The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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spnfic: it's the stars that lie, 12/12
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
Briefly surfing from my blanket fort of bronchitis and Robitussin to update. I posted to AO3 last night. (Note: Everyone in my household is sick or pregnant. Or at work today, granted. Casa de Seperis is the Plague House and my doctor can't see me until tomorrow morning. Yes, I am a little high right now and coughing is my new job.)

Title: It's the Stars that Lie, 12/12
Author: Seperis
Series: Down to Agincourt, Book 2
Codes: Dean/Castiel
Rating: R
Summary: We fight, we lose, everyone dies anyway, I know. However, I don’t see why, if we're going to fight anyway, we shouldn't believe we're going to win.
Author Notes: Thanks to nrrrdygrrrl and obscureraison for beta services, with advice from lillian13, [profile] scynneh, and [personal profile] norabombay.
Thanks to bratfarrar for the series name and summary from her sonnet Harry Takes the Field.
Spoilers: Seasons 5, 6, and 7

Series Links:
AO3 - Down to Agincourt
Book 1: Map of the World

Story Links:
AO3 - All, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12
DW - Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11




--Day 104--


It's almost midnight by the time they arrive at Chitaqua, and Dean's pleased to see that the watch waits for a visual verification--that being Dean leaning out the driver's side window to wave--before opening the gate. Wards or not, he's not getting over Jeffrey the stupidest demon anytime soon, and gambling for spam isn't happening again. He wonders what Cas assigned them in addition to what Dean did and reminds himself to ask; their terrified attention tells him it was pretty traumatic and therefore awesome.

(Seeing Jody's smug wave, he adds in 'being under the sadistic fist of Alicia's team' as a contributing factor.)

As they follow the dirt road to the garage--much less muddy than he expected, and on a glance, possibly due to having been sanded recently--Dean reflects on his first mission (the brownie thing was so not a mission) in satisfaction. While his reasons for wanting to go without Cas's supervision didn't have anything to do with being able to actually drive (Cas really, really likes to drive), it was definitely nice to say he was driving and not get any argument.

(That the only two times he's driven with Cas were when Cas was literally unconscious is a pretty good indicator of how likely it is that he will ever, even by accident, win that argument with him. That there will always be one he's already accepted. Cas really, really likes to drive.)

Putting the jeep into park once they're inside the garage, he glances over at his passengers to take in their (shitty) attempts to not look like they wonder where he got his driver's license and why on earth he got it. Because it's the Apocalypse, it stopped raining yesterday, he's in a military-grade SUV with a million roads, and traffic is kind of absolutely non-existent: hell fucking yes he's gonna fulfill a dream and test the performance envelope of an SUV on every surface he can drive on. There was almost no skidding, after all.

"Home sweet home," Dean says cheerfully, giving them permission to exit the jeep as fast as their shaky legs can carry them. Pocketing the keys--this one is totally his now--he climbs out and shuts the door, giving the engine a friendly pat as he follows them outside.

"Joe," he says as he emerges into the rapidly cooling night and falling into step beside him. "Tomorrow afternoon, I need you and your team. Amanda--"

He starts to look around, but she materializes beside him, blonde ponytail swinging, and it's only his steel nerves and four days of exposure that stop him from jumping. He didn't even bother arguing when Amanda showed up with Joe's team the morning before they left with a duffle bag and a smile, thereby avoiding Cas actually telling him she was either his bodyguard or watchdog or--this being Cas--both at once. Which Dean plans to use as proof positive that obviously, Cas should take the job because look how well it's working.

He's not sorry about it, either. Watching her and Cas work out together wasn't exactly a good get-to-know-you time even before the fever, and she being Vera's roommate, he didn't fool himself then on where her primary loyalty was gonna lie no matter how well she hid it (she did, gotta give her that much).

She's a hunter, like he is, and like him, family's important. What Dean Winchester didn't know about that night at Cas's cabin probably didn't matter to her nearly as much as the fact it happened at all. Four members of her family were going with him to Ichabod, no Cas in sight, and he suspects as much as anything, were among her reasons to want to come along.

"Brief Kamal before the meeting tomorrow afternoon and bring him along," he tells her. "I'm sending him with you and Mark to help you out."

"Who's taking Mark's team?" she asks.

"Cas said Damiel, so he'll put her on local for a couple of weeks to shake her out. Not like we got a lot of choice," he adds a little grimly. Amanda nods, making a face. "Penn'll probably make their fourth, so there goes the only person in this goddamn camp who can cook."

Joe groans. "Any chance the meeting includes breakfast?"

"You want Cas's interpretation of oatmeal?" Actually, Cas's oatmeal's gotten amazing since he learned the sugar rule applies to more than coffee, but he doesn't see any reason to share. "Dude, eat powdered eggs for me. Oh, and everyone got their reports? I'm not covering for you with Cas if you don’t have 'em."

There's a chorus of sighs, the resignation in like manna to his soul. Joe gives him sour look. "You don't have to do them."

"It's my camp," Dean points out smugly.

"You're really that good in the sack?" Amanda asks curiously, and Joe stumbles, choking back a laugh. Ahead of them, Leah and Mike become really fascinated with the sky and Ana's looking at the ground like she's never seen anything like it. "You're lucky Zoe thinks you walk on water, or she'd be shanking you forever for Cas closing the house of carnal delights. She's still sulking."

"She still trying to Maharishi it away?" Joe asks Amanda. "She's been asking about my incense supply again, and I can't deal with another week of that."

"Nah, she can't get the one percent with Christina on regular patrol." Joe sighs in heartfelt relief while Dean looks between them, trying frantically to think of a way to find out what's going on when Amanda catches his eye and grins. "You don't remember? Cas found transcendental meditation but didn't like the meditation part, so--"

"That's what she was doing on Thursdays?" Dean asks.

"Can't prove it, but noticeably she stopped when her supply of incense ran out," Amanda says, looking at Mike. "Mike, you were there for Cas's enlightenment period, right? How'd that work again?"

