“Lucifer said that Michael didn’t want me anymore,” Dean says and pokes at his rice. They needed to go fishing, maybe after they were done eating. At least the rain meant the cistern was filling and they could do dishes. That was one thing about being in Vietnam; there was no shortage of rain.
Robbie and Ike are listening; they know that something is going on because their Grace has made them precocious. That and Dean doesn’t like lying to kids. He wants them to trust him in the future so he’s told them about the virus and the demons, even if they don’t fully understand. At least they know why they don’t get to go to the beach any more and why no one comes to visit unless they’re trading.
“They’ve settled in an agreement and just being out there I could tell it was true. I can’t detect Grace as well but it’s just us. A few Nephilim, some fallen like us because they chose to stay.” He shakes his head and brings some rice to his mouth with a pair of brightly colored chopsticks. “No disembodied archangel looking for his vessel. He doesn’t care. He’s got heaven and Lucifer’s got here.”
Dean eats his rice, trying not to think about seeing his brother but not. Sam had been an overactive puppy; this was a cruel calculating thing wearing him. Lucifer hadn’t even given Dean time to ask about Sarah and Emmett. That had been the bargaining chip, give Satan Sam’s skin or he would torment Sarah and trick Emmett into saying yes. Emmett was next in the lineage of course and therefore a suitable vessel even though he was only three. Dean shudders at the thought of having that conversation with his nephew.
“I’ll swim out to the boat if you do dishes,” Dean offers with fake cheerfulness. “We need to stock up and the Tran’s that took over the elementary school are always willing to trade. Let’s make a night of it, huh?”
The Tran’s grew vegetables and had chickens so there were always eggs to be had. Also they were willing to work with the Winchester Family despite everything that had happened. Dean wanted to try to catch some of the pigs that had gone feral for them but it was so dangerous with his diminished Grace.
He goes around and kisses everyone on the head then grabs a big machete from the hook on the pantry door. “Alright I’ll beep the horn when I’m down there. You too listen to papa and when he says run to the boat you run, right?”
“Right,” tiny voices say in unison.
Dean smiles then heads out. The boat was in a cave on the rock shore, safe out of the elements and Croats reach. He checks in all directions before sliding down the pole to the sand. At least the saltwater made demons not want to come near as often. He doesn’t let this make him complacent so he’s soon booking it for the shore and jumping into the water. It’s a ten-minute swim and then he’s in the cave and starting up the boat, ready to spend a rainy day fishing with his family.
Castiel’s wings feel heavy as he’s told that the rest of the angels had abandoned Earth. But he knows it’s true. Known since his and Dean’s grace first started to leach away that his heavenly family had left the planet and the humans to rot.
It’s hard to accept the truth though and Castiel struggles to stomach his food. His recent bouts of depression make it harder to swallow too.
"Yeah, of course," he agrees easily with his husband and gathers up the dishes when everyone is done eating. He draws some water from the cistern and cleans their dishes, using the repetitive motion to distract himself from the reality just outside of their home.
After the dishes, Castiel gets the kids ready to go out fishing and urges them to run quickly when Dean honks the horn. He’s right on their tail, knife in hand and looking around for croats before he helps the kids onto the boat and pulls himself in too. It’s always an adrenaline rush when they have to make a run for it, but as soon as they’re on the boat, Castiel always feels better.
"Think we’ll catch a big fish today?" he asks his boys as he takes their rods out and watches Dean guide the boat out to deeper waters. "It would be nice if we could get enough fish and dry some for later, wouldn’t it?"
Robbie and Ike nod eagerly in agreement and Castiel chuckles softly as he straightens out the lines. He loves their enthusiasm for the family activities even if they aren’t big enough to catch any of the bigger fish yet. But they’re eager to help and he’s glad that they’re trying. That they don’t have to lie and keep them completely in the dark about this mess that they live in now.
Dean hits Tony over the back of the head when Cas is shocked the first time. His friend glares back at him and rubs his head before turning back to the arm. He knows he’s pouting a bit but Dean can be protective over Cas now and he’s going to be. The poor guy can’t even drink the shake he made. And it’s pretty damn good.
"It’s almost like he had the plans or something," Dean muses sarcastically as he sits next to Cas and takes his hand, knowing full well that if Tony shocks him again, he is going to feel it too. "So I guess we’ll be interrogating him for the plans."
"Do you volunteer as tribute?" Tony asks and touches something that makes Cas make a fist.
