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Until The Lost Become The Found

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“That was pretty nice timing, Cas.”

Dean can feel his hands shaking against his sides, his mind mercilessly replaying the sight of his little brother cracking his older version’s neck, and when something softens across Castiel’s expression, an unexpected play of human emotions that Dean doesn’t think he’s ever seen before, it’s enough to make his already weak knees just a tiny bit weaker.

“We had an appointment.”

Relief and gratitude and something much more dangerous are turning Dean’s stomach into a battleground, and he swallows hard, realizing that he’s staring at Castiel with a little more affection then is probably appropriate. There's the tiniest hint of a smile around Castiel's lips, an unexpected warmness to his eyes that Dean doesn't have a chance of ignoring, and he reaches out without thinking about it, something in him needing to touch – needing to know that this is real, and that Castiel hasn't yet become that broken shell of a desperate human being.

“Don't ever change.”

Castiel might not quite get what Dean is getting at, but those bright blue eyes soften further, as though the nuances of human emotion are beginning to get free reign across Castiel's body, and Dean bites down hard against his lip, wondering how that monster version of himself could have ever sent this angel to his death.

“Cas. I, um. Can I ask a favour?”

Of course.”

“Would it be possible for you to go back to where Zachariah sent me?”

Any hint of a smile slides from Castiel’s face, but his response is a slow nod, and Dean tries to remember how to breathe, something behind his breastbone still aching from watching himself feed Cas into a meat grinder.

“There’s – you’re still with me, in 2014. But you’re in trouble, if you’re even still alive. And – I know it’s not real, at least not for us – but I can’t let you go like that. Not if there’s something we can do.”

“You wish me to go into the future to save myself?”

The incredulity there is obvious, and Dean holds his breath, trying not to freak out over the thought of leaving Cas to die in that other universe – but the Castiel in front of him is already shaking his head, something that looks like regret flashing across his face.

“I dare not risk it. If anything were to happen to me, that would remove him from that timeline completely, and we do not know how much that would change.”

“So, what – we just let you die?”

“I see no alternative.”

Dean bites down against his lip again, reminding himself that it’s not real in this timeline, and that Cas is probably already dead, anyway – but that just conjures an image of Cas trapped in whatever building he’d led his soldiers into, probably infected with that goddamn virus, a fallen angel scratching and snarling at the people around him – and then the Castiel in front of him actually flinches, and Dean forces his thoughts to the present, unable to stop the scowl that sneaks across his face.

“Thought you were staying outta my head.”

“You were thinking rather loudly.”

Dean doesn’t even try to deny that, because Castiel’s looking as rattled as Dean has ever seen him, and when Dean starts to ask a question, Castiel sharply shakes his head and takes a step backwards.

“I have retrieved the time and location from your thoughts. Please remain here. I will return as soon as I can.”

When Castiel disappears without any further fanfare, Dean suddenly feels like he’s been gutted all over again. He wants that future version of the angel to be saved, sure, but not if this Castiel – his Castiel, even if it pains him to think about it in such terms – doesn’t think he can do it. Not if his Castiel is putting his life on the line in a way that he doesn’t think he’ll be able to manage.

“Goddamn,” Dean whispers to himself, as the enormity of everything that’s happened suddenly hits him like a sledgehammer, and he lets himself sink into a crouch on the highway, Castiel’s abrupt disappearance into that hellish world enough to bring everything home again.

Sam had said yes to Lucifer.

Attempting to ignore how overwhelming the world suddenly feels, Dean quickly fumbles his phone out of his pocket – so fucking grateful that he fell asleep with it there the night before Zachariah zapped him into the future – and hits the call button, trying to pretend that his hand isn’t still shaking as he brings the phone to his ear.

“Yeah?”

He’s forgotten that it’s long past midnight here, and Dean has to clear his throat before he speaks, his heart jumping at the sleepy cobwebs in Sam’s voice, as thought this basic need for rest is uncontroversial proof that his little brother is still a human being.

“Hey, Sammy.”

The ensuing silence is excruciating, and then there’s the soft rustle of fabric, like Sam is pulling himself upwards on his bed, frowning as he stares into the darkness of whatever motel room he’s holed up in. Dean gives him a moment to wake up before he tries to find his voice, suddenly unable to believe that he ever let them go their separate ways, regardless of how dangerous their future together may look.

“Uh, sorry to wake you –”

“No, no, Dean, it’s okay – are you in trouble, or –”

“I’m fine, Sam.” Dean glances down the dark road that stretches past on either side of him, and then swallows around a flash of nausea as he tries to not imagine both versions of Castiel trying to survive in the hell of Lucifer’s earthly playground. “Well, not fine, exactly – but not in any immediate danger, at least.”

“Then –”

“We need to talk. As soon as we can.”

“Now –”

“Not over the phone. Where exactly are you, and is there anything there to stop you from packing up and leaving?”

“I’m – no, there’s nothing here –”

Sam sounds completely confused, and Dean can’t blame him, but he doesn’t want to do this over the phone – he wants Sam safely in front of him, and the fastest way to make that happen is to get them in the same city.

“I’m holed up somewhere just outside of Springfield. Any chance you’re anywhere near Illinois?”

“I could be there in a couple of days.”

“Good.”

“Dean, hang on a sec – you’ve gotta give me more than that.” There’s another muffled rustle of fabric, and the barely audible click of what sounds like a night lamp. “I mean, not five hours ago, you wanted us on different continents. Not that I’m complaining, but why the sudden change?”

The night air around Dean stirs with a sudden chill, and Dean wishes desperately that Castiel would get back already. Climbing to his feet, he leans up against a nearby lamppost, and tries not to think about the sight of Lucifer wearing his brother like a suit.

“Zachariah zapped me into the future. And you don’t need the details now. But the way it ends if we keep going our separate ways – it was hell on earth, Sammy, and no way am I gonna let the world end like that.”

There’s silence, and then the sound of his brother taking a deep breath. Before he can speak, there’s a swish of wings through the silence, and Dean jumps so badly he nearly drops the phone, spinning around to take in the sight in front of him. Castiel is just barely managing to keep his future self upright, and though Sam’s still talking against his ear, Dean can only manage to shake his head, trying to croak out something coherent.

“Sam, I gotta go.”

“But –”

“Call you later. Just – get here, alright?”

“Alright, Dean. Be careful.”

Dean’s already sliding the phone into his pocket and reaching for the angel in front of him, helping Castiel lower his future self to the ground, his stomach turning over at the way Castiel is swaying in front of him, his blue eyes hovering somewhere around half mast.

“Cas, shit, are you –”

“That was – rather – unpleasant –”

And then Castiel just topples, stumbling forward as his eyes slide shut, leaving Dean struggling to catch him. It’s like having a wall collapse on top of him, and he more or less acts as a human cushion for Castiel’s descent to the sidewalk, his heart slamming against his ribs as he realizes what a horrible situation they’re now in.

Two Castiels, both unconscious on the side of a highway, in the middle of the night. And Dean doesn’t even know what state he’s in.

“You’re fucking kidding me,” he mutters, the hair on the back of his neck prickling as he stares down the deserted highway. When a warm and welcoming motel doesn’t suddenly pop into existence, he gets back on his knees in the dirt beside Cas, sliding his hands across that battered body – because whatever’s wrong with Castiel, if it’s something bad enough to hurt an angel, then Dean’s not going to have a chance of doing damage control – but this Cas, lying in the dirt with his messy scruff and bloody hair and pale skin –

This Cas is human. Which means that Dean can do something to help.

“Hey, buddy, it’s alright, we’ll get you through this.”

Dean doesn’t even know why he’s talking, when Cas is clearly unconscious and cannot hear him – but all Dean can think is that Castiel gave up everything for him, in ways that none of them could have ever foreseen, and Dean’s final act of gratitude was to serve him up as bait for a bunch of croatoan monsters.

“You stupid bastard,” he mutters, though his future self is long dead by now, and just the thought of what Dean might still become is enough to make his breath come too quickly. “How the hell could you have ever –”

Cas stirs slightly in front of him, and Dean quickly forces himself back to the present, his eyes and hands searching the fallen angel’s body for injuries. There’s a lot of blood, and Dean can’t quite tell where it’s all coming from, whether or not it’s all even Cas’ – it could belong to Risa, or to any of the other soldiers Dean had sacrificed, and jesus christ, what kind of monster had he become by 2014?

“Dammit, Cas.”

Finding torn skin along the side of Cas’ torso, and a mess of blood seeping out of wound on his leg, Dean helplessly presses his hand against Cas’ side, wondering if there’s any possible way he could explain this situation to an ambulance.

“Dean.”

Dean bites out a shocked curse as the body beneath him tenses, and then Cas is suddenly staring up at him, his blue eyes blown bright and wide with pain. When fingers clamp down tight around Dean’s wrist, Dean fights the guilty urge to jerk away, trying to breathe through the nausea that keeps reminding him that he alone is responsible for why this moment in Castiel’s life has come to pass.

“Dean.”

The single syllable comes out ragged, and then Cas’ eyes are fluttering shut again as his fingers slide up Dean’s arm to curl into the front of Dean’s jacket, gripping with enough strength to actually pull Dean forwards towards him, despite the injuries that are obviously paining the man in front of him.

“Are we back in Hell, fearless leader?”

Dean feels his racing heart skip several unpleasant beats, and he tries to concentrate on the fact that Cas can’t seem to focus on anything around them, that his words are blurring together, his eyelids fluttering rapidly with pain – which all indicate some level of delirium, and mean that Cas probably has no idea what he’s saying.

“Am I to be your new masterpiece now?”

Desperately trying to ignore the sudden bite of fear in Cas’ voice, and fighting against the bile that threatens to rise through his throat, Dean brings a hand to Cas’ bloody hair, almost hoping for a concussion – anything that would help to explain this impossible conversation.

“Shh, Cas, there’s no need to talk –”

“What happened? Your brother’s meat suit too much for you to handle?”

The words are slurred with pain, but the soul-deep disappointment beneath them is perfectly clear, and they cut through Dean with the precision of a scalpel, pushing him past some breaking point he hadn’t even been aware of approaching. Fumbling for his cell phone again, Dean glances at the injured angel lying beside them, and wonders how long it’s going to be before Castiel wakes up enough to rescue him from the hospital.

Then, Dean freezes, his thumb still on the 9 button, as his blood seems to run icy in his veins.

Cas. Future world. Croatoan virus.

How could he ever justify calling an ambulance?

No matter how injured Cas is, if there’s even the smallest chance he was infected before he could be rescued – if there’s even the tiniest chance of him turning once he’s in the ambulance, or once he gets to the hospital –

Dean shoves his phone into his pocket and then pulls at bloodied fabric with hands that are shaking again, hoping against all possible hope that he’s not going to find anything that suggests any kind of infection. To have this future version of Cas give up everything for him, and then to have risked Castiel’s life with Dean’s plea to go forward in time – if all of it was for nothing, and Dean’s going to have to put Cas down like an injured animal, then Dean is going to stand in a field and scream curses at God until his lungs give out and his throat begins to bleed.

“C’mon, Cas, tell me you didn’t let those bastards get you.”

He carefully moves mangled fabric to the side and inspects the damage, trying to figure out if anything looks like bite marks or scratches, but he can barely see in the dim light – and until he knows the Cas isn’t infected, they can’t go near a hospital, even if it means watching Cas bleed out in Dean’s hands.

“Dean.” Apparently roused by the sudden contact, Cas is stuttering out pained breaths again, as a bloody hand grasps on tight to Dean’s jacket sleeve. “Don’t let them take me. Don’t let them turn me. I don’t want you to have to kill me.”

“Sonuvabitch,” Dean mutters harshly, his vision going foggy for a second as he tears off his belt, tying Cas’ hands in front of him and doing his best to keep his cool as his chest turns over with every hitched noise that comes from Cas’ mouth. His stubbled face splashed with blood, Cas whimpers – actually whimpers, a sound that Dean feels right in his gut – as he struggles against the belt that’s keeping his hands tied, his body straining with pain on the rough gravel of the road. Murmuring something that he hopes is soothing, Dean shrugs out of his jacket and presses it hard against Castiel’s side, ignoring the way Cas tries in vain to escape the from the pressure.

“Listen, man, I’m sorry, but I’m trying to keep you alive and keep everyone safe, so you’re just gonna have to suck it up and bare it.”

Cas rasps out a strained breath before squeezing his eyes shut, and Dean determinedly keeps his eyes away from the pain on Cas’ face. He’s not going to take a chance on Cas getting in a scratch or a bite in if he turns, though God knows what Dean will even do if it comes to that. Even if he had some kind of weapon on him, he’s not gonna kid himself and pretend that he could actually kill Cas – after everything the angel has done for him, he owes it to him to get him through this, somehow.

You hadn’t found out a cure by 2014. What makes you think you’d have any chance now?

“Oh, shut up,” Dean mutters at himself, and then just concentrates on the injuries in front of him, determinedly ignoring how badly he seems to want to brush his fingers through the fallen angel’s hair. “Sorry, Cas. There was that one time with Sam, in that infected city, but I’m not exactly an expert on how fast this disease works, so I’m gonna have to give ya a bit more time.”

Cas’ only response is to open his eyes and stare up at Dean unseeingly, and Dean quickly turns away to glance over at Castiel, trying to figure out how to look for damage. This is a creature whose true form can blind you just by looking at it, so who’s to say that Castiel even needs his human heart to keep beating, or his lungs to keep inhaling air? For all that Castiel seems to be starting to wear his vessel’s skin as though it actually belongs to him now, there’s still really no way to assess the damage Castiel did by taking his flight into the future.

“Sorry, man,” Dean mutters, keeping pressure on Cas’ sides and trying to ignore the smear of blood he can see painted across Castiel’s lips, “There’s nothing I can do for you right now.”

The only response is the chirp of crickets on the side of the highway, followed by the lonely call of a distant car horn, and only the fact that Dean needs to keep pressure against Cas’ injuries stops him from reaching out to press a hand to Castiel’s bloody cheek, gripped by a dangerous desire to touch. He’s no fool when it comes to the angel lying beside him – he knows far well that the things he wants to do to Castiel are blasphemous at best, and that touching him like that would be a violation of the hands-off rule he’s been trying to follow since day one –

But with blood smearing across his hands and the sickly smile of this broken angel from the future flashing across Dean’s mind with merciless vividness, Dean desperately wants to touch the angel lying in the dirt, as though the only way to keep himself centered in this reality is to concentrate on the fact that at least one of these Castiels hasn’t yet been broken down and beaten into human submission.

“Dammit, Cas,” he grits out, tearing his eyes from the angel to glance up and down the deserted highway, trying to find something to take his mind from the dangerous turn his thoughts are taking, “This would be a really good time to wake up. The three of us would make a nice demon treat right about now.”

The distraction works, even if it’s not a happy one, and Dean hates that he has nothing on him – no holy water, no weapons, and not even a pack of salt. Biting down against his lip, he concentrates his attention on the injuries beneath his fingers, even as one bloodied hand starts to grasp for his cell phone, wondering if there’d be any way for Bobby to pinpoint their location and point a local hunter in their direction.

“Hands where I can see ‘em!”

Dean spins around to find some old guy in plaid and ragged jeans pointing a shotgun at him, standing about twenty feet away with his feet set and his finger firmly curled around the trigger, and an open cell phone lying in the dirt beside him.

“Cops are already on their way, you bastard. I don’t know what the fuck kind of sicko you are –”

“No, you don’t understand –”

“Save it for your prison mates, pretty boy.”

Dean bites down hard against his lip as he assesses the situation, but the man in front of him doesn’t seem to be possessed, so much as just some local who was out for a walk and stumbled upon something that, yes, looked more than a little awful – and he’s too far away for Dean to make any kind of move. Even if he could try to make a run for the nearby tree line, there’s no way he could leave Cas and Castiel, and Dean raises his hands high over his head as he begins to sink back into a crouch beside Cas, his stomach twisting at the blood he can see seeping through the ragged material of Cas’ shirt.

“Look, I just want to keep pressure on –”

“Don’t you move, mister. You touch either of these men again, and I’ll blow a hole through your gut.”

Dean can all but hear his teeth grinding together, unable to believe that, of all things, he’s been brought to a standstill by some random human who just happened to stumble across them. Keeping an eye on Cas, and wondering how he could possibly get all three of them out of this situation without getting shot, Dean flinches at the distant sound of sirens, hating the sick feeling that comes from knowing that there’s no way out of this – and when cruisers pull up and lights and guns suddenly appear, Dean raises his hands even higher, biting down his pride and taking a moment to send a plea in the general directions of the skies above him.

C’mon, God. Just one tiny little break. That’s all I’m asking for.

And as people crowd around Cas, giving Dean the stink eye as they untie the fallen angel’s hands and load him into an ambulance, Dean closes his eyes and desperately hopes that he’s not about to unleash the Croatoan virus on an unsuspecting hospital.

- - -
“I’m telling you, I honestly can’t answer your questions.”

“You expect me to believe that you don’t even remember your own name?”

“Temporary amnesia, officer. I hear it happens every day.”

Sitting across the table from Dean, the officer who’s been scowling at him for the past five hours pulls a glare that would have made even John Winchester proud, and Dean paints on a sweet smile as he sends another silent prayer in Castiel’s direction, hoping against hope that the angel is gonna wake up soon and fly right on over. Dean has no idea how long it takes to recover from a crash landing on angel airlines, but based on the way Officer Scowly is grinding his teeth together, Dean should probably be thankful that pulling out fingernails is illegal in Oregon.

“How’s this for a proposition, then. You start talking, or I send out your face to every law enforcement agency in the country. That incentive enough for you to remember your name?”

Yeah, Cas, any time you want to get your feathery ass over here, that’d be great.

Somehow managing to keep a smile on his face, Dean goes for a nonchalant shrug, knowing full well that Hendrickson – and damn if that failure doesn’t still sit in Dean’s mouth like a pile of ash – would have never had the time he needed to erase Dean from the police database. Not only that, but Cas has been on his own for a full five hours now, and Dean’s stomach is turning over at the thought of how much damage one person with the croatoan disease could do in that time.

“You do whatever ya gotta do, officer. I haven’t got anything that can help you.”

The officer looks like he’s about two seconds away from throwing Dean into the nastiest cell he can find, and Dean leans back in his chair with a guileless expression as he inwardly growls, Come on, Cas, I know you’re hurt, but the second you get your act together, I really need to check that the other version of you isn’t turning Klamath Falls into a war field –

“Dean.”

Dean can’t stop the ridiculous grin that spreads across his face as the police officer in front of him suddenly loses all the color from his face, his eyes practically bulging out of their sockets, so startled he almost looks like a cartoon character as he stares at the angel standing behind Dean.

“How –” And sure, it’s just a sputter, but the fact that the guy is even managing syllables ramps Dean’s respect for him up a notch. “How did you –”

“I have wings.” A gentle hand curls against Dean’s shoulder, and Dean can’t stop his grin from widening – both at the stupid giddy feeling he gets from knowing Castiel is safe, and at the way Officer Scowly finally gives up on his legs and collapses into the chair behind him. “Dean, we need to leave now.”

“Any time you’re ready, Feathers.”

With an exasperated mutter of his name and fingers that suddenly seem to be pressing just a little bit harder than is necessary, the room vanishes with that weightless feeling he’s coming to associate with angel airlines – and then they appear somewhere dim, unlit save for a single sliver of light, pressed chest to chest and basically breathing the same air, Castiel firmly holding him so that both of their knees are just slightly bent. Dean goes rigid for about two seconds until the clothes hangers knocking above his head make horrible sense, and then Dean grits his teeth at the asshole who’s apparently forgotten to mention they were taking a slight detour.

“Cas,” he manages to grind out, his heart all but tripling in speed when he can almost feel the words brush over Castiel’s lips, “Why are we in a closet?”

“I wished to get us into the hospital room, but I decided the nurses might take exception to our sudden appearance.”

Dean isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, but his body apparently vetoes both and goes straight for ragingly turned on, every inch of him aware of Castiel’s hands pressed against his elbows – the way the angel’s breath is ghosting across his face, brushing across his suddenly sensitive lips – the fact that the angel smells stupidly good, something like fresh air after a rainstorm, and Dean cannot believe he actually just thought that.

“Cas. You know this is, like. The exact opposite of personal space, right?”

“My apologies,” and oh, god, if Castiel’s rough timbre had been obscene before, it’s even worse in the darkness of their closet, with mere centimetres between them, “And I suggest you cease to speak, since the nurses are returning.”

“Oh my fucking god, how is this my life.”

“Dean.”

