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Take my hand and open your eyes

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Day 183 of Castiel’s sixth life began like over a hundred had before. The sun from their bedroom window lay heavy and warm as syrup across the bare skin from his shoulders to his calves; and its counterpoint was the barely-there, incredulous tracing of fingers over his spine.

And Dean was talking to him - the low, raw, precious words he only said when he thought Castiel was still asleep, even in this unreal reality.

Castiel’s face was half squashed into the pillow. It smelled faintly of the lavender oil he liked to sprinkle on their bedclothes after washing, but mostly it smelled of Dean. There was no reason to move, no need to be awake just yet; and so Dean’s voice murmured on, and his fingers travelled their reverent path up along the lines of Castiel’s throat to trace the corner of his chin, the hinge of the jaw, and up to the ridge of the cheek bone and the faint wrinkles beside his eye.

This was a thing that the old Dean could never have allowed himself. In the real world, Dean’s love was reluctant and gruff: hidden under sulks and offers of food, or shown (in those moments when it surged to the surface) in rough touches, a fierce hug or fingers digging too tightly into an arm or gripping the side of a face. Not this.

Not this permission to be gentle.

It was only because Dean thought that it didn’t count here. But it made Dean happy, happier than Castiel had ever known him to be; and so Castiel let himself enjoy it, and didn’t break the secret.

Lips brushed against the back of Castiel’s neck. Then Dean’s fingers left his face, and twined through his own where they lay on the pillow by his head.

“Hey,” said Dean, a low morning rumble. His thumb drew lazy familiar strokes back and forth, back and forth, across the wedding ring on Castiel’s finger. “Wakey-wakey, angel.”

Castiel opened his eyes a crack. Dean’s hand was there by his face, blurry and brown, tangled up with his own; and beyond them, their sheets, and the oxygen tank on Castiel’s side of the bed, and the nightstand that Dean had made himself, from the beautiful rainforest timbers of somebody’s discarded outdoor furniture. Their little life.

He grumbled, to feel the curve of Dean’s fond mouth against his ear. Then he rolled onto his stomach, and dragged Dean’s hand under him to hold it close.

“Uh-huh.” Dean settled in against his back, warm and easy. “Some of us have jobs, and class to get to.”

“Mmmph,” objected Castiel, and nestled his hips back until Dean huffed and nipped his neck.

“Later,” he promised. “Wanna finish this paper before I go in to work. C’mon, man, sit up.”

Castiel took his time, drowsy and soft, using Dean’s shoulder and the hand on his back to lever himself into a sitting position.

“How’re you doing this morning, hot stuff?”

Castiel breathed: air, in and out of these weak human lungs, feeling it draw down to his toes and back up again.

“Dizzy,” he decided. “The pain is moderate, though. A one-stick day, I think.”

“Hey, score. Omelettes in bed?”

“No. I want to watch you cook.” Castiel yawned, and turned his face against Dean’s hand. “I’ll get up when you’ve showered.”

“Sure thing, gorgeous.”

Dean dropped a kiss on top of his hair, and so Castiel turned his face up to catch his mouth: just a comfortable slip of heat in the middle, the lazy possibility of arousal. It lingered for a minute, hands easy on shoulders and necks; then Castiel purred “mine” on an inhale, and Dean laughed, and tweaked his ear.

“See you in fifteen. Don’t you go falling asleep on me.”

Castiel tipped his head back against the wall to watch him go, to feel that sweet tightness in his chest that had nothing to do with illness. So familiar, every movement: the way Dean swung his legs to the floor and the flick with which he tucked the blankets back up to Castiel’s chest, the unthinking wave of his hand as he swung the mobility handle over toward Castiel’s side of the bed so that he could pull himself up when he wanted it, the tuneless humming and shift of muscles in his thighs as he ambled over to the chest of drawers to dig out underwear.

“I’ll be there,” he promised, too earnest for the cheeky smile that his husband tossed back over his shoulder, meaning so much more than just the words. “I’ll be there.”

 

***

 

On the days when he wasn’t in much pain Castiel always met up with Charlie for lunch at the Roadhouse, together with whichever of their other small family could make it. Today, Mary texted her apologies and a link to a New York Times article that she thought Castiel would enjoy. Eileen—who was both Sam’s girlfriend and Charlie’s—was off on a hunt in with Jo, since apparently not even in Dean’s ideal reality could he imagine everybody he loved giving up that life altogether. But Ellen sat down with them, and Dean turned up, cheerful and smelling of baking flour with his paper all ready for class. And so Castiel sat there with his walking stick at his side and one leg up on a cushion and Charlie leaning casually on the back of his chair, rubbing his thumb over his wedding ring, listening to the peaceful chatter of people Dean had lost and whom Castiel had hardly known, but who lived some kind of life here in Dean’s imagination.

