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So Comes Snow After Fire

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After everything had calmed down as much as it was going to, after Chuck was gone, Cas had gotten hellbent (ha) on starting a garden, creating something, and Dean had humored him, even going so far as to build the planter boxes. 

Maybe that was the beginning of everything. 

******

The hunt was longer, and way more complicated, than either of them had bargained for.

Sam had promised that it was “totally doable” and that it “wouldn’t take but a day with two people,” but here they were, a week later. Cas and Dean had been dragged across most of the southern US, always realizing they were in the wrong small town or hearing of another ghost in another place.

Technically, they could have left this all behind. Chuck was gone, there were no big bads left to fight. But being a hunter was in Dean’s DNA, and Cas would follow him anywhere. 

As it turned out, the weather in the South doesn’t let up just because the calendar says October.

They’d learned this the hard way, by the seventh night of the hunt, now covered in sweat even though it was one in the morning.

Dean flopped across the front seat of the Impala, spreading his legs out and unbuttoning his shirt, “Fuck. It’s hot.”

“The humidity makes it worse,” Cas said helpfully, “So it’s almost as if we’re being boiled.” He himself had ditched his trench coat an hour ago, and is now pulling off his suit coat and tie.

Dean turned to get a good look at a practically naked Cas, blurting out, “The cicadas are awfully loud.”

Cas sighed, “Cicadas have an organ called a tymbal that contains a series of ribs that buckle one after the other when the cicada flexes its muscles. Every time a rib buckles, a clicking noise is made.”

“Weird.”

“No weirder than digging up someone’s coffin to light it on fire.”

“You know what?” Dean turned the keys in the ignition and instantly cranks the AC up.

“What, Dean?” A pause, and then Cas added, “You didn’t have a response, did you?”

Dean turned on the radio. 

******

Cas reads the Bible for fun.

The first time Dean caught Cas doing it, the whiplash of watching a literal angel of the lord in a trench coat laying on a crappy hotel mattress with a King James held in front of his face nearly sent Dean babbling.

It’s kind of interesting to watch, though.

Dean was sure, at this point, after nearly ten years of knowing Cas and calling the angel his best friend, that Cas has read the Bible hundreds of times. But it didn’t seem to matter--Cas still read the “good book” with the same measured concentration, a slight furrow in his brow and purse to his lips. 

Cas turned a page, because of course he was reading it again , and Dean finally chose to break the silence.

“Does it change each time?” He asked.

Without turning his head towards him, Cas answered, “Depending on the translation, some parts are more or less different from version to--”

“Dude. I was making a joke,” Dean rolled his eyes, took a deep swig of his beer, “I mean, you’ve read it so many times. How is it still interesting?”

“Well,” Cas turned another page-- had he been reading during this whole conversation? --”Right now I'm on the bit where God sends down a plague of locusts,” A beat. “He also sent down frogs, but those aren’t insects.”

Cas said it as if it’s the honest-to-goodness truth, and Dean couldn’t tell if he’s kidding.

“I was there,” Cas added, “It didn’t get very interesting, though, until the bit about water turning into blood.”

“Morbid much?”

This made Cas finally glance over, “I was a soldier for Heaven at the time. I wasn’t as....tolerant as I am now.”

“I’d say,” Dean took another drink of beer. “But don’t you get bored of reading the same book over and over?”

“I watched humanity for millennia and never got bored,” Cas set down the book and fully turned toward Dean. “I’ve been on dozens of hunts just like this one, with you, and I’ve never gotten bored.”

“Well, that can’t be true.”

“You’re a very interesting person, Dean.”

Dean couldn’t think of anything to do with his hands suddenly, and they felt too large for his body, so he started peeling the label off of his beer bottle, “Buddy, you have got to meet more humans. You’ve been hanging out with just Sam and I for too long.”

“I wish you wouldn’t sell yourself short,” Cas sighed, “You’re incredibly intuitive, thoughtful when you try, witty, a good cook, caring, and you’ll do anything for those you love.”

“I usually fall short on that last one,” A ribbon of the bottle’s label fell off into Dean’s hand.

“Not from my point of view.” 

Dean’s eyes flicked up to meet the angel’s, and he felt something warm stirring in his chest. 

Cas smiled at him, settled back into his chair, “You’re good company,” His mouth quirked up, before he continued, “You know, if you want something in the Bible to read and see what it’s all about.....start with the Song of Solomon.”

“Are you saying that because it’s a song?” Dean asked.

“No. It’s a love story.” 

******

It was day eight of the (apparently) never-ending hunt.

They had spent the day investigating a police station and interviewing people to figure out what grave to torch come nighttime, and now Dean was raring to get back to their crappy motel.

“Cas, c’mon,” When there was no response from the angel, Dean turned around, “Cas?”

Cas was crouching on the ground by the side of the road, looking at something. What, Dean didn’t know, nor did he care, because it was rainy and muggy and the air was damp, and he wanted to get out of this fed suit as soon as possible.

Dean let out a sigh and walked back to him, putting a hand on his shoulder, “Cas, buddy? We gotta go.”

“Shhh,” Cas said, putting a finger to his lips, “Look.”

Dean rolled his eyes and squatted next to Cas, “What?”

“Look at that frog.” 

It was, in fact, the largest frog Dean had ever seen, and he was also fairly certain that the brown-and-green speckled monstrosity was actually a toad. But somehow it didn’t really matter, because Cas looked happy, serene almost, just looking at it. 

The frog-toad-amphibian croaked at them and then hopped away. “Bye,” Cas said, waving before standing up, “Sorry, Dean. Now we can go.”

“No worries,” Dean replied, and he meant it. 

*****

When they got to the next graveyard, it turned out there was a witch getting off on reanimating corpses.

Fucking witches. 

“So let me get this straight,” Dean said, hoping to give Cas enough time to sneak up to the witch from behind before she decided to….eat him? He wasn’t sure, but he was tied to a gravestone, and that was never a good sign. “Let me get this straight,” he repeated, “You’ve just been stirring up these spirits….for fun?”

“To remind people of the coming doom,” the witch said.

Dean laughed. A few months ago, the half-angel that was sort of his kid had killed the coming doom. 

“Why are you laughing?” She said, “You’ll meet your death, and then I am going to will your spirit to join the others.”

“Fat chance,” Dean said, because now he could see Cas creeping up behind her with a machete. He swung it just as she began uttering a spell, and the spell fizzled out, sparks of it hitting Dean as she fell to the ground. 

Cas poked at her with a foot to make sure she was really dead before running to the gravestone and starting to untie Dean. 

“Thanks: an expression of gratitude,” Dean said, suddenly clamping his hand over his mouth as the ropes fell away.

“Dean? Are you alright?” Cas put a hand on his shoulder.

“No: used to express negation, dissent, denial, or refusal,” Dean replied, before letting out a long, laborious sigh.

“We should head back to the bunker,” Cas started walking back to the Impala, “I’ll get stuff so we can burn the witch, and then we’re going back and Sam’ll help us fix it.”

******

They finally made it back to the bunker, but not before Dean thoroughly frustrated himself by trying to sing along to Zeppelin in the car and only being able to get the first word, with the definition, out. 

