It was late evening in the bunker. Sometimes it was hard to tell without any sunlight to indicate the time of day, but Cas always knew what time it was down to the second. He walked through one of the tiled corridors behind Sam, with Dean carried up in his arms like he weighed nothing. They turned, heading to the old Men of Letters dormitories.
Taking Dean back from Michael had been hard. They were all exhausted, Dean especially.
Dean’s bedroom wasn’t particularly plush or over-decorated, almost as brash as Dean’s personality in some ways, but the odd little touches here and there made it a comfort: A dog-eared copy of Slaughterhouse-Five , a half-empty bottle of the good whiskey, some well-thumbed classic car magazines, some even more well-thumbed magazines of other kinds. It wasn’t much, but the bunker was home. The closest thing to one Dean, or even Sam, had ever had.
“How long will he be out for?” Sam asked gruffly, pulling back the heavy beige blanket that covered Dean’s bed.
Cas carefully lowered Dean down onto the memory foam and began to help Sam remove his boots. “I’ll try and keep him out all night, then let him wake by himself in the morning,” he replied quietly, his deep rumble tinged with a weariness of his own.
Two fingers were all it took to knock Dean into sleep, but Cas hadn’t rested since the moment Dean had uttered “Yes”.
Sam undressed Dean to his undershirt and boxers while Cas pulled up a chair, sliding it to the side of the bed. He began to shuck his trench coat from his shoulders.
Noting the motion, Sam smiled sadly at Cas as he pulled the blanket up across Dean’s chest. “You should rest too, Cas,” he advised gently. “It’s been a rough couple of months, buddy.”
Cas acknowledged Sam’s sentiment with a small nod but lowered himself into the chair regardless. He had tucked the tan trench coat over the back of the chair and sat in his suit jacket, facing Dean at an angle to the bed. “I’ll be fine. Get some sleep, Sam. I’ll…” Cas trailed off, gesturing to the bed, to Dean.
“Watch over Dean. Yeah.” Sam finished for him. He smiled, a secret smile that Cas didn’t see, and that he’d most likely never reveal to Dean. “Of course. Thanks, Cas.”
Cas didn’t answer, his gaze resting tiredly on Dean’s immobile form in the bed. Dean was breathing evenly and for the first time in a long while his face was calm. His forehead was smooth, his eyes closed. He looked peaceful.
Sam turned and moved to the door of Dean’s room. He paused for just a moment, resting the heel of his hand on the door frame. He looked back over his shoulder, the strange, sad smile returning. “You’ve always watched over Dean, huh. Whenever you can.”
The tiny curl at the corner of Cas’s mouth was almost a smirk. “Whenever he’ll let me, anyway…or when he’s in no place to argue.”
Chuckling softly, Sam stepped out to head to his own room. “Night, Cas.”
“Good night, Sam.”
Sam was right. Cas had always watched over Dean, whenever he could.
Back when he could fly, before the angels all fell and their wings were destroyed by Cas’s own mistakes, he’d stopped in on Dean almost every night. Even when they’d argued, even when he thought he’d be the last person Dean wanted to see. He’d kept silent out of respect, and never stayed too long. But he’d always checked.
Cas was bound to watch over Dean. As much as Dean scoffed over their profound bond, it meant something to the angel. So Cas guarded Dean’s dreams as often as he could.
Dean didn’t dream in metaphors. Many people do, but Dean’s dreams were often simple. When he slept, he was either transported back in time to relive his horrors, or he sought a sweet, soft release from the harsh reality waking brought.
Cas watched many of the dreams, good and bad. Only rarely did he let Dean know he was there; just a handful of times, over the years. Mostly, Cas just watched.
The bad dreams were more horrific than any man deserved. Dean was strong, but why did he always have to be? Cas didn’t think it was fair. He’d soothe Dean when he could, risking his friend's anger, should he be caught—but he didn’t care. He’d take the anger of Dean’s daytime to placate the fears of his night. Now, after Michael, Cas worried the nightmares would be worse.
The good dreams Cas didn’t often step inside. They tended towards simplistic—a lake, a beach, a cabin in the woods. Peace. Domesticity. Family. Cas stayed away because of the few times he’d found himself there. He’d been a part of Dean’s flights of fancy, next to him, beside him even in dreams. Cas didn’t know what to do with that information, so he shied away from it.
