A/N: Alright, here's the second and final part of this super-long oneshot. (This is the final part of this oneshot, but I'm not saying it's the final part of this universe. We'll see if my muse strikes again!) Anyways, I'd like to take the time to thank everyone who read, followed, favorited, and/or reviewed this story. I had some serious doubts about this oneshot and almost ended up not posting it, so I really appreciate all of the positive feedback. You guys make writing so much more rewarding. Thank you.
Same warnings apply, but also add a possibly cavity-inducing amount fluff and some brotherly angst (it weaseled its way in there somehow.) I still don't own Supernatural.
It's about 2:00 when they get back. Just enough time to get ready for Sammy, who's coming around 5:00.
"Okay," Dean says. "I'm gonna go take a shower. Cas, maybe you could clean up the place a bit, or something."
Dean heads off to the shower, leaving Castiel to putter around the house. The hunter wonders cynically how long Cas will stay on this task before he loses his concentration or forgets what he's doing. Oh well. When he gets out of the shower, he can tidy up a bit.
Dean knows that he doesn't need to do any of this for Sam. His little brother probably wouldn't care all that much if Dean just took them all out to a diner like old times, and he certainly wouldn't care if their house is messy. (Or at least he wouldn't be surprised.) But Dean can't suppress this urge to prove himself to Sam – to prove that yes, he is capable of settling down, and yes, everything's working out with Castiel, despite expectations. For some reason, being clean and put together and serving a home-cooked meal seems like the epitome of successful to Dean.
So he takes a shower.
When he gets out, he's surprised to see that Cas actually has tidied much of their house. He's sitting on the couch right now, pink tongue between his teeth as he writes in his journal, muttering his words as he writes. There's just a few things around that Cas didn't get to.
"Hey, nice work," Dean says, affectionately ruffling Cas's hair as he walks by. Cas peers up at him with a frown.
"Nice work tidying up the place. Sam will think we actually pick up after ourselves now."
"Oh. Thank you. What… are we doing next?"
"Well, I'm going to start preparing dinner."
The "and you're going to do something else" is implied. As much as Dean wants to give Cas his independence and dignity, there's no denying that he'd be a mess in the kitchen with his memory, attention, and processing problems. Not to mention his shaking and his trouble reading. Yeah, Dean isn't letting Cas near any complicated recipes.
Of course, Castiel had rarely got implied messages even before the brain damage, so he asks eagerly, "Can I help?"
Dean sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. Castiel's previous words still ring clearly in his mind: I only care what you think of me, how you treat me.
"Uh. I'll let you know."
"Okay." Castiel turns back to his journal, reading over it, suddenly seeming pretty uncaring about the whole cooking thing. He must've gone distant again. Dean wants to feel relieved, but instead he just feels guilty. Even if Cas doesn't care anymore, Dean cares, and even if it's true that Cas will be a disaster in the kitchen, it might not be so bad. Dean can help him. He wants to support Cas. He doesn't want to be like the ice cream vendor.
"Tell you what," Dean says. "You can help bake the cookies when I finish preparing the entrée."
He can't believe he just said "entrée." Dean Winchester should not say "entrée." He should only use French when seducing women (or, well… Cas, now). Otherwise it just sounds pretentious, and Dean is a lot of things, but pretentious isn't one of them.
"I'll tell you when I'm ready," Dean continues, bringing himself out of his rambling thoughts.
"Of course, Dean," Cas says blankly. Dean has a feeling that he's forgotten what the conversation is about, but he doesn't let it bother him. Maybe Cas will actually enjoy cooking, and Dean can add another thing to the small-but-growing list of human stuff that Cas likes (and is able) to do.
Dean heads over to the kitchen, leaving Castiel to his journal. He opens up the fridge, taking out the pork that he'd bought the other day in anticipation of Sam's visit. (Yeah. He's that lame now. He'll admit it.) He also takes out the broccoli, wrinkling his nose at the offensive green vegetable. Sam and Cas like it, so whatever. Dean made sure to get potatoes and butter too.
About an hour later, Dean's got a pretty nice (if he says so himself) meal prepared for the three of them. He sets aside the pork and vegetables for the moment, covering it to make sure it'll still be fresh and warm.
