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And the stars of Heaven shall fall

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I

Castiel sat on the edge of the bed and stared down his hands, opening and closing them. He looked at his fingers, long and slender — Jimmy had played piano in elementary school, attending lessons taught by his pastor’s wife, tapping out ‘Chopsticks’ for hours, but he’d never really warmed to it as much as he thought he should’ve. What a waste, she’d told him sadly, looking at his long hands. He’d stuffed them into his pockets awkwardly, licking his chapped lips a habit that, despite constant scolding and annual Christmas gifts of Chapstick, he never did wind up growing out of. Sometimes, Castiel took trips through Jimmy’s memories, walking down paths of recollections that were so foreign and alien to him. Mostly, Castiel respected Jimmy’s privacy and let him live in a world before Castiel. 

“Cas?” Cas jumped and felt his stomach drop — two strange, new sensations that he wasn’t comfortable with. They made him feel sick. “What’re you doing?” Dean was sitting propped up on his elbows, staring blearily at Castiel. 

“I…” he began, unsure of where to begin. There was too much going on inside his head, too much panic and too much fear mixed with a strangely intense feeling of absolute serenity. He wondered what he was supposed to say. Castiel had never been good with words. They confused him, English especially, and he sometimes wished he could default to older languages, lost, more poetic tongues to try and explain himself more clearly but Dean wouldn’t understand. For all of his kindness and caring, Castiel sometimes marveled at the infinite things that Dean would never be able to comprehend about him. It pained him sometimes to realize what little they had in common, frustrated him when he realized that he'd never understand Dean’s childhood because Castiel simply hadn’t had one. He’d grown and matured over the billions of years he’d been alive, but he’d never truly ever been a child. He realized then that neither had Dean.

“What?” Dean asked, sitting up all the way and looking at Castiel with sleepy concern. “What’s wrong?” 

“I’ve lost him,” Castiel said quietly, turning his hands over and looking at the backs. He ran a hand over the protruding bones, trailing his fingers over the mountain range of his metacarpals. 

“Lost who? What’re you talking about?” 

“Jimmy,” Castiel said, turning to him, face devoid of all expression but his blue eyes were in turmoil, the oceans in them writhing and boiling. “He’s gone.” He picked at the edge of his trench coat and shuddered — he was fidgeting. Humans fidgeted, not angels. Angels were still, infinite celestial statues frozen in time. 

“Gone? As in gone gone?” Dean scooted to the edge of the bed to sit next to Castiel, sitting closer to him than he ever had before. Castiel barely registered it. 

Castiel nodded almost imperceptibly, looking back down at his hands. 

“Where’d he go?”

“I don’t know,” Castiel answered honestly. He hoped he’d gone to heaven. Castiel knew that Claire had died, a year and a half ago now, taken ill suddenly and passed away. At the time, Castiel had marveled at what an utterly human thing it was to do, to surrender to something as simple as an abnormal growth of cells. Occasionally, he visited her grave, although he had no idea what he was supposed to do, didn’t understand the customs that came with mourning an adult’s death, much less the death of a child. Once, he’d laid his hand on the ground and breathed life into it, growing flowers, yellow tulips and daisies next to the granite headstone. He went back a week later to see that the groundskeeper had pulled them up like weeds. 

She was buried next to her father, an empty casket. Castiel sometimes forgot that while Jimmy had been very much alive to him, he was for all intents and purposes dead to the rest of the world. He sent out a brief prayer that him and his daughter be reunited. Maybe Castiel would find him one day and say sorry. He didn’t think it would do any good. 

“Give me a knife,” he said suddenly, turning towards Dean with an intensity burning in his eyes. 

“Uh, what?” Dean asked, furrowing his brow in confusion. 

“A knife,” Castiel repeated, standing up quickly. “I need a knife.” Without waiting for a response, he walked quickly over to Dean’s bag, reaching in and grabbing one of the many blades at random. He yanked up his sleeve, staring at the blueish-purple veins that spread like tributaries down his pale arm. He moved his other arm violently and suddenly, slashing himself across the forearm, the cut blooming deep and wide, blood running in rivulets onto the carpet. He pressed his hand to it and closed his eyes. He waited for the skin to knit itself together again, seal it up so he wouldn’t have to look at the muscle he’s sliced himself down to. He pulled back his hand experimentally, noting with a sinking feeling that it was gloved with crimson. The wound still flowed, pumping a deep red all over his wasted pianist’s fingers.

"Cas, what the hell?!” Dean jumped off the bed and rushed over to him, yanking Castiel’s hand back to get a look at the cut. 

“It’s not healing,” Castiel said softly. “Look.” He stuck out his arm, suddenly aware of the sharp lancing pain. He’d felt pain before, many times, but this was horrible and revolting, nearing on blasphemous. He felt nauseous, empty stomach churning and threatening to spill all over the floor. He doubled over and retched, feeling his body convulse and twist and he heaved up nothing but spit and bile.

“Calm down,” Dean said, ushering him to sit down on the bed. “It’s not that bad. You’re gonna be fine.” Castiel could hear the shock in his voice but it didn’t permeate his reality, clouded and difficult to see through.

 Castiel nodded, clutching his arm, trying not to look at it but it was absolutely mesmerizing. It was Jimmy’s arm that was bleeding, he knew that, but he also knew for certain that Jimmy was no longer with him. Castiel wondered as Dean leaned over him, blotting the flow with a white hotel room towel, whether or not it made his body his and if so what a horrible first mark to make on it. Castiel hadn’t even had a body before, only used one to contain him, pure grace and light, incorporeal and intangible. 

 “Jesus, Cas,” Dean murmured. Castiel was only dimly aware of him speaking — he could hear the sounds but he couldn’t translate them into any sort of language he knew and he knew all of them. When the bleeding was finally staunched, three blood-soaked towels later, Dean pulled out dental floss and a sewing needle. He cried out in pain when Dean sloshed fifteen dollar whiskey over his arm, surprising and embarrassing himself enough to bring a flush of blood across his face, pale and sweaty. He was eternally grateful for Dean saying nothing, merely sewing him up, tying the floss and patting him gingerly on the shoulder. He allowed Dean to remove his blood stained coat, limbs barely working.

“Throw it away,” Castiel said, barely audible as Dean went to sling it over an office chair. “Please.” 

Dean looked at him, absolutely baffled. “You sure? It’s kind of your signature loo—“

Dean,” Castiel said sharply, turning to face him. “I said throw it away.” He needed out of his clothes desperately, but he had nothing else to wear — he’d never even needed to think about it before. Gingerly, he removed his suit jacket and undid his tie with stumbling fingers, the gesture completely unknown to him, leaving them on the floor next to the bed. “Those too,” he said after a moment. 

Dean seemed to realize it was best not to argue and picked up the clothes, piling them in a heap in his arms. “Anything else?” Castiel looked down at his shirt, wishing that he had something else to wear. He pulled at the collar miserably, trying to distance himself from it as much as possible. He was suddenly acutely aware of the way his garments stuck to his skin, the feeling of his pants pressing into his stomach and the way the shirt clung to his chest. He wondered if all humans felt like this when they wore clothes and how on earth they could stand it.

Dean sighed and to him, leaning over and unbuttoning it.

“What’re you doing?” Castiel asked, staring blankly at him. He couldn’t help but breathe a small sigh of relief as the fabric was pulled from his skin.

“Never tell anyone about this,” Dean said through gritted teeth. “But we need to get you out of these clothes or else you’re gonna explode. Not literally,” he groaned upon seeing Castiel’s horrified expression. “But you are gonna rip your own skin off.” 

