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September 13th (134 Days)

Dean is watching Springer in the living room when the door opens unexpectedly and Castiel walks in.

"I thought you had a 1:30 today?" Dean asks.

"A water mane burst near my building and all my classes have been cancelled for the rest of the week." Castiel says, "I did, briefly, think of using the occasion as an excuse to cover the Wedding at Cana, but I did not have the appropriate liquor license prepared."

Dean stares blankly as Castiel smiles to himself.

"That was a joke." Castiel says.

Dean stares some more.

The little smile falls off Castiel's face, replaced by a look of fond disappointment. "The Wedding at Cana was where Jesus turned the water into wine, Dean."

"Dude, if that is your idea of a joke, remind me to never, ever go to your little faculty get-togethers." Castiel frowns, looking totally hurt and Dean feels like a jerk so he says, "Come here."

Castiel hesitates for a couple seconds, but eventually lets himself be drawn across the room by what Dean can only assume is his sheer animal magnetism. "Let's try this one over again," Dean says, pulling Castiel down to into his lap. "How was your day at work, honey?"

This gets Castiel to smile that little smirk again, and he says, "Considering that I did not have to do anything, and I am getting paid anyway, I believe it was the best day ever."

Dean actually does laugh at that one, and Castiel full-on beams at him, that odd not-quite-right grin that he only uses when they're alone.

"Well, Professor," Dean says, "Now that you've got the day off, and I don't have to be at work until 5:30... whatever will we do with this time we have now?"

"I had some thoughts," Castiel says, pulling at the hem of Dean's shirt. "I promise not all of them were about Jesus."

Castiel leans in and bites Dean's earlobe, works his way down Dean's neck to his shoulder.

"There is something I wanted us to do," Castiel says.

Castiel is surrounded at almost all times by hormone-driven teenagers with vivid imaginations, and every once in a while it leads to him coming home with new, surprisingly adventurous ideas. "Oh yeah?" Dean asks, expecting him to describe some explicit, pornographic act that he's recently discovered.

What Castiel actually says is, "I want us to buy a house."

Dean, who'd been anticipating Castiel saying something like, I want you to tie me up and ride me like a horse, has to take a moment to process. When he does, the first words out of his mouth are, "Fuck no! Where the hell did that come from?"

"I read the King James Bible last night," Castiel says, and when he says that, he doesn't mean he read passages, he means he read the whole thing. Dean is once again vividly reminded that he's sleeping with someone who just does that. "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."

Dean, who last voluntarily entered a church in 1985, has no idea what Castiel is talking about. He didn't even know they owned a Bible. "What does that even mean?" he asks.

"It's an allegory for Heaven," Castiel says. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also. I had thought, since I cannot take you there yet, to live with me in paradise, that we could build a home together here."

Castiel still doesn't know the difference between normal, romantic things that humans say to each other, like, I'm going to come inside you, and the kind of shit that crosses a line into things that make Dean deeply uncomfortable. Dean has absolutely no response for this kind of stuff, so he usually ends up sounding stupid, or agreeing to things that he otherwise wouldn't. Which is why, instead of saying hell no, he finds himself mumbling, "Yeah, sure."

September 18th (139 Days)

Dean says, "I can't believe I let you talk me into this," between gritted teeth as Kristy the realtor unlocks to door to yet another boring-ass beige-painted house. Castiel ignores him in favor of making interested hmm noises as Kristy points out the new tile in the walkway.

Dean doesn't have a good frame of reference for real estate besides TV and Castiel has no frame of reference for anything at all, so they've spent all day blandly interested and totally fucking lost. Remarkably, every place they've looked has had some slight problem with it that only Castiel can see, but damn, who is Dean to argue with an Angel of the Lord about potentially faulty wiring? Especially in front of Kristy, who is strawberry blond and stacked and completely terrifying.

"Oh my gosh, you two are going to just love this!" She chirps, regardless of the fact that neither of them have just loved anything all day. Her seemingly limitless well of cheerfulness isn't even slightly dampened by Castiel's, "I think we should keep looking," in response to her 15th, "So what do you guys think?"

Dean waits until she's safely in her scary-ass pink Hummer, on the way to the next boring-ass beige house, before grabbing Castiel by the elbow. "There was nothing wrong with that place," Dean hisses between his teeth.

"The teenagers loitering in the vicinity looked shifty," Castiel says, looking shifty.

"They're teenager, Cas," Dean says. "That's what they do."

Castiel tilts his head at Dean, looking unconvinced. He says, "There is one more place I would like us to look at."

"Fine," Dean says. "But we're getting the next place that looks even remotely livable."