"I don't remember a thing," he admits with a deep sigh. "Fucking amazing."

"I liked his crystal sexual healing phase via Kellie," Leah offers to more laughter.

Amanda groans. "Only person high enough not to mind listening to her endless goddamn sheep stories over. And. Over."

"I always liked those," Leah objects, scowling at her. "Bahhh. Count 'em, bitch."

Startled, Dean looks at Leah, but Joe says, "Remember when we were still in training and Cas wanted to evaluate how we'd fight when we were stoned? Last man standing got a week's worth of weed?"

"We must be prepared for any eventuality," Leah intones solemnly, pulling off a pretty credible Cas at his most expressionless. "Including our enemies getting us high before they kill us."

"Could happen," Dean offers, and gets an approving smile from Amanda and a cuff on the shoulder from Joe. "So who won?"

"Sean did undergrad at Berkeley. In a folk band. His blood's probably still half THC. Even Cas was impressed." Squeezing Dean's shoulder as they reach the outer edge of the cabins, she says, "Okay, gotta get writing, so let's split this up--who wants to cover Dean fainting--"

"I did not," Dean protests, coming to a dead stop.

"--on our soon to be range because he was up all the night before playing poker with Joe and Alison?"

Joe looks alarmed. "Why are you throwing me under the bus?"

"I wonder if it's got anything to do with someone getting exclusive access to the results of Cas's still and didn't share?" Mike asks rhetorically, crossing his arms, and abruptly, Dean's surrounded by vultures. An entire militia of fucking vultures. "I saw the bottles, Joe."

"You're kidding." Amanda rounds on Joe. "Oh, you're going down--"

"Ana didn't share, either!" Joe says desperately, and uselessly, as it turns out; when Amanda looks at Ana, Ana tilts her head and crosses her arms before smiling slowly, tongue tracing her lower lip and gaining the entirety of Amanda's attention.

"Sorry," Ana offers into the pregnant silence, giving Amanda the slowest once-over in the history of once-overs. "How about I make it up to you?"

"You're fucking with me," Joe explodes.

Blue eyes wide, Amanda nods vaguely, and as Ana tosses Joe a satisfied smirk, Dean realizes he and Joe are fucked. Throwing a glance at a worried but determined looking Leah, he decides that won't help anyone except maybe Amanda's sex life if Leah swings that way, and right at this moment he's not counting on it.

"Two bottles and twenty-four hours before Cas asks for reports," Dean offers desperately. "Deal?"

"Three by tomorrow night, and we'll swear you took a nap every afternoon and went to bed before ten," Amanda promises, and watching the near-synchronized nods, Dean accepts he's been had and shakes her hand. "Awesome. My cabin tomorrow night, everyone's invited."

"I'm gonna get you for this," Dean says pleasantly. "You'll never see it coming."

"Your leadership qualities never fail to inspire me," Amanda answers, waving at everyone as they all start toward their own cabins--or in the case of Amanda, not really subtly toward Ana's--a chorus of 'Good nights' and fading laughter drifting pleasantly on the chilly night air.

Making his way to the dimly lit cabin he calls home, Dean stops fighting the smile, already anticipating coffee and Cas's inquiry about the reports and how he'll derail him. Chess or hippo porn: it's a toss-up. He knows Cas has translated farther than he says he has.

Circling the cabin, Dean breaks into a jog, taking the steps two at a time and stops short, wondering for a moment if he's at the wrong cabin; that's a door. Startled, he reaches for the doorknob warily and turns it, blinking as it opens, spilling warm yellow light over the porch like an actual goddamn place that non-crazy people live.

Grinning, he emerges into the dimly lit living room, mouth open to congratulate Cas on his improving human skills (though no lie, he kinda was looking forward to doing it himself) and is immediately engulfed a small cloud of dissipating smoke of unmistakable origin.

Mouth still half-open, Dean takes in the party in progress going on in front of him, and everything comes to a screeching halt.

A party of four, he notes in the part of his mind not inexplicably frozen, and everyone's still dressed and looking more high than post-orgasmic. Like that, he's back, blinking around the room and wondering what the hell just happened.

Closing the door--no response, so this has been going on a while--Dean searches the room and finds Cas almost immediately. Going to the bedroom door, he tosses his duffle bag inside the room before picking his way across the floor, a minefield of all the necessities of the stoned: three empty jugs of water, six empty bows, (beans, maybe?), a worn canister of raw oatmeal sitting in a ring of flakes and worryingly half-empty, and--here he fights back the most inappropriate smile ever--an empty pot of coffee placed for its own protection well away from the rest of Chitaqua Stoner Society.

Fighting down a smile, he comes to a stop to stare down at the current president for life and this time, nothing can stop him from grinning.

Cas is sprawled on his back in the boneless contentment of the unmistakable weed variety, head resting on a painfully multi-neon pillow of obviously psychedelic origin and bare feet resting on the couch, and currently riveted by the antics of the smoke winding from his joint like it's a revelation in progress.

Skimming down the faded beige shirt rucked up around his ribs to the sagging waist of his jeans (no guru-wear here, check), Dean cocks his head and does a visual check of the surrounding three feet, trying to guess where Cas hid his gun and pauses at the dark space beneath the couch where a glint of metal is just barely visible. Knife might be under the pillow, he speculates, dropping into a crouch by Cas's hip and plucking the joint from his hand, waiting patiently for Cas to frown and the small ice age required for him to finally track the smoke trail to Dean.

"Honey," Dean says when Cas finally gets to his face. "I’m home."

Cas's unblinking stare would be so much creepier if his pupils weren't blown to hell. "I Love Lucy," Cas tells him seriously. "Desi Arnaz in his role as Ricky Ricardo is attributed credit for that line in popular culture, utilized when he would return to the dwelling he shared with Lucille Ball who--"

"Infinite knowledge of the universe or basic cable?" he asks, pulling the joint out of reach when Cas looks like he might eventually want to try and get it back. "I missed half of season two of Dr. Sexy and never did find out what happened with that nurse."

