Autumn is approaching in nearly imperceptible steps, in misty mornings and clouds and early evenings, and before Dean knows it, September turns into October and the last harvest is done. He doesn’t see much of Lily and Fran until then. Days blur into each other making hay and cutting wheat and bringing baskets full of root vegetables into the cellars of the main house.
While he’s working, his mind has time to wander, and its destination is Cas more often than not. With only the sun on his back and the dark earth around him, there’s nothing to keep the memories away.
He is reluctant at first to let his thoughts drift into the box he had danced around for so long. But after a while he draws up his courage and decides to face it. This might be a chance, and he feels like it might be the last, to face all the things beneath the cracking veneer of the persona he made up forever ago. He’s got to sort out which parts to keep and which to leave behind.
The truth is this.
He has always been one for the love thing. So much so that he built a well of fear and doubt and sarcasm around that longing. And he thought for a long time that that was the right way, the only way to survive and make sure his brother survived. Now, though, he’s not so sure anymore.
Jody, Garth and Donna and now Fran are not afraid to love and be open about it. And they are stronger for it in his opinion. They fear rejection and they know it makes them vulnerable and they open up anyway. It’s one of the bravest things he can imagine.
It’s not that this idea is something new, he always admired the ability to live like this in others. But now he can’t help but ask himself if he is really beyond the point of trying it for himself. Dean wonders if it will be better in the end to take a chance and lose than not taking it and forever ask himself what could have been.
He can’t forget the power in the room when Cas came to him, how in retrospect there had been that special thing between them from the beginning. He’s wasted years to fight it, will it away, push it down, because that’s what he does, because Dean Winchester doesn’t do feelings.
Maybe it’s time that changes too.
He doesn’t see Cas again for weeks, but some nights he wakes up to the sound of rustling feathers. And while he waits to fall asleep again, he prays to Cas to make up his mind.
It’s a crisp November morning when Fran takes the carriage to Bangor to get more supplies. They want to stock up on the ingredients for the grace spell just in case.
She comes back in the evening and finds Dean in the kitchen. He’s scrambling eggs for dinner and invites her to sit down.
A few hairs have escaped from her bun and for the first time, Dean really notices how stunning his friend is. There’s still no spark between them, nothing to pull him closer, but at this moment he almost wishes there was. The nights are getting longer, and he wakes up in the middle of night, craving the nearness of another body like he hasn’t in years.
Fran tucks the loose strands behind her ears and says, “I visited Mr. Bramble and found all the things on our list, and when I paid he stopped me to tell me another customer had come in a few weeks ago to buy cassia. He found it interesting that it would happen with only a few months between the instances when he never heard of anyone needing it before.”
Something dark and heavy settles in Dean’s stomach. He has to clear his throat before he can make himself ask: “Who was it?”
Fran lifts her left eyebrow. He already knows the answer. “Lily.”
“Yes. She summoned an angel on her own.”
They go over to the house together. Lily sits at the table in the living room, a book open and ignored in front of her. She looks up when they enter, and he notices the dark circles around her eyes and the haunted expression that makes her look years older.
She straightens her spine while her eyes flick from Fran to Dean and she finds what she’s been looking for. She knows that they know.
“I couldn’t just let this chance go.” There’s no apology in her tone.
Dean sits down beside her and leans heavily on his forearms on the table, suddenly tired. “I know.”
“He… wasn’t like I imagined them to be. He’s cruel and when I told him to leave…”
“He didn’t.” Dean works hard to keep the accusation out of his voice. He should have seen this coming, he should have known history can’t be changed that easy. He would have given a lot to keep that fear out of Lily’s face. Now he can only try to keep worse from happening.
Fran comes closer and slings her arms around Lily’s shoulders. Dean goes over to the kitchen and comes back with a sharp knife. He cuts deep into his palm and watches the blood well up. Then he draws a sigil on the wall next to the door to the garden.
“If he comes back,” he instructs, “you have to cut your hand and complete this to make him go away.” Lily’s face is blank when he puts the knife into her hand. Fran nods. Their eyes meet over Lily’s head. They will need help for this.
They repeat the spell that first brought Cas to them. They don’t have to wait long this time for the pressure in the room to rise and bring them to their knees. Dean sees Cas taking over Fran’s body and he can pinpoint the exact moment the pilot changes.
Cas speaks up as soon as he straightens from the crouch on the floor and dusts off the dress with careless pats and swipes. “I only found out today,” he admits, and Dean can hear his gruff tone even if the higher cadence of this vessel. Fran’s delicate hands, usually full of life and painting images while she speaks, hang close to the sides of her body. The angle of the chin is Cas’ as is the tilt of the head as he waits for Dean’s answer.
“Yeah, we just heard, too. They must have met for weeks now, and when she told him she doesn’t want to see him anymore, he threatened to take her away from May.”
Cas’ eyes narrow. “I will have someone come down here and guard her while I sort this out.”
“Be careful,” Dean says before he can stop himself.
Cas looks at him as if Dean said something really stupid, but then he nods and takes off.
Akobel arrives an hour later. He’s one of Cas’ most trusted soldiers, he tells them, and Dean hopes that will be enough.
A day goes by, then two.
Ishim doesn’t show up and somehow, as it tends to do, life goes back to normal. Akobel stays close to Lily – she takes him to university and introduces him as a colleague – and after a while, the tension leaves her shoulders and she smiles again.
The knot in Dean’s stomach stays. He worries for Cas and waits anxiously for news from him.
When Dean comes into the library one morning in December, he’s surprised to see Fran talking to a guy he hasn’t seen before. They part as he comes closer. The man, broad-shouldered and handsome, tilts his head slightly in greeting and brushes past Dean to the exit. Dean looks after him for a second and then turns to Fran. He notices that her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are glowing, and asks “who’s that?” with a grin.
She blushes and it’s so adorable Dean promises himself to tease her more often. Fran casts down her gaze and fiddles with a loose thread on her gown. “He’s a new teacher in the faculty for agriculture. He just came here from Poland.”
“And you like him.” It’s not a question. He can see it in the glint in her eyes and her nervous movements.
The corners of her lips tug up into the barest of smiles and she sighs.
“Yes. Yes I do.”
Dean chuckles and tugs her into a tight embrace. She stiffens but then goes liquid in his arms, leans her head against his shoulder and takes a deep breath. “I’m so happy for you,” Dean mumbles into her hair, and he really is, because Fran deserves all the good things. “What’s the name of the luckiest guy on this planet?”
She looks up and a broad grin splits her face.
“His name is Aleksander. Aleksander Novak.”