Dean’s doing everything he can not to let his head fall into his hands. He’s got a headache; hell, he’s almost permanently got a headache these days, and the tacka tacka coming from Sam’s laptop isn’t making it any better.
The noise is coming from across the motel room, which is less dingy than the ones Dean had become used to before his trip to Purgatory, where Sam sits diagonal from Dean’s position against his headboard, at the small desk in front of the room’s large windows. It’s dark out, and the curtains are closed, shielding Sam from any prying eyes out in the parking lot.
He’s focused in his work; he’s meant to researching the life and times of the ghost they’re currently tracking down, but Dean thinks it’s more likely he’s searching for Kevin. They’d been closing in for a few weeks before the trail went cold again. Sam had been quiet for the whole day, his replies short and sharp. Dean had left him to it, knowing that bringing up why Sam was so frustrated wouldn’t lead to anything good. They’ve had that conversation of few times now, and it’s not getting any better.
Dean’s lost in thought, staring so hard at Sam that he’s surprised it isn’t burning a hole into his skin. Later, he guesses that was why he was taken by surprise, why it took longer for his mind to catch up than it should have. He’ll firmly refuse to admit, even to himself, it was because he’d told himself night after night that such an event was impossible; impossible and hopeless.
It’s Sam’s reaction that clues Dean in; Sam's eyes that look up from his work, a near impossible feat whenever Dean has something to say, and they immediately widen in shock. Dean turns, hands automatically going for Ruby’s knife hidden under his pillow before his mind plays back the information his other senses gave him.
The faint, soft rustling of wings.
Cas is standing by the motel room door, looking like he doesn’t know how he got there. He’s still covered in the grime of Purgatory, mud and blood staining his usually pristine trench coat, his face, and his hands. His hair and his beard are a little longer than Dean remembers them being, and Dean blankly wonders how much time passed for him down there.
“Oh my God, Cas.” It’s Sam who greats him, Sam who stands up and begins to walk towards Cas before he sees Cas shrink backwards towards the door, at which point his stops, hands moving abortively at his sides.
“We thought you were dead.” Sam shrugs in Dean’s direction as he talks and Cas’ eyes track the movement closely. Dean turns his head from Sam to find Cas’ eyes waiting for him; his expression flits between disbelieving and desperately hungry. Dean can’t look away.
Cas clears his throat, testing it out with a cough before he answers quietly, his eyes never leaving Dean.
“So did I.” There’s no hint of accusation in his tone, just firm belief. The words hit Dean like a punch to the chest all the same, and for a moment he forgets how to breathe. How could he anyway? It feels like that hand ripped out his lungs while it was having fun behind his rib cage.
Sam doesn’t say anything in reply. Dean doesn’t need to be able to look at him to know that Sam’s looking awkwardly between the two of them, trying to work out what happened, and whether he should stay or go.
The sheet underneath him feels course against his fingers, as Dean’s hands useless clench in them. He stays where he’s sat on the bed, his legs refusing to move; towards the angel, away from the angel; he doesn’t know which he wants to do. He knows he wants to scream. He can feel it bubbling up in his chest like the desperate, wild creature that he is.
Cas takes a half step forwards; it’s really more of a shuffle, the shifty movement of someone who’s used to being hunted, rather than the self-assured step of a righteous warrior. His open palms twitch at his sides, fingers curling up to his palms before dropping down again uncertainly.
“I made it out Dean. I made it out.” He sounds like he can barely believe it himself, like he’s saying the words to convince himself more than to convince Dean.
When Dean doesn’t respond, doesn’t do anything but continue to stare blankly back at Cas, Cas tries again. His swallow is loud in the silence that’s settled.
“Dean, I’m real. I’m real, and I’m really here.” His voice is imploring but Dean remains glued to the spot. He can hear the words, but their meaning is lost to him. Nothing about this makes any sense.
Cas’ face crumples in frustrated desperation, and his voice breaks when he quietly begs “Please.”
There’s movement from out of the corner of his eye, and Dean can just about make out Sam hurriedly grabbing his coat, quickly closing his laptop, and tucking it under his arm. He heads for door, throwing a “I’ll leave you guys alone for a bit. Call me in the morning.” over his shoulder to Dean, and a “It’s good to have you back Cas” to the angel as he brushes past him on his way out.
