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My Keeper

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They were only paintings, though Cas wished them otherwise.

Every single time he began a new one, he thought that perhaps this would be the one. This time, he’d manage to get the angle of the jawline just right, the brightness of the eyes, the exact tilt of the head - the strange dynamism that made people into people, and not just portraits - and yet every time, he was wrong. The paintings were good, yes, and they were definitely and recognisably of one specific person… but they were flat, and painty, and constructed. They weren’t alive. And it was important, above all else, that the paintings looked alive.

And so Cas carried on painting, and painting, and painting, trying to get it right.

There was only one rule: Dean could never find out. Cas couldn’t explain, even to himself, why it was important - but there was something in him that hid, instinctively, all evidence of his efforts. Near misses had occurred, despite Cas’ best intentions to keep it all completely secret: there were only so many times it was possible to buy charcoal and pastels and oil paints without anyone noticing - and Dean did seem to notice the little things. He was probably keeping an eye, Cas thought, after all the times that Cas had let him down, lied to him. He couldn’t blame Dean for wanting to make sure that nothing bad was happening, no plotting, no scheming, no betrayal. No promise of future hurt.

“You finished with that?” Dean said, breaking into Cas’ thoughts one evening after dinner, reaching for Cas’ plate without waiting for an answer. Cas glanced at Sam, who was looking up from his book to watch the pair of them. Sam met Cas’ gaze, and flicked his eyes upwards. Cas smiled in response.

“I’m going to go to bed,” Cas said, standing up. Dean, halfway through the remainder of Cas’ largely untouched meal, looked up at him with wide eyes. He said something unintelligible and indignant through his mouthful.

“He wants to know what’s so great about your bedroom that you don’t have out here,” Sam said, looking back down at his book.

Cas raised a shoulder awkwardly. A paintbrush. I want to paint, he could have said, but he didn’t. There was one rule, just one. Dean couldn’t find out.

“A bed,” he said. “I’m tired.” Which wasn’t exactly untrue. It had been a long day of research on a case up in Wyoming - one that, thankfully, they weren’t going to have to deal with themselves. They’d found a local hunter who was grateful for their information on soucriants, but she had said she’d be able to handle the hunt itself alone. Cas was thankful; not only did it mean that neither Dean nor Sam would be in immediate danger in the near future, but it also left him plenty of time for painting.

He had to get it right. He could feel the lack of the brush in his hands, where once he had missed a blade.

Dean, meanwhile, was rolling his eyes and swallowing his mouthful of food.

“Go on, then, whatever,” he said, waving a hand at Cas. “I’m not your keeper, you don’t have to get my permission to go.”

Cas opened his mouth to say something - he wasn’t sure what. There was a vague feeling that he wanted to express, but it evaded words. Something about keeping, he thought. Or wanting to be kept. In some way, the thought seemed to brush too close to the rule, the one rule. Dean couldn’t find out. And so Cas only turned away and walked out of the room, his feet cold on the bare floor.

The corridors of the bunker were always different, depending on how Cas felt as he walked them; sometimes tall, sometimes wide, sometimes plain and sterile, sometimes echoing with the ghosts of footsteps and voices. Tonight, the walkways to Cas’ bedroom were narrow, and dark, and slotted with shadows that didn’t quite line up with the grouted divisions between the tiles on the lower half of the walls; Cas caught himself wishing he could pick the shadows up, align them, make it neat. Make an orderliness out of the darkness, even if he couldn’t lift it.

He brushed away the idea. Even as an angel, he couldn’t have picked up a shadow.

Inside his bedroom, he switched on the light and moved swiftly across to the desk that Sam and Dean had brought in for him to use for reading and working on translations. Dean had also changed the light bulb in the ceiling and hung a lamp, making the colour and quality of the brightness that much softer, and warmer. The little things, Cas thought. Again, Dean saw the little things. He couldn’t chalk that one up to Dean’s suspiciousness, though. Dean had simply noticed that the light was too harsh, and helped.

It’s only a matter of time, said a voice in the back of Cas’ mind as he sat down at the desk, before Dean notices the paintings. Cas sighed. The voice was right. They needed to be burned, or thrown away, if Cas wanted to really hide them forever.