The hissed syllable, right beside his ear, mixed with the fact that six feet of delicious smelling angel is pressed up against him – Castiel is right there, and Dean barely holds back a rather unmanly whimper as he gingerly turns his body to face the front of the closet, wincing at the rattle of clothes hangers above him, and desperately hoping that Castiel hasn’t noticed that Dean’s jeans are tighter than they were sixty seconds ago.

“Dean, you need to stop moving.” The fingers on his elbows loosen their hold, but reluctantly, and Dean can almost feel Castiel’s scowl in the darkness. “If you make noise, you are going to reveal our position.”

Buddy, you have no idea how much noise I’d like to make with you.

Dean barely holds back what would have been dangerously close to hysterical laughter, his body screaming for greater contact as he ends up facing the front of the closet, with Castiel’s warm breath brushing against the side of his neck. There’s a dangerous moment where Dean almost leans into the brush of barely-there contact, and then he squeezes his eyes shut and mutters a silent curse in his head.

“Hold your horses, Cas. I’m just trying to see what’s going on.”

“I do not have any horses.”

And despite the situation, despite how ridiculous it all is, there’s a peevish note to that sentence that is just so wonderfully Castiel that Dean simply can’t stop himself. Further breaking his no-touching-rule – which Castiel seems determined to smash to pieces, anyway – Dean inches his hand sideways slightly and squeezes Castiel’s elbow for a moment, hating himself for doing something so sentimental, but unable to deny that his heart is aching almost as much as his groin right now.

It really had sucked, watching Castiel lie in the dirt on the side of a deserted highway.

“I’m, um. Glad you’re okay. And, uh – sorry your trip into the future hit you so hard.”

It’s not exactly his most eloquent apology, and there’s silence for about three painful seconds until Castiel shakes his head just slightly, the movement close enough that Dean can almost feel the angel’s nose brush against his neck.

“There is no need to apologize. I understand that you –”

A burst of noise from the room silences them both, and Dean presses his eye against the crack of light between the two closet doors, the sight in front of him almost enough to distract him from the press of Castiel’s warm body against his own.

“Well, sir. Good to see you’re back in the land of the living again.”

There are two nurses, all perfect make-up and pleasant smiles, but all Dean can focus on is Cas, who looks incredibly small in that hospital bed, his eyes much too blue in a face that’s devoid of colour. He’s glancing around the room with a look of utter incomprehension, and when one of the nurses goes to check his IV, he visibly flinches away from the movement.

“Where am I?”

“You’re at Klamath Falls Hospital. The police would like to talk to you and your twin about your assailant, but your attending physician wishes you to spend some more time recovering first.”

Cas is staring at her with an absolutely blank expression, his messy stubble a dark smear against the unhealthy pallor of his skin. Then, with a nauseating smile that grates against Dean’s every nerve, the fallen angel sits up a little straighter in his bed, cocking his head at the nurse standing closest to him.

“I don’t know where you got the well-outfitted meatsuits, but you might as well just kill me. I was tortured by Heaven’s finest once. You won’t get much sport out of me.”

It takes Dean all of three seconds to clue in, and then his stomach falls down to rest somewhere around his toes. Since there probably weren’t any functional hospitals in 2014, Castiel must think that demons have him, and are just screwing with him before the knives come out – and considering that his last memories are probably of storming Lucifer’s stronghold, it’s really not that much of a stretch.

“Sir,” the nurse says gently, a frown crossing her face, “Your blood shows high levels of amphetamines, along with traces of alcohol and THC, and you also took a nasty hit to the head. Your mind may be somewhat fuzzy at the moment, but I assure you, you’re quite safe here.”

Dean winces as the Castiel beside him tenses up, hearing the list of substances in his body – and yeah, maybe Dean should have warned him that his halo had slipped completely off at some point between now and 2014.

“Also, although we haven’t provided you with morphine, there is a small dosage of amidone in your system, to numb some of the pain from your injuries. As with all analgesics, an amount of detachment from reality is not unexpected, so you must believe me when I promise that nobody here has any intention of harming you.”

“Your concern is kind. Now either kill me or let me go.”

Cas makes a valiant attempt to push himself further up in his bed, but his breath wheezes out in a pained gasp as he collapses back against the pillow, one shaking hand scrambling across the blankets to clutch as his side. The nurses make unhappy noises as they move forward, and then Cas is jerking away from their touch as one takes hold of his elbow while the other curls her fingers around his wrist, leaving Cas cursing and struggling to get away, his blue eyes blown wide in his face, and it’s such a sad sight Dean almost wants to throw away their plan of secrecy.

“Cas,” he whispers, his gut aching from the scene in front of him, “I know we’re trying to keep a low profile, but isn’t there anything you can do?”

“Not if you’d like him to be able to remain here while he recovers.”

“Goddamn.”

Reminding himself that he should just be grateful that Cas obviously isn’t infected with the croatoan virus, Dean bites his lip and forces himself to stay quiet as the nurses hold Cas in place, while another nurse enters the room and adjusts Cas’ IV. The injured body in the bed kicks out even harder at that, a shouted curse ringing across the room, but three against one is a foregone conclusion when Cas is injured like this, and it takes only about a minute for the drug to kick in, leaving Cas limp and unresisting on the hospital bed.

“Well, he’s certainly a lively one.”

“You’re telling me. I’m gonna check his MRI scans again, and see if we’re missing something.”

The nurses leave without another word, and the door has barely shut before Dean is pushing free of the closet, blinking under the bright hospital lights and making it to Cas’ bedside in about half a second. He’s still trying to read the scribbling on the IV bag by the time the angel comes to stand beside him, and when Castiel just stands there, staring down at his future self, Dean wonders how he’s going to do damage control for this ridiculous situation. For all that Castiel has been dabbling in human emotions lately, Dean’s not sure if he’s ever felt the angel get this tightly wound – he’s practically vibrating beside Dean, his body all lines of tension and unease, and Dean suddenly realizes how absolutely unpleasant things could become when this future version of Castiel is awake.

“I bet this is a bit of a mind fuck for you, eh?”

Castiel stays silent for a long moment, before he presses his fingers against the hand of the fallen angel lying in front of them, one long finger tracing across a nasty scar that’s painted across Cas’ pale skin, and something in Dean’s chest clenches uncomfortably.

“What happened to me?”

There’s a world of pain and confusion there, and Dean swallows hard. “Not now, buddy. Story time’s gonna have to wait. Any way you can wake him up long enough to let him know that we’re here?”

Castiel tilts his head slightly as he stares at himself some more, before he brushes his fingers across Castiel’s disconcertingly pale forehead, and blue eyes begin to flutter open. Before they can do so completely, there’s a hand against his arm, and then Castiel is stepping backwards.

“I think it would be best if I meet him when he is more recovered.”

Dean opens his mouth to argue but Castiel is already gone, nothing but the soft beat of feathers to herald his sudden departure, and Dean is still scowling when he turns back to the bed – only to find blue eyes staring up at him, the fear there almost enough to make Dean take a step backward.

“Oh, hell,” Cas mutters roughly, his voice catching as he shrinks a little further into the bed, “Oh god, please, no.”

“Hey, look, it’s okay –”

“Get the fuck out of him!”

“Cas –”

When Cas makes a desperate attempt to shy away from Dean, his face twisting with pain as he begins to mutter a ragged sounding exorcism, Dean bites out a curse and grabs hold of Cas’ hands, squeezing hard and doing his best to make Cas meet his eyes, even though the fallen angel seems to be trying everything he can to not look at him.

“Cas, come on, buddy – listen to me. Zachariah threw me into your world. Once he pulled me back to my time, I got Castiel to go searching for ya. Now will you please stop struggling before you tear out your damn stitches?”

And maybe it’s the medication in his veins, or maybe it’s just that what Dean is offering is so much better than the alternative of demon torture – but whatever the reason, Cas bites down on the spew of Latin and actually stops trying to pull away, as something close to desperate hope flashes across his face.

“Dean?”

“Yes, goddammit, it’s me.”

Cas just stares at him some more, before he glances down at where Dean is still gripping tight to his hands, the press of his fingers colouring spots of white against Cas’ skin. Dean pulls free with a flash of heat across his face, his hands fumbling for something else to hold onto, and then his breath catches when Cas’ eyes flick up to stare at him again, something desperately yearning behind his gaze that Cas doesn’t even seem to be trying to hide.

“Prove it.”

“I don’t exactly have any holy water in my pocket.”

“Tell me something only we would know.”

That desperation is still there, and Dean swallows hard, throwing his mind around for anything that only the two of them would know.

“You rebelled against Heaven for me, when I told you it was worth dying for. You did exactly that to give me the chance to stop Sam, and I never actually thanked you, which probably makes me douche bag of the year.”

Cas continues to stare at him, still sitting ramrod tense on the hospital sheets, and Dean tries to think of something else, racking his mind over the many months he’s had the angel in his life.

“A few days after you pulled me out of the pit, you told me that you could throw me back in if I didn’t respect you. I don’t think you even know how much you scared the crap out of me that night.”

More staring, though there’s more hope than fear in those blue eyes now, and when Dean suddenly can’t deal with what he’s seeing in the fallen angel’s face, he pastes on a weak smile to deal with how obviously desperate Cas is to believe him.

“Also, thanks to your awkward angelic charm, the only ever time I’ve tried to get you laid, you managed to terrify the poor girl by dissecting her daddy issues.”

“And you told me you hadn’t laughed that hard in years.”

“You remember that?”

“Of course I do.”

There’s an unfortunate lump in Dean’s throat, but he doesn’t look away as Cas continues to stare at him, his skin still dangerously white behind his rough mess of stubble. It isn’t until the fallen angel drops his gaze that Dean can breathe again, unable to deal with the mixture of pain and incredulous relief that he can see in Cas’ eyes.

“Where are we?”

“Oregon.”

“You made me come and fetch me?”

“It didn’t seem right, letting you die, especially after everything you’d already lost.”

“And what happened in – in my timeline? My universe?” Cas’ eyes are suddenly bright, and desperate hope is written across every inch of him. “Dean, did he – was he able to –”

And Dean has no idea how he’s going to answer that one, because no matter how much of an unfeeling monster his future self may have been, it’s painfully obvious that Cas still gave a damn about him – gave a damn in ways that are becoming all too clear, as Cas stares at him like the fate of his entire existence rests on Dean’s next words.

“Dean?”

Dean swallows hard, unable to deal with the sudden pleading in Cas’ expression. “How about we swap stories once you’re better?”

Cas stares at him for a moment longer, disbelief etched into every line of his face, and, well, Dean’s been surrounded by death long enough to know what it looks like when the light goes out of someone’s eyes. He turns away when the fallen angel curls in on himself with a hurt sound, leaving Dean aching from the inside out, more gutted than he’s felt since Sam set Lucifer free.

“Cas, man – I’m sorry, I really am.”

The words are painfully inadequate, and Dean keeps his eyes fixed firmly away from the bed, staring out the grimy window as he waits for Cas to pull himself back together. After a long moment, when the smothering silence has reached almost deafening levels, Dean bites out a soft sigh and rubs a hand over his face.

“Look, Cas, if you want me to leave, I’ll –”

“Don’t leave.”

“Are you –”

A clammy hand curls around his own, Cas’ fingers clinging on with almost bruising force, and Dean carefully doesn’t look at Cas’ face as he slides into a plastic chair by the bed.

“Please, Dean. Don’t leave me.”

The rasp of Cas’ voice is far beyond raw, and Dean swallows around the ache in his chest, his heart turning over at the painful press of shaking fingers against his own. When he finally manages to man up and look at the fallen angel, Cas is staring straight ahead at nothing, his bright blue eyes glazed over with tears, and Dean closes his own eyes as he tightens his grip around Cas’ hand, wondering how the hell his future self could have ever thrown this away.

- - -

Cas, you gotta help me out. I’m stuck in this damn closet until you get back. Can’t ya hear me?

Silence. There are three nurses fussing around Cas, who’s spent the last half hour staring down at the bed with a stricken expression, and Dean pulls his eye away from the crack in the closet doors, unable to continue staring at the world of hurt in the fallen angel’s eyes, because the extent of that hurt is scaring the crap out of Dean.

For all of his self-imposed denial, Dean has never exactly been an idiot where their resident angel is concerned, and he knows himself well enough to admit that he’s always wondered if it would just take some blasphemous urging on his part to tear that angel’s halo right off his head. If it would just take a few well-placed words to finally acknowledge this thing that hangs between them, to show Castiel that they could maybe have more than just half-truths and ridiculously intense staring contests –

But since Dean has already ruined everything else in his life, leaning every inch of an angel’s body would be somewhere far beyond the realm of okay – so given that Castiel makes Dean feel like he’s being turned inside out simply by being in the same room as him, Dean likes to think he’s been a gentleman about the whole matter, keeping his hands and feelings to himself, lying awake at night with a rock hard dick and a stupid achy feeling in his chest.

But based on the way this version of Castiel reacted to Dean’s death? Somewhere along the way, Dean and Cas must have finally given in and started screwing each other senseless, mixing in a dash of that stupidly intense connection that already underlies their every interaction in this universe, and seeing that astonishing level of love and desperation in this Cas’ eyes is enough to make Dean’s knees feel a little bit like jelly.

Come on, Cas, I’m no good to anyone if I’m trapped here. I’ve gotta get back to my car, so I can meet Sam in Illinois.

When there’s still no hint of response, Dean forces the uncomfortable thoughts from his mind and concentrates on just breathing, wanting something to focus on that doesn’t involve staring out at the hospital room and watching Cas slowly fall apart.

“Hello, Dean.”

Dean’s whole system jumps with a bolt of adrenaline and a barely bitten off curse, and only Castiel’s warm hands against his arms stop him from bumping into the front of the closet – and then they’re gone again, landing gently on the dirty carpet of Dean’s motel room, and Dean breathes out sharply as Castiel lets go of his arms and steps backwards, looking almost sheepish as he does.

“My apologies. I would have returned to you sooner, but I needed to make sure that Zachariah was no longer watching this room.”

“And we’re good?”

“Yes. He is engaged elsewhere with some of our brethren. We have time to get your belongings and your vehicle.”

“I’m meeting Sam tomorrow. Don’t suppose you can magic us all back to Oregon while Cas gets better?”

“I would prefer not to. Moving a vehicle would significantly drain my grace.”

Dean has already begun to gather his things, needing something to keep his mind off the sight of Cas in that hospital bed, but there’s something about the way this Castiel says that last bit that makes Dean pause. He’s becoming more than conversational in Castiel’s expressions and ways of speaking, and he realizes with a start that Castiel isn’t meeting his eyes – a dead giveaway that something is most definitely not okay.

“Cas, you alright?”

“I – I am not sure.”

And as the angel stares down at the filthy carpeting, somehow managing to look like he’s wringing his hands without actually moving at all, Dean suddenly gets what this is about, and could kick himself for being an insensitive dick.

“We’re not gonna let you end up like that.”

“You should not make promises if you cannot keep them.”

“Hey, what’s with the sudden emo act?”

“Emo?”

“You. Freaking out. What happened to us being able to kill the devil and stop the apocalypse?”

Castiel is silent for a long moment, still staring down at the carpet, until he makes a tiny gesture that could almost be considered a human shrug. “Seeing the world of 2014 was not encouraging. And seeing myself that… broken. It is disconcerting.”

“Well, we’re not gonna let that happen. I’m gonna talk to Sam, he and I’ll patch things up, and all four of us will take on the future together, alright?”

“The four of us.”

“Well, yeah.”

“Would you wish to be around your future self?”

It’s like a punch to the gut, and Dean can only gape for a long moment, even though he knows the answer to that one, knows it loud and clear; and it’s not surprising that Castiel doesn’t want to be around that shell of himself. Dean could barely stand himself in the future, and he’d only been there as a temporary visitor – Castiel is going to have to deal with himself on a daily basis.

“I don’t know what you expect me to say. You agreed to go fetch him from the future.”

“I did not realize…”

“What a mess you’d become? If it’s any consolation, I think you might still have been facing the end of the world with more dignity than I was.”

“What happened to you? And why was I about to die alone when I found me?”

An image flashes across his mind of Dean lying to his people – of him knowingly sending Castiel to his death – and Dean does his best to make sure he’s suddenly not looking at Castiel anymore, worried about what the angel might see on his face.

“Can we please save the stories for when we’re all in one place?”

Castiel gives him a slow nod, and then just stands there like the king of awkwardness as Dean works the room, gathering up his things and shoving them into a duffel bag with a little more force than is necessary. He hasn’t felt completely at home in his own skin since he came back from Hell, and now, with Castiel staring at him like he’s some dangerous riddle to be worked out – staring at him like he knows exactly what Dean did to Cas in that future world – Dean feels more uncomfortable than he’s been in months.

“Look, if you want to say something, then say it.”

“I do not know what you mean.”

“Bullshit.”

Any hint of their earlier camaraderie, of the way Castiel had smiled at him when Dean had told him to never change – well, it’s all gone now, a wall of tension somehow thrown up between them, and there’s something like nausea sweeping across Dean’s body. Castiel is finally meeting his eyes again, but he’s wearing an expression of obvious unease, and Dean barely refrains from grinding his teeth together, knowing exactly how freaked out Castiel must be right now.

“Dean?”

“You’ve seen what happens if you keep siding with me. And now you’re bailing.”

“Dean –”

“Jesus, Cas,” Dean hears himself grate out, and if his voice is bordering on unsteady, then he’s just gonna do his best to ignore it, “If you wanna leave me to fight off the apocalypse on my own, then you damn well go ahead. Nothing I say or do can convince you that I’m not gonna let things go the way they were in 2014, so if you’re gonna bail, just fucking do it already, and get the hell out of –”

“Dean.”

Castiel is suddenly right in his face, not leaving nearly enough of a safe zone between them, and Dean practically chokes on his own words, managing a half step backwards before Castiel is all but breathing the same air as him.

“Did I ever say that I was leaving?”

Dean can only manage an uneven head shake, his blood burning across every inch of his skin as Castiel moves in even closer, staring at him like he can read every frightened thought in Dean’s mind – and wow, Dean hasn’t seen Castiel this furious since that horrible day in Bobby’s hospital room, when he’d been tearing Dean and Sam apart for setting Lucifer free.

“Then do not pretend to know what I am thinking. Do you truly believe that I would leave you now, after everything I have already given up for you?”

“Cas, I didn’t –”

“I have spent thousands of years dealing with humankind, and although you are the most infuriating human I have ever met, I still believe that your quest to stop the apocalypse is just. Do not think that bearing witness to my possible future could dissuade me from this course, now that I have already put my faith in you.”

Realizing that he’s been cornered against the dirty motel wall, Dean finds himself lost for words, stripped of his defences and rubbed raw against the angel’s anger, just like that terrible night when Castiel had threatened to throw him back into Hell – but unlike that night, when Castiel had still been a terrifying threat to both Dean and his brother, Dean now finds himself seized with the horrible desire to curl his fingers into Castiel’s jacket and pull him closer, and to make him prove that he’s never going to leave him, no matter how destitute the future my look.

Then, Castiel steps back with all all-too-human sigh, and the moment is broken.

“I cannot transport your vehicle to Oregon, and I would advise against staying any longer in this room, since Zachariah knows that you were once here. I suggest you find yourself a new motel, and if you need me, you know how to reach me.”

The angel vanishes without another word, and Dean takes a long moment to remember how to breathe, trying to pretend his knees aren’t knocking together for all the wrong reasons – because given that an angel losing his cool should have been one of the most terrifying things that’s happened to Dean in a while, there’s absolutely no excuse for the unwanted tightness in his jeans, and the uncomfortably quick beating of his heart.

“Goddammit,” he mutters unhappily, as he yanks his bag across the bed with a grunt, trying to remind himself that there’s no chance of finding any solutions tonight – no chance of figuring out what to do with either of the Castiels in his life. He’ll pack his things and find another crappy motel, and then tomorrow he’ll meet up with Sam, and the two of them can head to Oregon together, to check in on Cas and figure out some way for all of them to get along.

Do you truly believe that I would leave you now, after everything I have already given up for you?

Swallowing hard against the stupid flutter of pansy butterflies that take off in his stomach, Dean drags a hand over his face and takes a moment to breathe, realizing that his traitorous mind is swimming with blue eyes – one pair flashing with angelic anger and undeniable hurt, the other full of desperate yearning, and both of them wielding enough intensity to make Dean feel like he’s being taken apart from the inside out.

“Oh, Jesus. I am in way over my head.”

The words are much too loud into the silent air around him, the epiphany like a punch to the chest, and Dean swallows hard as he stares at the empty motel room, suddenly unable to deny just how far gone he already is, and worried that he’s never going to be able to come up for air again.

