I came up with this idea in bed this morning...and it took me all day to write it out how I wanted it. There are a lot of page breaks in this, so I hope they carry to well.
Oh, and to eliminate confusion, it's sort of the future (ish) and there is, for no real reason, a war in Russia.
"It would help you Dean."
"No, Sam." Dean gestures at his brother sharply with his fork. "I don't need it, that's my final word, ok?"
Sam looked at him pityingly over the remains of his pot roast.
Dean was beginning to dread these dinners.
It was nice to meet someone else, sure, after a week of staying in his apartment and checking up on the world via his computer. But every time they met, Sam would try and convince him to do something he didn't want to do.
First he wanted to nag him about leaving his apartment.
Then it was that he should do his therapy.
Then it was experimental plastic surgery.
Now Sam had latched onto a new way to 'help' and unlike the others, he wasn't taking no for an answer this time.
"What if I told you it was kind of out of your hands?" Sam says quietly.
"What did you do?" Dean says after a pause that practically buzzes with anger.
"I bought one yesterday..."
"Jesus Sammy...well take it back, I don't want it."
"It's non-returnable – well, at least now I broke the seal it is." Sam admits.
Dean is silent for a while.
"I already owe you money." He says stiffly. "Those things are like, what? 30,000 dollars? I can't pay that back Sam, I don't have a job, least not a real one."
"Actually, used models run at about 5,000, for the basics." Sam looks sheepish. "I kind of went all out on a new one though – new range from Apple, just came out."
"It's a gift Dean – I'm not expecting you to pay me back." Sam says quietly. "It's just...I can't be here all the time, and I think of you getting lonely and...well it wouldn't hurt to have some life around the place, even if it's just something to keep you company and make a little noise."
"I don't want pity." Dean protests gravely.
"Robots don't really do pity." Sam points out. "They just do their job."
And didn't Dean know it.
Robots had started out as a means by which the jobs that no human really wanted to do could still be done, and cheaply. The movement mechanics were the real problem, and once that was sorted out – Sewage, maintenance, heavy labour and low level shop work were all easy for a machine to do.
Course, there were other things no human really wanted to do - like taking care of their old and demented relatives, so a new class of robots had been developed. Carers. These would keep the old and unpleasantly infirm company and help them around the house day to day. They were clean and calm and unfeeling – perfect for such a demanding job.
Dean had first encountered robots in the army.
The craze had taken off back home while he was serving in Russia, and the first they'd known about it was the medi-bots who were created to get medical aid to fallen soldiers in enemy territory.
After all, they could take more damage than a human.
And you couldn't torture a robot for information.
Then again, when Rufus Turner had been the one to fall, the one to get trapped on the wrong side of enemy lines – it was Dean who had stood the best chance of getting to him first.
It was Dean who'd gone to him, getting shot at the entire time and taking no less than seven hits on the way.
It was Dean who arrived at Rufus's dead body just seconds too late.
It was Dean who was taken.
Dean who was tortured.
So now, he was a job for robots. A shut-in recently shipped back to the U.S.A, honourably discharged with a heap of medals that didn't change the fact that he hadn't been outside in months, that he couldn't remember how the sun felt. That he had nightmares every single night, and waking terrors like no one could imagine. He was warped with scars, the skin on the left side of his face burnt and cut into so many times that it looks like a turkey neck, like melted wax.
Only, that's his face, as he remembers every time he sees it.
He still can't quite believe that that's all that's left of him. Dean Winchester. Pretty boy of Lawrence high. Life taker, heart breaker. Scarred like a fossilised tree, with half the hair seared from his head. The fingers on his left hand nail-less and clumpily scarred, swollen like sausages.
Who, other than his brother and a lump of programmed plastic, would ever want to be near him?
"Dean?" Sam breaks into his thoughts.
"Fine." Dean grunts. "Where is it?"
Turns out, Sam broke the seal on the thing and then left it in the trunk of his car. It's still just a limp plastic body – white plastic with the apple logo on its 'forehead', the whole body being shaped like an artist's wooden posing manikin. Together they carry it up to Dean's apartment, though Sam has to struggle alone from his car to the stairwell, because Dean doesn't go outside. Not even with Sam.
