Prompt: Write about a person whose reputation rests on the appearance of an inanimate object.
Summary: Dean always hoped—if they won the war—Cas might stick around and learn how to be human. It turns out to be the other way around. (Title from T.S. Eliot’s The Rock. Also, this fic was meant to be filled with symbolism and Deep Meaning, but...no dice. Better luck next time, I guess.)
The words come like a whisper, an echo across Heaven: The Righteous Man has perished. The voice is Gabriel’s, and Castiel is grateful to his brother as he careens towards the gates, where Dean is being judged. Castiel was probably meant to know later, much later, after the judgment has been made—but Gabriel is on his side.
The Saint Peter is standing sentinel by the gates. Castiel appears beside him and bows his head in respect; he is not well acquainted with Peter, Prince of the Apostles, but they have always been on polite terms, and though Castiel does not wish to anger him, he straightens himself and looks the Saint directly in the eye. (Dean taught him this during the War: the act of confrontation, the art of fearlessness.)
He says to Peter, “This is Dean Winchester,” and it’s true: Dean is standing at the line's forefront, wearing his leather jacket, his favorite boots, an expression of unease—but if Castiel were to look beyond Dean’s transparent stoicism, he would read the Righteous Man’s fear of returning to Hell as easily as reading a child’s book.
“I know who this is,” Peter replies. “But we have had many Righteous Men at our gates, and some have not made it inside. He is to be judged as any other.”
Anger blooms in Castiel’s spirit. After everything Dean has sacrificed, he is repaid with a slap in the face.
“Let him through the gates, Saint. There is no need to taunt him with judgment,” and then he leans closer to swear: “If he is sent down, I will retrieve him. If he is sent again, I will rip Hell apart in my search. Saint, let him in, and I will be of no further bother to you.”
“I have no doubt that you would,” Peter quietly answers, and sighs, the sound of age slipping from his mouth. He turns to the book in front of him, a volume that can never be filled, and writes his decision in the language of God. “All right, Castiel. He shall stay.”
“Samuel Winchester and Robert Singer as well. Anyone who fought,” Castiel bargains. He demands this for himself, but also for Dean; when he finally enters Heaven, Dean should not need to worry about the fate of his brother or dear friend. “Do not let me hear that they were judged in secrecy.”
Peter’s lips thin, a sure sign that his patience is waning.
“You were not to know of this Winchester’s judgment,” he argues. “Gabriel is to blame for that. He knows, just as everyone else, that your love for this man goes beyond itself.”
Castiel stills. He had never declared himself while on Earth, but the things he did, the decisions he made, all for Dean—certainly the Righteous Man doesn’t need it spelled out for him.
Peter unlocks the gates for Dean, and motions for Castiel to follow him.
“Do not concern yourself over the War’s soldiers, Castiel,” Peter says. “I will make sure they join you when the time is appropriate. Until then, do not return here,” and Castiel nods in acknowledgment, and customarily kisses the Saint’s hand. When Castiel looks back up, he sees the old soul has found it within himself to smile.
“We all knew,” the Saint whispers. Behind him, Dean has entered the gates and waits just inside for Castiel to join him. “We all knew things would change after the War. You were always quiet, and now look at you. You are a force, Castiel.”
“Thank you, Saint,” the angel breathes, and hurries to accompany the Righteous Man at the threshold of eternity. The whisper returns to ask, Did you retrieve him?; Castiel, in his joy, manages to answer, Yes, yes, he is with me right now, and is certain his happiness must reflect itself across Heaven, reaching even Gabriel.
Dean, too, looks happy, but his expression is also mixed with uncertainty, relief, and concern.
“You saved my ass back there, Cas,” he says, tilting his head towards the closed gates, and towards the Saint who stands on the other side. “I didn’t think he was going to...” He laughs anxiously, and pulls at the bottom of his jacket. “Then you showed up, and I knew. I knew you had my back.”
Castiel smiles widely and reaches out to hug Dean, not even asking his permission. He has a feeling this will be allowed. Dean laughs again, more relaxed this time, and hugs back.
“I missed you,” Castiel whispers into Dean’s neck. “I wanted so much to see you again, but after Lucifer was banished, we were not allowed to return. Gabriel told me to be patient, and that you would find us instead.”
“Here I am,” Dean gruffly confirms, and pulls away. Castiel does not know if that is Dean’s manner of retreating. Is he moving too quickly, admitting too much? Castiel can’t help himself; he’s waited so long, though he’s sure only a few years have passed on Earth since Dean and he had last seen one another.
He takes Dean’s hands into his own. Dean looks at him, their eyes meeting squarely. If Castiel’s actions are not welcome, then he doesn’t want to know—not now, when he is still so overwhelmed with love.
“There’s so much to show you,” he murmurs. Perhaps the magnificence of Heaven will distract Dean from Castiel’s love that goes beyond itself. “Would you like to see?”
Within an instant, they are standing in a field that cannot be measured by mortal methods. The field is punctuated by a tree that spirals into the clouds; the trunk is wide, so wide that Castiel can think of no human item with which to compare it, and the branches twist so far that they melt into the distance.