Castiel thought about protesting that statement for a moment, but realized after several seconds it was probably true. He shuddered as Dean’s fingertips brushed against his chest, marveling at how strange it was to feel someone else touching him in a place he’d never even touched himself. Dean ignored him, stopping about halfway down and taking a step back. “You’re on your own from there,” he said, running a hand over his face. “Can you do that?”

Castiel nodded silently, stumbling fingers finishing unbuttoning, hesitantly sliding the bloodstained shirt off of his shoulders and handing it to Dean. Dean nearly dropped it when Castiel reached down the fumble with his belt. “Dammit, don’t — fine,” he said with a sigh, throwing up his hands in defeat when Castiel looked up at him miserably. “Do whatever. Just…leave your underwear on, okay? And — I can’t believe I’m gonna have to say this — if you are going to…take off your pants, please do it in the bathroom. Okay? Watching you take off your shirt was weird enough.” 

Castiel nodded. He removed them in the bathroom, watching his leg muscles move, feeling them with his hands. It surprised him at how tanned the skin — his skin — was. Jimmy must’ve been a runner. It pained him a little to realize he’d never even thought to ask what Jimmy had done in his spare time, what hobbies he’d partaken in. He’d never thought to explore what movies or books Jimmy had liked or what music he’d enjoyed listening to. He didn’t know how he’d met his wife or how he’d known he was in love with her and that he was going to marry her. He’d spent years inside of Jimmy’s body but he knew next to nothing about him. He had so many things he wanted to tell him now, so many apologies and excuses he wanted to make for himself but Jimmy was gone and he was alone. He was trapped in this prison of flesh and bone.  

As Dean disposed of the clothes outside in the dumpster, Castiel stared at himself in the mirror above the sink. He ran a hand (his hand, he thought to himself, not Jimmy’s) over his face, tracing its contours, fingertips dancing across his nose, down his cheeks, ghosting over his lips and sliding across his eyebrows and forehead. He covered one of his eyes with his hands, looking at himself in the mirror. Castiel ran his hands along his chest, feeling the xylophone of his ribs, fingering the dip in his collarbones, pressing gently into his abdomen. He stood there until, a long while later, Dean gently put his hand on his shoulder and led him to the bed, turning down the covers and tucking him in like a child. Castiel said nothing, eyes blank, wide and unseeing. He turned on his side and stared across the room, watching the minutes tick by on the digital clock. He realized vaguely that he was getting older every time the clock changed, really, physically older, felt he could practically feel the wrinkles being cruelly carved into his face already. 

“Cas?” Dean asked, kneeling down next to the bed. “You okay?” 

Castiel frowned, feeling something on his cheeks. He reached a hand up and it came away wet. He realized he’d been crying. “I don’t know,” he said quietly, wiping an eye with the back of his hand. “No,” he amended after a moment. “No, I don’t think I am.” 

“Yeah,” Dean said with a sigh, standing up. “I didn’t think so.” It surprised Castiel when Dean lay down in bed next to him, situating himself on his back and looking at the ceiling. It surprised him even more when what felt like years later, just as Castiel felt like he was about to fall asleep for the first time in his life, Dean turned over on his side and held him, pulling him close into his chest. Castiel wasn’t sure if Dean knew he was still awake as he pressed a kiss to his bare shoulder, wrapping an arm around him and pulling him into an embrace. 

It didn’t surprise Castiel when he realized he was, again, crying.

 

II

Castiel hadn’t slept in three days. 

He was laying on the couch in a motel room in Chesterton, Indiana, legs crossed at the ankles. He stared blankly at the picture on the television, watching the plasticky people live plasticky lives on the fuzzy screen. He’d muted the volume so he could create stories for them inside his head. He liked to pretend that the men and women on the screens were living lives as flawed as his and Dean’s, but unlike theirs he liked to pretend that they had a resolution. It made him uncomfortable to watch when the gorgeous men and women kissed each other, running their hands up each other’s clothing, undoing straps and buckles. He couldn’t watch men with their shirts off without feeling a deep sense of shame in his stomach, but he found himself unable to look away from the way their muscles rippled under their skin. He wondered occasionally what it’d be like to touch them and feel so much skin under his hands, which were becoming callused as they were no longer stuck in a state of permanent celestial perfection. Sometimes, in the shower, he ran them over his chest and felt the way they caught raggedly against his smooth skin. He often pretended they were someone else’s, imagining an unknown person with hands as rough as his standing slick under the hot water with him and touching him. Castiel didn’t allow his mind to wander too far before quickly turning the knob on the shower to freezing.

He flipped to the channel that told him all of the stations and checked the time — 7: 42 PM. Dean had been gone for over two hours, much longer than it should’ve taken for him to grab the gas station sandwiches Castiel had reluctantly agreed to. He’d lobbied, as he always did, for pizza or hamburgers but Dean had reminded him with a groan that money wasn’t endless and that, even if it was, it’d be a cold day in hell before he’d ever order a pizza with anchovies as a topping. 

Castiel had heaved himself out of bed and had begun searching for the slip of paper that Dean had scrawled his number on to call him and make sure he was alright when he heard a knock at the door. Castiel waited patiently for the coded knocks that Dean had burned into his memory, thump, thump, thump-thump.  He opened the door after he did, rubbing his eyes. Dean had two sandwiches in one hand, a soda in the other and another tucked under his arm. He flashed a grin and brushed past him, shoving a sandwich and a soda in Castiel’s hands. He peered at the label stamped across the sandwich. “I don’t like turkey and cheese,” he said quietly. “Or Coke.” 

Dean sighed, shrugging off his jacket and slinging it over a chair. “Deal. It was what they had.” 

Castiel sighed petulantly and sat down cross-legged on the bed, unwrapping the sandwich.

“Dammit, don’t eat on the bed,” Dean snapped, picking up the remote and turning off the television.

“It’s my bed,” Castiel said defensively, taking a bite of the sandwich. He shared an awkward look with Dean, scratching his permanent 5 o’clock shadow and looking away after a moment. Dean had taken to sleeping in his bed every night. It didn’t matter that he always asked for a double at check-in, didn’t matter that it was difficult for one grown man to fit into a twin bed, never mind two — almost exactly fifteen minutes after Castiel had lay down Dean crawled wordlessly into bed next to him and wrapped his arms around him from behind. 

Castiel still knew very, very little about human customs but he’d figured out fairly early on that climbing into bed dressed only in boxers and pressing close to another man that he viewed only as a friend was abnormal. During the day Dean hardly touched him, seemingly going out of his way to avoid even the slightest physical contact with Castiel. It confused him, but he enjoyed the way it felt to have someone else’s body so close to him, enjoyed feeling the warmth radiating from Dean, enjoyed feeling Dean’s bare chest up against the naked skin of his back. He found himself going through the day looking forward to curling up in bed with Dean, even though he very rarely found any sleep while laying there. 

He unscrewed the Coke and took a drink, shuddering afterwards. “It’s so…syrupy,” he said, wiping his mouth. “And sugary.” He could practically feel his teeth rotting as he took another drink. He peered at the label and raised an eyebrow at Dean. “And also caffeinated, Dean.” 

Dean sighed and walked over to the sink, filling up a glass of water and handing it to him. “Here.” 

Castiel nodded seriously. “Thank you.” He took a large drink, savoring the way it washed the taste of both the sandwich and the soda from his mouth. 

“Don’t mention it.” He sat down on the bed next to Castiel and unwrapped his own sandwich. Castiel gave him a are-you-fucking-kidding-me look and Dean shrugged. “What? It’s your bed.”