When Dean slept, the tenseness in his face fell away. A man that was a roaring tide for most of his life became tranquil, soft eyelashes against freckled cheeks as his breaths rose and fell. Dean was beautiful when he slept.
Perhaps Castiel shouldn’t have thought it; perhaps it wasn’t right. But Dean, sleeping, was the most exquisite sight Cas had been granted the blessing to look upon, in all of God’s creation. To watch Dean’s ethereally beautiful face in slumber, and know what was within, was a privilege.
And so, every time he could, he watched.
Reclining in a ratty motel-room armchair.
Perched on a hard, wooden seat in a cheap suite.
Simply seated on the edge of an unowned bed, in many cases.
Dean’s sleeping form was where Cas found his peace, even in his own worst moments.
Cas made sure never to overstep his boundaries—Dean’s room at the bunker was a step too far, unless Cas specifically needed to wake Dean for some reason. But when they were on the road, Cas’s favorite part of the day was when Dean rested.
When he could watch over him, as an angel should.
Cas remembered the first time he’d offered to watch over Dean, many years before. He’d been a different creature then; still full of angelic pride, still believing he knew best. He didn’t even consider his words before offering—a human should be delighted to have an angel watch over them! What an honor!
He’d offered a time or two since, each time with more understanding of what he really meant and why Dean never wanted it.
“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen,” Dean had answered a few years back. He found it creepy, overbearing. Cas hadn’t let it show, of course, but the response cut him to the core. Dean didn’t realize what it meant to him.
To be able to guard such beauty, to watch over it. To watch over Dean, the only thing that mattered.
So, Cas watched Dean sleep as best he could; from the sidelines, never crossing the boundaries that Dean had starkly created.
As he slowly fell over the years, with every feather lost and every human perspective gained, Cas learned more of himself and what he felt. He knew now, after a decade of Dean’s calm, lovely face in sleep, why he held it in such esteem.
But the realization of his love didn’t help him. Dean still wouldn’t allow Cas to watch over him; he hadn’t even asked in several years. It was like a dirty secret he carried now, close to his heart. He’d consider giving it up every morning, to fall back into the desire every night.
For an angel, there was meaning to watching over someone. It wasn’t just to keep an eye on them, it wasn’t merely standing guard while they slept. But Dean didn’t know that, of course. Regardless, his choice in the matter had been clear, and Cas would respect it.
Just to watch Dean’s serenity now and again, when circumstances dictated that Dean sleep in his presence, was breathtaking. It was enough.
It was all Cas needed, he told himself. He could watch over Dean when the chance arose, guard his charge while he rested.
He didn’t need anything in return, he insisted. It was a lie that his heart felt sharply, but Dean had made his choice.
Nonetheless, while Dean slept after Michael, Cas watched.
It was late in the morning before Dean stirred. Cas didn’t think that Dean had slept that long for years, so he let it happen. Dean needed it, he was sure.
“Cas?” Dean’s long eyelashes fluttered against his softly freckled cheeks as he turned his head, struggling onto his side. His voice was thick with sleep and disuse, practically a growl.
“Dean!” Cas exclaimed. He knew the relief in his voice was evident, but he didn’t mind. Lowering his feet from where he’d had them kicked up onto the side of the bed next to Dean, Cas rocked forward in his chair to grasp at Dean’s shoulder. “How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Better than when I was strapped to that dick, for sure.”
Dean’s words were a balm to Cas’s fraught, exhausted mind. Of all the things he could have said, that sounded the most like the Dean he knew. Relief throbbed through Cas in a wave, slowly releasing the muscles in the back of his neck and down his spine, warming his heart in a way he’d keep entirely private.
“Being possessed is...difficult,” Cas offered, recalling Lucifer. “You must take the time you need to truly recover, Dean,” he cautioned quietly.
“You know me, Cas. A few days of not talking about it and plenty of whiskey will fix me right up,” Dean grumbled, raising a hand to pinch at the bridge of his nose, rubbing his fingers out across his eyes. He took a second to shake his head, before turning to look at Cas and ask, “Were you here all night?”
