Title: The Curse of Bittersweet Kisses
Chapter 39
Summary: AU: As a god, Castiel does care for his subjects. He bestows gifts to those who are faithful and after considering Dean's words, he decides to give Dean a gift to display his own benevolence.
Rating: T
Disclaimer: Supernatural was created by Eric Kripke. No disrespect is meant with this work of fan fiction.
Notes: Thank you to all who've read this piece!


Upon arriving at the camp, Jo and Sam went to update Ellen and pick up Beth while Jody helped Dean get Castiel to the infirmary. Castiel appeared to be taking Jody's admonishment to 'let her help him' to heart, leaning on her as they walked. She kept an arm around his waist.

Mindy was alarmed when they walked in the infirmary door, her eyes going wide. "Jimmy, what happened?"

Jody eased Castiel into a chair. "He got shot while we were out."

"How?"

"It was an accident," Dean told her. "Go find Morgan for us."

"Are you okay?" She knelt beside the chair. "You're awfully pale."

Castiel nodded. "I'll be okay, but I really need Morgan to look at this."

"Is the bullet still -"

"Mindy." Dean deliberately used a harsher tone and she blinked, standing. "Find Morgan. Now."

"Right. Sure." She turned and left.

Jody rested a hand on Castiel's uninjured shoulder. "I'll be in my cabin if you need me."

All in all, Dean thought Castiel was taking having been shot rather well. He was gritting his teeth and enduring the pain, though Mindy was right, he was very pale. Dean crossed his arms and leaned against the lower cupboards at the wall. "You'll feel better after she dopes you up."

"Good to know. I doubt I can feel worse right now."

"You could. Trust me. I've been on the worse end."

His response was slow in coming. "I know and I am sorry you had to go through those times, Dean."

He studied Castiel, noting the regretful turn to his expression. "You remind me of me some months back, apologizing for everything, whether or not it was mine to apologize for."

"I have a lot still to express regret over." His tone was mildly defensive.

"Maybe. There's a point though, where you have to let it go. Took me awhile to learn. Jo and Ellen helped me with that."

"I messed up the world. How can I let that go?"

He certainly had messed it up, but surely he realized there was only so much he could fix now? In fact, there was very little Castiel could fix for the world at large. "Apart from going on live tv and telling the world you're sorry, what can you do about it? According to Sam, Michael will fix the world."

"I should be the one to fix my messes." He frowned. "I made them and they're mine to clean up. I should be the one -"

Dean totally got where he was coming from on that. "The world isn't something you have the power to fix. Let Michael shoulder that one. If he'd gone with our plan of putting Lucifer back in the cage to begin with, you wouldn't have been so desperate against Raphael that you chugged the Purgatory souls and messed up the world, so really, he can take the weight of the world."

Castiel's lips twitched. "Shifting blame to Michael? Interesting method to propose for absolving myself of guilt."

With a shrug, he replied, "It works."

"And it is an accurate assessment of what could have happened had he accepted your plan instead of moving forward with his, though I'm not sure I can absolve myself of anything. I am still guilty of messing up the world whether he fixes it or not." He touched a hand to his shoulder and grimaced, glancing towards the door. "Where the hell is Morgan?"

"Probably on the other side of camp." Dean pushed off from the cabinets and sauntered towards him, grabbing hold of another chair and moving it near him. "What else do you want to take blame for?" He sat facing the back of the chair and rested his arms on the top of it.

"Everything."

"Care to narrow it down any?"

"I tried to be God."

"Very aware of that. Didn't work out so well, did it?"

"I was blind to what I was doing to you and to everyone. If I could take it all back -"

"Even Jo and Ellen?"

Castiel's hand lowered from his shoulder and he frowned. "Jo and Ellen?"

"You were about to say you'd take it all back if you could. Does that include them? Would you put them back in heaven now if you had the power?"