Later, Cas thought. Later tonight, he’d go out to the garage and set them alight, or he’d go outside and bury them - though… Cas opened the drawer where all the paintings were kept, pulling them out from underneath a heavy encyclopedia. He fanned them out, spreading them across the desk. Cremation, burial… they would give these portraits too much worth, too much honour. Last rites were for things that had once been alive; these were lifeless, and had always been so. They deserved nothing more than to be thrown away into the trash, along with the peelings and the empty bottles.

Cas paused over his most recent attempt. It was so close to being right. Dean was caught in a half-smile, about to speak, his eyes were lit up - he looked almost as though he were going to leap off the page, almost as though he were going to look up into Cas’ eyes and wink -

Almost. Not good enough.

Cas thrust the sheaf of paintings still in his hands aside, and reached for a fresh piece of paper. He’d been thinking of using crayons recently, hoping that they’d work better for him than pencils, or charcoal, or watercolours, or oil paints, or pastels…

He didn’t hold out a huge amount of hope, but it was worth a try. He selected a soft green pencil, and started to shade it across the paper. Dean’s eyes were always where he started - they were the hardest to get right. There was something in them that Cas could never quite capture in its entirety; a depth, a strength, and yet a kind of quiet hope… Cas shook his head, and flipped over the page, and started again. Not right. Not good enough. When Cas drew him, Dean always either seemed too uncaring, or too happy, or too desperately sad - where of course whenever Cas spoke to him, the one was always intertwined with the other, circles within circles.

Cas lost himself in the sensation of the paper under his hand, and the friction of the crayons over the page. The colours were always easy for him - once, he had been colours - and he worked quietly and without pause, dropping crayons and reaching for the next, the next, the next…

Time passed, without Cas paying much attention.

“Cas?” said a soft voice. It came from behind Cas’ back. Cas jerked, leapt to his feet, his hand wrapping around the crayon and forming a fist, turning -

“Whoa, hey, easy. It’s just me.”

Dean. Cas froze, feeling himself go cold. His heart misgave. It was Dean.

Dean, standing just slightly closer than normal, met Cas’ gaze without so much as flinching away from the pencil that Cas had raised like a blade towards his face. Tilting his head to one side, Dean frowned at the crayon and moved his mouth, as though he were reading something along its edge.

“Mountain meadow,” he said aloud. “What, they couldn’t just call it green?” Cas dropped the pencil as though it had burned him; Dean huffed a quick laugh, though it sounded a little forced.

Cas winced, and moved his body to try to hide the drawing on his desk, and the spread of paintings all around it - though from the sound of that laugh, he was already too late. Sure enough, Dean took a step away, and rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.

“Do you want me to pose?” he said, and moved his hands to his hips, pulling his best pout. “I do a mean blue steel, see.”

The embarrassment started to seep down the back of Cas’ neck like cold water. He shook his head silently, not knowing what to say. There had been one rule. Just one rule. He’d been going to throw away all of the paintings tonight. If he’d only done it one night sooner…

“Hey, it’s OK,” Dean said, and Cas couldn’t get a read on his tone - like always, with Dean, it was ten different things wound into each other, hard to tease out into individual strands. “Don’t, uh - you know, it’s not like I mind.”

Cas lifted his head, almost meeting Dean’s eyes, but not quite able to - not yet.

“You don’t?” he managed to say.

“No, it’s - you know, I’m -” Dean said, awkwardly. Cas wished the cold floor under his feet would open up and swallow him down. “It’s all good. I mean, I don’t know why you would want to, uh, you know…” He trailed off, waving a hand in the direction of the paintings. There was something in his tone that made the statement into a question, that wanted to know - why?

Cas swallowed hard around the explanations caught in his throat - some real, some made up, some a compromise between the two. He didn’t trust his voice to know the right one to pick, so he said nothing.

“Probably just a - just an art thing, right,” Dean said, beginning to head for the door. “Painting the same thing, so you get real good at it. Still, makes a guy feel special.” He paused, and swayed, as though he wanted to stay, but couldn’t find a reason to. Cas watched him, caught in indecision - Dean couldn’t know, Dean couldn’t know -

But Dean already knew. It was too late.

“It’s…” Cas said, and then stopped talking - but it was enough, enough reason for Dean to step back towards the desk, and the paintings, and Cas.

