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Title: Sink
Summary: "Where to?" A 9.06 coda.

I don't want to let you go,
but it hurts my hands to hold the rope.

&

 

After the date that was, unfortunately, a babysitting job, but, fortunately, also not a reaper intent on killing Cas, Dean is still there and wondering, "Where to?"

It seems cruel, Cas thinks, to have the question posed as if he has a choice here. As if he can actually go where he wants, which is safe in the bunker with its abundance of food and clothes and shower stalls. And Sam and Dean. Of course.

He doesn't have an answer so he doesn't give one.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Cas was himself still. Not Steve, or Clarence, or any other identity humanity has forced him into. He could've flown, with no destination in mind, but now he is grounded and useless and dependent on Dean to drive him.

Dean starts the car and lets the engine growl to life but they don't immediately go anywhere. The keys in the ignition sway and Nora's porch light flicks off. Careful not to jostle his hurt hand, Cas puts on his seatbelt, though he has no current desire to crash Dean's vehicle. At the Gas-n-Sip there are several 'click it or ticket' posters on the walls. Their instructions are clear enough.

"So," Dean says, and Cas can feel the heaviness of his gaze even though he keeps his own stare straight ahead. "Guess the date was a bust, then?"

Dean was around long enough, obviously, to gather as much, so it seems repetitive to mention it. Then again, Cas remembers observing while mopping the aisle between the bagged peanuts and beef jerky stands a conversation between three men who felt compelled to recount their failed attempts to pick up a woman customer, though it had only happened minutes prior.

They had laughed, like there was success in their failure. Cas, now, only dips his head forward in a slight, acknowledging nod.

"Next time," Dean tells him, sounding confident. If this is again about the date, Cas would rather there not be a next time. Not when they keep winding up with him nearly dead.

When they're on the road finally, driving down streets Cas is unfamiliar with, it hits him that this, that Dean, is temporary. Soon enough he will be dropped off and Dean will return to Kansas and once more their means of contact will be through the phone. And while Cas has come to appreciate the ease and convenience of texting and making calls, it doesn't compare to being able to speak directly to Dean.

He blurts, "I'd like to eat," before his brain has time to catch up with his mouth. Dean jerks his gaze over to Cas. He's surprised. Cas meets Dean's eyes and tries not to look too eager at the prospect, in case a meal wasn't part of the plan.

"Yeah. Sure, Cas. Me too," he tells him. He says it like he means it, so Cas relaxes, letting himself smile. Dean matches it and grows more enthusiastic. "Hey, tell you what. What do you say we head over to this place I've been staying, order us some takeout?" He looks back at the road briefly, switching lanes to get them in the appropriate direction. "I'll find us a movie, grab some beer. We'll do our own thing. Screw crappy dates."

Cas's smile is larger and more genuine by the time Dean finishes, made so by the idea that, somehow, his suggestion of food and Dean's idea of 'dates' are connected.

A handful of minutes later they pull up to a small, two-story motel at the edge of town, the car's tires crunching over gravel before Dean cuts the engine. Only a few rooms seem to be occupied. Cas counts which ones have light at the edge of the curtains and which ones don't as Dean exits the car and grabs a duffel bag from the trunk.

Before he can make his way out, Cas's door opens on its own. At least, that is his thinking until Dean appears with a halo of florescent yellow light behind him, smiling wide. Which seems to lead to a joke, because he cracks, "This makes you the girl, you know."

He almost feels compelled to point out that that's untrue, that he still identifies as genderless, never mind certain appendages that imply otherwise, but he's learned people don't always appreciate having their 'kidding' taken seriously. More than once it's been suggested he grow a sense of humor. Like the advice to count sheep Cas was previously given, it seems that this, too, is not an instruction meant to be taken literally.

Cas follows Dean into a room on the second floor that's already been paid for, the air conditioner attached to its window sputtering nosily as they enter. Dean discards the 'do not disturb' sign that'd hung on the door by flinging it carelessly in the direction of the TV while Cas hangs back and tries to feel as comfortable as Dean clearly feels.

