Dean wakes up to the glow of daylight behind his eyelids, his body aching in that way it does after a long night of hunting – or a long night of really good sex. Judging by the line of warmth beside him in bed, he hopes it’s the latter… but he can’t really remember. And the more he tries to, the more his head hurts, so the first thing he needs to do when he eventually gets upright is double the dose of his usual hangover concoction, and chase it down with some good ol’ hair of the dog.
But first he has to get upright.
And find some clothes.
He groans a little as he cracks open his eyes, squinting against the onslaught of light coming in through the windows, and that’s when it really sinks in. He has no idea where he is. It’s not the bunker, that’s for sure. But it doesn’t seem like a motel either. No twin beds for one thing. No kitchenette. The sheets aren’t cheap and starched to stiffness, but soft and comfortable in a way that’s entirely sleep-inducing. More importantly, there isn’t that usual hum of activity that typically comes with motels – no cars driving up and down the road nearby, no random bumps and noises from the neighboring rooms, no constant buzzing from bar fridges and vending machines and broken neon lights.
This place is quiet. Almost like suburbia quiet. There’s that kind of stillness to it, like a household that hasn’t woken up yet. The only real sound is the occasional twittering of a bird just outside the window - which is lined with curtains that are anything but cheap or tacky.
This is someone’s bedroom.
He doesn’t know whose bedroom, but there is something about the place that seems familiar. Something about it that feels halfway between an old memory and a forgotten dream. In fact, there’s something about it that reminds him a lot of the bedroom he shared with Lisa back in Cicero, but more comfortable somehow. He always felt like a visitor at Lisa’s place, but he doesn’t feel that way here.
Dean cracks his eyes open a little further, twisting around to check the bedside table for his phone. When he sees what’s there his breath stutters in his throat in shock. It’s the picture of his mom, the one he keeps in his wallet, taken when he was a baby and his mom was young and happy and alive. It’s one of the few pictures of his mom they managed to salvage from the burnt-out remains of their house in Lawrence, black and frayed at the edges, and so old now the colors have nearly washed out to black and white.
He hardly ever takes it out of his wallet. And here it is, framed, like it’s found a new home on this unknown bedside table.
Dean’s hackles begin to rise at the thought of someone taking liberties with his personal belongings. He whirls back around, wondering who the hell thought that would be okay.
Dark hair. That’s all he can see, peeking out from the top of the sheets. For a second he really thinks it might actually be Lisa, somehow… But then he sees the differences in the shade of color, the texture and length, too short, too thick, too messy. Not Lisa. But still familiar.
Carefully, Dean lifts the bedcovers for a closer look, and he almost flails backwards out of the bed at what he sees.
It’s Castiel, in bed with him, sound asleep like he belongs there, and completely, utterly naked.
Dean’s jaw drops, a small squawk of surprise escaping his throat and his heart hammering in his ears as he stares.
He knows he shouldn’t, but he can’t help himself. He’s barely even dared to imagine this – Castiel, in bed with him, no trench-coat, no suit, completely bare – and fucking gorgeous.
Did he get so drunk that he finally made some kind of move on Cas? And they finally ended up in bed together?
Castiel shivers a little in his sleep, his skin goosepimpling from being exposed to the cooler air of the room, and Dean quickly drops the sheet in a panic.
Cas is human.
Son of a bitch.
Dean’s eyes search the room wildly for some kind of explanation, now completely confused. He’s not injured, and from the brief glimpse he had, Cas certainly didn’t look injured either. There’s no sign of bandages or first-aid kits or any of the other usual stuff that would be around if they had been injured either. And he’s pretty sure if they’d been the kind of injured that would warrant taking them to some hunter’s house and throwing them in bed together to watch over them, that someone would be, well, watching over them.
Sam. He needs to find Sam immediately. The sasquatch has probably just gone to the bathroom or something.
Dean slides out of bed carefully, trying not to disturb Castiel with the movement. Cas grumbles a little in his sleep, but thankfully doesn’t wake up, instead rolling over and curling into the heat left behind on Dean’s side of the bed. Dean’s chest tightens with… something at that, and it makes Dean want to slide right back into the bed with him. He may not know exactly where they are, or how they got there, but waking up in a strange bed with someone has never felt so achingly right.