Sam dropped by, as they were finishing up. Three days a week, in this reality, he volunteered at the local animal shelter; and whenever his body permitted him, Castiel joined him there, clocking up hours toward the veterinary nurse qualification he was pursuing.

Better than that shithole upstairs, Dean had muttered once, when he’d thought Castiel was asleep. I mean, if I’m going to die anyway I might as well enjoy this first before I get the Stepford loop on repeat forever, right?

Castiel was inclined to agree. Some would say that it was pointless, under the circumstances, to work toward anything. But there was a strange kind of freedom in it too. Here were no apocalypses, no disasters outside of the ordinary, no biting sacrifices. For the first time since he had begun to choose for himself, Castiel was freed from the agonising consequences of those choices on the world.

Castiel had decided early on that, if all they had was a hundred days, or two hundred, or a thousand, he would spend each of them doing what brought the most joy to Dean. And eventually, he had cautiously added “and to myself”.

It was bittersweet. It wasn’t quite honest. It was better than they’d ever had.

 

***

 

Dean always went to sleep before Castiel did.

Those late hours belonged to Castiel, just as the dawn belonged to Dean. It was his turn to watch over his sleeping beloved, and to speak (though never aloud) the truths that they both kept hidden.

When Dean was awake, Castiel’s memory was wrong. He was himself still, but he was also a part of the perfect world that had been created for Dean, and his real memories were replaced with the ones that belonged to this world. When Dean’s awareness faded into dreams, Castiel understood the truth. Castiel knew what Dean saw in his occasional nightmares: the inside of an old barn, and a glimpse out to the real world.

It wasn’t as simple as that, of course. Castiel had written a letter to himself early on, so that during the day he knew where they were and why, even if it seemed impossible and strange. It was therefore entirely his own responsibility that he had not spoken to Dean about it, or written to him during the hours of lonely dark to assure him that he understood.

Because Dean worked it out very early on. That was one of the things that he whispered to Castiel in the early hours under the sheets. Dean knew that this was not real. And he had raged, and debated, and agonised. He had considered ending it. He had blamed himself for abandoning Sam (the real Sam), and for taking advantage of Castiel in his imagination. He was so sure that the real Castiel could never love him like this; and more, he believed to the roots of himself that he, Dean Winchester, could never live a happy life.

And he stayed. He decided. He had chosen Castiel over life. Even this Castiel, powered down and crippled with pain every day and unable to be any use to him. Dean loved him, even this way, and he showed it in every moment. Which was why Castiel did not admit his own truth.

But the ‘nightmares’ tonight were different. Usually Dean was troubled by them. He’d mutter and twist in his sleep, wake up sweating, be surly and quiet all day.

Tonight, he screamed.

Castiel was jerked out of his half-doze to find Dean thrashing wildly, trying to fight in his sleep. He was shaking his head, moaning, shoving Castiel away when he tried to take him in his arms. And when he spoke, the walls shuddered all around them, and Castiel understood; because Dean spoke his brother’s name.

And so Dean would not die, and Castiel was about to lose him.

He stared at his own hands on Dean’s clammy skin—suddenly more solid, both of them, than the sheets on which they lay. Then he grabbed the glass of water from his own side of the bed, and dashed it in Dean’s face.

“Dean. Wake up.”

Dean’s mouth opened in a gape, pink and desperate. Then he was all flailing movement: hands clutching, knotting painfully in Castiel’s hair and squeezing his bicep too tight, dragging Castiel’s face in against his dripping neck like he could haul him back into existence if he could only hold him close enough.

Castiel clung back, aching, wishing he could be selfish for just one more day.

“You must wake up, Dean.”

His own voice came out hoarse and scratched. Dean’s was worse.

“Dammit, Cas, I’m awake, I’m awake.”

“No, Dean.” Castiel forced himself to pull back, to look into Dean’s wide wet eyes. “You have to wake up.”

Dean was shaking under his touch, staring, fingers digging into Castiel’s skin. Castiel had seen him face down the worst that Hell and Purgatory and Heaven and Earth had to offer, and not look so scared.

… he had seen it. He remembered. The memories were faded and scattered, flashing in and out as this reality began to fragment around them.

