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The Guardian Angel

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He’s not a superhero. He doesn’t have a cape. He doesn’t wear spandex. He doesn’t have that heroic morality and the refusal to kill villains. He doesn’t even have powers! No, he’s just a human who can take a beating and who is more than just a little pissed off.

 

This all started on the day his mother died.

 

One Year Ago

 

Fuck, fuck, fuck, repeats in his head like a mantra as he bolts down the street in his cheap suit and with his cup of coffee in hand. He pushes through the crowded streets of downtown Chicago. I’m late!

 

He runs until finally he’s on Michigan Avenue and the station is within view. He would drive Baby to work but he only lives about fifteen minutes away. The streets of Chicago were always so damn packed that he decided to take up running. There’s also no added danger of someone scratching his precious Impala because they can’t park to save their life.

 

He bolts into the station and checks his watch. Fuck. He’s ten minutes late. He begins to lament how absolutely fucked he is when a voice calls out. “Winchester!” Fuck. He turns to his left to see the Chief of Police, John Winchester, his father, standing right there, ready to chew him out. John Winchester does not do favoritism, in fact, he’s harder on Dean than anyone else, which is one, completely unfair, and two, it’s not like he’s ever been a fuckup of a detective, at least not more than others.

 

“Office. Now,” Chief Winchester says and immediately - because his co-workers all have the maturity of twelve-year-olds - he hears ‘ooh’s and one ‘he’s in trouble’. Dean follows Chief Winchester to his office. He never calls him Dad or even imagines him as Dad when he’s at work.

 

Didn’t go so well the last time he slipped up.

 

He steps into Chief Winchester’s office and as soon as he closes the door behind him he is met with a glare. “You’re late,” Chief Winchester says and if looks could kill, God, Dean wouldn’t be breathing to hear the rest of this dressing down.

 

“Give me a break. I’m barely ever late,” Dean says, exasperation in full-swing.

 

“Detective Winchester!” Chief Winchester barks and he immediately shuts up. He knows better than to run his mouth when the Chief gets like this.

 

“It doesn’t matter that you’re ‘barely ever late’, boy!” The Chief starts his rant, disregarding the disbelieving noises coming from Dean’s mouth. “Just because you’re my son doesn’t mean you get special treatment, Dean,” Chief Winchester says.

 

“You think I expect ‘special treatment’?” Dean scoffs, frustration boiling up inside him.

 

“You damn well act like it,” Chief Winchester - his father, mind you - says with a tone just short of venomous. “You screwed up the raid last week and-” Dean cuts him off with an angry growl.

 

“So that’s what this is really about! That raid was not just on me, if I wasn’t paired up with the greenest beat cops they fucking had-” Dean wants to say more, he wants to say all the shit in his head that’s on the tip of his tongue but then, Charlie, their resident tech guru, busts through the door, iPad in hand.

 

Saved by the redhead.

 

“What is it, Bradbury?” Chief Winchester snaps at her. Dean resists the urge to protest his treatment of her. She’s sweet, really, like a little sister that he never asked for but somehow wiggled her way into his heart. Damn, he sounds like a character straight out one of those chick-flicks that he definitely does not watch.

 

“You know that gang you wanted me and Ash to keep an eye on? Well, we just got an anonymous tip about a deal - possible narcotics involved - going down in the warehouse district in three days. It’s all linked to Azazel’s Children,” Charlie says, brandishing the iPad at Chief Winchester.

 

Dean has always thought that ‘Azazel’s Children’ is a dumbass name for a gang. Why even mention kids? They sound like a goddamn cult. “Did you get an exact address?” Chief Winchester asks. “No,” Charlie says, holding out the ‘o’ with a sort of melodic tone “but I did work a little magic and got ahold of the spot where the deal is gonna go down,” Charlie says with a proud smile.

 

“Good work. Get me the information then get Lafitte and Harvelle in front of me,” Chief Winchester says. Both Dean and Charlie don’t move an inch. “Feel free to get to work.” That ends it and they both hurry out of the room.

 

“You just saved my ass,” Dean huffs out with a laugh.

 

“I know,” Charlie says with a wink. “Why do you think I came in at the perfect moment?” she asks, cocking an eyebrow. Dean stops mid-step.

 

“You little…” he starts to say before they both break into peals of laughter. “You’re evil, my Queen,” Dean says with a wink of his own.

 

“Damn straight, manservant!” Charlie is giggling uncontrollably and he can feel the mood he was in melting away. The whole manservant thing was a little embarrassing for a while, but after he got more into LARPing - which is a secret he’ll take to his grave, thank you very much - it got to be normal. Well, as normal as a bunch of grown men and women playing with foam swords in a park can be.

 

Charlie is the Queen of Moondoor, the fictional kingdom they live in, and Dean is the Queen’s manservant. He’s accepted his role with vigor. He wanted to be one of her knights but Charlie informed him that as a manservant he acts as her personal bodyguard, which, all right, being the bodyguard to the Queen? Not bad, all things considered.

 

“You did bail my ass out. He was back on me about the Thompson Raid,” he says, taking a quick look around to make sure no one is paying attention. They’re standing in the middle of what they call the bullpen; desks are placed everywhere in a semi-organized manner to seat every detective and every person unfortunate or stupid enough to be placed on desk duty.

