When Castiel was finished piecing back together Dean's soul, he stepped back and examined his work. He was tired and wrung out and it had taken days, but Dean was whole again. And he was magnificent. Castiel understood now everything God saw in him that none of the angels did. And the blackness in him from the Pit, the darkness and the danger… those were part of the beauty. They made him exquisitely human. Without those qualities, Dean may as well be Michael.

Dean wandered over to a mirror and took a look at himself. He shied back at first, reluctant to look himself in the eye, then forced himself to look. His eyes skittered all too quickly over his body before he turned his back to his reflection. "Not bad… though you could have made me a couple inches taller."

Castiel cocked his head, puzzled. "Why?"

Dean smirked, and it was different again. Not soft like before, not twisted like in Hell, but tight like it was painful… but a different pain from the pain of Hell. Castiel never knew human expressions could be so nuanced. "No reason," Dean replied.

Castiel should have been able to anticipate Dean's next question, if only he'd paid more attention to the other Winchester. "Do you know if my brother… is Sam alive?" Dean held his breath like he was afraid to know the answer but could not help but ask the question. And his world would hang on the answer.

"He is."

The relief that took hold of Dean was powerful to witness. "Oh, thank God for that."

"Not really," Castiel mumbled. He didn't like to talk about Sam Winchester, the boy with the demon blood. His fate was a mangled thing, and Castiel knew without really knowing Dean Winchester that the crooked path Sam walked would also be traveled by his older brother.

That Dean had gone to Hell was proof enough that Dean took on Sam's burdens as his own.

Thinking about such things made Castiel uncomfortable. He longed to return to Heaven, where although things weren't as they had been before, they were still less complicated. Familiar and home.

"We should restore you now… you've been away from Earth too long."

"No arguing with you on that one." Dean seemed to take a moment to steel himself. "I'm ready."

Castiel moved forward, preparing to bundle Dean up and slide him back into his body. It would only take him a moment to repair the damage wrought there… manipulating physical matter was child's play next to the weave of the soul. Castiel's grace would dance with the speed of familiarity while he remade Dean's body… he'd learned it all while he'd been stitching together Dean's soul.

Then Dean would be one of themagain, one of the human souls walking the Earth about which Castiel knew far too little.

He wondered how much living would change Dean. He wondered how well a human could adapt to life after going through Hell. He wondered how much of the Dean he'd come to know would remain in the Dean that would be resurrected in Illinois.

If nothing else, interesting times surely lay ahead.

Just as Castiel was reaching out to take Dean back to his life, Dean stopped him. "Wait…"


"… what's your name?"

Castiel couldn't help a tiny smile. Nearly a decade together, and Dean had never asked.

"My name is Castiel."

Dean turned that over in his head a few times, like he was memorizing it (Castiel didn't have the heart to tell him not to bother, he probably wouldn't remember). Then he made an approving noise. "Cas, huh? Okay."

The truncated version made Castiel pause. No one had ever called him anything but his full name. He considered, only briefly, correcting Dean. But he didn't. He suspected Dean had done it intentionally, and Castiel couldn't say he found it unpleasant.

When Castiel began to reach out again, Dean stopped him once more. "Cas?"

Yes… the nickname was dangerously pleasant.

"Yes, Dean?"

"Hey, when I'm back and kicking… stop by sometime, okay?"

Castiel tried not to look too pleased at the request. "I will." In all likelihood, Dean wouldn't remember him, but strangely enough that prospect didn't bother Castiel as much as he thought it would.

He would never tell his brothers and sisters just how much he looked forward meeting Dean all over again.