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On the Nature of Subtext

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Castiel had been startled by Dean's reaction to his question of subtext. Dean had stormed out of the room, jumped in the Impala, and driven off. Castiel looked at Sam.

"I don't understand. Why is he angry?"

Sam looked nervously at Castiel as he cleaned up the mess from spewing coffee all over the table when Castiel had asked the question that had set Dean off. "Cas, I think I should leave this conversation between you and Dean."

Castiel looked over his shoulder where Jack was playing with Felicia. Jack had looked startled when Dean first took off, but now seemed relaxed.

Sam turned to take the paper towels into the kitchen. Castiel followed him. Castiel gave Sam another earnest look. "I don't know why Misha would ask me to ask Dean something that would make Dean angry."

Sam turned to face Castiel. The angel was truly upset. Sam frowned and put a hand on Castiel's shoulder. "It really isn't you, Cas. Dean isn't mad at you. He just was trying to avoid a conversation he thought might be awkward. You know Dean and his emotions. He doesn't handle words well, so he's a master of avoidance strategies."

"What does you can't have subtext without the S-E-X mean? I mean S-E-X spells sex. Subtext is underlying meaning that isn't overtly stated. I miss a lot of that, because I know I am too literal. I tend to take things as they are stated. Is my lack of being able to ascertain nuanced meanings making him angry? I can't fix that quickly. That's just me." Castiel looked more and more distressed.

Sam ran his fingers through his long hair. He really didn't want to have this discussion with Castiel, but he couldn't leave him in this state. "Cas, the Carver Edlund books that are out there makes Dean uncomfortable. They exposed more of his emotions than he ever would expose himself. Fans of the books then interpreted it in ways that were meaningful to them through what they thought of as subtext."

"Are the books accurate? I would assume so because they were written by God."

"More or less they are. I'm not always sure what was going on on my mind then was what in the books. Also, Chuck obscured certain details."

"How much of me is in the books?"

Sam looked at his shoes, not meeting Castiel eye's. "In the officially released ones, up to me diving in the pit with Lucifer and Michael. But apparently, more were uploaded to websites after that. On top of that, fans made up additional stories. Stories that include the three of us that aren't …" Sam paused,"…accurate."

Castiel squinted at Sam and tilted his head. "In what ways?"

"Like in me and Dean being together…together. And like you and Dean…" Sam raised his eyes to Castiel's.

A look of understanding flooded Castiel's face. His eyes widened. "Oh."

Sam rubbed his jaw for a moment, looking at Castiel. He seemed to be debating with himself on whether to say something.

Castiel looked at him patiently. When Sam seemed to stall out, Castiel asked, "Are there stories about the two of us?"

"Not as prevalent but there are some. Cas, I think the reason Dean is upset is a few of the things in the stories hit too close to home. Things he doesn't want to acknowledge in himself. He's very private about feelings. But look, Cas, the stories don't matter. They aren't real. What we think, feel, and do is our truth and that is all that matters."

"They aren't prophets."

Sam nodded in agreement. He relaxed. Castiel didn't seem too weirded out by it.

Sam poured himself a new cup of coffee. He started to take a drink. Castiel gave him a thoughtful look. "Do we do what the pizza man did?"

Sam spewed his coffee all over the counter. Castiel broke out laughing. "Got you!" Sam gave him a bitch face.

"In all seriousness, thank you, Sam. I think I understand now."

Sam laughed. "Dean will be ok. He just needs to get his head clear."

Eileen, Jack, Sam, and Castiel were watching a Star Wars movie in the family room they cobbled together when Dean came home with pizza a couple of hours later. Dean paused in the doorway. Eileen and Sam were cuddled together on the couch. Castiel was sitting in a chair, sharing a bowl of popcorn with Jack who was sitting on the floor leaning against Castiel's legs. Felicia was draped across Castiel's shoulders.

"Guys, I got pizza."

Sam paused the movie and they headed to the kitchen. Jack grabbed Dean's hand on the way and retold him the plot of the movie to the point Sam paused it on the way. Jack did perfect mimicry of the sound effects, including R2D2 whistles and Chewbacca's roars. As the group settled down at the table, Dean realized Castiel hadn't followed. He went back to the family room. Castiel was still sitting in the chair.

"Cas, you want to join us?"

"I was giving you space, Dean. I don't require food, so I thought I would just leave you alone for now."

"Cas, I'm sorry I stormed out like that. I'm not mad. I was just a little…rattled."

"Sam explained it to me. I respect your privacy, Dean. I won't read the books or stories. If you had wanted to share those with me, you would have. Now, go eat your pizza."

