Actions

Work Header

Break Through

Chapter Text

 photo DCBB Break Through Cover.png

“I need you (I love you).”

Dean. His Grace is resonating, recoiling from the pull of heaven as the words set in, and for the first time in months Castiel is free. Everything is suddenly crystal clear, gleaming, and so bright he can hardly take it all in.

“Cas.”

 He can still hear Naomi but he can finally ignore it. Her office fades from his view. It doesn’t matter anymore.

 Castiel drops his blade and reaches for the tablet. He knows - knows - knows - that he has to stop Naomi from getting her hands on it. The moment he touches it light shines around him like a barrier and heaven is silent; the only sound is the ringing in his ears.
 
He is still disorientated but things are coming back slowly. Moments that felt like eons are narrowing down and time is coming back to him.  
 
Dean. Castiel reaches for him, slides his hand on his cheek and holds him.

Regret and sorrow hit him hard when Dean flinches and says his name. He holds his arm as if to hold Cas back and he can’t find the words to explain but he can heal the physical damage.

His touch lingers for a moment as Dean realises what’s happened.

“I’m so sorry, Dean.” It’s not enough, it can never, ever be enough but it is all he has.

“What happened?” Dean asks, he still looks fearful and Castiel forces himself not to run away.

“Naomi is an Angel. She runs the correctional facility in Heaven; she’s probably the one who reprogrammed Anna. Until recently I didn’t know she or the part of Heaven she controls even existed.” Dean stands up in front of him. “She sent an incursion of Angels to get me out and wanted me to do her bidding to make up for the destruction I wrought upon Heaven. Most of the time I had no idea what was happening; her methods were very effective and until now I wasn’t able to break free.”

“This Naomi has been controlling you since she got you out of purgatory?” Dean asks.

“Yes.” He feels violated but it’s all so fresh and so new that he can’t process it properly and it’s still nothing compared to what he has just done to Dean.

“W-What broke the connection?” Dean sounds nervous, unsure as he speaks.

There are two choices - the truth or the obvious lie. The tablet would be as good an excuse as any; it was broken open during the fight and touching it has sealed him away from heaven’s prying eyes. But it’s not the real reason and he knows what really broke the connection. Dean said he wanted the truth; stood in purgatory and told him he needed him. Hesaid the same thing moments before, when Cas was a monster trying to kill him. Only this time Castiel allowed himself to hear what Dean has been trying to tell him for months.

“Cas?” He looks so wary of him.

“You, Dean. You broke the connection.” Castiel looks at him right in the eyes, imploring him to understand.

“W-what? How?” He doesn’t sound angry, disbelieving maybe, but not because he thinks Castiel is lying to him. He still has so little faith in himself.

Castiel lifts his free hand up slowly, so as not to worry Dean, and places it on his chest. Dean’s heart is hammering underneath his palm and Castiel can’t decide if that’s a comfort or not. “Our… our connection. Our bond is stronger than the spell Naomi was using to control me.” It’s such a small way to describe it; terribly insignificant even with the whole english language at his disposal, but this is Dean. Who runs at big words and who does not normally admit his feelings so honestly. He asked though, asked as though he wanted confirmation, and Castiel has to give it to him.

Dean steps closer, pushing Castiel’s palm against him with more force. He’s close enough that he could reach out and take the tablet if he wanted; Castiel might even let him - despite the risk that Naomi will be there faster than he can blink. Dean doesn’t reach for it. He looks like he wants to hold onto Castiel but instead looks down at the hand pressed against his chest.

“Is she still after you?” he says, voice quiet and cracking around the edges. His hand does lift and touches Castiel’s elbow; grip uncertain but still there, still present.

“No, she can’t reach me anymore. This tablet makes me invisible to Heaven; as long as I can touch it they can’t see me.” How he knows this is more instinct than anything else.

“Okay, okay good. We have somewhere safe, somewhere they can’t find you with or without the tablet.”

Castiel nods.

“Will you come with me?” Dean asks.

Castiel looks up at him, eyes having wandered to where Dean’s hand is steadily holding tighter, arm warm against his. Cas wants to move his hand now, to hold onto Dean with certainty but he’s not sure how.

“Yes, Dean, yes of course.” He wonders if Dean doubts him, if he was truly worried Cas wouldn’t go with him. Cas has done enough to hurt him in the past, after all, and Dean has always accepted that he’ll lose those he loves. Even though it isn’t fair, even if it is never his fault (he blames himself anyway). Maybe Dean doesn’t realise that his feelings are returned or how long Cas has been trying to suppress how he feels.

Of course, anything he would have said is forgotten because Sam - as usual - skids into the entrance to the crypt.

“Guys, we have to get out of here - we’ve got company.”

Dean drop his arm so he drops his hand as well. He doesn’t dwell on the loss of contact; now is not the time.

“Where’s Meg?’ Castiel asks as he turns to Sam.

“Fighting Crowley. She sent me in here to get you both out of here. Come on; she’s not going to be able to hold him off forever.” Sam runs back out and Cas goes to follow but Dean seems frozen behind him.

“Dean,” Cas says gently. “She’s my friend and we can’t leave her out there alone.” She has done so much for them, for him. He has to save her. So many have died because of him, it would be good to actually save someone he counts as a friend.

Dean nods once and follows Cas into the fight.

“You should probably hide that thing,” Dean tells him as they approach the door.

Castiel nods in agreement and within a second it’s stored safely within his chest cavity.

“Do I want to know where you just put that?” Dean asks.

“No, probably not but Naomi and Heaven won’t be able to see me.” He doesn’t wait to see Dean’s response; instead runs out into the fight.

***

Sam is at Meg’s side shoving Ruby’s knife through the neck of the demon closing in on them. It’s whole body flashes then its being shoved on the ground as he wrenches the knife back and joins Meg.

Crowley is laughing. “I see you brought the cavalry; seems like you weren’t able to find your precious tablet. Did your girlfriend lead you astray? Probably because she caught you pining for your first love. Isn’t that right, Squirrel?”

Dean looks murderous. It’s a stand off now - the four of them and Crowley. They can take him and he must know it but they’re not stupid enough to rush in. Wouldn’t be the first time he’s escaped at the last moment.

Meg rolls her eyes. “No one said we were exclusive, Crowley. What can I say? I girl knows when she has to share.”

“I don’t think Squirrel got the message.” Crowley smiles at Dean in a way that makes Cas angrier than he was expecting. “Oh dear, seems I angered the angel. Now which one of you wants to defend his honour?”

Castiel is furious - he can feel his wings materialising and the lightening crackle around them. His blade is ready in his hand but he doesn’t get to strike first. Meg and Sam launch at Crowley together; knocking him into the devil’s trap. Dean rushes at them and Cas follows.

Crowley is fast but Meg is faster. She pushes him against the other edge of the trap and thrusts the angel blade in her hand through his heart. Crowley makes a sound between a roar and a howl and flashes out of existence in a series of red and black flares before his vessel drops over the edge of the devils trap; eyes burnt out and skin singed. Meg goes down after him, takes the blade and stabs him again and again and again. There is nothing left to kill. Crowley is dead and gone.

Cas isn’t sorry.

Sam puts his arms around Meg and pulls her back. She’s crying, though demons shouldn’t be able to cry, and Cas can’t decide if it’s happiness or sorrow. He wants to go to her, to offer comfort but he doesn’t know what to say. Sam is slowly pulling her to her feet, whispering to her as she stands on shaking legs.

“Meg,” Cas says quietly as Sam leads her closer to them; scrubbing a path out of the devils trap as they walk. He’s sorry, so, so sorry for what she has endured.

“It’s okay, Clarence, really,” she tells him and and he realises that once again he doesn’t understand her meaning.

“Guys, that won’t have gone unnoticed. We have to get out of here. Everyone in the car,” Sam says, with an arm still around Meg’s shoulders.

“Cas, come on.” Dean’s hand is on his arm, leading him to the car and he lets him; suddenly weary and feeling more tired than he has in a long time. His ears are ringing and he feels worn out; weaker than he was when he returned from purgatory.

Sam stays with Meg in the back and Cas settles next to Dean as the car speeds away from the tomb and the remains of the former King of Hell. Cas doesn’t ask where they’re going and Dean doesn’t speak; doesn’t even turn the radio on.

They drive away in silence; too shocked and shaken to say anything.

***

It’s a long drive, one Cas barely remembers or concentrates on. Sam and Meg are talking quietly in the back and every now and again he’s aware of Dean’s eyes on him; checking to see if he’s still there. Cas remembers to nod when he can but he’s exhausted and moving is hard - let alone talking. He does shift closer to Dean on the seat after a while - his friend’s shoulders lose some of their tension.

It takes them over eight hours to get back. They stop once at a gas station on the state boarder. Cas follows Dean inside and waits whilst he buys whatever it is he’s getting then waits again outside the bathroom. He knows why he’s doing it; that it’s more for comfort than anything else but he’s not sure which of them benefits more.

Meg cleans up whilst they’re there and returns from the womens wash room with shorter hair, washed, and slightly damp. She gives Cas a small smile but doesn’t talk, just sits quietly in the car and waits for Sam to join her.

Cas returns to the car with Dean, eats the large bar of chocolate he hands him without complaint and rests in silence again.

Eventually they pull up to what Sam tells them is the entrance to the Bunker.

“This is your hide out? Seriously?” Meg asks, some of her humour is returning to her and Cas smiles. In a strange way he can’t even tell that there is anything at all outside.

“Whatever it is is so heavily warded that I can’t see it,” he says. “Well, I can see it but I can’t sense it.”

“Same here, Clarence, though if you weren’t here I’d be waiting to be dragged outside and disposed of.”

Sam looks horrified, “Meg, we wouldn’t.” The look on Dean’s face doesn’t exactly agree with Sam’s statement but he doesn’t verbally contradict him.

“In case you’ve forgotten; I’m a demon,” she reminds him, eyebrows arched in surprise.

Cas is smiling, he realises, the soft smile he often reserves for her. She was right when she said she was a demon turned good and he an angel turned kind of bad but it's perspective and circumstance. She has proven herself worthy before, with Leviathan and looking after him, but he can understand Dean’s reluctance and even Sam’s acceptance. Sam has - to his detriment as much to his credit - always been the more trusting and hopeful of the two of them. Castiel is as glad of it now as he was when Sam prayed to him in the salvage yard a few years before.

“You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to,” Sam says. “Crowley’s gone and his followers are probably running for cover or fighting over who takes control of hell. You can leave and do whatever it is you want to do or you can lay low with us for a while.”

Meg looks at Dean who still doesn’t voice his disapproval, not that he looks happy about it either. Cas gives her a small nod to tell her what he thinks, and Sam looks both happy and in complete agreement with the idea of her staying.

“Dean?” she says, looking at him. He refuses to meet her eyes.

“Majority rules, I’m not exactly happy about it but I’m not going to throw you out or kill you.” He sighs and shakes his head. “Do I need to warn you what will happen if you betray us?”

“Ah, no, I think I can guess. Probably going to go straight for the knife rather than torture me in your secret little hobbit hole deep under ground, am I right?” she says with a over-bright smile.

“We have a torture dungeon,” Dean tells her and Cas’ eyes shoot straight to his. “I’m not going to use it but if you mess things up I will kill you. Understand? You’re here because Cas and Sam want you here.”

“Hey, fine by me,” she says. Cas can tell she’s nervous, sees her true face quivering behind her outer bravado. She is not like other demons he has known, not even like she used to be. Life and the world have changed her. She is beautiful, even though he doesn’t think it would be right to tell her again.

“Come on then.” Sam opens his door and leads Meg to the entrance.

***

Dean hangs back in the car with Cas. “You sure we can trust her?” he asks.

“Yes.” Cas is firm with his words. “She has what she wanted - her revenge - and although I know there was a part of her that wanted to rule hell, she doesn’t anymore.”

Dean falls silent beside him.

Castiel wants to reach out again like he did before but doesn’t know how. He still feels drained and weary and trying to understand Dean is sometimes difficult. He wants to talk about what happened in the crypt, he wants to tell him so much, to make him understand how grateful he is to be there with him, that he loves him. But the words don’t come because Cas is afraid of pushing Dean too far too fast; he doesn’t know how to navigate this kind of conversation.

“Cas?” Dean asks, voice very quiet. Outside, Meg and Sam are very pointedly not looking inside the car and instead are sat having a conversation on the grassy bank nearby.

“Yes, Dean?” He makes his voice as gentle as he can.

“I’m exhausted right now and all I want to do is sleep for a very long time but afterwards, afterwards I want to talk to you. I mean really talk, not like we normally do when Sam or whoever else interrupts us, and I want it to be honest - even if it’s difficult.” He looks pained when he looks at Cas, almost like he had on the floor kneeling in front of him. Cas hurts for him all over again. Oh, Dean, I am so sorry. “But only if you want to. I can’t and I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do. Don’t think I could if I tried.”

“Dean.” Cas moves his hand to Dean’s shoulder and meets his eyes.

“I know that you might not, with Meg here and after everything that’s happened to you, and I’d understand - I’d try - but…”

“Dean,” Cas says with as much feeling as he can muster. “I want that too. To rest and then talk to you and tell you everything.” He does needs it and has for a very long time. He wonders if Dean has too but then he remembers all the prayers night after night in purgatory. He’d been too determined to keep Dean safe back then and hadn’t let himself acknowledge the full meaning behind them. He closes his eyes and lets out a deep breath. He has failed Dean again and again and again. He doesn’t want to this time.

“But?” Dean sounds heart broken and Cas wonders what it is he’s expecting.

Cas opens his eyes, tilts his head to the right and looks straight into Dean’s. He has never understood the human expression ‘heart in my throat’ until now. “There isn’t one, Dean. I want to talk to you too and we will. First, we both need to rest. Sam and Meg too, I think.”

The tension drains out of Dean’s shoulders and he lets out a sigh. “Okay then, lets get inside.”

***

The bunker is nothing like Castiel imagined but it is beautiful and magnificent. So much knowledge and with it so much power. He is relieved Dean and Sam are here to keep it safe, and honoured and humbled to be within it. He remembers the libraries of Alexandria and Babylon and whilst he morns their loss, he’s glad that this place exists and wonders if there are more around the world or if this is the last one standing. Not that he would know about it; not if they are all as well hidden as this.

As soon as they are inside Sam places a devil’s trap at the entrance (Meg only shrugs) before leading them all into the central library. Dean stays with them whilst Sam goes off to demon proof certain rooms (or at least Cas is sure that’s what he’s was doing). He returns and asked them to follow him.

Dean stays behind Cas as they walk along a corridor leading from the main room. Sam is giving a tour, showing them the entrance to the kitchen and the shower and bathrooms then along to the bedrooms.

“I ah, didn’t know where you’d want to stay so I checked a few of the rooms to make sure they were accommodating.” He sends a smile in Meg’s direction and she smiles back, happy that he wasn’t blocking her from going anywhere or setting a trap for her. Cas suspects Dean will likely ward his own room but for now at least he’s letting Sam make her welcome.

“I’ll take any of them. Preferably one closest to the showers,” Meg says. “I don’t suppose there’s a change of clothes anywhere?”

“Ah, well they might not be in your size but we have somethings that might work until we can get you some new clothes.”

“Aren’t you a regular fairy godmother,” Meg says with a wink in Sam’s direction.

“There are fresh towels too; come on I’ll show you to the shower room,” he continues as if she hasn't spoken.

Meg looks back to Cas. “You okay, Clarence?” she asks.

He nods. “Yes, thank you.” He smiles at her and she nods.

“I’ll see you in the morning.” Then she follows Sam off and down the hallway, leaving Dean and Cas alone.

“I… ah, I don’t know how it works but If you wanted to leave the tablet somewhere other than.” He gestures to Castiel’s chest. “Wherever it is you’ve put it, you can. You don’t have to but you can lock it away somewhere no one can see it. There are plenty of places here and I won’t look for it - neither will Sam.”

Cas knows he could - they are invisible here and with our without the table he’ll be safe as long as he stays inside. He brings it out in a small flash of light - too quick for Dean to see - and holds it in his hand again.

“I was going to ask Kevin if he could translate it. Naomi wanted it for a reason and I want to know what it was.”

Dean looks surprised but relieved. “He’s not here,” he admits.

Cas creases his forehead. “He should be. You have the safest place on the planet and a prophet with half of the demon tablet and he’s not here?”

Dean looks away. “Yeah, okay, when you put it like that it really doesn’t make any sense. I’ll call him tomorrow and either get Garth to bring him here or work something out. Crowley’s gone at least, should make it safer for him, for now. So, do you need a room?” he says the last part in a rush.

Cas looks at Dean, then around the corridor. “Yes.” He smiles a little, happy to have been asked. He understands the offer. “Which ones are yours and Sam’s?”

“Ah, this one is mine.” Dean points to the door just behind him. “And Sam’s is that way.” he gestures down the hall.

Cas nods and places his hand on the door of the room next to Dean’s. “I’d like this one.”

“You don’t want to see inside it?” Dean asks with a tired smile.

Cas shrugs and pushes the door open. It’s neat and tidy with clean towels piled on the bed (no doubt by Sam). There are empty shelves along one whole side of the room and a desk on the other.

“If you don’t like the mattress we can get you a memory foam one ordered. They remember you.” Dean’s stood close to him and Cas can’t help but smile; even if he doesn’t understand.

“I don’t normally need to sleep but I do need to rest. I’ll let you know in the morning if it was an uncomfortable surface to lie on.”

“Okay then. If you need anything just ask, I’m only next door. Okay?”

Cas turns to face Dean, who's stood very close again. There was a time when Dean would have taken issue with it but that was a long time ago.

“Thank you,” Cas says. Dean nods but he’s looking at the floor. “Dean?” He looks up. “If you need anything…” He drifts off and lets his eyes communicate what he wants to say.

Dean offers a small smile and nods a little. Cas can feel Dean’s reluctant to leave him but knows he can’t ask him to stay in his room. They both need rest, time to think and to adjust.

Dean coughs and steps back. “Want me to wake you in the morning?”

“Yes.” Cas smiles. “Good night, Dean.”

“Night, Cas,” Dean says and closes the door behind him.

***

The room is clean and tidy, organised in a way Cas misses.

He walks straight over to the bed and opens the small drawer of the bedside table and places the tablet inside. He feels it’s protection leave him but the Bunker’s own wards remain in place. Inside these walls it doesn’t matter whether or not he has hold of it. He locks the drawer with the key that was inside it and tucks it into the FBI badge Dean had given him years ago. It’s not much - anyone who wanted to could get inside the drawer -but only Kevin would be able to sense where it is and he isn’t here yet.

He removes his coat and hangs it on the back of the door. Takes his jacket, shirt, tie and trousers and places them over the desk chair, his shoes and socks to the side of it.

He feels odd to be there in just his undershirt and boxer shorts but he suspects he’s not actually supposed to sleep in his clothes and it’s nice to have a place to put them - a safe place. He places the towels on one of the shelves and pulls back the covers, lies down beneath the sheets and closes his eyes.

He doesn’t sleep but he wants to, wants time without the horrors that crowd his mind and the decisions that haunt him even now. Instead, Cas puts his mind into the most dormant state he can manage and tries to relax. Soon time starts to fall away and all he can hear is the silence, blissful and peaceful.

***

 photo DCBB Break Through picspam part 1.png

Chapter Text

Dean hears Sam stop outside his door. He doesn’t knock and Dean doesn’t have the energy to stand. He’s in bed; tucked up under the covers and lying on the left side (where he has taken to sleeping). He’s too tired to move but can’t seem to switch off.

“Dean?” Sam asks just loud enough to be heard.

“You can come in, Sammy,” Dean mumbles and a few moments later his brother is stood next to his bed, the door closed behind him. Sam looks around as if uncertain that he would find Dean alone. “Cas is resting next door. Thanks for sorting out the rooms.” He doesn’t sit up, the lead weights his limbs seem to have become hold him against the mattress.

“Oh. I thought you and Cas would still be talking.” There isn’t any innuendo at all; Sam seems genuinely confused.

“It’s been a long day, Sam.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.” He sits himself down on the chair in the corner. “Meg’s in a room down the hall, closer to mine than yours. I think she’s pretty sure you’ll gank her the first chance you get.”

“Cas trusts her and you seem to. Unless she messes up I won’t touch her,” Dean mumbles into his pillow, hoping for sleep to take him away from having this - or any - conversation.

“She’s been through a lot, Dean. And I don’t know; she seems more human now. She told me that we helped her kill Crowley and in return, she’s agreed to help any way she can until she decides what she wants to do.”

“That’s great.” He doesn’t put any feeling behind the words.

He doesn’t dislike Meg but he doesn’t trust her much. He gives her credit for looking after Cas when he needed her, and Cas likes her. His heart contracts at that thought. Dean isn’t really sure what is going on between the two of them and although Cas has implied strongly that they are friends and nothing more, he can’t help feeling like he’s getting in the way of something. The worst part is he doesn’t know whether or not he’ll stand aside and let it happen; And if he does how much it will hurt if their friendship becomes something more.

“Dean?” Sam asks as though he’s been talking this whole time. He probably has. Sam doesn’t know what happened in the crypt and hasn’t asked where the Angel tablet is.

“Sorry, Sammy, I’m really tired.”

Sam nods and stands. “I’ll see you in the morning. Night, Dean.”

“Sam?” Dean says as he remembers something.

“Yeah?”

“Call Kevin and Garth, tell them to bring Kevin and the tablet to town. We can pick him up and bring him here. He’ll be safer in the bunker.”

Sam takes out his phone. “Good idea.”

“T’was Cas’s idea. Seems stupid not to have him in the safest place we have.” He’s slurring his words and can feel the world slipping away from him.

“I’ll call them now. Night, Dean.”

A few moments after Sam closes the door behind him Dean drifts off.

***
If he tries hard enough Castiel can hear anything in the Bunker - aside from a few rooms that seem to be warded for extra privacy. It doesn’t surprise him at all that the men of letters knew Angels existed and it saddens him to think that all this knowledge has laid buried for decades when it could have done so much to aid hunters like Dean and Sam.

It’s been about ten hours since they arrived and it’s close to eight in the morning. He’s listening to the water run through the river nearby to help calm his mind, though he feels much calmer and his head is clearer than yesterday. While the tablet protected him from the eyes of Heaven, it seems to have drained him the day before. Either because it used him as a power source or, more likely, because it is not meant for Angels.

It's meant for the prophet and he hopes they manage to bring Kevin here soon.

There is a part of him that wants to know why Naomi wants it so badly and if there can be something done about angelic interference, and lack of regard for the humans that are supposed to be in their charge. He also wants to protect Kevin Tran; yet another person dragged into the mess he created when he tried to become God.

The memories of that time are repressed quickly; a calm, clear mind making it easier. What he can’t rid himself of is the shame and guilt he carries. His actions were - are - unforgivable and he still wonders why Dean and Sam forgave him and accepted him back into their lives... why Dean refused to leave purgatory without him. It can’t just be that he loves him, can it? That shouldn’t be enough, not once the trust between them was destroyed by what Cas did.

But it was enough to break through Naomi’s spell and free him.

There are suddenly more memories to shut down and Cas feels himself shudder as he curls up on his right side and tries to push them away. Thousands of Deans and the only one that matters flash before his eyes and he wants to cry out, wants to escape from them but even if hadn’t promised to stay, he can’t just fly away and escape them.

One more sin for which he doesn’t think he can be forgiven.

***
Dean hasn’t slept this long in a very, very long time. He didn’t dream just faded out of consciousness and then back in ten hours later. He wants to go straight to Cas as soon as he wakes up, the idea settles in his mind and his heart feels tight with anticipation, but he forces himself to shower, and shave then start coffee in the kitchen before he finally knocks on Castiel’s door.

There has been no sign of Sam or Meg all morning but he’s not worried; he has no idea how long Sam spent on the phone to Kevin and knows Meg can’t leave.

He takes a deep breath and nocks on the door. “Cas?”

It opens to reveal Cas is stood there in his shirt and trousers. No tie, jacket or trench coat. It’s strange but good strange. Dean tries not to linger too long on that thought.

“Good morning, Dean.” He looks clean and fresh, like he’s showered and dressed (angel mojo tends to have that affec)t. He looks good - settled - like he’s not going to fly off at any point. Dean hadn’t realised until now how much it means to him that Cas stayed.

“Hey, Cas, I know you don’t need to eat but do you want to join us for breakfast? I’m sure Sam will be up soon and I know Meg will want something.”

Cas gives him the same small smile he’s seen over a dozen times before. “I’d like that, Dean.”

“Okay then.”

Cas closes his door behind him and follows Dean down the hall, staying as close as he had the day before. He sits himself down in the kitchen and waits. He seems patient, calm (or at least to the best of Dean’s knowledge).

“Cas?” Dean asks as he grabs four mugs from the cupboard.

“Yes, Dean?”

“We’ll um, we’ll talk after breakfast. Okay?” He keeps his tone light and forces his words around the growing lump in his throat. He woke up with the same commitment and determination he had yesterday, and he doesn’t want to fall back into his old ways now.

Cas meets his eyes and nods his head a little. He looks worried so Dean half fills a mug with Coffee and hands it to Cas.

“Here, I would normally say to let it cool but I’m not sure that applies to you, but it’ll taste better if you leave it for a few minutes.”

Cas stares at it and nods, holding the cup in his hand as he watches Dean move about the kitchen.

“Do you want anything to eat?” Dean asks, wanting to make himself shut up but he keeps on talking instead.

“No, thank you though, for the offer. The coffee will be fine.” He’s smiling again and Dean smiles back, just a little, for just a moment.

The sound of footsteps echo down the corridor - Meg not Sam - and he busies himself with the coffee as she comes in.

“Morning, Clarence, Dean.”

“Good Morning, Meg,” Cas says in greeting. He has a different smile for her, Dean realises, and he berates himself immediately.

“Coffee?” Dean asks.

“Please.” Meg takes the offered cup and sits across from Cas, swinging her legs on the high stool. Dean wants to suggest that everyone sit at the table but he leaves it. “What’s for breakfast?”

Dean looks at her properly, startled by her tone and the casual way she spoke. Like this is normal, that this is a regular occurrence for them. She looks cheerful, if a little wary, and Dean can understand that; Crowley is dead and gone but he had her holed up for over a year. She does look better now, sat in a large T shirt and a grey men of letters robe tied securely around her.

“I clean up pretty well don’t I, Dean? Those showers of yours have the best water pressure. I feel cleaner than I have in years.”

Dean can’t help the startled laugh that escapes him and he nods. “Yeah, they’re something else.” He looks quickly to Cas and then back to Meg. “There’s cereal, some kind of granola crap that Sam likes but there are sausages, bacon, eggs.”

“A victory breakfast sounds good, Dean,” Meg says with a smile.

“Okay, then.” Dean sets to work as quickly as he can and tries to give Cas and Meg time to talk; it helps that they both walk over to the table and settle there.

“Morning.” Sam walks in, running his hand through his damp hair. Dean’s frying sausages in the large pan when Sam rests at his side. “I called Kevin and explained what’s happened.”

Dean nods. “Is he coming here?”

“Garth’s disappeared on him - again - so I said I’d drive out and pick him up. Meg’s going to come with me.”

“Wait, what?” Dean takes the pan off the heat.

“I spoke to her last night, she’s sworn her loyalty to us because we helped her kill Crowley and let her stay here. She’s many things, Dean but I don’t think she’s going to screw us over or hurt us. She owes us, or at least believes she does.”

“And you think it’s safe to take her in my car?” He’s trying hard not to raise his voice

“Dean, we’re not going to take your car, okay? Crowley's dead but that doesn’t mean it’s safe out there for us at the moment. The Angels are going to be after us, at the very least. Not to mention the demons out to take Crowley’s throne. It’s safer than it was but it’s not worth the risk of being seen.”

Dean huffs but he knows that Sam’s argument is a good one. “What car are you going to take?”

“There are a couple in the garage that have angel and demon warding as well as stocks and supplies. Me and Meg will add what we need then head out. There’s also enough room for us to do a food and clothing run for Meg and Cas. I know he doesn’t need new clothes, Dean, but if he does need to leave at any point at least he won’t be so easy to spot.”