It's time for the cookies. Which, yeah, don't really go well with the entrée (damn, there's that word again), but they were the simplest dessert Dean could think of.
"Hey, Cas, you still out there?" Dean calls.
After a moment, Dean hears the soft padding of feet as Cas joins him in the kitchen, his journal still clutched in his trembling hand. He walks over to Dean and stands close by – his usual personal space invasion that has essentially ceased bothering Dean.
"What is it, Dean?"
"We're baking cookies."
Castiel tilts his head in that signature move of his. "Why?"
"'Cause Sam's coming over."
"He… is? Oh, good. We haven't –"
"Seen him for a while, yeah, I know," Dean interrupts, unable to hide the impatience in his voice. Yeah, his life is a hell of a lot of repetition nowadays, but that doesn't mean he has to like it. But he's already kicking himself when he catches sight of Castiel's chagrined expression.
"Oh… Did I say that already? I'm… sorry, Dean."
"No, I'm sorry," Dean says. "It's not your fault. I shouldn't have snapped."
Cas blinks at him, his blue eyes soft and forgiving. Eager to move on from the apology, Dean says, "Now, c'mon, we're making cookies."
"How do you make cookies?" Cas asks, actually looking relatively interested. Dean counts it as a success, and congratulates himself for coming up with this. (See. He's not the ice cream lady.)
"Well, for one thing, you won't be using this," Dean says, taking the journal from Cas and placing it carefully on the table. He also takes the opportunity to give Cas a quick kiss, grinning when Cas leans up, chasing after him.
"Later," Dean promises. "First we're making cookies."
Dean gets a tray and the cookie dough. It's the ready-to-bake kind – it'll be easiest for Cas, and it's not like Dean's that great of a chef either. But it's up to him to teach Castiel.
"You break a piece off, see," Dean demonstrates, making sure that Castiel is paying attention. "Then you roll it up, like this, and set it down here. Just do that to all the pieces. Can you work on that while I get the oven ready?"
"Like this?" Cas asks. He breaks off one of the pieces, but then just stares at it, eyes blank. Dean gently cups his shaking hands, helping him mold the cookie dough into a ball.
"Then put it on the tray."
"Right there, Cas," Dean says, pointing.
Cas sets down the cookie dough and Dean grins. "You got it, angel."
Castiel positively glows, radiating happiness and satisfaction. Damn, if Dean had known that baking would get Cas this happy, he would've tried it earlier. Well, this is just the beginning. He's already envisioning a lot of kitchen mishaps and adventures in the future.
Dean heads over to the oven, making sure everything's ready and that the timer is set. (That he won't trust Castiel with. Forgetting the timer could lead to a lot of problems. One house burning down is enough in one lifetime, thanks.) Dean takes a bit longer than he usually would, trying to give Cas more time to get the cookies ready by himself. Eventually, Dean can't stall any longer, so he goes back to the former angel.
Castiel's done about half of the cookies, eyes narrowed with concentration. It seems like he's pretty much remembered what to do after the first one. Some of them are kinda weirdly shaped, maybe because of Cas's shaking, but overall they're pretty good.
"They look good, Cas. Sam's gonna love them."
"…Thank you, Dean. Do you believe we will like them? I don't think I've ever had… cookies before."
"Maybe you have and you just don't remember," Dean says without thinking. Okay, yeah, whatever. Sue him. He's no saint. He can't be the poster boy for tact all the time.
Fortunately, Cas just huffs a humorless laugh. "Perhaps."
He stares at the cookie dough in his hand, thinking, or maybe spacing out, Dean's never sure which. Castiel's not that great at multitasking now, and he's pretty much paused in his baking efforts to talk to Dean. So Dean breaks off a piece of cookie dough and forms it, setting it down on the tray, trying to subtly nudging Cas back into moving. Sometimes actions work better than words with Cas, and Dean's always been better at actions anyway.
Sure enough, after a moment Cas snaps out of it and starts making the cookies again. Within minutes, there's only one piece left. Cas reaches for it, but Dean puts a hand over his wrist.
"Wait a second, Cas."
