Dean and Sam are reuinted with a changed Castiel.
"I swear, if you even think the word 'Midol' I will end you."
Sinai Grace Hospital,
Saturday 29 May 2010
"Mr. Novak?" the receptionist repeated, her eyes scanning across her screen and her fingers flying. "Give me a moment."
Dean tried not to let his impatience show, offering her what he hoped was a tired yet encouraging smile. "Sure."
Out of habit, he gave her a once-over; she was petite, redheaded and freckled, greatly resembling one of the nurses from Dr. Sexy, M.D..
Under normal circumstances he would be asking her what time she got off work and planning to ditch Sam very soon afterward. As it was, however, his preoccupation with finding Cas was overshadowing his usual impulses.
That, and the fact that he was still in a chick's body. He'd discovered the hard way that he was more likely to get an uncomfortable look for his attempts at flirtation these days than a phone number.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could tell that Sam was watching him with that same expression of calculation and sympathy that he had been wearing since Dean got Cas’s phone call. By now, it had passed beyond mildly annoying, and if Dean hadn't been resolutely pretending to ignore it, he would have smacked Sam upside the head by now.
The phone call had rattled him. He had spent two weeks thinking Cas was trapped in some kind of alternate dimension or rotting in the proverbial gutter somewhere.
In the moment that he had recognized the voice on the other end of the line, Dean had felt the same light, swooping sensation of gladness that he had experienced two weeks before when Sam inexplicably appeared alive and topside. That gladness had faded quickly, though, replaced with a gnawing ache of worry.
Exactly why was Cas in a hospital in Detroit?
"Maybe he just drained his batteries doing whatever he did?" Sam had suggested while they drove across state-lines. His voice was carefully controlled, like he wasn't supremely uncomfortable returning to the city where he had said 'yes' to the Devil.
"Maybe," Dean had granted, although his gut and memories of Raphael's snide insinuations had told him that wasn't the whole story.
He had surreptitiously pressed his foot down harder on the gas pedal, thinking for the first time in his life that he was glad to not be driving the Impala. Awesome as his baby was, she was a gas guzzler, and she would have slowed the journey in terms of pit stops and the need to make money for fuel. Not too many of the minor highway stations accepted credit cards, and Sam and Dean were rather broke at the moment.
"You're sure it was him, right?" Sam had then asked for the millionth time in three hours, and Dean had shot him his most exasperated glare.
"Yes, damn it!"
"Because it could be a trap."
"Who else do we know that has my cell number?" Dean had reminded him, also for the millionth time. "Besides, he's the only person I know that can sound that annoyed with me that's not you or Bobby."
Sam had made a face and gone quiet for a while. At the point when Dean had thought he'd gone to sleep, he suddenly spoke up, "You know, it's not like we're wanted fugitives anymore. Not the way we look now. It would be a lot quicker if we hopped a plane."
Dean had tried not to notice how his brother's voice sounded like he was trying to talk down a jumper.
It was a measure of how off his game he was that he had actually considered the proposition for half a second, before his wits caught up with him.
"Not a good idea," he had argued, pretending that his crippling fear of flying had nothing to do with that decision. "We might set off Heaven's radar if we're up there. Kind of seems like their domain, don't you think?"
"I guess," Sam had agreed, although he had obviously seen through Dean's deflection.
"And I doubt they'd let us carry hex bags on board with us, anyway," Dean had continued, more to himself than to Sam. "Plus, I hear lots of airports have x-ray chambers now. Anyone notices the angel tats on our ribs, we'd probably end up on some medical show."
"Okay," Sam had said in a deliberate voice, obviously humoring him. After another pause, he had asked, "Want me to drive?"
"Are you kidding?" Dean had shot back, regaining some of his composure. "I want to get there this year, Granny Winchester."
"You're the one who actually was named for our grandmother," Sam reminded him.
That had been last they had really spoken. Dean had spent the rest of the drive covering up his contemplations with the local classic rock offerings, while Sam busied himself with setting up two new false identities for them and casting Dean those annoying, calculating glances.
Which he was still doing, Dean realized. He glared at Sam, sending him as strong a 'knock it off' warning as he could manage without actually speaking.
"Oh, here it is. Mr. James Novak," the girl at the desk said, interrupting Sam's answering bitchface. She frowned up at them. "According to the note on his file, he's under strict observation for the time being. No one but his family is allowed to see him, and then only with the permission of his attending physician."
