“I hate Christmas” Dean mutters as he crosses the parking lot, his knuckles white on the shopping cart.
Castiel’s pace gets a little faster to join him, before he walks by his side, giving him a confused look. “Why?” he asks.
“I mean, look at all this” Dean answers, gesturing at the bright lights flickering, hanging from the tall building ahead of them. “Makes me sick” he adds, his mouth twisting in an annoyed line.
Castiel turns and he doesn’t understand Dean’s irritation. To him, the evening is beyond beautiful, colors illuminating the black concrete, shining like bursting stars on the cars, while people rush to enter the store, their breaths white and volatile in the cold air.
“I don’t know, I think it’s rather enchanting” he says, briefly glancing at the stars, the cool wind and black skies soothing him a little.
Dean glances at him and he seems about to snap another bitter remark, before he swallows it back and has a small sigh. “I didn’t say it was only awful, OK?” he answers and his eyes seem to darken, as if clouded by some memory, “I guess I just never had a good experience with it.” Seeing Cas gives him a questioning look, he follows, the words suddenly flowing free, ‘I mean, Mom was gone, Dad was God knows where, so while other kids were waiting for Santa Claus, Sam and I were praying that he wasn’t dead too.”
Cas stays silent a moment, searching for words. “I can understand it didn’t give you a good opinion of Christmas-” he begins.
“No, really?” Dean cuts him, before Cas’ glare makes him quiet.
“But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it now” he says in that low, soft voice of his, “Things are different now, Dean.”
“Are they?” Dean asks and despite his doubt, he can’t help but feel the light spread a little in his lungs as Cas keeps staring at him, all bright and hopeful.
“Yes” Cas says, and a small smile spreads on his lips, “You have your mother back, and… we are together again. Isn’t that enough?”
Dean considers him for a moment, his heart strangely fluttering behind his ribs, before he sighs and turns back to the raw, colorful glow ahead of him. “Maybe” he says, and he wishes he had Cas’ faith, but he’s always too afraid that something terrible will happen. “I really don’t know why Sam sent us when he’s the one so excited about all that.”
Sam had indeed been thrilled about Christmas time arriving. After all the wrongness of the past few months, he saw festive events as the best opportunity to bring their lives back into one piece. He and Mary had picked a Christmas tree before Dean could even realize December had begun, and now he was sending his brother and Cas on a mission to bring the Christmas spirit into the bunker.
To that, he added that it would be good for Dean and Cas to spend time together, with a strange knowing look that left Dean perplex. Or rather stumbling on his words as he tried to say he didn’t understand what Sam meant. This one only smiled wider and said, “You’ll thank me later for letting you two alone” before he walked away, smirking like a mischievous child.
Dean blinks and snaps out of his daydream, realizing the automatic doors slide open before him. He takes a deep breath in the cold night, before he glances at Castiel and finally enters the store.
If he thought he hated it from the outside, the feeling only grew much stronger once he stepped inside. No matter if the night has fallen, and dinner time is almost there, hundreds of people are huddled together, cheering, talking, shouting and the large surface of white tiles suddenly feels as narrow as a garden shed.
Dean swallows down, a nervous feeling itching in his lungs as the air gets thinner, his skull crushed under the ambient noise.
“Dean?” Cas says, his voice bringing him back to reality. When he turns to the angel, this one seems worried. “Are you alright?”
Dean gives a look around, and he realizes he’s not been surrounded by so many people in a while. Victims, sheriffs, a few other hunters, but never more than that. He spent most of his days only surrounded by his brother and mother, and mostly Cas lately, and he grew so used to their presence that anyone else’s felt wrong.
“Yeah” he whispers and tries to breathe slow to ease the knot in his stomach. “The faster we go through this, the faster we’re out” he mutters before he starts fighting his way through the black mass of human beings, Castiel following him closely.
Dean pulls a small, rumpled paper out of his pocket. It’s a list Sam gave him before he left, to make sure his brother didn’t forget anything. Dean groans at the length of it. “Really?” he says, incredulous, “Does he want to turn the bunker into a light show or what?”
“I think it matters a lot to him” Castiel says, his voice almost entirely drowned in the crowd.
“Yeah, sure he’s the only one.”
“Actually, he’s not” Castiel answers, giving him a smile.
“Yeah, Mom is probably excited too, I guess” Dean answers, not realizing Cas is looking at him.
