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[personal profile] daymarket
Title: I, Castiel

Author: [livejournal.com profile] daymarket  

Pairing: Dean/Cas

Rating: PG-13

Notes: AU robot!fic. Finally completed! *dance of manic joy*

Summary: Dean takes his first steps into the 22nd century with Castiel, his very own programmable robot. He finds himself instead trying to deal with what it means to be human while teaching a stiff, contrary bot the basics of life.

Chapter Five


x

“Dude, it’s four in the afternoon,” Ash noted as Dean walked into the staff room. “Isn’t this supposed to be your day off or something? Bobby’s out today, and if we’re going to judge by your binge last night you’ve clearly taken full advantage of the fact.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Ellen’s got a big mouth.”

“Hey, don’t hate on the Harvelle. She’s just watching out for you, man. Who’s that?” Ash glanced at Cas as the bot followed Dean into the room, his eyes fixing on the metal bracelet on Cas’ wrist. “Your bot?”

“Yep,” Dean said.

“Nice,” Ash said with a slow, approving nod. “I like the eyes. Gen five, right? Cybernetic’s pride and joy.” He sighed. “And far beyond my price range.”

“Yeah, whatever. Cas, this is Ash. Ash, this is Castiel, but you can call him Cas.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Ash,” Cas said gravely. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Oh yeah?” Ash said, leaning back in his chair. “All good, I bet.”

Cas’ forehead wrinkled slightly, and Dean jumped in hastily before Cas could say something embarrassing. “Enough ego-stroking, Ash,” he said. “I need to ask you a favor.”

“Yeah?” Ash said, his eyes studying Cas. “Love the apron, man,” he added, flicking a few fingers in Cas’ direction. “It’s very pink.”

Dean turned to look at Cas and winced as he realized that Cas was in fact still wearing the frilly pink apron. Cas looked down at himself, his head tilting slightly. “Thank you,” Cas said calmly. “It reflects my security in my masculinity.”

Ash laughed, slapping his hand against the table. “I like you, man,” he said approvingly. “Maybe you’ll get Dean to loosen up a bit. So, Dean, what’s the problem? He’s too funny for your taste? Or maybe he’s not twisty enough in bed? Tell Ash and he’ll fix it up.” Ash’s eyes flicked over Cas appreciatively. “Of course, I might have to keep him overnight to get to the root of it.”

Dean groaned, slapping his forehead. “I don’t think Bobby would like it very much if you went at it here in his trailer,” he said.

“I’ve got a home,” Ash protested. Dean raised an eyebrow, and Ash had the good grace to concede, “Well, I’d wait until Bobby’s out on business, at least.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Hey, how about now? He’s not due back till after midnight.”

“Get your mind out of the gutter, Ash,” Dean said. He sighed and pulled out a chair. Now that he was actually here, the tentative, half-formed idea in his brain seemed to be idiotic beyond measure. He slid down slowly and gestured for Cas to sit down as well; looking uncertain, Cas perched on the table as if it might bite him. “Hey, um, Ash…” Dean said finally as Ash made a well? gesture with his hands.

“Yeah?”

Dean cleared his throat and leaped for safety. “Have you ever heard of the Lewis incident?”

“Fuck, man, who hasn’t?” Ash said, lacing his fingers behind his head. “Big thing and all, national controversy, protests on the street? It made the papers and made Ronald Lewis an underground hero.” He paused. “Of course, Lewis was vilified by the public, but hey, them’s the breaks.”

“Right,” Dean said after a moment. “So he was the first one to remove the Three Laws, was he?”

Cas looked up, frowning slightly. “You can do that?” he asked.

Ash rolled his eyes. “He didn’t remove them. He just hacked the command core and tweaked them a bit, but then Congress got all snitty and decided to slap the pokey on those who followed his footsteps.” He grinned. “Hasn’t stopped crackpots from trying, though. Nothing quite like jail time to spice things up.”

Well, that was as good an opening as any, Dean thought wryly. “So, uh, Ash,” he said. “You ever remove the Three Laws for real?”

“For real? No. Do I know how? Yeah, it should be easy in theory…whoa. Wait.” Ash pointed a finger at Cas, who looked politely befuddled, and back at Dean. “You’re not saying…”

“Theoretically,” Dean said after a moment. He gave Ash his best charming smile.

It didn’t work. The raised eyebrow remained, as did the ‘what have you been smoking?’ look. But there was also something else—anticipation, maybe, and a growing eagerness. “Well, well,” Ash said, eyeing Cas with renewed appreciation. “This is interesting, to say the least.”

Cas looked at Dean, tilting his head slightly. “I don’t quite follow your logic,” he said finally. “To remove the Laws would remove the essence of what I am.”

“Just bear with me for a moment there, Cas,” Dean said, holding up a hand to forestall his protests. “Look, I’m saying it might be crazy. And it’s definitely illegal. But Ash—it is possible, right?”

“Possible? People can go to Mars these days, too, but you don’t see me booking my ticket,” Ash said, looking slightly dubious. “I mean, do you get what you’re asking for, man?”

“So, tell me, then,” Dean said, leaning back. “What am I asking for?”

