Dean stared at the man gorging on the White Castle burgers in front of him. He knew the minute this man—Jimmy Novak, he called himself—opened his blue, blue eyes that he wasn’t Castiel anymore. Or rather, Castiel wasn’t him anymore.
Jimmy took no notice of the attention on him. Even though it was the same body it was definitely a different person.
“What the Hell happened back there?” Sam asked, sounding impatient. “I mean, it looked like an angel battle royale.”
Cas—Jimmy shrugged nonchalantly, as if the fact that Castiel was no longer in his body wasn’t a big deal. “All I remember is there was a flash of light and I... uh, and I woke up and I was just, like, me again.”
“So what, Cas just ditched out of your meatsuit?” Dean asked hopefully. Sam wasn’t wrong when he described the scene they found Jimmy in as the arena for an angel battle royale. The thought disturbed him but he’d settle for not knowing where Castiel was as long as he was safe and had been able to escape the other dick angels. He didn’t want to think about the alternative.
Jimmy shrugged again. “I really dunno.”
“You remember anything about being possessed? Anything at all?” Sam pressed.
Jimmy hummed under his breath and it was not the first time Dean was struck by just how different he was from Castiel. The action was far too human for Dean’s taste and wasn’t that just bizarre? “Bits and pieces,” he said. “I mean, angel being inside you, it’s kinda like being chained to a comet.” He said all this very casually but something dark in his eyes told Dean that it was more than that.
“Well, that didn’t sound like much fun.”
Jimmy scoffed. “Understatement.”
“Cas said he wanted to tell us something,” said Sam. “Please, tell me you remember that.”
“Sorry,” said Jimmy, shaking his head, but he didn’t sound apologetic at all. Dean wanted to be mad at him but the truth was, he couldn’t blame the guy.
“Hey,” he said. “Can I ask you something?”
“You already did.” At the unamused looks from Sam and Dean he shrugged. “My wife was an English major,” he explained.
“Yeah, whatever,” muttered Dean. “Um, you wouldn’t happen to know anyone named Caspar, would you?”
Sam whipped his head up so fast Dean could’ve sworn he heard the whiplash. He was staring at Dean as if he’d just grown two extra heads and one of them just suggested they join Lilith’s side.
Jimmy furrowed his eyebrows. “You mean like the ghost?”
“No, I mean one of the Magi who—nevermind.” At poor Jimmy’s increasingly confused expression he stopped. It looked like the mystery of Castiel versus Caspar was still yet to be solved.
“Look,” said Jimmy not unkindly. “I just want to get back home to my family, to the people I love.”
That makes two of us, Dean thought bitterly.
"We're hunting a werewolf," John announces that morning.
The school term had just finished, much to everyone else’s pleasure except for Sam’s. According to Dean, “that’s because Sam’s a giant freak.” Sam responded by punching his arm. The impending arrival of summer meant more time for hunts; they had already breezed through three in one week.
Dean lets out a loud whoop and actually jumps in the air. "Awesome!" Sam sighs but he, too, can't resist Dean's good mood as he bursts out in a wide smile as well.
"It'll be dangerous," Castiel points out.
Dean winks at him. "That's what makes it fun. Man, I've been dying to hunt a werewolf forever. Just a good old fashion shoot 'em up. No research necessary."
Sam shakes his head pityingly. "You’re never gonna pass high school at the rate you’re going."
"Bite me," Dean says sweetly.
"Come on, boys," says John. "We've got a few hours of driving ahead of us and I'd like to at least get to the campsite before sundown."
Dean gives his father a playful salute. "Yessir." He throws his arm around Castiel's shoulder and leads him to the Impala. "Aren't you excited, Cas? We're gonna go camping and hunt a werewolf! Isn't this the best?"
"I suppose." Castiel knows what camping is but he’s not quite certain he’ll enjoy it the same way Dean does. But for Dean, he’ll try.
"Dad, was Dean ever dropped on the head as a child? Because there's gotta be a reason he's got such a warped sense of reality—ow!"
