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the humming

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 “Shit—Cas, you gotta wake up, you can’t

Cas, listen to me, we’re gonna get you outta here, okay? I’m gonna

Cas, can you hear me?

Cas, just hang on, only a few more minutes

 

“… I don’t know, Sammy, they’re saying he’s not gonna wake up

I don’t think it’s an Angel thing, not this time. He won’t answer me—”

 

There’s a possibility that even if he wakes up, he’ll never be able to move his legs.”

But there’s nothing wrong with them, he didn’t break anything, so why

 

I’m praying, I’m praying to whoever can hear me, just do this one thing, alright? Not even for me, do it for

 

“… I’ve never stopped, alright? Just please, promise me you’ll…”

 

The sun is shining when Castiel wakes up, pouring in through the curtains of an unfamiliar house. A soft breeze wafts in through the window screen, cooling the sweat beading across his forehead and dripping into his hairline. A welcome reprieve to the blankets piled atop him, keeping him immobile. Comfortable, but oppressive in a way he can feel down to his toes.

Only then does the pain catch up to him, and only then does Castiel realize that something is wrong. For the first time in… days, possibly, maybe even weeks, he can feel every bone in his body aching at once, his skin crawling with the need to move, but his muscles fighting his every attempt. Wiggling his toes is the most he can do; anything else makes him wince and bite back a scream. Even his hands, resting atop his stomach, are bandaged in gauze all the way up to his elbows, his fingers bruised and sliced at the knuckles.

Lifting them only makes it worse. Castiel opts to keep still for as long as he can, simply concentrating on breathing in the salt air and letting his overheated body cool ever so slightly.

He’s in a home, that much Castiel knows. The how and the why, he can’t remember. By some miracle, he knows his name, but that’s the most he can discern. The rest of it—the locale, the voice rumbling from another room, how he woke up to be injured in the first place—are a complete blank, like the only thought in his mind is his name and the weather, and the headache budding behind his eyes.

Whoever lived here before painted the walls a calming blue, with off-yellow trim and clamshells stenciled along the baseboards. A television sits atop a small dresser, large and boxy with no remote control in sight. At the foot of the bed is a rocking chair, pointed towards him; the breeze gusts, and if Castiel concentrates hard enough, he can see it move, like someone is there with him, watching over him.

His heart pangs, for reasons he can’t understand. Maybe it’s better if he doesn’t understand at all.

A cloud overshadows the sun, extinguishing the light in his face. Slowly, Castiel blinks and turns his head, ignoring the sting in his eyes or the sweat soaking into his hair. Not sweat at all, but admitting that he’s crying hurts more than the ache in his joints. Out of everything, his own weakness hurts the most.

The door opens, out of line of Castiel’s sight but still just as audible. Socked feet cross the floorboards; minutely, Castiel can feel the uneasy vibrations cast in his direction, can feel a sigh coming even before it begins. Fingers card through his hair—those same fingers pull back, and the bearer sucks in a breath, cursing to himself.

Castiel turns, and doesn’t recognize the man before him. In the shadows, he’s handsome, green-eyed and freckled to the tips of his ears, with his hair almost buzzed to the scalp; one section of his head is stitched together, the glaringly obvious bald spot his only blight. He sobs at the sight of Castiel, bloodshot eyes welling over, but Castiel doesn’t share his grief. Not even when the stranger pets his hair, fingers coming dangerously close to a wound Castiel can’t even see.

His heart pounds, and Castiel doesn’t understand why.

“Cas,” the man says, choked in his anguish. Still, he smiles, his lower lip trembling. Castiel just blinks, the most he can do. “God, I was wondering if you’d ever wake up.”

“I don’t…” Castiel starts, incredibly hoarse, to the point of pain. His attempts to speak end in a spasming cough, one the stranger attempts to quell by helping Castiel to sit up and offering water. It doesn’t ease the ache, not really, but the sentiment keeps him calm, comforts him in a way he doesn’t understand. There are still too many questions left unanswered, too many things he can’t comprehend.

“I don’t know who you are,” Castiel mutters once he’s regained his breath, an injured hand to his heart.

At his side, the stranger just stares, wide eyed and lips parted. He looks away after a short second, brow furrowed despite his laughter. “That’s…” he starts, scrubbing his face and the stubble beginning to grow in thick along his jaw. Somehow, Castiel suspects they both need to shave. “That’s alright. We can work on that, like we always do.”