- - -
Three days later finds them all in Oregon, pulled over on some highway not far out of Klamath Falls. Sam is leaning against the hood of the Impala while Castiel stands awkwardly to the side, and Dean scowls down at his boots as he tries to figure out whether there’s actually a wall of tension between them, or whether most of it is just in his head. There haven’t been any more visits from Castiel since their fight, and even Sam gave them a weird look when Castiel flapped in to join their party and left a good four feet of space between himself and Dean.

“Alright, so – they’ve got cops in the room with him? Really?”

Castiel meets his stare blandly. “I suppose they were disconcerted when both his twin and his assailant disappeared. I am supposed to be two rooms over from him, and you are supposed to be in prison.”

“Right.” Dean stares at the angel’s lack of expression for a moment, and then aims for a casual shrug. “Well, there’s nothing for it. Sam and I will get a place to stay, and when Cas is fit to travel, you’re gonna just have to pop in and grab him.”

“How much longer shall we give him?”

“Let’s say another two weeks, even though he’s gonna hate us for trapping him there. I’d prefer him to be in one piece before we go chasing after Lucifer.”

Castiel nods, but the gesture seems a little distracted, and he’s already look up at the sky. “I will return in two weeks. Pray for me if you need me before then. I will be searching for my father.”

“Cas –”

He vanishes before Dean can finish speaking, and even though Dean isn’t sure what the hell he would have even said, it’s still more than a little annoying. What’s almost as irritating, however, is the way his brother is staring at him, as though Dean’s suddenly grown a second nose, or something.

“What the hell is with you two?”

“Nothing.”

“Come on, Dean –”

“Alright, so – maybe I was a bit of a jackass to him the other night. And maybe he’s a little freaked out by this back to the future crap, though I can’t blame him for that. I was a dick, and you were Satan, and he was some faithless hippie who was numbing his pain with drugs and orgies.”

“You think they’re gonna be able to get along?”

“Not like either of them has a choice.”

“Guess not.”

There’s silence for a long moment, and then Dean gives his little brother a soft punch on the shoulder. “Come on. Bobby did some digging, found out about some old hunter’s cabin out here. Not like I can just stroll into town, what with me being on Klamath Falls’ most wanted list.”

“We’re staying in a cabin for two weeks?”

“Well, I am. You’re gonna head on into town and pretend to be Cas’ cousin, or something, so he doesn’t think we’ve completely abandoned him.”

The bitch face that Sam pulls is more welcome than he could ever understand, and Dean fights down a stupid surge of sappy emotions as he slides into the driver’s seat and rests his hands on the wheel, something in his heart settling into place as Sam fits his big body into the seat beside him, right where he’s almost been meant to be.

- - -

“So? Better luck today?”

It’s been a week, and Dean’s just about ready to lose his mind from sitting in their cabin all day, reading through the mess of information he and Sam have managed to amass on Satanic lore. They still haven’t gotten a single lead on where the colt has disappeared to, and between that disappointment and the fact that Dean is spending all his time reading about blood and guts and human sacrifices, he’s just about ready to stick a gun in his mouth.

The only consolation is that Sam seems equally miserable. Apparently the hospital visits aren’t going all that well.

“Not really. He won’t talk much, and he twitches if I move too quickly.”

“Guess he got used to the idea of you being the bad guy.”

Sam makes an unhappy face and plunks himself down at the kitchen table, the crappy old chair beneath him creaking ominously as he does so. He looks incredibly dejected, and Dean can’t help but kick at him under the table, not liking that expression on his brother’s face.

“Hey. Cheer up, sad face. You never say yes to Satan, and he never gets to wear you to the prom. It’s that simple.”

“Doesn’t seem to have worked out that way.”

“Yeah, well – we’ve suddenly got ourselves a walking, talking encyclopaedia on exactly what not to do. Pretty sure we just skyrocketed our chances of killing the devil.”

Sam’s response is to smile slightly, as though he hasn’t thought of it that way before, and Dean breathes a silent sigh of relief, hoping that what he’s saying is the truth. Even if they do have Cas for guidance, Dean is never going to forget that conversation with Lucifer, the sight of him wearing his little brother’s skin, that one horrible line that still keeps Dean awake at night.

Whatever choices you make, whatever details you alter, we will always end up… here.

Swallowing hard as his stomach turns over, Dean kicks his chair back and heads for the fridge, needing a beer and having a feeling that his brother could use one too. Sam might not know the extent of what happened in 2014, but he knows more than enough, and Dean is going to damn well make sure that his little brother uses that knowledge for good, instead of letting it drag him down with terrifying thoughts of fate and inevitability.

- - -

It’s exactly two weeks later when Castiel suddenly appears in the middle of the cabin, popping into existence with a very unhappy fallen angel standing beside him, papers flying through the air as they land. The future version looks pale but solid – despite the ridiculous hospital gown he’s apparently been forced into wearing – and his eyes are clear for the first time since Dean met him, easily managing to pin Dean to the spot on the dirty cabin floor.

“Um,” Dean manages, and then swallows hard as he closes the book of lore he was reading, unprepared for the way his heart has kicked up its pace. “Hey. No problems making your getaway?”

Both of the Castiels stare at him with twin glares of irritation, and Dean barely manages to not squirm in place. The differences between the two are severe, sure, but there’s still enough there to confirm that they’re definitely still the same person, at their most basic level – and if Dean had found it tricky to meet Castiel’s eyes when there was only one of him, well, two of them is even more lethal.

“Feeling better?”

It’s Sam’s valiant attempt to break the tension, but the human version of Castiel merely takes a step closer to Dean, leaving the angel to stand awkwardly by the bed.

“You left me there for two weeks.”

“You were hurt.”

“You took me from my own universe, told me I’d lost everything, and then left me?”

It’s not like I could just stroll into the hospital!”

It’s the best response Dean can come up with – his mind still stuck on lost everything, and oh, god, at what point did Dean become Castiel’s everything? – and then Cas is suddenly right in his face, no longer showing any trace of the burnt-out drug addict Dean had stumbled upon in the future. He steps back without even thinking about it, and he’s just dimly aware of the fact that Sam and Castiel are still in the room, as Cas gets in so close they’re almost breathing the same air.

“Let’s get this straight. I’m not going to do this again. I refuse to watch the goddamn world burn while you bitch over how unfair destiny is.”

“Cas –”

If you keep saying no to Michael, the world goes the way it went in my timeline. And if you and Sam weren’t so blinded by your crippling need for each other –”

“We didn’t rescue you to have you tear us a new one.” All Dean can see are Cas’ furious blue eyes, and sudden anger is painting a red haze across his vision. “I don’t care how it went down in your world. Sam and I are on the same page now. We’re gonna –”

“You’ll what? Figure out how to change destiny? Manage to put a bullet through Satan’s brain?” There is a derisive laugh that grates on Dean’s last nerve, and then Cas is stepping away from him, his lips twisting in a nauseating mockery of humour. “You’re so full of shit, Dean, and I’m not gonna just stand here and be nice about it.”

The sudden silence is ringing, and Dean’s skin is vibrating with tension, his teeth almost tearing into his own lip as he fights to use his words instead of his fists. It isn’t until Castiel steps towards them that Dean remembers that it’s not just Cas and him in the tiny room.

“Would you truly have Dean say yes to Michael?”

Cas stares at all three of them for a second, and then his shoulders curl in on themselves, his eyes sliding closed for a long moment. He suddenly seems incredibly small in his ridiculous hospital gown, and something dangerous stirs in Dean’s gut – that hunter’s sense that always goes off when he knows that something is about to go horribly wrong.

“Cas?”

“Dean.” Cas doesn’t open his eyes. “I need clothing. And a drink. And then we need to talk.”

“About –”

“The colt doesn’t work, Dean.”

The room suddenly seems devoid of oxygen, and Dean feels his senses twist in on themselves, sending nausea across every inch of skin. He’s dimly aware of his brother taking a shaky step backwards, of Castiel standing in the corner and ducking his head, but all he can see is the fallen angel in front of him, those blue eyes still squeezed shut, and his fingers curled into fists against his sides.

“Risa and I got about ten seconds to breathe after clearing out a second story room. Through a window, I saw Dean get a shot off – saw Lucifer go down, clear as anything – and if Lucifer was still alive by the time you found him, then –”

“Then the colt didn’t kill him.”

The words feel like ash on Dean’s tongue, and the angel version of Castiel exhales sharply before he suddenly disappears from the room, nothing but a flutter of feathers to announce his abrupt departure. The loss cuts through Dean with the grating agony of a dull knife, and then he’s squeezing his own eyes shut as the fallen angel in front of him begins to babble.

“We tried so hard. Fought for so fucking long. Gave everything. Our humanity, our lives, our sanity – everything. We fought until we had nothing left, and then we just kept fighting.”

“Cas –”

“You’ll never win this way. I’m telling you now. You cannot win like this.”

Dean can’t remember the last time a silence hurt this badly. He keeps his eyes closed until he feels Sam’s hand on his shoulder, as his brother brushes past him on his way out of the cabin.

I need to get some air.”

Dean can barely nod, and then it’s just him and Cas in the tiny cabin, the door slamming shut as Sam slips out onto the porch, his every step somehow laced with pain. Cas stares at him for a moment, lips pressed together into a thin line, before he heads for Dean’s duffel and starts to pull out clothing, dumping an assortment of shirts and socks onto a dirty chair.

“What are you doing?”

“You taught me that focusing on mundane tasks can help to make the world seem less dangerous.” Cas doesn’t look at him as he gathers an old zeppelin shirt to his chest, cradling it against a pair of worn jeans. “I’m ditching this hospital fashion wreck. And then I’m gonna raid your whiskey stash, and try to forget about how goddamn screwed we all are.”

Dean can’t seem to find the words he needs, as Cas slips into the cabin bathroom with Dean’s clothing pressed against his chest, those blue eyes looking anywhere but at Dean. Wondering where exactly his brother’s wandered off to, Dean sits down at the kitchen table, presses his hands against his face, and tries to pretend that the burning sensation behind his eyes has nothing to do with the absolute failure that’s streaking across his skin.

The colt doesn’t work, Dean.

The crappy clock on the wall ticks by the minutes, though Dean doesn’t know how long he sits there in silence, a nauseating sweep of panic spreading out across his skin.

I’m telling you now. You cannot win like this.

“Dean.”

He can barely look at Sam, as the door swings shut behind his brother, letting in a burst of cool air.

“Just got a call from Bobby. There’s demonic activity a few states over – something he thinks might have to do with Lucifer.”

“Well, then, you’d best call Castiel, and get him to zap you over to Sioux Falls.” Dean still doesn’t quite manage to look his brother in the eye, as he climbs to the feet, and tries to think over the noise in his head. “I want you and Bobby to hit every book – and I mean every book – and find some way to kill Satan.”

“And you?”

“You’re the brainy one. You don’t need me for research. I’ll head a few states over, see what’s going on.”

It doesn’t escape Dean’s notice that he still hasn’t managed to look at his brother, something inside him twisting painfully at how freaked out Sam must be right now, every nerve prickling at the terrifying memory of, whatever choices you make, whatever details you alter, we will always end up… here.

“I’m coming with you.”

Cas’ rough voice cuts through the silence that’s fallen between Dean and Sam, and not for any amount of pride in the world could Dean have stopped the way his chest tightens as he looks up to find Cas wearing Dean’s old clothing, standing in a silhouette of dim light from the bathroom, a zeppelin shirt and an old pair of jeans clinging overlarge on Cas’ slim frame.

“Cas –”

“Don’t argue with me.”

I wasn’t gonna.”

“Good.”

Cas doesn’t sound angry anymore. He just sounds exhausted, smudges under his eyes and his skin still nowhere close to a healthy tint, and Dean tries to focus on those details, on the here and now, because thinking about what they have to try to do next is too much for him right now.

“Sam, why don’t you call Castiel and see if he can give you a lift?”

When Sam nods, Dean begins to gather up his stuff, not looking at Sam or Cas as he does so. He’s dealt with enough failure to know what it tastes like, and Cas was certainly right about finding solace in the mundane – so Dean simply packs his bag, does his best to dodge everyone’s eyes, and tries not to freak out over how badly their plans to save the world have just been wrecked.

- - -

“Well. This is charming.”

Parked just a few hundred miles north of the state border, they’re spending the night at some shithole in Nevada, following a day of deserted highways and awkward silences. Being around this version of Castiel is making Dean’s skin crawl in confusing ways, and from the way Cas keeps scowling at the entire world, it’s plain that sunshine and lollipops aren’t suddenly going to pop up between the two of them.

It’s got two beds and running water. It’ll do.”

Cas shoots him a look and nudges his foot against a stain on the carpet, and even Dean has to the admit that, yeah, this is one of the seediest motels he’s camped out in for awhile. On the plus side, there’s a promising looking bar down the street, and Dean would just about kill to get his mind away from the way Cas keeps staring at him.

“Would you please quit that?”

He doesn’t realize he’s spoken aloud until Cas narrows his eyes at him, something incredibly pissed off lurking behind the many shades of blue there.

“What?”

“You keep… staring at me.” Dean throws his duffel down on the bed, and wonders how the hell they’re even having this conversation. “Just like you did when you were an angel. It’s somehow more creepy now.”

I see.” Cas stares at him for a moment longer, and then his lips curl in a grin – one that falls somewhere between filthy and malicious. “I’m pretty sure I get to stare as much as I want, seeing as I spent the end of the world fucking you senseless.”

The beer Dean had just uncapped goes spewing across the motel floor, and he’s still coughing for oxygen, trying to see through the dampness in his eyes, when there’s a warm hand drawing circles against his back.

“Funny as this is, I wasn’t trying to kill you.”

“Get – off me –” Dean pulls away with another ragged cough, his heart doing its best to beat clean up through his throat, and finds himself hating how much he instantly misses the touch of Cas’ hand. “Jesus, Cas, you can’t just say stuff like that.”

“Why not? You’re emotionally stunted, and I’m not gonna just sit around here and watch myself pine over you again. It’s fucking pathetic.”

There’s a bite to Cas’ voice that sends unpleasant shivers down Dean’s spine, and for a long moment, all he can do is stare at the fallen angel, distantly realizing that none of his protests are gonna weigh up against the fact that this Castiel was certainly more than just a friend to his version of Dean.

“So, what do you expect me to do?”

“Put me out of my misery.”

Dean stares some more, and Cas gives an exaggerated roll of his eyes.

“Call me here, you ass. And just – ask me what I want. No, better yet – just get me naked. Don’t ask me anything. About this time in our relationship, I was still trying to figure out why I’d move Heaven and Earth to keep you safe – which means I was probably just as emotionally stunted as you.”

“How kind of you.”

Dean feels like he’s going to throw up and start dancing at the same time. He knows himself well enough to admit that he’s never been able to figure out what it means to care about someone who isn’t family, and if this is how it feels, then he’s probably had the right idea all along of sticking to one night stands, because wow, those goddamn butterflies are tenacious little bastards.

“Just do it, Dean. I got my chance with you about the time Sam said yes to Lucifer – and believe me, you don’t want to wait until you’re already broken to jump between the sheets with me.”

It’s like getting socked in the gut, and the butterflies scatter with frightening speed. Cas shoots him another bitter grin, drops his duffel down on the mouldy carpet floor, and casually fishes a fifty out of Dean’s wallet.

“Pay you back later. I need to go get spectacularly drunk. You’d better have settled things with me by the time I get back.”

Cas shrugs into one of Dean’s jackets, tucks Dean’s fifty into the pocket of a pair of Dean’s jeans, and then slams the motel door shut behind him. Trying to breathe over the rapid pace of his heart, Dean presses his lips together and tries to forget the way Cas keeps looking at him – like he doesn’t know whether to kiss him or beat the shit the out of him – tries to forget how much it makes his blood burn to see Cas walking around in Dean’s old clothing.

“Crap.”

It’s a low mutter, and Dean fishes the tail end of a bottle of warm whiskey out his bag, knowing that this is gonna have to do until he’s pulled himself together enough to be seen in public. Also, what with there being only one bar in the vicinity, he won’t be heading in that direction any time soon – he can only handle one Castiel at a time, and he’s pretty sure of which one he needs to talk to first.

“Oh, and Dean?”

The door swings back open again as Cas sticks his head back into the motel room, and Dean jumps slightly at the sudden movement, before he scowls at the fallen angel lounging against the motel door frame.

“What?”

If you finally manage to get me naked, I’m liable to buck you off the bed if you scrape your teeth along the insides of my thighs. Keep that in mind, would ya?”

And with that, Cas is out the door with a smirk that almost comes close to saucy – if not for the way it seems to crack around the edges – and Dean is left with a burning face, an unwanted ache in his chest, and a heat in his groin that’s so strong it’s almost painful.

“Damn you, Cas.”

Dean sucks in a sigh as he throws back a swig of whiskey and stuffs the bottle into the room’s fridge, before he lies himself down on the crappy motel bed. As a surge of alcohol-induced heat sneaks across his skin, Dean closes his eyes and tries to focus on thoughts that have absolutely nothing to do with getting Castiel naked, knowing that he needs to try to clear his mind somewhat before he tries to compose a prayer –

And then, somehow, he can’t make the words happen.

He can’t even begin to form a prayer in his own head. All he can see is Castiel falling apart – all he can imagine is watching the planet burn over the next five years, because Dean was selfish enough to keep clinging to this world against all chances of success – and Dean finds himself simply squeezing his eyes together, doing his best to let the exhaustion of the long drive finally catch up to him.


- - -
The pain is excruciating – the kind of agony that can’t be understood without having experienced it firsthand. The tearing sensation of a blade slicing across flayed nerve endings, scraping and sliding with all the precision of a master, that brutal technique wrought through centuries of experience –

“Dean.”

– and Dean is somewhere long past screaming, his throat raw from bile and blood, Alistair in the form of Dean’s father, then his mother, then his little brother; those heartless eyes slicing through him with the precision of a scalpel, until Dean has to fight to remember that this isn’t real, that this is another trick, just another attempt to break him –

“Dean!”

– but Sammy isn’t leaving, the stained blade steady in his hand, and Dean is breaking, is already broken, offering to do anything to make it stop – but he can barely choke the words out, his vocal chords pushed beyond speech, and then Alistair is laughing victoriously, sliding his razor along a patch of ragged skin, carving Dean’s failure into his mangled flesh –

“Wake up! Enough!”

Dean sucks oxygen into his tortured lungs and bolts upright, smashing into the hard body beside him, arms suddenly wrapped around him, holding him in place, trapping him – and then he’s striking out without any conscious thought, his breath coming in ragged hurt noises and moisture blurring his vision.

“Dean!”

His fists make contact just as he almost recognizes that deep voice, but everything around him is still fuzzy, and Dean lets out another hurt noise as he blindly struggles to pull free from the arms around him, going all out with his fists and nails as he tries to get away.

“Dean, Dean – relax, it’s just me, and you are free, you are safe.”

The arms leave as quickly as they had come, and Dean ends up on his knees with his lungs struggling for oxygen, and his nose still reeking of sulphur. Castiel is crouched on the bed in front of him, hands up in the universal sign for surrender, his blue eyes blown wide and blood dripping down his face, staining the pale skin of his neck and smearing across the collar of his trench coat.

“See? Just me, Dean. Breathe. You are free, and you are safe, I promise.”

The words sink in with all the subtlety of a derailing freight train, and Dean slams his eyes shut with relief as the scent of stale motel sneaks over him, mixed with the sensation of sweat sliding across his human skin. His entire body is shaking, and he wants to wrap his arms around himself and hide somewhere forever, his chest aching with the words he’ll never be able to say to the creature in front of him.

You are the reason I can hug my kid brother. You pulled me out, and gave me another chance at life.

“I should have anticipated that you would react unfavourably to my arms around you in such a restricting way. I may not have reacted to your abrupt awakening in the best possible manner, and I apologize.”

Dean can only shake his head in silent argument as Castiel looks away guiltily, as though there’s actually something to feel bad about – as though he hasn’t just pulled Dean out of his own personal hell for a second time. Struggling to find some way to articulate this, still shaking with the effort to clear his head and find the use of speech again, it takes Dean a second to realize that Castiel has gotten to his feet.

“Where – you going?” His voice is a croak, and he clears his throat with embarrassment as Castiel just stares at him, the blood on his face still making a mess of his jacket. “And did I – did I do that to you?”

Castiel hesitates, and then raises a hand to his nose. “I will heal momentarily. Please do not berate yourself.”

Wondering how it’s possible to feel even worse about himself, Dean attempts to stop a guilty flinch – but his barriers are in shambles around him, like a house torn down by the winds of a cyclone, and he knows he doesn’t have a prayer of hiding anything from Castiel right now.