Castiel snorted and wrapped up his sandwich, setting it down on the bed stand. Exhaustion made him queasy and the idea of eating more that a few bites was almost unbearable.

“Sleep yet?” Dean asked.

Castiel shook his head. “No.” He was beginning to think that he would never sleep again. He wondered hazily if he would stay awake for the requisite eleven days it took to kill a person and then just drift off into oblivion. 

“Got an idea for you,” Dean said suddenly, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a bag of something green. He waved it in Castiel’s face and shot him a smile. He sighed when Castiel responded by staring at him with a completely blank expression. “C’mon, this took some work to get.” 

Castiel peered at it, eyes widening. “Is that…marijuana? Dean,” he said, tone slightly admonishing, shaking his head. “That’s very, um, kind?” He was unsure of that was the right word, but he kept going. “But I can’t.” 

“Why not?”

“I…” Castiel began, trailing off, realizing the legitimacy of Dean’s question. He had no particular moral objection to marijuana. The Bible’s teachings on it were fuzzy at best, although he wasn’t sure that made a difference anymore. He had no obligation to follow a set of vague rules that had failed him so miserably, but after millennia of mindless obedience disobeying was difficult and still painful. “I don’t really know how,” he said, embarrassed. “I understand the…concept. But I don’t understand the mechanics of it.” 

“I’ll show you,” Dean offered, holding out the bag the bag towards him. 

Castiel took it from him warily as if worried it was about to explode, sniffing it. The odor was strange but not unpleasant. He brought it to his eye level, ignoring Dean’s exasperated sigh. “Alright,” he said after a moment, handing it back to him.

Dean grinned again. “Awesome. But since it’s your first time, we’re going to do something a little bit different. Sound good?”

“I can’t say it sounds good if I don’t know what it is, Dean,” Castiel said a little testily. He was nervous, fiddling with the hem of his jeans. 

“Calm down,” Dean said, pulling out a stack of thin papers from his pocket and selecting one. “You’re gonna be fine.” Castiel watched him with rapt attention as Dean sprinkled it in a line on the paper. 

Dean looked up at him a little self-consciously. “Can you not just stare at me like that? It’s really creepy.”

“I want to see what you’re doing,” Cas protested. 

Dean rolled his eyes skywards, clearly praying for patience. Castiel bit back a smile, masking it with a squint of the eyes. He watched with inappropriate attention as Dean licked the paper to seal it, feeling a flush of blood rise to his cheeks. He looked away and cleared his throat, trying to remain nonchalant. 

“Alright, here’s how this is gonna go,” Dean said, straightening himself up and holding the joint out so Castiel could see it clearly. “I’m gonna take a hit. Then I’m going to, uh, blow it into your mouth and you’re going to breathe in, hold your breath and then let it go. Got it?” 

“I got it,” Castiel told him, nodding seriously. 

“You’re going to feel a little…weird,” Dean admitted, pulling out a lighter. “But you’ve just gottta relax and go with it. Hopefully this’ll help you get that stick out of your ass.”

Castiel smiled a small smile, scratching the back of his neck uncomfortably. He took a sip from the water he’d been resting between his legs, cheeks reddening again when he noticed Dean watching him lick the excess liquid from his lips. 

Dean seemed to suddenly fall back into reality, coughing. “You ready?”

Castiel nodded again hesitantly. “I think so.” 

Dean patted Castiel lightly on the shoulder, lingering just a little bit too long and rubbing his thumb against him. “Just relax. It’s basically impossible to fuck it up.” 

“I’m going to fuck it up,” Castiel stated dryly. 

Dean barked a laugh. “Cas, you can hold your breath for ten seconds. That’s literally all you have to do. That and don’t cough,” he added as an afterthought. “C’mere.” He gestured for Castiel to bring his face forward.

Castiel leaned in very hesitantly, stopping only when he was three or so inches away from Dean’s face. He looked around, trying not to meet Dean’s eye. He had the sudden urge to kiss him. It was all he could think about; imagining the way Dean’s lips would feel against his, imagining with a flutter in his stomach Dean slipping his tongue into Castiel’s mouth, Dean running his hand down the side of Castiel’s face and pulling him in closer, Dean —

“Cas?” Dean asked uncertainly. “You okay?”

Castiel jumped and pulled back quickly. “Sorry,” he told him quietly. “I’m just a little…overwhelmed,” he said honestly. He realized, heart twisting in his chest and lurching, that he’d fallen in love. He’d heard about it so many times, heard it described endlessly since the beginning of history be it written down, acted out or sung but he never realized it would be so painful. It was a physical sensation for him, like a band pulling tight around his chest and preventing his heart from beating properly, making it impossible for him to draw a breath. Castiel wondered how he was possibly supposed to keep his feelings a secret; it seemed too impossibly big and powerful to be able to keep to himself but he knew he had to. Telling Dean was not an option and it wouldn’t be, not ever. Even if it became one, Castiel wouldn’t know how. 

Dean waved a hand in front of his face. “Dude, are you sure you’re okay?” 

Castiel bit his lip and nodded. “Yes, sorry.” He leaned forward and brought his face close to Dean’s, feeling his breath against his lips and suppressing a shudder.

Dean shifted uncomfortably. “Open your mouth,” he ordered. 

Castiel opened it very tentatively, suddenly feeling extremely exposed. He balled his hands into fists as Dean took a drag, watching the way he held it in and then feeling it when he exhaled. He breathed in deeply and shut his mouth. The taste of the smoke was strange, but not bad. He held it in as long as he could before turning his head and breathing out, suddenly getting overwhelmed with a coughing fit. 

“I don’t feel anything,” he said quietly when he regained his breath. “I don’t think it’s wor — oh.” He blinked slowly, feeling the warmth thread through his muscles and weave around his bones. He felt a little light headed, but not unpleasantly. 

Dean grinned. “Fuckin' lightweight. Again?”

Castiel nodded, turning around and setting the glass of water on the bed stand. “Please.” He leaned forward again, feeling Dean’s breath as he laughed against his mouth.

They continued the exchange until the joint was burnt out, Castiel feeling pleasantly woozy, fingertips fuzzy. He realized belatedly that his face was still very close to Dean’s, neither of them making any move to pull away. He knew he could never tell Dean the way he made him feel, but it came to him like a revelation that he could show him. Very gently and hesitantly, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against Dean’s. He could feel the shock on Dean’s face as he did it and he pulled back, smiling sadly. “I don’t expect you to reciprocate,” he said softly. “But I thought I should let you know.” He pulled back and looked away.

Dean leaned forward suddenly and kissed him, sliding his tongue into Castiel’s mouth. Castiel took a moment to react but he reached his hand out and touched Dean’s cheek, feeling the way stubble grazed his fingertips. He found himself moving closer to Dean, wrapping his arms around him and running his hands down his back. They fell back onto the bed, Castiel halfway on top of him, laughing into Dean’s mouth. He found his shirt was being pulled off and he clumsily raised his arms to help him, laughing again softly as he got tangled as his head pulled through the collar, messing up his hair. To have someone else’s hands slide across his chest felt so better than he’d thought it would be and he realized with a smile that he’d been pretending that they’d been Dean’s hands touching him all along. 

He pulled Dean’s shirt off awkwardly, swearing under his breath at it, which amused Dean enough to kiss him tenderly on the cheek. Castiel lost track of time as they lay there, hands exploring each other nervously at first, then more confidently and with more purpose. He lay a gentle hand on Dean’s when he began to unbuckle Castiel’s belt. “Not right now, Dean,” he said softly, kissing his forehead. “Not yet. Not while I’m…”

“Stoned?” Dean supplied, pulling his hand away and resting it on Castiel’s waist.

