Dean and Cas are fighting. Again.
They've been doing that a lot lately. They’re always at each other's throats, and quite frankly, Sam doesn't want to know why.
Except, he sort of does. Because... he can't remember a time they've ever been this strained. It’s one thing for them to bicker, but a whole different thing for them to seriously argue nearly all the time. It has become sort of normal to hear Dean and Cas yelling at each other through the walls of different rooms. Sam has long gotten used to the sound of slamming doors and loud cursing that echoes through the bunker.
Sam catches a few snippets here and there, though he never actively tries to piece together whatever has them so angry at each other.
More often than not, if they aren't fighting, they can be found somewhere brooding and sulking. Whenever they aren't fighting, Dean has a habit of gravitating towards Sam, just wanting to talk, even though he never actually says that's what he wants. Cas, oddly enough, gravitates towards Mary.
Cas and Mary get along really well. When they all got the gang back together, it was Cas who told Mary anything she wanted or needed to know. It was Cas who helped her accept her new life. It was Cas who listened to her and bonded with her. Sam and Dean tried, except they didn't, because they couldn't.
There's a loud slam, followed quickly by Cas’ shout, and Sam looks over at Mary. She grips the mug tighter and bites her lip. Dean clonks through the doorway, grabbing up his keys with nimble fingers.
“Sam, come on,” Dean orders.
“Where are we going?” Sam asks, scrambling to his feet without much thought.
“For a fucking drive,” Dean grits and walks out, heading to the garage.
“Right,” Sam sighs and looks to Mary. “Uh, we'll be back. Check on Cas?”
“Of course.” Mary agrees.
“Thanks, you're the best,” Sam says quickly, hurrying after Dean.
“Stupid, selfish, idiot Angel,” Dean snaps harshly as he snatches open the car door and shoves his way in.
Sam lets out a heavy sigh as he walks around and climbs in. Dean jerks the car into gear and has them on open road in less than a minute. Sam has long gotten used to Dean's angry driving, but in this moment, he reaches up and clutches the “oh shit” handle just to be on the safe side. Dean is pissed.
Soon, the bunker isn't anything but a small dot in the rearview mirror, and still, Sam keeps quiet. Dean has his foot planted firmly down, continuously revving the engine and jolting them forward. His jaw is clenched, and he’s white-knuckling the steering wheel as if he can strangle the inanimate object.
Sam doesn't say anything. He never does, not when Dean is like this with Cas; he knows better than to do that. It might take a bit, but Sam knows that Dean will eventually break and start ranting until he lets Sam give him some advice that will help him cool down.
And, he isn't wrong. Sam can see the exact moment that Dean is going to break. His hands loosen and a deep breath pushes from his body. He hunkers down a little, a pout formed between his eyebrows. Sam goes still and starts counting down.
“He's just so stubborn, you know? He doesn't fucking listen to anyone about anything, even if someone is trying to help him.”
Sam internally rolls his eyes, though he keeps his face perfectly blank. He has no idea what it is that Cas isn't accepting help with, and honestly, he isn't entirely sure if Cas is in the right for refusing to listen. Sometimes, Dean's offerings for solutions aren't all that great.
But Sam doesn't say any of that.
“You just care about him,” Sam says softly, nodding seriously. “We all do. I get it.”
“I just don't understand. He's so… so set on being the bad guy!” Dean bursts out, getting riled up all over again.
“It's a problem we all have, Dean. We're all very quick to place blame upon ourselves, even when it's not completely founded. It's the Winchester way,” Sam sighs, shrugging.
“Yeah, well, he messed up. He does that. But… fuck, so do I. So do you. We all fuck up, but he's acting as if everything he does is tearing the world apart,” Dean grumbles.
“So, what is it? What's he blaming himself for now?” Sam asks with a frown.
“He's tearing himself up over the Lucifer thing. Which, yeah, he let Lucifer in, but that's not entirely his fault. He thought he was helping. And we weren't the best of friends by allowing him to think he was expendable enough to let Lucifer in!” Dean rants, taking a curve a little too quickly and making Sam sway to the side.
“Okay, you two need to let that go. It's time to move on. He did it, it's done. No different than any of our pasts. Y'all can't keep arguing over that,” Sam lectures, shooting Dean a look.
“I know! That's what I keep telling him, but he keeps bringing it up as a reason to…” Dean abruptly trails off, going silent as his throat bobs.
Sam is almost too afraid to ask, almost, but he asks anyway. “Reason to do what?”
“ Leave, ” Dean grits out.
Sam balks, his whole body going stiff. Now, that's not what he’s expecting. Sam can think up a number of things Cas has on his mind to force upon himself as punishment, including handing himself over to the remainder of heaven to do with him as they see fit, but leaving? Just up and going?
That doesn't make sense.
“Leave where?” Sam huffs, mostly confused.
“ England, ” Dean spits out, harsher than before.
“England?” Sam yells, twisting in his seat to stare at Dean with wide eyes.
This is what they were fighting about? Hell, Sam suddenly understands where all the shouting came in; he should've been shouting. What the hell is Cas thinking?
“You know Mick, that smarmy dick that got Toni on lock after she tortured you?” Dean asks.
“Yeah,” Sam answers.
“He talked to Cas a little, before he came in and saved the day,” Dean mutters, making a face when he says “ saved the day ” and grinding his teeth as he clenches the wheel harder.