"What? Why?" Dean demanded, frustration at yet another obstacle making him practically bark.
"We're family," Sam interrupted him before Dean could full-on harangue the poor girl further. "He's our brother."
There was no lie in his voice, and even as a woman Sam could turn on the intense, puppy eyes. If possible, the look had gotten more effective.
"Oh, well, let's see what I can do," the girl said, offering Sam a sympathetic look and Dean a glare. Her eyes scanned the screen again as she reached for a nearby folder. "Here's a form you need to fill out to get a visitor's pass, and I'll need ID from both of you – oh. Does your brother have health insurance? It doesn't say in his file."
"Yeah, here," Dean said, yanking out Erica Campbell's license and health card. Even as he practically tossed it at her, he silently thanked a rather absent god that Sam had had the foresight to forge insurance cards for them the week before.
Although the receptionist made a face at Dean's impatience, she didn't even blink at the different names on the insurance and IDs; obviously she assumed that he was married or something. As Sam handed over his own license, she passed over a clipboard and an attached pen. A little more pointedly than before, she told them, "If you could just head over to our waiting area and fill that out? I'll notify the attending you're here and he'll decide if Mr. Novak is up for visitors today."
"He'll decide…?" Dean trailed off in disbelief.
"Thanks," Sam interjected, offering a polite smile as he took the visitor's form and nudged Dean to follow him over to the uncomfortable looking chairs. Under his breath, he murmured, "Dude, relax, she's just doing her job."
"Yeah, well, last time I checked hospitals aren't supposed to be Gitmo. We should just be able to walk in," Dean growled, throwing himself into one of the chairs, while Sam scanned the form.
"Father's name, mother's name – good thing we actually do know this stuff," Sam murmured thoughtfully.
Since meeting the angel after he had pulled Dean out of Hell, the brothers had had ample time to find out more about the original owner of Castiel's vessel, both from occasional information Cas would reveal in a rather offhand way, and then later when Jimmy regained temporary control of his body. Not long after, when the brothers had been hunting separately, Dean had spent some time with Cas and filled his free time in learning all about the short and boring life of one James Novak, on the off chance that they ever had to rescue the poor bastard if Cas abandoned ship again.
He had told Sam everything he had dug up, but he had never actually figured the information would come in handy again.
'Which goes to show, I really need to stop tempting the universe,' he thought as he fidgeted, impatiently staking out the hospital.
He had yet to have a hospital experience that didn't suck; the last few times had been less than stellar. Just sitting in the creepily clean environment brought back memories of choking on phlegm and bile as they battled Pestilence, of feeling a tube down his throat following Alistair kicking his ass, of holding Dad's limp hand after the doctors called time of death, of being told that his heart was giving out after being electrocuted by the Rawhead –
'Yeah, all in all, hospitals are not my favorite place ever,' Dean decided grimly, scrubbing his hand down his face. His stomach felt like it was filled with moths.
He dug out his phone, checked the time anxiously, and then began to idly roll through the list of contacts for want of something to do. His thumb hovered over Bobby's name, and for a moment he considered trying to reach him again. They hadn't heard from the older hunter in three days, but he had said something about a rugarou in Dayton before giving them Yong's information, which meant he might be out of contact for a bit. Still, Dean knew that Bobby was just as interested in finding Cas as they were.
He was just about to make the call, when the receptionist came over with two bright yellow cards attached to lanyards. Apparently Dean hadn't noticed Sam finish filling at the form and bring it over to her.
"Here are your passes," she said, handing them over. Dean took his and hastily shoved his phone away when she gave him a dirty look. "Make sure they're visible on you at all times. I've paged Mr. Novak's attending and he should be here in a few minutes. Visiting hours usually end at eight o'clock, but he might decide your brother can only handle a little company at a time. I would request that you don't make a big production about it if he asks you to leave early."
"Of course not," Sam said before Dean could tell her exactly where to take her requests. "Thanks so much for your help."
"It's not a problem," the girl beamed, and then returned to her desk.
"No, the problem is that we're even here," Dean grumbled. "I hate hospitals." He looked around again, scanning for the doctor whose face he didn't know, and then commented in a would-be-conversational tone, "I wonder if Tessa's around."
"You know, it's kind of sad that you're on first name basis with a Reaper."
"Not my fault you were raised in a barn and never thought to ask the name of yours," Dean retorted with would-be calm.