“Yes. I don’t want it to be…like this.” He trailed off, ashamed. He was well aware that, to Dean, sex wasn’t something special. He had sex casually and often, picking up women in bars and bringing them home without a second thought. But to Castiel, intimacy was something sacred, meant to be treasured. He knew it was probably leftover heavenly indoctrination from up above, but it was something he couldn’t let go of. He wanted, at least for the first time, for it to be something special. He wanted to be sober, he wanted to feel every second of it and not feel like he was about to drift away. 

Dean kissed the top of his head in a sort of silent agreement, allowing Castiel to rest his head on Dean’s chest and rub his hand in circles on Dean’s breastbone. He slept well that night, unsure whether or not it was the drug or the lullaby of Dean’s gentle breathing that finally brought him peace.  

III

The first time they made love both of them were scared and awkward. Dean’s fingers stumbled with the buttons of Castiel’s shirt, Castiel fumbling with the belt with shaking fingers. He held his breath as Dean slid a tentative hand under his underwear, gasping as Dean’s fingers closed around him. Dean winced when he did the same to him, but nodded at him to keep going when Castiel jerked his hand back. He’d had imagined Dean as a dominating force in bed and it  had scared and excited him a little. He was surprised to find him gentle, kind and almost submissive. He showed Castiel what to do without judging him when Castiel fumbled, which was often. 

When Dean was finally inside him, Castiel felt as if they’d become one person. He’d touched his soul when he’d dragged him out of hell, but he felt like this was true intimacy. As Dean began to move faster, Castiel whispered in his ear that he loved him and Dean told him that the knew. He pulled Dean to him as he came for the first time, trying to bring them together as close as physically possible. He wondered as they cleaned up if Dean loved him and when Dean held him afterwards, running a hand almost reverently down his back and pressing gentle kisses against his mouth he knew he had his answer. 

 IV

At first, having any sort of sexual interaction with Dean was enough to get him to sleep. They didn't often have intercourse, but he found what Dean did for him wonderfully pleasurable nonetheless and he fell asleep every night, naked, in his arms. It lasted around a month before Castiel began waking up at night, unable to fall back asleep and spending until dawn tracing designs onto Dean’s chest with his fingertips. It was only a week or so later when he found himself staying awake all night again, completely unable to sleep no matter what they did.

Dean had agreed when Castiel had asked him very tentatively to buy him more pot and taught him how to roll a joint. He had a natural talent for it, learning quickly exactly how much to sprinkle onto the paper and exactly how to lick the edge to make sure it stuck the best. He liked finding something human that he was good at, even if it was a talent as pointless as this.

When Castiel was high, he felt like he was floating. He loved the way his body responded to tactile stimulation, each brush of Dean’s fingers feeling electric and powerful, orgasms feeling airy and higher than the sky. It was almost like he was an angel again; he felt so strange, almost celestial. When he looked at Dean as he lay in bed next to him he felt like he was again observing him from heaven, looking down at him as a guardian instead of a friend or a lover. 

Castiel saw the way Dean looked at him sometimes when he was too high to form working sentences and it made him feel naked. He felt like Dean could see through his skin, passing through the musculature and bones and diving into the core of him formally occupied by his grace. Sometimes, the emptiness it had left threatened to overwhelm him and he’d take another hit, ignoring Dean when he asked him to blow the smoke out the window. He wanted Dean to feel the same way he did, wanted him to feel the ecstasy and the pain that threatened to shatter his bones into oblivion.

The closest he could get was getting Dean to drink with him, something he did happily. He seemed thrilled that Castiel was developing a taste for liquor, praising his almost superhuman tolerance. His smile faltered when Castiel began regularly outdrinking him by large amounts, tossing back whiskey after whiskey. Castiel was pleased to find another thing he was good at, overjoyed to find that he was finally better at something than Dean was. The more he drank the more he grew to define himself by it. He couldn’t hold his arm steady enough to aim a gun accurately or outdo Dean in a knife fight but he could drink. He developed a taste for cigarettes too, developing into a chain smoker almost overnight. 

Castiel would smoke pot in the morning when he woke up, sneak a cigarette or ten during the day and drink at night. “Dean, I need it to sleep,” he said, popping open another beer as Dean tried to get him to slow down. “This is the only way.” Castiel said it to him long after Dean had stopped trying to stop him. He wasn’t sure who he was trying to convince. 

He didn’t remember exactly when it happened, but he found himself introducing himself to strangers as ‘Cas’. Hearing Castiel almost made him cringe. He hated saying it, hated the bitter and poisonous taste it left on his tongue. Once, in an effort to get his attention, Dean had called him Castiel and he’d snapped angrily, irrationally upset. He’d begged forgiveness the next morning when he was more sober and Dean had given it to him readily, which had angered him again. He wanted Dean to shout at him, maybe smack him across the face. Cas needed to justify feeling the way he felt. He needed Dean to justify his pitiful unhappiness and when he didn’t, Cas realized he’d started resenting him; for falling, for teaching him how to get drunk and high and rendering him useless. He hurt. And he wanted Dean to make it worse so he could justify hating him. But Dean never did, helping him into bed at night when he was too drunk to walk, feeding him, making sure he washed. After a while all of that stopped mattering. He started to hate him anyway. 

V

Cas was annoyed when Dean’s phone rang while Dean was in the shower, although he answered it without a second thought. Somehow, they’d become an old married couple. They answered each other’s phones, packed up each other’s bags, shared ties, socks, the occasional pair of boxers and toothbrushes if one of them forgot theirs in one of their endless series of motel rooms. They spent so much time together that they’d picked up each other’s mannerisms. Cas often found himself running a hand over his face in exasperation or nervousness and every now and then he’d catch Dean squinting his eyes or cocking his head in confusion. 

“Hello?” he answered, scratching the side of his face. He was a little drunk, more tipsy than anything. It took a lot to get Cas drunk. He took a swig from the bottle of whiskey Dean had bought them two days before, already almost gone when it was supposed to last a week. 

“…Cas?” The voice was strangely familiar, but it took him a moment to place it. It had only been a few years since he’d spoken to the man on the other end of the line, but he sounded like he’d aged centuries since then.

Sam?” Cas nearly dropped the phone in disbelief. 

“Are you okay?” Sam asked, his voice genuinely concerned. Cas had to bit his lip to prevent himself from bursting out in laughter; it was just such a delightfully Sam thing to say. Sam, who was suddenly breaking years of a strict no-contact policy, was asking Cas if he was okay. Cas hadn’t ever known Sam very well, but at that moment he found himself missing him terribly like he was his own brother.

“Lemme get Dean,” Cas said, heaving himself up from the office chair, the one that was seemingly required by law to be in every single motel room in America. 

“Just tell him I’m sorry,” Sam said quietly. Cas felt his stomach drop. “Can you do that for me?” 

“No, no, no, no, it’ll just take a second, he’s just in the shower, I’ll —“ He found himself nearly sprinting across the room to the bathroom, tripping over his discarded shoes and nearly falling flat on his face.

“Thanks, Cas,” Sam paused for a moment. “Good luck,” he added. Cas felt chilled to the bone. The well-wishing sounded terrifying and ominous as it crackled through the line. 

“Sam, please, wait — “ His hand was raised to pound on the door when he was interrupted by a click, followed by a dial tone. Cas stood there, frozen. He very slowly lowered his hand and listened. He could hear Dean in the shower, singing to himself, unaware that Cas could hear him and that he could every time. He knew from experience that Dean was probably playing with his hair, forming it up into stupid styles that always made Cas laugh. Silently, he thumbed the buttons on the phone and pressed OK, deleting any record of the call. 

