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Despite planning to duck out during intermission, they end up sticking around. There are a couple of spare seats right at the back of the theater, and during the brief blackout at the end of Carry On Wayward Son, Dean nudges Sam toward them to catch the rest of the show.

Sam had called it charming when they first arrived, and though Dean had scoffed and seriously considered the possibility that his brother had finally gone off the deep end, he’s starting to get it, now.

The show is actually pretty good. The outer space thing is weird, to say the least, and he could have done without the temporarily-a-girl moment, but the rest of it seems pretty spot on. The songs from his perspective so far have all managed to put into words things that he knows he's definitely thought about before, things he's feared or felt, and he’s almost completely come around to seeing it as charming himself when the robot fight comes to an end.

But then the lights dim, and on the far left of the stage, Castiel is standing under a spotlight, having been told by Dean during the lead up to the fight scene that he didn’t have time to talk.

While he stands there looking dejected, the Dean on stage crouches down to clean up the mess of robot parts left strewn across the floor.

I’ll just wait here then, Castiel sings softly, and it’s sadder than the first time he sang this song. Where he’s still crouched among silvery robot fragments, Dean looks up, noticing him there for the first time. That’s what I’ll do.

I’ll just wait here then, Castiel goes on, and Dean’s expression shifts as he comes to some understanding. If you only knew.

In the audience, the real Dean shifts a little uncomfortably, feeling his brother’s weighted gaze on the side of his face. He refuses to turn. This is all just made up, so he can stick it out. Make a joke about it after. Forget it ever happened. But if he looks at Sam right now, if he acknowledges how much this is already tugging at the pit in his chest, there’ll be no joking. If he looks at Sam right now, he’ll know.

I’ve been here waiting, Castiel sings.

                                                 You've been there waiting, on stage, Dean rises, singing over the end of his line, though Castiel doesn't hear him.

With this love as it grew,

                                                 I had no clue, Dean takes a cautious step toward Castiel.

And I’ll keep on waiting

                                                 Both of us waiting

Though I long to pursue

                                                 Now I know what to do;

 

They’re barely five feet away from each other by now, but Castiel still hasn’t noticed Dean, and Dean is working himself up to something.

 

You used to be my mission

                                                 Follow my intuition

But now you’re just my wish

                                                 What it’s telling me is this--

 

The music swells, and the Dean on stage catches hold of Castiel’s elbow, spinning him round to face him.

The real Dean doesn’t stick around to see what happens in the seconds after. The air out in the parking lot is cold, and he heaves it into his lungs, leaning heavily on the hood of the Impala.

When Sam follows him out a few moments later, he doesn’t say anything.

They get into the car and leave, and Dean pushes the whole thing to the back of his mind so he won’t have to think about how his chest had ached, how it still aches, how he wishes beyond anything that he could have what he saw on that stage.

But it’s been thirty-two days since Castiel left the bunker. Thirty-two days with no word. Not that he’s been counting.

Maybe I should call him, he thinks, but sets his jaw the moment the idea crosses his mind.

There’s no point. He told Castiel last time he was at the bunker that he was glad to see him, and the guy left anyway. He always leaves anyway. He always comes back, too, but Dean can’t let himself think about that. Thinking about that is too close to being hopeful.

The music on the radio is loud. It doesn’t drown out the reprise still playing in his head.

 


 

They spend the night in Davenport, Iowa, and in the morning Sam takes the first shift driving.

“So,” Sam says, glancing across at Dean before setting his eyes back on the road, “I’ve been meaning to ask--”

“Yeah, you should definitely get it cut,” Dean cuts him off, “maybe a Farrah Fawcett flick this time? Really bring out your cheekbones.”

“Shut up,” Sam says.

With a sigh, Dean raises his hands in defeat and regrets it as soon as Sam speaks.

“Have you heard from Cas at all?”

Dean narrows his eyes.

“No.”