“Where are we?” Dean asks, looking around, his hand still in Castiel’s. He’s pleased that Dean hasn’t let go—the Righteous Man spent his entire Earth-bound life being told you can’t hold a man’s hand without repercussions, boy, so linking their fingers together is not an act that will come naturally for him.
“It’s a surprise,” Castiel answers, leading him towards the tree. As they approach, voices rise up to meet them—Castiel recognizes them; he’s been here many times to visit, and know this place like he knows scripture.
“You sure we should be here?” Dean quietly inquires. “I can hear people—”
He stops when he sees Mary Winchester sitting on a tire swing, being pushed by John. The grass is short where they are, and Mary can go forward and back without her feet brushing the ground. Her yellow hair is not quite straight and not quite curly, but it is disheveled from the wind, from soaring on the swing. John is smiling with her, at ease—no, honored—with his simple task of pushing, watching her go up, waiting for her to return to his hands again.
“This,” Castiel whispers, leaning close to Dean’s ear, “seemed like the best thing to show you first.”
“Mom,” is all Dean can manage to utter. “And dad.”
“Don’t you wish to greet them?” Castiel asks. Dean turns to look at him, eyes wide, as though he hasn’t even considered the possibility. He lets go of Castiel, drifting and tumbling in their direction, disbelieving until they catch sight of their son staring so overtly.
“Mom,” is all Dean says, and suddenly Mary is scrambling off the swing and running towards him. Her soft arms form a ring around his neck as she holds onto Dean, her face buried in his neck. John joins them, smiling the half-smile he has carried with him since childhood.
Castiel wonders if he should stay. Perhaps this is private. And isn’t that odd, wondering whether this family would crave privacy? Before the war, before residing on Earth with the Winchesters, it would never have crossed Castiel’s mind that privacy would be wanted. In Heaven, there is no need for it, and usually no desire.
“Thank you so much for bringing him, Castiel,” Mary says, touching Dean’s face, not even looking in Castiel’s direction. The angel doesn’t take offense.
“I will leave you,” he says. He still has so much to show Dean, places and grandeur that far exceed the field, but it can wait.
“No,” Dean quickly cuts in. “Can you stay? I’d like—I mean, if you don’t have anything else to do,” and Castiel wonders if Dean will ever realize that he will always be the main priority, the one thing that trumps all others.
They sit at the base of the tree and talk. Castiel doesn’t know how long they’re there. Time doesn’t exist in Heaven; they could be there for minutes, hours, days, but for Castiel it’s not long enough. The happiness on Dean’s face is rapturous, and the proximity of him makes Castiel want to push him onto the ground and kiss until they both smell of earth.
Mary and John listen closely as Dean tells his tales. He talks about the hunts before the Apocalypse began, when he and Sam were simply two hunters on the constant lookout for leads. And then the war came; he describes Uriel, Ellen and Jo’s death, Bobby’s injury, Gabriel, Lucifer, the Winchester Gospels, his trip into a future that fortuitously never happened. Castiel feels a certain pleasure that each story features him somehow, that he warrants inclusion in these memoirs.
John’s gaze keeps flickering from Dean to Castiel. He knows. He must by now.
When Dean is at last out of words, Mary says, “You were lucky to have Castiel on your side, Dean,” and she, too, is looking right through him, as though his love for Dean is so poorly hidden that she can focus on nothing else.
“Let me show you the Grand Hall,” Castiel hastily says. “Would you both care to accompany us?”
“No,” John answers, looking back at Dean. Castiel knows they’re dithering on purpose, to afford them time alone. “All those books give me a headache, figuratively speaking. We’ll be right here when you’re done showing him the ropes.”
He whisks Dean to the Grand Hall, a building so immense that blueprints would refuse it. The ceiling arches far above them; one is nearly unable to discern the great frescoes painted upon its surface, and magnificent chandeliers hang from gilded chains. The gleaming marble floors are inlaid with metals not found on Earth.
It is the walls, however, that are most grand. They’re covered in books, up, down, and sideways; the spines spiral out in a rainbow of colors. They’re written in languages that have disappeared or have yet to be conceived or are currently spoken.
“Sam’s gonna have a shit-fit,” Dean breathes. “This is... fuck, how many books are here?”
“They can’t be counted,” Castiel answers. “This Hall contains all knowledge. Anything you want to know can be read within these.”
“How do you find the one you need?” Dean asks, gravitating towards the right wall.
“Will it,” comes the simple response. “Think of what you would like to know, and that is the volume you will find.”
Dean looks thoughtful, and then proclaims: “I want to know how to cook lobster.”
He reaches out to touch a random spine, and withdraws a cookbook from the shelf. He puts it back and says, “I want to know about Winston Churchill,” and his fingers land on a thick biography of the significant Prime Minister. He glances at Castiel, as though to say there has to be something this library doesn’t have, and Castiel raises an eyebrow that states, I dare you to try.
Dean considers it for a moment.
“Okay, okay. I assume this library has fiction?”
Castiel nods, and Dean grins deviously.
“I want,” he proclaims, “a well-rounded story about Batman and Doctor Sexy teaming up to fight the forces of evil.”