“How the fuck do you put up with me?”

“I have been alive for longer than you can fathom. I have rather large reserves of patience.”

There’s an out there, Dean is sure of it, some chance for him to regain his bravado – but he can’t seem to respond to the slight hint of pained humour around Castiel’s lips. Everything is too fresh, and he can still feel Alistair’s breath curling across his skin, whispering a litany of soul-rending instructions, on just how to cut, and where.

“Dean.”

Dean can’t meet those knowing eyes. He’s still too busy trying to not puke.

“If you wish to attempt to sleep again, I can remain here.”

“I don’t need a babysitter.”

“I believe I was offering to be your friend.”

The feeling of nausea increases tenfold, and Dean finds himself concentrating very hard on looking anywhere but at Castiel. As that nasty little dream memory has clearly reminded him, Dean is possibly the last person on the planet to deserve the friendship of an angel – and now he has two of them, one human and the other still powerful, and Dean has no idea how to deal with either of them.

“If you do not want me here, I will leave.”

Dean barely hears the hesitant words, too busy trying not to freak out over the personified loyalty that’s standing in front of him, as Dean remembers exactly why he tries to not think too hard about everything Castiel has done for him, because it’s too fucking big for Dean to even try to deal with.

Castiel has pulled him out of Hell, has rebelled against Heaven for him, has literally followed Dean to the end of the world, has betrayed his own family to give Dean a chance – hell, he fucking died to give Dean that chance – and now this version of Castiel has taken to watching Dean’s nightmares, as though trying to finish the job he started when he pulled Dean out of the Pit so many months ago.

“Dean?”

“Goddammit, Cas. Is there anything you wouldn’t do for me?”

The words are out before he can stop them, hanging in the air between them with little semblance of mercy, and Dean can barely breathe as he just stares at Castiel, half-hoping that the angel will disappear without a word, and refuse to answer such a dangerous question – will save them both from whatever it is they may be heading towards, save them from whatever fucked up relationship there may have been between their future selves –

No such luck. Castiel is still standing there, all messy trench coat and mussed-up hair, and he has never looked more like a deer in the headlights.

“Cas?”

“I am not sure that either of us wish for me to answer that question.”

Castiel’s voice sounds even hoarser than normal, and maybe it’s the dim lighting from the single motel lamp, or the timeless feeling that comes from being awake at three am, or the way that Castiel is staring at him as though Dean is the most precious thing he’s ever seen – whatever the reason, Dean finds himself reaching out to hesitantly press his fingers against Castiel’s arms, curling them just above his elbows, and not missing the way the angel seems to lean into the touch.

“Why are you still here, Cas? We can’t kill the Devil with the colt – and you’ve seen what happens to you if you stick with me –”

“My very presence here suggests the veracity of free will. Our future is not a fixed inevitability, no matter what the other angels would have us believe.”

Despite the hint of righteous steel in Castiel’s voice, the tension skipping across Dean’s skin doesn’t fade, and he and Castiel take a long moment to simply stare at each other, the one lone motel lamp doing little to light the dark shadows on Castiel’s face. After a few seconds, Dean realises his fingers are moving without his permission, drawing circles against the material of Castiel’s jacket, and he and the angel step backwards at almost the same time.

“Dean, I – your nightmares need not occur with such alarming regularity. I did not pull you from Hell for you to return there every night. If you would like me to watch over you while you sleep –”

“Creepy, Cas.”

It’s an instinctive reaction, driven by how completely freaked out he is right now, but there’s a flash of something that looks like hurt across over the angel’s face, and wow, Dean’s just about reached his nightly quota of feeling like a dick.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean –”

“I am an angel, Dean. I have never interacted on such a personal level with one of your species. I apologize if my attempts at kindness are unwelcome.”

“Cas –”

“Good night.”

“Wait!”

Dean hates the desperation in his voice, but he’s suddenly holding on to the sleeves of Castiel’s coat again, as though there’s any chance of keeping him in place if Castiel actually wants to leave. When Castiel just stares at him and doesn’t move, as though this is still where he wants to be, despite everything that’s happened – it sends a pang through Dean’s overly sentimental heart, and Dean grits his teeth as he tries hard to concentrate on the fallen angel who’s drinking himself into a stupor down the street, doing his damndest to not tug hard and bring this angel in against him.

“Cas, please – if we can’t kill the devil, then you should get out of here. I’m sorry I ever dragged you into this in the first place – there must be somewhere you can go, away from here, where you can hide from the other angels –

“And spend eternity alone?”

Dean stops talking, because he had never really thought of it like that. There’s a line of tension to the gentle curve of Castiel’s lips, and he still hasn’t pulled away from the tight grip Dean has on his coat sleeves.

“Angels were never created to desire, Dean. We were created for obedience and faith. I have existed for longer than you can possibly fathom, I have seen more than I could ever convey – and yet I have never desired anything until I raised you from Hell, and you showed me that there is more to our existence than blind obedience.”

Dean swallows hard and doesn’t even try to find words. He knows there won’t be any.

“I want to save this world, Dean. If it is something you desire, then it is something I desire, too.”

“And isn’t there anything you want for yourself?”

“I am unsure.” Castiel pauses for an uncertain moment, and Dean wonders how many of these conversations they’ve had – half-truths murmured in the dim light of shoddy motel rooms, with Castiel staring at him like he can see right through him. “But I do know that I do not wish to spend eternity alone. It would be too lonely, somehow, after everything I have experienced here.”

Trying to ignore the fact that he, Dean Winchester, has dragged an angel down into the mud and introduced him to the bitter cut of what loneliness feels like, Dean breathes deeply and attempts to uncurl his fingers from the material of Castiel’s trench coat. When the digits don’t cooperate and Castiel just keeps staring at him, Dean takes another deep breath and wonders if this is the moment when he stops running from his own life.

About this time in our relationship, I was still trying to figure out why I’d move Heaven and Earth to keep you safe.

Dean suddenly feels like there’s not enough oxygen in the room. “What do you want from me, Cas?”

“I –”

“Forget about saving the world, just for a second. What do you want. What will make this whole Earth thing… easier for you, I guess.”

“I –” Castiel seems to suddenly be stumbling over his words, leaning towards Dean in the dim light of the motel room, and Dean is pretty sure he has never seen the angel look so helpless. “I do not know what I want. I still find the human capacity for emotion to be endlessly confusing.”

And just – ask me what I want. No, better yet – just get me naked. Don’t ask me anything.

“Dammit,” Dean mutters roughly, sudden panic leaving an ashen taste in his mouth, and then he leans in to carefully press his lips against the chapped ones in front of him, his heart turning over at the hitched gasp that spills from Castiel, the soft sound settling between them as Dean keeps the contact gentle and reminds himself to breathe. By the time he’s pulled back from the chaste kiss, Castiel is staring at him, blue eyes blown wide in his face, and his hands have come up to settle against the fingers Dean still has curled into his trench coat.

There’s a moment of utter silence, and Dean thinks he can feel his heart beating in his throat. Then, Castiel makes a hurt sound and steps backward, his hands easily prying Dean’s fingers out of their death grip on his trench coat.

“Dean, I –” His voice is actually shaking, that unflappable angelic calm finally broken, and holy shit, Dean did this to him, “I do not understand.”

Dean struggles to find the words he needs to explain, but before he can make his tongue work, his voice rendered mute by the wide stare of Castiel’s blue eyes, Castiel makes that hurt sound again and vanishes. It takes Dean a few seconds to process, and then he’s cursing and putting his fist through the mouldy drywall, his stomach threatening to come up through his throat as the room around him narrows to a shower of angry white noise.

- - -

By the time Cas stumbles in from the bar, the dimly lit motel room is spinning around Dean, and the whiskey bottle in his hand is somewhere long past half-empty. As the front door slams shut, Dean wearily pushes himself up on his elbows, feeling as though the bed is somehow shifting beneath him, and then he and Cas have an epic glaring match across the expanse of dirty motel carpeting.

“Classy. The lonely motel drunk.”

“Quit fucking staring at me, you goddamn hypocrite.”

Cas doesn’t even dignify that with a response, as he begins to casually weave across the room, apparently aiming for nonchalance despite the fact that they’re both reeking of alcohol.

“Take it the chat with me didn’t go too well?”

“Fuck off.”

“Always were such a nice drunk.”

Dean grits his teeth and glances at his watch, trying not to slur his words together. “Where the hell you been, anyway? It’s five am. Bar closed awhile ago.”

“I found other things to do.”

Dean’s next words get cut off as Cas strips off his shirt as though he has no care for his audience. The old zeppelin t-shirt – one of Dean’s favourites, he notices with a pang of irritation – lands on the dirty floor, and then Cas is reaching down to fumble with the laces of his boots, leaving Dean biting his tongue as he watches that expanse of bare skin stretch.

“Now who’s doing the staring?”

Dean just swallows hard and doesn’t answer, his body not seeming to care that this isn’t the version of Castiel he’s already had in his life for months – and even as that thought cuts through him, his eyes continue to track the sharp cut of the fallen angel’s spine, the bony jut of his hipbones, the way it would be so easy to wrap his hands around Cas’ waist and pull their bodies close together –

The way there is a line of bruises spattered up the pale skin of the fallen angel’s side. Dean feels his eyes narrow as Cas curses and stumbles, finally managing to defeat the laces of at least one boot.

“What the hell happened to you?”

Cas kicks off the other boot with another curse and straightens back up, turning to glare at Dean, and it’s only then that Dean notices the mess of bruising on Cas’ neck, standing out like a beacon against that unnaturally pale skin.

“What? I need your permission to fuck now?”

Dean is suddenly concerned about the amount of whiskey he’s had to drink, since it seems to be trying to fight its way back up his throat, as though his rolling stomach no longer wants to hold it.

“Oh, come off it. Did ya really think I was gonna mope around on the front porch while you screwed your favourite little angelic version of me?”

Even through the whiskey, Dean can tells that there’s no trace of anything good to the words – not even the tiniest hint of self-deprecating humour – and the whiskey makes another valiant attempt to come up, burning its way through the flare of anger that sweeps through him at the thought of Cas getting on his knees and taking this kind of abuse from a complete stranger.

“Quit looking at me like I’m some sort of freak.”

“But you – why –”

“Maybe I got used to being a punching bag, and some sick part of me misses it.”

The smile that twists across Cas’ face is frightening, and the implications of those words are too much for Dean to even attempt to consider, so he settles for taking another long swig of his whiskey bottle, before he drops his head back on the pillow and listens to the dim sound of the shower turning on behind the closed bathroom door.

Maybe I got used to being a punching bag.

Curling onto his side, no longer wishing to deal with the world around him, Dean squeezes his eyes shut and tries to fall asleep, hoping that the whiskey will soak into his mind and burn out the horrors of this entire night. He must manage to doze off for a short while, and he only stirs when Cas eventually stumbles back out of the bathroom again, wearing a clean pair of Dean’s jeans and another one of Dean’s t-shirts, his soaking wet hair pointing in every direction.

“Got any beer around here?”

There’s a world of forced nonchalance in Cas’ voice as he asks the question, and Dean swallows hard as he begins to get himself vertical again, managing to push himself into a sitting position on the grungy bed, even as the room continues to tilt alarmingly around him.

“Dean?”

“No, Cas – we don’t have any beer. And, shit, would you quite looking at me like that?” There’s a hint of defensive tension to Cas’ body, and he’s glaring at Dean as though Dean is going to reach out and swipe him, which further unsettles all the whiskey in Dean’s stomach. “Jesus, I can’t help you if I don’t know –”

“I don’t need your pity.”

“That’s not what I was offering.”

Cas lets out a snort and stumbles past him, and Dean reaches out without thinking about it, curling his fingers around the fallen angel’s wrist, suddenly afraid that he’s about to run back off into the night again. It’s not something he would have ever done sober, and when Cas immediately stills and turns to glare at him, Dean flushes with embarrassment and glances down at his own hand – and that’s when he sees something that he somehow missed while Cas had been stripping off his shirt earlier, when the motel room had been a hazy blur of whiskey, and he’d been distracted by the splash of new bruises on the fallen angel’s skin.

“Jesus Christ, Cas.”

The words blurt out before Dean can bite his tongue, and Cas scowls at him for a moment before he glances down at his own skin, eyes sweeping over the mess of track mark scars there, taking in the twisted tapestry that’s been scratched out along the bottoms of his arms.

“What, you really that surprised?”

“I just – I didn’t know –”

“Why’d you think I didn’t get morphine while I was in the hospital? Can’t feed opioids to someone who’s been a heroin addict.”

Dean frantically thinks back over the time they’ve spent in the Impala together, to that horrible afternoon in the cabin, to the time Dean spent at the end of the world – and he suddenly realizes that he only ever saw Cas in long sleeves in the future, and that, despite the hospital gown and the thievery of Dean’s old t-shirts, Dean’s probably never once had even a brief glimpse of Cas’ underarms –

Which probably means that Cas has gotten damn good at hiding this from the rest of the world, that he perfectly understands the human shame that comes from having been an addict – and that Dean has proceeded to just wrench the truth out of him, without the tiniest hint of subtlety or mercy.

“Cas, I – sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Well, now you do. Happy?”

Cas bites out the words as he continues to glare down at his own arms, and when he snaps his eyes back up, Dean swallows hard and reminds himself that he has to be sure of exactly what he’s getting into here, even if this next question is probably going to drive a wedge in between them that neither of them have any hope of overcoming.

“Are you using right now?”

“When would I get the chance? You’ve barely left me alone long enough to take a piss.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” If Cas had been glaring before, it’s nothing compared to the flash of his eyes now, as he tears his arm free of Dean’s grip and takes an uneven step backwards. “I stopped using sometime in 2012, when you made it clear that I either sobered up or got the fuck out of Chitaqua.”

“So you, what – just quit, cold turkey, in the middle of the end of the world?”

“Fuck off, Dean. For once in your whole goddamn life, mind your own business.”

Before Dean can manage to put together a coherent response, Cas leans over to turn off the only lamp in the room, effectively casting their conversation into darkness. There’s the muffled sound of blankets shifting as Cas crawls into the bed next to Dean’s, and Dean bites down on his anger as he curls onto his stomach and buries his face in the pillow, suddenly hating himself more than ever for the hell on earth that the man lying across from him has already gone through.

- - -

Their next car ride is one of the worst car rides Dean has ever experienced.

They stumble out of the motel at about two pm, both looking like they’ve gotten no sleep at all, and Dean can barely look at Cas, who seems likewise determined to win a staring match with the dashboard in front of him. Dean cranks the music as loud as it will go despite the hangover dancing between his ears, and then does his best to ignore the fact that Cas is still wearing Dean’s clothing.

It isn’t until they reach their destination town that Cas deigns to start speaking again.

“I sincerely hope you’re aiming for a place with a decent supply of booze nearby.”

Dean grunts something and turns up the music even louder, wondering where the angel version of Castiel has flown off to, and hating that his body keeps heating up every time he allows himself to think about how good this human version of Castiel looks in that raggedy old ACDC t-shirt.

- - -

Things are only worse when they get to the motel.

After parking the Impala and finding the nearest bar to drown their sorrows in – sitting across from each other and throwing back shots like they’re having some kind of competition – the cloud of misery hanging over their heads becomes almost thick enough for Dean to choke on it. They eventually end up standing on opposite sides of the grungy motel room, staring at each other like the world depends on it, until Cas curses softly and wipes a hand across his eyes.

“This isn’t working.”

Dean doesn’t pretend to play stupid. The tension between them feels like it’s about to reach a painful breaking point, and the alcohol in his veins is making the motel room tilt a little unevenly.

“What do you expect me to do? The world is ending. You’re stuck with me.”

Dean hadn’t realized it was possible for the fallen angel to get even angrier, and it isn’t until Cas gets right in his face – in a manner that is so reminiscent of his angelic self – that Dean’s heart begins to beat an uneven rhythm, slamming against his ribs in a way that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with fear. It’s something that feels like a sudden surge of reluctant affection, despite all the shit of the last few days – and Dean hates how horribly inappropriate such a feeling is, considering that this in the man that Dean first helped to break, and then sent to his death.

“You don’t get it, do you?”

“Cas –”

“I may have been yanked here, but that timeline is still going to burn. Tell me, how exactly would that failure sit with you?”

“Cas –”

“And I lost you. No matter how toxic we were, you were still the reason I never stopped fighting. Just who do you think I was imagining in that goddamn bar bathroom last night?”

Dean closes his eyes and wonders if Cas is going to punch him. He distantly hopes that the angelic version of this man isn’t sitting up there somewhere, listening in on this whole horrible conversation.

“And now you expect me to do it all again? Watch you fuck up a relationship with me? Watch myself fall? Spend the nights alone, and watch the whole goddamn world burn down?” Dean’s eyes are still closed, but he can hear the way Cas’ rough voice is beginning to crack around the edges. “I can’t do it, Dean. I can’t watch everything fall apart again.”

“Then what do you want me to do?”

Dean hears his own voice break, and he doesn’t even care that there’s a stupid sheen of moisture across his vision. Cas is staring at him like he can change the course of the future through his sheer force of will, and his eyes are wild, the alcohol there drowned out by the desperation in his expression.

“Say yes to Michael. Save this planet before it’s too late.”

“No.”

“Then you’re condemning this world to the same future you saw in my world.”

Dean nearly bites through his own lip, because Cas’ eyes have narrowed, and he looks like he’s about to take a swing at Dean. When all Dean can manage to do is to shake his head, a mute refusal of a fact that seems to be becoming all too apparent, Castiel squeezes his fists down at his sides and takes a step even closer, his words spitting out against the angry flush of Dean’s skin.

“You wanna know the truth of where this path is going? I have watched you shoot children, Dean. Watched you put them down like dogs.”

“Cas,” Dean hears himself grate, over the sudden white noise in his head, “Shut the fuck up.”

“I watched you bury Bobby. I became your punching bag whenever everything got to be too much. I watched you drink and fuck and fight and torture your way into the end of the world.”

“I mean it –”

“You wanna know what’s real? A virus that strips us all of our humanity, and turns even the non-diseased ones into monsters.”

“Cas –”

“I’d rather die than watch the world rip itself apart again.”

There are tear tracks down Cas’ flushed cheeks, his breath coming in painful sounding rasps, and Dean turns away because he simply cannot deal with this. He wants to scream, break his fist on a wall, find God and strangle him for putting them in this situation – and then he wants to wrap his arms around Castiel – both of them – and hold them close until the world stops skinning them right down to their bones.

“You can’t win, Dean.”

When Dean doesn’t say anything in response, the motel door slams shut with enough force to rattle Dean’s teeth, and then Dean is desperately squeezing his eyes shut as tears begin to spill, forcing them back into his eyes as he crosses the room to the fridge, pulls out his bottle of whiskey, and lies himself down on the bed in a contortion that vaguely resembles the fetal position.

I watched you drink and fuck and fight and torture your way into the end of the world

Keeping his eyes squeezed tightly shut, Dean finishes most of the bottle, throws it to the floor beside the bed, and wonders how much longer he can keep pretending that the path they’re currently walking down is going to end in anything but disease and bloodshed.

- - -
When Dean finally begins to stir awake again, Cas is sitting beside the bed and staring at him, naked save for an old pair of Dean’s jeans, with his head tilted in a way that is so similar to his old angelic confusion that it makes something in Dean’s chest hurt.

Frowning at him from underneath his smear of messy stubble, Cas reaches out to brush a strand of hair from across Dean’s eyes, pressing his lips together as he sweeps his gaze from Dean’s mouth to his eyes. Dean sucks in a deep breath and goes completely still, his mind still hovering in that place between sleep and wakefulness, unable to give him the strength he needs to pull awayand when Cas’ fingers curve along the rough edge of Dean’s cheek, Dean simply lets his eyes fall shut again, unable to do anything more than just enjoy the gentle touch.

“I’m sorry, Dean. You’re not him. I shouldn’t treat you like you are.”

Dean swallows around something in his throat and carefully keeps his eyes shut, not wanting to see Cas’ reactions to the conversation they’re apparently having. “What, you suddenly gonna be nice to me now?”

“Yes.”

Not trusting himself to respond to that one, Dean stays still as those careful fingers begin to trace their way across his lips, pressing down gently and sending a burst of heat across Dean’s skin. He hears himself hitch in a breath, and tries, desperately, to remind himself that they can’t do this but when he opens his eyes to find Cas staring at him with his eyes a world of yearning, it’s really hard to hold onto the reasons for why this is a bad idea.

Then, Dean catches a whiff of something, and pulls back from the touch, his nose crinkling and his hand coming up to wrap around Cas’ wrist, where the fallen angel’s fingers are still hovering over Dean’s cheek.