"What does that even mean?" Dean sighs and watches what Tony is doing closely, as if looking at him will make him be more careful. "Get Charlie to do it, she gets info out of anyone."
Tony makes a triumphant noise, fists raised overhead.
"What did you do?" Dean asks and looks over, trying to see if he can tell what’s going on but all he sees is a mess of electronics and Tony closing a little panel on Cas’ forearm.
"No clue," comes the response and a cheeky grin. "But it works now."
Dean pulls a face but gets up and holds his hand out to Cas. “Come on, your dog misses you. Lets take him up to the roof.”
Cas breathes a sigh of relief when his arm is declared functional and repaired. It means no more shocks for the time being. Though, looking down at his prosthetic, he can see that it’s been dinged up pretty bad.
"We might need to consider alternatives for the future if this gets anymore damage." Cas pulls on a jacket offered to him with a little difficulty and hops off the table. His joints ache, but Cas knows he won’t die, so he just keeps walking next to Dean as they head over to retrieve Stark from Pepper again.
When they’re up in Garth’s rooftop garden, Cas’s shoulders fall and he ducks his head. ”I messed up today. Rumlow caught me offguard and I couldn’t save those civilians let alone myself.” Cas sighs again and shakes his head, clearing his thoughts.
He walks slowly with Dean and Stark, expression thoughtful. ”I still enjoyed myself out there though. It’s my job, but I enjoy it. Saving people makes me feel good,” he admits with a small smile and leans against Dean a little. ”I wouldn’t mind teaming up with you more either. We’re a good team. Always have been.”
He lets Stark wander around on his own, though he keeps a careful eye on his puppy. But Cas laughs softly when the pup is scared by a bird flying out of a bush.
Dean didn’t tell Ike and Robbie what he was going to do when he spent his last day with them. He read them a few chapters of the first Harry Potter book then made them burgers and pizza using the last of their flour. The little angels didn’t have to eat any vegetables and could have as much fruit as they wanted for dessert. He kept his brave face on for Cas because he knew that if he let any bit of what he was feeling out he’d break down and cry.
In the early hours of the morning he got on his motorcycle and headed out along the barrier road that connected the two cities still operational and safe in Vietnam. It was narrow and called such because of the huge fences that bordered it, keeping travelers safe. Vietnam had also revived their tunnel networks, meaning the country stayed relatively functional.
He has to stop to kill two Croats in the middle of the road and repair the fence at once point. It’s the least he could do, since he couldn’t do much else. When he gets to the gate he sighs. This was it. No more protection. Dean undoes the locks and pushes the motorcycle through then locks it back and restarts. Now he’s speeding, wind whipping through his hair. He knows the bike will draw the croats but he also knows that who he is looking for can smite them with a thought.
He thinks the name with his grace and his entire being. “Come on you asshat,” he mumbles under his breath as he speeds up the mountain. This needed to be done far away from civilization in case the fight broke out immediately. Dean just hopes he’s not conscious when it does.
The bike almost comes from under him as he comes around a corner and has to stop for a figure standing in the middle of the road. Dean brakes hard and pulls out the shotgun from the holster on the front, pointing at the being. When it holds up it’s hands and smiles Dean feels the surge of grace.
"Wrong angel," Dean mutters and keeps the shotgun up even though it won’t do any good.
"Depends what side your on," Lucifer says gently and lowers his hands.
"Call Michael, tell him he can have his meatsuit and the last horcrux," Dean says. Wow kids have done him in, six years ago his reference would have been better than Harry Potter. If that was really Sam in front of him, he would have been teased. His gun drops a little with the reminder.
"Plans changed, we’re dividing everything in the divorce," Lucifer says and steps forward. Sam’s long finger presses on the muzzle of the gun, tilting it downward. "Michael gets upstairs and seals it off from you lot and I get this wonderful piece of real estate."
Dean swallows and tries to keep his lower lip from trembling. “Then take me, let Sam go.”
"That’d be a bit like putting a square peg in a round hole. You’d decay just like anyone else. Not to mention I don’t want Michael’s sloppy seconds. Castiel’s too." Lucifer shakes Sam’s head and contorts his face into a look of disgust. "You two are freaks.”
"What are you going to do?" Dean reholsters the useless weapon.
"Use humans like the cattle that they are." Lucifer looks at his fingers and rubs them together, like touching a human object has contaminated them.
"Why aren’t you killing me and Cas?"