“Okay, Dean, give it to me straight,” Sam said, leafing through one of their lore books as he stood in front of his brother, “What’s wrong?”

“Curse: a prayer or invocation for harm or injury to come upon one,” Dean replied, followed by an emphatic, “Fuck: to deal with unfairly or harshly!”

Cas sighed, “He’s been like this ever since we got away from that witch. I’m pretty sure he’s been cursed to only speak in definitions.”

“Yes: used as a function word to express assent or agreement.” Dean nodded as he spoke.

“Well, this is gonna get old really fast,” Sam said, “Kinda wish she had cursed him to just not be able to speak.”

Dean opened his mouth, but before he could get another definition out, Cas clamped a hand over his mouth, saying, “Let’s go on a walk, Dean, leave Sam alone so he can figure this out.”

Dean pried Cas’s hand off of his mouth, “Ugh: used to indicate the sound of a cough or grunt or to express disgust or horror.” But he stood up and followed Cas out of the library, up the stairs, and out of the bunker. 

“I will say,” Cas commented as they walked, the crisp fall air slightly biting, “It is amusing to hear you curse with definitions.”

Dean glared at him, but didn’t reply. 

The silence was comfortable as they walked. Dean kept kicking acorns out of the way irritably, into the dirt off of the side of the road.

“What did the acorns ever do to you?” Cas asked.

Dean shrugged, replying after a moment, “Frustrated: feeling discouragement, anger, and annoyance because of unresolved problems or unfulfilled goals, desires, or needs.”

“I understand.”

When they got back to the bunker, Sam was waiting for them. “I figured it out,” he said, “It’s a really simple counter spell.”

Dean simply nodded, not wanting to spout out another definition, but he looked pleased.

“Although...I kind of like that you’re talking less. Maybe we could wait?” Sam raised an eyebrow.

Dean took a flying tackle towards his brother, shouting, “Murder: the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice!”

“Are you gonna help me?!” Sam asked, trying to pry Dean off of him, “Or are you just gonna let him kill me?”

Cas shrugged, putting his hands in his pockets, before saying with a deadpan expression, “Amused: pleasantly entertained or diverted.” 

*****

Eventually, Sam relented and returned Dean to normal. The first thing he did, of course, was properly cuss out his brother. 

Now, it was a few days later, and Dean was in the kitchen. 

“What are we trying today?” Jack asked, sitting at the kitchen table, “Cas never told me.”

“Mushrooms,” Dean replied, putting the pizza into the oven, “Why he thinks they’ll be good is lost on me, but...” He ended the sentence with a shrug.

Since becoming human after defeating the (hopefully) last big bad, Cas had become enamored with trying as many different kinds of pizza toppings as possible. Dean realized he had possibly made a mistake by telling Cas that there were more kinds of pizza than meat-lovers.

Jack shrugged back, returning to looking at his phone. 

There was a crunching noise, and Dean whipped around, “Jack, what are you eating?”

“Nothing.”

Dean sighed, taking his oven mitts off and walking to the table, holding out a hand, “Liar.”

“Fine,” Jack handed him a half-eaten chocolate bar, “I’m just hungry.”

“And we’re about to eat,” Dean pulled the wrapper over the chocolate, “I’ll put this in the fridge. You can eat it later, okay?”

“I thought you were my fun dad,” Jack grumbled.

“I am. But your not-fun dad will be back soon, and I don’t feel like getting chewed out for letting you eat candy right before dinner.” Dean sat down across from Jack, “Although I’ve heard there’s such a thing as dessert pizza…”

“Dessert pizza?” Cas asked, wandering in, “I thought we were having mushrooms tonight.”

“We are,” Dean said, standing up, “Or, rather, you are. The jury’s still out on if I’ll eat it.”

“Do I have to?” Jack asked.

“Yes,” Dean said firmly, “You need your vegetables.”

Cas’s gaze fell on Dean, a smile on his face. He was remembering another time that Dean had done something like this for Jack, on a hunt…..

 

"It sounds like screaming,” Jack said, a trace of worry in his voice, “Do you think someone’s hurt?”

“It’s probably just a screech owl,” Dean replied, “They’re called that ‘cause their hoots sound like screaming.” When Jack didn’t look less concerned, he added, “I’ll go outside and check, okay?”

Cas moved to sit next to Jack on the tiny couch as Dean left, dust coming up into the air from the aged cushions. They had gotten the last room in a motel in somewhere that was truly the boondocks. It was really a motor court--all the rooms were separate little bungalows. The street light outside was busted. 

“It’ll be fine,” Cas reassured him, “Dean’s going to check on it.”

“I know,” Jack said, cheer starting to come back to his demeanor, “He takes good care of us.”

Cas felt a warmth in his chest at the content expression on Jack’s face. “Yeah,” he replied, “He does.”

 

“Cas, buddy? You with us?” Dean waved a hand in front of his face.

“Huh? Oh yeah, just zoned out.” Cas shook his head, feeling himself blush as his eyes met Dean’s.

“Is the pizza ready?” Jack asked. 

The corners of Dean’s mouth lifted, and then he turned from Cas’s gaze, “Almost, kiddo.” 

Dean constantly marveled at how the bunker has changed since the end, since Chuck’s been gone. It was really the only place he’s ever considered “home,” he’s said to Cas and Sam before, Let’s go home. But now, things had been cropping up that made that name real. 

Cas had amassed a truly horrifying collection of mugs. They’re all from the thrift store--Cas went every week and always came back with a new one. One day Cas took Jack with him and they came back with a mug for Dean that says “#1 Dad.”

(So maybe the mugs aren’t so bad after all.)

The library had become half-strewn with books, random notes left to each other, and blankets. The Dean Cave became the regular hang out spot--they even set up a movie-choosing rotation. Cas neatly drew it out and hung it on the wall. 

(Cas always chooses rom-coms. Dean always complains and then tears up at the ending.)

They leave notes for each other in other places, too. Dean, don’t use up all the hot water, Cas writes on a post-it attached to the mirror. Sam adds on, seconded . When Dean saw them, he put his own post-it below theirs, saved all the cold water just for you two <3 

(This earned a frown from Cas and a shoulder punch from Sam.)

Sam took Jack on his jogs, Dean taught Cas how to make the perfect pancakes, they all stay up too late (except for Jack, who has a semi-enforced bedtime--the kid may have defeated God, but he’s still just that, a kid) drinking beer and laughing about their days.

And now Dean was making pizza with gross toppings for a sort-of angel, his brother, and their collective half-angel kid. 

*******

“Hey, buddy,” Dean said, without turning around, recognizing Cas’s footsteps as he wandered into the kitchen the next morning. He heard the sound of a chair scraping, and then Cas settling into it.

There was a period of silence, and then Cas said, his tone morose, “Why do raccoons have human hands?”

“Uh....” Dean set his spatula down on the counter before turning around to face Cas, “Why do they what?”

“Have human hands.” Cas held up his hand, turning it to show Dean his palm, flexing his fingers, “Their hands are like ours.”