"Basic cable," Cas admits eventually, eyes drifting toward the joint and narrowing hilariously in an effort to rediscover telekinesis. Failing, he sighs, reluctantly turning his attention back to Dean and smiles. "I was about to greet you. You're early."

"Yeah, it's a riot in here." He gives the quiet room a once over, inhabitants currently in various stages of not-moving, before returning his gaze to Cas, who just looks confused. Giving up, Dean drops onto the floor, giving Cas back his joint and checking on Cas's partners in crime. James, slumped against the couch a couple of feet away, black hair wilting a little from its usual cheerful afro around his dark brown face, stares back in a way that suggests he's trying for 'terrified worry' but is way too stoned to remember exactly why. "How's it going?"

"Good," James offers after an extended pause, and with a nearly Herculean effort, almost manages to straighten. "You? Sir?"

Dean grins back and carefully doesn't think about how James is about ten years his junior. "Awesome. Nate?"

Currently draped across the couch, dark brown hair plastered to his forehead and usually pale cheeks flushed bright red, Nate moves a couple of fingers in what Dean assumes is probably a wave. Mira, whose curly brown hair, only a little darker than her skin, is fighting to swallow her face, is tucked into the far corner and waves absently while she continues what he's pretty sure is a conversation with Nate's boots in her lap.

Taking a deep breath, he turns back to Cas, trying to project disapproval at this kind of business in a serious fucking militia and just manages not to burst into laughter.

"So, special occasion?" He waits patiently for Cas to take another drag--priorities, right--before Cas tips his head back on the pillow to consider the question like Dean asked him something unbelievably complicated, or--he's watching smoke trails, right. "Cas?"

"Oh." Cas looks at his joint longingly, torn between conflicting loyalties. "We're celebrating James's fourth day of successfully leading the local patrol team without causing the death of his team members, the destruction of Chitaqua, or the world to end with only a single accident. I checked."

Right. Dean looks at James as encouraging as he can. "Keep doing that," because God knows, practical advice never hurt anyone. "Good job."

James nods enthusiastically--oh yeah, he's got this leader shit down--before beginning to squint, tilting his head far enough that they're about three seconds from James becoming one with the floor.

"Yes, sir," he says, and rights himself just before the point of no return, much to Dean's secret regret.

Surveying the room again, Dean figures this could take a while and decides to leave them to it; Cas can clean up in the morning. Climbing to his feet, he says, "So I'm gonna--"

Cas's hand snaps out so fast Dean almost loses his balance; he didn't even see Cas switch his joint from right to left to slide a hand around the back of his calf, and even through a layer of denim, somehow, he can feel the slow stroke of Cas's thumb just above the edge of his boot.

"Where," Cas says curiously, "are you going?"

Dean looks down at the deceptively casual hold and wonders if he's actually willing to ruin a pair of perfectly good boots just to prove a point, especially since he's not sure what point he'd be proving.

"Stoned people are only awesome when you're one of them," he says, almost stumbling when Cas tries an experimental pull. "Gonna get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning."

"I made you French toast, Chitaqua-style. We decided to shorten it to Chitaqua toast, however," Cas says earnestly, tugging Dean a step closer. "It's in the refrigerator."

"You and the Stoners cooked?" A glance confirms the kitchen's intact, so.

"Alicia." Cas watches his own hand on Dean's leg intently. "She said you liked it. A lot."

He takes a moment: Alicia talking about Dean (him?) to Castiel, or at least, about his (their?) preference for French toast. That is a lot of levels of weird in a single sentence just on concept.

"Alicia taught you how to make French toast?"

"Chitaqua toast."

"Chitaqua toast. When?"

"Breakfast," Cas tells him, tipping his head back to look at Dean. "Did you know you can get used to someone breathing and miss it?"

Bed can wait. "Cas," he says slowly, because he's curious, "why was Alicia here for breakfast?"

"Andy has feelings that wouldn't have sex on Brenda's bed, which is a secret." Cas turns his head to survey the room suspiciously. "A secret."

Dean takes a moment to verify the room remains comatose before turning his attention back to Cas. "They'll keep their mouths shut," he says soothingly. "So what else did you two talk about?"

"Many things," Cas says vaguely, then seems to remember he's wasting weed and takes another drag. "It was very quiet. I forgot what that was like."

"Because someone--wasn't breathing?" That's kind of all he's got here.

"I don't like it anymore," Cas adds, plucking at Dean's jeans curiously. "It's much better now."

Well, there are five people breathing here, so yeah. "Good?"

"I'll be able to sleep." Fingers curving around his leg again, and Dean almost loses his train of thought as Cas grins up at him. "We'll have coffee first, however. And Chitaqua toast."

There's an art to following stoned logic--Cas logic is more like knowing magic--but some things stick with you. Dean spent three very salutary days navigating the meanderings of a very high Cas between joints and shots and he's not gonna feel bad about that. "You missed me breathing?"

"Very much." Dean's still absorbing that--he can honestly say no one's ever felt that way about his breathing before, it's--something--when Cas's hand slowly slides up to rest behind his knee. Looking down, he stills as Cas's gaze starts a leisurely journey up the entire length of his body before the blue eyes meet his, mouth curving in a slow smile. "Stay. I'll make more coffee."

Before he remembers how words work--or what they are--he gets an impression of motion from the corner of his eye, but it's already too late; Cas's foot catches him behind the knee, hands closing on his hips, and Dean lands on his knees, mostly upright, and wondering dazedly about the use and abuse of stoned combat.

Tipping his head back, Cas looks up at him from inches away. "Stay with me."

"Yeah," he breathes. "Okay."

"Excellent." Looking pleased with himself, Cas gives his hip a friendly squeeze and lies back down, reaching for his joint with his free hand and leaving Dean to verify that yeah, he's almost sitting in Cas's lap and what the hell just happened?

