fandomcorner: (Dean/Castiel by creativeelf)
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Title: The Road to Happily Ever After
Pairing: Mostly gen with hints of Dean/Castiel
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 2900
Summary: Dean sees Castiel waiting on tables in a small diner in Oklahoma and thinks nothing of it
Notes: I wrote this before I knew anything about the circumstances of Castiel's return. Thanks to [ profile] hsapiens for the beta

He sees Castiel waiting on tables in a small diner in Oklahoma and thinks nothing of it. He certainly doesn’t say anything to Sam because, hey, one Winchester brother seeing shit that isn’t there is bad enough without adding his own bucket of crazy to the mess.

Truth is he sees Cas sometimes. It’s no big deal. Usually it’s when they’re working a job, he’ll see someone with dark hair in a tan coat and just for a moment it’s Cas until Dean gets hold of himself.

This one is kind of new. ‘Cas’ isn’t wearing the usual tan coat and suit, and usually it’s just a glimpse but this time he’s still seeing Cas after a few minutes. Well, he’s tired and he’s been pulling from Bobby’s flask all day. He’ll get over it.

“You okay?” Sam asks, barely looking up from the research he’s been poring over since they sat down.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” It’s an instinctive response at this point and Sam probably knows that but he doesn’t mention it. It’s pretty much a routine they’ve fallen into. They both pretend they’re fine until one of them hits breaking point. Dean wonders if he’s just got there because he’s still seeing Cas.

“Is it a girl?” Sam asks after a moment. “Because I thought you were done with that after Lydia. Also, you’re not being very subtle. I can tell you’re staring and I’m not even looking at you.”

Dean lowers his eyes but it’s no good, the waiter is coming over to their table now and he still looks like Cas.

“Hi, my name’s Martin. What can I get you today?”

Hell, he even sounds like Cas but there’s no way Dean is going to freak out. He’s handled memories of Hell, he can handle the occasional hallucination of his dead friend.

He’s about to order his usual when he hears a choked sound coming from Sam. He looks up to find his brother deathly pale and staring at not-Cas like he’s about to either throw up or pass out. Possibly both.

“Can you give us a minute,” he says with his most practised fake smile. “My brother’s feeling a little fragile this morning.”

“Sure. Just give me a shout when you’re ready.”

The dude may look and sound like Cas but his mannerisms are all different. He doesn’t stand like there’s a stick up his ass, he’s actually smiling and his voice is more casual even if it does still sound rough. It’s weird.

“Well, that one’s new,” Sam whispers in a shaky voice. “Never seen Cas before.”

Dean’s head snaps up. “Wait, you see him too?”

Sam nods slowly and then his eyes widen as his brain catches up. “Wait, you see him too?”

They both turn their heads to watch Cas, because it has to be Cas unless Jimmy Novak has a twin brother that he never mentioned, as he takes an order from a couple on the other side of the diner.

“It can’t be him, right?” Sam asks, looking a little less sick now that he knows he’s not seeing things. Well, not this time anyway.

Dean shrugs. “I dunno. You want to get out of here?”

Sam stares at Cas for a moment longer and then moves his attention to Dean.

“You want to leave? Just like that?”

Dean shrugs. “Cas is dead, Sam. That guy may look like him but it’s not him. It can’t be.”

“But what if it is?” Sam insists. “It wouldn’t be the first time he’s died and been brought back.”

He doesn’t really have an answer to that, but at the same time he can’t accept that this guy is Cas no matter how much he looks like him on the outside. Dean knows Cas better than anyone and this dude, with his relaxed posture and happy smile, isn’t him.

“Are you still pissed at him?” Sam asks. “I totally get it if you are. I am, too. But he tried to make it right in the end, Dean. God knows we’ve all screwed up in our time. The least we can do is try and talk to him.”

Before Dean can argue Sam is waving the guy over to their table.

“You’re looking better.” Cas smiles at Sam. “What can I get you guys?”

Dean opens his mouth to answer but finds that the words are caught stickily in his throat. Because now he knows that this isn’t some fucked up figment of his imagination having those stupid blue eyes staring at him the way Cas used to is really freaking him out.

“He’ll take the cheeseburger and I’ll take the house salad,” Sam replies with an easy smile and how can he be so fucking calm?

“You got it.”

Once Cas has disappeared from sight Sam lets out a deep breath. “It’s him, Dean.”

“So what if it is?” Dean snaps. “What do you want to do, Sam? Say ‘oh, I know you think you’re a waiter but actually you’re an angel who killed a whole bunch of people and released some unkillable monsters’.”

Sam shrugs. “Well, we can’t do nothing.”

