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a kiss for every season (literally)

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The first time Dean and Cas kiss, it's not even really a kiss at all. It is, in fact, mouth-to-mouth. 

Dean has no idea why he prays. It's supposed to be a routine case in the middle of all this shit. He and Sam have handled way worse by now, even if ghosts involving water are generally a pain in the ass. This is proven when he's dragged into a murky lake and pretty much tugged all the way to the bottom. Dean knows instantly that he's going to die. He panics very quickly and does the first thing that comes to mind in the midst of this panic—he prays. 

They've got the fucking apocalypse to worry about now, and Dean doesn't even really know Cas as anything other than the dick angel that's less of a dick than all the other angels—a glowing recommendation, really. Well, okay, they've had their moments. They've been through some shit by now, all of them, but they've all got their roles here. Cas is the guy with the doubts, but it's not like he's Sam or Bobby. He's not the person—he's not even really a person—that Dean should be instinctively calling out for. 

Despite this, Dean is at the bottom of the lake with no time to think about whatever knee-jerk response takes over him, and he's got his burning eyes closed as his mind calls out for Cas, all while his lungs scream in protest. He's fighting with everything in him not to open his mouth and suck in the water, thinking about how much shit Sam is going to have to deal with on his own, and it's a goddamn shame that drowning is what makes Dean Winchester kick it after demons and angels and Hell didn't, and don't breathe, can't breathe, don't breathe, can't— 

It feels like his brain is constricting, and it comes to him slow and clumsy that Cas isn't coming, that he's going to die right here. He fights it, even after that realization, because if he's gonna go down, he's gonna go down swinging. He feels like someone is pressing on his chest after having set his insides on fire, and he can't open his mouth or he'll—

There's a notable shift, and fingers are wrapping around his arm, squeezing tight around his leather jacket. Everything feels different and—dry. Dean risks peeking one eye open and immediately sees the sun shining, Cas' expressionless face right across from his, a little too close for it to be normal. Dean's breath leaves him in one desperate exhale, and he shuffles back to press his hand to his sternum, his heart racing wildly in his aching chest. 

"Nice timing, Cas," Dean finally wheezes. 

"Yes," Cas agrees roughly—everything he says is rough. Dean's known the guy since getting out of Hell—or known him as much as anyone can really know him, which ain't much—and the voice is still a little insane every time he hears it. 

Cas looks like he's about to say more, his mouth opening, but then he narrows his eyes. Slowly, he looks down and tilts his head, almost like whatever he's looking at has intrigued him. Dean follows his gaze and jolts at the sight of soggy fingers—a near-green color and dripping—clenched in what appears to be a firm grip around Cas' ankle. 

Dean has just enough time to open his mouth for a warning, but not enough time to actually get it out. In the next second, the hand yanks, and Cas goes down like a statue, hitting the deck before he's abruptly wrenched into the water. He's immediately tugged down, and Dean proceeds to freak the fuck out, automatically trying to shuck his jacket. 

"Dean! Dean!" Sam comes bounding down the deck to him—he has probably been running for some time, by the sounds of it—and he grabs a fistful of Dean's jacket. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Dean? You are not—" 

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Dean snaps, wriggling his way out of his jacket. It's only dry because Cas saved his ass mere seconds ago. "He's only in there because of me, so I'm going to go get him. Hey! Sam, let me go." 

Sam gives him a rough shake, staring at him incredulously. "You're going to go in after an angel who teleported you out in the first place?" 

That draws Dean up short, admittedly. He hesitates for a brief second, turning his gaze to the water. Cas could just fly out, right? He's an angel. What's a little drowning to him, in the grand scheme of things, if he even can drown? Dean wavers in place, heart thumping in his chest. He doesn't know Cas, not really, but he saved Dean's life. He's done it a couple of times by now, actually. That's literally the very first thing he ever did as an introduction—save Dean Winchester. 

Waiting is torture. Dean feels like it has been too long, though it may have only been seconds, and he's gripping Sam's stupid, ugly flannel in a tight grasp that borders on too much. He's tense, frozen in place, waiting with a bated breath. 

The flash of light below the water is sudden, and it makes both Dean and Sam jump. The glow illuminates the whole lake, the greenish-black water almost white in the flicker. It's like there's lightning trapped beneath the ripples, not really showing much, just a blaze of white light, there-and-gone. 

It happens a total of three more times, and then it stops for a long moment that Dean absolutely spends holding his breath. He takes a step forward, hands slowly dropping from Sam, only to jerk to a halt mere seconds later. 

One-by-one, bodies start bobbing to the surface of the lake—some bloated, some half-bone, some remarkably fresh. There's also the woman that's most recently gone missing, and she might not even be dead yet. And there, in the middle of it all, is one body that Dean recognizes instantly. The trenchcoat billows out, like a cork with a cape, and Dean feels his heart fully just drop when he sees it. 

In the next second, Dean finally wrestles out of his jacket, and before Sam can truly protest, he sprints down the length of the deck and dives into the water. By the time he resurfaces, he's among a sludge of dead bodies—gross—and there's a splash behind him, indicating that Sam jumps in, too. Probably for the woman, because that's clearly not Dean's target right now. 

Reaching Cas takes a few minutes, but when Dean does, he jerks his head out of the water. The sight of his face so pale and so slack—when it usually seems made from marble—is concerning. Dean holds onto him and heaves for breath as he half-swims, half-flails back to the deck. 

It takes a considerable amount of strength and adrenaline to haul a grown man's dead weight onto the deck, but Dean does it. He drags Cas further back, panting heavily as he drops to his side, suddenly unsure what to do once he's gotten this far. He dips in to hover his ear over Cas' mouth, straining to hear any sign of breathing. 

There is none. 

"Son of a bitch," Dean growls, giving Cas' soaking body a rough shove. He's a fucking angel. There's no way he drowned. There's no goddamn way. 

Dean flutters his hand over Cas' chest, wavering, maybe panicking a little. The adrenaline is still flowing. Cas is just laying there, and they're not exactly friends, but maybe allies? Maybe? Something. It's something, and Dean doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know what he can do, only that this is his fault. 

"Son of a bitch!" Dean shouts, again, and then comes to a hastily made decision. 

With shaking hands, he tilts Cas' chin back, plugs his nose, and dips in. He hovers there for a brief second. He can't think of one reason why he should do this, because Cas isn't family, Cas isn't someone they know with unshakeable certainty that they can trust, even if—sometimes—Dean feels it down to his bones that they can. He takes a deep breath, stuck, then he screws his eyes shut and dives in. 

For one, horrifying second, Dean forgets to breathe altogether. Just for a stretch of one moment, all Dean is doing is pressing his lips to Cas' cold, chapped lips with no goal in mind. These aren't even Cas' lips. They're some poor bastard's that Cas has taken and filled up, just a vessel, and maybe they're both dead right now. Dean's got death on his lips. 

It's just the contact for a moment, and then Dean exhales into Cas' slack mouth. The response is instantaneous, a harsh flare of light outside Dean's eyelids, and he opens his eyes to see that Cas' are open, too, and glowing—a bright ring of white-blue around his pupils. Their eyes meet for a second, holding, and then Dean jerks back a little. 

He doesn't go very far, his whole body going rigid when Cas' eyes dim to their usual blue. They look at each other. Their noses brush. Dean isn't breathing, and Cas' eyebrows twitch together in confusion, though the rest of his face is blank. A soldier for Heaven, an angelic warrior, and Dean's sharing the same pocket of air with him. It's such a small pocket, too. Tiny. Close. 

Cas blinks, and Dean scrambles backwards with a harsh exhale, heart thumping unevenly in his chest. Slowly, Cas sits up, looking perfectly okay, looking as if he never dived into the lake at all. Dean looks away, swallowing, only to freeze when he sees Sam. 

Sam is kneeling on the deck, the woman he saved tucked against his side, shivering but alive. Dean meets his brother's eyes and has no idea what to make of the expression on Sam's face. He doesn't know it right now, but Dean will make that same, exact expression when he sees Sam drink demon blood for the first time. 

"Be more careful," Cas says as he pushes to his feet, looking at Dean with a faint frown, just barely showing emotion on his face. "I was busy. I can't come every time you pray, Dean." 

And, with that, Cas is gone in a flutter of wings, leaving Dean slumped on the deck, sopping wet and undeniably rattled. 

 


 

The future is a horror show. 

To put it frankly, Dean hates it here. Sam said yes to Satan, Cas is a hippie who moonlights as a slut, and he turns out to be some stone-hearted killer with absolutely zero compassion. Also, Chuck is here, and Dean would rather not spend his future listening to Chuck bitch about toilet paper. 

It's not something he'll admit out loud, but Dean wants to go home. Go back to his own time. Fuck Zachariah for this bullshit. 

That being said, Dean has some kind of desperate hope that maybe, because he's seen this, he can avoid this outcome. He knows the theory about the flow of time, how you can't change the future, how what's going to happen is going to happen regardless. Still, maybe he can figure it out. Maybe this is just some fucked up ploy from Zachariah to push him into saying yes, but Dean won't. God help him, Dean is never going to say yes to Michael. 

Even if he does end up right back here, he won't do it. If this is all he has, if the one thing that he can do right is refuse, then that's what he's going to do. 

The vehicle rolls to a stop, and Dean glances over to see Cas popping more pills completely dry, fragile and human and so...hapless and hopeless—that's what he'd said. Dean looks away, staring out the front windshield to watch himself from the future march around, barking orders. It reminds him of his dad in a very uncomfortable way. 

Dean glances back towards Cas, who is following the other Dean around with his cloudy gaze, something fond and bitter rolled into one in the twist of his lips. Dean feels his heart catch against his ribs, because he's been thinking… 

Well, he doesn't want to think it, but he's seen the way they look at each other sometimes. He doesn't really like that he's got an outsider's perspective for what he and Cas look like when they're staring at each other, especially when there's something a little more to it. Dean doesn't really know what to do with that. He needs to ask, but he doesn't want to. This might be the best time for it, though, seeing as Cas is convinced they're all about to die. 

"So, uh…" Dean clears his throat, tensing up when Cas lazily rolls his head to the side to look at him. He's so...fluid now, nothing stiff or awkward about him, and Dean finds himself missing it with a pang. Seeing Cas like this makes him feel wrong-footed. 

"What?" Cas asks. 

Dean licks his lips, then really wishes he hadn't. He presses them into a thin line, glancing towards his future self, then back to Cas. "Are you and him…?"

"Ah." Cas' lips curl up, breaking into a broad grin that Dean is in no way prepared for. Jesus Christ, it's so much expression, and it's—well, it leaves Dean on pins and needles trying not to react. "You mean, are we indulging in sodomy whilst in the trenches with one another? Oh, it's a cold world out there, Dean, and the war has raged for so long." 

"You're not funny," Dean tells him, voice low. He clenches his jaw, nostrils flaring. "So, you are?" 

"Are you asking about me and him?" Cas muses knowingly, inclining his head towards the other Dean outside. "Or, are you asking about you and me? Well, your me, I mean." 

"Just answer the damn question, Cas," Dean snaps, his heart turning over in his chest. 

"Mm, Dean's a very jaded man these days." Cas is still smiling, but his eyes have lost all traces of humor. Dean feels something in him ease and twist at the same time. Okay, so they haven't, he's sure. Jaded men don't—do things like that. Probably. Except, Cas chuckles roughly and continues. "He is still human, though, so he likes his dick being sucked as much as anyone. I'm quite good at it." 

"Jesus," Dean mumbles, looking away, his throat so dry he has no choice but to swallow. 

He doesn't want to think about this at all. He can guess from the general situation that it's not really a good...relationship. Cas literally has orgies. The other Dean doesn't seem to care that he's asking Cas to die, just does it briskly, like an order almost. There's no warmth there, but Dean can imagine just how heated it must get between them—hot and brutal and probably very bad for them both, but at the end of the world, does it even matter? 

It helps to separate himself from it entirely. It's not really Dean, so he has no part in this. It's not even Cas, not the one that Dean knows. It's like some fucked-up caricatures of themselves, just some warped picture that Zachariah is using to fuck with him. Like with any other taunt that the angels have thrown his way, Dean isn't going to let it get to him. 

Still, he darts a glance over at Cas, quickly looking away when catches Cas watching him already. The gaze on him is heavy, and Dean resists the urge to squirm under the weight of it. He looks again, not even meaning to, then can't look away. Cas is looking at him, eyelids drooped, smiling a smile that's far too suggestive for Dean's state of mind. 

"Oh, look at you," Cas breathes out, his voice rough and rumbling in his chest. "I forgot how startled you could get, Dean. I haven't had this effect on you in a long time." 

"You don't have—" Dean snaps his mouth shut and freezes like a startled deer when Cas abruptly leans across the space between them, reaching out to catch his face in one hand, tipping it up so their mouths will meet in the middle. 

Dean inhales sharply, his shoulders jerking up, and he starts to pull away automatically, but Cas slides his hand around to grip the back of his neck, wrenching him closer. Those orgies must have taught him something, because he knows what the fuck he's doing. There's absolutely no warning or build up before Cas is kissing him deep and filthy, using tongue and teeth. 