“He’s found you, hasn’t he,” said Castiel, knowing the answer. “Sam is giving you the antidote to the poison of the djinn.”

“What the hell—”

“Don’t fight it. Wake up, Dean.”

Dean flinched back from the hand Castiel laid on his cheek, but he didn’t let go his own hold. “You’re the djinn. Cas doesn’t know. You’re trying to trick me into—”

“I’m an angel, you arse.” Castiel gritted out the words, and caught Dean’s face hard and tender between his hands. “Listen to me. Dean. There isn’t time to explain—”

“I can’t go back there, Cas. You don’t understand. You’re not—”

“You can and you must.”

“You’re dead, Cas.” His voice broke, all his bravado and happiness and pretending shattering at the admission. “I can’t do it, man. Not again.”

“Dean Winchester, you will hear me.”

At the crack of authority in his voice Castiel felt something like grace flicker through him, for the first time since he had woken up in this tiny deadly Eden. His eyes burned hot and the light flickered around them; and whether it was through his own returning strength or the disintegration of reality around them, he thought for a moment he could feel the weight of wings bristling tall and fierce in the air at his back.

“What is the one thing about this djinn vision that doesn’t fit?”

Dean’s eyes slid away. So he had noticed—had wondered about it before, and never found the answer.

Castiel grabbed his chin, and turned his face mercilessly to look at the oxygen tank by the bed. “Why am I chronically ill in your perfect reality? And don’t you go blaming yourself and saying it’s because you wanted me weak so that you could look after me. I know you and I know you’ve thought it.”

“You’re getting better—” An automatic protest, the one he always made when Castiel complained about his own weakness or fumbled a walking stick. But there were no walls around them now, and the oxygen tank was a grey blur, and Castiel had seconds left.

“Shut up. There is one last trace of me alive, Dean, and it is in here.” He pressed his hand over Dean’s heart, and with the other gripped hard at the shoulder where a handprint had once burned itself into Dean’s body and soul. “I am real, Dean. This is all me. And I will not have you die.”

Cas.” Dean wasn’t hearing, wasn’t understanding. He was shaking his head, pressing Castiel’s hands to his skin with his own, knotting their fingers together, shoving in to press his face against Castiel’s. “Cas. I can’t leave you. Don’t ask me that, man.”

“I hope you can forgive me.” Castiel’s favourite mug was fading in the air on top of the nightstand, which was already almost gone. Castiel found himself irrationally sad about that. “Perhaps you can find some way to bring me back, now that you know.”

Dean went very still against him. For a moment Castiel thought that he’d lost him—that instead of fading back into unconsciousness he would live out his days trapped here, with Dean’s dead or comatose body—but then Dean pulled back. And the expression on his face was one Castiel had seen many times before, when all hope was lost but Dean Winchester had dug in his heels.

“No,” Dean said, and grabbed Castiel’s hand.

“You idiot,” said Castiel, hopelessly loving and angry. And reality fractured around them.

“I’m not leaving without you, Cas,” Dean snarled.

They were in the bunker, ruined and empty. They were in Lisa Braeden’s back yard, or perhaps in Purgatory—

—I’m not leaving without the angel—

They were in Hell, and Castiel’s grip was tight, but—

“Dean, you must let go of me.”

“Screw that,” said the only thing Castiel knew was real. “We’re doing this my way.”

Purgatory, and a fissure of light in the fabric of the world, and Dean’s hand slipping from his grasp, and Dean howling in despair. Purgatory, and Castiel let go of Dean’s hand to give him his best chance at life. And—

Dean’s other hand fastened hard on Castiel’s wrist.

Castiel didn’t even make a choice. He locked both his hands around Dean’s, and held on.

Then everything was fuzzy, and there was something cold and hard under his back, and Dean’s hot tight grip faded into nothing.

Castiel grieved, for a second that lasted a lifetime. Then:

“Dean,” came Sam’s voice. “Dean. Come on, man—oh my god, Cas—”

A large familiar hand patted hastily at his face, pressed two fingers against his pulse point, and vanished. Then there was Dean’s voice too, a dry-mouthed wordless complaint, and everything in Castiel turned to laughter and song.

“Okay. Okay. I got you, there, I got you.” The reassuring words of Winchester reunion tumbled from Sam’s mouth, meaning nothing and everything. “Drink this, I can’t believe you Dean, it’s been weeks how are you even still alive man, we said we were going after this together you freaking dumbarse, I’m getting you to the hospital, come on, there we go, I—whoa! It’s me, man, it’s Sam.”