The next place is a rambling, ranch-style split-level in Murlin Heights, one of Dayton's northern suburbs. The house has an interior that is eerily reminiscent of the beautiful room in Van Nuys, about 15 different remote controls for every moving object inside, and a pool in the back yard. It's also about $50,000 more than Dean told Castiel and Kristy that he was willing to spend.

"You set me up," Dean growls.

"I do not know what you're talking about," Castiel says, face emotionless except for the slight uptick at the corner of his mouth. Dean knows that expression, that expression means that Castiel is totally fucking with him.

"Son of a bitch," Dean says, and goes to talk to Kristy about financing.

October 1st (152 Days)

Right after they close on the house, Dean calls Lisa. She sounds happier to talk to him now than she ever did when he called before.

"How's the baby?" He asks.

"It's not a whole baby yet, Dean." Lisa says, and Dean can picture perfectly the way she's rolling her eyes. "Right now it's some serious weight gain and acid reflux like you would not believe. I'm only in the first trimester, I'm not even showing. Oh, and don't you dare tell the girls at the yoga studio, they're all 19 years old and scared of stretch marks. They'll never let me live it down."

"Ok." Dean says, "I won't tell."

"Oh, what am I saying," she says, laughing. Dean likes the way her voice sounds, the way she doesn't sound tired or run-down or disappointed. "How are you doing? You haven't called since..." She trails off.

"Yeah, well, some stuff happened right after that and it's been hectic." Dean says.

"I can imagine," Lisa says. "You still in Ohio?"

"Yeah," Dean says. "Still trapped in the Midwest. I just wanted to call to say that I probably won't be back any time soon. Maybe not ever."

"Oh, Dean." Lisa says. "I think I knew you weren't coming back the minute you left. I'm not gonna lie, Ben thinks you're the scum of the Earth."

"Yeah." Dean says, "Not arguing with him here." It fucking hurts to be abandoned by anyone, even if sometime it's not their fault.

Lisa doesn't say anything right away, but the silence is comfortable, for once. Dean doesn't feel pressured to say something, to make everything better.

"Are you happy there?" Lisa asks, eventually. "You sound better now than you did the last time I talked to you. "

"I'm good." Dean says, surprised by how much he means it. "We bought a house."

"We?" Lisa asks, a little surprised. "You and..."

"Me and Castiel. Or, well, Dean McAllister and Castiel Winters."

"Oh." Lisa says, stunned. "Jesus, I don't think I saw that coming. Don't tell him I said Jesus! Damn it! Oh man."

Dean laughs, "Your secret is safe with me."

"Hey," Lisa says, "I've got to go. Kevin's going to be coming over any minute now, and he doesn't really know about you or what you do or anything. I don't want to scare him, what with the baby on the way."

"Alright," Dean says. "You have a good night. Tell Ben I'm sorry."

"Take care of yourself, Dean." Lisa says. "Come back and see us sometime. Ben will forgive you eventually, even if he doesn't understand right now."

"Yeah," Dean says. "Yeah, I'll do that."

October 7th (158 Days)

Whereas moving from the motel room to the apartment had taken all of five minutes, Dean will be amazed if they're able to move from the apartment to the house in less than five days.

"How the hell did we get all this stuff?" Dean asks. It's like everything they owned multiplied when he wasn't looking. Every time he thinks that they've gotten the last of it into boxes, he remembers two more things that they haven't even started on, yet. Then there's the weird stuff, like hangers. Do hangers go in boxes? Can't he just shove those go in a trash bag? Fuck if Dean knows.

Castiel looks up from where he's sealing up, no kidding, a tenth box of books. "Many of these books were purchased from second-hand stores," he says, still not clear on the concept of a rhetorical question. "Though some of them arrived as care packages from Bobby." This is news to Dean, who was almost always at work by the time the mail arrived.

"That son of a bitch," Dean says. "He's already buried alive in crap, and now he's looking to colonize our place, too." He doesn't realize he's said our place until it's already done and too late to take back. Thankfully, Castiel doesn't seem to notice.

Dean's always thought of the apartment as the apartment and not our apartment, but the house has both of their fake names on the deed, both of their fake social security numbers on the mortgage. He guesses there really isn't anything else to call it, but it still seems bizarrely permanent: Our place. I go to prepare a place for you.

"I would also like you to note that before we lived here, I owned only what Jimmy Novak had in his pockets three years ago," Castiel says, lifting the taped-up box like it weights next to nothing. Dean had tried that earlier and nearly thrown his back out. "I have found that once started, having possessions is addictive."

Since he's started actually collecting his own paycheck, Castiel has gone from owning four changes of clothes to owning half a Brooks Brother's. This is partially Dean's fault, as Castiel looks really hot in fitted button-downs and flat-front slacks. At least now his taste is more metrosexual than actuary chic, though the brown leather satchel he carries his lecture notes in is flat-out ridiculous. Castiel is banned from even looking at Etsy.com, ever again.

