So I'm on a schedule. I get up early, I run. I eat breakfast. I weight-train. I spend an hour with the punching bag, then I eat lunch. In the afternoon it's target practice, more running, some sparring. I do my p.t. exercises, my speech exercises. (Look, Ma, I can touch Sam now without collapsing into a quivering fangirl!)
By the end of the first month in the bunker I decide I'm ready for anything.
–Come on,– I sign in a tough-guy parody of the old Dean. –Let's get out there and kick some ass.–
Sam just rolls his eyes at me and sighs.
Speech or no speech, I can communicate what I want, and just because he won't listen (so to speak) doesn't mean I'm not still the boss.
I gesture "never mind" at him and head out to the garage.
The car is in perfect condition. Sam says I don't take care of her when I'm a demon, but I must make up for that during the hiatus 'cuz she's in great shape. I check her out, change her oil and her spark plugs, top off her fluids, check her tire pressure. The books make me sound so obsessive about this car, like it's human or something, and maybe I do project a little object-love onto her. She's the only constant in my life, after all, besides Sam. She WAS Sam at one point, I think, recalling the story from the chronicles of our weird, weird lives.
When she's good and ready I slip inside, start her engine, let her warm up for a good minute or so before I ease her out the door.
Once we're on the road I'm feeling good again. Just driving, window down so I can feel the warm summer air on my skin, headlights picking up the dust of the road ahead. I took off my jacket earlier, so there's not much between me and the night sky and it feels fuckin' fantastic. I could drive forever this way.
My cell phone does its stupid ringtone thing. "Bad to the Bone." Stupid. Gotta change that.
It's Sam, of course.
"Where are you?" he demands, then fills in for my non-response. "Listen, Dean, you can't just do that, okay? You can't just drive away like that. There's things that will come for you."
–What are you, my mommy?– I think.
He sighs. "Look, just let me come with you when you go out, okay? I know you've been going a little stir crazy here."
–Oh, you think?–
"Just let me know and I'll come with you next time, okay?"
–Fuck that, Nanny McPhee.–
"Just – come home, Dean. Okay? Please?"
I hang up on him.
I know it's cruel. I know what he's been through. What he's going through right now, worrying about me.
But I have to do this. I just have to get out on my own for awhile. Clear my head.
The phone rings again almost immediately, so I shut it off. Sorry Sam, I'll be back soon, I promise silently. I imagine him cursing at the phone, maybe throwing it across the room so it smashes against the hard floor.
I grin, furrowing my brow at the same time. I'm such a bastard.
I'm not sure where I'm going. Driving seems like a good idea for now, but eventually I pull off the road, take a side street in a quiet little town where all the lights are off and the people are sleeping. The only light on this street is in the stained glass window of the little church at the end of the road, so I pull in, cut the engine, sit for a minute in the quiet, listening to crickets.
I don't know what I'm doing here. When I push open the door of the church it's deserted, of course -- it's fucking three a.m. -- but I step inside anyway. My boots make a dull thud against the wood floor as I move down the aisle, slip into the front pew and sit, staring up at the crucifix above the altar.
What the hell am I doing here?
From what I've read, Dean Winchester is not a religious man. But somehow I get the feeling he has some faith. Or at least he did, before he took on the Mark of Cain and became a demon. I don't know what kind of man he is now. Obviously not human anymore.
But he does some praying, from time to time. Or at least he used to. And now I can't speak, so praying isn't happening anyway. Besides, what the fuck would I pray for? To escape this vicious cycle of murder and resurrection? For Sam and I to stop being so wound up together? To put an end to all the violence and the sex --
The voice startles me out of my thoughts like a shot, and I'm up with my gun out before I even realize I'm doing it.
The man has blue eyes, that's the first thing I notice. He's sitting placidly in a pew a few rows back, completely alone. His silence is the next thing I notice. How the hell did he get in here without my hearing him?
He's wearing a trench coat, and he's stupidly good-looking.
Castiel, my brain provides helpfully. It's Castiel. The angel. My angel.
I open my mouth, but of course nothing comes out. Castiel stares at me, frowning a little, then he closes his blue eyes and I feel something warm in my chest, like someone has put the palm of their hand there.
Something loosens in my throat, and suddenly I'm --
I clear my throat, startled to hear myself making sounds. I open my mouth again, push air up from my chest.
"What--" the sound makes me jump, and I lower the gun. I clear my throat and try again.
"What the hell?"
Castiel's blue eyes are staring at me again, this time with a look that's almost sympathetic. He looks up at the crucifix, glances around the church, then back at me, all without moving anything but his head.
"Castiel?" I ask. "Are you Castiel?"
He frowns a little.
"You don't remember?" he asks, and I shake my head.
"I was in a coma," I say. "Lost my memory."
"I can fix that," he says. "But you have to let me touch you."
I'm not quite ready for that, so I point the gun at him again, put on my tough-guy face.
"I thought you were dead," I accuse.
The look of wonder in his eyes then is almost mesmerizing.
"God brought me back," he says. "Like before. He's not done with me after all."
"God," I repeat skeptically. "Huh. That's a good one. God brought you back. Well let me tell you, pal, God hasn't been around for a long time now, as far as I can see. And I wish he would drop in so I could show him what a piss-poor job he's doing with my brother. I'd like to give him a piece of my mind about a thing or two -- "
"Sam?" Castiel interrupts. "But Sam's okay, isn't he?"
"Pretty far from okay, at least from where I'm sitting," I say angrily. "Kid's suffering pretty bad, and it ain't getting better."
