To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
- William Blake.
The first time Dean travels, he’s just a boy.
One minute, he’s huddled in the corner of his room, trying to stifle his cries; the haunting nightmare of flames all around him stealing into his sleep and igniting that same terror inside of him. He clenches his eyes shut, burying his head in his folded arms, when suddenly he feels cold. Wind brushes against his skin, skating across his forearms, the hair standing on end at the sensation.
He opens his eyes, tears drying frozen on his face as he looks out in stunned silence across an empty field.
It’s dark out, a waning full moon casting silver light across the abandoned meadow, grass in stalks taller than he is. He shivers, pulling himself to his feet. He’s barefoot, his toes cold on the soil beneath him. He stands there, confused and alone, for what feels like forever, before he spots a light bobbing towards him.
It takes a few minutes for the light to become a lantern, for the loping motion of it to become attached to a man holding it high above his head.
Dean knows he should feel afraid, but he immediately feels comfort, relief. The man is much older than Dean, his hair windswept and dark, but his eyes shine brightly, softly, and despite his better instincts, Dean understands instantly that he doesn’t need to be afraid.
The man approaches, and it’s only once a warmth is draped over him that Dean realises he’d been carrying a spare coat. A thud at his feet has him looking down to find a pair of sneakers, dropped in the grass in front of him, socks balled up and stuffed inside. He puts them on, and finds they’re the perfect size. And of everything about this night so far, it’s this that strikes Dean as the most odd.
It’s as though this man has been waiting for him.
“You’re Dean, right?” the man says, crouching in front of him so they’re on the same eye-level.
Dean nods, eyes wide, entranced by the blue gaze of the man, by the crinkles at the corners of his eyes as he smiles gently at Dean.
He reaches a hand out, and Dean grasps it, feels the warmth of the callouses as he shakes it. It feels vaguely familiar, but Dean can’t place it. Can’t work out why this man feels like safety and home.
“I’m Castiel,” the man tells him, creases deepening as his smile widens, “it’s nice to finally meet you.
“Have you been waiting for me?” Dean asks, shyly, his eyes darting down to watch his his feet scuffing the grass.
“Oh, yes.” Castiel’s eyes twinkle. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a very long time.”
Dean frowns, confused, but Castiel misses it. He’s busy reaching into his waistcoat, pulling out a pocket watch on a thin gold chain. Dean’s eyes widen at the intricate piece, at the way it shines in the moonlight. When Castiel flicks it open, Dean can see it’s scratched on the back. It’s too dark for him to make anything out, but it looks like words. Castiel frowns down at it, before shaking his head and tucking it away again.
“We don’t have long,” Castiel says gravely, “and there’s much I need to tell you.”
Castiel reaches out again to grasp one of Dean’s hands between his own. Dean finds himself gripping back tightly, shaking, the air still cold around them as his breath comes out in misty puffs. He’s confused, he doesn’t know how he got here or who this man is but already he can feel a pull, something tugging at him, trying to wrench him away. He fights against it, fights to stay here with this man who’s looking at Dean like he understands him better than himself.
“It’s okay, Dean, don’t fight it.”
Dean shakes his head, bottom lip wobbling as an overwhelming sadness washes over him. “I don’t understand.” His voice trembles, and a warm hand reaches up to brush away the tears that have fallen.
“You won’t, not just yet. But you will,” Castiel replies, voice soft. His hand lingers at Dean’s jaw, cupping his face in comfort. “It’s okay, Dean, just let it happen. I’ll be here, waiting for you the next time.”
Dean can feel himself fading, can feel this world blurring before his eyes and he knows it’s not because of his tears. “Next time?” he asks, tightening his grip on Castiel’s hands as he feels him start to let go.
“Yes.” Castiel’s smile is tinged with his own sadness, but his eyes glitter like the stars in the sky. “Your story has only just begun, Dean. But I promise, I’ll be here every step of the way. And I’ll explain everything, I will. But next time.”
Castiel glances back behind himself at that, staring up at the moon and seeming to read something from its position. He releases his grip on Dean, gently unfolding each of Dean’s fingers until Dean is standing on his own before him. “It’s time for you to go now.”
Castiel gets to his own feet, laying a hand firmly on Dean’s shoulder. His palm is so warm, Dean can feel it through the borrowed jacket. It tingles slightly, as though leaving a mark on his soul in memory.
The pull is back, heavier now, and Dean feels his vision drifting in front of him. The grass sways before him in the wind, tall stalks waving as if to say goodbye. He reaches a hand out to brush across them, feels them tickle across his fingertips, before he blinks and finds himself back in his bedroom once more.
“How do you always know where to find me?” Dean asks around a mouthful of chocolate chip mint ice cream.
This is the seventh time Dean’s traveled, but the question has bugged at him since the beginning. He’d established early on that he’d only ever travelled forwards, and only by a few years at that. Cas had told him that much at least, laughter on his face at 8-year old Dean’s disappointed pout.
He’s 15 now, 6 weeks into the slowest summer of his life. Dad’s left him and Sam in Tombstone, Arizona, and the days have begun to blur together in a haze of endless monotony. He’d been grateful when he’d felt that familiar fade, when the world had spun and then righted itself again in the middle of Central Park.
Castiel was waiting to greet him, as always, both hands holding a cone of ice cream. They hadn’t even started to melt yet, despite the oppressive heat of the city, as if Castiel had known the precise second that Dean would arrive.
Castiel smiles mischievously down at him, already halfway through his own peanut butter crunch. “Perhaps it is you who always finds me, Dean,” he replies, but Dean scoffs. He has as little control over this time travelling business as he ever did, and Castiel damn well knows it.