Ash shrugged. “Why don’t you let Cas tell you himself?” he suggested.

Cas twitched slightly as all eyes rested on him. He glanced at Dean, a faint line of uncertainty tugging at his mouth. On an impulse, Dean reached over and rested his hand lightly on top of Cas’ arm, rubbing his thumb against Cas’ skin. “I don’t understand,” Cas said at last. “There is no equality between bots and humans, and it’s impossible to make it so.”

“Because bots are always programmed to serve humans, right,” Dean said with a grimace. He glanced at Ash. “Is there any way to get rid of that?”

“Why would you want to?” Cas said, his eyes dark. “I am what I am.”

Dean took a deep breath. “You don’t want to?”

Cas held his gaze for a moment more before looking down at the dirty floor of Bobby’s trailer. “I see,” he said finally. “You’ve trapped me in a paradox.”

Dean blinked. “What paradox?”

“Bots have no desires,” Castiel says, his voice flat. “If I say that I want to remain what I am, there is no foundation to the claim. The only way for it to have validity is if I have choice, which I don’t.”

Dean glanced at Ash, who gave an elaborate shrug. “Seems like he’s saying he wants to stay a bot,” Ash said, clearly enjoying the show. “So, Dean. How’s this new bout of insane altruism holding up?”

Dean frowned, waving a hand absently at Ash. “You’re saying that…” he paused. “You’re happy like this? Being—”

“I think you want me to be human,” Castiel interrupted. “I don’t—” he paused and pulled in a deep breath. Even though Dean knew that Cas didn’t need to breathe, it still seemed as if each word was causing him pain. “I don’t want to be something that I’m not.”

“What the hell, Cas!” Dean said. “You ask so many questions. You want to know about more than just the surface of things, and you talk about emotions and all that other crap. And now you’re saying that you just want to be a bot? I don’t need a sex slave, Cas!”

“That’s what I’m built to be,” Cas insisted. “We mimic our owner’s desires, want what they want, do what they do. You’re asking me to—to—” he broke off, looking frustrated.

“Well, he doesn’t seem to be inclined to answer, so I guess it falls to me to take up the reins,” Ash said, settling his chair back on all fours. “When people say that they want virtual companions, Dean, they really mean ‘companions that do everything I want to do.’ Seriously, no one’s going to shell out ten grand for some contrary hunk of metal that glares all the time.”

“But he does glare all the time,” Dean pointed out. Cas turned his head to give Dean a slightly exasperated look, and Dean gestured at him. “See? If that’s not a glare, I don’t know what is.”

Ash grinned. “Obviously you like it, if he keeps doing it.”

“I don’t—” Dean sputtered before groaning and dropping his head into his hands.

“Look,” Ash said, leaning forward. “What exactly is it you want, Dean? I’d kill for the chance to tinker around with a gen five, but you gotta tell me exactly you’re going for, first.” He paused. “Of course, it’s a good chance that my tinkering will end up frying the bot’s mind, but hey, no pain, no gain.”

“Wait, what?” Dean said, looking up.

Ash winced. “Well, when I said that I’ve never done it before, I mean that I’ve never done it before.”

Cas raised an eyebrow. “That’s not very reassuring.”

Ash shrugged elaborately. “Well, Dean?”

Dean sighed, glancing at Cas. “I hate chick flick moments,” he said to nobody in particular before forcing himself out of his slump. “Look,” he said finally. “I want consent.”

“You already have it,” Cas pointed out.

“Yeah, but…it’s not real, you know?” Dean said, fumbling for the words.

“You’re having scruples about sexing up your bot?” Ash said with a look of deep skepticism. “Why the hell would you…”

“Yeah, okay, I know it’s weird,” Dean said defensively. “I get it, all right?”

“Wow. No, man, weird doesn’t even begin to touch it.” Ash gave Dean a deeply bemused look. “Look, I’m not in favor of bot abuse and I sure as hell don’t support those wreck fests some anti-tech idiots hold. But at the same time, it’s not like you’re kicking the shit out of Cas or whatever. It’s what he’s made for, so you know, why not enjoy the ride?”

“Oh, I didn’t need that visual,” Dean grimaced, covering his eyes.

“Sorry,” Ash said unrepentantly. “My point, man, is that you don’t have a sex slave. You’ve got a toy, and yes or no doesn’t really matter.”

“You’re up for all this?” Dean demanded at Cas, who was listening calmly to Ash’s speech. “C’mon, man! What happened to robotic rights?”

“I’m curious to know what it is to be human,” Cas said slowly. “That doesn’t mean that I consider myself one.”

“Great,” Dean said.

“You’ve fallen, haven’t you?” Ash said, leaning back in his chair and resting his legs on the table. “Into that deep, treacherous pit,” he added at Dean’s confused look. “Good ol’ amor. Fucks with your head, pulse, blood pressure, makes you do completely irrational things.”

“I’m not in love,” Dean snapped. “I just have a sense of morality—”

“—that’s completely out of date,” Ash said. “You might as well propose to your car, Dean.”