 

He’s still a little worried that the Thompson Raid could have him assigned to desk duty, pushing pencils and answering phones for the rest of his career. Okay, it wouldn’t be that long, he would probably at most get fourteen months of staring at a screen, doing basically nothing but still, it would suck.

 

He loves his job. He loves catching criminals and seeing them get their dues. That’s why he went into doing this in the first place. Well, yes, it was partly because of his father’s involvement and dedication to the police station but mostly he wanted to put some bad guys behind bars.

 

“Dude, that raid went really bad,” Charlie says, looking up from her iPad.

 

“Thanks, Captain Obvious,” Dean says, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

 

“You have some serious attitude, Winchester,” Charlie says, poking him in the side.

 

“Ow!” he says, jumping back and clutching his side.

 

"In any case, I have to go rally the troops," Charlie says with a quick salute and then she's off, weaving through the organized chaos of the surrounding crowd. Dean watches her go with a strange sort of apprehension and he's not exactly sure why. He shrugs the feeling off and heads off towards his desk.

 

His partner, Benny Lafitte, is sitting with his feet propped up on the desk, leaning back into his chair. "Hey, brother," Benny says, without looking up from the files he's currently studying.

 

"Hey," Dean responds, making his way over to his own desk and plopping down in the chair.

 

"Did the Chief yell at ya again?" Benny asks, finally looking up from the papers strewn across his lap. Dean sighs and Benny seems to take it as a response.

 

"Oh, hey, fair warning, Charlie's gonna come to get you any minute now so you can go see His Royal Highness," Dean says. He feels Benny should know so he can prepare himself for the onslaught of information.

 

"Thanks, brother," Benny says with a chuckle, immediately moving the papers from his lap and onto his desk. He watches with a detached sort of interest as Benny quickly straightens his tie and grabs a comb from one of the drawers in his desk.

 

Benny's kind of a strange guy but Dean thinks he makes good company. He turns his attention away from Benny and to the paperwork he has yet to fill out. It's a report he's supposed to write up. His account of the Thompson Raid.

 

He hasn't touched the paperwork yet because he doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn’t want to describe how that little girl died.

 

It's not a matter of remembering the details. He remembers every moment in perfect clarity. He wishes the memories would fade or at least dull, but there's not really a chance of that happening, not if the nightmares are all that fill his head every time he dares to fall asleep.

 

That night haunts him and he's certain that he'll never be quite the same again. The Thompson raid was ugly, horrific, and not something that Dean every wants to speak of again. In words or on paper.

 

Writing everything down makes it that much more real. That much more memorable. Putting it down on paper feels like exposing himself. It feels like he'd be divulging a very personal part of himself by talking about the events of Melissa Thompson’s death.

 

Suddenly, he feels very sick. He wishes more than anything that he could be home and that he could talk to his best friend. He wishes he could talk to Mom and explain everything, then she'd give him a hug and tell him everything's okay.

 

But he's a grown-up now. He can't go crying to his mommy every single time something bad happens at work. That's not how a man should act, according to his father, at least.

 

He's still lost in thought when a certain redhead comes bounding around the corner and grabs Benny by the wrist, pulling him away to explain this new raid, and for once, Dean's glad he's not going with.

 

He knows the Thompson Raid wasn't his fault but it stills gnaws at him. The guilt feels so heavy in his chest that he feels like he'll sink. He feels like he's slowly drowning in a deep pit of his own bottled up emotions, so, he does what Dean Winchester does best; he bottles them up further, then tosses the bottle in a box, never to be opened again.

 

---

 

He's doing nothing when his shift finally ends. He hasn't finished the paperwork, even though he needs to. He tried, he really did, but every single time he tried to write anything down, even his own name, he failed.

 

What kind of a useless, waste of freakin' space detective has he become? He can’t do shit to help the police force if he's so emotionally distraught that he can't sign his own goddamn name.

The thought of anyone figuring out how overwhelmed and desperate he is… That scares the shit out of him.

 

He is not a weak little kid anymore. He's an adult and he needs to grow a pair.

 

Even with all his fears and doubts, the day was fairly normal. Well, normal except for the fact that everyone was walking on eggshells around him - the incident at the start of the day notwithstanding - and barely anyone spoke to him because they must all be so afraid of hurting poor, fragile, sensitive Dean Winchester.

 

He’s not poor, he’s not fragile, and he is not goddamn sensitive .

 

He stands up, grabbing his coat and is preparing to leave when he remembers the pie pan. Shit. The pie pan. His mother had given him a pie to share with his co-workers - namely Benny, his mom really likes him - and the empty pan is sitting in the fridge.

 

He quickly walks to the little kitchen-type area. There's a little mini-fridge and a counter next to it with a bowl of fruit, a coffee machine, a rack of sweeteners and salt, and a nearly empty box of donuts sitting on it.

 

He opens the mini-fridge and grabs the pan. He quickly hurries out, not wanting to talk to anyone else but, of course, since he isn't that lucky, he's stopped by a beat cop. This kid just started in the department less than a week ago.

 

The kid is a genius and is qualified for way more than patrolling the streets for thirty bucks an hour. Dean thinks his name is Kevin. He's been a little preoccupied with the Thompson Raid and has barely said two words to the kid but apparently, he wants to speak to Dean.

