"So you had no memory of yourself?" asks Naomi, though Castiel doubts the clarification is for her benefit.
"Some," he says. "I knew my own name, and of Dean. I was... somewhat aware of my mission."
"Ah," says Zachariah, with all the glee of someone about to show their full house at the last table. "This 'mission' that you set yourself, huh? The Winchester wallow-be-gone special?"
Castiel frowns. "I didn't -"
"Enough," says Naomi. "Another technicality we'll address later." She holds a moment, but her posture doesn't allow for either Zachariah to make further digs or for him to continue his tale. "Despite this disadvantage, you still chose to-"
"Yes," he says sharply. The crowd's hum had started to get a little too interested again, and he was rather determined to disappoint their need for details.
"A poor decision," Naomi says primly, reminding all it was her who had insisted in keeping these proceedings strictly PG, and that she had most definitely mot been caught up in the hive mind's usual need to overshare.
"For both of us," Castiel agrees. "But, to borrow a phrase, totally worth it."
* * *
Henrickson is gonna be mega-pissed at him, and Dean had kinda been hoping to let himself be entirely distracted from than about ten minutes ago, but now he's mostly freaking out internally about now being contender for the grossest, skeeviest, most horrible dude-of-the-year award ever and he really needs the angry voice of his boss to calm him down.
He can't stop pacing as the phone rings out, catching Cas staring at him in concern while he holds the pile of clothes Dean had dumped on him like he's waiting for them to bite. "Please, please put them on," he asks, as the office line finally picks up. "Victor! Hey, uh, man, I got a huge problem that's making me run late."
"Don't 'Victor' me, Winchester. What the hell kind of time d'you call this?" Ah yes, there it was, the soothing irritation only he could bring out in Dean. If there was one thing to be said of his relationship with his boss, it was that they were excellent at egging the other into action though pure force of jerkishness.
"Aw, now don't be like that! Were you worrying about me? I told you before, dude, sometimes you just gotta let a bird flap it's wings or whatever."
Victor sighs on the other end of the line, and Dean is almost certain he's in for a proper bollocking. "If you're talking this much shit, it must be a real big problem. What's the matter? Hook-up too clingy?"
"You don't know the half of it," says Dean. Pausing mid-pace, he sees Cas still looking at him like Dean handed him a stack of bad novels he has no interest in reading. His patience is fraying by the second, the wave of good-time-goodness completely vanquished and leaving him with only a hangover bad enough to curdle all the milk in his apartment building. "For the love of god, could you at least put some pants on?" he says, hand covering the mic on the end of his phone, but he doesn't know why he bothers. Victor's got ears like a bat, even over a bad cell line. Cas gives him a look that has had far too little time to become so long-suffering, sets the rest of the clothes neatly on the counter, and turns around, starting to bend over to get one leg in and almost, if he hadn't performed a 180 turn so quickly he could almost see stars, leaving Dean with a view that would have him be the only one nominated for the no-good- super-gross guy of the decade award.
Someone, somewhere, was well and truly determined to test him.
He could hear the exact expression of disbelief on Victor's face purely from the way he was breathing over the line. "Look, what do you know about amnesia?"
"Other than wishing I could forget this entire call?"
"Ha-friggin-ha. Look, I know this is gonna be hard for you, but please, please just answer without asking any questions about what I'm getting into for the next three minutes. If I told you I met a guy who doesn't seem to remember anything past last night, should I be rushing him back to a hospital for like, car crash treatment or something??"
He can hear the strain it takes for Victor to not start spouting off more shit at him, but the need to be the smartest guy in any room is clearly winning out. "Probably not," he says. "Usually when people get amnesia from physical trauma, they lose motor function, or chunks of stuff, not everything. Are we talking TV-style amnesia?"
"Kinda," Dean says, scratching the back of his neck and chancing a look over his shoulder. Praise Xenu, Cas is half-way decent! "Like, he gave me his name, but I don't think he knows anything else about himself. And I mean more a straight-up not-understanding-the-question deal, total blank slate."
Victor hums, the tone of it saying an awful lot more than Dean's up to parsing right this second. "I'm guessing he's not bleeding out or covered in bandages? Sounds more like something psychological to me. A fugue state could cause something like that, maybe, or some kind of seizure, but don't quote me on that." Victor falls quiet a moment, while Dean sorts through what he's just explained, not sure if it spells out 'dump the guy at the nearest hospital' or not. "Dean, I really don't want to know what the hell you got up to last night, but I do need to know if you're coming in today. I'm guessing no?"
Dean scrubs a hand across his face. Why the hell did his morning have to go from awesome to rock bottom so quickly? "No, dude, I'll be in. I've 'found' a guy, makes sense to see if anyone's missing him, right? It's like doing our job in reverse." The landline's started ringing, and Cas is looking at intently, like he's trying to psychically answer it. Or like he has no idea what it is, who knows at this stage? "Just leave it," he says, because the only people who ever call on landlines are telemarketers or people who want paying. "And could you please sit down? You're making me nervous like that." Cas gives him a withering look, and for a guy who was all about the happy-making ten minutes ago, he's got a hell of an attitude. "Gimme like, an hour?" he tells Victor. "Just stick my phone number on the door or something til I get there, is that penance enough for tardiness?"