None of the things Cas had in his mind were easy to say. He frowned and shook his head, and looked down at the floor. He heard Dean almost say something, and then bite back his words. He must feel so awkward, so uncomfortable, Cas thought - even though Dean had just said otherwise, who could see another person drawing and painting their face over and over, and not be bothered by it? Another wave of embarrassment shuddered over him.

“I’m going to throw them away,” Cas said, in a rush. “I’m not keeping them, I shouldn’t have -”

“You’re throwing them away?” Dean interrupted, sounding indignant. “All of them?”

“Yes. I swear.”

“Why?”

“It was wrong of me to do them. I didn’t ask.”

“So?” Dean shrugged clumsily. “They, uh, they look pretty good.”

“They aren’t…” Cas sought the words. He lifted a shoulder. “They aren’t… good enough.”

Dean frowned, and stepped even closer. He picked up the nearest painting - a watercolour on fat, expensive paper - in his big, rough hands, and examined it clumsily.

“Seems fine to me,” he said gruffly. “Shouldn’t throw them all away, they’re alright.”

“But you -”

“I don’t mind, I already told you. If you wanted to paint me, then I’m glad you did.”

“But they don’t - they’re not -” Cas sighed sharply, frustrated with his own ineloquence. “They don’t make it right.”

Dean was silent for a long moment, looking at Cas and holding the painting in his hands upright between them, like a barrier that made it acceptable to stand so close. Cas met Dean’s eyes, and willed him to understand - though he knew all too well that Dean never could.

“Make it right?” Dean repeated, his voice soft, as though Cas - or anyone watching - would notice the shortage of distance between them less, if they spoke more quietly. “Make what right? What do you mean?”

Cas dropped his gaze, trying to figure out what he could say, how he should say it, what would be best. The wheels in his head felt as though they were grinding, the gears sticking; he didn’t know where to begin, or where to end.

Maybe, he thought, he should begin at the beginning.

“It was Naomi,” he said, and his voice came out uncertain. Dean frowned at him, not understanding; Cas could see the expression out of the corner of his eye, though he couldn’t look Dean in the face.

“Naomi? What’s this - what’s any of this got to do with Naomi?” Dean’s hand was on Cas’ arm; he guided Cas over to the bed, and perched on the end of it, bringing Cas down to sit next to him. The painting was still in one hand, the one he’d picked up off the desk. Cas looked at it - the colours were right, of course, they always were, but the life, the all-important life… that was not there. The painting was useless to help. “Hey, come on - talk to me,” Dean said.

Cas shifted further back onto the bed, and clasped his hands together.

“Do you remember,” he began, and the words felt heavy, falling out of his mouth like stones. “Do you remember when - when I -” He curled his hands into fists, and looked at Dean, who raised his eyebrows, expectant. “I hurt you,” Cas said, feeling his lip curl up in self-disgust at the thought. “The tablet - and we were in the crypt, and I -”

“Yeah,” Dean said. “I remember. Naomi, she was in control. Right?”

The way he said it sounded suddenly afraid - as though he thought Cas were going to tell him no, it wasn’t her, I was the one who wanted to hurt you.

“She was,” Cas said, and saw Dean’s shoulders relax. “And she was able to be in control because before that - that incident, I had undergone a… reprogramming.”

“Reprogramming?” Dean said, his face creasing. “Sounds… pleasant.”

“It was worse than you’re thinking,” Cas said. He shifted on the bed uncomfortably. Now that he was telling the story, it was a little easier to find the words - but there was still a part of him that wanted him to stop, hide… Dean can’t know. He swallowed hard, and forced it away. Dean was watching him intently, sitting close beside him on the bed. Dean wanted to know. “There were many parts of it, but the part that I - that I remember, more than anything, the part that I can’t get out of my head, no matter how much I try, is that she made me practise…” For a moment, the bedroom was swallowed up in white light; Cas felt the blade in his hand again, the sick slide of it into a body - the blood -

“Practise…?” Dean prompted, and Cas was back in the bedroom, back under the warm light, in safety.

“Practise - for the moment when I would confront you,” Cas said, his voice a little raw. “Naomi wanted you dead. She knew that I wouldn’t willingly kill you, she - she knew that I - that we were friends.” The understatement felt like sand under his fingernails, but Cas left it at that. “So she made me practise.”

“I don’t understand,” Dean said, meeting Cas’ eyes. “She put you in training?”