His head snapped back as if Dean had punched him. "No! Of course not! I never should have raised them to begin with, but since I did and they're here…. I meant the bad things, Dean, not the good ones. Jo and Ellen, they're the good things. I think they're the one good idea I had during that period."

"I might agree with you there."

He leaned forward, peering closely at Dean. "When they showed up here, I couldn't believe it. Jo was pregnant and I was ashamed for how I'd treated her and you together, but you're good for each other. She balances you and your daughter is the most precious child I've ever seen." His features relaxed into a slight smile. "You two made something together from that situation I put you in. You took my bumbling meddling in your lives and made it good despite me."

The door opened, Morgan coming in, followed by Mindy. Morgan moved to the sink and began washing her hands. "Tell me what you did for him in the field," she ordered.

Dean related the steps that had been taken as Mindy sat beside Castiel and took his hand. Cas was going to have to talk to Mindy, too, and tell her the truth. He wondered how she was going to react.

Morgan smiled as she dried her hands. "Well, you did all the hard work for me. Thanks, Dean."

"Had to be done."

In minutes, Castiel was patched up properly and, as they only had a short window of time before he was gaga from pain killers, Dean told Mindy to leave for ten to twenty minutes. He'd leave Castiel in her care after she returned. She didn't want to go, but did. Morgan excused herself to go find Sam.

"Well…." Castiel began. "What are you planning for me?"

He considered the question. "Not kill you. I meant that. You did fulfill the promise you made. That counts for a lot."

"I'm sorry it took so long. I should have realized the truth months ago. And I'm sorry for everything else. I was -"

"Misguided, desperate, arrogant, drunk on power?"

"Yes. I believe that pretty much covers it."

Dean nodded. "You're not him anymore, you know. Even I can see that and I've been pretty hard-headed. You're not the angel I first met, the one who helped save the world, or the one who took in monster souls. Neither are you the monster you became after that."

Castiel licked his lips and stared down at his hands resting in his lap. "I'm human."

"And all the things that come with it." Dean cleared his throat. He'd done a lot of thinking on the way back and he and Sam had thoroughly hashed out the situation. "Sam says I need to forgive you and verbally tell you that, so here goes: Castiel, I do forgive you, but it might take me some time to let it all go."

A ripple of relief crossed his features.

"It's been a rough couple weeks and I think I'm gonna have to remind myself every hour of every day for awhile that you made good on the promise. You should lay low and rest, make some basic decisions about how much you want people to know and things like that. If you want to be Jimmy now, we'll call you that. You've gotten pretty comfortable in that identity."

He shook his head. "No. I have to be myself: Castiel. I may not be who or what I was, but I am still Castiel in the end. I was hiding by pretending to be Jimmy and I'm ready to stop hiding. It's better if I don't hide anymore."

"Good decision. It's a hard one, though. Are you ready for that?"

He looked up. "I've done okay so far."

"Sure. But you've got people here only know you as Jimmy. Some might not be forgiving at all. Got a plan for that?"

The blue of his eyes seemed very bright. "The truth, Dean. My plan is to tell the truth. The cost of continuing to lie is more than I want to pay in the future. I'll take the consequences."

Mindy came back then, insisting she take Jimmy to his cabin.

Truth, Dean decided, was a good plan for all of them to adopt.


As much as Sam wanted to see Morgan, she needed to take care of Castiel first and he thought Ellen might kill him (or at least rough him up) if he didn't see her immediately. Besides, he wanted to hold his niece for awhile and know he wouldn't somehow hurt her because of Lucifer.

Jo reached for Beth as soon as they entered Ellen's cabin, taking her from her cradle and holding her close. "There's mama's good girl!"

"She's gonna grow," Ellen told her. "That greedy little miss sucked down formula all day like it's going out of style." Her gaze turned to Sam, filling with curiosity and worry. "So? Don't keep me in suspense."

Going to her, he knelt by her chair. "He's gone, Ellen. Lucifer's gone. For good this time."

