"...My self respect."
Dean looked like he'd been slapped with a wet fish. She hadn't expected that - the wet fish part, that is. After doing the math on (Dean + girl over age of consent) x last night on Earth she'd been expecting the first part. The wet fish face was just a bonus. Let's make merry. Merry was a weird word to hear from Dean. Jo could just about picture him singing it during a Christmas carol if she adjusted her Dean mental image by a factor of eggnog, but to hear him say it with that 'I'm absolutely sure you might possibly, potentially, say yes to this... maybe' look on his face was too much.
She'd pictured her eventual invite to ride the Dean train as having a bit more, well, Dean in it. A horrible bet with a 'loser buys drinks' rider or being hustled at a game of darts. Actually, that one would never happen. She'd been taught how to throw a dart precisely so she could hold her own against skeevy bar guys. Dean would know that. Dean was the one who'd taught her.
Jo picked up her beer and gave Dean a look of comfort before she walked away. A look that promised she wouldn't tell Sam or anyone else that he'd just flamed out like the Hindenburg, at least not until they either did or did not die the next day.
Speaking of death... Jo studied Castiel. He was alone, staring at Bobby's chessboard like his opponent carried a scythe. Castiel was interesting. He was supposed to be this celestial super warrior gone rogue but Jo couldn't shake the feeling this was not his home turf. The complexities of straightening his tie seemed beyond him. No matter he could drink like a Sherman tank, that still couldn't be a good sign. She knew he was battle tested, she'd heard the tale of how he'd died so heroically on team Free Will's behalf that Chuck had to order three specialty maid services to clean bloody angel innards out of his carpet.
Despite all this Jo couldn't shake the idea that Dean had bounded into Bobby's house like a kid. 'Hey guys, look at the awesome puppy that followed me home! Can we keep it? Can we bring it to the holocaust with us?! Puh-leeeeeze?'
The moment that froze her attention on their new sidekick replayed in her mind. 'I think I'm starting to feel something.' He'd looked up at them like he hoped his statement pleased them.
'Oh, honey,' she'd thought. 'Satan's gonna swallow you whole.'
That thought was chased all evening by its follow-up: Literally. She had no idea what constituted Lucifer's idea of a good time, but eternal cannibalism of the one rumpled, unkempt little brother that stood against his imminent dominion over the planet was probably not off the menu.
This dude is toast.
"Are you winning?"
He looked up from the game with a look of surprise. "Oh, no. I was just using the pieces to map potential strategies. I'll let everyone know if I find something."
Jo took a swig of her beer. "Strategies. Against the devil."
"In a town we don't know. Against how many demons we don't know. With what powers we don't know."
Castiel looked back to the board. "It does make it difficult to know where to put the pieces."
Jo laughed and finished off her beer. "So where are you sleeping tonight?"
Castiel didn't look up. "I don't require sleep."
"I was thinking you could bunk with me," Jo tried again.
"Thank you," Castiel replied. "But I don't require sleep." Castiel rolled the white queen between his fingers in contemplation. He still didn't look up.
Jo took the queen out of his hand. That got his attention. "Castiel, let me try this again. We're going to die tomorrow, right?"
Castiel gave her what she assumed was a look he wore often, an I'm not sure I follow you look, though heaven knew he followed Dean everywhere. Still, he replied gravely. "Yes, it seems certain."
"Good. We agree on that. And now I'm saying why don't you stay in the room with me tonight?" She looked hard at the man, or rather the angel in man's clothing. She refused to give anyone older than Jesus H. Christ any more hints than that.
Jo enjoyed the wide-open expression on Castiel's face. She thought she could track his thought process until the point she was making finally made contact, recognition landing in his eyes liked a skipped pebble in a wide, blue lake. "I don't think... that would be inappropriate tonight."
Jo worked the response over in her mind and saw two possible interpretations: either that was a sentence and a half adding up to 'nice knowin' you,' or it was all one sentence meaning 'game on.' "Is that a yes?" She reached out and placed her hand in the empty one of his that had held the white Queen and stepped in close. If his answer had been intended as a no she wanted to offer a little human contact to perhaps sway him.
Castiel looked down at her hand in his even more intently than he'd studied the board just seconds before, if that was possible. "...Yes." He shifted her hand in his and interlocked their fingers.
