Characters: Castiel, Dean Winchester, Nora
Summary: It may not be ideal but Castiel's trying to make his way through this human life.
A/N: The 2.5 year overdue 9.06 coda that no one asked for but I finally got off my ass and finished anyway.
“Where to, Cas?”
Dean’s words send anger snap crackling through Castiel’s veins and slicing through the numbness like lightning.
‘I want to go home.’ He thinks; jaw clinching tight to keep the words from spilling out as Dean eagerly watches him over the Impala’s roof.
Instead of an answer he slides silently into the front seat where he’s all too aware of the taunt stretch of skin that’s now wholly his own. Not even Nora’s kind and genuine words able to soothe where it’s too tight over bones and muscle.
It feels as if a simple shift would send him shattering apart. He wonders if he'd be pulled back together this time, if it did.
Being human and all.
Human and cast out not once but twice from home.
Dean eases behind the wheel and Castiel tries not to think how being sent away from the bunker had hurt the worst of the two.
“Hey, Cas, you can't do that man.”
Blinking, he finds Dean pressing too close as he tries to gently pry open the injured hand that he’s unconsciously balled up into a fist.
Fingers and Dean’s wide palm move over his own where the bloody rag is clenched tight.
“The motel I’m staying at is closer. We'll get this taken care of, grab some grub then I'll take you out to your place, alright?” Dean offers with a strained smile.
Right. The fictional room on the farthest end of town. Made up to explain why he needed to return to the Gas-n-Sip instead, between the high school and his date, babysitting, with Nora.
“It's on the other side of town, Dean. It’s easier to get things done this way.”
He'd left Dean in the parking lot and faced the confused look from the noon shift worker, Malcolm, when he entered the store. The puzzlement had remained as he’d muttered a fabricated explanation of forgotten paperwork to the college student.
“When humans want something really, really bad, we lie.”
Castiel really, really wants to go home. Even though that option’s been cutoff for him at every turn.
He’ll just have to make due with a sleeping bag in the Gas-n-Sip storage room. It may be nothing but it's human and it's his.
“Dude, seriously, Greatest American Hero?”
Castiel is glad for the frivolous question that keeps his mind off the pain of Dean dressing a wrist that’s thankfully only sprained, not broken. Though, he can’t say as much for the two fingers on the same hand.
“It seemed to be the only thing that would soothe Tanya.” He explains as Dean moves carefully around the cramped space of the rundown motel bathroom.
The anxiety of attempting to pacify a feverish baby was only intensified with the distress of being caught up in the cloying tension that hung over the room as Dean took care of the mess left behind by Ephraim’s attack.
The hunter had come back in as Castiel had made his way through the third round of the song that’d worked so well earlier in the evening.
Castiel had tried hard to ignore the strange, soft expression that had looked out of place on someone who'd just disposed of a dead angel’s murdered vessel.
“I used to watch reruns as a kid.” Dean explains. Bandage constricting tight enough that Castiel involuntarily winces.
“I do, whenever I have trouble sleeping.” Castiel doesn't add that he watches the tiny black and white TV in the break room when the hard storage room floor keeps him up more often than not.
Or that he feels a strange understanding and kinship with Ralph Hinkley. Knowing all too well about finding one’s way without guidance.
‘Listen, buddy. Um... You can't stay.’
“Why don’t you just crash here and I'll drop you off in the morning?” Dean offers, later, after the empty medical supply packaging has been swept into the trash. The remains of their dinner strewn in foam containers on the two double beds and nightstand between.
Castiel wants to decline the assistance so eagerly given now, but the bed is comfortable and he’s full of food that’s not something ready to be tossed in the trash from the Gas-n-Sip.
So he nods, accepting with the barest minimum of interaction. He'll take what's given as long as Dean understands he doesn't depend on it.
The eldest Winchester may have sent him out but Castiel has done well to keep himself going.
“Night, Cas.” With a click of the lamp they’re pitched into darkness.
“Good night, Dean.”
He expects sleep to come quickly with how exhaustion rolls over his body in waves. But it eludes him. Leaves him staring at the ceiling well into the night.
He’s not the only one.
Dean, for all appearances, though spread face down on the mattress, doesn’t actually asleep.
Castiel may no longer be an angel but he’s watched over Dean Winchester countless times and he can sense the tenseness in the hunter’s otherwise careless sprawl.
He doesn't say anything. Knows there’s not enough time left in the night to answer all the questions he has.
‘You're human now. It's not your problem anymore.’
It may not be ideal but he’s making his way through it.
For once he’s able to see the positive effects of his actions. Even if it's something as simple as Mrs. Bixley’s smile at the coffee she only stops for on his shift. “Best cup I've ever had, Steve. Keeps me on my toes during bingo.”
Or soothing a baby’s discomfort with a long gone television show’s theme song.
Maybe this is what he’s meant for.
He’s only been at the store for a month but he runs through opening procedures on autopilot.
Dean's final words, ‘You're adapting. I'm proud of you.’ fill the quiet of the empty store.
Castiel had lingered when they pulled up to the Gas-n-Sip, that morning. Hoping for an explanation but was only met with silence and a jumbled mix of emotions.
Emotions that had warred behind green eyes before Dean shoved them down with a wave.
A dismissal without explanation.
Castiel had kept eyes forward as he opened the front door of the store. Stayed focused on his duties as the Impala rumbled out of the parking lot. Leaving only the low sound of the television in it’s wake.
‘It's been weeks since the massive meteor storm...’
His chest aches thinking about his brothers and sisters wandering.
Overwhelmed like Ephraim. Lost and alone like Hael.
More likely than not, with anger directed toward him. And rightfully so.
‘I will devote my life to helping you all.’
Human. So fragile against the might of angels, even wingless, but he has to try.
He may no longer know where his home lies but that doesn't mean he should leave his brothers and sisters without theirs.
“Thanks again for babysitting Tawnya, Steve.” Nora’s a bustle of energy as she comes in for her shift. “Her fever broke this morning.”
“I'm glad.” He truly is. His eyes follow Nora around as she sets to restocking the aisles.
“I need to speak with you, though.” The grave tone immediately snaps Nora’s attention away from the Cornuts and Slim Jims.
“Steve, what's wrong?” She asks; hands nervously tucking hair behind her ears.
“I am forever grateful for the opportunity you've given me.” Castiel’s heart thumps wildly as he continues. “Even when it would have been easier not to.”
He'd been drawn in to the store by the help wanted sign. With no identification and a name hastily snatched off the giant Captain America Big O Slush display when Nora had asked for it.
But she’d taken his explanation of being exploited by someone he’d trusted, at face value. She’d given him a job and more importantly extended friendship to him.
Not to Castiel, Angel of the Lord. But to regular human Steve. With the ironic superhero name that took pride in every little task done right.
“I have to leave.” He ends; staring at the floor in front of him instead of Nora.
“What?” Confusion rings loudly. “Are you alright? Is this a permanent thing?”
“I'm fine.” He offers; finally meeting her gaze. “But I don't know how long it will be.”
“Oh.” Her face falls and Castiel hates that he’s the cause. “Is it a family thing?”
“Yes and I need to be there to help them.”