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This is the second part of the Moebius series, following No Victory (As Big As The Lesson). It won't make much sense unless you've read that first.

SPN gen, 2100 words, rated PG-13. Dean and Castiel, season three AU, post season five. (No, really.) The title was borrowed from Tina Dico's "An Open Ending".

Thank you to trystings for the beta!


Warning for previous, sort of canonical character death.





[back to No Victory (As Big As The Lesson)]




No Beginning (Like An Open Ending)



It's easy for about a week. Easy being a relative term.

Dean knows what's going to happen because he's lived it once before. A few days after he lets his brother die (lets him stay dead), he condemns his father to keep rotting in the pit. After everything else, it's hardly more than a blip on his internal radar. He takes out Jake with his Glock and the yellow-eyed demon with the Colt before either can cross the steel lines of the giant devil's trap guarding the gate to Hell, and that's that. No opening of Hell's emergency exit, no demon horde pouring into the world to make it their all-you-can-eat buffet. No John Winchester escaping damnation and dissolving into freaky light.

Dean decides against running all this fucked-up shit by Bobby and hits the road. He makes a brief stop in Pontiac, Illinois. Jimmy Novak clearly doesn't believe a word of what Dean's telling him, but maybe he'll remember the warning once the first angel comes a-knocking. And maybe he'll have the sense to pass it on to Claire, too.

After Jimmy slams the door in his face, Dean proceeds as planned: he gets drunk for a week or a month or possibly the rest of his existence. He’s not really planning ahead. Because he's off the map now. There's no way of knowing what's going to happen next. There's nothing else Dean can do. There is no dad, no Sam, no Castiel anymore, but there's also no destiny, no apocalypse, no Lucifer.

Dean keeps reminding himself that it more than balances out, in the grand scheme of things. This is a lot easier when he's drunk. It's easier to remember that he isn't anyone special anymore. Or does the alcohol make it easier to forget? Dean can't tell. He doesn't care much, either.

He lifts his head off of the sticky bar-of-the-day to find himself staring back, unfocused, from the mirror behind the shelf lined with bottles of booze.

Oh, who is he kidding, he's never been anyone special.

He downs the rest of his whiskey, signals for another and has to grab the bar for support when the movement almost makes him slide off the bar stool. The bartender has kind of a point when he refuses to serve Dean more alcohol, not that Dean is about to admit that.

"You should sleep it off, mate," the guy has the nerve to tell him.

"Yeah, like that's gonna work," Dean snaps and silently wishes it did.

"Want me to call you a taxi?" The bartender is insistent. He's the former-boxer type. Dean glares at him and drops a few bills on the bar between them. Then he pushes his hands deep into the pockets of his leather jacket. "I'll walk," he says and does just that. A little unsteadily, maybe, but he walks. He thinks he feels the breeze pick up even before he opens the door and steps outside.

The alley that greets him is dark. Dean has already crossed it halfway when he sees the naked guy standing in the shadows at the other end, staring at him. He looks familiar somehow. Which is weird, because he's, well, a naked guy in a dark alley.

"I know you," the guy says in a deep voice and it hits Dean like a ton of bricks.

"Cas?" he says. And then, "Shit, Jimmy let you hitch a ride? The idiot. I told him. Jimmy, you hear me? I told you!"

Castiel tilts his head. "Who is Jimmy?" He hesitates. "You are referring to James Novak."

The flat disinterest in Castiel's voice stops Dean short. "Yeah I’m referring to James Novak. You remember him? The poor bastard whose body you stole?"

"I didn’t steal anyone's body." Castiel is coming closer, his face more curious than anything else. "I don't require a vessel."

"Yeah, right, pull the other one." Dean points an unsteady finger at him. "An angel needs a meatsuit to walk the earth. You explained that to me."

"I did?" Castiel frowns. "I must have." He hesitates again, then adds, "Your name is Dean."