“Huh,” Sam says.

“Why? Have you?”

“No,” Sam says, frowning, “but it’s just... when you were...  gone--”

“You can say the D word, Sam, it ain’t gonna break me.”

“When you were a demon,” Sam says, his voice a little pissy, “he was pretty broken up about it, is all.”

“Well he’s obviously got more important crap to worry about now,” Dean says, and fixes his gaze back on the stretch of land outside.

“But he said--” Sam starts, and cuts himself off, and it’s irritating how much Dean hangs on the truncated sentence. He doesn’t want to care so much. It’s a relief when Sam starts speaking again without being asked. “He told me he missed you. I guess I just expected him to be around more after we got you back.”

Dean doesn’t whip his head around, and he’s inordinately proud of that fact. Almost as proud as he is that he manages not to sound too pathetic when he asks, “He actually said that?”

“Yeah.”

Dean’s chest aches. Don’t read into it, he tells himself, even as a voice that sounds a lot like Marie whispers subtext in the back of his mind.

“Well he’s got a funny way of showing it,” he says, and shifts in his seat, closing his eyes as he rests his forehead against the cool glass of the window.

“Yeah,” Sam says, and the pity in his voice makes Dean want to scream, “I guess.”

 


 

It’s the day after they get back from Michigan that Dean finds the musical playbill folded into a tiny faded square in the back pocket of his jeans. It’s a little worse for wear. The cheap ink has rubbed off along the creases, and when he unfolds it, one corner is close to detaching entirely.

He should probably just toss it in the trash.

Instead, he finds himself spreading it out flat on the bunker’s worn kitchen table.

He hadn’t bothered to look at it too closely when it was handed to him by an over-enthusiastic usher as they walked through the theatre, but now, while he waits for the barely functional Mr. Coffee to percolate in the early morning quiet, he reads the hokey tagline printed under the title.

Will brotherly love triumph over the dark powers of evil?

With a quiet laugh, he shakes his head and flips it over to look at the list of cast and crew. Beneath it is a short blurb written by Marie, thanking the cast for their hard work. At the bottom edge there are directions for finding the drama club’s website.

He chews on his lip and scratches at the paper with his thumbnail, and by the time the coffee machine is done he’s decided to take a look.

As far as they could tell from the lore, the unsettlingly-floral scented viscera of Calliope’s scarecrow shouldn’t have had any negative effects on the people who came into contact with it, but it couldn’t hurt to check. He feels kind of guilty about the way they just bailed, and if anything has happened, he figures there’ll probably be something on the drama club’s website.

Grimacing at the first bitter taste of his coffee, Dean leaves his mug on the counter before heading out to the library to grab Sam’s laptop.

The website loads slowly.

Sometimes he thinks this computer is haunted. It’s like it can tell he’s not Sam and takes it’s sweet time on purpose.

Drumming his knuckles on the table, he glances at his silent phone and swallows the last mouthful of coffee. When he looks at the bottom of his cup there’s nothing but murky, grainy dregs that swirl around and form a shape like a thundercloud.

When the website finally loads, the first thing he sees is a full page of thumbnail images. There are probably close to a hundred photos of the musical, and a few of the sets being built and the cast rehearsing in their school uniforms.

He scrolls down, and when he sees himself in the background of one near the bottom he clicks it, bringing it up to full screen.

He’s flying through the air, having been thrown clean across the stage by Calliope’s scarecrow.

The look on his face is nothing short of ridiculous. He presses the start slideshow button to let the website flip through the different pictures, hoping he might end up finding one of Sam looking equally stupid.

Typically, there doesn’t seem to be a single one.

The pictures keep going, though, and before he’s had a chance to close the window the full screen is taken up with a shot of Kristen and Siobhan on stage during that reprise, locked in an embrace. It’s a pretty tame kiss--it was a high school play, after all--but the sight still makes Dean’s throat close up.