“You’ve really given this some thought haven’t you, Sam?” Dean opens the bacon and loads a second pan up.

“It was a long night, Dean, for me at least.”

“Sammy?” Dean looks up at him and doesn’t hide the hurt or concern from his face. “Are you sure a long drive is a good idea? I need you to be honest with me. I don’t want you heading out if you’re not up to it. I can go and you can stay here.”

“No, Dean. You need to stay here.” Sam looks pointedly at the table. “I know you. Stay here and work things out with Cas, we’ll be back in a few days time.”

“Days?”

“Three max. I’ll check in with you every few hours okay?”

It is not okay, none of Sam’s plan is at all okay in Dean’s mind - except for rescuing Kevin and brining him to the bunker - but he knows that at some point he has to take a step back and trust his brother. Meg isn’t Ruby and Sam isn’t the only one who trusts her. Cas wouldn’t be so fond of her otherwise... and they’ve trusted worse. For a moment his thoughts rest on Benny and he wonders if it would be okay to call and check in, after he talks with Cas. He still can’t help but regret the way they parted last time. If they’re letting Meg stay, he can at least make sure his friend is okay, can’t he?

“Fine. I’m not saying I’m happy about it but I am saying I won’t stop you - won’t even try.” He plates up the eggs, sausages and bacon and brings two plates over to the table, sliding them in front of and Meg and the space next to Cas. Sam, predictably, is already heaping granola into a bowl and mixing up a smoothie in a tall glass. Dean grabs a coffee for himself and rolls his eyes at his brother.

Meg and Cas seem to have finished talking by the time he joins them, Sam not too far behind.

“You okay with our little rescue mission?” Meg asks after a long drink of coffee.

“Yes.”

Meg smirks but doesn’t say anything else. Cas looks as though he already knows.

“Meg says you’ll need my measurements, Sam, I’ll write them down for you before you leave.”

“Thanks, Cas, anything you want me to get for you when we’re out?” Sam offers, genuine and curious all at the same time. Dean wonders if Cas really knows how much Sam quietly fanboys over him.

Cas shakes his head. “Whatever you think I’ll need is fine, Sam. I’ll admit I’ve grown very fond of my coat over the years.” Dean meets his eyes and smiles. The memories of taking it from car to car after he rescued it from the lake are sometimes still painful but are worth it for moments like these. He wonders if Cas ever realised the implications of that or if he just accepted it in the same way he has accepted so many things.

“You can keep the coat, Cas,” Dean says. “Just keep it here until things are sorted out.”

“Thank you, Dean.” Then Cas focusses his attention on his coffee. Maybe it’s because he likes to feel included and wanted; like the idea of having his own room. Dean understands that, though maybe not in quite the same way.

***
“You sure you’re going to be okay, Clarence?” Meg asks, she’s ready to head out with Sam (who’s packing a few extra hex bags and protection sigils into the car.

“Yes,” Cas tells her.

“Look. I know the bunker is safe for you and everything but.” She pauses and looks away.

“You’re worried about me talking to Dean.”

“I’m more worried about him hurting you.”

“Meg -"

“No, Clarence, hear me out.” She walks into his room and sits next to him on the bed. “I know he’s your first love and everything and if I have to step out of the way for anyone it would be Dean, but be careful, okay? I don’t think he understands how much he could hurt you.”

“I’ve hurt him too, Meg. What I did in that Crypt… I almost killed him. Not to mention everything that’s happened in the past few years - ”

“Cas, chill, and yesterday? You know that wasn’t really you, what kind of mind control did she use on you anyway?”

Cas flinches and looks away, remembering bone crushing under his hand and the sharp sound of them breaking. A thousand empty expressions surrounding him; a thousand crimes to add to countless others. Every one of them bares the face of the person he cherishes the most.

He jumps when Meg places her hand on his shoulder. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you re-live it.”

He looks at her, shaking his head. “It is no less than I deserve.” He sighs. “I’m sorry, Meg.”

“For what?” she asks gently, using the tone she had when he was in the hospital.

“For breaking my promise to you. We both survived it and yet I won’t be able to move furniture with you now.”

Meg drops her hand from his shoulder and tucks it underneath her leg. “It’s okay. I mean, it stings and I won’t tell you it doesn’t hurt, because it kinda does, but he’s your Unicorn, so I get it.”

“He’s my what?” He knows he understands very little of earth culture - he still doesn’t understand why Meg calls him Clarence - but this one sounds strange even for him; Unicorns don’t exist.

“A Unicorn is a rare and special creature that you’ll change your whole outlook on life for, hell, even become a better person. Trust me, I know,” she tells him, voice quiet and sadness creeping in towards the end.

“Meg,” he says, though he can’t seem to find the words to follow it up. He does like her, even feels affection for her but as much as it hurts him to hurt her, she’s right. Dean is special to him in a way that the other people he loves are not. He hasn’t always been in love with him; it isn’t the reason he rebelled against heavens orders but he can’t deny that he’s felt this way about Dean for a very long time.

“It’s okay, Clarence, I didn’t expect to live past Crowley’s torture regime… and thanks to you and the chuckle brothers I’m not only alive but my enemy is dead. I owe them, I owe you.”

“You don’t owe me anything, Meg. In fact I’m certain it’s the other way around.”

She laughs. “Maybe. You can pay me back by being honest with your Unicorn and not running off on some crazy mission. If you think you ‘have to leave’ you come and see me, okay? Run whatever stupid plan you have by me first so I can tell you to stay put.”

“Meg?” Sam’s voice echoes along the corridor and they both stand and head out of Cas’ room.

Cas walks with her all the way to the garage where Dean is stood, leaning against the Impala. Cas walks over and stands next to him as Sam talks to Meg and hands something to her; it looks like a phone.

They head back over once Sam has thrown a bag in the back seat. Meg nods to Dean.

“We’ll see you in a few days,” Sam says, hugging his brother and then Cas. He’s not sure what to do but he lets Sam hold him. “You can hug back, Cas, it’s fine.” So he does, awkwardly. Meg laughs in the back ground but Sam seems to appreciate it.

She hugs him next. “Call me if you need anything,” Meg says afterwards, handing him a scrap of paper with her number on it - he suspects it’s written in Sam’s writing. “Sam’s put your number and Dean’s in my phone already. See you later, Clarence.” She turns to Dean. “Look after him.” Is all she says before she slides into the passenger seat and closes the door behind her.

“You have our numbers and I’ll call you as soon as we get to a motel for the night to check in. If you need anything - anything at all - just call okay?” Sam tells them, looking from one to the other and back again.

“We’ll be fine, Sammy,” Dean almost sounds like he means it. “Go rescue our prophet, buy him a burger from me. Kid’s been eating crap for who knows how long, he deserves a break.”

“Right, okay, good. See you in a few days.” Sam hugs Dean again and heads to the car, shutting the door behind him and starting the engine. They drive out of the garage door and as soon as it closes behind them the demon trap ward slides back into place.

“This place was very cleverly designed,” Cas remarks.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool.” He looks over at Cas. “So, library or kitchen?”

“What?”

Dean isn’t looking at him but he does explain. “I need to be somewhere I’m going to be comfortable that isn’t my room. Your choice.”

“Library,” Cas says. Being surrounded by all that ancient and supernatural knowledge, but in a place created by humans, is somewhat comforting to him. It also looks nothing like the clean and clinical lines of Naomi’s office or her branch of heaven. The gleam of the kitchen wouldn’t be a wise choice at the moment.

“Right, okay then. Follow me.” Dean is stiff as he walks, tension tight in his shoulders and hands shoved firmly into his pockets.

Cas follows him all the way to the library and sits in a chair next to Dean.

Now that they're here he doesn’t know where to begin.

Chapter Text

“So.” Dean looks at him with guarded eyes. “Talk to me, Cas,”

“Where would you like me to start?” There are so many places, so many times that could be relevant to this.

Dean sighs and pushes back against the chair. "I don’t know. Anywhere you want to is fine.”

“Naomi is the head of the correctional facility in Heaven. Until she found me I had no idea that such a place even existed and every time I left I forgot; until yesterday.” He looks down at his hands. “Her methods are cruel and unrelenting until she has what she wants.”

“Cas, what was it she wanted from you?”

“For me to find the Angel Tablet so it could be locked away in Heaven, though, I suspect she wanted to use it to take control of the remaining host instead of protecting the word of God.” His hands are shaking and he finds it curious that such a reaction could be transferred to his vessel. It shouldn’t surprise him; it’s happened before, after all. He sighs, may as well tell Dean the whole truth. “She also wanted to control me completely. I was apparently difficult to correct, and her methods… they almost worked.” He looks at Dean, wondering if he can understand.

“What did she do to you, Cas?” Dean asks, he sounds quiet and gentle - like he’s trying not to spook a small animal.

“She made me kill you, clones of you, over and over again. Thousands of times and even though I knew they weren’t really you… sometimes I… sometimes it was so hard. As soon as it was over there would be another and another and another. For days, weeks, months - possibly longer because time can move differently in Heaven - all I did was kill you until she finally had me broken down enough to do it on command.”

“Why?” Dean breathes out quietly. Cas can see the anguish and pain in Dean’s eyes and it hurts all over again to see him in this much pain.

“Because then she would have succeeded and her spell would be unbreakable.”

“No, Cas. Why me?” It’s just like being stood outside after the prophets were rescued months ago. The same pain and hurt is radiating from Dean; the same steadfast belief that this is somehow all his fault.

“Because you’re my greatest weakness and Naomi knew it.” The words hurt him to say; not because they aren’t true but because Dean doesn’t understand and Castiel isn’t sure he can make him. “What she didn’t realise - and what saved me in the end - is that you are also my greatest source of strength,” he adds and Deans eyes flicker away before they meet his again. “She doesn’t understand enough about humanity, and.” He pauses and takes a breath, waiting for Dean to bolt. “She doesn’t know enough about love to know that you would be able to break the spell.”

“Cas, Cas I…” Shock, confusion, hurt and… something else, something Dean is holding back but at least, Cas reasons, he isn’t running for the door.

“I heard you, Dean. That’s what broke the spell.”

“Cas, I…I..”

“It’s okay, Dean,” he reassures. “You said you wanted to know and that’s the truth. Is there anything else you want to talk about?” He knows there is; he can feel everything bubbling to the surface and he’s willing to let the dam break free if Dean wants him to. He also understands what this is something Dean hasn’t ever wanted to admit to. Cas will respect that, whatever the cost, and he hopes that he’s left it vague enough for Dean to ignore the implications if he wants to.

“There… there isn’t much I can say to that,” Dean says, eyes wide and hands frozen in place on his knees. “She… Cas… what she did to you is unimaginable.” Cas can’t help but look away; flashes of all the other Deans fill his mind and even without the same beautiful soul beneath the illusion it had been hard to kill them. “I couldn’t have… Cas, Cas look at me.” Dean sounds desperate so he does. “It wasn’t your fault, Cas, none of it, okay?”

Cas shakes his head. “That isn’t true, Dean. If I had tried to leave Purgatory with you - or better yet not made a deal with Crowley to open it in the first place - none of this would have happened. As much as I appreciate you trying to make me feel better; you can’t change the facts.”

Dean takes a deep shuddering breath and moves his chair - closer to Castiel’s - so he’s now sitting at right angles to him instead of parallel.

“Cas,” Dean says, his tone is gentle and likely supposed to be comforting. Castiel doesn’t think it’s possible to bring any comfort to the horrible mess of jumbled thoughts in his mind. His gaze drops to his knees.

Dean’s hand on his shoulder brings him back to reality. Cas closes his eyes; drawing whatever comfort he can from the firm pressure of Dean's palm flat against his arm.

“You chose to stay and she dragged you out of there. You can blame yourself for your poor decisions, even if I think it’s been long enough and you should let it go. But, Cas, you can’t be held responsible for something that wasn’t your fault.” Dean’s grip is suddenly much tighter. “She tortured you, Cas. That’s unforgivable.”

“Dean, I wiped out hundreds of my own kind.” The pain and shame burns through him anew. “And I caused chaos on Earth.”

“You weren’t exactly of sound mind, and you had the best of intentions. Naomi either want’s revenge or to use you as a weapon. It’s different, Cas, trust me. She can dress it up all she wants but that’s what she’s doing.” He sighs. “Cas, how much worse would things have been if you hadn’t stopped Raphael?”

“I don’t know.” Though he has a pretty good idea.

“Okay, would he have let you and your followers live?”

“No. But there were less of us.” The memory of Balthazar falling by his hand makes him shudder. “Dean, I have caused so much suffering and I can’t… I can’t-“

“Cas,” Dean’s other hand is now on top of his. “All you have ever done is try your best. I mean that. I can’t deny that you’ve made some horrible mistakes but you’ve fixed them and I still think the alternative would be worse.”

“Dean.”

“And don’t forget that you’re in good company. If it wasn’t for me and Sam there wouldn’t have even been a near-apocalypse and I wouldn’t have gotten you into this mess.”

Cas’ eyes go wide. “No, Dean, no. This was never your fault. Never. Hester was wrong; you didn’t corrupt me.” He can’t handle this. It’s bad enough that he has these burdens to carry without Dean believing he’s responsible. “If that were true then the first time I was repurposed in heaven I would have ignored your pleas for help. And I made the right choice; of all the mistakes I have made, that is not and never will be counted amongst them.”

“Was it Naomi the first time?” Dean asks quietly.

“No, no, I remember the first time. It wasn’t her; unless she changed my memories, but I don’t think so.” It felt different. “I don’t know how to right my wrongs. I want to - I need to - but I don’t want to make things worse.”

Dean’s grip is firm; reassuring and comforting. Cas wants to lean into him, rest his head on his shoulder but he still doesn’t know if he should.

“Cas, you just need to ask. Run it by me - or Sam - and we’ll let you know. You’re still new to the whole 'free will' thing but you need to trust us.”

He nods and sighs. This is just the start of it, he realises. The start of so many things he has to tell Dean.

“Cas, if Raphael had won, he would have restarted the apocalypse, correct?”

“Yes.”

“And any number of untold horrors right? I’m guessing that you would be dead, me and Sam would be long gone, and most of the worlds population along with us.”

“Yes,” he says, still sounding defeated.

“Then, maybe, this was the only way.”

Cas shakes his head. “I don’t know. But I do know it still doesn’t excuse what I did to you or to Sam, or anyone I hurt in the process.”

“You fixed it,” Dean tells him firmly, meeting his eyes and willing him to understand. Cas must look pretty distressed because the next things he says is, “Shit. I’m an idiot. I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For asking you to do this, to talk it all out when there is years of - Cas, we don’t have to do this now.”

Dean moves his hand away and Castiel’s follow right after it, holding on tightly.

“I want to, I need to, Dean, but if it’s making you uncomfortable we can stop.”

“Cas.” He shakes his head and looks at their hands. “Look, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy or a walk in the park or a damn hallmark moment, okay? But I can’t see you like this, Cas. It’s not fair and please don’t tell me that it is.” He’s trying hard to keep his voice from sounding harsh - Cas doesn’t know what to make of that.

“Please, Dean,” he says very quietly. “We might never get another chance.”

“Damn it, dammit,” Dean mutters. He takes his hand from Cas’ shoulder and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Okay, okay, you’re right. I know us; any chance to not talk about this and we seem to take it.” Cas would tell him that he’s only ever done that for Dean’s benefit but he can’t deny that it’s been more true recently. “Let me make us something to drink, coffee or tea - or even some of that smoothie crap - Sam drinks and we’ll carry on, okay?”

Cas nods as relief washes through him, starting to ebb away some of the fresh waves of pain.

“Come on,” Dean tugs on his hands and Cas stands. Then Dean does something he isn’t expecting; he slides his hand from his shoulder into the middle of Cas’ back and leans in. Cas lets go of the hand he's holding - Dean curls that one around him as well, holding on tight to his lower back.

Cas closes his eyes and brings his arms up to match Dean’s and holds on; mindful of his own strength as he does.

“Dean,” Cas whispers against his shoulder. Dean is comfort and warmth and acceptance all at the same time, and Cas feels so humbled and grateful that he doesn’t know how to express it.

“It’s okay, Cas, it’s gonna be okay,” Dean promises, even though they both know he can’t mean it. Unless, Cas wonders, he means that we’re going to be okay? but it’s maybe too much to hope for at the moment. Instead Cas focusses on Dean wrapped around him until he finally stops shaking.

***

Cas drops onto the stool nearest the coffee machine and it’s like his strings have been cut. In some very real way they have been and though it’s surprising to see Cas this way; it’s not unreasonable.

Dean keeps looking at him; making sure he’s still there as he puts the kettle on and heads for the tea cupboard.

“I’m going to make us some peppermint tea, okay? But don’t tell Sam.” He’s hidden it behind the bags of coffee and other boxes of random tea - mostly because he refuses to hide it in his room. He has his pride, after all, not that it seems to matter much. Sam can see right through him and he’s pretty sure Cas has always been able to, but it helps to keep the pretences up sometimes.

“Okay,” Cas replies and he even manages a small smile.

“This is the good stuff and it’s only for special occasions and emergencies,” Dean tells him, taking out two bags and setting them inside two of the newest mugs. He’s been slowly buying things they need to really make this a home (at least for him) since they found the place, and has cleared out or packed away most of the things either too outdated to use or unsalvageable. His kitchen’s set up pretty well, as are the showers and his room. He’s glad he thought to buy extra crockery last time they were out.

He pours the water into the mugs first - no particular reason, he just prefers it this way - then adds the tea bags. The smell of peppermint hits him almost immediately and he takes in a deep breath of it.

He slides one down the counter to be right in front of Cas. “Here, it’ll need about 3 minutes or so before it’s ready but you can leave the bag in the whole time if you want.” Dean isn’t a tea expert after; he likes it how it likes it without anyone judging him. If that’s true, he argues with himself, then why do you hide the fact that you drink it?

“Thank you, Dean,” Cas says and he leans closer to his tea; taking a deep breath in and then out again slowly. “It smells wonderful.”

Dean can’t help but smile, just a little bit. “You know, Cas, we have a den in this place too. A couple of couches, a TV, that kind of thing. We could sit in there, if it’ll be more comfortable?” He expects Cas to tell him that he doesn’t need softer seating to feel more comfortable - that his ass isn’t in danger of going to sleep if he sits still for too long - but Cas surprises him.

“That sounds nice, actually,” he says, “I thought the library would be comforting but it wasn't. I’m not sure your den will either but I am willing to try.”

Dean nods and tries to smile back - he’s not sure how successful he is but it seems to be enough for Cas.

Cas, who near enough told him that their love for each other broke through Naomi’s spell, that he had heard him in the crypt….

Dean didn’t even mean to let it slip and wonders if he and Cas are talking about the same kind of love. There is no way he can ask - not now - not with Cas in the state he’s in. All he can do is be here for him in whatever way he needs it.

There are things Dean wants to talk about too; about why Cas didn’t come to him for help before the whole mess with Raphael even started, and so much more. But that can come later. They have a few days to talk about it, and maybe more, if they can find the time. He’s lying to himself if he thinks that this will go smoothly. Their first attempt proves that straight off but they need this - both of them. Dean needs it. Like he needs Cas beside him; like he needs (and wants) him full stop.

 You don’t carry around your dead best friend's coat in the back of your car for months without there being something else going on. Well, maybe you do, he reasons with himself, but he didn’t. Dean had needed something to hold onto; some way to hope and pray that Castiel wasn’t dead. Everything had been this horrible mixture of anger, hurt, and grief that he hadn’t dealt with it. Cas had, after all, broken Sam’s wall but even with that, even after everything he had done Dean still kept his coat. Hung on to the lingering memory of the friend he thought he had lost.

Time and purgatory have taught him the lessons he’s needed and he understands his own feelings now much better than before. He knows what’s important - his brother and Cas - his family. He counts Charlie and even Kevin as part of their extended family too, but Sam and Cas are at the centre of it.

He thinks Cas must know that too (Dean hopes) but there are other things they need to deal with first. He needs to make sure Cas is okay, that’s he’s going to be able to face what’s coming - whatever it is.

***
“Nice wheels these men of Letters had, huh,” Meg comments as she runs her hand along the door panel.

“Yeah, not all of them seem to be classics - at least according to Dean - but it wasn’t like they would have known that at the time.”

“Hm.”

“You doing okay, Meg?” Sam asks a moment later. They’re about an hour away from the bunker and heading towards a strip mall and Target to gather supplies and clothes before going to get Kevin. They don’t want to have any reason to stop for long (or at all if they can help it) on the way back. The car is well warded and probably the safest of the ones in the bunker but the less chances they take, the better.

“Sam, my enemy is dead and my current address is a super secret bat cave where I can hide away from anything or anyone that wants to kill me.”

“Yeah. That’s not what I asked.” He glances at her before turning his eyes back to the road. Her face is guarded but not unkind.

“No, you want to ask me about my feelings,” she says. “Look, Sam, we may have reached a new understanding about a few things and I may even be starting to like you but if you so much as ask me how something makes me feel? I’ll open this door and take my chances.”

Sam laughs - he can’t help himself. “You sound exactly like Dean. Dean has actually left the car and slammed the door on me several times in the past few months. He’s done it before too. I lost count before purgatory.”

Meg looks horrified. “Somehow, comparing me to your brother makes me feel dirty, Sam. We may have a few things in common, well one thing in common, but we are not the same.”

Sam shakes his head. “Oh, believe me I know but every time I try and get him to open up he’s out of here or there’s something he has to do or sort out. He acts like he’s allergic to feelings and even though I know that’s not true… I don’t know, the longer it’s gone on the more worried I get.”

“Why? Is it his turn to go dark side this year?” Meg asks and Sam can’t tell if she’s joking or not; she looks amused.

“Ah, no, no, just more angst with pining, then some unresolved something.” He sighs. “I know you know about the trials to close hell, though, I find it hard to believe you’re okay with it.”

She shrugs. “Doesn’t matter. If I needed it, I’m sure you can put in a good word for me, spread it around that I was the one who killed Crowley, that’ll do for me.”

Sam doesn’t believe her, not completely, but she has promised not to do anything to stop him; That’s good enough for him.

“Right, okay. Well I started them to prove to Dean that he can have something to live for, that he deserves it.”

“Not so that you can lock us all away and free the world from our evil taint?” She air quotes the last part.

“Well yeah, that too. I want to set things right again, you know? I know we can’t stop hunting forever; even if we do settle down and become men of letters, but mostly I want Dean to be okay. Cas too, he’s been through a lot.”

Meg nods and suddenly she looks serious, maybe even sad.

Sam doesn’t know why he trusts her; he should have learnt his lesson about trusting demons by now but Meg is different. It also helps that Cas trusts her so much, at least that’s how he’s justifying it to himself and to Dean. Ruby had been manipulative and never really revealed her true cause - at least not until the end - but Meg is at least more honest about what she wants, for the most part.

“You must think it’s pathetic,” Meg says a few minutes later.

“What?” His tone his kind though and he hopes she’ll keep talking.

“A demon falling for a Angel,”

Sam shakes his head. “Cas isn’t an ordinary Angel and you, you’re not exactly an ordinary demon either, not lately anyway.”

“Hm, that is true. What’s worse is that I’m not even going to fight for him; there isn’t any point. I know Cas is fond of me and I know he cares, I can tell.” She shakes her head and looks out the window. “But he loves Dean, the kind of love that no one gets in the way of and it seemed pretty clear last night that your brother is ready to admit that he feels the same way.”

Sam swallows around a lump in his throat but doesn’t speak. He hopes so, but things between Cas and his brother have never been that simple.

“I may be a demon but I was telling you the truth yesterday when I said Cas is my unicorn. I’m pathetic enough to want him to be happy even if it’s not with me.”

“I’m guessing that if I tell you I don’t think it’s pathetic, you’ll throw yourself out of the car?” Sam tries.

Meg shrinks down in her seat. “You have a reputation for being too soft on demons, Sam, you know that?”

“Haunted by it,” Sam says, half joking. “But seriously, I’m here, if you want to you know, talk.”

“You may come to regret that,” Meg warns.

“Somehow I don’t think so.” He shrugs and takes the exit. “Do you have the list and Cas’ measurements?”

“Yeah, he’s written down the sizes for everything he owns - shoes included but has also included how long his socks are and a list of preferred colours. Did you help him with this?” She’s got an eyebrow raised in Sam’s direction.

“I asked him what colours he prefers. Why, how bad is it?”

“Well, you can tell he’s spent most of his time with you two fashionistas over the last 5 years, that’s for sure.”

Sam climbs out the car, Meg follows. Sam locks up and pockets the keys as Meg walks round to him and hands him the list.

“It would seem there are a couple of your shirts he doesn’t like, see?”

Clear enough there is a list of Nos. Admittedly a short list but it does seem to describe some of Sam’s shirts.

“Huh, he’s never said anything.”

Meg laughs. “He doesn’t care if you wear them but he doesn’t want to you waste your money on things he won’t use. Kinda sweet of Clarence really.”

Sam hands the list back to Meg. “You know, we should show him that movie when we get back,”

“And spoil the mystery? No thanks.”

Sam laughs and they head into the clothing store.

***
Cas follows Dean through to the den and plants himself on one end of the couch, places his fresh cup of tea on the table and closes his eyes.

Dean hesitates but then remembers how distressed Cas seemed at the idea of them not talking about anything. This seems to hard on both of them and Dean’s not sure how to proceed.

“Dean,” Cas warns, opening his eyes and looking at him. “It’s fine.”

Dean steps over and places his own mug on the table in front of them, then sits next to Cas on the couch. He doesn’t leave much space between them - there isn’t any point - but he doesn’t want to crowd him either. He’s still not sure where the line is between them anymore; I love you isn’t always I’m in love with you.

“Cas, I think we can leave the whole Naomi, purgatory, leviathan thing behind us.”

“Dean -“

“No, if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that there's no point reliving your mistakes over and over again. You have learnt your lesson, like Sam did with Ruby and the whole apocalypse thing, and I have over… over.. over other things.”

Cas gives him a small nod. “Regardless, I will do what I can to make up for it,” he says but then adds. “And I will talk to you first and listen, I promise. I’ve seen what happens when I don’t but I want you and Sam to do the same with me.”

“Okay, okay, good. It seems like a fair trade, not like me and Sammy haven’t screwed up in the past. It’s a start, Cas, really, a good one. So was coming back with us; I was worried for a moment there that you wouldn’t.” Admitting it feels like confession but Cas meets his eyes and smiles kindly for just a moment.

“Dean, for a long time I have wanted to… to…” He trails off and looks away. They’re on shaky ground again but Dean doesn’t change the subject or bluff his way out of this one this time.

“To what, Cas?” His voice is gentler than he expects and he puts his hand on Cas’ knee. It’s a risk but Dean doesn’t think he’s going to bolt on him.

“You ask me to come to you like it’s the simplest thing in the world but there have been times when I have found myself unable to do so. You have had such a hard life - you and Sam - and I haven’t wanted to make it any worse or pass my troubles onto you.”

“That’s what friends are for, Cas. What family is for.”

“I also haven’t felt as though I deserve to be with you,” Cas explains, Placing his hand on top of Dean’s very lightly. His skin tingles with the contact and he stays very still. “It doesn’t seem fair to be with those who make me happy when I have caused so much pain. Dean, you can’t tell me I haven’t hurt you.”

“And you can’t say I’ve never hurt you.” He wasn’t kind to Cas after they’d found him again and crazy or not he’d said somethings in anger he now regrets. “But if you keep wallowing in your own self pity then you end up causing more pain. You helped us stop Leviathan. Cas, it makes up for it - even if you don’t think it does.” He takes a breath. “I still remember what you told me in that barn the first time we met. That I didn’t think I deserved to be saved. I didn’t and I still don’t. You know all of that and you forgave me for it. Why can’t you do the same for yourself? Or at least accept that I think you deserved to come back with me after purgatory. You’ve suffered enough, Cas. And if you hadn’t by then? Well, I’m pretty sure what Naomi has put you through is a worse punishment than the crime.” Dean wants to kill her for what she’s done to Cas. He’s convinced that his behaviour now is her fault too and he wants to end her slowly - watch her wings burn as she suffers.