Cas looked a little regretful but nodded. “Yes, I’m sorry. I understand you don’t want me to watch over you, Dean. You’ve declined enough times. But I do still try to keep an eye on you when nightmares might be prevalent, at least.”
“Keep an eye on me, huh?” Dean struggled slowly up to a sitting position as he spoke, stiff. “How exactly is that different to watching over me? Both creepy.” He sounded tired and resigned.
It seemed, Cas thought, that after all these years Dean’s rebukes had more of a fond note to them than a horrified one. A smile lifted one side of his mouth as he responded, “There’s a world of difference between the two, Dean, to an angel.”
Cas stood, his body fluid, without any of the shifting and stretching that Dean did after being still for the same number of hours. He reached to the back of the simple chair he’d been sitting on and grabbed his trench coat, flicking it back familiarly around his shoulders. Thinking to fetch Dean some coffee, he moved toward the end of the bed, only for Dean to call him back.
“Wait—what? You really mean that, don’t you?” Dean questioned, his brow furrowing into a soft frown of curiosity as one of his hands rested at the back of his neck, tangled tiredly in his sandy hair.
Cas blinked. “Mean what, Dean?” he asked.
“That it’s different,” Dean responded, considering, as he stiffly swung his legs out of the bed to sit on its edge. “I never noticed before. The words…you always offer to watch over me. Not to keep watch or make sure I sleep, to watch over me.”
Cas looked wary, and his lips parted just a fraction, but he was interrupted again by Dean before he could answer.
“It’s an angel thing, isn’t it?” Dean looked as if a revelation was hitting him. “All this time I just thought you were being a creeper but...it means something to you, doesn’t it? To watch over someone? I can hear it now.”
“Hear it?” Cas hovered, nervous-looking, at the foot of the bed.
“The way you say it,” Dean clarified. “Like it’s got capital letters or something. Watch Over.”
“Uh,” Cas found himself struck uncharacteristically vague. “Yes. It’s an...angel thing.”
Dean frowned, shuffling awkwardly toward the door where Cas stood. “Why didn’t you tell me? What does it—” Dean stopped himself, holding up a hand weakly. “You know what, I haven’t pissed since Michael took over. You get me some coffee, then we’re going to talk about this.” His finger raised in what seemed to be some kind of command, Dean pointed between their chests and then back to the bedroom floor.
Silent, Cas nodded. Dean seemed to accept it, returning the nod before he ambled his way out into the hall, leaving Cas alone just inside the door.
Blinking very slowly, slightly pale, Cas went to get the coffee.
When he returned, two steaming mugs in hand, Dean had already made it back from his bathroom trip. He’d chosen to return to bed, having just pulled on a pair of soft sweatpants and a fresh t-shirt.
“Just told Sam I was awake,” Dean offered as he reached forward to take a mug. “Two coffees? You joining me, Cas?”
“Good, no need for Sam to worry any longer than necessary,” Cas approved, before lowering himself back to the seat he’d occupied all night. “And no, both of these are for you. I figured you’d want a couple after...that.”
The flicker in Dean’s eyes was so quick it barely showed, but Cas caught it, of course. He didn’t say anything, just held the second coffee, wrapping his hands around it until Dean would require it.
He knew, with certainty, that it would be a long time until Dean was ready to talk about Michael.
“So. What’s this angel thing?” Dean asked without preamble, leaning back against his pillows and fixing Cas with a direct look. “Watching over someone. What’s it mean?”
Cas dropped his gaze to the heavy blanket covering the bed. He’d thought about his response while he made the coffee, of course, but he still barely knew where to begin. “When an angel watches over a mortal,” he began, “it’s not just...watching,” he stumbled. Taking a deep breath, he shook his head as he tried again. “It’s a bond. You and I have always had—”
“A profound bond, yeah,” Dean rolled his eyes but returned his gaze to Cas. “Not exactly fond of the phrase but..” he shrugged, awkwardly. “We’ve done some crazy shit for each other. I get it, the bond thing.”
“Yes,” Cas agreed. “We have. I’ve always—” he stopped, embarrassed, no idea how to tell Dean any of it but equally little idea how to get out of it.