He feels creepy for a moment, sitting here staring at this picture of two teenage girls kissing one another, but it’s nothing to do with them. It’s that rumpled trench coat. The leather jacket. It’s the way that they made it seem so easy, so simple, so natural for Dean and Castiel to take that step, and he knows it can never be like that.

He stares at the picture for a solid minute, barely seeing, just feeling bereft. Adrift.

Subtext is what Marie had said. He figures it must all have been on his side, except that song... In that song, Castiel had said he longed to--he said he loved--

No. Dean forces a harsh breath out through his nose. He’s clutching at straws. He has to be.

Before he has too long to dwell on it, Sam is there in the doorway, huffing and practically radiating sweat from his morning run.

“What’re you looking at?” he asks breathlessly, heading for the fridge to pull out a bottle of water.

“The uh,” Dean clears his throat, clicking out of the slideshow and gesturing toward the drama club’s homepage where the latest item under the news title is an announcement that the show went off without a hitch, “just making sure Hannah Montana and friends aren’t getting into any more trouble.”

“All good?”

“Yeah,” Dean nods, his voice tight as he shuts down the laptop, “all good.”

 


 

The St. Alphonso’s Academy drama club website is still there in the browser history that night after Sam goes to bed, and as soon as Dean hears his door click shut he opens it and scrolls through the club’s contact list.

It’s been bothering him, the idea of subtext.

Because he’s read a few of Chuck’s original books, and he remembers how accurate a lot of it was, and he can’t help but wonder if there’s… well. If maybe it’s not just him.

This afternoon, when the thought had already been swimming around in his head for a few hours, he’d considered looking up the newer books to read them himself, but the more he thought about it the more he’d realized that he’d be reading with a bias. He wants to know what it looks like from an outside perspective.

Short of asking Sam--which is not going to happen--or Charlie--who is currently in Oz and therefore kind of hard to get in touch with--the high school fangirl who knows his story back to front is kind of the only other option he’s got.

He almost sends the email from his own address before it occurs to him that it’s going to look really damn incriminating, and isn’t that just the worst thing of all? He’s thirty five years old and worried that some kid he’ll probably never see again is going to judge him.

Still, he makes a new free account in the name of Grace Slick--couldn’t get further from him if he tried--and sends the email.

To: director.marie@saa-drama.org
From: grace.slick@webmail.com
Subject: Supernatural Musical

Hi Marie,

I saw your play on Friday. Good stuff. The Kansas song was awesome.

I noticed you included a bunch of stuff that wasn’t in the books though. The romantic stuff? Can you tell me what made you put that in there? Was it something one of them said?

- Grace Slick

 

Once the message is sent, he gets to work finding a new case.

Now that he’s thinking about that play again, and about Cas, and how long it’s been since he was here, and about where he might be now… he’s just about ready to buzz out of his skin. A case will help take the edge off. Give him something else to focus on.

He finds something promising around 1am--a haunting in Vacherie, Louisiana--and pushes all thought of the musical and Cas and subtext out of his mind before he crawls into bed.

 


 

When Dean wakes up early on Monday morning, it’s to an empty bunker and a yellow post-it stuck to the fridge.

Gone to Smith Center for coffee and bread. Text if you want anything else.

He shoots off a quick message, telling Sam about the hunt and asking him to bring back road snacks, and his brother replies to tell him he’ll be back by eight. With nothing else to do until he gets home, Dean grabs the laptop and checks to see if Marie has emailed him back.

He’s not sure if the sight of that bold little (1) next to the inbox tab makes him more or less anxious, and wishes he’d at least had some coffee before checking.

To: grace.slick@webmail.com
From: director.marie@saa-drama.org
Subject: re: Supernatural Musical

Thanks for the email! I’m glad you liked the show.

