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I’m giving up the ghost of love

In the shadows cast on devotion”

Ville Valo & Apocalyptica – Bittersweet

 

Most men wouldn’t marry strange women who take home naked strays who crawl half-dead out of a lake, but most men aren’t... him.

 

The first few days after Daphne took him in had been tense and strange, but she had kindly and patiently cared of him. He was overwhelmed by the emptiness in his mind, the complete lack of any memories of his own to hold on to. The world was an unknown new place, full of people he did not recognise. Daphne brought him food and water, helped him change clothes and wash, all without asking for anything in return. She talked to him about everything and nothing, rambling about her day at work and the Church, even when he would not utter a word in return. He finally spoke for the first time when Daphne decided that they needed to choose a name for him.

He did not feel it was necessary to find a new name, yet Daphne insisted that she needed to be able to address him. Somewhere in the depths of his memory, was a name waiting for him to return. It did not seem right to abandon everything about his past without even trying to get it all back. Daphne was so eager to help him though, so kind that he let her continue reading off a list of meaningless names. None of the names she had proposed seemed to fit.

“Emmanuel,” he finally said, pointing out one which seemed appropriate enough. Yet it was not his name.

Daphne’s smile warmed him just a little. She seemed to think they should get married and chattered excitedly about how happy she was, leading a life of devotion to God, purity and helping others. He did not object. She was kind and beautiful and he felt she deserved the happiness she craved so much.

The next Sunday she took him to Church. It brought him contentment, to kneel and pray quietly, for once feeling connected. He silently thanked their Father for Daphne and her selfless commitment to his well-being and asked for her good health in return. He did not tell Daphne of his desperate thirst to retrieve his memory or how he shook with fear and grief, feeling naked before God, not knowing where the raw, powerful feelings had come from.

Then he healed Pastor Mark’s broken hand. It was a strange feeling, as though pulling a burst of light from the core of his being and wrapping it gently around the injury. He did not know how or exactly why he had such ability, but it felt like he was finally doing something right. An enormous weight seemed to lift from the darkness in his mind, shifting the memories still locked far out of his reach.

Daphne claimed they were ‘miracles’ and ‘God’s work’ but he merely saw it as his duty. He did not expect rewards, payment or thanks from the people he helped, but Daphne was not one to turn away a gift. They lived together comfortably, in peace and quiet. People approached them from time to time and he did his best to aid everyone. Daphne was very eager for their wedding, chattering proudly with the other women at the Church, proud of her devout husband-to-be who was humble, quiet and did honest God’s work.

He merely fulfilled his duties as a man of faith and awaited the ceremony with calm acceptance.

He said his prayers each night – voicing his thanks for every single day, while quietly begging for the release from the darkness enveloping him still. There were so many uncertainties, so many missing answers. He was not ungrateful for his new life, but it felt shallow and fragile, waiting to cave in under the slightest push.

The wedding drew nearer and nearer and he had yet to tell Daphne that she was beautiful or that he loved her, like he’d heard married couples should. There was a fear curdling deep in his stomach the more contact Daphne initiated with him, the closer she tried to draw them together. He wasn’t sure where the hesitation came from; she was kind and had a natural, delicate kind of beauty, which should be everything a man could wish for. Yet, why he felt that an invisible barrier separated him from the affection for his future wife, he did not – could not know.

 

They married in June. It was a quiet afternoon and Daphne wore a pure white dress and her hair was decorated with small, delicate flowers. He took her hand and slipped the golden band on her finger carefully. Glowing with happiness and excitement, she bestowed a kiss upon his lips. It was pleasant and after a quiet moment, he relented under the gentle push of her lips, mindful of all the sceptical gazes upon them. He knew that not many favoured their union - he’d heard them say it was too soon, that they didn’t truly know each other yet. He trusted his wife though; she had not misled him even once since the day at the lake, when he had tried to run from her like a wounded and scared animal. She had been kind and patient, never once asking uncomfortable questions about the past he could not remember and always ensuring he was comfortable. It was his time to take care of her and become the husband she wanted. It was the just course of action.