Sam has the distinct impression that Dean doesn't like Mick for a whole lot more than he lets on, and for more reasons than just because he works with the British Men of Letters.
“Well, what did he say?” Sam pushes.
“All the shit Cas would need to hear, I guess. Basically, he told Cas that he knew he was an angel and knew what kind of trouble he'd gotten into over the years. Then, I'm guessing he offered Cas a position with them to be doing actual good work, like healing and shit. Sings right to Cas’ sensibilities. He was basically wooing Cas to his side, dumb fuckface.”
Sam doesn't know whether Mick is the dumb fuckface in the scenario or Cas. But either way, Sam knows that it brothers Dean that Mick even makes an impression on Cas.
“Okay, but Cas has to know that's complete bullshit, right?” Sam mutters, frowning.
“Come on, Sam, it's Cas. He could be talked into walking off a cliff if he thought it would help people. Fuck, Cas doesn't even care if it is a trap just because there's a minute possibility that it's not,” Dean tells Sam, grimacing.
“But, it's not like he'll actually do it, right? I mean, we haven't seen much of those guys since we got back. So, Cas probably won't actually do it. Besides, he can't leave with everything going on. That's just… unlike him,” Sam reassures Dean.
The reassurance doesn't seem to do much good, judging by the grim expression on Dean's face.
“I thought so too. But then, Cas called Mick. They've been talking here and there. Cas is fucking serious, Sam. And I tried the whole thing about being busy right now, but Cas just said it's more reason for him to leave. Because, apparently, he would only be a hindrance to us as we try to fix the world after the latest fuck up.”
Sam blinks rapidly, his eyes drifting to stare out the window. He wishes, suddenly, that he'd been paying more attention to the fights they had. He'd assumed that they'd been arguing because of the tension they carried around between them, because there’s no outlet and they are walking a fragile line. But he has never been more wrong, and he wishes he'd known, just so he could have argued with Cas too. Cas going to England is just wrong.
All kinds of wrong.
And Sam understands why Dean is so tense and angry all the time. He knows how well Dean handles Cas leaving, no matter how he leaves or why. Needless to say, he does not take it well.
It’s worse now. There are more things at stake, and even Sam sees that. After Lucifer was expelled from Cas, the dynamic between Dean and Cas changed. There is something there, a different type of desperation. It doesn't help that Cas had believed Dean to be dead, because that different type of desperation is mutual now.
Sure, they aren't making out obnoxiously or singing love songs to each other with goo goo eyes, but Sam isn't blind. There’s a determination in Dean to prove to Cas that he means something to them, and by extension, to him. Cas has a different look on Dean, especially after thinking he'd really lost him in a genuine way, in death.
It’s there, as much as it isn't. But that’s just Dean and Cas. They are complicated and messy and always so close, yet they never have enough to get all the way. How they share a bond so strong, while being so devastatingly separated by so much, Sam will never know.
“This is ridiculous,” Sam states sharply.
Dean sighs. “You're fucking telling me, man”.
“I mean, I get it, I guess. It's Cas, so obviously he wants to do some good. I get that but… but. Not this way. He's got to know that.”
“I've tried, dude. I really have. I've pulled everything outta the hat. The whole 'We-need-you-here’ thing and the 'They're-just-a-bunch-of-smarmy-dicks-who-will-kill-you-or-do-painful-experiments’ thing. Hell, I've even tried to tell him straight out that I wasn't gonna let him go, but Cas takes to being controlled like a fish does to climbing a tree. He's a natural rebel, man, and while that's all kinds of h— awesome, it does me no favors.”
Sam pretends that he didn't almost hear his older brother call Cas hot and frowns as he thinks of all the fights he's easily ignored. Guilt settles on his shoulders, making them immediately sore, and he sighs heavily. It is the Winchester way, after all.
“Why is he so adamant? I mean, does he really want to go?” Sam asks, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion.
“Not at first. I know he didn't. Because, at first, it was all ‘I've got pay penance, Dean’, and ‘Maybe I'll be doing some actual good for once, Dean’, and all that bullshit. But then, he started talking to Mick, ” Dean explains, mocking Cas’ voice in a high pitch and glowering out the window when he says Mick's name.
“How did that even happen?” Sam muses, arching an eyebrow at Dean.
“I don't fucking know. Cas called him, I guess. At first, I didn't know who he was talking to. But when I found out, we fought worse than we ever have. I was more angry that he hid it from me than I was for him actually talking to that fucking dickbag! ” Dean explodes, his face going an alarming shade of red.
“Did he stop, at least?” Sam asks, grimacing as Dean hit the wheel in a sudden burst of anger and pressed the gas harder.
“No. No, he fucking didn't. That asshole argued with me and then, he fucking called Mick to talk some more about moving out there. Like, literally right after! With me still in the room! ” Dean shouts, absolutely fuming.
Okay, this is leaning more towards a rant on partners being unfaithful. It definitely holds that air, and Sam knows he has to be cautious. Because, if Dean slips up and lets some real feelings show, not the watered down shit he actually lets out, they'll both be in a world of awkwardness that they aren't ready for.
“Cas must think he's trustworthy.” Sam says softly, wincing the moment the words fall out.
“Oh, I bet he does. I'm sure Mr. Smarmy British Asshole is absolutely charming . Smooth talking Cas right on into his arms, like some fucking suave jerk laying out a trap for the game.”
