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15 March 2012 @ 08:27 pm
Fic: Spirited Away (2/2)  
Back to Part 1


Dean waits anxiously for almost a minute before the door swings open in that ominous way that never actually happens in real life. He steps into what looks like an office, albeit an ostentatious one, with large open windows set into the far wall. There's an enormous mahogany desk in the middle of the room, and the man sitting behind it is watching Dean carefully.

Dean sees all of that in about two seconds, and then his attention is drawn straight to the floor to the left of the desk, where Cas is kneeling on the carpet, his head bowed but his eyes fixed on Dean. His overcoat and jacket are gone, and he looks unsettlingly small. He shakes his head once, the movement so slight Dean nearly misses it, and Dean gets the message. He schools his expression and looks back at the man behind the desk.

"Are you Michael?" He winces at his own accusatory tone, but the man just raises an eyebrow. He's good-looking, with dark hair and blue eyes like Cas but so, so different. He looks cold and detached, and Dean's suddenly wishing they'd come up with a different idea, because his skin is crawling the longer Michael stares at him.

"I am. And I'll forgive your rudeness; I've learned not to expect much better from humans." He stands up and walks around the desk, his eyes tracking clinically over Dean's body. "I suppose you're here to ask me a favor?"

"Yeah," Dean manages past the lump in his throat. "I was told you could help me figure out what's wrong with Sam. My brother," he adds after a moment.

"Your brother," Michael begins, "is not your brother. He is simply an empty shell. But if you'll do something for me, then perhaps I can set him to rights." He glances back at Cas, who bows his head further, and Dean doesn't know what's going on -- what else is new? -- but he's starting to get seriously pissed. Whatever it is, Cas doesn't fit like this. He's not subservient, not a mindless drone. He's Dean's… guide, friend, whatever. He's Dean's. It takes everything he has to push down his anger and keep a neutral face on for Michael.

"What do you want me to do?"

"The problem with your brother is that his soul is gone. Stolen," he amends, pausing for effect. "My brother, Lucifer, has taken it, and you'll need to retrieve it from him. I don't care how."

"Lucifer? Like, the devil?" The words are out before Dean can stop them, and he can barely hold his ground against the fiery glare that Michael fixes on him.

"Don't try to apply your human fairy tales to us, boy. I can assure you the reality of our existence is entirely different and far, far worse." He's silent for a long moment before continuing, a bit more calmly. "Lucifer is holding Sam's soul inside an amulet. As it would happen, it's an heirloom was stolen from me as well; if you'll bring it back for me, then I'll restore Sam to his body. I'll accept the amulet as payment, and you can remove your human stink from our world."

"Okay," Dean says quickly, figuring he doesn't have a choice and, even if he did, he'd do this for Sam. Go steal a charm bracelet from the devil, or whatever. Right. "How do I find him?"

"Oh, that's simple enough. But first I have a pressing bit of business to which I must attend. How, exactly, did you know to come to me for help?"

"People talk, you know." Dean's heart is thumping in his chest, and he lies even though he gets the feeling there's no point. "I asked around, and they all pointed me to you. Said I should come straight to you or you'd be pissed, so I did. Come straight here."

"I have no use for traitors, you know. Castiel should have brought you here immediately, and I'm still trying to determine how exactly it is that he didn't. But the fact remains that this sort of thing can't be allowed to slip by," he continues, and Dean's eyes widen as he draws a short sword out of the air. "It sets a terrible example."

Dean's barely opened his mouth to warn Cas when Michael moves, swinging the sword down toward the angel's exposed neck. Cas drops out of the way and rolls to the side, and the sword slashes across his stomach instead of decapitating him. He moves to get up, stumbles, and then Michael's looming over him, smiling placidly as he lifts his sword again.

Dean nearly trips over his own feet trying to get between them in time, and he holds up a pleading hand.

"If you kill him, I won't help you. You'll have to do your own dirty work. He didn't do anything wrong, okay? He brought me here."

"He disobeyed an order," Michael sneers, "and I'm entitled to dole out punishment as I see fit. And I very much doubt the sincerity of your threat; it doesn't seem likely that you'd place this creature above helping your brother."

Michael's reaching forward to push him aside when Cas clamps a hand down onto Dean's shoulder. He has just enough time to glance back and see Cas swaying behind him, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth, before he feels a sharp tug in his gut and -- whoa. They're on the other side of the room, Cas slumped against him as they stand on the wide stone window ledge. Dean only has a second to glance down (and down, and down, and he's pretty sure he's about to throw up) before he feels the tug again and shit, they're dropping through empty air for three stomach-wrenching seconds before they hit water with a truly impressive splash. It's not deep, thank God, and Dean quickly drags his head back above the surface.

