“I’ll be out in a minute.”
“I’d hurry,” Sam said and shut the door.
What the hell? Dean thought and hastily pulled on his clothes, and padded downstairs barefoot.
There was a young man standing in Bobby’s living room, looking out the window. He was tall and slender and dark-haired, and there was something familiar about the way he held himself, about the calm atmosphere around him. Dean said, “Do I know you?” and the man looked away from the window and faintly smiled.
“Dean,” he said, in a soft voice that was both warm and scared.
“I’m sorry,” Dean said, “I don’t — how do I know you?”
The man said, “It’s me.” Dean shook his head, still confused. “It’s Castiel.”
“What?” Dean whispered.
“It’s Castiel,” the man said again, and looked at Sam and Bobby, both on their guard in the archway between the library and kitchen.
Dean narrowed his eyes and walked closer to him, close enough to look into the other man’s eyes. He peered into them, and the man gazed steadily back. “The Fishers’ garden,” Dean said. “The tree. What happened?”
The man said, “You were hanging by your ankle. I cut you down and I held you while you got your equilibrium back.”
“Cas,” Dean whispered and wrapped his arms around him. He was so happy he was shaking. “Hi,” he whispered. “Hi, there.”
“Hi,” Castiel answered, holding him just as tight, and he buried his face in Dean’s shoulder.
Behind them Sam coughed and said to Bobby, “Coffee?”
“Coffee,” Bobby said, and Dean opened his eyes long enough to see them retreat into the kitchen.
“Let’s go outside,” Dean said to Castiel, and called, “We’ll be outside,” unsurprised when neither of them did more than wave a hand to acknowledge them. Holding tight to Castiel’s hand, Dean brought him out the front door and behind the house, away the wrecked cars.
They walked in silence for a few minutes, holding hands, while Dean tried to choose from the hundreds of questions running through his mind. Castiel seemed content to just walk along with him.
“How did you get away?” Dean said finally.
“There was no getting away,” Castiel said. “I was sent. Delivered, you might say.” He looked at Dean, biting his lip. “I am here for good, Dean.”
“For good — like, forever?”
Castiel nodded slowly. He looked so much like the Castiel Dean knew, but just different enough that there was no thinking they were the same man. His features were softer, his eyes a little less weary, his voice was lighter and clearer. “I’m . . . on probation, you might say.”
“Typical,” Dean said. “They use you and then punish you for doing what they wanted.”
“Dean,” Castiel gently reproved him. He stopped walking and held tighter to Dean’s hand. “Dean, I saw my Father.”
“Oh, Cas,” Dean whispered back and held his cheek.
Castiel pressed his face into Dean’s palm. “He said there must be changes. He said faith was enough, had always been enough, and faith by the sword was not faith at all. So . . . there are changes. I may have disobeyed, but I have a chance to prove myself.”
“What chance is that? One big gesture and then you go back?” Dean tried to say it lightly but couldn’t hide his disappointment.
Castiel shook his head. “I don’t go back until I’m finished. Dean.” He took Dean’s hand and pressed it to his chest. Castiel’s skin felt warm as ever, and his heart beat steadily. “I’m mortal, Dean. I’m here to prove myself, just like everybody else. I will go home if I live a good life.”
“Oh,” Dean said, confused, and then understood and felt his breath leave him for a moment. “Cas. This means –”
“Yes,” Castiel said, smiling. “I am in your care, Dean. You’re to show me how.”
“How to — be good? Cas, I don’t know much about that.”
“You know more than most,” Castiel said in a mild tone. “You will have to show me. It may take a long time. Years and years. Decades.”
“Castiel,” Dean breathed and pulled Castiel to him. There was no hesitation on Castiel’s part — he held Dean by his hips and kissed him. His lips were a little less full than the mouth Castiel had before, but his kiss felt the same — hungry, yearning, full of love. “It’s definitely you,” Dean whispered and Castiel hushed him with another kiss.