Castiel gets closer to him as the path is narrowed by families standing right in the middle of it. “I meant myself, Dean. I look forward to it.”
Dean nearly stops in the middle of the aisle, before realizing he’d only create more chaos. He keeps on walking, giving Cas a surprised look. “Seriously?”
“Yes, I’m being serious” Castiel answers, and his eyes widen a little when he sees the Christmas section appearing in front of them, the lights like flickering, colorful stars in his irises.
“Why’s that?” Dean asks, still giving him an incredulous look, “I mean, I don’t think there’s Christmas in Heaven, am I right? Getting drunk, being embarrassed by the whole family, that sort of things?”
“Well, I’m not in Heaven anymore” Castiel answers and Dean sees how his steps get a little faster, his expression a little warmer, like a little child that tries to contain himself, in vain. “Now I want to enjoy as many human experiences as possible.”
“Right. But you realize it’s a crap holiday at least? Like, people eat until they can’t get up and then they pretend they’re happy to see each other and then there’s that stupid thing like in the movies where they kiss under-” He stops abruptly, seeing Cas’ attention is far, far away from him. “Do you want to go see it now?” he asks with a sigh.
“Yes, please” Cas says and before Dean can even protest, he rushes to the Christmas lights, soon blending in the crowd around.
“Son of a-” Dean begins before his words get stuck in his throat and he feels a familiar, ancient fear rooting in his belly. The immense dread that Cas will disappear to never come back again. He clenches his jaw and his steps fasten, and he barely bothers about the few people his cart pushes.
He arrives near the Christmas decorations and his heart misses a beat when he can’t find Cas’ silhouette anywhere. His eyes sound the faces around, but none belongs to him. “Cas?” he calls out, realizing a second later he must look oddly terrified. He parks the cart and goes round a small section of Christmas baubles. “Cas?” he calls again, a little louder, making one or two heads turn to him, to what he shots a dark look.
His heart now races in his chest and he feels some sort of fever swirling around his spine as he turns around one more heap of ornaments, and he’s about to call the angel’s name once more before he turns abruptly and he and Cas collides roughly.
Not bothering about the shock, Dean gives him a look like a storm. “Seriously? Where have you been?” he says, his breaths short and his palms slightly shaking.
“Sorry, I just wanted to get a better look” Cas says, before noticing his frightened expression. “I didn’t mean to worry you, Dean” he says, gentle like honey.
“I didn’t-” Dean begins, before realizing his emotions are painted all across his face. He sighs. “Just don’t disappear again, OK?”
“I won’t” Cas says before a smile spreads on his lip again. “Will you come see the lights with me?” he asks, his eyes so begging Dean feels something flutter behind his ribs, wild like a flight of crows.
“Alright” he mutters, before allowing himself a sigh of relief when Castiel turns back.
A few more steps and they enter some kind of long tunnel, made of metallic arches covered by red velvet falling on each sides. And tied above their heads, dozens of different fairy lights. Glowing and flickering as far as the eye can see, creating a galaxy of tiny, colorful dots.
Dean admits he might just have stopped breathing for a second, his attention suddenly caught by the sea of colors before him. On his side, Castiel is staring at the small lights with wide open eyes, raising them to the low ceiling, sure he’s seeing all the stars in the galaxy at once.
When he lowers them to look at Dean, this one sees the reflection of the lights inside them, hundreds of colors flickering, shining among the bright blue, casting sharp, haunting shadows on Cas’ face.
“Did Sam say which colors he wanted?” he asks in the softest voice.
Dean stares at him for long seconds, his little words taken away by the vision of Cas’ face in such moving light. He then blinks and clears his throat, yet not moving his eyes away. “Yeah, the classical: red, green, yellow. The housewife in him made it very clear” he says with a hint of mockery, but seeing Cas’ little nod and smile, it soon fades.
Carefully, Cas picks strings of lights after strings of light, his long fingers gently brushing against them, making the colors swing and cast their glow all around. Dean even starts looking on his own, holding the boxes of light tight against his chest. He’s staring at one string with small, green trees when Castiel calls him softly and he turns back, and nearly drops all that he’s carrying.
Castiel is pointing at a decoration the shape of a star, threads of golden light flickering behind it to make it look like it’s falling. But it’s not what Dean’s looking at.
Behind Cas, the store displayed several circles glowing with bright colors, and Castiel’s head just happened to be in the center of one of them, as if a raw halo of gold was floating around him, casting waves of light on his face and eyes.
