When the dust settles, it's just the three of them. Somehow, it's always just the three of them.
They're standing in a cemetery in southern Nebraska. The sun is rising, bruising the sky a dark, angry purple. Amara is gone. God and Lucifer are gone. Sweat and dirt are itching at Dean's hands and face and neck. He has blood in his mouth. He must've bit his lip at some point; he doesn't remember getting hit.
Cas sways on his feet. Dean grabs his waist and says, "Hey. Hey, you all right?"
"Yes. I -- yes."
"Is he --?" Lucifer had seethed out of Cas' throat in a blinding, furious rush, and God had hurled him back downstairs with a bolt of something that screamed down from the sky like lightning. The earth had burned and shook as it cracked open. Dean can still taste the sulfur and ash. Still, he asks, "Is he gone?"
Cas nods weakly. He sways again, leaning into Dean's shoulder. Dean wraps both arms around him to steady him. He doesn't mean to slide a hand into Cas' hair, but once it's there he can't make himself move it. He shuffles back a couple of steps, stopping when his hip bumps the Impala. He pulls Cas closer. Breathes Cas in.
"I'm sorry," Cas whispers, his face tucked against Dean's throat. His voice catches. It's a wet sound; Dean realizes with horror that he's crying. He says, "I'm sorry," again. His shoulders shake. He grabs the front of Dean's shirt with both hands. "Lucifer said he could kill her. I just -- I wanted to help. I wanted --"
"It's all right," Dean says. He pulls Cas even closer. Lets his thumb slip into the dip behind Cas' ear. "I ain't mad." He could be. And maybe he should be; having Lucifer free only made a bad mess worse. But he's in no place to cast stones. Not after taking the Mark. Not after unleashing Amara in the first place. All he cares about is Cas.
God had been worried that Cas might not make it. That Lucifer had been in him long enough to put down roots that would rip Cas to shreds when they got yanked out. That what was left behind would be too fucked for God to really put right. But Cas is alive. He's alive and breathing against Dean's neck. He smells like sweat and graveyard dirt. Dean doesn't give a shit about anything else.
The Impala dips as Sam closes the trunk. Gravel crunches under his boots. When Dean looks over, he holds up their jug of holy oil and says, "I'm going back into town. Just in case Amara left some Rabids behind."
"Okay, yeah." Dean clears his throat. "How's your hand?"
Sam hefts his left arm. He'd landed on it when Amara tossed him into a headstone; his wrist is swollen enough to be broken. "I'll stop by urgent care." He pauses. Behind him, the horizon is livid, burning a bright reddish-pink. "I'll probably be awhile. You should head back."
He turns and walks toward the road. Dean briefly considers getting a motel -- he's too tired for a three-hour drive, and it would save Sam from having to steal a car -- but the idea leaves him uncomfortable and cold. He wants to put some space between himself and last night's shitshow.
Amara had been desperate at the end. She'd threatened to kill Sam and make Dean watch. To junk her vessel and hop into Cas so Dean could never have him back. Then she'd conjured up a vision of his mom -- a stiff, frozen, narrow-eyed copy that smiled like a knife and called him a failure. A disappointment. An embarrassment. You ruin everything you touch.
Cas makes the decision for him; he looks up and says, "Dean, I want to go home."
"Yeah. Yeah, I'll take you home." Dean eases back. He shouldn't be touching so much. "Get in the car. I -- I'm gonna grab you a blanket."
All he finds in the trunk is a saddle blanket. It's scratchy as hell, and it smells like gun oil and old wool, but Dean figures it's better than nothing. It'll keep Cas from shivering. He shakes it out and walks around to the front of the car. Cas is sitting shotgun. His shirt and coat are stiff with spots of dried blood.
Dean looks at him through the half-open window. "Don't you wanna lie down?"
"No," Cas says, shaking his head. "This is fine." He curls in on himself a little.
He doesn't want to be alone. Something sour and thick crawls up and clutches at Dean's throat. He mumbles, "Okay," and passes Cas the blanket.
Quietly, Cas says, "Thank you."