Sam starts up a mantra in his head, consisting mostly of don't let it show that Dean sounds like a married man whose partner is cheating on him, don't let it show, don't let it…
“Look, I get it, Dean, I really do. I don't want Cas to go any more than you do, and I sure as hell don't trust them,” Sam soothes.
Dean relaxes a little, letting out a breath and easing back into a more slumped position. Sam knows it helps Dean to have him agreeing; he knows it helps him feel more sane and maybe like his feelings are valid and not something just sprouting from what he actually feels for Cas. Not that it's not that, but Sam won't breathe a word of it.
“He's just not listening to me, you know? Of all the times I need him to listen, and he chooses now not to? I just… he can't leave. I—we need him here. We want him here. Why can't he see that?” Dean rants, but it's a quiet kind of ranting, more depressing.
“Have you asked him to stay?” Sam asks him quietly, making sure to keep his gaze fixed pointedly away.
“Have I…? Sam! What the hell do you think I've been fucking talking about this whole time?” Dean explodes, exhaling harshly.
Sam makes a bitchface at his reflection in the passenger side mirror, only so he won't focus it on Dean. Causing an argument between them won't do well for anyone. Besides, Dean's a bit like a dysfunctional gun that has a problem with randomly going off. When he’s fired up, he often doesn't care who he shoots off at, even if they aren't who he is originally angry at in the first place. Sam can hold his tongue, if only because he’s already so tired.
“No, Dean,” Sam murmurs, chancing a look at his brother. “I mean, have you truly asked him to stay here?”
Sam isn't going to say it, isn't going to say that he wants to know if Dean has asked Cas to stay with him, isn't going to say that he’s asking if Dean made it clear that he wants Cas to stay for him, and not just because he’s an angel, or because they need help with something or another.
He isn't going to say it, but he doesn't have to.
“That's sort of implied, Sammy. I mean, he should know that I… it's not like I'm not asking.”
Dean speaks quietly and keeps his eyes fixed firmly on the road. There are so many things unsaid, but it is all so understood. But they’re brothers; it comes naturally for them. Sam wishes that Dean understood that it can't just be that easy for him and Cas.
“Just like it was implied that he wasn't expendable. Just like he should've known that he is important to us, as family,” Sam reminds gently, finally looking over to stare at Dean.
“That's different. What you're asking— I can't do that. Cas just shouldn't fucking leave. It shouldn't even be an argument,” Dean mumbles gruffly, briefly looking at him.
Dean turns into a driveway and makes a U-turn, moving them back towards the bunker. They've been driving for a good hour already, and Sam can see what it has done for Dean. Sure, he still has a storm brewing behind his eyes, and his teeth are probably aching from being clenched so hard, but the drive has done wonders for him, as they usually do.
He’s a bit more relaxed, and he seems more clear-headed than before. Dean might still be angry, but it’s at bay for now, which is a miracle. And Sam knows it’s because of him. He knows that he is, more often than not, a balm to Dean's wounds when it comes to Cas. When all else fails, Dean is assured that he still has Sam. It’s unhealthy, but Sam sure as hell isn't gonna take it away from him. He'll lose that assurance in the process too.
“Hey, do you remember my, like, fifth hunt? It was somewhere in Wyoming. We were hunting those witches. Dad had that hex bag in the trunk that kept making him fall asleep,” Sam blurts out abruptly.
Dean laughs loudly, his head tipping back. “Oh, yeah, I remember. Dad was knocked out, and we had to follow the leads on our own, without him.”
“It was kind of like our very first hunt alone together,” Sam muses, smirking.
“Not a very good one,” Dean chuckles.
“Yeah, we didn't even think to look for hex bag when we couldn't get dad to wake up. Then, when we did find the witches, I fell over and knocked out a tooth,” Sam mutters.
“Right in the middle of their den, and they almost killed you, but I kicked that one bitch into her mirror. Took us nearly three hours, but we finally did get it done,” Dean hums, smiling.
“And, you sang ‘My two front teeth’ the whole way home,” Sam grumbles, scowling at Dean.
Dean bursts out in laughter and immediately starts humming the tune. Sam reaches over, shoving Dean roughly. It isn't unlike what he'd done when he was eleven and Dean had sung that song. Dean chuckles and sighs, shaking his head in open amusement.
“My god, you were just a kid,” Dean mutters, his smile slowly slipping off his face.
“We both were,” Sam murmurs.
“You ever wish you could go back? To then? To the simple times?” Dean asks him rather seriously, taking a glance at him.
“We've never had simple times, Dean,” Sam says honestly, his words soft with bleakness.
Dean shrugs slightly, surrendering to the truth in his words. “True enough.”
Sam clicks his tongue, glancing out the window with a small frown. “But, to answer your question, no. I wouldn't go back to any point in my past, Dean. Not to hunting with you and dad, not to college and Jess, not to Amelia, or any other considerably happy point in my past.”
“Really?” Dean asks, turning to stare at him in curiosity, surprise reflected on his face.
“Really,” Sam echoes with finality, smiling slightly.
“Why?” Dean blurts, genuinely curious.
“Because, I'm not the same guy I was back then. I'm assuming if I could go back, I'd go back with the same subconscious I have now, and I know I wouldn't fit. Besides, I've got some happy times to look forward to now. I just don't know what they are yet. We never really do until they're nothing but a memory.”
