Late spring in Kansas brought unreliable weather patterns during the day, but every night held the promise of calm air, gentle breezes that wove through the comfortable warmth, and clear skies. It was the perfect few weeks before temperatures increased, and humidity thickened the air. Mosquitos had a bit more time before they came out to torment people and June bugs hadn’t yet started crowding sidewalks with their squished corpses.
Late spring was beautiful.
Dean and Castiel had taken to enjoying as much time outside either under the canopy of trees in their garden, or under the expanse of stars. Tonight, they had filled a cooler with beer and brought a watermelon they had left to chill all day. Dean drove west until they were outside city limits and there was no light pollution to hide the stars.
Castiel enjoyed fruit, but he particularly liked watermelon because whenever he and Dean ate it, they would make a game out of seeing who could spit their seeds the farthest. It was juvenile, but then again, the angel loved it when Dean could shed the responsibility of adulthood that he was burdened with at too young an age. He loved when the lines that usually wrinkled his expression with worry or marked his face from wisdom or experience were instead creased from amusement or youthful challenge. He loved when the tears in his eyes welled from laughter and the hunter let them flow freely, instead of restrained tears from pain and loss.
Dean Winchester was beautiful. But under the light of a full moon, skin kissed by the twinkling starlight, body relaxed and easy happiness emanating from his soul, Dean Winchester was sublime.
Castiel sometimes prayed to his Father, wondering if his devotion to Dean was a blaspheme. Creation was commanded not to worship false gods, and his love for Dean certainly felt like worship. He never received word from Chuck, but very soon after these thoughts, Dean would come to him, all smiles and unwavering loyalty, and Castiel would take these as signs. He would continue his worship. Dean was not false, and his only resemblance to God was the power he held over Castiel.
But no god or even God himself could command the angel’s heart. This was reserved for himself, and by extension, bequeathed to Dean.
“Have you ever been to the beach?” Castiel saw a droplet of beer spill over Dean’s bottom lip as he spoke.
“Yes. Although the island is no longer habitable. The rising sea levels sadly saw to that. It is completely under water now.”
“Damn. Humans don’t give a fuck about this planet, huh? Kind of makes me see why angels would be so mad.”
Castiel raised a confused look at his friend.
“I mean, you guys are supposed to watch over us and shit, but we don’t make that easy. We’re supposed to take care of the earth and we just take a shit all over it and start all these problems that put everything, including ourselves, in danger. That would piss anyone off.”
“It is frustrating, yes, to see humans make decisions that result in loss, but our job was to protect you no matter what. It is not our job to judge.”
“Well, that’s why you’re the best of us.” Dean nudged his with his elbow, although he did not have to move far. They were laying side by side across the hood and windshield of Baby, close enough that there were several points of contact from shoulder to foot.
“Why did you ask if I have ever been to the beach?” Castiel resumed their conversation after a shared silence.
“I’ve never been. Wanted to know what it was like.”
Castiel thought for several minutes. He wasn’t equipped at the time with the experience or emotional range to appreciate his surroundings beyond the esteem for his Father’s creation. He had vague memories of his time on the island. A small group of Māori voyagers had sailed to the island and he was sent to observe. He could remember the vast variety of fauna and flora and the impressive springs and the might of the waters surrounding them. But he couldn’t say if the current felt good against his muscles, the water dragging back his leg hairs. He wouldn’t be able to answer if the sand was fine or coarse or if it was pleasant against his skin. He couldn’t remember if their air smelled sweet from the fruit trees or salty from the ocean or fresh from the lagoon.
“I wouldn’t do it justice.” He finally concluded.
“Bet you could see the stars at night.”
“The entire galaxy stretched out over us when the sun went down.” Castiel dropped his voice and looked at his companion. “I wish I could show you.”
Dean returned his look and smiled. “We should go. We could go to Hawaii or somewhere in the Caribbean or even New Zealand, so we can see where they shot Lord of the Rings.” His smile was infectious to Castiel. “Think about it. Toes in the sand, fruity alcoholic shit with the little umbrellas, Sam and Jack off to see the island girls, and you and me having fun in sun.” His eyes were almost dreamlike, a soft green dancing with hope and promise that no Djinn could duplicate.
“Jack could fly us off wherever you want to go.” He regretted the words as soon as the sentiment in Dean’s eyes shifted. He didn’t like to talk about his wings.
“I thought you got your wings back?” The hunter’s voice bled with concern.
“I do. But there are some lasting damages that won’t allow me to fly. It would be too unreliable. I can’t put you at risk like that.”
Dean looked over Castiel’s shoulders as if he could see wings if he concentrated hard enough. His hand reached out and his fingers hovered in the space large feathers would occupy if he chose to manifest them in this plane.
“It’s not your fault, Dean.”
“I kind of feel like it is.”
“You’re not the one who took my Grace, or killed me, or expelled me from Heaven and burned my wings.”
“Yeah but it’s my fault all those winged douche bags hate you.”
“Dean. I chose you. I chose this life over them.”
Castiel felt the weight of his own words settle over the two of them. This was nothing new. This wasn’t an unknown confession. But it was no less profound for him to say it out loud. It was an admission and a promise, every single time he could have Dean hear it.
There was silence, save for the distant chirping of crickets and rustling blades of grass.
The arm Dean had reached out now rested between their bodies, turned towards one another. His fingertips brushed nervously, hesitantly over the drooping lapel of Castiel’s coat.
Because there is nowhere in all of creation that I would rather be than by your side. Because you are my family. Because Sam is my brother and you are my greatest friend. Because you are my greatest love. Because I love you.
Their shared look didn’t stray until Dean smiled, small and slow. He bent his head and bumped their foreheads together, his movement almost bashful. Castiel dared to rest his hand at the nape of his friend’s neck.
They stayed like that for a while, stealing this moment of peace together, as if daring the universe to separate them.
“Can you cut me another slice of watermelon?” He peeked his eyes out from where he had been hiding, and Castiel couldn’t help but mirror his expression. He had nothing to not be happy about.
They didn’t return to the Bunker until just after the sun turned the sky a blushing shade of pink. They left behind scattered watermelon seeds that were sure to grow vines.
Castiel thought it was fitting. Dean wasn’t a god, but he spread life wherever he went. He would continue his worship.