A grunt escapes Dean's mouth, and he can feel his shoulders cranking down one stilted movement at a time, his breath going short and his eyes fluttering shut. Without even fucking meaning to, he relaxes into it and reaches out to fist his hand in Cas' shirt, needing something to hold onto. There's a bite to this kiss, harsh like a fight, hot—so fucking hot, Jesus Christ. His head is spinning. 

And then, all at once, it slows down. It softens and goes sweet, all the intensity seeping out to be replaced by an odd sense of intimacy and emotion. Cas' hand moves back to his cheek, cradling it, thumb stroking under Dean's eye like he's touching something precious. Dean releases a small sound he didn't even know he could make, a whimper, feeling cracked open and laid bare. 

The future is a dark, horrifying place, and it doesn't matter because, in this one moment, Dean has never felt as safe as he does right now. 

When Cas breaks away, slow about it, Dean's breath stutters over his lips. He doesn't open his eyes until he's sure that Cas has dropped his hand and leaned back, too afraid to see him so close. With the space between them, Dean's eyes slowly blink open, and he stares at Cas with parted lips, stunned stupid by a fucking kiss. 

Cas rolls his head to the side, looking out the windshield, eyes brightening even more, somehow. Dean follows his gaze, stiffening when he sees himself just...looking at them. He saw it, and Dean knows he did, because he knows what that clenched jaw and those blazing eyes mean. Dear god, he's fucking jealous of himself, and Cas likes it. 

They're at the end of the world, probably about to die, and they're still fucking playing mind games with each other. It makes Dean's stomach cramp to think about it. All it seems like they know how to do is hurt each other, like the fact that they can is the only way to prove they still care. It's fucked. 

Dean watches himself whip around and march away, and he rasps, "Why did you do that?" 

"You know why," Cas replies, equally hoarse. He looks over at Dean, grinning again. "I'm going to die for him, and I miss you." 

Dean's stomach positively drops out from under him, and it hurts in a way he's not prepared for to see Cas be like this. A shell of who he once was, just an echo, so warped and changed that it's painful. Willing to die for a man who's just as changed as him, aching for the man he used to be. 

Cas heaves a sigh and grabs his gun, opening the door and sliding out, his smile a little softer as he leans in and looks at Dean steadily. "There is also the fact that this is my last day alive." 

"That's my line," Dean mumbles. 

"Where do you think I got it from?" Cas asks, winking at him, then he shuts his door and trots off to go die for a man who would dare to ask him to. 

Dean swallows and grabs his gun. 

Later, when he makes it back, he looks at the Cas he knows, and he means it more than he has meant anything when he tells him not to change. 

 


 

The son of a bitch betrayed them. 

It rankles in Dean's chest, hot and sharp, a steady pulse that doesn't fade. He tries to push it out when he exhales, but every inhale brings more of it in, like it exists all around him. The broken trust. The lies. Dean feels so fucking stupid, and worse than that, he's hurt by it. He doesn't want to be. He just is. 

Dean leans back on Bobby's couch, staring off into space in front of him. Bobby and Sam have already slipped off to bed, muttering goodnight under their breath, not looking at the warding against angels and not looking Dean in the eye, either. 

He keeps replaying the way Cas looked at him in that ring of fire, face lit up with light and dancing shadows. Dean had wanted him to say it wasn't true. Hell, a part of him had hoped that Cas would lie convincingly enough, just so Dean wouldn't have to face it. But Cas just looked at him, then looked away, and that told the truth Dean didn't want to hear. 

Everything has been shit lately. Dean sometimes finds himself wishing he had stayed with Lisa and Ben, but getting out and not screwing up their lives was the best thing for them. He aches with how much he misses them. 

Yet, for some fucking reason, Dean aches more because Cas—god, Cas betrayed him. Them. But it feels like mostly him, because Dean has been trying so hard to cling to the trust that comes like instinct in regards to Cas. Even now, even right fucking now, Dean's entire being trusts him, like maybe that's the way Cas rebuilt him. Dean rejects it now, fighting against it, and it stings all that more because he has to. He never fucking wanted to have to. 

Sleep doesn't come easy. Dean sprawls out on the couch, one hand raised towards the ward on the window. He presses his thumb to it, gently sitting his nail along the center of it. The urge to scrape it across and leave that opening, just in case, is so strong that he snatches his hand back. He tucks his hands under his arms and against his sides, trapping them, and he forces himself into fitful sleep. 

It doesn't surprise him when he blinks awake in the middle of the night, rubbing his face and smacking his lips. He has one second not to feel that sharp pulse tucked under his ribs, at least until he remembers. But, in that second, Cas is suddenly standing right there. And Dean forgets. Just that easily, he forgets how he's supposed to feel, forgets that he should be tense or worried, forgets not to instantly trust him. It takes a second for him to remember, and having to shove everything that comes so naturally to him just pisses him off. 

"Hello, Dean," Cas greets quietly. 

Dean sits up and gruffly mutters, "How did you get in here?" 

He's worried for a split second that he somehow did it, until Cas says, "The angel-proofing Bobby put up on the house...he got a few things wrong." 

"Well, it's too bad we gotta angel-proof in the first place, isn't it?" Dean mutters, slowly standing to his feet. He knows he's bitter, but he's not sure how he's supposed to stop that from showing. He looks at Cas, forcing his face to stay solid, shoving everything down and embracing the anger, and hurt, and betrayal. "Why are you here?"

"I want you to understand," Cas starts, moving closer, frustration tinged in his tone. 

Dean almost lifts a hand as he goes to speak, needing the space, but then he manages to catch himself and clench his fist instead. "Oh, believe me, I get it. Blah, blah, Raphael, right?" 

Cas' nostrils flare, just a little bit. "I'm doing this for you, Dean. I'm doing this because of you." 

Dean's eyebrows twitch, and no, no, that's not fair. That's fucked up, so beyond fucked up, because Dean refuses to be the cause of this. He's not asking for this. He's asking for the opposite, and Cas doesn't get to walk in here and say that. Dean hates how much he doesn't hate it, how much it makes him want to soften and trust even more. He shoves at the urge viciously, stomping it out. 

"Hm, because of me, yeah," Dean says with a humorless smile, shaking his head and turning away as he reaches up to scrub at the corner of his eye. It's burning. He refuses to cry. He fucking won't. He's angry, more angry than hurt, and that's all there is to it. "You've got to be kidding me." 

From behind him, Cas growls, "You're the one who taught me that freedom and free will—" 

And that sounds like an accusation, so Dean is whirling around and jerking a hand towards Cas as his anger spikes. Finally. "You're a freaking child, you know that? Just because you can do what you want doesn't mean get to do whatever you want!" 

"I know what I'm doing, Dean," Cas tells him, firm and low, holding his gaze. 

Dean can see that he thinks that, but Dean's not so sure if that's true. This feels like the start of an issue greater than they've ever dealt with before, only because of how different it is in nature. This isn't how it's supposed to go. This isn't how it works. Cas has been on their side, with them, for so long now. Dean trusts in that, because that's how it's supposed to be. This isn't right. It feels wrong. 

"I'm not going to logic you, okay?" Dean steps closer and sways closer. That desperation rattling around in his chest breaks loose, and he reaches out to grab the lapel of Cas' coat, holding onto it. He wants to shake him, but all he succeeds in doing is drawing him in closer, until they're so close that Dean has no idea how they ended up that way. "I'm saying don't, just 'cause. That's it. I'm asking you not to." 

The last sentence is spoken into the small space between their mouths, and Dean rails against the closeness, against how easy it is to be this close. He's so angry, and he's all but begging because he's got this burning hope that Cas will give in, just this once, just for him. 

"I don't understand…" Cas starts, a rough whisper, and Dean knows. Oh how he knows, because this is all so tangled up and confusing and it's going wrong. They've never had this chasm between them, not like this, not to the point where Dean's trying to close it physically, on pure instinct and half-cocked hope that he alone will be enough. 

"Look, next to Sam, you and Bobby are the closest things I have to family," Dean says, fingers tightening on Cas' coat, his heart clenching at the truth in the words. It's the only way he can explain this instinctive trust, this deep understanding in him that he and Cas aren't supposed to be against each other. What slips out next is something else entirely, a shaky, "You are like a brother to me." 

Brothers don't stand this close together. Dean knows that. He does. It's just—it's easier to say this than say that there's no explanation for why he feels like this. Brothers-in-arms is a thing, and that fits a little better, because they've been through war together, haven't they? They shouldn't be fighting on opposite sides. That's what he meant. Yet, even that doesn't settle in right, and it doesn't even matter. Dean doesn't know what this is, what they are, what they're even doing. He just wants it to stop, wants Cas to trust him. 

"So, if I'm asking you not to do something," he whispers harshly, "you gotta trust me, man." 

Without really making the conscious decision to, Dean reels Cas in that final step, their noses bumping before their lips slot together. He makes a small sound without meaning to, a shudder running through him. He's doing most of the work here, Cas' lips pliant and warm against his own, but Cas isn't as stiff and wooden as he used to be, and he's not the Cas from that horrible future that Dean does his absolute best not to think about. He's somewhere in between, even when he's just standing there and letting Dean do this without complaint. 

Dean doesn't realize that he's subconsciously trying to convince Cas to change his mind in this way until he first becomes aware that his part in it has an undercurrent of purpose. It's seduction, plain and simple. A reward for doing the right thing, see what you can earn, Cas, keep at it and who knows what may happen? Jesus Christ, what is wrong with him?

But he can't help it. He can't stop himself from doing it, and he can't stop himself from wanting it, and he can't stop himself from pouring every bit of hope and pleading into it. 

Dean rocks back a moment later, heart thumping loud in his ears, fast like a caged bird. The anger and hope and trust and desperation swirls out of control, all of it assaulting him at once, unable to get a grasp on one and cling to it. He opens his eyes to stare at Cas, who stares at him for a long moment before slowly breathing out, a soft sound. His throat bobs, and Dean's heart drops at the way his eyes shutter. 

"Or what?" Cas rasps, and Dean hears it for exactly what it means. I do what you want and this is what I get, or what? It's like he sees it as the ultimatum it is and wants to know if Dean will push back, even when they've done this, even when it's complicated. 

It hits Dean square in the chest, just another betrayal all over again. Not enough. He's not enough, and it's all going so wrong, and Cas is making all of this so fucking hard. 

Dean's angry in a heartbeat, true anger, even more than he had before. It comes with the surge of hurt and something that stings like rejection. He drops his hand from Cas' trenchcoat. "Well, I'll do what I have to do to stop you." 

"You can't, Dean," Cas says, looking down and away, stepping back. "You're just a man. I'm an angel."

"I don't know," Dean says flatly, that sting of rejection growing sharper, "I've taken some pretty big fish." 

Cas looks to the side, his throat bobbing again as he takes yet another step back. "I'm sorry, Dean." 

"Well, I'm sorry too, then," Dean replies, heart clenching violently in his chest, lips still tingling. 

In the next second, there's the sound of wings, and then Cas is gone. Dean sucks in a sharp breath, running his tongue along his bottom lip as he tilts his head up and tries to breathe around the lump in his throat. He slowly turns, unable to stop himself from making a full circle, a kernel of hope still burning along with that betrayal in his chest. 

Cas doesn't come back. 

 


 

"I don't want to make you uncomfortable, but I detect a note of forgiveness." 

Dean takes in a small breath, staring at Cas, yet another version of him. He's so different now, opposed to conflict, steering clear of everything out of fear of making more mistakes. But, the thing is, they all make mistakes, and Dean's so tired of being angry at Cas for things that don't even matter anymore, not in the grand scheme of things. 

He'd said, "No one cares that you're broken, Cas," and truth be told, Dean doesn't. He doesn't give one fuck that Cas is like this. He doesn't care when Cas is some hippie from another world, when Cas is betraying them, when Cas is trying to be God. That same goddamn trust still exists in him, no matter what version of Cas is before him, and it's somehow so fucking easy to just...forgive him. To let go. To push aside the anger and live in the now. 

Dean steps closer and says, "Yeah, well, probably gonna die tomorrow, so." 

He doesn't know why he says it, even if he does. He thinks about that stoned Cas saying it to him, about how that's his go-to line. It's his excuse to do the things he wouldn't do otherwise. One last hoorah, because what do the consequences matter if he's not going to be alive to see them? 

Cas looks at him, meeting his gaze. He looks so lucid right now. There's no talk about monkeys, or bees, or any of that crazy jibber-jabber he's been spouting off for a while now. There's only sincerity in his eyes, a soft line on either side of his mouth like the imprint of his smile is still there, like it lingered after learning Dean forgave him. 

Dean thinks he's always going to forgive Cas, no matter what they go through. There's danger in that, in knowing it with so much certainty, and he's almost thankful that he's going to die soon, just so he doesn't have to keep existing in that knowledge. 

It's not in Dean's nature to not fight, especially when it's the right thing to do, especially when it's fighting to fix something that he fucked up. But he's not gonna blame Cas for feeling differently. He doesn't like it, and something in him withers because of it. That isn't Cas, not really. He always tries to do what's best; it's just that, now, he's convinced he only makes things worse. It's like Dean said, they're all cursed, and even if Cas is actually cursed, he doesn't really give a fuck. It's not always about the winning—you fight because not fighting is wrong, because losing while trying to do the right thing is still better than standing back and doing nothing. 