Dean decides that the fact the hunt is at Kittery Point, the very place the Winchesters met Castiel almost a year ago (has it really been that long?), is hilarious. He burst out laughing when they crossed the state line to Maine and nearly crashed the car into a tree when they passed a sign that said 'Welcome to Kittery Point!'. Even Sam found it amusing, but only after Dean composed himself long enough to keep the Impala on the road and not on the verge flipping it over (and killing its passengers along the way). Both of them announced it was "one Hell of a coincidence".
Castiel knows it's not coincidence, that coincidence doesn't exist and is only an illusion created by humans to explain the work of Fate. He's brought back here for a reason but what it is, he doesn't know. He's not sure he wants to know.
The campsite they arrive at is practically deserted. Unlike last time, John decides to forgo renting a cabin, choosing to sleep under a tent instead. "Okay," declares John once they find the spot labeled '20D'. "Dean, Caspar, you're in charge of getting fire wood. Sam, you're getting the water. I'll pitch the tents."
On that note, they disperse.
When they're safely out of John's sight, Dean bumps his shoulder against Castiel's and threads their fingers together. A pleasant feeling of warmth spikes through Castiel's body and he squeezes Dean's hand. He doesn't ever want to let go.
Unfortunately, he's forced to do exactly that when Dean lets go of him and starts collecting dry twigs scattered all over the ground like messy webs while Castiel stands behind him awkwardly. “I’ve never gone camping before,” he admits forlornly. Even though he observed the growth of humanity for centuries—from when Adam birthed Eve from his rib to the fall of the Twin Towers in New York—doing the same things the humans do still isn’t as simple as they seemed when he watched the actions performed from above.
Dean laughs and pats him consolingly on the shoulder. “That’s fine. I’m sure you’ll love it.” He leans in until his breath is ghosting over Castiel’s lips, wrapping his arms around Castiel’s neck. Castiel automatically places his hands on Dean’s hips. “Liiiike, skinny-dipping. You haven’t gone skinny-dipping before, have you?”
Castiel tilts his head to the side, confused. “No, I have not.”
Dean’s grin is predatory as he leads Castiel through the trees and to the lake on the other side of where their campsite is. It’s in a fairly desolate and quiet area, ensuring that they won’t be interrupted by any unwanted witnesses.
Dean begins to strip and it doesn’t take long for Castiel to follow suit. Once they’ve both thrown off their last pieces of clothing, Dean dives into the water. He resurfaces soon after, laughing in delight and sounding much younger than he really is. His skin glistens in the sun like gold but the fond smile he directs at Castiel—only for Castiel—shines even brighter.
Castiel falls just a little more in love with him.
“I learned my lesson while I was away, Dean. I serve Heaven. I don’t serve Man and I certainly don’t serve you.”
Dean grew cold at the words.
He honestly thought Castiel was different. Still a bit of a dick, but different from the other angels nonetheless. He should’ve known it was too good to be true. That was pretty much his life in a nutshell; just when things start looking up (if only marginally), something’s bound to come by and snatch it all away, taking a piece of Dean with it every time.
Sam takes one look at them and says flatly, “You’re wet.” This is mostly directed at Dean rather than Castiel.
“We went swimming,” Dean replies cheerfully, not even bothering to hide what Sam frequently called his "shit-eating" grin.
Sam gags. "I so did not need to know that."
Dean was drowning. Drowning in a bottomless ocean with no lifeline in sight. The angels—sure, they were dicks but they were still angels—were supposed to be all about saving the world, protecting humanity, right? Not bringing fucking Armageddon to the planet. But what's worse, though, was Cas... this was what Castiel wanted to tell him but didn't.
Guess Dean Winchester wasn’t as worth it as he thought he was.
That little winged fucker betrayed him and Dean couldn't decide if this was worse than when Caspar died or not. Dean was losing someone he... someone he loved all over again and just like before there was nothing he could do to save him. There was no bringing him—them—back. Not this time, not ever.