"Hey," Dean shouts at Castiel's retreating back, "Don't forget your purse!"

Castiel turns around and says, straight-faced, "I just want you to know that I hate you sometimes."

Dean is pretty sure that he's kidding.

October 9th (160 Days)

It takes a while for Dean to realize that despite the sheer volume of shit they own, they have absolutely no furniture.

"Dude," Dean says, staring into huge, open space of the master bedroom. "You're not supposed to buy a house before you have a coffee table."

Castiel tilts his head to the side, considering. "I did not know that was a pre-requisite." Dean can't figure out of Castiel's making some sort of wacky, academia-themed joke, or if he's being serious.

"We don't have a bed." Dean says, gesturing at the pile of pillows where the bed should be. "I am too God damn old to be sleeping on the floor."

"You are only 31," Castiel chastises.

"There's an IKEA North of Cincinnati," Dean says, "We're going. Now."

Dean spends the 50 minutes it takes them to drive to West Chester setting ground rules and working out a game plan. "For instance," he says, "Nothing wrought iron. I have banged my head on enough shitty metal bed frames to last me a lifetime."

Dean is as surprised as anyone to realize he as opinions about furniture. He's just stayed in so many terrible themed motels over the year that he has a What Not To Do list as long as the Nile.

"Under no circumstances are we buying anything that has tassels on it." Dean says, looking over at Castiel, slouched against the passenger side door. "Don't even think about it."

Castiel smirks at him like, I can buy whatever I want and you will be powerless to stop me. Which is true, but fuck if Dean will ever admit it.

"Also," Dean says, "If I see you going for a four-pound bag of votive candles I swear, I am walking."

Dead had thought Castiel might get a little overwhelmed by the whole Swedish furniture experience, but he is not prepared for the religious experience that Castiel has when they reach the showroom.

"Everything is so color coordinated," Castiel says, stopping in the middle of the walkway and refusing to move.

"That's nice, honey," Dean says, "But you're scaring the nice people."

All in all they spend four hours in IKEA and buy a couch, a coffee table, a complete bedroom set, and about 10 thousand throw pillows. Dean counts it as a victory that they escape without buying the entire store.

October 17th (168 Days)

What Dean hadn't expected when they bought the house was how hard Castiel would get into DIY. He should have seen this coming, he had ample evidence after he watched Castiel decorate the apartment with accent pieces. Dean still doesn't know what the hell a ball of twine is accentuating, though Castiel said it really brought the room together.

Walking into Home Depot is disorienting enough on a normal day, but Castiel makes it worse by caring about what Dean thinks about paint chips. No matter how many times Castiel asks, Dean will never have an opinion on the difference between ecru and ivory.

Despite Dean's complete inability to be helpful in any way, they still leave the store with a cart full of neatly labeled paint cans. When they get home, Castiel hands him a bucket of paint and tells him to take it into the living room, but Dean has no idea what he means by that. Every room in the house looks exactly the same.

"Fuck," Dean says, walking through room after room of drop-cloth covered furniture. Castiel picked out a different color of paint for every room, and the sheer size of the whole undertaking makes Dean start to panic.

All of a sudden, Dean remembers that it's been a month since he even tried to leave Ohio. When he starts to think about it, his mind floods with questions: What if he's been able to leave this whole time? Has he just been playing house with Castiel for no real reason? Christ, what if it's just Indiana he can't get to? What about Kentucky, or Pennsylvania, or West fucking Virginia?

Dean drops the bucket of paint he's holding, leaves it lying on its side where it falls in the middle of the room. He turns and walks right past an oblivious Castiel, until he gets to the Impala. Castiel follows him out of the house, sending Dean questioning looks, but not asking anything out loud.

Dean gets in the car and drives as fast as he can towards the southern border, away from Dayton and Indiana both.

His heart is pounding like crazy the whole time, and he runs through hundreds of possible conversations in his head, excuses and explanations to use when Castiel pops up in the passenger seat. Except Castiel never shows and Dean drives the whole way to Cincinnati in paranoid, expectant silence.

The Brent Spence Bridge, which spans the river between Ohio and Kentucky, proves just as impregnable as the Indiana border. Dean tries three times before giving up completely, and pulling off the highway at the first exit. He finds himself in a parking lot under a tangled mess of overpasses, staring out past the dockyards at the promised land of Anywhere But Here.

Dean's phone chirps, and he looks down to see that he has a text message from Castiel that reads, "Are you feeling alright? I cleaned up the paint. I did not know you would object so strongly to the color."

It's the most simultaneously mundane and sarcastic text message Dean has ever read in his whole life. Dean starts cracking up laughing. Either Castiel really did not notice Dean's little mid-life crisis, or he's smart enough to realize that Dean just needs to get the fuck over himself. I do not understand why you pretend that you do not want the things that you want.