"What," he asks, startled by the husky quality of his own voice and hurriedly clearing his throat. "What are you doing?"

Cas smiles at him from behind a lazy trail of smoke, derailing Dean's initial panicked assessment of the best way to get out of this (moving, maybe?), and takes another drag before offering him the joint. "I told you. I missed you."

He shakes his head, wondering if this could be explained by an unusually strong contact high. "No, I'm good."

Pouting, Cas lazily turns toward James, who pitches forward in an eager combination of lunge and crawl before landing stomach down and taking the joint from Cas with a grateful smile; from the way he's clutching that thing, he's not giving it back. As the (extremely stoned) brown eyes fix on him, he tries an encouraging smile.

"So James," he starts as James rolls onto his back as lithe as a cat and pauses, eyes narrowing at Cas's sudden, focused attention, blue eyes warming in unmistakable appreciation.

Yeah, no; he's been making an effort not to look like he's about to dry fuck his presumed boyfriend in the middle of the living room while he's high, the plausible deniability measureable in about one inch, but fuck that shit, his knees hurt. Dropping his full weight on Cas's hips, he ignores the sudden catch of breath from Cas and reaches over to tap James's cheek, waiting until he's sure he's got his attention.

"So three days on patrol, huh? Anything interesting happen?"

"Didn't kill my team," James answers earnestly, nodding so hard that Dean catches himself nodding right along with him. "And haven't hit a tree in two days."

"It wasn't as if it were an attractive or fruit-bearing tree," Cas tells him reassuringly, squeezing Dean's hip again as if for emphasis. "Carya ovate, the shagbark hickory in English. It's extremely common hardwood native to the entire northern United States. I've never liked them," he adds darkly. "It's an unpleasant tree with far, far too many leaves. And very muddy."

Dean maps the local route in his head and finds the scene of the crime. "That goddamn pothole." No one remembers a small meteor hitting around here anytime recently, but if there's another explanation for that thing, he'd love to hear it. "Everyone okay?"

"Fine," Nate offers unexpectedly, sounding muffled, and Dean glances up to see him rolling his head in their general direction and now missing a boot, currently in Mira's triumphant possession. To his surprise, she actually looks up from stroking it to say with heartfelt sincerity, "I always hated trees anyway. They suck."

James sighs loudly enough to shake the house, and this time, Dean is watching when Cas neatly removes the joint from James's limp fingers just before he drops it in an almost-blur, depositing it in the nearby ashtray despite the full half-inch left, and then giving Dean the most stoned significant look in history, mouthing 'leafy' at him, before looking at James again.

Okay, yeah, no idea here.

"Fucking trees, they're--" James blinks slowly for a long moment, obviously searching for the just right word, and Dean genuinely can't wait to hear it. "Green, sir."

"They're like that," he agrees, and James tips his head back to look at him hopefully. "How's the SUV?"

"I made sure Sheila checked it thoroughly, and she assured me the damage was extremely minor. Insignificant. Miniscule. Irrelevant," Cas recites with growing enthusiasm before frowning, eyes traveling toward the empty bowls and settling on them in despair. "We need more beans. I wouldn't let them have your Chitaqua toast."

Mira makes the saddest sound he's ever heard. "He said you might want toast with your coffee. I want Chitaqua toast and coffee."

"You can have beans," Cas tells her firmly.

"Can I have sugar on them?" she asks hopefully.

To Dean's horror, Cas nods enthusiastically before looking at James and saying, "She would like beans, James. And sugar. For you are very competent and are very good at finding things, and you should remember that. Fifty, even."

James beams at Cas upside down before lifting his head to look around--God help them, he's looking for the beans and sugar--but from the way his eyes won't focus, Dean suspects this is gonna take a while. Glancing at Mira--cuddling Nate's boot, check--and Nate--breathing, check--he turns his full attention back to Cas, planting a hand on the floor just above his shoulder and leans over to stare into his eyes. "What. Is. Going. On?"

"Sugar makes everything better," quoth Cas in bewilderment.

"Not. That." Though when Cas is down, there's a very important food conversation in their future. "Why--"

"It was an accident," Cas tells him urgently. "I verified it personally."

"The SUV?" Stoned logic, he reminds himself, but Cas's genuine worry inspires him to try. Leafy, muddy, too many leaves, tree…oh. "He couldn't see the pothole because the tree grows over the road there and it was raining," he tries: too many leaves, on really fucking long branches, got it. Cas nods encouragingly. "Road was muddy, so he slid into it, and lost control?" Cas smiles up at him like Dean's a goddamn genius. "And hit the tree."

"An accident," Cas agrees. "James is very competent."

"And this couldn't wait until morning?"

Cas makes a face, reaching up and tapping Dean's nose. "You're early."

"What--"

The sound of someone ostentatiously clearing their throat cuts across the room like a knife through stoned as fuck butter. Turning his head in reluctant acknowledgement of the inevitable, Dean sees Joe leaning against the now-open door, arms crossed, face solemn, and giving the impression the only reason he's not laughing his ass off is that Dean's still armed.

"I hope I wasn't interrupting anything," he offers after a pregnant pause, and Dean's gonna fucking kill him like, now. "We were hanging out at Leah's, and she asked me to collect Mira before I went to bed. Liz said she was over here."

"Your interruption is forgiven," Cas tells him magnanimously, inclining his head toward Mira. As Joe pushes off the door, he adds graciously, "She may keep Nate's boot, of course."

"Good to know. You want me to--" he gestures toward James and Nate. "Get them out of your hair?"

"Please." Cas looks up at Dean, thumbs sliding over his hips distractingly. "We're rather busy at the moment."

Dean smiles at Joe and hates everything, everything. "Thanks. I owe you."