Dean can still feel a bristle of the anger he’d felt the last time they’d met, when Dean was 11 and just beginning to understand the ways of the world. The magic had been waning then, the excitement draining into dread, into fear that at any moment he would just disappear from his timeline and never return. Castiel had tried to reassure him, but Dean had lashed out, biting out blameful words he didn’t mean.
“It’ll get easier, Dean,” Castiel assures him again, his hand landing on that familiar spot on Dean’s shoulder. “At least Sam knows now.”
And it’s true, Sammy does know. Had caught Dean fading back in the last time this had happened, right before his eyes.
There wasn’t much Dean could do to cover it up after that.
Dean hums noncommittally, wondering if getting easier is what he wants. It’s been over 4 years since the last time, and he spent so much of that time on edge, wondering when it was going to happen again. It had taken a while for him to understand that underneath the fear, there was also anticipation. That he was excited by the prospect of a next time. Because he knew he’d get one, Cas always waving him off with a knowing, “I'll see you soon, Dean.”
And recently, Dean had found himself missing him. Missing the gentle presence of the strange man who had become his friend, who seemed to understand whatever was going on in Dean’s life without Dean having to tell him. In the last few months, he’d found himself lying on his bed in the motel, staring up at the ceiling fan as it whirred uselessly round and round, trying to convince himself that the dizziness it made him feel was an indication that he was about to fade out.
It never was, and Dean tried to ignore how every time it didn’t happen, that ache in his chest grew.
When it had finally happened, as Dean had been walking home from the local high school, dust kicking up beneath his shoes as the heat drained the air of moisture, he’d felt his heart pick up in eagerness. He’d felt that tug, knew it for what it was, and had to fight himself from getting over-excited, worried that if he did the pull would drift away, leaving him in the present instead.
When he’d appeared again, there in the park under the shelter of the trees with Castiel beaming across from him, his first thought was that he hoped he’d get at least a few hours this time. He never knows how long he’s going to get, and Castiel will never tell him. But Castiel had seemed so relaxed when Dean had arrived, and so far there had been no sign of the pocket watch. Dean had started to realise that Castiel only reached for it when he felt that it was almost time for Dean to leave.
So instead Dean focuses on his ice cream, focuses on how good it tastes after days of scraping together meals for him and Sam. It’s begun to melt now, dripping down his hand in pale green trails. He reaches around to lick it off, tasting the tang of sweat on his skin underneath the mint of the ice cream, and when he glances back up at Castiel, he finds him staring down at him with a pink tinge on his cheeks.
Dean grins wolfishly, and Castiel only blushes harder.
They stroll the park for hours. Castiel asks him how school’s going, tells Dean how he’s settled temporarily in New York. Castiel’s always evasive about his life, but it goes unsaid between them that he is only in New York because he’s been waiting for Dean.
Dean doesn’t know how he feels about that, but he’s too afraid to ask. It frightens him, that Castiel seems to know more about the trajectory of Dean’s life than Dean himself does. But he supposes that’s why Castiel won’t tell him, because he’s frightened in his own way. Dean’s not blind to the way Castiel’s eyes light up every time Dean appears. To the fact that even though Castiel clearly isn’t aging, hasn’t aged since they day they met in that field all those years ago, the lines around his eyes seem more pronounced each time. That they only smooth out when he has his sights set back on Dean.
Dean can’t help but feel bad for him. For this man that Dean’s unwittingly dragged into his messed up life, for this man who has turned his own life around to revolve around the unpredictable comings and goings of Dean.
“I’m sorry, you know,” Dean says, scrunching his hand around the empty napkin that had held his now-demolished ice cream. “For getting you involved in all this.”
Castiel makes a wounded sound, and it draws Dean short. He turns to face him, takes in the way the sun picks out the erratic tufts of his hair, the way his eyes seem to overflow with hurt.
“Dean,” Castiel murmurs, “please, don’t ever apologise for that.”
It’s something about the look in his eyes, the earnestness in his face, that has Dean reaching out to grasp Castiel’s hand. He squeezes once, hard, tries to pretend that it’s Castiel he’s reassuring and not himself.
“Okay, Cas,” he replies, the nickname rolling off his tongue in a way that feels so natural he’s surprised he’s never said it before. “Just promise me that this, me, popping in and out like this, it’s not interfering with your life too much.”
Cas smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes.
Dean’s visits come much closer together after that.
He travels a total of eight more times before his 23rd birthday, and each time that fear he'd once felt is replaced by an eagerness that he can’t quite explain.
Sam catches him sometimes, forlornly gazing out of a window, a wistful expression on his face. And Dean knows that even though Sam doesn’t ask, knows better than to ask, that Sam can tell in those moments that Dean’s thinking about Cas.
He misses him, that’s the truth of it. Dean doesn’t have friends, not really. But he has Cas. And it eats away at him, that Cas is existing in his own circumstances outside of Dean’s random visits.
They’d agreed early on that they wouldn’t talk about it, wouldn’t question why this was happening or how it worked. They’d decided it was too dangerous to have any contact outside of Dean’s travels.
But the more it happens, the more time Dean spends with the older man, the more he wishes that they hadn’t agreed that. Because sometimes something happens and the first person that Dean wants to tell is Cas. Like when Sam gets accepted to Stanford, Dean finds himself closing his eyes, grin plastered on his face as he waits for the room to start to spin around him. He’s desperate to see Cas, to watch his face light up as he shares in Dean’s excitement.
