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He watched her. He watched how her chest rose and fell with each breath. He watched to make sure it stayed that way. If it ever staggered, he was there at the ready, angel on speed-pray, to get the help she needed. 

Dean wondered what drove Y/n to this point of insanity. Did she think she had something to prove to him? Did she have a death wish? Was it some freaky combination of the two, or something else entirely? Whatever it was, he knew he almost lost her. 

When he woke up to her missing, he went ballistic. He called everyone in his contacts that knew Y/n or might know where she’d gone. She didn’t even leave a note. There was nothing to indicate that she was safe and out of harm’s way. But Dean knew better. Something in his gut told him that she’d found a case, something she thought she could handle by herself, got in her car, and booked it. Dean poured over her search history, looking for anything that indicated where she went. 

Dean sat in the chair next to the bed. His brow pinched and his eyes narrowed as he ensured the stability of her condition. It took too long to stop the bleeding. The long, deep gash in her thigh came close to hitting an artery, and he breathed a sigh of gratitude to whoever watched over them. Although no blood squirted out from the high pressure of arterial bodies, crimson still pooled around her like a perverted bed. When he scooped her up and got her to the Impala, it was almost too late. Sam peeled out of that warehouse parking lot as fast as he could. They barely made it to the hospital in time. 

Usually, Dean avoided hospitals. They asked too many questions and reported things like gunshot wounds and injuries that looked like animal attacks. But, he couldn’t warrant anything else this time. Castiel didn’t answer at first. No other angel would willingly help a Winchester. It was the hospital or watch Y/n die in his arms, and he couldn’t stomach that. So the hospital it was. 

He lied about the origin of her injuries. Said it was some freak accident when they were changing out a table saw blade. That it slipped and horrifyingly cut her open. It was a barely believable story, but they didn’t press any further for an explanation. He was glad about that. 

Dean reached out and wrapped his fingers around hers. They lied limp in his hold, and he begged for Y/n to wake up, to grip his hand so tight that his fingers went numb. He wanted her to wake up, to come back to him, and never leave him like that again. Dean swore to himself he wouldn't fall in love after what happened to Lisa and Ben. It was too much pain to bear. Giving those two up was the hardest thing he'd ever done, and he fought monsters for a living. He couldn't go through that again. 

Then Y/n showed up. With her beautiful y/h/c hair and charismatic y/e/c eyes that danced whenever he mentioned anything akin to Led Zeppelin or beer burgers. It was during the first food fight that he noticed the skip in his heartbeat. She had mashed potatoes in her hair and corn stuck to her shirt, but she laughed like it was the best thing in the world. That laugh was music to his ears. Y/n was smart, too. She knew her way around the trunk of Baby, and he didn't even have to tell her what was what. She just knew. She helped with more research than he could blink at. Sam always enjoyed long nights pouring over books and articles on the Internet. She made a game out of it, and Dean even found himself getting in the spirit of competition just to see the look on Sam's face when he found the breakthrough. 

When did he stop believing in her abilities? When did he start treating her like some fragile flower that might blow away at the mere mention of a Werewolf or demon or vengeful spirit? 

Maybe he had grown too protective of her, but he was so deathly afraid to lose this one good thing that came out of a life of hunting. Part of Dean felt like this was a chance to redeem himself for what did happen to Lisa and Ben. He never meant to drag them into anything. But Y/n was different. She already knew what it was like to be a hunter. She knew the ins and outs of the monsters, of the risks involved in mingling with the Winchesters. But none of that mattered. Y/n wanted to help. She just ended up helping in more ways than one. 

Dean leaned forward in his chair and rested his forehead against the thin mattress of the hospital bed. Beeps from the monitor became background noise as he focused all his energy on willing Y/n to wake up. He never let go of her hand. Never wanted to for fear that the second his skin left hers, she would slip away. 

"I'm sorry, baby," he whispered. "Whatever it was, I'm so sorry. I didn't think you'd do something like this, but I get it. Keep a hunter cooped up for too long, they have to scratch the itch. Maybe I forgot. Maybe I got scared. I don't know. You're strong, Y/n. You can come back from this. Hell, I've seen you come back from worse, right? This is nothing. It's child's play." Dean sat up and wiped away at the tears with the back of his hand. "Just please wake up, Y/n. Please."

Sam opened the door and Dean hastily swiped at the wetness on his cheeks. He took the coffee his brother offered and sipped at it. Hospital coffee held a bitterness that nothing else in the world could compare to. It was pure acid, and Dean winced from the horrible taste. 