 

"Detective Winchester, sir," the kid says.

 

"What do you need, Officer Tran?" Dean asks, doing a quick, cursory examination of the kid. His eyes seem wide and hopeful. His posture tells Dean that he's nervous. He does his best to look as non-intimidating as possible. No matter what Dean's feeling, it's not an excuse to scare the poor kid.

 

Dean might not be looking to make people one-hundred percent comfortable but he's also not looking to make anyone particularly uncomfortable around him either. "I wanted to, um, ask you if, uh, if it's..." Officer Tran trails off and Dean is starting to get a bit irritated. He wants to go home.

 

He does his best to not snap at the kid. It's not his fault that Dean is in a pissy mood. "If it's what?" Dean asks, trying his best to keep any venom out of his tone. He's not sure he succeeds but judging by the fact that Officer Tran didn't flinch and run away, he must've done a decent job.

 

"If it's true that, um, Chief Winchester is your dad?" Officer Tran squeaks. Dean laughs hollowly. He feels bitter and tired. He can't believe that's what this officer wanted to ask him.

 

"Yeah, he's my old man," Dean says, unable to keep the anger out of his voice. The anger isn’t there for this fresh out of the academy officer, no, it’s for his dad who sees fit to give him shit twenty-four-seven.

 

He's not exactly on the best terms with his father right now, but this barely old enough to drink beat cop does not need to know that. Officer Tran looks a little surprised. "I thought the other guys were pulling my leg," he says.

 

Whatever spark of humor Dean was feeling is now gone, replaced by a flare of irritation. "Tell 'em to stop gossiping like schoolgirls and do their damn jobs. Now, if there's nothing else, Officer Tran," Dean says, barely noticing the nervous head shake Officer Tran gives him before he makes his way to the door and steps out into the cold night air.

 

Okay, he might've been a bit harsh on the kid, but his personal life isn’t anyone’s business, even if his dad is the Chief of Police. He doesn't get any special treatment. He doesn't expect it or want it either. He got to this position on his merits alone and someone suggesting otherwise - like they no doubt are - makes his blood boil.

 

He walks out into the freezing cold air of the Chicago streets. As he walks, he feels a bright joy in his chest. He gets to see two of his favorite people in the world tonight.

 

Castiel Novak - Cas, as Dean calls him - is just getting back from a business trip. He works as a defense lawyer and recently his brother, Samandriel, had a friend get into a bit of a scrape so Cas went all the way to California to defend him.

 

He offered to pick Cas up from the airport but Cas’s flight got in during his shift so he wouldn't have been able to do that. Plus, Cas needed to go to the office before going home so he said that he could cab it.

 

Dean didn't like the idea of Cas having to catch a cab from the airport all the way to his office but there wasn't really another option. He searches in his coat pockets for his phone and pulls it out. There's a string of texts that he received from Cas.

 

>Cas: My plane will be touching down soon.

 

>Cas: I'm on my way to the office. I cannot believe they asked me to come in today.

 

>Cas: I'm at home now. When should I expect you back?

 

Dean's sure he must be sporting a goofy grin but he can't help it. Cas texts like he speaks; perfectly. He can even imagine Cas’s voice, all gruff and deep. He quickly types out a response.

 

>Me: gotta drop something off. b home soon. have u eaten?

 

Cas responds fairly quickly. Dean has never understood how someone who texts with such perfect English can type so fast without screwing up words or punctuation.

 

>Cas: No. Have you?

 

>Me: nope. takeout?

 

>Cas: Yes. I can pick up burgers from the Roadhouse if you want.

 

Dean grins. He's got the best damn roommate ever.

 

>Me: burgers sound great. see u soon.

 

>Cas: I'll see you soon, Dean.

 

Dean was so wrapped up in the conversation that he didn't notice the light rain that has begun to fall. He looks up and curses. He didn't bring an umbrella. Nowhere in the forecast did it say it was supposed to rain! Dean thinks.

 

He debates going back to the apartment to grab Baby but he's already only about fifteen minutes away from his childhood home. It would be a waste of time to walk all the way to his apartment since it's the other damn direction, so he sucks it up and keeps walking.

 

As he walks, the rain picks up until it's a full-blown downpour, like, raining cats and dogs kind of downpour. His parents live just outside of the city in the suburbs, so it's kind of a far walk but it's really nice when it's not freaking raining!

 

He sprints along the street until he sees their house. He runs to the porch and is grateful to finally be out of the rain. His old family house is a well-kept cookie cutter kind of house. There are flowers growing outside that Mom takes good care of, the porch is in good repair - most likely because of Dad - and even though the house is like many others on the block, it’s completely different in the sense that it feels like home.

 

The lights are on inside of the house so he goes to knock but he freezes, his hand hovering in the small space left between his knuckles and the door.

 

He freezes because the door is already slightly open. Dean is hit with a wave of anxiety. He gently pushes the door open. "Mom?" he says. Nothing seems to be amiss in the front hallway.

 

The front hallway opens up into the living room-slash-kitchen with the stairs on his left. He notices that a lamp next to the stairs has been knocked over and broken. There’s glass all over the floor and his breath catches in his chest.