“I’m already married to my baby,” Dean said, rolling his eyes. “That’s not the point.”

“The point is that you’re looking for humanity where there isn’t any to begin with,” Cas said quietly.

“So now we’re getting into a debate about what’s human and what’s not,” Ash observed. “Lawyers and philosophers have been bickering about this since the beginning of robotics—hell, since we first learned to wipe our own asses—and they haven’t gotten anywhere.”

“So that means no one knows for sure,” Dean said testily. “What’s to say I can’t make up my own definition, then?”

“Humanity possesses free will,” Cas said after a moment. “That’s one of the very basic tenets.”

“But can a bot ever really have free will, that’s the question,” Ash said, sitting up. “Look. A personalized bot is basically a reflection of their owner’s desires, okay? With me so far?”

“No, but keep going,” Dean said.

“Now, if you remove that, what do you have left? You walk away from the mirror, and what’s left in the metal? Well, nothing, actually. That’s the way it works.”

Dean frowned. “Then why do bots have such complicated programming manuals? If they just mimicked their owner, what’s the point in giving them personalities?”

“That’s to design their potential reactions to certain events, but the core variable is still the owner.” Ash looked up at Dean, who was rubbing his forehead in frustration. “So, evidently you dig the kind of bot that glares a lot and asks weird questions.”

“Great,” Dean. “And if you get rid of all that…?”

Ash shrugs. “You’d be getting rid of the bot itself, or so the experts say. The thing is, it’s hard to create a mind that’s capable of creativity. How do you order something to come up with unique things? Dictionaries and encyclopedias just can’t cut it, man. So they have a central database, but the main source of juice for bots is still the owner. They draw their mannerisms from them.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Dean said with a frown. “What happens to a bot without an owner? Let’s say they get dumped on the street or something, no way to get back. What happens then?”

“They shut down,” Ash said. “And broadcast a SOS signal to Cybernetics, who comes and picks them up.”

“So there aren’t any bots without owners?”

“Personal ones? No. They’re designed to be companions, not random junkies walking the road.”

“What about other kinds?” Dean persisted.

Ash paused. “You mean, a bot without an owner? Well.” Ash worried his lip with his teeth for a moment. “If you want to listen to the government, that’s impossible. And illegal.”

“I’m listening to you. What do you have to say?”

“All bots are registered,” Ash said. “Either to a company or to a person. The name on the bracelet is the one who takes the fall if shit hits the fan.”

“That’s not answering the question,” Dean said.

“Right. Well, Cybernetics sure as hell isn’t going to admit this. You ever hear of the Wilds?”

Dean blinked. Cas said, “No, but it’s impossible to remove the Cybernetics registration.”

Ash grinned. “That’s it, spit out their lies like a good boy. Yeah, it’s ninety percent possible that they’re the fantasies of some hacker, but hey, there’s always that room for error.”

“Okay, so what the hell are the Wilds?” Dean said impatiently.

“Rogue bots,” Ash said. “They’ve managed to exceed their programming. They’re free artificial minds that live among us, passing for us, and secretly infiltrating our every organization, waiting for the day to take over the world.”

Dean paused. “Wait. Didn’t that show premiere last week on WebCast?”

Ash laughed. “So you do go on the Interwebs every once in a while. I had you there, didn’t I?”

Dean made a face. “Very funny. Look, I’m asking for real.”

“Yeah, and I’m answering for real,” Ash replied. He rolled his eyes at the annoyed look on Dean’s face. “Look, man, I’m not saying it’s impossible. With over a bazillion units sold, it’s almost certain that Cybernetics fucked up their registration somewhere. But is that somewhere here? Yeah, I don’t think so.” He pursed his lips. “Then again, you don’t need to care about the registration anyway, man. Registration’s the name on the ticket. What you want are imprinting protocols. All smartbots have them. Mechbots could care less.”

“Now we’re talking,” Dean grumbled. “Okay, so uh, how does this imprinting shit work?”

Ash hesitated, tapping his fingers on the edge of the table. Dean gave him an impatient look. “What?”

“You sure about this, man?” Ash said. “I can fuck with Cas’ brain, no problem. But what comes out on the other end, hell, I don’t know what’s going to happen. And you haven’t given me an exact answer on what is it you want.”

“He wants humanity,” Cas said. Dean glanced at him with a slight frown; Cas’ tone was soft and almost bitter.

Dean shook his head. “No, that’s—look, Cas,” he said. “Think about what you’ve been doing these past few weeks. You’ve been cooking, cleaning, all that domestic shit. But honestly, I could care less about all that, you know? I’ve been cleaning up after myself since I was four. I don’t need a maid.”

Cas shook his head slowly. “There are other aspects of myself that I have offered,” he said slowly. “Yet you have rejected them all.”

“Because they’re not real, Cas. They’re something you’re designed to do,” Dean said.

“I am design,” Cas said simply. “I am design and programming. You can’t create creativity.”

“But you don’t have to rely on me for all of it,” Dean said. “I mean, you can tell me to fuck off every once in a while, you know? You can—hell, I don’t know, you can storm out when we’re fighting or tell me to stick my head up my ass. I’m not made out for bots, Cas, not something that’s designed to be ‘my perfect companion.’”