"Anytime," Joe answers brightly, offering James a hand up before nudging Nate to his feet and only contemplating Mira's complete lack of working limbs before crouching to scoop her into his arms. She drapes an arm over Joe's shoulder, and Dean watches with vicious satisfaction as the steel-reinforced heel of Nate's boot slams into Joe's back as she waves frantically. "Night! Use protection!" and everyone--including Cas--laughs like that's the best fucking thing ever. Dean keeps smiling though--he may not be able to stop--as they make their way out the door and Nate and James take a long moment to stare at it before Joe gently reaches to close it behind them.

As soon as he's sure they're gone, he turns on Cas. "What. The. Fuck--"

"Tolerance to cannabis vanishes with surprising speed without regular use," Cas says in a rush, fingers flexing distractingly on Dean's hips to punctuate every word. "Including mine, apparently, but by the time I noticed, it was far too late and I forgot to care. It doesn't work anymore. I should have remembered that." Frown deepening, he adds, "I assure you, I had no intention of violating your fragile heterosexual sensibilities--"

"My what?"

"--by engaging in perfectly chaste physical contact, but it will be at least an hour before the effects dissipate enough to think clearly, so I--"

"Tripped me and then felt me up for a greater good?" he asks incredulously. "Why?"

Cas rolls his eyes. "That was merely a very pleasant bonus. I have to assume you managed to achieve one hundred miles per hour on the--"

"Cas!"

"You left me here in charge of a new team that required encouragement and positive interaction to validate them!" he snaps, and Dean blinks at the novel experience of seeing Cas genuinely unnerved. "This may be a surprise to you, but I know only three ways to accomplish that, and this was the one that didn't risk alcohol poisoning or sex with three people I'm not particularly attracted to at this time." His eyes narrow accusingly. "If you'd stayed below ninety, you would have arrived after one, they'd be unconscious, and I'd be out of weed and therefore recovered enough to explain."

Dean stares down at him and tries to hold on to anger, but-- "You got them stoned to--" God, he thinks in horror; this actually makes sense, "--be supportive?"

Cas nods, eyes closing in honest to God relief, and just like that, Dean loses any motivation to stay pissed. "None of them have any experience in patrol except James, and they felt inadequate in their new duties. Despite my best efforts while sober, they didn't seem encouraged by my assurance they would improve with time."

Dean would give a timeshare on his soul to the next available demon to hear that conversation. "So you took the dimebag solution." Cas nods hopefully. "Makes sense."

"I thought so as well," Cas says warmly, and Dean adds another point to his leadership skills when it comes to validating his people's efforts. Even if they're kind of terrible, he can honestly agree that the sober version was probably a lot worse. "Nate has a very worrying propensity to drink alone in the dark or engage in regrettable sexual experiences with melodramatic results come morning." Dean can't tell if Cas knows that by experience or rumor and just stops himself from commenting, wondering distractedly what the hell is wrong with him. "James is prone to bouts of melancholia," he continues, and Dean gratefully focuses on Cas enumerating all the reasons he'd employed the better living through chemistry methodology of interpersonal communication. "And Mira is--"

Dean sits back in surprise, vaguely aware Cas cut himself off mid-word. Mira. "Mira's not on James' team."

"She is now." Something in Cas's voice gets his attention before he adds, "Zack left with Sean, stating he was extremely tired, but as they were headed in the direction of the garage--"

"Why would they go to the garage?" Dean asks in bewilderment, and contact high's really the only excuse he's got when Cas's mouth twitches. "In the garage? I was just…." He really, really needs to stop talking.

"The height of the workbench could be considered ideal," Cas offers thoughtfully after an endless eon of hideously awkward silence. "Zack's not usually that quiet. Or Sean, for that matter."

It dawns on him that everyone--literally--in this camp is having sex but him. And Cas, he remembers, and suddenly feels a lot better. So before the garage sex segue, they were talking about--

"So what happened with Cyn?"

"In my capacity as your proxy in Chitaqua, I replaced her with Mira. While Mira doesn't have Cynthia's experience, she's competent, intelligent, and extremely motivated--"

"That's fine," Dean interrupts, wondering if maybe this should wait until morning. "So you putting Cyn back on Kyle's team?"

"Robert says it's called Meatloaf Nightmare, and it's not even meat," Cas says, eyes unfocusing. "I sampled it, and truly, it's an abomination, even more than I am."

"You're not…." Stoned people, Dean reminds himself firmly. "So that was dinner tonight?"

Cas blinks, frowning at him. "I don't like food. That was Robert's dinner, and it was…"

"Shitty," Dean agrees. "So why'd you go to the mess?"

"To talk to Robert," Cas answers reasonably. "He starts tomorrow."

There's no sense of accomplishment quite like deciphering Cas successfully. "On Kyle's team?" Cas nods slowly. "Think he'll do a good job?"

"Kyle and Jane are no longer involved," Cas answers, gaze flickering to the air just above Dean's head before narrowing curiously.

And back to square one. Or not: Jane lives with Cyn. "And Cyn?"

"Very unhappy," Cas confirms, following the whatever to the rug, where he stares at it--Dean confirms, nothing there--and shakes his head. "At length."

"I bet. What'd she say?"

"She is more experienced, I think," Cas answers, frowning up at him. "It was causing problems in any case."

He didn't think Cyn was stupid, but he may have to revise that. "She said that to you?"

"Of course not." Cas's expression darkens, something unfamiliar flickering his eyes. "No one told me anything. Though to be perfectly fair, they might not have known. There was no way to tell."

He doesn't--repeat doesn't--feel bad about those three days rolling Cas's joints and lining up his shots, though in retrospect he probably could have handled that better. He remembers being frustrated--questioning Cas was an adventure, and picking out the answer took time he didn't think he had--but he also knew Cas genuinely wanted to help and tried his best.

Dean was early, Cas didn't mean to be high when he got here, he wanted to talk to him, and it was something that couldn't wait until morning.

"So who was Cyn talking to? James?" he asks casually.

"And his team. And Kyle, far too much," Cas adds, attention wandering back to the rug. "Sheila is certain the accident wasn't her fault, but I replaced her anyway."

