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we can watch the white doves go

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"Wait," Dean says, just as the door snicks closed. It comes out as barely whisper; he clears his throat and tries again, a little louder this time. "Cas, I -- wait."

Cas pauses in the hall, the floorboards creaking under his feet. Then the door opens again, and Cas pokes his head through, down to the collar of his ugly coat. The shadows hit him oddly; he looks carved from stone for a second, the kind of marble statue Dean had thought angels would be when he'd found out angels were actually the real deal. His mouth tugs a bit at the corner, softens, and Dean feels a flash of heat under his skin, prickly where it fans over the back of his neck, crowds up underneath his jaw. "Dean?"

"You should stay," Dean says. He takes a step forward, then stops short, knocking his knee against the foot of the bed. "I mean, you just got here, and I haven't seen you in --" he honestly doesn't know; his last clear memory is that Men of Letters freak trying to make him a museum exhibit, and even that is sort of fuzzy around the edges "-- a while."

"I can't." Cas leans into the door, his shoulder peeking past it as he shakes his head. "There are things I have to do."

"Please." It isn't a word Dean says often, and it sits strangely in his mouth. The handful of times he has said it to Cas, one or both of them were bleeding.

"Dean, there are still angels who -- I." Cas shifts his feet, and the floorboards give another creak. "It's nothing that cannot wait until morning."

Dean smiles. "Great."

They both just stand there for a moment, silence crashing over them like a wave; Dean can practically feel it lapping at his ankles, swirling around his feet. Then, Cas straightens, the door swinging open as he gestures over his shoulder. "My companion. She's still waiting in the car."

Which is how Dean ends up in the library, face to face with the angel who'd forced Cas to give up his army. Who'd tried to make Cas kill him. The days immediately before his death are a complete blur, but he remembers the hard line of her frown, the way her wrist had curved as she pushed the angel blade into Cas' hands. She is very attractive; Dean can see it now that he's not hopped up on killing and about to be sacrificed for heaven's greater good of the week. Something sour shifts in his gut, then curls up there to stay, heavy and cold.

"Dean Winchester," she says stiffly. Dean thinks her name is Heather. Hazel, maybe. "I am please to see you have recovered."

Her pretty eyes flicker to Dean's arm. The Mark is hidden under his sleeve, but her disapproval is obvious and the weight of it makes Dean feel itchy and exposed. Cas must feel it too -- feel something, anyway -- because he clears his throat and cradles Dean's elbow in his hand.

"Dean should be resting," he says, then turns to face Dean, tugging a fold in Dean's sleeve. "Your body has suffered a great deal."

Dean can't argue with that; he's exhausted in a way he can feel in the palms of his hands, the soles of his feet. He heads back to his room, lingering in the hallway long enough to hear Cas tell the other angel to make herself at home, help herself to the bunker's books, there's a pot of coffee in the kitchen, etc, etc. His tone is easy and fond, and it sets Dean's teeth on edge. He can just picture Cas stroking one of his huge hands through her hair, pressing a kiss to the hollow of her throat, just where the collar of her blouse is unbuttoned; he can picture it so vividly that he chews on the idea while he unlaces his boots and pulls off his socks, pokes at it like a sore tooth until Cas slips back inside his room.

"So, uh," Dean says, his left foot propped on his knee and his sock still hanging from his toes. "Are you and her --" he can't make himself say it "-- you know."

"No, I don't -- oh." Cas looks uncomfortable for a second, rubs the back of his neck. "No. Hannah and I are trying to locate some rogue angels."

Dean doesn't know what to say to that, although he's not surprised to hear heaven is still a shitshow. Some things will probably never change. "So, you guys are working together?" He yanks his sock off and tosses it in the corner. "How did that happen? A few weeks ago she wanted me dead and you locked up in angel jail."

"Like you said: our lives are screwed up."

Dean barks out a laugh. He can't help it, and it feels good, loosens something hot and tight inside his chest. But then he wonders if he'd laughed much as a demon, and wonders about the kinds of things he would've laughed at -- that a demon would've laughed at -- and the humor drains out of him all at once, leaves him empty and limp. "I'm fixed, right? Like fixed fixed? I don't wanna wake up black-eyed next month and try to kill Sammy in his sleep."

"Yes," Cas says slowly. His eyes are clear and incredibly blue. "The purified blood removed the taint from your soul."