The evening approached fast and he had yet to understand Daphne’s expectations for the wedding night. They were home, away from prying eyes, ready to take the final step to true marriage. He felt ill prepared for the seemingly insurmountable hurdle ahead. His wife was beautiful, but… the heat and the passion he had expected to arise at the thought simply weren’t there. He could hear her heartbeat as loud as his own, erratic and nervous.

He took her hand in his and squeezed gently, leaning in a bit. Trying to find the confidence that had been evading him.

“Thank you for marrying me.”

It was not what he wanted to say and neither what Daphne had expected, judging by the shocked, wide eyes and lost expression on her face. He didn’t want to hurt her, but this… was not how their first night together should be. He was confused and scared – his hands were shaking when he turned to retreat to the safety of his room.

“Sleep well.” He left before Daphne could react.

 

He woke up feeling numb. He had wanted to fulfill his duty as Daphne’s husband, but fled at the last minute. His thoughts were disjointed and blurry, as though something was trying to push through to the surface of his hazy memory. Suddenly he remembered: the clinking of beer bottles, the feeling of the coolness under his fingers, a brush of someone else’s hand against his own. A little jolt of excitement travelled through his body at this. He reached out for the fading memory, cradling it close to his heart. It felt like the only thing in the world to be truly his own. The most precious memory.

When Daphne returned home from work, he had a perfectly cooled beer bottle ready, extended in hand with a gentle, welcoming smile. She did not return it, instead grasping the bottle out of his hand with disgust painted across her features.

“What’s this?”

He didn’t understand. Confused, he looked to her for help.

“I thought you would be tired after work. I thought this would help you relax,” he suddenly realised that, no, Daphne had never requested a beer when getting home. His picture of the world seemed  jagged around the edges somehow, like nothing fit together anymore. It hurt to look when Daphne poured the drink he’d prepared for her down the sink drain, frowning at him. Later, he buried the bottles in the backyard. He was not sure why, and the puzzled look his wife gave him did nothing to lift the anxiety settling over him in cruel waves. She didn’t comment on it, but he knew she did not approve, he could see it in her usually bright eyes, now dulled with incomprehension.

Once again, he fled to his bed alone, feeling overwhelmed. He could hear Daphne shuffling around in the hallway, but locked his door to prevent her from coming in. She was his wife, the gentle and kind Daphne with a warm smile, so why did he feel like he was hiding from a stranger?

 

The days seemed so blurred together. Memories of people he could not remember, places he had never been to, kept on flickering in his mind. Even the face looking back at him from the bathroom mirror felt like a borrowed, fake image in place for something greater, something long lost.

“Cas, personal space,” he thought he heard, so closely he could feel the warmth of someone’s breath on his cold, wet cheeks. Sometimes, he glimpsed an image of brightness, eternal and unfaltering, trapped in shackles made of all-consuming flame. His right hand burned then, once even making him drop one of Daphne’s expensive, delicate cups. He cut himself picking up the pieces.

Those memories were so fleeting, always vanishing too quickly for him to grasp. The only constant in his days was Daphne’s presence and her careful manoeuvring around him, as though she did not know how to act around him. It hurt – she was his wife, the one he loved and yet he could not place her as such within his thoughts. There was nothing else he could do but try to reach out to her, the only thing he knew in this new, scary world.

 

On the ride home from Church on Sunday, he felt… unsettled. Like something was rattling the delicate cage of his memories. It was an itch he couldn’t help but scratch. His flashbacks scared Daphne. She wished him to leave that old life behind, caressing his cheek gently. There were many things to look forward to in their shared future, she said, but he could not see it. She spoke to Emmanuel about faith and God’s support with a hopeful smile, when he found himself hearing a fragment of a song with heavy guitars and drums.

It’s AC/DC, man.”  It was man’s voice, washing over him like the first sip of hot chocolate. For a second, he felt his chest constrict painfully in longing. He changed the radio station, almost automatically. The car came to a screeching halt and Daphne stared at him in shock.