Chuck said: We had a lot of accidents on patrol.

Dean switches gears so abruptly black spots dance before his eyes.

"Sheila knew what to look for?" He has no idea how the fuck his voice sounds that calm. "You're sure?"

"Yes," Cas says distractedly, running the tips of his fingers over the rug. "It was indeed an accident this time and all is well."

"Good job," Dean says mechanically. "I'm glad you checked."

"It was a long time ago." Cas licks his lips, and Dean goes cold. "I didn't have much time, and it was very dark. How could I be sure if I didn't check?"

"No way you could." Dean resists to the urge to shake him, or calmly get up, go out the door, drag Cyn out of her cabin, and put a gun to her head before he asks her one question and hope to God he can believe her answer. "No one told you."

"It's supposed to make it easier," Cas breathes, looking up at him appealingly, and Dean's slammed back in time: three months, same room, and Cas looking at him just like this. "It doesn't work anymore."

Dean reaches for his limp hand on the rug, startled by how cold his fingers are. Warming them helplessly between his palms, he takes a deep breath. Two days since that accident: that's a long time to think, and James wasn't the only one who needed a little time not doing it. "Nothing works forever. Not when it's something like this." Cas nods tiredly, closing his eyes. "You ready to talk about it?"

Cas laughs softly. "You're too early. I needed to relax. I made Chitaqua toast and coffee."

So they could talk about it, yeah: stupid question. "You don't have to."

"No. It was a long time ago, and it was very dark," Cas answers, opening his eyes. "What if I was wrong?"


Chuck said: There are two stories of what happened, the official and the unofficial. Then there's the truth.

Here's a truth Chuck didn't know: Cas knew that morning.

"It's only seems short when only observing it. A drop in time, but it's so long," Cas says tonelessly, looking up at Dean. "It's forever in here. Rome was built and destroyed an hour after dawn and there were still more to come."

Dean can barely feel his own fingers anymore; Cas's are like ice. All day. He knew all day. "How'd you find out?"

"All around the fence," Cas answers, eyes focusing on Dean's hands. "It was only the beginning of the third week, it was reflex training. It wasn't terribly interesting. Vera was very clumsy, Joseph fell over Kamal's feet. Amanda nearly broke her wrist; I caught her before she hurt herself. It was only a sprain, easy to fix."

Another truth: all of them knew it.

This camp, there weren't any secrets, and he doesn't think the assassination squad was going for subtle that day; they didn't need to be, not anymore. They were watching Cas, watching Vera--no, think like Cas's class did and still does, it was all of them. Vera had to be terrified, but she walked out there anyway--how did she do that, how could even stay on her feet--and Joe was clumsy but Kamal wasn't, he was former Nepalese military; they were covering for her, helping her stay sane. Amanda was showing signs of going after one of them--after four days of Amanda's company, he's thinking probably all of them--and Cas had to stop her from getting herself killed. Only two full weeks of training under her belt, she might have already been a hunter, but she wasn't ready for them, not then.

"She brought me lunch anyway," he says, gaze drifting away. "It was revolting. She laughed at me the entire time." His eyes narrow. "It was like a chain saw and I didn't even have a hangover."

Dean has to give her credit; it's not like it's easy to laugh on cue when your instructor's throwing up lunch and pretending everything's fine while all of you are living the longest day of your life.

"And after training?" Dean makes himself ask; he's not sure how long it's been silent. Cas was right; it's forever in here.

"She was very sad, no visitors today," Cas says idly, eyes glazed. "We preferred to isolate ourselves in misery. I wasn't very good at conversation, but she didn't mind; she was good enough for both of us. I was used to it by then."

Alone in this goddamn cabin on the south edge of the camp counting down the hours until dusk and beyond, no lights at all: the only cabin close enough was the one Dean didn't live in and he was on a mission anyway. Alone, because they were the targets, limit the casualties; that class only had two weeks of training under their belt and they weren't ready, not then.

Cas needed to be able to hear everything; it was the only warning they'd have. Vera didn't mind talking, as much as he needed her to; he knew her voice, he could tune it out while he listened. It couldn't be too quiet, she had to keep talking; they couldn't know they were waiting.

All day, they watched that class, watched Cas, didn't hide it, didn't care who knew.

"Jesus, they were stupid," Dean breathes to himself, and it's not until Cas stills that he realizes he said that out loud.

Cas smiles. "They thought it would be easy, I suppose: two windows and a door, all in line of sight. I taught them better than that."

Dean looks at the windows, the door, then at the chair where Cas was sitting that night, watching them taking their sweet time to get into position. "You're kidding."

"The night was pleasantly cool, so she thought we should open the windows," Cas continues, smile softening into something more genuine. "She told me to stop laughing when she borrowed my jacket."

And fuck you, Vera said with a fucking pane of glass. Come and get me already.

"I couldn't stop," Cas admits. "But it was far too loud for her to hear me by then."

Dean stiffens; that's when the shooting started. "And after? When they checked…they didn't, did they?"

"Why would they?" Cas answers reasonably, and for a moment, the blue eyes go on forever. "I told you; I couldn't stop laughing."


Dean hunts down two blankets, wrapping Cas up in them before going to make coffee. While he waits, he finds a wrapped plate of Chitaqua toast in the refrigerator--an entire loaf of bread of Chitaqua toast, Cas just might be turning into a stress cook, good to know--and does a fast and dirty clean-up of the living room, dumping the dishes in the sink to deal with tomorrow.

Carrying two cups of coffee and a plate of four pieces of Chitaqua toast (and sugar), Dean sits down on the couch and hands Cas one cup before putting the rest on the coffee table. He thinks Cas looks a little more cognizant of his surroundings, but on a guess, a buffer here can't do anything but help. He can deal with doing some translation.

"Cyn and Kyle--they were on the same team before," he says casually, watching Cas sip from his cup carefully and smile approval of the cream and sugar content.

"Risa's team," Cas answers, then sighs. "I liked her very much. Or I would have if I liked anybody. She wasn't afraid."

