Author's Note: And this marks the final chapter. I never intended this story to become a fix-it, so it's got an open ending to serve as a loose bridge to 7.01 with the incorporation of the spoilers. No doubt my interpretation of the facts is completely wrong, but it's fun to speculate.

I've had a ton of fun writing this so really appreciate all the support and reviews. I hope you'll leave me one last review and check out my other SPN stuff! Oh, and to shamelessly self-promote, I'm on Twitter: purplehrdwonder. And now, on with the show.

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.


Epilogue


Castiel found himself drawn to Singer Salvage, feeling an inexplicable urge to check in on the three humans he'd once considered friends. He found himself…curious. After spending so much time in Heaven consolidating his position as the new God by confronting Raphael's followers and smiting those that remained loyal to the fallen archangel, he desired something simple and familiar. Something human.

He could easily force the humans to bow and swear their fealty to him, but he didn't want to. He wanted them to mean it; to admit that they had been wrong to mistrust him and venerate him for the trusted ally he'd been and benevolent Lord he'd become. In time they would come to understand he'd really done this all for them—to make sure their great sacrifices to cage the Morningstar and save the beautiful world his Father had created and abandoned were not in vain. If he didn't look after the world they'd given so much for, no one would.

At Bobby Singer's, Castiel found Dean making extensive repairs to the damaged Impala. He watched as the human spent hours, days, weeks outside from nearly dawn until dusk repairing and shaping the wreckage into something familiar. Castiel puzzled over the army man toy Dean spent nearly an hour cradling in his hands before lodging it back into the rear ashtray and the piece of wood with messily carved SW and DW he carefully ensconced in the trunk alongside the extensive armory.

Dean seemed constantly tense, his entire body taut like a bowstring pulled back unless Sam was nearby. When his brother emerged from the house to join him in the yard, the tension completed melted from Dean. Sam usually took a seat on the hood or against a wheel of a nearby junked car, offering Dean a bottle of water on the way, and pulled out some book to read.

The brothers rarely spoke but the glances they spared one another spoke volumes to Castiel. This bond endured through Heaven, Hell, and the ends of the earth was what he wanted. He could force the Winchesters to heel, but he knew he'd never be on the receiving end of one of the lingering glances filled with love and concern and understanding that passed between brothers as naturally as breathing.

Bobby was inside the house doing research on some scheme the three had cooked up to bring him down, Castiel knew. Sam split his time between the library, helping Bobby with research, and the salvage yard, where he sat with Dean. Castiel wasn't concerned with whatever plot the hunters had cooked up; he was more powerful than anything they'd ever dealt with, so nothing they came up with stood any chance of harming him. He'd let them have their game for now.

Instead, Castiel watched.

As Dean and Bobby worked on their respective projects, Castiel found himself drawn to Sam. He could see the imbalance within the youngest hunter; he could see the barely repressed psychic powers straining a violent crimson against a wall in Sam's mind of his own creation. And the memories of the Cage surged like a black miasma within him, curling around his battered soul. Castiel had touched that very soul, knew the extent of the damage that had been done to it and couldn't help but be impressed by Sam's strength and tenacity.

Despite his initial doubts about the boy with the demon blood, Castiel had come to understand that he was the very sort of human his Father had wanted the angels to love: flawed and tainted, yet always trying to be better, to be good for no other reason than it was right. Yet God abandoned Sam Winchester to an eternity of torture in Hell without Castiel's intervention.

One day Sam would come to appreciate what Castiel had done for him in raising him from Perdition. Like his brother. But for now, Castiel would watch and wait.

Much like the tension eased in Dean when Sam was near, the miasma within Sam retreated when Dean was near, leaving Sam more at ease as well. When he looked closely, Castiel could see that Sam's fractured soul was stitched together oh-so-carefully with threads of DeanDeanDean. It should come as no surprise, then, that his brother's presence would ease the hurt, even leave room for healing.

And each time he saw it, Castiel was struck by the want of what the Winchesters shared. He watched as Bobby came into the salvage yard with a few gruff words and both brothers would radiate ease and trust. Bobby Singer was in many ways the father John Winchester had never been and so had earned the love and trust of the brothers. Dean swore Castiel was like a brother to him, but Castiel knew he'd never be the brother Sam was to him, mistakes and all.