“She made me kill you,” Cas said, looking into those eyes - the eyes he could never capture on paper, the eyes that he had seen fade into lifelessness so many times, so many thousands of times before. “She created versions of you, so many of them, and - and I had to kill them.”

Dean could only stare at him, appalled.

“I killed you,” Cas croaked. “The first few hundred times, she had to force my hand to hold the blade. The cleansing of my brain began to take hold, the pain, it - I started to use the blade myself. She -” Cas felt the horror of it swallow his voice, and then spit it back out even lower, quieter, more ashamed. “She wouldn’t stop. There were so many of you, I killed you, I killed you over and over -”

“Cas…” Dean said, reaching out and gripping Cas’ forearm, holding it tightly. Keep me, Cas thought. I want to be kept. Don’t let me go.

“She didn’t pronounce me ‘ready’,” Cas said, trying to keep his voice expressionless, “until I could do it without hesitation, without - without showing pain. By that time, there were… so many, and she kept them all, all the bodies, she laid them out for me to see under the bright lights, Dean, they all had your face, and I’d taken your life away all those times, and…” He shook his head, hard, stopping his mouth up hard. He could feel the emotion rising in his throat. He looked to Dean, and saw a tightness in his face that belied a strained, terrible sorrow.

“Cas…” Dean said, but no more, as though he had no words.

“And - that’s why I have to - to do this,” Cas said, gesturing weakly at the painting in Dean’s hand. “I took your life away so many times… if I can just - if I can just get it perfect, if I can do it properly, I can give them back. Give back all the lives I took.” Cas shook his head. “But they come out wrong, they’re so lifeless, they look like - they look like -” Cas rubbed a hand over his face, trying to push away the image of Dean’s empty, flat stare, the one that he’d seen so many thousands of times. “I need them to be full of life, and then I can make it right.” He drew in a breath, and let it out slowly. “I just want to make it right.” He put his face into his hands.

Immediately, he felt Dean shift beside him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

“Hey,” Dean said, in a soothing kind of way. Tears didn’t come easily to Cas, but now they threatened. “Hey, hey, hey.” His thumb moved, rolling a circle on Cas’ shoulder. Cas allowed himself to lean into Dean, keeping his breathing even, pushing away the overwhelming urge to weep.

“I never wanted to hurt you,” Cas said. “I never meant -”

“Hey,” Dean said, “hey, you didn’t hurt me.”

Cas took his face out of his hands, breathing out a single, dry, soft laugh. Dean tipped his head in acknowledgement.

“Fine,” he said. “You hurt me, you beat me up a little. So what, man? I got beat to Hell before, it’ll probably happen again. And you fixed me up, remember? You - God, I thought I was a goner -”

“You just knelt there,” Cas said. “You were so - you held my -” He looked down at his forearm, where Dean’s hand had rested again, only a few minutes before.

“Yeah, well,” Dean said, “but then you zapped it all better, remember? You fixed it, Cas.” He swallowed visibly. “You made it right.”

Cas shook his head.

“It’s not enough,” he said. “Just healing you, once, after I already - killed - so many of you. It’s not - Dean, if it were the other way around - would you think it was enough?”

Dean stared at him for a long moment, thinking - Cas could read the concern in the dip between his eyebrows, the downward curve of his mouth.

“But you didn’t do… you know, what you did to all those other versions of me… to me. That wasn’t real, Cas. You didn’t do that to the real me.”

“It felt real.” Cas shuddered - there it was again, the sensations burned into his hand’s memory - the easy slide of the blade through clothing, through skin - he cringed. “It felt real…”

“It wasn’t,” Dean said fiercely. “It was just some crazy dreamworld up in Heaven that Naomi made as your personal torture chamber. Look - look.” He put Cas’ painting down on the bed, and used his free hand to grab Cas’ fingers, and place them on his chest. “Feel that? Thump thump, right? That’s real. That’s the real me, being alive.” He dropped Cas’ hand, and Cas let it curl away - perhaps a little too slowly. “You have nothing to make right, Cas. Do you hear me? Nothing.

“I can’t just let it go.”

“You have to,” Dean said, “or it’s gonna eat you up.”

“But I could have -”

“Yeah,” Dean said, interrupting. His arm was still loosely around Cas’ shoulders, steadying. “You could have. That’s the whole damn point, isn’t it? You could have, you were freakin’ trained to do it, but you didn’t.”

There was a beat of silence, and then Dean said again,

“You didn’t.