"How is she?" Sam asked as he took the chair against the window. Rain pattered against the glass panes and ran down to the ledge. It hadn't let up for hours. 

"Same." 

Dean just stared at her. Her skin looked ashen from the blood loss. Dark circles made her look sicker than she was. 

"Any word from Cas?" 

Dean shook his head. "Not since he first worked his mojo." 

Castiel did just enough to immediately heal the worst of the incision. Apparently he was needed elsewhere, but he made sure Dean knew to pray to him if she took a downward turn. So far, his services weren't needed. Dean hoped it stayed that way. 

"You need sleep, Dean." 

But he didn't for fear something would happen the second he closed his eyes. So, he watched her. He watched her and prayed to something that she would make it through and wake up to steal his shirts again. To surprise him with morning sex and apple muffins with freshly ground coffee. To put together game night with Sam, Cas, and whoever felt like dropping by for some beers and laughs. Dean felt truly happy for the first time in too many years. Sure, he was still hunting, but he had her, damn it. And if he had her, then everything was still okay. 

A flurry of wings echoed around the small room, and Dean looked over to see an angel in a trench coat standing at the foot of Y/n's hospital bed. His brow pinched together and his mouth was set in a deep frown as he stared at the unconscious woman. 

"Cas," Dean mumbled. "Please tell me you're here to fix her." 

"Of course I will heal her." Castiel removed his coat and draped it over the edge of the bed. "But first, I must know. What did this to her, Dean?"

"We think it was a demon," Sam answered for his brother. "Y/n was on the receiving end of a blade, but we don't know for sure what it was. From everything we found on her computer, it looked like demon omens." 

Cas nodded. "I see. Was the demon disposed of?"

"What?" Dean's eyes narrowed as he looked up at the the angel "No, Cas! We didn't take the time to hunt down the little devil while Y/n was busy bleeding out! That's not how this works!" 

Sam leaned forward in his chair, his expression full of curiosity. "Why do you ask, Cas? Why the interest?"

"Because." Castiel sighed and turned toward Sam. "One of Hell's worst escaped prison." 

"Hell has its own prison?" Dean asked. 

"Essentially, yes. We're afraid that's what Y/n was hunting when...when this happened. If he's back, then the state of the universe is in much more peril than we thought."

Dean's gaze dropped to her sleeping face. Why would she go after something so powerful alone? Why would she even go after a single demon alone, let alone a maximum security prisoner? Dean had so many questions, but nothing could be answered unless she woke up. 

"Cas," Dean began. "Could you work your magic and bring Y/n back? Please?" 

"Yes, of course." 

Castiel approached her and laid two fingers on her forehead. His eyes glowed magnificent blue for a moment then Y/n's flickered open. She glanced around the room, confusedly scrunching her brow at Castiel when she realized the vice grip on her hand.

"Dean?" That voice was like music to his ears. 

"Hey, baby," he whispered. "I'm here. You're okay. You're at the hospital. We can go home soon." 

All his questions could wait. All he saw was his world staring back at him from the confines of a hospital bed. He prayed a silent 'thank you' to Castiel as he pressed his lips to her forehead. Her skin still felt cold to the touch, but that would go away with time. 

"I love you," Dean murmured to her, and he watched as her eyes lit up. Those beautiful eyes. 

"I love you, Dean." 

They didn't even wait for the official discharge order. They snuck out of the hospital and drove away as fast as humanly possible back to Lebanon, Kansas and the safety of the bunker. Y/n tried to get out of the car, but she groaned as pain lingered.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Here."

In a swift motion, Dean picked her up and carried into the underground labyrinth they called home. She wrapped her arms around his neck and laid her head against his shoulder. Dean didn't hide the soft smile that spread over his tired face. It was only a few hours ago that he didn't know if he'd ever hear her voice again let alone feel the warmth of her body against his.

He held her against him on their bed. The lights were out. Her head was on his chest and his arms were wrapped around her, unwilling to let her go. He softened his own breathing just so he could hear hers. Dean loved her, and he just couldn't bring himself to give her any sense of space. At least, not right now.  

"Aren't you worried about why I left in the middle of the night?" Y/n eventually asked.

"Not right now." He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "I will be later. All that matters right now is that you're safe. You're alive. And I want to make sure that's real before we tackle anything else." 

"Okay." Dean heard the smile in her voice and the way she sighed as she snuggled back down against him.

Yeah, Dean swore he would never fall in love again after what happened with Lisa, but he never expected her to show up. And he could never deny the strong magnetism between them. A connection that overpowered any other force. He still had her, and damn it, not even being dragged to Hell all over again would force him to let her go.