From the intensity of the look that moved from their hands to her eyes, Jo could tell he'd never done that before. He'd probably never done a lot of things.
The intensity of his stare also told her he had the potential to be very, very good at them.
Castiel looked around the spare room Bobby had given them and ran over his varied opinions on what was happening. This was no den of inequity, and while he was never a creeper angel, as Dean once called them, he'd viewed enough of human sexuality to know it was a gift often treated with respect both inside and outside the covenant of marriage. Because of this he didn't believe his father considered it a sin outside of marriage, as so many of his father's devotees claimed. Instead, Castiel viewed human sexuality much the same way he viewed alcohol, a gift of kindness and consolation. A powerful gift, to be sure, but not something to be demonized.
Evil couldn't create something so generous, only profane it.
But still... He watched as Jo turned down lights in the small room. The bed folded out from the sofa, and Castiel would not have been ashamed to admit it looked tricky to manage. Maybe it wasn't tricky at all, but watching Jo work it made him feel clumsy. Or maybe the thought of what was about to happen did.
Jo found an old silk scarf, no doubt once worn by Bobby's wife. It was yellow, and when Jo placed it over the one lit lamp Castiel was relieved it wasn't red. A red light would've felt... licentious under the circumstances. The yellow made the room feel sunlit, filled with the warmth of home.
The sofa-related tasks complete, Jo stood close to Castiel, watching his reactions. He was unnerved to notice he already had his back to the wall, trapped. Also, that Jo could apparently read his thoughts.
"Don't be nervous. Have you done this before?"
With a flash of insight, he suddenly understood she already knew the answer to this. She'd known it even before she'd invited him to bed. She was asking to be kind, to offer the conversation somewhere to begin. "Nearly. Dean tried once."
It wasn't until much later in his time on Earth that he understood why that garnered such a reaction.
"Really? Dean Winchester... I owe my mom a twenty now."
When Jo stopped laughing he continued. "He brought me to a home for professional women. You can imagine the profession."
Jo nodded as if this cleared up a mystery. "Ahhh. And that didn't work out so well?"
Castiel felt his vessel flush red in the face. "What she was offering... it felt like too much. I wanted to offer her something in return. I could see she was still hurting from an old wound. I attempted to comfort her." The memory always gave Castiel an urge to avoid eye contact. "She did not appreciate my bringing it up."
Jo reached up a hand to touch his cheek. "Well, let's just start at the beginning."
With that, she leaned in and placed her lips over his as sweetly as a saint might. What followed was less saintly, though no less beatific. The angel watched from within his mind as reactions and counter-reaction washed over his form in waves. He marveled as instincts that must have been bred in the bone curled up through his body towards this sudden affection like flowers growing towards light.
When Jo pulled her lips back he wanted to protest, to clutch at the last moment as if nothing could ever follow. Instead, those same instincts held him back as he watched her slowly remove his coat and tie, aware somehow this delicate choreography was part of what had just happened, as well as everything to come. He knew when she lifted her arms over her head that he had the right to remove her shirt and bra for her, to run his fingers over her skin, her ribs, the subtle beginnings at the side of her breasts... He did not know where this knowledge came from, but in the fake sunlight of the room he felt their actions were safe somehow, protected from the darkness outside, and the darkness to follow.
After she'd removed his shirt he could wait no more. He kissed her this time, initiating something the way a child rolls a snow ball down a hill, not knowing he could start an avalanche but yearning to start one just the same.
It was then Castiel began to understand kissing. Angel life had no equivalent, and it always looked so awkward in humans, and so often perfunctory, he'd assumed it was a tradition whose meaning had been lost. Now he understood it was never lost, only hiding in rare moments. Like the moment you realize skin wants for the comfort of other skin, of warmth, of touch, of... her skin is so warm, like...
There was nothing in his eons of experience to fill the void at the end of that thought. The closest he came was the rush of heat he'd felt in his vessel when he'd realized Annael had spent her last human night with Dean. He'd thought then only what he was trained to think, that no matter how human she'd been that night it was a vile thing to engage a human in sexual congress. It encapsulated everything low and base about the fallen.