Dean stops for gas at the Fuel & Go on the edge of town. The sun hasn't quite hit the horizon yet; the sky is just dark enough that the light glaring out of the store stings Dean's eyes. He pays at the pump. He faces the street while he waits, blinking tiredly at the stuff guarding the sidewalk -- a mailbox, a newspaper stand, a bus bench, a municipal trashcan that needs to be emptied. He yawns into the back of his hand.
The Impala dips and creaks when he climbs back inside. Cas has the saddle blanket pulled up to his chin. His eyes are half-open, but his head is lolling against the seat. He has a long streak of dirt on his cheek.
"You need anything before we hit the road?" Dean asks.
Cas frowns. "I just need rest. Maybe some food. My grace --" he shifts under the blanket "-- it's too weak to sustain my body alone."
"Okay." Dean expected Cas to say his grace was gone; God hadn't been to sure how that would pan out. He points at the store. "You want something now?"
"Later. I -- I don't want to be here. I can still sense him." Cas shifts again. "I can still sense her."
A chill sweeps up the back of Dean's neck; he rubs at it and mumbles, "Yeah." He can't feel Amara at all. He's glad she's gone, but he -- he doesn't know. He spent a year with her curled up in the back of his mind, with her voice just barely buzzing in his ears. Having that yanked away all at once has him feeling weirdly empty, like he doesn't fit inside his skin.
He swings out of the Fuel & Go and turns onto the highway. It's still early enough that traffic is light. He eases into the hammer lane and leans on the gas. The sky is a fiery glow in the rearview mirror.
About a mile out of town, Cas slides across the seat and puts his head on Dean's shoulder. He still smells like graveyard dirt and sweat. The saddle blanket rasps against Dean's arm.
"You, um." Dean clears his throat. "You cold?"
"You want the heater on?"
"No." Cas' breath puffs through Dean's shirt. "If -- is this okay?"
Dean nods. "Yeah. Of course."
US 30 is pretty much a straight shot between Fremont and Grand Island -- straight enough that he only needs one hand to drive. He wraps his arm around Cas' shoulder and tucks Cas close against his side.
Cas knocks out a few miles past Columbus. He's burrowed into Dean's side, close enough that his hair tickles Dean's jaw and chin. His soft snores hum against Dean's collar.
Dean pulls away and flips on the radio. He keeps the volume low so it won't wake Cas. He reaches for Cas again, skimming his hand through Cas' hair before settling his arm around Cas' shoulder. The radio thrums, static threaded with a dull rise and fall of voices. It's probably a farm report. Dean doesn't care; he just wants the noise.
Amara had made everything quiet. She'd drowned everything else out, replacing it with a weird, reverse pressure that had filled all the empty space in Dean's ears. When she brought him to that field, the rest of the world had blurred away. Dean hadn't heard anything. No birds. No wind. No heartbeats. Her dress hadn't rustled when she moved. The leaves hadn't crunched under Dean's feet.
That's how he'd known the qareen hadn't been real. He'd heard its footsteps. He'd heard the plastic sheeting brush its shoulder. He'd heard a car drive by outside. His pulse had thundered in his ears.
Cas murmurs something wordless and soft. He curls closer. His hair tickles Dean's chin again; if Dean wasn't driving, he'd turn his head and bury his face in it. He'd kiss Cas' jaw. Trace his thumb over Cas' sleepy, drooping mouth. He'd do all the stuff he's wanted to do for years. He's pretty sure Cas would let him.
The sun is finally up; Dean changes lanes to put a semi between himself and the worst of the glare. Cas murmurs again -- this time, it almost sounds like Dean's name. Heat flushes Dean's cheeks. He squeezes Cas' shoulder. Strokes his hand up and down Cas' arm.
Cas had said he'd need to eat. There's a two-pound chub of ground chunk in the bunker's freezer; Dean could thaw it out in the microwave and do burgers. Meatloaf or stroganoff would taste better, but both of those need to cook for at least an hour. Dean's too tired for that, and Cas probably won't want to wait that long. Eggs would be the fastest. Dean thinks there's still a half-dozen in the fridge; he could scramble them with onions and bacon and frozen potatoes. That would only take ten minutes.
