the house. Castiel made a few comments, about which Dean wasn't too keen, but in the next instant Zoë was putting the food aside on some of the chairs and gesturing for Castiel to help her. Together, they picked up the table and carried it out into the yard, into the sun. Dean stood back and watched a moment, then he plainly sighed and started carrying over the chairs.
It hit Sam that he was looking at his future. Him and Zoë, Dean and Castiel. This was what normal life would hold for them: two former hunters, one possession-victim, and one ex-angel forming a new family all their own. It was the nearest to normal someone like Sam Winchester could ever hope to get.
And it felt so weirdly right that Sam wanted to run down the streets whooping at the top of his lungs.
Castiel and Zoë were clearly pleased with their furniture relocation. They were contently setting out the food in the full brunt of the noon sun. They were talking while they worked, though Sam couldn't hear the conversation. He read expressions mostly, and there was an ease between them that translated in body language.
Zoë got along surprisingly well with Castiel, considering what an odd bird the former angel was. She didn't know that he used to be an angel, but she had to know there was somethingdifferent about him. Maybe it was the prospective counselor in her that didn't care if he was strange or quirky… or maybe it was just Zoë. The fact that Zoë got along with his brother's significant other was just one more reason Sam could come up with to love her.
And he would. Someday. Someday soon. It was just inevitable now… only a question of when. He would love her. And he looked forward to the rush.
And Sam wasn't stupid… he could tell that Dean and Castiel were both making a real effort to welcome Zoë into their warped inner circle. Sam had no idea what higher power he should thank for that (especially considering Dean's initial reluctance to let her anywhere near their world), but it meant a lot to Sam. It made all this seem possible… like it wasn't just a pipe dream or a lie, but real and doable. It made Sam a bit too eager to believe all of it… to believe that he could finally stop fighting, for the first time in his cursed life.
Lost in his thoughts, Sam started with the back door opened and Dean came in, his stride whisper-soft as he strode on bare feet. He caught sight of Sam by the window and stopped. "Hey… talk to Bobby?"
"Yeah… just now. I told him everything. I don't think he believes me."
"Who could blame him?"
Sam put his phone on the counter with a shrug. "I was just coming out, you didn't have to come get me."
"I didn't come to get you. Came in to get Cas some sunscreen. Moron's going to give himself a sunburn."
Sam was thoroughly amused being on the outside looking in, for once, at Dean's mother-hen streak in full-swing. He hoped Castiel didn't mind hovering, because Dean was good at it if you let him.
Which Castiel probably would… and he'd probably enjoy it. They really were perfect for each other, in their twisted, bizarre way.
Sam went out into the backyard while Dean wandered into the house in search of sunscreen. As soon as Zoë spotted him, she grinned and came over to him with a plastic bowl. When she reached him, she curled her free hand around his arm so easily, like it belonged there. "Hey, Sam… hope you have a sweet tooth, because I have fudge brownies." She waved the bowl of brown squares in front of him like an irresistible enticement that no mortal could turn down.
It made Sam think of Jessica and her cookies. He was glad Zoë picked another dessert with which to woo him.
"I've been known to demolish a brownie pan or two in my time," Sam joked. To prove it, Sam snagged a square off the top of the chocolate mountain and shoved half of it in his mouth.
Dean came out at that exact moment with sunscreen in hand. He saw Sam stuffing face and smiled cheekily. "That dessert before dinner thing… learned it from me. Come here, Cas."
Castiel went. Dean poured some sunscreen on his hand and began to lather Cas up. Castiel stood patiently while Dean covered his arms. Then Dean curled his hands around the back of Castiel's neck, successfully getting sun block on the exposed skin, but the functional touch mimicked an intimate one too closely. They both seemed to notice it at the same instant. Dean's hands very nearly stilled, and Castiel's expression softened. Sam suspected if he and Zoë weren't there, they would have started kissing.
Instead, Dean sent Castiel a flicker of a smile that promised 'later' and swiped his sunscreen-coated fingers over Castiel's cheeks and nose, catching all the burn-prone places with a lifetime's worth of experience as a human to guide him.
"There you go… now you can play outside all you want," Dean teased.
"Thank you, Dean."
Dean nodded and turned to go inspect the food choices when Castiel reached out and snagged his arm. Dean drew up short and looked back at Castiel expectantly. Castiel merely held out his hand for the sunscreen. Dean looked amused at the notion that he needed to be looked after the way new-to-the-world Castiel did, but he relented all the same. Castiel inexpertly returned the favor and worked lotion into Dean's exposed skin.
When Castiel was finished, he looked inordinately proud of his work. Dean smirked down at his UV-protected skin and said, "Awesome."
"If you ladies are finished," Zoë quipped, "let's eat."
Dean shot Sam an 'I like this girl' look, and Sam couldn't imagine that day getting any better.
They arranged themselves at the table in a natural configuration that required no discussion. Sam and Zoë on one side of the table, Dean and Castiel on the other; Dean sat across from Sam, and Castiel sat across from Zoë.
Zoë's hand snuck over underneath the table and gave Sam's thigh a squeeze.
Dean gave Castiel the lion's share of the curly fries.
Sam hoped it was the first day of many in their new lives free of hunting. Because Bobby was right… after everything the Winchesters had sacrificed for humanity, they both deserved a happily ever after… albeit Winchester-style.