Dean bites his tongue and prays for his feelings not to completely seep though his skin, and God knows how he hardly holds them back today.
Castiel, completely oblivious, gives him a confused look. “Dean? What’s happening?” he says, leaving the shooting star to get closer to him, only strengthening the flutter in his heart. He studies his face, frowning. “You look somewhere else.”
Dean tries a smile and sips in a small breath. “No, no, everything’s fine. Just grab that one and let’s move on, OK? I’ve seen enough lights for today” he says, trying to be convincing, but it doesn’t work, even on himself.
Castiel nods and goes to get his falling star, before he walks out of the tunnel with Dean. This one puts the light strings down in the cart, before he looks around, soon spotting the rest of the Christmas decorations.
As he walks towards them, mocking Sam’s little manners with Cas – or rather him mocking his brother and Cas giving him a reproachful look but having a thin smile afterward – he realizes he’s feeling oddly well. Not in the numb, cloudy feeling flooding his brain from time to time, but pure, genuine joy fizzing in his blood as he laughs and sees Cas laughing in echo with him, the angel’s warmth like a disease spreading right under his skin.
And as they search ornaments for the tree together, he realizes it’s not just pleasant, but very natural, as if it always meant to be this way. Cas shows him a bauble or a tinsel and Dean just finds himself enjoying it, the decorations soon making a thick heap in the cart, each of them bringing the hunter and the angel a little closer together.
At some point, Cas even grabs his arm to get his attention and each of his fingertips is a blow in Dean’s chest, and deep down he hopes it feels the same for Cas, that he somehow feels a little fire inside of him too.
As Cas searches for ornaments to hang all around the bunker, Dean looks through other little things to put on the tree, so Sam will not be able to complain about anything. His eyes then land on a small decoration and a smirk appears on his mouth as he picks it from the shelf and turns to Castiel, grinning like child.
“Hey, Cas?” he says and when he turns around he raises what he’s holding, beaming. “Look, that’s you.”
Dangling from his palm, there’s a tiny angel. Or rather, a tiny sticky figure with a round head and small body, with no legs or arms, but hair painted black and downy feathers spurting the same color from its back. And to that, a tiny metallic halo has been fixed over its head, completing what’s making Dean smile so big.
Castiel walks away from the stars and snowflakes he was looking at, and arriving near Dean, he squints at the angel before he gives Dean a confused look. “Dean, you know I don’t look like this.”
“Yeah, whatever” Dean says, raising an eyebrow in defiance, “I’m gonna buy it just to laugh at it until Sam takes the tree away, meaning end of January.”
“You wouldn’t” Castiel says, giving him a falsely angry look, but Dean sees the smile spreading on his lips.
“Yes I will, and you can’t keep me from doing it” Dean answers and he feels something bubbling in his chest, wide and bright and happy. “Isn’t that right, angel?”
Castiel is about to answer, but a little, dreamy “Aw” cuts him and they both turn to see a woman looking at them, an overflowing, tender smile on her mouth. The kind of smile you may have when you see two people so well together your heart can't help but have a sigh of bliss, and it's like everything you wish you had for so many lonely nights.
Dean’s eyes open a little wider and he tries to say something but the woman has already gone, her heart a little warmer for today.
Dean shakes his head and passes a hand in his hair. He carefully puts the little angel in the cart before he turns to Cas, who apparently didn’t notice the lady’s behavior. “Are we done?” Dean asks and Cas looks down a the list in his hands, before glancing at the full cart.
“Well, yes, I think so” he says, “We should head to the checkout.”
Dean nods and they turn around, hardly finding a path among the still crowded aisles. They’re walking by the magazines section when Cas’ low voices rises again in Dean’s ears.
“Why is Christmas a favorable time to romance?” he asks.
Dean turns to him, wide-eyed before he sees the cover Cas is showing him, indeed claiming that love blooms easily during that time of the year.
Dean shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe people feel lonely at Christmas, or maybe they just want to finally bring someone to family dinners. I guess that if they’re lucky, they’ll find the right one.”
Castiel doesn’t say anything for a few seconds, eyes lost into space, before he looks back at Dean, the blue in them both calm and faintly sorrowful. “So we’re both unlucky?”
Dean considers him, in all that bright eyes and dark hair and the fire running in his own veins. “Maybe” he says with a smile, “Or maybe just very stupid.”