Dean, who's slipping out of his jacket and laying it across the back of a chair. He dumps his duffel near a trash can by the table, eyeballing Cas as he does.

"What? You change your mind?"

Cas frowns. "No."

"Good. Get comfy."

Dean falls onto the edge of the bed, the lone one in the room, and grabs a couple of packets from the nightstand. "Got a preference?" he asks while flipping through them.

Cas can make out the restaurant names from where he's still standing. At the sight of the pizza one, his stomach clenches hungrily, painfully. He can't remember the last time he had a full meal, which reminds him of something else. "Dean, I can't..."

Dean's head whips up. "What?"

"I have no money," he admits. In the storage room back at the Gas-n-Sip, where his sleeping bag is rolled up and hidden between a mop bucket and a recycling bin, he has three weeks of wages stored safely. However, he's paid by Nora in business checks and the woman at the check cashing store made it clear an I.D. or valid driver's licence is necessary to exchange them for cash. Basically, as Dean would say, he's screwed.

Dean, though, is waving that away like it's no inconvenience at all, his eyes scanning the menus. "I owe you, right? You were the brains this case. If it wasn't for you, I'd still be cleaning people off my shoes."

A lie, Cas realizes. But he's better now at determining who is meant to benefit from those, and this one is for his sake, so he accepts it.

"Chinese?" Dean holds up a paper menu to a place called General Tao, then another for something called Papa Gino's. "Or pizza?" Cas's stomach growls audibly, and that makes Dean huff out a dry laugh. "Pizza it is."

While Dean calls and places their order, Cas drifts over to the table. Outside of Dean's jacket hung over the chair, it's bare, though there are scuff marks and scratches that look years old dug into the surface. On the wall opposite him, near the bed Dean's on, there's a framed painting of a blue-skied mountain range he studies for a few seconds before he realizes his heart's beating harder than usual and his vision is darkening.

"Cas, hey," Dean calls out, a hand over the speaker of the phone. "You alright?"

He's not unfamiliar with this emotion. Since he woke up human all that time ago, it's become the one he's most accustomed to. He's heard it described in clinical terms before -- depression, sadness, post-traumatic stress disorder; a 'mid-life crisis,' once -- but he knows it, and feels it, as 'empty' and there's no pattern to it. Often it just hits.

"Cas!"

"I'm fine," he gets out, squeezing his eyes shut to fight off what usually follows, and that's panic.

Dean barks the rest of their order into the phone and ends the call. Cas hears the mattress springs coil back into place and then the nearly silent tread of Dean taking a couple of hesitant steps forward. "Cas?"

His heart is still thrumming wild, but Cas forces himself outwardly calm. This is Dean. He's not alone. No one is attacking him. These are good reminders. He makes eye contact with Dean, who looks ready to approach with his concern, but Cas straightens. "Can I shower?"

Dean's mouth moves some while he tries to figure out what field this question's coming from. Left, Cas should tell him, since that is the punchline to that joke. The moment passes, though, and eventually Dean steps out of the way, running his hand over his jaw. "Yeah. Of course."

Cas nods and walks past. Along the way, it hits him. "Oh." He turns back to Dean, who's rooted in the same place. "I have no other clothes."

Dean must read the hope in his eyes, because he grabs his duffel from the floor and pulls out extra of his own. They're given to Cas, and during the exchange, he's told, "While you do that, I'm gonna head back into town and grab our food. That okay?"

Cas makes himself smile. Comforting. "Okay."

 

&

 

Cas loves showers.

True, this one isn't as nice as what was in the bunker, but it beats having to wipe himself down with the wetted, poorly made paper towels they keep stocked at the Gas-n-Sip. The human body, he's come to find out, never stays clean for long.