Now he knew otherwise. Now Castiel understood what he'd felt had more to do with covetousness and fear of falling himself, fear of tripping - if not diving - over the cliff between the worlds. He'd felt betrayed that this gift, this intimacy, was as forbidden to those who strove to protect the Earth as it was a birthright to those who lived on it.
He also understood now why it was forbidden, why for angels it was locked away behind a great wall of words like 'perversion' and 'profanation': Only those forced to live and die by their choices get to make this choice. Angels had no right to choose, to decide anything for themselves. To equate all independence with a depraved nature was a good way to keep the troops in line. His former superiors were smart to portray vile sexuality as the root and end of all doubt, he had to grant them that.
Free will or no will. There were no half measures this close to the ground.
Long ago Castiel had chosen free will - not for himself, but even defending the gift God had, in his wisdom, given to others had cost Castiel the surety that came with his position as the good little soldier of the family. And free will came with all the doubts a mind could hold. Castiel wondered if there was some sort of performance he was expected to give tonight. If Jo's mercy would extend to letting him be a passenger on this ride. Castiel suspected it might, but this didn't strike him as fair to her. He pulled away from the kiss long enough to sweep her body up into his arms and carry her to the mattress. He wasn't certain of much on this new terrain, but that much he could do.
It wasn't long after that last display of certainty that Castiel came to, splayed like a discarded rag doll, on his side, facing the wall. He felt a strange, cool breeze rush over him from what had once been a window.
"Back with the world, I see." Jo leaned over and placed a kiss on his lips. For a brief moment, gratitude welled up in Castiel at this kindness. Even while teetering on the brink moments before, he hadn't want to fall if it meant losing that precious new commodity of touch, of human warmth.
Speaking of warmth... "What happened to the window?" It took no more than the words leaving his mouth before he remembered. His true voice.
Castiel immediately started to get up when a (warm, so warm) restraining hand held him firmly in place. Jo had already covered herself in pajamas and now sat on the edge of the bed by his side, a toohbrush sticking out of her mouth. "Don't you dare!"
Castiel escaped from under her grip. "But I have to apologize." His hand was almost on the door.
"I already did," she said, taking the toothbrush out and putting it in a glass by the bed. "And you're awfully naked."
He looked down. Fair point. Castiel was so unused to being without clothes he almost hadn't noticed.
After quickly replacing his clothing he looked out the door to see... not what he was hoping for. Bobby stood down the hall, a broom in hand and a pile of broken glass at his feet.
"My apologizes." Castiel quickly 'healed' the windows, but not before catching a thunderous glare.
He returned to the room just in time to see Jo seat herself on the edge of the bed gingerly. "Are you hurt?"
Jo stretched, her arms reaching high over her head. "Not really. Don't worry about it."
"Don't worry about it." Castiel turned the statement over in his mind. "I don't know what that means." He decided the best course of action was to sit by her side on the bed. He went so far as to touch her shoulder in an encouraging manner. If she was allowed to kiss him even though the act was over, he reasoned, he should be allowed to touch her, as long as he was being supportive.
"It means women spend more time not having sex than having it. And hunters spend even less time having sex, despite the impression you might have gotten from Dean. It can take a lot out of you."
Castiel sank further into the bed and let the concerns he should've had before wash over him now. "I'm sorry. Your offer was so surprising I didn't consider how it might go wrong." He very much did not want to say what came next but as someone whose existence revolved around carefully considering the potential ramifications of every strategy, he felt honor bound to make up for his oversight. "If there's any pain or... tearing I could heal you."
To his surprise, rather than admonish him for not thinking through all the possible ways it could go wrong in advance she instead sat up and leaned her head on his shoulder. Castiel was beginning to appreciate that the methods for offering kindness could be as varied as the moments they happened in. Without waiting for permission or denial he reached up to stroke her hair. It still smelled like the shampoo she used. Something cheap, cloying, made to smell like baked apples. Castiel thought it perfect in every way.
"It's alright. But for future reference, there are ways to make things easier on your dates. We just skipped them. That's on me," she hastened to add. "You were just so fascinated by everything, I didn't want to hold you back. It's not often you find someone who treats every moment like it's a gift or something. If I'm honest, that's why I invited you to spend the night." She pulled her hair back out of her face. "Dean's great and all, don't get me wrong. And if we had another ten years ahead of us, sure, why not? But I didn't want my last night, my last time on Earth to be someone else's forty-seventh."