The door opens, the door shuts, and then only Dean and Cas remain. There seems to be miles of space separating them, miles and miles between where Cas stands and Dean sits, but somehow there’s also not enough room; Dean can feel the walls closing in on him and there’s a small voice trying to make itself heard through the blankness of his shock, telling him to run, to run and run and run until his legs give out and there’s nothing but grass and weeds and the cold night air to keep him company.
He doesn’t; he won’t. They’ve got to stop losing and finding each other like this. Dean’s more tired than he can say, and he needs his best friend. Slowly he stands, legs barely holding his weight.
It’s progress, and Cas’ face floods with relief even as he keeps up a steady streams of barely spoken pleas; Dean I got out. Dean, Please. Please, Dean Please. I’m right here and- I’m right here, just please.
Dean steps closer with each word, Cas’ anguish reeling him in by the tightness in his chest. Cas stays stuck to his spot, feet refusing to move an inch closer towards Dean even while his body openly yearns for him. He can barely seem to contain himself, everything about him is reaching out to Dean; his hands frantically shaking by his sides, the muted hope and relief in his eyes, the quietness of his breathy words. His knees shake, his shoulders quake, and he keeps shifting his weight between his feet in impatience.
But he doesn’t move forward, as if he knows it wouldn’t serve any purpose. Maybe he does. Cas has always had a way at seeing Dean clearer than Dean can see himself.
Finally, Dean comes to stand in front of Cas; toe to toe, barely an inch of space between their aligned chests and hips. The pleas stop, and the twitching dies down, even if it doesn’t disappear completely. Cas holds his breath, keeping his lips pressed firmly together as he tries to remain patient.
Dean tentatively reaches out, one lightly trembling hand coming to rest on Cas’ shoulder. It’s solid; warm and alive beneath his palm, and he exhales is a shaky rush as his fingers tighten in dirty fabric. His eyes dart away from Cas’, looking at the place where their bodies meet. It’s real, and Cas is real; Dean can felt the heat of him through his coat, can feel his muscle taught with stress.
Satisfied, he looks back up to Cas, and manages a weak smile. “You son of a bitch.”
His words come out choked at the end as his throat closes up, but it doesn’t matter. He pulls Cas into a hug, his arms coming up and around the angel’s shoulders. This time, unlike last time, the only time, Cas hugs back; his arms tighten, hands reaching up past Dean’s waist to clench at the bottom of his shoulder blades.
It keeps their bodies tight against each other, locked in like missing puzzle pieces. Cas nuzzles his face into the crook of Dean’s neck, and Dean lets out a shaky half sob as the gravity of the moment floods over him.
“It’s all right Dean. I made it out. We both made it out. It’s going to be all right.” It’s like Cas hears him, and Dean’s never been more grateful.
They hold each other for a moment more before Dean lets go, and damn he’s going to have to hand his man card over to Sam after this.
But apparently his body doesn’t give a shit about his man card, because one hand falls to Cas’ waist, keeping him close as his fingers trail over Cas’ cheek, through the rough hair that grows there.
“I can get rid of it now. I couldn’t- before, but I can now.” Cas’ voice is calm. He seems to have settled into some kind of stupor, maybe the same one as Dean. It’s a bone deep feeling of relief and shock, like it’s settled at Dean’s very core, seeping out through his bones and his blood, pervading every part of him, relieving all his tension in its wake.
Still, he shakes his head, just once, just slightly, and tells Cas no. “We should do this properly. Nothing like Purgatory to make you appreciate the healing powers of a hot shower.”
Cas nods, their faces so close that their noses brush past each other with the movement. Dean leans forwards, holds himself there for a deep, slow inhale, then steps back as he releases his breath. His hand twists in the fabric of Cas’ coat sleeve, and uses his grip to tug Cas gently forwards as he blindly steps his way back towards the adjoining bathroom.
With no resistance, Cas follows, footsteps landing in the places Dean’s feet were only seconds before.
The bathroom’s not meant for two, and Cas has to stand partially in the doorway as Dean undresses him. The trench goes first, pushed carefully off Cas’ drooping shoulders. Dean pulls the top of Cas’ hospital scrubs up and over his head, and it falls to land with Cas’ trench; it’s covered in so much filth it blends in with the dirty tan of Cas’ coat. If he hadn’t seen it when it was clean, Dean would never have guessed it was meant to be white.