Dean squints at him. This Castiel is acting weird. -Er. Weirder than the version of him Dean remembers. "Yeah. Gold star for you. Jesus, what the hell happened to you? Bible camp again?"

"Yes," Castiel says without inflection, then amends, "No. Not again. For the first time. I was demoted."

"Demoted," Dean repeats.

Castiel looks down at himself. "Nudity is mandatory now," he informs Dean, with more than a little irritation in his voice.

It takes an embarrassingly long moment for Dean's alcohol-addled brain to reach the sensible conclusion. "They made you Cupid?" he asks, incredulous.

"A cherub," Castiel corrects disdainfully. "I was made a cherub."

The almost sour expression on Castiel's face would have been hilarious if it wasn't so fucking tragic, if this wasn't Cas he was talking to here. Cas, who got himself exploded for the greater good. Several times. Only he didn't, really.

"Uh," Dean says. "That-- Uh. Sorry, man. I guess that sucks?"

"Yes. Very much."

Dean can't help it. He just can't. He casually props himself up on his elbow, a move that is somewhat ruined by the fact that he's leaning on a dumpster of all things, and asks, "You lose your magic bow and your diapers both, Cas?"

Castiel huffs out a little sigh of annoyance. "Cherubs do not carry-- This isn't funny."

But Dean is already laughing too hard. He can't seem to stop. "Yeah. Yeah, it is." So maybe he'll appreciate the tragic part of this tragicomedy later, when he's too sober to enjoy the funny bits.

"I think I--" Castiel interrupts himself, clearly considering something. "I explained this to you once?" It's not actually formed as a question, but it sounds like one.

"Kinda." Dean waves a hand dismissively. "Wasn't much interested in the explanation then either."

Castiel is frowning now. It used to take Dean hours of hard work to get the angel this openly frustrated. Except that that hadn't really happened, either-- Whatever, Dean will still count it as a win. What else to do, other than curl up into a fetal position and cry like a little girl? And that one's a definite no-go.

"I don't remember you being quite this-- irritating," Castiel says.

"Ah, but that's because you didn't get the full-blown real-life experience of the years-that-never-were. And thanks again for that, Cas." Dean smiles in a way that is not at all about being friendly, and very much about showing teeth. "Trust me, I am that irritating."

“I see.” Castiel tilts his head in a way that's totally calculating. "Then I believe I should give you the customary cherub greeting now," he decides and takes a step forward.

"Dude," Dean says, raising his hands. "Not without pants."

Castiel's lips quirk a little, or maybe that's a trick of the light. "Agreed," Cas says, the sneaky bastard, and Dean has most certainly not just officially consented to participating in a bone-crushing Cupid-hug. Except he has. He silently vows to never drink anything alcoholic ever again.

Fortunately there are no abandoned pants anywhere in sight for Castiel to claim, so Dean’s off the hook for now. He can’t believe that passes for an upside. Yes, Castiel is still pants-less, but that doesn’t stop him from coming closer. Dean resolutely keeps his eyes above waistline-- Well, he makes an effort to-- Okay, he totally fails more than once, but that’s just the booze ogling.

“You on an assignment?” Dean asks casually and, when the world starts to tilt sideways, readjusts his elbow on the edge of the dumpster.

“You are my assignment.”

That statement efficiently counteracts the pleasant numb haze Dean’s had going on. Just like that, it’s three years ago (one year from now) all over again. He’s feeling too sober all of a sudden. “What do you mean, I’m your assignment?”

Castiel is tilting his head at him again, and damn, that’ll never stop being a weird mix of creepy and adorable. “It means what I said. This assignment--” He hesitates. “It’s significant somehow. More significant than it should ordinarily be. I should remember the reason why.”

“That’s bible camp for you,” Dean quips.

Castiel’s eyes find his in a penetrating stare. “What is your relation to a woman named Bela Talbot?”