"I haven't been dead nearly as many times as you have."
Dean was about to respond with something snarky about asshole archangels and time loops not counting, when he felt the familiar sensation of being watched. It was an awareness he had cultivated in retaliation for Cas's propensity to show up unannounced, but at the moment he couldn't detect the same intensity in the feeling as there would have been if it was an angel watching him. Glancing up, he saw that there was a taller, blond man in a lab coat watching him and Sam. From the way he was leaning in toward the receptionist and talking with her, Dean took that to mean Cas's attending physician had shown up.
"Show time," he murmured to Sam, and they both made their way over.
"Are you Jimmy's doctor?" Dean asked when they were within a few feet of the man.
"Yes, I'm the attending on Mr. Novak's case," the man said, remnants of an Australian accent still present in his voice. His tone was carefully polite, like he was used to relatives cornering him for news of their ailing family members. "I'm Dr. Spencer. You're his…sisters?"
"Yes," Sam confirmed, at the same time that Dean demanded, "Is he okay?"
"Frankly, he's a medical miracle," the doctor said bluntly. "Before I was assigned his case, I'm told he was found clinically dead. He was actually brought to the morgue upon arrival here."
"What?" Dean interrupted, trying not to allow any panic into his tone.
"We can thank a very confused forensic pathologist for even realizing he was alive," Dr. Spencer explained. "He was just about to perform the autopsy when he made the discovery. Apparently your brother was in a deep coma and not dead."
"That's good, right?" Sam asked tightly. "There wasn't any brain damage, or…?"
"He was unconscious and suffering from severe dehydration and malnourishment when he was brought up here," the doctor said, flipping through the same form the brothers had filled out. Sam and Dean exchanged knowing glances; the last thing either of them had seen Cas eat was a platter of raw ground beef four months earlier. "Until yesterday, he was in a pretty much vegetative state."
"Vegetative?" Dean hissed.
"Completely unresponsive. Other than opening and closing his eyes during REM cycles, he didn't make any voluntary movements. He reacted to certain stimuli tests, but otherwise didn't respond. We were actually sure that his brain was completely damaged. We really didn't believe he was going to recover cognitive function."
Dean made a strangled noise in his throat, and Sam interjected. "But he woke up."
"Yesterday morning," Dr. Spencer confirmed. "It was like a miracle." He looked up from the form. "You list your primary physician as a Dr. Cara Roberts at St. Francis Hardin?"
"Yeah, she's a friend of the family. She's usually really busy with other cases, but she always makes time to see us," Sam lied smoothly. "She's taken care of us really well in the past."
Despite the serious situation, Dean snorted, and made a herculean effort not the add, 'She sure took care of you alright."
Sam shot him a glare, but thankfully the doctor didn't notice it as he continued, "I've heard of her. She has an excellent reputation in medical circles. You're lucky to know her. And your brother is lucky to be under her care."
"Speaking of Jimmy, when can we see him?" Dean asked, unable to tamp down the impatience in his voice.
Dr. Spencer raised a placating hand, still eyeing them suspiciously. "Just as soon as we clarify something; neither of you is listed as Mr. Novak's emergency medical contact. We have an Amelia Novak?"
"Yeah, that's his wife," Dean said, and then added, "Our sister-in-law."
"We've been trying to get in touch with her for two weeks now," Dr. Spencer continued, frowning in what Dean could recognize as frustration at an unnecessary complication with a job. "She's nowhere to be found."
"Uh, yeah, well…Amelia took off," Sam said awkwardly. "From what Jimmy told us, she just couldn't accept his…eccentric behaviour anymore. She left him and took their daughter, Claire, with her. Since then, Jimmy's been a little more…off."
"'Off'?" Dr. Spencer repeated, frowning.
"We thought Amelia could handle it," Sam continued, lowering his voice some. "You know, Jimmy's…condition."
"You mean his schizophrenia," the doctor said, sounding mildly disgruntled.
"Yeah, that," Dean nodded, keeping his face carefully blank. It was always easier to go along with other people's assumptions than making up a story. "He didn't like to talk about it."
"He hasn't been awake very long, but from what we've observed, your brother displays an undifferentiated form of the disorder. Our consultations with the psych department suggest that his condition is compounded by a multi-layered delusion," Dr. Spencer remarked. "How serious was the disorder the last time you saw him?"