Dean was about to point out that Cas wasn’t human, but then he shook his head. With Chuck gone, Cas’s grace was nearly gone, so he was close enough.

“Any particular reason you’re concerned about raccoons?” Dean asked.

“They’ve been stealing food from the garden.” Cas frowned. 

“I could shoot ‘em.”

“But they have human hands!”

“That,” Dean turned back to the stove, stabbing the eggs he was scrambling with his spatula, “Doesn’t make them human.” 

“I still don’t want you to shoot them.”

Dean finished scrambling the eggs and dumped more cheese than was strictly healthy on them before dividing them between two plates and heading to the table. He slid one plate to Cas as he sat down, saying, “Well, there are probably other ways to take care of raccoons, too. Maybe we can look some up after breakfast.”

Cas’s face lit up. “Really? You would spend your morning researching instead of--”

“Hey, hey, don’t make me regret it. And eat your eggs. You’re not eating enough.” Dean pretended not to notice the way he could feel his cheeks heating up as Cas beamed at him. 

“You know,” Cas said after they had eaten in silence for a few minutes, “You still didn’t tell me why raccoons have human hands.”

“How would I know?”

Cas shrugged.

“Fine,” Dean sighed, “We can look that up, too.” 

Truth be told, they often talked about the garden at breakfast. It was one of Cas’s favorite topics of conversation, and Dean wasn’t going to take it from him. Cas had a book on flower meanings. It was something he had found the last time Dean took him shopping, and now it was dog-eared and covered in coffee stains. Cas read it nearly obsessively, and as they settled into fall, Cas decided to cope with the onset of cold weather by plotting his flower garden for the spring. Dean kept finding him in various places in the bunker, writing in the margins of the book with a pencil or reading with a furrowed brow. 

The morning after their raccoon adventures, while Dean was pouring their coffee, he heard Cas set the book on the counter with a thunk before saying, “I’m disappointed.”

“Hm?” Dean was only half paying attention as he grabbed creamer out of the fridge, “What’s disappointing you?”

“Foxgloves.”

“There’s no way that foxes could wear gloves, Cas, you--”

Cas cut him off, “No, I understand the word. The flower is the problem.”

Dean knew fuck-all about flowers, so he faced Cas, handing him his coffee mug, “I’m gonna need more information.” 

Cas flipped the book back open, spinning it towards Dean. On the page was a heading reading Foxglove (Digitalis) and several pictures of pink-and-purple bell-shaped clusters of flowers. 

“They’re very pretty,” Cas explained, “But also extremely poisonous, so it’s generally frowned upon to grow them in a home garden. Which is disappointing, because I want my flowers to all mean something, and I like what foxgloves symbolize.”

Dean’s eyes roamed further down the page, to where it said Symbolism: Digitalis is a symbol of protection and healing.

Dean felt himself blush as he glanced back up at Cas, “Maybe we can figure out another flower for you to grow that means the same thing.”

So Dean looked some stuff up, and when Cas wandered into the kitchen again later for lunch, he shoved his phone into Cas’s face.

“What’s this?” Cas said, taking it and peering at the screen.

“It’s, uh...” Dean swallowed, “I looked up some stuff that might have....similar meanings. Thought you might be interested.” He took a gulp of his coffee to stop talking, burning his tongue and grimacing.

Cas read aloud from the webpage Dean had pulled up, which featured pictures of flat fans of tiny yellow-and-white flowers, “Achillea, commonly known as Yarrow, was named after the ancient Greek hero Achilles. According to legend, Achilles used Yarrow to treat his and his soldier’s wounds during the Trojan War.” He looked up, catching Dean’s eyes, before continuing, “Yarrow is a symbol of healing and protection.”

“Keep reading,” Dean said, “There’s more.”

“Throughout history, Achillea was used for religious or ritual purposes against negative energy and evil. It was used as an amulet or talisman to fight demons or to exorcise evil from a person.” At this, Cas laughed.

“And,” Dean said, shifting from one foot to the other, “They’re perennials, which I think means you only have to plant ‘em once and they’ll bloom every year. And they’re not, you know, poisonous.”

A smile that threatened to swallow Dean whole broke out over Cas’s face as he replied, “Thank you.” 

*****

Dean wakes up, naked, in a field.

The sky, a delicate cornflower blue, stretches over him, and the breeze dancing over his skin is soft, round, warm. The grasses are golden, flaxed, and he pulls himself to his feet. There, in the middle of the field, is a tree.

As he approaches the tree, he sees a figure seated next to it. He recognizes the dark head of hair, the sinew of the back. The angel--for that’s who it is, of course--is naked as well, but as Dean draws up to him, he finds himself unashamed.

Castiel looks up at him, his eyes crinkling as he smiles. “Sit,” he offers, and so Dean does, across from him. Cas leans back against the tree.

They sit in silence for an infinite collection of short moments, until Cas speaks again, “They write of a tree like this in the Bible.”

“What kind of tree is it?” Dean asks.

“A fig tree. The story goes that Jesus found a fig tree that was not producing, and so he cursed it.” 

“That’s not a great story.” Dean’s eyes rove over the leafless branches of the fig tree. 

“There’s another one, a parable,” Cas continues, “There was a fig tree that had not produced in three years, and one man wanted to cut it down, but another offered to fertilize it and properly tend it so that it would produce the next year.”

A pause. The breeze waves the grasses around them, a cloud drifts onto the edge of the horizon.

“What does this all mean?” Dean asks.

“Whatever you want it to mean. It’s your dream, after all.”

******

Dean woke up with a start.

He needed to do something, anything, for anyone, instead of letting that dream linger in his head, chasing curves with his mind. 

Cas was sick at the moment (a mostly-former-celestial-wavelength being sick was no joke--and Cas was kind of annoying about it), so maybe he could do something for Jack. 

If Dean thought Cas had gained some weird hobbies, Jack’s were weirder (likely as a result of hanging out with Cas all the time). Recently, his big thing had been looking up random holidays and announcing them at breakfast as if they were as important as, say, Christmas. There was Pasta Day, Apple Day, Paralegal Day, American Beer Day (that was Dean’s favorite), and a lot more. 

After Dean had made breakfast, he brought some to Cas, who looked up at him blearily (the kinda-angel had been practically living in his pajamas for the past three days) and asked, “What’s the special occasion?” 

“Oh, you know,” Dean smiled, knowing that on the kitchen table was a similar plate of strawberry pancakes with a truly gratuitous amount of whipped cream on them and a note that said Happy Sloth Day !, “It’s a holiday, Cas. We gotta celebrate.”

This was how Dean took care of people.

Your typical garden snail moves at a pace of 0.029 miles per hour. 

Dean thought about this fact because it’s easy, simple--it didn’t move around, the fact didn’t, and the snail didn’t much either. While the hustle and bustle of their new, post-defeating-literal-God whirled around him, upsetting his equilibrium (It was an unhealthy way to live, anyway, Sam tells him, it wasn’t good for you), he ground himself in the fact that things move and so could he.

It was getting to be too much, sometimes, though.

The rest of them were so happy. Sam and Eileen went on dates, Jack had time to finally just be a kid, and Cas was.....himself. 

Humanity suited him. 