There was a scuffle of movement, and two large bodies stumbled to the floor a few yards away, sending up a whiff of old straw and damp.

“Shouldn’t’ve,” croaked Dean, all fury and despair, “why’d you. Should’ve left me there, Sammy, what the fuck.”

“You’re an idiot, and it was a djinn vision, Dean, you know that. It’ll fade, man, let it pass. Look, I don’t know why but—”

“Better than Heaven—we said we wouldn’t bring each other back—”

“That’s for if we were dead, you moron, and you know we never stick to that—”

“Get off me.”

“Hey. Dean, there’s—”

“Maybe it wasn’t your call to make, Sam, okay? Maybe I wanted to stay. Even if it means fucking dying in real life. What’s so great about real life anyway?”

It was the raw pain in Dean’s voice that finally had Castiel struggling into a sitting position, and opening his eyes.

Dean was emaciated. Not so bad as he should have been after this time—Castiel had seen to that—but certainly malnourished. And the fire in his eyes now was that of hopelessness, not the determination that belonged there.

“Dean,” Castiel said.

Sam put his fists on his hips, and shook his head. “Wow, Dean. Just. Wow.”

Dean didn’t hear him. He was staring at Castiel, and Castiel couldn’t read a thing in his expression.

“And, yeah,” Sam added. “There’s that. Apparently.”

Castiel had never meant to survive. He had no plan for this—for seeing Dean on the other side.

He wetted his lips uncertainly.

“Hello, Dean.”

“You,” said Dean. “You…?”

Castiel braced his elbow against the broken crate beside him and levered himself to his feet. He was a little stiff, but there was no painful shake in his limbs, no tightness in his lungs. And his grace: it was weak, and it was faint, but he could feel the world around him, and the hot bright pulses of their twin souls.

“You pulled me along with you,” Castiel said, and felt a smile pulling at his face. “You were very determined.”

“Okay,” said Sam, “what?”

Dean was still staring, with a whole world in his eyes. Castiel couldn’t look away from him, could he hardly think; but he replied to Sam, since Dean was silent.

“When Lucifer killed me,” he said, “there was a small part he could not destroy. Some measure of myself is tied up in Dean’s soul, ever since we first met. It was dormant until the djinn sent him deep inside himself to construct his ideal reality. The part of me that was inside Dean was drawn in to the construct, and every moment that Dean lived in that world, so did I.”

“I,” said Dean, and scrubbed a shaking hand over his eyes. “Uh.”

“Whoa.” Sam grabbed at him. “You’re swaying, man, here, look, sit down. Maybe ease up on the doom voice, Cas?”

Castiel crossed his arms over his chest to stop himself from reaching out to help, and scowled. “I have no doom voice.”

Sam snorted, and got Dean settled down on an old wooden crate. “Sure, man. Wanna come again? You, what, grew back from a—a speck of you? Like a plant cutting? Or a freaking starfish?”

That distracted Dean just enough to have him squint up at his brother and make an incredulous noise, almost a laugh. And in that brief moment of freedom, he took a breath, and a resolution.

Dean was not fond of dishonesty; but Castiel was sure that he had been the happier for Castiel’s silence. And if Dean was too angry to forgive him—or if Dean could not let himself feel, out here, what he—what they—

Castiel would not regret it. Castiel would give him whatever love was allowed, and he would give him every syllable of the truth.

He straightened up, resisted the habit to reach for his walking sticks, and met Dean’s guarded eyes.

“I was aware,” he said gently. “Everything that I said and did there, I did of my own volition. I was frail there, because what there was of me was weak; but as time passed, I grew stronger. Dean put his heart and soul into healing me—quite literally, though he didn’t know it. And I gave as much of my own strength as I could find into sustaining his body here, in the hope that you would find him, Sam, before he died.”

There was a silence. Dean was half-slumped, weak, and if this had been that world Castiel would have known how to read the flicker in his eyes. But they were here now, with the real Sam. In front of his brother and anchor, Dean would have to be the “real” Dean. There could be no excuses.

Sam took two stumbling steps forward, and squeezed Castiel into a hug that knocked all the breath out of him.

Castiel grunted, surprise and relief, then remembered he could hug back. And it was so much better than in the dream: more messy, more painful, more real. Sam smelled of sweat and djinn blood and exhaustion and the upholstery of the Impala, and whatever else was real, Castiel was home.

“Thanks, man,” said Sam, with unashamed feeling.