Dean’s hands go for the elastic of Cas’ pants next, and he hesitates briefly, looking back up to Cas for permission. A small, tired smile turns up the corners of Cas’ lips, and his fingers reach out to un-do Dean’s belt buckle in return. They set to work in silence, and soon two pairs of pants hit the tiled floor. They toe their way out of their shoes, before lifting their feet out of their pants. Cas’ foot gets caught for a moment in his slacks, but he manages to keep his balance. Dean’s own t-shirt comes off quickly, and he drops it into the pile of clothes littering the floor.
They stand facing each other, naked but for their boxers and socks, and drink each other in.
Dean had been so sure Cas was dead, that he’d left Cas to a fate worse than death, but here he is. His skin, covered with swipes of dirt and blood, looks grey in the florescent light, but he looks solid; stable. He’s not a ghost, and he’s not going anywhere.
Dean closes the gap between them, and tugs Cas’ boxers down, never taking his eyes from Cas’ face. When Cas’ fingers gently flit over Dean’s hips to do the same, the muscles of Dean’s stomach jump under his skin. It’s quick, and then it’s over.
This might be the most intimate thing Dean’s ever done; standing in a cold, quiet motel bathroom, naked in front of the one person he could never hide anything from.
Cas’ fingertips still play against the skin of Dean’s hip.
Dean reaches out and takes one of Cas’ hands in his own, their fingers interlocking with ease. He uses the grip to pull Cas towards the shower, reaching down to awkwardly remove both their socks one handed, belatedly kicking their mixed pile of clothing into a corner of the bathroom.
The dial turns up easily, and cold jets of water hit Dean’s arm as it withdraws from the shower. He curses quietly, and waits the 30 seconds for the water to turn warm. When it reaches hot, but not scalding, Dean steps into bath and helps Cas in behind him.
He manoeuvres them so Cas is closest to the spray. Cas closes his eyes as the water hits his back, soothing the aches and pains in his shoulders.
Dean reaches out and grabs one of Sam’s bottles that line the rim of the bath, the one that claims to have extra moisture locked in. The cap flips open easily, and Dean pours some of the contents into his palm. It smells like lavender.
They stand face to face, and Dean takes his time as he gently washes Purgatory away.
He starts with Cas’ face, slowly working over his jaw, cheeks, forehead; dragging light swirls with the pads of his fingers to work the soap over the bridge of Cas’ nose, across his temples. Taking Cas’ chin between his thumb and forefinger, he tips Cas’ head back slightly, letting the water wash over his face, carrying the suds away. With barely there touches he wipes over Cas’ eyes, making sure all the soap’s out of harm’s way.
Bottle open, bottle shut, and then he’s working his way down the long column of Cas’ throat, fingers briefly sweeping over Cas’ pulse as they go. Next come Cas’ shoulders, already more lax than they were thanks to the heat of the water cascading other them. Cas lets out a small sigh when Dean rubs in the soap with firm pressure, using the heel of his palms to knead at the muscles scarcely hidden by skin.
His hands work at Cas’ biceps next, massaging down Cas’ arms until Dean reaches his hands. Dean takes them in his own as he tenderly washes away the blood, water turning red as it rushes past, carrying the taint down the drain. Cas’ fingernails are black with packed dirt and grime, so Dean takes his time, only stopping when Cas’ nails are white again. There are cuts and scratches forming criss-cross patterns all over Cas’ skin. Dean ensures his touch is light in the places where Cas’ flesh must be most tender.
When the water running off Cas’ hands becomes clear, Dean refills his palm with soap and works his way swiftly back up Cas’ arms, using the opportunity to swipe once over Cas’ pronounced clavicle. The bubbles and lather flow downwards, and Dean follows their movement. His hands run over Cas’ pecs, the small, hard bumps of Cas’ nipples the only things to stand out against the smooth planes of his chest.
Dean lets his thumbs circle over them on their way past, as his hands slowly slide down Cas’ body to rub wide circles across his abdomen. A finger quickly dips in and out of Cas’ belly button, and Dean gets a quiver in Cas’ stomach for his efforts. He trails his hands down and spreads them apart, fingers grabbing at the small amounts of flesh cushioning Cas’ sharp hipbones. Dean rubs the soap into Cas’ skin in sweeping circles up and down his sides, pushing up to massage the hollows of his arm pits, pushing back down past his tailored waist.