There it was again - the tone that made what should have been a statement into a question. Why? Dean asked, unspoken. Why let me live?

Cas answered, this time, without hesitating. Dean knew so much already; holding back at this point would be putting a band aid over a broken dam.

“You didn’t run,” Cas said simply. He turned to look into Dean’s eyes. “You always ran, the other times, unless I took you by surprise. You always ran if you could. But in the crypt, you - you just -” Cas swallowed. Dean’s cheekbone, cracking under his knuckles. “You stayed with me. You didn’t run. You asked - you asked if I was alright, you told me that I wasn’t behaving like myself -”

“It wasn’t you,” Dean said, with certainty.

“You should have run.”

“I had to stay, man. You were obviously in some kind of trouble, I wouldn’t just leave you.”

“Even when you thought I was going to…” Cas remembered it, so clearly. Dean kneeling before him, bloodied and broken, not running but reaching out half-blindly, grasping his arm, begging him -

“I need you,” Dean said, a little raggedly. “I really - I do.” He shrugged, almost angrily. “I don’t know.”

“That’s what broke the connection,” Cas said softly.

Dean went very still.

“Me saying…?”

“You telling me that we’re family. That you need me. It was as though…” Cas swallowed. “As though she had me on strings, and you cut right through them. And suddenly, I could see you properly. I could see you.”

Dean stared at him.

“You said - when I asked you, back in the crypt - you said you didn’t know what broke it.”

“I had just tried to kill you,” Cas said. “I didn’t think you’d want to hear that your - your - that the way you felt about me had brought me back. I thought you’d hate me.”

Dean sighed - a long, tired exhale - and dropped the arm that had been around Cas’ shoulders.

“I’ve hated you before,” he said. “Or - well, I’ve tried to… never gone all that well. But not for that one.” He hitched up a weary smile. “I just wanted to understand. I wanted to help.”

Cas returned the smile as best he could - fairly weakly, but with good intentions.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “For all of it. For running, afterwards.”

Dean’s smile slipped into something more natural, and his eyes softened, though they were still sad. Sad, happy, hopeful, Cas thought. Too many things to capture on paper.

“It’s OK, man,” Dean said. “It’s OK.”

Cas could feel the weight - a weight that he hadn’t even realised that he’d been carrying, the weight of his guilt - slowly, slowly make the first shift toward easing.

He took a deep breath, and released it.

Dean reached back, and picked up the painting of himself that was still sitting beside him on the bed. He stared down at it, rubbing his thumb absently over the soft paper.

“How many of these were you gonna do, then?” he asked. Cas blinked down at the painting silently for a moment, thinking.

“As many as it took,” he said. Dean frowned.

“Took for…?”

“Took for it to feel - like I’d made it right. One good one for every version of you that I - I killed. Thousands, I think.”

Dean shook his head.

“Thousands. Took you thousands of tries to kill me properly, huh?” Cas drew in a long breath, trying not to let the memories overwhelm him.

“Yes,” he managed.

“That’s - it’s fucked up, Cas. I’m sorry. If I’d’ve known, you know I would’ve come for you, right? I had no idea she was - I can’t believe she was doing that, and I didn’t even -”

“It’s alright, Dean,” Cas said. “Really. It’s alright. There was nothing you could have done.”

Dean let out a long exhale in reply.

“Still,” he said, eventually. “Thousands.

Cas raised his shoulders.

“She didn’t like it when I held you,” Cas said. “When I held you as you - as you died.”

Dean said nothing. He stared down at the painting; Cas could see his hands shaking.

“I just wanted you to know that you weren’t alone,” Cas said, and Dean turned to look at him.

“What did you say?”

“I said -” Cas swallowed. It was a bigger admission than he’d realised, when he’d first said it. “I said, I wanted you to know that you weren’t alone.”

Dean nodded, his eyes troubled.

“That’s, uh. That’s why I didn’t leave. In the crypt.”

They stared at each other for a long, long moment.

“It is?”

“Yeah. I wanted you to know - I was there.” Dean raised a shoulder. “It was stupid -”

“It was everything,” Cas interrupted. The words crept out, unbidden - but they were true. “It made all the difference. It always has.”

“Really?”

“Truly. Knowing that you were there for me, it changed everything. Right from the start.”