“Are you high?”

Is this the part where I say ‘generally’?”

Dean finds himself tightening his grip slightly, hating that the man in front of him is probably about ten minutes away from mixing that weed with whatever’s left of Dean’s whiskey stash, just to help him deal with some of the monsters in his head. “Where’d you get the money?”

“You’d probably disapprove.”

There’s a darkness to the words that makes Dean’s world tilt a little unpleasantly on its axis, and the defensiveness in Cas’ bloodshot eyes is only outweighed by the shame Dean thinks he can see in the tight press of Castiel’s mouth.

“You didn’t

“For fuck’s sake, Deanhave you even seen my lips? Jimmy Novak looked like a goddamn hooker under that trench coat. I might as well have a ‘use me’ sign flashing above my head.”

This is not at all that conversation that Dean had been expecting, and when Cas flashes him a nasty smile, his pupils still doing funny things behind the blue tint of his eyes, Dean tries to find the right words to convey the complete wrongness of a fallen angel whoring himself out for a substance to abuse.

“That’s no excuse for

“You try living through the end of times, and see where your principles go.”

“Cas

“You gonna let me go so I can shower and brush my teeth, or am I gonna have to start breaking bones?”

When Dean takes the hint and uncurls his finger’s from around Cas’ wrist, Cas slides to his feet and slams the bathroom door shut behind him, and Dean rubs his hands over his eyes with a muttered curse, wondering how this shit show ever became his life. Too exhausted to do anything but lie still, Dean doesn’t move for the ten minutes it takes Cas to shower, and when Cas stumbles back out of the bathroom with only a threadbare towel tied around his waist, there’s no part of Dean that can deny how much he wants to strip that towel away and make Cas feel good for once.

“Hey, you got any beer around here?” His earlier tirade apparently having been washed away by the warm shower water, Cas stumbles past Dean towards the fridge, yawning as he does so. “Buzz is wearing off. Side effects of concentrating long enough to coordinate tab A and slot B.”

Dean can only mutely nod his head, watching the play of Cas’ slender body as he slides open the fridge door, cracks a bottle of beer, and takes a long swig of it. It’s only when the bottle’s half empty that he turns back to Dean with a sardonic smirk, cocking his hip out as he settles his half-naked body down against the kitchen table.

“Judge all you want, Deanyou haven’t lived my life.”

“That’s no excuse.”

Isn’t it? You have no idea what the end of the world was like.”

“So tell me.”

“You don’t actually want to know.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Only that after Sam said yes, I spent a good chunk of the end of the world looking like the poster child for a domestic violence campaign.”

The words reverberate in the otherwise silent motel room, and Dean can actually feel the blood drain from his face. He doesn’t realize he’s staring helplessly until something in Cas’ expression softens, and then the fallen angel is setting his beer down and moving a few steps closer, gently pushing Dean’s unresisting body back into a horizontal position on the bed.

“I gave as good as I got, if it’s any consolation. There was this one time after a bad hunt when we both got hammered and decided to kick the crap out of each other, and I managed to break one of your fingers. Chuck wasn’t happy about having to find extra medical supplies.”

Dean is pretty sure he is actually going to be sick, his stomach turning over as the forced nonchalance in Cas’ voice grates across his skin, sending a sheet of white noise across Dean’s vision. He only clues in to the fact that he’s staring down at the blanket, desperately searching for some way to apologize for something he hasn’t even done yet, when he feels gentle fingers curl against his chin, and his face is being tilted up to meet tired blue eyes.

“It’s not your fault, Dean. Shooting children became commonplace when the virus began to spread. I’m just glad we took it out on each other, and not anyone else.”

If that’s meant to make Dean feel better, it fails horribly, and he squeezes his eyes shut against the blue ones in front of him. “How can you even stand to be around me?”

“You’ll notice that, most nights, as soon as we get parked somewhere, I take off running.”

Dean is pretty sure he can’t hear any sarcasm there, and with Cas standing so close to him, spouting off stories about all the abuse he’s taken in his life, Dean carefully ignores the voice inside him that’s screaming about what a bad idea this is, as he bites down his nerves and reaches up to carefully rest his hand against the fingers still pressed against his chin. Even in his stoned state, the fallen angel in front of him goes absolutely rigid, staring down at Dean as though he’s seeing him for the first time.

“Cas, I’m so sorry. I know it wasn’t exactly me, but still

“Dean.” Cas barely seems to be breathing, his voice coming out as a tiny hitched noise. “You don’t have to apologize. I’m the one who’s been confusing the two of you.”

Dean can only stare at him, his body torn between arousal and pain as Cas stands there in a towel, a flush to his cheeks, and his blue eyes blown wide as he stares down at the bed.

“You’re the man I gave up Heaven fornot the fearless leader who sacrificed his humanity to lead us into the end of the world. And I damn well refuse to lose that man again, so stop blaming yourself for whatever happened in the future.”

“But ICas, you don’t understand, you don’t know

Then why don’t you

“I used you as a diversion to get to Lucifer.” Dean’s voice breaks in his throat as he finally says it, finally puts it out there the nightmare that’s been keeping him awake for weeks, his chest tightening as he stares into Cas’ trusting expression. “I used you as Croatoan bait. There was no way you were getting out of those buildings alive. I used you to

“Dean.” There are soft fingers pressed across his lips, and, somehow, there’s almost a hint of a smile to the fallen angel’s lips, his eyes big and sad in his face as he silences Dean with a look and a gentle touch. “What makes you think I didn’t already know that?”

Dean has had a handful of moments in life when the world seems to slow down, come to a complete standstill, as everything ceases to make sense. As Cas simply stares at him and continues to draw a gentle finger across his lips, Dean has one of those moments, when all he can do is look at the man in front of him, wondering how he has ever done anything to deserve this kind of unwavering loyalty.

“How did you

“I knew the minute we walked up to that compound.”

Then why haven’t you left yet?” The incredulous words form against Cas’ warm fingers, and Dean exhales sharply as he feels the digits rise and fall with the movement, a distraction from the gravity of what he’s asking. “If you know that, somewhere inside me, there exists the kind of monster that could make that decisionwhy are you still here?”

“Do you really need to ask?”

Dean suddenly and desperately wishes for some distractionany distractionfrom the blue eyes that are trained on his face, the fingers that are still pressed against his lips, the smell of Dean’s own shampoo tangled in the messy hair of the man sitting beside him. He tries to tell himself to pull away and get off this bed, unable to deal with the unspoken answer to his question, the unrestrained affection he can see in Cas’ eyesand then Cas’ chapped lips twitch into the slightest smile, and he slides his fingers to Dean’s cheek as he leans in to press his mouth against Dean’s slack lips, a moment of simple contact that Dean feels right in his gut.

“Dean,” Cas murmurs against his lips, his fingers tracing achingly gentle lines along the edges of Dean’s cheeks, “I’m never gonna leave you. No matter what you do.”

The words slide along his aching skin, and Dean feels like his chest is about to burst, his heart beating at such a frantic pace it’s almost enough to be painful. As the fallen angel’s lips move against his own, pressing down with a gentle pressure that makes Dean’s body heat up from the inside out, Dean realizes that never, in his entire life, has he been kissed as tenderly as he is now.

“Dean,” Cas whispers again, slowly climbing to his feet even as he breathes the words against Dean’s mouth, “Let me. I’ve missed you. And you need this.”

And Dean, lord help himhe doesn’t argue, not for a single second. He just sucks in a steadying breath and lets Cas slide his slim body onto the bed, their hips fitting together with almost indecent ease, as Cas continues to kiss him as though he’s the most precious thing Cas has ever laid his hands on, nothing but Dean’s clothing and Cas’ damp towel standing between the contact of their bodies.

“Cas

“I lost you,” Cas mutters roughly, his body arching against the tightness of Dean’s jeans, even as the contact of his lips remains almost painfully gentle, “In every possible way. For years, I dealt with the man you had to become, to lead us to the end of the worldand then you died. And now I have you back. So please, Deanfor god’s sake, please don’t stop me now.”

Dean wishes he had something he could blame for his desperate need to give in to these touches, some way to justify how much he loves the tenderness he can feel in every movement of the fallen angel’s body against his own, but he’s stone cold sober, and the simple fact is that nothing has ever felt so right in his entire life.

“Cas,” he tries again, not even sure how he’s going to protest this, as something inside him slots into place and his skin seems to light up from the inside out, “I’m not sure

“Please, Deanplease, let me

There’s a hint of desperation there, something dangerous lurking under the gentle pressure of Cas’ warm lips, and when another pair of blue eyes suddenly flash into Dean’s mind, he just barely stifles a groan as he digs his fingers into Cas’ elbows, hoping that the fallen angel will pay attention to the slight press of pain. When Cas’ response is to go still against him, Dean’s groan finally slips free as he momentarily deepens the contact of their lips, pressing a hard kiss to Cas’ mouth before he tears his lips away and pants out the words into the space between their mouths.

“Casshit, I’m sorrybut I can’t

“I guess I am stepping on the other me’s toes, aren’t I?”

There’s a moment of incredible awkwardness as Cas simply rests his body against him, and then the fallen angel is sliding off the bed, not meeting Dean’s eyes as he secures the towel around his waist, as though neither of them can see the curve of his cock under the damp material, or the way his fingers are shaking as he makes sure that the towel will stay in place.

“Cas, I

“Don’t you dare start apologizing. I should never have let things get this far.”

“But

“Start doing some praying, and maybe you’ll get the angel you actually want.”

Dean can’t find any words as Cas steps away from the bed, all flushed skin and messed up hair, his complexion an endearing shade of pink beneath all his stubbleand then Cas is shaking his head and tightening the towel once again, casting his eyes down to the dirty motel floor.

“Go to sleep, Dean. If you need me, I’ll be taking a very long, very cold shower.”

And as Cas slips back into the bathroom, damp towel clinging tightly to his hips and a world of hurt in his bright blue eyes, all Dean can so is squeeze his own eyes shut, curl up on his side, and try to beat his aching body into reluctant submission.

- - -

After that eveningwhich had left Dean feeling like he was about to fly apart at the seamsit’s like Dean’s entire world slides into some surreal alternate reality.

Working surprisingly well as a decent hunting team, Dean and Cas manage to travel together for an entire six days without once talking about what happened. The angelic version of Castiel appears twice to update them on the search for his father, and when he can’t meet Dean’s eyes during either of these visits, Dean finds himself hating that he’s let his stupid human feelings freak Castiel out so badly he can barely even be in the same room as him. Furthermore, just to make things even more awkward, Castiel and Cas begin to partake in uncomfortable staring matches during those rare occasions when they’re in the same room, and even if both Castiels have always been bad about appropriate eye contact, it’s still disconcerting to watch them glare at each other.

On the plus side, although the demons they manage to hunt down have nothing to do with any devious plan of Satan’s, the fight does give Dean a chance to watch Cas carve his way through the mess using Ruby’s knife, his bright blue eyes blazing with anger as he slices apart the demon who has her hands around Dean’s neckand even as he’s being choked to death, Dean has to admit that, somewhere in the future, he must have done a damn good job of teaching Cas how to kick ass the human way.

But the weirdest thing is about this bizarre new hunting arrangement? When they’re not busy chasing down whatever lead Bobby throws at them, Dean somehow gets to know Cas as more than simply a drugged out caricature of the fallen angel he met that one time in the future.

He learns that Cas can be downright lethal before his second cup of coffee, that he likes to sleep with his socks and jeans on, and that he spends a ridiculously long time in the shower. He learns that Cas needs at least a six-pack to sleep through the night, that he enjoys stitching up the holes in Dean’s clothing, and thatas demonstrated by his failed attempt to rescue a baby robin from a vicious little kittenhe still has a soft spot for lost causes.

Most importantly, he realizes that Cas must have at some point learned what human mercy looks like, because Cas never again brings up the subject of Michael, even as each new day fails to bring any promising ideas on how to kill Lucifer. It’s a reprieve that Dean hadn’t been expecting, and he just barely manages to stop himself from blurting out his gratitude, since putting anything into words would undoubtedly just flare up the whole topic again.

Then, exactly one week after Dean and Cas came dangerously close to slipping back towards the relationship their future counterparts must have had, Bobby sends them after a demon who seems to be one of Lucifer’s right-hand monsters. Dean ends up driving to Nevada with Cas riding shotgun, the fallen angel nonchalantly working his way through Dean’s tapes as though he hopes to find something that won’t make him want to gouge out his eardrums, and it’s almost enough to distract Dean from one very important fact.

Castiel isn’t answering his prayers.

Dean grinds his teeth together and concentrates on driving, trying to pretend that it doesn’t feel like he’s had something shoved through his breastbone. He’s a grown man, not a thirteen-year-old girland if Castiel has better things to do than respond to his prayers, then Dean is going to have to simply suck it up and deal with it.

Of course, it doesn’t help to have the human version of their missing angel in the passenger seat.

“He still not answering?”

“How’d ya know I was even calling?”

“You’re bitchier than normal.”

“Fuck you.”

“Case in point.”

Dean ignores the way Cas isn’t even smirking at him the way there seems to be a hint of true concern in his expressionas he focuses on the yellow lines in front of him, hoping desperately that Castiel hasn’t been injured or trapped somewhere, and that Dean has simply scared him off with his stupid human desires and broken boundaries.

- - -

When they finally do find Castiel, after sneaking into the warehouse that Bobby had pointed them towards, it’s about as bad as Dean had feared. Apparently, when you’re powerful enough to earn a place at Lucifer’s side, you’re powerful enough to take on an angel who’s already slip sliding his way towards humanity.

It’s only Ruby’s knifeand the advantage of surprisethat save their asses. The second the demon is an empty human body on the floor, Dean is scrambling to the altar where Castiel has been tied downprobably with some kind of enchantment on the ropes, Dean thinks distantlyand then his stomach is turning over at the gouges that have been scraped into the angel’s chest, each mark carved clean through the fabric of Castiel’s mangled trench coat.

“Cas, shit. Can you hear me? Cas?”

“Oh, he can hear you, alright.”

Every inch of Dean’s skin tries to crawl off his body as he slowly turns around, a sudden flash of hatred nearly burning him up from the inside out. Beside him, Cas makes an odd choking sound and moves a little bit closer to the altar, as Zachariah makes a show of strolling into the room.

“He can hear just fine, but he’s somewhat out of it at the moment. You could say he’s a little… drugged. Angels don’t do well when they’re fed demon blood.”

The room seems to be filled with white noise. Dean feels himself try to retreat despite his best intentions, but there’s absolutely nowhere to go, his back already pressed against the cold concrete of Castiel’s bloody altar.

“It’s been too long, boys. Though I must sayscrewing with timelines like that? How devious of you, Dean.”

Dean swallows hard and realizes he doesn’t have any words, as sudden fear makes his tongue stick in place. Demons he can handle, demons he can exorcise or kill or trapbut with Castiel out of commission, he and Cas have absolutely no way of trying to take on a fully juiced up jackass angel.

“What’s wrong, Dean? Taking a moment to realize how incredibly screwed you are?”

Dean tries to make his mind and words work in unison, his heart hammering in his chest as Cas seems to inch a little closer to him. “The demon?”

“Just a decoy. Lucifer lent him out to me.”

“How the fuck are you even an angel?”

“Boy, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Dean doesn’t even see the angel move. As he knows is that suddenly Zachariah is right in front of them, turning his nauseating smirk on the all-too-human version of Castiel who’s pressed against Dean’s side.

“Well, Cas. It’s been awhile, but I’m sure you remember the last time you and I had some fun together. Did you really think you could rebel against Heaven and get off scot free?”

Casto his everlasting credit, and Dean has a somewhat hysterical moment of marvelling at how stupidly courageous Castiel has always been, whether in his human or angel formpulls himself up a little taller and takes a step forward, moving right into Zachariah’s personal bubble.

“I had to watch the world burn. Don’t you think that’s punishment enough?”

“Oh, Cas. You always were such a joker.”

Cas seems to be vibrating in place, as Zachariah reaches out to curl his fingers around the fallen angel’s chin, leaving Dean fighting the urge to take a pointless swing at Zachariah’s face.

“I’m sure you remember our last little session, back when you were still an angel? I got my point across so nicely, even then. Just imagine how much damage I’ll be able to do to this frail human body.”

Dean barely manages to stop himself from throwing up, fear and anger and helplessness painting a sheet of red across his vision, his fists clenching pointlessly against his sides. Cas stares at Zachariah for a moment, taking in the terrifying smirk on the angel’s face, before his expression hardens and he moves in even closer.

“This is your big plan? Torture us until Dean says yes? You’ll never break him.”

“Maybe not. But I can break you. And since Dean’s always had a bit of a weak spot for you

“Go to hell, Zachariah.”

As though he’s suddenly regained some of his old grace, Cas moves almost too quickly for Dean to see. His hand shoots out like a viper, right into the material of Zachariah’s suit, and blood suddenly spreads across the material asDean’s heart almost stops beating as he realizes what’s happeningas Cas gets his fingers around an angel blade and blindly jabs under all that material.

“Son of a bitch!”

Zachariah staggers backwards, clutching at the bloody mess on the side of his stomach, as Cas pulls his hand free, wrapping it around Dean’s and tugging hard.

“Get out of here!”

“Not without you.”

Dean is already slicing at the thick rope bonds on the altar with Ruby’s knife, desperately trying to cut the unconscious angel free, and Cas bites out a furious curse as he steps in between Dean and Zachariah, squaring off against a foe he has absolutely no chance of beating.

“Well, Zachy? I get in a painful little sting there?”

“You little bastard.”

Dean has heard Zachariah get pissed before, but it’s nothing compared to the hatred in his voice now, and Dean grinds his teeth together as he hears Cas begin to mutter what sounds like a desperate prayer. Dean has just managed to cut the angel free when Zachariah straightens up and sends Cas flying backwards against the altar, his body crumpling against the hard concrete and sliding to the cold floor beside Dean.

“He will pay for that later.”

Zachariah sounds like he’s about to bring the entire warehouse down around their heads, and Dean’s stomach abruptly turns over for two reasonsone, that Castiel’s eyes are fluttering open, taking in his surroundings with a remarkable amount of lucidity, as his bonds slip free of his bodyand two, that the blind hatred in Zachariah’s voice is making Dean think of wild animals, and how much dangerous they are when they’ve been injured.

It’s an incredibly unpleasant thought, and Dean meets Castiel’s wide eyes for a brief second, hoping desperately that the angel has enough strength to get them out of this warehouse, before he spins around to make himself as much of a distraction as possible.

“You want a fight? Then come and get me, you pompous asshole.”

“I would advise against antagonizing me. I already have extensive plans for you.”

“Oh yeah? What are ya gonna do? You just got one-upped by a humana fallen angel, at that. Seems you’re not as powerful as you’d like to think. Ya ever think the higher up angels might have made a mistake when they chose you to do their dirty work?”

“Why, you disgusting piece of vermin

Dean doesn’t hear or see Castiel move. There’s a sudden hand against his shoulder, and the room blinks out of existence. He has a moment of weightlessness, and then he’s slamming hard against a solid floor, most of his breath going out of him as he crashes into what seems to be a smelly carpet.

“Cas,” he manages to gasp, “Are wedid you

“I have him. We’re all here.”

Dean has a moment of such profound relief it steals what was left of his breath, but then the angel is rolling onto his back with a pained groan, his hand reaching out to grasp desperately at Dean’s shirtsleeve.

“Sigel. Like I’ve shown you. Use my blood, before Zachariah can track us.”

Dean stares at the dried blood all over Castiel’s trench coat, knowing he’ll need something fresh, something he can paint with, his eyes sliding to the deep gouges that streak across Castiel’s mangled chest.

“Now, Dean! I cannot move, you have to

Trying hard to not think about what he’s doing, Dean slides his fingers into a gash on Castiel’s chest and brings his bloody hand to the wallBobby’s living room wall, he distantly realizes, with another moment of desperate reliefand then he’s ignoring Castiel’s low whimper as he uses the angel’s body to paint out the wards, as though going through some kind of hellish finger painting routine. When the symbols are finally complete, Castiel curls in on himself, wrapping his arms around his body as he shakes, and Dean scrambles to press his hands against an uninjured portion of Castiel’s body.

“Shit, what can I

“Let me heal. Take care of the other me.”

“Cas

“Please, Dean. Just let me be.”

Hearing the rasp of pain in Castiel’s ragged voice, Dean hesitates for a moment longer, his hands smearing blood across the tattered remains of Castiel’s trench coat, before he crawls across the filthy carpeting to rest a bloody finger against the pulse of Cas’ wrist.

“Oh, thank god, he’s alive.”

