Okay, yeah, it shouldn't have to be this difficult. It's obvious, it really is obvious how he feels. Hell, he's pretty sure half the frigging world knows how he feels.
It's the whole 'explaining it to him' thing that's got him in a bind. And not a supernatural kind of bind, either. Just a normal, emotional, indecisive bind. And Dean would rather not be in it.
And he's scared, you see because the only person the monsters use as a weakness, to break him down, is little Sammy ( Dean has yet to admit Sam has actually grown up ) and even then it sends him off the rails, knowing his brother is in danger. So adding another one to the mix, to the danger zone, is just too difficult.
So, yeah, keeping Cas at arm's length is for his safety despite how many times the angel has told Dean not to worry about him ( "Dean, I can handle myself, I am not as fragile as you think I am. I am not a baby." ).
Dean can't let Cas know about his feelings because then everyone - everything - would know about his feelings. Not that they probably don't already, Dean thinks bitterly to himself as he gets closer to home. Closer to Sam and Cas. But if the big evils of the supernatural world knew, then Cas would be in more trouble than he usually is in. He sighs heavily as he wipes a spot of blood from his face, he didn't see it earlier as he looked at his exhausted face in that motel mirror.
It was a quick hunt, no need for more than one man to take out a careless, probably new, vampire.
It's been years since they first met and it's been years since Dean saw that shade of blue for the very first time; it still forces the breath out of him when he sees it.
It took maybe all of five seconds to realise that Dean was in a bind the minute Castiel looked at him after he attempted to stab what was only a vessel at the time.
And Dean had to remind himself that the man he saw talked and acted like an angel but was, in fact, a devout Christian man with a wife and a daughter waiting for his return when the angel ( that they were unaware of ) was finally done with him. That's what stopped him at first.
But that was before Jimmy had been splattered on the ground by Lucifer and he was brought back as Castiel, the proper Castiel, his Castiel. The vessel became him. No one else, not Jimmy, not anyone but him. And Dean knew he was in a bind. He owed Castiel his life after that day and many after, as well as the countless days before.
Once Castiel was Castiel and Castiel only, Dean prayed more. Not a drastic change just a little here and there where there hadn't been before. Maybe before he went to sleep, maybe before he got up, before a hunt, after a hunt, on a case. . .little things to keep Castiel in the know. To make sure Castiel knew that Dean needed him. To make sure Cas didn't forget him whilst on a mission that Dean was sure the angel would need help with in a few months.
Maybe that's also why he kept Castiel away from his feelings. The celestial being gets himself in the danger zone and Dean comes and gets him. If Castiel finds the danger himself: that's fine, he'll become the cavalry, the white knight, the knight in shining armour, the hero, Batman. But if Dean is responsible, is the reason for Castiel's imminent danger: he becomes the villain, the wicked witch, the Kraken up in Norway, the bitch in the corner of the movie poster, the Joker.
Closer still he gets to home. His mind still on bright blue eyes and black messy hair. God, when did it get so difficult to put those thoughts in the secret corner of his brain? How did they become the main event instead of the end credits scene?
Dean would rather not count the number of years he's thought about telling Castiel the truth. He knows Cas probably wouldn't mind, but he's so emotionally constipated, he's not even sure how to begin.
He parks the car.
What words would be said? What were the right words to say? You can't just bite the bullet with these things. Or maybe you can. Dean sighs in defeat, he doesn't know how to say it.
He grabs his duffle bag that weighs down his shoulder, adding to the pain already there from the eager vampire which tried to dislocate his shoulder - it didn't work, although eager, the vampire was a shit fighter.
He's not saying he'll do it today, God no, he's just wondering how he'll start, you know, when the time actually comes. If the time actually comes.
He walks down the stairs, bag in hand, he's not going to announce himself until he's put his bag away. And maybe had a nap. And a shower, he smells of the crappy motel, the outside, exhaust-filled air that passed by as he drove with the windows down; he smells of three days driving and no showers ( which also means he smells of vamp blood, too ).
He can hear the muffled chatter of his brother and his angel in work mode as they pour over the books in the library that have to answers to something, anything to their latest ( metaphorical ) story arc. He smiles a little as he breathes in, this is home and home has never felt so good.
Making his way to his room, Dean thinks more about his dilemma. It shouldn't be this difficult, right? The thing is Castiel is more complex than any girl he's ever met.
All of a sudden, Dean misses the harsh yellow of the streetlights as they shot past his car in lines of bright repeated flashes. He misses the occasional neon signs he'd pass as he drove through different towns just so he could return to his memory foam bed and his brother and his home and his Cas. He figures they really fit in the same category, really: family.
Dean dumps his heavy duffle bag on the mattress of his bed and groans as he rolls his shoulder, the bag had always been heavy but with the weight of the world on his shoulders as well as that heavy bag, his muscles ache and scream for a shower.
He makes his way to his bathroom, once he starts the shower, he slowly removes his bloodstained clothes and throws them anywhere thinking to himself about picking them up later. That probably means in two weeks but there's always hope he'll do it somewhat promptly.
The steam from the shower swirls around the enclosed room and it makes it a little harder to breathe but Dean welcomes it with open arms as it gives him something else to concentrate on rather than his regularly scheduled program that is the angel sat downstairs right at that moment. The last thing he needs is to have Castiel hear the thoughts of his name being repeated over and over causing him to come up and ask Dean if he's okay. He's not really but he'd lie like always.