Castiel has a soft laugh and Dean feels his belly being filled with thousands of tiny stars. Ah, if Life was easier, he could have just made the first step so long ago, and maybe now he could just lean towards Cas and take his face in his hands and-
Dean snaps to reality and turns to see a man smiling widely at them, holding a small, bright red Polaroid in his hands.
“Hi,” he says, walking closer to them, “Before you go, may I suggest you something? We thought that Christmas was a great time for lovers to create memories, so here’s the deal: you get an instant photo, and it’s entirely free” the man says, his eyes sparkling of life despite the shadows underneath, proof of a long day before that. “What do you say?”
Dean’s heartstrings are pulled all together and he knows he should explain the real situation, like normal people would do, but something keeps him from speaking, like ash in his mouth. He feels Cas stir beside him and when he looks at him, he sees a mixture of longing and bitterness in his eyes. “But we are not-” he begins.
Dean takes a short breath in and then, “Screw it” he whispers before he looks back at the man, a thundercloud growing in his chest, “That’s OK. Do it” he says, surprising both Cas and himself.
The man has a loud sigh of relief and his lips break into a wider smile. “God, thank you, you don’t know how many times I’ve been ignored today. Or worse” he says, inviting them to stand in front of a small space covered by a red and green wallpaper, giving them a grateful look. “I guess the Christmas’ spirit is not in everyone, am I right?”
Dean can’t help but scoffs. It’s all pretty ironic. “Yeah, I guess” he says, as he feels the usual nervous knots in his stomach untie. He turns to Cas, his lips mirroring the man’s wide, sunshiny smile. “Cas?”
The angel is staring at him, mouth half open of surprise, eyes glimmering. “Are you sure?” he asks, and Dean can hear how short his breaths are, how incredulous he sounds.
“Yeah, I am” he says, “Now, come on” he says, grabbing Cas by the arm, “Just to give Sam something to bother us with for the next forty years.”
Even Dean doesn’t understand how he can be so spontaneous and light-hearted, and he doesn’t even fully realize what’s happening until he stands in front of the photographer, an arm suddenly wrapping itself around Cas’ shoulders, bringing him closer. He feels Cas warm against him, just as he feels how the angel holds his breath, suddenly very small beside him.
The man holds out the Polaroid before him and presses a small button on a box near him. Fake snow bursts from the ceiling above them to softly fall on their heads. Cas, startled, has a small jump aside and grips the lapel of Dean’s jacket to keep his balance.
The photographer swears. “Shit, I didn’t have it” he says, just as Dean bursts into laughter, soon followed by Cas, whose eyes filled with stars raise to cross Dean’s, glowing with soft, soft bliss. “Oh wait, here we go, please smile and-” The flash snaps, followed by more swears as his words are downed in the crowd around.
It’s only when he raises his head again that he sees none of it bothered Dean and Cas. They’re both still laughing brightly, Dean at Cas’ fright and Cas at the snow speckling Dean’s sandy brown hair. The photographer stares at them, speechless as the photo prints, and he’s sure he didn’t see anything like the two of them in the whole evening, or the ones before.
There’s just something so raw and authentic about the way they hold onto each other, Dean’s fingers spread on Cas’ shoulders as he loses his own balance in laughter, and Cas’ hands curled on the front of Dean’s coat, his face nearly buried against Dean’s neck.
The man needs to blink a few times before he realizes the photo is done. He carefully takes it and waves it a little to let it dry, before he gets a look at it. “Hey” he says, finally catching Dean and Cas’ attention, and they suddenly realize how close they are and they pull away, rejoining him with a heat to their faces. “I’m sorry it didn’t turn the way it was supposed to be. Would you like to do it again?”
“Nah, I’m sure it’s fine” Dean says, taking the photo the man’s handing him. “You have a good Christmas, that’s all that matters, OK?”
“Thank you” the man answers, stepping back shyly. “Good holidays to you too” he says, before thinking for a second. “And hold on what you have, would you do that for me?” he asks, his eyes drifting between Dean and Cas.
Dean nods at him and thank him one last time before he takes the cart and walks to the checkout, realizing how late it must be now. He hands Cas the picture and get in the line, soon followed by another flow of people aligned like stars behind him. He starts to feel a little overwhelmed, still warm of laughter, the ambient noise growing like a storm around.
