The thing about Heaven was that it was whatever you wanted it to be, and most of its residents wanted it to be familiar.
Technically, Dean didn’t need to fill his car up on gas anymore, but there was still a gas station just down the street from where his new home was placed. He didn’t need to sleep, but he still had a large king-sized bed he made sure to make use of at least once a day. He didn’t need to eat, but there was a thriving supermarket that catered to whatever he was feeling like eating and always boasted the freshest ingredients for when he wanted to get a little fancy with his cooking.
Like today, for example.
Bobby had said he doubted Dean could make a proper souffle, so obviously Dean had to make the old man eat his words - and a souffle.
Dean stared at all of the different options of eggs, trying to decide if “free-range” vs. “organic” actually meant anything in Heaven, or if it was just meant to give him some sort of familiarity.
He grabbed the “free-range” option and moved on to the dairy section.
There was movement out of the corner of his eye in the meat section across the way, and the way his heart stopped in his chest when he turned to look would have killed him if he wasn’t already dead.
It was Cas.
Cas, who Dean had spent every day thinking about since he’d left. Cas, who Dean had been trying to find ever since Bobby told him he was still around. Cas, who Dean still had unfinished business with.
He’d spend hours in bed, staring at the ceiling of his room and rehearsing just what he’d say when he saw him again, but in those scenarios Cas had shown up on his doorstep or in the passenger seat of his car where they could have a moment to just be .
He’d never been buying hamburger meat.
Dean rushed forward, cart forgotten, and skidded to a halt in front of Cas, just as he looked up in surprise.
“I love you -” Dean said in a rush, heart pounding, head reeling, “Of course I love you. You’re - fuck - you’re everything I could ever want and I’m - I’m so damn sorry if I made you feel like you couldn’t have me, too.”
Cas blinked at him, and it was in that moment Dean realized something was wrong.
His expression, his hair, the way he moved, the way he was dressed - all of it was wrong.
None of it was Cas, he’d just been too overwhelmed to see it.
“Oh, uh... hey Dean,” Not-Cas said, and finished putting his selected meat in his basket, “I didn’t didn’t know that you died. Um, if you’re looking for Castiel -“
Dean turned and ran out of the store.
What were the fucking chances that in all of Heaven, he and Cas’s old vessel were neighbors?
Dean gunned the gas pedal on his car as he drove endlessly, trying to walk himself through what exactly had happened the day before.
Jimmy Novak was here.
Jimmy Novak who - last Dean checked - hated him.
Dean had just spewed his feelings all over him without even thinking about the possibility that he wasn’t Cas. He’d been wearing a sweater vest for crying out loud - but he was willing to forgive himself for that one because he didn’t really know how Cas would dress if he had the choice.
His hopes had soared so high when he’d seen the familiar figure, only to be dashed the moment Jimmy had opened his mouth. They sounded absolutely nothing alike - and Dean yearned for the deep gravel of Castiel’s greeting.
Dean’s grip on the wheel tightened.
Where was Cas?
Didn’t he know that there was nothing keeping them apart now?
In what could only be an act of fate smiling down on him, Dean zoomed around a corner near the Heavenly library, and instantly had to stomp on the brakes of the Impala as a trenchcoat-clad figure stepped into the previously empty crosswalk.
Old habits die hard - Dean was still going to brake for Heavenly pedestrians, especially ones that looked like Cas.
Cas turned to look at him, eyes wide, and Dean shoved the driver’s side door open in a panic. The trenchcoat was unmistakable this time.
“Cas! Cas - don’t go okay? I gotta -“
Cas shook his head sharply and let out a breath.
“No - Jesus Christ - it’s still me, you idiot.”
Dean gaped at him as his brain tried to catch up with the conflicting bits of information it was processing.
“...what?” He heard himself saying.
Had he just wanted it to be Cas so bad that he’d ignored all the signs?
Jimmy gestured at himself like it was enough of an explanation.
“Uh. Yeah .”
“But - but you’re wearing his trenchcoat! ” Dean said, waved at it like maybe Jimmy hadn’t realized he was walking around as the mockery of the angel who’d once shared a living space with him.
Jimmy placed an affronted hand on his own chest.
“It was my trenchcoat!”
Frustration boiled inside of him and Dean quickly slid back into the car and slammed the door shut behind him.
He sped off, once again running from what could have been.
Dean was sulking under a pile of blankets in his bed when there was a knock at his door.
He ignored it.
After a few moments of silence, the knocking came again, louder and more insistent this time.
Grumbling to himself, Dean threw the blankets off and trudged down the stairs, flinging open the door with a scowl.
A person with nearly combed hair was standing on the doorstep holding a six-pack of beer in one hand and had a sticker on his shirt that said, ‘Hello, my name is Jimmy’.
“Very funny.” Dean said flatly.
“It’s not funny. It’s just in case you try to kiss me or something.” Jimmy held up the six-pack expectantly. “Can I come in?”
Dean didn’t appreciate the ribbing, but he didn’t mind the beer.
And after accosting him twice he might as well let the guy do what he wanted.
“Yeah, whatever.” Dean grumbled and left the door open as he walked back inside and flopped onto his couch. “Why are you here? Don’t you hate me?”
Jimmy hummed as he set the beer down on the coffee table and took a seat opposite Dean.
“I don’t not hate you.” He said with a shrug. “But last time we talked you were trying to convince me to chain myself to a comet again and I can’t say I appreciated it.”
Dean grunted in acknowledgment.