 

He can hear his heartbeat in his ears as he climbs the stairs as quietly as possible. He thanks every higher power he can think of that his gun is still on him. He slowly draws his pistol out and clicks off the safety.

 

He holds it up as he reaches the top of the stairs. He arrives at the top of the stairs and begins to make his way down the hallway. There are doors on both the left and the right of him as he walks.

 

Only one door is open; the master bedroom.

 

He moves as quickly as possible, all but sprinting towards the door and when he looks inside the bedroom, time seems to slow down. His mother is lying on the floor, her body is jerking and twitching and there's some sort of froth coming from her mouth.

 

There's a man in the window. He looks back at Dean and before Dean can think to even fire his gun, the man leaps from the second story window. He spares no thought for the man and simply runs to his mother. He shakes her shoulders. "Mom!" he calls out but she's still seizing violently. “Mom, stay with me!”

 

He searches her neck for a pulse. He feels one. It’s weak and thready but it’s there. He pulls her upper-half to his chest and despite her flailing limbs, he holds on for dear life. “Mom,” he says. His voice breaks.

 

He feels like the world is crumbling around him as he chants “Mom,” like a prayer. He doesn’t want to let go. This can’t be happening. He thinks. No, no, no. “Stay with me, come on, please,” he begs.

 

With shaky fingers, he produces his phone and dials nine-one-one. He keeps a death hold on the woman in his lap as he explains everything to the operator.

 

Everything after that is hazy; the paramedics bursting into the house, prying Dean away from his mom while his vision blurs with tears, and putting her in in the ambulance with Dean in tow, sitting in the ambulance doing whatever he can to help as they try to deduce what's wrong with her.

 

He's now sitting in the hard plastic chairs of the hospital waiting room. He can feel his whole body shaking. His first instinct is to call his dad. Sammy is still in California studying at Stanford so, calling Sam is a no-go, at least not for now.

 

He opens his phone and hits his dad's number. It rings for a few seconds before an irritated voice speaks up. "What, Dean?" Dean isn't crying. Not now. He cried the entire time before the ambulance got there and a bit while they transported her, but he refused to let himself cry once they got to the hospital.

 

He doesn’t need any extra pity from anyone. Especially not the hospital staff.

 

"It's Mom, she's in the hospital, Dad, and I'm here with her. You have to get over here, now," Dean says in one rush of air. John Winchester says nothing more and simply hangs up.

 

Now that he's done what's required of him, he calls the only person - other than Sammy - that he wants to talk to right now. "Dean?" Cas's rough voice rumbles over the line. He feels the hot tears he was trying to hold back spill down his face.

 

"Cas," he says and his voice sounds broken. He hates it.

 

"Dean, what happened?" Cas asks. He sounds worried. Really damn worried.

 

"I'm at the hospital," he says, his voice is shaky and thick with emotion.

 

"What?!" Cas's voice sounds panicked now, none of his usual calm demeanor is left. "Why? What happened, Dean?" He covers his face with his free hand as he listens to Cas’s voice.

 

"My mom," he chokes out and Cas seems to get it.

 

"I want to come and support you, Dean, is that okay?" Cas asks as if Dean will say no.

 

"Yes," he manages and Cas breathes out a sigh of relief.

 

"I'll be there soon," Cas says.

 

"Cas, could you, uh," he says through the tears. "Just keep talking?" Dean asks. He needs a port in the storm and Cas has always been there for him and vice versa. Dean needs his best friend right now.

 

"Of course," Cas says and it's all Dean can do to keep from sobbing into the phone.

Chapter Text

The next few months are the hardest months of Dean Winchester’s life.

 

It starts with the funeral.

 

Two weeks after his mother’s death, they hold the funeral. Sam flies in from California with his girlfriend, Jess. People from work are there but the person Dean is most grateful for is Cas.

 

Cas, being his best friend since childhood, was close to his mom. He’s feeling it just as bad as anyone else, but he’s being a damn good friend. Even with Dean lashing out at everyone around him, Cas just sits there and lets him yell until he’s all out of energy.


Cas doesn’t deserve a shitty friend like Dean. Cas deserves someone who can hold themselves together and he just can’t. He’s too fucking angry.

 

The hours before the funeral are the hardest. Everyone is so damn pitiful. They all look at him, Dad, and Sammy like they’re weak, delicate, fragile little glass figurines. He hates it. He hates every ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ and every ‘I can’t imagine how hard that must be’. None of them understand. None of them care.

 

Every damn question is the ‘socially acceptable’ question. Every question has no deeper meaning. Everyone is doing what's expected of them and it’s not what Dean needs. It’s not what any of the Winchesters need.

 

He's sitting in his childhood bedroom. They have a few hours before the funeral and Dean is finally alone. He’s finally away from the crowd downstairs. They’re technically not supposed to be here because the master bedroom is a crime scene but when your dad is the Chief of Police, well, some strings can be pulled.

 

Dad, Sam, and Jess have been staying in his and Cas’s apartment. It’s a little cramped but it works. Kind of works.

 

People have been stopping by every single day for the past two weeks. Checking in on them and offering them food, assistance or more commonly, useless words of comfort.