He turns to Cas, searching for an anchor in calm. The angel is staring down at the glossy photograph in his hands, and Dean is stunned to see tears crowding at the corner of his blue eyes.
“Hey,” he says, frowning, “Is it that bad?” he asks.
Castiel has a soft laugh and shakes his head, before he looks at Dean, wide shiny eyes diving into his. “No, not at all” he says before gazing back at the picture, his throat tight of emotion. “I love it” he says with pure honesty, before he hands it to Dean, cheeks flushed of color.
Dean’s eyes linger a little longer on him, like magnetized, before he finally looks at the small picture, and his heart does miss a beat.
It’s Cas and him, together, and most of all, them with wide grins painted on their faces, eyes fixed strong on each other, as if the photographer and the rest of the world had disappeared, and the only real thing left was the certainty of those hands holding their shoulders and chests.
“Dean?” Cas asks, giving him a little concerned look, as Dean fell into silence, his expression awed.
He blinks. “Yeah, yeah I’m here.” He then gives a wide smile at Cas, “You’re right, it’s great” he says, handing Cas the photo once again, and his voice is low like a whisper, and one could not ignore the shaking in it.
Castiel holds the picture like it’s pure gold, and Dean sees him take a deep, trembling breath, before he turns to him again, face bright like a sun. “Thank you” he murmurs, his heart pounding in his chest.
Dean feels brutal warmth rising to his face. “You’re welcome” he answers. He then realizes there’s still fake snow on Cas’ head, and moved by a deeply rooted instinct, he reaches out to Cas and shakes it from his hair, his fingertips shyly brushing against the soft, dark strands. “There” he adds, giving Cas a smile, as the angel stares at him, wide-eyed.
Dean is brought back to reality when the cashier calls them to move on. He apologizes and hurries to take the strings of light and tinsels out of the cart.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Cas smiling again at the picture, before the angel carefully puts it in the inside pocket of his jacket, his gesture so soft Dean feels light fluttering from his belly all way up to his head.
A week after, they are sitting on the small steps between the library and the war room, warm cups in their hands.
The Christmas dinner had gone so very well Dean couldn’t even quite believe it. They all had prepared a huge amount of food, eating and drinking and laughing until their stomach hurts and their heads felt light and full of clouds, and Dean had found himself drowning in pure, golden joy, accepting his mother or his brother’s embraces without groaning as usual.
As for the gifts, they had agreed not to go too personal and rather enjoy the evening as it was, so they had bought chocolates and soft, flavored liquor, new clothes or shiny guns. Dean got a new knife from Cas, the handle in rough, dark wood but with silver details swirling around it in thin details, the metal reminding Dean of angel blades, and he couldn’t help but think it was the two of them in one weapon. Or maybe as the weapon itself.
They were warm and huddled together by the tree, shining of dozens of colors, thanks to Dean and Cas, enjoying a calm evening without ache or sorrow for the first time in a while.
And then Dean had gotten up and came back with a gift for each of them, to thank them after putting up with him for so long, as he said. There was books for Sam, and not books about monsters and how to kill them, but actual novels with beautiful, old covers that Dean found in a tiny bookshop in town. There was an equally elegant journal for Mary, as she had expressed her desire to possess one like John had, and Dean had listened, and soon he had found one and asked the maker to add Mary’s name on it, in wide, golden letters.
To Cas, he gave a new leather jacket, as the angel didn’t have many possession since he completely moved in the bunker and began to live as more a human as a creature from Heavens above.
“So I won’t have to think about your damn trenchcoat anymore” Dean had said with a grin, to what Cas had answered by a glower, soon melting under a smile as he tried the jacket on, admiring the deep red color of it – so close to the one Dean wore when they were trapped in Purgatory, holding so many memories and prayers and longing – and the small pattern of feathers inside it, making him smile even wider.
As Mary and Sam went into the kitchen to tidy it a little, Dean had taken Cas’ arm and led him to the table in the library. Carved into the wood, there were the DW and SW Cas’ fingers had brushed with melancholy so many times, as well with the MW they added when they got their mother back.
Only one name was missing, and Dean couldn’t stop thinking about it when Cas was gone, and even more when he came back, and he always wondered why the angel didn’t add it on his own. And then it came to his mind that maybe he just didn’t dare to do so.
“I think you totally deserve that by now, no?” he said, handing Cas his new knife.