To Dean’s dismay, a novella about Batman and Doctor Sexy is there, and a quick glance through its pages reveal descriptive writing and perfect grammar.
“Okay, you win,” he mutters, placing the book back on the shelf. “And seriously? Sammy may never leave this place.”
Castiel takes Dean to see everything: the blue seashore; the forest filled with sweet, ripe fruits; the floating mountains barely discernable through the clouds; the spiraling gardens overflowing with flowers; and finally, the one place Castiel dares to call his own: a lakeshore, much like the one Dean once dreamt of. There’s no wooden platform, and the water is much clearer, but otherwise it bears a close resemblance.
“This is where I come when things are settled,” Castiel says. No one ever comes here. He isn’t sure what he hopes to accomplish by bringing Dean with him, but for some reason, he simply wants to share this space, this one place Castiel stakes as his.
“It’s awesome, Cas,” Dean quietly states. “Is it yours?”
“I like to think so,” Castiel answers. “I have never seen another soul here. It is a nice spot for reflection, or to rest.”
Dean removes his boots and walks over to the water’s edge. He looks over his shoulder and asks, “Where do we live?”
Castiel blinks at him, trying to shake away to urge to push Dean into the cool, clean water and get him completely wet. Once upon a time, he never had such thoughts, and assumed none of the other angels did, either—but he is sure, now, that his brethren did desire, and it was Castiel who was the odd one.
“Live?” he repeats. “I don’t understand.”
“Through the whole nickel tour, I never saw one house, Cas. Don’t people live anywhere? Are there any cities or towns? A really big hotel, maybe?”
Castiel doesn’t know what to say. It will feel like a disappointment when the word “no” slips from his mouth, because Dean Winchester has always needed a base of operations: a cheap motel room, Bobby’s house, even the Impala. He is a soldier, and soldiers can’t wander for too long without setting up camp and devising a plan.
“We don’t have houses in Heaven, Dean,” Castiel says, and wipes away Dean’s slight look of dismay by adding, “But I can build you one. Anything. All you must do is tell me.”
Dean laughs. “Yeah? Where do you plan on putting it? I don’t think anyone’ll be very happy if a random house pops up next to the Grand Hall.”
Castiel focuses on his shoes. They’re rough from use. He should repair them, soon, and yet some part of him is fond of the scuffs and tattered laces: these shoes have been places. “I can build it here, if you would like,” he quietly offers. “No one will even notice.”
Dean looks out onto the water. It gently laps at his feet.
“This is your place, Cas,” he finally says, his voice even. “Your property. I want you to keep something for yourself.”
Castiel moves to stand by Dean. He’s too close, violating the personal space that humans value so highly, but he’s also offering something personal. Perhaps these things will cancel themselves out.
“And I would like,” he says, “for you to stay here with me.”
Castiel knew Dean would object; he'd been so proud on Earth, and here will be no different, so he cuts off Dean’s protest by “mojoing” a castle on the lakeshore. The castle scales down to a Victorian mansion, then a sky scraper, back down to an 18th-century cottage, up to an elaborate hotel. Dean glances at Castiel, whose face is a mask of concentration as he flips through his mental catalog of buildings.
At the...twentieth? hundredth?...try, a farmhouse appears; Dean touches Castiel’s elbow to let him know this one, and the angel breaks his trance.
“Are you certain?” he asks, doubtfully examining the house before him. It isn't at all magnificent. “I will build you anything. You don't need to settle, Dean.”
“Will you give it some front stairs? And a porch. A wrap-around one. With creaky floorboards," Dean requests instead, seemingly accepting Castiel's insistence. It's done in an instant. Dean takes great care in climbing up the wooden stairs and making sure they creak properly, but the door doesn't squeak when he opens it; Castiel, sensing the mistake, adds rust to the dirty-gold hinges. The inside, where the foyer should be, is filled with nothing, a void, utter blackness.
“We need to reach your inner Martha Stewart, Cas,” Dean says. “It looks like the outer edge of the universe in here. How 'bout you teach me how to make the rooms?”
Castiel creates a foyer within one breath.
“I will teach you how to do everything eventually,” he promises, and watches as the walls paint themselves white, doors appear in pivotal locations, windows pop into existence—but then the paint cracks and the knobs become rickety and the windows refuse to close just right, and that's exactly how Dean wants it.
Dean has never liked suburban, cookie-cutter houses—he prefers this, with all its imperfections that seem to proclaim I was built by human hands.
“Where do you live?” Dean asks, glancing at Castiel. The angel doesn't know how to answer: the concept of existing in a place for so long without a lodging to unwind or regroup or host parties is still an odd concept for Dean.
“I live in no particular place,” Castiel tries to explain. “I come to this lake when I'm not needed elsewhere. Angels do not grow...sleepy, as you would say. Therefore, we require no permanent residence besides Heaven itself.”
As they wander through the house, a kitchen materializes. The fixtures are new and gleaming, but then Castiel thinks of Dean, and changes them to an older style.
A dining room creates itself opposite of the kitchen: the floors are dark, polished wood slats, and the furniture is bold and weathered-white. A rug unfurls beneath the table, and a big, bright window spreads onto the wall like ink spilling onto cloth. After a moment of consideration, Castiel adds a chandelier of sorts: it's something he designs himself, not based on any particular object he saw on Earth.