And in his heart, Castiel believes him. That’s the most confusing part, that deep down, he knows this man, every facet of his body and soul, but he can’t put a name to his face. Can’t remember anything about him, but his body understands. His body knows, and that’s all Castiel cares about. That this man isn’t a threat, that this man is there to help him.

That solace is enough to keep him going, at least for another day. “Who are you?” Castiel asks.

He winces while the man guides Castiel’s head back down, cradling it softly back onto the pillows. “Dean,” Dean says, and Castiel’s heart staggers, but he remembers nothing.

That’s what scares him the most.

-+-

Pain keeps Castiel bedridden for hours, his limbs locked for what feels like days on end, kept straight by Dean’s insistence on blankets. Meanwhile, Castiel rests fitfully, hands over his stomach, staring at the ceiling fan as it rotates pitifully, barely creating a gust. Faintly, he can hear the waves lapping against the shore not fifty feet away and the gulls chasing the breeze. Once, one lands on the windowsill, watching him from the other side of the screen.

As much as he wants to humor the thing, Castiel can’t bring himself to so much as laugh.

Dean doesn’t visit him until the sun begins to set, and it’s only under the guise of tending to Castiel’s wounds. Still, he suspects there must be some shame there on Dean’s part; Dean never quite looks him into the eye, and when he does, Castiel only finds sadness, a wistful forlornness Castiel feels but can’t quite place. Dean misses him, perhaps. Castiel misses whatever he was to Dean, as well.

“I gotta see if you’re still bleeding,” Dean says, pulling up the rocking chair and setting down a container of gauze and a half-filled bucket.

With gentle, calloused hands, he helps Castiel sit up, enough to prop up two pillows behind him. Castiel hisses all the while, feebly holding onto the covers in an effort to console himself, or at least direct his discomfort elsewhere. It works, for the most part. As soon as his chest stops threatening to seize, he opens his eyes to watch Dean stripping the blankets off him, methodical and precise, never with malicious intent.

Castiel finds himself drawn to watching Dean move, the subtle play of muscle under his shirt and the dexterity of his fingers. Like everything he does has meaning, like he can’t exist without it. Inwardly, Castiel craves this intimacy and Dean’s touch, unfamiliar yet warm, soothing. Even if nothing else makes sense, this does.

Whoever Dean is, and whoever Castiel was before today, they must’ve been lovers, or at least close enough.

The mid-winter breeze finally graces Castiel’s sore legs, and only then does Castiel realize what’s been plaguing him since the morning. Bruises discolor his skin from his thighs down, a cacophony of purples and blacks and yellows, sickening to look at and even worse to bear. Reddened gauze covers what Castiel suspects are cuts, but not as bad as he thought, considering. Dried blood coats the outside of his legs and under his knees, crackling and irritating.

“We… Someone plowed into your side of the car in an intersection,” Dean says, jaw steeled as he untapes each individual patch of gauze. The wounds are deep, but not as deep as they could’ve been; he sucks in a breath at the sight of them, anyway, his eyes beginning to sting. “Had to take you to the first hospital I could, but… They thought you were dead.”

“I don’t understand how I’m alive,” Castiel mutters, attempting to flex his hands. “I don’t know who I am.”

“I know,” Dean sighs. He turns his attention to the bucket, pulling out a rag and wringing most of the water from it. “They were saying… if you woke up, that you might not be able to walk.” Slowly, he massages the meat of Castiel’s legs, wiping the blood away until all that’s left is bruised flesh. It doesn’t make him feel any better. “Can you move your toes?”

Castiel does, albeit weakly; Dean smiles all the same, chuckling to himself. “I can feel everything,” Castiel admits. He struggles to bend one knee, managing to lift it at least somewhat off the bed. It’s progress, substantially more than he could do this morning. “My body remembers, but I don’t. I look at you, and all I see is…”

He stops. Dean knows what Castiel sees; no use in telling him redundancies. “It’ll come back,” Dean says, distant yet adamant. “It might take days or months, but I’ll be here. I ain’t leavin’ you, not like this.”

“What were we?” Castiel asks, much to Dean’s shock. “Why are you treating me like this? So…”

Dean kisses him before Castiel can fully process what happened. Wet hands cradle his face, bloodied rag in hand, and Dean kisses him, almost whisper-like and trembling. Tears fall, and Castiel can’t tell if they’re his own or Dean’s. Maybe both—maybe this is what they were before, or what they were meant to be. Whatever the reason, Castiel can’t breathe, can barely think past the sweetness of Dean’s lips.