“What are you doing?” she demanded at once, her hand already moving to turn the hard rock music off.

“I think this is the sort of music you listen to when you drive,” he said, not sure why. Suddenly the painful, beautiful feeling was gone and he couldn’t remember ever hearing the harsh music before.

“We’re not listening to the radio anymore,” Daphne announced, turning it off altogether with a shaky push of her hand. He ignored the clenching feeling in the pit of his stomach when the sounds of electric guitars were abruptly cut off. Daphne gave him a long, worried look, searching for something in him desperately. Something he was not sure had ever truly been there.

She smiled at him and without meaning to, he glimpsed the emotions radiating off her. It was another one of his mysterious Gifts of God, as the pastor had called them. She was worried and wished to protect him. There was also a possessive, pulling feeling which made him reel back from her mind as if burned. When she asked what was wrong, he merely smiled.

We fake a smile and we carry on, we survive, and we don’t give up,” he remembers someone saying.

 

In the next month, Daphne tried to get closer to him. Little touches and kisses, standing closer than usual. He had not shied away, in vain hopes to placate her need for contact, but when she dragged him to talk to Pastor Mark about consummating their marriage, he honestly wanted to turn away and run. It was not due to the embarrassment of exposing their unstable relationship to an outsider, but to the insidious, growing fear within him. He did not know if he wanted to go any further with Daphne. The Pastor tried to ease his worries of underperformance and when they arrived at home, he dived into the pamphlets on married life in the eyes of God. He’d suggested they should get to know each other more intimately without ‘going all the way’. Daphne had scoffed, which confused him even more. He wanted to be closer to her, to feel safe and wanted in her embrace and to sink into bed with her, unburdened by his anxieties. He did not press the issue, though it felt like the distance between them had grown from a gap to a vast expanse instead of bringing them together.

He did not remember feeling so curious or interested in anything since he crawled out of the lake, drenched in blood and mud. He read through all of the leaflets within mere minutes, hoping to find an answer to the uncertainty eating away at him. None of it seemed familiar and he felt the knots in his stomach tighten viciously.

“I think I’m a virgin,” he managed to grind out after a long moment of expectant silence from Daphne. It made no sense, he could not remember ever being with a woman, but there was a fleeting memory of wholeness and passion. He could almost feel rough fingers mapping his flesh with reverence.

He didn’t meet Daphne’s eyes when she gave him a reassuring smile.

 

That night, Daphne guided him to her bed before he could flee again. She did not put pressure on him and settled for rubbing, rutting and little caresses with their clothes still on. Her body was welcoming and warm, full of delicately soft curves. He pressed into her, inhaling the scent of her skin. A whisper of his name was enough to break his careful concentration. He tried moving against the warm spot of her sex, willing his own body to respond. Daphne was not unattractive and her body was pliant under his touch. So why couldn’t he get hard at the thought of possible intercourse?

He could not open his eyes, knowing her devastated expression would be the first to greet his vision. He felt her suddenly still beneath him, resigned to frustration. She pushed him off, a bit harshly. 

“Go back to the spare room,” she said with annoyance and the last shreds of pride slithered away from him at her words. “We’ll try again tomorrow.”

She was angry and humiliated, it was obvious from the redness of her turned down face.

He somehow knew this was not something his ‘miraculous’ power could heal. Letting his shoulders drop in defeat, he whispered a strained goodnight to his wife before quietly seeking refuge in the seclusion of his room.

 

The failure of the previous night had not been washed off with a few hours of blissful ignorance in sleep. He felt strained and stretched to the limit, unable to move forward. Daphne’s deflated gaze followed him around like a ghost the entire morning, making him feel ill. When they finally separated for the remainder of the day, he collapsed on the couch, burying his face in his hands. He felt so lost and empty. The memories of the last few months were not enough to fill the gaping hole left in his heart. He’d thought he could be happy if he made the woman who saved him happy. He thought he could be redeemed through this. He had been so wrong.