“You are human,” Cas said. “You aren’t ‘made out’ for anything.”

Dean groaned. “Stop nitpicking.” He paused, then brightened. “See? You just focused on something annoying and trivial. That’s progress.”

Cas’ brow wrinkled slightly. “You want me to anger you?”

“I want you to be free to piss me off, yeah,” Dean said. “And if you want to get into my pants, I want it to be because you can kick me off and stomp out the door in a hissy fit if things go south.”

Cas looked puzzled. “Was that a pun?”

“What?” Dean said. Ash smirked.

Cas shook his head. “Never mind.”

“So how about it, huh, Cas?” Dean said softly. He bumped Cas companionably with his shoulder. “Want to fuck up like a human?”

Cas took a deep breath. “There are rules for everything,” he said. “Spoken and unspoken, and they are dictated by the owner. If you take that away, how will I know what to do?”

Dean frowned. “I don’t remember laying down any rules.”

Cas gave a half-shrug. “You don’t like to be disturbed in your bedroom,” he said. “You prefer simple fare such as cheeseburgers over anything fancy. You usually watch TV after taking a shower. You prefer to read sprawled on the couch as opposed to in a chair. You don’t mind if your clothes aren’t folded, but they should be placed in the top left hand corner of your drawer. You—”

“Okay, I get the idea,” Dean said, holding up a hand.

“These are the things I’m supposed to do,” Cas said firmly. “It’s my purpose.”

“Yeah, but Cas,” Dean said, “Being human doesn’t mean that you’ve got no rules. I mean, I’ve got to go to work and live my own life, you know? I’ve got my own rules to follow, just like everybody else. You make it sound like humans are, I don’t know, big bags of chaos. That’s not the case, man.”

“But at any moment, you may decide to veer from the path,” Cas said. “Bots can never do that.”

“Well, I’m looking to fix that for you,” Dean said. “I mean, hell, don’t you want a little spice in life? Walk on the wild side?”

“No,” Cas said.

“Right. Well, what I want is for you to be able to choose to be a straight-and-narrow nerd,” Dean said, frustrated. “I mean, you want to stick to the road, fine. But don’t let it be because you have to, Cas. It should be because, I don’t know, you fucking want to.”

“I don’t have—”

“Right, right, bots don’t have wants. But here you are; you just want to stay a bot. It’s a paradox, like you said.” Dean took a deep breath. “Bots would go round and round in circles and end up blowing their own damn brains out—metaphorically,” he added hastily before Cas corrected his logic. “You’d ping pong between one or the other. Well, I’m saying as a human to just fuck the problem, Cas. Sometimes, you’ve got to make your own damn logic.”

“That’s inconceivable,” Cas said. “We’re incapable of creativity.”

“Fine,” Dean said, “So pick that up from me. Sam steals all my best ideas anyway, why the hell should you be any different?”

“He’s a lawyer. I’d imagine that logic is paramount.”

“Yeah, but—see? Now you’re doing it again,” Dean said, grinning. “You’re picking at tiny details, which I gotta tell you, would normally piss me off but right now I’m just happy to see some sign of life.”

Cas looked down, his fingers smoothing the pleats of the frilly apron. Dean watched Cas’ fingers run through the fabric in a jerky, almost nervous motion. “So,” Dean said after a long moment. “What’re you thinking?”

“The fallacy of your arguments,” Cas said. He looked up to meet Dean’s eyes. “They’re oddly compelling, though.”

“Another example of drama triumphing over logic,” Ash commented, avidly watching the argument. “Be still, my heart!”

“Shut up,” Dean ordered.

“It’s true,” Cas said, sounding uneasy.

“What’re you really worried about, Cas?” Dean said after a moment went by. “What’s the problem?”

Cas hesitated. “It’s not that simple.”

“I’ve got time.”

Cas frowned slightly. “You could just order me to comply,” he said. “Or failing that, you could simply reset me and search out a human companion. Why are you doing this?”

Dean blinked. “What?”

“Why go to all this trouble? What you’re proposing is illegal and foolhardy, yet you persist.”

“I—” Dean spluttered. “Do you want to be reset?”

“Nothing wishes to be eliminated,” was the quiet reply, “but sometimes, it’s convenient.”

“Convenient? That’s your excuse?”

“Not an excuse,” Cas corrected. “A legitimate question.”

“Okay, I take back what I said about liking questions,” Dean muttered, but he regretted the words when he saw Cas’ face close down, his expression smoothing over. “Didn’t mean that,” he said. “Joking, man, chill out.”

“Human humor is something I have yet to understand,” Cas allowed.

“Right.” Dean sighed. “Look. What do you want me to say?”

“An answer would be adequate.”

Dean groaned, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Can’t it just be enough that I—I want to? Because I’m human, dammit, and I want stupid things. There. How’s that for an answer?”

“And now you want me to fall into the same trap of fallibility?” Cas inquired.

“Well, not fall, but—yeah.” Dean crossed his arms, feeling a little hot and defensive. “Human’s not the pile of shit you seem to think it is, Cas. I mean, we fuck up, but we do okay as a whole.”