He was somehow less of a morning person than Dean, he refused to eat eggs that weren’t scrambled, he took hella long showers, he occasionally mouthed the words when he was reading, he would dance to any and all music (Dean had tested this--Cas was also very bad at dancing), and, whenever Dean needed him, Cas met him in the middle, without a word. 

Meanwhile, Dean was like the snail. 

(0.029 miles per hour.)

Dean couldn’t explain why all of this is hard. There wasn’t anything pressing on his chest anymore. 

(Ongoing trauma, Cas would tell him later, could stunt one’s ability to process happiness and peace.)

At this moment, though, Cas hadn’t told Dean that yet, and Dean hadn’t kissed him under a maybe-oak tree. At this moment, Dean was just trying his best to work through his mess. 

(Despite the fact that he felt raw and unfinished, the others never seemed to mind. He was unspeakably grateful. He cooked for them all, told them bad jokes, coerced them into movie nights. He thought that they understood that he was trying to say thank you. )

*****

Cas was old, like old-old, like ancient, like here for the beginning of the goddamn cosmos old, like remembers rain being invented old, and he could be anywhere, but instead he was in Dean’s kitchen (well, the bunker’s, but no one else cooked--Jack and Cas were kind of clueless when it came to that stuff, and all Sam made was health food), reading The Hobbit aloud to Dean while Dean himself made them all spaghetti.

Good spaghetti took time, and Dean has got plenty of that now. Time to carefully chop up the celery and carrots (because even they can’t ruin marinara sauce), add in the spices early and let them marry, slow-stew the tomatoes. The flavor built, as does the story.

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” Cas read from the book. 

Dean’s read The Hobbit before, loves the story, the adventure of it all. He wished he could say he loved his story, all the quests he went on over the years, but he knew that he wasn’t like Bilbo Baggins at the end of The Hobbit, happy to return home and share his story. No, he was like Bilbo at the end of Lord of the Rings, where he went off and away, because he was too different now. 

Dean knew his life experiences have left a hole in him, a gaping chasm. The trouble with holes is, they’re an absence of a thing. They can’t be filled with what was taken. 

So Dean settled for this moment, the smell of rich tomato sauce in the air, Cas’s gravely voice reading a good book, and the promise of good times with family over the spaghetti later. 

“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.”

*****

“Wine and spirits,” Dean said, reading out the sign in front of them, “Used to make a joke about that every time Sam and I saw a liquor store.”

“Why--oh. Spirits,” Cas sighed, “Are you sure we couldn’t just go to a bar or something?”

Dean shrugged. “Don’t feel like seeing other people right now.”

“You know, Dean, it wouldn’t hurt to talk about--”

“As if you want to talk about it,” Dean pulled the keys out of the ignition, “C’mon.” 

But as they wandered through the aisles of the liquor store, Cas wouldn’t stop talking. “I know we parted last time on bad terms, and we still haven’t--”

“When haven’t we parted on bad terms? Here, hold this.” Dean shoved a bottle of gin into Cas’s hands, “Look, man, it’s water under the bridge. Always is. I’m just glad to have you back, and we’re in the midst of a crisis--”

“Dean,” Cas stopped in the middle of the aisle, in front of the bottles of vodka, “Do you remember when I almost killed you?” 

Dean turned to him, “How could I forget?”

“I said I didn’t know what broke the connection, but I did. I was made to kill thousands of copies of you, until I could do it perfectly, without hesitation. But when it was you, really you, I couldn’t do it.”

Dean met Cas’s gaze, his eyes wild, and then shoved the bottles he was holding back onto the shelf, walking out of the store. 

Cas slid into the Impala with two brown bags a couple of minutes later. He set them by his feet, bottles clinking, before turning to Dean, “I never told you, and I’m sorry. I should have been more honest with--”

Dean didn’t turn to face him, but instead said tonelessly, “I tried to kill myself while you were gone.”

“What?”

His voice possessed the same flatness, “Sam and I were dealing with some ghosts. We killed me temporarily so that I could talk to some of them and......” At this, Dean’s voice broke, “I asked Billie to make it permanent. She said no.”

“And then she--”

“And then she brought you back. I had told her that I had nothing left to live for, that I just needed one victory.” Dean put the keys in the ignition, started the car.

Cas put a hand on Dean’s shoulder, “Let’s go home.” 

*****

“Where are you going?” Dean asked. He had turned around at the jingling of car keys to see Cas standing in front of the garage door. Dean himself was tired. He had dreamed about that conversation where he had attempted to tell Cas that he was everything , that without Cas he hadn’t known how to go on, and how he had failed then to say what really mattered, what he really needed to say. 

(What if he hadn’t failed?)

“Hardware store,” Cas said, opening the door.

“.....Any particular reason?” Dean asked.

“For fun?” Cas escaped into the garage. 

Dean stood there sputtering long enough that by the time he followed Cas into the garage, he had already started up the Continental and was pulling out. Dean waved at him, and Cas waved back but then just...left.

Weird.

Dean busied himself cleaning the bunker, trying to convince himself that he didn’t mind that the angel had up and left to go to the hardware store (which was never Cas’s thing), and eventually he decided to do some laundry. 

He was bending down to see if Cas had left any socks under his bed (he insisted on wearing socks to bed and then always kicked them off while he slept) when he noticed that there were a few sheets of paper on the bedside table. They looked to be a series of notes on something, and the cramped handwriting belonged to Cas, so Dean picked them up. One had some kind of sketch of a box, and the other had a list of....bat facts?

  • Kansas is home to 15 species of bats
  • The most common are big brown bat, little brown bat, and evening bat
  • Bats belong to the mammalian order Chiroptera, which means "hand-wing"
  • There are no vampire bats in Kansas (only insect-eating ones)
  • Most Kansas bats are very small, with a body length of only 3 to 4 inches
  • Bats naturally roost in the leaves of trees, in caves or under loose tree bark during the day, but many species prefer to roost in or around man-made structures
  • Large numbers of bats are capable of eating tons of insects each year, making them beneficial to humans

Dean turned his attention back to the sheet with the drawing. It was labeled Bat House . The list of supplies next to the drawing included plywood, screws, and wood stain.

Ah.

Cas returned in the afternoon, disappearing into their room, but he immediately came out and found Dean in the library. 

“Dean,” he asked, “I had some papers on my nightstand. Where are they?”

Dean lifted them from the table and waved them, “These?”

“Yes, Dean,” Cas replied impatiently, “Could I have them back?”

“How about this--you can, but you let me help. I can show you how to use the saw so that you don’t cut your hand off.” 

Cas considered it for a moment, before his face broke out into a grin. “That would be great. Can we start now? I want the stain to dry so that I can hang it up tomorrow and--”

“Of course we can.” 

As they walked to the garage, Cas embarked on an explanation of why bat houses were necessary--”It’s because of deforestation, Dean, and that means that the bats don’t have safe places to sleep or raise their young, and placing the house on a tree high up mimics their natural habitat, and I was thinking we could also get Jack involved with looking at the bats, once they come, and—”

*****

“Dean.”