Dean looks again across the river at Kentucky, says, "Never mind. You stay there, I'll stay here."

An hour later, Dean walks back in through the front door of their house, and finds Castiel with his head tilted to the side, staring at a splotch of green paint on a white wall. "I think this one looked better in the store," Castiel says.

Dean, who still does not particularly care about the God damn paint, grabs Castiel by the hips and turns him around. "I love you," he says, and kisses Castiel on the mouth. Castiel has a little smudge of paint on his face, and Dean can feel it rubbing off onto his chin. "I should have said that before."

"Oh," Castiel says. "Good. Now, please, I would like your opinion on this color."

"Whatever you want is fine," Dean says. "I promise."

October 25th (176 Days)

Dean is unpacking the last box of Castiel's books when he runs into the King James Bible that got them into this damn mess in the first place. The spine is cracked in four places, the edges of the pages dingy and gray-brown, the cover water-stained and warped. There's silver embossing that reads Placed By The Gideons in the bottom right-hand corner, which means 100% that it was lifted from one of the nicer hotels they've stayed in.

When Dean opens it up on impulse, he sees the words PROPERTY OF SAM WINCHESTER written on the inside cover in huge, slanting, little-kid handwriting.

Dean misses Sam like a phantom limb. It doesn't hurt every second of every day, but there's always the odd moment where he's in the grocery store, and he reaches for the skim milk even though he likes 2%, because Sam is watching his girlish figure. Or something stupid and funny happens at work and Dean thinks out how he'd say it to Sam when he gets home. Or Dean starts to say, "Remember that time when?" to Castiel, only he remembers that Castiel wasn't there when they killed that Wendigo, or when Dad accidentally put hot chilies in the spaghetti sauce.

Castiel understands, at least, that when Dean trails of it's because it's too painful to keep going. He doesn't make Dean talk about his feelings, mostly because he can already see into Dean's soul, but instead he just waits it out. Dean is thankful for Castiel's silences, how Dean doesn't feel pressured to fill the empty air. There are still a lot of things about being human that Castiel doesn't get, but sometimes Dean appreciates the otherworldliness of him.

Dean doesn't miss Sam in the same way he misses their parents, like a dull ache in the back of his heart. Whenever something reminds him of Sam, it's always a one-two punch of pain and anger. He's pretty sure Mom and Dad in a better place, but he knows, really knows that Sam is somewhere terrible, and Dean can't get to him. Dean's not even allowed to try.

The only thing Dean can do is live up to who Sam wanted him to be.

The last thing Sam had asked Dean to do was to live a normal life, and Dean had tried. He'd been who he thought Lisa wanted him to be, but the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes how much they'd been going through the motions. He'd become obsessed with the idea of her, the idea of fatherhood and a white picket fence kind of life. He'd treated her like a consolation prize, and no woman deserved to live under that kind of pressure, the weight of that kind of expectation.

In her own way, she'd treated him like a solider with PTSD, and though she'd listened to his stories about what he'd been through, she'd never really tried to understand. It'd been just like she said, everything he told her was a story, and that story was going to have a happy ending if it killed them both.

If Dean's being honest with himself, which is usually something he tries to avoid, he's glad he had an excuse to leave Indiana, glad for an excuse not to go back. If he's being honest with himself, he can admit that he hasn't really been trying very hard to get back to her.

So Dean had tried with Lisa, and it hadn't worked, and then he hadn't tried with Castiel and that has worked. If Castiel was trapped somewhere and something was stopping Dean from be there with him, Dean would rip the whole planet apart to get to him. Going the other way, it's not even hypothetical, Castiel has actually laid siege to hell to get to Dean. ("I would do so again, in a heartbeat," Castiel says, sometimes, his hand over the mark on Dean's shoulder. It's just one of the those things he says that leave Dean momentarily unable to breathe.)

Right now, Castiel is somewhere in the back yard, fighting a losing battle with the Weber grill that Dean picked up from the side of the road last week. Dean had tried to explain how to use the charcoal chimney and stack the coals and everything, he'd even shown Castiel a damn YouTube video, but fire still seems to confuse the fuck out of him. Dean figures he's got another 10 minutes before Castiel does something stupid, like smite the charcoal in clear view of the neighbors.

Next weekend, the University of Dayton is playing Drake, and the whole theology department is going as some sort of team-building thing. Dean doesn't really know what football has to do with religion, but hey, free tickets are free tickets. He had thought that organized sports would be another thing that he'd have to explain to death, but Castiel has an innate love of complicated rules and restrictions. He's become a Yankees fan, much to Dean's disgust, and during the summer he'd gotten into World Cup in a big, scary, fanatical way.