It doesn’t happen of course, because nothing has ever been that simple for Dean Winchester, and the disappointment that Dean feels is crushing. The euphoria he’d felt when Sam had told him has all but evaporated, replaced by a longing that sits like a physical weight on his chest.
By the time Dean actually gets to tell Cas, he realises that of course, like so much else, Cas already knows. But his smile is still wider than Dean has ever seen it, and it lights up something inside of Dean that he didn’t even know existed.
And he’ll take it, he thinks. If this is all he gets, these moments that Cas seems to be able to predict, but still joins in with more enthusiasm than Dean thought possible, then he’ll take it.
“So, you're like, immortal?” Dean asks intelligently, mid-burger in a backroads diner somewhere south of Little Rock.
Cas has the grace to finish his own bite before fixing Dean with a truly unimpressed look.
“What gave me away?” he asks sarcastically, but his lip is quirking with the ghost of a laugh that Dean knows he wants to hear.
Dean rolls his eyes, knowing that Cas is never going to give him a straight answer, but deciding that in the grand scheme of things maybe it doesn’t matter.
“How old are you, then?” Dean asks instead, gesturing with the hand holding his burger at Cas. A dollop of sauce lands on the table between them. “Like, your body, I mean,” Dean continues, waggling his eyebrows with a suggestive leer.
Cas does laugh this time, those same crinkles around his eyes that have always fascinated Dean deepening as he does so.
“I guess you could say I’m around 35,” Cas replies eventually, “but if you really want to know how old I am-”
“You know what,” Dean cuts across him, reaching over to pinch a few fries off Cas’ plate. “I actually don’t want to know.”
And it's true. They’ve gone so long without talking about the why’s and the how’s , and Dean’s not about to start now.
“Are you sure?” Cas teases, leaning forward eagerly, “I could be a zombie, for all you know.”
Dean is hunched forward in his seat from where he’d been surreptitiously pilfering off of Cas’ plate, so when he rolls his eyes, he’s surprised when they focus back on Cas and find him only inches away.
“What about a vampire?” Cas whispers, running his tongue over his teeth.
Dean stares back, frozen. Cas is so close, Dean can feel his breath drifting over his skin. His own breath hitches, and he finds himself licking his lips, mouth suddenly dry. He spends too long staring at where Cas has hooked his tongue behind a canine, absently wondering what it would feel like to have those nibbling at his own lip.
The moment is shattered when the waitress comes over, and Dean thinks it’s the first time in his life he’s been disappointed by the arrival of pie.
Still, he digs in with gusto, hoping that by ducking his head and shoveling sweet apple goodness into his mouth he’ll be able to hide the burning flush that he knows has spread across his face.
Cas settles back in his seat across from him, face smug, something like victory glinting in his eyes. The butterflies in Dean’s stomach return with full force.
“Whatever, Dracula,” Dean mutters, and Cas grins, leaning over and stabbing into Dean’s slice with a fork. Dean’s so shell-shocked, he doesn’t even protest.
He just sits there and wonders about this strange man. This strange man that’s turned his whole world upside down, sitting there in flip-flops, stealing his goddamn pie, and drinking a strawberry freaking milkshake through a straw.
And then Cas is looking away; there’s a glint of gold and Dean knows Cas is reaching for his pocket watch. And all Dean can think is no, not yet, but then he blinks, and his world shifts.
When it comes back into focus, Dean finds himself back in his room at Bobby’s, fork still hanging uselessly from his fingers. But there’s no pie in front of him, no Cas opposite him. No stupid strawberry milkshakes.
Because the moment is over and Cas is gone, gone again; and Dean finds himself wishing he could’ve had just a few more minutes with him.
If only to sit and stare.
It's only a few weeks after the diner incident, as Dean has come to think of it, that he feels that tug mid-shower. He squawks indignantly, desperately trying to rinse the shampoo out of his hair before he travels, but only succeeds in getting it in his eyes.
He comes around to the sound of Cas’ laughter, managing to wince his eyes open long enough to see Cas standing before him, towel held open in his outstretched hands and a blindfold tied around his face.
It’s as he’s scrubbing at his face and muttering curses under his breath that it really hits Dean how much Cas has always done for him. How he’s always gone out of his way to be prepared for Dean’s arrival. Dean would give anything to find out how it is exactly that Cas always know when and how Dean’s going to arrive. But it’s one of their unspoken rules. Dean doesn’t ask and Cas doesn’t tell.
By the time he’s decent, Cas is still chuckling softly to himself. He’s leaning back against the door jamb, more relaxed than Dean has ever seen him. Dean glances around, realises they’re in an apartment that he's never been to before. The walls are a soft grey, the furniture all accented in neutral shades that make the room feel warm despite the lack of a personal touch. It instantly feels like home.
“You dressed yet?” Cas asks, clucking his tongue impatiently. His hands are fidgeting at the blindfold, and Dean finds himself reaching forward, folding his hands over Cas’ and pulling them away.
“Wait,” he murmurs, “not yet.”
Cas huffs under his breath, but allows Dean to draw his hands away.
Dean stares, enraptured. It’s the first time he’s been able to just look, to take in the sharp edge of Cas’ jawline, the way his hair curls slightly behind his ears. There’s a scar above his left eyebrow, and Dean reaches out, tracing it gently with his finger. Cas’ breath hitches, before blowing out in a deep sigh as he leans into Dean’s touch.
Dean reaches a hand into his hair, finally feeling it beneath his fingertips, the strands silky despite their chaotic appearance. Cas smells of pine, of a forest after rainfall, with the faintest hint of vanilla seeping through.