Dean is suddenly overwhelmed with relief again, but beyond a muffled groan of pain, there’s no real response from the wounded angel. Taking a moment to just be grateful that they’re all relatively safe, Dean briefly closes his eyes before he carefully rolls the fallen angel onto his stomach, his bloody hands shaking as they begin their search for injuries.

- - -

The next half hour passes in a haze. While the injured angel remains curled up on the floor, Dean does his best to take care of the human version of Castiel, whothankfullyseems more dazed than truly hurt. His entire back is going to bruise black and blue, sure, and there’s a patchwork of nasty scrapes across the abused skin, butby some kind of miracle there are no snapped ribs, and no bones sticking out through his skin.

“Quit perving over me, you freak.”

“Oh, believe me, I’m not.”

And Dean really isn’t, despite whatever accusations may be hissed out from between the tight clench of Cas’ teeth. For all that Cas is spread out topless on the living room couch, there’s absolutely nothing sexy about the way he keeps almost biting through his own lip as Dean cleans his cuts with a damp cloth and a bottle of Bobby’s hydrogen peroxide. Dean has been in this position way too many timesinjured and in pain, curled into some grungy motel bed, with someone poking away at his woundsfor him to find anything remotely appealing about the situation.

And, of course, it doesn’t help that their injured angel is still curled up on the floor, occasional noises of pain slipping through his lips, and his arms wrapped around himself as though he’s trying to stop himself from flying apart.

Swallowing down a surge of fear, Dean pulls the cloth away from Cas’ back and breaks out the bandages, steadfastly refusing to think about anything but the broken skin in front of him as he works on getting the human into more or less one piece. By the time he’s done with Cas’ back, the angel on the floor has curled in even tighter on himself, and Dean finally moves away from Cas to kneel down and rest his hands on the shirtsleeve of Castiel’s bloody trench coat.

“Cas,” he says softly, “There’s gotta be something we can do to help you.”

When there’s not a responsenot even a noise of pain Dean’s heart clenches so painfully he almost feels it right down to his toes. Scrambling around to look at Castiel’s face, he finds that those bright blue eyes have been squeezed tightly shut in a dangerously pale face, and there’s a nauseating blue tint to the curve of his lips.

“Cas, shit,” Dean grits out weakly, and then he’s looking helplessly at the human sitting on the couch, taking in the worried expression as Cas pulls himself into a sitting position. “Shit. What can we

“Zachariah said he’d been feeding him demon blood, right?”

“Yeah, but

“Well, imagine having acid in your veins.”

Dean stares as Cas, and distantly wonders iffor just one time in his lifeit would be too much to ask for something to not go horribly wrong. What he’s thinking must show on his face, because Cas climbs to his feet with a groan, his skin almost as pale as the angel who’s lying comatose at his feet.

“Those marks on his chest? They’re keeping his grace contained in that body. If the body goes, Castiel goes with it.”

Then” A chill sweeps down his spine, and Dean tightens his fingers against the material of Castiel’s trench coat. “Then how do we

“If he’s got enough strength left, his own body should be able to burn it away eventually, so that his injuries can start to heal. And if notwell, there’s really nothing you can do for him.”

“What” When his voice cracks a little, Dean licks his lips and tries again. “What can I do?”

“Keep as much blood in his vessel as you can. And sit with him. Talk to him.”

“That’s it?”

There’s a good chance he can still hear you. And, knowing me, that angel isn’t gonna give up on you as long as he knows that you still want him around.”

As the loaded implications of those words hang between them, Dean wonders for a moment if Cas is talking about himself as much as the injured angel, but then Cas is turning away and casually heading towards the kitchen, moving through Bobby’s house as though it hasn’t been at least five years since he was last here.

“I’ll make dinner. Give Sam a call, and see where they are. You just curl up there and keep your injured angel company.”

Dean chokes down his gratitude and gets to his feet long enough to collect some more towels, before he grabs a blanket off the couch and spreads it out on the floor, his stomach turning over as he stares down at the gashes that have been scratched into Castiel’s skin. Doing his best to rearrange the angel’s limbs without hurting him further, Dean manages to peel Castiel’s arms away and get a towel pressed against his chest, wanting to keep as much of that precious life force inside Castiel’s body as possible

And then Dean sits down on the ratty old blanket, puts pressure against the injuries, and vows to stay right where he is until Castiel wakes up again and begins to heal.

- - -

The evening passes slowly.

Cas makes him beans and toast for dinner, and doesn’t say a word when Dean manages to choke down only a few bites before pushing it away. With a hint of sadness in his eyes as he studies his future self, he informs Dean that Sam and Bobby are reading up on something at another hunter’s for the next couple of days, and that they’ll pick up the Impala before they come backand then he makes himself scarce, drifting off to somewhere else in the house as Dean sits on the floor and keeps an eye on Castiel, wary of trying to move him from the floor while he’s in this healing trance of his.

As soon as they’ve been left alone, Dean swallows down his gratitude and begins to talk, remembering stories of coma patients who would afterwards swear that they had heard their loved ones’ voices while they were under. He doesn’t really choose a topic, rambling on about whatever comes to mind, and he makes damn sure to never take his hands away from the injuries in front of him, wanting to do every single thing he can to make this recovery easier on Castiel.

The night passes even more slowly once the sun goes down completely, and Dean’s voice eventually begins to crack, forcing him into periods of uneasy silence. For all that Bobby’s house has been one of the few places Dean has ever been able to call home, the building takes on an almost eerie feeling as the rest of the world gradually goes silent, leaving nothing but the soft sounds of ragged breathing as an injured angel lies on the living room floor and clings to life.

When the clock finally reaches 3 am, with nothing but a change of towels to herald the new hour, Dean curses through a yawn as he leans forward to rest his head on Castiel’s shoulder, his tired body aching from being in the same position for so long. The injuries are still bleeding too much for Dean’s comfort, for all that he’s never let up on the pressure against them, and Dean knows that, had the creature in front of him been human, Castiel would have already slipped out of this world.

The thought cuts right through him, and Dean swallows hard as he leans forward to carefully rest his forehead against Castiel’s shoulder, his hands still pressed against Castiel’s chest, still doing his very best to keep Castiel’s life force inside his body.

“Cas,” he manages to grit out, hearing the exhaustion in his unsteady voice, “You don’t get to die, alright? You’re going to deal with this, then and when you’re better, we’ll do a better job of looking out for each other, okay?”

“Maybe the focus should be on you doing a better job of looking out for him.”

Dean sits back up and turns to glare at the man standing in the doorway, but he doesn’t have the energy to even get angry as Cas slips back into the living room, his hands shoved in his jean pockets and his skin still too pale under his mess of stubble.

“What do you mean?”

“Do you think he ever left you alone for long? I used to check in on you all the time without you knowing.”

“I

“Back when I was still an angel, a prayer from you meant more than anything else. He needs you, Dean, more than you know, or he’s gonna end up like me.”

Cas doesn’t quite look at him as he bites out the words, and Dean gnaws on his lip for a moment, recognizing that disconcerting sheen of self-loathing in the fallen angel’s voice. It’s a tone Dean is all too familiar with, having heard that same voice in his head for as long as he can remember, even back before he went to Helland, somehow, that kind of self-hatred is just completely wrong coming from Cas’ lips, even if this Castiel is merely the flawed human shadow of his once perfect angelic self.

“You’re not that bad, you know.”

“High praise.”

“I mean it.”

“Dean

“Despite everything you’ve been through, you still give a damn about this world, and you want to keep it safe.” Seeing the hint of disbelief in Cas’ expression, Dean drops his gaze back to his bloody hands, not quite managing to meet the fallen angel’s eyes as he continues to talk. “You risk your life to fight evil things, and then you turn around and rescue baby birds from kittens.”

“Dean

“You’re loyal in ways that would frighten most humans, and you’d lay down your life for someone you love. These aren’t exactly bad qualities, Cas.”

“Yeah, welllook where all that admirable loyalty got me in the end. A lonely drug addict who was facing eternity in some Hell pit.”

Not daring to lessen the pressure against Castiel’s body, Dean nevertheless turns to glance at the fallen angel who’s slumped down on Bobby’s old couch, staring down at the patchwork of scars on his arms with an expression of open contempt. Before Dean can find the right words to say, Cas sighs softly and lifts his eyes back from his own arms.

“You wanna know why I sobered up? Why I stopped using, cold turkey, in the middle of the end of the world?”

Hearing the pain in Cas’ voice, Dean brings his eyes back to the angel, not wanting to make this conversation any harder than it already is.

“I went into withdrawal during a hunt. We were rescuing a family, and we got boxed in for days in some shithole house. It was a mother and her two kids, and if we hadn’t had Risa with us, Dean would have never managed to get everyone out of there alive. I was shaking too badly to even hold a gun, let alone be trusted to fire one.”

Dean firmly keeps his gaze on Castiel’s chest, fighting the stupid urge to get up and hug the man sitting on the couch, knowing that he doesn’t dare move away from Castiel long enough to do so.

“After that, you told me to either sober up or get out. And you meant it.”

“I wouldn’t have

“Yeah, Deanyou would have. And you would have been right to do it. You had an entire camp to take care of, and you had more important things to do with your time than babysitting me.”

When Dean fails to find the words he needs to respond, Cas climbs to his feet and shoves his hands back into the pockets of Dean’s old jeans, standing there awkwardly and looking as though he isn’t sure whether to go or to stay. As Dean studies the defensive posture, thinking about everything the fallen angel has been through, it’s somehow only then that he finally allows himself to lookto really lookfor the first time since Castiel had pulled the fallen angel into this timeline.

“Dean?”

Wondering how his future self could have ever allowed Cas to reach the lows he had sunk to, Dean slowly takes in the faded jeans and the old t-shirt, sliding his eyes over the track marks on Cas’ arms, something in his chest aching uncomfortably as the fallen angel stands there in Dean’s old clothing, a dim shiver of moonlight slipping through the window to paint his skin an unnatural shade of silver.

“Look, I can go

“Cas, waitjust c’mere for a second, would you?”

“Why?”

“Justlook, I can’t move my hands, would you just

His pulse is suddenly pounding much too quickly, and he bites back his words as Cas crosses the room to kneel down beside him, staring at him with mixture of confusion and residual shame in his expression. Dean has a wild moment of wondering just what he thinks he’s doing, but he swallows it down and glances between the two creatures in front of him, suddenly aware of just how much it would hurt to lose either of them. It’s as though he’s only just now figuring out that the man and the angel in front of him are truly two sides of the same being, someone who has literally seen Dean at his worst, someone who still wants himstill cares about him, in ways that quite honestly scare the hell out of himdespite knowing all the crap that comes from being a casualty of Dean Winchester’s life.

“Dean, what

Carefully, making sure that the movement doesn’t lessen the pressure of his hands against Castiel’s chest, Dean leans forward to gingerly brush his lips against the mouth in front of him, something in his chest turning over as a choked rasp of air slips from between the fallen angel’s lips. The contact doesn’t last longa few seconds, at mostbut there are strong fingers digging into Dean’s knee when he pulls away, and Cas is staring at him with eyes so wide it’s almost comical.

“ButyouI thought you

“You said I should look out for you, right?”

Cas continues to stare at him for a long moment, and then he squeezes his eyes shut with a noise that almost sounds like pain, and Dean finds himself wishing desperately for the use of his hands, wanting to brush his fingers against the hint of moisture he can see slipping from beneath Cas’ eyelids. Deciding to work with what he has, Dean swallows hard and nudges against Cas’ knee with his own, loving the way the fallen angel immediately presses into the contact.

“We’ll figure something out, Cas. The three of us. Alright?”

There are few more seconds of agonizing silence, and then Cas manages a shaky nod, his eyes still closed and his fingers still digging marks into Dean’s knee. Biting back the swell of emotion in his own traitorous throat, and wanting to give Cas a chance to get himself back together, Dean drops his gaze down to the injuries on Castiel’s chest, distantly realizing that one of them has to get up and find new towels.

“Want me to take a turn at that?”

Cas’ voice sounds a bit uneven, but when Dean risks the chance of taking a quick glance at him, there’s the tiniest hint of a curve to Cas’ lips, and Dean can’t stop a hesitant smile in return. Without waiting for more of a response, Cas slides to his feet to find some new towels, and then uses his own body to gently nudge Dean out of the way as the fallen angel sits down on the floor again.

“Take a break, Dean. I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Knowing that he doesn’t need to use words to answer, Dean watches as Cas applies steady pressure to his past self’s chest, and then he finally lets himself stretch out on his stomach, lying parallel to Castiel’s prone body, his chin resting on his arms as he closes his eyes, and his head resting just inches from the fallen angel’s knee.

- - -
When Dean begins to slowly wake up, it’s to the feeling of gentle fingers threading through his hair.

The sensation is like getting punched in the heart. Dean takes a second to assess his surroundings – sleeping with his head on an angel’s stomach, with Cas curled up asleep on the floor beside them – before he exhales shakily and reminds himself to breathe, because the fingers in his hair are incontrovertible proof that Castiel is still alive.

Dean.”

Dean swallows around the tension in his throat, unable to speak over the sensation of Castiel’s fingers sliding through his hair, and tries not to freak out about the fact that – at some point in the night – he had curled up with his head on Castiel’s stomach.

“Are you – is this alright, to touch you like this?”

Raising his head slightly, careful to not dislodge the fingers tangled in his hair, Dean stares up at the tired lines of the angel’s face, gratefully taking in the healthy tint of his skin, the lucidity and clarity behind his eyes.

“You’re –” When Dean’s voice cracks, he swallows and tries again. “You’re okay?”

“Your voice gave me an anchor to this world.”

Castiel looks mostly whole and healthy again, the gouges vanished from his chest, his ridiculous trench coat outfit once again in one piece, and Dean desperately wants to crawl up onto his knees and press his mouth against the curve of the angel’s lips, to explore the insides of his mouth with his tongue until Castiel can’t help but kiss him back.

“You’re staring, Dean.”

“Sorry, I just – you were pretty out of it.”

The fingers in his hair slide to press against the curve of Dean’s cheek, and the needy noise that falls from Dean’s lips is one that he will deny for the rest of his life. There’s a flush beginning to spread across Castiel’s cheek, a tension to the pressure of his fingertips against Dean’s skin, and Dean suddenly and desperately wants to take a chance and stop wasting what may be the last few months of their lives.

Dean?”

When did –” Dean has to stop and try again, his body heating up at the slow rise and fall of Castiel’s stomach next to Dean’s cheek. “What made you change your mind?”

The words about us go unspoken. Based on the way Castiel can’t seem to stop touching him, it’s obvious that something has finally torn down the angel’s reservations over whatever might be happening between them.

“Almost being ripped from this body seems to have impressed upon me the precariousness of our lives.”

“Cas –”

“I have existed for millennia without truly feeling the passage of time, and yet now, somehow, every day seems like something fragile and precious.”

There’s something almost sad and wistful there, but there’s a lightness to Castiel’s eyes as he continues to slide his fingers along Dean’s cheek, and Dean feels something inside himself finally break apart as he climbs up onto to his aching knees and leans down to press his lips against the chapped ones in front of him, hoping desperately that he’s not going to be pushed away.

There are a few moments of complete stillness, until –

Dean.”

Castiel sighs out his name like it’s a prayer, his body going slack against the pressure of Dean’s lips against his own, and Dean would be terrified of the reverence in his tone if not for the way Castiel is suddenly kissing him back, clumsy and inexperienced but so fucking earnest it makes Dean almost lose his mind with affection and need.

“Cas,” he manages to grit out, as Castiel’s warm fingers curl into the skin of arms, “You sure –”

“Yes, Dean – yes, I – I’ve made my decision – I –”

“Glad to see you got the party started without me.”

Dean and Castiel freeze as a third voice cuts into their conversation, and then Dean is pulling away from the temptation of Castiel’s lips to stare at the fallen angel, whose skin still seems to be painted an almost unnatural shade of white, even as the dim light of morning splashes him with lines of colour. His blue eyes are wider than normal, and there’s something guarded about the tight press of his lips, as he glances between Dean and his past self with an open expression of uncertainty.

“Well? Am I staying or going?”

Castiel’s fingers are still digging into Dean’s arms, and Dean brings his eyes back to the angel, knowing what he wants, knowing that choosing between the two of them could very well wreck everything they’ve managed to build between the three of them, but wanting to be sure that this version of Castiel is on board, that he’s not going to freak out over the thought of getting naked with his future self.

“You kissed him last night.”

“Uh.” Dean swallows hard, and makes himself continue to meet Castiel’s eyes. “You heard that, huh.”

Castiel stares at him for another long moment, and then a hint of a frown crosses his expression, before he drags his eyes to his future self. When he gently frees himself from Dean’s hold and climbs to his feet, looking whole and healthy and suddenly so damn righteous, leaving Dean to kneel on the floor and stare up at him, Dean is painfully reminded that this is an angel of the lord that he’s proposing a threesome to.

“Cas?” Dean barely gets the words out over his rapid heartbeat, wondering why he had ever thought this could be a good idea. “Look, I don’t expect you to –”

“If my future self is important to you, then that is enough for me.”

It takes about three seconds for the words to actually process, and then all the breath seems to leave Dean’s lungs in a relieved whoosh. He blinks stupidly at both versions of Castiel for a moment longer, until the fallen angel snakes out a hand to clench it into Dean’s, yanking Dean to his feet and simultaneously reaching out to curl his fingers into the material of Castiel’s trench coat.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

The angel doesn’t hesitate with his answer, and as Cas and Castiel take a moment to simply stare at each other, one a tower of righteous trench coat glory and the other a mess of stubble and Dean’s old clothing, Dean feels heat begin to spread across his aching skin, and he starts losing blood from his head so rapidly it almost makes him dizzy.

“Uh, guys?”

There’s another agonizing moment of silence, and then the fallen angel turns to shoot him a smirk that makes his knees do funny things beneath him. Dean barely has time to panic about what he’s getting into before Cas is crossing the room and heading for the stairs, shooting a parting remark over his shoulder as he goes.

“C’mon, then. We’re not doing this on Bobby’s living room floor.”

With that, Cas is gone up the stairs, and Dean and Castiel stare each other for a somewhat disbelieving moment, until Dean reaches out to tug on Castiel’s coat sleeve, and they hesitantly follow after the fallen angel.

- - -

“So, Dean? When was the last time you got naked with another guy?”

Dean swallows hard, watching as the human version of Castiel carelessly strips Dean’s old zeppelin t-shirt free of his body, tossing it to the floor with that dangerous smirk still playing around his lips. Dean isn’t exactly sure how they all ended up in Bobby’s guestroom, but as his eyes slide along the length of the fallen angel’s body, watching the muscles in that slim form shift as Cas bends down to strip off his socks, he finds that he doesn’t really care.

Dean.”

Dean only then realizes he hasn’t responded to the question, and when the fallen angel just smirks a little wider, Dean licks his suddenly dry lips and tries for words.

“Couple of years.”

“Bit out of practice, then.”

Dean bristles for a moment at the accusation, but before he can form a protest, Cas has slid a couple of steps forward to stand right in front of his angelic self, and the sight of the two of them all but breathing each other’s air is enough to cut off Dean’s complaints.

“And my past self is clueless. Guess I’m running this show.”

“Are you –”As Cas raises a hand to curl it around Castiel’s cheek, Dean has to stop and clear his throat before trying again. “Are you always this cocky?”

“You forget that I know exactly how to touch both of you.”

It’s something that Dean had indeed forgotten, and the wave of heat that sweeps across his body leaves him slightly dizzy. As he watches, Cas drags a gentle finger along the edge of Castiel’s upper lip, his eyes never once leaving Castiel’s wide-eyed stare, as though the fallen angel has momentarily chosen to ignore the fact that Dean is still in the room.

“You’re not yet kinky enough to want to fuck your future self, are you.”

Castiel swallows hard at the question, a slight stain spreading across his cheeks, and Cas smirks as he casually slides the tip of one long finger between Castiel’s lips, never once breaking their ridiculously intense eye contact.

“Better reaction than I’d hoped for. We’ll get ya there eventually. For now, let’s give Dean a bit of a show, shall we?”

Staring at his future self as though he’s only just seeing him for the first time, Castiel stays completely still as Cas leans in to press their lips together, his fingers sliding down from Castiel’s cheeks to curl into the sleeves of Castiel’s trench coat. Dean hears an odd noise slip from between his own lips, and all the air leaves the room as he watches Cas begin to take himself apart with a kiss that seems to know exactly how to melt the angel’s legs beneath him.

