Genre and/or Pairing:Dean/Cas
Spoilers: post-apocalyptic AU. Need have seen through 5.01
Word Count: 5, 043
Summary: After the apocalypse is over, Castiel chooses to become human and forget everything rather than be a ‘burden’ to Dean any longer. Well he might’ve been a little stupid sometimes about a few things, but Dean? Dean never thought of him as a burden all, and when it comes down to it now that he’s free to live his own life again, a life with Cas is exactly what he wants. Told from a non-canon Michael POV. Written for help_chile.
For everyone, human, angel, or demon, there are moments you realize something that once you see it seems like it should’ve been clear ages ago. There’s all kinds of different epiphanies, major and minor. Different thoughts, different moments, and each one you have defines you. It’s a fascinating aspect of life, really, especially if you’re watching it all take place, distanced and at least somewhat objective.
Some things you realize after you come so close to death you’ve literally stared it down. Extremely literally, in Castiel’s case. He’d been inches from him, locked in combat him until he managed to slice the onyx necklace from Death’s neck with his own scythe. He’d stood there, battered but victorious, and he’d watched Dean take down Lucifer with Michael’s sword. Michael himself had been watching that too, of course, and at the time his eyes had been only on the action and not on Castiel. At least, not for more than a glance.
It was afterward that Castiel had told him everything, how he’d watched and the jumble of thoughts that had swirled through his head unfiltered, and how it was then that he’d realized he loved Dean in a way that Dean would never be able to return. The weight of everything he wanted was going to kill him, and it wouldn’t be right to ask Dean for more than he could give, and yet he wasn’t really a full angel, not anymore. So he’d come to his older brother, told him everything he felt and everything he knew, and the fact that he didn’t want to leave this vessel he’d come to feel so at home in, but he didn’t want to keep wanting Dean either. It hadn’t been hard, really. Castiel was one of the heroes of Armageddon; at that point he probably would’ve been given anything short of the world if he’d asked for it.
So, there were things you realized when you thought you were dying, but there were things you realized in quieter ways, and sometimes those could be just as powerful. Michael knew, he’d been watching it happen for a very long time. For example, sometimes all it took was sitting on a park bench and jumping up to give a hand up to a little brown haired blue eyed boy that just dropped his ice cream. His parents rush over to make sure he isn’t hurt, and they introduce themselves as Caleb and Joey and their son Richard. From there, it’s pretty easy and sneaky, the realization that after a lifetime of holding the remnants of his family together with every MacGyver trick in the book, a bigger family is something he desperately wants. And now that the world isn’t ending, he might actually have the time and the life span to have it. And considering who he is and what he’s done and where he’s been, the only family he’d be able to hold together would have to be built on someone he can trust, someone he knows, someone who wanted him enough to fight through hell and fucking brand his shoulder.
And who conveniently had soft brown hair and brilliant blue eyes. He’d been there for Dean when Dean had asked him to join him in preventing the end of the world, and he’d been there when it almost happened anyway. He’d been there for fighting angels and demons and becoming a hunter and practically a human and fucking in the back of the Impala and in motel beds with horrible springs that Sam said made him want to bleach his ears. He’d been there for that, and he’d been there to watch Dean down so many shots of Jack he couldn’t have numbered them anymore, and to see him bring home women with long, bright hair and suggestive curves and hands that clung to his arm, eyelashes batting. Once, he’d even been there to see Dean making out with one of them, her hand pressed over the handprint Dean shouldn’t have ever shared. To be fair, Dean had felt guilty as hell about that, not that he’d done much about it.
Running into the kid, he saw it all again, and he could see him and Cas here, in this park with a child with blue eyes that thought Bobby was the greatest thing in the world and that Uncle Sammy knew everything and the Impala was great but it wasn’t home because they had one of those, somewhere nice and just big enough, somewhere they could sort of retire and spend at least most of their time.
