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The First Thing There Is

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The first thing there is, is love. 

Before he opens his eyes, before he exhales the breath caught in his lungs, before even his first thought, there is love. 

It is warm, and deep, and careful. It’s full of restraint and worry, tinged by regret, and it is everything, everything he has ever known, in the half a second he has known anything. 

He opens his eyes, and there, in front of him, both hands delicately framing his face with a gentle touch, there is his lover. Literally, the one who loves him. 

As he opens his eyes and exhales, that floating cloud of affection withdraws, pulling away from him at the same time his lover’s hands fall from his skin. He immediately wants it back, but the sight of his own hands when he reaches catches him off-guard. 

“Dean?” his lover asks, kneeling on the floor in front of his chair. A wooden chair at a long wooden table. 

He looks around the room, and there are two more men in addition to his lover, as well as one woman. One man is more of a boy, and the other man is immensely tall. Neither respond to the name. All three watch him with silent trepidation.

He looks back to his lover and points to himself, admittedly embarrassed. “I’m Dean?”

Immense sorrow crosses his lover’s face. It’s immediately smoothed away, and yet still obvious in his blue eyes. “Yes. You’re Dean. Dean Winchester.”

“Oh,” says Dean. 

“My name is Castiel,” his lover tells him, still kneeling before him, his long tan coat touching the floor. “You’re in your home, and you’re safe.”

“Okay,” Dean says. He reaches forward, leans down, and takes Castiel’s hand. 

Castiel’s eyes widen. 

“I felt something before,” Dean tries to explain. “When you were touching my face.” He wraps his fingers tight around Castiel’s hand, but the endless well of affection and concern fails to reappear anywhere besides behind Castiel’s eyes. It’s not nearly as good, much too separate. 

“That was me,” Castiel tells him quietly. “I was touching the inside of your mind.”

“Yeah, I got that.” Dean pulls Castiel’s hand back up to his temple, presses Castiel’s palm against the side of his face. “Nothing’s happening?”

Castiel shakes his head and withdraws his hand. He stands, towering over Dean without looming, tall the way shelter is tall. “I had to seal something away inside you,” Castiel explains. “It’s very dangerous and we’re trying to find a way to get it out of you, but right now, you’re safe.”

“That’s why I can’t remember anything?” Dean checks. 

Castiel nods. 

“Okay,” Dean says. He looks at the other three people in the room, all standing behind the table in what he guesses is a library. “Hi?”

The tall man closes his eyes. The woman wraps her arm around the tall man’s waist. The teenage boy offers a weak smile. All three wear some variation on jeans and flannel. 

“I’m Jack,” says the boy. He points to himself with an encouraging nod. “This is-”

“Sam,” the tall man interrupts, clearing his throat. He blinks a little and moves forward, up against the opposite side of the table. “I’m your little brother.” 

“But you’re not?” Dean asks Jack. 

Jack shakes his head. “I’m... I’m Castiel’s son.”

As Dean rearranges some mental furniture, Sam looks back at the blond woman, clearly concerned. 

“I’m your mother,” the woman says, moving to stand beside Sam. “Mary. Campbell Winchester.” 

Dean frowns for what feels like the first time. “How come you two look basically the same age?”

“Oh, that’s not that weird,” Sam says. “Jack’s not even two yet.”

“I’m almost two,” Jack says. 

Dean stares at all of them before looking back to Castiel. “Seriously?”

“There’s a lot we’ll have to explain,” Castiel answers. He puts his hand on Dean’s shoulder. As Dean follows the motion, he realizes that he’s also wearing flannel himself, a shirt over a henley. Must run in the family. 

“Okay,” Dean says, trusting him. Anyone who could feel like that inside his mind, Dean absolutely trusts. 

“You left a video for yourself, too,” Sam adds. “Maybe we should start with that.”