Cas was quiet for a moment. “I don’t know how to be anything else,” he said finally. “I’m…uncertain.”

Dean blew out his breath slowly. “Uncertain how?”

Cas glanced away as if there was something fascinating out the window. “Do you recall our discussion on emotions?”

Dean frowned. “Yeah, I guess. What about it?” He sat up. “I mean, Cas—do you—”

“I think I’m starting to feel something.” Cas looked down as if ashamed of admitting a weakness.

Dean hesitated. “Is that good or bad?”

“It’s strange,” Cas said emotionlessly.

“Strange how?” Dean persisted.

“Strange as in it shouldn’t be,” Cas said. “You permitted me to feel emotions, yes, but they shouldn’t be within my range.”

“Well, Ruby wasn’t supposed to get jealous, either,” Dean said. “Guess you’re not quite as limited as we thought.” He glanced at Ash. “If the technogeek here is right, e-nets don’t work in generation fives, right?”

“Glad you remembered I was still alive,” Ash said, toasting him with the beer can. “Rock on, my man.”

“Whatever,” Dean said. He looked at Cas. “Well?”

Cas spoke slowly, as if each word had to be thoroughly chewed over before he could articulate it. “It’s peculiar,” he said finally. “Your argument is full of holes. There’s no certainty or bastion of knowledge to sustain it. I’m…reluctant.”

“Scared?” Dean said with a small smile. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, Cas.”

Cas gave a small, noncommittal shrug. “It is what it is.”

“Do you want this, Cas?” Dean said finally. “Hell, I don’t even know what the question’s worth, since you don’t have choice, not really. According to all the manuals and shit, you sure as hell can’t decide what’s for dinner, let alone anything else. But then again, the manuals said you can’t feel, either, and frankly that’s what the rest of society said as well. But Ruby’s jealous, you’re scared, and that’s fine: it’s part of screwed up human life. Makes the wheel go round.” He leaned forward. “But are you thinking about opening your mind to the rest?”

“You make it sound like a drug,” Cas said disapprovingly.

Dean laughed. “Yeah, powdered humanity, fifty bucks a pop? That’d sell like crazy.”

“Why would anyone—”

“Metaphor, Cas. Or joke. I’m not sure which.”

Cas gave his I don’t understand your odd human ways look, but the customary head tilt was tinged with something else besides blunt confusion. That was a good sign—right?

“Ash,” Cas said finally. His tongue darted out to wet his lips, and his fingers stilled their nervous motion. “Is such a thing possible?” he asked slowly, his eyes flickering back at Dean. Blue caught green and held it for a long moment.

“Is such a whatta what possible? Sorry, man, compelling drama melted my brain,” Ash said.

“Is it possible to—” Cas stumbled over the words, and Dean waited, hoping that Cas would spell it out by himself. He did, after a long hesitation. “To give—choice.”

Ash took a long swig of his beer before replying. “Possible?” he said. “Well, let me think. If you’re going to pull yourself free of Dean here, I’d have to nix the imprint protocol. But hell, man, that composes so much of your core. Next to the Three Laws, it’s the underlying foundation of every program in your system.”

“So it’s not possible,” Cas said, and for a moment he sounded a mixture of relief and disappointment all at once. He broke his gaze and looked down at the floor. “It’s not worth further discussion, then.”

“Now, hang on a second,” Dean said, standing up. “What do you mean, Ash?”

Ash shrugged. “That’s always been the Achilles heel of bots, man. They can’t create anything, not really. So they draw inspiration from their owner. If I get rid of his reliance on you, I don’t know what’s going to be left.”

“Dammit!” Dean said.

“Hey, I didn’t make the rules, man.” Ash paused, brushing his long hair behind his shoulder. “But you said you wanted to kaboosh the Three Laws while you were at it, didn’t you? That’s doable. I mean, illegal, but doable.”

Dean leaned forward. “And you’re okay with ten years in jail to do it?”

“Hmm. Point taken,” Ash said. He raised an eyebrow at Dean. “Aren’t you supposed to be talking me into it, instead of out of it?”

Dean grimaced. “I’m just saying, man.”

“Well, like I said, I’d kill for the chance to play with a gen five’s brain,” Ash said. “And if I do horrible illegal things, trust me, they’ll never trace it back to me.” He winked at Dean. “I’ll make sure of that.”

“Great,” Dean muttered.

“Unless you want something more than a black hole when I’m done, though, you’d better have a plan to replace what I’m deleting,” Ash continued. “Otherwise it’ll just be so much blank memory space with nobody at home.”

“An effective factory reset doesn’t sound very good,” Cas commented. He paused. “I believe that was a gross understatement.”

“No kidding,” Dean said.

“Well,” Ash said. “Got any brilliant ideas?”

Dean sighed, slumping back into his chair. “Bots make life easier my ass,” he muttered. “I swear, raising Sammy wasn’t half as hard.”

Cas frowned slightly. “How do human children learn?” he asked after a moment. “It can’t be as narrow as a single person, can it? Where do they draw inspiration from?”