His hands move away to refill one palm with soap. The hot, wet air is thick with lavender smelling steam which works its way right into Dean’s pores. It’s relaxes his head and the movements of his hands, helps keep his breathing slow and rhythmic.
The puffy pads of his fingers touch the drenched skin of Cas’ navel once more, tentatively dragging their way down through soft, wet curls. One hand forms a lose fist at the base of Cas’ cock, giving two gentle strokes from root to tip before moving downwards to slowly roll Cas’ balls in his palm. A soft, short, low moan escapes Cas’ lips, and his head lolls forward bonelessly to rest against Dean’s shoulder.
Dean closes his eyes, leaning into the pressure of Cas’ cheek on his for a long, blissful moment. When he pulls back, he lets his nose drag across Cas’ cheekbone for the slow, quiet burn of their skin against each other.
Resting his hands either side of Cas’ hips, Dean sinks down to kneel before Cas, the plastic of the bathtub hard beneath his bones. Gently, he nudges the insides of Cas’ thighs, encouraging him to widen his stance while Dean turns to gather more soap in his hands.
When Cas’ feet are planted firm and as wide as the narrow tub will allow, Dean places his hands together at the top of one of Cas’ thighs, the heels of his palms touching. Leisurely, he pushes his way across Cas’ skin, hands firmly working their way from the front of Cas’ thighs to the backs until the heels of his palms touch again. The motion brings his face flush to Cas’ hip, and he rests his forehead there as he continues, letting the water flow off Cas’ body and over his head.
Dean’s hands massage their way from the top of Cas’ thigh, down over his boney knees, to finish at the bottom of Cas’ hard calves. When he’s sure no traces of brown and black are left on Cas’ skin, he shifts his weight, moving over to repeat the actions on his other leg. Thigh, knee, calf; the movement is methodical, soothing.
Taking one of Cas’ hands in his own, Dean guides it to rest on his shoulder. He can’t look up to see what with the still flowing water, but he knows that Cas is confused by the way his hand hovers on Dean’s skin uncertainly.
His grip becomes surer when Dean reaches back down to lift one of Cas’ feet slightly, cradling it is his palm as the fingers of his other hand carefully draws soapy circles over Cas’ ankles, his soles, the gaps in his toes.
There’s a small sob from above him, and Dean can see the muscles in Cas’ legs shake as he works. It doesn’t stop him, and he pays as much attention to the second foot as the first; he knows what this means to Cas, and it’s something he’s happy to give.
Dean finishes, and places Cas’ foot gently to rest back on the floor of the tub, stroking once over Cas’ ankle before coming to stand in front of him once more.
This close, Dean knows that not every drop of water on Cas’ face came from the hot, cleansing spray of the shower. Cas’ eyes are heavy and desperate; his mouth twitches but doesn’t open, like he knows Dean will rebuff any protests of his unworthiness, of how undeserving he is of Dean’s actions. Dean runs his thumb over Cas’ cheek, wiping the moisture away and Cas closes his eyes, leans into the touch and Dean knows it’s his way of saying thank you.
The words don’t belong here, not for this, so Dean coaxes Cas’ eyes open with a rub at the bolt of Cas’ jaw. As he looks into Cas’ eyes, Dean hopes that Cas can read him just as well as he ever could. It seems to work; Cas nods his head once, and a small smile plays at the corners of his lips and the crinkle of his eyes.
Dean returns the bittersweet smile, giving one last stroke to Cas’ jaw before he uses his hands to apply gentle pressure to Cas’ shoulders. It turns the angel into the spray, and Dean slides them both back just enough that the water isn’t shot directly into Cas’ eyes.
Gathering more soap is his hands, Dean starts with Cas’ shoulders again, rubbing down and out over the blades, applying extra pressure to the places he imagines Cas’ wings would sprout from. Cas’ muscles shift, tense, and release under the pressure of Dean’s touch, which slowly meanders down the back of Cas’ ribs to the tail of his spine.
After erasing the tension there, Dean runs his hands over the flesh of Cas’ ass; the touch is almost clinical in nature as Dean ignores the growing pool of heat low in his stomach. Still, he earns a small gasp when he quickly dips his fingers inside the crack between Cas’ cheeks, slick pad of one finger ghosting round Cas’ rim for a second.