The video is recorded on a phone. It feels strange to know what a phone is, to know what a video is, and not to know these people Castiel assures him are their family. When Dean asks about that, Castiel starts to describe the different types of memory humans are capable of, but what Dean most pays attention to is the way Castiel refers to humans as something other. 

Meaning, Castiel isn’t human. 

Which does pretty much make sense. Humans can’t touch minds the way Castiel can. Human children don’t look like teenagers after less than two years. 

So Castiel isn’t human, but that’s gotta be okay. Dean’s brother and mom are okay with it. 

Maybe his mother isn’t human either. While Sam pulls up the recording on his phone, Dean wonders if it would be weird to ask. He’ll check with Castiel later, he decides. 

“Here we go,” Sam says, and he hands the phone over. “To play it, you tap- Never mind,” he adds, as Dean gets it going. 

An unfamiliar face unfreezes on the screen, and that man starts to speak in a voice that sounds only vaguely like the one Dean hears when he talks. Still, Dean looks down at himself, and yes, this is the same outfit. 

“...a bad dude I made a deal with in order to take down an even worse guy,” the Dean on the small screen explains. “If he gets out, it’ll be bad news, but Cas can seal him, at least for a little longer than I can on my own.” The recorded Dean rolls his eyes. “And, yeah, my solution was kinda stupid, so we’re trying this first.”

“We’re not using your idea,” a recorded Castiel says from off-screen. 

“I said we’re trying this first,” the filmed Dean insists. He looks back to the camera. “What you gotta know: your name is Dean Winchester. Your brother is Sam Winchester, and your mom is Mary. Your best friend is Cas, and Jack is basically his kid. You live with them. You’re gonna wake up after Cas takes away our memories, but they’re only sealed, not gone. Don’t freak out.”

Dean frowns at the warning. He must not have known how Castiel’s touch would feel in his mind. Maybe he’d gotten too used to it to realize how reassuring it would be? 

Still, Dean watches all the way through the short video without pausing to ask his family questions, no matter how they awkwardly hover around him, lingering close in their concern. When the video ends, Dean hands the phone back to Sam and asks, “How long until we can unseal me?”

“We’re not sure,” Sam admits, looking sorry. “We have to find a way to get rid of Michael first. And this is important: if any of your memories start to bleed through, Cas has to seal them back up. Trust me, there are some walls you don’t want coming down before you’re ready.”

Dean looks to Cas. 

Cas nods. 

“Okay,” Dean says to Sam. “So, uh. Now what do I do?”

As it turns out, what Dean does is get babysat. There’s a lot of Sam on a laptop and Mary reading at the library table, the pair of them researching together. Jack sits slightly apart in between explaining things to Dean that were also very recently new to him as well. 

Like that Cas is an angel, that Mary had been dead, and as a favor from the angel/God family, Mary is alive again. Hence the weird lack of age gap between mother and sons. 

Dean rapidly comes to the conclusion that his life is very strange. 

When he gets hungry, he gets up, wanders away, and finds himself stopping outside a kitchen. Almost silently, Cas stops behind him. 

“Making sure I don’t get lost?” Dean checks. 

The corner of Cas’ mouth pulls, less in amusement, more in sadness. 

“Hey,” Dean says, stepping close. It feels right, this lack of distance. “I’m okay. Should probably be freaking out a lot more, but you being calm pretty much killed the panic.” 

“We’re trying,” Cas says, missing the fact that Dean meant only him, meant that amazing embrace of the mind. “It’s difficult for them. You... regressed. Before. Once. It was very painful for Sam.”

“But we know I’ll get back to normal this time,” Dean checks. 

Cas nods. 

“Can you...?” Dean points at his own forehead. 

Cas tilts his head. 

“Can you check on it?” Dean asks hopefully. 

Nodding so very seriously, Cas lifts both hands and touches Dean on each temple with a pair of fingers. A wave of cool heat flows across Dean, through him, under his skin and within his bones, and yet not within his body, not at all. 

“It’s holding firm,” Cas says, and lets go again. “We weren’t sure how much we could tell you without it breaking open.”