The romantic stuff was all based on subtext, but to be honest, there hasn’t really been much since the first couple of books. Like when it was more of a gothic horror than an action adventure. The whole we’ve-only-got-each-other kind of messed up love that the brothers had back then kind of leant itself to the idea of a non-platonic relationship between them, even if it was a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, I’ve attached a ship manifesto that should clear things up.

- Marie

 

Dean stares at the email and absolutely refuses to read whatever the hell essay Marie has included. Breathing carefully through his nose, he shuts his eyes and grits his teeth before opening a new reply.

 

To: director.marie@saa-drama.org
From: grace.slick@webmail.com
Subject: re: re: Supernatural Musical

Hi Marie,

Thanks but that wasn’t really what I was talking about. They’re brothers and I don’t think that’s what was happening there at all but okay.

I actually meant the stuff with Dean and Castiel.

Was there anything in particular that made you think of it? Thanks.

 

He reads it over a couple of times to make sure the first part doesn’t sound too harsh--the last thing he wants is to piss the girl off--and sends it away. The reply is quick.

 

To: grace.slick@webmail.com
From: director.marie@saa-drama.org
Subject: re: re: re: Supernatural Musical

You should read the manifesto I included.

    - Marie

 

“Nope,” Dean says aloud, and types another response.

 

To: director.marie@saa-drama.org
From: grace.slick@webmail.com
Subject: re: re: re: re: Supernatural Musical

really not into that interpretation but thanks. i’m more interested in why you think cas would feel that way about dean? i just don’t get it?

 

Another email comes through almost immediately.

 

To: grace.slick@webmail.com
From: director.marie@saa-drama.org
Subject: yeah, i know

Just read the manifesto.

Dean frowns at the reply and scrolls back up to the first one, where there’s an attached document. He taps his fingers restlessly against the table before taking a deep breath, and despite wanting to do literally anything but look at it, he clicks on the attachment. When the file opens and he reads the first line, he very nearly has an out of body experience.

Grace Slick, Dean? Really? I know your MO.

Sorry not sorry. Emailing under the name of the singer from the band you hate most was about as subtle as if you’d used “Definitely Not Dean” and I couldn’t resist messing with you.

Anyway, I’m guessing you sent this because the stuff in act two with you and Castiel hit a little too close to home and freaked you out. Your reaction to seeing Kristen and Siobhan makes a lot more sense now that I know you’re really you.

If you actually want to talk about it you can email me again, but I’m not having this conversation under false pretenses.

- Marie

 

Dean can feel his face growing redder and redder as he reads, and he’s beyond glad that Sam isn’t home to see him right now. He copies Marie’s email address into his phone, deletes the browser history, and sends the next message from his actual account.

To: director.marie@saa-drama.org
From: dean-winchester@webmail.com
Subject: you think you’re real smart, huh?

alright fine. yeah it’s me. are you gonna tell me or not? and don’t just say “subtext”

He sighs, rubbing at his face with his hands, and heads for the showers. He doesn’t take another look at his cell until Sam’s back, and they’re getting ready to leave for Louisiana.

To: dean-winchester@webmail.com
From: director.marie@saa-drama.org
Subject: That’s what they tell me ;)

Wow you actually replied. Wasn’t expecting that.

I don’t have long right now (gotta get to class in a few minutes) but there’s a lot in those books that convinced me that the two of are harboring some serious feelings for each other. Obviously I was right about things on your side--and I know you’ll scoff at this, but kudos for owning it, even just in one message to me. Believe me I know it’s not easy :)

The fact that I was right about you makes me more confident that I was right about things on his side. But I feel like telling you what Castiel has thought or felt is really not my place. That’s for him to say, you know? Just like if this were him asking me, it wouldn’t be right for me to tell him what I thought you felt.

I will tell you this much though: you’re not alone.

It’s fine to be nervous and it makes sense that you are, but once you both figure out how to talk about things I think it’s all going to be fine. Communication has been the number one problem this whole time. You just need to talk to each other.