“You don't...?” Cas says quietly and he tilts his head to the side as he looks back at Dean. “Dean, after everything you’ve done? You still think you should be in hell?”

“Right back at ya, Cas.”

“Dean….”

“Cas, I’m not going to change my position on this but.” He takes a deep breath and it comes out shaky. Shit, shit, shit, shit. “Cas, you said that I broke through heaven’s control over you, right? That my - that how I feel about you was strong enough to break Naomi’s spell?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you think, if you’re really as bad as you say you are, that everything you’ve done over the years would mean I don’t feel that way anymore?”

“Dean, people cannot choose how they feel.”

“Okay, yeah. Poor argument but, Cas, would it have worked if I just felt that way but hated you as well? You said you heard me, Cas, what did you hear?”  Cas sits there in silence for several long moments. “Cas?”

He sighs. “Dean, are you sure you want to talk about this?”

Dean swallows. “Yeah.”

“It’s not a matter of how we feel, Dean, and it’s certainly not a matter of choice. I don’t think I deserve such kindness.”

“I don’t care.”

Cas' eyes snap to his and Dean holds his gaze. It feels like the whole day so far has been one long emotional confession jumbled and tangled with years of guilt, anger and shame. Dean’s reached his limit.

“We’ve been through enough - both of us have been through enough - and I don’t care whether or not you or I think we deserve it. When I got out of purgatory all I wanted to do was to go back, Cas, hell if I’d been thinking clearly I don’t think I’d have left. And it tore me up, thinking that I couldn’t save you, that I had let you down. It feels like that’s all I’ve ever done.

"When you told me that you had chosen to stay, Cas, I… I haven’t felt like that… ever. People I love normally leave but they don’t always do it because they want to. That’s only happened twice. I could barely stand it when Sam ran off to college but, this, it’s different. And yesterday in that crypt I thought… I didn’t know what else to do. I’ve regretted not telling you how I feel since leaving purgatory - just in case it would have made a damn difference.” He heaves in a deep and shuddering breath. He really didn’t mean to say all of that but now he has he won’t take it back. “But it sure as hell made a difference yesterday. I meant what I said; every word.”

Cas’ hand is holding onto his very tightly, pressing it against his leg where his fingers are already starting to fist the fabric of his pants. He’s still looking at him, eyes wide and a little glassy. There are a lot of things Dean wants to do right now but he will follow Cas’ lead. He’s said his piece and there is nothing more that he can do.

“I, I need you too, Dean,” Cas says, quiet and careful. “And I have been in love with you for a very long time.”

Dean’s ears are ringing and his heart is beating rapidly in his chest. His eyes are wide open and he hopes that Cas can see that it’s not the bad kind of shock; that although he hoped to hear those words, he didn’t know if Cas would say them. Now that he has, Dean can’t find his voice.

There should be a protocol for this, of all time times he’s thought about it (he can’t pretend he hasn’t) It’s always been about what would have happened if he’d confessed in the past. If he’d said something differently or Sam hadn’t walked in at that precise moment. This is different.

Dean leans towards Cas - slowly so that he can push him away if he wants to - and rests their foreheads together. Cas’ eyes are still open, though at such sort range all Dean can see is a blur of blue.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Cas asks, breath warm against Dean’s lips.

“Cas, you can literally see my soul, what do you think?” He doesn’t sound even half as cocky as he wants to.

“I don’t normally look; it doesn’t normally match how you behave.”

“It matches now doesn't it? It’s matched since purgatory.” Dean rubs his nose against Cas’, because he can because Cas won’t judge him for it, and there is literally no one there to see them. He feels braver than he has in a long time.

Cas’ eyes close and he smiles. Dean’s other hand goes to Cas' shoulder and guides him closer.

“Is this okay?” He asks, which is stupid but also feels like the right thing to do.

“Yes.”

Dean’s mouth is on Cas’ and he feels him surge up against him, their hands fall apart and instead grab onto each other. Dean moves so he’s half kneeling, half resting on the couch.

They’re desperate as they kiss, both of them pushing deeper, holding on tighter and Dean feels like he’s falling apart and being put back together all at once. This is Cas, who Dean thought was dead, who he thought he’d failed, who he thought he’d lost and he loves him so much. So he keeps kissing him and Cas keeps kissing back and they stay there, wrapped together for a very long time.

Chapter Text

“Hello, Sam,” Cas says as he picks up the phone.

Uh, hi, Cas. Where’s Dean?” Sam asks, confused; he did call Dean’s phone after all.

“Right here, Sammy,” Dean calls from the stove. “Just making burgers for dinner. Could you pick up more buns before you come back?”

Sam chuckles on the other end. “Put me on speaker, Cas.

Cas takes a few seconds before he figures out how to do that, and he places the phone on the counter next to him.

“We can both hear you now, Sam,” he tells him.

Ah, good. Dean, we’ll pick up your buns and relish and whatever else you need on our next stop. We’re pulling into a motel where we’re going to stop for the night, it’s called ‘The Lake View Motel’, though I can’t see a lake,” Sam explains. “We got you some new clothes for you, Cas and made sure not to get anything you won’t like.

“Thank you, Sam.” Cas says and Dean shoots him a confused look. Cas shrugs. “I’ll explain later.”

We’re going to get an early start in the morning but should reach our destination some time tomorrow evening.

“You going to spend the night on the boat then head back? Or drive it all in one go?” Dean asks, flipping the burgers and then heading to the fridge for the cheese.

Ah, not decided yet.

I have told Sam that I’m happy to do some of the driving,” Meg says.

I know but I think we may all be too exhausted to travel for pretty much 36 hours straight. Pretty sure Kevin’s in no fit state to drive either.

“You could spring for another Motel and ward the place, pick him up then stay there for the night. It’s not like we can’t afford it now Charlie is helping to run our accounts,” Dean suggests.

Hmm, maybe. The less chances we take the better. Anyway, We’re here now so I’m going to go get us a room. We’ll call again in the morning. Night, Dean, Night, Cas.

Night, Clarence, good night, Dean,” Meg says afterwards but there’s warning in her voice when she says Dean’s name.

“Good night, Sam, Meg,” Cas tells them and Dean says the same. Cas disconnects and hands the phone back to Dean who slips it into his pocket.

“Thanks, Cas.”

“You’re making us dinner, it seemed only fair.”

“A dinner you don’t even need to eat,” Dean reminds him, though his tone is fond and his beaming smile communicates very clearly that he doesn’t mind.

Dean goes back to cooking, so Cas sits there quietly. He chuckles to himself at the memory it brings up. Dean gives him an odd and slightly confused smile for it but goes back to his cooking.

***
It shouldn’t be awkward but it is very, very awkward. Apparently it can be fine to spend a good part of the day pressed up against your best friend and kissing like your life depends on it but then end up awkwardly sat next to each other at the kitchen table not sure if you’re allowed to touch.

Dean feels like he accidentally made it to the centre of the minefield only to be stuck with no clear way forward. He definitely doesn’t want to go back. Cas is sat next to him happily eating his burger and fries without saying anything.

Dean refuses to bow down to the pressure of small talk. He’s going to wait it out. For five minutes.

“Um, so what was Sam talking about before? About only getting the things you like?”

“I have learned that it’s important to wear clothes that you like and feel comfortable in,” Cas says. Dean doesn’t ask where he picked that up; the answer will probably weird him out anyway. “So I asked him to avoid certain colours and patterns.”

Dean laughs, he can’t help it. “You told Sammy not to dress you like him.”

Cas shrugs. “Yes.” He’s serious but it just makes it all the funnier.

“I’ll head out and pic a few things up if you want?” He’d love to tell him to just borrow his clothes because they would be similar enough in size but life on the road means he doesn’t actually own that much stuff. Though he’s been able to buy a few more shirts and jeans recently because he actually has a home to store them in but he doesn’t know if Cas would accept them.

“Thank you, Dean but I was hopefully specific enough that Sam will only buy acceptable clothing." He frowns. "I hope it’s not too expensive.”

“Don’t worry about it, I said before that Charlie has been helping us out with that. We have enough money for the meantime.”

They fall back into silence again and Dean can’t think of a way to get them out of it.

“I know that it’s getting late and you probably want to sleep but did you want to continue talking?” Cas asks, once they have both finished eating.

Dean is taken aback and sits there blinking for a few seconds. “What?”

“It feels as though there are things still unsaid between us and I find the silence and the tension uncomfortable. If you like, we can continue.”

“Cas,” Dean starts, “that’s…” He sighs. This time might be all they have - Cas is right; there are things he wants to talk about whilst they’re safe within their sanctuary. “Okay, okay.”

***

Dean makes them both coffee and walks back to the den. Cas sits close to him this time and they’re pressed together from hip to knee. Dean’s leg tingles all the way down but instead of moving or pretending it doesn’t affect him he opens his hand out to Cas, in invitation, and presses himself closer.

Cas gives him a small smile before sliding their palms together.

“Does it make you uncomfortable?” Cas asks.

“Holding your hand?”

“Yes.”

Dean shakes his head. “It’s strange but not in a bad way. I’m not used to it and I’m not sure what you’re okay with and what I’m allowed to do.”

“Whatever you want,” Cas says but his eyes are weighted with what he’s not saying.

Dean chokes and coughs into his free hand, looking away from a moment. “Cas. That’s…”

“Too much?” He suggests, forehead creased together.

“No, just very honest.”

“Is this why you were tense in the kitchen?” Cas is holding his hand tighter and Dean hopes his palm stays dry.

“It’s just… Cas, I don’t know how it is for you but I’ve spent the better part of the year - and the whole time we were in purgatory - coming to terms with this but never expecting anything to happen. And after the past few months and everything that happened yesterday and today… I’m a bit worn out.”

“I understand,” Cas says with a level of gravity Dean doesn't expect.

“Cas?” He can feel his face heating up but his curiosity gets the better of him.

After staring at him for a long moment, Cas nods and speaks. “I didn’t understand what I was feeling for a very long time. All I knew was that I didn't want to burden you or cause you any pain, and then something else started happening when I was around you. I felt different when I was with you… it’s hard to describe; maybe even harder because I’m an angel. It also all happened at the worst possible time and I didn’t know if I should even mention it to you. I’m actually very glad I didn’t; it wouldn’t have gone down very well at the time, and may have made things worse.”

There’s something heartbreaking about the expression on Cas’ face, then, and Dean feels suddenly very afraid of what might have happened if that were the case. He knows himself well enough to know he probably would have been a total dick about it.

“It’s okay, Dean, I understand.”

“Do you?” The question is not unkind.

“You were brought up to believe in a very particular set of values and, on the few occasions you questioned it you were punished. You needed time to come to your own conclusions, and no one would have been able to push you if you weren’t ready.”

“Two soldiers too intent on following their fathers orders to think for themselves,” Dean says bitterly. Cas tightens his hand around Dean’s. They both know that it’s not something they’re going to be okay talking about any time soon - if at all - but it’s a worth while reminder of just how similar they are, despite the obvious differences. “I can be an ass at times.”

“So can I,” Cas agrees and somehow it makes Dean smile, the memory of their first solo case and of Cas trapping Raphael in the circle of holy fire are good memories now. Even if at the time he was half scared out of his mind and worried about Sam.

“You can tell me though, not right now if you don’t want to. It’s okay if and when you do.”

Cas gives him a small smile. “Thank you, Dean.”

***

For a while they talk about all the strange, crazy and wonderful things Castiel has seen and witnessed in his time watching the earth. It seems he hasn’t lost his fondness for bees, and he’s fascinated by most aspects of nature.
 
Dean mostly asks questions and listens and wonders why someone like Castiel would prefer spending time with him and his brother over all of the wonders he has seen.
“It’s simple really,” Cas says, and Dean realise he must either of said it out loud or accidentally let it slip from his mind as a prayer. “But it wasn’t just one thing. It seemed pointless to wipe out most of this planet for the sake of an argument. We were put here to protect and love the human race and all life on earth - not destroy it. That’s why I saved it. You and Sam convinced me I was right to think that way. You were given free will; it wasn't our place to interfere.” His eyes settle on their joined hands. “And I can remember thinking that it seemed so cruel to rescue you from hell only to submit you and your brother to a fate that would have been far worse.”

“You said that you’d given everything up for me,” Dean whispers.

“Because you were right about free will. I was angry when I found you that night, very angry and scared. Because if you had given up then what was I supposed to do? But it was a very long time ago and it doesn’t matter now.”

“Cas,” Dean tugs on his hand until he looks up at him again. Without saying another word he brings their mouths together and kisses him. He’s gentle this time, keeps the pressure light as he drops Cas’ hand and slips his around his shoulders instead.

Cas opens to him so Dean kisses a little deeper, taking his time and keeping it soft. His other hand rests on Cas’ knee and he feels Cas’ arms close around him. “I love you,” he says very quietly. “I know I didn’t say so before, and I know you know how much I do; but it feels wrong not to at least say it.”

“You don’t have to explain, Dean, I understand,” Cas says; his voice sounds a little choaked and his eyes are a deep, glassy blue.

Dean takes a breath and kisses him again.

***
“What did our little advanced placement say?” Meg asks. She’s sat on her bed happily munching her way through a large bag of chips.

“That he feels fine - which means he feels terrible - and he thinks he’s getting closer to figuring out more of the demon tablet. The last part is probably true but it also means he hasn’t slept more than four hours a night for the last few weeks.”

“If it makes you feel any better, he probably would have worked himself to death at college anyway.”

“Yeah, not helpful, Meg.”

She shrugs and carries on reading her magazine. “I’m surprised how many leviathan are still around,” she says a few minutes later.

“Yeah, it would seem they got a taste of celebrity and didn’t want to give it up,” he replies and chuckles to himself. “We’ve already killed a Paris Hilton look a like; I don’t think we should start going after the rest of them.”

“Hold on, you killed Paris Hilton?”

“Well not The Paris Hilton, A Paris Hilton. In my defence; she was trying to kill us.”

“Huh.”

“It’s not always a constant apocalypse. Sometimes it’s regular salt and burns, and decapitations. Though it disturbs me that that’s normal sometimes.”

“So, what’s your plan? Close the gates of hell and slay monsters for the rest of your life?”

“Probably.” Sam doesn’t like to think about it very much or very often. His year off seems like a vivid dream; too bright around the edges to have been real and too painful to live without.

“Sounds like Buffy wants to hand in the towel,” Meg says, eyebrows high but words kinder than they might have been.

“Being a Man of Letters doesn’t sound so bad and it would be good to get the hunter network organised again. Might even get another shot at a normal life but I don’t know. Too much hope tends to be a bad thing.”

“Hmm, I agree with you there. But hey, at least you three finally rescued me - even if it was by accident.”

Sam doesn’t know what to say to that but Meg stands and shrugs; doesn't seem like she expected one. “I’m going to take a shower, just try not to watch any porn when I’m gone, okay?”

Sam raises his eyebrows but she laughs and closes the bathroom door behind her. He looks down at the text from Kevin again.

Getting pretty close to cracking it, Sam, think I’ll have task number two soon.

Sam reads it three more times then deletes it. He should be happy - in fact part of him is elated - but it makes him worried and uncomfortable. Crowley is dead and Cas is safe (at least for now) - they even rescued Meg - but there is still so much to do... he’s waiting for the curb ball or the catch that always seems to follow a good turn of events.

He sends a text to Dean and Cas letting them know to call or text him if they need anything. He gets a polite, ‘Thank you, Sam.’ From Cas in reply and closes his phone.

The room is warded and Meg wouldn’t be able to leave even if she wanted to but he still lies awake for a very long time, until she’s back in bed and the lights are all off.

***

“Is this another of those awkward moments?” Cas asks as they stand in the corridor. “I can go to my room to rest, and you can come and get me in the morning.” He doesn’t mind, though, Dean seems reluctant to let go of his hand - and he would like to stay beside him for longer.

“What do you do all night, Cas?”

“Last night I listed to the river and tried not to think. It was peaceful for a few hours, until I couldn’t put it off any longer.” Then he adds, before things get too serious, “ The mattress was very comfortable.”

“Hm.” Dean shakes his head.”This is ridiculous.” Cas waits for Dean to continue. “I just… you’re not some woman I picked up in a bar and I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do.”

“What do you want to do, Dean?” Cas asks and gives Dean a small smile of encouragement when he looks at him.

“Is there a way to stop this being awkward?”

“Do you need me to answer that?”

“No, look I’m gonna head to the bathroom and get ready to turn in. You can stay with me tonight if you want or you can go to your own room.” Dean squeezes his hand again and lets go, walking in a near run to the end of the corridor and towards the toilets and shower room.

Cas stands in the hallway and makes his choice. It’s simple really, after all, Dean has given him permission to look a little deeper than Cas normally would.

***
Dean can’t hide his surprise when he walks into his room and sees Cas sat on his bed wearing only his boxer shorts and undershirt.

He’d hoped - really, really hoped - he’d be there but there was a part of him that was expecting him not to be. Cas must have realised this because he’d left Dean’s door open so that he would know he was there. It’s closed now; shutting them away from the rest of the bunker and the world. It’s what Dean wants but he doesn’t know what to do with it. He is still so unsure of himself that it makes him nervous.

Cas is sat on the side of the bed Dean never sleeps on. He must know, Dean thinks.

“There are extra pillows in the wardrobe,” he says, feeling like an idiot. He walks toward it, pulls them out and hands them to Cas.

Cas gives him a small smile and tucks the pillows behind him while Dean stands there in front of him.

“Dean?” Cas is looking at him with concern and something else. “Was this the wrong choice?”

“What? No, no, Cas. No.” He sighs and rubs his hands over his face. “I want you here, Cas, I’ve wanted this for a very long time but now that it’s happening... I’m… this isn’t like I pictured it, okay?” As soon as he hears himself say it, he wants to take it back.

“How did you picture it?” Cas has his head tilted slightly to the left and looks genuinely interested. Dean feels his face heat up and wishes Cas would just look inside him and find the answer for himself - he probably considers that cheating.

“I..ah…  there wasn’t much conversation or time to think about anything. We’d just sort of stumble in and, well.” Shit. This is embarrassing.

Cas though, Cas smiles. Whether it’s because he likes the idea or because he’s happy Dean had thought of it at all, he doesn’t say. Just pats the bed next to him.

Dean gets under the covers awkwardly, his whole body feels jerky and his movements are stilted. When they’re settled down, Cas turns off the light and reaches over for Dean in the dark. His hand cups Dean’s cheek as he kisses him like they’ve done it a thousand times before; practiced and easy.

Dean closes his eyes and rolls closer until Cas is pressed up against him and Dean has his arm around his waist. He knows he could easily turn this into something more, it wouldn’t take much - just a nudge of his thigh against Cas’ crotch or pulling him firm and fast against him. He doesn’t because somehow it wouldn’t seem right; he doesn't want sex with Cas to be just a rush of lust and want, he wants it to mean something else, something more and he’s not ready for that yet. Sex is easy for him and he’s sure it can’t be that different just because Cas is in a male body, but loving someone and actively acting on it is going to take some time to adjust to.

Cas isn’t just a tool for release and Dean refuses to make him into that. He has screwed so much up in his life so far and he doesn’t want this to be added to the list. After all, this may be their last chance to get things right and the next time either of them leaves the bunker it could be their last.

Cas moves his head back to let Dean breathe and starts to run his fingers through his hair.

“I’ll close my eyes and stay very still if it helps?” he offers and Dean can imagine the look on his face as he says it; teasing but genuine.

“Okay,” Dean says and gets himself comfortably wrapped around him. “Night, Cas,” he breathes against his shoulder.

“Good night, Dean,” Cas whispers back.


***

Chapter Text


When Dean sleeps Castiel can see his soul come to life as he dreams. This close Cas can banish the dark thoughts and memories that threaten to interrupt his sleep before they take hold.
 
To Castiel, sleeping with Dean wrapped around him is an unrivalled privilege. He strokes his fingers through Dean’s hair and concentrates on how it feels. Their legs are tangled together and Dean’s hand is fisted in the back of his t shirt, which Cas finds strange, he’s always thought that humans relaxed in their sleep.

Purgatory.

Once he remembers he can’t push it out.

“Dean!” Cas darted towards him and lowered him to the ground. He was still breathing at least but Cas couldn’t wake him up.

“He’s exhausted, hasn’t slept in days,” Benny told him, looking around to make sure they were alone. Cas could have told him they were but he didn’t bother.

“I didn’t realise.”

“Why would you? As far as I can see, you’re looking to escape the first chance you get. You really think he’s gonna let you do that if he can stop you?” Benny shook his head. “So tell me, Angel, why’d you really run? Seems to me you got scared and ran off on your boyfriend here.”

Cas looked at Dean and could feel the worry and anguish radiating from him. He didn’t deserve this, no fair universe would continue to punish one man for an angels mistakes.

“You gonna answer me?” Benny asked again.

“I was hoping he might think I’d been killed so he would just find the way out. Purgatory always has an escape hatch for those who don’t belong here and I knew he would find it eventually.” He sighed and lowered himself to the ground, brining Dean’s head into his lap. “I was hoping that the Leviathan would follow me long enough so that he could get out and go home.”

“And instead he tore this place apart looking for you. Is it true he prayed to you? And you still stayed away?” Benny sounded disgusted and angry, Cas didn't even flinch.

“I have caused Dean more pain than anyone should have to suffer, I didn’t want to cause him anymore.”

“Well congratulations, brother, you’ve done one hell of a number on him.”

Cas closed his eyes for a moment then looked at Dean again. He could feel his soul reaching out for his grace and for the first time in a very long time he relented and reached back. Dean calmed instantly and curled his body towards Castiel in his sleep.

“Why do you think I wanted him to leave? He deserves better.”

“I’m not arguing with you about that but you should let Dean choose for himself. It’s been a long time since I’ve met someone so dedicated to another. You must know how much he loves you?”

Cas shook his head. “It’s not that simple,”

“Nothing is every simple, Cas.” For a moment Benny’s eyes met his and understanding passed between them. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. I can tell how you feel about him, it was written all over your face the moment you saw him at the river.”

Cas didn’t say anything else and Benny didn’t push him, just sat close by and kept a look out.

***
“Cas?” Dean asks quietly, his voice gravelly with sleep, though he sounded rested.

Cas opens his eyes and smiles softly at him. “Good morning, Dean.”

Dean sighs and rests his head back against Castiel’s chest. He doesn’t pull away, doesn’t make any joke or comment about Cas watching him all night (Cas thought he might). Instead he pulls himself closer and tightens his hand in the back of Cas’s shirt.

He resumes moving his fingers through Dean’s hair and feels the hum of contentment he lets out against his chest. Cas follows by pressing kisses against his scalp and shifting the arm he tucked under Dean so that he can hold him closer.

“Did you use your angel mojo to stop your arm from going to sleep?”

“Dean, I don’t sleep.”

Dean just chuckles against him and even when Cas realises what he meant, he doesn’t say anything about it.

“Did you listen to the river again?” Dean asks, though Cas can tell that it’s not what he really wants to ask.

“No.” He’s unsure whether or not he should tell him what he’s been thinking of because all he wants to do is enjoy this while he can.

“Hm, I half expected to see you when I was asleep,” Dean says after a moment. “I haven’t slept like that in a very long time, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever slept that well.”

“I only did enough to keep the nightmares away, I didn’t look and I didn’t think it was right to interrupt your dreams.” Though Cas wonders what it is he dreams about, if it is still the fishing lake or if that has now taken on other, darker, meanings and memories.

“I wouldn’t have minded.” Dean’s admission is quiet but Castiel hears the words ring like a bell and he resonates with them. “It would have been better than you just lying here, thinking about whatever it was that you won’t tell me about.”

“Dean.” He loosens his arms and Dean looks up at him then shifts up on the bed until they’re face to face. “I was thinking about purgatory,” Cas admits.

“Which part?” Dean asks.

“You won’t remember but Benny tried to talk some sense into me, explained why you weren’t sleeping after you found me.”

“Cas, you don’t need to beat yourself up about it,” Dean tells him, looking a little pained.

“I wasn’t, not really. It’s just the only other time I’ve held you when you slept and been able to keep the darkness away.”

“Oh, oh. I thought for a while that I’d imagined that too,” Dean says after a moment and Cas shakes his head against the pillow. Even after yesterday this is still a hard subject to discuss so Cas changes it.

“Where is Benny? Did he make it out?” he asks. Dean hasn’t mentioned him at all, though he suspects it’s more to do with Sam’s disapproval.

“Yeah, he made it out.” He then tells Cas about Andrea and what had happen with her, then the whole mess with Martin the last time he’d seen him. “We agreed to part ways again afterwards and I haven’t seen him since.”

“But you miss him don’t you. He’s your friend, Dean, have you at least called him?” Cas asks, after everything Benny has been through it feels cruel to have left him on his own.

Dean closes his eyes and turns his face into the pillow for a moment before he answers.

“It’s not that I don’t want to, I do but Sam… Sam isn’t happy about it and I don't want to go behind his back anymore.”

“He’s on a road trip with a reformed demon and together they’re rescuing a prophet.” Cas really, really doesn’t think calling Benny should be a problem.

“I know, I thought about it yesterday at breakfast but we had more important things to talk about.”

Cas nods, that is true after all. “Come here,” he says a moment later and he gathers Dean back into his arms again. “I could call him if you want,” he offers, only partly joking and Dean lets out a puff of laughter against his shoulder.

“Yeah, okay, Cas, but later?”

They don’t say anything else for a while, just hold each other and share kisses and touches. Cas feels Dean’s soul reach for his grace and he doesn’t hold back, holds the connection open between them for as long as Dean wants it. Relief floods through him and he wonders, really wonders what would have happened if he’d told Dean he loved him all those years before. If it would have ended in rejection like he’s thought all along or if it could have been like this sooner.

It doesn’t matter and he doesn’t dwell on the possible missed opportunity but it doesn’t stop him from thinking about it, for just a little while.

***

So, it turns out Meg knows how to drive, I mean really drive. We made it here about three hours earlier than I was expecting.” Sam sounds both amused and shocked on the phone and the mental picture makes Dean smile.

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t bring Baby,” Dean replies. “How is Kevin?”

He’s ah, fine, I think. We brought lunch with us and I think it’s the only thing he’s eaten all month. The only thing in the fridge is tofu dogs.

Dean wrinkles his face in disgust. “Don’t bring them back with you.”

Sam laughs. “Don’t worry, Dean, we’ve got everything aside from the meat and fresh veg that you asked us for, we’re going to grab it from town on the way back.

“Good, and don’t forget the pie.”

There’s already pie in the car, Dean, the long life kind but we’ll get fresh on the way back, okay?” He pauses and Dean knows what he’s going to say next before he so much as opens his mouth. “Is Cas with you?

“No, he’s in the den choosing a movie, why?”

How are things?” In his mind, Dean see’s Sam wiggle his eyebrows.

“They’re fine, Sammy, good actually.”

So, did you talk?

“Yes, we used real worlds and everything.”

Dean,” Sam warns.

“We did, okay? We actually talked about things and I think we’re okay.” The words burn though and feel like taboo but Dean swallows it down and focuses on how right it also feels.

Just okay, Dean?

“No, not just okay. We’re um, it’s good, Sam. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff still to talk about but we’ve sorted out the important stuff.” I told him I’m in love with him and he told me the same. Though telling Cas and telling Sam have their own levels of difficulty.

Good,” Sam says and it settles something in Dean, some needless worry that he’s had just slips away. “Well I should see how Kevin and Meg are getting a long, can you believe he’s actually happy to see her? I mean, as happy as his sleep deprived and caffeinated brain can be.

“We need to fix that kid’s eating habits.”

Yeah.

“You okay, Sammy?” Dean hopes Sam can tell me means it, that it’s not a casual question to be brushed off.

Sam waits a moment before replying. “I’m tired and feeling pretty worn out but that might be because of all the driving and lack of sleep.”

“Okay,” Dean says, “just be careful and call if you need anything, anything at all.”

I will, Dean, you too.”

The call ends and Dean shoves his phone back into his pocket the heads towards the den where Cas is waiting for him with a dvd in his hand and a hopeful expression on his face. Dean knows every dvd they own - whatever it is he wants to watch will be fine.