Castiel squeezed his eyes shut against the sudden prick of tears.

“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you for getting him out. Us.”

Sam pulled back, beaming eyes bright and wet, and clapped his hand gently to the side of Castiel’s face. “We missed you, Cas.”

“You were,” croaked Dean, and wetted his lips. “What?”

“I apologise,” said Castiel.

Sam’s expression fell into suspicion and he took a step back, leaving Castiel exposed.

“What?” Dean repeated helplessly.

Castiel realised that he was rubbing his thumb by habit over the blank space where his wedding ring should have been. And Dean was looking.

Castiel flinched, and put his hands in his pockets. How to phrase this so that Dean wouldn’t feel the need to get defensive in front of Sam?

“I know that sometimes you felt as if you were—taking advantage of me in my ignorance.” Dean’s eyes shot to Sam at once. His thumb was fiddling with Mary’s ring on his own hand. Castiel sighed, and hunched in further on himself. “I’m afraid the opposite was more accurate. You made choices that perhaps you would not have done if you had known that I—Dean, this is futile, you ought to drink more water.”

“Cas,” said Dean. “Shut up and get your arse over here.”

Castiel hesitated, and shot a look at Sam. Sam’s eyebrows were almost hidden in his hair.

Well, if it was a direct instruction from Dean…

The three steps to where Dean sat seemed far too long. Dean reached out a hand, and Castiel pulled him up by instinct, by habit.

Dean’s face, from two inches of distance, was far too familiar. He felt his own lips part in expectation, and saw the hitch in Dean’s breath—learned reactions, not real, not belonging to here—before Dean cleared his throat, and pulled Castiel into a hard hug.

A rough hug. With a single fist-pound on the back.

“Good to see you, man,” said Dean; and Castiel’s heart sank.

He let himself cling to Dean all the same, just for one self-indulgent moment, to fix it all in his memory. And there was Sam, hovering on the edge, frowning, until Castiel met his eyes.

Castiel could have done without understanding, and sympathy.

He closed his eyes and turned his face in against Dean’s neck. Then he let him go.

Dean patted his shoulder, and cleared his throat. They shared a nod. Castiel dropped his eyes, and stepped back: back to distance, and stopping by the bunker every so often, and cheap motels and cheap soap and his own underwear and his own car, avoiding the anxious green gaze searching his face.

“Oh my god Dean you’re an idiot,” said Sam, all on a rush of breath.

“Sam, don’t,” warned Castiel, and stepped back.

Or he tried to. Dean just hadn’t let go of his shoulder yet, that was all.

“Cas?”

Castiel laid his hand over Dean’s, meaning to push it away. “It’s alright, Dean. I understand.”

Dean’s hand snagged his own, tangling the fingers, keeping it there—wrong, strange, without the slip-click of ring against ring. His eyes were searching Castiel’s face, but Castiel kept his own fixed on Dean’s collar. Because it wasn’t fair to—

Dean’s other fist bunched in the fabric of his coat. A starburst of creases spiralled out from, standing out for just a moment before the pressure swayed Castiel forward with it, and Dean’s mouth pressed against his.

… Soft. Brief. Tentative, so much clumsier than at any time under the djinn’s spell. And, in some strange way, a first kiss.

Castiel blinked up at Dean, and found his own fingers hovering in the air in front of his own lips. They were tingling.

Dean let go of him and crossed his fists hard across his own chest. He seemed to shrink, curling away from Castiel.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t’ve,” he muttered, and, “that was dumb.”

“Dean.”

It hadn’t been real real, but they’d lived it together, and it had been real for them, and Castiel knew to the core of him that he must not let Dean walk away while he looked like that.

So he kissed him.

Which he hadn’t planned to do, but sometimes with Dean’s moods there simply wasn’t time to plan, and kissing him worked so often, and—Dean just opened up against him in every sense, mouth and arms and all the anxious tension of his body, until his soul blossomed out into hot disbelieving joy and he was dragging Castiel in to crush them together and cradle the back of Castiel’s head in his hand so that their hearts were beating hard and aching against each other under skin and bone and flesh and spirit, and Castiel was home.

“Fucking yes,” exclaimed Sam, somewhere in the background.

Mine,” Castiel mouthed from habit and desperation, biting it inaudibly into the side of Dean’s mouth; and Dean shuddered, and nodded, and buried his face against Castiel’s shoulder to breathe little gasping sobs, just for a moment.

Everything you did?” he croaked, after a moment. “You..?”

“Obviously, Dean.”