Castiel felt her gaze on him now in a different way than before. She wasn't noticing him or considering him. He felt like she was seeing him. "I knew you wouldn't be like that. For you it would be important somehow."
"Of course." Something about this plain, obvious response must have been just right for Jo because she leaned a little further into his shoulder. Her breath felt warm on his neck.
"Oh, of course" she mimicked. "I don't think you get how rare you are, Cas." After a moment, she added "I guess this is my way of saying I had a good time too. But, yeah, there are ways to make it easier. Like helping your partner finish, or at least really get going, before you start."
Castiel stared at her. He said the next two words with a look that implied all the salvation in the world was on the line. "Show me."
The ceiling, the bed, and the rest of the room rushed into Castiel's awareness as he fell deep into the mattress. He still cradled Jo in his arms as they panted for air. When he inhabited his mind and not just his vessel again, he noted that at least this time the windows were still intact. He'd learned to hold back his true voice now. "Better?"
Jo was catching up on some much needed oxygen. "Much."
Castiel watched her recover. He felt the chemical agent in his blood that told him they were tied now. Not exclusively, but eternally. There would always be a part of him that remembered and held precious a part of her. His mind couldn't wait to replay the recent moments, like he was trying to catch them, so it did as soon as his thoughts could be gathered. When her moment had been near he'd felt a primal need to imprint himself on it, to tie her experience of it to him in some intractable way. As she seemed to lift off the bed he'd caught her mid-air and kissed her, acting on a frantic instinct. If he couldn't arrive with her he had to remind her this moment came somehow from him, from something they'd found with each other, not apart.
He'd been so overwhelmed in the rush of the moment he'd asked if he could start over again almost without words (almost - even with all the instincts of a man he still hadn't mastered unspoken communication yet). She'd agreed with a kiss that felt as open, as wrecked, as any of the more R-rated things they'd done that night. It was different the second time. Less like exploring a beautiful, terrifying new country. More like coming home.
From his now thoroughly debauched state, Castiel studied her as she roused herself enough to put her pajamas back on. They were white, thick, covered with simplistic sketches of reindeer. Not at all what he pictured for the young hunter. Without enough energy to edit his impulses, he reached out and brushed the soft fabric.
She held her arm out for his further inspection. "If you ever get to be human, you should know pajamas are one of the best parts."
Castiel shifted himself to sit up a little. He was starting to feel self-conscious again, now at how boneless he felt himself to be. And it wasn't often tidbits of humanity were offered like this. "Why?"
Jo pulled thick socks over her feet. "Because they're pure comfort. They're just there to make life easier. Most things like that get looked down on, but pj's are different. If you've got your pajamas on, you may still have to go save the world or something, but people think twice about asking you. You're not expected to do anything for anyone else. It's like a way to draw a line in the night. That was the world's time, this is my time."
Thinking that might be a clue about the end of the evening, Castiel got up and also got dressed. "Thank you." That didn't feel like enough somehow, so he added "Dean and Sam don't often stop to explain things."
He wasn't sure if he was supposed to leave or stand at attention or what, exactly. Instead, he sat at the edge of her bed.
"I didn't think so." She shifted herself to sit by his side, leaning once again into his shoulder. He noted that this simple, asexual act may in fact be his favorite discovery of the evening. "The best kind are extremely soft, and extremely silly. The sillier the better."
"Why?" It would be a long time before Castiel realized how wearisome it can be to be forever hearing the word 'why.' Especially as Jo didn't seem to mind.
"So you know no one will take you seriously in them. It's the next best thing to being naked with someone, really. To be totally comfortable and totally ridiculous with someone, it's very intimate."
"I see." He didn't, but it wasn't a conversation to push the night before their impending deaths.
"The best are always super cheap at thrift stores. I don't know why, maybe because people give them as gifts when they can't think of anything else, so every second hand store has them. I've never spent more than four dollars on a pair of pajamas, but I'll miss them if we all get blown up or eviscerated tomorrow."