He watches the water turn pink when he sticks his injured hand under the spray. It stings, as he expected, but it's no worse than usual. Since falling, he's experienced a number of ailments, everything from fatal gut wounds to headaches to paper cuts. There is gratification, at least, in pain medicine.

The shampoo on the bathtub ledge is in a small, convenient bottle. It smells the same when he opens it as the soap did, but it lathers into bubbles on top of his head so he doesn't mind the slightly sour fragrance.

When he runs his hand over his body to slick away any leftover suds, he feels the stirrings he has come to associate with sex. He doesn't indulge often, but he likes that he can do this himself without the aide of another person. Particularly because afterward he doesn't need to worry about waking up with a knife in his stomach.

He doesn't do anything about it now, outside of wrapping his fingers and tugging lightly at the places that feel best.

Distantly he hears Dean return. There's a dull noise of the door closing. Then, muffled, "Cas?"

In the loose fist his hand's making, his dick twitches. It's unexpected, as is the bolt that tingles like an electric current through the back of his legs down to his toes.

There's a knock on the bathroom door. "Yo, Cas. You drown in there?"

His hand's still on his -- he lets go abruptly, scrambling to turn the water off. The sudden quiet is disconcerting but welcoming. "I'm all finished," he calls out, his voice cracking.

There's a beat. "Pizza's here." It's hesitantly given, almost awkward, and Cas has to lean his forehead against the tiled wall and close his eyes to will his sudden erection away.

He towels off and dresses fast, as he is used to. It hurts to use both hands, so he fumbles with the buttons. Of which there are many.

By the time the heat's left the bathroom and the water's stopped dripping from the showerhead, he's in control of his body once more.

"Better?" Dean asks him as he comes out, arranged on the bed again. The pizza box is open on the table, a couple slices missing. The smell of it makes his mouth water. There's also a six-pack, minus two.

"Yes, except." The blood from the rose left only a small wound, but now that the adrenaline from the night has worn off, his wrist is pounding. Dean catches him cradling it close to his chest and seems to realize instantly.

He says, "Shit," jumping to his feet. "Your hand. Cas, why didn't you say anything?"

"I forgot." That's the honest answer, but Dean still scoffs humorlessly at it.

Cas doesn't understand the anger on Dean's face when he stalks over, at odds with the gentle way he grips Cas's hand in his own. Carefully, watching Cas's face, he applies pressure. Cas winces.

"Well, good news is it's not broken. It's gonna hurt like a bitch for a couple days, though." He coaxes Cas into eye contact. Bewilderingly, there's worry there. "You sure you're okay, man?"

He's heard Dean throw a word around as a response before, so he uses it now. "Peachy."

It must be the wrong thing to say. Or maybe Dean senses the lie behind it, so often deceiving others with it himself.

"I'm hungry," Cas announces, eager to turn Dean's stare elsewhere. "We should eat."

Dean relents, but not before grabbing the keys to his car. "Dig in. I'll be back."

The motel room door swings shut behind him and Cas is, again, left alone. He eyes the pizza. Both of the bottles of beer on the night stand that Dean's already opened, one that he drank from. The bed, too, where there's still a slight dent from Dean's weight.

He settles at the table and waits.

It's only minutes before Dean returns, the motel door blowing inward again. The highway noise is carried in with him, but it cuts off once the door's closed.

"Just a sec," Dean tells him, crouching down to root around in his duffel near Cas's feet until he finds what he's looking for. His expression when he pulls out a rolled up ball of gauze is victorious. "Knew I had this somewhere. Alright."

He gets back to his feet and stares expectantly at Cas, whose face furrows into a confused frown at the attention.

"What?"

In Dean's other hand there's a field dressing. He gestures for Cas's injury with it. "Gimme."

Cas does, still confused, but Dean doesn't make any further comments. He does grimace in sympathy, dropping his supplies to the table.

"You mind if I--?"

There isn't anymore to the question, but Cas gets the point. Dean wants to take care of it for him. It's a thought that dries out his mouth, so his answer, when he gives it, is a nod, Cas swallowing hard.