Dean dumps the thing on his couch unceremoniously.
Sam looks at him. "Well, you have to set it up, with the manual. And you have to be alone so that the uh...bonding, can take place."
Dean glares at him.
"What the hell do you mean 'bonding'?"
"It's so it remembers you. So it responds to your face..."
"...and your voice. So that it's yours and it can always find you."
"I guess I'll see you next week then." Dean says uncertainly.
"Same as usual...just call me, if you have any problems." Sam pulls him into a hug. "I love you, you know that right?"
"Mmmmhmmm." Dean says, and then watches Sam walk out the door and down the stairs, out into the bright world into which he can't follow.
The robot is still sprawled on the couch like so much junk.
It takes an hour for him to start the thing up.
Most of that is spent reading the manual.
First he has to input his name, then stay still for a facial scan. The he has to speak a test phrase for the voice imprint. Then he has to customise his options.
He decides on 'random' for all details.
The thing powers up, showing two bright blue lights in its face. In its randomly selected voice, a low, almost echo like, rumble, it announces its randomly generated name. Castiel.
Dean has no idea what to do with it after that.
He leaves it on the couch and goes to his room, shutting the door.
He watches four episodes of back to back, then goes to sleep.
Castiel stays motionless on the couch.
By the next morning, Dean's forgotten about Castiel. He remembers with a jolt when he opens the door to the living room and sees the robot still on his threadbare brown couch. The robot turns its blue lights on him.
"Good morning Dean." There's an odd little whirring sound. "Did you have a pleasant rest?"
"Uhh...yeah." Dean falters, bare feet twitching nervously on the carpet.
"That's good." It says finally. "Would you like some breakfast this morning?"
Dean's still kind of a sucker for food that he didn't have to make. He's used to that level of machine involvement – his coffee maker and waffle iron are machines – one is timed to make the coffee around about the time he wakes up.
He can deal with this.
The robot makes no further comment, just goes into the kitchen area and opens the fridge.
Dean boots up the computer and checks his email.
One from Sam – 'How's it going?'
He answers 'Alright.'
Castiel presents him with two pieces of perfectly done toast, topped with a neat hillock of yellowy scrambled egg.
"Thanks." Dean says without thinking.
The robot says nothing.
After a few seconds of forking eggs into his mouth, Dean gets sick of being stood over.
"Sit down will you?" he says.
The robot whirrs over the perceived question before pulling out a chair and sitting down stiffly.
Dean watches it for a moment.
"Why?" He isn't used to conversation, even less to conversing with a machine, but he'd bored and he doesn't like being stared at - he never has.
"It's my name." The machine supplies.
"Why that name?" Dean drinks some coffee.
"It was chosen for me."
Dean gives up.
By the third week that he's owned a robot, Dean has developed a routine. He gets up, Castiel cooks breakfast. Then Dean gets on with his 'work' such as it is, though the proofreading Sam's firm is throwing him as a favour to his brother isn't really 'work', not the way Dean's used to seeing it. After a few hours of that, Dean cleans up his apartment and works out, lifting weights in his bedroom. He watches or movies on his laptop. He does his laundry at night in the laundry room downstairs.
Castiel's contribution is cooking, a task which Dean isn't used to, having has a mess supply his meals for years. The robot also unloads Dean's groceries from the delivery truck and takes them into the hallway – something that Dean had previously had trouble arranging, leading to calls to his brother because his food shopping was eight feet from the front door and Dean couldn't go get it.
When he's not working, Castiel does as Dean instructs and sits on the couch.
One night, as Dean's watching a re-run of 24 he finds himself saying,
"That's Jack Bauer's daughter...she's been missing all season."
Castiel doesn't respond.
Dean shakes himself and tries to focus on the TV.
After a while Castiel whirrs to life. "Why is she missing?"
"She got kidnapped." Dean says, after a moment's pause.
Castiel seems to digest this.
"By the man with the gun?" Castiel seems to be accessing a memory. "Jacob Long?"
"Yeah." Dean says, and that's the end of the conversation.