It would also be a long time before Castiel realized the minds of hunters were different than those of others, and that sort of turn of the conversation was something most people wouldn't appreciate. Hunters didn't need beer or whiskey to bring out their cynical side, even in gentle moments like this. Their cynical side usually kept them alive so they fed it daily, even hourly, like a guard dog.
Still, he felt the conversation ought to go elsewhere. And Dean was rarely in such an open, giving mood as this. "What else will you miss?"
"I don't know. I'm trying not to think about it." Jo looked down at her ridiculous pajamas for a moment. "I always wanted to see the northern lights. I always thought we'd have more time, or maybe a case further north. It never seemed like something I'd have to make time for. So there's that."
Castiel looked around the room for a moment. If Jo had looked up from her own thoughts, she might've wondered why he reached for her shoes and a blanket. "Canada or Finland?"
Jo smiled, still in her own world. "Finland. Can you imagine? That would be so awesome."
As he handed her the blanket and placed two fingers to her forehead Castiel hoped against hope that those really had been signs and that he'd interpreted them correctly.
Jo opened her eyes and found herself sitting not on her bed, but on the trunk of a fallen tree by the shores of a vast, pitch black lake, surrounded by a vast, pitch black night.
She stood fast, dropping her blanket. "Wait... are we in-"
"Finland. Specifically, the shores of Lake Inari." Castiel stood and looked around them carefully. "We're in the arctic circle. You should put on your shoes."
Finland? Jo's mind reeled as she spun to take in the snow-drenched terrain of their frigid new landscape. Holy mother of... FINLAND? "But why are we here? How?"
Castiel walked to where Jo stood dumbstruck, his eyes bearing down deeply into her own. "We're here because the lack of nearby light pollution makes the stars appear brighter to the human eye. And because there was something you wanted to see."
Castiel took his intense gaze away from her face and focused on something over her shoulder.
Jo turned... "Oh my God." The Aurora Borealis pulsed brightly across a vast night sky exploding with starlight.
She felt Cas step in close behind her. He wrapped her in the blanket she'd so thoughtlessly dropped a moment before and handed her her shoes. "Yes. My father's handiwork is fairly obvious here."
"You think?" With that Jo shoved on her shoes with one hand and immediately began to race around the shoreline. Like an animal in new terrain, she explored everything. She stared at the amazing sky, peered into the dense forests at their back, even splashed her hands in the icy black water. "You weren't kidding about being in the arctic, were you?"
Castiel sat back on the fallen tree and watched her explorations. "I rarely kid."
Jo looked back to where he sat. He was surrounded by trees blanketed in fallen snow. The eerie shifting lights in the sky made the branches sparkle ever so slightly around him, the same way it glittered in black on the water. "Yeah, I'm starting to get that."
She returned to the sturdy trunk and sat by his side. She could see the ghosts form at his breath and gave him part of the blanket to pull around their bodies.
"Thank you, but you should really explore now. We won't be able to stay long."
"I can see fine from here." She leaned on his shoulder again, giving them the chance to wrap up even more tightly. "What time is it here? How is it not morning yet?"
"Finland is experiencing its dark season. It is morning, but it won't be light for a while yet."
"Oh." She placed her hands in and around his for warmth. "And what about you? Don't you want to go exploring?" From the way his blue eyes were lit from within she assumed he wanted to take in this extreme place as much as she did. Perhaps more so.
"I've explored this place many times. It's one of the few places on Earth that remind me of home. I come here when I'm in need of comfort."
She looked around again. "Good choice. I guess angels can't just hit a bar or a rock concert when they're down. And if you were there for most of them bible stories probably aren't very comforting." Jo enjoyed watching smoke form at her words. She always had. It was one of the things she'd always loved about winter.
She was surprised by the cloud that formed over Castiel's features. "Your bible gets so many things wrong."
"Yeah, but it's not all bad. I always liked the part about how God takes the lonely and puts them in families."
If anything, Castiel looked more struck down by that. "You know your bible."
"Job requirement. It helps you know what to look for in case some demon or some crazy guy decides to go all Leviticus on people. But I try to remember the good stuff too."
"Then you remember the part after that. 'He makes the rebellious dwell in a barren land.'" Despite the Pink Floyd worthy light spectacle above them, Jo noticed Castiel now only had eyes for the ground.