When Castiel signaled his entrance (the flap of his wings reminded Dean of a flock of pigeons in the park) it took everything in Dean's power not to go right up to him and punch him until he couldn't see those eyes looking at him anymore. What right did Castiel have to even show his face in front of Dean now?
"You can't reach him, Dean. You're outside your coverage zone."
"What are you gonna do to Sam?" Dean yelled.
Castiel's face was as blank as it was the day they met. "Nothing. He's going to do it to himself."
"What's that supposed to mean?" When Castiel looked down, guiltily even, Dean scoffed. "Oh, right. Gotta toe the company line. Why are you here, Cas?"
Castiel gulped out, "We've been through much together, you and I. And I just wanted to say... I'm sorry it ended like this."
Stop it! You don't get to say this, especially not to me. Dean clenched his fist. "'Sorry'?” Despite a nagging voice in his head telling him this was probably a very bad idea, Dean flung his fist out, his knuckles hitting Castiel’s cheek dead center.
He immediately regretted it. His hand felt as if it had just been split in two and Castiel didn’t even flinch.
Despite the pain, he barreled on. He needed Castiel to hear this. “It's Armageddon, Cas. You need a bigger word than 'sorry'." And even then it wouldn't be enough. It would take an eternity to fix this.
Castiel looked torn, as if he was unraveling from the inside out. "Try to understand—this is long foretold. This is your—"
"Destiny? Don't give me that 'holy' crap. Destiny, God's plan... it's all a bunch of lies, you poor, stupid son of a bitch! You know what's real? People, families—that's real." Sammy, Bobby... "And you're gonna watch them all burn?"
At that Castiel seemed to flare up like a match that had just been struck. "What is so worth saving? I see nothing but pain here. I see inside you. I see your guilt, your anger, confusion. In Paradise, all is forgiven. You'll be at peace, even with Sam."
Honestly, that stopped Dean for two seconds. For two brief, horrifying two seconds he wanted to give in. Stop fighting. Just... stop. Haven't you fought enough? a voice, which sounded suspiciously like Caspar—Castiel (he didn't know anymore), asked him.
"You can take your peace," said Dean, squaring his shoulders. "and shove it up your lily-white ass. 'Cause I'll take the pain and the guilt. I'll even take Sam as is. It's a lot better than being some Stepford bitch in paradise." He stepped forward, right in Castiel's personal space, if he cared enough for such a thing. "This is simple, Cas! No more crap about being a good soldier! There is a right and there is a wrong here and you know it."
Castiel turned away. He didn't want to hear this anymore? Well, too bad because Dean was going to make him listen. "Look at me!" He grabbed Castiel's shoulder, ignoring the spark of electricity that shot up his arm, and spun him around. "You were gonna help me once, weren't you? You were gonna warn me about all this, before they dragged you back to Bible camp. Help me—now. Please."
It was the second time he begged Castiel for something, two times more than he liked. It was the same with Caspar; he always brought out the best and worst in Dean. When he burst into their lives like a whirlwind Dean hated him. But no matter what he said or did, no matter how many sticks or stones or words he threw at the other man, Caspar always stood firm by his side like a rock.
Even after Dean finally gave in, finally realized he was ridiculously head over heels in freakin’ love with the guy, Caspar never asked him for anything. But if he did, Dean knew he would've done whatever he wanted without a second thought.
Castiel sighed and Dean thought, I've got him now.
"What would you have me do?"
Dean didn't dare breathe. "Get me to Sam. We can stop this before it's too late."
"I do that, we will all be hunted. We'll all be killed," said Castiel, putting significant emphasis on the words 'hunted' and 'killed'.
Dean shook his head. "If there is anything worth dying for... this is it." When Castiel turned away once again Dean felt what was left of his heart crumble. "You spineless—soulless son of a bitch! What do you care about dying?" He was breaking apart and he had nothing left in him but rage. Lots of it. At Caspar for leaving him when he promised he wouldn't, at Castiel for wearing his face like a mask, at Sam for falling prey to Ruby's siren song so easily, at God for upping and leaving, at the world for ripping his family apart like paper. "You're already dead! We're done!"