Dean Winchester hadn’t been a civilian since the age of four, and now, he felt like he was pretty damn well entitled. He’d served more than long enough, especially if the years of service he’d done downstairs counted, and personally he thought they should count double. At least.
All of it had been there, somewhere in his head, but the most important realizations require convergence of a hundred smaller thoughts, and he’d needed to see the boy from that park bench for it all to collide.
Of course, in order for that to happen Caleb and Joey’s alarm clock had had to die so they didn’t wake up on time but rather 2 hours late, setting their schedule back for the day and making sure they got to the park at 7:30 instead of 4. Richard had then seen a dog over by the edge of the woods so he’d wandered over, stepping around a spider(because he was mortally terrified of those) and not looking where he was going, and he’d tripped over an exposed root and spilled his ice cream cone. It all followed, really, and Michael hadn’t exactly interfered. All he’d need to do was kill the alarm clock. And place the spider. And wake the vengeful spirit that had brought the Winchesters to Boys Town in the first place, but overall he hadn’t done more than nudge things in the right direction. Everything else took care of itself, like falling dominos.
See, it was one thing to miss your brother. That was natural. It was another entirely to know that not only was he in self imposed exile, he wasn’t even really getting the things he’d wanted. He could’ve handled the thought of Castiel choosing to live as a mortal, because even if he wasn’t an angel anymore in the end he’d end up back upstairs anyway. The real problem he had with it all was that while Castiel had settled into his human life without his memories, he wasn’t happy. Sure, he was content, he had a house in the suburbs and a job and two cats and some good neighbors and a couple of girlfriend prospects(one that was looking more promising every day). If that had been what he wanted, Michael would’ve been happy to just keep watching. But he wasn’t happy, not in the slightest. Content was as far as it went, and even that didn’t stretch all the way sometimes. Wanting Dean was something that went down to his soul, and even making sure he didn’t remember hadn’t taken the need away.
Now, he didn’t know what he wanted, he just knew that he wanted, and that sense of something missing in his life wasn’t going to go away. In the long run it’d turn into an even deeper hole, and if Michael knew humans(and after so many years, how could he not?), eventually Castiel was going to start filling it with something. None of the options where promising. So, Michael had decided something had to be done. After all, this was his little brother and the man who’d been endearingly stubborn enough to refuse him time and again. With the Apocalypse so freshly over and demonic totals low, it wasn’t as if he had anything better to do.
After he set it up, all he had to do was wait for Dean to fall asleep.
Sometimes, Dean really did have the strangest dreams. Tonight, though, his dream made more than a little bit of sense. He was in the bleachers of a middle school, and a baseball game was going on down in the diamond. Castiel and Sam sat beside him, and Dean was eating a foot long hot dog and cheering on the boy coming up to bat.
The minute he saw Michael, everything froze. “I don’t…I’m…”
“I know. You don’t have this dream often, am I right?” He smiled with the dry words, sat down on the level of bleachers just below Dean and leaned back on his elbows, looking back up at him. “You don’t have to hide from me, you know. I can see your soul, Dean. All of it.”
“Yeah, well…” There really was no comeback for that. Dean shifted uneasily, shoved his hot dog back on the paper half eaten and sat it down on the empty seat in front of him. “What the hell are you doin’ in my head, anyway? Show’s over, big finale finished a couple months ago.”
“Yes. It did.” Overhead geese were flying south for the winter, and Michael couldn’t help but wonder where Dean’s mind had chosen to settle his family down.
“So, doesn’t that mean you get out of our lives? Aren’t I done?”
“Dean, you’re a lot of things, but I don’t think ‘finished’ is one of them.” He took a deep breath of fall air, amazed at the power of Dean’s memories. This had to have been a place he’d known as a child, however briefly they’d stayed. There must have been something here he liked, something that screamed family in the back of his mind and drew him back to this place. “Do you even know where he is?”