The finger continues its journey upwards, running the full length of Cas’ spine, and coming to rest at the knob of Cas’ neck. Dean taps the skin there lightly before he reaches for another bottle, one labelled shampoo, and squirts some into hands. It smells of citrus; the refreshing scent seems out of place in the lavender haze they’ve created, but it’s good all the same.
Putting the bottle back down, Dean shares the liquid between his hands and brings them to massage the sweet smelling substance into Cas’ too-long hair. Cas’ head falls back, and Dean moves forward to support it with his shoulder as he works, taking the time to rub light, soothing circles into Cas’ scalp.
When he’s sure the lather will be enough to wash all the grease and dirt away, Dean gently pushes at Cas’ shoulders and this time Cas turns round without further prompting. His eyes are closed, dark lashes fanned out against his lightly tanned skin.
Using the hand still in Cas’ hair, Dean tilts Cas’ head back into the path of the shower’s still warm spray, letting it remove all traces of the soapy residue. He covers Cas’ closed eyes with his other palm, keeping them clear from the soap and water, and soon all the bubbles are all gone.
Satisfied that Cas is as clean as he can possible be, Dean pulls Cas forwards, pressing their chest tight together as his hands drop down to wrap around Cas’ waist. He hooks his chin over Cas’ shoulder and turns to press his nose to Cas’ fresh hair, breathing in the thick scent of lemons and oranges.
They stay like that, for how long Dean doesn’t know; long enough that their chests begin to rise and fall in sync.
He’s tired. They’re both tired; Cas is leaning heavily on Dean’s arms, and Dean suspects it’s out of need as much as it is desire for closeness. He manages to disentangle himself from Cas’ embrace, Cas’ letting go with some sleepy reluctance. Dean leans forward to press his words into the skin just below Cas’ ear.
“Stay here for a second. I’ll be right back.”
He slots his hand into Cas’, and gives a quick squeeze before he turn to clamber out of the bathtub, trying to have as little contact with the cool shower curtain as he can.
Dean pads the few steps to the other side of the bathroom where their clothes lie in a heap. He quickly scoops them up, carrying them under his arm and into the motel room where they’re unceremoniously dumped in the chair Sam vacated.
He dries himself with swift, functional swipes of a cheap motel towel. Hurriedly, he throws on a clean pair of boxers and a cotton t-shirt before picking up another set along with a clean towel to take back to Cas.
When he returns to the bathroom, the shower’s still running, and the air is still hot and damp. The smell of lavender lingers in the air, and Dean inhales deeply as he puts the clothes and towel into the sink.
Cas makes no move to get out of the shower, even though he must have heard Dean come back. Dean gives him a second, before sticking his head round the shower curtain, mouth already open to ask what’s the hold up?
His mouth closely quietly when his eyes land on Cas’ shivering form. The calm from before has gone; he’s losing himself in shock running through his veins. Dean knows how it feels; even now, weeks after he made it back Purgatory, he still finds himself being taken aback by the smallest of things. Part of his mind still hasn’t caught up to the fact that he’s safe; is convinced that this is a dream and he’s going to open his eyes to see Benny standing guard over him.
He pulls his head back, and walks the few steps to the opposite end of the shower. Careful so as not to touch Cas, Dean reaches into the shower and turn the dial back to the off position, the flow of water reducing to a trickle in seconds. When the water stops, he pulls back to curtain, relieving Cas in his entirety.
Dean coaxes him out of the tub with light, reassuring touches, running the clean towel over Cas’ back and shoulders before wrapping it round his hips, fiddling with it to tie the cotton into a knot. Cas stands there passively throughout, but his shivers die down to tremors which Dean counts of progress.
Picking the t-shirt up out of the sink, Dean carefully guides it over Cas’ head and is encouraged when Cas voluntarily slots his own hands inside the arm holes. Dean tugs the material down, until it settles flat against Cas’ stomach. His hands move the small distance to the knot of Cas’ towel, undoing it quickly. Dean hands the towel to Cas, signalling for Cas to swap it for the boxers in the sink.
Cas does; puts the towel in the sink and the boxers in Dean’s hand, all with unsteady fingers. Dean closes his hand around Cas’ for a moment, before easing the boxers out of Cas’ fingers and dropping to his knees in the front of the angel. He taps at Cas’ foot, getting Cas to raise it so he can slot one leg in the relevant hole. Cas puts his foot down and raises the other, allowing Dean to slide the boxers on, pulling at the material until they lie flush against Cas’ hips.