She blinked fast, her lower lip trembling, and then she was holding him in a tight hug. "You guys did it."

"No," Jo corrected, "Sam did it. He was the only one who could." She began to explain and Sam was going to let her, but she sputtered to a stop before she'd barely begun and said with an almost giddy grin, " Why am I the one talking about this? You're the one with the brand spanking new clear mind. Take it away, Sam." She sat on Ellen's bed.

He got up from the floor and moved to the second chair. That clear mind he now had helped him answer Ellen's questions and when he finished, she grasped his hand in hers. "I'm so proud of you."

"You're gonna make me blush, Ellen."

"The color looks good on you. What now, though? Do you and Dean have a plan for the camp? You had about a six hour drive or so to talk it all out."

They'd made a tentative plan that mostly depended on outside influences such as Michael doing his promised job and the world beginning to mend. Leaning back in his chair, he nodded. "We talked." He looked at Jo. "Okay if I hold Beth awhile?"

"Sure." She handed the baby to him.

Beth felt good in his arms and he relaxed back, very glad he was well again. "The world won't see a difference for awhile. Lucifer was in my head, literally, and Castiel coming clean -"

"He talked to Dean?" Ellen stretched her leg with the cast out.

"Sort of," Jo told her. "They'll talk more today. He's ready to get it all out in the open."

"Which he?"

"Both."

"About time."

"Dean doesn't plan to kill him," Sam assured her. "It'd be too much of a mess and the time for that is long gone. Castiel coming clean isn't a world change in the big picture. It's a personal thing to us here." Beth opened her eyes, looked up at him, sighed, and snuggled against him. "Michael should take care of his end soon and then we can gauge the state of the world and decide how to respond. For now, we continue as we have been, taking close jobs, being watchful, and adjusting to everything that's happened in just a couple weeks." He licked his lips. "There's a lot to adjust to. It won't be quick or easy."

Jo stretched out on her side on Ellen's bed. "With Meg gone, the church might have trouble staying together -"

"That'd be a relief," Ellen murmured.

"Definitely," Jo agreed. "And as soon as the PD's are about half gone, that's less to worry about. They're not as much of an immediate threat. Besides, we've got Eleanor out there on our side helping with them -"

She was one of the things Sam had argued with Michael on. "She'll remain on earth. Michael won't change any of the marks on her from being filtered through Castiel, but he'll leave her alone. I fought for her because she did agree to help us."

Jo nodded. "Good. We can use all the allies we can get, even if they're technically monsters. With Crowley gone as well, the demons will all be fighting each other to see who can take over in his place."

"We'll have a reprieve on that end." Ellen shifted position. "Damn, I'll be glad when this cast is off."

"You still have a few weeks," Jo reminded her, sitting back up.

Sam stroked a finger across Beth's cheek. "When we begin seeing world changes, we can start going back to how life was before it all. Not completely back," he corrected immediately. "It's a different world and we're all different. We've changed and need to make allowances for that. Dean has a family to think of and I'd like to see if Morgan and I can go anywhere together."

Ellen nodded.

"We've got a good group of hunters here. Maybe we can be a big team or something. Work together and have a real network."

"I think that's a fine idea," Ellen replied with a smile. "We're all here, so why not utilize that?"

There was a knock on the door. At Ellen's call to come in, Morgan entered the cabin. She stopped just inside the door. Her expression was wary. "Sam? Can we talk?"

"I think we should." He got up, handed Beth to Jo, and followed Morgan out the door. She wanted to talk right then, but he insisted they wait until they had privacy. Once they were in her cabin and sitting, he waited for her first question.

"What happened out there? You were all gone for hours and then you get back and I can tell you're different than you were. Jimmy was shot, Dean seems strangely relaxed about it…. For that matter, so did Jimmy. Neither would say exactly how he got shot just that he did and it was an accident. Talk to me. Please. I need to know what happened."