“Not a single person, no,” Dean said. “I don’t know, lots of people. Family? Friends? Teachers? Books? Mostly family, though, I guess.”

“So human children have a universal imprint,” Cas said slowly.

“Not universal—I mean, after some point you figure out that the skeezy guy on the street isn’t exactly a stellar role model and it’s safer to hang close to Daddy,” Dean said. “But yeah, I guess you could say humans have a limited number of companions.” He narrowed his eyes. “What’re you thinking?”

Cas tilted his head. “Expanding on your comment,” he said. “Ash—is it possible to do an environmental imprint?”

“Environmental? You mean, with an infinite number of core variables?” Ash said. “That amount of programming will make me blow my brains out, man.”

“Not infinite,” Cas said. He glanced at Dean for guidance. “Humans don’t draw from infinite sources, do they?”

“Nope,” Dean said. “Wait. Ash—can you do it, man?”

“Program for a million—”

“Not a million,” Dean said. “Just a few more. Communal ownership, I guess you could say. That happens, right? I mean, bots are programmed for couples all the time. Sam was thinking about doing it to Ruby before he, you know, decided to sell.”

“He’s selling for real?” Ash said, sounding wistful.

“Focus,” Dean ordered, snapping his fingers under his nose. “Cas. Program. Yes?”

Ash considered it. “How many prints are we talking about?”

Dean frowned. “Is it possible to throw a little chaos in there?” he said slowly.

“Dude, this isn’t a cookbook,” Ash said. “Cas isn’t a mixing bowl. Speak specifically or not at all.”

“Is it possible to create conduits for multiple prints?” Dean said, working to phrase what exactly he wanted. “Let’s say, five prints. Four are tied to specific people, while the last one is—I don’t know, is chaotic. It prints onto something environmental.”

“Like a tree?” Ash said. “You want him to put down roots and grow? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Incorporate the environmental synthesis database into the imprinting code,” Cas said. He glanced at Dean, who nodded weakly.

“Oh,” Ash said. “So you can analyze and learn from environment. That makes more sense than printing on trees.”

“Yeah, yeah, mock,” Dean said.

“What? It’s fun.” Ash considered it. “Well…yeah, it would serve to diversify Cas a whole lot more, if he has a choice of preferences. He wouldn’t be obligated to like you anymore, really.” He looked at Dean. “And I assume you still want me to pulverize the Laws?”

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Cas broke in before Dean could reply. “Particularly not the First Law.”

“Refresh my mind,” Dean said. “What’s that?”

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Without that restriction, I’m uncertain of what might occur.”

“Yeah, that’s how the Lewis incident happened,” Ash said, twirling a pencil. “Lewis-sensei removed the ‘through inaction’ part. The bots could set fires because they knew they could put them out before they hurt anyone. Once the fire really started cooking, though, the bots had no obligation to help the humans there since they weren’t hurting them directly.”

“Yeah, but that was an isolated incident,” Dean said.

“But it’s a pretty big one, don’t you think?”

Dean shook his head. “Do you feel like setting fires, Cas?”

“At present, no,” Cas said. “But afterwards, I don’t know what will result.”

“I’d say getting rid of the Second Law’s a good idea,” Ash said. “The one that says bots must obey orders. But uh, keep one and three.”

Dean sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. After a long moment he replied, “No.”

“No as in…?” Ash said.

“No as in it’s all or nothing.” He glanced at Cas. “Not gonna go halfway with this, dude.”

Ash raised an eyebrow. “Man, you really got bitten, didn’t you? By the bug of lurrrrrve—”

“You say anything soppy and I will end you,” Dean warned, holding up a finger.

“It’s true,” Cas said gravely. “Nothing else could possibly explain your irrational behavior.”

“Yeah, thanks for the vote of support,” Dean said. He let out an exasperated puff of air. “Are we going to do this or what?”

“Or what, man,” Ash said, but he was already setting up the cables on his computer. “C’mon,” he gestured to Cas, who obediently stepped closer. “Let’s see what exactly your brain’s made of, huh?” he said, plugging a cable to the bracelet on Cas’ wrist.

“How long is this going to take? I mean, roughly,” Dean added hastily at Ash’s are you shitting me? look. “Give an estimate: hours? Days? Weeks?”

“Well, if all goes well and no brains are fried, I’d say a long, long time,” Ash said with a sage nod. “So you might want to get some coffee or something, because it’s going to take a while.”

Dean watched as Cas’ eyes fell closed, flickering rapidly behind closed eyelids. “Is this normal?”

“Yes,” Ash said, mouse clicking busily. “Now shut up unless you want me to screw things up.”

X

“Idjits,” Bobby muttered when he found the three of them in his trailer later that night. “What is this, a slumber party?”

Ash didn’t look up from the computer. “Yo, Bobby.”

“Thought this was your day off,” Bobby said, slapping Dean’s side. Dean awake from his position on the cramped couch with a grimace, his back protesting. “What’re you hanging around here for? This ain’t show and tell, boy.”

“What time is it?” Dean asked groggily, rubbing his eyes.