"I'm definitely going to throw up," he mutters. He glances behind him to look for Cas and panics when he sees him, lying face-down in the water. "Fuck, Cas!" He grabs him under the arms and drags him to the edge of what looks like somebody's backyard koi pond before turning him over onto his back.

Remembering the hit he'd taken, he goes for Cas' shirt, shuddering at the bloodstain spreading slowly across the front. Dean untucks it from his pants and rucks it up around his waist to get a better look, and his stomach roils at the sight of the wound -- probably eight inches long, deep, and seeping something that might be blood if blood could shimmer. He strips off his borrowed white button-down and presses it into the wound, tugging Cas forward to rest against his chest.

"Shit, shit, Cas. Wake up, man, come on." He drops his chin onto the top of Cas' head and squeezes his eyes shut. "You can't die, okay, you're the only friend I've got in this weird-ass place. Except maybe Ruby, but she's fucking scary and I think she wants to eat me." When Cas doesn't stir, he curses again, pulling him in even closer. "Come on, please. I need you not to be dead, okay? I'm begging, here." His voice breaks on the tail end of the plea.

He feels dizzy with relief when Cas coughs, even as he grunts at the way the movement pulls at the wound in his stomach. He draws back in time to see Cas crack one eye open to look at Dean.

"Oh, good," he says absently, his voice rough with pain. "I didn't think we'd make it over the crevasse."

"You didn't think…" Dean barks out a horrified laugh. "Jesus Christ. Are you okay? It looks like he got you pretty good." When he just gets a stare in return, he keeps going. "You're bleeding, except you're not bleeding, I don't know what it is. But it looks bad."

Cas leans in, his eyes fluttering shut as he presses his forehead to Dean's for a long moment. Dean's heart is thumping in his chest at the feeling of having the angel so close, but then Cas sighs quietly and gets to his feet, so quickly Dean doesn't even see him move.

He sways a bit, and Dean scrambles to his feet to clutch at his arms.

"What in the hell do you think you're doing?" he asks, a little bit wild, because he's pretty sure Cas is bleeding out, and the guy is just standing in front of him like it's barely an inconvenience.

"You're very emotional," Cas observes, squinting at Dean thoughtfully. "I'll be fine, Dean."

"Emotional? Okay, I'm sorry I'm not some robot angel, but you just took me on Mr. Toad's Wild fucking Ride across a canyon, dropped me in a pond, and almost died in my arms, all right? I realize you might not have a lot of experience with humans, but I'm telling you, this is a perfectly average reaction."

Cas tilts his head, a furrow forming between his brows that Dean hesitates to label as adorable.

"Who is Mr. Toad?"

"What? How the hell should I know? Is that seriously all you got out of what I said?"

"You're very confusing," Cas rumbles, but he doesn't sound annoyed. He takes a step back, gently dislodging Dean's grip on his arms, and frowns down at the bloody ruin of his shirt. "But I assure you, I'll heal from this. It will just take a bit longer, due to the nature of Michael's weapon."

"Are you sure?" Dean presses. "There's nothing I can do?"

"You need to go to Lucifer. I believe Michael was telling the truth about Sam's soul. I'll find a place to… lie low, at least until I heal, and I'll find you when you return." He places a hand on Dean's shoulder, wincing with the movement. "Please be safe, Dean."

"I'll try, man. But how am I supposed to find this guy, exactly?"

"Just follow the main road, away from Michael's house," Cas tells him. "You'll find it." He squeezes Dean's shoulder once, watching him with an expression that's almost fond, and then he vanishes just like before.

"You know," Dean says to the air, "that's kind of rude." The air doesn't answer him, so he wrings out his t-shirt the best he can and heads for the street.

---

Dean hadn't known how far he'd have to walk to find Lucifer (seriously, Lucifer, and Michael wants to get pissed that he drew that connection?), so he's surprised when he's barely a mile from where he started and the rows of empty houses lining the street start to give way to nothingness. Not open fields, or more widely spaced lots, or the sheer drop-off that he figures must be around here somewhere. Just blank white nothingness.

It's unnerving to walk somewhere when you can't see where you're going, where you came from, or where you're setting your feet, but he's come this far already. Dean's been called a lot of things in his life, and "stubborn bastard" is one of the more accurate ones, so he presses on.

He doesn't feel like he's been walking all that long when the blankness starts to fade, like a fog lifting around him. The first thing he notices is the grass under his feet, and ten steps later he's standing in front of a small, unremarkable house with a thin wisp of smoke coming from the chimney. It seems unlikely, but looking around he can't see anything else on the horizon. Even back the way he came, there's nothing but green grass and a few high clouds. He huffs a breath, sparing a moment to reflect on how weird his life has become, and then he walks decisively toward the front door.