He also needs to get Cas set up in a room. There are eight to choose from -- all more or less the same -- but the one right next door to Dean's has a newer mattress. At least, it's new enough that it might not kill Cas' back. They've got plenty of extra blankets in the closet. Dean did laundry a few days ago, so they've also got plenty of clean sheets. There should be pillows on the bed.
Dean doesn't know what Cas plans to do once he's all healed up. But back at the cemetery, he'd asked Dean to take him home. Dean -- fuck. He hopes that means Cas wants to stay. If that's the case, Dean will take him shopping for clothes. He'll give the Continental a tune-up. He'll get Cas a TV so he doesn't have to watch Orange is the New Black on Sam's.
The bunker's upper floor has a conservatory. Its peaked ceiling is dotted with skylights, and three of its four walls are windows. Right now it's full of dust and old furniture, but Dean could clear all that out. He could buy a new couch, maybe a couple of plants. It would give Cas a place to read in the sun.
The radio buzzes. Cas snores into Dean's neck. Dean squeezes Cas' shoulder again and leans on the gas.
Forty-three hours of planning and fighting and driving catches up with Dean just south of Hastings. His eyes feel gritty and raw. He can't stop yawning. He's too drained to keep his mom's voice out of his ears.
You ruin everything you touch.
Amara had dug into his memories before holodecking the copy of his mom. It had been an afterthought -- most of her strength had been focused on God, on the shrieking, churning hole he'd ripped into the air behind her -- so what she'd come up with hadn't been quite right. Her hair had been a shade too dark. Her mouth had been too thin. Her nose had been a little too short.
Her voice had been pretty close. And she hadn't been wrong.
You ruin everything you touch.
The radio is still buzzing, and Cas is still snoring into Dean's neck. A cold weight settles in Dean's gut. He drums his finger on the steering wheel. Sighs. His first instinct is to ease his arm away from Cas' shoulder. He fists his hand in the saddle blanket so he doesn't lose his nerve. So he doesn't push Cas away when he just fucking got him back.
Amara had been angry and desperate. At the cemetery, she'd tried to force Dean to fight for her. Dean had felt her pulling at him -- a weird, unpleasant tug underneath his ribs -- but he'd been so frantic about Cas that he hadn't really noticed it. He hadn't really noticed her -- not until she'd threatened Sam and Cas. Not until she'd thrown his mom in his face.
You ruin everything you touch.
Yeah. Not this time. He -- fuck. He's going to figure out how to do this.
A yellow Corvette pulls up in the next lane and hovers with its tail even with the Impala's nose. A beat or two later, it cuts Dean off with just a few feet to spare. Dean had been expecting it, but he still taps the brakes a little too hard. The Impala lurches; Dean jerks his other hand onto the wheel to steady it.
Cas makes a soft, sleepy sound. Then he blinks himself awake and asks, "Are we home?"
"No." Dean says, shaking his head. "Another hour. Go back to sleep."
"I was dreaming." Cas sits up slightly; the saddle blanket slouches away from his shoulders.
"Yes." Cas pauses. Sunlight is streaming into the car; he squints at Dean and says, "Thank you."
"You came for me."
"'Course I did." Dean reaches out. He barely hesitates before resting his hand on Cas' knee. "'Course I came for you."
"You saved me," Cas says quietly. "Without you, I'd still be possessed."
"No. No way. You did all the work." It had been horrible to watch. Cas had twitched and twisted and shook. He'd hunched over and screamed. Fallen to the ground and writhed. He'd clawed at the wet grass while Lucifer laughed with his mouth. Dean had begged him to fight with his stomach caught in his throat. "You kicked him out."
"I heard your voice." Cas covers Dean's hand with his and laces their fingers together. "You said you needed me."
Dean clears his throat. "I -- I do."
"You asked me to come home. Did you mean that? Home? Did you --"
"Yeah. I -- yeah. I meant it. You -- for as long as you want." Dean strokes his thumb over the back of Cas' hand. "Now, c'mere. I'm getting cold."