“What if it breaks?”

“I’ll seal you again,” Cas promises, looking far from pleased at the notion. 

“Well, uh.” Dean shrugs. “Thanks?”

Somehow, Cas frowns with his forehead instead of his mouth. 

“For keeping me safe?”

Cas’ brow smooths, though lines remain. “Of course, Dean.”

Dean smiles and goes for it. 

Cas freezes at the hug, but quickly melts. His arms wrap around Dean in return, over one shoulder, under the other arm, and he tucks his head against the side of Dean’s neck. “I won’t let Michael take you again,” Cas whispers. 

Eyes closed, Dean lets himself sink into the embrace, so firm, so solid, so much more real than the history the rest of his family has told him. He holds on for a long time, and Cas doesn’t let go either. 

“It’s all right to be frightened,” Cas says. “I’m sure this is very disorienting.”

“Yep,” Dean says, tightening his grip. Cas smells really good, immensely pleasurable even if he doesn’t slip back against Dean’s mind. “Scary and new, yeah.” 

“I’m here for you.”

“Thanks, Cas.”

Cas pulls back then, rearranging their positions instead of moving away. He studies Dean’s face, and for one fantastic moment, Dean’s certain a kiss is imminent. 

And then Sam comes around the corner, stopping and sighing when he catches sight of them. “There you are,” Sam says, like he’d been afraid Dean had wandered off and died in the past five minutes. 

“Uh, yeah,” Dean says, and points at the kitchen. “Food.”

A thought hits him, and he turns back to Cas. 

“Do I know how to cook?”

As it turns out: yes. 

Dean knows how to make foods that his mouth can’t remember tasting. His body knows how to cook and assemble and multitask, how to hold a fork and knife, how to chew and swallow, and yet everything is new. As the days pass, he guesses at his own favorites by what he knows how to make. He discovers what foods are actually Sam’s defaults instead. 

Occasionally, Sam tries to explain things for Dean that require no explanation, or hadn’t required an explanation until Sam decided they should. Dean had accepted the underground living situation without question, a fact that bewildered (and maybe amused?) Mary to no end. 

Jack takes to showing Dean movies, grinning widely each time he announces one to be a favorite of Dean’s. “Movie night is normally Thursdays, but I figure you have a lot to catch up on,” Jack says, but it’s clear that mostly, Jack just likes movies. 

Dean likes movies too, so it works out. Mostly.

For entertainment, at least. 

Because the most confusing, most frustrating piece of it isn’t the wait, isn’t the questions it never occurs to him to ask. 

It’s Cas. 

The first night had gone a little awkward, Dean hanging around, pushing through yawns until he finally gave in and asked Cas about turning in for bed. Both Cas and Jack had looked at Dean with matching surprise before Jack realized aloud, “Dean doesn’t know where his bedroom is.”

Fortunately, Cas walked him there solo, but Cas had stopped outside the door, too. “I don’t sleep,” Cas had explained, and after a hug goodnight, they’ve basically left it at that ever since. 

It’s maybe driving Dean a little crazy. 

He doesn’t need to remember Cas to know Cas loves him. And sure, it’s a little selfish, loving the way Cas loves him instead of loving Cas himself, but Dean is rapidly moving to meet him halfway. 

The times Cas is absurdly grumpy, and his resulting glares when Dean suggests that maybe Cas should take a nap after all. 

The moments where Cas realizes Dean is about to experience something else anew, or the moments Cas engineers himself. (The day Cas brings home a pie, Sam immediately clears the room, and Dean only understands why when he hears himself let out an involuntary moan around the tines of his fork.)

The times Cas hovers just a little too close for that recorded explanation of a “best friend” to serve as a full explanation, even if Dean hadn’t felt Cas inside his mind. Prior to the sealing, Dean doesn’t doubt they’d agreed not to pressure Dean into a relationship, but that doesn’t much matter, not anymore. 