Dean’s scowl vanished at that, sliding into something rough and beaten down. “No. He didn’t tell me where he was goin’, just that…just that he couldn’t do it anymore, and he was goin’ away.”
He’d seen Castiel after that particular conversation, and he’d been a wreck. Right up until the moment he didn’t remember any of it at all. “He’s human.”
Dean jerked a little at that, sharp and quick like a flinch at the stroke of a whip. “Is it cause he-“
“No. Whatever Anna may have told you, love doesn’t earn capital punishment, Dean. Particularly not for those that helped bring down the devil.” At ‘love’, he’d flinched again. “He wanted it that way, wanted to be fully human and not remember he’d ever been anything more.” He shifted until the caught Dean’s eyes, wanting to read them even though he didn’t need to. “He doesn’t know he saved the world, doesn’t know he saved you from hell. He doesn’t remember you at all.” Just like he’d thought, there was so much hope draining out of him just to hear it. To hope, it meant he’d finally let himself realize that his relationship with Castiel was still something that could be fixed. “But memory’s a funny thing…it’s a basic law of the universe. We can erase the effect, but the cause remains.”
Dean stared at him, clearly uncomprehending.
He sighed, gestured absently as he explained a little more clearly. “We can make him forget that he loves you, but that doesn’t mean we can take away the fact that he does love you. He doesn’t know what he wants or why he wants it, but the wanting is still there. It always will be.”
“Couldn’t you fix that? Couldn’t you…wouldn’t he be happier if he didn’t-“
“And to think I thought you’d learned something today.” When he went silent, Michael reached up to hand him a slip of paper. “Richmond, Virginia. This address. His name is Castiel Ferguson, and he’s a high school history teacher. Go convince him he’s in love with you, or he’ll marry the artist across the street, and believe me, nobody wants that.”
Not Castiel, even if he’d never quite realize why, not Michael because he didn’t want to see his little brother go down the wrong path just because he’d been stupidly in love enough to want his damn brain wiped, and certainly not Dean.
He unfolded the paper, his eyes lingering on the address, and Michael nudged him, drawing his attention back to the field.
“By the way, your boy’s about to strike out. I don’t think baseball is his sport.”
Castiel wakes up to two cats staring at him.
As far as he’s concerned, that’s perfectly normal. In his head, he’s been living in Richmond since he graduated from the University of Virginia several years before. He graduated, applied for and got a job at St. Christopher’s school for boys and moved here. Ariel and Rachel came not too long after that, both adoptions from the local shelter, Ariel a 7 year old tortoiseshell and Rachel a 3 year old jet black troublemaker.
His parents were dead, he knew of no other immediate family, and he hadn’t ever been the best at making lasting friends. There was, however, Tiana Kennedy at work(she taught English across the hall) who’d taken quite an interest in him and was quite beautiful honestly, and then there was Cordelia. Cordelia Woods was a painter, and she lived in the house just across the street. She drove a red convertible Mini Cooper and had a great dane who sprawled across the seats, leaning her head out the window on the turns. Cordelia always wore clothes that didn’t quite match and always had flecks of paint on them, and she was bright and different and rebellious, and those were only a few of the things he liked about her.
He liked her, obviously he didn’t love her, but to his human brain that was missing something it seemed like he could, and that was what worried Michael. The more time he spent around her, the more he started to convince himself that maybe if he worked at it, she could be just what he needed. No matter what he did, she wouldn’t be.
But if there was any justice in the world, that wasn’t going to happen. There was Dean, and if he managed to go about this with any sort of skill, Castiel would be forgetting why he’d been so interested in Cordelia.
Of course, that all depended on Dean pulling everything off without a hitch. As much as Michael wanted to have faith in him, that didn’t seem likely. He’d gone to Sam a few days after their conversation, and had managed to finally work his way around to admitting that yeah, he kind of did want the whole apple pie family thing, and could they sort of retire? Or as Dean had put it, “You know, like Bobby…he was workin’, what like, a hunt every 2 or 3 months? We could do that, right?” It hadn’t taken much for Sam to agree that yes, they could, and after some more prodding and puppy eyes and some “Dean, I know there’s something you’re not telling me”, Dean had told Sam about Castiel and about Richmond and they’d just driven into town a few days before.