Cas asks for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
"You sure?" Dean asks, even though he's already reaching for the bread. "I got eggs in the fridge. Or I could do burgers. You --"
"I like peanut butter and jelly."
"All we got is chunky."
Cas smiles softly. "I think I'll manage."
The bread is pretty small -- it's a loaf of store-brand white Dean usually uses for toast -- so he makes two for Cas and two for himself. He puts them on paper towels because he can't sleep with dishes in the sink. Habit nudges him toward a seat across the table. He stops himself and sits down beside Cas.
"Thank you," Cas says.
Dean lets his knee bump Cas' leg. He eats with his hand at the back of Cas' neck.
"I need a shower," Cas says. He peels off his filthy coat and hangs it over the back of a chair.
The rest of him isn't any cleaner; his shirt is bloody and his face is streaked with dirt. Dean digs up a t-shirt and an old pair of sweats. He hands them over and says, "Towels are in the changing room. Second shelf on the left."
Dean needs a shower too; his skin is sweat-itchy and every muscle in his body aches. His shoulders are stiff from three hours behind the wheel. The showers on the main floor are locker-room style, just a stretch of tile wall that's dotted with nozzles. Dean doesn't want to crowd in on Cas like that. Doesn't want Cas to think that's why he wants him around. But he doesn't want to wait, either.
He sends Sam a text to say that they're home. Then he heads down to the basement gym. The shower down there is a single, cramped stall with a curtain ready to fall off its hooks. Dean's only used it twice since they moved into the bunker; the pipes clank like they're dying, and the first burst of water is rusty. Dean ducks under it as soon as it's clear and hot. He tries to hurry -- he still needs find some blankets and sheets for Cas -- but his exhaustion is a living thing. He ends up dozing for a few minutes with his shoulder against the wall and the spray beating at his back.
When he gets back to his room, Cas is in his bed. Cas is in his bed and under the blankets. Dean hesitates in the doorway. Digs his fingers into the jamb.
Fuck. This is it. They're really going to do this.
He takes a couple steps inside and hesitates again. Cas rolls back enough to look at him. He says, "Dean, come to bed."
"Okay," Dean says quietly. "Okay, yeah."
He hits the lights and climbs into his bed. The sheets are already warm. Cas breathes out a noise. Dean spoons himself against Cas' back. He wraps his arm around Cas' waist and holds Cas against his chest.
Dean wakes up to Cas shaking. He rolled over while Dean was out; his head is under Dean's chin and his fingers are hooked in the collar of Dean's t-shirt. Dean strokes a hand through his hair.
"You dreaming again?" he asks.
Dean rubs Cas' back. "Did he hurt you?"
"Yes." Cas pauses after that -- long enough that Dean thinks he's fallen asleep again. Then, quietly, he says, "Less than I expected, but more than you can imagine."
A sick, ugly feeling squirms in Dean's chest. "I'm sorry."
"It's --" Cas sighs out a noise against Dean's neck. "I told you, I expected it."
"Expecting it ain't the same as deserving it. You didn't."
Cas makes another noise -- this one lifts up at the end like Dean's name. Dean pushes his hand into Cas' hair again. He kisses Cas' forehead and Cas' temple. The slope of his cheek and the hinge of his jaw. He noses at Cas' chin and brushes his thumb behind Cas' ear. He freezes for a second when he catches the corner of Cas' mouth -- he isn't trying to push -- but Cas just turns into it and slides their lips together. He opens up for it, a hint of heat and a flutter of tongue.
Dean holds Cas' face in his hands. He kisses Cas again, and again, and again. Until Cas' mouth starts to go slack and Cas' eyes start to slip closed.
"You tired?" he asks.
"Yes. I --" Cas yawns. "I'm sorry."
Dean just huffs out a laugh and tucks Cas back underneath his chin.
The next time Dean wakes up, Sam is home. Dean smells food in the kitchen -- something meaty and greasy.
Cas is still out, snoring with his face hidden between the pillow and Dean's shoulder. Dean eases away and slides off the bed. He pulls the blankets back up over Cas' shoulder. Then the shuffles out to the kitchen. He finds Sam standing at the counter, hunched over a pizza. His hand and wrist and bandaged -- sprained, not broken.