So Dean's got his barbeques and his football games and his house in the suburbs, only he shoved over the beautiful woman for an angel in a trench coat.

"Well, Sam," Dean says, "I don't think this is what you had in mind, but you gotta admit it's what you asked for."

November 2nd (184 Days)

They've been stuck in Ohio six months to the day when Bobby calls saying he's figured it out.

"It's some seriously powerful, old-school blood magic, really ugly stuff. It ties a person to a political boundary," Bobby says. "Mostly it was used in ancient times to exile political enemies, blah blah blah, whatever, but you can turn it around so that it keeps a person inside someplace, too."

Dean's ears perked up when he heard the words blood magic, and from the surprised look on Castiel's face, Dean figures his thoughts are running in the same direction. "Just how powerful would you have to be to cast such a spell?" Castiel asks.

"Pretty damn powerful," Bobby says. "This isn't your average witch. From what I can tell, this kind of spell hasn't been performed in over a millennia, which is what made it so effing hard to track down in the first place. So either this is someone who has a way better library card than we do, or it's someone who was around for the first time."

"Son of a bitch," Dean says. "Yeah, I think we've got a good idea of who that is."

"One more thing," Bobby says, saving the really important shit for the end like he always does. "It's gotta originate from the capital city of wherever the hell you want this thing to go down. And whoever cast this thing? Is still there. They're just as stuck as you until it gets undone."

"That's good news," Dean says, "That means that she's going as bug nuts as we are. Maybe she'll take the curse off if we just ask nicely."

Bobby snorts at that one, and Castiel says, "That is highly unlikely, Dean."

Dean shakes his head. "Thanks, Bobby," he says.

"Well, you're welcome." Bobby says, sounding way more cranky than benevolent. "It's not like I had anything better to do than to waste six months of my life on this shit."

"Your services in this matter are much appreciated," Castiel says, way less sarcastic than Bobby deserves.

Dean hangs up his phone to the comforting sound of Bobby calling them dumbasses.

"Well, mystery solved," Dean says. "But what the fuck is a Hindu goddess doing in Columbus?"

Kali is surprisingly easy to find, once they know what they're looking for. Not a lot of Midwestern women fit the description: about 5'3", smoking hot, and able to set herself on fire. They're in town for maybe half an hour before they see her flaming silhouette on a poster for a nightclub.

It's 2:30 when they find the place and the sign out front says that doors open at 5:00, so they go around the back. Dean jimmies open the stage door while Castiel stands lookout. The alleyway is surprisingly quiet, but as soon as Dean gets the door opened, he can hear the opening bars to "Fever" by Peggy Lee.

"Seriously?" He asks. Castiel shrugs.

The backstage area is dim, just enough light escaping from the stage area to illuminate the metal-edged sound equipment cases, black bent-wood chairs, and scratched-up wooden boxes. Dean trips over a hidden cable on the ground and almost puts his hand through a fabric screen, Castiel grabbing him around the waist just in time.

A woman starts singing onstage, and Dean barely recognizes the voice through the sound dampening fabric and the distortion of the sound system, but it's definitely Kali.

"Ok, Rhett," she says as the music cuts out abruptly, "That sounds good."

Dean can hear the click of heels against the hardwood getting louder, and before he really has time to react, she's walking through the wings right towards them. She stops short when she sees Dean, and it's dark enough that for a second he hopes that she won't recognize him.

"Oh," she says, "It you." There goes that idea. "And you brought another angel this time. Lovely."

Dean had thought on the drive over that the spell might have been the first step in some elaborate revenge plan, and that Kali was still pissed at them for what happened at the motel. He'd more or less convinced himself that she'd set this whole thing up to kill them, but right now, she just looks bored to see them.

"Howdy," Dean says.

"Look," she says, "I only have forty-five minutes for lunch." Dean takes an involuntary step back, remembering what was on the menu the last time they met up.

"Hey, Lady-" Dean starts.

"Ugh," Kali says, looking at Dean like he's something she'd find on the bottom of her shoe. "I didn't mean you. I meant, if you want to talk, fine, but we're going to have to do it over food."

Kali wants Vietnamese, so they walk to a place down the block from the club. Dean doesn't have a God damn clue what anything is on the menu except for the French fries, which seem weird and out of place and are almost certainly awful. When the waitress comes by, Dean lets Castiel order for him, and Kali raises a eyebrow, but thank God doesn't say anything.

"You boys sure took your time," she says after the waitress leaves. "I cast that thing ages ago." She looks at Dean like he's the especially slow child in class, doesn't even make eye contact with Castiel. Dean pretty much hates Kali completely. He'd rather be doing almost anything else in the world besides talking to her, but she's the only thing on the whole God damn planet who can take the spell off.

"Well," Dean says, "You didn't make it easy to figure out."