“Dean,” Cas whispers, one of his hands snaking out to fold around Dean’s hip.
“Shh, Cas,” Dean replies, “just, let me,” his hand reaches the back of the blindfold, and he tugs it loose, pulling it aside so he can meet Cas’ cobalt gaze with his own.
They stand there, sharing the air between them, just long enough for Dean to realise that this could be it, at any moment he could just fade out and find himself back at Bobby’s, alone again.
And hell, he’s done waiting.
Dean feels Cas shudder beneath his hands as he closes the distance between them, lips soft and tentative. He’s sure, he’s so sure, but he needs to know that Cas is sure too. That Cas feels this same untenable pull that Dean does.
Dean starts to pull away when he doesn’t feel Cas responding, but the grip Cas has on his hip tightens. He feels Cas hook his other arm around his neck, pulling him down, and wait, when did he grow taller than Cas?
But that’s not important right now, because right now Cas is kissing him, really kissing him, letting out tiny little moans in the back of his throat that make Dean want to figure out every possible way he can take him apart just to hear more of them. Dean braves a flick of his tongue against Cas’ lips, pulling Cas flush against him when he feels him respond, opening his mouth so that Dean can lick across the seam.
They break apart long enough for Dean to back Cas up against the wall. Long enough that he can bury both of his hands deep in Cas’ hair. Long enough that he can rest their foreheads together and watch as Cas’ pupils dilate before he crushes their mouths back together, hungry for the taste of him.
Dean doesn’t know how long they kiss for, only knows that the feeling of Cas underneath him is everything he’s been waiting for. The feeling of his warmth pressed up against his chest, of his hands gripping the back of Dean’s shirt, tightening every time Dean makes even the smallest attempt to move away. Dean sighs deeply into Cas’ mouth, nibbling gently on his lower lip as he tugs his head back just enough to stare into Cas’ eyes. He reaches a hand up, brushing Cas’ hair away from his face, before dropping it to cup his jaw.
Cas is frowning, and Dean smoothes a kiss over the lines. He runs his nose down Cas’, nuzzling him softly, before placing a kiss on the tip. Cas’ cheeks are flushed, his eyes practically glowing, and Dean thinks he’s never looked more beautiful.
“This okay, Cas?” Dean whispers, brushing his thumb across Cas’ cheekbones.
“This wasn’t in the book,” Cas murmurs back, so quietly, that if Dean hadn’t seen his lips moving, he would’ve thought he’d imagined it.
What are you talking about? he wants to ask, but he’s cut off by Cas surging forward, capturing his lips with his own again. He loses track of time after that, lost in the feeling and taste of Cas.
And when he feels that pull, that tugging inside of him, it’s the first time since the first time that he truly fights it, that he desperately pushes back against it. His kisses turn frantic, his grip on Cas tightening, knowing that any moment he’s going to be torn away, and that this, he’s not going to have this, not until some unknowable time in the future and goddamnit he’s-
He comes to in the bathroom, panting, his hands clutching at empty air in front of him.
And for the first time, he allows himself to cry for his loss.
Dean never appears in the same place twice, and so he spends much of his late twenties taking in the greater sights of the continental US, Cas by his side.
His visits are coming thick and fast again, every few months the monotony of his daily routine broken by an unexpected and yet entirely anticipated fade and shift. He’s grateful for it, but each visit is a painful reminder of the fact that it’s not permanent. His place in Cas’ life and Cas’ place in his own is only fleeting, temporary.
They never talk about it, that kiss they’d shared. How broken it had left Dean in the aftermath. Dean wonders how Cas feels about it, but like so many things, it’s become one of their unspoken rules. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
It turns out that the apartment was Cas’, that place that in the timespan of a split-second had felt more like home to Dean than anywhere he had ever known. Dean’s only been there that one time.
He finds himself wishing he knew the address, and then catches himself wondering what he’d do with the information.
Because they aren’t talking about it, and it hasn’t happened since.
But Dean still aches for Cas’ touch, longs to be close to him. And even now, as they wander lakes and forests, eating in dive bars or meeting in random towns, Dean can’t help but wish for more.
He loves him, Dean realises one night; hunched over the journal he’s taken to keeping to detail each of his visits. It’s always painful, when he passes by a day that he knows has already happened for him. He aches for Cas on those days, for his smile, for his hand gently resting on Dean’s shoulder. But more than that, it pains him to know that this, these fleeting moments, it’s all they’re ever going to get.
Maybe that's why Dean decides not to write about their first kiss, because he doesn't want the reminder of what could have been.
“How’ve you been Cas?” Dean asks, throat tight, hand absently skipping rocks across the surface of Lake Tahoe.
Cas looks frazzled, today, Dean thinks. He looks thinner, and he’s unshaven.
“I’m fine, Dean,” Cas replies, because of course that’s what he was going to say.
They’re quiet, standing shoulder to shoulder on the rocky shore. Dean throws another rock, not bothering to try and skip this one. He watches it land in the water with a plunk, watches the ripples as they cascade out around it.
The backs of their hands brush softly, and it only takes a few passes before Dean twists his wrist, catching Cas’ fingers between his own. Dean’s hands are larger than Cas’ now. It takes him a moment to realise it, and it throws his mind back to their first meeting, when Cas had seemed so enormous to him, a boy of five. He remembers how even then Cas had felt familiar, had felt like coming home.
Dean gives Cas’ hand a squeeze, feels it tighten around his in response.
Neither of them mention it, but it’s been nearly 6 years since Dean last travelled.