"Might sting," Dean warns, leaning across Cas to grab the gauze. He's still holding high up on his wrist, so the movement brings them in close proximity with one another. Just once, Cas's heart skips a beat too fast, but then Dean's pulling back and smiling and Cas feels like somehow he's taking advantage of the situation. Of Dean. Like he's indulging when he shouldn't.

There's such a thing as sense memory. With April -- the reaper -- the tension the night they'd met had been soft, expectant. She saw to his wounds and then, well. Seduced him, for lack of a better term. For her gain, he found out much later, but at the time it seemed genuine, and he'd enjoyed the sensations that came with the attraction. The ones that came later with the act were pleasurable as well.

It's hard not to recall those feelings when the circumstances now are so similar, though Cas at least is marginally more clothed.

Standing near enough for their legs to touch, which emits a small line of heat, Dean bends slightly at the waist and starts rolling Cas's sleeve up. He's careful about it, like Cas is vulnerable in some way, and the rage that swells instantly upon realization almost causes Cas to react. But it's not pity here. Dean most likely doesn't assume he's weak simply because he's hurt. It's attentiveness because Dean is concerned, and that is almost harder to handle.

So he focuses on the nimble way Dean works, how this, caring and being protective, comes to him second nature. It's easy for him to patch someone up. To patch Cas up.

The kindness he's being shown is staggering, and an attempt to distance himself from it only leads to Cas noticing Dean's face, close as it is.

Before, when he had wings, when he was a 'soulless son of a bitch' as Dean had called him, he studied Dean similarly, though it was mostly out of curiosity, for the sake of inventory. He built Dean himself from little more than grace and re-energized cells, so he wasn't interested in the placement of freckles that spotted Dean's nose or the patches of facial hair that grew in. Dean's mouth was another thing he had no prior interest in.

Now. Dean is close enough for Cas to consider its shape. To see the parts that are soft and the parts that have gone dry. April, in his memory, had lips that were thin and lined up unevenly with his. It was nice. Kissing her. Dean's lips, he notices, are much fuller.

"Okay," Dean says, dragging Cas out of his staring. He backs up some and Cas immediately misses the view. "You should be good to go."

He looks down and finds that, up to his elbow, his arm's been bandaged fully, and now that it's secured, there's only a minor pain. Barely even a throb.

As a once upon a time ago celestial being that could heal its own injuries without thought, he's never had a reason to be tended to by someone else. The reaper notwithstanding.

And now, with Dean.

There's a heat winding its way up his sternum that he finds he likes, one he has previously only associated with the warmth of a dry sleeping bag and, once, burritos.

"Thank you," he says, and means it.

Dean's eyes soften at the gratitude. For a moment, it looks like he's swept up in the same emotions as Cas, that there is something building mutually between them. But then Dean clears his throat and removes himself from Cas's space entirely. His smile is big to overcompensate the moment.

"Grub time. I'm starved."

He collapses onto the bed with a lack of self-consciousness that comes from a lifetime of being comfortable in his own skin, sitting up to swipe his pizza and beer. Through a mouthful of a first bite, he raises a shoulder Cas's way and tells him, "Eat."

Cas does, to the gratitude of his stomach. The last time he ate was during his lunch break, hours before Dean showed up, but only because Nora had given him her sandwich. It was piled with various condiments and meats and he ate it in minutes. He understands now that she was 'buttering him up' for the babysitting job.

Dean gets the TV on. He clicks through commercials and television shows Cas only just catches the premises of, though stories involving the supernatural tend to be prevalent, which Dean scoffs loudly at each time, before something captures Cas's attention.

"Wait. Go back."

Dean makes a noise that resembles good-natured complaining, but he clicks away from the canned laughter of yet another show starring a man bickering with another man to the channel Cas had asked for.

Captivated by what's on the screen, Cas sits up straighter in the chair.

Dean repeats the same sound as before, only this time he adds humor to it. "Seriously?"