There was a house for sale down the block and they’d looked at it, but there was no way they’d be able to pull regular payments like that off on their fake credit cards. As much as Michael wanted this to work out for his brother’s sake(and even though Dean had refused him, he still had a little stubborn affection for Dean as well), he wasn’t about to rain money into their lap. Instead, they’d gotten a cheap apartment for the time being, a 6 month lease, and Dean found work at a nearby garage.
After a week of settling in, Michael figured it was time to break Castiel’s car.
Their first meeting didn’t go particularly well, and halfway through Michael was starting to wonder why he’d even started on this project in the first place. He was the protector of the planet after all, God’s favorite general…he wasn’t a damn cupid, and Dean in particular was clearly going to make this tedious. He’d spent most of the time he was supposed to be checking out the car alternately staring and pretending not to stare at Castiel, and Castiel honestly hadn’t been much better. He’d looked at Dean like he liked what he was seeing(of course he would) but he couldn’t quite place him(of course he couldn’t).
Dean had been just stupid enough to say “I’m sorry.” when he handed Castiel the keys to his car, and despite the fact that that was totally unnecessary, Cas hadn’t seemed too preoccupied with it. What he had been preoccupied about, though, was the fact that his eyes had just kept getting drawn back to Dean. He’d gotten home and waved at Cordelia who was out watering her roses, but he hadn’t gone over to talk to her like he normally might have, and that gave Michael a little bit of hope that maybe this wasn’t a total loss. He’d gone to his fabricated high school yearbooks, flipping through the pages as if he thought he’d find Dean in them.
He hadn’t of course and at the moment he was asleep, playing chess on a green and white plastic board while Dean worked on his car next to him. Michael sat across from him, twirling a rook between his fingers.
“I think you’re my conscious. Or at least my mind’s expression of the other half of my brain or something.”
Michael chuckled, reached out to slide his queen into a new position. “Do you? And why is that?”
“Because I know I don’t know you, and you’re in my dreams all the time.” Castiel made his move, his fingers linger over the board. “So which is it? Are you the parts of me I won’t acknowledge when I’m awake?”
“You, my brother, have been reading too much psychology.” He moved, took one of Castiel’s pawns. “And your chess is suffering, too.”
Castiel’s eyes flickered away from the chess game, to where Dean stood in the sun. He had grease on his hands, and he raised up from the hood to swipe his arm across his forehead, sweat sticking the t-shirt to his skin. If this was gonna end in Cas jumping him, Michael was out of here.
“Child development, the processes of the human mind, fundamental theories of thought and attraction…I had to read some books on it in college.” Yes, of course he thought he had. It was surprisingly easy to load someone’s head with information when you had the right powers at your disposal. Like wiping and reusing a hard drive. “But if I were…I’d know, wouldn’t I? I don’t think I’ve ever really dated, but…” So, maybe they could’ve been a little more thorough in fabricating his past. Still, it worked for this instance.
“Is this the ‘don’t knock it till you’ve tried it’ argument?”
Castiel balked, stopped just before moving his bishop. “I don’t know, you tell me! You’re-“
“The other part of your mind, yes.” Michael sighed, realizing he’d have checkmate in four moves. “Castiel, if you can see with your eyes the world is round, you don’t waste time asking yourself why it isn’t flat.”
“Meaning if you find him attractive…” He leaned over the board, swiped the bishop Castiel shouldn’t have moved out of his way, “Then he must be attractive. It’s as simple as that.”
Castiel seemed at least a little unnerved, and for his next two moves he stayed silent.
“I guess…it doesn’t really matter. Richmond’s a large city. I won’t see him again.”
