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Six weeks. It's been six weeks since Cas walked out of the bunker and Dean didn't stop him. Six weeks of waiting, of giving him space, of worry and doubt. Six weeks of regret. Sam has talked to him a few times, Dean knows, but Sam refuses to get in the middle of their "idiotic domestic dispute" and only lets Dean know that Cas is safe. 

 

Six weeks has given Dean enough perspective to know that while losing Mary was devastating, losing Cas ... he may not come back from that again.

 

He sits on the edge of his bed, bows his head, and prays.

 

"Cas, hey. You, uh ... you got your ears on buddy? I know I haven't, um, done this in a while--since you've been earth-side with a cell I guess--and with the state of things I'm not even sure you can hear this anymore but. I figure if I tried to call or, or text you wouldn't answer and, well. I just. Really need you to hear this, so." He runs his hand down his face, rubs the back of his neck. Prayer has always been awkward and embarrassing but whenever Cas is there in front of him everything just comes out wrong, or not at all. 

 

"I, um. I wanted to say I'm sorry. I know that's not--that it probably doesn't mean much, at this point. I'm not expecting it to--to change anything. But you need to know. Whatever I said, it wasn't--I didn't mean it. Not really. I know you loved Jack, but I know you loved Mom too. You never would have put her in harms way. I know that. I was angry, and--and hurt and--I know I made you feel like we didn't want you here, like I didn't want you here. Hell I may have even said those exact words, I dunno anymore, it's all just a blur. But it's not true. I need you to know that Cas, it's not true. It's never been true. I don't care how much you fuck up, or how pissed I am--God knows I've fucked up more than my share. I never want you gone, man." 

 

He draws in a shaky breath, rubs at his burning eyes. "I get it, you know, I get why you need space, and why you uh. May not want to come back anytime soon or. Or ever, I guess. But. Please. Please Cas, you gotta believe me on this one, okay. I run my mouth when I'm--when I'm scared, you know that. I can. I can try to be better, I will, I will be better. Just please believe me. We always--I always need you here. When you're, um. When you're ready. If you're ready. Come back, alright. Come home. This will always be your home Cas, no matter what, okay? You're family. No matter what."

 

He glances over at his phone on his bedside table, willing it to light up with a response. Ten seconds. Thirty. Two hundred and twelve. He sighs, takes off his boots but doesn't bother with the rest, switches off the light, and collapses face first in bed.

 

He's not sure why he wakes up, at first. He rolls over and paws at his phone till it lights up with the time--6:17 AM, a little early for his internal clock to go off, especially after only being asleep four hours. Gone were the days where that was all the sleep he needed to function. He's awake now though, so he flips on his bedside light and is rubbing sleep from his eyes when there is a light but insistent knock on his door.

 

Oh, that must have done it. Odd for Sam not to just come barging in after the first knock--or skip it all together--but hey, maybe he's finally learned his lesson. 

 

"Yeah, yeah, I'm comin'." He opens the door and freezes, sucking in a sharp breath. "Cas."

 

"Hello, Dean." 

 

Cas looks nervous but hopeful with the slightest wry smile. Dean lets out a breath in a combination of a laugh and a sob and grabs Cas around the shoulders in a hug. "God, Cas. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..." He tucks his head into Cas's shoulder, allowing himself that for a moment as Cas's arms come up around him, large hands flat on his back. 

 

"I know Dean, it's alright. I heard your prayer. I'm sorry too."

 

"No, no," Dean sniffs and pulls away to meet Cas's eyes. "You don't have anything to apologize for, not any more. Not to me."

 

Cas squints at him, confused. "But..."

 

"Look, I know you're sorry, okay? And I get why you did what you did, and I know you regret it, so. It's done. I never should have been so hard on you, man." He moves away, needing some distance, and fiddles with the pens on his desk as Cas shuts the door behind him.

 

"Dean, you were right to be upset. What I hid from you ... I was so far in denial and, and couldn't bring myself to consider the consequences if I was wrong. I thought I could figure it out on my own and not burden you." He shakes his head and sighs. "You'd think I'd have learned by now ..."