"Promise to Sam, plus I want to watch you live with the guilt." Lucifer raises his hand but Dean doesn’t flinch. "Give my love to Castiel, Dean."
Two fingers touch his forehead and then he’s standing on the raised deck of his house, his motorcycle up on the pulley system they use to keep things out of Croats reach. It’s raining again. Dean stands there for a while, letting the wind and rain whip him then goes inside, letting himself smile a little when he hears “Daddy!’ and little bare feet running towards him to jump small bodies into his arms.
The end hadn’t come in a big bang. It came silently, spreading quietly, but quickly like an infection.
First the demons rose up and they paved the way for the Horsemen and their Croatoan Virus. Then Lucifer and what he did to Sam. Castiel doesn’t want to think about what happened to Sam. He just remembers that the world ended so suddenly and without notice that he had barely had enough time to stockpile provisions for their family. Gabriel had been such a tremendous help back then.
Castiel looks down at their last family photo, when Gabriel was still alive and Robbie had just turned two. It’s scary to think that it’s been two whole years already. He tries not to choke on the feelings of failure that well up in him as he watches Dean read to their sons.
They both knew that Dean’s plan was suicide. It would burn the planet and them along with it, but they were barely angels anymore. Barely had any battery juice left in them and their sons. God, please have mercy on their sons. The boys were losing their grace too. Thinking about it gave Castiel nightmares.
So, when Dean told him his plan, he didn’t fight it. He just wanted it all to end. And he’d let it if he could, but he just couldn’t abandon their children like this.
After Dean leaves, Castiel sits with their sons in their room, pistols in its holster and knife at his side, ready to be drawn at any sign of danger. But while he sits, he quietly prays too. Prays for their safety and for a quick end.
It’s lunchtime when he knows that the plan has failed. But Castiel never really expected it to go through anyways.
"Welcome home, Dean," he greet his husband with a gentle, but tired smile. He ushers the children back into the kitchen to eat their rice because at least they still have that. Castiel just doesn’t know what to do when he and Dean will need to start eating more frequently. They’re already so human and he’s stretched their supplies so thin just trying to keep their sons fed.
Castiel keeps a brave face though and takes Dean’s hand. ”Lucifer stopped you?” he asks quietly as he rubs his thumb over the back of Dean’s hand, scars covering the freckled skin from the rough lives they’ve had to lead.
Dean kisses the top of Cas’ head when he leans against him and threads their fingers together. He hopes that it’s not considered rude to Agent Bass since his overly-interested behavior makes a little more sense now that he’s admitted to being queer as well.
"That’s where were headed," Agent Bass responds to Cas with the smallest of smiles just as the SUV pulls into the basement garage. There are several people waiting with a hospital bed and a wheelchair, some carrying large duffels which Dean imagines are filled with medical supplies.
"Level three, not the hospital ward," Agent Bass calls out to them as Dean helps Cas out and into the helpful throng of people. He grins, that was Tony’s workspace so it was a mix of mechanic’s workshop and emergency clinic.
Dean lets Tony and Garth work on Cas while he stands to the back. There is another doctor there that Dean doesn’t know but if everyone else trusts her then so does he. He feels useless until he sees the blender and since kitchen appliances are the one thing that he’s gotten the hang of he finds Tony’s protein powder and a banana and makes him and Cas shakes.
He’s pretty proud of himself as he walks over to the chair where Cas is sitting and hands him off the glass. “Tell me straight doc, will he ever dance with the Bolshoi again?”
As he’s getting the medical and mechanical examinations, Cas is made to sit very still and it’s strange being surrounded by people. It reminds him a little of being with Hydra, but he knows he’s safe here. Dean is close and Tony and Garth are taking care of his arm. He’s safe.
The doctor, her name is Claire, announces that while he hasn’t broken anything, he has some bruised ribs and will be covered in some nasty bruises for a while. Cas isn’t really paying attention after that though. He’s actually a little confused by her appearance. She looks so much like his sister, but blond and, well, obviously, young. But Dean had said that Hael didn’t have any children so the similarities could just be his mind playing tricks on him, right?
He looks up at Dean and tries his best to get him to look at Claire without actually bringing attention to his own staring. But he frowns and huffs softly as Dean makes a joke instead. ”Not a ballerina,” he grumbles, only to fall back into his seat and groan as his arm shocks him.
"Careful," he hisses, breathing hard after having half his body’s muscles involuntarily contract on him.