She turned on their makeshift bench to check if she was seeing this clearly. "Cas, do you think that's what you did?"
"I rebelled. And I knew what I was doing."
"Yeah, but against who?" That earned her a look. She had a feeling she could swim in his eyes if she really wanted to. But first things first. "Look at where you are. Not here in Finland, I mean with Dean and Sam. And Bobby. And, oh yeah, mom and me."
She didn't imagine angels of the Lord were checkmated on interpreting God's will too often, but when they were she had a feeling they face they made was the one Castiel made now. "You call this a barren place? Dean would die for you. It's so obvious, it's like it's stamped on his forehead. And Sam still looks at you like... I don't know, but he doesn't give that look very often. Mostly just to Dean and Bobby. Bobby, whom you've got drop-in rights with. And my mom doesn't invite just anyone to drink with her. She saves that for people's she's letting in. Like, really letting in." Jo wondered if this next bit was going too far, but screw it. "And I don't spend nights like this with just anyone either. I think you know that."
She looked back to the awesome - literally awesome - northern lights, unable to hold her gaze away for too long. "You say you rebelled against your bosses, Cas. Fine. I believe you. But if you really rebelled against God I don't think you'd be alive right now to tell the tale. And I know for a dead cert you wouldn't be in with a family like the Winchesters."
Jo wasn't sure if her words hit home, only that Castiel interlocked their fingers again. It took awhile before she found another thought worth disturbing the night for. "Thank you for this, Cas."
"It's nothing compared to what you shared earlier."
She smiled at him. "You shared quite a lot then too, you know. It wasn't charity."
That earned her another look.
She stood up and brushed the bits of tree bark from her pajamas. "Well, not entirely. I don't know enough about angels to know what kind of angel you are-"
"A poor example of one." He joined her in standing and brushing off the blanket.
"Maybe, still not sure on that. But for a guy, you're one of the good ones. I wouldn't be here if-"
Castiel suddenly held his finger to his lips. Hunter instincts kicking in, she quieted and turned slowly to see what he was looking at over her shoulder.
There, in the woods behind them, stood the tallest, most beautiful reindeer Jo had ever seen. "Oh my gosh..." Operating on an impulse from childhood, Jo couldn't help but offer it a wave.
"Maybe it wants to bond with your pants."
She laughed. The deer retreated into the woods as the unusual sound echoed around them. Not out of sight, but enough to signal the end of the evening. "You're awfully cheeky for an angel."
"I'm entirely serious. You have fourteen reindeer on your pajama pants."
"They're stick figures!"
"They're very well-rendered."
"Ha ha." She leaned into his trench coat. "Okay, let's get this over with."
"Are you sure there is nothing else you wish to see? The pyramids? The Eiffel Tower?"
Jo shook her head. "This is enough for one night. Let's not spoil it. You know, save something for next time." She could see a tiny shiver of disappointment run through her companion's deep blue eyes. She found she couldn't stand the thought of letting him down so she forced a smile. "Besides, it's tomorrow already in all those places. I want to be somewhere where tomorrow morning is still a ways off yet."
He nodded at her logic. "Of course." Still, she watched as he tried again, still so eager to please, to be of use. "It's still night in America. I could take us inside the Washington monument or the Statue of Liberty."
"Is that what you do with your free time? Break into government buildings and monuments?"
"No. If I have down time I usually fly miles over the surface of the Earth. God's work is beautiful from up there, and the cold feels good on my wings."
Jo could actually feel herself blink at this. "Wait, you have wings?"
Castiel... smiled was the wrong word. But she could see a small light in him turn up, a kind of certainty. "Close your eyes. Reach out your hand."
Just as Jo's fingers clasped over something soft and feathery they were gone.
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
THREE YEARS LATER...
Dean stared out the front windshield of the Impala and held back a sigh. It was raining. Specifically, it was pissing down on him and his all too human companion.
Sam was off at the town hall examining records on a haunted spa. Now it's a 'holistic retreat' but near as they can tell it used to be a sanitarium. Or rather an in-sanitarium. When were people going to stop building stuff on top of scary shit? Was he the only person who watched movies?