Dean is surprised to learn that as it turns out Castiel isn't just sitting there staring at nothing - he's watching whatever is on TV, or whatever Dean's doing.
He's even more surprised to find himself referring to Castiel as 'he'. It's a deep voice sure, but it's not strictly male – it's toneless and inflectionless.
But Castiel is firmly a 'he' anyway.
When Sam visits every Sunday, Dean has Castiel cook them lunch, just so Sam feels his money isn't going to waste. Castiel makes excellent steak sandwiches.
Sam looks at his brother doubtfully.
"Is it helping? Having someone else around?"
"He's not a someone." Dean points out, thoughtfully munching toasted ciabatta and griddled steak. "But yeah...he's ok to have around."
Sam leaves it at that.
Dean gets quite bored, not being able to leave the house puts the kibosh on a lot of activities. He orders some things from online – A chess set, a scrabble board and an Xbox 360 console (this last at Sam's suggestion, and at his expense – Dean's birthday is coming up).
Castiel is proficient at Chess and Scrabble – Dean hardly ever wins and Castiel doesn't let him win.
Dean tries his hand at Red Dead Redemption, Oblivion Elder Scrolls IV and Fable 3. All the games were chosen by Sam, and they contain nothing that could in any way relate to an actual military combat scenario. Dean can't help but notice.
He buys himself a second controller when he starts to get bored again. Castiel kind of sucks at Xbox, but it's kind of entertaining to watch. Dean buys Lego Batman, Star Wars and Indiana Jones on sale and they go through the games. Batman and Robin. Indy and Marcus Brody. Han and Chewbacca.
Castiel starts to get quite good.
Dean's kind of pleased at that. Despite himself.
One evening Dean is at a loose end and sitting on the couch, trying to think of something to do. Castiel sits beside him.
Dean picks up a copy of Sharpe's Eagle and flicks through a few pages, not taking anything in.
"You know, I love this book...and I still can't be assed." He says to himself, only, nothing's really to himself now. He gets up and goes to fix himself a cup of decaf.
Behind him there is no sound of movement, but suddenly Castiel's voice starts up.
"Sharpe picked up the pistol and made a note to procure up some more supplies, the men were in the main part, without arms and sorely lacking for provisions of both food and medicine..."
Dean doesn't stop him.
Castiel reads the entire novel to him, Dean drinks coffee and listens.
Dean's nightmares are more like night terrors.
Sometimes he wakes up believing himself to be back in Russia, back with Alistair and his cold knives, his fire brands and speculums and needles. He shudders and scrunches up, expecting pain. He's almost blind with terror.
Few people ever know real terror, and Dean feels it almost every night.
Castiel has learnt how to make a great many things; eggs, pancakes, bacon and mushrooms, toasted brioche, Danishes, lasagne, chicken pie, roast chicken and soufflés.
He still does not make apple pie to Dean's satisfaction.
Castiel's recipes come from downloaded apps, but he can learn from observation.
So it is that Dean spends a pleasant Tuesday afternoon teaching Castiel how to cook apple pie properly.
Dean bolts awake in the middle of the night. He's shivering and in a cold sweat, his scarred body stings with remembered pain, with nights of muscle memory – strung up in manacles on a freezing wall, bleeding onto a concrete floor. Blood mingling with urine and sweat on the shadowy ground.
He realises where he is, but Dean does not feel safe. He feels small and alone and afraid.
He gets up without thinking, an impulse born out of childhood, the need to find his parents, someone else, someone stronger to allay his fears.
The spare bedroom is where he keeps Castiel. The robot is lying on the bed, its stomach flapped open to reveal the charge cable that connects it to the wall. The last thing Castiel does before he goes offline is to plug himself in.
Dean stands in the doorway for a moment, then, on blind instinct he enters the room and lies down on the bed, careful not to jostle the cold, white plastic creature beside him.
He can hear Castiel faintly whirring.
Dean goes back to sleep.
He sleeps fitfully and when he wakes it's still dark, still hours before dawn.
He stirs and a cold plastic hand twitches at his side, lifting and moving over him to hold him carefully.
Blue eyes power up, blue light shines up to the ceiling.
"I'm here." The robot says, as a way of acknowledging the perceived call for his services.