It’s only two months later that Dean travels again.
He appears quite suddenly in the Impala, in the passenger side. Cas is driving, but Dean doesn’t waste time questioning it.
“Pull over,” he demands gruffly, and Cas flinches beside him, as though he hadn’t quite realised that Dean had arrived yet.
“Dean?” Cas questions, glancing over at him with his brow furrowed but doing nothing to halt the movement of the car.
It’s raining, water coming down in sheets. It’s dark out, but he can hear the cadence of it on the roof. The Impala’s headlights are casting everything in a wet shine, doing little to actually illuminate the road ahead. Dean’s surprised that Cas can even see where they’re going.
“I said pull over, Cas,” Dean barks.
Cas does as Dean asks this time, pulling the Impala off the highway and down a sideroad. He cuts the engine, and the lights flicker off, leaving them in almost total darkness.
“Dean, what are you-”
Dean doesn’t give him time to finish his question, too busy leaning forward to crush their mouths together. Cas whimpers, instantly caving, opening his mouth and letting Dean in. It’s awkward at first, both of them pressing too close, their noses getting in the way and the faint taste of copper as a lip gets caught on a tooth. But it doesn’t matter, not to Dean, because this, he never thought he’d get to have this again. Never thought he’d get to taste Cas again, get to hear him panting in pleasure, the sound sending shivers racking down Dean’s spine.
And hell if he isn’t going to savour every goddamn minute.
They stay like that for a while, hands clutching at each others clothes, desperately trying to get nearer, closer, before Dean growls into Cas’ mouth, grabbing at his hips and hauling him into his lap.
This is better , Dean thinks, Cas above him with his hands clenched in Dean’s hair, moaning sinfully as Dean trails kisses down his jaw, laves over the bites he leaves on his neck.
The sounds Cas makes are desperate, needy, and he whines as Dean sucks a mark into his clavicle. He grips Dean’s jaw, pulling him up so he can press their mouths together again. Dean lets his own hands wander, sliding them underneath Cas’ shirt. Cas is warm, always so warm, and he trembles as Dean drags his fingertips up.
“Dean,” Cas breaks away to whisper, “please.”
His face is flushed, his eyes shimmering, and he exhales on a bitten-off sob when Dean pulls him down to rest their foreheads together.
“Anything, Cas,” Dean replies, feeling his own hands shaking, feeling the well of his emotions roiling inside of him. “Anything for you. Just, tell me we have time. Please, tell me we get to have this.”
Cas can only nod frantically back at him, letting out a tearful laugh as he slams their mouths back together. Dean moans, hands dropping to pull at the buttons on Cas’ shirt, not caring when a few get torn off in his haste. Cas’ hands grapple at Dean’s t-shirt, and it’s a matter of moments before both items are gone, thrown haphazardly into the back so that finally Dean can press them together, skin-on-skin. Cas gasps at the first touch, dropping his head to rest on Dean’s shoulder as he moans, rolling his hips so he can get closer.
Dean pants, his mind racing as he tries to catalogue every sensation, as he tries to keep up with the insistent drag of Cas’ hips on his own. He wants to explore every inch of him, wants to trace every muscle and curve with his tongue. He dips his head, swirling his tongue around one of Cas’ nipples, groaning in tandem with him when Cas drops his head back with a gasp. Dean’s hands wander, squeezing at Cas’ hips and shifting him back so he can reach the front of his pants.
He fumbles with the zipper, hands shaking with how much he wants. It’s not until Cas’ hands join his, diving down the front of Dean’s pants without even bothering to undo them, that Dean gets his head back in the game. He bites down gently on Cas’ nipple, teasing another guttural moan out of him as he finally gets Cas’ pants undone.
He draws Cas’ cock out, hot and heavy in his hand, hissing when he feels Cas’ hand tighten around his own length. Cas is making these breathy little moans in his ear, each one sending blood rushing south. He pauses, taking the time to fumble with his own zipper, wriggling in his seat to push his jeans off his hips.
Cas hums in satisfaction, tightening his grip on Dean’s cock, and Dean falters in his own rhythm, tipping his head back so he can look at Cas’ face.
Cas’ eyes are blown wide, sweat dripping down his temple, his hair a beautiful disaster.
“Cas,” Dean whispers, his voice hoarse, rasping out of his throat. He realises the windows have steamed up, and he can’t even hear the rain anymore. It’s just them, him and Cas, caught up in their own private slice of the world.
“I know, Dean,” Cas replies, his voice breaking on a plea, “just, keep going, please. Don’t stop.”
Dean hums, rubbing their noses together. He nudges Cas’ head to the side, giving him free reign to lick and nibble his way down Cas’ neck.
He tightens his hand around Cas’ cock again, jacking him slowly, just feeling the weight of him in his hand. A dribble of precome trails over his finger, and he groans deeply, wanting nothing more than to taste it. But Cas had asked him not to stop, so he doesn’t. He jerks him faster, uses his other hand to encourage Cas’ hips forward, wanting him to press up into his fist.
It doesn’t take long for Cas to get with the program, his own ministrations becoming sloppy as he loses himself in the languid roll of his hips, in Dean’s hand running over him. Dean shifts, batting Cas’ hand away so that he can instead wrap his hand around both of them.
The feeling of their cocks pressed together in the tight curl of his fist is better than anything Dean could have imagined.
“Dean, ” Cas gasps, his hands now free to run through Dean’s hair, tugging gently in a way that makes Dean’s cock twitch.