He was agitated on his own behalf, but mostly he was agitated for Cas. Poor guy gets what some otherworldly big-wig terms 'promoted' not two weeks back and already they've had to put down two ghosts and an Okami. He wishes more than anything he could give his friend a few weeks to learn how to use a credit card and tie his shoelaces.
Dean sneaks a look at Cas at a red light. The rumpled tax accountant look didn't last long after the bullet holes could no longer be magically healed. Now he wears jeans and hand-me-down tees from Dean. In a few weeks Dean will realize, or perhaps just admit, why seeing his angel wearing his shirts gives him a minor but palpable rush. Right now he was too angry. Angry Castiel had to die for them two times, or three if you count swallowing the Leviathan and then honor-killing himself to atone for his sins (which Dean did count now that he knew how much of that came from Cas wanting to protect him and Sam from getting hurt by the celestial drama. Besides, who in this family hadn't accidentally started an apocalypse? If the Winchesters had a family crest it would probably be designed by Jerry Bruckheimer and show the planet exploding). Angry that his angel's 'reward' was mortality and all its wonderful trappings. Angry that he had so little time to get used to the fact he could die at any second before being thrust into situations where he could die at any second.
Angry that Cas wasn't angrier. He expected Cas to throw things. Scream. If 2014 Cas was anything to go by, he should be face down in a puddle of absinth by now. Instead Cas just seemed so damn resolved to everything. He bitched and moaned now and then, sure. But it was always about life in general, never just about his own. Dean understood the difference, just as he understood if he was in Cas' place he'd probably start breaking things and not know when to stop. All Cas did was pick at his jeans and look like he'd just been dumped. Which, fair to say, he had.
Cas suddenly looked up. "Pull in here."
Dean looked from the road to where Cas was now sitting bolt upright in the passenger seat. "The motel's not for another-"
"Pull in here now. Please." For a moment he sounded like his old angel self again.
Through the rainy windshield and the complete lack of effective light filtering through the grey sky, Dean could just make out the sign reading "Goodwill."
After a quick and dirty parking job, Dean ran through the pissing rain to the door and waited for Cas to catch up. He sighed when he realized his newly human partner still hadn't learned enough to come in out of, or at least move quickly through, the rain. He tried not to think about the fast food meal probably growing cold in the back seat of the Impala.
When they finally got inside they were greeted by someone who clearly didn't have anything better to do, and was just as clearly not happy about it. "We close in ten minutes."
Dean tried his best 'Hey, buddy,' grin. "No worries. We just need five." He hoped he wasn't lying by much.
Castiel moved over the linoleum floor, under the naked, florescent bulbs, like a man on a mission. "It's good to see your people don't always junk the things they no longer have a use for."
And there was that, the recycling kick Cas had been on since his 'promotion.' Dean would later be ashamed it took him until that moment to realize what it had all been about. Still, he couldn't let a comment like that slide. "They're your people now too, Cas."
He hadn't known what Cas was looking for, but he was damn sure he hadn't expected it to be pajamas.
Human Cas hated sleep. He both feared and hated it, which is the worst kind of hate. The uselessness, the vulnerability, the way the need struck without regard to whether research was complete or whether someone needed to keep watch over the others... He hated it so much Dean had taken to sleeping in the same room as him just to calm him down.
When their act first went trio it'd seemed obvious that Castiel would get his own room. After all, the brothers had bunked together for years. But his waking up in a sweat and rushing into their room at all hours to check they were all still safe had put an end to that. Now Sam roomed alone (which must be heaven for him, Dean had to admit) and Dean kept Cas company and taught him things, like how to use the in-room coffee machine. (The day rickety one-cup coffee machines and mini-bars had filtered down to the cheap motels of his great nation had been one of the best developments in Dean's life. But, yeah, if you were a week old they took getting used to.)
"Do we have money?" Cas stood before him in a tight blue shirt and jeans that hung off his frame because he still hadn't entirely mastered eating. He had an uncomfortable look in his eyes. Cas still wasn't entirely comfortable about money. Whether it was money in general or the fact their money usually came via a circuitous, highly illegal route Dean couldn't be sure.
Cas also had three hideously loud choices of pajamas in his hands. One of them was covered in disembodied floating Santa heads. Seriously?