***
“So, he’s actually dead?”

“Killed him with my own two hands, had some help from my side kicks though. Can’t have Buffy without the Scooby gang.” Kevin doesn’t look like he gets the reference and so Meg rolls her eyes in annoyance. “What do you kids watch these days? Or were you banned from watching TV because it interfered with becoming president?”

Sam laughs then and both Meg and Kevin shoot him confused and embarrassed looks respectively.

“Oh,” Meg says with a laugh, “I was right?”

“Sorry, Kevin,” Sam tells him. “Dean told me.”

Kevin sighs. “Of course he did.” He looks away but not fast enough to hide the hurt and regret on his face. Sam lets him have a few moments and thankfully, Meg keeps her mouth shut.

“Are you ready to go? If we get a start now then we’ll be back at the bunker sometime around mid day tomorrow, though we should probably stop somewhere over night.”

Kevin looks pensive. He’d packed everything away before they arrived and looked like he’d just stepped out of the shower when they pulled up to the boat. All they have to do now is get in the car and drive.

“Yeah… I just…. I can’t believe that Crowley’s actually dead. I should call my mom and let her know she’s safe - or at least safer than she was anyway.”

Sam nods, part of him wants to ask if Kevin wants his mom to come to the bunker with them but he hasn’t given any indication that he does. He loves her but sees her as a distraction and would, it seems, rather have her safe and out of the way than in the bunker with him.

“I’ve asked Garth to swing by and check on her and he said he’ll be passing that way within the next week.”

“Good. Any luck finding the other half of the tablet?”

Sam shakes his head, “No but seeing as Crowley’s dead it’s likely hidden wherever he left it. Probably best just to get you safe then head out and find it afterwards, unless you’re prophet senses are telling you where it is?”

Kevin grimaces. “No, it’s not like it was with the Leviathan tablet. I mean, I can feel a pull but because half of it is here it interferes. The leviathan tablet was the first one to be opened, which was why I think my reaction was so strong but I didn’t feel a direct pull towards the Demon tablet when it was uncovered.”

“Well, we’ll worry about that later,” Sam tells them, standing and getting himself ready to go. “Meg? Do you wanna drive?” Kevin heads off to the bathroom and presumably to call his mom.

She shakes her head. “You can drive for now, I’ve got some reading to do.” She waves a trashy magazine in front of him. “But I’ll stay in the front with you, Mr President can see my true face and it makes me uncomfortable when he freaks out.” She tucks it back into her jacket and stretches her arms.

“You know he is actually happy to see you, sort of.” Sam reminds her.

“Yeah… still not sure how I feel about that.”

***

“I meant it when I said I’d call him instead,” Cas says, putting a steaming mug of peppermint tea in front of him in the library.

Dean has been sat there with his phone in his hand for at least the last ten minutes. It should be easy to make the call but he’s afraid of what he might find out when he does.

“What if he’s fallen off the wagon?” Dean asks and Cas squints at him but seems to think about it for a moment.

“I think I understand that expression and if he has then we should help him get back on it,” Cas says sincerely. “We’ve done the same, after all.”

Dean doesn’t miss the weight Cas puts on the ‘we’ve’ . He means ‘I’ but he’s trying to push away some of the blame like Dean has asked him to. He wants to kiss him but he smiles instead and sips his tea.

“I know. I just keep thinking that I’ll contact him once this is all over and settled but that won’t ever actually happen.”

“Dean -“

“No, let me explain what I mean by that. Even if we close the gates of hell and stop heaven’s interference, there will still be countless monsters that need killing. There is always, always something else. Another fight, another hunt.”

“So what you’re saying is that it’s always going to be the best time to contact Benny?”

“Yeah. We keep waiting and waiting for all this to be over but that hasn’t happened since I was four years old. Different battle, same war.” He sighs, “besides, telling Benny to stay clean is like telling an alcoholic to stay dry but then asking them to live in a liquor store with no AA meetings or support.” There it is, the guilt he’s been pushing down. He grips his phone tighter and closes his eyes against it.

“Dean.” Cas’ voice is kind and his hand is firm on his arm. “Call Benny. Whatever it is, we’ll work it out.”

Dean nods and Cas lets go of his arm so that he can bring up Benny’s number, he hesitates over the call button for a second but presses it regardless. His phone rings and Dean can feel his heart beating so fast and loud that he wonders if he’ll be able to speak if Benny picks up.

Hello?

Dean deflates at the sound of his voice.

Dean, is that you, brother?

“Yeah, yeah, Benny. It’s me,” Dean tells him.

I didn't think I’d be hearin’ from you again.

“I know.” Dean sighs and grips the phone tight to his ear.

Why call me now, Dean. I mean, it’s good to hear your voice but I’m guessin’ you didn’t call just to catch up.

“Actually, I did.”

Oh?” Benny’s surprise is clear and Dean doesn’t blame him for it or for the assumption that Dean would only call him for help with something. He hates that he seems to use people and throw them away for the greater good…. he doesn’t want to keep doing it. The world is cruel enough and he doesn’t need to add to it.

“Yeah. Cas came back.”

How?

“Angels on a revenge mission. They - ah - they messed him up pretty bad but he’s okay now.”

That’s good to hear, tell him I’m glad to hear that.

Cas smiles and Dean says, “I will, Benny, I will.” Dean considers handing the phone to Cas, he knows they’re untraceable where they are but just in case the angels are some how listening; he doesn’t give away exactly where Cas is. Probably for the best that Cas didn’t call Benny.

Did you really call just to check in? Won’t Sam mind?

“Right now Sam isn’t in a position to judge and if he does… well then I’ll deal with it. How are you, Benny? Really? If you need help, man, just say the word.”

Benny is silent for a long time on the other end of the phone and Dean feels each moment stretch.

Honesty? Not so good, brother. There have been a few times when I’ve been close to giving up or giving in. It’s hard to go on without a purpose and there are times when I miss the simplicity of Purgatory.

“Yeah, I know the feeling.” He knows that Cas does too. Purgatory was pure, no grey areas - kill or be killed. Even after all these months it’s still hard to settle back into the world, even with Cas and Sam at his side. “Do you need me to get anything to you? I have a friend who can probably help with supplies or shelter.”

Dean, you sound like you think you’re responsible for me. We had a deal and you haven’t broken it.

“I know but you’re my friend and I’ve lost too many, I don’t want to lose anymore if I can help it.”

This because of Cas? You don’t have to tell me, I know you don’t like talking about it but I’m guessing something big musta happened for you to call me out of the blue.

“Yeah, something.” Benny doesn’t press and Dean doesn’t elaborate.

Well, it’s good to hear from you, Dean, really. I take it this means I can call if I need to? If anything happens?

“Yes. You have all of my current numbers. If you need anything, anything at all then just call. I’m here for you man, I never should have stopped.”

Same here, brother. You can tell that angel of yours the same thing. I’ll talk to you soon, Dean. Take care, okay?”

“Yeah, you too. Bye, Benny.” The call ends and Dean slouches back against his chair and drops his phone onto the table.

Cas doesn’t say anything, he just takes Dean’s hand and holds it until his tea mug is empty and silence echoes through the bunker.

***
“You told that Angel of yours why you came after him?” Benny asked one evening. Cas was scouting out a head - but not too far - out of earshot.

“No.”

“Oh come on, Dean. It’s not like you’ll be sent to hell for tellin’ him. You know that’s not how it works.”

“Not going to happen, Benny. At least not while we’re stuck here.”

“I’m just sayin’, ‘I love you’ might have been more convincing than ‘I need you’. Less room for confusion or misunderstanding.”

Dean watched Cas as he walked ahead, constantly vigilant of anything that might be coming to kill them. Dean knew Cas didn’t want to stay with them; didn't think he deserve too but at least for now he hadn’t run off. Maybe he’d realised Dean was absolutely serious about not leaving without him.

“I don’t want him to stay with me out of pity.”

“Oh. Right, sorry, I must be imagining the way he looks at you or talks to you or -“

“Enough, Benny,” Dean warned.

“Fine but when we get out, you should tell him how you feel. It might do you both some good.” Then Benny walked off to stand between Dean and Cas as they made their way down a narrow ridge. Dean ignored the pointed looks Benny gave him for the rest of the day and if Cas noticed then he was wise enough not to say anything.

***

 photo DCBB Break Through picspam part 2.png

Chapter Text

“Are you sure this is safe?” Kevin asks as he steps inside. Sam is still placing hex bags around the room. There’s salt lining all the windows and angel and demon warding too.

“No one can get in and I can’t get out,” Meg explains, “perfect.” She then flops down onto the bed and immediately takes out her phone and a magazine.

“Meg’s right. We have enough food and the bathroom is actually clean, we’ll be fine till morning.”

“Then we hit the road right? Get to this secret hiding place you’ve found?”

“Yeah, that’s the plan.” Sam puts down the spray can. He’s been careful to make as little mess as possible and most of it will wipe off the glass picture frames in the morning. He’d leave the hex bags too but he doesn’t want to risk anyone following them back or knowing they were here.

He picks up the bag of take out from the diner they passed a mile or so back. “Here.”

Kevin looks like he wants to protest but he accepts it and reaches inside for a hand full of fries.

“Cas says things at the bunker are fine. I said we’ll be back around mid afternoon tomorrow, maybe earlier,” Meg tells him, though she doesn’t look up from her magazine.

“Cool, I’ll call Dean after I’ve had a shower. Kevin? You good in here until I’m done?”

Kevin looks up from a mouthful of food, glances to Meg (who rolls her eyes) then back to Sam.

“I’ll be fine. Thanks, Sam.”

“Okay then.”

***
Dean doesn’t exactly need a shower but he takes one anyway, lets the cool water wash him clean and maybe, maybe, clean off the last remnants of purgatory from his skin.

It’s not strange or unusual that so much time spent with Cas has brought his memories of that place to the surface, it’s something they have in common. Benny too.

That Benny is still alive and at least doing okay is both a comfort and a relief. Dean hopes he knows that his promise to be there for him was real and genuine. He isn’t a monster, not to Dean or -it turns out - Cas. He knows this kind of thinking is something he would have condemned himself for even a year and a half ago. The regret he feels for killing Amy Pond still burns sometimes but he accepts it as a lesson he should have learnt earlier.

Cas is sat on the bed in his own room when Dean comes back down the corridor. His door is open and he smiles up a Dean over the top of the book he’s reading when he approaches.

“Meg says that they’ll be back about mid afternoon tomorrow, I have the name and location of the motel they’re staying in. She said that Kevin is eating but he seems very twitchy.”

“Yeah, that’s probably all the caffeine he’s been drinking. Give him a few days and that should stop.” Dean walks into the room and sits down on Cas’ bed. He bounces for a moment to test the springs and laughs at the look Cas gives him. “You’re right, this mattress isn’t bad, I do prefer mine though.”

“Hmm. How did you get that into the bunker anyway?” Cas asks, putting his book down on the beside table and moving closer to Dean on the bed.

“Hired a van and went shopping with Sammy. We needed a lot of stuff when we moved in so we did it all in one trip. Sam complained the entire way there and back but it was worth it.”

“Thank you,” Cas says suddenly, looking at him. “For letting me stay here.”

“You’re welcome. This is your home too, for as long as you want it.” Dean is still taken aback by how much he means that and how good it is to be able to say it out loud.

“When the others get back, things are going to change again aren’t they.” Cas doesn’t sound upset by the prospect but his eyes are a little wistful.

“Yeah, Kevin will translate the demon tablet - though we’ll need the other half - and we have to work out what Naomi wants from you whilst keeping you safe.”

“He should translate the Angel table too, it might be useful.” Cas' voice is quiet and low.

“Yeah, if he wants to.” Dean tries to sound as casual as he can. It might be the answer to everything but at the same time, it’s likely as dangerous to Cas as the Leviathan and Demon tablets are to their respective species.

“It’s fine, Dean. It wasn’t meant for Angel’s.”

“Hey,” Dean takes Cas’ hand and holds it in his lap. “We’re not going to use anything that thing says if it means hurting you, okay?” Cas doesn’t look convinced. “I mean it.”

Cas nods. “Okay.”

“I’m going to finish getting ready to turn in, are you, um,” Dean says, inwardly cringing at his return to awkwardness but Cas smiles and it’s so warm and genuine that Dean relaxes.

“Yes.”

“Good.” Dean stands and takes Cas with him, holding tightly onto his hand for the short walk to his room.

***
The calm that’s surrounds and blanketed them will lift soon. Once the door to the bunker opens and Meg, Sam and Kevin come inside the sanctuary they’ve been afforded will be over.

Castiel knows that Dean won’t suddenly push him away and pretend that nothing has happened between them but they’ll have to adjust again. And fight. There’s a battle coming - even though they are only days away from the last one - and they’ll all be caught in the middle of it.

Dean seems to be the only one not directly in the line of fire but Cas knows that it’s not really true. If anything happens to Sam, Dean will take it as a direct hit. The same if anything happens to him. There is still so, so much pressure and pain surrounding him and Cas hopes (selfishly) that their time together has given him enough peace to carry on.

They’re lying in Dean’s bed again; face to face on the covers and wrapped together beneath the sheets. Dean’s relaxed but he isn’t asleep and a thought Cas refuses to pry upon seems to be keeping him awake.

“Cas?” Dean says after a minute or so.

“Yes, Dean?”

“Could you, if I wanted you to, soundproof this room for me? So no one else could hear us?”

“Yes. Easily. So could you, there are at least a dozen books in the bunker library that detail basic silencing sigils as well as more advanced and specific designs.” Cas doesn’t ask why, this is one of those times when he understands Dean’s meaning exactly.

“I didn’t think of that,” Dean admits.

Cas tightens his arms around him and kisses his nose. Dean stares at him in slight surprise afterwards, eyebrows drawn together then raised. It makes Cas smile, to which Dean only responds with confusion.

“We have time, Dean.” Cas keeps his voice gentle as he speaks.

“What if we don’t? What if this is it?” Dean sounds pained. His eyes are closed now and his face is pushed into the pillow.

“Are you giving me the last night on earth speech again?” Though Cas says it as a chance to lighten the mood, he is starting to wonder if this it was it’s all about.

“Cas.” It’s a warning.

“Dean,” Cas counters. “I understand that physical intimacy is something most humans consider to be vital to a relationship but I don’t need to have sex with you to feel complete.”

“Cas, way to break it -“

“Dean. You know that’s not what I mean. Don’t brush this off. Don’t brush me off like that or distort my meaning.” Cas is surprised at his own outburst but he doesn’t take it back. Dean moves out of his arms and sits up in bed, Cas copies. “You know that I want to, I thought I had made it clear but I don't want to rush something with you just so that we can say we had sex before one - or both of us - dies. Again. I want it to be right for both of us, not just something physical that we had to get out of the way.”

“You don’t mince your words do you,” Dean tells him, letting out a long breath and resting backwards against the headboard.

“I’m trying not to,” he says gently. Dean turns his head to look at him in the low light of the room and Cas holds out his hand to him. Dean slides their fingers together gently and squeezes.

“This is none of my business and you don’t have to tell me but have you ever, you know, slept with anyone? It doesn’t matter and I am not one to talk but I guess I’m curious.”

“No. I’ve still not had occasion.”

“Even when you were married?” Dean sounds more disbelieving than jealous and Cas smiles.

“Daphne and Emanuel had a very unique marriage that was more in name only so that we could live together and she could look after me. I cared about her, the affection you saw was real but it wasn’t love.”

“What? Like separate bedrooms?” Dean looks a little bit scandalised.

Cas laughs. “Yes. I will admit that I thought it was strange at the time but she insisted.”

“She sounds like a pretty decent person.”

“She is,” Cas says. Dean looks to him for an explanation. “I’ve visited her a couple of times to let her know that I’m okay and that she can go back to her life. She said she wasn’t surprised that I didn't come home, she had a feeling that I would stay with you. I didn’t contradict her.”

“Does she know you’re an Angel?”

“No. She believes that I am continuing my mission on earth at your side, which is close enough to the truth. I did tell her that I was able to heal your brother. Given that that was why I had to leave and it was the first thing she asked.”

“Good.”

Cas lets the silence settle between them before he speaks again. “I’m not planning on leaving you, Dean.”

“I know that, Cas, I do. And I get it, I understand what you mean. It’s just… and it’s not even because you’re,” Dean says, gesturing with his free hand at Cas.

“Male?” Which, he supposes, for all intent and purposes he currently is. He’s also grown very fond of this particular vessel and he has spent far more time in it without Jimmy than he ever did with.

“Yeah. I know you can change vessels but I wouldn’t want you to…. I’m just not ready. Yesterday I was fine with it, I’d thought it through and everything but now… I don’t know what I want.”

Cas nods and looks at him. “When everyone gets back are you planning on leaving straight away?” he asks.

“No. I think we need to regroup and get a plan together. Not just us - Charlie too.”

“So then there is time.”

Dean lets out a long sigh. He looks relieved when his eyes settle back on Cas. “Yeah, I guess there is.”

Cas slips back underneath the covers first and Dean joins him, settling until he’s comfortably wrapped around Cas, head nestled against his shoulder.

I love you.’ Cas catches Dean’s prayer.

“I love you too, Dean,” Cas whispers back.

***

Morning comes and Cas kisses Dean awake, feels the arms around him tighten and the light in his soul stir. Their movements are languid and soft, even Dean’s hand in his hair is careful and gentle. Cas sighs against Dean’s mouth when he moves to breathe and Dean chuckles lightly.

“Good morning to you too, Cas.”

“Good morning, Dean.” The words are a joy to say, this whole situation is a wondrous revelation he didn’t think he’d ever live to see.

“Breakfast?” Dean asks after a moment and Cas smiles.

“Sounds good.”

***
“Shut up, Sam,” Meg warns as she gets back in the car and shoves the DVD into her bag. Sam slides into his side and locks his door, passing his shopping bags to Kevin in the back.

“I didn’t say anything.” He holds his hands up in mock surrender but his eyes are sparkling with repressed laughter.

“We stopped for a DVD?” Kevin asks, incredulous.

“Not just for a DVD. We needed milk and a few other things too,” Meg reminds him.

“Then why do I feel like I’m missing something?”

“I’m planning a girls night with my BFF and I needed to choose a film, okay?”

“Girls night?” Kevin doesn’t look impressed. Sam wisely chooses not to comment.

“With who?”

“Cas, if you must know.”

“But -”

“It’s a saying, prophet boy.” Now is not the time to get into the whole angels-don’t-really-have-genders argument. Unless they fall and get reborn but from what Cas has told Meg about Anna; she was the exception rather than the rule. There are those that have preferences don’t we all but Kevin is missing the point.

He should also really heed the warning Sam is shooting him with his eyes but he still looks confused. Meg just locks her door and turns to Sam.

“Can we go now? Please?”

“Yeah, I told Dean we’d be back in three hours.”

Meg nods and takes her phone out of her pocket to text Cas and asks him how he feels about a movie a some point soon.

'Sounds good,' Cas replies twenty minutes later.

***

Dean’s pensive. The kind that Cas doesn’t know how to soothe. He’s a live wire like this and Cas gets the feeling that nothing he could say or do will change anything.

He also doesn’t feel like just sitting there in silence and ignoring it.

“Do you think Kevin will want to bring his mother here as well?” he asks. Ignoring Dean’s mood.

“Ah…” Dean looks up at him and Cas is careful to school his expression. “No, no I don’t think so. She’s not in any danger where she is and I get the feeling he needs the space.” He shrugs, “and as much respect as I have for Mrs Tran, I don’t want her around all the time.”

“I understand.”

Dean gets a text a few minutes later and they head to the parking garage to let them back inside. Dean takes Cas’ hand along the way and doesn’t let go until Sam steps out the car and Dean pulls him into a hug.

Meg walks towards Cas and smiles, “Good to see you, Clarence. Miss me?”

Cas nods and hugs her, she seems a little surprised by the gesture but hugs him in return. Sam greets Cas next and whispers “It’s good to see you.” In Cas' ear before letting go.

“It’s good to see you too, Sam.”

Kevin steps out of the car and looks between the group, he gives Cas a shy wave but stays back and out of the way.

“Right,” Dean says. “We should get everything out of the car and into the kitchen. Kevin? We can give you the tour once we’re done.”

“Right, yeah. Okay.”

“Come on prophet boy, if they let me stay here then you’ve got nothing to worry about,” Meg tells him, though not unkindly.

Dean walks over to Kevin and places his hands on his shoulders. “You’re part of the team, if you want to be and if you want out after this, you know we’ll help you. Okay? you’ll be safe here, that I can promise you”

Cas looks to Sam and sees the surprise on his face, Dean is so rarely this sincere or this open that it’s strange to see it. Cas gives Sam a small smile and he returns it, turning to watch as Kevin nods and thanks Dean. He grabs his other bag from the car and follows Sam inside the bunker, Meg grabs her things then trails along after them.

Dean pulls the rest of the bags out of the boot of the car and Cas takes half from him when he hands them over. They both know full well that Cas can carry them all without a thought but he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be right for him to do so and he has no intention of offending Dean when this thing between them is so new.

“I’ll get Sammy to give you your new clothes later,” Dean says as they walk down the hallway.

Cas nods. “It’s fine, I’m not in a hurry.”

“I know,” Dean replies and somehow, it makes Cas smile wide and open.

***

Cas and Meg are in the den with Kevin so Dean takes the chance to talk to Sam in the kitchen.

“Kevin seems okay,” he says, pouring himself a cup of coffee fresh from the pot.

“Yeah, so far so good. I think the fact that he’s actually been eating real food and slept for more than four hours has helped him. He was killing himself in there.”

Dean sighs. “Yeah, I know.” The guilt is there - it’s always there - but he feels better about things now he knows Kevin is at least safe.

“So, Dean, I’m not going to pry but are things between you and Cas okay now? Did you sort things out?” Sam’s voice is tentative as if he knows how likely it is that Dean will bolt out of the door.

“Yeah,” he forces the word out but the rest come easier, “we’re good, really good for the first time in a long time and we’re on the same page.”

Sam’s smile is wide and ridiculous but he looks really and genuinely happy. Dean pushes back his embarrassment and offers a small smile of his own.

“There is something else I have to tell you though.”

“Oh?” Sam looks both concerned and worried.

“Yeah…. I called Benny.” Which was much easier to say, even if Sam’s reaction wasn’t as happy. “And I know you don’t like him and I understand - I do - how much I’ve screwed things up in the past but he’s my friend and he saved my life. I can’t abandon him now. He’s still on the wagon, Sam, but he needs my help. Even if it’s just over the phone.”

Sam is still and silent for a long moment but Dean gives him the time to think. This is a grey area for both of them though he hopes that having Meg in the bunker with them will help.

“Okay,” Sam says at last. “Okay. No more secrets right? I’m guessing that’s what this is about. You and Cas came clean with each other so you want to do the same with me?”

Dean nods. “Yes.” He looks at Sam and sees that although he appears pensive, he does look genuine. “You told me that you were doing these trails because you wanted to prove to me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, well you and Cas are part of that…. for me.” He takes a deep breath, words are starting to become harder to say again. “But so are Benny and Charlie.”

Sam nods. “Okay, okay.” He smiles and Dean relaxes.

“That also means if there is anything, anything at all that I can do to help you, please let me know and I’ll do it. Not just with the trials.”

Sam meets his brothers eyes and gives him a small nod and it’s enough, enough to know that they’re okay.

“Do you want to join the others?” Sam asks.

“You mean do you get to watch me and Cas cuddle on the sofa?” Dean counters.

Sam laughs. “No, I actually meant; do you want to watch a movie with the others?”

“We can, in a bit.”

Sam smiles in understanding and settles back in his chair, they’ll join the others later.

***
“Thank you for the clothes,” Cas says, folding the shirts and trousers and putting them away in his chest of drawers.

“No problem, didn’t take too long and all I had to do was make sure not to dress you like Sam.”

Cas smiles. “It’s just that some of his shirts are awful.”

Meg chuckles. “So it wasn’t just that you want to dress like Dean then?”

Cas furrows his brows and closes the drawer. “No.” He looks like he wants to say something else - ask how she is or something along those lines and she realises that she can’t do that right now. She knows he means well and that his care and consideration is genuine but she would really rather have a conversation with a large bottle of whisky than talk about her feelings with Cas.

“I brought you a care package,” she says before he can say anything else. “I don’t know what supplies you guys have or what you even really need. For all I know you can use your super powers to make things easier in that department but just incase you want to do it all the human way, here.” She hands over a brown paper bag and Cas looks at her in confusion before opening it.

“Oh…oh,” he says at last and Meg chuckles when she sees his cheeks burn. He never used to be so alive within his vessel but over the years it’s become his and he’s settled into it. She wonders if he notices, or if Dean does. He sits down and takes each item out of the bag. “Thank you.”

“No problem, figured it would be less embarrassing coming from me than Sam.”

Cas looks at her, eyes wide and with surprise. “Does he know about this?”

Meg chuckles despite herself. “No, though he did ask if this was the kind of thing you’d need and if he should buy some supplies. I told him that you could just use your mojo.”

“But you still bought all of this just in case…. Meg… thank you.”

It hurt and her throat suddenly felt like it was burning but she nodded and accepted it. It wasn’t his fault and as angry as she was deep down inside, she was trying to let it go. It wasn’t Cas’ fault and it wasn't hers and life was far, far too short (even for them) to hold a grudge against someone who clearly cared so much about her.

Sometimes she hated how nice she’d gotten over the past few years. Sometimes it was the only thing that she could stand about herself.

“I’m going to go try and get some sleep. I think Sam wants to get the scooby gang together in the library to figure out how to kill this thing. All we need is a super nerd and a vampire.”

Cas looked at her strangely. “Is this a reference to something that I should understand? or are you talking about Charlie and Benny?”

Meg laughs then, loud and disbelieving and Cas just looks at her, smiling fondly, his expression kind and open. She will kill Dean if he messes this up.

***

Cas is in Dean’s room again when he gets back from his shower, sat in bed, book in hand and wearing his new pyjamas. They’re nothing fancy, just a blue top and he guesses bottoms too but he looks comfortable, settled and relaxed. There is always something else about him that stops him from looking human but Dean has come to be grateful for that. He has seen Cas human - both in the past and the future that never came to fruition and it’s been terrifying each and every time.

“Good book?” Dean asks, once he’s closed the door.

Cas looks up and smiles. “Yes, though I don’t know that it’s ever been translated into english, or if you would enjoy it.”

“I read,” Dean reminds him. Though he loathes telling anyone else… aside from Charlie.

“I know,” Cas reassures him. “I just don’t think you’d enjoy this one. It’s a translation of a book last seen in the Royal Library of Alexandria.”

“The one in Egypt?”

“Yes.”

“Well, if it’s going to end up anywhere it would be here, I guess.”

Cas smiles. “That is probably true.” He closes the book and settles down as Dean does the same.

“I’m exhausted,” Dean admits and lies down on his pillows, settling in for the night and turning the light off. He knows well enough by now that Cas could see in the dark if he wants to keep reading.

He doesn't though because moments later he’s sliding down next to Dean and tentatively reaching his arms out for him. Dean does the same and they settle together again.

“I’ll call Charlie tomorrow, might as well get the whole gang together. Might call Benny again in a few days too.”

Cas chuckles.

“What?”

“Meg says I should watch a show called Buffy the Vampire slayer.”

Dean laughs at that. “Yeah, she does seem to like that show. I’ll ask Charlie to bring it or I’ll order it to the post box we have in town.”

“Okay.”

Dean kisses him before settling down against his shoulder and lets himself be lulled by Cas' presence as he falls off into sleep.

***

Chapter Text

Kevin has been in the bunker for two weeks and it’s been… weird. Things are different, everyone seems calm and more relaxed than he’s ever known them. He knows that most of it will be because they are safe where they are. Nothing can get to them here, no one can breech the safety or security of the Bunker… he just can’t help but think that there’s more to it.

For example, Dean and Cas seem near inseparable and although Kevin hasn’t asked what’s changed … he hasn’t needed to either. Dean seems so much more relaxed now, like he doesn’t have to hide behind his bravado because he can let himself be himself at last.

They all know that their peace is fragile though and no one more than him, there is no one else who can read the tablet and get them from the eye to the other side of the storm.