"He was fine," Dean said stiffly. "He was talking about going home and starting over."
"Then something must have happened to trigger an episode or a relapse, because when he woke up here yesterday, he was deeply entrenched in a paranoid delusion," the doctor told them. "Angels and demons appear to feature heavily in his mind, and when he isn't sedated, he often talks about the end of the world and the Devil."
"Sedated," Dean repeated, gritting his teeth.
"Did he call himself Castiel?" Sam wanted to know.
"Yes," Dr. Spencer said. "I take it that's a persistent theme in his delusions, then?"
"Yeah, he thinks he's the Angel of Thursday," Dean said, forcing what he hoped to be a weary smile. "Or he'll talk about trying to find God, or skirmishing with demons."
"Our father was really religious, and Jimmy was always kind of impressionable," Sam offered. "I guess it broke him when Amelia left last year. Since then, he kind of disappears for weeks at a time. We never know where he is until he calls us, and by the time we try to find him he's usually moved on."
Thankfully, Sam's halting lie sounded more like a woman who was uncomfortable talking about her personal business with a stranger. Dr. Spencer nodded, thoughtfully. "That makes a little more sense, at least. But it also brings me to my next question – how did you find out that he was here?"
"I got a phone call from him yesterday," Dean growled, remembering with annoyance the sound of a struggle on the other end. "Or at least, an attempted call. Someone wrestled him away from the phone before we could have a chat. Good thing I have caller ID."
Dr. Spencer shifted uncomfortably. "I apologize if that caused you any trouble. When it became apparent that Jimmy wasn't completely lucid, we made the decision to put him under strict observation for at least twenty-four hours. That means no phone calls, as they might upset him. Also, there is the other complication in his case…"
"Which is?" Dean prompted.
"Your brother was found on the rooftop of the Renaissance Center two weeks ago," Dr. Spencer told them, looking expectantly at Sam and Dean as though they could tell him why. "The police are very curious about how a man in your brother's rather weakened condition could get up onto a roof where all the exits were locked down tight. Apparently the security footage was too scrambled to give them much of a clue."
"The Renaissance Center?" Sam repeated. "Isn't that one of the tallest buildings around here?"
"Yes. The incident made the local news," Dr. Spencer remarked, with a catch in his voice like he was judging them for not coming to get Cas quicker. Dean dearly wanted to take a swing at the dude.
"We live in Iowa," Sam lied. "We never would have made the connection between some guy on a roof and Jimmy. Since he started doing his walkabouts, we've just been hoping we weren't going to get a call that he was dead. Now that we know he's not, we can maybe talk him into getting some help."
"I think the time for talk is past," the doctor said severely. "At this point, I would look into a permanent placement in a psychiatric facility. At least until his condition improves."
"Yeah, fine, can we talk about that later?" Dean broke in, finally losing his patience. "We just drove ten hours to get here and all you've done is tell us there's something wrong with him – which we know. Could we see him now, to make sure he's okay?"
Dr. Spencer offered him a searching look, and then nodded. "Yes, of course. I’m sorry, but please understand we need to know as much as possible about him before we can help." He gestured for them to follow him to the elevator. As the doors closed and he pressed the button for the third floor, he continued, "I should warn you, though, he likely won't be able to say much. He's been sedated."
"What?" Dean demanded. "Why the hell did you go and do that?"
"He had another one of his episodes this morning," Dr. Spencer said stiffly. "One of the nurses was injured trying to restrain him."
"Is she okay?" Sam asked, while Dean privately thought it served her right for trying to restrain Cas like he was actually a crazy person.
'Unless whatever happened to him actually made him crazy,' he added to himself, shuddering at the possibility. Although unlikely, the prospect worried him. What were the odds that they would find Cas and he would be perfectly alright?
"She sustained a mild concussion, but is otherwise fine," Dr. Spencer was saying. "Your brother, on the other hand, has been moved out of recovery and into the psych ward for observation."
Dean clenched his fists, remembering the treatment that he and Sam had been subjected to during their brief stay at the mental hospital in Ketchum. If Cas really had been placed in the psych ward, every time he opened his mouth he was going to be treated like some med student's science project, which the angel – or whatever he was now – definitely did not deserve.