Dean moves a pillow against the robot's chest and lays his head against it.
Tears run out of the corner of his good eye.
The next morning, Dean wakes with his head still resting on his pillow and beneath that is Castiel's hard casing. The arm is still over his shoulders, and Dean feels, if not exactly comforted, then safer.
Castiel senses his change in consciousness.
"Would you like me to prepare breakfast, Dean?"
Dean lies still for a moment. The bed is no warmer than his own – Castiel gives off no heat.
"Yes, thank you." He says.
Castiel waits for Dean to move off of the bed before he gets up and goes to the kitchen to fry sausage and eggs.
Dean makes the bed, then closes and locks the door.
He won't be needing that room anymore.
"You're sleeping with it." Sam says, it's not a question. It's fairly obvious, Castiel's room is all shut up, and in Dean's the recharge cables are visible, ready and waiting to be plugged in.
"He's recharging on my bed. There's a difference." Dean says gruffly, passing Sam a piece of bunt cake.
"What? You said you didn't want me to get lonely. The whole point of you buying him was so that I'd..."
"...have something nearby to make you feel more at ease." Sam finishes pointedly. "Like a dog or...hell, not even a dog – he's not alive, Dean...I'm worried that..."
"Worried what?" Dean snaps.
"Worried that you're getting too attached." Sam says pointedly. "I'm worried that you're using 'it' to make up for the fact that you're not progressing with your recovery."
"Maybe I just like the fact that he's leaving me to it." Dean says grimly.
"Leave it Sam...I'll try ok? I'll get better." He grips his coffee cup harder than necessary. "Just...give me time...please?"
Sam doesn't like it, but he agrees.
At night Dean sleeps with his head on a pillow, and beneath the pillow is Castiel's white plastic chest. One cold arm curls around his body, resting without hesitation on his scarred side, his tortured and warped arm.
Dean sleeps like a drowned man. Swallowed completely by rest.
His therapy is coming along slowly.
The sessions are conducted by web cam. Every week Dean gets exercises to do. Most of them involve building up his tolerance to the outside world.
He has all the windows open.
He sits by the window.
He stands just outside his apartment building door.
It's only with Castiel's silent aid that he manages to walk all the way to the park on the corner. Those benign blue lights are on him the whole time, and Dean feels safe.
At the end of the walk, when they return to the stoop of his apartment complex, Castiel sits beside Dean on the step.
"What are we going to do now?" the robot asks.
There have been more and more of these human questions – like now he's out of the box Castiel is learning how to act like a companion.
It must be in his programming.
"I don't know...watch TV maybe?" Dean's feeling a little shaky after this excursion.
Castiel whirrs softly.
"Dr. Sexy." He says decisively.
They go inside.
The scandal breaks quickly and with no warning.
Apple are using real personalities, human personalities, in their series 4NG3L robots.
Dean watches the news at Sam's house.
With Castiel's help, and five months patient work, he's well enough that he can now walk all the way to Sam's - three blocks away.
Castiel is in the other room, at Dean's request.
"Holy shit." Sam says quietly. "Dean...are...are you ok?"
Dean can't answer.
He wants to be back in his apartment, curled up in his closet, where he slept the first night he lived there.
Not since Alistair burnt and sliced his face away, has he felt such a sense of loss. Of being diminished.
Castiel gazes silently out of the window in the other room.
He whirrs. Listening to nothing.
Slowly, so slowly as to almost be nonexistent, information comes out.
Apple worked the new series of robots hard – better movement, better programming, better sensing and skill adaptation. They were the perfect nurses, the perfect carers.
But they weren't companions.
No computer program, no matter how lovingly designed, could imitate that wordless, action-less aura of affection.
So Apple had set up a study, they'd gone to clinics around the country – clinics and hospices for the terminally ill, for those dying of cancer, organ failure, genetic disorders and diseases. They had handpicked 500 for their programme, swearing all of them to secrecy and giving out a lot of money to their remaining, ignorant, families under the guise of payment for participation in a 'clinical trial'.
They copied the personalities of these 500 carefully selected men and women.
There were 500 robots in the first and the only batch of the 4NG3L series.