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Before Sam can argue, and Dean knows he’s going to, Cas comes back and sets their plates down in front of them.

Dean grunts a thank you and focuses on his food while Sam starts to pick at his salad. Except when he looks up Cas is still standing there.

“This is going to sound weird,” Cas said hesitantly. “But you guys know me, don’t you?”

“What makes you say that?” Sam asks, sounding so hopeful that Dean almost wants to kick him underneath the table. “Do you recognize us?”

Cas shakes his head. “No, but then I don’t recognise much of anything from my past. I’ve only been here a couple of months. Two sisters found me lying near the river here and when I woke up I couldn’t remember anything. Still can’t, not even my own name. Gave myself the name Martin because I like that actor. Martin Sheen. Anyway, you guys have been kind of staring at me so I figured maybe you could tell me who I am?”

His face is so open and full of vulnerable hope that for a moment Dean almost caves.

“Sorry, dude, wish I could help. You just look like someone I used to know.”

“Maybe I’m him!” Cas says with an excited smile that’s so not Cas it looks almost alien.

Dean shakes his head. “You’re not him. He’s dead.”

Cas’ face falls. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll leave you to eat in peace.”

And Dean’s suddenly not hungry.

* * *

They spend the afternoon driving around town half-heartedly looking for clues to their latest hunt. Dean’s mind is elsewhere, though, and he can tell by Sam’s silence that his brother is thinking about Cas, too. In the end he decides to call it quits for the day and takes them back to their motel. Maybe their heads will be back in the game after a decent night’s sleep.

He can tell himself that anyway.

As soon as he approaches the door he can tell something isn’t right, even though from outward appearances everything looks fine. Years of hunting have tuned them in to being able to sense when something is amiss and Sam’s knife is drawn without Dean having to say a word.

Dean draws his own gun and opens the door slowly. At a first glance the room seems okay, but he motions Sam to stay back just in case. No sense in both of them getting jumped if someone or something is in there.

He flips on the light.

“Dude, what the hell.”

Cas is sitting in the corner of the room, next to Dean’s bed. His eyes are wide with fear now that he’s seen the gun in Dean’s hands.

“I’m sorry,” Cas says as he raises his hands in surrender. “Please don’t kill me.”

Dean sighs and lowers his weapon. “Sam, get in here.”

Sam charges into the room which makes Cas let out a whimper when he sees the knife.

“Whoa, it’s okay,” Sam says when he spots Cas. “We’re not going to hurt you. We’re the good guys.”

That, at least, seems to make Cas relax a little.

“Are you cops?”

“Something like that,” Dean replies, brushing his question aside as though he were talking to a civilian. Hell, in this state Cas is a civilian.

“What are you doing in here?” Sam asks gently as he sheaths his knife. “How did you know where we were staying?”

Cas shrugs. “It’s a small town. I asked around. The manager is a friend of mine and I told him you’d asked me to meet you so he let me in.”

Now that he seemed certain that he wasn’t about to be brutally murdered Cas’s confidence seemed to return and he stood up. “Look, I know you guys said you didn’t know me but you’re the first people who’ve shown even the slightest bit of recognition. I thought maybe if we met in private you’d tell me the truth.”

“There’s nothing to tell, buddy,” Dean replied as he grabbed himself a beer from the cooler on the floor. “I told you, you just look like someone we used to know.”

“Really?” Cas asks and he sounds less than convinced this time. “Tell me about him.”

Damn, why is he making this so hard? Dean has spent the past few months trying not to think about Cas at all, never mind talk about him.

He feigns nonchalance, taking a swig of his beer and leaning casually against the wall. “Not much to tell. He was an old hunting pal of ours, tried to take on something bigger than him and it killed him.”

He doesn’t look at Sam. He can’t. Because he knows even without looking that Sam’s sporting that wrinkled brow frown of concern complete with puppy dog eyes and Dean can’t handle that right now.

“How did you meet?” Cas asks and damn the dude is tenacious.

“He saved Dean’s life,” Sam chimes in and damn it Dean does not need help with this. “It was pretty incredible.”

“Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t know you and I really don’t want to stand here reminiscing about my dead friend, okay? He’s gone. You’re not him. Now get lost.”

Dean’s tired and he’s really had enough of this.

“Okay,” Cas finally concedes. “I’m sorry. You’ve just got to understand how hard this is for me. Not knowing anything about who I am or where I’m from. Things have been weird since I woke up, and I’m not just talking about the lack of memory thing.”

“Weird how?” Sam asks and Dean sighs. His geek brother can’t resist a mystery even when he knows better than dig.