“I like it,” Castiel admits, but it's more of a confession: he is adding bits and pieces that he enjoys because he hopes to spend time here with Dean. Dean shoots him a sidelong look and half-smiles, saying, “I like it, too,” quietly understanding the implication. Castiel feels big, more than he ever has before this.
They don't add a bathroom, because one isn't necessary (much like the kitchen, though Dean insists on that particular space). There’s a basement, and an attic, and closets, and finally a bedroom. Despite the fact that sleeping—and therefore beds—are unnecessary for all inhabitants of Heaven, Dean shrugs and proclaims, "I've slept on a lot of shitty beds, Cas. I want a good one."
When it pops in, the bed undertakes a few changes: it grows longer to accommodate Dean's height (which is nothing like Sam's, but still), pillows are piled on, and finally a comforter, which Dean is delighted with when he falls back onto the mattress, arms spread out and a grin on his face.
“Best place ever,” he declares. Castiel smiles and sits on the edge, as he so often did on Earth. “I should have an open house block party. Invite the 'rents and all their pals.”
“'Rents?” Castiel echoes, and then he nods, suddenly understanding. Parents. He has become well-versed in unpuzzling Dean's odd phrases. “That is a nice idea. You will invite me, of course.”
“Dude, you're gonna be hosting. You're way better at being polite than I am. I'll be on the back porch knockin' back some beers. We can have beer, right?”
“Yes,” he answers. “You can cook, if you'd like, and eat. Most choose not to, simply because there's no need.”
Dean looks up at the ceiling. “Can we do other things, too? Swim? Watch TV?”
Castiel studies Dean for a moment. Despite what Dean thinks, Castiel understands him more than he realizes: Dean isn't asking about swimming or watching television specifically—he's asking whether what he did on Earth can also be done in Heaven, such as sex. He's surprised Dean is even attempting to soften the question. Castiel feels unsettled. Who would Dean want to do those things with?
“Yes, you can swim and watch TV. You may also engage in...”
“In?” Dean prompts.
“Kissing,” he supplies. “And all the things that go with it.” Sex seems so crude. In Heaven, it is less so; those who choose to...make love, if he must name it at all, are very committed to one another. There are no dens of iniquity here, of course. Affection must come from both sides.
Dean's expression gives nothing away, but he scoots over to make space. “Lay down,” he orders. “You always sat like that when Sammy and me were on the road. It made my back hurt just looking at you.”
Castiel does as he's asked. It is strange at first, but he lets himself try and relax. It isn't difficult; being with Dean grounds and heightens him all at once, and it's no different now. He laces his fingers over his stomach and looks up at the high ceiling. It needs a light fixture. He adds one.
“You're gonna teach me the ropes around here, right?” Dean asks. He isn't looking at Castiel, and the angel wonders what the question means, if he's somehow losing Dean.
“I will,” he promises. “You will be well-versed in everything, but you will always have my help if there's something you can't do by yourself.”
A smile pulls at Dean's mouth. Castiel wants so much to lean over and see what the lips feels like with his own. He resolutely stares at the newly-added bedroom light.
“So you won't disappear on me? You'll be around,” Dean pushes. “No matter what stupid thing I do. Accidentally.”
Castiel smiles a little himself. “I will be here until you no longer want me to be.”
“Don't get chick-flicky on me, Cas. Being a girl is Sammy's job.”
“Of course,” comes the easy reply. “How could I have forgotten?”
He's happy. Despite Dean's question about sex, Castiel is happy.
“Would you like me to teach you how to make things now?” he asks, and Dean responds with a nod.
“Yeah, let's get started. First things first: a cheeseburger. We gotta get the essentials out of the way,” and they sit up on the bed, and Castiel instructs him how to make food or items for the house, and Dean's initial attempts are so unsuccessful that Castiel laughs, happiness surely reflected in his voice, love unintentionally revealed in every smile, every word.
Word spreads quickly. The story of The House—capital letters necessary—moves from the gardens to the floating mountains to the forest to the seaside to the Grand Hall, until every soul and every angel knows that a house has been built in Heaven, unprecedented and, according to some, uncalled for. Castiel doesn't hear about this unrest until later, when Gabriel appears next to him, wearing his customary casual clothes and curly hair. Castiel is in the Grand Hall frowning at a stack of DVDs.
“Little brother,” Gabriel greets. Castiel's concentrated frown doesn't vanish, but he does look up to ask, “What is 'Star Trek'? Dean is interested in the viewing the 'reboot'.” Castiel wanted to surprise him with the movie—unfortunately, Castiel has no idea what either of those things are, and is trying to guess which one Dean means.
“You still have so much to learn,” Gabriel teases. He takes the movie Castiel is currently holding, glances at the cover, and shakes his head. “Shatner wasn't in the newest installment, but Nimoy was.” He places the movie case back on the shelf, and pulls out another one, making sure it's correct before handing it over.
Castiel studies the cover. There's a large, black object in the center, only it is blurry and unrecognizable. He's afraid he may never understand human art or design, but trusts Gabriel that this is the correct movie Dean wishes to see.