Dean looks back at the framed picture of his mom, this time smiling as he takes in the sight. That’s when he notices the leather bound journal sitting next to it on the bedside table.
It looks a lot like his Dad’s old journal – but slightly different. Thinner. Newer. Curious, he reaches over to lift open the cover, and is shocked to find his own handwriting across the pages. There’s a ribbon running through the journal, bookmarking it, and when he flips the page open he sees it’s marked to the latest entry… which is dated almost two years in the future.
Okay. So maybe he hasn’t woken up at all. Maybe this is that dream he has sometimes, that he tries not to think about too much, because he knows it’ll never be real. That might explain the strange dates.
But he remembers Sam telling him something about the brain not being able to read while dreaming. And that you don’t usually question whether you’re dreaming in your dreams either, or something like that. He’s not sure though.
So maybe something’s messing with his reality again, like a djinn, or a trickster. Or worse, another dick angel. Frowning, he glances back at the bed, watching how the sheets rise and fall with Cas’ every breath. Every human breath. Fuck. Dean’s head begins to throb again. For some reason the angel theory doesn’t feel right.
Or maybe you finally asked Cas to stay, and he said yes.
And this is your bedroom.
That’s why everything seems familiar.
The thought jumps out at him, strangely making sense. It explains why he would be here, in this bed, in this room, with all his most personal belongings around him, and a very human Castiel.
Except, that just can’t be right either. Dean can’t be that lucky. He can’t just wake up and have everything he’s ever wanted, just like that.
And it still doesn’t explain the time difference.
Or everything in between.
Dean huffs in frustration, looking around for some clothes. There’s a pair of old sweat pants on the floor next to him, which look like they’ve just been unceremoniously dropped there before the wearer hopped into bed. When Dean pulls them on, the worn material hugs the shape of his body in a way that tells him he was the one wearing, and then dropping them. They’re almost exactly like the track pants he used to sleep in at Lisa’s. There’s also a t-shirt on the floor not far from him, so he’s pretty sure that’s supposed to be his too, and he throws that on as well. Then grabbing the journal off the bedside table, Dean ventures out of the room.
The door across the hall is open, and straight away Dean catches a glimpse of what looks like some of Sam’s stuff, strewn across the dresser in the room, so he pops his head in the door. Sam’s not there, but the room definitely has that unique smell his brother tends to leave behind, like a combination of froofy shampoo and day-old tacos. Which means Sam must be around somewhere.
Dean steps back into the hallway. Again he’s struck with the familiarity of his surroundings. For some reason it reminds him of Bobby’s old place, but brighter. The walls are painted instead of papered, so there’s a lot more reflected light coming in the hallway, and when Dean rounds the corner to the stairs he finds the source. There’s a big, gaping hole in the side of the house, where the next room should be. Instead of walls, there’s only plastic, hanging from the frame of an unfinished ceiling.
When Dean sees what’s past the plastic he receives another shock. It’s a view he is very familiar with – piles and piles of wrecked cars, surrounding the corrugated roof of Bobby’s repair garage.
This is Bobby’s house. And it’s being rebuilt. Dean can’t help but smile a little at the thought.
He heads down the stairs with a little more confidence in direction, making his way to where the kitchen should be. And there’s Sam. Sitting at the table, reading some old book, well into a cup of coffee, like he’s been there for hours.
“’Morning,” Sam says, not even looking up from his book.
“…Morning?” Dean replies hesitantly.
So no one’s on the verge of death then. Not if Sam’s complete lack of concern at his arrival is any indication. And Sam looks way too comfortable where he is, like this really is their house, and he has every right to be sitting in his own kitchen, reading and drinking coffee that he made.
And if that isn’t enough confirmation, then the line of phones on the wall next to the table where Sam’s reading drives the last nail home. It’s just like the wall of phones Bobby used to have, each one with its own label reading ‘FBI’ or ‘Federal Marshall’ or ‘Health Department’ or whatever else hunters often masquerade as to get the job done… but these labels are all written in Sam’s handwriting.
Dean’s head begins to pound again.