A part of Dean wants to ask him to fight anyway, to fight for him, but he's made that mistake before. Asking Cas to do something for him, just for him, like he's enough. Cas didn't do it then, and Dean's unwilling to ask for it now. That bone-deep trust in him urges him to, needling at him, encouraging the idea that this time, this time, Cas would. 

Cas looks at him for another second, and the clear skies of his eyes have a moment of lighting up, an understanding flickering in his gaze. He steps forward, too, hovering closer. Dean feels his nearness like a hook in his chest, like a chink in his armor, slipping right past the goddamn leather jacket that he pulled out for this one purpose, to make him feel impenetrable. But Cas slithers right on in, just by getting closer, and Dean's heart does something really stupid in his chest in response. 

"Well, I'll go with you," Cas whispers, holding his gaze. "I'll do my best." 

The thing is, Dean is always so pissed off at Cas. Frustrated with him. Annoyed by him. Expecting things from him. But there's also that trust, along with a persistent fondness, among other things that he doesn't dare give a name to. If he doesn't name 'em and doesn't acknowledge 'em, then they're not there and they have no power over him. 

He hates Cas sometimes, and absolutely doesn't at all, ever. So, he can roll his eyes, and he can snap at him, and he can dread having to speak to him, but that's not all there is. 

There's this, too. This moment where he realizes that Cas is going to go with Dean, and not because he should, not only because it's the right thing, but because Dean wants him to, and Dean is enough. And Dean? God, he doesn't stand a chance. 

Fuck it, I'm dying tomorrow is the thought that gets him moving, closing that space between them like a rubber band stretched to its limit finally snapping. He catches Cas' face in his hands and kisses him, and it only takes a second. 

It's a fierce kiss, one where Dean is savoring the press of their lips and the rising emotion more than he's chasing the need for more. If this is it, if this is all he gets, he can't have too much. It's over far too soon, just after Cas' lips move against his, a soft glide that threatens to draw Dean in deeper. He wrenches back, stepping away hastily as he raises a hand to cover his mouth. He closes his eyes briefly, and then he exhales and drops his hand, unable to bring himself to look Cas in the eye. 

He says, gruffly, "Thanks," and lets the corner of his mouth pull up into a tiny smile. 

 


 

It's not often that there's any time to take much of a break in Purgatory. It's mostly just running, and fighting, and trying not to get killed. 

That being said, Dean finds the time. Benny and Cas can walk around with those beards all they want, but Dean's seen himself with too much scruff, and he's got standards, even here. So, in the brief moments where they can settle, usually near a creek of some sort, Dean makes sure to give himself a shave. It's the most human thing that he can do here. 

Purgatory is freeing in that most of his human obligations are just...gone. He hasn't taken a piss in months and doesn't need to. He's not hungry, or thirsty, even if it's nice to drink from a creek. He gets weary, but not exhausted beyond the ability to function, and snatches of sleep are like gifts—not required, but nice all the same. 

Hell, even cleaning up is a moot point. Washing down would do none of them any use, seeing as it wouldn't even last through the day. They'd be covered in dirt, and gunk, and blood before the sun could set. It must smell awful, but he wouldn't know because he's become desensitized to it. 

Dutifully scraping the hair off his face is the one thing he allows himself, the one thing that feels like his most human act. It sometimes leaves his face a little raw and sensitive, but he doesn't mind. When he finishes up now, he moves over to the creek to crouch down and wet his hands, wiping them on his face to soothe his skin. 

"Was wonderin' when you'd get around to doin' that," Benny says idly, standing behind him with his hands shoved into his pockets. 

Dean stands up, offering him a wry grin. "Gotta stay pretty, don't I?" 

"You don't need much help there," Benny assures him, amused. He moves closer, reaching out to grab Dean by the chin, pushing his face this-way and that-way, lips twitching. 

"Like what you see?" Dean asks, raising his eyebrows pointedly, very aware that Benny's eyes are latched onto his neck. 

Benny has a thing about necks, which is funny because he's a vampire. Excusing that minor detail, though, he has a thing for necks that have nothing to do with the blood flowing in them, and Dean would know firsthand. You'll find yourself doing the wildest shit in Purgatory, Dean has learned, including letting a goddamn vampire attack your neck in a way that's more fun than harmful. 

That had started off with the same exact sentence that Dean had just said. Benny had been eyeing him up, his neck specifically, and Dean's mouth had run away from him as he said, "Like what you see?"

And Benny had said, "Yeah, I do," and then slammed him down to the ground to prove it. Dean had beard-burn on his throat for hours after that, but he didn't let it get in the way of finding Cas. 

This little thing with Benny is complicated, mostly because Cas is here now, and Benny ain't no idiot. He seems to find some amusement in it, which does Dean absolutely no favors. Cas always looks one minute out from lobbing Benny's head off, just to prove a point, which is less than ideal because Dean actually likes Benny. A lot. 

"Yeah, I do," Benny echoes now, and he shuffles closer, mouth immediately latching onto Dean's neck. 

Dean hisses low between his teeth, closing his eyes and tipping his head back before he thinks twice about it. He knows Cas is only downstream, but he also doesn't really give a fuck either. It feels good. So many things in Purgatory do. The killing, the running, the pureness of it. Hey, getting treated to some TLC by Benny is just the cherry on top of this really bloody sundae. Making the best out of a shitty situation, if you will. 

Benny's good for things like this, because Benny is very laid back. He doesn't need to talk about this part, or any feelings, or anything that might make Dean want to start running from him. Mostly, he just cracks jokes and does what the fuck he wants, happy to go with the flow if Dean is. They go with the flow in between fighting, very often in various ways, and Dean's fine with that. He doesn't have to think about it outside of when it's happening, and then he's not doing much thinking at all. 

Benny pulls back and kisses him hard, no muss and no fuss, and Dean lets him. Dean likes it. Dean doesn't have to think about liking it. In an hour, they're gonna be running and fighting and killing again, and he won't be thinking then, either. 

When Benny pulls back, he glances over Dean's shoulder, and he chuckles. "Hot-wings doesn't look very happy right now." 

"Why do you do this?" Dean mutters, risking a quick glance over his shoulder to actually see the burning glare burning holes into his back. He grimaces and turns back to see Benny grinning. "I know you're fucking with him." 

"Oh, but it's just so fun," Benny says, backing off and tossing his blade from one hand to the other.  

Dean huffs. "Not for me. Can't you two get along for five fucking minutes?" 

"Well, we ain't killed each other yet." Benny gives a lazy shrug like what more do you want from us? 

"Keep pushing it, and Cas might actually give into the urge, and see, that just ain't gonna sit right with me," Dean tells him, which is the closest to saying he actually cares as he'll ever get. 

Benny grins with all teeth, eyes bright. "Aw, Dean, you do care." 

"Fuck you," Dean mutters, rolling his eyes and steadily backing up as he gives him the finger. 

"We ain't got the time now, but maybe when we get topside, eh?" Benny suggests, arching an eyebrow. 

"Death wish!" Dean calls out to him, flinging his hand out and turning around, shaking his head as he starts towards Cas, who is standing very rigid and still glaring. "Hey, Cas, look, it's not—ah!" 

Dean yelps as Cas reaches out to fist the front of his shirt and wheel him around, tossing him into a tree with force, then pinning him to it. His sputtering protest cuts off as Cas' mouth slams into his, too hard and too harsh and too hot. 

It comes with very little warning, so Dean doesn't hold it against himself when he gasps like a goddamn damsel and then moans, hands darting out quick and desperate to grasp Cas' battered coat, yanking him in closer. This kiss is all Cas, deep and hard, sending Dean reeling in less than two seconds. 

They've never—well, they haven't done this here, in Purgatory. They spend a lot of time not doing this topside as well, and while in Purgatory, Dean can't think of one goddamn reason for that. It's good. It's so fucking good, so much so that it's probably bad for their chances of survival. If a monster came to attack them now, they'd be too distracted to fight. 

But Benny is around, right? He wouldn't let them get killed, probably. Dean's his ticket out, so of course not. And hey, Cas could keep watch when Dean and Benny are—

Oh, his brain is really fucking scrambled from this kiss if he's trying to figure out ways to rotate between the two guys that seem to find simple pleasure in nearly coming to blows. Dean doesn't know how to ask them to get along, because it'll just sound like a girl with two boyfriends asking them to take turns, and that's not what Dean wants. Well, okay—no, no, that's not it at all. 

His brain's ability to function goes from severely depleted to absolutely hopeless when Cas' leg slots between his own. He chokes out a groan, mouth opening wider, and Cas licks into it like he's meant for it, unnecessarily skilled for an angel who has only kissed Dean and a demon before. Probably. Dean is pretty sure, anyway. 

There's really no finesse to how it happens. Cas just kisses him with so much fucking intensity, and then he reaches down to grab Dean's hips, jerking them fast, guiding him into rocking along to the motion. It's hot and heavy, and Dean is making these shocked noises that all sound like approval to his ears, sparks lighting up in every nerve. 

It doesn't take long at all before Dean's shuddering and coming in his goddamn pants like a fucking teenager, moaning into Cas' mouth, lightheaded. He finds that his hands have slid up and around Cas' shoulders, holding on far too tight, but he can't remember doing it for the life of him. Cas drags his leg back one more time, making Dean twitch and tremble from the sensitivity of it, and the kiss turns just a bit sweeter. It slows until Cas finally pulls back, staring at him for a beat, then disentangling himself and throwing a glare right at Benny. 

Possessive, Dean thinks muzzily, still just slumped against the tree, sticky in places he doesn't want to be and twitching in the afterglow. 

Cas turns and marches away without another goddamn word, both pissed off and smug, somehow. Dean weakly looks over at Benny, who takes one look at him, then proceeds to bend over and laugh his ass off. Dean lets his head tip back and hit the tree trunk with a heavy sigh, not thinking. 

An hour later, as promised, Dean's slicing the heads off a couple of Leviathans, and there's nothing for him to really think about. Pure silence in his mind. The benefits of Purgatory. 

 


 

Dean's stomach roils with guilt as he drives through the sleeping town. It's mostly dark, and Dean doesn't know where to go. He'd asked, but Cas hadn't answered, and Dean doesn't want to think about what that means. 

Cas is quiet. He stares at the window, looking at the passing buildings, some lit up and some dim. It's late after leaving Nora's, but not too late where the whole world is asleep. Cas won't look at him. Dean can't blame him. He can barely look at himself in the rearview mirror right now. 

Without saying anything, Dean stops at a motel in town, the only one that seems to be around for miles. He leaves Cas in Baby and heads in to see if they have any rooms available. They do, but it's just one, and it's not a double. 

Dean swallows as he pays for it. Cas is human now. He needs to eat, and shower, and...sleep. Dean can't leave him hanging after tonight, especially when he's this far from the Gas-N-Sip that he works at and doesn't have a car to get back there in the morning. The guilt claws at him. 

When Dean jangles the keys towards the car so Cas can see them, Cas slides out of Baby and follows him into the room. He takes one look at the single bed, then his jaw firms as he looks away, lips pressing into a thin line. Dean closes his eyes and ducks his head, feeling the guilt sink in deeper. 

"I'm gonna, uh, go grab something for us to eat. Why don't you get a shower? I'll bring in something from Baby's trunk, and you can see about getting those clothes washed in the laundry room. Lady at the desk said it's still open, and you—" Dean cuts himself off when he realizes that he's rambling. 

Cas doesn't look at him when he says, "I don't have any quarters, Dean." 

"Okay," Dean whispers, opening his eyes to stare down at his boots. On one hand, there's something to the fact that Cas knows he needs quarters. That's something to be proud of, right? A bright side? Jesus fucking Christ, he hates himself. "Uh, I'll leave some. Don't worry about it." 

Dean goes to do exactly what he said while Cas disappears into the bathroom, slamming the door shut so hard that Dean flinches. He goes out to get the clothes and leaves them on the bed, laying the quarters out on top, then he escapes into the safety of Baby. It's a long time before he cranks her and goes in search of food, because he sits there for a while and presses his forehead to her wheel. 

Then, he clears his throat, grits his teeth, and turns the key. Just gotta do it and get it done. What's happened has already happened, and that's all there is to it. Dean can't change anything now. 

When he comes back, Cas is sitting on the edge of the bed in the clothes—Dean's clothes—and what he changed out of is gone, as well as the quarters. 

"Got burgers," Dean announces as he comes in, forcing himself to talk past the lump in his throat. "I know you like burgers." 

Cas doesn't respond. 

The silence is stifling. Dean doesn't know how to break it, or where he should start. He should apologize, he knows that, but he can't get the words out. Talking about Nora is out of the question, and Dean can't bring himself to ask where Cas stays these days and how he gets by while not at work. 

A part of Dean wants to explain to Cas about the whole situation—about the fact that the angels can't get back into Heaven, about Sam and what's really going on there, about how Dean's been thinking about him ever since he left, ever since Dean had to ask him to go. He can't do it, though. He can't drag Cas into all of this. He's human now, and he seems like he's got something going for himself. 