The one thing he didn’t want to do was lie about it. Dean would know, he sensed.
He’d lied to Dean before. He hadn’t enjoyed it, and he still tried to make up for it, every day. Not that Dean knew that, directly. But their relationship was much repaired and much improved these days, from what it had once been.
Could he tell Dean this , though?
Dean slurped down a huge gulp of coffee and knocked at Cas’s knee with his foot, where it pressed into the side of the bed. A silent sign to get the hell on with it.
“When an angel watches over someone, it creates a bond with the person.” Cas took a deep breath, trying to keep his voice steady even when his very being warned him to silence. “To offer to watch over someone is to say that you think they’re worthy of the type of protection and adoration that is inherent in such an action. It’s, uh, quite complimentary, actually,” Cas stumbled. “There’s a certain amount of, uh—”
Cas could feel his vessels cheeks heating, but he continued, more formally.
“When a human is watched over by an angel, the angel becomes their guardian. To keep that person safe and happy becomes the angel’s highest priority. It's...an important bond. Permanent. Rare.”
Dean was watching Cas, his forest-green gaze unflinching on his face. He didn’t speak for a moment, but the quiet intelligence Dean possessed could be seen churning below the surface. A minute passed. He drained his coffee cup. Looking back at Cas, a smile began to tweak at the corner of Dean’s mouth. He seemed to be fighting it, but struggling.
Cas pressed down the swelling feeling of horror in his chest, hoping against hope that Dean wasn’t about to laugh at him. He didn’t understand, Cas reminded himself.
“So…” Dean carefully shuffled further up on the bed, placing his empty coffee mug on the nightstand before he went on. “Adoration, huh?”
That was unexpected. Cas turned his vivid blue gaze questioningly to meet Dean’s. “I, uh—” he eloquently said. Cas’s deep voice was rough, lower than usual.
“You said that to offer to watch over someone was to think they are worthy of protection and adoration.” Dean pointed out.
“Yes, I did,” Cas responded, with an uncomfortable squint. He reached forward with both hands. Offering Dean the second coffee. “Here. You should drink this while it’s hot. I should have obtained food, you must be hungry,” Cas considered, standing suddenly. “I’ll go and cook some bacon.”
Dean frowned, slowly lowering himself back to the pillows as he watched Cas go. Cas didn’t look back or say another word.
“Sounds like an angelic pick-up line to me,” Sam said as he grinned, finding Dean’s retelling of the morning’s conversation quite amusing.
“Sam,” Dean glared. “Can it, alright. I’m honestly asking.”
“Asking what, Dean?” Sam closed the lore book he had in hand, sliding it across the library table to give Dean his full attention.
Dean sat opposite him, though he didn’t look up to Sam, focused instead on a book that he clearly hadn’t been reading—it was written in ancient Aramaic, for one thing. “Do you think it meant—something. Like…”
“You’re sure this is what you want to talk about, Dean?” Sam asked carefully, crossing his arms on the wooden surface and leaning forward slightly. “Are you sure we shouldn’t be talking about—”
“No,” Dean snapped. “This is actually—” he sighed. “Well if there’s one thing about Michael’s little joy ride, is that avoiding talking about that actually makes talking about this seem easier,” he huffed in a sour, humorless tone.
Sam regarded him very quietly for a long minute, before reverting back to reclining on his chair. “Alright then, we can talk about it. I think…” Sam trailed off momentarily, spreading his hands. “I think it sounds like Cas was offering you a lot more than you thought he was. It sounds like some kind of bond that you weren't aware of, or—don't get mad at me—feelings you weren't aware of.”
Dean looked increasingly uncomfortable, but nodded. “Yeah. Maybe,” he muttered.
“And you…” Sam prompted, looking hopefully at Dean, as if waiting for him to take the next logical step.
Dean raised a questioning eyebrow.
“You rejected him, repeatedly,” Sam finished, with a bit of an eye-roll for good measure. “He was offering you to do something for you that seems like kind of a big deal. Something rare. Something—” Sam had the good graces to smooth out his smirk before continuing. “Adoring.”
“Oh. Yeah,” Dean softly replied. His eyes were still fixed on the book, which Sam realized was not only Aramaic, but also happened to be a treatise on cliff-side gardening.