Nothing in his mind fitted together anymore. The memories with jagged edges were slowly making a sharp crack in his new life, threatening to flood over and ruin everything. He had tried so hard to make Daphne’s dream marriage come true, but he did not know if he could do so any longer. Sleep sneaked up on him swiftly and he greeted it eagerly, wishing to just forget for a couple of hours. When he awoke again, he knew what he had to do.

Cooking had never been his forte, but he was a quick learner and the recipe was not that difficult. His hands appeared to remember it well enough, familiar with the motions he could not recall consciously. Extra cinnamon, he knew just how to make it. When Daphne arrived, the lovely scent had filled the house and was escaping out of the kitchen window. It smelled delicious, he thought with a smile on his face. It was perfect.

When Daphne returned, he was just cleaning up the flour off the counter.

“Emmanuel?” The name felt like a sharp blow, deflating his eagerness at once. “What are you cooking?”

Daphne entered the kitchen, her face scrunched up oddly. She seemed out of place, he thought, his mind reeling. This was not how it was supposed to be. It wasn’t right.

“Apple pie,” he announced with a smile sneaking onto his lips. “It’s your favourite.”

Daphne covered her mouth with her hand, eyes narrowing. He felt his heart drop heavy as lead.

“I hate apple pie. I hate anything with cinnamon in it.”

He took a step back, feeling so separated from her reality; it was like watching the actions unfold automatically on a film.

“No. You must.” He felt his throat constrict, suddenly dry. “I know the person I love likes apple pie. I love you, don’t I?”

The words felt so foreign on his tongue; toxic and twisting his insides uncomfortably. The deafening silence in the wake of Daphne’s lack of response was like a hurricane just waiting to strike. He felt so small, ready to crumble under the force of it. He looked to her for any support, but the kind, selfless woman who helped him out of the lake was gone, closed off behind a cold wall. He could see the thoughts swirling behind her eyes – the loss, the disappointment. He reached out for her uncertainly, but she was already running up the stairs, too distraught to face him.

He stood there in silence for what seemed like a small eternity, letting the lonely silence gently rip him apart.

 

 After he finally regained some control of himself, wiping half-dried tears from his face, he’d slouched in the couch, comforted by the darkness of the living room and the scent of cinnamon and freshly baked pie. It felt a little like home.

When Daphne left for work the next morning, it came as a wave of relief to him. He did not know how to face her. She was not who he had thought she was. So many mistakes had been made, layered one on top of the other… there was no way of fixing it all so easily. He slipped the wedding band off his finger, placing it on the mantelpiece. It was meaningless. They never consummated the marriage and now, he was surer than ever that he did not want to. He had felt obliged to try, for Daphne… but it just brought pain to them both.

He could still hear Daphne walking down the steps outside, talking to someone. A man. There was an inexplicable surge of hope in him, like a great fire had been lit in the darkness of his soul. He rushed to the door, opening it just as the stranger was about to knock.

Cas?”

The green-eyed man stared at him with wide eyes. As if he’d seen a ghost.

The stranger was taller than him, dressed in loose jeans and a black jacket. His skin was healthily tan, as on someone who spent a lot of time outside. He had a bit of stubble, short hair… and was now on the verge of tears, blinking them back quickly when his lips stretched, showing the most breathtaking smile he had ever seen. All words of denial escaped him at once and he could feel himself smiling back too.

“Cas.” The man hugged him with so much force he was almost knocked back. He threw both arms around him, squeezing tightly. “Oh, fuck, Cas, I knew you couldn’t be dead,” the man choked out the broken words into his shoulders, shuddering with deep breaths of relief.

He didn’t know what to do, under such an intense… attack. His whole body hummed with pleasure in the embrace, fitting right up against the stranger like it belonged there. This man knew him.

He felt heat rise low in his belly, uncoiling something long forgotten. He trembled, closing his eyes as the overwhelming emotions washed over his body.