“Hm?” Dean didn’t glance up at Jack, continuing to read Treatises on Ghouls . Cas and Sam had been insisting that he needed reading glasses, but Dean was stoutly ignoring them, instead choosing to put his face closer to the books. He could claim “deep interest.” 

(They never believed him for a second.)

“I’d like to get a pet.”

Dean looked up at Jack, who was wearing a sweater that Cas had knitted him–another one of Cas’s new hobbies, along with gardening and watching bats–and holding a mug of hot chocolate. The sweater was full of dropped stitches, but Jack had become sort of emotionally attached to it. 

(He understood–Cas had made Dean a scarf that possessed similar issues, but Dean rarely left the house without it these days.)

“Okay,” Dean folded down the corner of the page he was on and shut his book, “What’re you thinking? Dog? Cat? Fish?”

“Opossum.”

“I’m–what?”

“An opossum. They’re very cute.”

“I’m sorry kiddo, but they’re not pets…” Dean watched Jack’s face fall, “But–I have an idea.”

“What’s that?” Jack instantly brightened again.

“Lemme look some stuff up, okay?”

*****

“Do you want to go with me to the grocery store tomorrow?” Cas asked later that evening. They were doing the dinner dishes (Sam had somehow snuck out of dish-duty to go on a date with Eileen).

“I can’t. Jack and I are actually going out,” Dean replied.

“Oh?” Cas turned to him, raising an eyebrow, “What are you doing?”

“Visiting the humane society and then the wildlife rescue.”

(A cat, Dean could handle. An opossum, they were just gonna look at.)

*****

Cas has always been good with everything that lives. 

The world is full of beaten, broken down creatures (Humans are animals too, Dean. They count.) and Cas cares for them all. Dean had always thought that, perhaps, there was nothing wrong with the angel at all. He had heard Cas told that there was a “crack in his chassis,” but the angels had been ordered to love the Earth, and Cas had. He had loved it enough to fall before, and now his grace is nearly gone, for good.

Cas didn’t seem to mind, not this time.

He told Dean that it was a choice, which made it different. Rather than an abrupt absence, his grace simply waned, day by day. Every night he needed a little more sleep, had to eat a little more, was a little more human.

But he still loves all of the creatures of the earth. 

Dean could understand liking the “cute” animals--bunnies, dogs, cats, birds, maybe even guinea pigs (now that brought back memories). Cas, however, loved all the in-between ones. There are bees, of course, but also snakes, spiders, frogs, bats, turtles, and Dean. 

Cas was here. He put on Dean’s favorite movie, or pulled out beers for them, or distracted him with litanies on wildflowers, or asked if they could go on a drive. Other times, he let Dean have his space.

“Do you ever regret it?” Dean asked one day, when Cas had asked to go on a drive. Houses of the Holy was playing on the radio--Dean turns it down. 

“You’re going to have to be more specific, Dean,” There was a smile in Cas’s voice.

“I mean...coming here, staying with us. You had so many chances to leave.”

“Dean, pull over.”

Dean glanced over at Cas, but the (not exactly anymore) angel didn’t seem upset. He just had a small smile on his face. 

Dean pulled over at the first place he saw that has enough shoulder, next to a field. Cas got out of the Impala, and Dean followed him, because he wasn’t sure what else to do.

Cas lay down in the grass and closed his eyes, and Dean lay down next to him, because he wasn’t sure what Cas wanted, but so far this seemed fine. 

After a few minutes of silence, Cas opened his eyes and looked at Dean, and then at the sky. “You can’t see any of this from Heaven,” he said, “Not like this, anyways. It’s different here. Do you feel the breeze, the sunshine?”

Dean nodded.

“This place....” Cas patted the ground next to him, “Is my home because I chose it. I chose this, and so I cannot regret it,” His voice was so damn sincere, and it hit Dean right in the ribs.

“Also,” Cas added after another quiet moment, “Heaven doesn't have you in it, and that’s the whole reason I left in the first place.”

Cas just said shit like this sometimes, as if it was nothing, and it always left Dean gasping for air. It meant something (everything Cas says usually meant something), but Cas also dispensed these words as if they were easy, as if they were part of his nature.

(Well, it was easy because they were part of his nature. Even in anger, Cas has always been remarkably giving. See “crack in his chassis” that Dean isn’t 100% sure is a flaw.)

Dean couldn’t think of a response, but he also knew that he didn’t have to, that he was free to just look up at the clouds here, and hit pause, sit in this moment.

And that was enough. 

(Cas has always been good with everything that lives.)

*****

“We do better on hunts if you’re with us,” Dean said, “You’re like a good luck charm, man.”

“Good luck charms are just made up of superstitions,” Cas replied, somewhat sullenly, “Rabbit’s feet? Lucky pennies? Human solutions to human problems.”

“I meant it metaphorically. Look, Cas,” Dean spread his hands wide, “We’re just--we work better as a team.”

“Hm.”

“And--” Dean dropped his voice, “Sam said I get ‘distracted’ if you’re not with us on hunts.”

Cas finally turned to face Dean, “And why’s that?” He raised an eyebrow.

Dean reached out to grab Cas’s wrist, “Come with us and maybe you’ll find out.” 

*****

Somehow, Cas had taken to puns, and Dean was pretty sure it’s his own fault.

He was at the thrift store a couple of weeks ago, looking for a kitschy mug with bees on it (maybe it was for Cas, so sue him), when he strolled past the bookshelves and saw a book named Jokelopedia. It looked like the sort of thing Jack would like, and since Jack was no longer preoccupied with killing God, he could finally really be a kid.

So Dean had gotten it, and Jack had, as he predicted, loved it. He would read jokes out of it constantly to whoever he happened to trap, and the person who had the most ability to be patient with him was pretty much always Cas. 

Now, Dean and Cas were in the kitchen. It was fairly early in the morning, and Cas was grumping about, his head leaning onto the kitchen table while he complained about being tired. 

Dean was making coffee and resisting the urge to go wrap his arms around his best friend and drop a kiss on the warm part of his neck right under his chin. He’s still not sure exactly what they are. Last week, when Cas had gone with Dean to get groceries, at one point they had held hands, and Dean had kissed his forehead a couple of times without thinking, but they hadn’t talked about anything.

(Just last night, Dean had dreamed about that one time he told Cas he was good luck, that they worked better as a team. Once again, not quite what he meant. He could never say what he meant, could he? Although they were both never very good at the “talking” part.)

Cas finally lifted his head from the table, “Dean?”

“Yeah?” Dean paused on getting two mugs out for them.

“What do you call a sad cup of coffee?”

Dean groaned, “I dunno, what?”

“A depresso.” The look on Cas’s face was priceless.

“Just for that,” Dean said, “You’ll have to come get your own coffee.”

“But now I’m depresso,” Cas pouted.

“Deal with it.” Dean sighed. 

Yeah, he made a mistake in getting Jack that book.

****

It went on like this for about a week. Jack and Cas had become veritable pun machines, and there was no one they could make laugh louder than each other. Secretly, Dean found all of Cas’s dumb jokes endearing, but he couldn’t very well tell Cas that, so he pretended to be annoyed.