The personality assigned to each robot depended on the specifics entered by the new owner. For example - a companion for a child would also be a child, if so desired. Possibly, say, Annie Bright, a leukaemia patient from Baltimore. No memories were included, just a vague imprint of a very pleasant person who had unfortunately died.
The public went insane.
It was unethical, ungodly, Orwellian, science gone mad, cruel, unhealthy, sick, twisted, damnable...
They demanded that all the 4NG3L's be recalled.
Dean read all the reports in bed, where he curled at Castiel's side and afterwards he screwed his eyes closed and fought the black depressive wave that threatened to swallow him.
Dean ignored him.
Sam knocked at the door.
Dean ignored him.
Sam whacked the door off its hinges and came into his bedroom.
Dean ignored him.
"Dean..." his brother spoke softly, almost tearfully. Dean had heard that tone at the hospital, the first time Sam had seen him.
"Please..." Dean's surprised at how desperate, at how lost he sounds. Wonders if Alistair ever heard his voice like this. "Just...leave me alone, Sam."
"Dean." Sam's hand touches his shoulder. "Look at me...hey...come on..." Dean does. "There, see? It's ok, I'm not going to take Castiel...I'm just..." Wet trails reach Sam's jaw and drip off. "I'm worried about you."
Dean can't think of anything to say.
He says nothing.
"Dean...please, just talk to me." Sam pleads.
Castiel's chest whirrs and clicks under Dean's ear.
"Dean." The familiar, deep echo of a voice is soft and calm. "Dean...Sam's here."
Dean sniffs, noticing for the first time that he's crying, as much as he can cry with one eye sealed shut.
"Sam's here." Castiel repeats. "You should talk to him." He prods.
"How...how is it doing that?" Sam asks eventually.
"Doing what? He's Cas he always talks like that." Dean steels himself and sits up. Castiel sits up beside him, one arm still around his waist.
Sam looks like he's wandered into a horror flick by mistake.
"Dean...The new series doesn't talk, like, conversation...unless you upgrade it to be like that...Castiel is just the basic model."
Dean can feel the fear radiating from Sam. The plastic hand behind him moves to his back, rubbing in slow, relaxing circles.
"Don't be upset with me." Castiel's voice comes back on line in a soft rush, bled through with emotion. "Sam...please help Dean." The blue lights turn his way, and Sam can't help taking half a step back. "I don't know how." Castiel says, sadness creeping into his tone.
Dean turns, as if in a dream, and lays a hand on the top of one of Castiel's white, plastic legs. Almost reverently, soothingly.
"It's ok Cas...I'm going to be fine." He says, calmly. "You did a good job."
Castiel tilts his head to lean it on Dean's shoulder.
The whole time, Dean's heart is in his throat.
For almost a year he's had Castiel in his life. A being not unlike an enormous tamegotichi, only charged with Dean's care instead of the other way around. He'd felt bad for relying so heavily on a pretend person.
But Castiel wasn't pretend. He wasn't made up.
He was dead.
"This is too creepy." Sam says. He's sitting at Dean's kitchen table and drinking tea made by the robot currently sitting beside his brother, its white plastic hand on Dean's knee. "How long has it been acting like this?"
Dean thinks of all the times he's slept beside Castiel. Of the way in which, the first time, Castiel had wrapped an arm around him without being asked or told. The way Castiel has formed opinions about video games, can suggest activities and coax him through walks out of the house.
Of the night Dean woke from a nightmare to the feel of careful plastic fingers stroking his hair.
"Do you think it's..." Sam looks uncomfortable. "What if it's the person he used to be...bleeding through."
Dean thinks for a while.
"I think we should find out who Castiel used to be." Dean says, it's an idea that's been ruminating since the news broke about Apple and the 4NG3L series.
"Why?" Sam asks.
"Because..." Dean can't say 'because I want to know him' He says nothing.
"I'll do it for you." Sam says slowly. "If only to...if only because it's interesting, and we should know what kind of man you're living with."
"Thanks Sammy." Dean says.
"I should take him into the Apple Store...you realise that right?" Sam presses "They've recalled all the others – he might be dangerous."