Cas doesn't take his eyes off the TV. "'Seriously.'"

There's a pause. It doesn't last long. "Infomercials?" Dean's tone is incredulous, maybe even a little judgmental, but when Cas turns to look at him, he doesn't seem anything other than amused.

"We sell this at the Gas-n-Sip. I've been curious."

On the screen there is a man and a woman the TV calls 'Mick' and 'Mimi' and they are advertising what the boxes at work have informed Cas is a 'Magic Bullet.' Despite the illustrations, he had guessed it as a weapon. Apparently it's meant to chop vegetation. Its actual use, he's finding, watching once more, is no less fascinating.

"Curious," Dean repeats. "About the Magic Bullet." He doesn't phrase it as a question so Cas doesn't bother answering. Quietly, Dean laughs, but he sets the remote down and grabs his beer, settling in.

And, so, this is what they watch.

 

&

 

Eventually the program ends and Dean, dragging a tired hand down his eyes, shuts the TV off.

There's an alarm clock on the nightstand near the bed that reads 1:31, with a small red dot lit up to let Cas know that time is A.M.. It's late. Later than he likes to stay up when his work day starts at seven every morning.

Dean is yawning, clearing away the mess from dinner. Cas gets the hint. He stands up, pulling Dean's attention his way.

"I need a ride." It's an embarrassing thing to admit, so he tries not to read too much into the look Dean gives back.

"Okay." That's hesitant, as is, "Where?"

Cas swallows. It's an unconscious gesture, only because this, too, he is ashamed of. "The Gas-n-Sip, preferably. Or within walking distance if you don't mind."

"Of course I don't mind," Dean snaps, and for some reason it's meant to sting, "but what the hell, Cas? What's going on here? It's closed."

Cas can't hold eye contact any longer. It's not a new feeling, humiliation, but he's never experienced it around Dean before.

When he looks up again, Dean's scrubbing his hand over his mouth. He's angry, but it's mostly internal. Eventually he says, "Are you..." and the accusation goes unvoiced, but it's there all the same.

Inexplicably, it makes his own anger flare. "Where else would I go?"

"Dammit, Cas. I don't know. I thought--"

"That thirty dollars and a shove out the door would get me somewhere? Dean," he almost laughs. "Come on. Don't." Be stupid, he means to add, but even with his bitterness surfacing, it's impossible to be cruel. Not to Dean.

Dean, who looks as if he's struggling with the weight of something big. "Cas," he says, and his voice breaks. They stare at one another for a long, dragged out moment, and then Dean is striding forward.

Cas is enveloped suddenly in a tight, and still tightening, hug. Dean wraps his arms around Cas and pulls him in and there's nothing Cas can do but stand there and allow it. Dean's breath is warm against his neck, as are the arms around his back, and at first he holds himself stiffly, not knowing what's expected back from him.

Then Dean rocks forward and Cas moves with him, gripping back. As soon as his hands fist in the fabric of Dean's shirt, Dean sags against him, holding him even closer.

Human beings are so remarkable. They forgive, and seek forgiveness, even when they've been hurt. Cas had witnessed this as an angel the many times he and Dean had fought, obviously, but there's something about the act now that makes Cas clutch at Dean as if Dean might soon let go.

Eventually, he does.

Dean pulls back, clapping Cas on the shoulder. His hand stays clasped there and he attempts to smile, though his eyes are watery. He clears his throat to cover that up. "If things were different," he starts, but he trails off because there's no point in wondering what if.

As quickly as it had taken hold, the animosity he felt so strongly only minutes ago has retreated. Except, in its wake Cas is empty once more, that numbness seeping in. So he takes a step back. And another. Dean's hand falls off his shoulder, leaving it colder than it was before. "I should go."

"Okay."

It takes another second, but then Dean gets a hold of himself. He works his arms into his jacket and grabs his keys, then looks around like he's forgetting something.