One morning, though, Dean was in a particularly crappy mood, and when Cas told him over their toast and coffee that he hoped Dean had a “brew-tiful day,” Dean shoved his plate away and stomped out of the bunker, pajamas and all.

He walked a bit away from the bunker and finally slumped underneath a tree, frustrated at himself for storming out, for not getting enough sleep, for not just talking to Cas and using his words, when he saw someone walking towards him.

It was Cas, of course.

Dean felt an ache in his chest as he watched him approach. Cas was all unkempt, dark hair and big blue eyes and pajamas that definitely belonged to Dean at one point (Sam’s a sasquatch and his clothes would never fit Cas) and himself and it filled Dean with longing. 

Cas sat next to him under the tree, his shoulder brushing Dean’s, their knees touching. After a few minutes, Cas finally said, “I’m sorry about all the puns.”

“No, no, buddy, they’re fine,” Unconsciously, Dean reached out, threading his fingers into Cas’s, “I just didn’t sleep well.”

Cas leaned his head on Dean’s shoulder, “It must be annoying, though, listening to Jack and me.”

“You know,” Dean admitted, “It kind of is. But it’s also nice to watch my family have a good time. Anyways, I bought him that book. If anything, I did this to myself.”

“Your family?”

“Duh,” Dean moved his head so he can look at Cas, “You’ve always been family. You know that.”

Cas nodded, and Dean expected him to drop his head back to Dean’s shoulder, but instead he crowded into Dean’s personal space, and Dean realized that Cas was about to cross over the line they’ve been toeing. When Cas kissed him, Dean let him, and then kissed him back. It was nothing extravagant--chaste, simple, really like pressing their smiles against each other’s, but it’s more than enough for Dean, who thought he would never get this. 

Cas eventually pulled back and grinned at Dean, before saying, “I hope that was oak-y.”

“Dude, I’m fairly certain this is not an oak tree,” Dean stood up, offering a hand to Cas, “C’mon. Let’s go finish our breakfast.”

(When Sam found them nestled against each other in the library later, he muttered something that sounds an awful lot like “Finally,” and Dean flipped him off.)

*****

“Hey,” Dean said, rolling into the kitchen, “Where’s Cas?” He had been disappointed to wake up to an empty bed, and he had hoped that the angel would be in the kitchen, nursing his insatiable (and weird) love of coffee.

“Dunno,” Sam flipped a page in the book he was reading, “Maybe he’s in the garden?”

Dean poured two mugs of coffee, added the cream and sugar, and then headed upstairs and outside. 

The weather outside was perfect--just a bit too crisp, so that the coffee was a pleasant warmth. As Dean approached Cas, he realized Cas was talking.

“Well, I hope today goes much better,” Cas said seriously, the wind ruffling his already-tousled hair, “And that you find what you’re looking for.” There was no reply from whoever he was talking to, but he continued, “And thank you for visiting again.”

Dean sat down slowly next to the angel, trying not to startle him. Cas turned to him, his blue eyes big and round, “Hello, Dean. I was just saying hi to the snakes.”

Dean looked down into the planter box Cas was in front of, and sure enough there were three garden snakes looking up at them lazily. 

“Apparently yesterday finding food was hard,” Cas said, “And it’s just going to get cooler.”

“You can talk to snakes?”

“I can read their body language,” Cas took the mug of coffee Dean was offering him, “It’s not too hard.”

“Right, right.” Dean leaned over,  pressing a kiss to Cas’s temple, “And what do the snakes think of me?” 

*****

So Cas started talking to all the creatures in his new garden on the bunker’s roof--the snakes, the bees (of course), the frogs, the spiders, the wayward little rabbits...all of them. 

He told Dean that, even though his grace was waning, he could still read their body language and he knew that they understood him. It was cute, but it also freaked Dean the fuck out, especially when, one day, Cas walked into the bunker kitchen with an enormous spider meandering down his shoulder.

“Shit, Cas!” Dean grabbed a wooden spoon from a drawer, “That thing could be poisonous!”

“But she’s not,” Cas’s voice was as cool as anything, “She told me so.”

“She?” It had never occurred to Dean that spiders could have genders (although, he did refer to his car as a she, but...Baby was different than a goddamn spider in his kitchen). 

“Yeah,” Cas reached out a finger, petting the damn thing, “She asked how my day was, and I told her there were some spiders in our room--she wanted to meet them and ask them to come outside.”

Dean felt a stutter in his chest when Cas referred to it as “their” bedroom (this whole being-with-a-sort-of-former-wavelength-of-celestial-intent thing was still kinda new), but then he rearranged his features into a scowl, “No way are you bringing that--her into our room.”

“It’ll only be for a moment,” Cas’s eyes widened as he spoke, and Dean knew before Cas had even finished his sentence that he was going to relent.

“Fine, go ahead,” Dean waved the spoon in the direction of the hallway, “Knock yourself out--but then take her back outside.”

About five minutes later, Cas emerged from the hall with the same spider, and three more smaller ones. “They’re going outside,” he said to Dean, as if that was an explanation, and Dean briefly wonders if there was a fairytale that could be spun to involve serenading eight-legged creatures (he could almost hear Cas’s voice saying, Arachnids, Dean, they’re called arachnids ). 

Later that night, as they were curled up like joined-together commas in Dean’s--no, their bed, and Cas was starting to drift off, Dean mutters, “Cas?”

“Mmm-hmm?”

“About the spiders...”

Cas’s eyes opened lazily, “Would you rather I not bring any more inside?”

“That would be preferable, yeah.”

“Right,” Cas’s eyes slid shut again and he snuggles closer to Dean, mumbling into his collarbone, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

(Dean had a feeling that Cas was going to “forget” about this conversation and bring more spiders inside. And Dean knew he was also gonna be powerless to stop him.)

******

Ferns, like love, must be cared for. 

The only reason Dean knew anything about ferns was because he’d listened to Cas lament that he couldn't have one. Ferns need “full to dappled shade,” according to the former-ish angel, and there was no lighting like that around the bunker–or at least not lighting that Cas deemed suitable. And to grow ferns inside, things needed to be really humid.

(Dean did suggest that Cas put a fern in the bathroom, but the withering look he was fixed with upon that suggestion made it not worth further discussion.)

And so Cas worked on his garden on the bunker’s roof, and Dean helped him, when he wasn’t helping Sam excavate the stuff they finally had time to go through in the bunker, now that Chuck was gone. 

At night, when they were both exhausted from hauling things around (and Cas was often sun-burned because he got sidetracked and forgets that he’s human now and needs to use sunscreen), they curled up in their bed and traded kisses until they fell asleep.

Tonight, though, Cas was restless. He kept shifting against Dean, unable to sleep, and finally Dean caught his wrists.

“Cas, what’s wrong?” Dean asked.

At first, Cas didn't answer, instead pressing his face against Dean’s shoulder. Finally, he said softly, “When are you going to get tired of me?”

“When am I gonna–” Dean pulled back, able to see the faint outline of Cas’s face in the dark, “Why would you–?”