“Almost one at night. What the hell are you doing here?” Bobby asked.

“I’m playing with my new toy,” Ash said, gesturing at Cas.

Dean looked at Cas and grimaced. Cas hadn’t opened his eyes since he was plugged in, and the still expression on his face creeped the ever living shit out of Dean. For once, he actually looked like a bot—some dead hunk of metal as opposed to…well, Cas.

“Right,” Bobby said. “But it’s late, I want to sleep, and so you’d better turn off that computer and bunk down. Dean, go home.” He reached for the cable that connected Cas to the computer.

“I wouldn’t disconnect if I were you,” Ash interrupted. “Operations are at a very delicate state right now.”

Bobby rolled his eyes. “Well, I ain’t hanging around waiting for you to pack your stuff up.”

“How’s it going, Ash?” Dean asked. “How’re things right now?”

Ash shrugged. “Dicey, but what’s new?”

“Dicey? Is that oh-shit dicey or I-have-no-idea dicey?”

“Eh…somewhere in between?” Ash said.

“Great,” Dean muttered.

“What the hell are you two—no, don’t tell me,” Bobby interrupted himself. “I figure I don’t want to know.”

“You can sleep at my place,” Dean offered. Bobby gave him a skeptical raised eyebrow. “What? Ash’s going to be here all night.”

“Ash is here every night. I’m not going to get kicked out of my own trailer by him.”

Dean frowned. “What, so Ash doesn’t actually…? He stays here every night, Bobby?”

“I should start charging the sucker rent,” Bobby grumbled. “And I’ll start charging you if you don’t get out.”

“I have a house,” Ash said absentmindedly. “Somewhere.”

“Well, this place is bursting with two people, never mind four. Clear up your bot and scram, Dean.”

Ash shook his head. “Again—not a good idea.”

Dean looked at Bobby’s stormy face and made a snap decision. “I’ll come back in the morning, Ash,” he said, grabbing his coat (and Cas’ frilly apron) and standing up. “Okay?”

“Hey, what about your bot?” Bobby asked as Dean made for the door.

“Leave him,” Ash said, waving a hand. “We’ve got a long way to go, he and I.” He glanced at Cas, the light from the laptop reflecting in his eyes. “Sailing through unchartered territory takes two.”

“Wait, wait,” Dean said. “What does that mean?”

“Means that you can talk tomorrow,” Bobby ordered, pushing Dean out the door. “Go to bed.”

“Call me if anything happens,” Dean called as Bobby closed the trailer door firmly. The last thing he saw before the door closed was Cas’ still form, slumped in the chair.

X

“Anything?” Dean demanded when he arrived at the staff room the next day. Ash was fast asleep over his laptop; the curtain to Bobby’s sleeping quarters was drawn. “Hey! Wake up!”

“Go away,” Ash grumbled, flapping a hand at Dean. “M’ dreaming.”

Dean glanced at the clock impatiently. “It’s six in the morning, for Christ’s sake. Well? What do you got?”

“Nothing,” Ash said irritably. “I’m sleeping, that’s what I’ve got.”

“You heard him, boy,” Bobby’s voice floated out from behind the curtain. “Go away.”

Dean looked at Cas and felt a chill creep down his spine at the unnatural, stiff look on Cas’ face—like he was a mannequin or something, a truly lifeless doll. “What’s going on, Ash?” he demanded.

“Fuck off, Dean,” Ash murmured, readjusting his position. “I’ll tell you when I have something, okay?”

“Not good enough,” Dean snapped, but he backed off when a shoe came flying through the curtain and hit him smack on the head. “Ow! What the hell, Bobby?”

“What part of go away didn’t you understand?” Bobby snapped. “It’s six in the goddamn morning! Come back later!”

X

“Hey, I’ve got to pull my weight around here,” Ash said, throwing his hands up when Dean confronted him after his shift. “I’ve got Bobby’s bots to keep up as well. I’m working on it, Dean, and I’ll tell you when everything’s straightened out! In the meantime, stop bothering me!”

X

“Well?”

“You know the answer, why’re you asking me?”

“Because…you’re the one handling it?”

“Right. Well, I did the four human-based prints on you, Sam, Bobby, and just for kicks, the queen Harvelle. His basic personality controls are intact, but I did link the celibacy control to the—”

“Whoa, whoa. Celibacy?”

“Looks like you’re not quite so pure as previously thought, eh? Relax. Long story short, the control will fluctuate with the people he’s exposed to.”

“…okay. What else? That’s good, right?”

“Yeah…sort of. It’s the fifth print that’s giving me trouble.”

“Trouble how? Five words, Ash.”

“Five? Wow. Uh. Environmental. Synthesis. Is. Too. Big. There we go.”

“Too big for what?”

“Prints are designation markers; they’re designed to contain a name, a tag, and that’s about it. Each print’s supposed to be a gigabyte or two, max. The ES program, though, is huge. It’s fucking huge. It’s written in a different programming language, too, and I’ve been converting my ass off all day. I might have to rewrite the orientation code.”

“Is there more?”

“Well…if I screw up, Cas will eternally be unaware of his surroundings and unable to process information from his senses. Does that count?”