Sam couldn’t bring himself to tease Dean about it.
As much as he really, really wanted to.
“Dean,” he prompted gently, waiting for Dean to look up before he continued. “I’m not the person you need to be talking to.”
Dean nodded slowly. “I know, Sam,” he replied, rubbing his hands over his face. “I just kinda wanted to sort my head out first.”
Sam made a hum of agreement but didn't say anything, just waiting for Dean to talk.
“I just feel like…” Dean dropped his hands back to the table, palms down. “Maybe I made this big social mistake, y'know? Like, because I never listened or asked maybe I...stepped on Cas’s toes or hurt his feelings or something. I need him to really tell me what it means so that I…” Dean trailed off, sorting his thoughts.
Sam left him for a minute, then prompted him again. “So that you…?” he echoed.
Dean shifted awkwardly in his seat. “Well if I don't know what it really is, how am I supposed to know if I want him to do it?” he asked. He tucked his hands under his thighs, shrugging awkwardly.
“Dean,” Sam sighed, growing exasperated. “You're going to have to pin Cas down and make him explain. Because I don't know what it is. If it's something as personal as it sounds, that kind if connection...is that what you want?” he asked directly, but softly, recrossing his arms.
Sam knew the answer from the way Dean didn't look at him. After a pause, Sam decided to say the last thing on his mind, while Dean was at least in a listening mood.
“Also, Dean…this bond?” Sam looked at him pointedly, “Watching over you. Making you his highest priority, protection...doesn't that kinda sound like what Cas already does? You might have rejected this bond thing, but it sounds to me like Cas never gave up on it.”
Dean glared at him from across the table, and Sam knew he wouldn't get a response to that either.
It was already late in the afternoon by the time Dean found Cas. He’d spent the last few hours avoiding Sam since their conversation in the library, knowing that Sam had a lot of unasked questions about Michael, and now even worse, about Cas and emotions and how he felt about things. He’d ignored them for years, why start paying attention now?
But he did want to talk to Cas. If this thing with Cas had been more—more than just sitting, waiting for him to wake up—and Dean had rejected him, more than once, Dean needed to apologize.
And then he needed to think about what that meant.
And then if it did mean anything, think about how he felt about it.
And then think about whether, if it did mean anything and he felt good about it, was it was something Cas still wanted.
Dean had a headache.
He found Cas by accident, stepping outside the bunker to breathe in some fresh air for a few minutes, to see if it would help ease the pounding in his head.
Cas was sitting across the road, on the grass embankment that led up to a peaceful, green area among the old, abandoned industrial buildings in front of the bunker. He had his trench coat off, on the grass beneath him, and he leaned back on his hands with his face turned up to the sun.
He looked like he was thinking, like he wanted to be left alone. But Dean had too many questions that were causing him too many feelings to just let it slide until Cas felt like talking.
“Hey, buddy,” he said quietly, lowering himself onto the grass beside Cas, his knees protesting the whole way. The grass was damp.
Cas gave him an unreadable look, before his eyes flicked down to where Dean sat. Taking in the wet grass, he shuffled slightly to the side, opening up space on the trench coat. A silent invitation.
Or at least, Dean hoped it was an invitation; he was taking it as one. He slid to his left, brushing a few blades of grass off his butt before he resettled.
He wasn’t sure where to begin, but seeing Cas sitting so quiet and unreadable, it became a little easier.
“Are you okay, Cas?” Dean ventured quietly. “Did I say something wrong, when I tried to talk to you before?”
Cas blinked, seemingly amazed that Dean would display such concern and self-awareness. “You didn't say anything wrong,” he confessed after a moment. “Perhaps I did. I shouldn’t have told you even as much as I did. I never had any wish to make you uncomfortable, Dean.”
“You didn't,” Dean rushed to reply. “I'm...confused. I feel like I missed something important and I want you to explain it to me, but...I'm not uncomfortable.” His voice trailed between a few words, putting more effort than usual into phrasing himself clearly.
Cas squinted across at him, his vivid blue gaze narrowed to curious slits. “You want me to explain? You weren't put off already?”