Well, yeah; she wasn't a potential murderer who listened to Cas laughing after a barrage of gunfire that should have killed him. He hopes they heard it in their dreams every goddamn night.

"And Risa replaced Luke."

Cas hesitates, but the sudden tension says everything: Luke's name or Cyn's, same goddamn reaction. Chuck said the teams weren't involved, just their leaders, but that doesn't mean anything, not when Cas knows how to lie.

"Was Cyn there that night?"

"No," Cas answers after a long, nerve-shattering moment. "I didn't see her that night."

He thinks of the list Chuck made for him, all speculation and guesswork, because the only person that knows never told. Not the teams, Chuck said; they weren't there. But it was dark that night, so Cas wanted to be sure that this accident was indeed an accident. Just in case he made a mistake.

"Did she know what they were going to do?" Dean asks, tightening his grip on Cas's hand, as much for warmth as anything else. "Did she?"

"I don't know--"

"Guess."

Cas licks his lips, and Dean can see him working to focus. "She lived with Stanley from when they were in training together."

Jesus Christ. "You should've told me."

"That's not proof--"

"Not just that," he interrupts. "About what actually happened that night."

Cas stares up at him, and there's nothing stoned now about the steady blue gaze. "It's been two years and people change."

"You wanna go with that?" Dean asks softly, and Cas looks away. ""Fine, I'm not moving on yet, so think back to the time when you were executing people in the middle of the camp as an example of why you shouldn't join the Dean's holy assassination squad, let's start there."

"I'm sure Chuck was thorough when relating the details," Cas answers. "I'll have to speak to him if he forgot to mention that Dean didn't know about it."

"Because you didn't tell him," he answers. "Consequences of your own fucked-up actions, why should fucking Dean Winchester have to deal with those, right? His fucking recruits, but can't be his fault--"

"It wasn't his fault," Cas interrupts, looking at him. "It was mine."

Dean stares down at him. "What?"

"I trained them," he says. "It had to be me. I thought--I couldn't be sure. Not then."

"The first class," Dean breathes, feeling it finally come together: the accidents. Cas did notice; he just wasn't sure. It wasn't angel crap, and he thought he didn't understand humans. "You knew something was wrong even before they went after Vera."

Cas nods shortly, taking another drink. "Nothing I could prove, even to myself. Not that I made any effort to do so; once they were Dean's, my work was done. Our mission was to destroy Lucifer; to accomplish that, Dean must be protected at all costs, and I couldn't do it, not anymore. So I taught them to do it for me."

"You told them to assassinate people," Dean says flatly. "Tell me you actually had a lesson called 'How to Assassinate People For Dean Winchester', because I gotta hear about this."

Cas's blank expression cracks around the edges. "I don’t know."

"Because it's bullshit," Dean says. "When did you find out about what they were doing?"

"The way they watched the new arrivals," he answers finally, blue eyes distant. "To be perfectly accurate, all my time wasn't yet occupied with drug use and sexual congress; Dean's mission schedule kept us both out of the camp a great deal. The team leaders seemed to have become comfortable with their jobs in the camp during our absences, and there was nothing obviously wrong. They hated me, but that was much like the sun rising; I would have been uneasy otherwise."

"Then the new people showed up."

"Paranoia could be considered a survival trait here," Cas answers softly, mouth twisting, a parody of a smile. "It's so common it barely bears mention, so it was noticeable in its absence. They weren't looking for threats among the new arrivals; the new arrivals were assumed to be threats. They were simply waiting for them to prove it."

Dean licks his lips. "Chuck said there was no way to know how many--"

"Attrition is impossible to ascertain if you don't know what to look for, especially with our mission schedules and the activity on patrol," Cas says in the same soft voice. "Written reports were non-existent: a death on patrol was reported to Dean along with the circumstances, in case it was significant to future missions. I can only remember what I'm there to witness. Notes are not adequate in substitution."

"That's why you made them write reports." The more you know. Looking for what's absent is harder than what's there, but Cas had practice doing just that. All that detail that Cas didn't want to discourage; this is the reason.

"Dean's journal--I looked when he was otherwise occupied--gave me enough information to see a pattern," Cas says slowly, obviously trying to be as clear as possible. "I hadn't yet gotten any farther than that when Debra died, and I realized that Vera wouldn't survive the week."

"Because she threatened to kill Dean," he says, seeing Cas frown as he loses the thread. Cas looks up, licking his lips and nodding. "So you got her to stay with you." Dean studies Cas's face for a minute. "You told her why. That's why she didn't tell you to fuck yourself."

"I told her," he agrees, eyes unfocusing again. "She--there was a price for it. She wanted to fight, they all did, so I'd finish what I began and teach them what they needed to know. My explanation on why that was a terrible idea wasn't convincing and I was even sober."

"Because it's bullshit, Cas; you aren't responsible for your first students here being crazy." Bracing a hand on the back of the couch beside Cas's head, Dean leans forward. "Look at me, Cas, and actually listen this time. You aren't responsible for what they did."

"I made them my weapons in Dean's defense," he argues; of course he'd be able to focus now so he can argue. "What they did is exactly what I taught them to do."

"Out of that entire first class, what, thirteen--"

"Twenty-one," Cas says, very focused, and guess what, Chuck, something else you didn't know; there were twenty-one. That he saw. Because it was dark.

Dean takes a deep breath. "It wasn't just the team leaders."

"The last three died in Kansas City with Dean."

"The last three you saw," Dean says flatly. "It was dark, Cas. You aren't sure, are you?"

"Sure enough," Cas says very quietly. "Or they would be dead."

Dean looks at Cas's calm expression and thinks of Chuck; everyone knew, he said. They guessed. Because he told them what they needed to know to get it right. Because Cas's count was only to twenty-one. Jesus Christ.

"Cas, you taught them, but newsflash--that's all you did. You aren't responsible for what they did with it."