“You don’t think? Checkmate.” He stood and stretched, reaching over to pat Castiel on the shoulder. “Keep your eyes open.”
The second time, things went a little bit better. Granted, it required Michael disabling the breaks on the car in front of Castiel at just the right moment so Castiel would end up hitting him from behind, but there was enough time and space that neither of them would hit anyone else. No one was seriously hurt, but it just so happened that the crash had taken place feet from the garage. Dean was more than ready to work on the car, of course, but he took a minute first to go to the bathroom and grab some paper towels, wetting the first few and gently wiping the blood from Castiel’s forehead.
He’d been painstakingly careful, and there’d been something so broken in his eyes at first that Michael wondered whether or not this was really just cruel, but then Castiel had seemed at least a little effected, had smiled and shown some nerves and struck up conversation all at the same time, and the pain he could see in Dean’s soul eased up just a little.
The third time, oddly enough Michael didn’t have to do anything. Of course, the third time was preceded by a couple of events he did have a hand in. The first had been a kiss with Tiana in the break room at work that had left him confused, because it had been good but not great. The natural domino effect of questions in people’s minds had led him to wondering if it was only because he’d liked Cordelia more and for a longer amount of time, and he’d gone over to her house a couple of evenings before he’d gotten up the urge to kiss her after helping her cook dinner.
This was precisely why Michael had wanted to make sure he’d met Dean before he did either of those things, and it looked like it had made a difference. He was questioning, clearly. At his core he still loved Dean, and even though he couldn’t have articulated it, the emotion was there, effecting him. What had been a mild dissatisfaction before had been spurred into something greater meeting Dean, and now he was at a loss.
When they ran into each other at the grocery store, Michael was sure it was fate. He was also sure that Dean was going to royally screw it up if he didn’t ask for Castiel’s number, which he didn’t exactly do. Instead he’d come at it in a roundabout way, saying he was new in town and hardly knew anyone, and they should got out for a drink that next Friday. He’d named a bar near the apartment complex and Castiel had said he’d passed it a few times, and they decided on 8 o’clock.
Michael didn’t want to babysit, really, because if he forced it, Dean wasn’t going to prove he’d learned anything. Cas had left because Dean wasn’t capable of being monogamous in any sense of the word, and if he couldn’t show that he was capable of it now, then Michael wasn’t going to want him there with Castiel either. This had to be all honest and real or nothing, and Michael was as adamant about that as it was possible to be.
Still, that didn’t stop him from dropping in on Dean’s dreams Thursday night.
In his dream, Dean was in Vegas. The slot machine in front of him was nothing but blanks and one thin line of Castiel’s name, but the font for that was positively miniscule, and it looked like the odds were roughly 1,000,000 to 1 that it was gonna ever line up just right with the lines. Still, Dean was pulling the handle like each one try was gonna be the try, and his eyes were so tied to the machine it was a minute before he noticed Michael leaning on it.
“It’s not really a game of chance, Dean.”
Dean pushed his stool back, frustrated. “It’s a fuckin’ dream, man. Look, can you just stay out of my head? Please? You know I never wanted you here to begin with, that was kind of our whole problem.”
“No, you didn’t, did you?” Undeterred, he smiled and leaned back more fully against the machine. “Cigarette?”
“No.” Dean was on his feet, already ready to walk away even inside his head. With this one, it was always fight or flight, never anything in between. “What are you doin’ here?”
“Just…checking in. Do you know why he left?”
That hit a nerve. Dean seemed to draw in himself, everything from the set of his mouth to the look in his eyes a perfect blank slate. He might know, but being a Winchester had taught him to expect the worst.
Michael tried to sort of gentle the blow. “He loved you, more than anything. And he didn’t want to burden you by telling you that. So, he chose this life.”