“Thank you,” he says, placing the DVD in his coat pocket, and finally gives his full attention to his older brother. “Did you wish to speak with me?”
“Yeah,” Gabriel confirms, and glances over his shoulder to make sure no one is watching them. “Let's visit the Garden, huh? I'm in the mood for nature,” which is a blatant lie, and Castiel knows it. Still, they're standing in an empty part of the Garden before either of them can blink; there's a shady tree above them, and a small, clear pond a few feet away.
“Something’s wrong,” Castiel guesses. His brother nods.
“Got it in one. Three guesses as to who it's about.”
Castiel feels a sudden surge of fierceness. “Someone is bothering Dean? Tell me who and I will deal with it.”
Gabriel half-smiles. “Figured you would. Look, riddle me this: did you build Dean a house?”
“Yes, I did. It's by the lake, where no one ever goes. Why is that a concern?”
“People are talking,” Gabriel explains. “They don't like it. They say it's ugly and doesn't glorify—”
“God?” Castiel angrily interrupts. “That is unfair and untrue! Dean wants this one thing. How can we tell him that yes, he sacrificed everything to have Lucifer sent back to Hell, and yet he can't be rewarded with such a small gift?”
“I'm not saying I agree,” Gabriel says. “I'm saying that it's causing a little rift, and I wanted you to know.”
Castiel is furious, but nods. “Thank you. I will keep this in mind.”
Gabriel, trying to diffuse the tension, loops his arm around Castiel's neck and whines, “Hey, I haven't been invited to visit. I wanna see this house. You guys got a kitchen? You need a place to stash the candy,” and it's a kindness he never would have shown before.
Dean is no one’s fool. Castiel knows this best of all, so it comes as little surprise when Dean asks, a few human days later, “Something’s going down, and you aren’t telling me. What gives?”
Castiel has very little experience with lying; it hadn’t been his strong suit while on Earth, and he is no more able to smoothly avoid Dean’s questions now than he had during the War. To make matters worse, they’re sitting at the kitchen table, right across from one another—Castiel doesn’t have it in himself to look Dean in the eye and lie outright.
“It is nothing,” Castiel promises. “I simply have many assignments to finish.”
“Assignments that require a routine check of the shore?” Dean doubtfully questions.
Ever since Gabriel’s warning, Castiel has perhaps given their—Dean’s, he reminds himself, It is really only Dean’s—yard one too many checks through the window. He is half-certain a group of angry angels will start protesting at their door, and yet the other half is sure he’s being foolish and paranoid. The house is nothing, honestly, and just because there’s never been one in Heaven doesn’t mean there will be a great rebellion against it.
“No, I’m simply... distracted by my duties. I have fallen into a habit of daydreaming.” Castiel smiles. “It is terribly unproductive. I blame you.”
“Well, you know what wakes you up and makes you concentrate? Caffeine,” Dean says. A cup of coffee, light with creamer and sugar, appears between them. Dean grins, very much proud of himself, and pushes the cup towards Castiel. “I’ve been practicing. Yesterday I mojoed a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and pillows for the couch. Next I’m working on a recliner.”
Castiel accepts the cup, and their hands brush as it’s exchanged. It sparks a fire of want in him; it’s overwhelming—completely intimidating—and yet Castiel’s hand takes a life of its own and slowly covers Dean's after only a moment’s hesitation. He examines his palm over Dean’s fingers, his own fingertips resting against Dean’s knuckles, and recalls the long wait for Dean’s arrival to the gates, made worse by Castiel’s anticipation. Gabriel had laughed and said Be patient, little brother. The man can’t live forever, but Gabriel’s reassurance was no match against how much Castiel yearned.
Dean’s fingers shift. Castiel is brought back to the kitchen, the table, the coffee.
“I apologize,” he hurriedly says, withdrawing his hand as though it were on fire. “I was daydreaming again,” but Dean is eager to get a message out, too, so he blurts, “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”
Their eyes meet. Around them are old fixtures and post-WWII appliances and lovely tiles bordering the room, but they don’t notice these things.
“I don’t mind,” Dean repeats, voice like sandpaper. “When you touch me. I don’t care about that anymore, Cas. Personal space—it’s a human rule, and we aren’t human.” He pushes his hand forward; Castiel watches, rapt, as Dean’s fingers gently wrap around Castiel’s wrist.
He can’t help himself. He surges from his chair, walks the short distance around the table, and stands before Dean, who rises to meet him. They’re still touching. If there was ever a time to “make a move”, as humans say, this would be it—Dean is practically giving permission, and they’re so very, very close.
“This is okay, right?” Dean asks. “It’s allowed?”
Castiel finds the mind to nod. “It is. I would never suggest something that isn’t.”
“Because you look out for me,” he says.
“You care about what happens. You’re trying to make me happy here.”
“You love me.”
“Yes,” he fiercely replies. Castiel is no expert on humanity, but he knows this much: they should kiss now. It seems the right time; Dean is no longer struggling to understand Heaven, and though this revelation of love is not accompanied by great lights or music or whatever humans dream of, it is somehow better that it happens here, in the quiet light of a lovely kitchen, within the walls of a home they built together.