Dean's so damn proud of him for that, for being unlike any other angel, for adapting and learning to bend when others might break. It's Dean's fault, and he hates it, but Cas is so goddamn resilient that he can't help but respect it. But it hurts, too, because Dean didn't want this for him. 

And now, Cas has something. Dean's not sure what, exactly, but it's something that might not involve death, or harm, or asshole best friends who make you leave. Cas deserves that something. He should be safe. He should be— 

"I need to put my clothes in the dryer," Cas announces, pushing his half-eaten burger away and standing up from his corner of the bed as he marches out without looking back. 

He hasn't even touched his fries. 

Dean sets his burger aside, looking up and blinking hard as he reaches out to rub his hand over his mouth. He didn't have much of an appetite before, but there's no chance of him eating anything else. 

He puts his food back in the bag and goes out to get his own change of clothes for a shower. When he shuts himself in the bathroom, the door closes with an almost-silent click—shame. He takes his time, going through the motions, guilt eating away at him until he almost can't stand himself. After, he scrubs himself dry a little too harshly with the towel. 

Cas is back when Dean gets out, and he's put away his food, too. Dean doesn't have to look to know that he didn't finish it. Is he hungry? Is he used to being hungry? Dean's gone hungry before, he knows what that feels like, and he doesn't want Cas to have to suffer through that. He almost opens his mouth to ask Cas to eat, beg him if he has to, but then he can't force himself to do it. He dreads what comment he'd get as a rebuttal and where it might lead. 

Being human hasn't changed Cas' personality very much. He's still sarcastic, and awkward, and there's still that shine of innocence to him. Dean wants to cook him homemade burgers, which is a desire he doesn't look too closely at, especially since there's no chance of it ever happening. 

The silence between them persists. Dean tries to turn on the TV because he feels like he's about to crawl right out of his skin, but the remote doesn't work. When he looks, there's no batteries, and he almost flings it at the wall, only to take a deep breath and gingerly sit it on the nightstand. 

"Are you tired?" Dean finally asks, glancing over at Cas. They're both perched on the end of the bed at opposite ends, as far from each other as they can get. The distance feels sharp. 

"I need to get my clothes out of the dryer," is Cas' stiff reply. 

Dean swallows. "I can do that. I'll get 'em out and put 'em in Baby's trunk. You got work in the morning, so you should sleep. Take the right side. I'm closer to the door." 

He doesn't wait for Cas to agree, just hops up and makes yet another escape. He breathes a little easier outside, but his shoulders are slumped the whole way to the laundry room. They stay that way, even when he takes Cas' clothes to Baby. 

Dean glances back at the door, chewing the inside of his lip, and then he takes his wallet out. He only has the money he hustled from some guys in a bar that nearly got his ass kicked, and it's not a lot. Just a little under a hundred bucks. But it's something. 

None of his guilt is soothed when he slips the money in Cas' pants pocket, but he doesn't expect it to be. That's not even the point.

When he gets back inside, the room is dark and Cas is laying down with his back to the door, on top of the cover. It's cold in the room. Dean turns the heater on, grimacing at its loud clanking sound. Cas doesn't so much as twitch, not even when Dean hesitantly approaches the bed and sits down on it, not even when Dean sprawls out. 

Maybe he's asleep. 

"Cas?" Dean mutters. 

"What?" Cas retorts, sharp and cold. 

Dean doesn't respond. He lays on his back and stares up into the darkness, that forevermore guilt settling in the hollow of his bones. He tries not to think about the small distance between them. He could roll over, scoot sideways, and then their bodies would be flush together. Cas would be warmer that way, but Dean doesn't fucking dare. 

He doesn't think he's going to get a wink of sleep tonight. He should have apologized. He should tell Cas that he's proud of him. He can't tell him about the fact that angels can't get back into Heaven. There's so much to say, and so much he can't say, and Dean doesn't know how to say anything at all. 

He has to, though. He thinks it might rip him up inside if he doesn't. He knows the feeling of being torn to shreds—he's had a hellhound turn his chest into ribbons. This is shaping up to be a close second. 

"Cas," Dean whispers, his voice rough as he turns on his side, hesitantly reaching out to touch the back of Cas' shoulder, "I—" 

He doesn't finish because Cas is suddenly rolling over, facing him and shuffling closer. Dean gets to suck in a quick, sharp breath right before Cas' lips find his in the dark, and all bets are off immediately. He leans into it, hand fumbling along Cas' arm to stumble over his neck, hooking on the back of it to tug him in closer. He deepens the kiss, aching at the rough sound Cas makes in the back of his throat. It's a moan. It's a whimper. It's dangerous. 

Dean wants to taste it, and so he does. He isn't thinking, just sucked into sensation, and Cas is so fucking responsive like this. He shudders and reaches out, fingers grasping almost frantically at Dean's clothes and skin, curling into the contact like he's desperate for it. Almost like he needs it. 

Cas makes another sound, a shiver rolling through his body that Dean can feel in his hands, and they break apart to suck in air. 

"Cas," Dean says again, trying to explain, wanting to say so many things. 

"Just touch me." Cas scoots across the last stretch until they're as pressed together as they're going to get, and he flexes his fingers on Dean's arm, a plea in just that. "Dean, just touch me." 

So, Dean does. He slides his hand underneath Cas' shirt, barely noticing the tremble in his fingers as he does it, pressing his warm palm into Cas' cold side as he slowly drags his fingers to the small of his back. Their mouths meet again when Dean yanks him closer, their legs tangled, hips shifting against each other. It's not going to be enough, not with where this is heading, but Dean's as close as he can get without taking any clothes off. 

Cas solves that problem for him by rocking back enough to yank at his own shirt, letting Dean help him pull it off and throw it carelessly aside. He reaches out quickly to drag Dean back in, making the most delicious sounds that have ever graced Dean's ears. It's all the encouragement he needs. 

Dean rolls Cas onto his back, leaning over him and breaking the kiss to mouth down the side of his bared neck in the dark. Cas' foot drags down the back of his thigh, toes curling into the fabric of Dean's jeans at his calf. Just that—the small reaction that shows how into this he is right now—makes Dean's already befuddled mind lose whatever sense he's had up until this point. The idea that he shouldn't do this, that he and Cas have too much between them and this will only make it worse...well, it's distant. It goes up in smoke. 

From there, Dean doesn't have one thought in his head, and he spends the next few minutes tasting Cas' skin, kissing a path from his neck to his collarbones to lower and then lower. He groans every time Cas does, needing to take a second each time, ears ringing with the sound of him, heart racing in his chest. He's losing it. Whatever control that he had, he's losing it. Fast. 

"God, Cas," Dean chokes out when he feels fingers slide into his short hair, knuckles against scalp, fisting it and giving a harsh tug. 

"Come here," Cas rasps, yanking on his hair a little more firmly. "Come here. Dean, please—" 

Dean scrambles up immediately, his heart flinching at that please, and he does whatever Cas wants him to. That turns about to be more kissing, which Dean gives into almost naturally. Cas squirms underneath him, unable to hold still, fingers fumbling for the button on Dean's pants. 

They groan into each other's mouths at the same exact time when they finally fucking manage to get each other's pants open, because Dean started in on Cas' the moment after Cas started in on his. The noise of them both, passing the sound of pleasure back and forth, it reverberates in Dean's head. It fills up the silence waiting there, spurring him on. 

There's more fumbling, and they don't do much more than get their hands in each other's pants. Dean has to break the kiss to bury his face in Cas' neck, hips jerking up into Cas' hand, and he can feel Cas shaking beneath him. 

It's fast, the both of them pushed so close to the brink already, nothing fancy about it. Dean barely has the ability to breathe and move his own hand while Cas gets him off, too lost in the feeling of it. That's okay, though, because Cas fucks up into Dean's fist, arching, gasping. 

"Fuck," Dean hisses out, hips stuttering, and Cas cups his hand around the head of him, collecting most of the mess. 

Dean rides it out, moaning against Cas' throat, tightening his hand around Cas as he jerks his hips faster. He knows when Cas is about to find release, because Cas turns out to be fucking loud. He groans Dean's name, almost a growl, but there's some whine to it that nearly takes Dean the fuck out. 

He does his best to keep the mess on his own hand as well, because that seems the safest bet. And, when he withdraws his hand at the same time that Cas does, they both do very different things. Dean rolls off of Cas and immediately wipes his hand on the underside of his pillow, which is kinda rude, but they'll wash the pillowcases anyway. Cas, on the other hand, just fucking licks his palms clean, and Dean watches him do it in the muted dark from where his eyes have adjusted. 

While his heart tries to restart after that display, Cas zips and buttons his pants, then reaches out to do the same for Dean. Before he can figure out some way to ask what happens next, Cas scoots in close again, tangling their legs and pressing his face into Dean's throat, arm thrown over his waist. It's cuddling. Cas is cuddling him. Right now. He's clingy about it, trying to get as close as possible like he wants to open Dean up and crawl into him. 

Dean spares one second to wonder if this was how Cas was with April, then halts those thoughts before they can actually take root in his mind. He releases a shaky breath and sweeps his hand down the length of Cas' naked back. He's warm now. 

"Cas," Dean whispers. 

"No," Cas croaks, his whole body tightening around Dean, drawing him in closer, like God himself wouldn't be able to peel him away. Another shudder runs through his body. "No, Dean, don't. Just—just hold me. Please." 

There's that please again. Dean closes his eyes and ducks his head to press his face into Cas' hair. He doesn't say another word. He just holds him. 

He'll apologize tomorrow. 

When Dean wakes up, he does so alone. The shower is running, so he gets up and changes back into the clothes from the day before. He's assuming Cas has already gotten his work clothes from the trunk. 

And sure enough, when Cas gets out of the shower, he's all ready to go. Dean puts off saying anything because Cas has a wrinkle in his brow like he's thinking about something very hard. He doesn't find out what it is until they roll up at his job and Dean finally plucks up the courage to apologize, and he even admits that he's proud of Cas. 

The guilt still doesn't go away, not even when Cas looks him in the eye and says fucking thank you, like he's thanking him for his words and something else as well. Dean wants to say so much in response to that, and also nothing at all, but Cas goes on to bring up the angels. The guilt flares, and Dean tells himself that it's for the best that Cas is out of it. 

He tells himself that all the way back to the Bunker. He doesn't turn on the radio. He doesn't even really pay attention while he's driving. His eyes are burning something awful, but he shuts that shit down. He locks it up and clenches his jaw the whole way home, heaving a deep sigh when he gets back. 

Dean goes to the trunk to get the clothes they wore so he can wash them, and there—right on top of the bag—is the money that he tried to give Cas. 

 


 

"When you finally turn—and you will turn—Sam, everyone you know, everyone you love, could be long-dead. Everyone except me." 

Dean's throat is constricting before he realizes that it shouldn't. The prickle under his skin heats up, reacting to the surge of emotion that tries to break through the surface. He has to look away from intensity of Cas' eyes for a moment, unwilling to let his hands curl into fists like they ache to. 

He's in control. No matter what Sam and Cas say, he's got a handle on this shit. The bloodstains on his clothes and the bodies littered around the floor are justified. They're earned. Dean can do this, because not doing this isn't an option. He's been dealing with anger and aggression like this his whole goddamn life, and he can handle it now. 

"I'm the one who will have to watch you murder the world," Cas says harshly, refusing to look away from him, so goddamn persistent. "So, if there's even a small chance that we can save you, I won't let you walk out of this room." 

Dean meets his gaze, tilting his chin up a tiny bit, heat prickling more harshly under his skin. His fingers twitch. "Oh, you think you have a choice?" 

"I think the mark is changing you," Cas retorts. 

"You're wrong," Dean tells him, denying it instantly. It's not. He won't go too far. He's handling it. 

"Am I?" Cas challenges sharply, head tilting just a bit to the side. "Because the Dean Winchester I know would never have murdered that kid."  

Dean glances back at the body of the monster. Not a kid. A monster. Dean kills them—that's what he does. "Yeah, well, that Dean's always been kind of a dick," he says, turning back towards Cas and starting to move forward. 

"Dean," Cas snaps, reaching out to catch him by the shoulder and halt him, pushing him back, "I don't want to have to hurt you." 

The words make his scalp prickle. Dean's heart thunders in his ears, blood surging in his veins, and he's so fucking furious. It's the quiet, dangerous kind of anger that unfurls sure and steady. Who does Cas think he is? He's making threats. He wants to fight, and Dean can practically taste it in the air. Cas is chomping at the bits. He might even attack first, and Dean won't allow that to happen. 

He's not going to stand by and let Cas act like he has any say on what Dean does or doesn't do. They're nothing to each other. They've never been anything, and they never will, because they're stuck in the same fucking cycle that they have been forever. 

Dean's suddenly angry at Cas, specifically, rather than just in general. It all comes to a focal point, zeroing in on Cas. He's not Dean's friend. He's not even fucking human. He's the angel who was willing to betray him, the angel who went behind his back with Sam, the angel who thinks Dean is gonna give a fuck if there are centuries ahead of them. He's the angel who thinks he can stop him, and one who will make good on his threats, Dean knows for sure. 