When Dean came out later, towel slung low around his hips, and asked who Cas had been talking to Cas told him it had been the TV.

 VI

The day after Cas began to suspect that the effects of alcohol and pot weren’t enough to get him to sleep anymore, he forged a prescription for pain medication and picked them up at the pharmacy. He’d been nervous, palms sweating and face white like a sheet but the tired, prematurely gray woman behind the counter had given them to him without a second thought, not even asking to see the slip of paper he’d worked so hard at perfecting. “It’s the end of the world, sweetie,” she’d said wearily. “Nobody cares anymore.”

At first, he was very careful with them, never mixing them with alcohol and taking only half a tablet at a time, but over the period of several weeks he grew more and more careless. He bought more, throwing amphetamines and benzodiazepines like candy. Before he found out, Dean awkwardly congratulated him on drinking less and Cas grinned and said thank you.  After Dean found one of his many bottles he said nothing, leaving them on the bed stand.  Castiel often felt him watching as he dumped Xanax into his hand and dry swallowed them, following them up with a joint and then a drink but he never said anything to him and in return Cas said nothing back.

They fucked now, that was the only word for it. Often, Cas found himself in bed with Dean moving behind him, staring at the blankets and balling his hands up into fists. Cas couldn’t look at him anymore. He closed his eyes tight when Dean thrust himself down his throat, wiping away the saliva trickling down his chin and trying hard not to gag. He couldn’t stand seeing the hurt and rising fury in Dean’s eyes, couldn’t stand to see the internal struggle he had as he tried not to take his anger out on Cas’s body. He couldn’t bear to watch Dean slip away in front of him

“I love you,” Cas said softly one night afterwards, laying heavily on his stomach next to Dean. He found himself suddenly frantic to tell him, anxiety rising up in his chest and settling there.

“I know.” Dean was laying on his back, arms crossed behind his head and staring at the cracked ceiling. 

“You do too, right?” Cas asked, too stoned to be angry at how panicked he sounded.

“You know I do, Cas,”  Dean said heavily, not meeting Cas’s eye.

“Then say it.” He felt suddenly so desperate to hear those words, desperate for them to simultaneously glorify and devastate him. Those three words caused far more destruction than any drug he could ever take and they were his true addiction. “Please, Dean, say it to me.” He could feel his stomach sticking to the bedsheets from where he’d ejaculated earlier. It felt like his seed was trying to burn through like acid through to the core of him, making him spill his guts out all over the bed, slippery and warm. He realized after a moment that they just had. 

“I need to hear you say it, please, Dean, please.”  He was begging now and he couldn’t bring himself to care. He thought if he heard Dean tell him for the first time in almost a year the void inside him would be filled, the void that he’d been trying so desperately to fix with whatever mind-altering substance he could get his hands on. He thought maybe he heard Dean tell him he would become a real person again. 

I love you, Cas,” Dean told him, mechanically and without feeling.

Cas didn’t realize he was crying until Dean told him to stop. 

VII

The first time Dean hit him was two days after the third anniversary of Cas losing Jimmy. Cas spent it laying in bed all day, only getting out to get a drink. The previous year, Dean had stayed with him, holding him when Cas asked and respectfully letting him go when he pulled away. Now, Dean sat at the table with his back turned to him, going the entire day without looking at him. Cas felt like he was mourning two losses that day. He wasn’t sure which was worse.

He was a little high as Dean spoke to him two days later, high enough to drift off into the recesses of his own mind. He could vaguely hear Dean talking to him about the idea for his camp. It was all he talked about now and Cas had grown to hate it. It had devolved into an unhealthy obsession and when Dean spoke about it he got almost frenzied, drawing up intricate plans and then throwing them angrily away in the already overflowing garbage bin. 

“Cas?” Dean’s voice jerked him back to reality. “You listening?”

“Honestly? No,” Cas admitted, standing up and walking across to the mini-fridge to grab himself another beer. He slid the bottle opener out of his pocket and cracked open the lid, taking a long drink. “I think you’re full of shit.” He leaned up against the dresser, dangling the bottle between two long fingers and letting it sway back and forth. “I think your ‘plan’ is going to fail,” Cas continued unprompted. “And when it does, you’re going to blame me for it. Because Dean Winchester can’t stand the idea that he may’ve fucked up.” He took another gulp to try and prevent the rest of his haphazard speech from tumbling between his lips, but as soon as he removed the bottle his mouth continued. “ You blame me for your problems,” he said. “And you blamed Sam.” He saw Dean stiffen instantly and he tried so hard not to continue, but he was already speaking. “If you hadn’t done that…” he trailed off, knowing Dean would fill in the blank for him with whatever he wanted to hear. 

Dean stood up and walked towards him, looking at him dead in the eye, face completely impassive. Very calmly, he pulled his arm back and punched Cas square in the face. He felt his lip split as he dropped the bottle to the floor, spilling and dampening his socked feet. He could smell it as he fell to the ground, nostrils filled the cloying scent as Dean kicked him once, hard in the abdomen. Cas heard him breathing heavily above him and he looked up. He’d expected to see a powerful man standing there, but instead he saw someone so broken, so vulnerable, so afraid. “Go fuck yourself,” Cas said quietly, standing up and brushing himself off. 

He patted his lip down gingerly in the bathroom with a damp white washcloth, watching the blood blossom. Cas pressed the cloth against his lip harder, trying to draw more crimson out but the bleeding had been staunched. He washed his mouth out with water and spat it into the porcelain sink, mesmerized by the pinkish hue. It was the same color as the dawn. 

He heard Dean kick over something in the room and he laughed. They’d been stuck in this motel for weeks now. It was too dangerous to go outside; the world had become overrun by Croats and demons now that the Morningstar walked the earth, wearing Sam like a perfectly tailored suit. They stayed in their 325 square foot room, leaving only occasionally for food, booze or drug runs. Dean never let Cas go anywhere alone. Minus the times when one of them was in the bathroom, they spent literally every moment together.

Cas sat down on the edge of the bed, resting his pointy elbows on his knees and staring at the floor. “Sorry,” he said after minutes of terse silence. “That…that was uncalled for.” 

Dean grunted, sloshing more whiskey into the clear plastic cup. Cas pulled out a bottle of Oxycontin and tilted his head back, dumping the pills down his throat without counting them. 

Cas listened as Dean came over and sat down next to him, felt the bed shift when he weight was on it. Cas said nothing, running a hand over his face and sighing deeply. He could feel the mattress shaking and he realized dully that Dean was crying. He sighed wearily and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him in close and letting Dean rest his head on his chest. He wanted Dean to hear his heartbeat. He wanted to let Dean know that he was still there. 

“Hey,” he said softly, pressing a kiss to the top of Dean’s head. “You’re gonna be okay. It's okay, Dean. It's going to get better for us. I’m gonna fix things.” He knew as Dean clung to him like a raft that this was his apology and he accepted it without hesitation. He squeezed him tightly, resting his chin on Dean’s head. “I’m gonna fix everything,” Cas told him quietly. “I promise.” 

 VIII

When Dean’s camp idea finally came to fruition, it surprised both of them. When Dean had wanted a celebratory fuck, Cas obliged tiredly. He moaned as Dean yanked his hair back, wondering as Dean pounded into him from behind, as he gripped the sheets and held onto them for dear life when the last time sex hadn’t hurt. It was painful that Dean only talked to him when they fucked, painful when he’d roll off Cas afterwards and turn away from him, painful when he woke up the next morning and struggled to walk. All Cas did when he thought about it was laugh. 

