Dean jumps slightly when the bunker's door creaks. It's been over a month, but he still thinks please, please, please before looking up.
"Cas," Sam says.
Cas' shoulders are stiff. "Hello."
"Hey. You're all right. Um ─" Cas turns away and starts down the stairs. Sam glances at Dean before continuing, "Where've you been?"
Dean's pulse is thumping in his ears. "Lemme rephrase that for Sam: where the hell've you been? And why've you ignored our phonecalls?"
"Where I was," Cas says, pausing beside the table, "the reception was ─ um. Poor."
Dean's jaw tics; being angry is easier than ─ it's just easier. He grunts, "No bars," and looks back at Sam. "No bars ─ that's his excuse." He takes a breath and meets Cas' eyes. "Wow."
"I was in Heaven. I was... working with the angels."
Dean's mouth moves but nothing comes out. On his third try he says, "You ─ Heaven? You were in Heaven?"
"So you ─ uh. You." Heat crowds up underneath Dean's jaw. "You were - did you -?" He's not sure he wants to ask that question in front of Sam, so he grumbles, "Whatever," and walks out of the War Room.
Sam must not interrogate Cas too long because he comes to Dean's room about five minutes later. He doesn't bother knocking, so Dean doesn't bother turning around. The door sighs as Cas pushes it closed. Dean kills the neck of his beer, then clunks the bottle on his nightstand. He grabs a flannel out of the hamper and tosses it at the "darks" pile at the foot of his bed.
When Cas finally says, "Dean," his voice dips. "I ─"
Dean cuts him off with a grunt. "So you've been upstairs this whole time?"
"Most of it, yes."
"And you ─" Sighing, Dean balls a denim shirt in his hand. Blood is spattered down one sleeve. "Could you, um. Did you hear me when I ─ when I, uh."
Cas shifts his feet. Quietly, he says, "Yes. I heard you pray."
Dean drops the shirt on the bed and turns around. "Okay." He'd said the first one sitting on the edge of his bed, picking at a loose thread on his blanket as he asked Cas to give them a call. The second and third had come on the road; one with Sam snoring in his ear and the other with Stay With Me buzzing on the radio. "Okay, yeah." He'd been halfway through a fifth of Jim Beam when he mumbled out the fourth. "It's good to know you give a shit."
"I wanted to come to you. I would've come to you, but ─"
"You were busy, I get it. You ─" Dean waves his hand around "─ you had angel shit to do."
Cas takes a step closer as he says, "Dean," and Dean can smell it now ─ the cold, windswept edge Cas had carried around all the time when he still had his wings. "The angels don't trust me. They probably never will. But we're going to need them to deal with Dagon and the nephilim, and I couldn't risk ─"
"Yeah, sure," Dean says, turning back to his laundry. The hamper nudges the back of his thigh. "We wouldn't wanna upset 'em ─ not the guys who beat you and stabbed you and tortured you. Not the guys who ditched you when you needed an army." He shakes out a shirt so hard it snaps like a tacking sail. "Not the guys who brainwashed you."
"Dean." Cas' voice is knife-sharp, but he doesn't say anything else. He just sighs and closes his eyes. He looks ─ he looks tired. "Dean, please."
Cas hesitates for a moment. Then he shakes his head and says, "Nothing. I just ─ I don't understand you sometimes. You don't like it when I go to Heaven, but you don't really want me here, either."
"You ─ what?" Dean sighs and rubs his face. A dull headache is squeezing the base of his skull. "When did I say that? You ─ I never fucking said that."
"Dean," Cas says again. This time, it's weirdly gentle. "Do you remember the night Ramiel stabbed me?"
Dean mumbles, "Yeah," and throws a muddy pair of jeans on the bed. His gut lurches. "Yeah."
"Do you remember what I said to you?"
"I ─" Dean nods. "Yeah. You said that you ─ um. You know. That you loved us."
"You. I said I loved you." Cas tips his head to the side. "And you never addressed it."
"Cas. You - you, um. You ain't─"
"Dean," Cas says sharply. "Don't insult me by telling me I don't know how I feel."
"I'm not," Dean mumbles, flushing. "I'm just ─"
Cas says, "Dean," again, then grabs the flannel Dean's holding and tosses it on the bed. He takes Dean's hands and brushes his thumbs against Dean's palms. "As I laid there, dying, all I wanted was a little more time with you. I've lived for millennia and I ─ I was desperate for one more minute."
His thumbs slip down to stroke Dean's wrists, and it's such a soft, slow touch that it makes Dean shiver. A chill sweeps up his arm and prickles at the back of his neck. Dean stares at Cas for a few seconds ─ at the line of his throat and the curve of his mouth. He still smells like sharp, cold air.
After a moment, he drops Dean's hands. He murmurs, "Sorry," and takes a step back. "I shouldn't have ─"
"You running out on me again?" Dean asks. He doesn't have to fake the edge to his voice ─ anger is easier, always easier. "I was gonna ask if you were staying for dinner, but I guess you got other shit to do."
"Dean." Heat is rising in Cas' cheeks ─ he's fucking gorgeous. "I would stay if I honestly thought that's what you wanted."
"What makes you think it ain't?"
"I told you I loved you, and you ignored it. What am I supposed to think?"
"I didn't ─ um." Dean scratches the back of his neck. "Look, that night was pretty nuts. You almost died, and we had to burn Wally. And then my mother ran off with a fucking ─" Dean huffs out a noise and reminds himself it isn't his business. "And you ─ you skipped outta here first thing in the morning."
"You ─ just c'mere." Dean grabs Cas' face in both hands. He curls his fingers in Cas' hair, and Cas breathes out a soft, surprised noise that reels Dean in like a fishing line. He kisses Cas easy and slow, their mouths brushing and catching again and again and again. When he finally pulls back, he rests his forehead against Cas' and asks, "You gonna stick around?"
Cas doesn't hesitate. "Yes."