He makes a beeline for the cupboard where Bobby used to keep a good supply of pills, and although the cupboard itself is new, Dean is grateful to find it’s just as well stocked.
“Hey, Dean?” Sam says conversationally, “You think you could add on another bedroom down here? Maybe off the library? Or maybe you could convert one corner of the library into a small room or something? I’d gladly give up the library space.”
“What?” Dean sputters as he struggles to open the tightly sealed bottle, overwhelmed by all the thoughts that come crashing into his head. If Sam is asking him to make a new bedroom for him, then that must mean this really is their house now. And Dean is the one fixing it up, supposedly. But since when would Sam gladly give up library space for anything?
“I just don’t want to have to sleep down in the panic room again the next time you and Cas are… well, you know,” Sam replies, cringing a little. “You guys are kind of loud.”
“What?!” Dean chokes out again. “Me? And Cas?” he echoes weakly in disbelief, as if he didn’t just wake up naked in bed with a naked Castiel. There’s still a part of him that feels like someone is playing a highly elaborate joke on him.
That’s when Dean remembers the other standards in Bobby’s cupboard. Reaching up to the top shelf, his fingers easily find the jar of holy water there, still with the rosary inside it. In record time he has the jar twisted open and emptied all over Sam’s head.
“What the hell, Dean?!” Sam jumps out of the chair, sputtering in shock.
But Dean’s already got the cutlery drawer open, hoping the knife he pulls out is made of silver – but it’s a weapon either way.
“Dean?” Sam holds his hands up cautiously. “Are we having one of those mornings again?” he asks, concern in his voice.
“…Yes? No? I don’t know?” Dean answers, completely lost now. “What do you mean?”
Sam – or not Sam – heaves a sigh, and then very slowly reaches towards the bottle of rock salt on the kitchen counter, sitting innocuously next to some pepper and some other basic condiments. Dean narrows his eyes, watching closely as Sam empties some of the salt into his coffee, and then lifts the mug to drink it, making a very Sam-like bitch-face as he swallows it down.
Dean can’t help but grimace in sympathy. That must’ve tasted awful. But he still reaches for the salt anyway, just to check himself that’s what it is. Sam rolls his eyes at that, then points to the sink.
“Borax,” he says, indicating the dishwashing detergent. Dean grabs the container and aims it at his brother, squeezing out a thick stream of viscous fluid that lands on the outside of his brother’s exposed forearm.
When there’s also no reaction, Sam steps a little closer and reaches towards the cutlery drawer. Slowly he pulls out another knife from the back, a big one Dean recognizes as one of their own silver ones, and Dean eyes it warily, keeping on the defensive until Sam lifts up the sleeve of his t-shirt to slice the skin of his shoulder. Dean doesn’t know why Sam doesn’t just slice his forearm, like he’s seen his brother do in the past, but there’s no reaction to the silver either, so Dean lowers his knife.
“What the hell is going on, Sam?” Dean hisses, trying to keep calm. “Is this really Bobby’s? Is Cas really human? And why the hell does this journal say it’s two years in the future?!”
“What’s the last thing you remember?” Sam asks, wiping the holy water off his face and neck.
Dean blinks at his brother silently, struggling to come up with something. He half-expects - half-hopes - to get some flash of blue eyes, dark hair and chapped lips, all that glorious skin he got an eyeful of earlier… like this is all just some kind of bad hangover. But instead all he gets are flashes of black, like night, outdoors somewhere in the darkness…
“It’s okay Dean, don’t push it. Sometimes it just takes a while for your memory to kick in,” Sam says, heading to one of the cupboards and pulling out a medkit.
“It does what now?” Dean says, massaging his temples.
“Do you… remember the trials?” Sam asks tentatively, wiping at the cut on his shoulder.
Dean frowns. It takes him a moment to come up with an answer, and he’s not sure if it’s because of the pain in his head or because the question seems so unexpected, given where they are right now. Standing in the morning sun in Bobby’s-- their kitchen, the trials seem a lifetime away.
“…You mean, the trials to close the Gates of Hell?
“Yeah,” Sam replies, covering the cut on his shoulder with a large band-aid before pulling his sleeve down over it. “What’s the last thing you remember from that?”