---

Meeting Lucifer is, well. It's kind of anticlimactic. He opens the door before Dean even has a chance to knock, watching him with an expression of mild curiosity.

"So were you going to steal it? Or just ask me really nicely?" He taps one finger against his chin thoughtfully. "Should I go back inside so you can come in through the chimney like some kind of housebreaking Saint Nicholas?" Dean blinks.

"Um, no? That's okay, I think. I was just hoping we could talk. You're Lucifer, right?"

The man looks to his left and right, wordlessly pointing out the complete lack of anybody else in the vicinity, and then he shrugs.

"I suppose you were expecting the prince of darkness. I've been told I'm a bit underwhelming after all the hype," he confides, and then he takes a step back into the house, gesturing for Dean to come inside. Feeling a bit off-kilter, Dean just follows him silently. He realizes that he's been doing a lot of that since he got here, quietly trailing along behind other people, and he makes a mental note to be disgusted with himself once he and Sammy have gotten away alive.

Lucifer's right; despite what he'd been told, Dean had been expecting something different. He's not sure what, but it definitely wasn't this guy, middle-aged and moderately attractive, with dirty blond hair and the slightest hint of a pot belly. He's obviously a little weird, but he looks more or less harmless.

"Appearances can be deceiving," Lucifer says quietly, and Dean jerks in surprise. "Oh, listen to me. A few centuries without anyone to talk to, and I start speaking in clichés." He sighs. "Would you like something to eat? A beer, perhaps?"

"No, thanks, I'm good," Dean says anxiously. "What I really wanted to talk to you about is my brother."

"Dean," Lucifer interrupts him. "I know why you're here, and I know what you're going to ask me. You're being awfully rude, though. Would it kill you to forget about your brother for a few hours and enjoy a nice meal? I'm trying to be a hospitable host, and I made a very nice soufflé when I learned you were coming."

"Are you fucking serious?" Dean blurts out, forgetting himself in the face of this guy's special brand of weirdness.

"Oh, that's more like it," Lucifer says with a wan smile. "I was hoping I could get you to stop acting like a kicked puppy. It was starting to get embarrassing for all of us. You still have to try the soufflé, though. Do you know how hard it is to keep them from falling? It took me forever to get the hang of it."

And Dean can't help it, he laughs. It's just a chuckle at first, but then it's like something's been building up in him since Sam disappeared. It all bubbles over until he has to drop into a chair in Lucifer's modest living room, eyes damp and shoulders shaking as he laughs until he's hoarse. Because he's fallen into some alternate universe where angels are a thing, and his brother is stuck inside an old necklace, and the devil baked him a soufflé. He had to crack sometime. It was inevitable.

He catches his breath, though, swiping at his eyes, and tries to compose himself. When he looks up, Lucifer's holding two plates and giving him a look of dry amusement, so he figures maybe it wasn't so bad. He takes one of the plates and a fork when Lucifer offers it, finger worrying at a chip in the floral-printed china. Lucifer sits down across from him, and they eat in silence for a few minutes. It's actually pretty good, but Dean's not going to give this guy any satisfaction by letting it show on his face. Finally, he's just pushing crumbs around, and he puts the dish on an end table. He leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

"Okay, look. I'm sorry to barge in on you and start making demands, but I really need that amulet. I won't leave without it, but I guess you already know that."

"I know that you think that, but the thing is, you can't have it. Nothing personal, but I know how badly Michael wants it, and I don't want him getting it. It ends badly for everyone, I promise."

"What's so special about this thing, anyway?" Dean asks, not bothering to hide the anger in his voice. "What, exactly, makes it more important than fixing my brother?"

Lucifer sighs again, a weirdly human sound, before responding.

"There's nothing special about it, Dean. That's the whole problem. Michael is convinced that it's the key to finding our father, but he's been gone so long we can barely remember him. Either he's dead, or he doesn't want to be found. So either Michael finds a way to make it work, which I seriously doubt will happen, or he realizes it's useless. And I wouldn't want to be within a thousand miles of him when his pissiness and abandonment issues go nuclear."

Dean can't help but think there's more than a hint of resentment flowing under all of that indifference, but he's here for a reason, and he can't lose sight of that.

"So you want to keep the amulet away from Michael, fine. But what's the point of locking Sam's soul up in there? What's the point of taking it at all?"