That's never going to happen. Dean glances down at Cas' hand on shoulder and then holds his gaze as he says, "I don't think that's gonna be a problem." 

With that, he reaches up and grabs Cas' wrist, twisting his arm until he hears something crack. His fist connects, and Cas' head wrenches to the side, swinging back up with blood on his lips. Cas reaches out with his other hand to grab Dean's other shoulder, snarling, "Dean," and getting another punch to the face for his troubles. 

It's easy. The fighting. He feels every hit reverberate through him, a burst of energy in every nerve, everything going quiet and narrowing down to the pleasure of it. The relief. The way it makes his blood pump and his pulse settle. 

Dean is in control, though. He is, and that's why he wheels around after kneeing Cas in his stomach to toss him across the floor, watching him slide into the pile of books. He heaves a breath, stomping out the urge to go back and finish it, turning away as Cas stumbles to his feet. 

"Dean," Cas says again, slightly slurred, blood in his mouth, "stop." 

Rubbing a hand over his mouth, Dean wavers at the doorway. Stop? Cas is asking him to stop? She only asked for one thing—

No. 

Dean turns back, panting, anger surging hotter. He's prickling all over, fingers aching with the urges that roar through every part of his body. He needs it, he needs to—no, not need. He's in control. He's in control. He's in control, and it's him. It's him that moves towards Cas, it is, and it's him that goes to punch him again, because he's in control and he needs it and he can't stop and he's in control and Cas has got to let him leave and— 

Cas deflects his punch, whirling him around with it, arms coming up around him. Trying to contain him. He thinks he can contain Dean? He thinks he can hold him? No, he can't. He's nothing. Dean is in control here, not Cas, and he proves it by slamming his head back into Cas' face. He whips around, hand already coming up again. 

There's blood on Cas' face, and in his teeth, coating his lips, and Dean tastes it when Cas rocks forward and kisses him right in the middle of everything. 

Dean's hand hangs in the air, still poised to hit, frozen in place. There's a tang of rust—blood, hot and wet on Cas' tongue that traces his bottom lip. Another surge of emotion fights against the prickle of his skin, and this time, it breaks free. His hand falls slack, dropping to his side. It's like someone just hit his off-switch. 

Cas curls into him, closer and closer, his hand sliding up Dean's arm. It travels over his shoulder, a firm touch that softens up the side of his neck, bloodied fingers caressing a bloody jaw. Dean sways forward, his breath shuddering out of him, the prickle under his skin easing and easing and...gone. 

They're both bloody, though Cas is more beaten than Dean. That doesn't seem to matter. He hardly seem to care. He kisses Dean deeply, with intent, releasing a soft sigh into it like he would stand here and be drenched in blood just for this. She knew what I was...who I was. She loved me unconditionally. She forgave me. She only asked for one thing—to stop. 

Dean feels like his whole chest cracks open, and he makes a pathetic noise against Cas' mouth, reaching out to hold onto him. It can't stop, it can't, because he's suddenly feeling like he's coming up for air after being submerged for so long. He's not in control. He's not. He knows it now, because he's suddenly fucking terrified of what happens when Cas pulls away. They can't do this forever, but if they could, Dean knows he'd never murder another soul. 

He clings to Cas, not letting him pull away, but there comes the moment where breathing is a necessity. It's minute, infinitesimal, but the break between their lips brings everything down around Dean. His whole body flashes with heat, an uncomfortable kind, the worst prickle that's ever taken root. He knows his eyes are glazing over and his fingers are twitching, and the control is—

Dean yanks Cas down, kneeing him again in his center, his grunt echoing loud in Dean's ears. The prickle spreads like a fire, burning him, anger so hot and unquenchable sweeping through him that he can feel the desire to kill connect in his mind. He hauls Cas around and launches him across the room again, watching him crash into the table. Dean marches over and lifts him up, then slams him back down. Again and again, he does it over and over, listening to the collision like its fireworks. Just as rewarding, too. He tugs him away and watches Cas go down, then moves to turn Cas over. He's making pathetic gurgling sounds from the blood that bubbles up past his lips. 

Perhaps Dean cracked a rib. Maybe there's some internal bleeding. Good. 

Dean snags the angel blade from Cas' sleeve, pulling it up and gripping the handle. He reaches down to grasp Cas by his tie, staring down into his bloody face. Dean's going to kill him. He wants to kill him. 

Cas reaches up and holds Dean's wrist in a weak grasp, garbling out, "Dean, please…" 

That resonates through him like a gong, that please, and Dean feels his eyebrows crumble together as his lips tremble. He wants to kill him. He wants to—

He can't. He's in control, and he would never. He wouldn't kill Cas, not for any fucking reason in this world, and he can't. There's a part of his mind screeching it at him, that he can't, that he's in control, don't do it, don't do it. It wars with the pulsing urge that presses in all around him, that prickle under his skin, that rush in his ears. 

Dean swings the blade down, choking out a harsh exhale as it connects with the box beside Cas' head, his whole body rattling as he gets to his feet. He looks down at Cas, who looks up at him, and then he turns and marches away. He's in control. 

"You and Sam stay the hell away from me," Dean orders, looking over his shoulder as he forces himself to walk away. "Next time, I won't miss." 

He leaves with that prickle under his skin, fully in control, distantly aware that he didn't actually miss at all. He just hadn't been able to do it. 

 


 

Dean looks up in surprise when his door eases open. Cas. Well, this is going to be good. He usually knocks. Sighing, Dean sits aside his laptop and swings his legs over the side of the bed, pushing to his feet. He always has an absurd urge to stand whenever Cas enters a room, even if he has no fucking clue why. 

"Hello, Dean," Cas greets. He looks at the door, then shakes his head. "I apologize. I should have knocked. I just wanted to speak with you." 

"It's fine, Cas," Dean says, amused despite himself. He waves a hand lazily. "Get in here. What's up?" 

Cas shuts the door and leans back against it, then takes a small, almost unnoticeable breath. Oh, this should be bad. This is going to be bad, isn't it? Dean can feel it in his bones, because that's definitely some hesitation on Cas' face. He only hesitates for the really bad things. Jesus. 

Clearing his throat, Cas moves further into the room, coming to a halt by Dean's desk. "I thought we could talk about Amara and your—pull to her."

"C'mon, Cas," Dean mutters, wincing preemptively. He doesn't want to talk about this. He barely talks about it with Sam. He'd prefer to ignore it. 

"I know you don't want to talk about it. I know you'd prefer to ignore it," Cas says, because he knows Dean creepily well. He sighs and crosses his arms, holding Dean's gaze, concerned. "I think it's important if we know the full scope of it. Dean, does she have power over you?" 

"I don't—" Dean grimaces and looks away, shoulders jerking up and landing somewhere around his ears. He's uncomfortable. Very much so. "It's not really...like that." 

"How is it?" Cas asks bluntly. 

Dean swallows and looks down. He resists the urge to cross his arms. It's a defensive gesture, but there's no need for it. He's not under attack. 

But that's the thing. It feels like he is, nearly all the time. This pull to Amara is—it terrifies him. He's never wanted anything less in his life, and he can't escape it, no matter how much he tries. It makes him feel dirty. And, the sad thing is, if she wants him...he thinks she might be able to have him. It won't be his choice. He doesn't know how to fix it. 

"It's like—it's like...this tug," Dean admits, looking up to meet Cas' gaze, then quickly averting his eyes. Talking to him about this is so fucking hard. "It's a pull, like you said. An attraction I can't shake, except I don't want it. Every time she gets close, it's like nothing else—matters. I can feel it all the time, this—this link that makes me want her, even now." 

"Can you fight it?" Cas asks, his tone clinical but soft. Removed from it, but still caring. 

Dean looks up at him again and swallows. "There are times when it gets—easier. Quieter, almost." 

"Do you think there are ways to...silence it, perhaps?" Cas muses, eyebrows crumbling together as he leans back against the desk. "We have been, of course, talking about possibly resorting to visiting Lucifer in the cage. He might have the answer to defeat her, but I don't know if he'll have the answer to this. If you have an idea…" 

"I think there is a way to silence it, yeah, just not permanently," Dean admits wearily. 

Cas blinks at him. "Oh? How?" 

"Um. Well." Dean shifts, his fingers flexing at his sides. His heart gets an uptick in speed, and just that small reaction eases that pull to Amara, just like that. Just that easily. 

It feels so nice to have that relief, as mortifying as it is. He steps forward, allowing himself to drop his gaze to Cas' lips. That link tugging at him goes slack. He steps forward again, his mind already feeling a little clearer, only to get foggier with wants that have nothing to do with Amara. It's a better alternative. Dean prefers it. 

"Dean?" Cas murmurs.

"You ever heard of tug-of-war, Cas?" Dean asks roughly, drawing closer without really meaning to.

"I know what that is, yes," Cas answers. 

Dean flicks his gaze up to meet Cas' eyes, his breath hitching in his throat when he sees that Cas has straightened up, paying attention. "Well, I'm the flag, and Amara's got one end of the rope." 

"Who has the other?" Cas asks, his voice quiet but rough as always, music to Dean's ears. 

"She ain't gonna let go, I don't think, but it'd be nice to be pulled in a different direction," Dean mumbles, drifting close enough to touch. He can hear his heart thumping, echoing in his head. Slowly, he reaches out to dip his fingers in Cas' trenchcoat pocket, giving a pointed tug, breathless as he does it. "You just gotta tug a little, Cas." 

"I'm quite strong," Cas points out, swaying forward, his voice low like they're trading secrets.

"She's stronger," Dean replies. 

Cas hums, his hand falling on Dean's hip, curling around it and tugging on him. "And right now? Can you feel the pull to her right now, Dean?" 

"The pull to who?" Dean breathes out.

"We're stronger than she is. We will beat her, whatever it takes," Cas tells him, then slides his hand around to Dean's back, yanking him in.

The terror fades entirely when their lips connect, and so does that aching want that's been gnawing on his insides. It's such a relief that he groans, though that may have something to do with kissing Cas. He hasn't done it in so long, not since the mark, and that's a memory he would rather forget. 

They're always on shaky ground, right up until they're jumping in feet-first. There's never a reason for this, even if there always is, and Dean's sure they could go without it. They actually do go without it, more often than they don't. This isn't something they talk about, not to each other, not to anyone else. It's just something that happens, and then it fades out when things move along. 

Dean doesn't think about it. Not about what it means, not about what it makes them, not about how it affects him. This life—that's not how things work. It's just this, these in the moment moments that always slip right out of his fingers because he lets them. He doesn't try to hold onto them, and neither does Cas, and maybe they shouldn't.

Cas kisses him like no one else does, like no one else ever has. Dean absolutely does not think about it unless it's happening to him, and then he doesn't have the ability to think at all. What does it say about him that he occasionally kisses his best friend, who's a man? Dean doesn't know, and he doesn't really want to find out, either. 

This is the kind of thing that can only exist while it's actively happening. It's like object impermanence, not knowing it's real if he can't sense it. Where does it go when it's not happening? Dean wouldn't be able to say. He refuses to look for it. 

But when it's there, it's fucking there. It's here now, and Dean sinks into it with a helpless sigh, his whole body unclicking like he's been unspooled. It's not a particularly deep kiss, but it doesn't have to be. Just the feeling of it, the feeling it invokes, is enough. The press of mouths, the slide of tongues, the catch of teeth. It's so, so goddamn good that it's insane. Dean doesn't know how it's possible to be this good, unable to fathom it. 

There's a knock on Dean's door, and Sam is calling out, "Dean, you still up, man? I think I found something, and it involves Lucifer." 

Dean wrenches back from Cas quickly, jittery all over as he reaches up to rub his hand over his swollen mouth. He swallows and drags his hand up, scrubbing it back and forth over his head, twisting back and forth like he's looking for something, even though he's not. He's just panicking. 

"Dean?" Sam calls again. 

"Ah, y-yeah," Dean yells back, his voice cracking. He clears his throat and slides his hand down to grip the back of his neck as he hangs his head. "Yeah, I'll, uh—I'll be out in a minute!" 

"Alright," Sam shouts, his footsteps fading as he continues on his way. 

Dean deflates, heaving a gusty sigh as he glances at Cas. "Uh, we should—I should—" 

"Yes," Cas agrees, turning and heading right for the door without looking back. 

There's that object impermanence again. They're both guilty for it. Dean closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, then opens them and follows Cas out to go plan how they're going to break in to see the devil. 

 


 

Dean stares at the mixtape. 

Don't think about it, don't go there, he thinks. He's internally begging himself not to go down this road. If he thinks it, he won't be able to unthink it, and thinking it is a really, really bad idea. 

It's just that he made a mixtape for Vickie Rickfield in middle school because he was macking on her and wanted to sneak off to the janitor's closet before math class. And, well, when he was in tenth grade, he made Loraine Lewis a mixtape of all her favorite songs because he wanted to get past first base. Also, the mixtapes his dad made his mom burned in the fire, but Dean recalls Mary—pregnant and beaming at everything—letting him pick which one they would put on. Dean himself has an attachment to mixtapes—the ones in Baby are proof of that. 