“What’s up?” Meg asks as she flops down beside him at the table.

“Ah, nothing much. Almost there actually, I just want to make sure before I call the others.” Her face still scares him sometimes if he catches it out of the corner of his eye but it’s a knee jerk reaction. She doesn’t feel evil and he doesn’t sense the same ill intentions from her that he has from other demons. It’s subtle but she’s different. Sam told him it was better if he didn’t ask her why and Kevin has left it at that.

“Hm.” She sips a beer and opens her magazine. She’s been doing this a lot, just sitting with him, he guesses it must be for company and he doesn’t mind at all. “Hey, Kevin,” she says after a while.

“Yes?” He looks up from his notes.

“I’ve been wondering, why were you so happy to see me when we came to rescue you?” she asks, though she doesn’t look up from her magazine.

Kevin takes a moment before he speaks and looks around to make sure none of the others are present before he answers.

“Ah… because if they saved you then it meant they really are serious about keeping me alive and safe.” It hurts to say because he doesn’t want to seem ungrateful and he doesn’t quite trust her even as he says it but it doesn’t matter, not really.

“Oh,” she says, no attempt to lighten the mood with one of her many references or nick names and none of her self depreciating humour.

“I know it sounds stupid and I know it’s not their fault but they have lost a lot of people - friends and allies - it means something if they saved you and then me, it means I’m not…. expendable.”

“You do realise it would break Sam’s heart to hear you say that,” Meg says quietly, Kevin just shrugs.

“They just get so caught up in everything… it just seems to be the way it is.”

“Dean, Sam and Cas: Team Free Will. Took on the apocalypse together but they’ve all died multiple times you know.”

“Yeah, but they always come back.”

“And you think we’re not important enough?” Meg asks quietly.

“Maybe, though I don’t think it changes what we mean to them…. I don’t know, being saved just makes me feel less expendable, you too. Like we’re really part of this.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

Kevin smiles. “I like your company though, I don’t just like you because they saved you too. I think that may have come out wrong.”

Meg looks at him and smiles. “It’s okay, I get it.”

“How long to you think I should leave it until I call a meeting?” Kevin asks her.

“Oh, half an hour? I’d like to finish reading this before the fun starts.”

Kevin chuckles and goes back to his notes.

***

“What did Charlie say?” Cas asks as Dean walks into his room. He’s been sat reading for the past half hour whilst Dean talked to his friends.

“She’s pretty sure she knows where the other half of the Tablet is and she’s going to head over. I asked her to meet Benny and take him with her and she’s agreed. They’re sorting out the details now.”

Cas smiles and feelings lighter, more hopeful than he has in a while. He knows how long it’s been since Dean and Sam worked in tandem with their friends and he knows the loss of Jo, Ellen and Bobby hangs heavy in their hearts. Charlie and Benny have both been more than willing though and Dean has called his friends every couple of days to check in.

Dean sits next to Cas on his bed and opens his arms to him, holding him tightly and pressing his lips against his hair. Cas doesn’t ask what it is that’s troubling him. Hope and apprehension make for a anxious combination and things have gone wrong for them all so many times before.

“How are you, Cas?” Dean asks.

“I’m fine, Dean, really.” He nuzzles against Dean’s neck the way he knows he likes it and holds him a little tighter. “It feels like we have a chance to sort things out once and for all.”

“Yeah, it does. Kevin’s probably close to figuring out the second trial by now.”

“Hmm,” Cas murmurs in agreement. “He does seem dedicated to translating the Tablet, though it seems harder for him than the Leviathan Tablet was.”

“Yeah, I wondered that. Apparently it was just easier to read and wasn’t as long. This one is both more in depth and complicated. He gets on with it and I make sure he actually eats and Sam watches over him like a mother hen. Meg seems to like his company too.”

Cas lifts his head. “I’ve been staying out of the way because he seems wary of me. He also hasn’t asked about the other tablet.”

“He may not be able to sense it, there’s so much stuff in here that it wouldn’t surprise me.”

Cas considers this and nods. “Maybe.” Though it could equally be that he doesn’t want to be forced into staying for longer, Cas won’t blame him if that’s the case.

“And, ah… he’s just nervous generally. He’ll warm up to you eventually.”

Cas nods and leans into Dean, pressing their noses together and kissing him. They still spend every night wrapped around each other and most of the time close together but ever since he’s been able to just kiss or hold him whenever he feels like it, he’s been taking every chance he can.

***

Kevin announces that he’s translated the second trail once everyone has gathered in the library and as he speaks Cas feels Dean’s hand squeeze his fingers tightly, he squeezes back and neither of them let go.

“So, apparently you need to free an innocent soul from hell and send it to heaven,” Kevin says in summary and everyone seems too wrapped up in their own thoughts to say anything.

“Sounds like a ride in the park,” Meg comments darkly but she breaks the tense silence that has settled over them all.

“How are we supposed to do that?” Dean asks and looks to Meg.

“What? You think I know?” She points to herself. She’s too defensive though and Cas looks at her, past her facade to the truth hiding beneath the surface.

“Meg,” he says gently and she scowls at him. “No one is asking you to leave or walk into danger on your own. Just tell us what you know.”

She looks disbelieving at Cas and glares him down for a moment before she speaks.

“I’m not supposed to know this.”

“You knew about the crypts and I’m sure you weren’t supposed to know about them either,” Sam adds, using the same careful tone he uses to talk to the countless victims he’s seen over the years.

“Look, I have a lot of connections okay - how else do you think I’ve survived this long?”

Dean stays silent and keeps the same steady pressure on Cas’s hand underneath the table.

“Meg,” Cas says again and this time she scowls.

“Fine, fine. Some reapers can be…. bought, they’ll take you between the realms if you pay them well enough and they also sometimes smuggle souls where they’re not supposed to go.”

“So… innocent souls ending up in hell….” Sam says, though his attention seems to be elsewhere.

“I heard Crowley talking about it when he held me captive. He never gave any names of the souls though, probably just incase I could hear him.”

“Do you know where we can find a rogue reaper?” Cas asks her, knowing Dean wants to but is currently staying silent.

“One of them, yes. I can give you a name and approximate location.” Now she seems to realise no one expects her to do more than that, Meg deflates and seems to relax.

***
Plans get made and sorted out, Meg hands over the location and name of the Reaper they need to speak to - though she warns them that his allegiances used to lay with Crowley - and Dean and Sam make plans to leave the next morning.

Cas can feel Dean’s desperation rising to the surface again though he finds himself less inclined to resit him if he suggests sex again. He doesn’t seem desperate for it, instead he crawls into bed with Cas and kisses him long and deep, moving only to breathe before pressing their mouths together again.

He’s careful as he holds Cas, one arm around his back and his other hand sliding through Cas’ hair. Cas melts against him, lets the human sensations flow through him everywhere his body touches Dean, his grace reaches out and holds onto Dean’s soul and he wonders in a distant part of his mind if Dean is even aware of it.

“I love you,” Dean whispers against the rough stubble of his cheek. “Cas, I love you.”

Cas swallows around the lump in his throat and brings his hand up to run his thumb across Dean’s cheek.

“I love you too, Dean.”

“Can I…” Dean starts a moment later, “Can I take this off?” He tugs on Cas’ pyjama top and he nods, helping Dean help him out of it before removing his too. He’s not sure what Dean wants until he moves and the realisation makes Cas smile.

Dean sides his hands around Cas and pulls him close, palms flat on his shoulder blades and Cas puts his arms around him in turn.

“I just want to…” Dean says by way of partial explanation.

“I know.” He kisses Dean this time, with just a little more force and intent. He can lose himself in this, in Dean in a way he hadn’t ever thought possible and it’s as wonderful as he had allowed himself to ever imagine.

Dean is warm and real against him, hard lines and muscles but careful touches. He’s not gentle but Cas knows it’s because he knows he doesn’t need to be. Cas, however, remembers to be wary of his own strength.

Dean’s mouth slides down to Cas’ neck and Cas shudders as he feel Dean press his mouth hot and firm against his skin.

“Thats…” he breathes out, partially overwhelmed by how this feels. Dean laughs against his neck but he keeps moving, when he starts sucking Cas moans and slides his hand into Dean’s hair, not to hold him down but to let him know he wants him to keep doing that.

Dean doesn’t stop but the hands on Cas’ back hold tighter and pull them flush together and Cas knows, knows knows, that if Dean asks him again - if he wants him - then he won’t stop him. Dean doesn’t want this for the wrong reasons and Cas is grateful that he can tell the difference.

It’s Cas that moves first, grinds forwards just a little, enough that Dean can ignore it if he wants to. After a moment of stillness he feels Dean respond in kind, mouth coming away from his neck to kiss his mouth again and breathe out, “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Cas whispers, “yes.”

Dean nods and uses his other hand to tug their pants down, Cas though just smiles.

“Let me.” and in one moment their underwear is on the floor without them having to move.

“That’s… that’s very useful,” Dean says, breath heavy against his neck as he starts to kiss and suck and mark again.

Cas moans again and rocks forwards, closing his eyes at the feeling of Dean naked and hard and pressed against him. He remembers saying once that he found human sex boring but he knows it was because he didn’t really understand it. There’s sex and then there’s this. This isn’t for the continuation of a species or even just the build up and release, it’s another way to express love and emotion and feeling.

“Dean.” Cas’ voice sounds rough even to his own senses as Dean moves against him and pleasure swells and pools in his groin.

This would probably be easier if one of them was lying on their back but Cas finds he prefers it this way, the gradual push and pull they both make with each other is fitting and equal and perfect.

Deans hand moves lower and he grinds them together, gasps and sighs and Cas’ name escapes him as he moves. Cas can feel his wings sing with elation and though Dean can’t see them, Cas knows his soul can feel it.

“Cas, Cas…” Dean reaches up to kiss him as their movements gain a little momentum. “I’m going to..” and Cas knows what he means, he’s just as close. Dean’s mouth goes back to Cas' neck and he cries out against his skin as he releases and Cas feels himself go right along with him, a litany of Dean, Dean, Dean, and short breaths leaving him as he does.

Their breathing slowly evens out and Cas cleans them both up before Dean can ask, he doesn’t like the feel of it and he’s not sure Dean does either.

“Thanks,” Dean mutters against his skin, still holding on to him tightly. Cas returns his hold. “This is much better than having to actually clean up.”

“Hmmm.” It is, feeling Dean all around him like this is soothing and calming and wonderful all at once and he knows that he will give up everything - everything within his power - to keep this. Dean and their life together isn’t worth giving up, he just doesn’t know if the future will allow them to stay together.

“Hey,” Dean says softly, eyes bright in the low light of the beside lamp. “Was that okay?”

Cas smiles and kisses him. “Of course it was.” He wants to tell him that anything, anything at all would have been just as good but he knows Dean will take it the wrong way.

“It’s just, you said if it felt right and it was for the right reasons.…” He’s shy and nervous all of a sudden.

“Dean,” Cas soothes, “Maybe I shouldn’t have cleaned us up so quickly so you could see for yourself.”

“No, no that’s… I could feel it, I know…. you know.” He places his hand against his heart. “It was like you were everywhere and I was too…. Cas, that wasn’t just me, right?”

Cas smiles gently and rubs his nose against Dean’s. “No, that wasn’t just you. I’m more than just this body and I can feel it when you reach out to me.”

“When I reach out to you? How do you mean?”

Cas thinks about how to explain it, about how their connection has developed. He slides his hand up and along Dean’s arm and places it where his hand print had once branded his shoulder.

“When I raised you from hell, I had to literally pull you out of there and it left it’s mark on you. It didn’t change anything about you, how you think or feel. It just meant that we’d connected.”

Dean is still and doesn’t speak for several long moments, Cas wonders if this was the wrong thing to say - the wrong thing to bring up at a time like this.

“Connected? Is that why you thought I’d be able to hear you? When I got out?”

“Yes, though really that was only a small part of it. At the time I was far more focussed on my mission. The method of removal wasn’t important - only that you had been freed from hell.”

“Cas, what else aren't you telling me?” Dean asks, though it doesn’t sound like an accusation.

“We’ve always been able to… to reach out to each other through it far easier than we were supposed to, though until recently I have always waited for you to reach for me first.”

“Like a direct line?”

Cas smiles. “You could call it that yes. I hadn’t ever wanted to tell you, I was afraid it might be unwelcome.”

“It’s just….” He can sense the fear and worry flicker through Dean and his soul seems to want to retreat and reach out all at the same time.

“It’s only there because of how close we’ve become, otherwise it would have closed years ago. It can’t affect how we feel or how we act but it does mean that I can hold you with more than just my arms, Dean and though you may not be able to see them, you can at least feel my wings.” The words fall out easily but he is still afraid of how they will be received, if this secret he didn’t know he could share will start to crack away at what they have been building for years.

Dean kisses him without saying anything in reply and Cas opens his mouth to him, welcoming Dean’s tongue licking deep into his mouth and his hand that grips the back of his head tightly. Dean’s soul surges towards him at the same time and Cas’ grace joins with it, leaving them both breathless and overwhelmed.

“Fuck,” Dean says on an exhale. “Did you, when I slept in purgatory, did we do this then?”

Cas smiles and sighs. “Yes.”

“Cas.” But Dean doesn’t seem to be able to say anything else and instead he kisses him again, holding him closer and wrapping himself around him. Castiel lets himself get lost in it, lets Dean carry him away with him - where ever he wants to take them, for as long as it lasts.

***

It’s hard to leave the bunker, to leave Cas behind but Dean refuses to let Sam do this on his own and Cas is safe where he is, with Meg and Kevin. Even if they are the most unlikely people to be residing over the Men of Letters Bunker in their absence.

He’s happy to be back behind the wheel of the Impala though and it’s enough of a welcome distraction to keep him going.

Sam seems happy to sit in relative silence for most of the way there and there’s no awkward conversation or weighted tension as they drive. Which is strange because there should be. There is something dark and heavy hanging over his brother and although it kills Dean to see it, he knows he can’t lift it.

“How are we going to know which soul needs rescuing anyway?” Dean asks to break the silence.

“Meg said the reaper should be able to give us a name, something to help us find someone he’s sent there whilst taking bribes from Crowley.”

“Okay, well it’s something.” Dean had zoned out while they had been going through the minor details of the plan but now is as good a time to catch up as any.

“Yeah. I mean it’s not much to go on but I don’t know another way to do this.” Sam shakes his head and looks out of the window.

“I also don’t understand why we have to go through all of this to rid the world of evil. I can’t see a downside to ridding the world of demons.”

“Maybe it’s not about that.”

“What do you mean?” Dean asks, catching a glimpse of Sam in the reflection from the car window.

“Maybe it’s to generate enough power or energy or magic to make this work. Killing Dick was easy by comparison, I know, but the side effects…. you and Cas being sent to purgatory, that seemed to be the price we had to pay.”

“Are you saying that we have to go through all this hardship now just so that things can be okay once it’s all over?”

Sam shrugs. “I have no idea, it’s just a theory.”

“The whole thing’s bullshit, Sam.”

“I know, Dean, I know. But the whole universe seems to be one huge power struggle between good and evil and no one ever wins. I’m not saying that this will fix everything but it will give us an even chance again and put the world back in some kind of order.”

“Like it was when our grandfather was a man of letters?”

“Yeah, just before everything started to go to hell.”

Neither of them dwell on what could have been, or at least Dean doesn’t. It wouldn’t change anything anyway, not now, not in this universe. Though from what he knows, they would still have been dragged into a messy apocalypse, unless they were hiding in the bunker.

"Are you okay though?” Sam asks at last, words careful even though they know that short of being in the car with them, no angel or any other supernatural creature can track them at the moment and they are very much alone in the car.

Dean takes a deep breath but he says, “I’m doing okay.”

Sam seems to take the answer for what it is though and just nods before settling back down into his seat and watching the world roll by.

***

Dean knows that what he’s doing is stupid, borderline dangerous really but it still doesn’t stop him. He’s warded their motel room for everything except for angels. It’s not a trap but it is a carefully constructed lie, he’s pretty sure warding against angels would tip her off that he knows where Cas is and he can’t do that. Even if he currently looks (and is) a tiny bit like bate.

And this Naomi - whoever she is - will have her troops on the ground everywhere. They will see his car and she will try to find him.

Sam had reasoned with him to at least line the room with holy oil and keep a lighter on him - which is has - but he also knows he can’t give anything away, especially since he doesn’t have any back up, with Sam off to save Bobby….. which is something else he can’t quite bring himself to process. It’s all a mixture of anger and confusion and he misses Cas, misses his brother and wishes he’d asked Benny to join him here rather than go with Charlie - no matter how selfish that is.

In fact, if he could choose, he’d have both Benny and Charlie with him right now.

Naomi doesn’t make him wait long.

"I must admit, I didn't expect to find you so easily. Never the less, I think it's time we're formally introduced, Dean. My name is Naomi."

"Yeah, I know who you are and what you did to Cas." He lets his anger boil over as he talks to her, hopes that she understands how much he hates her.

She just holds her hands together in front of her and gives him a tight lipped smile. "I rescued Castiel at the cost of many lives and I wanted to help him."

"From what I understand, you tortured him and then ordered him to kill me and all that was after you brainwashed him and ordered him to spy on us."

"Hm, yes, I suppose it must look like that to you. I merely wanted to help him. Surely you could see how damaged he was after purgatory and I can only imagine how unstable he is now. I didn't order him to kill you, though I did order him to get the Angel tablet at any cost. It's my job to protect Heaven and that's what I've been trying to do all this time. But now Castiel is in the wind with a bomb in his pocket and he's the most unstable and broken he's been in a long time."

Hurt and anger flashes through Dean but he doesn't move. Her lies are toxic and carefully spoken. Just enough truth to try and convince him but she doesn't know where Cas is, she thinks that he really is still out there - hiding from both of them. She's smiling at him again when he looks at her and he knows that he's somehow just convinced her of what she suspected.

Naomi thinks Dean believes her, about Cas and about the rest of it.

"I don't trust you - I don't trust angels, no matter how you try to spin this."

"Yet you have warded this place against everything but angels. You're waiting for him to return to you. I admire your loyalty but you must know by now that he doesn't feel the same way."

Dean stays silent and stares at the ground. He knows that he is protected enough that she cannot read his mind but it's more than just making sure the truth really is hidden from her, if he moves he knows it'll be to flick the lighter in his pocket and drop it into the corner.  He needs her to believe that she's right - that she's won and convinced him - it will keep Cas safe if he does.

"We want the same things, Dean and we are on the same side. Shutting the gates of hell and brining Castiel home, we share common goals." She smiles at him again, her mouth a thin line and her eyes brimming with her own victory.  "You should also know that your reaper friend, Ajay? His way to hell is through purgatory. I thought you should know, this way you'll realise that we really do want the same things."

She disappears with a rustling of wings and Dean breathes through the rage boiling over inside of him.

***
Half an hour later his phone rings.

"Hey, Dean!" Charlie greets. "We got it, we've got the second half!" He knows what she means and he smiles, letting relief start to wash over him.

"That's awesome, it really is." He can hear Charlie and Benny talking to each other before she hands the phone over.

"Hey, brother."

"Benny," Dean says, "It's good to hear from you, glad it all went well."

"Yeah, it wasn't too bad. Nothin' like the fun we had in Purgatory but it's nice to be doing something worthwhile again. Charlie's pretty good by the way, she wants me to tell you, though it's true. How are things with you? All going well?"

Dean hesitates.

"Dean," Benny warns.

"I don't know, Sam's still gone but it might be more dangerous than we first thought."

"Where are you right now?" Benny asks.

Dean tells him, lets it all come out in a rush and the last things he hears before they end the call is Benny and Charlie on their way to meet him.

He wants to call Cas, he wants to call Cas more than anything but it's a risk he can't take. So he waits for Benny and Charlie, knowing that the sooner this is all over the sooner he can go home.

***

Charlie and Benny listen patiently to Dean as he explains what Naomi said to him as they make their way back to the taxi driver. He makes sure not to tell them that Cas is safely hidden in the bunker, he can't guarantee that Naomi isn't listening, not inside the motel anyway.

Not seeing the point in brining two cars, they leave Charlie's at the motel to collect on the way back. The recovered part of the demon tablet is stowed underneath the front seat of the Impala, wards and charms applied expertly by Charlie.

There is a tense moment waiting by the wall where Dean doesn't think that Sam is coming back. He stands with Charlie on his right and Benny on his left, the latter is holding onto Dean's purgatory blade and Charlie  is holding onto his hand.

They needn't have worried, Sam comes back, hair blowing all over the place as he frees Bobby's soul to heaven in a bright cloud of light. It's after he's said the spell to end the trial that Dean springs into action though, making sure that Sam's knees don't hit the ground.

"Sammy?" Dean asks, already knowing that nothing his brother can say will console him.

"It's okay, Dean. It's okay."

The reaper is nowhere to be seen - made his exit quickly - and for a moment all is quiet and peaceful between them. The Sam's eyes meet Benny's and the vampire stares back.

Charlie rolls her eyes and looks to Dean, checking he's okay but she holds her silence until Sam speaks.

"Are you coming back with us?" he asks.

"If it's alright with you," Benny says.

Sam looks to Charlie then back to Dean.

"What are you doing here?" No one comments that he maybe should have asked this first.

"We got the other half of the you-know-what and we called Dean to check in, sounded like he might need some back up so we made our way here," Charlie explains, keeping her tone light and her eyes focussed on Sam. "Don't worry about Benny, he's more like a teddy bear with very specific dietary needs - which I've totally sorted by the way - and if we can't stay with you guys then he can stay with me somewhere near by." Her meaning is clear and Sam nods in resignation (though it could be exhaustion).

"Fine, okay fine. In the grand scheme of things Benny will be more than welcome."

Benny gave Sam a little bow."Thank you, it's appreciated."

Sam doesn't say anything else, just allows Dean to hold him up. Dean wants to ask about Bobby and the questions almost come out but his brother doesn't look like he could form a sentence at the moment and he doesn't want to make how he feels any worse.

***
They travel back in a two car convoy but stay far enough apart that no one really notices.

By the time they reach the bunker Dean has relayed what happened at the motel and what Charlie and Benny told him about recovering the second half of the demon tablet. Sam listens to it all and places his hand on Dean's shoulder when he stumbles repeating Naomi's words.

Talking about Benny and Charlie is easier and Sam seems more accepting, they drive back to the bunker in peaceful silence.

***

Dean doesn't hold back once they're safely parked and back inside, he pulls Cas into his arms and holds him close, breathing him in as Cas winds his arms around him.

"Welcome home," Cas says as they part and he kisses Dean softly, just for a moment.

Dean takes his hand and turns to Benny and Charlie, both stood behind him. Charlie looks smug but not as smug as Benny.

"Good to see you, Cas. Glad your boyfriend here finally made a real move," Benny tells him, eyes sparkling and looking both alive and happy to be that way.

Dean drops his hand and Cas lets Benny pull him into a rough hug, though Cas holds on for a moment longer than needed and he meets Benny's eyes carefully when they step away. Benny nods slowly and Cas seems happy with it so he looks to Charlie.

"Come on, Dean, introduce me." She's practically bouncing on her feet.

"Cas, this is Charlie. Charlie, this is Castiel."

Charlie holds out her arms to him and envelops Cas into a hug. He holds on despite her enthusiasm (or maybe because of it) and she places her hands on his shoulders when they part.

"You really are as dreamy as I pictured you, Dean hasn't done you justice. He also didn't tell us you were here but I guess that makes sense, given who's looking for you."

Cas looks to Dean.

"I had a visitor at the motel, you were right. She's a manipulative bitch," Dean explains, making it obvious that he wasn't going to hide it.

"Naomi." Her name looks like it hurts him to say but it's Charlie that squeezes Cas’ shoulders for Dean.

"We should head to this library of yours and bring snacks, looks like we all have a lot to catch up on," Charlie says, lifting her bags as Benny does the same. Sam has already gone on ahead so Dean takes them all through, Cas taking his hand as they get to the door.

"We cleaned out a few more rooms for you to choose from," Cas explains as they head down the corridor. "Any of the rooms with open doors are yours to choose from, if you want them.”

Dean looks at him and smiles. "You didn't have to do that."

Cas shrugs. "Even Kevin helped, kept our mind off things."

Dean squeezes his hand inside his own and lets Cas lead the way. He doesn't miss the 'Awwww' from Charlie or the continuing smug grin on Benny's face.

***

Chapter Text

The library feels better, more alive somehow with them all sat around it. Sam sits as head of the table with Dean on his right and Cas next to him. Meg, Charlie and Kevin are sat next to each other on the other side of the table with Benny sat next to Cas.

Charlie and Benny wasted no time in handing the remainder of the tablet to Kevin but so far he hasn't done more than put it back together, wrap it in a cloth and set it down close to him. Castiel doesn’t blame him. Though he still wonders when he’ll ask about the Angel tablet.

‘So, now we’ve got the gang altogether, what’s the plan?” Meg asks, still managing to sound board and disinterested even though he can tell how nervous she is, how important it is to her to fix this. Even if it means the end of her freedom.

“Ah,” Sam starts. He looks pale and shaken. If Cas looks closely enough he can see the damage the trials are inflicting on him. So he tries not to look. ”Kevin can translate the third trial. Until we know what it is, those of us that need to, should stay within the bunker. Anyone else can do supply runs. That’s the plan for now.”

“I want to see the other tablet,” Kevin says, looking straight at Castiel.

Cas can hear his prayer, like a plea.

Cas nods. “Of course, I’ll show you where it is after the meeting.” He doesn’t ask why now, Kevin will have his own reasons for asking.

“Are you going to look at both of them at the same time?” Dean asks. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, we appreciate the effort but we want to make sure you’re not killing yourself trying to translate them.”

Kevin nods and he even meets Dean’s eyes. “I just think that closing hell will mean Heaven and the angels will have free reign and from what I’ve seen and what you’ve told me, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have the balance in their favour. No offence,” he adds, looking to Cas.

“None taken,” he reassures. He’s not sure there are any of his own kind left that he can trust. He misses Anna and the guilt over Balthazar still hurts. He even misses Gabriel, though he doesn’t understand why.

“How about the Angel who wrote them? Metatron? What do we know about him?” Charlie asks and is immediately greeted by silence.

“If he is still around, he’s made sure to stay out of the way. From what I know, he either left heaven in a hurry or was pushed out,” Cas explains. “I would tread carefully if you’re going to try and find him. I don’t think we can count on his help or his support.”

“Wow, okay then. I’ll be careful.”

“So,” Benny starts, “We’re here to help you close hell and stop heaven from starting another apocalypse?”

“I doubt they’ll try that again,” Cas says quietly.

Benny casts a glance at Dean, who shakes his head, then back to Cas again.

“Okay, but we’re trying to level the playing field, so to speak?”

“Yes,” Cas tells him.

“Okay then. What exactly do you need us to do to help?”

“Moral support and snacks,” Meg says with a wink.

***
“Here.” Cas opens his bedside table and takes out the tablet. It glows again when he touches it and he feels it’s protection cover him again.

He holds it out to Kevin and watches a fainter yet steady glow appear once it’s in the prophets hands.

Dean is stood in the doorway watching over them and Cas gives him a small smile. For a moment Dean smiles back but Cas can tell he’s worried. In the meeting he gave a short summary of what had happened with Naomi but Cas knows there’s more to it and as soon as Kevin’s gone they’re going to talk about it.

“This… this looks a bit easier to read but there’s more to it and it seems pretty detailed,” Kevin says, fingers running over the surface. “I’ll start in the morning. Do you want me to leave it in here?” he asks.

Cas shakes his head. “You can keep it with you.”

Kevin nods. “Thanks, night guys. I’ll see you in the morning.” He heads out the door and down the corridor to his own room.

Dean comes in and closes the door behind him. Cas watches him as he makes his way to the bed and lets Dean fold him into his arms when he reaches him. Cas opens his grace to Dean and feels his soul greet and hold onto it.

“Do you want to talk here?” Dean asks him, lips pressed against his hair.

“Yes.”

“Okay.” Dean steps back and they sit on the bed, at the edge with their feet on the floor. Cas holds Dean’s hand within his own and wonders if they should be alone for this or if Sam should be with them. “Sam’s gone to bed,” Dean explains and Cas’ eyes snap up to him. “You were thinking he should be here right? You were looking at the door.”