Thumbs sweep under Castiel’s eyes when they part; it does nothing to stop the sadness, to ease his ache. “That’s why,” Dean says, dipping in again.

This time, Castiel holds him with bandaged hands, and doesn’t stop, not until Dean pulls away.

A bedroom flashes across Castiel’s memory, featureless but warm, lived in. He clings to that while Dean washes his legs, hoping it’ll make sense, soon.

-+-

Night falls, and Dean leaves a single candle at Castiel’s bedside to keep him company. In the faint glow of the flames, Castiel watches the shadow of his hand dance across the ceiling, the fan above flipped off for the night. Steadily, chilled air pours into the room, accompanied by the pitter patter of rain hitting the sidewalk. Steady and monotonous—it drives Castiel mad.

He still can’t walk, not yet, but he can bend his legs now. Occasionally, Castiel pulls them free from his confines and stretches them, keeping up circulation. The bruises are lessening ever so slowly, so much so that it unnerves him, makes him wonder if he’s really human. Humans wouldn’t recover this fast—humans wouldn’t have their wounds fully healed within the first few hours with only scars left behind.

Castiel swallows, untucking his legs again. If he isn’t human, then what is he? And how could Dean—the stranger who loves him so thoroughly that it makes Castiel’s head spin—still stay by his side?

Sitting up takes less effort, now that he can support himself on his arms. Gingerly, he dangles his feet over the edge of the mattress, letting them touch the floor. Needles radiate from every toe to his heel; not as bad as before, but still enough to keep him from attempting to stand. In another few hours, maybe he can leave the bed, can escape the prison that is this tiny bedroom. Dean would carry him if he wanted to go anywhere, but that would only be a burden.

Castiel is already enough of a burden as it is; just from the way Dean looks at him, Castiel can tell, the sadness and pity in his eyes terrifying. In those few minutes they spend together, Castiel can barely look at him.

Each time, though, Dean’s presence jogs something new: the same bedroom he saw before, but now furnished with weapons on the mantle and an old wooden bed; the cloying smell of blood and dust and bleach; long hair, shampoo bottles in a tiled bathroom. None of it makes sense, but ever so slowly, the pieces are falling together. And the more they do, the more it unnerves Castiel, keeps his heart pounding.

Feet just barely on the floor, Castiel looks down to his knees and runs his fingers over the bruises, feeling over every indentation and curve. None of it feels like his own, his limbs just as foreign as the memories flitting through his head. He doesn’t even know where he is. His only perception of the world is the view outside of his room and the houses sitting along the shore, street lamps lining the two-lane road. A cat lingers somewhere, its cries audible. Maybe from a porch, or from the water; wherever it is, Castiel longs find it, to take it into his arms, in desperate need of the comfort he can’t find.

Not with Dean—not with himself. Not with anyone.

The candlelight flickers in the breeze. For a long few seconds, Castiel watches it, wetness streaking his face again, falling into the corners of his lips. Salt. Briefly, he holds his hand over the wicks, letting it burn his skin enough to blister; only then does he pull away, and slowly, he watches the wounds fade from festering to fresh scars. No pain, no longstanding ache.

He really isn’t human, and Dean refuses to tell him much more than his name.

Castiel throws the candle across the room, allowing the flames to extinguish with the force. The resulting crash doesn’t wake Dean. Still, he waits, and waits, head bowed between his knees and hands in his hair.

For hours, he waits, to no avail.

-+-

It takes Castiel five minutes to dress himself in boxers and a t-shirt, and ten minutes to walk down the stairs.

Each step feels like knives being plunged into his kneecaps, but he makes it just in time for Dean to walk inside, red from the sun with a towel over his head. Castiel sucks in a breath when he runs over, and there are Dean’s hands again, gliding over his face and his arms, checking for any injuries. Just the same ones Castiel has had since yesterday.

A warehouse snaps into his vision, memories of a terrifically bloody event crossing his eyes, just for a second—but long enough.

“I’m not human,” Castiel says. Dean doesn’t disagree. “What am I?”

“You’re…” Dean stops, lets his hands drop. “I’m gonna need a beer for this. C’mon.”