Cas's expression is totally unreadable, and Dean realizes he's practically in Cas's face and belatedly sits back, taking a deep breath, wondering uncomfortably if maybe he should have saved this for a time when Cas was way less stoned.

"If I were human, maybe I would have--"

"Seen this coming? Dean didn't." He just barely manages not to grin at Cas's surprise, like this isn't obvious. "Cas, humans are shitty at being human. Not like anyone would notice you being as bad at it as we are. Kind of reassuring," he adds honestly. "We have to get through learning to shit in a toilet, puberty, and fucking high school, and a guy who Fell two years ago waltzes in and pulls it off on his first try? That's bullshit."

Considering the current population of Chitaqua--Joe's disturbingly close relationship with his still; Dungeons and Dragons Wednesdays that involves shitty homemade capes and God help them all, Dean swears Kim wore the saddest wizard hat ever; Amanda's totally not-secret collection of Anne of Green Gables paperbacks and the reading club that meets once a week to discuss it, whatever the hell that means; and Ana's thing for explosives, which he's made an effort to avoid ever thinking about after that one visit to her cabin--Cas still reigns as most fucked up off them all, but the competition for second is pretty close.

Shaking himself, Dean looks back at Cas and realizes Cas is studying him with an expression he gets from him a lot, even if he has no fucking clue what it means. "What?"

"You said when you came back, we would talk, and you would respect whatever decision I came to regarding your request. Though you reserved the right to argue."

Dean rewinds; he's pretty sure they're actually in the middle of a conversation that's kind of important. "Uh--"

"Your argument moved me and I agree with all of it, even the parts that implied I'm terrible at most of what I do. Apparently that's acceptable for some reason that wasn't entirely clear but I assume was supposed to be encouraging."

"Uh." Really got to work on words here. "Cas, I didn't say--"

"I could repeat your entire soliloquy if you require verification." Dean's never hated Cas's fucking memory more. "I can't become more competent as an angel, and I would rather strap myself to the rack in Hell and disembowel myself for eternity than be a more acceptable member of the Host--"

"Dude, join the club; imagine being Zachariah." Cas's eyes narrow. "Sorry."

"I know how to kill almost anything in existence," he says, looking up at Dean. "I have a perfect memory and carry the entire history of all Creation within in. Chuck taught me how to create Excel spreadsheets this week and the principles of database creation, as well as how to type accurately. My speed is three hundred and fifty-eight words a minute on the standard QWERTY keyboard."

Dean blinks, wondering what the hell. "That's--good?"

"I can burn out a keyboard in extended use if I go over that speed," Cas explains, which Dean assumes means that's pretty fast. "We need to get something better. I know the names, histories, and personalities of everyone here, up to and including their social security numbers and credit scores at the time of their recruitment."

"Jesus, that's creepy."

"I'm also accurate with any weapon in our arsenal up to five thousand feet with either hand."

Dean opens and shuts his mouth: holy shit. "Curve of the earth--"

"I can calculate that in the time it takes to pull the trigger."

Dean doesn't know what he's feeling right now. "Huh."

"I like coffee and reading," Cas recites. "I enjoy the challenge of making accurate maps, driving, translating terrible epic poetry, and my five year goal is to defeat Lucifer and learn to fly a single engine aircraft."

"Wait." Dean sits back. "Are we doing a job interview?"

"You didn't seem to know that's a prerequisite to being offered a job," Cas agrees, leaning his head against the back of the couch, like Dean's just being weird, which what? "So I did it for you. Are those sufficient credentials for being your second in command?"

Why the hell didn't he assume this wouldn't be weird as fuck? It's Cas. "Yeah, they're good. Especially the shooting thing--I really want to see that."

"I'll arrange a demonstration at your leisure."

"Good." That was way too easy--weird, but easy. "So--"

"You haven't told me, however, why I should accept your offer."

Again, it's Cas. "What?"

"Benefits, compensation, hours, vacation, sick days," Cas starts counting it off on his fingers, "stock options, yearly bonuses, the key to the executive bathroom--"

"Who'd you interview with and why?" Dean demands.

"JP Morgan Chase, a skinwalker was killing their employees in possible belated reaction to the economic meltdown in 2008," Cas answers, serious expression cracking. "You might not know this, but not having any practical understanding of economics seems to be an advantage to being a stockbroker. My bonus paid for many, many illegal arms shipments across the border."

Of course it did. "You got the 'walker?"

"After I was finished building multiple dummy accounts for Dean's aliases and funding them, yes. You can also be a successful banker without any practical knowledge of money as well. Humanity is very strange."

"Preach it," Dean answers. "So you want the benefits package? Saving the world, how's that?"

"And a regular supply of coffee," Cas says finally, looking at Dean so expectantly that he realizes he's supposed to nod. "Excellent. I accept your offer."

Dean debates asking for a full second. "Okay, gotta know; what decided you?"

"You need someone to do this." Cas hesitates. "I can learn to be who you need me to be."

"I'm okay with who you are now. At that, you're the best there is."

Cas nods slowly, and Dean thinks maybe it's time for something a little less traumatic, for both of them.

"How about a round of chess while you finish coming down?" Cas looks briefly torn, and Dean congratulates himself on avoiding having to explain why he didn't bring everyone's reports. "Then I'll tell you all about what happened in Ichabod, how's that?"

"Did you enjoy yourself?" Cas asks, and it's not tentative, exactly, but something like that. It takes a second, but then he remembers when Cas took him to Kansas City.

"Yeah." He thinks about trying to explain, then decides that maybe this is the kind of thing you have to see to understand. He's working on how to make that happen. "I did."




Please see final author notes in AO3 at the end of Chapter 12 for future fic posting information.

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1009034.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments

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I just wanted to drop a line to tell you that this is an outstanding series. I have been staying up late every night for a good week reading Books 1 and 2. I am itching for Book 3 to be posted. This story has spoiled me for any other End Verse stories ever. Thank you for sharing this amazing work.

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