Dean almost chokes on his own spit and loses his balance. When he’s done coughing and wheezing, he finds himself on his hands and knees, doing his best not to introduce the contents of his stomach back into the world. Seriously, he’s never drinking a single drop of alcohol again. To top it all off, Castiel is still buck-naked and standing too freaking close for comfort for a man in Dean’s position.

“Me and that bitch? Are you shitting me?” Dean keeps his eyes on the ground until he’s completely vertical again. By which time he’s clutching the edge of the dumpster again, but he chooses to ignore this little fact.

“I am not.”

Castiel has made no move to help Dean up. He keeps staring. It might even be a disapproving stare. Dean’s not sure. With Castiel, he’s never been sure of anything. He tries not to feel pathetic but isn’t entirely successful.

“In what way is this woman significant?” Castiel asks.

Dean blinks. Good question. Why on earth-- And then he gets it. “Oh,” he breathes and has to concede, “Fuck, that’s clever.”

“Clever?” Castiel is clearly growing impatient and is this close to taking another step or two forward, Dean can tell. Castiel never understood personal space.

“Bela’s going to be Hell’s newest bitch soon,” Dean explains, with equal parts satisfaction and pity for the two-timing skank. “Made a deal ten years ago that took her parents out of the picture and gave her control over the family fortune. She’s seriously loaded, but that’s gonna do jack-squat against the hellhounds.” Even if the hounds are not going to come after him, the thought of sharp teeth, clicking claws and foul breath still makes him shudder. “I guess your bosses thought a little undying devotion on my part for someone booked on a one-way trip to hell would convince me to make that deal. My soul for hers, 'cause I just can’t bear the thought of my beloved soul mate spending eternity in the pit. I go downstairs, and the apocalypse is right back on schedule.”

“This contingency plan is well thought out,” Castiel agrees after a moment.

“Might even have worked if they hadn’t sent you to do the matchmaking." Dean shudders again. Just considering undying devotion to Bela Talbot makes him want to hurl. Hell, this could actually have worked the way the featherbrain squad intended. Fool-proof plan, except for the one major flaw. "Why did they send you?”

“This assignment falls within my regular duties. And-- I think my memories were supposed to be erased. I should not have recognized you.”

“But you do? Remember everything?”

“No," Castiel says. "Not everything. There appear to be large gaps. They seem to be closing. I'm remembering more and more details.”

“Okay,” Dean says. “That’s good. I guess.”

"Possibly."

They stare at each other.

“So,” Dean says and waits for a reaction, any reaction.

Castiel says nothing.

“What now?” Dean clarifies.

“I don’t know.” Castiel’s fingers curl and uncurl at his sides, making him the picture of tormented (naked) indecision. “I don’t want to complete this assignment,” he admits.

Dean breathes a soundless sigh of relief. “Great. 'Cause your bosses’ matchmaking skills suck ass.”

The joke goes way over Castiel’s head. He looks shell-shocked. “Dean,” he says, “this is disobedience. I'm considering disobedience.”

For a moment Dean completely forgets about Castiel’s state of undress and clamps a hand on his shoulder. “Say hello to free will. Again. You rebel.”

Instead of looking appropriately flattered, Castiel just looks disturbed. "I don't want free will, Dean."

"That's too bad, buddy. You already got it. Twice." He lets go of Castiel and makes a split second decision. "Come on," he says. "Let's find you some clothes."

Later, when Castiel is sitting on a squeaky chair in the motel room, looking lost and defiant and a little pissed off in Dean's ill-fitting clothes, two things occur to Dean. One: he hasn't thought about Sam or dad or booze in nearly two hours; it's a new record. And two, if Castiel has forgotten about their little Cupid-hug agreement, Dean is sure as hell not going to mention it.




Comments

borgmama1of5
Apr. 1st, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
What an intriguing 'what if'--and very well written blend of snark and tragedy!
unadrift
Apr. 3rd, 2011 12:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!