"I guess I didn't. Sorry about that," Kali says, not even remotely apologetic. Dean looks over at Castiel for some sympathy, like, can you believe this bitch?, but Castiel is staring straight forward, rapt. Dean guesses this is the first time he's spent quality time with a non-Judeo-Christian deity. Dean's met enough of them to know they're pretty much all dicks.

"Hey," Dean says. "I just came here to find out one thing, and that's what the hell is going on. Since we already know that you did it, I just want to know why."

"Loki," she says. Son of a bitch.

"Gabriel." Castiel nods and says, "Our situation is consistent with the things that he found enjoyable."

"The Trickster?" Dean asks. "But he's dead. Actually dead."

"Yes," Castiel says. "He is." So it's at least comforting to know the Trickster's not faking it this time.

Kali says, "After we escaped from the motel, I found a message he had left for me. He asked me for a favor." Which is perfect, it is just fucking perfect. Dean's whole life has been fucked over because some perverse, dead angel would have thought it was funny. And, oh God, Kali probably watched the whole video.

Dean shudders and says, "So what you're saying is, even though he's dead, the Trickster is still fucking with us?"

Kali doesn't even blink. "Yes."

Dean shouts, "Jesus Christ!"

"Dean." Castiel looks disapproving about the blasphemy thing, again, but Dean is just too busy seething with anger to remember this time.

"Why the hell did he trap us in Ohio?" Dean asks, because it's as good a question as any.

"I do not know. Loki specified the location and that it was non-negotiable." She pauses, looking annoyed. "He neglected to mention that I would be trapped here, too."

"Well, take it off," Dean says. "Make it stop."

"Fine." She says, "Loki wanted me to leave it up as long as it would take for you to learn some sort of lesson. Please, tell me you've learned it so I can go home. The food here is terrible."

"Lady," Dean pleads, "I will tell you anything you want to hear, as long as I can tell you from Indiana."

"Then we have a deal," she says. Dean is afraid for a half a second that he's going to have to kiss her to make it official, but Kali just looks impatiently towards the waitress, who walks up carrying plates and plates of unrecognizable food.

Dean pulls a couple of twenties out of his wallet, nods to Kali, and says, "We'll take ours to go."

November 3rd (185 Days)

Dean is out in front of the house, fixing the busted-ass lawnmower he picked up off Craigslist while Castiel is raking leaves with Zen, monk-like concentration. Dean's been waiting for the phone to ring all day, but is still startled enough to drop his wrench when it goes off in his pocket.

Kali says, sounding tinny and far away, "It's done. And I never want to see you again."

She hangs up before Dean can say ditto.

Five minutes later, Dean and Castiel are in the Impala, peeling out of the driveway and headed due West.

It doesn't occur to Dean until they're 10 minutes from the border that if he can leave Ohio, then Castiel can leave Ohio, and by extension, the entire mortal plane. The idea pisses Dean off, that just like last time, just like when Dean had needed Castiel before, he's gonna take the easy out and go back to Heaven, leaving Dean alone with a broken lawnmower and a 30 year mortgage.

Dean floors it the whole rest of the way to the Welcome To Indiana sign, blowing past it too quickly to read. The second they cross the border, Dean hears the sound of wings and feels a familiar rush of air that he hasn't experienced in a long time. He doesn't look at the passenger seat, doesn't want to actually see it empty, though he knows it is.

Dean pulls over at the first rest stop he comes across, jerks the car into an open spot in the parking lot. He pushes the car door open, steps out and stares out across the endless fields of rural Indiana. Dean doesn't even have any real reason to be in Indiana anymore, but it's still fucking satisfying to actually do it, to actually get here. Even if it means the end of everything he's spent the last six months building. He doesn't move for a long time, watching the sun sink slowly behind the long, flat horizon.

Sometime after sunset, Dean startles, feeling Castiel settle in next to him, the press of his arm preternaturally warm against Dean's side.

Dean wants to say, You came back? Are you staying? Instead, he stays completely still for a long time, taking in the moment in case it's the last time.

"So," Dean eventually asks, breathing in the frigid Indiana night, "What do you want to do? You taking off?"

"I want to go home," Castiel says, looking up at the night sky.

Something seizes inside Dean's chest when he hears that, and he can't catch his breath for a second. "Uh," he gasps through the tightness in his throat, "I guess you've missed it, uh, being gone so long. Want to make sure the other angels haven't, you know, wrecked up the place."

"No, Dean, you do not understand me," Castiel says, stepping back. "I want to go home." He gets into the car and sits in the passenger seat, looking expectantly at Dean through the window.

The steel bands that had clamped their way around Dean's chest suddenly ease, and he takes one last, long, deep breath of cold, crisp Indiana air.