"You called him 'he'." Dean points out.
"Yeah...I did." He admits quietly. "Ok...fine...I guess I'm in this."
Dean sleeps that night with Castiel's shiny plastic form in his arms.
"We're lying different." Castiel points out.
"Tonight..." Dean rests his forehead against the cool curve of the back of Castiel's head. "I'm holding onto you tonight, ok?"
Castiel's fingers close over his, resting against where the navel would be on a human.
"Are you afraid of me...because I'm broken?"
Dean turns his face so the scarred half of it rests firmly against the soothing chill of the plastic.
"No, Cas. I'd never be scared of you."
It turns out to be easier than they thought.
Sam googles a lot of different things, Castiel's series code, Castiel's production date, Castiel's designation.
It takes him a while to figure out what he's been missing.
He googles 'Castiel'.
Castiel - Angel Information -
Castiel is an Angel of Thursday and will help anyone born on this day or anyone who asks for help on this day. The Angel can help us if there are changes in ...
?ID=883 - Cached - Similar
Castiel (Supernatural) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Castiel is a fictional character portrayed by Misha Collins on the CW Television Network's American television series Supernatural. An angel, he first ...
Plot - Characterization - Development - Reception
.org/wiki/Castiel_(Supernatural) - Cached - Similar
Castiel Novak – Facebook
He clicks it. Sam starts reading and known right away that this isn't stuff he should know, without first notifying Dean, so he pastes the link into an email and ten minutes later Dean is up to his eyes in Castiel Novak.
Castiel Novak was a teetotal, ex-addict with a graphic design company in Pontiac, Illinois.
He was a fan of National Geographic, Sci-fi and Badminton. If his last status updates were any indication – he loved coffee, was working on an advert for Chap Stick, and was ticked off at his cat for chewing up his slippers.
Castiel Novak had worn slippers and drank coffee.
Dean feels a chill go down his spine.
There are photo's of a dark haired man with drawn together brows and a faint trace of graphite coloured stubble. He's sitting with a red haired woman tagged as Anna Milton, in a restaurant. It's his twenty-fifth birthday, judging by the cake and the embarrassed look on his pale face. His full, pink mouth is pursed as if to blow of the candles.
He's so damn pretty it actually makes Dean wince, feeling the full weight of his own horrific appearance strike him for the first time in a while.
Castiel was once someone who wouldn't look twice at him now.
There's one video.
Dean clicks it.
"Anna...Anna turn off the damn camera..." Castiel laughs, half stern, half amused. The camera is right in his face. "C'mon Cassy say something good...we want to set you up with the right man now don't we?" Anna's voice comes through grainy and indistinct.
Castiel's gaze settles deep into the camera lens.
"Men of the internet..." he says seriously, voice deep and strong as...Dean shudders.
Castiel continues undaunted. "Men of the internet...be prepared – I am newly single, desperate and willing to settle." He frowns. "Get me while you can." He says sarcastically, looking up at Anna. "There was that..."
The video cuts out.
"Dean?" That voice, so similar and so different. Like Castiel's personality when he was alive – synthesised and stripped down to its basics to be put to use.
Dean swivels in his chair.
"Come look at this." He says gently.
The robot moves soundlessly closer, Dean clicks through the photographs, keeping a careful watch on Castiel's face, or at least, on the smooth white egg of his head, for signs of distress.
One plastic finger reaches up and taps the screen, the picture is of Castiel holding a rather fluffed up and unimpressed tabby cat.
"Gredenko." He says quietly.
Dean touches Castiel's arm.
"It's ok." He says softly.
"This was me." His plastic fingers touch the glass over his own grinning face, the black hair spiked at odd angles and his blue eyes staring straight into Castiel's anxious blue lights. "This was...this used to be me." He turns to Dean, "What happened to me?"
"We'll find out." Dean assures him.
Castiel's fingers curl sadly against the glass.
"Can we go to bed now?" he asks quietly.
Dean shuts off the computer and leads him away.
Sam goes to Castiel Novak's apartment.
It's long empty, but on Dean's orders, Sam badgers the superintendent into letting him take the remainder of Castiel's things out of storage and home to Dean's apartment.