As he stands, Dean motions for Cas to sit on the closed toilet seat before he darts back into the motel room, grabbing some shaving cream and a razor from the backpack at the bottom of his bed. He returns to the bathroom to find Cas waiting for him, looking a bit more steady than he did before.
Dean smiles in a way he hopes is encouraging, and sets the items in his hand next to the sink. He lifts the towel out of the basin, using it to gently dry the worst of the moisture in Cas’ hair, making sure to catch the droplets which have run down Cas’ neck before he haphazardly throws the towel to the floor.
Turning his attention back to the sink, Dean puts a plug in the drain, and turns the taps. He’s pleased when it puts up no resistance, and warm water flows quickly.
When the basin’s full enough, he twists the taps the other way, shutting off the flow and plunging the bathroom into silence. It should be awkward, but somehow it’s not; not like that anyway.
They’ve both got things they need to say, things they thought they’d never have the chance to say, but by some mutual, unspoken agreement, they seem to have come to the decision to let it wait for now. Apologies and questions weigh heavily on the tip of Dean’s tongue, but he presses his lips together, keeping them firmly trapped inside.
Dean turns his attention back to Cas, squirting some of the shaving cream onto his fingers before dragging them over Cas’ jaw, his chin, and his upper lip. Taking the razor in one hand, he tilts Cas’ head how he needs it with the other, using light touches to move Cas’ face into the right positions.
He doesn’t rush; he takes his time, slow drag after slow drag of the razor through coarse, dark hair. There’s the tap tap of the razor against the sink after every stroke, and Dean swills the hair and foam away when it gets too much. The clean skin of Cas’ face is revealed, one strip at a time.
The occasional tear slips from under Cas’ closed eyes, washing some of the foam away in its small, single minded path. Dean catches as many as he can with his thumb, and spreads more foam over the gaps left behind from the ones he can’t.
It doesn’t feel like it’s long before Dean finishes, his eyes tracking the nervous clutching of Cas’ hands in his lap as Dean turns to lay down his razor, pulling the plug from the sink as he does. The dirty water drains away, and when it’s gone Dean turns the taps on again. This time he damps a fresh cloth, and uses it to wipe away the excess foam left on Cas’ face.
After tossing the used cloth back in the sink, Dean strokes along the smooth length of Cas’ jaw. It makes Cas open his eyes, and Dean smiles down at him, even in the face of his sadness. He releases Cas’ jaw, takes his hand instead, and leads him back into the bedroom, flicking off the light switch on the way.
The bed’s a double, just big enough to fit them both. Dean throws back the covers and climbs in, taking a second to settle comfortably on his side. When he finds an agreeable position, he reaches his hand back out to Cas, encouraging him to climb in alongside Dean.
Cas takes the offered hand, and Dean uses it to pull Cas to him; close, close, closer, until Cas is flush against him; chest to chest, knees knocking together, legs entwined, ankles touching. Their arms wrap around each other, and their faces lie close together. Their breath plays hot and wet in the scant space between their faces.
There’s a silent minute where they fidget together, finding a way to make the small space work comfortably for them.
And then the shaking starts.
It begins in Cas’ shoulders, but it’s not long before it travels down his spine, through to his legs, runs the length of his arms, and flows into Dean, not stopping until he’s just as much a wreck as Cas.
The emotions and the adrenaline all come crashing down, and all Dean can do is clutch Cas tight to him, finger nails digging into Cas’ flesh as he whispers shh, shh, it’s okay, we’re okay desperately into his ear.
It goes on, and on, and on, but eventually it ends. Both their faces are wet, and their limbs still tremble against each other, but the worst part is over, and Dean lets out a shuddering breath against Cas’ chest.
It’s Cas who speaks first, breaking their self-imposed silence.
“I’m out. I got out.” His tone is disbelieving, and his voice is still so shaky that it cracks on every other word.
Dean pulls himself back enough that Cas’ faces is no longer a blur in front of his bleary eyes. He tries to smile as he says “Yeah you did. We both did.” but it’s weak, like his face is refusing to accept the joy of their reunion when the pain of their separation is still so close.