The not-stranger finally let him go and stood back a step. He sagged where he stood, forgetting how to control his whole body for a moment. He wanted to say something, but any words he knew seemed painfully inadequate, unworthy of the situation. There must have been something the not-stranger gathered from his desperate gaze though, because he stepped up closer again. Their faces were almost touching and he studied his eyes with such love, devotion, determination... that he had never seen the likes of in Daphne. Had she really loved him at all? His body shook vulnerably when the idea sank in and oddly fit somewhere among the jagged pieces of his memory. 

“Cas, are you…?” The not-stranger asked, voice full of concern, as he grabbed him by the shoulders, pushing him back into the house. The door clicked shut behind them. He looked at the man, lost and confused, begging for an anchor to help him make sense of the warped, sick reality around him.

“You don’t remember.” The man pulled him close again, but there was a different air around him now. There was warmth and safety. Cautiously, he returned the embrace, putting his hands on the man’s hips. He looked up, worried and scared, but saw only that devastatingly handsome smile, full of fondness.

“Well, someone at least remembers me,” the man smirked, grinding up against Cas’ erection eagerly. 

Cas suddenly felt short of air, hot and trapped, involuntarily melting against the not-stranger as a wave of desire washed over him like a flash flood. It was exactly what he had wanted, the pressure, and the hardness – a complete opposite of Daphne’s subtle, submissive advances. He’d stop for explanations if he wasn’t so desperately turned on. The frustrations of the dragged-out weeks of his failed marriage seeped away under the first touch of the man’s hand on his bare skin, sneaking under his untucked shirt.

His body could still remember this touch; the burning sensations coursing through his veins… it gave in so easily, under the slightest push from the other man. Even the scent around him, faintly reminiscent of leather, gunpowder and cheap alcohol was comforting, and he breathed it in like the calming aroma of exotic herbs, revelling in the delicious, safe familiarity. He wanted to close his eyes and fall back into the strong arms holding him, let someone else take control of his hectic, messy life for a change. But he couldn’t even blink, afraid the delicious illusion around him would break and leave him cold, alone and confused again, just like when he had crawled pathetically out of the lake on all fours, covered in mud, blood and black liquid he could not recognise. As though attuned to his thoughts, the green eyed man nudged his cheek with his nose, running a hand sneakily into his hair. All other thought was banished in an instant.

Their lips met then, sliding along each other smoothly. The not-stranger didn’t push and did not demand, instead inviting him to cautiously re-discover the soft, pliant crevice of his mouth. His hands slid along the man’s torso and hips hesitantly, trying to remember where to get a grip. His explored and tasted desperately, tangling their tongues together as they slipped over and under, trailing along the teeth for a moment… until he had to stop for breath. Shuddering, he drew back. Sure that his pupils were blown wide and his cheeks flushed, he looked away in a sudden rush of embarrassment. His heart was beating faster than he could remember it ever before, thudding loudly in his ears. It was too much, he thought.

“Cas, look at me,” the not-stranger commanded, his voice soft yet commanding. A finger trailed along his cheek, before capturing his chin and turning his face around. The man’s green eyes were so close he could count each of his eyelashes. All the unpleasant thoughts buzzing in his mind busily, full of panic and concern melted away at once, leaving Cas’ mind comfortably filled with fantasies of heat and slicked, sweaty flesh.

“That’s right Cas, I’ll make you remember,” the not-stranger whispered in his ear, his voice at once rough and impatient. There was a dangerous edge in it, a piercing need which shot straight through Cas.

Please,” he begged brokenly. His face was flushed, eyes closed, but he could still feel the hungry gaze roaming all over his body. He was then unexpectedly shoved forward and into the living room, where he stumbled in shock. The other man merely ripped off his jacket and shirt in a practiced, swift movement and advanced on Cas in purposeful, long strides. He tried to take in the image, appreciate the man’s well toned body, strong arms and the odd hand print scar on his shoulder…

“Strip,” the man ordered; his voice was even lower now. “Want you. Now.”

Cas shuddered in pleasure under the intense gaze and rushed to comply, fumbling with his buttons clumsily.

“Hurry up and mojo them away,” the man demanded impatiently, shrugging off his own jeans and pants at once. He was standing proudly, naked in front of Cas, unashamed. His erection was leaking prominently, eager for more action. Cas’ breath hitched and his eyes were wide as he stared at the exposed, gorgeous man in front of him.