“Oh, yes I was.”

“I told him most of what she said, all the important parts but if there’s anything I’ve missed I’m sure he’ll ask me tomorrow.”

“Okay.” Though it’s not just that Sam isn’t with them, he also doesn’t know if he can handle hearing what Dean has to say. He’s afraid - even though he shouldn’t be - and he doesn’t really know what to expect.

“Cas, hey,” Dean says. Castiel turns to him. “She is everything you said she is. Tried to convince me you were dangerous and that she’s on my side. She told me that you had misinterpreted her orders, that she didn’t directly tell you to kill me but she doesn't know, Cas. She doesn’t know where you are or what you’ve told me.” He takes a harsh breath and Cas feels such a sharp spike of pain coming from Dean that he moves closer, rests their legs together and squeezes his hand. “She just carried on, so convinced that you left me, that she could some how gain my trust. Cas, even if…”

“You can say it, Dean.”

Dean squeezes Cas' hand so tightly that he feels the bones clicking together. He doesn’t shut off the pain, he lets himself feel it because he deserves to and because Dean needs to get this out.

“I was so angry, Cas and hurt and I wanted to kill her. I still want to tear her to pieces and I keep thinking; what if you had left at the crypt -”

“Dean, I didn’t leave and if I had…. well, maybe I would have deserved your lack of trust.”

“Cas, no. I shouldn’t have said it like that… I would never ever trust her, I knew in the crypt - I heard what you said about her - but for her to… she doesn’t understand at all.”

Cas sits there in silence.

“Cas, she’s dangerous. That she even thought I’d side with her over you - no matter what you’ve done - it’s just… Cas, you know where my loyalty lies. I know in the past I’ve said some things but she’s heartless, cruel and cunning.”

Cas nods numbly. “She doesn’t understand love, Dean. I told you, she never has.”

“She thinks,” Dean continues. “That you’re really out there, plotting against her, or maybe she thinks you’re hiding away from her - from us - to keep the tablet safe. Whatever she’s really thinking, she doesn’t know you’re here with me, with us. But she’s looking, probably has other angels looking for you all over.”

Cas nods and tries to hold the words he wants to say inside. It doesn’t matter, it’s not important. The trials and Sam are important. Instead he says, “she tore purgatory apart to get to me, I’m sure she’ll risk as many of my brothers and sisters as she has at her disposal to find me.”

“We have to stop her,” Dean tells him and Cas sighs in resignation.

“I know. I was just hoping that we wouldn’t have to do everything at the same time,” Cas admits, voice soft and quiet.

‘I know.” Dean slides his arms around him and presses kisses into his hair. “We should rest, tomorrow’s going to be a long day.”

Cas nods and goes along with it, lets Dean undress him and slide them both into bed. He goes willingly into his arms and lies there with his head on his chest. They don’t normally sleep like this, Cas has so far always been the one to hold Dean close but right now, this is all he wants.

There is so much in his head again and he needs time to process it.

“I love you,” Dean tells him, running his hand up along his spine in soothing motions.

Cas closes his eyes against the tears he feels forming there. “I love you too.”

Affirmation. Confirmation. Truth.

***
By morning Cas is in better spirits and joins Dean after his shower. He’s still not ready to push any boundaries that Dean is uncomfortable with and he seems to enjoy showering alone. Cas finds his thoughts have settled and their conversation the previous evening seems no less serious but not as urgent. There is nothing they can do but research and wait and enjoy the time they have with each other.

They head to the kitchen where they find Benny sat nursing a now empty mug. Cas can smell the faint copper tang in the air but he doesn’t feel disgust, Benny has only ever deserved his respect.

“It’s like gettin’ the team back together again,” Benny says fondly as they join him. Dean puts the coffee on and lights the hob and Cas opens the fridge, gathering bacon, sausages and eggs.

Dean starts to cook, knowing that the smell will start wafting through the corridors of the Bunker and soon enough the others would come and join them.

Benny and Cas stay close by and for a while there is amiable silence before Dean speaks.

“Cas?” he asks, sliding two eggs onto a plate with bacon and fried bread.

“Yes, Dean?” Cas takes the plate and takes a deep breath, enjoying the smell of the food in front of him. He may not need it but he does enjoy breakfast.

“I’ve been thinking - since last night - why would Naomi send all those angels to get you from purgatory?” he asks carefully, watching Cas as he speaks. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, as far as I can see it’s the only good thing she’s done but if you’re such a liability, why not leave you there? Out of her way?”

Cas sits back in his chair and shrugs his shoulders. Benny is watching him with kind and curious eyes - there is a lot he and Dean need to catch him up with - and Dean looks wary, afraid he’s said too much.

He sighs. “I don’t know. I’ve asked myself the same question but I don’t understand it. It could be because she wanted someone to keep an eye on you and Sam and she knows I’m the only angel you’ll trust but even that seems like a small reason with too much risk.”

“Yeah, That might be it but after yesterday, I don’t know, there’s definitely more to it.”

Cas looks away. “Heaven has lost it’s purpose and Naomi perhaps most of all. She ordered me to kill Samandriel because he found out to much… whatever is on that tablet isn’t something she wants anyone to see. I don’t know if she wants to use it or destroy it. It could be that this whole time all she wanted was the Angel Tablet and I was her best chance of getting it.”

“When you say found out too much,” Benny says.

Cas doesn’t hesitate to answer him, he’s proven himself trustworthy before and it seems like he needs a purpose, a cause to fight in the same way that Meg does. “He said Naomi was controlling us, using our coding for her own purposes. She made me kill him before he could explain and the only other person he told was Crowley and Meg killed him a few weeks ago. Only Kevin will be able to tell us what she means and what she’s doing. Or at least why she wants that tablet.”

“Hmm. Coding, I thought you guys were massive wavelengths of intent, you make it sound like you’re a computer or somethin’.”

Dean looks at Benny and he shrugs.

“I know what a computer is, Dean.”

Cas answers his question without waiting for Dean to reply. “We were made to obey and serve and to love humanity. But we are soldiers first and foremost who aren’t supposed to question, who aren’t supposed to have free will. We don’t know how to deal with it.”

Dean - who has made his own plate of food and joined them - places his hand over Cas’.

“Cas, you’re doing fine.”

“Maybe. There have been some, like Anna, who have fallen and become human and others who have disobeyed and been punished for their crimes. Then there was Gabriel who hid himself among other gods… but we are a rarity.”

“So she can control the masses but not those of you who can think for yourselves.”

“No, it would appear not.”

“So,” Dean says, “we just wait and see what Kevin comes up with then.”

Cas turns his hand under Dean’s and lets him lace their fingers together, squeezing tightly afterwards. Benny places a hand on his shoulder and Cas feels a small smile form on his face.

“Thank you,” he says quietly.

***
Dean finds Kevin scribbling furiously on a large pad of paper in the library. Meg - for once - isn’t with him. She, Cas, Sam and Charlie are watching a movie. Dean isn’t so interested in watching a movie called ‘It’s a wonderful life’ but the others seem happy enough to do so.

Benny is waiting for him in the kitchen, they need to catch up properly but he can’t help but check on Kevin before hand.

“There’s a movie on in the den if you want to watch it.” He places a mug of coffee in front of Kevin. It’s decaf, but he’s not going to tell him that.

“No, thank you,” Kevin says distractedly. When he realises Dean isn’t going anywhere he finally looks up. Dean is relieved to see that the bags under his eyes have lessened over the few weeks he’s been here and he looks healthier, less drawn and pale. “I’m going as fast as I can,” he adds.

“I know.” Dean pulls out a chair. “And we all appreciate it but why the sudden change in tablet? I know what you said yesterday and we’re grateful but what’s really going on, Kevin?”

For a while it doesn’t look like Kevin is going to answer and though he would be annoyed, Dean wouldn’t blame him. Secrets are easy to keep and even if the burden becomes so heavy it crushes you, sharing them is always so hard.

Finally though, Kevin speaks. “I’m worried about Sam. About what the final trial will do to him. But I also meant what I said yesterday, I don’t want angels to have an upper hand either.”

Dean’s heart sinks and pain twists in his chest. “Kevin,” he says quietly, “have you finished the translation of the trials?”

He shakes his head. “No, no because I know if I do that I have to tell everyone and we’ll go rushing into things again. Sam needs time to recover and everyone seems so worn out that I think we need time to rest. You were right when you told me to stop killing myself over this. I’m just trying to make sure no one else does the same.”

Dean closes his eyes and swallows. He can’t bare the thought of anything happening to Sam, it hurts him on a level that he doesn’t know how to deal with. He’s sold his soul for his brother after all and the one year he lived without him….. the memories of a world without Sam still echo hollow and painfully within him. He doesn’t want to risk it again, hopes Kevin is wrong even though he fears he’s right.

“That’s why I wanted to be the one to take on the trials. Cas was in the wind and Sam had had a life with someone again…. I can’t tell you to finish the translation but you should talk to Sam, ask him what he wants.” The words burn his throat as he speaks them and his heart feels cracked open. He can hear footsteps in the corridor and when he turns around it’s to find Cas looking at him from the doorway.

Cas doesn’t come inside and is far enough away that Dean knows he’s choosing not to hear them. A sign of respect. He signals that he’ll be there in a minute and turns back to Kevin.

“Go,” Kevin tells him. “I’ll work on this for the rest of the day, it’s easier to read than the demon tablet,” he admits. “And I’ll speak to Sam.”

“Okay.” Dean stands. “You know where I am if you need anything.”

“Yeah, I know.” Kevin turns back to his notes and starts copying them up neatly in an exercise book.

Dean walks to Cas and once they’re both out of sight of the library he lets Cas pull him into his arms and grips his back tightly.

“You seemed distressed,” Cas tells him, breath warm against his neck. Dean doesn’t say anything, he’s worried that his voice would crack and break, so he just holds on.

They stand together for a while, until Dean’s heart settles again and his emotions are tempered and under control. He hates that it all hurts so much, that he feels everything even when he pretends he can’t but he’s glad he can let his guard down - finally - especially when he doesn’t have to say a word.

He walks Cas back to the den. “Enjoy the rest of your movie,” he tells him quietly, kissing him and lingering for a moment.

Cas smiles and squeezes his hand before letting go. “I understand why Meg calls me Clarence now.”

“Oh?”

Cas nods. “It’s the name of the angel in the movie.”

“Huh, cool, I guess.”

Cas kisses him again and turns to go inside. “Enjoy your talk with Benny, okay?”

Dean nods. “I will.”
***

Benny is a calm and gentle presence in the Bunker, even with the tension between him and Sam he’s warm and open, considerate in ways Dean doesn’t know how to properly thank him for.

“So, you and Cas.”

“Me and Cas.”

“Good.” Is all Benny says. “It’s about time.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Benny waits for Dean to pour himself a cup of coffee and return to the table before speaking again.

“I don’t mean to pry, brother, but have you told him how you feel?”

Dean smiles and sips his coffee. Somehow, in a strange way, he’s more comfortable speaking to Benny about this than Sam. Probably because Benny doesn’t have all the expectations of him that his brother has or maybe for him it is easier to talk to Benny about Cas after Purgatory.

“Yeah, yeah I have.” He looks at his friend then adds. “You were right you know.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Telling him how I feel broke Naomi’s control over him.” The implications hang heavily in the air but Benny is kind enough not to rub salt in that particular wound.

“True love really did break the spell then,” Benny says and though he sounds happy, Dean can hear the edge of sadness in his tone.

“Benny -“

“No, Dean, it’s okay. It’s okay.” He smiles sadly for a moment but composes himself again. “It’s different, it’s always different - for everyone and I’m glad, so glad that after all that you finally told each other how you feel.”

“Did you know?” Dean asks, he’s not accusing his friend of anything and he can remember all the times he tried to tell him how he thought Cas felt, he just wants to know if it was based on anything.

“Cas was as careful with his words as you were but he never denied it, not once. He just didn’t think he deserved you. I tried to tell him that you didn’t care about that but I think he was so worn down by his own guilt that he didn’t know how to accept it.”

“Did I ever tell you that I once carried his coat between cars on the road all over the country for months?”

“No, though was this before or after you realised you were in love with him?”

“During. And I thought I’d lost him.” He remembers the alcohol, the nightmares and the downward spiral he was on at the time.

“Leviathan?”

“Yeah.”

“Dean? How many times have you lost each other?”

“Too many.”

“Hmm. Seems like too much of a coincidence, maybe that’s why Naomi wanted to use your death to break Cas. Maybe there’s somethin’ between you that keeps you both coming back?”

“He think’s it’s a punishment, coming back every time and it might be. Trust me Benny, me and Cas? We’re not part of some grand plan.”

“I know, but someone might be rootin’ for you.” Benny doesn’t quite sound like he believes it either but it isn’t something easily over looked.

“Maybe, I don’t know. All I know is that we’re here now - we’re all here now - and I’m going to make the most of it for as long as it lasts.”

“I hope it does, Dean. I really do.”

“Thanks, Benny, I’m really glad you’re here, man,” Dean tells him with sincerity.

“I’m glad I’m here too, brother.”

***

“You should keep translating it. It doesn’t matter what it says, I’ve started and I have to finish. I get the feeling the outcome will be worse if I don’t,” Sam says, voice firm but not unkind.

Kevin nods. “I still need to work on this one too though, there’s things here, things I don’t understand but I can tell it’s important. Naomi want’s us to succeed - she wants us to lock down hell and that doesn’t reassure me at all.”

“No, I know. Me neither,” Sam admits.

“So I’ll look at both, okay? It might take days, it might take weeks but I need you to give me the time, Sam, please.”

Sam sighs and agrees, “okay, just please don’t delay on my account.”

“I won’t.” He pauses. “You should get some sleep, Sam. It might help.”

Sam looks at him, at Kevin’s genuine concern and is reminded of himself at his age. Only instead of being dragged into a world of monsters, he was clawing his way out of it. His rest-bite was brief back then but he wouldn’t change it, even though it cost him Jess (who he still thinks is the love of his life and the woman he would have spent his life with) in the end. He hopes the opposite is true for Kevin and that he can escape back into a normal and safe world when all of this is over.

He silences the hope that he’ll be allowed to see it. Can’t bare the guilt or the weight of Dean’s pain if this does go the way he thinks it might. He only hopes his brother, Cas and their friends can keep each other going.

“Thanks, Kevin. Night.”

“Night, Sam,” Kevin says quietly as he walks out of the library and heads to his room.

***
Dean finds Cas in his room later that evening and they fall into bed together, hands roaming and mouths hot against each other. Dean lets Cas lead, lets himself become lost in sensation and Cas all around him. He’s everything Dean needs and, after, when they’ve both breathed each others names and everything is calm between them again, Dean wraps him in his arms and dreams.

This is the same pier, Dean thinks and when he looks at Cas sat beside him he knows what this is and where they are.

Cas smiles at him, hands him a beer and sits besides him.

There are no fish but that’s never what it’s been about.

Chapter Text

“So, Cas, how are things?” Meg asks, swinging around the side of his door until she’s leaning in and gripping the doorframe to keep herself up right.

“You can come in you know,” he reminds her gently.

“I didn’t want to interrupt anything,” she says, walking in and dropping down onto the end of the bed.

“We always lock the door,” Cas deadpans and Meg laughs.

“Yeah, okay, you’ve got me there, Clarence.”

It’s been three weeks since Kevin started translating the Demon Tablet again and in that time Sam, Dean and Charlie have been away for a couple of days on hunts. Cas hates being separated from Dean, hates knowing he can’t leave and he can’t help but there are worse things than being unable to. He trusts them all to keep themselves and each other alive. So far they have.

They returned yesterday, though Charlie seems a little shaken so Dean and Benny are spending the day with her - having something Dean has called a ‘box set marathon’. He was invited but declined, he doesn’t feel unwelcome exactly but he wants Dean to have time to relax with his friends.

“Things are fine,” Cas says.

“Really?” Meg turns to face him, she’s crosslegged on the bed and is wearing odd socks. She hasn’t worn shoes in weeks.

Cas shrugs. “We can’t do much but wait. I know there are things that we - that I - need to do but there isn’t anything we can do now. And given how bad things have been, for now things really are fine. Unless you are specifically talking about me and Dean, in which case, you should know, things are very, very good.”

Meg laughs again and the sound makes Cas feel warm and happy. She is such a good friend and despite her twisted soul she has a light all of her own, he wonders if she has ever believed him when he’s told her. Probably not.

“I know, I can see it. You can barely keep your eyes off each other, though depending on who you ask, things have always been like that between you two.” She looks fondly disgruntled when she speaks and it makes Cas smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of you so happy. It’s as beautiful as it is horrifying, Clarence.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She’s quiet for a moment and Cas knows she’s deciding whether or not to say something, whether there is something else she’d holding back. “I think Kevin’s almost finished his translation.”

Cas nods and ignores the building anxiety. “He has been working very hard.”

“Yeah, I know. He’s going to call a meeting tomorrow. He’s like our own little Giles.”

Cas smiles, it’s another reference he understands.

***
Cas eventually ends up in the den when Dean comes to find him. He’s - for want of a better word - snuggling with Dean on the couch, Dean’s arm is warm around him and he’s sat with his legs tucked beneath him. His head is resting on Dean’s chest and he can feel his heartbeat steady and comforting beneath his ear.

Benny is on the other end of the large couch and Charlie is sitting on the floor, back resting against the front of the couch.

It feels like a night in with friends, though Castiel doesn’t have that much experience with it, these evenings have been more and more frequent over the past few weeks. None of them are under the illusion that this is the way it’s gong to stay but there is a quiet understanding for it to last as long as possible.

He doesn’t care about the movies, though the others seem interested enough, he’s just enjoying being wrapped up with Dean. Being comfortable with each other and those they know is something of a miracle to him.

When the movie is over and the others bid goodnight with hugs, Dean and Cas are left sprawled together on the sofa.

“How’re you doing Cas?” Dean asks him.

“How do you mean?”

“Being cooped up in here, not being able to leave.” There’s a guilt in his voice that shouldn’t be there, Dean has not imprisoned him, he lead him to a sanctuary. “You’re what, the size of the Crizler building outside of your vessel right? this must feel like being caged.”

“It doesn’t.” He pauses. “I can’t tell you that this has all been easy, there have been days where I have felt so trapped… but I don’t feel like the Bunker is what’s caging me and I would rather be safe here than hidden out there where Naomi could find me.” He sighs and Dean shifts to meet his eyes. “I don’t want to stay here forever, I want to go back out into the world with you and Sam and the others but I’m not going to risk anyone  - myself included - to do so.”

“Do you ever miss, you know, your true form?” Dean asks and Cas can tell he’s nervous - wary - and that this is about more than the words he’s saying.

“I haven’t felt trapped by this body in a very long time. Jimmy’s been gone for years and the longer I’m in it the more it feels like it belongs to me. Human sensations are wonderful.”

“You say that but you can do without any that you don’t like, right?”

Cas nods. “I can do the same with my more angelic senses, I can turn them off when I don’t want them or turn them down so that I can enjoy the food you make, or the sex we’ve been having.” Dean blushes and Cas smiles warmly at him. It still baffles and bemuses him how shy humans are about sex in some parts of the world, though he understands Dean’s circumstances a little better than most.

“So you’re kind of like a hybrid at the moment, huh.”

“Yes, you could say that. Though hybrid angels are Nephilim; they are children of the sons of heaven and daughters of man. They’re forbidden by heaven.”

“So you’re not the first angel to, you know…”

“Fall in love with a human? No, though on the grand scheme of things our relationship would be a lesser crime because we can’t produce offspring.”

Dean laughs but he sounds a little uncomfortable. “Good to know.”

Cas wants to reassure him but doesn’t know how, doesn't think that that’s what Dean is looking for exactly.

Dean kisses the top of his head. “We should go to bed.”

Cas knows that there is more to this discussion, that Dean is trying to ask him something but he doesn’t sense urgency or worry so he doesn’t push. Dean will tell him when he can, there are more important things to sort out at the moment.

***

Kevin does call a meeting the next morning and everyone assembles in the library. Charlie and Kevin are stood up, waiting until everyone else is seated before talking. Sam sits next to Dean who’s followed by Cas then Benny and Meg.

The tension in the room is high and Cas can feel it radiate from Dean. His grace is wrapped around Dean and he holds his hand tightly underneath the table. Sam looks tired and haggard but no one calls attention to it, even though it’s hurting Dean and worrying everyone else.

Whatever the outcome of this meeting, Cas doesn’t have a good feeling about it.

“Okay, fellow scoobies, welcome.” Charlie says, earning a smirk from Meg and an eye roll from Dean. “I’ve been looking into Metatron and I think we should steer clear. From what I’ve been able to find out he’s somewhere holed up obsessed with books, which on the face of it makes him sound cool right?” No one says anything but Charlie continues regardless. “Anyway, there are two different accounts about him that I’ve been able to find. He wrote down gods word then ran off and away from heaven or he was pushed out by jealous angel’s who were angry that he’d spoken with god. Which again would make you think he’s our ally, right? Doesn’t sound like it though and I think Cas was right when he said to steer clear. We could be wrong - we could be totally wrong but I think for now, he’s an unknown element that could help or hinder.”

Cas meets her eyes and nods, Charlie looks received and sits back down. “We have the angel tablet, if he knows where it is and he wants revenge, he’ll want that tablet.”

“Why?” Sam asks. “He wrote it, surely he’d remember what it says and be able to do anything he wanted.”
It’s a fair point.

“He could and there must be a reason why he hasn’t. Maybe he really does just want to live out a quiet existence and doesn’t want anything to do with heaven,” Cas says.

“Or maybe,” Charlie adds, a glint of excitement and intrigue in her eyes, “he just wants to make sure there’s no one out there to stop him before he makes a move. Either way, he’s a risk I don’t think we should be taking at the moment.”

“Okay, yeah, fair enough,” Sam says and then all eyes are on Kevin.

Cas takes hold of Dean’s hand underneath the table and holds on tight.

“So,” Kevin starts. “I’ve finished the translation of the trials from the demon tablet. The third and final trial to close the gates of hell is to Cure a Demon.”

“What?” Meg asks perhaps too loudly. Cas looks to her and realises Kevin hadn’t told her before the meeting.

“To cure a demon and make them human again.”

Silence echoes and rings loud throughout the bunker but it’s Dean that finally speaks. “How the hell are we going to do that?”

***

They’ve spent the afternoon watching the strange reels of film from the bunker archive but through it all Dean has felt faintly sick. His stomach has been a constant mess of anxiety, though his head and heart have only added to it. Sam hasn’t said anything to him and instead looks a mix between relieved and wary. It sounds unbelievable but it looks as though it might be possible. After all, it’s written in the tablet so it must be true.

He watches everything with Cas sat at his side and has held his hand the entire way through. It’s a life line he doesn’t know what to do without and refuses to acknowledge that at some point he may have to.

He knows people are speaking, faintly recalls hearing the discussions about it, Kevin warns they can’t perform it in the Bunker, Sam agrees. Benny and Cas haven’t spoken but stayed silent by his side.

Now though, all eyes appear to be on Meg.

“I volunteer,” she tells them. “Oh come on, you don’t think I’m going to refuse do you? The options are literally rot in hell after you send us all back and lock us in, die bloody if you guys mess up or live out my days as a useless yet attractive return to the human race.”

Dean can feel Cas looking at her with concern but he fights back any jealously he has. He knows it’s an irrational and ridiculous reaction; Cas and Meg are friends. Cas is just more open with his concern for those he cares about.

“Okay,” Sam says, gentle eyes directed at Meg (who Dean how supposes is his friend). “But we have to look into this and make sure it’s safe. Dean, Charlie? I think we should head out and see if we can find the priest from the last video, he has to know more about it.”

Dean agrees, Charlie does too but he stands and pulls Cas with him. “Give me a couple of hours, okay?” Cas doesn’t argue, can probably feel the answers radiating from him anyway.

Sam meets his eyes and nods, he gratefully keeps whatever he wants to say to himself and lets them leave.

***
“Dean?” Cas asks gently. They’re in Dean’s room and Dean is shaking in his arms. Cas is surprised, he’s not used to seeing or feeling this kind of behaviour from Dean.

“This is why,” Dean says, voice muffled by the shoulder of Cas’ shirt. “This is why I don’t… this is why I can’t…” He holds on tighter, as tight as he can and Cas keeps the arms around him firm and solid. “I let my guard down, with you, with everyone and now….”

Cas closes his eyes and lets out a long breath. He’s seen Dean vulnerable before but this is different, this isn’t just a Dean who’s opening himself up to wanting something. This is Dean once he’s allowed himself to have what he wants and now facing the real - though ever present - threat of losing it all. Cas’ heart breaks for him, for a man who has had to be so strong for so many people for so, so long. Who was treated and brought up in a way that clashed with his nature and shown the real horrors of the world from far too young an age.

There are wounds Cas cannot heal, wounds Sam and their friends can’t ever hope to touch either. The damage is long standing and deep and it scars his beautiful soul in ways that bring Castiel’s wrath to the surface. It won’t do any good though, to fight these wrongs with further violence. Instead Cas will do what he can, heal and soothe the wounds he can and try and prove to Dean that he and his brother deserve happiness. He has tried before but made mistakes at every turn, he has learned his lessons - he hopes - and knows that the best way is to stay at Deans side; exactly where Cas has wanted to be for a very long time.

Cas loosens his arms around Dean and takes his hand, leads him to the bed and gently pushes him down. Dean goes willingly. Cas undresses them, clothes appearing neatly on Dean’s chair and it leaves them in their underwear.

“Come here,” he says softly, guiding Dean underneath the covers with him. Dean feels frayed around the edges, panic seeping through the newly opened pathways to his heart. Cas kisses him, gently pressing his lips to Dean’s, who opens his mouth for him and lets Cas kiss him deep and slow.

When Cas pulls back Dean’s eyes are a dark, glassy green. “I thought, I thought this wasn’t supposed to be about this,” he says and Cas nods, sad smile on his face.

“It’s not the same,” Cas says, “close your eyes.”

Dean does and Cas kisses him again, bringing his arms around Dean and pressing their bodies together. He’s going with instinct and what feels right and being close to Dean, giving him the reassurance he needs feels important.

“What do you need?” he asks, smiling at Dean with warmth when he opens his eyes again. “Anything,” he offers.

Dean’s heart is pounding in his chest, Cas can feel the vibrations and his whole being is shaking. He doesn’t know how to tell Dean that his vulnerability doesn’t make him weak, it just makes him human - maybe not even that. Maybe it just means he’s alive - but they are words that would only be unwelcome.

Dean’s eyes are pleading with him to understand but the words are trapped and not even prayer can set them free. Cas can feel his need but he can only interpret so far, he doesn’t want to get this wrong and he won’t risk hurting Dean by making him use words when he can’t.

Their eyes stay locked together for a long time, blue to green until Cas rests his forehead against Dean’s and  lets his vision blur. When Dean leaves the bunker it’ll be the beginning of the end of the peace, the sanctuary they have been afforded by this place, by time. The last battle of a long, long war and it’s more than just Dean and Cas’ lives on the line. The unspoken danger Sam faces with the trials lies heavily on them all but most of all Dean.

Slowly, Cas starts to roll himself backwards but Dean stops him and pulls him the other way instead until Dean is lying on the bed and Cas is on top of him. Dean spreads his legs until Cas drops down between them and their eyes meet again.

Please.' The soft prayer reaches Cas and he nods, bending to kiss Dean again as he rids them of the final layer of clothes and prepares him. He thinks of the brown paper bag in his room and wonders - if he survives this - if he’ll ever actually use it. If he’ll still be an angel and always be able to do things this way or if he’ll have to give it all up. He will, in a heartbeat, though he hopes he won’t have to. He also wonders if he’s skipping things by doing it this way, if he’s missing out on the experience.

But Dean breathes out a long sigh that ends in a moan as Cas slips inside him. He feels his grace and Dean’s soul resonate and he loses himself for a moment. The human sensations of his body are lost within the feeling in his being, of connecting with Dean in every way he can.