Dean’s attention was firmly on the inner hem of the trench coat under his feet. “Just explain. Tell me what watching over me means to you.”
Cas cleared his throat. “Well, to an angel—”
“No,” Dean interrupted, “to you .”
Silence reigned as they sat close on the trench coat, their arms pressed alongside one another while Cas gathered his thoughts. Dean took in the road, the trees, the outside of the bunker. The daylight was getting thin; he should make dinner soon.
“Offering to watch over someone is offering to be beside them always, Dean.” Cas suddenly began, whatever courage he’d been trying to gather rising to the occasion. “It’s protection, and respect, and it’s a way of showing someone how important they are. Someone powerful, or special. Sometimes…” Cas trailed for a moment before picking back up again, and Dean looked up and realized that Cas was studying the lining of the coat too. “Sometimes it declares a desire for closeness. It’s a vow. The bond is permanent except in particularly traumatic circumstances. When I offered to watch over you—”
Cas came to an abrupt halt and Dean thought, for a moment, he was done. After a minute though, Cas picked his speech back up, his voice low and unsure.
“When I offered to watch over you Dean, I was offering you all of those things. I was offering you myself, in your service. Not because I had to, because Raphael or God or any other made me, or because Naomi forced me. Just for me, because I wanted to. I was offering you myself. To be by your side in whatever capacity you will have me, for as long you want me, and then longer.”
As an angel, Cas knew that the turn of the world is continual. Yes, over millennia the spin slows, but at a constant, fractional rate. As a human though, Dean knew that there are moments when time stops—physics be damned.
This was one of those moments.
Somewhere between the two seconds that had separated to give Dean a chance at clarity, he knew that Cas loved him. That the angel had been in love with him for years and that Dean, to his mind, had rejected him. Repeatedly.
All Dean wanted to do was fix it.
But, time started moving again, and his moment was already gone.
Cas’s feet shuffled across the trench coat and he began to stand. “It’s going to rain, Dean,” he observed quietly, his voice calm and almost formal. “We should head back to the bunker. I imagine Sam will be expecting you to cook dinner soon.”
He offered a hand to Dean to help him up off the ground before letting go and wandering back toward the bunker. Dean was still sluggish, amazed, unsure. He watched Cas go.
His palm burned where the angel had clasped it.
It was almost two in the morning, but Dean couldn’t sleep. Of course. He’d spent the evening alone in his room, with Led Zeppelin II , drinking what some may consider to be rather too much whiskey. By his own standards, he was still far too sober for this shit.
When he found himself crooning along with Robert Plant in the early hours, enough was enough.
“ Little drops of rain whisper of the pain, tears of loves lost in the days gone by… Fuck,” he muttered under his breath, pushing the whiskey bottle aside. “Fine. I give in. Cas! ” he called, roughly. No answer.
Dean sat up, sliding his legs over the side of his plush mattress and bowing his head for a moment. He cleared his mind of thoughts, finding the space inside where Cas always seemed to be able to hear him.
“I pray to Castiel, to get his feathery ass down here.”
Dean cracked open one eye, and waited. The sound of footsteps in the hallway came only moments later.
As his bedroom door creaked open, Dean looked up. Cas stepped inside. He regarded Dean for a moment before turning, closing the door behind him. He looked uncertain, Dean registered, and also a little annoyed.
“Prayer is supposed to be sacred, Dean. Not a method by which to summon me when you are too drunk to walk to the library,” he said, glowering. He lowered himself down to the mattress, leaving a polite space between himself and Dean.
“I’m not that drunk,” Dean grumbled. “Just needed a little time to relax and think, that was all. Besides, this was important.”
Cas raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“Fine. I’m sorry, Cas,” Dean apologized with a sigh. “Prayer. Sacred. Not drunk.”
Dean thought he saw a tiny smile grace the very edge of Cas’s mouth, but it was gone before he could be certain. Instead, Cas turned to face him fully, pulling one knee up onto the bed. His hands rested on his shin, his boot kept carefully off the bedclothes, though it appeared clean.
“You said it was important?” Cas questioned.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Dean smiled half-heartedly. He tried to hide his nerves and push them down, but his body betrayed him, traitorously furrowing his brow and causing his fingers to pick at the blankets.