“Seriously?” grumbled Sam, unattended. “That was all it took? After all this time?”

Castiel reached out, and dragged him in. Whatever ideal vision Dean had spun, whatever Charlies and Ellens and Jos and Eileens and even Marys Dean missed, these two were Castiel’s family: thes two men right here, with their arms wrapped around each other and him, smelling like an unwashed barn.

“So,” said Sam carefully, like he was afraid that maybe he’d fallen into a djinn vision too, “in this perfect life of yours, you and Cas were…?”

“We might have been alittlebitmarried,” Dean mumbled.

“Uh, I didn’t quite catch that.” Sam was grinning now, wide and bright, inches from both their faces. “What did you say?”

“What have I told you about articulating clearly, Dean?” asked Castiel fondly.

Dean screwed up his face and pretended to step back, mostly by dint of swaying backwards a bit while Castiel carefully held up most of his weight. It was a relief to be the stronger one again, if only for now.

“What have I told you about… being a dork.”

Castiel felt his eyes crinkle up at the corners. “Usually that you think it’s adorable.”

“You think I’m adorable,” complained Dean.

“So marriage really sharpened up your come-backs, huh.”

Dean flipped Sam off. It just made him more smug.

“Please tell me my best man speech was two hours of I told you so.”

Dean glowered. Then he faltered, and ran his lip through his teeth. “Uh. Actually. We never really got a wedding.”

Castiel squinted at him. Of course they’d had a wedding—a picture-perfect “Hallmark” wedding.

Dean caught his look, and acknowledged it with a tilt of his head, a hand coming up to rub at the back of his neck.

“I mean. It never actually happened. It was before the vision started, you know?”

“That’s true,” said Castiel carefully. “It was part of the false memories that came with that world.”

“Right.” Dean shuffled his feet, then looked sideways at Castiel. “Not actually us.”

“Ooookay,” said Sam, after the moment had stretched out for a bit. “Not that it’s not about freaking time, you guys, and there is going to be so much gloating later, but right now we’re taking Dean to the hospital for fluids and shit. And I’m saying you’re his husband, Cas, and you’re going to sit by his bed and hold his damn hand.”

“Uh,” said Dean.

Castiel slung one of Dean’s arms around his shoulders, and frowned at him. “Don’t argue.”

“No, I mean,” said Dean, “your hand.”

“I am going to hold your hand,” Castiel informed him. “This is not up for discussion.”

Dean made a noise, and his ears went pink. “Sap,” he muttered, shoving his elbow in against Castiel’s side. “Just, your hand looks wrong now, y’know?”

Castiel blinked at him. Dean didn’t meet his eyes.

“Screw it,” said Dean. “Here, you dumbarse.” And he shoved Mary’s ring into Castiel’s hand.

“Oh,” said Castiel.

“I mean, if we’re going to pretend to be married.”

“Yes,” said Castiel softly. “I see.”

“Right,” said Dean.

“Exactly,” said Castiel.

“Oh my god,” Sam opined, to nobody in particular.

Castiel and Dean met each other’s eyes sideways. There was a faint smirk at the corners of Dean’s eyes, and he winked.

Castiel understood him. They understood each other.

Dean might not find softness and affection so easy, in this world, but the feeling was there all the same. They could find a common language.

Dean settled into the back seat of the Impala (the real Impala) with a groan. Castiel leaned in over him, and asked, “Are you okay there—buddy?”

There were only the faintest of laughter lines at the corners of Dean’s eyes when he patted Castiel’s shoulder, and replied, “Yeah, thanks man.”

Castiel settled himself onto the seat beside him. “No homo, though,” he added solemnly; and Dean broke, threw back his head and laughed.

Sam flopped into the driver’s seat and glared at them in the mirror.

“I am making my best man’s speech so embarrassing,” he grumbled.

“Says the man whose girlfriend needs a girlfriend,” smirked Dean.

“I—what?”

Castiel patted Dean’s knee. “Is it wise to tell him, dear?”

“Who was my girlfriend?” whined Sam. “Who, Dean.”

Dean just wrapped his arm around Castiel’s shoulders and grinned expansively at the back of his brother’s head. “Hey, no spoiling the mood.”

“Jerk,” Sam grumbled, smiling at nothing as he fired up the engine.

“Mmm,” agreed Dean, not bothering with the obvious retort, as Castiel settled in against his shoulder.

They were both asleep within three minutes; but their hands stayed twined together on Dean’s knee until the lights of the city stirred them back to life, and to duty.