"Not exactly easy when you’re working with tech you’re still trying to figure out," Tony grumbles and continues with the repairs on the arm as Cas makes an attempt at drinking the shake and then just puts it down after getting shocked again.
Cas curses under his breath. ”Rumlow must have known exactly how to damage my arm to take me out of commission.”
"Who called the paparazzi," Dean mumbles as he steps out into the sunlight, hoisting a woman to sit on the stretcher. She’s fine but obviously upset. Now that he thinks about it, it’s probably his fault, getting Kevin to fly him in like that. He gives Cas a sheepishly look and rubs the back of his head. When Cas looks at him, questioning what to do about the microphone shoved in his face and the question of why they came to help Dean taps his ear to remind him that neither of them were really alone. Agent Bass was already feeding them questions to answers.
"We were asked by the police to help," he says with a smile, hoping it’s the truth but if Agent Bass is telling him to say it then they must have some sort of plausible deniability.
He looks at Cas then jerks his head slightly towards the crows, telling him silently to answer the next question being posed by one of the reporters. Dean smiles and squats down to talk to a little boy who is staring up at him with his finger in his mouth. The boy smiles widely then ducks his head to his mother’s side until Dean holds out the shield so he can touch it.
They answer a few questions until the big black SUV pulls up and Dean grins cheekily and tells them that’s their ride. The crowd breaks for them and they get in, sitting in the middle seat.
"You’re a valuable asset to the team," Agent Bass says immediately to Cas, Dean just wishes he hadn’t used the word asset. He ducks his head shyly then looks out the window. Everything had gone well he thought, and was curious to see what Cas thought.
Cas visibly relaxes with Dean’s reassurances and trusts Agent Bass to give him the politically correct answers. He’s too nervous to actually answer any questions until Dean gives him some encouragement though.
The first question he has to answer, the reporter asks him how he knows Captain America and how he came to be a part of the Avengers. It’s strange to not be asked who he is, but maybe Agent Bass has already taken care of that.
"Captain America saved me a long time ago. I figured I’d take the favor and pay it forward," he answers using what Agent Bass is saying into his earpiece. It’s not entirely a lie and it’s vague, but the reporters seem to eat it up with many more scrambling to get closer.
Most of their questions ask about his relationship with his crime fighting partner and if he’s the same man who appeared on the morning news a few weeks prior. He declines to answer what Bass tells him to and he answers what he can, but Cas never knew how exhausting this could be. He almost misses being an assassin.
He’s cheering in his head by the time the black SUV pulls up and he blushes a little at Bass’s compliment. Dean might not be happy with being called an asset, but Cas feels like he has a purpose again. He felt useful and like he belonged, even if everyone had been assuring him of this all along. After being assigned this mission and being successful, even if he did have a few incidents, he feels alive again.
"Thank you," he murmurs and smiles as he reaches over and rests his hand quietly over Dean’s. He’s not looking at him, just looking straight ahead as they head back to the tower, but he’s happy and actually smiling.
As the adrenaline starts to wear off, Cas is uncomfortable. His ribs ache and his back hurts. His prosthetic feels heavy and his shoulder is stiff. He thinks Rumlow might have cracked a few of his ribs with the throw too. Cas tries to just bear with it, but he’s soon enough resting his head on Dean’s shoulder and just trying not to whimper.
"I think I might need medical attention," he confesses morosely.
Just because he has great healing abilities and strength doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt when he pulls stupid stunts like that. Dean is curled up in the circumference of the shield for a few seconds, trying to regain the breath that was knocked out of him before getting up and listening carefully to see which direction he needs to go. Down. Good, that’s easy.
Dean flinches at the sound of the Cas’ arm charging even though he is not the target of it this time. He’s been on the receiving end of that electrically charged fist and it’s not something he wants to experience again. Just before he hears the two guards hit the floor Dean hears them refer to Rumlow as Crossbones. So he has an operative too, which means someone is still trying to resurrect Hydra. Well that’s great news.
He jumps down the entire first flight of stairs and rounds the landing, seeing Cas on top of Rumlow. Dean fumes for a second. This man had worked with him for years then turned on him. He presses his fist into the palm of his hand wanting so badly to finish this fight for Cas but knowing that he should let him finish it.
“Knock him out,” Dean says dryly as he walks down the flight of stairs. It’s hard to resist the urge to kick Rumlow’s head in as he passes them. “We need him for an interrogation. Then it’s time to go win hearts and minds.”