Dean hasn't made a mixtape since he was a fucking teenager, and he has never made one for someone else consisting of his favorite songs from his favorite band. What the fuck is he doing? 

The thing is, Dean doesn't really know when or where the idea came to him. It wasn't like an epiphany. This wasn't even Sam's suggestion, trying to tell Dean that doing nice things feels good, so maybe do something nice? It's not even that. Hell, it wasn't even really an idea he even had. 

He just sort of...did it. 

And, okay, there's a whole process to making a mixtape. A grueling process, in fact. It's not something one finds themselves doing unconsciously, or by accident. You can't trip and fall into making a mixtape. Thought has to go into it. 

Don't think about it, don't do it; if you go there, you can't come back, he warns himself, and it works a treat at making him dance around something he's unwilling to acknowledge yet—or ever. 

The problem is, Dean doesn't know how to explain it to himself without...seeing it for what it is. And it's pretty obvious what the fuck it is. He grew up in the eighties. This isn't something he can just vault over every time it threatens to cross his mind, except that's exactly what he's doing. He'll keep doing it, too, because not doing it is worse. 

Maybe he doesn't need to explain it. Fine. Just the facts. Dean made a mixtape. It's a gift. 

There ya go, simple. Doesn't mean a damn thing unless he acknowledges that it does, and Dean's most definitely not doing that. So, this is what it is. A mixtape, a gift, not a big deal. 

Dean puts his face in his hands and groans. 

"Knock, knock," Sam says from Dean's doorway, rapping his knuckle against the open door. 

"Uh, hey," Dean blurts out, head snapping up as he smacks his hands down to the desk, trapping the mixtape under his palms. 

Sam raises his eyebrows. "What's that?" 

"Nothing," Dean says too quickly. Then, with more ferocity, "Absolutely nothing. It's nothing." 

"Oh, it's definitely something," Sam tells him, lips twitching into a shit-eating grin as he comes marching into the room, eyes lighting up. 

Dean scrambles away from the desk with the mixtape because he knows that look in Sam's eye. He's all little brother right now, and oh god, this does not bode well for Dean. 

Sam lunges for it immediately, while Dean skips backwards and nearly trips over his own boots. Despite having the home field advantage—this is Dean's room—Sam consists of stupidly long limbs and dumb hair, so this is going to be a battle. He goes careening around the side of the bed, but Sam just follows him, trying to snatch the mixtape. 

There's nothing else for it. Dean tries to launch himself across the bed the way he would the hood of a car, but he's not as young as he used to be, and the mattress just conforms to his body. Betrayed by memory foam, say it ain't so. He ends up sprawled half across his bed, half on the ground on the other side, and the mixtape goes skittering from his hands, sliding across the floor. 

Dean yelps as Sam barrels across the bed carelessly and makes a mad dash for it, and he tries to fling himself forward to beat Sam there, but it's no use. Dean hits the floor with a dull thud just as Sam scoops up the mixtape with a victorious smile and begins examining it curiously. 

When he looks up, he's grinning, and all he says is an amused and knowing, "Dude."

"Shut up," Dean snaps, hefting himself up to his feet with a huff. He reaches out and tries to snatch it back, but Sam pulls it up and away, eyebrows raised. 

"You made someone a mixtape?" Sam asks. 

"So?" Dean mutters. 

Sam eyes him incredulously. "So, are you in love?" 

"What?" Dean chokes out, rearing back. Object impermanence doesn't apply if someone else is pointing it out. Jesus fucking Christ. "A mixtape does not mean I'm—" 

"Uh huh, sure," Sam cuts in. "It's just the thing you give to your crush when you're a teenager. That's, like, romance one-oh-one, Dean. So? Cough it up. Who is it? You've got a crush. I wanna know." 

"I do not—" Dean lunges for it again, releasing a growl of frustration when Sam holds it up higher. He scowls. "Stop being a fucking dick and give it back. I don't have a crush. I don't get crushes." 

"Uh, this says you do," Sam tells him, waggling the mixtape at him, clearly having the time of his goddamn life right now. 

"I will kick your ass, Sam. I know it's been a while, but I can still do it," Dean hisses. 

"So violent," Sam teases, flipping the mixtape between his fingers. "You're being very defensive right now, Dean. Wonder why. If you won't tell me, you know I'll have to guess, right?" He tilts his head a little. "Actually, since when? Don't tell me this is one of your one-night-stands blossoming into more. Ooh, what about that pretty waitress from that diner in town? Dude, you don't have a chance, sorry to say. The lady at the gas station? Is this a spell thing? Should I be worried? How do we know it's not some kind of magic? Quick, would you kill for this person, and do you have any urges to?" 

Dean glares at him. "No. To all of your questions, it's a no. Well, I would kill for—" He snaps his mouth shut, then huffs. "Give it back and leave me the fuck alone. How do you know it's not for me?" 

"You wouldn't have tried to hide it," Sam says easily, snorting at him. "You can't fool me, Dean. But fine, I'll give it back—" He wrenches it away when Dean tries to take it once again, "—if you'll tell me who it's for." 

"You know what?" Dean rocks back on his heels and crosses his arms. "I'll just make another one." 

Sam's eyebrows jerk up. "Dedication. Do I hear wedding bells?" 

"You're the worst person I know," Dean tells him, sincerely. He looks away. "It's not like that, so fuck off. I don't—it's not. Actually, fucking break it for all I care. Probably for the best." 

"Don't drain all the fun out of it," Sam grouses, heaving a sigh. He rolls his eyes and holds the mixtape out, and waves it pointedly until Dean finally reaches out to take it. He keeps a hold on it, though, meeting Dean's eyes. "Whoever it's for, I'm sure they'll love it, man. It's very sweet." 

Dean scowls and snatches it from Sam's grip, immediately elbowing him in the chest hard enough to make him wheeze, then whipping around and marching out of his room. He prowls through the hall, pissed off and pent up, and he whips around with a glare when he hears Sam laughing behind him. Sam just grins and goes into his room, shutting the door, leaving Dean to keep marching on. 

How the fuck is Dean supposed to not acknowledge something that's so rudely been pointed out to him? He can't avoid it if it has been shoved into his face by his stupid ass brother with no fucking care for who's feelings he's trampling all over. He doesn't care that Sam has no idea what's going on; he's still gonna be pissed about it for weeks, probably. He's going to throw out all of Sam's kale. 

Fucking asshole. 

Dean clenches his hand around the mixtape, growing angrier by the second. He's now doing gravity-defying flips to get around the thoughts he's been avoiding, and it's not an easy task. He's almost convinced that he should just burn the mixtape and never fucking think about it again. 

That plan goes out the window the moment he turns a corner and sees Cas walking up the hall towards him. His head is ducked, looking down at his phone as he walks, not paying attention to shit. Dean feels an abrupt surge of affection for him, so obvious and so telling that it fuels his anger. He's even more pissed off now than he was seconds before, and this is all Cas' fault. Because Cas is...Cas, and Dean has these—and nope. Redacted. Mental gymnastics. 

Clenching his jaw, Dean marches up to Cas and grabs him by his tie before he even looks up, jerking him sideways and up against the wall. Cas does not look suitably alarmed by this assault. He just blinks at Dean, then squints, eyebrows twitching together in visible confusion. 

Dean huffs out a breath from his nose like a furious bull, then he leans in and kisses Cas because he literally can't stop himself. It's another one of those things that just happens, and it's doing a helluva lot of damage to Dean's refusal against Sam's claim. He knows he shouldn't, and yet he does, feeling too much and refusing to accept any of it. Why not add more fuel to the fire? 

It's so worth it, too. God, kissing Cas never fucking gets old. Why doesn't he do it more? He always wants to do it more while it's happening, and with good reason. It's unbearably good, a maddening thing, cultivated to drive him up the goddamn wall. All the shit he's been through, and kissing Cas is gonna be the thing that does him in. 

It's only better because of how Cas kisses him back, which he does very well, giving as good as he gets. He always kisses Dean so deeply, and it's hard to make sense of what that means. The only way it makes any kind of sense is to describe it as feeling like he's being taken apart, like Cas can kiss him and reduce him to the surge of emotions that he spends every goddamn day trying to escape. And Cas will make those emotions swell, plop Dean right in the middle of them, then make sure he survives them and enjoys the whole ride. 

Cas does something with his teeth, a scrape over the most sensitive parts of Dean's bottom lip, and Dean feels like his legs might buckle. Weak-kneed. Jesus fucking Christ, he needs help. 

Dean wrenches back with a shaky gasp that he'll deny to his dying day, shoves the mixtape at Cas' chest, and snarls, "Fucking here. That's yours." 

Cas blinks at him, reaching up to catch the mixtape against his chest, staring at Dean with slick lips, deliciously rumpled. Dean glares at him, then marches away before Cas can say a goddamn word. 

When Cas tries to give the mixtape back, Dean sidesteps the idea of heartbreak and chalks it up to Cas not knowing how gifts work. 

When Cas steals the colt, Dean mentally flips over heartbreak yet again and tells himself that this is a betrayal that they can work through, if they try. 

When Cas dies, it's heartbreak, and there's no avoiding that. 

 


 

Dean's hands are shaking. He balls them into fists and looks at the little crescent-moon lines that show in his palm from where he's digging his nails in. 

It's late. 

He knows he should be asleep. Logically, he's going to be in a terrible fucking mood in the morning if he doesn't sleep, except he doesn't think he'll ever be in a terrible mood again. Thinking like that is dangerous, especially in his life. He doesn't get to be this happy. It doesn't work like that. 

Nonetheless, Dean hasn't been this happy in a long time. He forgot how bright that shit can burn within you, a ridiculous giddiness that can have you feeling like you're floating. Maybe he didn't forget. Maybe he's just never felt like this before. 

It's a weird thing to be this goddamn happy, and grateful, and relieved, yet still be so fucking terrified. In the same way that betrayal can only come from friends, and despair can only exist with first having hope, having this much joy can only solidify that he has something to lose. He's lost, and now he's gained, and it causes a fear like no other. 

He's never really operated under having nothing to lose. He's always had Sam, and losing him isn't something he can accept. So, he's aware that he has things to lose. But this is different, somehow. This is a different type of loss—or, it was this time. 

Dean starts to ask himself how he even survived it, only to realize that he didn't. Not even that long ago, he was dead and ready to stay that way. Fuck. 

He's afraid. He's so afraid because of this elation. He has never felt like this before, this euphoria that keeps seeping out of him at every turn, unable to keep it in. He's just so fucking happy, and he has no idea what to do with that. 

Shuddering out a deep breath, Dean uncurls his fingers and shakes his head. Even right now, he's grinning down at his hands. He's so stupid. He hates himself for being this ridiculous, but he doesn't know how to stop. Before that phone call tonight, before Cas stepped forward, alive and in the flesh, Dean couldn't smile a real smile like this at all. What's wrong with him? What's wrong with him?

A quiet knock at his door makes him look up, tucking his lips in to try and hide what his face is currently doing. His back goes ramrod straight, and his smile slips as his lips part, because Cas pokes his head in and looks at him. 

"Hello, Dean," he says softly. 

"Hey, Cas," Dean rasps. 

"May I come in?" 

"Yeah, sure. Of course you can. Is—are you—" 

Cas smiles slightly as he slips in and shuts the door behind him. "I'm fine. And you?" 

"Never better," Dean admits, and it's not even a fucking lie. He pushes to his feet, always struck with the urge to stand when Cas comes into a room. 

"I just wanted to check in," Cas tells him, stuffing his hands in his coat pockets. "I saw that your light was on, so I thought you wouldn't mind me stopping by. You were exceptionally quiet over dinner, which isn't like you at all." 

Dean laughs, and it's the first time he's done it in a while—a loud laugh, genuine humor, feeling every inch of it fill him up. "You tryna say I don't shut up, Cas? 'Cause, if you are, fuck you."

"You often don't know when to shut up, yes," Cas admits bluntly, lips twitching. 

"Fuck you," Dean says again. "But uh, you can relax. I'm fine. More than fine, actually. But you—I mean, you're back. I feel like I should reach out and pinch you to make sure you're real, dude." 

"I assure you, I'm real," Cas says dryly. 

"Could be dreaming," Dean suggests. 

Cas arches an eyebrow at him. "Me or you?" 

Dean's mouth goes dry. His dreams haven't been particularly pleasant as of late. Just a constant replay of Cas' death, over and over, every single night. He couldn't get any rest without waking up and feeling dead inside. It's a peculiar sensation, but he knows it well. He's been through enough that he should. 

"C'mere," Dean mumbles, reaching out, "lemme make sure you're real, Cas." 

"I am," Cas murmurs, but he walks forward anyway, hovering closer and then too close. 

Dean's only supposed to touch him, that's all. He puts his hand on Cas' arm, fingers digging into the fabric of his trenchcoat. It's different. An extra button, maybe, or a little darker. Dean knows when it's different, and he has no idea how he knows. 

"Look at that," Dean whispers, sliding his hand up Cas' arm. "You are a real boy, Pinocchio." 

"Dean," Cas says, his tone warm, his gaze fond. 