Dean stares at him, clear surprise on his face. It’s the kind of surprise that sprouts from someone surprising him into being proud. Not reluctant, but moving into focus without any warning. Sam suddenly feels wise, and he grins widely.
“Wow, dude, that was deep,” Dean says, nodding appreciatively. “You're a fucking nerd.”
The grin wipes away, and Sam makes a bitchface at Dean, huffing as he reaches out and shoves Dean's shoulder. Dean chuckles and reaches over, shoving back. Sam rolls his eyes and looks out the window again, settling into silence as the scenery passes by.
He couldn't have dreamed that his moment of wisdom actually helps Dean progress forward. He doesn't know that with some simple words, Dean’s prodded into something he's never even considered before. He might've never known if Dean doesn't reply into the silence of the car.
“You're right, Sam, I wouldn't trade a thing either.”
It’s a quiet Tuesday morning when it finally happens. Sam knows he hates Tuesdays for a reason. Tuesdays suck.
It’s about three days after he went on the ride with Dean. They'd drove back the rest of the way in silence, with the windows down and the music up. Dean had seemed lost in thought, his eyes foggy and distant. Sam hadn't paid it much mind, and he went back in the bunker and immediately found his way into the library, cringing when Dean immediately went to Cas’ room.
But there was no argument. And there hadn't been for the following days. Dean and Cas aren't exactly okay, like they had been, but at least they aren't screaming at each other.
The three days have passed in relative silence, a sort of strained calm falling over the group. It’s almost as if they are all at an unknown impasse and don't know how to even begin to break ahead. Sam isn't sure how he or Mary had gotten sucked into it, but here they were— sucked into it.
He hadn't expected it to hold, and a part of him hadn't wanted it to. In a way, it’s almost worse than the constant fighting. In the silence, there’s an uncomfortable tension that screams to be broken. But they all ignore it, make idle chit-chat, and put on wobbly smiles, pretending they don't notice it.
But, for him to expect it to fall apart at some point, he deems Tuesday to be the worst day for it to happen. Of course, that's exactly when it has to go and shatter upon them.
It’s early morning, and Mary sits quietly at the table, sipping her coffee. Sam is seated across from her, drinking water and languidly reading over an ancient text that's taking forever to translate. But what he has translated is fascinating. Dean’s at the stove, staring at bacon like he can cook it with the force of his glare.
It’s quiet outside the sizzling of the bacon, the untimed turn of paper, and Mary's sipping that is overly loud in the face of said quiet. It isn't a comfortable moment, but it’s a relief for Sam.
One moment he’s enjoying that awkward relief, and the next, it goes to shit.
Cas walks in the room, his quiet steps loud enough to have everyone looking up. He has a bag in his hands, plump with whatever is held within. Sam's eyes land on it, and his heart drops. Abruptly, it gets impossibly more silent.
“I have an announcement.” Cas says seriously, blinking once as he ran his gaze between Mary and Sam, never looking at Dean.
Because he's an idiot, Sam looks at Dean. He immediately wishes he hadn't. He's never stared betrayal and pure hurt straight in the face before and never so unexpectedly. While Sam knows Dean feels these things, he doesn't expect Dean to show them.
There it is, though. Plain and cutting, right on his face. It’s in the small shift in his shoulders, somehow tensing and drooping all at once. It blares obviously in the tightening of his eyes, in the way he blinks slowly, as if he couldn't fathom what he’s witnessing. To Sam, it’s obvious what Dean’s feeling.
“What is it, Castiel?” Mary asks softly, her eyes curious. She doesn't even seem to notice the sudden coldness to the room.
“I've been offered work with the British Men of Letters. I'll be doing work worthy of an Angel, healing people and helping. I've decided to go,” Cas answers, his words short and hard, a cold edge to his tone.
It’s silent again, this time even worse somehow. Sam wants to shiver in the bite of the air, and his stomach quivers with a massive nervousness he hasn't felt since his dad had went on one of his drunken rampages. Sam peels his eyes from the table—they'd fallen there after flinching from Dean's face—and he pins them on Cas.
“Why?” Sam asks, his words coming out harsher than he means them to.
“I'd expect you to understand, Sam. Haven't you wanted to right your wrongs?” Cas murmurs, frowning at him.
“Not like this. Never like this,” Sam hisses, abruptly standing. He’s angrier than he has any right to be, but he doesn't care.
A hand lands on his shoulder, and Sam blinks in surprise. He pauses and turns to face Dean, who halts him. Dean just shakes his head and swallows, gently pushing him back onto his chair.
“This really what you want, Cas?” Dean mutters, and his voice is gruff.
Cas pauses and finally looks at Dean. He blinks slowly, staring at Dean. Sam wants to scream. Hell no, this isn't what Cas wants! Why the fuck is he even considering it? Why won't Dean fight it harder?!
“I want to help people, Dean. It's… I'm meant to do that,” Cas explains, his eyebrows scrunching up, eyes pleading Dean to just understand.
“You do help people, Cas!” Sam blurts out, jumping back up. “You help us in more ways than you'll ever know. You're family, man!”
“Thank you, Sam, really. I consider you all family as well. This is different. I need to help more. I need to do more and be in a more controlled environment. After Lucifer—”
“Stop! Just stop!” Sam shouts, shrugging Dean's hand off his shoulder. “We all make mistakes, Cas. You can't punish yourself every single time you fuck up! If we did that, we'd be long dead. You've got to move on, man.”