Dean moves his hands to the dip where neck meets shoulder, and leans—
He stops. His eyes narrow.
Dean takes a startled step back, gaze focused over Castiel’s shoulder. Castiel turns to see what has caught Dean’s attention so fully, and he, too, is troubled: it’s a random soul, simply standing by the sink, looking around curiously.
“Hello,” Castiel says. He hopes she will explain her presence in the house.
Without returning the greeting, she states, “It’s not proper for someone to own a piece of Heaven. This place isn’t yours.”
She wanders towards the stove, and picks the kettle up from its burner. Her thumb rubs over the surface, gently, and then she’s gone. The kettle is back in its place.
Dean turns to Castiel, his face one of contained anger. “Who was that?” he demands. “Who the fuck was that?”
Castiel isn’t sure who the woman is, but he knows one thing: his paranoia has come to pass. Most of him is filled with absolute regret that she has interrupted them, their solidifying moment; his better judgment, however, tells him now is no longer the time for privacy and kissing in the kitchen. He moves to the living room and slides the curtain open.
On the other side of the glass, the lake is invisible. In its place is a sea of souls. They are standing on the water and sitting in the trees. It’s all he can see.
“Cas,” Dean says, wrecked as he looks out the window. “What the hell’s going on? Damn it—”
He rips the front door open and steps onto the porch. “Go away,” he shouts. “Get out of here! What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“You take Father’s name in vain,” one of them says. Castiel can’t tell which; there are so many souls here, all in protest of their house, of the property they dared to claim.
Another soul—a man this time, in his fifties—asks, “Why do you build this desecration? We leave our humanity behind after death. We are better than this.”
“What’s it to you? No one ever came here before,” Dean snaps. “Just leave. There’re tons of other lakes. Go pick another one for this community picnic of yours.”
“Perhaps it is you who should leave,” suggests a woman; Castiel recognizes her as the one who had stood in their kitchen. “Your title as ‘Righteous Man’ is no license for this sort of behavior. You don’t have a special privilege.”
“I don’t want a special privilege, I just want a home. What’s the fucking mystery about that?” Dean demands. His spirit is red with fury; Castiel can feel it against his own. He wants these souls gone. Whatever poor behavior Dean allegedly practices is no comparison against what this massive group is doing.
“This isn’t allowed,” says someone else. “There has never been a house in Heaven.”
Dean’s jaw clenches. “Okay, you know what? Let’s compromise.” He pauses. “We’ll move the house. We’ll pick another spot. Then you can visit this place anytime you want.”
The dark haired woman says, “Houses are not allowed anywhere, Dean Winchester. The angel Castiel knows this.”
For the first time, Castiel finds it within himself to speak. He has been too choked on anger, on outrage. “I have never heard such a rule,” he says, fiercely. “It simply has not been done before.”
“Because it is in poor taste!” shouts another. “You ought to know better! Mortal limitations such as houses are a stain, and if this ‘Righteous Man’, as he is called, can’t understand this, then perhaps Heaven is not the place for him!”
That, for Castiel, is “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, as humans might say. He feels his human image break away for a moment, revealing the non-physical power stored beneath. He furiously spreads his wings and orders, in the voice of his most base self, “Leave.”
When he is confined within his vessel again, he notes with satisfaction that everyone except Dean is gone. That satisfaction, however, is short-lived, because Dean is white-faced and silent beside him. It occurs to Castiel, only after he has chased away the protesters, that Dean has never seen Castiel’s true form; he’d planned on introducing it slowly, carefully acclimating Dean to the idea of what an angel really is.
“Dean,” he gently says. “Are you all right?”
“Was that—you? As an angel? As the real deal?” He lets out a shaky laugh. “I can see you here?”
“Yes,” Castiel answers. He quietly adds, “I’m sorry, Dean. I did not anticipate all this… mess. They are wrong to do this.”
Dean shrugs. Castiel senses his resignation, and recognizes something that, perhaps, he’d wanted to avoid all this time: the fact Dean Winchester is in Heaven doesn’t necessarily mean his life will become easy, simple. Even here, a Winchester must struggle to become part of society.
“It’s fine, Cas. You can’t control all those people,” and Castiel wants to say souls, Dean, they’re Heavenly souls, but the term would imply goodness and faith—two qualities that were certainly not displayed today.
“I am going to research this. I will be back soon,” Castiel promises, and he’s gone to the Grand Hall before Dean can open his mouth.
When he arrives, the many eyes within the Hall follow him (everyone knows, now, of the house, of Dean), but he ignores them and marches to a shelf.
He holds out his hand, fingers brushing against the book spines.
Give me knowledge of houses in Heaven.
He doesn’t expect a particularly large volume—perhaps something thin, something frail—but finds he’s holding a book with no title, and when he opens it to a random page, discovers its entirety is absent of words. The pages are crisp and snow-colored, bare of a single mark or letter, and Castiel feels a true sense of unease for the first time: how can the Hall have no information to offer him, no previous rulings, no advisements? The stares of the Hall’s other browsers suddenly weigh much heavier.
