Heaven’s supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to be a glowing, never ending vortex of warmth and happiness. Dean isn’t feeling it.
It’s almost perfect, but there’s a puzzle piece missing. There’s a content feeling of nostalgia, always, like the feeling of waking up naturally on the first day of spring break, or Christmas morning, knowing you have no clock to punch, knowing you’re about to spend your day with a full belly, surrounded by love and comfort.
Dean feels great. Fantastic. But he doesn’t quite feel at home. He doesn’t quite feel at peace.
He feels a tickle between his shoulder blades that turns into an itch that he can’t reach as he pulls the Impala into a roadside diner parking lot. He waits for a moment in the car and listens to the notes of the jukebox drifting into his window, the tinkle of laughter from inside, trying to figure out why something feels off.
Nothing seems out of the ordinary. The smell of spicy barbeque hits his nose and he smiles to himself, hungry, and heads inside.
He's never really liked dining alone, and suddenly he's not anymore.
“I felt you searching for me,” Cas says, and takes a seat opposite Dean in his booth, the pink vinyl squeaking against his trench coat. Dean feels his grin beam from his face, reaches out across the sticky formica with both hands to grasp Cas’s forearms and hold on tightly.
“Hello, Dean,” Cas says fondly, his eyes wet and soft.
“A servant of heaven again, huh? Top dog around here. I bet the other angels fuckin’ love that,” Dean chuckles. He flicks on his sunglasses, leans back against the windshield and lets the heat from the engine below soak into his jeans. The sun blazes above them, the twirl of birds in flight silhouetted against the blue sky.
“Jack made new angels. There’s still a lot of re-building work to be done and they need guidance. We’re guardians of heaven, now, not servants,” Cas informs him, copying the position, slowly leaning back. He looks up at the endless sky thoughtfully, eyes squinted against the brightness, before he looks back at Dean. “So are you now, Dean. A guardian. If that’s what you want.”
“You want me to be a freakin’ angel?" Dean laughs out loud, his voice reaching the landscape and echoing back to them.
Cas smiles lopsided and knowing, understanding the irony.
Dean knows when Sam’s thinking about him; when Sam’s missing him. When Sam’s praying to him. Sam’s emotions flipbook through Dean’s mind, blurred and fast, noises, images, feelings. It’s been thirty, maybe forty years, on earth, but the man-made bridle of time doesn’t exist in heaven. What’s been a lifetime for Sam has just been a collection of non-linear moments for Dean.
He closes his eyes and breathes deep, conjures as much love as he can. He knows Sam can feel him too, in those moments, knows the connection goes two ways, unbroken even now. Even celestial planes, worldly dimensions, apart. Dean knows they’ll be together again soon. He can wait.
There’s a party at Ellen’s road house. Dean isn’t sure what’s being celebrated, he just knows everyone’s having a good time.
“Isn’t it awesome that we can still get buzzed even in heaven?” Ash yells over the lively country twang, the sea of voices and laugher. Dean catches the can of PBR that comes sailing towards him from Ash’s loose grip. “Drink as much as you want and no hangover, man!” He skids past Dean’s barstool in a bedsheet toga and a trucker cap, his mullet flapping behind him.
Dean laughs. He turns back to the bar and crashes his shot glass against Jo’s, winks at her as they each toss back the salty tequila. Across the room, someone’s having a hatchet throwing wager and Dean wants in, but then there’s a hand on his shoulder. Heavy, though not unwelcome.
“You’d rather be doing this than helping me rebuild and expand heaven?” Cas asks, voice raised to be heard, expression etched with confusion.
“Yes,” Dean tells him with a grin. “Are you kidding me? Definitely!”
“You really need to work on your sales pitch, Cas,” Jo chuckles, sliding two tumblers of Scotch over to their side of the bar.
“Stay and get wasted with me,” Dean asks, one hand clapping gently against Cas’s stubbled cheek. “We got a lot of catching up to do. Important things to discuss,” Dean says, deliberately loaded.
Cas stares, his blue eyes twinkling with curiosity.
“Alright,” he agrees eventually, taking a seat.
Dean feels elated, buzzing with excitement like he’s about to unwrap a long overdue gift. He clasps a hand on the back of Cas’s neck and never wants to let go. Their glasses click together companionably and Dean downs his in one go. He needs the liquid courage.
“First of all,” Dean says, throat burning, words sandpaper rough as he looks Cas square in the eye. “I fuckin’ love you, too, asshat.”
Dean knows when Sam’s arriving. He drives a hundred miles an hour, the itch between his shoulder blades back with a vengeance.
When he embraces his brother, that mild, nagging irritation melts away to nothing. He feels Sam’s warmth, feels their unbreakable bond like a palpable force, like a tether anchored between them, and the missing puzzle piece finally slots into place.
They’re home. Both of them. Whole again.
“What’d you do with the car?” Dean asks. “Better not have messed her up,” he warns, kicking a rock into the lake. Sam squints up at him from where he’s crouched on the grey pebble shore. The water laps softly where he dips his fingertips in, turquoise and transparent.