"I was angry at you before. I can barely remember why, now. It doesn't even matter." Dean holds Cas' gaze, swallowing. "Don't do it again. Just don't." 

Cas doesn't reply, but that may be because Dean's hand has worked its way up to Cas' neck, fingers curling up the side of it, pressing behind his ear and pushing into his hair. Cas looks at him for a long second, and then he rocks forward to kiss him before Dean can reel him in, and that's better. 

The burst of happiness in Dean's chest glows brighter, no matter how much he tries to stop it. Their lips move together, and Dean thinks his heart might actually burst from his chest. It can happen. He's seen it. The sensation is terrifying. 

In short order, the kiss grows out of control, slipping into heated territory frighteningly fast. Dean doesn't know how his hands end up under Cas' coat, sliding up to start pushing it off his shoulders. He barely even notices it hitting the floor. In fact, he can't spare any attention to how his hands slowly, steadily start getting Cas out of his clothes. His hands have a mind of their own, he's decided, and he can't be held responsible for them. 

His feet do too, apparently, because he toes out of his own boots, the movement causing the kiss to rock up and down. They don't break it, chasing each other's mouths. Dean hums in approval when he manages to get Cas' tie off and tossed aside. He feels dazed, sort of rewired and new all over. Who is he outside of undressing Cas? He has no idea. 

It's a slow process, mostly because Dean isn't rushing and he refuses to break the kiss. It takes time to unbutton Cas' shirt and tug it out of his pants, then jerk it off like it offends him, letting it crumble to the floor. He goes for the belt next, breathing hard now, his head spinning. There's a sharp sense of satisfaction when he yanks the belt off in one swipe, dropping it to the ground where the buckle clatters loudly. 

The rest is hard to do while standing up and kissing, but Dean wishes it wasn't. It's a genuine sacrifice to pull away, panting, but he does it. He keeps his eyes closed, feeling his way through the motions, tugging Cas' pants and underwear down all at once, waiting for the sound of him to stumble out of his shoes. His eyes remain shut, even as he stands, even when he feels Cas' fingers push at his flannel. 

Cas is much more efficient than he is. He gets Dean out of his shirt, then his pants and underwear in almost no time at all. There's a small shuffle where they take the moment to get their own socks off, and then they're coming right back together to kiss again, completely fucking naked. 

Dean starts walking backwards, hands sliding down Cas' chest, but Cas seems to get the idea because he abruptly starts pushing Dean back faster. They break apart for a moment, just so Cas can give him a firm shove, right at the edge of the bed. Dean goes down with a small huff of air that turns into a groan as soon as Cas follows him, sprawling out on top of him and in between his legs. There's skin-on-skin, some maneuvering of limbs, some readjusting of hands, and then their slick mouths meet again. 

It's so easy to do this when there are absolutely no thoughts in Dean's head. Everything is raw and real, and every response he gives comes naturally. He grunts when Cas' knee presses down into his thigh too hard. He clutches at Cas' shoulders and runs his hands up into his hair when their dicks catch against each other the first time, both aroused. He makes trapped noises, small whines in the back of his throat, when Cas starts rutting against him with a bit more purpose. 

Cas eventually breaks off to trail his lips to Dean's neck, mouth sliding hot against his skin and then sharp when he nips between sucking. Dean's chest heaves, and he makes an embarrassing noise as their dicks slide together just right, but it's dry and there's no grip. He fumbles his hands down from Cas to wet them, reaching down and squeezing his eyes shut as he slicks them both up. 

That makes Cas' breath stutter against his hummingbird pulse, heated breath spilling over Dean's wet throat, making goosebumps break out. There's a tingle through every one of Dean's nerves, spreading all over as he shudders, working his hands until they're both properly wet, mouth opening and closing soundlessly at the sensation of it. 

With low sound—almost a growl—Cas reaches down to tug at Dean's wrists, pulling them up and slamming his hands down to the pillows by his head. Dean feels the whimper trapped behind his teeth break free, and all he can do is roll his head back, gasping for air. He's so hot, so hot all over, skin slick with sweat and burning up from the inside out. 

One of Cas' hands leaves Dean's wrists, and there's the sound of something slick again, followed by Cas' broad hand reaching between their bodies to grab both of their dicks. His hand is hot, and wet, and tight as it wraps fully around, trapping them together. He moves his hand up and down, twisting it, but he also rolls his hips with the motion, too. 

"Oh god, yes, oh my fucking god," Dean chokes out, bucking up into it and nearly fucking losing it right then and there. Cas' hand tightens on his wrist, bearing down, and Dean's free hand flies up to grip his shoulder, nails digging in and scratching at his skin without even really meaning to. 

"Dean," Cas rumbles, a rough sound, just his name and somehow a moan that's towards the growly end of the spectrum. It makes a shiver roll through Dean's body, his breath hitching in his throat. 

They're both jerking their hips together now, finding a rhythm as Cas' hand continues to move and twist. Dean drags his free hand into Cas' hair, wrenching on it a little frantically, fingers desperately urging him to rock forward. They groan into each other's lips a mere moment later, the kiss open-mouthed and wet. 

Cas picks up the pace of his hand, thumb sliding over both of their slits to spread where they're leaking, and Dean sobs helplessly into their kiss. He arches up into it, back coming off the bed, hips jerking a little wildly. Their kiss breaks because they both seem to need to gasp and pant. 

With a tug, Cas goes sliding to the side, and Dean has one moment of pure panic that he's about to stop. Right in the middle of all this, he's going to stop and leave, and Dean won't ever fucking recover. It makes Dean claw a little mindlessly at Cas' shoulder, trying to keep him there. 

It's pointless, however, because Cas' hand leaves his pinned wrist and slides down the length of his body, grappling down his thigh and around to hook on the back of his knee. With some pulling and scooting, Cas manages to get them on their sides, Dean's leg pulled up over his hip, more space to rock into his hand and a new angle that's even better. 

"Fuck," Dean wheezes, ducking his head and opening his eyes for the first time in a long time, the desire to see it taking over. 

The sound that he makes when he actively watches their dicks roll up through the circle of Cas' hand, held tight together, glistening and red...well, it sounds like Dean's been gutted. He gets to watch for all of five more seconds before his eyes are rolling back and he's coming, just like that. 

Cas just uses his release to add to the slick glide, working his hand faster, twisting it on the stroke up, and Dean clutches at him with a groan. He thinks he's probably saying his name, possibly babbling a long stream of other things as well, but there's just a roaring in his ears as everything falls apart so perfectly, in and around him. 

He's barely finishing when Cas starts, his own hips stuttering, and Dean listens to him groan. He rasps out Dean's name, his whole body locking up, the mess of him getting on Dean's chest. 

"Yeah," Dean breathes out. "Yeah, Cas. Jesus Christ. Come here. Fucking come here." 

Dean can still feel Cas trembling slightly when he reaches out and hauls him closer, kissing him hard and fast. Cas drops their softening dicks, one hand sliding down the length of the side of Dean's thigh. He squeezes it, gripping hard, and then he gently trails his nails back and forth. The kiss turns lazy, sated, sweet. Dean's humming into it, pleased. 

When Cas breaks away, the first thing he says in a rough voice is, "I need to retrieve a towel." 

"There's one in my hamper. It's still clean. Grab that one," Dean mumbles. "Throw me my underwear while you're at it, man."

And so, that's what Cas does. He rolls out of bed and gets the towel and cleans himself off. Dean watches him do it with half-lidded eyes, leisurely dragging his gaze up and down Cas' naked body. His eyes snatch up, however, when Cas tosses him the towel and underwear while moving around to grab his clothes to start slipping them on. All of them. 

Dean cleans himself off, then raises his hips as he works his underwear up, slumping back down after. He watches Cas get dressed in silence, a lump in his throat. Cas is going to go, that much is obvious, and Dean can't really bring himself to be that upset about it. He's not going to acknowledge what this tender yearning in his chest is. Besides, Cas is back, alive again, fucking here. 

"I'm glad you're alright, Dean," Cas tells him, once he's dressed again. He moves towards the door, pausing only to turn and take him in for a long moment. He opens his mouth like he wants to say something, then closes it and swallows. He gives a nod. "You should get some rest. Goodnight." 

With that, he opens the door and slips away without waiting for a reply, and Dean watches him go in utter silence. He closes his eyes, that earlier surge of joy tempered now, because of this, but Cas is still back. He's still here. That's a big goddamn win, and that's the story that Dean's sticking to. Everything else gets firmly shoved away. 

"Night, Cas," Dean whispers to the empty room. 

 


 

When Cas finds out, he's predictably very pissed. Sam does the heavy-lifting on explaining it, though there's not really much to explain. Cas knows exactly what a Ma'lak box is and what it's used for. 

The conversation ends when Cas marches out of the room, slamming the door so loud that it echoes through the room. Dean ducks his head, pressing his fist against the table. His throat is sore and achy, thick with hurt. Grief burrows in his chest. 

"You should go after him," Sam suggests, a dry bitterness somewhere in his voice. "Make it make sense, if you can. Can you, Dean?" 

"Come on, Sammy," Dean says wearily, lifting his head to look at him. "I can take it from one of you at a time, but not both, please. I'm not changing my mind, so all of this… It isn't helping anything." 

Sam looks away, jaw working. He blinks hard, then clears his throat and nods. "Right. Well, uh, you should still go after him. Maybe talk him down from burning something down." 

"He'll be alright," Dean murmurs. 

"Will he? I mean, Dean, I don't know if that's true. It's Cas. How is he going to be alright after this? Do you actually think that he will—that we will—" Sam cuts himself off, nostrils flaring as he looks down at his clenched fists on the table. His hair falls into his face, but Dean can see his throat bobbing. 

"Sam," Dean says softly. 

"I won't be in any shape to help him," Sam croaks, lifting his head. "And, even if I was…" 

Dean watches Sam's face twitch, his eyes closing briefly. It makes Dean's heart clench. "Even if you were...what? Sam, what?" 

"I'm not you," is what Sam says, which is so few words for having said so much. Dean swallows and looks away, and Sam releases a heavy yet shaky exhale. "So, yeah. You should go after him." 

"He'll cool down," Dean whispers, absolutely everything within him protesting the idea of being alone with Cas right now. 

There's another loud slam down the hall, and the lights flicker, a shrill pitch slowly raising in volume. Dean flinches automatically because he knows exactly what that is. Cas is having an angel tantrum, by the sounds of it. He's not cooling down. 

"Dean," Sam urges. 

"Okay." Dean takes a deep breath. "Okay."

He goes after him, dreading every step that brings him closer. The lights stop flickering, and Dean's ears seem to ring in the sudden silence, but he knows that this isn't the end of it. He knows that this is going to be an on-going fight—not just from Cas, but from Sam, too. It only makes it harder. 

That's the thing. When Dean read that book and saw what he had to do, he didn't think about himself first. Not his pain, not the unfairness of the situation, not what eternity of suffering would do to him. No, his first thought had been of Sam, Cas, and Jack—how this will hurt them, and how it's his fault, and how he can't do anything about it. 

Dean takes a deep breath outside Cas' door, then barges in without knocking. He gets maybe one step inside before he's being roughly slammed up against the door, grunting from the feeling of it, then listening to that grunt be muffled by Cas' lips. 

This kiss… This kiss isn't like anything they've shared before. Hell, it isn't like anything Dean's ever felt before. It's all Cas this time, and it's his desperation that threatens to smother them. It's suffocating and intense and so goddamn emotional that Dean makes a weak sound in the back of his throat, hand darting out to clutch at Cas' coat. 

They haven't done this since the night Cas walked away from him, and once again, Dean's asking himself why the fuck that is. It always seems like something they should always be doing while they're doing it, but when they're not…

It's complicated. Dean doesn't know how to process it when it's not happening. They have this thing they dance around, some of it bursting at the seams they've stitched together to try and hide it. There are brief touches, and emotional moments, and a continuous loop of doing everything they can to never have to lose each other, except they don't even have each other to start with. 

It's just this. Just these stolen moments. Outside of them, Dean doesn't let them have space in his mind. He doesn't breathe life into them. Cas is his friend. Cas is family. Cas is all the things he isn't when they're doing this, because when they're not, that's all Dean can really handle. 

Cas is kissing him as deeply as he always has, but deeper. Harder. Panic tinged in it. A plea in every swipe of his tongue, anger in every harsh bite on Dean's lip. It's like he's the one consumed with emotion now, and Dean didn't know he could feel like this, or even this much. Can he? Does he? 

Everything between them that has to do with this is always so uncertain and unspoken. It bleeds over into their lives in moments that don't have anything to do with this. The lines get so blurry sometimes that Dean struggles to make anything out. 

There's nothing blurry about this. It's cut and dry. Simple and self-explanatory. Cas pins him up against the door and snarls into his mouth and kisses him like it's going to be the last time. And maybe, maybe, maybe it is. Dean won't ever have a last night of his life again, because an eternity of agony awaits him, but this counts. It can count, because Dean wants it to. He wants the excuse. 

And then, all at once, Cas wrenches backwards, glaring at him as he steps back. His voice is rough when he growls out, "No." 

"Cas," Dean says, his throat bobbing as his head tilts just a little, eyes immediately going hot. 