When Castiel had still been under the scrutinous eyes of Zachariah, he would have simply given up and left the Hall with his head bowed. He would have told himself, This embarrassment is no more than you deserve. But now he wants to fill the Hall with his brightness and burn through every single book until he finds the knowledge he needs.
He’s not sure how long he remains there. It must be a while, because when he looks up from his research, there is no longer light outside. Floating candles join the chandeliers to offer adequate light for readers, though Castiel feels as though he’s read through every single ruling Michael has ever commanded, and there is nothing about homes or houses. The blank book he’d pulled from the shelf is still with him, situated just by his elbow. Castiel listlessly returns the other tomes to their proper place.
He notices, surprised, that the Hall is remarkably empty. This is unheard of; there are always scholars and pursuers of literature pulling titles from the shelves. The sound of silence leaves Castiel anxious and unnerved, and between the question of where are my brethren? and has something happened?, Castiel realizes he has been gone from the house much longer than he first assumed.
He has left Dean alone.
Faster than he has flown before, Castiel is back at their white house. The blank book he had meant to replace is still in his hand.
He barely has the presence of mind to stuff it in the pocket of his coat. He thinks this afternoon was the worst it could possibly get: souls covering every bit of their yard and surrounding land until only the sky could be seen. But what he sees now is far more grave, a step that should never have been permitted: souls are overflowing the rooms, sitting on any space they can find, spilling through thresholds and onto the shore.
Dean is on the couch. The souls are silent, and Dean is, too, when he looks up at Castiel with the face of someone who has truly run out of options.
“They’re on the roof,” is all he says.
Castiel holds out his hand. Dean accepts it without hesitation.
“Let me take you to your parents,” he offers. “I will handle what is happening here.”
“No way,” Dean objects. “You and me are dealing with this together. I’m not running off to play on a swing while you deal with these assholes.”
“Dean,” Castiel reasons, “there is no point in you remaining in this atmosphere. This isn’t what I wanted for you. I wanted—”
“You wanted what, brother?” asks a quiet voice. Dean and Castiel turn to see Michael standing in their living room, which has grown dark in its effort to contain the power of Michael’s presence. Outside, through the rickety windows Castiel has grown to love, the sky has lost its blue and replaced it with gray, like an Earth sky might appear before an approaching hurricane. Dean notices the change as well, his expression unreadable as watches on.
Michael looks around the room curiously, running his fingertips over the rough painted walls, the uneven glass of the windows. He gives the floor a frown when it creaks beneath his feet.
“So this is what has the Host up in arms,” he says. “This… dwelling. I have heard much about it.”
“I visited the Grand Hall,” Castiel smoothly interjects. “There is no information about this. Perhaps you can offer some guidelines so that we may settle here without—” His eyes flick towards the crowd around them. “—intrusion.”
Michael wanders over to the fireplace. “You would like that,” he observes. “You want that. Angels want nothing, Castiel.” He doesn’t face them when he says, “You’ve changed so much. You desire and bend rules. You’ve become the antithesis of your former self.”
“Hey,” Dean cuts in, shouldering past Castiel to stand between the angelic brothers. “You need to back off. I wanted this place, so your problem’s with me.”
Castiel, despite this unfolding drama, wants to smile; of course Dean would not stand idly by, of course he would buoy up to most powerful of them all. He wonders how many times Dean has been in this position, defying an entity much bigger than himself: bullies in the schoolyard, wrathful ghosts, the king of Hell, and now the Archangel Michael.
Michael turns from the fire. When he responds, his voice is chilled. “When I was first told of this house, I attempted to eliminate it. There was such uproar among the Host that it was not worth the disorder.
“And yet it did not bend to my will,” Michael continues. “This building remains as you see it now. It perplexed me.”
Castiel realizes it isn’t the house that concerns Michael, but the fact it refuses to obey. He almost empathizes with his brother’s position: for millennia, Michael has ruled the Heavenly planes, and has not been forced to deal with much change since Lucifer’s descent. It has always been that way, ever since the seed of Heaven was first planted into the richness of the universe. This abrupt turn of routine has him alarmed.
“Brother,” Castiel carefully says, hoping to appear humble before his powerful sibling. “We did not bless or ward this place. It should have acceded,” though the phrase seems strange; after all, is the house not a symbol of disobedience in the eyes of Heaven’s inhabitants? Dean makes a sound of protest, but doesn’t speak. Castiel marvels at Dean’s restraint—allowing their home to befall any harm is undoubtedly an act that goes against every part of him.
“I realize that now, young Castiel,” Michael answers. He picks up a clock off the mantle. Castiel finds he doesn’t like their belongings handled by unwelcome guests, but says nothing of it. “But I did not understand before. My frustration was such that I was prepared to call the Council of Saints to deliberate on the matter.”
Castiel closes his eyes. He has nothing to say to that.
Michael returns the clock in its rightful place. In the crushing silence, the sound of its moving hands are like the shouts of giants, counting off every irrelevant second, every meaningless minute in the timelessness of Heaven.
“And then Gabriel came,” Michael quietly continues. “He arrived to me in a rage. He said, ‘Brother, how can you be so foolish?’ and I did not grasp his meaning at first.”