But Castiel was God now; he had no need for something so foolish and insignificant as a human bond. So let the hunters make their plans and lick their wounds. Castiel was still their Lord and His duty went beyond the affections of three humans.

He left Singer Salvage without the sound of beating wings.


Sore and sweaty after a day's work on the Impala, Dean walked into the house and went right for the fridge, grabbing a beer before heading into the living room where he found Bobby and Sam surrounded by books.

"How's it going?" he asked, flopping down on the couch next to his brother.

Sam and Bobby were looking for new ways to summon Death since Sam wouldn't let Dean flatline again. After Sam had revealed what Castiel had told him about his soulless year, he'd made Dean explain how he'd gotten his soul out of the Cage—it was like he didn't trust Dean when he said the deal was finished or something.

Then again, Winchesters didn't have the best luck with deals, so Dean couldn't really blame him. Sam had been horrified when Dean had told him about how he'd gotten in touch with Tessa and Death those months prior and adamantly refused to let him do that again. There had to be another way and they were going to find it without anyone killing themselves—again—Sam declared.

"Still nothing, though Bobby's got a lead on something," Sam replied without looking up from the book he was engrossed in.

"Maybe," Bobby replied from his desk. "Then again, I've had a lot of leads that have gone nowhere."

Sam shrugged and turned the page. "Better than nothing at this point."

Bobby grunted something that could have been either agreement or disagreement.

Taking a pull of his beer, Dean had to admit, Sam having a project he could geek out over seemed to be helping him. It gave him something to focus on other than Hell and he seemed to be improving a little bit every day. When Dean started remembering Hell, he'd pulled Sam into a hunting frenzy, barely going hours without a job and driving them both to exhaustion so he would have something else to think about. There had been something meditative about hunting for Dean, and Sam was the same way with books.

Sam still spaced out at times, folding into himself completely for stretches of times until he snapped back to reality. He'd be quiet and shaky for hours afterward. He'd also quit eating meat completely, forcing Dean and Bobby to get creative with the food they prepared, but neither said a word about it.

And he had nightmares; these weren't nightmares that left him thrashing or screaming like after Jess. Dean would wake up to find Sam completely still but rigid and whimpering quietly. The broken sounds bothered Dean more than anything because he knew the sound from the Pit. He'd heard it under his own blade countless times and to hear it from his own brother was worse than any torture Alastair had ever conceived of.

But Sam was doing better. They'd left Missouri's nearly a month before; the psychic had made Sam swear to meditate every day and call often. Dean often found Sam sitting cross-legged with his eyes shut and breathing even on his bed around midday but he never interrupted him. He also called Missouri almost daily for quick chats about psychic stuff Dean could never understand from Sam's side of the conversation.

Sam had also had a couple visions since leaving, but they'd been short and so jumbled that he hadn't been able to make anything of them. They didn't know what to make of that so let it lie for the time being.

In the month since leaving Missouri's, there'd been no sign of Castiel though there were times Dean could have sworn he was being watched. Dean shrugged it off, figuring that Castiel would find them no matter where they went so they might as well stay where Sam felt safest.

Dean toed out of his boots and swung his socked feet into Sam's lap. Sam yelped, startled, and pulled the ancient book he'd been reading out of harm's way. His nose crinkled as he glared at Dean. "Dude, your feet reek."

"Whatever, bitch. I need a footrest after a long day of manly work and you're the closest thing."

Sam glanced over at Bobby for help, but the older hunter threw up his hands. "Don't look at me, kid. He's your brother."

Sam huffed and Dean grinned. "C'mon Sammy, you've been wrapped up in books all day. Take a break."

"Dean." How his brother got so much exasperation into one word, Dean would never know.

He nudged his brother's arm with his foot and Sam grimaced. "One night isn't going to make or break anything and you know it. Cas is going to be out there tomorrow, too."

And Dean almost didn't grimace when Cas' name left his lips. Considering Sam's appraising look, his brother had noticed as well. But finally the tension left Sam's shoulders and he heaved a long-suffering sigh.

"Jerk," he muttered as he picked up the television remote.

Dean nodded to himself as Sam leaned back into the sofa and Bobby closed the book at his desk with a thud. Castiel would find them when he was good and ready for whatever he had in store. Dean tried not to think about that, focusing on his brother and his girl instead.

Slowly but surely, familiar shapes were emerging from wreckage.


- Finis -