There’s a wet sniffle from Cas’ side of the bed, and Dean does smile then; small, sad, but genuine. The idea of an angel of the Lord having the sniffles is always going to be slightly amusing he guesses, or maybe it’s just the only way he can react in the face of Cas’ vulnerability; an angel of the Lord was never meant to be vulnerable, wasn’t even meant to have the parts to know how vulnerability felt.
“Once you left, I thought it was over. I was sure I’d die there.” Cas says the words like he’s ashamed; ashamed of fearing death at the hands of monsters with a personal vendetta.
“You didn’t.” It’s simple, but it’s true. It’s the best answer Dean can give; a reminder; a point of focus.
Cas seems to get it, corners of his mouth managing to turn upwards for a quick second. “No, I didn’t. I was there, and then I was here.” The crease on his forehead tells Dean that Cas has no more clue about how he got out than Dean does.
Taking one of his arms from Cas’ back, Dean strokes the frown away with soft fingers.
“With me.” Another reminder; another focus.
Cas does smile then, even chuckles breathlessly for a second. “With you.”
There’s a beat before Dean speaks again, so quiet and gruff that he suspects Cas has to use his mojo to make out the words.
“Will you stay?”
There’s no hesitation, and Dean eyes snap back up to Cas’ face, searching for the truth in the statement. It’s there, the devotion written clearly across Cas’ features.
“Will you let me?” Cas asks; like he doesn’t know, like he half expects Dean to turn round and tell him to fly away after all this.
His reply is just as immediate as Cas’. “Yes.”
Another beat. Another deep breath.
“Sam’s going to leave. He wants out of the life.” It hurts to say that out loud, and he barely keeps the unspoken me off the end of his first, choked out sentence.
Cas nods in understanding, his head brushing against the pillow as he does. “He’s earned that much.”
“Haven’t I?” Dean bites his lip as if it’s enough to take the words back inside his mouth.
If Cas thinks the words as childish or selfish, he gives no indication.
“Yes.” He replies. “No one’s going to make you hunt if you don’t want to.”
Dean shakes his head slightly, and his voice grows stronger with conviction. “I do want to.” Another pause; another hard confession. “I just don't want to do it without him. I spent that year focussing on getting the two of us back to him. Now he doesn’t want me.”
To hunt; he meant to say ‘he doesn’t want to hunt’, or something like that; anything but ‘he doesn’t want me’. It doesn’t stop the feeling being true though, even if those weren’t the words he meant to say.
Cas’ eyes have dried now, and that crinkle in his brow is back. He’s focussed and sincere when he tells Dean “He wants you.”
Dean rolls his eyes. “No, he wants a normal life.”
“That doesn’t mean he doesn’t want you.” Cas’ tone is reasoning, but open; he doesn’t force his opinion on Dean, doesn’t belittle Dean’s feelings.
It gives Dean the room to grumble “He’s making it sound that way.” His eyes have fallen to Cas’ chest again, the conversation all too intimate for Dean to be truly comfortable with staring into the angel’s eyes.
A hand reaches out to take his chin between its fingers, but the comforting stroke of skin on stubble is all it offers; it’s not a signal for attention, and Dean’s exceptionally grateful.
“I sincerely doubt Sam wants to leave you. It sounds like he just wants a chance at the life which has always been denied to him. I’m sure he can have a life away from hunting and still see you; they’re not mutually exclusive concepts.”
Dean lets the words sink in for a minute, and Cas doesn’t push for a response. They lie there, close and warm in the silence, and the minutes drag by.
When Dean finally works up the courage to speak again, he has to clear the lump in his throat first.
“If I let him go, I don’t think he’ll come back.”
His arms start shaking again, and Cas quickly takes both of Dean’s hands in his one of his own, clamping down on the shivers running through them.
He sounds like he’s smiling when he replies. “There’s a relevant human saying, I believe.”
Pulling his eyes back up, Dean sees Cas’ smile for himself. It warms him as Cas continues. “If you love something, let it go; if it comes back to you, it’s yours.”
It’s Dean’s turn to sniffle, tears threatening to fall as his mouth tries and fails to force itself up into a smile at Cas’ words. His eyes roll up to look past Cas’ head to the ceiling, and his hands continue to shake inside the comforting hold of Cas’ own.