"Human souls are very powerful, Dean. If Michael had gotten to him first, he could have drained him like an old battery without thinking twice. It's in my best interests to keep an eye on things, and when I saw Sam arrive, I had to hide him quickly. The amulet was the only appropriate receptacle I had handy."

"You couldn't have just left him where he was? You know, in his body?"

"I'll admit that the thought crossed my mind," Lucifer muses. "Your brother is certainly intriguing. So tall." Dean scrunches up his nose at that. He really doesn't want to know. "Unfortunately, I didn't have a great deal of time to spare, and he was being quite uncooperative."

"Damn right he was," Dean mutters proudly. Lucifer shoots him a glare.

"Anyway, I told his empty vessel to stay in the house where he had been hiding, and to assume everyone else was an enemy. I suppose I gave his reasoning skills a bit too much credit."

"Uh, you think? I'm pretty sure he was going to murder me!"

"Ah, but it's such an interesting philosophical idea, isn't it? Take away the soul, and what's left? He was working on nothing but id. Well, maybe a bit of ego thrown in, but not enough to really make a difference. He viewed you as a threat, and he would have dispensed with you accordingly." Lucifer tilts his head in a thoughtful way that reminds Dean suddenly and sharply of Castiel, and he stands abruptly.

"Well that sounds really fascinating," he huffs, "let me know when your book about soul theory comes out, and I'll be sure to read it. But what I'm worried about right now is my brother, and I'm done fucking around with you."

"Oh, all right," Lucifer says airily. "But let's not pretend little Sam is the only cause of your worries right now. Try to remember that I can see your soul, as well. Now, stay put. I'll just be a moment."

He disappears in that way that Dean's getting depressingly accustomed to, and Dean pointedly doesn't dwell on that comment about his soul. Lucifer pops back in about fifteen seconds later, holding onto the arm of his creepy-ass robo-brother. Sam looks a bit bewildered, and Dean takes an instinctive step backward.

"The basement, Dean, really?" Lucifer rolls his eyes. "The refrigerator was probably overkill. I'm concerned that you might have trust issues."

"Yeah, Dean, I wasn't going to hurt you. How could you even think that?" Sam asks, his eyes widening in a parody of innocent confusion.

"Okay, is there a reason you brought that thing here? I want my brother, not some floppy-haired horror show."

"Oh, I don't know," Lucifer murmurs, reaching up to slip his hand around Sam's nape. "I find I rather like his hair. As well as the rest of him, for that matter," he adds, his fingers sliding down Sam's back to rest over his ass. And Sam, the fucker, practically preens.

"Dude, stop molesting my brother!" Dean ignores the glare that Sam sends his way. "I'm pretty sure he's in no position to consent to whatever it is you're doing. Honestly, are all angels sex fiends, or have I just been meeting the wrong ones?"

"My goodness, has little Castiel been putting the moves on you, Dean? It's okay, you can tell me. There are traces of his grace lingering all over you, you know. It's kind of sweet."

"What are… how?" Dean sputters indignantly for a minute before collecting himself. "For your information, Cas was bleeding on me, all right? And I'd kind of like to get back and make sure he isn't dead, so maybe we can move this along sometime soon."

"Oh dear," Lucifer says quietly, and he shakes his head. "That's not what I meant, but it doesn't really matter. Let's, as they say, 'get this show on the road.'" He turns to Sam, placing a hand on his cheek. "Truly sorry about this," he tells him, and then Sam is collapsing to the floor again. Dean absently hopes that he doesn't wind up with some long-term head trauma.

"It's entirely possible that Michael is simply hedging his bets, hoping to gain two souls and the amulet. In fact, I'd count on it. I'll put Sam back the way he was, but then you two will have to leave quickly." He lowers himself to kneel beside Sam, tugging at the cord around his neck to expose the amulet where it had been hidden beneath his shirt.

He closes his right hand over the pendant, places his left hand flat over Sam's heart, and murmurs a few words in a language Dean doesn't recognize. Nothing happens for a few long, unnerving seconds, but then Dean has to shield his eyes against the light that flares under Lucifer's palms. When he looks up, Sam is still unconscious, but his face has smoothed out a little bit and Dean's fairly confident that he's himself again.

"Thank you," he tells Lucifer, who's standing slowly. "For a while there I was worried I'd never see him again. You don't even know, man," he says, exhaling shakily as he drags a hand over his face. He almost misses the flash of pain that passes over Lucifer's features, but not quite.

"He'll need to rest for a little while," Lucifer says softly, watching Sam with a fond, sad look. Dean's just working himself up to asking if he's okay when a gust of wind blows through the room, sending a stack of papers fluttering to the floor. He looks around quickly and spots Gabriel standing across the room, looking out of sorts.