Dean gets back into the front seat of the Impala, turns the engine over.

"Yeah," he says, "Me too. Let's go home."

Dean gets back on the highway and flips around through the median, right past the no U-turn sign. Together they drive 90 all the way back to Ohio, the heart of it all.

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4


( 143 comments — Leave a comment )
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Oct. 20th, 2010 03:36 am (UTC)
i really liked this, it was charming and inevitable

and i got the joke about the Wedding at Canaan
i have a farside mug that has a picture of jesus preaching and says "after he turned water into wine thousands followed jesus to galilee" which never fails to make me smile
the other one is a spider in a web and across the bottom it says "it was a week before we found out he hung himself"

i did really like this, job really really well done
Oct. 20th, 2010 04:33 am (UTC)
Oh wow. I am so glad I decided to forgo "catching up" on the big bangs (I will never be caught up, woe!) and read this anyway.

This was charming and well-paced, and it made me laugh so hard in places I startled my cats. Your description of fennel as a cross between a turnip and a feather boa is going to haunt me.

I loved your portrayal of Castiel: knowledgeable, capable, and yet utterly flummoxed by ordinary human things. I enjoyed his thorough exasperation with Dean's inability to ask for what he wants and to be honest with himself about his feelings.

I especially appreciated how, while this was a curtain!fic (and I do love curtain!fics), the process was a gradual one, with a feeling of inevitability and the certainty that it was right, all at the same time.

Kudos, also, for giving both Castiel and Dean jobs that 75% of fandom hasn't already given them. ;)

Congratulations on a lovely story!

Oct. 20th, 2010 07:12 am (UTC)
This is just a lovely story. I love how Dean finally found a place for himself and finally lived the life he wanted and Sam wanted for him even if it wasn't what they both had in mind.

And I loved that he and Castiel made a life for themselves and found happiness.

And the surprise twist with Kali was awesome. I love her doing Gabriel's one last deed to fuck with the Winchesters even after death. Oh Gabriel!

All in all, what a pleasant read.
Oct. 20th, 2010 08:17 am (UTC)
I've been having a crappy couple of days. This made me smile so much, and I want to thank you for that. There were so many times that I just started laughing. The 'normal life' Sam wanted for Dean with Lisa just doesn't compare with the life you showed him building with Castiel.

Oct. 20th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
Oh wow, this was a beautiful, beautiful story, and I loved every bit of it, the parts that made me smile, the ones that made me laugh, the ones that just filled my heart with sweetness - it was wonderfully balanced and run the gamut of emotions very nicely.

As for the plot, I think this is the story I never knew I wanted to read, because it seemed too good to be true that someone would write it, and write it well. The progression towards domesticity, Dean's slow adjustment to his new environment and his realisations were all marvellous, and I can't get over how beautifully Cas fit into it all (snags included, the way his unfamiliarity with humanity was handled was one of the best things), how very nicely IC both Dean and Castiel were, actually.

It was a lovely, lovely read, and it made my morning :)
Oct. 20th, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
This was absolutely fantastic. Of all the Big Bangs this year -- both the D/C and the SPN_J2 -- this story is definitely my favorite. The pacing was perfect, the characterizations were spot-on, and your writing style is so, so fantastic. The (one-sided) banter between Dean and Castiel was wonderful.

I just -- I can't even deal with how great this is. Thank you so much for this little gem!
Oct. 20th, 2010 01:06 pm (UTC)
This story really made my day, it was perfect! I love the characterizations, the humour... everything! Thank you so much for sharing!!!
Oct. 20th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
I loved this. LOVED THIS. I just . . . . there are no words for how much I enjoyed reading this. Loved Dean's long, slow realization of what he wanted. And I loved the way you used Kali and it all wasn't some magical Sam is back, Gabe is alive story (even though they too are enjoyable). Instead it felt as if I were submersing myself in Dean's journey to happiness. Thank you for the delightful read.
Oct. 20th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
Fantastic story :) Great way to spend an afternoon. So many wonderful/funny moments. Thank you for sharing.


Oct. 20th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
I didn't count how many times my heart melted while reading this, so let's just say I'm surprised there's still something left to pump blood. :D

Inevitable and adorable, how they started to play house long before actually playing house, and Dean's struggle, oh my.