“I have moved on,” Cas says roughly. “I just want to do better. I thought you'd accept that.”
“Well, how about you fucking—”
“Sam,” Dean interrupts, yanking him back in his seat roughly.
Dean jerks his head and gives him a stern look that has him shutting his mouth. He doesn't want to; he wants to smack Cas over the head and send him to his room like a scolded child. Sam loves him, but damn.
Cas grips the bag tighter, straightening up from where he'd bowed under Sam's lashing out. Sam only feels a tad guilty, but he won't show it, not in his anger. Dean sighs behind him, and it’s a defeated sound, something that only cranks up Sam's anger more. Sam feels Dean's hands slide from his shoulders, and he almost jumps back up to hit Cas over the head like everything in him aches to.
But someone speaks up before he can.
“What if it's a trap, Castiel?” Mary asks softly, her face twisted in confusion.
“Mick assured me that it wasn't, and I see no reason for him to lie. However, if it is, I'm sure I'll be fine.” Cas replies, giving her tight smile.
“And you just trust Mick so much, right?” Dean suddenly barks, his balled up fists bumping into Sam's back.
Don't let it show, don't let it…
“Dean,” Cas says in obvious exhaustion, like he's tired of having this same exact fight over and over, “please do not start.”
Dean's nostril flare wide, jaw twitching in his obvious anger, fists clenched. “You know, I wouldn't care so much about you flying off and helping people on your own just so you could feel better about your mistakes. I really wouldn't. Hell, I'd support your decision. Miss you like fucking crazy, but I'd say go right ahead. This, though? Going with those fucking dicks? I don't get it. What is it about Mick that really gets you going, Cas?”
“He explained things to me, Dean. They can keep me from doing things I shouldn't. Mick said that I would be healing and helping people. He said I wouldn't know about anything else that I could get involved in,” Cas tells them, throwing up his free hand in frustration.
“And whatever Mick says is absolute gold, right? You're ready to just drop everything because he says for you to?” Dean growls flatly, shaking his head.
Don't let it show, don't let it…
“This isn't about Mick! This is about my desire to do some actual good and quit messing up all the time. Get off your petty jealousy, Dean!” Cas explodes, his blue eyes flaring wide.
Don't let—oh, fuck.
As if there’s a switch to hit, Dean shuts down. Sam's head whips to stare up at him, watching the anger flare in his eyes. It’s fucked up for Cas to deliberately call out on one of Dean's biggest vulnerabilities, even if everyone already knows about it.
Silence blankets over them again. It isn't uncomfortable this time; it’s harsh, and it presses upon them until it’s hard to breathe. Sam swallows, watching as Dean presses his lips together and considers Cas through cold, unforgiving eyes. Sam is reminded of the time Dean was a demon so fast it’s jarring. His expression sends a rock tumbling through Sam's gut, making him take a deep breath.
“Of course, Cas, I am so sorry for caring. I'll keep myself in check next time. When Mick tortures you and picks through your mind with a smile on his face, don't you dare think of me. Don't you even call. Because I won't come.”
Cas flinches, and Mary gasps quietly, her eyes bulging as she looks at Dean like she doesn't recognize him. Which is kind of a recurring problem, but this is different. Sam cringes because it is harsh, but he isn't shocked. Dean is Dean, and he knows how to cut to cause the most pain, no matter the person.
“You told me to make the choice,” Cas whispers, staring at Dean in obvious hurt.
“And I expected you to make the right one. I didn't think you'd leave me,” Dean hisses and immediately blanched. “Leave us. ”
“Maybe this the right one, Dean. For me,” Cas says gently, his face softening with sadness.
It’s enough to have Sam's anger draining. The kicked puppy look, the pain radiating in blue eyes, all of it is enough to have Sam relenting. He can't look at that no more than he can look at Dean's pain.
Sam turns to stare at Dean, watching as he cracks too. Maybe Dean doesn't actually feel better, and maybe he’s still just as hurt, but he locks it up. He blinks twice and sighs heavily. Between one moment and the next, Dean quirks a small smile that Sam sees through immediately.
“You're right, man. I'm sorry, Cas.”
Sam's eyes swivel from the false everything he'd just witnessed from his brother to take in Cas. He looks sad as before, all despaired and bruised, but his eyes stay locked onto Dean as he slowly nods.
“It's okay, Dean, I... understand,” Cas murmurs, his words scraping against each other.
“Right,” Dean chokes out and clears his throat roughly. “If this is really what you want, then I'm not gonna let you go off on bad terms.”
“It's what I want,” Cas states blandly.
Dean moves around the chair, heading towards Cas. “You have to stay safe and keep in touch. I don't care how much it costs to call overseas.”
“Of course, Dean,” Cas agrees, his eyes following Dean as he halts to stand right in front of him.
Dean sighs, and Sam watches as something spectacular unfolds before his very eyes. Dean steps forward and grabs Cas into a hug, tugging him in close. But the spectacular part is that it’s like no hug Sam has ever seen Dean partake in, let alone Cas.
Dean sort of stumbles into Cas, folding the space between them until it’s nonexistent. Sam watches Dean dip his head into Cas’ shoulder, watches as Dean's arms loop around Cas’ neck, bent at the elbows as his hands crawl into Cas’ hair. It is, by far, the most intimate hug Sam has ever seen, and it’s shocking that Dean initiates it.