Whichever way Dean looked at it, Cas had given him back Sam, and he owed him big for that. Even if he was a little pissed off at how Cas had gone about it. Still, even as they got closer and closer to meeting back up with Cas, Dean couldn't help noticing the pit in his stomach. Part of it was caused by the complete confusion over what the hell he was going to say to the guy that had basically given him everything. Again.
The other part was very conscious of that gnawing feeling of emptiness where Cas's grace used to be. It amazed him that he had never noticed it before, but now that it was gone he felt like he was running on half a tank of gas.
It was something he would definitely be bringing up with Cas once they were out of the hospital, he decided as they left the elevator. They began to walk down a corridor that still had traces of the scent of blood and urine despite the attempts of disinfectant to cover them, and Dean realized that Sam and the doctor were still talking.
"…the police have been trying to communicate with him since we told them he woke up, but he continues to voice his delusions whenever anyone is around. They're trying to get him on a trespassing charge, at most intent to commit larceny."
"But considering the way his mind is obviously affected, why would he have to worry about that?" Sam asked. "There's precedent for an insanity plea in this case."
Dr. Spencer raised an eyebrow. "Are you a lawyer, Ms. Novak?"
"Uh, I was pre-law at Stanford. But, you know…" Sam made a vague gesture. "Family issues got in the way."
Dean sent him a sharp look that Sam didn't see.
"Be that as it may, there's still the question of how he got on that roof, which might put a hitch in that kind of defense," Dr. Spencer continued. "Here we are."
They stopped at a room at the end of the hall, which Dean was glad to see was within a short walking distance of at least two exits, not counting the windows.
As he looked into the room where Cas was lying, Dean had a sudden terrible flashback to the feeble, broken man that had fallen asleep in the back of the Impala the last time they had been to Detroit. His clothes were folded away nearby, and without that ridiculous trench coat of his, he seemed a lot smaller. There were dark circles under his eyes and his lips were cracked and dry. His skin was pale and wavy, and above the starchy hospital blankets, Cas's arms were bruised in places where Dean supposed IV lines had been attached during his temporary coma.
'He's human,' Dean confirmed to himself in one terrifying moment of clarity.
"Does he really need to be tied down like that?" Sam asked from beside Dean, a strained note in his voice that told Dean his brother had realized exactly the same thing about their friend.
"It's for his own good," Dr. Spencer answered. "We don't want him to accidentally hurt himself, or someone else." He gestured for them to follow him, and they crowded into the small room. Cas didn't even acknowledge their presence, content with staring intently out of the window.
Dr. Spencer adopted a casual, comforting voice. "Good afternoon, Jimmy, how are you doing today?"
There was no response from the figure on the bed, though Dean wasn't sure if this was caused by the drugs in his system or general disinterest with the question.
"You have some visitors," Dr. Spencer tried again, nodding for Sam and Dean to get closer. "Your sisters have come to see you."
This got a reaction at least, but not a very comforting one. Castiel glanced over at them, and murmured in a slightly slurred voice. "I have never seen either of these women before in my life. And neither has Jimmy."
Under normal circumstances, the response would have prompted Dean to curse Cas out for blowing their cover, however it made his chest warm to realize it was definitely his friend lying there. At Dr. Spencer's raised eyebrow, however, Dean schooled his face into an approximation of rueful acceptance, and said, "He does that sometimes. Forgets what's real and what isn't. He sometimes forgets he's not really up playing sheriff in Heaven, if you know what I mean?"
Cas's brow furrowed incrementally, and Dean thought he detected a question in the blue eyes that continued to watch him. Good. Maybe they would actually be able to pull this thing off.
"Hey Doc, you think you can give us a minute alone with him? It's just, he never really opened up too much to strangers," Sam said quietly, his voice filled with well-meaning emotion.
"Sure. I'll be down the hall if you need me – I need to let the police know that you're here. They're likely going to have some questions for you."
"Why would they want to talk to us?" Dean asked curtly, even though years of pretending to be some form of officer of the law knew the answer to that. "We don't know why he was taking a snooze on top of a building. We weren't even in town when this happened."
"But they will want a more detailed background on your brother for their report. I'll be able to give them his relevant medical history now that I've spoken to you, but they're going to need something else."
"Right," Dean said, pretending his was mulling that over.
Satisfied that they understood, Dr. Spencer left the room.
As soon as the doctor was out of earshot, Dean turned to Cas. The angel's – former angel's, probably – entire body was tense, or at least as tense as anyone who had been pumped full muscle relaxants could be. His eyes were completely narrowed as he stared them down, and Dean felt a twinge of dismay at the realization that Cas didn't recognize him at all. It was the first time the angel – former angel – had ever looked at him with any measure of distrust.