"Not sure where to start, but the long story short is that Michael the archangel is out of the cage, Lucifer is trapped there, and in thanks for his rescue, Michael fixed my mind most of the way."

Her eyes widened. "So you're not suffering from hallucinations anymore?" There was a hopeful lilt to her question.

"No, I'll still have some, but they won't be anything needing medication. They'll be of the first type I told you about. The light ones. Basically, I'm no crazier than Dean now. Michael's words, not mine."

"How crazy is Dean?"

Sam laughed. "Not very by hunter standards. By world standards, we're both buckets and pretty much have been all our lives."

"Oh." She relaxed back in her chair. "Michael healed your mind."

"He did." He didn't tell her the other part of the deal.

"A supernatural fix -"

"It was a supernatural kind of crazy."

"Right." She nodded and glanced around her cabin. "Sam, are you sure you don't need the pills still? You're sure you're healed and well?"

"Positive." She was looking at him like she'd never seen him before. "What? What's that look for?"

"Since you're all healed and the issue it caused us is gone…. I think we should start again."

"Start again?"

She bit her lower lip, then sat forward, extending her right hand. "Hi, I'm Morgan, Jo's friend. You're Sam?"

He caught on to what she meant then and took her hand in his. "Hi Morgan. Glad to meet you."

"You're just like Jo and Ellen told me. They talked about you and Dean constantly."

He linked his fingers with hers. "I'd like to get to know you. Care to get a drink together sometime?"

She gestured at the small mini-fridge in the corner. "I've got a few beers in the fridge. Right now okay?"

"I think it's perfect."

Sam had almost forgotten how this felt. Getting to know someone. Discovering common interests. He looked forward to the process of discovering more about her. Maybe they'd work out and maybe they wouldn't. Time would tell.


While Mindy's help getting to bed was greatly appreciated, Castiel was very aware that he needed to tell her the truth and soon. She, of all people, couldn't continue to call him Jimmy if he was embracing himself again. He fell asleep quickly and woke in the middle of the night to find her asleep beside him on top of the covers. Castiel watched her for a long moment. In his eyes, Mindy was beautiful and he didn't understand why she wanted to be with him. Stretching out a hand, he touched her cheek.

After a moment, her eyes opened and she smiled, her happiness showing on her face and in her eyes. "How's the shoulder," she said in a soft voice that was just above a whisper.

"Hurts." It still hurt every bit as much as Dean, Jody, Sam, and Jo had cautioned him it would. They'd all been shot at some point, admitting those times as they'd gotten him into the car with Jody. Funny, he'd never known Jo had been shot until she'd mentioned it. It was funny because there'd been a point where he should have known everything there was about Jo Harvelle and he hadn't. Dean had known because she'd told him, something about scars she no longer had. Castiel hadn't followed that part of the conversation very well and the reminder that he'd raised her from the dead had sparked another round of apologies from him. Jo had cut him off, declared them even once more, and fastened his seat belt for him. "Hurts a lot. I don't really want to move."

"I'll get you a pain pill." Mindy started to sit up and he gently grasped her arm.

"Mindy, wait."

She turned back. "What? Why?"

"We need to talk first. I need a clear mind for this."

The joy slipped from her eyes, her smile disappearing. "Okay." She pulled her arm from his grasp and moved to sit cross legged where he couldn't reach her without moving. "Lay it on me."

"Lay what on you?"

She looked away. "You're breaking up with me, right? Sharon said it'd be coming soon."

Castiel stared at her, confused as to where she'd gotten that idea. "Shari told you that?"

"Uh…yeah."

"When?"

"Yesterday."

"Why?"

"Well, because…." She frowned. "Wait. Aren't you?"

"No. That's not what I wanted to discuss with you."

"Oh. Oh." She laughed. "Wow. I feel stupid right now. Sorry."

There was a flush rising on her fair skin and he wondered if he should ignore her embarrassment or attempt to alleviate it. Perhaps ignoring it would do the trick. "You may be upset with me anyway, however."

"Go on."