I’ll bet Sam has some insight he could give you, too. For what it’s worth, if I know anything at all about your brother, he is going to support you no matter what.

And also, sorry if I’m overstepping, but your dad was wrong. Don’t let his misguided opinion hold you back.

Alright, I’d better get to school. Good luck. Keep in touch.

- Marie

P.S. I know even admitting this to yourself must have been a big step, so don’t rush yourself. Unless a lot has changed since Chuck’s books left off, I don’t think Cas is going anywhere. He’ll wait for you ;)

Dean reads the last part with a sinking heart, because a lot has changed. He’s not sure how much has been for the better. Still, he shoots off a quick thanks, and carries his duffel out to the Impala, tossing it in the trunk.

 


 

On the long drive to Vacherie, he and Sam talk shop, and they’ve narrowed down their probable ghost to two people; a young store clerk who was found dead on the street where the house is located in late 2011, or a middle aged sugarcane farmer who went missing a year ago.

It’s around three in the afternoon when his stomach starts rumbling.

“You hungry?” he asks Sam, and his brother nods without looking up from the article he’s reading.

They stop for lunch at a roadside diner just past Tulsa, and Dean eats his weight in ribs while Sam silently judges him from the other side of the table, picking at a chicken sandwich and looking over all the case information they’ve managed to find online.

“Find anything new?” Dean asks, wiping sticky fingers on a paper napkin.

Sam shakes his head.

“Just more of the same,” he says, and Dean drums his knuckles on the table as he heads to the bathroom. When he gets back, Sam is ready to go. There’s a pile of crumpled notes on the table.

He has an odd look on his face. Dean isn’t sure what to make of it.

They’ve been back on US-75 around ten minutes before Sam clears his throat, and in Dean’s opinion, that’s never a good sign.

Grace Slick,” he says pointedly, and Dean nearly runs off the road.

“What?” he asks, even though he already knows it’s completely pointless. His palms are sweating.

“You saved it on the desktop, Dean,” he says, and Dean decides that the computer is definitely haunted. It hates him. Shouldn’t that have disappeared when he deleted the browser history?

“I hate computers,” he says.

“I didn’t know what it was when I opened it,” Sam goes on, “but… look, Dean, Marie was right. I’m completely fine with… with you and Cas. With--”

“Don’t even say--”

CasDean.”

“I will kill you, Sam. I swear to God.”

Sam smiles, holding up his hands, and Dean heaves out a shaky breath.

“Jesus Christ,” he mutters, “are we actually having this conversation?”

“Apparently,” Sam says.

“Fuck.”

There’s a long, uncomfortable pause where Dean really isn’t sure how to continue, and he can’t quite bring himself to look at Sam.

“So, it’s true,” Sam says, “you’re in--”

“Finish that sentence and I’ll end you,” Dean says harshly, looking firmly at the road ahead.

“And he--”

“Doesn’t need to know,” Dean says, “so. That’s that.”

“Dean.”

Sam.”

“You’re just never going to say anything?”

“That’s the plan.”

“Why?”

Really?” Dean asks, finally risking a glance and finding nothing but open curiosity and compassion on his brother’s face, “why do you think?”

Sam just shrugs, as if he honestly doesn’t know. Dean sighs.

“He’s an angel, Sam. He’s... he’s Cas. He’s… even if he did, y’know... It doesn’t matter. He’s… he doesn’t need me dragging him down into the mud.”

“Maybe you should let him decide that.”

“Maybe you should let him decide that,” Dean mocks, his voice high, and Sam rolls his eyes.

“I’m just trying to help,” he says.

“Yeah, well. Don’t.”

Leaning down, Dean flicks on the stereo to end the conversation. He pretends he doesn’t notice Sam’s sigh.

 


 

It’s hours before they speak again, sitting on opposite sides of a spindly-legged table at an all night roadhouse just before Texas gives way to Louisiana.

