Castiel could not meet Dean’s eyes. Instead, he focused on the store across the street, watched as the heavyset, balding man puttered around closing up shop. Dean’s presence was heavy next to him, and his soul’s glow pulsing a warm, tumultuous wave that grounded him.
When he inquired what happened, again, Dean answered through avoidance, asking if he wanted some air. Air was not a necessity for him, his grace making sure of that. But Dean’s gaze pleaded for an escape, half enshrouded by a purple welt and frightful cut. He agreed, on the condition Dean let Castiel fix his wounds. After a gentle touch, they were back out the door and heading towards the Impala.
They didn’t talk the entire ride. Dean sat, his focus fixed firmly on the road ahead while Castiel’s was on him. When they pulled into the heart of Lebanon, Dean parked. “I… I feel like walking,” he said, “I’ll tell the story, Cas. Promise. I just… I need to walk.”
They stopped a little after reaching the cinema. By then, Castiel could barely keep moving, his legs giving out under him. He was lucky for the bench, even luckier that Dean guided him there with one hand on his back and the other on his arm.
“Cas?” Dean asked after a long while of stillness, “You there buddy?”
Castiel shook his head, clearing away the fog that settled. He apologized.
Dean chuckled. “It’s okay,” he said, “I don’t blame you. This… even I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this. And I was the one who lived through it.”
“Barely,” Castiel muttered, “If Sam hadn’t… then I -”
Dean glanced over, and Castiel quickly ducked away. He wanted to hide the tremble of his lips, the downward crest of his brow, and eyes so dull a blue they were practically dead. In an odd sort of luck, Dean noticed them all.
“It’s not your fault,” Dean whispered, “That… that wasn’t you.”
Castiel both hated and loved how well Dean knew him. No matter how he tried, Dean could sense when Castiel’s mood fell as easy as the wind shifted. He could blow as hard as he wanted, but Dean would never turn away.
“But it was me, in a way,” Castiel told him, “A me that could have existed… If I hadn’t met… humanity.” He let a word slip away into the ether, but Dean tensed as if Castiel said it anyway.
“Yeah,” he coughed out, “And I’m… I’m glad you did.”
They drifted back into silence. In it, the man across the street finished closing his shop, waving goodbye to Dean on his way down the street. A few minutes later, an older woman with large glasses passed their way as well. She chatted with Dean for a few seconds, Dean drawing forward his stadium lighting smile at her approach. Peeking Castiel’s way every few seconds, however, she bid them both goodnight with an extra special wink towards Dean.
“Gotta love the ol’ gal,” Dean huffed, leaning back into his seat. He looked to Castiel, a thin line of nerves where his mouth is. “She – uh… she’s sort of invested in my personal life,” he shrugged, “If you were wondering what that was all about.”
Castiel smiled the easiest he had the entire night. “It’s nice that you’ve settled into a life here.”
“You mean Dean Campbell has,” he corrected, “I doubt anyone would want to talk to me if they realized I’m a dead felon with a rap sheet longer than the Empire State Building.”
“So it’s nearly as tall as I was?”
Dean blinked at him, confused, before breaking into a snort. “Right, I forgot… true form.” He grins, “Not for nothing, Cas, but you could pop up in all your angelic glory, with as many heads as you want, and this’ll always be your true form to me.”
Castiel agreed with him. “It may not have all the power, but I’d rather have the comfort it grants me. Besides, there are many things I can do with this body that would be hard to do if I was a gigantic mass of light and wavelengths.”
He avoided the question as easily as Dean did his earlier. “So, with John back in the past… what are you going to do now?”
Dean raised a brow at him. He answered, “What we were doin’ before. Searching for ways to boot Michael out of my head for good.”
“No, I mean… what are you going to do now?”
It was a loaded question, but one that weighed heavily on Castiel’s mind the entirety of Dean’s story. There was no secret that John Winchester’s presence shadowed many of the brothers’ choices. And when Castiel walked into the Bunker, he noticed how both of them seemed like a weight was lifted off their chest. Breathing easily for the first time in their lives.
Dean cleared his throat. “I’m… I’m gonna keep chugging along, same as always.”
“Yeah. There was a… was a thought that maybe Sam and I… that we could send Dad back to – back to before all this began. Maybe fix it so our lives weren’t at the center of every damned apocalypse but… I’ve gotten used to having the world on my shoulders. I still have Sam… and Mom, now, too. Plus all the other people who I’ve met and saved and who… who saved me along the way.” He dropped Castiel’s gaze and blushed heavily.
Castiel’s grace flickered inside him at the sight. He licked his lips, “So… nothing you’d want to change, then?”
“About myself? No… But other things?” Dean reached over to Castiel’s lap, laying a hand on top of his, “Depends if they’re willing to change as well.”
He stared at it, as Dean laced their fingers together and squeezed. “I – What are you-?”