Cas watched Dean as, still in his sweatpants and undershirt, he lay down on his side. Not knowing what to say, Cas kept quiet, though his head tilted to the side in curiosity and confusion.
After a minute where he settled the bedclothes and fluffed his pillow, Dean busied his gaze with the hem of the white sheet beneath him as he said, “Too much on my mind, couldn’t drift off. So I thought I might—” his voice cracked with the strain, but he continued. “—ask you to watch over me.”
Dean sensed Cas freeze rather than saw him. Only a couple of seconds passed before Cas spoke, though, so at least he wasn’t left in agony much longer.
“You wanted to ask—” Cas blinked, looking down at Dean. “—to ask me. To watch over you,” he asked slowly.
“Yes. Watch over me,” Dean reiterated, reaching forward toward Cas’s hand as it rested on his shin. He slowly entwined their fingers, fear laced into their pattern as he held his breath against the pillow.
“Dean,” Cas responded, his voice a breathy, hopeful version of his usual growl. “Do you mean that? Or do you just want me to—” Cas raised his hand, two fingers indicating Dean’s forehead, “—in case you dream about Michael, or anything?” he finished quietly, slight desperation to his request for clarification.
Stunningly green eyes locked on Cas as Dean flushed his way through his answer. “Yes,” he said, swallowing and moistening his lips before he continued. “If you want to. I’d be honored if you’d watch over me, Cas. If that’s something you still—” he stopped, unsure.
“Yes,” Cas responded instantly. “There’s nothing I would find more pleasing than to merely be allowed to watch over you,” he confessed with relief. “If it doesn’t, ‘creep you out’, as you say, anymore.”
Squeezing at their entwined fingers, Dean’s smile was growing in confidence. “It doesn’t. Not now I know—well, I think I know. Or I hope. I dunno. I guess I hope that you, uh—” he trailed off, dropping his gaze with a slightly amused huff into his pillow. “I’m really good at this, huh,” Dean commented, the corner of his mouth quirking.
“Better than me,” Cas pointed out, beginning to slide his trench coat from his shoulders. When it reached elbow level he stopped, looking uncertainly at the wooden chair next to the bed. The same one where he’d spent the previous night. “Do you want me to…” he trailed off.
Dean had to raise his head from the safety of the pillow to see Cas pointing toward the chair. His response, when it came, was cautious. “If you want you can just rest here,” he gestured to the other half of the bed. “Plenty of space. If, uh,” he stammered. “That’s presumptuous I guess. You don’t sleep. I don’t even know if you have any expectations at all beyond sitting and watching me sleep.”
“Dean,” Cas’s voice was comforting, and as he spoke he was moving around the bed. He didn’t finish speaking.
Dean heard Cas toe out of his boots, and was too busy holding his breath to say anything.
What seemed to be an eternity later, Cas lay on the bed behind Dean, and Dean felt a cautious hand touch his shoulder.
“Dean?” Cas bravely whispered.
“Can I hold you?”
Dean’s smile, pulled out of him by whiskey and Cas’s hopeful reactions, grew and split along his face. “Always wished you would,” he confessed, the building grin lifting his face out of the pillow. He looked back, over his shoulder, to find Cas up close behind him, just a few respectful inches left between them.
Cas’s expression was wide open then, and the way he burst with relief and excitement showed all over his usually stoic face.
To Dean’s own surprise, he considered how the angel’s happy face was the most beautiful he’d ever seen him. The simple fact that Cas was handsome could be established by anyone with eyes, but Dean’s request had him glowing in a way he’d never seen.
“C’mere,” Dean murmured, suddenly sleepy with the stress of the day. He reached behind himself, pulling Cas gently against his back so that he was the little spoon.
As he drifted into sleep, Dean pondered that they fit together perfectly, like they had been made that way.
Dean dreamed pleasantly.
Cas knew he did; he could sense images dancing through Dean’s mind as he nuzzled his nose down into the top of Dean’s hair. But he didn’t interrupt. Dean smiled in his sleep, and that was all the reassurance Cas needed.
Dean curled up against him, his dark blond hair occasionally tickling under Cas’s chin. Cas gazed down at him, astounded that the beauty he’d admired for years was now so close.