He took a deep breath and reminded himself that his new policy was to tell the truth. Honesty was best. "My name isn't Jimmy Novak. It's Castiel. Formerly an angel of the lord and a pretender god. "

She didn't seem shocked or outraged, staring at him like she expected more information. "Yeah? And…what?"

"I lied to you."

Mindy glanced away and back to him. "I had a tv, you know. And I read the paper, got online. I knew what you looked like."

Her calm acceptance was almost a letdown. "You knew?"

She moved closer. "Well…. I didn't know know. I mean, come on. How could I? General consensus around camp was that you could be him, but most likely weren't him, just a dead ringer."

"You thought I looked like him?"

"Sure. Hey, everyone has a twin somewhere, or so I've heard. You could have been his and hiding out here made sense either way. The Church of Castiel? Sort of embarrassing the way they've behaved the past months. I would have gone into hiding, too. Hiding because you looked like him? The way some people are nuts? Makes sense."

"You're awfully calm, Mindy. Think about this. I just revealed to you that I really am Castiel, the one who declared himself God."

"I live in a world where there are vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, and all sorts of weird things. If this," she gestured with one hand, "is what freaks me out, then there's got to be something wrong with me."

"Right. So everyone knew the entire time? The whole camp knows I'm here and no one said anything?"

She shrugged. "They didn't know it was you as Castiel. That was speculation because of the whole possible look alike thing. Dean said you were Jimmy Novak. People trust Dean. He said you weren't Castiel with powers to harm or heal anyone."

"It's true, Mindy. I'm mortal now, human. I have no powers at all."

"What happened? Can I ask that?"

"Help me sit up and I'll tell you how I got to this point."

When he was fairly comfortable and had taken a pain pill, he told her the story, skipping parts of it that weren't his to tell, such as how he'd met Dean exactly, and a few other details that weren't pertinent. By the time he finished, she was sitting back beside him.

"All that recent talk about redemption was really about redeeming yourself? It wasn't hypothetical?"

"It was an honest question. I've done what I can with the people here. As for the angels…. I won't be reinstated as an angel, not if Michael has any say, but I think I'm okay with that. I misused my powers and abilities and I need to be who and what I am now. Human."

"And you've been on a mission to ask for forgiveness from everyone you've wronged? Like some sort of twelve-step program?"

"I have been."

Mindy thought a long moment. "You've talked to everyone here that you personally need to make amends with?"

"Yes."

"What's left?"

"I don't know. That's the point I'm stuck at. I continue to feel like I'm missing something. There's someone I've forgotten. I've spoken with Jody, asked forgiveness from Bobby even though he's dead, and I talked to Ellen. I went to Jo, received full forgiveness from Dean and Sam, but I still feel empty inside, like it all means nothing even though I know it was necessary."

She bit her lip and looked down at the covers.

"What?" When she didn't answer, he prodded, "Mindy, tell me."

"I think you are forgetting someone."

"Who?"

She faced him. "God, Castiel. You're forgetting God. You attempted to take His place, you've admitted that. Have you asked His forgiveness?"

"No." He hadn't asked God's forgiveness for what he'd done and, if Sam's experience was anything to go by, God was there somewhere watching them all. He needed to ask forgiveness from Him as well.

"Try that then. I may be off, but it seems like you need to go there. If nothing else, you'll know you've gone to absolutely everyone you affected personally."

"What if He won't forgive me? I mean, He made me human in punishment."

Leaning over, she placed a kiss by his ear. "Try it, okay? I'm going to get a little more sleep before I have to go in to work. Breakfast shift again."

If he asked for forgiveness, would he receive it? His sin towards God was a big one, one that he wasn't sure was forgivable. He'd blasphemed and turned humans away from their faith. What if he could never receive forgiveness at all? Lying back down, he went back to sleep and woke just before dawn. He had big plans for the morning and set about preparing himself. He showered quickly, dressed, and had a light breakfast before making his way through the camp and into the woods.

