Sam had taken Jack on some kind of "glad you didn't die, let’s kill your social life" road trip around all the dorkiest bookshops in the US (after he made the startling discovery that Jack had never read a novel in his, admittedly short, life), and the other hunters were all off who knew where (Sam. Sam knew. Freaking overprotective weirdo) and somehow it had wound up just Dean and Cas, alone, in the bunker, living together. They'd been living together for years, it shouldn't have been any different, shouldn't have been weird.
Man, it was so weird.
There was this energy, this freaking weird charged silence, like the world was waiting. He didn't know what to do with it. It wasn't even like he and Cas were spending any more time together, in fact Cas almost seemed to be avoiding him. He was hiding something, Dean had known him long enough to tell, but then, there was always something hidden between them. Maybe that was all it was, everything that went unspoken filling the empty hallways, telling them that, if there was ever going to be a time, it was now.
Sometimes, on the days when Cas kept to himself most noticeably, Dean would hear familiar music playing from whatever nook Cas had hidden himself away in. The mixtape, his mixtape, was the music Cas took solace in. He couldn't help but hope, not when the over thought love letter (which he prayed Cas was pop savvy enough to understand) filled the space that stood between them.
Dean didn't want to push. Cas had been through a lot, he deserved time, and now that might even be something they had.
Things were going, and man it felt weird to say this, good. Chuck had appeared, infuriatingly tanned, grinning like they hadn’t been praying to him for years, and dealt with Michael and his monsters with a click of his fingers. Dean had wanted to punch him when he showed up. Cas actually had done. He couldn't say he wasn't grateful though, when God had smited all that evil. Too bad he had disappeared just as quickly, but hardly surprising. They hadn’t even had time to call Sam back, everything was just fixed, like it had never been broken. An angel Dean couldn’t be bothered to remember the name of showed up looking uncharacteristically cheerful and told them heaven, also, had been saved. He’d thought, perhaps, Cas would leave after that. He hadn’t, he hadn’t even suggested it. Weird, still weird. He'd been avoiding him so much, but always staying close. Dean was barely ever alone when he left the bunker, and Cas (as far as he knew) hadn't visited heaven since he rescued Jack.
They would watch movies together every other night now, more cowboy flicks, superheroes, aliens and serial killers. The essentials. Cas would smile in all the right places, even if there was a sadness behind it, listen to Dean blabber about whatever they watched, pull out strange details to fixate on himself (his rant about "the ecological implications of building a high-tech basement complex in a key habitat for the bat population" being a particularly infuriating favourite of Dean's) but still he was guarded. He would stubbornly keep to the far side of the sofa, posture stiff and unmoving, and spare barely a glance for Dean.
Dean found himself incapable of keeping his eyes off him. He'd always failed at that pursuit, how could you not look at an angel of the freaking lord, sitting in your goddamn house, like he'd somehow forgotten he was a miracle? Cas had always been impossible to avoid staring at, but now there was no one there to notice, it was just the two of them and either: Cas didn't realise anything was going on, and he was home safe, or he did realise, and there was a chance that maybe...
No, Dean couldn't go there. He couldn't allow himself to hope. Cas was a freaking miracle, how could Dean compete with that? It would be greedy and stupid to ask for more than the astronomically unlikely gift of his friendship. Then again, Dean always had been greedy and stupid (not that he could say so in front of Cas, Cas would have told him off for calling himself names, and probably given him a long speech about the purity of his soul or some shit).
He loved him, that was the problem, when it came down to it. He couldn't ignore that anymore. Every time he looked at him he felt this overwhelming urge to do something stupid, like kiss him, or confess undying love, or propose. The fantasies just kept getting more ridiculous with every second he pushed them away, and he had been pushing them away for a long, long, time.
They were watching Ghost (shut up, it’s a classic) when Dean finally snapped, or was it Cas who made that choice? He was definitely acting different. It'd been slow, but he finally seemed to have relaxed. He sat close enough to Dean that they could touch, if they wanted to (and god did Dean want to) and he actually slouched into the seat, rather than perching on the edge. He seemed human, present, cautiously cheerful. Dean couldn't help himself, when he was watching Cas watching the lovers on screen work the clay beneath their palms, he reached out and took his hand in his. Cas looked down at Dean's knuckles, looked back up at him, and smiled. Dean's heart hammered in his chest as Cas squeezed gently, a confirmation that this was something he was at least okay with, and returned his attention to the movie.
Dean fidgeted, eyes flicking from Castiel's calm expression to their hands joined between them, paying next to no attention to the movie.
Cas didn't seem to mind, so why not take it a little further? Dean (not so subtly) scooched closer until their bodies were lined up against one another. Cas looked at him again, expression soft, only lit by the glow of the TV screen, and pulled his hand away. Dean swallowed, returning his hand to his lap where it should have damn well stayed, about to scooch the hell away. Cas' arm wrapped around him, hand on the shoulder where he had once held him tight as he raised him from the pit. Dean shuddered, that full body shake that accompanies the knowledge that you're about to change your life forever, and paused the film.
"Cas, I..." He looked up at Cas, and goddamn they were so close, closer than they'd ever been.
"Yes Dean?" There was a smile, a true smile, in his voice. His eyes twinkled like the stars they were made of and Dean was awestruck with the majesty of them.
"I love you. Shit, I always have. And, I want- I need us to be together. If you want, obviously, you can say no and I... I'll deal... Somehow. But, yeah, I'd like it if we could-"
"Stop talking Dean," and Dean knew what the words meant, knew they were a yes, knew that they were "of course" and "I love you too" and "always" all rolled up in one.
Cas looked happy, truly happy for a blissful moment, then sheer terror overtook his expression. He grabbed Dean's face between his palms, desperately kissing him, and finally, finally Dean knew what those lips tasted like. It was everything he'd wanted for so long and he felt like this was the moment he would live over and over if heaven was something that was meant for him.
It was so good, so so good, and then it went bad. One moment Cas' lips were on his and the next they were fading. His entire body was disappearing before his eyes, his face contorted in horror or agony as he screamed something. Dean didn't know what he was saying, couldn't make out anything but a word in that split second before he was gone and Dean was left grasping at the nothing where his everything had just been.
The word Castiel spoke, as he was torn from existence, was Dean.