Dean picks up the piece and splits it in two, giving half of it to Castiel, who looks at it in confusion. "I don't understand," he says. (Nowadays, Dean's noticed, it's a lot less 'I don't understand that reference' and a lot more plain ole 'I don't understand.') "Are we making two very small cookies?"
"No, dude," Dean chuckles. "We're eating these sons of bitches. Trust me, they're delicious." Without further ado, Dean pops the chunk of cookie dough in his mouth, moaning as the taste reaches him. "Mmm. That is awesome."
A little more tentatively, Cas tries the cookie dough. He chews for a while, and then a sort of pleasant surprise lightens his face. "This is… good."
"Wait 'till you try the actual cookies," Dean says. "Hot out of the oven… yum. Hey, you wanna put them in?"
Castiel stares at him, puzzled. "…What?"
"We just finished making our cookies," Dean explains. Cas must've forgotten again. "Do you wanna put them in the oven?"
"Oh, alright," Cas agrees complacently. He takes the gloves that Dean offers, and Dean watches carefully as the former angel takes the tray and opens the oven. Oh God, he shouldn't have let Cas handle anything hot, what if he forgets that it's hot and burns himself, he doesn't have angel powers anymore and he won't heal –
"Is that good?" Cas asks.
"Uh," Dean says, taking a moment to wrap his mind around the catastrophe-free scene. "Yeah, that's great, Cas."
Cas gives him a small smile. Dean grins back, filled with the success of their first baking adventure together. Thankfully, the doorbell rings before they can both melt into puddles of goo.
"That must be Sam. C'mon."
"Sam's visiting?" Cas asks. Dean mostly ignores him, but – seriously? He's definitely going to have to come up with a better way for Cas to remember when they have visitors. Maybe he'll write it in every room or something. Or on Cas's hand. But whatever. Pretty soon Sam will be right in front of them and Cas won't forget about him then.
Dean makes it to the door and opens it to see his grinning, ginormous brother. He seems to have grown a few more inches from the last time Dean saw him, if that was even possible.
"Hey, Sammy," Dean says, smiling.
"Hey, Dean," Sam says, and before Dean knows it he's enveloped in a huge hug.
"Dude, you're acting like I just came back from the dead… again," Dean laughs.
"Shut up," Sam huffs. "I haven't seen you in a while."
Dean smirks, but doesn't give Sam any more trouble. He's missed his little brother.
Sam turns from Dean to Cas, who has just approached and is now standing awkwardly nearby. (Cas could make awkward into an art form, honestly.)
"Hey, Cas," Sam says with a soft smile.
"Hello, Sam," Castiel responds gravely.
Without hesitating, Sam gives Cas a giant hug too. Dean notices that Sam's more gentle and careful with Cas, like he's so fragile that one wrong move could shatter him. Behavior like that would normally annoy Dean, but he can't blame Sam. He gets it. They're all broken, but with Castiel, it's the most obvious.
"This is a nice surprise. I didn't know you… were coming," Cas says when Sam lets him go.
Dean barely resists the urge to slap his forehead. "Yes, you did, Cas," he says before Sam can say anything. "You wrote it in your journal. We made dinner for Sam."
"Oh," Cas says. Dean stares steadily at him, avoiding looking at Sam. He doesn't want to know if there's pity in his brother's eyes.
"You made dinner? Wow, Dean, I didn't know you know how to cook," Sam says, amusement in his voice. That, Dean can deal with. He finally looks at Sam and scowls.
"Shut up, bitch. I made meals for you all the time when we were growing up."
"Yeah, if Spaghetti-Os and Lucky Charms count as meals…"
"You ungrateful bastard," Dean grumps. "See if I serve you my pork chops tonight, then. Or the broccoli that goes with it, which I got just for you and Cas."
"Hey, that actually sounds good," Sam says, not even having the decency to hide his surprise. Dean huffs, but he's not really that insulted. It's true that he's never really been a culinary artist.
"I also helped Dean make cookies," Cas pipes up. "They're chocolate… chip. Dean says you'll like them."
"Dude, I love chocolate chip cookies." Sam's eyes brighten in a way that reminds Dean of an overexcited puppy. "Who doesn't?"
"I wouldn't know, I've never tried them," Cas says. "Not that I… can remember, at least."