Outside, the wind blows lukewarm, now tinged by humidity and mid-morning heat. Small as this house is, it has a spacious back porch, with a swing hanging from two sets of industrial chains and a rocking chair. Beachgrass lines the property and leads down into the sand, forming a path towards the shore. Sand covers the wooden floorboards, abrasive under Castiel’s feet, even after he sits down.

Dean seats himself at his side, a brown glass bottle in his hands. Never once does he make to open it, just keeps it between his knees while he leans over, shoulders hunched. “Seems kinda redundant, telling you,” Dean says, rubbing the back of his neck. “Have you remembered anything?”

Castiel exhales, turns his eyes to the beach. “Bits and pieces. I keep seeing… blood. Have I killed people?”

For a long, pregnant second, Dean doesn’t answer. Just stares down at his bare toes. “You’re an Angel,” Dean says, head bowed. Castiel wrings his hands in his lap. “Or, were. You told us you fell, but you’re still healing. You don’t look half as bad as you did yesterday.” Briefly, Dean looks up, lips turned up just the slightest. “You look good. ‘Cept for this.”

Dean reaches out to scratch at the stubble lining Castiel’s jaw; Castiel warms and falls into it, against his better judgement.

They kissed last week in the Food Lion parking lot under a single street lamp, and Dean dropped a box of oranges on his foot; Castiel remembers struggling to retrieve them while laughing so hard, his sides hurt.

Castiel inhales, his lungs aching. "That's how I survived," he says, pulling away from Dean's touch. Ignoring Dean's anguish is even harder here than it was in his bedroom; here, he can see the bruising around Dean's eyes more clearly, can see just how quickly Dean breathes when they're close. Can see how Dean's hands shake, desperate to touch, to heal. "Was I… at least a good Angel?"

Softly, Dean smiles, laughing to himself. "You were the best. God always liked you more than any of those other dickheads."

That’s good, at least. If he had to be a creature, then at least he was a good one, one deserving of God’s praise.

“Me and my brother… We’re hunters. Y’know, stuff that goes bump in the night.” Dean uncaps his bottle on the armrest of the swing, drawing in a long pull; Castiel watches him, fascinated in the movement of his throat. “Me and you… We were on vacation, believe it or not. I rented out this place for a week, thought we’d get some sun while there’s no tourists around. Just didn’t figure we’d end up stuck here.”

“Where are we?” Castiel asks.

“Cudjoe Key, down in Florida.” Shrugging, Dean sits back, bottle between his thighs. “Figured you’d be more freaked out about the monster thing.”

Castiel should be. He should be frightened that Dean claims he hunts monsters, and he should be scared that he’s an Angel, or at least a fallen one. Out of everything, though, that’s the least of his worries. “I think… I can manage,” Castiel says. “Have you ever killed an Angel?”

He doesn’t expect the cold silence Dean gives him after that, the air rife with unmentioned atrocities, of which Castiel has no intentions of discovering. Maybe it’s better this way; maybe if his memories never return, he can start over with Dean, relearn the world as it was meant to be, without his past. It won’t work out that way, he knows, but it’s nice to imagine.

“C’mon,” Dean says, gruff and measured. He steps onto the porch, grunting from a twinge in his back. “Wanna show you something.”

Castiel follows him around the house with Dean propping him up, Dean’s arm around his waist and Castiel’s around his shoulders. Dean is surprisingly sturdy, broad shouldered and strong, but soft under his skin. Just the right amount of intimidation, combined with the smile of a young boy, all vibrant innocence and haunted joy. Whatever their past, it can’t have been that bad—after all, Dean is still here, and Dean is taking care of him, after everything they must’ve gone through.

Around the side of the house sits a black behemoth of a vehicle, currently missing two passenger doors. Spider webs spread across the front windshield, the only casualty to the glass that Castiel can see. The side frame is caved in to the front quarter panel, wheel cockeyed and shoved against the fender. Blood stains the leather, and Castiel’s stomach sinks, knowing that it’s his own.

The last time Dean rebuilt her, the last time Castiel saw, was years ago in an old junkyard, long before Dean knew Castiel existed—but he watched with fascination, knowing just what this car meant to him, what it meant to the family that lived out of it for so many years, decades upon decades worth of stories longing to be shared.

Castiel covers his mouth, all he can think to do.