Cas’ eyes are wide, stunned surprise bouncing in the blue orbs as his hands clutch at Dean's back. It’s clear to Sam that Cas has never been hugged like this before. Thinking about it, Sam doesn't know for sure if he, himself has ever been hugged like that. He can see how it is a moment so unlike any other that it can alter everything .
They stay huddled together like that for a few moments longer than a hug calls for. Cas’ eyes seem to get wider with every breath he takes, and his hands keep clenching and unclenching at the back of Dean's flannel.
Dean pulls minutely back, his head turning, almost as if he’s about to dole out a kiss along with that earth-moving hug. But Cas freezes, his eyes going wide as Dean halts in pulling away. There’s a faint whisper that drifts back to Sam, but Dean is murmuring so lowly to Cas that he can't hope to make out what he’s saying.
Judging by the way Cas’ face changes, twisting into something between wonder and regret, Sam guesses it’s something important.
Dean seems to have said what he needed to say, done what he needed to do, because he abruptly pulls away, walking back to the stove all casual-like, as if he hasn't just done something worth gaping at.
Sam blinks at Cas, noting how he’s riveted to the spot, eyes focused unwaveringly on Dean. Sam doesn't even want to know, but he can't force himself to break the moment, even with how uncomfortable it makes him. Sam isn't a fool, and he knows Dean has just gone out of his comfort zone to leave Cas hanging, maybe in some need for retaliation for leaving him.
Cas lets out a shaky breath. “Dean?” he whispers, confusion blatant on his face.
Dean might have a reply, but they never get to hear it, because it's Tuesday, and Tuesdays are the absolute worst. Fuck, Sam really hates Tuesdays. But this one specifically; he's going to have to look up the exact day so he can hate that too.
As if sensing that the situation can get worse, Mick walks right into their kitchen like it's his own, smile gracing his face as he enters. There's a man following him, flat expression, stance like a soldier, wearing road-leather and looking as if he'd rather be anywhere else than here.
“Good morning, chaps,” Mick greets cheerfully, as if his presence isn't wrong in every single way.
There's a tense silence, then Dean's suddenly got a gun trained right on Mick. Sam thinks that might be a tad overboard; a dick Mick may be, a monster he is not. Cas sighs, like this is yet another headache he has to endure, and Mary looks like she isn't sure what's going on. Sam isn't sure what he's supposed to be doing, whether he should back Dean up or try and calm him down.
“How the fuck did you get in here?” Dean spits, taking a few steps across the room. His finger twitches around the trigger like it does when he's particularly eager to kill something.
Mick blinks at Dean, surprised. “I have a key. It is a Men of Letters bunker, you know. Sorry to intrude, I'm just here to pick up Castiel.”
“Dean,” Cas growls, moving over to tug his arm down forcefully, “stop being childish.”
Sam frowns. “To be fair, they did walk into our home, Cas. That's not cool.”
Dean's arm springs back up, gun never wavering from Mick's face. “And they can kindly fuck off too.”
“Dean, maybe… put the gun down,” Mary suggests softly, eyes pinned on the man behind Mick.
Cas turns away from Dean, ignoring him in favor of focusing on Mick, and wow, Sam has never seen Dean look so utterly jealous before. “Mick, I— I need a few moments, please.”
“Reconsidering?” Mick asks, eyebrows drawing up in slight worry. When Cas licks his lips, Mick's eyes fall to watch the movement.
Sam's eyes narrow, a wave of possessiveness flooding through him. That's Dean's thing; he watches Cas like that, not Mick. “None of your business,” Sam snaps, words ripping from his lips without his permission.
“Sam,” Cas scolds, frowning at him.
Sam feels absolutely no regret.
“I must press upon you the importance of this opportunity, Castiel,” Mick says, still watching Cas intently. “And quite frankly, I'm looking forward to working closely with you.”
Sam's eyes widen, and he twists around on mere reflex alone, grabbing Dean before he can launch himself at Mick. Dean slams into him, but he's too angry to be thinking clearly, so Sam manages to wrestle the gun from Dean's hands before he can do something he'd regret later. Now is not the time for caveman tendencies, nor is it the place to stake his claim. Dean lets out a real, genuine growl, face pinched in fury.
God, Sam can't wait to tease him about this later.
Cas whirls on Dean, clearly frustrated. “Dean, stop. Are you incapable of controlling yourself for one moment? Can we just… relax, please?”
Dean looks worlds away from relaxing, but he makes a valiant effort to gather some of his dignity, huffing and shoving back a few steps. Mick watches in faint interest, looking genuinely amused. Sam really, really doesn't like him.
“Well,” Mick hums, sounding so fucking pleased that Sam wishes he'd just let Dean beat his ass, “it seems there are some things you two need to discuss. Castiel, darling, I'll be waiting in the loft when you're ready to leave.”
To add insult to injury, Cas turns to give Mick a kind smile, nodding. “Of course.”
Mick leaves, and Dean whirls on Cas with wide, flashing eyes. “Darling?” he spits harshly. “ Darling? So you're his darling now?”
“What?” Cas mutters, looking confused. “Dean, what is wrong with you?”
“What's wrong with me; what's wrong with you, Cas? You're gonna just go with him, that prick?”
“He hasn't actually done anything to provide evidence that he's a prick.”
“Are you fucking serious right now?” Dean breathes, eyes wide with shock.