He was surprised by how much that hurt, but forced himself to work past it.
"Okay, buddy, first off – relax, we're not demons," Dean started in an appeasing tone, tugging down the hem of his t-shirt to show off the anti-possession tattoo that Aggie's genderswitch had thankfully left intact. After a pause, Sam did the same. "I know we don't look it, and I ain't gonna lie – these bodies, seriously messed up situation – but it's me and Sam." Something sparked in Cas, and his eyes flitted to Sam and then back with the barest glimmer of curiosity. "Yeah, Sam's back. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"
Again, Cas said nothing but stared at Dean as though he was trying to figure out a completely complex puzzle. It was close enough to his usual inquisitive gaze that Dean's heart warmed a little more. Drugs or not, it was definitely still Cas in there.
He slunk forward and considered the restraints holding Cas to the hard hospital mattress, while Sam acted as look-out by the door. It was a good thing that Castiel hadn't been assigned a roommate, or their work would be more of a challenge.
Dean sensed Sam leaving the room for a second, and started first on the ties holding down Cas's legs. As he finished with the second one, Sam ducked back in and tossed Dean a bundle of scrubs. "Have him put those on. They'll blend in better than the trench."
"Jesus Christ, Cas, you look like shit," Dean remarked quietly as he worked at unbuckling the fetters. "What the hell did you do?"
Cas looked away without answering, and Dean opened his mouth to ask again, but Sam interrupted him.
"Dude, could you leave the questions until after we get him out of here?" he demanded, glancing surreptitiously around the hallway outside. "We're not going to have much time to pull this off – I'm surprised the doctor actually left us alone with him at all."
"One of the very few perks of these bodies, I guess," Dean said, offering a bitter smile. It was a double standard, he knew, but the fact of the matter was that doctors and police weren't likely to suspect two young women worried about their brother of being anything other than that.
Sam cast a last glance around the hallway, obviously cataloguing potential exits, and then nodded at Dean. "How much time do you need?"
"Fifteen minutes – ten if things go sideways."
"Don't they always?"
Sam snorted and disappeared again, and Dean heard his brother's footsteps disappear down the hall, smirking at the sound of the familiar gait that even spontaneous body switching couldn't change. Sam still walked like a Sasquatch.
He turned back to his task. "Just gimme a sec, Cas, we're going to get you out of here. Sam's just gone to bring the car rou – ghgh!"
As Dean undid the final strap on Cas's arms, the angel suddenly vaulted off of the bed and shoved Dean back, practically throwing him against the wall opposite the bed. His head cracked painfully back, hitting part of the window frame, while Cas's hands suddenly encircled his throat.
Severely weakened or not, Cas's grip was still impressive.
"Cas!" Dean gasped, clutching at the hands choking him and trying to draw air into his lungs. "Calm…down…!"
"You may not be a demon, but you are not Dean Winchester," Cas breathed into Dean's ear, wrath clinging from every syllable despite his impaired speech. "I built his body up from the bones of the earth. I know every vein and ligament – you are not him."
"Stupid…son of a…bitch!" Dean wheezed, his heart speeding response to the sudden possibility of death by strangulation. His sense of self-preservation warred with the knowledge that if he made any noise he would attract the medical staff. "Not…gonna hurt you…here to bust you…out…!"
"That is impossible, as no one knew my whereabouts," Cas growled. "In fact, I should be dead. There's only one being who would have cause to know my location, and Dean is not that person. You work for a demon."
"Then how…would I have known…that stuff…about Heaven?"
"Demons have been known to use both mortal associates and listening spells in the past. The one I speak of could have relayed our past conversations to anyone," Cas intoned coldly, looking Dean up and down. "Obviously the choice in assassin was the wrong one."
"Assass…?" Dean trailed off, beginning to see spots in front of his eyes. Of course it was just his luck that the one time it would have been nice for Cas to be able to pull his angelic thought-reading mojo, the guy didn't have it. "Cas…!"
"You will likely pass out soon. If there is anything regarding your employer you wish to share with me, now would be the time."
'Shit, shit, shit!'