“And now?” Castiel asks.
Michael spreads his arms to encompass the house: the wooden floors, the windows, the clocks and dishes, the curtains, the doorknobs, everything, and states, “A place built upon hallowed ground cannot be destroyed.”
No words come to Castiel at first. Finally, he manages to echo, “Hallowed? Brother, I—it is a simple lake. I was not aware that it had been previously blessed—”
“It was not, Castiel. You hallowed it. You built this house out of love, and Father has allowed it to remain.”
“I hallowed ground,” Castiel numbly echoes. “That was never my intention.”
“I know,” and his face is expressionless. It always has been. That’s the strangeness of Michael: other angels have some sort reflection of life inside them (Uriel’s had been anger, and Anna, while she was with them, had been curiosity) but Michael expressed nothing, not even joy. He is detached and timeless and terrible, but Castiel does not envy him in the slightest.
Michael turns to the living room of silent souls. He holds up his hand; the souls, like dogs, obey their master and disappear in the wake of his decision: the house shall remain. The stairs are suddenly empty, and no one is in the kitchen. The lake, no longer obscured by an infinite number of bodies, is visible from the window.
“Be happy here, brother,” Michael says, and he’s gone.
Dean makes a sound. “Please tell me that was his final answer,” he says. “This game of Millionaire is getting on my nerves.”
Castiel has no idea what that means. He’s about to say as much when something in his coat pocket burns, and he realizes it’s the book he forgot to replace in the Grand Hall. He pulls it out. The cover is still warm.
There are letters on it.
With a slight smile, he flips through the pages; they’re covered in black-ink words, a sudden influx of information in a place where there had been none. Dean glances suspiciously from Castiel’s smile to the book and then back to Castiel again.
“What?” he asks. “What’s the joke?”
Castiel just shakes his head and tosses the book onto their couch. He might read it later, though he’s pretty sure he knows all the rules.
“You, Dean Winchester,” he says, looping his arms around Dean’s neck, “are a revolutionist.”
Dean grins. “Yeah, well. I have help.” He pauses a moment and then asks, quietly, as though he might be overheard, “So we can stay, right?”
“It would seem so. Michael has made the decision, though he did not have much choice. He can’t destroy the house.”
Dean frowns. “Because it was made on hallowed ground?” he clarifies. “Which you hallowed, because you built this place out of purity bricks and chastity belts?”
Castiel tilts his head. Perhaps he doesn’t understand Dean’s colloquialisms as well as he’d thought.
“I built it out of love,” Castiel explains, quite plainly. “For you.”
Dean ducks his head. He’s embarrassed, though that was not Castiel’s intention. He wonders if he’ll ever get anything right when it comes to Dean Winchester.
“Yeah,” Dean laughs, gently placing his hands on Castiel’s hips. “I picked up on that. You know,” and here he leans closer, just enough that they can taste one another’s air, “we never finished that thing in the kitchen.”
Castiel suddenly feels electric. Before, on Earth, he might have asked what thing?—he’d been so literal and precise that it’s embarrassing to remember—but now he knows exactly what Dean is referring to.
“No,” he breathes. “We didn’t.”
Their lips touch, exploratory for a minute—but then Dean’s tongue traces the seam of Castiel’s mouth, and he opens to let Dean in, and it’s strange at first, but then wonderful, and he can feel Dean’s grip tighten on his hips while Castiel’s hands unconsciously press against the back of Dean’s neck. Their closeness ignites a fire inside of him. Everything he’s wanted is suddenly happening inside the house they built together.
“Let’s go upstairs,” he whispers. “Please. Please, Dean,” but it’s clear Dean has no objection; his hands are already wandering beneath Castiel’s clothes. He finds the presence of mind to transport them one story up, right in the center of the bedroom, complete with the big bed Dean had wanted at the very beginning.
Castiel isn’t sure what to do. He understands the mechanics, but he doesn’t know. It turns out not to be a problem, because Dean lays him out on the mattress and does all the work—quiet contently—the first time around; there are so many indescribably good sensations, things that have him wailing to the ceiling, but he’s sure the best part is when Dean kisses his neck and whispers love into his skin.
After Michael's decision, they lose track of time. They revel in the silence of the house: it is empty of everyone except themselves, and so they can read or cook or do any number of things without fearing someone else will join them.
Eventually, Castiel builds a fence for the yard. He changes the flowers, too, depending on how he feels; sometimes violets border the house, or thick patches of babies’ breath, or roses or daffodils or something exotic and extinct. He chooses Forget-Me-Nots once, and Dean teases, “You planning to forget me someday, Cas?”
Castiel gently pushes Dean against the walls and whispers against his mouth, “I could never forget you.”
Dean doesn’t tease him about it again.
One day, Gabriel sends them another message: Samuel has arrived, and so Dean and Castiel hurry to see him, though Dean points out, “Pete’s gonna be mad we’re there.”
Castiel considers this. He looks at Dean, and then the house they love so dearly (he will need to build a room for Sam, too), and says, “The Saint will just have to deal with it.”
He takes Dean’s hand—which Dean allows, though he doesn’t need that sort of help anymore—and they leave for the gates where Sam will be waiting.