“She’s right where she belongs. In the capable and loving hands of Dean Winchester the second,” Sam says. Dean nods, accepting that. Awash with an easy feeling of contentment, the comfortable knowledge that things are exactly as they’re supposed to be.
“Hey, wanna go see Jessica?” he asks, and Sam’s gaze snaps to him, eyes wide and longing. Dean feels his own smile stretch, overwhelmed with the thought of all the amazing things he gets to catch Sam up on now. “She’s been waiting for you."
Rowena sends a fruit basket, garnished with purple crystals and dried Scottish Thistles like a signature. It’s an SOS. There’s a coup occurring in hell; a dark unrest rising and the minions are engaged in a civil war. Sides picked. She’s worried she’s going to lose. If she were to be defeated it would spew hell out on to earth.
Jack scratches his chin, never having faced a dilemma like this since becoming omnipotent. He believes there has to be a balance so maybe heaven shouldn’t get involved? Castiel reminds him that hell doesn’t always fight fair, hell sometimes upsets the balance… that’s why it’s hell. Dean agrees. Every hundred years or so there’s always some lower echelon punk trying to stir up war and snatch the crown.
“I’ll go,” Dean volunteers, throwing a peanut M&M in to the air and catching it in his mouth. He hasn't missed one for two hundred and fifty tries now. He’s bored anyway, and he misses the smell of sulphur sometimes.
“I’ll go with him, “ Cas says, nodding sagely at Jack. They’ve got this.
Dean has to admit, having wings does come in handy. He and Cas descend into the fiery depths, the seventh circle, armour glinting and swords drawn and half of the demons don’t even put up a fight, they take one disbelieving look and scatter, smoking back to the rancid pits from whence they came on a bloodcurdling scream, an echoing curse for all of hell to hear: Winchester, they screech, Dean Winchester is back!
For the ones who don’t heed the warning, not as well versed in hell’s history or the Winchester chronicles, the ones who try to stand their ground, well… The term ‘lay to waste’ has never been more appropriate.
Dean’s adrenaline soars as his blade rips through the hellscum forms, remembering suddenly how it feels to be alive. How it feels to win a fight. He feels his own heavenly power, his own soul expanding outwards, growing to giant proportions with every sweep of his sword, with every inch of ground gained.
He pushes Cas up against the obsidian rock wall when they’re done, when there are no more bodies left to shred. Their platinum chest plates crash together like thundering snare drums, and so do their mouths.
Dean pours his unbridled, unspent energy into the kiss, feels Castiel’s lips give way under his and swallows the startled moan. He hears the rumble of footsteps approaching, the shaking timbre of a thousands strong army heading towards them and Cas pulls him closer, grinds them together, their kiss furious and unrelenting. Cas laves Dean’s tongue with his own and they both groan, desperate and needy.
Dean feels their combined light shoot in all directions, eviscerating everything, illuminating their corner of hell so brightly that demons will forever fear to tread there. So bright that it will never go dark again.
Rowena sends another fruit basket; this time adorned with supernaturally forged weaponry wrapped lovingly in her clan’s Tartan, the potent spell work making the sharp edges sing with ferocity. The daggers fit in Dean’s grip perfectly, made especially for him. Thank you for the assist, boys, her note says cheerily, written in the blood of her enemies, signed rightfully, The Queen.
Cas commands an adoring army of his own, made up of new breed angels. He becomes architect in chief. He sets about the ravishment of heaven; the dismantling and rebuilding in a new image, brick by golden brick. The angels flock to him, puppy dog eyed and subservient, ready to receive any and all of his orders. He has his own fan club.
“Fuckin’ suck ups,” Dean says jealously, watching from above, floating on a cotton candy cloud. Cas rolls his eyes up at him, admonishing, blushing a little. Dean smirks and flips on to his back to gaze up into the iridescent dust of the milky way and await his punishment.
Sam takes to saint-hood like a duck to water. He performs clandestine miracles with the magic he’s always had. He heals suffering and prevents blight. He protects the weak, bolsters and organises the strong. Steadily guides the ones committed to the cause.
It takes earth-centuries but they become folklore. Dean hears the stories, the campfire fables. He hears the teachings as they’re passed down through generations, from hunters to civilians. He hears the excited prayers, the cries for help, as he and Sam become their own religion. They become blue-collar deities. Guardians of the plan gone sideways. Guardians of the lucky escape. Guardians of scraping through by the skin of your teeth. Guardians of the dangerous roads less travelled.
The archangels Winchester. They become scorched into a re-written history as the guardians of saving people and hunting things.
“We could have done worse,” Dean shrugs, knocking his elbow against Cas’s. The pale yellow sand is smooth under the balls of his feet and between his toes. The two sides of Cas’s unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt flap in the salt sea breeze, the brown skin of his chest starting to bead with sweat as they both watch Sam playing in the ocean, his long body bobbing against the rhythmic waves.
Cas takes a delicate sip of his piña colada, nods in agreement. Dean can already taste the pineapple and coconut he’s going to suck from Cas’s bottom lip later, a phantom flavour in his mouth.
“We could have done a lot worse,” Dean thinks out loud, his serenity settling over him like a blanket.