Instant favorite. So much love for this. XD
Oct. 20th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)
I love you, I adore you, I want to take you home and cuddle you and put cute little ribbons in your hair.
Oct. 20th, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
This is funny, charming, and the ending is sweet. Love the characterisations, the humour and the pacing of the story. The gradual buildup of Dean and Castiel's relationship into something more and Dean's easy relationship with Lisa were a delight to read.
Oct. 20th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
Awwwwwwwwww! This is the best domestic fic ever!! I love all of it! Them starting out in a motel, then apartment, then house, Castiel showing up at Dean's work, Castiel teaching religion, Dean just wanting to kill things when he first realizes they're stuck, them going shopping, all the while Castiel still stays very angelic and otherworldy. Also, I have to say that Kali was a surprise! I thought it was going to be Sam at the end, using some mojo he picked up in Hell to make Dean stay in one spot until he realized what he really wanted to happy.
Oct. 20th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
This was fantastic. I loved how you mixed the sweet and the funny.
Oct. 20th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
This was wonderful, a nice, slow build of a relationship. Lots of humor and a little angst. Loved Cas' teaching style!
Oct. 20th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
I pretty much love this fic from start to finish, but I think my favourite moment may be:

"I've never given a blowjob." Castiel says, completely straight faced. This is one of those moments where Dean is really pissed off that he can read minds.

"Oh, fuck you," Dean says, and downs half the bottle he's holding, making sure to lick around the rim on his way down.

which is completely awesome on both sides of the transaction. *glee*

Also, you referenced Bimbos of The Death Sun, which... I bought that thing twenty-mumble years ago when I was a student, and yay! I'm not the only person who's ever even heard of it!
Oct. 20th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
I don't even know what to say that hasnt already been said.
I love domestic!boys and I really appreciate that this isnt your average post-apocalypse fic with Sam and Gabriel (though Gabriel was totally the one to get them together, abet posthumously.)

I've officially spent most of my day reading Big Bangs and your's is definitely one of my favorites!
Oct. 20th, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC)
I spent too much time reading BG.
I'm a bit amazed because there are truely great works in it.
I don't know what to say because "I loved it" is starting to get old. So, I'll remain "technical":

The characterization? Perfect. Dean remains Dean and Castiel remains his angel "clumsy" self. And that's important because 70% of the time, Castiel is not in character in fanfictions.

Your writing style? I'll just applause. I love it, as I read first chapter there was a line I wanted to quote but I gave up on quoting because there are so many great lines, the story flows naturally, seriously I'm impressed with your writing style. It just "flows".
Some people may not like this story and it's normal, nothing ever reaches unanimity. But I don't understand how someone could not your writing style. It's the most "professional" I ever saw in fanfics (aside from two persons I won't name here but who do a "hell of a fucking job" as well).

I'm not finished reading yet, but seriously I had to post.

I really hope you'll still write D/C fanfictions from time to time because, as the two authors hinted above, it will be a pleasure just to see "New fanfiction by blinkiesays"

Thank you.
Oct. 20th, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)
Someone please wipe of the satisfied grin off of my face, I'm starting to get bored with it, having been spent the whole time reading this fic with the exact same grin xD I love this fic to bits and pieces. I loved the way Dean slowly got used to living in the same place for longer than a few weeks, how he and Cas slowly found each other... also, really big bonus points for making Lisa happy, I like her. Oh, and have I mentioned Kali? No? Well, KALI :D I like her too... and Gabe, fucking with Dean, even posthum? That rocks!
Oct. 20th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
My heart is all melted in my chest and I might be dead.

*sparkles at you* <3
Oct. 20th, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)

Dean and Cas were just so Dean and Cas. And it was charming and funny and it warmed my cold little heart. There were so many awesome tidbits I wanted to quote back to you and proclaim my love for, but I couldn't force myself to stop reading and take the time to note them down. You have a really engaging writing style that makes it nearly impossible to break away from.
Oct. 20th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
This story had some of the best characterizations of post-season 5 Castiel I have ever read. In the last episode, when God revives and promotes Cas, we are shown a complete restoration of Cas's faith. Most stories try to cover that up and keep him broken, whereas you embraced the Whole Cas. Him teaching religion, having Old Testement jokes (love the Soddom and Las Vegas bit, it was hilarious) and mentions of Jesus was wonderful.

You ROCK! Your portrayal of Castiel was outstanding, Dean was wonderful, your story was sweet and believable. Go Gabriel! You teach those boys about where they belong. Your references to the Bible and religious studies was well thought out and perfectly constructed. I love this story.

Oct. 21st, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)
I absolutely LOVED the progression of their relationship! So cute and charming! This is definitely being bookmarked and re-read over and over again!
Oct. 21st, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
I never thought that I would fall in love with a story about Dean and Cas and domesticity. TBH I usually avoid this kind of thing - SO GLAD I DIDN'T THIS TIME.
Truly excellent job and wonderful characterization. Fantastic.
Oct. 21st, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
This is the best thing I have read in a long time!!! I loved the domesticity of Dean and Cas!! It was fantastic, it had surprises, love, sex, and it was funny!! Great job, I loved it!!!!

By the way, I loved how Cas became a theology professor!! Fantastic job, I will be reading this again anytime I need a pick me up!
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