“Do that again, Cas,” Dean murmurs, staring down at the way their cocks look sliding in and out of his fist, unable to tear his gaze away. Cas does it again, harder this time, and the spike of pain in Dean’s head has sparks tripping down his spine. He groans, feels his own precome mixing with the mess of Cas’ on his hand.
Dean can feel himself getting closer, can feel that heat pooling, the sensation licking at him like flames. He starts rocking his hips up, urging Cas on, wanting them to finish together. Cas makes these insistent little noises, and Dean catches his lips with his own, wanting to swallow each and every sound, their kisses turning frantic as they race towards climax.
Cas comes first, tearing his mouth away so that he can groan out Dean’s name. The way he says it, desire and a promise all rolled into one, pushes Dean over the edge, moaning softly as he feels their release spilling together over his fist.
They stay there, heads together, panting into each other’s mouths, until the sound of the rain begins to permeate back through the fog.
They share an awkward laugh, blushing as they fumble their clothes back on, Dean wiping his hand on some tissues Cas has stashed in the glove compartment.
They curl up together after that. Cas leaning against the door with Dean resting between his thighs, his head pillowed on Cas’ chest. He can hear his heartbeat, the steady thrum of it lulling him towards sleep. Cas is stroking a hand through his hair, murmuring softly under his breath, words of adoration and tenderness.
Dean wants to sleep, but he knows that when he does, he’s going to wake up somewhere else. In a time and place far away from this one, and he’s not ready to leave just yet. He can feel tears forming in his eyes, and sniffs, turning to bury his face in Cas’ shirt, hoping that Cas won’t notice.
“Sleep, Dean,” Cas soothes, one of his hands coming to rub up and down Dean’s back. His fingers trace idle patterns, letters that Dean can’t make out, and Dean swallows back a sob.
“I don’t want to leave you,” he manages to bite out, taking a shaky breath and turning his head so he can gaze up at Cas. He doesn’t want to waste a moment, he realises, doesn’t want to waste his chance to look upon Cas once more.
“I know, Dean, I don’t want you to leave either. But I’ll see you soon, right?”
“How do you know that, Cas?” Dean whispers, voice cracking around the words, “how do you always know?”
Cas smiles wistfully, gazing out of the window. He looks pained, something broken on his face that Dean can’t work out. He wants to comfort him, but he doesn’t know how. He doesn’t know what to say when it’s only Cas that seems to know their story, not him.
Cas doesn’t answer him, but Dean knew that he wouldn’t; knew that he’d broken one of their unspoken rules by asking.
Instead Cas begins to hum, singing a lullaby under his breath, his hands encouraging Dean to lay back down.
And Dean thinks, before he drifts off, when he feels Cas shifting, his hand rustling to find something and then there’s a glimmer of gold in Dean’s peripheral. He thinks that maybe Cas says something. Says something about love and a story that’s still not finished.
“Cas?” Dean calls, blinking and glancing around himself furtively.
He’s back in Cas’ apartment. Everything looks the same, and a soft early evening light streaks in through the windows. It still smells just like Cas, like antique books and sunshine and vanilla. It still feels like home.
Except for one thing.
Cas isn’t here.
“Cas!” Dean shouts again, louder now, his feet moving of their own accord. He checks every room, opens every door. Pulls the comforter off the bed, as if somehow Cas could’ve still been sleeping beneath it. He’s not, and Dean sinks to the floor, pulling the sheets with him. He buries his face in them, smelling Cas’ scent and missing him more than he ever imagined possible.
Dean instantly feels lost. Not once, since that very first time, has he opened his eyes and not been immediately greeted by Cas smiling back at him.
Panic sets in like a weight in his chest, filling the hollow that he can feel carving him apart.
Something must have happened, Dean reasons, Cas wouldn’t have missed this.
It’s only now that Dean realises how little he knows about Cas’ life, outside of their meetings. Does he have a job? Friends? A family? They’ve always had so many unspoken rules, things that they could and couldn’t say, and now Dean realises that he wouldn’t even know where to begin to look for him. He’s always relied on Cas to just be there, waiting for him, ready to guide him through wherever his latest visit landed him.
And he’d never even thought to ask Cas why. Why he had done all this for him. Sure, he’d always wondered the how’s of it all. How Cas always knew where he’d turn up, when he’d turn up. How Cas would know exactly what he needed when he did.
But it had never even crossed Dean’s mind to ask why.
He loves Cas, has loved him ever since they walked through Central Park together, sharing stories over ice cream. He knows it as well as he knows anything, is as sure of his love for Cas as he is his love for his brother. And he knows now that when he feels that tug in his chest, right before he travels, it’s Cas, calling him home.
He wonders why he never thought to tell him.
It’s just yet another thing that’s always gone unsaid. Part of their unspoken rule.
It takes him a while to find the journal.
Eventually, he picks himself up off Cas’ floor. He remakes the bed, convinces himself that Cas has just popped out for some milk. He’s always struck Dean as the sort of person that would flap around making everyone a hot drink the second they arrived in his home.
He finds the pocket watch first, laying there on Cas’ nightstand. He huffs at the inscription on the back, rolling his eyes and wishing he’d seen it sooner, but once he opens it, he’s surprised by its intricacy.
There are four dials inside. One larger one telling the time, and three smaller ones. Dean puzzles over them, but he can’t quite work it out. He places it gently back on the nightstand, laying it exactly as he found it, before heading back out into the hallway.
It’s as he’s wandering through the living room, stopping to peer at Cas’ shelves, noting the lack of photographs and instead lingering over the various book titles, that he sees it.
There, tucked away, like any other book sitting innocuously on the shelf.