 

Now, before the funeral itself, so many people have flooded in. They’re coming out of the woodwork. A few people have offered to drive with the family on the way to the church where the service will be held.

 

He’s hiding away from the crowd because he’s tired of people offering condolences. They mean well but they have no fucking idea what it’s like.


He keeps expecting his mom to come in and wrap her arms around him. Maybe run her fingers through his hair and tell him that everything will be okay. He knows that’s not possible. He does. He knows that she’s dead and that it’s all over. There won’t be any arms around him and there won’t be any fingers running through his hair. The sooner he realizes that the sooner he can pull himself back together.

 

His eyes are closed and his face is buried in his hands. He doesn't want to talk to anyone. He doesn't want to hear another fucking 'I'm sorry for your loss'. He hears the turn of the doorknob and he's prepared, harsh words on the tip of his tongue.

 

He’s ready to yell at whoever thought it was a good idea to come up here. They came to his room of all places to offer stupid apologies. There’s just no end to the constant stream of condolences.

 

"I'm sorry for your loss," a voice says and Dean breaks.

 

"I'm sorry for your loss? No fucking shit, Sherlock, we all are! I don't need you apologizing to me for the death of a woman you barely knew!" He shouts.

 

"Dean," the voice says and he finally looks up from his hands, ready to pummel this person into the ground. He turns to face them, preparing to fight, either with words or fists, he's not really sure.

 

The person standing before him is none other than his best friend.

 

"Cas," Dean says, feeling everything in him deflate. No matter how angry he is at the world, he won’t take it out on Cas. The poor guy doesn’t deserve that.

 

"What're you doing here?" he asks. He feels deflated. He’s not angry, not irritated either just... Tired. Emotionless. This is the Winchester way, after all.

 

Sam flew in with Jess a few days ago. They've barely spoken since he got here. Dean has barely spoken to anyone, actually. Words are difficult. Emotions are complicated. Touchy-feely nonsense? He's no good with that shit. Chugging beer? That he can manage.

 

He just wants to be detached. He wants to be alone. There are far too many people offering apologies and hugs. He doesn’t need a hug. He needs his mother to still be alive.

 

But he’s not alone. Not at all. Cas has been following him around like a puppy for the past two weeks. Doting like a concerned parent. He's been making sure Dean remembers to eat. He’s been around so much that Dean hasn’t had a moment to stew in his misery. Though, that might have been Cas’s plan.

 

Cas is a better friend than he deserves. Loyal, kind, and attentive. Yeah, Dean does not deserve someone like that. He’s not sure why his best friend is still around but he’s really fucking grateful.

 

Cas's voice pulls him back to reality. "Why wouldn't I be here?" Cas asks with a tilt of his head. It's a little thing he does when he's confused or trying to figure something out. Dean thinks it's kind of cute.

 

"I don't know, Cas, it's just..." he trails off. He's not quite sure what he meant. Cas being here makes sense, after all, he loved Dean’s mom and he’s sure the feeling was mutual. His mom was kind of like a surrogate mom for Cas.

 

Cas never had a real mother of his own. Cas's mom left him with his dad and went on her merry way. Who does that to a baby? Who just dumps their newborn off and says 'Here’s our kid. I don't fucking want him so it’s on you.'? Cas deserved - and deserves - so much better than that.

 

He deserves a mother like Dean's own mom; kind, compassionate, caring, amazing, beautiful, and...Dead... She's dead. Dean feels a new wave of pain crash over him. He almost doubles over from the intensity.

 

It's usually just a dull ache in his chest but sometimes the pain is a tidal wave that seems intent on pulling Dean down into its depths and drowning him. Emotions suck. He thinks as his vision blurs with tears.

 

He brings his hands up to his face. He wants to hide. He doesn't want Cas to see this newly broken version of himself. All he wants Cas to remember is the Dean that he grew up with, the Dean who is his best friend. He doesn’t want him to see this mess of a person who vaguely resembles Dean Winchester.

 

Suddenly, there's a protective arm around him. He wants to push Cas away but he can't, and instead, he feels himself melting into the comforting touch. He knows that he needs someone right now and Cas is here. He's always here.

 

They sit like that for a while, Cas right next to him on the bed, with an arm around his shoulders and with Dean’s own arms tightly wrapped around Cas’s waist. His face is pressed into Cas’s chest, putting him at an awkward angle, but he finds he doesn’t care.

 

He closes his eyes and inhales slowly, simply allowing himself to breathe everything in.

 

Cas always smells like the beach for some reason. He smells like salt water spray and petrichor - a word Cas that often says which means the smell of the first rain after a hot summer.

 

He smells like comfort and safety.

 

He smells like home.

 

---

 

Dean’s not sure when he fell asleep. All he knows is that suddenly he’s being gently shaken back to consciousness. “Dean,” Cas’s voice calls out to him.


His eyes open slowly. He’s laying in his bed now, Cas is standing off to his left. Cas must’ve laid him down so he didn’t get a crick in his neck from sleeping with his head bent like that.

 

Cas really is an angel.

 

“I’m sorry to disturb you but you need to prepare to leave,” Cas says, checking a small watch on his wrist. “Sam wanted me to tell you that you have thirty minutes to ‘freshen up’ before you have to leave.” His sentence is complete with air quotes.