“Sammy’s coming down tomorrow,” Dean says, stepping through the manicured grass to stand at the car’s side. “It’ll take him a couple days, but he’s gonna haul us back with it. I can always fix her, I’ve done it before, but…” He stops, wipes his eyes. “God, Baby’s always taken a beating for us.”

“She loves you,” Castiel says, toeing the sandy grass. “You’re alive because of that.”

“Guess so,” Dean chuckles, shaking his head. “Wish I didn’t have to keep doing this, sometimes. This was supposed to be fun, we were supposed to spend a week here by ourselves, and now…”

Castiel touches Dean’s shoulder before he can stop himself, body acting on its own; Dean covers his hand regardless, lacing their fingers together. “We’re still here,” Castiel soothes, resting his head atop Dean’s shirt. Steady, stable. “Remind me of what I’ve forgotten. I… I’m drawn to you, and I don’t understand why, and I want to know. Let me know.”

Dean lets out a long, drawn out breath, but eventually nods, gripping Castiel’s hand tighter. “Yeah, Cas. I can… Yeah.”

-+-

In his dreams, Castiel remembers the Impala.

Specifically, he remembers riding in the backseat, listening to the ping of rain on the windshield and the steady hum of the engine. Sam’s not-so-subtle snores, and Dean’s occasional sniffle the only things marring the quiet, keeping him rooted to his surroundings, but also lulling him to sleep.

Time and time again, he remembers: sunny days and broken air conditioners, bitter snowstorms trekking through the mountains with snow chains, humid nights spent outrunning summer storms. All of it puts him at ease while he rests on his side, bones beginning to settle, mind beginning to quiet. The ceiling fan turns overhead, the waves crest, and Castiel sleeps, remembering a time that felt too simple amidst a horrific life, a tragic life.

It should surprise him more that Dean is dozing at the foot of his bed as it does, but even then, Castiel can’t find it in himself to wake him. Instead, he pulls his pillow closer and watches the sun rise from the window, gentle light bathing the sky and everything it touches. It’s beautiful—he doesn’t know if he’s ever watched it before. Hopefully, this will be a first.

Castiel can stand for longer periods today; certainly long enough to walk the beach with Dean at his side, never too far from the house, always in sight distance. Crabs scurry out of the way when they pass, and seagulls follow them in the hopes that they have food. The cat finds them about a block away, a tabby with a kinked tail, with a collar that reads Rosario.

It all seems mundane, utterly normal—and Castiel remembers his siblings. Some of them, at least; their faces are formless, shapeless, but he recognizes their voices. Events come and go before Castiel can really process them, like his mind is trying to reorganize itself from its earliest memories onwards.

Never once does he let Dean’s hand go, though, even after they’ve walked half a mile down the shore, water lapping at their feet. How long they’ve been standing there, he doesn’t know, but Dean hasn’t seen fit to wake him, regardless. Not sleep, per se, but a continuous flashback, a stream of memories that don’t make sense.

He can parse it later, when he has more time to really think about it. Right now, his legs hurt from the impact of the sand. “We walked pretty far, huh?” Dean asks, grinning as he nudges Castiel’s shoulder. “You wanna head back?”

Castiel shakes his head. “Sit with me,” he says, taking a few steps back. Together, they sprawl out along the shore, Castiel resting on his back while Dean sits up, idly digging a hole in the sand. The quiet resumes; Castiel listens to his heartbeat, burying his fingers beneath him. “When I remember,” he starts, rough and unsure, “will it change anything between us? Have we…”

Dean stops his toiling and leans back, bracing himself on his elbows. “I can’t promise we’ve always been friends,” he sighs, head thrown back. Hair is beginning to grow around his wound again, only a light dusting, but enough to erase the bald spot; Castiel aches to touch him, to run his fingers through the strands. “We’ve never really seen eye to eye, but… that didn’t stop me from caring about you. We’ve died and disappeared and drug our asses back from the grave, but we always found each other again. That’s gotta count for something, right?”

A pause, a sad laugh. This time, Castiel reaches out, the backs of his fingers gracing Dean’s forearm. “If it happens,” Dean concedes, “I just… hope you don’t hate me, for the things I’ve done. For what we’ve done to each other.”

The possibility is there, Castiel knows. The more he remembers, the more he could come to regret their relationship, could regret ever meeting Dean in the first place. It can’t have been all bad, though. It can’t have been bad enough to feel guilty over, to lose a friendship.