Very soon, Dean’s gonna love him back. 

As the days pass with limited leads on the research front, Dean starts to wonder. He has Cas check on the seal inside his mind, but Cas confirms that it’s holding firm. 

“Why are you concerned?” Cas asks, hands still on Dean’s face, even if their minds are no longer touching. “I can’t see anything bleeding through.”

“Just wanted to check,” Dean answers, inwardly pleased. 

If trying pie for a second first time was awesome, falling in love with Cas a second time has to be ever better. 

The weeks stretch into a month. Dean joins the research team, especially when Sam, Mary, and Jack set out to go on monster hunts. That’s a thing they do, apparently. Weirdly, that’s one of the few things no one thinks to explain to Dean, but after the whole angel thing and the revived mother deal, maybe he was meant to assume. 

He researches monsters and angels and seals, but mostly, he hits dead ends that Mary and Sam have already trod down. When the frustration wells up, it’s good to have Cas with him. 

“Hey,” Dean says one afternoon, closing Sam’s laptop maybe a little harder than he should. “Let’s blow off some steam, yeah?”

Cas sighs but nevertheless abandons his book pile without protest. “What did you have in mind?”

Gathering his nerve, Dean answers, “There’s this little itch I’ve been wanting to scratch.”

Cas takes a moment before blinking. “Of course.” Nodding for Dean to follow, he leads Dean down the many halls to one of the rooms Dean still hasn’t been inside: a garage. Inside, there’s an empty parking spot, and something twitches instead Dean’s mind without fully flexing. 

Cas bids him to wait a moment before returning with a set of keys. “Don’t tell Sam I let you do this.”

Dean gets behind the wheel of one of the cars, old and fine, and Cas rides shotgun. Slowly, working more by feel than by thought, Dean gets the engine running. He backs out of the spot, and within minutes, they’re cruising down the road, driving out under the sun with absolutely no destination in mind. The steering takes a little while to get used to, and having to keep one hand on the stick shift instead of, say, around Cas’ shoulders or on his thigh, well, that’s kinda annoying, but the rest of the drive is completely worth it. 

They pull back into the garage about an hour later, and Dean’s heart keeps pounding even after they kill the engine. “How’d you know I needed that?” Dean asks Cas. 

Cas looks at Dean as if this is the stupidest question he’s ever heard. 

“Yeah, yeah, smartass,” Dean answers. 

Ever so faintly, Castiel smiles. 

Mary, Sam, and Jack spend the night elsewhere, still out on their hunt. Sam calls to check in with Dean before asking to talk to Cas. Dean wanders off while Cas gets what sounds like a babysitting report on Jack, but Cas finds him again before long. 

“Is something wrong?” Cas asks, entering Dean’s bedroom after knocking. 

Sticking his thumb between the pages of his book, Dean sits up straighter. “Uh, no? Why?”

“You left when Sam was still on the phone.”

“Oh. Is that weird? For me to do.”

“Sometimes,” Cas says, looking unsure himself. He sits down on the end of Dean’s bed, and Dean immediately regrets not pulling his feet up. 

Maybe too late, Dean moves now, sitting cross-legged in the hope Cas will take the prompting the right way and move closer. When Cas doesn’t, Dean prods another way. “I’m not exactly sure how much of the Jack parenting stuff I’m involved with.”

“Very,” Cas says, and Dean’s heart pounds. Fond beyond measure, Cas looks at him. “When I was... indisposed for a little while, you and Sam raised him. Now that I’m back, I’ve tried to do more, but you are a crucial part of Jack’s life.”

“How did we... get Jack?” Dean asks. “Did you like split by osmosis or something?”

A smile crinkles at the corners of Cas’ eyes, but the slant to his mouth quickly turns it wistful. “He’s adopted.”

“Oh,” Dean says, and that makes an obvious amount of sense. “Whose last name does he have?”

“His mother’s,” Cas says, “but being Jack Kline doesn’t make him any less a Winchester.”