"Hey bro," he says carefully, but Lucifer doesn't respond, just stares back at him wide-eyed. Gabriel turns to Dean. "You two need to get moving, like now. Michael tracked down Cas, and shit is going down. I don't think he's going to make it."

"Then what the hell are you doing here?" Dean demands. "Why aren't you helping him?"

"I prefer to operate under the radar," Gabriel says lightly. "Besides, there's not much I can do for Cas while Michael has his grace on lockdown." Dean just stares at him, not understanding, and he continues. "You haven't noticed that Cas has to do what Michael tells him? That he can't go against a direct order? Nobody is that loyal."

"So why does he do it?" Dean asks impatiently.

"Because," Gabriel tells him slowly. "Michael bound Cas' grace to his own way back when Cas was still a fledgling. He wanted a servant who would be loyal no matter what. If Michael tells him to tear his own wings off, Cas is smart enough to do everything he can to find a loophole, but if he can't find one… well."

"Shit," Dean breathes. "He wouldn't do that."

"I don't know, Deano. Michael is a vindictive bastard. That's why you've got to help Cas. Michael's only keeping him alive until you get back with the amulet, in case he needs the leverage."

"What the fuck can I do?" Dean asks wildly. "You guys are angels; I don't exactly think I can beat Michael in a fight."

"Do you know why I live here, by myself?" asks Lucifer, who's been silent until now. "Michael and I used to be very close. As close as you and your brother, certainly. When our father disappeared, we searched for him together for a very long time, even by angelic standards. It eventually became clear to me that he was gone for good, and that continuing our search was futile at best.

"I tried to reason with Michael, to convince him that we should move on, but he became enraged. He accused me of not loving our father enough, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was that his love for our father was so great that the pain of losing him had twisted his grace into something cruel. He banished me, told me only to return if I was prepared for one of us to die. So I've stayed away, all this time."

Dean chances a glance at Gabriel, and the pain on his face is so raw that he has to look away. His own family's dysfunction suddenly doesn't seem like such a big deal. Still, he can't figure out why Lucifer's telling him any of this.

"Look, I'm really sorry. That sounds terrible; I don't know what I'd do if that happened to me and Sam, but I'm not seeing how it's relevant here."

"Don't be an asshole," Gabriel snaps, but Lucifer waves him off.

"It's relevant because an angel's grace is made of love," he tells Dean. "It's where we draw strength, primarily from the bond that exists between us. I've grown weak in my isolation, but I remember that much very clearly."

"Cas said that angels aren't exactly Care Bears. He didn't say anything about the power of love, or whatever."

"He was right about that much. Our love manifests and directs itself in different ways, as with Michael, but in the end that's what makes up our grace. Castiel's grace is weak -- too weak to break the bond -- because Michael keeps him cut off."

"So what am I supposed to do about it?" Dean asks. Lucifer sighs in annoyance, turning to Gabriel without answering his question.

"You should visit more often, brother. It's good to see you."

"Yeah, I think I'll do that," Gabriel responds, his voice a bit hoarse. He clears his throat and grabs Dean's wrist, dragging him over to where Sam's body is lying on the floor. He reaches down to place a hand on Sam's shoulder, and then Dean feels that familiar tugging sensation and has to shield his eyes against the sudden brightness of the sun.

He realizes with a start that he's standing on the bridge again, and he's not alone. Sam's lying next to him, Gabriel's nowhere to be found, and Michael's standing about ten feet away. He's got Cas surrounded, a tall, muscular-looking black guy on one side and a balding middle-aged white guy on the other. They both sneer when they spot Dean, and Cas whirls around, his eyes wide with alarm.

"Dean, you shouldn't be here," he says, his voice thick with fear.

"Quiet, Castiel," Michael orders, and Cas' mouth snaps shut. "Give me the amulet, Dean. I might even spare his life."

"Um, yeah, about that," Dean begins, and Michael's eyes dart to Sam. They go unfocused for a second, and then his face twists into a mask of rage as he realizes what Lucifer had done. The sky begins to darken, clouds roiling in a way that can't be coincidental. Cas takes advantage of the distraction to run to Dean, grabbing his arm and squeezing it tightly.

"Dean, are you okay? I'm so sorry; I didn't want you to walk into this trap, but I couldn't find a way to warn you." His blue eyes are wide and pleading, his face still creased with the pain from his wound, and his hand on Dean's arm is warm and reassuring. He's so beautiful, selfless in his fear for Dean's safety, and suddenly Dean gets it. Gets what Lucifer was telling him.

He steps in closer to Cas, sliding a hand up to his jaw. He senses more than sees Michael and his bodyguards coming towards them, and he leans in to whisper in Cas' ear.