It was surprisingly easy for Dean to ignore the devastation in his eyes. "We're done!"
They eat a quick dinner and the minute the last of the sun’s rays are snuffed out, John orders them up on their feet, shotguns (fully loaded with silver bullets) in hand, and ready to hunt a werewolf.
Splitting off into pairs, Dean with Sam and John with Castiel, they comb the area carefully. There’s too much at stake, too many lives at risk; they can’t afford to miss anything. But hours later, when the birds start singing and the sky is lighter, even John knows when to concede defeat. They drag themselves back to the campsite, sore, exhausted, and discouraged. Dean and Castiel head to one of the tents before John can say anything and collapse into their sleeping bags.
“‘Night, Cas,” slurs Dean. He falls asleep almost instantly, his entire body curled around Castiel’s like he can’t get enough of him.
“Goodnight, Dean,” Castiel whispers fondly. He keeps watch over Dean through the morning.
The last time Dean saw Castiel before the world ended was at Chuck’s house. Castiel turned to Dean with wide eyes full of fear and determination. “I’ll hold him off,” he said, voice shaky.
“Cas... ” Dean swallowed, realizing what he was saying. Don’t do it, he wanted to tell him, come with me.
“I’ll hold them all off! Just stop Sam!” Castiel shouted over the roar of the archangel above them, sounding less afraid and more sure of himself. Dean recognized the tone in his voice all too well.
It was the voice of someone who had nothing left to lose.
The rest of the day is pretty uneventful. John disappears after breakfast, claiming to want to do more research by questioning the inhabitants of Kittery Point, hoping to find some clue as to who their target is. Sam goes to the lake to do some reading and flips Dean off when he teases him about how girly that is.
That leaves Dean and Castiel to their own devices, an opportunity they waste no time in taking advantage of. they spend most of the morning and part of the afternoon kayaking in the lake. They talk about the most mundane things the whole time (the topic of hunting never comes up, which Castiel personally thinks is liberating for Dean), laugh with each other, and gleefully spend the time they have wrapped in each other’s presence.
If Castiel could spend the rest of his existence like this with Dean, it would not be a wasted one.
They make their way back to camp eventually. When they realize neither John nor Sam has returned, Dean casually suggests that they should do something about this golden opportunity with a leer on his face that can only mean one thing.
Dean laughs as they tumble back into the tent. His laughter dissolves into a moan when Castiel’s teeth sink into his collarbone, nipping and sucking lightly. He buries his fingers in Castiel’s hair and grinds his hip against Castiel’s, earning a gasp of surprise and pleasure.
Dean drags Castiel up to kiss him, coaxing his lips apart to push his tongue in. They go slow because they almost never had the opportunity for slow before. Castiel takes his time exploring Dean’s body with his hands, though by now he knows each and every part of it that there’s little left for him to discover. He takes special care in brushing over Dean’s most sensitive spots, reveling in the little gasps Dean makes. And they’re all for him.
“Come on, Cas,” Dean begs, moaning when Castiel sinks lower down his body, pushes his shirt up and dips his tongue experimentally in his navel.
Castiel draws himself back up, kissing Dean deeply as he dips his hand in Dean’s pants, brushing against his cock.
“Oh my god,” Dean gasps, thrusting up automatically.
“I find it disconcerting how you have to bring Him into this,” growls Castiel.
Dean laughs breathlessly and wraps his left leg around Castiel’s waist and just tugs, forcing him down until they’re pressed together, groin to groin. “You know you’re the only one for me,” he says innocently. The words flood Castiel with warmth even though he knows Dean is just teasing him. He also doesn’t care.
Castiel grins and leans down to kiss him.
That’s when everything is shot to Hell.
John is sitting between them, glaring at Castiel with so much intensity in his eyes that it almost makes him look inhuman. Sam’s eyes are firmly trained on the ground while Dean’s are fixed on John and Castiel, anxiously waiting for his father’s verdict.