He has to separate from it, just a little, pull himself back into his body and feel Dean physical and solid beneath him, light and warmth all around him. It’s not the first time it’s been like this but the intensity is new and almost overwhelming.

“Cas,” Dean breathes and Cas knows it’s the same for Dean.

They kiss - though the angle is a little awkward - as Cas moves inside him and Dean moves his legs, wraps them around his back and holds on. Cas tries to keep a steady pace, to build things slowly between them, to make the sensations last. Their bodies move together, Dean moans through their kiss and Cas’ pace picks up as the thrum of building pleasure gathers between them.

Cas thrusts deeper, feels Dean’s erection rub against stomach as he moves and Cas’ own moans join Dean’s.

“Cas, Cas, I’m gonna, I’m gonna…” Dean says, swallowing hard as his back stiffens and he comes between then, shaking and shuddering in a beautiful cacophony of bright light and warmth all around Cas.

He follows shortly after with a long moan as he loses grip on his human sensations and lets everything carry him away, wrap around and envelope them both.

Dean is breathing hard when Cas’ senses settle down again. His arms are still around him but more relaxed, no urgency in his grip. Cas slips out slowly and with a small nod from Dean, cleans them up. Cas falls back into him and they roll over, Dean still panting against Cas’ shoulder as he catches his breath.

“You were right,” Dean says, kissing Cas' shoulder and smiling when Cas shudders against him.

“Hmmm.” Is the only answer Cas gives him, this is more than a physical come down - for both of them - and it’s going to take him a while to be able to answer coherently. Dean understands him just the same.

***

They say their goodbyes in private, though Cas still kisses Dean before he climbs into the car along side Charlie with Sam already sat in the back. The fractures and frays from before are healed well enough for now that Cas can watch them leave with only the normal sense of worry.

Benny pats him hard on the shoulder as they head back inside and Cas turns his head to look at him, question in his eyes. Meg and Kevin have gone on ahead, probably back to the library.

Benny smiles and shrugs. “It’s nothin’, Cas. Just good to see you two together.”

Cas nods and gives Benny a small smile. “I love him,” he tells him honestly. “But you’ve known that all along.”

“You’re right, I have.”Benny looks away.

“I’m sorry,” he says, thinking he's said something wrong.

“Don’t be, don’t ever be sorry for what you have.”

Cas knows about Andrea, Dean has told him what happened when Benny came back and what he had to face during his revenge mission. He thinks Benny might know he knows too but they don’t comment on it, they just head to the library with the others.

Kevin is waiting for them when they arrive.

“You look like there’s something else you want to tell us, somethin’ you probably shouldda told Dean, Sam and Charlie too,” Benny warns.

“Ah, I was thinking of it more like delegation. We can tell them as soon as they get back but I’ve been working on the Angel Tablet too.”

“We’ll make a Slytherin out of you yet, Ravenclaw boy,” Meg comments. Normally Cas might laugh at that - it’s on the growing list of references he now understands - but this is serious and Meg’s tone wasn’t humorous. Benny ignores her strange comments - as he normally does - and looks at Kevin, he’s angry and his stance is one Cas remembers from Purgatory.

“So, what’s so important that you wouldn’t tell the others?” Benny presses, arms folded over his chest.

“You might want to sit down.”

Both Cas and Benny stay stood. There’s something to be said for their solidarity and it’s one Cas hadn’t expected. He and Benny were unwilling allies then barely friends. It seems that things have changed now and he’s grateful for it.

Meg rolls her eyes and puts her feet up on the table. “Gryffindor.” She’s looking at Benny then turns her attention to Cas, “and Hufflepuff, sit down. Let our little prophet here tell us whatever it is he wants to say and if we don’t like it we can lock him in the dungeon.”

Benny looks at Cas. “There’s a dungeon?”

Cas nods. “I believe Sam calls it the ‘torture dungeon’ but it’s real.” He pulls out a chair and sits down, glaring and Kevin as Benny sits beside him. Cas isn’t sure but he thinks Benny flashes his teeth at the prophet and he flinches.

“I’ve been working on the two side by side, initially to see if there was a way to help Sam but I haven’t found one. What I did find is pretty scary stuff.”

Meg coughs. “Get on with it.”

“Okay, okay.” He takes a big breath. “There are trials to close heaven, a spell to make all the angels fall - literally in flames - but there’s also a reset.”

Cas goes cold. “What do you mean?”

“Ah, it says that there is a spell to remind angels of their true purpose, to reming them of their original intention.”

Benny looks at Cas. “You said Naomi was messing with your coding, could this stop her?”

Cas shakes his head. ‘I’m not sure. Maybe. But resetting angels to their true purpose could mean anything. We’re warriors and there has already been enough heavenly wrath upon this earth.”

Kevin shakes his head. “Apparently you’re supposed to watch over humanity and love them.”

“Cas does both of those things pretty well already, if by Humanity, you mean Dean.” Meg winks at Cas and he can’t help but smile, it breaks the tension in the room for a moment.

“Yeah, that’s the thing. Cas would have to perform this reset on the highest ranking angel within heaven. Or more precisely, the cause of the problem.”

“Naomi.”

“Yeah. You’d need to summon her and, well, it’s all written down here.” Kevin hands it over and Cas reads it, passes it to Benny who then hands it to Meg.

“It should work,” Cas says eventually, knowing that everyone is waiting for him to speak. “But we need to tell the others.” The he stands - calmly - and walks out of the library and straight into Dean’s room.

No one follows him, though he’ll welcome Meg’s company in a little while. He locks himself inside and heads straight for the bed, removes his clothes down to his boxer shorts and climbs underneath the covers. It still smells like Dean and a little like Cas, faint enough to be pleasant and comforting and he stays there, wishing he could sleep, wishing he could shut this all out for just a little while.

Though he knows that even if he were human, the nightmares would ravage his solitude so really, there is no escape.

***

Chapter Text

"He’s not coming out of there is he,” Kevin says.

“What do you think?” Meg asks, before turing her attention back to Kevin’s translations. He’s not sure which she’s reading at the moment; the Angel or the Demon Tablet, the notebooks are the same colour.

Benny is a seething six foot something vampire with barely suppressed anger across from Kevin, he hopes it’s making the young prophet suitably uncomfortable.

“I know that you think this was probably the best way to do it but I think you should have told all of us at the same time.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“You know what she did to him, right?” Meg asks, finally placing the notebooks on the table and looking straight at him. “She tortured him, repeatedly for months, years maybe given how time moves in heaven. And she’s good at what she does, she’d even have given Crowley a run for his money.”

Kevin looks away and it occurs to Benny that their young prophet may not have known all the details.

“It’s okay,” Benny says, though he’s not sure why he’s being so nice. “It’s done now, lets just figure out how to break this to Dean and the others when they get back.”

***
“Hey, Castiel,” Meg says, knocking on Dean’s door. Cas' is wide open and he’s not inside. “Come on, Clarence, I know you’re in there.”

The door opens and Meg steps inside. Cas is sat on the edge of the bed in pyjamas. His guard is down and he looks probably as bad as he feels.

Meg closes the door behind her and pulls over the chair in the room, settling down in front of him.

“Giles is sorry, I don’t think he knows what happened to you.”

Cas shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You know this isn’t a death sentence don’t you? There’s nothing in there that says this will kill you.”

“And nothing in the demon tablet says Sam will die after he completes the trials but we all know it’s a possibility.” He seems comfortable enough to say this to Meg, though she knows no one else is brave enough - or willing - to say it at all.

Meg closes her eyes. “Yeah, well, they’re Winchesters - they always find a way.”

“Not always,” Cas says looking away.

“You need to stop all the guilt, you know.”

Cas smiles sadly. “I know but I think we all do.” He looks at her. “Are you sure you want to do this? It could kill you too.”

Meg considers whether or not to drop her own guard but Castiel knows her well enough to know when she’s lying.

“It could but I really don’t care. I don’t want to go back to hell.”

“Because they’ll torture you?”

Meg shakes her head. “No. I don’t…. I don’t want to be what I was.” The words burn and feel like betrayal. She’s already at war with herself and she hates it.

“No, I don’t either.” Cas sighs. “I know the translations not exact, it could mean something else in enochian but that’s not going to be possible to read so…”

“You have to do it.” Though she doesn’t sound happy about it. “Aren’t there any other angel’s who love humanity, or at least one of them and remember your true purpose?”

Cas shakes his head. “Not that are still angels. There have been a few, like Anna, who chose to fall and a few I know of who managed to give up their grace and remain in their vessels and live amongst humans.”

“I didn’t think that was possible.” It hasn’t come up in anything she’s read so far.

“It is, it’s just very hard and needs a high ranking angel, normally an arch angel to help. I think it was Gabriel’s work. I don’t know if there is anyone left who could do it. And I couldn’t ask them to, even if Gabriel was still alive he couldn’t perform the spell himself, he was in love with Kali, not a human.” Cas pauses before continuing. “And if anyone else was to do this, there’s nothing to say I’d still be the same afterwards.”

“The Tablet doesn’t say anything about memories being erased,” she reminds him and for a long time neither of them speaks.

“I know, Meg. Are you really okay with this?”

“Yes. It’s a cause to fight for and if it works, I may even end up on the right side for once.”

***

Dean, Sam and Charlie return to the bunker confident and reassuring. Plans are made and Kevin explains - under pressure from Cas, Benny and Meg - exactly what the Angel tablet says.

Cas feels Dean’s reaction and it hurts, he almost falters where he’s standing. They’re stood close together but Dean seems frozen and doesn’t reach for him. It’s Benny who steadies Cas.

“Have you agreed to this?” Dean asks and Cas shakes his head.

“No.” Not without your express agreement. He wants to add but thinks it goes unsaid because Dean relaxes.

“And you don’t have anything more than this?” he asks Kevin.

“No, this is it - the whole translation. Nothing else on the Tablet mentions anything to do with this.”

“And the translation’s accurate?” Dean presses.

“As accurate as I can get it.”

“It doesn’t even make any sense. If loving humans was punishable then why have that as a requirement for the spell? An angel who loves a human and remembers their true purpose?”

Kevin shakes his head. “I know, I do but it’s not the only time it’s mentioned. The grace of an Angel in love with a human is also a requirement for the spell to make the angels fall to earth, along with the heart of a Nephilim. It’s almost as if these were impossible tasks… or that god didn’t trust his angels to remember what they were supposed to be.”

“You know she’ll try to kill him, right? Or at the very least try to drag him back with her? and at the same time we have to close the gates of hell?”

“We should start them both at the same time, I’m pretty sure dealing with the angels first is the best option we have. Plus the ritual will take a long time,” Sam says, though Dean won’t meet his eyes.

“We’ll have to split up,” Charlie says, brining a calm voice of reason to the heated voices at the table. “If we really are planning to do both of these things at the same time then we need teams.” She doesn’t wait for agreement before she continues, “Dean, Cas and Benny on one - you’ve worked together before and you survived purgatory - you already make a really good team. Sam, Meg, Kevin and I will work on finishing the trials to close hell. As soon as you guys are done Cas can zap you back to us and we’ll go from there.”

“You’re all talking as if we’ve decided to do this,” Dean warns, Cas is grateful.

“Haven’t we?” Sam asks, though not unkindly.

“There isn’t another choice, Dean,” Cas says quietly. “Closing the gates of heaven would take too long and I don’t even know if it’s possible. Of all our options, this is the best one.”

“But we don’t know that this will do. At the very least it puts you in danger. At the very worst…” He lets the implications hang in the air. At the very worst it could erase Cas’ memories. There is, after all, always a cost and the instructions are vague.

Cas bows his head and closes his eyes. Dean’s hand closes slowly around his and the warmth seeps into him.

“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, but if you do, I’ll help you, we will all help you. I won’t let her touch you, Cas, okay?” Cas can feel Dean’s walls going back up with every word he says but they seem to be closing around them and not between them. He knows exactly how Dean feels about this, how scared he is and yet how brave he’s being regardless.

“Dean,” he says, meeting his gaze and not caring that the others are watching them.

“Yeah, yeah I know.”

***

“Here,” Dean hands Cas his trench coat, freshly cleaned and Cas doesn’t miss the importance of it. “I’ve missed it too, you know.”

Cas smiles and slides it on, comforted by it’s presence wrapped around him. It’s battle armour and a connection between he and Dean; he wouldn’t want to face Naomi without it. His suit feels constricting though, even with the tie and collar loosened. He misses soft tee shirts and plaid shirts, even his jeans and though it shouldn’t matter to him and won’t affect how he fights, he can’t help but notice how strange it feels, trench coat aside.

“The car’s all ready for Sam and the others, me and Benny are ready when you are.”

Cas steps forwards and takes Dean’s face in his hands, presses their mouths together and kisses him hard and deep until Dean can’t breathe. He backs him up against the corridor and presses back in slowly, in case Dean wants to stop him. He doesn’t and he kisses back, just as hard, one hand on his back and one gripping in the short strands on the back of his head.

“I’m ready,” Cas says once they’re stood, noses pressing together and breath mingling.

“Yeah,” Dean says quietly. “Yeah, Okay.”

***

There are hugs and goodbyes and Meg looks directly at Cas and says, “Be careful, okay?”

“Okay,” he says sincerely. He can see her worry, her fear but he doesn’t know how to soothe it or even if he can. “Take care of yourself, Meg.”

“Thanks, Clarence and good luck.” She turns to Dean, though no move is made on either part to embrace. “Look after my Unicorn, okay?”

Dean - who doesn’t make any attempt to understand - just nods and turns to his brother. They embrace for a long time, arms solid around each other and Cas' heart breaks a little. He hopes this isn’t the last time they’re all together like this but he can still remember the night with Jo and Ellen at Bobby’s all those years before, and the realisation that this might be the last time some of them leave the Bunker hurts.

They climb into the Impala and Benny, Dean and Cas watch and they drive out together.

They have to take the door, Dean bringing the key with him, hidden well and securely in a hidden pocket of his jeans.

“You ready?” Dean asks as they stand in the doorway. Cas is wearing protection charms that will hide him from sight for a short time. Despite the safety the tablet would provide him, it’s too much to risk brining it out into the open - if this goes wrong - and their plans often do - it’s best to keep the tablet locked away safely within the bunker. Even with the Key; Naomi would never know where to find the Bunker. It seems that you don’t know it’s there until you’re told or shown, it’s impressive spell work but now is not the time to admire it.

Dean has his purgatory knife in one hand and Cas’ hand in the other. Benny has a long knife tucked inside is coat and various other weapons on his person. It’s early evening so there’s no risk to him from sun light.

They step outside and the cool air rushes at Cas, takes his breath away and he takes a moment to enjoy it. Once the bunker door slams safely closed behind them Benny places his hand on Cas’ shoulder and within a moment they’re else where, a large field near a river miles a few miles away from the nearest town.

They’re close enough to a couple of farms that they could hot wire a car if they can’t use Cas’ wings to get to Sam and the others in time. They don’t know the price to pay for this spell and no one wanted to take the risk of leaving them stranded.

Cas takes off the warding bracelet and throws it far behind him then calls out to Naomi. Dean wanted to lace the place with holy oil but Cas had warned him not to, Naomi would notice - would know what they are up to - so instead they all carry angel blades and stand and wait.

Naomi appears on her own, though Cas knows others will be near by, cloaked and hidden. Naomi doesn’t take chances and seems happy to sacrifice the lives of her brothers and sisters as and when she needs to.

“Castiel,” she says, though she at least looks surprised to see Dean and Benny at his side.

“Naomi,” he returns, calming his anger and using Dean’s determination to temper it.

She looks between them all. “What’s going on here, Castiel? Where is the tablet?”

“Safe.”

“Do you have it?” She’s looking at Dean.

“It’s safe.” Dean tells her.

“You’ve translated it haven’t you? You have the prophet.”

“Yes.”

Naomi takes a step back, wary of them all. “Is that why you’re here?”

Cas sees his chance and takes it, stepping forwards and watching as Naomi takes another step back. “We want to talk to you, to come to an arrangement.”

“What do you want, Castiel.” She stops moving back wards and looks ready to draw her own blade.

“For heaven to be what it was supposed to be. We were supposed to be the shepherds of humanity, don’t you remember?”

Naomi laughs, a disbelieving flash of anger on her face. “Not always, Castiel. Egypt, when we killed every first born without lamb’s blood splashed on the door. Sodom and Gomorra.”

“I wasn’t there,” Cas tells her and she smiles.

“Yes, you were, You just don’t remember.”

Cold fear and hot rage burn within him.

“You brain washed him,” Dean says, walking forwards to stand at Castiel’s side again.

“Too damn many times I’m afraid but the fact is, Castiel, you’ve never really done what you were supposed to do, almost as though you were made wrong. No matter what I do, no matter how hard we try you never do as you are told - not completely - you don’t even die right.”

“Then why even bother?” Dean asks. “Why rescue him?”

Benny, who until this point hasn’t said anything, looks to Naomi. “Come on darlin’ there’s got to be a reason.”

“You must know or you wouldn’t be here,” Naomi counters. “And I don’t owe a vampire any answers.”

“You owe me. Tell me, Naomi and we’ll let you live.”

“Because if I could fix you, I could finally, finally have you under my control. You don’t die, Castiel surely you’ve noticed and your bond with this human was the final straw. If I could break you completely then you’d be the good little soldier you were always supposed to be instead of this.”

“I was in purgatory with no way out.”

“You were always going to find a way out, Dean would always have found a way to bring you back or someone or something else would have made sure you returned to him.”

Cas doesn’t dare turn and look at Dean, he knows, he can feel his reaction but this is not the time or the place.

“Cas, I think you should do what we came here for,” Benny says, swinging his knife around in the air in an arc.

Naomi looks between them but to her credit she doesn’t try to run. She’s assuming (although wrongly) that there is something in the Tablet that will prevent her from moving, something worse than what is actually coming. It hadn’t occurred to him until now to bluff but after everything it seems that Naomi doesn’t know what the tablet says. The knowledge is with them - and Metatron - wherever he is.

Castiel steps forwards and places his hand on her shoulder. She doesn’t move, doesn’t summon her blade at all. He takes a breath - out of habit not out of need - and says the words, words he doesn't understand, words who’s meanings are hidden even from him.

He is faintly aware that he has no idea what this will do, if it will even work and if he’ll be left standing at the end of it but he says it anyway. He repeats it over and over and over, feeling energy pour out of him with the words.

Naomi falls to her knees, screaming and Cas lets go, stumbling back. Dean catches him and they watch as Naomi keeps screaming, holding her hands first over her ears then over her eyes before she collapses completely on the ground.

Cas feels like he’s going to pass out but Benny takes is other arm and between him and Dean he stays upright and conscious. He can feel Dean’s soul again, warm and strong, a soothing balm to the ache in his grace.

“Cas? Cas are you with me? Talk to me, Cas,” Dean says, sounding frantic.

Cas turns to him and his vision wavers for a moment. “Dean,” he manages, then falls into a coughing fit.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Dean repeats like a mantra and runs his hand underneath Cas' mouth. His hand comes away clean though, Cas can’t see red and Dean seems relieved enough to turn his attention to Naomi.

She’s no longer screaming and seems to be coming around. She stands on shaky feet, though Cas knows he can’t do the same. If the reset failed then he’s out, they all are. He can’t fly like this and he refuses to use Dean’s soul - or Benny’s - as a power source. He’s so unstable that it might end up killing them all anyway.

“All this time, all this time and that’s why you are so important,” Naomi says, eyes streaming with tears, “and you don’t even realise it do you?” She sounds amazed rather than dangerous but neither Dean - who’s grabbed his knife again - or Benny put their guard down. “You wouldn’t have asked otherwise, you need to tell your prophet that he’s a little off on his translation.” Naomi laughs again but it rings with relief. “The words you just said - the ones I know you don’t understand - you’re the master reset, Castiel. The one little angel who couldn’t ever forget his true purpose. No wonder you never really die, you’re never supposed to.” She looks to all of them. “The truth is the arch angels ordered me to debrief Metatron after our father left us but he ran before I could. My reputation has a way of preceding me, after all. So we didn’t know what we were supposed to do next, aside from wait for paradise on earth and we’ve been trying on our own for so long that we’ve gone astray, I’ve gone astray.”

Castiel’s mind is spinning.

“It’s okay, you were never supposed to know and now I, now I have to return to heaven and spread the word.” She makes no move to leave though.

“What’s wrong with Cas?” Dean asks her and Cas can feel her eyes on him, even though his vision is still focussing in and out.

“He’s going to be fine but I recommend you decide what to do with your grace, Castiel. When you have made up your mind you should call on me again.”

“I don’t… I don’t understand,” he stutters and Naomi looks as though she’s taken pity on him, as though the monster who tortured him is nothing but a distant memory.

“Just think about it, decide what future you want and when you have I’ll be here to help you. Thank you, Castiel, truly. I’m not sure why we ever forgot our purpose but after all the damage and pain you have inflicted upon heaven, it seems as though you have finally done what you were made for. I’m just sorry it took us so long to realise.”

A flutter of wings and she’s gone. Dean and Benny lower Cas to the ground, where he collapses and closes his eyes. He feels as though he’s just jumped through time a hundred years each way.

Dean’s legs are warm beneath his head and he’s vaguely aware of Dean and Benny talking above him, of Dean’s hand running through his hair and Benny’s on his shoulder.

“How long do we have?” Benny asks.

“About 7 hours.”

“I’ll call Charlie, let her know what’s happened here. We should still make it in time and I don’t think we can move him.” He feels Dean try to move, feels Benny hold onto his legs but he feels heavier than his body, so much heavier and every time they touch him it hurts. He wonders if the sharp shout he hears is his or really in his head.

***

Six hours and Cas is still out cold. There have been increasingly frequent moments of clarity but the last one ended a few minutes ago. Time is running out and Dean doesn’t know what to do. Charlie has checked in with them every half hour and insists that everything is fine, he's even been able to speak to Sam but it doesn’t help, this still isn’t where he’s supposed to be. They're supposed to be in the church by now, though he knows that even if he could free himself, he can’t leave Cas. Not know, not ever.

Cas’ breathing is slow and steady and warm against Dean’s hand. Benny stands watch in front of them and if it wasn’t for the wide open space before them it would feel like purgatory all over again. Only this time their rolls are reversed.

“Dean.” A flutter of wings and their attention is snapped upwards. Naomi stands before them, though Benny makes sure to stand between her and Dean and Cas. “It’s okay, the reset worked, that’s not why I’m here. I came here to warn you.” She looks haggard and worn - like she’s been in a fight, her clothes are torn and her hair is a mess.

“About what?” Dean asks, feeling utterly helpless on the floor with Cas in his arms.

“The trials to close heaven, is Sam going through with it?”

“Yes.”

“Does the tablet tell him exactly what will happen when he completes the trials?”

Dean shakes his head but he already knows where this is going and the panic starts to set in. Cas stirs in his hold and tries to lift his head.

“If Sam completes the trials he’ll die. It’s a heavenly weapon and there are always consequences. The ultimate sacrifices is the fourth and final part of the trials.”

“How do you know that?” Dean asks.

Naomi shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter, it’s not important. It will kill him. Dean, believe me, I want you to close the gates of hell but I owe you for what you have done. Please. You really can trust me.”

He wants to argue with her, wants to call her out on her lies - for all the lies that have come before - and he still wants to kill her for what she did to Cas. But this is not the same angel. This is a humble and scared angel trying to make amends. The least he can do is trust her. Especially if his brother’s life is at risk. It hurts too much to contemplate and yet it’s been there, all along in the back of his mind. He thinks Sam knows too, that even when they tell him he’ll still go ahead with it. Dean doesn’t know what to do to stop him.

“The Leviathan weapon sent you and Castiel to purgatory, what do you think this one will do? Closing the gates of hell is beyond comprehension. Sam should know the risks.” Dean can’t think, can’t speak. His thoughts are a litany of Sam, Sam, Sam.

Two other angels appear besides Naomi. “He’s been subdued and inprisonned. We’ve been careful, as instructed.”

“Thank you,” Naomi says and they leave again, in a flutter of wings.

“I have to go but before you do I can take you to him,” Naomi offers and Cas forces himself up and out of Dean’s arms.

“No,” he says, eyes focused on Naomi. “I can’t let you do that, not yet. I’ll take them.”

Naomi looks at him for a moment before nodding. “My offer was and is sincere, Castiel. Call for me when you  make up your mind.” And she’s gone again.

“I’m sorry, Dean.” Cas says, unsteady on his feet. “I won’t risk Sam.” He sways into Dean and takes his hand as he stands. “Benny, hold on.” Benny places his hand on Cas’ shoulder. “This is probably going to hurt,” Cas warns, then the world shifts around them and a moment later they’re crashing onto the steps of a small church.

***

Chapter Text

Sam’s arms glow white every time he injects her and although he turns away, Meg doesn’t miss the red that flares afterwards. He’s in pain, a pain that is slowly killing him and they both know it. Though Sam doesn’t stop and Meg doesn’t ask him to. Charlie eyes them both carefully but she keeps her silence too and Kevin doesn’t seem to want to speak to anyone. He keeps checking and checking the salt lines and other protection laid about the place.

“One to go, right Sam?” Meg says, though she feels feral. The two sides of her are waring with each other and one moment she’s thrashing against the restraints and the next she’s in tears, crying for all wrongs she has committed, for all the people she has killed and the souls she’s tortured.

Before this, her eyes haven’t been black for months but in the past six hours she’s switched between them so much and she feels like she’s falling apart. Sam’s blood in her veins is helping her.

“You know,” she says. “It’s kinda poetic if you think about it.”

“Oh?” Sam asks and his face is so, so pale and drawn that Meg wonders how he’s still standing. It isn’t the lack of blood though, it’s the price he’s paying, the one he’s been paying since the first trial. Though really, deep down she knows he started paying it before he was even born.

“Yeah, I’ve been in your head, seen how your pretty little mind works, been inside your body too. Though it’s seen better days.” She hates the venom in her voice, want’s Sam to give her more - set her free, rid her of the taint that’s haunted her for so many, many years. “Now it’s kinda like you’re inside me, pardon the pun. Though, Buffy, you’re not exactly my type. Even if I’m yours.”

Sam’s jaw tightens but he schools the frown on his face. “Come on, Meg, you can do better than that.”

She laughs. “I’m tired Sam, I’ve been fighting this battle for months now, all that time holed up in the Bunker with you and my lovely Unicorn who I can never touch, who I won’t ever love me and it’s not fair. I think the worst part is that me being a demon isn’t what stopped him. That’s all Dean. Dean, Dean, Dean and he’s it for Cas, you know?”

“I know,” Sam says quietly.

“Seriously? That’s all you have to say? You think Dean is just going to go on merrily with his life, marry Cas and adopt all the wayward children they can find?” She’s hysterical now and can’t seem to stop. “Your brother can’t function without you, incase you’ve not noticed and yet you still singed up for this. Oh Sam, Sammy, Sammy, Sammy.”

He hates it when she calls him that and part of her feels terrible for hurting her friend - and is he is her friend - but the loudest part of her right now is the part she’s been suppressing for months…. years, too long and this is the first chance it’s had to break free.

“It’s okay, Meg, really. Almost there.” She wonders how his tone can be so gentle, so caring. How one person can suffer so much and still want to help. She understands why it was Dean that was born to be the righteous man and not Sam, she doesn’t know if Sam would have broken in hell.

“I’m sorry, Sam.” She’s winning again.

He walks closer and bends down, sitting just in front of the devils trap.

“It’s okay, really.”

“Will you go back to her?” she asks quietly. “Amelia?”

Sam meets her eyes and shakes his head. “Even if this doesn’t kill me, I can’t go back. Once you’re in this world you’re in and I want Amelia to be safe. I miss her and a selfish part of me wants me to beg her to take me back but I can’t do that to her, I can’t.”

“Even if the world’s free of demons and angels?” Meg asks, knowing neither of them count Cas as part of the angelic host anymore.

“There are still ghosts and werwolves, shape shifters and vampires and most of them aren’t like Benny. Something would happen and I wouldn’t be there.”

Meg doesn’t hold herself back and says, “Jess was killed by demons, Sam, it wasn’t your fault.”

He flinches but doesn’t back away. “I forget that you know about that.”

