Sam and Dean save a girl in Oregon. She can see the future and the demons want to own her. They want to use her, and if nothing else Dean is determined that no one gets to be used. She doesn't seem surprised to be saved, and she knows their names. She looks at them like she knows exactly who they are, and what they've been through, sad and proud and strangely happy. There's a surety to her which Dean wants to mock, that he wants to call deluded. But he gets the feeling she's seen more than a few awful things, that she's seen their lives, which he wouldn't wish on anyone. He's not sure anyone could pretend after that.
They take her to the bus station, and the sky's a dark, angry navy that Dean knows means there's a storm coming. He stands with her in the rough, gusts of wind while Sam buys her a ticket.
"Some things we can't change," she tells him. "Some things are just meant to be."
Dean grits his teeth, because that's far too close to what he's been fighting against, what everyone has been telling him, no matter how hard he pushes back against it. He turns out of the wind, swallowing his own anger, because there are only so many times you can be told you're wrong before your own truth starts to taste sour in the back of your mouth.
"Yeah," he says roughly. "And it's always the bad things that happen no matter what."
"Is that what you think?" she says, head tipped to the side, dark, uneven hair slashing back and forth. Dean grunts rather than admit anything either way. The girl just smiles at him and squeezes his hand.
They put her on a bus and watch her face at the window until it's out of sight.
The motel they stop in is close enough to the storm that the rain roars against the window all night.
Dean dreams of a girl with torn jeans and dirty blond hair. He dreams of her face staring back at him from a cracked mirror in a motel bathroom. The full curve of her mouth shaping the name 'Cas,' forehead drawn in a frown, something sharp and wounded in her green eyes.
The dream's mostly gone by morning, but the hazy half-remembered pieces of it leave him uneasy. There's something uncomfortable and familiar about it. He doesn't tell Sam about it. He doesn't tell him about any of the others either. A thousand miles and a dozen motels. As soon as he closes his eyes they come.
He dreams of a world on fire, his own eyes flooded through with black. The world tastes like blood and lightning and there are fingers laid over his mouth, a voice he's always listened to drifting across his ear, asking him if this is what he wants. Dean digs his fingers in and doesn't let go.
He dreams of the inside of his car, battered and dusty like it had gone through a war. He's breathing against the rough curve of Castiel's mouth, one hand buried in the angel's hair, the other pressed into the leather of the seat. He's pulling clothes away from skin with a mute desperation while the windows go opaque.
There's a dream that he can barely understand. A dream of sound and vibration and light. He's heavy, like folds of space, and the sky is dark under the span of what feel like wings. Where Castiel's name sounds like the ring of a bell and it goes on forever.
He dreams of a world torn apart, where Castiel isn't an angel at all. Where his knuckles are as bruised as his eyes and his hair is a mess of dust. But there's a smile somewhere there, sharp but real, and when he looks at Dean it reaches his eyes.
He dreams of dirty motels. Of dark rooms where he's too afraid to speak. Castiel's eyes are blue, and her hair is a fall of darkness, her voice a low gravel purr. Dean's hands are smaller too, with fine nails and a scatter of silver rings and when Dean says her name his own voice is soft and low. Pleading.
After a night hunting ghouls, arm still stiff and angry with Sam's careful stitches, Dean dreams that he fights Castiel, that he fights like a wounded man who doesn't want to hurt him. A man who knows he's outmatched but won't back down. Castiel is cold and stern and remote and Dean pleads with him, angry and desperate. He pleads with Castiel to remember him.
On a night where he desperately tries to drink himself to sleep he dreams a dizzy, half-remembered dream. His blood is on fire and Castiel is warm and close in a way that Dean knows is wrong, pushing Dean's damp hair back from his forehead and whispering to him that Dean is allowed to take what he needs, always. That there will be no apologies and no regrets.
Dean dreams of more versions of himself, more versions of Castiel. Some so strange and so different Dean has no idea how they could possibly exist. He's lost count of the number of motels, of the number of dreams. But this night he's not sleeping. He sits by the window and stares out into the darkness. He stares through the light drum of rain on the window, and he thinks about all the things you can change, and all the things you can't. The bottle he's holding is half empty. Though he still hasn't found an answer in it. He still doesn't know what the hell he's thinking. What he wants. What this all means.
He's looking at Cas before he's ready, before he knows what he's going to do. Familiar, maybe more familiar now, or less, Dean's seen so many possibilities, seen versions of Castiel that all feel the same, but are all so different.
"Dean?" Castiel's voice sounds rough and dry, like he's been out in the wind all night.
"Cas," Dean says. He doesn't intend the strange edge of affection, of relief. He doesn't know if Castiel notices.
This isn't them, this isn't what they are. They've always had...they've always been close to something. But Dean's never touched it - never dared - never had the time. He's never even thought about it. He thinks about it now, thinks about what they could be. What they are...in other places. The fact that Castiel is always there for him, always with him, no matter where, or how. Or what it costs him. Dean thinks about the way he feels for once, confused but brutal and honest.
He stands up, moves to the door where Castiel appeared, not behind him for once. He takes the bottle with him, then changes his mind and lets it drop onto the table, spilling liquid in a wet splash across the wood. He stands close enough that he's the one invading the angel's personal space for once.
"Dean." Castiel's voice is softer, lower, he's frowning. Dean's seen that same expression on the face of the man who'd stitched him up after a vampire attack. He's seen its female counterpart, he's felt it inside in a way he can barely remember. He's been something other than human staring down at it, he's been damned, he's been angry enough to lash out at it. He's seen that face while he lost blood on a dirty basement floor, somewhere impossibly far away.
He lifts his hands and grasps Castiel's coat, handfuls of crisp, cold fabric, and he dares to do something he never would have done. Castiel is completely still under him, but his mouth is a strange mixture of rough and soft. It shouldn't be familiar but Dean's been dreaming it for weeks, and there's the strangest sense that he already knows how this goes. He knows exactly when Castiel will relax, when he'll lift a hand and lay it against the side of Dean's face, just the faintest pressure, as if he wants to stop Dean from pulling away but doesn't quite know how.
Dean knows before he breaks away that Castiel will say his name, quiet and uncertain against his mouth. But after that - he doesn't know what the hell happens after that.
"Do you sometimes feel like the whole universe is just waiting for you to catch up?" Dean asks and it barely gets out of his throat. Castiel frowns like he doesn't understand. Dean shakes his head, because it doesn't matter, then relaxes his hands in the fabric he's still holding, more than a little lost now he's all on his own. Just because he got this right a hundred times before...it doesn't mean he can do it again. He's far too good at screwing things up. That's what he does.
Castiel's cold fingers find the back of his neck, and when he pulls there's more strength, more insistence than Dean's expecting.
"I will not let you kiss me and walk away," Castiel says firmly.
Dean decides that's fair enough.