Calm breaths shushed gently from Dean’s lips and he occasionally nuzzled up against the fabric of Castiel’s shirt. He smelled like a fresh shower bittered by a musk of cheap whiskey, and Castiel found it intoxicating from so close.
Feeling Dean here, within his arms, after so long...it was overwhelming. Cas had never felt this kind of flying, even when he had wings. Dean wanted him there. That was enough.
They still had a lot of talking to do, when Dean was ready. There were still a lot of desires that Cas now wanted to confess to, feeling that perhaps they wouldn’t be as unwanted as he had always thought. With the sting of this rejection removed, he had hope.
Dean had never known what it meant, to watch over someone.
Cas lay thinking, his fingers occasionally carding softly through Dean’s hair, cautious not to wake him but refusing to resist any soft urge that came upon him to care for the man in his hands.
If only Cas had told him earlier, he thought, perhaps they’d be in a very different place.
Looking down at Dean as he rested into Cas’s chest, peaceful and breathtaking in quiet beauty, Cas couldn’t regret anything. They were in a good place.
He could watch over Dean, from that point forward, and that was perfect.
There was, of course, a tiny part of Cas that was concerned Dean would change his mind in the morning. That he’d wake up in Cas’s arms and freak out.
“Mornin’, sunshine,” Dean mumbled into Cas’s chest, not even opening his eyes.
Cas began to shift, moving to slide out of the bed.
“Where’d you think you’re goin’?” Dean muttered sleepily, arms like an octopus as they snaked around Cas until he couldn’t move at all.
“I was going to get you some coffee,” Cas said, amused.
“Oh.” Dean took a moment to consider, before releasing him with an almost begrudging sigh. “That’s acceptable. But then you’re going to come back, and get back into bed, and we’re going to talk about...stuff.”
“Talk?” Cas echoed. “You? You want to talk about things?”
“Yes, smartass,” Dean said, grumbling. “One of us has to. Because apparently you’ve had the opportunity for years and you didn’t. So for once, I’m gonna.”
Cas blinked, shoving down his amazement to stumble out of the bed. “Uh, yes,” he stammered uncharacteristically. “Okay. I’m going to—coffee. Get coffee.”
Cas quickly ducked out of the room into the hallway, but he heard Dean’s muffled laughter against the pillow.
Dean and Cas’s “talking about things” didn’t take long once they snuggled back down into the bed with coffee.
“Watch over me, Cas. Please. Every night, okay? I’m not scared anymore,” Dean informed him, his eyes resolutely on his coffee, as if afraid Cas would somehow disagree.
“Scared of me?” Cas frowned. “I would hope you’d never—”
“No,” Dean rolled his eyes, knocking against Cas with one arm. “Scared of how you feel about me. Scared of this...thing, we’ve always had.”
Cas felt the heat at his vessels cheeks yet again, so common in the past couple of days. He saw Dean looking up, noticing it. Dean’s coffee made it to the nightstand, and his hand made it to Cas’s, their fingers tangling slowly on top of the blanket.
“Of how I feel about you, too,” Dean clarified quietly. “Michael...watching the things he did with my hands changed a lot of stuff for me, Cas.”
Cas turned, frowning softly, but letting Dean speak as he regarded him.
“You’ve watched over me, unofficially, for a decade, Cas. You’ve never looked away from me, even when I’ve done things to deserve it. I’m not going to find that kind of devotion anywhere else,” Dean grinned, shy and fond, “so this idea I have of keeping people at arm's length to protect them...it’s never going to work with you, is it?”
Cas chuckled. “If you mean that I’m not going away, no matter what dumb stunts you pull, then yes. It’s never going to work.”
Cas lifted one arm, experimenting with the new level of closeness they seemed to have found, and Dean slid under it without hesitation and rested against Cas’s chest.
“Then I’m going to stop trying,” he murmured, closing his eyes. “But I get to do your angel thing too, Cas, human or not. I get to watch over you too.”
Cas smiled, warmth radiating through him from where Dean rested. He leaned down, pressing his lips to Dean’s temple as he whispered, “Then we have a deal. We’ll watch over each other.”