“Dad said he always wanted me to have a normal life,” Dean started, regarding the empty street in front of him with a stony mask. “Retire, have a family and a picket fence – the whole nine yards. But a ‘normal life’ was never in the cards for someone like me. This right here? Sitting with an angel in the middle of the night while my brother, recently revived mom, and nephilim kid wait for us in an underground Bunker? That’s my normal. And I’m happy with it. I love it. There’s not a lot I would’ve done differently, not a lot I would change but…”
Finally, the mask slipped revealing one of the purest expressions of hope Castiel has ever seen flash across Dean’s face. “But you… I’d change all the times I was afraid of doing something simple as – well, as this.” He raised their hands. “Make it so I wasn’t scared to show how much you really mean to me.”
Castiel can’t speak. He trembled, grace thrumming under his skin like pent-up currents of electricity. His body coiled tight, as if Dean was about to drag them both over a line he resigned himself to believing would never be crossed.
Dean continued. “Maybe I’m just too old that I… I can’t stand being so tired. Realized that I might not have too many years left to waste – hell, I’m about as old as Dad was when he kicked it. And he showed Mom all the love he had in this one night that I’ve been terrified to share for years. That… that’s all I would change.” He laughed, breaking the tension between them. “Um… sorry if what I said was a lot. I understand if you’re not –“
He cut him off with a kiss. It was a sudden embrace, Castiel barely cupping his face before leaping at him. There wasn’t any tongue or teeth, just the simple touch of lip against lip. But Castiel poured all he was feeling into it, and accepted what Dean gave back.
Pulling away, Castiel opened his eyes. Dean grinned at him. “That was,” he gasped, “That was better than anything I thought you might say.”
Castiel smirked. “There was nothing I could say. It was all… too much. This communicated my intentions better than any words.”
“Yeah… when have words ever mattered to us, anyway?”
As to prove his point, Dean hushed himself. Leaning into Castiel’s side they sat there on that bench, existing together. The intensity of feeling between them was so palpable Castiel could taste it in the air. It was too sweet, and he smacked his lips together.
“You know,” Castiel said, “Even if the world we knew was almost lost – and our bond nearly never existed – I’m… glad you got to spend time with your father.”
“I am, too.” Dean rested his head on Castiel’s shoulder, “There’s so much I never knew needed saying between the two of us. Thought we got everything out back in that hospital… I’m glad that wasn’t the last I saw of him. This was a much better goodbye. Although… I wish he could’ve met you.”
“He could’ve,” Castiel said, “It might not have been the best version of myself…”
“Oh now we can joke about it?”
“It was only an observation…”
Dean rolled his eyes. He shifted, drawing Castiel’s hand further between them while his arm stretched across Castiel’s chest like the strangest seatbelt. Castiel didn’t so much see Dean frown, instead feeling the turn of his muscles against his arm.
“It was scary, seeing you like that,” Dean confessed, “Downright horrible when I heard you say you didn’t know us. How obedient you were to Zach’s orders it… it brought me back to a bad place. I fought back but I… I couldn’t kill you, if it came down to it. I wouldn’t. I’d have went out, still begging you to remember me –“
“That’s all right, Dean,” Castiel stopped him, “I’m here now. And I remember you. There’s nothing on Heaven, in Earth, or any other dimension that could make me forget you.” A snaky, oil-slicked tendril sneaked into his mind then. It wrapped itself around the moment, tugging Castiel’s own mouth down into a glower. “Nothing that will take me away from you,” he promised, “We’ll fight back to each other, like we always do.”
“I like that, Cas, I really do.”
Across from them, two girls walked in an almost mirror to them. When they pass, the blonde closest to the street looked their way. Her eyes widened, before ultimately smiling and offering a tiny wave. Dean nodded back at her.
Castiel tilted his head as best he could. “Who was that?”
“Girl I ran into earlier today named Max… she stole Baby.”
“She did? I’m surprised she’s still walking.”
Dean chuckled. “Well… no one got hurt. And, turns out, she did it to impress her crush and I couldn’t really be that angry. Reminded me of all the dumb shit I used to do to get attention.”
He rolled his eyes. “You’re an inspiration.” Before Dean could respond, he spoke up again. “Should we head back now? They’re probably wondering where we are.”
Dean huffed, edging ever closer to Castiel. “It’s not like they can’t text. Besides, I’m comfy.”
“Five more minutes?”
Castiel sighed. “Fine. But can you tell me more about Sam in this… new universe?”
He barked out a laugh. “Definitely… well, for starters, he really liked kale…”
They went over the five minutes, but Castiel didn’t mind. He sat with rapt attention as Dean described it all again, the story much lighter the second time around. In between moments they would joke and laugh and kiss. Castiel never wanted this moment to end, but it would. And after it, they would still be together. They’d make sure of it.