“Sam, even if I didn’t, I heard you in the confession booth before, I know you blame yourself, all that pain. You shouldn’t.”

“I’ve done some pretty terrible things.”

Meg smiles and she hopes it looks kind, hopes she looks reassuring. “Oh Sam,” she manages before she can feel the screaming start to build up again. “I’m sorry.”

The rage breaks through, she thrashes against the restraints and screams.

***

All Cas can hear is screaming and it takes him a moment to realise it’s not his. Dean pulls him to his feet and steadies him. Benny’s not far behind and before he knows it he’s stood inside a church.

Charlie greets them at the door, “Ah, this is probably not a good time guys.” Though she still steps aside.

“Oh, Dean, the man who stole my Unicorn.” Meg’s eyes are black and Cas fights to concentrate on her for long enough to see past her human face. “Though I suppose he was always yours.”

There is more light there, but the darkness remaining is trying to suffocate it.

“Meg,” he says, she looks at him and her eyes return to normal. The strangle hold loosens too.

“Did it work?” she asks, slumping in her chair and panting for breath.

“Yes.” He looks away. This hurts, hurts more than he thought it would, though at least he’s alive. At least he’s still an angel.

Dean makes sure Cas isn’t going to fall over again and runs to Sam, grabs his brother by the arm and pulls him to one side.

“You have to stop this.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Sam, this is going to kill you,” Dean pleads and Cas feels his pain, feels it so strongly he buckles over. Benny’s at his side in an instant, Charlie too once she’s checked the door is secure again.

“I know and it doesn’t matter, it’s okay.”

Dean’s pain is blinding and Cas, in his current state has to hold in his scream, how Dean manages to suppress this is beyond him. Sam’s looking at him with sad but pleading eyes. They were right, they were all right - Sam has known all along.

“Clarence!” Meg calls and Benny helps him walk over, Charlie hovers near by.

“Meg.”

“Remember what I said to you?” Meg asks and he can tell she’s fighting the last strands of darkness. “At the bunker, please Castiel. When I find a cause to serve I put my all into it every time, every time.”

Meg’s eyes are pleading with him but he's looking at her true face, the pain, the sincerity and other emotions he’s not sure he should be privy to.

“I’ll try, Meg,” he tells her.

She shakes her head. “You need to do more than try. Let Sam complete the trials. Please.”

“Meg, it’s going to kill him.”

Meg shakes her head. “Please, Castiel, trust me.” She coughs. “There’s a loop hole, I read the translations and it’s there - right in the instructions - Please, Clarence.”

“There is always a price.”

Meg smiles, heart breaking and beautiful. “I know.”  

Cas looks to Benny and they both turn to see Dean and Sam arguing. Dean’s pain is amplifying and Cas doesn’t know how to do what Meg asks. He can’t bare the thought of losing Sam anymore than Dean can but Meg seems to know what she’s doing, believes she has a way out of this and he owes her a chance.

“Dean.” It hurts him to speak but everyone’s attention turns to him. “There might be another way.”

“No, Cas, no. We don’t risk Sam. You said it yourself.”

“Did you deal with heaven?” Sam asks Cas and he looks at him, even though it hurts, even though it’s hard to see him once again wracked with pain.

“Yes.”

He nods. “Let me deal with hell.”

“It will kill you,” Dean yells, hand in a vice like grip on his arm.

“Not necessarily,” Cas tells him, fists clenched at his sides as he fights off waves of dizziness and pain. “Dean, I was the reset, it had to be me - the tablet didn’t say that, not exactly. It might be the same here.”

“What - what do you mean?” Sam asks and Cas steps aside.

Meg meets Sam’s eyes and an understanding passes between them.

“Kevin?” Dean asks and the prophet turns to him.

“It’s the best translation I can give you, it doesn’t say anymore than that.” He looks as though there are other questions he wants to ask but he stays silent.

“I’ll do it.”

“Sam -“

“No, Dean, it’s my choice. Whatever happens, this is my choice so please let me make it.”

Cas doesn’t know how Dean lets go of Sam’s arm. Even with what Meg has just told him Cas doesn’t think he could have done the same in his place. It’s either resignation or trust, Cas can’t clear his mind enough to figure out which. Between the drain of his grace and Dean’s pain; he thinks the only reason he’s standing is Benny’s firm grip on his shoulder.

Sam takes the syringe and fills it to the line, walks over to Meg and places it her throat.

“You could have told me,” he tells her softly.

She shakes her head and smiles. “Would you believe me if I said I wanted it to be a surprise?”

Sam’s mouth curves into a warm return smile. “It might not work.”

“I know. But this is your cause isn’t it? Your calling. If I fail you’ll finish it.”

Sam nods. “Yeah, yeah. I promise.” He pushes on the syringe pump and Meg grits her teeth. “Exorcizamus te,omnis immundus spiritus. Hanc animam redintegra, lustra! Lustra!”

Cas watches as the last tendrils of darkness disintegrate and leave her soul pure, human and radiant.

She takes a few deep breaths, watches as red lines burn through Sam’s ams and calls out, “Kah-nuh-ahm-dahr.” The same lines start to appear on her skin and Meg calls again, “Kah-nuh-ahm-dahr.” She tips her head to the ceiling, “Kah-nuh-ahm-dahr.” Light blares through and around her and her new, radiant soul flares with the pain and sacrifice of the trials.

Cas feels the effects of the spell wash over him, feels it cleans the earth. For him it’s like a strong wind passing by but he can feel the strength of the magic inside it, the power the trials have unlocked. Everything is so light, so bright that for a moment none of them can see and when it fades Cas collapses back onto his knees.

Benny offers to help him stand again but he shakes his head.

Dean runs for Sam, grabbing onto and checking his brother all over.

“Sammy, Sammy.”

“I’m okay, Dean. I’m fine… Meg…”

“Yeah, I know, I know.”

***

Dean’s hand are careful, gently as he unlocks the shackles on Meg’s arms. She’s still breathing - barely - but he knows what this means. They all do.

Charlie helps him lift her from the chair and Dean picks her up and holds her in his arms.

Sam has laid one of the blankets from the Impala out on the floor, his rolled up bag set up like a pillow.

Dean lays her down and backs away as Cas, Sam and Kevin gather around her.

Sam’s stroking the hair from her face, Cas has hold of her hand and Kevin sits as close as he can, tears running down his face.

“I can’t heal you,” Cas says softly and it breaks Dean’s heart that Cas has to lose another of his friends, even though in the grand scheme of things it feels like they’ve gotten off lightly.

“I know, Clarence, that’s the point.” her voice is feint, weak and barely there. “Is Sam, is Sam okay?”

“I’m right here, Meg,” Sam tells her, though his voice cracks and Dean watches him choke back a sob.

“We all are, thanks to you,” Kevin adds.

“Good.”

“Meg, how did you know?”

“I told you, Sam, you were inside me. So I moved the trials.”

“Why?”

“Find a cause and follow it.”

“Closing the gates of hell was that important to you?”

Meg laughs, though it’s a weak and broken sound. “No, Sam. You trusted me, you and Cas - Kevin too, you let me into your bat cave and made me part of the team. My cause was your cause, I owed you for helping me kill Crowley. We’re even now by the way.”

“Meg.” Sam cups her face, she’s still breathing but she doesn’t say anything else.

Cas’ grip on her hand tightens and he whispers something too quiet for Dean to hear. Sam does though and so does Kevin. The prophet stands on shaky feet and looks at Dean.

“She’s gone.” Then he turns from them, storms out the church and slams the door.

“I’ll go after him,” Charlie says, “Benny, you coming?”

He looks surprised to be asked but follows her.

Dean walks back over to Cas and Sam, kneels down at Cas’ side and puts his arm around him, places his other hand on Sam’s shoulder. Cas leans into him but doesn’t let go of Meg’s hand and Sam mirrors Dean’s hold on his arm.

“I’m sorry,” he says - and means it.

***

Chapter Text

 photo DCBB Break Through picspam part 3.png

Sam insisted on holding a small service, a hunters funeral with full honours. No one argued, they all helped.

Cas speaks for her, followed by Sam and Kevin and it’s then that Dean realises how close they had become over the past few months, seemingly without him knowing. Which isn’t true. He knows how much she meant to Cas, even to Kevin and she did spend a lot of time with Sam. His own distrusting nature is the reason he didn’t spend more time with her, though Benny stands at his side as proof that it’s not what she was that was the issue.

They stand gathered together, Charlie on Dean’s other side with the others in front. It’s been less than twelve hours since they were in the church, since the gates of hell slammed shut and Heaven remembered it’s purpose.

Charlie’s checked the news and apparently a number of high ranking politicians and celebrities have either been found dead or ‘waking up’ from an out of body experience. Though there are others Dean finds hard to believe are really human and he supposes Leviathan is still a possibility.

When the fire has ceased and all that’s left is ash and embers, Cas turns to Dean and lets him fold him into his arms. Cas is crying into his shoulder and Dean knows that though most of his tears are for Meg, relief, survivors guilt and disbelief are mixed in there too.

***
Sam follows Dean as he guides Cas to bed. The bunker is locked down for the night and everyone is either in their rooms or talking in the library.

“Sam, a little help here?”

Sam laughs and walks inside Dean’s room.

“He’s really out cold isn’t he,” he says, helping to shrug off his shoes and socks.

“M not sleep,” Cas mumbles and Dean soothes him.

“Can you change into your pyjama’s or do you need us to do it for you?” A moment later he’s wearing his pyjamas but is still in his coat. Dean gives Sam a look that says he’s given up for now and makes sure Cas is comfortable on the pillows before turning to his brother.

They haven’t said much since coming back from the church - none of them have - the shock of it all being over and the bittersweet pain still hangs heavily in the air. Sam knows that’s not the real reason he and Dean haven’t spoken.

“Why did you let me do it?” Sam asks though Dean immediately scowls and looks away. He knew he would so it’s not a surprise. He watches as his brother takes Cas' hand in his and closes his eyes briefly before speaking.

“Because I had to let go,” Dean says, though the words are clearly painful for him to say. “I don’t want to lose you, Sam and I don’t know what I’d do without you but I was prepared to die to close hell… then Cas and Meg…. I think I knew there was nothing I could do to stop you and I felt so… so - so helpless that I just gave up.”

“Dean-“

“It’s okay, Sam, it wasn’t just that.” Dean looks down at his free hand in his lap. “I could tell Cas thought there was a chance and he’s right, the translations isn’t exact. Naomi told us that Cas has always been the reset, the one angel she’s never really been able to reprogram - the one who always remembers their true purpose. So when he said there was a way and I knew I couldn’t stop you, I let go.”

“I’m sorry,” Sam admits and Dean swallows hard.

“I know. One of us is always sorry but at least this time we actually have saved the world, for as long as it lasts.”

“What happened to Cas?” he asks, not knowing what else he can say about the end of the trials.

“The spell drained him and knocked him out and when he came to he had to take us to you once Naomi told us what would happen if you finished the trials.”

“So she’s what? A good guy now?”

Dean shakes his head. “I don’t know. I mean, I still want to kill her. No amount of good that she does now can make up for what she’s done to Cas but I’m also not about to go poking a hornets nest when it’s not in my back yard.”

“Is he going to recover?” Cas’ breathing is even now and all Sam can see is a human Castiel towards the end of their struggle to stop the apocalypse so long ago. It bothers him to see his friend reduced to human when he has always been so much more.

“Yeah, we think so. Might take a while though. It was bad, Sammy, I couldn’t move him without it hurting him and there was nothing to do but wait.”

It’s strange still to see Dean so open about his feelings for Cas, for him to let the others see how much he means to him. Sam has known for such a long time and ignoring their long stares had become awkward on more occasions than he can count but this is different. Cas’ affection is open and unguarded and the more time they spend together the less hesitancy exists between them.

It’s opened Dean up in other ways and Sam hasn’t heard him laugh, hasn’t seen him as free and open with his friends until now. He knows that it’s not just Cas’ affect on him. Benny and Charlie are good friends and a welcome addition to their extended family. They’ve helped Sam too - all of them, Meg and Kevin included. They feel like hope and support, like they’re finally no longer alone.

Meg’s death is a new pain but one he’s trying to let help him rather than push him back down a road of despair. Her redemption and her sacrifice has changed something in him and he’s glad of it.

“Do you still want out?” Dean asks and Sam looks up at his brother.

“What?”

“You said you wanted to take on the trials to show me that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I know that you thought it might kill you but you must have thought about what you’d do if it didn’t.”

Sam doesn’t speak for a moment and instead looks at his brother, past the facade and the bravado and at a part of him he rarely ever sees. The scared four year old boy who grew up to believe that everyone he ever loved would leave him, that they wouldn’t stick around for him or worse, that they’d die for him and leave him alone anyway.

“I want to help people and the best way I can see to do that is to stay here, put the knowledge we have here to good use, reform the hunter network in the US and reach out to others who may need our help. We can do all of that without ever letting anyone know that this place is here. And I want to live my life.”

“After everything, that’s really what you want to do?”

Sam nods. “Yes, Dean. Charlie says she wants to call this home and I’m guessing it’s the same for Benny - which is fine by the way - he can stay for as long as he wants. And it doesn’t look like you and Cas are going anywhere soon, though if you did you’d be together.” He meets Dean’s gaze. “My year out was like living a different life, one in which I had lost everything and could start over again… but it still didn’t work and although I was happy for a while… it’s not what I want now.”

“I want to stay here, I’m not sure about Cas. He’s been cooped up here for a long time, I’d understand if he wants to recover and see the world.”

“He’ll want you to go with him,” Sam says gently, not wanting his brother awake for the whole night contemplating the thought of Cas leaving him. It’s not going to happen.

“Maybe but as I said, he’s got to recover first.”

“Yeah, I’m going to head to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Dean nods. “Night, Sammy.”

“Good night, Dean.”

***
The next morning, after Cas actually slept at Dean’s side for ten hours, he asks Dean to come with him for a walk. They end up sat outside a little way away from the bunker on a grassy slope. It’s still sheltered but it’s outside and the morning air is cool and fresh.

Cas is still wearing his pyjamas, though he’s wearing his trench coat too. He doesn’t seem to want to be without it and there was a moment the night before when Dean thought he was going to sleep in it.

“Talk to me, Cas,” he says gently. He’s not sure what else say or even where to start. Trying to get his head around what’s happened over the past couple of days is proving impossible. He feels Cas slide their hands together and squeeze his fingers.

“I don’t know where to begin.”

Dean watches Cas as he looks out onto the rough woodland around them. It’s bright enough for him to see him clearly, though he knows that what he can see is only part of who Cas really is. He can feel Cas now, when they’re close, when they’re intimate, like a soothing, radiant presence around him. Years before he knows this would have bothered him but he doesn’t know what he would do without it now.
“Where ever you want,” he says.

“I feel vindicated but also betrayed at the same time. Every time I came back to life I wondered why and for so long it’s felt like a punishment, seeing the results of my crimes all around me. I don’t know how to accept that I’ve always meant to be this way, that this was always part of who I am.”

“I think it just proves you’ve always been yourself. No matter how hard anyone or anything tried to change you.”

“Naomi almost broke that. If I had killed you, she would have won.” He speaks the words quietly, hurt echoing in his voice.

“You were never going to kill me.”

“Dean.”

“No. Profound Bond, remember?”

Cas is very quiet and Dean doesn’t say anything to break the silence.

“You’re my reset then, my failsafe,” Cas says at last, his lips quirking upwards just slightly.

“I love you, Cas.” The words come easier now and saying them is like a small release, he’s held them in for so long, from so many people but he’s learnt how to say them to Cas, understands how much they mean.

Cas smiles before saying, “it’s a lot to take in and it drained my grace. I’ll recover but it will take months.”

“That’s okay, you can stay here as long as you want.”

Cas turns sharply, meeting Dean’s eyes. “I’m not leaving, Dean, you must know that by now.”

Dean smiles. “I know though I thought you’d want to fly off every now and again, see the world.” He can’t help feeling as though he’s been keeping Cas locked up within the Bunker, even if it was to keep him safe.

Cas shrugs. “Not unless you and Sam want to come with me. The solitude isn’t something I enjoy or something I want. I’ve spent too much time away from those I love thinking it would help. These last few months have taught me how wrong it was to think that way.” There is something else he wants to say, something Dean can feel just below the surface.

“Go on,” he prompts gently.

“I dreamt last night.”

“Oh?” He has wondered about that, Cas hasn’t slept in years.

“I dreamt I told you I loved you, back when I first realised how I felt.”

“How’d it go?” Dean’s heart is suddenly hammering though this is not the question he really wants to ask.

“About as well as I thought it would at the time.”

“Cas.” Dean squeezes his hand.

“I used to watch you tend to the garden.” Is all Cas says and suddenly Dean knows exactly when and where Cas means.

“Oh, Cas,” Dean whispers, leaning over and pressing their lips together. Cas falls into him and Dean moves, putting his weight on their joined arms and cupping Cas' jaw with his other hand.

“What do you want, Cas?” Dean asks when they part. “I don’t care what it is, as long as it makes you happy.”

“To spend my life with you,” Cas says quietly, he doesn’t quite meet Dean’s eyes, looks away and tries to hide things he must know he can no longer hide from Dean.

“Okay, Cas, okay.” Dean nods and kisses him again.

***

“Association of Letters,” Charlie says, sitting back in her seat at the table.

“I like it,” Benny agrees. “Though, I’m still not sure I understand the Letters part, it’s a good name for us.”

“So you’re in?” Charlie asks, her expression already brightening.

“Of course. No daylight most of the time, a constant supply of blood and the company of friends? Sure I’m in, right, Dean?”

Dean smiles. “Sure.”

“Sam?” Benny asks.

Sam nods. “Yeah, it’s fine with me too.” He looks at Dean and smiles. “You’ve earned your place here, if you want it.”

“Happily.” Benny looks so settled as he speaks, relaxed in a way Dean has never seen him.This place suits him, Dean thinks, surrounded by a support network with people who care about him, who’ve seen and fought the same darkness he still battles against. Sam’s acceptance means the most to Dean though and his brother seems to know that.

“Cas?” Charlie asks.

“I don’t think you need my vote to approve Benny, though he can have it if he needs it.” Charlie laughs and Cas squints, for a moment he looks like his old self and Dean rubs his back affectionately. “Oh, oh. Yes, though I thought I was already part of it.”

“You are, Cas, you are,” Dean reassures him and Sam agrees.

“You’re also the only member who can read most of the books in here,” Sam adds. “Though even if you couldn’t, the offer would still be the same.”

“Thank you, Sam.”

“No problem.”

Charlie turns to Kevin. “Which just leaves you, Kevin. What do you say? Part time membership? Occasional visit? Or permanent sabbatical?”

Kevin looks down at the table and shakes his head. “I don’t know, maybe part time? I want to go home, to see my mom and go to college - really go to college this time - I want what’s left of my life back.”

“Whatever you want to do,” Dean says, “is fine with us.”

Kevin looks from Dean to Sam then to Cas, Benny and Charlie.

“I know you mean it and I know it’s all over, I do and I know you said the angels will actually watch over me this time but I don’t know what I want to do yet.” He sighs and looks at Dean. “Can I think about it?”

Dean nods. “You’ve got my numbers, all our numbers. We’re here for you.” Sam looks away but no one draws attention to it. Sam and Kevin have talked and Dean knows that he finally understands what happened that year Dean was gone.

“Thank you, Dean, really.”

“No problem, we literally couldn’t have done this without you.”

Kevin smiles then looks to Charlie. “Put me down as a part time very long distance member.”

“Okay, will do.”

“What about Meg?” The question stings and Cas visibly flinches, Sam does too.

“She’s already on the records and you can add whatever you want to it,” Charlie tells him gently, turning her attention to Cas too. “Is that okay?”

Cas smiles though Dean can tell it feels bittersweet to do so. “Yes, she might have complained about it but she would have appreciated it.”

***

“Meg left me a letter,” Kevin tells Cas that evening in the kitchen.

“She left one for me and Sam too.” He’s read his six times and he still doesn’t know how to talk about it, the pain is too raw, too new and from the expression on Kevin’s face; he feels the same.

Kevin nods and sits on the stool. “I’m sorry my translation was off, that I didn’t realise.”

Cas shakes his head. “Kevin, after all you have done I don’t think you have anything to apologise for. You have done your duty under conditions no one should have to endure.”

“Hey, at least it wasn’t a desert.”

“That is true.”

“Is it a literal desert?”

Cas smiles. “I don’t actually know.”

***

“I could give it up,” Cas explains as they lie wrapped in blankets on the same slope they talked on this morning. The night is clear and the stars are out and for the first time in a long time they’re both free to appreciate it. “My grace,” he adds.

“I wouldn’t ever ask you to do that,” Dean reassures him, pressing his head against Cas’ shoulder.

“I know.”

“How long do you have to decide?”

Cas turns on his side and settles further into Dean’s arms, holding himself as close as possible.

“I don’t know, months? Years? For now I want to keep it, until I know that heaven really is there to watch over us.”

Dean pulls him tight against his chest and kisses his temple. Happiness floods through him at the thought of Cas considering himself someone to be watched over, it feels like he belongs with him - with all of them - and  he counts himself lucky to have survived the past few years.

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“Would it matter if I let them remove my grace so that I could live out my life with you?”

“No, if that’s what you really want, then no. But I don’t want you to give up who you are for me either. You’re an angel, Cas, I can’t ask you to give that up. Not if you don’t have to, not if you don’t want to.” He just wants Cas to want to spend his life with him, that’s all and Cas has already said that he wants that to. As overwhelming as that is to accept, the facts are very hard to ignore so Dean will take what he’s been offered, in whatever form Cas chooses.

***

The next few months are both relaxed and busy. An odd combination for anyone else to deal with but hunters have very different ideas of relaxation than most.

Kevin returns home with his mother though he Skypes to check in once a week or so. He’s reapplied for college and been accepted on full scholarship to his first choice school though he still hasn’t decided whether or not to attend in the fall.

Garth was finally located, recently settled down and married. He’s promised not to disappear for so long again and offered his services but no one really wants to disturb his peace if they can help it.

Charlie puts out the feelers and slowly but surely a nationwide network of hunters, researchers and allies appears around the country. They keep the bunker’s location and content a secret and rely on the already vast knowledge out there to cover their tracks and sources. Very little of it is allowed on line and they have to update the phone system in a week of frantic - but excited - work from Charlie and Sam.

Cas, Dean and Benny spend that week away from the chaos, mostly in the den though they do make sure all meals and refreshments are provided.

They still hunt and Cas is still an angel, though he relies less on his grace and more on his strength and skill in battle. Benny comes with them when he can too, finding purpose in a successful hunt, in a little more balance being returned to the world.

They also make a trip to Bobby’s house to rescue what’s left of his library, Cas happy to assist in transport though after five trips there and back with Dean and Sam they give up and leave the less important and more common books where they are. There are still too many painful memories in that house and it feels better to let it rest in peace, at least for now.

***

Cas finds Dean in his room, sprawled out on the bed in his grey men of letters dressing gown. The’ve been away for a few days on a hunt and now that they’re back they’ve slipped into their normal post-hunt routine. For Dean this involves a very long shower. For Cas, it’s time to think - at least after this last hunt anyway.

“Dean.”

He lifts himself up and sits on the edge of the bed. “What’s up, Cas?”

“I was wondering if you would come with me, there’s something I need to do.”

Dean meets his eyes for a moment and Cas can feel him reach out to his grace as well. They still can’t share thoughts - though Cas can hear Dean clearly whenever he prays to him - but it doesn’t matter, they still have a way of understanding each other perfectly.

“Okay. Yeah, just give me a minute to get dressed.”

Cas nods and sits on the chair in the room as Dean puts on his clothes and hangs his dressing gown up on the back of his door.

“Do I need to bring anything?” Dean asks, reaching for his coat.

“Angel blade but keep it hidden.”

“Right, okay. Is Benny coming with us?” Cas nods. “You sure you want to do this?”

“Yes. I don’t like it hanging over me, I want to get it over with.”

Dean steps over and takes his hand and Cas stands, falling into Dean and breathing deeply against his neck. Dean soothes him, rubs his hands up and down his back and presses kisses into his hair.

Eventually Cas steps back, taking Dean’s hand and walking out of the room.

Benny meets them in the library, greets them both with a small nod and walks to stand at Cas’ side. A beat of his wings and they’re stood in the same field they were in months ago.

Benny lays out a circle of oil and Dean pulls lighter out of his pocket. It’s a precaution and nothing more but it’s a useful one. There have been no signs and no evidence that heaven is corrupt again but they are nothing if not cautious.

Cas closes his eyes and calls out to the heavens, “Naomi.”

“Hello, Castiel,” she says. Naomi still looks the same, prim, proper and authoritative but there is a calmness to her that wasn’t there before.

Every time he looks at her though Cas can see and feel the pain she wrought upon him and it makes this that much harder.

“Naomi,” he says in return. She looks at each of them and around her, she might even know the area at her feet is looped with holy oil but if she does she doesn’t draw attention to it. “Have you decided?”

“Yes.”

She nods.

“I want to keep my grace but age my body in time with Dean’s.”

Naomi looks between them. “And after he dies?”

Cas closes himself off from the pain of that thought, the ache it brings and reassures himself that it could be decades in the future.

“I’ll return to heaven with him and stay by his side. If I have to give up my grace when the time comes then I will give it up gladly but I want it to be scattered on earth, not stored in heaven.”

Naomi is quiet for a long time and all Cas can feel is his own concerns and Dean’s gentle reassurance.

“Very well. Heaven owes you a debt after all, you won’t be closed off from the host, though I understand that this means you won’t be returning in the meantime?”

“Not unless I need to,” Cas says, with just the hint of warning in his tone. Naomi can see his true face, his wings and the force behind his words. He’s certain she can see his bond with Dean resonating between them, though she doesn’t bring attention to it.

“You know how to reach us if you need to. Good bye, Castiel and good luck.” They hear the sound of her wings rustle in the air and then they are alone again.

“Why couldn’t it have been like that last time?” Benny quips, breaking the uneasy silence. Dean laughs, letting out a breath he had been holding and the tension in his shoulders leaks out.

Cas shrugs. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he says by way of explanation. A truth he has learnt himself more than once and seeing it in Naomi is the only way he can find to forgive her for the things she has done.

“Cas, I know we’ve talked about this but are you sure this is okay?’ Dean asks. Cas knows it’s only because he still worries - deep down - that Cas doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into and he’s lost count of all the times he’s answered this question. Not just with words but with everything he has and is.

“It’s a bit late for that now, Brother,” Benny tells him. He’s used to their conversations by now - and their arguments and on more than one occasion the resolution to them. Dean had been so embarrassed he flushed red from head to chest and Cas had flown them to his room to avoid further exposure.

“Yes, I’m sure.” He and Dean look at each other again, eyes meeting and locking together.

Benny coughs. “You can carry on this conversation back home, I have a movie night with Charlie and Sam  to get back to, a sentence I never thought I’d be sayin’ ever.”

Cas Grabs hold of both their shoulders and flies them back, landing in the library only minutes after they’d left. They figured out that if one of them has the key then they can do it, an escape route that can’t be followed.

Benny says goodnight and heads to the den but Dean and Cas walk slowly back to Dean’s room.

“So, you’re still an angel but you’re going to age huh?”

Cas smiles. “Yes, I’m almost looking forwards to it.”

“Almost?”

Cas shrugs. “It’ll take some getting used to.”

Dean kisses Cas just outside his door, cups his face with one hand and holds him tight against him with his other hand. It’s Slow and steady without urgency but Cas can feel Dean’s relief underneath it all.

When they part they stand foreheads resting together and Cas finds himself asking, “Do you think there’s room for two more in the den?”

Dean’s face breaks out into a wide grin and he laughs. “Yeah, come on.”

Sam greets them on the way in and they pull the new two seater sofa towards the central table. Benny doesn’t bother to hide his smirk and Charlie seems so happy that they’ve joined them she almost falls onto Cas at one point. She settles for handing them both a beer instead and passing over a large bowl of popcorn.

Neither Dean nor Cas bother to ask what they’re watching, they didn’t come for the movie. He doesn’t think the others did either but it’s an excuse to get together, to relax and appreciate what they have.


Fin