Dean goes over to the two incapacitated guards and works zip ties over their wrists then tightens them down. Everyone would be questioned and he is pleased to see that Cas has settled into nonlethal ways of subduing the enemy.
"So, he’s your captain now?" Rumlow chuckles as Dean comes walking down the stairs. The man’s calm, ever grinning behind his mask and yeah, Cas thinks he’s definitely gone mad. Whatever those Hydra remnants did to him certainly helped him survive, but not with an intact mind.
Cas frowns, but he follows Dean’s order. To him, this isn’t about winning hearts and minds. It’s about redeeming himself and getting Rumlow off the streets. The guy’s too dangerous to let go.
"Nothing personal, Rumlow," he repeats back to the Hydra agent beneath him as he reaches down. It’s with a quick shock that Rumlow’s knocked out and Cas is working to get his hands zip tied behind him.
With the robbers taken out, the police come in to take them and Cas helps Dean escort the hostages from the vault. None of them seem injured thankfully, but they’re shaken and Cas isn’t sure how to help. That doesn’t seem to matter to the paparazzi who are waiting outside though.
As soon as Cas and Dean have stepped out of the building with the hostages, there are flashes and the sounds of cameras going off all around them. Cas is nearly blinded, but he keeps his composure and is glad when the hostages are taken by medical personnel.
And that’s when the flood of news crews come in and Cas is even more lost than before. He doesn’t have the same PR experience as Dean does and he looks to him for guidance.
“Tony, helicopter now!” Dean stands up, looking down at Tony then back at the screen where Cas is frankly, getting his ass kicked. When there is no response, he turns to Agent Bass. “Get me a ride.”
“Hydra is still operating,” Agent Bass says darkly, obviously ignoring Dean’s pleas. Dean kicks up the shield and starts out the situation room towards his apartment.
“Jarvis, get me Kevin, tell him to be suited up and on the helipad in ten minutes.”
He gets suited up and is on the roof in eight, tapping his foot. Kevin shows his face at exactly nine minutes, newly modified gear on his back.
“You know, I’m not a fucking taxi,” the kid says but the wings are expanding and he’s looking to Dean, silently asking how he wants to do this. Kevin’s holding a carabiner attached to his harness in one hand. Good, the kid is strong but why rely on that if you don’t have to. Dean turns so his back is facing his friend and jerks his head in the direction where the shield would go.
“Suit’s got a handle,” he says with a forced laugh, meaning the harness. Behind him he can hear Kevin sigh but then he’s being lifted bodily and carried in the direction of the of the bank. Dean wishes he had goggles like Kevin now because damn the wind was kicking up and he has to remind himself not to look down.
"Just put me through the window," Dean yells and curls himself into a little ball as he feels Kevin stop suddenly. The momentum slings him forward and Kevin gets the carabiner undone and just the right moment so he’s flying towards the window with the shield in front, crashing through and landing in a heap on the floor. He’s not on the right one but he can hear the fight still going on.
Cas’s heart skips a beat when he hears the unclipping of Rumlow’s holster. He knows the pistol’s being pointed at his head.
"Nothing personal, Winter. Just protocol, you know? Rogue agents," he chuckles behind his mask, making Cas think that the man above him is taking pleasure in this.
"Yeah," he grunts as he frees his hand and throws Brock’s balance off at the same time. The enemy stumbles back a few steps, but it’s enough of a window to let Cas slip into and grab his wrist, forcing Rumlow to drop the gun as bones break under his superhuman grip.
The shock of seeing a ghost is finally starting to wear off and Cas is getting his head back into the game when he hears the glass shattering above him. He can hear the hostages shouting now and wonders why he couldn’t hear them before. But Brock takes his chance and headbutts Cas, disorienting him momentarily.
Cas catches the punch thrown with Rumlow’s remaining good hand and though he knows he’s in peak shape, Brock is just a little bit stronger. In a fair fight, he’d probably be overpowered. But neither of them really knew how to fight fair.
Electricity sparks off of Cas’s prosthetic hand and he aims for Rumlow’s throat, but it’s a distraction. When Brock moves to dodge him, Cas takes the opportunity to kick his chest and send the man sprawling. He takes out the two robbers that had been watching out with a pair of stun guns he saved just for them.
Brock whistles and laughs under him. ”Smooth, Winter. Just like ice,” he laughs and Cas frowns down at him.
"You talk too much," Cas mumbles and engages the stun feature on his arm again.