"Dean" Sam exclaims, dropping to the ground and fumbling to untie him. Dean groans and rubs his wrists, but he looks fine apart from a couple scratches.
"I hate witches," he proclaims.
"Yeah. They cursed the door," Sam says, pulling Dean to his feet. "Otherwise I would’ve been here sooner. Are you alright?"
"I hit my head," Dean says, then frowns. "My wrists are chafed, and I’m gonna have one hell of a bruise where I fell on my ass."
"Um," Sam says, blinking at the play-by-play. "Okay."
"I’m freaking starving," Dean adds, so they go for burgers.
"This isn’t even good," Dean mutters, then scowls like he’s confused. Sam lifts an eyebrow.
"You sure you’re okay?" he asks.
"Course I’m not okay," Dean says and wipes his mouth with more fury than ketchup calls for.
"Do you…do you want to talk about it?" Sam offers.
"Yeah," Dean says, followed by a muttered, "dude, what the hell.”
Sam bites his lip and motions to the waitress that he’ll take another cup of coffee, traces the rim of the empty one with an index finger.
"Has the Mark been bothering you lately?" he asks.
"Constantly," Dean blurts. He clenches his jaw and glares at Sam, who clears his throat.
"Hm," he says, encouraged. Is it possible Dean got cursed? "Do you think it’s getting better?"
"Nope," Dean says through his teeth. "Son of a bitch."
"Cas said it’s a problem," Sam recalls when the thought strikes him. "Hey, speaking of Cas—"
Dean closes his eyes and makes fists so tight, his knuckles strain white and his hands shake. “Sammy, I swear to God,” he mutters, “if you ask me what I think you’re gonna ask, I’m gonna tell you that I love him.” With a horrified expression, Dean drops his face into his hands and deflates, his shoulders sagging.
"Dean," Sam says, gently. It’s a minute before Dean says anything.
"Can we go?" he begs miserably. "Please just say we can fucking go."
Sam sucks on his lower lip and asks for the check instead.
"So you love him," Sam says as they approach the motel, and Dean turns sharply into the parking lot. "I knew there was something between you guys, but I didn’t know you—"
"Well, now you do," Dean snaps. "I love him. I love him so damned much, I can’t stand it.” He curses under his breath and smacks the steering wheel, turns off the engine. “You’re an asshole,” he accuses, pointing at Sam and storming out of the car. He makes a beeline for the motel room.
These types of spells usually wear off on their own in a few hours. By morning, Dean will likely be back to normal. So instead of researching, Sam does what any loving brother would do. He dials Cas and puts him on speaker, sets the phone on the far nightstand where Dean can’t reach without a struggle.
"Hello, Sam," Cas answers pleasantly.
"Dean got hit by a truth spell," Sam says casually and stretches out on the mattress. "Say hi." Dean frantically waves his arms from the second bed, then shoves a pillow over his own face.
"Dean?" Cas asks, concerned.
"Hey, Cas," says the pillow.
"Are you alright?"
"Physically, yeah, but I wish you were here. I miss you," Dean declares, followed by, "Aw, fuck, Sammy.”
"I miss you too," Cas promises with a sincerity that makes Sam feel a little guilty. "Are you going home soon?"
"No, but I want to," Dean confesses, dropping the pillow. He rubs both hands over his face and looks exhausted. "I hate being on the road."
"I know you do."
They’re quiet for a few seconds.
"What about you?" Dean asks. "You almost done with this crusade of yours?"
"Thought maybe you’d stay this time," Dean says. "I want you to stay." He groans and flips Sam off, gets up from the bed and stalks toward the bathroom.
"I want to," Cas says earnestly, as Dean’s hand turns the knob. He stops walking.
"Yeah?" he asks.
"Yes," Cas answers. "For as long as you’ll have me."
"I’ll be good to you," Dean vows with his back to the room. His entire body is shaking. "Cas, I swear I’ll be good to you."
Sam can hear the smile in Cas’s voice when he replies, warmly, “I know.”
"Well, good,” Dean says and locks himself in the bathroom for the rest of the night.
"Stop looking so damned pleased with yourself," Dean mutters the next morning over pancakes and bacon and coffee and a giant steaming cinnamon roll. Sam munches an egg-white omelet with whole-wheat toast and a smirk.
"Oh, Cas texted me while you were in the bathroom," he says. "He’ll meet us in Lebanon tomorrow. Says he’s had enough driving."
Dean’s smile is sweet and genuine, directed at his lap. He spends too long mopping up syrup with a triangle of pancake.
"Who wouldn’t, with that piece of crap," he grunts.
It could be a trick of the light, but his eyes shine like maybe, just maybe, he’s happy.
Dean and Sam arrive back at the bunker that afternoon. Dean is restless, cleans out Baby. Prepares too much food for him and Sam—it’s a feast. He can’t keep busy enough. Sam sits up with him until pretty late, but he finally turns in after he’s nodded off for the third time, and Dean channel surfs until four in the morning. When he goes to bed, he feels this nervous energy through every part of him, and he can’t sleep, even though he’s exhausted.
Cas arrives early afternoon. Dean feels his throat tighten, his stomach drop out, when they hear the knock on the door. He stops moving, like he’s rooted in place, like his legs have forgotten how to function. Sammy opens the door. “Hey, Cas,” echoes down the stairs, followed by a polite, “Hello, Sam.” And then two sets of footsteps coming toward him.
Sam gives them their space. Dean can’t look Cas in the eye, but he grumbles something about his room, so Cas follows him. Cas looks excited and a little apprehensive, but Dean is terrified, like a spooked horse. He keeps a hand on the doorknob.
Cas approaches him, takes the hand Dean has balled up at his side and gently uncurls his fingers. “You’ll hurt yourself,” he says quietly. Dean is shaking. There’s a hurricane in his gut. He can’t do this—
But Cas kisses him. Once. Softly. It’s a question. It’s a promise.
I won’t hurt you. I won’t leave you.
Every part of Dean quakes, but Cas hovers at his mouth, waiting.
The world doesn’t end. No lightning comes down from up above. Cas is still Cas, and Dean is just Dean. He kisses back. Cas crowds him up against the door and holds him and whispers things no one has ever whispered to him before, and Dean realizes that he can have this. They can have this.