Dean tried to ignore his lungs screaming for oxygen as he cast his mind back to a point in the past where he and Cas had been completely alone, where there would have been no chance for a listening spell. There weren't very many, and most of them occurred within the confines of the Impala due to the angel's tendency to show up unannounced in the backseat. And considering how Crowley had once hid an enchanted coin in the car to get his perverted rocks off on private Winchester conversations, chances were that Cas wouldn't be impressed with that.
As he began to feel light headed, he suddenly remembered something.
"Dun…evechesh," he managed to rasp, wincing at the jumbled, garbled syllables.
"What?" Cas questioned, frowning slightly and tilting his head to one side. Thankfully, he loosened his grip somewhat.
"'Don't ever change'," Dean bit out, sucking down what little extra air that he could. "'s'what I said…to you after…Zachariah…pulled a…Back to the Future…moment." With every word, the grip on his throat lessened incrementally. "Come on, man…you were with me when the…shit went down. You, me, Bobby…"
Cas was now staring straight into his Dean's eyes, expression searching. It was disconcerting that even as a human, the stare was penetrating. Jimmy hadn't even looked at Dean like that, and that was how Dean knew Jimmy was long gone from the body holding him pressed against a hospital wall.
"You molotoved the friggen archangel Michael, remember?" he continued hurriedly, relieved to find Cas was loosening his hold even more. "Called him 'assbutt'? Which, seriously, Cas, been meaning to ask you about that. Is that another one that's funnier in Enochian? 'Cause you've seriously got to work on your trash-talking…"
Several emotions flickered across Cas's face, ranging from disbelief, suspicion, hope and – finally – recognition. He completely removed his hand.
"Dean," he said, still sounding unsure.
"'S'what I've been telling you," Dean said, trying to grin but not quite managing. "Shit, for a guy that's been drugged, you've still got strength. I guess that's the adrenalin kicking in, huh?"
"I apologize," Cas said, looking forlorn. It was strange to see actual emotions on the angel's – ex-angel's – face. "I did not know…this experience has been disorienting."
"And whose fault is that?" Dean grumbled, rubbing his throat. Cas looked away guiltily, and Dean sighed. "Whatever. We'll deal with that later. Right now, you need to get out of the hospital dress so we can get out of here."
He tossed Cas the bundle of neatly folded clothes.
Cas stared at the scrubs in trepidation, as though he didn't know what to do with them, and Dean groaned to himself. Probably Cas had never actually had to worry about changing clothes. In the days leading up to the Apocalypse, he'd pretty much lived in the same slacks and trenchcoat that he had met Dean with in Pontiac, Illinois.
'Well, now isn't the time to figure out just how much Cas remembers about being human,' Dean thought, and made an impatient gesture for Cas to shrug out of his hospital clothes.
He helped Cas strip down with businesslike quickness and practically yanked the scrubs on, trying not to notice that the scar from when Cas carved a banishing sigil into his abdomen in Van Nuys was still there.
Cas broke the silence as Dean helped him into Jimmy Novak's shoes, which he covered with the surgical shoe covers. "And Sam is really…?"
"What, you really couldn't tell that was Sam?" Dean asked lightly as he shoved the clothes that once belonged to Jimmy Novak under Dad's jacket; the leather was bulky enough over his female body that no one would notice the extra bulge. "'Cause he doesn't look any different from before. Maybe longer hair, you know?" At Cas's confused frown, he added, "Joke, Cas."
"It is good to see that your ability to make obscure references that I do not understand has not changed," Cas said stiffly, and Dean couldn't help grin back at him at that.
"I'll second that. Now come on. Head to your right and two doors down you'll see a sign for a stairwell. You're going to pretend to be showing me how to get somewhere."
"Because you're the one dressed like a nurse, dude. People will think you work here."
Cas nodded once, to show that he understood, and started out the door. He wobbled a little unsteadily on his feet, but Dean figured no one would notice if they kept to the stairwell. He wasn't sure if there was security surveillance in the hospital corridors, but in his experience there was usually something.
They made it down the hallway without incident and into the stairwell without notice. Still dazed, Cas tripped a few times going down the stairs, and Dean had to grab hold of him. Apparently his adrenalin rush had long since worn off.
"This new form of yours is disconcerting," Cas remarked the third time this happened, scrutinizing Dean in his usual intense way. Despite having been on the receiving end of the stare countless times, Dean had the absurd impulse to blush. "You are much shorter now."
Dean blinked. "That's what sticks out to you?"