Dean only realizes his mouth is hanging open when Cas’ tongue slides out to play along the edges of Castiel’s lips, slipping inside with a confidence born of knowing how his partner likes to be kissed, and Dean hears himself make another ragged noise as Castiel suddenly presses forward a bit and digs his fingers into the skin of Cas’ arms, his nails probably leaving new scratches among the patchwork of track marks. If Cas minds the bite of pain, he certainly doesn’t seem to show it, as he simply tightens his hold on Castiel’s jacket and scrapes his teeth along the sensitive flesh of Castiel’s bottom lip.

Then, Cas steps back with a sharp exhale, his face flushed with more colour than Dean has ever seen on that pale skin, and Dean bites down on his own lip as Castiel stares wide-eyed at his future self, as though he’s suddenly found himself somewhere unexpected and doesn’t know what to do about it.

“You liked that, huh.”

Cas somehow doesn’t come off as nearly as confident as he probably would have liked, and when Castiel simply nods and continues to stare at him, Cas swallows hard and steps back out of Castiel’s grip.

“Good. That makes things easier. Now why don’t you two get naked so we can make use of this bed?”

Dean has a moment of realizing that he might be getting in over his head, and it doesn’t exactly help to calm his nerves when Cas returns to the bed and stretches out on his stomach, propping himself up on his elbows with that ever-present smirk, as though he’s going to just lie there and watch both of them shed the meagre protection that comes from their clothing, and that he’s going to love every second of it.

“Well?”

Cursing the heat he can feel spreading across his cheeks, Dean tears his eyes from the fallen angel and crosses the short distance between himself and Castiel, reaching out to hesitantly curl his hands against the curves of Castiel’s hips under all that trench coat, something in him completely unsurprised when Castiel doesn’t break eye contact for even a second.

“Cas,” he starts, one last chance, knowing that there’s no going back from this, “Are you positive that –”

“Please do not ask me again if I’m sure.”

There’s an odd catch to the angel’s voice, and Dean mutters a curse at the need he can see in those blue, wondering what he’s ever done to deserve something this good. Not wanting to follow that train of thought too far, he tells himself to man the fuck up as he leans in to scrape his teeth against the softness of Castiel’s lower lip, loving the way Castiel makes a hurt sound and goes instantly boneless, his body moulding against Dean’s own like there’s nowhere in the world he’d rather be.

Dean Dean, I –”

“I know. I gotcha, I promise –”

“Does it always feel like this?”

The question is so honestly sincere that Dean has to bury his grin in the safety of Castiel’s neck, unable to meet those wide blue eyes as he slides his lips across the expanse of warm skin, a tremor of true happiness skirting across his body for the first time in longer than he cares to think.

“Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

When Dean is sure that his grin has been wrested under control, he frees his lips from the curve of Castiel’s neck and pulls back to stare at flashing blue eyes and tinted skin, his entire body jolting with sudden arousal when a tongue slides out across Castiel’s chapped lips. Reaching out to slowly trace his fingers down the sides of Castiel’s body to his slim hips, Dean digs his fingers in to pull their bodies against each other, and the fact that Castiel lets himself be pulled is enough to send a streak of heat from Dean's head to toes.

Dean?”

Castiel already sounds a little winded, and Dean breathes through a wave of arousal as he leans forward to slide their mouths together again, loving the feel of tentative lips moving against his in response. It takes mere seconds for Castiel to begin trembling against him, pressing his body blindly forward as he rasps something into Dean’s mouth, and Dean pulls back to give him a second of relief, wondering how overwhelming this would have to be after having been alive for thousands of years.

“Cas,” he murmurs, not liking the unsteadiness of his voice, but aware that there is little he can do about it, “Do us all a favour and remember to breathe, alright?”

“I –” Castiel's voice is ragged, so much lower than normal. “I don't need to.”

Since the reminder that he’s defiling an angel is the very opposite of helpful, Dean chooses to simply grunt an affirmative, the sensation of the angel’s lips moving against his own enough to make his pulse kick it up another notch. Sliding a tongue along the damp seam of Castiel’s lips, Dean gentles the contact as he waits for Castiel to relax, keeping his touches carefully controlled as he holds out for the angel to melt against him again, not wanting to push him faster and further than he’s ready for.

When that moment finally comes, it’s with a low groan that sounds as though Castiel has been holding it back for far too long, and Dean suddenly finds warm fingers trailing across his body, sliding underneath the back of his t-shirt, clinging to the strip of skin above his ass.

“Cas,” he tries to murmur, but Castiel is busy mimicking Dean’s earlier movements, as quick a learner at this as he is at everything else, already running his teeth over Dean’s lower lip, and Dean lets out a shuddering breath as warm fingers slide up his sides to cradle his jaw. “Cas, come on – bed – you, clothes –”

A tongue drags across his lip, trailing wetly across the damp skin, and Dean is still shuddering when Castiel pulls free to stare at him. The angel’s skin is flushed, those already obscene lips further swollen, and his fingers are still resting against Dean’s heated cheeks, as Castiel simply stands and stares at him as though he’s suddenly found something wonderful.

“I –” Castiel’s voice is sandpaper rough, and he clears his throat, as though he hadn’t realized how wrecked he would sound. “I – whatever you wish – I do not know –”

“Losing a few more layers would be a nice start.”

Cas’ voices cuts in from his position on the bed, and when Castiel actually jumps, as though he’d forgotten that Dean wasn’t the only person in the room, Dean takes a moment to feel slightly smug over his seduction techniques. That smugness vanishes when Castiel steps back from him and begins to work on his clothing, his eyes never straying far from Dean’s as his fingers work on his tie, sliding it from around his neck and then shrugging out of his trench coat, carelessly letting all the material fall to the carpet beneath his feet.

“Better?”

There’s hesitation to the rough question, and Dean has a moment of realizing that Castiel’s voice alone could probably kill him before the night is over. All he can do is manage a nod, and then he’s watching as Castiel leans down to take off his socks and shoes, before he begins to work on the buttons of his white shirt, gradually revealing a new world of unblemished skin to explore.

When the shirt joins the messy pile on the floor, leaving the angel naked save for his suit pants, Dean takes a long moment to just stare, trying to figure out how anyone with his fucked up history could ever deserve to be the first person who gets to see Castiel like this. The thought is cut short when a warm body suddenly presses against his back, and Dean can’t help a slight flinch – he hadn’t even seen the fallen angel get off the bed.

“Your turn,” Cas whispers against his ear, a scratch of stubble against his neck, and then fingers are sliding along the front of his body, catching against all the places that make Dean feel like his legs are about to go out from under him. He barely processes how it happens, but his shirt is suddenly being tugged over his head and dropped to the floor, and then a hand is playing along the top edges of his jeans, sending waves of heat from his groin to the place where Cas’ lips are fastened to the side of his neck.

“Cas –”

“Mmm hmm?”

Dean loses what he was going to say when that clever hand slips into his jeans and curls around the hard press of his cock, cradling him just right through the damp material of his boxers. He hears himself rasp out a curse, his breath tightening in his lungs, and then one hand is pulling Dean’s pants down while the other continues to squeeze just right – all while Castiel continues to simply stand in front of them, his skin more flushed than Dean’s ever seen it, and his mouth hanging open just slightly.

“Enjoying the show?”

When the angel’s response is to simply keep staring, Cas grins against Dean’s neck as he slides his hand free of Dean’s boxers, clever fingers working on getting Dean completely out of his jeans, until he’s wearing nothing but boxers and boots, and his pants are pooled awkwardly around his feet. Already missing the touch of those fingers around his cock, Dean is about to start on his boots when he then finds himself being turned around, as strong hands curl around his hips and manoeuvre his body with almost ridiculous ease.

Dean would at least put up a token protest at the gentle manhandling, but – for the first time since Dean met Cas – those blue eyes are shining with something that doesn’t look like a world of pain, and the sight is so distracting that Dean almost misses the part where Cas presses their lips together and then slides effortlessly to his knees. Dean nearly chokes on his own tongue as Cas dips his head and begins to work on the laces of his boots, and then Dean reaches out to gently tug on that mess of hair, not liking such a submissive gesture from someone who Dean knows has been brought to his knees way too many times.

“Hey, don’t –”

“Relax, Dean.” Cas yanks one boot from Dean’s foot, and throws it carelessly across the room, looking up to shoot him another smirk. “Don’t tell me you’ve never wanted to see me on my knees.”

“I don’t need you to undo my damn boots for me. Future me might have been a dick, but –”

“None of this has anything to do with him.” There’s a flash to Cas’ eyes as he tears off the other boot and then Dean’s socks, chucking everything behind him before he slides back to his feet, pressing his lips hard against Dean’s and then pulling back to glare at him. “Don’t you bring him into this. This is about you, me, and that damn angel who’s standing behind you, shamelessly oogling your ass.”

Dean feels heat spread across his face, and the fallen angel’s eyes soften back to an expression of affection, as he raises a hand to curl it around the side of Dean’s cheek.

“Believe me. If you do anything I don’t want, you’ll know it. Now why don’t you get on that bed, so we can show your angel the time of his life?”

Dean waits for a moment longer, wanting to be absolutely sure of the sincerity in those blue eyes, and then he nods curtly and turns around to face Castiel, who’s been watching the exchange in silence. Before Dean can say anything, there’s a light shove against his back, and he looks over his shoulder to shoot Cas a glare before he slides onto the bed, conscious of two pairs of blue eyes raking across his almost naked body.

“I don’t think either of us approve of those boxers, Dean.”

Cas’ voice has slid back down to its earlier smoky register, and Dean bites down on his lip as he wiggles a little on the bed, sliding his boxers down his legs and then nudging them over the end of the bed, finally getting himself to the level of nakedness that Dean desperately wants for all of them.

“Well? This meet with your approval?”

He’s going for cocky, knowing that he’s got nothing to be ashamed of, but he can feel his confidence begin to waver as both versions of Castiel stare at him. There’s no doubt that they both want him for his body, but with the way that the angel doesn’t even try to hide the world of affection in his eyes, Dean is suddenly reminded that both of the beings standing in front of him have at one point touched his very soul.

“Uh, guys?”

There’s no response, and Dean realizes that he’s actually fucking blushing, even as all the blood in his system seems to race down to his cock, which is hardening further as the angel drags his eyes across every inch of him. Fighting the urge to shift in place, Dean stretches away from the bed to tug half-heartedly at the material of Castiel’s pants, his entire body beginning to heat under the scrutiny.

“What the hell, man. This isn’t fair.”

Castiel’s only response is to part his lips and continue to stare at him, that heated gaze still traveling across the expanse of newly bared skin, as though each bit of Dean’s body is something precious to be discovered. Dean is used to being looked at, sure, and he knows he’s a good looking guy, even when he has nothing else going for him – but the way Castiel is staring at him is different, almost reverent, and Dean suddenly can’t deal with being the focal point of such intense focus.

“Dude, make him stop that.”

There’s an unwanted rasp in his voice as he addresses Cas, but it’s obvious that he’s not gonna get much help there, as Cas simply smirks and crosses his arms across his bare chest, cocking a hip against the bedside dresser and shamelessly raking his eyes across the expanse of Dean’s body.

“No, I don’t think so. I’m quite enjoying the show, too.”

“Guys,” Dean hears himself plead somewhat helplessly, fighting the urge to somehow cover himself up, “Come on, this is ridiculous, would you just –”

And then, suddenly, the fallen angel is sliding onto the bed, naked save for that old pair of Dean’s jeans, bracing his body mere centimetres above Dean’s to keep the rough material from rubbing against the sensitive skin of Dean’s cock, and leaning down to rest his mouth against the curve of Dean’s lips.

Dean,” Cas mutters roughly, too low for even Castiel to hear, as he slowly and deliberately curls his hand over the mark on Dean’s shoulder, “You’re so fucking beautiful, inside and out, and you’ve never been able to see it.”

The words seem to slice right through Dean, and he squeezes his eyes shut, not wanting to have this conversation, something inside him starting to hurt as Cas’ cocky nonchalance momentarily falls apart around them both – but then Cas is pulling back to straddle Dean’s naked thighs, his heated gaze flicking down the length of Dean’s body as though he wants to crawl inside and make a home for himself.

“Come on, past me,” Cas mutters roughly, addressing his angelic self but never once taking his eyes from Dean. “Get your lovely ass naked, and then get the hell over here.”

Dean traitorous cock jumps at the command in those words, and then his mouth goes dry as Cas slides his tongue across the palm of his own hand, before reaching down to curl damp fingers around Dean’s cock. The burst of sensation shoots need to every inch of his skin, and he bites down on his lip as Cas begins a slow stroking motion that doesn’t even come close to the type of contact Dean needs, heat building low and insistent in his stomach as Cas watches the movement of his own hand.

“Cas –”

“Nu uh, Dean. Don’t pay attention to me. Your angel’s about to put on a little show for us.”

“Goddamn,” Dean mutters weakly, and then he turns to watch as Castiel hesitates for a long moment, his lips parted and his eyes fixed on the slow movement of Cas’ hand around Dean’s cock, before he carelessly slides his suit pants to the floor and pulls off his boxers with unselfconscious efficiency.

And wow, is Castiel beautiful.

Dean immediately hates his brain for even phrasing it like that, but with most of the neurons in his head short-circuiting as Cas adds a slight twist to the grip of his fingers, Dean thinks he can be forgiven for the momentary lapse of sanity. Castiel is all pale lines and lean muscle, his cock hard and pressed against the perfect skin of his stomach, and Dean has the distant thought that Jimmy Novak was one damn good looking guy, and that Castiel certainly lucked out in the vessel department, to have been gifted with this body –

But the heat in that bright blue gaze, the enticing flush to those miles of pale skin, and the way Castiel doesn’t for one moment look away from him – that’s not Jimmy. There’s nothing at all about Jimmy in the flash of Castiel’s eyes. This is all Castiel in front of him, as Heaven’s finest angel throws away millennia of rigid obedience to be here, in Dean’s life and now in his bed, looking at Dean as though every sacrifice he’s made has been worth it since they’ve gotten them to this moment.

“Damn,” Cas suddenly breathes, his fingers slowing around Dean’s cock as he rakes his eyes across Castiel’s body, “I am one good looking guy.”

“And your modesty is all part of your charm.”

Dean bites out the words between his teeth, wanting the fallen angel to keep up his earlier stroking movement, but Cas just grins down at Dean and slips to his feet, sliding his jeans down to his feet with a carelessly sinuous twist of his hips, and Dean swears he can almost feel the saliva pool in his mouth.

“You would go commando.”

Dean’s voice somehow doesn’t get quite the right amount of disdain it needs, and Cas licks his lips on a smirk as he turns away from Dean to face the angel, still shamelessly running his gaze along the length of Castiel’s naked body.

“Alright, past me. Get on that bed.”

“What about you?”

Castiel cocks his head slightly as he asks the question, the same way he always does when he perplexed by some odd human custom, and Dean has a moment of thinking that his life is quite surreal.

“This is your first time, Castiel – not mine. Stop thinking and let us take care of ya.”

Castiel’s tongue slides across his lips as he glances towards Dean for confirmation, and when Dean reaches out to tug on his hand, the angel hesitantly climbs onto the bed and kneels there in front of him, all perfect miles of flawless skin and endearing awkwardness. Dean barely has time to appreciate the image before Cas is crawling onto the bed behind Castiel, pressing their bodies together and dragging his lips along the side of Castiel’s neck.

With a needy noise, Castiel’s eyes slide shut as his head instinctively tilts to the side, and Dean concentrates on not coming on the spot as he watches the fallen angel drag his teeth against all the skin he can reach, one hand sneaking around the front of Castiel’s body to press hard against his stomach.

“You ever touch yourself before, Cas?”

Castiel shakes his head somewhat frantically, his eyes still squeezed shut, and Cas shoots Dean that smirk of his that seems to promise nothing but filthy things in the future.

“Well, Dean? Why don’t you do the honours?”

Dean is climbing to his knees before Cas has even finished speaking, and then Castiel is pressed snugly in between the two of them, Cas’ teeth on his neck and Dean’s mouth sliding against his lips, as Dean reaches down between them to lightly curl his hand around the angel’s cock. When Castiel bucks forward with an almost hurt sound, his hands scrabbling for purchase against the skin of Dean’s back, Dean barely manages to stop the groan he can feel building in the back of his throat.

“Alright, Cas?”

Castiel doesn’t answer with words. The press of his mouth is suddenly frantic, his hips pressing forward as though he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself, and Dean brings his hand back to his lips long enough to get it damp before he drops it again, curling his fingers around the angel’s cock with the kind of pressure that he himself likes best.

It seems to work. Castiel begins to mutter something that sounds like a repetition of Dean’s name, his fingernails digging crescents into Dean’s back as his damp lips go slack against Dean’s mouth, and the heat that shoots through Dean is part need, and part pride at being able to take apart someone who’s normally so utterly in control of himself. He keeps the pressure of his strokes slow and even, unsure of how fast and hard he should push this, and when he takes a moment to swipe his thumb along the sensitive skin beneath the head of Castiel’s cock, the angel actually cries out against his mouth.

Dean Dean, I –”

“Can you turn around, Cas?”

It seems to take the fallen angel’s voice a moment to register, and Castiel only opens his eyes when Dean stops the movement of his hand, causing the angel to buck forward against him.

Dean – why are you stopping –”

“Turn around, Cas.” This time it’s more of an order than a question, designed to cut through the fog of lust that seems to hang like a tangible haze around Castiel, and Cas follows up on the words with another bite against Castiel’s neck. “And Dean, sit back against the headboard, would ya?”

Biting down the desperate need to keep touching Castiel’s body, Dean leans back against the pillows at the head of the bed, breathing through his own arousal and trying to ignore the noise of unhappiness the falls from the angel’s lips. Castiel stares at him for a wild moment, as though unable to figure out why he’s suddenly been denied this new pleasure, and it’s only when Cas gives him a nudge that he hesitantly turns around, letting Dean pull him back against the hard press of his body.

Dean?”

Dean can’t find it in himself to answer as their bodies press together, too busy groaning and squeezing his eyes shut at the press of his chest to Castiel’s back, and the feeling of his cock sliding along the crease of Castiel’s ass, as he fights the urge to buck forward against that perfect heat and pressure.

“Relax, Cas. We’ll get ya there.”

Cas quirks another smirk as he takes a moment to stroke his fingers along his own cock, before he slides a bit closer and rests his hands on the inside of Castiel’s thighs, carelessly pushing them apart with the confidence of someone who knows he’s not going to get a single argument. As soon as Dean figures out what’s going on, it’s like someone has dumped kerosene into his veins and lit him up from the inside out.

“Ya don’t mind if I do the honours this time, do ya, Dean?”

Dean frantically shakes his head, bucking his hips up just long enough to slide his cock along the slick it’s creating in the crease of Castiel’s ass, and then Cas is pulling Castiel’s cock away from his stomach and leaning forward to rest his mouth just above the head of it, his eyes momentarily flicking up to Castiel’s face.

“If you need something to hold on to, I don’t mind having my hair pulled.”

“Jesus Christ,” Dean mutters weakly, and if Castiel had planned to offer any reprimands over the blasphemy, his voice seems to get stolen when Cas curls his long fingers around the base of his cock, giving it a couple of firm strokes before he slides his tongue all the way down, trailing it along the side and then curling underneath. It’s the worst possible kind of tease – light touches, when Castiel is probably desperate for something he doesn’t even understand yet – and Dean isn’t surprised when the angel’s hips buck forward helplessly.

“Easy,” Dean murmurs, trying to keep the eagerness out of his voice, as he slides one arm down to press it across Castiel’s hips, knowing that he can’t physically hold the angel still, but trying to show him that gagging his future self would not be proper blowjob etiquette. “Easy, we got ya.”

Dean –”

Whatever Castiel was going to say is cut off when Cas closes his lips around the angel’s cock, his cheeks hollowing with the kind of suction that makes Dean bite back a groan in sympathy, and Castiel’s head falls back weakly against Dean’s shoulder, his eyes squeezing shut and his hands scrabbling down their bodies to tangle in Cas’ messy hair. It’s easily one of the hottest moments of Dean’s entire life, and he bites down against the angel’s neck as he slides his fingers across Castiel’s chest, brushing the tips across nipples and sensitive skin as he never once takes his eyes from the sight of Cas’ lips stretched around the hardness of Castiel’s cock.

Then, Cas slowly pulls his damp mouth free, his swollen lips shining with saliva, as he dips his head to scrape his teeth along the inside of Castiel’s thigh, and the angel’s hips actually leave the bed, a ragged cry falling from his mouth.