Dean felt rebuffed and started to turn around. He heard Castiel whisper, "There was no subtext for me. I said what I said and I meant every word literally."

Dean paused with his heart in his throat. "Cas?" He turned around. Castiel had stood up from the chair to face him. He wore dark jeans and a blue shirt. His blue eyes were glistening. His face full of raw emotion.

"I meant what I said when I was stabbed by Ramiel. The first sentence was only for you. When I said I love you all was for Sam and your mother. Because the love is different. I don't expect anything more from you than you've already given me, Dean. What we have is enough. If someday you meet a woman, I'll stand back and won't get in the way. I just wanted you to know that there was nothing ambiguous in that statement. There was no subtext." Castiel turned and headed for the door on the far side of the room. "I'm going for a walk, Dean. Please keep an eye on Jack for me."

Dean was motionless. He stood staring at the door until Jack playfully bumped into him. "Aren't you hungry, Dean? Where's Dad?"

"He needed some air." Dean answered quietly.

Jack looked unsettled for a moment. It was the first Castiel had left him since Ketch attacked. Then Jack smiled. "I get the chair." He walked over to the chair.

Sam and Eileen joined a moment later. Sam looked around the room. Eileen sat on the couch. Sam walked over and started the movie and then rejoined Dean.

"You okay, Dean? Where's Cas?"

Dean looked startled for a moment. "He went for a walk."

"Are you guys cool?

Dean met Sam's eyes. "I don't know how we are."

"You need to talk?" Sam asked, expecting Dean to decline as always.

Instead, Dean nodded and headed to the kitchen. There, instead of saying anything, he mindlessly put the left over pizza away. He pulled two beers from the fridge and turned to face Sam.

"What do you do when your best friend tells you he loves you?"

Sam cleared his throat, thinking back to his earlier conversation with Castiel. "I think that mostly depends on how you feel back."

"He's a dude, man."

Sam frowned slightly. "No, he has no gender. He is an angel. He has a male vessel. He's just Cas. What does that matter? If Cas was in a female vessel would you feel differently than you do now about him?"

"I wouldn't want him to change. He's just Cas." Dean said echoing Sam's words.

"Dean, I can't tell you what you feel. I am fairly certain that you know how he feels. I think he'll always feel that. He's never been all that subtle. It's always been you in control of your relationship, not him. And certainly not me. I am totally confident that if you live to be a hundred, he'll still come when you call. The only thing that will push Cas away from you is you. Just don't freak out and think this through. " Sam left Dean alone with his beer.

Castiel was still gone when Jack came to say good night. Jack seemed to still be okay with Castiel being gone. He had gotten use to Dean being gone a day here and there, so he seemed to lump this in that category.

Dean moved to the map table. He opened up his sixth beer. Sam walked by on his way to bed. "Don't drink too much."

"He left again, Sammy. He always leaves."

"You, idiot. He's not going to abandon Jack for starters. And he always comes back. You took a few hours earlier to think. Now, it's his turn."

Dean just looked lost in his beer.

Sam sighed and texted Eileen he'd be out for a bit. "I'll go find him, jerk."

Sam frowned when Dean didn't say bitch, back. He climbed the stairs and went outside. He saw the silhouette of Castiel standing on the hill, looking up at the stars. Sam walked up the hill and joined him. Castiel kept staring up at the stars. He didn't acknowledge Sam's approach.

"You okay, Cas?"

Castiel nodded. "I'm fine, Sam. I sometimes find the confines of the bunker overwhelming. I haven't left since we took Misha to Washington."

Sam frowned. "You aren't alone here. There's no reason Dean or I can't keep an eye on Jack, Cas. Jack is fine. He's happy and frankly, adorable. Eileen loves him too. You should get out and get air more often. Err, just not tonight. Dean's freaked out and convinced you are leaving."

Castiel gave a small smile. "I think I have increased his abandonment issues over time. I didn't mean to."

"Well, I'll just leave you here to your thoughts, I'm sorry to intrude. I just didn't want Dean to drink himself into a coma."

"You are never an intrusion, Sam. I regret pulling you into mine and Dean's issues. It is never my intent to make you act as a referee. I'll go in with you."

Sam and Castiel entered the bunker. Sam yelled good night to Dean over his shoulder as he headed to bed. Castiel sighed as he sat at the map table. "Dean, you should go to bed."

Dean slurred, "No, you…you should go to bed."

"I don't need to sleep, Dean."

"You don't need to eat, drink, poop, pee, or have sex either."

"I'm an angel. That's just part of the package. I also don't get to taste PB&Js or honey. I could have sex though. Where do you think Nephilims come from?" Castiel gave him a small smile.

"Future you had orgies."