Cas shrugs. “I know I’m just a waiter but I’m smart. Like crazy smart. I can read a book once and I’ve memorized the whole thing. Could pick out any word on any page if asked. Same with languages. I don’t know if I used to travel a lot but these Japanese tourists came in last week and I understood every word they were saying. Even you guys. I have this weird feeling that I should know you. That’s half the reason I came here. I dunno. Maybe I had a brother and that’s who you knew?”

“Maybe,” Dean replies absently, wishing nothing more than for this conversation to be over.

Except now Cas is standing right in front of him, invading his personal space just like he used to.

“There’s something about you,” Cas says softly. “I don’t know what it is.”

He starts reaching out for Dean’s left arm. The arm that used to bear Castiel’s handprint.

Dean reacts before he really knows what he’s doing, swinging and clocking Cas hard on the jaw.

Last time Dean did this he nearly broke his hand but this time Cas goes flying backward and is only stopped from cracking his head on the edge of the bed by Sam darting forward to catch him.

“Dude, what the hell?” Sam demands when he realizes that Cas is out cold in his arms.

Dean rubs a hand over his face. He’s tired, and everything is fucked up.

“Help me get him on the bed,” he sighs, moving over and taking hold of Cas’s legs.

Between them they get him settled in what looks to be a reasonable comfortable position.

Dean nods, satisfied. “Right, let’s get out of here before he wakes up.”

Sam stares at him, completely uncomprehending, almost as though he thinks Dean is one of his hallucinations. “Are you serious? You just want to leave him here? After everything.”


It’s not something he was really thinking about when he punched Cas but the more time that passes the more he thinks this is for the best.

“We can’t!”

Dean’s already started throwing his stuff back into his duffle. “Yeah, we can.”

“Well, that doesn’t mean we should!”

He pauses, tosses down the t-shirt that’s rumpled in his hands and turns back to face Sam. “It ever occur to you that what’s happened to Cas is some kind of reward? That he’s better off not knowing all the crap he’s been through since he met us? Think about it. If you had the chance to take all the memories of your time in the cage, all the shit with our lives and make that go away wouldn’t you take it?”

“Not if it meant forgetting everything about who I was!” Sam exploded. “I’ve tried to start a new life before, Dean. So have you. People got hurt. People died. This is who we are, and we can’t get away from that.

“This -” he gestures at Cas, “this isn’t who Cas is.”

“Yeah, well it’s different for us,” Dean argues. “You name one aspect of Cas’s life that he’d want to remember. He got kicked out of Heaven because I told him to think for himself. He died, twice, fighting for what I told him was right. He lost his faith, he got tortured, he grew weaker and weaker. Then, when he finally caught a break and got juiced up again, he went off the rails because of what I taught him to do. He killed his friends and unleashed unstoppable monsters on the world. How much of that do you suppose he wants to remember?”

Sam opens his mouth, and for a second Dean thinks he’s going to argue some more, but then he closes it again without a word.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Now grab your things and let’s go.”

“He’s going to look for us, you know,” Sam says and he tosses his things into his bag.

“Well, then it’s a good thing we’ve gotten so good at staying off the radar then, isn’t it?”

He doesn’t look back at Cas as he shepherds his brother out of the room and closes the door behind them.

* * *

They make it as far as the car before Dean pauses to think about what he’s doing. When he opens the trunk of their car and sees Castiel’s coat tucked in corner where it’s been since he plucked it from the lake.

“Hey, Sam, give me a minute, okay?”

Sam’s face softens when he sees the coat in Dean’s hands and he nods.

“Sure, man. Take all the time you need.”

* * *

Cas is still out cold when Dean steps back into the room and for a moment Dean just stands there at the end of the bed watching Cas’s chest rise and fall.

The coat smells damp and musty in his hands and when Dean unfolds it he can still see traces of the black Leviathan goo that had leaked from Cas when he’d first changed. Like Cas the coat has changed. It’s not as clean or crisp as it once was, but it’s still part of Cas and it belongs with him.

Dean needs to let go, and that means letting go of everything.

He drapes the coat over Cas like a blanket, half concerned that the smell alone is going to wake him up, but Cas doesn’t stir.

He moves to the head of the bed, drinking in what he knows will be the last time he ever sees Castiel. He reaches out a hand, pauses for a moment and then lets it come to rest gently on Cas’s shoulder.

“Just be happy, okay, Cas? That’s all I want for you, man.”

He nods, satisfied at last that he’s doing the right thing, and leaves the room to rejoin his brother.

“You okay?” Sam asks before Dean has even had chance to start the engine.

For the first time since he can remember Dean actually is. Cas is alive and at least one of them was going to have a shot at a happy ending.

“I’m good,” Dean says with the first genuine smile he’s given for months. “Let’s hit the road.”

The End.
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