As he passed Dean's cabin, he saw the light come on on Dean and Jo's side of it. A short ways away, Sam and Morgan were parting ways at her cabin door, Sam still dressed in the clothes he'd worn the day before. At the porch of the dining hall, Ellen was in the swing reading a book by the light above her and he knew Mindy was already working. He watched Jody leave the communications cabin with two other people to begin the early morning patrol of the fence line.

He followed the path through the woods and then down to the water, veering from the path until he got to a quiet place that had sand, yet wasn't quite a beach. It was too small to be considered one. There, he sat on a large rock and watched the sun rise over the water and trees. It was a peaceful place and perfect for what he had in mind.

Mindy was right. He'd talked to everyone except the one he'd actually hurt the most. Not that hurting Sam and Dean wasn't bad. It was. On a cosmic scale however, what he'd done to them didn't hold a candle to what he'd done to his Father. If he was honest with himself, and he was trying to be honest all the way around, he really should have been put in the cage with Lucifer for his acts.

His heart beat fast and he felt a little sick to his stomach. Apprehension rose up inside him, but he took a deep breath. This was something he hadn't done in a very long time.

"Father, I don't know if you're here. I think you probably are. Sam's evidence is fairly clear. I wonder if his mind was so damaged before Michael healed it that he was able to see you, the still small voice his faith allows him to hear. Or did you let him to give him hope and courage?" He uttered a nervous laugh. "Of course you let him. I mean…. You know what I mean."

Was it his imagination or had the area around him grown still? He could no longer hear any birds, nothing except the splash of water to the rocks and sand.

"I know what I've done and that my punishment for those things was just. I lost my way and caused others to stumble. I don't expect forgiveness for those things." He slid off the rock and onto his knees, then lower still, until he was face down on the sand. "I ask it, however. I ask for your forgiveness. No, I beg for it. Father, forgive me for all those things I've done. I was wrong. I was arrogant and self-serving and everything I never should have been. I'm sorry."

Castiel laid there for what felt like an eternity and, just when he thought there was no hope of having been heard, he felt a hand on his back. He raised his head and looked, but there was no one there.

"Father? Is that you?"

A voice sounded in his ear, the same voice that had pronounced judgment upon him at Dean's gravesite months earlier. "My child, you're forgiven. Go out and fight the good fight."

Castiel wept with joy as the weight of his sins slipped from him. He was a new man, cleansed and free.


Waking around dawn was something Dean was becoming used to. He got out of bed, changed Beth, and returned to the bed, gently shaking Jo until she woke. "Boob or bottle," he asked, trying to get Beth to latch on to a pacifier. She was having none of that, twisting away and crying.

Jo sat up, sleepily moved pillows behind her back, unbuttoned her nightshirt, and held out her arms. "I'll take her."

They spent a leisured hour getting ready for the day. The tasks of getting Beth ready to be out and about the camp had him thanking both Castiel and God for Jo. Without Jo, there'd be no Beth and without Castiel's actions, there'd be no Jo back in his life. Without God…. Like he'd said, he was wiling to entertain the idea that God was out there somewhere. There was what Sam called compelling proof to that end.

He was grateful for Jo and Beth. Not so much the hard journey to get here, but grateful overall.

Lying on the bed, with Beth between them, he clasped one of his daughter's small hands in his. "I ever thank you for her?"

"All the time." Jo's hand covered his. "Dean, before you left to go after Sam…. You said you love me, that you consider me your wife."

He nodded. "All true."

Her hand raised, touched his face. She traced his features with her fingertips, light, tickling touches. "I love you, too. I don't remember ever saying it out loud, but I have for months."

It wasn't difficult to see her love for him. It was in her eyes, her voice, her actions. Her love wrapped around him. "You remember how we talked about making a life together right after the assassination attempt? We had plans?"

"I remember."