Cas nods. 

“Cool,” Dean says. 

Smiling faintly back at Dean’s grin, Cas stands up. “I should let you sleep.” 

“You don’t have to.”

Cas pauses. “Dean?”

“I’m not sleepy yet.”

Cas sits back down. 

They look at each other. 

Cas looks away first. Down at his own hands, his palms set atop his thighs. 

Dean knee-walks further down the bed, and he doesn’t have far to go. He sits cross-legged, his knee over the back of Cas’ hand, their elbows bumping. 

Cas looks at him. 

“You love me, right?” Dean asks. 

Cas turns pale, but nods. “If you remember me saying that...” And he lifts his hand to Dean’s temple. 

Without shaking off the touch, Dean shakes his head. “I just felt it, that’s all.” 

Undiminished, the worry shifts behind Cas’ eyes, simply taking on a new form. “We’re family,” Cas says. 

“I mean, the co-parenting was kinda a giveaway,” Dean points out. 

Still looking uncertain, Cas nods a little. “There is that.”

“You can stop worrying,” Dean says. “I’m not gonna freak out on you.”

“You’ve been taking this exceptionally well.”

“Thanks? Yeah, thanks.”

Cas nods back. 

Dean leans in, and kisses him. 

He gets Cas on the corner of the mouth. The keeping-it-light kind of territory. Just a peck, for all Dean stays put once he’s made contact. 

It’s Cas who breaks the kiss, tilting his forehead close, pulling his mouth back. “Dean?” he rumbles. 

“Lemme try that again,” Dean says, and does. 

Cas goes very, very still. 

Dean pulls back this time. 

“...I may have given you the wrong idea,” Cas says. 

“You love me,” Dean answers, because he knows that. It’s literally the first thing he’s ever known. He felt Cas’ love before he felt even his own body. He knew that love before he knew Cas’ name, or his own. “How do I have the wrong idea?”

“You don’t feel the same,” Cas says, and only the fact that the words visibly cost Cas everything keeps Dean from laughing. 

“That’s bullshit,” Dean says instead. 

“You don’t.”

“Cas, buddy, we’re raising a kid together.”

“‘Buddy,’” Cas repeats, standing up. “‘Pal.’ That’s what we are, Dean.”

“Then we should change that,” Dean says, very reasonably. He pats the bed beside him, the butt indent still warm. “C’mon.”

“Angels require consent, as a rule,” Cas tells him, “but I’ve learned from humans that informed consent is very different.”

“You never peek around?” Dean asks. “All those times you went in to check on that wall, no peeking?”

Cas shakes his head. “I promised not to.”

“I’m saying you can now.”

Cas retreats to the door. Opens it. “I promised not to,” he repeats. “Good night, Dean.” He exits. Closes the door. 

It is not a good night. 

“Am I in love with Cas?” Dean asks Sam the minute he manages to get his little brother alone. 

“Oh god,” Sam says, immediately stiffening in extreme awkwardness. “Dean, it’s bad enough you gave me The Talk, can you go talk to Cas about that?”

“I tried,” Dean says, and Sam stares. 

“What, seriously?”


Seriously?” Sam repeats. 

“Why is that so weird?”

“Because you’ve been dancing around it for basically a decade?” Sam counters, his face still twisted in disbelief. 

Dean shrugs. “Maybe I didn’t know Cas loves me. But he does. Do I love him?”

Mouth hanging open, Sam gestures vaguely and with increasing desperation. “I’m... yes...?”

“You’re not sure,” Dean gathers. 

“I mean, you’ve always clicked with Cas differently than I have,” Sam says, clearly hedging. 

“So you’re not sure.”

“I deeply suspected.”

Dean nods a little. “Does Mom know?”

“Uh,” Sam says. “Mom knows I suspected enough to warn her, so... Kinda?”

“You’re seriously unhelpful,” Dean tells him. 

“Dean, trust me. Under any other circumstance, you’d want me as far away from your love life as possible.”