"Future me? You mean Misha?"

"No, future you. Well now, past you."

Castiel looked totally perplexed at Dean. "I don't understand."

"Zachariah sent me to 2014 when it was 2009 to show me what would happen if I didn't say yes to Michael. You were there."

"I remember you being sent. I retrieved you from Zachariah and you told me to never change. You never told me I was there."

"What I turned you into by loving you."

Castiel reached over and took Dean's hand. "The you there is not the you here. We threw out the rule book and averted the Apocalypse. "

Dean tightened the grip on Castiel's hand. "You lost your angel mojo because you were disconnected from the heavenly host. You had girls. You popped pills and was generally high. But still you followed me right into a trap. I willingly sacrificed you. I can't do that to you. You loved me and it got you killed."

"That wasn't me, Dean. And it wasn't you. We made different choices. We became different people. "

"I was going to try to save you, but he hit me in the face with a rifle and knocked me out. I sent you in there to die needlessly." A tear streamed down Dean's face.

Castiel put a hand on either side of his face. "Dean, look at me. That wasn't me. I'm here. You're here. We're safe."

"I never meant to tell you how I failed you."

"You didn't. You learned from it. You came back to me and we stopped the end of the world. You saved me. "

Dean jumped like he was startled. His eyes finally met Castiel's. "Cas?"

"I'm here. It's okay." Castiel let his hands drop from Dean's face.

"Cas, I want to tell you…"

"No, Dean. Whatever you are going to say to me, I don't want to hear it when you are drunk. No more talk, just sleep." Castiel stood up and pulled Dean up to his feet. Dean leaned on him as Castiel led him to his bed. Castiel gently pushed Dean in. He removed Dean's boots and quietly went out the door.

-------

The next day, Dean woke up with a raging headache. He pulled off his shirt. He couldn't remember coming to bed. He yawned and looked for his boots. They weren't where they usually were. They were near the bottom of the bed with the shoelaces neatly tucked inside. The memories of the last conversation with Castiel flooded in. Dean gathered up clean clothes quickly and rushed to the bathroom. He took a quick shower and dressed, throwing the dirty clothes in the hamper. He paused, wondering how to approach this. He could hear Castiel's and Sam's voices form the kitchen. Dean gulped, and then relaxed his body into his best swagger. He entered the kitchen saying, " Mistakes were made, Sammy. Mistakes were made."

Sam looked at him grimly, "You drink too much and are a irresponsible parent."

Castiel handed Dean a cup of coffee and a bottle of aspirin.

Dean looked worried, "Jack is okay?"

"Yes, no thanks to you. Cas left you in charge and you drank yourself into a stupor. Jack came in here this morning and tripped over the mound of beer bottles you left on the floor. You know who else used to leave mounds of beer bottles? Dad." Sam gave Dean the scariest bitch face ever.

"Sam," Cas said quietly.

"No, Cas. He was disrespectful of Kelly and you for doing that."

"Sam, no, please. It was my fault for upsetting Dean. We're all good."

Dean suddenly saw red. "It ain't your frigging fault, Cas. Me getting drunk is not your fault. The universe isn't your fault. The fact that the moon revolves around the Earth isn't your fault. Lucifer being a dick isn't your fault. Metatron being a smarmy little bastard isn't your fault. The fact you accidentally left Sam's soul in Hell isn't your fault."

Castiel just stared at him and then tilted his head. "The last one kind of is."

"Because you wanted to bring him back to me. And look, I have Sam and that's your fault."

Castiel blinked, "Are things my fault or not?"

"The fact that I have a functioning liver is your fault. The world not ending is your fault too. The fact we have an awesome son is your fault too because I wanted to gank him."

Simultaneously, Castiel and Sam yelled, "Dean."

Jack called from the other room, "It is ok. I knew he wanted to gank me before Dad changed his mind."

Sam muttered, "You really suck at being a parent, you know that?"

Dean glared, "You turned out okay, didn't you?"

Castiel muttered in Enochian and then said, "Humans are completely nonsensical. Uriel warned me not to get too close to those in my charge. But did I listen?"

Dean looked at him. He grabbed Castiel's arms and pulled him closer. "You're hunted. You rebelled and you did it, all of it for me. Sam, leave now."

Sam left quickly. He told Jack to follow him as they headed to the gym.

Castiel looked into Dean's eyes. "What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to say I love you in a different way from Mom and Sam. There is no subtext. There is no ambiguity in this statement. I…love…you."

Remembering the scene from Star Wars the previous night, Castiel looked deep into Dean's eyes and said, "I know."

Dean pulled Castiel closer and whispered in his ear, "You don't have to worry about personal space anymore."