He released Beth's hand to grasp Jo's, pressing a kiss to her palm before asking, "Jo Harvelle, will you try to live those plans with me now? It won't be easy -"

"Never is."

"True. It might even be impossible at times. But I know I want you with me for as long as we have."

"Even if that only means tomorrow?"

Dean knew what she was asking. Was he really ready to take a chance again? To face the potential heartbreak of losing her? He hadn't reacted well to the situation with Ben and Lisa. Yet, he'd already admitted he loved Jo, that his heart was in her hands. As much as he wanted to believe he'd loved Lisa back then, he hadn't. He'd cared for her, but knew without one doubt that he loved Jo and it was real. Could he face whatever came, good or bad?

Yes. He was already too deep to back out now. He loved Jo, loved their daughter, and wanted them in his life. He was ready to take this step. Maybe there would be pain and sorrow. Those things seemed to follow him around.

"Even if," he replied, then added with a smirk, "though I hope we've got more time than just a few hours because, sweetheart, I've got a ton of naughty things in mind that I still can't do to you for another few weeks."

She laughed. "Ditto."

He laughed as well and when the laughter wound down, Dean leaned over, careful of Beth, and kissed Jo. This time, there was nothing remotely bittersweet about it. The curse was lifted and they were blessed.


Epilogue, about a year later:

The camp gates were open.

The world was on the mend.

Michael had been true to his promises to Sam. He'd gathered the angels and swooped across the earth, destroying PD's in flashes of light. The news had reported that from satellite, the flashes had appeared to be a fire spreading across the earth. Occasionally, Michael would talk to Sam, telling him what was going on, but he did leave them alone. He kept his promise.

It seemed the cage had changed them all one way or another.

The Church of Castiel had collapsed, never recovering from the disappearance of Constance and the continued absence of Castiel. It's efforts to evangelize and take over the world had crumbled and governments were able to take back their countries. Restrictions were being lifted throughout the United States, military forces drawing back and relinquishing towns back to their residents, and crews getting started on rebuilding. Jobs had been created and it looked like things were getting better for the entire world.

Except on the monster front.

It was rumored that a new demon, one Crowley had been grooming, had taken control in hell. It was a young and quite ruthless female demon, they knew that much, and she appeared to be collecting all sorts of cursed objects. For what reason, they didn't know. One source claimed she'd been human not too long back and Crowley had gone at her full force to mold her and shape her as fast as possible, testing how quickly a demon could be made. The rumors were vague, but sources also claimed she had it in for the Winchester brothers and was looking for them. It could be any number of demons and Sam supposed they'd eventually have a showdown with her.

He watched Dean say goodbye to Jo and Beth. Dean was happy and Sam was glad about that. Dean deserved happiness. It had been a long time coming.

Dean picked up Beth and twirled her around. Her delighted giggles and screams made Sam smile. She was the very image of Jo. It was easy to see they were mother and daughter when they were side by side.

"Where's Morgan," Castiel asked, closing the trunk of the Impala. He'd been making sure they had everything they'd possibly need. "I thought she'd be here for the sendoff."

"We said goodbye earlier. She's giving a class right now." Their goodbye had been private and satisfying, their relationship slow to come together. Morgan had been worried his mind wasn't fixed, insisting they take things slow, but they'd worked things out. She and Dean still didn't get along well, but they did get along, each respecting the other.

"Right. I forgot that was today. That's where Mindy was going early this morning."

He glanced at Castiel. The human yoke had turned out not to be such a yoke for him after that day at Jackson County Sanatorium. Castiel had let himself begin to truly accept humanity, his relationship with Mindy becoming a committed one. She still led the way and Castiel followed her lead, claiming he loved her. "She didn't tell you?"

Sometimes Sam wondered if Cas really loved Mindy or if he just wanted the experience of loving someone romantically. He was still hard to read on some things, that being one of them. His plan of telling the truth hadn't been an easy road for him. Some people in the camp wouldn't forgive him for his lie on his identity, but it was a learning curve for him. Not everything would work out and it was another lesson Castiel learned. Saying you were sorry didn't necessarily mean forgiveness would follow.

