Dean steeled his nerves as he made his way to the library. This talk had been a long time coming. Ten years in the making, actually. He needed to tell Cas how he felt while he still had a chance. After everything that had happened with losing Jack, and now with their intel on Michael, Dean needed Cas to at least hear what he had to say before either of them died. There had been too many times when he or Cas had died and he thought he had missed his chance. He had been given countless do-overs and he wasn’t going to mess this one up.
Dean had talked to Sam about this first, even though he hadn’t really wanted to. It was just that, every single time he and Cas came close to this conversation, Sam always, always interrupted. Without fail. He didn’t want that this time. Not when he was so damn close to getting everything he had wanted for ten years. Or getting his heart smashed to pieces, but Sam had assured him that that wouldn’t happen.
“Cas feels the same way,” Sam had said with a small, encouraging smile. After a long ten minutes of teasing, of course. Dean took another calming breath before entering the library. It was Cas’ favorite place to go when they were sort of waiting around for some action. As predicted, the blue-eyed angel was sitting at one of the tables with his nose buried in a lore book. It looked more ancient than any Dean had ever seen and, for a brief moment, he wondered what Cas was researching. Then he remembered he was there for a reason. He cleared his throat.
“Uh, hey, Cas.” The angel looked up and smiled softly. The smile that was always reserved only for Dean.
“Um…” Dean rubbed the back of his neck. “Can we talk, buddy?” This was the easy part. Cas always said yes when he asked to talk. Asking was really just a formality at this point. It was understood that they could talk to each other about anything and everything. To Dean’s utter shock, and disappointment, Cas shook his head.
“Uh, it’s kind of important. There’s something I’ve kinda been meaning to say to you for a long time.”
“Stop, Dean. I know.”
“Sam told me what you wanted to talk about.” Dean tensed. He never should have talked to Sam. His little brother could never keep his damn mouth shut.
“Oh, so you…know.”
“Yes, and I can’t, Dean. We can’t.” All right, quick and painful. Perfect. Dean felt his chest tighten, but he did his best to keep a straight face. He could cry and drown himself in whiskey later. Right now, in front of Cas, he had to stay strong.
“All right, I get it.” He turned to leave and was startled when Cas appeared in front of him.
“Don’t leave like this, Dean. This has nothing to do with you.”
“Well, I think it has a little to do with me,” Dean snapped, his anger showing.
“No. This is about me. This is my fault. I know what you came here to say, and, Dean, you have no idea how badly I want to hear those words from you, but I can’t.”
“Because I made a deal.” Dean narrowed his eyes.
“What deal?” Cas sighed and sat back down at the table. Dean sat beside him. “What deal, Cas?” The angel looked up and Dean could see the pain in his cobalt blue eyes.
“Jack was in Heaven, but the Empty wanted him. The angel half of him, anyway. I couldn’t let that happen, Dean. I remember it. It was horrible, and I couldn’t let that happen to Jack. So I made a deal with the Shadow. I told him to take me in Jack’s place, and he agreed.”
“So then why are you still breathing air?”
“Because he said he wouldn’t take me until I was truly happy. He wanted me to forget about the deal and forget about him until the moment when I let myself be truly happy. Then he’s going to take it all away. So, I want you to say those words to me, but you can’t, because if you do, I will be happier than I ever have in my entire existence, and then I’ll be gone. I can’t do that to Jack, and I can’t do that to you.” Dean let that sink in. After all they had been through. After all the missed opportunities and second chances, and this is what gets them? Another fucking deal? Dean loved Jack with all his heart, he truly did, the boy was like a son to him, but he would never trade Jack for Cas. Not in a million years. To be fair, he wouldn’t trade anyone for Cas, Jack, or Sam. They all meant too much to him.
“Cas, you’re, like, a billion years old,” Dean said. “I’m sure there’s been something or someone who meant as much to you as I do.” Cas shook his head.
“Until I met you, until I pulled you out of Hell, all I ever was was a soldier. A hammer, I believe you called me. You changed me. You made me see that I have choices. I fell for you because you helped me realize that there’s more to life than just obeying orders. There is not a single entity in this universe, or any other, that could have such an impact on me. And that’s why we can’t do this. Because I can’t leave you. We’re at a crossroads here, Dean, and the deal has already been made. If you say those words, I will truly be happier than I ever thought possible, and then you’ll lose me. I hardly think that’s fair.”
“Shit,” Dean muttered. Cas was right. If Dean told him everything he had been bottling up for ten years, Cas would probably drop dead on the spot. But he couldn’t keep it in anymore. It didn’t matter to him that Cas knew how he felt, Dean needed to say the words. The only person he had ever said them to before was his mother and he had ended up wishing he could take them back. He had finally gotten up enough courage to say them to Cas and, damnit, no fucking Shadow was going to stop him. Dean looked Cas in the eye.
“No, I’m gonna say this and then we’re gonna kick that Shadow’s ass all the way back to the fucking Empty where it fucking belongs.”
“Dean, we can’t—.”
“Yes, we can. I made a stupid deal once and you broke it. Well, let me return the favor. I’m gonna break this deal for you, and you know why? Because I love you, Cas. I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love another person and no Shadow is going to get in the way of that. You mean too much to me for me to lose you over something so stupid. Not this time.” Cas smiled. It was warm and genuine and laced with a certain level of pain.
“I love you, too, Dean.” This was the part where they were supposed to kiss, but it didn’t feel natural. Not yet. They still had the prospect of the Shadow looming over them. When that problem was taken care of and Cas wholly and completely his, then Dean would claim him with that first kiss. They stared at each other for a moment and an understanding passed between them. Cas nodded.
“We’ll deal with this the way we deal with everything else,” Dean said. “Together. As a family.” He squeezed Cas’ hand affectionately before he got up to find Sam and Jack so he could loop them in. This was going to be an all hands on deck situation.