 

All Dean can manage is a nod. “I’ll go get you some water,” Cas says. Dean wants to stop him. He wants to ask Cas to stay, but he doesn’t. He lets Cas walk to the door and step out of the room without a word.

 

Dean runs a hand over his face. Stubble has been slowly accumulating over the past two weeks. He’s barely had the energy and motivation to shower, let alone shave.

 

All he wants to do is curl up in his bed and pass out. He doesn’t want to go to the damn funeral. He doesn’t want to go up in front of their friends and family and spew some bullshit about ‘a better place’. The only ‘better place’ that Mary Winchester needed was a little home just outside of Chicago where her kids grew up.

 

That night changed everything. He shudders at the memory. Mom on the floor. The man in the window. Twitching. Convulsing. Panic. Tears and- He cuts that train of thought off.

 

He stands. He just has one more night to box away, that’s all. A few more emotions to bottle up. He can manage it. He just has to pretend he doesn’t feel a damn thing and just move on. He won’t ever fucking ‘move on’ and he knows it, but he’ll pretend otherwise.

 

Pretending is the Winchester way.

 

A sudden thought hits him; this old house won’t ever look the same. The home where he and Sam grew up. The home where they learned to ride their bikes and to count to ten. The home where they struggled with math and fought over anything and everything.

 

It’s no longer their childhood home. It’s just the house where their mother died. It’s the place where their mother’s fate was sealed by a nameless, faceless man.

 

Rage, pain, grief, and everything washes over him.

 

Who would take a mother from her children? Who would kill someone who still had so much life ahead of them? She wanted grandkids, she wanted to meet Jess. It hits him that she’ll never meet Jess now. She won’t see Sammy graduate.

 

She won’t watch Sam or Dean get married. She won’t ever get to meet those grandkids. There are so many things that his mother will now miss out on because of one man. That son of a bitch took her life. The scum of the fucking Earth murdered his mother in cold blood.

 

He remembers the sickening froth coming from her mouth. Whatever drugs that son of a bitch pumped into her system killed her. Quickly too. They didn’t even get to say goodbye. Not properly.

 

He wants to cry or punch a wall or… Something! He wants to do something other than sit here and fucking mourn! Mourning is useless. Grief is completely useless. He doesn’t need time to ‘process’ or whatever dumb shit everyone’s going to suggest.


He doesn’t need a therapist or a support group. He needs to kill whoever took his mother away from him. He needs to kill the man who ruined the memories of his childhood home. He needs revenge and he’ll get it.


That faceless son of a bitch is going to get what’s coming to him.

 

He stretches and walks over to the connected bathroom. He steps inside and closes the door. He makes sure both of them are locked - the one leading to his room and the one leading to Sam’s room - before he faces himself in the mirror.

 

He looks tired. Exhausted, actually. The features that are usually quite pleasant to look at (if he does say so himself) are heavy and dark. His eyes are the worst though. There are deep bags under them which give away just how little sleep he’s gotten in the past few weeks.

 

He can’t sleep. Not when every damn time he closes his eyes he can see his mother’s body on the floor. He can remember in perfect clarity how she twitched and convulsed in his arms. He shudders and buries his face in his hands.

 

He sinks to the floor, back pressed against the cold porcelain of the bathtub. Now that he’s alone, he finally lets himself cry.

 

---

 

He’s not sure how long he sits there crying. He’s not sure how long he’s going to keep sitting here. All he knows is that dealing with everyone right now is too much to handle. It’s all too overwhelming.

 

He hears footsteps outside and a knock on the door. “Dean?” Cas’s rough voice calls from the other side of the door.

 

Dean sits up immediately. He paws at his face and eyes, trying to rid himself of the traces of pain that have dried on his face. “Yeah?” Dean says, his voice sounding cracked and broken.

 

“Are you all right in there? Do you require assistance? I could come in and-” Cas starts to say but Dean quickly cuts him off. “No, no, I’m fine,” he says.

 

“Are you sure? You don’t sound fine, Dean,” Cas says. Why does the guy have to know him so well? Or maybe Dean’s just a sucky actor.

 

He’s not sure how to respond. What’s he going to say? ‘Oh, I’m fine, I’m just sobbing uncontrollably on the bathroom floor. Don't worry about it though!’? Cas would see right through that bullshit in a matter of seconds.

 

What is he supposed to do?

 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m…” he trails off. He can’t do it. He can’t finish that sentence. He is the furthest thing from ‘fine’ right now. Who would be?

 

“Dean, I’m afraid we must be going soon. I am sure that they don’t want us to stay here for any longer than completely necessary,” Cas says. His voice sounds so empathetic. Tenderness cuts through the usual rough tone.

 

Dean stands and walks to the sink. It’s no wonder that they’re being shooed out. It is an active crime scene after all. They were really only supposed to be here to pick up some things. They weren’t supposed to hang around and reminisce.

 

He sighs and turns on the faucet. He revels at the feeling of ice-cold water running through his fingers. He cups his hands and splashes his face with the water. He looks at himself in the mirror again.

 

He doesn’t look great but he looks better.

 

The water did nothing for the dark circles under his eyes and the heaviness that weighs on his features but it did make him look more lively. He needs that right now. He runs his fingers through his hair and straightens his tie.