“I’ve been in heaven for a while now. It’s nice here. I take a yoga class with my wife.” Jimmy smiled at him. “I think I’m in a much better mental space now to consider liking you, especially if we’re going to be neighbors.”
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to like Jimmy, it was just… that was Cas’s face. It wasn’t , but it was. Was he really going to have to be constantly taunted with it?
“Look man - I’m sorry about - you know. That.” Dean waved a hand in the air generally. “But you don’t have to do all this. I’ll stop harassing you.”
“That would be nice,” Jimmy said, opening one of the cans and taking a swig, “So, considering the things you’ve said to me, I take it he finally told you he loved you?”
Dean paused, still raw every time he thought about it.
“That angel’s love for you permeated both of our beings so potently I’m amazed I don’t love you.” Jimmy said, like it was the kind of fact you could drop casually. “Though even I will admit, as a happily married heterosexual man, that having a man as handsome as you proclaim your love to me in the middle of a grocery store was very exciting.”
Dean dropped his head into his hands and groaned loudly.
“Don’t beat yourself up over it,” Jimmy said, “That first one was pretty good. I’m sure he’s going to love it.”
“He’s never gonna hear it.” Dean muttered.
“Sure he will. You’ve already practiced it twice.”
“I can’t find him!” Dean said, and looked back up, “He’s here somewhere, and I can’t find him. It’s killing me.”
Jimmy held out a beer can.
“Good thing you’re already dead.”
Begrudgingly, Dean accepted the beer and opened it.
“I just. . . I just wanna see him again.” Dean took a long drink. “I want to talk to him. Tell him everything. Share everything. If he wants that.”
Dean let out a long breath, expecting Jimmy to interject with a quip.
He looked over at him when nothing happened, and Jimmy was smiling at him in a way that Dean could only describe as ‘fond’.
“What?” Dean said, indignantly.
“Nothing.” Jimmy said innocently. “You’re just not what I expected.”
Dean looked away.
“Anyway, you asked why I’m here,” Jimmy took another drink, “I’ve seen Castiel.”
“ What?” Dean jumped to his feet, beer can dropped to the floor and forgotten about. “Why didn’t you lead with that?”
“I’m an enigma,” Jimmy shrugged a shoulder and leaned back against the plush chair, “Anyway, I wanted to let you know as someone who has literally been in Castiel’s head - I'm pretty sure I know the reason he’s not showing himself to you.”
“Well, fucking spill .”
“ Why do you love him?”
Of all the things Dean had been expecting Jimmy to say - this wasn’t it.
Dean sat back down.
“Why?” He asked, a little breathless. “Why does it matter?”
Jimmy shrugged again.
“I guess -” Dean said, trying to unspool his emotions from the knot they’d made in his heart, “He’s - he’s Cas. He cares . . . so much about everyone and - and he’s selfless and kind and he fucking saved me in more ways than just one. He’s always been there for me and Sam and he’s just… he’s just. He’s just good . I’ll never deserve him, but I want to try.”
Dean sucked in a deep breath.
“He pulls me away from the edge, man. I just love him.”
Jimmy nodded once, set down his beer can, and in a bizarre turn of events, began yelling at Dean’s ceiling.
“ Did you hear that, Castiel? Not one goddamn thing about how you look! Nothing about me or my vessel!”
Dean stared, dumbfounded.
“ He doesn’t care what you look like! Can you please just come talk to him so I can stop playing marriage counselor for you two?”
Care how he - what?
What was happening?
Before Dean could fully compile all of the new information, there was a knock at the front door.
Dean whipped his head towards Jimmy, who was smiling in satisfaction.
Nearly tripping over himself, Dean rushed to the door faster than he’d rushed towards anything in his life, and swung it open.
In front of him was the wavelength of celestial intent that Dean had always known existed inside of the vessel of Jimmy Novak - the glint of angelic creation he’d caught glimpses of in the glow of his eyes and in his healing touch. The being was massive and stretched high into the sky with what was (maybe three? four??) pairs of wings scraping the clouds even further above everything. He was flaming rings and rotating divine faces that Dean could barely comprehend - he was raw power and all-knowing eyes.
On the front of his form was a sticker that read,‘Hello, my name is Castiel’.
“. . . Hello Dean.” The voice rumbled through the air like thunder.
“Cas?” Dean said, his voice barely above a whisper.
“I - yes. I’m sorry. I lost my vessel to the Empty - this was the only way -”
“I love you, too.”
The rotating faces on the form towering above him froze in place.
“I do! I love you, Cas. Okay? You didn’t let me say it back before - and if I’ve ever made you feel like I couldn’t love you back, I’m so fucking sorry. You deserve better.”
“. . . you love me?”
Dean nodded, his heart clenching at the disbelief he could hear in Cas’s voice.
“Even as this?”
“You’ve always been this.” Dean swallowed. “I fell in love with the angel, not the vessel.”
“Dean. . .”
Dean smiled up at him in understanding.
“Just a shame that we’ll have to get a bigger house.”
“Oh I can -”
And as Dean looked on, Castiel began to shrink. The form didn’t change - he was still as striking as he’d been the first time with his wings and halos and faces still firmly in place - but he was now maybe one foot taller than Dean instead of one hundred.
“- make myself more manageable.”
Dean grinned and took a step forward, giddy and thrilled that this was finally, actually happening.
He reached up, resting a hand on one of the divine faces.
“Bite-sized.” He murmured fondly.
Jimmy’s voice cut through the moment from somewhere behind them.
“Just so you two know - I. Am. Moving!”