It was a mutual, unspoken decision for them to build themselves separate cabins. Cas built his quickly with little help, desperate to leave the tent where they slept. It surprised him how empty he felt as he stood in the middle of his newly constructed living room with a glass of wine in his hand, poured from the bottle he’d stolen to celebrate his newfound freedom. He was unable to sleep that night no matter how much he drank or smoked when he realized this was the first time he’d ever slept alone. 

Cas found himself missing things he’d previously hated. He missed Dean snoring (which Dean had always vehemently denied doing) even though it’d woken him up countless times, missed waking up freezing because Dean had stolen all of the covers in the middle of the night, missed the way he always slammed the cabinets too hard no matter what mood he was in, sometimes so hard that they fell off the hinges which he then made Cas fix, missed him never washing his glass right and always leaving crusted food on the plate at on the rare occasions he didn’t eat straight out of the container or wrapper; he missed all of it. 

Sometimes, he’d sit across from Dean’s cabin at night after everyone had gone to sleep, smoking cigarettes, drinking out of a flask and trying to bring himself to knock on his door. Cas would stay there until dawn and then go home and make himself coffee; black, two sugars. He swallowed it without waiting for it to cool down, savoring the scalding feeling as it burned a path down his throat. 

He basically stopped sleeping, getting maybe an hour tops no matter what he did. Cas spent the day in essentially a walking coma, going through the motions dully and without feeling anything. If he didn’t sleep enough, if he drank enough, took enough pills, and smoked enough pot he’d spiral into a pit of absolute numbness where he didn’t care when Dean looked at him with absolute unadulterated disgust when his hands stumbled drunkenly or when his legs collapsed under him. 

XI

Cas had lived in Camp Chitaqua for several months now and he’d never once locked his door. People never visited him; they barely even spoke to him. Cas still inadvertently gave off an air of angelic arrogance and it was intimidating to the others around him. He liked it quiet. Not having to talk to anyone meant he could keep up with his habits and indulgences whenever and however he liked. People, he’d realized, only got in his way. 

If anyone had ever dared to enter Cas’s cabin, they would knock first. Even if for some reason they didn’t, Cas would hear the bead curtain clack up against itself and no matter how fucked up he was, it’d wake up him instantly. Always a fitful sleeper and he jerked awake when he heard the door creak open, struggling to prop himself up on his elbow. His head was still swirling with drink and whatever tablets he’d dumped into his mouth a few hours earlier, but he felt a wave of fear in his stomach as he saw a figure standing in the doorway. “H’lo?” he said cautiously, rubbing his eyes to try and clear them of sleep. “Who’s there?” 

Cas relaxed when he heard Dean’s combat boots walk across the room after closing the door and lay back down. “Hey,” he said softly, smiling lazily at him. “Long time no see.” Him and Dean had had very little contact since Cas had moved out and he was surprised at how good it felt to see him again, although he found it odd that he was coming at such a strange hour.

Dean didn’t acknowledge him, immediately going over to Cas’s bed and swinging his legs over Cas’s hips, straddling him and pinning him to the bed. Cas laughed as Dean held his arms by his wrists, roughly forcing them over his head and rendering them useless. “What’re you doing?” he asked, wincing a little bit as Dean’s fingernails dug into his skin. “C’mon,” he said, laughing again but nervously this time, his struggling no longer playful. “Let me go. Come back tomorrow. Dean,” he warned, squirming away as Dean kissed a violent line down his neck, biting the area around his collarbone. There was nothing tender about the gesture. He had meant to inflict pain. “Knock it off.” 

When Dean let go of his wrists, he tried to push him off, grabbing his legs and trying to lift him, pushing hard against his stomach but Cas’s arms were too heavy, sliding through the air thickly and pointlessly. Dean was too strong and he was too stoned. Dean's hands felt like spiders crawling all over him as they reached up under his shirt, scratching red lines down his ribcage. “Stop!” Cas said loudly, arching his back to try and get Dean off. “No, no, no, no, no, no,” he said quietly, almost in a whisper as Dean began to unbuckle Cas’s pants. “Please, Dean, this isn’t you, I know you, don't do this, please don't do this to me, Dean, baby —“ Dean suddenly stopped moving, jerking his hands out from where they’d almost been under Cas’s underwear. Cas had never said anything like that to him before; they never called each other pet names. ‘Cas’ was as close as Dean had ever got and the closest Cas got was just saying ‘Dean’ and not adding ‘Winchester’ to the end. It came out of him as a desperate plea, trying to do anything and everything in his limited power to get Dean to get off him. He wished, for the first time in a long time, that he was an angel again so he could reach a hand out and throw Dean off with a jerk of his wrist but he was painfully human, woefully powerless and utterly lost.

Dean stared down at his face, his expression completely unreadable. It was like he had just noticed Cas was under him, like he had just heard Cas speaking for the first time. Cas looked up at him pleadingly. “Dean,” he said quietly. “Dean, you don’t have to do this.” 

Dean’s face didn’t change as Cas spoke, although Cas could’ve sworn his eyes softened for a brief moment. He could’ve sworn he saw pain in them and for a second he had hope. It vanished when they hardened again, when he felt Dean’s erection grow and press into his body. “I’m sorry,” he said, hand slipping under the elastic waistband of Cas’s underwear. “But I do.”

Cas closed his eyes and squeezed them as tightly as he could when Dean jerked him over onto his stomach. He supposed he should’ve been prepared for this. He’d occasionally wondered about it while stoned out of his mind, but he’d never believed that Dean would actually violate him. Cas never thought that it would ever get to the point where Dean hated him enough to do it.

Later, after Dean came, he wrenched an orgasm out of Cas as well, forcing him to climax — hard and excruciating — with a half sob. As Dean let go of him, he collapsed onto the bed, soiling his shirt with semen. 

Afterwards as Dean zipped up his pants Cas lay in bed on his side, his pants still around his knees, staring blankly at Dean’s back with unseeing, glassy eyes. When Dean was halfway across the room to the door, Cas suddenly leaned over and vomited over the side of the bed, pure liquid. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten anything. Dean stopped for a moment listening to him retch and choke, only leaving when Cas collapsed back onto the bed, breathing heavily, almost gasping.

When he saw him the next afternoon, Cas smiled brightly and shot him an exaggerated wink. Dean refused to meet his eye and Cas laughed.  

X

The first woman Cas fucked was named Crystal. He never found out her last name. She was plain looking and not particularly attractive with mousy hair, disproportionate features (eyes too big, nose too small, lips too thin all scattered on her wide face) and a body as womanly as a thirteen year old boy’s. Cas didn’t find her pretty, maybe almost ugly, but he told her she was beautiful, treating her like a goddess for the first time in her life. She was vulnerable and Cas knew it and he actively chose to exploit it. He was surprised at how quickly she became so attached to him, coming to rely on him as a friend and then, eventually, as a lover. 

Cas had invited her over without intentions and they’d gotten very, very high. To his credit, Cas never gave her any drugs unless she asked for them, never poured her a drink unless she told him she wanted one. One minute they’d been sitting next to each other on the floor and then he blinked and found himself thrusting, naked, between her spread legs, kissing her deeply and running a hand over the unfamiliar swell of her breasts. He was surprised at how good it felt to not have any sort of emotional connection the person underneath him, surprised at how gloriously pleasurable to befoul an act he’d once found so sacred. He kissed her neck, relishing the fact that she wasn’t Dean, that she couldn’t and never would be Dean. He found it difficult to climax with her until he turned her over onto her hands and knees, whereupon he came harder than he had since Dean had come to his cabin that night.