 

He looks presentable. Well, as presentable as someone going to their mother’s funeral can look.

 

Cas knocks again. “May I come in?” he asks. His voice still carries an undertone of softness, but it’s not the pitiful, walking on eggshells kind of softness that everyone else has been employing. It’s an ‘I’m your best friend and I’m here to help’ kind of softness. That’s why he says yes.

 

Cas wastes no time opening the door and offering him the glass of water he brought up. Dean takes it with a quiet ‘thank you’ and brings the glass to his lips to take a sip. The feeling of water spilling down his throat is soothing. He didn’t realize how much his throat hurt until it was relieved of that pain.

 

For about the seventieth time today, Dean thinks about how lucky he is that Cas is here for him. Who could ask for a better friend?

 

Cas watches him with rapt attention. He must be trying to make sure Dean actually drinks the damn water. Dean watches out of the corner of his eye as Cas scans his face. He sighs. Cas must see the puffy redness of his eyes.

 

To his surprise, Cas doesn’t comment, he just sits there watching Dean drink.

 

Once Cas is satisfied that he’s done with the water, he takes it from Dean without a word. He’s kind of uneasy with how quiet Cas is being. It’s not like Cas isn’t prone to silence sometimes but this is different. The silence around the two of them is charged with some sort of energy that Dean can’t place.

 

He turns and suddenly he and Cas are less than a foot apart. He leans back, trying to put some additional space in between them. Cas is still close enough for Dean to feel the heat radiating from his friend. Or maybe it’s just Dean growing hotter under the glare of those blue eyes.

 

They’re face to face, Dean’s back pushed up against the sink and they share the air in this tiny bathroom. He doesn’t want to say anything. He doesn’t want to break this moment but of course, as all good things must, it ends far too soon.

 

Sam’s voice comes from somewhere far, far away, or at least that’s how it sounds to Dean. “Dean, Cas, come on! We gotta go!” Cas takes a step back and away from Dean. It’s all he can do to stifle a whimper at the loss of closeness.

 

He’s not sure why he’s reacting this way to Cas. He thinks it must just be because of how vulnerable he is. That’s it. That’s all it is. Right?

 

---

 

The ride to the church is gloomy and quiet. Dad drives them all in Baby - which Dean brought to the house for this specific purpose. If they’re going to have a funeral, the whole family should be there.

 

Jess is in the passenger seat and Sammy, Cas, and Dean are all squeezed into the back. Dean in the middle with Sam and Cas on either side of him. Cas sits rather quietly, tugging on the sleeve of his suit jack every once and a while.

 

It’s strange to see Cas without his typical trenchcoat. Even when he’s in court he wears that damn thing. It’s not exactly ugly it’s just not exactly stylish either. The trenchcoat has now just become a constant. Dean doesn’t do well when constants disappear.

 

They sit in almost complete silence. No one dares to break the quiet that has settled over the car.

 

The pain in the air is almost tangible. Everyone is hurting and no one is talking but talking is for chick flicks. They’re not in a Lifetime movie where everything will just magically get better after they talk their hearts out about their feelings.

 

They’re going to a goddamn funeral.

 

They ride in this stifling silence for about fifteen more minutes before they arrive at the church. The very sight of it makes Dean want to turn and run. He feels a constricting feeling in his chest. His breathing picks up just like it did that night.

 

Everyone gets out of the car. Dean is the last one to emerge. He watches as Jess takes Sam’s hand as they walk. He watches his dad lead the way. Cas doesn’t move an inch. He stays right by Dean’s side.

 

He feels a hand on his shoulder. Cas squeezes his shoulder gently. “Time to go,” Cas says and Dean can’t turn to meet his eyes. He simply nods and takes a step forward.

 

One step at a time.

 

---

 

The church is large and there are already people milling around inside it. He sees the casket with a framed picture of his mother resting atop it. She’s smiling in the picture. She looks radiant and alive. That’s how she always used to look.

 

He doesn’t know if he can do this but he can damn well try.

 

They take their seats in the front row of the church pews. Cas is on his right, Dad is on his left, and Sam and Jess are at the very end. People start filing in. Once everyone is seated, the pastor begins speaking.

 

He filters out everything that’s going on around him. He can’t believe this is real. He can’t believe she’s dead. He tries to numb himself. He doesn’t want to feel any of this but he doesn’t know if that’s possible. He refuses to allow himself the simple mercy of crying though.

 

Eventually, it gets to the point where people can say something about his mother. He watches one of his mom’s best friends go up and laugh. She’s sweet and she makes a few light jokes that his mom would have appreciated.

 

Far too soon it’s his turn. He can’t breathe as he walks, his legs shaking underneath him. There are what feels like thousands of eyes on him. He knows it’s not that many but it feels like it.

 

Their stares are penetrating. It’s like they can see straight into his soul. He feels exposed. Vulnerable. He’s about to bare his soul to these people and speak about his mother. She is… Was his confidante and the most important woman in his life.

 

He has a speech prepared. He didn’t want to say anything. He didn’t want to get up here and talk about his mother but… He knows she would want him to say something. Anything.

 

That’s why he does it.