“Can I say something?” Sam asks, and Dean picks up his menu, blocking Sam’s face from view.

“Depends,” he says.

“You should call him.”

Lowering the menu, Dean narrows his eyes.

“That’s your advice? What is this, a Dear Abby column?”

“It’s been more than a month since he left,” Sam says.

“You think I don’t know that? He hasn’t contacted me either, Sam. If he wants to talk to me, nothing’s stopping him from picking up the phone.”

“Did you ever think that he might be thinking the exact same thing about you?”

“No,” Dean says simply, “I really doubt it.”

Thankfully, a waitress shows up before Sam can say anything else, and by the time they’ve ordered Dean has schooled his features into the best kind of drop it face he can. Sam takes the hint. They eat in silence and get back on the road, arriving in Vacherie in the small hours of the morning.

After a restless sleep at the Riverside Motel, they head out for breakfast at a sticky-floored diner on the other side of the road.

While Sam is in the bathroom, Dean takes his cell phone out of his pocket. Sam’s right, obviously. He knows Sam was right. Before he can talk himself out of it, Dean types up a message and shoots it off.

Hey Cas, how’s things?

It’s ridiculous how sending such an innocuous message can still make him feel like a bumbling idiot, but he can’t think of anything else to say.

Part of him wants to bring up the play. To say, you’ll never believe what these kids thought about us, just to see if Castiel reacted at all. He wants to know, desperately, but he’s terrified of knowing.

By the time Sam comes back, he regrets sending the message at all. Sam sees the phone in his hand and raises his eyebrows, but Dean just glares and shoves it back in his pocket.

Their first two leads don’t pan out. The third, a man named Mickey Rawlins who inherited a farm from possible-ghost-number two, is shady as they come.

It doesn’t take long to get the truth out of him.

His confession leads them to a narrow plot of land between two of the cane fields, where he buried the body of his late cousin under a mesquite tree. Shortly after noon, Dean and Sam take turns digging the hole.

Sugarcane rolls out for miles on both sides, a sea of tall green stalks under the stormy sky. The overpowering smell of sweetness hangs so thick that Dean craves fresh air like a drowning man.

His cell starts ringing just he climbs out of the hole to let Sam take over for a while, and he dusts the dirt off his hands before he takes it from his pocket. Castiel’s name flashes on the screen. Dean feels his heart thud, hard.

“Hey Cas,” he answers, hoping his voice doesn’t betray quite how much he’s missed him, “everything alright?”

“That depends on your definition of alright,” Castiel says, and he sounds wry if not a little tired, so Dean figures that whatever is going on it’s probably not a life or death situation.

“Probably a looser definition than most,” he admits, “what’s up?”

“You sent me a message.”

“Yeah, well… it’s been a while,” Dean says awkwardly, and looks down to see Sam raising an eyebrow at him. He turns away, walks a few paces until he’s under the spindly, bare branches of a long dead mesquite, “you hadn’t called or anything.”

“There haven’t been any new developments,” Castiel says simply.

“Right,” Dean says, and after pausing a moment, he remembers what Marie had told him about communicating, what Sam had pointed out last night, “uh, but you don’t… you can just. You don’t have to have a reason, y’know?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, just. It’s. We’re… we’re friends, right?”

God, he thinks, is it always this hard to fucking talk?

“Of course, Dean.”

“So you don’t need to wait until you have a reason to call.”

“You haven’t called me either,” he says pointedly, and Dean barks out a laugh, glad Sam isn't within ear shot.

“Yeah,” Dean agrees, “but I’m a terrible friend.”

Castiel makes a quiet sound that might be laughter, and Dean can picture him shaking his head.

“We both know that isn’t true, Dean. I actually… I’m in Nebraska at the moment. I thought I might come by the bunker later, if that’s okay?”

Dean’s heart sinks.

“We're not there.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, uh… we’re in Louisiana. Ghost needed busting, so...”

“You’re hunting again?”