“I can’t believe you,” he growls. Castiel knows that it’s taking everything in his power not to cause brutal bodily harm to him. “Is this your idea of a joke, you son of a bitch? You barge into people’s lives, pretend you want to help them, while you go behind my back and... and... ”
“And what, Dad?” Dean says boldly. “What is he doing?”
“Taking advantage of you,” John spits out, now swiveling to glare at Dean instead.
To Castiel’s surprise, Dean is glaring defiantly back at him. “No, Dad, he’s not,” he replies coolly. “I want this, too.”
“You don’t know what you want.”
Dean stands up so suddenly it surprises them all, including Castiel. “Dad, I’m eighteen. I’ve known what I wanted for a long time,” he says coolly.
John is staring at Dean like he’s seeing him for the first time. He might as well have; they have been strangers to each other for years. “Yeah? And what’s that?” he challenges haughtily.
“I want Cas,” says Dean, pointing to Castiel. “I want Sam to be safe. I want us to be safe.”
The silence is suffocating. “What did you say?” John asks, so quietly Castiel nearly misses it.
“I don’t want to hunt forever,” confesses Dean. Sam looks just as surprised (and thrilled) as Castiel is. “Dad, it’s been years since Mom died,” he says more gently. “I want to find her killer just as much as you do but... I don’t want to drag Sammy or Cas down as well.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying!” John stands up, too, and he and Dean are face to face now; not as general and soldier, but as equals.
“Dad, all my life I did what you told me to do! You told me that family was important, that we should stick together, and I believed you.”
“But you don’t now?”
Dean glances at Castiel. There is so much love in the man’s eyes that Castiel is taken aback. “I still believe you,” he says softly. “but that doesn’t mean I want to drag my family across the country to hunt something that hurt us once and could probably hurt us again.”
“You’re going to give up, is that it?”
Sam gasps and John’s eyes widen, almost comically. He looks to Castiel, disgust written all over his face. “You’d give all this up for him?” he hisses.
Dean nods. “For him and Sammy.”
From the glint in Dean’s eyes, Castiel knows that this isn’t the first time Dean’s thought about leaving. In fact, it’s been on his mind for a long time. It only took Castiel, the catalyst, to push him into speaking up.
John looks like he’s itching for his gun to shoot at Castiel but they’re interrupted by the eerie howl of a wolf in the distance. Castiel turns to the source of the sound immediately. To human ears, it would sound like a particularly large wolf but Castiel knows every single creature on God’s earth and that is not one of them.
John glares at them all. “We’ll talk about this later. Dean, Sam, come with me.”
“What about Cas?” Sam asks hesitantly, shooting worried glances at him.
John’s hand twitches. “Cas can do whatever the Hell he wants but he’s not coming with us. In fact,” he turns to Castiel, eyes narrowed. “I want him to leave.”
“Dad!” Dean protests, stepping in between them.
“My decision is final!” John roars.
But Dean doesn’t give up. “If he leaves,” he says, his voice harder than stone, “I’m leaving with him.”
John looks utterly betrayed. After a long moment of unsure silence, he barks out, “We’ll talk about this later.”
“I can help,” Castiel says, speaking for the first time since John found him and Dean in their tent.
John looks between him and Dean. He seems to realize that there’s nothing he can do to stop Castiel from joining them on their hunt because after a while, he spits out, “Fine. Dean, Sam, you two investigate the west side. Cas is coming with me.”
Dean looks like he’s about to protest but one vicious glare from John stops him. Instead, he turns to Castiel and mouths “be careful” to him. Castiel nods in acknowledgment and prays that Dean and his brother will be safe as well. John pushes him forward none-too-gently and the search begins.
Werewolves have a distinct scent; human mixed with the earth to create something that shouldn’t be possible yet is. They’re not evil by nature but they carry a dark, musky aura with them wherever they go, leaving a distinct trail behind them.
That’s how Castiel knows when the werewolf is near.
“Stop,” he commands, holding a hand up in front of John. John huffs in annoyance but obeys. He cocks his gun and the ‘clack!’ bounces across the trees almost as loud as an actual gunshot.