When he opens the door, Cas follows. Only Dean stops and slams it shut before either can exit. He spins back around, agitated, giving Cas no time to ask questions.

"No," is the first thing Dean says. "This? You living at the friggin' gas station? It's not alright. It's bullshit--"

"Dean," Cas tries.

Dean's eyes have turned pleading. "You can't sleep at a gas station, Cas, that's messed up. Our brand of it, and everyone elses."

"I'd like to have a real bed," Cas admits, shrugging at what seems, at this point, like an impossibility, "but I've had worse."

That makes Dean chuff out a self-deprecating laugh. "Yeah. Awesome."

This is more than guilt, he realizes. Dean blames himself for Cas's misfortunes. "You think this is your fault," he says. His voice comes out soft, almost awed by the willingness of which Dean is eager to take on Cas's burdens.

"Yeah, well. No other dick here but me," he agrees.

Cas' face scrunches up. "How?"

"You want that in list form, or--?"

Cas steps forward. Dean, like a cornered animal, drops his gaze to the floor. "I fell," Cas reminds him tersely, and there's a hardness there just so they're both aware of who is meant to be the punished one here.

"And I kicked you out."

Yes. But Cas doesn't understand the correlation. It's true, had Dean opened the bunker to Cas he would've had a roof over his head, maybe even a support system, but he would still be just as useless, he'd still have been the one to have disordered Heaven.

Plus, he's not safe to be around. Tonight was another example of that. "I recall you having your reasons."

Something about that makes Dean's expression tense up. "Yeah," he laughs, hard, mean. "My reasons. Right."

"I don't begrudge you, Dean," he tells him honestly, and it too causes Dean to react, only this time his face crumbles briefly.

"Yeah, well, you should."

Cas tilts his head, curious. "Do you condemn me for the mistakes I've made?"

Realizing that this conversation is going to continue, Dean tosses his keys to the table. He walks around Cas, pressing his fingers to the bridge of his nose. "That's different."

Cas doesn't see how. In fact, it'd be more understandable than Dean assuming Cas's punishment. "I listened to Metatron. I am the reason the angels--" He has to cut himself off, because the rest is too hard to say. To admit. It makes his breath come more rapidly.

Dean spins back around, hands held out at his sides. "So, what, you screwed up, I screwed up; here's a free pass?" It's sarcastic on purpose, and he drops it to say, "It doesn't work that way."

The alternative, however, is this. Him and Dean constantly weighing the scales of their crimes against one another. It's the last thing he wants. To lose Dean? It's unacceptable.

"Well, how then? You can't save everyone--"

"I know," Dean snaps. "Jesus, Cas. Do you not think that's drilled into my friggin' skull by now? And maybe I want to anyway. Maybe I'm tired of watching people I care about lose it."

That he can say that freely, uncaring of its magnitude, is overwhelming. "I'm not, though," he tells him. "Lost. I have a job here. Purpose. I have friends."

Dean huffs stubbornly. "Yeah? Who?"

"Nora," he lists. "Bill." Who delivers a bundle of newspapers every day. "Tanya."

That causes Dean to bark out a laugh. "Tanya. The baby."

Embarrassed, Cas defends, "I believe we may have bonded in our time together. Before the assassination attempt on my life, anyway." Then, like it's highly classified, he confesses, "We're both fans of 'The Greatest American Hero.'"

Dean's face screws up in confusion, so Cas hums a few notes of the theme song. Clarity hits.

"Wait, that crappy TV show from the 80's, the one no one in their right mind watched? Cas."

"What? I like it."

"You like infomercials," Dean accuses.

Cas opens his mouth to argue, but if his interest in the Magic Bullet is anything to go by, perhaps it's true.

Dean catches on, shaking his head. He's also smiling, but it's affectionate rather than mocking. "Weirdo."

The insult isn't intended to do anything but lighten the mood, and it does exactly that. "So, we're 'cool?'" The phrase is awkward on his tongue, but it's something he hears often and has been meaning to try out. Dean seems to appreciate it, in any case

"Yeah, Cas. We are."