“What..?” he said distractedly after a moment, barely coherent though the cloud of lust in his mind.

“You’re a bloody Angel, Cas. Clothes, off.”

He was not sure what an Angel was, but he had to trust that voice – he could remember now, hearing the man call out to him in his dreams, praying, crying and begging him to come back. Saying it was alright, that he could forgive Cas everything, even unleashing the Leviathan and leaving him all alone… if only Cas would return home. But his breath caught when he looked up to meet the man’s hungry, longing gaze. There was no time to put those uncoordinated, messy memories into place. He felt a small tug at the well of the power within him and his clothes fell to the floor next to them with a rustle, leaving him exposed in the cool air. He was panting already, coiled up with anticipation.

“On the floor, Cas,” the man ordered. It sounded stern, but there was no malice behind it and the low, demanding tonewent straight to the Angel’s cock, making it twitch impatiently. “Got lube anywhere?”

Cas shook his head, trembling slightly on his knees. “Just…do it,” he willed his Grace to slick him up, just like so many times before… Grace? Somehow the memories swirling in his head had started slowly clicking into place, he could remember Heaven, watching over Humanity…

“Damn, you’re tight,” the man grunted when his finger circled the entrance of Cas’s ass, eventually pushing in. This snapped the Angel away from the mismatched memories and he shuddered, trying to relax. He trusted this man, whoever he was exactly.  A second finger slipped into him, stretching the muscle impatiently. That was all the other man was willing to wait, because he pulled them out of Cas somewhat sharply, causing him to hiss and shift. He did not move though, fingers digging into the rug so hard his knuckles were white.

Finally the slick, hot cock pushed into him, filling and stretching him. The burn was delicious, not too painful, but enough to send shivers down his spine. A hand grasped his shoulder and then the other man was slamming all the way in, causing him to gasp and try to jerk away, but the strong arms were keeping him firmly in place. The hardness within him retreated quickly and then hit him again, deep and rough.

“You got married?” the man asked, distaste and anger clear in his voice. “You forgot me so quickly?” It almost sounded soft. “Forgot my cock?” he slammed in deep again, drawing a startled, uninhibited moan from Cas. “She could never do this to you, Cas. She couldn’t make you come like I do. I had no idea I was going to find you here; I thought I’d lost you. You’re the best surprise ever, Cas. Fuck, and you’re so tight for me.”

The unsaid words of affection were swimming just under the surface, Cas could tell from the man’s tone. The warmth that spread through him was nothing physical just then. His Grace was swelling up, soaking up their energy. He remembered.

“Dean,” he moaned and with that one name, the hunter’s grasp on his shoulder tightened and he slammed his cock all the way in, almost violently.

“Yeah, you remember me now I’ve fucked it back into you,” Dean murmured and Castiel bucked up against him as a fresh jolt of arousal shot through him at the words. The hunter picked up the pace then, the time for talking was over. He pushed deeper and deeper into Cas, biting the skin of his shoulders and neck roughly, drawing uncontrolled moans from his lover. They were close now; the Angel’s legs were trembling under their weight and he breathed in sharply, tension in his body building up quickly. With a few tight strokes which Dean bestowed upon him, he was coming, unravelling under Dean’s thrust with abandon.

Tears prickled in his eyes from the overwhelming clash of emotions and he let forth one last long moan of relief when his cock pumped out the last few drops of come onto the rug on the floor.

“Shh, I’ve got you, Angel,” Dean reassured him and Cas dropped to his forearms, letting his entire body go slack within the hunter’s firm hold.

He’d been claimed so thoroughly, he’d smell of Dean later and carry his marks all over his body. Dean would not allow him to forget who he belonged to again.  