He knew, though, why Cas would ask, because it’s a worry that’s been swirling in his belly, too. He never thought he was good enough for Cas, spent over a decade thinking so, and this thing between them was so new and delicate and–

“Cas, we’ve been pulled apart so many times,” Dean took Cas’s hand, holds it to his heart, “And we’ve always come back together. I could never get tired of you.”

“You’re sure?”

“Positive, sweetheart.” 

A few minutes later, Cas was finally drifting off, his head lolling against Dean’s chest. Dean waited until his Cas’s breathing was steady to allow himself to drift off. 

This was what all of that waiting was for. 

*****

“It’s just a fire, dude. What could go wrong?” 

Cas fixed Dean with a withering stare, “Well, there's a no-burn order in this county for the next week because of the drought.”

Dean rolled his eyes, popping open the Impala’s trunk in the garage, “Well, we already bought the firewood, and I promised Jack we would make s’mores, ‘cause he’s never had ‘em--”

“Dean, it’s not safe.”

“Since when has that stopped me?” Dean hauled the firewood out of the trunk and set it on the floor, “Cas, trust me. It’ll be fine.”

Cas crossed his arms, “Imagine living this long, dying and coming back to life, defeating God himself, and then dying for good because you set the field around the bunker on fire.”

“Always so dramatic,” Dean stepped towards Cas, taking his elbows and uncrossing his arms before wrapping the angel in a hug, saying into his shoulder, “Jack’s looking forward to it.”

Dean felt Cas soften slightly as he returned the hug, before pulling his head back to meet Dean’s eyes, “How about you two make s’mores tonight on the stove, and outside next week instead?”

“What do I get out of it?” Dean asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, you get to spend quality time with our son....and then maybe we can generate some heat of our own.”

“Hmm....” Dean leaned in, kissing his angel, “I thought there was a no-burn order.” 

*****

The bunker was haunted.

Not with ghosts and spirits, but with emptiness. 

(Not that kind of emptiness.)

It was true that the bunker is home. They somehow all made it out of Chuck’s grasp alive, and they had the rest of their lives to enjoy. 

And yet, the emptiness drifted through the halls. This was never meant to house only four people, and while occasionally they’ve had visitors, it’s nothing to the scale of what the Men of Letters would have had all those years ago. 

Sam and Eileen spent more and more time out of it, often taking Jack with them, and Dean was nearly always in the garage or running errands, and Cas...

Cas was in his garden. 

He knew that soon enough, they would all leave. Life was supposed to be like the garden, he thought. Some things were perennials. You planted them once, they kept coming back. Others were annuals. You planted them anew every year--only sometimes you changed your mind, planted radishes instead of green onions.

Next year, their lives would look different, just as they did last year.

Cas moved onto the next bed that needed weeding.

This was good work, quiet, with his hands. It made sense why Dean liked to work on cars--something tangible. Cas had to wrestle with some particularly stubborn weeds, digging his fingers into the earth. He leaned back on his heels, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, when the weeds were finally gone.

“You know what they say about weeds,” Dean’s voice said from behind him, “They’re just plants growing where you don’t want them to be.” He kneels down next to Cas.

“Hello, Dean.” Cas held out a hand, “Do you have--”

“Right here.” Dean pulled the seed packets out of his jacket pocket, handing them to Cas, “Yarrow seeds, just like we talked about.”

Cas took his tiny shovel, started making holes in the bed. Dean lowered himself from his knees into a seated position, watching Cas intently.

“What?” Cas asked him, tilting his head, “Is something wrong?”

“No,” Dean’s features relaxed into a soft smile, “Just enjoying the view.”

*****

“Did you know,” Cas said, “That there are over 12,000 known varieties of moss?” 

“Why the fuck would I know that?” Dean glanced up from his beer from where he was standing at the kitchen island, “And why do you--” He waved a hand, “You know what? I’m not sure I want to know.”

“I’m just reading a book on flora and fauna, Dean, there’s no particular reason,” Cas put a bookmark in the aforementioned book, looking up at Dean, “You seem upset. What’s wrong?”

“Just a long day,” Dean said. He and Sam had spent the afternoon ganking a nest of vamps that had come close to Lebanon, terrorizing some farmhouses, and he felt it in his shoulders like he hadn’t before. 

“You could always retire,” Cas offered, “There are other hunters, and now that Chuck is gone--”

“M’not retiring, so don’t even think about it,” Dean took a long drink from his beer, “I’m just tired. I’ll be fine.”

“Right.” Cas put his book on the kitchen table, standing up and walking over to where Dean was, standing at the counter, placing a hand on his shoulder, “Hey.”

“Hey yourself.” Dean gave Cas a lazy smile, “Why’d you abandon your, what was it, flora and fauna?” 

“To help you out. I know I don’t have my grace anymore, not really, but I--”

“You’ve never needed grace to heal me,” Dean said, “C’mere.” He put an arm around Cas, pulling him close.

“Hey! I was supposed to be hugging you.”

“Well, tough luck.” Dean pressed a kiss to Cas’s temple, “You deserve to be healed, too.”

*****

Cas remembered so much. Too much, he thought. Part of him wished he could have an empty mind, a blank slate.

In his mind, he went to a forest.

It didn’t matter which forest, he wasn’t particular. What mattered is that it was a forest, that there was dappled light seeping through leaves in various shades of green. 

(Green was always calming.)

Sometimes it was fall, and the leaves were golden, and the sun sunk away, casting shadows. Other times it was winter, empty limbs coated in show, and occasionally it was a rainy spring.

There were always creatures in Cas’s forests, frogs and turtles, snakes and spiders, rabbits and deer. The deer were curious and walked up to him, inclining their heads to him and twitching their soft ears. 

And streams. Sometimes they weren’t audible and were a surprise to come to, but often there was the rush of water against rock and mossy banks. 

In the forest, he didn't feel so cold. His insides were cold. He has been nearly human before this, he knew that it was meant to be harrowing, that he would feel everything now. 

The forest helped. 

When he tuned back into the world around him, Dean’s smile was much like the dappled light, the deer, the changing weather through the seasons. 

Peaceful.

Home. 

*****

The nightmares had gotten better, but sometimes Dean still woke up. 

Tonight was one of those nights. 

A part of him felt guilty for waking up in a cold sweat, with images of whatever horror his mind has decided to throw at him tonight, feeling all of the anxiety and fear that he repressed for years. He should have been dead right now, six feet under in his grave. He should be grateful to feel anything. 

Sometimes Dean could fall back asleep when stuff like this happened, but now, the image of Cas walking into that lake with the Leviathans was seared into his eyelids, and he couldn’t bear it. He knew, cognitively, that Cas was alive, that he wasn’t in their bed because he went to the bathroom or something (nearly-human Cas, with the last of his grace seeping out, has to do that), that he fell asleep with Cas’s arms around him. 

But he wasn’t here- here, and that meant Dean had to go find him. 

Cas wasn't in the bathroom or the library or the kitchen, so Dean went to check the Deancave, the last place he expected to find him.

“Hey,” Cas said. He was crouched in front of their DVD collection with some seriously spectacular (even by his standards) bedhead, “How do you feel about watching Die Hard ?”

“I, uh--it’s a good one,” Dean awkwardly shoved his hands in his pajama pants pockets, shuffling to Cas, “What are you doing in here?”