Dean mulls that over. “Yeah, fine.”

“Hey, kid,” Dean says, knocking on Jack’s open door. 

Jack takes a second to look up from his laptop and take off his headphones. “Dean?”

“You’re too young for porn,” Dean tells him, mock-stern, and Jack rolls his eyes so expertly, Dean wants to call bullshit on the whole adopted thing. This kid is clearly Cas’. 

“What is it, Dean?” Jack asks, so Dean gets to the point. 

“Me and your dad,” Dean says. “What’s up there?”

“Pretty sure you’re in love, why?” 

“Both of us?” Dean checks, gesturing between himself and an invisible Cas beside him. “With each other?”

Jack frowns, looking more confused than even Dean feels. “That’s how it works, right?”

“...Right, you’re two, never mind.”

“One and three-quarters,” Jack corrects. 

“Awesome, even worse.”

Jack just shrugs and puts his headphones back on. 

“Hey, Mom?”

Mary looks up from the hefty tome she’s been translating spells from all day. “Is this about what Sam warned me about?”

Dean pauses. “Maybe...?”

“You never talked to me about it,” she says. 

“But, I mean,” Dean says, “you know me, right?”

For some reason Dean can’t name, Mary’s expression turns immeasurably sad. “I think I know you well enough,” she says, which is not the same thing at all. 


“Cas is a good person,” Mary says, almost like it pains her. “You deserve good people in your life. However they fit into it.” And she looks up at Dean from the library table like she’s trying to express something beyond words. 

Dean has no idea what it is, but he has an uncomfortable feeling that he shouldn’t check. He keeps to his original goal instead. “So you don’t know if I’m in love with him.”

“I know you love him,” she says. “How...” She shakes her head. Looks him in the eyes. “That’s up to you, Dean. Sam’s made that very clear.”

“Thanks,” Dean says, because that seems like the right thing to say. 

He leaves the conversation more mystified than before. 

“So I checked, and I’m still pretty sure I love you,” Dean tells Cas. 

Unfortunately, he tells Cas this right at the end of their Thursday movie night. If Cas is gonna refuse to be left alone with Dean, then Dean is just gonna have to corner him with everyone else present too. 

Sam coughs and says, “Excuse me, bathroom’s calling.” When Jack doesn’t immediately follow, Sam grabs him by the arm and exits with the kid in tow. 

Mary is slower to vacate her seat. She rises at the same speed Cas does, and steps in front of him. “Castiel, if you don’t talk this out with my son, we are going to have a problem.” 

And she looks at Dean with a fierce protectiveness he feels all the way down to his core, even without the contrivance of a psychic touch. 

“We’ve already talked,” Cas says, maybe to Mary, maybe to Dean. 

“I wanna talk it out again,” Dean says, standing in turn, and Mary leaves them to it. 

The TV screen continues playing the credits. Dean almost thinks it’ll loop back to the main menu before Cas makes another move. 

Finally, just before the company logos pan by, Cas sags with a sigh. “We won’t be able to check until we can banish Michael.”

“I don’t need to check,” Dean argues. “I know.”

“You don’t know our full history,” Cas states, his voice low and firm and strangely empty. “There are things I’ve done, Dean.”

“If I let you around inside my head, I forgave you.”

“We’re not talking about forgiveness, Dean.”

“I love you,” Dean says, and it’s another first, being afraid in front of Cas. Being afraid of Cas, of a reaction. He points at his own head. “Based on just what I got right now.”

“You don’t know who you are,” Cas says. 

“Fine, I’ll wait.”

Cas stares at him. 

“I will,” Dean insists. “Because apparently I fucking have to.”

“You’ll remember I’m your best friend. I’m ‘like a brother’ to you,” Cas says, doing finger quotes. 

“That’s bullshit.”

“You said it.”

“Yeah, ‘cause I’m a bullshitter.”

Cas closes his eyes, but there’s almost a smile to the motion. 