"I'm so sorry I got you into this mess, Cas. Nobody's ever done this much for me that wasn't family, and I won't ever forget that." He takes a deep breath. "I love you," he finishes, barely audible, before pulling back just enough to press their mouths together.

It's brief but intense, Cas freezing for a second before opening his mouth to Dean's with a surprised moan. He barely has time to enjoy it before light is flaring beyond Dean's closed eyelids. He feels a sudden searing pain where Cas' hand still rests on his shoulder, and then Cas is ripping away from him with a cry.

"Cover your eyes, Dean!" Dean stumbles back and does as he's told as the light grows painfully bright. He hears a sharp crack like thunder, and when he finally moves his arm away from his face, he sees Cas standing in front of him. He looks shell-shocked and dizzy, and there is a pair of enormous ash-colored wings spreading out from his back. He smiles at Dean, brief and startling, and then his expression sobers. The other angels have fallen back, looking unsure, and Cas steps back into Dean's space. He kisses him once, almost chaste, and tips forward to rub his cheek along Dean's.

"Thank you," he whispers into Dean's ear. "The gate is open for you to return to your world. As soon as Michael's gone, you have to take Sam with you and run."

Dean opens his mouth to ask for an explanation, but Cas turns away and stalks toward Michael.

"You may have broken your leash, Castiel, but I'm still more powerful than you. I could kill every last one of you, and you couldn't do anything to stop me." Michael looks furious, nearly unhinged, and Dean prays that Cas has a plan.

"I've found a number of ways to circumvent your orders over the years," Cas says calmly as he loosens his tie and tugs it over his head. He begins unbuttoning his shirt, and Dean's torn between interest and confusion. "Unfortunately, I could never find a way to take the final step." He pulls his shirt open, exposing his bare chest, and Dean's surprised to see an intricate tattoo over his heart. It's a circle, surrounded by symbols he's never seen, and it must be something bad, because Michael looks shocked and the other two look horrified.

Before they have a chance to react, Cas presses his hand to the tattoo and says a few quick words in that strange language. There's another flash of light, not as bright as before, but enough that Dean has to squeeze his eyes shut. When he opens them and his vision clears, all the angels are gone. He stares dumbly at the spot where Cas had been standing, only shaking out of his stupor when Ruby bursts out of the front of the house, her eyes wide.

"You two have to go. I don't know how long Michael will be gone, and you should really be back home before he gets back."

"He's not dead?" Dean asks, his heart leaping with relief. Ruby shakes her head once, looking at him sadly.

"It was just a banishing ritual. It blows angels out into the ether for a while." She bites her lip. "I've never seen anyone do one like that. I don't… I don't think Cas could have survived it."

A wave of dizzy sickness washes over Dean, and it takes everything he's got to push it down and focus on the issue at hand. He drops to his knees next to Sam and pats his face, trying to rouse him, but Sam just groans and tips his face away.

"Come on, Sammy," he mutters anxiously, "we need to run, and there's no way I can carry your giant ass."

He distantly hears Ruby shouting for Anna, and a minute later she's pushing past him and dropping two fingers to Sam's forehead. His eyes fly open, and his head whips from side to side in surprised confusion.

"Dean… what?" His voice is rough, but it's definitely Sam, and it's the best thing he's heard in a long time.

"I'll explain everything later, but we've got to get the fuck out of Dodge." He stands up and offers a hand to Sam, tugging him to his feet, and he's grateful when he takes off running and Sam follows him without question. They make it off the bridge, and he can see the archway about ten yards in front of them. They're almost there.

He spares one last look over his shoulder, sees Anna, Ruby, and Gabriel watching him, Ruby's arms wrapped around Anna and Anna's face wet with tears. Then they're at the gate, and when Sam hesitates, Dean gives him a hard shove and they tumble through together.

---

Dean shifts the Impala into park and climbs out, stretching his sore back and leaning back against the door. He'd been all ready to dislike California back when they were still in Kansas, sure that it would be full of hippies and surfers and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but as it turns out, it's kind of nice. The weather's good, and the people are okay, and honestly? After their little adventure over the rainbow or whatever it was, it's hard to complain when some idiot brings his Prius into the garage, insisting that it's making "a really weird noise."

He's pretty mellow these days; he's got Sam, he's got his baby, and they've got a not-entirely shitty apartment. Some days his brain is ready to rationalize away everything that happened as some weird fever dream, but then he'll take off his shirt and see it. The healed-over burn on his shoulder, an angry red handprint that could only have come from one place.

He's glad to know that, out of everything else, Cas was definitely real.