"There's a chance I was…distracted."

Sam suppressed a laugh. From the look on Castiel's face, he could imagine why he'd been distracted. "Sure. We all have those moments."

He nodded and gestured at the trunk. "You're all set. Kits are all full and I added a few extra weapons just in case. Jody found reports of possible shapeshifters gathering in the direction you're going, not to mention the suspected ghouls Ellen and Jo were arguing about last night. Monsters are coming out to play again."

"Thanks."

"You're welcome." He clapped a hand to Sam's shoulder. "Be careful."

"We will."

Sam was looking forward to this trip. It hadn't been just him and Dean for awhile and this felt like a new, fresh start.


"Dean, come on! Burning daylight!"

At Sam's impatient tone, Dean shared an amused glance with Jo and drew her close. "Will you let me kiss my wife, already?"

They'd married on Beth's first birthday, making that day a double celebration of birthday and marriage. Jo had teased him that he only wanted it that way because it was one less date to have to remember. He didn't tell her she was a little right.

He was glad he'd asked her and that she'd accepted. The longer they were together, the more he realized that she fit well with him and that Castiel had actually had a good idea back then, though it had been difficult to see that at the time. Many things had been difficult to see.

"Then do it already," Sam called back. "A lot of people need saving out there. Let's get to work."

The words sparked a memory of a recurring dream he had and his good mood dialed back a notch. He kissed Jo, murmured a promise to try to come back in one piece, and moved to the car. "What did you say?"

"I said," Sam opened the passenger door, "A lot of people need saving out there. Let's get to work. What'd you think I said?"

Dean took in the scene around him. He noted the controlled chaos of their camp turned town and Jo and Beth standing to one side ready to wave goodbye. Castiel joined them and lifted Beth up so she could see easier. He saw Jody and Ellen at the gate discussing patrols and schedules with the guards they still kept in place, and the gate wide open, ready for he and Sam to head back out into the world. Dean saw himself and Sam, stepping back into a variation on their old life.

Hunting things. Saving people.

The family business.

His dream come to life in front of him. The past brought back in line with the present.

"That's what I thought."

Sam frowned, expression serious. "What's wrong?"

A prophetic vision? A peek of what had been coming in their future?

He took a deep breath. If it had been a vision, it was a good vision, with nothing bad about it. Dean entertained the notion of a vision for a second, then shook his head. Coincidence. That's all it was. A strong hope of his that he'd made happen. He had no gifts of that sort. Michael was wrong. Sam was the one who was special. Dean was just…Dean. He was an ordinary man living an unordinary life. "Deja-vu, man," he told Sam. "Deja-vu."

This series of jobs they were going on were the first ones he and Sam had gone out on together in a long time, but they were as ready as they could get, as their team could get them. For months, they'd been feeling out the state of the world and of the monster population. Jody, Ellen, Jo, and Castiel had combed through news reports and the papers that were getting back to print for anything that might be of interest. Other hunters had joined in the search. They'd given them several proposals and Dean appreciated that. Once he and Sam returned, more teams would go out, hunters slowly returning to work full-time.

They had a new system and, in his gut, he knew that system would work. It'd work because it was a system created by a team of hunters already working together towards a common goal. No more solitary hunters and if they came across one, they'd attempt to bring him or her into the family. This new world needed an organized hunting effort and it began right here. He and Sam first. Jo and Ellen next. Castiel and Jody after that, and then everyone else waiting to get back to work.

It felt right.

He got in, shut the door, and started the car. Sitting there together was like coming home. He and Sam, ready to kick monster ass and right those wrongs, fighting the good fight together. In some ways, they were once more the men they used to be, but older and wiser.

Dean grinned. "You're right, Sam. Let's get to work."

They waved goodbye as they drove out the gate and then, it was just them, Baby, and the road.