"The cafeterias in Heaven must've really sucked," Dean says glibly. Sam shoots him a look like go easy on the ex-angel, but Dean just shrugs. Castiel is used to him blaspheming like there's no tomorrow. And if bringing up Heaven bothers Cas… well, he'll have to get over it eventually. Tough love. Besides, here on Earth he can eat cookies.
Castiel tilts his head. "There are no cafeterias in Heaven, Dean. I – the angels – don't… require sustenance."
Dean rolls his eyes. "Sarcasm, Cas."
Some things never change.
"Anyways," Dean says. "Dinner's not getting any fresher. I'll be right back – Sam, Cas, you guys go ahead and sit down."
"I can help," Sam and Cas say simultaneously. Dean wonders if they've been practicing, because otherwise that's just uncanny.
"Thanks," he says, "but what would help would be if you guys stayed outta the way."
"Fine, jerk," Sam says, raising his hands in the air like Dean's gonna strike. (Sam always liked his melodrama.) "Don't freak out. C'mon, Cas. We can entertain ourselves."
As Dean walks to the kitchen, he hears Castiel say, "Sam, I helped make the cookies. They're chocolate chip. Dean… thinks you'll enjoy them."
"Mmm, sounds good," Sam says, without a hint of annoyance or pity at the repetition. Dean gets the food ready, suddenly feeling lighter. It's nice to know that he's left Cas in good hands. Better than his own, really. Sam's always been the better man.
When Dean comes back out, his boyfriend and his brother are waiting patiently at the table. Dean sets the food down, feeling almost nervous.
"All right. Dig in."
"Seriously, Dean, that was pretty damn good," Sam says, for the second time.
"Told you I could cook. You don't have to act so surprised," Dean says with a smug smile.
"You always cook very well, Dean," Castiel says.
Dean can feel his grin soften as he looks at the former angel. "Thanks, Cas."
Sam is giving them his you guys are too cute look, so Dean quickly looks away, clears his throat, and tries to think of a new, manly topic. Cas speaks up first.
"Did you enjoy the chocolate chip cookies, Sam? I… helped Dean bake them. He thought you'd like them."
Dean turns away to hide a smile. He has to admit that Cas can be pretty adorable sometimes, and his eagerness over this whole baking adventure is frankly quite endearing. Cas must've mentioned the cookies at least six times over the course of the evening. Maybe the next time Castiel cooks ('cause Dean's already decided that it's gonna happen again), they'll just label everything Cas makes. "Cooked by Castiel." Then they can avoid the repetition, cute as the sentiment behind it is.
"Yeah, they were great, Cas," Sam says. "That was your first time baking cookies, right?"
Cas nods, smiling one of his rare smiles. "Yes. I'm glad you liked them, Sam."
Once Sam and Cas are done giving each other goo-goo eyes (and really, who's doing it with who, here), they clean up the dinner plates. Afterwards, Dean has a brilliant idea.
"Guys, let's watch a movie. I still have to educate Cas on all things film-y."
"Film-y?" Sam repeats, eyebrows raised. "I think you mean cinematic."
"Whatever. You're the only one who cares, Sammy. Cas, what movie d'you wanna watch?"
Castiel just shrugs. He's probably sunk back into his non-caring stupor. Dean doesn't really mind (not much, at least), because Cas has been pretty with it all day. Some days, it doesn't always feel like he's present, even when he's in the same room as Dean, staring at the wall or floor or whatever. But today, Cas seems to really be here. Most of the time, anyway. So Dean lets him space out now or whatever it is he does, and he picks out a movie.
"How's Die Hard sound?"
Sam groans. "Really, Dean?"
"C'mon, it's a classic. We're watching it."
His brother groans again, but Dean can tell it's (mostly) for show. Sam flops into an armchair while Dean sits on the couch after putting the DVD in. He looks up at Castiel, who is standing nearby, gazing at nothing.
"Cas? C'mere, sit down," Dean says, patting the spot next to him.
"…What are we doing?" Cas asks as he joins Dean.
"Watching Die Hard."
"Yep. Pretty much the greatest movie ever."
"It's not that good," Sam grouses.