“Uh…” Dean strains to remember, starting to get flashes that pound at his head with the intensity of a 3D film, the kind where everything goes wrong and there are lots of explosions.
“You pulled me out of the last trial to cure Crowley, but it didn’t stop whatever was happening to me…” Sam leads. Dean’s head snaps up, remembering.
“I was trying to get you to the car, get to a hospital…” he says, his eyes instinctively checking his brother over for any signs of damage or sickness like he’d had about him when the trials began to change him. Besides the cut he knows is hidden under Sam’s shirt sleeve, there are none, and Dean relaxes a little with relief, even though he’s still confused.
“Right.” Sam smiles a little, encouraged by Dean’s reaction, and presses on. “You were trying to get me to a hospital when then angels started to fall?”
And now some of the images make sense, angels falling from the sky like comets, or bombs in some kind of world ending war straight out of a science-fiction film. He remembers holding Sam up against the side of the Impala, screaming out for Castiel.
“Cas used some of the grace he had leftover to find us…” Sam says, and Dean remembers Cas appearing suddenly, collapsing against the side of the Impala in a heap, like he’d taken a dive off a building and hoped for the best.
“So Cas was still an angel?” Dean asks.
“Only until the last of the Angels fell and he lost his connection to the host entirely,” Sam replies, coming closer. But he still keeps a careful distance, as if he knows to give Dean some space right now. “Cas didn’t have much time, so in a last ditch attempt to heal me… he used some of your soul to fix mine.”
There’s a lot of yelling in Dean’s flashbacks, a lot of desperate back and forth and arguing, but the last thing Dean remembers is Cas reaching towards him with a murmured apology, before everything turns white with pain.
“He warned us there would be side-effects, Dean. And that he wouldn’t be able to heal anymore after he used up the last of his mojo, but…” Sam trails off.
“I insisted,” Dean says, filling in the gaps. Sam shrugs his shoulder and nods, somewhat apologetically.
“And it worked? You’re good?” Dean asks, though he’s already getting the sense that Sam came through alright.
“Yeah Dean, I’m fine,” Sam says, giving him a tight smile.
“Then I don’t regret it,” Dean says decisively, trying to allay whatever guilt he knows his little brother must be feeling over the whole thing.
Sam gives him that small, tired smile again and Dean sighs internally. Sam wouldn’t be Sam if he wasn’t angsting over something anyway.
“Okay then. Hit me with it.” Dean leans back against the kitchen counter, bracing himself. “What are the side-effects?”
Sam takes a deep breath before replying. “You have these memory lapses sometimes. Sometimes it’s just little things, but sometimes it’s whole chunks of time,” he explains, brief but sympathetic, and it gives Dean the impression it’s something his brother’s had to do pretty often.
Dean nods, letting it sink in. It explains a lot, but it also raises a hell of a lot more issues. He feels his head begin to throb again, a millions questions piling on one after the other until he doesn’t know what to ask first, or if he can wait for the Aspirin he just took to start kicking in before taking more. He’s just about to reach for the bottle when Sam starts talking again.
“Just… if you can get away with it, try not to let Cas know you’re lapsing,” Sam says. “It still really upsets him that he can’t heal you.”
Him and Cas.
The image of Cas sleeping in the bed next to him cuts through the noise in his brain until his chest is swelling with it. It’s almost too good to be true. But…
“Sam, how the hell am I supposed to fake my way through a relationship I can’t even remember?” he asks.
“Don’t worry, we have a system,” Sam replies. “Pretty much everything you need to trigger your memory is in there,” Sam says, pointing at the journal Dean brought down with him. Dean looks down at it, brushing his thumb over the cover in what feels like a familiar gesture.
“And the important things never change,” Sam adds, and Dean hears the unspoken statement underlying his words…
How you feel about him will never change.
“And when all else fails, you usually distract him with lots of sex,” Sam says with a very put-upon bitch-face, turning to sit back down at the kitchen table.
“Sam!” Dean barks, surprised and a little embarrassed at the same time. He can barely even wrap his head around the thought that him and Cas are really together, let alone the thought of actually having sex with him. No matter how many times he’s imagined it. Or tried not to.