"You just get in?" Dean asks.
Sam shakes his head. "About an hour ago. You two were still sleeping."
Dean's face heats, but he makes himself hold Sam's eye. If he's going to do this, he isn't going to act jumpy about it. Cas deserves better. Pointing at the pizza, Dean asks, "You bring enough for the whole class?"
"Yeah, it's in the fridge. I wasn't sure how long you'd be out." Sam pauses, tapping a packet of crushed pepper on the counter. After a moment, he asks, "How's he doing?"
Dean snags a pepperoni off the pizza. Chewing, he says, "Tired. And his mojo ain't up to snuff."
"Does he think he'll get it back?"
"I don't know," Dean says, shrugging. He hasn't asked; he doesn't want Cas to think he cares about that. "Maybe. You find any Rabids?"
"Three, yeah. But they didn't give me any trouble." Sam straightens and yawns into his hand. "I'm going to hit the hay. I'm glad he's out, and I'm glad you -- I'm glad you're taking care of him."
"Yeah," Dean says. His face heats again. "I'm gonna try."
The third time, Dean wakes up slow. He's pinned to the bed; Cas is a warm, solid weight on top of Dean's chest. His thigh is pressing against Dean's morning wood, and his mouth is open against Dean's jaw. Dean runs his hand down Cas' back. Thrusts up a little. Cas rumbles out a noise. It's dark and throaty and deep. It also clears the sleep-cobwebs out of Dean's brain.
"Jesus, I -- sorry, sorry." He firsts both hands in the sheets so he won't -- so he won't. "I didn't -- "
"Dean," Cas cuts in. His voice is a sleepy burr. "Dean, it's fine."
"Please." Cas shifts a little, and then -- oh. Oh, fuck. He's hard. He rubs himself against Dean's thigh and bites at the skin under Dean's jaw. "I want to."
"You -- you're s'posed to be resting."
Cas just bites at Dean's jaw again. He works a hand into Dean's hair and tugs. Dean tips his head back, and Cas drags a kiss down the side of his neck. The heat-rasp of his stubble sparks at something underneath Dean's skin. Cas shifts again, twisting until Dean's dick is riding against his thigh as he moves. Dean shivers. He can't help the noise he makes; even half-swallowed, it seems to echo around the room.
It's good like this, just easy movements and slow pressure. Dean slides his hands down to Cas' ass so he can track the dirty roll of Cas' hips. Cas kisses him. He digs his nails into Dean's shoulder and moans into Dean's mouth. Dean arches up, trying to get closer, trying to get more. The headboard bumps against the wall.
Cas leans up enough to tug his sweats down past his ass. He starts to pull on Dean's, but Dean wraps a hand around his dick. He shivers, gasping out a noise against Dean's jaw. Dean kisses him. Strokes him slow. A moment later, Cas' hips find a rhythm. He slides his hand down to the hollow of Dean's throat and fucks into Dean's fist.
He's gorgeous like this -- his mouth falling open and a pink flush spreading in his cheeks. His thighs are shaking. Dean strokes him harder, letting his thumb drag over the head of his dick. Cas murmurs Dean's name. When he comes, a sliver of blue sparks behind his eyes.
Dean pulls Cas closer. He lets Cas pant against his throat for a few seconds. Then he rolls them over and yanks down his sweats. He's so fucking close that he's fine just rubbing himself against Cas' hip, but then Cas' hand is there, huge and sweaty and warm. The angle is weird at first; all he gets is Cas' fingers bumping up the length of his dick and Cas' palm skating over the head. But then Cas gets his wrist turned the right way, and it's perfect. It's -- fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Dean grabs a washcloth to clean them up. By the time he's done, Cas is yawning and rubbing at his eyes.
"You tired again?" Dean asks.
"Yes," Cas says, burrowing into the pillow. "I'm sorry. I'll probably be like this for several days."
"It's all right," Dean says. He wraps his arm around Cas' waist and pulls Cas close. "I'll be here when you wake up."