“You can’t stop him from leaving Dean, so don’t try and stop him. Let him go; put your faith in him, and he will come back to you. Maybe not right away, and maybe not back to the life, but he will come back to you. He loves you Dean; being separated for a year hasn’t changed that.”
He’s right; somewhere, a logical part of Dean’s brain knows that Cas is right, but fear has a habit of wiping rationality away, leaving nothing but doubt in its wake.
Meeting Cas’ eyes again is hard, but Dean needs to; needs to see Cas when he says this, because this is a question, and this could change everything.
“I don’t want to be alone. I don’t think I can do this alone.”
Cas’ fingers stroke along Dean’s jaw, and Dean leans in to the warm touch of Cas’ palm at his cheek.
“You won’t be alone if you don’t want to be.”
Cas say the words slowly, letting them carry the weight he knows they deserve. He knows what he’s just signed up to, and he means it; Dean knows he means it, but there’s a niggle at the back of his mind.
“You can’t promise that.” Cas has already died on Dean, what? Three? Four times now?
And calmly Cas admits; “No. No I can’t.”
But he would if he could, that much is clear. Cas will always stick around if he can, he’ll always try and find his way back to Dean; it’s written all over his face, and hell, Cas has proved it more than once.
“Okay.” Dean says the word, and, for once, he means it. He manages a smile for Cas then, a real smile, and his quiet joy is returned for a moment before Cas’ expression softens.
“I thought I’d never see you again.” His fingers still trail along Dean’s jaw, his eyes tracking the movement; soaking it in like he’ll never get another opportunity to see it.
Dean places his palm over Cas’ hand, making it still on his cheek. “You have.” You will is left unsaid, but he smiles and he thinks Cas gets it. The angel looks content for a moment before a small strain of fear crosses his face.
“I felt regret.” His voice is weak, like the memory of his fear is terrifying in itself, and Dean supposes it probably is.
He knows what it’s like to fear that he could never fix this. “Me too.”
Silence falls again, as they take the time for small touches and memorising each individual line, freckle, and mole on the other’s face. Dean doesn’t know when they’ll get a quiet moment like this again, and for now he’s glad of the chance to just be like this.
Tears well in Dean’s eyes as his thumb sweep over the dark bags under Cas’ eyelids. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be.” is Cas’ gentle reply.
“But I am.” He needs Cas to know; Dean’s not even sure he’s ever said sorry to Cas, not sure if he’s ever thanked him for all the things he’s done.
Cas shakes his head. “There’s nothing to forgive.”
His tone is sincere, and Dean chokes out a small sob because that simply isn’t fair.
“There’s a lot to forgive.” He eyes are still on Cas’ and he silently begs the angel; for what he doesn’t know.
A small smile blooms on Cas’ face as he gently mummers “Then I forgive you.”
Dean closes his eyes, and the pressure causes the tears to flow freely down his face. He doesn’t deserve this, doesn’t deserve Cas’ continued forgiveness, but he can’t help but feel lighter for it anyway. He asks his next question with fond exasperation. “Will you always?”
Cas takes a moment to pretend to think about it, rolling his eyes off to the side in a startling human way. When he returns his focus to Dean, a full smile is on his face, and his words are playful.
“I think so.”
The smile from Dean’s face slowly falls away.
“I might not.”
It’s a shaky confession, but it’s true.
This time, Cas does use a small amount of pressure with his palm to coax Dean into looking him in the eyes.
“I know.” He says it like it doesn’t matter, like it’s what he expects, and what he deserves.
It’s not. He deserves more than Dean and his issues; he’s an angel of the Lord for Christ’s sake. He deserves a hell of a lot more than Dean can offer.
The tears are back, and they clog Dean’s voice as his splutters I’m sorry once again.
All Cas does is smile, cradling Dean’s face in his hand as he repeats; I forgive you.
Dean hears a different three words, sees them reflected in the angels eyes, and it makes it easy to shut his own as he closes the small distance between their mouths. He finds Cas’ lips with his, and presses a hard, shaky kiss there.
When they pull apart, they don’t move far. Their foreheads are still close together, their noses still touching, when Cas whispers I forgive you against Dean’s wet lips.
Dean pulls Cas flush to him, crushes their bodies together until there’s not a millimetre of space between them; cheek to cheek, chest to chest, hip to hip. His nose is wet with tears as it rubs against the skin in front of Cas’ ear. It’s there that he breathes his final confession.
“I forgive you too.”