There’s concern in his voice, and a hint of disapproval, and Dean is immediately defensive.

“This is only our third one,” he says, “and they’ve all been easy hunts. I’m taking it easy, really.”

“What were the others?”

“Werewolf pack, and uh… Calliope. The muse.”

The long-suffering sigh that comes through his phone isn’t nearly as funny as he thinks it should be.

“When will you be finished?”

“Soon,” Dean says, “we’ll be burning the bones within the hour. Should be back home some time in the morning.”

“Then I’ll meet you at the bunker tomorrow,” Castiel says, and ends the call before Dean can get another word in.

 


 

“So,” Dean says as they climb into the car a few hours later, having tied up the loose ends of the case and handed Mickey Rawlins off to the local police, “Cas is coming by tomorrow.”

“Good,” Sam says, and Dean can tell he’s itching to say I told you so. Like he knew all along all it would take was one conversation to get Castiel to visit.

Thankfully, he doesn’t.

 


 

The Continental is outside the bunker when they arrive, glinting pale gold in the mid-morning light. Dean can just make out the shape of Castiel in the driver’s seat. The passenger seat, to his relief, is empty.

By the time Sam has shut off the engine, Castiel is getting out of the car.

“You been here long?” Dean asks, climbing out of the passenger seat and stretching as he heads around to the trunk for his duffel.

“Around an hour,” Castiel says, “I don’t mind waiting.”

From where he’s still standing in by the open driver’s side door, Sam lets out a noise that fits somewhere between a choke and a laugh, and Dean just barely manages to stop himself from punching him.

“Are you unwell?” Castiel asks Sam, and he shakes his head.

“He’s fine,” Dean says flatly, hooking the bag over his shoulder, “just an idiot.”

That was a mistake, apparently, because Sam just looks at him pointedly and sinks back into the driver’s seat.

“What are you doing?” Dean asks.

“We need some stuff at the store,” he says through the open door, “back soon, Cas. Dean.”

He says their names slightly too close together, with a grin, and Dean knows exactly what he’s trying to do. But before he can stop it, the door is shut and the Impala is rumbling off down the street in a cloud of road dust. Dean watches it go.

“I think it’s going to rain,” Castiel says beside him, his chin tilted up to the sky a little before he glances at Dean, “we should go inside.”

“Yeah,” Dean swallows around the lump forming in his throat, “yeah, okay.”

It’s a little stuffy in the bunker, having been closed up for a couple of days, and Dean dumps his bag on the library table before he sits.

After a moment, he hears the chair beside him scrape across the floor. The whole damn table is empty and Castiel chooses the spot right next to him. Dean closes his eyes for a moment.

“So,” he says, “where’ve you been?”

It comes out far more accusational than he intended, and he winces internally, but Castiel doesn’t seem to notice.

“All over,” he says, “there are a number of angels trying to get back to Heaven who need help to get there, so I’ve been driving out to meet them and take them to the gateway. It has been time consuming.”

He pauses, shifting in his seat a little, and Dean looks up to find he’s turned to face him fully.

“I thought you were taking my advice to rest,” he says, “I would have called sooner if I’d known you were putting yourself in danger again.”

Dean can’t help but laugh at that, bringing his hand up to rub at his eyes. Of all the things for Castiel to say, he had to say that.

“You were waiting for me to be done resting,” he says, and Castiel nods.

“Cas,” he starts, and looks down at his hands, “you…”

“What is it?”

“Why do you even care?”

“Because you are important to me,” Castiel says, as if the statement was something simple, something obvious, “and and you’re important to me because I care about you. I don’t know which comes first.”

Dean is staring hard at the table. Despite every single nerve in his body screaming at him not to, he wants to tell him. Not that, not the big thing, but something. He wants to know. He wants hope. He’s got a little already, despite himself, and he wants a little more.