"No," Cas snarls, more insistently. 

Dean looks at him and helplessly whispers, "Yes. Cas, yes. Don't—just don't. I can't." 

Don't make me say goodbye, I can't say goodbye, he thinks a little desperately. The mere thought hurts him all the way through, like he's been pierced with it. He already hates this as it is, but that would just make it worse. He can't do it. 

Cas' eyes shutter, only sparking with fury, and he reaches out to push Dean away from the door. Lips tight and thin, Cas jerks the door open and marches out, leaving Dean standing there, aching and raw. 

Nonetheless, he sticks to it. He plans to do what he has to do. Cas doesn't talk to him about it. In fact, Cas doesn't even talk to him at all. He seems to communicate with Sam and only Sam, and Dean doesn't mention it. He focuses, pouring every cell of himself into staying on task. This purpose, this burden, it's his cross to bear, and bear it he will. 

And, later, when Cas looks into his eyes and harshly asks, "So, this is goodbye?" that cross gets heavier. 

Dean doesn't say anything in response. He can't. 

 


 

It's been so long since Cas has touched him, or kissed him, and now Dean knows why. 

He stands there in the middle of the room, his heart trapped in his throat, clogging it, and he feels something within him just break. Billie is banging on the door, and Cas is explaining about a deal that changes absolutely everything, and Dean can feel reality start slipping through his fingers. 

They've fought. Of course they've fought, but Dean had known, deep down, that he would forgive Cas. He always does. He'd even known, less deep, that Cas would forgive him. They always find ways to soften the sharpest edges of each other. 

But after, there was nothing. Dean's guilty for shying away from it as well, but he's also bad about seeking it out. Cas hasn't really given him ample opportunity as of late, never staying around him alone for too long, never letting their touches linger and their gazes meet for heavy stretches of time. He's been careful, only wavering once after the deal when he kissed Dean about the Ma'lak box plan, but that hadn't exactly been a happy time for either of them. 

So, now, here Cas stands, explaining something that Dean didn't want to actually acknowledge. And there's panic clawing on the inside of his chest because there are tears forming in Cas' eyes. There are things being said that they've never said before. 

Cas is saying that Dean is the one thing that he wanted but couldn't have, as if Dean hasn't spent the last decade or so ridiculously attached to him, as if Dean hasn't cried for him, hasn't ached for him. And maybe this is Dean's fault for never saying anything, for keeping lines blurred, for avoiding the things Cas doesn't seem to know. 

In retrospect, this—exactly this, right here and now—was what Dean was trying to avoid. Because this? This is what happens when Dean Winchester loves someone—he loves them with everything, until there's nothing left. He never said it, like he could stop it from happening, like he could preemptively avoid this, and now he can't say anything. 

Dean wants to ask that Cas stop. He knows. He knows what this is. He doesn't want it. The panic scrambles for purchase within him, and he wants to beg it to stop. He's almost frantic with it, needing it to slow down, feeling like he's thrashing around, even if he's standing stiff. Every muscle is tight with tension for what's coming, because he knows. 

"Why does this sound like a goodbye?" Dean rasps, hating that this is what it feels like, but it can't be. It can't. Dean has never been able to say goodbye to Cas, not like this, and it feels like one of the worst things to happen to him that it would come down to Cas having to be the one to say it. 

"Because it is." Cas smiles through his tears, gazing at him, a look in his eyes and written all over his face that he goes on to give a name. "I love you." 

Dean feels that resonate through him, his heart flinching and his stomach lurching. His face spasms, throat bobbing on a harsh swallow. He wants Cas to take it back. That's the final nail in his coffin, and Dean knows it. He doesn't want this to happen. 

"Don't do this, Cas," Dean croaks, so many things trapped in the lump of his throat, but he can say that. He can beg Cas not to do this, not to him. 

And he's never been good at saying much of anything, so he doesn't try. He steps forward and reaches up with trembling fingers to cup Cas' face in his hands, swiping a tear away. He leans in and brushes his lips over Cas', just the smallest hint of contact. A bargain. A weak plea. There's another bang at the door, followed by the sound of something slick and wet behind him, and Dean looks over his shoulder, eyes burning with tears because he already knows what he's going to see. 

The door bursts open as the wall bleeds black, and Dean whispers a frantic, "Cas," right before Cas smiles and grabs his arm. 

"Goodbye, Dean," Cas says, lips trembling. 

Dean's whole world lurches as he's shoved aside, tossed across the room and onto the floor with a harsh exhale. Billie walks in, scythe in hand. Dean forces himself to sit up, his panic setting in deeper, keeping him prisoner as he meets Cas' eyes one more time. Cas smiles at him, then looks forward. 

Hastily, Dean looks to the side, taking in the oval form of the Empty, black and insidious. A small gasp of air pushes from his lungs like he's short of breath, and he is. Everything feels like it's shattering apart. 

It happens so fast. Too fast. Dean barely gets any time to say or do anything. He just slips wildly against the wall, panicked bursts of air escaping him, and he's forced to watch as the Empty surges forward to first consume Billie, then slip over Cas and take him away. Just like that. 

Dean looks around at the empty room, completely alone, and he keeps letting out these harsh gasps that only succeed in making his chest feel tighter. He feels like everything is pressing in on him, like he's shrinking in on himself until there's nothing. 

He's numb. 

For a long time, Dean sits right there on the floor, staring into space. There is no pain. There is no joy. It's just...empty. Like maybe he got taken, too. 

Eventually, his phone rings. He brings it up, staring down at it to see Sam's name on it. Right. There's a whole thing they have to do. Defeat God. Save the world. The right thing, that's what they're supposed to be doing. That's all they've ever tried to do. 

Dean cuts the ringer off and puts his phone aside, looking up as his eyes burn. There's a sharp sting inside him, growing hot and unbearable, and the numbness fades. Because what's the point? What's the point of any of it, of doing the right thing, of daring to love and keep loving? Look where it gets them. It's the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 

And yet, still, even right now, Dean loves him. He loves him so much that it hurts. Everything hurts. It all comes crashing down on him at once, and he covers his face with his hands, hearing himself whimper and whine, tortured with continuing. 

Dean sits there and cries. 

 


 

"Dude, Jack will be back with Cas soon. Stop pacing. You're starting to make me nervous."

Dean shoots Sam a sharp look, then resumes his pacing. He can't be still, and Sam is insane for suggesting it. He feels like he's about to crawl right out of his skin, like maybe all of his bones are rattling. He flexes his fingers and whirls around to start marching in the other direction, wearing a hole into the floor, back and forth, back and forth. 

"What if it doesn't work?" Dean asks, a thread of anxiety in his voice. 

Sam sighs. "Dean, it's going to work." 

"But what if it doesn't?" Dean presses. 

"Then we'll find another way," Sam tells him, easy as you please. "We always do." 

Dean swallows, glancing at him. "Just like that?" 

"It's Cas. Of course." Sam fixes him with a look, eyebrows raised. "Aren't you always the one who says Cas is family? So, yeah, just like that." 

"Do you—do you think of Cas as a brother?" Dean asks, staring at him. 

Sam blinks, then makes a face, clearing his throat as he averts his eyes. "Of...a sort. Yeah, kinda." 

"What does that even mean?" Dean mutters. 

"Well...you know how you're fond of Eileen? Like, um, you would protect her because you care about her, and you genuinely like her, but you're also aware that she's kind of...not yours?" Sam asks. 

Dean narrows his eyes. "Yeah, I guess." 

"Well, it's like that," Sam tells him, pursing his lips and looking down at his hands. He's fiddling with them. Shifty about it. Awkward. 

"Okay, but Eileen is...yours. I mean, she's not anybody's, and she'd kick both of our asses for saying it, but you know what I mean," Dean admits. "It's kind of like...having a sister-in-law. Sort of."

Sam clears his throat and just looks at him. Dean feels his jaw go slack, and he can't think of one thing to say to that. Fortunately, he doesn't have to. There's a sound like goo being smeared on the walls, a sound that's haunted Dean's nightmares for a while now. He whirls around and watches as Jack and Cas come tumbling out of the slick, black goo. They both land on the floor with thuds and grunts. 

Dean nearly trips over himself to get to Cas' side, unable to wait another second. Sam darts forward, too. Whereas he helps Jack to his feet, Dean just hits his goddamn knees and joins Cas on the floor. 

Cas blinks at him. "Oh. Hello, Dean." 

"You son of a bitch. You stupid, stupid son of a bitch," Dean chokes out. 

"Ah, a warm welcome," Cas says dryly, heaving a weary sigh. "It's so good to be home." 

"Don't you ever do anything like that again, Cas. Do you hear me? Never again," Dean says harshly, his voice cracking as he shuffles closer. 

"I'll endeavor not to," Cas assures him, his voice softening. He looks at Dean, gaze fond, and he smiles. He looks just as peaceful as when he died, like saying what he did eased him permanently. 

"Cas, everything you said…" Dean trails off, getting stuck, even though he wants to say so much. 

Cas gazes at him. "Yes?" 

Dean literally doesn't know where to begin. He doesn't know how to say it, to describe what he feels, to make it clear. Cas has always been so much more eloquent than him. He said it best. The words have been wrapped around Dean's heart ever since. 

Releasing a shaky exhale, he surges forward and kisses him, right there on the floor, fingers reaching out to curl into the lapels of his coat. Cas inhales sharply, then sighs softly. He leans into it, his hand coming up to cup the back of Dean's neck, holding him in place. There's no need. Dean's not trying to go anywhere, and in fact, he's somehow very certain that he won't ever run from this again. 

Dean sinks into it, eyes fluttering shut, something within him soothing. His life has always been the storm, but he feels like he just reached the eye of it. Everything is so much calmer here. Less destruction. 

It's a slow, languid kiss. Deep as always, because Cas never does anything halfway. But it's not rushed, and it's not a bargain, and it's not something that just happens. It's everything else. It's all of it. 

When they break apart, they don't go very far, foreheads resting together. Dean twists Cas' coat between his fingers, breathing hard. He keeps his eyes closed and basks in this. He's not going to lose him again. He won't let him go, come Hell or high water, and they've already endured Hell. They're off the hamster wheel now, free to stop spinning, and Dean wants to settle into it, finally. 

"I don't know if you know," Dean whispers, "but you've always had me. And I know—god, I know that it's been confusing, and we didn't make it easy on each other, but our lives ain't been the easiest either. But Cas, I've loved you for years, man." 

"I was curious," Cas admits, lips curling up as Dean leans away from him. "There were a few times that I had my suspicions." 

Dean huffs a weak laugh. "Only a few?" 

"You're complicated," Cas tells him. 

"Well, you ain't no walk in the park either, pal," Dean says, clicking his tongue. 

"I actually did tell you, Dean," Cas argues. 

"Yeah, while you were about to die," Dean retorts, reaching out to lightly shove him in the shoulder, scowling at him. "Which you're not allowed to do again, by the way. I forbid it. No more, Cas." 

Cas smiles at him, warm and fond. "I'll do my best." 

"Well… Good." Dean clears his throat, surprised he's not getting more of a fight on that. Cas is an argumentative bastard. Whatever, it's better this way. He sighs and reaches out to grab Cas' arm, tugging on it. "C'mon, up and at 'em." 

"Okay, can I just say it?" Sam asks, still in the goddamn room beside Jack, who is also here, and Dean somehow fucking forgot. They're both looking at him and Cas with bright eyes. Sam is even grinning. "Freaking finally. It's about time." 

"Yeah, yeah, what the fuck ever," Dean mutters, waving a hand and rolling his eyes. 

Sam shakes his head. "No, seriously, I can't believe you waited this long to kiss him." 

Dean's face twitches, and he stares at Sam. "You think I waited this long?" 

"You...didn't?" Sam ventures, eyes widening. 

"Dude, Cas and I have been playing tonsil hockey at least once a year since we fucking met," Dean tells him, raising his eyebrows. 

Sam's mouth drops open, and then he rears back with a wild gleam in his eyes. "Are you kidding me, Dean?! You mean I've spent the last decade staying out of it and hoping you'd realize, and this whole time, you've been—you two have—" 

"I thought you two were together," Jack declares. 

"No, Jack," Cas tells him. "That's new." 

"I'm done. I'm just—" Sam shakes his head and tosses his hands up, turning around and marching out of the room, muttering under his breath something that sounds like dumbasses. 

"I love the support we have in this family," Dean says, his tone dirt-dry. He shares a look with Cas, then turns to Jack, clearing his throat. "Alright, kid, I'm gonna need you to scram. Run along for a few minutes, and I swear that we'll come play one of those board games with you." 

"Monopoly?" Jack asks, eyes lighting up. 

Dean sighs. "We'll have to put the guns away, but yeah. Sounds good. Just a few minutes, though." 

"Okay, Dean," Jack chirps cheerfully, beaming at them before turning and skipping away—actually skipping. There he goes. God is a child. Literally. 

"Is there a reason you sent him away?" Cas asks, squinting at him. 

"Mm. For this," Dean says and kisses him. 

Not the first. Not the last. Just one among many, and Dean loves it as much as every single one before, just like he will every single one after.