It’s too quiet. All signs of life in the forest have gone into hiding, leaving no trace of their presence behind. The bushes several feet to Castiel’s right rustle and both John and Castiel turn to it at the same time. Crouching down, Castiel slowly crawls towards it, trusting that John would be smart enough to realize that shooting Castiel when his back is turned instead of watching out for the werewolf would be a waste, no matter how much he probably wants to.
When Castiel is halfway to the bush when a cry from John and a snarl from something that definitely isn’t human interrupt him. He whips his head back to see the werewolf leaping from its hiding place, aiming for John’s jugulars. Luckily, John is fast and blocks it with his gun, but loses his balance in the process. The werewolf lands on top of him and snaps at him, aiming for his neck again and again.
“Hey!” Castiel shouts, summoning as much authority in his voice as he can. The werewolf pauses and looks up at him, obviously confused by his scent. Castiel lifts his hand up. “Get away from him,” he commands. He pulls at invisible puppet strings and the werewolf goes flying into a nearby tree.
Castiel rushes to John’s side and pulls him up. “Are you alright?” he asks, inspecting the man’s body for scratches or bite marks. Fortunately, there is none.
“‘M fine,” grunts John, pushing his hand away. He looks over Castiel’s shoulder and his eyes widen. “Watch out—”
Too late, the werewolf is already on Castiel’s back, sinking its fangs in the back of his neck. Castiel lets out a cry as the unfamiliar tinge of pain smashes into him and he stumbles back, pulled down by the weight of the werewolf. He loses his footing and both he and the creature go tumbling down a hill. He vaguely hears John shouting his name from the top of the hill, but his voice is miles away.
They come to a stop on an unfamiliar beach, surrounded by water on one side and trees on the other. Castiel pushes himself up, just in time for the werewolf to leap at him again. This time, he’s prepared and dodges out of the way, though the werewolf still manages to clamp down on the sleeve of his trench coat. Castiel pulls away, losing his coat in the process.
The werewolf tosses it aside and goes down on all fours, hackles raised, ears flattened, and growling at Castiel in a challenge. Castiel stretches his arms out in front of him, ready for the wolf’s next attack, but the assault doesn’t come.
Before he knows it, a blinding, familiar light shines down from the sky like a spotlight, singling the werewolf out. The creature lets out a pained whimper as the light grows brighter until it becomes pure white and the werewolf is no longer to be seen. Castiel keeps his eyes open, unaffected by the light, but he’s scared all the same.
He recognizes this light.
He hears the snap of fingers behind him, followed by the werewolf’s pained screech as its heart beats for one last time before its entire body is burned to a crisp. Castiel whirls around and, to his horror, his suspicions were correct. It’s Raphael; his vessel is younger but no less threatening than it is in the present.
The archangel observes what’s left of the werewolf’s corpse disinterestedly before turning to Castiel. “You’re not from this time,” he states, cutting directly to the chase.
Castiel gulps and takes a hesitant step back. “No, I’m not,” he answers truthfully. There’s no way he can hide from the archangel.
“Then clearly you should return to your original time,” he says bluntly.
Castiel shakes his head. “My powers are not what they used to be. I... I cannot return.”
“Then I shall assist you,” says Raphael, taking a step forward. “I don’t know what’s so special about you, brother, but you have my mark... ”
That’s why I couldn’t fly, Castiel realizes. So the Raphael in the present left him a parting gift before sending him to this time.
“... and I have been ordered to return you to your time.”
“No!” Castiel shouts, surprising both himself and Raphael. “Not yet, please, brother, I entreat you.” There’s still so much to do, his mind tells him, buzzing frantically. He still has to say goodbye to Dean, explain everything to him—
“I’m sorry,” says Raphael coldly. He grabs Castiel’s arm and no matter how much Castiel fights, he can’t escape the archangel’s grip. He feels a familiar tug in his Grace, propelling him through the whirlwind that is Time and back to the present, but he’s not concerned about that.
The last thing he thinks before the world goes dark around him is Dean.
Chapter Nine →