Dean stays in the shower longer than necessary but the feeling of everything is still on his skin and he can't seem to wash any of it off. He gets out only when his skin is red and raw, he doesn't want to bleed. That wouldn't help anything.
He changes into his sweats, despite the shower, he's left a little cold and he doesn't feel like napping in just a thin shirt and underwear. He pulls the covers up to his chin and gets comfortable.
Dean Winchester welcomes sleep, knowing how precious it is. He may only get an hour or two but it is too valuable a thing to pass up on. The only problem Dean has with sleeping is the nightmares. The horrific, realistic nightmares of loved ones dying, killing or turning away from him. He pretends everything is okay, of course he does but those nightmares haunt his every waking moment.
Over the last few months, however, there have been times when Dean has been in the midst of a nightmare and all of a sudden it has stopped, only to be replaced with happier memories with his brother, Cas, Bobby, his mother and even the rarest happy memories of his father or even just him sitting alone on a pier fishing, sitting in a field, the bright green grass swaying in a gentle summer breeze under his hands where they support his weight as he leans back. He can practically feel the sun beaming down on his tired face and he feels at peace - especially when he sees a little bumble bee buzz past his nose in search of a new plant to find nectar on.
So yeah, sleep is important and wouldn't pass up an opportunity such as the one the present has provided for him at that instant. He needs a nap and he shall damn well have one.
Dean wakes up hours later, discovering he's been asleep for a little over six hours, he stares at his dark room for a few moments. The shadows that are supposed to play tricks on his mind never do, not any more. He knows what's really in the shadows and he doesn't need myths that parents tell their children to keep them safe because he's seen what's real and what's not. He's not scared.
After some extra minutes spent looking into a particular corner of his room that held nothing in particular, Dean decides it's not worth it and falls back to sleep. He's been on the road almost nonstop, he deserves all the hours he can get.
Dean knows he really should say it. He's got all these feelings and it been weeks since that vamp hunt. They're still moving at a snail's pace hunting the newest evil for their ( once again metaphorical ) season and frankly, he's going slightly insane.
He hasn't hunted anything at all for weeks, the one way of moving his frustrations and unspoken words in a cathartic and humane way had been taken away as all monster activity came to a standstill for some reason. Maybe it's the universe telling you something. You know, like to get your ass moving and tell the son of a bitch how you feel already.
The words were so difficult to actually formulate and he had tried, really hard, to speak to Cas about what's got him in a bind but every time it came to actually speaking about his feelings, Dean would end up asking 'how you feelin', buddy?' or 'anything else on the big bad?' and Castiel would answer the same as he usually does, with a stoic expression and a sound of tired frustration.
It's another two months before Dean approaches the thought yet again. This is it, he thinks, I will tell him - now or never. And for some reason that gives him the push. Maybe it's the thought of 'now or never' or perhaps it's the fact that Cas almost died looking for information about a new lead on their Big Bad Evil. Watching Cas almost die again in front of him made Dean almost spill his feelings right at that moment but he doubted that would have helped anything.
The way Cas had looked in Dean's eyes before the informant tried to stab Castiel with a stolen angel blade made Dean's soul light on fire, he felt his muscles force every appendage to act and launch into a huge fight, knocking the weapon away before beating the demon to a bloody pulp. The built-up emotional mountain levelled out into an ant-hill as he shoved the blade into the demon's chest.
As he turned back to check if Castiel was okay, he noticed his brother raise his eyebrows at the scene but neither mentioned anything, the conversation dropping before it could be picked up.
The ride home was intense, yes, but Dean had felt strangely at peace, another demon dead to the innocent, unseeing world and a shit ton of emotions had been thrust into a scene of brutality.
Now or never, Dean thinks as he drives down the road to the bunker. It's now or never because the subject of living to a ripe old age is looking increasingly more and more unlikely as they carry on fighting.
Once they step inside the bunker, Sam races off towards a beer bottle in the fridge and then to his room. Sanctuary was the only word Dean could think of to properly describe the feeling of having their own rooms, it's been years but it's still so precious to them both and Cas too - he finally has a place to call home.
Before Dean can open his mouth in either a show of astounding bravery and admit what he's been feeling for years or a pathetic show of pure panic and find an excuse to leave Castiel's presence, the angel turns to him and asks: "Dean, are you okay? That fight back there was not entirely reassuring, I never expected to see such anger in you since the Mark." And he's beautifully concerned, a frown graces his face ever so delicately that Dean almost cries.
Dean is so overwhelmed, so enamoured, so amazed that such a beautiful face could have been sculpted by God himself that he loses control of his verbal filter. "I love you." He says, finally spits it out for all the world to hear ( if all the world had been in the bunker ). And it's said so simply Dean doesn't even believe he said it.
There's a wave of panic as he realises that oh shit he's said it and why was it so easy? Shouldn't it have been more difficult?
Cas smiles and it's a soft smile but he's proud, anyone could tell, "I know." He leans forward and kisses Dean just like his smile, softly but proudly like he's proud Dean finally managed to say it. Damn right he should be proud of me.
But once Castiel's lips leave his, Dean is practically paralytic with this stupidly stunned expression on his face, his eyebrows hitting the roof ( the cut on his left eyebrow not even stinging at the movement ) and his mouth slightly open, watching Castiel walking away with a smile.
But all Dean can say is: "Dude just Han Solo'd me."