“There was this play,” he hears himself saying, distantly, like he’s mentally separated himself from the conversation out of self preservation, “um… the case last week. With Calliope. There was a musical.”

“I’d expect as much, given the muse was involved,” Castiel says, clearly confused as to why Dean is telling him this, and Dean knows he could stop speaking now and Castiel wouldn’t question it. They could just go on as they have been. Things could remain as they are.

He could stop. He doesn’t.

“The play was about us,” he says, looking down at the ground, “you, me, Sammy… Mom and Dad. Jo and Ellen. Bobby. Everyone.”

“How did--” Castiel frowns for a moment before widening his eyes, “they were based on Chuck’s gospels?”

“Yeah, I guess Godspell is too dated for kids these days,” Dean jokes, and falls silent, scratching at a bump in the woodgrain.

“Was it any good?” Castiel asks, and Dean snorts.

“Why, you wanna go catch a show?”

Castiel doesn’t even pause.

“Yes.”

“Oh,” Dean feels his face burning red, “um. You can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It was one show.”

“That’s a shame.”

“Yeah,” Dean agrees, “I guess.”

“You seem uncomfortable,” Castiel says after another long pause.

“Yeah, well in the play, it uh… the lines were all stuff we said and I guess… like all the songs were stuff we thought or whatever. I mean, they got everything that I thought right. And... they, uh...”

“You don’t have to tell me about it,” Castiel says.

It’s a clear out. Dean knows it. Last chance exit. Fuck it, he thinks.

“You were in love with me,” he blurts out, and feels all the blood rush away from his head, out to his hands, to his feet. He’s glad he’s sitting down. “There was… in this one song, it was… and I guess, I wanted to know if you--”

The sound of Castiel’s chair scraping back from the table makes his heart ache. Dean stops trying to speak.

“I’m sorry,” Castiel says, his voice shaky and rough. Rougher than usual.

Dean sinks against his seat, slumps down, his throat tight. He can’t bring himself to look up to meet Castiel’s eyes.

“Oh,” he says, and nods once, “that… alright. I guess that answers that, then.”

“I should leave,” Castiel says.

Dean just barely manages to contain the sob that wants to break out of his chest.

“Shit,” he says, because what the hell else can he say? “Shit.”

He doesn’t hear Castiel’s footsteps until he reaches the stairs, and then they echo, tinny and hollow through the war room. He can’t stand it.

“You’re really just going to leave?” he asks loudly, and Castiel’s steps stop. Standing, Dean forces himself to look at him and he can feel his eyes stinging, knows he looks pathetic, but this is it. If Castiel is just going to bail on him over this, after everything they’ve been through, he wants to see it. “What happened to you caring?”

Up on the stairs, Castiel looks down at him looking sadder than Dean’s ever seen him.

“I thought that was the problem?”

“What?”

“I can’t make it stop, Dean,” he says, voice tight like he’s trying not to shout, “I’ve tried. I have tried.”

“You’ve…” Dean stares up at him, and can’t comprehend what he’s saying. He can’t think straight, can’t parse the words that he’s hearing.

“I thought if I ignored it long enough it would go away, but it’s not stopping. I don’t think it’s ever going to stop. And I’m--”

Dean doesn’t know when his feet started moving, but he’s on the stairs, and he catches the last of Castiel’s words in a kiss, drawing a startled gasp from him as he clutches at the front of his coat.

His lips are dry and warm, but softer than he thought they’d be, and though he kisses back clumsily he definitely kisses back. Dean feels like he might be floating. When they break away, Castiel is staring at him like he always does, eyes bright. Dean immediately wants to kiss him again, so he does until his smile makes it impossible.

“I thought you were saying you were uncomfortable,” Castiel says when they pull away a second time, and he looks awed. Confused. Happy.

“Yeah, well,” reaching up to run his hand through the mess of hair as he’s wanted to for years, Dean feels his cheeks aching with a smile, “I’ve been told communication is kind of our weak point.”