Man, Cas is really having trouble processing right now. Dean glances at him in concern. "You okay, buddy?"
He waits a few moments until the question sinks in. Cas then responds, "Yes, sorry… Dean. I'm think I'm just… tired."
"You've had a long day," Dean says sympathetically. "Just lie back and relax during the movie, okay? Don't worry about trying to follow or remember the plot. It's basically just a bunch of really awesome action moves that you can appreciate even without knowing the context."
"…Okay, Dean," Cas says. He scoots down a bit and rests his head against the back of the couch. Dean starts the movie. He suspects that Cas will be asleep within minutes, but at least he and Sam can still enjoy the awesomeness that is Bruce Willis.
Two hours and eleven minutes later, Dean lets out a satisfied sigh.
"Now that is a good movie."
"Alright, it was better than I remembered," Sam admits. "The last time I watched it, I was probably six and too young to understand anything."
"Even a six-year-old can enjoy explosions. It's just 'cause you were such a nerdy little kid. Still are, really."
Sam just shakes his head, most likely accepting that Dean is and will always be cooler than him. Dean cranes his neck to look at Cas, who fell asleep a third of the way into the movie and slowly slid closer and closer to Dean until his head was resting on Dean's shoulder. It doesn't look very comfortable, so Dean picks up a pillow, places it on his lap, and carefully moves Castiel so his head is on the pillow in Dean's lap. Cas mutters something in his sleep, turning towards Dean and snuggling into him. Dean can't help but smile. It always amuses him how much of a cuddle monster Cas turned out to be. (And honestly, Dean's glad he's not the cuddler of the two of them. He can always blame any cuddling on Cas and retain his masculinity.)
"How are you doing, Dean?" Sam asks. Dean looks up from Castiel, startled.
"I'm fine," he answers, slightly puzzled.
"No, I mean, you and Cas – you're getting along okay? Everything's good? Despite – everything?"
Dean sighs. He should've known that his girly brother would want to discuss feelings. He hates discussing feelings. But it's late, and dark, and the credits of Die Hard are still rolling. Cas is asleep in his lap. He can do this. He can be honest and open. He owes Sam this much.
Dean runs a hand through Castiel's dark hair, playing gently with the strands as he formulates his answer. It's an oddly soothing action, and Cas just sighs, wiggling closer, still asleep.
"We're good," Dean finally replies, hearing the slight surprise in his own voice. "Really. I mean, I'm not gonna lie – it's hard, sometimes. Cas forgets stuff, I get frustrated, and sometimes Cas just seems so… out of it. And I still miss hunting every now and then. But – we're getting by. And that's all you can really ask for, right?"
Sam nods, pursing his lips in a thoughtful expression. "Good. That's great. Have you been reading the stuff I sent you?"
Dean barely holds back a groan. Shortly after they found Cas and started figuring out the extent of the damage, Sam went into his research rampage mode and looked up a bunch of stuff about brain injuries, specifically frontal lobe injuries and previous lobotomy cases. He figured it would help, but Dean disagreed, because they didn't even know what parts of Castiel's brain had been damaged. The lobotomy stuff wasn't quite right either, because Naomi's lobotomy wasn't done correctly. And who knew what weird effects there were when the victim was an angel at the time? Still, Sam gave Dean all these readings and even now, he insists on sending Dean brain damage articles every now and then.
"Yeah, I read it, man," Dean says, not even trying to hide his exasperation. "I told you, that stuff doesn't help. I already know what doesn't work in Cas's head. I live with the symptoms; I don't need to read about them."
"They had some coping strategies in there, though, and some therapy suggestions. I thought you might wanna at least give them a try –"
"Cas has his journal. Not that it actually does much good. But listen to me, Sam – I got this. Okay? Stop worrying about us. We can take care of ourselves."
Sam frowns, looking miffed. "I know that, Dean."
"I'm just saying, sometimes you don't act like it."
A few tense moments of silence pass. Dean focuses on the former angel snuggled up to him. What if he could "cure" Castiel? Is it even possible? Hell, even if he wanted to make a crossroads deal he'd be unable to – there are no demons anymore, thanks to them. But if he could fix Cas, what then? Would their strange, domestic life fall apart? Would Cas still want him if he didn't need him?