"I am not used to looking down at you."
"Yeah, well, it's temporary. Don't get used to it," Dean groused as they left the stairwell and ended up in the main hallway entrance. Dean cursed, having expected to end up on the other side of the hospital, away from the reception area where he and Sam had been waiting.
At the opposite end of the hall, he noticed two men at the reception area; a tall man with dark hair and eyes that were sharp even in the distance, and a shorter, olive-skinned man with a determined set to his jaw. They were dressed in worn yet professional suits and carried themselves stiffly, as though expecting an attack.
Immediately, Dean's mind jumped to 'cops', and as though they could hear his thoughts, they looked up in his and Cas's direction. Dean's eyes locked with the taller one, and he knew in that instant that they'd run out of time.
"Why doesn't it ever go smooth?" Dean muttered, nudging Cas back down the hall. "C'mon, we've gotta move."
"Hey! Stop right there!" one of the cops shouted, but Dean was already ushering Cas back the way they had come, toward the emergency exit that the hospital signs told him were somewhere.
Hospital staff and visitors ducked aside as Dean dragged Cas through the halls, hoping against hope that Cas wasn't going to fall over. He could hear the shouts from the cops and they had to duck one guy dressed as an orderly who tried to tackle him as they went.
They burst out of the emergency exit to where the ambulances usually waited, and Dean was more than relieved to see a familiar piece of black plastic on wheels pull up in front of them.
The driver's window was rolled down, and Sam ordered, "Get in!"
Dean hauled open the back door and shoved Cas in, before vaulting in as well. He hadn't even managed to get the door closed before Sam was tearing off, the wheels squealing angrily as he did so.
"You good?" he asked Cas, who nodded blearily. It seemed like he was trying to interpret just how his lot had changed within the last quarter of an hour. Dean clapped him on the shoulder and climbed over the console into the passenger seat. Once there, he glanced into the passenger side mirror. "Damn. That wasn't as close as usual, but it was still pretty close. Good thing you stowed the license plate before picking us up, I think those cops got pretty close to us."
"We'll need to stop and put them back soon," Sam remarked as he pulled onto the highway, "but we should be out of the city before our pictures hit the local news."
"Good riddance. If I ever come back here, it'll be too soon."
"Agreed," Sam said, and then grimaced. "If we're lucky, no one will make the connection between us-us and girl-us breaking Jimmy Novak out of a hospital."
"Not unless they ever met Cas," Dean granted. He glanced back at Cas, who looked somewhat more diminished sitting in the back of the Charger in scrubs than he had in the hospital. "Even if they had, everyone thinks you're dead, right?"
"Presumably. I have no idea why I am not."
"Well, we're glad you're not," Sam said, trying to meet Cas's eyes through the rear-view mirror. "Kind of hard to say 'thanks' to a dead angel."
"I am no longer an angel," Castiel murmured neutrally.
"Yeah, we figured that out," Dean deadpanned, and sent a glare over at Cas. "Dude, what the hell were you thinking? I mean, don't get me wrong, jumping for joy that Sam is back – but I never asked you to do that. I would have found a way to get him out without you losing your grace or whatever it was you did."
Sam made a disgruntled noise and a wrinkle appeared in Cas's face. "How did you even know?"
"That's a long story that needs a shit-ton of alcohol," Dean replied, turning around in his seat. Off Sam's sudden opening of his mouth, he continued, "And don't start with me on the liver thing, Sam. Surgeon Barbie and Igor said it would grow back and it probably has by now."
"I was going to say getting a former angel drunk when he's just been in a coma for two weeks probably isn't the best idea," Sam retorted.
"Are you kidding? Best idea ever," he grinned back at Cas, suddenly feeling like their problems had diminished by a huge degree. "You're with me on this one, right, Cas?"
But Cas was staring out the window of the Charger, apparently lost in thought. Dean frowned, opened his mouth to figure out what was wrong, but for the umpteenth time today, Sam cut him off.
"Dude, give him a break. He didn't wake up 'til yesterday. He's probably trying to deal with that."
Dean made a face. "I guess…"
"So do something useful and call Bobby with the good news. I don't want to watch you sulk for the next few hours."
"Then don't. Keep your eyes on the road, bitch," Dean retorted, but he brought his phone out and started dialing the old hunter's number.
He couldn't help that his grin resurfaced as he did so.
At the moment, at least, everything was going right.