"Shit," he mutters, pushing off the car and squinting in the direction of the library. Getting maudlin hasn't done him any good over the past six months, so there's no reason to go there now.

Dean pulls his phone out of his pocket to check the time. He was supposed to pick up Sam ten minutes ago, but there's no sign of him. He hopes it's the right place -- Sam had to go to the law library to get this paper written, and Dean has no clue if there's more than one. Calling him won't do any good; the kid is religious about turning his phone off in class and when he's studying. With a sigh, he trudges across the street and up the front steps, hoping he doesn't look too out of place in his grease-streaked jeans.

Once he gets inside, he realizes he's got a problem. This place is huge, and there's a second floor, and he's never going to find Sam in here. He scans the entrance, looking for an information desk or anyone who might be able to point him in the right direction.

His breathing stutters when he catches sight of the man behind the circulation desk. He's turned away from Dean, bent over a computer as he logs in a cart full of books. Dean's had this happen a number of times since they got to Palo Alto; he'll spot someone with a slim frame and a head of messy dark hair, and his heart will leap without his permission. He tries not to get his hopes up, knowing that it only ever ends in disappointment and a raging hangover, and heads that way to ask him if he's seen Sam.

The man turns toward him then, reaching for a pen on the desk in front of him. His eyes flicker up to settle on Dean, and shit. His hair is a little longer, and he's got a solid five o'clock shadow, but this guy looks so much like Cas that it makes Dean's chest contract painfully.

When the guy sees him, his mouth drops open on a quiet "oh" of surprise, and he stares at Dean like he's seeing a ghost.

"Dean?" he asks, so quiet that Dean's not even sure he didn't imagine it, but he knows that voice and those startling blue eyes. It's Cas. There's no way it can't be. He looks around for a way behind the counter, and when he doesn't see one he just hops up and slides right across. He drops down on the other side and hesitates for just a second, so close he has to tilt his head down to look Cas in the eye. Cas doesn't hesitate, though, just slides a hand up into Dean's hair and tugs him down into a kiss that has Dean gasping into his mouth with how good it feels.

He wraps his arms around Cas and backs him into the cart of books, laughing breathlessly as they dislodge a few before Cas is pulling their mouths back together and using his free hand to drag Dean's hips closer.

Dean distantly hears the sound of a throat clearing, and he pulls away long enough to see Sam staring at him with a look of abject horror, like he just committed kitten genocide or something. He looks at Cas, then back to Sam, who's got his arms folded and one eyebrow raised in silent question.

"Uh, hey, Sammy. I was just looking for you. I guess you guys never met, um. This is Cas?"

Sam frowns in confusion, and then his expression clears and he stares at Cas, eyes wide.

"Yeah, I know, dude. I bet you feel shitty about all those times you accused me of making it all up, don't you?" Sam shoots him an unimpressed look before leaning across the counter with his hand thrust out.

"Hey, man, I'm Sam. Sam Winchester. I mean, you already knew that, but it's really great to meet you. I understand I owe you pretty big."

Cas stares at his hand for a long moment, looking completely bewildered, before he reaches out and clasps it in his own.

"It's very nice to see you when you're conscious, Sam," he tells him with painful sincerity, "and you don't owe me anything, I assure you."

Dean's practically twitching with all the questions he wants to ask, all the things he'd like to do with Cas. Only half of them even involve sex, and if he didn't already know, that fact alone would tell him how far gone he is.

"So, Cas, how? I mean, this is the last place I expected to see you."

Cas glances at the clock, then toward the door, where a woman has just come inside. She waves a hello to Cas, frowning at the sight of Dean behind the desk, and then hurries through an employees-only door.

"My shift ends in five minutes," Cas explains. "I can explain it then. Would you like to… get a cup of coffee with me?" He says it like he's reading from a book, and Dean barks out a delighted laugh. It earns him some nasty looks from the library patrons studying at the tables, but he couldn't care less.

"You got it, Cas," he says, smiling so widely his face hurts a little. "Anything."

---

Castiel watches Dean through the kitchen window, smiling faintly as he snatches up the spatula and pushes Sam away from the grill. If someone had told him two years ago that he might have a life like this, he'd never have thought it could be true.

Of course, two years ago he had just crash-landed in Palo Alto, his grace almost entirely drained and his vessel's torso scarred over from Michael's attack. He hadn't been able to control his direction when he felt himself being pulled toward earth, so disoriented and weak after the endless nothingness that had followed the banishing spell.

He'd woken up in a public park, drawing suspicious glares from passersby, and there had been an envelope in his coat pocket containing an address, a credit card, and a newspaper cutout advertising a job at a local library. He still remembers the note that was inside, keeps it in his wallet behind the receipt from that first coffee date with Dean.