The angel gave him a fluttering look of surprise. “Are you sure?” he asked, his heart bubbling like a star about to burst.
“Don’t be an idiot, Cas” Dean had said, before giving him a smile. “Unless you don’t want it?”
Cas hadn’t think twice and had taken the knife, carefully carving a C near the other initials, but he had frozen afterward, giving Dean a questioning look. This one had nodded, and fought against the pull in his stomach telling him to just grab Cas’ face and make him understand how much he meant to them.
So Cas had carved a W in the wood, before he leaned back and observed the CW now surrounded by all their names, and he tasted his tears of joy on his tongue, bright in the back of his head.
“Now I don’t want you to think you don’t belong with us ever again, is that clear?” Dean said, diving his eyes into his.
Cas had nodded and before he could think, he was whispering a choked “Thank you” against Dean’s chest, and maybe it was just the liquor dampening his halo or maybe it was just that mystical link old as time that drew him to Dean for so many years.
All the air had left Dean’s lungs and he had frozen for a moment, before wrapping his own arms around Cas’ shoulders, completely stunned as the angel hid his face in the dark of his heart.
And now that Sam and Mary are sleeping, they’re sitting together, observing the lights on the tree, the colors and feathers among the branches. Their hands are warm as Mary had given both of them cups of hot milk and honey, covering them with a tender look.
Dean feels incredibly calm, and there’s no more static or blackness whispering inside of him in that moment for all he hears is Cas’ soft breathing and the faint, soothing music escaping the phone Sam had forgotten near the tree.
“You know, in moments like these, I think that maybe things could be different” Cas suddenly says, making Dean turn to him, “Better.”
Dean frowns slightly, his head still heavy of laughter and bliss. “What do you mean?”
Cas’ eyes get lost in the milk in his cup. “That we could live like this everyday, that there wouldn’t be monsters or Lucifer anymore, that we wouldn’t have to be afraid all the time.”
Dean has a little sigh. “Believe me, I want that too. But no matter how bad it gets sometimes, it’s our life. I believe in what we do, and I know no one else would do it.”
“You’re right” Castiel admits, but there’s still a bitterness swirling in his blue eyes.
Dean presses his shoulder against his, trying to cheer him up. “Besides, if we didn’t live in that crazy world, we wouldn’t have met, right?” he asks with an amused smile, but his heart tightens at the very idea of a place without Cas in it. It sounds so cold, so hollow, so lonely.
That brings a smile on Cas’ face, small and shy, but still there. “Yes, that was a good coincidence I believe.” His eyes then seem to darken and he briefly glances at Dean before looking away, something growing louder inside him. “But is that bad if I wish things were different… between us?” he asks, the flow of his words unstoppable.
Dean freezes and fear fills his heart. “You wish we were less than friends?” he asks, his voice tiny. He always knew his feelings didn’t flow both ways, but he was so certain Cas appreciated their friendship at least. But now, his world comes tumbling down and he aches to the core of his bones.
Cas’ hands tighten around his cup until his knuckles become white, as if about to split into liquid stardust. “No, of course it’s not that” he says, the ghost of a sad smile appearing on his mouth. He falls silent, his thoughts tormenting him as he doesn’t know what to do. He then lets out a heavy breath. “I wish it was more than that” he finally admits in a hushed heartbeat, terrified.
Dean’s heart is blown away and he stares at Castiel, wide-eyed and barely breathing, his soul pulsing of light and he can’t believe what he just heard, and he can’t say a word, just keep staring at him in agony and longing.
Castiel glances at him, but doesn’t look at him in the eye. His lashes flutter as he puts his cup down, shivering entirely. He suddenly gets up, back facing Dean, his fists clenched on his sides.
“I’m sorry” he says in a whisper, lowering his head to the ground. “I shouldn’t have said that, I didn’t mean to-”
“Cas” Dean suddenly says, getting up. He screwed up so many things before, but not that. Not when it’s Cas. He walks to him and makes him turn around. “Hey, look at me.”
Cas still avoids his eye. “I’m sorry Dean” he repeats, “I didn’t want to ruin everything, I-”
Dean suddenly moves and before he knows, his hands frame Cas’ face and he’s just a breath away, and all his being is bubbling with gold. “Listen, you idiot” he says, and he sees Cas’ eyes open wide, “You didn’t ruin anything and-” He stops, searching for words and despite his dread, the one that rooted so long ago and kept growing like a disease, he knows he can’t turn back now. “If you had not done it, I would have. And better now than never, right?”