“Which is just a nice way of tellin’ me I fucked up and he thought I didn’t give a rat’s ass about him. Thanks, Michael. Really helpful.” Well…yes, that was sort of it, but he would have never said it that cruelly, and neither would Castiel. However much he’d been wounded, Cas had never really been angry at Dean. Not all the way. Dean was a product of his environment, just like everyone else. We become what life rewards us for being, and for Dean nothing good had ever come out of putting all his eggs in one basket. Most of his love rested with Sam and would until the end of time. Dean would never change it, now, but he’d also learned it was the surest way of getting himself hurt.
“He didn’t want to hurt you, Dean. You should appreciate that sacrifice.” Granted, he’d been mostly tired of Dean hurting him, but Dean didn’t need him to enforce that. The man was self loathing by default.
Dean was silent, Michael smoked, and the bells and whistles of the casino continued on. Dean pulled the lever again, watched the words spin and finally land on ‘unworthy’ all the way across. He punched the machine, and Michael did nothing to stop him even when his knuckles split open. It was just a dream.
When he was done with his outburst Dean cradled his hand to his chest, panting.
“Can I fix this?”
“I have faith in you, Dean. But you’ve never believed me, so why start now?”
The date at the bar went so well even Michael could hardly believe it. Dean talked with Cas about cars and guns and classic rock, and Cas smiled and listened and talked a little about the degree he’d had that specialized in religious conflict in the Middle East, and how even though that didn’t line up with the high school history he was teaching now he was enjoying the work and the kids. The waitress was practically a Playboy model, but even when she’d leaned over the table to give Dean a good view he hadn’t hit on her. Over the course of the night he spent more time smiling than he had in ages, and his eyes gleamed with life when Castiel reached over and caught his hand, turning it over to look at his ring.
They hadn’t gone home together, hadn’t even kissed, but Cas had smiled at Dean outside the door and Dean had caught his arm and asked for his number, sort of stumbling through something that at least hinted at the fact that he’d like to consider this a date. Convoluted as it was, Cas seemed to get the point, and he didn’t protest.
That night Cas dreamed of flying down the highway in the Impala at 90 miles an hour and Dean dreamed of laying Cas down in the queen sized bed he’d just bought. He hadn’t really wanted to watch, but in the glimpse of the dream he’d seen Cas had had a ring on his finger.
So far, so good.
After the next time, he was pretty sure he was done interfering. Dean called Cas and invited him over for dinner, and even though he and Sam damn near killed each other arguing over the ‘right’ way to grill hamburgers and make instant mashed potatoes(Sam won, and finally ordered Dean to go sit the hell down), the food miraculously came out ok. (Well, not exactly miraculously because Michael honestly didn’t have a hand in it. Sam was just surprisingly good in the kitchen.) Castiel had warmed to Sam immediately, and the three of them had had a good time.
Around 11 Dean walked Cas out to his car, and he pushed back up against the driver’s side door and cupped his face in his hands, kissing him until he was breathless and just a little weak. He didn’t ask him to come back inside, didn’t ask to go home with him, didn’t even pressure him for any kind of ‘more’. He just smiled, squeezed his hand just a little tighter on the back of his neck and told him it was good to see him, and he’d call him tomorrow.
When he actually did, Michael was pretty sure everything was gonna be ok.
Or course, pretty sure and sure are two different things, and he was an angel with a lot of time on his hands, so he did a little investigating. The future was always tricky business, but if you skimmed enough versions of it, you usually got the gist.
When they all seemed to line up in every way but the exact date that Castiel moved in, he knew his work was done. Well, mostly. See, he’d wanted to make this work as is to respect Castiel’s wishes, and it was. If it kept working a couple years down the line, if their relationship stayed steady…well, then there was no reason his memories couldn’t be returned. He might be angry for all of five seconds, but he realized what a far cry this was from how things had been, Michael was fairly certain he’d be alright with it. Of course, he wanted to do it at just the right moment, to be sure of his choice.
He had all the time in the world, and no looming apocalypse to concern himself with. It wouldn’t hurt to spend a couple years watching his brother and Dean Winchester build themselves a life.