"Why? What's happened? Dean, what's wrong with you?"
Figures he'd pin this on me. Figures he'd think anything that was wrong with Sam would be my fault.
Which of course it is.
It suddenly occurs to me that I'm relieved, that having somebody else to talk to -- someone who cares and understands me -- someone who knows us -- it's such a goddamn relief I can't even express it.
I lower the gun for good this time, put the safety back on, slip it into my pocket.
"Other than turning into a demon every six months so Sam has to hunt and kill me?" I swing my arms out and shift my feet, give a shrug. "Oh, and then spending a good part of the next six months crippled and useless? While Sam kills himself a little more each time trying to find a way to fix me?"
I shrug again.
"Not a thing. Everything's just peachy."
Castiel stares at me, still frowning, lips parted.
"Oh, Dean -- " he breathes, and okay, that's enough.
"Come on," I gesture to him. "Let's get out of this rat-trap and go home. I know somebody who'll be glad to see you."
He doesn't ask if I'm glad to see him, thank god. I am, but I'm damned if I'm gonna tell him so. From what I've read, dude's got a crush on me about the size of the Grand Canyon, and I am not encouraging that.
It's nice, though. Can't say I really mind it, as long as he keeps it to himself.
Castiel looks so pleased to be asked to come with me it's just stupid. I'm already fond of him and I don't even know him.
In the car we listen to music so we don't have to talk, and I can feel him staring at me but I pretend not to notice.
It's dawn when we get back to the bunker, early morning light casting a dim shadowy glow on everything, and when I pull into the garage and turn off the engine Sam's there like a shot, bounding down the stairs two at a time. His face is a mask of misery and desperation, and I feel a twinge of guilt when I see the state he's in -- clearly he's been up all night freaking out, and it's my fault, of course.
He skids to a stop in his headlong plunge toward me, clearly intending either to hug me or punch me -- as Castiel gets out of the passenger seat and casts that long-suffering gaze upon him.
"Cas?" Sam's face collapses in shock.
"Look who I found in the church by the side of the road, Sam," I say, going for jovial, grateful to have Castiel there to take the heat off.
Sam stares at me, mouth gaping, and suddenly I remember I'm talking.
"It's a miracle, what can I say?"
I'm talking about my speech, of course, but also about Castiel's resurrection.
And Sam's a smart boy. He gets it.
"Hello, Sam," Castiel says in that deep gravelly voice of his. "It's good to see you again."
Then Sam moves around the car, grabs Castiel in a massive bear-hug, just obliterates the little guy with his gigantic body, holding on for dear life with his eyes closed, bending down a little like he has to do with me only more cuz Castiel is short.
Castiel tries hugging back but he can't get his arms all the way around Sam's Sasquatch body, so he just holds on, lets Sam hug the hell out of him for a few minutes.
It starts to get a little uncomfortable so I clear my throat.
"Hey, you two. Get a room," I say, and Sam jumps, pulls back from Cas a little and pats him on the cheek.
"It is good to see you, my friend," Castiel says again.
Sam's eyes are glistening. He nods, obviously too choked up to speak.
Then he turns to me.
"Don't you ever do that again," he scolds. "Don't you ever leave without telling me like that."
That gets my hackles up. Who does he think he is, telling me what to do?
"Last time I checked, I was the big brother," I say. "I'm calling the shots."
"No, Dean, you are a recovering amnesiac who was in a coma for over a month," Sam growls. "You are under my care. If you can't let me take care of you I will take you back to that rehab center and check you in. Permanently."
"Fuck you, Sam!" I can feel the anger and frustration boiling up inside until it's spilling over, because really -- who the fuck does he think he is? "I may not have my memories, but I know what happened to me, and I know enough to try and figure out a way to fix it. I can't just stay here while you do research, Sam. It isn't in me."
"Then you help with the research," he insists.
"Cuz I'm so good at that," I snap. "Cuz maybe what I am good at is getting things done. So I went out and got something done. Now we have our angel back. Now I have my voice back. Batman is a man of action. He doesn't sit around doing research."
Sam is shaking with the effort not to yell at me some more, but he can't exactly argue with what I'm saying, so he just huffs out a breath and looks mad.
Ha. Score one for me.
"You're not Batman," Sam sulks.
"Superman, then," I growl back at him. "But Batman's got the cool car, so fuck you, I'm Batman too."
"Dean -- "
"And Cas says he can give me my memories back," I rush in and interrupt him before he can argue.
It's lame, but the thought of getting all those memories back is more than a little daunting, and I'm sort of hoping Sam will help me figure it out.
Because really, do I want all those memories? All those things I did -- all those people who died because of me -- if I get that stuff back in my head again, will I even be able to function?
Sam's staring at Castiel.
"You can do that?" he asks, then shakes his head. "Never mind. Of course you can. So your -- your grace is back."
"I am as good as new," Castiel agrees. "Apparently God still has work for me here."
"Wait -- what do you remember?" Sam asks him.
"The last thing I remember was you and me doing the spell to try to cure Dean of his demon transformation," he explains. "I was aware that it wasn't working, and you were trying to get me to stop, but it was too late. Then I was sitting in the church."
He looks from one to the other of us questioningly.
"I am aware that I died," he says. "And I can see that Dean isn't a demon anymore, so does that mean the spell worked after all?"
Sam looks away uncomfortably.
"Not exactly," he admits.
"Come on, Cas," I say, needing to take the focus off Sam's gloomy guilt. "Let's get us some coffee. Sam's got a story to tell, but I need a little caffeine first."
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