 

He clears his throat and takes a deep, calming breath. He sees Cas sitting on the pew. He has an empty space next to him. That’s where Dean belongs. Cas’s blue eyes meet his green ones. He can do this. Please let him be able to do this.

 

He lets his eyes roam around the church. He sees the faces of his friends and family. All of their eyes are on him. They’re all expecting him to say something perfectly meaningful. Maybe tell a joke and give one of his winning smiles.

 

He has to try. He’s Dean fucking Winchester and they all expect him to put on this goddamn mask and pretend he’s fine. Pretend like he’s not a moment away from completely breaking down. All of the expectant looks on their faces… It’s almost staggering.

 

He forces himself to focus. He begins to speak. “My mom was an amazing woman,” he says, his voice shaking. Everyone’s eyes are on him. “She was strong, um, compassionate,” he says. His eyes are glued to the notes he holds in his hands.

 

“S-she taught me and Sam what it means to be a decent person. She taught us what it means t-to be good,” he says. He takes another deep breath. He can do this.

 

“She was always so damn strong,” he says with a watery laugh. “She, uh, she lived through a lot but she never let it affect her. She always said that, uh, true strength comes from our hearts. I never figured out if that was true, but um, she, uh, she seems… Seemed to believe it,” he says. It’s getting harder to speak. There’s a warm prickle in his nose. Tears.


He is not doing the waterworks. Not again. He refuses to cry up here, in front of everyone.

 

“She used to, um, bake pies for the station and when I’d come home with a completely empty pan she’d say ‘Oh, I guess the piranhas paid a visit to the poor pie.’ and laugh about it,” he says. His voice sounds broken and sad. He wants this to be over already!

 

It’s getting too hard to read the cards. Tears blur his vision.

 

“She used to say-” his voice breaks. He tries again. “She used to say that angels were watching over us,” he says. A tear slips down his face. He ignores the cards. “Well, where are they now?” he shouts. “When we needed them most, they couldn’t be bothered to show up!” he lets the words pierce the air as tears spill down his face.

 

“No use havin’ faith, huh?” He can’t see anyone. All he sees is a blur. “Goodbye, Mom,” he whispers and then he starts walking. He doesn’t know where he’s going. He just starts walking and he doesn’t stop until he can’t hear people calling his name anymore.

 

He stumbles and falls onto the cold, wet grass. He pulls his knees to his chest and buries his face in them.

 

Time passes. He’s not sure how much. He’s not sure he cares.

 

He cries until there are no tears left. He cries until everything hurts. Until his throat and eyes burn. Then, he hears a voice.

 

“Dean?” Cas came looking for him. He should have expected it, really. Cas is too good of a friend to let him be alone through this.

 

“Go away,” he mutters.

 

“Do you really wish for me to leave?” Cas asks. Goddamn it. Why does Cas have to know him so fucking well?

 

He doesn’t respond. Cas seems to take it as an answer.

 

Moments later, Cas is sitting by his side. Not touching him but just sitting there. Dean has no idea where they even are. He looks up from his knees. They’re sitting with their backs pressed up against a mausoleum.

 

How he ended up here is just a blur of stumbling and tears. “Hey, Cas?” he asks.

 

“Yes, Dean?” Cas asks. His voice is still carrying that softness.

 

“Do you believe in angels?” Cas’s deep eyes focus on him. “I mean, pure angels, from Heaven,” he says.

 

Cas seems to mull over this question. That’s something he likes about Cas, whenever he asks him a question, he always thinks about it. Always considers his answer carefully. “I believe that it is possible,” Cas says. His voice is gentle. “However, we cannot truly know unless they see fit to show us, which seems unlikely, to say the least.”

 

Dean laughs bitterly. “Yeah, unlikely,” he says, wiping his eyes. “Dean, if there is a Heaven, I believe that is where your mother went,” Cas says. “She was a lovely woman.”

 

“If there is a Heaven and if angels do exist…” he says, deciding what to say. “Fuck ‘em. My mom was the best of any damn human on this godforsaken planet. If there were any angels watching over us, why the fuck didn’t they save her?”

 

“Why didn’t they spare a moment of their oh-so-important angelic time to get their feathery asses down here to help? They could have stopped that jackass from killing her!” he allows himself to start yelling. He pushes himself to his feet.

 

They’re in the garden next to the church. The mausoleum looks unspeakably sad in the light of day.

 

Cas stands too. “Regardless, Dean, what is done is done. I think you should-” Dean cuts Cas off before he can say another word.

 

“Should what? Just go back in and pretend that everything is just rainbows and puppies? I’m sick of fucking pretending!” he shouts.

 

Birds vacate the trees around them.

 

“Dean,” Cas says. It’s too soft. He wants Cas to yell. To tell him he’s being stupid. To give him a fight. He needs a fight but Cas won’t give it to him. They’ve known each other too long for Cas to fall for that bullshit.

 

A second later, there’s a soft touch on his shoulder. Suddenly - he’s not really sure how this happens - he’s sobbing in Cas’s arms. “It’s n-not fair,” he cries. “It’s not fair, Cas! She didn’t deserve it,” he says. “She didn’t deserve it.”

 

“I know,” Cas whispers. He feels fingers carding through his hair. Strong arms are wrapped around him. He can finally let go. He can finally stop pretending.

 

Cas makes him stop pretending.