Castiel gives him a confused look. “I don’t understand. Why would you-” And then he stops and his eyes open wide again, his breath gets stuck in his throat as he understands. “Does that mean…?”
“Yeah” Dean answers, a smile bursting on his mouth and his eyes suddenly get glassy and he realizes how warm Cas is, what wonderful, incredible thing he represents, and that just strikes him right in the chest. “I thought you’d guessed by now.”
Cas shakes his head and his eyes drift on all Dean’s face, as if he was trying to map it in his mind, in all its curves and rough edges, all the details he wants his fingertips to brush every day and every night. “Never” he whispers.
Dean has a little, soft laugh and his hands leave Cas’ face for his arms to wrap around his waist, very gently, a little shyly, and he’s covered by a shiver as he feels Cas’ fingers tracing the line of his jaw, his hairline, before they settle on the back of his head, the angel’s palms holding his mind and world.
Dean leans closer. “You mind?” he asks, still thinking this is all a dream drenched in flickering lights.
Cas smiles, eyes damp and shiny. “Not at all.”
So Dean closes his eyes and his lips crash against Cas’. It’s desperate, cutting a breath in two, yet very careful, soft like a summer wind. Cas has a small sigh of surprise before he melts of ease against him, his fingertips diving deeper in Dean’s hair, bringing him closer, their bodies colliding together.
The lights keep on shining, red, green, golden, sending stars all around, ceiling and ground, illuminating their rapid heartbeats and honey-sweet lips, all the years of ache crumbling down in one kiss.
And it’s like everything led to this, like there was no other possible way to live. Dean dives deeper in the sensation and Cas tilts his head, knowing exactly what gesture to make. Their mouths break into blissful smiles, and they have to stop, breathless, soon drowning in stunned laughter.
They lean their foreheads against each other, bathed in sighs of pure, colorful happiness, and Cas bites his tongue, still afraid he’ll shatter the moment like glass, that if he dares to open his mouth, the thunder will break and the darkness will fall and that gentle warmth will go away.
“I love you” he suddenly whispers, shuddering against Dean.
This one’s smiles only becomes wider. “Yeah, I love you too” he answers. And God, the words always felt so strange in his mind, as if they could never belong to him, as if he was too rusty, too broken for his tongue to shape them. But now, they sound like everything that’s making his heart beat faster in that moment, his voice low and hoarse and heavy of a sugary delight.
Castiel has a little strangled breath as if the words were bullets in his chest. He observes Dean for a second, awed, before he puts a last kiss on his mouth, sweet and burning, slightly standing on his tiptoes. He then leans his head against Dean’s shoulder, closing his eyes, simply enjoying the warmth of him, the feel of his bones and muscles and blood, the sound of his soul whispering somewhere deep inside him.
Dean puts his cheek against his hair, eyes raised to the ceiling, and he feels all his emotions overflowing, bright and warm and golden. He holds Cas a bit tighter and he has a soft sigh. He now knows what it’s like to be whole.
Months later, Dean is sitting on the edge of his bed, observing a small piece of glossy paper. He found the photograph again while rummaging through his drawer.
His lips stretch into a smile at the sight of Cas’ mouth bright of laughter, the way their eyes are fixed so strong on each other, when they had no idea their lives were about to change on a warm, light-drenched evening.
The mattress stirs when Cas moves closer to him, peeking above his shoulder. He leans his chin on it, his breaths warm and soothing on Dean’s skin.
“Do you still wish things were different?” Dean gently asks. Monsters and devils are still running free, and some days have been tougher than others, so he wouldn’t mind if Cas wanted to leave this life forever, away from the dark and blood and dust.
But to his greatest surprise, Cas shakes his head before he puts a kiss on Dean’s hair. “No. I have everything I need now” he answers before he comes to lie in the bed.
Dean lets his thumb brush against the photo one last time before he gently puts it on the bedside table, shuts down the lights and he slides under the cover and curls next to Cas.
He can hear the angel’s breathing near him, the warmth of him soothing and full of silky grace. “Do you?” Cas asks, his voice a thin whisper.
Dean smiles in the dark. His hand finds Cas’ and he intertwines their fingers together, bringing their palms to his heart. “No” he says, and his soul settles in the soft blackness, finally at peace. “Not now that you’re here.”