“I was having trouble falling asleep, and I could tell that you were probably going to wake up soon. So--” Cas gestured at the couch, where he’d piled a couple of blankets, and the table, where there was popcorn and beer, “Two am movie night?” 

Dean finished crossing the room and hauled Cas up by his armpits before pulling him into a hug. “I love you, you know that?” Dean murmured into the angel’s hair.

“Doesn’t hurt to hear it again.” Cas pressed a kiss to his cheek before pulling away, “Now let’s get started, before the popcorn gets cold.”

*****

Dean also remembered the “before” times in his life. There were a lot of them. Occasionally, he tried to remember what it was like before Cas. He knew, of course he did, there were nearly three decades of his life before the angel pulled him out of hell, but they were completely different. 

Right now, as Dean sat at the kitchen table, watching Cas help Jack make hot chocolate, he remembered a night, in a time that feels like forever ago, where Cas drank a liquor store and they killed a whore. 

“Where the hell have you been?!”

“On a bender.”

Cas then was still clumsy in his human body. Now, his face was lined (from frowning and smiling--although smiling now, more often than not), and his vessel was really him . Dean knew the curve of his smile, the weight of his hands, better than anything, and it was all so golden. 

“You breed with the mouth of a goat.....it’s funnier in Enochian.” 

Jack giggled at something Cas said, and then Cas brought the hot pan of milk (the way Dean taught him to make hot chocolate) and helped Jack carefully pour it into four mugs. It felt both new and incredibly regular to have a family, a happy family, a safe family. 

“Not you, or me. Sam of course is an abomination. We'll have to find someone else.”

That was one of the worst nights, when it felt like there was no hope, but there were nights after then that felt the same, as if any semblance of a happy ending was drifting away. That’s how it was a few months ago, when they were still struggling to try and defeat Chuck. 

And yet, here they were.

Jack and Cas stirred the hot chocolate and then carefully brought it to the table. 

“I’ll go find Sam,” Jack said.

“I bet he’s in the library,” Cas replied, sitting down across from Dean, “How are you?”

Dean smiled, and said, with complete honesty, “I’m great.” 

******

"Dean, wake up.”

Dean rolled over, burrowing his face into his pillow. 

“Dean.” There was an insistent hand on his shoulder, shaking him. 

Dean looked up, blinking wearily at his (former) angel, who was wearing a pair of flannel pajama pants they had dug out of the back of Dean’s closet and an old Black Flag t-shirt (that had also once been Dean’s). Cas’s perma-bedhead was in full force, and he smiled gummily at Dean. 

“What?” Dean said, propping himself up on one of his elbows, “What time is it?”

“Midnight,” Cas replied.

“Why the--”

“The moon is pretty tonight,” Cas said, “I wanted to show it to you.”

Part of Dean wanted to be mad, but it was hard to hold onto any frustration at the look on Cas’s face, so he hauled himself out of their bed with a yawn, grabbing a flannel off the back of his desk chair and pulling it on. 

When they got outside, the moon hung low over the bunker, wide and yellow as if it had been painted onto the sky instead of being suspended in the heavens. The breeze was soft and only a bit chilling. Even so, Dean saw goosebumps pop up on Cas’s arms, and he put an arm around him to pull him close.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Cas asked, his eyes wide.

“Yeah,” Dean said, although he was watching Cas more than the moon, “Sure is.” 

*****

Dean stepped back to admire his work. He didn’t (always) like to brag, but he was pretty sure that no one had ever decorated for Halloween as well as he had decorated the kitchen.

“Isn’t it a little...” Cas began, coming to stand next to him, “A little--”

“Don’t say it’s a little much. Jack’s gonna love it.”

“I know he will. It’s just the....” Cas gestured to the plastic skeleton Dean had sat in Jack’s normal seat at the kitchen table, “Bones? How will he....”

“Cas, we’re hunters. He’s seen worse than bones. Anyways, I got him some nougat to sweeten the deal.”

“You’re going to become his favorite dad pretty fast,” There was a trace of fondness in Cas’s voice.

“Duh,” Dean slung an arm around Cas’s shoulder, “C’mon, let’s go put our costumes on.” 

******

“You know what I like the most about this movie?” Dean asked.

“How it’s completely unrealistic? That’s not how the afterlife works,” Cas replied drily. He hadn't objected completely to Beetlejuice when Dean had suggested it, but he had spent most of the movie being appalled.

(He also didn’t like when Dean jokingly suggested they should make his trench coat black-and-white striped to emulate the titular character’s suit.)

For some reason, Dean found this hilarious, and laughed so hard that he almost slid off of the couch they had added to the Deancave after it looked like they could finally really settle. Of course, it could have also been the six shots of whiskey and three beers he had already consumed as part of an elaborate drinking game that Sam had created and promptly abandoned. 

“The séance-exorcism was so wrong ,” Sam said, “I mean, do you guys remember when we tried to get Cas?”

“In all fairness,” Cas replied, “I didn’t know that I would burn Pamela’s eyes out. I wasn’t trying to.”

“When I saw you for the first time,” Dean said, “You were a hell of a sight nicer than Beetlejuice, I’ll give you that.”

“From what Bobby told me later,” Sam said, “You were scared and horny.”

“Shut up, Sammy,” Dean tossed a pillow at his head, “You’re drunk.”

“So are we,” Cas pointed out, “And Dean, we have had--”

“Shut the hell up.”

“Oh?” Sam said teasingly, “I knew you guys were together, but I didn’t realize--”

Dean allowed himself to slide fully off the couch, “I hate both of you.”

“That’s not what you said last night.” Drunk Cas had a shit-eating grin beyond compare.

“Just for that,” Dean said, “You can sleep in here.”

Cas reached for one of his hands, “Maybe I can make it up to you.”

“If you guys keep this up, I’m leaving ,” Sam said, “There’s only fifteen minutes left of the movie. Can you two keep it in your pants for that long?” 

“No promises,” Dean said, already allowing himself to be pulled back up onto the couch. 

“I’ve decided,” Cas said after about five more minutes of Beetlejuice , “When we get married, no sand worms are allowed.”

“That means we can’t invite Sam,” Dean countered.

“Hey!” But Sam didn’t look upset. If anything, he looked happy to see Dean and Cas curled up on the couch, with Dean’s head in Cas’s lap, one of Cas’s hands drifting through his hair.

Later that night (or morning--Dean wasn’t sure, although Cas did shush him for saying “Beetlejuice” three times outside of Jack’s door-- He’s asleep, Dean, and it’s the middle of the night! ), after they had changed into pajamas and flopped into bed, Dean brought his face close to Cas’s, catching Cas’s lips with his own.

“Hey,” Cas said softly, “What’s up?”

“Did you mean that, what you said earlier?”

“Well, sandworms would definitely make terrible guests--”

Dean cut him off, “About getting married.”

“I was just joking around, I know you’ve never been interested in--” 

“Cas,” Dean interrupted him again, “If you wanted to marry me, I’d say yes.”

There was a pause, and then Cas said, “Alright. Dean, will you marry me?”