Castiel has no family according to his research.
Three cardboard boxes amount to the life of Castiel Novak.
Sam and Dean sit on the couch while the robot carefully removes the tape holding the box flaps together and peers inside.
Slowly and methodically he runs his plastic hands over the contents of the boxes. Books with yellowing pages, musty clothing and scratched CD cases. There are some DVD's and a silver watch, a crucifix necklace and...
There's a bag of personal effects, the kind the hospital had given to Sam with Dean's silver ring in it.
The bag contains a wallet with Castiel's drivers licence, a 6 month NA chip and a medical alert bracelet.
"These were mine." Castiel says wonderingly, looking through the scattered, bargain basement remnants of his existence. "Dean." He summons the man to his side and shows him that they own the same ACDC album, the same copies of Vonnegut and Fatal Attraction. Dean presses their foreheads together, his lips where Castiel's mouth would be.
Sam looks away.
They put Castiel's things in his old room, hang his pictures, put his books out and leave him to go over things.
Sam takes Dean to one side.
"We should call the hospital."
Pontiac General gives up the information without a fight.
Castiel Novak, hit by a drunk driver at the age of twenty-five. Massive internal injuries meant that he was in a coma for over a year. Apple bought his personality from the hospital, who were looking to recoup their losses.
It's already part of an expose, but now Dean knows.
He knows that some drunk sonofabitch stole Cas's newly sober life from him.
He knows that Castiel died alone and afraid that night, trapped in the ruin of his car. He'd lost consciousness and hadn't woken up again.
Until Dean had flipped the switch. Made him live again.
Castiel goes on charge one night with his head on Dean's chest. Their new cat, a black and white things Dean had braved the pound to pick out for Cas, curled by their feet.
"I'd choose you." He says in his low, not quite human voice.
Dean says nothing.
"If I could have anyone...if I was alive...I'd chose you."
"Why?" Dean asks, his voice a curled up rasp in his throat.
"Because I love you."
"Robots don't love." Dean says softly. "And Cas...men like you, don't love monsters like me."
Castiel is silent, even his whirring ceases.
Then he says,
"As much as I am able – I love you." His fingers touch Dean's own. "The man I was is me now...and likewise he loves you." His cold plastic fingers trace the deformed outline of Dean's tortured face. "So much of what I think is numbers...it's all coding and cause and effect...I miss chaos." Castiel says, and Dean understands.
He feels like chaos.
Another night, Dean asks Castiel if he remembers anything about his life.
"Bits and pieces." The robot muses. "What I remember the most..."
He goes silent for a while.
This seems to jolt him.
"What I remember most is feeling...feeling lonely." His fingers move on Dean's arm. "And feeling, just feeling."
"You should have him skinned." Sam says one day, watching Dean and Castiel cook lunch together.
"We haven't discussed it." Dean says in a warning tone.
"I've thought about it." Castiel says at once.
The brothers pause.
"And?" Sam pushes.
"I would like..." Castiel falters. "I would like to be here with Dean...and to not have to hide."
There's a brief silence.
"That settles it then." Dean says gruffly.
There really is no question as to the final result.
Sam is owed a favour by a man named Chuck Shirley, who does illegal skin-work for old the model D3M0N5's, for people who wanted a replica Lucy Lui or a Hugh Jackman.
They took him Castiel's pictures and he did his best.
The finished skin suit is uninspiring, a load of shapes and rolls of skin coloured latex – like a flesh condom. Dean watches as the robot that holds the dregs of Castiel Novak slips into its old skin – it's new skin.
Once complete, the effect is striking. Real black hair bought form wig makers, pale skin that feels silky and real and eyes that hold all the radiance of the blue lights quashed beneath.
Castiel blinks for the first time and looks at Dean hopefully.
"Do I look human?" he asks, and the vocal work has paid off - a deep, natural rumble escapes the robot's new mouth.
"Better than human." Dean decides, still amazed by the miracle of it.
Castiel raises a perfectly crafted, warm hand and touches Dean's injured cheek. Dean can feel the softness of the skin.
Castiel can feel the lines on Dean's face, the warmth of life underneath, for the first time.