"But I was --" Dean has a sudden flash of memory: he recalls the inside of Crowley's throne room, cold compared to the constant, migraine-like heat of the pit, remembers pushing Crowley, his mouth knifing into a smile as Crowley sprawled across the sleek, marble floor "-- I was stronger that Crowley. I was -- I knocked the King of Hell on his ass."

"That strength came from the Mark, not demonic influence."

Dean rubs the inside of his arm, tracing the hard cut of scar tissue through the soft flannel of his shirt. It itches slightly at the attention, but it lacks its usual fire, the sharp and yearning feeling that once clawed at everything underneath his ribs. "What about this?"

"The purified blood is also serving as a buffer between you and the Mark, but it will dissipate with time."

"So I'm gonna go all kill-crazy again?"

"No," Cas says gruffly, his eyes narrowing. Then he sighs under his breath and says, "Yes. With the Mark intact, the bloodlust will eventually return. But I intended to remove it before that happens."

"What if you can't?"

"I will find a way," Cas says, moving closer to the bed. He hovers at the foot of it, his shadow stretching up behind him, hinting at the wings Dean once saw against the wall of a broken-down barn. "Stupid as it was, you took this burden with the best of intentions. I cannot return to heaven knowing you will bear it forever."

Dean's gut jerks up into his throat; he thinks he might puke. "Heaven? Who said anything about heaven? You can't just --"

"Dean," Cas says, waving him off. "You need to rest. Please don't make me render you unconscious."

"Yeah, okay. Okay." Dean huffs and swings his legs up onto the bed. "I'll lay down if that's what you want, but I can't promise I'll sleep." His exhaustion is a living thing at this point, but underneath that he is jumping like a live wire, buzzing like he has swallowed a whole bottle of the caffeine pills he takes when a hunt unexpectedly turns into a stakeout.

Cas shrugs off his coat and tosses it on the desk, then rolls up the sleeves of his shirt, the bed dipping and creaking as he sits beside Dean. "I will stay with you."

"Cas, we've talked about this. Watching people sleep is creepy."

"You said you couldn't promise you would sleep."

"Christ," Dean hisses, rubbing his hand over his face. "It's good to know you're still a pain in the ass."

Cas just hums in agreement, the bed complaining again as he leans back against the headboard. Dean closes his eyes for a moment, but sleep is absolutely out of the question; Cas is a beacon of warmth next to him, his hip bumping against Dean's side, and Dean can smell him, the careful hint of ozone angels always carry, mixed with something a little darker, something he probably picked up from the old leather seats in his ridiculous car. He shifts on the bed, restless and unsure, then sighs and opens his eyes. He finds Cas staring down at him, leaning in, too close, his elbow creasing the pillow beside Dean's head.

"You can't tell me you really want to go back," Dean says.

"Since returning to earth, my kind have caused nothing but sorrow and destruction." Cas frowns, the lines around his mouth soft and sad. "It would be best if we returned to heaven and remained there. My father --"

"Don't start that crap," Dean snaps, sitting up a little. "Your father isn't here, anymore."

"I know that. But this --" Cas makes a wide, sweeping gesture, too big for the four walls of Dean's room "-- but this, his creation -- it is a miracle, and we've nearly destroyed it."

Dean can't find the right words, so he curls his hand in the front of Cas' shirt -- a secret, shameful part of Dean had been relieved when Cas became human, because it meant Cas couldn't just leave anymore, that he couldn't just disappear for weeks, sometimes for months, but then Cas had called and said he was an angel again, and that old fear had slithered right back in, twisting around him until he was sad and anxious and pathetic with it, worried that every time he saw Cas would be the last, the day Cas finally packed up his wings and fucked back off to heaven for good, and Dean can feel that fear again now, crawling back into his chest, cold fingers digging into his throat -- so he curls his hand in the front of Cas' shirt and kisses him.

He kisses him and kisses him, sliding his other hand up into Cas' hair, letting his tongue nudge at the soft well of Cas' lower lip, and Cas makes a quiet, startled, encouraging noise, and his hand cradles Dean's jaw, his thumb pressing at the corner of Dean's mouth, and oh god, oh god; they should've done this years ago. They should've done it years ago and never fucking stopped. He fumbles with the buttons of Cas' shirt, thumbs Cas' nipple as he runs his hand over Cas' chest, skims his hand down the long curve of Cas' back, then pulls Cas closer, until Cas is on top of him, solid and perfect, their legs tangled, Dean's bare toes curling in the blanket.