Whatever Victor says in response is completely lost on him, as Dean drops the phone at the unmistakeable voice he hears over the answering machine, saying, simply, "Dean?"
* * *
Dean stands stock-still, unsure if moving will break whatever magic spell has been cast that would had clearly resulted in Sam calling him.
"I hope this is your number," Sam says, an edge of unsureity in his voice like he's worried he might just be clogging up some strangers voice mail. Why had he never gotten round to recording a message? "Only, you were kinda slurring the digits in your message." There's a pause, like Sam doesn't know what to say, and Dean sure as hell hasn't got a clue. How do you start a conversation that'd been years in the making?
Cas is continuing his own silent act, staring Dean down and then looking meaningfully at the phone.
"Did you," says Dean, stumbling over his words. "How did- was it-"
"Dean," he says, simply. "Answer him."
"Look," says Sam, to the machine, "maybe this was--"
--and Dean doesn't allow him to finish that sentence, finally spurring himself to action and grabbing at the phone with far less finesse than intended. "Sam," he says. "Hey, Sam."
* * *
"Did you do that?" Dean asks in a daze, slumping next to Cas on the sofa. Cas is looking at him with an expression of pure serenity, and in the face of that Dean can't look him in the eye. The guy hasn't managed to button his shirt up, and the jeans Dean threw at him look a little big. "I mean, I don't see how you could have, but did you?"
"In a way," says Cas. "You were fairly easy to persuade, last night."
Dean abruptly remembers a brief interval in the evening, with clarity like he's broken a dream. They were giggling - well, he was giggling, the extra few shots of whiskey had been to blame for that - and Dean had gotten all maudlin about holidays and Sam and messed-up families, and Cas had handed him the phone and wow, he'd left, on reflection, an extraordinarily embarrassing voice message.
* * *
"Heeeeeeey, Sammy!" Dean cheers into the phone. "Long time no speak, little brother! Listen, I like, I miss you so much, Sam, how come you never call me? Your big brother not cool enough for you anymore?" He's buzzed - well, he'd have to be to think this was the brilliant idea it CLEARLY was - but asking a question he's pretty sure he knows the answer to is making him more than a little self-aware. "Look, everything that happened, I don't blame you for high-tailing it outta here as soon as you could. I mean, you've really made something for yourself, y'know? Hah, I've still got an eye on you like the overbearing ass you always said I was, right?" A laugh dies in his throat, it closing up on him without warning. He feels warms at his side, looks to see Cas leaning right near him, not touching, but ever so close. He's almost distracted by the want to the fine marks across the whole of his back, a tattoo like the bloom of lightning, but Cas looks at him expectantly
"Everything I said at the funeral - I know it makes me a jerk but it, it stands true. I was a real dick about it, but it does. But I get it, Sammy, I do. Dad meant something different to me than he did to you, and that's fine, and I was- haha, I bet you're gonna love having this recorded, you can play it back whenever you want, huh? - I was totally wrong to, uh, try to tell you how to feel about him. I kept thinking it just hurt me more than it did you, like you were still that snot-nosed little brat who just wouldn't do what he was told, but, uh. You just hurt different. I know that now, I mean, I knew it like a week after I cursed you out, and I've just been waitin' for you to make the first move so I could say sorry. You've always tried to be the better man, but I guess it's my turn to step up, ain't it?
"I'm just, uh. Really sick of not talking, Sammy, so, ball's in your court. Call me if you wanna hear that grovelling apology I bet you've been waiting all these years for." He hangs up quickly after reciting his home phone number, and gives Cas a smile, pulling him in the last few millimetres to hit contact. "You were right," he says, "I feel kinda... lighter. Better."
Cas gives him a look that is positively devious. "Shall we see just how much better you can feel?"
"Now that is a plan I'm behind."
* * *
Dean groans, because for a moment he's stuck somewhere between happy at finally speaking to his practically long-lost brother, and really frustrated that he's only done so thanks to the meddling of a guy who he really, really should have asked a few pertinent questions of before sleeping with. "Great," he says, "not only am I taking life advice from a guy who doesn't know who he is, but it's working."
"I know who I am, Dean," says Cas, a weight in his tone that Dean's prepared not to take lightly.
"Yeah? Care to elaborate?"
"I am Castiel," he says, with a kind of gravitas that would seem silly on anyone else, but works perfectly for him. "And I'm here to help you."
Dean waits. Cas - Castiel - keeps looking at him like he's expecting this to be Dean's eureka moment, like those words are definitely the key to Dean understanding what the hell's going on here. When it becomes apparent that this is the entirety of Cas' spiel, he flops heavily against the back of the sofa with a drawn-out sigh. "That's it, that's all you got for me?"
"That tells me absolutely nothing about you!"
Cas' expression spells out 'I don't see what more you could want' more clearly than Dean had thought minor eye movements could make possible. "Right," he says, spurning himself into action. "You're coming with me, I gotta go to work and we are gonna figure out one or two things about you, capishe?"
"Yes, Dean," says Cas, tone much like that of someone who's getting a bit bored of humouring a ten-year-old, "I capishe."
"That's not how you-- just get your coat, all right?"
Dean can already see this is going to be a long day.