When the time comes, Castiel will decide. For now, he watches Dean lie back and smiles into this kiss, angling his head just right. Dean tastes like salt air and blueberries, and he kisses like he’s starved for it, like this is the only thing he’s ever wanted.

For all Castiel knows, it might be.

-+-

Castiel breaks during a rainstorm the following day, watching lightning strike the waves from the porch. One minute, Dean is massaging his shoulders, and the next, Castiel finds himself cowering on the floor, Dean’s presence all but vanished. Years of watching, years of waiting, the agony of torture and defeat and countless banishings, betrayal and ideation. Running, throwing himself into harm’s way, driving across the country with the absence of wings bearing down on him. Unkind words, fights in back alleys, the blood of innocents on his hands. Blood of the damned, blood of his friends, his own—

Everything floods back while thunder resounds, rattling the foundation. Dean holds him the best he can, whispering his name repeatedly while Castiel screams, surrounded by the storm. The blood makes sense-the pain makes sense. And all at once, Castiel can see the accident, can see the look on Dean’s face before the truck plowed through the intersection. Squealing tires, and Dean’s pained screams—and then nothing. Silence and hushed words, whispered prayers, fingers threaded through his own.

Dean never left his side—Dean kept watch, Dean sheltered him in a way Castiel could never have. Dean gave him a home, someone to come back to—and all Castiel can do is cry, muffling his sobs into his fist, then Dean’s shoulder. Strong arms embrace him, hold him steady and sure. More than Castiel could ever ask for, and more than he ever deserves.

“How could you love me?” Castiel asks, fisting Dean’s shirt. “After what I’ve done—”

“It’s not your fault,” Dean assures, but Castiel doesn’t believe him. Greater good or not, the only thing Castiel has ever done is destroy lives, Angel and human alike. Dean’s, as well, more times than he can count. “It’s never been your fault.”

But it has, Castiel thinks. Everything that’s ever happened has been because of his poor decision making. The worst part is, it took him until now to realize it—to realize that his existence has been nothing but a burden to the universe and to those closest to him. To himself. To Dean.

Lightning flashes; Castiel buries his face in Dean’s neck, and lets the rain fall around them.

-+-

The last bruise disappears on the fourth night of their stay, and for the first time in days, Castiel can breathe easily, without the painful spasm of his lungs and pinpricks in his feet. Ironically, it doesn’t help him feel any better.

The last Castiel heard, Sam was crossing into Georgia for the night; another half a day or longer, and the three of them will be together again, for the first time in a week. Even that doesn’t put him at ease, nor does Dean’s coddling, constantly treating him as if he’s fragile, like he could break again given the chance. Castiel can’t break—physically, at least. Deep down, though, he knows a part of him has always been faulty, fractured and splintering at the edges.

Maybe his family was right—maybe he was always broken after all.

Sleep doesn't come easily to him now, knowing that Dean is still awake and downstairs. The last of the storm breezes through his window, bringing with it frigid temperatures and even colder skin. Castiel huddles underneath his blankets and watches the clouds, craving the innocence he lost just hours ago. The simplicity, when Castiel barely knew the world, and Dean loved him unconditionally.

None of that means anything, not anymore. Instead, Castiel exists, too scared to admit his faults and too ashamed to let anyone console him. Dean can only help so much, in his own way, but Castiel needs more than that, more than praises and assurances—what he needs is respect, in all of its forms.

The door creaks open sometime after midnight; Castiel ignores it as much as he can, until Dean situates himself at the end of the bed, just as he has the last few nights: upright, with his hands in his lap and one of the blankets over his legs, just to stave off the chill. Castiel can’t keep himself silent—one of his faults, honesty. “I won’t shatter if you touch me,” he says, pulling his pillow closer. “I’m not a doll.”

“I never said you were,” Dean mentions, slurred with exhaustion. “I was just giving you space. I didn’t… think you’d wanna be bothered.”

Castiel sighs, curling his fingers. Sitting up, he pushes the covers back just enough to free himself, bare legs and all. “All I’ve wanted,” he starts, crawling closer to fist Dean’s collar with one hand, tugging him closer, “is for you to treat me like you did before. Nothing less.”

Slowly, Dean blinks at him, eyes dilating in the night. “I’m terrified,” Dean admits, shoving off his hesitance with a laugh. “I just watched you almost die, and I keep thinking, what if that happens again?”