“One good thing about when you lapse,” Sam smirks, “I totally get payback embarrassing you about your rabid sex-life with Cas.”
Dean is about to cry out in indignation again, but this time someone beats him to it, a shocked sound coming from the doorway at Sam’s words.
They both whip around to see Castiel standing in the doorway, eyes wide with distress.
“Cas!” Sam flounders. “Good morning!”
A dark flush creeps up Castiel’s neck, painting his cheeks red with embarrassment before he finally replies, “Good morning, Sam.”
Then he turns to Dean, a vulnerable, questioning look in his eyes. “Good morning, Dean,” he says even more quietly.
Dean’s not sure how much of that conversation Cas caught, but he knows he needs to do something here, say something reassuring at least, but he just can’t move. Cas’ hair is rumpled from sleep, and he’s wearing an old Led Zeppelin t-shirt Dean recognizes as one of his own, on top of a pair of jeans that are ripped and way too big for him, and Dean just can’t stop staring. Cas looks so… human. Cas fell. And stayed. It’s so big he just doesn’t know what to do with it.
“Dean?” Sam urges pointedly, and Dean doesn’t have to look to hear the bitch-face in Sam’s voice.
Cas is still staring at him, uncertain and confused, and it makes him ache a little, to see that look on Cas’ face. He remembers what it felt like to see Cas looking at him with the eyes of Emmanuel, having no idea who Dean was, and how much that hurt.
He just can’t do that to Cas.
“’Morning,” he croaks, trying to look casual as he shuffles towards the doorway. He’s just going to give Cas a quick kiss on the cheek, the kind he used to give Lisa in the mornings, just to say ‘Hello.’ Hopefully that will be enough to convince Cas everything’s normal.
But as Dean comes closer he realises it’s not going to be as easy as he thinks. He’s barely even hugged Cas before, let alone planted lips on him, he doesn’t know how he’s going pass off something so monumental as something they do every day. And it doesn’t help that Castiel is watching him, every step of the way, breath visibly speeding up as he comes closer.
Castiel’s breathing. Jesus.
Dean reaches up, cautiously gripping Cas’ shoulder, and it’s actually warm against his palm, pliant and fleshy like Castiel never allowed himself to be when he was a full-on angel.
Castiel swallows, licking his lips, and the movement draws Dean’s gaze away from Cas’ shoulder to his throat, all the way back up to Cas’ mouth. He’s already leaning forward by the time he finds Castiel’s eyes again, still watching him back with that unwavering intensity, exactly the same as when Cas was a full-on angel, and in the next moment, their lips are pressed together.
It’s soft, chaste, could barely be called a kiss at all, but it took forever to get to this point, and it just feels so damn right. Dean had only planned for this to be a quick kiss, but he finds he can’t pull away just yet. Instead he finds himself moving closer, raising his hand to pull Castiel in and deepen the kiss, but before his fingers find a hold, Sam interrupts the moment, clearing his throat noisily behind them.
Dean pulls away, cursing his brother internally.
Ducking his head in embarrassment, Castiel steps back, sending a furtive glance Sam’s way. But there’s a small smile on his face now, so Dean’s pretty sure he passed the first test.
“Coffee?” he offers, his voice a little breathless.
“Yes,” Castiel gives him a small nod. “I can make it.”
“Okay,” he replies, still breathless. “Thanks.”
He backs away from the doorway, giving Cas space to enter the room and sliding into a chair across the table from Sam, an awed smile slowly spreading across his face as he watches Cas putter around the kitchen.
“Downstairs bedroom, Dean,” Sam hisses under his breath. Because Sam really isn’t Sam unless he’s being a hissy prude about Dean’s sex-life either.
“Sure thing, Sammy,” he replies distractedly, his smile widening even further when Cas wordlessly hands him a mug of coffee, exactly the way he likes it. He sips at it in amazement, still smiling in awe as Cas sits down and begins geeking out with Sam over the text his brother is reading.
It really is all too good to be true. But as he discreetly opens his journal under the table, it’s all right there, in his own writing, in the very first entry on the very first page.
‘Asked Cas to stay. He said yes.’