Told ya,” Cas mutters smugly, and Dean flashes back to that day in the motel room, when Cas had informed him that he was fond of teeth on his thighs – and then Dean is brought back to the present when Castiel begins to gasp weakly and tug his fingers through Cas’ hair, his eyes fluttering open to stare blankly at the ceiling, as Cas slides his tongue back down the side of his cock.

“You can fuck my mouth, Cas. You don’t have to hold back.”

Dean is pretty sure that the rather unmanly noise that just filled the room came from him, and he can’t stop himself from shoving his cock forward against the slick mess he’s made of Castiel’s ass, rocking the angel’s hips forward into the fallen angel’s mouth. When Cas makes a noise of pleasure and swallows around Castiel, sliding his mouth all the way down his cock to press his nose into the nest of curls there, Dean isn’t sure if the loudest groan comes from Castiel or from his own lips.

Dean,” he starts to gasp, twisting helplessly in Dean’s grip, one hand yanking free of Cas’ hair to dig its nails into Dean’s thigh, even as he continues to press his hips forward into Cas’ mouth, “Dean, Dean, Dean –”

“I’ll try not to take that personally,” Cas mutters, pulling his mouth free, his lips swollen and soaked with saliva and precome, a mess that’s as beautiful as it is filthy. “Alright, Castiel, why don’t you –”

Cas is cut off as Castiel bites out a groan and pulls Cas up hard against his body, slamming their lips together with a wet sound that tightens the air in Dean’s chest. The suddenness of Castiel’s initiative is like a direct hit of liquid lust to his veins, and Dean rocks his cock against Castiel’s ass with a groan as he watches the fallen angel let out a squeak of surprise, floundering for a moment before he’s kissing Castiel back just as ferociously, curling his fingers into the angel’s messy hair and smearing the filthy dampness of his mouth all across Castiel’s cheeks and chin.

“Jesus Christ,” Cas rasps out, finally pulling away with a gasp, “Where the hell did that come from?”

Still pressed up against the angel’s back, Dean is unable to see Castiel’s expression, but if the bewilderment on the fallen angel’s face is anything to go by, Dean isn’t the only one who feels like the world just shifted on its axis. If he had known that getting Castiel naked would tear down some of his animosity towards Cas, then maybe they would have been doing this a lot sooner.

“I – I don’t know. It just seemed – right.”

“Right.”

Cas stares at himself for a moment longer, all blown blue eyes and a swollen mess of sticky lips, before he curls his fingers into the muscles of Castiel’s thighs and tugs, sliding back down the bed as he does so. Dean can feel the reluctance in the angel’s body as Cas peels him away from Dean, and when Castiel is kneeling on the side of the bed again, leaving nothing between Dean and Cas except for about a foot of empty space, Dean takes a moment to just rake his eyes over the marked up skin of the fallen angel’s body, something deep inside him starting to catch fire as Cas simply stares back at him.

Then, Cas slides in close and slowly manoeuvres Dean down onto his back, a smile curling across his face when Dean doesn’t resist the gentle manhandling. There’s something warm behind his eyes that Dean doesn’t think had been there when Cas had been focused on showing Castiel the good things about being in a human body, and when Cas deliberately lies down full-length against him, the slickness of his cock against Dean’s stomach a filthy drag of precome and promise, Dean can’t quite stop the shudder that vibrates across his skin.

“Cas, I –”

“I want to be inside you,” Cas whispers into his ear, leaning forward to drag his teeth against the sensitive skin. “I’d like to lay you out and fuck you until you can’t remember anything but my name.”

Dean closes his eyes, hating the twisted rush of need and vulnerability that accompanies those words, the images alone enough to make his cock jump against the hot skin of the fallen angel’s stomach. He’s slept with his share of guys, sure – but never with someone who knows him inside and out, and he has an odd feeling that Cas could probably take him apart in ways that Dean isn’t quite sure he could deal with.

“If you want me to, of course.”

There’s hesitation to his voice as Cas pulls back to meet his eyes, a flash of concern in those blue depths, and Dean sucks in a breath as he tries to bite down on his nerves, reminding himself of all the abuse he probably put Cas through in the future.

“Cas, I –”

“And don’t just do this for me.”

“How could you know –”

“I once cradled your soul against my grace, Dean. I know you better than anyone else on this planet. And I certainly don’t need to be an angel to read your mind.”

The reminder of exactly how far Castiel and Dean have come is a surreal conversation to have while Dean can feel the fallen angel’s cock pressed against his stomach, and he swallows hard as he suddenly realizes that he’s nodding his head, the tangle of need inside him blowing hot and hard in the pit of his stomach.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.” When Dean looks away at the flash of heat in Cas’ eyes, his gaze lands on where the angel is still kneeling on the side of the bed, watching the two of them with a pink flush to his cheeks. “What about Castiel?”

“Think you can hold out until he’s finished with you?”

All Dean can do is close his eyes and groan, and then Cas is kissing him to within an inch of his life, tangling his fingers into Dean’s short hair and sliding his tongue into his mouth in a way that feels like nothing less than being totally claimed. When Dean helplessly arches up into the contact, Cas deepens the press of his mouth for a few more seconds before he pulls away, sliding down the bed to lie between Dean’s legs, and grasping for something beside the bed. When he drags his jeans onto the bed, and pulls a packet of lube out of the back pocket, the only thing that keeps Dean from laughing is the wave of helpless lust that sweeps across his body.

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

He doesn’t get nearly enough of a snark into the sentence, and Cas just smirks up at him, tearing the packet open with his teeth and smearing some lube across his fingers.

“Kept hoping you’d change your mind about me. Figured it’d be best to be prepared.”

Dean closes his eyes on a disbelieving groan, and then bites down on his lip as he feels large hands spread his legs apart, sending a flash of vulnerability sweeping through him. There’s a sudden rustle of sheets as Castiel climbs onto the bed beside him, the heat of his body pressed up against Dean’s enough to make him fight the urge to squirm closer, and then there’s an angel kissing him with enough enthusiasm to more than make up for his lack of experience. Dean carefully concentrates on those sensations, basking in the feeling of Castiel’s tongue sliding against his own, and he raises his fingers to grip on tight to Castiel’s arms as Cas’ fingers slide from his thighs to the soft skin around his asshole, pressing just lightly against the tight muscle.

“Relax, Dean. I’ve done this with you many times before.”

And for all that Dean feels like he’s about to fly apart, for all that he doesn’t do this with people who will be there when he wakes up, people whom he cannot afford to be this vulnerable around – the reassurance turns out to be true, and Dean finds himself gasping for air into Castiel’s mouth as Cas spends a good ten minutes slowly taking him apart.

He strokes and twists with his fingers, rubbing over Dean’s prostate with unnerving accuracy, somehow knowing exactly when to press harder, when to back off and give Dean a chance to breathe, when to spread his fingers, and when to add more lube. By the time the empty lube packet lands next to his thigh, Dean is harder than he can remember being in a long time, and Castiel is holding him while his body shakes under all the sensations, while Cas stares up at him like he’s somehow managed to find Heaven again.

“Ready?”

Dean can barely manage a nod, and then Cas is reaching up to touch Castiel’s arm. The angel glances at Dean, his mouth parting on an unasked question, and when Dean nods again, Castiel presses a shaky kiss to Dean’s mouth before he slides down the bed and lets Cas nudge him into position between Dean’s thighs, lifting Dean’s legs to wrap them around Castiel’s waist.

“Hang on a sec.”

Cas pulls out another packet of lube, tears it open and then slowly slides his hand along the length of Castiel’s cock, smirking when the angel squeezes his eyes shut and bucks forward into the touch, his teeth caught on his bottom lip as Cas adds a slight twist to his grip.

“There. You’re good. Now go slow.”

The feel of blunt pressure against his entrance has Dean squeezing his eyes shut again, some part of him rebelling against how much he wants this, even from someone for who’s seen him at his worst time and time again, and still wants him anyway – but then Cas is lying beside him, his lips on Dean’s neck and his hand wrapped around Dean’s cock, and Dean hears himself gasp out a groan as Castiel slides forward with a moan so loud it seems to heat up the entire room.

“Damn,” Cas breathes in obvious appreciation, lifting his head to watch, but Dean can barely hear or see him, too busy trying to not arch into Castiel for more, his body already aching to take more of the angel’s cock than is probably wise. Castiel is shaking on top of him, actually shaking, his eyes blown wide and his mouth hanging open, and when Dean feels him pull back a bit before pushing forward again, it’s all he can do to grit his teeth and just hold on.

Finally, after a minute that feels like an eternity, Castiel is all the way inside, and he lies down across Dean’s body with something that sounds like a whimper, his hands scrabbling across Dean’s skin as though he doesn’t quite know what to hold on to. Dean can barely manage to suck in enough oxygen, as the reality of what they’re doing finally hits home, the pleasure-pain stretch of Castiel’s cock proof that the best damn angel in the history of the world is currently laying Dean out and making a place for himself inside Dean’s body.

Dean.”

It’s nothing more than a low mutter against his shoulder, and then Castiel is pulling back slightly, his head still buried into the safety of Dean’s shoulder, and Dean can feel his body lighting up from the inside out. There’s absolutely no way he could hide from this kind of sensation, and his skin catches fire as he rubs his cock against Castiel’s stomach, distantly remembering how good it felt the first time did this, and unable to imagine what it must be like after thousands of years of feeling nothing.

“It’s okay, Cas,” he manages to mutter, trying to think over the stretch of the angel’s cock inside him, as he raises his fingers to thread them through the angel’s sweaty hair, “You’re okay.”

Dean,” Castiel breathes again, and then he lifts his head, chokes out another groan as he curls his fingers into an almost painful grip around the mark on Dean’s shoulder, his eyes on fire with something that Dean has never seen before. “This is the closest I’ve felt to you since… since…”

Castiel trails off, perhaps not sure that he should finish that thought, but the mention of where they’ve come from – the fact that he literally owes his life to the creature who’s currently buried deep inside him – is somehow some kind of fucked up aphrodisiac, and Dean bucks up towards Castiel with a bitten off groan, heat streaking from the hand on his shoulder and all the way down to his groin.

“I hear ya, Cas. Now please, for the love of everything, fuck me.”

Castiel squeezes his eyes shut with another mutter of Dean’s name, his hips going on instinct as he begins to slowly rock their bodies together, keeping the movements much too calm and gentle, and Dean closes his own eyes as his ass begins to accept the pressure of Castiel’s cock inside him, opening up around the angel like his body never wants Castiel to leave again.

“Come on, Cas.” He can feel his face burning as he bites out the words, but the angel on top of him is barely moving, while Cas’ fingers are doing nothing more than drawing idle patterns against his stomach, and the not-enough sensations are like lighting a match up his spine. “You can go harder than that.”

And maybe, if this were anyone other than Dean’s personal angel of the lord, they would just take Dean at his word and go to town. Castiel, though – because he seems to be physically incapable of not bringing something sentimental into any equation – simply keeps the movements gentle and presses a hard kiss against the slackness of Dean’s mouth.

“I don’t want to hurt you. You’ve been hurt enough.”

The words twist inside him, and when Dean can’t figure out whether to laugh or cry, he settles for biting down hard against Castiel’s lip, loving the hitched gasp and knowing that there’s no way he could ever do any kind of permanent damage.

“Heart-to-heart later, Cas. Right now, I just need you to fuck me.”

His skin burns even hotter as he gets out the words, some mixture of shame and desperate need lighting him up from his chest to the ache of his cock, but it has the desired effect of getting Castiel to abandon that particular conversation, and when the angel nods and gradually begins to increase the strength of his movements, it’s one of the best things Dean has felt in years – possibly in his entire life. Castiel’s fingers and lips never cease their travel across Dean’s body as his cock scrapes across Dean’s prostate often enough to leave Dean groaning, and by the time Castiel is coming, shaking against Dean and pressing hard kisses against the skin of his neck, Dean is grinding his teeth together and biting down on Castiel’s mouth against his own, desperately trying to not follow the angel over the edge.

“Alright, sweetheart. My turn.”

His face tucked into the skin of Dean’s neck and his breath coming in ragged gasps, the angel barely seems to register the sound of Cas’ shaky voice. Loving the feel of a heavy body spread out on top of his, Dean mercilessly bites down on the urge to cling to Castiel with everything he has, curling his fingers into the blankets underneath his body as Cas leans across Dean’s body to brush a kiss against Castiel’s cheek, sliding his fingers across the sweaty skin of his shoulders. When the angel finally manages to raise his eyes, his cheeks flushed red and his lips bitten almost bloody, the two versions of Castiel stare at each other for a long moment, and Dean closes his eyes as he realizes that they’re having a bonding moment over how it feels to fuck Dean Winchester.

It’s embarrassing as all hell, but at the same time, Dean can’t but feel taken care of.

When Castiel’s cock finally slides free of his body, Dean can’t quite muffle a hiss, but even the slight bite of pain is almost welcome – proof that what just happened has actually happened, and that he’s going to be feel this for at least a couple of days. Thankfully, before Dean can analyse that particular desire too far, Cas is pulling a condom out of his jeans, sliding it on and smearing a mess of lube across his cock, and then he’s sliding in between Dean’s thighs, unceremoniously hauling his knees over his shoulders and leaving Dean biting down against a brand new surge of embarrassed need.

“Still good with this?”

The concern in Cas’ voice is enough to make Dean bite back any of his concerns, and his face must be saying what his words can’t, because something in Cas’ expression seems to crack as he leans down to kiss him, dragging their mouths together as he slides himself inside Dean’s already stretched hole, his cock sinking easily through the slick mess left behind by Castiel. The stretch leaves Dean squirming against the bed sheets, his own cock sliding messily against Cas’ stomach as the fallen angel slowly bottoms out, and when he feels Cas biting curses into his skin, it’s enough to make Dean rock up hard against the fallen angel.

“Come on, man. You keep going on about how well you know my body, so why don’t you –”

“No bravado, Dean. I’ve waited too long to have you like this again.”

The words alone are enough to twist something inside Dean’s chest, and then he loses all the breath in his lungs as Cas slides backwards and then pushes forward again, his cock scraping across Dean’s prostate on the very first try, sending a shower of fireworks and pleasure across Dean’s vision. Dean can’t quite muffle a cry, his body already sensitive from the mess Castiel had made of him, and though he’s dimly aware of the angel lying beside him, pressing kisses against the skin of his shoulder, all he can truly concentrate on is the feeling of Cas beginning to completely take him apart, as the fallen angel begins to rock into him with a rhythm that feels like it’s been pulled out of every fantasy Dean has ever had.

“You – shit, Dean – still alright?”

Dean would laugh if he wasn’t too busy moaning himself hoarse, and when lust sparks even higher in his veins at the audible tension in Cas’ voice, all he can do is slam their mouths together and give up on dignity, the heat inside him spiralling higher and higher with every move Cas makes. It doesn’t take long for them slide into just breathing into each other’s mouths, all finesse gone as the fallen angel begins to pant harshly and bite down against Dean’s lips, until Cas suddenly tightens his grip on Dean’s body and rasps out ragged words against his mouth.

“Never letting you go again. Dean, I – mine. Never letting you go – you’re mine, even if I have to share you, you’re still mine –”

Dean trips over the precipice into his orgasm with a hoarse shout, the sudden wave of pleasure sending a sheet of white noise across his vision, every inch of his body snapping with tension and unraveling with bliss at the same time, as Cas’ words resonate in his ears and his fingers never let up on their tight grip against Dean’s shoulder. He’s dimly aware of the fallen angel trembling against him, gasping for air and muttering Dean’s name over and over again as his orgasm leaves him shaking, and all Dean can do is to hold on and weakly bury his face into the safety of Cas’ neck, gasping for breath as he slowly begins to come back down.

There’s silence for a long moment, until Cas murmurs his name again and presses a shaky kiss against his slack mouth, slowly pulling out of his body and then lying down on the bed beside Dean, slinging a possessive arm across his chest without saying a single word. Dean swallows around the stupid swell of emotion in his throat, and then closes his eyes and reaches out to tug Castiel against his body, feeling safe and content for the first time in longer than he cares to imagine, with Cas curled up on one side of him, and Castiel on the other side.

- - -
The next morning finds Dean and Castiel sitting at the kitchen table, while Cas putters around wearing only jeans and an apron, apparently attempting to create a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon. Dean is unable to believe that this moment is actually part of his life, and his heart seems to be skipping a few critical beats here and there, as though it knows that this morning breakfast routine is almost too domestic for Dean to take, especially considering that the angel version of Castiel doesn’t even need to eat.

“Relax, Dean. The eggs aren’t gonna bite.”

Dean wants to scowl at the human version of Castiel, who’s momentarily stopped what he’s doing to shoot Dean a grin, but there seems to be something truly happy behind Cas’ eyes, and – for the first time that he can remember – Cas’ wide smile doesn’t look like a world of hurt and fake confidence, and it doesn’t make Dean feel like something’s breaking apart inside him.

“Yeah, whatever. Just don’t poison me with your attempt at coffee, alright?”

“No need for concern. You’re not getting away from me that easily.”

It’s truly the understatement of the century, and when Cas quirks another grin at him before turning back to the stove, Dean can’t help but smile back before he slides his eyes to the angel, who’s all perfectly done up in his tie and trench coat, sitting in silence with his long fingers curled up on the table in front of him. Immediately aware of the feeling of eyes on him, Castiel looks up to meet his gaze, and Dean’s questions and concerns die on the tip of his tongue. There’s no need for words to convey the happiness Dean can in Castiel’s expression, and when the angel’s lips turn up just slightly at the edges – a minute curve of contentment, followed by a splash of affection in his eyes, much like that horrible night when Castiel had rescued Dean from Zachariah’s clutches – Dean feels his own lips curve in return, and suddenly everything they’ve been through seems to have been worth it to get them to this point.

Thankfully, before his brain can get any sappier than it’s already become, the rumble of the Impala cuts through the easy silence that’s hanging over the kitchen, and the sound of Sammy’s loud voice drifts towards the house, mixed with Bobby hollering about going to check something in the shed. Dean gnaws on his lip for a moment before he glances between the two beings in front of him, and although the angel has the grace to look slightly embarrassed, the smirk that Cas shoots him is pretty close to wicked.

“Come on, Dean. You’re covered in hickeys and I’m making scrambled eggs. There’s no getting out of this one.”

Dean can actually feel the blood rush to his face, but before he can snark out a response, Sam comes stomping into the kitchen, and whatever his brother was about to say trails off into an odd gurgling sound as he takes in the scene in front of them. Dean has a moment of wanting to sink into the floor and die, because between Cas’ topless chef routine, the blush that’s colouring Castiel’s expression of contentment, and the bruises that he knows are decorating his own skin, Dean is pretty sure that all three of them couldn’t look more fucked-out if they tried.

“Uh, hi.”

Sam’s only response is to gape at him for a long moment, before his jaw snaps shut with an audible click and he turns to stare at Cas, who’s casually leaning against the counter wearing Bobby’s old ‘Kiss The Cook’ apron over his bare chest, sporting a filthy smirk that could make a pornstar blush.

“Hey there, Sam. Miss us?”

Sam gapes at them for a moment longer, before he makes that odd choking sound again and puts his hands over his eyes, as though trying to block out the entire world around him.

“Oh, god, do I even want to know.”

“Probably not. Though you might want to go warn Bobby. Not much seems to rattle him, but an unholy gay threesome taking place under his roof might be a bit much for the guy.”

Sam squeaks out a protest and covers his ears, muttering about scarring and too much information, and when Dean shoots Cas what he hopes is scathing glare, Cas just grins unrepentantly at him and flicks a piece of egg in his direction before turning back to the stove. Before Dean can start apologizing to Sam on behalf of all the broken boundaries in this kitchen, Sam hesitantly uncovers his ears and holds up a hand, still not managing to look at any of them.

“Look, alright. I’m happy for all of you. Really, I am. Just – no details, please?”

Before Dean can verbalize his whole-hearted agreement, Cas turns away from the stove with the skillet still in hand, casually moving around the eggs as he raises an eyebrow at the pan in front of him.

“No promises. But I bring food as a peace offering. Good enough for now?”

Still not quite managing to look anyone in the eye, Sam makes a sound that could maybe be considered long-suffering agreement, and then he sits himself down at the table, his expression similar to someone who’s just seen a kitten get stepped on. Dean can feel a reluctant grin start to sneak across his face, and as he glances around the tiny kitchen, taking in the sounds of Bobby hollering something from the front porch, the welcome sight of his little brother’s bitch face, the sounds of Cas cursing at something on the stove, the serene image of Castiel sitting calm and composed at the kitchen table, still wearing that tiny curve around the edges of his lips –

Well, they might not yet have a plan to kill the Devil, but for as long as the four other people in this building are still alive, Dean knows that he has every reason to never ever stop fighting to save this world.