It didn’t take long for him to find someone else after she bored him, which was very quickly. Cas watched with detached interest as she cried when she found out about Miranda and then Alana, Lisa, Alexis and then, eventually, Jonathan. He preferred men to women, but he found women easier to convince. They were more willing to buy into the idea that Cas had some sort of celestial spark still inside of him and that he still had great wisdom to impart. They wanted answers, wanted to know why they’d been trapped here and left to die. He told them that the way to spiritual enlightenment was through sex and they believed him. He told himself that it was a mutually beneficial relationship; they got their spiritual release and he got the release that he craved, although it never satisfied him nearly as much as he thought it would. The angelic arrogance that once had alienated people now made them flock to him. He made them feel good and part of him, the small part that still remained charitable and kind, found an innocent sort of joy in it. 

He still didn’t lock his door in case Dean came, which happened unpredictably. Sometimes he came over every night for a week and sometimes he wouldn’t come over for months. Cas always put up a struggle; it was easier for both of them to pretend that he didn’t want it. He didn’t crave the sex so much as the attention; it didn’t matter to him that it was violent, painful and loveless. He loved it when Dean could smell his other partners on him, thrilled with the way it made Dean so much angrier. He liked the way Dean took his rage out on Cas’s body because he wasn’t courageous enough to do it to himself. He liked it when Dean made him cry.

Cas found himself occasionally pressing his burn scarred fingers into the bruises Dean left on his body and masturbating over and over until he physically no longer could bring himself to orgasm, afterwards nearly drowning himself in alcohol. He knew people knew about him and Dean’s relationship and he didn’t care. They could think whatever they wanted. He was too stoned to let their judgment bother him as long as Dean kept coming back. And he always did. 

XI

When Cas saw the Dean from 2009 he wondered what the hell he’d just smoked or if he’d finally broken himself for good and had a psychotic break. He wouldn’t have been surprised. It was only when other people around him acknowledged him when Cas realized that Dean was really, truly there. He found himself being sarcastic towards him, coming off as bitter and angry. Cas was relieved when he left at first, but after a while he found himself missing him so much it was physically painful. He called over a regular, got high and fucked him but it only made him feel hollow. 

Cas wasn’t surprised when Dean announced that he’d found the Colt or that they were to leave immediately to help Dean kill the devil. It was funny to Cas in a way; he realized that Dean was going to kill Cas’s brother and kill his own at the same time. He didn’t try to explain it to Dean when he asked why he was laughing. When Cas agreed to accompany them, Cas knew he was going to die. 

Later, when Cas was burning the last of his incense he heard someone part the bead curtain. He hazarded a guess of who it was by the stomping of the boots and the sound of stubble rasping over skin as the intruder ran a hand over his face. “D’you wanna fuck me or talk to me?” he asked, not turning around and bending down to pull a record out of its sleeve. Dean had bought him it, begrudgingly handing over a few dollars for Dark Side of the Moon years before. Cas, he’d said, We don’t even have a fucking record player. But Cas had liked the look of it so much that Dean had eventually given in, like he always used to. He didn’t even know why he’d bought other records; this was the only one he listened to anyway. “Because if it’s the second one,” he continued, “I am not interested.” 

What?” At the incredulous and bewildered sound of Dean’s voice, Cas turned around.

“Oh,” he said simply, taking in the lack of army jacket. “Wrong Dean.” Cas sighed, stretching his arms above his head and cracking his knuckles loudly. “I’ll never get used to that. But I guess I won’t really have time to, anyway.” 

Dean, his Dean and not his Dean, grimaced. “Don’t say that. You never know.”

Cas barked a laugh. “I appreciate your optimism, Dean, but I’m not entirely sure it’s, uh, appropriate right now.” He raised an eyebrow at Dean, looking him up and down. He wondered how the two Deans were even the same person; one’s face was so lined with weariness and anger while the other’s face was still so cautiously hopeful. “We have a couple hours ‘till midnight,” Cas said, looking out the window. “It’s my last night on earth.” He looked down and realized a drink had materialized in his hand, the motion so ingrained he hadn’t noticed himself doing it.

Wordlessly, he crossed the room and handed the glass to Dean, lightly and purposefully brushing his fingers up against his. Dean took it skeptically, taking a hesitant drink. Cas took it back from him and looked him in the eye, taking a slow, deliberate sip. Dean looked away and swallowed awkwardly, Cas’s face splitting into a smile. “C’mon,” he said. “Celebrate with me, Dean. Let’s live a little.” He handed the glass to him again, practically forcing it into his hand. 

Dean looked at him uncomfortably, eyes daring around the room. He cleared his throat. “What’d you, um, have in mind?”

Cas laughed quietly. “Well, I have a couple of things in mind, but there are very few things I’d, uh, object to if you’ve got any ideas.” He realized how close he’d gotten to Dean, close enough to feel the breath on his face. He was surprised it didn’t smell like whiskey, reminding him that the Dean that stood before him wasn’t the Dean he knew. “I’m no angel, Dean,” he said softly, moving his face a little closer. “Not anymore.”

As Dean leaned in they was interrupted by a loud cough behind him. Past Dean jerked back and Cas sighed, meeting Dean, his Dean’s eyes over the other one’s shoulder. “If you’ll excuse me, Dean,” he said, turning to Dean from 2009 tiredly. “I have to confer with our fearless leader.” He looked at 2014 Dean for a moment before turning back to the past one. “But you should ride with me later,” he said slowly and deliberately. “I’d love to hear what you have to say.” 

Past Dean swallowed and nodded, clearly uncomfortable with the way his counterpart and Cas were now looking at each other, far too harshly to be friendly. Cas was daring him to move towards him, to shove his past out of the way but he waited until 2009 Dean awkwardly left, shutting the door behind him before shoving Cas across the room and then smashing him into the wall, hard enough to knock several books off the shelf. Cas dropped the glass halfway across and it shattered. Like always, Cas felt a little flutter of fear in his stomach. Dean was angry; no, he was furious and Cas loved it. 

“You wanna fuck him?” he demanded. “Is that it?” He didn’t flinch when Dean smacked him hard across the face. “Everybody already knows you’re a fucking slut,” Dean growled, trying to rip Cas’s shirt off. He raised his arms obligingly, helping Dean yank it up over his head. “What’s one more person, right? Is that what you’re thinking?”

Cas laughed, legitimately throwing his head back in amusement and hitting it hard against the wall. Dean took the opportunity to clamp his teeth hard on Cas’s neck hard, hard enough to draw blood. He could barely feel it. “Oh, baby,” he said with a laugh as Dean unbuckled Cas’s pants. “You know you’re the only one for me.” As Dean turned him around and slammed his face against the wall Cas kept laughing, bracing himself with his hand. He wondered briefly as he heard Dean spit onto his fingers whether or not the angels were watching over him, whether or not his still celestial brothers were seeing him forced against the wall with his pants around his ankles, gasping and moaning and slamming his hand against the wall, watching the way the Righteous Man violated an Angel of the Lord and watching him enjoy every minute of it. He thought of this and laughed again, cut off by a low groan as Dean yanked his hair back and yelled at him to shut up. He felt his eyes stinging and he wiped them off with the hand that he wasn’t using to frantically jerk himself off. He wondered briefly why he was crying and he realized with another laugh, quickly and violently muffled by Dean’s hand, that he didn’t care. 