"Sorry," Dean finally says gruffly. "I know you're just trying to help." Stop trying.
"But that's enough about me. Um… How's Amelia?"
"Uh, she's good. We're still both kind of messes, but it works, somehow."
"Well, y'know what they say – two broken halves make a whole, or whatever," Dean says. His tone is flippant, but he can't hide the truth of his words. Because really, what are he and Cas but two broken people who have somehow managed to carve out a tiny bit of happiness together?
Sam smiles, looking at Dean like he knows what he's thinking. "Yeah. I guess they do."
Dean grins, and then glances at his watch. "It's getting late. You wanna crash here? You can take the couch. I swear me and Cas won't get freaky with you right outside."
"Ew, Dean," Sam groans, glaring at his brother in Bitchface #4 (My Big Brother is So Gross). "I did not need that mental image."
Dean smirks. "So is that a yes?"
"Yeah, Dean. Thanks."
"Sure." Dean nudges Cas, trying to get him to wake up. He feels bad, because Cas was obviously exhausted, but no way is he carrying Castiel to bed. He's always done enough embarrassing things in front of Sam. Besides, dude's heavy.
"…Mmmwhat?" Cas mutters as Dean shakes him awake.
"C'mon, Cas. We're going to bed."
The former angel sits up, blearily rubbing his eyes with trembling hands. He blinks around the room, taking in Dean and the movie screen, probably trying to place himself and figure everything out. He's always discombobulated when he wakes up somewhere that isn't their bed. Eventually, he spots Sam and stands up, stumbling over to him.
"Night, Sam," Castiel mumbles, nearly falling on top of Sam in some sort of misguided attempt to hug him. Luckily, Sam catches him before his clumsiness knocks him over.
"Whoa, careful, Cas!" Sam laughs, his steadying hands gentle and caring. Dean remembers when Sam was just "the boy with the demon blood" to Cas. The two never exactly got along, and yet – here they are, Castiel clinging to Sam while Sam's eyes are filled with concern and affection.
"C'mon, you lovebug," Dean says, grabbing Castiel's arm and dragging him near. Cas easily lets go of Sam and turns to Dean, leaning into him and briefly nuzzling his neck.
Seriously. Cuddle monster.
"Good night, Sam," Cas repeats.
Sam smiles. "G'night, Cas."
Dean heads toward the bedroom, half dragging a still-disorientated ex-angel along with him. He reaches the door and turns to Cas.
"Think you can make it on your own?"
Cas glares at him. Dean gets the feeling that Cas would smite him if he were still able to. "I am… not an –"
"Infant or invalid, yeah, I got it. Sorry. Now go get 'em, tiger."
Castiel gives Dean his usual "I Don't Understand That Reference" look, but then turns away and enters the bedroom without questioning Dean.
Dean turns to Sam. "Pillows are on the couch, blankets too. Got everything else you need?"
Sam nods. "Listen, Dean – what I said earlier, about the articles –"
"Don't worry about it, Sam. Really. We're cool."
"No, I was out of line," Sam insists. "You're really good with Cas. You know what he needs best of all. I should've realized that earlier. If you want me to stop sending the articles, just let me know."
"Thanks, Sammy. But the one who knows what Cas needs best is Cas. I'll bring up the articles to him later, okay? And I'll let you know what he says. But don't – freak out – over this. I just… I need you to trust this, and I need to trust that this won't fall apart. Your… prodding… isn't helping that."
"Got it," Sam says. "I'm sorry."
"For the last time, it's okay, dude. Now, I'm gonna go sleep. How do leftover pancakes in the morning sound?"
"That sounds great! Good night, Dean."
Sam walks over to the couch, and Dean heads into his and Cas's room, quickly slipping into his pajamas. Cas is already asleep, still in his normal clothes. Silly angel must've forgotten where his pajamas are again.
Once he's ready, Dean slides in the bed next to Cas, who of course quickly attaches himself to Dean. It makes it harder to move, but honestly, Dean doesn't mind. He's got his brother in the next room and Cas plastered to his side. Like he said to Sam, life's hardly perfect, but for once, it's here, and it's happening, and it's Dean's.
They're getting by.