The spine is cracked, telling of how often it’s been opened, how often it’s been read. But there’s no mistaking the gold inscription on the spine. DW.
He pulls it off the shelf. The cover is worn, far more worn than the one Dean has in his own possession, but there’s no mistaking it. Dean would recognise it anywhere.
It’s his journal. His journal where he’s recorded every single one of his and Cas’ encounters.
How does Cas have this?
Dean’s never taken it with him.
He flops down onto the couch, flicking through the pages. They’re worn, fragile. As though they’ve been thumbed through a thousand times. It’s all there though, all there in his handwriting. He catches a flicker of green, and he stops, pages back until he spots it. And there, right under his own writing, is a little note. Wedged in between two lines, in a tiny scrawl that Dean knows instantly must belong to Cas.
We shared our first kiss this morning.
Dean’s mind reels. Reels back to that day, to pushing Cas up against the wall, to finally getting to feel him. And he remembers what Cas had said, right before Dean had begun to fade. It had confused him at the time, but he’d been too focused on getting another taste, another touch to dwell on it. ‘This wasn’t in the book,’ Cas had said, and he must have meant this, this book. Dean’s journal.
Dean frantically flips back to the front, skimming across, and he knows, knows instantly, deep down, that this is the answer. This book, this story of their lives together, this is how Cas has always known where and when to be. He remembers how he’d chosen to omit their first kiss, too heartbroken to want to face it. He skips forward, reading Cas’ little notes in the columns. He’d filled in all the blanks, filled in his own thoughts and feelings. Circled around where Dean had written about sharing ice cream together, written a list at the edge of the page of local shops that sold those flavours. Later on, there’s a map, tucked between two pages, a map detailing the route out to Lake Tahoe. And then later, a note in Dean’s handwriting, that Dean doesn’t remember writing in his own journal. It’s a note, telling Cas where he could find the Impala’s keys, the night before…
Dean slumps back, trying to make sense of it. How is that extra note there? Dean never wrote that in his own journal… And it still doesn’t answer how Cas even has this to begin with.
It’s then that Dean realises that this book is holding the map of his future. That if this book has told Cas about all of their encounters so far, then it also holds all of the ones to come.
He knows he shouldn’t look, but he’s so tired of playing by their unspoken rulebook. He flicks ahead, blushing as he reads over his detailed encounter of their lovemaking, before he turns the page and-
Dean sits frozen for a moment, before he flips desperately through the rest of the book.
There’s nothing, no more entries.
Dean’s fairly certain he can hear his heart breaking.
He closes the journal, sits staring at the cover, running his fingers over the creases he finds. Cas must have cherished this, Dean realises, must have sat and read it countless times. He opens it again, running his finger over the indents that Cas' pen had made, and he pores over each of his little comments, hearing Cas’ voice saying each one in his mind.
This can’t be it , this can’t be the end . That last time can’t have been the last time. Because Cas… Cas had said he’d “see him soon,” like always. Dean had heard him say it, he was sure of it. So why wasn’t he here?
Dean doesn’t even realise he’s crying until a drop falls onto the page, splattering across the ink.
It’s almost dark by the time he comes back to himself, surprised to find himself still in Cas’ living room, and not back in his own. The book is still in his lap, his grip on it gone as he’d used his hands to wipe at his face. He looks around himself, tries to picture Cas in this space, living here, reading this same journal that Dean is bent over now. And his heart breaks all over again at the thought of it, of Cas knowing that they were nearing the end but unable to say anything, why hadn’t he said anything?
Dean wishes he’d known. Wishes that Cas had told him, the rule book be damned.
He opens it again, to that first page. He’d been a child when he wrote it, his writing barely legible. But this page is faded, so much more so than the others. As though this was the page that Cas had pored over the most. But when he goes to turn the page, the light catches something he hadn’t spotted before.
There, tucked in the inner sleeve, is a folded sheet of paper.
His hands shake as he pulls it out, the paper trembling beneath his fingertips. He folds it open, careful not to tear it.
And feels a stab in his chest when he sees Cas’ now familiar handwriting.
I’m sorry I never told you that our story had an ending. That it was predetermined, a star with a destiny far beyond our reach.
I wanted too, there were so many times that I wished I could have told you.
But every moment that we had together meant more to me than you will ever know. And I was selfish; I didn’t want to taint it. I didn’t want to tell you the truth and for you to decide that it wasn’t worth it anymore.
If all we would ever have together was just that one day, then I didn’t want to risk it for the world.
I have lived far longer than you, and I will live for a long time after you are gone. But please know, that throughout my long life, the whole of it; these years with you have been the greatest gift of all.
When you arrived on my doorstep that day, this book in hand, telling me you were from the future but that you had an important story to tell me, I thought you were insane.
But then I sat and I read. I read our story and I fell in love with you before I even met you.
And I missed you before I even knew you.
I remember being sad, that you had already lived our lives together and that I was left waiting my turn. But I remember you leaning down, looking me in the eye, and telling me that you’d give anything to live it all again.
Those years waiting for you, waiting for our story to begin, were the longest of my life.
But my only regret, my biggest regret, is that I never told you how I felt. I never told you that I would’ve waited a thousand years, if only to share one more day with you.
I love you Dean Winchester, I always have and I always will.
I don’t know that you will ever find this note, if your timeline will ever catch up to my own.
Perhaps it is for the best that way.
But if you do, please know that I have spent every day since that day thinking of you.
Dean doesn’t know how long he sits there.
He sits there long enough that his hands stop shaking and the sun sets behind him. Long enough that fissures carve themselves across his heart, each one representing a moment that he’ll never get to share with Cas again.