"Good."

Dean smiles at him, but it doesn't lift up all the way. Once more he grabs his keys. He makes it as far as the door again before he's turning to face Cas.

"Stay." It rushes out of him. "Just the night. I'll drive you back in the morning, ass-crack of dawn even." That smile returns, hopeful. "I'm not in any rush to get out of here."

"Me neither," Cas admits, and it's the truth.

"So, stay."

Cas does.

 

&

 

It's awkward, a little, when they attempt sleep.

Sharing the same bed. Wearing Dean's clothes. Wrapped in the same blankets.

Cas shifts onto his back, like Dean, and confides, "I've been told it helps to count livestock."

To his right, Dean stares at him in the dark for a long, silent beat. "Do I wanna know?"

Cas glances at him, sees the reflected light in his eyes, and feels a dip in his stomach. He stares again at the ceiling. "Sheep. They service in sleep aide somehow. I haven't figured it out."

Dean's laughter bursts out quietly and briefly, but it still shakes the whole bed. "Man," he says, sounding fond, "even when you're not really you, you're still you.."

"I'm me," he agrees hollowly. He wonders if it's even true anymore.

Dean slaps a hand at Cas. It hits him on both his arm and ribs, jostling him amiably. "Hey. Damn straight you are. That's a good thing, Cas."

 

&

 

Cas watches as the number on the clock changes from 2:04 to 2:05.

 

&

 

"Sam says 'hey' by the way.".

"How is he?"

"Same. Gassy," Dean says. "Better."

"Good."

"Kevin's still propheting like a pro. Kid's got some kinda attitude, though. He shot an arrow at me, Cas. An arrow."

"Was it on God's command?"

"Ha. Funny. No, just a hormone-bomb cooped up for too long, I guess. Makes sense he'd go a little nuts."

"Murder sounds extreme."

"Right? Lucky I'm awesome. He missed."

"I assumed."

"God, you're snarky. Was it the homeless guys? You had to toughen your comeback game, didn't you? Cas got street."

"Dean. Shut up."

 

&

 

At 2:34 there's a persistence in Cas's bladder he's forced to take care of.

 

&

 

When it's quiet, Dean says, "I pray to you, Cas," and his voice is rough with the admission. It seems to embarrass him, because he makes himself sound lighter. "I mean, blame it on one too many head injuries, I don't know, but my ass is in trouble? I forget you can't hear me and I pray. Hell," he adds, and this is harsh, but for a different reason, "not like you always answered, anyway. Not at the end. Guess nothing's really changed, huh?" He laughs, except it's self-deprecating.

In the dark, Cas closes his eyes.

 

&

 

"Dean?"

It's after three. The air conditioner unit has kicked on again, loud and rattling like somewhere inside it there's a wayward screw.

Dean turns to his side, his hands sliding up underneath his pillow. His face is soft. Open. "What's up?"

Cas says nothing.

 

&

 

By the time the light at the bottom of the curtain has gone from artificially yellow to white with the sunrise, Dean is sound asleep, his head turned towards Cas so Cas can just make out the growing lines of wrinkles near his eyes, can hear the steady in-and-out drag of his breathing.

In a matter of an hour or so, they'll part and Cas will resume his life here. Already his mind is on the breakfast items that need to be thawed and set out, the gas pumps that must be turned on, the afternoon delivery of newspapers he will have to stock.

It aches in his chest, there's an actual physical manifestation, when he thinks of separating from Dean.

But he's human now. And the only way he knows how to survive that, is this. Fitting in, staying low. Conforming.

So, soon, Cas will change back into his clothes and put on his work vest. He'll make sure his name tag's in place. He'll sweep floors and greet customers and engage in conversations with talkative strangers and, eventually, it all might actually mean something.

And Dean will go, but that's okay.

Cas is doing fine on his own.

 

&

 

end.