Cas rolls his eyes. “You call me dramatic.”
“Cas,” Sam says quickly, cutting in before Dean can explode, drawing Cas’ attention, “he's a bit, um, much, isn't he?”
“He's very polite,” Cas replies with a shrug.
“Oh, he's polite. Fucking fantastic,” Dean growls out, lip curling in distaste.
“Why are you being this way? Mick has manners, so what?” Cas asks, narrowing his eyes.
Dean's lips tip down in displeasure, and he reaches up to press his hand to his chest. “ I have manners too, Cas.”
And Jesus, that's the saddest thing Sam has seen this week. It's pitiful that Dean would compare himself to an asshole like Mick, and it rubs Sam the wrong way. He knows, without a doubt, that Dean is ten times the man Mick could ever be, but Dean seems to be scrambling to try and prove that, like maybe Cas doesn't know. Sam's fairly certain Cas knows that, but he can't understand why Cas is even entertaining Mick.
Mary makes a small sound in the back of her throat, and Sam sends her a look. She bites her lip and turns her eyes to the tabletop. Cas tilts his head at Dean in confusion.
“I… never said you didn't,” he says slowly.
“So… why are you going?” Dean asks, as if the fact that he has manners should make Cas stay.
Sam resists the urge to facepalm.
Cas’ face goes from confusion to frustration faster than usual. “I've told you this already, Dean.”
“Yeah,” Dean allows, his voice pitching higher like he's whining, “but why does it have to be with him? And you're gonna work close with him? You didn't tell me that, Cas.”
“I'm sure I'll be working with many of them,” Cas sighs, rolling his eyes.
“I know what he said, Dean. Why is this such a big issue? I work closely with you all the time.”
That's very obviously the wrong thing to say, and Sam can't resist; his palm finds his face, a small groan slipping from his mouth. When he looks back up, Dean's face is crumbled into horror, and Cas appears as if he has no idea why.
“Cas, you— you can't go,” Dean insists, shifting restlessly in his spot. The nervous energy—the panic—seems to take over, and he takes a few measured steps towards Cas. “I'll say it louder this time, in case you didn't hear me; please stay, just— stay for me, stay here with me, I'm asking you to stay.”
Cas’ face does a weird twitching thing, multiple emotions passing in rapid succession. Ah, that's what Dean said in the midst of all the hugging, Sam realizes. It's a lot for Dean to say that, but Sam thinks he's should've said it sooner.
“That's not… fair,” Cas mumbles, brows pinching together like he can't fathom why those words affect him so much.
“All's fair in love and war,” Dean says, doesn't clarify which it is.
Sam has an idea, but Cas does too, apparently. He huffs, shaking his head. “You can't just decide to go to war with Mick over me. I understand that I'm your family, Dean, but it's really not that serious. I'm not going to just leave and cut all ties; I will call, I will visit, I will still be your family.”
Sam is ten seconds from chaining them together and just leaving with Mick himself. They are so utterly ridiculous, it's pitiful.
Dean opens his mouth to say something, but he snaps it closed when Mick suddenly walks back into the kitchen with a gentle smile. Cas focuses on him with a question clear on his face, and Mick dips his head apologetically. Dean and Sam make identical looks of annoyance.
“Sorry to interrupt, Castiel,” Mick says, but he doesn't sound sorry at all, “but we have a bit of a tight schedule. If you're ready?”
Cas picks his bag back up from where he'd dropped it when Dean hugged him earlier. Sam's stomach twists; this cannot be happening. Cas can't just leave, not like this; it's going to kill Dean. Sam shoots him a hesitant glance, and god, he looks crushed.
“Dean,” Cas murmurs softly, looking at Dean regretfully. He sees the look too, and Sam glares at him pointedly.
Dean swallows, and when he speaks, the words crack. “You really gonna leave?”
Cas just nods once, sadly.
Dean closes his eyes for a brief moment, shaking his head back and forth like trying to clear thoughts from his mind. When he opens his eyes, he has a perfectly crafted look of utter indifference. He nods sharply at Cas, doesn't seem to want to say anything else. Cas bites his lip for a moment, never looking away from Dean.
“Okay,” he says finally, the word a faint whisper.
Mick grins, wide and victorious, and Sam wants to smack the look from his face. He has no reason to be smug; he hasn't won anything. But he looks stupidly pleased when Cas starts to follow him out the door. Sam watches him head out, stomach twisting in knots, throat trembling with all the things he wants to tell Cas.
“Wait!” Sam blurts out without thinking, reaching over to shove Dean forward.
Dean jerks to look at him with murderous eyes, and Sam has the decency to widen his eyes and look apologetic. He honestly has no idea where he was going with that, but Cas halts and turns to stare at them expectantly, so Sam feels better.
“Yes?” Cas asks stiffly.
“Hugs,” Sam says quickly, thinking on his feet. “Yeah, you can't leave without hugs, dude.”
Mary hops to her feet suddenly. “Sam is completely right. Come here, Cas, I'll miss you.”
Cas looks slightly surprised, but he lets Mary walk over and hug him. He smiles against her shoulder, the hand not holding his bag moving to curl loosely around her shoulders. Dean watches it with the softest look, and Sam nudges him as he moves towards Cas, meeting Dean's eyes pointedly. They have a conversation with their eyebrows alone, and Sam is frowning when Cas is passed over to him.