“I haven’t finished with you yet,” the hunter teased, drawing a lazy, fucked-out smile from Castiel as he drew back, freeing his cock for a moment. He was still aching for release, but he turned the Angel over slowly first, picking his slack body up. Within his hold, Castiel relaxed completely, riding the afterglow of the most powerful orgasm he’d had in a long time. He felt safe within Dean’s embrace and finally, everything was falling back into places, jagged edges of his memories locking together to form a smooth surface once more.

“Dean,” he breathed, taking in the sight of his Human, the one and only Righteous Man, face flushed and focused, anticipating more. The hunter did not reply immediately, instead dropping Cas back onto his cock carefully.

“Much better, now I can see you,” Dean murmured in a pleased tone, burying his face in Castiel’s shoulder for a moment, breathing heavily. Within a few moments, Cas felt comfortable enough to move his legs to wrap them around Dean tightly, glad to release the stress from his upper body which had been holding their weight up before. He was so full, stretched to the limit and it felt just right.

He was gasping for breath again, mouth open slightly, unable to stop the moans from escaping his throat when Dean started to move again, thrusting up into him from below, somehow pushing the pressure inside of Cas even higher and higher. Already he could feel his cock beginning to harden again, brushing against the naked skin of Dean’s chest whenever they rocked up and down, pressing even closer together. He wanted to move his hips, push forward to get more friction, but Dean held his hips down firmly in place as he thrust up. He didn’t want to rush, thankful for the hunter’s strong hold. His body was eager for more, but this time they could go slow, it was about safety and the feel of each other’s presence after such a long time apart. The gentle burn of the pleasure resonating between them was building up gradually and Cas lifted his head, leaning back a bit with a low moan. Eyes barely open, he let his vision roam all over Dean lazily. Then something caught his attention, paralyzing him in place. Daphne.

Dean turned to see what had caught his attention. He was swearing, saying something, but Castiel merely let himself be manoeuvred aside in silence. Now he could remember everything, he did not feel as though he owed the woman anything. She had taken care of him, but it was not out of selfless devotion to helping people. She had twisted the situation to suit her own purposes and tried to hide him from his past, to keep him for her own. It was not her place. He belonged with Dean. The only human he’d ever wanted to be with, that he had sacrificed everything for. Daphne had tried to erase it all and replace him with an obedient, pliant man she could show off and use to achieve her dreams. He did not begrudge her; he… did not feel much towards her at all.

“This is Dean,” he finally said. He did not know why, he did not owe her an explanation. “And I’m not Emmanuel, I’m Castiel.” The name tasted familiar on his tongue and he felt that it belonged to him.

“Dean calls me Cas,” he smiled a little at the hunter, remembering the first time he had heard the nickname. Dean was saying something to Daphne, but Castiel was preoccupied with watching his human with renewed interest. Flushed, angry… and still hard. He was all Cas’, body and soul.

“Cas is coming with me,” Dean announced, staring down the frightened woman, as though barely holding back. His hands were clenched into fists, but he was breathing in deeply and turned to Castiel, asking the silent question. The Angel was content not to speak to Daphne again, but even after everything, he did not wish to physically punish her. She had thought herself a humble, selfless servant of God, but was misguided by her own desires – just as he once had. He walked around the room, collecting their scattered clothes. When they were finally dressed, he turned to the woman who had made herself his wife and handed the wedding ring over to her. It was the only goodbye he would give her, locking their eyes for a brief, painful moment. Daphne looked shocked, speechless and on the verge of tears, but Castiel found himself without sympathy for her. He felt used and tainted by her touch. It would be better for her to forget him, leaving no evidence of their twisted relationship behind.

“Let her remember,” Dean said when he saw Castiel’s hand rise, with a knowing look on his face. The Angel understood. His human wanted the woman punished for her transgression, for trying to keep them apart. It was not unjust, though he would have been content to ‘pretend it never happened’.

Dean took his hand, entwining their fingers tightly together. They walked to the Impala without once looking back, and the hunter pulled something out of the car’s trunk. A rumpled pile of dusty, sand- coloured material. His coat.

“Thank you, Dean,” Castiel said when Dean slipped it around his shoulders.

A wide smile stretched his lips. He could finally remember what coming home felt like.