“C’mon, man,” Dean begs. “Don’t leave me hanging here.”

“Don’t torture me with what I want,” Cas says. He looks at Dean then, really looks, opening up his eyes to let Dean see into him in return. 

“How about,” Dean says slowly, “how about, we date a little. Just for now. And if I’m a total dipshit with my memories back, you have my permission to block of these memories so it’s not all awkward.”

“There’s a few problems with that.”

“Like what?”

“You are a total dipshit with your memories,” Cas tells him so flatly, so bluntly that Dean can’t help but laugh. 

“You’re in love with a dipshit,” Dean counters, and Cas doesn’t deny it. 

Instead, Cas say something worse. “I’m not willing to have this only to have it taken away. Especially not by you.”

Dean sobers like a cup of hot coffee in a cold shower. “So then what? We go back to dancing around each other for another decade until Sam finally breaks and handcuffs us together?”

“Did he threaten that?”

“It was kinda implied.”

Cas looks down, off to the side, hiding the smile portion of his mouth.

“Can we at least... be us?” Dean asks. “And if it gets awkward after we unseal my shit, you can seal this shit, no harm, no foul. Nothing gets taken away from you.”

“You’d live with that gap in your mind? Permanently?”

“For you? Yeah.”

Cas glares at him with the pain of affection. 

Dean knows the feeling. 

“I miss you, okay?” Dean admits. “I get you miss normal me, but I’m doing what I can, all right?”

“You’re very close,” Cas says, and goddamn. 

Dean knows the feeling all the way down to his core. 

The research continues. The struggle. The almost unbearable levels of awkwardness Dean’s family assumes whenever sharing a room with both Dean and Cas. Someone named Rowena comes over, and after Sam fills her in, she takes the opposite tack, tickled pink and delighted. 

Dean almost prefers the awkwardness. 

Finally, between Cas, Mary, and Rowena bouncing extremely obscure ideas off each other while Sam takes frantic notes and Jack watches with wide eyes, they concoct what might be a solution. 

Rowena explains the risks to Dean while Mary quietly fumes with concern. Sam brainstorms potential safeguards, one of which includes a circle of holy fire. Both Cas and Jack will have to stay back, particularly as they have no idea what the fire would do to Jack. 

Dean’s more concerned about the safety of those around him, but Mary balances him out there, keeps all of them working until the risks are as reduced as possible. Still not safe, but at least planned for. 

The holy fire gets lit at the very last second. It has to be, as unsealing Dean’s mind, and therefore Michael, requires Cas to touch him. The worry shines through Cas’ touch, but so does the love, as unwavering as it is full of ire. As if Cas has simply lifted a sheet off an unused piece of furniture, Dean’s entire life comes into view, restored with almost jarring simplicity. 

Dean has enough time to stare back at Cas, to have new memories slot in against old foundations, to see Sam light the fire...

...and Michael overwhelms him. 

When Dean next wakes up, he’s lying on the road outside the bunker. It’s night when it should only be evening, but Dean sees Cas’ silhouette before he sees the stars. 

“Dean?” Cas asks, like he’s not sure. 

Sitting up, bits of gravel on the pavement digging into his palms, Dean coughs, nodding. “Dean, yep.”

“You are,” Cas says, marveling. He reaches down, Dean reaches up, and they haul him to his feet. “Dean, you’re...”

“I think I’m me,” Dean says, turning around in the near-dark. He stops, twisted halfway around: there on the road, stretching out across both lanes and even beyond, there lies the charred pattern of two immense wings. “Holy shit.” 

“Dean!” Sam yells, somewhere further off beyond Cas. 

“I’m okay!” Dean shouts back, already moving. 

Taking the wrong cue, Cas turns Sam-wards, and Dean catches his arm. Turns Cas back around. 

“We’re okay,” Dean adds. 

“We are?” Cas asks, eyes narrowed. 


This time when Dean kisses him, Cas kisses back.