It's only as he feels that familiar fade, tugging at him, enticing him away, that he folds the letter up, hastily tucking into his pocket to take back with him.
And he hasn’t got it all figured out yet, doesn’t understand the mysteries of the journal and the letter. But he fights the fade, frantically searching for a pen, because he’s determined that this isn’t over, this isn’t it for them. He won’t let it be.
He opens the journal again, hastily skipping past all of their memories, until he reaches the next empty page.
And there, in huge letters, that Cas won’t be able to miss, Dean writes:
Wait for me. I’ll find you.
Dean had scooped up a piece of Cas’ mail before he left, stowing it safely away with Cas’ letter. They’re both warm in his inner pocket now, resting against his chest. He’s taken to carrying them everywhere with him.
The journal knocks against his leg in his outer jacket pocket. That goes everywhere with him now, too. His own copy, not Cas’ of course. It’s missing all of Cas’ squiggles and notes, the book the same as Dean had written it.
Save for one tiny detail. There, near the end, there’s a note for Cas.
Telling him where to find his spare car key.
It takes Dean a while to figure it out. To figure out that at some point, he’s going to travel backwards, not forwards. That he’s going to travel back and hand Cas the key to their lives together.
That he’s going to hand him this book, and ask him to read their story. That he’s going to remind him to bring shoes the first time they meet, because Dean’s going to be barefoot and cold. To remind him to bring sunscreen when they meet in Sarasota. To remind him to bring food with him to Glenwood Springs, because he’ll be halfway through his dinner when he phases out. To remind him to stash tissues in the Impala’s glove box.
And to remind him, this time around, to make sure he reads the book to the very end.
The missing piece comes a week later.
He’s on his way home from work, on foot. The Impala had inexplicably stopped running this morning, and Dean hadn’t had time to delve under her hood to figure out the problem if he didn’t want to risk being late for work.
He’s never walked this way before, never taken the time to look in at each of the shops. Normally he’s too busy driving past, staring ahead at the road while his mind replays his and Cas’ last encounter.
It’s a nice day though, the sun is shining, and he thinks it’s this that makes him spot it. The sun glinting off a sign that’s swaying gently in the breeze across the street from him.
It’s tucked down a little side alley, the shop, the faded letters spelling out draoidheachd.
Dean feels a pull towards this place, this tiny store hidden away. So much of his life has been based on these pulls, these instincts and feelings, that it’s the work of seconds to get him across the street and through the door.
A bell chimes to announce his arrive, and he takes in the sights and scents of this place, immediately feeling overwhelmed. Every shelf is crammed with oddities, antiques, and what looks like healing stones. There’s incense lit, tendrils of smoke drifting across the room, giving Dean the sense he’s been thrown back in time.
It’s ironic, really.
“Ah, Mr Winchester,” a lilting Scottish accent snaps him out of his thoughts. He spins, finding himself face to face with a petite woman with a mass of red hair. “I’ve been expecting you.”
“You have?” Dean replies hesitantly.
“Of course!” She exclaims, “now come along, laddie, we haven’t got long before it’s time for you to go!”
“Go?” Dean asks, “go where?”
“Back! Back to find your wee soulmate,” she replies with a grin. She’s bustling around behind the counter now, and Dean edges forward, unsure of whether or not he should be frightened of this small, whirlwind of a woman.
“Ah!” Dean jumps a mile. “I found it! Here.”
She’s holding something out to him. It’s an ornate box, and she gestures for him to take it. It’s cold in his hand, his thumb coming to rest on the catch. He clicks it open, and huffs out a breath that’s halfway between a laugh and a sob.
It’s a pocket watch. The pocket watch. Nestled in blue silk, shining far brighter than the worn piece he’d found at Cas’. It’s surface is unmarred, but Dean would recognise it anywhere. This timepiece, this small trinket that has seemingly controlled his life for the last 33 years.
He hands it back to the woman with shaking hands, and she takes it from him, opening the watch carefully so he can see the dials inside.
“This watch,” she tells him, “it’s unlike any other I’ve seen. You see, it can tell the time and the date in two different places all at once.” She points out the various dials to him.
And suddenly, it all becomes clear. How Cas was always able to know when Dean would arrive, and when he would need to leave again.
The journal may be Cas’ map, but this is the compass he’d need to read it.
“How much do you want for it?” Dean finds himself asking. The woman smirks mischievously at him.
“Oh, just a few pennies will do,” she replies, “it’s worthless to me really.”
She closes the box, moves to wrap it up before Dean remembers.
“Wait.” She arches an eyebrow at him, and he flushes, preemptively embarrassed. “I… I’d like it engraved.”
“Ah, of course. Come along then laddie, we don’t have all day!”
She’s almost ferociously cheerful this woman, and Dean can’t help but smile. For the first time since Dean had found that letter, he’s begun to feel the true flicker of hope. There’s something magical about this woman, who like Cas, knew that he was coming and was ready and waiting for him.
He closes his eyes, breathing in the scent of heather and hyacinth drifting around the shop, and thinks of Cas.
Thinks of his smile, of the crinkles around his eyes. Thinks of his hands, of how gentle they are, of how they felt tightening on Dean’s hips. Thinks all the way back, to moonlight in a grassy field, and thinks of home.
Hold on Cas, he thinks, I’m coming.
He carries the envelope around for two years.
He never opens the envelope, doesn’t even know what the letter inside is about.
He doesn’t care. The contents aren’t important to him.
The only thing that’s important to him is the date and the address stamped on the front.