“You don’t think I’m scared too?” Castiel knees closer, managing to straddle Dean’s lap despite the twinge in his back. Close enough to feel the heat radiating off Dean’s body, the tremor in his hands—close, but not enough. Cradling Dean’s cheeks, he presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth, just to hear him sigh. “You don’t think this whole time, I was wondering if you would leave me?” Another kiss, just below Dean’s eye. “I didn’t know you, but I felt… drawn to you. You were my only connection to the world, and you always have been. You could’ve abandoned me, but you stayed.”

“I’d never forgive myself,” Dean whispers. Hands come to rest between his shoulder blades, and Castiel shivers, the absence of his wings intense, now more than ever. “I thought I’d lost you.”

“You haven’t lost me,” Castiel says, tipping Dean’s head up. “Just love me.”

Their first kiss was at an abandoned gas station outside of Little Rock over two months ago, in the middle of a rainstorm. Dean held him with rough hands and Castiel just clung to him, ignoring the patterned gouges on his neck and the sting of the rain against his skin. Messy and last minute, and Sam banged on the passenger window the entire time, urging them back inside the car.

This is considerably more intimate, lacking all the urgency without sacrificing the heat. Dean shivers with every kiss, and Castiel breathes him in, beckoning Dean to touch and allowing himself the same pleasure. Just kissing—as far as Castiel is willing to go, at least for tonight; tomorrow may be entire different. They have time now, time to hurt and to heal, and to make sense of what they’ve lost and gained.

Held in Dean’s embrace, Castiel aches in an entirely different way, one that warms his skin and melts away his insecurities. For now, he relishes in Dean’s touch, letting it soothe him down to his soul.

-+-

Sam pulls up around seven the following evening, driving a Chevy 1500 with a tow dolly hitched to the bed. Castiel hears the engine before he sees him, really, too busy tangled in bed with Dean’s legs between his own, peppering kisses along Dean’s collar.

“That’s our ride,” Dean chuckles, nudging Castiel’s chin up and laving another mark against bruised skin. A new kind of hurt, one Castiel revels in with pleasure. “The Grace you had, you still got it?”

His Grace—a concept previously forgotten, but now one of the multitude of topics lingering in the back of Castiel’s mind. “There’s not much left,” Castiel admits. He sits up on one elbow, looking down at Dean and the admiration in his eyes. Gingerly, he touches the wound on Dean’s scalp, thumbing over the ridge. “This is all I have.”

Dean sucks in a breath with the sudden burst of light, eyes pinched shut; Castiel, meanwhile, lets out a final sigh, the last remnant of his Grace seeping into Dean’s skin, leaving behind only a scar. The most he could do; he hopes Dean appreciates the gesture.

Humanity is cold, Castiel thinks, sinking back into the bed. Dean throws an arm around his waist and tucks Castiel’s head under his chin, and together, they rest there until Sam begins to knock, then yell, claiming he has to use the restroom. Dean laughs; Castiel hides his smile. So familiar, yet still so distant; Castiel still craves it all the same, even if his memories are still scattered. Maybe not all of them, but he remembers—and those memories, he’ll hold close and learn from them, better himself in the future. For everyone’s sake, and most certainly for his own.

“We should get up,” Dean says, unwilling to do just that. “You wanna get up?”

Castiel pulls away, albeit begrudgingly, and throws a hand over his eyes, garnering another chuckle from Dean. “Are you planning to cook?”

Three weeks ago, Dean labored over a stove for the better half of four hours making Thanksgiving dinner in February, because Sam had suggested it and Castiel hadn’t had Dean’s homemade stuffing before. Right now, Dean can’t pull out all the stops, but Castiel will take whatever Dean offers, and more.

“Get your ass downstairs then,” Dean laughs and kisses him one last time. Dean drags himself out of bed and grabs his jeans off the floor, shrugging them on, seemingly oblivious to Castiel’s wandering eyes. “You comin’?”

Castiel nods, lifting himself up off the mattress. It takes a few minutes to pull his legs over the side of the bed, but Dean waits all the while, outstretching a hand once Castiel pulls his pajama pants back on. He knows each of Dean’s callouses intimately, knows every inch of his body down to his soul—still, the warmth of Dean’s hand floors him, reminds him of their oncoming future.

There are still things Castiel can’t recall automatically, a product of age and years of pushing specific instances to the side. Still, he suspects, amnesia or otherwise, that this is how it was always meant to be.