Looks like dad was just in hiding after all - I guess he thought you deserved a second chance. This should get you started … sorry I can't do more. Good luck, little bro.

He hadn't had anything else to go on, no way of finding Dean, so he went to apply for the job and went on from there. They had seemed oddly unconcerned with his lack of qualifications and references, and he suspects that Gabriel had done more for him than he'd let on. After that, he just focused by on getting from day to day in a world where everyone thought he was a little strange, knowing they were probably right.

Then Dean had shown up, like a painfully realistic figment of Cas' imagination. Cas had laughed until his eyes watered and his ribs ached when he realized how close he'd been all that time. Dean asked him about it once, about what a coincidence it was that Castiel ended up here. All he could think was that what little bit of grace he had left had pulled him toward Dean like a magnet, even if it was only strong enough to get him within a few miles.

Either way, every day spent alone was worth it when he found Dean again, Dean, who is so full of love Cas sometimes felt like he might burst. He jumps when a pair of arms wrap around him from behind, relaxing when he feels Dean smiling against the nape of his neck.

"You get lost in here, Cas?" He gestures to pile of silverware Cas had come inside to get for dinner. He squeezes him a little tighter and presses a kiss to his shoulder. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," Cas tells him, turning around and letting Dean box him in against the counter. "I was just thinking." Dean's wearing a T-shirt that's just a hair too small, his shoulders pulling at the fabric. Cas can see the bottom of the scar peeking out from his sleeve, and he slides a hand up to fit over top of it, relishing the way Dean's hips stutter into his.

He'd felt guilty the first time he'd seen it, ashamed that he could have hurt Dean at all, but Dean had assured him that it didn't hurt. That he liked the reminder. Cas never quite believed him until one night, when he had been moving inside Dean. He'd leaned down to mouth at the mark on his shoulder, and Dean had made a ruined noise and come all over himself. After that, he didn't doubt anything Dean said about it.

"Cas," Dean groans, "if you start that, then Sammy's going to let the steaks burn and we're going to have to have Hamburger Helper for dinner."

Cas shudders and pushes him away, pulling an amused smile from Dean, who snatches up the silverware and heads outside, his laughter filtering back through the screen door. Cas takes a few seconds to indulge in the warm feeling in his chest, the way Dean makes his worn-out grace flare up just a little.

"Cas, food's ready!" Sam calls from the backyard, followed by vague sounds of scuffling and a sharp yelp from Dean.

Cas smiles, feeling endlessly lucky to have found a family like this one. He opens the fridge, grabbing a six-pack and a bottle of wine he's been saving, and he heads outside to join them as the sun dips behind the trees.
 
 
 
gunsrlovegunsrlove on March 20th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
I loved this! Your angel!Cas was so strong and stoic and other-wordly, and Librarian!Cas at the end was awesome! It was nice to see Ruby not being evil....sarcastic, yes, but overall a pretty nice demon. Loved the chance meeting in the library between Dean and Cas and the family scene at the end. It was lovely to see Cas, Dean and Sam just having a relaxing, satisfying life. It was peaceful and it gave me a good feeling inside. Thank you. :)
baby in a trenchcoatdiscreetmath on March 30th, 2012 11:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you so, so much :) I really appreciate it, and I'm glad you liked it!
(Deleted comment)
baby in a trenchcoatdiscreetmath on March 30th, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you!! Obviously I took it in a different direction, but I was very worried about doing the source material at least a little bit of justice. Because, you know. Spirited Away.

I'm so, so glad you enjoyed it! :D
Geaven: SPN - Superman wears Castiel pyjamasgeaven on August 13th, 2012 02:23 pm (UTC)
Awesome show + awesome movie = awesome fic! :D

No, seriously, you did a great job with this. I can really imagine Dean putting up with doing all kinds of freaky stuff for Sam (although I couldn't help but picture him in those pink clothes they have Chihiro wear in the movie and giggle my head off) and Cas's role was very believable.

Well done!
cottoncory on September 6th, 2012 08:35 pm (UTC)
This is so, so nice! I never got around to watching Spirited Away, but I still think the story you wrote is really good and I'm kinda seeing it as a parallel to SPN canon. And you did an amazing job with the characters and their relationships. It's not just Dean and Cas (possessive, protective cocky human and quiet, selfless bamf angel? check), I also really enjoyed the way you wrote Ruby and Anna and Gabriel. Not to mention Lucifer. I'm not sure if I'd accept food from him, but I gotta say, soufflé is a good argument at basically all times. I'll admit that I have a soft spot for good!Lucifer, though. :3