XII

After Dean left he cleaned himself up in the bathroom, taking a scalding shower and slipping into clean clothes for the first time in days. He serviced his weapons, cleaning his guns and sharpening his knives until they were sharp enough to cut the air around him. He spent a while loading and unloading his weapons, practicing to make his fingers dance quicker but they stumbled more than usual. He drank absinthe, breaking out special stash and draining it. He ignored Amanda as she came over and sat next to him as he mechanically scraped the mood and grass from his boots as he sat on the porch, flinching away from her when she tried to stroke his lower back. He didn’t want anyone but Dean to touch him. He downed a few pills to try and help with the pain of sitting down and walking and idly and pointlessly trimmed his beard in the bathroom. 

When Past Dean climbed into the seat beside him in the truck, he nodded his head wordlessly and started it. They drove in awkward silence for a while, occasionally exchanging a few words or meaningless phrases. After popping some of his last amphetamines and explaining to Dean very briefly the last five years he found himself laughing. He looked at Dean, who was staring at him in complete confusion, clearly trying to see what was funny. Cas quieted down and forced his eyes on the road.

“You’re crying,” Dean said quietly, breaking the thirty minute silence that had reigned over them.

Cas reached up a hand and touched his face. “I am,” he agreed, looking down at the wetness on his fingers. “Hmm.” 

“You okay?”

Cas rolled his eyes. “I’m always okay, Dean. I am in a permanent state of absolute mediocrity.” He drummed his fingers on the wheel. “Hey,” he said suddenly, ”Can I ask you something?”

Dean shrugged. “Okay?”

Cas suddenly pulled the truck over to the side of the road. He was bringing up the rear; nobody would notice they were gone. Dean looked alarmed. “Can you me a favor?” Cas asked. “It’s kind of a…big one.”

“Uh, maybe,” Dean replied warily. It pained Cas a little to see how on his guard Dean was around Cas as if he expected him to violently lash out. He thought after a moment that it was a reasonable fear; Dean had watched Cas’s emotions range from strange, out of place laugher and then switching violently switching to strange, out of place tears. 

“Can I…kiss you?” he asked hesitantly. “You don’t have to say yes,” he said quickly when he saw Dean’s shocked expressions. “Honestly, I don’t expect you to. But, fuck, I’m gonna die tomorrow, so I figured…But if — when  you say no,” he corrected. “I’m not going to ask you again. We’ll forget this whole thing happened and — “

“Okay,” Dean said quietly.

“And you can just — oh.” Cas’s sentence came to a sudden stop. “I didn’t,” he laughed, not manic this time but awkwardly, scratching the back of his neck. “I didn’t honestly expect you to say yes.” He stared at Dean a moment like he couldn’t quite believe he was real. He wondered if this whole thing was still an illusion, some sort of punishment Zachariah had set up just for him in order to teach him a lesson that had come far too late.

“Well, do it,” Dean said gruffly, voice a little lower than usual. “Before I change my mind.”

Cas hesitated. He was worried if he touched Dean that he’d vanish and Cas would be left alone. He unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned towards Dean, very gently pressing his lips against Dean’s like he had the first time. He was careful to keep his mouth shut, wary of breaking any of Dean’s boundaries. When Dean deepened it without warning, Cas pulled back immediately. 

Dean looked absolutely mortified. “Oh, fuck,” he said loudly, running a hand down his face. “Jesus, I’m so sorry, I thought — “

“No, Dean” Cas said softly, reaching out and touching Dean’s face. He felt his heart stop as Dean unconsciously leaned into it and he pulled it away. “No. It’s not that I don’t want to. I wish I could. God, Dean, I wish I could. But…” He turned out the window to look at the night sky. “I miss you,” he said quietly. “A lot. You will never understand how much I…” he trailed off again, examining the constellations. He remembered the exact moment of their creation, remembered watching his Father scatter the stars like confetti across the newly formed sky. They’d given him so much peace then and they gave him peace now, even though he could no longer reach out and touch them. “You’re Castiel’s Dean,” he said finally. “Not mine. And he loves you.” He turned to Dean and looked at him as Dean looked straight out the front window. “He loves you so much. What you choose to do with that knowledge is up to you,” he said with a sigh, turning the keys, starting the ignition and starting the truck again. “But if you feel the same…let him know. He deserves to know.” He paused for a moment, pressing suddenly and hard on the gas. “You’re his world.” He took a deep breath. “And you always will be.” 

Cas had expected to feel something beautiful blooming in his stomach when he kissed Past Dean, but all he felt was shame. He’d taken something that wasn’t his to take. He’d stolen a moment from someone who deserved it so much more, a moment that should’ve been precious and cherished. Instead, it’d been in a truck at the end of the world, the Cas wasn’t Dean’s had been high and miserable and the Dean that wasn’t Cas’s had been vulnerable and scared. 

They drove in silence again, Cas speeding to catch up with the rest of the convoy. Driving made him nervous still, a deep sense of cautiousness indoctrinated from when Dean had taught him how to drive the Impala. He’d been threatened with death if he’d crashed it so Cas had been too careful of a driver, driving like an elderly woman which had annoyed Dean so much that he’d banned him from ever being behind the wheel. The rule had eventually been abandoned out of necessity and it had made Cas feel very mortal. 

He felt relief as he saw Dean’s taillights and slowed down a little. He could feel Past Dean looking at him but he couldn’t bring himself to look over, keeping his eyes on the back of Dean’s truck. He wished he’d never met the Dean from 2009. He wished desperately that it was his Dean sitting next to him even if he wasn’t saying anything, even if the silence they were sharing was angry and bitter. 

What he wanted to do so badly was brush his hand up against his Dean’s. He imagined his Dean sitting in the seat next to him and him reaching out gently, touching his hand very lightly and then pulling it away. He imagined heaving himself out of the truck when they got to their final destination and softly brushing his shoulder up against Dean’s as they unloaded their weapons. He wanted to hear his voice again when they were alone, speaking to Cas and only Cas for the last time. He didn’t care what Dean said as long as it was meant just for him.

He wanted Dean to know that he didn’t blame him. He wanted him to know that he understood that the circumstances they’d been thrust into had been impossible and that he knew that he’d done the best he could. He wanted to tell Dean that he was proud of him for trying so hard to stay a good person and that he understood why that hadn’t been possible. He wanted to say he was sorry for the part that he’d played in their mutual destruction. Cas was angry, he was so, so angry still and he knew then that he hadn’t deserved the things that Dean had done to him. But he wanted to tell Dean that he still loved him. He wanted him to know that he forgave him.

Cas wasn’t in love with Dean anymore. He hadn’t been for a long time and he knew that Dean wasn’t either in love with him either and that was okay. He wasn’t in love with him but he still loved him, so much so that it was painful. He didn’t know if Dean loved him and that was alright as well. He wasn’t sure he wanted him to. But he wanted Dean to know that Cas did and that he always had and that he always would, right up until the lights went out. Cas didn’t have the words to tell him. He never had.

He honked the horn once and the truck in front of him pulled over instantly. When 2014 Dean angrily walked over to ask him what was wrong, Cas got out of the truck and led him to where they couldn’t be seen by anyone. He couldn’t tell Dean what he felt but he could show him, just like he had while sitting on the bed in the motel room what felt like so many years ago. He kissed him gently and chastely on the lips, cupping his face with his hands. He found himself smiling despite himself, despite the fact that they were standing at the world’s end and despite the fact that they weren’t going to jump off the edge together like they’d always silently planned. “I don’t expect you reciprocate,” he said softly. “But I thought I should let you know.” 

He pulled away without looking at Dean’s face and left him behind the truck and climbed back in, starting it and driving away. 2009 Dean said nothing to him and Cas was grateful. He didn’t look back at the Dean standing on the road behind him. He didn’t need to.

For the first time that he could remember in his long, long life, Castiel was completely at peace.