"Wait," Cas says quietly. He leans up a little, heat flushing his cheeks and throat but doubt etched all over his face. "Dean, this -- we can't."

"Sorry," Dean mutters. Jesus Christ, it hurts. Like a knife plunging into his gut and slicing straight up. He clears his throat, then nudges Cas' shoulder, pushing him away. "Sorry, I -- I shouldn't have --"

"Dean, stop."

Dean does stop; he just lies there, letting the silence creep in and smother them, watching the red curve of Cas' mouth, the way the line of his throat flutters as he swallows, waiting for Cas to say --

"I love you."

-- as easy as anything.

Dean's heart beats in his throat, gristle and salt. He thinks of the small handful of times he said that to Lisa, how he'd mumbled the words into her hair, against the side of her neck, too unsure of himself to do it any other way. How can Cas -- how can an angel -- just how. "Cas, I -- I, um --"

"I know." A noise rumbles in Cas' chest, pleased and sad at the same time. "I've always known."

Dean slides his hand up to Cas' hip, holds it there like could stop Cas from getting away, leaving, doing anything. "Cas."

"There are things I must do, Dean. I can't get distracted."

"Hey, our lives suck," Dean points out. He tucks his thumb under Cas' shirt, strokes it over Cas' skin. "There is never going to be a good time."

Cas nods. "I know that." He curls his hand into Dean's hair, tugs just enough that Dean has to swallow a moan. "I want this. I have wanted it. But --"

"If you do it now, you won't wanna go back to heaven."

"Yes."

That's the dumbest thing Dean has ever heard, so he tugs Cas back down, nosing at Cas' jaw until Cas huffs and bites his lip.

They kiss and kiss and kiss, until Cas is gasping into Dean's mouth, until Dean is hard and aching and desperate, clutching bruises into Cas' side as he tries to pull Cas closer, rolling his hips up as he rubs his dick against Cas' thigh. He can't remember the last time he made out with someone like this, long and slow and easy, unless it was Robyn, when he was sixteen and clumsy, unsure of what to do with his hands. She'd always giggled when he'd rolled her on top of him, but he'd like the weight of her there, likes the weight of Cas there now, the way Cas pins him to the mattress with his whole body, the way he holds his hand at the hollow of Dean's throat, brushing his thumb over the sweaty skin hiding Dean's pulse. He drags his mouth along the line of Cas' jaw, pauses at the hinge just long enough to bite, then slides down to suck a kiss into the skin below Cas' ear; the noise Cas makes is obscene, low and needy and dark, and Dean curves his hand over Cas' ass, holds it there, shifting until their dicks are riding together, then rolls his hips up again, smiles against the dip of Cas' cheek when Cas hisses and murmurs his name.

Dean has pictured this a hundred times, in a hundred different ways -- sucking Cas off in the back of the Impala, his legs spread wide, one hand clawing at the leather seats, the other twisted into Dean's hair, holding Dean still as he thrusts up into Dean's mouth; letting Cas fuck him in a cheap motel, the shitty bed groaning under their weight and the headboard banging against the wall, Cas kissing the back of his neck, biting the curve of his shoulder; the two of them in the bunker's shower, everything hot and wet and slick, every noise Cas makes echoing off the tiles -- but he isn't prepared for this: his shirt bunching up under his arms, his fingers snagging in Cas' belt, Cas' knee slipping on the blanket, the boot he forgot sliding off the bed and rattling when it hits the floor. It's awkward as hell, until he gets Cas' dick out and against his, until he gets his hand around both of them and Cas starts to move. Then it's perfect, their dicks rubbing together and Cas' tongue in his mouth and Cas' precome sticky on his fingers. He hooks his leg around Cas' hip and works his hand over their dicks, pushes his other hand into Cas' hair, lets his teeth catch against Cas' lip.

He comes in a long, furious rush, the sensation too much for his tired, overworked body, squeezing his eyes shut as he shakes through it, as he spurts against Cas' stomach, as Cas murmurs I love you again in a tone that makes Dean's breath hitch and his toes curl. Cas kisses his mouth, and his jaw, and the side of his throat, moaning quietly as Dean strokes up the length of him, again and again and again. His eyes flash white in the split-second before he comes; it's just a hint of grace, just enough that Dean can almost feel it humming behind his teeth, but he doesn't look away.

Cas settles against him, deadweight, and Dean wraps his arm around his shoulder, hold it there.

"Stay."