There is a small blonde figure standing in the first motel room when Sam and Dean finally return to hunting again.
"Claire?" Sam started, but Dean interrupted with his half-desperate, "Cas?"
The figure tilts her head, blonde hair spilling over her shoulder. "Hello, Dean. Sam."
Dean reached her first, and for a second, Sam expected his emotionally-stunted brother to let bygones be bygones, and just hug their yet-again resurrected guardian angel. No need to worry, because Dean is just as emotionally-stunted as he was this morning. The hunter grabs thin little hoodie-clad shoulders and shakes the angel hard enough to rattle Claire's brains.
Dean is also swearing. Sam moved to intervene, but Castiel swiveled his-her head and fixed Sam with a familiar blue stare.
"Claire's brain is not in any danger at this time. Nor is she being exposed to Dean's vocabulary; I have put her to sleep."
"Oh," Sam replied, still trying to balance shock, relief, disapproval, and fear.
Dean suddenly cracked, and yanked the tiny frame against his chest. Sam found the sudden surprise on Castiel's small feminine face kind of hysterical, but he's still suffering from hallucinations and lack of sleep so hysteria is understandable. So is giggling.
Castiel seemed willing to forgive him. Or at least forget about him. The angel's lips twitch, and her eyes closed, leaning just a little bit into Dean's hold. Then those blue eyes fly open again when Dean hauled her away again to continue the shaking and swearing.
Sam waited for Dean to pause for breath, and quickly liberated Castiel.
"Thank you, Sam. I—" and Castiel was cut off with a little yelp by the sudden Sasquatch squeeze that Sam bestowed. Castiel sighed heavily, and little arms hesitantly wound around Sam's neck to return the embrace. "Thank you, Sam."
A perfunctory "You died, Cas!" informed them that Dean had found his ability to speak again.
"It has become somewhat of a theme," Castiel agreed as Sam set him-her back on the angel's own two feet. "I would not have assumed such mercy in light of my latest transgressions, but my Father—"
"You died, Cas," and Dean poked Castiel hard in the chest before his brain caught up. Dean grimaced, and took a step back. "And you're a girl!"
"Claire Novak is the last of the bloodline," Castiel acknowledged.
Sam sunk onto the bed. "Jimmy?"
"I sent him on before the vessel could give out entirely," Castiel bowed the new blonde head respectfully. "He did not suffer. I would not allow it."
"You would not allow it?" Dean half-shouted. "Who are you to allow anything? Don't forget how we all ended up in this mess!"
"I have not forgotten," Castiel insisted, the rebuttal a different sound in Claire's high girlish voice. "I will spend the rest of my existence making it up to you, Dean."
"No, you willnot," Dean pushed Castiel into the nearest chair. "You're going to try fixing Sam, and then you're going to return Claire to her mother."
"That is not possible, Dean."
"What?" Dean growled.
Castiel chose the better part of valor and remained seated. "I am unwelcome in heaven at this time."
"I can't imagine why," Dean snorted.
"I have killed a great number of the host during my possession of Purgatory," Castiel informed him, as unaware of the eldest Winchester's sarcasm as ever. "Should I endeavor to return, I will likely be hunted despite my restoration. I cannot blame them for that, and perhaps I owe it—"
"You can't go back if you're in danger, Cas." Sam is reasonably sure that Dean will agree with him . . . later at least.
"Not at the present." Castiel looked to Dean again. "As you are well aware, I am somewhat of a hazard on earth without a vessel." Castiel met Dean's gaze with the solemn childish air that had personified their guardian angel even in an adult man's body. "I cannot release Claire at this time."
Dean swore, throwing his hands up as he stalked back out of the motel room.
Sam winced, and after a long moment crouched down in front of the tiny angel. "How did Amelia take it?"
Castiel raised one hand to his-her cheek, and Sam bemusedly notes the sparkly purple nail polish that Claire had left the angel with. "She slapped me," Castiel said simply.
"She slapped you," Sam repeated dumbly.
"To be fair, Amelia Novak is under considerable emotional distress and cannot be held accountable for her actions," Castiel lectured. "I bear her no ill will."
"Considerable emotional . . . Cas, you took away her husband. And now you've taken Claire, and . . . and you're practically made out of marble! Is she alright?"
"I could not leave her unhealed despite her protests," Castiel almost looked offended or just really confused. "Her hand is no longer broken judging by the number and velocity of the objects she threw at me afterwards."
Sam ran his hand through his hair roughly, trying to ignore the movement in his peripheral vision. "Okay. Okay . . . just . . . don't mention that part to Dean." Castiel looked ready to protest, but Sam shook his head. "Just don't. Not yet."
