The ocean is a flat plane of glass, and the boat doesn’t cause a single ripple as it glides along the surface. Dean has no idea how they managed to drift out so far, but somehow they’ve completely lost sight of the shoreline. The only indication of the horizon is the thinnest, faintest line; a stray hair caught in a watercolour canvas.
It’s light out, the air around him a diffusion of pink and gold and reflected back in the water’s mirror surface, but he can’t find the sun. Perhaps it’s nearing dawn.
Dean’s leaning back against the bow, hands behind his head. The gunwales are kind of digging into his shoulders, but he’s smiling.
His companion is silent and placid where he sits near the stern. The light is catching the tips of his hair, setting off the dark with glints of gold. Clasped hands hang between splayed knees.
Dean inhales thick, salt air and lets his eyes drift closed. “This was a good idea. We needed a vacation.”
“You deserve it.”
Dean hums, contented. “You too. Hell, we’ve all been through the ringer lately.”
Cas nods. “I suppose we have.”
Their voices float easily through the air, but in the space all around them it’s perfectly quiet, save the occasional soft, gentle slap of water against the boat.
“Seriously, we shoulda done this years ago.”
“When?” Cas asks, the corner of his mouth quirking up. “After the apocalypse, but before the leviathan? Maybe between the Mark of Cain and Amara?”
“Anybody ever tell you you’re kind of a downer, Cas?” Dean replies peaceably.
“Once or twice.”
Another long and companionable silence stretches out between them. They’ve been out here a while now and the sun probably should’ve risen, but it’s hardly a concern: the glow of light around them is warm enough. In fact, Dean could probably afford to take off his jacket, were he not far too comfortable to move.
“Dean. How long do you plan to stay out here?”
Dean cracks one eye. “What, you got somewhere to be?”
Cas’ answering smile is fond, and only slightly tinged with sadness. “No.”
“That’s what I thought.” Dean drops his eyelid.
“It’s just, there are things you need to do.”
Both Dean’s eyes open now, and he leans all the way up to sit on the hard, wooden seat. The boat rocks and sways. “Yeah, Cas, there’s always something. But you are cutting into our hard-earned relaxation time, man. You keep this up, you can kiss that second date goodbye.”
“This is a date?”
Dean gives him a look. “You take a lot of platonic pre-dawn rowboat rides?”
“I suppose not,” Cas says, and he casts his eyes out to the water. “I’m just a little surprised.”
“But not disappointed.”
There’s a faint blush dusting Cas’ cheeks. Maybe it’s just the light. “No.”
“Because you love me.” Cas’ eyebrows rocket up to his hairline, and Dean shrugs defensively. “Hey, you said it, not me.”
“Well, that’s certainly true.”
Dean’s gotta give him that one. “Touché.”
Cas is looking at him patiently, waiting.
Feeling rather like a third-grader forced to answer a question he wasn’t listening to in the first place, Dean casts his eyes down, suddenly intensely interested in the rough woodgrain below his feet. The fact that the boat has no oars is a mild curiosity.
“I dunno,” Dean shrugs. “Probably shoulda said it then. Guess I just figured you knew.”
“Because you’re always so open and honest with your feelings.”
That’s two points to Cas.
Dean plays for time a while longer, scraping his boots through the coarse, black sand he tracked in from the beach. “Alright, well, there it is. Better late than never, right?”
This time Cas doesn’t bother trying to hide the heartache in his smile.
They sit in silence again, for minutes or maybe hours. Eventually Cas looks left to the non-existent sun. “It’s probably time to go back,” he says quietly.
Dean shakes his head. “Nah. Little longer.”
“You have responsibilities, Dean.”
Dean scoffs. “What, you mean Rosemary’s baby?”
“He didn’t ask to be what he is.”
“He’s the literal antichrist, Cas.”
“Whatever he is,” Cas says firmly, “good or evil, he needs someone. He needs guidance.”
“He needs a bullet in the neck.”
Cas shakes his head. “You don’t mean that. He’s an innocent, Dean. And he needs you and Sam, now that I can’t be there for him anymore.”
Something flickers in Dean’s chest, like a moth beating against his heart. He frowns, confused, and finds Cas’ eyes.
The intent expression on Cas’ face gradually shifts to one of resignation. He sighs softly. “You forgot again, didn’t you?”
Dean jolts awake to a blaring car horn.
Sam is driving, the hideous sodium streetlights casting harsh lines of shadow across his face when he turns to the passenger seat. “You were talking again.”
Dean doesn’t answer as he reacquaints himself with the deep, aching chasm in his chest.
Sam swallows visibly, shadows of raindrops on the windshield like pockmarks on his skin. “Do you wanna talk about it?”
Dean grits his teeth. “Yeah, Sam. There were these clowns. Like thirty of ‘em, and they all kept piling out of this Volkswagon.” The lie slides easy off his tongue.
Sam throws up a hand in surrender. “Okay.”
Anger is easier. Anger is always easier.
Dean closes his eyes tight and tries to chase the soft, pink-gold light of the ocean. He inhales Baby’s familiar leather scent, desperate for a whiff of salt air.
He tries to forget.