“I really wish you'd stay,” Sam mutters as he stoops down to hug Cas tight.
Cas sighs against his shoulder. “I really will be back, Sam. It's not the end of the world.”
Sam gives Cas a squeeze, says, “It's always the end of the world for us, Cas.”
Cas breaks away with a small frown, and Sam only feels slightly guilty. Brushing it aside, he steps away and pushes Cas towards Dean as subtly as he can. Dean's face is guarded, and Cas swallows.
“We really do have a schedule,” Mick speaks up, and Sam suddenly remembers he's there.
Everyone shoots him a glare, including Cas, and Mick wisely shuts his mouth, but he watches Dean move toward Cas with a frown.
Cas’ bag hits the floor, and they're doing that hugging thing again, the one where it looks like their bodies are trying to melt together. Sam doesn't feel uncomfortable this time, just sad. He swears to God, if this is the last time they hug, Sam will absolutely shove Mick's head into the space between Baby's door and close it, viciously.
Dean gives a low hum and drags himself away, clapping Cas on the shoulder and clearing his throat. “Have fun in England, Cas, and don't do anything I wouldn't do,” he says simply, quirking a sad smile.
Cas’ smile is equally sad as he pulls away and picks up his bag, and come on, this is just fucking tragic. Sam wants to pull his hair out, or set himself on fire, or set them on fire. This is fucking ridiculous.
Cas heads towards the door, looking over his shoulder as he walks. “I'll call you, I promise.”
Dean just nods, smirks, and says, “I'll hold you to that. By the way, I love you, have a nice flight.”
The words are so casual that Sam almost misses them, but it registers, and his brain almost explodes. Cas seems to catch what Dean said at the same time, and he trips in the doorway, cursing sharply under his breath. He whirls around, eyes wide.
“What did you just say?” Cas breathes, gripping the door frame and staring at Dean with such reverence that it's sickening.
Dean hums around a smile. “I said… have a nice flight.”
Cas is visibly trembling when he croaks, “No, no, the other thing, Dean.”
“All's fair in love and war,” Dean says simply, shrugging in a way that shows just how pleased he is with himself at the moment.
Cas swallows. “Say it again.”
“I'm hopelessly, stupidly in love with you, and I'd really like it if you would stay,” Dean tells him, smiles sweetly, eyebrows raising.
Cas’ whole body unclicks, breaking apart into utter joy, and he whirls back around to Mick. “I'm sorry, I have to stay.”
Mick just sighs, rolling his eyes. “Oh, alright, but if you change your mind—”
“Dude!” Sam cuts him off sharply, judging him so intensely and waving him away.
Mick shakes his head, but takes a hint. Once he's gone, Cas turns back around to look at Dean, blue eyes stuck on him. “Say it one more time.”
Dean rolls his eyes playfully, but there is a really stupid grin on his face. “Yeah, I'm in love with you, have been for a while, and I really hate Mick because I'm super jealous of him, and, and… are you going to stop me at any point?”
“I could, quite literally, let you go on forever,” Cas says in his most serious voice.
Sam's stuck somewhere between being sick with all the sappy and giving an excited whoop. Dean just shakes his head and lifts a hand. Cas waits, blinking, looks so fucking patient and in love, and this does nothing to help Sam choose which route to take.
Dean crooks a finger in the universal come here motion, and Cas drops his bag, moving forward almost mindlessly. He looks like he's being reeled in without permission, but he's definitely not unwilling. Mary makes an excited noise, and Sam doesn't know if he should be looking away or not.
Dean's all amusement and pleased until Cas is suddenly in his arms, and the he's serious, which is somehow worse. He takes Cas’ face in his hands and kisses him as if it's something they do every fucking day. It's certainly not; Sam would know. But they sink into it with sighs, folding together like they are meant for it.
They break away from each other, just for a moment, and they look equally surprised, like their feelings have all been in theory and this was just some experiment, like they haven't realized just how real it is until this moment. But they don't look afraid, they look happy.
Excited whoop it is.
Mary claps, Sam celebrates, and both of their heads snap over to stare at them in surprise, like they forgot they have an audience. Dean blinks rapidly before looking at Cas, eyelids drooping as a filthy smile takes over his face. And ew, Sam knows that face, has seen it every time Dean has found the person he wants to fuck for a night. Sam has a feeling that it won't just be for one night, not when it comes to Cas, but it's still disgusting.
Cas lets himself be dragged from the room, their bodies turning the corner, no doubt heading straight for Dean's room. Sam thinks there is still time for the retching, but before he can gag, Mary reaches out with a soft, nostalgic sigh.
“You sound happy,” Sam notes.
Mary gives a tiny smile. “I'm so proud of them. I think I'm gonna cry.”
“Please don't cry,” Sam says immediately.
Mary gives a wet laugh and pats his shoulder, moving to take sit back at the table to sip her cold coffee. Sam just shakes his head in amusement, leaving the room to head towards his room. He nearly trips as he passes Dean's room. He'd been prepared for noises that would make him want to scrub his brain, but he hasn't expected this.
Dean and Cas are arguing. Again.
Sam is so stunned to hear them bickering that he comes to a halt. Mere seconds later, the brain scrubbing suddenly sounds valid, because they're arguing about who's going to bottom, and Sam really doesn't want to know.
Cas gives a breathless laugh, says, “All's fair in love and war, Dean.”
Sam really doesn't want to know who wins that one.