Castiel followed Sam's gaze, squinting overhead at a bundle of leafy branches dotted with clusters of pearly white berries.
"Jack?" Sam called warily, rooted to the spot in front of Castiel, "Where did the mistletoe come from?"
"The nice woman at the flower shop gave me some when I bought the poinsettias!" came Jack's cheery voice from the Dean Cave.
Castiel and Sam exhaled in unison. Just ordinary mistletoe, then. The bunker still had plenty of unexplored nooks and crannies; it was safest to assume that anything pulled from them, no matter how innocuous looking, was dangerous. Castiel shuddered to think about the kinds of magical botany the Men of Letters might have dabbled in.
"I understand that kissing under mistletoe is meant to be romantic," Castiel observed. The tradition didn't make much sense to him. Mistletoe was a parasitic species; there were several other plants with more appropriate meanings under which to kiss.
"Yeah," Sam agreed hesitantly, "But, uh," He smiled ruefully down at Castiel and opened his arms. "Settle for a hug instead?"
Castiel smiled. "Of course, Sam." He moved forward into Sam's arms, reaching up to pat against his back and enjoying the familial closeness. Sam released him and stepped aside so Castiel could properly enter the kitchen.
As Sam's footsteps receded down the hallway, Castiel tried to recall if anyone else's drinks were running low. Dean would probably need a fresh beer soon, if he didn't already.
His hand paused around the neck of a bottle as a profound sense of yearning bloomed and spread through him.
Dean longed for him.
Though the sensation was not new, the intensity was baffling and unexpected. Usually, it manifested as a dull throb, a vague dissatisfaction at Castiel's absence. But this , this was an aching, desperate, mournful cry, as though Castiel were permanently lost to him instead of right here in the bunker, just a few rooms away.
Perplexed concern hurried his steps through the halls until he reached Dean's bedroom. The door was ajar, and Dean sat slumped forward on the edge of his bed, face in his hands.
He jumped up as Castiel pushed the door wider, clearing his throat and failing to look casual.
"Oh, hey, Cas," he said, voice too loud. The longing became nearly hysterical and Castiel studied him warily.
"Are you alright?"
"Peachy!" Dean rushed, plucking a DVD case off his desk, "Just lookin' for this."
"I see." Castiel warred with himself; Dean disliked having his mind read, but the near-painful yearning had yet to subside despite Castiel's obvious presence.
"Sam made more popcorn," he offered finally, opting to monitor Dean from a distance. Any attempts to force the problem out of him would likely only result in Dean closing off farther.
Dean stiffened, fixing his expression too slowly for Castiel to miss the flicker of regretful jealousy in his eyes.
"Right," he said. Then, "Listen, I saw—well, uh, good for you, I guess. I mean, I hope—I hope you'll be happy."
Dean's voice cracked over the words and Castiel blinked blankly.
"Be happy...about more popcorn?"
"What— no ," Dean huffed, scowling. "With Sam ."
"Of course I'm happy with Sam," Castiel said slowly, "and with Jack, and with you."
Dean slapped a hand to his forehead and dragged it roughly over his face. Castiel felt irritated; why was Dean frustrated with him? If Dean would just say what was on his mind—
"Look, you don't have to keep it a secret, okay?" The words were forced through clenched teeth. "I saw you guys under...under the mistletoe." Dean scowled at the floor, unwilling or unable to hold his gaze.
The longing surged again, wailing and heartsore, and Castiel's mouth parted around a silent oh as understanding clicked into place at last.
"You think Sam and I are pursuing a romantic relationship."
The pang in his chest, a manifestation of Dean's loneliness and resignation, was answer enough.
"Dean," he said, stepping into the room until he could grip firmly at the ridiculous man's shoulder, "I love Sam—" Dean swallowed and screwed his eyes shut at the admission, but Castiel continued. "—but I'm not in love with him."
His furrowed brow eased slightly, but Dean kept his eyes lowered. Gently, tentatively, Castiel slid his hand from Dean's shoulder to his cheek, guiding him to look at Castiel properly. Peridot eyes searched his face, relief gradually filtering in to dilute the sadness.
Castiel felt a smile lift the corners of his mouth as he let a tendril of grace leave him and looked up. Dean mimicked the motion and gasped softly at the sprig of mistletoe that bloomed directly above them, suspended in midair. Wide eyes found his own again and Castiel leaned forward to press his lips against Dean's parted mouth.
Castiel had existed for countless millennia. He'd basked in the lush glory of the Garden of Eden, watched stars come into existence and flicker back out just as fast, trailed the tips of his wings along the ever-expanding edges of the universe. None of those things were worth anything in comparison to feeling Dean's soul light up as Castiel kissed him for the first time. This moment, this tiny blip in the unimaginable timeline of Castiel's existence would become his most treasured memory, he was certain.
By the time they separated, every last trace of Dean's longing had been chased away. Dean closed his eyes and leaned forward again, resting his forehead against Castiel's.
"I thought I'd missed my chance," he confessed into the air between them.
Castiel closed his own eyes and stroked his thumb along a stubbled jaw. "Never," he murmured against the soft swell of Dean's lower lip.
And later, when they tumbled together onto Dean's mattress, clumsy and eager, Castiel whispered his own confession against Dean's skin in as many languages as he could think of.
I would have waited for you until the end of everything.