"She's kind of cute, isn't she Sam? Must look just like her mother, and you remember Amelia, don't you, Sam? All that juiced-up blood that you never got a taste . . ."
Sam pressed down hard, pulling his stitches yet again.
"Sam," Castiel repeated, and a small hand closed over his. "You are hurting yourself."
"That's the idea," Sam told him hoarsely.
Castiel frowned, and raised two cool fingers to Sam's brow. Abruptly, the pain disappeared and his hand had full mobility again, but Lucifer flickered back into view with the easing of Sam's pain.
"Well, isn't that just . . . neat?"
Sam groaned. "The pain . . . it helps me tell the difference . . . it makes him go static-y . . . it . . ." Sam trailed off as a sharp flash of pain in his wrist brought reality back into focus.
Castiel fixed him with a look, and retracted the sparkly nails from the sensitive points. Sam can still see the indents white against his skin. "There are ways to inflict pain without crippling yourself, Sam Winchester."
"But generally not faster ones," Sam acquiesced, flexing his hand. "Thanks by the way."
"It is a little thing," Castiel dismissed him. "I would do more if I could. I will do more, Sam. I will search—"
"You'll sit back down," Dean called out, having barged through the door in time to stop Castiel from fluttering off halfway around the world. "And eat this." Dean pressed a bag of chips into Castiel's hands; he must have been outside the main office, because he's scored a true vending machine dinner.
"I do not require—"
"You require," Dean snapped. "Until you can give Claire back, you're going to eat three meals a day. You're going to sleep (or at least fake it), and shower, and wear clean clothes, and try not getting yourself killed for once."
"I will endeavor—"
"There is no try, only do," Dean cut him-her off again. "You're going to take care of her," Dean proclaimed, "and you're going to stay right here with us, so I can make sure you're doing it. If you're not with us, you're with Bobby. No exceptions."
Castiel blinked, and Sam felt it safe to assume the Star Wars reference went right over the angel's little blonde head. "Supervision is to be expected given my offense," Castiel tried cautiously.
"You bet," Dean huffed, tossing a package of sugar cookies Sam's way. "Eat."
Castiel cautiously placed a chip in her-her mouth. Whether or not it met with angelic approval was any one's guess from Castiel's blank expression, but she obediently finished the bag as desired. Castiel hesitated, and Dean was ready for her.
He flipped his cell phone open and dialed the only other speed dial. "Hey, Bobby . . . yeah, I know what time it is. We've got someone here to talk with you, and I just want to tell you that yeah, it's the real deal. Here ya go."
Castiel widened her eyes in what Sam knew to be pure panic even if it mostly looked bewildered on Claire's face. She stood holding the phone out at arm's length until a bellow on the other end of the line encouraged her to cautiously bring the phone to her ear.
"Hello, Bobby Singer."
"You feather-brained idjit . . . !" was just audible as the phone rapidly moved away again.
Dean shook his head, pointing at the phone. "Nuh-uh-uh. Punishment."
Castiel obediently raised the phone a second time and her face settled into the cool expressionless stare that may have fooled lesser men, but her audience was a pair of bemused and experienced Winchesters. Bobby's rants were nothing to sniff at.
Sam graciously pretended he couldn't hear the dressing down Bobby was providing. Dean seemed to enjoy it. After another minute, they couldn't hear it anymore, and Castiel held the phone out to Dean. "I am to report to Bobby at Room 11, White Sulphur Springs Hotel in New York. He wishes to further yell at me in person. Is that acceptable?"
"You can go," Dean nodded almost pleasantly. "Just come back here right afterward."
Castiel nodded, and promptly disappeared. Sam sighed. "You know this isn't going to last forever."
Dean leaned back against the headboard. "But I'm going to enjoy it for as long as it does."
"Do you think Cas will be alright with Bobby?"
Dean rolled his eyes. "He'll be fine. Bobby just wants Cas in reach so he can test him for everything on the planet. Or hug him. Or both."
"Her," Sam corrected, because it seemed like the thing to do.
Dean groaned. "When did my life turn into a supernatural soap opera?"
Sam didn't point out their tragic childhood, their unknown half-brother, inability to manage a functional relationship, the brief paternity scare, or alarming tendency to overcome Death (literally) at every turn. Furthermore, Sam didn't point out that Dean liked his soaps. Sam was—in his own humble opinion—in the running for a 'Brother of the Year' award.
Sam did however point out one thing. "You can't stay mad at Cas forever."
Dean is quiet for a long moment, and Sam tried to stay focused on his brother. He can't help flicking his eyes to Lucifer's favorite corner, but for once nothing is there. When he turned back, Dean is smiling grimly.
"He crossed a line, Sam."
Sam couldn't argue with that, but still . . . "She."