“Well,” Dean said, and then didn’t seem to know what else to say. “Well. Uh. It’s - that’s also why I came after you tonight. You’ve been so closed off, and I just - I wanted you to know that I was here. Like always.”

Cas smiled at him, then, small, but sincere. Dean’s face eased, too, in response. He was so… beautiful, Cas thought, struck by it anew for the first time since he’d started the paintings - suddenly, the light playing over Dean’s face wasn’t a way to understand its angles better, but simply light on soft skin, on green eyes, on freckles and full lips.

“And I needed you,” Cas said. “Like always.”

They were close enough that Cas heard Dean’s slightly sharper indrawn breath; the sound made his heart skip, and hasten. They watched each other, gazes locking perfectly; eventually, Dean said -

“Cas -?”

A question, Cas thought. His tone made the single word a question.

“Dean,” Cas said. He’d said so much, tonight, already, that he hadn’t ever thought he’d say. He took a deep breath, and tried to figure out how to phrase himself. Something was still sticking in his mind, from earlier - a thought that he never finished. Something to do with keeping, being kept…

Dean was watching him quietly, his gaze flicking over Cas’ features. Cas looked down, and spoke to his knees.

“Dean, you - you said earlier that you were not my keeper.” He glanced up; Dean was frowning at him, thrown off by the apparent subject change, but he nodded. Cas swallowed hard, and plunged in. “But I don’t think that’s true.”

Dean’s frown deepened.

“What?”

Cas took a long breath.

“I believe the word ‘keeper’,” Cas said, “is used to mean - a person that you want to keep.”

Dean stared at him for another long moment of incomprehension - and then, suddenly, his brow cleared.

“Oh, wait - like, ‘he’s a keeper’?”

“Exactly,” Cas said. Dean watched him, that dip of focus on his forehead, tracing back their conversation.

“So - so when I said I’m not your keeper - you think that’s not true?” Dean blinked, and then his cheeks started to redden. Cas felt his heart beat even faster.

“Because,” he said. “Because - I think you are my keeper.”

“Cas, I’m -” Dean was shaking his head. Ignoring the pit in his stomach, Cas pressed on; he was too far in to turn back now.

“You’re the person Naomi knew I would not touch unless she trained me,” he said. “You’re the person who stayed with me even while I - hurt you - just so that I wouldn’t be alone. You’re the person who broke the connection. It was you, Dean.” Cas clasped his hands, and looked down at them. “It was always you.”

“Cas…” Dean’s voice sounded wrecked; Cas couldn’t look at him, didn’t want to know, yet, if Dean hated him, or pitied him, or felt both, intertwined.

“Dean,” Cas said, while he could still believe that there was hope. “You’re my keeper.”

There was a silence, deeper and more strained and strange and painful than any Cas had ever known before. And then -

“And you’re mine,” Dean said.

Cas jerked his head around, and saw that Dean was looking at him with wide, wide eyes, looking lost, and overwhelmed, almost - scared. Cas reached out a hand and held Dean’s forearm, gripping tight.

“It’s alright,” Cas said. “I’m here.”

“You - you always leave, or run, though -”

“I won’t.” Cas let his hand slide up Dean’s arm, onto his shoulder, to the place where he’d left a burning handprint brand, years before. “I won’t. If you want me, Dean, I’m yours.” He looked into Dean’s eyes, grounding himself in their green. “To keep.”

Dean nodded, his lips pressed tight - to stop them shaking, Cas knew, because he could feel his own emotion rising in a wave, making his hands tremble and his eyes fill.

“I’ll keep you,” Dean said, as Cas cupped his cheek in one hand - gently, so gently, pressing his palm so softly - making of it a healing gesture, a blessing, as he had before. “I will.”

“Then - I’ll do the same,” Cas said, and in his voice he could hear his own painful wonder, the ache of his disbelief, and incredible, overspilling joy. “I’ll - I’ll keep you, too.”

Dean tilted his head to one side - just an inch, with his eyes on Cas’. A question, Cas thought. And this time, the answer had no words. This time, the answer was only leaning forward - it was an eyes-closed, heart-stopping moment of silent movement - and then it was the release; the press of their lips together, the grip of hand in hand. And, coursing through Cas’ veins like clean fire, like life, the answer was the feeling of being in Dean’s arms, and having Dean under his own hands: the ineffable, radiant, complete happiness of being held, held, held - and kept.