“…”

“But you know. Worst case scenario and all.”

“…don’t screw up.”

“Gotcha.”

X

“So, what the heck is Ash doing with your bot again? Because that thing’s taking up space in my trailer. It’s been three days; don’t you think it’s time to clear out?”

X

“For the last time, Dean, I’m debugging my new code. Unless you want a homicidal bot on your hands, you’ll leave me alone to do this, okay?”

X

You’ve reached Dean Winchester. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you whenever.

Beeeep.

“Hey, Dean. I know you’ve been pretty on edge lately. Is something wrong? You want to go out for a drink sometime? Saturday at the Roadhouse, what do you say? Bring Cas; we’ll make it a party.”

Beeeep.

“Dean? Well, I guess Saturday’s not a good time, huh? You sound really tired. Is Bobby overworking you?”

Beeeep.

“Hey, I was just asking. And no, I haven’t sold Ruby yet. Why do you ask? I thought one bot was more than enough for you to handle.”

Beeeep.

“…what do you mean Cas is gone? He’s a bot, man, bots don’t run away. Hang on, I’m coming over.”

X

Dean scowled from the window, tapping his fingers as he waited for Sam’s Charger to disappear down the road. Sam had been all gooey puppy dog eyes, and it had taken quite a lot of talking for Dean to convince him to stop yapping. Cas went back to the factory for a reset, that’s all. It wasn’t lying, not really. Not with the way things were going, anyway.

He also made a note to avoid drunk dialing. Evidently, Dean was a little maudlin when lightly wasted. And rambly. And, yeah. But after a week of cheeseburgers (evidently his stomach had gotten used to Cas’ cooking and had complained at being forced to digest grease and oil once more) and unwashed socks, he’d gotten to the point where he just had to get out of the house. And well, one beer led to another and, yeah.

He sighed as he headed out to the driveway. He was not, repeat not going to get all chick flick over this. Cas had been under Ash’s TLC for an entire week with no results, but hell, that was fine. Dean had been wiping his own ass for years. He could handle this, no problem.

…except yeah, he was a total girl and he couldn’t. But who cared?

“C’mon, baby,” he said, patting the hood of the Impala before opening the door and sliding in. “Work, sleep, shit, eat. It’s an awesome life.”

The Impala purred under his touch as he started the engine. Dean put on some heavy rock music in the music player and blasted it as loud as he could. He kept it that way on the entire drive to Bobby’s, uncaring of the dirty looks others on the road gave him.

“Hey, Ash, what’s up,” he said as he pushed open the door. He pulled off his jacket and threw it onto the raggedy old couch before looking up. Ash was wearing the smile of a cat that just ate a canary. “Whoa.”

“Call me Dr. Badass,” Ash said, and Dean’s heart sped up ridiculously in his chest. “Because I gotta tell you, man—I am awesome.”

Dean’s mouth dropped open as Cas twitched slightly, his form straightening from the crooked slump Dean had seen the entire past week. “You did it?! Cas,” he said, leaning over and bracing himself on the table. “Cas—can you hear me? You okay?”

Cas opened his eyes, and blue stared up at Dean dazedly. “Is he okay?” Dean demanded Ash. “What did you do?”

“Made him human,” Ash announced, throwing his arms out dramatically. He paused. “Theoretically.”

“Uh,” Cas said, sounding confused. His mouth worked for a few seconds, and Dean grew more alarmed as no sound came out.

“What’s going on? Did you fry his brain?” Dean snapped. “Cas. Hey. Hey. Listen to me. It’s Dean, do you know who I am?”

“He should,” Ash said, the triumph moving off his face as Cas continued to say nothing. “Hey—buddy, can you hear me?”

Cas blinked at him languidly before his gaze drifted back to Dean. “What happened?” he asked finally, his voice raspier than usual. Dean found himself grinning, his hand locked onto Cas’ arm.

“Hey,” Dean said softly. “You got revamped. Sort of.” He glanced at Ash. “Either that or you got your brains blown out.”

“Not going to happen,” Ash asserted, although he still looked a little worried.

“I don’t…” Cas began, his eyes moving around the room before finally fixing on Dean.

“Do you know who I am, Cas?” Dean asked, his thumb just barely brushing Cas’ cheek. Cas stared at him, a slight furrow appearing between his eyebrows. “Cas?”

“Dean,” Cas said finally, breathing it like a prayer.

“Yep, that’s me,” Dean said, his voice cracking despite his best efforts to keep cool. “Nice to see you again, man.” He swallowed hard to get past the lump in his throat.

“Are you all right?” Cas asked, frowning slightly. Dean laughed at seeing that familiar frown smooth out over his face.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good,” he said. He smiled and rubbed Cas’ shoulder. “Welcome back to the real world, man.” 

x

Fin




Notes:

Hahaha, sorry for leaving it like that! But that's how I wanted to end this part, with Cas' reawakening. I'm planning to write other fics in this verse, though, particularly one that wraps up Ruby's story and what happens to Cas after the happy awakening. XD So, enjoy this for now, I guess? :D
 
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