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God’s abandoned them again.

Dean, for one, couldn’t be happier. Whoever once said that cleanliness was next to godliness must have never met the man, because as it turns out, the Almighty sure can make an almighty mess. There’s takeout cartons strewn across the library, teriyaki sauce smeared on the screen of Dean’s laptop which now has too many cat GIFs saved for a grown man to be comfortable with. Don’t even get him started on the bathroom. At least the clean-up gives Dean something to keep his mind off of the persistent weight in the pocket of his worn-out jeans—a glass vial that thrums against his thigh.

Before Chuck took his sister’s hand and poofed off to literally God knows where, there was a matter of business to attend to. In order to earn the title of ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ stamped on his coffee mug, Chuck had to at least begin to right the wrongs he’d turned a blind eye to. It was time for a homecoming. Chuck threw open the pearly gates that Metatron had slammed shut and reversed the spell that clipped the angels’ wings. The ingredients were made whole again.

Chuck handed Dean the severed wisp of Castiel’s grace with a knowing smile and said, “I think you’ll know what to do with this.”

Dean knows. It doesn’t make it any easier. He kept the vial hidden away while he made a homecoming of his own, smothered in crushing moose-hugs and a more tentative embrace from Cas. When the weight of reality kicked in and disbelief bled away, fingers clutched Dean’s back and tears of relief stained his collar.

The memory of how human the reaction was makes Dean sick with guilt.

It’s the day after. An eerie sense of ‘What now?’ lingers thick in the air. It feels too much like peace for Dean to know how to cope with it. He’s restless, and he doubts he’ll even be able to sit still for more than a moment before his rampant thoughts smother him from the inside out. He’s agonizing about a decision that isn’t even his to make.

Dean abandons the rag and bucket of OxiClean to scour the bunker in search of Cas. He almost gives up until Sam finds him in the hallway and tells him, “Cas said he wanted to see the stars.”

The latch to the roof falls back to reveal an open sky smeared with dusky purple and creamsicle orange. Dean’s breath catches in his throat at the sight of it, but the breath eases from him when he finishes climbing the ladder to see Cas sitting cross-legged at the raised edge.

“There you are. You’re a hard man to find,” Dean says as he closes the latch behind him. He returns the hesitant smile that Cas gives over his shoulder.

“My apologies,” Cas says. “I wasn’t aware that you’d be looking for me.”

Dean stuffs his hands in his pockets as he approaches. “I’m not interrupting some sort of ‘alone time’ am I? You can tell me to get lost, man. I get it—that shit’s sacred.”

Amusement dances in Cas’ eyes, but it doesn’t reach his voice. “You know I’d prefer your company,” is all he says, but the warm look he gives Dean before he turns away speaks more than words ever could.

It’s invitation enough. Dean sits next to Cas and they both watch the sky, getting lost in the sea of pastels seeping slowly into black.

Dean breaks the silence. “Me and Sam, we were working this case while you were—uh—fightin’ the good fight, with Lucifer. This old lady asked me, ‘When was the last time you watched a sunset without waiting for something to go bump in the night?’ Without having to worry if it’d be the last time… not worrying about what’ll happen tomorrow.”

Cas hums low in his throat, almost knowingly. “You didn’t have an answer, did you?”

Dean shakes his head. “I still don’t,” he says. “I’d say maybe this one was the first, but I’d be lying. There’s still something I’m worried about.” He pulls the glass vial from his pocket and holds it in his upturned palm, resting on his thigh. Cas’ eyes fix on the grace. He shows no reaction.

“I was wondering when you were going to tell me,” Cas says.

“You knew?” Dean asks.

“I could feel it calling to me. It feels safe with you.”

Dean laughs—it’s a near-soundless huff, just to disguise the way his mouth falls open as he nearly chokes on the swell of emotion that thought brings. “Well. Your grace, my soul—they’re old pals at this point, don’t you think?” He lifts the vial by its delicate chain and holds it out to Cas. “I guess your dad’s good for something after all.”

Cas is expressionless. He threads his fingers through the chain and dangles the piece of his grace out in front of him. It looks at home in the fading daylight—like they’d cast a line to the heavens and reeled in a star. The blue thread glows brighter when Cas touches the glass.

“Dean, I—” A touch of pain flashes in Cas’ face, but it’s gone as quickly as it came. “Are you asking me to leave again?”

Dean’s face falls in shock. If he were still holding the vial, he would’ve dropped it. “What? No! Hell no, Cas. I—” He sighs. “I don’t know what you want. That’s on you, man. But if you want to angel-up and get your wings back—well, who am I to keep that from you?”

Cas closes his hand around his grace—lowers it to his lap. “What I want—” His voice trails off. “Yesterday there was no time for words. I accepted that, but after you were gone I began to regret all of the things I couldn’t say. I watched you go to your death, knowing we would never see each other again. Now you’re here.”

“And we have all the time in the world,” Dean says, finishing the thought.

Cas makes a noise of agreement. The chain attached to the vial makes a shimmering metallic sound as it spills over the side of his hand. “I don’t want there to be any regrets between us, Dean,” he says.

A breeze sweeps through the treeline in front of them. Dean tries to convince himself that that’s what makes him shiver. “Me neither,” he agrees.

Cas opens his hand, rolling the vial of grace between his fingers with an absent stare, almost as if what he’s looking for has been gone for longer than he cares to remember. He steels himself with a deep inhale before speaking, his voice thick and deliberate. “Yesterday you said that I was a brother to you and Sam—that we’re family. When you said that, you gave me what I needed most. I will always be thankful for the home you have given me. But Dean… Surely you must know that what I feel towards you is not how I regard my siblings.”

Dean wants to be brave. He wants to agree, but it takes everything he has to even murmur a soft, “I know.”

Cas again doesn’t acknowledge his response. When he turns to look at Dean and their eyes meet, Dean sees resolution there, but it’s only a bandage for the uncertainty beneath.

“You asked what I want. I want to be with my family. I want the three of us to be happy and safe. I would like to watch the sunset with you,” Cas says, placing his grace back in Dean’s palm and closing Dean’s fingers around it, “and not worry about what tomorrow may bring.”

Dean misses the feel of Cas’ hands when he takes them away, but he still feels Cas’ warmth reaching out to him from the burning blue light he holds—one half of a fallen star. The other half will fade until it’s nothing more than a dull flicker eclipsed by the brightness of the soul Dean just knows is growing to take its place. Cas is looking at him with too much hope—too much heart—for Dean to believe anything else.

Everything that Dean is and everything he’s ever been is screaming inside him to tell Cas that it isn’t worth it—that he isn’t worth it—but he can’t, not when what Cas wants is the same thing he’s been longing for. Dean knows that he’s only going to let him down, but the warmth unfurling in his chest hopes that maybe this time he can do it slow—slow enough that maybe Cas will never notice, and Dean will never give him reason to regret again.

He puts the vial back in his pocket. He’ll keep it safe until tomorrow comes, though he hopes it never does.

Dean clears his throat. “The woman who said that about the sunset… She—uh, she said something else, too.” He looks at Cas, who watches him expectantly. Dean continues. “She said that the key to being happy was to follow your heart, and everything else would just sort itself out after that.”

Cas looks back up at the sunset. The subtle hitch of his chest is his only tell. “That sounds like wise advice,” he says.

It’s advice that Dean finally decides to take as he reaches for Cas’ hand.

“Yeah,” Dean says, smiling as Cas weaves their fingers together. “I think so too.”