"Yeah. We do." Dean looked over Cas's options still on the rack. "Don't get me wrong, Cas, I'm glad you're getting on board with the whole 'now I lay me down to sleep' thing. But we can find you better stuff than this. If not here, then a mall would-"
"No. It has to be here." Castiel went back to looking. When he finally assembled every loud, soft, Christmas-y pair of pajamas he studied them. Dean knew from their restaurant experiences Cas was not the fastest when it came to inconsequential decisions. The former strategist in him just had to examine everything.
The embittered register clerk shot Dean a pointed look and then looked at the clock over his head.
"Here, take these." Dean picked up the least offensive of Cas's choices, a red pair with a snowflake design. He had to admit, they felt super soft. "You'll look good in red." The reason he added that last bit was to hurry things along. That was what he thought at the time, at least. It would take awhile before he realized why he'd really said it.
Cas held the red pair over his body. "Will they fit?"
"I dunno. Find a changing room."
The clerk looked up. "No changing room! We don't have one!"
Dean looked back at him, anger on Cas's behalf rising up again. "What the Hell kind of store doesn't have a changing room!?"
The clerk shrugged. Apparently he'd finally put together that Dean could take him in a 'Who is way the Hell more pissed right now?' contest.
Cas just looked down with that sick 'my human needs are ruining everyone's life again' look on his face.
Dean put a hand on his arm. He'd been touching Cas a lot more lately. "Come on. We'll get some socks from the Army surplus place next door. If the legs are short that'll make up the difference." He added a pointed "They stay open until eight" for the clerk's benefit.
When they were finally back in the car and on the road with their purchases Dean was relieved to notice that the warmth in the Impala had kept the food warm. 'That's my baby,' he thought. He assumed the car could hear such thoughts. That's why she was so well behaved for a classic her age. Dean knew even a good mechanic couldn't take all the credit.
As they rounded the corner near the motel, Dean risked another long look at his passenger. Cas still looked dejected as he stared out the window but he had the new pajamas out of the bag and on his lap, working the soft fabric between his fingers. "Anything you want to tell me, Cas?"
"It was Jo."
Dean pulled into their space in the motel parking lot. He didn't make a move to get out of the car. He knew Cas wouldn't either. "Jo? Seriously?"
Cas smiled ruefully and nodded. "She told me if I was ever human I should find myself a cheap, fuzzy pair of second hand pajamas. She said they were one of the best things about being alive."
Dean looked out the window for a moment. The rain had stopped spitting and was turning itself off, or at least changing to a mild drizzle. The noise of it hitting the Impala's roof kept the quiet inside from getting too intense. Outside the light was starting to grow strong again. The world was in a strange anteroom, like it hadn't quite remembered how to be normal again yet.
Dean could sympathize. "You know, I never said this, but even at the time I was happy for you two for, you know... It's good her last night wasn't spent alone. And I knew you'd never hurt her or anything."
Castiel scratched the side of his head. It was a funny quirk Dean had come to understand meant he was wondering how to say something. "She cared for you a great deal, Dean. She told me so. She said she just liked the idea of her last time being someone else's first. That's all."
"Sounds fair to me." Dean looked back out the front window at the million and first motel of his short life. He wished to Hell and anyone else who might be listening he could get Cas excited about something, something human.
The smell of fast food permeated the car from the back seat. In the last few days Dean had discovered human Castiel liked fast food, the greasier the better. My kind of guy.
Maybe, just maybe, they could take the pajamas and the junk food and start from there. "You ready to put those bad boys on and do a little fashion show?"
"A fashion show?" A faint trace of amusement came to life in his companion's eyes.
Dean grabbed the food from the back and headed out, trusting Cas to follow him. "Yeah, you know, do a little modeling of the new outfit. Maybe we'll take a few pics. Show them off a little." He pulled the key from his pocket at the door. Most cheap motels only offered one so Castiel couldn't even get in their room without Dean at his side.
This suited Dean fine. He didn't want the freshly-minted human to get into trouble or anything. "The trick is to make love to the camera. Really work it. Like this." He pulled some of his best faces and was rewarded with a laugh from Cas.
"I don't think I understand yet. Could you make more faces?"
Dean opened the door. "Aw, yeah. I got a million. Lemme show you..."
With that he closed the door between him, his angel, and the annoying, pissy, needy, rainy world outside.