 

Dean snorts out a laugh. "Yeah, well, when do any of us ever learn, huh? Anyways I'm glad you're back man, it's good to see you. Are you, uh, planning on sticking around, or ...?"

 

"If you'll have me, yes, I'd like to stay. Leaving was ... difficult, painful, but the right choice for me--for us, I think. We needed time, and distance, but I would like to come home now." He smiles a small, hopeful smile. "There is never anyplace else I'd rather be than by your side."

 

Dean's mouth works for a second, then he shakes his head. "God Cas. You say things like that and it makes me think ... I dunno." He sits heavily on the bed and runs his hand over his face. God, he needs to keep his mouth shut or he'll say something he can't take back. This unexpected reunion and reconciliation has made him giddy, reckless. He grips his thighs painfully tight, reeling himself back in.

 

Cas squints, all too perceptive. "What is it?

 

"Nothing, it's just. Hard to believe, you know? You back and, and wanting to stay, even with all my shit, it's just. I dunno. With all we've lost in the last few months it's just hard to trust that it's real, you know? Not gonna blow up in our faces again tomorrow."

 

"Dean." Cas sits next to him on the bed, angled towards him. Dean swallows, stares down at his hands. "I don't know what I can say to help. We likely just need time to rebuild with each other or ... build something new, on a stronger foundation maybe. You ... want me to stay, yes?"

 

Dean forces his eyes up to meet Cas's, nods. "I do. Always"

 

"Then I will do everything in my power to do so. What do you need from me to make it real for you?"

 

"I need ..." He cuts himself off again. What does he need? He can't articulate it, he can't speak it into being. His throat closes up and he shakes his head, looking down at his hands again.

 

Cas's hand is on his cheek, turning him back to meet his eyes. Dean tries to keep his face clear, tries not to lean into the touch. He's pretty sure he fails both.  "Dean. Whatever it is. Whatever it is you need from me. You have it. I'm yours."

 

Dean has spent his entire life denying himself anything he truly wants, suppressing and repressing, masking and burying himself so deep even he doesn't know what's real anymore. He has gotten very, very good at pretending. 

 

He's so fucking tired of pretending. 

 

Cas is right there, open and earnest and beautiful. His hand still on Dean's face, his thumb moving slowly back and forth on Dean's cheek. His eyes, as always, seeming to see into Dean's soul, into the core of him, into what's real.

 

Dean breaks. He falls. He leans in to meet Cas's lips with his own, and with no hesitation, no moment of doubt, Cas responds.

 

For a moment it's perfect. For a moment Dean forgets, forgets who he is, who he's with, why he can't have this and why he never has. Cas is gentle but deliberate, moving with him and drawing out more. For a moment he's caught.

 

But 30 years of denial yank him back, reality--is it real? Is this real?--comes crashing down. It can't be real. He pulls back gasping, letting go of Cas's coat where he'd apparently grabbed on, unconsciously. He squeezes his eyes shut and crumples, elbows on his knees and hands in his hair.

 

"Cas you can't. I fucked up, and I'll fuck up again because that's what I do, and I can't--I don't want to fuck this up. But I will. You can't want this, you can't." You can't want me. A broken shell of a man, bitter and jagged and cruel and flawed, so flawed. Cas is hope and freedom and sincerity and certainty. Dean is just a lost little boy playing at being a hero, and destroying everything in his wake. 

 

"Dean. Look at me." Dean forces his eyes open and complies, drawing in a sharp breath at the intensity of emotion he sees there. "Since the dawn of creation I have never wanted anything more. I have never loved anything more than I love you, Dean Winchester." A sob escapes, and he feels raw, split open and whole all at once. "I have loved you since my Grace touched your battered soul and rebuilt you from dust and bone." Cas wipes a tear off Dean's cheek with his thumb. "You deserve so much more than you allow yourself to have. Please. Let me show you." 

 

Dean takes a shaky breath and searches Cas's eyes for a long moment. He licks his lips and nods. "Okay," he says with a watery smile. "Okay."